2021 English Open Qualifiers – Day 4

Here is the report by WST:

Un-Nooh Blitz Secures English Open Spot

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh produced a stunning display to whitewash Jamie O’Neill 4-0 and clinch a place in the final stages of the BetVictor English Open.

Un-Nooh, who is renowned as one of the fastest players on the circuit, wasted little time this afternoon. He averaged just 14.5 seconds per shot and required only 38 minutes to get over the line.

Thailand’s Un-Nooh was also in supreme break building form, firing in runs of 123, 82, 139 and 105 to secure the win. The final stages take place in Milton Keynes from November 1st to 7th.

World number 22 Ali Carter eased through with a 4-1 defeat of China’s Fan Zhengyi.

The Captain has enjoyed a strong start to the season, having made the final group of the BetVictor Championship League, reached the last 16 of the British Open and also qualified for the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open.

He continued that run of form this afternoon, securing his win in just one hour and 17 minutes, making breaks of 91 and 76 along the way.

Peter Devlin scored an impressive 4-3 defeat of former UK and Masters Champion Matthew Stevens, while Jamie Clarke sealed his place in the final stages with a 4-2 defeat of Zak Surety.

Not a word about the two last matches on the day? Hum…

Un-Nooh didn’t waste time indeed: he finished the job just 5 minutes after the Devlin v Stevens match had concluded and this is a match that had started in the previous session…

Regarding that Stevens v Devlin match, I’m not sure where to start. Stevens looked good in patches. He won the first two frames easily with fluent big breaks. Peter didn’t give up and started grinding his way back. It was not pretty. There were loads of mistakes on both sides. But Peter stuck in there. I wasn’t impressed by his snooker but I was impressed by his resilience. In frame 6, he missed a red with the rest that was effectively “match ball”. OK, he still needed a colour, but that looked like a formality. Peter’s expression after that miss was one of despair, mixed with disbelief and anger at himself. Matthew cleared to win by one point and it wasn’t an easy clearance by any means. After that, I expected Matthew to win the match: he had the momentum and his oppenent looked a bit ragged. The way Peter regrouped and fought to win deserves high praise.

The Carrigton v Miah match was a very close, hard fought one.

 

 

2021 English Open Qualifiers – Day 3

This is WST report about what happened yesterday on the baize:

Chris Wakelin trailed Michael Holt three times in the qualifying round of the BetVictor English Open, but eventually won 4-3 thanks to a century break in the deciding frame.

Wakelin was 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 down but each time fought back to square the tie, then his superb 106 in the last frame booked his place in the final stages in Milton Keynes, which will run from November 1-7.

Ricky Walden made a 126, the highest break of the tournament so far, in a 4-0 thrashing of Michael Judge. Liang Wenbo, who won this title in 2016, won’t be at the televised phase this time as he lost 4-2 to Rory McLeod.

Former World Champion Graeme Dott beat Farak Ajaib 4-2 with a top break of 86, while Mark Davis top scored with 95 in a 4-1 defeat of Lukas Kleckers. Cypriot Michael Georgiou scored an impressive 4-1 win over Elliot Slessor.

 

It was a good win for Chris Wakelin indeed. Chris has really struggled over the last years but now seems to be in a good place. I’m also pleased to see Ricky Walden playing well again after being plagued by back and neck pain for years.

Liang Wenbo, on the other hand, seems to have lost his way completely.

The match between Dotty and Farakh Ajaib was an entertaining affair. It was attacking snooker from start to finish and played at a good pace too. Really, this match is one to watch by all those who are stuck with the “Graeme Dott is slow and boring” line. They probably never watched Graeme except, maybe, in the last session of the 2006 World Final, a tense session played by two exhausted men until ungodly hours.Also, Ajaib showed huge ability but if wants to make the most of it, he will need to learn that – sometimes – a safety is the best option.

Michael Georgiou played well. This is actually the best I’ve seen him play for a long time. Maybe not having the pressure of the ranking system is helping him to produce his best.

2021 English Open Qualifiers – Day 2

This is WST report on Day 2 at the 2021 English Open Qualifiers:

Super Soheil Stuns Perry

Iran’s Soheil Vahedi scored one of his best career wins as he beat Joe Perry 4-2 to qualify for the final stages of the BetVictor English Open.

Former World Amateur Champion Vahedi dropped off the pro tour at the end of last season and is back among the amateur ranks, but will gain entry to main tour events this term having finished sixth on the Q School ranking list.

And the 32-year-old took advantage today with a fine display against world number 21 Perry. Breaks of 72 and 68 helped give Vahedi a 2-1 lead. Perry won frame four, only for his opponent to take the next two with 54 and 63. Vahedi goes through to the final stages of the world ranking event, which will run from November 1-7 in Milton Keynes.

China’s Cao Yupeng maintained his excellent start to the season as he thrashed Mitchell Mann 4-0. Breaks of 52, 60 and 125 helped Cao to an emphatic victory.

Ashley Carty scored a 4-2 win over Welsh Open champion Jordan Brown, while Chang Bingyu top scored with 111 in a 4-1 defeat of Dominic Dale.

Xu Si came from 2-1 down to beat Jamie Jones 4-2 with a top run of 67, while Gary Wilson rounded off a 4-2 win over Craig Steadman with a break of 101.

The action continues on Sunday with Liang Wenbo, Ricky Walden and Graeme Dott among the players on the baize.

I’m very happy for Soheil who had a miserable few months on the baize. Hopefully he can build on that win and get back on the main tour come May.

Soheil Vahedi
Soheil Vahedi has forged a unique path in his snooker career (Picture: Getty Images)

Three of the four Chinese players in action won their match, the exception being Bai Langning who had been called in “last minute” to replace Zhang Jiankang.

I will be supporting Michael Georgiou today … 😉

 

 

 

 

2021 English Open Qualifiers – Day 1

Snooker was back yesterday with the 2021 English Open qualiers. Eurosport player and Matchroom.live both showed all the matches, which is great.

There were two withdrawals:

Zhou Yuelong and Zhang Jiankang have been withdrawn from BetVictor English Open qualifying due to being close contacts of a Covid-19 case.

Both players are to be replaced in the draw by the next available players in the Q School Order of Merit. Ross Muir will replace Zhou to face Dean Young this afternoon at 4pm.

Zhang’s replacement to face Jak Jones tomorrow at 1pm remains TBC and will be named as soon as possible.

Bai Langning is replacing Zhang.

This is WST report on the action:

Hallworth Fightback Floors Craigie

Steven HallworthWorld number 70 Steven Hallworth claimed the last three frames to secure a dramatic 4-3 win over Sam Craigie and earn his place in the final stages of the BetVictor English Open.

Victory for Hallworth books a spot at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes next month for the final stages. Qualifying for the event is taking place over the next few days in Barnsley.

Hallworth fired in the highest break of the match, a run of 83, on his way to setting up the decider. He then held his nerve to secure a 37-minute final frame and seal his progression.

Jimmy Robertson eased to an impressive 4-0 win over China’s Yuan Sijun. Bexhill’s Robertson was in fine break building form throughout the tie, composing runs of 53, 56 and 108.

World number 24 Tom Ford eased through with a 4-0 whitewash win against Sean Maddocks. Leicester’s Ford made breaks of 61,106 on his way to victory.

Alexander Ursenbacher sealed his place in Milton Keynes with a 4-2 defeat of former English Amateur champion Ben Hancorn. Swiss number one Ursenbacher compiled a break of 111 in the opening frame and added further breaks of 57 and 54.

Chinese teenager Wu Yize held off an Ashley Hugill fightback to progress 4-3, while his compatriot Xiao Guodong defeated Alfie Burden 4-2.

Oh my! That picture of Steven there is not quite up-to-date …

Yuan Sijun looked both out-of-sorts and quite dispirited out there. His game has disintegrated over the last couple of seasons and it’s sad to see really. Jimmy Robertson played well, but he didn’t have much opposition.

The match between Wu Yize and Ashley Hugill was an interesting one. It was hard fought, quality, and quite tactical. Wu showed maturity beyond his years; he’s only 17 and matched Ashley in the safety department. He seemed to have lost his way a bit after a bad miss in frame 5, but eventually managed to win the deciding frame. That last frame was a long one. You could clearly feel the tension and both players made unexpected mistakes. At one point Ashley Hugill took several minutes pondering over a shot. He was warned – quite firmly – by Olivier Marteel after playing it. I’m not sure what Olivier said but Ashley looked distraught. On a lighter note … I quite like Wu’s mullet. Somehow reminded me of Hendry in the early 90th.

Tom Ford won easily without playing particularly well.

Igor Figueiredo withdraws from upcoming events

WST published this yesterday:

Igor Figueiredo has withdrawn from the BetVictor English Open, Scottish Open and German Masters, as he is unable to play after travelling back home to Brazil.

Figueiredo has been replaced by the next available player in the Q School Order of Merit in each of the corresponding events. For the English and Scottish Opens this is David Lilley and for the German Masters it is John Astley.

Click here for the updated BetVictor English Open draw

Click here for the updated BetVictor Scottish Open draw

Click here for the updated BetVictor German Masters draw

Igor loves the game but has struggled badly for results recently. He’s yet to win a match this season.

He has a very young family and earlier this year had explained how much he had to sacrifice to follow his dream:

Figueiredo Sacrificing For Success

Brazilian number one Igor Figueiredo has gone over half a year without seeing his family as he battles to hit the heights on the World Snooker Tour and inspire a new generation of South American players.

Figueiredo won the Pan American Championship in 2019 to regain his place on the professional circuit and took the decision to permanently move to the UK in order to maximise his prospects of success. That meant he had to leave wife Claudete and his three children Stephanie, Igor and Elizabeth behind in Rio De Janeiro, relocating 5,887 miles to his current base at the Q House Academy in Darlington.

Just months later, the coronavirus pandemic took hold and made travel home even more difficult. Figueiredo hasn’t seen his family in person since last Christmas.

“I don’t have any sponsors or support, so I had a big decision over the last two years. I knew that I didn’t have any chance going back and forth. I needed to stay here and live here, to work every day and try my best. Travelling between the two countries would give me no chance,” said 43-year-old Figueiredo.

“I made this decision with my wife. I sold my car and used this money to make the leap and give it a go. It was very difficult to leave. I have two younger children and one older, my wife and my father who is getting older as well. I’ve done this to try and change my career, but also the landscape of snooker in South America. I want to inspire more people to play the sport and grow it.

“By getting in the top eight of the one year list at the end of last season, I now have two more years and I want to give it a real go. I am 43 now, so I don’t have too long to go in my career. I have to try and make the most of it.”

The Rio cueman was taught his craft on a small table in his family home by father Nilton, who is a former estate agent. From there Figueiredo would go on to make a living from competing in national tournaments in Brazil and money matches, although the latter quickly dried up when the wider public became aware of his considerable talent.

Figueiredo eventually set his sights on the professional ranks, but has been faced with many challenges throughout his career. In Brazil, they compete on 10ft tables as opposed to the regulation 11 ft 8½ in ones. Figueiredo’s first experience of a full size table came in 2009, when he was runner-up to Alfie Burden in the World Amateur Championship and earned his initial spell as a professional.

“In Brazil the tables are ten feet and there is a lot of pool. I had never even seen a full size table until 2009 at 32 years old. I’d never played full size in my life. I am just so happy because I think I have improved a lot,” Figueiredo explained: “My dad played with his friends in our house when I was younger. When he played I would wonder what he was doing and what was happening. He eventually would invite me to play at just five years old and I would see the balls collide and the cue actions. There was magic in my mind. From then I have never stopped for 38 years.”

Figueiredo enjoyed an impressive run at this year’s Betfred World Championship qualifiers, which brought him to the verge of history.

No South American has ever qualified for the Crucible before, but wins over Farakh Ajaib, Robbie Williams and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh took Figueiredo within one match of becoming the first. Unfortunately, he met his match on Judgement Day, losing a tight contest with Mark Joyce 10-7.

“I think it is the dream of all players to reach the Crucible, but especially for me. There was a lot of pressure as I may not have that many more chances. When the first player from South America qualifies for the Crucible, there will be a lot of attention on it. Whoever does it will hopefully open up a lot of opportunities for other South Americans. It is difficult to play only for the results like you have to in that tournament, because it is so important. It is easier when you are able to focus on your performance first.”

Despite narrowly missing out on an appearance at the Theatre of Dreams in April, Figueiredo did make his Crucible debut a month later at the World Seniors Championship. After scoring a 3-0 win over 1991 World Champion John Parrott in round one, Figueiredo defeated 36-time ranking event winner Stephen Hendry 4-1 to reach the semi-finals. Unfortunately his dreams of the title were ended by a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Jimmy White. Despite falling short, it was an experience that Figueiredo took great pride in playing in the sport’s most famous arena.

“It was great that I could still make history and be the first South American at the Crucible in the seniors. People in Brazil were very excited for me to play Hendry. He was my first hero. I saw him play on television in Brazil when I was younger. Now in the time of YouTube it is easy to see everyone, but it wasn’t like that then. I was very happy to beat him and people in Brazil were so happy with the result, although he retired in 2012 and has come back after a long time out, people at home still see him as the king. It was very good for me to get the win.

“Jimmy played well and solid in the semi-finals. I made mistakes and didn’t control my emotions. It was a good chance to get a title and the winner of the tournament would have had lots of further opportunities.”

Just last month football legend Pele took to Instagram to state he felt that snooker should be an Olympic sport. Figueiredo believes that snooker could do more to harness the support of high profile figures in other sports to further its own Olympic cause. He says that snooker is very popular among some of Brazil’s most revered football stars.

“Neymar also likes snooker. Every football player from Brazil likes snooker. Neymar has a table in his house and you can see the picture of Pele playing. It is important to hear from these people and allow them to help snooker develop for new generations.

“I think it is very important for snooker. To get snooker to the Olympics would be crucial not just for prize money but sponsorships and funding for players. I think we need to use the voices of well known people to push it. These people can help snooker to get places as it is popular with a lot of famous people from other sports.”

Maybe too hard eventually? Only he will know.

Meanwhile, he’s certainly not giving up on snooker as this is the last entry on his facebook page:

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Pan American Billiards and Snooker Association

PABSA is pleased to announce that Igor Figueiredo has become an official PABSA Ambassador. Igor recently became a qualified coach and will be helping promote and support growth of cue sports in the Pan America region. Igor joins Cliff Thorburn as a fellow PABSA Ambassador.
PABSA President Ajeya Prabhakar “We would like to welcome Igor, who is a great player and fantastic guy to the PABSA family. I love his enthusiasm for the game and his support of growth in the Pan American region”.

Snooker and Tour News – 03.09.2021

Here are some snooke/tour news that popped up over the last days

WST has published an updated “Format and Schedule” for the television stages of the Northern Irland Open:

BetVictor Northern Ireland Open Updated Draw

The updated draw and format for the 2021 BetVictor Northern Ireland Open following the conclusion of the qualifying round is now available.

Click here for the updated draw

Click here for the updated format

The world ranking event runs from October 9th to October 17th at the fantastic Waterfront Hall venue in central Belfast. It is the first of this season’s BetVictor Home Nations Series, with the winner to lift the Alex Higgins Trophy.

Tickets to see the best players on the planet are available now  For full details CLICK HERE

The tournament has 128 players all starting in round one. The top 16 seeds, as well as Jordan Brown, had their opening matches held over to Belfast, while all other players competed in the qualifying round.

Matches to look out for on Sunday October 10th include

1pm session
World Champion Mark Selby v Mark Davis
John Higgins v Joe O’Connor
Northern Ireland’s top player Mark Allen v Si Jiahui
Neil Robertson v Barry Pinches

7pm session
Defending champion Judd Trump v Andrew Pagett
Kyren Wilson v Jamie Clarke
Local favourite Jordan Brown v Gary Wilson
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stuart Carrington
Mark Williams v Mark Joyce

Trump is aiming to win the tournament for a fourth year in a row – remarkably he has beaten O’Sullivan 9-7 in the final in each of the last three seasons.

The event begins with a 7pm evening session on Saturday October 9th, with tickets at just £5.

The event will be televised by Eurosport, Quest and a range of other broadcasters worldwide.

The have also announced that referee Peter Williamson is retiring:

Referee Peter Williamson Retires

Long-serving referee Peter Williamson has retired from the World Snooker Tour after 30 years on the circuit.

The Liverpudlian first refereed on Merseyside in the late 1970s and moved into the professional game in 1991.

Williamson officiated several ranking event semi-finals as well as the final of a Players Tour Championship event in 2012 in which Rod Lawler beat Marco Fu 4-2 in Gloucester.

We spoke to him about his career highlights, favourite players and plans for retirement…

What lessons have you learned from your career that you will take into your retirement?

“Sometimes you cannot take people at face value, they can turn out totally different. It was a joy to meet people from all around the world, all different ages and different backgrounds.”

What were your favourite places to go on the tour?

“Well, obviously, the Crucible – and also Shanghai and York. Shanghai is a totally different environment and seeing the way the country was developing at the time, just when they were going to be getting the Olympics in China was brilliant. They were building a completely new rail system with 120 stations and building the whole thing at the same time simultaneously. The whole place was bright, multi-coloured and the electric bill for the city must have been tremendous!”

What was your favourite game to referee?

“I refereed Ronnie O’Sullivan against John Higgins in the 2009 Shanghai Masters semi-final, and O’Sullivan against Marco Fu in the same tournament. With Fu being from Hong Kong, they reckon the audience for that was in the tens of millions, if not 100 million. I don’t really feel pressure in games like those, you get used to it and I’d been refereeing professionally for about 15 years by then.”

What was your favourite moment of your career?

“Not long after I started, August 1991, I refereed at Trentham Gardens. In the qualifiers, I had the privilege of refereeing Fred Davis. It was a booth situation and most of the booths only had one or two people in, but mine was full and there wasn’t a seat to be had, because there was a party of pensioners in! They all wanted to see Fred play and when it got to the interval, he was 4-0 down and it was quite a distance to get to the refreshments area. He beckoned me over after his opponent, Jamie Woodman, had gone out and said: “You couldn’t do me a massive favour.” So I said: “Yes what’s that?” and he said: “My legs won’t get me to the refreshment area in time for the restart, is it at all possible you could organise a cup of tea for me?” So I got the balls set up and ran off to the tournament office and ordered the tray with a cup of tea for him that was delivered to the table. He lost the match 5-0 but that always stuck with me!”

Who was your favourite player to referee?

“I always had a lot of fun and banter with Ken Doherty, because of our football connections. I’m a Liverpool fan and he’s Manchester United, of course. Another player was John Higgins. I’ve refereed two 147s with Higgins, so I remember those well.”

What will you miss most about being on tour?

“Apart from watching the development of the game, seeing the way the game is spreading around the world, it’s probably the chance to meet up with colleagues from lots of different countries. It’s the only chance you get to meet up with workmates.”

What are your plans for retirement?

“I may still referee a bit of billiards. I’ve done five world billiards finals, and I got asked over the weekend if I was available to referee in Reading, but unfortunately I’m in Cyprus at the time. I’ll also be doing more gardening. I’ve just got a barbeque so I’ve been coming up with innovative menus for that, like chocolate bananas.”

Finally, what is your message to players on the tour right now?

“Keep at it, even if you are having a bad day. Practice makes perfect so stick with it.  Also – I’d just like to thank all my colleagues for making the second part of my working life my most memorable.”

I have met Peter at countless events over the years and it was a pleasure always. Enjoy your retirement Peter. All the best for the future!

Twitath Warinthrakom, who is a in many ways the Thai equivalent of Rolf Kalb, has shared some worrying news on his Facebook page. Last Tuesday, he annouced that he had tested positive to covid-19. Yesterday, he wrote that he was in hospital. His condition looks serious alas. Twitath was asking his friends to pray for him.

I sincerely hope that Twitath will make a full recovery soon. He’s always been very friendly with me and is loved by the whole snooker community in Thailand.

Neil Robertson wants shorter format for the World Championship

Neil Robertson was interviewed on the Talking Balls podcast:

Neil Robertson calls for change to ‘stale and dated’ World Snooker Championship

2020 Coral World Grand Prix - Day 7
Neil Robertson wants to see changes to the World Snooker Championship (Picture: Getty Images)

Neil Robertson wants to see changes to the ‘dated and stale’ World Snooker Championship format, with shorter matches at the climax of the tournament and even a change of venue.

The 2010 world champion believes snooker needs to evolve and that few people want to watch the epic World Championship matches played over best of 33 frames in the semi-finals and best of 35 in the final.

The Australian says that he would never watch a match of that length in its entirety, so struggles to see how casual snooker fans, or potential fans of the sport could be enticed in by such lengthy contests.

The 39-year-old has only been to the Crucible semi-finals once since his incredible world title triumph in 2010 and he admits that his desire for a change in format is a personal choice, but it comes not just from a playing perspective, but also from an entertainment stance.

‘I’ve got a little bit of an issue with the World Championship, with the length of the format,’ Robertson told the Talking Balls podcast. ‘I feel that matches can drag on a bit and I’ve been sucker-punched into getting bogged down too much and getting involved in longer, scrappier frames. Which is my fault and it happened again this year, even though I said it wasn’t going to happen.

‘Personally I don’t really like the format, I think it’s pretty dated and it can be very stale.

‘I’ve never watched a best of 35 from start to finish, ever. You’ll never get the general public watching a best of 35 from start to finish, ever.

‘They’ll watch the final of the Masters or UK [Championship], they’ll dip in and out of the World Championship but they’ll never be engaged in the whole match.

‘From an entertainment point of view, the World Championship is a struggle for me to watch and I’m a top snooker player in the game.’

The Thunder from Down Under is not calling for a move to short format games at the World Championship, but believes the length of matches over the first three rounds are as long as any games should be.

‘I think best of 19 is great, best of 25 is really intriguing but you should just cut it off at that,’ he continued. ‘You don’t need to play best of 33 or 35.

‘I’ve never watched a best of 35 from start to finish, ever. You’ll never get the general public watching a best of 35 from start to finish, ever.

‘They’ll watch the final of the Masters or UK [Championship], they’ll dip in and out of the World Championship but they’ll never be engaged in the whole match.

‘From an entertainment point of view, the World Championship is a struggle for me to watch and I’m a top snooker player in the game.’

The Thunder from Down Under is not calling for a move to short format games at the World Championship, but believes the length of matches over the first three rounds are as long as any games should be.

‘I think best of 19 is great, best of 25 is really intriguing but you should just cut it off at that,’ he continued. ‘You don’t need to play best of 33 or 35.

2020 Coral World Grand Prix - Day 7
Robertson has racked up 20 ranking titles over his amazing career (Picture: Getty Images)

‘For me personally as a sports fan I’d never tune in to watch it, I just wouldn’t, it’s like the equivalent of an eight-day Test match in cricket, it’s far too long.

‘I feel as though we’re going to lose a lot of potential fans of the sport unless we change it up.

‘I feel as though the UK Championship has benefitted a lot from going from best of 17 to best of 11. The players have adjusted, we’re not concerned about playing these long formats anymore, we just want to play the matches and for people to see good entertainment quickly.’

Robertson is not expecting the format to change any time soon and knows he must learn to deal with the longest matches in the sport if he is to add to his one world title.

However, if the World Championship was played over a shorter format, he believes he would already be a multiple world champion by now.

‘I don’t enjoy playing a best of 33 or 35,’ he said. ‘It’s me personally, and I’ve probably lost a bit of focus during some matches and that’s on me. I need to change that, while this event is as long as it is then I need to adjust to that.

German Masters 2020 - Day 5
Robertson has narrowly missed a return to the one-table set-up in recent years, losing in the last three quarter-finals at the Crucible Getty Images)

‘I’d love it to be a shorter format and I’d probably have won it a few more times since I did, but that’s up to me to change that.’

On the longest matches, Robertson added: ‘As a player it’s kind of boring, you’re not shaking the other guy’s hand and saying, “well played” or “bad luck” you’re saying, “we’re going to continue this four hours later and then the next day.”

‘Sometimes you play a best of 25 over three days and it doesn’t feel like you’re playing a match, it feels like you’re playing three best of 9s at that point.

‘Best of 19 up till the quarters and then best of 25 all the way through would make for a much more entertaining World Championship, that’s my opinion.’

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Twelve
Robertson lost out to Kyren Wilson in the quarter-final stages in Sheffield this year (Picture: Getty Images)

Robertson has previously said he is not a fan of the Crucible ‘from a technical point of view’ as it is too tight for him to comfortably play some shots during the two-table set-up stage of the tournament.

He says there have been shots he simply could not play as the venue is so tight, and would like to see a different venue used until the semi-finals when the event could return to the Crucible for the one-table set-up.

On how tight the venue is, Robertson said: ‘That’s where the Crucible is pretty terrible, really. It’s an amazing place to play when you’re in the semi-finals, one of the best venues you could ever play at.

‘But when it’s that small, compact environment, it’s not a great venue to play at from a player’s point of view. Even though you appreciate all the history that’s gone on there.

‘I wouldn’t mind seeing a change in venue and then bringing it back for the semi-finals and final at the Crucible. I can’t see that happening but that’s probably something I’d look to do.’

Both Ronnie and John Higgins have called for making the World final shorter and got absolutely crucified by the fans for it. Yet, both said that right after winning it and they were exhausted: all Crucible winners are absolutely shattered when they emerge from that marathon. Here comes Neil, fresh at the start of a new season and having won it just once more than eleven years ago…

So here is my take on shortening the format: NO, NO and NO!

The only change I’d like to see in the matches format is reverting to best of 31 for the semi-finals, as it was in the early 90th. I know that there is a higher risk of a short last session with the best of 31, but, on the other hand, the best of 33 often leads to a very late finish on the eve of the Final, putting one of the finalists at a serious disadvantage. Bear in mind that after the match, the players have to speak to the media, and the winner goes first to the BBC studio, and then to the media room. After that, the winner has filming to do with the BBC for the next day features. They also probably need to eat something – after they finish with the BBC – and, with adrenaline still running high, they are unlikely to find sleep easily.

The other change I’d like to see is the Final being played on a Sunday, so that viewers outside UK, who don’t get “bank holidays”, can watch it without needing to take a day off work, or being restricted to just watching the last session until ungodly hours after a full day at work. Why not start the whole thing on the Friday?

I 100% disagree with the current trend to shorten the matches. For me, I’d like to see the UK championship go back to the best of 17 from round one, yes from round one on, with tiered qualifiers. That would help the younger players too as, currently, if they manage to reach the latter stages of the World qualifiers they are faced with a multi session match, and its psychological challenges, often for the first time and they totally unprepared for it.

I know that there is pressure coming from the broadcasters in favour of one-session matches: “Viewers want to see a result” they claim. Possibly … but then the same viewers watch series with a zillion episodes. So?

For me, if fans can’t appreciate the “slow burn” of the longer matches, they are in the wrong sport, they should watch pool.

Neil’s criticisms of the Crucible as a venue on the other hand are justified. In the early rounds, the arena is really too small. The players have only just enough room to manoeuvre around the table and it’s very claustrophobic. I know of a few players who feel physically uneasy in that environment. When it’s packed, the ventilation is left wanting and, if the weather is a bit hot, it quickly becomes very uncomfortable inside. It’s an iconic place, and it’s fantastic when the one table setup is reached but, until that stage, it’s extremely cramped. What’s the solution? I’m not sure. Because moving the early rounds elsewhere would deprive the debutants of the magic of going down those steps for the first time and being welcomed by a packed Crucible audience. It’s not on. Would it be technically possible to remove the first couple of  rows to make the arena a bit bigger? I suppose not, otherwise they would have tried that already I guess.