Mark Selby is the 2023 WST Champion

Mark Selby has beaten Pang Junxu by 6-2 yesterday evening to win the 2023 WST Classic

Congratulations Mark Selby!

Here is the report by WST:

Selby Makes Three Tons To Win Final

Mark Selby won his second ranking title of the season, and 22nd of his career, by beating Pang Junxu 6-2 in the final of the inaugural WST Classic in his home city of Leicester.

Selby saved his best snooker of the week for the final, making three centuries as he outfoxed China’s Pang, who was playing in a ranking final for the first time. The trophy and top prize of £80,000 are a welcome boost for Selby, whose last title came at the English Open in December.

The 39-year-old came into the tournament unsure of his place at next week’s Duelbits Tour Championship as he sat precariously in eighth place on the one-year ranking list but his tremendous run at the Morningside Arena has boosted him to third. He now heads to Hull for the final event in the Duelbits Series and will go to the Crucible next month full of confidence as he seeks a fifth world title.

Selby remains in eighth place on the all-time list of ranking event winners, but is now just one behind both Judd Trump and Neil Robertson, neither of whom have added to their tally this season. So strong is Selby’s killer instinct when he glimpses silverware that he has now won 19 of his last 21 ranking finals. He remains second in the official world rankings but narrows the gap significantly on world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Pang, age 23, turned pro in 2020 and was named Rookie of the Year in his first season. Within the past two months he has made significant breakthroughs, reaching his first ranking quarter-final at the German Masters, his first semi at the Welsh Open and now his first final. The talented cueman earns £35,000, jumps 11 places up the rankings to 35th and it surely won’t be long before he is holding a trophy.

In the semi-finals, Pang edged out Gary Wilson 5-4 in what was a crucial match for Wilson as victory would have earned him a Duelbits Tour Championship berth as well as a top 16 seeding at the Crucible. Selby, meanwhile, saw off Ali Carter 5-0 with a top break of 138.

The Englishman made a superb start to the final with breaks of 104 and 138 to go 2-0 up. Pang pulled one back with a run of 75 before Selby got the better of the fourth frame then made a 120 for 4-1. A scrappy sixth went Pang’s way, but in the seventh Selby converted a long pot on the third-last red when he led by 25 points and added the balls he needed for 5-2. And he needed only one chance to close out the result, finishing with a break of 79.

I played well all day, against John Higgins in the quarter-finals and Ali in the semis, then continued that in the final,” said Selby. “I was just gutted at the end not to make a fourth century! I have been striking the ball well in practice and it was nice to take that to the match table. Even when I won the English Open in December I wasn’t hitting the ball as well as I was this week. Hopefully I can carry that into the Tour Championship then the World Championship. I’ll be going to Sheffield confident.”

And this is what it means for the last ranking event before the World Championship (source: WST)

Duelbits Tour Championship Draw And Schedule Confirmed

The field and match schedule for next week’s Duelbits Tour Championship is now confirmed, with the event to run from March 27 to April 2 at the Bonus Arena in Hull.

The first round matches are:

Monday March 27th: Mark Allen (1) v Ding Junhui (8)
Tuesday March 28th: Ali Carter (4) v Kyren Wilson (5)
Wednesday March 29th: Shaun Murphy (2) v Robert Milkins (7)
Thursday March 30th: Mark Selby (3) v Ryan Day (6)

Tickets start at just £22 which is exceptional value for the chance to watch the best players on the planet on current form, competing in a renowned tournament. With an elite field of the top eight players from the one-year ranking list, it’s the only format other than the World Championship where matches are best of 19 frames from the first round, reflecting the stature of the event.

Televised by ITV, it’s the third and final event in the 2023 Duelbits Series and there’s a top prize of £150,000 up for grabs.

2023 WST Classic – Onto the Last Day

Tonight one player will walk away with the inaugural WST Classic title and trophy. Indeed, three rounds will be played today. Here is the draw of the quarter-finals:

As you can see it’s a very “unbalanced” draw, with three former World Champions and a multiple World finalist in the lower half, whilst the upper half features only one top 16 player, Gary Wilson. Pang is 41st in the ranking and the highest ranked of the other 3.

Here is WST report on what happened yesterday:

White: I’ll Make The Crucible

Jimmy White insisted that he believes he will qualify for the Crucible this year, after his fine run at the WST Classic came to an end at the last 16 stage with a 4-1 reverse against Pang Junxu.

White, age 60, knocked out Graeme Dott and Joe Perry in the first two rounds in Leicester then scored one of his best wins in recent years earlier on Tuesday when he beat Judd Trump 4-2. But the Whirlwind missed out on a first ranking quarter-final in seven years as he lost 4-1 to China’s Pang.

I’m really disappointed that I didn’t compete,” said White. “I won the first frame then I should have gone 2-0 up. I felt mentally drained. The buzz should get you through that, but I was tired and I was cueing poorly from the second frame onwards. Pang is one of my favourite Chinese players and I wish him all the best because he’s a hard worker. To beat the three players I have beaten this week and then not produce tonight is a disappointment.

Crowd favourite White has enjoyed impressive results this season, reaching the last 16 of two ranking events and the last 32 of another. He’ll now look ahead to the Cazoo World Championship qualifiers which start on April 3, with the goal of reaching the final stages for the first time since 2006. “I am playing ok, I just ran out of steam,” he added. “I’ll take a couple of days off now and get back to practice on Friday. I’ll be getting to the Crucible, I am playing too well.

Gary Wilson reached the quarter-finals by beating David Grace 4-1 with a top break of 135, and his results on Wednesday could determine whether he plays at the Duelbits Tour Championship and the Crucible in the coming weeks.

Wilson won his first ranking title at the BetVictor Scottish Open in December and is into the last eight of a ranking event for the third time this season. If he goes on to reach the final in Leicester, he will leapfrog Ding Junhui in the Race to Hull and earn a place in next week’s conclusion to the 2023 Duelbits Series, and will be sure of a top 16 seeding at the Cazoo World Championship for the first time in his career. But if Wilson falls at the quarter or semi-final stage tomorrow, then Ding will go to Hull and could also go on to earn that Crucible spot.

Wilson’s next opponent will be Germany’s Lukas Kleckers, who made a breakthrough by reaching the first ranking event quarter-final of his career. The 26-year-old from Essen beat Jackson Page 4-0 with top breaks of 88, 63 and 83.

Pang, a semi-finalist at the BetVictor Welsh Open, now meets Oliver Lines, who reached his second ranking quarter-final, and first since the Turkish Masters a year ago, with a 4-0 thrashing of Scott Donaldson.

John Higgins, winner of the recent BetVictor Championship League, is playing his best snooker of the season so far and reached his first ranking quarter-final of the campaign by making breaks of 121 and 126 in a 4-2 win over Kyren Wilson. In a clash of two four-time World Champions, Higgins now meets Mark Selby, who beat Robbie Williams 4-3 by taking the 67-minute deciding frame on the final pink.

Stuart Bingham saw off Noppon Saengkham 4-2 and now faces an Essex derby against Ali Carter, who edged out James Cahill 4-3 with a top break of 106.

Jimmy White’s fairy tale run came to an end yesterday evening and it was plain to see that he “hit the wall” there, as he admits himself. Jimmy badly wants to make it to the Crucible and, no doubt, that would be an extraordinary and much needed “fell good” snooker story given Jimmy’s popularity with the fans. He still has the game. Does he have the stamina? I’m not sure, especially considering that we are back with the best of 19 format from round 1. Whatever happens from here, Jimmy is almost certain to qualify for next season as a professional “on merit”.

WST focus has been on the Gary Wilson v Ding Junhui “battle” for the top 16 and the 2023 Tour Championship. It really isn’t a battle because Ding is out of the tournament and it’s out of his hands.

Whilst that is important for those two, I feel that this weeks results are equally if not more important for the lower ranked players still in the draw.

The above report mentions that Lukas Kleckers is in his first quarter-finals, but that’s not all that is worth mentioning. Indeed Lukas’ results this week mean that he’s now assured to be in the top 80 of the rankings going into the 2023 World Championship. This means that he will not need to play the first round of qualifiers and is guaranteed £5000 in prize money, albeit not counting towards his ranking unless he wins his first match in Sheffield. Oliver Lines and Jimmy White are also certain to start in round 2, whilst Pang, currently ranked 41st will start in round 3 with £10000 guaranteed.

Taking stock of the 2023 WST Classic so far

After three full days of action in Leicester, we are only at mid point of the second round of the 2023 WST Classic. You can follow all the results on

The tournament is over for Ronnie: after winning his opening match, he was forced to withdraw because of an elbow injury. This means that he won’t be playing in the 2023 Tour Championship, his next competitive match will be at The Crucible, on the opening day when he will start his World Title defence. I’m 100% certain that Ronnie will do everything in his power to be well prepared but there is no denial that the return of the elbow injury is a serious concern.

The first round at the 2023 WST Classic didn’t throw too many surprise/upsets, but there were still a few unexpected “casualties”, most notably Ding Junhui and Luca Brecel.

Here are the WST reports on the first three days:

17 March, 2023 – Round 1 (minus the part about Ronnie’s match)

Trump Reaches 900 Landmark

Judd Trump became the third player in snooker history to make 900 career centuries, during his 4-1 opening round victory against David Lilley at the WST Classic in Leicester.

Trump’s break of 113 put him 2-1 up on Lilley and saw him join Ronnie O’Sullivan (1,198) and John Higgins (928) as the only players to have crossed the 900-ton threshold. For good measure, he made a 131 in the last frame of the match to bring his tally to 901.

The Bristol cueman turned pro in 2005 so has averaged around 50 centuries per year over that 18-year spell. He could be on track to eclipse O’Sullivan as the all-time heaviest scorer, by the end of his career.

Steven Hallworth scored one of his best career wins as he beat Ryan Day 4-1 with a top break of 72. Amateur Hallworth, who had spent the opening day in the commentary box broadcasting for Matchroom.Live, showed his quality on the table as he reached the last 64 of a ranking event for the fourth time this season.

“I hit the ground running in the first couple of frames and let Ryan know he couldn’t walk over me,” said Hallworth. “He has had an incredible season, winning the British Open. But I knew if I played my best I would have a chance. I really enjoy the commentary and hopefully I can offer insight because I’m a player so I know what the others are going through. But what I want to do is to get back on the tour and play snooker, that’s what I practise hard for every day.”

Haydon Pinhey was another amateur to register a surprise win as he beat Luca Brecel 4-2 with top runs of 115 and 113.

Jackson Page came from 3-1 down to beat Anton Kazakov 4-3, making a 56 clearance in the decider, and he now meets close friend Mark Williams who edged out Sean O’Sullivan 4-3.

Kyren Wilson compiled runs of 105 and 101 in a 4-1 victory over Dean Young while Jimmy White added another notch to his impressive season as he beat Graeme Dott 4-2. Gary Wilson boosted his hopes of a top 16 seeding for the Crucible as he saw off Lei Peifan 4-0.

18 March 2023 (Round 1)

Higgins, Selby And Murphy Reach Round Two

Big guns continued to fire at the WST Classic in Leicester as John Higgins, Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy all took their place in a strong second round line up.

The world’s top eight players are all in the last 64 of the world ranking event, with the second round to start on Sunday afternoon. The tournament concludes on Wednesday with a top prize of £80,000 up for grabs.

Higgins won the recent BetVictor Championship League but has struggled this season in ranking events, so a 4-3 victory over Michael White gave the Scot a much-needed boost. White made an 82 clearance to level at 3-3, but Higgins got the better of the decider with a top run of 53.

Selby top scored with 95 in a 4-1 win over Robbie McGuigan, a result which boosts his chances of keeping his top-eight ranking on the one-year list and qualifying for the Duelbits Tour Championship in Hull .

In-form Murphy, winner of the recent Duelbits Players Championship, needed just 53 minutes to beat Oliver Brown 4-0 with runs of 78, 87, 83 and a 140 total clearance which leaves him tied with Mark Joyce on a tournament high-break chart.

Ding Junhui lost 4-3 to Xu Si, who made a 138 in the decider, and that could leave Ding in danger of missing out on both a place in Hull and a top 16 seeding for the Crucible – he will have to watch results over the coming days to discover his fate.

Matthew Selt came from 3-1 down to beat Michael Holt 4-3, winning an epic 75-minute deciding frame by potting the final brown and blue. Selt recently equalled the record for the most centuries made in a single tournament during the BetVictor Championship League, though in ranking events he has suffered five first round defeats this season.

The 2019 Indian Open champion said: “It’s a massive win in the context of my season, I would have stayed out there eight hours to try to win it. I have played a lot better than my results have shown this season. It hurts to lose in the first round because it’s hard to get any momentum. The Championship League has bailed me out in terms of money earned on the table. But the big one is still around the corner. When you have had a poor season results wise, there is no better tournament in terms of trying to rectify that than the World Championship. If I can win a few more matches here that will give me momentum. There is a lot of snooker to be played over the next few days.”

Stephen Maguire completed an even better fight-back as he recovered a 3-0 deficit to beat Alexander Ursenbacher 4-3 with a top break of 137, while BetVictor Shoot Out king Chris Wakelin top scored with 115 in a 4-1 defeat of Reanne Evans.

!9 March 2023 (rounds 1 and 2)

Top Seeds Fall In Leicester

Oliver Lines scored one of his best career wins at the WST Classic, beating Neil Robertson 4-3 in the second round to improve his chances of avoiding tour relegation at the end of the season.

There were several big names casualties on day four in Leicester as Robertson, Jack Lisowski, Mark Williams and Barry Hawkins all lost, while Ronnie O’Sullivan pulled out with an elbow injury.

Lines is currently 64th in the provisional end of season rankings, with only the top 64 sure of keeping their tour card after the Cazoo World Championship, so every result is important for the Leeds cueman. Breaks of 64 and 67 helped him get the better of Robertson today to set up a last 32 meeting with Lyu Haotian.

To beat a player of Neil’s class is great,” said Lines. “It’s hard for the big boys here with no crowd but I’m not taking anything away from myself because I needed that win and I managed to get it. I love Neil’s cue action, it’s the best I’ve ever seen by a mile. I have lost a lot of first round matches this season so it’s nice to see the practice pay off and beat one of the top boys.

Judd Trump needs to reach the final this week to qualify for the eight-man Duelbits Tour Championship later this month and he kept his hopes alive with a 4-1 defeat of Wu Yize.

Masters champion Trump said. “It’s been a tricky season and I am not overly confident of doing anything. If I get through to the Tour Championship it’s a bonus, if not I could do with a break and then I can look forward to the World Championship. So I’m relaxed because I know I need a break, it has been a tough season for everyone. A lot of top players have struggled, but when we get to Sheffield the best players will come alive.

Jackson Page scored a 4-3 victory over close friend Mark Williams, gaining revenge for their Crucible clash last season which Williams won 13-3. This time, Page came from 3-2 down to take the last two frames with breaks of 97 and 51.

The two amateurs in the field kept their runs going as Haydon Pinhey beat Elliot Slessor 4-1 and Daniel Wells made a 141 – new front runner for the £5,000 high break prize – during a 4-3 defeat of Xiao Guodong. Si Jiahui top scored with 123 in a 4-2 win over Lisowski while BetVictor Welsh Open champion Robert Milkins earned a 4-2 success over Mink Nutcharut.

One player who – surprisingly – isn’t mentioned in the above report is Jimmy White who defeated Joe Perry in a deciding frame yesterday evening, to reach the third round (last 32) where he will face Judd Trump. Jimmy, who is 60 years old, is currently 50th in the one year list and second, only behind Daniel Wells, in the list of four, not in the top 64 at the end of the season but will awarded a new professional tour card for their performance this season. It’s quite remarkable.

The tournament was overshadowed by the WST statement announcing Mark King’s suspension for suspected match fixing.

2023 WST Classic – Ronnie wins his opening match

Ronnie has beaten Mohamed Ibrahim, the African Champion, by 4-2 to book his place in the second round of the 2023 WST Classic. He will face David Grace next. David beat him by 4-3 earlier this season in the Northern Ireland Open.

Here are the scores

Ronnie played really well during the first three frames. In the fourth, he missed a red with the rest and looked a bit nonplussed at what had happened. After that he started looking at both the rest and his cue, repeatedly, as if he tried to determine whether both were straight. It was clearly playing on his mind and he lost focus. Mistakes crept in and Mohamed, who can play, took full advantage. Being pegged back at 3-2, Ronnie seemed to regain his concentration and played a very good last frame.

WST only provided a very short report:

Ronnie O’Sullivan has won two invitation titles this season but is yet to win a ranking event, and only the trophy this week would get him into the Duelbits Tour Championship later this month. The Rocket started strongly as runs of 137 (the new target for the £5,000 high break prize) and 104 helped him to a 4-2 victory over African champion Mohamed Ibrahim.

I’m not sure that trying to get to the Tour Championship is high in Ronnie’s priorities just yet. That may change if he goes deep enough this week and reaches the final day. I believe that for now he mainly wants to get fully comfortable with his modified cue and make sure it’s 100% how he wants going into the World Championship.

Here is the last frame, shared by WST on their YouTube channel

It has been a poor season by Ronnie’s standard, no question, but the same is true for most of the top players, as Mark Allen reflected:

Mark Allen suggests “shocking” snooker conditions have played a part in standard dropping

UK Championship winner Mark Allen has ranted about the conditions on the World Snooker Tour, despite enjoying one of the best campaigns of his professional career

Mark Allen claims ‘shocking’ playing conditions have played a big part in bringing down the standard this season. 

The 37-year-old from Northern Ireland is the player of the campaign to date, having won three big titles including the UK Championship – and reached another final. But even world No 3 Allen has fielded criticism for the battling and gritty style employed to achieve all that success and already around £600,000 this term. 

One of Allen’s main rivals, former world champion Neil Robertson, insisted that: “this year has been so strange – I don’t think anyone has played to a really, really ultra elite standard. Mark Allen has had a sensational year, but he would admit himself he hasn’t played very well. Everything else, I wouldn’t say it’s been rubbish but I think it’s been a poor overall season from everyone. Shaun Murphy has played the best stuff recently.” 

There have been 14 different winners on tour this season, and Allen – who will face Mark Davis in the second round of the WST Classic in Leicester – said: “I can only speak for myself. But the conditions this year have been nothing short of shocking. The playing conditions have been terrible. I’ll probably get a fine for that, but it is the case – they have been dreadful.

That wasn’t the case at the Grand Prix – that was just me being rubbish! But the conditions do sometimes dictate how you play. People laugh and say ‘you said the conditions were bad, and someone else made three centuries in the next session’.

Every session can play different, and overall this season they have been really poor. It’s no coincidence that the old table-fitters that were here for years and years are no longer here. And now we are getting really bad conditions. Make of that what you will.”

And referencing Robertson’s comments, he added: “I’d agree with Neil. I played some really good stuff at the British Open – up until the final. There have been spells and matches where people have played well – but Shaun at the Welsh and the Players has been the most sustained high-level spell of snooker this season.”Robertson says no snooker player has found an elite standard this season 

Responding to the comments, a World Snooker Tour spokesperson said: “Our table fitters are the best in the world. The team includes fitters with extensive experience who have worked on snooker for many years. We have taken this team fully in-house in recent times and have set up our own warehouse and workshop. This is to ensure we have greater control over conditions. 

Playing conditions have improved dramatically in recent years, particularly with innovations such as the anti-static cloth which has helped to virtually eliminate kicks. There has been some outstanding snooker played this season, for example at the Masters there were 30 centuries in 15 matches, and there have already been nine maximum breaks this season.

Also insisting players were using the same equipment, the spokesperson added: “There has been no change this season in terms of the equipment from our suppliers. Our outstanding tables, cloth and snooker balls help provide the best possible conditions.”

Obviously, I’m not in a position to take sides but indeed the conditions appeared to be rather “tough” and “heavy” quite often throughout the season. It might not be the only factor that explains the unusually inconsistent performances of most of the top players though. The overall rather shambolic structure of the calendar this season probably didn’t help. The top players had very long gaps without competitive action during the first half of this season. That’s not ideal and doesn’t help to “build” a form in order to peak for the major events.

Apparently Ronnie was interviewed post-match but there are no quotes because, if this is to be believed, his interview was “vetoed”

But then Jason Francis replied this

The thunderous sound of silence …

So that general meeting happened on Wednesday … and the first thing we heard about it was this by Hector Nunns

So the people in charge of the sport wanted to prevent players to voice their feelings or opinions about its future anywhere other than in the secrecy of their internal meetings? Surely that can’t be good, can it?

I can see only one reason for such move and it’s to hide the truth about the real state of the sport and its future. The same happened in 2010. Ronnie was interviewed during the 2010 Masters and basically said that a lot of players were desperate and the the mood on tour was very low. He was criticised by the authorities for saying that and crucified by the fans for putting the game in a bad light. He was only telling the truth as it became plain in the following months, those months that lead to Barry Hearn taking over a sport that was in a terrible state indeed.

Of course, some players did talk as those two pieces show

Jack Lisowski wants to cut the tour to 64 to make it sustainable

‘It’s a shame, it’s sad, but I think it has to get cut’ – Jack Lisowski calls for World Snooker Tour to be halved

Phil Haigh Thursday 16 Mar 2023 10:30 pm

Cazoo Masters - Day Two
Jack Lisowski wants the number of players on tour to be halved (Picture: Getty Images)

Jack Lisowski reckons the number of players on tour should be cut in half as professional snooker is not financially viable for the bottom half of the rankings.

There are currently 131 professionals on the World Snooker Tour, although usually the number is 128 and Lisowski has backed this to be chopped down to 64.

There have been calls from other players for the tour to be cut, with the likes of Mark Williams and Stephen Maguire voicing that opinion, and Jackpot has joined in.

So far this season every player ranked below 50 in the world has earned less than £30,000 in ranking events and Lisowski says it is unsustainable for the lower-ranked players financially.

When you look at the tour, there’s been quite a bit of chat about cutting it to 64 because it’s too big. These people are making no money whatsoever outside the top 32. You call yourself a professional snooker player but you’re not making a living off it. I’m starting to think that needs to happen,’ Lisowski said after winning his opening round match at the WST Classic.

There’s no way they can support themselves. They’ve got to do other things, get sponsors. I think I now agree with people that we need to cut the tour because it’s just not economically viable for everyone.’

Lisowski feels a strong amateur tour which leads onto a higher-quality, smaller pro tour means everyone could benefit from the change.

Even though some players won’t be able to call themselves professionals, they can go back to amateurs and it might actually do them a favour,’ he said. ‘We can get a good amateur tour going, then when they do turn professional they’d be a lot more ready and they’d be making a better living.

I think we have to accept with what’s going on in the world at the moment that we can’t support 128 players, it’s too many for the tour. Let’s make it more quality.

We could have a more compact tour with better events, marketed better, better set-ups. Just have more quality over quantity. People aren’t making a living. The game’s gone a bit stagnant recently. We’re losing tournaments abroad, the circuit is getting narrower and narrower, it’s just not working.

It’s sad for players if they got cut, it would feel like a step back for a lot of players, but I think they’d reap the rewards if they could get back onto a 64-player tour

They call themselves professionals at the minute, but there’s not enough money in it. I think it would be doing them a favour, go back to amateurs, get back on and guarantee themselves a good living. It’s a shame, it’s sad, but I think it has to get cut.’

There is truth in what Jack says but is it the right answer? I don’t think so. The benefits would last only for a short while. Supposing that cutting the tour to 64 would mean keeping only the top 64 on board would probably render the whole tour even more UK centric, older and would make it harder for young players to get/stay on it. It might help for a little while, but you have to wonder what will happen when the current top players, who are putting bums on seat and money in WST’s bank account – the Ronnie, John Higgins, Mark Williams, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Judd Trump, Ding … – will leave. NO, what the game needs is a steady injection AND promotion of young and international talents and to make it interesting and financially sustainable. The 20000 pounds guaranteed allowance is a step in the right direction to help the players but it isn’t enough. Ultimately they want to PLAY, and quality in events organisation will ultimately promote quality in the game through higher motivation of the players.

Where Jack is right is that the tour needs better quality events and that probably means events with a reduced field. But reduced field should not necessarily mean “the top 8, 16, 32” or any other number that would suit the particular venue or format. It could be events for a specific population: the rookies on tour at the start of the season, a youth festival for the under 25, a “Champions event” for the former World Champions, an “European Show” with the mainland Europe players, in European cities. One of the main reasons that makes this nearly impossible for now is the rigid money list ranking system. There are alternatives to the money list that would make this possible as Lewis explained in this piece. A rating system would allow for simultaneous events as well. Of course WST should still make sure that all players get fair opportunities to earn money, but there would be far more flexibility to do so without having a 128 field in every “ranking” event.

Neil Robertson also voiced his opinion

Neil Robertson says ‘absolutely insane’ levy on snooker players ‘just has to go’

Phil HaighThursday 16 Mar 2023 7:01 pm

2023 Betvictor Welsh Open - Day 2
Neil Robertson hopes for a Players’ Association to fight for changes in snooker (Picture: Getty Images)

Neil Robertson wants to see changes off the table in snooker, including scrapping the ‘absolutely insane’ 2.5 per cent WPBSA levy on prize money.

As the WPBSA tour induction states: ‘There will be a levy of 2.5 per cent deducted from all prize money paid which is paid to the WPBSA and help funds the activities of the association.

It is not a very popular situation among players on the professional tour, especially with the reduction in tournaments on the calendar since the pandemic restricting earning opportunities.

Ahead of the WST Classic this week, every player outside of the world’s top 50 had earned less than £30,000 this season so far in ranking events, meaning money is tight for lower-ranked players.

Robertson is not short of prize money himself, but thinks that players having to give away 2.5 per cent of their winnings to help fund the WPBSA is crazy and should be stopped, or alternatively the money would be put aside for players’ retirement funds.

I believe the sport desperately needs a Players’ Association, a proper, one. So if they see something happening in the game, they will bang their fist on the desk and really fight for the players,’ Robertson said after winning his first round match at the WST Classic on Thursday.

There’s a few things still lingering in the game that shouldn’t be there. The 2.5 per cent levy for one is absolutely insane, in my opinion. For me it just has to go. It just doesn’t seem right.

If there is a 2.5 per cent levy it should be in a players’ superannuation fund or something when they retire, so the 2.5 per cent they’ve been paying they get that at the end of their career.

It doesn’t make any sense for it to go back to the WPBSA when the sport’s so well run and making a ton of money.

WPBSA of course needs money to function, but does it need to come from the players pocket? And if it stays should the levy be as high as it is? I don’t have a definite answer BUT it seems that there has been a “transfer” of money from the players’ pockets to the shareholders’ pockets in recent years and THAT is NOT right in my opinion. Yes, shareholders deserve a reward for taking risks and investing in the sport, but do they “deserve” it more than the players who actually MAKE the sport? I don’t think so and maybe, with a fairer distribution of the money, the levy could be reduced, or even scrapped.

Snooker News – 13.02.2023 – World Championship Qualifiers

We have no professional snooker going on for a few days but we have news … indeed WPBSA have announced the qualifiers for the coming 2023 World Snooker Championship:

WPBSA Qualifiers Announced For Cazoo World Championship

The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) and World Snooker Tour have announced the qualification criteria for the 16 amateur qualifiers who have earned the right to compete at the Cazoo World Snooker Championship in Sheffield next month.

This year’s qualifying rounds will return to the English Institute for Sport, Sheffield from 3-12 April 2023. The field will include professionals ranked outside of the world’s top 16 following the Duelbits Tour Championship and amateur top ups from the 2022 Q School Order of Merit.

They will be joined by 16 leading amateur players, based upon their achievements at recognised international competitions during the current season. These include the World Snooker Federation Championships, the WPBSA Q Tour and the World Women’s Snooker Championship.

Jason Ferguson, WPBSA Chairman said: “It is always an honour to be able to announce our WPBSA qualifiers who will compete at this year’s World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.

This year’s field contains an exciting array of talent, from some of the most talented juniors in the world. These include our WSF champions Hai Long Ma and Stan Moody, as well as vastly experienced former ranking event semi-finalists Martin O’Donnell and Daniel Wells, who throughout a period off tour have demonstrated that they can still compete at the very highest level.

The strength of these qualifiers reflects the current strength of the amateur game globally and the prestige of each of the qualifying pathways. The WPBSA has a robust and well-developed global system, which provides direct access to the World Snooker Tour for elite performers.

There can be no prouder moment for these players, their families and their supporters, than to see that through their exceptional performances they will join snooker’s greatest stage, the Cazoo World Snooker Championship.”

Full WPBSA Qualifiers list:

  • Hai Long Ma – 2023 WSF Championship Winner
  • Stan Moody – 2023 WSF Junior Championship Winner / 2023 WSF Championship Runner-up
  • Liam Davies – 2023 WSF Championship Semi-Finalist
  • Yang Gao – 2023 WSF Championship Semi-Finalist
  • Liam Pullen – 2023 WSF Junior Championship Runner-up
  • Iulian Boiko – 2023 WSF Junior Championship Semi-Finalist
  • Filips Kalnins – 2023 WSF Junior Championship Semi-Finalist
  • Martin O’Donnell – 2023 WPBSA Q Tour Winner
  • Liam Graham – 2023 EBSA European Under-21 Championship Winner
  • Bulcsú Révész – 2023 EBSA European Under-18 Championship Winner
  • Siripaporn Nuanthakhamjan – 2023 World Women’s Snooker Champion
  • Ross Muir – 2023 WPBSA Q Tour No.2
  • Daniel Wells – 2023 WPBSA Q Tour No.3
  • Billy Castle – 2023 WPBSA Q Tour No.4
  • George Pragnell – 2023 WPBSA Q Tour No.5
  • Farakh Ajaib – 2023 WPBSA Q Tour No.6

All players selected will appear subject to acceptance of their place and any travel restrictions in place. Any replacement players will be selected from a reserve list to include performances at World Snooker Federation, Q Tour and recognised regional events.

Any current professional players who do not enter the tournament will be replaced from the 2022 Q School Order of Merit.

There is clearly a bigger focus on the young talents this year and that’s good. Indeed the 2023 EBSA European Championship is still underway in Maltayou can follow it here – but WPBSA din’t wait to know the winner of that competition to name their qualifiers. There is also a clear confirmation that snooker is on the rise in Easter Europe with three teenagers from the area in the field.

WST also shared a report on Liam Graham’s win over Iulian Boiko in the 2023 EBSA European Under-21 Championship yesterday evening.

Graham Wins Title And Tour Card

Scotland’s Liam Graham defeated Iulian Boiko 5-2 in the final to win the 2023 EBSA European Under-21 Snooker Championship and earn promotion to the World Snooker Tour for the first time in his career. 

Organised by the European Billiards and Snooker Association, this year’s staging was held at the Dolmen Hotel in Qawra, Malta and hosted by the Malta Billiards and Snooker Association.

A total of 96 players representing 30 different nations took part in the event, hoping to join a list of former champions stretching back to 1997 and including professional ranking event winners Mark Allen, Michael White and Luca Brecel. 

Graham, an 18-year-old from Glasgow, breezed through his round robin group earlier in the week, winning all three of matches and not dropping a single frame. However, he needed to show his mettle during the knockout phase as he won the final two frames to oust 12-year-old Matvei Lagodzinschii (Ukraine) 4-3 in the last 32, before coming back from 3-1 down to deny Riley Powell (Wales) 4-3 in the last 16.

In the quarter-finals Graham dispatched Artemijs Žižins (Latvia) 4-2, and then ended the challenge of Ryan Davies (England) 4-1 in the final four with the aid of a 78 break. 

Coming through the other side of the draw was former professional Boiko, who created history by becoming the first Ukrainian to reach the final of this prestigious championship. 

The 17-year-old – who also eased through his group without relinquishing a frame – recovered from being behind in his opening three knockout matches before a more comfortable 4-0 success against Robbie McGuigan (Northern Ireland) in the semi-finals where he crafted runs of 79 and 75. 

Having earlier deposited the opening frame of the title match, Graham also won frames three and four to go 3-1 up heading into the mid-session interval. On resumption, Boiko produced a break of 101 to reduce his arrears, but the Scottish teenager won frame six, and then potted a long pink followed by a tricky black in frame seven to secure the championship. 

Graham is the third Scot to win Europe’s premier junior snooker competition, and he is set to realise his ambition of competing on the sport’s top tier with a World Snooker Tour card for the 2023/24 and 2024/25 seasons.

Ding Junhui is the 2023 Six-reds World Champion

Ding Junhui beat Thepchayia Un-nooh by 8-6 in the Final of the 2023 Six-reds World Championship today. It’s the second time Ding wins this event, and it’s also his first professional title of any kind since 2019. That’s quite a long drought for a player of his quality.

Congratulations Ding Junhui!

Here is the report by WST:

Ding Beats Un-Nooh In Six Red Final

China’s Ding Junhui captured the Six Red World Championship crown for a second time, after scoring an 8-6 win over home hero Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in Pathum Thani, Thailand.

It comes seven years after Ding first won the World Championship of snooker’s shorter format. In 2016, the 14-time ranking event winner came out on top in an epic final with Stuart Bingham 8-7. This week’s victory is Ding’s first on the World Snooker Tour since the 2019 UK Championship.

Ding’s triumph this time around sees him earn a top prize of 4.2 million Baht, which is worth over £100,000. He also takes home the stunning trophy granted to the event by the King of Thailand.

It will come as a big confidence boost to former world number one Ding heading into the final stages of the season. As things stand, ranked 24th in the world, he faces a trip to World Championship qualifying in order to secure a place at the Crucible.

Defeat is a disappointing end to Un-Nooh’s campaign. He was also aiming for a second win in the event, having been victorious in 2015 when he defeated Liang Wenbo in the final. He will have to settle for being runner-up on this occasion.

The opening frame saw Ding fire in a superb run of 72 to take the initial advantage. It was soon 2-0 when 2016 champion Ding crafted another impressive break, this time of 71, to extend his lead.

Un-Nooh responded with a run of 51 to take the third and reduce his arrears. There was a prolonged safety battle on the colours in the next frame, Ding eventually got a chance, but spurned the pink with the rest and allowed Un-Nooh to make it 2-2.

Ding then charged clear with three on the bounce to re-assert his control on the match at 5-2, before a break of 34 saw Un-Nooh take the eighth to stay in touch, trailing 5-3.

The home crowd were cheering every ball potted by Un-Nooh and he sent them into raptures when he pulled back within a frame at 5-4. However, the trend would continue and see him fall further behind.

After Ding claimed the 10th frame, Un-Nooh had left him requiring snookers in the 11th. Unfortunately for Un-Nooh, he inadvertently potted the pink when escaping a snooker and Ding cleared the colours to move 7-4 ahead.

A dramatic 12th frame went the way of Un-Nooh on the pink and he ratcheted up the pressure by adding the next with a break of 41 to make it 7-6. However, Ding controlled the 14th frame to get over the line and secure six red glory.

I was hoping to get a chance in the black ball area at 7-4 up. I actually had two great chances to win and missed a few shots. It is a bit lucky for me. I just believe in myself and try to pot more balls than everybody” said 35-year-old Ding.

I feel good. I think everybody enjoys coming to Thailand to play six red. There isn’t much pressure with the ranking points, so it is relaxed. The organisation was so good for the tournament. I am happy to come here and win again.

The six red is quite fun for the players. There were some players coming here for the first time like Ronnie and Judd. It is fun and games and good to play in.

I just need to keep my head still and do everything right. I will go back to practice and work hard for the end of the season.

I didn’t see anything of the match – I hope I can watch it later – but I’m very happy for Ding. He has gone through really hard times, not just with covid and its aftermath but also, very recently with several players playing in his academy being suspended over suspicion of involvement in match fixing and betting on snooker. That must have been, and probably still is, a major concern.

At the same time, I’m a bit sorry for Theppy. The man doesn’t have that many opportunities to play in his own country, in front of his family, friends and fans.