Snooker News and Talking Points – 15 September 2022

Talking point: Shaun Murphy’s ideas about the World Championship

Yesterday I shared news about a podcast with Shaun Murphy, who branded the World Championship format as scandalously unfair. As you would expect this divided opinions, including among the players.

One player who definitely disagreed with Shaun is Kyren Wilson. Speaking to “The Sportsman”, this is the report on what he had to say:

However former Crucible finalist Wilson, 30, has reacted strongly to the Magician’s outspoken rant. 

And The Warrior claims that the current arrangements are very successful, offer a justified reward to top players for two years’ effort, and guarantee fans booking in advance will see their favourites. 

Wilson said: “I don’t agree with what Shaun has said at all. The World Championships has been the same for many, many years and all the former champions won it coming through the same process. 

It is an event that sells out for most sessions a year in advance. So in this sense it is absolutely perfect the way it is, and doesn’t need touching. 

The fans pay good money to play the top players in the world and I wouldn’t want to touch that.  

And for the top players, there does need to be some reward for being where you are in the world rankings having earned that over two years. And I think this is one of those. 

There is room for many different formats on the tour and it should be mixed up, many with all in from round one and others like the World Championship where they aren’t, or an FA Cup style draw. 

If I were ever to try and modify anything at the World Championship, you could maybe tweak the distance of the semi-finals and final because the best of 33 and then best of 35. 

I only experienced the final once but those really take it out of players and could maybe be shorter.” 

When the World Championship was first staged at the Crucible in 1977 there were eight seeded players going straight through to the iconic Sheffield theatre, with the other eight having to battle through qualifying to take them in in the first round proper. 

That was the case until 1982 when the first round was expanded to the current 32 players, with the top 16 in the rankings seeded and parachuted directly into that stage.  

Since then no one has touched that aspect of the tournament though there have been plenty of changes in the actual qualifying process. 

Until relatively recently the qualifying process was tiered, so that those ranked 17-32 only came in at the end for the last match and therefore had to win only one to get to the Crucible. That all changed in 2015, when the remaining pros were topped up with 16 wildcards for the qualifying event and all players regardless of ranking had to win three best-of-19 frame matches to reach the promised land. 

And there have been further tweaks since then, with some of the earlier rounds reduced to best-of-11 frame contests with just the last round over the traditional distance. And the most recent alteration will come for this season’s competition when once more there will be three rounds for all 128 players, and all restored to the fuller distance for 2022-23.

Kyren is right. One aspect that Shaun totally overlooked is that the sponsors and broadcasters have a huge say when it comes to the events’ format as well as to who gets on the main table. The top players are the ones bringing the money to the game and every other player benefits from it. They are the ones putting bums on seats, and “selling” the “snooker product”.

Also, most of the players who actually complained, are players who are about the same age as the “Class of 92”. They had exactly the same opportunities as those three to climb the rankings and get at the top, only they didn’t. The “system” was and is the same for everyone.

Personally I stay with what I said yesterday. I believe that more “tiered” events would benefit the young players by helping their development. I know for certain that Mark Williams 100% shares this view and has said so on social media in the past. He’s one of the top players who is really involved with helping the aspiring youngsters in his area.

News: WST has posted the “rules” for the Mixed Doubles

BetVictor World Mixed Doubles – The Rules

Here are the rules for the new BetVictor World Mixed Doubles, which runs on the weekend of September 24 and 25 in Milton Keynes.

Tickets for the ITV-televised event are still available – for details click here.

The Rules

  • The opening round is played on a ‘round robin’ league table basis with each pair playing the other three pairs in four frame matches, where all four frames will be played.
  • Each frame is played under the published Rules of Snooker with particular reference to ‘Four-handed Snooker’ found in Section 3, Rule 18 (pages 33 and 34). To specify, this is alternate visits and NOT an alternate shot version.
  • One point will be awarded for each frame won in a match to determine the league table. In the event of two teams being tied on points, the result from the match between those teams will decide the positions, winner progressing. If this result was a 2-2 draw or in the case of multiple tied positions and results, the individual highest break in the event from the players involved will be the deciding factor, then the second highest if still tied and so on.
  • The pairs finishing first and second in the league table will play each other in the Final, over the best of seven frames.

The Teams
Ronnie O’Sullivan & Reanne Evans
Judd Trump & Ng On Yee
Rebecca Kenna & Mark Selby
Neil Robertson & Mink Nutcharut

News: Mark Williams is the next snooker player to join “Ultimate Pool”

Here is the announcement

Three-time world professional snooker champion Mark Williams is heading for the Ultimate Pool circuit, and is set to make his debut as he teams up alongside Carl Morris in the Pairs Cup live on FreeSports and ultimatepool.tv on Monday 10th October.

One of snooker’s all-time greats – with 24 ranking titles and two invitational Masters triumphs to his name – Williams will also become an Ultimate Pool professional player for the 2023 season, competing in events around his schedule on the snooker circuit.

“The Welsh Potting Machine” is the first professional wildcard to be announced by Ultimate Pool for the 2023 campaign, with 8-ball pool’s top tier expanding in numbers once again.

Williams will partner 1998 WEPF World 8-Ball Pool Champion Morris – still the sport’s youngest-ever world champion – during Group 11 of the unique Pairs Cup. The duo will face very tough opposition in the shape of Adam Bassoo & Dave Fernandez, Lakesh Badhan & Ben Flack and Andy Blurton & Neil Raybone, as they aim to top the group and qualify for the last 16 phase later this year.

As well as several other major Ultimate Pool ranked events that he would be eligible to enter, Williams will be part of an 88-player professional roster for the ten-event Pro Series next year.

The current world number 8 said: “I’m really looking forward to giving the Ultimate Pool circuit a go. I have been playing a lot of 8-ball pool recently and it has been fun.

Ultimate Pool looks exciting to get involved with and I’ve been impressed with the events and high standard on show. It’s going to be very difficult for me, but I will enjoy the challenge!”

Williams is the latest high-profile snooker player to enter the Ultimate Pool arena after appearances from Mark Selby in the Pairs Cup and Mark Allen in the Players Championship.

News: The 900 Series will begin on September 20, in the afternoon

This was initially scheduled on September 19. The change in schedule is motivated by obvious reasons.

It all starts with this group:

It will be streamed here: https://www.sportystuff.tv

Jason Francis, on social media, has hinted at a “Professionals 900” and “Women’s 900” coming in the future…

Shaun Murphy’s ideas and why I disagree

Shaun Murphy is doing a podcast with MC Phil Seymour and in the last instalment he aired ideas … that, to say the least, I strongly disagree with (and I’m not the only one).

Here is what it’s about, as reported by Phil Haigh

Shaun Murphy wants change to ‘absolutely ridiculous’ World Snooker Championship format

Phil Haigh Tuesday 13 Sep 2022

Shaun Murphy believes the World Snooker Championship format is ‘absolutely ridiculous’ as he feels that the top 16 in the rankings beginning at the last 32 stage ‘doesn’t make sense’.

Before all the drama at the Crucible every year there is a rigorous qualification competition, to see which 16 players lower down the rankings will join the world’s top 16 on the sport’s most famous stage.

While some would argue that they have earned it, Murphy feels that it is far too big an advantage for the top 16, of which he is one.

Players near the bottom of the rankings need to win four matches just to make the Crucible and Murphy believes the advantage being given to the best players is akin to Usain Bolt starting races 15 metres in front of his rivals.

The 2005 world champ says it is almost scandalous and would have a flat draw for the sport’s biggest tournament.

‘If it were up to me the entire format of the World Championship would change,’ Murphy said on The onefourseven podcast. ‘The top 16 would NEVER start three or four rounds ahead of everyone else on tour.

I think it’s absolutely ridiculous, scandalous almost that the best players in the world start three rounds ahead of everyone else. I think it’s ridiculous and one of those very strange nuances in sport.

Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, the equivalent is saying: “Usain, we know you’re the quickest so you can start 15 metres ahead of everyone else.” Doesn’t make any sense to me at all.’

While he was in the mood for changing things on the World Snooker Tour, the Magician also reckons the Masters should be a ranking event.

While the top 16 play in the London competition, his argument is that it is not invitational, anyone on tour can win their way into the top 16 so prize money should count on the world rankings, which is not currently the case.

The one thing I would change to the Masters tomorrow, because it’s done on the rankings and in my opinion, certainly over the two-year ranking list people have the same opportunities to be in it,’ said the 40-year-old.

If it were up to me all events would count on the money list. That would be the only think I would change about the Masters.

I think it’s very, very strange that what has widely become acknowledged as our second biggest tournament in the game doesn’t count. I think that’s a weird one and I don’t subscribe to the arguments against that.’

Let us first dispatch the thing about the Masters. Murphy himself says “certainly over the two-year ranking list people have the same opportunities to be in it“. What about those in their first year then? Did he forget they exist? They would obviously be put at a disadvantage, wouldn’t they? Contrary to the “Series” events, for which qualification is based on the one year list, qualification for the Masters is based on the lat 2 years and therefore it can’t and shouldn’t be ranking. It’s that simple.

Now about the World Championship … for me, most events should be played in this tiered format, rather in the current dominant flat draw format, provided that

  1. They are played right before the main event
  2. They are played at the same location, and preferably at the same quality venue as the main event, with spectators.
  3. They get the same media coverage as the main event with quality broadcasting and media on site

These are the reasons behind my opinion

The gap between amateurs and pros has widened in recent years. It’s plain for all to see. There are many reasons for that, but that’s not the object of this post. The young pros coming on the tour need more matches, and more winnable first round matches to help their development. The current flat draw is far too brutal. It is soul destroying. It offers no path for development.

They also need to “sample” the atmosphere of the big events. This is why those qualifying rounds should be played at the main venue, with full media coverage.

They need to be played right before the main events. Currently, players beaten in the qualifiers may have weeks without anything to play in. This season there will be players who may have only the shoot-out to play in between mid January 2023 and the World qualifiers early April. That’s not going to help their development and it’s soul destroying. Those players will arrive at the World qualifiers without any “match sharpness”. It’s simply not right. It’s totally counterproductive.

And, finally, but importantly, the tiered format ensures that less players are on zero prize money. To be precise, it would be 32 players in that situation instead of 64. Even with the guaranteed prize money this season, it’s important. It’s important because it’s money they actually won, which matters psychologically, and it’s ranking points.

Would it offer “protection” to the top players? Not really. They will come cold into the latter stages against players who will have at least one match under their belt with money and ranking points already guaranteed. Yes, financially, they will be protected, but not in terms of ranking points. So unless they win, that “protection” won’t last.

The comparison with Usain Bold doesn’t hold. Giving him 15 meters head start would “translate” into giving the snooker top player a one or two frames advantage at the start of a match. BTW, as far as I know, in most track and field competitions even top athletes go through some qualifying rounds.

There… persiste et signe … as we would say in French.

David Hendon thoughts ahead of the 2022/23 season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Championship League – 6 December-9 March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkish Masters – 13-19 March, Antalya, Turkey

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

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

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

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

WST and WPBSA tribute to Clive Everton

After yesterday’s announcement about Clive Everton’s “retirement”, WST paid him a well deserved tribute:

Snooker Scene: End Of An Era

Clive Everton MBE, founder and editor of Snooker Scene magazine since 1971, has stepped down after more than 50 years at the helm.

Clive hopes to find a buyer to take the magazine forward, otherwise September’s issue will be the last.

An amalgamation of previous publications called Billiards and Snooker and World Snooker, the first edition of Snooker Scene was published in 1972, costing 12p.

Originally intended as a monthly record of results and reports from tournaments, over time the magazine became a much more significant influence across the sport.

Clive, a leading commentator for BBC from 1978, was also the sharpest journalist of the sport’s 1980s boom years. Unafraid to challenge authority, he would regularly scrutinise the actions of the sport’s decision-makers in Snooker Scene’s pages.

During the late 2000s, Clive played a vital role in the revolution which led to the WPBSA and WST coming under the wing of Matchroom Sport and Barry Hearn taking control. As declared on the front cover, the magazine told fans what was really going on in the corridors of power.

At its peak in 1989, Snooker Scene had 21,850 subscribers. Up until today it still has a loyal following. It has introduced many new fans to snooker, and has been a constant companion to those who follow the sport month by month.

Clive joins the Hall of Fame in 2017

Clive, who was inducted into the Snooker Hall of Fame in 2017 and awarded an MBE in 2019, told us: “It’s the end of a very long era and I feel a great sense of pride. The magazine has been a reliable record. It has had an impact on the politics of snooker because I wanted to keep the readership informed. Barry Hearn’s transformation of the sport might never have happened otherwise.

I am glad to have made a contribution and to have left snooker in a better state than I found it. Billiards and snooker has always been my passion and I am fortunate that I have been able to make a living out of that.

His final editorial began: “This is an editorial I have dreaded ever having to write but a combination of factors has led me, with the utmost sadness and regret, to decide that this issue of Snooker Scene will be the last under my ownership/editorship.

It has been a key part of my life for the last 51 years, appearing monthly since January 1971 apart from two months during the first Coronavirus lockdown. I shall miss it dreadfully. Although I will be 85 this month, I was fully intending until very recently to continue to at least until the end of the season but conversations with doctors, accountants and colleagues have led me to conclude that this, our 619th issue, should be my last.

In a joint statement, WST Chairman Steve Dawson and WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “We congratulate Clive for the incredible feat of editing Snooker Scene for over 50 years. This must be a unique achievement in the sporting world. For many years, particularly in the pre-digital age, it was the most important source of information on snooker. Countless fans would have relished that moment every month when the magazine dropped through the letterbox.

Clive has been a remarkable servant to our sport, through his playing days, his times as a commentator and journalist, and as a friend and mentor to many people throughout snooker. We wish him all the best for his retirement and hope our fans worldwide will join us in saluting his contribution.

Ken Doherty added on Twitter: “So sorry to see the end of the ever popular Snooker Scene magazine. I grew up through the early 80s reading about pro comps, pro-ams and young players coming through, hoping my name would be in there one day. Clive Everton has been an outstanding journalist for snooker, a pioneer.

It’s hard to describe my feelings at this time. I have been one of the “loyal followers” and have kept every single issue I received since I subscribed. I also have been a contributor, providing pictures for most issues between 2012 and 2018. It really feels like the end of something I cherished.

I also met Clive countless times at events, notably at Premier League fixtures as early as 2007. He has a remarkably preceptive mind and immense knowledge of the game.

We were both present when Stephen Lee played his last ever match as a professional, on 11th of October 2012. Clive was commentating, I was taking pictures. Clive immediately understood what was going on and he was quite baffled too as it had only been nine days since the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) had released a statement confirming that the Crown Prosecution Service would not be taking further action against Lee over claims of match fixing relative to a 2009 UK Championship match. Clive’s deep concerns however were not about Lee, they were about the negative impact this incident could possibly have on snooker as a sport, a sport he loves with a passion.

Happy retirement Clive, and take good care of yourself. Snooker Scene will be missed.

Magazines like Snooker Scene don’t sell easily nowadays as they have largely been “overthrown” by digital media: blogs, podcasts, youtube videos and more. This is a concern to me however because proper and honest “paper” magazines and books, if kept in libraries, are our faithful “memories” of past events. They report on the context around them, and contain in-depth analysis . Current digital media can of course be released much more quickly after the events and at a lower cost, but rarely go very deep into their analysis. And also there is the important question of their integral conservation without alterations over time.

Snooker and snooker related news – 06.09.2022

The end of Snooker Scene … the end of an era.

It was announced yesterday that this month’s issue of the Snooker Scene Magazine would be the last. This is truly the end of an era. For 51 years, countless snooker fans have avidly been waiting for Snooker Scene’s monthly issue, impatient to read Clive Everton’s views and thoughts about the sport they love, its stars, its politics, its problems, its future … and more. Alas, Clive, who will turn 85 tomorrow, is in ill health. He can’t commit doing this anymore. It’s sad. I hope that Clive gets the best possible care and that his health improves. Thank you Clive, for everything. Thank you.

Mark Selby and Mark Allen shine on “Ultimate Pool”

For Mark Selby it wasn’t a “first time”. This time again he teamed with his brother in law, Gareth Potts. They are competing – with great success despite Mark’s neck injury – in the Ultimate Pool Pairs Cup.

Here is a report by Phil Haigh:

Mark Selby shines on Ultimate Pool return despite neck injury

Phil Haigh Tuesday 30 Aug 2022

Gareth Potts and Mark Selby
Gareth Potts and Mark Selby were in fine form on Monday (Picture: Ultimate Pool)

Mark Selby returned to Ultimate Pool in style on Monday, teaming with brother-in-law Gareth Potts to win their group in the Pairs Cup and progress to the last 16.

The four-time world snooker champion, also a former eight-ball pool world champ, dipped his toe back into the pool world last September, teaming with Potts to great success.

With the snooker calendar quiet at the moment Selby was back on the small table again and the pair, being dubbed The Dream Team, won all three of their matches at the Players Pool & Snooker Lounge in Newcastle-Under-Lyme.

There are still seven more groups of the Pairs Cup to be played, with the last 16 getting underway in October.

While the short matches on the small table represent a very different challenge to upcoming snooker events, it is encouraging for Selby as he is dealing with a pretty unpleasant neck injury.

After playing through the pain at the European Masters earlier this month, Selby went for an MRI scan and it confirmed that he has a problem with discs in his neck.

Selby tweeted: ‘So the MRI scan came back Thursday evening showing protruding disc C5 C6. Exactly same area as before. Seems to be easy a little than was a week or so ago so hope going the right way. ‘Good thing is I can still get down on shot with less discomfort than i did in Germany so hopefully on the mend. More physio Tuesday.

It isn’t the first time that Mark suffers because of this neck injury. Hopefully he will be fully fit soon.

Mark Allen also tried himself at Ultimate Pool, he loved it and he impressed! Here is a report by Eurosport:

Mark Allen used the break in the snooker calendar to show off his cue sports skills at the Ultimate Pool Players Championship with some dazzling breaks. 

The Northern Ireland Open champion is not due to return to competitive action on the snooker table until the opening round of the British Open on Monday 26 September against Stuart Carrington in Milton Keynes. 

Allen lost 2-0 to three-time champion Mick Hill in Sunday’s final of Group 5, being edged out 9-8 and 9-3 by the 8-ball specialist in Newcastle-under-Lyme, but admits the experience has inspired him to try the smaller baize in future.

It was a great experience. A huge thank you to the Ultimate Pool guys for having me,” said the former Masters winner.

It was a great final to forward to against one of the all-time greats. If the calendar allows it, then I’d definitely play in more events.

I’m a realist and I know that I’m not going to pull up too many trees in the pool world in the long run, so I’ll have to stick to what I know best – and that’s snooker.

But as long as the calendar allows it, then there’s no reason why I can’t dip my toe in the water and play again.

More on the “Jamie Hunter Debate” and her own feelings about it all

The previous posts about Jamie triggered what proved to be the longest and more complex discussion I was ever involved in on social media. Players like Barry Pinches, Matthew Stevens, Diana Schuler, Wendy Jans entered the debate. Barry in particular is convinced that males have a natural superiority over females when it comes to snooker and that, therefore, Jamie should not compete with the women. However, when asked if he could provide any reliable “source” or study supporting this opinion, he freely admitted that he never even saw one: his opinion is based on the fact that no female so far has been successful on the main tour. I challenged his views, pointing out that, comparatively very few girls and women play snooker because until recently at least, the sport has not been very welcoming to girls at amateur level and that “exceptional talents” are just … exceptional. The chances to identify one are extremely slim in a “small population”.

All those debates and discussions however aren’t touching the core of the issue: the feelings and struggles impacting the lives of persons like Jamie who don’t “fit” in the main social moulds.

Jamie opened up about her feelings and I think it’s very important to listen to what she has to say, so, please read this and read it with an open mind and a kind heart:

Jamie Hunter: If I didn’t transition I would be dead, it had nothing to do with snooker

Phil Haigh Sunday 4 Sep 2022

Jamie Hunter
Jamie Hunter on her way to winning the US Women’s Snooker Open in Seattle (Picture: World Women’s Snooker)

Jamie Hunter won her first World Women’s Snooker ranking title at the US Open last week, but far from celebrating her success in the days to come, she has been dealing with an avalanche of abuse.

The 25-year-old came out as transgender in 2019 and started playing on the WWS Tour last year, with her first big win on the snooker table coming in Seattle after winning the Women’s World Billiards Championship earlier this year.

While the billiards triumph happened with little public scrutiny, the win in America did not and it has been a torrid time for Hunter and her family as they deal with criticism, abuse and hurtful attacks.

It’s not like when I won the billiards, when I got home, my dad picked us up from the airport, my parents had balloons and banners round the house,’ Hunter told Metro.co.uk.

This time my parents met me at the train station and it wasn’t celebratory at all, it was sad. The first thing my mum said to me was, “Are you okay?” That shouldn’t be the first thing she said . You could see the hurt in her eyes from what she’s read about me.

Social media was rife with accusations of cheating, fellow WWS Tour player Maria Catalano was critical of Hunter’s inclusion, but it was horrific anti-trans abuse that really hurt the most.

The trans debate in sport is such a rife thing at the moment and people are going to have their opinions, which they’re allowed to of course, but there’s ways of going about it,’ Jamie said.

A lot of it wasn’t about me being a player, it was about me being alive, that was worse. People don’t want me to exist, not that they don’t want me playing sports, they don’t want me on Earth.

People say you can ignore it but knowing it’s going on in the background I couldn’t not read it and see how bad it was. It’s hard to ignore. I’ve got a mobile phone, it’s been buzzing every 10 seconds, how can you ignore it?

Monday and Tuesday I didn’t sleep much, I was just crying. When the famous people came out the woodwork and started posting stuff, I just felt that the world was crumbling around me.

Sharron Davies was one, an MP on Facebook was taking a personal attack at me calling me a cheater.

If someone with that power can take a personal attack at me on social media…I just didn’t know what I was supposed to do.

Anyone wishing harm on Hunter is clearly not interested in the debate over trans people in sport, but to those who are interested in whether it is fair that Jamie competes on the women’s tour, she is happy to put their minds at rest.

‘A lot of people who disagree with trans people in sport, they don’t know what actually happens,’ she said.

Jamie Hunter
Hunter alongside beaten finalist Rebecca Kenna and the WWS team (Picture: World Women’s Snooker)

I’ve had people saying I have an advantage because I don’t have boobs, but I’ve had a boob job, so that’s nonsense.

People say I have an advantage because I’ve got longer arms. I’m 5’4″ and weigh less than nine stone. It’s not like I’m built like a bodybuilder.

People talk about testosterone. I have to provide blood tests to prove I’ve got low testosterone. In fact my testosterone level is only 1.6 nanomoles per litre and the average female range is 2-4, so I’m actually lower than the average female.

But people don’t know that because they don’t know anything about me and a lot of the time don’t know anything about trans people.

One of the requirements for playing under the WPBSA rules is that your ID documents have to say you’re female. That sounds dead easy, but you need to have lived as a woman for two years, show proof of two years living in your gender. Pay slips, utility bills, letters from work, a letter from your doctor.

Then to get the medication to get your testosterone levels down you have to have at least four hours of therapy, you have to be signed off by a psychiatrist and two doctors. It takes months.

Some people were saying: “What if Ronnie puts a wig on and wants to play women’s events?” Just to get your passport to say female is a lot of hard work and you have to prove a lot of things.

You can’t just wake up one morning and decide you fancy playing women’s tournaments.

I don’t want to sound like I’m retaliating, but I want to be open about it. Firstly to inspire others to know they can do what they want to do and be who they want to be, and secondly to educate people.

People come up to me and ask if it’s alright to ask a certain question, and I’ll always answer because I’d rather them ask me than look at something on Twitter.

Jamie Hunter
Hunter’s impressive win in Seattle has been impossible to enjoy (Picture: World Women’s Snooker)

Some of the criticism towards Hunter does seem to suggest that she changed gender so she could have a better chance of winning snooker tournaments. While that sounds ridiculous in itself, it is even more so when she explains what led her to make the huge decision in 2019.

If I didn’t transition when I did, my parents wouldn’t have been picking me up from the airport the other day, they’d have been putting flowers on my headstone,’ she said.

That’s how bad it was. I don’t think people realise I was a couple of months away from committing suicide. They make out as if I played snooker as a man, I was rubbish, so decided to do it in the women’s instead. I changed my gender for my wellbeing and my life, not for anything else.

Asked if she could put into words what it is like to feel like you’re in the wrong gender, Jamie explained: ‘Obviously people have body image issues. Wanting to be slimmer or taller or different colour hair or whatever.

Can you imagine what it’s like looking in the mirror and feeling like it’s in a film, where the image in the mirror isn’t what is in front of it. That’s what it’s like. Having body parts that you don’t like.

Then the dread, the fear of what could happen if you did say something. I couldn’t even tell my mum and dad because I was scared they’d disown me.

Scared to walk in Asda in case people said something to me. What if my friends don’t want to know me anymore? What if I’m ridiculed at work? What if people assault me? It’s terrifying.

When I was younger I was just so angry and filled with hatred that I just locked myself away. My dad used to tell me to go out and get a life. I used to sit in my room and do nothing. Showering in the dark, never looking in the mirror.

Hunter’s surgeries, medication, therapy and other procedures have cost around £20,000 so far, with the NHS waiting list around five years and too long to wait for.

It is by no means that she is competing on the women’s tour on a whim and accusations of cheating have no grounding as she complies with the rules set out by snooker’s governing body, as confirmed by WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson this week.

People have made out that I failed as a man at snooker and that’s why I’ve done this, it’s nonsense. I never tried to do anything as a man, I played in local leagues with my friends, I never entered proper tournaments as a man,’ she said.

It’s absolutely bonkers to say I’d have done all this to play on the women’s tour. I follow the rules. I would never have entered if I didn’t follow the rules.

I was talked into joining the tour in the first place, I didn’t know if I would be allowed to play. But people told me there are rules and guidelines, just stick to them, so I did. When people say I’m cheating, it’s just not true.

I just love playing snooker, I love competing. I’ve got dreams and aspirations of getting into the top five women and maybe getting onto the World Snooker Tour.

Hunter is also keen to point out that her improved results on the table are down to a huge amount of hard work and not perceived advantages from growing up in another gender.

It’s upsetting when people say I’m just winning because I’ve got physical advantages. I don’t really sleep because I’m just non-stop. Work, practice, go to bed,’ she said.

I’ve started practicing more, that’s why I’ve been getting better, because I’ve put the effort in. It’s not because I’ve got dead long arms and I’m dead tall, because I’m not.

I do 6pm-11pm four days a week and then Sunday I do 9 or 10 hours. I work a 40 hour job as well, so it’s hard work.

Hunter has been hurt by the criticism since her win in Seattle but is motivated by the knowledge that she is inspiring people in a similar situation to hers to follow their own paths.

I had a message from a girl from Poland who’s transgender,’ Jamie explained. ‘She plays snooker and said she was really worried about joining the snooker world as she wouldn’t be welcome, but as she heard I’m playing and enjoying it and doing well, it gave her the belief that she can too.

Receiving that message from her is better than any trophy I could get. Putting myself in the limelight and taking all this garbage off everyone has improved a life and hopes of one person. It’s amazing.

I got an email in work from someone saying their son is transgender and he’s got hope for a better world – not snooker related – but things he wants to do in his life, that it’s possible for him regardless of his identity. Receiving message like that is incredible.

‘I’m just a small person, not with millions of followers, I just play snooker in a small town in the northwest of England. To think I’ve made a difference, words can’t describe it.

Hunter is getting through the difficult time she has endured since her impressive win in the States but warns those who abuse trans people online that others in her situation may not get through it.

If I didn’t transition when I did, I would be dead. But if someone else was in my position now, receiving all this abuse, that might send them over the edge,’ she said.

Being alive and being transgender is difficult enough, just to go out shopping. For me to put myself in the position to be in the public eye is even harder. For months in the past I was scared to go outside.

I’m quite thick-skinned. It has upset me and I’ve done a lot of crying, but that’s it. Someone else, it could have spelled the end.

The trans suicide rate is ridiculously high. Get one of those people, add 5,000 hate messages in 24 hours and their odds of surviving aren’t good.

As much as there has been a wave of hideous messages, there has also been support for Hunter as she continues her journey on the snooker table and in life, which have meant a huge amount to her and her family.

There has been so many supportive messages and I’ve tried to respond to all of them,’ she said. ‘Also the WWS, Jason Ferguson and the board members of the WPBSA have been fantastic.

I’d like to say thanks to people that have reached out. Words can’t describe how grateful I am that people would take time out of their day to protect me online or just write a small message. It makes the world of difference.

I wish I could show you the look in their eyes when I tell my parents that someone has said something nice, it means a lot.’

So … for those waving around ridiculous questions like “What if Ronnie decides to wear a wig and goes to play on the women tour?” … be reassured. It won’t happen! 😂 It’s not that simple. It’s not simple at all. It’s not “fun” to live as a “different” person, someone who doesn’t fit in the accepted social moulds. It’s bloody difficult. It’s extremely challenging and painful. It’s not a choice either. Be kind.

2022/23 Q-Tour News

Ross Muir wins the first Q-Tour event of this season

Here is the report shared by WST:

Muir Wins Season’s First Q Tour Event

Ross Muir defeated George Pragnell 5-2 in the final at the North East Snooker Centre to win the opening Q Tour event of the 2022/23 campaign. 

The first of six Q Tour events set to take place this season, over 100 of the world’s top amateur snooker players travelled to North Shields aiming to collect early ranking points in their pursuits of qualifying for the World Snooker Tour.

The top ranked player at the end of the term will earn promotion to the professional circuit, with the next 16 on the ranking list advancing to a play-off where there is an additional card on offer. Each regular Q Tour event carries a prize fund of £12,000.

Following his performances at Q School earlier this year, Muir avoided Friday’s qualifying rounds and began his tournament in the last 64 as a seed.

The 26-year-old Scot defeated countryman Michael Collumb 3-1, Tyler Rees 3-0, and then made a 137 – the highest break of the tournament – as he eliminated Leo Fernandez 3-1 to progress to Finals Day.

In the quarter-finals Muir dispatched reigning English amateur champion Jamie Curtis-Barrett 4-0, and registered runs of 71 and 102 en route to denying Rory McLeod 4-1 in the last four.

On the other side of the draw, Englishman Pragnell also started out in the last 64 and saw off Alfie Lee 3-1, Michael Georgiou 3-0, Florian Nuessle 3-1, Stan Moody 4-0 and then Luke Simmonds 4-2 in the other semi-final with the help of 74 and 56 breaks.

Muir began the final in good scoring form with efforts of 57 and 107, although Pragnell twice levelled the scores when claiming frames two and four. However, Muir dominated the table in the closing stages, restricting his opponent to a total of just 22 points in the final three frames as he added further contributions of 50 and 66 for the win.

Former professional Muir – who dropped just five frames throughout the entire event – pockets £2,500 and goes to the top of the rankings.

The second Q Tour event takes place at the Castle Snooker Club, Brighton from 16-18 September.

Congratulations Ross!

This is particularly pleasing as Ross’ career was derailed by health issues impacting his vision.

The Q-Tour is heading to mainland Europe

Here is the announcement by WPBSA:

WPBSA Q TOUR 2022/23 | EUROPEAN QUALIFYING ROUNDS OPEN FOR ENTRY

5th September 2022

The European venues hosting Q Tour events this season have now been announced, with new locations in Belgium and Sweden added to the circuit.

Q Tour Event 3 will take place at the Delta Moon in Mons, Belgium between 14-16 October.

Q Tour Event 4 will take place at the Snookerhallen in Stockholm, Sweden between 25-27 November.

As with all Q Tour events this season, both of these European events will see 16 successful qualifiers from the Friday qualifying rounds joining the 48 players who have already qualified for the weekend’s last 64 stage.

The qualifying rounds for both these European events are now available to enter via WPBSA SnookerScores.

The story from Jamie Hunter’s point of view

Hector Nunns, being the honest professional journalist he is, has gone and spoken to Jamie Hunter so that she can tell her side of the story:

”I Want To Grow Women’s Snooker, Not Ruin It” – Hunter Opens Up on Trans Critics

In part two of our look at the transgender participation in sport issue that has handed many governing bodies a major headache, snooker’s Jamie Hunter of Widnes gives a searingly honest interview to The Sportsman following her breakthrough success at the US Women’s Open in Seattle. The 25-year-old admits that the scale of the negative reaction in some quarters has been hard to stomach, opens a window into her own challenging journey and tries to allay the concerns of critics. 

Jamie Hunter might have hoped that her victory at the US Women’s Open in Seattle would be hailed for what it was – a big breakthrough success on the women’s snooker tour. Instead it unleashed a torrent of debate and in many cases vile online abuse over her chosen identity. 

Snooker has become just the latest arena to see the issue of transgender participation in women’s sport blow up. The 25-year-old Hunter, from Widnes, came out as trans in 2019 and began the transition process via medication a year later. 

Hunter has gone way beyond the current mandatory requirements from the WPBSA in providing blood tests every three months to ensure testosterone and estrogen levels are within the permitted range for women according to the IOC-based guidelines currently used by the game. 

And though she understands the real issues for more physical sports, Hunter is struggling with the very personal and prejudiced nature of much of the criticism. 

She said: “I am thick-skinned…but before last weekend I had only had to deal with maybe 20 bad comments if I won a minor event. And you could dismiss that. 

But even I have been taken aback by the chaos that has ensued following my win in the USA. It has been more than I could handle. At the same time, it’s not going to stop me playing. I have dreams, I won’t let some nasty people stop me doing what I love doing. My parents tell me to stop going on social media. 

“I remind people that suicide rates in trans people are really high anyway. With what has happened in the last few days, with someone else you could be looking at a dead person. I am okay. Don’t get me wrong, it upsets me and it is difficult, but I won’t hurt myself. For others, it might be unbearable. 

In football or rugby there probably is an issue, because you don’t know the effect that the estrogen has, there are different effects on different people.

But snooker isn’t a physical sport. And the argument that men concentrate better than women – there is no scientific basis for that. It’s not exactly a feminist argument. Personally, after taking my medication I can’t lift 30kg anymore, I used to bench press 100kg. I struggled with a 25kg suitcase to the USA. 

To be able to participate I had to provide document after document, I send blood test results every three months to the WPBSA to show my testosterone and estrogen levels are within female limits. 

“I am only required to prove my levels are right once, 12 months before the start of the season. So I am going way beyond that to try and prevent some arguments. 

But if you’re really looking at it…say I wasn’t like I am, and open about it, and I’d had all the surgeries, my voice was higher, and I blended in…we wouldn’t be having this conversation. 

There might be people already on the tour that are like me, but we just don’t know. Even if they were blood-tested, that wouldn’t tell you what someone was born. 

There had been one or two that had gone to the governing body about me over the last year. But now I have won an event, a lot more people seem to have a problem. They weren’t bothered when I was making the numbers up, but now I’m challenging it’s changed. 

And those who appear to be genuinely upset that I am breathing oxygen? Yes, that is of course upsetting, there are no two ways about that. If people don’t like the fact I exist, that is upsetting. 

“I would say to Maria [Catalano] or any other top player with concerns that I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to play women’s snooker because I wasn’t very good playing against the fellas. 

I never played competitive snooker as a man in the amateurs, I only played local league to go out for a drink with my friends. I have only taken it seriously for the last 12 months, and I have been a woman for nearly three years. 

There are also a lot of people who just don’t really understand it. If she or anyone else wants to talk about it, I am always willing to do that, and help educate people. 

I want the women’s tour to grow as much as anyone, because I love the sport as much as the next person. If Maria is upset it is disheartening and saddening, but I’m there to help grow it, not ruin it. I’m not there to tear it down, but to build it up. I want the tour to prosper.

I won’t add anything. I already wrote my thoughts about it all in the two previous posts.

I just feel sad for Jamie that it has come to this.