Tour News – 21 December, 2021

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

Rankings

WST has published this update about the rankings:

Rankings Update: O’Sullivan Up To Third

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BetVictor Shoot Out Draw

Ryan Day beat Mark Selby in last year’s final

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

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

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

Notable first round ties include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nirvana Cosmopolitan To Host Turkish Masters

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

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

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

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

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

Antalya is known for its history, scenery and culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

Success For Si At WPBSA Q Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations Si!

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

He is WST info about this season’s groups:

BetVictor Championship League Groups Confirmed

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

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

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

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

Group 1 

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

Group 2

Xiao Guodong, Lu Ning, Joe Perry

Group 3

Mark Selby, Mark Williams, Stuart Bingham

Group 4

Judd Trump, Kyren Wilson, Barry Hawkins

Group 5

David Gilbert, Martin Gould, Ali Carter

Group 6

Yan Bingtao, Ricky Walden, Ding Junhui

Group 7

Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, John Higgins

Where to Watch 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

WST publishes a ranking update

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

Rankings Update: Thunder Storms To Third

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zhou remains on course for a Masters debut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first one is the provisional Crucible rankings

This shows the top of this list

2021:22 start - Top Prov Crucible Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the top of that list:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dave Hendon and Michael McMullan discuss rankings and “Gods of Snooker”

Episode 159 of the Snooker Scene podcast is out and can be found here.

Dave and Michael discuss two main themes: the ranking system and the BBC “Gods of Snooker” series.

Regarding the rankings, basically they believe that the current system is too top-heavy and that, with Barry Hearn retiring, now is a good time to maybe reconsider it. I agree.

David Hendon actually comes up with a proposal, and here it is provided I understood it correctly:

  • Each event should be classed in a category, depending on the prize money available for the winner of the event. A category or “band” woud be associated with a “range” of prize money. For instance: “500000 or more”, “200000 to 499999”, ect …
  • In Dave’s proposal, each category would be associated with one of the snooker colours, the black category being the most prestigious, the yellow category the less prestigious.
  • Within a category, all events would carry the same amount of ranking points at every stage, in effect “decoupling” the ranking points and their repartition from the prize money. The idea being to make the system less top heavy and to have a certain level of harmonisation between events when it comes to rankings.

I would be 100% in favour of that, with one additional “twitch”: the bands should not be solely about the money but also about the format and matches length. Similar efforts should be rewarded in similar ways. If some lunatic were to offer one million to the winner of the Shoot-out it wouldn’t make the event worth of the “Black band” with huge ranking points in my views, mind you, it would not change my opnion that it simply should never be ranking.

Also, first round losers should still get some money, as they did contribute to the tournamen, did bring value to the sponsor and broadcasters. At the very minimum, playing should not cost them. “Decoupling” money from ranking points may help to get this idea through as giving them something for their work and efforts would not impact the rankings in any way.

Their other main subject was the BBC “Gods of Snooker” series which they praised. I managed to watch all three episodes and I agree: it’s interesting, with lots of material I had never seen before especially in episodes 2 and 3. Also, for once, Alex Higgins wasn’t presented as a “victim” of the system. Whilst his impact on the sport can’t be denied – he changed snooker, and its image foerever and made it what it is today – as a person he was far from “great” and Michael McMullan, who is Northern Irish himself was clear about his opinion that Alex Higgins went away with a lot, far too much actually. I can’t agree more.

Despite its obvious qualities, this is yet another BBC feature focusing on snooker’s past and David was left wondering how and why the BBC always refused to do a feature about Ronnie for instance.

The series “triggered” this “review”:

TV review: Gods Of Snooker went out in a baize of glory

© Andy Hooper/ANL/ShutterstockAlex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins was seen as the wild man of snooker in the 1980s
Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins was seen as the wild man of snooker in the 1980s

Is there a more dreary game to watch than snooker?

Men dressed as waiters push little balls around a table in dead silence for days at a time; as a sleeping aid, it’s probably second only to being hit with a tranquilliser dart while listening to Douglas Ross read Atlas Shrugged.

Yet, in the 1980s, snooker was more rock’n’roll than even rock’n’roll. Well, it was the days of Spandau Ballet.

Gods Of Snooker was a fantastic look at the years when seemingly everyone, high on colour televisions, became obsessed with the parlour pastime.

There seemed to be something about the game that sent the players slightly snooker loopy.

Alex “Hurricane” Higgins wielded a cigarette more than he did a cue, and sank more lagers than he did difficult pinks.

His rival, the more successful and rather dull Ray Reardon, complained nobody talks about him any more, while Higgins is still hailed to this day.

It’s no wonder. Staggering round the table playing cavalier snooker – well, as much as snooker can be described as such – Alex was prone to a rampage away from the table.

Slurred resignations, throwing cues at spectators and threatening to have rivals shot; current snooker wildman Ronnie O’Sullivan looks like Cliff Richard in comparison. They don’t make ’em like this any more.

This isn’t a review, it doesn’t say much about the feature itself and  it’s taken as an opportunity to disparage the sport we love. and I’m not sure that the author watched beyond the first episode, if that. I’m the one who put the “bold” highlight.

Judd is rigth that there is too much focus on the past, and on the UK, and it showed as well in the features WST did in the building of the Q-School: they were mainly about over-40 yo British players trying to regain their tour card. If the sports want to grwo global, and have a future, the focus should be on young aspiring players, and not just the British ones.