Michael Holt will begin the defence of his title against Jamie Jones, at the world ranking event which runs from February 4 to 7 in Milton Keynes.
Reanne Evans will face China’s Si Jiahui while the other woman in the field, debutant Rebecca Kenna, will be up against Germany’s Simon Lichtenberg.
Former World Champions Ken Doherty and Graeme Dott will go head to head while John Higgins will face a tartan tussle againt Scott Donaldson.
Other notable first round ties include Mark Williams against Ali Carter and Shaun Murphy taking on Luca Brecel.
The popular tournament, which was first staged in 2011, has a unique set of rules, with matches lasting a maximum of ten minutes and a shot clock of 15 seconds for the first five minutes and ten seconds for the last five.
Televised live by Eurosport, the event is part of the BetVictor European Series.
No Ronnie, no Judd Trump, no Neil Robertson, no Ding Junhui, no Stephen Maguire, but Reanne Evans and Bex Kenna will fly the flag for the ladies.
I would be highly amused if Reanne or Bex went on to win it. They have as good a chance as anyone… or maybe Amine Amiri, or Brian Ochoiski?
The world ranking event will run from January 27 to 31 in Milton Keynes. Judd Trump is defending the title and he faces Mark Davis in the last 32.
BildBet is a brand associated with BetVictor in Germany. So this event still forms part of the BetVictor European Series, with a £150,000 bonus available for the player who tops the ranking list which runs across six events.
The event will be televised live by Eurosport. Details of other broadcasters will be announced soon.
No surprise for me here, especially after a tweet by Mark Williams last week, ironically stating “Hendry’s return going well then” or something along that line. Probably Hendry doesn’t want to embarrass himself and I wonder if he will play at all eventually.
Allan Taylor believes that the new WST Pro Series is an ideal opportunity for lower ranked players to gain experience and reach the later stages of a world ranking event.
World number 104 Taylor will be among the first players in action on Monday in Milton Keynes, in Group M alongside Joe Perry, Xiao Guodong, Matthew Stevens, Daniel Wells, Jak Jones, Rod Lawler and Haydon Pinhey. Click here for the group draw
Each of the eight players will play seven best-of-three frame matches in a round robin format over the day. The top two in the group will then go through to the second phase in March.
“The tournament is a godsend. I’m just relishing the chance to get my cue out of the box,” said Merseysider Taylor. “I’m lucky enough to have a practice unit I can use in lockdown. But I’m playing on my own, so just to compete against other humans will be a relief!
“In best-of-three matches, anyone can beat anyone. It’s a great chance for the lower ranked players to pit themselves against the top guys. At the least you get seven matches under your belt, which is important after the Christmas break when we’re all a bit rusty.
“It’s hard to know how many matches you’ll need to win to get into the top two, but there is sure to be some drama towards the end of the day. And if you achieve that it’s £3,000 or £4,000, plus another £1,000 guarantee in the second phase. We all have mortgages to pay and we’d much rather be playing in event like this than having a month off.”
Taylor dropped off the pro tour in 2019 but regained his place by winning the 2020 Challenge Tour Play-offs. He has made an impressive start to this season, reaching the last 32 of three ranking events.
“I have beaten some good players, and got a lot out of the matches I have lost against the likes of Neil Robertson, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Liang Wenbo,” added the 36-year-old. “I feel comfortable out there on the main stage. I just have to keep trying to play to a high standard and the results will come.”
MASTERS 2021 EXCLUSIVE: WHO DOES RONNIE O’SULLIVAN THINK WILL DOMINATE SNOOKER IN 2021?
Ronnie O’Sullivan has told Eurosport he expects Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby to dominate snooker in 2021. The world champion feels there is a “massive gap” between the three leading table lights and the rest of the chasing pack due to consistency of technique, scoring power and desire to lift trophies.
Snooker is entering the era of the big three with Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby set to dominate the sport in 2021, according to world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Ahead of the 47th staging of the Masters involving the game’s top 16 players in Milton Keynes between January 10-17 – the first triple crown event of the year – O’Sullivan feels the green baize triple g-force are well clear of the chasing pack and perfectly placed to continue their trophy-winning exploits.
While O’Sullivan lifted a sixth world title at the Crucible last August, the rest of the potting pie in 2020 was snaffled up by a triumvirate with a real appetite for silver service.
Trump carried off a record six ranking events finishing his year with the World Grand Prix before Christmas, Robertson claimed three including a third UK Championship and Selby has started the 2020-21 season by picking up the European Masters and defending the Scottish Open.
Looking into the crystal snooker balls does not appear to bring a sense of overriding opportunity for the rest of the field.
“This is my prediction. I think the top three are playing to such a high standard, it will be one of those three that win the majority of the events,” said O’Sullivan, who begins his quest for an eighth Masters title against Ding Junhui on Wednesday 16 January.
“If there are 25 tournaments, I reckon 20 of them will go to them. Judd will win six, Neil will win five and Selby will win four. I just think it is that sort of level.
“Mark Allen might win one, Ding (Junhui) might win one, I might win one, someone will win the Shoot Out.
“I just think they are playing to such a high level and the players from 17 downwards in the rankings are all a bit hit and miss in comparison.”
Stuart Bingham was Masters champion last year, Stephen Maguire carried off the Tour Championship, Mark Allen won the Champion of Champions while Kyren Wilson, Luca Brecel and Scott Donaldson were Championship League winners in 2020, but O’Sullivan feels trophy-winning chances are becoming thinner on the ground than the thinnest of snicks on the table.
The record 37-times ranking event winner edged Selby 17-16 in the World Championship semi-finals, but lost to his fierce rival 9-3 in the Scottish Open final.
He also suffered a 9-7 defeat to Trump in the Northern Ireland final before being flattened by the world number one 6-1 in the World Grand Prix last four last month.
Trump has remarkably lifted 20 ranking events in only nine years, leaving him only two behind Mark Williams in the all-time list with the Welshman’s 22 coming over a 24-year period.
Robertson and Selby are both on 19 titles with Robertson winning a trophy in the sport every year since 2006.
“There’s a massive gap between those three and maybe the number 18 in the world,” explained the world number three.
“I’ve played those three now and you don’t get a lot off of them, but you seem to get away with quite a bit against the lower-ranked players.
THERE IS A MASSIVE GAP NOW BETWEEN THEM AND EVERYBODY ELSE.
“Allen slipped in and won one, Kyren Wilson won one. There will always be that chance for a player to maybe catch one of them on their off day in a final or a semi-final, but it is difficult.”
I like the non-commital “someone will win the Shoot Out” … 😎
However despite the headline announcement, Hendry has not yet featured in the 2020/21 snooker season.
He was planning a return for the UK Championship but announced a delay to his comeback in November because he wanted to play in front of a crowd and not behind closed doors and stated at the time his game was not yet ready.
But the likelihood of fans returning to live snooker events by the time the Welsh Open starts is almost impossible with both England and Wales in lockdown until mid-February at least.
Returning in a slightly lower profile event is probably the best option for Stephen Hendry who, despite a rather poor record on the WSS tour so far, will face huge exprectations from his faithful fanbase. I’m very surprised that he is considering the Pro Series, but, on second thoughts, it’s actually a good idea. Lots of snooker in a short time span, against seven different opponents. Why not?
The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) has today (Wednesday 23 December 2020) held its Annual General Meeting online.
The AGM saw the election of a further two current members to join the first Board of WPBSA Players, a new body which received formal approval as part of a governance review and wider constitutional changes passed at an Extraordinary General Meeting held on 25 November.
Eight members stood for election: Nigel Bond, Ding Junhui, Joe Perry, Mark Davis, Rod Lawler, Barry Pinches, Lee Walker and Tian Pengfei.
The result was that Nigel Bond and Ding Junhui were successfully elected by the membership and will join existing directors Ken Doherty, Mike Dunn and Peter Lines on the new WPBSA Players Board.
The AGM also saw the presentation of the Accounts and Directors Report, including the latest independently audited accounts, which were unanimously accepted by the meeting.
WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “I am today pleased to welcome both Ding Junhui and Nigel Bond to the Board of WPBSA Players following their successful election.
“For over 15 years Ding has been a trailblazer for our sport in Asia following his landmark victory at the 2005 China Open and at last year’s UK Championship he reminded everybody of his class by claiming the title for a third time.
“Away from the baize he has also continues to play a significant role in our sport, having become almost a father figure to many of the young Chinese players competing on the World Snooker Tour. Already he has represented players in China on behalf of our colleagues at the China Billiards & Snooker Association. In this new formalised role, I am sure he will not only be a fantastic representative for Asian players, but for all players who travel great distances living away from home within our sport. Part of our vision to create WPBSA Players was to increase global representation within key roles and I am delighted to this is now becoming a reality.
“Like Ding, Nigel Bond is a former World Championship finalist who brings to the board a wealth of experience at all levels having maintained an unbroken spell on our tour dating back to 1989. A former World Seniors champion, he remains capable of competing at the highest level as he showed with his stunning victory against world number one Judd Trump last year in York.
“Alongside his playing career, he has also become a successful coach around the world and has become an integral part of the WPBSA Coaching Programme, sharing his experience to help train the next generation of qualified snooker coaches.
“I am confident that both will bring significant value to WPBSA Players and that the recently announced constitutional changes will achieve our goal of better serving our member players, as well as furthering the world class governance and development of our great sport.”
First of all congratulations to Ding Junhui and Nigel Bond!
I was surprised when I read that Ding was running for a seat on the board. He’s only 33 and it’s hard to combine a playing career at the top and the duties of a member of the board. Shaun Murphy found it difficult and eventually stepped down from the board to concentrate on his career. On the other hand, China has been investing a lot of money into the game in recent years. About one in six main tour player is from China, including 15 of the 27 players aged under 25. It’s obvious that they need a voice on the board, they need to be represented, and who would be better equipped than Ding for the role? He has the required status, both in the sport and in his country, his command of English is now excellent.
Plans to stage the Snooker World Cup in the city of Wuxi in China in 2021 are taking shape, with 24 national teams to battle for the coveted trophy.
WST is currently in discussion with partners in China, with the ambition to hold the event early in the 2021/22 season.
Scotland are the defending champions as the pair of John Higgins and Stephen Maguire beat China in the 2019 final. That ended a run of three consecutive World Cup victories for China.
Higgins names the moment of lifting the trophy as one of the proudest moments of his glittering career. He said: “The pressure is tenfold compared to playing for yourself. When I first played with Stephen (Maguire), I played a deciding frame against Mark Allen and lost. I’d never felt pressure like it in all of my life. World Championship finals, you name it.
“To win it was a brilliant feeling – the proudest feeling in the world. Scotland haven’t got many World Champions so we were delighted to win it for our country. I always feel that if I am lucky enough to get into the team, I’ll be with a very good partner and we’ll have a chance to win it again.”
The Snooker World Cup has a tremendous history having first been staged in 1979. Wuxi, in China’s Jiangsu Province, hosted the event in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
Further details on the 2021 World Cup, including the teams and format, will be announced in due course.
The World Cup has been hosted in Wuxi before, including the last edition, so it’s maybe just coincidence that this announcement comes at the same time as Ding’s election as member of the board. However, Ding was born in Yixing, in Jiangsu province, and Wuxi is a major city in Jiangsu, only about 90 km from Yixing, Ding’s presence on the board can only help opening doors in his country, and in particular in his “home” region.
So… yesterday was the last day of snooker in 2020. I will cover Judd Trump’s World Grand Prix win in the next post. Meanwhile here are some news about SPOTY and what is coming next year. By the looks of it, we are not out of the woods any time soon unfortunately.
Ronnie O’Sullivan missed out on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award as Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton was voted the winner.
Six-time World Champion O’Sullivan was the first snooker player to be shortlisted for the prestigious award since Stephen Hendry in 1990.
Earlier this year, O’Sullivan conquered the Crucible for the first time since 2013. In all he has won a record 37 ranking titles and 20 Triple Crown events, while helping snooker’s popularity to grow around the world with his charisma and flamboyant style of play.
He was on the shortlist alongside Hamilton, Hollie Doyle, Jordan Henderson, Stuart Broad and Tyson Fury.
Jordan Henderson (football) and Hollie Doyle (horse racing) came second and third. Is it a coincidence that those are all big-money sports?
Apparently there was some kind of silver-lining to this cloud: snooker got about ten minutes “antenna time” instead of its usual 30 seconds. Ah well, all good then.
Barry Hearn concedes next month’s snooker Masters will be behind closed doors at Alexandra Palace after London was placed in tier four of coronavirus restrictions amid mounting cases in the capital
Barry Hearn has conceded the new ‘Tier Four’ restrictions will force snooker to play next month’s Masters behind closed doors.
The game has been confirmed by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden as one of the elite sports that can continue to stage tournaments without a crowd.
But though London’s status could change before the prestigious invitation tournament decisions must be made today regarding organisation of the event.
Until last week tickets were being sold with a capacity of 1,000 per session at Alexandra Palace but those fans now look set to be disappointed.
And an angry Hearn says the late decisions and continually changing landscape are ‘a mess’ having already been ‘burned’ at snooker’s World Championship in August and the PDC darts this month.
He said: ‘It is a mess. If you had asked me about the Masters two days ago I would have said, “All systems go”. Suddenly now, realistically, we have a problem.
‘It is because of all the things we have to organise.
‘It is like this whole thing is taking great pleasure in kicking me in the nuts. Every time I spend a load of money, there is no payback.
‘We had the snooker at the Crucible, half a day before they changed their minds on crowds. The darts, all of a sudden after one day with live crowds – gone.
‘These things cost a lot of money just to get the venues ready for the admission of people.
‘We have a final meeting on Monday but this is not a two-minute thing and my recommendation will be to stage the Masters behind closed doors.
‘Even if we come out of whatever tier we are in now – which they are making up as they go along – I can’t see them welcoming crowds back to sport until early January at least.
‘But I have to make decisions on Monday about things like tiered seating at Ally Pally, structure, entrance of fans, Covid rules for them…it is actually more efficient to do it behind closed doors.
‘I can’t leave those decisions until early January, I have to make them now as it’s a three-week order and build.
‘We as an organisation have been burned twice already at the Crucible and now the darts World Championships.
‘We don’t get any payment from the government, even as a pilot scheme – I’m not moaning about that, just stating a fact.
‘If it’s going to be a choice between a maybe and a definite, I’m better off opting for the safe option so I’m pretty sure there won’t be crowds.
‘We had sold a number of tickets, and this thing runs into a lot of money overall. We lost £2.5million at the Crucible, maybe £4m at the darts, and the Masters £750,000.
‘The only overriding thing that is good still is that although we come behind that great sport of break-dancing in the Olympics, we are recognised as an elite sport here.
‘That has just been confirmed by Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State, and we can continue to put on professional tournaments behind closed doors.
‘How quickly we return to any kind of normality with the crowds I don’t know, but I am thinking the Crucible for the World Championships next April.’
Barry isn’t happy and he’s absolutely right. The UK government constantly changes the goalposts and it costs a lot of money the entrepreneurs, and the UK economy in general. In times of crisis, clear and consistent policies and information are of essence. The mixed messages fuel distrust and misunderstanding in the general public, not mentioning conspiracy theories. How can people abide by rules that are constantly changing?
I have put the last sentence in bold. That’s the prospect for now. Hopefully the spring, and the vaccines, will bring the infection rates down.
BETVICTOR CHAMPIONSHIP LEAGUE SNOOKER RETURNS IN 2021
BetVictor Championship League Snooker will return in January 2021 in its original invitational format at Stadium MK, Milton Keynes as 25 of the world’s best players battle over seven groups for the right to compete in April’s big-money Winners’ Group.
BetVictor Championship League Snooker, promoted by Matchroom Multi Sport, will begin with Group 1 on January 4-5, with Group 2 (Jan 6-7) and Group 3 (Jan 8-9) to follow the same week.
Groups 4-6 will be played over the week of February 8-13 and BetVictor Championship League Snooker will return with Group 7 from March 29-30. The seven Group Champions will then return for Winners’ Group from March 31-April 1.
BetVictor Championship League Snooker will be shown live on betting websites around the world, as well as on global OTT platforms and Matchroom.Live. Winners’ Group will additionally be broadcast on TV networks, with full details to be confirmed in the new year.
Emily Frazer, Managing Director of Matchroom Multi Sport, said: “We are excited to open 2021 with the return of BetVictor Championship League Snooker’s invitational event.
“The unique format has always been a hit with the players, who are competing for a share of the £205,000 prize fund and a place in the Champion of Champions.
“With the introduction of live streaming at Matchroom.Live throughout, and TV broadcasters for Winners’ Group, this year we’ll be making sure BetVictor Championship League Snooker is available for all snooker fans to watch and enjoy.
“We’re pleased to be working alongside BetVictor once again and we’re working hard to ensure fans will see increased production and staging levels compared to previous invitational Championship League events.
“Championship League has evolved dramatically over 2020 with many event formats pioneering the return of professional sport after the Covid-19 shutdown. We are keen to consistently push the CLS brand with both this Invitational Event and we hope that the Ranking Event edition will return later in 2021, offering all 128 WST Tour card holders the chance to participate.”
The BetVictor Championship League Snooker is a venture between Matchroom Multi Sport and Perform which began in 2008, where 25 of the game’s elite players compete with matches being broadcasted on the biggest sports streaming platforms.
Each group features seven players and is played across two days with two tables in operation. 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.
A total of up to £205,000 prize money is available with players earning £100 per frame won, with significant bonuses for their final group position and increased prize money in the Winners’ Group. In its 12-year history, the BetVictor Championship League Snooker has paid out over £2,000,000 in prize money.
The WST Pro Series, a brand new ranking event with an innovative format, has been added to the WST 2020/21 calendar and will take place between January and March next year.
The tournament will feature 128 players split into 16 groups of eight, competing in a round robin format. The 16 group winners go into two further groups of eight, with those two group winners to contest the final. All matches will be best of three frames.
The event will be staged in three phases
Groups one to seven: January 18-24
Groups eight to 16: March 9-17
Final stages: March 18-19 OR March 20-21
The WST Pro Series will have total prize money in excess of £300,000, and the winner will earn a place in the 2021 Champion of Champions.
The 2021 Championship League has also been added to the WST calendar for the second half of the current season. This will be a non-ranking event promoted by Matchroom Multi-Sport.
Due to travel restrictions and government quarantine rules, WST cannot stage any events in China this season.
WST Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are delighted to announce our updated calendar for the remainder of the 2020/21 season. Between January and May we will have ten tournaments, and in a spell of 121 days we have 109 days of scheduled live snooker. This is absolutely fantastic for the fans around the globe who have a relentless appetite for watching our sport on television and online, as well as the players who will be kept extremely busy competing for titles and prize money.
“I believe that snooker has adapted to the challenges posed by the current climate better than any other sport. In 2020 we will stage a total of 20 events, and this announcement keeps that momentum going into 2021.
“I am particularly pleased to reveal plans for the new WST Pro Series with an exciting format. In the group phase, players will have to contest seven matches in a single day so it will be a test of skill and stamina. This will be a ranking event so that all 128 tour players have the chance to battle for the inaugural WST Pro Series title.”
Venues for these new events will be announced in due course, as well as broadcast details.
WST 2021 updated calendar
3–9 Championship League Stage One. Venue TBC
10-17 The Masters. Alexandra Palace, London
18-24 WST Pro Series rounds 1-7. Venue TBC
27-31 German Masters. Venue TBC
4-7 Shoot Out. Venue TBC
8-14 Championship League Stage Two. Venue TBC
15-21 Welsh Open. Venue TBC
22-28 Players Championship. Venue TBC
1-7 Gibraltar Open. Venue TBC
9-17 WST Pro Series rounds 8 – 16. Venue TBC
18-19 or 20-21 WST Pro Series final stages. Venue TBC
22-28 Tour Championship. Venue TBC
29-April 4 Championship League Stage Three. Venue TBC
7-14 Qualifiers: Betfred World Championship. English Institute of Sport – Sheffield
17-3 May Betfred World Championship. Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
I’m not sure that the Pro Series will thrill the top players so much, but I do believe that it will be good for the lower ranked players, the younger ones in particular. Even if those are very short matches, and it’s just one day, it’s playing against seven different opponents, each proposing a different challenge.
Champion Of Champions To Be Played Behind Closed Doors
The 2020 Champion of Champions will be staged behind closed doors at Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes, from Monday, November 2 until Sunday, November 8, live on ITV4.
Matchroom Multi Sport had been hoping to be able to allow spectators to attend the event, however, given the current government guidelines around fans at sporting events, the decision has been taken to stage the event behind closed doors.
The Champion of Champions will remain at Marshall Arena, where a strict ‘event bubble’ will be employed. Matchroom Multi Sport have already successfully staged two editions of Championship League Snooker, including the event in June which marked the return of live sport in the UK after the lockdown.
Champion of Champions is one of snooker’s showpiece events, featuring WST champions from the last 12 months. Neil Robertson will defend the title he won in an epic final against Judd Trump last year, while World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and European Masters winner Mark Selby are also among the other stars who will battle it out to be crowned Champion of Champions.
All ticket holders will receive automatic refunds of their order via the original point of purchase. Ticket holders should allow up to 30 days for this to be processed. Anybody who purchased tickets for the 2020 Champion of Champions will automatically be entitled to purchase tickets for next year’s event during an exclusive priority ticket sales period before they go on general sale.
The Champion of Champions will be broadcast live on ITV4 in the UK, and on global broadcast partners including DAZN and matchroom.live. The tournament starts with a quartet of four-man groups played over four days from Monday, November 2 until Thursday, November 5. The winner of each group progresses to the semi-finals, with one played on Friday, November 5 and the other on Saturday, November 7. The final on Sunday, November 8 will be over 19 frames.
*As European Masters winner Mark Selby had already qualified for the Champion of Champions, Mark Allen will enter the event as the highest-ranked player not already qualified. Should the English Open and/or Championship League Snooker be won by players already qualified for the Champion of Champions, places will be awarded to the highest-ranked player(s) on the World Rankings after the English Open.
The part in bold may be bad news for us, Ronnie fans. Indeed the “strict event bubble” is the reason why Ronnie withdrew from the CLS. He usually loves the ITV events, but I’m not sure that he will want to enter this one if this is in operation. Also, I don’t understand why this is actually necessary whilst some events, like the current English Open, are played under a more relaxed approach despite involving a lot more players and officials, hence, posing more risks. In his post-match with Eurosport yesterday, Ronnie said he was going back home for the night.
Fans who had purchased tickets for the original dates of the 2020 Tour Championship in Llandudno (March 17th to 22nd, 2020) will soon receive a full refund from Venue Cymru.
WST has been in regular discussions with the venue, exploring the possibility of staging the 2021 Tour Championship in Llandudno.
Venue Cymru has been supporting Betsi Cadwaladr University Health board since March so that they can deliver essential medical services during the pandemic, and this support will continue until at least Spring 2021. This means that Venue Cymru will be closed and regrettably this will result in the rescheduling or cancellation of events, which means that Llandudno will not be able to host the Tour Championship in 2021.
Original bookings will be automatically refunded, so there is no need for fans to make contact with the box office. If fans have any questions regarding their original booking please email firstname.lastname@example.org
WST still has a very strong and positive relationship with Venue Cymru and we hope to return to Llandudno again in the future.
The 2021 Tour Championship will run from March 22nd to 28th, with the venue to be announced in due course.