Eurosport will show the Jiangsu Classic, World Snooker's new invitation event in China, from June 4-8.

The first broadcast is on Wednesday, June 4 at 8.30am.

This tournament features eight of the world's top 12 ranked players plus four local wildcards.

It will be played first in Nanjing, using a round robin format, with the final in Wuxi City, hometown of Ding Junhui.

Good news, this, for snooker fans suffering withdrawal symptoms after the 888.com World Championship!

Note: there's not coverage every day as they aren't playing every day.



Mark Selby, the Saga Insurance Masters and Welsh Open champion, has been given the last place in next season's seven-man Premier League.

Full story here


World Snooker has one wildcard to be awarded at its discretion to a player who has not qualified for the professional tour in any of the myriad of ways possible.

There may – for various reasons – be more wildcards available but assuming for now there is just one, who should get it?

For me, the outstanding choice is Liu Chuang, who gave Ronnie O’Sullivan something of a first session scare before losing 10-5 to the eventual winner at the 888.com World Championship.

Liu was only the fourth 17 year-old – after Stephen Hendry, O’Sullivan and Judd Trump – to compete at the Crucible and the first pro to qualify in their debut season for 13 years.

He was unable to play in the qualifiers for the season-opening Shanghai Masters because of a mix up over visas so had only six tournaments to count towards his final ranking.

Liu found it hard at first to adjust to life on the circuit. This is hardly surprising: he’s a teenager from China, abroad for the first time in a completely different culture.

Yet he demonstrated by qualifying for the Crucible – and against O’Sullivan – that he has potential and surely deserves another, immediate chance.

If not Liu, then who?

Drew Henry, a pro for 17 years before relegation after the World Championship, has chosen to retain his professional status rather than resign like all the other players who missed out. Last I heard he was considering applying for the wildcard.

I’m unsure, to be brutally honest, on what grounds it could be given to him. This is not to detract from his career – which has been better than most – but he would not have a better claim than Liu in my opinion.

Tony Drago has applied and could be in with a chance on the basis of being a recognisable name who is, unquestionably, attractive to watch.

Also, with a professional event established in Malta, it may be seen to be smart politically to keep him on the tour.

The same does not apply for James Wattana, who appears to have lost interest in the game. Thailand’s greatest ever player does not wish to continue and has returned home to pursue other interests.

Michael White could be a good outside bet. There was widespread sympathy for this 16 year-old when he was denied the chance to play in the Shanghai Masters qualifiers because he was, for a few days, still 15.

Shaun Murphy had been given an exemption in almost identical circumstances in 1998. Almost unbelievably, World Snooker denied this had happened until Snooker Scene produced irrefutable evidence that it did.

White, then, was under pressure from the off, not just because he had one less tournament to play in but also because of the furore surrounding his exclusion and the sense of injustice it must have engendered.

He didn’t make any great impact on the other events but he’s still very young and, most observers would conclude, has time to improve.

Perhaps a season on the PIOS would do him good but plenty of 16/17 year-olds have played on the main tour so why not White?

Other names will doubtless be presented before a decision is made. Hopefully, it will be made for the right reasons.



This blog is more influential than I'd imagined.

Further to my post about the Grand Prix, World Snooker have now decided to name the tournaments the BBC are showing. This includes the Grand Prix - so it looks like it will be taking place after all.

It has been suggested to me that they only posted their skeletal calendar because I had already posted one, which was based on information given to me by a very well known player.

Nice to know they're reading, anyway.



As the professional season has now finished, here are my award winners for the campaign just gone.

Note to the winners: there are no actual awards.

Despite good campaigns for Mark Selby, Stephen Maguire and Shaun Murphy, the winner is Ronnie O’Sullivan by virtue of winning the world and UK titles, regaining no.1 spot and making three maximum breaks. O’Sullivan also appeared in two further finals and won the Premier League.

We saw a number of 147s, including one by Ronnie O’Sullivan in the deciding frame of his UK Championship semi-final with Mark Selby, but I can honestly say the best break I saw all season was one of just 48 by Fergal O’Brien in his Northern Ireland Trophy quarter-final against O’Sullivan.

O’Brien was 4-2 up but had reds on cushions and balls awkwardly placed as he came to the table. He crafted the break out of virtually nothing and it was a display of sheer artistry by one of the circuit’s unsung talents.

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s supreme display in making five centuries in the five frames he won in beating Ali Carter 5-2 in the Northern Ireland Trophy. Included in it was a 147. It was awesome stuff.

The China Open final was of superb quality and went down to a very exciting conclusion as Stephen Maguire edged Shaun Murphy 10-9 all in front of a capacity crowd who remained in their seats until gone midnight. O’Sullivan v Selby in the UK Championship semi-finals comes a close second.

Just ahead of Ali Carter’s run to the Crucible final comes Mark Selby, who became the first player in 19 years to win the Wembley Masters at his first attempt. He beat three great players – Stephen Hendry, Stephen Maguire and Ken Doherty – in deciding frame finishes and compiled four centuries in beating Stephen Lee in the final.

It heralded his arrival in snooker’s winners’ circle and he followed it up with his capture of the Welsh Open a few weeks later.

The Chinese contingent, in the shadow of Ding Junhui, came into their own with Liu Song reaching the Grand Prix quarter-finals and Liu Chuang making the Crucible at just 17.

However, Liang Wenbo really came into his own by fighting through to the World Championship quarter-finals, doing so with great humour, audacious shot selections and a little controversy. Let’s hope we see plenty more of him in the future.

The Championship League is a far more significant development than most people seem to realise. It has shown how tournament promoters can bypass not only the governing body but also television broadcasters and basically just do it themselves.

Ali Carter and Joe Perry’s successful ends to the campaign are down in large part to the fact they got match fit in this new venture. I know of a (very) well known player who rang up to try and get in it only to be told he couldn’t as he was already in the Premier League and it wouldn’t be fair on the others.

John Higgins complaining about conditions at the Crucible: “The tournament director will put a blazer on, go in front of the BBC and probably quote section 3a or whatever from some handbook.”

Within minutes of Higgins saying this, Mike Ganley duly appeared on the BBC in his blazer. Sadly, he didn’t have a handbook with him.

The round robins at the Grand Prix, and to a lesser extent at the Malta Cup, left the sport facing accusations of corruption amid talk of police investigations.

The very suggestion of this – whatever the truth – damages snooker’s reputation. Regardless of what World Snooker say, most players loathe the format. It won’t be employed at the Grand Prix next season – you read it here first.

Two high points, just over 24 hours apart, at the Crucible when first Ronnie O’Sullivan and then Ali Carter each constructed a 147 break, which brought the crowd to their feet in appreciation of the dazzling skill on show.

For all the talk and controversy and complaints and arguments, these scenes illustrated what all of us already know: that snooker is a great game and, at the very highest level, can produce moments of sporting excellence that will forever be frozen in time.



Joe Perry wore a broad smile as he left Crondon Park golf club in Essex last night as the winner of the inaugural Championship League.

What an end to the season it’s been for Perry. He picked up £52,000 for reaching the semi-finals of the 888.com World Championship and now has another £29,100 and a place in the lucrative Premier League next season.

Perry has also risen to 12th in the world rankings, the highest position of his 17-year professional career.

And he was the first to admit that the new Championship League has provided the springboard to this new run of form.

This has been a welcome snooker success story. There were 25 players in the event and not one expressed even mild criticism of it. And why would they? It’s brought the perfect mix of high quality match practice and financial reward to players forced to spend long periods twiddling their thumbs, if not their cues, due to the fragmented nature of the pro circuit.

Look at Ali Carter. He played in all seven qualifying groups of the League and ended up in the world final.

Like Perry, Carter has thus rediscovered his enthusiasm for playing snooker. A day after losing in Group 7 he got on a plane and flew to China as a late call up for an invitation tournament following the withdrawal of Ronnie O’Sullivan.

I suspect that 12 months ago he wouldn’t have fancied it but, right now, it seems he can’t get enough of snooker.

The Championship League was unique as it was targeted at the betting community and shown live on the web on betting sites.

All three sites – betfair.com, bet365.com and williamhill.com – have said that they regard the new tournament as a welcome development.

It was superbly run by Matchroom, a professional but refreshingly laidback company who tweaked what needed to be tweaked in the format and ensured it all ran smoothly.

Perform provided excellent coverage on the web. They did not have the resources of the major television broadcasters but their enthusiasm and commitment to the event enhanced it considerably.

Behind the scenes, the players all enjoyed some banter and there was a pleasant, relaxed feel about proceedings, although this naturally changed in the match arena.

The staff at Crondon Park also went out of their way to make everyone feel welcome.

The event will return in 2009.

I suspect those players who turned it down this year will be clambering to get in it next time around.



Mystery surrounds the fate of the Royal London Watches Grand Prix following the publication of a provisional calendar today on worldsnooker.com.

The calendar merely lists dates for 'BBC events' but does not specify what they are.

Why not? It can only be because there is some change to their exact composition.

There's no way the 888.com World Championship, Saga Insurance Masters or Maplin UK Championship will be changed so that leaves the Grand Prix, first staged in 1984, as the tournament under threat.

The BBC will still be showing a tournament that week.

The question is, what will it be?

There are three possibilities:
1) It's the Grand Prix
2) It's the Grand Prix with a different name (as when it was the LG Cup)
3) It's a completely different event

After the controversy of the round robin format, has the tournament now been ditched altogether?

And what will replace it?

Watch this space!

Also, the Shanghai Masters has been moved forward two days to now start on a Monday and end on a Sunday.

This will hardly be good news for John Higgins, whose World Series event in Moscow is scheduled for September 27-28, a day before the Shanghai tournament begins.



There can be such a thing as too much snooker, as Ali Carter will testify.

A week on from losing in the 888.com World Championship final, he was back in action at Crondon Park Golf Club here in sunny Essex in the latest group of the Championship League.

Ali had played in all six previous groups but finished bottom of group 7. He was clearly exhausted and had nothing left to give.

Therefore, he won’t be playing any further part in the competition, which seems a shame given his great run through it.

Indeed, it was the Championship League that got Carter match fit for the Crucible.

He won £22,600 from the event and, of course, £203,500 at the World Championship.

It means his earnings this season represent around a third of what he’s won in his 12 year pro career.

Now seventh in the world rankings, the only way is up for the Captain.



Just in case you thought snooker was going into hibernation for the summer, here are the dates for all the upcoming professional events.

Important note: this calendar is provisional and liable to change. Do not arrange tickets/travel/time off work without first checking with individual promoters.

The Malta Cup and China Open, as well as all the qualifiying dates, are still to be added and there will hopefully be further tournaments to be slotted in.

May 12-15: Championship League at Crondon Park, Essex (Live on Betfair.com, Bet365.com and Williamhill.com)
Group 7 (Mon, Tue); Champions Group (Wed, Thu)

May 14-18: Huangshan Cup at Heifei, China
Invitation event featuring Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Hendry, Mark Williams, Ding Junhui, Liang Wenbo and others

June 6-8: Jiangsu Classic at Jiangsu, China
World Snooker promoted invitation event featuring 12 top players, including Ding Junhui

June 21-22: World Series at St. Hellier, Jersey (Live on Eurosport)
Featuring John Higgins, Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby and Ken Doherty plus four local players

July 8-13: Sangsom 6-red International at Montien Riverside Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand
New event played with only six reds featuring several big names, including Peter Ebdon, Ken Doherty, Mark Williams, Jimmy White and Ding Junhui

July 12-13: World Series at Berlin, Germany (Live on Eurosport)
Featuring John Higgins, Stephen Maguire, Graeme Dott and Shaun Murphy plus four local players

August 24-31: Northern Ireland Trophy at Waterfront Hall, Belfast (Live on TG4 and Eurosport)
First ranking event of the season

September 11: Premier League at Grimsby Auditorium (Live on Sky Sports)

September 18: Premier League at the Anvil, Basingstoke (Live on Sky Sports)

September 25: Premier League at the Assembly Rooms, Derby (Live on Sky Sports)

September 27-28: World Series at Moscow, Russia (Live on Eurosport)
Featuring Graeme Dott, Steve Davis, Ding Junhui and Stephen Maguire plus four local players

October 1-7: Roewe Shanghai Masters (Live on Eurosport)
Second ranking event of the season

October 9: Premier League at Malvern Theatre, Great Malvern (Live on Sky Sports)

October 11-19: Royal London Watches Grand Prix at venue TBC (Live on BBC and Eurosport)
Third ranking event of the season

October 23: Premier League at Plymouth Pavilions (Live on Sky Sports)

October 25-26: World Series at Warsaw, Poland (Live on Eurosport)
Featuring Ding Junhui, Steve Davis, Stephen Maguire and Graeme Dott plus four local players

October 30: Premier League at the English Institute of Sport, Sheffield (Live on Sky Sports)

November 6: Premier League at Newport Centre, Wales (Live on Sky Sports)

November 13: Premier League at Olympos, Haywards Heath (Live on Sky Sports)

November 20: Premier League at the Sands Centre, Carlisle (Live on Sky Sports)

November 27: Premier League at the Glades Arena, Kidderminster (Live on Sky Sports)

December 6-7: Premier League play-offs and final at Potters, Norfolk (Live on Sky Sports)

December 13-21: Maplin UK Championship at venue TBC (Live on BBC and Eurosport)
Fourth ranking event of the season

January 11-18: Saga Insurance Masters at Wembley Arena (Live on BBC and Eurosport)
The game’s leading invitation event

February 9-15: Welsh Open at Newport Centre (Live on BBC Wales and Eurosport)
Fifth ranking event of the season

April 18-May 4: 888.com World Championship at Crucible Theatre, Sheffield (Live on BBC and Eurosport)
Seventh ranking event of the season



As the 888.com World Championship recedes into memory, here are my highlights...

Ronnie O'Sullivan's 13th black in his 147. Forcing an angle to free one of the two remaining reds from the pink he played the perfect cannon.

Although the scale of Ali Carter's defeat of Shaun Murphy surprised me, I'd go for Joe Perry's quarter-final victory over Stephen Maguire, who had been playing superbly up to this point.

Liang Wenbo was a refreshing presence for various reasons, not just his all-out attacking approach.

Hard to choose between the two 147s but Ali Carter just takes it because it was his first and, given his tendency to feel the pressure in the past, he held himself together brilliantly.

'I played like a man with no arms' - a decidedly un-PC Dave Harold after losing to Shaun Murphy.

Stephen Maguire's 8-0 demolition of Neil Robertson in the first session of their second round match had to be seen to be believed, even outstripping Ronnie O'Sullivan's thrashing of Stephen Hendry.

Liang Wenbo v Joe Swail had it all: youth v experience, close frames, unexpected misses, controversy, premature celebrations, a deciding frame finish and recriminations afterwards. Classic stuff.

Who else but the winner? Ronnie O'Sullivan, ever enigmatic, ever his own man, joined the pantheon of players to have won three world titles and provided great entertainment along the way.

Roll on 2009!



Ronnie O'Sullivan has always been a person of extreme highs and lows and last night savoured one of the all time highs of his extraordinary life.

OK, so it was a poor final. There was little drama and for long periods the snooker was of low quality.

Had O'Sullivan gone 17-6 up the players would have been brought off just so that there could be some snooker in the evening.

But despite all this, it was still a great night. O'Sullivan is a sportsman, indeed a person, who defies convention.

He's done things to make himself unpopular but he's also created a large store of wonderful memories for those who follow snooker.

All the Crucible spectators who saw his 147 up close can tell everyone they know that they were there.

I was pleased to see that Ronnie was genuinely happy with winning again because he won't have enjoyed the match.

He won't retire, regardless of what he says. Yes, snooker and the pursuit of perfection continues to torture him but it's in his blood and he needs it as much as the game needs him.

There will doubtless be more lows but also many more highs in this most remarkable career.



Sport is a world of extremes. Defeat is the biggest calamity in the history of civilisation, victory the greatest achievement since the invention of the wheel.

There has been an extraordinary over reaction to Ronnie O’Sullivan’s progress towards a third world title, which he appears certain to land at the Crucible later today.

Let me say this from the start: Ronnie has played great snooker. Really good. In finishing off against Mark Williams and the second session against Stephen Hendry it was up there with the all time Crucible performances.

However, to compare him to Tiger Woods and Roger Federer is wrong. He has their talent but has not demonstrated their application or dedication to be a consistent winner.

The world title will be his third ranking event victory in three years. This is not the record of a dominant force.

Would Woods or Federer have played the kamikaze stuff O’Sullivan did at the China Open?

Rather, O’Sullivan is more a George Best or Paul Gascoigne: a genius whose flaws make him even more fascinating, even more attractive.

He can’t be placed above Stephen Hendry until he’s won more world titles. Yes, his maximum was superb but so was Ali Carter’s.

I’ve commentated on most of Ronnie’s matches this season and, in the main, he’s played like he did yesterday.

In other words, well enough to beat most players but, aside from a few occasions, not to the very high standards he sets himself.

This is his essential problem: he is striving for perfection and when he fails to find this it eats him up.

I don’t think he’ll derive much pleasure from winning the world title in this manner, which is a shame because he has given so many other people so much enjoyment.

Ronnie is the deserving champion this year but he hasn’t played any better than he did to win his other two worlds titles or any better than many of the other great champions have in previous years.

I hope he can enjoy his moment of victory but, alas, this can’t be guaranteed. It’s not the winning he likes so much as the fulfilment of snooker perfection.

Anything less won’t do, even if it is good enough to see off the best the game has to offer.



I’ve had the pleasure of commentating with Joe Johnson throughout much of this World Championship and he is better qualified than most to assess Ali Carter’s chances of causing an upset in the final.

Joe famously beat Steve Davis 18-12 to win the title in 1986. The official programme of this year’s tournament ranks it as the second biggest shock in Crucible history, behind only Davis’s humbling 10-1 defeat to Tony Knowles in the first round in 1982.

Most people seem to think Ronnie O’Sullivan will not only beat Carter but beat him soundly. World Snooker has been ringing ex-players in case O’Sullivan wins with a session to spare and an exhibition is needed on Monday night.

888sport.com has O’Sullivan as 1/8 favourite with Carter 5/1.

I agree that O’Sullivan is likely to win given his form during the championship but Joe has made a few good points to me that are worth sharing.

Firstly, O’Sullivan was highly motivated in the semi-finals because he was playing Stephen Hendry. There would have been no disgrace in losing to this great champion but the respect Ronnie has for him brought out his best snooker.

He’s beaten Carter all eight times they have played and, being such a heavy favourite, has a huge weight of expectation on his shoulders.

Carter, in a sense, has nothing to lose, just as Joe didn’t in 1986. He could enjoy the occasion while the pressure was on Davis.

However, Ali must not settle for just being in the final. He has to – and I'm sure he does – believe he can win.

O’Sullivan needs to go into the final with the same mindset he had against Hendry but this will be difficult because he knows everyone expects him to win.

Of course, Davis had the baggage of what happened against Dennis Taylor the previous year. O’Sullivan’s only real baggage is his notoriously fragile emotional state, but he appears to have been on a largely even keel throughout the tournament.

In short, I think both Joe and I expect O’Sullivan to win but not by as big a margin as many are predicting, and not with a session to spare.

As ever, though, we will only find out when the punditry stops and the action begins at 3pm.



As we approach the final of the World Championship, let's look back and the high and low points of the greatest snooker show on earth.


- Liang Wenbo
Yes, his shot selection was at times suicidal but he was a refreshing presence in the tournament. He became a cult hero after walking into the arena unannounced for his second session against Ken Doherty and proved his fighting qualities by prevailing against Joe Swail in the most exciting of all the matches thus far.

- Brendan Moore
This was Brendan's first time refereeing at the Crucible and I was very impressed with him. Definitely capable of taking charge of the final in future years.

- Close finishes
You can't beat the Crucible for drama when a match goes close and, in the first round in particular, we had a number that did: Hendry v Allen, Ebdon v Cope, Davis v Bingham to name but three. Davis's comeback was a joy to watch, even if he did fall short in the end.

- Ronnie O'Sullivan
On and off the table, O'Sullivan has been exemplary. The standard he produced in taking all eight frames from Stephen Hendry in the second session of their semi-final was up there with the all time great performances at the Crucible. His 147 was an exhibition of sheer natural talent.

- Ali Carter's 147
Carter has been guilty of slipping up at important moments throughout his career but was cool personified in completing a maximum break just a day after O'Sullivan made his. Some break it was, too, not least the final black, which would have been a pressure ball to win a frame, let alone for a 147.

- The sponsors
I thought whoever took over from Embassy would struggle to establish themselves as the recognised sponsor but 888.com have been so enthusiastic that they've managed it. I'd even argue that they've helped to reinvigorate the event over the last three years without it losing its essential heavyweight status.


- Conditions
Once again, the middle part of the tournament was overshadowed by complaints about playing conditions. It seems logical now to re-cloth the tables on the first Wednesday as well as the middle Sunday and second Wednesday. This would surely lessen any complaints at next year's championship.

- The Joe Swail-Liang Wenbo controversy
Swail didn't do himself any favours, although, in his defence, he was speaking minutes after suffering a very disappointing last gasp defeat. The fact is, the referee - in this case Alan Chamberlain - asked both players if they were happy the balls had been replaced properly. Swail said he was and, if he had not been, should have said so in the arena.

- MC Rob Walker's 'Let's get the boys on the baize' intro
I wouldn't fault Walker for his enthusiasm but I can't be the only person who finds this catchphrase annoying. Last night, we had two of snooker's greatest champions playing. O'Sullivan and Hendry are not 'boys' they're all time greats. Plus, the crowd does not need to be whipped into a frenzy when they basically have to be quiet for the best part of three hours.

- The strike 'threat'
Possibly the biggest non-story of the championship was the idea that top players will put down their cues because of a row over logo spaces. They won't. Simple as that.

- Football
Interested though many of us were in the Champions League semi-finals this week, there is a section of the media who seem to believe sports coverage should begin and end with football. After his epic win over Stephen Maguire, Joe Perry was asked by a journalist how it felt that nobody had been watching because they were all tuned in to Chelsea v Liverpool. Apart from this being obviously wrong - not least because the snooker was still going on a good hour and a half after the football had finished - Joe had every reason to feel aggreived having just pulled off the win of his career.



A total of 109 players entered this year’s World Championship. Of these, 32 made the Crucible, including great champions of the past and likely winners of the future.

However, it seems inconceivable now that Ronnie O’Sullivan won’t be the last man standing on Monday.

He has clinically taken Stephen Hendry apart in this morning’s session of their semi-final and I can’t see Ali Carter or Joe Perry stopping him in the final.

It was the first time Hendry has suffered a session whitewash in 23 Crucible appearances encompassing 80 matches. It was the seventh session whitewash in a Crucible semi-final and the third by O'Sullivan at Sheffield.

O'Sullivan has now constructed 47 centuries this season. If he makes seven more in the rest of this match and the final he will surpass Hendry's record of 53, set in the 1993/94 campaign.

This would be remarkable because it would have been accomplished in far fewer tournaments - 9 compared with Hendry's 15.

O'Sullivan is also now tied with John Higgins on 85 centuries, with Hendry still top at Sheffield on 116.

Some would argue the Rocket’s had an easy draw but I’d say this is unfair: it was only ‘easy’ because he is so good.

His main fortune has been to avoid players who play the kind of game he dislikes: slow, scrappy and drawn out.

All of his opponents thus far – Liu Chuang, Mark Williams, Liang Wenbo and Stephen Hendry – are open, attacking players who go for their shots. There is no better player in the modern game at this kind of snooker than O’Sullivan, so their approach would have suited him fine.

A Hendry comeback looks unlikely now and Carter or Perry will have to produce the snooker of their life to prevent Ronnie completing a hat-trick of world titles.



Now we’re down to the semi-finals of the 888.com World Championship, let’s look back at my tips for the last four.

I went for:

Ding Junhui v Mark Williams
Shaun Murphy v Neil Robertson

Oh dear.

Still, I’d be amazed if anyone tipped Ali Carter v Joe Perry.

Carter reminds me a little of Joe Johnson, who found inspiration in 1986 to play some remarkable snooker and go all the way to the title.

Everyone seems to be saying that the winner of the O’Sullivan-Hendry semi will land the title.

Carter, though, is growing in confidence and could yet pull off what would be a huge upset.