This is the 39th staging of the Masters and the tournament has aged well judging by the first day’s play yesterday.

I’d better start by saying something nice about Neil Robertson as he reads the blog and took exception to me calling him a grinder in a match in which he was grinding earlier in the season.

Robertson trailed Ding Junhui 5-3 and would surely have lost 6-4 had Ding got on a red from a split in frame ten. He didn’t and Robertson launched a gutsy comeback, eventually winning the decider in a single visit from Ding’s break-off in the decider.

This was snooker of the very highest quality, an exciting match played in front of a near capacity Ally Pally crown.

What struck me was how broad an audience it was, encompassing all ages and backgrounds. In a way, this is snooker’s problem. Its audience is so broad that sponsors find it hard to target any particular social group, unlike in sports regarded as more middle class like golf and tennis.

This is why Judd Trump and others are wrong to say the snooker audience should become more like those at darts. If snooker is to attract the prize money levels Trump wants then going downmarket is entirely the wrong strategy. Blue chip companies want to appeal to crowds they feel have money to spend, namely on their products. Football began to attract these companies when it started catering to the ‘prawn sandwich brigade’ as Roy Keane famously once put it.

Also, it’s a fallacy to suggest that because the crowd is silent that they aren’t involved in the match. Quite the opposite is true: they are silent precisely because they are involved in it.

I was watching the wrapt faces yesterday as they hung on every ball of the Robertson-Ding match. Their silence helped add to the tension and drama, not detract from it. There were a number of kids in the audience plus plenty of people in their 20s, the very people we are told time and again that don’t like snooker.

The sport suffers from great prejudice and misrepresentation but anyone at the Masters yesterday can see it is in very good health.

So to today...


Higgins and Carter were the respective winners of the two groups of Championship League snooker last week and they both played very nicely indeed.

But the Ally Pally is of course a different setting to Crondon Park and it’s a case of reproducing that form on a much bigger stage.

Higgins has a poor record in a tournament he has nevertheless won twice. In 18 previous Masters appearances he has lost ten times in the first round.

Why is this? Some players don’t settle in a particular venue. This though is a relatively new home for the Masters and Higgins reached the semi-finals a year ago.

Carter has only beaten him twice and though he is playing well, Higgins on form is so tough to beat.

PREDICTION: Higgins to win 6-3


Everyone is waiting for Maguire to win another big title. Most would agree that he’s too good for it not to happen soon.

He knows Dott well and he also knows that the former world champion returned to some sort of form by reaching the last European Tour final in Germany.

But Dott’s general form has not been good for the last year and he was deeply disappointed by how things were going when he exited the UK Championship last month.

There won’t be any quarter given here between these two competitive Scots, hardened match players both. But Maguire has to start favourite.

PREDICTION: Maguire to win 6-2


Ryan said...

Good Morning David;

It was quite a start to the Masters, yesterday, and as you and Mike said in commentary let's hope this is the standard of things to come this week.

Off the subject of the Masters, is anyone else experiencing problems when logging on to the World Snooker website?

I have tried 3 times in 3 days, only to be advised by AVG that it has protected me from an Exploit Rogue Scanner (type 1929) and closed the page down.


Monique said...

At the MSI of the Robbo-Ding match I was walking in the middle of the audience (taking some pics ;) ) and there was a real buzz. I heard at least three different persons telling their mates that they really wanted this one to go the distance. But then this was a really good match - even Ding was assertive and insisted that he played well when facing the (largely Chinese) media afterwards. Both players were going for their shots without showboating.
I remember the Walden vs McLeod match at the Crucible though, and there a significant part of the audience left at the MSI in one of the sessions. I know that there must be space for all sorts of playing styles, but, still, that match was painful on all accounts and certainly not attractive to the general public.
Obviously the "solution", if any is needed, is not to get the crowd drunk and rowdy. Even at exhibitions it usually annoys the players who try to entertain by showing their skills.
Personally, and it's ONLY a personal opinion, I'd like to see zero tolerance to "deliberate waste of time". It's in the rules. I know it's hard to judge, but that's why referees have discretion and I'd like to see a clear message from the authorities that they would be backed if they decide to call a warning on a player they found guilty of it. Snooker referees have the highest ethic standards and I'm sure none of them would call this lightly: they would take all factors into account (circumstances, natural pace of the players, situation of the balls on the table etc…)

Jonathan said...

I took my daughter to the Robertson-Ding match and she loved everything about it - from the warmup with Rob Walker down to the doubled red by Robertson once the match was won.

You don't know if people will like these events until you try it, but at £15 per ticket it was a lot cheaper than Alton Towers (and a lot warmer). We'll be back next year

Anonymous said...


I have twice in 4 days had AVG warn me after logging onto the World Snooker site.

If this a mistake then they need to correct it. If it is not a mistake then somebody from World Snooker needs to explain what is going on.

Anonymous said...

When the BBC suddenly stopped showing the Robertson match at 5pm on Sunday (to show skiing), after I got over the surprise, I quickly logged onto the website to see the final frame.

Clearly a lot of people did because the web in this part of Nottingham ground to a halt, or maybe the BBC servers couldn't cope.

I hope viewers enjoyed the nth repeat of Eastenders on the Red Button at the same time.

Thanks BBC.

Ray said...

I know I'm repeating myself here but it happened again last night. Allen found himself tight up against the black side cushion and was unable to get the rest in. He seemed to get a little frustrated and then played a much harder pot which fortunately he got. Not carrying the little crosspiece that Steve Davis uses will cost somebody dear one day. You just need to put in on the rest (as if to use instead of the spider) and turn the crosspiece over - you are then playing above the cushion.
Wise up guys, it hardly requires much effort to include in your kit and it could mean the difference between making a 147 or cost you an important match.

Dave - what is the capacity of Alexandra Palace?

Anonymous said...

One positive - the BBC's run down of 'the season so far' - it was fantastic to see how many professional tournaments there were to report on - not so long ago there were only 8 tournaments in the whole season so great progress has been made.

I can only assume that Judd is trying to make sure of headlines with his reference to the Darts. If he really wants drunk people singing all the way through his matches (and whistling and shouting 'miss' before important shots, like at every major PDC event) then why didn't he enter the Shootout.....

Regarding 'targeting' of events in the uk, the reality is that Matchroom sport are afraid of thinking outside their own comfort zone - which is why their events are clones of each other in different sports. Successful events overseas are run by other promoters, and it needs somebody with vision to run another event in the UK. The problem is that 20+ years of snooker infighting means there is no-one who would be prepared to do this...

Anonymous said...

Yes, I've been having the same problem as Ryan at 9.04

Dave H said...

I think the capacity is about 1,700. We're commentating from the arena.

Anonymous said...

Thoughts from the venue yesterday. mostly very good but
- The TV studio is visible from the audience: we were treated to the two Steves eating through several frames.

-Nobody seems quite sure what is/isn't acceptable during toilet breaks, some of which were quite long...

-Some people insist of giving their own commentary to their neighbours. Are the earpieces to blame for that with people forgetting they're not at home?
(Someone saying 'what a w**ker' when Ding messed up a positional shot, was a lowpoint.)

NewsfoxSport said...

Yeah darts road is not the answer - with 6reds and short formats (fives or even best of one) and even team snooker you have a lot of ways to freshen things up.

A lot of work needs to be done to show sponsors what snooker can bring. I have said this time and again but darts is snooker's rival and therefore Barry's role at PDC is not good for our sport. Every sponsor they get, snooker should be going after.

I'd target beer firms, quirky brands and maybe even clothes in certain tourneys.

Middle class cycling obsessed channel controllers don't help.

j said...

Hi David. A good standard to today's firstmatch. Higgins .V. Carter.

Higgins in first, misses. Carter makes a great clearance, to lead 1-0. Carter wins frame 2 after needing two snookers. Amaizing. 2-0. Higgins wins the next two. 2-all, at the mid-session interval. Higgins wins the fifth with a great 117 break, to lead, 3-2. He makes it a fouur frame-winning streak, winning the sixth, to go 4-2 up. Carter wins the seventh. 4-3. Higgins wins a proctracted eigth frame, to lead 5-3. Carter in with 54, in the ninth, misses a pink. Soon after, Higgins clears with 65, for a 6-3 win. as you predicted David. Well done on your'e prediction.

This sets up a clash between Higgns .V. either Murphy or Walden in the Quarter-Final.

Ican not wait for the match tonight. Maguire .V. Dott.

Anonymous said...

re 2:49 were they eating Pizza?

When we go to Sheffield, Hazel's table sometimes has empty pizza boxes under it - I'm sure it's not Hazel so maybe it's the lads....

The bubble is a bit silly isn't it.

Anonymous said...

Just on Trump's comments - one of the things he said was that fans should be allowed to chant between frames.

Well, who's ever tried to stop them?


Hi David. Snooker in mind. Today, would be Bill werbeniuk's 66th Birthday. He was born on 14-01-1947. Today, is 14-01-2013. R.I.P and happy birthday, to him

Anonymous said...

Agree re the crowd. At the pdc darts the sport was great but crowd singing "stand up if you love the darts" during a match proves they are not involved in it.


Hi David. Maguire .V. Dott. Dott starts off well. A 61, to lead 1-0. He won the next. 2-0. Maguire raised his game, to win the next threein a row, ann lead, 3-2. Dott respondedwell, to win the next two frames, and go 4-3 up. Dott made 39, in frame eight, then a catalogue of mistakes from both, lead to Maguire missing a red, and in frustration, he concedes, while still able to win the frame.Maguire, may, possibly, be fined for this. Dott is two up with three to play, leading, 5-3.

In the ninth, Maguire is first in with 56, is unlucky in potting a red, later, to lose position. A foul from Dott, Leads to Maguire taking the frame. 5-4 to Dott.

In the tenth, Magire in, after Dott misses. A superb first red from Maguire, leads to a break of 131. A frame-winning break. A total clearance. It's 5-all. All on the decider.

In the 11th and deciding frame, Maguires misses a long-red. Dott is first in. he makes a break of only 7, misses a black from it's spot, the first shot of this desciption, he missed in the entire match. From there, Maguire makes a break of 26. After this, Maguire, leaves a red on. Dott misses, Magire misses a togh yellow, with the rest. He leaves Dott a chance. Dott misses and gets away with it. Dott, later pots a great red, folloed two shots later, by refusing another tough red. Then , A nightmare. the score-board has a malfunction, which, thankfully, is quickly resolved. After missing a tough long red maguire leaves dott a chance, which he makes another small break. He leaves Maguire a chance. He misses a long red. From there, Dott leads by 12 points. A safety duel on the last red is won by Dott. Maguire, lucky to cover the red, over a pocket. Dott pots it. He is to extend his lead to 18 points. Maguire misse a tough long- yellow. Dott pots it. He leads by 20 points. He lays a snooker, which Maguire successfully escapes from. Later, maguire, in playing safe off the green, is unlucky to pot the pink, by accident. That left him needin a snooker. Dott, eventually gains a long and drawn-out, tough and well deserved 6-5 win, at just before midnight.

What a match. A great second day's play, in my view. I can not wait for more. Tomorrow.

The Blog said...

I feel Stephen Maguire's petulance doesn't enhance his winning potential. He's got all the talent in the world but he tends to hit the table with his head (!), bangs his fist on the cushions, when he misses certain shots. If he could control his anger/frustration he might achieve more in the game.