Yesterday’s one frame ‘rematch’ between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis to mark the 25th anniversary of their 1985 world final was an hilarious occasion which entertained a packed Crucible before the semi-finals got underway.

Taylor and Davis wore microphones and made gag after gag as they slugged their way through the frame.

At the end, they attempted to re-enact the shots on the black. Taylor inadvertently potted all the blacks he had missed 25 years ago before missing the one he so famously potted.

Davis potted the black he famously missed.

It was a fun exhibition but anyone who looks at it and then says ‘why can’t the modern players be more like that?’ needs to get real.

Go back and watch the deciding frame from 1985. There was no laughing and joking there.

Snooker at the highest level is a serious business. Careers, indeed whole lives, are made or broken by what happens on the Crucible floor.

Mark Selby has been landed with the ‘Jester from Leicester’ nickname but in reality this amounts to little more than the odd smile and occasional quip.

Quite rightly too. To play top level snooker you have to concentrate hard. This isn’t Friday night at Jongleurs, it’s the World Championship. For the same reason Roger Federer doesn’t drop pithy bon mots before launching down an ace at Wimbledon, the players need to focus on their game.

Of course, many people will claim that in the good old days EVERY SINGLE PLAYER peppered EVERY SINGLE MATCH with a litany of one liners that would have shown up Oscar Wilde.

Snooker was a serious business then, it’s a serious business now.

The best way the players can entertain is to play good snooker. They can leave the zingers for the exhibition circuit and shouldn't be criticised for approaching their sport with the same professionalism those in other sports do.



Unless Graeme Dott can spoil the party there will be a new winner of the Betfred.com World Championship this year.

That said, Dott has played superbly this year and displayed great heart in coming from 12-10 down to beat Mark Allen 13-12 yesterday.

The Scot is the only player who knows deep down that he is capable of winning the title, having done so in 2006.

He faces Mark Selby in the semi-finals after the world no.7 beat Ronnie O'Sullivan 13-11 last night.

O'Sullivan then launched into a predictable, downbeat diatribe against himself that everyone has heard before.

I'd prefer to focus on Selby and how he has proved himself to be a big match player. The Wembley champ doesn't crumble under pressure and his mastery of brinkmanship makes him hard to stop at the Crucible.

Neil Robertson would be a great world champion for snooker but can't take Ali Carter, who came from 8-4 down to beat Shaun Murphy 13-12, for granted.

They played an exciting match in the second round last year, in which Robertson made a series of killer clearances to clinch victory.

That may be fresh in Carter's mind but he knows that any of the four remaining players have a realistic chance of winning the title.

At this stage of the championship it becomes as much a test of nerve as a test of skill.

They can each play to a high standard but it's doing it under the unique Crucible pressure that counts.



Each of the four quarter-finals of this year’s Betfred.com World Championship features a former winner plus a player capable of capturing the title for the first time.

It’s a stellar line-up but the man to beat remains Ronnie O’Sullivan.

He knew he’d have to play well to repel the challenge of an in-form Mark Williams and so he did, dashing off three centuries in the final session during a brilliant display.

O’Sullivan is in the newspapers this morning for his conduct in his post-match TV interview but all that really matters is how he is playing – and he is playing really well.

Mark Selby, of course, outlasted him in their Wembley Masters final earlier this season and eased away from Stephen Hendry impressively yesterday.

Selby lost an epic quarter-final to John Higgins at the Crucible 12 months ago and could well end up embroiled in another. He has the game to frustrate O’Sullivan but will only win if he also scores heavily.

Graeme Dott is playing his best snooker since winning the China Open three years ago and arguably better than when he won the world title in 2006.

His quarter-final opponent, Mark Allen, has been impressive so far but is yet to be put under pressure and has not been punished when his do-or-die shots have failed to go in.

Shaun Murphy conjured up an aggressive last three frames to see off Ding Junhui last night, proving experience of winning in Sheffield can make all the difference.

Ali Carter suffered a scare against Joe Perry but raised his game at the denouement and will be tough to beat. Perhaps Murphy’s track record at the Crucible will prove key again.

Nobody tipped Steve Davis to beat John Higgins and few would tip him to beat Neil Robertson, but who is to say the grand old man of snooker can’t cause another shock?

It’s unlikely – in the first round last year Robertson beat him 10-2 – but Davis is playing well and if he can score from the chances he creates from his tactical game then he could make it close.

Regardless, it should be celebrated that he is in the quarter-finals at all. At 52, he is the oldest player to appear in the last eight since he beat 53 year-old Eddie Charlton 13-5 in 1983.

Davis’s continued presence in the draw adds an extra element to what is already a fascinating set of quarter-finals.



The middle Sunday of the Betfred.com World Championship marks the midway point of the Crucible marathon.

There will no finishes today but perhaps everyone needs a breather after a momentous Saturday which proved, once again, what a fascinating sporting event this is.

Steve Davis's 13-11 victory over John Higgins will go down as one of the most memorable wins in the 83-year history of the championship.

I'm not sure anyone - including Steve himself - quite believed he could actually do it until he potted that final pink.

He wept tears of joy afterwards. This is a player people have said should have retired years ago. But they don't understand the pure love he has for snooker or the visceral thrill he derives from the heat of competition.

Next up, Neil Robertson produced a stunning comeback to deny Martin Gould in a decider.

Robertson dodged a bullet and it often follows that a player who makes a great escape like that goes on to lift the trophy. But we're over a week away from finding out whether this will happen.

Graeme Dott's 13-6 victory over Stephen Maguire went almost unnoticed but he played possibly his best ever snooker at the Crucible - even including the year he won the title.

His advantage is that he knows he can win the whole thing. Mark Allen will be a tough quarter-final opponent but Glasgow's pocket dynamo has played as well as anyone in the tournament.



A word about Martin Gould.

Sport is all about seizing your chance when it comes along. Gould has certainly done that.

There were encouraging signs when he finished off against Marco Fu with a break of 90 in the decider, rather than stumbling over the line.

But his performance against Neil Robertson has been sensational. He appears to be playing without nerves and enjoying himself fully.

Robertson, a little like John Higgins, has experienced the pressure of being a heavy favourite.

But he's also come up against someone playing career best snooker at the Crucible, something most players only dream of.

Credit to Gould. He's seen his opportunity and grabbed it with both hands.



Well, what can you say about Steve Davis?

His face was burning with determination last night as he opened a 6-2 lead over John Higgins with a performance reminiscent of his 1980s vintage.

If anyone thought Steve was just turning up to get a big cheer then they've had these notions destroyed by a remarkable display that underlines just how great a player he is.

All predictions are off as far as I'm concerned. I know many expect Higgins to come back but the reigning champ looked ill at ease at times and Davis could well go through to the quarter-finals tomorrow morning.

Whatever happens, it's impossible to turn away from this fascinating encounter.



And so to the second round of the Betfred.com World Championship, which looks likely to feature 12 of the world's top 16 ranked players.

There are some terrific clashes ahead: Ronnie O'Sullivan v Mark Williams, Mark Selby v Stephen Hendry and Ding Junhui against, it would appear, Shaun Murphy.

Tonight John Higgins continues his title defence against Steve Davis. Few will give Davis much of a chance, just as they didn't when they met at the same stage ten years ago.

On that occasion, Davis made a superb late rally but was beaten 13-11.

Mark Allen, a semi-finalist last year, has the scoring power to get past Mark Davis, who yesterday secured only his second Crucible victory -15 years after his first - in beating Ryan Day 10-8.

Allen is a live contender for the title. His would be a fitting victory 25 years after another Northern Irishman, Dennis Taylor, captured the title.

It's a bit early, though, to start thinking of that. It's only day six of 17, after all.



Steve Davis tonight became the oldest player to win a match at the Crucible for 21 years with his dramatic, nerve-shredding 10-9 victory over Mark King.

What a performance from a true snooker legend. Davis, 52, became the first 50-something to win a match at the Crucible since Doug Mountjoy in 1993 and the oldest since Eddie Charlton, at 59, defeated Cliff Thorburn 10-9 in 1989.

Davis battled and battled and battled some more in what must rank as his most satisfying victory for several years.

Hats off to him, regardless of what happens in the second round against John Higgins.

Steve's win clearly meant a lot to him and will have meant a great deal to many others as well.



The first World Seniors Championship for 19 years will be staged next season, featuring some of snooker's best known faces.

Seven world champions - Steve Davis, John Parrott, Ken Doherty, Dennis Taylor, Alex Higgins, Joe Johnson and Peter Ebdon - as well as Jimmy White will be seeded through to the final stages of the over 40s event in November.

A qualifying competition next month is set to include Tony Drago, Mike Hallett, Darren Morgan, David Taylor, Nigel Bond, Dave Harold, Tony Knowles and Joe Swail.

Cliff Wilson beat Eddie Charlton 5-4 in the final of the 1991 World Seniors Championship.

There have been other seniors events since but this is the first to carry the World Championship title and will carry prize money of £50,000.

Johnson, one of the co-organisers, said: “I have been working very hard to pull this concept together and I am glad that with World Snooker’s help we are making it a reality.

"I cannot wait to get out on the floor and battle it out with my old friends and adversaries. Snooker fans have been crying out for this type of event and I am sure that we will do our best to put on an entertaining Championship.”

The qualifiers will be held at Cue Gardens, Bradford from May 28-30.

The televised final stages will be held at Cedar Court Hotel, Bradford from November 5-7.


It’s ten years since Mark Williams won his first world title and seven years since he captured his second.

The Welshman played superbly to win them both and his form at the recent China Open suggests he can complete the hat-trick.

Williams is in the hardest section of the draw. Marcus Campbell is vastly experienced but has only played at the Crucible once before.

If Williams gets past him he will face Ronnie O’Sullivan or Liang Wenbo with Mark Selby or Stephen Hendry waiting in the quarter-finals.

The good news for Williams is that none of these players would want to play him right now.

O’Sullivan and Liang start out this afternoon. Ronnie has won all three of their previous meetings, including in the World Championship quarter-finals two years ago.

He also beat the Chinese in the Shanghai Masters final earlier this season. There are question marks over O’Sullivan’s game but we all know that he can blow them away if he finds some fluency.

Steve Davis is sure to receive a huge ovation tonight when he makes his 30th appearance at the Crucible.

His first was in 1979. It’s 29 years since he won the first of his six titles.

He has a chance against Mark King but will obviously have to play much better than he did a year ago against Neil Robertson.



Anyone can have a bad session at the Crucible, particularly in the first round – just as John Higgins did yesterday morning – so it would be premature to start writing Stephen Hendry’s professional obituary just because he let slip a 4-0 lead over Zhang Anda.

However, there are clearly worrying signs for Hendry, who missed two straight pinks and a straight red towards the end of the first session yesterday.

It always was a leap into the unknown for him. Zhang, just 18, was all at sea as he attempted to get to grips with the unique Crucible atmosphere but, after the interval, he grew in confidence and the pressure transferred to Hendry.

So 5-4 to the seven times champion and a fascinating final session in prospect tonight. I still expect Hendry to come through but he needs to rediscover his focus and cut out the careless mistakes.

Before all that Mark Allen should finish off Tom Ford and Mark Selby, 6-3 up on Ken Doherty, will be looking to make a good start to keep the former champion at bay.




That's not a direct quote from Mark Allen but it probably sums up how he's feeling after he failed to make a 147 break at the Crucible this morning.

It was a great effort, consisting of some brave pots, but Allen was left with a cut-back yellow which meant he had to take the cue ball around the table.

Alas, he ended up snookered behind the green but still came close to potting it off the baulk cushion.

Allen still ended up 8-1 ahead despite a fraught build up. The volcanic ash scare that has grounded flights to and from the UK meant he had to get a ferry over and he arrived in Sheffield at 11.30pm last night.

You wouldn't have known. He played very well and turned Ford's Crucible debut into a nightmare.

It could easily have been 2-2 at the interval but Allen, a semi-finalist last year, cleared with 59 to pinch the first on the black and doubled the re-spot to clinch the fourth.

Ford's only frame came courtesy of a run of 107 to prevent him becoming only the second player in Crucible history - after Eddie Charlton in 1992 - to be whitewashed, but this could prove to be his only consolation.

On the other table, defending champion John Higgins looked out of sorts but still only trails 5-4 to Barry Hawkins, who may reflect later that he could have put the new world no.1 away in the opening session.



The Crucible is quiet tonight save for last minute preparations for the Betfred.com World Championship.

This is merely the calm before a 17-day storm of snooker.

There will be shocks and surprises, great shots and amazing misses, pressure and tension, tears of joy and of despair, controversy and drama before the 2010 world champion is crowned on May 3.

This is the ultimate test of a snooker player and the sport's annual shop window. Let us hope the game puts on a show worthy of this great tournament's status.

John Higgins starts the defence of his title against Barry Hawkins at 10am. He will be nervous, especially if he is aware of a quote from Steve Davis, who once said: "The opening day is always difficult. The first shock hasn't happened yet and it could be you."

Stephen Hendry, an inspiration to a generation of snooker players and fans through his remarkable record of achievement in Sheffield, will face Zhang Anda, just 18, at 2.30pm.

Hopefully all the players have made it. I'm told referees Jan Verhaas and Terry Camilleri are struggling to get to Britain due to the volcanic ash situation that has closed most UK airspace.

They are part of a team of officials who work hard - often unseen - to make sure the snooker marathon runs as smoothly as possible. Led by Mike Ganley and Martin Clark, World Snooker's tournament directors, the officials are first in line if anything goes wrong...and rarely get any thanks when things go right.

People will watch this tournament in far off places. They will cheer their favourites from living rooms in Beijing and Moscow, Berlin and Bucharest.

They will travel to this provincial theatre - an unlikely sporting Mecca - having booked annual holiday.

Don't be fooled by people sniping at the game in newspapers. The World Championship still means a great deal to a great many people.

The Crucible, where all roads lead, is the venue where memories have been made that are hardwired into the DNA of snooker itself.

More memories will be made this year. The build-up, the talk and the predictions are about to end.

In the words of someone else preparing for the highlight of the snooker year, let's get the boys on the baize.


There have arguably been only four surprise winners of the World Championship title during the 33 years it has been staged at the Crucible.

Terry Griffiths stunned the snooker world in 1979 by winning it at his first attempt as a qualifier.

Joe Johnson was 150/1 in 1986 while Shaun Murphy came through the qualifiers to land the title in 2005.

Graeme Dott had been in a world final but was still a shock winner in 2006 because he had never before won a ranking event crown.

Could anyone conceivably come through the pack to repeat these heroics this year?

As ever in sport, it’s the not knowing that keeps audiences coming back. Who could have believed Tom Watson would have had a putt for the Open title last year or that wildcard Goran Ivanesevic, his body racked with injuries, could win Wimbledon in 2001?

To help discern what registers as a shock winner, I have divided the 32 players in this year’s event into six categories represented by the coloured balls.

The yellows are the players least likely to win and the black category features those with the best chance – in my opinion!

I have taken into account the draw, form, past record and personal prejudice.

Yellow: Steve Davis, Stuart Pettman, Mark Davis, Marcus Campbell

Green: Tom Ford, Zhang Anda, Gerard Greene, Martin Gould, Fergal O’Brien

Brown: Michael Holt, Joe Perry, Stephen Lee, Ken Doherty, Mark King, Barry Hawkins, Marco Fu

Blue: Stephen Hendry, Ali Carter, Jamie Cope, Liang Wenbo, Peter Ebdon, Graeme Dott, Mark Allen, Ryan Day

Pink: Mark Williams, Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy, Stephen Maguire

Black: John Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Ding Junhui, Neil Robertson

I would say that if any of those from the yellow to brown groups won the title it would register as a shock.

To an extent, it would if any of the blues won but not those from the pink or black groups.

(Is anyone still following this?)

Last year, only two of the top 16 failed to get through the first round.

Who looks vulnerable this year?

Certainly Selby doesn’t have it easy against a resurgent Doherty and Carter could come a cropper against Cope.

I think Dott has every chance against Ebdon and Higgins is not by any means nailed on to beat Hawkins.

It would be a huge shock were Ding or Williams to lose given their recent form and despite what a lot of other people say, I think O’Sullivan will be safe against Liang.

The truth is that although we keep hearing how ‘open’ snooker is these days, it is very likely that the world title will be won by one of the usual suspects.

The fun lies in finding out which one...



Stephen Maguire and Jamie Burnett are among five men that form the subject of a police report relating to irregular betting patterns for their match in the 2008 UK Championship forwarded to the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland.

The Procurator Fiscal will ultimately decide whether charges will be brought.

A statement released today read: "Strathclyde Police Economic Crime Unit can confirm that five males aged 35, 34, 31, 31 and 29 are subject of a police report that is being submitted to the Procurator Fiscal at Hamilton in relation to the alleged irregular betting patterns associated with the snooker match involving Stephen Maguire and Jamie Burnett at the Maplin UK Championship on 14 December 2008."

Last year, Strathclyde Police made public that they had interviewed the two players the week before the World Championship. This latest news comes just two days before this year's Crucible event.

Due to the highly sensitive nature of the case comments on this post will be strictly moderated.


It’s 30 years since Canadian Cliff Thorburn became the first non-British winner of the World Championship.

His 1980 final against Alex Higgins was a tense, gripping affair and famous in the UK for being interrupted by live BBC news coverage of the SAS storming the besieged Iranian embassy in London.

As Ted Lowe was replaced by Kate Adie, the BBC switchboard was jammed with viewers complaining that they wanted to watch the snooker.

Only one other player from outside the UK has since won the Crucible title. That was Ireland's Ken Doherty 13 years ago.

It’s a poor return for a game with pretensions to be a world sport but Neil Robertson (who I discussed earlier this week) and Ding Junhui are both playing well enough this season to end the overseas drought.

It’s good to see Ding back to his old self and it’s worth remembering that although he’s been on the tour seven years now, he is still only 23.

As for so many players, fate - or randomness if you prefer - intervened to present Ding with his chance to become a star. He began playing at the age of ten on a table in the street outside his family home.

His father invested significant time and money to get him coaching and as a 14 year-old wildcard for the 2002 China Open Ding took two frames off Mark Selby.

Two years later, with a string of top international amateur titles under his belt, he became the youngest player ever to win a match in the Wembley Masters. Ranking titles followed at the 2005 China Open and UK Championship and 2006 Northern Ireland Trophy.

At that point, Ding looked a great bet to supersede Stephen Hendry as youngest ever world champion but two soul destroying defeats to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the 2007 Masters final and at the Crucible a few months later severely sapped his self belief and the pressures of shouldering the hopes of the biggest nation in the world got to him.

Ding’s form and confidence went walkabout, he slipped down the rankings and his status as China’s top dog was threatened by Liang Wenbo, who reached his first major final at the Shanghai Masters last September.

Ding was at a crossroads. He could either continue to decline or come out fighting. He chose the latter and has reminded everyone this season of why he is a talent to savour, winning the UK Championship and finishing runner-up in the Grand Prix and recent China Open, where he was undone by an inspirational Mark Williams performance.

He is certainly good enough to become world champion but like any other player will need to blend his talent with belief, determination and a little bit of luck. If he won, it would be a great result for snooker, which is still far too dominated by the Brits.

Ding will be joined at the Crucible by Chinese compatriots Liang, who faces a tough first round match with O’Sullivan, and Zhang Anda, an 18 year-old unknown who has qualified in his first season.

I watched him finish off with two centuries to beat Ricky Walden in the final qualifying round and he looked unshakable despite the pressure. The Crucible, though, will provide a much greater test, not least because he is playing the most successful person ever to appear there, Stephen Hendry.

Zhang is nicknamed ‘Mighty Mouse’ and has practised with Ronnie O’Sullivan. He is a former runner-up in the World Under 21 Championship and winner of the Asian junior title.

That’s as much as most people know about him – and possibly more than Hendry does – and the unknown makes him a dangerous opponent.

But few players do well on their debut appearances. Even though Zhang knows little of the Crucible or its history he will soon find out and could be forgiven for freezing in the headlights.

That match – Hendry v Zhang – is one of number of mouth watering first round ties.

If the young man is still standing at the end of the 17 days it will be the greatest snooker story ever.

If Ding scoops the famous silver trophy it will be less of a surprise, more a fulfilment of a great talent.



The eight players who have made it through to the finals of Ronnie O'Sullivan's Future Stars, his joint venture with Rileys to discover new talent, have been announced.

The eight came through regional qualifying events. They are:

Sean O'Sullivan from Lewisham (won in Wealdstone)
Joseph McLaren from Greenock (Edinburgh)
Lewis Hargreaves from Ipswich (Norwich)
Rhys Clark from Fforestfach (Cardiff)
Joel Walker from Sheffield (Sheffield)
Jordan Rimmer from Solihull (Solihull)
Jake Stewart from Plymouth(Exeter)
Zac Barton from Bolton (Preston)

On Friday, April 23 they will compete in front of O'Sullivan in Sheffield for a £5,000 first prize. The winner will then be mentored by O'Sullivan.


Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry between them won the world title 13 times within an 18-year period from 1981 to 1999.

Yet, to the regret of snooker fans and, I suspect, the players themselves, they never met in a Crucible final.

In fact, they met only twice at the venue where they each dominated for a decade. Davis won their 1989 semi-final; Hendry came out on top at the same stage in 1994.

They did play in two UK Championship finals and memorably entered the Preston Guild Hall arena for one of them to the strains of Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’.

Davis this year makes his 30th Crucible appearance 31 years after his first.

As Britain gears up the general election it’s worth remembering that when the Nugget first played at Sheffield Jim Callaghan was still prime minister.

Davis’s glory years mirrored those of the game itself in the UK: he was unstoppable, ubiquitous and all conquering.

From his first title triumph in 1981 to the end of the decade there were only three Crucible slip ups.

The first came in 1982 when, as defending champion, he went into the tournament exhausted from a punishing schedule of endorsements and exhibitions under the guiding entrepreneurial hand of his manager, Barry Hearn (what ever happened to him?).

On the afternoon before his first session against Tony Knowles (that year the event began on a Friday night) he was signing copies of his book in Sheffield city centre.

Davis was to be undone 10-1 by Knowles, a result that still resonates high on the Richter scale of all time World Championship shocks.

The 1985 world final was the high watermark of the 1980s boom and ended with Davis missing the black and Dennis Taylor potting it to beat him 18-17.

Taylor, as the underdog, probably had most of the support from the watching millions but, interestingly, both Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins as 9 year-old viewers were cheering on Davis.

Winners relate to winners and it wasn’t long before Davis was winning again, though he had to wait two years to become world champion once more as Joe Johnson, a 150/1 outsider pre-tournament, beat him 18-12 in the 1986 final.

Davis ended the 1980s with three straight world titles, including an 18-3 slaughter of John Parrott, whose miserable weekend was completed by having to then take part in an exhibition with Davis on the final night, the match having finished a session early.

It would take something special to end the Davis reign. It came along in the shape of Hendry.

It’s now 20 years since he became youngest ever world champion and his duels with Jimmy White in the 1990s kept millions engrossed.

Hendry won the title seven times in nine years and came close to an eighth triumph in 2002, losing out 18-17 to Peter Ebdon.

That year he compiled a record 16 centuries. He has made 120 centuries in total at the Crucible, which is just over 10% of all the tons recorded there since 1977.

So to this year...

If Davis beats Mark King in the first round he will become the first 50-something to win a match at the Crucible for 17 years.

It’s not the worst draw he could have got because King does not score as heavily as many of the other top 16 players.

It could develop into a dogfight, although King is tough enough to battle it out in the safety stakes with his former practice partner.

Hendry is making his 25th successive Crucible appearance and faces Zhang Anda, just 18, in the first round.

I’d imagine Hendry would, like most other players, struggle to identify Zhang in a line-up and this makes the match a potential banana skin but the young Chinese is making his debut appearance and the Scot’s experience should pull him through.

Snooker is obsessed with nostalgia and looking to the past rather than the future. Perhaps all sports suffer from this, or perhaps it is merely a symptom of snooker’s sudden and unexpected rise from folk sport to major TV attraction.

But there are certain players who fans can’t help wishing well and many spectators and viewers will hope Davis and Hendry can turn in performances this year worthy of their respective records.

Hendry has played very well at the Crucible for the last two years; Davis produced his best performance of the season to qualify.

Neither has anything to prove but pride of performance remains strong.

More than that, deeply ingrained in their respective psyches is the winning mentality. Defeat still hurts, despite all the success.



There’s no excuse – apart from going to work and having a life – for missing any of the Betfred.com World Championship.

The BBC and Eurosport will provide hour after hour of coverage in the UK and Europe with Chinese TV also taking live matches.

The BBC, who instituted live daily coverage from the Crucible 32 years ago, start their terrestrial programming on BBC2 at 2.30pm on Saturday.

The interactive streams on Freeview, cable and satellite and the BBC website (for UK viewers only) start at 10am.

On week days, Eurosport are showing one table in each session on the main channel and the other on Eurosport 2. It’s also all live on eurosportplayer.com.

In the meantime, I thought we could get in the mood by watching some old stuff on Youtube.

First up, from the days before the theme tune got pimped, a montage of winners from 1977 to 1994.

A little talked about match from 1985.

Stephen Hendry becoming the youngest ever champion in 1990.

The first Embassy final.

Some classic Alex Higgins aggro.

Joe Johnson’s remarkable 1986 triumph.

Here’s the BBC’s most fondly remembered musical item (surely due an update).

People forget how close the 1982 final was.

Some cheer for Jimmy White fans.

Five minutes of genius.

The best match-saving break of all time.

And finally, John Virgo’s impressions of the stars of the 1980s, which were a regular feature of the World Championship back then.



Only once in 33 stagings of the World Championship at Sheffield’s iconic Crucible Theatre have the top two seeds reached the final.

That was in 1987 when Steve Davis gained revenge over Joe Johnson for his defeat the previous year.

It’s a statistic that may point to disappointment for those hoping for a John Higgins v Ronnie O’Sullivan final this year.

Of course, they have played in a Crucible final before, in 2001. O’Sullivan won 18-14. Higgins, nice guy that he is, told him afterwards that he was pleased for his dad, who was incarcerated and thus unable to share in the celebrations.

The two are rivals but they are also friends. They got to know one another on the junior circuit at the end of the 1980s and, then as now, it was the colourful O’Sullivan who garnered most of the media coverage.

He was expected to win the under 16 title at Barry Hearn’s World Masters in Birmingham in 1991 but Higgins beat him and Mark Williams to serve notice of his own potential.

Since turning professional O’Sullivan and Higgins have mirrored one another’s achievements.

They each have three world titles, they’ve each been world no.1 and O’Sullivan has won 22 ranking titles to Higgins’s 21.

They could both achieve the milestone of compiling a century of centuries at the Crucible this year, something only Stephen Hendry has also accomplished.

O’Sullivan has made 93 Crucible tons. Higgins, despite having played there on two fewer occasions, has compiled 96.

O’Sullivan is around 150 centuries ahead in their respective careers and has made nine 147 breaks to Higgins’s five.

The respect between them is mutual and genuine. They each rate the other as favourite for this year’s Betfred.com green baize marathon.

I interviewed O’Sullivan last week for Eurosport and he said, “if John plays his A-game he’ll win it.”

In response, Higgins told me: “I’d say the same about him. He’s maybe saying that to take some pressure off himself but he’s the favourite.”

These two great players are both 34. Younger stars are yapping at their heels but are yet to overtake them.

Higgins was first to win a world title. He did so in 1998, ending a season in which he’d appeared in six of the eight ranking tournament finals.

The then 22 year-old Scot compiled 14 centuries – then a record – and simply blew everyone away.

Many expected him to dominate in the fashion Steve Davis and Hendry had. It wasn’t to be and it took him nine years to land the Crucible crown for a second time.

However, it took him only two more years to win it for a third and he has played so well for the last year that a fourth could follow come May 3.

O’Sullivan watched his great friend Jimmy White take part in a parade of former champions before the 2001 world final. Leaving aside the absurdity of this, it struck a chord with Ronnie who resolved never to feel the disappointment White had of failing to win a trophy his talents were worthy of.

He won it again in 2004 and for a third time in 2008. He feels his game has declined but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good enough to guide him to a fourth success.

The 2001 final was one of two times O’Sullivan has beaten Higgins at the Crucible. The other was far more controversial, coming after O’Sullivan was nearly thrown out of the tournament for a physical assault of a World Snooker official.

Higgins was left in limbo, not finding out whether he would even have to play a quarter-final until late the night before a 10am start.

He still led 10-6 and 12-10 but was beaten 13-12. Higgins got his revenge two years later by winning their semi-final 17-9, including a second session whitewash. He also beat O’Sullivan in the second round three years ago.

They’ve played on five occasions this season with Higgins winning four times, including the extraordinarily dramatic UK Championship semi-final, which he led 8-2 before scrambling through 9-8.

A Higgins-O’Sullivan final would be one to savour. Either one of them would be a worthy world champion.

But what would it say about snooker in 2010 that two players who have been professionals for 18 years are still at the top of the tree?

It might suggest that the younger players have not yet raised themselves to the standards required to pass the ultimate snooker test.

Or perhaps it would merely be proof of what everyone already knows: that John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan are two of the finest talents the game is ever likely to see.



WPBSA chairman Barry Hearn has issued the following statement in the wake of Lee Doyle's resignation from the board:

"I welcome Lee’s decision to resign as a Director of WPBSA.

"As a manager of players and promoter of rival events in important territories like China, Lee’s position as a Board Director, where confidential information becomes available to effectively a competitor, has become untenable.

"He may well be opposed to my plan to reinvigorate snooker for the benefit of all players and I therefore totally understand his reasons for resigning.

"I’m glad to say that the remaining Board Members, Steve Davis, Brandon Parker and Pat Mooney are, like me, totally committed in supporting these new proposals for taking the game forward and look forward to discussing them with the Players at the meeting planned for 5th May."


Lee Doyle, the chairman of 110sport, has today resigned from the WPBSA board and declared his opposition to its chairman, Barry Hearn, and his future plans for the sport in a move which will precipitate (yet another) bitter battle for control of the sport.

He said: "I feel that my current position as a Director on the Board of the WPBSA is now untenable given that I am completely opposed to the proposals the Chairman, Barry Hearn, has laid out whereby the controlling rights in the Company are handed over to him.

“I do understand what Barry is trying to achieve in snooker and we have discussed this at considerable length. But on this one we agree to disagree.

“Barry has always run his own business and made his own decisions. However, I feel extremely uncomfortable where from my perspective decisions are being taken on contracts without me being consulted as a Board member.

“I do wish some of the players would look at these proposals from the business angle and see the bigger picture and the implications going forward for the game, rather than turning everything in to some kind of popularity contest between those they like and those they don’t want to listen to.”

I have no inside knowledge of the way the WPBSA board works under Hearn.

But I do know that 110sport were the leading cheerleaders of the Altium bid eight years, which bore many similarities to what Hearn is proposing now.

Ironically - or perhaps not - many of those against Altium are now for Hearn.

And so the self-interested, factional world of snooker turns once again.

Doyle's resignation and opposition to Hearn means the bright new future - announced only a fortnight ago - could already be dead in the water, and with it the new tournaments and broadcasting contracts that came with them.

That said, apathy may well yet be the winner. I understand only a handful of players have contacted Hearn since his letter went out, even though he supplied his mobile number and email address.

How many of them will turn up to the May 5 meeting to hear him out rather than rely on 'managers' to decide what's best for them?

Doyle, who manages a large stable of players, neglects to put forward an alternative to the Hearn plan. Perhaps he thinks the way the sport has been run for the last decade is the way things should continue.

However, I understand an alternative proposal is being put together by the very board members who the players rejected just four months ago.

The way things are going, though, the sport will have no credibility left regardless of who is in charge.


Snooker was never going to be a leading sport in Australia. The favourable climate means outdoor pursuits hold sway over indoor games.

Even so, it is a country that has produced several players who have played their part in the sport’s history.

Walter Lindrum was a billiards genius and his nephew, Horace, won the world snooker title in 1952 but his triumph was discredited as all the other leading players boycotted the tournament in a row over money, leaving a field of just two.

Eddie Charlton was a household name for two decades and reached three World Championship finals in the 1970s.

A dour, hard-as-nails grinder, Charlton, who spent five years third in the world rankings, was a byword for durability. He last played at the Crucible in 1992 at the age of 62.

In 1989 he beat Cliff Thorburn 10-9 in the first round in a match that finished at 2.40am. Asked afterwards by a journalist if he should have thought about providing the crowd with entertaining snooker Charlton’s reply was unambiguous:

“F*ck the crowd, I’m here to win,” he said.

Warren King, who reached a ranking event final at the 1990 Mercantile Classic, and John Campbell were other Australians to play at the Crucible during the age of Charlton.

Robby Foldvari never did. If he had it might have extended the championship by a couple of days.

Foldvari, twice world billiards champion, could make Charlton look like Tony Drago. He contested the longest ever best of nine frame match with Ian Williamson in the 1994 British Open qualifiers. It ground on for seven hours, 14 minutes and 12 seconds.

When he played at the IBSF World Amateur Championship a couple of years ago one of his opponents, perhaps fearing the worst, took a book and pillow into the arena.

Quinten Hann, by contrast, was fast and attacking. Sometimes he was too attacking, as when he several times suicidally smashed into the pack in breaking off.

He once conceded a frame at the UK Championship with nine reds remaining.

Famously, he took part in the ‘Pot Whack’ boxing stunt with Mark King having offered to fight Andy Hicks after the mild mannered Devonian had the temerity to beat him at the Crucible.

Hann, who would probably qualify as a ‘character’, as if that means anything when set against winning titles, had his playing career ended when he was secretly taped by a national newspaper agreeing to throw a match for money. He was banned for eight years.

In 1975, Australia hosted the World Championship thanks to Charlton’s enterprising efforts. An Australian ranking event was announced in 1989, the only snag being that it was eventually played in Hong Kong.

It transpired that the address the would-be promoter had given for his ‘business’ was actually a bus shelter.

Neil Robertson’s introduction to snooker came courtesy of his father, who ran a snooker club in Melbourne.

Who knows why some people take naturally to sport and others don’t? There’s no doubt Robertson had an instinctive eye for snooker and he rose fast through the junior ranks.

At 14, he became the first player ever to make a century in an Australian ranking event and won the national under 18 title.

He took the risky decision to leave school at 15, turned professional at 16 and headed for the UK but was too young, too inexperienced and had too few financial resources for it to be viable. He dropped off the circuit and headed home, uncertain about his future.

Robertson is today a confident character with his fair share of female fans but as a teenager he was self conscious about his appearance and it made him withdrawn. He channelled his energies into improving as a snooker player.

Winning the 2003 World under 21 title earned him another shot at the pro tour and he made the most of it.

Happily settled in Cambridge, he won the qualifying event for the 2004 Masters, reached his first ranking event quarter-final that year at the European Open and first qualified for the Crucible in 2005.

In 2006 he won his first ranking title, the Grand Prix, and went on to capture the 2007 Welsh Open and 2008 Bahrain Championship. He was a World Championship semi-finalist last year.

Tall, blonde and gregarious, he plays the game in an attacking style and possesses a solid temperament. Nothing much seems to faze him.

Off the table, though, he can be a little too relaxed. This season he turned up for one Premier League match just five minutes before it was due to start.

Last year he was docked two frames at the Championship League after taking a wrong turning while following Joe Perry – who he was due to play – which meant he turned up late.

At the Crucible two years ago he returned to Sheffield after taking a break between first and second round matches and found, just 15 minutes before his match, that he hadn’t packed his shoes.

This necessitated a mad dash to Marks and Spencer over the road but he found the shoes rubbed his heels, as new pairs tend to do.

This year represents Robertson’s best chance to so far to become world champion. He won the Grand Prix last October, lost classics to John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan in the UK Championship and Masters respectively and compiled the first 147 break of his professional career at the recent China Open.

This season he has made more centuries than anyone else on the main tour and has a reasonable draw, although Higgins could be waiting in the quarter-finals.

But if he were to win the title, would his compatriots even notice?

Robertson - christened the 'Thunder from Down Under' - gets little press coverage back home. TV exposure has increased in Australia but most matches tend to be on at an unsociable hour. His mother and friends often stay up watching the hypnotic click-click of worldsnooker.com’s live scoring.

He is ploughing a lone furrow, a little like Andy Murray for UK tennis, but the difference is that Britain is a country with a tennis heritage and a major event every year.

Robertson would be a huge star back home were he as successful in a sport more Aussie friendly than snooker.

Maybe that will finally change if he wins the biggest prize of all. He is certainly going to take some stopping this year.



You can listen to my podcast with WPBSA chairman Barry Hearn here.


Spare a thought for Reanne Evans.

While twin titans of the Crucible John Higgins and Ronnie O'Sullivan were launching the Betfred.com World Championship, which carries a first prize of £250,000, Evans was completing a 5-1 defeat of Maria Catalano, O'Sulivan's cousin, to win the women's world title and thus a clean sweep of every ladies event this season.

Her reward for winning the biggest prize in the women's game? £1,000.

Women's snooker looked like it may take off in a big way in the late 1980s when Allison Fisher ruled the roost.

Fisher was an excellent player who beat Neal Foulds and Mike Hallett in the Matchroom (now Premier) League.

Barry Hearn (yes, him again) got a couple of women's world championships television coverage but the brutal truth was that the standard was not of the level TV audiences were used to.

Fisher wisely recognised that she had to move on and headed to the USA where she has made a very good living on the 9-ball pool circuit.

Karen Corr and Kelly Fisher have since joined her, leaving Evans as the outstanding player of the current time.

The WPBSA used to subsidise women's events but withdrew this support in the financial crisis that hit soon after the Altium bid was rejected in 2002.

Cut adrift, the WLBSA have done a good job in keeping afloat and maintaining a circuit. Such enthusiasts should be saluted, including Paul Wood, a billiards and snooker fan who provided sponsorship money for the World Championship.

Evans should also receive credit for winning the title for a sixth year in succession but her achievement will, in truth, pass by virtually unnoticed by the wider world.

There's no sign of a massive cash injection for the women's game, which would go some way to increasing participation and providing more challengers to Evans's dominance.

Hearn yesterday claimed that snooker's Crucible World Championship could one day - long into the future in my view - have a first prize of £1m.

The women's game would settle for a lot less than that.



The Betfred.com World Championship was today launched in fine style by the two top seeds this year, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan, at the Royal Automobile Club in London.

The two stars took part in a raft of media interviews and played a frame of snooker for the Killing Cancer charity. The frame itself was not a classic but, at £50 per point they raised £4,000 for a very worthy cause.

Higgins and O’Sullivan joined WPBSA chairman Barry Hearn and Betfred founder Fred Done for a lively press conference as the countdown to snooker’s biggest event continues.

Done described Hearn in an interview for Eurosport as “the best sports promoter I have ever worked with” and said he wanted to sign on as sponsor for another four years, even though there are still two years to run on the existing contract after this year’s championship.

“What I like about Barry is his enthusiasm. You can see it pouring out of his veins,” Done said. “We didn’t get this enthusiasm last year.”

O’Sullivan was also keen to give his backing to Hearn, who is attempting to push through wide ranging changes to the way snooker is governed after years in which the sport has slowly declined.

“It has to be voted through,” O’Sullivan said. “Look at all the new playing opportunities – what more can you ask?

“I’m sure the players will see sense. If they don’t then it’s all over as far as I’m concerned.”

Hearn described Higgins and O’Sullivan as the sport’s ‘flag bearers.’ He said Higgins “is a great character when you can understand what he’s saying with that accent of his.” At one stage he put his arm around Ronnie and said, “he’s a lunatic but I love him.”

And he disagreed with O’Sullivan’s assertion that snooker could never enjoy the financial success of golf.

“For years, the lunatics have been running the asylum,” Hearn said. “Things have to change and if they do then, in time, we can get to where golf is. One day the World Championship could have a £1m first prize.

“But we all have to work together. All the whinging, moaning mediocrity has to stop. We need to be uplifted. You have to love what you do every second.”

Hearn assured traditionalists that the World Championship will not be messed with, although he is considering musical walk-ons.

“You don’t change the crown jewels,” he said. “You put the World Championship at the top of the pyramid and build everything else around it.”

Higgins and O’Sullivan were once teenage newcomers chancing their arms at the game they had taken up as boys in the height of the UK snooker boom.

They are now two of the game’s leading ambassadors and best known faces. This comes easier to Higgins but O’Sullivan did his round of interviews as well and the day proved to be a good advert for snooker and the direction in which it is heading.

I asked Ronnie if he could see himself going to the Crucible at the age of 52 like Steve Davis. “Yeah, to watch,” he said, incredulous at the idea he would still be playing then.

Despite his well documented blow-ups, you can tell that, deep down, his love for snooker is still there, even if it isn’t there all the time.

A word on the podcast with Hearn, which should be available to download this evening: this was done after he had completed his other media interviews and, because he had meetings to get to, was slightly shorter than I had envisaged.

I didn’t have time to ask all of the questions sent in but got through a fair few in rapid fire fashion.

Alas, I neglected to press record until ten or so seconds into his first answer, so it starts with him in mid sentence. I’m not sure podcasting is going to be a new career for me.

I’ll give Hearn the last word because, like everyone else, he can’t wait for the 17-day Crucible marathon to begin.

“The World Championship is the cream on the cake,” he said. “It’s the reason professional snooker players play the game. It’s up there with the other top events in sport.

“The royalty of our sport will gather in the snooker city of Sheffield and it’s going to be fantastic. We can show the world that we can still deliver great sporting drama.”



The manner in which Mark Williams won the China Open title for a third time yesterday served as a reminder of just how good he is when playing at the top of his game.

This was the sort of snooker Williams was producing in that golden period a decade ago when he was world no.1 and captured all of the game’s major titles.

What a difference a year makes. Last season he had to go to Prestatyn to play in the qualifiers having dropped out of the top 16 after a terrible run of results.

His confidence was low and there was a danger he would carry on sliding away while his contemporaries John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan continued to be successful.

But Mark has always loved snooker and rededicated himself. The results came and he immediately earned promotion back into the elite group.

This season he reached the Grand Prix semi-finals, the same stage of the Wembley Masters and the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open.

In Beijing Williams beat Jamie Cope, Higgins, Marco Fu and Ali Carter and produced a fantastic final session display against Ding Junhui in the final, winning six of the seven frames played to complete a 10-6 victory.

His quarter of the Crucible draw includes Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby, Stephen Hendry, Liang Wenbo and Ken Doherty so it will be a hard slog if he is to land a third world title.

But on this form nobody will want to play him, at the World Championship or anywhere else.



It's been four years since Mark Williams last appeared in a ranking tournament final - far too long for a player of his class.

Williams has been solid all week and seems to have rediscovered his self confidence after returning to the elite top 16 having dropped out two years ago.

He has won five ranking titles in Asia, including the China Open in 2002 and 2006.

But Ding Junhui will be tough to beat. The 23 year-old Chinese is appearing in his third ranking event final from the five tournaments staged so far this season.

There would be no more popular winner in China. He looks completely in control, match sharp and relaxed and is playing well enough to emulate his 2005 Beijing triumph.

Ding is up against one of modern snooker's toughest ever match players but, if he stays positive, can outlast Williams today.

Win or lose, a huge viewing audience in China is guaranteed.

NB: The final session is live on Eurosport 2.



The Snooker Scene podcast is returning for a special edition featuring Barry Hearn.

And I will be putting questions from readers of this blog directly to the new WPBSA chairman.

So if you have any queries regarding his new plan for the future of the sport or any other snooker releated issues then drop me an email at snookersceneblog@aol.com.

The deadline for entries is 6pm on Tuesday.


Mark Allen beat Ding Junhui 6-0 to win his first professional title, the Jiangsu Classic, in China last summer.

However, since then Ding has landed the UK Championship crown and has played very well in Beijing this week.

Roared on by a large partisan crowd, he is edging closer to repeating his 2005 China Open success.

There would be no more popular victory in China, but Allen enjoys the big occasion and has what it takes to spoil the party.

Mark Williams has evoked memories of his early 2000s peak in reaching the semi-finals but will have to play well again to see off Ali Carter, Mr. Consistency over the last two years.

Carter has moved through to the last four in a quiet, unfussy manner. It’s his seventh ranking event semi-final appearance from the last seven tournaments.

Williams, though, has always enjoyed tournaments contested outside of British shores.

He has won five of his 16 ranking titles in Asia, including two China Opens.

Ding v Williams looks the most likely final based on what we’ve seen so far this week.



Stephen Hendry's 5-0 demolition of Ryan Day passed almost unnoticed in yesterday's excellent second session at the Sanyuan Foods China Open that saw a 147 for Neil Robertson, the exit of world champion John Higgins at the hands of Mark Williams and a quite simply brilliant match between Ding Junhui and Mark Selby.

Hendry is through to his first ranking event quarter-final since last season's Betfred.com World Championship.

His opponent is Mark Allen, a feisty, highly talented Northern Irishman who reached the Crucible semi-finals last season.

Hendry and Allen play the same sort of game, so it will be an open, attacking and hopefully entertaining encounter.

Hendry's problem for the last few years has been consistency. He's played very well in some matches but been unable to keep it going throughout whole tournaments.

Allen can also blow hot and cold and tends to get down on himself when things aren't going well, but he's terrific to watch and will surely win a ranking title sooner rather than later.

Ding very nearly let things slip against Selby when he missed the blue clearing up to win 5-2 but prevailed in a nervy eighth frame to ensure it was a happy 23rd birthday.

When he beat Peter Ebdon 5-0 in the 2005 China Open, a somewhat insensitive Chinese journalist asked the 2002 Crucible champion the following question:

'Mr. Ebdon, how come you win the World Championship?'

His deadpan response was, under the circumstances, creditable. 'I was lucky,' he said.

Of course, the true answer is because Ebdon allied his talent to a never-say-die attitude and ability to play well under pressure.

Even so, with crowd support Ding will fancy his chances again.

Williams impressed, as he has for most of the season, in taking out Higgins and will start favourite against Marco Fu.

Ali Carter has crept through to the quarter-finals without much fuss and faces his fellow Essex man Mark King, a player who is always difficult to beat.

Their match could become quite drawn out. Then again, it might not but I wanted to shoehorn in a reference to 'the long Good Friday' before ending this post.



Firstly, a word on yesterday's Ronnie O'Sullivan debacle (if anyone wants to know Saturday's lottery numbers, drop me an email).

If I was able to provide a full psychological report on O'Sullivan I'd be earning a fortune in this field rather than getting up before the start of GMTV to write a snooker blog.

Only Ronnie knows what was going through his mind as he played that black but it did him and the sport no favours at all.

Mark Williams plays in today's second TV match against John Higgins.

When Williams was 12 his dad, a miner, took him down a South Wales coalmine for a shift to show him what life might be like if he didn't apply himself at snooker.

Young Mark was petrified by the experience and so you won't hear him complaining about having to fly around the world to earn big money potting balls. He knows what life might have been like.

Williams has won two China Opens and is back to the sort of form this season that suggests he could capture a third.

Higgins, of course, is as tough a second draw as is possible to get. They clashed at the same stage of the Shanghai Masters last September, shortly after Williams had broken his wrist. World champion Higgins won 5-1 but I'd expect it to be closer this time.

Ding Junhui faces Mark Selby, who beat him in the last 16 of this season's Wembley Masters.

The winner of this one may well go all the way to the final. Selby has a great reputation in the sport but has still only won one ranking title. It's about time he won another.