Snooker News – 30th of January 2023

WST has published some more information about the 2023 Welsh Open. notably about the opening day schedule.

Top Stars Set For Opening Day In Llandudno

Snooker’s all-time greats will compete on the opening day of the BetVictor Welsh Open in Llandudno next month.

Click here for the draw*

Click here for the format

The tournament will run from February 13 to 19 and staged in North Wales for the first time, at Venue Cymru in Llandudno, an outstanding location which has hosted several world ranking events in the past.

In all there will be over 70 players in the field, including World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, John Higgins, Mark Allen, home favourite Mark Williams, and defending champion Joe Perry who enjoyed the best moment of his career when he beat Trump in last year’s final.

Matches to look out for on the opening day on Monday February 13 include:

Joe Perry v Mark King at 10am
Shaun Murphy v Victor Sarkis at 10am
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Oliver Lines at 1pm
Neil Robertson v Fraser Patrick at 1pm
Mark Williams v Michael White during the afternoon session
John Higgins v Alexander Ursenbacher during the afternoon session
Judd Trump v David Grace at 7pm
Mark Selby v Jamie O’Neill during the evening session 
Mark Allen v Alfie Burden during the evening session

For the full schedule click here

Oliver Briffett-Payne, age 17 from Risca, has been handed a wild card place in the event and meets Robbie Williams at 1pm on Monday February 13.

A spokesman for WST said: “We are delighted to bring this historic event, which has been ever present on the snooker calendar since 1992, to North Wales for the first time. Having staged many events at Venue Cymru in Llandudno we know it is a fantastic location, especially for families in half term week.

The field is packed with snooker’s biggest names and this is a fabulous opportunity to see them in action. The opening day has an incredible line-up of green baize legends and we expect to see local fans packing the arena to enjoy sport of the highest quality.

Part of the BetVictor Home Nations Series, the BetVictor Welsh Open has an international television audience of hundreds of millions, with live coverage from broadcasters including Eurosport, discovery+, Quest, BBC Wales and CCTV5 in China.

It is the final event in the 2022/23 BetVictor Series, with the rankings leader to earn a huge £150,000 bonus.

*Zhao Xintong has been withdrawn from this event and replaced with a straight swap in the draw with the next available player on the Q School 2022 Order of MeritMichael Holt.

The WSF Championships start tomorrow in Australia (infos by WPBSA)

The 2023 WSF Championships run from 31 January – 11 February 2023 and important event information can be found below.

WSF JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP

The tournament will run from 31 January – 3 February.

WSF CHAMPIONSHIP

The tournament will run from 4-11 February.

FORMAT

The format for both competitions is as follows:

  • All group matches will be the best of 5 frames.
  • The top two players in each group will progress to the knockout rounds
  • All knockout rounds up to and including the semi-finals will be the best of 7 frames.
  • The final will be the best of 9 frames.

VENUE INFORMATION

Both tournaments will be played at the following venue:

Mounties Club, 101 Meadows Rd, Mount Pritchard NSW 2170

It is the responsibility of the players to be at the correct venue and at their table in time for the start of their match.

There are quite a few familiar names in both draws.

Interestingly, there are several girls in the Juniors draw. That’s very unusual and definitely shows an interest, which is encouraging.

There are several players from China in the Main Event draw. One player who did enter but has withdrawn is Luo Hong Hao. I wonder if he has been prevented to travel by the Chinese authorities, just as he was prevented to travel the Thailand for the Asia-Oceania Q-school, or if there is another reason for his withdrawal.

Also starting tomorrow in Australia is the 2023 Asia-Pacific Women’s Championship

On Yee and Mink are in the draw. There are 18 Australian female players in this draw, that’s excellent and much more than I expected.

And finally …

Pankaj Advani won the 2023 CCI (Cricket Club of India) snooker Classic

Here is a report by the local press

Advani outclasses Lee to win CCI snooker crown

Advani, the holder of 25 world titles, constructed seven substantial breaks of 73 (2nd frame), 82 (3rd), 43 (4th), 87 (5th), 67 (6th), 115 (8th) and 70 (9th) to clinch a 53-101, 73-28, 114-14, 74-30, 87-0, 67-31, 28-60, 115-0, 106-15 victory.

Pankaj Advani poses with the CCI Snooker Classic title. (HT photo)

Indian cue sports star Pankaj Advani of PSPB outclassed Stephen Lee of England for a 7-2 victory in the best-of-13-frame final of the CCI Snooker Classic 2023.

Advani, the holder of 25 world titles, constructed seven substantial breaks of 73 (2nd frame), 82 (3rd), 43 (4th), 87 (5th), 67 (6th), 115 (8th) and 70 (9th) to clinch a 53-101, 73-28, 114-14, 74-30, 87-0, 67-31, 28-60, 115-0, 106-15 victory.

Results: Final: Pankaj Advani bt Stephen Lee 7-2 (53-101, 73(73)-28, 114(82)-14, 74(43)-30, 87(87)-0, 67(67)-31, 28-60, 115(115)-0, 106(70)-15); Semi-finals: Pankaj Advani bt Ishpreet Singh Chadha 6-1 (133(117)-0, 99-33, 63-39, 90-40, 29-82(82), 72-56, 57-49); Stephen Lee bt Kamal Chawla 6-4 (28-78, 47-73, 2-60, 81(67)-36, 1-70, 68-20, 69-0, 67-50, 61-42, 76(72)-14).

Yes, you read it right: he beat Stephen Lee … I’m not sure what to make of this. Lee’s ban runs until October 2024. He will be 50 years old then. He hasn’t ruled out a return but he will not be allowed to compete unless he pays the costs awarded against him and that amounts to £125,000. Indeed Lee has never discharged these legal costs.

The match was uploaded on YouTube but has been taken offline …

Chris Wakelin is the 2023 Shoot Out Champion

Chris Wakelin made a break of 119, the highest in the tournament, to win the 2023 Shoot Out. He beat Julien Leclerq in the final. Julien is only 19 and in his first season as a pro. He’s from Belgium and travels to the tournaments. It’s a great achievement by both players and I’m very happy for both of them.

Congratulations Chris Wakelin

And Congratulations Julien Leclerq As Well

Here is the report by WST:

Wakelin Wins Maiden Title In Style

Chris Wakelin won his first ranking title, ten years after turning professional, by beating Julien LeClercq in the final of the BetVictor Shoot Out with the highest break of the tournament.

Wakelin was calmness personified in the final of the unique one-frame knockout event as he compiled a break of 119 to take the £5,000 high break prize on top of the £50,000 winner’s cheque – by far his biggest pay day. The world number 47 from Nuneaton had never previously been beyond the quarter-finals of a ranking event but went all the way to the silverware in a tournament which has still never been won by a player ranked inside the top 16 in its 12-year history.

Before Christmas, 30-year-old Wakelin lost several first-round matches in ranking events, but has turned his form around and came into this event on a run of seven consecutive wins in qualifying matches. He has reeled off another seven this week to achieve an ambition he has dreamed of since he first picked up a cue.

The spin-offs are significant in what could be a career-defining moment – he leaps 76 places up the one-year ranking list to 15th, which puts him in contention to qualify for next month’s Duelbits Players Championship, and is up to sixth in the BetVictor Series rankings, with the list leader after the next two events to earn a £150,000 bonus. He could also earn a spot in the Champion of Champions later this year.

Belgium’s 19-year-old LeClercq showed his immense potential with a fine run to the final and narrowly missed out on joining a small group of players to have won a ranking event as a teenager, as well as the rare achievement of capturing a title in his rookie season. The player nicknamed The Beast looks to have the talent to shine on the main stage for many years to come. He banks £16,000 as runner-up and moves 24-places up the official rankings to 85th.

It’s a very surreal moment, something I have always dreamed of,” said Wakelin. “The last trophy I won was the English Under-19s, it has taken me ten years to win another one! I couldn’t be prouder of what has happened over the last four days.

It takes so much to be able to perform out there. In the quarter and semi-finals I wasn’t sure I would be able to push the cue through, I was that nervous. But the final was the most comfortable I felt all week and that proves the hard work is all worth it.

Everyone goes through tough times. We are lucky enough to play snooker for a living but that doesn’t mean we haven’t got problems off the table. I have had a lot of hardship and some dark times but managed to fight through them and I’m sitting here now with my own silverware. I never thought I would have to buy a trophy cabinet.

A year or so ago I took up ballroom dancing and that really changed my life. It gave me a new outlook, something else to focus on and a new skill to learn. I met a whole host of new people and it gave me a chance to raise money for Zoe’s Place and do my bit for a local charity. That made me realise I’m a good person deep down.

The money is life changing, it’s inconceivable. I am from a humble background. I didn’t realise when I potted the pink in the final I had nicked the high break as well. This result will trampoline me up the rankings. I have lost a lot of hard matches which just didn’t go my way because the tour is so strong. Over the last 18 months my game has come on so much, I feel as if I’m playing the best snooker of my life.”

LeClercq said: “Chris had one chance in the final and made an amazing break, so I didn’t get a chance. It was a great experience for me and I am very motivated. I enjoyed it but Chris deserved the win. I am very happy with my level at this tournament. I didn’t expect to reach a final in my first season.

Earlier in the semi-finals, Wakelin beat Daniel Wells, who missed out on the chance to become the first amateur to reach a ranking event final, while LeClercq knocked out Dominic Dale, who has hoped to become the oldest ever ranking event champion at the age of 51.

The above report says that Julien will get 16000 for his efforts, During the whole tournament pundits and commentators spoke about 20000, and it was 20000 last year. Really WST, I don’t know who writes your reports but there glaring mistakes in far too many of them!

Snooker News – Unhappy Maguire and WST Classic

Following the announcement that the 2023 Turkish Masters was canceled, there was discontentment amongst the players, understandably.

Stephen Maguire was particularly vocal as he spoke to Phil Haigh:

Stephen Maguire launches scathing attack on snooker bosses

Phil Haigh Friday 27 Jan 2023 12:04 pm

2019 Betway UK Championship - Day 11
Stephen Maguire is frustrated with the current state of the World Snooker Tour (Picture: Getty Images)

Stephen Maguire has taken aim at snooker bosses, claiming the game is dying and those running it are not doing their jobs after the recent cancellation of the Turkish Masters.

It was announced earlier this week that the event in March has been scrapped due to funding problems, which has left a significant gap in the calendar for some players.

Anthony Hamilton explained that he currently has no matches scheduled between the Shoot Out this week and World Championship qualifying in April, a situation a number of players find themselves in if they haven’t qualified for the German Masters or Welsh Open.

With the string of big-money Chinese events still not back on the calendar due to Covid, players feel less busy now than they have done for years.

World Snooker Tour have confirmed that the Turkish Masters will be replaced on the calendar, so there will be more playing opportunities, but until that competition is announced, Maguire is sceptical.

The former UK champion played in the Shoot Out this week for the first time since 2015 and did so because he sees a lack of opportunities to play elsewhere.

The Scot says he spoke to people at the top of the sport at the start of the season and was made promises over tournaments, which he feels have been broken.

I have to because there’s no tournaments,’ Maguire told Metro.co.uk about his rare Shoot Out appearance. ‘I don’t want to play in it, don’t like it, but there’s no tournaments coming out. I can’t be selfish for my family, so I need to play in the tournament.

It’s dying, the game’s dying right in front of us. I spoke to the suits at the start of the season and they promised me there’d be tournaments on. Turkey was always a question mark and it’s turned out to be cancelled, so the suits aren’t doing their job, which isn’t good for the players

They might find a replacement, but it’s against time now. Is it going to be a best-of-five, a league, a PTC? It’s not good enough, definitely not good enough

I spoke to [WST chairman] Steve Dawson, [WST president] Barry Hearn, [WPBSA chairman] Jason Ferguson, I told them I didn’t want to speak to the press, I wanted to speak to them man-to-man, which I did. 

They all gave me the same answer: we’ll look after you, the tournaments will be there, don’t worry

The tournaments aren’t there, so there’s something wrong at the top of the game. It’s worrying for players. It’s not good enough for most of the tour. I’ve either been lied to that things will be ok, or they’ve just not been able to fulfil it. Something’s wrong.

I’ve never spoke to you like this, but the game’s dying right in front of our eyes. They have to do something, there’s something wrong. If somebody doesn’t do their job, in any walk of life, they get their ass kicked or they get the sack.

Players down the rankings who have failed to qualify for the German, the Welsh and the upcoming Players and Tour Championship are facing a lengthy spell without earning any prize money.

Hamilton explained that his last prize money came at the UK Championship in November, and while no more has arrived because he has lost matches, Maguire says this is not a problem that only a few players are facing, but many on the professional tour.

Am I going to tell my kid, or anyone tell their kid, to play snooker because it’s a good living? Is it a good living? Of course it’s not,’ he said. ‘We’ve put loads into the game, 30 years of my life, I love the game. But we’re not getting any help at all here.

There’s people out there ranked 28-29 in the world, looking at getting jobs. People from the outside think, “what a life you’ve got.” How can you be 20-odd in the world of supposedly a global sport, looking at getting a job, something’s wrong. The game’s dying, there’s no other headline.

[Waiting] January to April for a wage. That’s not a professional sportsman. The guys who are playing in the World Championships in April, they’re going to be playing their first or second rounds to pay back the loans they’re getting [a £20,000 guaranteed for each player this season]. Is that a professional sportsman? It’s just not.

The 41-year-old is not only frustrated with the reduced playing opportunities, but the nature of some of the tournaments now, with qualifying for the Home Nations events away from the main venues, in anonymous cubicles in front of a handful or no people, weeks before the actual event.

Streaming these qualifiers represents a revenue opportunity for World Snooker Tour, but Maguire questions where that money is going, he also wonders how the Turkish Masters can sign a five-year deal and be cancelled after just one event, similar to the announced 10-year contract for a Saudi Arabia Masters which has never emerged.

They’re making good money out of streaming, that’s why they fill the calendar up and it looks busy from the outside,’ he said. ‘They’re making money from the qualifiers, they’re getting their wages, where’s the money going? 

They’re cutting tournaments. There’s supposed to be contracts out there. Turkey was a five-year deal, Saudi was 10 years and they just cut them like that.

I played a couple of qualifiers, I can’t even remember where they were, it was pointless, it was daft. When the tournament came up, I couldn’t remember who beat me. It wasn’t me being horrible, it was just that far away. It’s rubbish.

On his own solution to the problems, Maguire says: ‘I’d cut the tour. Snooker is not big enough and I’ve said it for years, its not big enough to sustain 128 players. There isn’t 128 players out there who can play on the main tour. That might sound horrible, but there isn’t.’

Maguire has had a very poor season by his standards, sitting 58th on the one-year ranking list, so disappointing results have certainly contributed to how little he has played this season.

The other end of the scale, though, is Mark Allen who is top of the one-year list having won the UK Championship, Northern Ireland Open and World Grand Prix this season, earning over £500,000 in prize money.

The Pistol does not think the tour should be cut in numbers, but does agree with Maguire that the calendar should change, with all players going to main venues, as much as possible, and qualifiers replaced by other events on the calendar.

On Maguire’s idea to cut the tour, Allen said: ‘We disagree on this because I think if you cut the tour, the sport as a whole looks worse. A global game, with only 64 pros? I think that looks terrible

But all this qualifying in front of streaming cameras in Wigan, Barnsley, Leicester, that’s awful. Get everyone to the venue and then fill the calendar up, those qualifying weeks, put new events on. I’m not an advocate of cutting the tour, but you can’t have people playing the Welsh Open in Leicester, you can’t do it, it’s no good for the UK events.

I’ll be perfectly honest, I’ve been extremely selfish and unaware of what’s been going on because I’ve been doing alright. I know I’m in the Players, the Tour, but I talk to Jordan [Brown], to Stevie, who’s not had the best of years, and I know there’s not a lot

I think I’m super busy because I’ve been doing alright, but if you’re not doing alright, you’re struggling, there’s no in between. I don’t think there’s any in between.’

WST have responded to Maguire’s comments, stating that the Turkish Masters will indeed be replaced and that in many ways snooker is in very good health, given the challenges that emerged from the pandemic.

A World Snooker Tour statement read: ‘We share the player’s frustrations in the loss of the Turkish Masters from the tour this season. This event will be replaced, with further details be announced shortly.

We have recently enjoyed a fantastic resurgence in snooker’s popularity in the UK, smashing ticket records for many of our events. In January alone we have seen massive crowds at the Cazoo Masters, an 81% increase in fan attendance at the Duelbits World Grand Prix, and we have sold out the final day at the BetVictor Shoot Out. This pattern is repeated on every event in the UK this season, with previous attendance records broken. People are choosing to spend their hard-earned money by coming to watch snooker.

Our television viewing audience is also thriving. A peak of 2.5 million people watched the Masters on BBC, while last week’s World Grand Prix final on ITV peaked at nearly 1 million.

This is a very tough economic climate. The pandemic led to us being unable to host events in China, which previously made up 30% of the prize money available on the tour. But despite the global recession, we have been able to drive up prize money for the other events over the past two seasons. This means that when China events do return to the tour, we will be in a far stronger position than we have ever been.

The prize money available to the top players remains extremely high; Mark Allen has earned over £500,000 from ranking events alone this season. We appreciate that lower down the rankings, players have lost certain earning opportunities. But prize money for ranking events which all 128 players can compete in is now 71% of the overall total, compared to 68% pre-pandemic.

The opportunities are there for everyone on the tour – there are 12 ranking events this season which all 128 players can compete in, not including the Duelbits Series which are for the top performers on the one-year list. Snooker is a meritocracy and rewards those who are winning matches.

The initiative this year to provide a prize money guarantee to all tour players, ensuring that they have at least £20,000 over the season, has given players the security of knowing that they have an income and they can budget their season around this.

We are proud to have built a sustainable business where prize money is growing, where players have a guaranteed income and which captures the imagination of the fans.

Unfortunately this narrative doesn’t fit the story being peddled by a few players who have experienced the highs at the top of the sport in the past and now choose to criticise snooker rather than play a part in our journey forward.’

That may seem extreme from Maguire, but it’s not and many players will feel the same. It’s also honest from Allen to admit that he may have been blind to it because he’s doing well. And I understand WST position although the bit I have put in bold is at the heart of the issue: the prize money distribution is far too top heavy.

A replacement for the Turkish Masters has since been announced:

New WST Classic Added To Snooker Calendar

A brand new world ranking tournament, the WST Classic, will be staged in Leicester in March.

The 128-player knockout event will have total prize money of £427,000 and a top prize of £80,000. Open to all tour players, it will run from March 16-22 at the Morningside Arena.

This tournament, which replaces the Turkish Masters, will be best of seven frames from the first round up to the quarter-finals, then best of nine for the semi-finals and best of 11 for the final.

The top 64 players will be seeded in the draw, based on the seeding cut off after the Duelbits Players Championship, with all other players drawn at random.

WST Chairman Steve Dawson said: “We are pleased to add the new WST Classic to the calendar and to provide an extra earning opportunity for the players. Last week we had to cancel the Turkish Masters after several months of trying to get that event over the line, which was disappointing for us and the players. It was always our intention to replace that event and fill the space in the calendar.”

Details of whether the event will be open to fans, as well as how to watch online, will be announced soon.

It’s not fantastic, but it’s better than I expected.

As a side note… when Ronnie said, a few times, that he wouldn’t advice his kids to play snooker professionally, he was crucified by fans and fellow pros alike, most notably by John Higgins. Stephen Maguire here is saying the same … and no one bats an eye. Their motives are the same though: they don’t see their sport as providing financial security unless you are are the very top. Every parent wants the best for their kids, they don’t want them to struggle to make ends meet every month. The fact that Ronnie is at the top for nearly 30 years doesn’t mean he’s blind to the situation faced by lower ranked players.

Day 3 at the 2023 Shoot Out

After three days of a bit of everything, the field is now reduced to 32 players and we will go through no less than 5 rounds today.

Here is the draw for the last 32 round:

he draw for the last 32 of the BetVictor Shoot Out has been made.

Jak Jones v Xu Si
Fergal O’Brien v Julien LeClercq
Lukas Kleckers v Yuan Sijun
Dylan Emery v Noppon Saengkham
Cao Yupeng v Ali Carter
Fan Zhengyi v Michael Holt
Liam Highfield v Martin Gould
Mark Williams v Dechawat Poomjaeng
Michael White v Alexander Ursenbacher
David Grace v David Lilley
Joe Perry v Chris Wakelin
Tom Ford v Vladislav Gradinari
Zhou Yuelong v Gary Wilson
Mark Davis v Jack Lisowski
Daniel Wells v Ben Woollaston
Dominic Dale v Asjad Iqbal

And the WST reports on what happened yesterday

Afternoon session

Iqbal Keeps Run Going

Pakistan’s Asjad Iqbal reached the last 32 of a ranking event for the first time with a marvellous break of 64 to beat Jimmy Robertson in the second round of the BetVictor Shoot Out.

Iqbal is playing on the pro tour for the first time this season after coming through Asia-Oceania Q School in 2022, and has enjoyed some impressive results, notably beating Barry Pinches and Gerard Greene to reach the third qualifying round of the UK Championship.

And the 31-year-old has shown his quality on live television this week in Leicester, seeing off David Gilbert in the first round and then coming from 33-9 down to beat Robertson with an excellent clearance.

Michael Holt, who won this event in 2020 before being relegated from the tour two years later, scraped past Robbie McGuigan. Holt led 16-8 when he went in-off, gifting his opponent a chance, but McGuigan potted just one red before missing the pink and that proved the key moment.

I am absolutely blessed!” Holt told Eurosport. “If you want to have a run in this tournament you need a bit of luck. In this format you are always so close to losing. You have to take it for what it is, you have to embrace the atmosphere and enjoy the chaos.

Julien LeClercq made the highest break of the day so far with a 93 to beat Haydon Pinhey. The tour rookie from Belgium said: “I am very happy to win the frame in one visit. The crowd is so funny and I really enjoy it. I am starting to win more matches and get confidence.”

David Grace trailed Ashley Hugill 42-46 with the clock running down, but enjoyed a massive fluke on the last red, escaping from a snooker, and added the black for victory.

Mark Davis compiled a run of 66 to knock out Shaun Murphy, while 2014 Shoot Out winner Dominic Dale made a 42 as he beat Ken Doherty.

Ali Carter came from 37-0 down to beat Gerard Greene while Fergal O’Brien made an excellent 65 to beat Jackson Page.

I have no clue why someone put the first c in Julien’s surname in capital… anyway. Julien’s 93 break attracted a lot of praise from Neal Foulds in commentary. It was indeed a fantastic break to make under any circumstances, even more so in the middle of this circus.

WST shared these short videos on their YouTube Channel:

David Grace extraordinary fluke

Iqbal’s comeback and winning break

Evening Session

Wonderkid Gradinari Wins Again

Teenage starlet Vladislav Gradinari scored another impressive victory at the BetVictor Shoot Out, beating Victor Sarkis to reach the last 32.

On Wednesday, Moldova’s 14-year-old Gradinari became the youngest player to win a televised ranking event match when he knocked out Ng On Yee. And the Leeds-based cueman showed his potential again by beating Sarkis in a close match, making a crucial break of 28 to set up a third round tie with Tom Ford.

I tried to be as calm as possible and pot some balls,” Gradinari told Eurosport. “I am trying to go as far as possible, this is the dream. I can’t wait for tomorrow, I’m very excited. I look forward to a bigger and more noisy crowd.

The other 14-year-old in the second round, Riley Powell, was beaten in a Welsh derby by Daniel Wells.

Charismatic crowd favourite Dechawat Poomjaeng reached the last 32 of a ranking event for the first time since 2016 by beating Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in an all-Thai battle. Un-Nooh trailed 57-1 but fought his way back into the frame and had a chance to snatch it in the dying seconds, but ran out of position from brown to blue, then missed a difficult blue to a baulk corner.

Poomjaeng will now face three-time World Champion Mark Williams, who survived a late scare to beat Dean Young. Williams led 45-19 when he missed a red to centre, and Young had a chance for glory but failed to pot the last red along a side cushion, when he trailed by four points with a few seconds remaining.

Williams is the only top-16 ranked player left in the field other than Jack Lisowski, who beat Adam Duffy to earn a meeting with Mark Davis.

On Thursday, Reanne Evans became the first woman to win a match in this event, but tonight she was no match for Gary Wilson, who compiled breaks of 44 and 39.

It’s a great atmosphere and a great tournament, you’ve got to have some fun,” said Wilson, who won his first ranking title at the BetVictor Scottish Open in December. “Winning a tournament was something I wanted to do for a long time but I was soon back down to Earth and I’ve had a few bad results since. No one can take that victory away from me but I’m still the same player, you need to play well otherwise you have no chance. Getting into the top 16 in time for the Crucible is a big goal as I have not done that before, but I need to win matches first.”

Vladislav Gradinari comes across as a very level-headed, mature beyond his years boy. Victor Sarkis, despite the defeat looked the happier and more excited of the two!

Poomy got the crowd in a frenzy right from the start. Theppy looked philosophical and slightly amused, literally sitting on the fence. When he got the opportunity presented itself though, he played very well … he almost caused an “upset”. The crowd was clearly willing Poomy to win. Today we have Willo vs Poomy in the afternoon. It’s gonna be interesting that one: the “King of cool” vs the “Master of mayhem”.

Day 2 at the 2023 Shoot Out

The first round concluded yesterday evening at the 2023 Shoot Out in Leicester providing more surprises, “first times”, drama and laughter. All the detailed results are on snooker.org.

The reports by WST, as usual, cover only a fraction of what happened in the circus … sorry, in the arena.

Afternoon session

Shoot Out Success Is Life Of Riley

Riley Powell became the second 14-year-old to reach the second round of this year’s BetVictor Shoot Out as he knocked out five-time ranking event winner Kyren Wilson.

On Wednesday, Vladislav Gradinari became the youngest ever winner of a televised ranking event match when he beat Ng On Yee. Teenager Powell is just two months older than Gradinari and turns 15 in August this year. He has an ideal environment to develop his skills on the baize as he comes from Tredegar in South Wales and practises with the likes of Mark Williams, Lee Walker and Jackson Page.

World number eight Wilson, who has won just three matches in this event since 2017, opened with a break of 30, but Powell battled his way back into the frame. Wilson led 31-18 when he potted a long red but went in-off, and his opponent’s run of 19 got him into the last 64.

That was amazing, the best event I have played in,” said Powell, who won a Welsh under-16 event to earn a place in the field. “The crowd were so good. I had a couple of early mistakes but then got back into it. I just tried to enjoy the occasion and I loved every bit of it.

I soon as I started playing snooker I loved it. Mark Williams has been fantastic with me, I’d like to thank him, Jackson and Lee for all the help they have given me. Any practice I can get them with is fabulous, I have learned a lot from them. I want to be world number one and World Champion.

Michael Holt won this event in 2020 before dropping off the pro tour two years later. He is in the field this time as one of the amateur top-up players, and proved he still thrives in the format as he beat Lei Peifan with a 116 – a strong contender for the £5,000 high break prize.

Another former Shoot Out champion now playing as an amateur, Michael Georgiou, is also into round two as he beat Tian Pengfei with a break of 46.

Dominic Dale and Matthew Stevens contested the first blue-ball shoot out of this year’s event, after finishing tied 49-49. Dale was five points ahead during the regulation frame when he missed the blue, and Stevens potted it to force sudden death. But the former Masters and UK Champion missed the extra blue twice, allowing Dale to progress.

Rebecca Kenna came close to becoming the first woman to win a televised ranking event match, but narrowly lost out to Yuan Sijun. Kenna trailed 43-44 with just over a minute to go when she missed a tricky black on a break of 28. That proved crucial as Yuan potted the last red and added the points for victory.

Potting boffin Callum Beresford, who has just finished university exams in mechanical engineering, constructed a break of 45 to beat Zhang Anda. Fan Zhengyi made a 63 to win a Chinese derby against Ding Junhui, while Zhou Yuelong came from 46-0 down to beat Duane Jones with a run of 78.

Rebecca really impressed despite the defeat. She has only recently acquired a star table and get it installed so that she can now practice in professional conditions. If what we saw yesterday is anything to go by, it’s paying off. Rebecca is running her own business in parallel to trying to grow as a professional player. That’s not easy and she deserves every credit for her efforts.

Here is Riley Powell’s effort, shared by ES on their YouTube channel:

The young man showed a lot of maturity in his post-match interview.

And here is Michael Holt 116 from the same source:

Probably the most baffling aspect of the above report is that there is no mention of Dechawat Poomjaeng performance. Maybe that’s because the guy, or gal, in charge of the reporting didn’t really know what to make of it. So, here is is, again from ES YouTube channel:

All credits to Si Jiahui who managed to see the funny side of it.

Evening session

Landmark Win For Evans

Reanne Evans became the first woman to win a televised ranking event match as she beat former World Champion Stuart Bingham in the first round of the BetVictor Shoot Out in Leicester.

It’s a first win in a pro event for Evans since 2017, and she also becomes the first woman to win a match in the Shoot Out. The 37-year-old looked composed throughout the tie and won 60-8.

I felt comfortable,” said the 12-time Women’s World Champion. “If you get in early you want to make a break and get your cue action going. Then Stuart missed a few and left them on for me to win the frame. I have been working for the last three or four years and it has not happened for me. I am just waiting for it to go in the right direction, fingers crossed it will come one day.

I am never usually one for the Shoot Out, it is so noisy out there, you don’t know what’s going on. But it was a good atmosphere tonight and I won so I enjoyed it.

Four-time World Champion and local favourite Mark Selby lost to Mark Davis in an exciting finish. Selby led 20-17 with a minute to go, but then missed a straight-forward red to a top corner. Davis potted red, green and red to edge it 22-20.

Xiao Guodong made the second century of the day, 106, though he missed the chance to eclipse Michael Holt’s target of 116 for the £5,000 high break prize when he failed to pot the final blue.

Farakh Ajaib trailed Chris Wakelin by seven points with just seconds remaining when he smashed into a cluster of reds and fluked one to a top corner, then potted the pink to leave the scores tied. But he then missed the blue in the sudden death shoot out and Wakelin potted it to advance.

Pakistan’s Asjad Iqbal scored a surprise victory over David Gilbert, winning 35-30 thanks to a late break of 15.

I couldn’t find any “legit” footage of the second session on YouTube so far.

Asjab Iqbal was absolutely beaming after his win. I used to be extremely critical of the Shoot Out, but the sheer joy on some of the lowest ranked players after a win vindicates its staging really. These guys spend hundred of hours practising, play most of their matches on and outside table away from the spotlight. They deserve to take centre-stage and enjoy the fans cheers once a year.

Second round draw was made yesterday evening:

BetVictor Shoot Out Second Round Draw

The draw for the last 64 of the BetVictor Shoot Out has been made.

Jordan Brown v Yuan Sijun
Ken Doherty v Dominic Dale
Julian LeClercq v Haydon Pinhey
Mark Williams v Dean Young
Sam Craigie v Lukas Kleckers
Michael White v Callum Beresford
Barry Pinches v Cao Yupeng
Shaun Murphy v Mark Davis
Joe Perry v Jamie Jones
John Astley v Dylan Emery
Gerard Greene v Ali Carter
Chris Wakelin v Alfie Burden
Jak Jones v Michael Georgiou
David Grace v Ashley Hugill
Vladislav Gradinari v Victor Sarkis
Jamie O’Neill v Martin Gould
Ben Woollaston v Rory McLeod
Steven Hallworth v Noppon Saengkham
Daniel Wells v Riley Powell
Michael Holt v Robbie McGuigan
David Lilley v Elliot Slessor
Xu Si v Xiao Guodong
Jack Lisowski v Adam Duffy
Gary Wilson v Reanne Evans
Jackson Page v Fergal O’Brien
Ben Mertens v Fan Zhengyi
Asjad Iqbal v Jimmy Robertson
Ross Muir v Tom Ford
Zhou Yuelong v Robbie Williams
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v Dechawat Poomjaeng
Liam Highfield v Louis Heathcote
Robert Milkins v Alexander Ursenbacher

I have highlighted some that attract my attention.

The two Belgian rookies are still in the mix. Ben vs Fan could be a cracker. Fan yesterday showed the type of snooker that won him the European Masters last season, Ben always goes for his shots. This should be good.

Vladislav Gradinari and Victor Sarkis were both “story makers” on the first day. It’s a bit of a shame they have to clash in the second round.

The all-Thai clash between Theppy and Poomy promises to be absolutely bonkers.

Day 1 at the 2023 Shoot Out

After one day at the Shoot Out in Leicester, we are only half-through the first round.

All detailed results are available on snooker.org

There were 32 “matches” played yesterday, and the reports by WST only cover a fraction of it. That’s understandable. Here goes anyway…

Afternoon session:

Moldovan Sensation Sets New Record

Vladislav Gradinari, who turned 14 just three months ago, became the youngest player to win a televised match in a ranking event by beating Ng On Yee in the first round of the BetVictor Shoot Out.

The Moldovan teenager, who moved to England two years ago, is into the last 64 in Leicester and will play his second round match on Friday. Despite his inexperience and the pressure of the shot clock, Gradinari looked calm and composed at the table, and a break of 21 helped him to victory over three-time Women’s World Champion Ng.

It feels amazing, I played my best game,” said Gradinari, who won an English Under-14 event to earn a wild card into this week’s tournament. “I had some shots and I potted them.

Snooker is not really popular in Moldova, we only have three or four tables there. We are trying to improve the level there.  I started watching on TV because my mum and grandad watched snooker. I started playing snooker at the age of seven. I am now living in Leeds and practising at the Northern Snooker Centre. I am doing everything possible now to become a professional player. I can’t wait for the second round here.

Defending champion Hossein Vafaei fell at the first hurdle, losing to Shaun Murphy. Both players missed chances before Murphy snatched the tie in the last two minutes with a break of 28.

Amateur Robbie McGuigan, the 18-year-old two-time Northern Ireland Amateur champion, beat Hammad Miah with a break of 39.

Ben Mertens came from 21-0 down to beat Anthony Hamilton with a break of 34, while BetVictor Welsh Open champion Joe Perry compiled a run of 58 to knock out Luca Brecel.

Three-time Crucible king Mark Williams, runner-up to Vafaei last year, set an early target for the £5,000 high break prize with a 98 to beat Craig Steadman.

Shared by ES on their YouTube channel

Hossein Vafaei suffered a big piece of bad luck

This is Vladislav winning contribution

For some reason Vladsislav reminds me a young Stephen Hendry. I was not around snooker in the Hendry late 80th, early 90th but I’ve watched quite a few footages and, yes, there is that intensity, the focus, the will to win and the courage to take the shots to do just that.

Evening session:

Brazil-iant Debut Win For Vitinho

Victor Sarkis is living his dream by playing on the World Snooker Tour, and scored his first win by beating Mark Joyce to reach the second round of the BetVictor Shoot Out in Leicester.

Sarkis, known as Vitinho in his native Brazil, won the Pan-American Championship in 2021 to earn a tour card. The 31-year-old wasn’t able to make it to the UK until late 2022 but is now playing in every tournament and the charismatic cueman was thrilled to beat Joyce 18-14 in a low-scoring frame and earn a place in the last 64.

I really enjoyed it and I’m very excited to play again on Friday,” said Sarkis, who now lives in Darlington. “I really like the atmosphere with a lot of noise, I am comfortable with it. I used to look at the TV or YouTube when I lived in Brazil, and see Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan or Mark Williams. Three months ago I was flying to England to dream my big dream, and now I’m here. In my first match, I was playing Xiao Guodong. I looked at the WST logo and it was real. Now I’m really enjoying it and I want to get more experience and share that with my friends in Brazil.

Here is Victor’s postmatch (WST)

One of the most dramatic matches saw Jack Lisowski beat Mark Allen (shared by ES on their YouTube Channel).

And Willo’s 98

Overall I enjoyed that first day. There were some lovely moments in addition to Victor’s and Vladislav wins. Ken Doherty dancing whilst joining Rachel and Jimmy in the studio, totally unaware that is was live on TV was hilarious. We got to see a lot of young players in action. Ben Mertens played a very good frame to beat Anthony Hamilton (But why had they to meet in the first round ??? 😢)

Overall the crowd wasn’t too bad. I saw nothing aggressive, nor did I see drunks misbehaving badly. Janie Watkins and myself have very bad memories of the second shoot out in that respect. We were there to do a job, we were abused, showered in beer whilst trying to protect our cameras, idiots threw broken glass at us. WST security had to step in in the person of big Mark Williams to protect us.

Snooker – A Sport in a Crisis

The 2023 Shoot Out gets underway this afternoon. The event is supposed to be fast, furious, crazy and fun. Many players though are not exactly feeling much optimism at this moment in time. The truth is that Snooker is in a crisis and the malaise many feel for a long time has been exposed when it was announced that the 2023 Turkish Masters is canceled.

Anthony Hamilton has been talking about it with Phil Haigh:

Anthony Hamilton: ‘Snooker’s not flying, it’s a thin veneer between success and disaster’

Phil Haigh Tuesday 24 Jan 2023 9:59 pm

2022 Scottish Open - Day 1
Anthony Hamilton has seen it all in snooker since turning pro in 1991 (Picture: Getty Images)

After this week’s news that the Turkish Masters will no longer be happening in March, many professionals face a quiet few weeks ahead and Anthony Hamilton feels it is symptomatic of ongoing problems on the World Snooker Tour.

The 51-year-old has been on tour since 1991, so has seen plenty of ups and downs in the sport and he reckons we are witnessing something of a decline right now.

The loss of the string of big tournaments in China due to the pandemic is an ongoing problem for the sport, and with events not cropping up to replace them, it is a tough time for those outside of the sport’s elite.

While those riding high in the rankings are more than busy enough with limited-field events, many on the tour are short of playing opportunities and the cancellation of the Turkish Masters is a real blow.

Hamilton, ranked #40 in the world, plays at the one-frame Snooker Shoot Out this week, but after that faces a break of over two months before playing in World Championship qualifying, as he has not qualified for the Welsh Open or German Masters.

World Snooker Tour are looking into a replacement event to take the Turkish Masters’ place in the calendar, but things look bleak for some professionals if they are unsuccessful.

We’re playing in a tournament so we’ve got to be happy haven’t we?’ Hamilton told Metro.co.uk of his trip to Leicester for the Shoot Out.

Unless they fill the gap with some poxy Championship League or whatever, as it stands, certain players like myself won’t be playing for 10 weeks now till the World Championships. 

A lot of us will put the cue down for a month and pick it back up again for the Worlds. It’s not great is it? I’ve not won a match for quite a while now [UK Championship qualifying in November], when I play in the Worlds it might be close to six months since I’ve won a match

That’s something that I don’t think I’ve experienced before. It is what it is, I guess, I’ll get enough practice in for the World Championships. The only good thing is that no one will be particularly sharp.

I’m getting my cue out for the Shoot Out, but I can’t really be bothered because it’s going to go away for a month. Unless they get something on, whatever it is, anything would be better than nothing. It’s hard to muster up any real enthusiasm unless you’re in other tournaments like the top players are. The rest of the tour are in a bit of a malaise.

The calendar doesn’t appear empty between now and the World Championship starting in April, but the upcoming Players Championship just features the top 16 on the one-year ranking list, followed by the Tour Championship which is just for the top eight.

2022 Scottish Open - Day 1
Hamilton started this season with some solid wins, but has struggled for results since November (Picture: Getty Images)

Players down the rankings are short of earning opportunities and Hamilton expects some will be turning to part-time jobs, which, in turn, will harm their snooker.

If this was like five years back and I had no money in the bank…that’s a position a lot of pros will be in now, you would seriously have to think about going to work behind a bar just to pay the bills,’ said Hamilton. 

It’s hard to do both, when you’re young it’s possible because you’ve got the energy to practice and work, but when you’re getting on it’ll be detrimental to your snooker because who’s got the energy to do both? 

‘It’s not going to kill you, don’t get me wrong, but it might be five per cent off your snooker and that’s enough to not earn anything from snooker.

I’m playing alright, but I haven’t been paid since the UK in November. That could be five months in between cheques. I’ve lost matches, of course, but you’ve got to make sure you’ve got enough money in the bank. You need a float, because this could happen every year. If you’ve not got a float you’re f***ed.

2022 Scottish Open - Day 1
Hamilton has been to the World Championship quarter-finals four times (Picture: Getty Images)

My hat goes off to players, I know them personally, who’ve got young kids. When I was their age and I could play, I still didn’t have the balls to think that I could start a family off the back of this job

It never materialised anyway, but I used to think to myself, “If I had two kids, I don’t think I could guarantee getting them through from snooker.” I probably could have done, but that’s the thought process you have, even as a good player. It’s an easy life in some ways, because you’re not told by The Man what to do but you’ve got no guarantees, that’s the tough part.

But that’s what sport is, really. Other than football and a few others, it’s working class and you’re basically gambling whether you get paid or not. That’s the decision you make when you get good, whether you want to deal with it or not. We might moan about it, but it’s our decisions ultimately.’

The Sheriff of Pottingham has no intention of turning his back on the sport he has dedicated his life to and he hopes there are brighter times ahead, but he certainly sees a dip at the moment, which he traces back to the retirement of Barry Hearn, who was the sport’s driving force until 2021.

The tour is going downhill a bit now,’ he said. ‘It was always going to when Barry retired, or semi-retired. He’s not pushing forward with the job of finding money, there’s no one better at it. As always, the most annoying people on the planet get s**t done. He’s certainly got his merits.

Snooker’s not flying. You listen to some people and it sounds like it is, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s a thin veneer between success and disaster at the moment, if you ask me.

It’s not all bad. Snooker is in a better state than it was before Barry arrived because it was on its knees then. But it’s not all roses like some people would have you believe

I understand where they’re coming from, because they have to get sponsors interested, but every now and then they need a dose of reality, and the reality is a lot of players are on their arse. That’s the reality.’

Anthony is not the only one feeling that way. As it happens, there was a discussion going on on twitter yesterday, after someone pointed out that currently only 54 players, out of 131, have earned over£20000, the amount guaranteed by WPBSA/WST. It goes to show how very much needed that move by the governing body was and is. But £20000 is only £1666.67 per month and that’s not much at all especially if you have a family to support. Let’s not forget that from these £1666.67, we need to subtract their professional expenses (travels, hotels, practice fees).

There were calls to bring back the PTCs. Of course a return of the PTCs would get the players playing. The truth however about those events is that to break even the players had basically to reach the last day. The vast majority of players were out of pocket playing in them. Ronnie at the time spoke about “buying ranking points”, there was a lot of truth in that. Also those short events were not cheap to organise: they required a lot of tables and fitters to take care of them, a big venue, many referees. I know first hand that the events in Belgium, despite huge crowds, and massive support from amateur players, were a financial loss for the organisers. Bringing them back is not sustainable, at least not in their original form.

The return of the Chinese events would be a big help. For now, only the Shanghai Masters, with its 16 players field, is on the cards. It’s some light at the end of the tunnel but it isn’t enough. Also it remains to be seen how the current match fixing affair, involving ten Chinese players, will impact the collaboration between WPBSA and CBSA, if at all. For now it seems that CBSA is very keen to get the sport clean and to bring ranking events running again in China.

But WST needs to work hard on bringing more events to mainland Europe. It’s a matter of credibility if you call yourself “WORLD” tour but it’s not that easy. Brexit certainly doesn’t help and finding good sponsors – away from the betting/gambling business – isn’t either.

Our sport for sure has some serious challenges to face…

For some reason all those thoughts brought back this song by Bob Dylan into my head …

Yes, it’s old, it’s been first published in 1962 and, yes, I’m old enough to remember the first time I heard it on the radio back then. It’s still relevant… even in snooker.