There I am relaxing after the China Open and I'm asked for help with an intriguing query regarding the world ranking list.

Or more specifically, whether it's been worked out incorrectly.

This all goes back to the Royal London Watches Grand Prix in Aberdeen last October.

According to the official World Snooker ranking points schedule, the 16 qualifiers from Prestatyn earned 1,438 points. The seeded players (ranked 1-32) who finished third or fourth earned 1,750 points. The seeded players who finished fifth or sixth earned 719 points.

The key word here is 'seeded'. Nowhere on the schedule does it say that a qualifier finishing third or fourth receives 1,750 points.

However, four players who did just this - Rory McLeod, Stuart Pettman, Tom Ford and Jimmy Michie - did receive this amount.

I suspect that the schedule is merely ambiguously written and that any player finishing third or fourth was entitled to 1,750. This would certainly make sense because it rewards those who win two or three matches.

But the use of the word 'seeded' suggests this may not be the case.

And if it isn't the case, the four aforementioned players have been given too many points.

This would obviously have major implications for the ranking list, not least because McLeod, Ford and Michie are all perilously close to the 48 mark. If they dropped lower than this they would have to play an extra qualifying round in ranking tournaments next season.

To cut a very long-winded story short, does anyone know whether the list is right or not?


What a match, what a frame and what an extraordinary shot from yellow to green by Stephen Maguire to win it.

He and Shaun Murphy served up the match of the season so far as their China Open final went the distance in Beijing.

It always had the look of a contest that was too close to call. In the end, Maguire’s shot to bring the green off the side cushion and away from the blue was the match winner. He could not have executed it any more perfectly.

The final finished at 00.20am but most of the crowd remained in their seats until the end.

Well done to Stephen, bad luck to Shaun and roll on the Crucible!



Stephen Maguire and Shaun Murphy are never going to be best friends. This undoubtedly sharpens their on table rivalry and, for snooker, this is a good thing.

The ‘chalkgate’ incident has been done to death and should be put to bed but that doesn’t mean no one should point out the differences in personality between these two talented players.

Because today’s China Open final in Beijing is as much a personality clash as a meeting of two fine cuemen.

Maguire tends to wear his heart on his sleeve. Like Graeme Dott, he uses negative feelings as a positive. This is the first time he’s played Murphy in a final but you suspect it’s always a final to him when they clash cues.

Murphy is a more laid back character. He’s a great professional and a credit to his sport but not everyone’s cup of tea, certainly not Maguire’s if past quotes are anything to go by.

Snooker is a friendly sport. Yes, of course there are rows and bust-ups but most of the top players get on.

Socially, this is a good thing but all sports need rivalries and not just ones that end in the arena.

In snooker, of course, the players are warned by their governing body not to allow any off table enmity to surface in the public domain but when this does happen it only adds to the times when they do play.

Maguire and Murphy will always be rivals. Ahead of today’s Beijing final it was four apiece in career wins and I suspect there won’t be much between them at the end of their careers.

The late John Spencer, three times the world champion, once said he couldn’t understand why the top players that followed him practised together.

There’s little danger of Maguire and Murphy doing this.



Stephen Maguire has just become the first player to make a 147 in a ranking event in China.

Maguire, who at the 2000 Scottish Open became the youngest ever player to compile a maximum at 19, made the perfect run in frame two of his China Open semi-final against Ryan Day. James Wattana knocked in a 147 in an invitation event in China in 1997.

Watch it here.



They say that those who the gods adore, first they make mad. If this is the case then the gods must really have the hots for Ronnie O’Sullivan.

His slapdash shot selections at the end of his 5-4 defeat to Marco Fu in the China Open this week raised eyebrows but his behaviour at the post match press conference defied belief.

You will probably have read his comments and maybe viewed the video footage. It was, as World Snooker chairman Sir Rodney Walker has said today, unacceptable.

Ronnie was obviously bored by the amount of time the Chinese journalists’ questions and his answers were taking to be translated between languages and amused himself by chatting to a World Snooker official.

At this point, he appeared not to consider he was being filmed and recorded but he must have known, on picking up the microphone and uttering a particularly lewd remark, that this would be picked up.

The blame for all of this lies with Ronnie and Ronnie alone. It’s easy to blame World Snooker officials and say that they should have stopped him but you can’t. He is, and always has been, his own man.

In a previous life, I was myself World Snooker press officer and we had O’Sullivan along to launch a tournament. His behaviour then was similar to how it was in Beijing this week. I aired my misgivings back at base but nothing was done then and very little has been done since.

Also, don’t blame the media for reporting it. There have been instances where Ronnie has said other outrageous things in press conferences and they have gone unreported.

However, in this case his comments were not only filmed but posted on the internet. They went around the web yesterday like a runaway train, impossible to stop.

It’s easy, of course, for newspapers to take the moral high ground. Although many people would have been offended by the footage, just as many will have found it hilarious.

However, Ronnie hasn’t done himself any favours and my advice to him now is very simple: issue an immediate apology and draw a line under the whole thing.

Nobody wants to drive Ronnie out of snooker but this has not been his finest hour and he will have to face up to whatever the consequences are.



A reminder for those who don't know, you can watch live coverage of the China Open on the Eurosport website.

You can also ask the commentators, in particular former players Joe Johnson and Mike Hallett, questions in the forum.

Ideal if you're at work - just don't let your boss see you!


I’ve always been a supporter of local wildcards in ranking events such as the China Open but I wonder if the time has come to get rid of them.

They are used for one reason and one reason only: to attract local interest to the event.

However, this did not happen yesterday in what transpired to be one of the most poorly attended days of any ranking event ever staged.

Why? I’d say the tournament has now outgrown the wildcard round. Ding Junhui is firmly established as part of the top 16 and, anyway, the Chinese crowds would rather see Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis than their own local hopes.

This is because they have become fans of the top stars over the last few years, in the China event and through watching snooker on TV.

What happened yesterday gave snooker’s enemies the ideal opportunity to claim that the Chinese snooker boom is a myth.

It isn’t. I know this having been to China several times and seen some of the mania first hand.

But the crowds have become more discerning and aren’t interested in the eight lowest ranked qualifiers against the wildcards.

I have no doubt at all that it will be close to packed for Ding against Joe Perry and O’Sullivan’s match with Marco Fu.

It would have been better all round to hit the ground running with these top players coming in on day one.



Yes, it's a rubbish pun but the fact remains that there is a wealth of great archive stuff on Youtube.

Various folk have been recording snooker off the TV for decades and are now sharing some pure spun gold with the rest of us.

I shall post a few interesting links here from time to time.

We start in 1979 with a century break by Fred Davis. OK, the pockets were slightly more generous then than they are now but Fred was 65 when he made this break and it is, as you'll see, immaculate as befitting this great gentleman of our sport.

Also, the referee is something to behold, dressed in a bright yellow blazer and wearing a big old rosette as if he'd won best in show at Crufts.

Watch right to the end and you'll see him applauding Fred's century.

To be fair, it was a great effort.

Watch it here.



Graeme Dott and Michael Holt used to argue about who was the worst player when the snooker circuit travelled to China.

It was an argument Dott eventually lost when he won the China Open last season.

His mindset had, of course, been altered by having won the 888.com World Championship in 2006.

It heralded a huge improvement in form and fortunes. Last season, Dott not only conducted himself professionally as world champion but he played the best snooker of his career.

However, this season it has all gone wrong. He has failed to win any of his last 14 matches.

Indeed, his last victory was way back at the Shanghai Masters last August.

Why? In this article Dott mentions some personal problems. He suffered great anxiety when his wife, Elaine, had a cancer scare that mercifully transpired to be nothing more than a scare but Dott was obviously affected when his manager and father-in-law Alex Lambie passed away.

He also expended mental energy fighting World Snooker's absurd attempt to discipline him for making comments about Ian McCulloch at the launch of the 2007 Grand Prix.

Losing, like winning, can become a habit but Dott will know that his two appearances in the Crucible final - in 2004 and 2006 - came off the back of similarly disappointing runs of form.

He will go to Sheffield fresher than most so anyone writing off his title chances should be wary.

Dott, who in 2002 endured a hellish 36-hour journey to the China Open in Shanghai, after which he overslept because of jetlag and arrived late for his match, whereupon his was docked two frames, has gone to China early this year.

He is undertaking promotional work, part of his new approach to playing in this snooker-mad country.

Good for him and good luck to him in the tournament. An upturn in fortunes will come at some point.

Beijing would be as good a place as any.



Snooker in China has long been popular but there’s no doubt that Ding Junhui’s remarkable capture of the 2005 China Open sparked a boom.

The fruits of this are being seen in the emergence of other talented Chinese players making their marks on the professional circuit.

This season we’ve seen Liu Song reach the Grand Prix quarter-finals and Liang Wenbo and Liu Chuang qualify for the Crucible.

Fast forward five or certainly ten years and the circuit could well be dominated by Chinese cueists.

Next week, the 2008 China Open, sponsored by Honghe Industrial, takes place at the Beijing University Students Gymnasium.

An opening ceremony will be held at the futuristic Water Cube, next to the city’s Olympic stadium.

Players will be given the red carpet treatment – literally – and can expect any number of requests for media interviews and autographs.

The Beijing event is, of course, one of two ranking events now staged in China, alongside the Shanghai Masters.

These are considerable feats of organisation with many, many people to keep happy. Fortunately, World Snooker have a first rate executive, Simon Leach, permanently based in China to oversee all this.

In years gone by, some players openly expressed hostility to travelling to China.

Hopefully by now they recognise how important the country is in the general scheme of things and certainly for the sport’s future.

China is a snooker-mad place. Let’s hope the game’s great and good put on a show for them next week.



Andy Hicks, the world no.41 from Tavistock, is one of the snooker circuit's most experienced professionals.

In my opinion, he's one of the best players never to have been ranked in the top 16.

Within a year in 1995-96, he reached the semi-finals of the World Championship, UK Championship and Wembley Masters.

He proved last week in an exhibition in Cornwall that he can still play a bit when he compiled two maximums and nine centuiry breaks in total during 16 frames at St. Blazey Football Club.

However, his green baize prowess was not recognised by a woman celebrating her 50th birthday, whom Andy met coming out of the toilets.

Perhaps a little tired and emotional she believed, seeing him in his smart waistcoat and bowtie, that Andy was a stripper.

When he insisted he was not, she refused to believe him and suggested he 'get them off' before fondling his posterior.

At least this was friendly, unlike the conclusion to his first round match with Quinten Hann at the Crucible in 2004, where the two players had to be seperated by referee Lawrie Annandale after some rumbling ill feeling spilled over.

Hann told Hicks: "You're short and bald and always will be and I'll fight you outside for £50,000 any time you like."

Andy declined.

Boxing and stripping, it seems, still rank a long way behind snooker for this Devonian left-hander.



Ali Carter wore a rueful smile after losing a third successive final in a deciding frame last night in the Championship League at Crondon Park Golf Club in Essex.

Ali was trying his best against Shaun Murphy - indeed he completed a 143 break - but the blow of losing was cushioned by the knowledge that he is coming back for Group 5 next month.

He has already earned £17,800 from the event and it could well turn into the most successful tournament financially he has ever played in.

This new League has proved hugely popular with the players, who have only seven ranking events to play in during a fragmented season.

Neil Robertson, who originally turned down an invite, has seen the light and will be in Group 5 alongside Stephen Lee, this season's Saga Insurance Masters runner-up.

Jimmy White will play in Group 6, as will Mark Selby, who pulled out of Group 4 due to prior commitments.

White's participation serves as confirmation that, for the first time since it began 21 years ago, he will not be invited to play in the Premier League.



The 888.com World Championship trophy will be presented to the winner on May 5 by a member of the public.

The sponsors have been given the green light by World Snooker to run a competition, the winner of which will hand over the 82 year-old silverware, first presented in 1927.

You can enter the competition here: www.888snooker.com.

Is this a good way of getting the fans more involved with the game or demeaning to the dignity of the event?




Down here in rural Essex at the Championship League we've been debating how many frames Liu Chuang will win against Ronnie O'Sullivan in the first round of the 888.com World Championship - those long evenings just fly by.

Some think the 17 year-old will be blown away. I think he'll win at least five frames.

The reason? Against Ronnie, it'll be an open game, therefore Liu will get chances.

The romance of the Crucible means nothing to him. He's only been in the UK for a few months and, let's not forget, wasn't even born when Stephen Hendry won his first world title in 1990.

If he takes his chances, he can run Ronnie closer than many believe.

We'll find out in just over a month's time.



What an interesting first round draw for the 888.com World Championship.

Firstly, well done to the sponsors and World Snooker for doing such a professional job in webcasting the draw live on the net earlier today.

Mark Johnston-Allen was especially impressive in hosting it and this seems like the ideal way to conduct such an important occasion in future years.

So, to the draw.

John Higgins will hardly be looking forward to walking out on the first day to face Matthew Stevens.

Their April 19 meeting is too close to call bearing in mind Higgins's poor form this season and Stevens's general habit of playing well at the Crucible.

Stephen Hendry certainly won't be rubbing his hands together at the prospect of taking on the dangerous, aggressive Mark Allen, who beat him 9-4 in this season's UK Championship.

Similarly, Peter Ebdon has his work cut out to hold off the talented debutant Jamie Cope in what promises to be an intriguing clash of styles.

Ronnie O'Sullivan has already played Liu Chuang, who will become the first player born in the 1990s ever to compete at the Crucible.

They met in the first round of last season's China Open. I commentated on it for Eurosport and was very impressed by Liu, who won the first frame before losing 5-1.

I said at the time that we would hopefully see him in the future but could not have envisaged that he would come all the way from the first qualifying round to the Crucible in his very first season.

If - and it is, of course, a big if - he beats O'Sullivan it will be the biggest shock in Crucible history, if not snooker history.

My early tip, Ding Junhui, may well struggle to get past Grand Prix champion Marco Fu, who beat him at the Masters this season.

They are the highlights for the draw of what should, as ever, be a fascinating World Championship.

Who is going to win?

I've no idea, but it'll be fun finding out.

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



Anthony Hamilton was unusually outspoken this evening after beating Scott MacKenzie 10-2 in the final qualifying round of the 888.com World Championship here at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield to reach the Crucible for a 12th time.

Hamilton is ultra laidback and uncontroversial but said he had been motivated because he considers the World Championship to be one of only two ‘proper’ tournaments on a circuit that features only seven ranking events.

“Apart from the Masters, the World Championship is the only proper tournament we’ve got,” he said.

“They are the only two sporting events we have. The others are just a pile of sh*t, playing for £30,000 first prizes. They’re tinpot. You only get 12 people in the audience.

“At the Crucible, you know it’ll be full of people who want to watch you play. Plus, they’re chucking cash at you.

“It’s a shame we don’t have the calendars they have in golf or tennis. This is what it’s all about for us.”

Actually, only the Northern Ireland Trophy carried a first prize of £30,000 this season, but it is certainly true that prize funds are lower than they were a decade ago.

That said, surely Hamilton considers the UK Championship to be a ‘proper’ tournament?

And the two ranking events in China are well attended and popular, even if the prize money is not as high as many of the players would like.

Still, whether you agree with him or not, Hamilton is perfectly entitled to his view.



What an interesting first day of final qualifying it was for the 888.com World Championship here at the English Institute of Sport yesterday.

The first man through to the Crucible was Marco Fu, who made a century and seven half century breaks in beating Alan McManus 10-3.

It seems somewhat harsh Marco even has to qualify but, of course, only the top 16 in the official rankings are guaranteed their places.

Next through was Liang Wenbo, who became only the fifth Asian player and second Chinese to qualify for the Crucible.

Liang doesn’t speak much English but we didn't need a translator for the broad smile he wore after his 10-5 defeat of 2005 semi-finalist Ian McCulloch.

He said he wanted to draw Ding at the Crucible. Whether he does or not, his presence there takes some of the pressure off his more well known compatriot who is no longer flying the Chinese flag on his own.

Matthew Stevens was mightily relieved to have got through after being forced to pre-qualify for the first time since 1999.

“It was a horrible feeling having to play here but the rankings don’t lie and if you drop out of the top 16 you have to play this match. Even so, it was a weird feeling driving here knowing that if I lost I wouldn’t be at the Crucible and would have to suffer all summer,” Stevens said after beating Rory McLeod 10-5.

Joe Swail won Friday’s final match, beating Judd Trump 10-9 from 9-7 down.

This was the latest in a long line of matches Swail has won in deciders and from behind in the World Championship and served, once again, as testament to his battling qualities.

What he lacks in natural ability, the Belfast man more than makes up for in heart, fight and sheer courage.

He said afterwards that he drew inspiration from his past victories. It’s a little disappointing that 18 year-old Trump hasn’t qualified but nobody could begrudge Swail his place.

The set up here – four tables in a large sized hall – is excellent and there was a great atmosphere for yesterday’s opening four games.

This round means so much to the players that there’s a fair amount of drama, joy and disappointment.

All of which is likely to be multiplied considerably when Jimmy White enters the fray on Monday.



In the history of snooker, three players stand out as the great crowd pleasers.

Controversial but blessed with genius, they have helped to build the huge audience who follow the game worldwide.

Step forward Alex Higgins, Jimmy White and Ronnie O'Sullivan...

Alex, who turns 59 next week, is, among many other things, a great survivor and can now be booked for personal speaking and corporate engagements:

The mind boggles.

Jimmy is on action on Monday as he tries to get to the Crucible for a 26th time. This excellent article in the Daily Mail reveals how he is cutting back on the wild times to give snooker one last shot:

Ronnie has been left off the official poster for this month's China Open:

There can only be one reason for this: they don't think he's going to go.

However, I have it on very good authority that not only is Ronnie going to go but he's going to go early to attend a 'cultural dinner' with his new Chinese sponsors in Guangzhou.



The fourth event of John Higgins's new World Series will be staged in Amsterdam.

The other three are confirmed for Moscow, Warsaw and Jersey with a grand final to follow at a venue to be confirmed.

All of these events, which begin in June, will be screened on Eurosport.


Further to yesterday's post about the Northern Ireland Trophy in Belfast cutting across the Paul Hunter Classic in Furth, comes hopeful news for the German event.

The organisers have struck a deal with Ryanair which means that a number of tickets will be booked between Belfast and Nuremberg.

Therefore, every player playing in Belfast who gets knocked out can fly immediately to Germany.

Because of a re-arrangement of the schedule, anyone still in Belfast up to the end of the quarter-finals can still play in Germany, so the field should still be top class.

This is good news for snooker in Germany. The Furth tournament is always well attended by spectators, many of whom may be wondering how it is that there isn't a ranking event in their country given the extraordinary interest.



According to World Snooker, next season’s Northern Ireland Trophy is moving back from what appeared to be a successful November slot to its original home in August.

It will be held from August 24-31 and will thus start on the last day of the Beijing Olympics.

Snooker in Belfast in August did not attract much in the way of crowds in 2005 and 2006 because it is, technically at least, still summer.

Also, any pre-tournament publicity will be seriously affected by the Olympics.

But to be fair, booking busy venues such as the excellent Waterfront Hall is not a straightforward business and it appears this was the only slot available. It’s much better that the tournament is on this particular week than not on at all.

It could also be that this is the only slot available because there are more ranking events to be added later in the season.

However, the knock-on effect is that the Northern Irish event now cuts right across the Paul Hunter Classic in Furth, Germany from August 28-31.

As tickets for this have already gone on sale, it cannot be rescheduled, which will surely mean a much depleted field of top players for what has become a very popular few days for all involved.



Visitors to the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield later this week will have a chance to witness more twitching than they might find at a birdwatching convention as the final qualifying round of the 888.com World Championship takes place over four days.

For the players, this is one of the biggest matches of the year. The difference between qualifying and not qualifying is huge for a number of reasons.

Failure at the qualifiers means players miss out on the big financial rewards on offer at the Crucible as well as ranking points (almost double most other tournaments) that will help determine their positions for next season.

But disappointment at not qualifying can be boiled down very simply to this: you’re not part of the World Championship.

When it comes round, you have to either watch it on TV, pretend it’s not on or go away on holiday to escape it (not easy now it’s on so many channels around the world).

So who is going to get through?

Jimmy White will be the main focus of interest (unless you’re a reader of worldsnooker.com, who have instead focused on Mike Dunn, one of their own board members!).

Jimmy missed out last year and, at 45 years of age and well down the rankings, will probably be at the Crucible for the final time if he does beat Mark King a week today.

We all know that he’s never won it and lost six finals but this ignores the fact that, in his heyday, he had one of the best Crucible records and did as much as anyone, and more than most, to draw millions of TV viewers to the event.

No disrespect to King, but I’d love to see Jimmy qualify and draw Stephen Hendry in the first round. It’d give us nostalgics one last chance to wallow in one of snooker’s most fascinating rivalries.

John Parrott impressed last year but needs to beat Joe Perry – something he’s never previously done – to avoid going to Sheffield purely as a BBC broadcaster.

And what of the young guns? Jamie Cope, Mark Allen and Judd Trump would certainly enliven the championship.

Liang Wenbo and Liu Chuang would also take some of the pressure off Ding Junhui by helping him to fly the flag for China.

Cope, Liang and Liu are among seven players who could make their debuts at the Crucible next month.

The others are Adrian Gunnell (four times a loser in the final qualifying round), Scott MacKenzie, Ricky Walden and Rory McLeod.

Rory faces Matthew Stevens, runner-up in 2000 and 2005, and would become the first player of Afro-Caribbean descent ever to play at the Crucible if he beats him.

The draw is being held on March 11 when the 16 qualifiers are paired against the top 16.

Before that happens, there will be plenty of twitching, sweating and anxiety on display.

I for one can't wait.