I spent the afternoon in Coventry for the first day of the 888casino Champion of Champions and was impressed by what I saw.

The venue is big and lively and a huge effort has been put into making this new tournament something special, from the set to the new dress code – normal ties replacing bowties to give it a distinctive look.

With one table and the world’s best, it already feels like a prestigious event. Crowds were pretty good overall and there was some interesting snooker played.

John Higgins had a great chance to beat Stephen Maguire 4-2 but admitted that he had felt the pressure in the sixth frame. Higgins, as so often throughout his career, has been chopping and changing cues and techniques and seems to have put himself in a position where he lacks confidence in the basics of his game.

Maguire was surprised to win but delighted also. I suspect he spoke for many of the top 16 afterwards with his comments about the event when I asked him if it was nice to have a tournament just for the elite.

He said: “The set-up is different class compared to what we’re used to now. A few years ago we were used to that but we went backwards, or the top 16 did anyway.

“It’s nice to be rewarded with a nice arena. I’d like more of them. Get the top 16 boys playing in big tournaments like this.”

Not everyone will agree with Maguire’s comments but I know what he means. At times the ‘pro fairness’ agenda sounds like anti-excellence. Everyone has the same chance to climb the rankings and win titles. The sport’s champions deserve to be feted.

Meanwhile, the moaning and groaning about Shaun Murphy’s inclusion ended on the first afternoon when he was beaten 4-2 by Mark Selby.

It says a lot about Selby’s commitment to the game that, having arrived home at 5.30am after winning in Antwerp on Sunday night, he went to practice for two hours yesterday wearing a tie because he had never played snooker in one before.

This is how champions are made: by going the extra mile. It would have been much easier to catch up on sleep – and most would have – but Selby wanted that edge for the week.

One last thing, and this is something I haven’t written much about in the past because of (accurate) accusations of bias, but having listened to him commentating all day, what were the BBC thinking when they dropped Clive Everton from their commentary team?

Nobody has ever so expertly combined snooker knowledge and use of language. The skill of any great broadcaster is as much knowing when not to speak as what is actually said on air.

Combined with the excellent Neal Foulds and Alan McManus, Clive’s presence lends the event gravitas and makes ITV4’s coverage a really good watch.

It should be a really absorbing week’s snooker.


jamie brannon said...

The commentary side is very good, but the studio element wasn't as good as the BBC. Jill Douglas not in Hazel Irvine's class, and McManus was no Hendry in assessing things.

You're not being biased at all, I believe you're being totally genuine in expressing what most people believe that the BBC made a mistake.

Wolfgang said...

The commentary is far superior to what we get on the BBC, and the studio set-up isn't far behind. There isn't much in it between Hendry and McManus (in fact I'd give the edge to McManus on that one) and the only thing ITV lacks is an effective anchor. To be fair to Jill Douglas though, she only started this year and Hazel has been doing it for a decade.

Snookerbrain1968 said...

Any tournament without Clive being involved is the poorer for it. His treatment at the hands of the BBC and IMG was nothing short of disgraceful. Without equal, the ultimate authority on cue sports.
A very fresh looking event. The over analysis by Jill Douglas, flanked by McManus and Faulds gets pretty tiresome when they're treading water trying to fill time. I suspect that's because ITV won't have as much filler footage up their sleeve as the BBC when there's a gap in live coverage.
Anyway, streets ahead of the Dicky Davies / Mark Wildman days though !

jamie brannon said...

Jill Douglas has been working in sports broadcasting for a very long time, so not a valid factor. Her snooker knowledge seems iffy, though need to see more of her on the sport.

McManus so far has mainly dealt in clich├ęs. Hendry is the best pundit around as he's not afraid to question the consensus that often permeates a great deal of snooker discussion. I much prefer Foulds.

Interviewing the losing player alongside the winner felt awkward.

Clive's rich vocabulary is what makes him so special.

Ray147 said...

If Judd Trump was as dedicated and loved the game as much as Mark Selby he might start winning tournaments again. Selby has a lot of unjustified criticism but he gets every last ounce out of the talent he was given and he deserves every reward for that.

Judd, you are clutching at straws blaming the run of the balls.

ITV's coverage is superb - it's professional. Jill Douglas is an excellent broadcaster and once she adapts to the snooker brief she will shine. Give her a chance.

Dave - you are not biased, just pointing out that Clive Everton is the Guv'nor and that's not blowing smoke up anyone's fundament!

Wolfgang said...

Yes, Jamie, Jill has been working in sports broadcasting for some time just as Hazel had been when she took over the snooker, and we all recall how terrible she was, asking very basic, obvious questions that made regular viewers roll their eyes. It takes time to adapt to a new sport and understand the nuances and while Jill is clearly out of her depth now we'll see where we are in a couple of years. And while McManus is better in the commentary box he's adequate as a pundit; despite your blinkered protestations, Hendry is nothing to write home about. You've always been a shill for the BBC and lacked complete objectivity, and I appreciate it must be painful for you to see the BBC presentation put to shame. The commentary is brilliant, the no-frills filming is refreshing, and while the studio presentation is the weakest link in the chain it is also the least important to get right.

jamie brannon said...

Hazel has been superb on the snooker from the outset.

If I lacked objectivity, I wouldn't be saying Clive Everton's sacking was wrong.

However, I've never been embarrassed to admit (why should I?) that I prefer the BBC's sport coverage more than any other broadcaster.

The commentary is very good, better than on the beeb, if it was say Taylor and Virgo.

However, there's not been too many interesting features on ITV. That said, the Beeb have the clear advantage of not having adverts, enabling the viewer to settle more into the coverage.

To be honest, I'd like to see both channels involved in the sport as long as the 'big three' events remain on the BBC. Even though ITV4 is a free to air channel, it doesn't have the reach of BBC2 in terms of viewing figures.

Hendry is superb. He's the only pundit in snooker who's not afraid to challenge opinions, criticise players in a much stronger way than the majority do, while always providing constructive technical and tactical analysis.