Snookerbacker

August 23, 2016

Paul Hunter Classic Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:30 am

Paul HunterIt’s been quite a while coming but this week sees the return of snooker action to our screens as the potters head to Bavaria, the Stadthalle Fürth to be precise, to compete for the Paul Hunter Classic, which was famously and poignantly won last season by newly crowned World Open Champion Ali Carter.

It’s one of only two events that provide top class action for the amateurs this season and they get underway on Wednesday at the venue. Again it’s played over the best of seven format all the way through to the final on Sunday, with €25,000 on offer for the eventual winner. It’s also a chance for the snooker community to remember Paul and again lament on what a tragic loss it was for the sport when he left us.

Unfortunately a few of the bigger names in the sport have chosen to give this a miss. Obviously there is no Ronnie O’Sullivan and also AWOL are the likes of Neil Robertson (too busy playing video games), Shaun Murphy (on baby watch), Judd Trump (on holiday), Ding Junhui (never plays in these) and Mark Williams (playing golf and bingo). But the current world champion is in the mix as is the holder and man in form Carter, so there is enough quality in there to keep us all entertained over the weekend.

I haven’t yet seen the Eurosport schedule but I am assuming it will get a bit of coverage on the TV stations (EDIT – it isn’t on the TV channel unfortunately) as well as full coverage on Eurosport Player, which seemed to be working fine once it got up and running for the last couple of events so might be worth an investment if you haven’t already, given that they cover everything on there throughout the season.

Mark Selby is a very short priced favourite for this in a huge field. Granted that he does look the stand out in his section of the draw but 4/1 best price in a field of 128 is a bit skinny for my liking. He might well win it of course but I’d prefer to take a punt on others that are more than capable over the shorter format at much longer odds.

Draws could have been worse for the likes of Ricky Walden, the holder Carter, the man he beat in China Joe Perry and lower down the experienced Angles McManus, so it’s worth just spreading some shrapnel around on others rather than steaming in to Selby in my humble opinion.

So here is my band of merry men, best of luck if you are having a punt.

Recommended Outright Bets: Ricky Walden (16/1), Ali Carter (25/1), Michael Holt (80/1), Joe Perry (22/1), Dave Gilbert (66/1), Alan McManus (125/1).

Click here to view the full draw.

Click here to view the format.

August 3, 2016

The Captain’s Log – Ali Carter Interview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:09 pm
Back in the winners enclosure

Back in the winners enclosure

I’ve caught up with the newly crowned World Open Champion Ali Carter, who chats to me below about how he feels about becoming a main ranking winner again after a turbulent period in his life and what it means to get back into the top sixteen. He also tells us about his plans to release the story of his life and career.

So Ali, obvious first question is how does it feel to be a big tournament winner again?

It feels fantastic, to be a main ranking event winner again so soon after my disappointment at The Crucible just feels a bit surreal, it really hasn’t sunk in yet to be honest. The win means so much to me and there was a lot more than just the trophy I was playing for, I’m set now to climb the rankings again so this is the best possible start to the season.  

It was a new venue and host city of course, with one player being bitten by a worm and you eating what looked like tomatoes in hot water (without egg obviously), all sounds a bit grim to me, what was it like out there?

There was a young guy called Chris from Shanghai who was looking after me over there, bear in mind he was from Shanghai and he had never heard of the place! What I can tell you is that it was 100% Chinese, absolutely no westernisation at all, no coffee shops, nothing, just nothing there! In fact on the Monday of the tournament, after a very long and uncomfortable journey and arriving at a hotel that I didn’t really like, having trouble communicating with the staff I was considering coming home, but I decided to stay put and lived all week on steamed rice, broccoli and carrots, the soup didn’t really hit the spot! What I will say is that the tables played really nice and they were the best conditions we have played on for a long time, all the players said the same. It’s a shame that the conditions were so bad at The Crucible and I was really disappointed to lose to Alan there, but he coped with the poor table better than I did and I can now forget about this and enjoy being a winner again.

You are back in the top sixteen at a really early stage in the season and look set to build on your ranking throughout the remainder of it, that must feel pretty good…

Exactly, because of the timing of my illness I have almost nothing to defend so the only way from here is up. I just need to keep up my form and I should be in The Masters again which is very important to me. I’m also in the Champion of Champions and it’s only August. Like I say, I don’t think it’s all sunk in yet as all I have been doing since I got back is sleeping and I just headed straight off from the venue as soon as they gave me the trophy. But it feels great to be back where I think I belong and now I’ll be looking to get higher.

We’ve been working together on your autobiography which we’re hoping to finalise and publish soon, what made you decide to do it? 

Well, the obvious trigger factor was beating cancer. I want to inspire people who find themselves in my position to fight back and believe in themselves. You have very very dark days and sometimes you are in unbearable pain, but if you keep fighting and think about the people you love and who love you it is amazing what you can achieve. It also changes you a lot as a person, changes your priorities in life. Before cancer, my snooker career and the money it made me was absolutely everything to me, I placed it above other things that are really far more important, relationships for one. As horrible a disease as it is, cancer helps you put things in perspective and it also helps you work out the things that you need to change in your life to help you stay strong. I wouldn’t ever say it was a blessing in disguise, but it does change your outlook on everything. 

Once I started telling my story and thinking about my life before my health issues, including my constant battle with Crohns, I realised that some of the problems I have had may be because of the type of person that I am. I think people will be surprised when they finally read it, I tend to keep myself to myself on the circuit and also in life, only a few people really actually know me very well. It’s going to be strange opening up for the first time about things fans and fellow players know nothing about, but I think I am at a stage of my life and my career that I’m ready to do this. There is one theme throughout the book that not even my close friends know anything about.

It is a brave and brutally honest story, so many sporting autobiographies tend to play it safe, this doesn’t….

No, it doesn’t do that at all and I think it helps a lot that we get on well. I don’t think I could have been so open with a stranger and the more I talked the more I realised that this was the direction it had to go. There is obviously an underlying theme of snooker but I like to think it’s firstly an account of Ali the person, rather than Ali Carter, the snooker player. We’ve also had some contributions from people close to me like Steve Daintry, Peter Ebdon and others outside the snooker world, so there is something for everyone to take away hopefully.

You talk quite a bit about your relationships with women down the years, it’s fair to say there are a few eye opening stories…

That’s one way of putting it! Yes, I’ve had some interesting times when it comes to relationships. I don’t break any confidences in the book and it’s not about settling scores or anything like that. It’s more about building a picture of the type of person that I was then and I am now. I’m in a new relationship now and I am as content and happy as I have ever been, which also seems to be helping with my snooker. What is it they say, behind every good man is a great woman? I never used to believe that but maybe it’s true after all!

Are you wary of upsetting anyone with the book, or maybe even changing the way your fans and fellow players think about you?

No, I hope that they will see that when you peel away the waistcoat and take my cue off me that I am only human. As well as my health issues, relationships and being a snooker player both on and off the table I also talk about my relationship with my son, who is the most important person in the world to me and about my upbringing and how that shaped me as a person. I think some of the scrapes I have got myself into down the years and some of the bizarre things I have done will make people laugh. Above all, it’s honest, it’s me and I hope people enjoy it.

Everyone is asking us when it’s coming out, it’s fair to say the world of publishing doesn’t really run at our pace does it?  

We’ve kind of done it in stages and I think it’s good that we have, I had planned to finish it with my win last season in the Paul Hunter Classic but so much has happened to me since then. It would have been lovely to end it as World Champion obviously but that wasn’t to be this year, but World Open Champion isn’t a bad second prize, who knows, if I keep on winning it might never come out! No, seriously, I think we will get it out there in the next six months, you seem to have come up with an innovative approach to doing this without relying too much on the lengthy timescales publishers work to, so again, that is exciting for me to see how that all goes as it’s a fresh way of doing things that is easily accessible to snooker fans all over the world.

Great stuff, we’d better get it finished then? 

Let’s get to work SB! Just so long as we don’t drift off into politics!

‘Ali Carter – To The Max’ will be out a few weeks after we’ve finished it….or possibly after that, we’ll keep you posted.

Thanks to World Snooker for the main image.

July 29, 2016

World Open Nears Conclusion

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:16 am
We're approaching another lull in the calendar

We’re approaching another lull in the calendar

We’re down to the final four at this season’s World Open from Yushan before another quite large gap in the calendar which sees almost a month without any snooker at all going on in this rather sedated start to the new campaign.

It’s been quite an entertaining tournament so far, though again for all but a handful of matches the attendance has been quite poor, not helped really by below par performances from the Chinese contingent, in particular Ding, who looked as rusty as a rusty thing covered in rust.

The large gaps that are appearing in the calendar are not to everyone’s liking, in particular I have noticed those who are a little newer to snooker and who perhaps were only switched on to it after the coronation of Herr Bazza, but for old hands like me it really isn’t a big deal and I look forward to events more when there has been a few weeks of inaction. It is however a far cry from the 365/24/7 snooker that the incoming chairman promised would happen when he was anointed. 

But the newbies need not be too despondent as when the calendar picks up again there are plenty of opportunities to watch snooker. It kicks off at the back end of August in Furth for the annual Paul Hunter Classic which of course was famously won last year by the returning Ali Carter, who is also involved at the business end of the current tournament.

Following this, September is dominated by the Shanghai Masters but it’s in October that things really start picking up with the European and English Opens as well as the lucrative International Championships all being played then, so that’s quite a month.

 

So as we approach the last throes of snooker for a while, it’s time again for a bit of downtime until Germany, no prizes for guessing who I’d like to win the World Open from here. Not least because he was recommended at 66/1 to do so.

Semi Finals

Ali Carter 6-1 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 

Neil Robertson 2-6 Joe Perry 

Final

Ali Carter 10-8 Joe Perry

July 21, 2016

World Open Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:16 am

World OpenThe biggest tournament of the early season gets underway in China on 25th July as Yushan plays host to the World Open, it’s a new venue and officially Shaun Murphy is here to defend the title he won in 2014, with this having been scrapped from last season’s calendar.

There is over half a million quid on offer here which is a step up from the recent jaunts to Latvia and India, but this still isn’t enough to tempt Ronnie O’Sullivan to hop on a plane and take part, instead he was last seen skulking around Elvis Presley’s pool room. It’s probably more likely that The King himself jumps out of a nearby wardrobe to take up the challenge with The Rocket than Ronnie ever playing competitively in China again.

Perhaps more surprising is that Mark Allen, who won this two years on the spin before Murphy, also decided this was too early to come back to the baize, other top players all decided that this wasn’t one to miss so we’ll see how costly that decision could be to Mark at the end of the season, or arguably more importantly when seedings for the World Championship are decided, although looking at how much money he won last year he is unlikely to end up outside the top 16 any time soon.

It was good to see a new face lifting a trophy in India and Anthony McGill finally fulfilled the years of promise he has shown to become the latest virgin ranking winner beating Kyren Wilson, who surely has a good season ahead of him, in the final. Now anoraks everywhere are left to ponder who the next first time ranking winner will be, I’d take a punt on Michael Holt given his upturn in form recently, he can’t be far away now I don’t think and is still going off at three figure prices in almost everything. 

There isn’t much else really to report on the snooker front, the whole scene goes a little quiet over the sunnier months and that’s no bad thing. Who knows, by the time we get to November we might all be fully refreshed and chomping at the bit for a bit of baize having been starved of it for so long. I certainly prefer this to the 24/7 feel of a couple of seasons ago, but that said, I do wonder where the next generation of professionals are coming from given the lack of any effective replacement for the PTC’s for amateurs.

Anyway, back to this. One good thing about this event is that it returns to the best of 9 format for the early rounds so it’s nice that the Chinese events at least are not being swept away with this tedious move to best of sevens in everything. It’s making me like the Chinese events a lot more than the ones closer to home as I continue to be switched off by the shorter format, I’m particularly disappointed that such a great new initiative as the Home Nations series is subject again to best of sevens when most snooker fans yearn for longer matches to mix it up a bit.

This one is covered on Eurosport TV which is good and also available on Eurosport Player, which is now up and running after a few early teething problems in India, I signed up to it and it’s a pretty good service, at least so far.

Bettingwise, I’m happy to take a punt that Ding Junhui will come into this fresh and buoyed by his Sheffield adventure, he’ll have all the support as ever to lift him and perhaps this season we’ll see him get back to something like the player we saw at The Crucible, but who before that, hadn’t been seen for quite a while.

I’m also going to throw in a few each way punts on players that are more than capable of having a run in this. Snooker in the early season isn’t always dominated by the big name players and although you have to look at Neil Robertson’s draw and make him a worthy favourite, there really isn’t any such thing as a certainty when we get down to the last 32 or so of a ranking event, particularly this early in the season when a lot of them would probably much rather be on their holidays. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a player outside of the top 16 go deep in this so it’s worth spreading your bets around in each quarter in the hope that you’ve found the right man.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

Recommended Bets: Win: Ding Junhui 10/1. Each Way: Ali Carter 66/1, Michael Holt 150/1, Liang Wenbo 80/1, Kurt Maflin 250/1, Zhou Yuelong 300/1. Quarter Bets: Michael Holt to win 3rd Quarter at 25/1, Kurt Maflin to win 1st Quarter at 40/1. 

July 6, 2016

You’re No Sport

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:55 am

There are rumblings and mumblings on social media among the baize faithful, whilst this is definitely nothing new in snooker, this time it’s probably worth giving a word or two about. The absence of the promised coverage of the Indian Open on Eurosport Player has raised questions about exactly what the ten year deal Bazza was toasting in Sheffield entails, he himself stating that there is ‘clearly some problem’.

The great man’s advice for now is to watch it on one of the bookmakers websites, which is fair enough if you are partial to a wager or three, as I’ve been known to be in the past, but not great if you are in a country which prohibits such websites, are under 18 years of age or you are at work (though you shouldn’t be watching it there anyway if your boss is there).

To remind you of what the deal is supposed to deliver you can read this, basically, it promises wall to wall, ceiling to floor coverage of the main tour, including the Indian Open. It would seem that the governing body weren’t even aware of the situation given that they were even telling us all to tune in when the tournament had started, after repeatedly telling us in the days running up to it about this brilliant coverage they’d secured.

Let’s hope that things are sorted out soon, though it appears that there are still some questions that need to be resolved about the rights. TV rights are a complexed matter of course and I wouldn’t know how to negotiate them, but this was a big announcement at The Crucible and to think that the corks were popped before the i’s were dotted is a little worrying.

I can’t help thinking to myself, would this happen with the darts or the boxing? Am I right or wrong to conclude that snooker is something of a poor relation to Barry’s other two hobbies?

July 4, 2016

Indian Open – Potters Head to Hyderabad

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:43 am
Back early to defend his title.

Back to defend his title.

Tuesday sees the start of five days of action from Hyderabad in India as the potters, hopefully not destined to spend more time on the potty than potting take part in the Indian Open.

One of the aspects of this that is different is of course the Indian commentators, expect many scathing attacks on players if they dare to miss what they decide is an easy ball or they dare to misjudge a safety, much talk of players being ‘club standard’ is to be expected if anyone has a bad day at the office. Those boys don’t pull their punches and they will also be suitably biased towards their own players, making sure that they mention Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta more times than Dennis mentions golf in Sheffield regardless of who they are actually watching.

This continues the stop/start feel to the beginning of the new season, first we headed to Preston for a week of qualifiers, including the first round of this event, then a few weeks later came the Riga Masters in Latvia, which to be honest passed me by in a heartbeat and was won by Neil Robertson, now a couple of weeks later it’s this and then we have another couple of weeks to wait until the biggest event so far of the season, the World Open in Yushan, China.

This stuttering start does have its critics but I’m actually a fan of it and would rather we had a fortnight between all tournaments, with perhaps some lesser event like the Championship League providing the baize heroin injection for those who just need more and more of it, which I don’t. It’s not really until November that the events start coming thick and fast and that’s fine by me as the UK Championship and The Masters are there to keep us cozy when the nights start drawing in. For now, let summer do its thing and keep the snooker at a minimal level.

There’s not been that much happening in the baizeworld really over the past few weeks, it’s all a bit quiet while everyone takes in the changes that are happening over here in other areas and tries to get their heads around that, perhaps a focus on snooker every now and again might provide the therapy that I know I need after the week that’s just taken place in the UK.

This is covered on Eurosport Player if you have it, I haven’t so I’d better sort that out if I want to watch it. I do hope they take the Indian coverage though and we get to hear their sometimes comical thoughts on what is unfolding in front of them. We’ll also get to see one of the more bizarre presentation ceremonies at the end which seems to go on forever as every Captain and his mate gets introduced to the bemused winner and loser and Jason Ferguson stands there in his regulation suit and tie combo trying to look interested.

I managed to recommend a winning acca on the Riga preview, albeit at shorter odds by virtue of Kyren Wilson’s withdrawal, which was a certainty since I made him the poster boy of the preview, predicting big things for him this season. Happily he has recovered from the health scare that stopped him travelling to Latvia and is back in action here, where he faces my pal Martin O’Donnell first up.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the updated format

Recommended Bets: Outright – Marco Fu (12/1) Shaun Murphy (11/2) Stuart Bingham (12/1). First Round Acca –  Joe Swail, Dechawat Poomjaeng, Matthew Stevens, Mike Dunn and Anthony McGill pays just over 15/2.

June 23, 2016

It will be FINE

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:59 am

It’s a momentous day today as we all know.

Yes, today is the day that we finally get to see what fines and punishments have been dished out over the last three seasons to those naughty potters. Some of the offences are a lot more serious than others but all have one thing in common – they are all seen as serious enough to haul in a player to explain himself, here they are in full.

  2014 fines

2014 was a pretty quiet year on the disciplinary front although there were three pretty hefty additions to the World Snooker Xmas Party Fund as they decided to fine Ronnie a total of £7000 for his erratic behaviour on Twitter which included him posting a photo of a friend of his performing an act of acrobatic self pleasurement, for want of a better phrase. Liang Wenbo’s temper got the better of him in a match in Germany and he was particularly unpleasant to a referee and rightly fined heavily because of it. Ding didn’t turn up for the World Snooker Awards bash and found himself on the wrong end of an £11,000 fine following previous warnings. It also looks like our old mate Padgey and Jamie O’Neill were getting a bit fresh in a hotel while Gerry Greene said something on social media which I must have missed.

2015 fines

The rebels were really out in force in 2015 with Ronnie again featuring heavily on the naughty step, it was beginning to look like he might as well just set up a direct debit. This time he was done for loose talk on TV and in press conferences, the heinous crime of not answering a letter, failing to report an approach to fix a match, which to be fair he probably only said to sell his book and also breach of a suspended sentence, whatever that was. Matt Selt breached the dress code and made an inappropriate comment on Facebook, which is very unlike him. The Chinese lot were hauled in en masse for something they did on TV, which might have been something to do with sponsors perhaps, John Higgins decided he didn’t want to talk to the media and got a very severe punishment for it while John Sutton was of course banned for match fixing. The interesting one here is Michael Holt being fined for ‘not playing to the best of ability’, a very subjective judgement and not clear what match it refers to. I’ve backed a few that haven’t played to the best of ability more times than I’d care to mention, perhaps I’ll make a list for the WPBSA, anyway, Holty was singled out and fined £500 for it.

2016 fines

Things have been a little quieter this year but there is plenty of time for that to change, for example Ronnie will no doubt be there again for not speaking to the press following his first round match at The Crucible. But for now, the new bad boy of the baize is undoubtedly Matt Selt, who has been done for swearing and twatting the table. Pottymouth Ding Junhui also said something he shouldn’t and his loose talk got him a suspended £1000 fine which presumably has now been written off. Anthony Hamilton’s dress sense cost him £500, which would probably have been better used on some new clobber at a Pottingham Tailor and Liang continued his poor conduct with referees and also decided to throw in a profanity at a press conference, he’s obviously looking to overtake Selty at the top of the naughty ladder. Oh and Charlie Walters ran off from a hotel without paying, we’ve all done it….haven’t we? 

June 21, 2016

The Riga Masters – The Season Begins

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:21 am
Kyren Wilson - on the up.

Kyren Wilson – on the up.

This week sees the snooker season beginning in earnest as the first trophy will be handed out over in Riga in what used to be a EPTC event and is now a fully fledged ranker, if still largely run under a rather rushed EPTC format over just three days.

It’s best of sevens all the way to the final, when we get to see a rare best of nine finale. Indeed when you look at the calendar these days it’s something of a novelty not to have best of sevens dominating, I’ve counted 12 events in the entire season that are best of seven or less and that to me is a great shame and largely switches me off for quite a fair chunk of it. It comes to something when I am only really looking forward to The Masters, to a lesser extent the UK and The World Championship when the season hasn’t really even started yet, but that’s how Bazza has decided it’s going to be and he won’t listen to a boring old traditionalist like me.

A handful of the top players didn’t bother entering this one including for some reason the holder Barry Hawkins, Shaun Murphy who decided to get married instead, as you do, Ding who never enters this type of event and of course Ronnie who only plays in the UK these days unless it’s an exhibition for a load of dosh. But we do have the likes of World Champion Selby, Robbo, Judd, Higgins etc. to keep the crowd entertained.

I’ve decided that this season a solid tactic is to back two or three players blind in the hope that they deliver a title at a decent price over the course of the season. The first is Kyren Wilson, who continues to come on in leaps and bounds and is now into the top 16 with plenty of scope to climb higher and solidify his Masters place. He impressed throughout last season and has to be one to keep on the right side of in this one. I’ll also start having a punt each time on Dave Gilbert, I’ve always rated him and he’s playing as well now as he ever has so I’d expect to see him competing at the business end a few times this season, he’s also my biggest fan, he told me in Sheffield.

It is always interesting to see who breaks through in a particular season and there are plenty of names at long odds that are more than capable of raising their game and nabbing a title, for this particular comp you see the likes of Michael Holt and Sam Baird at 150/1 in places, the promising Zhou Yuelong (or as Dennis prefers to call him Ghou Yolonge) starting at odds of around 200/1, SBC Champ Sam Craigie at 500/1 and the man he faces in the first round here former SBC champ Martin O’Donnell as long as 300/1 and you just never know who might turn the corner this season and nab a title at astronomical odds just as Kyren did last season in Shanghai.

Apparently the live TV coverage of this isn’t up to much and we’re still waiting for the new improved streaming service that is yet to replace the World Snooker Live Streaming Channel, not really sure what’s happening on that front.

Following Riga we have another fortnight gap until the potters pack the Imodium for India. It’s a bit like last year in that the start of the season is a little bit stop/start, but once we hit September it’s pretty much blanket snooker all the way through to the end of the season. I just wish they’d not have so many best of sevens.

The draw for the Riga Masters is here and the format is here and it all kicks off on Wednesday and finishes on Friday, at which point we will know if the UK still wants to be part of Europe or not. There are a couple of heldover matches, one sees the return to pro snooker for Welshman Darren Morgan who recently won a European title to bag a wildcard, the other sees Marco Fu taking on a local lady player who the bookies rate at just 1000/1 to take the title when arguably she should be that price to beat Marco, at least Dick Turpin wore a mask.

Recommended Bets: Outright – Kyren Wilson at 22/1 and Dave Gilbert at 80/1. First Round Acca – Jimmy Robertson, Ali Carter, Stuart Bingham, Zhao Xintong and Kyren Wilson pays just on 9/2.   

English Amateur Snooker Board Embraces English Partnership

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:20 am

epsbplamnSaturday saw a change in how amateur snooker is run in England as the National Governing Body status of the English Amateur Snooker Board (EASB) will soon be transferred to the English Partnership for Snooker and Billiards (EPSB), once certain conditions requested by the EASB have been met.

The EPSB is the brainchild of WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson and aims to unite amateur snooker under one umbrella organisation, bringing together junior, disabled and ladies snooker as well as the mainstream amateur game.

What does it all mean? Well, one of the initiatives is to introduce a Kitemarking Scheme for what’s left of the falling number of snooker clubs in England, with the aim of making them more welcoming and safer places to be, encouraging more people to take up the sport.

Other stated aims of the project are:

  • Ensuring there are no barriers for talented individuals to reach their full potential.
  • Promoting and marketing the sport to women to increase participation levels.
  • Inspiring facilities that can accommodate disabled players providing equal opportunities for all.
  • Creating pathways for future Paralympians
  • Encouraging children from schools into the club environment ensuring a transition into adult participation in sport in England.
  • Encouraging people over 55 to keep active through Snooker and Billiards, improving the physical and mental health of an ageing population.
  • Promoting the physical and mental health benefits of playing Snooker and Billiards.
  • Educating people through sport. Aimed at improving basic numeracy and literacy of people of all age groups.

Amateur players still reading this (if you haven’t nodded off yet), will probably be scratching their collective heads wondering if this will make any difference to them this season. Well, the short answer is probably not. Whilst it’s all very noble and ticks a lot of political boxes in Jason’s quest to get snooker into the Olympics, it doesn’t seem to address the concerns of many amateurs at the lack of competitive and meaningful competitions to play in this season, following the removal of the European Tour.

The EASB will continue to run their competitions, including the English Amateur Championship and their various ongoing tour contests. But despite claims that this agreement brings together professional and amateur snooker there are still no competitions other than Q-School that offer promotion for amateurs onto the professional ladder.

I’m at a crossroads with my own tournament and only after discussions over the next few weeks will I make a decision whether to run it or not, largely because I am a little discouraged at not being afforded even a sniff at a pro-card for the winner despite 5 years of growth and success, compare this to a recent minuted EASB meeting which expressed serious concern at the lack of participation in their events, I’ve seen quite the opposite.

In short, to me this is about ticking boxes. It is very heavy on wording and political correctness but to me lacks any detail about how amateurs are going to be catered for this season, other than through the existing system of voluntary organisations and unpaid or underpaid helpers. Unfortunately, the plan that myself and Shaun Murphy had in mind seems something that was dead before it even got off the ground despite receiving almost universal support from players and high profile people involved in snooker.

I remain concerned for the future of the amateur sport in the UK despite this latest development. Actions, after all, speak louder than words.

June 5, 2016

Good Week, Bad Week

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:21 am
Happysad

Some left Preston a lot happier than others

The concentration of no fewer than three ranking event qualifying matches in one week in Preston was bound to produce some winners and losers. For some, the first few events are crucial to their chances of staying on the tour and it is precisely these players that would have been looking to hit the ground running in Preston. So who were the biggest winners and losers of the week?

It’s not so much the dosh that those who won all three matches carried off with them, but more the potential this gives them to add to their money pot and in turn move up the rankings when others around them are sat at home. Some who didn’t progress in either the Indian Open, World Open and Riga Masters, will now have all summer to reflect on this, with nothing to play in professionally until the end of August at The Paul Hunter Classic in Germany.

I spoke to a few of the players when I went over to Preston last Sunday and there was mixed views on whether they liked the intensity of playing in three ranking events in the same week, it’s fair to say that most I spoke to didn’t like the format. Personally, I do, but I’m not a player so I’m allowed to. It brings a nice focus to the sport early on in the season and is followed by a break before the tournaments themselves, but you have to feel for those who have gone home potless. I am still not a fan of snooker so early in the season though.

Add to this that World Snooker didn’t release the tour qualification criteria until two of the tournament qualifiers had finished and you have some disgruntled potters on your hands, though no doubt the response from the powers that be, or to be more precise, Barry, would be to shut up and win, then your place looks after itself. He’d then use his line about the sport being brutal no doubt.

Anyway here is a look at the main beneficiaries and the not so fortunate following their week in Lancashire.

WINNERS

It’s been a great week for my mate Allan Taylor who tops the one season ranking list if you sort it by first name (a minor detail) having qualified for all three overseas events, racking up a minimum of £6525 in prize money. It’s great that The Assassin has started the season so positively and I really hope this is the beginning of a great run for him as a nicer fella you could not wish to meet. Other notable names amongst the 17 players to have started the season in style are Kyren Wilson, Luca Brecel, Zhou Yuelong (Ghou Yolonge) and Anthony McGill, who will all be looking to the future with hopes of really making their mark this season, Kyren in particular is only a ranking update or so away from a place in the very elite of the sport. Some established names are there too such as Graeme Dott, Stuart Bingham, Mark Williams, Matthew Stevens, Ryan Day, Mark King and Dark Mavis (Mark Davis). All these players will have left Preston with a smile on their faces after a top weeks work.       

LOSERS

At the other end of the spectrum are those who leave Preston with not a lot to look forward to for the next three months. There are a few in there that you might have predicted would face a stiff challenge but there are others who will leave wondering if they have missed the early season boat, amongst them are Craig Steadman, Scott Donaldson, Paul Davison and Syd Wilson.

Mustard

Mustard

THE IN-BETWEENERS

There will be players who are in neither camp who will still consider the week in Preston to have been largely positive and it is at this point we showcase the Snookerbacker Classic Champion Sam Craigie, who despite missing out on India, managed to take his first big scalp in Ken Doherty to qualify for the World Open, he also qualified for Riga so has already earned at least £4525 which puts him on a par with the likes of Ali Carter, John Higgins, Joe Perry, Judd Trump, Michael Holt and Neil Robertson. Players like Mike Dunn, Peter Ebdon, Stephen Maguire and Marco Fu won’t lose much sleep having qualified for India and China but not Riga, while Shaun Murphy having qualified for India managed to wangle his World Open match against Sanderson Lam being held over to the main venue by virtue of the fact he was getting married. Those probably less satisfied with their week’s work having only qualified for Riga include Chris Wakelin, Tian Pengfei, Ken Doherty, Sean O’Sullivan and Chen Zhe.

THE NO-SHOWS

Ronnie O’Sullivan. Igor Figueiredo. Kritsanut Lertsattayatthorn (That’s easy for you to say…). Rouzi Maimati, Mei Xiwen (both only confirmed as Chinese nominations for the tour this week). Ding Junhui, Liang Wenbo and Aditya Mehta had qualifying matches held over to their respective country events but did not enter either of the other two. Mark Allen also opted out of all three events, despite entering Riga, obviously not realising that the qualifiers would be in Preston, he like me is probably not a big fan of this holiday season snooker.

THE EXCLUDED

Leo Fernandez was suspended and awaits a hearing over an alleged breach of betting regulations relating to a match in the World Championship Qualifiers. World Snooker believe Leo has a ‘case to answer’ in relation to suspicious betting patterns. The incident does not, I believe, relate to the outcome of the match and rather centres around an incident during it.

You can take a look at all early season rankings here.

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