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.