Ronnie O’Sullivan has more than ridden his luck on the way to the Northern Ireland Trophy final but his main weapon against Dave Harold in Belfast may well prove to be his patience.

This is, to put it mildly, a clash of styles.

O’Sullivan is the game’s most fluent player. Harold, with his deliberate cue action, is one of the least fluent.

However, the Stoke potter has been extremely effective all week and may well frustrate Ronnie by leaving him cold in his chair for long periods.

This final is best of 17 frames. That is more than enough time for O’Sullivan to lose his concentration.

He has beaten Harold ten times in ten previous meetings and is favourite to do so again.

But today’s result may well depend on how he copes not when at the table but while watching on.



The omens are not good for the two underdogs in today’s Northern Ireland Trophy semi-finals in Belfast.

Dave Harold has played John Higgins nine times and beaten him only once.

Ali Carter has played Ronnie O’Sullivan nine times and never beaten him.

That said, neither Higgins nor O’Sullivan have been at their consistent best so far during the tournament.

O’Sullivan could well have lost to Barry Hawkins last night. At 3-0 and 4-1 up he was in control but Hawkins fought back superbly to force a deciding frame.

As has often been the case in his career, O’Sullivan grew frustrated when things started to go against him.

But as I said on commentary, it’s hard to keep your emotions in check when you’re an emotional person.

And Ronnie kept his composure well in the end to clinch victory after Hawkins had failed to take his chances.

Carter is very confident having reached the Crucible final last season but let’s not forget that he played O’Sullivan at the Waterfront Hall last year and Ronnie made five centuries in the five frames he won against him.

Harold is capable of beating Higgins but the Scot is a patient player with a good all round game and is not likely to worry too much if the contest gets bogged down.

An O’Sullivan-Higgins final would certainly be a great way to start the new ranking tournament season.

Only Carter and Harold can stop that happening now.



Dave Harold is a better player than a lot of people realise, as he demonstrated today by beating Stephen Maguire 5-2 at the Northern Ireland Trophy to reach his first ranking event semi-final in five and a half years.

At 41, Harold has bags of experience. He has only one ranking title to his name – the 1993 Asian Open – but the top players regard him as a tough opponent.

Harold is one of snooker’s hard men. You have to scrape him off the table.

He has a deliberate style. His cue action is unorthodox in as much as he doesn’t ‘feather’ the cue ball at all. Instead, he punches at it.

This means that he does not appear as fluent as many players but it has been effective for him and he is more than capable of winning in Belfast this weekend.

Harold is one of only 26 players to have compiled a century of centuries in professional competition.

This is not the mark of an unremitting grinder.

I watched him make three centuries in four frames against Ali Carter at the Championship League last season. It was awesome stuff and he equalled his highest competitive break, 143.

Snooker takes all sorts. Most fans would understandably prefer to watch Ronnie O’Sullivan or the other fast, attacking players.

But the game’s tough guys deserve respect too and they don’t come much tougher than Harold.


I thought Ronnie O'Sullivan went a bit flat towards the end of his match against Joe Perry at the Northern Ireland Trophy in Belfast last night but he still did enough to make it through and, in these early rounds, that is all that counts.

I've been impressed with Ronnie's discipline, particularly in his opening round match with Ken Doherty.

He said last night that only John Higgins is capable of beating him when he's playing at his best.

I would agree with this assessment and an O'Sullivan-Higgins final would be a great way to start the new season.

But I would be interested to see what happens if Ronnie faces Mark Allen in the semi-finals.

One thing I've noticed about O'Sullivan is that he really doesn't like it when the crowd are against him.

This happens rarely but would be the case against Allen. Therefore, he is no certainty to reach the final.

That said, the world champion is looking good and more than capable of moving up a couple of gears to capture the first ranking title of the campaign.



Liang Wenbo is a great talent and a fine prospect but he isn’t going to win tournaments playing the sort of kamikaze snooker he exhibited in losing 5-1 to John Higgins at the Northern Ireland Trophy in Belfast today.

I’ll say right off that I regard Liang as a breath of fresh air for the game. He is fearless and has an endearing way about him which earned him many fans on the way to the World Championship quarter-finals last season.

But surely he must realise that his policy of going for absolutely everything, whatever the situation in the match, is asking for trouble.

Most young players like to attack but they all come to accept the fact that a strong safety game is also needed to rise to the top.

There are some extraordinary good potters around but they don’t win titles or rise that far up the rankings without tightening up at times and playing the percentages.

In Liang’s case, he does not need to completely change his game, just approach matches with a little more care.

He gives his opponents far too many chances – which shows you how badly Peter Ebdon must have played against him if, despite this, he couldn’t win a single frame.


Mark Selby has shortened his cue action for the new season.

He has mainly eradicated the ‘swaying’ action that made him so distinctive and does not feather the cue ball as much as before. This means he has quickened up.

The new action was in evidence during his 5-1 victory over Andrew Higginson at the Northern Ireland Trophy in Belfast yesterday.

However, Selby did not need to be at the top of his game as Higginson, playing his first match on TV since he appeared in the 2007 Welsh Open final, struggled.

Selby was never slow in the Eddie Charlton mould. He was merely slower than most of the other top players.

One of the reasons he changed his action is because he is shortly to make his debut in the Premier League where there is a 25 second per shot limit.

He may also have felt himself becoming tired as tournaments wore on because he was expending so much mental energy.

It’s a risk to change something that has been successful. Selby’s gamble is that it will make him even more successful.



The manner in which Mark Allen beat Dominic Dale in the Northern Ireland Trophy last night suggests he has what it takes to be one of snooker’s leading players for the next decade.

There were question marks as to his temperament coming into the new season.

Allen ended the last campaign by letting slip a 9-7 lead over Stephen Hendry at the Crucible in losing 10-9.

It hurt so much that he broke down in tears afterwards.

However, the blow was softened by securing a place in the top 16 after just three seasons. This helped him draw a line under the Hendry defeat and look to the future.

What a potter this 22 year-old from Antrim is. And how fearless as well.

Dale played superbly to recover from 4-1 down to 4-4. At the start of the decider, the momentum was his.

But Allen immediately cracked in a long red and then a few minutes later went for a very difficult pot which could have cost him the match.

It went in and he put together a match winning break. Despite Dale’s recovery, Allen continued to think positively and – crucially – believe in himself.

These are the qualities required to be a champion.

Indeed, Allen is already used to winning having captured the Northern Ireland amateur title at all age levels as well as the European Under 19 Championship, European amateur Championship and World amateur Championship.

It surely cannot be long before he picks up silverware from the professional ranks too.



Michael Holt is one of the nicest people you could meet on the snooker circuit and this is perhaps one of the reasons he has underachieved during his professional career.

Three ranking event quarter-finals is a poor return for a player as talented as Holt but he still has plenty of time to make amends and produced an encouraging performance to beat Fergal O’Brien – last year’s runner-up – in the Northern Ireland Trophy yesterday.

His reward is a clash with defending champion Stephen Maguire live on Eurosport and TG4 this afternoon.

Holty (as he is inevitably known) is notoriously nervy. He lets things get on top of him and I’m sure he would accept that he has, at times, beaten himself.

However, in my opinion he is, in terms of talent, good enough to have been a top 16 player and although he is now outside the top 32 he can still deliver on that potential.

What Holty has to do is heed Steve Davis’s sage advice: play like it means nothing when it means everything.

Of course, this is far easier to say than actually do. Holt’s various temperamental meltdowns are well documented and I won’t annoy him further by documenting them here.

What he needs is to believe in himself: he is a very talented snooker player capable of great things.

That he has not, as yet, achieved them is a sign of the pressure these guys are under.

Handling that pressure is key to success in a game that is often said to be played in the head.

If Michael can keep his head together he is capable of beating Maguire and going a long way in Belfast.

We’ll find out whether that ‘if’ becomes a reality this afternoon.



I've read some criticism of Eurosport for showing Joe Swail v Mark Davis instead of Jimmy White's match against Barry Hawkins at the Northern Ireland Trophy this afternoon so would make the following points:

1) Eurosport has NO SAY in which matches are broadcast.
2) Eurosport is NOT CONSULTED as to which matches are broadcast.

The decision is made by the host broadcaster, in this case TG4, and World Snooker.

I thought the decision to show Swail's match was wrong before the tournament began. Yes, he is on home turf but White is the most popular player snooker has ever seen.

He is popular in Belfast, Birmingham and Belgrade.

This could very well have been his last appearance at a main tour venue. It was his first in a ranking event in the UK for over two years.

These may not be easy calls for the organisers as Swail may have expected, as the local man, to get top billing.

The tournament director, Mike Ganley, is in a difficult position as he is effectively employed by the players and so understandably does not want to upset them.

I wouldn't want his job.

However, snooker is not in the position where it can afford to put its star appeal on non-televised tables.

You may recall this happened with the world final rematch between John Higgins and Mark Selby at the Shanghai Masters a year ago. They were shoved onto an outside table in favour of Stuart Bingham v Stuart Pettman.

What next? Ronnie O'Sullivan playing his matches in the local club?


Ken Doherty will present Ronnie O’Sullivan with a stern opening round test – but has his own potential banana skin to clear first.

Doherty faces Gerard Greene in tonight’s live TV match at the Northern Ireland Trophy.

They’ve played eight times before and it’s four wins apiece, including victory for Greene at Belfast last year.

It is difficult to predict what Greene will do from one tournament to the next. He is capable of some very strong performances – as he proved by coming within a frame of reaching last season’s Royal London Watches Grand Prix final in Aberdeen.

But he is also capable of going to pieces, as he did against Mark Davis in the final qualifying round of the World Championship last March.

What will motivate him against Doherty is the location. Both of Greene’s parents are from Belfast and he will enjoy huge support at the Waterfront Hall.

Doherty, meanwhile, is starting his 20th season as a professional outside the elite top 16 for the first time in 16 years at 18th.

Two years ago he was second in the world rankings. Last year he was fourth.

It is quite a tumble down the list and the Dubliner failed to impress in the first World Series event in Jersey, losing in the first round to local wildcard Gary Britton.

However, I wouldn’t hold much store by that. Ken’s been putting in the work of late and recently won the Lucan Racing Classic, a tournament featuring Ireland’s best eight professionals.

He's been a pro since 1989 but I'm not sure experience counts for much these days - Steve Davis began his 31st season as a professional with defeat to Liang Wenbo last night.

It’s a big prize to get through to play O’Sullivan. It’s a big occasion as both players will attract a fair number of local supporters. It’s a big chance to make the perfect start to the season.

Therefore, my only prediction is plenty of tension when they cross cues this evening.



Good news for snooker fans: the first ranking tournament of the new season gets underway shortly.

The Northern Ireland Trophy has moved from November to August. Hopefully, it will be as well supported as it was last year.

It will be interesting to see what sort of form the players are in at the Waterfront Hall bearing in mind many of them haven't played competitvely for several months.

Last year, Dominic Dale - a player for whom practising is never a chore - won the season's first event, the Shanghai Masters.

The bad news for Mark Selby and Stephen Hendry is that I am tipping them as the men to follow in my new column on Betfair.



The excellent Eurosport website is running a fantasy snooker game this season.

You pick seven players who earn points for you through their performances on the table.

I shall invite doubtlessly deserved ridicule by entering the competition myself.

You can do so here.



Here are the TV schedules for the Northern Ireland Trophy, the first world ranking event of the new season.

There's no coverage of the opening day so the first action is from Monday afternoon.

TG4 (UK time)
Monday, 25 August: 1-6pm, 7:30-8:30pm, 10:30pm–12:30am
Tuesday, 26 August: 1-6pm, 7:30-8:30pm, 10:50pm-12:50am
Wednesday, 27 August: 1-6pm; 7:30-8:30pm, 10:30pm-12:30am
Thursday, 28 August: 1-6pm; 7:30-8:30pm; 10:30pm-12:30am
Friday, 29 August: 1-4pm; 7:30-10:30pm
Saturday, 30 August: 1-4pm; 7:45-10:45pm
Sunday, 31 August: 1-3:30pm; 7:30-10:30pm

Eurosport (UK time)
Monday, 25 August: 1-4.30pm (Eurosport); 7.30-10.30pm (Eurosport2)
Tuesday, 26 August: 1-4.30pm (Eurosport); 7.45-10.30pm (Eurosport2)
Wednesday, 27 August: 1-4.30pm (Eurosport); 7.30-10.30pm (Eurosport2)
Thursday, 28 August: 1-4.30pm (Eurosport); 7.30-10.30pm (Eurosport2)
Friday, 29 August: 1-4.30pm (Eurosport2); 7.30-10.30pm (Eurosport2)
Saturday, 30 August: 1.15-4pm (Eurosport2); 7.30-10.30pm (Eurosport2)
Sunday, 31 August: 1-4pm (Eurosport2); 7.30-10.30pm (Eurosport2)

Please note all times are provisional and subject to change.

Much of the Eurosport coverage is on Eurosport2 because the tournament clashes with the first week of the US Open tennis from New York.

Monday’s TV matches are:
Joe Swail v Mark Davis
Fergal O’Brien v Michael Holt
Ken Doherty v Gerard Greene

This means we don’t get to see Jimmy White, who is appearing in the TV stage of a ranking event in the UK for the first time since the 2006 World Championship.

But we're sure to see the likes of Ronnie O'Sullivan, John Higgins and Maguire as the week progresses.



Barry Hearn played one of the leading roles in snooker’s rise from a professional sport enjoyed by many to primetime public entertainment in the 1980s.

In 1974, he was a chartered accountant with business aspirations and, through his love of sport, became chairman of Lucania, who owned a string of snooker clubs.

The first player he was interested in managing was Vic Harris, a fine player and former English amateur champion.

Harris, though, had spotted a shy, ginger-haired 18 year-old by the name of Steve Davis and suggested to Hearn that he would be a good investment.

And, boy, did the investment pay off. Davis and Hearn cleaned up in every sense during the 1980s snooker boom in Britain.

On the table, Davis won title after title while, off the table, Hearn negotiated a series of lucrative endorsements.

He was the first businessman to recognise the potential of the players away from the table: exhibitions, adverts, TV appearances, a range of after shave, even a hit single, all kept the money rolling in and also kept snooker in the public eye and not just for who beat who in whichever tournament.
If snooker was a circus, Hearn was its ring master.

Other players came and went from the Matchroom stable – among them Terry Griffiths, Dennis Taylor, Willie Thorne, Cliff Thorburn, Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan – but only Davis has remained a constant.

He and Hearn are like brothers. One of the great moments in Crucible history was when Hearn barrelled onto the stage and nearly knocked Davis over after he won his first world title in 1981.

Hearn was to join the board of the WPBSA and many inside the sport became wary of his intentions.

For some reason, there has long been an aversion within snooker to people making money, even when they are making other people rich in the process.

Hearn put his money where his mouth was by staging tournaments such as the World Matchplay and Premier League but grew restless with what he saw as the limitations of the snooker world and turned his attentions to boxing instead.

He has since gone into fishing, poker, ten pin bowling, pool, golf and bowls. He is also chairman of Leyton Orient.

He is a master at turning sports and activities with apparently limited appeal into success stories.

He has boundless enthusiasm and has built up a vast network of contacts in the broadcasting and sponsorship worlds.

Hearn’s Jack-the-Lad persona belies a shrewd business brain. What most people appreciate, though, is his approachability.

The first time I met him I was with my Snooker Scene colleagues Clive Everton and Phil Yates.

Barry looked us up and down and said, “Look, it’s the three generations of the snooker anorak.”

The people behind the new Championship League had first been to World Snooker. They did not like the way they were messed around over several weeks and approached Hearn instead.

Within an hour, he had given them the green light.

And then there’s darts...

Hearn is chairman of the PDC, the breakaway organisation that run a rival World Championship to the one shown on the BBC.

What he has helped to do for darts is remarkable. One of their Premier League nights attracted an attendance of 10,000 people.

The PDC circuit this season is worth £5m.

The World Snooker tour is worth less than £4m.

In their response (sneaked out on their website a day after the media were explicitly told there would be no response) to his statement about the clash of dates between the new Bahrain Championship and a Premier League night at Haywards Heath on November 13, World Snooker did not even mention Hearn or his organisation by name.

They dismissed him instead as a “third party promoter.”

This may be a factually correct definition but does not begin to tell the story of Barry Hearn, what he has done for snooker or what he could do for snooker in the future.


Kirk Stevens, a former world no.4 and icon of the 1980s snooker boom, won the Canadian national title for the sixth time last night with a 6-2 victory over three times winner Tom Finstad.

Stevens, who turned 50 last weekend, was runner-up in the 1985 British Open and a World Championship semi-finalist in 1980 and 1984.



Ronnie O’Sullivan has entered the controversy over players’ logos – by telling his fellow cuemen to stop complaining.

In an interview in the Daily Express, O’Sullivan, who won his third world title last May, said his fellow players should concentrate on what they earn on the table.

He said: “I would much rather the emphasis be on making your money by winning tournaments.

“Sport is about competing and winning. It’s not about how many logos you’ve got. Prize money and earnings should always reflect the person that achieves.

“It’s not a confident way of looking at things to rely too much on other things and a dangerous place to get. It is how it is, go win tournaments and get to the top, there’s plenty of money up there.

“You only have real control over certain things and I know I’m in complete control over the snooker. No one can interfere.

“The politics can get to the other players. Maybe they are not enjoying their snooker so they find something else to think about, sitting about the breakfast table talking about logos, TV contracts and what World Snooker are or aren’t talking about.”

These are very interesting comments. I suspect they won’t go down well with many of Ronnie’s fellow players who would point out that, unlike him, they are not multi-millionaires. His own logo deals are worth more than any other player.

However, the reason for this is because of how many titles he has won. On the table, he has pocketed £5,807,626 and such success has obviously caught the eye of sponsors who want him to wear their logo.

I agree with him that sportsmen and women should be rewarded for being successful.

At the World Championship, O’Sullivan said the following: “I don’t think World Snooker make matters easy for themselves because they don’t listen to what the players say. It doesn’t seem to make any difference what we think. They are making life difficult for themselves with the way they are handling situations.”

This suggests he had himself been ‘thinking about what World Snooker are or aren’t doing.’

However, it is unfair in a way to point this out.


Because one thing Ronnie is as a person is genuine. If he says something he believes it, it’s just that it may be the exact opposite of what he said the previous month, week or even day.

He would have meant it then too, but he has the sort of personality where his attitude is governed by his mood on any given day.

He could very easily contradict himself again next week. This is one of the things that make him so fascinating.

I’d imagine World Snooker would welcome his intervention, although the logo issue will not be a problem in any case at the Crucible in 2009 if a new sponsor can’t be found for the World Championship.


Mark Williams – pictured here picking up his MBE with wife, Jo, and son, Connor – begins the new season in the unusual position of having to start a round earlier than normal having dropped out of the top 16 after 12 years at the end of last season.

Journalistic impartiality is all well and good but I’ve always liked Mark as a player and a person and would, for one, be delighted if he returned to the elite group when the list is revised next May.

He took a little longer than his contemporaries Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins to win a ranking title but did so at the 1996 Welsh Open and has since won a total of 16.

That Welsh success was achieved with a highest break of only 76. It led Sky Sports pundit Willie Thorne to predict that Williams’s victory was a one-off.

Let’s hope for Willie’s sake that he didn’t put money on this.

Ever since, whenever he is asked who he would like to play in his next match, rather than picking either player actually involved in the contest that will decide his opponent Williams instead replies “Willie Thorne.”

What the Welsh Open win illustrated is what has marked out Williams’s career: namely, he is a far from one dimensional snooker player. He finds different ways to win, be it ugly or with flair, and this has been extremely effective over the past decade.

In winning tournaments, he has often scrapped through the early matches before turning on the style in the later rounds.

He is one of the best single ball potters there’s ever been and, crucially, is excellent under pressure. He demonstrated this none more so than in winning the 1998 Wembley Masters on a re-spotted black against Stephen Hendry.

Mark’s character doesn’t always come over to the public. In the main this is because he’s never been interested in publicity.

I’ve heard some say he’s difficult. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a problem with him whenever I’ve interviewed him.

He is a remarkably laid back man. Everyone feels pressure in top level sport but the trick is not to show it. Williams has this nailed down.

I remember the concluding day of his semi-final against Higgins at the 2000 World Championship. John led 14-10 after the morning session and was widely expected to wrap up victory in the evening.

What do players do when contemplating such a heavy defeat? Perhaps go and lie in a darkened room or pace the hotel corridor.

Not Williams. He went out and bought a Billy the Bass dancing fish and brought it into the press room to entertain all and sundry.

I seem to remember the fish danced to Bobby McFerrin’s song ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ which should probably be Williams’ personal theme tune (a word of warning, mind: in a supremely ironic twist of fate, McFerrin was later diagnosed with clinical depression.)

Mark won the semi-final 17-15 and came from 13-7 down to beat his good friend and fellow Welshman Matthew Stevens 18-16 in the final. He was the first Welsh world champion for 21 years and the first left-hander ever to win the title.

Famously, Mark didn’t shake John’s hand before that final session. The Scot later confessed it had caused a mental implosion but I don’t believe for a minute that Williams did it deliberately.

One tactic he has employed down the years, though, is to often not bother about making a century even if one is on.

I think this could be construed as him saying to his opponent: you and I both know I’m good enough to make it but I’m so keen to get on and win the next frame as well that I’m not going to.

There’s nothing wrong with this but if he had applied himself in such situations he would surely have many more than the 212 centuries currently to his name.

As a boy, Williams looked up to Hendry. As a professional, he became Hendry’s best friend on the circuit.

His cheeky disdain for reputations was brought into focus when he beat Hendry 9-2 to win the 1997 British Open. Asked how he felt Mark replied: “I’m gutted. I wanted to beat him 9-1.”

There has been plenty of opportunity for banter on both sides since. I’m sure Hendry was not particularly sympathetic when Williams dropped out of the top 16.

Williams is a big admirer of Steve Davis as well and the respect is mutual which, again, has led to a fair degree of Mickey-taking.

An example: when Davis dropped out of the top 16 in 2000, Mark consoled him by saying “don’t worry, Steve, I can get you some tickets for the Masters.”

He has experienced some bizarre injuries over the years. He once needed stitches in his hand after being bitten while feeding a pig’s ear to his dog.

A journalist colleague of mine once drove a golf cart into him in Thailand. Williams had to pull out of the 2006 Grand Prix after damaging his wrist in the gym.

After he won the 2000 World Championship he left the trophy outside on his drive overnight. Luckily, nobody walked off with it.

He’s very funny and not at all malicious. Unfortunately, the public generally don’t see this side of him.

He once said in a newspaper interview that he played snooker primarily to make money. Inevitably, some shook their head at this but they should remember that Williams hails from a working class family in South Wales where, as a boy, the idea of becoming a millionaire most have seemed remote.

After he won his second world title in 2003 he visibly took his foot off the gas. The wheels came off just after he won the LG Cup to complete a ‘grand slam’ of all four BBC televised tournaments.

He had won his opening match in 48 consecutive ranking events and we journalists – nice folk that we are – were so convinced he would make it to 50 that a plan was hatched to buy a cake.

Fortunately we didn’t part with any dubiously earned cash because his run came to an end at the 2003 UK Championship.

Aside from winning the 2006 China Open, he endured a rotten couple of years following this defeat and will start the new campaign at 22nd in the world rankings.

However, like Jimmy White, Williams will not be too proud to go to Prestatyn or Sheffield to play in the qualifiers.

He is not that sort of person. He will merely turn up, play and try his best. If that doesn’t yield success he will go home and wait for his next match. He will make neither a fuss nor excuses.

Williams is far too good to be outside the top eight, never mind the top 16.

I get the feeling he’ll be back.



Thanks to all of you who entered our competition for a free subscription to Snooker Scene magazine. We had close to 100 entries.

I have brought the official Snooker Scene hat into play and picked out the following winners:

Ruslan Korynenko, Ukraine
Earl Waters, Canada
Claudia Sowoidnich, Germany

The answers were:

1) John Spencer was the first player to win the World Championship at the Crucible
2) Ken Doherty was the opponent when Stephen hendry made seven centuries in the 1994 UK Championship final
3) Ronnie O'Sullivan has won 13 ranking titles in this decade


Our competition to win three free year-long subscriptions to Snooker Scene magazine closes at 5pm British time today.

To stand a chance of winning, you need to correctly answer the three following questions:

1) Who was the first player to win the World Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield?
2) Who was the opponent when Stephen Hendry made a record seven centuries in a UK Championship final?
3) How many ranking tournaments has Ronnie O'Sullivan won in this decade (2000-2008)?

DO NOT post your answers below.

Email them to snookersceneblog@aol.com.



Barry Hearn’s Matchroom organisation has indicated it will sue for breach of contract if any of the four players scheduled to play in the Premier League at Haywards Heath on November 13 instead compete in the Bahrain Championship, the new ranking event announced today.

Matchroom has promoted the League since 1987. It is shown each Thursday night on Sky Sports in the UK and many other TV channels around the world.

Steve Davis is managed by Hearn so even if he qualifies for Bahrain it is currently inconceivable he will play in the final stages.

The other three players involved are John Higgins, Mark Selby and Ding Junhui, who now find themselves, through no fault of their own, in an almost impossible position.

Unless something is sorted out, they will be sued by Matchroom if they play in Bahrain.

If they don’t play in Bahrain it will devalue the new event and obviously harm their ranking positions.

Matchroom say they were told by World Snooker in April that they could hold a League night on November 13 as there would not be any other snooker on.

They also say that World Snooker has not contacted them to tell them there is now a tournament cutting across this date.

In a statement, Hearn said: “I am very disappointed that this situation has arisen and I can’t understand why World Snooker has not discussed dates and timings with us.

“Our dates for the Premier League were set in April of this year following consultation with World Snooker, venues were booked and the seven competing players were contracted in May.

“As the Premier League is televised live by Sky Sports I’m afraid that we will be sticking to our dates and insisting that the four competing players on the Thursday night duly honour their contracts.

“It’s a shame that World Snooker made no effort to avoid conflicting schedules and will subsequently be losing four top players from their event.

“I don’t imagine that the players concerned will be too happy either.”

As I always do when there’s a story concerning them I asked World Snooker for a response. As they always do, they refused to give one.

However, Pat Mooney, the manager of John Higgins, said: “John is contracted to play in the Premier League and intends to honour his contract but we will look at the legal position with regards to his ranking points as he will be disadvantaged by not going to Bahrain.”

A lot of people will ask why Matchroom don’t simply move the Premier League night. However, tickets have already gone on sale and they have a contract with Sky to provide snooker on the agreed dates.

If they do not fulfil this contract they may themselves be sued.

So what happens next?

Honestly, I’ve no idea. This is unchartered territory and a very unfortunate situation.

Everyone will welcome a new ranking event but Hearn is a businessman and therefore entitled to ask why he should lose out as a result of it.

One thing I do know, though, is this: if it comes to a straight fight between Barry Hearn and World Snooker then it could end up being about far more than who plays where on November 13.


It is very good news indeed that there will be a ranking event in Bahrain in November.

Credit must go in particular to Peter Ebdon, who lives in Dubai and has been closely involved in the negotiations.

These included a trip to Bahrain’s F1 track in such sweltering heat that it would have caused lesser men than Ebdon to pass out.

Peter will be talking about the new Bahrain event on Talksport between 8-9pm this evening.

There will now be at least eight ranking tournaments this season, the highest number for four years.

We should not get carried away by proclaiming this as the start of a brave new era for the sport but it is certainly a major step in the right direction.

However, World Snooker must have collective amnesia if they believe this is the first ranking event to be staged in the Middle East.

The Dubai Classic began life as an invitation event promoted by Barry Hearn’s Matchroom organisation in 1988.

The then WPBSA administration got hold of the contract to make it into a ranking tournament. For this and other reasons too complicated to detail here, Hearn ordered his stable of players – among them Steve Davis, Terry Griffiths and Dennis Taylor – not to play in the 1989 event.

The Dubai Classic grew into one of the most popular tournaments on the circuit, played as it was in beautiful surroundings amid lavish hospitality.

In six stagings, Stephen Hendry won the title three times, John Parrott twice and Alan McManus once.

It has not been staged since 1994. The Bahrain Championship offers a good chance to reassert the sport’s presence in the Middle East and its addition to the calendar should be welcomed.

One other point: Sir Rodney Walker, the World Snooker chairman, says in the press release that, “we intend to continue to exploit the potential of markets where snooker is popular, and to provide great entertainment to an ever-growing international fan base.”

Outside of the UK and China, there is no country in the world where snooker is as popular as it is in Germany.

The recent World Series event in Berlin attracted huge crowds and across Eastern Europe in countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Hungary snooker is increasing in popularity all the time.

Now that this Middle East event has been secured, World Snooker should turn its attentions to continental Europe and, in particular, the German market that is currently untapped.



News update...

Jimmy White will qualify for the final stages of the Northern Ireland Trophy if he beats Tom Ford at Prestatyn this afternoon.

Jimmy is starting the new season at a career low of 65th in the world rankings and so has to start in the very first round of each event.

When you’ve played in the great arenas of snooker this is a comedown to say the least but Jimmy is not too proud to go to Pontin’s and has already pulled off two good victories.

He came from 60 points down to win the decider against Atthasit Mahitthi in the first round and then edged the methodical Paul Davies 5-4 in the second.

If Jimmy does qualify for Belfast he may have to swim to the Waterfront Hall as the city currently resembles a modern day Atlantis.

Torrential rain has seen roads flooded and parts of Belfast are cut off.

Hopefully the waters will subside before the Northern Ireland Trophy kicks off a week today.

Lee Spick may face disciplinary action after conceding his match against Joe Delaney after going 4-0 down.

Sportsmen and women get frustrated at all levels – you should see me on the rare occasions that I lose a game of pool – but there is nothing to admire in giving up early.

For the opposite attitude, look at Britain’s Paula Radcliffe in last night’s marathon in Beijing. Severely affected by injury, she was nonetheless determined to finish the race, and that was over 26 miles.

In golf, Sandy Lyle walked off the course at the Open this year before completing his first round. He later apologised.

Of course, Ronnie O’Sullivan infamously chucked in the towel against Stephen Hendry at the 2006 UK Championship.

All sort of excuses were made on his behalf but the harsh fact is that no matter how fed up you are, you just have to take your punishment.

Any sport would crumble in terms of spectator appeal if this became the norm rather than the exception.

(Not everyone agrees. A player told me he didn’t see anything wrong with what Ronnie did and that he himself had felt like doing it many times. I reminded him that though he may have felt like doing it, he never actually had. He made a good point, though, that in athletic sports such as tennis, players can feign injury to get off the court if they’ve had enough.)

One man who is definitely not a quitter is snooker’s MC Rob Walker who has been bringing his unique brand of enthusiasm to the BBC’s sailing coverage at the Olympics.

Rob has spent many an hour perched on a boat in choppy seas where I keep expecting him to fall into the water mid-sentence.

To his credit, he is yet to use the phrase ‘let’s get the boys on the boat.’

Quite a few of you may be wondering why snooker and other cue sports aren’t part of the Games.

I honestly believe that had Ding Junhui been born five years earlier than he was then snooker would be in the Beijing programme. When the Chinese won the rights to stage the Games seven years ago they immediately identified the sports they were best at and ploughed money into ensuring they had the best possible chance of winning medals.

Snooker would have been one of those sports.

This article offers an excellent summation of what has gone wrong. As they report, the earliest snooker will be in the Olympics will be 2020.

The Sunday Telegraph today carries an article reminding us that it is not only snooker that is struggling for sponsorship in the current economic climate.

Some really good news. Jack Lisowski has had his last cycle of chemotherapy and is now in remission from cancer.

It leaves Jack free to get on with his snooker career once again. Good luck to him.

Finally, happy birthday to Kirk Stevens (pictured above) who turns – would you believe it – 50 today.

Kirk, in his white suit (although I've managed to find the only pic of him not wearing it), was one of the great icons of the 1980s snooker boom. He will forever be remembered for his stylish 147 at the 1984 Masters.

His career went off the rails when he became addicted to drugs and he returned to Canada where he has had a number of jobs, including selling cars and working as a lumberjack.

But Kirk can clearly still play as, right now, he is taking part in the Canadian national Championship in Toronto where he’s already made a break of 110 in the group phase.



Don't forget there are still three days left to enter our competition to win one of three subscriptions to Snooker Scene magazine.

To stand a chance of winning, you need to correctly answer the three following questions:

1) Who was the first player to win the World Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield?
2) Who was the opponent when Stephen Hendry made a record seven centuries in a UK Championship final?
3) How many ranking tournaments has Ronnie O'Sullivan won in this decade (2000-2008)?

DO NOT post your answers below. Email them to snookersceneblog@aol.com.

The closing date is August 19.



As it is now eight minutes past 5pm on Friday evening I think it's safe to say World Snooker has failed to keep the promise of its chairman, Sir Rodney Walker, to announce a new event in the Middle East this week.

There may well be very good reasons why this has not been announced but I know many readers of this blog will reflect that a promise is a promise and should be kept.

At the very least World Snooker should have said why they would not, after all, be announcing the tournament this week.

Let us hope this event - which would be good news for snooker - is actually a done deal and will be announced soon.


Good luck to all those starting out in the new ranking tournament season at the qualifiers for the Northern Ireland Trophy at Pontin’s in Prestatyn today.

In particular, good luck to the eleven players competing on the main tour for the first time.

They are Stephen Craigie, Andrew Pagett, Daniel Wells, Vincent Muldoon, Li Hang, David Grace, Andy Lee, Michael Georgiou, Lewis Roberts, Adiyta Mehta and Kuldesh Johal.

Craigie could be one to watch. At 18, he is already the EBSA European under 19 champion and comes from a talented family – his younger brother, Sam, is also a very promising junior.

Craigie senior began playing at the age of six and made his first century break using the line up routine in practice at just eight.

At 12, he represented England for the first time in an under 14 international match and won all but one of his 18 frames.

At the same age he made North East snooker history by becoming the youngest winner of a pro-am.

Stephen and Sam were given a full sized table by Wallsend police station and their parents have built a snooker room at home where it has been installed.

Stephen’s progress continued apace, winning more junior titles. At 14, he received a Rising Star award from Sir Bobby Robson, the legendary former England and Newcastle FC manager.

Four years on he’s a professional and, although the circuit is notoriously tough for newcomers, could prove a handful.



This is hardly going to make anyone in the snooker world feel any better...

888.com have today announced they are extending a deal to sponsor Sevilla FC to 2011.

The gaming company began sponsoring the Spanish side in 2006 - the same year they started to sponsor the World Championship.

Last week, they cut short their snooker deal two years early blaming the economic climate.

Of course, Spanish football is keenly followed right around the world, but the timing of the two announcements doesn't do much to alter the perception that snooker is struggling, whether that perception is true or not.



And so we reach the end of the ten greatest moments countdown with the reveal of what I consider to be no.1.

First, here's a reminder of 10-2:

10) Terry Griffiths wins world title at first attempt
9) Doug Mountjoy wins second UK title ten years after first
8) Pot Black first broadcast
7) Ding beats Hendry to win China Open
6) Hendry beats White...again
5) Steve Davis makes first televised 147
4) Alex Higgins wins second world title
3) Ronnie O'Sullivan makes maximum in record time
2) Taylor beats Davis on final black

And the winner is...


As spur of the moment presents go it must rank as the most inspired choice ever.

Stephen Hendry received his 6x3 table at Christmas 1981. Four years later he was on the professional circuit.

He first competed at the Crucible in 1986. Four years after this he became the youngest ever world champion and remains so to this day.

This in itself is worthy of inclusion in this list but to end the decade as he began it by winning a seventh world title – a record in the modern age – beats anything else.

When Hendry lost to Ken Doherty in the 1997 final and then to Jimmy White in the first round in 1998 there were those who wondered if he had entered into a decline.

Certainly his 9-0 hammering by Marcus Campbell in the first round of the 1998 UK Championship boosted the view that his best years were behind him.

But like Steve Davis, Hendry possesses the same rare inner steel only found in great champions and went back to the drawing board, determined to rebuild his game and prove everyone wrong.

He faced one of the toughest possible fields at the Crucible in 1999.

In the first round he was pitted against the rising star Paul Hunter, who led 8-7 before Hendry won 10-8.

James Wattana, still very dangerous, was his second round opponent and held Hendry to 7-7 before the Scot won the last six frames to win 13-7.

In the quarter-finals, he overwhelmed the talented Matthew Stevens 13-5 before the match of the tournament against Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Commentating for the BBC, Clive Everton described the third session as “snooker from the Gods.”

That it was. Both players were on top of their games. Hendry made three centuries, O’Sullivan two, agonisingly missing the pink on 134 with a maximum waiting.

In the end, it came down to a test of nerve. Hendry was stronger when it mattered and went through 17-13.

His opponent in the final was Mark Williams, who had won three ranking titles that season.

Hendry raced into a 4-0 lead and would win 18-11 to end the 1990s as he had begun it – as king of the snooker world.

It was the realisation of years of effort, commitment and belief. At times in the 90s he played better than anyone has ever played and has continued to play to a very high standard into the 21st century.

Ultimately there is only one test of greatness in sport: what have you won?

Stephen Hendry has won more of what counts in the modern era than anyone else.

At his best, he was the best.

That night in 1999 he confirmed his status as the greatest player who ever lived.


Perhaps World Snooker's new motto is 'ask and ye shall receive.'

On July 24, I wrote this.

Today, World Snooker announced this.

Not everyone is convinced the open draw is a good idea but I think it will create great excitement.

Also, to clarify the last time this happened: Bob Chaperon WAS NOT the only winner under this format at the British Open.

He won it the first time it was used in 1990. However, in 1991 the winner was the then world champion, Stephen Hendry. In the final he beat Gary Wilkinson, who went on to win the World Matchplay title later that year while Jimmy White and Steve Davis were the losing semi-finalists.

The champion the last time it was used in 1992 was White. He beat James Wattana in the final and the losing semi-finalists were Ken Doherty and Davis.

So the idea that all the seeds will go out is nonsense, not least because the top 16 are playing qualifiers in the first round as normal.

As in any tournament, the cream will rise to the top.

There may be shocks, but they happen at every tournament. Whoever plays the best during the week will win.

An open draw is far preferable to the round robin format of the last two years. True, the public will not know when, for example, Ronnie O'Sullivan is playing in the last 16 but there is of course no guarantee he will get through the first round anyway.

This format DOES NOT distort the rankings. Everyone outside the top 16 has to qualify in the usual way. It's only an open draw from the last 16 onwards.

This may add some additional interest to the Grand Prix and, for this reason, I applaud the BBC and World Snooker for giving it a try.


Sir Rodney Walker, the chairman of World Snooker, said in his interview on BBC Radio 5 Live a week ago that prize money had risen by “a quarter of a million” for the new season.

We’ve checked this and, using World Snooker’s own figures, can reveal the increases for each tournament.

World Championship: £61,000
Masters: £22,000
UK Championship: £34,600
Grand Prix: £32,100
Shanghai Masters: £25,000
China Open: £25,000
Welsh Open: £0
Northern Ireland Trophy: £0

This equals a total increase of £199,700.

You’ll notice this is not a “quarter of a million” but, of course, does not include any new tournaments, including the one in the Middle East.

The prize money breakdowns are interesting in that the first prizes have only gone up in two tournaments – the Chinese ones.

Instead, it is lower down, most notably in the last 32 round, where the money has chiefly increased.

Bizarrely, the losing semi-finalists in the Shanghai Masters and China Open will receive £3,000 LESS than they would have last season.

My personal opinion is that prize money in sport should reward success, not turning up.

On a related note, some people who read this blog may not have heard of Altium or the deal they offered the players in 2002, so allow me to fill you in...

They were backed by an investment bank and wanted to run a circuit of 64 for at least five years, retaining all commercial rights themselves as in, for example, Formula One.

As it transpired, the players would have played for £9.5m more than they ended up competing for had they voted for Altium.

The vote between Altium and the alternative bidder – World Snooker Enterprises, who were not investing a single penny – was split 36-36.

After a few weeks of stalemate in the subsequent negotiations, Altium walked away.

World Snooker immediately cut prize money but still survived what was effectively a vote of confidence in an EGM.

Altium lost for three main reasons:

1) Players were unwilling to lose ‘control’ of the game and give it to a financial organisation.
2) The cutting of the circuit to 64 players obviously meant many would be off the tour – although a fully funded Challenge Tour was part of the deal, worth far more than the current PIOS.
3) Ian Doyle and his players supported Altium and a lot of players would rather be worse off than have Doyle on the winning side.

I don’t personally see the value in the players having ‘control’ of a governing body when it actually disadvantages them financially.

World Snooker Enterprises were awarded a ten-year contract but it was terminated after only ten months when they failed to deliver on their promises.

£9.5m seems a lot of money to turn down. Actually, it is a lot of money to turn down.

This all happened before Sir Rodney’s involvement in snooker and he is to be credited with bringing financial stability to the game.

However, the increase on offer this season is nowhere near what the players could have played for had they gone with Altium.

It is inconceivable that they would vote the same way were the original deal back on the table today.

Unfortunately for them, it isn’t.



Snooker Scene has been published every month since January 1971 (although it was originally called World Snooker).

The magazine has, every year, documented the game on and off table and provides a living history of professional and amateur snooker and billiards.

We recognise that many readers of this blog have never even seen it so, in a fit of generosity, are giving away year-long subscriptions to the magazine for three lucky people.

To stand a chance of winning, you need to correctly answer the three following questions:

1) Who was the first player to win the World Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield?
2) Who was the opponent when Stephen Hendry made a record seven centuries in a UK Championship final?
3) How many ranking tournaments has Ronnie O'Sullivan won in this decade (2000-2008)?

DO NOT post your answers below. Email them to snookersceneblog@aol.com.

The closing date is August 19.

Good luck!



Like the black pudding industry, any sport – snooker included – relies on a steady supply of fresh blood.

If new faces and young stars cannot be found then the sport stagnates.

Snooker has always enjoyed a mix of old stagers and young pretenders but there seem to be fewer newcomers making an impact than in previous years.

Ding Junhui apart, there hasn’t been a ranking event winner under the age of 21 since Paul Hunter won the 1998 Welsh Open as a 19 year-old.

Perhaps the way to bring more through is to do what the WPBSA did in 1991 and throw the professional game wide open to anyone who wants to play.

At the moment there are only 96 players on the pro circuit. This resembles a closed shop and the labyrinthine qualifying structure means progress towards the final stages is akin to swimming through glue.

In 1991, it was much simpler: you paid your money and you took your chance.

It meant months and months and months of snooker, firstly in clubs and then, from 1992, at the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool. It was here that the careers of John Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams began alongside hundreds of other hopefuls.

Many of these players weren’t up to it at all. They turned pro for reasons of either vanity or delusion.

However, they and the 700 or so others cueing up at Blackpool helped raise fortunes for the WPBSA which they were able to plough back into staging tournaments.

Such a move would enable them to do similar today.

It would also bring in an influx of new faces and may provide scope for regional qualifying in what is supposed to be a world game (let’s face it, it can’t really be when only 13 players on the main tour are from outside Great Britain and Ireland).

I can’t be the only person who thinks it’s absurd that Chinese players have to come to the UK to qualify for tournaments in China.

The old guard in the early 1990s were against going open. Their view was that players should earn their place in the pro ranks, not merely pay to play.

Then again, the old guard are always against anything new. That’s why they’re the old guard.

There are, though, reasonable arguments against going open again. The main one is this: it would require a huge feat of organisation.

Blackpool in the 90s resembled a snooker factory. If it was Monday it’d be the Asian Open qualifiers; Tuesday would be the Dubai Classic and so on.

O’Sullivan and co spent months playing and playing to claw their way through round after round.

Pontin’s in Prestatyn could conceivably stage this today but it would take a long time to complete.

However, even if the WPBSA charged every interested player £2,000 to enter you could well get as many as 600 doing so. This would mean £1.2m going straight into the coffers.

Although Higgins, O’Sullivan and Williams had a lot of matches to play, some of the earlier rounds were against low quality players and enabled them to get on winning runs and build up some confidence.

I have no doubt these three outstanding players would have made it under any system but in some ways it is tougher today, even though there are fewer matches to play.

Take Judd Trump. Anyone who has seen him play knows how good he is. But when he turned pro his first match, in the Grand Prix qualifiers, was against the vastly experienced Fergal O’Brien – a former British Open champion, ex-top 16 player and, as everyone knows, hard as nails.

Trump lost and went on to the next qualifying event, for the UK Championship. His first round opponent here was Ding Junhui, who would go on to win the title.

This is about as tough as a start to a pro career as it is possible to get. At Prestatyn, there are a number of players determined not to lose and, in that way, preventing some of the talent coming through.

Going open would be an option to reignite interest in the game. Oddly, the other way of doing so would be to do the complete opposite and cut the main tour to 48 or even 32 players.

If this happened everyone would know that it represented the absolute elite of the sport – a bit like the top division in various football, rugby and cricket leagues around the world.

There would be no qualifying and the players would be easier to market because you could guarantee they would each be at every event.

The WPBSA could then run the circuit on purely commercial grounds without having to worry about what the world no.80 would make of their decisions.

The secondary tour would also increase in prestige because of the quality of players on it. TV companies could well become interested in showing its events, which doesn’t happen now with the PIOS.

Would this ever happen? Unlikely. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas or, to put it more politely, players want to be on the main tour.

Even if the second tour is awash with riches, players want to be on the main tour.

Even if there is no money available – as there isn’t in the first two rounds of ranking events – players want to be on the main tour.

Why? Because all sportsmen and women believe they can do better than they are currently doing. And if they didn’t believe this there wouldn’t be much point carrying on.

However, the problem right now is that we have a rather muddy compromise between the two extremes.

Going open or going elite would shake things up and – who knows – may persuade sponsors that professional snooker is making an effort to bring about an upturn in its own fortunes.



888.com have revealed why they terminated their contract to sponsor the World Championship three years into a five-year contract.

Their statement reads:

“888 can confirm that following a very successful collaboration with World Snooker which delivered excellent television exposure for the 888 brand it has ended its sponsorship of the event with immediate effect.

“The advertising environment in the UK, with regard to gaming operators, has changed significantly since January 2006, when the initial agreement was signed. 888’s marketing strategy is constantly evolving to reflect current market circumstances and can now be much broader than two years ago; an exciting opportunity for the company.

“However, 888 will continue to be involved as associate sponsor with the Grand Prix and the UK Championship until their contract with World Snooker ends at the end of 2008.

“888 has the highest regard and respect for World Snooker as an organisation and is confident the World Snooker Championship will continue to attract sell-out crowds for the most coveted prize in the sport.”

As you will see, the departing sponsor makes it clear there has been no fallout with World Snooker.

Indeed, it is hard to see how World Snooker could have treated 888 any better than they did, giving them as they did a logo space on every player’s waistcoat, considerable signage at tournament venues and even allowing green ribbons on the famous old silver trophy.

I thought 888 were excellent sponsors. World Snooker’s general attitude to the media is one of disdain – which is why they attract so much negative publicity – but 888 were the exact opposite. They were enthusiastic, co-operative and very friendly.

They helped pay for the Snooker Writers Association’s annual awards, dinner and handbook – gestures that were very much appreciated by the media.

It’s a shame their involvement in snooker has come to such an abrupt end.


I understand that Bahrain is the likely location of the tournament in the Middle East World Snooker will announce next week.

I am intrigued to know if this will be a ranking event and what the prize fund will be. Any new tournament is to be welcomed, but players will not welcome this one if it is not open to all of them.

Sir Rodney Walker, the World Snooker chairman, said on BBC Radio 5 Live that it would take place “later this year.” Looking at the calendar, there is only really November free, although every week is taken up currently with the Premier League.

More likely he meant "later this season" which would make February the favourite.

Anyway, Sir Rodney solemnly promised the new event would be announced on Monday.

Let’s hope this is a promise which is kept.



So much for holidays...

World Snooker has written to its players informing them that the sponsors of the game’s two biggest events have terminated their contracts with immediate effect.

888.com will no longer sponsor the World Championship. They signed a five-year deal in 2006 but are ending it after only three.

Saga Insurance has withdrawn its support of the Wembley Masters.

Both companies invoked early termination clauses in their contracts. According to World Snooker, the reason given in each case is the current problems in the financial markets.

This news is about as bad as it gets for the game and, in particular, for the governing body.

When the 888.com deal was originally announced, World Snooker chairman Sir Rodney Walker said: "I believe this is the first step in a transformation which will change the commercial face of snooker in the future.”

Oddly, there is no mention of the double sponsorship blow on the governing body's official website.

World Snooker told its players that they “ask for your further co-operation in assisting World Snooker to promote the game and our organisation in a positive light.”

In other words: “don’t criticise us for this.”

However, I suspect most players will reflect that while to lose one major sponsor can be seen as unlucky, to lose two suggests a big problem with the way the sport is being administered.

For the sake of snooker, everyone connected with it will hope replacement sponsors can be found, but I suspect the next few months will be rocky to say the least.



This blog, or rather this blogger, is taking a holiday so there won't be any new posts for a week.

Don't forget, the August issue of Snooker Scene is out next Wednesday.



It has been said that only being there could do justice to the extraordinary drama of Dennis Taylor’s capture of the 1985 world title, but I’m not so sure.

Snooker and colour television had long been proved a perfect match and this was night they came together to deliver sporting theatre that will endure long after most other world finals are forgotten.

Steve Davis was looking for his fourth world title and third in succession. When he led 8-0, a heavy, humiliating defeat for Taylor seemed a certainty.

It is to his great credit that he clawed his way back into contention – a testament to his character and self belief.

At just after 11pm it was 17-17. There then followed a frame that, had it been the first of the opening day, would have caused even hardened snooker fans to turn off.

As it was, 18.5 million viewers in Britain were entranced.

True, the safety was of high quality but there was much understandable tension. The highest break was just 22.

It took 69 minutes to resolve. Taylor is, of course, remembered for potting the final black but he also potted a great brown, a great blue and a great pink to take it down to the final ball.

Had Davis won it would not have been any less of a spectacle but would have lost something of its appeal: Davis was supposed to win. That’s what he did.

That he missed the black, cutting it back into a blind pocket, was proof that even the greats are fallible.

Taylor’s pot, followed by his much earned celebration, are perhaps snooker’s most famous images.

This was the peak of the 1980s snooker boom. It was the final vindication of the BBC’s decision to throw its weight behind the green baize game, which became an instant favourite with the viewing public after the introduction of colour television.

Even Davis, heartbroken by his failure to kill the match off, managed an ironic nod towards this as he was interviewed by David Vine.

“It was all there in black and white,” he said.



I remember Stephen Hendry saying in the early 1990s that being world no.1 was more important to him than being world champion because “it shows you’re the best player for the whole year.”

Mark Selby takes the opposite view.

“Winning the World Championship is more important to me than getting to no.1,” he said.

“If I was to become world champion but never ever get to no.1 I don’t suppose anybody could ever take it away from me.

“You have someone like Ronnie O'Sullivan, if he was to be sitting at no.4 people would still say he’s the best player in the world so as far as ranking goes, it's just personal preference. Everyone has their own opinion.”

I think Hendry today may agree with Selby. The reason is that snooker players no longer play all year round because of the depleted calendar. Indeed, Hendry hasn’t played for three months.

There is kudos to being world no.1. Very few players have held this position and it is an indicator of form and consistency.

However, winning at the Crucible is generally considered to be a better achievement, not least because it’s what the public remember.

Also, the rankings are distorted in any case by the World Championship and its huge points tariff. Getting to the second round is equal to reaching the final of most tournaments.

The world champion, if not already the world no.1, is installed as world no.2, which makes a mockery of the rankings and, as Ian McCulloch found out three years ago, can be grossly unfair.

So I understand Selby’s point.

Increasingly, the snooker year has become geared towards the World Championship and little else.