Looking back at 2020

2020 has been a strange and extremely difficult year for everyone. The covid-19 crisis has disrupted our lives, we have been locked down for long periods, most of us still are. We have been separated from loved ones, some of us have got the disease, some of us have lost someone dear to them to the disease. Most of us have struggled – still struggle – economically and mentally. And, we are not out of it just yet, unfortunately.

In the middle of this disaster, Barry Hearn and WST have managed to get our sport going. Yes, it’s been mainly behind closed doors, yes, many are tired of Milton Keynes and events outside UK have been either moved or canceled BUT most players have been playing and have been offered earning opportunities, and fans have been able to watch a lot of great snooker. Also, great efforts have been put into making the setup attractive and different for each competition.

Thanks you Barry Hearn, thank you WST!

Big thanks also, to all the players, the WPBSA, the officials, the fitters, the pundits, the commentators, the sports journalists, the television crews and everyone behind the scenes who have made it possible.

Thank you!

And the news broke off yesterday evening that Barry Hearn has been awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours for his services to sport. 

So, to keep the tradition alive, here are my awards … and the golden turkey.

The Awards

Player of the Year: Judd Trump

Judd Trump is well ahead of everyone in terms of ranking points, he has more than 800000 points more than Neil Robertson, who is ranked second. He has won six ranking titles during the year: the 2020 German Masters, the 2020 Players Championship, the 2020 Gibraltar Open, the 2020 English Open , the 2020 Northern Ireland Open and the 2020 World Grand prix. He reached two more finals: the 2020 Championship League (October 2020 edition) and the 2020 UK Championship. He has played 103 matches over the year, won 84 of them. He played 721 frames, won 456, made 97 centuries. The only disappointment for him is probably that he started the year as World and Masters Champion and finishes without holding any of the “Triple Crown” titles.

Achievement of the Year: Ronnie’s sixth World Title

Ronnie hadn’t reached the one table setup at the Crucible since his defeat to Mark Selby in the 2014 Final. His last appearance at the Theatre of Dreams had been a nightmare as be went out in the first round to James Cahill, an amateur at the time. His season has been an indifferent one by his standards. For once the bookies weren’t making him a favourite. Very few, if any, expected him the to win the 2020 World Championship,  but he did. He went on to beat Thepchaiya Un-nooh, Ding Junhui, Mark Williams, Mark Selby and Kyren Wison to become World Champion for a sixth time, at the age of 44, the oldest winner at the Crucible since Ray Raerdon in 1978. He made 12 centuries during the Championship. He admitted that the reduced media duties, and the absence of crowd had helped him in that there were less distractions, and less pressure as well. It was all about playing… and play, he did, fully focussed from start to finish.

Match of the year: Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Selby Semi-final

I have chosen this match because of its signifiance in the context of the rivalry between Ronnie and Mark Selby. Speaking to Stephen Hendy over Instagram during the lockdown, last June, Ronnie had admitted that, if there was one match he would like to be able to “take back” and play again, it would be the 2014 World Final, a match where he lead by 10-5 and ended up up losing by 18-14.

Here is the piece Eurosport did about this conversation:


Five-times world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has named the one match he would like to replay – naming the 2014 World Championship final as his major regret. 
O’Sullivan looked set to win the world title for a third straight year when he led Mark Selby 8-3 and 10-5 six years ago only to see the Leicester player mount a rousing recovery to complete an 18-14 win with a comeback boosted by a watertight tactical game.

It denied O’Sullivan the chance to join Steve Davis and Ray Reardon on six titles in the modern era and continue to leave him two adrift on Stephen Hendry’s record haul of seven.

The Essex player has not been beyond the quarter-finals since 2014 as he prepares for his latest bid to recapture the sport’s biggest title at the Crucible next month.

O’Sullivan insists he won’t be drawn into long tactical exchanges with Selby – who added two mores victories in 2016 and 2017 – if he comes across him this year.

“The match I’d like to play again would be Selby in the 2014 final because I’d have played it differently,” said O’Sullivan during his latest chat with Hendry on Instagram.

“I would have done everything I could to not get bogged down and keep the game open.


“I’m just going to blast them open, I’m not getting sucked into eight or nine frames of 50-minute frames, because it destroys you.

“I tried to compete with him and play that sort of game, but then I sat back and thought, ‘I’ve lost my own rhythm.’

“I’d rather lose three frames on the spin but keep my own rhythm, because given the chance I could go bang, bang, bang and win three frames back.

“It got to the point that even if he left me amongst the balls I
weren’t even going to make 20 because I just had no rhythm. I learned a lot.”

O’Sullivan certainly seemed to dictate terms in their previous meeting, running out a 5-1 winner in the Welsh Open last eight in February boosted by breaks of 85, 95 and 142.

“Certain players have your number and I think Selby kind of had my number for a bit, I struggled against him, even though I had victories against him,” said O’Sullivan.

“I thought, I might lose to you, but it’ll be on my terms. Ever since I’ve played like that I’ve enjoyed every game I’ve had against him, even if I’ve lost to him.”

Well, given the opportunity to play Mark Selby over four sessions, Ronnie did exactly what he had told Hendry he would do. He refused to get sucked in his opponent game, he refused to enter into safety battles. He went for “hit and hope” shots when in  snookers and it  worked. Ronnie could easily have lost that match, he was behind for most it. IIn the end, He was 16-14 down and produced an extraordinary salvo of three frames to snatch victory.

Guess what? Mark Selby didn’t like it. He though that it was “disrespectful” from Ronnie to play this way. When he won in 2014, he was praised for “finding a way” to beat Ronnie, and rightly so. This time it was Ronnie who “found a way” to beat him by refusing to let him dictate the pace and the style of the match. He too should be praised for it.

Frame of the year: Kyren Wilson v Anthony McGill World Semi-final decider

This is certainly the most extraordinary frame I have ever watched.

Here is how WST descibed it in a recent article:

One of the most extraordinary deciding frames in snooker’s rich history. As it progressed, wizened Crucible veterans gawped at the screens backstage, wondering what could possibly happened next. At one stage the two players seemed to have invented a new game within a game, taking turns to bounce the cue ball off the baulk cushion to try to flick the last red into a centre pocket. That was after Wilson gained 43 points in fouls to leave his opponent needing snookers, then somehow contrived to go in-off twice. Eventually it was settled by another freakish moment as Wilson fluked the green during a safety exchange. He was on the verge of tears as he potted the last pink, completing the unique frame score of 103-83. “I have known Anthony since we were kids, and in the last frame we were just two young lads out there feeling the pressure,” said Wilson. “We fought so hard for three days, toe to toe, we both gave it everything. It was just the maddest match.” A gracious McGill smiled: “I feel as if the match was stolen from me – not by Kyren but by the snooker Gods. I really enjoyed the fight, it was played in the right spirit.”

But words can’t really convey the drama ir produced… so here it is for you to watch (again)

Most dramatic day of snooker of the season: Saturday 14th of August, 2020

Yes, actually, the third day of the 2020 World Championship semi-finals, was, in my opinion, the most exciting and dramatic day of snooker, if not ever, certainly since I started following the sport some 15 years ago. Both semi-finals were remarkable, tense, dramatic and  went to a deciding frame.

Shot of the year: Stephen Maguire incredible “trick shot” at the 2020 Masters

It has to be this …

I love Maguire’s celebration …

Luckiest man of the year: Stephen Maguire

Stephen Maguire didn’t qualify for the Tour Championship, but got the opportunity to play in it when Ding – who had opted to return to China as the pandemic unfolded in the UK – withdrew. Stepen made the most of this unexpected chance as he went on to win the event, earning himself £150000. Stephen had also previously earned £30000 for reaching the quarter-finals of the 2020 Players Championship. That was enough for him to also win the “Coral Cup” and the £100000 bonus coming with it. Basically he got £250000 by playing in an event when he should’nt even have been in the draw. It had to be won though, so, well done Stephen Maguire!

The Golden Turkey

Golden Turkey

Barry Hearn’s insensitive treatment of Anthony Hamilton

Anthony Hamilton had qualified for the television stages of the World Championship: he had beaten Sam Craigie by 6-3 and Scott Donaldson by 10-5. He was due to return to the Crucible for the first time since 2008. Anthony had turned 49 in June. Over the last decade he had suffered countless back injuries. He was really looking forward to it, knowing that this may well be his last opportunity to play on the biggest scene of all. People like David Hendon and Hector Nunns, who were on-site, were clear about it on social media: Anyhony was absolutely dlighted to have qualified and definitely wanted to play.

The qualifiers had been well under way when the news came that fans would be allowed into the arena, and they would not be tested, and there would be no temperature checks. Anthony Hamilton only learned about it after he qualified. He had been shielding, as he suffers from asthma. He felt that it was undsafe for him to play. He withdrew.

Barry Hearn’s reaction was particularly insensitive and unfair.

You can read here what I wrote about it at the time.

It’s worth reading the comments as well.

The reigning World Champion at the time, Judd Trump, did himself no favour as he jumped on Hearn’s bandwagon

Judd Trump has hit out at Anthony Hamilton for withdrawing from the World Snooker Championship on the eve of the tournament, calling the world No 48 “selfish” and suggesting he should have pulled out prior to securing his place at the event instead of taking an opportunity from another player.

Ronnie however wasn’t impressed by the decision to have fans back, stating that players were treated like lab rats.

Ronnie O’Sullivan says allowing spectators into the Crucible Theatre for the World Championship is treating snooker players like “lab rats”.

The tournament, which begins on Friday, will be the first indoor sporting event with crowds, allowing around 300 supporters to attend each session.

Qualifier Anthony Hamilton, who suffers from severe asthma, says it is “ridiculous” and “too early” for fans.

Five-time world champion O’Sullivan said players “all run a bit of a risk”.


Those that have booked tickets to attend the Sheffield venue will be placed in ‘bubbles’ of up to four people – limited to a maximum of two households – and will be socially distanced from others in the arena.

Temperature checks will not be in place and although face masks must be worn around the venue they can be removed once spectators are seated inside.

World number 48 Hamilton pulled out of the Championship League – the first event that was played on the sport’s return – because of health concerns and called the decision to allow people to take off their masks in the auditorium “a mad thing”.

He added: “Let’s say one person gets ill and dies from the Crucible, that is one person who has died for no reason, just for entertainment.

“I won’t be comfortable in there personally. I don’t know why anybody would be comfortable – we all know it is airborne.”

However, O’Sullivan said: “I defy anybody if they have been keeping their distance from people for four months to say, oh right, now you’ve got to go into a room full of people – unless you have got a death wish, and some people have in many ways and they just don’t care.

“But if you are one of these people that happens to care about your health and are taking it seriously, I totally get how [Hamilton] feels.

“I would feel a bit strange walking in a room with 10 people I don’t know, and I have done. I didn’t feel comfortable.

“So I totally respect where Anthony is coming from, and where other people are coming from – they want crowds in there, they want things back to normal. We have a choice – we don’t have to go and play. We all run a bit of a risk.

“I have the option not to play but I’ve decided to play. Maybe with 5,000 fans I could see it’s a bit of an income you’re going to lose, but 200 fans, is it really?

“Maybe they have to start doing a test on crowds at some point and I’ve heard people say they’re treating the snooker event a little bit like lab rats – you’ve got to start somewhere, start with snooker players.

“Less insurance to pay out for Anthony Hamilton than there is for Lewis Hamilton.”

O’Sullivan says he has had friends die from Covid-19 and has not been within 20 feet of his mother, who is in the ‘high risk’ category because she had pneumonia last year.

“It’s not until you’ve had people close to you that have gone through it, and know someone who has died,” he said.

“I don’t think it has been taken seriously enough.”

The worst aspect of it, is that Anthony’s fears, and Ronnie’s views were vindicated as the “experiment” came to an end after just one day. It was deemed too risky by the UK government

If that premature, reckless decision to allow a crowd in hadn’t been made, Anthony Hamilton would have been playing at the Crucible. He was the one ‘robbed” of a golden opportunity. 

But Barry Hearn never apologised of course…

Statistics source: cuetracker.net

The 2020 UK Championship – Olivier Marteel honoured

Olivier Marteel will be the referee in charge of the 2020 UK Championship final. 

Olivier Martell coronavirus

Olivier is a nurse in Belgium, that’s his day job. He usually works in the radiology department. When the covid-19 first wave hit our country in the spring , Olivier volunteered to work on the frontline. This is a picture he shared with Jan Verhaaas at the time.

It’s a very difficult and dangerous job, made even more difficult by the heavy PPE equipment.

Olivier missed the 2020 World Championship, giving priority to his duties as a carer

Now, WST and WPBSA wanted to honour him: he will be the man in the middle come Sunday.


Congratulations Olivier, enjoy! Nobody deserves it more than you.

Here is a video shared by WST. Rob Walker interviews Olivier …


An interview with Hammad Miah and a post by Alfie Burden

I usually stay away from politics in this blog but today I feel that I must make an exception.

Shamoon Hafez from BBC has interviewed Hamad Miah. Here is this interview:

George Floyd death: Hammad Miah on being called a ‘shoebomber’

By Shamoon Hafez
Hammad MiahHammad Miah grew up in Hertford and his family hail from Bangladesh

Warning: this piece contains offensive language

“A guy called me a shoebomber once. That was new to me and I was laughing about it because I didn’t know what he was going on about. It was only afterwards, when reading up on it, did it become an insult.” 

As Hammad Miah prepares to compete in the Championship League on Sunday, he speaks to BBC Sport about his own experience of racism following the death of George Floyd in the USA. 

Floyd, an unarmed black man who screamed “I can’t breathe” while his neck was pinned under an officer’s knee, has become a symbol for change with the #BlackLivesMatter movement that has sparked huge anti-racism protests across the country.

This week, sports stars including Serena Williams, Paul Pogba and Lewis Hamilton have added their voices. And there was a display of protest from snooker world number 75 Alfie Burden, who took a knee before his match against Ryan Day at the Championship League on Wednesday.

The concerns raised are all too familiar for Miah, who takes the 64th and final spot at the event in Milton Keynes, host to snooker’s first tournament since the season was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I did have problems growing up; I faced a lot of racism,” Miah said. “But that has shaped me into the person I am today. 

“It is because of Islam that I have calmed down a little bit. That experience of being called a Paki or taking the piss out of me because I am Muslim was really tough.”

Judd TrumpMiah faced current world number one and world champion Judd Trump in the first round of the 2015 UK Championship

In a open and honest interview, Miah talks about:

  • Sympathising with those rioting in the USA to make their feelings known
  • How he would “100% be in a gang” if he still lived in London
  • Bare-knuckle fighting with a fellow snooker player
  • Being harassed by police when growing up

‘When I was growing up, the only way out was fighting’

Americans have defied curfews in cities and the threat of military action from President Donald Trump to take to the streets in their tens of thousands, with violence spreading in some parts.

“When I was growing up, the only way out was fighting,” Miah said. “Slowly people started to realise that what they [racists] were saying was wrong.

“The reason why people keep getting away with it is because they don’t get punished. Islam is not about violence – I understand that now as I have matured as an adult – but that was what we grew up with.

“Some people have no idea what we go through and that is why we can relate to this #BlackLivesMatter movement taking place at the moment. We get it because we feel discriminated against all the time.”

‘I feel I could have become a boxer’

Miah, whose family are from Bangladesh, was born in London and later moved to Hertford. It was his dad who first took him to a snooker club, spotting the talent after his son made a century break at 13 and won amateur tournaments at 16.

Now 26, he is one of only two British Asian players on the 128-man tour, the other being Welshman Kishan Hirani.

Looking back on those early days, going to the snooker club with his dad, Miah says he used to “enjoy it”. But while the sport brought him “contentment and peace, taking my mind off a lot of things”, he pin-points his early experiences as a reason why he has failed to fulfil his potential.

“What happened in my childhood plays a big part in my snooker and is probably the reason I get so angry when playing,” said Miah, who is ranked 96 in the world. “It is my character and I feel I could have become a boxer. 

“It is not good for my well-being because it plays a part in the house and those around me. If I was still living in London, I would have 100% been in a gang. 

“The boys that racially abused me growing up, I had a rage and anger towards them. I did not see them for a couple of years and then I got a bit bigger so if I bumped into them I was going to slap them hard.”

Hammad MiahMiah is ranked number 96 in the world

‘I was offered a bareknuckle fight for £20’

Miah explains how he once had a run-in with a fellow player at a tournament in a holiday park in Wales.

“A couple of other players were around too and he started acting up and offered me a bareknuckle fight for £20 – I took his money off him,” he said.

Miah also recalls suffering harassment from the police.

“Growing up, I remember the police would give me and my black friend more trouble than the rest of the group,” he said.

“Once I got pulled over in my car by two separate police officers in the space of five minutes. They asked what I was doing here in Hertford, I told them I live here and asked whether they pulled me over because I was Asian.

“People say it is worse in America but it is just as bad here. If our coppers carried guns, there would be so many deaths and I am thankful they don’t.”

So how do you solve the issue of racism?

“People that are silent, the people that are trying to justify other crimes or responding with #WhiteLivesMatter, they are the problem,” Miah said. “There is always someone out there trying to justify something inhumane.

“At school, we learn all sorts of stuff and no-one is born racist. If they taught us properly about race and religion, things could change.

“These protests will make a slight change but nothing major; the change starts from the beginning.

“Teach everyone how to love each other, how to care for each other no matter the colour of the skin. We all bleed the same.”

I have known Hammad for years, well before he turned pro. The man I know is kind and respectful to everyone around. He’s religious, yes, but nothing like the kind of person the clichés and prejudices describe muslims. I’m a woman, yet never felt like he treated me any differently for it. The same goes for Rory McLeod. A lot has been made about Rory not shaking hands with women. Rory has always been very polite, respectful and friendly with me. I have seen him around his children, boy and girl, they are the apple of his eyes, and they are ongoing happy, much loved kids.

Hammad is right. We are all the same, no matter our skin colour, our gender, our background or our faith. Fundamentally, we all want the same things: a peaceful life, being surrounded by people we love and who love us, providing for our families, and spending good time with those dear to us. It’s that simple really. And eventually, we all die, and take nothing with us, no money, no power, no fame.

I also feel the need to share this Facebook post by Alfie Burden:

See people talking some utter garbage on here currently, small minds and buried racism issues….
People putting statuses up almost justifying the murder of George Floyd because he had a rap sheet …. so that’s ok is it to publicly slaughter somebody is it because he’s got a criminal record, get a fucking grip….

People having a pop at people for taking the knee etc , I’d take the knee all day long to protest against racism ,to repeat it’s absolutely no place in our society, let’s remember the George Floyd situation shouldn’t be turned into how good or bad a person he was…. it’s about what the motive was to publicly kill a defenceless man who was handcuffed…
All rioting in London has no place in our society, we are not America, we don’t have as big a problem in regards our diabolical policing as they do in my opinion, the police in our country do a fantastic job and don’t deserved to be attacked it’s disgusting and anybody doing this needs to be locked up…. if you want to protest, protest peacefully….
Finally I took a knee in the snooker tournament against racism , the George Floyd public murder brought this to the forefront let’s not get it twisted and justify what the policeman done.
All lives matter clearly, hopefully society can start to all respect each other whatever their skin colour or religion is, after all we are all human beings.

I felt it necessary to post this after reading some real hate and garbage on here and also receiving some abuse for taking a knee on live tv against racism, although I must say in the main I’ve had positive feedback…

Take care of each other.

The end.

Alf X

Alfie also is right. Violence isn’t the answer. It only triggers more violence, more pain, more hate.

Yes, I’m from the flower power generation, I turned 15 in 1969. I’m 65 now and still “talking back my generation”. We wanted change, we wanted freedom … we failed. Crass populism, à la Hitler or Mussolini, is back in full force, and political correctness is the new way to gag people. When you can’t use certain words, alarm bells should ring, because it means that you are not allowed to acknowledge certain realities for what they truly are. Racism is on of those words.

Easter in 2020 …


To all of you who celebrate Easter today  (*) …

Have a great day, stay safe, stay in contact with those you love, enjoy something nice.

If you have the luxury to be in lockdown …

Read, listen to music, cook, do some gardening outside or inside, walk/run/cycle alone in the woods, on the beach, or just sit and appreciate the silence and the peace … whatever suits you. And think about those who work on the frontline, and risk their health and life to save others. Don’t do anything daft that could endanger yourself and others.

If you are a frontline worker … from the heart

Thank you!

(*) Orthodox Easter is next weekend this year


A 25 December message

25 December

Today is December 25 … most Christians celebrate Christmas, and Jews are in the middle of Hanukkah celebrations as well. To all my friends, and readers who celebrate today …

Happy Celebrations!

Laila Rouass, Ronnie’s partner, who is a Muslim, with some Jewish ancestry, living with an agnostic, with Catholic upbringing shared this on social media:


Many, from different beliefs, or without religious beliefs, still take the opportunity to gather with friends and family, to wish they the best, to share a meal and or a drink, to tell them they love them …

Enjoy the day with your loved ones!

And, unfortunately, many  also will be lonely, will be struggling, with themselves or with circumstances. One such person is Paul Collier whose mother suffered a severe stroke yesterday, and is very ill. Paul spent his “Christmas night sat in hospital, at her side, holding her hand. News this morning are a bit better, she’s improving. Of course we wish Paul’s mother, and the whole family the very best.

If you know such a person, take a moment for them today.

I takes only small things. Invite the elderly neighbour for a cuppa, phone a lonely friend, buy the young beggar a sandwich … anything, just one gesture and a smile, it doesn’t cost much.

If you are such a person, don’t go into your shell

It’s ok to struggle, everyone does at times. Try to get out and treat yourself to something nice. Listen to music, watch a good film, take a long walk …. and talk. Call a friend, someone you trust, or chat with them, you won’t be a burden. If you are offered help, don’t run away from it. And if someone unkwowingly hurts your feelings with untimely, unwanted wishes, remember that they weren’t meaning ill.

Ronnie supporting World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health day and Ronnie, whose struggles with depression are well documented, posted this on twitter

Getting something off your chest is more important than winning any championship. I’ve always strived to be open about my mental health and in support of #WorldMentalHealthDay

I’m encouraging you to talk as well.

are always there to listen.


If, like me, you are sometimes fed up reading countless posts on social media every day about depression, anxiety, phobia, disorders of all kind, if like me, you sometimes have a feeling that the mental health topic has gone from being a tabboo – something people had to be ashamed about – to being “in fashion”, today is the day to remember that for many this subject remains difficult, that their pain is real, that it’s important that people who suffer feel safe to talk and to ask for help. And, maybe also, to stress that for those who live with a sufferer, it can be extremely difficult and challenging – I know that first hand – and, they too, may need help, support and professional advice and should be encourage to seek it.

Ronnie visits Huizhou Middle School before heading to Shanghai

Ronnie and Liang Wenbo visited Huizhou Middle School and, going by the pictures shared on weibo, everyone had a great time!

Ronnie posted this on his weibo page:

Had a great time visiting 惠州中学!See you guys next time!

He then traveled to Shanghai …


Ronnie also shared some more videos on weibo – mainly food related!

Xiao Guodong teaching him how you make tea…

Dinner with friends

Now, after watching this, if you aren’t hungry, I’m not sure you’re human 😛