Snooker – Food for Thoughts – Ranking or Rating

The goal of this piece is to share some ideas about the current state of the sport we love, snooker, and how something most fans never question, the ranking system, shapes the sport. It also discusses a radical alternative to the ranking system, a rating system, that would bring benefits but also huge challenges.

As premises to this piece, I want to state a triplet of important things

  1. This article wouldn’t exist without the major contribution of Lewis Pirnie. Lewis is passionate about snooker and its future, He has put a lot of work into this website where he explores the opportunities a snooker rating system would offer, explains the maths behind such a system, and provides tools and simulations to help us understand the benefits and challenges such a system would bring. Thank you Lewis.
  2. In this piece, I DO challenge the current definition of “professional snooker player”. The current common understanding by fans is that a professional snooker player is someone who holds at WST Tour card. My definition of a professional – not just in snooker but in any endeavour – is someone who actually earns a living out of their occupation. In snooker, “occupation” would mean playing it for a living and or coaching for a living. In that light there is probably a significant number of snooker professionals in China, players who are not on the “Main Tour” but play in CBSA events, whilst, on the other hand, probably half of the WST card holders are only part-timers. The £20000 guaranteed income of course is a big step in the right direction, but for players with a family in particular and those residing in the UK as ex-pats, it isn’t enough to make a living.
  3. One of my main motivations for this piece is the utter absurdity and unfairness of the “money list ranking system” if pushed to the extreme. The unfairness is obvious: depending on the sponsor(s), events requiring similar efforts, are possibly rewarded with very different retributions, money-wise and ranking-wise. As for the absurdity … just imagine that some oriental prince or princess would decide to offer crazy money to hold the Shoot Out in their country, as a one-off, and that they would offer ten times what’s on offer today for every round, bar the final that would be rewarded with £50 000 000 … just because they can. Would the players refuse to play in it? I doubt it. Would it completely send the ranking system into absurdity? Of course it would. The winner of that would be “World Number One”, with all the spin-offs that come with it, for two years and nobody would be able to catch them, even if they don’t win another match during those two years.

Ranking and Rating … what is it about?

A ranking system aims at presenting its population – in our case the WST tour card owners and some amateurs who have been offered the opportunity to play in WST “ranking” events – in an “order” that reflects their value in reference to certain criteria – in our case the money they earned in those events over the last two years.

A rating system aims at determining the strength of the members of its population in accomplishing certain activities or tasks. In sports a rating system aims at determining what the strength of its exponents are at their sport: the higher the rating, the better the sportsperson. One of the best-known types of rating systems, is the Elo type and the study Lewis presents on his site uses a rating system of that Elo type.

I suppose that the readers of this blog are familiar with the current ranking system used in snooker, but not necessarily familiar with the way an Elo type of rating system would work. It’s all explained in detail by Lewis, with examples and simulations.

I will however (try to) explain the fundamental principles of such a system as applied to snooker, without any mathematical formulas.

Every time a match of snooker is played between two players who own a rating, both players’ ratings are likely to change depending on the outcome of the match. These changes are the result of a transfer of points between the players. In most cases, the winner sees their rating increase, whilst the loser sees their’s rating decrease. Here are the statistical principles that will determine by how much:

  • The number of points transferred from one player to the other, and the “direction” of the transfer depends essentially on the likelihood of the actual outcome. The more likely the outcome, the smaller the number of points transferred, the lesser the impact on both players’ rating. It’s no rocket science. If players are close in rating, they are supposed to be of about the same strength and therefore, the match is expected to be close, especially in longer formats. If that is what happens indeed, the rating of both players will change, but not by much, the winner will gain a few points, the loser will lose a few points … that’s all. If one of those players whitewashes their opponent in a best-of-25 though, that’s a different story. It’s highly unexpected and the number of points transferred between players will be much higher, impacting their rating more significantly. Using Lewis (not zero-sum) model, in some extreme cases, when the ratings of the players are significantly different, the loser of the match may even see their rating improve, whilst the winner see theirs impacted negatively . This could happen for instance if a player with a very low rating were to lose in a decider to one of the “top” rated players in a long format match. In such a scenario, despite the defeat, the low-rated player will have done much better than expected, and been rewarded for it, whilst their top-rated player will be “punished” for underperforming badly.
  • The likelihood of each of the various outcomes in any specific match is obtained through a mathematical method taking both players’ rating into account. Each possible score has a probability of actually happening, The higher the probability, the likelier the outcome. Lewis explains this with graphics in the piece referenced above.

As you have understood by now, the rating of an active player evolves constantly. It’s susceptible to change after every match played. Of course a mechanism has to be put into place to prevent a player from “sitting” on their rating by simply not playing.

Some of you will tell me that this is far too complicated and cant be used in snooker, but actually it is used. Indeed this is the kind of mathematics that the bookies use to “price” the snooker matches they offer for betting. They, no doubt, have their own internal rating of the players and when huge amounts are placed on a very unlikely outcome, this triggers “alarm bells”.

Of course, it is well known that an Elo rating system is used in chess. You might be surprised however to learn that a “players rating system” and a “team rating system” are used in basketball, including in the US NBA. Table tennis federations use/used rating systems as well. Even the FIFA World Football rankings now use an Elo formula! It’s used outside sports as well.

What would be the benefits of a rating system in snooker?

Provided that the necessary guarantees about proper conditions, refereeing, and integrity can be met, there would be quite a few benefits but here are, in my perception, the main ones:

  • Inclusiveness. This is a system that could be used at all levels of the sport, anywhere in the world: debutants, club players, proficient amateurs and professionals (i.e players whose main source of income is snooker), women and men.
  • Fairness. It would be independent of the amount of money this or that promoter – or any country going after sportswashing – would be willing to put in any event. The available earnings would still be a major factor to attract the best players, but it would not impact the sport’s rating.
  • Flexibility. This is a particularly important one. A rating system would allow WST to offer tournaments for specific groups of players without impacting the rating of those not in those groups. It would also allow to organise or participate in concurrent events, including pro-ams, maybe in distant locations, offering more opportunities and giving players more choices. For the older players, it would mean that they can keep their rating without playing in everything. They just need to play enough whilst progressively building a “post-snooker” career.
  • No need for a Q-School … if WST wants to be, and sell itself as, the promoter of the best events for the 128 best snooker players in the World they can still do so … all year long. There is no need for a Q-School. The official rating could evolve all year long and be available at all times. Players could and would join and leave the “best 128” elite as their rating evolves.

What are the drawbacks then?

Because of course, it’s not just that simple. Here are a few pitfalls I can think of.

  • To bring the full benefits of a common rating system the various bodies involved in snooker at all levels need to agree and work together, including when it comes to safeguarding the integrity of the sport. We all know that this isn’t currently the case and that this is a major issue with no solution in sight! Currently the necessary constructive collaboration is probably a utopia.
  • It would deprive Matt Huart, and a good few others, of his/their favourite occupation: predicting what will happen in the rankings, what round should this or that player needs to reach to stay on tour, or qualify for this or that event. That would become a very arduous because the combinatorics would become far too complex.
  • Everything currently based on the “one year list” would need to be rethought. Maybe “biggest upward movers” in the last 12 months, or since the last World Championship, rated above a certain threshold or something like that would do …
  • WST would need to re-invent themselves as the notions of professional and amateur would be blurred. It would break their “monopoly’ to an extent, maybe making the negotiations of certain contracts, notably with broadcasters, more difficult.

Lewis was traveling yesterday. He’s attending the 2023 German Masters starting today. He had a difficult trip because of works on the tracks. Despite the tiredness of the long trip, he took the time to read this piece and send me his comments. Thank you Lewis and enjoy the snooker.

Hereafter you’ll find Lewis feedback that I have not otherwise already included in the text above:

  • I think Pankaj Advani said it costs around £25000 simply to play snooker professionally. Perhaps he means as an overseas player, whereas many young British players still live with their parents, or are dependent on wives’ income, etc. Others of course have to have jobs to supplement their income. Overseas players don’t get a British Working VISA, so cannot work and play. Soheil Vahedi wrote about that.
  • I would still have ‘tour cards’ and therefore some kind of Q School (although I’ve had words to say about its format). The fact is, players need to have some kind of guarantees – they need to get mortgages or bank loans. So to allow some of them (but maybe not 128) guaranteed entry into many of the tournaments is probably necessary. But there could also be some tournaments whose entry is solely determined by their Elo Rating. This gives the tour variety and flexibility. There could also be tournaments (mainly Pro-Am) where players needed to be BELOW a certain Elo Rating to enter. This is what is called ‘stratified’.
  • I’m not sure that snooker governing bodies need to work together, at least not very much. If WST are responsible for a global ranking system, that’s up to them. They don’t need to consult anyone. Of course, it then gives them new powers (over the amateur game) as assigning amateur events ‘ranking status’ would be much sought after. For example, if a club held a tournament which refused women entry, then WST could simply not count the event for ratings, which would likely lead to fewer players entering. Power!
  • One-year ‘money lists’ could still be used, for example as qualification routes for events like WGP, Players’ Championship and Tour Championship. If WST really are wedded to the idea of highlighting how much money the top players earn, they could still do that. But not for things like promotion and relegation, top-16 qualification (Masters and World Championship seedings), and any situation involving amateurs.

Snooker News and Talking Points – 15 September 2022

Talking point: Shaun Murphy’s ideas about the World Championship

Yesterday I shared news about a podcast with Shaun Murphy, who branded the World Championship format as scandalously unfair. As you would expect this divided opinions, including among the players.

One player who definitely disagreed with Shaun is Kyren Wilson. Speaking to “The Sportsman”, this is the report on what he had to say:

However former Crucible finalist Wilson, 30, has reacted strongly to the Magician’s outspoken rant. 

And The Warrior claims that the current arrangements are very successful, offer a justified reward to top players for two years’ effort, and guarantee fans booking in advance will see their favourites. 

Wilson said: “I don’t agree with what Shaun has said at all. The World Championships has been the same for many, many years and all the former champions won it coming through the same process. 

It is an event that sells out for most sessions a year in advance. So in this sense it is absolutely perfect the way it is, and doesn’t need touching. 

The fans pay good money to play the top players in the world and I wouldn’t want to touch that.  

And for the top players, there does need to be some reward for being where you are in the world rankings having earned that over two years. And I think this is one of those. 

There is room for many different formats on the tour and it should be mixed up, many with all in from round one and others like the World Championship where they aren’t, or an FA Cup style draw. 

If I were ever to try and modify anything at the World Championship, you could maybe tweak the distance of the semi-finals and final because the best of 33 and then best of 35. 

I only experienced the final once but those really take it out of players and could maybe be shorter.” 

When the World Championship was first staged at the Crucible in 1977 there were eight seeded players going straight through to the iconic Sheffield theatre, with the other eight having to battle through qualifying to take them in in the first round proper. 

That was the case until 1982 when the first round was expanded to the current 32 players, with the top 16 in the rankings seeded and parachuted directly into that stage.  

Since then no one has touched that aspect of the tournament though there have been plenty of changes in the actual qualifying process. 

Until relatively recently the qualifying process was tiered, so that those ranked 17-32 only came in at the end for the last match and therefore had to win only one to get to the Crucible. That all changed in 2015, when the remaining pros were topped up with 16 wildcards for the qualifying event and all players regardless of ranking had to win three best-of-19 frame matches to reach the promised land. 

And there have been further tweaks since then, with some of the earlier rounds reduced to best-of-11 frame contests with just the last round over the traditional distance. And the most recent alteration will come for this season’s competition when once more there will be three rounds for all 128 players, and all restored to the fuller distance for 2022-23.

Kyren is right. One aspect that Shaun totally overlooked is that the sponsors and broadcasters have a huge say when it comes to the events’ format as well as to who gets on the main table. The top players are the ones bringing the money to the game and every other player benefits from it. They are the ones putting bums on seats, and “selling” the “snooker product”.

Also, most of the players who actually complained, are players who are about the same age as the “Class of 92”. They had exactly the same opportunities as those three to climb the rankings and get at the top, only they didn’t. The “system” was and is the same for everyone.

Personally I stay with what I said yesterday. I believe that more “tiered” events would benefit the young players by helping their development. I know for certain that Mark Williams 100% shares this view and has said so on social media in the past. He’s one of the top players who is really involved with helping the aspiring youngsters in his area.

News: WST has posted the “rules” for the Mixed Doubles

BetVictor World Mixed Doubles – The Rules

Here are the rules for the new BetVictor World Mixed Doubles, which runs on the weekend of September 24 and 25 in Milton Keynes.

Tickets for the ITV-televised event are still available – for details click here.

The Rules

  • The opening round is played on a ‘round robin’ league table basis with each pair playing the other three pairs in four frame matches, where all four frames will be played.
  • Each frame is played under the published Rules of Snooker with particular reference to ‘Four-handed Snooker’ found in Section 3, Rule 18 (pages 33 and 34). To specify, this is alternate visits and NOT an alternate shot version.
  • One point will be awarded for each frame won in a match to determine the league table. In the event of two teams being tied on points, the result from the match between those teams will decide the positions, winner progressing. If this result was a 2-2 draw or in the case of multiple tied positions and results, the individual highest break in the event from the players involved will be the deciding factor, then the second highest if still tied and so on.
  • The pairs finishing first and second in the league table will play each other in the Final, over the best of seven frames.

The Teams
Ronnie O’Sullivan & Reanne Evans
Judd Trump & Ng On Yee
Rebecca Kenna & Mark Selby
Neil Robertson & Mink Nutcharut

News: Mark Williams is the next snooker player to join “Ultimate Pool”

Here is the announcement

Three-time world professional snooker champion Mark Williams is heading for the Ultimate Pool circuit, and is set to make his debut as he teams up alongside Carl Morris in the Pairs Cup live on FreeSports and ultimatepool.tv on Monday 10th October.

One of snooker’s all-time greats – with 24 ranking titles and two invitational Masters triumphs to his name – Williams will also become an Ultimate Pool professional player for the 2023 season, competing in events around his schedule on the snooker circuit.

“The Welsh Potting Machine” is the first professional wildcard to be announced by Ultimate Pool for the 2023 campaign, with 8-ball pool’s top tier expanding in numbers once again.

Williams will partner 1998 WEPF World 8-Ball Pool Champion Morris – still the sport’s youngest-ever world champion – during Group 11 of the unique Pairs Cup. The duo will face very tough opposition in the shape of Adam Bassoo & Dave Fernandez, Lakesh Badhan & Ben Flack and Andy Blurton & Neil Raybone, as they aim to top the group and qualify for the last 16 phase later this year.

As well as several other major Ultimate Pool ranked events that he would be eligible to enter, Williams will be part of an 88-player professional roster for the ten-event Pro Series next year.

The current world number 8 said: “I’m really looking forward to giving the Ultimate Pool circuit a go. I have been playing a lot of 8-ball pool recently and it has been fun.

Ultimate Pool looks exciting to get involved with and I’ve been impressed with the events and high standard on show. It’s going to be very difficult for me, but I will enjoy the challenge!”

Williams is the latest high-profile snooker player to enter the Ultimate Pool arena after appearances from Mark Selby in the Pairs Cup and Mark Allen in the Players Championship.

News: The 900 Series will begin on September 20, in the afternoon

This was initially scheduled on September 19. The change in schedule is motivated by obvious reasons.

It all starts with this group:

It will be streamed here: https://www.sportystuff.tv

Jason Francis, on social media, has hinted at a “Professionals 900” and “Women’s 900” coming in the future…

Shaun Murphy’s ideas and why I disagree

Shaun Murphy is doing a podcast with MC Phil Seymour and in the last instalment he aired ideas … that, to say the least, I strongly disagree with (and I’m not the only one).

Here is what it’s about, as reported by Phil Haigh

Shaun Murphy wants change to ‘absolutely ridiculous’ World Snooker Championship format

Phil Haigh Tuesday 13 Sep 2022

Shaun Murphy believes the World Snooker Championship format is ‘absolutely ridiculous’ as he feels that the top 16 in the rankings beginning at the last 32 stage ‘doesn’t make sense’.

Before all the drama at the Crucible every year there is a rigorous qualification competition, to see which 16 players lower down the rankings will join the world’s top 16 on the sport’s most famous stage.

While some would argue that they have earned it, Murphy feels that it is far too big an advantage for the top 16, of which he is one.

Players near the bottom of the rankings need to win four matches just to make the Crucible and Murphy believes the advantage being given to the best players is akin to Usain Bolt starting races 15 metres in front of his rivals.

The 2005 world champ says it is almost scandalous and would have a flat draw for the sport’s biggest tournament.

‘If it were up to me the entire format of the World Championship would change,’ Murphy said on The onefourseven podcast. ‘The top 16 would NEVER start three or four rounds ahead of everyone else on tour.

I think it’s absolutely ridiculous, scandalous almost that the best players in the world start three rounds ahead of everyone else. I think it’s ridiculous and one of those very strange nuances in sport.

Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, the equivalent is saying: “Usain, we know you’re the quickest so you can start 15 metres ahead of everyone else.” Doesn’t make any sense to me at all.’

While he was in the mood for changing things on the World Snooker Tour, the Magician also reckons the Masters should be a ranking event.

While the top 16 play in the London competition, his argument is that it is not invitational, anyone on tour can win their way into the top 16 so prize money should count on the world rankings, which is not currently the case.

The one thing I would change to the Masters tomorrow, because it’s done on the rankings and in my opinion, certainly over the two-year ranking list people have the same opportunities to be in it,’ said the 40-year-old.

If it were up to me all events would count on the money list. That would be the only think I would change about the Masters.

I think it’s very, very strange that what has widely become acknowledged as our second biggest tournament in the game doesn’t count. I think that’s a weird one and I don’t subscribe to the arguments against that.’

Let us first dispatch the thing about the Masters. Murphy himself says “certainly over the two-year ranking list people have the same opportunities to be in it“. What about those in their first year then? Did he forget they exist? They would obviously be put at a disadvantage, wouldn’t they? Contrary to the “Series” events, for which qualification is based on the one year list, qualification for the Masters is based on the lat 2 years and therefore it can’t and shouldn’t be ranking. It’s that simple.

Now about the World Championship … for me, most events should be played in this tiered format, rather in the current dominant flat draw format, provided that

  1. They are played right before the main event
  2. They are played at the same location, and preferably at the same quality venue as the main event, with spectators.
  3. They get the same media coverage as the main event with quality broadcasting and media on site

These are the reasons behind my opinion

The gap between amateurs and pros has widened in recent years. It’s plain for all to see. There are many reasons for that, but that’s not the object of this post. The young pros coming on the tour need more matches, and more winnable first round matches to help their development. The current flat draw is far too brutal. It is soul destroying. It offers no path for development.

They also need to “sample” the atmosphere of the big events. This is why those qualifying rounds should be played at the main venue, with full media coverage.

They need to be played right before the main events. Currently, players beaten in the qualifiers may have weeks without anything to play in. This season there will be players who may have only the shoot-out to play in between mid January 2023 and the World qualifiers early April. That’s not going to help their development and it’s soul destroying. Those players will arrive at the World qualifiers without any “match sharpness”. It’s simply not right. It’s totally counterproductive.

And, finally, but importantly, the tiered format ensures that less players are on zero prize money. To be precise, it would be 32 players in that situation instead of 64. Even with the guaranteed prize money this season, it’s important. It’s important because it’s money they actually won, which matters psychologically, and it’s ranking points.

Would it offer “protection” to the top players? Not really. They will come cold into the latter stages against players who will have at least one match under their belt with money and ranking points already guaranteed. Yes, financially, they will be protected, but not in terms of ranking points. So unless they win, that “protection” won’t last.

The comparison with Usain Bold doesn’t hold. Giving him 15 meters head start would “translate” into giving the snooker top player a one or two frames advantage at the start of a match. BTW, as far as I know, in most track and field competitions even top athletes go through some qualifying rounds.

There… persiste et signe … as we would say in French.

Reactions on yesterday’s announcements

Yesterday’s annoucements were received favourably by players and fans alike. The return of best of 19 at the World Championship qualifiers was unanimously applauded.

The fact that first round losers still get nothing though was a disappointment for many.

The gouverning body explained their decision in this interview with Phil Haigh:

On the changes to the prize money structure and the lack of funds for first round losers, a WST spokesperson said: ‘We have made prize money increases to various events and we have made amendments which are aimed at creating a more balanced prize money ranking system. These changes are based on discussions and feedback from players and the WPBSA Players Board.

Our two biggest ranking events, the World Championship and UK Championship, now have tiered structures and all players inside the top 80 are guaranteed prize money in those events.

Our principal remains that we reward excellence and in most events players must win matches to earn prize money.

We are constantly aiming to provide as many tournaments and earning opportunities as possible for all players.

I do understand and agree with the concept of rewarding excellence but not THIS way. If players do their job properly they should be able to earn from it whilst they are on the tour.

I’d rather look for a way to ensure that players who are underperforming badly can’t return on tour every two years mainly because they have experience with the surroundings and playing conditions whilst more talented/motivated amateurs fail purely because they are placed in a completely alien environment and, with short matches and a plain knock-out system, they get no real chance to adapt.

If a player can’t win a minimal number of matches – minimal to de defined – over two seasons, and have shown no or very little improvement in the second season, then, barring exceptional health or personnal circumstances, it means that either they aren’t good enough, and/or they didn’t put enough work and efforts into their snooker. I would be in favour to “ban” them from Q-school – or any other qualifying process – for two seasons. Time for them to reflect on their own situation and motivation. Time to look at the possible issues and address them.

Predictably, Hearn came back again with the “golf” comparison. Only to get this answer by Steve Feeney, Mr Sightright, who coaches snooker and golf players.

Steve Feeney - golf comparison

Hearn once scorned at me for saying that the comparison doesn’t hold. Well, it really doesn’t hold. In golf, you play your own ball. Where you find it is where you placed it, There is no interference from your opponent(s). It’s entirely in your hands. Same for darts, it’s entirely in your hands. That’s not the case in snooker. As Steve wrote, in snooker you can play great and lose, snooker is matchplay, it’s different.

Mark Williams also reacted in answer to Sean O’Sullivan’s tweets

Sean O'Sullivan + Willo prsemoney announcement 2022

It’s obvious that Willo harbours no hope whatsoever for a change regarding the prize money situation despite being convinced that no player would oppose it. The tiered system somehow “softens” the situation a bit as less players stay out of pocket and the lowest ranked ones get more winnable first round matches. But it has other drawbacks of course, notably in terms of exposure, television appearance and experience of the main venues. Exposure and television appearance or the lack of it impact their chances to find a personal sponsor as well.

 

 

 

 

Tour News – 21 December, 2021

After several weeks of non-stop action, it’s time to take a break and catch up with the snooker tour news.

Rankings

WST has published this update about the rankings:

Rankings Update: O’Sullivan Up To Third

2021WGPROSWinner-12Ronnie O’Sullivan is up to third place on the one-year ranking list following his victory at the Cazoo World Grand Prix on Sunday.

O’Sullivan beat Neil Robertson 10-8 in the final in Coventry to capture the £100,000 top prize and climb from seventh place to third, behind only Zhao Xintong and Luca Brecel. The Rocket now looks well placed to qualify for the two remaining events in the Cazoo Series.

Robertson banks £40,000 as runner-up and jumps from eighth to sixth. Stuart Bingham reached the semi-finals and he’s up from 22nd to 18th. Mark Selby was the other losing semi-finalist and he jumps from 21st to 17th.

There are only two counting events to go until the field is confirmed for the second event in the series, the Cazoo Players Championship, as only the top 16 on the one-year list will make it to Wolverhampton (February 7-13).

Those events are the BetVictor Shoot Out (January 20 to 23) and the BetVictor German Masters (January 26 to 30). The qualifying rounds of the latter event have already taken place (click here for the last 32 draw), so certain players such as Bingham only have the BetVictor Shoot Out to try to climb into the top 16.

Four players who are outside the top 16 of the official two-year list  are currently inside the top 16 of the one-year list: David Gilbert, Gary Wilson, Jimmy Robertson and Ricky Walden. Anthony McGill is currently on the bubble in 16th place with £53,500.

Only the top eight will contest the final event of the 2021/22 Cazoo Series, the Cazoo Tour Championship (March 28 to April 3, Llandudno).

On the official two-year rankings, Robertson remains in fourth place while O’Sullivan remains third.

Where prize money is won without a player winning a match in a tournament, NONE of that prize money will count towards these prize money rankings save for the World Grand Prix, Players Championship and Tour Championship.

Where prize money is won by a player at a qualifying venue and that player does not go on to appear at the final venue, for whatever reason, that prize money will not count in the prize money rankings until the situation has been considered by the appeals committee who may, at their absolute discretion, allocate ranking points where it can be demonstrated that there are extreme mitigating circumstances. These points will be allocated from the date of the committee meeting and will not affect previously issued draws.

WST Seeding – Count Back:  Players on equal prize money will be seeded based on the best performance (stage/round reached through winning a match) working backwards from the most recent ranking event. If still equal, frames won when losing will determine their position, working backwards from the most recent ranking event. For the purposes of count back, competing in an event and losing is treated as a better performance than not entering or competing in an event.

For a full explanation of how the rankings work, click here

You will find the “race to the Players Championship” rankings here on snooker.org. With 50000 points between Ronnie third and Mark Williams fourth, it would take something extraordinary for Ronnie to miss out on the Tour Championship.

The 2022 Shoot-Out is the next event counting towards the Players Championship and WST has published the draw and format:

BetVictor Shoot Out Draw

Ryan Day beat Mark Selby in last year’s final

Snooker’s unique BetVictor Shoot Out heads to the Morningside Arena in Leicester in January, with top stars including Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy, Mark Williams, Kyren Wilson, Zhao Xintong, Ding Junhui, Mark Allen, Luca Brecel and defending champion Ryan Day in the field.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

The draw has been made for the 128-player world ranking event, to run from January 20 to 23.

Notable first round ties include:

New UK Champion Zhao Xintong against 2020 Shoot Out winner Michael Holt – Friday January 21, 7pm session

World number one Mark Selby against Li Hang – Thursday January 20, 7pm session

Three-time UK Champion Ding Junhui against 2012 Shoot Out winner Barry Hawkins – Friday January 21, 1pm session

Two-time Crucible finalist Ali Carter against former Masters and UK Champion Matthew Stevens – Thursday January 20, 1pm session

Former World Champion Shaun Murphy v Chang Bingyu – Thursday January 20, 1pm session

Three-time Crucible king Mark Williams v Stuart Carrington- Thursday January 20, 7pm session

Women’s World Champion Reanne Evans v Fan Zhengyi – Thursday January 20, 7pm session

As always, the tournament features a unique set of rules. All matches last a maximum of ten minutes, with a shot clock of 15 seconds for the first five minutes and ten seconds for the last five, while any foul means ball in hand for the opponent.

Televised by Eurosport and a range of other broadcasters and online platforms worldwide, the tournament forms part of the eight-event BetVictor Snooker Series, from which the player earning the most prize money will receive a huge £150,000 bonus.

No Ronnie, no Judd Trump, no Neil Robertson, no John Higgins … unsurprisingly. As you would expect, given that they are just outside the Players Championship qualifying zone, Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham have entered. What really surprises me is to see Ding’s name in the draw…

WST has also confirmed the dates for the 2022 Turkish Masters and provided more information about the event.

Nirvana Cosmopolitan To Host Turkish Masters

The fantastic Nirvana Cosmopolitan Hotel was named as the host of the new Nirvana Turkish Masters world ranking event today at a press conference in Antalya.

The tournament will run from March 7 to 13 in 2022 and it will be the first professional event staged in Turkey, with 64 players heading to the beautiful city of Antalya to compete for total prize money of £500,000.

WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson, President of the Turkish Billiard Federation Ersan Ercan, VP and Snooker Director Muhammad Leysi, Director of Sport at Nirvana, Mr Burcin Badem and local promoter Tuğba İrten were among those to host the press conference.

Ferguson said: “The Nirvana Cosmopolitan Hotel is an absolutely superb location to stage what will be a historic event on the World Snooker Tour. The players will love this stunning venue and it will be an incredible opportunity for fans to see the leading stars and to enjoy the local hospitality in Antalya.

“Our greatest ambition is to bring our sport to all corners of the globe and to stage an event in Turkey for the first time, where we know there is huge support for snooker, is a crucial step forward. We look forward to delivering a top class event and working with our partners in the region: the Turkish Billiard Federation, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Kilit Group and the Nirvana Hotel, along with our promoter Tugba Irten.”

Antalya is known for its history, scenery and culture

Antalya is renowned as one of Europe’s outstanding destinations, known for its culture, history and ideal location on the Mediterranean coast.

WST has agreed a four-year deal with the Turkish Billiards Federation and Big Break Promotions to stage the Turkish Masters every season until at least 2024/2025. Overall prize money will increase each year.

A qualifying round will be staged with players needing to win one match to make it to the final stages. Two Turkish wild cards will also be handed places in the main event in Antalya. The tournament will be televised by a range of broadcasters worldwide including Eurosport and Matchroom Live.

Obviously the prize money is good and Antalya is a beautiful place with a rich history. Turkish cuisine isn’t bad either. Having the whole event played in a luxury hotel is reminiscent of the glorious old days when snooker was really a prominent sport and its exponents true stars.

Whether there will be held-over matches is unclear to me.  The first sentence in bold seems to indicate that all players will need to qualify ahead of the main event. The second sentence in bold on the other hand says that the two Turkish wildcards will play at the main venue, therefore, unless they play each other, two players at least will have their first round match held-over. WST will probably go “by ranking” but the sponsors may have something to say about it too, especially for a first event in the country. We shall see.

Finally … it was ten days ago but surely worth mentioning … Si Jiahui won the Q Tour event 2.

Success For Si At WPBSA Q Tour

Si Jiahui has won the second event of the 2021/22 WPBSA Q Tour following a dramatic 5-4 victory against former professional Michael White at the Terry Griffiths Matchroom, Llanelli.

The WPBSA Q Tour is an official pathway to the World Snooker Tour with two professional places to be won across the season from four tournaments. The events are open to all players, with 48 players automatically qualified for the last 64 stage through their position on the 2021 Q School Order of Merit.

China’s Si had previously reached the final of Event one in Brighton just three weeks ago and having again progressed to the quarter-finals on Saturday, made it back to back finals with victories against Sydney Wilson and Sean O’Sullivan.

Awaiting him would be two-time ranking event winner Michael White, who added a further two century breaks to the five he had already compiled the previous day during wins against Alex Clenshaw and Belgium’s Ben Mertens.

Having fallen 4-0 behind against David Lilley in the previous final, it was Si who this time made the stronger start, breaks of 54, 82 and 53 ensuring that he would stand just one frame from the title at the mid-session interval.

With a lead of 45-1 during frame five, a whitewash appeared to be on the cards but there was to be a twist in the tale as White hit back with 50 before eventually snatching the frame on the pink, before adding breaks of 58 and 70 on his way to drawing level at 4-4.

The decider was to prove no less dramatic as White once again erased an early deficit – which included a snooker on the colours – but this time Si was not to be denied as he potted green, brown and blue to secure victory.

With 11 match wins from 12 played from the first two events, Si has put himself in a strong position on the Q Tour Ranking list at the halfway point of the season, but there remains all to play for ahead of the final two events in Leicester and Leeds over the coming months.

Two World Snooker Tour cards are available from the Q Tour series, with the top ranked player following this season’s four scheduled events set to qualify. A further 16 players will contest a play-off tournament for the second card.

The WPBSA would like to thank all of the players, officials and in particular the Terry Griffiths Matchroom and its staff, who helped to support another fantastic weekend of snooker in south Wales.

The WPBSA Q Tour will return with Event Three from 28-30 January at The Winchester Snooker Club, Leicestershire. The closing date for entries for the event is 4:30pm on Friday 14 January

Congratulations Si!

And of course … the traditional Championship league is under way, with Group 1 concluding today.

He is WST info about this season’s groups:

BetVictor Championship League Groups Confirmed

The 2022 BetVictor Championship League Snooker Invitational gets underway with Group 1 live from the Morningside Arena, Leicester on Monday 20, December starring Jack Lisowski, Gary Wilson, Graeme Dott, Zhou Yuelong, Tom Ford, Liang Wenbo and Ryan Day, broadcast live on FreeSports in the UK and Ireland, Viaplay in the Nordics and Baltics alongside broadcasters worldwide.

Both Tables 1 and 2 will be available live globally with Lisowski set to take on Zhou in the opening match of the tournament at 11am. Group 2 will take place on December 22-23 before Groups 3-5 get underway from January 3-8 and Group 6 on January 17-18. Group 7 and the Winners’ Group to find out the winner will take place from January 31-February 3.

Mark Selby, Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and invitational defending champion Kyren Wilson are all set to feature during the group stage.

The groups can be found below with missing spots completed by the previous group’s 5th placed player, two losing semi-finalists and losing group finalist.

Group 1 

Jack Lisowski, Zhou Yuelong, Graeme Dott, Tom Ford, Gary Wilson, Ryan Day, Liang Wenbo

Group 2

Xiao Guodong, Lu Ning, Joe Perry

Group 3

Mark Selby, Mark Williams, Stuart Bingham

Group 4

Judd Trump, Kyren Wilson, Barry Hawkins

Group 5

David Gilbert, Martin Gould, Ali Carter

Group 6

Yan Bingtao, Ricky Walden, Ding Junhui

Group 7

Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, John Higgins

Where to Watch 

  • Foxtel – Australia
  • FreeSports – UK and Ireland
  • Nova – Czech Republic & Slovakia
  • NTV – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenia, and Uzbekistan
  • Sky Network – New Zealand
  • SuperSport – Africa
  • Sportklub – Croatia & Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, and Slovenia
  • TVP – Poland
  • Viaplay – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania
  • Viaplay – Iceland
  • Viaplay – Scandinavia
  • Zhibo.TV – China
  • Matchroom.Live – Table 1 is available exclusively to those outside of the countries listed above. Table 2 will be available live on Matchroom.Live excluding the Nordic and Baltic regions
  • The tournament will also be live on betting websites around the world

The tournament carries a prize fund of £205,000 with players earning £100 per frame won with significant bonuses for their final group position and increased prize money in the Winners’ Group. A place in the 2022 Cazoo Champion of Champions is also on the line with each group featuring seven players with matches being held over two days.

All matches are a best-of-five, and each group is played to a round-robin format. The top four in each group contest the play-offs, with the eventual winner advancing to Winners’ Group. The three play-off players who don’t advance will move into the next group, where they are joined by the player who finished fifth in the table and three new players. Those finishing sixth and seventh in each group are eliminated from the competition.

 

 

 

 

WST publishes a ranking update

WST has published this “Ranking update” following the 2021 English Open:

Rankings Update: Thunder Storms To Third

Neil Robertson has leapt 88 places to third on the one-year ranking list following his dramatic victory at the BetVictor English Open on Sunday night.

The Australian beat John Higgins 9-8 in an exciting final in Milton Keynes to take the £70,000 top prize. Robertson previously had just £4,000 on his tally this season, but now climbs to third, behind Mark Williams and Mark Allen.

The top 32 on the one-year list will qualify for the Cazoo World Grand Prix, which runs from December 13 to 19 in Coventry. Only two counting events remain before the field is confirmed: the Cazoo UK Championship and BetVictor Scottish Open.

2021 English Open - L64ROS- 3O’Sullivan has climbed the one-year list despite losing 6-5 in the semi-finals to Higgins

Higgins took the runner-up cheque of £30,000 for the second consecutive event and he is up from sixth to fourth. Ronnie O’Sullivan reached the semi-finals to bank £20,000 and he is up from 26th to 11th so looks certain to qualify for Coventry. Mark King was the other losing semi-finalist and he jumps from 39th to 12th. Currently in 32nd place with £11,500 is Robbie Williams, but just £500 separates him from Martin Gould in 42nd.

As it stands, there are 12 players inside the top 32 of the one-year list who are outside the top 32 of the official two-year list: Jimmy Robertson, Mark King, Elliot Slessor, Luca Brecel, Oliver Lines, Cao Yupeng, Ross Muir, Mark Davis, Allan Taylor,  Jak Jones, Mitchell Mann and Robbie Williams.

This list will also be used to determine the line up for the 16-man Cazoo Players Championship (February 7-13, Wolverhampton) and the eight-man Cazoo Tour Championship (March 28 to April 3, Llandudno).

Robertson hits top spot in the BetVictor Series rankings, after two of eight events, with £74,000. This series includes the remaining two BetVictor Home Nations events plus the BetVictor German Masters, BetVictor Shoot Out, BetVictor European Masters and BetVictor Gibraltar Open. Top player on that list after the eighth and final event will bank a massive £150,000 bonus.

On the official list, Robertson remains in fourth place, while Higgins is down one spot to seventh. King leaps 18 places to 36th.

Mark Selby’s see-saw battle with Judd Trump to hold the world number one position has swung back in favour of the Leicester cueman. This is because the money Trump earned for winning the 2019 World Open and 2019 Northern Ireland Open has now fallen off his tally on the rolling two-year list.

The two-year list will now be used to determine the seedings for the Cazoo UK Championship and the draw and format for that event will be announced this week. As usual, number one seed will place number 128, then number two will play number 127 and so on.

Zhou remains on course for a Masters debut

Running from November 23 to December 5 at the York Barbican, the Cazoo UK Championship is the final counting event in the Race to the Cazoo Masters. The top 16 will then be handed a place at snooker’s biggest invitation event, to take place in London from January 9-16.

Zhou Yuelong remains in 16th place and still has plenty of daylight ahead of the chasing pack, led by 17th-placed Graeme Dott who is £33,000 behind. But with a top prize of £200,000 up for grabs in York, every player in the field still has a chance to earn a place at Alexandra Palace.

Points appeal committee decisions: James Cahill and Allan Taylor have both been awarded points for the BetVictor English Open, while Jamie O’Neill has now been awarded points for the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open.

Where prize money is won without a player winning a match in a tournament, NONE of that prize money will count towards these prize money rankings save for the World Grand Prix, Players Championship and Tour Championship.

Where prize money is won by a player at a qualifying venue and that player does not go on to appear at the final venue, for whatever reason, that prize money will not count in the prize money rankings until the situation has been considered by the appeals committee who may, at their absolute discretion, allocate ranking points where it can be demonstrated that there are extreme mitigating circumstances. These points will be allocated from the date of the committee meeting and will not affect previously issued draws.

WST Seeding – Count Back:  Players on equal prize money will be seeded based on the best performance (stage/round reached through winning a match) working backwards from the most recent ranking event. If still equal, frames won when losing will determine their position, working backwards from the most recent ranking event. For the purposes of count back, competing in an event and losing is treated as a better performance than not entering or competing in an event.

With only 122 professionals this season, the top six seeds in the UK Championship are due to face amateurs because the event is played on strict ranking based seeding. The top six in the Q-School order of merit are Sanderson Lam, Michael Georgiou, Si Jiahui, Soheil Vahedi, Michael White and David Lilley, in that order.

We will however need to wait for the UK Championship draw to know the actual line-up as it’s extremely unlikely that everyone enters. In particular, it will be interesting to see if Mark Allen will be there after withdrawing from the Champion of Champions where he was … defending champion.

A first look at the coming season rankings with snooker.org

The unsung snooker hero that is Hermund Ardalen has started to work on the various ranking lists for this season.

The first one is the provisional Crucible rankings

This shows the top of this list

2021:22 start - Top Prov Crucible Rankings

Mark Selby, who, no matter what happens this season, will be number one seed at the Crucible as defending champion, is well ahead of everyone.

I was surprised to see Ronnie as number 2, with a 140000 points cushion ahead of Judd Trump. But of course, Ronnie had an indifferent 2019/20 season until he won the 2020 World Championship, whilst Judd won six titles that season but lost in the QFs at the Crucible.

I was also surprised to find Martin Gould in the top 16 and as high as 13th. He is however only 18500 points ahead of Jordan Brown who is 17th.

As it currently stands Ding and Mark Allen would need to qualify. Ding is only China’s number 3 in that list, behind Yan Bingtao and Zhou Yuelong who are respectively 15th and 16th.

The biggest “shock” for me though was to find Stephen Maguire as low as number 58 in that list. Stephen is currently ranked 9th !!! That’s a serious “free fall”. He got 180000 points from the Coral Cup during the 2019/20 season and will need a good start this season to make sure that he gets the opportunity to defend them. To a lesser extend, the same is true for Mark Allen.

The second one is the provisional end-of-season rankings

This is the top of that list:

2021:22 start - Top Prov End-of-Season Rankings

Ronnie of course loses his 500000 points from the 2020 World Championship but is still fourth in the list, with a 174000 cushion on the number 16th, Martin Gould.

Again finding both Gould and Day in the top 16 surprised me. Even more surprising is to find Jordan Brown as high as 13th and that comes from winning just one tournament. Remove the points from 2021 Welsh Open and he would be ranked around the 48th spot.

WST has recently spoken to Peter Devlin who needs to do really well this season to stay on tour. Here is a significant exerpt:

Do you feel you can turn your ranking around in the second season and retain your place on the World Snooker Tour?

A lot of my experiences have taught me that it isn’t really about consistency, it isn’t about even having a good season. In order to stay on the tour, you need to win big money and in order to win big money you need to do really well in one tournament.

Ultimately the goal is to have a deep run. I want to get to a quarter, semi or a final and experience that buzz. I want to have a crack at winning something like Jordan Brown did at the Welsh Open. I know it is difficult, but it is possible.

The old point system was favouring consistency too much, especially when losing seeds still got ranking points. But I feel it has gone too far the other way around now, and the prize money is too top-heavy.

BTW there is a lot of other interesting stuff in that Peter Delin interview.

But I digress … back to the ranking discussion and to what matters even more than the top 16, the middle part of that list:

2021:22 start - Mid Prov End-of-Season Rankings

Again it came to surprise to me to see players like Gary Wilson, Mark King, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh , Sunny Akani and Michael Holt in the danger zone, whilst Jimmy Robertson, Matthew Stevens and Noppon Saengkham are currently in the relegation zone.

It paints a very bleak picture for the Thai players and Thai snooker. We could have no player from Thailand next season on the tour, despite the enthusiasm for snooker and a rather strong amateur scene in the country.

Veterans Ken Doherty, Anthony Hamilton and Fergal O’Brien are also in the relegation zone. Anthony has been fighting health issues and injuries for a long time and it might well be his last season. I trust Fergal to make a fight of it though. Anyone playing him this season better be ready for long gruelling battles; having sandwiches, thermos and some energy bars at the ready might be a good idea.