The quarter-finals of the International Championship has left us with a familiar set of faces but not necessarily a line-up many would have predicted.

Peter Ebdon excelled yesterday, winning a solid gold thriller 6-5 against Neil Robertson.

Ebdon is not a fast player but he did not grind. He played super positive snooker and it worked. His pace, though, has an undoubted effect on his opponents. Robertson, as ever, took the positives: “anyone else would have lost 6-3,” he said.

Ebdon now plays Ding Junhui, the man in form, who put Matthew Stevens to the sword 6-1 in their quarter-final. But Ding will be expecting a much tougher challenge from a much harder player.

Every few years Ebdon seems to dig deep into his well of reserves and find something despite having no real form coming into a tournament. He did so at the China Opens of 2009 and 2012. So far in Chengdu this week he has done so again.

I’ve been impressed all week with Marco Fu. He is striking the ball really sweetly, has made a string of big breaks and looks fully confident. He had to wait six years between winning his first and second world ranking titles. Perhaps the wait for title no.3 will not be as long.

Little has been seen of Mark Selby on the TV table but he has made quiet progress through while some of the big beasts were making their exits on the TV tables.

He can’t replace Robertson as world no.1 this week but he can eat into the Australian’s lead at the head of the list.

Joe Perry was 5-1 down to Jamie Jones in the first round but won 6-5 and is now a quarter-finalist. He plays Ryan Day who, like Perry, is one of those players many feel would have won a ranking title by now without quite doing it.

Graeme Dott has come out of the pack relatively unnoticed and now plays Liang Wenbo, who followed up his defeat of Ronnie O’Sullivan with a 6-1 thumping of a well below par Mark Davis.

All eight quarter-finalists have been ranking event finalists and five of them have won ranking titles.



Ding Junhui, a fine talent whose form has been maddeningly inconsistent throughout his career, seems to have found an equilibrium.

He has won the last two major ranking titles, the Shanghai Masters and Indian Open. If he wins the International Championship this week it will be the first time a player has won three on the spin for 23 years.

Stephen Hendry won the 1990 World Championship and then the first four ranking titles of the following season.

Today Ding beat another great of Asian snooker, James Wattana, 6-3 in Chengdu.

He is scoring heavily, playing good safety and keeping both his concentration and discipline intact.

Ding seemed to be under pressure in China these last few years, feeling perhaps the expectations of his many supporters. But his Shanghai triumph has eased that and he now looks relaxed and ready for more silverware.

He’s cooler now that he’s older, the teenage immaturity a thing of the past. I remember very early in his career when he was playing in the world qualifiers at Prestatyn. He went behind at the final interval, came into the players’ room and literally threw his cue on the floor, thankfully not damaging it.

A friend of his calmed him with a ripe tomato, although this ultimately did not lead to victory.

It all seems a long time ago. Ding is now a top player in every sense and also a joy to watch in full flight.

He next plays Matthew Stevens, who secured a morale boosting 6-2 victory over John Higgins earlier today to reach the last 16.



From this season’s first five major ranking events Judd Trump has failed to reach a last 16 (though he didn’t enter one of them).

This doesn’t represent a career crisis but is a poor start to the campaign for the world no.3.

In fact, he played well in the International Championship today against Alan McManus, making two centuries. In the decider, Trump attempted a red rather than play safe, trying to win the match, which was the positive thing to do.

However, he missed the pot and McManus made a good break to get to snookers required.

Trump had made mistakes earlier in the match but McManus played positively throughout and fully deserved his win.

You’re never far away from advice and opinion where the internet’s concerned and Trump will receive plenty of both after this latest setback. He didn’t help his cause by tweeting last week that he would not only defend the title in Chengdu but also make a 147, which seemed to be upping the stakes somewhat.

I’ve always liked Judd as a player and a person. His talent is obvious and he is a perfectly pleasant, polite young man.

I’m less sure of the image that seems to have been created around him, that of some kind of playboy enjoying the trappings of success.

Material goods are nice to have but they are ultimately just stuff, and most snooker fans aren’t actually that impressed by them, preferring on table performances and achievements.

There’s nothing wrong with doing corporate work to satisfy sponsors. Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry did bucket loads of this in their time and Trump can’t be blamed for doing similar.

I have no comment to make about how much time he spends practising because I don’t know his daily schedule. Similarly he can spend his private time however he likes – nightclubs, gigs, holidays, whatever. That’s entirely his own business.

Balancing work and life is not a struggle unique to snooker players. The difference is that in many jobs you can perform below optimum level. Sport isn’t like that, though. Increasingly in snooker if you don’t play well from round one you’ll be on your way home.

It seems to me that Trump is basically on a bad run of form. He’s too good for it not to end.

But the rest of this season and the near future will be interesting for Trump-watchers. There’s never been a better time to be a young, talented snooker player without the ties of marriage or children.

But success brings with it distractions and these, paradoxically, are what often impede further success in the future.

Trump doesn’t seem the sort to dwell on things but maybe this is the time to decide what he really wants and, moreover, how he’s going to get it.



It’s back to China for the snooker circuit this week with the second staging of the International Championship in Chengdu.

There are a lot of tournaments these days and, wisely, different formats. This one features longer matches, with best of 11s until the semi-finals, which are best of 17, with a best of 19 final.

In longer matches, there is more time for a narrative to form and, of course, more time for the match to turn around.

In qualifying, only one member of the top 16 (Ricky Walden) failed to reach Chengdu, which suggests this new format has made little real difference to the game’s status quo.

Judd Trump is defending champion. He wrote on Twitter last week that he would retain the title and make a 147. Twitter is not the Old Bailey but Trump is clearly revved up for the week, unsurprisingly as his start to the season has been disappointing.

The two best players this campaign have been Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui.

Robertson has made 33 centuries already – only 28 fewer than Trump’s record of 61 set last season – while Ding has appeared in three successive finals, winning the ranking events in Shanghai and India.

However, Robertson and Ding are drawn in the same quarter this week.

A major challenge could come from Ronnie O’Sullivan, who plays his first full ranking event since winning a five world title last May.

Mark Selby hasn’t pulled up many trees so far this season but, like many, may feel this is the time to get going, with the meat of the season coming up in the next few months.

There are familiar and less familiar names jostling for points and money this week. Any tournament is enhanced by the presence of a couple of legends and Steve Davis and Jimmy White have both qualified, though they will have to play wildcards.

Players are always well treated and well looked after in China but apparently practice facilities are not as they should be. One player contacted me to say that with so many players at the venue and so few tables he has had to wait two days to have a knock – hardly ideal.

There is much snooker to plough through with 64 players plus four wildcards. The top prize is £125,000.

This is only the second year of the International Championship but it feels like a big event, and the standard of snooker will surely reflect that.

It’s live all week on Eurosport and Eurosport2.



Ronnie O’Sullivan is an emotional character who provokes extreme reactions. Some seem to think he is a living deity, others a nuisance who should be drummed out of snooker.

The interesting thing about his new autobiography, Running, is that it will probably confirm and entrench your pre-existing view of the five times world champion. If you think he is a sensitive, misunderstood soul in need of a hug and cup of tea or if you think he is a millionaire sportsman whining on about the bad choices he has made, there will be much here to bring you succour.

But life isn’t black and white. Like snooker, it is played in colour. The truth is O’Sullivan is no one person. Like anyone, he is a mass of contradictions. More than most, his story is worth telling.

And Running is an interesting read. Simon Hattenstone, the ghost writer, has done a good job of getting the rhythm of O’Sullivan’s voice and the book rattles along at a fair old pace, like O’Sullivan on one of his runs (I read it in an afternoon).

[But I’m going to pause here for a rant: this book is littered with factual errors. There’s one in the first paragraph. Years are wrong, players names – Graeme Dott, Shaun Murphy, Joe Perry, Patsy Fagan – are spelled wrong. At times results are wrong. This isn’t Ronnie’s fault. He’s a snooker player, not a statistician. But the publishers should have had it properly checked. This is a common fault with snooker books and it undermines their credibility with snooker fans. Those from outside the sport may not notice but that’s besides the point. How hard is it really to find out that it’s Joe and not Jo Perry?]

The ties of family feature largely in Running and O’Sullivan’s father comes across as a domineering, controlling figure who moulded his son into a champion but with emotional consequences, exacerbated when the pair were separated due to Ronnie senior being sent to jail for murder.

For years it was felt O’Sullivan’s various problems would be solved when his father was released but by the time that day came too much had changed: "My vision of how things would work out was rose-tinted.” In fact, he had to stop his father coming to snooker tournaments.

But despite much heartache there has also been great success, although O’Sullivan does not dwell on much of it. His passion outside snooker is, as the book title suggests, running and it is this which seems to have saved him from going seriously off the rails.

The determined boy his father encouraged and cajoled into working hard to be the best at snooker has become a man obsessed by challenging himself at a far more physically demanding activity, leaving drink, drugs and boredom behind.

He pushed himself hard, lost four stone in weight and became touchingly delighted that a race win merited a mention in Athletics Weekly – this from someone who has been on the back pages of national newspapers for his snooker.

“Running,” he says, “gave me a sense of professionalism and purpose. It made me want to get out of my bed in the morning; it made me want to take care of my appearance; it made me have a bit of respect for myself and that all helped my snooker.”

The other great constant of recent years has been Dr. Steve Peters, the sports psychiatrist who has helped O’Sullivan’s mental focus – “he’s a bit of a genius,” says Ronnie. “When I worked with Steve, for the first time I was really getting my emotions under control.”

Those emotions have led to some memorable lapses in professionalism, such as his 2006 UK Championship walk-out when, as he puts it, “my head was up my arse.”

At the time he admits he had been “wound up” by associates: “It did cross my mind to get to the final and just not turn up. I thought that would be the ultimate thing to piss the authorities off.”

He didn’t seem to have considered the paying public in this masterplan, which thankfully he didn’t enact.

O’Sullivan is well aware of his status in the game: “It is weird that nobody has come along with the personality and talent to kick me into touch. It’s the personality thing that’s the biggest factor. Snooker players are all boring bastards basically.”

However, when he claims World Snooker “moved every goalpost to get me back” he is deluded. They didn’t move any goalposts. He signed the same contract as all the other players – the contract he hadn’t read or understood, which he has acknowledged was costly to him both financially and professionally.

O’Sullivan, wisely, does not spend much time on the characters or games of his rivals but he singles out John Higgins, Ding Junhui, Neil Robertson and Judd Trump as the players on the tour now who he rates highest, although he questions at times whether Trump can play his best under pressure.

He gives Mark Selby a few back-handed compliments but his nickname for him – ‘The Torturer’ – tells you what he thinks about the way he plays.

He lists Steve Davis, Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry – ‘the best ever’ – as his three snooker heroes and expresses regret for his ill advised verbal assault on Hendry before their 2002 Crucible semi-final.

O’Sullivan concedes he can be difficult company and ill disciplined. In 2004, he was coached by Ray Reardon, the very model of discipline, and got his head down to win a second world title.

At the following season’s UK Championship Reardon was so appalled by O’Sullivan’s behaviour in a match that he up and left the venue and that was the end of their association.

Yet at other times in the book the charming, good natured Ronnie comes very much to the fore, such as in his account of his time working on a farm and indeed when he talks about his children.

He went through a long, costly legal process just to see them and is right to point out the difficulties for fathers in British law, just as he is to point out the deficiencies in the old WPBSA.

O’Sullivan is also right about the slightly odd, eccentric nature of the snooker circuit but it was hard to have sympathy when he starts to complain about having to go to China to shake a few sponsors’ hands and pick up £25,000 for his trouble.

It was also ridiculous of him to concoct a conspiracy theory that World Snooker – bearing in mind almost every mention of Barry Hearn is complimentary – changed the cloth before the 2013 world final to try and stop him winning it.

O’Sullivan does not fit the profile of conspiracy theorists who are typically underachievers, grubbing around in the dark corners of the internet trying to find someone to blame – anyone but themselves – for their lack of success. The ‘hidden hand’ theory is seductive: it’s not my fault, it’s someone mysteriously controlling everything. Except it isn’t. The cloth was changed because it was damaged. O’Sullivan made a world final record six centuries on it.

But perhaps the odd maddening claim proves the point: Ronnie O’Sullivan is many things to many people and, it seems, many things to himself.

He can’t be tamed and his moods and actions can’t be predicted. Though this often leads to controversy, sport is enlivened by maverick characters. It would be boring if everyone was the same, spouting bland PR drivel day in, day out.

The truth is, Ronnie is snooker’s only modern superstar and he has inspired legions of people around the world to both play and watch.

As Phil Yates said recently on LBC radio: “The good O’Sullivan has done on the table far outweighs the bad he has sometimes done off it.”

Furthermore, with his 38th birthday coming up, O’Sullivan has proved himself to be a survivor. His running has kept him fit. His snooker is still at times sublime.

What of the future? He says he is looking at media work and “might have a go at writing a novel.”

But I suspect snooker was still figure larger than anything else.

O’Sullivan’s tumultuous life seemed at times to be veering wildly towards disaster but he has found an equilibrium and it appears his career, like him, has a long time left to run.

Running, published by Orion Books, is out now.



Jackie Rea, who has died at the age of 92, was one of the original eight players who contested the BBC programme Pot Black in 1969, which showcased the advent of colour television in Britain by putting snooker into living rooms across the country.

Such was the popularity of the game that snooker was transformed from folk sport to a multi-million pound professional enterprise, making household names of its best players and providing endless TV drama.

It came too late for Jackie, a popular and gregarious man, who was 48 when that first series was broadcast, but he enjoyed a lifetime of snooker in various roles and, for him, enjoyment was the most important part.

Rea began playing at the age of nine in the Dungannon pub managed by his father.

After the second world war, he won the 1947 Irish amateur title and turned professional, winning the Irish professional championship, a title he held, bar one defeat, until Alex Higgins beat him in 1972.

There was never a worse time in history to be a snooker professional than the 1950s, when support for the World Championship, built up by its original champion and promoter, Joe Davis, dwindled following the 15 times winner’s retirement.

Rea reached three world semi-finals and, in 1957, lost to John Pulman in the final in Jersey, after which the event ceased.

It was revived as a series of challenge matches in 1964 but did not go open again until 1969. Rea reached the quarter-finals as he did again in 1970, but by now his best years were behind him.

But he was a popular booking on the exhibition circuit, which players relied on to bolster often meagre on table earnings.

In terms of patter, trick shots and general entertainment, Rea invented the type of snooker exhibition later perfected by the likes of John Virgo and Dennis Taylor, which were not just about players turning up and playing club members but providing comedy and laughs, which would guarantee return bookings.

Rea retained his professional status, pitching up at qualifiers as much for the love of the game as any thoughts of reaching venues.

He won the odd match here and there but was eventually relegated from the circuit in 1990, at the age of 69.

Rea had been something of a mentor to Alex Higgins, although they once came to blows after the volatile Higgins insulted Rea’s wife, leading Rea to fell the Hurricane with a well aimed punch. The two resumed their friendship soon afterwards.

Rea had won the 1955 News of the World tournament, worth £500, but the snooker boom came too late for him to benefit.

In many ways, though, he was an early trailblazer not just for snooker but for snooker professionals: for how they could project their personalities and characters.

His funeral will be held in Cheadle Hume, Cheshire, where he lived for many years.


If you – like me – were a snooker fan in the 1980s then the sight of Steve Davis holding up a trophy is nothing new.

Such was his dominance in that golden decade that it was more newsworthy when he failed to win a tournament than when he went home with the spoils.

He was admired and respected but not really loved. He was too successful for many. Just too good.

As new champions emerged – Stephen Hendry in particular – Davis had to accept that the glory days were over. He fell down the rankings but such was his stubbornness, his raging against the dying of the light, that he has managed to retain his professional status at the age of 56.

Tonight, he won the World Seniors Championship and it is clear in the aftermath of this victory that he is no longer merely respected: he is loved.

Steve Davis turned professional in 1978 before there was a circuit. He bestrode the snooker world when it was the most popular TV sport in Britain and he held on long after most of his old rivals had departed the stage.

Why? Because nobody loves snooker as much as Steve. He has retained his boyish fascination for the game, for its intricacies and challenges.

The tournament itself was at times hard to watch. These old stagers are not the players they once were. There was much playing on for snookers – inevitable in a best of three format featuring players with immense all round knowledge – and the style of snooker played was alien to modern audiences.

However, Davis played superbly from 1-0 down to defending champion Nigel Bond in the final.

It is his first title of any description in 15 years and his first on British TV since, against the odds, he won the 1997 Masters.

Recently in a Sky Sports interview, Davis was asked to sum up his career. Characteristically, he put the sport first, saying how proud he was that snooker had played such an important part in the lives of so many and how it had created such golden memories.

Snooker has seen many champions, many entertainers and many wonderful talents but Steve Davis is, and will remain, a legend: a player for whom the basic wonder of every new frame and its attendant possibilities trumps the trappings of success and celebrity every time.

Long may he continue to play this great game. No sport could ask for a better ambassador.



Snooker’s own version of Dad’s Army gets its chance to shine this weekend with the return of the World Seniors Championship in Portsmouth.

The event features 16 players, five of whom – Steve Davis, Jimmy White, Nigel Bond, Dave Harold and Tony Drago – are still members of the professional tour.

They are joined by some bona fide legends – Stephen Hendry, Cliff Thorburn, Dennis Taylor, Joe Johnson, Doug Mountjoy and Tony Knowles – plus well known names of years gone by such as Darren Morgan, Alain Robidoux and Dene O’Kane.

Harold qualified alongside Phil Williams while Tony Chappel, runner-up to Bond last year, is hoping to be a threat again.

It’s wide open as all matches are best of three, a format too short for a World Championship but the reality is Sky Sports only want to broadcast it for two days.

Among the first round matches, Davis will play Taylor in a repeat of the 1985 Rothmans Grand Prix final, which Steve won 10-9. Apparently they also played another match that year but the details have receded into memory.

Hendry, at 44, is in fact a year too young to play in the event but gets in because of a rule in the small print which states entry is open to players who turn 45 during the season, a rule which was in no way inserted as a ruse to get the seven times Crucible king in the field.

He plays Joe Johnson, who 26 years ago beat him 13-12 in the World Championship quarter-finals when Hendry was just 18.

White, who won this title three years ago, meets Mountjoy, at 71 the oldest player in the tournament.

Fans of grinding will want to tune into Thorburn’s match with Williams, a methodical Welshman who, along with Cliff, will doubtless attempt to recreate the ‘glory days’ of snooker with a late night battle on Saturday.

It’ll be nice to see some of the guys who helped put snooker on the map getting another chance in the limelight. But this event is more novelty than anything serious, even though a top prize of £18,000 will focus a few minds.



Ding Junhui’s capture of the inaugural Indian Open today makes him the first player in a decade to win back-to-back ranking titles in a single season.

Ding, who captured the Shanghai Masters crown last month, defeated India’s own Aditya Mehta 5-0.

Mehta had around 75 minutes to prepare himself for the final following an emotionally draining semi-final against Stephen Maguire, whom he led 3-0 before scrambling home 4-3.

That, plus the enormity of the occasion, made it a match too far for Mehta but what a memorable week he had on home soil.

The professional circuit is still 75% British in terms of representation but the fact is that all four major ranking events this season have been won by non-British players and only one Brit (John Higgins in Wuxi) has reached a final.

Most ranking tournaments are based outside the UK. Britain remains the traditional home of the sport but World Snooker are quite right (and there’s a clue in their name) to look outwards to new markets. The opposite of that is what we had before Barry Hearn took over: the slow death of the game.

Ding’s win takes his ranking titles tally to eight, level with Neil Robertson. He is the first player to win back-to-back ranking tournaments in the same campaign since Ronnie O’Sullivan won the 2003 European Open and Irish Masters, playing some of the best snooker of his career.

Titles have been shared around since. Last season all the ranking events were won by different players.

Right now, the best three players in the world are Ding, Robertson and (when he plays) O’Sullivan. It’s a long campaign, though, so no guarantee that will remain the case.

As for the tournament, it seemed to go about as well as it could. Crowds were good and the success of Mehta and his compatriot Pankaj Advani, whom he beat in the quarter-finals, kept local interest alive.

The first ranking tournament staged in Thailand was the 1989 Asian Open. Thailand’s own James Wattana reached the final and there were further ranking events, sometimes two a season, there for a decade.

And snooker has of course flourished in China since Ding’s capture of the 2005 China Open.

So a good week for Ding and a good week for the game. The next event, played this weekend, is the World Seniors Championship, an entertaining diversion, before the serious business of the International Championship in Chengdu.



Neil Robertson has thus far made 28 centuries this season. With so much snooker still to come he is well on course to break Judd Trump’s record of 61, set last season.

Stephen Hendry was the first player to make more than 50 in a single campaign. Ronnie O’Sullivan was the second.

When O’Sullivan did this he only played in eight events, so it made the feat particularly notable.

However, even though there are now more tournaments, centuries remain a sign of a player in form and Robertson has had far more than anyone else this season.

His run of recent scoring has been remarkable, notching up ten century breaks in just three matches (his qualifier for the International Championship and two matches at the Ruhr Open).

Four of these came in his 4-0 defeat of Ahmed Saif in Germany. Consider the acres of newspaper space given first to Stephen Lee’s ban and then Ronnie O’Sullivan’s autobiography. I didn’t read a word about Robertson’s display.

He even made one in an exhibition frame against Aditya Mehta to launch the Indian Open in Delhi.

The first recorded instance of a player making three successive centuries came in 1988. Unsurprisingly, Steve Davis was the man responsible.

Doug Mountjoy repeated the feat in that year’s UK Championship final against Hendry, who six years later made seven centuries in the UK final against Ken Doherty.

O’Sullivan once made five in winning a best of nine against Ali Carter at the Northern Ireland Trophy, including a 147.

John Higgins made four in succession against O’Sullivan in the 2005 Grand Prix final at Preston.

The 2003 British Open final between Hendry and O’Sullivan featured five centuries, as did a match at the 2009 Masters between Robertson and Stephen Maguire.

O’Sullivan and Mark Selby have each made six centuries in a match at the Crucible.

Professional snooker – thanks to Hendry’s influence – gradually became based around break-building: getting the reds open early and heavy scoring.

Improved conditions help this, with thinner cloths and lighter balls making it easier. This of course doesn’t mean it is easy.

There haven’t been many ranking events of late won by players not making a century. In fact, when Mark Williams won the 1996 British Open – his first ranking title – with a highest break of 76 it was suggested it might be some sort of fluke. Clearly it wasn’t.

A century is a demonstration of great skill and is to be admired. But one of snooker’s strengths is that when the standard dips, the interest does not.

Some of the best frames have been full of mistakes because the unexpected is what fascinates. This is why players such as Davis, Willie Thorne and Ken Doherty are associated with key balls they have missed.

A right old scrap on the colours is, to many, just as enjoyable as a flawless century break.

If Robertson has a good run at this week’s Indian Open then he can be expected to add to his tally of tons.

It’s hard to keep good form going indefinitely. Trump had made 40 centuries by Christmas last season but added ‘only’ 21 more.

But with so much snooker now on the calendar, it raises the prospect of whether a player could possibly make a century of centuries in a single season.

It sounds unlikely but not impossible. A few years ago it would have seemed a preposterous notion.



Snooker is believed to have been invented at the Ooty Club in Jubulpore, India in 1875 by members of the British army taking shelter in the rainy season.

Little could they have imagined what they’d started.

Fast forward 138 years and there is a multi-million pound professional circuit. Lives have been changed forever by the fortunes of those who pot balls for a living.

And now snooker is coming home, to the country of its birth. The new Indian Open, which starts tomorrow in Delhi, is a welcome addition to a circuit already full with tournaments.

It’s fair to say not everyone understands the groundwork that goes into getting a new event in a new market to happen. It takes months, sometimes years, of negotiations and planning and not everything goes right in year one.

The Indian Open lasts five days because this is how long the venue could be secured for. Therefore, it’s a bit of a race to play an event featuring 64 players plus six wildcards, hence a best of seven frame format with a best of nine final.

It would have been preferable to take the top 16 plus 16 qualifiers and have a best of 17 final. The counter to this is that it would have been less likely that India’s two promising professionals, Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta, would have qualified.

They are in Delhi this week but there have been several withdrawals – Ali Carter, Anthony Hamilton, Kyren Wilson, Dave Gilbert, Liam Highfield, Tony Drago and Yu Delu.

These have been for various reasons. Carter has ongoing health issues. Wilson has an injured shoulder. Gilbert is attending the funeral of one of his closest friends.

Highfield has withdrawn because of the cyclone that has hit eastern India. Yesterday he questioned whether the tournament should be taking place at all.

On his Twitter profile, Highfield describes himself as ‘The Special One’ but in four years as a professional he is yet to reach a last 32 in a major ranking event and he currently stands 67th in the prize money rankings so needs every pound he can muster to retain his tour status.

The cyclone is nowhere near Delhi. It’s like withdrawing from a tournament in Scotland because of weather trouble in Spain.

The players are staying – free of charge – in five star opulence well away from the cyclone’s destructive path. It will be interesting to see what playing conditions are like in this new market, although of course cue sports are long established here with billiards very popular.

It was at a world billiards championship that my friend Clive Everton once fell victim to ‘Delhi belly’ in spectacular fashion. After enjoying the pre-event banquet Clive found he had eaten something that disagreed with his delicate constitution.

Without being too graphic, he ended up on the toilet whereupon an earthquake struck, causing the hotel to shake violently. It’s fair to say it didn’t help his already fragile state of mind.

Such is the fun of travelling. These are the stories you tell your grandkids or, alternatively, write on snooker blogs.

And if players care to venture out at any point and observe the reality of life for some in India they may reflect how lucky they are to be playing snooker for a living.

The tournament has not proved attractive to British and European TV, however it is live on liveworldsnooker.tv and associated betting websites. Initially, there was to be no local TV coverage (and therefore no coverage) on the first two days but I understand this has been resolved.

Every sport starts somewhere. Snooker started in India. I hope the Indian Open goes well and that it can be built on in years to come as the game continues to spread its global reach.



Today marks seven years since Paul Hunter died of cancer at the age of 27.

To his family and his many friends and fans in the snooker world, he remains a much missed part of our game.

Shortly after his death, the BBC looked back on his life and career. Paul had already achieved a great deal but had so much more to give the game before cruelly, tragically, he passed away on October 9, 2006.



Mark Allen played superbly to win the Ruhr Open in Mulheim, Germany – the fifth event of snooker’s European Tour.

With his trademark aggressive approach, Allen outplayed Ding Junhui in the final, winning 4-1 to qualify for the Grand Finals in grand style.

Allen afterwards thanked his coach, the 1979 world champion Terry Griffiths, for his recent help in areas both technical and psychological.

Griffiths is snooker’s very own Yoda: a guru whose words of wisdom are worth listening to.

There’s an old saying that success has many fathers while failure is an orphan: in other words there are plenty wanting to take credit when things go well but none when they go badly.

However, Terry stays in the background. When we hear of his influence it’s because players themselves mention him.

Griffiths doesn’t need the limelight because he’s already had it – he is among the few to have won the world, UK and Masters titles. He was one of the best known players in the game for two decades.

His strength is not only his knowledge of the game but also the fact he has been there, done that. And he is a level-headed, calming influence.

Allen’s win was welcome for a player blessed with great talent. I’m sure he is now hoping to land one of snooker’s ‘big three’ titles this season. He is certainly good enough.

Ding wasn’t helped by his marathon semi-final with Stephen Maguire ending around 45 minutes before the final.

But it was another good week for the Chinese, whose presence in the Grand Finals, which he won last season, will enhance the event.

The audience in Mulheim were superb: respectful but vociferous. It proved again that those who want snooker to ‘be more like darts’ are quite simply wrong: shouting out and boorish behaviour doesn’t add anything. You know when a large snooker crowd is involved in the action because they are deathly quiet.

This is what makes the atmosphere. And it helped see a very impressive Allen home for another title.



Professional snooker is back in Germany with the Ruhr Open, event 5 of the European Tour, in Mulheim.

Ronnie O’Sullivan was imperious in the previous German PTC in August and is once again in attendance, kicking off today against new Scottish pro Ross Muir.

Today’s first TV match pits perennial favourite Jimmy White against Indian world billiards champion Pankaj Advani. The second live match will be recent Shanghai Masters winner Ding Junhui v Li Hang.

Tomorrow the confirmed TV matches are Shaun Murphy v Matt Selt, Judd Trump v Andrew Higginson and Mark Davis v Germany’s Patrick Einsle.

You very rarely hear a player say anything bad about German events. Why would they? They’re playing in a place where they are appreciated and supported in huge numbers.

The prize money has also significantly improved: a top prize now of €25,000 and the total pot up from €70,000 to €125,000.

These events have also helped some lesser known players gain confidence, such as Gary Wilson, who was a semi-finalist at the PTC in Rotterdam.

But it’s always a big hitter who comes out on top as the pressure of live TV and a big crowd comes to bear, a pattern that seems likely to continue this weekend.

Eurosport’s coverage starts at 8.30am BST.



As long as I’ve covered snooker, players have complained about playing conditions.

Not constantly and not at every tournament, but frustration with tables has always been there and concern seems to be increasing.

Michael Holt and Marcus Campbell were among those to complain on Twitter this week after defeats in the International Championship qualifiers at Barnsley Metrodome.

Yesterday, Neil Robertson made four centuries in winning his match. In response I tweeted: “These tables must be terrible.”

This was a bit of red-ragging, or trolling to give it its modern name. And sure enough it worked.

Campbell immediately snapped back: “if you played you might know what the players are talking about.”

A good slapdown but, actually, you don’t have to be a professional player to have observed the inconsistency in conditions at venues. Some tables play great, others not so good. Kicks are one thing but what we get far too often now is big bounces off cushions.

Some players feel the balls are too light. Mark Allen, who won his match, tweeted: “I got the white changed after one frame. Way too light. Table was decent though for me.”

A championship snooker table has a fine cloth and is heated underneath. This makes it super-responsive – beautiful to play on in theory. But sometimes it seems they are if anything too responsive, with balls flying off cushions causing players to lose position.

Robertson is not a moaner – far from it – but he had some interesting things to say: “It can make some tournaments a raffle. Big bounces off cushions and kicks are becoming a big problem in the game.”

These are not the hasty comments of some hothead but the measured opinion of the world no.1.

And it seems someone in authority is listening. Jason Ferguson, the WPBSA chairman, tweeted: “I’m in contact with Saluc [the manufacturers] about the balls, Clarky [tournament director Martin Clark] and I are also doing our own testing.”

I have no doubt Ferguson is genuine in trying to improve things. I can also understand his frustration at players airing their views on Twitter rather than in private, although sometimes it can be more effective to make complaints public.

World Snooker has previously denied claims from players that tournament balls have been made lighter. But if enough players are unhappy then there must come a time where a heavier ball is considered.

Holt was quick to point out the table had not been the problem: “My gripe wasn’t with the tables. It was with the lighting on my particular table.” It seems there was a glare which was off-putting.

Qualifying venues have never been popular – precisely because they are qualifying venues. It’s no fun for anyone and tempers can become frayed.

Some may write off the complaints of players who have lost as sour grapes. Sometimes it is sour grapes but there is a general theme here: that playing conditions are not as good as they could or should be.

The table-fitters generally do a first rate job. They have to deal with a multitude of venues, each with its own issues and challenges. A mass set-up like the one at Barnsley presents an even bigger challenge.

But professional players deserve professional conditions, I don’t hold with the argument that it’s the same for everyone so you should just get on with it.

Example: if they let the grass grow for a year between Wimbledons I’d have a much better chance of beating Roger Federer than if the lawns were trimmed to championship standards.

Under the best conditions, the best players win. This is a profession for these guys so they can be excused for demanding the best.

The problem at the moment seems to be that at some venues it’s a lottery: you get a good table or a not so good one. With so much snooker being played it will be a challenge to eradicate these problems.

As Campbell put it: “Gonna have to deal with it because it’ll happen again.”