The 2023 Tour Championship – Day 4

Mark Selby booked his place in the 2023 Tour Championship semi-finals yesterday evening, with a 10-7 win over Ryan Day. Ryan Day got on to a bad start and found himself 8 2 down and that was too much of a deficit of course.

Here is the report by WST:

Selby One Win Away From Top Ranking

Mark Selby fended off a Ryan Day fight-back to win 10-7 at the Duelbits Tour Championship and move within one result of regaining the world number one ranking from Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Selby looked set for an early night when he led 8-2, but was pushed hard as Day took five of the next six frames to close to 9-7. Eventually, Leicester’s Selby got over the line to set up an intriguing semi-final with Shaun Murphy in Hull on Saturday. Victory in that match would send Selby to the top of the world rankings for the first time in a year.

Today’s result also ends Day’s hopes of being among the top 16 seeds at the Cazoo World Championship, instead he’ll be heading for the qualifying rounds.

Four-time World Champion Selby looked close to his best in winning last week’s WST Classic, and he stays on course for back-to-back ranking titles. He is into his 58th ranking semi-final and is targeting a 33rd final. The 39-year-old reached the last four of this event in 2020 and 2021 but is yet to appear in the final.

Welshman Day enjoyed a magical moment in the opening session with a 147, but otherwise Selby dominated and went 6-2 ahead. Breaks of 131 and 67 to start the evening session saw Selby extend that lead to 8-2. Day pulled one back, then in frame 12 he got the better of a safety battle on the yellow before making an excellent clearance to close to 8-4.

After the interval, Day clawed another back with a run of 75, and he had first chance in frame 14, but screwed the cue ball in-off after potting the pink on 37. Selby later got the better of a safety exchange on the penultimate red and cleared for 9-5.

A rare 16-red clearance from Day, totalling 139, regained his momentum and he dominated the 16th for 9-7. But Selby clinched victory in the next with a run of 77.

It got a bit edgy towards the end,” Selby admitted. “I was pleased by the way I closed it out in the end because Ryan was looking strong. I’m happy with how I played overall.

Early in the match Ryan made the 147 which was a fantastic break, then he had a chance to go 2-2 but he didn’t take it and I went 3-1, that was an important moment early on. After that I controlled the match up until 8-2.

Getting back to world number one and trying to win more tournaments – those are my goals and that’s what I keep playing for. I’ll be trying as hard as I can on Saturday and if I get back to the top of the rankings that would be amazing.”

Day said: “I needed to get off to a fast start tonight but Mark went 8-2 ahead. I dug in and found a bit of concentration and it could have been different in the end. At 8-5 I potted the pink but hit it too well and went in-off, that was a disaster as I had the momentum. I have to get my head around going to the world qualifiers now. We all want to finish at the Crucible.

Ryan Day is an incredible player but he’s always been vulnerable under pressure and I can’t help thinking that, yesterday, the occasion got too big for him.

His 147 was a wonderful break, but other than that, for the first 10 frames he was really poor.

Ryan Day’s 147 – Shared by WST on their YouTube Channel

Mark Selby has now 7 maximum breaks made against him. That’s a record but probably one he particularly enjoys…

Ryan’s defeat means that the 16 seeds at the Crucible are now confirmed , albeit the seeding can still change.

Crucible Top 16 Confirmed

Defeat for Ryan Day at the Duelbits Tour Championship on Thursday means that the line-up of 16 seeds for the Cazoo World Championship is confirmed.

Day misses out on a guaranteed Crucible place and instead will head to the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield to compete in the qualifying rounds, which start on Monday. Ding Junhui and Gary Wilson, who were uncertain of their spots at the start of the day, and now sure to be heading to the Theatre of Dreams.

The top 16 (not necessarily in seeding order) are:

Ronnie O’Sullivan
Mark Selby
Mark Allen
Judd Trump
Neil Robertson
Shaun Murphy
Kyren Wilson
Mark Williams
Luca Brecel
John Higgins
Ali Carter
Jack Lisowski
Robert Milkins
Stuart Bingham
Gary Wilson
Ding Junhui

The schedule of play for the top 16 at the Crucible will be announced soon.

A win for Ding today would see him climb to number 14 provisionally. Should that happen, Ronnie’s potential “seeded opponent” in round two at the Crucible would be Gary Wilson. Of course for that to happen both need to win their first round match. Should Kyren Wilson win today, his seeding wouldn’t change (for now).

The 2023 Tour Championship – Day 3

Yesterday, in Hull, Shaun Murphy came back from 5-1 down to beat Robert Milkins by 10-8.

Here is the report by WST:

Murphy Reaches 50th Ranking Semi-Final

Shaun Murphy recovered a 5-1 deficit to beat Robert Milkins 10-8 and reach the last four of the Duelbits Tour Championship, gaining revenge for defeat in last month’s Welsh Open final.

Murphy is through to his 50th ranking event semi-final and will take on Mark Selby or Ryan Day in Hull on Saturday. He has played fabulous snooker over the past few weeks and is looking for a second consecutive title in this series having won the Duelbits Players Championship last month, making 11 centuries in four matches.

He also reached the Welsh Open final – firing a 147 en route – before finishing runner-up to Milkins. A repeat result looked likely today when Milkins surged into a 5-1 lead, but Murphy took nine of the last 12 frames, finishing with a classy century, to reach the semi-finals of this event for the first time. The 40-year-old started the season with his top 16 ranking in doubt, but he now has a chance to climb into the world’s top four if he can take the £150,000 first prize this week.

Milkins led 5-3 after the first session and stretched his advantage in the opening frame tonight with a break of 68. In the next, Murphy potted eight reds with blacks before missing the ninth red to a top corner, but still took the frame to close to 6-4. His momentum gathered as breaks of 64, 106 and 67 helped him take the next four frames to go 8-6 ahead.

Back came Milkins, taking two in a row for 8-8. In frame 17, Murphy led 57-0 when he played a push shot, but he then got the better of a safety exchange, potted a mid-range red and added enough points to regain the lead. And the best shot of the match, an exquisite long red along a side cushion to a top corner, set him up for a run of 128 to seal the result.

This afternoon at 5-1 I felt I had done the game,” admitted the Magician. “Somehow I managed to scrape the last two frames of the session. I went off for a walk and a hot chocolate between sessions, and at that point I believed I was going to win the match. If I had been 6-2 or 7-1 down it might have been too big a deficit to overhaul. At 5-3 I had a foothold, I was in the game.

I have belief in myself and my technique. I have a decent CV to fall back on. All of those things come into play when you are out there in the pit. I worry about things a lot less than I used to and that has freed me up to play my game. But Rob also played with the freedom of a man who has won £300,000 in the last few weeks. He’s so gifted and talented, he went for his shots and he got a lot of them. I managed to stay somewhere near him and was relieved to get to ten first. I had a lot of help from lady luck – every flick and kiss went my way, otherwise Rob would probably have come out on top.

I have a couple of days off now to get my head right and prepare for the semis. I love performing to crowds, I love putting on a show, I am an entertainer, anyone who has been to one of my exhibitions knows that. I am looking forward to Saturday.”

Milkins said: “I was terrible tonight. I struggled with my tip, it was getting harder and harder. Anything from distance with side was just slipping off the tip.”

Many players are reluctant to talk when they struggle with an issue, especially after a defeat. They are afraid that, no matter how real the issue might be, it will be seen as an “excuse”. Robert Milkins is not that way. He’s a very simple, direct person. I like that. It’s a shame that he struggled with his tip, and because of it, with his game, especially in the evening. He fought with all he had and eventually the match was a close one. That was a first this week.

In other news … good news!

It was announced yesterday that the BBC has a change of mind and John Virgo will be back commentating, for the foreseeable future.

John Virgo told he’s staying on BBC snooker coverage for ‘foreseeable future’

Phil Haigh Wednesday 29 Mar 2023 4:14 pm

2015 Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day 15
John Virgo is not heading off into retirement just yet (Picture: Getty Images)

John Virgo will be involved with the BBC’s snooker coverage for the ‘foreseeable future’ having previously been told that his time in the commentary box was coming to an end.

The legendary commentator, player and former host of Big Break expected last year’s World Championship to be the last for both him and Dennis Taylor after decades covering the game on television.

Speaking to the Talking Snooker podcast in September 2021 Virgo said: ‘Listen, you never know what’s round the corner in life, but it looks like this will be my last season. Not my choice, theirs [the BBC]. Along with Dennis (Taylor) apparently.

‘That’s what we’re getting, that this will be our last season. I think that’s definite. The World Championship will be our last one. It’s not my decision, I love the game and everything else. But I understand, nothing lasts for ever, I understand that.’

However, it appears the BBC have had a change of heart of the much-loved commentators, with Virgo saying he has now been told things will remain as they are for some time.

The 77-year-old was appearing on new BBC podcast Snookered, set to be released in April, and asked how he felt about his commentary career coming to an end, he revealed that it actually isn’t.

‘Well from what I’ve heard recently that’s not going to happen,’ Virgo told hosts Des Clarke and Amy Matthews. ‘I spoke to one of the producers and I said “well you know it’ll be my last year…” and he said “no no no, we’re not going to do that now. We’re going to stay as we are for the foreseeable future.” Which was fantastic. 

How I felt about it when I first heard that it could be our last year… It’s like a sabbatical for us. We go there, Thursday morning’s no play we play golf; myself Dennis Steve Stephen Hendry, Alan McManus, John Parrott, Ken Doherty. 

I’d have missed that terribly you know. Just going there. So for the foreseeable future, now whether that’s this year, next year and that’ll be it? So that was great, it was music to my ears….

That’s what was said to me at the UK [Championship] in York and I was absolutely delighted to hear it and however long it goes on for I don’t mind but it was good news, it was music to my ears.’

World number 31 Joe Perry is very much still competing on the table but has also moved into the commentary box and called for the veterans to stay on when it appeared they were set to be moved on.

I’ve noticed a lot of sports are gradually bringing in newer, younger, more up-to-date people,’ Perry told after the initial decision from the BBC. ‘I’ve worked with Virgo and Dennis and what they know, doesn’t come cheaply, that’s years and years of experience. They might miss a few tricks with some shots that some boys play today but they do know their stuff and they’re excellent at their job.

2022 Cazoo British Open - Day 3
Joe Perry has experienced first-hand the quality of the experienced commentators (Picture: Getty Images)

Commentary isn’t just what’s going on on the table, there’s introducing the frames, closing the frames out, creating the drama and they’re excellent at that. We might understand the modern game a bit better, but we’ve got a lot to learn from them on that part of the job.

The odd one comes along and is exceptional, like Alan McManus. He’s so good that he can be the anchor role in the commentary box already. He steered Jack Lisowski into being a decent commentator, but throw Jack in with someone else it could have been a car crash. Alan is exceptional, but some people are naturally good at it. It would be a shame to see them go, though, because it’s easy to forget the impact they’ve had on snooker and get caught up in the moment.’

The 2023 Tour Championship – Day 2

Kyren Wilson beat Ali Carter comprehensively yesterday evening in Hull. Here is the report by WST:

Brave Wilson Wins Despite Son’s Illness

Kyren Wilson’s five-year-old son Bailey has suffered from serious medical problems in recent weeks but the Warrior has continued to compete on the baize and reached the semi-finals of the Duelbits Tour Championship with a 10-4 defeat of Ali Carter.

Bailey, the younger of Wilson’s two boys, first became ill in January and spent five days in hospital, initially with a suspected brain or back tumour. Thankfully that initial diagnosis proved incorrect. “We had a couple of days to wait for an MRI scan to find out whether it was a tumour, and that was very tough,” said Wilson.

It now seems more likely it could be something like Crohn’s Disease, though we are still not sure. But before I left home he was running about and seems to have turned a corner so that was great to see. It’s important to talk about these things sometimes rather than bottle them up. I have sometimes felt that snooker is the be-all and end-all, but this has made me realise how lucky I am, and it has freed me up to just enjoy the game.”

The Kettering cueman certainly enjoyed today’s performance as he rattled in a century and seven more breaks over 50 in an emphatic win over Carter. On his third appearance in this tournament, he’s into the last four for the first time and will face Ding Junhui in another best-of-19 battle in Hull on Friday.

Wilson has had an impressive season, highlighted by victory at the European Masters as well as a run to the semi-finals of the Duelbits Players Championship, and the 31-year-old is just two wins away from the biggest title of his career.

Trailing 6-2 after the first session, Carter reduced the deficit by taking the opening frame tonight with a break of 61. He had chances in frame ten but didn’t capitalise, and then botched a safety shot when he led 50-11, gifting his opponent the chance to clear with 50 for 7-3. The 11th followed a similar pattern as Carter over-cut a red to a centre pocket when 51-13 ahead, and Wilson punished him with a 55 clearance.

A run of 50 helped world number seven Wilson extend his lead to 9-3 at the interval. Carter pulled one back with a run of 69 before Wilson sealed the result with an 84 in frame 14.

He added: “Ali is a class act so I’m chuffed to win. I stepped up when I needed to and made some good clearances. This event is the best eight players of the season so you have to be on your game from the start. One of my main goals for the season was to get into this tournament and now I have won a match in it for the first time.”

Carter said: “I was rubbish all day. I threw three or four frames away and you can’t afford to do that against Kyren.”

First of all, I want to wish young Bailey a prompt return to full health and the best for the future. I’m glad to read that Kyren’s boy is getting better. For a parent there is nothing harder than seeing your child in very poor health, feeling powerless at helping them and worrying terribly whilst having to put on a brave, reassuring face in front of them. Everything else feels utterly unimportant when your child and the whole family are going through such times.

Regarding the match, Kyren played really well and looked more relaxed, less intense than usual, which, I think, helped him. In important matches in the past, notably during his Masters Final against Mark Allen, I was under the impression that he wanted it too much, he was trying too hard. That can be counterproductive at times. If, however, he can keep yesterday’s attitude and frame of mind going into the World Championship, he will be very dangerous.

As for Ali, he was poor indeed and said it bluntly. In the past, when players, Ronnie in particular, were bluntly critical about a poor performance, some fans accused them of disrespect to their opponent, seeing an honest assessment as an attempt to downplay the said opponent’s merit. I don’t buy that crap. Players have a right to be honest and express their true feelings.

The 2023 World Championship Qualifiers Draw and Format Are Out

This was published by WST today, early afternoon:

Cazoo World Championship Qualifying Draw

The draw and format for the qualifying rounds of the 2023 Cazoo World Championship are now available, with the likes of Stephen Hendry, Ken Doherty, Barry Hawkins, Stephen Maguire, Hossein Vafaei, Anthony McGill, Marco Fu, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Jimmy White and new World Women’s Champion Baipat Siripaporn in the field.

Click here for the 2023 Cazoo World Championship draw

Click here for the 2023 Cazoo World Championship format

The qualifying rounds run from April 3 to 12 at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield. In all there will be 128 players, all battling for one of 16 coveted spots at the famous Crucible Theatre.

Tickets are available for just £10 per day and it’s an incredible chance to see a wide range of all-time greats and up-and-coming talents, playing in snooker’s biggest tournament. For details click here.

Seven-time champion Hendry will be up against James Cahill in the opening round, while 1997 Crucible king Doherty will meet 12-time World Women’s Champion Reanne Evans.

Stan Moody, winner of the WSF Junior Championship, will meet Andres Petrov, while women’s world number one Mink Nutcharut will face a Thai derby against Dechawat Poomjaeng.

Included in the draw is ‘Player 1’ which will be either Ding Junhui, Gary Wilson or Ryan Day, depending on the results of this week’s Duelbits Tour Championship.

Session times are 10am, 2.30pm and 7pm for the first three rounds, running from April 3-10. Then on April 11 and 12 it’s the fourth and final round, known as Judgement Day, when places at the Crucible are decided. Session times for those two days are 11am and 5pm.

Details of how to watch the qualifiers on discovery+, Matchroom Live and other platforms will be available soon.

The format is:
Round one pits players ranked 81 to 112 against those seeded 113 to 144
In round two, those 32 winners will face players ranked 49-80.
In round three, those 32 winners will face players ranked 17-48.
In round four, those 32 winners play each other, with the 16 winners going through to the Crucible.

The final stages at the Crucible run from April 15 to May 1.

11 players are missing out through suspension . They are Liang Wenbo, Li Hang, Lu Ning, Yan Bingtao, Zhao Xintong, Zhang Jiankang, Chen Zifan, Chang Bingyu, Zhao Jianbo, Bai Langning and Mark King.

To fill up the draw nine players from last year’s Q School Order of Merit have been invited: Steven Hallworth, Florian Nuessle, Ross Bulman, Ian Martin, Michael Holt, Haydon Pinhey, Andrew Higginson, Michael Georgiou and Soheil Vahedi. I’m happy to see Soheil Vahedi in that list.

They join the 16 WPBSA-invited players announced earlier in the month: Hai Long Ma, Stan Moody, Liam Davies, Yang Gao, Liam Pullen, Iulian Boiko, Filips Kalnins, Martin O’Donnell, Liam Graham, Bulcsú Révész, Siripaporn Nuanthakhamjan, Ross Muir, Daniel Wells, Billy Castle, George Pragnell and Farakh Ajaib.

I’m a bit surprised that Ashley Carty hasn’t been invited. Of course he has already regained his tour card but still, I feel that he should have been in the draw, unless, for some reason he isn’t available at those dates.

I haven’t studied the draw in details of course but a few things caught my eye:

  • Ben Mertens could face Julien Leclercq in round 2 in an all Belgian clash.
  • James Cahill is due to play Stephen Hendry. James is Stephen’s ex-wife nephew and although they aren’t close it may feel a bit awkward
  • Dechawat Poomjaeng will face Mink in an all Thai contest. Poor Mink… that can’t be easy given Poomy’s character and ability.
  • Martin O’Donnell will play Marco Fu in round 1, and the winner will play Jimmy White. Brutal that.
  • We might get some very tough matches in the last round: possible clashes are: Jamie Jones v Pang Junxu, Hossein Vafaei v Martin Gould, Joe O’Connor v Sam Craigie, Thepchaiya Un-nooh v Ricky Walden and Tom ford v Jordan Brown.

If you have the opportunity to attend those qualifiers, go and get yourself there. It’s probably the most interesting tournament of the season and fantastic value for money.

The 2023 Tour Championship – Day 1

Ding kept his hopes to be at the Crucible as a seed yesterday by beating Mark Allen, and beat him comprehensively.

Here is the report by WST:

Top Seed Allen Floored By Ding

Ding Junhui, who earned a place in the Duelbits Tour Championship by the narrowest of margins, knocked out top seed Mark Allen by a 10-5 scoreline, boosting his hopes of a Crucible berth.

China’s Ding would have missed out on a place in Hull if Gary Wilson had won one more frame at last week’s WST Classic, but Wilson’s 5-4 semi-final defeat against Pang Junxu meant that he finished just £500 behind Ding on the one-year ranking list. So Ding progressed to this week’s elite eight-man event for the first time, and took full advantage with a fine display against Allen, making a century and nine more breaks over 50.

The result means that if Ryan Day loses to Mark Selby on Thursday, Ding will be among the top 16 seeded players at the Crucible next month. If Day wins, then Ding would need to win one more match. He’ll face Ali Carter or Kyren Wilson in the semi-finals on Friday.

Today’s tussle was a repeat of November’s UK Championship final, which Allen won 10-7. The Northern Irishman has landed three titles this season, though has suffered a dip in form in recent weeks, and in fact it was Ding who came into the tie with a more recent taste of silverware, having won the Six Red World Championship this month.

From 2-0 down, Ding took five of the next six frames in the first session to open up a 5-3 lead. That soon became 6-3 as he made a break of 91 in the first frame of the evening session, then he stole a crucial tenth frame by clearing from the last red. Allen might have pulled one back but missed the final green to a centre pocket in the 11th and again Ding punished him for 8-3.

Allen took two of the next three frames to restore some respectability to the scoreline at 9-5, but Ding then wrapped up the result with a run of 95.

I played well all day, I was very focussed and took my chances well,” said 35-year-old Ding.” I was fighting hard. Winning the Six Red has given me confidence. It’s great to win a match like this. Mark might be tired because he has won so many tournaments. If he had played tonight like he did in the UK Championship second session I would have been in big trouble. He had big chances and it could have been different if he had taken them.

I am not focussed on the Crucible. I am just trying to win more matches to get in to the top 16, but it doesn’t matter whether that happens fast or slowly. I am just happy to win the match today.”

Allen, who could have gone to the top of the world rankings for the first time in his career if he had won the tournament, said: “It’s disappointing, I didn’t play my best stuff. It was a bad day at the office. I wasn’t good enough, you get days like that. Credit to Ding because he scored better than me and looked more composed. There’s no need to panic, I have had a great season, there’s a lot to be positive about. I will get ready for Sheffield now. I am looking forward to seeing what kind of animal I can be at the Crucible this time after such a good season.”

And, after the match, Stephen Hendry had his say on Allen’s performance, as reported by Phil Haigh

Stephen Hendry offers Mark Allen advice over form concerns ahead of Crucible

Phil Haigh Tuesday 28 Mar 2023 12:49 am

2023 Betvictor Welsh Open - Day 3
Mark Allen turned in a disappointing performance in defeat to Ding Junhui (Picture: Getty Images)

Stephen Hendry feels Mark Allen is struggling with a lack of break-building and a shortage of intensity and he must rectify both problems to challenge for the World Championship title this year.

Allen came into the Tour Championship this week as the number one seed thanks to his three ranking title wins this season, however, his challenge in Hull did not last long.

Ding Junhui played very well, but the Northern Irishman was not great in a 10-5 loss to the Chinese star which saw him head home on the opening night of the tournament.

After a superb season so far there has been plenty of talk of a first world title for the Pistol, but Hendry is concerned over the significant drop off in his scoring power of late.

Allen has made 40 tons this season, but none in his last nine matches, the last coming in a first round win over Alfie Burden in the Welsh Open on 13 February.

The Pistol won that match and has won five matches since then, so it does not mean disaster, but Hendry says it will be worrying him it must be fixed if he is to challenge in Sheffield.

Speaking after the defeat to Ding, Hendry told ITV4: ‘He [Ding] was by far the heavier scorer of the two players, Mark Allen just didn’t have it. His scoring has deserted him at the worst part of the season, you have to say

Really disappointing performance from him, but credit to Ding, he just kept on scoring. 50s, 60s all day.

You’ve got to try and forget it and get back to the practice table. His scoring will worry him because that’s what he’s known for and this season he’s scored prolifically with century breaks.

If I was him I’d solely practice between now and Sheffield clearing the table every time. Get that break-building back.’

Hendry feels that the demeanour of the UK champion must also change, wanting to see a fiery Allen at the table once again.

His general manner round the table is not the Mark Allen we know, he’s usually an intense looking character,’ said the seven-time world champ. ‘He looks subdued a wee bit, I’d like to see that fire in his belly a bit more.’

2023 World Grand Prix
Allen has had an immense season, but is not at top form right now (Picture: Getty Images)

Alan McManus was also on punditry duty on ITV and had some more advice for Allen, saying he must loosen up to find his best form.

Mark was a little bit unfortunate, but you’ve got to score in one visit and that takes luck out of the equation,’ said Angles.

His method right now…he’s playing with tight shoulders, you can’t do that. You have to play with freedom in the shoulders to deliver through the ball. He decelerated three or four times today and that’s a concern.

Allen was unflustered after the loss, disappointed with how he played, but refusing to panic after a fine season and before the biggest event of the campaign.

Started alright, first two frames were decent, missed a tricky red in frame three and everything started to go wrong,’ said the world number three.

You’re playing the best players in the world on current form, so if you don’t play well in this tournament you’re going to get beat it’s that simple.

It’s not a time for me to panic, I’ll go home practice hard and get ready for Sheffield now.

Speaking to WST, Allen said he would find a rapid way to get over the game, and it would come in liquid form.

I’m going to get very drunk tonight because that was a really poor performance today,’ he said.

I feel like I prepared really well, behaved myself, practicing hard, got in the gym and that was a performance I wasn’t expecting because the last few days in practice have been really good.

I’m going to have a well earned drink tonight and then back to the practice table.

Hopefully I get really, really drunk and can’t remember it.

I’m really happy to see Ding playing well again. As for Mark Allen, he was poor on the day and I hope for his sake that his plans of getting really, really drunk were just something he expressed in jest because going back to bad habits will not help him going forward and regaining his form.

Today we have Kyren Wilson vs Ali Carter. If I’m being honest, this is a match that doesn’t excite me at all. I have met Kyren and his family and I like him, but I’m not particularly thrilled by his game. As for Ali… he’s a very good player and someone who has gone through a lot but I’m not a fan of the person he is, at least not of his public persona.

Meanwhile on social media…

David Hendon may say that everyone has to work together and all but it isn’t that easy …

Yesterday Kan Doherty came back on the subject of “that meeting” claiming that players had got ample prior notice. I asked him how much prior notice and his answer was “probably 4 weeks“. To that Jason Francis answered giving the exact date when his players – Ronnie and Reanne – had got the mail. That was just 7 days before the meeting, not four weeks. Ken didn’t reply to that, he didn’t deny it, maybe he didn’t see Jason’s answer … I’m not sure. Jason suggested that probably the members of the board indeed knew much earlier than the other players when that meeting was scheduled. But why? Either someone didn’t do their job, or they waited until late to inform the players, which inevitably raises questions about possible ulterior motives.

Yes, almost all players were due in Leicester for the WST Classic, however only about one third of them were due to play on the first day. Those who played on the first day had likely booked accommodations for the night before, but not the others. This was, for all players but eight, the last ranking tournament before the World Championship, therefore it was particularly important. They almost certainly had a practice program they intended to follow, maybe practice matches booked with partners. Going to Leicester, for most, would have meant, booking additional accommodations last minute and disrupting their preparation. From what Lewis, who went to watch, said , it’s a small venue. Shortage of practice opportunities on site at tournaments has been a regular complaint by players for years. So no, it’s not “beggars belief” that most chose not to go, it was to be fully expected… which inevitably, again, raises questions about possible ulterior motives.

Zoom or other ways to attend remotely were refused. Shaun Murphy said it’s because players could record the meeting and then share on social media. Right. What would prevent someone to be in person at the meeting with a mini recorder in their pocket? Just make it clear to the players, and their managers, that there will be serious consequences for whoever breaches the confidentiality of the meetings.

And, last thing, the media went to speak to Mark Selby who criticised Ronnie, and others, for not attending the meeting. Well, Mark, it was easy for you as you live in Leicester. Disruption of your preparation. if any was minimal. Would you have gone if it was held in London? Maybe… or maybe not.

Ok This is the last I’ll say about this topic unless new elements come to light

What is at stake at the 2023 Tour Championship

The 2023 Tour Championship starts today, featuring only eight players and none of the Class of 92. It’s the last ranking event before the World Championship, and one that carries a lot of money and ranking points. It is particularly important for three players: Ding Junhui, Gary Wilson and Ryan Day.

Indeed as it stands all three have a chance to avoid qualifications for the World Championship.

Here is a piece by WST explaining the possible permutations:

It’s Two From Three In Crucible Race

Next week’s Duelbits Tour Championship in Hull is the final event before the top 16 seeds are confirmed for the Cazoo World Championship. Ryan Day, Ding Junhui and Gary Wilson are in contention for the last two spots.

The top 14 in the race, down to Stuart Bingham (note that Zhao Xintong will not be among them as he cannot enter), are secure and will be at the Crucible in April.

Wilson would have been sure of joining them if he had reached the final of the WST Classic, but he suffered an agonising 5-4 defeat to Pang Junxu in the semi-finals, which meant he missed out on a place in the top eight of the one-year list and a trip to Hull. He is still 15th in the Crucible race so could be a seed for the first time in his career, but that depends on other results next week. The permutations are:

Ding loses to Mark Allen on Monday: Wilson and Day go to the Crucible
Ding beats Allen then Day loses to Mark Selby on Thursday: Wilson and Ding go to the Crucible
Ding reaches the final and Day beats Selby: Day and Ding go to the Crucible
Ding and Day both win their first match, then Ding loses in the semi-finals: Wilson and Day go to the Crucible

As you will have understood the match today is particularly important for both Ding and Day.

The outcome of this tournament will also determine the seeding at the Crucible. Mark is currently second on the official two-year list but will go to world number one if he reaches the final this week. Mark Allen also has a chance to become world number one for the first time in his career if he wins the title. Ronnie will remain the seed number one going into the Crucible , no matter what happens this week because he is the defending champion. Mark Selby will remain seed number two even if he becomes World Number one. If Mark Allen becomes number one though, he would then become seed number two, swapping his spot with Mark Mark Selby. Because neither Neil Robertson, nor Judd Trump qualified for the Tour Championship, those two can’t be caught, they will be seeds two and three at the World Championship.

Also, I saw posts by WST claiming that snooker is going to Hull for the first time. This is untrue. The Seniors tour has held UK Championships in Hull in the past, and in the very same venue that will host the Tour Championship this week.

The “Vetoed Interview” – An Interesting Analysis By Graig Edwards and David Hendon’s views

As you would expect, the discussions around Ronnie “vetoed interview” go on and divides opinions.

Craig Edwards who wrote the piece about how the money is shared raises questions about Jason’s Ferguson’s roles and whether his position might be weakened by possible conflicts of interest.

Here is Graig Edward’s piece

Is there a “Conflict of Interest” at the top of professional snooker?

Published by Craig Edwards on March 25th, 2023.

Craig Edwards

Jason Ferguson is a man of many hats

He is chairman of the WPBSA and director of WST but realistically, is it possible for Jason Ferguson to do both?

My first recollection of Jason Ferguson must have been in the late 80s or early 90s when he travelled over from Nottinghamshire to Grimsby to play at Ray Edmonds Snooker Centre for the day.

Ferguson made a strong first impression, he was a precise positional player with a solid technique, very polished and accomplished for his age. There was no surprise, that he had a very respectable career as a professional until retiring young in 2004. Those first impressions undoubtedly, stood him well after his playing career ended. He became the Mayor of Ollerton and Broughton at the remarkably young age of forty, elevated no doubt by his chairmanship position of the WPBSA (World Professional, Billiard and Snooker Association) that he had held since 2001.

His tenure in that position was re-elected in 2010 when Barry Hearn assumed ownership and in 2022 it was confirmed he would continue serving until 2026.

What is Jason Ferguson’s role?

Considering Ronnie O’Sullivan’s allegations and the suppression of his press conference that he made them in, we ask the question, who is Jason Ferguson now and his role in the sport?

We know by 2026, Jason Ferguson’s tenure as Chairman of the WPBSA will have run for a quarter of a century.

What does the chairman of the WPBSA do? In the WPBSA case, Ferguson’s role is to preside over and protect the players interests, those players own the shares to the company. The WPBSA is owned by and the ruling body to the current 128-professionals. They are responsible for ownership of the rules and governance of the sport.

WPBSA own a 26% share in World Snooker Holding Limited as highlighted in my article from March 8th, titled Profit Increase of 150% for World Snooker shareholders in 2020/21. That profit share was defined at the time of Barry Hearn’s acquisition in 2010 for 26%, to protect and allow the players the opportunity to approve or deny any changes to ownership to World Snooker. A further part of the conditions was that Jason Ferguson stayed on in his role of chairman.

Having recognised who, I once briefly knew as a snooker professional, we can now see that Jason Ferguson has resided in his role of chairman or chairperson of the WPBSA for over twenty years. That provokes certain questions, as being a chairman is not really a defined career and Ferguson’s renumeration in the role can only be described as modest by today’s standards.

It is believed Ferguson was responsible and influential in the growth of snooker in the Far East (China) pre Covid-19 and he obviously had assumed the role of commercial director successfully at times which asks the question, was any finder’s fee renumeration applicable? To profit from such fine work in growing the sport should be reasonably expected by all members. That does mean that all business interests relating to snooker need declaring for honest transparency to the WPBSA players. With the current environment of growing resentment around professional snooker, the rank and file, would be within their rights to demand for a new level of transparency at the top of the game. Currently, the governing body’s actions appear shrouded in a smoke and mirrors culture.

That culture was never more evident than recently, when World Snooker held a short-notice players’ meeting in Leicester to address the shareholder dividends amongst other things on the 15th of March. No zoom links were allowed to players or their representatives who could not attend and in the modern world there can be no good reason for not doing so.

Then next frustrating lack of transparency from World Snooker came in an article that utilised my betting insight on March 15th, into the question of the suspension of Mark King. With my expertise and contacts around the betting industry, it was obvious that things were happening, yet WST chose to wait until the eleventh hour on March 18th before his scheduled match at the WST Classic to inform everyone, including the player, my sources tell me.

A chairman’s remit is to preside never dictate!

A chairman holds the reins of power for their members which is why any potential “conflicts of interests” need viewing by the members they preside over.

When Ferguson took on directorships in World Snooker Limited and World Snooker Holding Limited, it begged the question at the time and particularly now considering recent events, was there and is there a “conflict of interest” with his role to watch over the players rights? This is, of course, the original remit for Jason Ferguson as WPBSA chairman upon taking the role over twenty years ago.

Who would approach WST if there was strike action planned?

Theoretically, when Ronnie O’Sullivan hinted the players should strike if the membership of the WPBSA were to agree with the seven-times World Champion, it would be Ferguson’s job to approach World Snooker on their behalf as their elected WPBSA chairman. Is it possible that position then becomes a clear “conflict of interest?” Those sorts of conflicting issues are logical reasons for the recent surreptitious climate surrounding communications with the membership and for keeping players meetings behind closed doors and at a very short notice.

It can happen by chance or design that a good chairman who has been in the job for a long time, becomes dictatorial with their usage of power which could be the attributable reason for the quickly arranged players meeting.

Players have long felt appeased by Ferguson’s platitudes when they have aired their concerns, as Stephen Maguire discussed with respected snooker journalist, Phil Haigh which can only be contributing to the growing resentment within the game.

We have seen the growing power of social media and Ferguson is well versed in using those platforms which in the current climate is another area of concern for the players!

The fact of the matter is, the longer World Snooker and Jason Ferguson stay quiet the more questions are going to be asked.

Can the “Rocket’s” press conference be snooker’s saviour?

Ronnie O’Sullivan has long been thought of by many as bigger than the sport no matter the adage, that no one is too big. That’s because snooker’s global growth has been slow since he won the UK Championship at the precocious age of seventeen. In the years since, “the Rocket” has been the mainstay figure at the top of his sport for his adoring public and ever-growing cult following. Like it or lump it, there is truth in the fact that Ronnie O’Sullivan is too big for the sport and WST chairman Steve Dawson’s argumentative riposte in an unusually rare statement, after the attempted media blackout was a huge tell, that the seven-time World Champion hit a nerve.

Now, not only is he the sport’s saviour on the baize, could he inadvertently save his sport by doing something, the masses below him dare not, speak out!

Snooker fans know that occasionally over the years the sport’s talisman Ronnie O’Sullivan is prone to the odd out-of-line comment but, in recent years “the Rocket” has become a great ambassador. The encouragement and genuine guidance O’Sullivan have given the stars of the future has been much appreciated as Ben Mertens recently pointed out in an interview with Phil Haigh.

Ronnie O’Sullivan: DerHexer, Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-sa 4.0

Fans have enjoyed the “Rocket’s” honest punditry with Eurosport and his gentlemanly behaviour when defeated in several finals in recent years. Remarkably for the sport he has also retained the ability to win two of the last three World Championships.

O’Sullivan has taken offence to what happened with the players meeting and used his right to freedom of speech, and he at least, can speak out. Remember, those players below him in the world rankings with bills to pay, often talk about how frightened they are to speak out and how their social media comments are policed in a rather draconian fashion by World Snooker.

Could it be that Ronnie O’Sullivan’s comments from his press conference kick start a process that can save snooker from the growing crisis engulfing the sport and the fanning of the flames that a lack of transparency brings?

Only time will tell, but the professionals who must earn a living from the dwindling prize pools would do well to arm themselves with the facts as to whether their chairman’s remit is being met contemporaneously at present, so they can be the masters of their own future.

And David Hendon also shared his views in the snooker scene podcast (16:30 – 28:40). Basically he sees rights and wrongs on both sides. And just like me in my “open letter” he states that the European market has not been developed as it should have been.

The coloured backgrounds and “underline” bits are my doing: those are the part I found particularly relevant. But I won’t comment further. Please read, form your own opinion and share if you feel like it.

I will just add one thing: The media went to find Mark Selby who attended the meeting and got quotes out of him criticising Ronnie for not attending. Mark has not attended all similar meetings in the past. He went to this one, that was held in his home town. Would he have gone if he had to travel to London for such, having to play on the next day in a tournament that was important for him to secure his spot in the Tour Championship? Somehow I doubt it.

Interesting too is this on twitter by Hector Nunns…