That’s quite enough blogging for one year.

In 2009 the blog had more posts, more comments and more readers than ever before.

It was sometimes right, sometimes wrong but always certain.

It’s also been fun despite the problems that have afflicted the sport. Ultimately, for all the political intrigue, for all that passions often get inflamed, snooker is only a game and being around the circuit and the people on it is first and foremost an enjoyable way to spend time.

Sometimes it’s exasperating too but we won't dwell on that right now.

Instead, I'd like to wish everyone reading this a very Merry Christmas, wherever you are and however you’re spending it.

There’s much to look forward to in 2010. With Barry Hearn now at the helm of the professional game there will doubtless be much happening and much to comment on come the New Year.

But it can all wait until then.

Right now it’s time to reacquaint ourselves of the true meaning of Christmas: fighting through crowds for last minute shopping, drinking copious amounts of alcohol and arguing with the family.

See you next year!



Overall I enjoyed my day out yesterday at ONEFORSEVEN in Cardiff, even if the city resembled a giant ice rink.

The harsh winter conditions undoubtedly had an effect on crowd turnout and a few big names also pulled out but several top stars took part, including Mark Williams, Mark Selby, Ken Doherty, Mark King, Matthew Stevens and the eventual winner, Ryan Day.

This was not, as some had predicted, the ghost of Pot Black Timeframe (for which many in the snooker world have undergone therapy to forget).

The format pitted eight players playing a single frame against one another. Each frame could last no longer than 21 minutes. The aggregate score for each player over the seven frames was used to calculate the overall winner.

The miss rule and free ball were thrown out and players had ball in hand after fouls, which certainly speeded things up. Not one of the 84 frames played lasted longer than the allotted 21 minutes.

Music was played throughout and the crowd were encouraged to make noise. This made it more a snooker club atmosphere and didn’t seem to put the players off.

I dare say ONEFORSEVEN wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it would be wrong to write it off without having seen it.

The players I spoke to enjoyed themselves. I’m sure Ryan will enjoy the £14,707 winners’ cheque he received – not even a semi-final prize in some ranking tournaments.

Players don’t just want to play hard tournament snooker and nothing else. They want to let their hair down (those that have any) from time to time and relax, just as spectators like to see them in less serious mode every so often.

The challenge now for the ONEFORSEVEN organisers is to gain interest from broadcasters. This may be harder than they think. The four table set up would be difficult to cover, although one appealing aspect for TV is that, unlike major tournament snooker, it is possible to discern how long the action will take.

There will, of course, be howls of protest that anyone had the nerve to tamper with the traditional form of snooker.

But the bottom line is that variants on a theme such as this and Six Reds do not threaten the established game in any way. They are merely offshoots that may have a role to play in broadening snooker’s appeal.

Most other sports have tried similar experiments. Some work, some don’t but not trying at all doesn’t get you anywhere.

Certainly the kids in Cardiff enjoyed being given the freedom to get up close to the players rather than sit silently in their seats for hours on end – not a pastime most children enjoy.

At the end, where Day, Liam Highfield and Alfie Burden were all in realistic contention for first place, there was a genuine sense of excitement and everyone got to their feet and gathered around the respective tables to see how it would end.

And remember: snooker was originally invented by messing around with the rules of other cue sports.

I’ve no doubt there were those hidebound to tradition who were appalled by this in the 19th century. If they’d had their way we’d still all be playing billiards and nothing else.

I don’t think ONEFORSEVEN is going to replace what we see at the Crucible any time soon – it’d be hard bearing in mind there is barely sufficient room for two tables in the famous Sheffield theatre.

Personally speaking, my favourite form of snooker is in major tournaments of the 15 red variety, just as I prefer Test cricket to Twenty/20 and one day internationals.

But if experiments such as this can help snooker’s future fortunes, even in a small way, then they should be given a chance.



What have been your favourite matches of 2009?

I can immediately think of three featuring John Higgins: his 13-12 victory over Mark Selby at the Crucible, 6-5 defeat to Neil Robertson in the Grand Prix semi-finals and 9-8 victory over Ronnie O'Sullivan at the same stage of the UK Championship.

O'Sullivan's 10-8 defeat of Selby in the Masters final was gripping viewing while Mark Allen's comeback against Higgins in the World Championship semi-finals was as compelling as it must have been nerve wracking for John.

I'd be interested to read the 2009 memories of snooker fans so please leave them below.



Mark Davis pocketed a Christmas bonus of €10,000 by winning the inaugural 888sport.com Six Reds World Championship in Killarney tonight.

Davis, the world no.47 from Sussex, defeated twice Crucible world champion Mark Williams 6-3 in the final.

And it means his six year-old son, Jack, and daughter Millie, aged two, can enjoy an extra special festive period.

“It’s good timing and the kids will be pleased because they know they’ve got a good present coming,” Davis said.

“I played well all through the tournament. I had some luck, which you need with this shorter format, but I made some good breaks in the final.

“With the standard of the players who came here it was always going to be a bit of a lottery as to who won. I’m just happy to be the last man standing.

“I enjoyed the whole week. It was a good tournament and very well run. Killarney is a lovely place and it’s fair to say I’m a big fan of six reds snooker.”

Davis, 37, had previously won two minor invitation events, the 2002 Masters qualifying event and 1996 Malta Masters.

To reach the final he beat fellow main tour professionals Gerard Greene, Jamie Cope, Mark Joyce, Joe Swail and Mark King.

He twice trailed Williams by a single frame but from 2-2 was the stronger player, knocking in breaks of 71 and 65 on the way to clinching victory.

Williams edged Sheffield amateur Adam Duffy 5-4 on the black in the quarter-finals before completing a comfortable 5-1 semi-final defeat of Barry Hawkins.

“I’ve had a good week,” the Welshman said. “It was more relaxed than the ranking tournaments and Mark played very well from 2-2. He deserved to win.

“I think all the players have enjoyed this tournament. It’s something different and I’m a fan of the six red format.”

Reigning 15 red world champion John Higgins saw his bid to complete a unique double ended by a 5-1 defeat to Mark King in the quarter-finals.

Ken Doherty, beaten by Duffy in the last 32 and one of the tournament organisers, said he was pleased with the first staging of the short form World Championship.

“The feedback I’ve had from the players has been very positive and we’ll definitely be back next year,” he said.

“There’s no doubt that six reds snooker has its place and we hope to be even bigger and better in 2010.”



Jimmy White will today be unveiled as the remaining wildcard for next month's Wembley Masters.

White, the 1984 champion, has recently had his popularity boosted through an appearance on ITV's 'I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here.'

He will play Mark King on the opening day, January 10.

This will be a disappointment for Liang Wenbo, the outstanding favourite for the wildcard having reached the Shanghai Masters final earlier this season.

Nobody can argue with White's popular appeal, especially in London.

However, he is currently 62nd in the provisional rankings so many will question whether he really deserves this call up.



Stephen Hendry is, of course, among the star attractions here at the Six Reds World Championship.

The seven times Crucible champion is much in demand for autographs and pictures from spectators and some of the amateur players.

Hendry is a great pro at all this stuff. He learned it at an early age and accepted it as part and parcel of being at the top of any sport.

He told me he wasn’t completely convinced by six reds snooker but that he was enjoying the tournament and happy to play in it:

“It’s certainly cut throat and there’s not room for many mistakes.

“Purists who want to see big breaks aren’t going to get that because the highest possible break is only 75 but if you had a six red event with all top players it would be intense.

“This is a bit of fun, although the competition is serious once you get out there.

“I’ve known the tournament director, Con O’Sullivan, for a long time and am friends with Ken Doherty so I was very happy to come out here and take part.

“It all takes me back to the start of my career at Pontin’s when you’d wait in the tournament office for your name to be called out and a table number.

“It’s a good event for the public because they don’t usually see top players in this environment, up so close.”

I’d echo that. There is something bizarre yet compelling about watching the likes of Hendry, John Higgins and Ken Doherty rubbing shoulders – sometimes literally – with amateurs from all over the world in the open plan, 13 table set up.

The tournament has also given players from all over the world the chance not just to meet their snooker heroes but also to play them.

Lucky Vatnani, from India, is one such player. He was very excited yesterday about the prospect of playing Hendry. In the event he almost beat him before letting slip a 3-1 lead and losing 4-3.

All of the pros have made it through to the knockout phase and I would expect one of them to win it.

Snooker devotees needn’t worry. Six reds isn’t going to replace the traditional game and neither is it going to harm it.

The players in general see this week as a chance to compete for a €10,000 first prize, come to a hospitable part of the world and wind down after the rigours of the UK Championship.

The atmosphere backstage is relaxed and players are socialising in ways they perhaps wouldn’t at a ranking event – last night’s poker evening was well attended.

And what of Alex Higgins? After two 4-0 defeats he beat James Stewart – for whom today was not such a wonderful life – 4-0 before producing a little bit of Hurricane magic to come back from 2-0 down to be 2-2 with main tour player David Hogan.

Higgins stroked in a terrific long pink and added the black in frame three before a good clearance gave him the fourth.

Sadly for his many fans – and he still has them – he was beaten 4-2.

Eurosport starts its live coverage tomorrow afternoon. Our own Mike Hallett may be playing as he’s made it through to the knockout stage.



Reanne Evans pulled off an amazing victory over John Higgins in snooker’s battle of the sexes at the Six Reds World Championship, in association with 888sport.com, in Killarney tonight.

Evans, the reigning women’s world champion, made a superb 51 break to secure the decider and complete a dramatic 4-3 defeat of the current Crucible king.

A tired Higgins had lost a gripping UK Championship final to Ding Junhui just 48 hours earlier and failed to find his top form.

But Evans played well from the start and came close to winning 4-2 before Higgins scrambled the sixth frame on the pink.

He was in first in the decider but, with standing room only for a sizeable crowd at the INEC arena, broke down on just three and Evans killed off frame and match in a single visit.

“John wasn’t firing on all cylinders after the week he’s just had but you have to take advantage,” said West Midlander Evans.

“This is one of my best ever wins. John is world champion, provisional world no.1 and will always be remembered as one of snooker’s greatest players.

“I was pleased with how I finished it off. There were a lot of people watching but that helped me to play well rather than put me under pressure.”

Higgins won his opening match, 4-1 against James Corbett, and is still likely to qualify for the knockout phase.

Evans is almost certain to be through having already beaten Aaron Doran 4-1 before her clash with Higgins.

In another surprise result, 2008 Shanghai Masters champion Ricky Walden was beaten 4-3 by Irishman Declan Brennan.

Six reds snooker is played using the same rules as the established game but with nine fewer reds. It has been described as snooker’s version of Twenty/20 cricket.

The tournament runs until Friday. Entry is free for the first two days with tickets costing €10 on the final two days.

The 130 players from as far afield as Brazil, India and the United Arab Emirates have been split into 23 groups for the round robin stage, played over the first two days, with the knockout phase getting underway on Thursday.

The last two days are being broadcast live on Eurosport and the winner will pocket a cheque for €10,000.

Results and group draws available at: www.6redworldchampionships.com


Last season's World Championship was the second most popular sporting event for users of the BBC red button service.

It attracted 3.96m viewers, more than any BBC event other than Wimbledon.

In October, the BBC axed one of its two Freeview channels available through the red button, limiting snooker viewers on this platform to only one table.


So I'm in Killarney for the first ever Six Reds World Championship, sponsored by 888sport.com.

To declare an interest from the off: I was asked to be tournament press officer and am here in that capacity.

There will be 130 group matches today and the same number tomorrow before the knockout phase begins on Thursday with the final on Friday.

Eurosport will screen live coverage on Thursday from 3.15-7pm UK time and on Friday from 3-7pm.

John Higgins is here despite his exertions in Telford, as is Stephen Hendry.

However, there were withdrawals from Shaun Murphy, Peter Ebdon and Mark Allen.

Even so, the likes of Mark Williams, Ryan Day, Matthew Stevens and the one and only Alex Higgins are among the huge international field.

I will also be keeping an eye on the progress of my commentary colleague Mike Hallett.

I'll be posting updates from behind the scenes on twitter.

You can follow the results on the official website and from Janie Watkins on global-snooker.com.

Among the matches today are John Higgins v women's world champion Reanne Evans and Michael Holt v Alex Higgins.



The emergence of China as a force in snooker was one of the most important developments of the decade about to end so it was perhaps apt that Ding Junhui won its last ranking event tonight.

His victory in the Pukka Pies UK Championship was hard fought. He beat four members of the world's top five in Telford, culminating in a dramatic 10-8 victory over John Higgins in the final.

Ding's fourth ranking title makes him the most successful player to come out of Asia.

Higgins missed a simple brown to lead 8-7 but it was through carelessness rather than pressure. Ironicially, he slipped up because he was playing for position on the blue to give him extra insurance. He took his eye off a seemingly unmissable brown and the match turned at this late stage.

Credit, though, to Ding for the way he held himself together at the end.

He is a fine young player who has now won ranking titles by beating then four greatest players in snooker history in finals: Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, Ronnie O'Sullivan and now Higgins.

China remains important to snooker's future growth. It won't all rest on Ding's shoulders but he remains the standard bearer.

His victory capped a superb tournament that was well attended and marked out by some very exciting matches.

But what a shame that, yet again, it was a midnight finish. These used to be a novelty, now they are commonplace.

This is too late for kids, too late for those with work in the morning and too late for casual viewers - the very people snooker needs to attract.

Starting at 7pm would at least mean that, come 10.30pm, a casual viewer may stick with the match because there are only two or three frames to go rather than a more daunting five or six.

Not a word of how the match ended will appear in most editions of the morning newspapers.

And the peak viewing audience figure is almost certain to be around an hour before the end.

Let's hope Barry Hearn forces a rethink in future.



While John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan were locking horns last night in their extraordinary semi-final, Ding Junhui had his feet up in his hotel room and the ferociously talented Chinese potter enters today’s Pukka Pies UK Championship final refreshed and ready to land the title for a second time.

Ding, the 2005 UK champion, has reached the final off the back of three good wins over last year’s winner Shaun Murphy, Ali Carter and Stephen Maguire. He is appearing in a second successive ranking tournament final following his run in the Grand Prix two months ago and has been highly focused and highly effective throughout the week in Telford.

In the balls, he is as good a break builder as O’Sullivan and Higgins. He’s a heavy scorer with more than 150 centuries to his name after only six years on the circuit.

Ding seems to have rediscovered the self belief he lost off the back of demoralising defeats to O’Sullivan in the 2007 Masters final and in the first round of that year’s World Championship.

He has played Higgins nine times but only beaten him twice. Even so, the Scot still has to come down from the amazing drama of his semi-final.

Higgins led O’Sullivan 8-2 but lost six frames on the spin in what threatened to become the most disappointing result of his long and distinguished career.

In the end, he fell over the winning line in a nervy decider and he needs to somehow pick himself back up and concentrate on today’s best of 19 frames clash.

That is easier said than done, which is why Ding needs to hit him early and do some damage in the first session.

If he can get on top and carry a good lead into the evening it will be hard to see him losing.

Ding’s upturn in fortunes has been a long time coming. He has exhibited mental strength and played extremely well in high pressure situations just to get this far.

A second UK title is within his grasp if he keeps believing.



So ends a night of extraordinary drama in which John Higgins...just...has booked his place in the Pukka Pies UK Championship final with his 9-8 victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Higgins won the first world ranking title of the decade, the 2000 Welsh Open, and if he beats Ding Junhui tomorrow he will win the last.

Right now, he’ll just be relieved to be through.

Leading 8-2 he was playing superbly but O’Sullivan was at 92% pot success at the time which tells you that although he had been largely shut out, he was still playing well.

They came back after the interval at 8-4, Higgins still confident of victory. Then came an incident which symbolised the turnaround even if it didn’t directly cause it.

After being called for six successive misses while snookered on all colours, O’Sullivan inadvertently touched the black with his hand.

Higgins asked for him to be put back in but the referee, Jan Verhaas, stated that it could not be called a miss because no stroke had been played.

On Eurosport commentary I agreed with him, but it was clear that this is a grey area and nobody seemed to know for sure.

Verhaas thought it over and called a miss. O’Sullivan intervened and Verhaas changed his mind and reverted to his original decision.

This is one of those arcane areas that needs to be clarified. I’m sure any referees reading this will have their own views.

I'm not for a minute saying O'Sullivan did this, but what is to stop a player being called for misses getting out of the situation by deliberately fouling a ball?

The match continued and Higgins grew edgy – understandably. Even at 8-2 he would know, somewhere in the back of his mind, that the one player in the world today capable of coming back from so far behind – apart from himself – is O’Sullivan.

And he did. All the way to 8-8.

He was in the balls in the decider but missed a pink and Higgins made what was, under the circumstances, an excellent 56 break to leave him a ball from making frame and match safe.

He later potted it to lead by 47 with 43 on. O’Sullivan chose not to play on. Considering he had fought so hard from 8-2 down this surprised me.

Perhaps by then he believed he didn’t deserve to win. Who knows? It was a night of high drama where anything was possible.

It was also a great advert for snooker: two world class players locking horns before a packed audience in one of the game’s biggest events.

The match lived up to the billing. It was superb entertainment.


I always enjoy reading Simon Barnes in The Times.

Here's his take today on the UK Championship:

It is rare that a sponsor can itself be an attraction to a sporting event. But the Pukka Pies UK Championship is a glorious thing, quite impossible to say without a smirk. It’s not exactly Asprey’s, is it? It’s snooker, of course, and it reminds me of my days at Fisher’s snooker hall in Wimbledon, eating bacon sandwiches and drinking stewed tea as I and my colleague on the Wimbledon News played for the Pot White championship.

Snooker’s great beauty is that its greatest tensions and its toughest battles are gloriously soporific: hypnotising the viewer into a Zen-like state of empty-mindedness. The patterns, the collisions, the colours; all the rivalry, all the anxiety, all the desperation is refined into a calming click-clack of dancing spheres.

Snooker is an enthralling game, and perhaps the only one in which one might find enlightenment. It’s all about calculation, about mathematics in action. It comes down to the impossible: who could ever calculate the square root of Pukka Pie?



Some incredible snooker from John Higgins and Ronnie O'Sullivan today has set up what will be their first ever meeting in the UK Championship.

They've been the two outstanding players of the decade so it's fitting they should meet in its last ranking event, even if it's in the semis and not the final.

Standards have improved over the years but so have conditions. The balls split far more easily than they once did on these super-fast cloths, which makes break building easier.

But the key word there is 'easier' - they still have to be knocked in and Higgins and O'Sullivan today produced between them some really outstanding stuff.

Bring on Saturday!


I was very impressed by the way Ding Junhui completed his 9-8 victory over Ali Carter in the Pukka Pies UK Championship last night.

He didn’t flinch and he didn’t falter as two sizeable breaks from 8-7 down got him through to the semi-finals.

The 22 year-old Chinese was in the doldrums for a couple of years but his run to the Grand Prix final in October has brought about a huge injection of confidence.

Ding was knocked back by two heavy defeats to Ronnie O’Sullivan: in the 2007 Masters final and later at the Crucible.

And his road back to full snooker health can surely only be achieved if he beats O’Sullivan on a big stage – Sunday’s final being the perfect time – to truly exorcise those demons.

But O’Sullivan first has his work cut out today against Mark Selby, who started the season slowly and was 8-4 down to Jamie Cope in the first round but fought back to win 9-8 and played much better to see off Stephen Hendry 9-5 in the last 16.

The Leicester Jester is difficult to play against because of the various facets to his game. He’s a very heavy scorer – only John Higgins made more centuries last season – but also possesses a rock solid tactical game.

Selby is also prone to making jokes and some players, keen to concentrate, can find this off-putting.

O’Sullivan was undone from 8-5 up in the 2008 Welsh Open final when he allowed himself to become frustrated by Selby’s more methodical approach.

However, the Rocket had learned his lesson by the time the pair met in last season’s Wembley Masters final, which O’Sullivan shaded 10-8.

He was also the model of patience in beating Peter Ebdon 9-3 in the second round but although he was generally solid, Ebdon made a lot of mistakes.

So O’Sullivan will have to raise his game to see off Selby, who is full of confidence and returning to form.

Selby’s hotel room was burgled while he was playing Hendry, resulting in his car being stolen.

With trademark nonchalance he seems to have shrugged this off. Nicking a place in the semis might be a consolation.



Ali Carter today became the 32nd player to compile a century of centuries in professional competition.

He had been on 98 since the Welsh Open until coming to Telford this week.



When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object something has to give. But who will win out between the fast, attacking Ronnie O’Sullivan and the gritty, grinding Peter Ebdon in the second round of the Pukka Pies UK Championship today?

Famously, indeed controversially, the tortoise beat the hare at the Crucible in 2005 when Ebdon mounted a rearguard action to recover from 8-2 down and win their quarter-final 13-11.

Ebdon denied that he had slowed the pace of play down deliberately – at one point he took five minutes to make a break of 12 – but, all the same, he got under O’Sullivan’s skin and did a proper number on him.

Ebdon has won 11 of his 28 meetings with O’Sullivan, not a terrible record by any means against the world no.1.

But O’Sullivan demonstrated great patience in beating Matthew Stevens 9-3 yesterday, exhibiting some sublime safety play and gradually getting better as the match went on, winning nine of the last ten frames.

O’Sullivan may not look forward to playing Ebdon but would enjoy beating him.

Looking for a fifth UK title, O’Sullivan has arrived in Telford in cheery form fresh from turning 34 last weekend.

He is in a good mood following the coup that saw his friend Barry Hearn installed as chairman of the WPBSA.

And though his game is not at 100% yet, he’s not a player anyone wants to draw.

Ebdon had a good win over Judd Trump in which he won all five frames played in the final session. O’Sullivan, though, is a different prospect entirely.

Ding Junhui certainly has the game to end Shaun Murphy’s title defence but has only beaten him once in six meetings.

Ali Carter was delayed until midnight through a combination of a stubborn opponent in Rory McLeod and the roll on/roll off format whereas his second round opponent, Stephen Lee, has had a day off between matches.

Rank outsider Peter Lines is appearing in the last 16 of a ranking event for the first time in ten years but twice champion Mark Williams surely represents a match too far for him.



It's been an entertaining start to the Pukka Pies UK Championship.

The snooker has been exciting - Selby v Cope, Maguire v Holt, Hendry v Davis and Higgins v Walden in particular - there have been large crowds and the conditions look excellent.

Steve Davis and others reckon the middle pockets on the Star tables, in use this season, are a bit tougher than the Riley Aristocrat tables in use last year. It may only be fractions but that's what the game often comes down to.

Still, we've had 17 centuries in the first two days and with Ronnie O'Sullivan, Ding Junhui and Ali Carter all in action today we may well have more.

Watch out for Carter: he needs two to get to 100 for his professional career.



Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis first contested the UK Championship final 20 years ago.

The following year, 1990, they took part in what remains one of the best finals ever played.

Hendry won both matches and leads Davis 43-18 in career meetings but the two players are arguably more closely matched now then they have been since those two Preston finals.

There's no doubt Hendry is struggling to follow a good performance with one equally as strong. He still plays very well in spells but at other times things are just not happening for him.

Davis remains a battler, as he proved in beating Michael Judge 9-7 to qualify, and beat Hendry the last time they played in a ranking event, in the semi-finals of the 2005 UK Championship.

It's a classic pairing between the two greatest players of all time. The snooker they produce may not live up to the billing but it is still a match to relish.



Graeme Dott has withdrawn from the Pukka Pies UK Championship after experiencing dizzy spells during the first session of his match against Mark Williams.

Dott trailed 6-2 after Williams compiled six half century breaks.

He had felt unwell during the afternoon, went back to his hotel for a meal and decided he could not continue.



So enough of the off table stuff...

The Pukka Pies UK Championship starts in Telford tomorrow and the standout tie of the first round pits world champion John Higgins against the dangerous Ricky Walden.

Walden currently sits 13th in the provisional rankings having won last season’s Shanghai Masters. He has played Higgins twice before and beaten him on both occasions.

Higgins, though, has been very consistent this year, reaching the semi-finals at least of the last four ranking events.

Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis have 11 UK titles between them and contested the final in 1989 and 1990.

They are meeting yet again in the first round, with Davis well placed to get one over on his old rival who, in Davis’s words, “has bashed me up down the years.”

Hendry certainly has a good record with 43 wins against him to Davis’s 18 but is struggling for form and Davis has a victory under his belt, having beaten Michael Judge 9-7 earlier this week to qualify.

It’s a first round with several matches that are tough to call, but Grand Prix champion Neil Robertson should beat Tom Ford and Ding Junhui will be heavy favourite against Mike Dunn.

Where will the shocks come?

Well, Crucible semi-finalist Mark Allen, rusty through lack of matches, could be vulnerable against the experienced Stephen Lee.

And Stephen Maguire, who like Allen hasn’t played competitively for two months, won’t have it all his own way against Michael Holt, who played well to beat Dominic Dale 9-4 in the qualifiers.

Mark Selby, who has fallen to 15th in the latest rankings, faces a tough opening test in the shape of Jamie Cope, whose long potting and all out attacking game can be very effective.

Peter Ebdon, the winner three years ago, will have to call on all his years of experience to handle another dangerous young potter, Judd Trump.

World no.6 Ryan Day is also up against it as he tackles Liang Wenbo, this season’s Shanghai Masters runner-up.

The outright market makes Ronnie O’Sullivan favourite for the title but he has his own problems having drawn Matthew Stevens, the 2003 UK champion, in the first round.


The first ever Six Reds World Championship later this month will be shown on Eurosport, who are covering the last two days live.

And the tournament will be sponsored by 888sport.com.

A host of big names are taking part in the event in Killarney, which runs from December 15-18, including John Higgins, Stephen Hendry, Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Alex Higgins.


Barry Hearn and Steve Davis were today co-opted to the board of the WPBSA by remaining board members Lee Doyle and Hamish McInnes.

A meeting on December 16 will install Hearn as chairman.

I think everyone will agree that Doyle and McInnes have acted responsibly in listening to the players' wishes and resolving this as quickly as possible.

It means we can start the Pukka Pies UK Championship tomorrow with the focus only on the play on the table.

Things are certainly going to change - we all hope for the better - because Hearn is not a fan of how the WPBSA is currently set up.

Hopefully everyone in the sport will pull together to give him the support he needs.



Very sadly, Stephen Maguire’s grandfather, Paddy, has died on the eve of the Pukka Pies UK Championship.

But for Paddy, Stephen may never have become a top player. When he was a boy, he practised at his grandfather’s house after Paddy knocked down a wall between two rooms to install a full sized table.

He was a charming man and understandably very proud when Stephen won the UK title in 2004.

Sadly, Stephen will have to miss the funeral to play in Telford.

“My granddad told me he wanted me to go to the UK Championship. That’s what he wanted me to do, and I will be carrying out his wishes,” he said.

“Naturally this is a sad time. But I can console myself thinking he did see me win and about how much he enjoyed being in York that night I won this title.”

Everyone at Snooker Scene sends our sympathies to Stephen and his family.


Yesterday's AGM has brought coverage and comment in UK newspapers and other media outlets.

Here is a selection...

Phil Yates in The Times.

Clive Everton in The Guardian.

Ronnie O'Sullivan gives his reaction in the Daily Express.

Hearn talks to The Sun.

He says he wants to keep the World Championship at the Crucible in the Daily Telegraph.

Comment from the Daily Mail.

And from the BBC.

Report from Sky Sports.

Account of Walker's exit from Eurosport.

More from the Mail.

Hearn promises a new era of openness to the Press Association.



Barry Hearn has issued the following statement following the AGM:

"Obviously I am delighted with today’s decision of the voting Members of the WPBSA and I relish the opportunity to revitalise the sport of snooker in the ensuing months ahead.

"There is a lot to be done and I can’t wait to get really involved, but there is still the question of my actual appointment to the Board being legally resolved.

"I am sure this will happen in the next few days and then the fun starts!

"At this stage all I can promise the membership of the WPBSA is total transparency, coupled with a regular supply of truthful information.

"Today is the beginning of a new era in snooker – we start NOW."


So Sir Rodney Walker has been deposed as WPBSA chairman but – and far be it from me to water down the widespread jubilation there appears to be in the game at this moment – the road ahead may be rocky.

Walker, Jim McMahon and Mike Dunn have indeed been voted off the board of the WPBSA. However, Walker and McMahon remain directors of World Snooker Limited, the commercial body that runs alongside the main board.

I think they should both resign from it because the players clearly don’t want them...but that doesn’t mean that they will.

The WPBSA board now has only two members: Lee Doyle and Hamish McInnes.

The constitution apparently decrees they co-opt a professional first. This should not be a player associated with either rival camp.

I would suggest an experienced, uncontroversial player who commands widespread respect, like Alan McManus or Nigel Bond.

They should immediately co-opt Barry Hearn to the board. The players have made it clear today that they want Hearn in as chairman. Failure to co-opt him would destroy the game's credibility and lead to an EGM to remove Doyle and McInnes.

Once in place, Hearn and his fellow board members should co-opt other responsible members and begin the process of renewing this bruised and battered sport.

There should not be recriminations or triumphalism. Sir Rodney should be thanked for his efforts as chairman and we should look only to the future, not the past.

Hearn’s first priority as chairman should be an independent financial audit of the association to discover its true position, because only then can he put together a business plan.

There should also be a review of senior staff to see if the WPBSA is getting value for money.

There should be a review of the tournament structure, with input from players, and of how to expand the ranking system.

There should be meetings with private promoters, many of whom have been ignored by the outgoing administration, to try and start up new events.

There should be an investigation into the financial position of the World Snooker Academy, the accounts for which have never been disclosed.

There should be a review of the WPBSA’s media strategy – assuming it has one – to ascertain how to return the sport to the newspapers.

There should be meetings with broadcasters and sponsors to reassure them as to the way forward.

In effect, the entire sport should be relaunched.

Make no mistake, miracles will not happen overnight. Tournaments will not magically appear, but one of the things that certainly helped tip the balance in favour of Hearn was a declaration from IMG today that they would be happy to work with him on the new world tour plans announced last week.

Hearn has great energy. He relishes a challenge and I have no doubt he and his team will roll up their sleeves and get stuck in almost immediately.

Not everything they will do will meet favour with everyone, but with Steve Davis acting as a guiding hand, I think any fears that snooker’s integrity will be threatened are unfounded.

This is a day of hope, a day many feared would not come.

Professional snooker is still a relatively young sport. It’s already had one boom, who is to say it can’t have another: in Europe, the Middle East and Asia?

It’s still morning in the snooker world and there’s still much that our game can accomplish.

And it starts today.


The WPBSA has released the following statement after today's AGM:

"Following an AGM, held in Sheffield today, at which Sir Rodney Walker, Jim McMahon and Mike Dunn were not re-elected to the board of the WPBSA, and at which no other individual stood for election, the remaining board members, Lee Doyle and Dr Hamish McInnes, will now co-opt further individuals to the board, as a matter of priority. The first such appointment will be a professional player, as governed by the constitution of the WPBSA."

Two points:

1) Why are the WPBSA not announcing the actual voting figures?

2) They'd better not co-opt Peter Ebdon, a player associated entirely with the board that has just been rejected (he stepped down earlier this year with Sir David Richards to save the WPBSA money).


Unconfirmed reports from Sheffield suggest Sir Rodney Walker has been defeated in his bid to remain WPBSA chairman by 32 votes to 24.

More follows as I get it...

EDIT: World Snooker has confirmed Walker, Jim McMahon and Mike Dunn have all been voted off the board of the WPBSA.

UPDATE: It seems the actual figure was 35-24 against all three board members but the WPBSA is refusing to disclose them.

Why? This is indicative of the needless secrecy that needs to end. Now.



There hasn’t been a WPBSA AGM so eagerly anticipated by the snooker world in a decade.

Tomorrow at 12pm in Sheffield, a city more used to on table battles, players will meet to decide whether to keep things as they are now and hope for a turnaround under the current regime or take a chance on a new way forward.

The last crucial vote was an EGM to remove the board shortly after the rejection of the Altium deal in 2002. The board survived 48-36.

Prior to this there was a period where there seemed to be a crunch vote every few months.

These were not always straightforward affairs. There was one AGM in a hotel in Birmingham held just before Christmas that descended into farce when the scrutineers, on their way to count the votes, found their path to the lift blocked by a conga of old aged pensioners.

Many of these votes were close with all manner of promises and misinformation having swirled around for weeks, as is the way of political campaigning.

Indeed, in the lead up to the current AGM a rumour went round that Barry Hearn, who has said he would be prepared to become chairman if Sir Rodney Walker is defeated, was planning to cut the professional circuit to just 32 players, something Hearn categorically denies.

There’s no evidence this was sanctioned by anyone high up in the governing body, although it could be an example of what Walker meant by ‘misleading, inaccurate and downright untruthful’ comments he alluded to last week.

Both sides have been crunching the numbers and there are indications the vote will be close.

It’s hard to see how it can’t be considering the constituency of voters is just 72: the top 64 from the past two seasons plus the five current WPBSA board members.

It’s not known whether Jimmy White sent in a proxy form before heading into the Australian bush. In such a small group of voters, it could ultimately make all the difference.

Walker, as incumbent, started favourite but there has been a groundswell against him in recent days.

Many players are simply fed up with the way things stand now and the ‘time for a change’ mantra is a difficult one to resist.

Then again, the only figure I will believe is the one that comes tomorrow. The BBC exit poll from the 1992 British general election forecast a hung parliament. In the end, John Major’s Conservatives won with a record vote.

But the exit poll wasn’t wrong – huge numbers of people had simply been unable to admit they were voting Conservative.

Walker is apparently behind right now, but that’s assuming everyone is telling the truth about their intentions. In a secret ballot, you never really know.

The great irony is that Walker was not under any obligation to stand for election this year. He was due to next year but said he brought it forward because he wanted to show the BBC and others that the sport had firm leadership and stability as key contracts were renegotiated.

This is commendable but his administration’s refusal to recognise the newly formed Snooker Players Association has brought us to this point. It was the SPA who persuaded Hearn to effectively throw his hat into the ring.

After becoming WPBSA chairman in 2004, Walker very quickly set about bringing stability to snooker, both financial and political.

Rows continued, as they do in all sports, but snooker’s fortunes appeared to be turning around.

Walker helped bring in replacement sponsors for the game’s three biggest events – the World Championship, UK Championship and Wembley Masters.

He presided over the renegotiation of contracts with the Crucible, the BBC and a new deal with Eurosport that has brought the game into the living rooms of a legion of new fans across Europe.

Walker’s administration also secured the long term future of two ranking events in China, both financially underwritten by the Chinese.

He proved to be a first rate front man, always poised in public, particularly in the moving speech he gave at Paul Hunter’s funeral.

However, 888.com and Saga both exercised early termination clauses in their sponsorship agreements and Walker was forced to dip deep into the reserves of money he had spent so long building up.

Prize money has fallen and there are only six ranking events currently on the schedule for this season.

Controversially, Walker took money in the form of commissions on contracts he had negotiated in his salaried role as WPBSA chairman, despite an earlier WPBSA report by renowned sports lawyer Mark Gay labelling such commissions unethical.

Steve Davis has said he is voting against Walker “for this reason alone.”

Hearn is a gregarious, energetic, what-you-see-is-what-you-get figure who first got involved in snooker in 1974 when he bought a chain of snooker clubs.

As manager of Davis, he was one of the leading figures of the 1980s boom. He is often credited as being behind it. This isn’t true, but he was one of the first to spot the sport’s off table potential and made fortunes as boss of the Matchroom stable through endorsements, exhibitions and, of course, prize money.

He deserves credit for trying to expand snooker’s global appeal, taking tournaments to China, Thailand, Dubai, Hong Kong and various other parts of the world.

He was treated with suspicion by the snooker establishment and gradually came to concentrate on boxing, pool, football, darts and even fishing.

Hearn’s great talent is in making something out of apparently very little: identifying niches and marketing them with vigour and enthusiasm.

I have no doubt that if he became chairman he and his team would at least inject a bit of fun back into the sport and certainly improve its standing in the media, which has ebbed away over the last five years.

But Hearn admits snooker’s fortunes cannot be turned around overnight. The sport’s reputation will have to be built back up and its image updated before a string of new high profile tournaments appear.

Hearn isn’t making a desperate bid for power. He’s happy to help if asked; happy to carry on with his other commitments if not asked.

The truth is, Barry Hearn doesn’t need snooker.

We’ll find out tomorrow whether snooker feels it needs Barry Hearn.


Congratulations to Tony Drago, a professional for 24 years, who has become the the 31st player in snooker history to compile a century of competitive centuries.

Drago achieved this milestone during his match with Mark Davis in the third qualifying round of the Pukka Pies UK Championship last Saturday.

Few players have as pure a love for the game as the Maltese, who returned to the pro circuit this season after one year as an amateur.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read his blog entry in full here.



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

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

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

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

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

You can listen to the interview here.



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

For more details, visit their website.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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

You can read it here.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

You can watch them here and here.

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



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

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

His reward is a second round meeting with Davey Morris.


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

You're right, I should get out more.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was the golden boy cruelly denied his golden future.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not any more they don’t.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the most likely scenario?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s hope it’s a while longer yet.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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