Well done to Peter Lines, who has qualified for the final stages of a ranking tournament for the first time in seven years following his 9-6 defeat of Nigel Bond in the Pukka Pies UK Championship.

His last appearance at a main tour final venue was at Telford for the 2002 British Open and he is heading back to the town's International Centre to face Marco Fu in a week's time.

Peter was recognised as a terrific talent when he turned professional in 1991.

This was when the game was open and there were over 600 professionals, so it was tough to make progress but Lines enjoyed early wins over the likes of Martin Clark, Mike Hallett and Willie Thorne.

On his only Crucible appearance in 1998, he lost to John Parrott but made a 141 total clearance.

Lines beat John Higgins in the 1999 China Open in Shanghai and reached his only ranking event quarter-final, where he was beaten 5-4 by Brian Morgan.

His highest ranking was 42nd in the 1999/00 season.

Lines declined in recent seasons but showed excellent form in the UK qualifiers, making two centuries in his first match and three in the last four frames of his second.

In recent times he received coaching and advice from Steve Prest, who sadly died earlier this year.

And Peter's son, Oliver, has also shown evidence of his potential during junior tournaments.

It's good to see a player regarded as a journeyman clawing his way out of the qualifiers to be part of a tournament, although he will likely have to raise another gear to go any further in the event.


Eurosport will screen a two hour highlights programme from the qualifying competition for the Pukka Pies UK Championship on Thursday, from 12.45-2.45pm UK time.

This is the first time action from the qualifiers will have been shown on television.

Live coverage from Prestatyn continues today on 110sport.tv.



Mark Selby has spoken out in support of Barry Hearn ahead of Wednesday's crunch WPBSA AGM.

Hearn has said he would accept the chairmanship of the governing body if Sir Rodney Walker is voted out by the players.

Ronnie O'Sullivan and John Higgins are among the top stars supporting a vote against Walker while Steve Davis last week went on national radio to campaign for change.

Writing on his blog, Selby said: "The game certainly cannot get any worse than it is at the moment. If someone like Barry Hearn was to come in, that could be what turns around our sport.

"Hearn would not be seen as a risk as he has proven before what he is capable of. You only have to look at the darts to see what a difference he can make."

Selby, the world no.7, decribed the current set up of the professional circuit as a 'farce.'

He said: "Snooker is still a massive sport and the viewing figures for tournaments are always high. I know we’ve been hit by the credit crunch, but what I don’t understand is why snooker is in such a bad state.

"You look at a sport like darts and that is still surviving during these hard times, so why isn’t snooker? Why are we losing tournaments? Why are we down to just six this season?

"Maybe the people behind the scenes are just not working out, so maybe it is time for a change of key personnel, a breath of fresh air.

"The fact that we’ve got only six ranking tournaments this season is a farce. There is too much of a gap between each event – it’s been six weeks since the last tournament!

"We are classed as professionals but, really, we are hardly more than part-time. The gap is so big we could get another job in between tournaments.

"The money is still decent if you are a top-16 pro, you can expect to earn a healthy amount during the course of the season, even if you don’t perform particularly well.

"The ones I feel most sorry for are the players outside the top 64. They are classed as pros but they don’t get enough money to be able to survive. But for me it’s not about the money. All I want to do is play snooker, but it makes it hard to do that when there are only six tournaments."

Selby is hopeful that World Snooker's new tie-up with IMG will yield more tournaments, saying it "would undoubtedly be good for snooker and for the players."

You can read his blog entry in full here.



The Snooker Forum has conducted an interview with Barry Hearn to investigate what he would do if he became WPBSA chairman.

Wisely, Hearn does not make a string of pie-in-the-sky promises. He admits that he cannot have a business plan in place until he inspects the current state of the governing body from the inside.

But he states that he wants the World Championship to remain on the BBC and will 'absolutely not' be cutting the number of players on the tour.

Hearn adds that he wants to institute a Pro Tour of 25 small events building up to a Players Championship, as on his PDC darts tour, to provide more playing opportunities for professionals.

And he says his number one priority is to inject some fun back into the sport and foreground the players more.

You can listen to the interview here.



The last three days of the Pukka Pies UK Championship qualifiers will be screened free to registered users on 110sport.tv.

For more details, visit their website.


Steve Davis appeared on BBC radio this morning to express his support for a vote of no confidence in World Snooker chairman Sir Rodney Walker.

Davis said proposals to expand the tour should be explored - but with Barry Hearn as chairman instead.

Rather than selectively quoting Davis, I run his quotes from this morning's interview verbatim below:

"This announcement is off the back of the fact that in six days there’s an AGM and a lot of the players are very frustrated that there are only six ranking events for them to play in during the year – only six – and all of a sudden the board are looking for a way to get votes because there’s a very real possibility there will be a no confidence vote.

"Interestingly, Barry Hearn has said that if enough players vote for no confidence in the board he will be happy, should the players want him to, to try and resurrect snooker like he’s effectively done to darts.

"So we’re in a situation with only a week to go where there’s a bit of political manoeuvring going on. However, it’s not the board’s idea, this tour, it’s an outside operation who have decided that perhaps it could work so it is worth exploring.

"So the bottom line for the players is who you want to do the negotiating for you: do you want the board who have got us down to six ranking events for the season or do you want Barry Hearn to negotiate on your behalf as somebody who has turned darts into a multi-million pound sport?

"There has been disquiet, it must be said, about the current set up of the board. Nothing personal, just whether they are competent enough.

"The actual (tour) idea is not of the board’s making so there is the possibility that there could be something on the horizon but the trouble is if the board are trying to make it sound like it’s their idea then they’re wrong.

"But it needs to be explored because if there was the possibility that there could be 15 or 20 events around the world of different standing then the players would obviously jump at it. Effectively it’s a case of in the end, if there was a proposal on the table, do you want the board who have not exactly been fantastically viewed by the players in the last few years or is there another avenue?

"Of course this also comes off the back of the financial report that’s just come out and it appears, going from what Clive Everton’s told us recently through his Snooker Scene magazine, that they’ve done a bit of a banking industry, that while the money for the players has gone down that the board have been paid more.

"For that reason alone when we come to the AGM next week I’ll be voting no.

"Morale amongst the players has been so low recently, so desperate, even players ranked in the 20s and 30s really thinking about getting jobs because they’re not getting any prize money out of only six events a year. They’ve really lost confidence and that’s what the AGM will really be about.

"The problem is, something comes on the table that sounds great, the players are in such a weak situation that they may jump at any chance, and it is a credible sort of idea that may come alive but you need somebody who actually has some nous in the business world to try and negotiate on your behalf and I’m not absolutely sure whether we’ve got the right people in.

"We’ve been down this road before, getting rid of boards, getting in another board, hoping that the next board comes along but snooker, morale wise among the players, has never been worse."



Votes are about to be counted in a crucial contest that everyone agrees is likely to be very close.

And it could spell major disappointment for one of the snooker world's most senior figures.

Yes, Jimmy White is up for eviction from I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here.

Jimmy has hardly featured in the edit of the show so far, which is a shame because it means the public at home haven't had much chance to get to know him.

He's up against Sam Fox and Sabrina Washington, neither of whom he has met in professional competition before.


The Independent has an interview with Sir Rodney Walker in which he talks about the new tour plans.

You can read it here.


Sir Rodney Walker, who is battling to remain WPBSA chairman, has said there will be “a minimum of 15 professional ranking tournaments, plus invitation events” played in the first year of a new World Snooker Tour.

He says these events will be ‘phased in’ next season.

World Snooker Limited has entered into a new partnership with IMG, the leading sports, entertainment and media company.

They say they will “will work closely with independent promoters worldwide in the planning of the World Snooker Tour and replicate the success of established tournaments in the UK and China.”

Walker said: “We have brought forward today’s announcement of the proposed World Snooker Tour in response to misleading, inaccurate and downright untruthful comments about the sport which have been made in the past few months. In the last five years, the sport has progressed from an uncertain financial position with a history of turmoil, to a sport with financial stability, renewed long-term worldwide broadcast contracts and new sponsorship agreements.

“Together with IMG we believe the time is now right to build on these underlying strengths to put in place a World Snooker Tour. We hope the players and promoters will recognise the opportunities of being part of this ambitious plan and help in bringing it to fruition.”

Bearing in mind there are only six ranking events currently scheduled for this season, it will mean a 150% increase if 15 – a minimum figure, remember – take place next season.

However, I welcome World Snooker’s partnership with IMG. Many will wonder why they didn’t enter into such an arrangement five, ten or even 15 years ago.

IMG are, after all, world leaders in television production and distribution, although they are no longer World Snooker’s sponsorship agents.

If snooker does – at long last – become a global sport in the manner of golf and tennis as a result of this arrangement then it will be the most significant development in the professional game since the televised circuit as we know it was established in the early 1980s.

But, interestingly, the official press release does not make any mention of the deal being off if Walker is voted out as chairman.

And World Snooker hasn’t announced a new tour, they’ve announced ‘plans’ for a new tour. They say the ‘intention’ is to put on these events, that they ‘envisage’ 15 ranking tournaments and that it’s ‘anticipated’ the events will be phased in next season.

What this tells us is that this is a plan – potentially a very good one – but I remember Walker announcing ‘plans’ for an Asian Tour of China, Thailand and Macao and only the Chinese event went ahead.

I guess time, as ever, will tell as to whether this latest ‘plan’ leads to snooker becoming the professional sport we all want to see. If it does then Walker can remain chairman forever as far as I’m concerned.

But the more pertinent question right now is this: will today’s announcement be sufficient to keep him in his job by this time next week?


John Higgins (not pictured left) is to appear on the BBC's Celebrity Mastermind answering questions about the American soap opera Dallas.

World champion Higgins, an old fan of the show, has been honing his knowledge by watching DVD box sets.

Dallas, an iconic programme of the late 70s/early 80s, famously featured a storyline in which oil baron J.R. Ewing was shot.

The episode in which his assailant was revealed set a new record viewing audience in the USA and was watched by 350m people around the world.

There was also an entire season which turned out to be one character's dream as Patrick Duffy, who had been killed off as Bobby Ewing, decided to return and duly pitched up in the shower, alive and well.

Good luck to John, who is playing for charity. The series will be aired around the festive period.



Alfie Burden looks set to return to the professional circuit after beating Brazilian Igor Figueiredo 10-8 to win the IBSF world amateur title in Hyderabad, India today.

Burden, whose highest ranking was 38th from 2001 to 2003, led 3-0 but found his South American opponent very difficult to shake off.

Indeed, Figueiredo led 6-5 but Burden won three frames in succession, the last with a break of 103, to secure an 8-6 advantage.

Figueiredo refused to give up but Harrow cueman Burden did enough to capture the trophy.

The world amateur champion is usually offered a place on the main tour.

Congratulations to Alfie, who follows in the footsteps of the likes of Doug Mountjoy, Jimmy White, Ken Doherty and James Wattana.

But credit must also go to Figueiredo, who until April of this year had only played ten red snooker on a ten foot table.

If he keeps improving, he could become snooker's first South American professional.


Luca Brecel, who at 14 won the European under 19 title earlier this year, recently had three 147s in the space of a few days, two of which were captured on camera.

You can watch them here and here.

Brecel has headed over to the UK to hone his skills at the World Snooker Academy in Sheffield.



I wrote yesterday that 9-0 scorelines are relatively rare but we've now had another at the UK qualifiers with Simon Bedford whitewashing Joe Jogia.

Bedford's highest break was only 45 but he won five frames on the colours.

His reward is a second round meeting with Davey Morris.


A remarkable story from India where Igor Figueiredo of Brazil has reached the final of the IBSF world amateur championship.

Until April of this year, he had only ever played snooker on a ten foot table as is common in Brazil.

But today he defeated Yu Delu of China 7-4 in the semi-finals and will face former professional Alfie Burden, a 7-3 winner over Phil Williams, in the final.

South America has never produced a snooker professional but should Figueiredo win tomorrow he will be eligible to join the main tour next season.


Shaun Murphy’s capture of the 2005 World Championship came out of the blue.

Murphy had been earmarked as ‘one to watch’ for a number of years, which is usually a poisoned chalice because if results don’t come quickly it gives people the chance to say ‘he’s not as good as they say.’

Well, Murphy proved he was as good as had been suggested.

He had to qualify for the Crucible in 2005. Indeed, he nearly missed out, scraping past Joe Swail 10-8 to reach Sheffield for a third time.

On his first appearance three years earlier he had drawn Stephen Hendry. After losing, he came into the small press conference room to face the assembled media. This can be a forbidding experience for even hardened competitors let alone rookies.

But Murphy took it all in his stride. His self confidence has never been lacking and he spoke of how he wanted to be remembered in the same breath as Hendry and Steve Davis.

A year later, Ken Doherty beat him 10-9 on the black. In 2004, Murphy reached the British Open semi-finals but this hardly pointed to his extraordinary success at the Crucible a few months later.

In the first round he drew Chris Small, by then seriously afflicted by a disease of the spine. Murphy came through before knocking out John Higgins in the second round and thus proving he could handle the game’s big names on its biggest stage.

Davis fell in the quarter-finals and Peter Ebdon provided a stern test in the semis but Murphy won all five frames of the final session to beat him 17-12.

Matthew Stevens held the clear advantage after day one of the final but Murphy, whose rock solid technique is allied to a similarly fierce temperament, never gave up and won 12 of the final day’s 18 frames to win 18-16 and, at just 22, achieve a lifetime’s ambition.

Murphy became the first qualifier since Terry Griffiths in 1979 to win the world title.

His was the last victory under Embassy’s sponsorship and seemed to indicate the end of one era and the start of another.

It hasn’t quite turned out that way but Murphy, firmly ensconced in the world’s top four, is well placed at the age of 27 to achieve plenty more success in the years to come.

He added the UK Championship trophy to his haul of silverware last season and has also won two Malta Cups.

He was in the world final against last season and I would personally be surprised if he didn’t win it again.



Patrick Wallace was a man in a hurry at the Pukka Pies UK Championship qualifiers today.

The former Crucible quarter-finalist whitewashed Mark Boyle 9-0, rounding off with breaks of 96 and 97.

Such a scoreline is relatively rare these days due to the highly competitive standard of play seen in Prestatyn.

Wallace's reward is a second round meeting with John Parrott, the 1991 UK champion.

Meanwhile, Wallace's fellow Northern Irishman Jordan Brown, also a Snooker Scene columnist, narrowly missed out on a new world record.

He won a frame 97-87 against Lee Spick. The aggregate score of 184 is just one fewer than the 185 set between Sean Storey and Graham Cripsey in the qualifiers for the 1992 Asian Open.

You're right, I should get out more.


The first world ranking staged in China was in 1990. The second was in 1999.

But in the 2000s, China’s place as a central powerbase for snooker was cemented, largely due to the exploits of one of its own sons.

Ding Junhui was invited to the 2002 China Open in Shanghai as a 14 year-old wildcard. He had been identified as a promising up-and-comer in the Chinese junior ranks and took two frames off Mark Selby.

Peter Ebdon described him as “the finest 15 year-old I have ever seen” and a huge amount of hype began to swirl around him.

It increased when, in 2002, he won the Asian under 21 title, the Asian amateur title and then the IBSF world amateur title.
In 2003, he was given a wildcard to compete on the main tour. Talk about a culture shock, from China he came to play full time in the UK where, like so many, he found the qualifiers tough.

Inevitably the knives were almost immediately out for him but Ding put up a good showing when, at 16, he became the youngest player ever to compete in the Wembley Masters, beating Joe Perry before losing in a decider to Stephen Lee.

Due to financial problems afflicting the sport, the China Open was not staged for three years until returning in 2005 on a one year deal.

Ding was excused having to qualify and selected instead as a wildcard so that his home fans could see him up close.

His performance in the event was sensational. He turned 18 that week but played like an experienced old hand, not a relative rookie.

Ding defeated Marco Fu, Peter Ebdon and Ken Doherty to reach the final and then, in front of an estimated viewing audience of 110 million in China, beat Stephen Hendry 9-5 to win the title.

Because he was a wildcard he did not, officially at least, bank any prize money and actually went down in the rankings.

But Ding’s victory was worth plenty to snooker. It lit the blue touch paper for a bona fide boom that has seen millions of Chinese take to the green baize.

When people ask me what the best event I’ve ever attended is, I would name this 2005 China Open.

It was wonderful to see the reaction of the home crowd to Ding’s success and there was a feeling, justified as it has transpired, that it would be very important to the future of snooker.

There are now two ranking tournaments in China, both financially underwritten by the Chinese.

Players are treated like Hollywood film stars, walking the red carpet on tournament launch days and pursued relentlessly by autograph and photograph hunters.

More tournaments will surely follow, particularly as Chinese players improve.

Liu Song reached the 2007 Grand Prix quarter-finals, Liu Chuang qualified for the Crucible in 2008 and, at that same event, Liang Wenbo reached the quarter-finals.

Liang was also runner-up this year in the Shanghai Masters and it is very likely China will have two players in the elite top 16 alongside Hong Kong’s Marco Fu next season.

Ding remains the standard bearer for a nation, even though his form went off the boil after he added the 2005 UK Championship and 2006 Northern Ireland Trophy to his ranking tournament tally.

Efforts to take the World Championship to the Far East were repelled in this decade.

But if China continues to make inroads into snooker, it may be harder to avoid in the next one.



The Pukka Pies UK Championship is second in importance only to the Betfred.com World Championship and it will take eight days of qualifying, starting tomorrow, to produce the 16 players who will join the elite top 16 in Telford next month.

Matches are best of 17 frames as opposed to the standard best of nine and competition will be fierce at the qualifying school in Prestatyn.

Judd Trump is a player bang under pressure having failed to win a match in the season’s first two events, the Shanghai Masters and Grand Prix.

However, the talented 20 year-old has performed very well on his debut in the Sky Sports-televised Premier League and takes his place alongside three former world champions – Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy – in the play-offs next weekend.

It’s a long drive from Hopton in Norfolk to Prestatyn but if Trump beats O’Sullivan to reach the final next Sunday night he will have to get to North Wales by 10am the following day.

Not the best preparation for such a crunch match, particularly one that will be played over two sessions.

But at least Trump isn’t in denial about the way his season is turning out.

“This match is really big for me because I can’t afford to lose. There will be a lot of pressure but hopefully it will turn out well on the day. I want to keep moving up the rankings but this season hasn’t been great for me so far,” he told worldsnooker.com last week.

Longer matches tend to mean fewer shocks so it would be a surprise if Ricky Walden and Liang Wenbo, both of whom are provisionally ranked inside the top 16, missed out on a place in the TV stages.

Jamie Cope may have ordinarily been heavily backed but could have to play ex-world champion Ken Doherty, who has enjoyed a major resurgence this season after two desperately frustrating years.

Those of a sentimental nature will support Steve Davis, who won the first of his six UK titles 29 years ago.

If the 52 year-old wins his qualifying match he will play his fellow legend Stephen Hendry in the opening round in Telford.

Obviously, players who only have to win one match have it easier than those who enter the qualifiers in the earlier rounds.

But Matt Selt qualified for Shanghai and the Grand Prix having started in the very first round, winning four matches in each.

Can he complete a hat-trick this week? Well, his confidence will be sky high right now but he faces a tough draw, starting out against David Gray, UK runner-up five years ago, with a match against Rory McLeod, who recently won the Masters qualifying event, looming in the third round.



Paul Hunter’s death in October 2006 was the saddest day of the decade for the snooker world.

He arrived at the Irish Masters 18 months earlier complaining of stomach pains. Everyone assumed this was some passing bug and that we’d hear no more about it, but by the time of the China Open the following month he had already been told he had cancer.

It was a rare form of the disease, at first kept at bay by treatment but which would become terminal.

Bravely, Hunter played on. To see him at tournaments ravaged by chemotherapy, unable to properly feel his hands and obviously not fit to perform at his best was heartbreaking.

Yet he never complained. He never asked ‘why me?’ He didn’t change despite his terrible ordeal.

At the turn of the decade, he was at something of a career crossroads, despite being in his early 20s.

His victory in the 1998 Welsh Open and the financial rewards that went with his early career success led him into spending more time partying than practising.

By his own admission he needed to concentrate more on snooker and, in 2000, he joined forces with Brandon Parker, his manager for the rest of his career.

In 2000, Hunter watched his friend, Matthew Stevens, win the Masters. The following year, he completed the first of three remarkable victories in the game’s leading invitation event.

He trailed Fergal O’Brien 6-2 at the mid session interval and went back to his hotel with Lyndsey, who would become his wife, where they did what couples do.

Two frames into the final session, O’Brien led 7-3 but Hunter then found his range and stormed back to win 10-9.

With his boyish charm in full evidence he later told the press he and Lyndsey had “put plan B into operation.” This was an entirely innocent, off the cuff remark but it would end up as a front page tabloid story and follow him round for the rest of his life. It seemed to mould Paul as ‘one of the boys,’ which indeed he was.

The following year, he fell 5-0 adrift to Mark Williams at Wembley but came back again to win 10-9.

In 2004, he completed the hat-trick, recovering from 7-2 down to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-9.

Hunter’s popularity increased with each of these victories. Television viewers warmed to his natural charm just as they had to that of Jimmy White two decades earlier.

Like White, Hunter was easy to relate to and easy to support.

He could have been world champion but for his illness. He came close in 2003 but let slip a 15-9 lead over Ken Doherty in the semi-finals, the Irishman winning 17-16.

The three Masters victories will, rightly, be what he is remembered for on the table, but he also won two ranking titles during the decade: the 2002 Welsh and British Opens.

Hunter was always good value for the press, be it because of his haircut or his wife or something other than the slog of who beat who in whatever tournament was on that week.

Much of his appeal was that he was always himself: a lad from Leeds who loved snooker and loved life.

The media loved Paul, so too did his fellow players and the public.

He was the golden boy cruelly denied his golden future.



110sport.tv is not showing the UK Championship qualifiers next week and may not cover any more of the main tour qualifiers following a disagreement with World Snooker just a few months into a three year deal signed earlier this year.

110sport are unhappy that secondary rights have been sold to bookmakers to be streamed free on betting websites.

It would obviously discourage viewers from paying for 110’s coverage if they could get it free elsewhere.

There was apparently a clause in the original contract but I understand 110sport believed this applied only to betting shops.

For the same stream to be available both on a pay per view basis and free would be a little like the All England Club selling the Wimbledon rights to Sky Sports and then a week later selling the same rights to the BBC.

Of course, without 110sport’s pictures the bookies are unable to show any of the action either, so it looks as if the online coverage of qualifiers has come to an end after only three events.

110sport is now likely to concentrate on its own events, such as the Legends series it launched in Glenrothes last month.

I asked World Snooker for a comment two days ago but have not received one so am unable to put their side of the story.

Streaming the qualifiers was a great opportunity to showcase the game and, in particular, some of the lesser known players further down the rankings.

When the deal was announced, World Snooker said: “The standard of play at the qualifiers is unbelievably high, and now fans across the world have the chance to watch some of the legends of the sport and up-and-coming stars in action.”

Not any more they don’t.

UPDATE: 110sport tell me there may be an eleventh hour deal in place in time to show at least some of the coverage from next week.

ANOTHER UPDATE: World Snooker has now, finally, put a statement on its website in which it denies any disagreement, although doesn't deny there is one between 110sport and World Snooker's broadcast agents, IMG.

I gave them two days to put their side of the story and supply a comment yet they chose not to. It would have cleared up any confusion about the precise nature of the dispute, although the material facts remain true: there is today no coverage of the UK Championship qualifiers for the reasons I stated above.


It was a decade which served up some terrific matches, full of skill and drama that proved whatever problems there may have been off the table, the product on the table has never been better.

Many matches stand out, too many, in fact, to mention here. For that reason, I am limiting this review to finals only.

Hand on heart, I would say the best final of the decade was between John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan at the 2006 Wembley Masters.

This was two of the greatest players of all time on top of their games going toe-to-toe right to the final ball.

When O’Sullivan missed match ball red to a middle pocket by a couple of millimetres in the decider, Higgins produced the best clearance of his career, 64, to land the title.

It was a fitting way for the Wembley Conference Centre’s last ever match to end.

Deciding frame finishes of course always throw up plenty of excitement, especially in finals.

O’Sullivan had three years earlier beaten Higgins 10-9 to win the Irish Masters. I remember in the decider he refused to roll up behind the brown after potting a red and instead blasted it into the middle before going on to win match and tournament.

This was part of a golden run of finals in 2003 that began when O’Sullivan beat Stephen Hendry 9-6 to win the European Open in a final that nobody saw because the tournament wasn’t televised.

I saw it and the standard was superb, although not as high as their British Open final a few months later, which included five successive centuries. Hendry won 9-6 in what was arguably his finest performance of the decade.

And the Crucible final that year saw Mark Williams hold off Ken Doherty, who recovered from 11-4 down to 12-12 before losing 18-16.

Williams’s first world title triumph in 2000 had seen him come from 13-7 down to edge Matthew Stevens 18-16.

Peter Ebdon felt the pressure at 17-16 up on Hendry in the 2002 final but admirably held himself together to win the decider.

And Higgins’s 2007 victory over Mark Selby was dramatic because of the way Selby came back at him, from 12-4 down to trail just 14-13 before the Scot stepped it up to win 18-13.

The previous year, Graeme Dott and Ebdon fought out a long but fascinating battle which Dott won 18-14.

The last ever Embassy sponsored world final saw Shaun Murphy outlast Stevens 18-16 in what was a gripping battle.

Murphy would lose 10-9 to Stephen Maguire in the 2008 China Open final, a match which kept a nation riveted until gone midnight.

At the Masters, Paul Hunter won three 10-9 deciders in four years, victories which hugely boosted snooker’s profile and proved its ability to produce exciting matches featuring dynamic characters the public could easily identify with.

The first Masters final of the decade brought heartbreak for Doherty, who missed the black off its spot for what would have been a 147 against Stevens, who compounded the misery by beating him 10-8.

Indeed, Doherty endured his fair share of disappointment in finals, also losing 10-9 to Williams in the 2002 UK Championship final.

Williams also came from 8-5 down to beat Anthony Hamilton 9-8 and win the 2002 China Open in Shanghai. I will always give Anthony credit for his refusal to make any excuses and blame anything other than his own lack of nerve as the pressure grew.

At the Welsh Open, O’Sullivan came from 8-5 down to beat Steve Davis 9-8 in 2004 and edged Hendry 9-8 after a terrific contest in 2005. Remarkably, this is the last time any player has successfully defended a ranking title.

The 2007 Welsh event saw unlikely finalist Andrew Higginson storm back from 6-2 down to lead Neil Robertson 8-6 before the Aussie fell over the line at 9-8.

In 2008, Mark Selby outdid O’Sullivan sufficiently to come back and beat him 9-8.

Though close finals tend to be regarded highly and remembered fondly, there were a number of superb performances by players winning easily.

O’Sullivan featured in the first of these this decade when he swept aside Ken Doherty 10-1 to win the 2001 UK Championship. Maguire did similar to David Gray in 2004 and O’Sullivan then thrashed Maguire 10-2 in 2007.

The Rocket also powered to a 10-3 victory over Higgins in the 2005 Masters final and beat Ding Junhui by the same score in 2007.

Ding, treated to great hostility by sections of the Wembley crowd and completely outplayed, tried to concede at 9-3.

For me, though, the best single performance has to be Higgins’s remarkable four successive centuries and 494 unanswered points against O’Sullivan in the 2005 Grand Prix final because it was a spell of utterly unstoppable snooker.

The 2000s was a decade in which standards across the board improved and the titles were more shared around than ever before.

And, my word, some of the snooker was sensational.



The round robin phase of the seven-man Partypoker.com Premier League comes to the boil in Llandudno tonight with four play-off spots available.

World champion John Higgins has already done enough to get through while Marco Fu and Neil Robertson cannot qualify.

So that leaves Ronnie O’Sullivan, Shaun Murphy, Stephen Hendry and Judd Trump battling for the three remaining places.

O’Sullivan, an eight times winner of the Premier League title and champion for each of the last five years faces Higgins. In normal circumstances, this would be tough to call but Higgins goes into the match not needing to worry about the result.

But the Scot knows that knocking O’Sullivan out will boost his own chances of League success so he’s unlikely to simply go through the motions.

The maths is a little complicated but O’Sullivan will at least know what he needs to do to qualify as he is on last.

First up, it’s Murphy v Trump. Murphy has five points and Trump six, so former Crucible champ Murphy will need to win to qualify for the semi-finals.

A draw should see Trump through and, were that to happen, Murphy would need Hendry – also on five points – to win no more than three of his six frames against Fu in the second match of the evening.

What’s the most likely scenario?

I’d expect Murphy, with his greater experience, to beat Trump, Hendry to get at least a draw against Fu and O’Sullivan to do the same against Higgins.

That would leave the top four as Higgins, O’Sullivan, Murphy and Hendry.


When the 1980s began, Steve Davis and Jimmy White were young men with the world at their feet.

At the start of the 1990s, they were top players and leading title contenders.

As the 2000s dawned, both Davis and White were staring decline in the face but, like the great champions they are, enjoyed memorable resurgences during the decade.

Davis dropped out of the elite top 16 in 2000 after 20 years as part of the elite group. People told him he should retire but his love for the game is such that that was never a possibility.

Instead, he rolled up his sleeves and headed for the qualifiers with mixed results.

Davis, by now part of the BBC television presentation team, missed out on the Crucible in 2001 and 2002 and must have wondered if he would ever return but he did so in 2003 and also earned promotion back to the top 16.

In 2004, he led Ronnie O’Sullivan 8-5 in the Welsh Open final but was edged out 9-8.

The following year he enjoyed an emotional run to the final of the UK Championship, which had been the first title he won as a professional some 25 years earlier.

This was Davis as good as he had ever been. He beat Mark Allen, Stephen Maguire – helped by a 145 total clearance, Ken Doherty and Stephen Hendry to reach his 100th career final.

There, he played the 18 year-old Ding Junhui, 30 years his junior.

There was to be no fairytale ending. Ding won 10-6 but Davis nevertheless authored one of the decade’s most heart warming stories.

White had done similar the previous year when he won his tenth career ranking title and his first in 12 years.

He beat Paul Hunter 9-7 in the Players Championship final in Glasgow and was joined in the arena by his most loyal supporter, his octogenarian father, Tommy, whose good humour and cheerfulness throughout all the setbacks he had endured watching his son had endeared him to everyone in the game.

White had already figured in two other finals, the 2000 British Open and 2004 European Open. His form came and went and his ranking yo-yoed.

In 2006, he was the world no.8 but a disastrous set of results cost him his top 32 place and he ends the decade in danger of dropping off the circuit.

They remain distinctly different characters. Earlier this month Davis played an exhibition at Buckingham Palace; White is currently undergoing hardship in the name of entertainment in the jungle on ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.’

These two legendary players have gone from young pretenders to the game’s elder statesmen.

Davis is now 52, White 47. Neither has anything left to prove but each loves snooker and will stick around for as long as is humanly possible.

Let’s hope it’s a while longer yet.



Mark Williams may have gone off the boil in the latter part of the decade but, in its early years, he was the game’s most consistent force.

Ronnie O’Sullivan said, after beating him to reach the 2001 UK Championship final, that he would happily pay for him to go and lie on a beach so that he wouldn’t have to play him again.

With Williams at his best, it wasn’t just about potting and breakbuilding. He had a guile and table-craft that undid many a player.

When he won the 2003 LG Cup it meant he simultaneously held all four BBC titles, something only Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry had previously accomplished.

And when Williams was world no.1 he was as authentic a top dog as those twin titans.

A fiercely talented long potter, Williams was a better player than had been widely recognised. One of his great skills was in finding ways to win matches when not at his best. He invariably scrapped through a couple of rounds before upping his game and peaking at the business end of tournaments.

He trailed his fellow Welshman, Matthew Stevens, 13-7 in the 2000 World Championship final but, with his iron will to win kicking in, recovered to beat him 18-16.

It didn’t go to his head. His laid back nature – a stark contrast to his competitive disposition in the arena – remained despite his success.

He was in some ways a reluctant world no.1. Media interviews did not come easily to him. He didn’t push himself forward or attempt to cultivate an image for himself.

On the table, he was on fire. From February 1998 to November 2003 he successfully negotiated the opening round of 48 successive ranking events, a record that will take some beating.

In this period he won a second UK Championship title, pipping Ken Doherty 10-9 in 2002.

Doherty was also his victim in a thrilling 2003 Crucible final, which Williams led 11-4 before being severely tested and eventually winning 18-16.

He also won a second Wembley Masters title in 2003 and that year became only the third player, after Davis and Hendry, to win the ‘big three’ in the same season.

He thus became – and remains – only the second player to win more than £700,000 in a single campaign.

In 2005, he made a Crucible maximum but Williams’s consistency left him for various reasons, one of which was possibly a sense of contentment at his achievements.

He won the 2006 China Open but would drop out of the top 16 in 2008 after some very disappointing results.

He’s back now and, though not fully returned to his best, is still a player nobody wants to draw.



Barry Hearn, the chief executive of the PDC darts circuit and long time manager of Steve Davis, has dramatically agreed to become WPBSA chairman if the current incumbent, Sir Rodney Walker, is overthrown at next month's AGM.

Hearn has been in discussions with the newly formed Snooker Players Association, a union of players who have been attempting to meet with the WPBSA board to discuss issues of concern.

The WPBSA has so far refused to meet them.

Now Hearn, one of the big beasts of the sports promotion world, has entered the fray, agreeing to become chairman of the governing body if Walker is voted out.

Nobody is standing against him, but he can be ousted if enough players vote 'no' on the ballot paper.

A statement from Hearn said: "It was not and is not my intention to run as a candidate for any office within The WPBSA.

"However, having seen first hand the opportunities presented to and currently available to professional snooker on a global basis at this time and the work being carried out by The SPA, I would just like to absolutely assure the players that in the event of a vacancy of chairman being created through this election I would be prepared to step into the role.

"I would of course only consider this with the backing of the players. If the players decide that they are happy with the way things are at present and they re-elect Sir Rodney, I would of course respect that decision and continue to do all I can to create playing opportunities through existing channels.

"I am not currently looking for and neither do I need to take this step, however I do believe there has never been a better time for expansion of the game and it would be a challenge I would relish."

Hearn's intervention effectively makes the AGM a vote of confidence in Walker and his board.

And defeat for them will surely spell the end of the WPBSA as we currently know it.


I’ve been taking a look at the early betting for next April's Betfred.com World Championship – these long autumn evenings just fly by – and am struck by the shortness of the odds for a Mark Selby title triumph.

Most bookmakers have him as third favourite behind Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins. Some have him joint second with Higgins.

William Hill has even made him 13/2 second favourite. Surely this is too short.

Selby is a fine player and could well have won the Crucible crown last season but, despite five centuries, was outwitted at the last by Higgins in their quarter-final.

But this season he is seeded to face O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals.

And so far this campaign he has failed to get past the opening round of the first two ranking events.

It's only November and there's plenty of time for things to turn round.

But only Skybet appear to have him as a bigger price for the title than Murphy, who won snooker’s biggest prize four years ago and was runner-up to Higgins last season.

Perhaps this is early caution from the bookies but if Selby wins a tournament or two in the run in to the Crucible this means his price is likely to shorten and he could well start as second favourite, breathing down O’Sullivan’s neck.

We won’t know the first round line-up until March but Higgins is in a useful section at the top of the draw.

Neil Robertson’s price will have shortened following his Grand Prix triumph last month but he’s still 14/1 with the sponsors, Betfred, and something tells me he won’t be that big when the Sheffield marathon kicks off.

Those looking for a good each way bet some five months before the tournament begins may be attracted by the 66/1 you can get on Peter Ebdon with Betfred and Stan James.

OK, he’s not performing consistently well these days but he always digs in at the Crucible, has been in three finals there and tends to come good once every 12-18 months.

It will have been just over a year since he won the China Open when the 2010 World Championship begins.

As it stands now, he’d be among the dark horses for me behind title challengers O’Sullivan, Higgins, Murphy, Robertson, Allen, Selby and Maguire (in that order).

The likes of Ryan Day, Ali Carter, Ding Junhui and Ricky Walden would figure as well.

Betfred rate Jimmy White – who would have to win three qualifying matches just to reach the Crucible – a 2,500/1 title shot.

I think jungle success is rather more likely for the people’s champ.



When John Higgins won his first world title in 1998, I assumed he would go on to win four or five.

As it transpires he still might, but this looked unlikely at the mid point of the decade when it appeared as if Higgins had gone off the boil.

He began the 2000s as world no.1 and indeed won its first ranking title, the Welsh Open.

He picked up a second UK title in 2000 and the following year won the first three tournaments of the 2001/02 season.

During the last of these he became a father for the first time. There’s no doubt this had a bearing on his career. Higgins is from a close family and he found himself enjoying home life more than the relentless hours in the club.

He thus went three years between ranking titles before his success in the 2004 British Open and dropped to sixth in the rankings, too low for a player of his ability.

Things changed, though, as the decade wore on. For a variety of reasons he rediscovered his competitive spirit.

In 2005, he compiled four successive centuries and amassed 494 points without reply in destroying Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-2 to win the Grand Prix.

He made a tremendous under pressure 64 clearance to pip O’Sullivan to the 2006 Masters title.

But he had been putting himself under it too much to win the world title again.

His fortunes seemed to turn round after Mark Williams beat him 17-15 from 14-10 down in their 2000 semi-final, a defeat Higgins attributes in large degree to Williams forgetting to shake his hand before their final session.

For five successive years Higgins failed to get past the quarter-finals at Sheffield but in 2007, despite not being in prime form ahead of the 17 day marathon, he went all the way to the title.

Then last season he won a third and demonstrated, in particular against Jamie Cope and Mark Selby, his ability to produce his best snooker while under pressure.

Virtually every professional regards Higgins as the best all round player in the game but also look up to him as a person.

He exudes a friendly, down to earth air despite his success. His fellow players like him and they respect him.

This means he is influential in off table matters, which he has taken a leading role in through the formation of the World Series and the new Snooker Players Association.

Having started the decade as a staunch WPBSA supporter, Higgins ends it as one of the most vocal critics of the governing body.

But it is as a player that he remains prominent. He will most likely end the decade as provisional world no.1 having started it as official no.1.

Despite a few slip ups during the last ten years, this is proof of Higgins’s undoubted class.



Stephen Hendry began the decade as world champion and ends it as world no.10.

This represents a decline but it has not been a dramatic one, more a gradual falling away and, make no mistake, he’s still a tough proposition and as determined as ever.

Hendry won four ranking titles during the decade, the last in 2005. He appeared in 12 ranking finals. Only Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams featured in more.

But his chief battle was with his own past. This was a man who won 27 titles and appeared in 38 finals from the 90 ranking events staged in the 1990s.

At one stage he won five in a row. The last time someone won two in a row in this decade was five years ago.

Such an unprecedented record of success could never be sustained and so any dip in form would be pounced on by those wishing to say he was no longer the force he once was.

And, of course, he isn’t but, as he proved at the Crucible just this year, he is capable of raising his game on the big occasions, though not for prolonged enough spells to seriously threaten for major titles.

Let us also remember that his consistency enabled him to return to the top of the rankings in 2006.

For fans of the 90s Hendry, it can be painful watching him struggle. Yet, when commentators say things such as “he never missed a long ball 15 years ago” they are quite obviously wrong. He, like all players, had his off days, even in his pomp. He just has more now than he did then.

And the difference now is that attention is more acutely focused on his mistakes because they appear to represent a general narrative: that this is a legend in sad decline, never to recapture former glories.

Stephen himself has spoken of the “chaos in my head” when he’s at the table. This stems from his own inability to accept that he isn’t the Hendry of old. He is perhaps expecting too much of himself. When, as Steve Davis did, he comes to terms with the fact that the golden age has gone, he may relax a little more and find some form.

To still be good enough to occupy tenth place in the rankings at the age of 40 proves how good he can still be.

For hour upon hour in his snooker room at home, he puts in the work. Just as in all those finals against Jimmy White, the desire to prove people wrong, to prove himself, still burns deep.

He no longer dominates the game but, rest assured, Hendry will forever, in the words of Dylan Thomas, rage against the dying of the light.



You'll recall I posted last month about the scrapping of channel 302 on Freeview and what impact this may have on the BBC's snooker coverage.

For the last few years, they have been showing both tables all day long on the red button.

Well, the BBC's Matt Millington has had this to say: "The two-table offering from major snooker events will be a difficult one for us. Where possible, we will aim to offer the alternative table to that being shown on the network channel, so two tables will be on offer for at least some of the time."

In the afternoons this means a choice for viewers but the BBC shows just an hour of live coverage in the evenings - from 7-8pm - before returning some four hours later for highlights, so clearly Freeview viewers will miss out.

However, viewers with Sky and cable and those watching on the BBC website will be unaffected.



Ronnie O’Sullivan was the player of the decade, in terms both of most titles won and in the way in which he bestrode the sport as its biggest draw and brightest star.

The 2000s began with O’Sullivan in some personal distress. He checked himself into the Priory Clinic to receive treatment for addiction and depression but despite some well publicised blow ups, kept himself on an even enough keel to realise his full potential as the decade wore on.

On the final night of the 2001 World Championship, O’Sullivan watched as former winners of the title took part in a ‘Champions Parade.’

Ridiculously, Jimmy White was invited to take part, despite the fact he had never won the title.

O’Sullivan looked on as his friend, six times the Crucible runner-up, took his applause and resolved never to put himself in the same position.

He would beat John Higgins in arguably the highest quality of all 10 world finals staged during the decade. Theirs was a rivalry born out of friendship and mutual respect. At the end of the final, Higgins told him he was happy for O’Sullivan’s father that he had won the title, a gesture much appreciated by Ronnie junior.

More titles came: a total of three world crowns, two more UK trophies to add to the two he had won in the 1990s and three more Masters victories in addition to his 1995 success.

But there were slumps as well, including a two and half year gap between winning ranking titles at the 2005 Irish Masters and 2007 UK Championship.

O’Sullivan took instantly to the Premier League’s shot-clock and, with one to go, has hoovered up every title under the format – five in a row, taking his total haul from the decade to seven.

He achieved a level of consistency hitherto lacking in his career and spent a total of five years as world no.1.

There were, of course, headlines for other reasons, ranging from the explosive to the bizarre.

O’Sullivan was extremely unwise to bad mouth Stephen Hendry in such graceless terms before their 2002 Crucible semi-final, which Hendry devoted every conceivable ounce of energy and concentration into winning.

In 2006, he walked out of his match against Hendry at the UK Championship, a gross lapse in professionalism to some, proof of the debilitating effects of his depression to others.

In China in 2008 his crude behaviour in a press conference was front page news, although it soon began to look like a lot of fuss about very little.

The cracks in his fragile character were laid bare at the Crucible in 2005 when he went to pieces as Peter Ebdon grimly ground him down in their World Championship quarter-final.

Yet it is these very human qualities that have endeared O’Sullivan to so many. And it is he, more than any other player, who has drawn new fans to the sport, particularly in areas such as Europe and China where snooker has grown in considerable ways in the last ten years.

O’Sullivan cannot boast the consistent record Hendry enjoyed in the 90s but has been responsible for many of the most memorable moments of this decade.

In 2007, he made a century in each of the five frames he won against Ali Carter in the Northern Ireland Trophy.

The same year he ended an epic UK Championship semi-final against Mark Selby with a maximum.

He lost two terrific Masters finals in deciders, first to Paul Hunter in 2004 and then to Higgins in 2006.

And he destroyed Higgins in the 2005 Wembley final and then Ding Junhui in 2007, putting together snooker Steve Davis described as “unplayable.”

For O’Sullivan, this was a decade in which, for all his frailties and love-hate relationship with snooker, he came of age as a player.

Our sport should consider itself lucky to have him.



I shall, in the coming weeks on this blog, be looking back at the last ten years in snooker as the decade comes to an end.

It was a decade that began with snooker still in fine fettle. There was an undisputed ‘big four’ of John Higgins, Stephen Hendry, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan and the circuit was awash with tournaments, both ranking and invitational, both in the UK and beyond.

But the warning signs were there too. The election of the Labour government in 1997 meant the end of tobacco sponsorship in 2003, with the World Championship exempt until 2005.

As it transpired, there were 77 ranking events staged during the decade compared with 90 in the 1990s.

Here’s who won the most:

Ronnie O’Sullivan – 15
Mark Williams – 9
John Higgins – 8
Peter Ebdon – 6
Stephen Hendry, Ken Doherty, Stephen Maguire, Neil Robertson – 4
Shaun Murphy, Ding Junhui, Stephen Lee – 3

And here’s who appeared in most ranking tournament finals:

Ronnie O’Sullivan – 22
Mark Williams, John Higgins – 14
Stephen Hendry – 12
Ken Doherty – 9
Peter Ebdon – 8
Shaun Murphy, Stephen Maguire – 6
Stephen Lee, Graeme Dott – 5

All of the above figures of course exclude next month’s UK Championship.

They provide a snapshot of who has performed best in the biggest events, although don’t include the premier invitation tournaments.

Of these, O’Sullivan and Paul Hunter each won the Masters three times, O’Sullivan and Higgins won two Scottish Masters titles apiece, Higgins captured two Irish Masters crowns and O’Sullivan was victorious in a remarkable seven stagings of the Premier League.

There were 35 maximums recorded in competitive play, nine more than in the 1990s. O’Sullivan was responsible for six of them and Higgins five.

In 2004, Jamie Burnett compiled the first break of more than 147 with his 148 in the UK Championship qualifiers.

In 2003, Mark Williams picked up the biggest ever first prize when he landed a cheque for £270,000 for winning the World Championship but overall prize money is lower than it was at the turn of the decade.

Only six players who were in the elite top 16 when the 2000s began are still there.

Higgins was first and is now fourth, Stephen Hendry was second and is now tenth, Williams was third and is now 15th and O’Sullivan was fourth and is now first.

Peter Ebdon was 13th and is now 14th; Mark King was 14th and is now 16th.

In the case of Williams and King, they each dropped out of the top 16 before returning.

O’Sullivan was world no.1 for a total of five years, Williams for three, Higgins for two and Hendry for one.

The biggest single viewing audience in the UK was the 7.8m who tuned in for the climax of Ebdon’s 2002 Crucible victory over Hendry but this is dwarfed by viewing figures recorded in China.

We lost many well known faces. Hunter succumbed to cancer at just 27 while stars of an earlier era – John Spencer, Eddie Charlton and Bill Werbeniuk – also died.

David Vine, a face synonymous with TV snooker for a generation of fans, passed away as did other members of snooker’s supporting cast, including referees John Smyth, John Street and Colin Brinded, Imperial Tobacco supremo Peter Dyke and TV commentator Jack Karnehm.

Snooker became big in China following Ding Junhui’s extraordinary capture of the 2005 China Open title in Beijing.

In its traditional base in the UK there was a downturn in interest as snooker clubs – including many that had been home to young kids who went on to become big stars – closed down in large numbers.

Snooker’s media profile decreased in Britain but grew elsewhere, particularly in Europe following a landmark broadcast deal with Eurosport.

There was the usual political wrangling as the players rejected first a breakaway circuit and then a serious investment offer.

Snooker started to embrace the internet as a tool for growth and provided many memorable television moments.

New faces appeared, old faces disappeared, the snooker world continued to turn and, through it all, the game remains intact.

Over the next few weeks I will be examining the players, the matches and the controversies that have marked out the last ten years on the green baize.


Jimmy White could face disciplinary action after withdrawing from the UK Championship to take part in ITV’s ‘I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here.’

White was due to play in the second qualifying round on November 25 but will instead be in the jungle.

I think it would be wrong to fine White. He may be damaging his own ranking position by pulling out but he isn’t harming the game as a whole.

However, I suspect he will hate the experience. Anyone who knows Jimmy knows he hates sitting around doing nothing, which is 90% what this programme is about.

The list of ‘celebrities’ for the show reads like a who’s that? of the entertainment industry.

White will be joined by former page 3 girl Sam Fox, interior designers Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan, former EastEnders actress Lucy Benjamin, Kim Woodburn, who appears on a TV show in which she cleans houses, a chef, a dancer and various other barely known faces.

Veteran actor George Hamilton is also in the line-up and glamour model Katie Price is rumoured to be joining the show later in its run.

It starts on Sunday.



The UK Championship, one of snooker's oldest and most prestigious tournaments, will be sponsored by Pukka Pies following a new deal announced today.

The news follows the appointment of the Essentially Group to sell sponsorship for WPBSA events.

The UK Championship has been sponsored by Maplin Electronics for the last three years but they decided not to renew following last season's tournament.


Ronnie O'Sullivan will compete in this season's Championship League regardless of whether or not he wins the Premier League.

The world no.1 will enter the event in group 2 next January. It is played down the road from his Chigwell home at Crondon Park Golf Club in Essex and shown free on the internet through various betting websites.

The first group sees world champion John Higgins, last season's CLS winner Judd Trump, Stephen Maguire, Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, Ryan Day and Ali Carter do battle.

O'Sullivan joins the fray in the following group alongside Neil Robertson and Marco Fu.

Stephen Hendry, Mark Allen, Ding Junhui, Liang Wenbo and Steve Davis are among the players entering in the later groups.

The players will compete for a £200,000 total prize fund with a place in the Premier League up for grabs for the ultimate winner.

Unlike the last two years, all matches will be best of five frames so this time around a draw is not possible.

The action starts on January 4.



Ricky Walden has beaten Jamie Cope 4-1 in the last 16 of the third Pro Challenge Series event of the season in Leicester.

And here's how he did it...with breaks of 100, 105, 102 and 102. Cope won his frame with a run of 129.

I'm guessing there wasn't much safety play.


More than 50 professionals, including 12 members of the elite top 16, will take part in the first Six Reds World Championship in Killarney, Republic of Ireland next month.

Among those taking part are reigning Crucible world champion John Higgins, Stephen Hendry, Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, Stephen Maguire, Peter Ebdon, Mark Allen and Steve Davis.

Ken Doherty, one of the organisers, is also in the 160-man field, which includes more than half of the main tour plus amateurs from countries such as Brazil, India and the United Arab Emirates.

“It’s a different sort of the game to what people are used to – fast and furious. Some snooker matches can go on for hours but six reds is quick-fire and entertaining,” Doherty said.

“It’s something a bit different and I know all the players are looking forward to it.

“It’s great that Ireland is staging the first Six Reds World Championship and the field is properly international, open to professionals and amateurs.

“It’ll be cut-throat because with nine fewer reds than normal, one mistake can cost you a frame.

“But it promises to be a very competitive event. We have 12 of the world’s top 16 players already confirmed and are talking to the others so it will be a high quality line up.”

The 160 players will be divided into 32 groups, with the top three from each advancing to the knockout phase.

The action takes place at the INEC in Killarney from December 15-18. Entries are still being accepted and more information can be found at http://www.6redworldchampionships.com/.



Mark Williams has been more Frank Spencer than John Spencer this season.

First, he broke his arm before the Shanghai Masters. Today he suffered a couple of hefty blows to his head on one of the light shades in the Pro Challenge Series at Willie Thorne's, Leicester.

Williams was beaten 4-1 by Jamie Cope.

The story put me in mind of Steve Davis, who banged his head on a thick steel door shortly before playing Ricky Walden in the 2005 China Open.

He became so dizzy that he had to withdraw midway through the third frame and was taken to hospital.

I know this will come as a shock to many of you but journalists tend not to be the most sympathetic of people.

There were a few jokes at Steve's expense backstage but fate got its own back.

As we left the venue that night, I banged my head on the same door.

It was the only time I was ever likely to emulate anything Steve had done.

And, yes, it hurt...


World Snooker has hired the Essentially Group, a leading media services agency, to sell sponsorship for the UK Championship, Masters and Welsh Open.

All three tournaments are currently without title sponsors, as was last month’s Grand Prix.

“World Snooker is looking forward to working closely with Essentially to extend our sponsorship marketing activities. Our tournaments provide sponsors with uniquely clean, creative branding opportunities and deliver considerable brand exposure throughout the UK, Mainland Europe and the Far East,” said Miles Pearce, World Snooker’s commercial director.

“Essentially is delighted to be working with World Snooker and look forward to delivering new sponsorship for the best snooker tournaments in the world, being broadcast to significant audiences on BBC and internationally,” said Nick Hoyle, sales director of Essentially.

The current global economic situation makes obtaining sponsorship difficult.

Snooker’s image – as Ronnie O’Sullivan pointed out last January – is not as strong as some other sports, despite healthy viewing audiences and the rise in interest in the game in Europe and the Far East.

If Essentially can navigate these tricky waters and find some much needed sponsors then they will be worth whatever they are being paid.



Allison Fisher is the greatest player in the history of women's snooker.

She is now a leading light of the US pool circuit and tells her story in today's Observer.

Read it here.



Judd Trump’s second career victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan in the Premier League last night proved that he is a big occasion player.

His problem, conversely, is making it to the big occasions.

I confess I didn’t see the match so have had to rely on what I’ve been told, but to beat O’Sullivan before a large crowd live on television as he did in Exeter is something that will give him huge confidence.

It follows his win over the world no.1 in the Grand Prix last year.

Trump has impressed in the Premier League, yet in the qualifiers at Prestatyn this season he is 0/3.

He could conceivably win the League title and drop out of the top 32.

Ever since he was a boy he has been tipped for big things. He was a prodigious winner of junior titles and maybe he expected too much too soon as a pro.

Judd has done pretty well, making it into the top 32 as a teenager. Comparisons with other players are inevitable but unhelpful.

O’Sullivan won a ranking title at 17. Shaun Murphy was 22 when he won his first.

Players mature at different rates. Trump is attempting to make the next step by going to Sheffield, where he will practice in the World Snooker Academy.

I’d imagine this was a hard decision for him to make. Keynsham is all he has known so far but, like any young man, he is looking to spread his wings a little, be more independent and take control of his own life.

This is fine...as long as he continues to focus on his snooker.

Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry were not social animals as young men. You didn’t see them in nightclubs every weekend. They had that single-mindedness you need to succeed.

That said, comparing any player to those two is unfair: they are a breed apart.

Trump is practising with Daniel Wells and Jack Lisowski. I don’t know them personally but have interviewed them both and they seem like nice, down to earth lads and this trio is unlikely to turn into a sort of snooker brat pack.

They all love the game, they all love playing the game and the competition between the three could help each of them improve.

Trump’s next big test comes at the UK Championship qualifiers in a couple of week’s time.

He may go to Pontin’s bleary-eyed as Premier League champion.

I don’t believe he will simply fade away but it is pointless predicting what he will achieve in the future.

Better to just let the guy play. Because, as O’Sullivan will tell you, he can play.



I’m told by a very good source that it is “99% certain” there will be a seventh ranking event this season.

If so, this is obviously good news, although it will raise the question of whether the ranking points tariffs should have been altered in the way they were as it will skew this season to be more important than last.

That’s a minor point for now. The more tournaments the better as far as I’m concerned.

Indeed, the number of tournaments being staged is increasing as private promoters stage more away from the ‘main tour’.

I’ve noticed a tendency for snooker fans to dismiss anything that isn’t a ranking event as a bit of nonsense that shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Well, Liang Wenbo won £50,000 for winning 110sport’s tournament in Beijing in the summer. I’d guess he took that pretty seriously.

Almost every ranking event started life as a smaller invitation tournament.

This was true of the UK Championship. Indeed, it was true of the World Championship.

But for Barry Hearn and his 80s vision, would there have been fully fledged ranking events in Dubai or Thailand or China?

So the next time you disregard a tournament just because it doesn’t carry ranking points, look back at snooker history and you may want to think again.

Whether an event carries ranking points or not, exposure for the game in terms of visibility cannot be overestimated.



So well done to Rory McLeod for winning the Masters qualifying event.

His career seems to have blossomed much later than you would expect. Rory’s 38 now but in the last year made three successive centuries against Ronnie O’Sullivan at the UK Championship, qualified for the Crucible for the first time and is now Wembley bound.

A Wellingborough boy of Jamaican parents, McLeod now lives in Qatar.

During the Masters qualifiers he spent time between matches listening to verses from the Koran in an attempt to relax himself. It obviously worked and he now waits to see whether he will play Mark Williams or Mark King.

This will depend on who the other wildcard is. Liang Wenbo is hot favourite and will surely only miss out if there is a shock winner of the UK Championship.

You will recall McLeod and King played out a long, often tedious match at the World Championship last season that went into an extra session, so if they are paired together again I fear for the sanity of whoever is making the decision.

Better to pair McLeod with Williams and King with Liang.

Not that Rory will care who he plays. Snooker professionals at all levels are well used to the setbacks and disappointments that inevitably come as part and parcel of a sporting career.

This, though, is a moment to relish.

The Masters is the game’s most prestigious invitation tournament and to many players second only to the World Championship in terms of prestige.

Stephen Hendry won it a record six times and has appeared in a record nine finals.

He likes a record, does Stephen, just as he likes a trophy.

On Sunday he won his 74th in defeating Ken Doherty 5-3 to win the first 110sport Legends event in Glenrothes.

I can report it was a fun weekend, although the action was serious as the old warhorses locked horns once again.

I was alarmed by the sight of a frail Alex Higgins unable to produce any sort of form but cheered by Cliff Thorburn’s warmth towards him and the Canadian's general charisma.

Hendry was a fitting winner, given that his legendary status can’t be questioned.

He remains snooker’s greatest ever player. Tony Drago, with whom I did some commentary, also pointed out that he has profoundly changed snooker.

“Stephen is the most attacking player I have ever played. All the players who have come since have copied him,” he said.

While we were enjoying ourselves in Scotland, Ricky Walden was out pounding the streets as he completed the New York marathon in a time of four hours, 17 minutes.

That sounds pretty good to me and Ricky raised around £1,500 for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Meanwhile, the WPBSA board member, Jim McMahon, made an attempt to broker peace in the civil war afflicting Scottish amateur snooker and came very close but the old order, having agreed on a way forward with the rival group, reneged on it at the last minute.

The WPBSA understandably withdrew from the mediation process and have now taken away the main tour place for Scotland.

While I was in Scotland I heard nothing but bad things about those who have been running Scottish Snooker for the last few years.

Their actions have now resulted in the young Scottish players they are supposed to be representing suffering the ignominy of not having a place on the circuit to play for.

If this doesn’t galvanise action north of the border, surely nothing will.

Next up in November is Pro Challenge Series event 3 in Leicester, followed by the UK Championship qualifiers.

Also, the IBSF world amateur championship takes place in India, starting on the 15th.

Snooker fans may also want to tune into ITV’s jungle-based humiliation-fest I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here.