Stephen Hendry's decision to use a new cue for the 888.com World Championship having practised with it for only four weeks appears to have backfired.

He trails Ali Carter 12-4 and is set for a disappointing second round defeat at the Crucible today.

He will be 39 next year and, as it stands, the likelihood of him landing an eighth world title is diminishing.

He has nothing to prove, but won't want to carry on much longer if he can't find some form.

His performance against Carter was a world away from his supreme best.

What does he do now? Dump the new cue and revert to the old one or even get a new one?

Whatever, he seems low on confidence and set for elimination when he and Carter resume at 2.30pm.



Ronnie O'Sullivan did not seem keen to say too much at today's post match press conference - and I can't say that I blame him.

As we all know, he has, in the past, said all sorts of things in such a setting, but preferred to let his snooker speak for itself as he brushed past Ding Jun Hui 10-2 in the first round of the 888.com World Championship.

Ronnie is clearly in useful form at the Crucible and will take some stopping as he looks for a third crown.

He answered questions but didn't want to say anything that might be misconstrued and become a big deal.

That suggests he's thinking clearly, something ominous for the rest of the field.



Graeme Dott cut a dejected figure as he left the Crucible Theatre last night a first round loser in the 888.com World Championship.

His 10-7 defeat by Ian McCulloch was a bitter disappointment as the proud Scot relinquished his hold on the famous silver trophy.

The match seemed an edgy, nervous affair from first ball to last as Dott, feeling the burden of expectation as defending champion, failed to summon up the golden form that landed him the title last year.

He became the first defending champion to lose on the opening day since Stephen Hendry in 2000 and the first first-time winner to bow out in round one since Dennis Taylor 21 years ago.

I felt sorry for him because I know how much it meant to him, but credit to McCulloch for the way he stuck to his task, particularly in making his 110 break to lead 9-6 when it looked as if the tide may be turning in Dott's favour.



Ian Doyle, the long time manager of Stephen Hendry and head of 110sport, has announced his retirement.

Doyle has handed over the reins to his son, Lee, who now sits on the WPBSA board his dad spent so many years fighting.

"I think I have done everything I wanted to do and it's time to hang up my boxing gloves," he said.

"I have been taking a back seat for a wee while now and while I will remain as a consultant in relation to certain sponsorship deals, Lee will be responsible for the day-to-day running as chief executive."

Doyle has been an at times controversial figure, having fallen out several times with the WPBSA because of his criticisms of how snooker has been run.

In 2000, his management group attempted to launch a rival tour and later took the WPBSA to court to challenge its monopoly position.

He could always be counted on to give the press some interesting quotes and doubtless had a positive effect on Hendry, firing him up when needed and taking care of his off-table affairs.

"There have been difficult times for the sport, there is no question of that, and the game has been mismanaged," Doyle said.

"But snooker remains hugely popular, the TV viewing figures continue to be very high and there is a lot to look forward to, especially when you see how the game is progressing in countries such as China.

"I take a lot of satisfaction over what I have contributed and being part of what Stephen has achieved has been an unbelievable pleasure."



This is the first 888.com World Championship I shall be commentating on.

I joined the Eurosport team for last December’s Maplin UK Championship and have thoroughly enjoyed being part of it ever since.

Although I’ve been on the circuit for the last decade, I can’t remember ever watching so much snooker.

This just in: it’s a great game – skilful, dramatic and fascinating, even when the standard isn’t that high.

Eurosport International and British Eurosport are showing hour upon hour of coverage from the Crucible. All sessions are live during weekdays and there is much live snooker at weekends, although we obviously have to fit in other sport as well.

My fellow lead commentators will be Mike Smith, Simon Golding and Patrick Winterton.

Our experts are Mike Hallett, Joe Johnson, Neal Foulds, Dominic Dale and, joining us for the first time, Alan McManus.

Matthew Syed will be backstage conducting interviews with the players and going behind the scenes of the tournament.

Eurosport have been instrumental in raising interest in snooker across Europe, just as the BBC were in Britain with Pot Black in the 1970s.

I’m sure all viewers, whether in Prague or Peterborough, Riga or Romford, will enjoy the championship.


Graeme Dott begins the defence of his Crucible crown hoping to have finally silenced his critics.

Dott edged Peter Ebdon 18-14 in a marathon final to land the 888.com World Championship crown 12 months ago.

But instead of enjoying praise for his victory, the pint-sized Larkhall potter was forced to endure a barrage of criticism for the slow pace of the final, which finished just before 1am.

Some people even suggested the 29 year-old would be a one-hit wonder but Dott heads to Sheffield this week as the man in form after capturing the China Open title in Beijing earlier this month.

He said: “The criticism was over the top. Peter would admit that he’s a methodically slow player and when things aren’t going well he slows down even more. There’s nothing wrong with that but what was I supposed to do?

“Everyone talks about the 1985 final, where Dennis Taylor beat Steve Davis on the black, as a classic but Dennis and Steve have admitted themselves that they couldn’t pot a ball.

“People just remember the end and yet Peter and I got slated. I thought that was unfair.”

Even so, Dott knew that any slip-up this season would be seized on by those who are sceptical of his abilities as a top player.

That is why he is so relieved to be heading to the game’s top event as provisional world no.1 having won one title, reached the UK Championship semi-finals and appeared in the quarters of three other ranking tournaments.

Dott said: “I was nervous at the start of the season that if I started losing in the first round of tournaments people would start saying the world title was just a fluke.

“At least winning in China has taken that away. I’ve quickened up my game and I’m a better player than I was last year. I think people can see that.”

Dott starts his title defence on Saturday against Preston ’s Ian McCulloch but has the famous Crucible ‘curse’ to contend with.

No first time winner has successfully hung on to the trophy since the tournament moved to Sheffield in 1977.

He said: “It’s not so much a curse, but some players have put themselves under extra pressure because they think they had a really good chance to win it again. I tend not to do that because playing there is hard enough.

“Nobody could say I couldn’t win it this year after how I played in China but I could just as easily get beat 10-2 in the first round.

“I’d rather the tournament had already started, though. The waiting is the worst part. There’s pressure on me as defending champion but every year is the same.

“Everyone’s under it no matter who they are. I played John Parrott last year. He’s played at the Crucible over 20 times and he said walking out into the arena was the most nervous he’s ever felt.

“But I love playing there. I love the psychological aspect of it – when players think they’ve got you beat and you come back at them, and how they deal with that.”

Dott proved his mettle last year by prevailing in a deciding frame to beat Aussie Neil Robertson in the quarter-finals before seeing off Ronnie O’Sullivan in the semis.

He won all eight frames of their third session to lead 16-8 before beating the ‘Rocket’ 17-12.

His victory over Ebdon in the final took him to a career best ranking of sixth and he goes into the tournament at the top of the latest standings, which become official after the Crucible event ends.

Dott said: “To be world no.1 would be the ultimate dream because then I’ll have done everything I’d want to do, I’d have no other goals.

“It’s only three years since I wanted to give up the game because I was on a losing run so it would be an amazing turnaround.”

This article first appeared in today's Scottish Sun



Stephen Hendry believes winning an eighth world title would be the crowning achievement of his snooker career.

Hendry starts his 22nd Crucible campaign this week likely to lose his place at the top of the world rankings.

The 38 year-old snooker has failed to win a ranking title since the Malta Cup in February 2005 and heads to Sheffield eighth in the provisional standings.

But Hendry insists capturing the sport’s greatest prize takes precedence over his ranking position.

He said: “Being world champion is more important to me than being no.1 in the world

“The no.1 ranking proves that you are perhaps the most consistent player over one or two seasons. But I was no.1 for eight years in the 90s and it doesn’t hold the same special feeling as being world champion.

“Winning any competition these days is so special but to be world champion again would be my greatest ever achievement.

“I hope that if my record of winning the title seven times is beaten, it’s beaten by me.

“This year’s world title could be won by anyone from a bunch of four or five players, and I believe I’m one of them.”

Hendry won his first world title at the age of 21 in 1990 and scooped a record seventh in 1999.

His last appearance in the final was in 2002 and he lost 10-9 on a re-spotted black to Nigel Bond in the first round 12 months ago.

Hendry starts his Crucible bid this year against newcomer Dave Gilbert, who works full time for his dad’s farming business when in between tournaments.

And although Hendry is a massive favourite to beat Gilbert, he’s been putting in plenty of work ahead of the tournament.

He said: “My practice regime is the same in time and length as that for any other tournament but I think when you are approaching the World Championship you unconsciously put a little bit more effort into your practice.

“You concentrate a little bit harder because you know the tournament coming up is the big one.

“At the moment I’m practicing on my own. I used to play against people a lot but at this point of time it’s more beneficial to me to play on my own. It makes me concentrate better.

“Sometimes, when I play against people, after a couple of hours, my mind is starting to wonder, I’m not concentrating properly.

“But at the moment, I'm playing four or five hours a day on my own. I put my iPod, listen to music and play balls all day.”

If Hendry beat Gilbert on Wednesday he faces Ali Carter or Andy Hicks for a quarter-final place.

Peter Ebdon would be his most likely last eight opponent with Ken Doherty, Matthew Stevens and Shaun Murphy among those he could meet in the semis.

The 888.com-sponsored event, which carries a £220,000 top prize, starts on Saturday, with Ronnie O’Sullivan the bookies’ favourite to land the title for a third time.

This article first appeared in today's Scottish Sun



Find out their plans here:



John Higgins believes he could have been a multiple winner of snooker’s greatest prize but for a forgotten handshake.

Higgins won the world title in 1998 and was heavily tipped to complete several more Crucible triumphs in the years that followed.

But the Wishaw ace has managed just one further appearance in the final since his victory nine years ago and has failed to reach the semi-finals since 2001.

And the 31 year-old pinpoints an incident in the 2000 semi-finals against Mark Williams as a major turning point in his Crucible career.

Higgins said: “My biggest regret in snooker was losing 17-15 to Mark in the 2000 semi-finals. I led 14-10 going into the final session and when we got out there to restart, Mark didn’t shake my hand.

“It completely threw me for the whole session. Instead of concentrating on the match and trying to get to 17 frames I was wondering why he did that, even though it was probably just an oversight on his part.

“Who knows where my career would have gone from that point if I’d beaten him? I could have won three or four world titles by now but it’s all in the past now and you have to move on.

“It would mean a great deal to win it again. I sometimes think I’ve put myself under more pressure than I should have done since winning it in ’98.

“If you look at the career I’ve had, I should have won it more than once.”

Higgins starts his 888.com World Championship campaign next Wednesday against Nottingham’s Michael Holt.

He readily admits that he finds practising a chore but is determined to bring home more silverware for sons Pierce, 5, and Oliver, 2 – although they still aren’t quite sure why dad is famous.

He said: “I suppose snooker has become more like a job as I’ve got older but I still enjoy playing the game.

“When you’re younger it’s all new and you can play all day long. These days, when I’m practising I’m on auto-pilot. But I know it’s still important because I’m playing for my family.

“The boys are still too young to understand what it’s all about. Sometimes when I drop Pierce off at school people say ‘there’s John Higgins’ and he gets embarrassed.

“He asked me the other day why people at school said I was ‘the Wizard of Wishaw.’

“It’s something to be proud of that in a couple of years he’ll understand. He’ll be able to look at the videos. It’s nice to have something like that to show the kids

“I’m still proud that my dad played for Motherwell reserves and had some games with the first team. It’s good that I’ll have that with my own sons.”

This time last year, Higgins headed to Sheffield as many experts’ tip for the title after enjoying a hugely successful season in which he reached four finals.

But the current campaign has been largely disappointing, with the former Masters and UK champ winning only two matches since the turn of the year.

Higgins said: “You look forward to the Crucible so much. It’s the pinnacle of the snooker calendar. I was out before it had started last year and that was disappointing.

“Michael Holt’s a good player but if I play well I’m confident of winning. I could have had a tougher draw and I could have had an easier one, but it’s all about how I play.

“I know less people are talking about me winning it this year but I feel I’m coming back to form in myself. I’d love to predict what’s going to happen and say I’m going to do this or that but its all on the day.”

Higgins reckons he’ll have to hit top form to stop defending champ and practice partner Graeme Dott, who recently won the China Open, from walking away with the famous silver trophy again.

He said: “Graeme’s the favourite in my eyes. I don’t care what anyone says, he’s playing the best of anyone.

“He doesn’t get the credit he deserves but that fires him up. People can say what like but those in the know realise how good he is.”

This article first appeared in today's Scottish Sun


According to today's Daily Mirror, Ronnie O’Sullivan has alleged that the draw for the first round of the 888.com World Championship was fixed so that he would have to play Ding Jun Hui.

In an interview with ZOO Magazine, O’Sullivan said: “My first thought was ‘that’s a hard one’. My next was ‘someone’s fixed the draw’.

“I’ve had Marco Fu, Stephen Maguire twice and now Ding in the first round. It’s definitely fixed. Whoever is doing that is trying to stitch me up.”

There is a suggestion that O'Sullivan was joking but he must have known these comments would be reported.

The draw was made the day before it was televised on BBC’s Breakfast programme by its presenters Bill Turnbull and Sian Williams.

World Snooker had two of their staff present to ensure it was conducted honestly. I personally have no doubt that it was.

However, as I said at the time, they left themselves open to such allegations because it wasn’t done live.

Five major bookmakers even suspended betting because of fears that those who knew the draw – which turned out to be far more than just the Breakfast team – would have a bet.

“It was 100% genuine,” a World Snooker spokesman said this morning. “The balls were drawn randomly by two BBC presenters, representatives from 888.com and World Snooker were there, and there was an independent auditor.”

If World Snooker invited such a claim by the way they chose to conduct the draw, they also invited further trouble from O’Sullivan by not taking a harder line after his York walkout.

You’ll recall he was taken out to lunch by its chairman, Sir Rodney Walker, who has written to the disciplinary committee pleading leniency for the unpredictable former world champion.

He also permitted O’Sullivan to snub the media at the Saga Insurance Masters. At the time I wrote: “It will blow up in his [Sir Rodney's] face at some point and, when it does, you won't find a single journalist who has any sympathy whatsoever for him.”

That day has come.



Here's an interview I did with Graeme Dott for today's Sunday Herald.

As ever, he was candid and up front. I think he's been an excellent world champion, though as he says, not everyone seems to want to acknowledge this.




A friend of mine texted me the other day to say that the 1973 world final between Ray Reardon and Eddie Charlton had appeared on his television.

Was he mad, in a coma or back in time?

Actually, it turned out a channel called ESPN Classic was showing a series of old snooker matches as an appetite whetter for this year's Crucible marathon.

Snooker has suffered from an overly nostalgic attitude in many that the 80s will never be topped in terms of characters and excitement. I disagree, but have to concede that many of the moments from the game's boom years deserve to be relived.

There's never been a better match-saving break than Alex Higgins's 69 in the penultimate frame of his 1982 Crucible semi-final against Jimmy White.

It's well worth seeing again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZpSHjYtxg8



Ronnie O’Sullivan v Ding Jun Hui is the tie of the first round at the Crucible but for nostalgics – and there are many in the snooker world – Steve Davis v John Parrott has a certain romance about it.

Between them, they will have appeared 50 times at the home of snooker when there match gets underway on the first evening of the 888.com World Championship.

That’s a lot of balls potted as well as quite a few missed over the years. Of course, today they are very much part of the tournament as BBC television pundits.

With all this in mind, I’m reproducing here a feature I wrote on JP for the now (sadly) defunct Sportsman newspaper a year ago.

It’s slightly amended to take into account his qualification this season.

John Parrott is instantly recognisable to millions as one of the faces of the BBC’s snooker coverage. The quick-witted Liverpudlian spent six years entertaining as a captain on A Question of Sport and is a popular fixture on the after dinner speaking circuit.

He’s also, as he’s keen to point out, still a snooker player.

An ever present in the televised stage of the 888.com World Championship since 1984, Parrott missed out in 2005 when Fergal O’Brien beat him 10-8 in the final qualifying round.

He endured another close finish last year before scraping past Lee Spick 10-9 on the pink in the qualifiers and won two matches this season to secure a 23rd appearance at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.

The 1991 world champion would have been at the tournament for the BBC but, still highly competitive after 24 years on the pro circuit, is proud to be part of the field.

“I went there two years ago determined to be professional so I put my TV head on but for the first day or so it was horrible,” Parrott said. “One of the worst things was that Fergal played so poorly in his match. It made not being in the tournament harder to take.

“The Crucible experience changes as you change. In 1991, I’d been playing so well that I walked in the building and fancied winning it. This year, all I want to do is play as well as I can and produce a good standard.

Parrott has won titles in France, Dubai, Thailand, China, Belgium and Germany during a golden spell in the early 1990s.

Humiliated 18-3 by Steve Davis in the 1989 world final, he bounced back to win the title two years later, exorcising the Davis defeat by beating the six times champion 16-14 in the semi-finals before his 18-11 final victory over Jimmy White.

“Winning the world title is something very special,” Parrott said. “Your name goes on the trophy and it never comes off.

“I take my hat off to Steve and Stephen Hendry that they could go to the Crucible and win it so many times. After I won in 1991, I spent a month staring at the ceiling just thinking, ‘I’m world champion.’”

Parrott joined the BBC snooker team in 2001 to work alongside Davis as pundit and presenter. The TV work has given him a new challenge and the opportunity to establish himself in a different field.

“You have to be like Worzel Gummidge and have two heads – your snooker player head and TV presenter head,” he said.

“I love being part of the BBC set up. One of the big differences between playing and presenting is that when you’re involved in a match you’re on your own. You walk out and play and it’s just you. On the TV side you’re part of a team and that’s something I enjoy.”

Parrott will enjoy this year’s Championship even more if he manages to spend less time in the studio and more reminding people of what he can do on the green baize.



Someone asked me the other day who I thought would win the World Championship. There was a time, not so long ago, where I could answer that with a reasonable degree of certainty.

Not anymore. Snooker is in a state of flux, with fewer tournaments meaning fewer players in form, some of the established elite lacking motivation and more and more younger cuemen fancying their chances.

The Crucible victories of Shaun Murphy and Graeme Dott have boosted the confidence of other lower ranked players who now believe the top guys are there for the taking. Indeed, a top four player hasn’t won a ranking title since the 2005 Irish Masters.

So what about this year’s 17-day snooker marathon? Here’s my semi-final prediction:

Mark Williams v Neil Robertson
Shaun Murphy v Stephen Hendry

This has been arrived at by studying the draw, although sticking pins in it will probably prove to be as accurate (last year I went for John Higgins, a first round loser)

I’ll explain my working out. Firstly, Williams seems an odd choice bearing in mind he hasn’t won a match in 2007. But at least he’ll be fresh and, contrary to what you may have heard, he is practising hard. He’s the sort of player who can click into gear and look a million dollars, and he’s won the title twice before.

Williams is in the same quarter as Dott, who I think will reach the quarter-finalss. The Scot is certainly playing well enough to defend his title, as he showed in China recently, but has a tough couple of opening matches, starting with Ian McCulloch, who beat him 10-9 at the same stage two years ago. If Dott comes through that he’ll play Anthony Hamilton or, more likely, Marco Fu, a semi-finalist last year and playing some solid stuff of late.

I think Williams would just about shade a quarter-final against Dott, but this is based on nothing other than idle conjecture – please don’t blame me if you have a bet and it doesn’t come off.

Robertson is arguably the player of the season but finds himself in the most brutal section of the draw: Ryan Day to play Ronnie O’Sullivan or Ding Junhui. The Aussie could easily lose to Day but I’d fancy him to beat O’Sullivan, whose mental attitude hasn’t been right all season. Being around Ronnie this year it’s clear he isn’t the same person who won the 2001 and 2004 world titles.

That said, I expect him to see off Ding, who himself is struggling a bit after his Wembley meltdown. I felt he needed a good run in his home event to restore some lost confidence, but his defeat to Barry Hawkins means he heads to Sheffield with some questions to answer about his temperament.

The other dangermen in the top half would seem to be Stephen Maguire and Higgins, neither of whom have shown much form this season.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Joe Perry beat Maguire and Michael Holt could conceivably cause an upset against Higgins.

Watch out, too, for Fergal O’Brien against Hawkins, who must still be reeling from his 6-5 semi-final defeat to Jamie Cope in Beijing.

The bottom half of the draw would appear to be slightly easier, but still brimming with quality.

Murphy arrives at the Crucible with the Malta Cup under his belt and should have too much for debutant Judd Trump and the winner of the veterans match between Steve Davis and John Parrott.

In the quarter-finals, Murphy would most likely play Ken Doherty, though Matthew Stevens can’t be written off at Sheffield.

Hendry starts off against Dave Gilbert, who I wouldn’t completely write off, even though I expect the seven times winner to come through.

I expect Hendry to face Peter Ebdon in the quarter-finals and feel sure it would go very close. I just feel Hendry will start playing well at some point and where better than the place he made his own backyard in the 1990s?

However, Ebdon is such a tough player and is a useful man to back if you’re looking for value in the betting.

And who could be this year’s Murphy or Dott? Possibly Mark Selby who has a reasonably favourable draw.

However, the real dark horse could be Mark Allen. He has a very tough opener against Ken Doherty but the draw opens up a little after that. He is fiercely confident and if it all comes together will take some stopping.

So anyway, Williams v Robertson and Murphy v Hendry. What happens after that?

I’d suggest Robertson and Murphy would contest the final and that it would be a very exciting shoot-out, which Murphy will just shade.

With how much confidence do I make these predictions: zero, but that’s the fun of snooker these days – the only way to find out is watch what happens.



Here are the transmission times for the BBC's coverage of the 888.com World Championship

In addition, Eurosport are providing live coverage of all morning, afternoon and evening sessions

Saturday 21 April
1300-1630, BBC ONE
1630-1730 and 1900-2030, BBC TWO
2320-0200, BBC Two, highlights
1000-2300, BBCi

Sunday 22 April
1400-1745 and 1900-2000, BBC TWO
0000-0250, BBC TWO, highlights
1000-2300, BBCi

Monday 23 April
1330-1755, 1900-2000, BBC TWO
2320-0200, BBC TWO, highlights
1000-2300, BBCi

Tuesday 24 April
1330-1755, 1900-2000, BBC TWO
2320-0200, BBC TWO, highlights
1000-2300, BBCi

Wednesday 25 April
1400-1755 and 1900-2000, BBC TWO
2320-0200, BBC TWO, highlights
1000-2300, BBCi

Thursday 26 April
1300-1755 and 1900-2000, BBC TWO
2320-0200, BBC TWO, highlights
1000-2300, BBCi

Friday 27 April
1330-1755 and 1900-2000, BBC TWO
2335-0200, BBC TWO, highlights
1000-2300, BBCi

Saturday 28 April
1300-1630, BBC ONE1800-2100, BBC TWO
2330-0200, BBC TWO, highlights
1000-2300, BBCi

Sunday 29 April
1500-1700 and 1900-2200, BBC TWO
2330-0200, BBC TWO, highlights
1000-2300, BBCi

Monday 30 April
1330-1755 and 1900-2100, BBC TWO
2320-0200, BBC TWO, highlights
1000-2300, BBCi

Tuesday 1 May
1330-1755 and 1900-2100, BBC TWO
2320-0200, BBC TWO, highlights
1000-2300, BBCi

Wednesday 2 May
1400-1800 and 1900-2100, BBC TWO
2320-0200, BBC TWO, highlights
1000-2300, BBCi

Thursday 3 May
1300-1800 and 1900-2100, BBC TWO
2320-0010, BBC TWO, highlights
1000-2300, BBCi

Friday 4 May
1330-1800 and 1900-2100, BBC TWO
0035-0125, BBC TWO, highlights
1000-2300, BBCi

Saturday 5 May
1300-1630, BBC ONE
1630-1730, BBC TWO
1900-2200, BBC TWO

Sunday 6 May
1500-1730, BBC TWO
2000-2300, BBC TWO

Monday 7 May
1500-1730, BBC TWO
2000-2300, BBC TWO



Ronnie O'Sullivan, who walked out of his Maplin UK Championship quarter-final against Stephen hendry in the sixth frame last December, will not have to face the WPBSA's disciplinary committee prior to the 888.com World Championship.

According to my colleague Phil Yates writing in today's Times, it has been decided to hold the hearing after the 17 day Crucible marathon has ended.

This is in marked contrast to the speed in which snooker's governing body moved after O'Sullivan physically assaulted a tournament official during the 1996 World Championship. Back then, it took only a few days to reach a verdict.

Sir Rodney Walker, the WPBSA chairman, has stated that any decision reached on O'Sullivan will be made public, unlike virtually all other WPBSA disciplinary matters.

Walker also vowed 'not to interfere in the disciplinary process in any way' and does not seem to think that sending the committee chairman, Jim McMahon, an email pleading leniency on behalf of O'Sullivan could be construed as trying to influence the result of any hearing.



The April issue of Snooker Scene is out tomorrow and features:

- a full report of who made it through to the Crucible
- an insight into Jimmy White's Prestatyn exit
- the 888.com World Championship draw
- a look back at John Parrott's Crucible performances
- news of a player who has failed a drugs test and what it means for the sport's anti-doping policy
- an update on the WPBSA's administration of its benevolent fund
- all the latest news and views from the worlds of snooker, billiards and pool

Don't forget, you can subscribe through our website http://www.snookersceneonline.com/


According to the Xinhua news agency, Chinese administrators are planning to radically increase the number of tournaments staged in China.

“We are working on bringing ten main tour events to China,” said Zhang Xiaoning, director of the Multi-ball Games Administrative Centre.

This seems absurd in the short term, but such is the snooker boom in China that a few years down the road it may not be that fanciful.

Negotiations are well advanced for a ranking tournament in Shanghai next season and there are hopes for invitation events as well.

“The China Open is a door for Chinese players,” Zhang said. “Playing against the big names helps them know where they are going to go and how good they can be. They are on their way to becoming professionals.

“Everybody sees their improvement. It has given us the confidence to increase investment in the sport and import more international tournaments to China.”

Players are slowly coming round to the view that China is where it's at.

There is money to be made not just in tournaments but also from exhibitions and personal appearances.

The professional circuit has been a rather cosy, largely British dominated entity for 30 years but times appear to be changing.



The PDC World Darts Championship, promoted by Barry Hearn's Matchroom, is moving from the Circus Tavern in Purfleet to the Alexandra Palace in London because of demand for tickets.

Prize money will rise to £1m - £15,000 more than this year's 888.com World Snooker Championship.

One wonders where snooker could be now had Hearn been allowed to get hold of it.

Like almost everyone else with money and ideas, though, he was constantly rebuffed to the point that he ended up concentrating on other sports, with only the Premier League and managing Steve Davis his only snooker interests today.



It seems to me that Ding Jun Hui is still suffering as a result of his 10-3 Saga Insurance Masters defeat to Ronnie O’Sullivan in January.

In fact, the Chinese prodigy, who celebrates his 20th birthday today, has won only two matches since.

The hostile Wembley crowd, coupled with O’Sullivan’s brilliance, made for a thoroughly miserable day for Ding, who was so fed up that he attempted to concede the match trailing 9-3.

It was only O’Sullivan’s thoughtfulness that prevented this, though it didn’t stop all parties pretending Ding had thought the final was best of 17 – a notion that is even more absurd some two months on.

Ding did beat Mark Davis 10-6 to reach the Crucible and then defeated Adrian Gunnell in the first round of the China Open but he must have been bitterly disappointed to lose 5-3 to Barry Hawkins in Beijing and exit his home event at the last 32 stage.

He can’t have been too pleased to have drawn O’Sullivan again in the first round of the 888.com World Championship, which gets underway in Sheffield in three weeks time.

Few Crucible debutants have settled immediately in the unique atmosphere at the claustrophobic home of snooker.

Indeed, O’Sullivan is among a number of big names – Steve Davis, Jimmy White, Stephen Hendry, Ken Doherty, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy included – to have lost their first match at the Crucible.

Given Ding’s problems this year, it is hard to see him beating O’Sullivan, though the latter’s own notorious unpredictability may also be a factor. Bookies William Hill is offering 25/1 on either player walking out before the end of the match.

Ding is still only a young man and carries on his shoulders the hopes and expectations of the biggest country in the world.

It is only natural he should start to feel the pressure. The question is, can he turn things round again?