I don’t know about you but my nerves are shredded by this extraordinary 888.com World Championship.

Last night saw more drama as Peter Ebdon failed on the 15th black on a 147 only for Ali Carter to knock in a maximum in the very next frame.

This came a day after Ronnie O’Sullivan’s 147, earning Carter a share of the £157,000 prize – although you couldn’t rule out another max before this remarkable Crucible event is over.

Carter is training to be an airline pilot and the ‘Captain’ charted a course to snooker history in fine style, not least in potting the last black, which would have been a pressure ball to win a frame, let alone make a 147.

It was the first time there have been two maximums in the TV stages of a major event.

After all the complaints about below par conditions, nobody can say they are anything but perfect now.



Ronnie O’Sullivan raised the bar still further with his audacious 147 yesterday that once again reaffirmed his instinctive snooker genius.

This was his ninth. Stephen Hendry has made eight. There are only seven years between them so it seems likely to be the only substantive record O’Sullivan will take from the game’s all time great.

In some ways it is indicative of his personality. Easily bored, he thrives on the euphoric thrill of a great moment rather than taking satisfaction from, say, a consistent season.

It was Ronnie’s third Crucible maximum and, not for the first time, he made the game look ridiculously easy in completing it.

The crowd reaction was a sight to behold. The usual quiet of the Crucible arena gave way to one of the loudest roars ever heard there as the spectators rose as one to applaud O’Sullivan off the stage.

When any of the multitude of sneering, metropolitan broadsheet columnists deride snooker as being boring or in decline in the future, send them the tape of Ronnie’s 147.

And when they say, ‘well Ronnie’s all you’ve got,’ send them a tape of the extraordinary conclusion to the Liang Wenbo-Joe Swail match last night.

This was a Crucible thriller to rate alongside all the great games you can think of. Liang thought he’d won it on potting the blue at 12-10 but later struggled over the line 13-12.

It proved that snooker can still deliver great excitement, even from two players who are not high profile.

Yes, there has been plenty of complaints from players about various matters but the controversy has only added to what is already one of the best World Championships ever.



Sir Rodney Walker, the chairman of World Snooker, has missed the point about the row over playing conditions at the 888.com World Championship.

In response to John Higgins’s trenchant criticisms following his Crucible defeat to Ryan Day, Walker told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme on Sunday that, as the table was the same for both players, Higgins’s comments may merely have been a reaction to losing.

“Ryan Day was playing on the same table and lots of other players have played on it,” Walker said.

“Maybe – and I’m not saying John didn’t have a legitimate complaint – with the benefit of hindsight he may not have been quite so critical as he was at the time.

“Emotions were running high. Overall, as John did say at one point, it’s the same for both players so they’re both affected equally.”

Yes, it was the same for both players but, as I wrote yesterday, this doesn’t mean it’s a level playing field.

I take nothing away from Day at all because he deserved to win but only the best conditions produce the best quality snooker.

If the grass on Centre Court at Wimbledon has not been cut, it would be the same for both players but conditions would not be conducive to top quality tennis.

Ditto if someone digs up the greens at St. Andrews or covers an F1 track with oil.

The main problem at the Crucible was odd bounces off cushions that were impossible to predict and a high number of bad contacts.

Higgins allowed this to get to him and has admitted that he shouldn’t have.

However, I don’t believe his comments were down to sour grapes on his part. He first complained to World Snooker officials when he was leading 5-3.

Peter Ebdon has also complained and he’s still going in the tournament.

Walker is not an expert on playing conditions – neither does he claim to be – but he would be better advised to listen to what the top players are saying rather than shrug off their complaints.



Today marks the mid point of what has thus far been an engrossing 888.com World Championship but much of the publicity surrounding the tournament remains negative.

This is partly due to the nature of what makes ‘news’ and partly because of problems in the way in which the sport is administered.

This story in the News of the World highlights growing unrest over player logos. However, the BBC has been unfairly blamed for this is my view.

Their guidelines limit players to two logos but it was not their decision to award one logo space to 888.com. This was down to World Snooker, as Barry Hearn makes clear in the NOTW article.

The BBC has taken a battering over this. A word of warning: if they pull out of snooker the professional circuit as we know it will be dead in the water.

The other major controversy has been the playing conditions.

Anyone who has watched the championship will have witnessed bad bounces off cushions and a high number of kicks.

Why are kicks now accepted as just part of the game?

Why is there no concerted effort to eradicate them?

John Higgins was scathing about the cushions and laid the blame at the door of World Snooker tournament director Mike Ganley for not re-covering the tables before the second round.

World Snooker issued a bland, meaningless statement at the same time that Ganley went in front of the BBC cameras to answer questions from Hazel Irvine, where he admitted he had been “disappointed” by the way the table had played.

“We always try to ensure the best conditions and it’s disappointing to have inconsistent bounces for the players,” he said.

“Years ago we only used to re-cover the tables before the semi-finals but it is disappointing, even if it’s the same for both players.

“We have sheets for the players to fill in after their matches if they have any comments to make. John has done so, as has Peter Ebdon but not many others. The boys need to knock on the door a bit more often.”

Credit to Ganley for being honest enough to admit the conditions weren’t good enough. Much thought needs to go into what will be done at next year’s World Championship because this cannot keep happening every year.

Yes, it’s the same for both players. But if Roger Federer and Andy Roddick turned up at Centre Court at Wimbledon to find the grass had not been cut would their match really be a true reflection of their talents?

Shaun Murphy last night heavily criticised playing conditions but readers of worldsnooker.com, the website of the governing body, would not think so.

Here’s what he said: “We have a gambling sponsor, why don't we take the championship to a casino and have a real game of chance?

"This is the world championship, the gala event we all look forward to. Yes, I'll hold my hands up, I missed some shots I shouldn't have but there were a lot of problems out there that cost me the match.

"It's not just me and John Higgins having a problem with it and it's not just because we lost. It will look like sour grapes but it's not and it will cost other players.

"The comments have been made backstage for days. The cloth is so thin and light it's only good for three days' play.

"After three days you get bad bounces and balls going where they shouldn't be and it makes a mockery of the biggest tournament we've got.”

Here’s what worldsnooker.com quoted: “I just think there are a whole mixtures of things that have gone on that have made the match that way and a lot of talk about the conditions and the playing conditions that we are all under but I’m not really that bothered at losing because I know I’ve played well all season, I’ve prepared as well as I’ve ever done to come to the Crucible, I played well against Dave and I know I played a lot of good shots out there today but the playing conditions weren’t beneficial to me at all.”

Leaving aside the fact that this comes across as gibberish, ‘not beneficial’ does not necessarily mean ‘poor’ and this sort of spin hardly enhances World Snooker’s reputation. Either quote what he said properly or don't quote him at all.

Thank goodness the snooker remains high quality as we enter the second half of the Crucible marathon.



Stephen Hendry seems certain to beat Ding Junhui at the Crucible this afternoon and thus stop him from assuming his own mantle of youngest ever world champion.

Resuming 11-5 up, it's very unlikely Hendry will lose given the excellent form he is in.

Ding should have been no worse than 9-7 down but missed the black to win the 11th frame and frame ball red in the 15th.

Make no mistake, though: he is a man under intense pressure.

Ding is the standard bearer of the Chinese snooker revolution. Around 30 accredited Chinese journalists are at the Crucible and millions (and I do mean millions) are following it live on TV.

He won his three ranking titles before the close scrutiny he is now under began and seems to be struggling to cope with it.

What he needs - and what is happening with the emergence of Liang Wenbo and others - is more talented Chinese players doing well in the pro ranks to take some of the weight off his shoulders.

And what of Hendry?

He started the match with a century and made a vintage clearance to win that 15th frame. It was just like the old days.

Crucially, his concentration is back and, cueing as nicely as he is, he can beat anyone in the field.

Is an eighth world title on the cards?

There are still plenty of top class players left in the field who can prevent him but he must know that this is his big chance to land the game's top prize once again.



Have we ever had a more exciting start to the World Championship than the first few days this year?

Close finishes, comebacks and tension a-plenty. It can only be the Crucible.

Ronnie O’Sullivan was clearly feeling the pressure this afternoon against Liu Chuang this afternoon, missing pots and misjudging position.

Let’s lay one myth to rest: ‘Ronnie can win if he wants to.’

The fact is, he does want to. This is why he felt the pressure. If he couldn’t care less, he wouldn’t feel any at all.

I think he’ll still beat Liu but he isn’t the certainty he appeared to be this morning.

It’s a worrying sign for Ronnie because it follows three close defeats in as many tournaments.

In the Masters in January he missed a blue he should have potted in the decider against Stephen Maguire and lost 6-5.

He led Mark Selby 8-5 in February’s Welsh Open final but missed chances to win and was beaten 9-8.

He played kamikaze snooker in losing 5-4 to Marco Fu in the China Open last month.

None of this means he has ‘gone.’ He made two good clearances under pressure to hold off Liu. Everyone knows how good he can be when it all comes together.

However, O’Sullivan will be looking to improve in tomorrow’s final session to regain what appears to be lost confidence.



All sports rely on an influx of fresh, new talent but you can’t quite beat the legends rolling back the years for excitement.

Yesterday’s play at the 888.com World Championship was thrilling as first Stephen Hendry, then Steve Davis evoked memories of their respective heydays by hitting the comeback trail at the Crucible.

Hendry pulled it off, rallying from 6-3 and 9-7 down to see off Mark Allen 10-9.

Davis just came up short, losing 10-8 to Stuart Bingham after fighting from 8-3 adrift to 8-8.

Hendry’s recovery proved that the Crucible has inspired him to produce close to his best form. Although Allen slipped up, the Scot finished off in style, in one visit in the decider.

“There are a lot of good players capable of winning the title but as long as I’m still in it they’ve got a headache,” he said afterwards.

And who could possibly argue with that?

Davis lost out after messing up position from blue to pink in an extraordinary 17th frame. He had Bingham on the ropes and failed to land the knockout blow but what a great performance it was.

Gone are the days 50 year-old Davis is booed at venues. The support he enjoyed from the crowd last night was amazing.

Nobody can go on forever, but Hendry and Davis are a breed apart because the competitive fire burns deeper in them than any of the players who have followed them.

They would always look to the next tournament after picking up a trophy. They never got comfortable.

Hendry believes he can land an eighth world title. As long as he remains in the event then this possibility cannot be written off.

As for Davis, he will have to qualify next year. Regardless, I repeat what I said in my closing line of commentary for Eurosport last night: He’s walked off the Crucible stage for what may be the last time, but hasn’t he left us with some wonderful memories.



It was Mike Ganley’s call to bring Ali Carter and Barry Hawkins off at 9-9, causing a two hour wait before the resumption.

Ganley is World Snooker’s tournament director and had to weigh up the various factors governing the decision.

Had they carried on when it went 9-9 at 6.35pm, they would most likely have run into the final session.

The other view is that, as it was a decider, they should have remained out there, not least so that the crowd who had stuck with it could see the end.

In Ganley’s job, you are never going to please all of the people all of the time. Certainly, Hawkins wasn’t happy because he had just won three successive frames and the momentum was clearly with him.

However, to read some of the coverage you would think that such a pull-off is unprecedented. It isn’t. It happens every year.

The cut-off point for starting another frame is 40 minutes before the following session.

Therefore, Ganley was right to bring them off.

He could have used his discretion but may then have got it in the neck from those waiting to play the evening session.



As great champions do, John Higgins raised his game when the pressure was on to see off Matthew Stevens in what turned out to be a very interesting first day encounter at the 888.com World Championship.

Having seen his 7-2 lead reduced to just 7-5, Higgins fired in breaks of 75, 120 and 103 to win 10-5. It was reminiscent, as he himself said, of his finish against Mark Selby in last year's Crucible final.

Few have tipped John to win the title this year. Then again, few tipped him to win it last year.

He hasn't practised as hard as he usually would this season but, like a student cramming for exams, has been putting the hours in at the Craigpark Masters in Glasgow these last three weeks.

If he hits top form in Sheffield he could well land a third world title. Ask the other players and many, if not most, would say he is a better all round player than Ronnie O'Sullivan when at his best.

When Higgins won the title in 1998, I assumed, as did many others, he would be a three, four or even five time winner.

That's not what's happened so far and, as he told me himself in an interview for the Sunday Herald, time is not on his side, even though he's still only 32.

“I’m capable of winning the world title again but I know time is running out,” Higgins said. “I’ll have to do it in the next few years because it gets harder as you get older.

“You look at Jimmy White. Four years ago he won the Players Championship, now he’s almost off the tour. Mark Williams looks like losing his top 16 place and for a while was in danger of falling out of the top 32, which would have been ridiculous because just a few years ago he held the game’s top four titles. It just shows how quickly it can all disappear.”

Who is to say that, now safely through what looked like a tricky opening round encounter, Higgins can't become the first player in 12 years to successfully defend the greatest snooker prize of them all?

(There is a full account of the first day's play here)



This is an interesting story reflecting the global interest in the 888.com World Championship but it does not change the fact that of the 32 competitors at the Crucible, 27 are from the UK and Ireland.

The game is actually less international now than it was 20 years ago when various Canadians and Australians were part of the scene. Thailand, Finland, Malta and Iceland are among the other countries to have been represented at the home of snooker.

What can be done?

It would take a complete overhaul of the format to enable individual qualifying in different countries but one thing that will help is if players such as Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson continue their success.

Neil tells me snooker in Australia is starting to pick up after years in the doldrums. He's getting some recognition and his profile is gradually growing.

Ding has, of course, already inspired Liang Wenbo and Liu Chuang, who will be making their Crucible debuts next week.

Fast forward 20 years the field may well be dominated by non-British stars.

Then we'll have situation as in tennis where the British sporting public are rooting for a couple of home grown stars, with the inevitable heartbreak ensuing.



Soon the talking will, thank goodness, be over and we can actually get on with the 888.com World Championship.

The build up in the newspapers this year has been low key to say the least.

This may reflect a decline in interest from the British media in general but I expect coverage to pick up once the tournament begins. It tends to be that all the people and publications that ignore snooker throughout the season suddenly decide it’s worth covering after all.

Let’s hope it’s covered properly.

The BBC website has a large section on the event. It’s a shame, then, that they have the draw in the wrong order and Ali Carter and Barry Hawkins playing three sessions in their first round match (do they know something we don’t?).

The BBC also has an extremely late nightly highlights programme (midnight most nights and contrary to their own listings) during the first week having come off air at 8pm with the evening session just getting interesting.

They are showing it all live on their interactive service but this doesn’t include a presenter or interviews with players.

Eurosport will be showing pretty much every session live and there is a full coverage on their website.

However you are following the tournament – at the Crucible, on TV or via live scoring – I hope you enjoy it.



Next season’s Shanghai Masters will start on a Wednesday and finish on a Tuesday (October 1-7). This will be the first time a ranking event has ever ended on a Tuesday, unless you count the last two world finals, which both finished post-midnight on successive May Bank Holiday Mondays.

It is unusual but there’s a reason for it: the day in question is a public holiday in Shanghai, just as we have the May Day holiday in the UK.

When you think about it, there’s no real reason why events always have to end at the weekend, apart from that it is when people are less likely to be working and can therefore attend.

However, such is the competition with other sports for media coverage that a midweek final could end up being a huge plus.

What is less easy to comprehend is how the Shanghai tournament fits in with the rest of the schedule.

When it finishes, there will be just four days until the Grand Prix in Scotland. After that, the next ranking event – the UK Championship – will not be staged for another two months.

Remember, next season’s first ranking event – the Northern Ireland Trophy – is on from August 24-31 so there will be a whole month between this and Shanghai.

Of course, there may be – and we all hope there will be – more events to be slotted in, but this seems unlikely given that Matchroom have already published their Premier League dates.

Twenty years ago, indeed ten years ago, you knew where you were. Each tournament had a recognisable sponsor, venue and slot in the calendar.

If it was October, it’d be the Rothmans Grand Prix in Reading. February would mean the B&H Masters at Wembley, and so on.

Now, tournaments are moved about with such regularity that you need Sat Nav to find them.

And the huge gaps between them hardly convince a sceptical media that we have a thriving circuit.

This is not meant as explicit criticism of World Snooker. Staging ranking tournaments is hard work and securing venues not a piece of cake. World Snooker’s on site tournament team do a good job and rarely get any praise for this.

But to have a month between next season’s first and second tournament, four days between second and third and then two months between third and fourth is going to strike almost everybody – not least the players – as very odd indeed.

There has been criticism in the press – albeit anonymously – from players of late and this only seems likely to continue until new tournaments are announced.

Edit (on April 24): I'm now assured that the Shanghai Masters will now end on Sunday, October 5 after all, having been moved forward two days



Jimmy White fans – and there are, of course, many of them – can’t watch their hero in next week’s 888.com World Championship but he will be in action in the Championship League on Wednesday and Thursday.

White joins Mark Selby and Gerard Greene in Group 6. There are no seats for spectators but all the action is screened live on the internet on three betting websites – Betfair.com, Bet365.com and Williamhill.com.

Jimmy was beaten 10-3 by Mark King in the final qualifying round of the World Championship and has not been invited to the Premier League next season.

However, he will still get in if he gets into and then wins the Champions Group next month.

White will doubtless have mixed feelings about playing with the World Championship coming up but I’m sure his army of supporters will be willing on his every shot.



World Snooker have hit back at the 'mystery' player who criticised them in the News of the World with a statement on their website.

In this, they defend their actions and point to the various positives since Sir Rodney Walker was made chairman in 2004.

Personally, I wouldn't take issue with any of them and it's actually refreshing that the governing body should defend its position rather than say nothing at all, which has all too often been their stance in the past.

However, to talk about 'discussions' for events in the Middle East and Europe is not a good idea because we've been hearing this for, literally, four or five years and such 'discussions' have not yet borne any fruit at all in terms of actual tournaments.

World Snooker have previously announced events in Brazil, Thailand, Macao and Holland that have simply never taken place.

I think players have every right to complain in public if they are unhappy with how their sport is being run but would add that they should do so on the record rather than anonymously.

However, the notion, as suggested in the last paragraph of the statement, that players should only say nice things about the governing body - regardless of what they feel about them - is, frankly, ludicrous.


This week, to get us in the mood for Ronnie O'Sullivan's 888.com World Championship meeting with Liu Chuang, some footage of their only other meeting.

This was in last season's China Open in Beijing when Liu was a wildcard.

I'm sure he's hoping Ronnie doesn't turn it on like this at the Crucible...



This story in today's News of the World claims that a number of leading snooker players are 'fed up' with World Snooker, the governing body.

It quotes a top player as saying: "I'm fed up with world snooker, sometimes I wonder whether they have the best interests of the game at the top of their agenda.

"Prize money is down and there are not as many tournaments as there used to be, which frustrates me and a lot of the other players.

"I remember when there were 15 tournaments in a season and there was a lot more money on offer.

"At one point this season there was a two-month break between tournaments. That's not the way to run the game."

The newspaper does not name the player because he feared disciplinary action so neither will I, but I can tell you he has had a love/hate relationship with World Snooker throughout his career.

However, his comments do not mean that 'a string of top players' are 'fed up.' He speaks for himself, nobody else.

Everyone would like more tournaments but although World Snooker have done themselves few favours over the years, the fault for all this is not theirs and theirs alone.

In 2001, 110sport won a court ruling which meant any promoter could stage events without a World Snooker sanction.

But very few have been staged since by anyone other than the governing body.


Because getting tournaments on is hard work. You need a venue, sponsor, broadcaster and top players, and it's hard to get, say, the first without already having the second and vice versa.

If the top players really are 'fed up' then why haven't they voted out the World Snooker board in the various elections of the last few years?

They've had ample chance to organise themselves to take proper action. Almost uniquely, snooker is run by the players, at least in theory.

I don't believe snooker is 'in crisis' as the story suggests. It could be doing much, much better but it could equally be doing far, far worse.



Graeme Dott, the 2006 888.com world champion, has been diagnosed with depression and is reported to be considering withdrawing from this year’s Crucible event.

He has failed to win any of his last 15 matches in a run stretching back to last August’s Shanghai Masters.

In December 2006, Alex Lambie, Dott’s father-in-law and long time manager, died of cancer.

Dott’s wife Elaine had a cancer scare in January 2007 before being given the all clear.

This season, he was involved in a time consuming fight with World Snooker when they tried to discipline him for comments he made about Ian McCulloch.

It was clear all was not well at the Welsh Open in February when he broke off in one frame of his match with Michael Judge in such a negative mood that, trying not to disturb too many reds, he missed the pack altogether.

Last month at the China Open in Beijing he was close to tears when a journalist asked whether Lambie's death had affected his form.

“I desperately want to play but I’ve not been in the right frame of mind for some time as you can see from my results. I will only go to Sheffield if I feel I can do myself justice,” Dott told the Scottish Sun.

The 30 year-old is due to play Joe Perry on Tuesday, April 22 and Wednesday, April 23.

If he pulled out it would be the first time any player had failed to turn up for a Crucible match.

My gut feeling is that he will play, but it depends on how serious the diagnosis is.

Contrary to what some people believe, you can’t just tell depressed people to “cheer up.”

Graeme should do what is in his own best interests in this case. His health is more important than a snooker match.



Here is my prediction for the semi-final line-up at the 888.com World Championship:

Ding Junhui v Mark Williams
Shaun Murphy v Neil Robertson

After this I predict Ding will beat Robertson 18-10 in the final.

Before anyone suggests therapy, I should point out that I used to have a very good record in tipping the winner of the world title. This was mainly because I always used to tip Stephen Hendry.

I also called it for Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan the years they won it and, in 2003, got all four semi-finalists right.

In the last three years, though, I don’t think I’ve got any of them right. The reason is quite simple: there are so few tournaments that form is irrelevant.

OK, so Murphy, Mark Selby and Stephen Maguire have been the three form players of the season but by the time the Crucible comes round none of them will have played for three weeks (apart from Selby’s two days in the Championship League).

The last three winners – Murphy, Graeme Dott and John Higgins – all had poor seasons heading to Sheffield before finding form over the 17 days.

Ding is my tip to win, which is strange, really, when you consider he has the hardest first round draw in Marco Fu.

He could lose this but if he doesn’t I fancy him to go all the way.

Williams has, of course, been off the boil of late but let’s not forget that its only five years since he won the biggest cheque in snooker history - £270,000 – in winning the title for a second time (incidentally, I’ve no idea what the winner gets this year as the prize money appears to be a state secret).

With Ronnie O’Sullivan’s tendency this season to struggle against the more methodical players, I think Williams has a great chance to take him out in the second round.

Murphy is Mr. Consistency and although he’s in a tough quarter that includes Selby and Peter Ebdon, I reckon he’ll come through it.

Robertson has done nothing of note all season but is the sort of player who could suddenly spring into life with devastating effect.

Maguire is favourite in this quarter but has been laid up this last week with flu and unable to practice – hardly ideal preparation for the game’s biggest event.

How many of my four tips will actually reach the semis?

Probably none, but who’d bet on snooker these days? It’s never been so unpredictable.

That’s why watching the championship will be so enjoyable – anything can happen.

Please post your own predictions below.



There will no doubt be shock results at the Crucible, but what constitutes a shock?

For instance, would Mark Allen beating Stephen Hendry be a shock considering he did so at the same stage of this season’s UK Championship?

Would Marco Fu beating Ding Junhui be a shock? Or Matthew Stevens beating John Higgins?

The biggest shock of them all at Sheffield was Tony Knowles’s 10-1 trouncing of the then defending champion Steve Davis in 1982.

However, if Liu Chuang beats Ronnie O’Sullivan this year it will dwarf that and then some. It would be the most surprising victory in the sport’s history.

To qualify as a shock, the losing player must be one of the very top players and the winner has to be a virtual unknown, or someone whose career has been going downhill.

Stephen Hendry was famously ‘shocked’ twice in the first round, by Jimmy White in 1998 and Stuart Bingham in 2000. He also lost to Nigel Bond in 2006 but this wasn’t such a shock because Hendry was not considered the title favourite, as he had been the previous two times.

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s defeat to David Gray in 2000 was a surprise, as was John Higgins’s to Mark Selby in 2006.

Steve Davis was not expected to lose to Peter Ebdon in 1992 and John Parrott’s defeat to Rod Lawler in 1996 was a complete surprise.

So where will the shocks come this year?

Looking at the first round matches, I think Stephen Maguire could be vulnerable against Anthony Hamilton, which would be a surprise result because Maguire’s had a good season and just won the China Open.

Also, I wouldn’t rule out Mark King upsetting Mark Selby.

However, the whole point about shocks is that you don’t see them coming...



I’ve reviewed this book for the new issue of Snooker Scene and would heartily recommend it to anyone with an interest in the game.

Indeed, I would recommend any of Gordon Burn’s books because he’s one of those writers who can make you interested in just about any subject.

Pocket Money, which has just been reissued with an afterword by Snooker Scene editor Clive Everton, covers the 1985/86 season and is bookended by Steve Davis’s two world final defeats – on the black to Dennis Taylor and 18-12 to Joe Johnson.

On the way to the Crucible it takes on all points on a circuit that was flourishing at the height of the 1980s snooker boom.

Davis’s manager Barry Hearn becomes the main focus through his expanding Matchroom empire.

The money and prosperity sloshing about in the game then is hard to believe in these days of a disjointed circuit and groans over low prize money.

Pocket Money is not only a celebration of the golden days but also served as a warning that these days would not last forever – a warning that was ignored.



This week, the greatest player in the history of the game.

Stephen Hendry is this not just because he is the most successful but also because of his extraordinary natural ability - something that is, oddly, hardly ever referred to.

Consider this: he started playing at 12. At 16 he was at the Crucible.

This clip is from his 1987 quarter-final with Joe Johnson. It was this style of play that inspired a generation and helped move snooker on to be the ultra-attacking game it is today.



We can all think of great shots we’ve seen down the years but it’s often those spectacular misses that have turned frames, matches and even whole tournaments that live long in the memory.

In all sport, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is fascinating to observe, even if it’s crippling to endure for the person screwing up in front of millions.

Here, then, are my five biggest misses in snooker history.

Please feel free to agree or disagree with any of the choices.

Thorne was leading Steve Davis 13-8 in this best of 31 frame final and looked certain to extend his advantage to six frames when clearing up in the 22nd.

However, he missed a straightforward blue he would pot 99 times out of a 100 and went on to lose 16-14 as Davis sensed blood, regrouped and ruthlessly punished him.

Willie never got over this and his career of underachievement – considering his great talent – came to be defined by it.

This was White’s sixth world final and at last, at long last, it appeared as if it would provide him with his first world title.

Up 37-24 with the balls well set in the decider, he snatched on a routine black. It was only pressure that caused him to miss it; pressure built up by the weight of expectation after so many failures at the Crucible’s final hurdle and the knowledge that so many millions were willing him on.

Hendry, as he always did in those days, cleared up from the miss and White never again featured in a world final.

This was, without overstatement, one of the most significant shots in snooker history. Williams was well placed to win the deciding frame of his semi-final with Alex Higgins when he missed a relatively easy blue.

Higgins won the decider and went on to claim the title. His flamboyant, controversial, mercurial style lit the blue touch paper for snooker and undoubtedly accelerated the game’s march to the top of the TV ratings charts in the 1980s.

This would in all likelihood still have happened but, had Williams potted that blue, probably not anywhere near as quickly.

Doherty’s temperament has never been in doubt but it was surely only nerves that caused him to miss the black on 140 in the 2000 Masters final at Wembley. Had it gone in, he would have emulated Kirk Stevens’s maximum feat in 1984. To date, only Ding Junhui (2007) has added to the Masters 147 list.

The nerves were understandable. The Wembley Conference Centre was the game’s biggest venue, there were millions watching on TV and there was an £80,000 sportscar on offer for a max. The next day, a national newspaper took Doherty to a local snooker club and he successfully potted the black from the same position he had missed it ten times in a row.

But by then it was, of course, far too late.

It wasn’t dead simple but it was a ball the all-conquering Davis would have potted at any other time in any other frame.

As it was, at 17-17 and down to the last ball of his Crucible final with Dennis Taylor, he felt the pressure. He knew as he missed it - a little cut-back into a blind pocket - that he’d left it for Taylor. Watching it back, you can almost see all life drain from his features as he trudges back to his seat.

This uncharacteristic slip up proved that even the authentic greats are human and was further proof that, in snooker, it’s every bit as exciting when they miss and when the great pots are flying in.



This is an interesting story for three reasons:

1) For the way snooker has come to be seen as 'respectable' in China

2) For the suggestion that there may be as many as ten events in China in the future

3) For describing Jimmy White as a 'former world champion' - is the author the only person in the world who doesn't know about Jimmy's many Crucible heartbreaks?



Stephen Maguire's Beijing form certainly makes him one of the favourites for the world title but it's been ten years since the player who won the tournament immediately before the World Championship went on to triumph at the Crucible.

That was John Higgins, who won the 1998 British Open in Plymouth before landing the sport's greatest prize.

What does this mean? Probably nothing, as few players win back-to-back ranking titles in any case.

Maguire is in what appears to be the easiest quarter of the draw, which includes the struggling Graeme Dott and inconsistent Neil Robertson.

If he could get through this Shaun Murphy or Mark Selby could be waiting in the semis.

Whatever, it's good to see Stephen playing well again.

I'm going to crow here - because I get very little chance to do so - and republish something I wrote on this very blog last July:

Looking at the season as a whole I’m going to predict one player in particular to watch: Stephen Maguire.

You’ll recall the manner of his semi-final defeat to Higgins at the Crucible. Entering the final session leading 14-10 – having played superbly – he was beaten 17-15, missing the pink in losing a crucial 30th frame which would have put him 16-14 up.

I well remember Maguire turning pro in 1999. I interviewed him after his very first match. He seemed far too polite and reserved for this game but they breed them pretty tough in Glasgow and his personality soon came to the fore.

He’ll have been gutted by his Sheffield exit with the sure knowledge that he let a gilt-edged chance to become world champion slip.

And he’ll be back fighting harder than ever to prove himself as one of the game’s best, which he is, as proved by the manner in which he won the 2004 UK Championship.

I suspect he feels like a wounded animal at the moment and will want to get stuck into the new season to cast off the disappointments of the last campaign.

How things have turned round for him.

He heads to Sheffield in less than three week's time with the perfect chance to make amends for last year's disappointment.



This week, perhaps the greatest exhibition of pure talent ever seen.

For all Ronnie O'Sullivan's controversial antics, nobody could ever dispute his genius on the table.