2020 European Masters – Day 3

Yesterday in Milton Keynes, we saw the conclusion of the last 128 round and the start of the last 64 round.

Here is the report by WST:

World number one Judd Trump booked his place in the third round of the BetVictor European Masters after easing to a 5-1 defeat of Germany’s Lukas Kleckers.

The Ace in the Pack notched up a record breaking six ranking titles during an epic 2019/20 campaign. In the process he was victorious in last season’s BetVictor European Series, picking up the lucrative £150,000 bonus.

Trump will once again be hoping to land the bumper payout this season, which is awarded to the player who accumulates the most prize money across the six event series.

Trump established a 4-0 advantage at the mid-session this evening, composing breaks of 50 and 132 along the way. When they returned, Kleckers got his first frame on the board to reduce his arrears to 4-1. However, Trump edged the next to set up a third round meeting with Michael Holt.

Trump said: “It was important to get off to a good lead. He is quite a slow player. It can be frustrating at times if you are sat there watching. I just wanted get it done as quickly as possible.

“You have to win one of the first couple of events to get that confidence up. When you start a new season it is so important to have a quick start and get a few wins under your belt. I feel like my game is there and I feel like I’m playing well. Hopefully I can show that for the rest of the tournament.”

World number five Mark Allen saw off Austrian number one Florian Nussle 5-2 to book an intriguing second round meeting with Ken Doherty.

Allen will be hoping to go one step further than his previous trip to Milton Keynes. The Northern Irishman reached the final of the elite eight-player Tour Championship back in June, when he was beaten 10-6 by Stephen Maguire.

This evening, Allen fired in three century runs of 135, 104 and 114 on his way to a comfortable victory.

Graeme Dott was in fine form as he easily saw off China’s Xu Si in a 5-0 whitewash. The 2006 World Champion composed runs of 60, 62, 51, 85 and 55 to blitz to victory.

Asian number one Ding Junhui was also a whitewash victor, beating Yuan Sijun 5-0. Masters champion Stuart Bingham secured a 5-3 defeat of last season’s Rookie of the Year Louis Heathcote.

The match between Mark Allen and Florian Nüßle was actually a very good one to watch. The three first frames of the match were one-sided but Mark produced a masterclass in break building and, if you love snooker, you could only appreciate and admire the skills on display. Although Mark made a 104 in the third frame, he didn’t clear the table. With one red remaining, Florian came back to the table. He didn’t try to find snookers. Instead he compiled a nice 35 break to get himself settled and get the feel of the table. That was a very mature reaction to what had happened before by the 18 years old Austrian Champion. It paid off. Florian managed to win the last frame before the MSI. When they resumed Mark immediately scored a 114, only for Florian to respond by a 102. Mark then finished the job by winning a close last frame. Despite the “heavy” defeat, Florian will have a lot of positives to take from this match. He attracted praise from Neal Foulds and David Hendon, both for his attitude, and the skills he showed despite an unorthodox technique.

Regarding Neal Foulds, he’s an excellent commentator, and someone who gives the players respect, even when they are amateurs and relatively unknown to the general UK audience. Yesterday, ahead of his match, Neal messaged me, wanting to be certain about the pronounciation of Florian’s name. This is in stark contrast with some other commentators, who joyously butcher “non english” names, and get upset when you try to help them to get it right. I once told, very politely and privately, to one of them that “Brecel” is pronounced “Bressel” and not “Brekkel”. He was furious, asking me very curtly, how I could possibly know. Well … I’m Belgian, like Luca, and I know Luca’s family. He still looked unconvinced.

Others results worth noticing in the concluding first round yesterday are the wins by Pang Junxu over Ben Hancorn and Robbie Wlliams over Joe Perry.

Ding whitewashed the young Yuan Sijun. I’m always uneasy when Ding faces a young compatriot. When you hear some of them speak about Ding it’s like he’s a sort of demigod, and beating him is unthinkable … almost sacrilege. I didn’t watch the match, and it may not have been the case in this instance, but the frame scores suggest that Yuan didn’t put up much of a fight after losing the first two frames.

The second round started in the evening, and the main television match was, of course, Judd Trump v Lukas Kleckers. I found it painful to watch. Lukas looked very frustrated and almost sulking in his chair. He had opportunities, some good ones, but didn’t take them. When sitting in his chair, Judd looked impatient and even annoyed at times. Whilst it is true that his opponent was slow, it was obvious enough that this was not some sort of mind game by Lukas: he was just tense, uncomfortable, feeling the pressure and he isn’t a naturally fast player anyway.

Away from the cameras, there were good wins for Luca Brecel,  Alan Taylor and Jamie Clarke. Luca didn’t score a single 50+ break in his 5-1 demolition of Ali Carter, which is remarkable given that Ali is a strong all-rounder. Alan Taylor piled more misery on Ben Woollaston, who, IMO, needs some help to rediscover the talent and confidence that earned him a ranking final in Wales, five years ago. How he has gone backwards so much, is hard to understand really, but of course there might be circumstances that we don’t know about.

You can find all detailed results on snooker.org

Today, the last 64 round will be played to its conclusion and Ronnie will play his first match of this season against Aaron Hill tonight.

2020 European Masters – Day 2

The biggest piece of news yesterday was of course that two players were tested positive to covid-19 and, as a consequence they and three other players who had been in contact with them have been withdrawn from the tournament.

This vindicated Anthony Hamilton’s decision to withdraw from the CLS last week because no tests were done that time. I sincerely hope that WST will now make sure tests are done at all events, including next week.

More positive tests might appear today …

Other than that, here is WST report on yesterday’s action

Stephen Maguire staved off a fightback from Chinese teenager Chang Bingyu to win 5-3 and book his place in the second round of BetVictor European Masters in Milton Keynes.

Maguire has already tasted success in Milton Keynes this year. He was victorious at the elite eight-player Tour Championship in June, beating Mark Allen 10-6 in the final. That saw him earn the £150,000 top prize, as well as a £100,000 bonus for topping the Coral Series standings.

This tournament marks the early stages of a quest for another bumper payout. The player who accumulates the most prize money over the six-event BetVictor European Series, will land a huge £150,000 additional payout.

The Scot claimed the opening two frames, before a fine century run of 117 by Chang reduced the gap to 2-1. That did little to deter Maguire, who claimed the following two frames to move one from victory at 4-1.

Maguire began to visibly show his frustration after spurning opportunities to wrap the match up, with Chang taking two on the bounce to make it 4-3. However, a fine break of 93 saw the six-time ranking event winner over the line with a frame to spare.

“I’m just happy to get through,” said 2004 UK Champion Maguire. “I was starting to think that I’d thrown that match away there. I honestly thought it was going 4-4. I’m just over the moon that I managed to get out there before the decider.

“A lot of the other players thrive on the crowd, which I don’t. All the players need to get used to this. I think it is going to be like this well into next year. Any tournament that you guys put on, the players should be very grateful.”

Shaun Murphy edged out Liang Wenbo in a late night thriller 5-4 to book his progression to the second round.

Murphy fired in a century run of 105 in the fourth frame to lead 3-1 at the mid-session interval. When they returned, Liang blitzed his way back into contention. Breaks of 85, 90, and 59 took him to the verge of victory at 4-3.

Liang looked set to clinch an impressive win, before missing a red to the middle and breaking down on a break of 55. Murphy produced a steely clearance of 64 to force a decider.

China’s Liang had further chances to close out the tie, but eventually Murphy got over the line by clearing the colours to win the final frame on the black. That sets up an intriguing second round meeting with Alan McManus.

Tour rookie Aaron Hill produced an impressive display to beat Andy Hicks 5-2. That earns the current under 18 and under 21 European Champion a mouth-watering second round clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Crucible semi-finalist Anthony McGill battled to a 5-3 victory over Luo Honghao, while Yan Bingtao whitewashed Barry Pinches 5-0.

Once again, this report focusses on the televised/streamed matches and the top players.

Young Chang Bingyu showed some good things and, in a tiered system, would probably have progressed through a couple of rounds, gaining more experience, more confidence, some ranking points and some money …

From 3-0 down, Zhou Yuelong went on to beat Alexander Ursenbacher by 5-4. Although he lost very heavily to Neil Robertson in his first ranking final last season in this very tournament, I believe that he’s one of the players who could well take their first ranking title this season.

The 16 years old Antek Kowalski beat Sean Maddocks by 5-3. I’m not sure why WST uses Antoni instead of Antek as his first name but, maybe, it’s Antek’s own choice as it is “easier” to non-polish ears? Whatever… Sean Maddocks and Aaron Hill are probably the most “fancied” rookies this season, but keep an eye on Antek Kowalsi. He’s really good.

Jamie Clarke confirmed his Crucible form by beating Ricky Walden by 5-3, and Jamie Jones is making the most of his return to professional snooker, beating Dominic Dale by 5-1.

You can hear Jamie here, speaking of what it means to be back

The young Ben Mertens was beaten 5-0 by Robert Milkins, despite having the only 50+ break of the match to his name. The score is one-sided however all frames but one, the first, were close. Robert of course has loads of experience, whilst Ben is only 15, and I imagine that this experience was the telling factor when it came to win the close frames.

Zhao Xintong lead 4-2 and still was beaten by Nigel Bond who won the last three frames. I didn’t see the match, but I somehow expected this based on what I witnessed in the past from Zhao. He has no answer to the type of game the likes of Nigel Bond play.

Two players test positive at the European Masters 2020

This was posted by WST just now:

Snooker players Daniel Wells and Gary Wilson have tested positive for Covid-19 at the BetVictor European Masters in Milton Keynes and have withdrawn from the event.

Elliot Slessor and David Lilley came into contact with Wilson on Monday, while Michael White came into contact with Wells. Slessor, Lilley and White have also been withdrawn from the event by WST.

Both Wells and Wilson arrived at the venue on Monday and were tested. The positive results were received on Tuesday morning. All other players and officials tested at the event so far have had negative results.

The opponents of the four players to withdraw will receive a bye to the second round. Lilley would have played David Gilbert, Slessor would have faced James Cahill, Wells would have played Ronnie O’Sullivan,  Wilson was due to meet Duane Jones and White was due to play Mark Selby..

Wells, Wilson, Slessor, Lilley and White will now undergo a period of self isolation and will receive the support of WST.

Since WST events restarted in June, strict Covid-19 regulations have been followed, under UK Government guidance.

I wouldn’t say that Elliott Slessor withdrew, more like he was forcibly “withdrawn” judging by his reaction on Facebook. He’s absolutely fuming. But WST has to be carefull. After just one day the test could still come negative even if he was infected.

Update: see parts in red and note the change in wording regarding the “contact” players: It’s now indicated that they have been withdrawn, as previewsly it was said that they had withdrawn.

And all this just shows how right Anthony Hamilton was to withdraw last week, with no tests. I sincerely hope that they will now change their mind and test players next week as well.


2020 European Masters – Day 1

A lot happened on the first day of the 2020 European Masters

Here is the rather “limited” report by WST:

Defending champion Neil Robertson came from 3-1 down to beat Thailand’s Sunny Akani 5-3 on the opening day of the BetVictor European Masters in Milton Keynes.

Robertson lifted last season’s European Masters title earlier this year. He inflicted a 9-0 whitewash defeat on China’s Zhou Yuelong in the final to pick up the title and the £80,000 top prize in Dornbirn in Austria.

Australia’s Robertson was pipped to last season’s BetVictor European Series bonus by Judd Trump. The £150,000 payout goes to the player who accumulates the most prize money over the series. He’ll be hoping to go one step further in this season’s six-event series.

The Thunder from Down Under overturned three required snookers to steal the first frame. However, Akani then took charge, firing in breaks of 56 and 132 on his way to establishing a 3-1 lead at the mid-session.

Robertson regrouped and produced a four-frame blitz to surge past the finish line when they returned. Breaks of 54, 64 and 53 helped him mount a fightback and seal his 5-3 win. Next up he faces Riley Parsons

“At 3-1 he never looked like missing a ball,” Said 2010 World Champion Robertson. “He didn’t do a lot wrong, he just rattled a couple of crucial last reds with the colours at his mercy. He probably would have won the match. I did well to counter clear and I’m really pleased with how I played today.

“I’ll admit I was absolutely gutted when Judd pipped me to the line last season. It looked an absolute certainty at one stage. I had a brilliant season, so I can’t really look back on that. It is just fantastic that the sponsors are still putting in the prize fund available to the players. A lot of the lower ranked players really need these tournaments.”

World number one Trump booked his place in the second round with a 5-0 whitewash defeat of Ukrainian 14-year-old Iuilian Boiko.

It was a baptism of fire for Boiko, the youngest ever professional, who didn’t trouble his illustrious counterpart this afternoon. Trump composed breaks of 74 and 105 on his way to securing victory in just 48 minutes.

Mark Williams was also a whitewash victor, storming to an emphatic 5-0 defeat of WSF Open champion Ashley Hugill.

Williams composed three century runs of 121, 101 and 138 en route to an impressive victory. Next up the three-time World Champion faces tour rookie Peter Devlin, who beat Zak Surety 5-3.

Martin Gould overcame four-time Crucible king John Higgins in a 5-4 thriller, while Allan Taylor came through 5-4 against Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham.

First of all some comments on the above reported matches.

Sunny Akani could easily have been 4-0 up Neil Robertson at the MSI. He was completely dominating the match. Last year, in this event, the best of 9 matches were played without an interval. Had this been the case this year aswell, I’m 99% certain that Sunny would have won the match by 5-0 or 5-1. But the MSI allowed Neil to regroup, and Sunny to reflect on what was happening. We saw the same thing happen last month during the World Seniors final.

Judd Trump did indeed inflict a severe defeat on young Iulian Boiko, and the worst aspect of it was that Iulian did get opportunities but couldn’t take them at all. He looked overwhelmed and lost out there, even in shock at times.

Now, there are so many things that feel wrong to me here. Iulian turns 15 today. How on earth is he allowed to play as a professional? When Yan Bingtao qualified for the main tour in 2015/16 he was unable to obtain a UK visa and the reason cited at the time was that he was too young. He had to wait for another year. He was older than Iulian is now. According to what can be found on this UK government page  children can only start full-time work once they’ve reached the minimum school leaving age, which is 16. I know that there must be some special provisions regarding sports, but still? Snooker is a sport that is extremely demanding mentally and emotionally. There is a lot of pressure and no physical release of the tension when sat in the chair. A lot of adult players have admitted to struggles with mental health issues. I hope that Iulian has the right people around him to help him through his first years as a professional. Yesterday’s match tells me that he isn’t ready, and it’s only normal. 

Some will tell me that he will learn from this match. I doubt it. I said this before, but will say it again. The flat draw system is far too brutal. He doesn’t offer a path for development with progressivity in the matches’ degree of “difficulty”,  something the tiered system does offer. Saying that, as a snooker player, you only learn properly by facing the best ones right away is as stupid as claiming that you can only become good at maths by taking a course in “Numbers’ Axiomatic Theory” before you even master basic arithmetic. For everything you need foundations, and foundations in snooker are not acquired by sitting in a chair for 90% of the match time watching your opponent clearing the table, frame after frame. It’s not acquired by being clobbered match after match by far too strong opponents. That’s just soul and confidence destroying, particularly if you are as young as Iulian is. It’s acquired by playing opponents stronger than you, but not that strong that you are reduced to a mere spectator role.

In sharp contrast,  young Brian Ochoiski from France gave Jack Lisowski a very tough challenge. Jack had to win the last two frames to get over the line by 5-4. Brian could have won the match. He made a few bad shot choices but he will learn from that. Brian is 21, not 15. He’s a lot more mature. He didn’t come in his match with high expectations, and he wasn’t overwhelmed. There isn’t a word about that match in the above report.

There were other interesting results too, especially from the “European” point of view: Luca Brecel beat Steven Hallworth by 5-0 and Luckas Kleckers beat Mark Joyce by 5-3, but Kurt Maflin lost by 3-5 to Martin O’Donnell.

2020 Championship League Snooker (2) – Day 8

The last day of the first “slice” of the 2020/21 season Champonship League Snooker saw Mark Selby and Jamie O’Neill progress to the next stage.

Here is the report by WST:

Mark Selby took advantage of a Lyu Haitian miss in the final frame of their group decider to earn a draw and advance to Stage Two of BetVictor Championship League Snooker, while Jamie O’Neill also advanced in the final frame of his group.

After 3-1 wins over Fergal O’Brien and Brandon Sargeant, Selby had six points and needed just a point in the last match against Lyu, who had beaten O’Brien but drawn against Sargeant.

The Chinese player took a 2-0 lead, leaving Selby all to do, before he halved the deficit in the third frame. Lyu, though, looked set to clear for the win in the fourth and deciding frame, until he missed a simple red and the three-time World Champion cleared for the match and top spot in the group.

“I didn’t play fantastic throughout the day; I probably played my best at 2-0 down,” said Selby. “It’s a tough format, cut throat, and in best of four frame matches you can lose to anybody, it doesn’t matter what standard it is. It’s just a matter of getting through, so I’m happy to win the group.

“Lyu had a couple of chances to beat me 3-0 and again to beat me 3-1, so he’ll be disappointed there because he’ll feel he lost it rather than me won it, but he gave me a chances and all I can do is pick up the pieces, which I did.”

On table two, O’Neill also went through in the final frame, beating Sean Maddocks 3-1. Ahead of the match Maddocks needed just a draw, but at 1-1 O’Neill won a clutch frame on the pink and then took the final frame to advance.

Earlier, O’Neill had beaten amateur Daniel Wormesely, who would go on to beat group seed Michael Holt, who Maddocks had also beaten.

BetVictor Championship League Snooker will return on Monday, September 28 for the second half of Stage One. Coverage of both tables will be available at Matchroom.Live, with UK television coverage on Freesports.



Jamie O’Neill 3 2 0 1 6 4 2 6
Sean Maddocks 3 1 1 1 6 5 1 4
Daniel Womersley 3 1 1 1 5 6 -1 4
Michael Holt 3 1 0 2 4 6 -2 3


Mark Selby 3 2 1 0 8 4 4 7
Lyu Haotian 3 1 2 0 7 4 3 5
Brandon Sargeant 3 0 2 1 5 7 -2 2
Fergal O’Brien 3 0 1 2 3 8 -5 1

It wasn’t an easy passage for Mark Selby who, as himself assessed, was far from his best.

Lyu Haotian could and probably should have won the group.  However he started slowly, didn’t play well at all against Brandon Sargeant, only finding some form in the last frame to secure the draw. He was probably helped by the fact that he then stayed at the table, and carried on, totally dominating Fergal O’Brien, and scoring well. Against Mark Selby, I think that pressure and anxiety got at him, unfortunately. Will the scars of his first disastrous experience on tour ever heal?

In the other group, Michael Holt’s “performance” surprised me. Actually, he looked frustrated right from the start, as Sean Maddocks was considering his options for quite some time. Sean definitely did speed up afterwards, and we should not forget that this was his first ever match as a professional, a match he ended up winning by 3-0. If anything, Sean didn’t score heavily enough. He had only one 50+ break and, ironically, it came in the only match he lost.

Daniel Womersley, who replaced Anthony Hamilton, got £1000 for his efforts, and a lot of praise on social media for the best “jazzy” outfit in the competition so far.

As for the surprise group winner, Jamie O’Neill, he’s been around for years, can be very dangerous on his day, but never showed the consistency to breakthrough.


2020 Championship League Snooker (2) – Day 7

Graeme Dott and Rory McLeod advanced to the next stage, on a day that featured no young player. Both needed to fight to the last match, and in Dotty’s case, actually the last ball.

Here is the report by WST:

Graeme Dott won a dramatic deciding match against Liang Wenbo to advance to Stage Two of BetVictor Championship League Snooker, while Rory McLeod also won his last match to progress.

Liang had earlier beaten Soheil Vahedi 3-1 and Zak Surety 3-0 to take a commanding position in Group 14, while Dott had drawn 2-2 with Surety before also scoring a 3-1 win over Vahedi.

That meant a draw would be enough for Liang to advance when he faced Dott in the final match of the group. The 2006 World Champion took a 2-0 lead with a 100 in the second frame and looked set to advance in the third, until a missed yellow allowed Liang back in.

The Chinese star duly halved his deficit and both had chances to take the decisive final frame, but it was Dott who got over the line for a 3-1 win and top spot on the group table.

“The first match was probably the worst I have ever played,” admitted Dott. “Anybody watching that would be amazed that I qualified.

“I played better against Soheil and played okay against Liang, although it got a bit twitchy at the end. If I’d potted that yellow I’d have been happy with how I played, but I thought I’d lost it at the end, you wouldn’t have imagined Liang would have missed when he was so far in front.”

Group 13 also went right down to the wire. At the halfway stage only Frazer Patrick couldn’t qualify, and no further conclusions could be made after Ian Burns and Rory McLeod played out a 2-2 draw in match four. Jack Lisowski was also still in contention, but a share of the points against Burns meant the group seed could no longer advance.

The ball was then firmly in McLeod’s court; a win would see him advance, anything less and Burns would be the benefactor. But McLeod, returning to the tour this season, secured a 3-0 win to book his place in the next stage.

“I am happy, it wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win,” he said. “Lisowski was trying to get started and I just took what was there, so that was probably the best win.

“The year off took the stress away a little bit and I learnt to enjoy the game a little bit better than I was before. I had some bad situations in my life; I lost my mum and my dad. Things weren’t pretty but it was nice to have time off, to regroup and to come back. I’ve got a new coach and a different perspective now.

“I am just trying to enjoy my snooker more than anything. I’m not putting anything on myself, I just want to be present and enjoy it.”

McLeod and Dott will meet in Group D of Stage Two, where they will be joined by the winners of Sunday’s groups. Among those in action is Mark Selby. Coverage of both tables available at Matchroom.Live, with UK television coverage on Freesports.



Rory McLeod 3 2 1 0 8 2 6 7
Ian Burns 3 1 2 0 7 4 3 5
Jack Lisowski 3 1 1 1 5 6 -1 4
Fraser Patrick 3 0 0 3 1 9 -8 0


Graeme Dott 3 2 1 0 8 4 4 7
Liang Wenbo 3 2 0 1 7 4 3 6
Zak Surety 3 1 1 1 5 6 -1 4
Soheil Vahedi 3 0 0 3 3 9 -6 0

I’m happy for Greame Dott who I always liked. He’s never got the credit he deserves. Mind you, even as a World Champion he wasn’t always put on the TV table. The World Final he played and won against Ebdon left him with a reputation of being slow and boring. A lot of people who formed that opinion on that day had never watched him play before. He’s neither slow nor boring. Both players were exhausted that time, there was a lot of pressure and Ebdon… was ebdonesque. But Graeme is naturally quite attacking. He’s also someone who isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

Here is a little story about Graeme. Other than Premier League nigths and a couple of exhibitions, my first live snooker event was the 2007 Warshaw Snooker Tour.

John Higgins had just won his second World Title, Mark Selby had been his opponent in the final, and after a poor first day, had mounted a scary comeback. In the third session he had Higgins on the ropes. Graeme Dott had been the defending champion and Steve Davis … is Steve Davis. Michaela Tabb was refereeing. This event was a kind of “test run” for the “World Series” that John Higgins and Pat Mooney launched in 2008. Mooney was both Higgins’ and Dott’s manager.

The event was a success. Polish fans came “en masse”. Everyone wanted a piece of Higgins, Selby, Davis and of course Michaela. Ahead of one session, Mark Selby needed more that 20 minutes to walk the 50 meters from the car park to the venue. He got caught in the crowd and must have signed a million things en route.

But nobody really cared about Dotty … except the young children. It’s hard to explain but he attracted them like a magnet. He’s very good with kids, and although they had no common language he managed to communicate with them. At one of his matches, whilst nearly all the aldults where watching the other table, he had  the first rows entirely occupied by kids under 10. He had always time for them.

I’m also happy for Rory McLeod who is a lovely man and who had a hard time off the tour. His first match was important. Jack Lisowski was badly out of shape and was throwing his cue at everything, in an attempt to make something happen. He was missing all sorts and Rory took advantage. That match settled Rory and the defeat immediately put Jack under even more pressure.


2020 Championship League Snooker (2) – Day 6

Here is the report by WST on yesterday’s action in Milton Keynes:

Stuart Bingham and Xiao Guodong are the latest players to make it through to Stage Two of BetVictor Championship League Snooker after topping their groups on Friday, live on Matchroom.Live.

Bingham opened the day’s play with a 3-0 win over Pang Junxu and later defeated James Cahill by the same scoreline, meaning he’d only need a frame in the final match against Yuan Sijun.

Yuan had lost his first fixture 3-1 to Cahill, but remained in contention by beating Pang by the same scoreline. He needed to beat Bingham 3-0 to advance, but in fact it was Bingham who won all three frames.

“I’ve been working hard on my game with my new coach Gary Filtness and the way it started off today, it was good,” said Bingham.

“The second match, the first frame could have gone either way but luckily for me it went my way and I carried on. To be in the next stage starts the season off with a good vibe and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks.”

On table two, China’s Xiao held his nerve to get the win he required in the group decider against Hossein Vafaei. The Iranian had impressed in beating Jak Jones and Farakh Ajaib 3-1, results which meant only a draw against Xiao was required. But the Chinese star proved his quality with breaks including 79 and 49 to win 3-0 and top the group.

BetVictor Championship League Snooker continues on Saturday with Graeme Dott, Liang Wenbo and Jack Lisowski among those in action. Coverage of both tables is available at Matchroom.Live, with UK television coverage on Freesports.


Group 12

Stuart Bingham 3 3 0 0 9 0 9 9
James Cahill 3 2 0 1 6 5 1 6
Yuan Sijun 3 1 0 2 4 7 -3 3
Pang Junxu 3 0 0 3 2 9 -7 0


Group 18

Xiao Guodong 3 2 1 0 8 3 5 7
Hossein Vafaei 3 2 0 1 6 5 1 6
Farakh Ajaib 3 1 0 2 5 6 -1 3
Jak Jones 3 0 1 2 3 8 -5 1

Note that at the time of writing, the group 18 table, as published on the WST site, doesn’t take the last match of the day into account, a match that Farakh Ajaib won by 3-0. I have made the necessary corrections, in red, in the table above. It makes a big difference for Farakh Ajaib and Jak Jones, because Farakh is now third in the group, meaning he gets £1000 for his efforts and the matching ranking points, whilst Jak Jones gets nothing.

It’s good for Farakh Ajaib to get someting positive – a win and some money – out of his first day competing as a professional. I only saw him play a few balls yesterday, but he looked solid enough, and beating Jak Jones by 3-0 is an excellent result.

I watched Group 12, and from the very first balls, it was obvious that Stuart Bingham was in fine form. He dominated the group from start to finish.

James Cahill is a player I don’t rate that high. He’s more than capable to play brilliantly and has taken his fair share of big scalps, but he seems to rarely produce that sort of form when he’s the favourite in the match, or away from the television table. Yesterday he did win his matches against both his younger Chinese opponents, but he still didn’t convince me.

Neither Yuan Sijun, nor Pang Junxu played well yesterday. For Pang it was his first day as a pro and this can be intimidating, for Yuan it was a bad day in office for some reason. Yuan, who is currently ranked 45th in the World, can play much better than he did yesterday. I can only suppose that his preparation wasn’t ideal.