The great amateur snooker debate – Part 1

Wednesday night, a Facebook live webinar was held discussing top amateur snooker.

Ben Hancorn
Current English Amateur Champion Ben Hancorn was one of the players who spoke on the webinar…

The main topics were how to improve the two top main events on the amateur circuit – the Challenge Tour and World Snooker Tour’s QSchool.

The two-hour webinar had players, fans, and people who have been involved in some way in amateur snooker, whether it be helping out in the events, playing in them, writing about them, or organizing them.

It proved fruitful with ideas.

Watch the discussion in the video:

Amateur snooker is a multi-faceted subject, and there is so much to debate and discuss, but in the video, the main topics were Challenge Tour and QSchool and something briefly on the set-up of organisations involved. Some very good points raised.

But first, what are Challenge Tour and QSchool for those who don’t know.

The Challenge Tour

The Challenge Tour is not a new concept by any means but in terms of the modern era under Barry Hearn, it is new and began a couple of years ago. Its design was to give top amateurs a leg up onto the main tour through a qualification over a series of 10 events. The benefits are that players get to feel what it’s like playing in events where there are similar conditions to those on the pro tour. However, some players have complained that the second year of the CT was anything but ideal in playing conditions.

Its two years shall we say “trial” has had mixed reactions from players.

some players have said conditions were great on year one.

Others have said that conditions on year two were a lot to be desired.

Some have said the expense puts players off from traveling around the world to different countries. Previously, the CT was known as the WPBSA minor tour, and, then, known as the UK tour in the 1990s/2000s.

Some say that regardless of playing conditions, the cream of the crop will rise to the top.

And it generally does in amateur or pro circles.

In 2018, it was hailed as a significant mark in giving top amateurs of any gender a chance to play in events with the incentive of a card or two at the end. The Order of Merit also gives the opportunity for players to accumulate as many points as they can to be considered for top-ups or wildcards in pro events.

When previous amateur tours were scrapped, it was generally down to lack of numbers. Generally, it’s the case up to 64 players compete, although that’s not necessarily always the case as some don’t play or decide to enter. Generally, the field comprises ex-pros who’ve recently dropped off, or those who’ve dropped off in previous seasons. You will generally come across the same names again and again.

And here’s the point:

The amateur snooker scene needs to focus from the bottom up, NOT the top down.

So, what deters players from playing in events? It’s three things in SnookerZone’s view.

  1. Funding (both from the organizations involved and the cost for players
  2. lack of a proper set-up (if you watch Michael Waring’s commentary (the founder of on the video above, he makes the valid point (and to paraphrase) that amateur snooker should be treated like a business where the organization involved has a proper structure, pays its people properly without constantly having to rely on volunteers or gracious gestures from people to help out ( and invests in better resources and then, from there more advertising can be done.
  3. Lack of information on anything. For example, how much do newbies know about the potential routes to becoming a pro? Do even those who’ve been playing a while know? Who knows about the set-up? Where’s the information? Who is running the amateur set-up?

Amateur snooker needs a Barry Hearn type character who is business savvy, understands snooker, and has the drive to drive policies through and to achieve targets and goals, and handle setbacks or problems…


If you have more than £1000 in your bank account and want to become a professional snooker player, you have the opportunity to play in World Snooker Tour’s QSchool. The event played over generally three events plus playoffs, has been going since 2011.

Because it’s an “open” event to anyone, here lies the problem on three counts.

  1. Some who enter will do it because they can, and are doing it to say, “I played in QSchool…” regardless of whether they wanted a pro ticket.
  2. Some who enter may well have genuine desires to turn pro, but, sorry to say, they may not cut it and may not be ready for pro status, either now, or in the future.
  3. Of the number who enter, a small % will genuinely have what it takes to make it at pro level. But even those who do will find the standard jump tough. Some, for example, drop off, jump on again, a bit like waiting for a bus at a bus stop. Sometimes, you have to wait ages for the bus to turn up. Then you might be on and off.

QSchool issues and problems

Is it right that anyone with a grand in cash can turn up and lay claim to a place on QSchool when there are players up and down who’ve worked on their game years to get there on their game?


Qschool should be a selection process where players from outside usual amateur circles should be vetted on simple form questions, such as how long they’ve been playing, what their highest break is (in competition), whether they have played in previous events, whether they’ve had any league experience, and any coaching, etc?

Tough but fair vetting can iron out the thrill-seekers from the true seekers.

SnookerZone believes there is a place for QSchool, but just less “open” to all and should be for the ones who are serious.

Some who enter are deluding themselves.

There is so much to write about on amateur snooker. Its problems. Its issues. Too much for one post. So SnookerZone will be returning to this at a later date with much more to say and potentially interview some players on the blog. If there are any players who would like to be interviewed for the blog.

Contact us here now






A Challenge Worth the While?

Proud winner: Pragnell! Photo screenshot from World Snooker website


The World Snooker Challenge tour is a series of events that have been played over a period of months this season as its inaugural addition to the calendar.

Designed as a kind of experiment to see how many of the maximum of 64 amateurs would jump on board and enter, the amateur tour running alongside pro events has offered a mixture of opportunity for new and not so new talent eager to get a place on the coveted main professional tour at the end of it with 2 tour cards up for grabs. With £2K up for grabs for the winner at each of the 10 events and a ranking points based system, it’s vital that those with pro ambitions entered as many of the 10 events as they can to build up a healthy array of points.

On the plus side, it’s all good experience for those with ambitions to turn pro to get top quality match experience. On the downside, a lot of them (especially the winners) are already ex-pros and some have only just been relegated!

Each of the 10 events has been played somewhere in the UK and the wider world, with the final event being played in the great South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester. Here are the winners from nine events…

  • Brandon Sargeant
  • Former professional David Grace
  • Former pro-Barry Pinches recently appeared in the Snooker Shootout
  • Former pro-Mitchell Mann
  • European Amateur runner-up David Lilley
  • UK Championship semi-finalist David Grace (again)
  • Joel Walker
  • Simon Bedford, 43, an ex-pro who reached four last 32s
  • Former pro-Adam Duffy
  • George Pragnell

Sargeant, one of the last eight in CT10, was leading the rankings with over 6000 points and has already secured a pro ticket for the 2019/2020 season. Event 10 would determine the other lucky player to win the Golden ticket to ride on the expanding and lucrative pro tour!

Some of the players on the CT have already secured a pro ticket. Welsh teenager Jackson Page, highly rated among the Legends of the game, has secured a pro ticket to ride via the Under-21 European Amateur Championship last week in Israel.

George Pragnell, 23, from Norwich claimed the final Challenge tour event in Gloucester beating a Welshman Callum Lloyd in the final and pocketed 2K. That wraps up the 10 event tour for this season.

The race for the tour cards was between David Grace, Mitchell Mann, and David Lilley, but it was the Leeds former professional David Grace who achieved the final tour card from the two on offer and he is now back on tour! He racked up more ranking points total with over 6,445 points.

He’s Back…

The 33-year-old told World Snooker: “It’s a massive relief because it had been very close all season between the top three players, with only two cards available.

“When I dropped off the pro tour I just wanted to stay positive and enjoy playing on the Challenge Tour, and I have done that. I have learned a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of my game. Once next season starts I’ll appreciate being on the pro tour, even more, having missed it for a year.”

The tour came about from 64 players who were eligible to play in the events from the 2018 QSchool Order of Merit







Snooker: Mann of the Moment

The screenshot is taken from the World Snooker website: Mann of the Moment…

Mitchell Mann is the fourth winner of the new amateur Challenge Tour events as he follows in the footsteps of Brandon Sargeant, David Grace and Barry Pinches who won the previous three events.

Mann, 26, was a Crucible qualifier in 2017 and pipped Dylan Emery in the final in Furth 3 – 0 to boost his hopes of returning to the pro tour next season.

He was relegated from the tour at the end of last season – but hopes to bounce back this time.

The new Challenge Tour is a series of 10 events all staged around the globe, where amateurs compete to win prize money and the hope of a tour card at the end of it. Two are up for grabs.

Mann pocketed 2K from the event.

Next month, the Cueball Derby will host CT5.

The draw for CT5 is here…


Snooker: Thunder Robertson Rumbles in Riga – Again

Neil Robertson lifted the Riga Masters Trophy in 2016 and now 2018

Last weekend was a packed weekend of snooker as the new 2018/19 season kicked off with Neil Robertson claiming his second Riga Masters title in three years.  The former 2010 World Champion saw off the talented Jack “Lightning” Lisowski in the final 5 – 2 – and on route to the win made a 117 in the third frame. Lisowski, 26, was appearing in his first ranking final after having a positive season last season. The 36-year-old Melbourne man raced into a 3 – 0 lead having had a slice of good fortune in the second frame when Lisowski missed a key black to potentially force a respotted black. Robertson tried a double and fluked it after having missed it. Lisowski played some great safety in the match, but wasn’t able to outscore the Thunder from Down Under – but he battled hard from 3 – 0 down. Robertson’s win saw him land his 14th ranking title and the 50K first prize.

It was Robertson’s lucky socks that did it, he said, after the final!

China’s Liang Wenbo racked the high break of 140 – losing out on a maximum prize of £10,000- but still claimed a modest £2,000.

World Champion Mark Williams was knocked out early on in Round two…

Watch the post match interview below…

Challenge Tour Event Three

Former professional Barry Pinches claimed the third Challenge Tour event, which was low on numbers (24) – and also held in Riga during the Riga Masters. The event, which is supposed to entice at least 64 amateurs into competing for a coveted two places on the World Snooker tour is obviously for some too much of an expense for travel costs – despite there being originally high demand for a Challenge Tour of sorts. However, 48-year-old Pinches, Brandon Sargeant, and former pro-David Grace have all put themselves in contention for one of the two tour cards on offer for this ten-event series of amateur events.

Only time will tell in seeing how many decide to turn up for Event four, which takes place in Furth, Germany at the end of August, coinciding with the Paul Hunter Classic.

If you missed any of the action of the final – watch some of it here in the video below…click play

The World Open in Yushan, China, begins in a week’s time…

PS: Keep an eye out for SnookerZone’s new content in the Zones which are coming this week!