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2019 Snooker Highs and Lows – Part One

As 2019 draws to a close for snooker players and fans alike, it’s time to reflect on what has been another enthralling year in the game.

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Jones was a World Championship quarter-finalist in 2012. Photo credit: Monique Limbos

There have been many talking points over the course of the last twelve months both on and off the table.

On Friday, we’ll take a look at a few of the best bits from this calendar year, but today let’s focus on some of the disappointing or controversial matters that have engulfed the sport.



The Lows

Another Year, Another Ban

It seems like a long time ago now but 2019 was another year in which a ban in relation to betting was needed.

In 2018, Cao Yupeng and Yu Delu were handed the book and given suspensions from the sport – a lengthy one for the latter until 2029.

Around the same time, another high-profile case was being brought against David John and former World Championship quarter-finalist Jamie Jones.

In January of this year, Jones was acquitted of match-fixing but he was still given a short-term ban for failing to report knowledge of an incident involving his fellow Welshman.

The result was that Jones was unable to complete the 2018/19 season, which concluded with his ranking plummeting outside the top 64 and a subsequent relegation from the Main Tour.

Jones, who is free to play again after his ban ended in October, insists that he has learned from his mistake and wants to get on with his career – with Q School in May being the most likely time that we’ll next see him in action as he fights to regain his professional status.

John, meanwhile, will be out of the game for a total of five years and seven months after being found guilty at the corruption inquiry.

Paul Hunter Classic

A decision that upset a lot of supporters this year was the downgrading of the Paul Hunter Classic from a ranking event to an invitational.

The tournament, which began as a pro-am 15 years ago with its inaugural staging won by the late Leeds potter, has always been a fan favourite.

Its prestige gradually increased throughout the years and following the introduction of the Barry Hearn era its position on the calendar was secure.

In 2010, it was awarded minor ranking status as part of the now defunct Players Tour Championship series, or European Tour.

Then, three years ago the Paul Hunter Classic was upgraded to a full ranking event with Mark Selby winning the event for a third time.

Indeed, the tournament has a terrific roll of honour with the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Allen, and Shaun Murphy etching their names onto the trophy.

Yet, as snooker has become more global and its ability to garner higher prize funds more pronounced, the Paul Hunter Classic has been left behind somewhat.

Funding had been difficult to come by and the champion’s cheque of £20,000 that Kyren Wilson collected in 2018 was dwarfed by practically every other event on the calendar.

It was no surprise then to see a lot the marquee names on the Main Tour opting to skip the week’s action.

In August, the competition was limited to an invitational with just 16 players taking part and Barry Hawkins walking away with the title.

The Paul Hunter Classic’s demise is undoubtedly a pity because the fans in Furth love their snooker and have always lavished the players with appreciative support – something that can’t be said in a lot of other places that the sport visits.

What was worse about the revised Paul Hunter Classic in 2019 was that there were hardly any details about it, a sketchy panel of invites were assembled, the prize fund wasn’t clear, and there was nothing in the way of streaming.

It deserves better.

A Minimum of Maximums

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn’s annual press conferences at the Crucible Theatre during the World Championship have become an event in itself to look forward to each year.

There’s primarily something interesting announced and 2019 was no different, with positive news that next year’s World Championship will revert to a tiered system similar to the good old days.

But what wasn’t generally well-perceived was the revelation that there’d be no guaranteed prize fund available for making a 147 from the 2019/20 campaign.

Instead, a bonus of £1 million would be awarded for the maximum makers to share between them should 20 or more 147 breaks be compiled within the season.

We’re at the midway point of this term and, so far, there have been….four.

It’s worth noting that the jackpots on offer for the highest break in each event have increased, but it still completely belittles what should be one of the best personal achievements in the sport.

While it’s understandable that World Snooker doesn’t want to constantly fork out the big bucks for a feat that has become quite a regular occurrence in general, this new initiative has taken it to the opposite extreme.

To put it into context, the most 147 breaks that have been made in a previous season is only 13.

The figure of twenty doesn’t seem realistic at all and, as time goes on, it becomes clearer that Hearn’s announcement was nothing more than a media-friendly soundbite.



Ronnie’s Antics

I’m fully aware that I’m opening myself up to a backlash from his followers here, but so be it.

He may be one of the best snooker players ever and a joy to watch when in full flow at the table.

However, Ronnie O’Sullivan’s relentless obsession with abnormality has become utterly tiresome.

The “Rocket” will rightly feature in Part Two of this feature with some of the incredible highs that he has mustered this year.

Unfortunately, though, a lot of O’Sullivan’s other actions can be difficult to tolerate.

Whether it’s ignorantly stereotyping the Australian accent or refusing to shake a player’s hands because of a sudden fear of germs.

From calling out the K2 in Crawley with an out-of-date photo to refusing maximum break opportunities, chastising referees, or pulling out of the Masters.

These are just a few of the seemingly endless contentious things that he has said or done this year.

O’Sullivan, who at times can offer enlightening analysis in his role as a pundit with Eurosport, is an enigma, a genius, and everything in between.

Snooker needs characters and of course is lucky to have one of the personalities in sport.

Yet, O’Sullivan’s egotistical necessity to be seen and heard has become almost compulsive and far from enjoyable to follow.

Cancellation of WSF Championships

In amateur snooker, the last couple of years had been dominated by a rift between the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association and the International Billiards and Snooker Federation.

The end result was a breakaway from the WPBSA and the formation of the World Snooker Federation, a new organisation that would rival the IBSF’s traditional stranglehold on the amateur game.

In 2018, the inaugural WSF Championships was staged with the winner, Luo Honghao, gaining a spot on the Main Tour – a place that was once reserved for the IBSF World Championship but had since been rescinded.

With a lot of national federations backing the WSF, it appeared as though amateur snooker had a fresh future to plan around.

How disappointing then when the 2019 edition of the WSF Championships was cancelled in February after a scheduling calamity that saw the competition move from the UAE to China before being scrapped altogether.

The decision also impacted the World Women’s Snooker Championship, which had to be postponed until the summer.

The WSF Championships will head to Malta in 2020 when it will look to salvage lost ground.

Part Two is on Friday, when we’ll be looking at some of the high points from 2019.



4 Comments

  1. Frank B. Halfar

    While I’m certainly not objective, bring an occasional guest writer on this very portal, I agree so strongly with several points David makes here that I feel compelled to write a comment.

    This is the case in particular on the unrealistic jackpot for those maximums, I’ve yet to meet any snooker fan who believes it will be awarded. And the sad and undeserved demise of the Paul Hunter Classics, I so hope this great tournament will experience a full rebound.

    And the clear words on Ronnie! Yes, yes, and again yes. You nailed it, and I do think it needed to be said. Which does not take away one bit from his genius.

    Couldn’t agree more on your take on the amateur tournaments also. If one considers the vast number of players in every corner of the world setting their hopes and aspirations on these rare chances for promotion to the professional game, they surely deserve better.

    And Jamie Jones I wish well. Upholding the ethics is of greatest importance, so I suppose his punishment was inevitable. But it seems to me he committed a smaller misdemeanor much rather than a crime, and his statement and conduct about this were sportsmanlike. So I’d be pleased to see him back on the tour.

    And while I’m at it, a very good new year to all readers of Snooker HQ!

  2. Pingback: 2019 Highs and Lows: Part Two - SnookerHQ

  3. Jay Brannon

    The bit I don’t like is when you say he may be one of the greatest ever! He is the GOAT, not just in the top 5.

  4. Imke Köhler

    About the Paul Hunter Classic: The most important thing was: it survived. In 2018 the organiser did a poll during the PHC in which case the fans would come to Fürth. The most said: the format of the tournament is not important. And: the fans were back in 2019! It was sold out. It was the best solution to have this invitational I think. (I was there.) It was much more relaxed. Ant to have the side event “Speed Cup” was a brilliant idea. The organiser invited players who are able to entertain the fans. (He told me.) And the choice was very good. The players really enjoyed the tournament. More relaxed, more time between the matches … A lot of them were there with their wifes and children. (We will need a play ground next time. 😀 ) Nice: the comeback of the players party. 🙂 The decision of the organisers to have the tournament in this way was perfect I think. Okay, no live stream … it was a pity for the fans outside the Stadthalle. Inside the Stadthalle it was a big Snooker party. 🙂 And (as I said before) important for the future of the tournament.

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World Rankings Top 16

World Rankings after the Tour Championship – won by Neil Robertson.

1. Judd Trump
2. Ronnie O’Sullivan
3. Neil Robertson
4. Mark Selby
5. John Higgins
6. Kyren Wilson
7. Shaun Murphy
8. Stephen Maguire
9. Ding Junhui
10. Yan Bingtao
11. Barry Hawkins
12. Mark Williams
13. Mark Allen
14. Jack Lisowski
15. David Gilbert
16. Anthony McGill

Fin Ruane Snooker Academy