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Allen Stunned…

Jamie Clarke stunned top seed Mark Allen on Tuesday by booking his place into the second round of the 2020 BetFred World Snooker Championship.

Qualifier Clarke, who was making his debut at the Theatre of Dreams, joins three others who so far have qualified for the next stage of the event in Sheffield’s Home of Snooker.

JamieClarke
Jamie Clarke played some great snooker against Mark Allen…

He followed Thailand’s Noppon, who knocked out 2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy, as well as Kurt Maflin and Anthony McGill also qualifying for the next phase.

Today saw the remaining matches of the first round played to a close with qualifier Martin Gould defeating Tour Championship winner Stephen Maguire 10 – 3, leading 7 – 2.

frustrated Maguire was on for a maximum in one of the four frames he won to keep his hopes alive at 9 – 2 but broke down on 96.

it was the first time since 2011 that Gould had reached the second round of the main event.

Barry Hawkins also knocked out another Crucible debutant, Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher.

The young Swiss player started off well by making a break of 54 from his first shot and won the first frame, but we soon saw the 24-year-old was a very attacking player and went for too many shots as the Hawk pounced on his inexperience.

Clarke, 25, nicknamed the Welsh Whirlwind, told WST: “Never in a million years could I have dreamed of this,” said the Welshman. “I went into the qualifiers without a lot of confidence, just hoping to win one match. After that, I got on a roll. I am in shock at the moment. I went out there today to enjoy every minute and I was loving the experience.”

 

He added: “Mark was playing well and I was just trying to hang on to him, until the end when I had a chance to win. I will keep the same attitude in the next round and my belief is growing..”

Mark Allen said Clarke played out of his skin – despite the Northern Irishman racking up five tons.

He added: “For a debutant, Jamie played out of his skin. With no crowd there, it was difficult to put him under pressure. I made too many mistakes on the safety side.”

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Lisowski Feeling Blue?…

Qualifier Anthony McGill sunk a terrific long blue and then a pink in a decider to knock out top seed Jack Lisowski on Monday.

AM
Anthony McGill pulled right ahead of Lisowski in the match but was pegged back…

McGill, whose best run at the Crucible was in 2015 when he made his debut, clambered over the line in a gripping decider that went right down to the colours.

Lisowski gave away 16 points in fouls unnecessarily in the decider when McGill had put him in a relatively straightforward get out snooker.

JL
Lisowski had chances in the decider but couldn’t take them…

The decider was poignant because the two-time ranking event winner was 9 – 6 up on Jack Lisowski but it was Lisowski who clawed his way back to 9 – 9 with a barrage of breaks.

McGill is the second qualifier to make it through to the second round at the Theatre of Dreams along with Norway’s Kurt Maflin.

He told WST after: “When I was standing behind the blue, it was horrible. I didn’t have a safety shot. I had to strike it nice and pure and hope it went in. I hit it sweet as a nut but then I wasn’t sure it it was going to drop, and when it did I was so happy.”

 

The Scot, ranked 39,  added: “I enjoyed the battle. It’s good to be in that arena in a tight match, pitting your wits against one of the top 16. I felt Jack was always on top when we were on the blue, I was just trying not to leave him a pot. I love it here. I was just praying I didn’t lose in the qualifiers because I feel when I get to the Crucible I have a chance of playing well.”

WATCH THE BLUE BELOW HERE…

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The Claps…

Enter from stage behind, the fake claps…

IT was a dramatic first weekend at the Theatre of Dreams as the 2020 BetFred World Snooker Championship got underway.

As fans began to get used to the new set-up with no audience allowed in to watch the drama unfold, the tech crew came up with an obvious idea…

David Gilbert
David Gilbert had an emotional roller coaster last year at the Crucible but this year could not see off Norway’s Kurt Maflin in Round one.

Fake crowds clapping.

As the centuries started rolling in, with Neil Robertson and Tom Ford currently holding the high break of 140 between them, the noise of the fake crowds got louder and louder. Good job.

However, watching great shots by some players go without a clap is infuriating.

Watch these, and CLAP, CLAP, CLAP…

There was also a fresh addition to the BBC commentary team. A football commentator in David Farrar, whose low-pitched voice reminded SnookerZone of Ted Lowe’s whispering dulcet tones.

What has the tech crew backstage got up their sleeve, next?

It comes as big names such as John Virgo, famous for, “where’s the cue ball going? was unable to attend the venue due to being abroad.

The sad passing of Willie Thorne a few months ago is also another dramatic loss to the 17 days of action at Sheffield’s home of snooker in what is a very strange World Championships for a number of reasons.

  • It’s being held in summer
  • There are no audiences allowed in

Despite there being no crowds, some players are still feeling the pressure whereas others are basking in playing with freedom and knocking in big breaks.

Qualifiers Dropping like flies…

The 16 qualifiers, however, are dropping like flies this year in Round One as one by one the top seeds show that little extra to book their places into the second round.

However, for top seed David Gilbert, it wasn’t a procession into the second round as the former World Championship semi-finalist of last year, bowed out in a very close encounter against Norway’s Kurt Maflin, who stuck with Gilbert all the way until Maflin went 9 – 8 in front.

Gilbert had his chances in frame 18 but could not force the decider as The Viking, as he is nicknamed by MC Rob Walker clambered over the line and is the only qualifier so far to proceed into the last 16.

Maflin told WST after: “I felt like I played pretty well and pretty solid. I feel like I could have beat Dave 10-6 or something, and I made it a little bit hard for myself. It meant a lot as I think I have grown a little bit as a snooker player. My all round game is getting stronger, I feel like I can mix it up with anyone now.

 

He added: “I think this result will take off in Norway in terms of social media. I have quite a big following and fanbase behind me. There are many people interested and sending me good luck messages on Twitter. They are a real good bunch of people and I really appreciate all the support I am getting from back home in Norway.

Enjoy the first week of action, and remember, CLAP…

 

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Changing Times…

World Snooker Tour boss Barry Hearn has confirmed that from tomorrow the BetFred World Snooker Championship 2020 will be played behind closed doors.

Although, he said, that fans with final tickets should hold on to theirs a tiny bit longer. In this new world, things can change very quickly , he said.

You never know.

Judd Trump
Judd Trump finally got to walk down the Crucible steps as defending World Champion, 15 months after winning it in 2019.

The news came as Prime minister Boris Johnson announced live at 12PM in a Press Conference with the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty that there would be a squeeze on the brakes regarding the easing of lockdown measures as the R rate in England continues to rise again – particularly in the north.

Kyren Wilson gets a walkover…

KyrenWIlson
Kyren Wilson was set to play Anthony Hamilton at the Theatre of Dreams but gets a walkover to next round.

Today, was the beginning of snooker’s Blue Ribbon event as 31 of the best snooker players battle it out over two weeks to lift the World Championship trophy and the 500K first prize.

It was announced yesterday that the 49-year-old Sheriff of Pottingham Anthony Hamilton had withdrawn from the event due to health fears – as there have been mixed views from fans and players surrounding Hamilton’s decision to not compete in the final stages having qualified for the Crucible days ago at the English Institute of Sport.

Hearn, talking to the BBC in the sunshine from Sheffield, said regarding the news that the event would now not be allowed to welcome spectators, said: It’s a kick in the lower regions, but I’ve been kicked there before, and I’ll get kicked there again, but it is what it is.”

He added that you can either go and sulk in a corner or get on with the job in hand.

“This is the World Championships, and it’s going ahead, said Hearn.”

Love him or hate him, he’s our PM and he makes the decisions…

Hearn said everybody behind the scenes had worked hard to be able to make the venue Covid-19 safe for visitors to return to the Crucible, but added regarding the PM’s decision, love him or hate him, he’s our Prime minister and he’s the boss and he makes the decisions.

15 months after Judd Trump won his first World title, he finally walked down those famous Crucible steps to the main arena on Friday morning at 10 PM to albeit a very different set of circumstances in a modest 200 plus crowd to defend his title against Leicester’s Tom Ford in Round One.

It was almost the perfect start for Tom Ford, who was on for a maximum break in the first frame but twitched towards the end and over cut a black.

Six times World Champion Steve Davis said that without crowds there might be a very different standard of snooker, as there is a different kind of pressure.

Some players may need the buzz of an audience though, he said, whereas others may not need it so much.

But from tomorrow, the experience by the next bunch of first-round players will be very different as the Crucible is without audience members.

It was a proud moment for 25-year-old Ashley Carty from Rotherham, who got to walk out to his Crucible debut on Friday morning as well to the small but enthusiastic crowd. He will have enjoyed that moment in the Sun.

 

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World Championship Draw Announced…

The draw for the 2020 BetFred World Snooker Championship has been announced.

Current World Champion Judd Trump will face Leicester’s Tom Ford, who came through the final qualifying round last night along with 7 other lucky qualifiers who get to play at the Theatre of Dreams in Sheffield to make up 16.

Judd Trump
Judd Trump kicks off the World Championships with a tough encounter with Tom Ford.

The draw was announced live on Eurosport’s live stream at just gone 11AM with MC Rob Walker announcing the names and former 1991 World Champion John Parrott picking out the numbered balls.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s the first time a World Championships will have been hosted in the summer and the first time there will be a limited crowd in to watch 32 of the World’s best snooker players battle it out for the top prize of 500K.

On Tuesday, the final eight qualifiers were revealed with the likes of more golden oldies such as Matthew Stevens, who was denied a World title in 2005 by Shaun Murphy, who was the second player to win the title as a qualifier.

Blink and you’ll miss them…

Ronnie O’Sullivan is for the first time in a while NOT the favourite of the field as he will face the tour’s second-fastest player Thailand’s whirlwind Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in the first round. This is Un-Nooh’s third Crucible appearance.

Crucible debutant Jordan Brown will play the Jester from Leicester Mark Selby.

Mark Williams, who last won in 2018, incredibly won his third World title, 15 years after his second, will play golden oldie Scotland’s Alan Angles McManus.

It will be a case of youth v experience in many of the first- round encounters as the likes of Jamie Clarke, Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher and Jordan Brown et al all appear on the big stage for the first time in Sheffield.

MartinGould
Martin Gould comfortably saw off 2006 World Champion Graeme Dott in the final qualifying round at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

Martin Gould, who denied 2006 World Champion Scot Graeme Dott a Crucible place, who had only missed out on one Crucible  in 2014, will play Tour Championship winner Stephen Maguire, who’s big run in Milton Keynes secured him a top 16 spot.

Gould last night was emotional after his win with Dott and said that for him, lockdown had come at the right time when it did as he was struggling with some “demons,” but came through it.

Here’s the full list of who will be playing who in Round One.

Judd Trump v Tom Ford
Yan Bingtao v Elliot Slessor
Stephen Maguire v Martin Gould
Kyren Wilson v Anthony Hamilton
John Higgins v Matthew Stevens
David Gilbert v Kurt Maflin
Jack Lisowski v Anthony McGill
Mark Allen v Jamie Clarke
Mark Williams v Alan McManus
Stuart Bingham v Ashley Carty
Ding Junhui v Mark King
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Mark Selby v Jordan Brown
Shaun Murphy v Noppon Saengkham
Barry Hawkins v Alexander Ursenbacher
Neil Robertson v Liang Wenbo

SnookerZone wishes the 16 qualifiers who came through all the best and good luck. 

 

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Age Counts…

They say…

Age is just a number.

And in snooker, it is.

But it also counts for a lot when you manage to get to the sport’s most iconic venue The Crucible at a ripe age of nearly 50 – as have two “golden oldies” in Alan McManus and Anthony Hamilton.

The Crucible

The World Championship qualifiers have almost concluded at the English Institute of Sport as the first eight have booked their place to play on snooker’s big stage in Sheffield at The Crucible at the end of this month and into August. It will be 17 days of sweat, tears, and joy.

The final eight will be revealed today.

It’s the first time The World Snooker Championships will be played in a summer, due to the Coronavirus pandemic which struck UK shores in March and the government was forced to shut up most things from March through to June, with strict lockdown measures.

A Swiss First…

AlexUrsenbacher
Photo screenshot from World Snooker Tour website

Among those qualifying from the first batch is Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher, who particularly shone over four rounds of qualifying with wins over last year’s semi-finalist Gary Wilson and Andrew Higginson. The 24-year-old will be making his debut at the Theatre of Dreams.

Ursenbacher told WST; “To be the first-ever Swiss player at the Crucible is absolutely amazing,” said former English Open semi-finalist Ursenbacher, who knocked out Gary Wilson in the previous round. “I have always wanted to play at the home of snooker.  I’m surprised at how well I handled the pressure in the end.

 

He added: “I don’t care who I draw, I just want to go there and play and enjoy it. I just hope I don’t start crying. I am holding the tears back now, that’s how much it means.”

Two golden oldies with a combined age of 98…

Two “golden oldies” will grace the top stage in Sheffield in Scotland’s Alan McManus and England’s Sheriff of Pottingham Anthony Hamilton.

Both ironically are just coming up to their 50th birthdays as they are both the grand ages of 49.

McManus impressively reached the semi-finals of the 2016 World Championship but lost out to an all firing Ding Junhui, but it wasn’t all Ding, Ding, Ding in that match.

Both Hamilton and McManus’s pro careers span some 30 years.

The other qualifiers from the first batch include:

  • Norway’s Kurt Maflin
  • Noppon Saengkham
  • Ashley Carty
  • Liang Wenbo
  • Elliot Slessor

 

 

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NEW – Lynch’s CueBalm: Did SnookerZone like it?…

In snooker…

Some players often get sweaty hands and sticky cues and feel nervous in their cueing and their mindset.

CueBalm

This can lead to a far from smooth cue delivery and stress on the player. As the anxiety grows, so too can the stickiness and sweat.

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Belgium’s new young gun…

Belgian teenager Ben Mertens has become the youngest player to win a match at the World Championship in the qualifying rounds.

BenMertens
Following in Luca Brecel’s footsteps. Ben Mertens.

It comes as the 15-year-old demolished 24-year-old James Cahill, whom last year reached the Crucible and appeared as the first amateur and beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round but then lost to Stephen Maguire in the second.

Mertens joins in the records as his older compatriot Luca Brecel the Belgian Bullet was the youngest player to appear at the Crucible at the age of 17 in 2012.

The MC Phil Seymour, who does ITV4 snooker MCing, amongst other activities, commented on the win by the new Belgian teenage sensation.

He said: “At the Snooker Shootout last year, a few of us went to Parkrun on the Saturday morning. On our way back to the hotel at about 9:30 14-year-old Ben Mertens was stood outside the Watford Colosseum with his parents. He wanted to get inside so he could practice.

Seymour added: “Really pleased for him. Such a nice lad with a great attitude.”

LucaBrecel
The Belgian Bullet Luca Brecel won the Championship League in June.

Sweet victory…

It was a sweet victory for the young Belgian who raced into a 3 – 1 lead and then won another two after the mid-session interval at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, the home of snooker.

Cahill bounced back with a 90 break, but then a resilient and steely Mertens, mature beyond his years, held his nerve and strode over the winning line.

The cream of Devon’s Andy Hicks defeated the 12 times World Champion Reanne Evans in the first round.

14-year-old Ukrainian Julian Bolko could not beat the record now set by Ben, but fans saw a glimpse of what he could do in the EIS on the big stage.

The World Championship Qualifiers continue into day three and go on from the 21st to the 29th July. 16 players will qualify from four rounds for the sport’s main event at the Crucible from the 31st.

There will be an audience of up to 300.

Scot Stephen Maguire was the first player to win a ranking event The Tour Championship during a pandemic and lock down…

In sport…

Crowds play an enormous part in the drama. The suspense, the shocks, misses, tears, sweat and joy.

From this month small sporting crowds will be allowed back for a pilot test by the government, as announced by Prime minister Boris Johnson as he attempts to steer the country back to some kind of normality.

Will you be one of the lucky ones to be in there catching the drama?

The World Snooker Championships, set at the end of this month and well into August, a first, will play host to a small crowd, though it’s not yet known how many audience members will attend  – yet.

Snooker led the way back in June with live sport back on TV.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, fans saw the sport snooker lead the way back for live sport in June.  Snooker returned with the World Snooker Tour Championship League on June 1st behind closed doors. Other sporting events then followed suit. Snooker then staged its second event during the pandemic and lockdown, the major event the Tour Championship weeks later at the same venue in Milton Keynes.

From the 4th July, snooker clubs could technically open, but some confusion over their status led to them being opened days later than planned.

Racing, Cricket, Snooker, all trialling small crowds…

Now, in a bid to trial some normality to live sport, The Crucible will be able to host a small live crowd, along with the likes of Glorious Goodwood Racing in August.

Judd Trump
A lucky few will get to see if Judd Trump can survive the first round LIVE inside The Crucible at the end of the month.

The guidance is under the government’s stage one to five guidelines, and refers to the basic social distancing measures such as fans standing 2 metres apart if they can, and, where they cannot, standing 1 metre plus with mitigations. Presumably wearing a face-covering etc.

The strict guidance includes measures such as rigorous handwashing and sanitizers in place at the venue.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said: “For months, millions of us have felt the void of being unable to go to the match to support our team or attend a top class sporting event . So I am pleased that we are now able to help venues safely reopen their doors for fans.”

He added: “Although it will remain some time before venues are full to capacity, this is a major step in the right direction.”

The Crucible normally holds up to 1000 people.

 

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NEW – Pro Ball Shine: Verdict & Review…

In snooker…

There is only one product that is well-known for cleaning snooker balls.

And that’s the Aramith Billiard Ball cleaner. SnookerZone reviewed that a few weeks ago. You can read that review, here. 

Pro Ball Shine

ProBall Shine
A simple spray solution to cleaning and ridding balls of germs. Kill two birds in one stone.

However, a new product has just been launched onto the market called Pro Ball Shine, produced by a professional Welsh player Andrew Pagett, who won the Welsh Amateur Championship in 2005, and 2010. He was also a Crucible last 32 qualifier in 2010/11 season.

In brief conversation with PBS creator Andrew Pagett.

SnookerZone had a brief phone conversation with the creator of Pro Ball Shine Andrew Pagett about PBS and his upcoming appearance in the 2020 World Championship qualifiers.

Pagett, 38, got the idea for the cleaner when he was using the cleaning ball machine used by clubs and said the Aramith Ball cleaner was a cream that didn’t really work well with the machine. He then had the idea for a liquid-based solution based cleaner that could work well as a polish-cum-cleaner. The Pro Ball Shine product was born.

Pagett, who has just qualified back on the Main Tour, is also playing in next week’s World Championship qualifiers at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield. He plays Kacper Filipiak in Round One and says he is looking forward to it.

Pagett, who has grown up with the likes of Mark Williams, said: “I’m a much better player than I was back then (when he qualified for The Crucible in 2011). I could pot them from anywhere. But now I can play safe.”

 

He added: “I’m looking forward to doing some damage.”

When snooker clubs returned, there were to be strict guidelines in place for keeping staff and customers safe.

This product is not just a ball cleaner, it also claims to kill 99.99% of bacteria secretly lurking on your balls, as stated by the website.

This, in the current times, is something that a lot of people will find useful as they will not only be cleaning the balls but also ridding them of any germs. Killing two birds with one stone.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, deep cleaning has been ramped up by ALL companies, and sales of sanitizer products have gone through the roof.

For snooker, in this new normal, deep cleaning of equipment will be more important than ever.

The big slogan on the PBS website, says: “Bring Your Balls Back to Life!” But does it?

SnookerZone took it for a test drive and was given the chance to review the product. The only thing we had to pay for was the postage of under a fiver to have it delivered first class.

Did SnookerZone like Pro Ball Shine?

Pro Ball Shine is a very simple product. But very well marketed. When we first uncovered the product, we liked the fact that it came in a simple bottle and is very easy to apply. In fact, there is not a lot to it, really.

The directions are simple to follow:

  1. Shake the bottle well before use.
  2. Spray a little of the solution over your ball
  3. Leave it for thirty seconds to soak in
  4. Rub well with a paper towel or “clean” cloth.
  5. Then leave for a further few seconds to get air dry.

PBS is easier to apply than Aramith Billiard Ball Cleaner…

 

The brand name Aramith in snooker is well-known and well respected…

What SnookerZone liked about this product compared to the Aramith Billiard Ball cleaner though was the fact that it is a spray bottle. With the ABBC product, you have to “squeeze” the bottle for the cream-based solution to come out, and that can be a bit awkward, initially. It is also is difficult sometimes to control the right amount that comes out onto the ball.

But with the PBS, you can just spray on for quicker results.

Results…

When SnookerZone used it on a couple of snooker balls, the results were good. The balls seemed much fresher and less tired. Ironically, the balls also felt smoother as well.

PBS is not just for snooker balls…

Golf Ball
SnookerZone found an old golf ball lying around and PBS did indeed bring it back to life!

We also had an old golf Ball lying around that was fading a little and looking “tired and worn”. After a little PBS TLC, the golf ball was glistening after.

PBS and pricing: How does it compare to Aramith cleaner. Worth it…?

So how does the PBS compare to ABBC? Well, at £12.99 a bottle for the piece of mind of knowing it kills germs and also cleans your balls, it’s a fair price. Although it’s slightly more expensive than ABBC, only by a quid or two, it has all the marks of a great product. It does the job AND fast.

The big question…

Finally, the million-dollar question. Would SnookerZone buy ABBC, or PBS? That’s easy. It would have to be Pro Ball Shine. Why? Because we prefer spray bottles as they are easier to apply. Don’t get us wrong, ABBC is a great product, but if you just want quick easy to apply solutions in a spray, then opt for the PBS.

Shop now for either Pro Ball Shine or Aramith Billiard Ball Cleaner and try yourself. You decide.

GET STARTED NOW

 

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Time for a knockabout…

After days of confusion, and more than three months of patient waiting from 23rd March…

Snooker clubs in England have now got the official green light to re-open – provided they are Covid-19 compliant and secure.

If you’re in another part of the UK, the rules maybe slightly different and you may have to wait slightly longer.

CAT
During lockdown, coaches like Nic Barrow have still been on hand to help players with any issues or questions they have with their game by doing live webinars and Facebook Q&As.

The news comes as it was confirmed in Parliament that snooker clubs were always able to open on the 4th July, but the confusion lay around whether they were classed as indoor sports facilities, or social/entertainment  clubs.

In a statement on the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association website, (WPBSA) it was confirmed.

In clarity, Nigel Huddleston MP (Mid Worcestershire), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage at the Department for the DMCS said: “Sports and physical activity facilities play a crucial role in supporting adults and children to be active. Snooker clubs have been allowed to open since 4 July, as long as they can follow the COVID-secure guidelines.”

It comes as PM Boris Johnson announced the further easing of restrictions on the 23rd June which saw the Independence weekend with a big reopening of pubs, restaurants, cafes, hotels, campsites, and other venues.

However, other sectors such as the arts have not been allowed to reopen – yet.

Confusion now cleared up…

Some snooker clubs had already decided to re-open (without snooker tables in operation), following advice from their local health and safety executives, whereas others were patiently waiting for clarity from the government before re-opening the entirety of their business.

Section 1.3 0f the guidance for which businesses could re-open on the 4th failed to initially include snooker halls, but are now included under entertainment areas in the guidance. 

Clubs will be expected to undergo rigorous cleaning measures and engage in social distancing measures where appropriate.

For three months or more, fans and players have been finding inventive ways of keeping their cue arms going and some have been lucky enough to be able to isolate in their own snooker rooms. Coaches have been on hand helping players through online facilities such as Zoom calls and Facebook Live Q&As.

It must be said a BIG thank you to all the coaches who have been keeping players occupied and motivated during lockdown and providing much needed help in all aspects of the game.

Enjoy your first knockabout on the table ALL.