More about the Crucible …

WST has published more details about the Crucible pilot implementation

Crucible Ticket Holder Information

Ticket holders for the Betfred World Championship have received an email with further information on attending the event at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

RonnieCrucibleFinal2020Action.jpg

This could be YOUR CHANCE to be at the Crucible. All remaining tickets will be on sale from April 14th

Once current ticket holders have chosen their option, all remaining tickets will go on general sale at 12pm on Wednesday April 14th. More details will follow on this website. For fans who want to experience the magic of the Crucible – this is your chance!

Information for current ticket holders

We are delighted to confirm that we have capacity in almost all sessions for you to attend this prestigious event as part of the Government Event Research Programme (ERP) and are pleased to be able to provide you with an outline of the event below.

The Events Research Programme

The World Snooker Championship is participating in the Government’s Events Research Programme. The Events Research Programme will oversee a range of pilot events in Spring and Summer to build evidence on the risks associated with Covid-19 transmission routes, the characteristics of events and surrounding activities, and the extent to which mitigation measures can effectively address these risks. The evidence from these pilot events will be used to inform the government’s decision around Step 4 of the roadmap and will shape government policy to bring about the phased return of fuller audiences to venues and events up and down England.

Testing

As part of the safety protocols for the Event Research Programme, it will be a requirement that all attendees will undertake a test for Covid-19 prior to attending the Crucible Theatre and additionally 5 days post attendance. Both tests will be free of charge.

The pre-event test will need to be performed on either the day of the session you will be attending, or the day before the session you will be attending. Once you have taken your test you will be sent a text message that confirms the result and you will need to show this text, with a negative result, at the venue prior to being allowed into the venue so you must retain this text message.

The test can be booked in your local vicinity and we strongly advise to get your test before you travel to Sheffield. Please view this link for further details on testing sites. We will look to make available additional testing facilities in Sheffield City Centre to meet demand and conversations are ongoing in relation to these facilities and we will provide further information as soon as it becomes available.

For the post-event test, you will be provided with a home testing kit. You will then follow the instructions provided and return the kit by post.

Capacity

According to the guidelines set by the Event Research Programme we will adopt the following capacities for the different stages of the event as follows:

Round 1 – Saturday 17th April to Wednesday 21st April

The venue will operate at 33% spectator capacity. This will be managed under social distancing guidelines similar to those in place at the end of the 2020 Betfred World Championship and there will be 1m+ distancing observed between different ticket groups/bookings. Social Distancing will be observed throughout the building and external queuing areas and face coverings will need to be worn throughout the time inside the building, including when seated.

Round 2 – Thursday 22nd April to Monday 26th April

The venue will operate at 50% capacity. Bookings will be grouped in parties of 1 or 2 and the available seats will be spread around the venue to avoid different parties sitting next to one another. Social Distancing will not be expected under this capacity although some mitigation procedures will be required to reduce the risk of transmission including wearing face coverings in the venue.

Quarter Final and Semi Finals – Tuesday 27th April to Saturday 1st May

The venue will operate at 75% capacity. It will not be possible to avoid different parties sitting alongside one another. Social Distancing will not be expected under this capacity although some mitigation procedures will be required to reduce the risk of transmission including wearing face coverings in the venue.

Final – Sunday 2nd to Monday 3rd May

The venue will operate without any capacity restriction. It will not be possible to avoid different parties sitting alongside one another. Social Distancing will not be expected under this capacity although some mitigation procedures will be required to reduce the risk of transmission including wearing face coverings in the venue.

Accommodation

You will be permitted to book self-contained accommodation in Sheffield which is permitted under the existing Government guidelines from 12th April. Please use this link to help find available accommodation

Test & Trace

On entry to the Crucible, all spectators will scan the QR Code and ‘check in’ using the NHS Track and Trace APP.

Consent

In order to participate in this Event Research Programme pilot event, you will be required to confirm that you know the full terms of your attendance, that you have undertaken your own personal risk assessment for the event and that you are happy to participate. We will require the full name, home address, email address and date of birth of all ticket holders in order for them to individually provide this consent. If you indicate that you are interested in participating in this pilot you will be asked to provide these details for every ticket holder that is part of your booking. The consent form will be circulated to each ticket holder in the next few days and admittance will not be possible until confirmation of consent has been demonstrated.

Children

It should be noted that as a research project, it will not be possible for us to allow any minors to access the event so all attendees will need to be over 18.

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable or Pregnant adults

Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to allow you to attend this event if you are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, pregnant or living with somebody who falls within these categories. If you fall within these categories, please select either option 2 or option 3 below.

Next Steps…

The email has now provided you with an outline of the event terms that you and anyone you will be attending with, will need to follow while on site at the Crucible Theatre.

Therefore, please see below your 3 options in relation to confirming your order with us:

Option 1:  Confirm your ticket for the 2021 event

Option 2:  Transfer to the 2022 tournament

Option 3:  Claim a full refund

Please note, if you choose Option 1 and:

– you are unable to attend due to a positive test result or Covid-19 symptoms

– you are uncomfortable with any of the Event Research Programme protocols stipulated for the event

– you have Covid-related health and safety concerns in your local area

…you will have the opportunity to transfer or refund your order at no extra cost. We will be in regular contact with you as we receive further information.

Please note that if you do choose to transfer or refund your booking, any unallocated tickets will go back on sale. If a response is not received by 12pm this Thursday (April 8th) your order will automatically transfer to Option 1 and you will remain in the mix.

Refunds will start to be issued this week, and a member of the Box Office team will contact you directly if there are any problems. Sheffield Theatres are currently working remotely and are not contactable by telephone, they are working hard to progress as quickly as possible. We respectfully ask that you don’t contact the Box Office at this time.

This of course is primarily intended for the ticket holders, but it does give a much more complete understanding on what will be done. It involvess a lot of administrative work.

Another aspect that is not taken into account here because it’s none of WST responsibility is travel and accomodations. Most hotels will still be closed.

WST has also announced that Paul Collier will be in charge of the Final.

Collier To Take Charge Of Third Crucible Final

Top referee Paul Collier will take charge of snooker’s biggest match for the third time this year, when he oversees the Betfred World Championship final.

Collier, 50, previously officiated for Ronnie O’Sullivan’s triumph over Graeme Dott in the 2004 Crucible final and the 2016 world final, which saw Mark Selby defeat Ding Junhui.

Welshman Collier became the youngest ever person to referee snooker’s biggest match in 2004, at the age of 33. That record stood until last year, when Germany’s Marcel Eckardt refereed the world final aged 30.

Collier’s involvement in the snooker circuit now extends beyond just the donning the white gloves. The Welshman works full-time on the World Snooker Tour and when he isn’t out in the middle as a referee, he is behind the scenes as part of a team of Tournament Directors.

Collier is on Tournament Director duty this week at the English Institute of Sport for Crucible qualifying and will be then turning his attention to refereeing duties at the Theatre of Dreams.

Collier said: “It’s very special. I’d heard a couple of rumours about it a few weeks ago, I hadn’t really thought about who was going to do it this year. When I got the second one it was nice to get out of a group of very good referees who had only done one world final. To now be in a rather more exclusive club of three is brilliant.

“We’ve not lost a lot of work this year, luckily, from a snooker point of view, thanks to all the hard work behind the scenes. I’ve probably done more refereeing this year than the last two or three put together. I feel I’m ready for a world final because of all the groundwork I’ve put in. It has come at a good time.

“It’s amazing. It is what everybody wants. Of all the referees who work at a professional level, it is probably just five percent that get to do a world final. I still get the bug. I have often said that if I didn’t get nervous backstage it would probably be time to call it a day. If it doesn’t get you that way then you wouldn’t be fired up or have the right frame of mind.”

 

2021 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 2

WST report on the day was quite short, and its focus is on the battle between two veterans.

Walker Edges Doherty Marathon

There were 12 and a half hours between the opening break and the final ball, but world number 122 Lee Walker eventually edged out 1997 Crucible king Ken Doherty 6-4 at Betfred World Championship qualifying.

Walker trailed 4-1 this morning, before battling his way back to lead the Irishman 5-4. It was at that point that play was called to a halt to allow for the afternoon session to begin.

The pair had over seven hours to wait for the resumption. When play finally got back underway, Welshman Walker summoned a steely clearance of 42 to clinch the match at the first time of asking.

Doherty will have to wait at least another year for a return to the Crucible. The six-time ranking event winner last reached the final stages back in 2014.

Former Crucible quarter-finalist Walker is bidding for a first trip to the Theatre of Dreams since 2004. He faces 1995 runner-up Nigel Bond in round two.

This evening’s victory is a crucial one for Walker, who has suffered severe back problems throughout the season. He is currently near pain free and is hoping that he can build momentum from today’s win.

“I haven’t won many matches this season with the back problems that I’ve had and I’ve not played that great. It was a huge match,” said 45-year-old Walker.

“Touch wood, the back is a lot better. I’ve had a couple of sessions with John Cox the physio. It’s not completely gone, but over Christmas I couldn’t walk. I played Stuart Bingham in the Scottish Open and I was in absolute agony. It got worse and I started thinking it might be the end. Thankfully, it now seems to be on the right road.

“It would mean everything to get to the Crucible. I’m 45 years of age, I haven’t got that long left to play. To get to the Crucible is one of the goals for the rest of my career. To get there would mean the world.”

Women’s world number four Rebecca Kenna put up a valiant fight against Brandon Sargeant, but succumbed to a 6-4 defeat.

Sargeant was never ahead until the ninth frame, where he pulled in front to lead 5-4. He then took the following frame to claim victory and set up a second round meeting with Andrew Higginson.

Rory McLeod edged out Frenchman 22-year-old Brian Ochoiski 6-5, while Brazil’s Igor Figueiredo secured a 6-0 whitewash win over Farakh Ajaib.

Welshman Jamie Clarke came through a thrilling encounter with Ukrainian 15-year-old Iulian Boiko to reach round two, edging to a 6-4 win. Clarke faces Jamie O’Neill next.

The match between Jamie Clarke and Iulian Boiko was an entertaining abnd very close one. Iulian’s game is lacking in the tactical department, but then he’s only 15 years old. Jamie Clarke used to be vulnerable under pressure, but, over the last year,  he seems to have found the self-belief he needs to get over the line when things get tense. Neither is in danger of relegation – they are in the first year of a two year card – and I was pleased with what I saw.

Bai Langning, who is only 18, is in his second year of his tour card, his opponent Alan Taylor is in his first year, hence safe. Bai did go back to China, last year, after the 2020 Gibraltar Open and hadn’t played on the main tour since. He did very well yesterday. He would need to reach the Crucible to stay on tour, that’s obviously a big, big ask. I’m not sure if he stayed in China all season by choice or because of circumstances out of his control. If it’s the latter, I hope that WST will give him another year. They have done that before when a player did not have the opportunity to “defend” his tour card because of circumstances out of their control.

Rebecca Kenna impressed me and many others. This is what Matt Huart had to say on facebook about her performance:

I don’t like to single out individual players, not least because of my role but even when I wrote my blog previously it wasn’t something that I tended to do anyway.
But I do have to say with my World Women’s Snooker hat on that I’m incredibly proud of Bex Kenna tonight. Her first WWS tournament in Clay Cross was also the first tournament that I worked on and ever since then it has been a pleasure to watch her growth in the game, be it as a player, a coach or with her shop.
Although she wasn’t able to get over the line, it has to be remembered that it was her first proper competitive match in 14 months, her first time playing in this environment with the table, the TV lighting and everything else around it, her first time at the World Championship (or any pro event if you exclude the Shoot Out), her first best of 11…
In all the circumstances then, I was very impressed by her composure and thought that it was a very good effort. Certainly she (and of course Reanne yesterday) gave a very good account not only of herself, but our women’s snooker in general.
No doubt lots to learn from, but experiences like this one can only help and knowing her, she will be determined to keep improving and to make sure that this won’t be the last time that we see her in such a match.RebeccaKennaWCQ2021

I can only second that.

Brian Ochoiski fought back from 4-0 down to force a decider in his match with Rory McLeod. The slow start cost him, but he showed tremendous fighting qualities.

Brian had been interviewed by WST before his match:

Euro Stars | Brian Ochoiski

Top French cueman Brian Ochoiski is the latest in our series of interviews featuring players from a growing wave of talent emerging in continental Europe.

Ochoiski, 22, narrowly missed out on securing professional status at 2020 Q School, losing 4-2 in the final round of event three to Farakh Ajaib. However, he is now setting his sights running the Betfred World Championship qualifying gauntlet and reaching the Crucible.

He faces Rory McLeod in the opening round this afternoon and if he were to reach the Theatre of Dreams, it would come with the added bonus of a two-year tour card. Ochoiski believes that clinching his place on the World Snooker Tour and the Crucible this week is a realistic possibility.

Despite missing out on professional status, Ochoiski has played a prominent role on the circuit this season as a top up. He crafted his first century on the World Snooker Tour in an impressive encounter with World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan at the English Open, which he led 2-0 before going out 4-2.

Ochoiski said: “I take this opportunity to turn professional via the Crucible very seriously. I’m working hard towards this. I think my game is in good shape at the moment so why not go to the Crucible and turn professional this way? It would be amazing for me, for France and for everyone supporting me. I’m in Sheffield practising and every day I walk past the Crucible and I look at it as the place I want to be. It would be amazing to be there.

“It was a dream come true to play Ronnie O’Sullivan. I’ve come from nowhere as my country isn’t very developed with snooker at the moment, I hope that it will be in the future. When I saw I was drawn against Ronnie I was very happy. It was the right moment to play him. Making my first professional century against him was amazing. Even if I didn’t win the match, I was very happy to play him.”

Watch the interview in full:

When Brian says that his country is nowhere at the moment it’s an understatement. The number of snooker clubs is very low. The French Federation is firmly focussed on carom, the ” billard français”  and three-cushions, disciplines that are traditional in the country and in which France has top exponents. Snooker is not helped by the very poor quality of the French commentary on Eurosport FR.

Today my focus will be on Peter Devlin v Lukas Kleckers, Lei Peifan v Ben Mertens and Xu Si v Stephen Hendry.

 

Ronnie’s big announcement

Ronnie was a bit mischievious as he sparked all sorts of speculations about today’s announcement … which proved to be about sponsorship.

Here is the official Press Release:

ROS ROKIT Announcement - 2ROS ROKIT Announcement - 3

And Eurosport take on it…

World Championship 2021 – Ronnie O’Sullivan scares fans with video: ‘I’m not retiring from snooker’

“Everyone can chill out and calm down.” Ronnie O’Sullivan had fans sweating over his future when he made what appeared to be a sudden announcement on social media on Tuesday. Thankfully, the six-time world champion was simply launching a new brand partnership, but he took the opportunity to reassure fans that he is not retiring.

Ronnie O’Sullivan had fans very concerned he was poised to retire on Tuesday as he made an announcement on his Facebook page.

In teeing up the live stream, the 45-year-old was pictured waving to the fans, which appeared to concern many that he may be about to make a significant decision.

However, the six-time world champion was simply confirming his brand partnership with Rokit, and taking a pretty random Q&A to help make it known.

I’m taking retirement from my name,” he explained in the live stream on his Facebook page. “So it’s not Ronnie O’Sullivan, it’s Ronnie the Rocket.

Not snooker, I’m not retiring from snooker, everyone can chill out and calm down. Take it easy. We are still here. Potting some balls.

Asked who he would choose if he was allowed to select any four guests for a dinner party, O’Sullivan was typically unpredictable.

Stephen Fry, Mike Tyson, Eminem and Usain Bolt were his picks, if you want to know, and Eurosport would be very keen to acquire the rights to it.

O’Sullivan was then asked if it was hard being him, given the level of celebrity he has within the sport and beyond.

Only because I over-think things,” he said. “It’s not like Michael Jackson or David Beckham where you can’t go anywhere.

I’m known by the snooker fans, but I don’t have a following that maybe a footballer would have, so it is not that bad. So I’m fine with the life I’ve been dealt.”

Finally, O’Sullivan revealed his biggest goal at the moment was running a sub-three-hour marathon.

It’s not crazy, it’s achievable,” he said. “I’ve just got to find the time to train and recover. It’s a lot of dedication and it is highly unlikely, but it is possible.

Only that Eurosport got it wrong… it’s not Ronnie the Rocket, it’s Ronnie The ROKIT

Ronnie'sSnooker Shop

Une interview avec Julien Leclerq

Un très grand merci à Julien et à Georges, son papa et son plus grand fan. Je vous suis très reconnaissante d’avoir pris le temps de répondre à ces questions alors que vous êtes engagés dans le championnat du monde, pas moins.

Vous êtes un team fabuleux!

 Merci et bonne chance pour la suite!

Pouvez-vous vous présenter brièvement ? (age, nationalité, parcours, passions)
18 ans, belge. Je suivais des études en sport-étude foot, études que je viens d’arrêter pour me consacrer au snooker. Ma principale passion est le snooker bien sûr, mais aussi certains jeux de consoles, rencontrer des amis…

A quel age avez-vous commencé à jouer ? Qui a été votre premier partenaire, mentor, coach ?
J’ai commencé à 4 ans et demi, en voyant mon père jouer, j’ai voulu essayer…Mon 1er coach a été Johnny Petermans

Le snooker est-il devenu une passion ? Si oui, quand et comment ?
Oui, c’est une vraie passion pour moi. Quand j’ai participé à mon premier tournoi national, je ne voulais plus rien faire d’autre….

Avez-vous des ambitions professionnelles dans le snooker ? Si oui, quels sont vos buts à court et moyen termes ?
Bien sûr, je m’entraine beaucoup pour tenter d’obtenir ma place sur le main tour. A court terme, c’est accrocher ce ticket, et à long terme, essayer de gagner un tournoi ranking chez les pros. Ensuite l’avenir nous le dira…

Quel est votre style de jeu ?
Je suis plutôt attaquant, mais j’essaie de trouver un bon équilibre dans mon jeu, c’est nécessaire

Avez-vous un coach ? Si oui, sur quels aspects du sport travaillez vous plus particulièrement ?
Oui, Danny Moermans, ancien coach de Luca Brecel. Il me donne un programme relativement complet, entre routines, safeties, breakbuilding, long pots …

Avez-vous un, une ou des partenaires d’entrainement réguliers ? Si oui, qui ?
Depuis la crise Covid-19, c’est moins évident, mais je m’entraine régulièrement avec Luca (qui est également mon équipier en interclubs), mais aussi Kobe Vanoppen, triple champion de Belgique en U21. Ce dernier ne vit pas très loin de chez moi, et nous sommes également devenus de vrais amis

Vous avez participé à la Q-School. Qu’avez-vous retiré de cette expérience (aspects positifs et négatifs) ?
Positifs : ma victoire contre un des tout meilleurs juniors au monde, Wu Yi Ze, mais aussi les défaites 3-2 dans les autres matchs. Pour une première expérience ce n’était pas si mal…
Côté négatif, le format raccourci et le planning très serré de l’édition…

Vous venez de jouer votre premier match au championnat du monde. Pouvez-vous décrire cette expérience (aspects positifs et négatifs) ?
Expérience incroyable. Je suis rentré difficilement dans le match, le frame gagné avant la pause m’a fait du bien.Mené 4-1 et puis 5-2, je me suis retrouvé le dos au mur, mais je voulais toujours y croire. La clearance dans le 9e frame et puis le century dans le frame suivant m’ont libérés. J’ai ensuite pu profiter des erreurs de Soheil dans le decider.Tout est donc positif aujourd’hui, je peux savourer cette journée.

La crise sanitaire actuelle a très probablement eu un impact important sur votre préparation et votre voyage. Quelles difficultés avez-vous rencontrées ? Avez-vous vous reçu de l’aide de votre fédération, de la WPBSA ou de WST ?
Ayant une table à la maison, j’ai pu me préparer correctement. J’ai reçu un bon soutien de la part de Jason Ferguson et Neil Tomkins. Le voyage aller n’a pas été si facile, car comme les règles en vigueur changent rapidement, nous avons malheureusement dû rentrer à la maison après avoir été refusés sur l’Eurostar pour une preuve manquante (non nécessaire au moment de la réservation) de réservation de test 2&8…Sur ce, mon père a tout réorganisé dans la précipitation (commande des tests, réserver le shuttle Calais-Folkestone, nouveau PLF…) et nous sommes finalement arrivés à l’hôtel à 4h14 heure locale.

Parmi les joueurs professionnels présents ou passés, qui admirez-vous particulièrement et pourquoi ?
Ronnie O’Sullivan parce qu’il a tout gagné et, parce qu’à mes yeux, il est le GOAT, Judd Trump pour ce qu’il est en train de réaliser, et Neil Robertson, pour la qualité de son jeu

Parmi les jeunes francophones dans votre pays/région qui voyez-vous comme un « espoir » du sport ? Qui voyez-vous comme un futur professionnel ?
Malheureusement, à l’heure actuelle je suis le seul espoir…Depuis 2012-13, je joue dans le Limbourg, car papa voulais me laisser jouer avec les meilleurs jeunes du moment…Et du coup, je me vois moi comme futur professionnel

Pensez-vous que le snooker est suffisamment promu en Belgique, et dans votre région ? Quelles améliorations souhaiteriez vous mettre en place si c’était en votre pouvoir ?
Alors pas du tout, mais pour répondre honnêtement à cette question, vous pourriez demander à mon père…

Pensez-vous que le snooker est bien représenté et présenté sur les chaines de radio et télévision disponibles en Belgique francophone ?
Pour suivre le snooker en Wallonie, nous n’avons qu’Eurosport malheureusement. Je dis malheureusement car les commentaires français, et je n’incrimine personne, ne sont pas toujours à la hauteur des attentes des spectateurs passionnés.

Et finalement … qui, à votre avis, sera le Champion du Monde 2021 ?
Neil Robertson

Souhaitez vous ajouter un message personnel à l’intention des lecteurs et des fans du sport ?
Ma participation aux qualifications du championnat du monde est ma toute première expérience professionnelle. J’espère avoir pu montrer de belles choses, et que les gens pourront se dire : ah c’est Julien Leclercq …

Here is the translation:

Would you, please, briefly introduce yourself? (age, nationality, background, passions)
18 years old, Belgian. I was following a sports-football curriculum, but  I just left school now to devote myself to snooker. My main passion is snooker of course, but also like playing some console games, meeting friends …

How old were you when you started playing? Who was your first partner, mentor, coach?
I started when I was 4 and a half, seeing my father play, I wanted to try … My first coach was Johnny Petermans

Has snooker become a passion? If so, when and how?
Yes, it’s a real passion for me. Since I played in my first national tournament, I didn’t want to do anything else….

Do you have professional snooker ambitions? If so, what are your short and medium term goals?
Of course, I practice a lot to try to become a professional  on the main tour. In the short term, my goal is to earn a tour card, and in the long term, it’s to win a ranking tournament. We’ll see what happens in the future …

What is your style of play?
I’m more of a attacking player, but I try to find a good balance in my game, it’s necessary

Do you have a coach? If so, what aspects of the sport do you work on in particular?
Yes, Danny Moermans, former coach of Luca Brecel. It gives me a relatively complete program, between routines, safeties, breakbuilding, long pots …

Do you have a regular training partner or partners? If so, who?
Since the Covid-19 crisis, it is more difficult, but I train regularly with Luca (who is also my interclub teammate), but also Kobe Vanoppen, triple champion of Belgium in U21. The latter does not live very far away from where I live, and we have also become close friends.

You attended the Q-School. What did you learn from this experience (positive and negative aspects)?
Positive: my victory against one of the very best juniors in the world, Wu Yi Ze, but also the 3-2 defeats in the other games. For a first experience it was not that bad …
On the negative side, the shortened format and the very tight schedule of that instalment  …

You have just played your first match at the World Championship. Can you describe this experience (positive and negative aspects)?
Amazing experience. I struggled into the match, the frame I won before the break helped me. Led 4-1 and then 5-2, I found myself with my back against the wall, but I still wanted to believe in my chances. The clearance in the 9th frame and then the century in the next frame allowed me to relax and to play with more freedom. Then I was able to take advantage of Soheil’s mistakes in the deciding frame, so everything is positive today, I can savour this day.

The current health crisis has most likely had a big impact on your preparation and your trip. What difficulties have you encountered? Did you receive help from your federation, WPBSA, or WST?
Having a table at home, I was able to prepare myself properly. I received good support from Jason Ferguson and Neil Tomkins. The outward journey was not that easy, as as the rules change quickly, we unfortunately had to go home after being turned down on the Eurostar for missing some proof (not required at the time of booking) of booking test 2 & 8… After that, my father hastily rearranged everything (ordering tests, booking the Calais-Folkestone shuttle, new PLF…) and we finally arrived at the hotel at 4:14 am local time.

Among the professional players present or past, who do you particularly admire and why?
Ronnie O’Sullivan because he won everything and because to me he is the GOAT, Judd Trump for what he is doing, and Neil Robertson for the quality of his game

Among the young French speakers in your country / region who do you see as a “prospect” in sport? Who do you see as a future professional?
Unfortunately, at the moment I am the only prospect… Since 2012-13, I play in Limburg, because dad wanted me to play with the best young players at the time… And suddenly, here I am with realistic hopes to become a professional in the future

Do you think that snooker is sufficiently promoted in Belgium, and in your region? What improvements would you like to put in place if it were in your power?
So not at all, but to answer that question honestly, you could ask my dad …

Do you think that the snooker is well represented and presented on the radio and television channels available in French-speaking Belgium?
To follow snooker in Wallonia, we only have Eurosport unfortunately. I say unfortunately because the French commentary, and I do not blame anyone, does not always meet the expectations of the spectators

Do you want to add a personal message for readers and fans of the sport?
My participation in the qualifications for the world championship is my very first professional experience. I hope I have been able to show some beautiful things, to give  peple somthing to remember me: ah, this is Julien Leclercq … 

 

2021 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 1

Here are the WST reports on day 1 at the World Championship Qualifiers.

Morning and afternoon:

Hicks Beats Evans To Boost Survival Hopes

Andy Hicks scored a 6-2 victory over Reanne Evans in the first qualifying round of the Betfred World Championship – a result which could earn him two more years on the professional tour.

Hicks reached the semi-finals on his Crucible debut in 1995 but has not played at the venue since 2007

Former Crucible semi-finalist Hicks came into today’s match in danger of relegation, but victory has added £5,000 to his ranking tally which gives his hopes of a fresh two-year tour card a huge boost.

Women’s World Champion Evans is still seeking her first win in the qualifying rounds of snooker’s biggest event since she beat Robin Hull in 2017, and her dream of becoming the first woman to reach the Crucible will have to wait at least one more year. She will have a tour card for the next two seasons having been awarded a place, along with Ng On Yee.

The first two frames today were scrappy affairs, Hicks taking them both. The 47-year-old from Devon made impressive clearances of 54 and 42 in the next two frames to lead 4-0.

Evans enjoyed a revival after the interval, compiling a run of 65 to win the fifth frame, then adding the sixth by converting a cocked-hat double on the final black to a centre pocket. But Hicks made a break of 69 in the next to lead 5-2, then dominated frame eight to set up a second round match with Eden Sharav.

Hicks, who beat Evans 6-3 at the same stage last year, said: “It was a match I just wanted to get out of the way. I might have been favourite to beat Reanne, but she is not to be taken lightly. It gives me a great chance of staying on the tour for another couple of years. I didn’t score that heavily today, but there were glimpses of playing well.

“There is no greater place to play than the Crucible, that is the reason I still get my cue out at 47 years old. If I didn’t think I had a chance to get there, I wouldn’t play any more. I would just love to get back there, especially if there is a crowd.

“I said to Reanne afterwards that she deserves a place on the tour for the next two years. She is going to find it tough, but she is good enough.”

Evans said: “I needed to make a better start but I lost the scrappy frames. It took me a while to get into the match, even through I have been working really hard to be ready for the conditions. I played better after the interval and felt good, but things just didn’t go my way. The next two years will be a big learning curve for me, it’s a great opportunity for me to improve.”

The best performance of the opening session in Sheffield came from Oliver Lines, as he fired breaks of 125, 78, 122, 93 and 134 to beat Dylan Emery 6-1.

Soheil Vahedi suffered relegation from the tour as he lost 6-5 to Belgian amateur Julien Leclercq. Iran’s Vahedi led 5-2, but his opponent hit back to take the next four frames with a top break of 114. Leclercq, 18, was only awarded a place in the event at short notice after Poland’s Antoni Kowalski pulled out due to injury.

Barry Pinches also drops off the tour as he lost 6-0 to tour rookie Jamie Wilson, who fired breaks of 60, 54 and 71.

Evening

Hendry Wins Battle Of The Legends

Stephen Hendry beat Jimmy White 6-3 in the first qualifying round of the Betfred World Championship as as he graced the stage at snooker’s biggest tournament for the first time since 2012.

Seven-time World Champion Hendry made his comeback at last month’s Gibraltar Open, losing to Matthew Selt

Hendry got the better of an epic rivalry between these two legends during the 1990s – winning four Crucible finals – and once again tonight he came out on top. After a nervy opening, Hendry settled into the match and made fewer mistakes than his opponent, inflicting more misery on White, who could now face relegation from the tour.

Scotland’s 52-year-old Hendry still needs to win three more matches at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield to make it to the nearby Crucible, but will go into his second round tie with China’s Xu Si on Wednesday evening with the satisfaction of having won a professional match for the first time in nine years.

White, age 58, could lose his pro status if other results go against him. He would then have to rely on a trip to Q School or a fresh invitational tour card if he is to compete on the circuit next season.

White has lost all six of his Crucible finals

Londoner White won a scrappy opening frame, then Hendry took the second with breaks of 37 and 34. Frame three lasted 43 minutes and came down to the colours. Hendry got the snooker he needed on the pink, and – after a safety exchange on the black – knocked in a mid-range pot to a top corner to lead 2-1.

That proved a turning point as Hendry made a break of 53 to lead 3-1 at the interval, then got the better of a fragmented fifth frame to extend his lead. White looked set to pull one back until he missed a red to a top corner on 58, and Hendry punished him with an excellent 66 clearance for 5-1.

White battled back, making a break of 58 as he took frame seven, then adding the eighth for 5-3. But Hendry controlled the ninth and sealed victory with a run of 52.

“I’m not happy about the way we both played, I had hoped we would both play well and it would be a great match. There was a lot of tension, Jimmy looked bang under it,” said Hendry, who made his World Championship debut in 1986 and played his 100th match in the tournament tonight.

“I was trying to relax and enjoy the occasion. The result probably meant more to Jimmy than it did to me. When you look back at the finals we played, we both had natural, flowing cue actions. Tonight it was stuttered and staggered, our average shot time felt like about four minutes.

“The only time when I found some rhythm was when I made the clearance to go 5-1. Something switched on inside me – that instinct to pinch a frame. And I won a frame when I needed a snooker – that’s a collector’s item! So there were a couple of little highlights and I’ve got to be happy with the win. The rhythm I have on the practice table, I’m not taking into the match yet. There were only a handful of shots I hit well tonight.

“I don’t think I will have frightened anyone with that performance and I’ll be the underdog again in my next match. I’ll just go and enjoy it and keep my expectations low. It’s too soon for me to qualify for the Crucible. Every match is a bonus and helps me get used to being out there. Next season will be a different matter because I will have more competitive snooker under my belt.

“Who knows, I might come back on Wednesday and get on a roll. But there are frailties in my game that won’t hold up over four matches. My goal at the moment is just to improve.”

James Cahill, who beat Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible two years ago, saw off Sean Maddocks 6-1 with top breaks of 60, 63 and 75.

WST also announced bonuses for 147s

147 Bonuses At Betfred World Championship

WST and the WPBSA have agreed to provide a prize of £40,000 for a 147 made at the Crucible this year during the Betfred World Championship, and £10,000 for a maximum made during the qualifying rounds.

These bonuses are on top of the £15,000 high break prize which will apply throughout the whole event.

The qualifying rounds at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield run from April 5 to 14. Then the main event at the Crucible runs from April 17 to May 3.

If more than one player makes a 147, then the prize money will be shared equally.

WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “The 147 is such a magical moment, and it is also an incredible feat of skill. To achieve a maximum break under the pressure of the Betfred World Championship is remarkable. So it is fitting that we offer very substantial rewards during this event. I would love to see another historic 147 made this year.”

Last year, John Higgins became the seventh player to make a 147 at the Crucible, during his second round match against Kurt Maflin.

Crucible Maximums
1983 – Cliff Thorburn
1992 – Jimmy White
1995 – Stephen Hendry
1997 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2003 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2005 – Mark Williams
2008 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2008 – Ali Carter
2009 – Stephen Hendry
2012 – Stephen Hendry
2020 – John Higgins

Now here is my take on what I saw yesterday.

The way Reanne played was disappointing. She was disappointed herself. When she finally found some fluency it was too late.

Julien Leclercq did himself proud. It was an excellent and very mature performance for someone so young. Despite the late call and a very difficult travel to the UK, he played a very good match. I was obviously happy to see Julien play so well and win, but I felt truly sorry for Soheil Vahedi. Soheil is a great guy, he loves his snooker and he looked utterly disconsolate and extremely distraught towards the end of the match. I do hope that he has good people around him, to get him through the next days or weeks. I will publish an interview with Julien a bit later today.

As for the last match I watched … it was painful for the best part of it. No matter how hard the commentators tried to big it up, it was a poor match. The moment Stephen Hendry stole the third frame, having needed snookers, I knew what was going to happen. Credits to Hendry though: very often in the past, especially towards the end of his career, when he had a stinker of a performance, he became disinterested and threw the towel in. Yesterday, he applied himself despite the obvious frustration. As for Jimmy, nothing has changed really unfortunately. I’m confident though that he will get another invitation card should drop off the tour and fail to qualify through the Q-School.

My attention today will be on Jamie Clarke v Iulian Boiko, Rory McLeod v Brian Ochoiski and, if on stream, Allan Taylor v Bai Langning.

And so it begins …

The 2021 World Championship will kick off in a few hours. Granted, it is at the EIS, behind closed doors, but it IS the World Championship and for many players involved it’s their survival as main tour professionals that is at stake. There will be more blood, sweat and tears, and more pressure at the EIS in the coming ten days than anywhere else this season, including at the Crucible later this month. Bear that in mind when watching.

My own attention will be mainly on three matches.

In the first session, Reanne Evans, 12 times Women World Champion will face Andy Hicks. Andy Hicks is currently ranked 87th in the provisional end-of-season ranking list, in the relegation zone, but with a chance to stay on tour via the “one-year” redeem list. He is however 7th on that list of 8. With £5000 for the winner, but nothing for the loser in terms of ranking points, it’s a massive match for him this morning. A defeat today would mean that his fate is out of his own hands with several players breathing down his neck, notably Igor Figuereido, Jackson Page and Luo Honghao. Reanne will have her own brand of pressure. Making the Women tour a qualification route for the World Championship has not gone down well with many players, most notably the ones high in the Q-School reserve list. She will want to prove that she deserves to be there.

In the second session, I will focus on Soheil Vahedi v Julien Leclercq. I really have divided loyalties here. Soheil didn’t have the best of seasons and needs a really deep run to have any chance t stay on tour. He has opened up about his struggles as an Iranian professional. He has also shown true bravery in playing Eden Sharav recently, despite the possible consequences should he go back to his country. Julien is a native French-speaker and Belgian, like me. Snooker is quite healthy in the northern part of Belgium, but not that much in the southern part. Most Belgian snooker players are native Dutch-speakers. Julien is the only young native French-speaker Belgian prospect.  I hope both can play well.

Regarding Julien, he has agreed to answer a few questions – thank you Julien – and will also send me some feedback after his match. I will publish that interview tomorrow, in French, with English translation. Amongst other things, Julien explains how difficult it proved to be to get in the UK for this comp, despite the support of Jason Ferguson and Neil Tomkins. 

The evening match … well … there is a certain Stephen Hendry vs a certain Jimmy White.

Here is what they had to say to Eurosport ahead of their match

Jimmy White

World Championship 2021 – ‘I’m fighting for my Tour future’ – Jimmy White on Stephen Hendry match

The Break podcast is back for season three ahead of the 2021 World Snooker Championship. The team look forward to the hugely-anticipated qualifier between our own Jimmy White and seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry, which has all of sport talking. That match is live and exclusive on eurosport.co.uk and the Eurosport app on Monday at 7:30pm.

Jimmy White has told Eurosport’s The Break podcast he is fighting for his future on the Tour ahead of his World Championship qualifier against Stephen Hendry on Monday, but enters the clash full of confidence.

Six-time runner-up White will face seven-time world champion Hendry in a blockbuster draw in World Championship qualifying.

The pair met in four World Championship finals, now they will face each other just for the chance to play at the Crucible proper this year.

Ahead of their huge match on Monday, White admits his immediate ambition is to be on the Tour and is not out looking to avenge his World Championship final defeats to Hendry.

“I’m trying to fight for my Tour card,” he said on episode one of season three of The Break podcast.

“I found a bit of form in Gibraltar and then the next tournament after.

“I’ve been playing well for quite some time, but unless you’re doing it on the match table it’s absolutely irrelevant. I’ve got a lot of confidence.

If I was to beat him ten times in a row I still wouldn’t get revenge on all of the world finals. I’m just pleased Eurosport are showing it live so all the snooker fans can get to see it.

‘Why would I?’ – Hendry has no regrets over finals wins ahead of White showdown
White says part of his newfound confidence from a 4-3 win over rookie Joe O’Connor at the Gibraltar Open last month and is adamant his snooker comeback is “far from over”.

“Going into Gibraltar I realised my situation was coming to a head,” he said. “I spoke with people around me and I said to myself: ‘If I don’t start producing, I don’t even have a chance to stay on’.

“Luckily enough against Joe O’Connor I found a bit of form and I managed to win that match. Since that actual day my game has been a lot stronger. I’ve put myself in a good position where I can stay on without asking for a wildcard.

“If worse comes to the worst I will go to Q School. I still love playing, I still play to a good standard, but as I’ve said before on this podcast, doing it in practice doesn’t mean anything. You have to produce it on the match table and I’m starting to do that in bits and pieces.

“Hopefully If I can take the form from the practice table into any one of these tournaments I can win one because I am playing that well. I am focusing on that.

The wildcard situation if I win that will take care of itself. If I don’t get my wildcard I go to Q School. It’s far from over for me.

Stephen Hendry

World Championship 2021: ‘He’s been trying too hard’ – Stephen Hendry keen to avoid Jimmy White woes

Stephen Hendry faces Jimmy White for the 60th time in the first round of qualifying for the World Championship on Monday (LIVE on eurosport.co.uk and the Eurosport app at 19:30 BST). The record seven-times winner hopes to succeed where White has failed over the past 15 years by qualifying for the Crucible at the first attempt after a nine-year absence from the sport he dominated in the 1990s.

Stephen Hendry believes Jimmy White’s failure to reach the Crucible since 2006 can help his own prospects of progress ahead of their much-anticipated World Championship qualifier on Monday night.

The seven-times world champion faces the six-times runner-up White – who he famously defeated in four Crucible finals between 1990 and 1994 – for the 60th time on the main World Snooker Tour in the opening qualifying round after ending a nine-year absence in a 4-1 defeat to Matthew Selt at the Gibraltar Open last month.

Hendry harbours dreams of winning four matches to return to the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, scene of his greatest victories in the sport and arguably his most forgettable defeat when he retired following a 13-2 drubbing by Stephen Maguire in the 2012 quarter-finals.

The 36-times ranking event winner admits he will use White’s failure to qualify over the past 15 years as a reminder to relax when they meet at the English Institute of Sport.

White has not returned to the Crucible since losing 10-5 to David Gray in the first round in 2006 with Hendry believing any lack of success is all down to the individual.

Hendry v White – Unfinished business at World Championship
“It’s a different situation, but I have to remember how I coped with being number one for all those years. Hopefully, I can enjoy the fact that people want to beat me,” said Hendry, who spent a record 10 years as number one with nine straight seasons at the summit between 1990 and 1998.

“I will be a scalp for somebody. I’ve got to approach it and not put too much importance on it because I think you look at Jimmy all these years.

I think Jimmy has been dying to play at the Crucible again all these years and I think it has affected him in qualifying. He’s almost trying too hard.

“I’ve got to guard against that. I’ve got to be mentally prepared to go there and experience it. I’ve got to guard against trying too hard and wanting it too much.

“I’ve got excitement to see how far my game will go, but no expectations.”

‘Vintage Hendry!’ – Seven-time world champion produces glorious century in comeback match
Hendry has no plans to change his social media handles from 775 until he makes his 800th century in the sport despite hitting his 776th against Selt with a classy break of 107 a timely reminder of his ability among the balls.

He is hoping fans will be allowed back to the sport’s most celebrated venue with a full house of up to 1,000 set to be allowed access to the Crucible as a test scheme for the government’s vaccine passport idea.

“One of the main reasons why I came back was to experience the Crucible with fans and play a match in it,” said Hendry, who has been working on producing a tighter safety game to enhance his long game.

Hendry, in the first year of a two-year invitational tour card, was last forced to qualify for the World Championship in 1988 when he lost 13-12 to White, then seeded second, in the second round. Ranked 83 in the world, White needs a victory to keep alive his hopes of retaining his tour card.

“It’s a lot tougher to win four matches now than it was then,” said Hendry. “You almost have to win a tournament to qualify. It was an adventure back then.”

“I wouldn’t say I have written these two tournaments off,” added the Scotsman, who is 35-19 clear of White on their career head-to-heads.

“I’m going to try to win them, but I want to get used to being out there, back in that situation.

“Hopefully, over the next year I can play in some more events and see where it takes me. “

 

Crucible 2021 – More infos about the pilots

More infos about the pilots have been made available by WST:

Full List Of Pilot Events Announced

GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES  PILOT EVENTS TO PAVE WAY FOR LARGER AUDIENCES AT SPORT, THEATRE AND GIGS THIS SUMMER

The Betfred World Snooker Championship, League Cup Final and an FA Cup Semi-Final are set to be among a range of pilot events hosting audiences as part of the government’s plan to get big crowds back this summer.

The events will be part of the government’s science-led Events Research Programme (ERP) working closely with local authorities and organisers to undertake studies to get fans and audiences back in safely as restrictions are gradually eased.

The  League Cup Final on 25 April is to have 8,000 supporters with the FA Cup semi-final on 18 April hosting an audience of 4,000.

The pilots programme will be used to provide key scientific data and research into how small and large-scale events could be permitted to safely reopen in line with the Prime Minister’s Roadmap out of lockdown as part of Step 4, commencing no earlier than 21 June.

Venues participating in the programme will test specific settings to collect evidence and best practice. At the Betfred World Championship, Sheffield’s world famous Crucible will test a theatre setting, for example.

The evidence will then be shared widely so that venues can prepare to accommodate fuller audiences. This review will be crucial to how venues – from major sport stadiums to comedy clubs, theatres to live music spaces, wedding venues, conference centres and nightclubs – could operate this summer.

Researchers at the events will gather evidence associated with different settings and approaches to managing and mitigating transmission risk.  The pilots will explore how different approaches to social distancing, ventilation and test-on-entry protocols could ease opening and maximise participation.  Covid-status certification will also be trialled as part of the pilots. Researchers will also be at the venues to monitor crowd movements at the pilots and look at how attendees behave in these environments as well as consider the economic impact of any mitigation measures trialled such as changes to the layout.

The initial list of pilots is as follows:

15 April – Hot Water Comedy Club, Liverpool – 200 people (indoor seated)

18 April – FA Cup Semi-Final – Wembley – 4,000 people (outdoor seated)

17 April – 3 May – Betfred World Championship – Sheffield Crucible Theatre – up to 1,000 people a day (indoor seated)

23-25 April – Luna Outdoor Cinema, Liverpool – 1,000 people (outdoor seated)

24-25 April – Three 10k runs –  Hatfield House – 3,000 people and up to 3,000 spectators at each event (outdoor, mass participation run)

25 April – League Cup Final, Wembley –  8,000 people (outdoor, seated)

29 April – Business Event, Liverpool – 1,000 people (indoor, seated and mixing)

30 April – Circus Nightclub, Liverpool – circa 3,000 people (indoor club night)

15 May – FA Cup Final, Wembley, London – 21,000 people (outdoor, seated)

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

“Our sports stars and great performers need us to find ways to get bums back on seats safely. This science-led pilot programme will be the springboard in getting the buzz back of live performance.  We’ve supported the sports and arts with unprecedented sums, but it’s now time to make that Great British Summer of live events a reality.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:

“We are all longing to see stadiums full of sporting fans and gigs packed with music lovers, but as we continue the roll out of our vaccination programme, we must find a way to do so safely.

“By piloting a range of measures to reduce transmission, we can gather vital scientific evidence to inform our plans for allowing events in the future.

“Thanks to the input of our clinicians and the best science available, we can prepare for the moment where we will be able to gather again in some of our best-loved cultural venues.”

 Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

“It has been enormously tough for the events sector over the past year, but these pilots are a real beacon of hope as we cautiously emerge from the pandemic.

“This programme will not only provide valuable scientific evidence, but also offer confidence to the industry so we can make the most of the Great British summer and host large-scale events in a way that’s safe for everybody.”

WST Chairman Barry Hearn OBE said:  “We are delighted to be part of this Events Research Programme which will help illuminate the path for all of us back towards normal life, by using scientific data.

“This is not just about snooker, it is about hosting live events in indoor settings, so it will also help theatres, concerts and other parts of the entertainment industry. We are proud to have been selected and to play our part.

“We have been chosen because of our exemplary record of staging snooker events over the past year in a safe environment. We have set the standard in the sporting world.

“Our leading players have missed the excitement of walking into an arena packed with fans. The atmosphere at the Crucible is going to be very special.”

To build up the evidence base, a number of pilots will include spectators and fans not socially distanced under carefully controlled medical supervision.

The pilots will also test a range of non-pharmaceutical mitigating interventions during non-socially distanced events such as layout of the venue, face coverings and ventilation.

Attendees will be required to take a test both before and after the event in order to ensure event safety and to gather evidence on the pilots.

They will have to adhere to an agreed code of behaviour at the point of ticket purchase and will be required to give consent acknowledging the risk associated with attending a pilot event. They will be required to follow existing Government guidance on the use of face coverings and adhering to event specific rules. Attendees will not be permitted if they have symptoms of Covid-19. They will also have to provide contact details of everyone in their group for NHS Test and Trace.

The events research programme will include looking at risk factors in indoor and outdoor settings; small and large venues; seated and standing events and different forms of audience participation.

Transport to and from events; duration of events and catering and alcohol will also be factors that are looked at. The programme will be run in partnership with local and national health authorities and will be subject to the latest health data. Events may be delayed or cancelled as a result.

The events research programme has two co-advisers reporting to the Culture Secretary and Prime Minister – Theatre director Sir Nicholas Hytner and businessman David Ross.

Ross was the chair of the government’s Sport, Tech and Innovation group, that provided guidance on sports reopening last year.

Their role will be to focus on the measures that need to be taken to ensure the safe return of fuller audiences to revive large sporting and cultural events to closed smaller settings such as gigs and club nights.

The events research programme will produce a report to Ministers by the end of May to help inform government decisions on step four of the roadmap. It will also feed into the Government’s COVID certification review, announced in the roadmap.

I have put a few things in bold as usual.

So it IS confirmed that there will be no social distancing.

Amongst the “mitigation factors” layout and ventilation are cited. The Crucible is cramped and its ventilation poor.

People will have to sign that they aknowledge the risks associated with the pilot events, meaning that the UK govt is well aware that there is a risk. You will tell me that there are risks associated with everything. You can go out to buy a bread and get killed on your doorstep by a drunk who lost control of his car. This actually happened to one of my cousins. She was about to turn 20. But such risk is random and unpreventable, the risks associated with allowing crowds at the Crucible are preventable and avoidable. 

There is a risk for the events to be delayed or canceled. That would be really disastrous and much more damaging than accepting that it’s too early and stage the World Championship behind closed doors.

All in all I stay firmly convinced that no crowd should be allowed yet at the Crucible or any indoor venue. Outdoor venues should be the first stage and ONLY IF that proves safe, indoor venues should be consired.