2023 Crucible – Day 3 – Grudge, chaos and orange powder

To say that yesterday at the Crucible was eventful is the mother of all understatements!

Three matches concluded yesterday.

Hossein Vafaei beat Ding Junhui by 10-6. Ding had won the first session by 5-4, but Hossein totally dominated the second session, scoring very heavily. He scored breaks of 87, 117, 122, 68, 57 and 89 in a marvellous display of attacking snooker. Ding, as so often in recent years, appeared to lack fighting spirit once he got behind. His body language wasn’t great.

Hossein’s fireworks on the table were followed by an fiery post-match interview…

Here is the report by WST:

Vafaei Stirs Up O’Sullivan Clash

Hossein Vafaei, the flag-bearer for Iranian snooker, won a match at the Crucible for the first time with a 10-6 victory over Ding Junhui in the opening round of the Cazoo World Championship.

Vafaei will face Ronnie O’Sullivan in the second round, over three days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and added spice to the fixture by stoking up rivalry between the pair. “Ronnie O’Sullivan is such a legend, such a good player when he’s on the table,” said Vafaei. “He’s just such a nice person…when he’s asleep.

World number 23 Vafaei, by far the best ever player from Iran, became the first player from his country to compete at the Crucible last year, losing to Judd Trump. The 28-year-old has now gone one step further thanks to a tremendous display against three-time UK Champion Ding, making two centuries and six more breaks over 50.

Vafaei trailed 5-4 overnight but reeled off the first four frames today in just 43 minutes with runs of 117, 122, 68 and 57 to go 8-5 up. China’s Ding, the 16th seed, pulled one back with a break of 77, but Vafaei bounced back with an 89 for 9-6. Ding had two scoring chances in frame 16 but could muster only ten points, and Vafaei’s run of 45 ended the tie.

His performance was good enough to inspire a standing ovation from the Crucible crowd. However, it was Vafaei’s comments about O’Sullivan which are sure to generate headlines. He referred to a match at last season’s German Masters qualifiers when he scored a 5-0 victory over O’Sullivan, who smashed the pack of reds from the break-off in the last frame.

Ronnie was my hero,” said the 2022 Shoot Out champion. “I could never see myself beating him. When I beat him 5-0 I was a little bit sad, but on another side happy because I showed I can play. He will remember that, 100 per cent. Play like a man. Don’t play mind games or smash the balls and disrespect me, when 70 million or 80 million people are watching me in Iran. Now he’s my opponent. This is life. I have to stand up in front of him if I want to be World Champion.

If we want this sport to improve, we need to respect each other, and teach others to respect us. When we don’t respect each other, even the people don’t respect us. We have to teach the children to respect their father and family, and everything will be good.

I believe that everything happens for a reason, you can’t run away. If you do something bad to the people and break someone else’s heart, then God will give you an opportunity to get revenge.

He has already proved everything, he has done everything in this sport. Hopefully I will play the way I played today. If he beats me 13-0 I will still love being involved in the match. Get your popcorn everyone!

As for today’s match, Vafaei added: “It was such a great game, I enjoyed it a lot. I’m a big fan of Ding because he has opened up a massive market for snooker so every one of us should respect what he has done for our sport., I told him before the match that I am his fan, but this is a game and someone has to lose. Hopefully I can show this type of performance more.

I don’t want to be boring! I love the fans, they pay to come and watch us. Nothing scares me and I enjoy playing in front of them. Sometimes I say something to make them laugh. I know that’s not our job, but it suits some people. If you want to be a champion, you must have the people’s heart.

Ding said: “The first two frames, he took control. I tried to get it back but he was very good today.  He could go far and win more matches.

Overall this season has been very good. The past two seasons I was not there. Sometimes I have good season, then I disappear for a few seasons and come back again so I will try to be more consistent.”

There were also quotes, not reported above, about Ronnie’s illness just being “excuses”. Frankly that makes no sense at all given that Ronnie had won the match, not even mentioning that he looked absolutely exhausted during the post-match interview.

Now about the incident that apparently upset Hossein so much… Ronnie smashed the pack open at the German Masters qualifiers when he was already 4-0 down. That’s obviously not a great attitude to have BUT was it directed at his opponent? Was it deliberate disrespect? I don’t think so. I’m 100% certain that it had nothing to do with Hossein at all and everything to do with Ronnie hating those qualifiers, hating the venue, feeling unable to get the motivation to apply himself, and as he already was on the cusp of defeat, wanting to get out of there asap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making excuses for Ronnie here, but I’m 100% convinced that, if Hossein believes it was directed at him, he’s completely misreading the situation and Ronnie’s behaviour under the circumstances.

That said, Ronnie is not an innocent lamb and the day before yesterday, had properly taunted Hossein during his own post-match as reported by Hector Nunns:

“Don’t rattle my cage” – Ronnie O’Sullivan hits out at potential next Crucible opponent

Ronnie O’Sullivan eased into the second round of this year’s Snooker World Championship, where he may face Hossein Vafaei, who called for The Rocket to retire last year

Image credits: Eurosport

Ronnie O’Sullivan has reignited his feud with Hossein Vafaei as the Iranian faces Ding Junhui for the chance to take on ‘ The Rocket ‘ the Crucible. 

O’Sullivan defeated Pang Junxu 10-7 in his opening match of this year’s World Championships in Sheffield. Vafaei will be The Rocket’s opponent in the second round if he defeats World No 16 Ding, with their game beginning on Sunday. 

Ding is the favourite, though O’Sullivan appears to be relishing the chance to take on the Prince of Persia more. The duo clashed during last year’s World Championships when Vafaei called for O’Sullivan to retire for being ‘disrespectful. 

Though he rowed back on those comments, it appears The Rocket has not forgotten Vafaei’s blast. After easing his way past Pang, O’Sullivan, the reigning world champion, hit out at Vafaei and warned him not to spark another feud.

O’Sullivan told Eurosport: “Hossein Vafaei, the man who said…what did he say about me, I can’t remember?” Pundit Alan McManus gave him an answer of: “I think he said you should retire.”

The Rocket then responded: “Has he been saying much this year?. I think he’s learned to be quiet. Don’t rattle my cage! I’m just having fun. I love it when they call me out, I love it when they give me stick.

I love it, it turns me on, I get off on it. I need it to fire me up so I’m hoping someone says something, so I can have a reason to perform. But they’re not going to say it now, they probably realise it’s not a good tactic.”

Mark Williams beat Jimmy Robertson by 10-5. Jimmy Robertson was leading by 5-4 at the start of the session but didn’t win a frame yesterday. Here is Mark Williams assessment of his performance and the state of his game as reported by Worldsnooker:

I played really solid today and put the pressure on Jimmy,” said Williams. “He missed a few that he wasn’t missing yesterday. My form has been good this season. I nearly won the Masters. I am still here and still doing it, I am moulding into a solid player all round. My potting is not as good as it used to be but my all-round game now is probably better than it was years ago.

Sometimes there are long pots which I would have gone for in the past and got them nine times out of ten. These days my eyes are not as good so I turn them down. It will be a tough game against Luca but I’m not worried about anyone else, I’ll just try my best. And if I win the tournament again, this time all my clothes are staying on!

Mark Allen beat Fan Zhengui by 10-5. That match was interrupted by an unprecedented incident and, credits to both players for refocusing after that and playing a good match. Fan certainly didn’t disgrace himself on his Crucible debut. Here is Mark’s assessment of the match as reported by WST:

The frame before the interval was really big. If it went 7-6, I think Fan would have been in the ascendancy. His long potting was really good and he was playing some clever safety. To see that pink go over the pocket was huge,” said nine-time ranking event winner Allen.

I felt like mentally I was ready for anything out there. The work that I’ve done with Paul Gaffney (sport psychologist) over the last 12 months has stood me in good stead. I’ve even practised differently in the build uip. I’ve actually taken my foot off the gas in the last week. Normally, I try to do seven or eight hours a day. I feel like I’ve conserved a lot of energy.

The bottom line is I haven’t played well enough here. I feel that I’ve always prepared really well. I’ve tried the same thing year on year. It hasn’t worked and I was expecting different results. I’ve tried something different this time and I’ve even done a bit of commentary. Some people have criticised me for that, but I feel I need to try something different to break the monotony of not going well here.”

Now about the incident …

Just stop Oil … stops the play at the Crucible – video shared on twitter.

What happened there ??? Here is the report by Phil Haigh

Protester jumps on table during World Snooker Championship match at the Crucible

Phil Haigh Monday 17 Apr 2023 7:23 pm

A Just Stop Oil protester jumps on the table and throws orange powder during the match between Robert Milkins against Joe Perry during day three of the Cazoo World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. Picture date: Monday April 17, 2023. PA Photo. See PA Story SNOOKER World. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.
A Just Stop Oil protester jumped on the table, causing chaos at the Crucible (Picture: PA)

A protester jumped on the table during a match at the World Snooker Championship on Monday evening, blasting orange powder over the baize.

The first round match between Rob Milkins and Joe Perry on Table One was interrupted as a protester wearing a ‘Just Stop Oil’ t-shirt leapt on the table.

He opened a small bag which sent orange powder all over the table before he was hauled off.

Another protester attempted to jump on the other table, where Mark Allen and Fan Zhengyi were playing, but they were stopped beforehand and removed.

Play was stopped on both tables as a clear-up operation began, with venue staff, World Snooker Tour employees and even MC and commentator Rob Walker joining in to hoover up the powder.

A statement from South Yorkshire Police read: ‘Two people were detained after protesters gained entry to The Crucible earlier this evening (Monday 17 April).

A 30-year-old man and a 52-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. Both are in police custody.’

Stephen Hendry, the seven-time world champion, said: ‘I have never seen that before at a snooker event. It’s a first.

It is scary. Wow! You just hope the cloth can be recovered from that. It caught us all by surprise and then this happens.

For me, straightaway as a snooker player I am thinking: “Is the table recoverable?” We don’t know what that is on the table.’

A Just Stop Oil protester jumps on the table and throws orange powder during the match between Robert Milkins against Joe Perry during day three of the Cazoo World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. Picture date: Monday April 17, 2023. PA Photo. See PA Story SNOOKER World. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.
The protester ended the Perry v Milkins match for the night (Picture: PA)

The protest occurred at around 7.15pm and just before 8pm Allen and Fan returned to Table Two, but Table One is to be recovered overnight.

Milkins and Perry will play their first session tomorrow night at 7pm, when they were due to play their first. The second session time is set to be played at 9.30am on Thursday.

Remarkably, Allen was on a break of 24 before the interruption and returned to complete a brilliant century, scoring an immense 126.

I’m a bit surprised. and aggrieved, that Olivier Marteel’s prompt reaction isn’t mentioned. Indeed he immediately wrestled the woman who was trying to climb on “his” table and, aided by WST security got her out of the arena. Without his swift intervention it’s unlikely that play would have resumed at all yesterday evening. Of course, Olivier is a nurse, working at emergency services, he’s used to pressure situations asking for immediate action. As it is, Allen and Fan were able to continue their match, the “Crucible curtain” was opened and the fans were eventually able to enjoy some great snooker

Here are some more images shared on social media

The table was hoovered and protected by a slipcover before play resumed. And yes, Rob Walker is a man of many talents…

The thunderous sound of silence …

So that general meeting happened on Wednesday … and the first thing we heard about it was this by Hector Nunns

So the people in charge of the sport wanted to prevent players to voice their feelings or opinions about its future anywhere other than in the secrecy of their internal meetings? Surely that can’t be good, can it?

I can see only one reason for such move and it’s to hide the truth about the real state of the sport and its future. The same happened in 2010. Ronnie was interviewed during the 2010 Masters and basically said that a lot of players were desperate and the the mood on tour was very low. He was criticised by the authorities for saying that and crucified by the fans for putting the game in a bad light. He was only telling the truth as it became plain in the following months, those months that lead to Barry Hearn taking over a sport that was in a terrible state indeed.

Of course, some players did talk as those two pieces show

Jack Lisowski wants to cut the tour to 64 to make it sustainable

‘It’s a shame, it’s sad, but I think it has to get cut’ – Jack Lisowski calls for World Snooker Tour to be halved

Phil Haigh Thursday 16 Mar 2023 10:30 pm

Cazoo Masters - Day Two
Jack Lisowski wants the number of players on tour to be halved (Picture: Getty Images)

Jack Lisowski reckons the number of players on tour should be cut in half as professional snooker is not financially viable for the bottom half of the rankings.

There are currently 131 professionals on the World Snooker Tour, although usually the number is 128 and Lisowski has backed this to be chopped down to 64.

There have been calls from other players for the tour to be cut, with the likes of Mark Williams and Stephen Maguire voicing that opinion, and Jackpot has joined in.

So far this season every player ranked below 50 in the world has earned less than £30,000 in ranking events and Lisowski says it is unsustainable for the lower-ranked players financially.

When you look at the tour, there’s been quite a bit of chat about cutting it to 64 because it’s too big. These people are making no money whatsoever outside the top 32. You call yourself a professional snooker player but you’re not making a living off it. I’m starting to think that needs to happen,’ Lisowski said after winning his opening round match at the WST Classic.

There’s no way they can support themselves. They’ve got to do other things, get sponsors. I think I now agree with people that we need to cut the tour because it’s just not economically viable for everyone.’

Lisowski feels a strong amateur tour which leads onto a higher-quality, smaller pro tour means everyone could benefit from the change.

Even though some players won’t be able to call themselves professionals, they can go back to amateurs and it might actually do them a favour,’ he said. ‘We can get a good amateur tour going, then when they do turn professional they’d be a lot more ready and they’d be making a better living.

I think we have to accept with what’s going on in the world at the moment that we can’t support 128 players, it’s too many for the tour. Let’s make it more quality.

We could have a more compact tour with better events, marketed better, better set-ups. Just have more quality over quantity. People aren’t making a living. The game’s gone a bit stagnant recently. We’re losing tournaments abroad, the circuit is getting narrower and narrower, it’s just not working.

It’s sad for players if they got cut, it would feel like a step back for a lot of players, but I think they’d reap the rewards if they could get back onto a 64-player tour

They call themselves professionals at the minute, but there’s not enough money in it. I think it would be doing them a favour, go back to amateurs, get back on and guarantee themselves a good living. It’s a shame, it’s sad, but I think it has to get cut.’

There is truth in what Jack says but is it the right answer? I don’t think so. The benefits would last only for a short while. Supposing that cutting the tour to 64 would mean keeping only the top 64 on board would probably render the whole tour even more UK centric, older and would make it harder for young players to get/stay on it. It might help for a little while, but you have to wonder what will happen when the current top players, who are putting bums on seat and money in WST’s bank account – the Ronnie, John Higgins, Mark Williams, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Judd Trump, Ding … – will leave. NO, what the game needs is a steady injection AND promotion of young and international talents and to make it interesting and financially sustainable. The 20000 pounds guaranteed allowance is a step in the right direction to help the players but it isn’t enough. Ultimately they want to PLAY, and quality in events organisation will ultimately promote quality in the game through higher motivation of the players.

Where Jack is right is that the tour needs better quality events and that probably means events with a reduced field. But reduced field should not necessarily mean “the top 8, 16, 32” or any other number that would suit the particular venue or format. It could be events for a specific population: the rookies on tour at the start of the season, a youth festival for the under 25, a “Champions event” for the former World Champions, an “European Show” with the mainland Europe players, in European cities. One of the main reasons that makes this nearly impossible for now is the rigid money list ranking system. There are alternatives to the money list that would make this possible as Lewis explained in this piece. A rating system would allow for simultaneous events as well. Of course WST should still make sure that all players get fair opportunities to earn money, but there would be far more flexibility to do so without having a 128 field in every “ranking” event.

Neil Robertson also voiced his opinion

Neil Robertson says ‘absolutely insane’ levy on snooker players ‘just has to go’

Phil HaighThursday 16 Mar 2023 7:01 pm

2023 Betvictor Welsh Open - Day 2
Neil Robertson hopes for a Players’ Association to fight for changes in snooker (Picture: Getty Images)

Neil Robertson wants to see changes off the table in snooker, including scrapping the ‘absolutely insane’ 2.5 per cent WPBSA levy on prize money.

As the WPBSA tour induction states: ‘There will be a levy of 2.5 per cent deducted from all prize money paid which is paid to the WPBSA and help funds the activities of the association.

It is not a very popular situation among players on the professional tour, especially with the reduction in tournaments on the calendar since the pandemic restricting earning opportunities.

Ahead of the WST Classic this week, every player outside of the world’s top 50 had earned less than £30,000 this season so far in ranking events, meaning money is tight for lower-ranked players.

Robertson is not short of prize money himself, but thinks that players having to give away 2.5 per cent of their winnings to help fund the WPBSA is crazy and should be stopped, or alternatively the money would be put aside for players’ retirement funds.

I believe the sport desperately needs a Players’ Association, a proper, one. So if they see something happening in the game, they will bang their fist on the desk and really fight for the players,’ Robertson said after winning his first round match at the WST Classic on Thursday.

There’s a few things still lingering in the game that shouldn’t be there. The 2.5 per cent levy for one is absolutely insane, in my opinion. For me it just has to go. It just doesn’t seem right.

If there is a 2.5 per cent levy it should be in a players’ superannuation fund or something when they retire, so the 2.5 per cent they’ve been paying they get that at the end of their career.

It doesn’t make any sense for it to go back to the WPBSA when the sport’s so well run and making a ton of money.

WPBSA of course needs money to function, but does it need to come from the players pocket? And if it stays should the levy be as high as it is? I don’t have a definite answer BUT it seems that there has been a “transfer” of money from the players’ pockets to the shareholders’ pockets in recent years and THAT is NOT right in my opinion. Yes, shareholders deserve a reward for taking risks and investing in the sport, but do they “deserve” it more than the players who actually MAKE the sport? I don’t think so and maybe, with a fairer distribution of the money, the levy could be reduced, or even scrapped.

The Color of Money

This was shared very recently on social media

Profit increase of 150% for World Snooker shareholders in 2020/21

By Craig Edwards, March 8th, 2023

Prize Money falls on WST circuit as dividends soar!

New Figures revealed shareholder dividend increased by 150% in 2020/2021 while Prize money on the World Snooker Tour fell by over 25%.

World Snooker Holding Limited submitted accounts to Companies House for the financial year 2020/2021 that revealed World Snooker shareholders received a bumper dividend increase of 150%. In 2019/2020 WST shareholders received £1,400,000 and the total prize money distributed amongst their membership was just over £12,500,000. A review of 2020/2021 saw shareholders receive a 150% increase to £3,500,000 while the players prize money fell to £9,263,200.

Those published profits of shareholder dividend are in stark contrast to Ali Carter’s comments who said: “Maybe 90% of the Tour are skint”, in the BBC’s Framed Podcast last month after winning the German Masters. In the Podcast, Ali Carter expressed his opinion further, when he added: “The tour should probably be cut. “If you do get your tour card, you’re guaranteed a living, a good living.”

Looking through the money list from the 2020/2021 season revealed WST players had earned a total of £9,263,200 — a fall of 26%. Breaking that down further, it was noticeable the top 20 professionals won £100,000 or over while there were 45 players earning £50,000 or more. Lower down the rankings, pickings were sparse, as Mark King in 65th won £32,250 while Farikh Ajaib occupied 128th with only £4,750 before expenses.

With snooker being drawn in a one-on-one format, the numbers of players derived for the tour are in 32-player increments and with 96th earning only £17,250 before expenses, Ali Carter’s comments seem to offer credence.

Compare those player struggles to make ends meet, with shareholders receiving dividends totalling £3,500,000 there appears a growing disparity between the profits of shareholders and the profits of its players’.

The glaring statistic is the jump in shareholder dividend paid to World Snooker Holding Limited with the perspective of recent years applied with the knowledge that the dividend was stable between £250,000-£700,000 between 2014 and 2018 for accounts at Companies House. Taking a further look through previous filings revealed a jump from £450,000 in 2018 to £1,500,000 in 2019 which was a noticeable 200% plus increase. Then 2020 saw a slight fall to £1,4000,000 before the huge increase of 2021. It is right we make allowances for crossover periods in accounting of any twelve-monthly period but regardless of that, any 150% increase in shareholder dividends asks a plethora of questions and scrutiny given the falling wages of its snooker professionals.

Image below: Practice routine used by professionals

Image above: Practice routine used by professionals

Snooker Professionals Reactions — Past and Present

One former top 16 player from the halcyon days of snooker in the 80s and 90s, said: “If I was still playing, I’d be asking about this stuff!”

Another top 16 player from the past said: “Why are the players not informed, in my day, you got to see issued accounts from the W.P.B.S.A. at least, even if you didn’t like them.”

Clive Everton, is the former esteemed BBC commentator and snooker historian who owned Snooker Scene for many decades and was well known for his strong investigative exhaustive enquiries, acting as snooker’s fourth estate.

When interviewing the two retired players from the top 16, both mentioned the name “Clive Everton” who often delved into similar issues in the past. One did say, he would try and get in touch with him, but I mentioned he had now retired due to ill health.

There is an overwhelming worry from professionals that speaking out might prejudice their future in the sport. I think they are all grateful for Barry Hearn’s involvement in the sport which has turned the fortunes around in recent years. The London entrepreneur is well known for his huge acumen in the field of promoting professional sport as many boxers, darts players and snooker professionals will testify.

Hearn has taken a back seat in recent times and there’s become a growing resentment building amongst the rank and file at the way the board is handing out “two-year tour cards”.

Image: The Crucible Theatre — home for the World Championship that begins on the 15th of April.

It was easier for the older players to speak out, than for the modern players currently earning a living from the sport but there were several willing to give their thoughts confidentially.

One of the World Snooker player’s when asked about the disparity in the 2020/2021 accounts, expressed dismay, admitting to feeling “shocked”. The snooker professional added: “Being a player on tour, I am downhearted to see that it has been taken out of the players pockets.”

The tour player interviewed continued further when he added: “The other frustrating factor is, that during that season the players had no guarantees, like nowadays.”

The guarantee, the player is referring to, is a payment of £20,000 to all tour players for the first time in the current season 2022/2023

The lower ranked professionals have been grateful for the guaranteed income regardless of results. But, for the record, it was an unexpected move and a huge U-turn on Barry Hearn’s policy of only rewarding winners.

Back in December of 2018, Hearn said: “This is a brutal sport, it doesn’t reward first-round losers. “The biggest issue is about opportunity for young players coming in and I want the cream to rise to the top.”

The Shareholders of World Snooker Holding Limited.

Shareholder 1: Matchroom Sport Limited 280,000 = 56%

Shareholder 2: W.P.B.S.A Limited 130,000 = 26%

Shareholder 3: Parker Whitehall Trustees Limited 15,000 = 3%

Shareholder 4: E.J. Hearn 25,000 = 5%

Shareholder 5: B. Parker 25,000 = 5%

Shareholder 6: S.J. Dawson 25,000 = 5%

World Snooker have been asked for comment on the 150% increase in dividend given the player prize pool falling by over 25% but they’ve made no comment so far.

This, of course, is about the 2020/21 season. Since then the decision has been made to guarantee a £20,000 income to all players, which is a big step in the right direction. Nevertheless, the above does indeed raise questions and I’m surprised that WST didn’t express their views on the matter.

As someone who follows trends and news on social media, I have noticed that there has been a lot of similar situations in all economic sectors in post-Brexit UK. Whilst a lot of people struggle badly to make ends meet, many big companies see their profits grow significantly and their shareholders are the main beneficiaries of that growth. Shareholders who invest in a company take risks, it’s normal to reward them properly. But those who do the actual work also deserve proper reward, because, they are ultimately the ones who generate those profits.

Of course, that season there were no tournaments in China, which definitely impacted the players earning opportunities and WST/WPBSA could do nothing about the missing Chinese tournaments, nor about China’s covid policies. But if the money was there why did they not improve the player’s prize money in the remaining tournaments? Especially in the early rounds?

A general Players Meeting has been called for today or tomorrow, I’m not sure. What will be discussed, and whether the above is “on the menu”, I don’t know. Shaun Murphy has urged players to come and participate, especially those (unnamed) who have been “vocal” in recent times. But this meeting has been called at very short notice, it’s to be held today or tomorrow which is the first day of the last ranking event of this season before the World Championship. There is A LOT at stake for many of the players ranking wise. Maybe the matter that needs discussing popped up very recently and is of uttermost importance? If not, then calling the meeting at very short notice is the perfect way to ensure only a few will show up.

I can’t help wondering …

Snooker News – 24th of January, 2023

I could/should have published this yesterday but as we had two day without live snooker, I kept a few things for today.

Congratulations to Mink, 2023 WWS Belgian Open Winner

Here is the report by WST:

Mink Rules In Bruges

Mink Nutcharut defeated Wendy Jans 4-1 to win the Belgian Women’s Open for the first time at The Trickshot, Bruges.

A repeat of the 2022 World Championship final, the match would have the same outcome as Mink recovered from the loss of the opening frame to prevail following an exciting three days of snooker in Belgium.

The victory sealed back-to-back titles on the World Women’s Snooker Tour for the 23-year-old for the second time (2022 British Open-World Championship), and her fifth career ranking event title in all.

Her performance in Belgium also sees the Thai star climb to a new career-high ranking of number two following the tournament, ending the nine-year duopoly of Reanne Evans and Ng On Yee, with Ng dropping to third.

Mink impressed throughout the tournament as she whitewashed Nikolya Broyak, Emma Parker and most notably 12-time world champion Reanne Evans in the semi-finals to progress to the title match.

Awaiting her would be Belgian number one Wendy Jans who having progressed from the group stages without the loss of a frame, emerged from a tricky last 16 tie against England’s Tessa Davidson, before adding the scalps of Mary Talbot-Deegan and most notably Rebecca Kenna, following a tense deciding frame, to reach the final. Kenna herself had already come through a dramatic quarter-final against Ng On Yee, defeating the three-time world champion for the first time in 13 attempts on Tour.

It was Jans who dominated the opener as she restricted her opponent to just five points, but from there it was Mink who imposed herself upon the match, ultimately sealing a 4-1 victory with a break of 53 in what would prove to be the final frame.

The highest break of the tournament was also constructed by Mink as she compiled a run of 94 during her last 16 match, having missed the pink for what would have been a century break.


England’s Tessa Davidson defeated compatriot Mary Talbot-Deegan 2-0 to win the Seniors competition in Belgium and further consolidate her position as the number one ranked player in the over-40s category.

Davidson defeated Belinda Focquaert of Belgium, before avenging her defeat to Diana Schuler at last year’s Scottish Open to reach the title match. Talbot-Deegan had herself seen off Michelle Cohen and Sarah Dunn on her way to the final, but it was Davidson who would claim her seventh Seniors crown from eight tournaments contested during the past 12 months.

The Challenge Cup tournament for players who did not reach the quarter-finals of the main tournament, was won by Belgium’s Emilie Demeester, who was competing in her first WWS event. She defeated Emma Powers-Richardson, Sarah Dunn, Jasmine Bolsover and in the final Nikola Broyak to take home the title on her debut.

As always, World Women’s Snooker would like to thank everyone who has supported the tournament, including our host venue The Trickshot, owned by Olivier Vandebohede, who was presented with a commemorative plaque by WWS President Mandy Fisher after the tournament.

The WWS Tour returns in just over a week’s time with the Asia-Pacific Women’s Snooker Championship, to be held at the Mounties Club from 31 January – 3 February 2023.

A few words about Wendy Jans… she’s 39 years old now. She lives in Neerpelt, in Belgium, where she runs an excellent snooker club, “De Maxx”.

Between 2003 and 2022, she has competed in 13 IBSF Women World Championship Finals, winning 8 of them. She did beat Mink for the title in 2022.

Between 1999 and 2021, she has competed in no less than 20 EBSA Women Championship finals, winning 13 of them.

Wendy has also competed in 19 Belgium National Finals, winning the title a staggering 17 times.

That’s quite the CV and it could have been even bigger if Wendy had got more support/sponsors. There have been international titles that she was unable to defend because she didn’t have the financial means to attend the tournaments.

Wendy is a very, very good player and, if she was based in the UK, she would probably be on the main tour currently.

It was another Belgian , Emilie Demeester, who won the Challenge cup. Belgium, a small country, has three players on the main tour, all young: Luca Brecel, Ben Mertens and Julien Leclercq. There IS a huge potential for snooker in mainland Europe but the strong UK centric nature of the main tour, as well as the fact that all European Q-Schools and most of the Q-Tour events are played in the UK are not helping to develop it.

Stephen Hendry fined … for being Rubbish

No, no, no… it’s not about his poor performances on the baize. Here is the explanation thanks to BBC

Stephen Hendry fined for pulling out of tournaments to appear on ‘The Masked Singer’

Stephen Hendry

Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry says he was fined for pulling out of snooker tournaments in order to appear on ‘The Masked Singer’.

Hendry, 54, was unveiled as ‘Rubbish’ on the ITV celebrity singing show on Saturday night.

The Scotsman was fined by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) for pulling out of events that clashed with filming.

You’re dying to tell people what you’re doing but you can’t,” he said.

WPBSA rules state if a player pulls out of a tournament after the draw has been made there is a standard fine.

I do have wildcards to play in some events and I actually pulled out of a couple and got fined by the WPBSA,” said Hendry.

And I couldn’t tell them why because this recording was going on and I couldn’t obviously say why I pulled out. I just said ‘Look, I can’t play the tournament’. So, yeah, it was, very, very, very strange.”

‘The Masked Singer’ sees celebrities wear elaborate costumes and face masks to hide their identities. They then anonymously perform a selection of songs live in front of a studio audience and panel of celebrity judges, who vote on which celebrity to unmask.

I have been asked to do the other reality shows, but the thing that appealed to me about this one obviously was the fact that you are in a costume. Nobody can see you,” added Hendry.

And obviously (there is no) stress – this is not a singing competition, it’s just a show that you just go in this costume and have fun.

My son texted me and said ‘I’ve watched the show every week. I love it. I can’t believe you’ve done that‘.

He didn’t even have a clue so the feedback and the reaction was incredible.”

Frankly WST, this is rubbish! Be good sports … put that money (back) in the bin!

Ronnie’s new book

This came up in the news yesterday and was shared on social media by David Hendon

Seven Dials pots snooker legend O’Sullivan’s uncompromising memoir

Seven Dials has landed Unbreakable, the “raw, fascinating, and uncompromising” memoir from snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Vicky Eribo, executive publisher, acquired world all-language rights from Jonny Geller of the Curtis Brown Group. It will be published in hardback, export trade paperback, audiobook and e-book on 11th May.

In a career spanning more than three decades, O’Sullivan’s journey to becoming the greatest snooker player of all time has been filled with extremes, the publisher’s synopsis begins. A teenage snooker prodigy, he turned professional with the highest of expectations.

“Together with a challenging personal life, [this pressure] catapulted him into a life of excess and addiction,” it continues. He was winning titles—his first within a year of turning professional—but losing himself and his game as he tried to block out mental pain and misery. While O’Sullivan appeared to be at the top of his game to spectators, these were the moments when he felt at his lowest. In the year 2000 he started rehab and began the journey to get his life back.

The publisher said that Unbreakable takes the reader inside the mind of one of Britain’s most-loved sporting icons, with the book framed around the lessons he has learned from his extraordinary career.

“With this book he takes us beyond the success and record-breaking achievements to share the reality—and brutality—of what it takes to rise to the very top. With these stories and techniques, he hopes to help readers navigate their own personal challenges and obstacles and in turn reach their maximum potential.

“This is Ronnie O’Sullivan as you’ve never seen him before: unflinchingly honest, often vulnerable and always inspiring,” the synopsis concludes.

Eribo said: “If you think you know Ronnie O’Sullivan’s story, read this book and think again. Providing an extraordinary insight into the mind of one of the most fascinating sporting greats of all time, Unbreakable is a sports memoir unlike anything you’ve ever read before. It’s an intoxicating, compelling and incredibly immersive read and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be welcoming Ronnie back to Orion for what we are confident will be one of the biggest autobiographies of 2023.”

O’Sullivan said: “A lot has happened in the 10 years since I last told my story. Unbreakable is both an account of this journey and an honest insight into what it has taught me. I hope that reading stories of the lessons and techniques I’ve learned on and off the table will help readers find their own path to being the best versions of themselves.” 

O’Sullivan’s first memoir Ronnie sold 72,762 copies via Nielsen BookScan TCM across all editions, and his second 2013 memoir Running has sold 55,017 copies.

And this…

More snooker news: Liang Wenbo and 2023 German Masters

Liang Wenbo suspended again

Shortly before Liang Wenbo was due to play Peter Lines in the English Open qualifiers, WST site, on their sessions page, indicated that Lines was getting a walk over.

Later this was published:

Thursday 27 Oct 2022 03:03PM

The WPBSA has today suspended Liang Wenbo from attending or competing in WPBSA sanctioned events.  This is due to an ongoing investigation into allegations of misconduct. The suspension will remain in place until the conclusion of the investigation or the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

The WPBSA will not comment further until the investigation is complete.

This is bizarre on many accounts. According to reports in the press, this suspension is NOT linked to the domestic abuse affair that lead to the previous one. However there was no indication about the nature of the “misconduct”. Also, Liang was informed of his suspension at very short notice before his match. He’s not allowed to attend WPBSA sanctioned events: it’s not just that he isn’t allowed to compete, he’s not allowed to be there, even as a spectator. I’m not sure how common such restriction is, but I know that the same is true for Stephen Lee.

German Masters Draw and Qualifiers format

WST has published the draw and qualifiers format for the 2023 German Masters

Friday 28 Oct 2022 10:04AM

The draw and format for the 2023 BetVictor German Masters are now available. The qualifying rounds will be played from November 21 to 26 in Leicester, with 32 players going through to the final stages at the Tempodrom in Berlin in February.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

Zhao Xintong, who beat Yan Bingtao 9-0 in the final last season, will start the defence of his title against Wu Yize. World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan will take on Oliver Brown while Germany’s top player Lukas Kleckers will face India’s Himanshu Jain.

Matthew Stevens will be up against Stephen Hendry – a repeat of the 2003 UK Championship final – while Judd Trump will meet Mark Davis. John Higgins will play Marco Fu in a repeat of their recent Hong Kong Masters semi-final.

Ronnie has entered the tournament. I was not really expecting this: he’s rarely shown a lot of enthusiasm for this event, there are two rounds of qualifiers, with no held-over matches, and he has a couple of exhibitions in Bulgaria on 25 and 26 November. He’s playing his first match on November 23, with the second, should he qualify, the next day.

Liang Wenbo is also in the draw, which is slightly baffling given the previous announcement. I suppose that they can’t prevent him to enter events until the investigation finishes and maybe they expect it to be quick.

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…