Crucible 2019 – One day to go and here is my preview


It all starts tomorrow …

Leo Scullion will be the one refereeing the final. I don’t think there is anyone in the snooker community who isn’t happy for Leo. He’s a top referee, a lovely man and, after going through a very hard period of ill-health, he’s back where he belongs, at the table, in the white gloves. It doesn’t come bigger than the World Championship final and he totally deserves the honour. Here is an interview he gave shortly after being told that he had been chosen:

Good luck Leo and enjoy it!

So there is our draw:

Mark Williams v Martin Gould

It’s hard to know what sort of form Mark Williams will come into this. After celebrating for most of the season, he’s been back in practice. However no miracles happen last-minute and he’s not shown any real form, nor consistency. In China he was beaten by Ken Doherty in the last 64. Martin Gould himself hasn’t got the best of seasons, but did get through the three matches he needed to qualify … without much sparks. Willo will want to make an honourable defence I’m sure, and purely for this reason, because he’ll want it badly, I’m making him favourite to win this one. Mark Williams 10-7.

David Gilbert v Joe Perry

Joe Perry has looked in great form in the qualifiers last week, he’s been scoring well too, but it’s fair to say that he’s not been tested. That said Perry is always hard to beat, especially in long matches, unless he’s badly out of form, which he’s not. David Gilbert comes here as a seed for the first time, on the back of an excellent season – his best ever – but still without silverware. This is a match that I expect to be very close, and, because Perry comes here with three wins under his belt, and certain of £20000, he will probably be the more relaxed of the two. Therefore I make him favourite. Joe Perry 10-7.

Barry Hawkins v Li Hang

Barry Hawkins always seems to thrive at the Crucible over the last years. He’s up against Li Hang, who is a debutant and has spent enormous energy to qualify. Despite Barry’s rather indifferent season, I expect him to have too much for Li Hang. Li Hang though will give it his all and fight hard.  Barry Hawkins 10-5.

Kyren Wilson v Scott Donaldson

Kyren Wilson hasn’t done much at all since winning the German Masters early February. He’s up against Scott Donaldson, a debutant, who had to fight extremely hard to get at the Crucible. The mental and emotional energy Donaldson spent in overcoming Lu Ning on Wednesday night must have been huge! This is what he told the press afterwards: “I’ve never felt like that in my life, I could hardly breathe out there. I couldn’t push my arm through. I can’t believe I won that game”. Purely because Scott’s lack of experience on the biggest scene of all, and his probable state of exhaustion, I expect Kyren Wilson to win. Kyren Wilson 10-6.

John Higgins v Mark Davis

John Higgins has not been in great form this season, his motivation has been low, and he’s up against a man who is his Nemesis. Mark Davis has won 8 of their last 10 encounters if we exclude the championship league snooker. That doesn’t sound good , does it? Add to that the fact that Davis has looked very solid in the qualifiers and there is only one possible prediction. Mark Davis 10-6.

Stuart Bingham v Graeme Dott

In contrast with the matches above, this one promises to be a battle of two men on form. Graeme Dott played really well at the EIS and Stuart Bingham had an excellent season. I would be very surprised if this one wasn’t very close! Graeme Dott is as hard as a match player as it comes. He’s a former World Champion, he’s been in the final at the Crucible three times. The only concern seems to be his stamina. He does not appear to be as resilient to tiredness as he used to be as a younger man. Therefore I’ll go for Stuart, but only just. Stuart Bingham 10-8.

Shaun Murphy v Luo Honghao

Shaun Murphy had a nightmare season, with no real signs of improvement. His opponent is a teenager, a debutant, but someone who won the inaugural WSF tournament last season and showed great temperament in the qualifiers last week. Luo may not be the heaviest scorer, but his all round game is very solid. He will give Shaun Murphy chances, but the opposite is true also, Murphy will give him chances too. If it goes to the wire, I expect Luo to take it. Luo 10-8.

Neil Robertson v Michael Georgiou

Neil Robertson is the man in form. He’s been in the last four finals coming into this tournament. I can’t seen debutant, and fits ever Cypriot at the Crucible, Michael Georgiou get past him, or even get really close to him. I just hope Michael does not have a complete nightmare and will be able to savour the moment. Neil Robertson 10-4.

Mark Selby v Zhao Xintong

Mark Selby has not been himself, especially on British soil, for the best of two years. I can’t see any signs of change coming into this tournament. He’s up against a young man who, having dropped off the tour, has immediately requalified and has really made the most of this season. Zhao throws the odd mistake when you don’t expect it – he seems to go in-off a lot – be he’s a scary potter. If he doesn’t freeze – he’s a debutant after all – and, unless Mark Selby all of sudden comes back to his old self, he will have too much for Selby. Of course, Zhao may freeze, Selby may find form, but as things stand right now, I have to side with Zhao. Zhao Xintong 10-6.

Luca Brecel v Gary Wilson

This match is very hard to predict. Luca Brecel showed sure signs of coming back to form and when he is on form, he’s brilliant. Gary Wilson was playing well and scoring heavily last week. He certainly has a good chance here. I really can’t see a favourite. Match over 16 frames either way.

Jack Lisowski v Ali Carter

Ali Carter won all his matches very easily last week. However I don’t think that he’s been really tested: his highest ranked opponent was Jimmy White, currently ranked n°79, and at nearly 57, far from the force he once was. Jack Lisowki on the other hand had an excellent season. He still looks a bit fragile at times, especially when facing unfamiliar situations. But he has been here before, he has won here before too. Jack Lisowski 10-7.

Mark Allen v Zhou Yuelong

Zhou Yuelong and Zhao Xintong have been friends since they were just children. They had very similar parcours. However they are very different as players. Zhou is predominantly a match player. Despite his young age he’s a complete player too. A lot here will depend on what Mark Allen will show up. Allen hasn’t looked right since the Masters. To his own admission he’s not been at his best mentally. To me his withdrawal from the China Open is not a good sign. Zhou Yuelong 10-6.

Judd Trump v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh

A match between two mad potters? Maybe, although Judd Trump has been much more cautious and tactical – all being relative of course – in recent times. “Theppy” was rather impressive last week. Judd Trump, after his defeat to Ronnie in Llandudno, has looked a bit “tamed” in China, losing in the first round to Robbie Williams. Is it significant? It’s hard to tell. This is match I can’t predict. Match to go over 15 frames with at least one century each.

Ding Junhui v Anthony McGill

Ding had a very quiet season, a bad season. The Crucible isn’t his favourite patch. He always faces incredible pressure from his home media here. Anthony McGill hasn’t got a great season either. He got through the qualifiers with any brilliance. What he did show though was a lot of resilience, something Ding has lacked at times in the past. This is why I favour McGill. Anthony McGill 10-7.

Stephen Maguire v Tian Pengfei

I believe that Stephen Maguire will have too much of everything for Tian Pengfei who is playing at the Crucible for the first time. Too much experience, too much potting power and a rather intimidating presence as well. That said Tian is no kid, he might be able to cope with it all. But somehow I doubt it, at least this time. Stephen Maguire 10-5.

Ronnie O’Sullivan v James Cahill

So Ronnie, who has been the best player of the season so far, who is back to World n°1 despite playing only a reduced schedule, is facing a debutant who is an amateur as well. That should be dead easy, no? Well maybe not, and here are the reasons why: 1. contrary to Ronnie, James Cahill will have no expectations on his shoulders, he’s already dome much better than anyone expected – 2. he’s played Ronnie before, and although he lost, the matches were close – 3. James whilst he was a pro, was managed by the Grove, so they very likely played each other in practice, if only occasionally, which takes away the fear factor – 4. James will be extremely confident, he knows he’s playing well. Still I don’t think he can cause an upset. Ronnie 10-5.

Challenge Tour 2019/20 … revisited

The announcement made about the Challenge Tour  yesterday triggered a heated debate and negative reactions from the players involved. In the face of this Worldsnooker revised their proposal promptly, looking for a balance between rewarding sustained excellence and keeping more players in with a real chance up to the last event.

Here is the revised copy:

Our announcement earlier this week about the structure for the 2019/20 Challenge Tour has prompted discussion among professional and amateur players. Taking this feedback on board and with due consideration, we have decided to amend the criteria for winning the two available World Snooker Tour Cards.

The player who finishes top of the Challenge Tour rankings after ten events will be awarded a Tour Card. The next eight players in the rankings with go into a play-off event, with the winner of that event to receive the second Tour Card. The draw for the play-off will be seeded with the player highest in the Challenge Tour rankings drawn against the eighth highest, and so on.

All other details for the 2019/20 Challenge Tour remain as previously announced.

It will include six events in the UK and four in Europe. Snooker clubs and federations will be given the chance to bid to host events. Clubs do not need to use Star tables but those in the UK must be affiliated to the WPBSA’s 147 Club scheme. The prize money for each event will be £10,000.

The field for events will be made up as follows:

UK Events
• The top 56 players from the 2019 Q School ranking list
• Eight Wildcards, to be selected with the intention to promote the development of grassroots talent
• If necessary, the last-64 round will then be topped up with players on the Q School ranking list

European Events
• The top 56 players from the 2019 Q School ranking list. All 56 will be directly entered into the last 64.
• Eight Wildcards, to be selected with the intention to promote the development of grassroots talent.
• An unlimited number of further entrants will compete in pre-qualifying stages, playing down to the available places in the last 64.

The two available World Snooker Tour Cards will be for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.

Further details including the dates and locations of the events will be confirmed when available.


Changes to the Challenge Tour next season

A couple of days ago Worldsnooker has announced changes in the way the Challenge Tour will be competed next season:

World Snooker’s Challenge Tour will feature ten events during the 2019/20 season, with a new ‘play-off’ system to determine which two players are promoted to the professional circuit.

The Challenge Tour ran for the first time in 2018/19 as a secondary circuit below the World Snooker Tour. There were ten events, with six in the UK and others in Latvia, Germany, Belgium and Hungary. Brandon Sargeant and David Grace earned the two tour cards.

Next season’s Challenge Tour will include six events in the UK and four in Europe. Snooker clubs and federations will be given the chance to bid to host events. Clubs do not need to use Star tables but those in the UK must be affiliated to the WPBSA’s 147 Club scheme. The prize money for each event will be £10,000.

The field for events will be made up as follows:

UK Events
• The top 56 players from the 2019 Q School ranking list
• Eight Wildcards, to be selected with the intention to promote the development of grassroots talent
• If necessary, the last-64 round will then be topped up with players on the Q School ranking list

European Events
• The top 56 players from the 2019 Q School ranking list. All 56 will be directly entered into the last 64.
• Eight Wildcards, to be selected with the intention to promote the development of grassroots talent.
• An unlimited number of further entrants will compete in pre-qualifying stages, playing down to the available places in the last 64.

At the end of the ten events, 16 players will go into a final play-off tournament. These will be the winners of the ten events, plus a minimum of six players from the Challenge Tour rankings. The two players winning the semi-finals of the play-off tournament will be awarded two-year cards to the World Snooker Tour, for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.

Further details including the dates and locations of the events will be confirmed when available.

I’ll be honest, I was expecting a rather positive reaction from the players to this announcement, but that’s not what happened, at least not from UK-based players anyway.

Why was I expecting a positive reaction? Well, mainly because, with the system used this season – the top two on the money list receiving a tour card – a lot of players were basically out of contention pretty early in the season. As a result, events had rarely a full line-up and entries were very poor in some of them. Why would players pay entry fees, hotel accommodations and travel, take days off work if they have no more hope to “succeed”? Some might do it, to get good competition practice, but only if they can afford it. A play-off system will keep more players in with a real chance for longer and that – I thought – should boost the Tour.

But not so. What do the unhappy players object to?

The most “controversial” aspect seems to the fact that the ten winners would automatically go into the play-offs. The point players objecting to this are making is that a player could win the first event, not further support the tour for the rest of the season, then pitch, play, and win at the play-offs, whilst a player who did well all season could have a bad day, and get nothing for his sustained efforts. They would rather have consistency and dedication better rewarded. It’s a valid point … to an extend. I write “to an extend” because, being Belgian, I feel that the whole tour is already too biased towards UK players: the Q-school is held in the UK, and the majority of Challenge Tour events are too. So it makes it more difficult, and more costly for non UK-based players to achieve on any of the “main tour qualifying routes” and Brexit could make it even worse. It’s not a matter of dedication alone, it’s a matter of realistic opportunities.  Having a good opportunity to qualify for the play-offs by winning a “home” event could prove a real boost for non-UK players who can’t afford – or even would not be allowed – to play  in everything.

My proposal would be to keep the two spots for the two players topping the ranking list at the end of the season and add two more for the winner and runner-up of the play-offs. As it stands right now, “nominations” don’t get us to a 128 players tour anyway, and some of those nominations have – until now – never been succesful, quite simply because either the nominated players can’t afford the cost of the Main Tour and can’t play enough (think Igor Figueiredo) or are simply not good/prepared enough because they only competed against a much weaker field until they get on the tour (think African champion for instance).

Also, why have 56 out of 64 spots in every events restricted to Q-school entrants? The answer I have got to that is: “they want to be sure that the players competing are seriously aiming at become professionals”. That makes sense BUT there are other routes to the main tour, other events carrying tour cards. Why not include the players participating in those as well?

What’s your views?


A day without snooker?

Yes, there is no snooker today. How weird. So it’s a good time to look back at what happened over the last few days.

Martin Gould has won the Championship League Snooker for the second time.

Martin Gould won the Championship League for the second time by beating Jack Lisowski 3-1 in the final in Barnsley.

Gould was the only player not ranked among the world’s top 16 in the Winners’ Group, but saw off the challenge of Judd Trump, Mark Selby, John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Stuart Bingham and Lisowski to take the trophy. He earns a place in the prestigious Champion of Champions event in Coventry in November.

London’s 37-year-old Gould has otherwise had a disappointing season, reaching the last 16 of just one ranking event and slipping to 27th in the world. But he now has another professional title to add to his tally, to go alongside the 2013 Shoot Out, 2013 Championship League and 2016 German Masters.

A break of 115 gave Gould the opening frame of the final then Lisowski, who was aiming to win his maiden pro title, levelled with a run of 63. A scrappy 38-minute third frame went Gould’s way, and when he potted green and brown in the fourth to go 30 points ahead, the handshake followed.

“It’s nice to win again – there’s a lot riding on this. You get a Champion of Champions spot which is massive,” said Gould. “I felt relaxed and I really enjoy this event. I take it as a bit of fun – you’re getting paid to practise and it’s match practice that you could never get anywhere else.

“To win this event with the players that were in this group is a great confidence booster for me. And hopefully I can take it forward to the World Championship qualifiers as that’s all that is left for me this season.”

Earlier in the semi-finals, Gould scored a 3-0 win over Higgins, who had been aiming to win the event for the third year in a row. Runs of 105, 55 and 57 put Gould into the final. Lisowski saw off Robertson 3-0 with top runs of 91 and 80.

Robertson and Gould had topped the round robin table with four wins each out of six, while Higgins and Lisowski each scored three wins.

This guarantees him a spot in the Champion of Champions next season.

Stuart Bingham has won the Gibraltar Open 2019

Stuart Bingham claimed the sixth ranking title of his career after a 4-1 victory against defending champion Ryan Day in the final of the Betway Gibraltar Open.

Bingham was in sublime form all weekend, firing in nine centuries on his way to the title. The 2015 World Champion was competing in his third ranking final of the season, having won the English Open earlier in the campaign and been runner-up at last month’s Welsh Open.

The victory, and the £25,000 top prize, also helped Bingham to secure his place at next week’s lucrative Tour Championship in Llandundo. The event plays host to the top eight players on the one-year money list. Bingham held off David Gilbert to claim his spot and will face Ronnie O’Sullivan in the opening round in North Wales.

Day’s valiant attempt to defend his title fell just short, but he leaves Gibraltar with a welcome £12,000, which boosts his chances of edging into the world’s top 16 and qualifying for next month’s World Championship. The Welshman finds himself in 17th position in the latest provisional seedings and will head to Beijing for the upcoming China Open hoping for a strong showing to clinch a Crucible spot.

This evening’s high quality encounter got off to a fast paced start as Bingham embarked on a 147 attempt in the opening frame. However, the 42-year-old broke down on 48 after missing a difficult red to the middle. Day punished him with a superb contribution of 83 to move 1-0 up.

The high scoring pattern continued as Bingham responded by composing breaks of 100 and 84, before a further run of 103 saw him move one from the win at 3-1. There was then an edgy fifth frame, which came down to the colours, as both players spurned opportunities. However, it was Bingham who eventually found a way to secure the frame and take home the title.

“I’m over the moon. I played well from the off, so it was great to keep it going all the way through the weekend,” said Bingham. “My main goal this week was to get into the Tour Championship. Once I got that, I relaxed a bit and had my eyes on the title.

“To get in the Tour Championship was something I looked at achieving at the start of the campaign. I knew I needed something special to qualify for the World Championship this season and now having qualified for next week, I am virtually into the Crucible as well.

“I have had my wife, my manager and his wife over this weekend and it has been great. That has made it special and I topped the weekend off with a great win.”

Except for Kyren Wilson, Stuart Bingham and David Gilbert who were battling for a spot in the Tour Championship, top players didn’t appear to be extra motivated for this event. And not just top players. Mike Dunn came on twitter blaming young players not taking the opportunity this event offered seriously and getting drunk. Some young Chinese players DID take the opportunity though, 18 years old Yuan Sijun and Lu Ning getting to the SF. And some amateurs did well too, notably David Grace.

This means that the draw for the Tour Championship 2019, starting tomorrow is known:

Mark Allen vs Kyren Wilson
Neil Robertson vs Mark Selby
Judd Trump vs Mark Williams
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Stuart Bingham

Stuart played really well in Gibraltar and he’s certainly no easy opponent for Ronnie in the first round. That said, if Ronnie plays the way he did in Preston, he has nobody to fear. Ronnie came on twitter, calling interested top 32 players to contact him for some match practices in preparation for this event, so he’s taking it seriously.



News from the green baize

Last monday, Worldsnooker has published the criteria for invitations to the World Championship qualifiers. Here they are:

The qualification criteria for the 2019 Betfred World Championship has today been announced by snooker’s world governing body the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) and World Snooker.

As in previous seasons the top 16 players on the world ranking list following the conclusion of next month’s China Open will be seeded straight through to the final stages of the tournament at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre which will be played from 20 April – 6 May 2019.

They will be joined at snooker’s most famous venue by 16 qualifiers who will emerge from a field of 128 players during the previous week. The qualifying line-up will comprise all remaining professional players who are eligible to enter, to be topped up to a maximum of 112 with players from the 2018 Q School Order of Merit.

The field will be completed by 16 amateur players who have achieved success through the WPBSA qualifying criteria set out below:

  • 4 – Challenge Tour 2018/19 – top four ranked players (Brandon Sargeant, David Grace, Mitchell Mann and David Lilley)
  • 5 – EBSA European U-21 / U-18 Championship 2018 semi-finalists (Jackson Page, Aaron Hill, Ross Bulman, Dylan Emery, Florian Nüßle)
  • 2 – World Women’s Snooker Tour – top two ranked players (Ng On Yee, Reanne Evans)
  • 1 – World Seniors Snooker Tour – top ranked player Jonathan Bagley
  • 1 – African champion (TBC)
  • 1 –Americas champion (Igor Figueiredo)
  • 1 – Oceania champion (TBC)
  • 1 – CBSA nomination (TBC)

Should any of the above-named players decline their invitation then consideration will be given to alternative qualifying routes, to include continental championships and the 2018 Q School Order of Merit.

The draw for the qualifiers, which will be held at the English Institute for Sport in Sheffield will be made following the conclusion of the China Open next month. Each of the players competing must win three matches to earn a coveted place at the final stages of snooker’s most prestigious tournament.

I’m pleased to see that five spots have been allocated specifically to young players through EBSA U21 and U18 Championships, and of course, Brandon Sargeant, who will get a tour card next season via the Challenge Tour, is only 21. I first saw Brandon play at SWSA, when he was only a child. He impressed me right away.

It’s also good to see four players getting there via the Challenge Tour. The Challenge Tour is a great idea, but IMO needs some “re-thinking”. As it stands now, with only two players qualifying via a money list, many players feel like they are out of it early in the season. A system where the top 16 of the list compete in a “play-off” event at the end of the season would keep more players interested for the whole duration. Also the events need more exposure. I can’t understand why they are not open to the general public for viewing. And surely having one table streamed would not be that expensive?

There is not much to object to the selection of On Yee and Reanne Evans to represent women snooker. Reanne did run Ken Doherty very, very close in this event a couple of years back. But there is another women player who I wish would be invited: 19 years old Nutcharut Wongharuthai. She’s a great prospect and a lovely person.

Not convinced? Read this

Thailand’s Nutcharut Wongharuthai yesterday compiled a 147 maximum break for the first time in her career at the Hi-End Snooker Club in Thailand.

The world women’s number eight ranked player completed the magical break during a practice match and it is believed that the break is the first ever 147 to be made by a woman in a match, either in practice or tournament play.

The feat follows a successful breakthrough year in 2018 for 19-year-old Wongharuthai, who reached two ranking finals during the calendar year on her way to breaking into the world’s top ten for the first time. She also won the World Women’s Under-21 Championship for the first time last April and will return to the UK to defend her title next month.

and watch this !

There will be three  “Seniors” players in the draw: David Lilley, Jonathan Bagley and Igor Figueiredo. All are very good players and not to be underestimated.

The World Championships qualifiers is a great event to attend. There is a lot of quality snooker to watch, a lot of drama and it’s really affordable too. If you can, get yourself there!

And if you are in Sheffield, on April 11, and want something a bit different, there is also the WSS ROKiT Seniors Masters at the Crucible itself.  You can read all about this one here. It’s a great opportunity to sample the Crucible atmosphere and to see Legends of our sport in action.


The World Champion is doing a Charity Exhibition

Mark Williams  is doing a charity exhibition in Cleethorpes, on April 12, 2019. This was brought to my attention by Nigel Coton, a player competing on both the Disability Snooker Tour and the Seniors Snooker Tour. Thank you Nigel!

Here is the information available in the press

Mark Williams at Beachcomber, Cleethorpes

April 12 @ 7:30 pm

£25 – £45

Poster for Mark Williams at Beechcomber Cleethorpes

Food available on the night and a great selection of beers, wines and soft drinks.

All proceeds go to health tree foundation trust and special baby care unit.

Mark will play 12 frames on the night. (Local players.)

Snooker competition will be held at Ray Edmonds snooker centre on dates to be arranged. £10 entry. Winners will play a frame on the night.

Name cards on going to raise funds.


Date: April 12
Time: 7:30 pm
Cost: £25 – £45


Beechcomber, Cleethorpes

208 North Sea Lane
Cleethorpes, DN36 4ET United Kingdom
Get Directions
Phone: 01472 812666

Nigel was able to give me a bit more information.

As mentioned, the exhibition is in support of the Health Tree Foundation . It is  organised by Jamie Barrett, a former pro, who sadly lost his wife 3 years ago far too young. Jamie is from Grimsby, only a couple of miles away from Cleethorpes.

Here is an interview with Jamie, ahead of the 2016 UK Championship

As explained above, “Willo” will take on 12 “local” players, including Nigel Coton himself. Nigel can only play with one hand and will (try to) challenge Mark Williams to play him one-handed as well. This is something Mark occasionally does even in ranking events, although only for the odd shot. Here is a recent example.

Hopefully Willo will accept the challenge. Should be great!!!

If you have the opportunity, get yourself there, have fun and support a good cause!


Shoot Out 2019 – Watford Day 1

I have very mixed feelings about the Shoot Out. I have been at the tournament in the past and it was nice to see the players relaxed, having some fun, and coming along with their families. Especially in the early years, players were not used to the alternate rules, or the short shot-clock, which brought up some hilarious “mistakes”. It didn’t matter then as everyone was able to have a laugh about it. That was before it became a ranking event. But even in those days, I hated the drunken idiots in the crowd, throwing beer and broken glass at Janie Watkins and me whilst we were trying to take pictures.

Now it’s a ranking event, which is a travesty, as it isn’t even snooker. As Ronnie put it yesterday, it’s “snooker played under pool rules”. And it does certainly “kill” the fun for those players struggling for ranking points. Some mistakes aren’t “hilarious” anymore, the consequences are very serious. And when, two years ago, Mark Williams found himself at the qualifiers for the Crucible – and failed – just because Anthony McGill had won this “ranking event”, I felt outraged and gutted. I didn’t mind Michael Georgiou winning it last year; Michael is a nice guy, it was great for him, and Cyprus, and it didn’t impact anyone else career. But even so, this should not be a ranking event. End of rant – for now.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Jimmy White ended the hopes of top women’s player Reanne Evans in the first round of the BetVictor Shoot Out in Watford on Thursday night.

All results

Evans, the 11 time World Women’s champion, was given a wild card entry to the quickfire one frame knockout tournament, becoming the first female player to compete in the televised stages of a ranking event in the UK.

And she had chances to beat legend White, particularly when she trailed by just eight points at 27-19, but mis-cued when attempting to pot the black. White later made a break of 21 to seal a 54-26 victory and a place in the last 64.

“If Reanne had beaten me tonight I wouldn’t have been that disappointed because she’s a good friend of mine and I know what a good player she is,” said 56-year-old White. “We both had chances and it was lucky for me that she mis-cued at a vital time. I’ve played her many times in exhibitions and she’s a lot better than that.

“The Shoot Out is fun, the atmosphere is like darts. The dart players are used to it while we have to try to blank it out and just pot balls.”

Ben Mertens, a 14-year-old amateur wild card from Belgium, reached the last 64 with the most dramatic win of the opening day.

Up against former world number three James Wattana, a player 35 years his senior, talented potter Mertens built a lead of 29 points at 60-31. Wattana had a chance to clear up and got within a point at 59-60, only to run out of time when he just needed to pot the pink for victory.

“It’s crazy, it was lovely,” said Mertens, who practised with Luca Brecel to prepare for the tournament. “I just wanted to enjoy the match, but I won. It’s very nice to have a wild card for this event and I’m looking forward to my next match. Luca is one of my idols and I learned a lot from playing with him. He told me to enjoy it.”

Michael Georgiou got the defence of his title underway by beating Peter Ebdon 67-37. “I have come here with fond memories of last year, so to get into the second round is a good feeling,” said Cypriot cueman Georgiou. “You can’t really prepare for this tournament, however the balls go you just have to get on with it.”

Kyren Wilson came from 60-0 down to beat Ian Burns by a single point. Wilson made 45 before missing the yellow, but got another chance and potted green, brown, blue and pink to go 63-62 ahead. Burns tried twice to double the black but missed his target before the time ran out.

Ricky Walden made a fantastic break of 132 to beat 12-year-old Liam Davies. That was the second highest break ever in the Shoot Out, topped only by the 135 from Martin Gould in 2012.

Zhao Xintong, one of the four players who can earn a place in the Players Championship by winning the tournament (for more on that story click here) beat Joe O’Connor 59-2 while former World Champion Ken Doherty made a break of 59 to beat Adam Stefanow.

Barry Hawkins, who won this event in 2012, beat Simon Lichtenberg 68-7 while European Masters champion Jimmy Robertson made a 63 to beat Zhang Jiankang. Germany’s top player Lukas Kleckers beat Jamie O’Neill 64-0.

The world ranking event at the Watford Colosseum runs until Sunday. 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.

The event is on Eurosport for the first time, and the usual gang – Ronnie, Jimmy, Fouldsy and Andy Goldstein – are in the “studio”, or rather behind a counter, doing their best to do their job in promoting the event. Jimmy though has hinted – more than once – that for him it’s not that much fun. He needs those ranking points…