Fans will be able to watch the World Championship qualifiers on TV from next month – a first for snooker.
Coverage of one table will be streamed live and exclusive on Eurosport from July 21st – 28th as the World’s top professionals battle it out to reach the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
Since the coronavirus pandemic started in February and the government announced a major lockdown on March 23rd, live sport has been off the air for at least 78 days.
However, with snooker already having led the way by being the first sport to welcome back players to their jobs at the Championship League in Milton Keynes a week or so ago, there has been much talk and debate about whether snooker’s Blue Ribbon event the World Championships would go ahead at all.
But the qualifiers, which have only ever been streamed online on Eurosport Player, will now be on both the Player and the TV.
Snooker boss Barry Hearn said; “The Betfred World Championship is a massive event and the qualifying rounds are very much a part of it.”
He added: “There is a wonderful sense of drama and anticipation as players battle for a place at the Crucible. Matches can make or break a season.”
This confirms, for now, depending on outside forces with Covid-19, that the World Championship is on for the moment.
Tour Championship Returns…
The news comes as tomorrow, snooker sees the return of its ranking event coverage with eight players on the one year list battling it out for a 150K first prize.
Judd Trump leads the field…
Back in March, World number one Judd Trump won his record sixth ranking title in Gibraltar, and will be leading the field with the likes of Neil Robertson, Mark Selby and John Higgins in Milton Keynes at the Marshall Arena.
Ronnie O’Sullivan did not qualify for the Tour Championship.
Once the Tour Championship has ended, the 16 seedings for the Crucible will be announced with the 16 players being exempt from the qualifiers and those at the qualifiers will battle it out to become the remaining 16 to play the top 16 at the Crucible.
Coverage of the Tour Championship will be on ITV 4 with the same set-up as at the Championship League.
He was a former professional player who won one ranking event in 1985 and reached the final of the UK Championship against Steve Davis the same year.
In his later years, Thorne was a BBC pundit and commentator on the three big tournaments, the UK, Masters, and World Championships.
Although much has been documented about the former 85 Classic ranking event winner and past gambling issues, he was much admired around the snooker circuit and enjoyed the company of other legends on the circuit.
Players on all the snooker circuits paid tribute on their social media profiles…
Tour pro Mike Dunn said: “RIP Willie Thorne. You did a huge amount for snooker on and off the table and it was a pleasure to call you a friend.”
Aaron Canavan, a former World Seniors Champion, said: “Very sad to hear Willie Thorne has passed away. He was so nice to myself and Jack Shields at the Seniors Events and one of the most genuine people you could ever meet. RIP Willie. Snooker has lost one of its greats.”
The Leicester potter got to walk out at the Crucible for the last time last year on the World Seniors tour, headed up by Jason Francis, and he showed he still had some Willie magic on a 12ft by 6ft table.
On the World Seniors Facebook page, it wrote: “Everyone at World Seniors is devastated to learn of the passing of the great WT. After 27 years of not playing, Willie picked up his cue again on the Seniors Tour and got to walk out at the Crucible last August, which I know meant a lot to him. RIP Mr Maximum.
Thorne will be remembered for so much he did for snooker and the juniors.
Only last year, he had had a coaching session with a very talented youngster called Dylan Smith, who got to receive some pearls of wisdom from the very well-liked and knowledgeable Thorne.
Hopefully, the pearls of wisdom will serve Dylan well and he will take that knowledge with him forever.
In the early days of the snooker BOOM, he will be remembered for appearing as one of Barry Hearn’s Matchroom boys in the song Snooker Loopy written by Chas and Dave. Thorne also appeared in the comical Romford Rap video with the other Matchroom Mob. See video…
Leicester’s snooker scene mourns the loss…
In Leicester’s hotbed of snooker…
Stars such as Mark Selby, Ben Woollaston, and other older players all grew up and rose through the ranks of the amateur scene with the help of Thorne and his brother Malcolm, who ran one of the clubs in the town.
At last week’s Championship League, fans witnessed five-times World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan with a full mustache which later he revealed was a tribute to the late Mr Maximum.
That missed blue against Steve Davis in 85…
Forget the missed black by Jimmy White in 94 against Stephen Hendry. Or the black that Ken Doherty missed to complete a maximum, Thorne will also be remembered on the table for his missed blue in the 85 UK Championship final against the Nugget Steve Davis. See video…
Snooker Coaches pay tribute…
SnookerZone has interviewed a few coaches on here, and some of them have paid tribute to Thorne in their profiles.
Neil Johnson, is a well-respected coach in the Liverpool area, and has just seen one of his students Sean Maddocks, secure a Tour card for WST, and has a very well-run junior set-up at Scotties Snooker Club,
He said this in his social media tribute:”Very sad news over Willie Thorne today. As well as being a big character from the Golden Age of the 80s, for me, he was one of the players who brought a brand of prolific, heavy scoring onto the practice table that helped modernise the game.
He added: “As up-and-coming juniors, we would hear of how many maxi’s he was racking up and it would inspire us to be better around the black spot. He’s definitely played his part in how the game is played today.”
Although SnookerZone never met Willie Thorne in person. We did spot him wandering around the Crucible in Sheffield one time a couple of years ago in a leather jacket, (we like to watch people) and witnessed his charming wit and willingness to mingle with the fans and chat with them and have a laugh and banter. There appeared to be no airs and graces with Willie from what we saw. Just a passionate man who loved his snooker and meeting those also who loved it.
“Crafty” Irishman Ken Doherty denied the King of the Crucible Stephen Hendry his sixth World title, which would have been a record six in a row for the Scottish snooker sensation.
But, although Ken won the title for the first time and appeared in two more, he said his form going into the 1997 tournament wasn’t great.
In a video interview with the Darling of Dublin, with Dave Lewis of Pro-Am Snooker UK on Facebook, Doherty explained how his career had developed, what he had done prior to lifting the World title, and, also, a revealing tale about how much his snooker cue cost that won him both pro and amateur titles.
Doherty explains a lot in his book Life in the Frame.
Life in the Frame is well worth a read if you’re an avid fan of the Dubliner, now 50.
With a pro career spanning 40 years, he has some tales to tell.
Never did he think he would win the entire event, but once he got past the quarters, he thought this was his best chance.
When he won the title, he was greeted back home in Ireland to a hero’s welcome. He had the open-top bus with the trophy, similar to what footballers have when they’ve won the Premier League titles or even European titles. Liverpool comes to mind here.
But, Doherty was brought right back down to earth a year later against John Higgins, when he lost the following year in the final.
He had to go home in a taxi.
He added: “If you want to know what the difference is between winning and losing, then there you go.”
But he then said that prior to going into the tournament, he had two weeks of practice with a certain genius Ronnie O’Sullivan, both of them in the same club in Ilford.
It both helped them get match sharp for the Worlds.
1997 was the same year O’Sullivan made that incredible 147 break in 5mins and 20 seconds (now revised to 5mins 8 seconds in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Ken said he had been practicing with the Rocket since he had been a wee lad, 12, and Ken’s knowledge and expertise in his craft had served the young Rocket well.
A lucky bargain!…
[bctt tweet=”Snooker cues have become big business. Players now advertise brands such as John Parris. Stuart Bingham advertises the brand Cue Creator where you can customize your own cue on-line.” username=”chrisgaynor2″]
However, Ken revealed he had found someone’s cue in a rack at the snooker club, he knew it wasn’t a rack cue and went on to buy it off the owner.
How much did it cost him?
Well, you’ll just have to watch the interview in full to find out.
But Ken has a good tip for players looking to buy a snooker cue.
He said if you pick up a cue and it feels comfortable for you, then forget about the price.
See also the SnookerZone EXCLUSIVE COACHING INTERVIEW we did with Irish WPBSA Level 2 snooker coach Fin Ruane.
Barry Hearn has injected a new enthusiasm and passion and determination to grow and grow the sport.
This extreme growth has seen the sport expand globally with prize money totaling in the millions.
The 2020 World Championship prize money for the winner is a record 500K and will only grow and grow.
Snooker under the Hearn era has never been in healthier territory. But that is through Hearn’s decades of experience in promoting sports such as snooker, darts, and others.
Hearn on business and luck…
In this interview with Business Leader Insights, Hearn talks candidly about his influences, how he got started, what the struggles have been with sport during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as having questions from members of the public.
As people know, snooker led the way in being put on in the pandemic in testing times. But all at WST came through it and the 2020 Championship League proved that sport can unite people in a crisis and give hope and inspiration for many.
In the interview, Hearn explains how the business of sport may change as people’s habits, bank balances and choices change.
He said that it’s likely that people will move away from big monthly subscriptions to choosing more targeted packages for their needs and budgets.
Make sure you maximize the luck you get.
He talks about the time he first met Steve Davis. He was lucky. He took the opportunity and made the most of the marketing from taking a scraggy, ginger-haired nobody into an iconic sporting hero.
You need luck. But it’s what you make of it once you get it.
Same on the snooker table. If you get the fluke, it’s no use to you if you don’t make the most of it!
The Belgian Bullet Luca Brecel fired in a surefire performance on Thursday to claim the first snooker title since the UK was put into lockdown on March 23rd.
With 116 people all being tested negative at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes over the 10 days, it was time for 64 players to get back to shining on the table in the 2020 Matchroom.Live Championship League.
Brecel started strongly in his first match of the last day of the final group with two tons. It was the catalyst for a sweet victory against some top-notch opposition in the likes of Stuart Bingham, Ryan Day, and Ben Woollaston.
Snooker led the way in sport in life’s new normal…
Brecel told WST after his win: “Most of the time I am pretty cool under pressure but this time I was very nervous, I was shaking on every shot. As soon as I got to 50 or 60 I knew I wasn’t going to miss any more but before that it was a struggle. Maybe it didn’t look like it, but it was.”
Brecel’s win assures him a place in the Champion of Champions in November as well as pocketing 30K from this event.
He added: “It is massive to get into the Champion of Champions and that made the final that bit more special, knowing that the winner would get in. That’s a massive bonus for me and I’m really looking to that already.”
The event produced a stunning 53-century breaks with Joe O’Connor’s brilliant 143 topping the chart.
Ben Woollaston, who also produced some fine form throughout, managed a 141 in the final group.
Snooker led the way on June 1st with its emotional return to ITV4 and the sport has done the nation proud with the efficiency of all the staff and the measures that were put in place to make the event run smoothly.
There was some great additional features such as the top-notch commentary from former World Seniors champion Peter Lines. Fans were impressed.
One said on Facebook: “Peter Lines belongs in the commentary box. He is first class.”
However, despite most enjoying the snooker without there being an audience, one fan added: “Struggling to get into the snook as lost something with no people there but glad it’s on. Not the same, though.”
Former Masters Champion Alan McManus was doing some fine commentary on Twitter informing fans on what was going on during the group matches.
Snooker continues to lead the way in life’s new normal with the Tour Championship being held on Saturday June 20th at the same venue where eight players will battle it out for a big prize of 150K.
Ding Junhui, though, will not be in the fray as he has withdrawn from the event. He will be replaced by Stephen Maguire.
Four players will battle it out for the title of 2020 Matchroom.Live Championship League winner on Thursday.
Ryan Day, Stuart Bingham, Ben Woollaston and Belgium’s Luca Brecel will have the chance to lift the trophy in Milton Keynes at the Marshall Arena, and pocket 20K first prize.
Yesterday’s semi-final groups saw Judd Trump surprisingly under-par as an in-form Ryan Day opened his match with Trump in fine form with two tons on the bounce. Trump was trounced three-nil.
That was the catalyst for Day to conquer the evening.
He told WST: “I am really pleased with the way I played all day,” said Day. “To start off against Judd, it doesn’t get any tougher than that and I really came out of the traps quite quickly. It was a good draw against Dave in the end, and being a Championship League veteran I was trying to do the sums and realised I only needed one frame in the last match there and I was delighted to get the first frame and secure my place in the final.”
“I dropped into the zone as they call it and played lovely and felt great all day. It has been a long time since anybody has played competitive snooker so I think the break might have done me good and given me a bit of a boost. I felt okay with my game in general but I didn’t really enjoy going away and playing, which is strange, as that’s something I have never really struggled for but I think the lockdown has helped me get a bit of that back and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Gilbert’s Plucky Maximum Attempt…
Day’s group was a tough one with not only the World number one in the fray, but also David Gilbert and Barry Hawkins.
An also in form Gilbert, a former World Championship semi-finalist, also nearly cracked a maximum, but broke down on 120 as he missed a long yellow.
It was a plucky attempt all the same.
Gilbert had made history a year ago or so by making the 147th 147 which ironically also came in the Championship League. Had he got it, he would have made three career maximums, all in the Championship League.
Also, watch Gilbert’s 147 to be the 147th in snooker history…
UK snooker clubs could reopen as early as early next month.
In a bid to keep snooker leading the way in sport in life’s new normal, the World Professional Snooker and Billiard Association have been meeting with MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Snooker and discussing the way forward on how to safely re-open snooker clubs for all – not just the pros.
As pro snooker has led the way in pro sports by putting on safe events with rigorous testing of players and staff, and social distancing measures et al, the work has been going on tirelessly behind the scenes to get a full amateur circuit back on as soon as possible.
Clubs will be ready when the government is…
In a brief statement on the WPBSA website, it says: “We will continue to liaise closely with our affiliated clubs that are part of the 147 Club network and are looking to set up further online meetings with them over the coming days to discuss the safe re-opening of clubs directly.
“We will also publish further guidance in due course as to the measures that all clubs should follow to be able to operate safely and in accordance with government guidance.”
Good news for one young UK snooker talent…
Liverpool’s Sean Maddocks has been awarded a two-year tour card for next season as announcements for those newbies, and ‘oldies’ playing on the tour will happen over the course of the summer.
Maddocks, only 18, has been dedicating himself a lot to the amateur scene and knocking on the door in a lot of events, including QSchool, and his now reward of pro status has been fully deserving.
He’s also the proud title-holder of being the youngest player to make a 147 in an open amateur tournament.
His coach, Neil Johnson, modestly wrote on Facebook: “I’m so pleased…my 18-year-old student Sean Maddocks has been awarded a two-year tour card. So talented and dedicated.”
He added: “This couldn’t be more deserving. The really hard work starts now, but this is really fantastic news. Great stuff, champ.”
We wrote here at SnookerZone a while back about Sean’s first exhibition he did in front of a small but captivated audience.
You rarely get a surprise as the cream generally always rises to the top.
But last night Ashley Carty was the surprising package of the televised group in the 2020 Championship League as he had two emphatic wins over World No 2 Neil Robertson and former 1997 World Champion Ken Doherty.
It was an unexpected victory for Carty, as the Thunder from Down Under, donning a new lockdown haircut, could not reach the form he had produced prior to lockdown and the coronavirus pandemic.
Carty told WST: “I am over the moon,”and will face Gary Wilson, Luca Brecel and Mark Joyce in the next round.
He added: “I got off to a really good start against Neil, quite surprisingly beat him. I know I am capable on my day but fortunately for me he struggled. I should have beaten Maflin really, I had a few good chances, and then against Ken, I was in shreds towards the end. I don’t know how I missed the green, but fortunately for me, it didn’t matter.”
It went down to the wire in the last match as Doherty, who displayed some form of yesteryear needed to win to go through. But Carty held his own in the last to secure his place in the next phase.
Carty added: “My 87, it was against Maflin, and I missed an easy pink. I knew that would come back to haunt me, but thankfully I did the job in the end. I came here for a bit of practice leading up to the World Championships and never really expected to win the group but I have proved I can hold my own against the top players.”
Neil Robertson will move on to the Tour Championship in just over a week’s time as one of the eight players to compete for a £150K prize pot.
Ronnie O’Sullivan has sported many revamps, image-wise.
He’s had shaved heads.
Now, he’s sporting a Gaucho-style moustache in tribute to Maximum man Willie Thorne, who is suffering from cancer.
He told WST: “I haven’t played since February,” said O’Sullivan. “I played the semi-finals of the Welsh Open and you can’t really count the Shoot-Out as it’s only a frame. I did two exhibitions but other than that I’ve only played for about four or five hours last week but it just shows you probably don’t need the practice!
“The moustache is in homage to Willie Thorne; Willie had the moustache but no hair, I’ve got the moustache but no hair.”
But some things of the 44-year-old Rocket don’t change.
He strode into the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes and from the off racked a ton in the first frame.
It was to be the start of a comfortable evening for the five-time World Champion as he comfortably won all three matches quickly and in style. He was impressive in his last match with Chris Wakelin, as he made breaks of 93 and 97 to see himself into the last 16.
Ford motored to a group win…
Leicester’s Tom Ford also had a belter in the other group played, and also joins O’Sullivan next week into the remaining matches of the CL.
Ford also told WST: “I played well today. People had chances against me because we are all a bit rusty. I came into it not expecting to do well because I’ve not been practising that much, but we are all in the same boat. But when you don’t have too much pressure on you to play well you can play a bit better than you think.”
He added: “I got in the balls earlier in the first two frames against Rob. It was going to be a difficult match anyway because he’s a good player, and he had played the previous match whereas I was a bit cold coming on. Fortunately, Rob missed a ball – he said because his tie got in the way – and I was glad to get over the line.”
“The venue, the hotel, the staff, the organisers, everybody has been brilliant. It is better than I expected it was going to be. I expected it to be good and very professional but it has exceeded.”
Bingham in the box…
Stuart Bingham will play in the Saturday group of the Championship League as the 2015 World Champion has been dabbling in a spot of commentary with the ITV4 team this week with David Hendon and Phil Yates, along with other players Dominic Dale and Joe Perry.
The coverage starts at 3PM on ITV4.
And, more good news.
Tour Championship to return this month…
Snooker’s coverage on ITV4 continues in June as it leads the way with The Tour Championship coming back after it was postponed in March due to the Covid-19 Pandemic and lockdown. It will be played at the Marshall Arena behind closed doors from the 20th – 26th June.
WST boss Barry Hearn trumped the announcement and said: “We have proved that despite the many challenges associated with running events in the current conditions, it can be done. There is no sport which can meet the required regulations on isolation, sanitisation and social distancing as rigorously as snooker can, and that is why we have set an example for other sports to follow.”
But in this format of the Championship League snooker, which has returned with a bang this week, a ton or maximum can actually win you the group or push your position further up in the group.
This break from Joe O’Connor is as good as you can get, considering many of the players have not had a lot of practice and no competition over the last two-and-a-half months.
O’Connor, 24, a former World ranking semi-finalist, who is only on the second year of his tour career, made an impressive 143 break in the Championship League, his highest break in his short but improving pro career and managed to end up second in the group from the likes of Mark Selby, Liang Wenbo and Lee Walker.
O’Connor said after on Facebook: “Ended finishing second in my group. Played pretty solid all day, apart from that one red.”
He added: “Onwards and upwards.”
This break against his fellow Leicester tour player, the three-time World Champion Mark Selby was as good as you will get.
Watch it below now…
China’s no 2 Liang Wenbo topped the group defeating Mark Selby in the last match, but for SnookerZone, the night belonged to the 2018 English Amateur Championship winner Joe O’Connor for this fantastic break.
Winner of Group 5 Wenbo told WST after: “I enjoyed today.”
He added: “Sometimes you have to enjoy the game and your game will come, snooker is like this, when you’re happy you play well. If I play like this, I will have a chance to win the tournament. I practiced for seven or eight days before coming here, after two and a half months off.”
The action continues on ITV 4 at 4PM as Ronnie O’Sullivan will enter the fray in Group 10 today.