As expected, Power Snooker has been variously greeted across a spectrum ranging from those who found it all a bit of harmless fun to those who thought it was the greatest affront to humanity since the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

I would say I was somewhere in between.

The half hour format is ideal for TV because they get to schedule matches and not worry about overrunning.

The powerball is an interesting innovation and I found the action perfectly watchable.

I’m not sure there needs to be a 50 point bonus for a century because this creates such a gulf in the scores that a close finish is unlikely. There were a couple of tight finishes yesterday but not as much tension as there could have been.

The 20 second shot clock invites mistakes and players are yet to fully think through how to approach the game, understandably as it has only just been launched.

Tactically, the player ahead would be best advised to keep the colours on the table as long as possible because the best chance of scoring is when the powerball is in play.

Power Snooker gave Ronnie O’Sullivan a chance to showcase his extraordinary natural talent. I was genuinely pleased for him that he seemed to enjoy it so much considering how low he has often been even after winning at proper snooker.

But one of the appeals of snooker is the variety it produces and Power Snooker is much more repetitive on first viewing.

It’s good to have the crowd interacting with play but while some good natured banter is fine, a baying mob of boorish drunks chanting and shouting while the players are down on their shots is not.

Why on earth would snooker want to encourage such behaviour? Would golf? Would tennis? Would any sport?

It’s always a festive atmosphere at the darts but the audience is told to shut up if they get too rowdy and they do so. At Power Snooker, the referees were instructed not to intervene when the crowd got raucous.

A balance can be struck. I recently watched the 1989 Irish Masters final between Alex Higgins and Stephen Hendry, which I’d never seen before. Played in the bearpit surroundings of Goffs, the atmosphere was tremendous with most spectators of course supporting Higgins but many also cheering for the then 20 year-old Hendry.

At one point late on, Hendry approached the table and the noise got a bit much. The referee, the late John Street, expertly handled proceedings by turning to the crowd and saying: “Thank you ladies and gentlemen. He knows it’s his turn.” There was laughter and then there was silence and the match continued.

Attending snooker events certainly needs to be made more attractive but the game has to also retain a bit of dignity.

I’ll be interested to hear what Barry Hearn thought of Power Snooker. It wasn’t his idea but he gave it World Snooker’s official seal of approval.

Hearn is a populist and an innovator but he is also shrewder than most and he elected not to personally invest in the consortium behind the venture. Will he do so now?

More pertinently, does Power Snooker have a future at all? As ever, the market will decide. It will depend on TV ratings and the financial outlay of staging further events.

The players seemed to enjoy it and I’m not surprised: they were playing for £35,000 for a maximum of 90 minutes work. I don’t blame them for lapping it up.

But traditional snooker has emerged unscathed from this new innovation.

These variants – and a number have come and gone over the years – generally end up reminding fans what it was they liked about established snooker in the first place.

Power Snooker was never intended to replace proper snooker. And it won’t.



Good luck to all those involved in Power Snooker tomorrow.

The action starts at 1pm UK time at the O2 in London. It promises to be a glitzy, showbiz affair and, above all, a piece of entertainment rather than hard sport, although with a £35,000 first prize it’s fair to imagine that it will still be competitive.

The rules can be read here.

The players will apparently be miked up so that they can ‘interact’ with the crowd.

I’m not sure what this will entail exactly. It’s hard to imagine Ding Junhui issuing pithy bon mots but it does provide a chance to see the players in a different setting.

It’s hard to see who can reasonably be made favourite because Power Snooker is essentially a potting contest and there are some very good potters in action, namely Ding, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Ali Carter.

Jimmy White, too, is well capable of knocking them in while 15 year-old Luca Brecel will be the unknown quantity.

Whatever you think of Power Snooker – and I’m aware a lot of people have taken against it before a ball has been struck – it represents a great showcase for young Brecel, a prodigious talent from Belgium who gets to mix it with the big boys live on TV.

ITV4 will screen the action for UK viewers. Eurosport broadcast Power Snooker in Europe.

The long term plan for Power Snooker is to start a circuit of five or six events. Much will depend on how it goes this weekend.

Tickets have sold well off the back of a strong marketing campaign but the TV audience will also be a major factor.

It’s good to have ITV showing snooker, of a sorts, again after a decade away. Hopefully this will be the start of a new relationship with the broadcaster.

Matt Smith presents the coverage with reports from Ned Boulting. Commentary will come from Clive Everton and Peter Drury.

For those who'd rather watch the traditional game, there's live streaming of EPTC4 from Gloucester, details of which can be found through this link.


1) Joe Johnson, Jimmy White, Peter Ebdon and Nigel Bond.

2) Six.

3) 22.

4) Seven.

5) 2008.



The Scottish Professional Championship is being revived after a 22 year absence.

The tournament, solely for Scottish pros, is being staged at the Lucky Break Club, Glasgow from April 11-13.

The top four ranked Scottish professionals - John Higgins, Stephen Maguire, Stephen Hendry and Graeme Dott - will be seeded through to the quarter-finals, assuming they accept the invitation to compete.

The other five Scots pros - Alan McManus, Marcus Campbell, Jamie Burnett, Anthony McGill and James McBain - will be joined by three former professionals to play a qualifying round, with the four winners progressing to the quarters.

The Scottish Professional Championship ran from 1980 to 1989.

It provided the then 17 year-old Hendry with his first professional title in 1986.

He won it the following two years as well but with so much snooker to play and so little decent Scottish opposition at the time he declined to enter in 1989, when the event was won by John Rea.

The revived tournament will take place in Rea's own club and carries a prize fund of £15,000.

In recent years the Irish professionals have had their own tournament and, in a fantasy world where everything ran smoothly, it would be nice for other countries to follow suit and maybe even have a finals for the various national champions.

Scotland became a great snooker hotbed in the wake of Hendry's remarkable rise to the very top.

A number of good players have come and gone since...Euan Henderson, Billy Snaddon, Chris Small, David McLellan, John Lardner, Martin Dziewialtowski, Graham Horne, Craig McGillivray to name a few.

The Scots failed to win a match at the Crucible until 1987. Since then a Scot has won the title 11 times and appeared in a total of 16 finals.

Having their own championship again gives them the chance to celebrate one of snooker's most successful nations.


I've avoided the temptation to reduce the number of questions from five to three...

This week, the theme is deciders:

1) Stephen Hendry has lost four deciders at the Crucible. Name the players to have beaten him.

2) How many times has the Welsh Open final been resolved in a decider?

3) What was the highest break made in the deciding frame of the 1985 world final?

4) How many deciders has Mark Selby won in the Wembley Masters?

5) Which was the last UK Championship final to go down to a deciding frame?



Fair play to the organisers of Power Snooker. They have thrown considerable PR resources at the new innovation and it’s worked, resulting in an almost unprecedented amount of coverage in the newspapers for a new event.

Much of this has been misleading. Many journalists have claimed Barry Hearn is behind Power Snooker when in fact all he has done is sanctioned the event on behalf of World Snooker Ltd – and has elected not to personally invest in the company responsible for bringing it to our screens.

For a more sober view of Power Snooker, here’s Clive Everton in today’s Guardian.

My view of it is unchanged since it was launched. I think people should give it a chance. Despite what’s been written, it is not intended to replace traditional snooker.

It’ll most probably be a fun day for the players, spectators at the O2 in London and viewers on ITV4. Eurosport will also screen live coverage for those outside the UK.

But one of the negative by-products of the Power Snooker hype is the clamouring from apparently sensible players to shorten the World Championship.

As far as I’m concerned this is like saying 2+2 = 147.

For a start, Power Snooker hasn’t even been held and so can’t yet be described as a success.

Yet players like Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White have called for alterations to the Crucible format, ranging from the shortening of matches, a one day final and the introduction of a shot clock.

One player who disagrees is Mark Selby. Writing on his personal blog today, he said: “Short-format tournaments like Power Snooker are interesting and create a lot of buzz, which is good for the game. There has been some debate lately about the World Championships, with some players saying the final should be shortened or the duration of the tournament reduced. I understand where they are coming from, but I don’t go along with it – it is what it is because it’s the World Championships.

“It’s the pinnacle of our sport and what makes it great is the test of duration over those 17 days. The only thing I would maybe consider is making the first couple of rounds a few frames shorter, and also starting the sessions in the final earlier than they do at the moment. Snooker fans love the game and I don’t think they are too bothered about how long the tournament goes on for, in fact, the longer they can see the top players in action, the better. No, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

What Selby has grasped is not just that the championship is supposed to be a proper test but that snooker’s great appeal is its slow burning drama and the capacity for fortunes to change over a longer distance.

Exhibit A: the 1985 world final.

Had that match been a best of 17 Steve Davis would have won easily, probably something like 9-1 or 9-2.

Had there been a shot clock would it have made the conclusion any more exciting?

There is room for innovation and different formats but people need to keep a sense of proportion.

The brains behind Power Snooker went out of their way at the launch to state that they were not trying to kill off traditional snooker, only to compliment it.

I agree with Selby that the odd tweak could be made to the Crucible format – the final should certainly start earlier – but a one day final? A shot clock?

I don’t think so.



The forthcoming World Seniors Championship marks the return to action of one of snooker’s all time legends.

Cliff Thorburn became the first non-British player to win the World Championship in 1980.

Three years later he meticulously compiled the Crucible’s first 147 break, providing the slow build up of tension that made it so compelling that all those calling for shot clocks in the championship would do well to consider.

Snooker’s pulling power has always been the slow burning drama it creates and the characters that create it. Few have burned the midnight oil with as much regularity as Thorburn.

He emerged from the tough, uncompromising North American snooker and pool scene and headed for the UK at a time where there was little money to be made but a sense that snooker was about to become something big.

Thorburn – the original ‘Grinder’ – was among the pioneers from that golden period when the game rocketed from sub culture to the most popular sport on television, making household names of a generation of waistcoated men who filled the late night schedules potting balls through a sea of cigarette smoke.

John Spencer beat Thorburn in the first world final staged at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre in 1977 as the snooker boom began to take hold.

At that time there was a holy trinity of Canadian players, each larger than life. There was the young, good looking pin-up Kirk Stevens, the gargantuan heavy drinking Bill Werbeniuk and Thorburn, moustachioed like Tom Selleck in Magnum and about as hard a matchplayer as the game has ever seen.

BBC coverage of his World Championship victory in 1980 was interrupted by news reports from the besieged Iranian embassy in London, which was being stormed by the SAS. Angry viewers rang in demanding to be returned to Thorburn’s epic battle with Alex Higgins, which he won 18-16.

This victory helped propel him to the world no.1 spot but while both these fine achievements are well remembered in Canada, British audiences instead seem to hold his 147 in higher esteem.

Perhaps this was because of the drama and novelty of the moment, easier to recall than a whole match or position on a ranking list.

Thorburn famously began his maximum with a fluke, proving it’s not getting the luck that matters but what you do with it.

Those closing moments are deeply embedded in the DNA of professional snooker...Werbeniuk peering round the partition between tables, Jack Karnehm’s ‘good luck, mate,’ Thorburn potting the black and sinking to his knees, then being hugged by Werbeniuk and his opponent, Terry Griffiths, before collecting his fag packet and giving a final double fisted salute.

Shatteringly, this all time high was punctured almost immediately backstage when he phoned home to tell his wife, Barbara, only to be informed she had suffered a miscarriage.

Thorburn would go on to be one of the 1980s very best players. He won the Wembley Masters three times and provided TV audiences with many a late night: that battle with Griffiths didn’t end until 3.51am, Thorburn winning 13-12.

As with all the greats, decline took hold, not helped by a sighting problem. His last appearance at the Crucible came in 1994 when he led Nigel Bond 9-2 in the first round and lost 10-9.

He may well still have won had the match not been pulled off at 9-7. The intervening hours gave him perhaps too much time to fret about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and this is what duly happened.

Still a big name in Canada, Cliff is about as classy a guy as you could meet. He is still immaculately turned out and it’s not hard to see why he was for so many years the housewives favourite, even if his style of play does not exactly place him alongside the flair players.

And he wasn’t squeaky clean. He was once banned for testing positive for cocaine, although this was a rare slip from a career marked by professionalism.

Thorburn is responsible for one of my favourite anecdotes from the qualifiers – which I’ll clean up here. It was right at the end of his career when he was losing all the time. After one such defeat an eager fan rushed up to him and proceeded to painstakingly detail just exactly where he was going wrong. Thorburn listened for a minute or so and then turned to the guy and said, deadpan, ‘excuse me, but I think you’re confusing me with someone who gives a damn.’

He is a regular visitor to the Crucible for each World Championship where the fans still flock to one of the game’s most recognisable figures.

I remember being in the official tournament hotel a few years ago where some – let’s be honest – drunk blokes were playing pool. The chalk had gone missing so one of them approached Cliff to see if he had any, as if he carries some round in case of emergencies.

He will be an asset to the World Seniors Championship, which will be staged at the Cedar Court Hotel, Bradford, from November 5 to 7. His game isn’t anywhere near what it was but you can bet he will be trying hard and will be good value off table.

Cliff Thorburn was one of snooker’s flag bearers from an age where the sun always seemed to shine on a sport awash with money, beating off sponsors and broadcasters and pulling in viewers by the many millions.

Dark clouds of mismanagement soon dimmed the honeymoon as the game lost its essential innocence but our affection for the cast of characters from that time remains and the World Seniors will be a chance to see some of them tackle players who took up snooker in their wake.

For more details about the World Seniors Championship, click here.



Marcus Campbell is the winner of European Players Tour Championship event 3 after he beat Liang Wenbo 4-0 in the final in Russelsheim, Germany tonight.

It is a result which consolidates his place in the top 32 and he will be seeded in this bracket for the German Masters and Welsh Open if he can keep his place after the UK Championship.

Campbell is still best known for his sensational 9-0 whitewash of Stephen Hendry in the first round of the 1998 UK Championship.

It was a great win, a great moment, but something of a millstone around his neck too. In the intervening 12 years he would have hoped for more and better achievements.

The truth is, Marcus has been a journeyman for most of his career but he has enjoyed a noticeable upturn in fortunes in the last two years.

He made a 147 at the 2008 Bahrain Championship, had a solid set of results last season, qualifying for the Crucible for only the second time, and has continued in that vein during this campaign.

So why the turnaround after 19 years on the circuit?

Well, Campbell became a father last year and the arrival of baby Leighton seems to have sorted out his priorities.

With the extra mouth to feed he’s practising more and all the hard work is paying off.

Marcus has spent many years on the tour striving for success. Now he’s getting some he should enjoy it – and keep pressing for more.

Like Barry Pinches earlier in the PTC series, it’s nice to see one of snooker’s battle hardened campaigners having a moment to celebrate.



If you fancy something a little different, Eurosport2 is broadcasting the World Championship of 3 Cushion Billiards this weekend.

This is a remarkably skillful game of touch and precision played on pocketless tables.

The action starts today at 6.30pm BST, 7.30pm CET. The second semi-final is tomorrow at 10am BST, 11am CET and the final at 1.30pm BST, 2.30pm CET.



Neil Robertson again proved last night that he is, right now, the best player on the planet.

He blew Ding Junhui away 6-0 in the partycasino.com Premier League and was good value for that result.

His opponent did help him – Ding was all over the place – but Robertson announced his intent from the very start by banging in a 120 in the opening frame and never looked back.

He has now shed all of the rawness of his early years and plays instead in a controlled, measured way. He is much better at keeping hold of the cue ball and has allied his natural confidence to a game that is becoming increasingly difficult to beat.

Robertson is, in a number of ways, a perfect world champion for snooker. He’s young, engaging, has a certain exotic quality being Australian and comes across well in interviews. I’ve never found him to be anything other than friendly, honest and willing to talk to the media.

Earlier this week he weighed into the ongoing debate about whether the World Championship should be shortened, saying he could see a case for it.

I don’t particularly agree with him but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, he expresses his opinions articulately and without any underlying agenda.

Robertson should be used more to promote the game. He should be the one at launches and press conferences.

What better role model could there be than a young family man who has made considerable personal sacrifices to further his career and has now reached the top as a result?

Robertson has undertaken much media work in Australia but he needs to be pushed to the fore in the UK too.

If the game has a world champion it can be proud of it needs to constantly remind the wider world of who he is.


And the answers are...

1) Graeme Dott lost in four ranking event finals before winning a title.

2) Jim Donnelly was the first Scot to play at the Crucible, in 1982.

3) Lawrie Annandale refereed the 1998 World Championship final.

4) John Higgins beat Ken Doherty to win his first Masters title.

5) Stephen Maguire is the youngest player to compile a 147 break in a ranking tournament.



Brazil will stage a new tournament next season as professional snooker heads to South America for the first time.

The Brazilian Masters (launched today in London, picture left) will be held in the city of Sao Paulo from September 14-17. It will be an invitation tournament in the first year, featuring 12 top players and four wildcards, with the plan to upgrade it to a ranking event in the fullness of time.

Brazil has a history of snooker but the game is largely played with ten reds on smaller tables.

For the first time this season a Brazilian player, Igor Figueiredo, is competing as a professional and qualified for the World Open, where his British TV debut ended at the hands of Mark Williams.

The move into any new territory is a cause for celebration but Brazil, with its sun-drenched beaches and long history of excellence at football, is one of the more glamorous locations for a tournament.

I can’t imagine many players thinking twice before accepting the invitation.

However, those with long memories will recall that events were also announced in Brazil in 1995 and 2004 and that neither took place.

But I have rather more confidence in Barry Hearn’s promotional skills than those of regimes gone by and this new event, and tournaments likely to be announced in other far off places in the near future, is proof of genuine progress being made under his stewardship of the game’s commercial body.

It is right to start off with an invitation event and test the water to see if the interest in Brazil can sustain a bigger tournament in years to come.

This strategy is one Hearn pursued in the 1980s as an independent promoter. It was he who first went to Thailand, China and Dubai, long before the governing body.

Two of the local wildcards will be determined by a qualifying event in Brazil, which itself will generate even more interest in snooker in the country as amateur players fight to take on the sport's biggest names.

The Brazilian Masters will be played under a knock-out format on one match table.

The early rounds will be best of seven frames while the semis and final will be best of nine.

Television coverage will be announced in due course.


This week's quiz has a Scottish theme...

1) How many ranking finals had Graeme Dott lost in before winning a title?

2) Who was the first Scot to compete at the Crucible?

3) In which year did Lawrie Annandale referee the World Championship final?

4) Who did John Higgins beat in the final when he won the Masters for the first time?

5) Which Scottish player is the youngest to compile a 147 in a ranking tournament?



The Snooker Players Association made a number of recommendations to the WPBSA at a meeting held in Sheffield last week.

The SPA is now headed by Patsy Fagan, the inaugural UK champion, who seems to me to be motivated by the right reasons.

Fagan was a player for many years and now coaches. He doesn’t have to spend his time involved with SPA business.

Among the points put to WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson was that a number of players would prefer the PTCs to be more spread out through the season and for some of them to be played during the week rather than at weekends.

The tournament calendar is largely determined by TV but the WPBSA gave an undertaking to space the events out more next season.

The SPA reported that most players approved of the new ranking system but that a number would prefer more events where the top 16 were not seeded through to the last 32.

Again, this is largely down to TV. If a broadcaster begins its coverage in the last 32, they want the top names guaranteed to be in that round rather than having to pre-qualify.

The SPA put forward a proposal to ban player managers from sitting on the WPBSA board, saying “managers have an obligation to act in the best interests possible for their players at all times. Should a player manager be appointed onto the board of the WPBSA, decisions that he makes could be beneficial to his players which could in turn be detrimental to other players.”

The problem with this is that in snooker there is no proper licensing of managers. I could hook onto a player and call myself his manager, so defining who exactly is a manager and whether that would then disqualify them from holding a board position is not straightforward.

There are two management groups in snooker with a large stable of players – 110sport and On Q Promotions – but no actual evidence that their clients vote en bloc.

However, 110sport’s Lee Doyle is among those standing for election at December’s WPBSA AGM and it is not unreasonable to assume he will ask his clients for support.

The SPA also wants full voting rights extended from the top 64 in the rankings to all 96 players.

I’m all for the SPA as a voice for players but the tail must not wag the dog. Snooker, like any sport, depends on its biggest names to attract broadcasters, sponsors and audiences.

The lower rankers ganging up on the top players and attempting to artificially ‘level’ the playing field would be against the game’s wider interests.

The playing field is level enough as it is. Every player currently in the top 16 started at the bottom. They are at the top now because they are the best players.

Interestingly, with regards to the recently aborted EGM the SPA said: “We were informed by certain players, who had put their names to these resolutions, that they were not fully aware of what they were signing and agreeing to.”

This would appear to provide further evidence that players should stay out of politics if they did not even properly read what they were signing.

It does not seem to have been discussed but the first thing I would change is the rule that you only need 10% of the voting membership to call an EGM. This amounts to around seven players.

If you made it 33% (roughly 23 players) it would mean that EGMs were only called on issues where there was a genuine strong feeling among players, giving them some actual legitimacy.



Why do players suddenly seem to lose all semblance of form?

It’s happened to a fair few over the years: one moment they are at the top of their game, the next they are plunging down the rankings.

The latest to suffer this fate is Ryan Day. Two years ago he was third in the provisional rankings after reaching the Grand Prix final.

Now he is 24th, will have to qualify for the UK Championship and won’t be at the Masters.

Day has lost his last eight matches on the tour and is badly in need of a run in a tournament to arrest an alarming slide.

Players, like anyone, have pressures away from their professions which may impact their form but snooker is a sport that cruelly exposes any mental frailties.

When a player is at the table it is up to them and if they are not feeling confident, doubts cloud their minds and cause mistakes.

Ryan Day has not forgotten how to play snooker overnight. But something is wrong and, as with Mark Williams a few years ago, turning the corner will not be easy.

The PTCs are, in theory, a good thing for a player struggling with confidence. If you lose early one week you have an immediate chance to make amends.

But the other side of that coin is that a series of swift exits one week after another can deplete self belief at a greater rate than if there were fewer events.

Last season, a player not performing could blame the paucity of tournaments. Not any more, though.

Day is a fine talent: a long potter and break builder of the modern style. In that 2008 Grand Prix he made an excellent 50-odd clearance in the decider against Mark Selby in the last 16 that proved he can compete under pressure.

But he has failed to win any of his three ranking finals thus far and so does not have that reservoir of success to tap into.

Day was ranked sixth last season. I’ve seen players reach such heady heights before and then struggle. I wonder if sometimes they look at their lofty position and think that the only way is down.

After all, they’ve spent years working hard to climb the rankings but, when they get there, they are no longer the hunter but the hunted.

Does this instil a mood of panic, particularly after a couple of disappointing defeats?

I don’t know why Day is struggling but I do know how highly he is rated by his fellow players.

They would expect him to turn the tide at some point, as would I, but professional snooker is cutthroat and nothing is guaranteed.



Dominic Dale produced a remarkable escape to win the sixth Players Tour Championship title of the season in Sheffield tonight.

Dale needed three snookers in the deciding frame of the final against Martin Gould but got them and then cleared from last red to black to secure a dramatic 4-3 victory.

He is the eighth different winner on the PTC and EPTC series this season and certain to be part of the 24-man grand finals next March.

Snooker has long had to put up with ignorant people decrying it for a lack of ‘characters’ – whatever that actually means.

Well, Dominic is certainly a character.

When you ask a snooker player what their other interests are they usually say golf and poker.

Not Dom. He’s into opera, 1950s British comedy films, the life and death of Marylin Monroe, antique clocks and watches and all manner of other weird and wonderful pursuits.

Last week he compered the Jimmy White v Tony Drago exhibition in Gloucester wearing a full length velvet suit replete with top hat that made him look like a cross between Willy Wonka and Larry Grayson.

These days he lives in Vienna but is registered to represent Wales and I still well remember him necking a bucket full of champagne following the Welsh triumph in the inaugural Nations Cup in 1999.

He genuinely doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him. He is who he is and he’s happy with that.

Dominic has never been in the top 16 but is one of only 25 players to have won more than one ranking title.

His first came out of the blue. In 1997, he reached the Grand Prix final but came up against John Higgins who was at that time playing the best snooker in the world.

Dale won 9-6. He would be the first to admit it went to his head a little. Perhaps he thought he had made the big time but he failed to kick on.

Then ten years and several outfits later he won another ranking title, the 2007 Shanghai Masters, playing supremely confident snooker in the final session to see off Ryan Day.

Dominic is a one off. He’s known as ‘The Spaceman’ for his eccentricity but it should not be forgotten just what a good player he is when he puts it all together.

Last week after the exhibition we had a drink in the hotel where a bloke came over to him and asked if he was still playing.

It’s a question Dominic could forgive because he appears on TV only sporadically these days.

But he proved tonight that he is still a player and maybe this great escape will give him the confidence he needs for another resurgence in what has been, fittingly, a career stranger than most.



1) Dennis Taylor appeared in six ranking event finals

2) Alex Higgins made his highest World Championship break (137) in the 1995 qualifiers against Tai Pichit

3) Ken Doherty's old club was Jason's

4) Fergal O'Brien won the 1999 British Open in Plymouth

5) Stephen Hendry featured in seven Irish Masters finals



Mark Selby will begin the defence of his Masters title against Mark King at Wembley Arena next January.

Ronnie O'Sullivan, Selby's beaten opponent in last season's final, will face Mark Allen, who beat him in the second round of the 2009 World Championship.

Reigning world champion Neil Robertson tackles six times Masters champion Stephen Hendry while Jamie Cope makes his Wembley debut against Shaun Murphy.

The format includes scope for two wildcards but this is still to be confirmed.

Mark Selby v Mark King
Shaun Murphy v Jamie Cope
Mark Williams v Ding Junhui
John Higgins v Graeme Dott
Ali Carter v Peter Ebdon
Stephen Maguire v Marco Fu
Ronnie O'Sullivan v Mark Allen
Neil Robertson v Stephen Hendry


This week's quiz has an Irish theme...

1) In how many ranking tournament finals did Dennis Taylor appear?

2) Against whom did Alex Higgins make his highest ever break in the World Championship?

3) What was the name of the snooker club in Ranelagh where Ken Doherty learned his trade?

4) In which city did Fergal O'Brien win his first ranking title?

5) Stephen Hendry won the Irish Masters three times but how many finals did he reach in total?



Perrie Mans is 70 tomorrow.

The South African captured the Pot Black title in 1977, was runner-up to Ray Reardon in the 1978 World Championship, spent a season second in the world rankings (although at the time they were based only on performances in the World Championship) and won the Masters in 1979, beating Alex Higgins 8-4 in the final.

Famously, Mans won this title despite not making a half century all week, something that would be unimaginable today.

Mans was a great single ball potter but, obviously, positional play was not particularly his thing.

However snooker, like any sport, has evolved over time.

In Mans’s day, the cloths were heavier, the balls broke less easily and the conditions were not as conducive to break building as today where the players are treated to beautifully fast cloths.

But the game has changed as well because of a difference in approach.

Players such as Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry ushered in the new era of ultra attacking play which nearly all the modern day players now base their games around.

That’s why so many frames no longer begin with protracted safety exchanges but with a player attempting a long red and, if they get it, making a frame winning break.

John Spencer was once big enough to admit that he would need at least 21 start to compete with the players of the 1990s, although we’ll never know how the greats of previous eras would have adapted their games had they come into snooker at a different time.

In the current top 16, Mark King is not someone renowned for centuries but has much of the guile and ability to scrap out results that a player like Mans also possessed.

The truth is, you can’t judge a match or a performance solely on the breaks recorded. A frame in which a player makes two 40s counts the same as one in which he’s made 80.

Some younger players are yet to learn that you don’t have to win a frame in one visit.

Players like Ken Doherty and Peter Ebdon are prime examples of those who know when to attack and when to close up the shop and their longevity is testament to this.

John Higgins has arguably surpassed Steve Davis in the all round stakes as his tactical knowledge is strong and he also scores heavily.

As for Mans, he did little of note after his Masters win, although he did beat Steve Davis at Wembley in 1981. He retired from the circuit in 1987.



Tonight Jimmy White and Tony Drago clash cues in a special exhibition in Gloucester to mark the formal opening of the South West Snooker Academy.

This is a first class facility offering practice and coaching with 13 tables and a match arena.

White and Drago are, of course, two of snooker's real entertainers. Tony doesn't seem to have slowed up much over the years and made a successful return to the circuit last season.

Jimmy is ever popular and, as anyone who has been to one of his exhibitions knows, always puts on a good show for his many fans.

The action kicks off around 7pm BST. Details of how to watch will appear on this page at the SWSA website later today.



Well done to Ding Junhui who has tonight beaten Jamie Jones 4-1 to win the fifth Players Tour Championship title of the season in Sheffield.

Ding is not eligible for the grand finals next March because he hasn’t played in the requisite number of PTC tournaments but will still gladly accept the £10,000 first prize and 2,000 ranking points

If my maths is correct – which it usually isn’t – then Ding leaps from eighth to fourth as a result of this victory, so his endeavours have been well rewarded.

There have now been seven winners on the PTC/EPTC series, four from the top 16.

The action continues next weekend with PTC6 but despite the understandable complaints last season that there weren’t enough tournaments to play in, there are already some groans that these new events aren’t of sufficient prestige.

Tough. That’s where snooker is right now and it’ll take time for things to turn round.

A better attitude would be to regard it as a chance to make money and stay sharp.

I can understand a few legends of snooker not being wildly enthused by the PTCs but the younger players and those down the rankings should be thankful for the opportunities.

Snooker fans had their already depleted reserves of patience tested still further over the weekend as they tried to keep up to date with the scores.

worldsnooker.com’s much vaunted new live scoring facility packed in early on and did not work again, although there was not a word of explanation as to why not.

Following the scores from afar reminded me of those ‘magic eye’ pictures the newspapers used to print back in the 1990s.

You remember: you’d stare solidly at them for 15 minutes until, finally, you got a headache.

Technology can, of course, malfunction, but the governing body’s scoring has failed so many times over the years that you wonder if an ancient curse has been placed upon it.

But here’s an idea in the meantime: there’s this new fangled thing called Twitter which apparently is vaguely popular. Barry Hearn’s PDC darts organisation posts results and updates on there all the time.

Is there a reason why World Snooker can’t do the same?



Former referee Alan Chamberlain, who retired from the circuit earlier this year, has been co-opted to the WPBSA board.

"Over many years, Alan has worked at the highest level of impartiality. He will play an important role on the board in our function as owner and governer of the rules and regulations of the sport," said Jason Ferguson, the WPBSA chairman.

It makes sense to have someone with a thorough knowledge of the rules sitting on the board as they can take feedback from players and officials regarding any that may need to be tweaked or clarified.

Also invited to join the board is Zhang Xiaoning of the Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association.

Sindhu Pulsirivong, the long time president of the Billiards Sports Association of Thailand and the man responsible for the many events staged there over the years, has been made WPBSA president.

These two latter appointments foreshadow a greater move into Asia, with more tournaments likely in both China and Thailand.

"Snooker is already very popular in Thailand but there is still great potential for growth. We are of course a global governing body and it is our belief that we need to open our doors further to the growth of snooker in the whole of Asia," Ferguson said.


I still vividly remember learning of the death of Paul Hunter.

It was a Monday night. I was at home. After the call came I phoned the Press Association. Three minutes later it was on Sky News.

After an hour or so of writing for various people I turned off my computer and the sheer awfulness of it hit me.

To lose any 27 year-old to cancer is shocking but to lose such a nice young man who loved life so much is doubly heartbreaking.

There was no malice in Paul. He was just a laidback lad with a great talent for snooker, a sport he helped to keep in the headlines through his three Masters victories and general popularity.

His name should be kept alive. He died four years ago tomorrow and, through the efforts of his various friends, he is still associated with snooker tournaments being played after his death.

One such event is the Paul Hunter English Open, which begins at the Northern Snooker Centre in Paul’s native Leeds on Monday.

There is also the annual Paul Hunter Classic in Germany, now part of the European Players Tour Championship, and the Paul Hunter Foundation, which provides opportunities for young people who otherwise have few.

The WPBSA scholarship in his name has been scrapped after three years, largely because the World Snooker Academy, where the scholars spent a year, is no longer a practice base.

The governing body should still commemorate his life and career in some way.

Indeed, the game’s wider heritage should be guarded with care because although it is right to look to the future, snooker should not forget the names of the past who have helped make it the television attraction it is today.


And the answers are...

1) Colin Roscoe is the former ice-cream salesman.

2) Mark Williams has qualified for the Crucible once, in 2009.

3) Matthew Stevens has won one match at Wembley since winning the Masters in 2000.

4) Terry Griffiths's last appearance in a ranking event was at the 1997 World Championship.

5) Dominic Dale's real first name is Christopher.



Lee Doyle has phoned me this evening to clarify his position regarding the EGM called to overthrow the WPBSA board.

Doyle stressed that he has no issue with Barry Hearn but feels the WPBSA board should be more independent from World Snooker Ltd and does not feel that the chairman, Jason Ferguson, has addressed various concerns some of 110sport’s players have put to him.

Doyle says he was not behind the EGM but was responding to requests from players but admits getting involved in it was probably a mistake because it has created a false impression.

However, he does not believe he deserves some of the vitriol that has come his way in the comments section of this blog today. On this, I have sympathy with him. You can disagree with someone without having to insult them.

Of course, it was me who allowed (most of) these comments through so I have to accept my share of responsibility. The problem, though, is that if you start censoring comments you are then accused of trying to control the agenda and telling people what they can or can’t say.

While on the subject of self-flagellation I was wrong to refer to ‘bad news’ coming in an earlier post, which I’m told has caused a bit of panic in some quarters. The EPTC event due to be staged in Offenburg is moving to Gloucester. I suppose this is bad news for some in Germany but I did not mean to create the impression that something terrible was about to happen.

The problem in Offenburg is that the event is partly underwritten by ticket sales and these have been affected by two factors.

First, Power Snooker is on the same weekend and this means several big draws – Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson and Jimmy White included – cannot travel to Germany.

Also, the following week there is another EPTC event in Hamm, which is relatively close to Offenburg.

The good news, though, is that the tournament will be at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester where the Power Snooker players can play as long as their initial matches are staged on the Friday.

Players who have already booked flights will be reimbursed and any player who has entered can have their fee returned if the wish. Fans who have bought tickets will also be refunded.

You can read the official WPBSA statement here.

And with all that it’s time (thank God!) for some actual snooker in the shape of the Premier League on Sky Sports 3.


Lee Doyle, the leader of the discredited coup to oust the WPBSA board at the forthcoming EGM, has claimed Ali Carter withdrew his support because he 'feared retribution' from snooker's governing body.

Doyle told 110sport: "Ali stated to me his fear of retribution if he was to be linked to the proposal.

“It is clear there is still unrest in the game and until proper money is invested and the players are earning what they should be earning unfortunately this will not disappear.”

Yes, there is unrest because those who lost to Barry Hearn last June have been stirring it up rather than keeping their promises made at the time to support the new regime.

Hearn has raised prize money on the circuit since the time Doyle was on the WPBSA board so even if he believes the players aren't earning enough now, they are certainly earning more than there were a year ago when he was a director.

Barry Pinches, for example, has already earned more money so far this season than he did the whole of last.

Carter himself earned £5,000 more for winning this season's Shanghai Masters than he would have done under the previous board last year.

There are concerns from players and they should be listened to. It is also naive to believe everything will run smoothly from now on - I understand a statement is due shortly regarding a tournament that will not be good news.

But the best chance of snooker reaching its potential is if players and managers accept that Hearn and his team have to be given a fair chance to make the changes necessary to get the sport back on its feet.

Calling pointless EGMs will not help this.


I'm told now Peter Ebdon has also now backed out of supporting the EGM to remove the WPBSA board.

So that's three of the seven players who signed the original motion who have now changed their minds.

Any more takers?


The EGM to remove the WPBSA board is unravelling by the hour.

Following the news Ali Carter requested his name be removed from the requisition form, Mike Dunn has now followed suit.

He told The Snooker Forum: "I want to move on and concentrate on being a player as being on the previous board has held me back for seven years because of lack of practice. I love the sport and want to be part of the new future."

Dunn is now in the top 32 for the first time in his career and I can well understand why he would rather concentrate on playing than yet more political strife.

As for the EGM, if Carter's withdrawal damaged its credibility, Dunn's has surely sunk it completely.


Last week's Thursday quiz was variously criticised for being both too difficult and too easy.

Well, to quote Chris Tarrant: it's only easy if you know the answers. Or if you Google them.

This week's theme is Welsh players...

1) Which former Welsh professional had worked previously as an ice cream salesman?

2) How many times has Mark Williams qualified for the Crucible?

3) How many matches has Matthew Stevens won at the Masters since capturing the title in 2000?

4) In which tournament did Terry Griffiths make his last appearance in a ranking event?

5) What is Dominic Dale's real first name?

You can turn over your papers...now.



The EGM requistioned to remove the WPBSA board has taken a farcical turn with the news that Ali Carter, one of the seven players who signed the original motion, has withdrawn his support.

Carter has written to the governing body to request his name is removed from the list of those calling for change.

This is a huge blow to his own manager, 110sport's Lee Doyle, who is leading the attempt to depose WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson and his board of directors.

Doyle, whose bid to prevent Barry Hearn seizing control of snooker failed in June, wants to replace them with himself, Nigel Bond and Jim McMahon, who was voted off less than a year ago.

But the EGM is now clearly discredited. If Carter doesn't even believe in it any more, why should any of the players whose support is being courted?



Shaun Murphy has labelled Ronnie O'Sullivan's behaviour at the World Open last month as 'pathetic,' 'unprofessional' and 'disrespectful.'

In an exclusive interview with The Sun's Andy Dillon, Murphy also said he was "tired of all this 'Ronnie's Ronnie' stuff. I don't subscribe to it, that he should be allowed to get away with it."

O'Sullivan made a public point of protesting about the scrapping of the maximum bonus prize on his way to his 147 against Mark King in Glasgow.

He shook hands with King after potting the pink and was instructed by the referee, Jan Verhaas, to then pot the black 'for the fans.'

O'Sullivan immediately went on television to blast the axing of the bonus prize, although he later backtracked claiming his behaviour had nothing to do with money.

Murphy, watching at home, was not impressed. He told The Sun: "I thought it was pathetic, unprofessional. It was disrespectful to the public who had paid to come and watch him play.

"Four thousand pounds is a lot of money to a lot of people. It was bad taste."

Murphy, who plays O'Sullivan in the Premier League at Brentwood on Thursday night, added: "I'm a bit tired of all this 'Ronnie's Ronnie' stuff. I don't subscribe to it, that he should be allowed to get away with it.

"There's no doubt Ronnie is the biggest draw in snooker and he is the person everyone flocks to watch. Snooker is better with Ronnie than without. He creates a buzz and I enjoy playing him.

"We play in the Premier League this week. As far as the players are concerned he is the benchmark even though he is not no.1. But from a bloke's perspective, I watched what he did on TV and didn't like it.

"Some of my mates thought it was quite funny when I told them but for the people who saw it, it was quite offensive."

Good on Shaun for speaking his mind instead of hiding behind niceties.

However, I think he has gone overboard here. At the time I said I thought O'Sullivan's behaviour was crass - which it was - but as with most of his antics although it may have harmed his reputation with some, it did not damage snooker's. If anything it enhanced interest in the tournament.

As I also said at the time, the publicity he brings the sport cannot be overestimated. Witness the story I wrote about David Roe in Iran: Ronnie is the only player there are interested in emulating out there, and that goes for many other places too.

The shame was that the controversy detracted from what was, by any standards, a brilliant break.

But it is true that Murphy is only articulating in public what many players believe in private.

A number of them do feel that O'Sullivan can basically get away with anything.

In some regards this could be through jealousy at his talent but there is also a feeling that he believes himself to be above the game.

I actually believe O'Sullivan enjoys ruffling a few feathers and the attention it brings him. I hope he continues his maverick ways for many years to come because they've kept a great many people entertained even if they have also brought him a vitrolic stream of abuse from his detractors.

No doubt this story will generate much more frothing at the mouth. In truth, though, it's the bread and butter of many sports - football and boxing in particular - where rivalries are conducted in the pages of tabloid newspapers.

It's all good fun, really. I doubt O'Sullivan cares what Murphy thinks about him and I'm sure the feeling is mutual.

You can read The Sun story here.


It looks like there will be at least one wildcard for January’s Wembley Masters but, for the first time in years, there is no outstanding candidate.

One of the reasons for this is that the new ranking system ensures that the top 16 going to Wembley are, by and large, deserving of their places.

There is nobody who has won a ranking event since the last Masters not in the top 16.

So who should get the nod this season?

Before I run down the likely candidates, a history lesson...

The Masters wildcard was instituted in 1990 for one reason and one reason only: Alex Higgins had dropped out of the top 16 and organisers wanted him in the tournament.

Pretty quickly, the sponsors, Benson and Hedges, realised that if they also ran a qualifying event they could get additional media coverage and name penetration.

That qualifying event has now been scrapped and I would say rightly so: the way you qualify for the Masters is to get in the top 16.

Some people have argued the Masters should be a ranking tournament. They are wrong.

Its prestige comes from the fact that it is just for the elite. Giving it ranking status would just leave it like all the other events.

The wildcard should do one of two things and, in a perfect world, both.

Firstly, and most importantly, it should get publicity for the Masters. So a popular, well known player or someone with a story behind them would be the choice.

Second, it should reward a player outside the top 16 who has done something of merit.

So assuming there will be one wildcard this season, who is on the list of possible recipients?

Last year it went to Jimmy White. This was controversial given his form but he brought a huge crowd to Wembley Arena, including contestants from the reality TV show ‘I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here.’

White failed to produce a performance anywhere close to his best and there are no real arguments for inviting him this season outside of the fact that he would, again, draw a crowd.

There would be greater grounds to include another veteran, Steve Davis, who caught the imagination with his run to the World Championship quarter-finals last April.

Davis is a snooker legend, a three times Masters champion and more popular than ever.

But what would it say about the game to invite someone past their best who has had more than enough Wembley outings already? Also, as he is a WPBSA board member, it would look dodgy, even if it wasn’t.

I’d prefer it to go to a younger player.

Liang Wenbo would have been in under the previous ranking system but has already lost his top 16 place.

He has done this because of his own failure to perform but I have sympathy with him and he would add something to the tournament.

Judd Trump won the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany but, like the other players who have done well on the PTC, will have his own reward by playing in the grand finals next March.

Tournament organisers could decide to go with a player who will bring publicity to the Masters regardless of their playing record.

Reanne Evans is the first woman to compete on the circuit in 14 years but has so far failed to win a match.

Luca Brecel of Belgium is just 15 and has already been invited to Power Snooker but is yet to make much impact on the PTC, even though he did win the Plate event in Bruges.

Igor Figueiredo is Brazil’s first ever professional and, though his match against Mark Williams at the World Open lasted only 39 minutes, he proved himself to be a likeable character with an entertaining playing style.

Jamie Burnett reached a ranking final in Shanghai just last month but is unlikely to be invited given that a decision is still pending on whether Scottish authorities will press charges over betting patterns surrounding his match with Stephen Maguire at the UK Championship two years ago.

There are others just outside the top 16 – Ricky Walden, Matthew Stevens, Barry Hawkins – but nobody who can be said to have a claim on the place.

With this is mind, an idea occurs to me. Barry Hearn is a populist so why not let the public decide on who the wildcard will be?

World Snooker could pick six or seven candidates – maybe some of those mentioned above – and run a poll on their website.

The winner then gets to play at Wembley.

Snooker depends on the fans for their support so why not let them decide for once?



Shaun Murphy is probably as confused as the rest of us as to why his form seems to be so inconsistent.

Three seasons ago, he was Mr. Reliable, a regular at the business end of tournaments.

That consistency helped Murphy bed himself into the top four and underlined his reputation as a big occasion player.

But Murphy then lost his opening match in the first four tournaments of the 2008/09 season – before then winning the UK Championship.

His form has similarly yo-yoed ever since. He played very well indeed against Ding Junhui in the Premier League a few weeks ago – pocketing £7,000 in a single evening – but was poor beyond belief against Matthew Stevens in Shanghai and outplayed by Dave Harold in the World Open.

Last night, Murphy won the second European Players Tour Championship title of the season in Bruges after a frenetic three days of snooker.

His record in such events outside the UK is good. He’s won two Paul Hunter Classics in Germany, the Malta Cup twice, the World Series grand finals in Portugal and a World Series title in Ireland.

John Parrott was a little like this and the link between the two is that Murphy, as Parrott was, is a great pro. He doesn’t treat foreign trips as holidays.

Murphy, like any top player, wants to win every tournament he enters. But I’m sure he would also like to rediscover his consistency and cut out the early exits.

The Bruges event marked the halfway point of the PTC and I’m told it attracted decent crowds.

Some players have a few issues with the new series. Snooker fans have a big one: they can’t watch it.

Hopefully that will soon change. Web streaming or even some TV coverage would draw an audience given the quality of the fields. All of this is apparently under discussion.

As for the top 24, it looks like 6,500-7,000 points will be enough to qualify for the grand finals, which appears likely to feature big names and lesser lights in equal measure.

The winners from the change to the ranking system were Jamie Cope and Peter Ebdon, who join the top 16, and Mike Dunn and Martin Gould, who advance to the top 32.

This makes it even more absurd that Ebdon, Dunn and Gould have signed an EGM requisition form to replace the WPBSA board supporting Barry Hearn's new regime with directors and an agenda already rejected by the membership.



Snooker has grown in popularity across the globe in recent years, particularly in the Far East and Europe.

Now Iran can be added to the list, however unlikely that may seem.

It is a country beset with controversy, over disputed elections, its nuclear programme and the outspoken comments of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But as with any country, the population is made up of ordinary people with the same concerns and interests as the rest of the planet.

And for a large number of Iranians, that includes snooker.

There are approximately 1,000 clubs in Iran and 100 in Tehran alone.

Now their budding snooker stars have a chance to improve significantly after landing a coach with bags of experience at the top level.

David Roe, 45, is a former world no.13 who played on the professional circuit from 1986 until he was relegated at the end of last season.

Still in love with the game, he has left Derby and headed to Tehran to pursue a new challenge.

"I heard through Peter Gilchrist [the Singapore national coach] that Iran was looking for a coach and he put me in touch with Kamran Shala, who works for the snooker federation here," Roe told snookersceneblog.

"After the very long and difficult process of getting a visa, which took two months, I arrived here in early September.

"The standard of the main three man team is very good. Soheil Vahedi is the best player in Iran at the moment but there is a 15 year-old called Hussein Vafaei who is great to watch. He pots balls from anywhere. There's also a 19 year-old, Ehsan Heydarnejad, who is talented.

"The only downside for the players at the moment is that they have very little match experience as there are not many tournaments in Iran right now, just four a year.

"The federation president, Hashern Eskandari, is a friendly, enthusiastic man and I've impressed on him the need for more tournaments. It's the only way these players will make the step up to the next level.

"But the standard is already pretty high. I played a lad of 14 the other day and he had a century. He cues a bit like Ding and is another one to watch."

Vahedi, 22, was a semi-finalist in the 2008 IBSF World Amateur Championship and runner-up in last year's World Under 21 Championship.

Iran is gaining more experience in international events and are now looking at sending their best players to the UK to practise against the best.

There are some women players but Roe is not allowed to coach them.

But television coverage does bring the professional game into Iranian homes and there is one figure who has done more than any other to send interest in snooker rocketing.

"All any of the players talk about is Ronnie O'Sullivan. They love him," Roe said.

"In the hotel where I'm staying there was a pro football team from Addis Ababa and as soon as they heard I was connected with snooker, all they wanted to ask me about was Ronnie.

"I took a two hour plane ride to a snooker club north of Iran and there were posters of Ronnie everywhere. There weren't any of any other player.

"Many of the players don't use the rest. They try to play left-handed because they want to copy Ronnie."

Roe was understandably nervous about such a leap into the unknown but is enjoying life in Iran.

"It's a beautiful country and the people are so friendly," he said.

"Tehran is amazing with mountains everywhere. It will have snow here in a few months and has the fifth highest ski resort in the world.

"People are always asking me about Man United. When I say I'm a Derby County fan they think I'm mad. I have to mention Brian Clough just to make Derby seem interesting."

Derby to Tehran may seem an unlikely step to take but the unifying currency is snooker.

"They love the game here and if I can help them improve it will be rewarding," Roe said.


And the answers are:

1) John Higgins (2001 Champions Cup)

2) 2002 Thailand Masters

3) Jon Wright

4) Cliff Thorburn (1989 Matchroom League)

5) 2003 Scottish Open (David Gray and Mark Selby)