The qualifiers for the Australian Goldfields Open have begun, with places available for 16 qualifiers in Bendigo in July, joining the top 16 seeds.

Note: the top 16 seeds rather than the top 16. Half of the elite group have declined the chance to go to Australia.

Prize money for this ranking tournament is significantly lower than the other events, especially when you factor in the expense of getting there.

Players who feel they don’t need to go are not going, although this isn’t necessarily the whole story. One top player who hasn’t entered told me he would have done had the event been played in a big Australian city rather than the back of beyond.

Australia has a long snooker heritage but the game has always been a peripheral activity compared to other sports, particularly those played outside.

Neil Robertson, who has worked hard to promote the Goldfields Open, took up the game because his father ran a snooker club in Melbourne. But many of his peers were out playing Aussie Rules and cricket instead.

Vinnie Calabrese seems to be a promising prospect and has joined the tour this year. He follows in the footsteps of several Aussies of snooker times past.

It’s often said that the best cueist of all time was Walter Lindrum, the former world billiards champion. His nephew, Horace, won the 1957 World Snooker Championship from a field of two after all the top players boycotted the tournament and staged their own.

In the 1980s there was the toweringly tall John Campbell and Warren King, who was runner-up to Steve James in the 1990 Mercantile Classic. But the great figure in Australian snooker in the TV age was Eddie Charlton, who three times finished runner-up in the World Championship and who also promoted tournaments in his home country.

Eddie was a hard case; a tough as old boots snooker warrior. He would have laughed heartily at claims of ‘burnout’ – this is a man who used to undertake hundreds of flights between the UK and Australia and think nothing of it.

He had been a surfer, a cricketer, a boxer and very probably wrestled crocodiles of a weekend.

At the table, Charlton had a win at all costs approach which meant less pushing the boat out and more tethering it to the nearest post. He less threw caution to the wind than locked caution up in a dank cellar and threw away the key.

He once beat Cliff Thorburn 10-9 at 2.40am at the Crucible. A journalist asked him afterwards if he had considered the crowd and the entertainment value of the match.

His response was: “F*ck the crowd, I’m here to win.”

His safety game caused all manner of trauma for hapless opponents and he rarely put any side on the cueball, meaning he wasn’t as proficient a break-builder as some of the other players of his era.

That said, he made the first ever century at the Crucible in 1977. He had also made the first century in the BBC’s Pot Black, a title he won three times.

Eddie was never world champion but was without peer in one area: swearing. Many who played him attested to this. Had the £250 fines been in operation back then he may have gone bankrupt.

Superbly, he also reverted to Aussie stereotype when he felt he had a point to make. He once read something a journalist colleague of mine had written which he didn’t like and so marched into the pressroom and called him a ‘Pommie shirt-lifter.’

Charlton’s longevity was proof of how much he loved the game. Into his 60s he beat both Jimmy White and John Parrott in ranking events, although it was Parrott who delivered a wounding moment, the only 10-0 whitewash at the Crucible in their first round match in 1992.

Earlier that season Charlton had reached the final of the first World Seniors Championship, losing 5-4 in the final to Cliff Wilson.

He did some BBC commentary but time inevitably caught up with this formidable character and he eventually fell off the tour.

Charlton died in 2004 but even then his remarkable attributes were brought to the fore. The WPBSA forgot to take him off the ranking list but did remove someone who had retired. Therefore, in death, Steady Eddie actually rose up the rankings.

The charismatic Quinten Hann looked like he could take Australian snooker forwards. He had the looks and he had the game but lacked the professionalism. During one World Championship he won his first round match, flew back to Australia then came back to the UK and lost in the second round.

Robertson is a far more level-headed character although has had a few mishaps of the table when it comes to preparation. This week he made a 147 in the Wuxi Classic qualifiers – a great break, by the way. However, Mark King tweeted that Robertson had to borrow Matt Selt’s playing gear as he had forgotten to bring his own.

It’s hard to see too many Australian players following in Robertson’s considerable footsteps. Sadly, his many achievements have barely made a ripple in the media back home.

This is a shame because his story is inspiring: leaving his family to come to the UK with £500 in his pocket, pursuing his dreams and ambitions and realising them.

Neil’s own brother, Marc, gave it a go this year by entering Q School but failed to qualify for the main tour.

This is the last of the Australian Goldfield Open’s initial three-year deal. Whether it returns to the calendar remains to be seen.

It would be a shame to lose it because the Australian snooker public have waited a long time after Charlton for another world class player and, now they have one, they’d like to see him up close, doing their country proud.



Reanne Evans has become the first woman to qualify for the final stages of a world ranking tournament by beating Thepchaiya Un Nooh 5-4 in the first round of the Wuxi Classic in Gloucester today.

This was a very good win. The Thai is a former world amateur champion and led 3-0 before Evans made a 52 clearance in the fourth frame that turned the match.

Her reward is a meeting with Neil Robertson, the world no.2, who in his 5-0 victory over Mohammed Khairy became the 18th player to compile more than one competitive maximum break. It was the 98th 147 in snooker history.

Women’s snooker is in desperate need of a boost. Entry levels have fallen in the past couple of years and money is distinctly tight – Evans won just £450 for capturing her ninth world title last month.

Allison Fisher is widely regarded as the best female player there ever was. She beat a few top male stars in her time – Mike Hallett, Neal Foulds and Tony Drago – in invitation tournaments but made little impact on the pro ranks in the days when there were 700 professionals.

Evans herself was on the tour a couple of years ago but did not win a match. She seemed to be stuck in a kind of snooker limbo: too good for the women but not good enough for the men.

Her win today is significant. It is a huge confidence boost not just to Evans herself but to women and girls also aspiring to play top level snooker.

It’s already been an incident packed start to the new season as the new ‘flat’ system comes into play.

World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan withdrew before play began due to a family bereavement. World no.1 Mark Selby played but lost, 5-3 to Andrew Pagett.

Most other big names have – so far – been successful, although defending Wuxi Classic champion Ricky Walden lost a 4-1 lead over Pankaj Advani before scrambling home 5-4 on the final black.

Barry Hearn was right to state on Twitter that the new format has already created plenty of interest but he knows better than most that the true test of the system will be the effect it has on viewing figures and, to a lesser extent, ticket sales (although these aren’t great in China anyway).

As I write this Ding Junhui – Wuxi’s hometown hero – is 2-1 down to Aditya Mehta. If he fails to qualify it will be a disaster for the tournament.

Finally, a word for Steve Davis. Starting his 36th – 36th! – season as a professional, he made a break of 131 in beating James Cahill 5-2.

Davis may no longer be seriously threatening for titles but as a model of professionalism he remains the gold standard.



Of the 12 qualifiers for the pro circuit through Q School, seven will be making their debuts as main tour professionals.

They will be in Gloucester tomorrow alongside the biggest names in the sport when the last 128 of the Wuxi Classic gets underway.

They are Elliot Slessor, Hammad Miah, Ahmed Saif, Ross Muir, Ryan Clark, Alexander Ursenbacher and Chris Wakelin.

Ursenbacher is from Switzerland and Saif will be playing a Qatar solo as that country’s sole representative on the tour.

The others are all British. The amateur scene in the UK is not as thriving as it once was – indeed there aren’t as many snooker clubs as there once was – hence there are fewer young talents but this does not mean there are none at all.

Wakelin’s story is certainly interesting and, in its own way, inspiring. In his final Q School match he was up against Adam Wicheard, who somehow managed to snap his cue during the match, after which he conceded.

Wakelin had struggled mentally in way which suggested his snooker career was over before it had begun. He told worldsnooker.com: “I developed the yips and it got so bad that I couldn’t deliver the cue.  At one point if I had a straight black off the spot I would have to play it with the rest because otherwise I had no chance. Then as I got better I decided to go to the English under-21 qualifiers in Leeds and I got through. That gave me some of my belief back and I decided to enter Q School. Three months ago I would have said it was impossible for me to qualify for the tour but now here I am.”

I like stories like that because it underlines how hard it is to get to the position Wakelin is in now.

He plays Peter Ebdon, one of the greats, in the first round. Right now he’ll be like a kid waiting for Christmas.

In years gone by, new pros would turn up at a tournament and start playing without any advice or instruction as to how to be a snooker professional. Thankfully, the WPBSA is more enlightened these days, chiefly thanks to its chairman, Jason Ferguson, who has instituted an induction process.

I don’t know exactly what this entails but the players should be told that this is only the start. They haven’t made it yet. A lot of new pros over the years have assumed it will be easy. They look at some of the old stagers in the qualifiers and assume they will roll them over, but these hardened match players have been around for years for a reason.

That said, these are undoubtedly exciting times to turn professional. The opportunities are unparalleled. The seven new pros have a potential ten ranking events, eight European Tour events and four Asian Tour events plus the PTC Grand Finals ahead of them.

That’s a lot of snooker. It’s also a lot of money, both to lay out in expenses and to potentially win back in prize money.

Mark Allen told the BBC before the World Championship that the new system would “decimate the tour” although neither he nor the journalist who wrote the story seemed to know that decimate means one in ten, which would mean a drop off of 13 players.

The truth is that sport is the survival of the fittest, so not everyone can earn £200,000 a year. The new system at least means if a player wins a match then he receives prize money, which is surely as it should be.

Quite what the likes of Ursenbacher and Saif will make of it all is fascinating. They have come from countries that don’t have the snooker heritage of the UK but must be good players to have made it through Q School, although neither actually seems to be in the Wuxi Classic.

Good luck to all the newcomers. Every world champion you’ve ever seen had to start at the bottom and work their way up to the top. Their early careers are littered with matches against long forgotten players, a mix of wins and losses which helped make them the players they became.

My advice: be professional, treat the game with respect, work hard and, above all, try and enjoy it. You won’t beat everyone and there will be moments of intense disappointment but this is your chance – go and make the most of it.



Michael Wasley is a talented young snooker player from Gloucester who deserves additional respect for being able to solve the Rubik's cube in a matter of seconds (and not, as I used to in my youth, by taking it apart and then reassembling it).

Wasley’s ability to untangle a great enigma may stand him in good stead for when he plays one next week in the first round of the Wuxi Classic.

Ronnie O’Sullivan, who sat out almost all of last season, has entered not only Wuxi but also the European Tour event next month in Bulgaria.

Whether this is because he needs more money for school fees, he missed snooker and wants to make up for lost time or has contractual obligations to fulfil is anyone’s guess, but O’Sullivan’s presence at the SWSA in Gloucester next week will bring interest at a time of year when snooker has traditionally been in hibernation.

He’s playing Wasley because the system has changed. For all ranking events barring Australia, Shanghai and the World Championship, all 128 main tour members start from the beginning.

In this bright, shiny new era of ‘fairness’ this means that Ding Junhui, who is from Wuxi, has had to come back to Britain to qualify for...Wuxi.

He faces Aditya Mehta, who reached the last 16 of last season’s International Championship. The other Indian professional, Pankaj Advani, a quarter-finalist in the Welsh Open a few months back, will provide the first round opposition for Ricky Walden, the defending Wuxi Classic champion.

Steve Davis, having seen off his old foe Stephen Hendry, will play Hendry’s nephew, James Cahill.

The first round winners will all progress to the final stages next month.

I suspect many top 16 players need this like the proverbial hole in the head. It will be interesting to see who has practised and who will be winging it. And despite what they may say, organisers want the top players to qualify.

It’s a great chance for the lower ranked players. For many of them, if they’re going to beat a top player it’ll be in the more prosaic qualifying environment than the big arenas.

However, some of them may in time come to reflect that this new system is not quite the leveller they thought. The previous system was labyrinthine, tough and seemingly endless but playing, for instance, the reigning world champion in round one is going to be a lot tougher than playing someone of a similar ranking.

Still, it’s an exciting time for the new professionals and if I had a hat I would tip it to those who have come through Q School, including Alexander Ursenbacher, from Switzerland, and Ahmed Saif, a Qatari.

In my experience new pros couldn’t care less about whichever system is in place (and there have been a few down the years). They just want to play, and there will be much to play in this coming season.



“Sorry it took so long to climb those steps, this burnout’s a killer,” was Barry Hearn’s opening gambit in his speech at the World Snooker Awards in London last week.

It was a good line and got a big laugh. It also underlined Hearn’s attitude to players complaining that their workload is too arduous since the circuit rapidly expanded under his chairmanship.

Hearn has previously suggested players “go and tell the working man on the street they are burnt out,” the assumption being that the working man on the street would give them short shrift.

Jason Ferguson, the WPBSA chairman, appears to agree. He told prosnookerblog: “my father worked down the mines all his life, he did 12 hour shifts digging coal out, he did it year-in, year-out and I never heard him complain once.”

To be fair to Ferguson, he takes a more nuanced view than Hearn. He also said: “Some people might say, oh poor things, they are doing something that they love, they are out there, in front of an audience, everybody likes them, they have become celebrities, what are they moaning about? But we have to face it, it is a gruelling schedule, and it is tough. You have got to be fit, you have got to be ready for it, you’ve got to be mentally strong for it, it’s not just mentally strong in terms of fitness and playing the game, you have got to be mentally strong to deal with all of the different countries that you are going to, different foods you are going to. It’s hard going. I think that some of the players have suffered from burnout this year, but others are relishing it. I’m fortunate, I’m a very good traveller, I travel to Asia, I get off the plane, put my tie on in the toilets in the aeroplane and go to the first meeting as soon as we land and that’s how it is. I can do it, but some people don’t travel so well.”

The fact that players themselves can’t agree on whether burnout was a significant factor in results we saw at the World Championship is revealing.

But this is the point Ferguson was making: burnout affects some players but not others.

Hearn’s point about how hard other people work is valid but snooker players are not merely turning up for work: to be successful, they have to produce a high level of performance. This requires a mental toughness which will be eroded the more snooker is played.

There are some jobs you can do where you turn up not at your best but can get through the day and go home having been paid the same as if you had been firing on all cylinders. Snooker is not one of them.

I spoke to a well respected senior player about all this recently. He said what he found tiring was not so much the snooker as the travelling, but that the travelling naturally affected performance.

Do the players deserve sympathy? Not really. They are in a privileged position. They are playing professional sport for a living with the opportunity to earn big money.

Nobody is forcing them to do it. If they don’t like the travelling or being away from home they are free to get other jobs and live more conventional lives.

It is up to them to better organise their schedules. I don’t criticise any player for choosing not to enter a particular tournament. That is up to them. They have to balance their lives and careers.

They didn’t used to have this problem because there weren’t anywhere near as many tournaments. They used to complain that they wanted more.

Some would say there is too much snooker. I disagree. Eurosport’s figures have risen significantly since the increase in tournaments because people become used to watching snooker regularly.

It’s our old friend supply and demand: if there is a demand for a product then it is met by supply. This is the reason Coronation Street is shown five times a week not six times a year.

The packed calendar has benefited snooker financially because promoters from around the world who wish to stage tournaments – and World Snooker have met with several of late – know they can’t get them on the cheap with space in the schedule at a premium.

It’s all a bit different to the 2002/03 season. The players, who used to run the game, voted in their wisdom at an EGM to reject two proposals to put money into the sport and appoint the only bidder for commercial rights investing nothing.

The ten year contract these chancers were awarded was broken after ten months. One of the tournaments they put on was the European Open in a hotel in Torquay, untelevised. This was actually a great event but nobody saw it outside the few hundred people who came along.

Now, snooker is a major television business and is being taken to places where people want to watch it. Expansion on the continent of Europe is particularly important over coming years. Those who treat the European Tour events with disdain are ignoring the potential to grow snooker in these regions. It is starting from a relatively small base because of squandered opportunities in the past.

If players, most of whom still are British, want a proper professional sport then they will have to be prepared to travel. That may bring with it tiredness and burnout so they will need to give real thought not just to their schedules but how they live their lives.

It’s a profession, not a hobby, so treat it professionally.

And with that I’m taking some time off. All this snooker takes its toll, you know.



Snooker Legends has been a successful series of exhibitions featuring players who helped make the game such a successful TV phenomenon.

Launched four years ago by Jason Francis, it has attracted large crowds to various venues around the UK.

Nostalgia tends to be the past with all the bad bits forgotten. However, the players in the legends really are that – players who have become household names through their success and popularity.

The Legends mixes fun with competition. One of its pulling powers is that it isn’t grimly serious like tournament play but neither is it a bash-up.

This weekend, the Legends will be televised for the first time, by Eurosport. The Rok Stars Cup features two star-studded teams: Dennis Taylor, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Jimmy White and Steve Davis v Cliff Thorburn, Stephen Hendry, Neil Robertson and Tony Drago. So just the 21 world titles between them.

It will be O’Sullivan’s first outing since winning a fifth world title earlier this week. He was on good form at the World Snooker awards last night, reiterating that he would play next season without disclosing precisely which tournaments.

He did say that his preference was for smaller tournaments – and indeed the Legends – because they don’t carry the intense pressure of, say, the World Championship (though he coped admirably with this at the Crucible this year.)

In my experience, though, players like Ronnie and Jimmy love to put on a show, to entertain. This is why they are box office and it’s one of the reasons the Legends has been successful: people want to come back again.

Coverage starts at 5.30pm tomorrow on Eurosport2.



The season just gone will be celebrated at the World Snooker awards in London tonight.

The truth is, though, that there was no one definitive player of the year. At various points in the campaign, various players were on top.

Mark Selby won two of the three big titles – the UK Championship and Masters – and ended the season as world no.1 but at other times, most notably the Crucible, did not impress.

Neil Robertson was arguably the most consistent of all, reaching four major finals and winning one, the China Open.

Judd Trump set a new centuries record, won the new International Championship and was twice world no.1

All 11 ranking titles were won by a different player, the last of them by Ronnie O’Sullivan. The world champion is traditionally a strong contender for the overall prize but as O’Sullivan didn’t play in any of the other major tournaments his claim on the prize is tenuous.

One player who deserves recognition of some sort is Barry Hawkins. He began the season outside the top 16 but has ended it as world no.9 having won his first ranking title and contributed to a terrific world final.

Pankaj Advani must be favourite for the Rookie of the Year prize having reached the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open.

Many players have enjoyed pockets of success during the longest, busiest snooker season in history. With nearly 30 tournaments big and small, the opportunity to play and to achieve has been unprecedented.

There have been many great matches, frames, moments and stories but there almost isn’t time to consider them.

Q School starts at the weekend to find new professionals for next season, and then we’re off and running again.



Those pondering what it says about snooker that a player can return barely having played since the previous year and successfully defend the world title are considering the wrong question.

They should be asking what it says about Ronnie O’Sullivan. And what it says about him is what we already knew: that he’s the best player who ever lived.

He hasn’t always been the most disciplined. He hasn’t always treated snooker with the dedication and respect it requires. For these reasons he hasn’t won as many titles as his fine talent perhaps deserves.

But at his best he is the best and he proved it again in Sheffield this year with a devastating march to a fifth world title.

And he had to play well in the final. The sneers Barry Hawkins had to endure before it began were unfounded. Hawkins played brilliantly but may look back on two key frames which O’Sullivan won on the black, the last of the second session and the third frame today.

I’m not really one to gush, but the clearance O’Sullivan made to win this latter frame was of a quality as high as you are ever likely to see. It was sublime.

There won’t be any snooker player who watched him this year – regardless of personal opinions about O’Sullivan – who won’t have been impressed. He has set the bar and the rest are all beneath it.

What has particularly impressed has been the quality of his matchplay. We all know he can pot great balls and make big breaks but his safety has been exemplary, as has his self control. He has kept his notoriously volatile emotions in check for all of the 71 frames he needed to become world champion again.

The Crucible has been in thrall to this charismatic man since 1993. That’s twenty years of drama and joy, heartbreak and controversy, sound bites and breath-taking snooker. As ever, we have been left wondering how much more we will see of him.

As for what comes next for Ronnie, I suspect even he doesn’t really know. He has proved his competitive desire is still strong. He has proved he can stay focused for the greatest test a snooker player can face – the 17 day marathon of the mind – but whether he will want to slog round the circuit is another matter. With the new prize money ranking system he won’t have to in order to protect his position.

Uniquely this year during the course of the championship he retired and then unretired. But this is all part of the enigma and, indeed, one of the reasons many don’t take to him.

Ronnie is Ronnie. Like Alex Higgins before him he doesn’t seek approval or respectability. Like Higgins he divides opinion.

What nobody can seriously deny is that he played at this year’s World Championship to a level the rest could not match.

Whatever the next chapter in his life and career – an intertwining potboiler which has kept fans and detractors around the world fascinated for more than two decades – he has delivered a satisfying sequel to last year.

He said originally that he wouldn't play but he came, he saw, he conquered. The imperious Ronnie O’Sullivan remains on top of the snooker world…just where this extraordinary player belongs.



As a teenager, Barry Hawkins worked as a junior in an office. It was a chance of a guaranteed income, gradually climbing up the career ladder: a nice, steady nine-to-five, Monday to Friday job which could have lasted his whole working life.

But he quit to pursue a much more precarious career in professional snooker. Here there were no guarantees. He was up against talented fellow professionals, the vagaries of luck and, often, his own limitations – the same battle every player faces.

What a good decision is turned out to be. He followed his dream. How many people can say that?

And now the dream has turned into reality. Barry is in the final of the Betfair World Championship.

If he beats Ronnie O’Sullivan on Monday it will be the biggest shock in a Crucible final since Joe Johnson defeated Steve Davis 18-12 in 1986.

This was a sensational upset but Johnson had three advantages that Hawkins does not:

1)      He had the crowd on his side as a Yorkshireman

2)      He had always beaten Davis as an amateur

3)      Davis had lost a psychologically scarring world final to Dennis Taylor the previous year

How do you solve a problem like Ronnie? It may not be any consolation that few are tipping a Hawkins win so he does not have the pressure of expectation. I’m sure already someone at BBC2 is cutting together an extra long episode of Coast, ready to go on Monday evening.

But world finals aren’t won in the theatre of opinion on the internet, they are won in a real and iconic theatre in Sheffield. Hawkins has earned his place in the game’s showpiece finale.

It’s an irony as he prepares for a best of 35 frame final that the turning point came 16 months ago when he won the Shootout in Blackpool, in which every match lasts a mere ten minutes.

The £32,000 first prize was a bonus but the boost of confidence he received by winning a TV title helped propel Hawkins in the right direction and six months later he captured his maiden ranking title, the Australian Goldfields Open.

Hawkins was impressive in that Bendigo final because, resuming 5-3 up after the first session against the archly competitive Peter Ebdon, he sailed to a 9-3 victory without any twitching or anxiety.

He has since produced some good performances. He had chances to put Judd Trump away in the first round of the Masters. He did beat Mark Selby in the quarter-finals of the German Masters.

At the Crucible, he ousted Selby and Ding Junhui before his nervy 17-14 win over Ricky Walden in the semi-finals.

After two sessions Hawkins had made a highest break of just 47, but Walden failed to put him away and the Kent man came out trailing just 9-7.

At 12-8 down, he returned to the arena inspired, fighting for every chance and striking the ball with much greater authority. He won eight frames in a row and finally hung on to win.

Anyone in snooker who knows Barry will be delighted for him. He’s someone who loves the game but doesn’t think it owes him a living. He has been prepared to work for it.

To the general public he is largely unknown. He has kept his head down and played. When he’s won he’s been gracious, when he’s lost he’s been gracious. For this reason he is well regarded by his fellow players.
So the last line of defence against the seemingly unstoppable O’Sullivan comes in the unlikely form of Barry Hawkins: a player who combines fierce determination with genuine humility.

He has put in the years of work and slaved away, sometimes for very little reward. Now is his moment to shine.

Win or lose he has made his family proud and guaranteed memories that will live with him for the rest of his days.

To play in a world final, even if it is to be against a force of nature, is an ambition realised, two days to cherish.

O’Sullivan has played the best snooker of the tournament, quite comfortably. He is playing well in all departments and his discipline and clear thinking is exemplary.

But it takes two to make a final and Hawkins, who is guaranteed £125,000 for his May Day bank holiday adventure, is right now where every player on the planet wants to be.

Here is a man who has followed his dream all the way to the greatest snooker stage of them all.


It seems unlikely now that the 2013 Betfair World Championship will not end with a fifth title for Ronnie O’Sullivan.

He has been the best player in the event, playing with great discipline as well as his usual panache.

Last night there was a slight slip in this discipline when he was told off by the referee, Michaela Tabb, for making a gesture she construed as obscene.

This wouldn’t be the first time O’Sullivan had done this, although the BBC was for once shy about running a replay (assuming the incident had been captured on camera).

O’Sullivan argued his case but then just got on with it. He lost that frame but played well in the last of the session. There was no implosion this time. He’s here to do a job.

He resumes 14-10 up against Judd Trump, who seemed to be the target of people in the audience deliberately trying to put him off.

There’s no place for this in snooker, never mind at the Crucible. It used to happen regularly at the Wembley Conference Centre and is usually tied in with people having consumed too much alcohol.

Trump has spoken in the past of the need for snooker ‘to be more like darts.’ Well this is what it would be like. No thanks.

The other semi-final was poor in standard. Ricky Walden resumed 6-2 up against Barry Hawkins who managed to close to 9-7 despite a highest break of only 47.

These two seem to be suffering from the pressure of the situation in which they find themselves. This is a golden chance for either to fulfil a boyhood dream and reach a world final. In some ways, being the underdog against O’Sullivan – assuming he wins today – will release some of that pressure.

Both Ricky and Barry can play much better. Maybe they will today. Whoever wins will certainly have to if they are to stand a chance in the final.



Judd Trump v Ronnie O’Sullivan: now there is a match to get the snooker juices flowing.

Their Betfair World Championship semi-final over four sessions has the potential to be big entertainment. These are two crowd pleasers who go for their shots and are capable of playing some quite extraordinary snooker.

O’Sullivan was at times sensational in overwhelming Stuart Bingham 13-4. Trump won a Crucible classic, 13-12 over Shaun Murphy.

O’Sullivan’s reaction to winning was odd, even by his standards. He claimed he was only in it for the money so he could pay his children’s school fees and that he would – guess what – retire after fulfilling contractual obligations next season.

Naturally, this is the exact opposite of what he said earlier in the tournament. Who knows the truth? Does Ronnie even know it? Or is he just reacting to how he feels in the moment?

It suggests that, even with the work he has done with Dr. Steve Peters, all is still not well with snooker’s most troubled star. But that may not be the whole story.

I’ve listened to many of his press conferences down the years and would make the point that they are heavily influenced by the manner of his performance in matches that often finish just minutes before he is interviewed. Had he won 13-3 this morning as seemed likely then I suspect he may not have been so gloomy.

Trump certainly sounds confident going into the match, as he should be. He has the ultra attacking game to put the defending champion under some pressure.

One factor that could favour Trump is the fact that he will have a significant portion of the crowd on his side. Traditionally, O’Sullivan enjoys the vast majority of audience support.

Trump is positive ahead of the semi-finals, saying: “There’s only a certain amount of players who have got the self belief to beat Ronnie and scare him and I think I’m one of them.

“I’ve got a good record against Ronnie. I’ve beaten him more times than he's beaten me, so hopefully I can go out and scare him.

“I haven’t seen any of his games really, but from what I’ve heard from my brother and others he hasn’t really played that well and a lot of people are just scared of him.”

In fact, O’Sullivan has played superbly. His long potting has been terrific. He has played better snooker in the tournament than Trump.

O’Sullivan said of Trump: “I’ve played him a few times and I’ve sensed he’s wobbled. Even he gets scared of me. It’s a hard place out there. If you play well enough and stay with him, and peg him back, he's not Stephen Hendry or John Higgins.”

O’Sullivan may have reacted badly to failing to kill Bingham off more clinically but he is a fierce competitor and will surely relish the challenge of taking on a player widely seen as the heir to his crowd-pleasing mantle.

By contrast, the two players in the other semi-final couldn’t be less controversial.

Barry Hawkins and Ricky Walden are two nice guys who love their snooker and support the game all year round.

Hawkins was superb in winning all four frames this morning to beat Ding Junhui 13-7. Walden eased to a 13-6 victory over Michael White tonight.

They each know they have a great chance to appear in a world final – the very reason you spend so many years practising and working hard.

You can guarantee whoever comes through this semi-final will be grateful for the chance to become world champion.

We’re down to one table now. My Eurosport commentary colleague Joe Johnson, who himself has played in two world finals, put it poetically: “when you get down to one table it’s a different tournament. It’s a different arena. You see the twinkle lights of the Crucible and they’re like the stars in the sky. It’s like playing in Heaven.”

For others, of course, it is a form of snooker hell.