10 years of Pink Ribbon

PinkRibbon2019Poster

This year will be the 10th time that the Pink Ribbon Pro-Am Charity tournament is held in the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.

Paul Mount lost his beloved sister Kay Suzanne to this terrible disease, and since 2010, he organises this fantastic tournament to help raise awareness about how breast cancer can be prevented, or at least detected early enough to be cured. The money raised goes to charities that help sufferers and survivors.

Players at all levels are welcome, and amateurs can enter twice, certain to compete in both sides of the draw. It’s always played in fantastic spirit.

Ronnie won it in 2015

That year, Darryn Walker, an amateur, reached the semi finals in both sides of the draw, and had he been able to beat Ronnie in the semi-final, would have played the final against himself! Everything can happen there! Quite incredibly, Ronnie and Darryn had shared a room, when competing as juniors but hadn’t seen each others in years. Never seen opponents babbling and laughting so much during a match!

Enter, or come along to watch! You won’t regret it!

It’s a great event for a great cause.

Catching up with snooker news

It’s been all about the World Championship over the last month, but now it’s over and time to look forward to the new season.

Worldsnooker has published a very provisional calendar and you will find it here

As you can see there will be quite a nice break over the summer with little happening before early August. I don’t understand why the qualifiers for the Riga Masters and the “possible ranking event” have to happen so early after the Q-school. If non-UK players get through they might be unable to take part – and get behind ranking wise from the off – due to visa and administrative issues; it happens every year.

Regarding the Q-school, Worldsnooker had published the draws and format for all three events.

The draws for all three 2019 Q School events, and the format of play, are out now. The event runs from May 18 to June 4 at Robin Park Leisure Centre in Wigan.

Click here for event one draw

Click here for event two draw

Click here for event three draw

Click here for the format

The four semi-finalists in each event will earn a place on the World Snooker Tour for 2019/20 and 2020/21.

We have three women in the draw: Reanne Evans, Ng On Yee, Rebecca Kenna. It may be surprising but Rebecca Kenna is the one I fancy to have the best chance because she used to play league snooker along the men for years. She’s a hard match player. Two young promising female players who are not there are Ploychompoo Laokiatphong (Ploy) and Nutcharut Wongharuthai (Mink) from Thailand. Mink’s ambition is to compete on the main tour, she made a 147 this season – the first female player to achieve the feat – and Ploy – who is only 16 trains at the Q-House in Darlington when in the UK – showed tremendous potential last month in Leeds. I can only suppose that the cost of the Q-school is too much for them to afford.

We have also a number of very young players, several of them from mainland Europe, and even one Japanese: Aaron Hill, Ben Mertens, Robbie McGuigan (Mark Allen’s stepson), Luke Pinches (Barry Pinches’ son), Ryan Davies, Sean Maddocks, Florian Nüssle, Keishin Kamahashi. Ben Mertens from Belgium is the youngest one in this list, he’s only 14, and he’s the reigning World Open Under-16 Snooker Champion; only 13 at the time, he beat Aaron Hill in the final. For some of those players – the youngest ones from outside UK – it is doubtful that they would be able to compete on the main tour, should they earn a tour card, and this could cause some grief depending how World Snooker decides to re-allocated those tour cards. There are precedents: Yan Bingtao wasn’t given a visa allowing him to work in the UK when he first earned a tour card by winning the World Amateur Snooker Championship in 2014. So why do they enter? Well my guess is that what they aim at is to be able to gain experience by playing in the Challenge Tour. Also education is mandatory for all under-18 in most mainland Europe countries and this could also be an issue; being “home educated” is a possibility, but only under strict conditions.

I’m certain that there are some young Chinese talents in the draw as well, and if Lewis can tell us a bit more about them, I would be grateful.

Crucible 2019 – Barry Hearn’s announcements

As customary on the second Wednesday of the World Championship Barry Hearn came up with a number of announcements.

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn held a press conference at the Crucible on Wednesday.

Here are the key points:

Betfred’s sponsorship of the World Championship will continue until at least 2021. For more on that news, click here.

There will be four extra World Snooker Tour cards available at 2019 Q School. The semi-finalists of the three events will receive 12 of those, with the other four to go to the next four highest players on the Q School Order of Merit. There will be 128 players on the 2019/20 Tour.

Jimmy White has been given a two-year tour card in respect of his undisputed services to snooker.

The structure for the qualifying rounds of the Betfred World Championship will change next year as follows:

There will be 16 amateurs invited by WPBSA. They will join players ranked 81-128 in round one. Those 64 players play each other, with the 32 winners going into round two.

Round two: those 32 winners will face players ranked 49-80.

Round three: those 32 winners will face players ranked 17-48.

Round four: those 32 winners play each other, with the 16 winners going through to the Crucible to face the top 16 seeds.

Total prize money for the 2020 Betfred World Championship will go up to £2.4 million, with the winner to receive £500,000.

Next season, a new £1 million bonus for 147 breaks will be introduced. If there are 20 (or more) maximums in a season, the bonus will be triggered and the £1 million will be shared between the players who made 147s. A player making more than one of those 20 would receive a proportional share, for example if he made two 147s and there were 20 in total, he would receive £100,000. This replaces the previous ‘rolling prize’ system.

So what do we make of it?

Two more years of Betfred sponsorship – OK

Four more tour cards to be gained via the Q-school – OK

Jimmy White getting another 2 years invitational card – fine by me but will ruffle a few feathers

World Championship qualifiers going back to a tiered system – well, well, well … after stating and hammering that the flat draw is the future there we are. Personally I’m pleased. It rewards the better players who will have less matches to play. It will also make the draw less random, and we will see less complete mismatches. It will give lower ranked players a more winnable first round match and allow more of them to earn something for their efforts. All that is very good. That’s 112 matches to be played in qualifiers, same as it is now. It will however be one more match to win for the lowest ranked players and just the two for the 17-48. – Great

The one million bonus to be shared amongst the “maximum men/women” provided there are at least 20 during the season… that reminds me of the one million bonus offered if a player wins all four of the Home Nations. It’s not gonna happen. The most we ever had in one season is 13… I’m not sure that 20 is a realistic target, and I’m not sure that players will be that excited, or bothered to try. Basically that’s the rolling prize for a maxi gone to pot…  – Boooooh!

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

WC2019OneDayToGo

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.