There was no professional snooker yesterday but plenty of snooker action all the same!
There was also a bizarre and unfortunate story caused by a costly misunderstanding.
Billy is King of the Castle in Sweden
Billy Castle ousted Andrew Higginson on a re-spotted black in the deciding frame of the final to win 5-4 and dramatically claim this season’s Q Tour Event 4 title.
Hosted by new Q Tour venue the Snookerhallen in the Swedish capital of Stockholm, local Scandinavian players joined fellow European cueists and those representing nations from further afield for the fourth leg of the six-event amateur series.
Former professional Castle – who reached the quarter-finals of Event 1 back in September – defeated Patrick Whelan 3-1, Michael Holt 3-2 and Scott Bell 3-0 to qualify for Sunday’s final eight stage.
There he registered breaks of 60, 65 and 76 to stop the run of Event 3 winner Farakh Ajaib 4-1 in the quarter-finals before crafting further efforts of 102, 73 and 50 to deny promising Welsh teenager Liam Davies by the same scoreline in the last four.
On the other side of the draw, former Welsh Open finalist Higginson appeared beyond the last 16 for the first time this Q Tour campaign, although he had to come through a gauntlet that included Event 2 winner Martin O’Donnell, Event 1 winner Ross Muir, and two-time event runner-up George Pragnell. In the semi-finals Higginson came from a frame down to see off Frenchman Brian Ochoiski 4-2.
In the all-English final, Castle led twice early on, although runs of 85 and 70 aided Higginson to go into the mid-session interval level at 2-2.
The process repeated on resumption, with Castle (breaks of 71 and 72) moving 3-2 and 4-3 ahead, only for Higginson to keep pegging him back; a break of 65 in frame eight helping him force a deciding frame.
More drama was to come in that ninth frame with the tightest finish possible. Both players had scoring visits within it, although it would ultimately come down to the colours.
Leading by five points, Higginson potted the pivotal pink but also the cueball in the same shot. Castle then sank the pink to move six in front, but after a safety exchange, the black was left over a pocket for Higginson to force a re-spotted black.
More brilliant safety was played on the re-spot before Castle secured an epic victory with a mid-distance pot on the black.
The 30-year-old former English Amateur Champion zips up the rankings and puts himself in contention for the number one spot at the end of the season and automatic promotion back to the sport’s top tier.
Here is the provisional top 20 in the Q-Tour rankings (source: snooker.org)
His excellent run in Stockholm places Brian Ochoiski in contention for a place in the play-offs. Brian went off the radar after falling off the tour “top ups” main contenders list. His experience of the professional life wasn’t a particularly happy one, and the covid situation at the time did not help.
I was very surprised to see Luo Hong Hao’s name in the draw and I was right. He actually didn’t intend to be there … He lost in the first round in bizarre circumstances. From what transpired on Chinese social media, Luo thought that this event would offer a tour card to players managing to reach the semi-finals, like the Q-School. Learning that this wasn’t the case, he wanted to withdraw but was told by the organisers that he would be fined if he did. He played his first match, the score went 2-2, and he then walked out of the match with just one ball potted in the deciding frame. His explanation was that losing so early allowed him to go back to China right away, whilst he would otherwise have to wait for another 5 days before being able to fly home and the costs of the hotel were very, very high for him. Now he will likely be fined anyway… and he has damaged his reputation as well. All because he didn’t understand the purpose and context of this event… 😟
Without making excuses for Luo, this story illustrates another aspect of the difficulties non UK/Irish players face with most, if not all, WST/WPBSA communication happening in English. Most English native speakers don’t speak a word of any other language but (too) many think it’s “normal” for anyone else to master the language perfectly. It isn’t the case of course. I now live in Greece for over three years, on an island that is one of the major touristic destinations in the world. Big hotels and tourists agencies have multilingual staff but countless times I have witnessed incidents involving British/American tourists getting angry and very rude with the local staff in small villages and taverns because they spoke somewhat broken English… at least they spoke some English and were making an effort. How’s your Greek, guys?
Now the Academies – Vic’s Academy, Ding’s Academy and the Q-House – help their players with this stuff, but when Ding first arrived on the scene, they didn’t exist and this makes his early successes on the tour even more remarkable. I met him for the first time at the 2008 Premier League Snooker. He was extremely shy, and barely spoke a word of English.
Mink Masters On Yee For Eden Title
Mink Nutcharut has defeated Ng On Yee 4-0 to win the Eden Women’s Masters for the first time at Frames Sports Bar, London.
The victory earns the 23-year-old her first ranking title of the 2022/23 season and the first since her historic victory at the World Championship in February. The title is her fourth career success in total and her maiden glory at one of the most prestigious tournaments on the calendar, that had previously only been won by either Ng or Reanne Evans during eight previous stagings.
Seeded second in the tournament as world champion, Nutcharut progressed to the final following wins against Diana Schuler (3-0), Siripaporn Nuanthakhamjan (3-1) and most notably six-time champion Reanne Evans in the semi-finals. Evans had recovered from 0-2 and 1-3 down to force a deciding frame, only for Nutcharut to claim the match with a doubled pink.
Awaiting her would be two-time Eden winner Ng On Yee, who had defeated Polish debutant Nikola Broyak (3-1), Mary Talbot-Deegan (3-0) and Rebecca Kenna (4-2) to reach her third consecutive final at Frames. As in 2021, her semi-final against Kenna was a finely balanced affair, during which she came back from behind to claim a crucial fifth frame and a 3-2 lead, before closing out the match with a break of 89.
The final would however prove to be a one-sided affair which was dominated by Nutcharut who top scored with a run of 64 on her way to a convincing 4-0 victory in just under two hours.
The victory will see the Thai number one consolidate her position of third in the world rankings, behind only Evans and Ng.
The highest break of the tournament was a magnificent run of 114 compiled by Tessa Davidson during the group stages – her first century break at a WWS Ranking event since the 1994 Pontins Spring Bowl – albeit having only returned to the Tour this year following a 23-year absence.
There was also a Thai victory in the Under-21 competition as Ploychompoo Laokiatphong made it five in a row since her success at the World Championship back in February. The 20-year-old excelled with breaks of 58, 51, 37 and 33 during a 2-0 victory against Zoe Killington in the final to seal victory.
In the Seniors tournament there was a return to success for England’s Tessa Davidson, who won her fifth Seniors title of the calendar year following a hard-fought 2-1 victory against defending champion Mary Talbot-Deegan in the final. It was Talbot-Deegan who claimed the first frame and had chances to seal a 2-0 victory in the second, only for Davidson to show her class and turn the match around to end the year on a winning note.
The Challenge Cup competition – for the first time played under a 6-Red format trialled at the event – was won by world number six Emma Parker, who defeated Wakefield’s Steph Daughtery 3-0 in the final. The pair came through a strong field which featured four top 20 ranked players in the semi-finals, with Parker coming out on top to earn her first WWS side-event title in almost three years.
As always, World Women’s Snooker would like to thank everyone who has supported the tournament, including title sponsors Eden Resources and our host venue Frames Sports Bar.
Mink is practicing at Vic’s Snooker Academy and she’s clearly improving significantly.