Snooker legend Cliff Thorburn has warmed up for his first high profile playing engagement in a decade by taking a trip down memory lane.

Thorburn, a former world champion and world no.1, came through the pool and snooker hustling scene in North America in the late 1960s/early 70s.

And the 61 year-old Canadian revealed that it could sometimes be a dangerous way to make a living.

“I was 25 before I turned professional but I’d been banned from shooting pool in Victoria, then banned from Vancouver, then banned from Ontario. So we moved to San Francisco," he said.

“Then one night I won a lot of money but then had to lose it all – and a bit more – back to the guys I had taken it from in the first place when one of them opened his jacket and flashed a gun.

“I knew then I’d gone as far as I could go and the only place left after that was to come to the UK where the audience and sponsors would pay you to play.

“After the gun incident, suddenly wet, windy Tuesday nights in Blackpool, Derby and the likes seemed quite attractive.”

Thorburn is among the eight man field for the 110sport Legends event at Glenrothes this weekend.

He tackles Alex Higgins, who he beat 18-16 to win the 1980 World Championship.

And the ‘Grinder’ exploded the myth often propagated that snooker was all just a bit of fun in the boom years of the 1980s.

“It would be fair to say that Alex and I were not always on speaking terms way back then but that was the same as a lot of players because it was serious business,” he said.

“Look at some of the pictures before finals and you would often see the two players looking as if they really had no time for their opponent because it meant so much.

“Nowadays the players are asking how the wives and kids are, where they went on holiday. I don’t think it has the same intensity as it had back then.”

You can read a typically entertaining interview with Higgins in today’s Scottish Sun here.



The eight players who comprise the field for the upcoming 110sport Legends event have between them won 180 professional titles.

These range from the World Championship all the way down to the one frame Pot Black, with all manner of weird and wonderful events in between, the vast majority no longer still going.

Stephen Hendry, Ken Doherty, Cliff Thorburn, Alex Higgins, Jimmy White, Tony Knowles, Nigel Bond and Tony Drago have between them appeared in 286 finals.

Of course, there are two types of player in this event: those who are still playing professionally and those returning to the limelight after a few years under the radar.

Thorburn still plays exhibitions and coaches in his native Canada. You can bet the ‘Grinder’ will be fully prepared for this weekend’s action.

Higgins also plays on the exhibition circuit, usually with White, and will be hoping to do better than in his last competitive outing in the Irish Professional Championship two years when he was beaten 5-0 by Fergal O’Brien.

Knowles plays in the World Championship qualifiers every year and last season won a couple of matches.

The action will be available to view on 110sport.tv next week.

Don’t think this is just an exercise in nostalgia. Although form deteriorates with age, pride of performance does not.

For those who got into snooker through the TV boom of the 1980s, this will be like going back in time.

When Thorburn played Higgins in the 1980 final you could have described the internet to someone and they would have assumed you were either mad or drunk or possibly both. This was in an age in which there were only three British television channels.

Some of the faces may be a little weathered now but the names remain legendary.

Seniors snooker has been talked of for many years but it is now finally here and I’m looking forward to seeing some of the players who built the game as we know it now doing battle once again.



Experience has so far triumphed over youth at the Masters qualifiers with only one player (Ben Woollaston) in the quarter-finals aged under 30.

Matthew Stevens, the 2000 Wembley champion, will face Andrew Higginson.

Former Scottish Open champion David Gray meets Rory McLeod while Anthony Hamilton tackles Barry Pinches in a match unlikely to be over quickly.

And Woollaston now meets Michael Holt.

Stevens, Gray and Hamilton have all played at the Masters but the other five would be debutants.



The race is on for a place in the Wembley Masters and Ken Doherty must be one of the front runners.

Last season, Doherty arrived at Pontin’s in Prestatyn having spent 15 years in the elite top 16.

It was a comedown and took some getting used to. The 1997 world champion must have been wondering how this could have happened so suddenly.

He didn’t get used to it last year but he has now and has won all four of his matches at the North Wales qualifying school so far this season.

Doherty, now 40, won the Masters qualifying event in 1991 when he was 22.

Much has happened in his career since but he still possesses great guile and, with his confidence high, he has a spring in his step at the moment.

He competed at Wembley for 17 successive seasons until 2008.

It was the tournament where he suffered his worst moment as a professional when he missed the black off its spot on 140 in the 2000 final against Matthew Stevens, thus missing out on a sports car worth £80,000 and a slice of snooker history 16 years after Kirk Stevens made the first Masters maximum.

Ken thinks he will be remembered for that shot. He won’t be. He’ll be remembered for being world champion but it’s also true that the likes of me invariably bring it up when writing about him in connection with the game's premier invitation event.

The Irishman starts out against Michael White, who beat him in one of the pro-am finals at Prestatyn recently.

If not Doherty for the title then who?

The likes of Ricky Walden, Jamie Cope and last year’s winner, Judd Trump, are always worth following as is Stuart Bingham, the only player to win this qualifying event twice.

And Matt Selt is yet to lose a match at Prestatyn this season so has to be fancied to do well.

How about an outsider? Well, experience can only be a help so Fergal O’Brien is my dark horse.

It’s nine years since he lost 10-9 in the final to Paul Hunter, the first of Paul’s three terrific comebacks.

Fergal tells me he has joined Lucan Harriers and is now running up to six miles at a time.

This doesn’t mean he is going to start storming back up the rankings but it suggests a positive attitude if nothing else.



For the last few years the BBC has been showing live coverage of both tables from their snooker events on the red button for viewers in the UK.

Most viewers access this through the Freeview set top box on channels 301 and 302.

They won't be able to any more as channel 302 is being axed next week because it will be used for a HD channel initially only available in London and Manchester.

On the face of it, this means that only one table will be available to view from December's UK Championship, and even that is not guaranteed as there will be other things having to go on channel 301 as well.

The BBC today issued a rather vague statement, which said: "we are doing everything we can in conjunction with our colleagues in Sport to schedule events to ensure that we try and accommodate all the major sporting events on Freeview."

That is some way short of a promise, or even a plan.

The picture should become clearer when the UK Championship begins.

However, the fear is that the next time the presenter tells you to press the red button when a match is poised at a vital stage because the BBC need to get off for some quiz show, you may be disappointed.

Thankfully, they will still show both tables on their website and Sky customers will not be affected by the changes.


2) NEIL ROBERTSON (Australia)

Years as professional: 1998-
Ranking titles: 4
Ranking finals: 4
Other titles: 0
Highest ranking: 7
Years in top 16: 4
Crucible appearances: 5

One of the best long potters the game has ever seen, Robertson combines a ferocious talent with a bit of Aussie swagger.

He played snooker as a child because his father ran a club in Melbourne and first turned professional as a 16 year-old in 1998. It had all come a bit too quickly for him and he was relegated.

With the cost of travelling to the UK and entering tournaments spiralling, he had thoughts of quitting but won the IBSF world junior title and returned to the circuit.

His first ranking event quarter-final came at the 2004 European Open in Malta and a year later he became only the fifth Australian to play at the Crucible.

He was improving all the time and his move to Cambridge, though difficult at first, eventually saw him settle into life on the professional circuit.

In the 2006/07 season, Robertson won two ranking titles, the Grand Prix and Welsh Open.

Perhaps encumbered with his own expectations, his career then stalled a little but new life was breathed into it last season when he captured the Bahrain Championship title and reached the World Championship semi-finals 27 years after Eddie Charlton’s last appearance there.

At the Grand Prix this season he won his fourth ranking title from four finals, making him the most prodigious ranking event winner outside the UK and Ireland.

The years to come will decide whether he takes over at the top of this list. He is good enough to be world champion but so were a lot of other players who ultimately came up short.


Years as professional: 1972-1996
Ranking titles: 2
Ranking finals: 10
Other titles: 13
Highest ranking: 1
Years in top 16: 14
Crucible appearances: 15

With his Tom Selleck-moustache, Thorburn was a leading housewives favourite in an era of housewives favourites.

He came from the hard living North American snooker and pool sub culture and established himself as one of snooker’s ultimate hard men, with his gritty, determined style.

Thorburn reached the first Crucible final in 1977, losing out to John Spencer, but became the first international player to be world champion (apart from Horace Lindrum, who won a heavily disputed 1952 event) in 1980.

Thorburn edged Alex Higgins 18-16 in an epic battle which the BBC – to the fury of many viewers – interrupted to show the SAS storming the besieged Iranian embassy in London.

Thorburn thus became one of snooker’s top dogs of the 1980s, winning the Wembley Masters three times and, in 1981, spending a season as world no.1.

Despite his tournament victories, he is probably best known in the UK for making the first Crucible maximum in 1983.

The image of him sinking to his knees after the final black goes in is one of the most iconic in snooker history.

That match, against Terry Griffiths, did not end until 3.51am – the latest ever Crucible finish – which further enhanced Thorburn’s reputation as the ‘Grinder’. He reached the final that year but was heavily defeated by Steve Davis, the nemesis for him and just about every other 80s player.

He had his problems – including a drugs ban later in his career – but remained one of the game’s most charismatic stars.

His career declined in the 1990s and he lost 10-9 to Nigel Bond in the first round of the 1994 World Championship having led 9-2.

He reached the Thailand Open semi-finals in 1995 but retired from the circuit the following year.

Whenever Thorburn returns to the UK, particularly at the Crucible, he is regarded as a legend.

World champion, world no.1, ten ranking finals, a Crucible maximum...the best there has ever been from outside the British Isles.


John Parrott has withdrawn from the upcoming Legends event in Glenrothes, resulting in a call up for Nigel Bond.

Parrott had been due to play Jimmy White on October 31 but will now miss the tournament as he requires a hernia operation.

Bond, the 1996 British Open and 1997 Scottish Masters champion, thus steps in.

"Both Jimmy and myself are still on the main tour - although some people might have forgotten about us!" said Bond, who finished runner-up in the 1995 World Championship.

"I mean, I did play in Glasgow a few weeks ago in the Grand Prix so I am very much still around. But I suppose I am of a certain vintage - I'm a youthful 43 now - that qualifies me to be someone of another generation. And that's why I'll be in Glenrothes."


The third event of the new Pro Challenge Series will be the best attended so far.

A total of 52 players, including four members of the top 16, will take part in the tournament at Willie Thorne's, Leicester from November 9-11.

Stephen Maguire won the first title of the series and Ken Doherty captured the second, which was played under a six reds format.

Further details here.




Years as professional: 1989-2008, 2009-
Ranking titles: 3
Ranking finals: 8
Other titles: 5
Highest ranking: 3
Years in top 16: 7
Crucible appearances: 13

Wattana rose to prominence when, at 16, he won an invitation event staged by Matchroom in his native Thailand.

He won the 1988 world amateur title and turned professional the following year, where he single-handedly sparked a snooker boom in Thailand by reaching the Asian Open final in Bangkok, losing out to Stephen Hendry.

Very quickly Wattana became established as one of the leading players of the 1990s. He was a formidable long potter and break builder and his run at the top sustained snooker in Thailand long before the Chinese boom.

Wattana won his first ranking title at the 1992 Strachan Open and won two more back home in Bangkok in 1994 and 1995.

He won five other titles, including the 1992 World Matchplay and Belgian Masters but is possibly best known for making a 147 break at the 1992 British Open shortly after learning his father had been shot.

His joy at the break was quickly ended by the news that his father had subsequently died from his injuries.

That was one of three competitive maximums he made. He was also twice a Crucible semi-finalist

Wattana had his problems and slipped down the rankings and off the tour in 2008. However, he won the Asian Championship earlier this year and is now back on the circuit.


A new seniors event takes place in Glenrothes on October 31 and November 1 featuring some of snooker's best known faces from the last three decades.

The 110sport-promoted tournament sees Stephen Hendry, Alex Higgins, John Parrott, Cliff Thorburn, Ken Doherty, Jimmy White, Tony Knowles and Tony Drago crossing cues

Higgins faces Thorburn as the 30th anniversary of their 1980 world final approaches. BBC coverage of that match was famously interupted by news footage of the SAS storming the besieged Iranian embassy in London.

Hendry tackles Drago while White takes on Parrott and Doherty meets Knowles.

The matches will be available to view on 110sporttv in November.

“It will be great to see Alex back in action in Scotland and I’m sure there will be plenty of people wanting to see him,” Hendry said.

“Cliff Thorburn will be playing Alex in a re-match of the 1980 ‘SAS’ World Championship final. That match has top billing on Saturday night and rightly so.”

Day tickets for Saturday’s first round and the semi-finals and final on Sunday are available at the box office from Rothes Halls.

Full draw:
Saturday, October 31
2.00pm - Ken Doherty v Tony Knowles
4.00pm - John Parrott v Jimmy White
6.00pm - Stephen Hendry v Tony Drago
8.00pm - Alex Higgins v Cliff Thorburn

The last seniors event was staged nine years and won by Willie Thorne, who gives his views on the contenders on 110sport.tv.



Years as professional: 2003-
Ranking titles: 3
Ranking finals: 4
Other titles: 1
Highest ranking: 9
Years in top 16: 3
Crucible appearances: 3

Ding’s reputation preceded him. Peter Ebdon described him as “the best 15 year-old I have ever seen” and there was much pressure on the teenager when he turned professional in 2003.

He struggled not only at the qualifiers but in the UK, an alien culture to that he had been used to in his first 16 years.

However, he beat Marco Fu on his Wembley debut in 2004 and a year later produced one of snooker’s best ever performances to land his home title.

Ding had been taken out of the qualifiers and put straight into the main draw for the 2005 China Open so that his own supporters could see him in action.

He grabbed this chance with both hands, beating Fu, Ebdon, Ken Doherty and Stephen Hendry to become the second youngest winner of a ranking title.

Ding won two more, the 2005 UK Championship and 2006 Northern Ireland Trophy, to become only the second player, after John Higgins, to capture three ranking titles while still a teenager.

He was clearly heading for the top four, for the Crucible title, for world domination.

But the pressure of carrying the hopes of the planet’s biggest populace on his young shoulders began to tell for this shy young man.

At Wembley in 2007, he made only the second maximum break in the history of the Masters but would end the final in tears trying to concede a frame early after being outplayed by Ronnie O’Sullivan and subjected to hostile treatment by the partisan crowd.

Another heavy defeat by O’Sullivan at the Crucible further knocked Ding’s confidence and he entered a slump which he is only now recovering from.

He reached the Grand Prix final earlier this month and, at 22, can still make good on all that early promise.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he topped a list such as this in ten years time.



And so we come to those players still on the circuit, who are at something of a disadvantage as it is harder to put their careers into perspective.

MARCO FU (Hong Kong)

Years as professional: 1997-
Ranking titles: 1
Ranking finals: 3
Other titles: 1
Highest ranking: 8
Years in top 16: 4
Crucible appearances: 8

At his best, Fu is a formidable competitor with a fine temperament and the game to beat anyone.

This is evidenced by his excellent record against both Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins.

What has let him down over the years is a lack of consistency, partly due to his desire to change his technique early in his professional career and work on it ever since.

Fu won the 1997 world amateur title and joined the circuit full time in 1998, when he reached the final of that season’s first event, the Grand Prix at Preston, beating O’Sulivan and Peter Ebdon en route.

He was beaten 9-2 by a superlative Stephen Lee performance but served notice that he could become Asia’s first Crucible champion.

Fu made it into the top 16 after only two seasons but immediately dropped out again as he struggled to maintain his early potential.

There were highlights. He made a 147 – the first to be screened on the internet – at the 2000 Scottish Masters, beat O’Sullivan in the first round of the 2003 World Championship and won the 2003 Premier League.

However, it wasn’t until 2007 that he captured his first ranking title. Fu defeated O’Sullivan again to land the Grand Prix, his focused, metronomic playing style contrasting with the Rocket’s instinctive, volatile approach.

The previous year, Fu recovered from 15-9 down to take Ebdon to a deciding frame in their Crucible semi-final.

Last season, he took Shaun Murphy the full distance in the UK Championship final.


So, it turns out that due to a small administrative error that was in no way my fault, there are actually 12 players in the international eleven.

Cynics may suggest that this is just a half-baked idea cooked up one afternoon that has now gone badly wrong.

Well, they would be entirely incorrect for reasons far too complicated to go into right now.

Suffice to say, we have a tie for sixth place...


Years as professional: 1987-2004
Ranking titles: 0
Ranking finals: 1
Other titles: 1
Highest ranking: 9
Years in top 16: 6
Crucible appearances: 9

Robidoux is a cheerful French-Canadian who first rose to attention by making it on to the professional circuit despite not winning a match.

In the late 1980s, there were a number of ‘non-tournament’ WPBSA professionals who were on the ranking list but were unable to play in events outside the World Championship.

However, in 1988 Robidoux had two walkovers and the ranking points were enough to get him into the top 128.

He made the most of his chance, taking Steve Davis the distance in the last 32 of the International before reaching the semi-finals of the Grand Prix, where he recovered from 7-0 down to Alex Higgins before losing 9-7.

By 1990, he was in the top 16 and took over as Canadian no.1 after the Thorburn/Stevens/Werbeniuk era came to an end. With Thorburn and Bob Chaperon, he won the 1990 World Cup.

Robidoux also made snooker's sixth officially ratified 147 break in the qualifiers for the 1989 European Open.

In 1996, he was involved in a verbal spat with Ronnie O’Sullivan after the then teenage star played left-handed against him at the Crucible.

It was out of character for Robidoux, who was renowned for being a laid back, friendly sort not given to controversy.

The pair had patched things up by the time of the German Open final later the same year, where Robidoux made a 143 break but lost 9-7.

Later that season he reached the World Championship semi-finals, losing out to Ken Doherty. Up to 9th in the world rankings, Robidoux was enjoying his best year as a professional.

But then disaster struck. His trusty cue was broken beyond repair and he failed to win a single match the following season.

As his form spiralled out of control, he entered into a spell of depression and headed home to Canada, missing seven successive tournaments.

He did return but was never the same again. Robidoux described losing the cue as “like losing my right arm.”



Years as professional: 1967-1996
Ranking titles: 0
Ranking finals: 1
Other titles: 6
Highest ranking: 3
Years in top 16: 10
Crucible appearances: 15

Charlton may have been the hardest of all the grinders to have played professional snooker. You had to scrape him off the table and, even then, check underneath the table to make sure he wasn’t still there.

The player nicknamed ‘Steady’ had a sporting background having played cricket, been a surfer and a boxer and carried the Olympic torch in Melbourne in 1956.

He reached three World Championship finals with his best chance to win the title coming in 1975 where he led Ray Reardon 29-24 but lost 31-30.

Charlton made the first ever century at the Crucible and in Pot Black, an event he won three times, was a mainstay of the top 16 and last played in the televised stage of the World Championship at age 62, where he suffered the Sheffield venue’s only ever whitewash to John Parrott.

Few players were more determinedly stubborn but despite his gritty style, the Aussie also oozed charisma.

Charlton was a champion swearer and my favourite quote of his comes from his answer to a journalist’s question after he had battled until 2.40am to beat Cliff Thorburn 10-9 at the Crucible in 1989.

Asked if it might have been a bit of an ordeal for the crowd, Eddie replied: “F*ck the crowd, I’m here to win.”

Charlton died in 2004 at the age of 75. Bizarrely, he went up in the rankings after someone forgot to take him off the list.




Years as professional: 1978-1993, 1998-1999
Ranking titles: 0
Ranking finals: 1
Other titles: 2
Highest ranking: 4
Years in top 16: 7
Crucible appearances: 10

With his good looks and white suit, Stevens was the coolest of all of snooker’s extraordinary cast of characters in the boom years of the 1980s.

His best moment came at the Wembley Masters in 1984 when he made only the third televised 147 break in a pulsating semi-final against Jimmy White.

Kirk was box office and reached the World Championship semi-finals in 1980 and 1984 and the last four of the UK Championship, also in 1984, before appearing in the British Open final later the same season.

Up to fourth in the rankings, he was one of snooker’s leading lights but cocaine addiction overwhelmed him and almost killed him.

Ultimately, it ended his career as a top flight player before he was able to reach his full potential.

Back in Canada he pursued a number of alternative forms of employment, including car salesman and lumberjack.

Snooker, though, was his true love and in 1998 he won the Americas play-off and returned to the main tour for another season.

Last year he won the Canadian title and played in the World Amateur Championship.



Years as professional: 1985-2008, 2009-
Ranking titles: 0
Ranking finals: 1
Other titles: 2
Highest ranking: 10
Years in top 16: 5
Crucible appearances: 13

Drago was, and indeed still is, the fastest player ever to pick up a cue.

He holds the record for the quickest ever frame – just three minutes – and is capable of sublime, instinctive snooker.

However, Drago plays on his nerves and sometimes the butterflies completely undo him.

His fiery Mediterranean temperament has not always endeared him to the authorities but what he has proved time and time again is that snooker is in his blood.

He made a sensational Crucible debut in 1988 by beating two former champions, Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor, to reach the quarter-finals.

Drago was runner-up to Jimmy White in the 1991 World Masters and to Stephen Hendry in the 1997 International Open, his only ranking final.

In the 1998/99 season he beat Hendry three times and spent five successive seasons in the top 16.

As Drago’s snooker career declined, he became proficient at pool and has won a handful of titles at a game that obviously suits his fast style.


PERRIE MANS (South Africa)

Years as professional: 1970-1987
Ranking titles: 0
Ranking finals: 1
Other titles: 2
Highest ranking: 2
Years in top 16: 7
Crucible appearances: 8

Mans was a terrific single ball potter possessing considerable cue power but not a great breakbuilder, as was evidenced in one of his finest hours.

He won the Masters in 1979, the first to be held at Wembley Conference Centre, but did not make a half century break during the whole tournament.

It is pretty much unthinkable now that anyone would win a match in the Masters without registering a 50, never mind the whole thing.

Mans defeated Cliff Thorburn, Ray Reardon and Alex Higgins – three great scalps – to win the title.

The previous year he had reached the World Championship final at the Crucible, memorably edging the 64 year-old Fred Davis 18-16 in the semi-finals having already knocked out defending champion John Spencer.

Reardon was to deny him 25-18 in the final.

Mans’s father, Peter, was a professional in the post war years, reaching the 1950 World Championship quarter-finals.

Mans was a 19 times South African champion and headed back home after he retired from the professional circuit in 1987.

He played in Seniors Pot Black in 1997 and appeared at Wembley for the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Masters in 1999.




Years as professional: 1973-1991
Ranking titles: 0
Ranking finals: 0
Other titles: 1
Highest ranking: 8
Years in top 16: 8
Crucible appearances: 10

Werbeniuk was a gargantuan Canadian whose beer guzzling made him a cult hero in snooker’s boom years.

Big Bill sank up to 15 pints of lager before and during matches to offset a tremor in his arm.

The beer was tax deductable. This is probably as close to genius as you can get.

He was a product of the pool and snooker sub culture of North America and formed a holy 1980s triumvirate with Cliff Thorburn and Kirk Stevens. Together, they won the World Cup in 1982.

Werbeniuk reached four World Championship quarter-finals and was the first player to make a break in excess of 140 at the Crucible, his 142 coming in 1979.

In 1985, his 143 took the highest break prize.

In his later career, he took beta-blockers to help his heart deal with his enormous alcohol intake but when these were banned, he packed it in.

Werbeniuk died in 2004. Many tributes were paid to this most unlikely of sporting heroes.



Years as professional: 1978-1996
Ranking titles: 1
Ranking finals: 1
Other titles: 0
Highest ranking: 10
Years in top 16: 4
Crucible appearances: 8

Francisco was a tough, bushy-eyebrowed South African who found himself embroiled in several controversies during his 18 year professional career.

His greatest moment came at the 1985 British Open when he beat Kirk Stevens 12-9 to win the title. He had suspected Stevens was on drugs during the match and confronted him at the interval.

He was fined £6,000 by the WPBSA after his off the record comments were secretly recorded and reported by a newspaper but this punishment was reversed following Stevens’s admission of addiction to cocaine.

Hey, it was the 80s.

Francisco’s career was also dogged by controversy over allegations involving match fixing, none of which were ever proven.

In 1997, he was jailed for three years after he admitted attempting to smuggle cannabis with a street value of £155,000.

He later worked in a fish and chip shop.

None of this should cloud the fact that he was a very effective, if hard-nosed, player in an era before everyone went for everything.

Francisco reached the World Championship quarter-finals at his first attempt in 1982 and is one of only six non-British or Irish players to win a ranking title.


Much was made of the fact that Neil Robertson’s victory in the Grand Prix makes him ‘the most successful non-British or Irish player of all time.’

Using the strict criteria of ranking titles this is true, but it doesn’t come close to telling the whole story.

Yes, you’re right, all this is building up towards a list.

So who would make snooker’s all time international 11?

The players will be selected from the many non British or Irish players to have competed professionally and all will be revealed during this week...


Jimmy White has had an incident packed career, indeed an incident packed life, but he has never lost his love for snooker and snooker has never lost its love for him.

His victory in the World Series event in Prague tonight was therefore a very popular one.

OK, so he only won three matches but one of those was against the reigning world champion, John Higgins, and another was against the 2006 Crucible winner Graeme Dott.

White's form comes and goes these days but, at times, he still looks impressive.

The problem is that he is mired at the qualifiers in Prestatyn where reputations count for nothing.

At 47, a full scale resurgence is very unlikely but I still believe Jimmy is better than his world ranking of 56th and it would be nice to think he could push on from tonight's victory and start to climb a few places.

He still has the charm and he still has the support. What he needs now is the results.



The long running battle in Scottish amateur snooker may be about to be resolved after the two sides agreed to meet with WPBSA board member Jim McMahon to try and agree a way forward.

A statement from Scottish Snooker read:

Jim McMahon of the WPBSA met this week separately with Paul Marinello (Wednesday) and Alec Cameron (Thursday).

Both parties have agreed that a change to the current situation is needed and that it is possible to resolve the issues from within Scottish Snooker for the benefit of all concerned.

As a consequence of this mutual understanding, both parties have agreed to move forward and to further aid this progression, Jim McMahon will be meeting with both Alec Cameron and Paul Marinello together on Monday 19 October to continue discussions.

It was agreed that comments of a personal nature were unhelpful and in the meantime, in order to assist a resolution for the benefit of all concerned, all individuals involved in snooker in Scotland are requested to refrain from posting personal attacks and derogatory statements on any websites.

My own post on this subject - 'Scots Miffed' - received a record number of comments, most of them rancorous, and in the end I had to close the thread.

Given the bitter history north of the border, if Jim does negotiate a successful truce he will become the leading candidate for next year's Nobel Peace Prize.



Ronnie O'Sullivan will start the defence of his Masters title against Neil Robertson, who last week won the Grand Prix in Glasgow.

O'Sullivan, a four times Masters champion, has been handed one of the toughest possible first round draws for the event, which kicks off at Wembley Arena on January 10.

World champion John Higgins faces Mark Allen while six times Masters winner Stephen Hendry tackles world no.3 Shaun Murphy. Mark Selby meets Ding Junhui.

Full details available here.


The latest event in the World Series takes place in Prague in the Czech Republic this weekend.

Clive Everton will be joining the Eurosport commentary team for the two days.

The four professionals involved are world champion John Higgins, world no.2 Stephen Maguire, 2006 world champion Graeme Dott and perennial fans’ favourite Jimmy White.

They are pitted against four local wildcards on the opening day.

This is the strength as well as the weakness of the whole concept. It’s is, of course, admirable to involve local players but none of them will be anywhere near the standard of the professionals and so a day of walkovers beckons.

What an opportunity, though, for Lukas Krenek, Michael Krystof, Sishuo Wang and Osip Zusmanovic who will each play one of snooker’s biggest names live on television.

Snooker is growing in popularity in the Czech Republic as a result of Eurosport’s coverage of the main tour.

To have the reigning world champion playing in a televised tournament in the capital city means a red letter day – or two days – for those Czech fans who have been glued to the action on their TV sets these last few years.

Eurosport coverage (all times UK):
Saturday, October 17
12-2pm, 6-10pm

Sunday, October 18
2-6pm, 7-10pm



110sport.tv, who stream the qualifiers, will this weekend branch out by showing a live boxing bout.

Perform, who show the Championship League, won the exclusive rights to broadcast the Ukraine v England World Cup qualifier last weekend.

They had half a million subscribers paying £12 a pop. In the words of an annoying teenage American girl in an annoying teenage American film: you do the math!

The internet could well revolutionise the way we view sport.

For those who doubt this and suggest that nobody wants to switch from watching their TV sets to huddling round a computer, it’s worth remembering that 60 years ago few believed television could ever usurp the radio.

110sport, or TSN as they were then known, attempted to pioneer webcasting of snooker a decade ago, showing the Scottish Masters and other events.

This was an age before broadband and so the comfort of watching depended on the strength of your connection.

For many snooker fans it was like those magic eye pictures newspapers used to publish at around the same time. You remember them: you’d stare at a distorted image for ten minutes until, finally, you got a headache.

These early 110 webcasts, in which I played a small part myself, were fun and relaxed. Sometimes too relaxed: viewers were once treated to a few seconds of a studio-bound Phil Yates eating his dinner, which is now probably the mainstay of one of the satellite channels towards the end of the Sky platform.

The technology has now changed to the extent that it is now possible to kick back and enjoy sport on the internet just as one would on the TV.

110’s coverage of the qualifiers is of TV broadcast standard. The Eurosport Player and BBC website offer fans a chance to watch every ball potted – and missed – from major tournaments if they so desire.

Watching online has its clear advantages. You can do so at work providing your boss doesn’t see you and can also watch on a train or beach or...well, wherever you can get a connection.

And you aren’t in the lap of the TV schedulers deciding when to broadcast their programmes.

Plus – and here’s the biggie – it’s global.

110 plan further events next year. Their chief executive, David MacKinnon, told me in an interview for the Sunday Herald last month that: “I honestly think snooker’s best years are still to come.

“It is hugely popular around the world and we will be running a number of events in 2010 in those areas where there is a market for the game. Despite what people say, snooker is alive and kicking.”

Indeed it is, and I hope the proliferation of small, independent tournaments that include 110’s events, the World Series, the Championship League, the Six Reds in Ireland, ONE FOR SEVEN, seniors events and any other showcase for our game can help to improve snooker’s fortunes by providing fans with action to watch in between all the majors.

The internet will play a large role in making this a reality, just as colour television did 40 years ago.

It may even be the sport's saviour.


The folks at global-snooker.com have trialled a new short form version of the game called ONEFORSEVEN.

It lasts 147 minutes and features players playing frames against one another within this time, with the overall winner the player who has scored the most points.

Unusually, the audience will be encouraged to make noise rather than sit in stony silence, as is traditional at all other events.

A tournament, worth £25,000, will be staged in Cardiff on December 21 and feature Ryan Day, Mark Williams, Matthew Stevens and Ricky Walden.

There will also be satellite events with the winners progressing to the final to take on the star names.

For more details, check the global snooker website here.

This is an attempt to find a snooker version of Twenty20, which has proved popular in cricket.

One of the biggest problems snooker has with the media is that it is impossible to know what time a match will finish, so broadcasters have problems with their schedules and newspaper editors with their deadlines.

The shortest ever best of nine contest was 34 minutes duration while the longest lasted seven hours.

“Somewhere between the two” is a rather vague, if accurate, answer to the perennial question of how long a match will last.

I haven’t seen ONEFORSEVEN yet but I wish them all the best.

Anything a bit different that encourages interest in snooker should be welcomed.



The newly formed Snooker Players Association has written to its members to suggest calling an Extraordinary General Meeting of the WPBSA asking whether the players have confidence in the current board.

This move comes after the SPA’s request for a meeting with the governing body was denied by the WPBSA.

The SPA then asked the four members of the WPBSA Players Forum to press their case but this proved unproductive.

The WPBSA appear to see the SPA as a threat but if they’d thought this through properly they would have agreed to the meeting and then said that “we’ve met but can’t agree on any common ground.”

This would at least have made it look as if they were trying to find a way of working together.

As it is, as so often before, a fight is looming between the various sides. Such battles have seriously damaged the sport’s health and reputation in the past.

The usual smear is that anyone challenging the way snooker is run is “trying to take over the game,” as if the game belongs to one set of individuals to start with.

However, players have had sundry chances to reject the current board. At the AGM last year only 23 of the 70 or so voting members actually cast a vote.

This does not suggest a huge level of dissatisfaction – or even interest – in how snooker is being governed.

Maybe they need a body like the SPA to mobilise action but an EGM such as this would only make sense if there was a specific plan in place were the board to be defeated.

Who would replace them? What would happen after that?

The SPA is designed to be a players’ union. This was the original purpose of the WPBSA itself but it outgrew this function when it also became the game’s principal promoter and its disciplinary body.

In a disciplinary case, an employee looks to their union for support. This is difficult to achieve when it is also the union prosecuting them.

The SPA say their membership includes Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins plus around half of the current 96-man main tour.

The WPBSA say they represent the players already and so there is no need for an independent body.

But surely if players felt there was no need for the SPA, dozens of them wouldn’t have joined it?

My advice to both sides is to get round a table and agree a way forward as soon as possible.

Sadly, all my experience of the snooker world tells me this is very unlikely to happen and that an all out fight will soon be upon us.


The qualifying event for the Masters takes place later this month where one of the two wildcards for the game's most prestigious invitation tournaments will be sewn up.

The second will presumably be handed out after the UK Championship.

Wildcards should reward success on the table and popularity.

With this in mind, here are the three favourites for this season's Wembley event:

1) Liang Wenbo
2) Liang Wenbo
3) Liang Wenbo

The 22 year-old Chinese reached the Shanghai Masters final this season, is into the provisional top 16 and would enhance the tournament's international flavour.

If he doesn't get the wildcard it will be the biggest surprise since Louis Walsh picked those annoying Irish twins.

But who else could be in with a shout?

Well, Joe Swail reached the Welsh Open final.

Ken Doherty has enjoyed a resurgence this season.

Jamie Cope and Judd Trump would bring a younger feel to proceedings.

But surely Liang is going to get the call, unless there is a major shock at the UK Championship.



Warning: this post ends with a really lame gag.

Stephen Maguire's opponent in the first round of the World Series in Prague this weekend is the lead singer for a rock band called Support Lesbians.

Michal Krystof is also one of Czech snooker's leading lights and has been playing for four years, although the band has been going since 1992.

The event also features John Higgins, Graeme Dott and Jimmy White.

Given the location, I expect we will see a high number of shots played with Czech side.


The first six reds World Championship, to be staged in Ireland in December, has attracted interest from many well known names.

The organisers say they have received entries or a commitment to play from players including Stephen Maguire, Shaun Murphy, Ryan Day, Mark Selby, Mark Allen, Joe Perry, Mark Williams, Mark King, Jamie Cope, Ricky Walden, Matthew Stevens and Judd Trump and are hopeful that a number of other big names will also sign up.

The tournament runs from December 15-18 at the INEC, Killarney.



I was pleased for Neil Robertson that he should tonight become the most successful non UK or Irish player by winning a fourth ranking title.

The Australian battled hard against Ding Junhui and won a crucial 57-minute ninth frame to seize a stranglehold on the match.

I very much hope he receives the media coverage he deserves in his native land, where his exploits go largely unreported.

Neil’s a good guy and what you see with him is what you get: he’s honest, open and engaging as a person and this is also how he plays.

It was a very nice touch to mention afterwards the girl who had been writing to him while suffering from cancer and to dedicate the title to her memory.

Ding’s concentration seemed to wander and that must be a worry but at least he was back in a major final and that must be a cause for celebration after three lean years.

The Grand Prix took its time to get going but the random draw threw up a John Higgins v Ronnie O’Sullivan second round tie, after which the event came to life.

The Robertson-Higgins semi-final was a classic and there was enough good snooker in the week to keep audiences in Glasgow and beyond entertained.

As ever, though, problems remain.

Why do these finals have to start at 8pm? Snooker dodged a bullet tonight even though the match didn’t finish until gone 11pm. Had it gone the full distance it would have been nearer 1am.

The sport needs to appeal to kids but they won’t be watching at that time. Also, Central Europe is an hour ahead and many viewers will have switched off before the end.

Crowds built up towards the end of the tournament but, early on, were embarrassing.

I’ve seen the WPBSA marketing and promotion plan for the event and it was comprehensive so it would be missing the point to simply blame the governing body.

You can’t force people through the doors – and some of the matches looked unattractive before a ball had been struck – but something has to give.

The problem as I see it is that snooker in the UK is seen as a bit old hat, as a sport that hasn’t changed in years.

I would be completely against messing about with the rules but peripheral cosmetic change may at least persuade the outside world that it is a game worth turning up to watch.

As I’ve written on this blog before, snooker tournaments need to feel like a sporting experience.

This is what has happened in darts, although the comparison is not completely fair because drinking plays a large part in that sport and the noise and atmosphere would not translate to snooker.

So if it means getting rid of waistcoats or playing music at the start or whatever...so be it.

Let's kick around some ideas instead of burying our heads in the sand and pretending there isn't a problem.

I realise some of this would appal traditionalists but all sports – from football to cricket to tennis – have over the years changed the way they present their product without actually changing the product.

I hope this is looked at seriously.

In the meantime the night, no the week, belongs to Neil Robertson.

The man introduced as the ‘thunder from down under’ weathered a storm in Glasgow and must now be considered as one of modern snooker’s most formidable performers.



There will be an extraordinary amount of nonsense talked today about how the Neil Robertson v Ding Junhui Grand Prix final represents the globalisation of the sport.

No it doesn't. It's just pure luck.

There are only four non-British or Irish players ranked inside the top 32. Robertson and Ding are two, Marco Fu and Liang Wenbo are the others.

There are hardly any players from mainland Europe or the Middle East or North or South America on this list.

Further down the ranks there are fewer non British players than at any time in the last 30 years.

The fact that this is only the second ranking tournament final to feature two non-UK players in the 200+ that have been staged is an embarrassment to the sport, not a cause for celebration.

Snooker is a world game in terms of the interest from viewers but the circuit is avowedly British. This is why Robertson and Ding have been forced to move to the UK to live and practice here during the season.

There are no main tour tournaments staged in mainland Europe - despite the huge interest that exists there - and none in Australia either.

I for one hope that today's final will play its part in spreading the snooker gospel far beyond UK shores.

It should certainly be entertaining: Robertson and Ding are both quick, attacking and supremely talented.

I favour Robertson because he possesses supreme confidence and I feel that if it goes close he can stand up to the pressure.

But both players are 3 for 3 from ranking finals and could well serve up a classic encounter.

Just don't let anyone kid you that this means the game is taking a step forward. Robertson and Ding have become top stars by moving to Britain, which still dominates the snooker scene to an extent that proves there is still much work to do before the game becomes truly international.



There's only ever been one ranking tournament final featuring two players from outside the UK.

That was the 1985 British Open between Silvino Francisco (South Africa) and Kirk Stevens (Canada).

So a Ding victory tonight will be significant...


I thought John Higgins v Mark Selby at the Crucible was the best match of 2009 so far but the finish of Higgins’s defeat to Neil Robertson today was so dramatic that it may just shade it.

Robertson was confident and attacking from the off. He played his own game throughout and took the match to Higgins.

And the world champion responded in trademark fashion, making a steely clearance from 5-3 down and then drawing level.

This was a contest of an exceptionally high standard. Higgins went to the interval with 100% pot success, having not missed a single ball.

Robertson went on to make three centuries, taking his career tally to 98.

The decider could have gone either way. Robertson played the double and left a horrid cut for Higgins with the cue ball tight on the top cushion.

I wasn’t surprised that Higgins conceded when he left it in the jaws. He'd fought hard but, ultimately, in vain and it would almost be an insult to make Robertson pot it.

Well done to both and congratulations to Robertson.

All things considered that must be the best win of his career.




Jim Williamson, who opened the renowned Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds 35 years ago, has died after a long illness.

He was one of the unsung heroes of snooker and billiards and his club is regarded as one of the best in the country.

Williamson attended last month's World Billiards Championship final at the Northern and was thanked in a speech by Mike Russell, the nine times champion, for the commitment he had shown to the sport - long before the television boom of the 1980s brought about an increase in snooker clubs around the UK.


Management group 110sport have issued the following statement about David Gray after a Thai newspaper reported that the former Scottish Open champion had been found unconscious in a street in Pattaya wearing only his underpants:

The boss of snooker star David Gray says he wants the player to seek help after he was found unconscious lying beside a busy road in Thailand.

The 30-year-old from Chiswick, a former ranking title winner and a regular practice partner of Jimmy White, was rescued by paramedics after being found collapsed and wearing only his underpants in a grove in the Thai holiday resort of Pattaya.

Now Lee Doyle, head of Gray's management company 110sport Group, says he is willing to do whatever it takes to help Gray who has admitted he blacked out after drinking with friends and woke to find himself on a trolley in the Banglamung Hospital.

"Reports are still a bit sketchy as to what actually happened with David. But these are highly irregular circumstances for anyone to find themselves in - especially a professional sportsman visiting a foreign country," admitted Doyle to 110sport.tv.

"Naturally we concerned about David. I think it only right to hear David's version of events and try to piece together the full picture before taking the next step.

"David is a hugely talented player and has to give himself every chance of getting back to where he once was in the game. And the first move to achieving that might be confronting any problems he might have."

My view is that Gray is entitled to take holidays and enjoy himself but that World Snooker, having given him a discretionary wildcard to carry on playing on the main tour this season, could be forgiven for taking a dim view of this.


Well those who predicted the random draw format would leave the tournament with an unfamiliar line-up in its latter stages were certainly proved right...not.

John Higgins v Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui v Mark Williams are two mouth watering semi-finals.

Higgins is justifiably favourite. He showed yesterday against Mark Allen that his all round game is more than a match for the young breed of players whose approach is based almost entirely around attack.

Robertson, then, will have to be at the top of his game to challenge the defending champion. But the Aussie is full of confidence and played superbly yesterday to see off Joe Perry, making two centuries in the process.

Williams exploited Robert Milkins's errors to reach his first ranking event semi-final in three and a half years last night.

Ding has also waited three years for a last four berth and seems more relaxed than he has been for some time.

If Higgins continues to play how he has so far I'd be surprised if he doesn't win the whole thing.

As ever in sport, though, nothing is certain. It's more fun just to watch it all unfold.



Three years ago today the snooker world was stopped in its tracks by the death of Paul Hunter, one of the game’s best and most popular players.

Paul was 27 when cancer claimed him. He hasn’t been forgotten and some very good work is being done in his memory by the Paul Hunter Foundation.

Sport, as it did in 2006 and as it always does, goes on and the quarter-final line-up at the Grand Prix leaves us with a tournament that is hard to call.

John Higgins was given the fright of his career by Mark Allen at the Betfred.com World Championship last season and will need to be on his guard to keep his title defence going today.

Allen is someone for whom major silverware is surely not far away. It’s his bad luck he’s drawn the world champion but it might be Higgins cursing the random draw by the end of the afternoon.

Joe Perry and Neil Robertson were sat together as the draw was made. They once played a final qualifier at Prestatyn for which Perry drove them down from Cambridge.

Robertson won the match and they then drove back. I imagine the radio was probably on most of the way.

Ding Junhui looked confident and relaxed in dispatching Stephen Maguire last night but Peter Ebdon will provide a stern test.

Ding needs to dig deep. Sport is often ultimately about what attitude you show in adversity and he can’t allow frustration to get to him if he is to come through.

Mark Williams hasn’t been in a ranking event semi-final for three and a half years, since he won the 2006 China Open.

The Welshman scrapped through yesterday against a below par Stephen Hendry and now meets Robert Milkins, the surprise quarter-finalist.

The only other time they’ve played – at the Crucible in 2005 – Williams beat him 10-1, finishing off with a maximum.

It should be a high quality final lap to the tournament, for which crowds have grown since its disappointing start.

All eyes will be on the action, but many thoughts today will also be with Paul Hunter’s family.

They, like the game itself, must miss him terribly.



Peter Ebdon could be the dark horse for the Grand Prix title.

Ebdon doesn't hit top form that often any more but, when he does, he is still a tough, dangerous opponent, as he proved at the China Open last season.

He beat Mark Davis 13-7 in the second round of the 1995 World Championship and should be backed to oust the Sussex cueman once again.

Stephen Hendry v Mark Williams is the glamour tie of the day. Williams impressed against Stuart Bingham while Hendry's concentration held up well during a scrappy contest with Matt Selt.

The pair are good mates but that goes out of the window once they get down to it in the arena.

I'd back Williams - just about - but it's another battle of the legends that should simply be enjoyed.

Mark King performed a Harry Houdini act to beat Ricky Walden but faces another fast, fluent player in the shape of Robert Milkins.

Stephen Maguire has a 6-0 career record over Ding Junhui. Some players have their bogey opponents and, on home ground, Maguire will be full of confidence to extend his hoodoo over the Chinese.

With the ranking points tariffs increased this season following the loss of two tournaments, a good run can see you fly up - Ken Doherty has risen from 55th to 33rd in two events.

The other side of that coin, though, is that a bad start is very costly: it looks like Mark Selby will go to the UK Championship outside the provisional top 16.



It could only have been pressure that cost Ronnie O'Sullivan a place in the Grand Prix quarter-finals today.

There was the pressure of not being confident with parts of his game, particularly long potting.

And pressure because of who he was playing and the knowledge of what John Higgins is capable of doing.

Higgins must have thought he was out when O'Sullivan twice had good chances to win the eighth. It was to the Scot's credit that he won the decider in one visit because proceedings had become nervy by this point.

O'Sullivan held a 27-17 lead in previous career meetings prior to the match but a number of those wins had come in the Premier League and smaller events.

In ranking tournaments it is now 11-7 to Higgins.

They have now played ten deciders and won five apiece. They were unlucky to draw each other at such an early stage - the last time they played in the last 16 of a ranking event was at the 1996 Thailand Open.

Today's contest was just what the tournament needed.

But the downside is that we've lost one of the star attractions in the second round.


First up, here’s Phil Yates in The Times on the importance of Ronnie O’Sullivan to a sport seemingly going nowhere.

Second, what about Mark King? He needed three snookers on the brown in the decider against Ricky Walden and ended up cutting in a very difficult black to beat him, proving that a never-say-die attitude can sometimes pay dividends.

So, today it’s O’Sullivan v John Higgins. The top two seeds usually wouldn’t meet until the final so this is tough for both to take.

Higgins played much better than O’Sullivan in their respective first round matches and will also enjoy plenty of support in his home city.

However, whenever two greats of the game like this meet it’s just on the day. My advice: sit back and enjoy.

Mark Allen and Jamie Cope, two rising stars, are unlikely to detain spectators on table two for very long regardless of the score in their match.

Tonight it’s Neil Robertson, who will need his wits about him when he plays the resurgent Ken Doherty.

And Joe Perry will attempt to succeed where Shaun Murphy failed and get past the battling Barry Pinches.

The second round draw has thrown up some interesting matches, none more so than Higgins v O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry v Mark Williams: the four best players of the last 15 years locking horns once again.



We need Ronnie O’Sullivan to bring his uniquely entertaining brand of snooker to the fore in Glasgow today and breathe some life into the Grand Prix.

The tournament has not yet hit the heights but O’Sullivan can change all that if he turns it on against Jamie Burnett.

The omens are good for the world no.1: he has beaten Burnett 5-0 the two previous times they have met.

For some reason, the Grand Prix has not been the happiest of events for O’Sullivan. He has won it only once and in 2005 was completely outplayed 9-2 in the final by John Higgins.

Still, not for the first time the game looks to him to provide some inspiration.

This afternoon’s other match pits Mark Williams, still recovering from his wrist injury, against Stuart Bingham.

Tonight, another injury case, Stephen Maguire, who is nursing fractured bones in his shoulder, tackles the experienced Nigel Bond, who was runner-up 19 years ago.

And Ricky Walden will look to make it three wins out of three against Mark King.

The big shock yesterday was Shaun Murphy’s 5-4 defeat to Barry Pinches. Murphy needed yellow and green in the eighth frame to win 5-3. In the end, Pinches made an excellent clearance in the decider.

Stephen Hendry remained focused throughout his 5-2 victory over Matt Selt even if the four times Grand Prix champion was not at his imperious best.

Credit to Peter Ebdon for the way he turned things around against Liang Wenbo.

The crowds picked up after Sunday attracted less than 100 spectators.

It will surely be a big attendance for O’Sullivan today, who takes centre stage after the second round draw is made at 1.30pm.

TV times:
BBC2 1.30-4.30pm, 7-8pm, 0.50-3.40am

British Eurosport 2 1.30-5pm, British Eurosport 7-10pm
Eurosport times in other countries vary, check your local listings

The BBC website (in the UK) and the Eurosport Player has live coverage from both the tables.



The crowd attendance yesterday was the worst I can ever remember for a televised day of a ranking event in the UK.

Only 30 tickets were sold for the afternoon session. At the same time, Rangers were playing Celtic, which would have taken the attention of most of Glasgow.

However, the evening session did not attract that many more spectators - even though crowds at the SECC last year were generally good.

Let us hope yesterday was just an anomaly. The acid test comes today when Stephen Hendry plays.

If he can't pull in a crowd in Scotland then serious questions are going to be asked about how this tournament has been marketed.

Hendry could be vulnerable against Matt Selt, who is in the form of his life having qualified for Shanghai and now Glasgow from the first round.

But this is only his second match on TV and though Hendry's form is patchy, he has all the experience.

Liang Wenbo has played Peter Ebdon twice and beaten him 5-0 and 5-1. Full of confidence after his run to the Shanghai final he will be looking to complete the hat-trick.

Tonight, Shaun Murphy tackles Barry Pinches, who came from 4-1 down to beat Michael Holt in the final qualifying round.

Mark Allen faces Ian McCulloch, who was runner-up to Ronnie O'Sullivan in the Grand Prix five years ago.

TV times:
BBC2 1.30-4.30pm, 7-8pm, 0.50-3.40am

British Eurosport 2 1.30-5pm, British Eurosport 7.45-10pm
Eurosport times in other countries vary, check your local listings

The BBC website (in the UK) and the Eurosport Player has live coverage from both the tables.



First, a word about yesterday. I’d warned that Mark Selby was a man under pressure and his performance against Ken Doherty was that of a player rusty through lack of match practice.

The bad news for Selby is that his next match will not be for another two months at the UK Championship, where another first round defeat could mean he heads into 2010 outside the provisional top 16.

Today, Neil Robertson, who won this title in 2006, takes to the table against Gerard Greene. Robertson should have too much firepower for the Kent-based Northern Irishman but, if the contest becomes fragmented, it’s up for grabs.

The other evening match should be a free flowing affair as Ryan Day, runner-up to John Higgins last year, tackles Jamie Cope, who lost in the final to Robertson three years ago.

This one is hard to call as they play a similar game. Cope sometimes lets his head drop so it will be interesting to see his approach if he goes behind.

First up it’s Ding Junhui against Matthew Stevens, who I feel could be a good outside bet for the title.

That said, if Ding hits top form the Welshman could easily be a first round casualty.

New father Ali Carter takes on Robert Milkins, who will be resplendent in pink as he is supporting Breast Cancer Awareness month.

TV times:
BBC2 3.50-5.30pm, 0.40-3.30am and red button from 12.30pm

British Eurosport2 1-2.30pm, British Eurosport 3.45-5.15pm, 7-10pm
Eurosport times in other countries vary, check your local listings

The BBC website (in the UK) and the Eurosport Player has live coverage from both the tables.



John Higgins insists he is content with his career trophy haul – despite Ronnie O’Sullivan labelling him an underachiever.

O’Sullivan made his comments in praising Higgins ahead of the Grand Prix.

But the Scot, who coasted to a 5-1 victory over Mark Joyce in the first round of the Grand Prix today, pointed out the competitiveness of the era in which he has been playing for the last 17 years.

“If someone said to me at the start of my career I’d win three World Championship titles I’d have bitten their hand off,” he said.

“People were saying it was a little naughty of Ronnie to say that but I thought it was a great compliment as he’s saying I could still win more.

“I’ve been born in an era when Ronnie, Mark Williams and obviously Stephen Hendry have been playing great stuff.

“There are obviously only so many tournaments you can win and these players have been winning titles as well. It’s hard then and it’s still hard now.”


So, the Grand Prix starts today with John Higgins beginning the defence of his title against Mark Joyce, the world no.57 from Walsall.

I’d be astonished if Higgins lost given the gulf in experience but stranger things have happened...although not often.

On the other table, Marco Fu faces Mark Davis, a journeyman professional who has enjoyed some high points during his long career, including victories over Ken Doherty at the Crucible and Ronnie O’Sullivan in the Scottish Open.

Davis plays most of his snooker in the qualifiers but has the experience to take advantage of Fu if the Hong Kong man fails to produce the goods. Fu is maddeningly inconsistent. Two years ago he won this title but while his record is good against the big guns, he sometimes loses to players down the rankings.

The match I’m most looking forward to is Mark Selby against Doherty in the evening. Here we have one of snooker’s current breed of top stars looking for an extended run against a resurgent former world champion.

The two are evenly matched and I would say the pressure will be on Selby.

The other night match sees Joe Perry looking to win his first match in 2009 in a major event. He hasn’t quite been the same since he missed a pink with a good chance to beat O’Sullivan at the Masters and has slipped to 22nd in the provisional rankings.

Marcus Campbell is just the sort of tough, wily match player capable of pouncing if Perry doesn’t do the business.

TV times:
BBC1 2.15-4.30pm, BBC2 00.50-3.40am and red button from 1pm

British Eurosport 1-5.30pm, 7-10pm
Eurosport times in other countries vary, check your local listings

The BBC website (in the UK) and the Eurosport Player has live coverage from both the tables.



Stephen Maguire will have to play through the pain barrier at the Grand Prix after discovering his shoulder injury is worse than was originally feared.

The world no.2 slipped in the shower at home last month and had to withdraw from the Shanghai Masters after doctors diagnosed internal bleeding in a muscle.

"On Wednesday I received a phone call from the hospital to tell me that I was actually suffering from multiple mini fractures in my shoulder," Maguire told 110sport.tv.

“I am now going to have to wait and see a consultant to see what happens next. But in the meantime I am just loading up on painkillers. I have been playing away in practice and it is a bit sore, but I am a big boy and will survive.”

“Having missed Shanghai I need a bit of a run in this tournament to make up for that. So there is no way I was missing this tournament. As I say I am in pain, but I just have to get on with it.”

Maguire is due to play Nigel Bond in the first round on Tuesday evening.


More people are watching snooker on television now than at any time in history.

There’s a self-indulgent British attitude that the only thing that matters is what happens in blighty but this ignores the fact that snooker is a global sport.

The Grand Prix will be broadcast on the BBC, Eurosport and various other channels around the world, either live or in the form of highlights.

TV channels in China are particularly ravenous for coverage and the total audience for the tournament will run into the many millions, dwarfing the numbers recorded in the UK in the 1980s.

These are deals the WPBSA deserve credit for signing, because they have brought the sport into living rooms in some unlikely locations and turned legions of people into lifelong fans of the green baize game.

Some of the BBC’s terrestrial transmission times from Glasgow have raised eyebrows – the Conservative Party Conference doesn’t help – but every ball of the event is live on the red button or on the BBC website, which most UK viewers now have access to.

The Eurosport player also has coverage of one of the tables and the TV channel will be broadcasting many hours live, although times may vary depending which country you are in.

Here in the UK, we like to think back to a golden age. Well I remember the ‘golden age’ and I remember having to wait for recorded highlights of major finals rather than watching them live.

Viewers will – as is their right – complain about commentators, camera angles, interviews, features and the rest but, the truth is, there has never been a better time to watch snooker on the TV.

And with the internet as well, it is even easier to keep up to date with the action.

Gone are the days when waiting until half past midnight for David Vine to appear was pretty much the only way of finding out what had happened.

Now, snooker much more regularly happens live before our eyes and the game's global footprint is growing every year.

One final thought: there are, apparently, some three thousand folk in Britain who still have black and white TV sets.

I assume they aren't snooker fans.



Ali Carter has become a father for the first time on the eve of the Grand Prix.

His partner, Sarah, gave birth today. They have named their son Max.

He arrived a minute after midnight and weighed in at 8lbs, 2oz.

"I honestly thought I was going to be in Glasgow when I got the call and if that had happened I had every intention to withdraw from the event but now I can concentrate on the tournament," Carter told 110sport.tv.

"It really has given me such a buzz going to the Kelvin Hall. Obviously I'd love to make it a double by winning in Glasgow, but I aim to stay there as long as possible - it might be the last decent sleep I get for a while!"


There's pressure on everyone, of course, at the Grand Prix but especially so for Mark Selby.

I note that some bookies have him second favourite for the world title next year, even though he is drawn in the same quarter as the tournament favourite, Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Selby hasn't been in a ranking event semi-final for a year and is down to tenth in the provisional rankings.

This doesn't add up to a crisis but is certainly food for thought.

I'm a fan of his, both as a player and a professional. He couldn't have played any better against John Higgins at the Crucible this year but lost out in, to say the least, dramatic circumstances.

But for that he could well be world champion. However, sport is littered with what ifs...

Selby has become a very solid match player but in Glasgow he plays another one in the shape of a resurgent Ken Doherty, just the sort of draw he wouldn't have wanted.

The list is so tightly packed that a first round defeat could leave his top 16 place in doubt, although it's worth remembering he got zero points from last season's Bahrain Championship through no fault of his own.

Even so, for a player tipped by many as a likely mainstay of the top four Selby needs a good run to restore confidence and send himself back up the rankings.