Jason Francis reflects on a great 2023 World Championship

Jason Francis spoke to Phil Haigh after the wonderful week had by all in Sheffield:

World Seniors Snooker Championship a record-breaking success, confirms chairman

Phil Haigh Tuesday 9 May 2023 3:48 pm

Jimmy White became a four-time world seniors champion on Sunday night (Picture: Getty Images)

This year’s World Seniors Snooker Championship saw record ticket sales as chairman Jason Francis says it ‘bodes well for the future of seniors snooker’.

The thoroughly entertaining tournament was won by Jimmy White on Sunday night as the Whirlwind lifted the trophy for a fourth time, beating his good friend Alfie Burden 5-3 in the final.

Burden had enjoyed a superb run at the Crucible, beating Ken Doherty, Stephen Hendry and Ben Hancorn to set up the showpiece with White, who himself had downed Philip Williams, Adrian Ridley and Tony Drago en route to the final.

With so many iconic names in the sport, tickets reasonably priced at as little as £15, and Sheffield still struck by snooker fever after the main event at the Crucible, everything fell into place for a successful tournament.

Francis told Metro.co.uk: ‘I’m very pleased, record-breaking ticket sales and really, really good feedback. It bodes well for the future of seniors snooker. We did just under 5,000 tickets, which is around 30 per cent up on last year. Great week, great event, great feedback.

There’s no doubt that Jimmy winning helped boost the profile of the weekend, the Jimmy and Hendry factor on Friday night was helpful.

I also think people were looking at the field this year and realising it’s undoubtedly stronger. There’s no doubt this project needed to start on the back of the legendary names like Dennis Taylor, Cliff Thorburn, John Parrot. Dennis and Cliff are in their seventies so it’s very difficult for them to compete at the same level as a Mark Davis or an Alfie Burden

Alfie Burden lost out to his good friend and practice partner in the final (Picture: Getty Images)

We had a slightly younger field, recent and current professionals, so the standard was better, we had more centuries than ever before. Also, maybe people who couldn’t get a ticket for the main event thought maybe it was time to try a little bit of the Seniors. It was a mix of ages in the crowd, it really was.’

At 61 years old, White is playing some amazing stuff still and it means a huge amount to him to be lifting trophies at the Crucible after famously missing out on the World Championship title in six finals.

Not only does is it an amazing achievement for the winner, but the Seniors has developed so much that it is extremely disappointing for the losers.

He was buzzing, winning in the Crucible is incredibly special for any player, but for Jimmy White it’s cathartic, almost,’ said Francis.

Ken was devastated because he can do the ultimate grand slam of amateur, professional, junior and could add the world seniors.  He’s still hungry to get his name on the trophy, but he had a tough first round with Alfie

Ben Hancorn did fantastic for an amateur player, beating Peter Lines in a great match. And of course Drago was a breath of fresh air. He is incredibly watchable, potting the most unbelievable balls, then misses the easiest ball. I think Tony has proved that he’s still one of the best seniors in the world and clearly he’s an important part of our plans going forward.’

Tony Drago was one of the stars of the show in Sheffield (Picture: Getty Images)

This year’s tournament saw the introduction of Seniors of Sheffield day, as charities Age UK and Care Workers Charity were involved in bringing 500 older people in the city to the Friday afternoon session.

As WSS explained, the aim was to, ‘not only see some top class snooker but meet likeminded others and engage with many of the great organisations based in the city helping and serving the ageing population and those living in isolation.’

Reflecting on the day, Francis said: ‘Seniors of Sheffield day was a fantastic success and we’re still getting the feedback on that.

Local charities got to benefit, not only by sending their members for the networking, meeting the legends, seeing some snooker, but they got to be able to promote their services to people at the event who perhaps didn’t know their charity existed for them

We’re going to build on that. The head of the chamber of commerce heard about that, came to the final on Sunday and wants to get involved in building on it.’

The calendar for the forthcoming season of seniors snooker is yet to be confirmed, but after a superb World Championship, there will be plenty of interest from players and fans alike when the next events roll around. 

Jimmy White is the 2023 World Seniors Snooker Champion

Jimmy White won the World Seniors Snooker Championship for the fourth time tonight.

He beat Alfie Burden by 5-3.

Congratulations Jimmy!

Here is the report shared by WST:

White Beats Burden In Crucible Final

Jimmy White won the LLP Solicitors World Seniors Championship for the fourth time, beating Alfie Burden 5-3 in the final at the Crucible.

Victory caps off a fantastic season for White in which he reached the last 16 of two ranking events as well as the last 32 of the UK Championship, earning enough ranking points to book two more years on the professional tour. To finish the campaign with a trophy on snooker’s most famous stage in Sheffield is a tremendous reward for the 61-year-old whose enthusiasm for snooker seems to get stronger as time goes on.

After knocking out Philip Williams and Adrian Ridley to reach the semi-finals, White saw off Tony Drago 4-1 before getting the better of close friend Burden. Over his four matches, the Londoner made breaks of 70, 76, 103, 80, 84, 64, 74, 56, 68, 62, 63, 55 and 84.

He looked set for a comfortable night in the final when he led 4-1, before Burden fought back by taking frame six. In the seventh, Burden trapped his opponent in a tough snooker behind the black after potting the last red, and gained enough penalty points to close to 4-3. In frame eight, White made 31 before playing safe, then capitalised on a loose safety from Burden to get back among the balls, and finished superbly with a break of 84 to secure the title which he had previously won in 2010, 2019 and 2020.

I love the game, it’s fascinating,” said White, who may earn a place in the Champion of Champions in November. “Sometimes I can play good stuff and beat anyone, sometime I fall over the line. We both struggled to control the cue ball tonight, I got a bit ‘jabby.’ But I still have the motivation and sometimes you have to do what Mark Selby does and win when playing badly. I’m delighted.

My thanks go to the sponsors LLP Solicitors, to Jason Ferguson and Jason Francis and everyone behind the event which gets bigger every year, and thanks to the fans for their support.”

Burden said: “If I was going to lose to anyone I would want it to be Jimmy. I enjoyed every moment of playing at the Crucible.

How the final unfolded in pictures …

The players got a wonderful introduction in the arena! Three former World Champions, Cliff Thorburn, Dennis Taylor and John Parrot were acclaimed by the fans and interviewed by Rob Walker, before the finalists themselves were welcomed into the arena

Some images taken during the match from high in the arena … and the final balls.

And the trophy ceremony

Thank you Jason Francis…

I was a fantastic event, the overall quality of the snooker was very high. The crowds were really good all week especially considering the event clashed with King Charles Coronation. Rob Walker and Alisha Singh did a great job, always with a smile, kindness and enthusiasm. Legends of the game were everywhere: on the floor, in the commentary box, in the audience.

It was covered by the BBC but also streamed live in China despite the fact that no Chinese player was involved.

For me personally, it was a wonderful return to live snooker and photography. Thank you Jason for having me. I reconnected with friends from all over the world, people I hadn’t seen in years. It was marvellous … thank you, 谢谢 xièxiè … you know who you are.

The 2023 World Seniors Snooker Championship – Day 5 – The Semi-finals

Today is the last day of the tournament, the semi-finals were players this afternoon and yielded a “London Derby” … Jimmy White is in his sixth World Seniors final and he will face “debutant” (at this level) Alfie Burden

Here is the report shared by WSS/WPBSA

White and Burden Reach World Seniors Final

Jimmy White and Alfie Burden will contest the final of the 2023 LLP Solicitors World Seniors Snooker Championship after they won their respective semi-final encounters during Sunday afternoon’s session at the Crucible Theatre.

Three-time champion White was the first player to reach the showpiece match after he ended the run of an invigorated Tony Drago. 

The Whirlwind won the opening frame with the help of a 64 break and doubled his advantage in the second. Drago – playing in this event for the first time in nearly four years – responded with a rapid 72 break in the third frame; nine reds and nine blacks before going in-off when potting the tenth red and trying to get position back at the top of the table. 

However, an impressive White crafted breaks of 74, 56 and 68 as he claimed the next two frames for a 4-1 victory. 

Since the tournament moved here in 2019, White has reached the final on every occasion. He will be looking to add to the titles he claimed in 2010, 2020 and 2021.

Burden will feature in his maiden world seniors final after he put on a brilliant performance to defeat Ben Hancorn 4-1 in a high-quality affair.

Breaks of 86, 72 and 56 were chalked up by the 46-year-old as he established a 3-0 lead before Crucible debutant Hancorn – who had done little wrong – kept his hopes alive and got on the board with an effort of 85 in the fourth frame. Burden, though, got over the line in the next, registering a run of 101 to set up a mouthwatering clash with fellow Londoner and good friend White.

Both White and Burden have dropped just two frames each in the event so far.

The best-of-nine frames final will take place from 19:00GMT on Sunday evening. 

Here are more pictures taken during the semi-finals …

Jimmy White 4-1 Tony Drago

Alfie Burden 4-1 Ben Hancorn

The 2023 World Seniors Snooker Championship – Da y 4 – The Quarter Finals

Only four remain at the start of the last day of the 2022/23 season at the Crucible: Ben Hancorn, Alfie Burden, Jimmy White and Tony Drago.

Here is how we got there, in words and pictures:

Yesterday Afternoon Session

This is the report by WSS/WPBSA

Hancorn and Drago Come Through Crucible Classics

Ben Hancorn and Tony Drago are the first players through to the semi-finals of the 2023 LLP Solicitors World Seniors Championship after they emerged victorious from arguably the best session of world seniors action ever seen. 

Both high-quality and entertaining matches went all the way at the Crucible Theatre on Saturday afternoon, with two century breaks and seven further contributions of 50 or more. 

Former English amateur champion Hancorn ousted Gerard Greene 4-3 to set up a semi-final showdown with either Stephen Hendry or Alfie Burden. 

Greene claimed the opening frame, but Crucible debutant Hancorn drew level with a classy 98 break. An effort of 73 helped the Northern Irishman go back in front, although his opponent squared it again before compiling a brilliant effort of 116 in frame five – the first century of this year’s event – to move one away from progression. 

Deserved for a match of such class, Greene made sure it went the distance as he crafted a 73 to make it 3-3. 

Both players had scoring opportunites early in the deciding frame but rattled reds in corner pockets. The telling shot would come later when Hancorn laid a very difficult snooker with the reds spread open. Greene escaped but left a red on, and Hancorn fully capitalised with a cool and decisive effort of 49 to come through an epic. 

An even closer and more dramatic encounter ensued in the second match of the day as Maltese legend Drago rolled back the years to pip Mark Davis 4-3. 

Aided by breaks of 50, 40 and 59 made in typical quick fashion, former International Open finalist Drago led 3-0 and stood one away from advancing.

However, 2016 champion Davis conjured up a stirring comeback, starting off with a 137 total clearance – the tournament’s highest break this year, so far – to get on the board. 

In a remarkable fifth frame which saw Drago make a break of 63 and go within touching distance of victory, Davis somehow fluked a red along the top cushion when escaping from a snooker and went on to complete a clearance of 33. The Hastings cueist then registered a run of 98 to force the tie into a deciding frame. 

In a memorable seventh and final frame, the contest went down to the colours. After potting a brilliant green, Drago missed a relatively straightforward brown under normal circumstances. However, Davis subsequently missed it himself, and the 57-year-old from Valletta slotted home brown to pink to record an emotional win and set up a date with either Jimmy White or Adrian Ridley in the final four on Sunday. 

The Davis v Drago match was absolutely crazy. It was full of passion, great shots, mistakes, flukes and misfortunes. The whole media room here at the Crucible erupted in “Ohs”, “Aaahs”, “No way!” … everyone stopped typing and was watching, totally engrossed in the unfolding drama.

Mark Davis was in high spirits after the match, despite the defeat, whilst an emotional Tony Drago broke down in tears, dedicating his win to his closest friend who had passed away just the previous evening.

Here are the images I took that afternoon

Ben Hancorn 4-3 Gerard Greene

Tony Drago 4-3 Mark Davis

Yesterday Evening Session

This is the report by WSS/WPBSA

White and Burden complete World Seniors Semi-Finals

Jimmy White and Alfie Burden remain on course for LLP Solicitors World Seniors Snooker Championship glory as they both progressed to the semi-finals during Saturday night’s action at the Crucible Theatre.

White was in sizzling form as he dispatched Australia’s Adrian Ridley 4-0 in the opening tie of the evening. 

The three-time champion – who finished with a very impressive pot success rate of over 97% – got the job done within 52 minutes and recorded breaks of 76, 103, 80 and 84. White has now won 16 of his 18 matches at the Crucible in this event since it moved here in 2019. 

The Whirlwind will meet The Tornado Tony Drago on Sunday afternoon for a place in the final. 

In the second match of the session, Burden ended the hopes of seven-time world professional champion Stephen Hendry with a 4-1 victory. 

Londoner Burden claimed the opening frame with the help of a 64 break, but Hendry replied with a 62 in the second frame as he levelled the match.

Burden secured frame three on the colours after Hendry left himself hampered on the final red, and the 46-year-old extended his advantage with the next after both players had made errors during it.

Hendry scored first in frame five but missed, bringing Burden to the table who – assisted with a fluke near the start of the effort – constructed a frame and match winning break of 85. 

‘The AB of London’ faces Ben Hancorn in the last four.

Stephen Hendry, for some reason, was unable to reproduce the form he had shown in his first match earlier this week.

Here are the images I took in the evening

Jimmy White 4-0 Adrian Ridley

Alfie Burden 4-1 Stephen Hendry

The 2023 World Seniors Snooker Championship – Day 3

Two sessions were played yesterday, as the first round concluded.

Afternoon Session

This is the report by WSS

Crucible Debutants Ridley and Hancorn Progress in World Seniors

Crucible Theatre debutants Adrian Ridley and Ben Hancorn are the latest players to book quarter-final berths in the 2023 LLP Solicitors World Seniors Snooker Championship after they won their respective matches during Friday afternoon’s session.

In front of a packed audience in Sheffield, Australian Ridley produced a very impressive display to dispatch 1986 world professional champion Joe Johnson, 3-0. 

The Yarrawonga cueist – who qualified by virtue of claiming this year’s Asia Pacific Seniors Championship in March – looked comfortable as he rattled in breaks of 46, 57 and 73 to set up a date with either Jimmy White or Philip Williams on Saturday. 

The second match of the session between Hancorn and Peter Lines yielded the first deciding frame finish of this year’s event. 

Former English amateur champion Hancorn claimed the opening frame, but 2017 title winner and current UK seniors champion Lines levelled up and then went in front. Lines held a small lead in the fourth frame and had chances to go through but was unable to convert; Hancorn punished and took the tie all the way.

In the deciding frame, Lines failed to successfully lay a snooker behind the yellow ball. Hancorn immediately potted a brilliant long-distance red from the error and went on to make a cool 78 clearance to go through. 

The Bristolian is set to face Gerard Greene in the quarter-finals tomorrow.

Everyone in the media room was impressed by Adrian Ridley. Nobody knew what to expect as nobody had seen him play before … well he’s seriously good!!!

Here are my images of these two matches

Adrian Ridley 3-0 Joe Johnson

Ben Hancorn 3-2 Peter Lines

Evening Session

That session was eagerly anticipated and attracted the biggest crowd ever for a session of “Seniors Snooker” so far. The Crucible was practically full …

Here is the report by WSS

Hendry and White into World Seniors Last Eight

Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White completed the quarter-finals line-up for the 2023 LLP Solicitors World Seniors Snooker Championship after they both won in front of a packed Crucible Theatre audience on Friday night.

Seven-time world professional champion Hendry is looking to secure this title for the first time, and the Scot is still on course this year after an entertaining 3-2 victory over 2011 winner Darren Morgan. 

The opening two frames were shared, but Hendry went back in front with frame three after successfully laying a required snooker with just pink and black left – subsequently gaining the penalty points and later potting the final two balls for a steal.

Morgan bounced back from that disappointment by claiming the next frame without allowing his opponent to score a point to force a deciding frame. However, it was a vintage Hendry in the fifth frame, as he potted a beautiful long-distance red with his first shot and went on to make a quality frame and match winning break of 79 to set up a tasty meeting with Alfie Burden.

Off the back of his best season on the professional circuit in several years, three-time champion White was patient and resilient as he recovered from the loss of the opening frame to end the run of Philip Williams. 

Golden ticket event winner Williams – appearing here for a third consecutive year – took the lead with the help of a 61, and was close to doubling his advantage as he held a handy lead in frame two with just one red left. White, though, gave himself a confidence booster as he doubled the last red and cleared up with a 34 to pinch it and level. 

Frame three was also in the balance late on before White claimed it on the colours, but the 61-year-old found his groove in the fourth as he constructed a nice clearance of 70 to win the encounter 3-1.

White will face Australia’s Adrian Ridley for a place in the final four. 

All four quarter-final matches will take place on Saturday in Sheffield with afternoon and evening sessions scheduled for 12:00GMT and 19:00GMT starts respectively.

This is by far the best I have seen Hendry play for many years. He’s clearly inspired by the Crucible and highly motivated for this event. I didn’t expect him to play for snookers with only pink and black on the table in frame 2 but he did and won that frame. That was a statement and it rattled Morgan a bit, you could sense it.

Here are my images ….

Stephen Hendry 3-2 Darren Morgan

Jimmy White 3-1 Philip Williams