An Open Letter to Steve Dawson

After Ronnie’s angry outburst about the state of snooker, Steve Dawson, chairman of WST, reacted with this:

Steve Dawson Responds To Ronnie O’Sullivan

WST Chairman Steve Dawson has responded to remarks made by Ronnie O’Sullivan in the media this week.

Dawson said: “Ronnie is a fantastic player and a legend of our sport, but sometimes his misguided comments go too far. I feel it’s necessary to respond to some of the damaging remarks he made to the press this week.

Firstly, Ronnie has never attended a players’ meeting or engaged with us to discuss his opinions. There are three formal levels where he can provide feedback: through the WST Board, through the WPBSA Players’ board or through players’ meetings, and he has not engaged through any of these channels. He also has my number and is welcome to speak with me directly.

He often compares snooker to golf and tennis, but I would challenge him as to whether for his part he elevates the sport and acts as a role model like a Rory McIlroy or Roger Federer. We are striving to take snooker to a higher level, but we need the players to be ambassadors in public, and to communicate any concerns they have through the right channels. Comments like those from Ronnie this week are damaging to us as a sport – and they’re unfounded.

In 2010, the commercial rights of snooker were awarded to Matchroom Sport. In that time, snooker has grown exponentially around the world. At the time there were six tournaments and total prize money of £3.5 million. This season there are 21 events. Prize money reached £15 million before the pandemic and is currently at £11 million. The dip since 2019 has been principally caused by the inability to stage tournaments in China whilst the country was in an unprecedented lockdown. We are determined to resume a full schedule of events in China in the near future, and at that point our tour will be stronger than ever.

During the time that we have run the tour, Ronnie has earned £7 million in prize money, including the £500,000 top prize at the World Championship last year. No doubt, with his talent, it would have been a lot more had he chosen to play in more events.

Our long-term strategy is to increase the number of events and prize money, and to bring us closer to the levels of the leading individual sports such as golf and tennis. We work alongside global giants such as IMG on this ambition. There are many individual sports, including popular Olympic sports, where the levels of prize money are significantly lower than snooker. For now, we are more than holding our own for the nature and size of the sport.

The fact is that our global television audience is higher than it has ever been, as is our digital audience. In the UK, we have smashed ticket records on many events this season, including the Masters where Ronnie played in front of 2,000 enthusiastic fans in London. Despite the economic climate, fans in the UK are coming to our tournaments in bigger numbers than ever. This does not suggest a crisis!

He also played in the Hong Kong Masters, a tournament we brought back to the calendar this season, where he won the title in front of 9,000 fans. It is tough to create new events during a global recession, but we have maximized opportunities to keep the calendar full and we will continue to do so.

His comments too often are disrespectful to snooker’s dedicated management, the sport’s commercial and venue partners, and to his fellow players. In the past he has described lower-ranked players as ‘numpties’ but they love the sport just as much as he does and our role is to give them opportunities to compete. This season we have provided every player with a £20,000 income guarantee to help them pay expenses and develop their careers.

He suggested that players should go on strike – but why? That certainly won’t drive new revenues. He also claims that players are frightened of being fined for giving their opinions but again this is not borne out by the facts. The number of players fined for comments made in the media is tiny – generally they are given much more freedom than athletes in other sports because we want them to engage more with the media and the fans. If Ronnie took advantage of his own massive global popularity to be a true ambassador for snooker then he could work with us to drive the sport forward for his benefit and for the sport as a whole.

Snooker is bigger than any player. The sport will continue to grow and we have no doubt that in the years to come it will be more successful than ever before.

My message to Ronnie – and all players – is come and talk to me and the team. Our door is always open.”

Well … Ronnie’s statement that snooker is at its worse ever is probably over the top, as in terms of playing opportunities the situation was far worse in 2009 indeed. However, I think that the “malaise” he expresses is genuine and, probably, the shadow the current match fixing enquiry casts over the sport as we approach the climax of the season, the World Championship, and his title defence, is a big factor here.

I don’t have Steve Dawson’s phone number and I’m only a fan, but I still decided to voice my own concerns through an “open letter”. Here goes…

Dear Mr Dawson,

I’m only a fan of the sport, and a photographer who has traveled to many of your events for years, taking a lot of pictures and freely sharing them on social media, and with the press officer on duty in order to promote the sport. I care about snooker and as such, I wish to share some of my concerns following Ronnie’s outburst and your answer to it. I can’t help to feel that he has some genuine points even if he didn’t express them in the ideal way.

It has transpired in the media that players have been urged not to express negative views about their sport in public, no matter their true feelings. If that is indeed the case, this is a very bad and dangerous move by the governing body. Players should have the right to express their true feelings and concerns, just as you have the right to answer if you feel that what they say is incorrect or exaggerated. Trying to stifle the player’s freedom of speech will only lead to suspicions that the governing body has something to hide.

You cite Roger Federer and Rory McIlroy as examples to follow. What about Tiger Woods and John McEnroe? Did they “damage” their sport with their antics and outburst? I don’t think so. And what about Alex Higgins whose heavenly birthday was celebrated by many fans last week? He was a fantastic snooker player, but he was unreliable, obnoxious, aggressive and very vocal and critical of the authorities. On the balance of things, do you seriously believe that he damaged snooker? Times have changed you will tell me. Maybe, but deep down human nature hasn’t changed and mavericks will always fascinate, seduce, infuriate … what they will not do is bore people to death. Let them be… please.

I fully appreciate the efforts by the governing body to keep players playing during the covid pandemics. Your team worked wonders. I totally get that the situation in China has been difficult and there is nothing you could do about it. I’m glad to read that there is hope for a return of big events there in the near future. The £20,000 income guarantee is a fantastic initiative. You have a lot to be proud of.

However, I have the feeling that the tour has become increasingly UK centric, and the wording of the seventh paragraph in your response to Ronnie did nothing to qualm my concerns. It’s all about the UK. Is this not WORLD snooker? We used to have events in Belgium, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Gibraltar… Only two events remain, both in Germany. Mainland Europe has been open and out of covid restrictions for quite some time. What happened to the majority of those events? By the way, Ronnie went to play in Bulgaria and Hungary this season, in front of huge crowds. The interest is there.

Also, qualifiers for all events all happen in the UK, no matter where the event itself is held. Why? I’m not following Golf, but in Tennis qualifiers if any are played close to the main venue and just before the event. That ensures that the form players are going through, rather than those who were on form two months before the actual event and it also ensures that “local” wildcards ,if any, can be watched by the local fans. Why isn’t that the case in snooker? Wildcards in the German Masters never made it to the venue… If you followed the last EBSA youth events, you will have seen that there are many young talents developing in mainland Europe, especially in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe. Why not give them more “equal” opportunities to watch and play their sport in their home country? It would only benefit snooker as a global sport.

Finally, while it’s true that Ronnie never attended those meetings, this time , from what I understood, he wished to participate by zoom. That wasn’t granted. Surely he wasn’t the only one. From what transpires, most of those meetings are poorly attended. If a meeting is called at short notice and due to happen on the eve of an important event, then maybe it is to be expected that many players will prioritise their preparation over a meeting that requires them to travel. The technology is there today that offers solutions. Why not use it? I know there may be concerns about privacy and confidentiality, but there are solutions for that too.

Truly yours.

Monique Limbos

Mark Selby is the 2023 WST Champion

Mark Selby has beaten Pang Junxu by 6-2 yesterday evening to win the 2023 WST Classic

Congratulations Mark Selby!

Here is the report by WST:

Selby Makes Three Tons To Win Final

Mark Selby won his second ranking title of the season, and 22nd of his career, by beating Pang Junxu 6-2 in the final of the inaugural WST Classic in his home city of Leicester.

Selby saved his best snooker of the week for the final, making three centuries as he outfoxed China’s Pang, who was playing in a ranking final for the first time. The trophy and top prize of £80,000 are a welcome boost for Selby, whose last title came at the English Open in December.

The 39-year-old came into the tournament unsure of his place at next week’s Duelbits Tour Championship as he sat precariously in eighth place on the one-year ranking list but his tremendous run at the Morningside Arena has boosted him to third. He now heads to Hull for the final event in the Duelbits Series and will go to the Crucible next month full of confidence as he seeks a fifth world title.

Selby remains in eighth place on the all-time list of ranking event winners, but is now just one behind both Judd Trump and Neil Robertson, neither of whom have added to their tally this season. So strong is Selby’s killer instinct when he glimpses silverware that he has now won 19 of his last 21 ranking finals. He remains second in the official world rankings but narrows the gap significantly on world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Pang, age 23, turned pro in 2020 and was named Rookie of the Year in his first season. Within the past two months he has made significant breakthroughs, reaching his first ranking quarter-final at the German Masters, his first semi at the Welsh Open and now his first final. The talented cueman earns £35,000, jumps 11 places up the rankings to 35th and it surely won’t be long before he is holding a trophy.

In the semi-finals, Pang edged out Gary Wilson 5-4 in what was a crucial match for Wilson as victory would have earned him a Duelbits Tour Championship berth as well as a top 16 seeding at the Crucible. Selby, meanwhile, saw off Ali Carter 5-0 with a top break of 138.

The Englishman made a superb start to the final with breaks of 104 and 138 to go 2-0 up. Pang pulled one back with a run of 75 before Selby got the better of the fourth frame then made a 120 for 4-1. A scrappy sixth went Pang’s way, but in the seventh Selby converted a long pot on the third-last red when he led by 25 points and added the balls he needed for 5-2. And he needed only one chance to close out the result, finishing with a break of 79.

I played well all day, against John Higgins in the quarter-finals and Ali in the semis, then continued that in the final,” said Selby. “I was just gutted at the end not to make a fourth century! I have been striking the ball well in practice and it was nice to take that to the match table. Even when I won the English Open in December I wasn’t hitting the ball as well as I was this week. Hopefully I can carry that into the Tour Championship then the World Championship. I’ll be going to Sheffield confident.”

And this is what it means for the last ranking event before the World Championship (source: WST)

Duelbits Tour Championship Draw And Schedule Confirmed

The field and match schedule for next week’s Duelbits Tour Championship is now confirmed, with the event to run from March 27 to April 2 at the Bonus Arena in Hull.

The first round matches are:

Monday March 27th: Mark Allen (1) v Ding Junhui (8)
Tuesday March 28th: Ali Carter (4) v Kyren Wilson (5)
Wednesday March 29th: Shaun Murphy (2) v Robert Milkins (7)
Thursday March 30th: Mark Selby (3) v Ryan Day (6)

Tickets start at just £22 which is exceptional value for the chance to watch the best players on the planet on current form, competing in a renowned tournament. With an elite field of the top eight players from the one-year ranking list, it’s the only format other than the World Championship where matches are best of 19 frames from the first round, reflecting the stature of the event.

Televised by ITV, it’s the third and final event in the 2023 Duelbits Series and there’s a top prize of £150,000 up for grabs.

2023 WST Classic – Onto the Last Day

Tonight one player will walk away with the inaugural WST Classic title and trophy. Indeed, three rounds will be played today. Here is the draw of the quarter-finals:

As you can see it’s a very “unbalanced” draw, with three former World Champions and a multiple World finalist in the lower half, whilst the upper half features only one top 16 player, Gary Wilson. Pang is 41st in the ranking and the highest ranked of the other 3.

Here is WST report on what happened yesterday:

White: I’ll Make The Crucible

Jimmy White insisted that he believes he will qualify for the Crucible this year, after his fine run at the WST Classic came to an end at the last 16 stage with a 4-1 reverse against Pang Junxu.

White, age 60, knocked out Graeme Dott and Joe Perry in the first two rounds in Leicester then scored one of his best wins in recent years earlier on Tuesday when he beat Judd Trump 4-2. But the Whirlwind missed out on a first ranking quarter-final in seven years as he lost 4-1 to China’s Pang.

I’m really disappointed that I didn’t compete,” said White. “I won the first frame then I should have gone 2-0 up. I felt mentally drained. The buzz should get you through that, but I was tired and I was cueing poorly from the second frame onwards. Pang is one of my favourite Chinese players and I wish him all the best because he’s a hard worker. To beat the three players I have beaten this week and then not produce tonight is a disappointment.

Crowd favourite White has enjoyed impressive results this season, reaching the last 16 of two ranking events and the last 32 of another. He’ll now look ahead to the Cazoo World Championship qualifiers which start on April 3, with the goal of reaching the final stages for the first time since 2006. “I am playing ok, I just ran out of steam,” he added. “I’ll take a couple of days off now and get back to practice on Friday. I’ll be getting to the Crucible, I am playing too well.

Gary Wilson reached the quarter-finals by beating David Grace 4-1 with a top break of 135, and his results on Wednesday could determine whether he plays at the Duelbits Tour Championship and the Crucible in the coming weeks.

Wilson won his first ranking title at the BetVictor Scottish Open in December and is into the last eight of a ranking event for the third time this season. If he goes on to reach the final in Leicester, he will leapfrog Ding Junhui in the Race to Hull and earn a place in next week’s conclusion to the 2023 Duelbits Series, and will be sure of a top 16 seeding at the Cazoo World Championship for the first time in his career. But if Wilson falls at the quarter or semi-final stage tomorrow, then Ding will go to Hull and could also go on to earn that Crucible spot.

Wilson’s next opponent will be Germany’s Lukas Kleckers, who made a breakthrough by reaching the first ranking event quarter-final of his career. The 26-year-old from Essen beat Jackson Page 4-0 with top breaks of 88, 63 and 83.

Pang, a semi-finalist at the BetVictor Welsh Open, now meets Oliver Lines, who reached his second ranking quarter-final, and first since the Turkish Masters a year ago, with a 4-0 thrashing of Scott Donaldson.

John Higgins, winner of the recent BetVictor Championship League, is playing his best snooker of the season so far and reached his first ranking quarter-final of the campaign by making breaks of 121 and 126 in a 4-2 win over Kyren Wilson. In a clash of two four-time World Champions, Higgins now meets Mark Selby, who beat Robbie Williams 4-3 by taking the 67-minute deciding frame on the final pink.

Stuart Bingham saw off Noppon Saengkham 4-2 and now faces an Essex derby against Ali Carter, who edged out James Cahill 4-3 with a top break of 106.

Jimmy White’s fairy tale run came to an end yesterday evening and it was plain to see that he “hit the wall” there, as he admits himself. Jimmy badly wants to make it to the Crucible and, no doubt, that would be an extraordinary and much needed “fell good” snooker story given Jimmy’s popularity with the fans. He still has the game. Does he have the stamina? I’m not sure, especially considering that we are back with the best of 19 format from round 1. Whatever happens from here, Jimmy is almost certain to qualify for next season as a professional “on merit”.

WST focus has been on the Gary Wilson v Ding Junhui “battle” for the top 16 and the 2023 Tour Championship. It really isn’t a battle because Ding is out of the tournament and it’s out of his hands.

Whilst that is important for those two, I feel that this weeks results are equally if not more important for the lower ranked players still in the draw.

The above report mentions that Lukas Kleckers is in his first quarter-finals, but that’s not all that is worth mentioning. Indeed Lukas’ results this week mean that he’s now assured to be in the top 80 of the rankings going into the 2023 World Championship. This means that he will not need to play the first round of qualifiers and is guaranteed £5000 in prize money, albeit not counting towards his ranking unless he wins his first match in Sheffield. Oliver Lines and Jimmy White are also certain to start in round 2, whilst Pang, currently ranked 41st will start in round 3 with £10000 guaranteed.

The “Vetoed Interview” is out

After Ronnie’s first round win at the 2023 WST Classic last week, there were no quotes by Ronnie in the very short WST report about his match. Rumours over social media were that Ronnie’s interview had been vetoed.

Jason Francis, who manages Ronnie and Reanne Evans, confirmed to me that Ronnie had spoken to two journalists, one of them being Hector Nunns, the author of the piece I share hereafter.

Everyone will have their opinion, but here are a few things I want to stress before you read it:

  • The WST/WPBSA spoke person claims that Ronnie chose not to attend. This is not entirely true. Ronnie and Reanne were not due to play on the first day of the tournament, they had not planned to be in Leicester on that day. Jason Francis, who manages both, asked for them to be allowed to attend by Zoom rather than in person. That was refused.
  • Ronnie claims that he has been carrying the sport for 20-30 years and it IS true. There is no doubt that it has taken a lot out of him mentally, even too much at times. Judd Trump himself said it recently: for over 20 years Ronnie is always in the limelight, he’s always expected to win, if he doesn’t its because “he didn’t try”. Everything he says or does is scrutinised and judged. Judd is right and those who claim that Ronnie didn’t do enough for the game don’t understand what it takes to play and succeed for so long under that kind of pressure. He’s not a business man, he’s a player.
  • WST/WPBSA claim that the prize money has grown … for their UK events. Well, that’s a big part of the issue: the game is far too UK centric. It calls itself “WORLD” snooker but it IS massively UK centric, England centric even. You can’t expect big international companies to get behind a sport that basically looks like a national league with a few international invitees. Of course covid has limited what they could do, but that’s over now. Of course, China’s ongoing isolation policies have not helped either. But mainland Europe has been open for quite some time and the Women’s game has traveled a lot. So? One of WPBSA’s answer in the past has been that the UK centric organisation – especially that of the qualifiers – is cheaper for the majority of the players who are British/Irish. That’s true but that is also a big part of what causes the issue because it actually keeps it that way by making it harder, more mentally taxing and more costly for everyone else.
  • The way that money that is there has been used has prioritised the shareholders over the players. Matchroom basically “owns” the sport but since Barry Hearn has retired I feel that snooker has not been their priority. Eddie Hearn has never been interested in anything but boxing, the very dynamic and capable Emily Frazer is 100% behind the development of pool and has even been successful in attracting some of the top snooker players to “her” sport.
  • Jason Ferguson is someone I like. He’s been a player, he understands their needs, he genuinely cares for them and the sport, he understands the game but he’s not a business man. If anything, he is too nice maybe. He needs someone at his side who is a businessperson.

The whole situation reminds me of the start of the 2009/10 season: it has the same “feeling”. Discontent, players not allowed to speak their mind … Then it lead to Barry Hearn taking over snooker and initiating big changes. What will happen now? I don’t know but changes surely are around the corner.

So, here it is as reported by Hector Nunns, one of the two journalists Ronnie spoke to :

O’Sullivan launches most explosive interview yet ripping into snooker’s bosses

Reigning and seven-time world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has ripped into his sport’s bosses in an explosive attack over the current state of the professional game

Ronnie O’Sullivan has ripped into snooker bosses in an explosive rant about the state of the sport(Image: PA)

Ronnie O’Sullivan has launched a devastating attack on the state of snooker and those running it – claiming the sport is in “the worst place it has ever been”.

In under a month the Rocket launches his bid for a record eighth world title at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. The world No.1 last year equalled Stephen Hendry’s mark of seven crowns amid hugely emotional scenes at the iconic venue as he beat Judd Trump in the final.

But this year’s blue-riband tournament will take place under the shadow of a match-fixing hearing also next month that sees 10 Chinese players suspended and charged with a range of offences.

There is also widespread discontent among top players over the calendar, cancelled tournaments and reduced overall prize-money levels post-Covid with China events not yet back on stream.

And recent efforts by the governing bodies to stop players speaking out appear to have been a red rag to O’Sullivan – who states the situation is “beyond a crisis”. The game’s No.1 box office star has even encouraged players to go on strike to force major change.

He said: “Listen, snooker is in a bad place. It’s in trouble. Forget Turkey [Turkish Masters recently cancelled]. This needs at least another £50million a year just to make it a proper tour.

When you look at the number, it’s bad. When you look at £10million prize money for 25 events across the year for 128 players, it’s never going to be good. It needs at least to triple that to make it work. Maybe you do need some proper people like Liberty [in Formula One] or someone with the vision to bring it up to date.

You look at the people actually managing the game, they are not the brightest sparks either. So you can’t see them digging themselves out of it. But you don’t have to be Einstein. It is probably in the worst place it has ever been. The image of the sport, it’s a bit like a pub sport now.

Look at some of the tournaments. The Shootout. Some of the venues we play at. It’s lost its charm of what it used to be. It’s cheap. If they can be honest enough with themselves, maybe the people that run the game need to say: We have taken it as far as we can.

If they really have the love of the sport they would hand it over to somebody else that had higher ambitions. It is probably as bad as it has ever been also because of the betting scandal.

There are a lot of players I know who are really unhappy and frightened to speak out because they will get fined. They are told that. The game is struggling, if you look at the numbers it is in a bad way. But we all want good for the game.

I can’t do more. I have carried the sport pretty much for the last 20-30 years. It’s not one player. It’s the sport, it’s not a massive sport. At Wimbledon it is probably £50million for the one event. You look at golf, minimum first prize of £1.2million and the top players don’t even turn up for that.

We are playing for the winner gets £80,000 most weeks and the runner-up gets £35,000. It’s bang in trouble. Mark Allen has done well this year, Judd Trump did well a couple of years before that. A few others do alright. But for the rest, there is nothing there.

A lot of these players are tempted by crumbs. If you give them a few crumbs, and they say, I will play, keep them quiet, keep them on board. But the only way to get change is for the players to say, we are not playing until you listen to us.

“If you want us to play in this tournament for six days then this is what we expect. This amount of prize money. Two weeks for this amount of prize money. Nothing will change until the majority of the players go, you know what, we are not playing.”

World Snooker have sought to reassure O’Sullivan and the tour that there are causes for optimism, with a plan in place that will kick in post-Covid as the Asian markets re-open.

A spokesperson said: “Last week we held a constructive meeting with the players, unfortunately Ronnie chose not to attend, where we set out our vision for the future of snooker and addressed issues which are important to the players.

The WST state that O’Sullivan chose not to attend a recent “constructive” players’ meeting (Image: Getty Images)

The outcomes were positive, and players were encouraged by the progressive strategy set out by WST. WST is working diligently across many of the areas Ronnie has raised and is achieving considerable success as a result. We have smashed records on ticket sales for the majority of our events this season, and our global TV and digital audience is bigger than ever.

Prize money for our UK events has increased since the start of the pandemic. Post COVID we are committed to returning to China in 2023 and optimistic about that prospect, which would put our tour in the strongest position it has ever been.

We are working with the leading agencies in sports, whose clients include the Premier League, FIFA, Ryder Cup and The Masters. Our long-term strategy is based upon best-in-class analysis and driven by data. We would always welcome Ronnie to share his ideas and discuss our plans and strategy directly with WST.”

The “underline” highlighting some bits in the above text are my doing. Opinions expressed are my own, and my own only

Taking stock of the 2023 WST Classic so far

After three full days of action in Leicester, we are only at mid point of the second round of the 2023 WST Classic. You can follow all the results on

The tournament is over for Ronnie: after winning his opening match, he was forced to withdraw because of an elbow injury. This means that he won’t be playing in the 2023 Tour Championship, his next competitive match will be at The Crucible, on the opening day when he will start his World Title defence. I’m 100% certain that Ronnie will do everything in his power to be well prepared but there is no denial that the return of the elbow injury is a serious concern.

The first round at the 2023 WST Classic didn’t throw too many surprise/upsets, but there were still a few unexpected “casualties”, most notably Ding Junhui and Luca Brecel.

Here are the WST reports on the first three days:

17 March, 2023 – Round 1 (minus the part about Ronnie’s match)

Trump Reaches 900 Landmark

Judd Trump became the third player in snooker history to make 900 career centuries, during his 4-1 opening round victory against David Lilley at the WST Classic in Leicester.

Trump’s break of 113 put him 2-1 up on Lilley and saw him join Ronnie O’Sullivan (1,198) and John Higgins (928) as the only players to have crossed the 900-ton threshold. For good measure, he made a 131 in the last frame of the match to bring his tally to 901.

The Bristol cueman turned pro in 2005 so has averaged around 50 centuries per year over that 18-year spell. He could be on track to eclipse O’Sullivan as the all-time heaviest scorer, by the end of his career.

Steven Hallworth scored one of his best career wins as he beat Ryan Day 4-1 with a top break of 72. Amateur Hallworth, who had spent the opening day in the commentary box broadcasting for Matchroom.Live, showed his quality on the table as he reached the last 64 of a ranking event for the fourth time this season.

“I hit the ground running in the first couple of frames and let Ryan know he couldn’t walk over me,” said Hallworth. “He has had an incredible season, winning the British Open. But I knew if I played my best I would have a chance. I really enjoy the commentary and hopefully I can offer insight because I’m a player so I know what the others are going through. But what I want to do is to get back on the tour and play snooker, that’s what I practise hard for every day.”

Haydon Pinhey was another amateur to register a surprise win as he beat Luca Brecel 4-2 with top runs of 115 and 113.

Jackson Page came from 3-1 down to beat Anton Kazakov 4-3, making a 56 clearance in the decider, and he now meets close friend Mark Williams who edged out Sean O’Sullivan 4-3.

Kyren Wilson compiled runs of 105 and 101 in a 4-1 victory over Dean Young while Jimmy White added another notch to his impressive season as he beat Graeme Dott 4-2. Gary Wilson boosted his hopes of a top 16 seeding for the Crucible as he saw off Lei Peifan 4-0.

18 March 2023 (Round 1)

Higgins, Selby And Murphy Reach Round Two

Big guns continued to fire at the WST Classic in Leicester as John Higgins, Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy all took their place in a strong second round line up.

The world’s top eight players are all in the last 64 of the world ranking event, with the second round to start on Sunday afternoon. The tournament concludes on Wednesday with a top prize of £80,000 up for grabs.

Higgins won the recent BetVictor Championship League but has struggled this season in ranking events, so a 4-3 victory over Michael White gave the Scot a much-needed boost. White made an 82 clearance to level at 3-3, but Higgins got the better of the decider with a top run of 53.

Selby top scored with 95 in a 4-1 win over Robbie McGuigan, a result which boosts his chances of keeping his top-eight ranking on the one-year list and qualifying for the Duelbits Tour Championship in Hull .

In-form Murphy, winner of the recent Duelbits Players Championship, needed just 53 minutes to beat Oliver Brown 4-0 with runs of 78, 87, 83 and a 140 total clearance which leaves him tied with Mark Joyce on a tournament high-break chart.

Ding Junhui lost 4-3 to Xu Si, who made a 138 in the decider, and that could leave Ding in danger of missing out on both a place in Hull and a top 16 seeding for the Crucible – he will have to watch results over the coming days to discover his fate.

Matthew Selt came from 3-1 down to beat Michael Holt 4-3, winning an epic 75-minute deciding frame by potting the final brown and blue. Selt recently equalled the record for the most centuries made in a single tournament during the BetVictor Championship League, though in ranking events he has suffered five first round defeats this season.

The 2019 Indian Open champion said: “It’s a massive win in the context of my season, I would have stayed out there eight hours to try to win it. I have played a lot better than my results have shown this season. It hurts to lose in the first round because it’s hard to get any momentum. The Championship League has bailed me out in terms of money earned on the table. But the big one is still around the corner. When you have had a poor season results wise, there is no better tournament in terms of trying to rectify that than the World Championship. If I can win a few more matches here that will give me momentum. There is a lot of snooker to be played over the next few days.”

Stephen Maguire completed an even better fight-back as he recovered a 3-0 deficit to beat Alexander Ursenbacher 4-3 with a top break of 137, while BetVictor Shoot Out king Chris Wakelin top scored with 115 in a 4-1 defeat of Reanne Evans.

!9 March 2023 (rounds 1 and 2)

Top Seeds Fall In Leicester

Oliver Lines scored one of his best career wins at the WST Classic, beating Neil Robertson 4-3 in the second round to improve his chances of avoiding tour relegation at the end of the season.

There were several big names casualties on day four in Leicester as Robertson, Jack Lisowski, Mark Williams and Barry Hawkins all lost, while Ronnie O’Sullivan pulled out with an elbow injury.

Lines is currently 64th in the provisional end of season rankings, with only the top 64 sure of keeping their tour card after the Cazoo World Championship, so every result is important for the Leeds cueman. Breaks of 64 and 67 helped him get the better of Robertson today to set up a last 32 meeting with Lyu Haotian.

To beat a player of Neil’s class is great,” said Lines. “It’s hard for the big boys here with no crowd but I’m not taking anything away from myself because I needed that win and I managed to get it. I love Neil’s cue action, it’s the best I’ve ever seen by a mile. I have lost a lot of first round matches this season so it’s nice to see the practice pay off and beat one of the top boys.

Judd Trump needs to reach the final this week to qualify for the eight-man Duelbits Tour Championship later this month and he kept his hopes alive with a 4-1 defeat of Wu Yize.

Masters champion Trump said. “It’s been a tricky season and I am not overly confident of doing anything. If I get through to the Tour Championship it’s a bonus, if not I could do with a break and then I can look forward to the World Championship. So I’m relaxed because I know I need a break, it has been a tough season for everyone. A lot of top players have struggled, but when we get to Sheffield the best players will come alive.

Jackson Page scored a 4-3 victory over close friend Mark Williams, gaining revenge for their Crucible clash last season which Williams won 13-3. This time, Page came from 3-2 down to take the last two frames with breaks of 97 and 51.

The two amateurs in the field kept their runs going as Haydon Pinhey beat Elliot Slessor 4-1 and Daniel Wells made a 141 – new front runner for the £5,000 high break prize – during a 4-3 defeat of Xiao Guodong. Si Jiahui top scored with 123 in a 4-2 win over Lisowski while BetVictor Welsh Open champion Robert Milkins earned a 4-2 success over Mink Nutcharut.

One player who – surprisingly – isn’t mentioned in the above report is Jimmy White who defeated Joe Perry in a deciding frame yesterday evening, to reach the third round (last 32) where he will face Judd Trump. Jimmy, who is 60 years old, is currently 50th in the one year list and second, only behind Daniel Wells, in the list of four, not in the top 64 at the end of the season but will awarded a new professional tour card for their performance this season. It’s quite remarkable.

The tournament was overshadowed by the WST statement announcing Mark King’s suspension for suspected match fixing.

Snooker News – 18 March 2023

The news yesterday once again brought a mixed bag…

The good … Ross Muir regained his professional status by winning the 2023 EBSA Championship in Malta.

Here is the report by WPBSA

Magnificent Muir is European Champion

Ross Muir is set to return to the World Snooker Tour after he defeated fellow Scot Michael Collumb 5-1 in the final to win the 2023 EBSA European Amateur Snooker Championship. 

Organised by the European Billiards and Snooker Association, over 170 players from 40 different nations took part in the 32nd edition of this prestigious continental event which was this year being held at the Dolmen Hotel in Qawra, Malta.  

Muir had no problem qualifying for the knockout rounds after topping his group with four wins from four. He went on to eliminate Umut Dikme (Germany) 4-2, George Pragnell (England) 4-0, former finalist Heikki Niva (Finland) 4-2, Shachar Ruberg (Israel) 4-3 and then two-time winner Robin Hull (Finland) 4-1 in the semi-finals. 

On the other side of the draw, current Scottish national champion Collumb – who also enjoyed a 100% record in the groups phase – denied recent Q Tour Playoff winner Ashley Carty (England) on his way to the last four where he ended the challenge of Irish youngster Ross Bulman, 4-1.

The first all-Scottish final in the tournament’s history, Muir started strong as breaks of 55 and 88 helped him establish a 2-0 lead. 

Collumb got on the board with frame three, but Muir clinched a tight fourth frame from behind to go into the mid-session interval two up before reaching the target of five on resumption. 

After agonisingly finishing second on this season’s Q Tour and just missing out on automatic promotion, this triumph in the Mediterranean for the 27-year-old means he will be back in the big time as he secures a two-year professional tour card for the 2023/24 and 2024/25 seasons. The Edinburgh cueist last appeared on the sport’s top tier in 2019.

Muir becomes the fourth player from Scotland to win the title, and the victory caps an incredible championships for his nation after under-16 and under-21 glories at the same venue for Jack Borwick and Liam Graham, respectively. 

Congratulations Ross Muir!

I’m very happy for Ross who has somehow been forced out of the professional game because of health issues. He’s obviously been working very hard to regain his tour card and has got a lot of good results in recent months. I’m wishing him the best as he return where he belongs to, the Main Tour.

The bad … Mark Kings suspended on suspicion of match fixing

Here is WPBSA statement

WPBSA Statement | Mark King

Saturday 18 Mar 2023 01:00PM

WPBSA Statement | Mark King

WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson has today taken the decision to suspend Mark King from attending or competing on the World Snooker Tour with immediate effect.

This follows an initial investigation of irregular betting patterns reported to the WPBSA on the match between Mark King and Joe Perry at the Welsh Open on 13th February 2023.

The suspension will remain in place until the conclusion of the investigation or any subsequent charges that may or may not be brought. Mark King has the right to appeal this decision.

This is another blow hitting the sport we love. This particular match had been discussed on social media indeed and there are call for Jason Ferguson to quit because, allegedly, he didn’t act swiftly enough in this case, and indeed the 10 Chinese players case. I’m not sure about that. It’s one thing to suspect or even know something, and another thing to have enough solid proof to take actions that are bound to be legally challenged if not supported by substantiated evidence.

Acquiring such evidence might take some time. In some cases it might even prove impossible. We have had cases in the past, in snooker, of situations where everyone was convinced that results had been manipulated but actual solid proof could never be sufficiently established. You can’t break someone career, and life, on suspicions no matter how strong they are.

Mark King is a former betting addict. My first thought reading the news was: “Did he have a relapse? Did he put himself is such dire financial situation that he saw no other way out of his problems?”. Hopefully answers will come soon. No matter how bad the answers they can’t more damaging than being in a limbo that only feeds speculations and conspiracy theories.