Wins for Neil Robertson and Ma Hai Long – 11.02.2023

Neil Robertson won the 2022/23 Championship League Snooker Group 6 yesterday evening.

Here is the report shared by WST:

Robertson Through To Winners’ Group

Neil Robertson beat Zhou Yuelong 3-1 in the final of Group Six of the BetVictor Championship League Snooker Invitational at the Morningside Arena, Leicester to earn a place in next month’s Winners’ Group.

Australia’s Robertson will join the winners of the first five groups – Jack Lisowski, Stuart Bingham, Judd Trump, Kyren Wilson and John Higgins – plus the winner of Group Seven in a strong line-up for the Winners’ Group on March 1st and 2nd, when the trophy and a place in the 2023 Champion of Champions will be on the line.

Breaks of 67 and 107 put Robertson 2-0 ahead, before China’s Zhou pulled one back with a run of 73. World number four Robertson, whose only title so far this season came at the BetVictor World Mixed Doubles alongside Mink Nutcharut, compiled breaks of 31 and 62 in frame four to seal his place in the Winners’ Group.

Earlier in the semi-finals, Zhou beat Xiao Guodong 3-2 thanks to a superb 63 clearance in the deciding frame, while Robertson came from 2-1 down to edge out Matthew Selt 3-2, making a 111 in frame four and a 52 clearance in the fifth.

The tournament resumes on February 27th and 28th with Group Seven, when Ronnie O’Sullivan and Shaun Murphy will join the action, alongside Zhou, Selt, Xiao and Robert Milkins.

The 2023 BetVictor Championship League Snooker Invitational carries a prize fund of £205,000. Players earn £100 per frame won with significant bonuses for their final group position and increased prize money in the Winners’ Group. The bottom two players in each group are eliminated, while the remaining players finishing in the top five have the chance to compete in the next group.

I have removed the link to the “Table Results” from the above text because it’s both incomplete and erroneous on the event official website.

Ma Hai Long won the 2023 WSF Championship earlier today.

This victory earns him a main tour card.

Here is the report shared by WST:

Ma Beats Moody To Win WSF Title

China’s Ma Hai Long beat Stan Moody 5-0 in the final to win the 2023 WSF Championship at the Mounties Club in Sydney, Australia.

The 19-year-old was already assured of qualification to the World Snooker Tour prior to the final, with opponent Moody having already gained his professional card following his victory at last week’s Junior Championship, but underlined his credentials with a dominant display to claim the biggest title on snooker’s amateur calendar.

He becomes the fourth winner of the title since its inaugural staging in 2018 and the third from China, to follow in the footsteps of Luo Honghao and Si Jiahui, who also both claimed whitewash successes in their respective finals.

With both players assured of their professional status next season, a free-flowing match was anticipated by many observers, only for the opening exchanges to prove hard fought as Ma established an early 2-0 lead with a top run of 40 in a little under an hour.

A student of the CBSA Academy, Ma visibly gained confidence as the match progressed, limiting England’s Moody to just 15 points during the following two frames and a match high break of 78 helping him to within a frame of glory.

After the resumption of play following the mid-session interval it was Moody who threatened to extend the match into a sixth frame, but a miss on the final red would prove costly as Ma produced a classy clearance to secure the title.

I was very excited to play in this final,” said Ma. “Even though I was already guaranteed the World Snooker Tour card, that was always in the back of my mind and I just wanted to take one ball at a time and to get the win.

I know that in the history of this event, players from China have been very successful and as a young player I did not want to let China down. Not only for myself, but the other young players in our country.”

Ma was competing in his first major international tournament following the COVID-19 pandemic and showed his determination throughout the week, regularly coming back from behind in frames to secure victory. Having enjoyed the experience and claimed the ultimate prize, he is now already looking forward to competing on the professional circuit and will be moving to the UK.

I have won frames from needing three or four snookers in the past,” explained Ma. “I drew inspiration from that and in such a big event like this wanted to never give up.

I am now very excited to join the professional tour and meet players like Mark Selby, to play him in a big competition. I cannot wait to play in the tournaments that I have seen on television and to play in the famous snooker venues around the world.”

Both Ma and Junior champion Moody were presented with their trophies by dignitaries including WSF President Jason Ferguson, General Secretary Maxime Cassis, WSF Treasurer Mike Peachey and Frank Dewens, President of the Australian Billiards and Snooker Council.

Congratulation Ma Hai Long!

On a personal note, I was very happy to see Peggy Li refereeing again, and getting the final.

All results are available here

Here is the final, with Jason Ferguson himself in commentary

Now … a bit of rant… After Stan Moody beat Liam Davies in the semi-finals, Chris Henry came up on facebook saying that in his opinion Stan should not have been allowed to play in the main WSF event, after winning the junior event, because, having secured his tour card, he was under no pressure hence gaining unfair advantage on his opponents. I completely disagree with Chris’ position on this. Stan made the trip, and that certainly didn’t come cheap, with long haul flights, accommodations, and entry fees. It was experience to be gained and another big title possibly to be won. Why would he be deprived of the opportunity? That would be punishing him for being successful. If Liam and his other opponents can’t deal with that pressure, I wonder how they will deal with the jungle that is the main tour.

Eventually, Stan was beaten comprehensively by Ma. Ma, of course is older, he’s 19. The much fancied Hong Yu Liu, who had reached the QF stage losing just one frame was beaten by Ma at that stage, as was former pro, 18 years old Gao Yang, who reached the semi-finals. All three of them, from what I saw, are currently better and more mature players than any of the young Brits involved in the event. But, of course, the extremely UK centric organisation of the main tour doesn’t favour them at all. That has to change.

There is hope though for a return of the Chinese events next season. It was already announced that the Shanghai Masters is on the cards, but, of course, it’s an invitational with a reduced field.

This however was shared on twitter yesterday:

5 thoughts on “Wins for Neil Robertson and Ma Hai Long – 11.02.2023

  1. No. Let me repeat: losing finalists should not have an advantage just because they were drawn in the opposite half from the best player.

    Stan Moody shouldn’t (and perhaps couldn’t) have been ‘excluded’. But he might have recognised the advantageous situation he was in and withdrawn. It’s possible they could have held the WSF Juniors after the main event, which would help.

    It may also not be possible (i.e. lawful) to ‘exclude’ people from the main tour because of age, at least once over 16. But I do agree that these so-called ‘junior’ events really should be U21 not U18. There will be years when there are no U18 players who are suitable.

    • The “16” years old limit is a UK thing. Not a world thing. In most EU countries, the age to be allowed quit formal education, to vote and be generally free to do your own things is 18, unless a judge rules that the family is problematic. On the other hand, parents can’t kick their 16 years old out on the street just because they can’t handle them. Similarly the UNCRC defines the child as a person under 18 years of age. I think that 16 is too young to be on your own in a foreign country, dealing with a totally different culture, not mastering the language. It makes those kids easy preys for all sorts of “predators”.
      As for the notion of “best player” … does the best player always win? You certainly know that the answer is no, particularly in a knock-out event with relatively short matches. All it takes sometimes is a bit of bad/good luck at a crucial moment, tiredness caused by a late finish the previous day or a cold… or anything. That can’t be helped. I’m not saying that Stan Moody wasn’t the best player in the junior event. I think he was. But Liam Davies certainly wasn’t and the pressure was the same for both of them in that one. Davies was beaten 4-3 by Boiko, and Boiko was beaten 4-3 by Moody.

      • In knockout tournaments the winner is the one who doesn’t lose a match, i.e. consistency is vital. It’s illogical when people complain when someone who beats their ‘favourite player’ goes out in the next round. Yes, of course there is luck involved as standards vary day-to-day. On the main tour calendar there are many tournaments, and the best players in general will be successful somewhere. But these qualification events take place only once per year, and the difference between qualifying for the tour and not qualifying are so massive, that fairness should be much more in focus. Players who were beaten by Stan Moody can be justified in feeling that they were at a disadvantage – this goes for those who lost at any stage of the knockout rounds.

        Fortunately, Ma Hailong’s win last night sidestepped the problem.

        The 16 vs. 18 age debate also doesn’t have a clear answer. Whatever our views may or may not be, there are legal issues to consider.

  2. Actually, Chris Henry makes a very good point. Fergal O’Brien said the same thing last year, and anyone who has been involved in competetive sport would understand. In any tournament, the most importnant consideration is to be fair to all participants. Stan Moody didn’t face the same (enormous) pressure that all the other did. Forget the fact that they will have to deal with other pressures in the future – that is simply not relevant here. Let’s not forget this is a career-changing event. We may never see Iulian Boiko or Gao Yang on tour again; they are overseas players who may simply run out of funds.

    The difficulty is that these WSF events are also tournaments in their own right, not mere qualifications for a main tour card. In that sense Stan Moody did have the right to enter to try and win the WSF Championship, a major amateur title. But even though we see pictures of players holding up trophies, all the talk is about the tour card. That is what really matters, even to the winners.

    The other problem is that if Stan Moody had won the final, we’d be in this situation where a losing finalist gets given a tour card. This is also problematic: who’s to say the second best player wasn’t drawn in the same half as the champion?

    Let me summarise: the most important thing is FAIRNESS.

    Surprisingly, Ma Hailong is a player I know very little about. He’s a Beijing Academy player, a practice partner of Bai Yulu and Jiang Jun (a very talented player who seems to have fallen away during lockdown). Watching some of his matches, he has a decent technique and good all-round game. I think his success is mainly because he adapted to the (very slow) table conditions in Sydney better than his opponents, and he remained calm and composed. But he’s hardly played any events in the last 3 years, so it will be a big step up for him. What he really needs now is to get a wildcard for the World Championship, and get some practice matches in one of the Sheffield academies.

    • I understand what you are saying, but, for me the problem is that there are two qualifying events, with one not open to all players. I’d rather have just one qualifying event, with a tour card for both finalists. If they want a junior event – and I think it’s a good idea – it should not offer a tour card. It may offer a scholarship instead. Also, even 16 is too young to be on tour IMO, especially if you need to live as an expat in a totally alien culture. I would happily put the minimum age to be on tour at 18 for all. No player who would not be able to take their tour card because of their age at the start of the next season should be allowed in the qualifying event. The WSF championship is now “de facto” an amateur World Championship, as you put it a big tournament in it own right. Excluding Stan from it because he proved himself to be the best junior, would that be fair? I don’t think so.

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