The first staging of the 888casino Champion of Champions event must be judged a great success and it proved a number of things:

Ronnie O’Sullivan is still the man to beat
O’Sullivan sailed close to the wind against the two players of the season so far, Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson, and did so again in the final against Stuart Bingham before going on to win the title. The key was his determination to dig in and graft when things weren’t going well. He kept his focus right to the end.

He’s an apt winner because, of all of last season’s champions, he stands apart. There’s no doubt that with O’Sullivan there is an intimidation factor which comes from his success, his personality and his general aura around the table. It’s hard for the other players to just play the balls and not the man.

Some players deny this but the facts, as at the Crucible last season, speak for themselves. Nobody has stepped up and convincingly taken him on now for 18 months. It will be interesting to see if anyone can at the UK Championship and the Masters.

I think of all the top players, Mark Selby is best equipped to do this because he can get under O’Sullivan’s skin, but he of course was a semi-final loser in Coventry.

There should be more invitation events
A number of top players said there should be more events – like this – for top players. They could be accused of self-interest but it doesn’t mean they aren’t right.

Not every tournament has to have a cast of thousands. Snooker works best as entertainment – which is what it should be when televised – when matches are evenly fought, and that happens when the players are evenly matched.

The general public – not those in the snooker bubble – don’t care about ‘fairness’ or ranking points, they just want to be entertained by the best in the world. Snooker historically mixed ranking and invitation events successfully. Let’s reward success more. Let’s reward achievement. Let’s give the top players more events like this.

They drive the interest which keeps the rest in a job.

You don’t need to have been world champion to be a good commentator
Sports broadcasting is not about what you’ve won but about how well you can communicate. In Clive Everton, Neal Foulds and Alan McManus, ITV4 found three of the best in the business.

Neal and Alan have both won major events but neither has been world champion. So what? They are each intelligent, knowledgeable and have excellent vocabularies. Their analysis was thoughtful and interesting. They mixed humour with genuine insight.

There was also discipline to the commentary because everyone knew what their role was: Clive was the lead commentator doing that information-led role and Neal/Alan the expert. It all made for an enjoyable, rewarding watch. ITV’s coverage was excellent.

Snooker in Britain is not dead
It has declined in interest and participation since the heady days of the 1980s snooker boom. The smoking ban was one factor but not the only one. Society has changed. Snooker is no longer a mainstay of terrestrial television like it once was.

But the idea that the sport in the UK is dead is nonsense. Crowds were good this week for a new event in a new place for snooker.

I am about as far from a little Englander as you can get, I can’t stand that parochial mind-set. I wanted snooker to go global many years before it did.

But neither do I want it forgotten that the UK is the place that built the professional game. It still has a place to play in this new era.

Barry Hearn knows what he’s doing
Hearn pulled this tournament together out of thin air. The nit-picking about the format before it began was quickly forgotten once it started.

Hearn deserves credit but he isn’t a one-man band. Sharon, Luke and the others at Matchroom organised and ran the tournament with their usual calm efficiency. They did their best to make it stand out with the set and slightly different dress-code.

Matchroom have a long record of giving people what they want, even when they don’t know they want it, and they can chalk this one down as another success story.


darya_rus said...

ITV coverage and commentary team has been superb, and the whole event just great to watch. Maybe it's a bit too close to Masters and may be moved a bit next year, but anyway. I enjoyed it a lot and looking forward to the next year.

Dave, is Ronnie at the Masters? He is supposed to be there as a world champion? Or what is the rule?

Dave H said...

He will be invited as world champion

Lyndsey said...

Too close to the UK Championship I think, but it was a great week. Good coverage, great venue, high quality play. More please!

Marlon said...

Yes agreed Dave. As I tweeted to your good self a little over enthusiastically- if broadcasting is an art form then Clive Everton is Mozart.
To the vast majority snooker is a TV sport only. Therefore the commentary means an awful lot to many armchair fans.
It was utter joy for myself and some friends to hear the king of commentators back where he belongs.
Interestingly, we're the younger end of snooker fans and what the BBC failed to see was that snooker does hold nostalgia for many people. When they show clips of old matches you will often hear Clive. This anchor to the past is to treasured and not pushed aside. BBC's loss is ITV's gain.
Long live Clive Everton.

Oh, erm... the snooker was good too.

ANON said...

ITV's coverage was the best thing about this tournament - so good it makes me cringe to think of the harsh lighting and 'stream of consciousness' commentary that we will have to endure during the UK (not to mention Hazel Irvine, the BBC wouldn't have her fronting anything else so why let her do snooker?)

Not convinced by the format, dress code (for me only Ronnie & Ali could carry it off) venue or title ("CoC"). The crowds were very very thin some days which flys in the face of the notion that people only want to see 'the best' (the reality is that there are only a handful of players people will come out to see, its the same all over the world)

jamie brannon said...

The event was a big hit as it we had quality throughout, no fodder. I also thought the event's format was different and helped shape the tournament's identity.

I've really enjoyed the commentary this week, but the adverts and studio coverage lessened my enjoyment.

I'm expect those in the 'snooker bubble' to give the BBC a bashing when the UK starts on TV this Saturday, but I'll try to refrain from defending the coverage!

As for Ronnie, he wasn't vintage yesterday, and relied heavily on Bingham presenting him with chances. However, his craft and resolve were enough to see him become an appropriate first winner of this event.

Totally agree with Dave about more invitation events as they rarely fail to deliver.

JIMO96 said...

Dave, you seem to have a real bee in your bonnet about "fairness". I'm all for rewarding the elite with tournaments like this, and I hope there's a couple more on the calendar soon, but the manifestly unfair tiered qualifying system for ranking events has gone and good riddance to it!

The flat 128 system will help players climb the rankings quicker than the old one, provided they keep winning. There are plenty of potential "elite" top 16 stars in the pro ranks who would have been swallowed up under the old system.

How come nobody suggested a "halfway house" qualifying structure (i.e not "flat", but not completely tiered either) in which the top 16 are seeded to the venue, but the rest of the tour commence at round 1? That way, the 17-32 mob would not get through with just 1 win, they'd have to slug it out with the rest. I fail to see what players outside the perceived "elite" have done in their careers to justify such over-protection.

It doesn't have to be nice neat numbers either....seed the top 16 into a 64 man event (48 qualifiers) or even the top 8 into a 32 man event (24 qualifiers) instead of endless tiers of 16/16/16/16 etc etc.

Does this fit in with your vision of "fairness"?

kildare cueman said...

Im a huge fan of the flat system, but Im in favour of a few big money tournaments for the elite.

This is the way I'd like to see the game go. Players battling to gain entry to the big ones.

There can be small untelevised rankers for lower ranked players, regular rankers with decent money, and top players wouldn't bother with the small events unless, like Murphy, they want match practise, or those at the edge of the 16 or 32 tiers, to give a little extra advantage.

You don't want too many invitations though. When there were plenty of them players didn't prioritise too much on them. Many tended to treat them as sharpeners for the ranking tournaments.

Another thing, Why do commentators refer to a player's record by how many rantking events they have won?

Surely it should be major pro tournaments. I mean, The Masters is more worthy than the Welsh or Wuxi events. Steve Davis won lots of major tournaments before rankers were widespread. O'Sullivan and Selby's records are also diminished by not counting them.

jamie brannon said...

Yes, how many professional tournaments has O'Sullivan won now? Surely has to be over fifty?

I think the problem counting all events is that a few minor events get mentioned too.

Wolfgang said...

Guten Tag!

I have really enjoyed the event. A couple of notes on the event itself: I have nothing against Jill Douglas, she could be good in time, but Matt Smith was excellent on Saturday and probably should have presented the final. Saturday's coverage was faultless, and the snooker was too. Secondly, loved the format, especially how each group day built to a natural climax.

What this event proves though is that we don't need a conveyor belt of snooker. The format should showcase the game, not "process" it. We got three matches a day, and each day seemed to produce at least one superb match. The final was probably the weakest day in quality to be fair. It's no accident that the Masters and Premier League feel more like "events" and this tournament felt more like those events.

I agree with some of the comments above that counting "rankers" is outdated, especially with the proliferation of the PTCs. Counting televised titles is probably a fairer reflection of achievement — Hendon you have said yourself on numerous occasions the cream tends to rise to the top when the TV cameras are on.