Q-School Event 1 – The graduates

The Q-school event 1 concluded yesterday and the four graduates are known:

  • Xu Si (22) who turned pro in 2017,  requalifies immediately after finishing last season out of the top 64.
  • David Lilley (43) has never been a pro before. But he has played a lot all season, on the WSS tour, on the Challenge tour and as a top-up.
  • Soheil Vahedi (30), who turned pro in 2017, also requalifies immediately for the main tour after finishing his second season out of the top 64. Soheil is well appreciated on the tour. He’s a coach as well as a player and always ready to support younger ones.
  • Jamie O’Neil (32), has been a pro for four seasons: 2007-2009 and 2012-2014. in between he played in PTCS. He’s probably the moost unexpected of the four graduates.

It’s a shame that none of the three youngsters, who have never been pros – Wang ZePeng, Ross Bulman and Sean Maddockx – managed to qualify, but they placed themselves well at the top of the order of merit.

Finally, there was a record broken yesterday: the last 16 match between Ashley Hugill (*) and Lukas Kleckers lasted nearly six hours and was decided on a respotted black in the deciding frame. Frankly … six hours is ridiculous for a best of seven.

(*) thanks Lewis for correcting me.

 

Various snooker news – 22 May 2019

Worldsnooker has published an updated version of the 2019/20 provisional calendar

They also have published this article about Ronnie, by Phil Yates, including Stephen Hendry’s views.

First came the question, then came the look, withering in the extreme. Jimmy White had been asked whether he would gladly trade his popularity for a world title. “Are you sure, mate?” said the Whirlwind. “Of course I would.”

By Phil Yates

Over the years the snooker gods have bestowed the golden gift of adulation on a select few but it always came at a price. Popularity and sustained success were never compatible. You could have one but not the other.

Until now, that is. The Rocket has broken the mould. As Stephen Hendry, deeply admired and genuinely respected but never loved by a legion of fans, put it: “Ronnie O’Sullivan is the only player in history to be dominant and popular at the same time.”

While Hendry – and Steve Davis before him – ruled the roost for a decade, O’Sullivan has been on top of the game’s popularity charts and regularly lifting trophies for a quarter of a century and counting. Throughout, there has been one constant; his unique ability to melt away the innate instinct of British sports enthusiasts to root for the underdog.

When O’Sullivan is the man in the arena he is guaranteed to receive the overwhelming bulk of support, regardless of opponent. For that session, forget cheering on the nearly man. Ronnie must take precedence.

Hendry often encountered hostile receptions, especially at Wembley Conference Centre where he nevertheless triumphed in six Masters, including five in a row. “The crowd could be tough to deal with at times but I learned to use them and the way they behaved towards me as strong motivation,” said the seven-time world champion.

“Maybe Steve and I weren’t interesting enough. All we did was practise and win. What people would read about us didn’t help in creating a character.

“In the early part of his career, Ronnie was seen as a bad boy like Jimmy and Alex Higgins but he’s always been a different class of player to them. It doesn’t seem to matter how many titles he gets his hands on, nobody wants him to stop winning or entertaining.”

Snooker fans in continental Europe, China and North America might find the premise of this piece difficult to fathom. Why, they might wonder, would being the best serve to dilute acclaim? Why indeed, yet Brits have traditionally been drawn to inspiring the plucky underdog, not pushing the game’s leading force to even greater heights. It is their trait to be intimidated by sporting superstardom.

In common with two of his sporting heroes, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer, O’Sullivan’s star has never waned whatever the controversy, although Hendry does contend that can be a negative if things are not going well.

“There’s always a weight of expectation on his shoulders, it does create a pressure of its own,” added the Scot, who was commentating for ITV when O’Sullivan equalled his record of 36 ranking titles at the Tour Championship in March. “When 95% of a crowd want you to win and you suddenly start to miss a few, it can make you feel uncomfortable, as if you are letting folks down.

“But Ronnie will never know what it’s like to have a crowd against him, it doesn’t matter who he’s playing or where it is. It would be interesting to see how he would react if the crowd did ever turn but that’s just hypothetical. It will never happen.”

Of course, Hendry is spot on. O’Sullivan’s army of supporters will never switch allegiance or be silenced. He is a real champion and the People’s Champion – simultaneously.

Personally, I believe that popularity isn’t linked to success – although becoming known of course is. I believe that popularity is mainly linked to how much the “popular person” is someone the audience can relate to emotionally. So the Mr and Mrs Perfect have no chance because we, viewers are not perfect, and we can’t relate to such image. The sportspersons who show little emotion, don’t allow us to embark with them on their sporting journey either. It’s that simple really, and the “Politically Correct” obsession in nowadays sport isn’t helping. I’m not advocating for the sports authorities to tolerate outrageous, violent or disrespectful behaviours. But accepting a modicum of criticism, expressed emotions – even negative – and opinions – even controversia l-  without jumping at the players as soon as someone on social media feels “offended” would be a positive move in my eyes. There are people nowadays on social media who are just looking to be offended by about anything.

Finally the “Goat Debate” vas reignite on twitter by Alan McManus, David Hendon and Hector Nunns

It’s extremely difficult to compare completely different eras, and this is about as right as it can be in my opinion. Neil Robertson’s inclusion, despite him being the only one in there with just one World title, is justified both by his overall record and by taking into consideration how much more difficult it has been for him moving from Australia as a penniless teenager.

Inevitably there were people saying that Judd Trump should be there. For me it’s definitely too early to tell whether he belongs to that bracket or not. Why him and not Shaun Murphy, Ken Doherty or Peter Ebdon? Just because his victory in Sheffield is fresh in the memories?

Inevitably as well there were people coming up with Paul Hunter who would “surely” have been a multiple World Champion by now had he lived. Sorry guys, but nobody knows how many World titles Paul would have won, or even if he’d ever been World Champion at all. His showing at the Masters was impressive, but otherwise his performances in long format competitions wasn’t great: at the Crucible, he only got past round 2 once, losing to Ken Doherty in the semi-finals in 2003 from well ahead, and at the UK championship, in eleven participations he only reached the QF or best three times, his best being a SF in 1998. With such record nobody would suggest he’d be World Champion for sure if he was still alive.

Finally the trio asked people who would go out of the above list if it were to include Jimmy White. For all I love Jimmy, I’m not sure that he deserves the inclusion. Why him and not Ding for instance?

 

Review of the 2018/19 season by Wouldsnooker

Here it is, as published today

The World Snooker Tour has covered the globe over the last 12 months, from Beijing to Berlin, with 26 trophies up for grabs in 11 different countries. The pursuit of glory has been played out with a collective prize fund of £14 million. Here is the story of the season…

Riga Masters
27-29 July 2018
Champion: Neil Robertson
Winner’s prize money: £50,000

The Thunder from Down Under struck instantly to claim silverware in the opening event of the campaign. He proved to be too strong for maiden ranking event finalist Jack Lisowski in the showpiece clash, coming through a 5-2 winner. It was the second time Robertson had won in the Latvian capital and it ensured that he continued his streak of having won an event in every year since 2006.

World Open
6-12 August 2018
Champion: Mark Williams
Winner’s prize money: £150,000

Last year’s Crucible King Williams landed a 22nd ranking event title with victory in Yushan. The Welshman had trailed David Gilbert 9-5 in the final, but he staged a dramatic fightback to sweep up the remainder of the frames and come through a 10-9 victor. Williams said: “I never give up or let my head drop, no matter what the score is. I never let my opponent see I’m losing heart, and then sometimes it does turn around.”

Paul Hunter Classic
24-26 August 2018
Champion: Kyren Wilson
Winner’s prize money: £20,000

The Warrior ended a three year wait, which extended back to the 2015 Shanghai Masters, to claim a second ranking title in Furth. Wilson faced familiar opposition in the final in the form of 2002 World Champion, friend and mentor Peter Ebdon. Former Masters finalist Wilson had trailed 2-0, but summoned a four-frame surge to run out a 4-2 victor and take home the title.

Six Red World Championship
3-8 September 2018
Champion: Kyren Wilson
Winner’s prize money: 3.5m Baht (approx. £82,000)

Kettering’s Wilson made it back to back titles by becoming world champion of the shorter format of the sport with victory in Bangkok. He put on a dominant display in the Thai capital to defeat Asian No. 1 Ding Junhui 8-4. “Ding is always hard to beat and has won this tournament before,” said Wilson. “Given the standard these days it is very difficult to win two events in a row. Winning has become a habit.”

Shanghai Masters
10-16 September 2018
Champion: Ronnie O’Sullivan
Winner’s prize money: £200,000

The Rocket got off to a flying start in his first appearance of the 2018/19 campaign. The new-look 24-man Shanghai Masters has become the most lucrative invitational event in the history of snooker, and its final saw O’Sullivan pitted against Barry Hawkins in front of a packed Shanghai crowd. Despite trailing for long periods of the match, he eventually came through an 11-9 victor.

China Championship
24-30 September 2018
Champion: Mark Selby
Winner’s prize money: £150,000

It was a clash of the titans in Guangzhou as Selby locked horns with John Higgins for the title. It was the third time the pair have met in a ranking final, having previously faced each other in two World Championship showpiece matches, but this time it was the Jester from Leicester who came out on top 10-9 in an epic seven-and-a-half hour battle.

European Masters
1-7 October 2018
Champion: Jimmy Robertson
Winner’s prize money: £75,000

After 12 seasons as a professional, Robertson finally got his hands on a ranking event silverware. The Bexhill potter did it the hard way after extraordinarily winning his first three matches in Lommel 4-3 on the final black. He was pitted against Joe Perry in the final, where he held off a fightback from the Gentleman to win 9-6 and claim his first ranking title.

English Open
15-21 October 2018
Champion: Stuart Bingham
Winner’s prize money: £70,000

Bingham earned his fifth ranking title with victory at the English Open in Crawley, making him one of only 18 players in snooker history to have won five or more pieces of ranking silverware. The 2015 world champion from Basildon faced close friend Mark Davis for the Steve Davis Trophy and there was never more than a frame between the pair in a tightly contested clash, until Bingham broke clear to secure a 9-7 victory.

Macau Masters
24-25 October 2018
Champion: Barry Hawkins

The invitational event saw two teams do battle as Joe Perry, Zhang Anda, Mark Williams and Marco Fu lost out against Barry Hawkins, Ryan Day, Zhao Xintong and Zhou Yuelong. All eight players then contested a six red singles competition, which Hawkins won by defeating Williams 3-2 in the final.

International Championship
28 October– 4 November 2018
Champion: Mark Allen
Winner’s prize money: £175,000

Northern Ireland’s Allen ignited his season with a scintillating display of break building prowess in Daqing as the Pistol fired in an incredible 14 centuries on his way to picking up his first title of the campaign. He defeated Neil Robertson 10-5 in the final to secure the title, making it the third time Allen has lifted ranking silverware in China.

Champion of Champions
5-11 November 2018
Champion: Ronnie O’Sullivan
Winner’s prize money: £100,000

O’Sullivan continued his sublime start to the season with victory at Coventry’s elite invitational event. The Rocket proved to be the cream of the crop as snooker’s silverware holders from the past 12 months congregated at the Ricoh Arena and faced Kyren Wilson in the final, who had looked set to land the biggest win of his career so far, but surrendered a 9-8 advantage to lose out 10-9.

Northern Ireland Open
12-18 November 2018
Champion: Judd Trump
Winner’s prize money: £70,000

The Ace in the Pack secured his first title in what has proved to be the best season of his career so far. Trump scorched a path to the final in Belfast where he faced a familiar foe in the form of Ronnie O’Sullivan, who was competing in the final of an event for the second consecutive week. In a blockbuster clash it was Trump who eventually emerged a narrow 9-7 winner.

UK Championship
27 November – 9 December 2018
Champion: Ronnie O’Sullivan
Winner’s prize money: £170,000

The Rocket reached new heights with a historic victory in York. O’Sullivan defeated Mark Allen 10-6 in the final to break two significant records – becoming the most prolific player in UK Championship history with seven titles and the most successful Triple Crown player having now claimed 19 wins. O’Sullivan said: “To beat Hendry’s 18 majors is crazy. I don’t want to stop there, I want to put some distance between me and the next players.”

Scottish Open
10-16 December 2018
Champion: Mark Allen
Winner’s prize money: £70,000

Allen, who started his year by winning a maiden Triple Crown title at the Masters, signed off 2018 with a fine victory in Glasgow. Competing in his second consecutive final, the Pistol faced close friend Shaun Murphy in what proved to be an enthralling encounter that saw the Northern Irishman battle back from 7-6 down to come through a 9-7 victor.

Masters
13-20 January 2019
Champion: Judd Trump
Winner’s prize money: £200,000

Trump produced a barnstorming display to blow away Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-4 in the final and secure his second Triple Crown title. The Ace in the Pack had to wait eight years for a second piece of major silverware, with his only other win in one of snooker’s big three events coming at the 2011 UK Championship. Trump said: “It’s good for the younger generation. Everyone’s a big fan of Ronnie, including myself, but it’s nice to have someone competing with him every now and again.”

German Masters
30 January – 3 February 2019
Champion: Kyren Wilson
Winner’s prize money: £80,000

The Warrior landed his third title of the season and a second in Germany with a fine victory in Berlin. Wilson was pitted against David Gilbert in the final and the pair took to the table amid a raucous atmosphere in front of 2,500 expectant fans inside a packed Tempodrom. It was Gilbert who assumed pole-position in the closing stages, leading 7-5. However, four frames on the bounce from Wilson saw him secure the title with a 9-7 victory.

World Grand Prix
4-10 February 2019
Champion: Judd Trump
Winner’s prize money: £100,000

Trump’s victory at the world-renowned Cheltenham Racecourse venue was the 10th ranking title of his career. He faced a stern test against Barry Hawkins in the last four, battling back from 5-4 down to edge a dramatic 6-5 victory and clinch his place in the final. There he faced tenacious four-time ranking winner Ali Carter but it was Trump who controlled a hard-fought final to emerge a 10-6 winner.

Welsh Open
11-17 February 2019
Champion: Neil Robertson
Winner’s prize money: £70,000

Australia’s Robertson secured his second victory of the campaign and the 15th ranking title of his career with a fine win in Wales. He got his week off to the perfect start by compiling the third 147 break of his career in his opening round clash with Jordan Brown. Robertson faced Stuart Bingham in the final and came through a fiercely contested clash 9-7.

Shoot Out
21-24 February 2019
Champion: Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Winner’s prize money: £32,000

Snooker’s quickfire one-frame event was fittingly won by the fastest player on tour. Un-Nooh tops this season’s average shot time statistics with just 16.58 seconds per shot, and he used that to his advantage under the pressures of the shot clock. The Thai fired in the highest break in the history of the event, a run of 139, to beat Jamie Clarke in the semi-final before dispatching Michael Holt to take home the title.

Indian Open
27 February – 3 March 2019
Champion: Matthew Selt
Winner’s prize money: £50,000

Selt claimed his maiden ranking title in Kochi, ending a 17-year journey to claim his first piece of professional silverware. The Englishman beat defending champion John Higgins in the last four to reach his first ranking event final, and there he faced talented Chinese potter Lyu Haotian who he overcame 5-3.

Players Championship
4-10 March 2019
Champion: Ronnie O’Sullivan
Winner’s prize money: £125,000

O’Sullivan’s 35th ranking title will be remembered for a moment of snooker history in the last frame of the final when the Rocket fired in a break of 134, the landmark 1,000th century of his career, to defeat Neil Robertson 10-4. The magical moment for O’Sullivan was greeted by a raucous standing ovation from the Preston Guild Hall crowd.

Championship League
1 January – 14 March
Champion: Martin Gould
Winner’s prize money: £20,300

The invitational event is played over the course of the season, with the winners from each group taking part in a final stage, and this year’s event saw Gould pick up his second Championship League title in March. The Londoner faced Jack Lisowski for the honour and came through a 3-1 victor.

Gibraltar Open
13-17 March 2019
Champion: Stuart Bingham
Winner’s prize money: £25,000

Bingham clinched his sixth ranking title with victory on the Rock with the Essex cueman producing some inspired break building form, making nine centuries across the weekend. Bingham faced defending champion Ryan Day in the final and won 4-1 to end the Welshman’s hopes of a second consecutive win in Gibraltar.

Tour Championship
19 – 24 March 2019
Champion: Ronnie O’Sullivan
Winner’s prize money: £150,000

O’Sullivan achieved further momentous landmarks with his win in Llandudno. He defeated Neil Robertson 13-11 in the final to win his 36th ranking title and equal Stephen Hendry’s record, while the success also saw O’Sullivan overtake Mark Selby and move to world no. 1 for the first time since May 2010. At the age of 43, it made him the oldest player to top the rankings since Ray Reardon in 1983.

China Open
1 – 7 April 2019
Champion: Neil Robertson
Winner’s prize money: £225,000

Robertson secured his 16th career ranking title and his third of the season with victory in Beijing. Having not competed in Gibraltar or India, the Australian’s clash with Jack Lisowski was a fourth consecutive ranking final. Robertson made light work of the Englishman, surging to an 11-4 victory to win the China Open for the second time.

World Championship
20 April – 6 May
Champion: Judd Trump
Winner’s prize money: £500,000

Trump finally secured a dream maiden Crucible win with one of the greatest world final displays ever. The Ace in the Pack faced a repeat of the 2011 final, which he lost to John Higgins. This time Trump turned the tables emphatically, running out an 18-9 victor. Between them the pair made 11 centuries, the most ever in a professional match. Trump’s contribution of seven tons also equals the record for an individual player in a match, held by Stephen Hendry and Ding Junhui.

This review once again illustrates how the money based rankings are twisted as tournaments requiring similar efforts are rewarded very differently. It also shows how “poor” the European based tournaments are, when it comes to money. And that’s worrying if snooker intends to be really global. Barry Hearn always comes up with “It’s up to the sponsor to raise the bar if they want the best players”. Well maybe. BUT … maybe it’s also worth putting some thoughts into what markets your “products” are aimed to, and what cultural implications this has.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: the extremely close association between the betting industry and snooker is a major hurdle when it comes to sponsors in mainland Europe. It’s seen as a very shady industry, that is heavily regulated in most of our countries, with advertising being limited or even banned, web sites being blocked or needing adaptation because some of the “betting” products are quite simply illegal.

A couple of days ago, the players on the WSS (World Seniors Snooker) were informed that only soft drinks would be allowed whilst playing, and that, after finishing, if they wished to consume alcohol at the bar, they should have a change of cloths or wear something over their official shirt because some of the sponsors might be uncomfortable being associated with alcohol. OK. That makes sense. What doesn’t is that the notion that sponsors might feel extremely uncomfortable being associated with betting and game doesn’t seem to be considered.

 

The 2018/19 Season – the lows

After the highs … here come the lows

Players going missing …

Ding Junhui

LowDing

Quite incredibly for a player of his talent, Ding didn’t go past the quarter finals in any ranking event this season, and he only reached that stage once. He did better in invitational events, reaching the final in the 2018 six-reds World Championship, and the semi-finals in the 2018 Shanghai Masters and the 2019 Masters. The puzzling question is: why? The way he played in Sheffield, I had the feeling that his heart wasn’t in it, that neither the belief, nor the desire were there. Ding has been elevated to national hero status since he won the China Open at just 18, and with the glory came huge expectations and huge mediatic pressure. When I write huge, I mean really, really huge.  Has it been too much, too early and for too long ? I believe it has.

But, there may be more. Ding has lost his mother two years ago, in January 2017; they were very close. At the Crucible that year, he beat Ronnie in the quarter finals and then gave Desmond Kane from Eurosport a very emotional interview. Ding then lost in the semi finals to the eventual champion, Mark Selby, the same man who had beaten him in the final the year before. Since that defeat, something seems to be broken. Or maybe, his priorities have changed. He’s a father now. After losing to Judd Trump this time – in the second round – Ding was all smiles at the thought of being reunited with his little daughter. Maybe, it’s just a case of life being more important than snooker for him nowadays, and the realisation that it can’t be taken for granted.

Mark Selby 

LowSelby

Mark Selby’s case is different, but somehow even more surprising. He won the World Championship in 2017, hurt his foot over the summer and since has gone missing, in the UK and in Europe at least. A winning Mark Selby still seems to “exist” in China: he has won the 2018 China Championship this season, the 2017 International Championship and the 2018 China Open last season. Meanwhile, during the same two years he hasn’t been able to win two consecutive matches in any of the triple crown events in his home country. He is playing well in patches, but the consistency is gone. The confidence is probably gone too. The desire is there though, Mark’s strong reaction to the bad shots and misses during his match against Gary Wilson was both uncharacteristic and revealing.

Yes, Mark, the fans are just as nonplussed as you are yourself.

Yu Delu, Cao Yupeng, David John and Jamie Jones

Fix the Fixing

Those have actually gone missing, all of them being hit with suspension and ban over match fixing or failure to report related approaches.

Here are some articles and WPBSA posts related to those cases:

Yu Delu and Cao Yupeng match-fixing: Chinese pair banned in snooker corruption scandal

Yu Delu and Cao Yupeng snooker match-fixing: Inside story on Chinese pair

WPBSA Disciplinary Hearing Finding: David John and Jamie Jones

Jamie Jones says suspension was ‘horrendous’ after being cleared of match-fixing

That players still haven’t learned from previous cases – and the punishments coming with them – is quite baffling. Do they believe that they are smart enough to will get away with it? Or are they in such despair that they are ready to take such a risk? I can only suppose that this is not a “one answer fits all” situation. Cao Yupeng and David John clearly weren’t winning enough at the time they were approached to make a living out of their snooker. I’m just stating a fact, not excusing them, but it may explain why they were vulnerable to the approach. Yu Delu wasn’t in such desperate situation though. Yu is actually the only Chinese player without “academy” background, he was basically a hustler before turning pro. Jamie Jones didn’t fix any match, nor did he bet on snooker but he made himself an accomplice in the David John case.

Independently from the background of each case, every of them is damaging to the sport and, unfortunately, human nature being what it is, scandals usually get more space than positive news in the media.

Also, whilst I perfectly understand that zero tolerance is the only way corruption can be fought out of sport, I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for Cao and Jones. After that bad spell, Cao had been obviously working hard, and had recently reached his first final. Jones, to his own admission, didn’t think clearly under the circumstances and I guess that a culture of “not grassing on mates” played it part in his indecision. Jones’ ban ends on October 10, 2019. He was ranked n°39 when he was suspended, he has now dropped off the tour. He’s not entered the Q-school, most certainly because his ban doesn’t allow him to do that, and that means that, effectively, he can’t be back on the tour before the 2020/21 season. I’m not sure that this is entirely right.

The return of the “toiletgate”

Barry Hearn in his most recent announcement has come back with the totally daft idea that toilet breaks should be “monitored”, most certainly with the idea to put restrictions on them as the next step. I thought that this nonsense had been buried for good, not so.

First of all I see absolutely no evidence that toilet breaks are being abused. In the very vast majority of cases, on the TV table, the player taking a break is back before the balls are set and the commercial break is over. Mid frame breaks are a rarity. Players do drink a lot during matches, often they are under a lot of stress too, and not everybody has a strong bladder (or bowels). Occasionally players might go out briefly just to collect themselves. Is that an issue? I don’t think so. Surely, if a player were to seem to abuse the situation, and there is a suspicion of gamesmanship, the situation can and should be left to the responsibility of the referee? Players suffering from a minor health problem, might be advised to tell the referee privately before the match starts maybe. Anymore than that is completely unnecessary and could lead to embarrassing and humiliating situations.

This one gets my annual “Golden Turkey” award.

Golden Turkey

The conditions

The tables, and the conditions have been a constant talking point again this season. At times during the World Championship – the biggest event of the season – they were shocking. It was a pings and kicks festival. So much so that it attracted harsh criticisms in post-match interviews from players who had just won, so it wasn’t “moaning”. John Higgins was quite radical about it: he would have table 1 put to the fire if he had it his way. Seriously, is there no way to fix those issues? I have been around the tour for long enough to know how hard the fitters work, and for very long hours deep into the nights as well. If they are to blame, then it can only be because they are under-staffed. If so, recruiting more of them is a good way to invest the sports money. If not, then other factors should be seriously taken into consideration, tables, rails and cloth being the obvious candidates for scrutiny.

The obsession with meaningless statistics: AST and centuries

At times, listening to commentary, you would think that snooker is all about making centuries, and that they are the ultimate measure of “high standard”. Whilst centuries are nice to watch – and good for the supported charities – they are only one aspect of the game and my feeling is that they are over-hyped recently. There was barely a frame played by Judd or Neil where their season century tally wasn’t put forward. This is NOT a dig at Judd or Neil, it’s being tired of the constant emphasis put on that aspect of the game. For the record, when Ken Doherty beat Stephen Hendry in the World final in 1997, his highest break was 85, Hendry had made 5 centuries but was beaten by 18-12 which was quite a damning score.

The other thing is AST, average shot time. I, personally, hate deliberate slow play, and I do think it IS an issue with some players and should be tackled. However, the tools for that exist: it’s in section IV of the rules. Nothing more is needed. BTW, a high AST isn’t necessarily a measure of deliberate slow play, and very long matches are not necessarily those where players have a high AST. Many factors come into considerations. There is no denial that every fan who has been following the sport closely knows that matches are likely to drag when they involve certain players, but it’s because of their style of play and shot selection much more often than because of their AST. And you can’t really put rules into place to “ban” certain choices of shot, can you?

 

 

 

 

The 2018/19 season – the highs

The players of the season

Judd Trump

Judd won the 2018 Northern Ireland Open, the 2019 Masters, the 2019 World Grand Prix  and the 2019 World Championship this season. By becoming World Champion, he became only the 11th player to achieve the Triple crown, and, if it wasnt enough, he broke a record in the World Championship Final by becoming the first player to have seven centuries in a World Championship final. This is by far his best season ever, and it’s all because a much welcome change of attitude: working harder than ever in practice, less partying and showing off and, in competition, playing a more measured game, still very attacking, but supported by very strong safety skills.

Ronnie O’Sullivan

Ronnie had a record-breaking season, winning five tournaments: the 2018 Shanghai Masters, the 2018 Champion od Champions, the 2018 UK Championship, the 2019 Players Championship and the 2019 Tour Championship. In the process, he broke a good number of records: he became the first player to have won the UK Championship 7 times (Steve Davis has 6), and by doing so he also became the first player to have won 19 Triple Crown events (Stephen Hendry has 18). He made it to two more finals, at the 2018 Northern Ireland Open and at the 2019 Masters, losing both times to Judd Trump. He passed the symbolic bar of 1000 centuries, the 1000th one, a 134 being scored in the last and winning frame of the Players Championship 2019. By winning the Tour Championship 2019 he equalled Stephen Hendry tally of 36 ranking titles and returned to World n°1, despite a reduced schedule. Plus … well,  of course, there was a 147, his 15th, at the English Open 2018. Working with Eurosport ahead of the World Championship he called this season in a series of mini interviews. It’s a real shame that it all ended in a disappointing first round exit in Sheffield caused by ill-health.

Neil Robertson

Neil Robertson won three events,  the  2018 Riga Masters, the 2019 Welsh Open and the 2019 China Open. He was also runner-up three times, at the 2018 International Championship (losing to Mark Allen), the  2019 Players Championship and the 2019 Tour Championship (losing to Ronnie O’Sullivan in both). It was quite a remarkable turnaround for Neil who, at the start of 2018, missed the Masters because he was out of the top 16 and is now n°4 in the rankings. Off the table issues – video games addiction, family issues – had caused his level to dip, but he overcame his addiction, now actively trying to help others who might be caught in it, and living a happy family life – compounded by the birth of a baby girl – gave him the impetus he needed and rekindled his appetite for competition and winning.

Most improved player

David Gilbert

David had lost his tour card at the end of the 2010/11 season and managed to requalify immediately through the Q-school. He struggled badly. Eight years later, he’s in the top 16, finishing the season at n°12 in the rankings. He has played in two finals this season: the 2018 World Open where he was beaten in a deciding frame by the reigning World Champion, Mark Williams, and the 2019 German Masters where he lost by 9-7 to Kyren Wilson. He reached the top 16 for the first time, starting as a seed at the World Championship. Having never won a match at the Crucible, he reached the semi-finals, losing by 17-16 to John Higgins. He was unlucky to get a kick whilst in the balls in the deciding frame. Hard work pays off. David also made a 147 this season, the 147th 147 actually, at the Championship League Snooker … in front of his opponent and the referee. And, maybe best of all, David remains a very humble, unassuming guy, who has conquered the heart of many fans!

Rookies of the season

Joe O’Connor

Joe, aged 23, managed to reach the last 32 five times in his maiden season as a pro, and reached the semi finals at the 2019 Welsh Open. Having started at the very bottom, he climbed to n°75 in the rankings. During the season he beat his fair share of top 16 players: John Higgins (2x), Ding Junhui and Kyren Wilson.

Luo HongHao

Luo, only 19 years old, managed to win his first round match in 8 out of  the 16 tournaments he played. He reached the quarter finals at the 2018 English Open, losing by 5-3 to Ronnie O’Sullivan, but having beaten Neil Robertson and Anthony McGill en route. Luo managed to qualify for the Crucible in his first season, beating Marco Fu, Robbie Williams and Tom Ford to get there. Starting at the bottom, he finished the season ranked n°81.

Match of the season

That has to be the 2019 Tour Championship semi-final between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump for me. Having been heavily defeated – 10-4 – by Judd in the 2019 Masters Final, Ronnie trailed 6-2 and 8-5 and was never in front in the match before winning by 10-9 in a dramatic deciding frame. That match had everything, great snooker, flukes, unexpected fouls, twists and turns. It was probably the closest and hardest fought match of the season, and a great come-back.

The 2019 World Championship Final was very high quality, but because Judd Trump was able to build such a big lead in the second session, it lacked that element of tension and drama that the above match provided aplenty.

Magic Moments

Ronnie mixing with the crowd after his  2018 UK Championship victory. This was an unexpected, unplanned, spontaneous, joyful celebration with the fans from someone who has so often looked down on himself even in victory.

The final moments of the 1000th century, with the crowd on its feet, involved and cheering on every shot. Ronnie going in-off on the last black, Neil Robertson in stiches and the camaraderie …

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh winning the 2019 Shoot Out with an awesome break and lost for words with joy after winning his first title. I strongly object to the Shoot Out ranking status, but Theppy was awesome and it meant so much to him. It was quite endearing.

Best decision

Giving Leo Scullion the honour to referee the 2019 World Championship Final. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving person. Leo is a great referee, a simple, humble and lovely man who takes immense pride in his duties as referee. He’s respected and he’s loved by his peers, and by the fans. We almost lost him to cancer, and here he is, standing at the Crucible, to take care of the final.

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He did a great job. Of course! That was never in doubt!

 

Crucible 2019 – Judd Trump is your Champion

Congratulations Judd Trump 2019 World Champion

He beat John Higgins by 18-9 in a record-breaking final. Judd made seven centuries in that final, more than in any other Crucible final. The match had 11 centuries in total, more than any other match. And this World Championship saw 100 centuries made, the 100th bu the new champion. Also, by winning the World Championship, Judd became only the 11th player in history to hold the “Triple Crown” – UK Championship (2011),, Masters (2019), World Championship (2019)

Here is how it unfolded on the last day of the championship:

Judd and John shared the afternoon session (report Worldsnooker)

Judd Trump needs just two more frames for a maiden Crucible title, leading John Higgins 16-9 heading into the final session of the 2019 Betfred World Championship.

An extraordinary afternoon of play saw a break of over 50 in every frame and four centuries. That takes the total for the tie to 11 century breaks, which is the most ever made in a professional match. The previous best was ten in Ding Junhui’s 2016 Crucible semi-final win over Alan McManus.

World number seven Trump came into this afternoon already holding a commanding 12-5 advantage, following a dominant display yesterday evening.

Four-time World Champion Higgins came flying out of the blocks this afternoon. He strung together 14 reds with blacks, before being left with a long range double to the top corner to keep the break going. He deposited it and looked to be in position for the maximum break, but missed the 15thblack to end his run on 113.

The Wizard of Wishaw then made it 12-7 thanks to a contribution of 59. Masters champion Trump opened his opened his account for the afternoon with a century run of 101. Further contributions of 71 and 126 then saw him open up an eight frame gap at 15-7.

Higgins took two frames on the bounce with breaks of 67 and 70 to make it 15-9 and avoid defeat with a session to spare.

However, Trump ended the session in spectacular fashion. The Ace in the Pack embarked on a 147 attempt of his own, making 13 reds with blacks. He missed the second last red to break down on 104, but now leads 16-9.

They will return for the concluding session at 7pm.

Coverage:

2019 WSC: preview of the John Higgins – Judd Trump match (Session3, Eurosport)

2019 WSC: John Higgins 147 attempt – Judd Trump

2019 WSC: Judd Trump 147 attempt – John Higgins

2019 WSC: review of the John Higgins – Judd Trump match (Session3, Eurosport)

Ronnie commentated on frames 20-21

Judd Trump needed just two frames to win the title in the evening (report Worldsnooker)

Judd Trump won his maiden Betfred World Championship title as he made seven centuries in beating John Higgins 18-9 in a tremendous Crucible final.

Trump became the first player to earn over £1 million in a single season and fulfilled his greatest ambition, having been touted as a potential World Champion since his teenage years. At 29, he becomes the first player under 30 to lift the trophy since Neil Robertson in 2010.

A final of record-breaking quality featured 11 centuries, the most in any match in snooker history, plus 12 more breaks over 50. Trump’s individual tally of seven tons equalled the record for any match, held by Stephen Hendry and Ding Junhui.

The crucial passage of play came in the second session when Bristol’s Trump won eight frames in a row on Sunday evening to go 12-5 ahead. Higgins battled on Monday to prolong the contest but couldn’t hold back the tide.

Trump’s performance in the final must go down as one of the best of all time. As Steve Davis put it, it was a “controlled annihilation of a great player.”

Trump becomes the 21st champion of the Crucible era and the 11th player to complete the Triple Crown, having won the UK Championship in 2011 and the Masters in 2019. He is the first player to win the Masters and World titles in the same season since Mark Williams in 2003.

He receives a cheque for £500,000, the biggest in snooker history, taking his tally for the season to £1,098,400. It’s his third ranking title of the campaign, having also won the Northern Ireland Open and World Grand Prix. His career tally of ranking titles is now 11 and he moves up to second in the world rankings, behind only Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Left-hander Trump gained revenge on Higgins for the 2011 Crucible final when he lost 18-15. At the time, Trump’s game was all-out attack, relying on devastating long potting and break-building. His game has matured over time, particularly over the past year. By improving his safety play and shot selection he has become a far more formidable competitor. And any questions over Trump’s capacity to handle pressure at the highest level have been answered emphatically.

Defeat is devastating for Higgins as it means he has lost the last three Crucible finals, having been denied the trophy by Mark Selby in 2017 and Mark Williams in 2018. He is the only player to lose three world finals in a row apart from Jimmy White, who was runner-up five times in succession from 1990-94.

Wishaw’s 43-year-old Higgins lifted the trophy in 1998, 2007, 2009 and 2011 but remains stuck on four titles, one behind Ronnie O’Sullivan.

The Scot has been well below his best this season, failing to win a title. His legendary battling qualities got him into the final in Sheffield, but there was little he could do to stop the barrage of potting from an opponent 14 years his junior. He receives £200,000 as runner-up and finishes the season ranked fifth in the world.

Trump led 16-9 after three sessions having made breaks of 51, 63, 105, 103, 135, 114, 71, 58, 70, 101, 71, 126 and 104.

In the first frame of the concluding session he carried on in the same vein with a break of 94, missing out on a century chance when he failed to double the last red. And Trump ruthlessly finished off the match in the following frame with a break of 62.

“It’s surreal at the moment, it’s going to take a while for that to sink in,” said Trump. “John brought the best out of me as he always does. I was prepared for such a massive battle so the scoreline to win a World Championship final was incredible for me. It’s hard to put the feeling into words.

“Everything I went for seemed to be going in. My concentration has improved a lot this season. I have limited the number of balls I am missing and winning a lot more frames in one visit.

“My brother Jack has helped me a lot this season – since he has been travelling around with me I have won the Masters and the World Championship. Obviously my parents have been a massive influence through my whole career, taking me around the country when I was younger. So to win it for them when they were there in the arena was incredible. It’s a dream come true.

“I’ll keep putting the work next season and go back with the same hunger. It will be nice to sit back in the major events without people asking me when I’m going to win them. I can go into every tournament now a bit more relaxed and give it my best shot.

“I didn’t want to get to 40 years of age without winning it. When I played John in the final in 2011 I threw it away a bit because I lacked experience. I’m very pleased with how I played throughout the whole tournament. From the end of the (second round) match with Ding Junhui I found something and carried it through to the end.”

Higgins, who missed out on a 31st ranking title, said: “He was unstoppable, he really was. He was unbelievable. If I’m being hyper-critical, when I went 5-4 up yesterday and he missed a couple right at the start of the tenth frame, and then I missed one, I was thinking maybe if I had got in and made a frame winning break, who knows what might have happened. But after that he just blew me away, pure and simple. It was unbelievable to watch, it really was.

“Standard-wise it would be up there with the great world finals. That was just sustained brilliance from Judd in this match, there was nothing I could do.

“I’ve got to try and take the positives I suppose, I’m proud of making three finals in a row. This one’s not as tough to take as the previous two. I’ve basically forgotten about this one already because there’s nothing I could have done, he was just too good.

“His all-round game has really gone up a notch in the last few years. When he’s scoring he can be pretty much unstoppable. He doesn’t just overpower his opponent, he overpowers the snooker table. That’s what he was doing throughout that match, there was no shot he couldn’t play. Some shots I’m limited by with my cue power, but there’s not one shot on that table that Judd can’t play. It’s pretty daunting when he’s on it like that.”

 

Coverage:

2019 WSC: preview of the John Higgins – Judd Trump match (Session4

2019 WSC: review of the John Higgins – Judd Trump match (Session4, Eurosport) from 862 LOV on Vimeo.

 

 

Crucible 2019 – More Barry Hearn Announcements

There were more annoucements by Barry Hearn today and this was published by Worldsnooker

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn staged another press conference at the Betfred World Championship today. He announced the following.

The  World Cup will be staged in Wuxi, China every two years for the next ten years. This year’s event will take place from June 24 to 30. There will be 24 two-man teams from 23 nations (with host nation China to enter two teams). Total prize money will be $800,000. The teams will be announced after Q School.

The winner of next season’s Coral Cup, awarded to the player who wins the most money across the three Coral Series events, will receive an extra £100,000 bonus. This replaces the possibility of rounding up the prize money from £375,000 to £500,000 if a player wins all three events.

The first round losers in the three Coral Series events will receive the relevant prize money, but that money will not count towards their ranking tally.

In the Home Nations series events, the top 32 players will be seeded into the draw, with all other players drawn at random. Previously, only the top 16 were seeded.

High break prizes will go up next season, and there will be no discrepancy between the qualifying rounds and final stages in terms of breaks counting for the high break prize. This compensates for the scrapping of the rolling £5,000 for 147s, which has been replaced by the potential £1 million bonus for 20 or more 147s in a season, as previously announced.

Slow play will be closely monitored. The introduction of Average Shot Time on our website has helped speed up play. There are only a handful of players now consistently over 30 seconds a shot across the season. We will continue to monitor the situation and we are keeping our referees up to date with those players who are still lagging behind.

Toilet breaks are sometimes used as a form of gamesmanship and this clearly cannot be allowed. We will be in consultation with the players themselves, and the Players’ Commission in particular, to bring in some rules that are workable on toilet breaks.

Overall, I’m extremely satisfied with the level of entertainment being provided by the players. This has been a major reason for an escalation of TV ratings this year. In particular, the Coral series on ITV was a huge success and the World Championship and the other major events on the BBC are showing growth, while there is also significant growth on Eurosport.

The whole tournament schedule for the 2019/20 season will be published tomorrow. We’re aiming at 20 ranking events plus a range of invitational events, with total prize money estimated at £15 million.

Q School Asia will be taking place towards the end of the 2019/20 season alongside the traditional Q School here.

Is there any evidence that toilet breaks are used as a form of gamesmanship? How can you prove that? Seriously.