Friday, 12 September 2008

Snooker: Snookered, Split, or Bust!?

Last month, snooker lost two of its major sponsors. At the time I was going to write an article, but couldn't really think of anything different to say than what had already been said in the mainstream press or what had been said on other cue sport blogs. have pulled out of the World Championships and Saga Insurance have pulled out of the Masters (I didn't bother linking to their sites for obvious reasons! :o) ). This is a pretty sorry state of events for snooker but I don't think it should be too unexpected with the current state of the world markets. Sponsors are pulling out of golf tournaments like this one here and tennis tournaments like this one here. Some high profile football clubs are even struggling get shirt sponsorship deals!! Why should snooker be any different?

I've often thought that the current format of ranking events simply doesn't work in today's day and age. Snooker could survive quite happily in the 80s and early 90s before the globalisation boom and emergence of international markets. Sponsors want to appeal to a global market these days and because there are so few snooker events worldwide, sponsors simply aren't getting the exposure they desire from the sport we love.

Over the years I've wondered how snooker could become global, and it's difficult for me to see this happening with snooker in its current state. I've consistently seen articles and blog posts blaming the WPSBA board when tournaments are lost due to lack of sponsorship, conflicts are created due to poor organisation and lawyers are getting involved due to lack of communication. The board, after the process of being elected, are, ....I suppose, at a push, responsible. But for me, the real people that are responsible for the current state of snooker are the players themselves. They all have a vote and can change their board at a moment's notice, the players have chosen who are in power. If the game was in such a terrible state, one of two things would happen.

  1. Either the players would replace the board, or
  2. The section of players that are so against the current system would simply no longer be able to stand it anymore and would break away from the current tour and form a new one.

I think, and hope, the latter will happen, ....eventually!

I know this is a bit simplistic and normally a lot would happen before one of these two events happen, ...but eventually, one of those two outcomes, ....would be THE outcome!

I think snooker has the potential to be a successful global, multiple tour, big money sport. I've often thought that snooker should be trying to use other successful sports as role models to try to make snooker successful. But the real people with the power to change the game, the players, don't seem to want to take chances or think "out of the box". It's easy to say let's change the format, but I think it would be very brave for the current generation of players to be the pioneers in trying something different.

When snooker was renegotiating the World Championship venue a few years back, I was one of those people hoping World Snooker would break away from Sheffield and possibly move to London or end up being a worldwide rotating venue. I really believe it was the wrong decision to keep world snooker in Sheffield, although I agree that the venue is excellent and I've been there on a number of occasions to see the World Championships. I never wanted to venue to die, snooker could have staged a different tournament there, but I was hoping the World Snooker Championships would go global, I think it would have been a great boost for the sport.

I'm also one of those people that believe multiple professional tours are needed all around the world. I like the golf model where there are multiple professional golf tours worldwide and then 4 major championships. It's interesting to know that golf tours came about almost accidentally by players splitting away from the original PGA tour. Now there are more than 20 professional tours around the world. The 20 tours are not on a equal level though and tend to be defined over tiers where you have:

  • 1st: PGA Tour
  • 2nd: European Tour
  • 3rd and 4th: Champions Tour; LPGA Tour
  • 5th - 7th: Asian Tour; Japan Golf Tour; LPGA of Japan Tour

source: Wikipedia (not a great source, but a source)

It's interesting to see the LPGA tour is ranked above some of the men's tours and the tiers are purely defined through financial reward.

I don't think for a second snooker can support more than 20 professional tours but maybe they can support half a dozen round the world. Something like the following might be sustainable in the long term:

  • UK & Ireland tour - tier 1
  • European tour - tier 2
  • Asian tour - tier 2
  • Oceania tour - tier 3
  • Americas tour - tier 3
  • African tour - tier 4

I've also added different tiers using the tier methodology used in golf with the tier 1 tour being the most lucrative going to tier 4 that's the least lucrative. Some of it guess work of course! :o)

From the different tours you would need members to co-sanction an official world snooker ranking system that would somehow need to be weighted depending on the tier the tour is in.

The world snooker rankings would determine who plays in the "4 majors" per year, yes, ...very like golf (and tennis as that is structured in a similar manner)! The top x players from each tour would battle it out in these 4 elite tournaments and each major would be played in different parts of the world where the tours are based. We could have our 4 snooker majors in:

  • UK
  • Mainland Europe
  • Asia
  • Oceania or America.

Then we would have a truly global sport! And how does this happen? Well I think it would be a very slow process possibly initiated by a split in the current professional ranks.

I've discussed this on Dave Hendon's snookerscene blog and on the World Series Snooker forum where John Higgins and his manager Pat Mooney themselves are contributing to the discussion!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Snooker: Belgian Open

A new pro-am tournament starts in Duffel, Belgium from 19th-21st September.

The top professionals who will be competing are Stephen Maguire, Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Graeme Dott, Mark Allen, Mark Williams, Ken Doherty, Matthew Stevens and John Parrott. This really is an excellent line-up!

If you can't get to Belguim for these dates then there's no need to panic as you can watch the tournament online at I've had a look at some of the coverage from some of the other other events this cue sports channel covers and the quality really is first class!! The cost is £8 for the 3 days.

More information about the tournament can be found here. Win free passes here! But be quick, the closing date is Monday.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Billiards: Billiards in the Olympics

This is a good article on the state of getting Billiards as whole into the Olympics.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Snooker: Snooker Calendar

I've updated the Google snooker calendar for the 2008/2009 snooker season. This calendar includes last season as well as this season and hopefully as the seasons go by, I will just update this calendar so you do need to keep adding new ones to your own Google calendar (If you know what I mean).

For 2008 and 2009 I've included the main tour including the qualifiers, John Higgins' very successful World Series of Snooker and Matchroom's Premier League Snooker.

Click on the Google Calendar image below to view the calendar.

Or click here.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Snooker: World Series, Berlin

As you may have read elsewhere, the World Series of Snooker is now well underway. The first event was played in Jersey and Higgins was the victor, beating Mark Selby in the final.

The World Series of Snooker is the brainchild of John Higgins and his manager Pat Mooney. The next event is to be held in Berlin, Germany, and will feature professionals John Higgins, Graeme Dott, Stephen Maguire and Shaun Murphy. The top amateurs who will be trying to beat the top stars are Chris McBreen, Lasse Münstermann, Hans Blanckaert and Patrick Einsle. From what I remember, Lasse Münstermann and Patrick Einsle have briefly played on the main professional tour. The challengers are all excellent players and if they're on top of their game and nerves don't get to them, they all have a good chance of beating the professionals. The draw is as follows:

Graeme Dott (Scotland) v Chris McBreen (New Zealand)
John Higgins (Scotland) v Lasse Münstermann (Germany)
Stephen Maguire (Scotland) v Hans Blanckaert (Belgium)
Shaun Murphy (England) v Patrick Einsle (Germany)

Dott/McBreen v Higgins/Münstermann
Maguire/Blanckaert v Murphy/Einsle

Einsle has been Germany's best player for some time now and Lasse Münstermann used to be Germany's number 1 star. Lasse is as ambidextrous as the great Ronnie O'Sullivan but you rarely see him using the other hand in the top matches. Hans is also a great player with a very wristy cueing action. It's possible that we could get some fireworks and comments from him in his match. :o)

Unfortunately I know nothing about Chris McBreen, but I'm looking forward to seeing him play.

All the action can be seen live on Eurosport on Saturday and Sunday evening (12th and 13th July).

You can get to the dedicated website for the World Series of Snooker by clicking here.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Snooker: World Championships - Ronnie Triumphs

Well my prediction of a close final fell by the waste side. At least the match went to the final session! There wasn't really any fantastic snooker in the final and it was a bit of a breeze for Ronnie in the end.

Carter was simply mentally exhausted, he had nothing left in the tank after great wins over Barry Hawkins, Shaun Murphy, Peter Ebdon and Joe Perry. And of course the amazing maximum that he made the day after Ronnie made his.

It's been an excellent championship this year and Ronnie fully deserves his win, he's been totally focused for the full 17 days and hasn't looked in any danger in any of his matches. The final session against Williams was awesome with very high breaks and his record breaking 9th maximum, the way he simply blew away 7 times world champion Stephen Hendry, nobody can say any other player deserves the title.

Before his talk of retirement in the interview after the final, he did say he wants 4 or 5 world titles. Ronnie won't be retiring just yet, he's too good at the moment and the joy on his face was plain to see after winning and after his maximum. It will be interesting to see his reaction after the disciplinary action against him in the summer for his lewd comments in China though. But once he gets through and over that, he'll be fine and he'll be back.

This win puts Ronnie in the same league as only 2 other players, Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry, as players that have won 3 or more world titles at the Crucible.

The following are some of the moments that stand out for me in this years' tournament.

The sheer number of attempted maximums by several different players as well as Ronnie's and Ali's maximums. There could have easily been 3 or 4 this year, the standard of break building was so high despite the record number of centuries in the tournament not getting beaten.

The young 17 year old Chinese player Liu Chuang. For a player so young, his all round game and potting was excellent. He won something like 5 qualifying matches to get to the Crucible and took 5 frames off Ronnie in the first round. He looks quality and I'm looking forward to seeing more of him in the future. Could he be better than Ding?

Liang Wenbo, what a star! He beat Doherty convincingly in the first round and was involved in a Crucible thriller against Joe Swail in the last 16. To win that match against Joe, who is one of the best Crucible match players in the game, shows the guy has real nerve and talent. Again, one for the future.

Jamie Cope and Mark Allen were excellent and it was only their inexperience that let them down. We should be seeing a lot of Mark Allen next season as getting to the Crucible was enough to earn him his top 16 place. Allen is a fantastic break builder as is Cope, and Cope is a devastating single ball potter.

It's great to see Mark Williams and Stephen Hendry playing good snooker again. Even though Williams has dropped out of the top 16, I think he will qualify for many of the tournaments next season and hope to see him back in the top 16 soon!

For me the biggest disappointment was Ding Junhui. He fell over the line against Marco Fu in the first round and barely turned up at all in his match against Hendry. I think Fu would have given Hendry a better match. It was Ding's chance to be the youngest ever world champion but he was just nowhere in the tournament. I hope his match play and temperament improves next season, because when on form, he's just a joy to watch.

From the top 16 we've lost Williams, Doherty, Lee and Davis. The biggest surprise is Doherty, a couple of years ago he was provisionally ranked number 1, and now he has to qualify for all events next season.

King, Fu, Allen and Perry come into the top 16. A big surprise for Allen as he thought he wouldn't make it after getting beat in the first round by Hendry. I saw this guy play in the 2004 European Amateur championships in Austria when I was playing there and he's such a huge talent, a great player to watch.

I'll keep on posting through the summer so don't forget to add greenbaize to your feed reader by clicking here or any of the icons on the right for the favourite reader of your choice.

Congratulations Ronnie O'Sullivan on a great performance!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Snooker: World Championships - Ali O'Sullivan Final

Why did I start the title off with Ali first, alphabetically obviously. :-)

The final is going to be a lot tighter than we all think, why do I think that?? There's a stunning 147 that Carter made and went completely nuts about. He beat Perry 17-15, it was a fantastic semi final encounter and Carter held his nerve exceptionally well, that is a fact, and the guy has won absolutely nothing!!!

So why do I think he has any kind of chance. Well, I don't know, Graeme Dott, Shaun Murphy. These guys have won it from nothing! A few other names spring to mind, and Ali beat Shaun Murphy in the 2nd round. The purists will be saying it should be a Ronnie vs Murphy/Maguire final. But remember, he's knocked out Murphy convincingly, beat Ebdon, a former world champ and one of the best players in the world today, and knocked in a 147 maximum to boot!!!!!!

Carter's reaction to beating Perry was just amazing!! It looked like he'd won the tournament and it was great to see, and we want to see scenes like that in the final.

Carrter's there and ready to win, he will match him pot for pot and the match will be measured as one of the greatest matches in snooker history!!

Of course I'm not sure of any of this but I hope it's going to be the case. Will it be a walkover, no! Does Carter have a chance? Well, it's the best chance he's had of winning any ranking event.

Can he play? Rumours from my sources say he was Ronnie's practice parter of and used to beat him quite frequently.

It has to be said though, it's great to see the 2 maximum men in the final. And may the best man win!

Friday, 2 May 2008

Snooker: World Championships - Ronnie Hammers Hendry, ...Again

Stephen Hendry was hammered by Ronnie O'Sullivan in the semi finals of the World Championships. Ronnie was simply in blistering form and completed his win with a session to spare beating Hendry by 17 frames to 6.

Honours looked pretty even after the first session when the duo were locked at 4 frames each. But Ronnie looked awesome in the second session winning all 8 frames although Hendry had chances to win 2 or 3 of the frames. But for the majority of the session Ronnie was simply flying, doing to Hendry what Hendry has done to many others in the past. Ronnie had to win the third session 5-3 to stop the match going into the final session but in the end won it convincingly.

Ronnie had breaks of 64, 102, 93, 57, 87, 133, 135, 85, 70, 126, 68, 123, 56 and 59. Only 5 centuries in the match!! :o)

In the frames Hendry won, he had breaks of 140, 60, 53, 85 and 54. 5 breaks over 50 and he's lost 17-6, that's extremely high quality snooker!! This isn't Hendry's worst result against Ronnie, in their 2004 World Championship semi final, Ronnie demolished him 17-4, but this year Hendry did play much better when he got to the table. It did still look like someone slowly throttling an animal to death though and even I wanted Ronnie to win quickly so Hendry could get out of the arena.

After the match Hendry said Ronnie's play was the best he'd ever seen and said that if Ronnie continued to play like that in the final, Perry or Carter wouldn't have a chance of beating him. Obviously, just about everybody, except maybe Perry and Carter, would have to agree, he just doesn't miss. It has to be said though, Hendry in the 90s just didn't miss either, and he's the one with 7 world titles under his belt. I've never seen anybody look as natural or as fluent as Ronnie when he's on song though, that is a certainty

In the second semi final, Carter came back from 5-3 down to lead 9-7 after the second session. The last 2 sessions are played tomorrow at 10:00 and 19:00. I haven't really seen any of this match so can't really comment. I think it will take either player the best form of their lives to beat Ronnie in the final though.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Snooker: World Championships - The Final Four

The last 4 of this years World Championships are Ronnie O'Sullivan vs Stephen Hendry and Joe Perry vs Ali Carter.

Ronnie and Hendry made their quarter finals look easy with wins over Wenbo and Day respectively. Both Ronnie and Hendry won their matches by 13 frames to 7.

Perry's and Carter's matches were a little more difficult though with Perry beating Maguire 13-12 in a fantastic final frame thriller. For me, Perry has knocked out this year's favourite so who's to say he can't go all the way. Carter beat Ebdon 13-9 in yet another very high quality match, and of course Carter, made his magnificent maiden maximum.

Now Maguire is out of the tournament, I would have to say the favourite to win the title is Ronnie, he's looking good and looks like he has his head together. I think Ronnie is just too strong for Hendry as Hendry still hasn't shown the kind of form that would beat Ronnie.

Ali Carter has done really well and played some great snooker to get to the semis as has Perry and it's really difficult to choose a winner here. For me Perry beat the tournament favourite, Maguire, so on that basis, I'll say Perry will beat Carter in a very close semi final.

I envisage is a Ronine vs Perry final, but I think Ronnie will just be too strong for the relatively inexperienced Joe Perry.

Snooker: World Championships - Another Maximum

It's finally been done, two maximums in the same tournament. I've embedded the maximum below over 2 parts. This was great to see, Ali's previous highest break in a tournament was 144, so not only is this his first ever maximum at the Crucible, but his first ever maximum ever!! It wasn't as easy as Ronnie's either, he really had to work for it. Some of his positional play was excellent, there was a delicate little slight swerve shot, a plant and the blue was off its spot. The final black was very tricky with the white on the pink spot line and near to the cushion. It really was a very well played final black!! Well done Ali Carter!

This is a very high quality match, in the previous frame Ebdon had gone for a maximum and missed the 15th black, and earlier in the match, Ebdon had a break of 143.

The standard of break building in this years tournament has been the best I've ever seen, in just about every match, there's been some kind of maximum attempt. I wouldn't be surprised to see a third maximum in this years championships because we're only half way through the quarter finals.

This first ever double maximum tournament has come exactly 25 years after Cliff Thorburn made the first maximum at the Crucible.

Liang Wenbo is still there, playing against Ronnie in his quarter final after a very dramatic last 16 match against Joe Swail. The match went all the way to the final frame which swayed in both player's favour a couple of times. Wenbo prematurely celebrated his win before Swail brought him back down to earth and there was even a little bit of controversy when a free ball wasn't put back in exactly the right position. It didn't really affect the match though as Swail had his chances afterwards and will be ruing missing the brown when on the colours in the final frame for days, if not weeks to come.

It seems unlikely, but if Wenbo wins the title, I think he'll become the youngest ever World Champion!!!

Monday, 28 April 2008

Snooker: World Championships - The Genius Does It Again

Amazing, Ronnie's come out in the final session of his match against Mark Williams in magical form and made a maximum 147 break to win the the match in the 20th frame of the match, the frame that took him to his winning 13th frame!!!! He's taken the match 13-7.

This makes him the leading maximum man with 9 to his name in competition, Hendry is now second with 8.

Well done Ronnie! 157,000 smackeroonies (and a Bently GT convertible by the sounds of things) are coming your way! :o)

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Snooker: World Championships - More Shocks

This tournament is turning into an unpredictable one with more shocks over the last couple of days.

Carter beat Murphy, one of the favourites, quite easily by 13 frames to 4. I thought either Murphy or Maguire were going to win the tournament this year so now, for me, Maguire has to be the favourite. There have been many complaints about the tables, particularly the cushions springing and Murphy delivered some scathing criticism about the tables in his post match interview. Murphy has been playing so well this season that I didn't expect him to lose to any player, never mind Carter, this is a great victory for Carter and he has to be really pleased with the win.

I was very surprised to see Hendry beat Ding in a match where Ding really didn't do very much in the first session. Hendry still isn't on top form so it's a bad result for Ding to lose. Ding's temperament and form really fluctuates depending on his mood and in the first session he just didn't seem up for it, ...a big mistake against an old master such as Hendry. He started to put some good snooker together in the second and third sessions but in the end it was too little too late. It even seemed like a bit of an easy match for Hendry.

Ding had a chance of beating Hendry's record of the youngest ever World Champion and it's good to see Hendry put a stop to Ding's attempt directly! If Liang Wenbo wins this year, I think he could become the youngest ever winner. Wenbo at the moment is 21 and his birthday is in March, do he could beat Hendry's record by a couple of months!! It would be some feat though as he's never even won a ranking event. He's playing some really good stuff in his match against Joe Swail right now thought and he soundly beat former World Champion Ken Doherty.

The biggest shock of the day has to be Higgins losing to Ryan Day 13-9. Higgins was 4-0 and 6-3 up but Day played some really solid snooker to win 13-9. Amazingly, Higgins completely lost his temper with the way the table was playing, banging his hang on the table, muttering and throwing the balls up and down the table when walking out of the arena for the mid-session interval. After the match, he complained very strongly about the state of the table and the cushions just like Murphy did (but Higgins' match was before Murphy's).

So with Higgins, Ding, and Murphy out of the tournament, who are now the favorites to win? I still think Maguire's in the driving seat and he's currently 8-0 up against Robinson which is another surprise scoreline! Suddenly out of nowhere, Hendry has a chance, I think he will have to ride his luck though for him to take his 8th title. Of course there's still Ronnie and Williams but they're playing each other and Ronnie is currently leading. For me Ronnie is the second favourite.

Keep you're eyes on Wenbo though, he's looking solid and is 4-1 against Joe Swail as we speak!

Friday, 25 April 2008

Snooker: World Championships - Ronnie Through, Doherty Out

Ronnie O'Sullivan eased through his first round match against 17 year old Liu Chuang yesterday with a 10-5 win. Ronnie went 3-0 up but then lost his way a little bit and the young Chinese player pulled back to go 4-3 up. Ronnie ended the session 5-4. In the evening session Ronnie played much more solidly and ran out a relatively easy 10-5 winner.

It's the first time I've seen Chuang and I think he was very impressive. His technique is first class and he potted some some first class balls. He looks a big talent and I think we'll be seeing a lot more of him in the future. There were a lot of comments from the coverage on the BBC and some of my snooker colleagues that he looks like a young Stephen Hendry when he plays, and I think I have to agree.

A good snooker friend of mine, Douglas Hogan, bet me 100 Swiss francs that Chuang would not get 5 frames off Ronnie, at one point it looked like Chuang was going to win 5 frames in the first session!! In the end he only just won the 5 frames, ...and it was a real pleasure taking the money off Hogan, ....thanks Douglas!!! :o)

Liang Wenbo beat former World Champion Ken Doherty 10-5. This is a great scalp for Wenbo and said it's the highlight of his career so far. Doherty was very disappointed and said he didn't play anything like he can. This defeat means that Doherty will drop out of the top 16 and now has to qualify for tournaments next season.

In other results, Shaun Murphy beat Dave Harold 10-3 and Joe Perry beat Graeme Dott 10-7

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Snooker: World Championships - Another Thriller

As most people expected, the Ding Fu battle turned out to be another tight 10-9 thriller. Another great, high quality first round Crucible match where Ding took an early 5-1 lead and looked like he was going to dominate. Fu then took the next 5 in a row with breaks of 78, 103, 100 and 96. From then on it was very tight high quality snooker all the way to the finish with Ding making a break of 76 in the final frame.

Both Ding and Fu looked like they could win the World Championships this year. I thought Fu looked really solid and Ding made a few too many mistakes. Ding could have wrapped the match up 10-7 or 10-8, either way, it could have been anybody's match but Ding was victorious in the end.

With this been such a tough opener for Ding, he might find the next round a little easier, but definitely still needs to keep his concentration on not lose his head. It still looks like he can lose it at any time if things don't go right for him. I would love to see Ding win the World Championships this year and beat Hendry's record as the youngest ever winner, but I still fancy Murphy or Maguire a little more, especially Murphy who's got such a great temperament.

The biggest shock of the day was Mark King beating Mark Selby 10-8. I didn't see much of the match but there were 3 centuries and 9 other breaks over 50, so it looked like a high quality match. Mark King made two of the century breaks. This is a big win for Mark King and is obviously looking in good form for the tournament. Selby will be disappointed after having such a good season, but it doesn't look like he threw the match away.

Earlier today Mark Williams thrashed Mark Davis 10-3 in his first round match and Dott started his campaign against Perry. It's good to see Dott at the Crucible after revealing that he's been suffering from depression. More can be read about that here. The first session ended 5-4 to Perry.

Tomorrow, ....Ronnie! :o)

Snooker: Ronnie's Lewd Comments

Ronnie O'Sullivan is in trouble with his lewd comments after the match with Marco Fu at the China Open. The video is embedded below.

It's absolutely astonishing to see Ronnie doing this and making these remarks, you can see his boredom in the interview and whoever he was talking to is also clearly an idiot. The person out of picture should have put a stop to this immediately.

The incident has been referred to the WPBSA disciplinary committee, and whatever punishment Ronnie receives, I don't think he'll be in a position to complain.

Snooker: World Championships - One Comeback Too Many

Last night David rolled back the years to recover from 8-3 down to 8-8 against Bingham. At one point it looked like it was going to be another remarkable recovery along the lines of Houdini Hendry and Ebdon the Grinder, ...or at least another 10-9! It wasn't to be, Davis missed a mid range final black when at 8-8, left it over the pocket and Bingham took the frame to lead 9-8, he then took the next one to win the match 10-8. It was a great match though, a thriller along the lines of Ebdon vs Cope and Hendry vs Allen.

Among today's matches are Selby vs King and the long awaited Ding vs Fu.

I think Ding needs to win this match to get his snooker aspirations back on track, he was beaten soundly by Fu earlier in the season and hasn't won a tournament for quite some time. This is of course Ding's last attempt to become the youngest ever World Champion and beat Hendry's long standing record. I'm expecting a very good match here, and if Ding's the quality he's supposed to be, he'll have forgotten about Fu beating him and put things right with a win.

Selby vs King plays to a finish this morning, currently it's locked at 5 frames each. Remember King knocked out Jimmy White in the final qualifying round, but don't let that influence who you're supporting in this match! :o)

Monday, 21 April 2008

Snooker: World Championships - Houdini Hendry

What a match, what a match!

I was one of his doubters, I really didn't think he could do it, I thought he wasn't playing well enough, I didn't think his safety was good enough, I thought his long potting was all over the place, I thought he was missing too many balls, as Stephen said with his interview with Parrott straight after the match, ..."I still have big balls", well how would we know, but what a great match and how wrong I was!

As daft as this sounds, I think the first frame of the evening session won it for Hendry, he needed 2 snookers with just the colours left, and played an extremely risky blue to put it next the black that was over the corner pocket. Allen knocked in the black when going for the blue and it was 6-4 Allen. Hendry got the match back to 6-6 and the Allen pulled away again to take the match to 8-6. Hendry played some great snooker to take the match to 8-8 and made a magnificent break to take the decider.

Hendry's reaction to the camera said it all after the match, punching the air while staring straight into the lens. He said it was probably the best first round win of his career. Allen was understandably devastated, he said in his post match interview he thought he'd blown his top 16 place, I'm not too sure whether this is the case or not.

Now I think I'll go and get another gin and tonic and watch the exciting end to the Davis vs Bingham match, ...another thriller, 8-8 as I write.

Think I'll go and eat my hat too.

American Pool: Darren Appleton Takes Italian Eurotour

Yorkshire's finest pool player takes home the spoils of his first Eurotour Victory!

242 players started at the “Dynamic Italy Open” at the Holiday Inn Resort in Castelvolturno. Of these there were 20 British and 2 Irish players and a total of 33 represented countries.

Darren Appleton (GBR) triumphed, defeating Bruno Muratore (ITA) in the final. Appleton had a tough route to the final, beating 5 previous EuroTour winners in a row in the single elimination stage (Tony Drago, Oliver Ortmann, Imran Majid, Mark Gray and Bruno Muratore) to lift the trophy for his first Eurotour victory.

It was another good event for the 20 British players many of who battled their way through the field of competitors, 7 of them reaching the single elimination "Last 32" stage, but many were clustered in the same half of the draw so it wasn't long before they were knocking each other out of the event.

Our congratulations here at GreenBaize go to Darren on a fine victory. We trust it to be the first of many!

Snooker: World Championships - Two Deciders on Day Two

Today was a great day of snooker at the Crucible. Joe Swail beat Stephen Lee fairly easily 10-4 but made hard work of it struggling to get over the line when it was really an easy win. Stephen Lee doesn't look as fluid over his shots as he did years ago. He's got such a great cue action but nerves always slows his game down and I think that bogs him down. His technique is still fantastic though. After the match he threatened to quit the game, but obviously he's very disappointed at the thrashing from Swail.

The Carter vs Hawkins match was a grinding match all the way to the final frame. Hawkins went 3-0 up, but Carter won the next 7 frames on the trot to lead 7-3. Carter has a habit of really struggling to get over the line and Hawkins slowly pegged Carter back to 9 frames each after Carter was at one point 9-6 in front. The players had to be taken off at this point because it was too close to the next match starting. Hawkins was really unhappy with the decision which I find astonishing, he should have known this was going to happen and accepted it. After the Swail vs Lee match finished they came back on to play the deciding frame. It was a tense affair but Carter finally won the match. I think Carter's game and nerve has to improve for the next round though.

The match of the day has to be Cope vs Ebdon. Both players played really well all the way through the match and some of Jamie Cope's potting was incredible. Ebdon took the lead for the first time at 8-7 but Cope didn't crumble under the pressure in his Crucible début. It was Cope that had to force the decider when 9-8 behind. The decider went all the way down to the colours but it was Ebdon that held his nerve with some great single ball potting to win 10-9. You really have to hand it to Ebdon, in the first session Cope was looking in devastating form to take a 4-1 lead, and Ebdon had to dig really deep to finish the session only 1 frame behind at 5-4.

In the past I've not been a big fan of Ebdon with his loud outbursts in the early days around the table when potting key balls and closing out tight matches, but he really has his emotions under control these days when in the arena. His powers of concentration are second to none and his mental powers win him many matches rather than pure talent. I'm sorry to see Cope out of the tournament though, he's a really exciting player to watch but he'll definitely be back!

Mark Allen looked in great form against Stephen Hendry earlier today. He was quick around the table and knocked in some very nice big breaks to go into the second session tomorrow with a 6-3 lead. I think Allen will have to lose some form and Hendry will have to improve a lot for Hendry to have any chance in the match tomorrrow. I'm looking forward to it though, Allen, like Cope is a really exciting player to watch.

The only other match that was played today was Ryan Day vs Micheal Judge. I didn't see much of this match but Day has taken a 5-4 overnight lead.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Snooker: World Championships - Under way!

Finally 17 days of snooker are under way at the Crucible in Sheffield. There are some great matches lined up for the opening round and it's as hard as ever to pick a winner.

At the time of writing some matches are already complete. Most noticeably Higgins beat Stevens 10-5. This was definitely one of the draws of the round. Up to now, Higgins hasn't had a great season and neither has Stevens, so Higgins needed to prove a point and re-affirm his authority in the game and Stevens needed a couple of wins to reclaim his top 16 place. Early on in the match Stevens played well, but Higgins was solid all day. At one point, the start of the second session, it looked like Stevens might make a comeback but again, Higgins showed his true class to close out the match. Stevens needs some really good results in next season's qualifiers to arrest his decline in the game. A lot of players and pundits feel that Stevens should still be in the top 16, and ability wise he should be. But he needs to re-apply himself, possibly change something in his life so he can get back to doing what he does best.

Neil Robertson was way too strong for Nigel Bond and eased into round 2 with a 10-4 victory. He played really solidly all the way through the match.

A couple of the matches I'm really looking forward to are Hendry vs Allen, Fu vs Junhui and of course Ronnie vs Chuang.

I think Mark Allen might upset Hendry. Allen is improving rapidly and Hendry simply isn't the force he used to be. Whoever wins, I'm really looking forward to watching the match which starts today.

Fu vs Ding is a really difficult one to call. Fu has recently beaten Ding in a ranking event but you could say Ding has more talent. Over the last couple of seasons, Ding has had real problems with his temperament and needs to keep himself under control and play well if he's going to beat Marco Fu.

I don't think I've seen Chuang play before, but I hope Ronnie plays well and Chuang pushes Ronnie all the way. It's always such a pleasure to see Ronnie play, normally it's irrelevant who he's playing against.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Snooker: Hamilton and Murphy Through

Anthony Hamilton and Shaun Murphy are through to the final group of Matchroom's Championship League.

Hamilton beat Carter in the final of group 3 and Carter was defeated yet again in the final of group 4 by Murphy. Carter has now been beaten in 3 of the 4 groups played. Hopefully the final defeats are not shattering his confidence too much!! On the plus side, so far in the competition he's earned over £17,000, much more than anybody else.

The irony of Hamilton's win is that it was only last week that he was complaining about tinpot tournaments and no money in the game. Now he's in the final group of the Championship League with a chance of playing in one of the biggest tournaments in the game.

Group 5 is to be played on the 14th and 15th April. Carter will be playing along with Mark King, Mark Allen, Joe Perry, Stephen Lee, Dominic Dale and Neil Robertson.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Snooker: 2008 World Championship Draw

Here's the draw for the 2008 World Championships:

Ken Doherty Ire v Liang Wenbo Chn
John Higgins Sco v Matthew Stevens Wal
Ali Carter Eng v Barry Hawkins Eng
Ding Junhui Chn v Marco Fu HK
Mark Selby Eng v Mark King Eng
Peter Ebdon Eng v Jamie Cope Eng
Neil Robertson Aus v Nigel Bond Eng
Steve Davis Eng v Stuart Bingham Eng
Ryan Day Wal v Michael Judge Eng
Ronnie O'Sullivan Eng v Liu Chuang Chn
Mark Williams Wal v Mark Davis Eng
Graeme Dott Sco v Joe Perry Eng
Shaun Murphy Eng v Dave Harold Eng
Stephen Lee Eng v Joe Swail NI
Stephen Hendry Sco v Mark Allen NI
Stephen Maguire Sco v Anthony Hamilton Eng

Amongst the noticeable draws are Higgins vs Stevens. Stevens couldn't have wished for a tougher draw as he's in serious need of ranking points, at least he made it to the Crucible.

Ding Junhui and Marco Fu have to face each other in the first round. Marco has to fancy his chances after getting the better of Ding in the big matches this season. Ding needs to win the World Championship this time round to beat Hendry's record of the youngest ever winner. With his form this season, I can't see him doing it.

The new young 17 year old Chinese sensation, Liu Chuang, plays Ronnie. Ronnie has already beat Chuang in the season opener and Chuang couldn't have asked for a more testing first round match. I don't think I've seen Chuang play before to I'm looking forward to seeing this match. It's worth pointing out that Chuang beat Dominic Dale in the final qualifying round, a great achievement as Dominic has won a ranking event this season.

Mark Selby is to play the man who beat Jimmy White, Mark King. Selby has had an amazing season so far and had a brilliant tournament last year getting to the final against Higgins. Could this be Selby's year!?

Snooker: White Out!

Jimmy White lost 10-3 to Mark King in the final qualifying round of the World Championships yesterday. This is a disaster for Jimmy who will not be in the top 64 for the 2008/2009 season. I believe this means he needs a wildcard to get back onto the main tour.

Jimmy has been putting in some hard practice to try to get back in form so he doesn't drop off the main circuit, but his efforts seem to be too little too late.

Somehow Jimmy cricked his neck on Saturday and had massages all day Sunday, but the treatment didn't seem to work.

This is the second year in a row that Jimmy has failed to reach the televised stages of the World Championships and currently it doesn't look good for him as a main tour professional. Let's hope he can get fit again and find some of his old magic.

Maybe we haven't seen the last of Jimmy White yet.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Snooker: Not Looking Good For Jimmy White

At the time of writing, the score between Mark King and Jimmy White in the final qualifying round of the World Championships is 8-1 to Mark King. The latest score can be found here. Mark needs 2 more frames to get to Sheffield.

Jimmy needs a miracle comeback against an excellent player if he's to save his season and possibly his career.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Snooker: Jimmy White Article

You can find an good Jimmy White article here.

Particularly funny/tragic is the following story in the article that talks about Jimmy taking his dead brother out for drinks!!!:

We were so sad. We'd been drinking in the pub the night before the funeral and the bill came to £4,600. It was a proper drink. We were all crying and so I told my sister we were going to get Martin.

I kicked the door of the undertakers and the lock fell off. Just like that, it opened! I went in, there was no alarm. He was there, in his suit, so I phoned a driver and we took him out and carried on drinking. We felt we had to spend more time with him.

We were crying, laughing, crying, laughing. It went on for about five hours. The driver going back realised my brother wasn't alive, so he refused to take us. We had to get a taxi. On the way, the next driver looked in the mirror and said: "He don't look too well.

We put him back and then the police came. They sympathised with me, there was no damage done. We lost his hat somewhere, but no charges followed.

It would be good to see him playing at the World Championships in Sheffield this year.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

American Pool: Tony Drago Takes Paris Eurotour

After many years of trying and 3 failed attempts as the losing finalist, Tony Drago has finally secured his first victory on the Eurotour beating Christian Reimering by 10 racks to 6 in a thrilling final. For many of us who know him it was a great night since Tony is certainly one of the most deserving players on the tour who was yet to win one. His fast and furious play has made him a star on the snooker scene over the last 20 years and now he's been bringing his unique style of play to the world American Pool scene, having already made a big name for himself over the last 4 or 5 years.

The tournament was held for the first time at a new location outside the centre of Paris:

Leader Club Billard 94
8 rue Christophe Colomb

The club itself is spectacular with 17 Dynamic Olympic tables and a huge mezzanine overlooking the play area for spectators and players to socialize and take in the atmosphere.

This event held a great importance since the top four players on the Eurotour rankings after this event have been entered into the Matchroom Sports 2008 World Pool Masters to be held in Las Vagas from 9th-11th May. The lucky selected four are: Mark Gray (GBR), Christian Reimering (GER), Bruno Muratore (ITA), and Imran Majid (GBR).

6 British players made it through to the last 32 in this event, showing that the strength of American pool in the UK is growing all the time.

the results from the last 32 were:



Thomasz Kaplan


10 : 4


Kasper Kristoffersen

Marco Tschudi


10 : 4


Michael Schmidt

Imran Majid


10 : 6


John Vassalos

Niels Feijen


10 : 3


Mark Gray

Marc Vogt


10 : 3


Martin Larsen

Marcus Chamat


10 : 4


Nick Malai

Christian Reimering


10 : 9


Karl Boyes

Bruno Muratore


10 : 3


Konstantin Stepanov

Ralf Souquet


10 : 7


Sven Pauritsch

Oliver Ortmann


10 : 4


Gareth Esprit

Markus Juva


10 : 7


Albin Ouschan Jr.

Martin Kempter


10 : 8


Matjaz Erculj

David Alcaide


10 : 9


Nick van den Berg

Thomas Engert


10 : 4


Vilmos Foldes

Darren Appleton


10 : 2


Jonni Fulcher

Tony Drago


10 : 3


Carlos Cabello



Marco Tschudi


10 : 5


Thomasz Kaplan

Niels Feijen


10 : 7


Imran Majid

Marcus Chamat


10 : 7


Marc Vogt

Christian Reimering


10 : 6


Bruno Muratore

Oliver Ortmann


10 : 6


Ralf Souquet

Markus Juva


10 : 4


Martin Kempter

Thomas Engert


10 : 7


David Alcaide

Tony Drago


10 : 9


Darren Appleton



Marco Tschudi


10 : 9


Niels Feijen

Christian Reimering


10 : 6


Marcus Chamat

Markus Juva


10 : 8


Oliver Ortmann

Tony Drago


10 : 3


Thomas Engert



Christian Reimering


10 : 7


Marco Tschudi

Tony Drago


10 : 3


Markus Juva



Tony Drago


10 : 6


Christian Reimering

Friday, 29 February 2008

Snooker: Championship League - Groups 1 & 2

The first 2 groups of the Championship League Snooker have now been played and we now have the first 2 players for the final group. The winner of the whole event will be the final player in this season's Premier League Snooker Tournament.

The first 2 players through are Ryan Day and Ken Doherty. Ryan has won £6,100 and Ken has won £8,300, good money for internet only TV and a non-ranking event.

The big losers that are out of the event so far are, Mark Williams, Nigel Bond, Matthew Stevens and Barry Hawkins.

Here are the group 1 and group 2 reports and results.

The next Championship League Snooker can be seen from March 10th - March 13th through the following betting websites:

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Snooker: Selby's First Ranking Title

Mark Selby claimed his first ranking event of his career in the Welsh Open on Sunday with a great win over Ronnie O'Sullivan.

The first session was a bit scrappy with Ronnie really struggling to find his A game. I thought Mark should have capitalised a lot more and when it finished 4-4, I feared Mark had probably blown a good chance to get a good lead and put himself in a commanding position for the evening session.

I was expecting Ronnie to come back a better player in the evening session, and he did, winning 4 of the first 5 frames in style, and leaving him one frame from victory. To me, Selby looked dead and buried and I was pretty astonished with the fightback that ensued.

Selby said he had to resort to his B game and ground out the next 3 frames to take it to 8 each. Ronnie came flying out of the blocks in the decider and, early on in the frame, looked like he was going to blow Selby's fightback to smithereens, but he broke down and Selby knocked in a break taking the match to the last 3 or 4 reds. Ronnie got back in, tried to move a red off the cushion but missed a solid cannon. He got down quickly to back double the same red, a match winner if it went in, not necessarily a match loser if he missed but the white flew round the table and went in off! This left Selby with a sitter and he didn't need a second invitation.

Ronnie was clearly devestated and seemed to struggle to comprehend his loss. The Welsh interviewer/commentator didn't help, "Great match, highest break, congratulations", I was shouting DUCK!! at the TV in fear that Ronnie was going to hit him! What a plonker. Ronnie came out with some comments which I think were due to the heat of the moment: "Mark was very tactical" and "I don't know if Mark's talented; he plays a very negative game. He doesn't take a ball on unless he's going to leave it safe.". The media have obviously stirred the comments up a bit, but Mark has subsequently come out and dismissed them with diplomacy I don't think even he's used to. Let's face it, it can't be easy giving a live interview when you've just lost a major final from a very commanding position.

Selby didn't only beat Ronnie at the Welsh Open, he beat 3 other past World Champions in Hendry, Higgins and Doherty which has to make his vctory even sweeter. I'm really pleased for Selby, he's a very funny guy as I found out when he came to the Swiss Open a couple of years ago. He can stand up in front of an audience and tell jokes all night long. He's a fantastic character in the world of snooker, ...not a bad player too!!

Well done Mark!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Snooker: Hustle Hassle

There's more talk of dodgy dealings in snooker. This time with the group phases in Malta and spurious betting on dead games. Check out various articles here, here and here.

We've discussed the pros and cons before here and here.

The Premier Snooker League doesn't seem to suffer at all with the league format or from spurious betting on dead games. It offers £1'000 per frame and £1'000 per century break. One can't help thinking that if the WSA did the same, ranking events, or events under the control of the WPBSA wouldn't suffer these problems either. Better still, for ranking events, build in a ranking point structure for the results of dead games.

And I've got no sympathy for bookies offering odds on dead games, surely they're asking for trouble when the players aren't playing for anything.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Snooker: Murphy Wins in Malta

Shaun Murphy beat Ken Doherty in the final of the Malta Cup by 9 frames to 3.

Murphy's looking good going into this weeks Welsh Open which is a ranking event. But that's just it, ...the Welsh Open is a ranking event and will probably be a slightly different challenge to the lowly Malta Cup. Ken Doherty has been looking in good form but collapsed in the final which is a real shame. It would have been good to see him keep it all together for the full duration of a tournament, ...even if he would have lost 9-8 in the final.

Ronnie is back for the Welsh and seems to be in good spirits judging by this BBC report. The tournament will be shown live on the BBC, but only on BBC Wales. If you've got Sky, you'll find these regional BBC channels in the high numbers. In the past, the latter stages of the tournament have been shown on BBC interactive. I believe it will also be shown live on Eurosport.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

American Pool: Ralf Souquet Wins 2008 Paris Open

2008 Paris Open top four: Niels Feijen, Ralf Souquet, Yannick Beaufils, & Jonni Fulcher.
The 2008 Paris Open

David Bare has been running the Paris Open for several years now and the format was the same as before... Qualifiers just before at Akademy Beaugrenelle, a cavernous club with lots of tables, and then the actual event at the Clichy Montmartre club, one of the most beautiful clubs in the city.

This year it was Ralf Souquet who continued his rich vein of form by taking the title. Clearly the in form player, Ralf showed his class yet again by taking the tidy 4000 Euro first prize in a thrilling final against Yannick Beaufils from France.

2008 Paris Open Champion, Ralf Souquet receiving his trophy.


Exciting atmospheres in both the qualifying and the final stages of the tournament made for a fantastic event with some nail biting matches. This event had 4 invitees, namely Majid, Feijen, Van den Berg and Souquet, who were placed directly into the last 16. Competition for the remaining 14 spots was fierce, with 64 hopefuls sparring it out in the Akademy Beaugrenelle. Big names came from all over Europe to compete but of course the majority of the players were French. There were a number of Eurotour regulars such as Jonni Fulcher, Serge Das, Vincent Fauquet, Willy Wu, Bertrand Deroliol, Yannick Beaufils, Stephan Cohen, Andreja Klasovic and many more.

2008 Paris Open semi-finalists Jonni Fulcher and Niels Feijen.

Early on in the qualifying Yannick Beaufils showed he meant business with an early 9-7 victory over Jonni Fulcher in a thrilling match on the very tough shimmed club tables. Among the other big match ups were Fauquet vs Das which was won by Fauquet, Das later coming unstuck in the one loss side and crashing out of the event early.

After a long day starting at 10am and finishing at around midnight, the 12 qualifiers who came through were: Antona, Beaufils, Cohen, Deroliol, Fauquet, Fulcher, Klasovic, Lemaire, Lettre, Merabtene, Vernendal and Wu.

The final day saw the four invitees joining the rest of the field with some immediately interesting last 16 match-ups:
Willy Wu played Vincent Fauquet, Wu proved strong this time and took a solid victory. Jonni Fulcher played Nick Van den Berg in an epic thriller. Van den Berg led the entire match from the first rack and at 9-6 up he looked certain to sail into the next round, but Fulcher showed his true fighting character and pressured Van den Berg into a crucial mistake scratching the white into the middle bag giving Fulcher a chance to come back, Fulcher took the next two racks to level it at 9-9 and in a tense final rack it was Fulcher who emerged the victor with the only 10-9 result of the tournament.

Cohen played Klasovic in what turned out to be quite a one sided affair with Cohen emerging the victor.

But clearly the biggest upset of the last 16 was Beaufils' victory over Majid 10-5. Again showing his tenacity and desire to win, Beaufils outplayed Majid who left the building shortly after his defeat.

2008 Paris Open Runner-Up, Yannick Beaufils.

The pick of the last 8 matches proved to be Wu vs Beaufils, neither player looked like making a mistake, but it was Beaufils who managed to just keep his nose ahead until the end.

The first Semi Final Match up yielded what on paper appeared to be a rather easier victory for Souquet over Feijen than it truely was, both men exhibiting their class and in a nearly flaweless match Souquet moved on to the final.

The second Semi final was a rather longer affair with due care and attention paid to every shot by the clearly troublesome Beaufils. After a quick fire early start to the match Fulcher came unstuck at 2-0 and gave an opening to Beaufils to get back into the match, which he duly took. the match then stayed close until 8-7 after which Beaufils took the remaining two racks to put an end to Fulcher's quest.

The Final was another Thriller. Neither man could pull away and in a closely fought, match the scoreline never differed by more than two racks. Beaufils faught gallantly to the end, but a mistake with a safety after a Souquet push-out let Souquet in to take the match and the title.

Souqet Adds the 2008 Paris Open title to his Derby City Classic 9-ball victory and continues his great start to the 2008 season.

2008 Paris Open Champion, Ralf Souquet.





Thursday, 31 January 2008

Snooker: 2008 Malta Cup

The Malta Cup starts on the 4th February and will be a group format tournament. There are 2 wilcards from Malta, Alex Borg and Tony Drago and 2 other wildcards, Marco Fu and Dominic Dale.

Ronnie will not be entering this tournament and Joe Perry has taken his place.

The groups are shown below:

Click here for a larger view.

This isn't a ranking event but it will be shown live on Eurosport I believe. More information can be found here.

Snooker: Fu Interview

Check out this excellent Marco Fu interview here!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Snooker: Today vs Yesteryear

I've heard a few people saying the standard of snooker these days doesn't compare to the Hendry and Davis eras. Here's a comment from an earlier post.

"It's tragic that the standard of snooker has gone down so far. Remember when Hendry, Higgins, Williams, O'Sullivan, Doherty, White, were all on top of their game 10 yrs ago, the game is unrecognisable now. Once O'Sullivan goes out, pretty much the standard drops like a stone, and so do the ratings."

Yes O'Sullivan went out early in the Masters, but I still think we saw some great snooker. Stephen Maguire had to play well to beat Ronnie in the first place! It was a great match that went down to the final pink. Look at Doherty's 3 centuries in 4 frames against Murphy. And Murphy himself played well against Ali Carter. Of course, there's also Selby, he played very well in all his matches, and 4 centuries in the final. He even matched Doherty's highest break in the final frame, a 141. It has to be said that that's a pretty awesome display for a relatively young player in his debut Masters, and winning his first ever major!

Domanic Dale played some great fluent snooker to beat Ryan Day in the Shanghai Masters final. And believe me, I never thought I would say "Domanic Dale played some great fluent snooker". That day he was entertaining and great to watch.

Again, Marco Fu played great snooker to beat Ronnie O'Sullivan in the Royal London Watches Grand Prix. Ronnie had a couple of centuries and plenty of 60+ breaks but still lost to Fu.

Maguire finally found his form to win the Northern Ireland Trophy. In that tournament, Ronnie had 5 centuries in a row against Ali Carter in a best of 9 match! Maybe a sign that Ronnie was finally finding his feet (or his brain) again in ranking events.

Ronnie was back in the UK Championship! But it did look like Selby had him in the semis until Ronnie knocked in that magnificent 147 in the final frame. Ronnie went on to destroy Maguire in the final.

And of course Selby, in the Masters.

Professionals these days say the standard is higher than it's ever been. I've heard Davis and Parrott say this on the box! This is what some people are doubting. I remember the Hendry days better than I remember the Davis days, but I've watched many of the Davis victories on tape and he was devastating in his day.

Players were truly afraid of Davis. I've heard people in the past say that if a pro drew Davis in the first round of the tournament, ...they would already be checked out of their hotels before they even played against him! Hendry was incredible, he would just go for everything, and usually get it. He's (I think this is correct) more than 200 centuries in front of his closest rival which is O'Sullivan at the moment with 700+. That's some strike rate. And Jimmy with his flair, some of his shots have been astonishing to watch on TV, he's done things with the cueball that most people didn't think were possible.

I think because the gap was so large between the top ranked players and players ranked 5 and below of yesteryear, the top players were made to look good. Yes, they were good, very good, but didn't get the kind of competition the top ranked players of today get. Last season Robinson was the only player to win more than one ranking event, the rest were won by Ding, Ebdon, Murphy, Dott and Higgins (Ronnie won the Masters).

This year's winner so far are Dale, Fu, Maguire, and Ronnie (Selby won the Masters). The standard is so high these days it's taken Ronnie about 3 years to win a ranking event! I don't think the standard is lower than 10 years ago, I think it's just as high, if not higher. But what is most noticeable from the tournament wins over the last 2 seasons is the competition is fiercer than ever. You won't get only the top 4 players winning tournaments these days, it's players ranked all the way down into the 20s!

I think it's good for the game and long may it continue.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Snooker: Selby Seals His Maiden Win

Mark Selby thrashed Stephen Lee 10-3 in the final of the Masters yesterday evening. Throughout the tournament he had earned some really hard victories against Hendry, Maguire and Doherty. He took home a winner's cheque of £150,000 and, remarkably, in the final frame when the crowd were going mad and taking photographs with the flash on, knocked in a 141 to tie the highest break with Ken Doherty and take home a share of the £10,000 high break prize.

Selby's will to win is very visible when playing and it's great to see. Lee's frustration was evident, he certainly thought the balls were running against him and I think it was difficult for him to keep positive throughout the match. Lee couldn't manage a single frame in the evening session as Selby powered on.

In all Selby recorded 4 centuries in the match, a 124, 132, 125 and a 141, pretty devestating stuff! After this career debut win, is it possible to say he will win another tournament this season? Hard to tell as the standard is so high. Well played Mark!

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Snooker: Master Final Preview

The Masters trophy will have a new name on it this season when Stephen Lee and Mark Selby battle it out in the final today.

This year has seen some great matches, many of them close and some surprises too. I rate Mark Selby very highly but it still has to be said that it's a bit of a surprise to see him in the final as it it with Stephen Lee. It's probably more of an achievement for Stephen Lee to be in the final as his season hasn't been that spectacular.

But Selby has been pretty solid all season and has had 3 6-5 victories to get him into the final. All cracking matches. Selby had a great comeback victory against Maguire and held on really well against Doherty who has been playing some good snooker in this tournament. Doherty was coming back strongly against Selby and you could see Selby's delight as he banged the table after potting the important red that took him into the final.

Lee's first match was a 6-5 win as well against Graeme Dott, another classic match. His quarter final and semi final victories seemed to be much easier though against Ebdon and Fu. Ebdon collapsed and was chasing maximums when he should have been concentrating on securing the frame and Fu didn't show the form that earned him victories against Davis, Robertson and Ding.

Lee is looking to get some revenge over Selby after Selby beat him in the World Championships. Lee was well ahead in that match too. I hope today's match will be a classic, ...but I don't think it will be! :o)

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Snooker: Tony Drago Interview on the BBC

Click here for a good interview with Tony Drago BBC website. Tony slates Prestatyn in a big way. Maybe it is time to move snooker qualifiers away from Prestatyn.

I've spoken to a couple of pro players about the place and they've generally described it as a dump!

Snooker: Ding Gets the Better of Higgins

Ding Junhui is back! In a ding dong battle with Higgins, Ding fought back from 3-1 down to level at 4-4. Higgins was playing reasonably well and knocked in breaks of 71, 73 and 62. But his cuing action let him down a couple of times as he seemed to hit across the ball. Ding took full advantage with breaks of 74, 54, 135, and 96. The last 2 frames went to Ding for him to win 6-4.

Once again Ding looked great when when in amongst the balls and the beat Higgins in the Masters is a yet another big scalp for Ding. He plays Marco Fu in the next round.

Dott managed to blow a 5-3 lead against Stephen Lee in the other first round match yesterday. Dott's game seemed to disintegrate a little only for him to get it back at 5-5. In the last frame Dott made a great break of 61 and was looking favorite. But he then let Lee in and he came back with a magnificent 64 break to win the match 6-5

Graeme Dott blamed the defeat on a bad bounce off the cushion when when on 61. But surely he can't take anything away from Stephen Lee's break when under immense pressure.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Snooker: O'Sullivan, The Hero of an F1 Driver

Gwyn Jones, a regular commenter on greenbaize found this article through a link on this site.

Snooker: Doherty And Fu Through

Doherty rolled back the years yesterday with a great win over Mark Williams. I fancied Williams to win this one as he looked to be getting some form back in the UK Championships. But it wasn't to be, Doherty was playing some of his best snooker in years to paddy power past Williams 6-2.

Williams went 2-0 up and was looking good with breaks of 118 and 69 but Doherty hit 6 of the best with breaks of 101, 89, 53 and 68. It great to see Doherty back on form again.

Williams is pretty negative about his future. He doesn't want to be playing in the qualifiers at Prestatyn next season and has said that if he's not in the top 32 he "probably won't stick around". This would be a sad loss for snooker. He's still a great player to watch and I still think he has a lot to give.

The Robertson Fu match was a cracking, long hard fought match. So much so, made me late for work this morning. Well that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it! Like the Doherty Williams match, Robertson started out the strongest with breaks of 63 and 118. Robertson looked in really good form. But Fu showed then showed why he's won a ranking event this season and really got into some great break building of his own winning 4 frames in a row with breaks of 89, 71, 69 and 100.

Robertson had to dig really deep to stop Fu in his tracks but managed to win the next 2 to take it to 4-4. The next 2 were shared in what was turning out to be a great tactical game and so it went to the decider. The last frame was very cagey and could have gone either way, but Fu managed to win it on the final black. It was a really good match, for the purists Clive Everton said.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Snooker: Former World Champion Number 3 Out on Day 2

Yep, now Hendry is gone. I thought it was going to be a win for Selby rather than a really tough hard fought win! I didn't see the match live so it's difficult to comment on the performance of both players. From what I saw of the highlights and what I've read elsewhere, it looks like the match was a scrappy affair with Selby stepping up a gear when he was 5-3 down to come back and win 5-6. It's a great victory for Selby and another demoralising defeat for Hendry. Hendry will bounce back, he doesn't know when he's beaten. I still fancy him to win at least 1 more ranking event.

Davis was also beaten 6-2 comprehensively by Marco Fu. Davis was very unhappy with his performance and said that Marco would need to up his game in the next round. Marco agreed in his interview, actually he said this before Davis mentioned it, typical Davis diplomacy! ;o) There were some interesting quotes from Davis after the match:

"The end result was that I played rubbish."

"Who knows if this is going to be my last Masters because I might drop out of the top 16 by the end of the season."

"I'd prefer to qualify for the Masters by right, but if I get an invite I won't refuse it. I'll think about my career in the summer."

Ebdon is one of the former Wrold Champions through to the next round. Ryan Day will be very disappointed with his performance, he missed some really easy balls.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Snooker: Shock On The First Day

Ronnie's out! What's more, Ronnie's nerves got the better of him.

Maguire played much better than in the UK championships before Christmas, but Ronnie's form had dipped a bit. He couldn't really get himself into top gear.

Maguire went 4-1 up with breaks of 64, 103 and 84. He was playing pretty solidly although the snooker wasn't scintillating. Ronnie saw the danger, upped his game through sheer necessity and managed to claw back to 5-5 with breaks of 112, 72, 66 and 64.

The match went into a decider and the crowd was buzzing. Maguire had the initial chance but ended up letting Ronnie in. He was on the way to a magnificent clearance, it would have been a real classic. Ronnie had to play the final blue with the rest, it was a pretty simple shot. The problem was, to get position on the pink, which he needed, he had to punch the blue in and stun the white on and off the cushion. I thought he played the blue a little quick, regardless, he missed it, the blue ran up and down the table and Ronnie had left it for Maguire who also needed the blue and pink for the match. Maguire calmly knocked them both in to the disbelief of the crowd who were clearly backing Ronnie. Ronnie walked despondently out of the arena and Maguire followed him with a look of disbelief, and the hint of a smile, on his face.

Earlier in the day, Murphy beat Ali Carter 6-3. Murphy was 2-0 down and looked to be struggling, but as Carter was out of the arena for a comfort break, the look on Murphy's face seemed to harden, he looked a lot more focused for the rest of the match. Ali Carter didn't play great snooker and looked under pressure. Eventually, Murphy ran out with a well deserved 6-3 win.

Barry Hawkins couldn't get his game together at all against Welshman Ryan Day in the wildcard round. Day always looked too strong throughout the match and came though 6-2 to put him in the first round against Peter Ebdon.

I can't imagine delivering many more reports through the tournament as I won't have much more time to see the matches. But when I watch one, I'll deliver on the blog.

I think the Masters is now wide open though, there's something like 8 World Champions left in the draw. Keep watching!

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Snooker: Masters Preview

One of my favorite tournaments starts on Sunday, the Masters. Staged in London at the Wembley Arena, the tournament has always seemed to exude class and glamor. For over 20 years it was staged at the Wembley Conference Center which has witnessed some unbelievable Masters snooker. With great crowds exceeding 2000, the atmosphere can be electric for one player and demoralizingly daunting for the other as Ding Junhui unfortunately found out the hard way last year. The crowds can destroy players long after the tournament finishes, more so it seems here than any other venue, ....again, as Ding Junhui found out last year!

Gold always comes to mind when I think of the Masters, probably because of the years it was sponsored by Benson & Hedges. Flowers! With flower beds flanking the table on either side. Jimmy White and Kirk Stevens dressed up sharp in their shiny white suits, and who can forget Kirk's fantastic maximum! The one table situation and top 16 only invitation format (with the exception of a couple of wildcards which are Marco Fu and Barry Hawkins this year) seems to add that extra prestige to the tournament.

As a huge fan of Stephen Hendry when I was younger, I never missed a match, and there were a lot of matches to miss! Hendry, almost 6 years unbeaten at Wembley, won in his debut season in 1989, went on to win 5 consecutive titles and eventually lost in 1994 in the final, the final frame, against Alan McManus. I was distraught, as I'm sure Hendry was too. McManus was the first player to win the current trophy, the previous one having been given to Hendry for winning it for the previous 5 years.

Another player that was almost single handedly destroyed by the Masters was Mike Hallett. Now a regular commentator on Eurosport, in 1988 he was thrashed by Steve Davis 9-0 in the final, ...yes, whitewashed in the final. Mike probably thought that it couldn't get any worse until 1991 where again, he got to the final. Hallett was playing Hendry, playing well and led 7-0 and 8-2. He only needed one more frame to take trophy away from Hendry who had won the 2 previous seasons. It was not to be, Mike's game abandoned him and Hendry staged a brilliant comeback to win 9-8! If I remember rightly, that wasn't the last of the disappointments for Mike that evening, upon returning home with his wife, their house had been burgled. Talk about getting kicked while you're down!!

Back to the present and hopefully Ding will not succumb to the Masters' demons, who can forget his magnificent maximum last year. That gave him the record for the youngest player make a televised maximum! He hasn't had a great season so far but he's so talented and looks so good amongst the balls that I really want to see him do well. However, it's going to be tough for him at the Masters this year, his first round match is against current world champion John Higgins who also hasn't had a great season so far. They both have something to prove and I think this will be a classic match.

The wildcards, Marco Fu and Barry Hawkins are playing Steve Davis and Ryan Day respectively, I expect these to be tough matches too. The Masters' great, Hendry, is playing Selby who is playing some brilliant snooker and is flying up the rankings. I think Selby is going to carry on his great form and beat Hendry in his tournament, unless Hendry can find some divine inspiration.

Two out of form players, Doherty and Williams are matched up in the first round and I think this will be a tight scrappy affair. Doherty thinks his newly born son will give him inspiration at the Masters and he thinks he can go on and win it! Williams looked to have found some of his old form in the UK championship before Christmas and I fancy him to beat Doherty, ...just!

The biggest match-up of the first round has to be Ronnie O'Sullivan vs Stephen Maguire, provisionally ranked numbers 1 and 2 in the world! Maguire won't want Ronnie destroying him again so I think this could be a lot closer than the UK final.

Spare a thought for Jimmy White who will miss his first Masters for many a year. Currently he's not on form at all and struggling to stay on the main tour next year. I dare say his fans will miss him as much as he will miss Wembley! And while on that note, ...don't forget 3 times Masters winner Paul Hunter. Who can forget his constant Plan Bs!!! Personally, I think he used to plan to be way behind after the first session on purpose!!! ;o) May he rest in peace.

All in all, I'm quite looking forward to Sunday, let's hope Wembley can produce some more magic!!