A reminder that tonight's evening of Partycasino.com Premier League snooker starts earlier than usual, at 6pm UK time.

There are three matches tonight: Shaun Murphy v Marco Fu, Ding Junhui v Mark Williams and Neil Robertson v Mark Selby.

Robertson, the newly crowned World Open champion, is making his first appearance in this year's League.

Murphy, Williams and Ronnie O'Sullivan top the table after the first two weeks of action.

The matches are live on Sky Sports HD2 and Sky Sports 2.


Bruges in Belgium is the location of the second European Players Tour Championship tournament, which has begun today.

91 members of the 96 player main tour have entered as the race for the grand finals intensifies.

The top 24 in the PTC rankings after the 12th event go forward to the televised finale next March.

The Bruges tournament marks the halfway point of the PTC and is due to feature players including Neil Robertson, Stephen Hendry, Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, Steve Davis and Jimmy White.

Organisers have announced that Ronnie O'Sullivan and Ali Carter have withdrawn.

Crucially, the seedings for the UK Championship, Wembley Masters and Welsh Open will be determined by the ranking list issued after Bruges.

You can follow the action on worldsnooker.com and at global-snooker.com.


Yes, welcome again to the weekly quiz run fortnightly.

You’ll recall that the last quiz was based on ‘firsts.’ This one, therefore, is based on ‘lasts.’

Good luck!

1) Who was the last player to win a tournament broadcast on ITV?

2) When did Mark Williams last beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in a ranking event?

3) Who was the opponent when Alex Higgins last won a match at the Crucible?

4) There were eight official maximums recorded in the 1980s. Who made the last of these?

5) What was the last ranking tournament final to feature two players ranked outside the top 16?

Answers tomorrow morning...



World Snooker’s new Q School will replace the Pontin’s International Open Series as the way amateurs can qualify for the professional circuit.

Q School consists of three week long tournaments played at the World Snooker Academy in Sheffield.

The four semi-finalists in each will qualify for the main tour in 2011/12.

The closing date for entries, which cost £1,000, is March 1, although there are separate criteria for professionals who drop off the circuit at the end of the season.

Unlike in previous years, they can return immediately rather than spend a year in the green baize wilderness.

Amateur players who enter Q School must be members of their national governing body.

The new qualifying system is based on a similar model in golf.

I’m sure most amateurs would prefer a proper Challenge Tour but it isn’t World Snooker’s job to organise one.

The PIOS consisted of eight events, worth £3,000 to the winner of each with the top eight qualifying for the pro circuit.

Amateurs can now play in the 12 Players Tour Championship tournaments, which gives them good match practice and the chance to earn prize money.

But there are no qualifying places for the main tour at the end of it.

Q School is consistent with Hearn’s ethos: the rewards are there if you are good enough.

But restricting a qualifying system to the space of a single month will mean any players suffering from illness or unable to get time off work for such a long period will be disadvantaged.

On the other side of the coin, if you are a player from outside the UK it would be easier to attend a qualifying event that lasts a few weeks than have to keep flying back and forth to the UK, or even base yourself here full time.

Q School is also a way of raising money for World Snooker coffers. An entry of 500 players would net the company half a million, to be reinvested in other events.

Is Q School a fair qualifying system?

In some ways it’s not unlike the old pro-ticket qualifiers of the 1980s. It takes away the season-long qualifying tour but, with the PTCs, doesn’t actually reduce opportunities for amateurs.

There are four more places available through Q School than there were through the PIOS.

But, under any system, the cream should rise to the top. If a player really is good enough not just to turn professional but also to have a successful career than they will make it regardless of the qualifying set up.

The Q School site is here.



Thailand looks set to stage the first proper snooker World Cup for 15 years.

The 1996 World Cup, won in Bangkok by the Scotland 'dream team' of Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Alan McManus, was one of the most popular events ever staged.

But it never returned to the calendar. The Nations Cup, a vastly watered down version, emerged a few years later but the game has been waiting...and waiting...for a new international team event.

Now World Snooker Ltd chairman Barry Hearn is set to unveil a World Cup to be staged in Thailand next season.

It will feature two man teams, selected by the ranking list, and is likely to include singles and doubles matches.

Snooker is an individual sport but most players have experience of playing for teams, whether from their league days or the amateur ranks.

Competition for some countries would be fierce, England being an obvious example.

Ronnie O'Sullivan, the game's biggest draw, would not be a certainty. Hearn told the Daily Mirror: "Playing in a team of two would be something different for Ronnie. We all know how good he is but he also has a role and a responsibility. If he is in the top two from England, he will be in it."

There will be a formal announcement on the new World Cup in due course.

But, like the World Open, it already sounds like another positive step forwards: a different idea, a different format but, crucially, the same game.



As if any further proof were required after his World Championship triumph last season, Neil Robertson’s capture of the World Open title last night confirmed him as the real deal.

It was his sixth ranking tournament final and his sixth title, itself an indication of how comfortable he is on the big stage and how his reserves of self belief ensure he doesn’t buckle when things get tough.

There were a few inevitable snipes after the Crucible that he had only played one top 16 player in becoming world champion.

But Robertson’s authoritative 5-1 dismissal of an in form Ronnie O’Sullivan in Glasgow provides further proof of his talent, poise and reputation as a big occasion player.

He is now world no.1 and it isn’t surprising given the amount of pressure balls he potted during the week.

He was put under it by Andrew Higginson in the last 16 but time and time again found the right response, as he did from 2-0 down to Mark Williams in the semi-finals.

Robertson’s natural confidence in his own abilities came to the fore in the final. To his credit, O’Sullivan took the defeat with humility: he knew he had been outplayed.

It brought to an end a terrific week of snooker in a tournament that was in many ways the exact opposite of the World Championship – fast, furious and invariably about who makes the best start.

But the winner was the same. And that’s because Neil Robertson is, under any format, a world class talent with a game to match the very best there is.



So the final is between world champion Neil Robertson, who is to be snooker's eighth official no.1, and Ronnie O'Sullivan, the mercurial genius of the green baize.

The 12bet.com World Open did not, as some had predicted, turn into a lottery with shocks a-plenty. Quite the opposite in fact.

This tournament was a typical Barry Hearn gamble and, typically for Hearn, it worked.

He seems to have an innate knowledge of what people want...even when they don't realise they want it themselves.

It's been a week of great excitement in Glasgow.

Why? Because close matches are exciting and best of fives are always going to be close. Even when a player goes 2-0 up there is the feeling that the match is not over.

It's shown up just how stale the old best of nine frame format had become.

That's not to say best of nines should be scrapped. They remain the staple for tournaments outside the three majors.

I would also guard against a kneejerk reaction when it comes to meddling with the formats of the World Championship, UK Championship and Wembley Masters but thank goodness this new event was given a go.

Having one table was another correct decision. It made it a completely level playing field, unlike in many events when half the matches are played in cubicle conditions.

This summed up another Hearn ethos: I'll give you the chance, what you make of it is up to you.

What the week proved is that the best players respond well under pressure. That, coupled with their obvious skill, is why they are the best.

OK, some matches early on were not appealing but you get that under any format.

At least with best of fives if you don't like the first match another one will be along in a few minutes.

The SECC audience have got to see a variety of players rather than being lumped with two they may not take to.

Crowds built up to be very good in the last few days of the tournament.

I don't know what the BBC will do regarding this event next season. It will depend not just on ratings but other factors such as cost and scheduling.

But clearly the World Open has its place in the snooker calendar.

It must surely be back next season.


Ronnie O’Sullivan played some wonderful snooker last night to beat Stephen Maguire 3-1 and reach the semi-finals of the 12bet.com World Open in Glasgow.

This was O’Sullivan at his imperious best: heavy scoring, good safety, full commitment.

“I’ve never doubted my resilience. I know what I’m capable of and what’s inside me,” said O’Sullivan, who is looking for his first ranking title since he won the Shanghai Masters just over a year ago.

His talent is extraordinary but he doesn’t quite seem to recognise just how extraordinary it is.

Today, he faces a semi-final slog against Peter Ebdon, who hasn’t beaten him since THAT World Championship quarter-final in 2005.

“Thank God it’s only five frames,” was O’Sullivan’s typically brutal response to the news he would have to face snooker’s most methodical exponent again.

Ebdon hasn’t played his best stuff yet this week but the re-spotted black he slotted home in the third frame against Martin Gould yesterday was, under the circumstances, the best pot of the tournament.

If O’Sullivan is at all complacent he may come unstuck against the redoubtable 2002 world champion.

But I’d expect Ronnie to come through to the final, where he would face another great talent in Neil Robertson or Mark Williams.

Robertson is already world champion and is guaranteed to be official world no.1 after the World Open.

Williams became the first player to recover from 2-0 down and win a match in Glasgow this week when he exposed Ding Junhui’s frailties in the quarter-finals.

Yes, a short match is hard to call but I’d make Williams the slight favourite.

But with four world champions through to the semi-finals we’re guaranteed a fascinating day’s snooker.



The quarter-finals of the 12bet.com World Open feature seven ranking event winners, three more than at the Shanghai Masters.

The quarter-finalists in this 'lottery' tournament have previously appeared in the last eight of a ranking event 235 times. It's a field brimming with quality and should be a cracking weekend.

The one unfamiliar face is Martin Gould but he has fully earned his place after a typically all guns blazing performance last night, taking the game to Stephen Lee.

Gould should play the same way against Peter Ebdon rather than allow the 2002 world champion to dictate the pace and style of match.

Ebdon hasn't played particularly well yet but has relied on his legendary fighting qualities. Even they may not be enough if Gould finds his range, although he will need to keep the nerves at bay.

First up is Ding Junhui v Mark Williams, a repeat of last season's China Open final in which Williams reminded everyone just why he was such a dominant world no.1.

Tonight it's Ronnie O'Sullivan against Stephen Maguire, who needs to keep a lid on his frustration if things start to go wrong.

This is a huge night for Maguire. He knows that someone in his position in the rankings needs to be beating the top players with greater regularity.

There would be no better scalp than O'Sullivan in Maguire's home city of Glasgow.

Ronnie joked that it was 'all downhill from here' after the 147 and victories over Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry.

But there is sure to be a great atmosphere this evening when he tackles the local man.

I thought Neil Robertson was superb under pressure last night in repelling the challenge of Andrew Higginson.

In the third frame he produced a world champion's clearance and potted several pressure balls after that to earn his quarter-final place.

Ricky Walden also played well against Jamie Cope, but Robertson's safety game is better than Cope's and this could be a decisive factor.

Crowds have picked up at the SECC as the week has gone on and I sense that the World Open has been a popular addition to the calendar.

Let's hope it's a grandstand finish this weekend.



Another day, another clash of snooker legends in Glasgow.

Having beaten Jimmy White, Ronnie O'Sullivan now faces Stephen Hendry.

If you could combine the best attributes of both at their respective peaks - and throw in a bit of Steve Davis - you would have the perfect snooker player.

In 2010, O'Sullivan is clearly playing better snooker but Hendry has looked solid this week and will not lack for motivation.

Their relationship fractured following O'Sullivan's graceless, groundless personal attack on Hendry before their 2002 World Championship semi-final, which he has regretted ever since.

That's water under the bridge now and the mutual respect has returned, but a victory over O'Sullivan would still be sweet for Hendry, who is battling to rediscover his best form.

When Ricky Walden beat Jamie Cope 4-1 in the Pro Challenge Series last year there was a century in every frame.

The match was played on a club table but, even so, it shows how naturally attacking they are having grown up watching Hendry and O'Sullivan.

Tonight, Neil Robertson and Andrew Higginson meet for the first time since their exciting Welsh Open final of 2007.

Higginson has been one of the few lower ranked players who has looked comfortable in the one table arena.

This is surely because of his run to the Newport final: he has done it before and can therefore do it again.



Time was when Ronnie O'Sullivan v Jimmy White would set the pulses racing.

It still appeals but on current form is a mismatch, even over the best of five frames.

White has only beaten O'Sullivan once in a ranking event and not at all for five years.

He was edgy against Paul Davison whereas O'Sullivan produced the good, the bad and the ugly during his 3-0 dismissal of Mark King.

Ronnie greatly respects Jimmy. For this reason I expect he will treat him and the match will all due reverence and come through the winner.

They are two great crowd favourites but will they draw a crowd? If they can't nobody can.

Marco Fu and Andrew Higginson have had the longest wait of all, making their bows on day six of nine.

Higginson has two wins over Fu under his belt, both at Newport. Fu won the 2007 Grand Prix when it was played under the short form round robin format and was also winner of last season's Championship League, which was best of fives. Perhaps this is an omen.

The last 16 starts with Ding Junhui against Marcus Campbell, a great fighter but a player who rarely produces his best on television.

Tonight, Peter Ebdon will look to bring his vast experience to the fore against Liu Song, who is only in the tournament because of John Higgins's suspension.

Yesterday I heard some BBC commentary by Stephen Hendry. Not all great sportsmen make great analysts but I thought Hendry was excellent: clear, direct and only speaking when he had something to add.

His willingness to tell it how it is was refreshing and although he would like to remain a top player a little while longer, he will be a much valued member of the TV team for years to come if he wants to follow a career in the media.

After all, who is going to argue with what he says?



It would be a certain irony if the 12bet.com World Open rescued the fortunes of Stephen Hendry and Peter Ebdon.

Hendry, like a number of players, was of the view that, while the new shorter format should be welcomed, it should not carry so many ranking points.

However, he is already in the last 16 and a good run in this tournament will ease his worries of top 16 relegation later this season.

Hendry has not been in world beating form by any means but the World Open could well prove to be the ideal tournament for him.

Why? Because one of his main problems in recent years has been consistency, linked to the fact that his concentration has gone walkabout at crucial times and that legendary focus has been dented.

In such short matches this is far less likely to happen. Hendry will need to up his game to win the title but you have to be in it to win it and he's still going strong.

There was no bigger opponent of the Barry Hearn's blueprint than Ebdon earlier this year. Had he got his way the ranking system would be as it was and he would not have the chance, as he does now, to return immediately to the top 16 and be at the Masters next January.

His match with Fergal O'Brien last night was not of the highest standard. Ebdon in particular seemed unable to control the cue ball, whether because he found the table playing differently to his first match or for other reasons unknown.

But a win is a win and it was yet another match in which the favourite came through.

Wasn't this tournament supposed to be a 'complete lottery?'

I never did believe that. And what the event has proved is that the rankings don't lie.

The top players are where they are because they are the best: not only more skillful but also more able to hold their nerve at crucial moments.

A number of lower ranked players in this tournament have had clear chances to win frames and matches but haven't taken them.

The one table set-up has meant that there is no hiding place and frailities have been exposed. This - not the format - has been key in producing the results we've seen.

Davy Morris, 21, makes his TV debut today. Talk about a baptism of fire, he takes on world champion Neil Robertson.

Similarly, James McBain will take his first bow in front of the cameras against former Shanghai Masters winner Ricky Walden.

Good luck to them both but it will be tough. Even experienced campaigners have wilted in the heat of the SECC as the cream has risen to the top.

TV Times:
BBC2: 1.30-4.25pm, 7-8pm, 11.50pm-2.40am (BST)

Eurosport International: 1.30-6pm, 9-11pm (CET)

Eurosport2: 8.30-9pm (CET)
British Eurosport: 12.30-5pm, 7-10pm



The bond between father and son is an important one in snooker.

It is born out of the fact that the dads invariably spend their weekends driving their boys to junior tournaments up and down motorways, sharing in their early successes and commiserating in their initial setbacks.

And when they turn professional they proudly look on, hoping that their kid will eventually sit on top of the snooker world.

In an emotional interview in today’s Guardian newspaper, John Higgins reveals that his father, John senior, has terminal cancer.

He has returned home to spend what time he has remaining with his family.

John senior took on the reins of management after Higgins’s bust-up with CueMasters in the early 1990s.

He chaperoned his son to tournaments and was a lively, friendly, personable presence backstage.

There was no one prouder when Higgins won the world title in 1998.

It was John senior who had first taken him and an elder brother to a local snooker club when Higgins was nine, which lit the blue touch paper for a lifetime’s love of the game.

He is one of a legion of snooker fathers who have played crucial roles in the lives and careers of their sons.

Ronnie O’Sullivan suffered a separation from his father at 16 that he never got over and which has affected him ever since.

Matthew Stevens said he “got drunk for two years” following the death of his dad, Morrell, in 2001.

I remember Morrell once telling me that when Matthew reached the 2000 world final he found himself sitting up in bed at night and shouting out into the darkness: “Bloody hell, my lad’s going to play in a Crucible final.”

Such pride after all the years in the junior ranks, as an amateur, as a rookie professional, working their way up, was typical of the community of parents on the circuit that have given the players room a family feel.

There was Colin Lee, father of Stephen, and Alan Hunter, father of Paul, two stalwarts backstage who enjoyed their snooker and were always sporting regardless of how their boys got on.

Snooker is, for all the often fevered debate that surrounds it, just a game.

But it’s a game that has brought John Higgins’s family great joy and his father was a vital part of that.


On the day in which a new integrity unit was announced it didn’t say much for the integrity of snooker that a player had to be persuaded by the referee to pot the last ball of a 147.

Jan Verhaas did the right thing, for the watching spectators and the game, by telling Ronnie O’Sullivan to pot the black yesterday.

O’Sullivan, who had at various times in his match against Mark King been mean, moody and magnificent, wanted to flounce off because the bonus prize for a maximum has been scrapped.

I agree with him that this is wrong. A 147 break is still a major achievement. For him to have made ten in his career is remarkable.

World Snooker claims it is too costly to insure against them but there was only one in a ranking event during the whole of last season. They remain relatively rare and should be rewarded.

But O’Sullivan’s behaviour, both in the arena and in interviews afterwards, was crass.

We live in difficult economic times. You don’t have to walk far from the SECC in Glasgow to find people for whom £4,000 would make a huge difference.

I’ve no doubt Ronnie’s many fans will spring to his defence but this was far from his finest hour.

However, the climax should not detract from the fact that the break was sensational and he played by far the best snooker and provided the headlines of what was otherwise a low key day.

In doing so, he did the game a favour. This, as ever, is Ronnie in a nutshell and this, despite what many think, is why we are lucky to have him.

Even when he is doing things that make the sport's wise old heads despair - as they did yesterday - he is still providing entertainment.

The media at large was simply not bothered about any of yesterday's other matches.

Today we have what could be the match of the round as Ali Carter tackles Mark Williams. Both these players are in form but I can’t help thinking Williams will adapt better to the short format.

Stephen Hendry can earn valuable ranking points if he beats Mark Davis to reach the last 16.

I can’t see Peter Ebdon’s match against Fergal O’Brien being a sprint but, again, Ebdon could use the points as he attempts to rejoin the elite top 16.

Here’s an interesting anomaly: Liu Song is eligible for ranking points but, with John Higgins returning to the circuit in November, will have to give up his place on the main tour by November.

So what happens if he wins the tournament?



So ten results in and only two 'shocks' so far.

Barry Hawkins played very well indeed to take a 2-1 lead over Mark Selby even if it did then become a struggle to get over the line.

Speaking of struggles, Jimmy White laboured to his 3-1 win over Paul Davison but got there in the end.

Stephen Hendry, Mark Williams and Ding Junhui all breezed through and today Ronnie O'Sullivan plays the final match of the last 64 against mark King.

As every commentator will tell you, you never know which Ronnie will turn up.

But at least he has turned up, unlike in Shanghai, and that should ensure a decent crowd.

O'Sullivan doesn't like playing King and that's reflected in their head-to-head record, which King leads.

But there's not quite as much time to get frustrated in a best of five. He may well take to the shorter format.

Then again...

A word on one aspect of this tournament that needs looking at: the playing of music between frames.

What is the point of this? It reached farcical levels last night when someone pressed 'play' before the re-spot black between Hawkins and Selby in their first frame.

I'm not sure blasting out 'Rocking All Over the World' before a final frame decider adds to the drama. On the contrary, it feels more like an afternoon in a shopping mall.

New ideas should be welcomed and should be tried out.

But when they don't work they should be ditched.

TV Times:
BBC2: 12.30-4pm, 11.50pm-2.40am (BST)

Eurosport International: 1.30-6pm, 8.45-11pm (CET)
British Eurosport: 12.30-5pm, 7-10pm (BST)



I enjoyed day one of the 12bet.com World Open.

I liked the fact there was only one table, I liked that we got to see five matches, I thought the set looked good and there was plenty of interesting snooker.

I can understand some players not liking the best of fives but there was only one ‘shock’ and, given his form at the Shanghai Masters, I’m not sure Shaun Murphy losing to Dave Harold registers that high on the Richter scale of upsets.

The format is cutthroat but the Stephen Maguire-Stuart Pettman match proved the tournament isn’t just a lottery.

As I said in one of my previews, a decider is a test of nerve regardless of how many frames there are in the match.

Pettman faltered badly when presented with two excellent chances to win. The length of the match in this scenario is an irrelevance.

I keep hearing that ‘anyone can beat anyone in a best of five.’ So what? Anyone can beat anyone over any distance. It depends entirely on how you play.

And decades ago the World Championship final was played over several weeks. Concessions had to be made to television, and they still do because, without it, snooker wouldn’t be a professional sport in any meaningful way.

Graeme Dott was probably right to say the World Open should not have such a high ranking points tariff but players have to understand the compromises that are made to get these tournaments on in the first place.

It’s a BBC event and understandable that the BBC want it to have the necessary prestige bearing in mind the amount of money they are ploughing into the professional circuit.

There was a good crowd in early on and it tailed off as the day went on. It’s better for the players if it’s a packed house but snooker needn’t beat itself up about this.

I went to tournaments in the ‘good old days’ and I can assure you it wasn’t always standing room only.

Spectators, as in any sport, are discerning and will watch the players who interest them.

Attempts were made yesterday to make it more of an experience for fans, all of which I applaud.

But, put simply, snooker ain’t darts. In that sport part of the appeal is having a drink – usually more than one – and joining in with the atmosphere, singing along when they play music, mugging for the cameras and generally having a laugh.

Snooker is a sport which requires its audience to spend long hours basically sitting still in silence. Nothing much can be done about this: you either like it or you don’t.

So rather than go for changes in the arena, it would be better to make them backstage. Get the players to do autograph sessions or spend half an hour coaching or doing trickshots. Have them interact more with the public and there's more chance that public will return.

The future of snooker rests more on the shoulders of the players than it does on those of Barry Hearn. He can create more opportunities but they have to embrace them and make them work.

Times change. I remember Steve Davis in the mid 1990s saying, ‘There are too many tournaments like the International Open.’

This was when the circuit was rich with events. Right now, snooker would like a couple more tournaments like the International Open.

I can understand it if many players, particularly those higher up the rankings, don’t like the World Open format but getting in a sulk about it isn’t going to improve their prospects or those of the sport.

To today’s action...Brazil’s first professional Igor Figueiredo takes on Mark Williams. Stephen Hendry will attempt to arrest his decline in form against Bjorn Haneveer. People’s champion Jimmy White tackles Paul Davison. Plus, the draw will be made for the last 32.

Much to enjoy, then.

TV times:
BBC2: 2-5pm, 11.40pm-2.30am (BST)

Eurosport2: 4.30-5.30pm (CET)
Eurosport International: 8.45-11pm (CET)
British Eurosport: 7-10pm (BST)



Morrissey once sang that ‘America is not the world.’

In terms of a strict geographical observation Mozza can’t be faulted. But some people in snooker need to be reminded that the UK is only one country of many. There is a whole world out there and it needs to be explored.

Snooker was invented in India, albeit by British army officers. The professional game was born in the UK and grew here but for snooker to go forward it needs to grow elsewhere as well.

There have been forays to Australia and New Zealand, to Canada, to continental Europe, to the Middle East and to the Far East.

Many of these tournaments have simply fallen by the wayside, taking much of the local interest in snooker with them.

Meanwhile here in Britain the boom has passed, snooker clubs have shut down at an alarming rate and pro-am competitions are vastly reduced in number.

I support keeping the Betfred.com World Championship at the Crucible in Sheffield because of the great history of the place but, in general, there needs to be more tournaments outside British shores, not just for snooker’s credibility but for its future survival as a top level sport.

This is the best way of encouraging participation around the world and ensuring global TV coverage.

The BBC, which has done more than any player to popularise the sport, is still hugely important to the professional game but snooker needs to be seen in households far from British shores as well.

I understand the PTC grand finals will be held outside the UK, a good start.

Barry Hearn was recently in China and Thailand talking to promoters about new events in the Far East. I know he has also spoken to representatives of other countries so it is very likely players will be racking up the air miles soon.

Good. For a sport to have global pretensions it actually has to travel the world.

Most top players are still British of course – and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that – but it’s a little odd for a ‘World’ Championship to include only a handful of none British faces.

Ding Junhui has of course been the standard bearer of the Chinese snooker revolution and Neil Robertson has, to his credit, been getting himself in front of every TV camera going in Australia since becoming world champion.

Interest is huge in Eastern Europe. Regular readers of this blog log on from countries such as Russia, Poland and Lithuania in large numbers.

So step forward the 12bet.com World Open...this tournament, whatever its faults may be, at least includes a few exotic names.

There’s Igor Figueiredo, Brazil’s first professional, who plays Mark Williams tomorrow.

And there’s Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un Nooh, who tackles newly crowned Shanghai Masters champion Ali Carter today.

The World Open will foreground a total of 43 players. Some of these are familiar, some are established lower rankers and some will be completely new to most viewers.

The format is quickfire, probably too quickfire for many players. Stephen Hendry said the other day that he didn’t think ranking points should be given to a tournament of best of fives and he’s probably right.

But I’d rather World Snooker tried something new than tried nothing at all.

The BBC will probably still go with three tournaments rather than four next season but the World Open will at least have been showcased and, unless it’s a total disaster, which I don’t think it will be, I’d expect to see it somewhere on the calendar in 2011/12.

Hearn has been canny using the word ‘World’ in the title, immediately adding prestige to the tournament for any overseas promoter keen to take it on.

And at least the rules of the game haven’t been messed with. It’s still snooker, just a more cut-throat version.

Some will still prefer best of nines, others will enjoy seeing more matches and players. I’d imagine the gambling community will largely steer clear.

Players higher up the rankings may feel they are disadvantaged. There are no seedings and they know the lower ranked players have a better chance of beating them over a shorter distance.

But if Hearn’s global vision does come to fruition – and it will take at least a couple of years to do so – this tournament will be just one of many.

My advice to players in coming seasons: keep your passports handy, you’re going to need them.

World Open TV times:
BBC1: 3-4.30pm
BBC2: 11.20pm-2.10am

Eurosport2: 2.30-4.30pm
Eurosport International: 6-10pm
British Eurosport2: 2.55-4.30pm, 7-10pm



The 12bet.com World Open is notable for its many changes to the traditional format but also because it marks the launch of worldsnooker.com’s new live scoring feature.

Live scoring has tested the patience of legions of snooker fans over the years through its unreliability.

It got so bad this year that World Snooker Ltd chairman Barry Hearn ordered it should be taken down completely rather than subject the governing body to more ridicule.

At the same time, a new system has been developed and will go live tomorrow.

It has been designed by SportStat, a leading company in the field of sports statistics and information systems.

As you can see from the exclusive screen grab above, it will detail the match score, score in the current frame, current break and, unlike the previous model, how many points are left on the table.

“We look forward to introducing an improved range of functionality over the forthcoming months that will provide an ever growing audience with up to the second data, live from any World Snooker qualifying or main event,” said Hugh Copping, managing director of SportStat.

Features will be added as the season goes on and SportStat tell me they are likely in time to include a record of previous frame scores in a match and statistics such as pot success rate, player profiles and other relevant information.

All of this will be particularly popular with snooker fans in non-televised events such as the Player Tour Championship and world ranking event qualifiers.

It will also help bookmakers price up tournaments and run in-play betting markets.

As with any launch there may be a few technical glitches but it all looks good to me and I hope it enhances the enjoyment of tournaments for the fans.


So how did you do?

1) Murdo MacLeod was the first Scot to win a match at the Crucible. He did so with a 10-5 victory over Rex Williams on April 19, 1987. Stephen Hendry beat Willie Thorne 10-7 the following day.

2) Sean Storey was the first player to beat Ronnie O'Sullivan in a professional event. His 5-3 victory came in the qualifiers for the British Open in 1992, ending O'Sullivan's run of 38 successive victories.

3) John Pulman and David Taylor were the commentators for the first televised 147 at the 1982 Lada Classic.

4) Bill Werbeniuk made the Crucible's first break in excess of 140 in 1979 with a 142.

5) Bob Chaperon won the first ranking event held under a random draw format, the 1990 British Open. The 1982 Professional Players Tournament was not wholly random - they put the top 32 seeds in one hat and the next 32 in another.



The World Open features 43 players – nearly half the circuit – all guaranteed a place in front of the TV cameras.

Two of these, David Morris and James McBain, have never played on television before.

Morris is widely recognised as a great talent in his native Republic of Ireland, where he won the national amateur title at every age level and was champion in the senior ranks three years running.

Davy has made quiet progress on the main tour, making it into the top 64 and steadily getting results but never before reaching a final venue.

The 21 year-old has appeared in the final qualifying round of a tournament five times, including in last season’s Betfred.com World Championship.

Fittingly, he grew up in a house in Kilkenny numbered 147. Ken Doherty has mentored him and he carries the hopes for the next generation of Irish snooker, just as Mark Allen does in the north.

“I can’t wait to play on TV. My parents will be over for it,” Morris told me after he qualified for Glasgow.

“It’s been tough. The standard is so high and you need a bit of luck and for things to go your way.

“I have no preference who I draw now. I fancy I can beat anyone over a best of five.”

McBain, five times Scottish national champion, lives ten minutes from the SECC, where the World Open will be staged.

He’s back on the pro circuit again this season after a couple of years in the amateur ranks. Like many players, the 32 year-old has found it difficult to keep his place with only a single season’s points – plus starter points – to rely on.

Financial rewards are non existent for the first two rounds of ranking events and McBain has pocketed less than £12,000 in his playing career.

He tells me he would like to draw Stephen Hendry, his long time idol, in the last 32 but disagrees with the seven times champion when it comes to the new ranking system.

“This is the right time to be a snooker player,” he said. “Last time I was on the tour I only had six ranking events to play in. This season I’ve already played in six or seven events and it’s only September.

“I feel like a proper player now. It also helps keep my game sharp and even if you have a bad result, you’re away again the next week so there’s no time really to stew over it.

“Barry Hearn’s arrival has benefited a lot of the players, particularly with the new ranking system. Players will be rewarded for their current form rather than having to wait two years.”

Ultimately, though, whatever ranking system is in place, the rewards will only come to players who excel on the table.

Morris and McBain have each won three matches to qualify. Good luck to them.

Appearing on TV for the first time is a milestone achievement for any player. Often it goes badly as nerves and inexperience on the big stage take their toll. Sometimes it can go well, as for Martin Clark, who beat Dennis Taylor 5-0 on his maiden appearance before the cameras at the 1987 International.

The nature of the World Open, with its shorter matches, makes it more likely that lower ranked players will do well, but at 2-2, just as at 4-4 or 8-8, a player needs to hold their nerve and experience tells us it’s the guys near the top of the list who do this with greater regularity.

Regardless, it’s fair to assume the Sky+ in the Morris and McBain households will be put through its paces next week.


Yes, after literally no messages urging me to do a weekly quiz, it's here.

Each Thursday I shall post five reasonably fiendish questions on a particular theme. Your job is to provide the answers.

At this stage there are no prizes, but this may change.

Leave your name in answering and bask in the admiration of fellow blog readers when you get the answers right.

But no Googling!

This week's theme is 'firsts'...

1) Who was the first Scot ever to win a match at the Crucible?

2) Who was the first player to beat Ronnie O'Sullivan in a professional event?

3) Who were the commentators for the first televised 147 break in 1982?

4) Who made the Crucible's first break in excess of 140?

5) Who won the first ranking event run under a random draw format?



Stephen Hendry has criticised the new ranking system, which sees the list revised four times a year rather than at the end of the season.

The seedings for the UK Championship and Wembley Masters will be determined after the second European Players Tour Championship event in Bruges in October.

Hendry is currently 11th in the official rankings but is going through a poor run of form and is sweating on his place in the elite group.

He told 110sport.tv, the website of his management group: "A number of top 16 players are looking over their shoulders and it is worrying that a bad patch could have major consequences.

“I am not moaning because I am down there just now – I just don’t think its right that it isn’t based over a whole season and a lot of players have worked very hard to get into the top 16 in the first place.

"Over the season each of these players will hit a run of form but if they have a bad patch at the start of the season they could be in trouble.

“Another bad run and I could find myself missing out on the Masters at Wembley. It is a very punishing system.”

Indeed it is. It has already cost Liang Wenbo his top 16 place after just a few months - or rather he has, by not winning enough matches.

The idea of the new list is to reward success and no longer protect players who can't win a match.

Many players love it because it gives them the chance to scale the heights but others, like Hendry, are worried because it puts extra pressure on them at a time they are struggling for form.

There are arguments on both sides but I think it's better that a player who wins a tournament receives an immediate benefit from that success.

There have been top 16 players in the past who haven't won a match all season but have still been seeded through to the Crucible while ranking tournament winners have had to qualify.

Top 16 players have also kept their places by winning no more than a handful of matches all year.

Hendry, of course, is more entitled than most to express a view on this but it is surely a reflection on his own current plight.

When he was the undisputed king of snooker, I doubt he could have cared less what the ranking system was.

He would have been at the top regardless.



Ali Carter’s consistency over the last two years has been the key in him rising to second in the world rankings but, like any top player, what he wants is titles.

He won his second ranking event with a hard fought 10-7 victory over Jamie Burnett in the Shanghai Masters.

Neither player was at their best. Burnett played some good safety but couldn’t score.

Carter made a hatful of mistakes and must have been frustrated by his inability to hit the heights but, crucially, he kept these frustrations in check, got his head down and worked hard to scrap to victory.

This ability to graft out results when a player’s A game is not firing is the mark of a champion.

In my profile of him two months ago, I wrote: “I’d be surprised if there weren’t more titles for Carter. After a few false starts he has managed to ally his self confidence to his game and find the winning formula.”

This still very much applies. Winning breeds winning and as long as Carter continues to look forward rather than dwelling on his latest success he has an excellent chance to take over as world no.1, although this now changes by tournament as in tennis and there’s no more prestige in being world no.1 after the World Championship than there is in being there after the Welsh Open.

The Shanghai Masters wasn’t a vintage event by any means and surely ticket prices have to be lowered to allow more ordinary Chinese a chance to watch.

I’ve seen first hand the enthusiasm of Chinese snooker fans but if they are priced out of watching the top stars they could well drift away from the game.

There is currently a huge gulf between the genuine fanaticism legions of Chinese have for snooker and the number of people who show up at tournaments. It creates a false impression that the China snooker boom is a myth.

Finally, a word for Jamie Burnett. Whatever the future holds for him he should be proud of his run to the final, which was 18 years in the making.

It proves that though snooker’s leading men are always going to be there or thereabouts, the supporting cast runs deep with talent and virtually anyone can, under the right conditions, burst out of the pack and grab the limelight.



Ali Carter starts favourite against Jamie Burnett to win the Shanghai Masters today but it's not been a good week for favourites.

Burnett ended 18 years of journeyman toil by beating a badly out of sorts Jamie Cope 6-1 in the semi-finals yesterday to progress to the first ranking final of his career, a run that has come completely out of the blue.

Carter's appearance in the final is less surprising. The world no.4 has been one of the most consistent performers for the last two years.

From 2-0 down to Mark Selby he was superb, particularly in completing a 69 clearance in the fourth frame with three of the last four reds on cushions.

Carter will be widely expected to triumph today but if the tournament has taught us anything it's to expect the unexpected.

Is there one last twist in the tale?



The winner of today's first Shanghai Masters semi-final will be called Jamie.

If that's wrong we may as well all pack up and go home. Then again, it's been that sort of tournament...

Cope will start favourite after three good performances and wins over Steve Davis, Ding Junhui and Graeme Dott.

It's four seasons since the Stoke shotgun appeared in two ranking finals and he hasn't kicked on since. Indeed, this is his first ranking tournament semi-final since the 2007 China Open.

But Cope, who celebrates his 25th birthday tomorrow, is still a considerable talent and as long as he can keep a lid on his frustration he has a great chance to lift his first ranking title.

Burnett has toiled as a journeyman for 18 years before reaching his first semi-final. Mark Davis rather fell apart from 4-1 up to him yesterday but I don't expect Cope to and therefore Burnett needs to make a good start.

Mark Selby played very well to beat Mark King 5-1 yesterday. Ali Carter produced a grest escape against Matthew Stevens but, again, I wouldn't expect Selby to collapse from 4-1 up.

Carter has been solid if unspectacular all week. He will need to improve to beat Selby and reach the final.


Following my story yesterday, the WPBSA has decided to let John Higgins compete in any event after his suspension ends on November 1.

This means he could make his comeback at EPTC1 in Hamm, Germany on November 12 and will be eligible to play in the UK Championship and Wembley Masters.



This blog can reveal that John Higgins may not return to the circuit until next February despite his suspension ending in November.

It was widely assumed Higgins would be back for the UK Championship in December following the result of the tribunal convened as a result of a newspaper sting in which he was alleged to have agreed to lose frames for money.

The match fixing and bribery charges against Higgins were withdrawn and he was found guilty of failing to report an approach to match fix and bringing the game into disrepute.

He received a six month suspension, back dated to May since when he's been unable to play professionally, and was fined £75,000.

But Higgins has missed the closing date for entries for all tournaments until the Welsh Open in February.

The entry deadlines passed in July and the WPBSA will have to decide whether or not to grant him an exception.

He will be still be suspended when the entry dates close for the remaining Players Tour Championship events.

Higgins has already lost his no.1 spot in the world rankings and would be left with just the Welsh Open, China Open and World Championship to play in this season.

The suspension will have cost him the chance to play in four ranking tournaments, the Masters, the Premier League, 12 PTCs and the PTC grand finals, a total of 19 tournaments.

Some will argue that as his suspension ends in November Higgins should be allowed to play from that point.

Others will say he has already been treated leniently for what could have been a career ending offence.


World Snooker have unveiled online betting firm 12bet.com as the new title sponsor of the World Open.

The one-year deal will see the tournament, which runs from September 18 to 26 at the SECC in Glasgow, named the 12bet.com World Open.

The world ranking event will feature star players including Ronnie O'Sullivan, Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, Jimmy White, Mark Selby and World Champion Neil Robertson. It carries a total prize fund of £502,500 with the winner to receive £100,000.

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: "This is a fantastic piece of news for our sport at just the right time. We've made giant strides forward in the commercial success of snooker in recent months and this keeps the momentum going. The new World Open, with a new format, new venue, and new arena, is one of the cornerstones of the new era so we're thrilled to have a title sponsor on board.

"With over 50 hours coverage on BBC and a combined global audience reaching over 100 million, the tournament will give vast exposure to 12bet.com's brand so it's easy to see their motivation behind getting involved with snooker. We hope they enjoy what should be a great tournament and look forward to building a strong relationship with them."

Rory Anderson, CEO for Europe at 12bet, said: "We are delighted to add the World Open to our fast growing sponsorship portfolio. This event will give our brand fantastic exposure not only in the UK but throughout Europe. We are glad to be on board and are excited about the new best of five format."

Masters champion Selby added: "It's always exciting to have a new sponsor and it seems a long time now since we had a ranking event without one. I am sure the World Open will be a great tournament. All the players are looking forward to it, myself included. We'll all be trying to win it and play our best snooker."

The nine-day tournament will feature quick-fire best-of-five frame matches and a random draw for each round.


It's a rather strange quarter-final line-up in what has been a rather strange tournament.

The overall standard of play has been lower than we're used to with a few exceptions. Some players are struggling with the humidity and what the atmosphere is doing to the tables.

Mark Davis, so much improved over the last year, faces Jamie Burnett with the winner to appear in their first ranking semi-final.

Davis has been a professional for 19 years, Burnett for 18, so this has been a long wait either way.

Graeme Dott has survived deciders against his fellow former world champions Ken Doherty and Mark Williams and now meets the player he beat in the 2007 China Open final in Beijing, Jamie Cope.

This is Cope's first ranking event quarter-final in two years. He has not made the step up since that China final but was impressive in finishing off Ding Junhui yesterday.

Matthew Stevens is also appearing in his first quarter-final in two years against the mega consistent Ali Carter.

Mark Selby is yet to play on the TV tables but will do so against Mark King.

For what it's worth after yesterday's less than successful tipping, I'll go for...

Davis v Dott
Carter v Selby



Nine members of the top 16 (including Jamie Cope, who was seeded 16th) have made it through to the last 16 of the Roewe Shanghai Masters.

Matthew Stevens was dealt two devastating blows by Shaun Murphy, first when he lost 18-16 to him in the 2005 world final and second when Murphy came from 12-7 down to beat the Welshman 13-12 in their 2007 Crucible quarter-final and thus relegate him from the elite top 16.

Stevens did get one over on Murphy at last season's Welsh Open.

Mark Williams and Graeme Dott are two former world champions who rediscovered their best form at the World Championship last season.

Dott played some of the best snooker of the tournament but seemed done in by his exhausting 17-14 semi-final defeat by Mark Selby.

Williams was my tip before the Shanghai event began, which makes it all the more surprising he beat Ricky Walden in the first round.

I've seen Mark start slowly before, scrap out a couple of wins and then suddenly hit top gear to secure the silverware. Dott, though, represents a seriously tough challenge.

Local hero Ding Junhui only just came through the first round, 5-4 against Jin Long.

Ding still looks a little rusty to me having not competed in any of the PTCs during the summer. Rustiness against Jamie Cope could cost him dear.

Selby faces Martin Gould, whose defeat of Stephen Hendry sent the seven times world champion down to 12th in the latest rankings with the danger he may fall further depending on how the rest o0f the week pans out.

Ali Carter and Stephen Maguire will be favourite to get past Stuart Bingham and Mark Davis respectively but I suspect neither match will be cut and dried.

Jamie Burnett and Andrew Higginson each have reason to be grateful Ronnie O'Sullivan didn't travel to China with the big prize of a quarter-final place up for grabs.

I don't expect Peter Ebdon v Mark King to be quick.

So here's my prediction for the quarter-finals...

Higginson v Maguire
Williams v Ding
Carter v Stevens
Selby v Ebdon

What could possibly go wrong?



The WPBSA have issued the following statement following the John Higgins tribunal:

A hearing under the auspices of Sport Resolutions UK on September 7 and 8, 2010, heard of charges which John Higgins admitted through his lawyers before the hearing. The charges were 1. Intentionally giving the impression to others that he was agreeing to act in breach of the betting rules, though it was accepted that he had no intention of throwing any frame of snooker for reward. 2. Failing to disclose promptly to the Association full details of an approach or invitation to act in breach of the betting rules

Having studied all of the evidence in its entirety, the WPBSA and Sports Resolutions accept that there has been no dishonesty on the part of John Higgins and accordingly the WPBSA has withdrawn the allegations of match fixing against him.

The judgement from Sport Resolutions was that John Higgins was banned from all World Snooker tournaments for six months, starting from the initial suspension on May 2, 2010, and ordered to pay a fine of £75,000 plus costs of £10,000.

The WPBSA referred the matter to the independent body Sport Resolutions following a Disciplinary Committee investigation into allegations made against John Higgins in the News of the World newspaper on May 2, 2010.

John Higgins has agreed to play a leading role in a new educational programme for snooker players, which will form part of the Integrity Unit to be set up by WPBSA Disciplinary Committee Chairman David Douglas.

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “John made a mistake in failing to report the meeting in Kiev. He has admitted this mistake and expressed great regret at what happened. The evidence, which has been exhaustively studied by David Douglas and Sport Resolutions, suggests that he was led into this situation and did not instigate any discussions of corrupt activity. It seems certain, in view of his previous record and the ambassadorial work he has done for snooker, that this was a mistake he will never repeat. I’m sure Sport Resolutions took these factors into account in coming to their verdict.

“The new educational programme will teach players, particularly the new professionals coming into the game, about the pitfalls associated with betting and make clear the standards expected by the WPBSA. John has suffered a devastating blow to his career and reputation, but he can come back from it – and he has pledged to help others learn from his experiences. The programme will be a key part of the Integrity Unit’s goal to proactively address any form of corruption and make our sport a standard bearer for sports integrity. Today’s outcome is a positive step towards this goal and, with the support of all the players, I fully believe that it will be achieved.”

WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson added: "I am pleased to see this matter concluded in an open and transparent fashion, after a hearing staged by an independent body. I look forward to the creation of the anti-corruption unit, which will be in operation very shortly and will give the WPBSA the best possible assistance in our ambition to eliminate all forms of corruption from our sport. It is important now that snooker moves forward from this matter and focuses on the successful new era which has formed in recent months."

John Higgins was suspended immediately after the allegations were made public. His six-month ban is considered to have started from the date of his initial suspension in May 2010.

Pat Mooney has been permanently suspended from the WPBSA following the hearing.

The hearing heard of charges of 1. Intentionally giving the impression to others that he was agreeing to act in breach of the betting rules. 2. Failing to disclose promptly to the Association full details of an approach or invitation to act in breach of the betting rules

In summary, Mr Mill QC said: "Mr Mooney’s conduct is, in my judgment, of a completely different order of seriousness....I was unimpressed by Mr Mooney as a witness and I found much of his account highly implausible....he committed the most egregious betrayals of trust - both in relation to the Association, to which he owed fiduciary obligations as a Director and by reason of his great influence in the world of snooker, and to Mr Higgins whose entire career and professional future he inexplicably put at serious and wholly unjustifiable risk."

The WPBSA referred the matter to Sport Resolutions following a Disciplinary Committee investigation into allegations made against Mooney in the News of the World newspaper on May 2, 2010.


The John Higgins affair is the culmination of several years in which snooker has failed to take seriously the whiff of corruption that has poisoned a number of tournaments.

All sports have issues with cheating. Snooker does not have a problem with drugs or with dishonesty in the arena but betting irregularities have surfaced too often to be dismissed merely as bookmakers having a moan.

In days gone by there was the odd match here or there that caused concern. Players have often bet on themselves to lose for insurance purposes. This does not mean any of them lost deliberately but it has now been outlawed.

In more recent times, the growth of internet betting has increased the temptation for players to cheat.

Bookmakers will tell you that the rot set in at the 2006 Grand Prix, played under a round robin format.

It led to an inequality of motivation in certain matches involving players either already through to the knockout phase or unable to qualify.

With no additional financial reward on offer for frames won - unlike in the Premier League - there was widespread concern backstage in Aberdeen that some matches were not contested honestly.

The same thing happened the following year and at the 2008 Malta Cup, where the Gambling Commission were alerted by suspicious patterns of betting.

Not enough was done to stamp this out. That is not to say there actually was widespread cheating but the perception of any sport is almost as important as the reality.

It led to a culture where some players may have felt they could get away with low level rigging, the odd frame here, the odd missed pot there.

Barry Hearn has decided, correctly, to get tough. A new anti-corruption unit has been set up, headed by David Douglas, and players will be severely punished if they fail to report approaches from those seeking to corrupt them.

This is good news but I disagree with the notion that a line should be drawn under what has happened in the past.

I would urge Douglas to institute a cold case review of previous matches thought to be dodgy and take the appropriate action against any offenders.

It should be remembered that Higgins was filmed agreeing to fix future matches but there are players competing now on the circuit thought to have actually manipulated results.

For the good of the sport, they should be thoroughly investigated.

Higgins's version of events has been believed by the authorities even though to many they sound improbable.

I hope he is telling the truth.

Higgins's World Series project with Pat Mooney took snooker to parts of Europe that had never seen the players close up before but it failed to live up to its early promise, largely because of the insistence of using local wildcards, which led to a number of one-sided matches, and the attitude of some of the players, who treated the events as a holiday.

How ironic that an innovation that promised to enhance the circuit proved to be Higgins's undoing.

His manager, Mooney, was supposed to protect him from trouble, not plunge him directly into it.

Mooney has walked away from snooker. He was targeted by figures within the sport who set out to get him for their own reasons. I don't believe this was done to clean snooker up as they approached a tabloid newspaper, not the authorities.

The News of the World story cast a pall over the World Championship and left many of those involved in snooker, myself included, seriously questioning what we were doing.

Few will miss Mooney, who created this mess, but we must not kid ourselves that this is now the end of the affair.

Snooker's failure to take this problem seriously has left its reputation damaged at a time where it looks to betting companies for an important source of sponsorship revenue.

The sport cannot afford any more scandals.


Only John Higgins knows for sure how much he knew and what his intentions were when he went into that hotel room in the Ukraine but his decision to discuss match fixing with people he didn't know has cost him the reputation he worked so hard to earn.

The WPBSA and Ian Mill QC have believed his version of events and he will be back playing in November.

However, involvement in a story like this is not forgotten and Higgins knows many will remain unconvinced by his account of events.

Higgins got into snooker when his father, John senior, took him and his brothers to a local club.

He displayed talent for the game but nothing that suggested he would be a world beater until, at 15, Alan McManus took him under his wing and improvements rapidly followed.

In January 1991, still a few months from his 16th birthday, Higgins beat Ronnie O'Sullivan and Mark Williams in winning the junior title at the World Masters in Birmingham.

All three turned professional the following year and would soon come to dominate the sport.

Higgins won his first ranking title at 19 when he beat Dave Harold in the final of the 1994 Grand Prix.

He quickly became the first player to win three ranking titles as a teenager and captured the World Championship for the first time in 1998.

Higgins spent two years as world no.1 before being replaced by Mark Williams.

In 2001, he won the first three titles of the season and then became a father for the first time.

Coming from a close family, he took to fatherhood to the extent that his focus on snooker became less intense and he suffered a few fallow periods in the years that followed.

But there were great moments too, few better than his stunning 64 clearance to win the deciding frame of the 2006 Wembley Masters final against O'Sullivan.

When Higgins first won the world title everyone - himself included - assumed he would win it again. It put him under pressure and he failed to reach the quarter-finals for four straight years until beating mark Selby 18-13 in their 2007 Crucible final.

Then in 2009 he beat Shaun Murphy 18-9 to win it for a third time.

His capture of the Welsh Open crown last season gave the Scot his 21st ranking title.

Included in that haul are two UK Championships and he has also won the Masters, the game's premier invitation title, on two occasions.

As a person Higgins is open, friendly and has been a good ambassador for the sport as snooker fans who have met him will attest to.

Higgins is one of the greatest players of all time but his biggest battle will be to rebuild his reputation, which is battered and bruised despite today's verdict.


Ian Mill QC was unimpressed by Pat Mooney or his story and has recommended he is permanently excluded from playing any future role in snooker.

He said Mooney, "committed the most egregious betrayals of trust - both in relation to the Association, to which he owed fiduciary obligations as a Director and by reason of his great influence in the world of snooker, and to Mr Higgins whose entire career and professional future he inexplicably put at serious and wholly unjustifiable risk."

His full findings were:

'Mr Mooney’s conduct is, in my judgment, of a completely different order of seriousness. He was first made aware not later than 8 April 2010 by the undercover journalist posing as a businessman (“Mr D’Sousa”) of the fact that those behind him in the purported business venture were looking to make money through gambling in circumstances where frames in snooker matches were deliberately thrown. Yet, he made no disclosure at the time of this stated requirement to the Association, to Mr Higgins (whom he represented in snooker matters, who was one of his partners in the business (World Series Snooker) which Mr Mooney was representing in his discussions with Mr D'Sousa, and most significantly who was targeted by Mr D’Sousa as the player required to throw the frames) or to his other business partners in World Series Snooker, Debbie Mitchell and Adrian Stewart.

Furthermore, despite this requirement being stated, Mr Mooney not only continued his engagement with Mr D’Sousa thereafter but persuaded a materially ignorant Mr Higgins to accompany him to meet with those behind the venture in Kiev. He accepts that, in continuing that engagement and by the words spoken by him on 8 April 2010 he had led Mr D’Sousa to believe that the throwing of frames was something that could be achieved.

Once in Kiev, on 29 April 2010, it was made clear to Mr Mooney on several occasions (in Mr Higgins’ absence) that the subject of frame throwing had to be discussed with Mr Higgins.

Still, he said nothing to Mr Higgins until minutes before the meeting the following day.

When he did mention the subject to Mr Higgins, Mr Mooney misrepresented to him the position, stating that it was possible that the subject might not come up at all.

Furthermore, despite at the time owing fiduciary obligations to Mr Higgins as his snooker representative and to the Association itself (he was a Board Director of the Association at the time), Mr Mooney did not advise Mr Higgins to make it clear that frame throwing was out of the question, and he did not even discuss with Mr Higgins the possibility of leaving Kiev without attending the meeting. In so behaving, in my judgment, Mr Mooney was motivated by concerns as to his own position to the exclusion of all others. He had positively responded to the requirement of frame throwing in all his previous discussions and he had brought Mr Higgins to Kiev expressly to discuss this aspect of the matter. He was concerned as to the consequences for him if these assurances proved groundless.

At the meeting in Kiev on 30 April, Mr Mooney continued to represent himself as able and willing to participate in, and to procure, corrupt frame throwing. Thereafter, he neither reported the events which had occurred to the Association nor encouraged nor advised Mr Higgins to do so.

A number of points were made by and on behalf of Mr Mooney. On his behalf, Mr Phillips asserted both as a matter of law and of fact that I could not and should not find that Mr Mooney in fact intended what he represented as being his intention in his various discussions with Mr D’Sousa and in Kiev. His legal argument, which I rejected in a ruling which I delivered yesterday, was that it was not open to the Association to maintain such an argument, given its withdrawal of Charge 2. As a matter of fact, he invited me to accept Mr Mooney’s evidence that he was clear in his own mind that Mr Higgins would never deliberately throw a frame for reward and, therefore, to conclude that Mr Mooney could not in fact have intended to put the corrupt agreement asserted by the Association into effect. As to this, Mr Bourns on behalf of the Association pointed to passages in the transcripts of discussions which suggested that Mr Mooney might have had in mind to procure the throwing of frames though the activities of players other than Mr Higgins.

Mr Mooney gave evidence before me, during which he told me in terms that he did not intend to put any such corrupt agreement into effect. His explanation for his encouragement of Mr D’Sousa prior to Kiev was that he was playing along with him, humouring him, in order to get to meet those behind the venture in Kiev. He was so certain that what Mr D’Sousa was saying about the frame throwing requirement was nonsense that he had not found it necessary to inform any of the Association, Mr Higgins, Ms Mitchell or Mr Stewart of what had been said. Once in Kiev, when it rapidly became apparent to him that Mr D’Sousa had in fact been telling the truth, he was intimidated into acting as he did. He gave no explanation for the failure to report the matter to the Association thereafter.

I was unimpressed by Mr Mooney as a witness and I found much of his account highly implausible. I very strongly suspect that he intended to put the corrupt agreement alleged by the Association into effect without having decided precisely how he would do this (given that Mr Higgins would clearly not be cooperative). His motivation throughout was, I find, financial self interest, in particular having regard to the very valuable sponsorship undertakings being offered by Mr D’Sousa and his colleagues.

However, I have concluded that it is unnecessary for me to make such a factual finding, since it would have no impact on the sanctions which I have decided appropriate on the basis of factual findings that it is accepted on Mr Mooney’s behalf are open to me.

It seems to me that, on any view, in the light of the factual summary which I have set out above, even if Mr Mooney did not intend to carry out the agreement reached, he committed the most egregious betrayals of trust - both in relation to the Association, to which he owed fiduciary obligations as a Director and by reason of his great influence in the world of snooker, and to Mr Higgins whose entire career and professional future he inexplicably put at serious and wholly unjustifiable risk.

Mr Mooney resigned as a Director of the Association on 2 May 2010 and his membership of the Association (which derived from his position as a Director) was suspended (as were his privileges derived from his position as Mr Higgins’ appointed representative) on 6 May 2010.

In my judgment, both those suspensions must be made permanent. Mr Phillips on Mr Mooney’s behalf told me that his client’s involvement in the world of snooker is at an end. So it should be. That must remain the case.

I do not intend additionally to impose any financial sanction on Mr Mooney other than that he must make a contribution to the Association’s costs in the amount of £25,000. Mr Phillips has explained to me his client’s precarious financial circumstances in the light of the recent events which have unfolded. It does not seem to me in the light of that information that an Order to make payment of a fine would be proportionate.'


John Higgins did not face charges of match fixing and bribery after they were withdrawn by the WPBSA.

He was found in breach of two lesser rules: 'intentionally giving the impression to others that they were agreeing to act in breach of the Betting Rules' and 'failing to disclose promptly to the Association full details of an approach or invitation to act in breach of the Betting Rules.'

In his summary, Ian Mill QC, presiding for Sports Resolutions UK, said:

'Mr Higgins has admitted acting in breach of Rules and (Charges 3 and 4).
The Association has withdrawn Charges 1 and 2.

The Association has explained that this withdrawal resulted from an acceptance, following an investigation which all concerned have correctly characterised as very thorough and fair, that Mr Higgins had truthfully accounted for his words and actions at the meeting in Kiev on 30 April, selected extracts from which subsequently were widely publicised.

In short, his account (which has remained consistent throughout) was as follows. Mr Higgins found himself in that meeting having only just beforehand been warned by Mr Mooney that there was a possibility (nothing more) that the subject of throwing frames might arise as part of the overall business discussions that were about to commence.

Without any opportunity for mature reflection Mr Higgins, who is by nature someone who seeks to avoid confrontation or unpleasantness, decided to play along with the discussion when the topic did indeed arise. He also found the atmosphere in the meeting somewhat intimidating. His focus was entirely on bringing the meeting to an end as soon as possible and getting on a plane home. He would never throw, and had no intention at that meeting of throwing any frame, of snooker for reward.

I have no doubt that the Association was right to conclude that this account by Mr Higgins was a truthful one.'

Of Higgins's conduct and in deciding on the appropriate punishment, Mill said:

'Mr Higgins was put in a highly invidious position by Mr Mooney, who was entirely responsible for Mr Higgins’ presence in Kiev and, in particular, at the meeting there on 30 April. Mr Higgins can be criticised for the way in which he chose to respond to the situation in which he found himself.

However, I do not consider, in the circumstances that any very serious sanction should follow from his admitted breach of the Rule referred to in Charge 3. More serious is his failure to comply with his obligations under Rule (Charge 4). There was an opportunity, albeit a relatively limited one, for him to have reported the Kiev incident to the Association prior to the News of the World story breaking.

He should have taken the opportunity to do so. Very fairly, Mr Higgins has also stated that he is unclear whether he would have reported the incident had the publicity not occurred. Mr Higgins did not, of course, know that the businessman at the Kiev meeting were undercover journalists. On the basis that they intended what they said, it was obviously a matter of the greatest importance to the integrity of the sport of snooker that those intentions were immediately reported.

Mr Higgins’ failure in this respect was extremely foolish. In mitigation, Mr Clancy SC on his behalf reminded me of his client’s exemplary record both in terms of achievement and conduct, and of his role as an ambassador for the sport. I very much bear these matters in mind. But I also consider that with such a status come particular responsibilities to other players in the game, to the Association, to its sponsors and to the viewing public to ensure that the Association’s Rules bearing on the peculiarly sensitive subject of gambling and corruption are strictly adhered to. Taken with the other Charge which he has admitted, it seems to me that his conduct in failing to report the incident immediately warrants a short suspension from his membership of the Association and from the playing rights that his membership affords him. In my judgment, the proper length of such suspension is one of 6 months. Since he was suspended by the Association pending the outcome of the investigations on 2 May 2010, the period of his suspension will end at midnight on 1 November 2010.

I also consider that Mr Higgins should suffer a financial sanction. Having considered the gravity of the admitted rule breaches and heard from Mr Clancy as to his client’s financial circumstances, I consider that he should pay a fine of £75,000 and make a contribution to the Association’s costs of £10,000. Paragraph 10.2 of the Association’s Disciplinary Rules requires any fine to be paid within 28 days. In the circumstances, I do not consider it reasonable or appropriate that Mr Higgins should have to pay such an amount within this short period. I consider that a period of 90 days is appropriate. On behalf of the Association, Mr Bourns has accepted that it is open to me so to order.'


John Higgins has been fined £75,000 but is free to return to the circuit from November 2 following the tribunal into alleged match fixing.

More follows soon...


The day's play is likely to be overshadowed by the result of the John Higgins hearing, which is a shame because there's some intriguing matches in prospect.

However, the two all time greats, Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis, have been shoved round the back and so will not be appearing on TV.

Hendry faces Martin Gould, who beat him in the Welsh Open two years ago. Gould is much improved in recent times and of course came within a frame of reaching the World Championship quarter-finals last season before Neil Robertson's great comeback.

Hendry has struggled for form for a couple of years and could be vulnerable, particularly away from the TV cameras.

Davis ran through Rod Lawler 5-0 to qualify and was a quarter-finalist at the recent EPTC1 in Germany.

His match against Jamie Cope is a clash of styles and I've no doubt Steve will try and tie the young potter up in tactical knots.

Cope needs to display patience and a positive attitude, not something he has always done.

Robertson plays his first TV match since the Crucible against Peter Ebdon, which is a very tough opener for the Aussie.

Ding Junhui v Jin Long is likely to bring a sizeable crowd to the Grand Stage as will the popular Mark Selby v Mei Xiwen, although their match is also not on TV.

Yesterday's centuries:

Stuart Bingham - 142
Judd Trump - 135
Mark Davis - 105
Judd Trump - 102
Marco Fu - 101



A spokesman for John Higgins has described the Sky report as "100% wrong" and he maintains his innocence.

Jim Cassidy told PA Sport: "The tribunal has just started. John Higgins is 100% innocent of match fixing."

Sky Sports News have now taken down their original story.


Sky Sports News are reporting that John Higgins and Pat Mooney have admitted match fixing charges at the tribunal today.

I have no independent verification of this and Sky have not disclosed their source.

More as I get it...


John Higgins is expected to learn his fate this week following allegations in the News of the World last May that he agreed to lose frames for money in the now aborted World Series.

Higgins and his then manager, Pat Mooney, were caught in an undercover sting operation in the Ukraine.

The tribunal will be chaired by Ian Mill QC on behalf of Sports Resolutions UK, an independent body, at an undisclosed location in London.

Sports Resolutions can apparently take up to four weeks to reach a verdict in cases deemed to be complex but I understand World Snooker are expecting to learn of their findings tomorrow following the two-day hearing.

The charges Higgins is facing are unknown but are likely to include one or more of the following:

- Conspiracy to fix frames
- Failure to report an approach to fix frames
- The old catch-all 'bringing the game into disrepute'

It's unclear what action could be taken against Mooney given that he has now severed all ties with the snooker world.

If a punishment is handed down to Higgins it will be decided on by Sports Resolutions and not World Snooker, which is as it should be because accusations of bias could not then be levelled at the governing body.

This affair has hung over the game all summer. I'm sure the whole of snooker, not least Higgins himself, will be glad when it is finally settled - one way or the other.

Needless to say, when I know the result of the tribunal I will post it here.



With all due respect to the wildcard round, the Shanghai Masters starts properly on Tuesday with the entrance of members of the top 16.

Among them, Stephen Maguire faces Judd Trump, buoyed from his recent capture of EPTC1 in Germany.

Liang Wenbo, runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan last year but erratic and unpredictable, meets Matthew Stevens, who is making a conscious effort this season to haul his career out of the doldrums.

Mark Williams, who has won six ranking titles in Asia, three of which were staged in China, tackles Ricky Walden, the 2008 Shanghai Masters champion.

In a battle of two former world champions, Ken Doherty will play Graeme Dott, who beat him twice last season.

Ryan Day, who is sliding down the rankings at an alarming rate, will try and arrest this decline when he meets Andrew Higginson.

In what could well turn out to be a match of breaks, Mark Allen plays Stuart Bingham.

Marco Fu takes on Mark Davis, a player who has finally joined the top 32 after 19 years as a professional.

This was a long road for Davis, who has steadily started winning the close matches he was losing a few years ago.

Case in point: in the final qualifying round of the Shanghai event he beat Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon 5-4.

Davis is now full of confidence and goes into the match having beaten Fu 5-4 at the corresponding stage of the Grand Prix last season.

If he is to rise still further up the list he needs to start beating top 16 players on a regular basis but the momentum is with him and he’s capable of a shock.

Two qualifiers were beaten in the wildcard round. It’s an early bath for Robert Milkins and Mike Dunn, who lost to Jin Long and Mei Xiwen respectively, leaving four Chinese plus Hong Kong’s Fu in the last 32.

For those who like to keep track of the centuries, here were the tons on day one...

131 – Jamie Burnett
130 – Tian Pengfei
109 – Ken Doherty
106 – Dave Harold
100 – Mei Xiwen



So it’s here, the first televised ranking event of the season.

Is it really four months since Neil Robertson won the world final at some ungodly hour?

Yes, and the players have hardly been idle since, what with the PTCs, qualifiers and various other small tournaments to keep them occupied.

But TV snooker is where it’s at and the Shanghai Masters kicks it all off tomorrow.

I won’t rehash the arguments over the inclusion of wildcards but I’d be amazed if all eight qualifiers won tomorrow. Some of the invited Chinese players are more than capable of springing upsets.

Chief among them is Tian Pengfei, who has won his wildcard match in the last three China-based ranking tournaments he has taken part in.

In two of these he has then reached the last 16. Jamie Burnett is therefore bang under pressure. Despite being a professional for 18 years, most of his snooker has been played away from the television environment and although the Shanghai crowd is fair, they are obviously going to be supporting the local man.

Of the other wildcards, Jin Long has bags of experience and may cause Robert Milkins a few problems.

I’d be surprised, though, if Ken Doherty and Dave Harold, two vastly experienced combatants, lost to the two non-Chinese wildcards, Mohammad Sajjad of Pakistan and Thailand’s Passakorn Suwannawat.

Eurosport’s live coverage starts at 7.30am (UK time) on Eurosport 2 and on three mornings this week will offer a choice of tables on the main channel and E2.

An annual reminder for those who want to throw rocks about the choice of matches for the TV tables: Eurosport have no say in this. The decision is made in China by the promoters, host broadcasters and World Snooker.

You can, if you so desire, tweet questions at me, some of which I will endeavour to answer on air. If you don’t understand what that sentence means, I’m talking about twitter. I’m @davehendon.

So the scene is set for what will hopefully be an entertaining week on the table, as we all know the John Higgins tribunal is likely to steal most of the headlines whatever the result on Wednesday.

Finally a word on live scoring: apparently there isn’t any.

The revamp of worldsnooker.com is eagerly awaited and I’m sure will be a vast improvement but, in the meantime, I make the following polite request to the governing body...

Set up a static page on the site and update the match scores manually every 20 minutes or so. 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 etc. That way, snooker fans will be able to follow what is happening on the non-TV tables.

I don’t think that is asking much.

EDIT: And worldsnooker.com are now doing this very thing here.



I was in Shanghai for the first ranking event staged there, the 1999 China International.

It’s a fascinating place mixing western commercialism with glimpses of the old China.

A colleague and myself once took a trip around the city, taking in various sites of cultural interest. We went to the top of what was, at the time, the tallest hotel in the world. We called into the hotel where Noel Coward wrote Private Lives. We went to the KFC.

The Roewe Shanghai Masters is a classy tournament, promoted and supported with great energy by the Chinese.

It has proved a difficult tournament to call in terms of who is going to win. I remember Neal Foulds suggesting Dominic Dale could win the 2007 title as it was the first of the season and he could be guaranteed to have been practising.

I smiled politely at Neal and didn’t give it much more of a thought until Dale ended up beating Ryan Day 10-6 in the final.

A year later, Ricky Walden knocked down a succession of big names – Stephen Hendry, Neil Robertson, Steve Davis, Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan – to capture his first ranking title.

Many punters are wary of supporting O’Sullivan in China but, as ever confounding expectations, he produced the goods last year and beat Liang Wenbo 10-5 to win his only title of the season.

What is different in 2010 is the fact there has already been so much competitive snooker played. Some have played more than others and will feel sharp and raring to go.

Ding Junhui has played only once since the Wuxi Classic in June and looked badly out of sorts against Shaun Murphy in the Premier League last week.

Robertson has so far failed to make much progress in the Players Tour Championship but, on the other side of that coin, Selby has already won a PTC title and the Six Reds World Championship in Thailand.

The PTC has got everyone playing but it is televised ranking events that really get the juices flowing and, with the added pressure of crowds, ranking points and financial reward, will, as ever, sort the men out from the boys.



Ronnie O'Sullivan is such an enigma that we should perhaps not be surprised that his withdrawal from the Shanghai Masters has ended up being such a mystery that some bookmakers have now reinstated him in the betting.

For the avoidance of doubt: he's not going.

Worldsnooker.com put up a statement yesterday and then removed it but a new one will be released imminently.

O'Sullivan's problems are apparently not related to a back injury after all but are instead described as 'personal.'

I understand they are of an intensely private nature and have no intention of intruding into them.

However, his withdrawal is still a big disappointment for the tournament and his many fans.

Pretty much the only thing I've disagreed with Barry Hearn on so far is that O'Sullivan should be the sport's 'flag-bearer.'

It's a position he neither asked for nor wants. He's a complicated soul who can't be relied on to do off the table what he does with such distinction on it.

Let's hope he returns for the World Open. In the meantime, the tournament will survive without him even if it will miss him.

EDIT: And right on cue here is what O'Sullivan says in the statement:

"This has been a very difficult decision to make, however I have a very young family and at this moment I need to spend more time with them. I'm truly sorry to my fans in China, I love meeting and playing in front of some of the most passionate people in the world. I very much look forward to returning to China soon."

Hearn added: "It's very disappointing for his fans in China but we understand the personal reasons behind Ronnie's withdrawal."



Ronnie O'Sullivan has withdrawn from next week's Shanghai Masters.

The reigning champion notified World Snooker of his decision today. He also withdrew from the Paul Hunter Classic last weekend. I understand he is blaming a back injury for both withdrawals.

I'm not a doctor and even if I was I haven't examined O'Sullivan so I make no comment on this excuse, except to say his decision will obviously disappoint his many fans in China and those who had been planning to watch him on TV.

It is the third time he has withdrawn from a ranking event in China. He also pulled out of the 2008 Bahrain Championship.

However, O'Sullivan will play in tonight's Premier League in Southampton, which regardless of the actual facts is going to appear somewhat odd.

EDIT: For some reason the story announcing this news on worldsnooker.com has been removed.


We often talk about the two Ronnies in snooker but Marco Fu is another player with a huge gap between his best and his worst.

At his best he is a fine match player, as he proved in beating O’Sullivan to win the 2007 Grand Prix and at the 2006 World Championship, where he came within a frame of the final.

But he can also look badly out of sorts and unable to mount a serious challenge. Last season was a poor one save for winning the Championship League, which has got him into the partycasino.com Premier League, which starts tonight.

The man from Hong Kong faces O’Sullivan in his first match and won’t be overawed, having beaten him eight times in their 20 meetings.

O’Sullivan finds it hard to play him, possibly because Fu keeps in emotions entirely hidden whereas Ronnie wears his heart on his sleeve.

Fu’s playing style is also resolutely regimented. He plays to a nice, natural rhythm neither fast nor slow, but certainly slower than O’Sullivan. It’s easy to imagine Ronnie getting frustrated when Marco gets into the groove.

But Fu will likely have to play well to get anything out of the match because this is an event O’Sullivan relishes more than most.

I think Fu essentially has two problems. One is homesickness: he loves Hong Kong but does not spend as much time there as he would like.

The other is insecurities about his game resulting from extensive chopping and changing with his technique.

But when it all comes together he is a tough prospect and he’s also the same polite, dryly humorous guy he was when he first broke through by reaching the Grand Prix final in 1998 during his debut season.

Back then many thought he would become the first Asian world champion. The fact is, he still might, but his first priority should be to discover the consistency that has been strangely lacking from his career.

A high profile win over O’Sullivan tonight would certainly give Fu a large jolt of confidence.