The 900 – Groups 1 and 2 – 20 September 2022

Jason’s Francis “youngest” brainchild took its first steps yesterday as the first two groups of this season “900” were played in the Crucible club in Reading.

A quick reminder: this competition is for amateurs only, it’s played under variant rules, similar to the shoot-out, it’s just one frame, over 15 minutes maximum and under a 20 seconds shot-clock.

Jason, as usual, did a sterling job. Thank you Jason!

The setup is really nice:

He got Michaela Tabb back to work

And a great commentary team: Neal Foulds, Rachel Casey, and “The Shirt” Lee Richardson.

Because of Queen Elisabeth II funerals, Group 1 had been postponed and we had two groups played yesterday. Exceptionally, Group 1 was played in the afternoon, which was great for me as … being in Greece, the “normal schedule” would be from midnight to 3 am here. Far too late for me, I’m afraid.

I really enjoyed it. This event is a celebration of diversity and there was real quality snooker on show.

Group 1:

Michael Collumb was the deserved winner of the first group, he played really well. There was plenty more to enjoy though. Not many would have given Dennis Taylor a chance, but he impressed. It’s quite obvious that he has put the work in for this one. Beating Billy Castle, who was playing well himself, is no mean feat. He may be retired and 73 years old but the inner competitive beast is well and truly alive! Take a bow Dennis!

Maria Catalano isn’t back to her former level. She has gone through extremely though times, following her father death. But she looked better – in a better place and playing better – than a few weeks ago and she appeared to enjoy her game against Dennis. This is a huge positive.

I enjoyed all the matches. Connor Benzey comes across as not just a very good prospect but a lovely young man as well.

Group 2:

I didn’t see much at all from this group. I’m not a night owl, I’m afraid.

Ashley Carty was probably the favourite on paper in this group, but he fell at the first hurdle. Over just one frame those things can happen of course. Zach Richardson won it.

Billy Castle, Dennis Taylor, Connor Benzey, Michael Collumb, Jamie Bodle, Zach Richardson, Andrew Norman and Stuart Reardon will compete today, aiming at reaching the Winners Week.

Here are some images shared on social media by Jason Francis and Michaela Tabb:

Martin O’Donnell wins the 2022 Q-Tour Event 2

Martin O’Donnell has won the second event of the 2022/23 Q-Tour. He now tops the table, with the same number of points as Ross Muir who has won Event 1. George Pragnell is third despite being the most consistent player in the series so far: he was the losing finalist in both events.

Here is the report shared by WST:

O’Donnell Wins Q Tour Event Two

Martin O’Donnell beat George Pragnell 5-1 in the final to win his first Q Tour title at Castle Snooker & Sports Bar in Brighton.

The event represented the second stop of the season on what has become established as snooker’s premier amateur tour, with two places on the World Snooker Tour to be won at the end of the campaign.

Former world number 32 O’Donnell began his quest on Saturday morning with victories against Jamie Wilson, Liam Graham and Florian Nuessle to qualify for what would prove to be a dramatic final day.

In his quarter-final he defeated fellow former professional Daniel Wells 4-3 following a tight deciding frame, before he repeated the feat against Ashley Carty having at one stage needed two snookers.

Awaiting him in the final would be Event 1 runner-up George Pragnell, who himself had survived two deciding-frame finishes on the final day to edge out Hamim Hussain and former World Snooker Federation Junior champion Gao Yang to reach his second consecutive Q Tour final.

The title match would prove to be a cagey affair early on as O’Donnell took the opening two frames, before Pragnell claimed the third to establish a foothold in the contest.

From there, however, Pragnell would score just a further 10 points as O’Donnell found his groove. Breaks of 54 and 71 were enough to see him claim a 3-1 lead at the mid-session interval, before he added the following two highlighted by a final frame clearance of 135 to crown victory.

The success ensures that O’Donnell will move to top spot in the Q Tour rankings after two events, level with Event 1 champion Ross Muir, with the pair just £250 ahead of the two-time finalist Pragnell.

The 2022/23 Q Tour season continues with Event 3 which will be held at the Delta Moon venue in Mons, Belgium from 14-16 October 2022.

Following his defeat in this event Michael Georgiou came on social media, saying that he doesn’t enjoy competing anymore and that he would concentrate on coaching in the future, no more on competition. I’m wishing him the best in the future, whatever he decides to do. The tone of his posts was quite downbeat.

Ben Hancorn also hinted at putting an end to his professional ambitions. Ben stated that he had enjoyed his time on the tour and was proud of what he had achieved but that he feels it’s now time to move on. Ben proudly stressed that he is undefeated against Ronnie. Indeed they played just one match, in the 2021 Pro-Series and Ben won it by 2-1 … Ronnie made a 141 in the frame he won. All in good spirit.

The next Q-Tour event will be played in Belgium, in Mons. It’s a bit of an oddity because Mons is in the French speaking area of Belgium and snooker is mainly played in Flanders, the Dutch speaking area of Belgium. On the other hand, Mons is close to the French border, and easily accessible – both by car and train – from the Western and Southern part of Germany.

The Coming Mixed Doubles Challenges As Seen By Reanne and Rebecca

Reanne Evans and Rebecca Kenna have shared their thoughts, expectations and emotions ahead of the coming Mixed Double event.

Rebecca, who has been practising with Mark Selby, spoke to WST:

Kenna Hopeful Primetime Slot Can Inspire Next Generation

Rebecca Kenna is hoping this month’s BetVictor World Mixed Doubles event in Milton Keynes can “inspire” a generation of young girls across the country to pick up a cue.

After a summer that saw England’s Lionesses roar, a historic first Tour de France Femmes click into gear and England’s hockey stars strike gold at the Commonwealth Games, snooker is ready to take centre stage.

For the first time, the four women on the World Snooker Tour will be playing live on ITV. The event also marks 40 years since the network broadcast the inaugural World Doubles Championship back in 1982.

It’s just so fantastic that it’s on the main ITV channel because I never saw any women playing snooker on TV growing up,” said Kenna. “If I’d have seen women playing in a mixed doubles event with the world’s top four, as a five-year-old, I would have gone, ‘wow, I want to do that now!’ It’s a great incentive to see us on there. Hopefully, it does inspire some young girls to become professional snooker players and get the chance to play alongside those greats on live TV.

There’s also going to be a great incentive to join the women’s tour and get into that top four. And you never know, it might grow to a top eight and top 16. The tour might grow hugely from this and get more sponsorship, more players, better quality. Everything can then go in the right direction.”

Kenna will partner four-time World Champion Mark Selby for the event, in what she described as a “perfect” duo. But it won’t be the first time she has played in a team. Born in Keighley, just outside of Bradford, Kenna regularly played at The Liberal Club as a young girl with her dad by her side. Now 33, she hopes to lean on these experiences.

My dad was actually a big fan of Mark Selby. He unfortunately passed away in 2015. So it would have been really nice for him to see this. But, I hope he’s watching somewhere,” she said.

We used to play at club level and we never got nervous playing. But when he played with me, he’d say, ‘I’m a bit nervous, I wanna play well for you.’ And I’d say, ‘just relax, there’s no point in being stressed about it.’ So there is no point putting pressure on yourself or anyone else because there are other pressures. People watching on TV, people watching at home and in the crowd. If you have any external pressures on your shot, you’re not going to play very well. You just need to relax and play your own game.

Kenna heads into the event with momentum. A run to the final at the recent US Women’s Open in Seattle saw the women’s world number four not drop a frame in six matches before coming unstuck in the final against Jamie Hunter, losing 4-1.

While Kenna admits she didn’t deserve anything other than finishing second in the final, she enjoyed the experience of playing Stateside.

I loved Seattle,” she said. “There was a really good quality stream, with a commentator. People watching could get involved and talk back to us, they even had some players on commentary. They did really well trying to advertise it over there and it grew some new interest. Hopefully, more clubs might start to put snooker tables in their areas and not just play pool. But it was a really good experience. I hope we can go back in the future.

Just over two weeks have passed since Kenna returned from across the pond. A quick scan of her internal to-do list and she remembers she needs to check in on her shop, Cue Sports Yorkshire. Amongst practising, securing another sponsor and picking up a new car, Kenna found the time to make the journey down the M1 to meet the Jester from Leicester himself.

For the tournament, the rules state each player will take alternate visits to the table, rather than alternate shots, and Kenna admits the tactical side of the game is something she and Selby have discussed.

We’re not going to overthink it with who’s following who,” said Kenna. “We’re just going to play our own game and hopefully do well. You’ve got to take your chances and play the right shots.

The four men are all legends. And obviously, we know that they can score so heavily. So it might be on my mind that I don’t want to leave anyone anything. I don’t want to give them a sniff, because that might be the end of the frame. So I’ll be trying to pick out the best shot to play. If I’m in, try score, and if there isn’t a shot on, try play the best safety I can.

Those first quotes by Bex are very significant. I have written this many times: snooker, like all sports, is a number game. Girls need to see women play on the big stages to be inspired. Exceptional talents are … exceptional. The chances to identify one in a small “population” – which “female snooker players” currently is – are extremely low. Get more girls to play, make them feel welcome and the standard will improve.

Reanne was interviewed WST as reported by Phil Haigh and admits to mixed emotions

‘Mixed emotions’ – Reanne Evans on partnering Ronnie O’Sullivan at World Mixed Doubles

Phil Haigh Thursday 15 Sep 2022

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Reanne Evans will be tough to beat at the World Mixed Doubles (Pictures: Getty)

Reanne Evans admits there were some mixed emotions when she was partnered with Ronnie O’Sullivan for the World Mixed Doubles as performing in front of the greatest player of all time brings some pressure with it.

The brand new tournament starts on 24 September and sees the top four male players in the world team with the top four female players, which has obviously produced some exciting pairings.

Judd Trump teams up with Ng On Yee, Neil Robertson is paired with Mink Nutcharut and Mark Selby partners Rebecca Kenna, but Ronnie and Reanne is undoubtedly the highest profile team.

Clearly Evans was delighted to be drawn alongside the current world champion and world number one, but she admits it does come with some pressure as well as she doesn’t want to let the Rocket down.

Mixed emotions,’ Evans told WST on being paired with O’Sullivan. ‘I was like, you’ve got the best player in the world, the best player ever to pick up a cue, in my eyes. But then you’ve also got to perform in front of him as well!

He’s a great guy and I’ve had the privilege to play with him and against him in Snooker Legends and exhibitions.

Hopefully it’ll make me a little bit more relaxed because I’ve been there and done it. Obviously not on TV in a proper match, but I’m looking forward to it and hopefully he is too.

Whoever Evans was paired with, the team element of snooker is very different to a normal match and it does pile the pressure on.

I used to play league competitions with a team, you’re not just playing for yourself, its a different mindset, a different pressure,’ she explained.

If I miss I’ve let myself down normally, but now I’ve let Ronnie down, let my team down It’s a mix of pressures and emotions. But I’m looking forward to it, it’s exciting and a really good format.

I’m just going to go out there and try and enjoy it as much as I can, then hopefully we can win the thing, but it’s a flip of a coin. Anyone can win it, so I’m just looking forward to it.’

An Impromptu Interview with Jason Francis

Before you read further … I wanted to know more about the 900, and Jason had agreed to give me an exclusive interview for my blogs. Jason and I have known each other for many years and, well … our conversation lead us onto other subjects dear to us both, the Seniors and his future endeavours. That wasn’t planned but here goes … and enjoy!

M: On Tuesday next week, 8 players will compete in the first instalment of the 900 series. What inspired you to start this series and how did you come up with the concept?

J: I’ve always aim to create events that I, as a snooker fan, would want to watch or play in. That’s the main priority, at the end of the day I am a snooker fan. So whether it be the Legends Cup, the re-spotted black deciders, the team events, the doubles… its all about entertainment. So I created the Amateur Snooker League in 2021, ASL, and we did a trial event… it wasn’t right. So I listened to some tv companies, I tried to understand what is important to them… and I created the 900.

M: The players competing in the series are invited. How did this work and what criteria guided your choices? 

J: So I always said from the start the first event should reward those who have supported all my other events, no apologies for that. So many amateurs have taken time out to travel and play in whatever event I put on, many probably with no realistic chance of winning that event, but they’ve followed me so when I got this on I stuck by that promise, while at the same time making sure we tried to access every top amateur snooker champion in the world.

M: Organising such series of events comes at a cost and there is prize money as well. How is this series funded?

J: If you truly believe in something sometimes you have to be willing to back it, you have to set a level of prize money that is attractive, eye catching to amateurs but at the same time sustainable. On every event I have ever staged there has been no guarantee of me making money, that’s life as a promoter and what a lot of people just don’t get. There are plenty of people who sit in salaried positions in both sports I am involved in who can make decisions without that having any personal risk… I wonder sometimes if they would be making those choices if it was their money?

M: It is an amateur only series. Why is that?

J: That’s because we are televised and the WST professionals are not permitted to play on television without permission from world snooker and of course the 900 will clash with so many of their events over the course of the next 9 weeks. So many pros have asked me to play in it, I’ve told them in the future go and get permission and I will gladly have them in but the event trying to get sanctions comes with too many other restrictions that get imposed, especially around ownership of international tv rights outside the host broadcast.

M: On social media, you hinted at a “Professionals’ 900” and a “Women’s 900” in the future. Regarding the professionals in particular, how will that be made possible? Will they not be in breach of their contract considering that those events are televised?

J: As above… if the prize money is right I can invite pros and then its up to them to go and get permission, its seems they can all go and play pool at the moment so if a ‘professionals’ week happened on a non WST event week then why would they not allow their players to earn money in a week where they can’t provide a tournament? I think it would be pretty cruel to stop players earning money if they are not staging an event. The women’s is very much the same as no tv women’s event would have credibility without the top 4. Let’s see.

M: Among the players you invited, there is a significant number of “Seniors” players. I suppose that they are particularly keen to get their cues out as, this season, there is only one major Seniors event, the World Championship. What happened there? 

J: The 900 has a mix of Legends, Top Amateurs, Seniors, Juniors, Women and WDBS, it’s the inclusion of all that I am so proud of being able to do. Very few of these would have been on tv much, some not at all. They deserve their chance. The Seniors situation is a bit more complicated

M: In the last couple of years, a number of your Legends have definitely retired (Cliff Thorburn, John Parrott, Dennis Taylor). How does that impact the Seniors Tour? I’m mainly thinking about the promotion of the events here.

J: It’s simple, you’ve lost 4 commercially valuable and attractive names.. and so far we don’t have 4 to fill the gap but just because they are not hitting balls it does not mean that they are not of use at the events in other ways. Commentary, hosting, corporate hospitality. It’s a he problem though and one I was talking about way before it happened.

M: Younger “Legends” appear to be keen on playing on the Seniors tour. Mark Williams in particular has recently expressed his interest on social media. Currently, being a top player he can’t. However you hinted at changes that would make it possible next season. What are those changes?

J: So the truth is back in October 2021 I presented a blueprint for the future of seniors to my board, the WPBSA players board and WPBSA board itself

It was very much around the point above that we were losing ‘marquee’ names and we were not replacing them. The current agreement with WST allows us to invite players over the age of 40 ranked 65 and below, in return Seniors agrees not to clash events or approach any sponsors or broadcasters they work with. 

The agreement was right at the time we signed it, it no longer really works for either side so since January we have been trying to work on a new agreement with them and to explore my blueprint which requested to open up invites to the whole tour, even if it meant raising the age to 45. 

I also suggested if that was not acceptable it could be limited to tv invites to former major winners. This would not have affected the opportunities for amateurs, or any WST pro who was not invited, as that allocation of places would have remained the same. 

But the benefits would have been huge and to me it was so simple. The value of being able to invite Ronnie, Mark, John, Ballrun for example, 4 world champions to a seniors event staged at a time when no WST event was on, the commercial value of that to a sponsor, to ticket sales, TV, to the tour in general would have been massive in my opinion… and could have increased prize money significantly. 

And I go back to my very first point about putting on events I would like to play in… imagine winning a club qualifier knowing the chance to play Ronnie or John Higgins live on tv in the crucible is the prize? 

Anyway sadly it didn’t work out but that should not be a criticism of WST as at this time they are in a huge period of transition with their own challenges to face so I understand supporting seniors is not a priority. Barry stepping back feels a bit like a team losing their captain, then Nigel retiring as well means a hugely experienced operator is lost to the team, then you add on Pete and Eugene retiring who fitted all the tables and it’s no surprise that Jason Francis wanting Mark Williams in his senior events becomes less important to them.

M: What happened to the Uk Seniors in Hull

J: Lots of people ask what has happened to Hull, our home of the Uk Seniors for the past 3 years. That is something that has disappointed me. I found out that WST had placed the Tour Championship there early next year while I was actually in the venue for my darts. I worked so hard on that event and with the council, the mayor to try and get Hull on the map for snooker, maybe I did it too well as a major ITV just got dropped in right over the top of our planned 2023 UK Seniors. And what did irritate me, but was I accept an oversight, was that internally our sport talked about how great it was to get snooker to Hull, we’d been there three years! So anyway it was clear two events as close to each other would not work, and again me as a snooker fan am I going to buy a ticket to see Patrick Wallace v Darren Morgan (with respect to both) or am I going to go to a best of 19 between the likes of Ronnie and Judd? Not often I really get irritated but that was a blow as that decision was made without a single consideration of the Seniors tour.

M: So whats the future?

J: But the good news is from May, when the agreement ends, Seniors is free to do whatever it wants and my partners at the WPBSA have been so great in continuing to support their tour as they truly see the benefit of it. 

So whereas seniors fans and players may be disappointed for this season, please sit tight as with the freedom to stage events when and where we want, with no restrictions on who we talk to or invite, with my new broadcast partners on events in darts I think the Seniors could very well get back to where it was pre covid.

M: Back to the 900 … the line-up is extremely diverse, which is great to see. Notably, it includes female players. Yet you consider a “Women’s 900”. Why is that? 

J: I think a Women’s week special, just like the pros could work very well. Once again I would dip into my own pocket to get that on, its well-known I am a huge supporter of the women’s game, women in sport, and not just because I manage Reanne. Why more Women’s snooker is not on tv baffles me.

M: What about other “specific” 900s? A “Youth 900” maybe? Thinking “under 18”  and or “under 16” here. 

J: So this time the rules on betting meant I could not invite a Liam Davies, a Daniel Boyes or Stan Moody despite how good that would have been but what underlies the whole 900 concept is not just about this tv event. 

The software I have built with a young whizzkid called Aaron from Scotland can soon be licensed to clubs who can run their own events, their own leagues. 

The beauty of a game of 900 is its 15 minutes… it’s a couple of games in your lunch hour. In a night league format for 3 or 4 players to play a couple of games and be done before midnight. It suits the modern lifestyle. And then my events can be about leagues, clubs sending us their champions. It can be played as a doubles event, a team event… it’s so flexible. We already have enquires for clubs wanting to run their own 900 events.

M: Anything else planned?

J: You’ve known me long enough to know I never sit still but also a lot of people don’t know I’ve been fighting a criminal court case for almost three years after someone in the sport made up a series of lies and false allegations against me because I uncovered some financial irregularities in a company I was involved in with some other professionals. They tried to destroy my reputation, my role with seniors and me personally, it was incredibly stressful having to keep quiet about this during that period on legal advice. That all came to an end in June when the truth finally all came out in court, as I knew it would, and I was found not guilty, completely vindicated and got a costs order.

So that’s behind me and now I am free of that I am back on full charge…Doubles in November, Champs league for amateurs I hope to start in 2023. Added a 4th darts major, Legends is taking Ronnie to Bulgaria and Germany this season, working on exhibitions for Stephen H. Team Champs in April 23 and the small matter of 4 Seniors Qualifiers, 4 Super Seniors Qualifiers and 3 Seniors Open Events…keep up everyone lol

Thank you Jason and good luck in your endeavours!

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.

David Hendon thoughts ahead of the 2022/23 season

I know that the season has already started but it’s been a bit low key over the summer. In about a week’s time it will start in earnest, and David Hendon, writing for Eurosport, is sharing his thoughts about what is at stake for various players this season:

The snooker season will soon be fully awake after a few months in which it’s opened its eyes only to close them again.

The British Open, which gets underway later this month, is only the third event since the new campaign began in June. The calendar has been difficult to plan because of ongoing uncertainty over Covid in China, which means the five lucrative competitions previously staged there remain in cold storage for now.

But suggestions of crisis have been overstated. There are 15 ranking events on this season’s schedule, 12 of which are open to the whole tour, plus the usual elite invitation tournaments and the new World Mixed Doubles Championship.

So players at the top end of the game will soon have plenty to play in while those lower down the rankings have recently been offered a £20,000 earnings’ guarantee by World Snooker Tour to ease some of the financial burden. Discussions are meanwhile ongoing for new events in Europe, with the potential for these to be added to the calendar this season.

But which players will come good when the action finally restarts?

Ronnie O’Sullivan begins the season in a stronger position than ever. World champion for a record equalling seventh time and world no.1, this sporting colossus has never enjoyed a higher profile and it will grow even further when the documentary filmed about him over the last 12 months is aired later this year.

t’s been said many times, but what a career he’s had. His first ranking title came in November 1993, his most recent in May 2022. He has had to face an array of formidable challengers in those three decades, sometimes coming up short but always coming back.

Looking down now from the mountaintop, O’Sullivan has nothing left to prove, which makes him especially dangerous to his main rivals, none of whom can approach the new term with the same relaxed attitude.

Perhaps the greatest unknown quantity is Mark Selby. Last season was a write-off for the four times world champion as he faced up to problems he had long kept bottled up. He is in a better place now but, to complicate things, he recently suffered neck pain which has required treatment.

Selby is ranked third in the official two-year list but factoring in the points which will come off his ranking, including the 500,000 he won at the Crucible in 2021, his provisional end of season position is currently a perilous 24th.

There is plenty of time for that to change before May, but Selby needs to start winning matches soon. Otherwise it is not impossible that he could head to Sheffield in the spring in danger of being relegated from the elite top 16.

Judd Trump suffered what was perhaps an inevitable backwards step last season after three extraordinary campaigns from 2018 to 2021 in which he won 14 ranking titles, plus the Masters.

That hit rate was always going to be hard to keep up. Last season he won one ranking title, the new Turkish Masters, plus the prestigious Champion of Champions and reached the world final, not a bad year but not as impressive as what had come before.

By now it may have been expected, not least by Trump himself, that he would have taken over from O’Sullivan as the sport’s preeminent figure, but he was outplayed by him for long sections of their Crucible final. The challenge for Trump this season is to wrest back trophies but also the limelight.

Those perennial warhorses John Higgins and Mark Williams each produced a high standard last season but were left rueing several near misses between them. Higgins reached six finals but won only one. In three where he finished runner-up he had been a frame from victory, most notably 9-4 up to Neil Robertson in the Tour Championship only to lose 10-9.

Williams won the British Open but lost a decider to Robertson in the Masters semi-finals after the Australian needed two snookers, a last frame thriller to O’Sullivan in the Tour Championship quarter-finals and yet another deciding frame in the World Championship semis where Trump beat him 17-16 in a Crucible classic.

Higgins and Williams are the very opposite of underachievers but these close defeats still sting, even 30 years on from turning pro.

Robertson has been on an extended break after a stellar season in which he won four big titles before coming up short again in Sheffield, losing 13-12 to Jack Lisowski in the second round despite making a maximum break in the final session.

The Melbourne left-hander will play in the mixed doubles competition but has not entered the campaign’s first three tournaments and so won’t be seen in a ranking event until the Northern Ireland Open in October – six months after his Crucible defeat.

This may seem odd but Robertson has enough money and ranking points in the bank to take a lengthy break, and there have been so few events in the meantime that, even if he is rusty, it’s not as if anyone else will be particularly sharp.

The main challenge to the established order seems likely to come from China, with Zhao Xintong, 25, and Yan Bingtao, 22, leading the charge.

Zhao sensationally broke through last season by winning the UK Championship and swiftly followed this up with victory at the German Masters. Things unravelled a little at the end of the campaign when he lost 10-9 from 8-4 up to Higgins at the Tour Championship before a second-round exit at the Crucible.

When players suddenly achieve success, expectations change – their own as much as other people’s. But Zhao is an outstanding talent with an apparent ability to just enjoy what he is doing. He doesn’t have the mental scars of the older players and plays an eye-catching game that makes him an obvious crowd favourite.

Yan is younger than his good friend but his game is more layered. He won the longest frame in Crucible history against Selby last April, an 85-minute grind, and was also completely unfazed by a pigeon landing on the table during the same match.

However, Yan also lost 9-0 to Zhao in their German Masters final, so if anything a lack of consistency seems to be his Achilles’ heel. If he can achieve a more reliable baseline level of performance he could do some real damage.

Kyren Wilson, a top player lacking the titles of those around him in the rankings, made a good start to remedying that by winning the European Masters in Germany last month. Barry Hawkins had played superbly before his form collapsed in the title match, a worrying trend for a player who has now lost six of his nine ranking finals.

Shaun Murphy and Mark Allen have shed so much weight between them this summer that they’ve had to invest in new wardrobes. They remain players who, on any given week, could win any given tournament. What difference will the new healthier approach make? Snooker is not a physical sport but stamina is important, as is mental health, and fitness can do wonders for that.

A familiar question looms over Lisowski: can he finally win a ranking title? Dashingly talented but at times frustratingly erratic, he has done superbly well to bed himself into the elite top 16 without landing a trophy. Lisowski demonstrated genuine steel to beat Robertson at Sheffield and took Higgins to a decider in the quarter-finals, a display which suggested that the next step for him isn’t far away.

A player to watch closely is Hossein Vafaei, Iran’s representative on tour who seems to be improving all the time. He won the Shootout last season and has every chance to end the current campaign as a top 16 player.

Last season we saw unlikely title wins for the little known Chinese player Fan Zhengyi, an out of form Joe Perry and Robert Milkins, whose game seemed to have completely gone before he came good at the Gibraltar Open. There is greater strength in depth through the ranks now than ever, so further success for players down the list often derided as journeymen is entirely possible.

Young talent in Britain is thinner on the ground than it once was but 21 year-old Welshmen Jackson Page and Dylan Emery are both promising prospects. Chinese hopefuls such as Pang Junxu and Wu Yize could also be dangerous.

The problem for everyone is plain: there are only so many tournaments so there can only be so many winners. Plenty of players will produce a high standard but ultimately come away empty-handed.

The snooker season is one long game of thrones, where heart, nerve and luck are all required to weather the various storms a player will face. Some weeks you’re up, some you’re down. Sometimes nothing clicks, and then suddenly it all comes together.

Fans of the sport these days are rewarded with a greater variety of winners, some familiar, some unexpected. These are the players who we now rely on to rebuild snooker’s profile after such a lengthy break. 

I’m a bit surprised that there is no mention of Luca Brecel, Stuart Bingham and Ricky Walden in David’s analysis. Those three are currently in the top 16. Stuart has been a strong presence at the top since he won the World Championship in 2015. Luca is only 27 and has three ranking events to his name. Last season he reached the final of the UK championship and won the Scottish Open. This summer, he has already won the ranking Championship League, the season opener. He could do really well this season. Ricky is also the winner of three ranking events. Back injuries have derailed his career but he is now back in the top 16 and I rate him very high.

Me, I will of course follow the two Belgian rookies: Ben Mertens and Julien Leclercq. Other than those two, I will look at the performances and results of Michael White and Lyu Haotian, two players who showed phenomenal talent as teenagers but whose careers derailed badly because of a combination of external factors and personal issues. I hope that both can finally do their talent justice.

This is how the calendar looks like (without the qualifying rounds except for the World qualifiers)

Championship League – 28 June-29 July, Morningside Arena, Leicester – Winner: Luca Brecel

European Masters – 16-21 August, Stadthalle Fürth, Fuerth, Germany – Winner: Kyren Wilson

World Mixed Doubles – 24-25 September, Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes

British Open – 26 September-2 October, Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes  

Hong Kong Masters – 6-9 October, Hong Kong Coliseum, Hong Kong

Northern Ireland Open – 16-23 October, Waterfront Hall, Belfast

Champion of Champions – 31 October-6 November, University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton

UK Championship – 12-20 November, Barbican Centre, York

Scottish Open – 28 November-4 December, Meadowbank Sports Centre, Edinburgh  

Championship League – 6 December-9 March

English Open – 12-18 December, Brentwood Centre, Brentwood  

The Masters – 8-15 January, Alexandra Palace, London

World Grand Prix – 16-22 January, The Centaur, Cheltenham

Snooker Shoot Out – 26-29 January, Morningside Arena, Leicester  

German Masters – 1-5 February, Tempodrom, Berlin, Germany

Welsh Open – 13-19 February, Venue Cymru, Llandudno

Players Championship – 20-26 February, Aldersley Leisure Village, Wolverhampton

Turkish Masters – 13-19 March, Antalya, Turkey

Tour Championship – 27 March-2 April, Bonus Arena, Hull

World Championship qualifiers – 3-12 April, English Institute of Sport, Sheffield

World Championship – 15 April-1 May, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Events marked in blue have already be played. Events marked in red are non ranking.