2021 Q-School Event 2 – The Outcome

Lewis worst fears were vindicated yesterday as all four Event 2 laureates are veterans and former pros.

Here are the reports by WST:

The Last 16

Q School Event Two – The Final Eight

These are the eight players through to the quarter-finals of Q School event two in Sheffield. The four winners will earn a World Snooker Tour card for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons.

Barry Pinches. Age 50 from Norwich. Played on the pro tour from 1989-97, 1998-2016 and 2019 onwards. Relegated from the tour at the end of last season. Former world number 18. Won a PTC event in 2010, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final. Reached the quarter-finals of the 2003 UK Championship and the last 16 at the World Championship in 2004.

versus

Sanderson Lam. Age 27 from Leeds. Played on the pro tour from 2015 to 2019. Reached the last 16 of the Gibraltar Open in 2017.


Hammad Miah. Age 27 from Hertford. Played on the pro tour from 2013 to 15 and 2016 to 20. Reached the last 16 of the 2018 Paul Hunter Classic.

versus

Craig Steadman. Age 38 from Farnworth. Played on the pro tour from 2009-10 and 2012-20. Reached the semi-finals of the Shoot Out last season while competing as an amateur. Played Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible in 2015.


Michael Judge. Age 45 from Dublin. Played on the tour from 1992 to 2011. Reached the semi-finals of the Grand Prix in 2004, and the last 16 at the Crucible in 2001. Former world number 24. Runner-up in the 2011 Nations Cup for Ireland, alongside Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien. Won the UK Seniors Championship in 2019.

versus

Kuldesh Johal. Age 40 from Huddersfield. Played on the pro tour in 2008-09 and 2010-11. Won three events on the old Pontins International Open Series.


Alfie Burden. Age 44 from London. Played on the pro tour from 1994 to 2008 and 2010 to 2020. World Amateur Champion in 2009. Made a 147 at the 2016 English Open. Quarter-finalist at four ranking events. Played at the Crucible in 1998.

versus

Michael Collumb. Age 32 from Motherwell. The only potential rookie left in the field. Played as a wild card in the Scottish Open last season, losing 4-3 to Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. Won the Scottish National Championship for the first time in 2019.

The quarter-finals

Judge / Burden / Steadman / Pinches Regain Tour Spots

Michael Judge regained a place on the World Snooker Tour after a ten year absence by beating Kuldesh Johal 4-0 in the final round of Q School event two.

All results 

Judge, Alfie Burden, Barry Pinches and Craig Steadman all secured tour cards for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons.

Irishman Judge was a familiar face on the circuit for almost two decades from 1992 to 2011, notably reaching the semi-finals of the Grand Prix in 2004 and the last 16 at the Crucible in 2001, and spending several seasons ranked among the top 32. He enjoyed one subsequent moment in the limelight in 2019 when he won the UK Seniors Championship, beating Jimmy White in the final.

He was not at his best against Johal but breaks of 45 and 43 helped him to a comfortable win. “It feels great,” said the 45-year-old Dubliner. “After I fell off the tour ten years ago, I put the cue away and sorted out my life. I was doing a bit of work at the Q Club in Wicklow. I played on the amateur scene just for the enjoyment, and after five or six years I decided to give it another go. Then my wife had a baby boy so I put snooker on hold for a couple of years.

“During lockdown I was thinking I wouldn’t mind giving it a go, and a friend said he would back me. I started practising hard and things have fallen into place. Here I am, back on tour for more torture! I always felt I was good enough to get back on if I gave it a proper go. Whether I can hold my own, we’ll soon find out. I’m just looking forward to seeing what it brings me.

“Winning the UK seniors final against one of the all-time greats in Jimmy White in a packed arena really inspired me. That has given me the confidence that I can do it on any stage. I know I can beat anyone on my day once I get sharp. The tour will suit me because there are so many tournaments you don’t need to practise that much.”

Alfie Burden also regained his tour card, after a much shorter hiatus of 11 months. The 44-year-old Londoner recovered from the loss of the first frame to beat Michael Collumb 4-1 with a top break of 70.

Former World Amateur Champion Burden has 24 seasons as a pro behind him and has reached the quarter-finals of four ranking events. After relegation in 2020, he missed out on a return via Q School, then took time away from snooker. He admitted in this recent interview that he had missed the thrill of competition and camaraderie on the circuit so decided to give the qualifying minefield another try, this time successfully.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Burden. “I only had three weeks preparation for this so I didn’t have much expectation. I didn’t know how I would deal with the pressure. In this school my experience goes a long way. I have enjoyed being back out there. I didn’t play great, but dug in.

“During the pandemic I got very bored and missed the game, so I decided there was no harm in giving Q School another try and rolling the dice. I’m looking forward to two more years on the tour. They thought the hell-raiser was gone, but he’s back! I don’t fear anyone, I’ll just enjoy it.

“I have always been fiercely competitive, I never give up. I have always believed in my ability. I have probably under-achieved but that’s my own fault because I didn’t live in the right manner. Hopefully my son can look at me and think ‘the old man doesn’t give in, he comes back for more.’ If he carries that into his career (footballer son Lene has just signed for Bristol Rovers) when times are hard then that will be a good example for him. I’ll be doing a lot of miles to Bristol to watch him play.

“I’d like to thank my coach Alan Bell, Whetstone Snooker Club and everyone there for their support, and finally my daughter Bow who is like an angel on my shoulder, I am so lucky to be her dad.”

Craig Steadman survived some nervous moments to beat Hammad Miah 4-3. From 3-0 up, Farnworth’s Steadman lost the next three frames then trailed 34-0 in the decider. But breaks of 48 and 28 gave him victory and a place on the circuit which he had previously held from 2012 to 2020.

“I should have won 4-1, then it all went wrong,” admitted 38-year-old Steadman, who reached the semi-finals of the Shoot Out last season while competing as an amateur. “I felt very nervous at 3-1 but then in the last frame I felt quite calm. I had an unbelievable fluke in the decider so I feel for Hammad because he stuck in well from 3-0. The relief is massive, I’m stunned. There’s a lot on the line, no one wants to come back tomorrow and start it all again.

“It was nice to have a run at the Shoot Out, and that gave me the motivation to start playing again. I practised really hard for this, but as soon as I got here I felt as if I had not played a proper match for ten years. It felt really tough.

“My personal life has been fantastic over the past year as my wife had a baby and I spent four or five months helping renovate the house. So that took my mind off not playing snooker. But then I started missing it, so I’m happy now that I’ll be back playing.”

Barry Pinches got the better of a dramatic deciding frame to beat Sanderson Lam 4-3. From 2-0 down, Pinches took three frames in a row with a top break of 100, before Lam won the sixth for 3-3. Both players had chances in the decider and it came down to the colours. Lam potted the last red, brown and yellow but then missed the green and Pinches took green, brown, blue and pink to win it 63-54.

The 50-year-old from Norwich first turned pro back in 1989 and was once ranked 18th in the world. He becomes the second player aged 50 or over to come through Q School this month, joining Peter Lines who qualified through the first event.

“I have played in big matches at the Crucible and all the main venues, and the pressure just doesn’t get any bigger than that,” said Pinches. “When the next two years depend on one shot, it’s so hard. He missed an awkward green. My adrenaline was pumping but I managed to take the last few balls. I tried to fist-pump where Sanderson couldn’t see me because I was psyched. It’s pure relief.

“I have always taken the view that if you enjoy playing and you can manage financially, you should keep going. All of the guys who got through today are all older players. Snooker is not an easy game to get good at! There are so many good, hardened pros age 35, 40 or even 50. It’s so difficult for the younger players to get through Q School.

“I’d like to get back to the standard I was at in the early 2000s when I was pushing for a place in the top 16. I’m not saying I can get that high, I’d just like to get back close to that level because I haven’t done myself justice for the past two years.”

Later on Facebook, Barry Pinches came up with this:

I’m sick to the back teeth of seeing these
‘ why aren’t the young players winning through q school statuses ! ‘
I’ll tell you why .
It’s because this isn’t the 1980s or early 1990s when there were virtually no good players around aged over 30.
There is alot of very good young talent at q school it’s just that they are up against alot more tougher opposition than there was years ago .
The amateur game needs a very significant boost or the Professional tour needs to be made a tad bigger soon if not we may be in danger of losing a generation of young players .
Snooker is an extremely tough game to get very good at and it’s not easy for the young generation coming through and throwing tour wild cards at them or seeding them for upcoming amateur tours is neither fair nor the answer either in my humble opinion.

To which I answered this:

Barry above is right: one of the main issues is the severe decline of the amateur game. The young ones are not ready and the level between amateurs and pros has widened. It’s even worse this year with the coronavirus putting the amateur game to a complete stop. I know that Barry will disagree but for me part of the answer is to go back to a tiered system. Give the lower ranked players/debutants a more winnable first match, a progressive route allowing for development. There would be no protection if, no matter the round, a player losing their opening match gets 0 ranking points. On the other hand, financial pressure should be eased by paying everyone who actually plays, including the first round losers. By playing they bring value to the tournament, the sponsors, the venue management and the viewers. Paying them for a work done is only right, it’s not “rewarding mediocrity”. Playing should not cost them. And it can be easily done at no additional cost for the governing body: just make the prize money structure a bit less top heavy. It would be fairer as well. Returning to a tiered system doesn’t not need to be returning to cubicles with nobody watching in Pontins or whatever. It should be all played at the final venue, in one go, as one tournament, with a crowd, with streaming or television. There is no reason nowadays for not doing that. It’s actually already done: even at qualifiers 8 tables are currently streamed in China.

 

I can understand Barry’s frustration but at the same time it’s a big worry for the future that next to no young player is able to qualify/survive on the main tour. The current structure of the calendar leaves very little space for Pro-ams. Contractual restrictions on streaming limits the “exposure” of the few surviving. Do we really need that many pro tournaments? I’m not sure. I would gladly have fewer, maybe 12-15, with longer formats, tiered structure, proper exposure, more fairly distributed prize money,  and quality venues/hospitality for the players. I would gladly have gaps in the calendar for pro-ams, seniors and juniors events with proper exposure and fairly geographically spread. Let’s revive the true Paul Hunter Classic en August, lets get it back to what it was: a true Pro-Am, without ranking points attached, convivial, a huge snooker feast. Let’s revive the Pontins festivals, and the Pink Ribbon – even without Paul Mount – and have it moving around Europe. If possible, let’s get the General Cup back in Hong-Kong ahead of the “Asian leg” of the snooker season. Bring back some team events, with mixed gender/mixed age groups teams. Bring back some non-ranking pure fun into our sport. Enjoyment is what keeps us all going, no matter what we do for a living.

Oh … and then maybe, think about an inclusive rating system instead of a rigid, money linked, ranking system. It works for other sports.

End of rant. For now … 😉🙄

Congratulations Barry Pinches, Alfie Burden , Craig Steadman and Mick Judge!

PS: one additional concern for me is that the game is now owned by Matchroom. The new boss, Eddie Hearn, is not particularly interested in snooker, unlike his father: his big passion is boxing and if he has to set priorities, snooker will not come first.

 

2021 Q-School Event 2 – Rounds 3 & 4

And so today is the last day of the 2021 Q-School already.

I have to admit that the last couple of days have been painful from my fan point of view as none of the ones I really wanted to do well are still in the draw.

Here are the reports by WST

Saturday

Ross Muir made the highest break of 2021 Q School so far as he thrashed Fergal Quinn 4-0 to move into the fourth round of event two in Sheffield.

All results

Scotland’s Muir played on the pro tour from 2013 to 2019 and will earn a return if he can win three more matches on Sunday and Monday.

His break of 140 against Quinn tops the century charts, and he also fired runs of 53, 63 and 64 in a superb display. He now meets Simon Bedford, who made a 103 in a 4-3 defeat of Ross Bulman.

Two-time ranking event winner Michael White came from 3-2 down to edge out Ben Fortey 4-3. He now faces Barry Pinches, who came from 3-1 down to beat Ryan Davies 4-3 in a marathon match which lasted five hours.

Michael Georgiou compiled runs of 93, 62, 66, 85 and 68 in a 4-3 defeat of Samuel Lee-Stevens. Alfie Burden’s top break was 77 at he saw off Mark Ganderton 4-0.

Belgium’s promising Julien Leclercq top scored with 80 in a 4-1 win over Niel Vincent, while James Cahill made a 105 in a 4-1 win over Dave Finbow.

Veteran Rod Lawler beat Chen Feilong 4-2 with a top run of 82, while World Seniors champion David Lilley suffered a 4-1 defeat against Jenson Kendrick.

Sunday

Potential Rookies Chase Tour Dream

Robbie McGuigan, Liam Pullen, Michael Collumb, Mark Lloyd and Daniel Womersley could all earn a place on the World Snooker Tour for the first time when they play in the business end of Q School event two on Monday.

All results

Just 16 players remain in the second of three events in Sheffield. The last 16 will be played from 10am on Monday, followed by the quarter-finals from 1pm. Those four winners will receive a place on the pro circuit for the next two seasons.

Robbie McGuigan

Promising Northern Irishman McGuigan, who turns 17 next month, edged out Ross Vallance 4-3 in the last 32 with a top break of 88. He now faces Michael Judge, who beat Soheil Vahedi 4-3.

York’s 15-year-old Pullen, playing in Q School for the first time, beat James Cahill 4-3 with a superb break of 72 in the decider. He will now play Scotland’s 32-year-old Collumb, a 4-2 winner over Dylan Emery.

Womersley, age 29 from Leeds, whitewashed Rod Lawler 4-0 and will now face veteran Barry Pinches, who scored a 4-1 victory over two-time ranking event winner Michael White.

Lloyd, age 21 from Portsmouth, beat Julien Leclercq 4-2 and now meets Hammad Miah, who beat Paul Davison by the same scoreline.

China’s Lei Peifan top scored with 109 in a 4-1 defeat of Michael Georgiou. His next opponent is Alfie Burden who came from 3-2 down to beat Joshua Thomond 4-3, making breaks of 113 and 88 in the last two frames.

Sanderson Lam edged out Harvey Chandler 4-3, setting up a tie with in-form Ross Muir, who fired runs of 135 and 111 in a 4-0 win over Simon Bedford.

Craig Steadman beat Luo Honghao 4-2 and now faces Duane Jones, who top scored with 86 in a 4-1 win over Jenson Kendrick.

John Astley saw off Leo Fernandez 4-2 with a top break of 96, setting up a tie with Kuldesh Johal, who came from 2-0 down to beat Liam Graham 4-2.

It’s not all bad of course: Lei Peifan, Robbie McGuigan, Mark Lloyd and Liam Pullen are all young players and I hope that they will qualify. Liam Pullen is not one of the hyped youngsters and he has been impressive so far. Ross Muir has lost his professional status after suffering health issues, he’s only 25, and I hope that he can get back on the tour.

However, Niel Vincent, Julien Leclercq, Brian Ochoiski, Soheil Vahedi and Luo Honghao are all out of the competition, as is Michael White. Soheil is not badly placed in the order of merit. Even if he doesn’t requalify, he will likely get opportunities to play via the top-up system. That said, I’m not sure what his situation would be regarding visas and work permit. If he has to go back to Iran, it would be heartbreaking. Luo is incredibly talented and only 20 years old. The main toour needs the likes of him. As for Michael White, who recently opened up about his drinking problem, I fear that a “failure” to requalify might drive him back to alcohol. That would be terrible.

“Juju”, Julien Leclercq, has done well in this Q-School so far and it’s a valuable learning experience for him. What annoys me big time is that he got 18 points in the order of merit so far, having won four matches, yet, he’s behind Ben Mertens who also has 18 points without winning a match purely because Ben is seeded in the secound round in all events and on “count back” did better that Julien in event 1, winning three frames in round 2, whilst Julien lost by 4-0 in that round.  By the same mechanism, Julien is also behind Brian Ochoiski, who won only one match, whilst Julien himself finds himself behind the winless Ben! Something is clearly not right here! Surely, winning matches should have “precedence” over winning frames?

The above is nothing against Brian, nor Ben; I would love to see them both on the main tour. It’s just that it doesn’t feel right the way it is.

 

 

2021 Q-School Event 2 – Rounds 1 & 2

We are already in day 4 of Event 2 and round 3 only began this afternoon.Here are WST reports about day 2 and day 3:

Day 2

White Survives Wienold Test

Michael White came through a tough battle against Germany’s Richard Wienold at Q School event two in Sheffield, winning 4-2 to reach the last 64.

All results

Former Indian Open, Shoot Out and Paul Hunter Classic champion White was relegated from the tour last year and must reach the semi-finals of one of the two remaining Q School events to be sure of regaining a tour card.

He looked in danger of an early exit when Wienold made a break of 87 to lead 2-1, but Welshman White took the next two frames on the colours, then made a 52 in the next as he set up a third round match with Ben Fortey.

Former Crucible quarter-finalist Patrick Wallace made the highest break of the event so far, 138, as he saw off Adam Duffy 4-2.

Russia’s top player Ivan Kakovskii compiled runs of 60, 75 and 112 in an impressive 4-2 defeat of Hans Blanckaert. Japan’s Keishin Kamihashi came from 2-1 down to edge out Neal Jones 4-3.

Fight back of the day came from Latvia’s Rodion Judin as he recovered a 3-0 deficit to beat Manasawin Phetmalaikul 4-3 with a top break of 81.

Former pro Sean O’Sullivan top scored with 53 in a 4-1 win over Liam Davies. Michael Judge, a quarter-finalist at the Grand Prix back in 2004, beat Sergey Isaenko 4-0 with top runs of 76, 75 and 55.

 

Day 3 

Crash And Burns

Q School top seed Ian Burns suffered a surprise 4-1 defeat against underdog Ross Vallance in the second round of event two in Sheffield.

All results

Burns finished 65th in the official world rankings at the end of last season, missing out on keeping his tour card by just one place. He then lost to Peter Lines in the final round of Q School event one, and today’s defeat means he must reach the semi-finals of the third and last event to be sure of regaining a place on the circuit.

Scotland’s 33-year-old Vallance, who has never played on the pro tour, made a top break of 48 as he knocked out Burns and set up a third round tie with Haydon Pinhey.

Women’s world number four Rebecca Kenna couldn’t follow up her first round win over John Pritchett as she lost 4-1 to Phil O’Kane. Kenna won the opening frame only for Kane to take four in a row with a top break of 79.

Soheil Vahedi

Iran’s Soheil Vahedi top scored with 116 in a 4-1 defeat of Daan Leyssen, while promising Northern Irishman Robbie McGuigan made an 85 in a 4-1 win over Kishan Hirani.

Israel’s Eden Sharav top scored with 74 in a 4-0 victory over Ryan Thomerson while China’s Luo Honghao edged out Luke Simmonds 4-3 with a 79 in the decider.

World Seniors champion David Lilley beat Stephen Baillie 4-0 with a top run of 70 while France’s top player Brian Ochoiski saw off Daniel Kandi 4-0.

David Donovan came from 3-0 down to beat Ben Mertens 4-3. Harvey Chandler made a similar fight back, from 3-1 down to beat Si Jiahui 4-3. Former Scottish Open semi-finalist Daniel Wells went down 4-1 to Simon Bedford.

Event two runs until Monday at Ponds Forge, with the four winning quarter-finalists to earn a two-year tour card.

Round 2 concluded today.

Julien Leclercq (Belgium), Niel Vincent and Brian Ochoiski (France) all qualified for round 3. They are the three native French speakers in the draw and, being a native French spreaker myself I want them to do well. Snooker is quite popular in Belgium but mainly in Flanders. In France, the relevant Federation doesn’t give snooker much attention and the coverage provided by Eurosport FR isn’t great in that the quality of commentary is poor. So those are regions where success for a young local lad would really help the development of the sport. Unfortunately Julien and Niel are playing each other as I’m writing this. The winner could play Brian in round 5. This means that, at best, only one could reach the last round with a chance to qualify. And Luo Honghao, another young player I would really love to see back on the tour is also in that section.

Ben Mertens lost his opening match again: he lead 3-0 and lost 4-3. This can only be pressure. I stand by what I said after Ben’s defeat in event one: I don’t doubt his talent but too much hype is probably putting excessive pressure on this 16 years old. That said Ben has already amassed 14 “merit” points, with another 4 guaranteed, without winning a match. Julien Leclercq has won three matches already and even if he was to win the one that’s under way he wouldn’t be certain to get ahead of Ben in the order of merit. That’s not quite right. The “seeding” has solved one issue in that the best prospects can no more meet in the first round, but has created another one. Yes, it’s true that the players who previously got a bye to round 2 always “earned” 4 “free” points in the process, but they rarely got a bye in all three events…

Another young player who lost in this round is the 18 years old Si Jiahui. He lost by 4-3 to Harvey Chandler who, of course, is a former pro, and, who, at the time of writing is already through to round 4.

Soheil Vahedi, who became a father very recently, beat Daan Leyssen, another young Belgian, to progress to round 3. I hope that Soheil can return to the main tour. He has made so many sacrifices to make his snooker dream reality, and so did his wife, who joined him in the UK.

 

2021 Q-School Event 2 – Day 1

The 2021 Q-School Event 2 got underway yesterday and here is the WST report about the day’s outcome:

Rebecca Kenna won a match at Q School for the first time, making a superb break of 92 in the deciding frame to beat John Pritchett 4-3.

All results

Women’s world number four Kenna is through to the second round of event two in Sheffield and will meet Phil O’Kane on Friday. She will need another five wins to earn a two-year tour card.

This is Kenna’s second visit to Q School as she first played in the event in 2019, and the 32-year-old from Yorkshire now has an impressive win under her belt.

From 2-1 down, Kenna won a scrappy fourth frame, then made runs of 26 and 38 to lead 3-2. Pritchett made it 3-3 but Kenna finished in style by taking the decider in one visit.

Former world number eight Dean Reynolds lost 4-0 to David Donovan.

David Lilley let slip a 3-0 lead against Callum Lloyd but eventually got the better of a scrappy decider to win 4-3.

Germany’s promising Umut Dikme scored a 4-2 win over James Silverwood, knocking in breaks of 62 and 77

Belgium’s 18-year-old Julien Leclerqc, who knocked Soheil Vahedi out of the Betfred World Championship qualifiers in April, scored a 4-0 win over Evan Munro.

Event two runs until Monday.

Rebecca Kenna actually made a 92 in that decider. It’s good to see WST reporting about the only female player in the draw.

That said, the reason(s) if any that guide WST when it comes to what they decide to report on totally elude me.

Why on earth report on Dean Reynolds? Dean suffered severe health issues in recent years, including a stroke, and he’s now a disability player. Yes, he does have a lot of merit to continue to play, but he stands no chance whatsoever in this competition, and putting a heavy 4-0 first round defeat into the spotlight does him no favour. This time there was no reporting on Tony Knowles who, unsurprisingly, lost to Kishan Hirani, who was a professsional for two seasons in 2018/19/20.

Julien Leclercq (Belgium) gets a mention as does Utmut Dikme (Germany), which pleases me, but why ignore Niel Vincent? The young Frenchman reached round 4 in Event 1. He’s been doing very well so far, he’s one to watch here for everyone interested in the development of the sport in mainland Europe.

The 14 years old Stan Moody also won his first match. He is the EPSB nominee and WST wrote a feature about him last month. Now that he’s got a win there isn’t a word about it?

The first round continues today and will be played to a finish. the second round will start this evening.

 

 

 

2021 Q-School Event 1 Outcome

The four players who earned a two years tour card through the 2021 Q-School Event 1 were all professionals over the 2019/20/21 seasons. They are: Yuan Sijun, Jackson Page, Fraser Patrick ans Peter Lines.

Here are the reports by WST about what happened yesterday.

The last eight

Q School Event One – The Final Eight

Seven of the eight players through to the quarter-finals of Q School event one are looking for an immediate return to the pro tour having been relegated at the end of last season.

Click here for live scores for the quarter-finals on Tuesday afternoon.

Michael Georgiou is the only exception – the former Shoot Out winner dropped off the tour in 2020 then took a year away from snooker to spend time in his native Cyprus, but is now just one win away from a fresh two-year tour card.

The four winners of the quarter-finals in Sheffield will each be handed a place on the circuit for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons.

Georgiou beat Oliver Brown 4-1 in the last 16 with a top break of 104. He will now meet Welshman Jackson Page, who thrashed Sean Harvey 4-0 with a top run of 60.

China’s Yuan Sijun saw off Sydney Wilson 4-0, earning a match with Birmingham’s Mitchell Mann, who made a 93 in a 4-2 defeat of Duane Jones.

Peter Lines, the 51-year-old veteran from Leeds, eased into the last round with a 4-1 victory over Lee Shanker. He will now meet Preston’s Ian Burns, who won a 40-minute decider to edge out David Lilley 4-3.

A top run of 118 helped China’s Bai Langning beat James Cahill 4-1, setting up a tie with Fraser Patrick, who came from 2-1 down to beat Lei Peifan 4-3.

The outcome

Action Jackson Bounces Back

Talented teenager Jackson Page earned a new two-year tour card by beating Michael Georgiou 4-1 in the final round of Q School event one in Sheffield.

All results

Page has reached the last 16 of three ranking events

Welsh 19-year-old Page turned pro in 2019 then suffered relegation at the end of last season. The player from Ebbw Vale, who is mentored by three-time World Champion Mark Williams, now has another chance to prove his potential.

He is one of four winners from Q School event one who will receive a card for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons to compete on snooker’s global circuit.

Page needed just 73 minutes to end the challenge of Cypriot Georgiou. A break of 89 gave him the opening frame, and he took the second by clearing from brown to black, before making an 81 in the third for 3-0. Georgiou pulled one back but Page made a 56 in frame five as he secured the result.

“I struggled through the early rounds but improved as the event went on and played well today,” said Page. “My game is improving all of the time. My safety still needs to get better and my break-building has always been my strength. Over the last two years I have learned what you need to do to get to the top. It’s all about consistency, I have to perform on a regular basis.”

All four players earning tour cards from event one were relegated at the end of last season and have earned an immediate return.

Yuan Sijun

China’s Yuan Sijun scored a 4-2 win over Mitchell Mann. Yuan went 3-0 up with a top break of 46, then Mann battled his way back to 3-2 and led 49-0 in frame six. But 21-year-old Yuan compiled runs of 42 and 23 to snatch the frame and clinch his card.

Yuan first turned pro in 2017 and showed his talent with runs to the quarter-finals of the World Grand Prix and semi-finals of the Gibraltar Open in 2019. At the time he was described by Stephen Hendry as “one of the best youngsters I’ve seen since the likes of Ding Junhui, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams or John Higgins turned pro.” A loss of form over the past two seasons saw Yuan drop down the rankings but he now has a fresh start.

Peter Lines, who first turned pro back in 1991, extended his career for two more years with a 4-2 win over Ian Burns, highlighted by a break of 55. At the age of 51, Yorkshireman Lines will be the oldest pro player other than Nigel Bond who does not have an invitational tour card.

“I came here with no expectations because my confidence was low, but I have got my act together here and I’m delighted to get through,” said Lines. “I just want to enjoy being on the circuit as much as I can, because I have loved snooker since I started at 14. It’s great to be with your friends on tour and do something that you love.

“I’d like to say thanks to all of my friends and family because it has been a tough time for me and (son) Oliver. A special thanks to a player called Patrick Whelan who I practise with. He gave me a ticking off about my attitude, I hadn’t realised until then how bad my attitude was. If he hadn’t pointed that out I wouldn’t have got through Q School, it really helped me.”

The draws at Q School were seeded for the first time this year, with players who had just been relegated seeded highest, followed by those who performed well in Q School last year. Lines believes that innovation was a success. “It has evened out the sections of the draw so the good players are spread out,” he said. “It made things fairer, rather having a lot of good players in one section, so it worked well.”

Glasgow’s Fraser Patrick took the fourth and last tour card with a 4-1 victory over China’s Bai Langning, closing out the result with a run of 95 in frame five. Patrick, age 35, first turned pro in 2007.

“When I looked at the names at the start, I felt this would be the hardest ever year at Q School,” said Patrick, who has come through the qualifying event three times. “There were so many good players. To get through at the first chance, I’m very relieved.

“I have hardly practised for the past 16 months because the snooker clubs have been shut. I have been turning up to tournaments and getting pumped. If I can start practising now and have more games with the likes of John Higgins, Stephen Maguire and Graeme Dott, that will help me.”

Event two gets underway on Wednesday – for the match schedule click here

I’m delighted for Yuan Sijun and Jackson Page, both young extremely talented players. Yuan in particular must have been low in confidence and a fresh start might help him to regain his mojo.

You can’t fault Peter Lines’ love for the game and, although I would love to see younger players to succeed, I’m happy for Peter as well.

As for Fraser Patrick, he’s a lovely man and I certainly won’t begrudge him his success here. However, there is something not quite right when a player struggles so much to stay on tour, losing his tour card three times, only to regain it each time. And even when he failed to regain it, he still played a lot on the tour as top-up. This illustrates that the gap between professional and amateur game has widened, and continues to widen. That’s a serious worry.

Fraser is not the only one who appears not to be quite good enough to stay in the top 64, but far too good for the amateur circuit. Of course, the covid crisis has made it even worse this year, with amateurs unable to practice or play for most of the season.

Still, I’m not sure what the answer should be. Maybe put “the bar” at 72 or 80 instead of 64? But also surely, reviving the pro-am circuit where so many of today’s established names learned their trade would help?  Basically that would mean revive the PTC tour, giving it decent money and exposure.  And at the same time, go back to a tiered system for at least half of the main tour events, with money, but no ranking points, for those who fail to win their first match and the whole tournament played in one go and in one location, with proper exposure, if not television, at least streaming for all rounds? That would create a better development path for young players, and would not offer “ranking” protection.

That’s of course IF the ranking system is to be kept. There are other options, used in other sports. Rating systems do exist, that make the distinction between amateurs and professionals largely irrelevant. Those systems also usually take the diffrence in rating into account when it comes to rewarding a win: a competitor will be “rewarded” more in terms of rating points for beating a higher rated opponent than for beating someone of similar or lower strength.

 

 

 

2021 Q-School Event 1 – Days 4 & 5

As we enter the last day of this season Q-School event 1, let’s take stock of what happened over the last two days.

Unsurprisingly Tony Knowles “adventure” came to an end in the third round. He was 3-1 up and lost by 4-3. He did much better than I expected, all credits to him, but because of the way he lost, I wonder even more than before if, at 65, he still has the stamina to compete professionally. Actually I doubt it. It is understandable that older players, especially those who once reached the “top tier”, miss the thrill of the competition, but the answer is not to get them back on the main tour, not at 65 anyway. The WSS Tour should be better supported and promoted. Jason Francis works wonders with limited means but it isn’t enough. Exposure is paramount and currently he isn’t allowed to stream events if they are held at the same time as main tour events. It’s probably a contractual issue, but can’t it be resolved? Because frankly, I don’t think that streaming WSS events would impact the Main Tour viewing figures!

Six non-British/Irish youngsters, Lei Peifan,Si Jiajui, Yan Sijun, Bai Langning (China), Florian Nüßle (Austria) and Niel Vincent (France) all reached the fourth round. Unfortunately Bai and Florian faced each other, as did Niel and Lei. The relegated pros prevailed, unsurprisingly.

Soheil Vahedi and Michael White both lost at that stage as well, and I’m sorry for both. Soheil has made so many sacrifices to try and live his dream. I hope he manages to stay on Tour. As for Michael White, I fear what could happen if he doesn’t regain his tour card.

All that leaves us with only four “youth” players in round 5, three Chinese and one Welsh,  and only  five amateurs, one of them being Michael Georgiou who has been on and around the tour for many  years. Only three of the remaining competitors have never been professionals, none really a “young prospect”: Oliver Brown (26), Lee Shanker (33) and Sean Harvey (36). I’m not sure this “outcome” is great for the future of snooker.

I’m wishing all four younger ones the best for today.

Here are the reports by WST:

Day 4

Fry Up: Knowles Run Ended

Tony Knowles let slip a 3-1 lead as he lost 4-3 to Raymond Fry in round three of Q School event one.

All results

After fine wins over Bradley Cowdroy and Craig Steadman, 65-year-old veteran Knowles missed the chance to go further in the first of three events in Sheffield. He will return for event two which starts on Wednesday.

Breaks of 69 and 54 helped Knowles build a 3-1 lead. However Northern Ireland’s Fry (pictured) hit back with 110 and 67 for 3-3 then dominated the decider.

Alfie Burden eased to a 4-1 win over Ryan Thomerson with top breaks of 55, 56 and 66, while former German Masters semi-finalist Duane Jones was also a 4-1 winner, beating Tyler Rees.

Harvey Chandler edged out Robbie McGuigan 4-3, taking the deciding frame on a respotted black. Ian Burns top scored with 69 in a 4-1 win over Brandon Sargeant.

Peter Lines saw off Riley Parsons 4-2 while David Lilley whitewashed Paul Davison 4-0. Two-time ranking event winner Michael White top scored with 93 in a 4-1 win over Ben Fortey.

Day 5 

Page On Course For New Chapter

Jackson Page is just two wins away from earning a fresh two-year tour card thanks to a 4-2 win over Soheil Vahedi in the last 32 of Q School event one.

All results

The last 16 will be played on Tuesday from 10am, with the eight winners going through to the quarter-finals which start at 1pm. Those four winners will each receive a coveted two-year World Snooker Tour card.

Welsh 19-year-old Page turned pro in 2019 but was relegated at the end of last season. He has the chance to bounce straight back and boosted his hopes by seeing off Iran’s Vahedi with a top break of 59. His next opponent is Sean Harvey.

Peter Lines, who first turned pro back in 1991 and is looking to keep his career on track at the age of 51, scored a 4-0 victory over two-time ranking event winner Michael White. Lines now faces Lee Shanker.

Ian Burns top scored with 82 in a 4-1 defeat of Leo Fernandez and will now face World Seniors champion David Lilley, who scored a 4-2 win over Paul Davies.

James Cahill made a break of 73 in the deciding frame to beat Hammad Miah 4-3, earning a tie with China’s Bai Langning.

Once again, unfortunately, those reports only focus on British/Irish players, and, mainly on the older ones.  If WST is serious about going really global, it’s time they understand that there are fans out there who are interested in the fate of their fellow citzens and want the governing body to report on them too.

2021 Q-School Event-1 – Day 3

This is WST report on the third day at the Q-School Event 1:

Tony Knowles’ bid to earn a place on the pro tour for the first time since 2001 gathered pace as he scored a shock 4-0 win over Craig Steadman in round two of Q School event one.

All results

Knowles, age 65, followed up his 4-1 first round victory Bradley Cowdroy with an even more impressive win over Steadman, who was a semi-finalist at the Shoot Out last season.

Former world number two Knowles has a high break of just 38 in those two matches, but his tactical nous is winning him frames and he took three on the colours today as he set up a third-round meeting with Raymond Fry. Four more wins would earn him a two-year tour card.

World Seniors champion David Lilley made a top break of 89 as he beat Chris Totten 4-0. Ian Burns, the top seed in the event, also won 4-0 as he beat Anton Kazakov with a top run of 78.

James Cahill top scored with 86 in a 4-0 win over Julien LeClercq. Jackson Page saw off Daan Leyssen 4-2 while former Shoot Out champion Michael Georgiou beat Brian Cini 4-2 with breaks of 66, 64, 52 and 77.

Barry Pinches suffered a 4-3 defeat against Stuart Watson, while Austria’s Florian Nuessle came from 2-0 down to beat Dylan Mitchell 4-3.

Event one runs until Tuesday in Sheffield.

 

I have to say that Tony Knowles’ win over Craig Steadman came as a huge surprise to me.

Yesterday was the first day that saw a number of this season “relegated” professionals in action and all of  them except Barry Pinches won their match. I expect this trend to continue … unfortunately. I have absolutely nothing against the relegated pros, but, fact is, that the system as it is, isn’t particularly helpful to the young aspiring players and doesn’t help injection of “new blood” into our sport.

This time, more than ever, it will be difficult for amateurs to get on the tour, especially the younger ones who have no or very little experience of the main tour conditions. Due to the pandemic, they had very little opportunities to play over the last year whislt the Main Tour essentially carried on nearly as usual.

It’s even harder for the “overseas” amateur players. Yesterday I spoke over the phone to the father of one of the young Europeans who had just lost his round two match. Amateur competitions were all canceled this season in their country. Practicing has been difficult as well. Father and son arrived in the UK ten days before the start of the Q-School. Despite being both fully vaccinated, they had to be tested, twice, and had to stay into quarantine, not leaving their hotel room for 8 days. The tests costed them about 600 Euros. Staying isolated in a room for eigth days isn’t easy at the best of times, and, needless to say, it didn’t help the young lad’s preparation. He had just two days of practice before his first match … which he managed to win. He was beaten yesterday by a relegated pro, one of the favourites to regain his tour card right away. The youngster will play in both remaining events. If he manages to go deep in the third, both father and son will have stayed in a hotel in Sheffield for nearly four weeks. That doesn’t come cheap and it adds to the travel costs, test costs and the £1,000 entry fees as well. Going home between comps isn’t an option because it would mean going through the tests and the quarantine again when coming back for the next event.

All this of course is neither WST nor WPBSA’s fault and they have made every effort this season to keep snooker going at professional level at least. They deserve every praise for this. However, even in a “normal” year, a great deal of the above remains true, and having the whole Q-School played in the UK does give UK players a non-negligible advantage. Hopefully the gouverning body comes good with their promise to have an European Q-School sooner than later.

The CBSA qualifying events run in China this year were effectively a China Q-School. However that’s not enough. For instance, there are no Thai players in the Q-School this year, despite the strength of the amateur game in the country. There is a need for an Asian Q-School, not just a China Q-School.

In the light of the above, Florian Nüßle’s (Austria) and Niel Vincent’s (France) wins yesterday deserve plaudits, Niel’s win in particular as he has never competed on the main tour before in any capacity. Niels’s is only 20.

I was also happy to see all the young “relegated” Chinese players win their first match. The last year has been extremely hard for them, living as expats away from their families.