A good time – in some cases a very good time – was had by all those who attended the World Snooker Awards at the Dorchester in London last night.

It was disappointing that more top players did not attend but understandable that at the end of a busy season several wanted to spend more time with their families.

Ronnie O’Sullivan was named player of the year by World Snooker and the game’s leading journalists but in a fans’ vote on worldsnooker.com that honour went to Judd Trump.

Stuart Bingham won the performance of the year award for his dramatic capture of the Australian Open, his first world ranking title.

Luca Brecel was named rookie of the year for becoming the youngest player to compete at the Crucible.

The magic moment of the year was Stephen Hendry’s maximum on his final Crucible appearance.

O’Sullivan certainly deserved his awards. He was the only player to win two ranking titles, also won two PTCs and the Premier League and of course ended the season as world champion.

He took part in two of the campaign’s best matches: the final of PTC9, in which Trump beat him 4-3, and the final of the German Masters, where he beat Stephen Maguire 9-7.

I think the best match of the season was the UK Championship final, in which Trump beat Mark Allen 10-8. William Hill probably agree. Barry Hearn last night revealed they will be sponsoring the tournament for another two years.

It was a long but thrilling season of snooker in which several players took their chance to shine.

Allen won his first ranking title. Stephen Lee returned to form in a major way. Neil Robertson added to his title haul, most notably at the Masters.

Some of the older players struggled. Mark Williams didn’t look the same after losing in the final of the Shanghai Masters. John Higgins had a very poor campaign. Hendry took the decision to retire.

There were various controversies, mainly involving people saying things they would later regret but for all the arguments and grievances in the sport, which you get in any sport, it is refreshing that the bad old days of internal politics are over.

There was more snooker on TV than ever before and record audiences were reached around the world.

Live streaming, for so long talked about, finally arrived and brought home the drama of the qualifiers.

Players’ work loads have dramatically increased but so too has the amount of money they can earn.

Hearn is serious about filling the calendar in the manner of golf and tennis. He has made a spectacular impact on the sport – as he will tell you himself – and has been having discussions about even more tournaments in the next two years.

So the season is over but it all starts again next week with Q School. Good luck to all involved in this. It would be good to see some new, young faces coming through.

Like O’Sullivan, I am taking a break, but not for as long. The new season will be upon us very soon, with all the drama that it will inevitably entail.



The World Championship is always eagerly anticipated, always a great treat for snooker fans, but some are inevitably better than others.

The 2012 championship wasn’t the best ever as some have claimed but had many moments of drama on and off the table.

Stephen Hendry supplied the first on the opening afternoon with his third Crucible maximum. He drubbed John Higgins in the second round, was drubbed himself in the quarter-finals and promptly retired.

This was a dignified decision by a great champion. The ovation he received before last night’s final session was heartfelt.

Less dignified was Mark Allen, whose first round exit was followed by another rant at the Chinese.

More interesting, if less newsworthy, was the fact that Allen joined a list of tournament winners from this season in falling at the first fence.

Ding Junhui was another, as was Stephen Lee. Mark Selby also lost although was severely hampered with an injury.

There were new faces too. Luca Brecel provided signs of potential. Cao Yupeng reached the second round.

Jamie Jones was one of the real stars. I admired his attitude as much as his game (and of course his quiff).

Jones produced a gutsy display to reach the quarter-finals, mixing some mature tactical play with fearless potting. He is one to watch.

Players who had failed to pull up many trees during the season found form. Ryan Day reached the quarter-finals; Matthew Stevens was a semi-finalist.

Ali Carter did himself proud. He won the match of the tournament to beat Judd Trump 13-12 from 12-9 down. In that match and all others he displayed a steely determination.

How different his emotions must have been compared to a few months ago when, beset by ill health, he said he would retire.

There was no disgrace in losing to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final. O’Sullivan was disciplined throughout the 17 days. His focus never wavered.

I think it did him a favour drawing Peter Ebdon in the first round. It meant that he came to Sheffield mentally prepared for a tough time.

His very first frame went to a re-spotted black. It seemed he held the upper hand right from the moment he potted it.

O’Sullivan had a very difficult route to the title: three world champions followed by two runners-up.

I think he would have beaten anyone in the game playing the way he did. Perhaps the last few days were not as exciting as in previous years because there was a sense of the inevitable that O’Sullivan would win, but that’s hardly his fault.

So the Crucible reverts to its day job as a theatrical venue and the snooker season ends.

I hope all those who have worked so hard to make it all happen enjoy whatever breaks they are afforded before it all starts again. Q School is coming and the Wuxi Classic qualifiers are less than a month away.

Until then, let us bask in the memories of another World Championship and another great feat in the remarkable life and career of Ronnie O’Sullivan.



It was fitting that, 30 years after Alex Higgins tearfully embraced his baby daughter, Lauren, on the Crucible stage, Ronnie O’Sullivan cradled his young son, Ronnie junior, after winning a fourth world title tonight.

Higgins and O’Sullivan are cut from the same cloth, or more particularly baize: controversial characters loaded with charisma, brilliant at snooker, huge box office favourites but liable to invite scorn as well as acclaim.

Tonight saw another chapter written in the life and career of Ronald Antonio O’Sullivan. It was clearly a very satisfying one for a player much discussed but rarely bettered at his best.

Ronnie has lived a tumultuous life but away from the soap opera which surrounds him is actually a nice bloke. All he ever wanted to do was play snooker and it goes without saying that he is a brilliant snooker player.

I don’t agree that this World Championship is the best he’s ever played but it is arguably the most consistent. He has seemed serene throughout, keeping his discipline and his patience, determined to complete the job.

In all departments he has excelled: long potting, break building, safety, tactics and temperament.

He was right in what he said at the end. The World Championship is an endurance test. It requires stamina, both physical and mental. It is clear Dr. Steve Peters has worked wonders with this fractious, fragile spirit.

O’Sullivan did not announce his retirement in the arena. Instead, he said he would take a few months off.

That’s up to him. Players do not have to enter every tournament. He has been fined the last couple of years for entering events and then withdrawing but there is no edict as to how many competitions a player should enter.

The good news for O’Sullivan is that, as world champion, he will automatically be seeded second for every event (other than those in which he is defending champion).

Therefore, he can effectively have a free year playing in as much or as little as he likes.

He’ll defend his title at the Crucible next year. Why wouldn’t he?

Snooker is the glue which holds his life together. How else will he get the kind of buzz he experienced tonight?

O’Sullivan is one of those rare characters who transcends the sport in which he plays. He is a name known to those who don’t follow snooker closely.

Once again, he has put snooker on the map. He deserves nothing but praise for winning a fourth world title.

O’Sullivan already had a free pass to the pantheon of greats but he has just underlined what everyone already knew: that he is one of snooker’s all time legends.

What a player.



I've seen a lot of snooker in my life, probably too much, but I've rarely seen a more impressive sight than Ronnie O'Sullivan at his best.

He plays a seductive game with style and panache, at times spell binding, which can make what is a difficult sport look ridiculously easy.

But it only appears effortless because of all the effort he has put in.

O'Sullivan is often referred to as 'the most naturally talented player ever to pick up a cue.' This actually does him a disservice. It implies the game has always come easily to him. It implies he hasn't had to put the work in like everyone else.

His ambidexterity and quick thinking clearly suggests a natural aptitude for snooker but his success has been primarily due to sustained and purposeful practice at a young age.

As a boy, he had a full sized table in his house on which to practice. His father would arrange for leading amateurs and professionals to come and play him.

These are clear advantages to a rapid development in his sport. He's put the hours - no the years - in, unseen from the eyes of the public, and has got the rewards.

So how does Ali Carter stop him winning a fourth world title over the next two days?

The obvious answer is to pot more balls and win more frames. It won't be easy. O'Sullivan has never lost a world final and came to the Crucible this year looking focused, appearing calm and producing some superb spells of snooker.

In each of his four matches thus far he has conjured six frame bursts to pull away from his opponents. He has scored heavily but his safety has also been excellent. His discipline and patience has been exemplary.

Carter seems to have relied more and more on his tactical game, not pushing the boat out as much as in the past.

Players get unfair criticism from pundits who sometimes give the impression they have forgotten how hard championship snooker is.

If a player goes for a tough pot and misses they are accused of being reckless. If they close the shop they are accused of being negative.

Most players play the percentages but it's also about how confident they are feeling within themselves.

Carter has never beaten O'Sullivan in a televised match. A decade or so ago they practised together and Carter once beat him 18-2.

I think Carter's steel in Sheffield has been magnificent. He came into the tournament off the back of a bad season, his form affected by ill health, and so perhaps had lower expectations of himself than usual.

In his corner is Peter Ebdon, champion ten years ago, who seems a more than useful oracle with which to converse between sessions.

But Ebdon can't pot the balls for him. Carter is out there on his own, facing a fearsome force in the shape of O'Sullivan.

I wonder if O'Sullivan sees this as his last great hurrah in the sport. I hope not because he's clearly still good enough to have several more.

But he has already stated that the new packed calendar is not to his taste. He doesn't want to play every week. Last night, yet again, he floated the idea of retirement.

The speculation as to his future will doubtless begin on Monday night. Before that he has a world final to win, and Ali Carter has a formidable problem to solve. 



For the second time in his career, Ali Carter will appear in a world final.

Back in 2008 it was something of a frantic scramble. The adrenalin was pumping after his 147 and never stopped until Ronnie O’Sullivan beat him 18-8.

This year there have been some close matches for Carter but he has looked much calmer. After a disappointing season in which his form has been affected by ill health, he may not have had many expectations.

But he has played some very good, hard match snooker and duly got the rewards.

Ali always was a confident character as the Essex boys tend to be. I remember his big breakthrough at the Preston Guild Hall in 1999 when he beat Stephen Hendry, then world champion, in the Grand Prix.

It was clear then he had something about him: not only the game but a fearsome competitiveness.

This piece I wrote as part of my new season previews last June sums up my feelings on him as a player. I said then I would be interested to see if he land one of the game’s big three titles. I still am, and he has the chance to over the next few days.

If he did it would be a remarkable turnaround in fortunes: from a player who announced retirement earlier this season to world champion.

He’s played a tight game, weighing up the percentages not unlike his friend Peter Ebdon, who is in his corner.

If, as seems likely, he plays O’Sullivan again then Carter will start as underdog, but this will probably do him a favour.

He has played the tournament with great composure so far. He will need this mindset for the final to complete what would be one of snooker’s great stories.



All professionals can knock in long reds and make big breaks off them but nobody does it quite like Ronnie O'Sullivan.

He has an aura about him, a style of play which makes him intimidating. He intimidated Neil Robertson, himself usually so mentally strong, yesterday afternoon and by the time the Australian had regained his composure it was too late.

O'Sullivan is now well placed to win his fourth world title but although it is day 13 of 17, we are only actually halfway through the tournament in terms of frames won.

The four semi-finalists have each won 36 frames but the eventual champion will need to win another 35.

Logic may dictate that O'Sullivan wins it from here but it hasn't been a logical tournament.

If it was, Ali Carter wouldn't be in the semi-finals after his frustrating season in which ill health has affected his form.

But Carter is a great fighter and he held off young Jamie Jones well to reach a third Crucible semi.

His match against Stephen Maguire is likely to be a good, competitive affair. Both of these players wear their hearts on their sleeves and are prepared to dig in for the fight.

These are really long matches now: four sessions with plenty of time for the psychological momentum to shift.

Maguire was here once before in 2007 where his 14-10 lead over John Higgins was overturned into a 17-15 defeat.

He will want to make amends for that and is playing his best Crucible snooker since 2008.

Matthew Stevens hadn't shown much form coming into the championship but is through to his sixth Crucible semi-final. His defeats in the other three were all close, as were his two world final losses.

It's nine years since he's beaten O'Sullivan in a ranking tournament so it doesn't bode well.

But it's been an unpredictable World Championship so there's no reason to expect it to go to any script as we enter the final strait.



Jimmy White isn't at the Crucible this year, indeed it remains to be seen whether he will ever play there again in the World Championship.

But for many he is synonymous with the event, for the drama and rollercoaster ride he gave his many fans for the best part of two decades.

White turned 50 today. It doesn't seem that long since he was the pale-faced kid with a shot-making genius which rivalled that of his great friend Alex Higgins and the common touch which made him effortlessly popular with a generation of snooker fans.

The teenage White bunked off school to play snooker and his head teacher eventually condoned his truancy on the basis that at least he knew where he was.

White's talent was obvious and he became English amateur champion at 16 and world amateur champion at 18.

In his first season as a professional in 1981 he qualified for the Crucible, losing only 10-8 to Steve Davis.

The following year he played what remains one of the Crucible's greatest ever matches, poised for a place in the final at the age of 20 when he led Alex Higgins 15-14 and 59-0.

But Higgins produced a miracle match saving clearance and won the decider too to deny White.

Many felt it would only be a matter of time until the man nicknamed the Whirlwind won the biggest title of them all but it wasn't to be.

He came back strongly from 12-4 down to Davis in the 1984 final but was beaten 18-16.

It took White six years to reach another world final where the ultra attacking game he had pioneered and Stephen Hendry taken to another level was apparent by the speed of their match - average frame time 12 minutes.

Hendry won that one 18-12. In 1992 he came from 14-8 down to beat White 18-14. In 1993 he drubbed him 18-5 with a session to spare.

Then in 1994, the biggest sickener of all, when White snatched at a black at 17-17. Hendry, of course, cleared up again.

White had also lost to John Parrott 18-11 in 1991. There were to be no more finals, although he did gain a satisfying 10-4 first round victory over Hendry in 1998.

It would be wrong to define White purely by his six world final defeats.

He won the Masters in 1984. He was UK champion in 1992. He made a Crucible 147 earlier that year.

He won ten world ranking titles, including the 2004 Players Championship at the age of 41.

But more than all of that, he provided his vast array of supporters with an emotional connection to snooker. It wasn't about pure results, it was about the journey. It was about Jimmy.

White would never claim to have been a model professional. He had those essential flaws associated with the truly gifted. Maybe if he could he would go back in time and change the way he prepared for tournaments. But he can't. All he can do is look forward, and he does because he isn't finished with snooker yet.

He is still very popular on the exhibition circuit and of course he is still playing on the main tour. He practises hard and still loves the game as much as ever.

Snooker should raise a glass to Jimmy White on his 50th birthday. He remains one of the game's greatest characters: an irrepressible working class hero whose tumultuous thrill-ride through the decades has kept many a fan coming back for more.



Stephen Hendry’s 2012 World Championship started with a maximum and ended with a 13-2 drubbing to Stephen Maguire and his retirement from tournament snooker.

This was a typically newsworthy tournament for Hendry, who at 43 has taken the decision to put away his cue for good.

He is still better than most players on the circuit but not good enough by his own imperious standards.

All the plaudits and accolades coming his way tonight are heartfelt and well deserved but Hendry doesn’t need them. He has his unparalleled record of success to reflect on.

It was a surprise, spur of the moment Christmas present from his parents in 1982 which set the ball rolling for a remarkable career.

You don’t need me to recount the wins and the moments which have defined an entire snooker era.

Suffice to say that Hendry can walk away from his playing career with his head held high as the player whose achievements all others are still aiming for.

He was a truly driven individual who never allowed himself to get comfortable. Once he won a tournament he targeted the next one.

He once won five ranking events in succession. He was a relentless scoring machine who pioneered the modern, attacking era in which we now live.

As a man he has always been something of an enigma. It wasn’t only on the table where he kept his emotions hidden.

I’ve seen him rendered speechless by defeat but in his dealings with the media and in his role as a snooker legend he has been a great ambassador for the sport.

Like Steve Davis before him he has made the sacrifices necessary to be the best. Unlike Davis, though, he isn’t in love with playing but winning.

He has decided that he can no longer consistently produce a standard with which he is happy. His retirement is therefore understandable if regrettable. In many ways it is admirable. He is a realist. He has accepted his fate.

Ask any snooker player of the last 20 years and they will have nothing but respect for Hendry. His achievements will stand in time.

Good luck to him in the future. He will be working in China, will doubtless do BBC commentary and undertake exhibitions.

But there’s nothing like the visceral thrill of playing. And Stephen Hendry has thrilled many of us over the years with his talent, his guts, his uncompromising game.

He has chosen not to rage against the dying of the light by slogging around qualifiers but to make a typically dignified, unfussy exit from the stage he once owned.

This is surely the final triumph of the game’s greatest champion.


Three Welshman, two Scots, two Englishmen and an Australian will contest the quarter-finals of this year's Betfred.com World Championship.

With just eight men left standing, the fight for the title has intensified.

I think Ronnie O'Sullivan played the best snooker in the second round and is justifiably the title favourite with sponsors Betfred.

It seems by drawing Peter Ebdon in the first round O'Sullivan came to Sheffield with his mind highly focused on the job in hand.

However, anyone is beatable when the pressure is on. Mark Williams didn't put him under much pressure but Neil Robertson surely will.

Robertson is a terrific big match player with the skills to frustrate O'Sullivan. This could be a classic and I think the winner of the tournament will come from this quarter-final.

Ali Carter's recovery against Judd Trump must have been a very satisfying victory for a player who has struggled all season with health issues.

Carter has always been a feisty competitor and he dug deep to pull off what must rank as one of the best wins of his career.

Both players went out of their way to stress there hadn't been any needle out there. I must have been watching a different match. But snooker is the sort of game in which it is hard to keep emotions inside.

Never mind the Crucible, go into any snooker club and you'll see all manner of reactions and gesticulations, things said and untoward behaviour. It's easy to be well behaved watching on the TV.

Hats off to Jamie Jones for the way he reached the quarter-finals on his Crucible debut last night.

10-6 up to Andrew Higginson, the early part of the session saw him clearly tense and it was almost as if he needed it to go 10-10 to start playing well. And it did and he did.

His 135 for 12-10 got the confidence flowing and he killed it off well. What a ride the young man is on. And against Carter he will be the underdog - not a bad position to be in.

Matthew Stevens has form in these parts. He's through to his ninth Crucible quarter-final but first in five years.

At the PTCs he shares a room with Ryan Day. If either were sat at home they'd be supporting the other.

Playing a close friend is tough but there's a big prize at the end of all this: a place in the one-table set up.

Stephen Hendry used to be a certainty for this stage but he starts second favourite against Stephen Maguire, who is the favourite to reach the final from the top half.

Maguire spent long hours picking out balls for Hendry as a teenager in the club but learnt from the master.

As I said right at the start of the tournament, Maguire is due a good Crucible. He's having one.

Hendry has pulled up several trees already but will need to play his best to go further.

Can it happen? I wouldn't write the great man off, but at this stage of the championship players really need to produce the goods.