Monday, 17 December 2007

Snooker: World Series To Be Launched!

This is great news that I've read on Snooker Scene's blog. Click here for the article.

It would be great to have more snooker players with this kind of foresight. More details are to be released in due course. I'm astonished at the claim that all these tournaments will be televised!! I suspect we'll be seeing a lot of the coverage on Eurosport. This isn't BBC quality coverage but it's certainly good coverage. I've heard Dave Hendon, Mike Hallet, Mike Smith and Joe Johnson all commentating on Eurosport and they're all very good knowledgeable commentators. Rolf Kalb (Wikipedia entry in German) is the German speaking commentator. A few of my German speaking friends have told he's quite good "but still learning his trade". I'm not too sure who commentates in the other languages that Eurosport broadcast in.

With this and the Championship League, there should be much much more snooker in the 2008/2009 season than in this season. Snooker may well be starting a new boom! Ronnie took home £100,000 for winning the UK Championship, a significant improvement over recent years.

Snooker: Ronnie Takes A 4th UK Title

Ronnie played some great snooker to take his 4th UK title 10-2 last night. In the first session yesterday, Ronnie blew away and whitewashed Stephen Maguire 8-0 who looked completely out of sorts. It wasn't superlative snooker from Ronnie, most of the time he needed a couple of chances to win a frame. Maguire failed to take his chances and came increasingly and visibly frustrated as the match progressed. I think Maguire was probably happy when the first session was over.

Maguire took the first frame of the second session with a break of 99, he missed a simple blue for the century. Ronnie responded in great style by knocking in a 126, then Maguire made a 57 break and Ronnie rounded off the match with a 94 break. So Maguire looked to have found some form in the second session but a comeback was almost an impossible task with Ronnie in such good form.

This is Ronnie's first ranking event since March 2005 when he won the Irish Masters. It is worth noting that he won the Masters this year as well as the Premier League though, so it's not like he hasn't been playing well enough to win titles. This also puts Ronnie provisionally number 1 in the world with Stephen Maguire provisionally number 2, both players leapfrogging Shaun Murphy.

It's great to see Ronnie winning a ranking event again and he's come a long way from walking out of the UK Championship in York last year. The O'Sullivan camp looked very happy with his partner Jo and their daughter Lily getting in on the photo action at the presentation.

The next tournament is the Masters at Wembley in January, and the next ranking event is the Welsh Open in February.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Snooker: O'Sullivan and Maguire In The Final

Maguire played some good snooker to beat Murphy and get through to the final of the UK Championship. In the end Maguire took the victory by 9 frames to 5. I thought Murphy would have put up more of a fight but he let Maguire build up too much of a lead.

Ronnie claimed his final spot with a really gritty fightback against Mark Selby eventually winning the match in the deciding frame with a maximum. I'm quite gutted to have missed this match and after talking to a few snooker friends, they say it was a real cracker. You could see what the match and the max meant to Ronnie when he clenched his fist in delight as the last black dropped. I think I'm going to have to start re-arranging my life round Ronnie's snooker matches as there seems to be moments of magic every time he plays these days!! For those of you who missed the maximum, or simply want to see it again, it is.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Snooker: The Grudge Match Is On!

Today Stephen Maguire and Shaun Murphy play each other in their UK semi-final match. This is their fourth meeting after the famous chalk incident a few years ago.

Maguire has made no secret about the fact that he dislikes Murphy. In 2004 Maguire was docked a frame at the Grand Prix in Preston for leaving the arena having forgotten his chalk. Murphy applied the letter of the law and asked referee Johan Ooomen to deduct him a frame for breach of match rules. The Scot was incensed and thought Murphy's tactics were not in the spirit of the game.

Earlier this year, Maguire said, "Shaun is a great player. I respect what he does on the snooker table but I don't like him."

"We don't speak - and I prefer it that way. I've never really liked him. We don't speak at the venues and we probably never will."

Murphy has said he has no idea why Maguire won't speak to him. He said, "The incident at Preston a few years ago was not my fault. I don't make the rules. I don't see why I should be punished for that."

Both players are in good form at the moment and Maguire beat Murphy 6-5 in the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland Trophy last month.

May the most sporting man win....

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Snooker: UK Championship Results

Mark Williams played some solid snooker against Mark Allen to come back from 5-1 down to 5-3 at the end of Monday's play. Yesterday, Williams took control of the match to win 6 frames in a row to beat Mark Allen 9-5. It's good to see Mark back. He can have a quirky style and generally plays exciting snooker. He will play Maguire in the last 8.

Ronnie steamrolled Mark King 9-1 in a match where King didn't really take his chances. In the quarter-finals Ronnie will play Jamie Cope who beat Barry Hawkins in a very tense affair by 9 frames to 8.

Mark Selby will play Marco Fu and Shaun Murphy will play Ding Junhui. The matches of the quarter finals would have to be Ronnie vs Cope and Murphy vs Ding.

Snooker: Matchroom Launches New Tournament

The original article can be found here. I've also copied the original article into this post and I've discussed the new venture below the article.


MATCHROOM Sport and the recently merged Premium TV / Inform Group have launched a new snooker event - The Championship League Snooker.

Staged over 20 days between February and May, 2008, the competition will be a league for some of the world's best players, solely broadcast on and funded by internet distribution.

There is a massive incentive as the eventual winner will take the seventh and final place for the 2008 Premier League Snooker tournament, which will be played out in front of packed crowds (pictured above) across the country and shown live on Sky Sports.

The Championship League Snooker will also have a total prize fund of £200,000 with money awarded for every frame won as well as substantial sums for reaching the latter stages.

In a world first, all aspects of the Championship League Snooker will be optimised specifically for an internet audience, with matches scheduled between Monday and Thursday so not to coincide with major football competitions.

All sessions will play between 2pm and 10pm to maximise both workplace and home viewing in Europe and Asia, snooker's biggest two regions in terms of fan base. Live coverage will be exclusively for the Internet.

Premium TV / Inform have already started distribution discussions and expect The Championship to be distributed by a variety of major portals, internet service providers, web TV and betting websites globally.

The competition will originally feature seven of the top players from the World Rankings who may not be picked automatically for the 2008 Premier League Snooker.

These seven men will then play each other in a round-robin basis and the top four players will play in semi-finals, then finals with the winner qualifying for the final phase.

However, the competitors finishing in the bottom two spots of the league will be eliminated but those who have not advanced to the final or been knocked out will move into the second group. They will then be joined by a further three players for another league phase.

The process is repeated until seven qualifying groups, featuring a total of 25 players, have been played. Only the winners of each group will advance to the last round.

This final phase will also be played in a league basis with the overall champion clinching a spot in the main 2008 Premier League Snooker competition.

Matchroom Sport chairman Barry Hearn said: "This will be a very exciting Championship.

"The players, venue, staging, cameras and production will all be of the usual highest quality but the distribution will be a completely new phenomenon for sport.

"We are delighted to be partners in such a forward-thinking initiative that could help fund all sorts of new sports leagues around the world."

Simon Denyer, Joint CEO of Premium TV/Inform Group, said: "The launch of Championship League Snooker illustrates how far the internet and our company have come. We have spent recent years helping major rights holders monetise digital rights that have been seen as marginal.

"This shows that the internet can now be the lead medium for some sports and we look forward to a great working relationship with Matchroom and the players."

Matchroom Sport will stage the event to its usual exceptionally high standards while Premium TV/Inform Group will produce all coverage using purpose built internet-based delivery broadcasting equipment.


Additional points/discussion

Here and here is a bit more information on Premium TV and Inform Group's merger.
Here's Premium TV's take on the new snooker tournament (similar to Matchroom's obviously).

This has to be good news for snooker and snooker professionals who want to play top quality snooker against top professionals and also gives them the ability to earn good money.

I have to say that press release doesn't really explain the format very well. Yes I understand that there will be a qualifying league of 7 players that will presumably be played under shot clock conditions (and this is only a presumption) like the main Premier League tournament. The winner will be entered into the Premier League tournament along with 6 invitees. Then a new qualifying league is created from next 4 highest ranked players from the qualifying tournament plus what I guess would be 3 wildcards as the bottom 2 players are ejected from the league.

What I don't fully understand is how the tournament ends up with 25 players and 7 qualifying groups. I guess this will become clearer as time goes on. I'll try to get some more information from matchroom.

Another interesting development is that the tournament will be shown exclusively live on the internet!! This may well be done through Premium TV/Inform Group's proprietary channels, and So it looks like this could essentially be pay per view snooker via the internet.

Not everybody likes watching TV through the internet and most people's attention span for this kind of viewing is for only the short clips, the kind you would see on YouTube. I have a Mac Mini hooked up to a 50" plasma TV, so I know I can get a pretty good viewing experience through the internet. I dare say most people don't have this kind of set-up yet and watching TV through the internet can still be a bit complicated for the layman which essentially cuts off a huge market for companies that are trying to utilise it. Content I watch is free content in the form of podcasts and up to now I've never considered paying for live streaming content through the internet. I'm still not sure whether or not I'll do it for this new snooker tournament even though I'm a huge snooker fan. It should be interesting to see how successful the concept is. I'm clearly going to have to do some more research! But well done to Barry Hearn for seeing through this new, innovative, and possibly risky concept.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Snooker: Higgins Out Ronnie Through

Jamie Cope thrashed John Higgins yesterday in the first round of the UK Championship. What I saw of the match, Higgins was missing some balls that he simply shouldn't be missing but Jamie looked really comfortable and completely unfazed as he eased to victory. Higgins has had a really bad start to the season and needs to pick it up for the second half of the season. Cope won 9-3.

Ronnie stuttered to a 9-6 victory against Michael Holt. He looked to be getting some strange bounces of the cushion and lost his temper by throwing his arm at a shot at one point. But Holt couldn't capitalise on Ronnie's patchy form and eventually Ronnie came home an easy winner.

Mark Allen started his match well against Mark Williams leading 5-3 overnight. Williams had to scrap for the last 2 frames of the session and will be pleased to on be 2 frames behind. Williams didn't play particularly badly, Allen played very well and didn't give his opponent many chances. It will be interesting to see what happens in this match.

In other matches, Nigel Bond and Ding Junhui are locked at 4-4 and Neil Robertson lost to his practice partner and friend Joe Perry by 9 frames to 6. It's been a pretty disappointing start to the season for both Robertson and Ding as well, they were 2 shining stars last season and Robertson really needs to get his game together. At least Ding, at the time of writing, is still in the tournament.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Snooker: Ranking Event Catch-Up

Apologies if you read my blog and expect reports immediately after matches/standard ranking events. Unfortunately I have to work for a living so I can't produce content as often as I would like to! Be sure to add my blog to your feed reader using the links to the top right of this page and you'll see immediately when new content is available.

We are already into our 4th ranking event of the season (the UK Championship) and the first 3 events have produced 3 surprise winners. Last year was an open season producing 6 different winners from the 7 ranking events. Neil Robertson was the only man to win more than one ranking event and many of the big names including Hendry, O'Sullivan, Davis, Doherty and Maguire could not manage a ranking event victory.

Our winners so far this year have been Dominic Dale with the Shanghai Masters, Marco Fu with the Grand Prix and Stephen Maguire with the Northern Ireland Trophy. All 3 winners have played exceptionally well to win their respective tournament which goes to show the kind of standard we're now getting from tournament to tournament. I've already talked about the Shanghai Masters and Grand Prix, but haven't said anything about Maguire winning in Northern Ireland.

Maguire played solid snooker throughout the even to take his first title since 2004. He must be delighted to back into the winner's circle as he had a serious dip in form throughout 2005 and 2006. Fergal O'Brien was a shock finalist but played some great snooker to get there; particularly against John Higgins where he was 4-3 down but knocked in 2 centuries to win 5-4.

Ronnie O'Sullivan had a moment of brilliance in a record breaking match against Ali Carter. He knocked in 5 centuries including a maximum, a feat that will be difficult to equal.

Now we're already onto the UK Championships, the second biggest tournament in the game. The shocks continue with Hendry, Ebdon and Doherty already out, ...and in an even bigger turn of events, Mark Williams has made it through to the next round! :o) At this moment in time, Higgins is 5-3 down to Jamie Cope but there's still a long way to go in these longer, first to 9 matches.

Hendry looked to get well beaten by new up and coming super star Mark Allen. Hendry seemed miffed in the interview, he thinks his game is great but his confidence is gone. Mark Allen was extremely happy with his win saying he "had just beaten my childhood hero!" I think Mark Allen will go a long way, I was at the 2004 European Championships in Austria when Mark Allen took the title and he certainly looked first class back then.

The Ebdon vs McCulloch match was a real tense affair. McCulloch was 5-0 down and came back to win 9-8. He was 8-7 up but Ebdon leveled with a good break. McCulloch showed great determination and nerve to knock in an 80+ break in the decider.

Could we have a differerent winner for each tournament this season, I'm looking forward to finding out.

Snooker: Ronnie Wins Again!

Once again Ronnie O'Sullivan has proved to be the Premier League king after defeating John Higgins 7-4 in the final of the Premier League. He didn't have it so easy this year, his 24 match unbeaten run was broken in the league stages and he conceded 4 frames in the final. This is Ronnie's 4th successive victory in this tournament and looks as unbeatable as Hendry did in the Masters in the 90's.

Ronnie took home £83,000, consisting of a £50,000 winners cheque, £24,000 for frames won in the league stages and £9,000 for 9 centuries. When asked about his lack of tournament victories over the last couple of years, he replied that a "win is a win", and this tournament now ranks as one of the biggest on the snooker circuit. He said that he would rather win this one than the Northern Ireland Trophy or the Malta Cup. It certainly suits his game and temperament.

Ronnie played pretty solidly as did John Higgins, but John's ultimate downfall was the shot clock. He had trouble with it all the way through the tournament but no doubt he will be playing in the premier league next year and should be more accustomed to the format.

Ronnie disposed of an under performing Stephen Hendry in the semi-final and said after the match that he would have to play much better in the final to beat Higgins. Overall, Hendry had a reasonably good Premier League showing that his game is beginning to come back after deserting him for a few years. He could be a force to reckon with in the remaining ranking events this year, ...although at the time of writing he has just been beaten 9-4 by Mark Allen in the UK championships.

Ding had been playing so well that I thought he would overcome Higgins in the semi-final, but Ding didn't show the form he had in the league stages. Higgins' win wasn't just down to Ding playing badly though, it was Higgins' strongest performance under the shot clock which shows his champion qualities in pulling his best snooker out of the bag when it's required the most.

But congratulations to Ronnie, his first tournament victory in 9 months.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Snooker: Premier League

If you've been watching the premier league snooker, you will have seen some really great stuff over the last 10 weeks or so. As it stands now, the group phase is complete with Ding Junhui, Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O'Sullivan and John Higgins going through to the semi-final stage in Aberdeen on the 1st of December. The final is the following day and both the semis and the final will be televised live on Sky Sports. Here's how the table ended up.

Pos Name P W D L Frames W Frames L 100+ Pts Money won
1 Ding Junhui 6 4 1 1 25 11 12 9 £37,000
2 Stephen Hendry 6 4 1 1 20 16 3 9 £23,000
3 R. O'Sullivan 6 4 0 2 24 12 9 8 £33,000
4 John Higgins 6 2 2 2 17 19 3 6 £20,000
5 Steve Davis 6 2 1 3 15 21 1 5 £16,000
6 Jimmy White 6 0 3 3 13 23 0 3 £13,000
7 Neil Robertson 6 0 2 4 12 24 2 2 £14,000

In the final matches last night, Robertson played White to see who would come bottom of the group, Ding played Hendry to see who would come top of the group and Higgins played Davis to see who would take the final knockout place.

The Robertson White was a fairly average affair that finished 3-3. Both players were disappointed with their form in the groups stages. White thought he could have won a couple of previous matches when in good positions and Robertson simply never got to grips with the shot clock stating, "I definitely know how long 25 seconds are now!".

Then came the match of the evening, Ding versus Hendry. Ding was absolutely awesome, I think this is the best I've seen him play, and quite possibly just as good as I've ever seen Ronnie O'Sullivan play. Now all he needs to do is to learn how to play left handed! :o)

Ding opened the first 4 frames with breaks of 133, 87 (could easily have been a century), 136 and 138. During these first 4 frames Hendry didn't score a single point and Ding eventually amassed 495 points without a reply. This is a new record beating the old record 494 set by John Higgins against Ronnie O'Sullivan in the 2005 Grand Prix final.

After the first century, Hendry got out of his chair to congratulate Ding, I've never seen this before from Hendry. And after the third frame (I think it was the 3rd frame), Hendry was overheard by the commentary team mentioning that he hadn't potted a ball yet!! After the fourth frame, the cameras caught Hendry staring at the table with a rye smile on his face, shaking his head in disbelief. I caught myself doing the same but I was staring at my 50 inch telly! :o)

In the 5th and 6th frames Ding only managed a 40+ and 50+ break. I don't know, I was expecting greater things! When Hendry finally did manage to pot a ball in the 5th frame, the Scottish crowd went wild, but it didn't last long and Ding eventually won 6-0. Hendry only managed 41 points in the whole match, and many of those points were fouls that Ding had conceded. Not too surprisingly Hendry didn't stick around for an interview after the match. This result is quite important for snooker fans as it means Ding won't face Ronnie in the semi-final. If we get a Ding Ronnie final and they both play to the top of their game, could be absolute cracker!

Top billing was Higgins versus Davis. This was a very important match as it was a fight for the last qualification spot. Higgins has had a very slow start to the premier league and has really struggled adjusting his rhythm to the shot clock. On the other hand, Davis seems to cope with it very well, has had much more experience with it, and generally seems to enjoy the up tempo format. Higgins was one point ahead in the table before the match so only needed a draw to qualify. Davis mention how only needing a draw to qualify should be piece of cake for Higgins, providing no silly mistakes are made and the manager doesn't use a rookie goal keeper... :o) The Scottish crowd certainly enjoyed Davis' remarks, ...obviously referring to England's disastrous match against Croatia in the final group match of England's Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. But back to the snooker, wasn't a great match. Davis made some mistakes which allowed Higgins to stumble to a 3-0 lead. This meant Higgins had qualified. When at 3-0, Higgins seemed to lose concentration and Davis won the next 3 to draw the match.

After a couple of matches, I didn't think Higgins was going to qualify for the knockout phase. But like a true world champion, he managed to pull himself together and drag himself through. Higgins said the public will see a different Higgins in the knockout phase and I think we will too. One thing is for sure, he will have to play much better to beat the likes of Ding, Ronnie and Hendry. His semi final match will be against Ding.

Hendry came third in the group and looks a better player this year with his new cue. However, Ronnie absolutely loves this event and has thrashed Hendry before. I really think it's going to be Ding vs Ronnie final, and with all respect to Hendry and Higgins, I'm kind of hoping so too.

It's worth pointing out that so far Ding has had 12 centuries, 3 more than Ronnie, the next highest number of centuries in the competition is only 3 by Hendry and Higgins!!! I think it was mentioned that there was only 13 in total for the whole competition last year which means Ding has almost single handedly matched that number before playing in the knockout phase. The highest break so far was a magnificent 143 by Steve Davis in Derby, a record with the shot clock. Ding's total prize money so far is £37,000, more than what Maguire took home for winning the Northern Ireland Trophy, a ranking event. Come on WPBSA (or the WSA), pull your finger out!! The matchroom crowd certainly know how to stage a snooker event.

I'm really looking forward to the final weekend, I just know we're going to see some more great snooker!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Snooker: Marco Fu Defeats Ronnie in Aberdeen

It's amazing to think that a player of Ronnie O'Sullivan's ability hasn't won a ranking tournament since the 2005 Fáilte Ireland Irish Masters. That season was a reasonable season for Ronnie also winning the totesport Grand Prix and the Welsh Open, making up a trio of ranking events. He was probably feeling pretty good (by his standards of feeling good) because he'd won the World Championships the season before.

But it's worth noting that the tournament after the Welsh Open was the Malta Cup, a tournament he decided not to compete in. And the tournament after the Fáilte Ireland Irish Masters was the China Open, a tournament he decided not to compete in. Way back then the prize money was low and snooker was at a low point. I seem to remember Ronnie saying something along the lines of, why bother traveling to these events when you can only win a few thousand pounds? The fact that he'd won the previous respective tournaments might have had an impact too.

A couple of years on, and Ronnie still hasn't won a ranking event. He missed the Shanghai Masters earlier this season due to medical reasons, decided to skip the Pot Black Cup a couple of weeks ago because he fancied a run, and Marco Fu defeated him in the final on Sunday in the Grand Prix at Aberdeen.

It was a great final. Fu played excellent snooker to win and his 60 clearance in the 14th frame could be hailed as one of the greatest clearances of all time! I, for one, certainly thought that Fu could not clear the table in one visit. Ronnie had just knocked in a nice 58 but then broke down. Marco came to the table with at least 3 reds near cushions in the baulk area. For me it was a case of potting a few balls, running for cover and keeping the game tight. But Fu just kept on potting them, ball after ball, great pot after great pot, and my jaw was touching the floor as final black dropped.

This was Fu's first ranking event and makes him the third Asian player to win a ranking event, following in the footsteps of the great James Wattana, and more recently, the temperamental Ding Junhui. Marco Fu was very modest in his victory, saying that it meant more to him because he had beaten Ronnie in the final. Remember he also beat John Higgins earlier in the tournament, Fu has great records against these top players and is a player that should probably be in the top 16. Beating Ronnie and Higgins on the way to capturing a main ranking event would delight any top professional so you can understand how delighted Marco Fu is!

There are 5 more ranking events this season, can Ronnie get this curse off his back of not winning a ranking event since 2005? Marco is looking in good form. Could he win the World Championships this year. He narrowly missed the final in 2006 getting beat by Peter Ebdon by 17-16. Some people think it's Ding's year, becoming the youngest ever world champion but I think his temperament is in pieces after Ronnie demolished him in the Masters at the beginning of this year. Already we've had 2 unexpected champions this season in Dominic Dale and Marco Fu, what more will this season bring.

I'm looking forward to the second biggest tournament on the calendar in November, the Maplin UK Championships.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Snooker: Grand Prix - Sould We Have A Group Stage?

There has been some furore throughout the snooker world about the group stages at the Grand Prix in Aberdeen this week. There was furore last year too! I feel it's all a bit unjustified, and I'll explain my reasoning behind this.

First of all, not all the players have been critical of the format. Some have said that it's good for the game, some have said it's bad for the game. Some people have complained that it's too complicated, difficult to follow, that there are too many matches, not enough crowds coming to watch, too many dead games, and most controversially, too many insinuations about the integrity of some of the matches, etc etc (the list probably goes on).

Let's take one of the points that I disagree with the most. Some players, and some of the big names in the sport that commentate on the matches (I will not name names), have suggested that when a player is on the verge of qualification to the knockout rounds and relying on the outcome of another match in the group, that the players playing in that match aren't taking the game seriously enough because the outcome of their match has no bearing on whether they will qualify or not!!! (I hope you got all that.)

I would say that looking at this situation from a negative point of view, you can understand why the players are complaining about the format. BUT, the way I see it, if a player wins all his matches, they would never be put in this position in the first place. If a player doesn't win all his matches, he is putting the destiny of his qualification chances into someone else's hands. Stephen Hendry is a great example of a player who thinks like this. You would never hear Hendry criticise someone else for not trying hard enough as the reason for him not qualifying for the knockout stage of a tournament, be it this one, or the Premier League. And for me, this is the way it should be, Hendry hasn't qualified, and he is to blame, nobody else, it's a simple as that!

I don't really think the format is too complicated either. The general public will have their favorite players, they may only follow specific groups, they may try to follow all the groups, they might only follow specific matches or specific players. If the general public follow only specific players then the format is great because they get to see 5 matches before the tournament even reaches the last 16. OK, all 5 matches might not be televised but they can follow all 5 matches if they go watch the games live at the venue. I'd say this is a big plus. I certainly don't believe it's too complicated for the players to follow their individual groups. So who is it too complicated for? I've no idea. As for too many matches, most professionals that I've met love to have the opportunity to play under tournament conditions as often as possible, and against top class opposition. The players are getting that in the group stages and they should take full advantage of it.

I'm not too sure about the argument that there are too many "dead games" either. What I mean is, a game where the outcome of a match has no bearing on the final standings of the group. Players put on exhibitions and people come to watch. Players don't receive additional raking points for exhibitions or trophies, but they still play them. I don't see why the public can't enjoy a "dead game" as much as they enjoy any other game. Most professionals are very professional in their approach to the game, and try their hardest in every match. I would have no problem buying a ticket to go watch a "dead game".

Generally, I think different formats of snooker is good for snooker. Be it group matches (Grand Prix and the Premier League), time restricted snooker (Premier League), and straight knockout snooker (most other events). And the winner of the knockout format so far this week has to be Liu Song who's through to the knockout stages with Peter Ebdon, Matthew Stevens, Mark Selby, Dave Harold and Joe Delaney in his group. He's proven himself in a major tournament, over multiple matches, under TV conditions, and against top quality opposition.

So for now I think I've said enough, ...feel free to leave your thoughts, I will reply (constructively). :-)

Monday, 24 September 2007

Snooker: Johan Oomen Quits Refereeing

Just read on the snooker scene blog that Johan Oomen has quit refereeing. This is a great shame as I considered him easily one of the best referees on the circuit.

Snooker: Jonni makes a 155 on TV!!

Well, his own video camera and in practice. Still, it's a nice break. There's no sound as he refuses to read the manual on his new video camera. ;-) If he eventually figures it out and re-posts, ...I'll re-post too.

For those of you that don't know, Jonni occasionally contributes to this blog. He has footage of himself on youtube making a 155 on a pool table, but this is the first time he's videoed himself making one on a snooker table. Currently, Jonni is number 2 on the Eurotour circuit (9-ball). Enjoy the video.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Snooker: Premier League, Great Malvern

Last Thursday saw Steve Davis play Neil Robertson and Stephen Hendry against Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Roberton didn't look that comfortable in his first match against the shot clock and Steve's experience led the way as he won quite comfortably. I think it was a bit of a baptism of fire for Robertson and the experience he's picked up in this match will mean the rest of the players in the league won't get it as easy as Davis did. I certainly don't want to sound like I'm taking anything away from Steve though. He played really well, looked really comfortable and very fluent. Even though Davis is now 50 years old, really is a pleasure to watch him when he's playing in this mood and certainly looks like he can still give the majority of the top 16 a run for their money. Davis won the match 4-2.

Ronnie suffered his first defeat in 24 matches to the 7 times world champion Stephen Hendry. Stephen won 4-2. It was good to see Stephen play so well although his long potting still seems to be suffering. Before this match, Ronnie has had 18 wins and 6 draws. It's astonishing that he's had such a long winning streak! He didn't look quite on the ball but it wasn't a disastrous performance by any means. His century in the last frame was a real pleasure to watch, he turned it on for the crowd and it was real classic exhibition Ronnie O'Sullivan. I won't bother mentioning the league table at this early stage but if you want to see it, pop over to the official premier league snooker site.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Snooker: O'Sullivan Interview

I first read this interview when Dave Hendon pointed to it on his blog. The original interview is here in The Times. He was interviewed by 3 times Commonwealth Games Table Tennis champion Matthew Syed.

‘Before every match I expect to lose. I am petrified and it cripples me’ - For a man who has collected two world titles, the inner demons and feelings of failure are never far away. He is at a loss to explain why.

“In a way, the most unhelpful thing you can do is examine the depressive’s situation logically because depression has nothing to do with logic” – From Ronnie, the autobiography of Ronnie O’Sullivan

Ronnie O’Sullivan has never been short of advice. In 2001 his doctor told him that his depression stemmed from a lack of serotonin in the brain and prescribed a daily dose of Prozac. In 2002 a therapist from the National Drugs Helpline told him that his problems were the consequence of his addiction to marijuana and that if he kicked his habit he could kick his demons.

A counsellor from the Samaritans – which O’Sullivan had called in a state of fevered desperation on the eve of the World Championship in 2001 – told him that it was all about his destructive relationship with snooker and that if he quit, things would start to look up. A sports psychologist who worked with O’Sullivan told him that his problems were to do with focus.

O’Sullivan has that effect on people: everyone wants to help, to advise him, to get inside his head and make things better. Maybe it is that irresistible combination of eccentricity and vulnerability. Maybe it is his roguish humour and immense personal warmth. Whatever it is, people want to reach out and attempt to understand him. For every friend and acquaintance there is an opinion on what is wrong and what to do about it.

But it was Mike Brearley, the former England cricket captain and now a psychotherapist, who offered O’Sullivan the most novel perspective. “Is your dad right-handed?” he asked O’Sullivan after he had confessed to problems with his cue action during one of their therapy sessions in 1998. O’Sullivan nodded.

“So that means there’s a good chance he stabbed the man he killed with his right hand,” Brearley said. “Maybe what happened in the club that night is affecting your right arm. There were people in the war years ago who were made to shoot people and didn’t want to do it. Years later their arms became paralysed.”

Brearley reasoned that if O’Sullivan could come to terms with the night his father knifed a man to death, it would solve his cueing problems, which would help him to feel better about life. It was Freudian logic that, to quote O’Sullivan, “was off the wall and did my head in for a long time”.

O’Sullivan, 31 with a steady partner and three children, is no closer to understanding why his world is shrouded in darkness. “A lot of the time I am in pieces and I still don’t know why,” he says as we sit alongside each other in the bar at Grove Snooker Club in Romford, Essex.

“Some days I think one thing, the next day I think something else. It is like there is this damn committee going on in my head. Shall I; shan’t I; am I up or am I down; am I doing the right thing; should I carry on; should I go home; have I done enough; have I had enough; do people really care; do I hate snooker; do I love snooker; have I had a good time; has it been great; hasn’t it been great; is it time to move on; have I got another five years in me; should I give up now. Arrrrgh! I’ve got all this shit in my head to deal with.”

Did the antidepressants help? “For a while, yes,” he says. “I started taking them at the start of the World Championship in 2001 and they helped me to get through that event [his first world title] because I was ready to walk out of Sheffield at the beginning of the competition, I was feeling so bad. I carried on taking them for around nine months. When I came off them, I went back to the up-and-down mood swings.”

Why not try them again? “I never really wanted to take them in the first place because I had read things about people who had come off them and ended up in a bad way and it kind of frightened me. I don’t want to end up suicidal because of the medication. I can handle being suicidal if the buck stops with me, but I hate the idea of going up the spout because of something I’ve taken. If I can blame myself, I can deal with that. I like to be hard on myself. Maybe that’s one of my problems. No matter what happens I always feel like a failure.”

That sounds strange, given what he has achieved on the snooker table.

“But I am a complete failure,” he says. “I feel lucky to have won two world titles, but I feel robbed because that’s all I won. If I had a bit of consistency in my game I would have never got beat by [Graeme] Dott [in the semi-finals of the 2006 World Championship] or [Peter] Ebdon [from 8-2 up in the quarter-finals in 2005].

“I threw away two titles because I wasn’t strong in myself, because I couldn’t take it. I know I was capable of challenging [Stephen] Hendry’s record [seven world titles]. But I haven’t produced. How can I be anything other than a failure?”

Is Hendry’s record that important to him?

“Yes. No. I don’t know,” he says and giggles mirthlessly. “People say I am full of contradictions and they are right. I’m a walking contradiction. One day I’m up, one day I’m down. One day something is important, the next day it ain’t. On some days I don’t even try to analyse what’s going on in my mind because I haven’t got the slightest idea. I know it must be a nightmare for people who are close to me. But at least I am open about it all.”

Open enough to talk about his father?

It is the autumn of 1991 and O’Sullivan is in Thailand for the World Amateur Championship. It has been an audacious period for the 15-year-old potting machine, with a series of victories in pro-am matches and a runners-up medal at the English Amateur Championship. His precocity has secured a three-year deal with Barry Hearn, snooker’s most influential promoter, and he is enjoying the thrill of travelling around the world playing exhibition matches and tournaments. The phone rings in his hotel room and his mother comes on the line. As she talks, O’Sullivan’s stomach begins to tighten. “I’ve got some news to tell you,” she says. “I don’t want you to do anything, everything’s all right. But Daddy’s been arrested. He’s in police custody. He’s been involved in a fight and someone’s been killed.”

O’Sullivan flies back to the UK, where he is met by his mother and taken to the prison where his father is on remand. O’Sullivan looks at the man who has been the centre of his existence – a charismatic rogue who had built a lucrative chain of Soho sex shops from nothing – kitted out in standard prison garb. Then it hits him; he breaks down in tears.

For the first time in his life, O’Sullivan notices a tear escaping the eye of his father.

On September 21, 1992, O’Sullivan Sr was convicted of the murder of Bruce Bryan, a driver for Charlie Kray, the elder brother of the Kray twins.

Accounts vary, but what is certain is that the stabbing took place after an argument in a Chelsea nightclub. Summing up, the judge implied that the attack was racially motivated, a contention that was overturned in a sentence review in 2003. O’Sullivan Sr has two years of his 18-year minimum sentence to serve. The only contact between father and son for the past 16 years has been by phone or in a prison visiting room.

For many years, O’Sullivan Jr was unable or unwilling to examine the extent to which his descent into mental illness was related to his enforced separation from his father, who had lavishly financed his snooker career and provided him with discipline and inspiration. It was only recently, while leafing through the diaries he had kept as an adolescent, that O’Sullivan began to realise how much he has changed in the years since his father’s conviction.

“I found the diaries and just started to look through them,” he says. “And I had written stuff like, ‘Got to the quarters of this tournament, got to the semis of that tournament.’ But I wasn’t down on myself because I was losing. There was stuff like, ‘I need to start winning and it will happen soon.’ And I thought to myself, ‘Fucking hell, that don’t sound like me.’ I must have been about 12 at the time.

“I would never think something like that now. Now when I lose it’s, like, ‘Doom, gloom, playing shit, can’t pot a ball.’ It’s difficult to believe that I used to have so much belief and optimism. Back then I knew I was untouchable. Now I never think it’s going to happen for me. Before every match I expect to lose. I am petrified and it cripples me. Unless there are 4,000 people watching or it is the world final, I can’t do it. If I am not flowing in the first round I feel like throwing the towel in.

“It’s like when I played Dott in the semis [in 2006]. My game started to deteriorate and I thought, ‘I’ve got three days against him and if I get through that I’ve got two days against Ebdon.’ And I just didn’t have it in me. That really cuts me up because years ago that would never have entered my mind. I would have thought, ‘Just get through this game.’ Back then I knew it was going to turn around.”

For a long time after the conviction of his father, O’Sullivan tried to numb his feelings of fear, guilt and self-loathing by using marijuana and alcohol, but it sent him into a downward spiral of intoxication and paranoia. In 2000 he realised that he was out of control and pulled out of the UK Championship to check into the Priory Hospital in Roehampton, southwest London.

“It was a nightmare,” he says. “If it hadn’t been for the month in the Priory I don’t know what would have happened. It gave me some space from all the madness. Talking in groups helped me to understand how bad things could become if I didn’t get it under control. I also went to Narcotics Anonymous, where I met Jo [his partner and the mother of two of his three children]. She doesn’t really get my depression, but she relates to the addiction problems. Bloody good thing, too.”

I ask if he is still off the dope and booze. “I occasionally fall off the wagon,” he says. “The last time I had a drink was on the Sunday of the world final [in May]. I remember getting up and thinking, ‘You wouldn’t be feeling so bad if you were in the world final.’ We went out to a restaurant and I ended up having a few. I am not perfect, but it is under control, at least compared to how it was.

“I go through phases of trying to find out what’s the bloody answer. I am very into seeking other people’s philosophy on life, just to get a handle on my own problems. I looked into Buddhism and Islam, but I haven’t really bought into any of them. I still have demons and it drives me mad every day. I guess the thing is just to deal with things as they come. Maybe that’s the only way forward.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan faces a stern test in his opening match of the Premier League, which starts in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, today. O’Sullivan, who has won the competition on the past three occasions, will play John Higgins, the world champion, in a best-of-nine contest.

O’Sullivan’s remarkable success in the league – he won the past three finals without dropping a frame – has led many to speculate that the format of the event suits his psychological profile. Because the seven-man competition is played over three months, O’Sullivan is never required to spend more than a night away from home.

This contrasts with, say, the World Championship, which requires an 18-day stint in Sheffield. This has never been an easy feat for O’Sullivan, who often takes solitary walks late at night to fend off the boredom and demons.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Snooker: Premier League, The Dolphins

We now finally know who are sponsoring the premier league this year. It looks like! It was great to see it under way again, I love the format and the whole feel of the tournament, I find it really refreshing when compared with the traditional tournaments, although don't get me wrong, I love the traditional tournaments too!

Jimmy White and Ding Junhui were the first match of this years premier leauge. And it was an excellent match. Ding kept his cool, as did Jimmy and they both performed well. White had breaks 87, 70 and 66 and Ding knocked in two centuries, one of which was a 138, the highest break ever achieved with the shot clock! The match finished 3-3 and I would say Jimmy was the happier of the two. Currently though, Jimmy is really struggling in the qualifying rounds of the major tournaments and this might be our only opportunity to see him on TV. There is a chance that he will get a wildcard at the Masters, I've suggested he shouldn't in the comments for this post here, but on this performance maybe I was wrong.

Ronnie looked his relaxed usual self when playing in the premier league. This format seems to suit him more than most. He only has to play 6 frames and the tournament moves from location to location on a weekly basis. These factors and the shot clock might jazz the tournament up for Ronnie and stop him from losing interest during the matches. At one point Ronnie looked on course to beat Ding's earlier 138 but either didn't know what the highest break was or didn't care. John Higgins didn't look too pleased about losing and didn't give an interview after the match. He seemed to play reasonable well though, just running out of position at important times during the match. In the end, Ronnie took a comfortable 5-1 victory.

American Pool: Landon Shuffet

A friend of mine, Gwyn Jones, pointed this little guy out. Ignoring the simple trick shots and the American presenter trying to talk everything up, ....this little guy actually looks like a damn good player for a 7 year old!

Friday, 31 August 2007

Snooker: Premier League Snooker Kicks-Off on Thursday

This years Premier League Snooker starts on Thursday the 6th September. The first matches will be Jimmy White vs Ding Jun Hui and Ronnie O'Sullivan vs John Higgins in Haywards Heath.

It looks as if Betfred are not sponsoring the event this season, contrary to what I suggested in this earlier post. There was someone who suggested this would be the case by commenting on my post, unfortunately he/she commented anonymously so I can't credit him/her with a name! :-) After I saw this comment back at the end of May I contacted Matchroom for the official line on who would be the sponsors. They sent me an email back stating that they were still in negotiations with Betfred, ...but at this point in time, it looks like no agreement was finalised.

I've updated the Snooker Season 2007/2008 calendar with the Premier League dates, venues and who will be playing. Subscribe by clicking here or you can always subscribe at a later date using the Google calendar link in the right hand column at the top of the page.

It looks like all the matches will be broadcast live on Sky Sports!! Great news!!

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Snooker: A Conversation, who will dominate the season?

I asked an old friend of mine that I used to play snooker with, Gwyn Jones, now living in Ireland, who would dominate this season. He's kindly allowed me to publish our email gibberish! Thanks Gwyn!

Gwyn kicks off the conversation.


It's obvious Dale is going to dominate the season.... only kidding!

Hard to say what's going to happen. Higgins is the new no. 1 and has had his strongest couple of seasons for a while. That's quite ominous when most of the other established "big names" seem to be going the other direction.

Looking at the rankings, I think we know what we'll get from the top 6; Dott, Murphy, Doherty, Ebdon will be there or thereabouts, but problably with only one or two tourney wins between them. Ronnie obviously remains an enigma - unbeatable one event, uninterested the next.

The two biggest movers are Robertson and Ding, and they're the most likely to achieve great things this year, if they can keep grafting as well showing undoubted flair. It will be interesting to see if Selby can keep up his momentum, and I've still yet to be convinced if Maguire can keep up a sustained high level.

It's sad to see Williams and Stevens falling down the rankings. This year will be make or break for both of them. Unless they can reverse the trend now, I don't think they'll ever get back to the top.



It's quite interesting with Dale because won't he have to qualify for most of the tournaments anyway? I thought he played brilliantly well, he was actually a pleasure to watch in the final. Something I can't say of him when watching him in the past!! I was a little disappointed with Day. I thought he collapsed a little bit and I think it should have been a much tighter finish!

Higgins looked hot in the World Champs, I can see him winning a couple of tournaments and to be fair, it's about time he pulled his finger out. I was amazed to hear he's stopped drinking completely. I've heard that he was once one of the party animals on the main tour. Still it clearly looks to have done him some good. I think Selby will keep up a good standard this season. He always looks so concentrated when playing and the changes he's made to his cueing action should hold him in good stead.

Out of the newer guys in the top 16, I can see Dott and Murphy doing some damage this season. Murphy looks deadly when on a roll with his pinpoint cueing action. And, I don't believe I'm going to say this, but Dott looked fantastic when he won the tournament in China last season. He was pretty fluent, entertaining to watch, and actually looked like he was enjoying himself for a change. He can really come across as a bit of a miserable so-and-so from time to time.

Wouldn't it be great so see Davis do win a tournament this season, in his 50th year! Great stuff, ...he still looks top quality when on form. And who can forget his magnificent 146 last season, ...or was it the season before!? :-) I think Ebdon and Doherty will feature at the thick end of the tournaments but I can't see them winning anything.

The 2 brand spanking new fresh top tournament winners, Robertson and Ding, ....well I can see Robertson having the better season. He's a real talent and doesn't get flustered in times of despair unlike Ding. For me, last season was the season that Ding showed his true colours, out of the blue he's begun to show real petulance, apparently this was shown again in the Shanghai Masters, banging the balls about like good old Quentin Hann. As I've said before, I was really surprised to see this when I first saw it in the Premier League last season. Let's hope he's got some good people round him that can keep his head screwed on right. I would like to see him do well this season. But I don't know if he's capable of becoming the youngest world champion this season at his last attempt like many have predicted.

I would also really like to see Judd Trump and Jamie Jones do well this season, they're both great to watch, especially Judd Trump, a real exciting lefty! Maybe he'll be the guy to pick up the youngest world title record in the next 3 years.

As for Williams and Stevens. I am completely shocked with Williams, ...I just don't know what's happened with him. He's sliding down the rankings faster than Jimmy White on a glacier! I think Stevens will get back into the top 16 this year though. He still looks too good to be out of the top 16!




Maybe I've not been paying enough attention to Murphy. I agree at times he looks deadly, but he seems to also have aonoymous outings. I guess it's all down to his attacking style of game - when he's hot, it's very effective, but if he's slightly off, it leaves him open to defeat. The standard is so high these days that you have to have a decent plan B.

I see your point about Ding but he's still very young, so he's still got plenty of potential, even if he's not the finished article yet. He might ultimately be a better talent than Robertson though, who tailed off a bit at the end of last season and didn't start great this year.

It will certainly be interesting to see how fast Trump can move up the rankings. From what little I've seen, he seems like a great talent, but it's hard to get a clear view in this over-hyped media age we live in which over-sensationalises everything. Don't know anything about Jamie Jones.

And yes, you're right about Stevens. To be fair to him he had a solid season - it was the previous poor year that has left him down the rankings. I've always thought that it must be very hard though for well-established top-16 players who drop down to have to pound round the qualifying events. It must be very hard for the ego - it will be interesting to see how Stevens copes.

And if Davis wins a tournament, I'll eat my hat....!


Sunday, 19 August 2007

Snooker: Dale Defeats Day in Season Opener

In a very successful season opener in China, Dominic Dale defeated Ryan Day by 10 frames to 6 to take the £48,000 first prize. Personally I didn't think Dale had it in him to get to the final, never mind win the event, but to my surprise, Dale played brilliantly to come back from 6-2 down.

With a new cue, his game looked very good and Dale looked very relaxed. In the 10th frame, Dale knocked in a very well constructed 143 to take the additional £2,000 high break prize.

The tournament as a whole turned out to be a great success despite the absence of the flawed genius Ronnie O'Sullivan. The matches were shown live on Eurosport and, unfortunately, because of the time difference between Europe and Shanghai, I missed the majority of the matches. Eurosport replayed the best matches in the evening but I tended to know the results already as I was following the matches at work though the BBC website! :-)

Still, great to see 2 unexpected finalists battling it out in a ranking event final and I'm looking forward to the next one!

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Snooker: New Season Blasts Off Without Rocket!

The season is under way with the Shanghai Masters. Already there's a little bit of controversy with - guess who - yes, our friend Ronnie O'Sullivan. A statement on Ronnie's official website says that he has injured his back. This looks like a legitimate complaint so nobody's really in a position complain. Although I'm sure the paying public are not too pleased and my natural cynicism is throwing a few doubts my way!!! How many of you have got your doctor to write you a not-entirely-true doctors note and how many times as Ronnie stated publicly that it's pointless travelling all the way to China for a tournament?

The statement reads as follows:

"We regret to inform you that Ronnie has had to withdraw from The Shanghai Masters, this is due to a back injury sustained while training. He has been advised by his doctor not to travel as sitting on a plane for several hours and stretching over a snooker table will significantly delay his recovery and he feels that he wouldn't be able to give the tournament 100%. The injury occurred several days ago and although Ronnie hoped that he would recover in time to appear in Shanghai he informed us this afternoon that this is not the case and he is unable to attend."

Moving on to the snooker, Monday saw 8 wild card matches with 8 Chinese players competing against 8 of Europe's "regular names". There were 3 shocks with Yu De Lu defeating Mike Dunn, Xiao Guadong defeating Michael Judge and Yang Qintainn defeating Scott Mackenzie.

The first round included a few tricky matches with Higgins having to play Jamie Cope, Stephen Lee vs Marco Fu, and Dave Harold vs Ebdon. Unfortunately I'm not getting to see many of the matches due to work commitments. I saw some of the wild card matches on Eurosport yesterday evening but none of them (that I saw) were particularly spectacular.

Feel free to comment on this blog if you see any of the matches, ...I'll add a few more posts as the tournament progresses.

It's great to see the snooker under way again! :-)

Monday, 2 July 2007

American Pool: Jonni Fulcher wins the Monfortpokal Open

June saw the 17th return of the Monfortpokal in Feldkirch Austria. In previous years big names have graced the tournament such as Oliver Ortmann, Sandor Tot, Marco Tschudi, Martin Kempter, Florian Hammer... most of whom have been previous champions of the same event. This year would again prove to yield similar such competitors all vying for the esteemed title. Not to be left out, our own Jonni Fulcher decided to try his hand for the first time.

The event runs over three days in a small club on the border of
Austria and Liechtenstein in the cute little town of Feldkirch.
The backdrop for the event is fabulous with mountains lining either side of the valley floor. 80 players gathered together to battle it out for the top prize of 1400 Euros and the famous trophy. The format is groups of four players playing double knockout, race to five, down to two players for each round up to the quarter finals and thereafter single knockout, race to nine, culminating in a race to eleven final. All matches were alternate break format.

With only three days and four tables cramming in a large number of matches resulted in very long days and some matches finished at 4:00 am with the unfortunate victors returning at 9:00 am to continue the battle. Apart from this the environment and the infinite supply of beer made for an enjoyable atmosphere and a good time was had by all. Most notably one of Europe's top players Sandor Tot, who single handedly kept the beer taps well oiled!

The Final was contested between Jonni Fulcher (SUI) and Martin Kempter (AUS) and with a display of almost faultless 9-ball, Fulcher seized the trophy and the cash with an 11-4 victory.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

American Pool: 9-Ball Eurotour Austria

John Vassalos wins the 2007 Austrian Open!
In a nail biting final rack John managed to secure victory against snooker star Tony Drago after spawning a previous chance to win the match 10-8 and allowing Tony to pull it level at 9-9. Luckily for John he was breaking in the final rack and was able to take control of the match and close out for his first victory on the Eurotour.

Unfortunately Tony Drago will have to wait yet again for his first victory on the Eurotour, which is sure to come at some point judging by his consistent performances over the last few seasons.

Some great performances were seen throughout the event most noteably Jasmin Ouschan, who defeated Fabio Petroni, Stephan Cohen and Tony Drago before she fell to World Masters champion Tomas Engert in the last 16. Other strong performances came from what are becoming regular faces in the latter stages of Eurotour events now and can be found in the final placements for the top 16:

1. John Vassalos (Greece)
2. Tony Drago (Malta)
3. Nick van den Berg (Holland)
3. Markus Juva (Finland)
5. Thomas Engert (Germany)
5. Tomasz Kaplan (Poland)
5. Konstantin Stepanov (Russia)
5. Niels Feijen (Holland)
9. Ralph Souquet (Germany)
9. Jonni Fulcher (Great Britain)
9. Stephan Cohen (France)
9. Huidji See (Holland)
9. Albin Ouschan jr. (Austria)
9. Zuroan Svilar (Russia)
9. Imran Majid (Great Britain)
9. Jasmin Ouschan (Austria)

Exciting moves have now been made at the top of the Eurotour Rankings, points were tight and are still tight at the top with only 105 points separating the top 5 players. With his consistant performances over the last season, Konstantine Stepanov, pictured left, has thoroughly deserved his number 1 spot. Hot on his heals only 30 points behind is Great Britain's Jonni Fulcher who also reaches his highest ranking to date.

The top 20 now looks as follows:

1 STEPANOV Konstantin RUS 2145
2 FULCHER Jonni SUI 2115
3 FEIJEN Niels NED 2105
4 PETRONI Fabio ITA 2090
5 PEACH Daryl GBR 2040
6 ORTMANN Oliver GER 2030
7 REIMERING Christian GER 1990
8 SOUQUET Ralf GER 1980
9 ENGERT Thomas GER 1975
10 TSCHUDI Marco SUI 1945
11 DRAGO Tony MLT 1930
12 VAN DEN BERG Nick NED 1925
13 MURATORE Bruno ITA 1875
14 ALCAIDE David ESP 1835
15 KEMPTER Martin AUT 1780
16 FAZANES Antonio ESP 1775
17 SCHMIDT Michael GER 1750
18 DABOVIC Dejan AUT 1730
19 KAPLAN Thomasz POL 1730
20 BABICA Radoslaw POL 1650

More results and pictures can be found at

Snooker: Van Hove Does The Double

After an extremly classy show of solid match snooker, Kevin Van Hove from Belgium has won the European Snooker Championships in Carlow to go with his previous victory in the International Open tour card playoff. On his route to the title Kevin overcame Thomas McSorley, Gary Thomson, Brendan O'Donoghue, Vincent Muldoon and finally Rodney Goggins, who, thanks to Kevin already securing his tour card the week before, will now take up another of the tour card places available for the 2007/8 professional season.

Both men played fantastic snooker over the whole two week period and thoroughly deserve their tour cards. We wish them all the luck in the world on the main tour and hope to see them on TV soon after the start of the new season.

On a more unfortunate note, spare a thought for Bjorn Haneveer who has yet again narrowly missed claiming a tour card by the narrowest of margins. Losing 6-5 to Rodney Goggins in the semi-final, it is another case of so near and yet so far for Bjorn, who narrowly missed collecting his card through the Pontins Internation Open Series despite winning one of the events!
We wish Bjorn all the best in the coming season and hope that he can finally secure his place back on the main tour.

Congratulations also on some great performances in reaching the quarter finals go to Lasse Munstermann, vincent Muldoon, Brendan O'Donaghue, Tom Gleeson and Martin Mc Crudden.

The tournament was a fantastic success yet again, so congratulations also go to the organisers and the table fitters for preparing the tables and the tournament which ran smoothly and without a hitch over the two weeks. I personally enjoyed myself hugely and will be looking forward to having another pop at the big european amateurs again next year.


1st - Kevin Van Hove

2nd - Rodney Goggins

3rd - Bjorn Haneveer
- Vincent Muldoon

5th - Lasse Munsterman
- Brendan O'Donoghue
- Tom Gleeson
- Martin Mc Crudden

9th - Sacha Lippe
- Simon Zammit
- Yvan van Velthoven
- Robert Murphy
- Gary Thomson
- Jordan Brown
- David Mills
- Jonathon Nelson

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Snooker: York Out! Telford In!

Due to lots of building work going on at the Barbican in York, World Snooker have decided to move the Maplin UK Championships to the Telford International Centre.

This is a big loss for York, they weren't hoping to lose the tournament but lots of delays gave World Snooker cold feet, and they decided to jump ship. I'm sure they don't want the tournament going on in the middle of a monumental "viking style" building site.

The Telford International Centre has previously staged two ranking tournaments, the 2000 Grand Prix and the 2002 British Open, as well as the qualifying rounds of the 2002 World Championship.

A spokesman for World Snooker said, "From past experience we know that the Telford International Centre has proved a popular venue for the players, and that there is enthusiastic support for snooker in the area, so we are delighted to be staging one of our biggest tournaments there."
Maplin Marketing Director David O'Reilly said: "Maplin is excited about moving to the Telford International Centre. I think this is an excellent venue to host one of the most important events in the snooker calendar."

Tom Gray, CEO at The International Centre, said: "We are very much looking forward to hosting the Maplin UK Championship in December. It is a fantastic event - not just for our venue but for the whole of Shropshire."

"Since we last hosted a snooker tournament, our venue has gone through a massive redevelopment programme, which has seen the addition of purpose-built conference and seminar rooms, as well as the addition of a second on-site hotel, and a third just two minutes away.

"These developments help to ensure that we are a first class venue worthy of hosting such a prestigious event."

It's not known if the UK championships will move back to the Barbican next season. I'm sure Telford will want the event for more than one season. It's a bit of a blunder from the bosses at the Barbican to get themselves into a situation where they've managed to lose the event. I'm pretty sure World Snooker didn't want to leave York, as everybody involved thinks the Barbican is a great venue for a major snooker tournament. Maybe they'll get some other tournament back next season.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Snooker: Alex is at it Again!

What would you do if this man confronted you? Well, allegedly, he's done it again! Local press in County Durham, where Alex was playing a charity match, have reported that Alex has punched a referee.

This is even more amazing as the match was a fund raiser against his old mate Jimmy White. Apparently the match ended in chaos when the referee Terry Riley refused to carry on after Higgins punched him in the stomach. It's said that Higgins lost his temper when the referee called a foul on him.

Terry Riley is a class one international referee and reportedly told the Northern Echo, "It was a punch and officials are not there to be punched. He just came at me and punched me in the stomach, that was when I pushed him away."

Naturally Higgins said it had been blown out of all proportion, "we were both out of order", yeah right!

This brings back memories of bad boy Higgins and I think that this kind of behaviour is best out of the professional game rather than in it. Recently I've heard Higgins say the sport isn't a Gentleman's game like when he used to play. I think he is now, and has been most of his life, a very disillusioned man with no real perspective on life, - although I don't really want to go into that too deeply! :-)

I would still love to see him play live again though, but would rather him behave himself rather than him misbehave. His talent on the table has always been a joy to watch and I consider myself lucky to have seen him play once before, LIVE, in Preston, at the Guild Hall.

Snooker: The Dream Is Over

After a super human performance by Anthony Brabin, relaxed in the knowledge he was already out of the tournament, my hopes of qualifying were finally dashed last night with a 4-1 defeat. The problems of round robin format became painfully apparent. I played a good match, kept it tight, but he just kept potting long reds from tight on the baulk cushion and making frame winning breaks. I cannot take anything away from him, he played great and deserved to win the match. It's just a little bit annoying that thanks to that match, I am now out of the tournament.

It has been a great experience, my first European Championships and I hope not my last. I'm very disappointed not to have qualified, especially when looking at the high break list I am in the top 10 most consistent players in the event until now. A few people have remarked that it was a very tough group. Still not wanting to make excuses, the other guys played great. So here's congratulations to the qualifiers from group A: Alex Borg, Gary Thomson, Martin McCrudden and Itaro Santos. Good luck in the rest of the event and watch out next year!

As for me, well... I'll head back to Zurich on Wednesday, and then to Rankweil, Austria for the 9-Ball Eurotour. Perhaps lady luck will shine brighter the next time.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Snooker: Fulcher Ends Borg's Unbeaten Run

In a fine display of solid match snooker, Jonni Fulcher derailed the Borg Express finally ending his run of 25 straight wins in European Snooker. Borg had only three chances in the balls in the entire match, which he was unable to capitalize upon. Five chances in all were all that Fulcher needed to clintch the match with a very convincing 4-0 winning margin. He fired in breaks of 63, 64 and 69 striding his way to one of the best of his career wins.

This is Fulcher's first European Championships representing Switzerland, where he has lived for the past four years. Currently one of the top 10 ranked European Pool players he is showing that he's not constrained to the American disciplines and, with his roots in snooker, performances like this show that he's a force to be reckoned with on the European Snooker front.

Snooker: European Championships Group Stages drawing to an exciting close

After an action packed first week at the European Snooker Championships, the group stages are finally getting close to the business end of things. Things in groups C and H seem pretty clear cut and the top four seeds are now pretty much home and dry, but in groups A, B, D, E, F and G, it is still not clear who will go through to the last 32.

If you take group A for example, you have potentially 5 players who could all qualify. Martin McCrudden (pictured left) has won all his matches so far and is guaranteed a place in the last 32. However, Alex Borg, Gary Thomson, Itaro Santos and Jonni Fulcher could all potentially finish with 4 or more wins, which would mean it would come down to frame difference as to who gets the final spot in the last 32. What is sure now though is that the top 4 from this group will come from those 5 players. Jonni Fulcher is in a dangerous situation though, not only does he need to win his last two matches, but he also requires one of the other players to finish with only 4 wins, and then he has to hope that he has a better frame difference!

Similar situations exist in the other groups mentioned above. As we approach the last two match rounds the nerves are beginning to jangle and the importance of playing out the final few matches becomes strikingly obvious. It's at times like these when the problems of round robin formats become obvious with the potential for players who no longer have a chance of qualifying to no longer give 100% thus giving advantages to certain players in the group that only play such players later on.

In terms of the quality of play and players in the amature ranks you need look no further than the high break table in order to see what a truly world class field have turned out in Carlow. A clear talent in the 16 year old Michael White stands out. Consistency is the name of the game and it's the following list shows that a number of the top players continue to produce snooker of the highest standard.

White Michael 137, 105, 84, 78, 70, 54
Brown Jordan 136, 107, 80, 79, 68, 56, 55, 51, 50
Berkhout Ton 131
Münstermann Lasse 129, 50
Goggins Rodney 127, 79, 71, 71, 59, 53, 50
Nelson Jonathon 127, 63, 56
Mazrocis Stefan 106, 95, 92, 89, 67, 62
McCrudden Martin 105, 96, 53
Murphy Robert 102, 81, 75, 74, 72, 62
Borg Alex 100, 100, 93, 57, 50
O'Donoghue Brendan 99, 81
Mills David 96, 72, 71, 62, 62, 51
McHugh Richard 93, 70, 64, 62
Van Veldhoven Yvan 92, 76, 62, 57, 51
Lavery Declan 89, 86, 79, 62
Haneveer Bjorn 89, 81, 77
Cruickshanks Bobby 89, 77, 75
Meara Joe 89, 54, 50, 50
Zammit Simon 86, 64, 61, 54
Gleeson Tom 85, 83, 82, 78, 59, 58
McSorley Thomas 81, 75, 53
Torpey John 79, 60, 58, 54, 54
Muldoon Vincent 76, 70, 70, 58
Fulcher Jonny 76, 69, 64, 63, 62, 62, 61
Thomson Gary 76, 63, 63
Lippe Sascha 71, 68, 56, 54, 51, 51
Fernandez Roey 71, 66, 66, 60, 50
Duffy Adam 71, 60, 51
Steins Jordan 70, 66, 61, 54
Rhodes Michael 70, 60, 60, 53