Farewell Willie…

The snooker family lost one oh their great characters today: Willie Thorne has left us, he lost his battle against leukaemia in the early hours of this morning.

Willie was a great player, an excellent commentator and a lovely man. No matter his personal issues and concerns, he was always friendly.

He was a prolific breakbuilder, whose style was well ahead of his time.

Willie and his brother Malcolm were well respected and loved by all involved in the amateur game. They helped and supported countless budding players, amongst them, the young Mark Selby.

Here is the BBC tribute to the man nicknamed “Mr Maximum”

Willie Thorne: From Mr Maximum to Snooker Loopy – remembering one of the game’s great characters

By Frank Keogh

BBC Sport

Willie Thorne (left) with Chas and Dave (centre) and his Matchroom Mob colleagues Tony Meo, Terry Griffiths, Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis

Mr Maximum. Snooker Loopy. The Great Willie Thorne.

He was all of these. One of snooker’s most popular players, a respected television commentator and a much-loved figure, although he had a gambling addiction which left him heavily in debt.

Thorne, who has died aged 66, was perhaps recognised for his premature bald head and manicured moustache as much as his break-building prowess.

His soothing tones endeared him to a generation of TV viewers, and he was a popular contestant on Strictly Come Dancing.

In a career that spanned snooker’s boom in the 1980s, he was part of the Matchroom Mob that featured in the surprise 1986 chart hit Snooker Loopy.

Thorne went from top of the pots to Top of the Pops as he played up to Chas and Dave’s line of “Old Willie Thorne, his hair’s all gorn” with the reply: “Perhaps I ought to chalk it!”

Born in Leicester, where he later formed a close friendship with football star and snooker fan Gary Lineker, he was a talented player who reached number seven in the world, although a major title eluded him.

Thorne was haunted by his error in the 1985 UK Championship final against Steve Davis, when 13-8 ahead and on the verge of extending his lead to within two of victory, he missed the simplest of blues off its spot.

He later admitted: “I went back to my seat and the doubts kicked in straight away. I was still 13-9 in front, but all I could think about was the way I’d failed in big games in the past.”

Archive interview: I’d much rather play the attractive game – Willie Thorne

His rise through the snooker ranks was rapid. Having only started playing the game aged 14, within two years he was crowned national under-16 champion.

Swiftly turning professional, he came to be regarded as one of the sport’s finest break builders, earning the nickname Mr Maximum as he became only the third player to secure 100 competitive centuries.

Thorne reached his first of two World Championship quarter-finals in 1982, where he pushed the eventual champion Alex Higgins.

Three years later, just three months before his painful loss to Davis, he won his first and only world ranking title, beating Canadian Cliff Thorburn to lift the Mercantile Credit Classic.

But Thorne was already struggling with a gambling addiction, and journey to the UK semi-finals in 1987 – where he was beaten 9-2 by Davis – represented the last big tournament run.

Thorne revealed the extent of his gambling issues in an interview with the Guardian in 2004,external-link recalling an incident in which he placed a bet of £38,000 on John Parrott losing a game, because he had lost his cue.

He was commentating on the game for the BBC, and said: “I put £38,000 on Parrott to lose because he didn’t have his cue, but he ended up winning the bloody game.

“I’m having to close the commentary by saying it’s unbelievable, spewing up as I say it.”

Thorne twice reached the quarter-finals of the World Championship

Thorne, who worked as a BBC commentator for 30 years, later revealed he lost £1m to gambling in his career. He was declared bankrupt in 2016.

He remained a familiar figure within the sport and competed in the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2007 with partner Erin Boag, being voted out in 12th place.

He was married to ex-Miss Great Britain winner Jill Saxby, but they split up after 24 years as his gambling troubles escalated.

Thorne announced he was beginning treatment for leukaemia in March 2020.

He died on Wednesday at the age of 66, having being placed into an induced coma in hospital in Spain after suffering respiratory failure.

The tributes tell their own story – former world heavyweight boxing champion Frank Bruno and darts legend Phil Taylor demonstrating how his popularity transcended snooker.

“Willie was one of my favourite people in snooker,” said seven-time world snooker champion Stephen Hendry.”I know he had faults and weaknesses (we all do) but he was one of the game’s greatest ever characters.”

Dennis Taylor, who famously beat Davis to win the world title in 1985, said: “Devastating news about Willie Thorne. We laughed our way around the world for 45 years.

“RIP Great One. That was my name for him. The Great WT.”

There were far too many tributes on social media to cite them all, but here are a few notable ones:

Cliff Thorburn on Twitter:

Very sad to hear of my great friend Willie Thorne’s passing. O the memories, the happiness and the laughter ❤️Condolences and deepest sympathies to his family Cliff and Barbara Thorburn xxx

Ronnie O’Sullivan on Twitter and Facebook:

Just want to say what a beautiful man, big heart great company. Had a week in ireland with him I’ll never forget. Will be missed by a lot of people in the Snooker world. RIP WT

World Seniors Snooker on their official FB page

Everyone at World Seniors Snooker is devastated to learn of the passing of the great WT. After 27 years of not playing Willie Thorne picked up his cue again on the seniors tour and got to walk out at the Crucible Theatre last August which we know meant a lot to him. RIP Mr Maximum.

Farewell Willie … we are missing you already.

Michael Judge is your 2019 WSS ROKiT Phones.com UK Champion … in pictures!

Michael Judge defeated both Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White to become the WSS 2019 UK Champion.

Congratulations Michael!

Here is the report by WPBSA

Judge Victorious at ROKiT UK Seniors Snooker Championship

  • 26th October 2019

Ireland’s Michael Judge has defeated Jimmy White 4-2 to claim the ROKiT Phones.com UK Seniors Snooker Championship title at the Bonus Arena in Hull on Friday evening.

The 44-year-old, who previously reached the semi-finals of the Grand Prix back in 2004, was competing in his first televised final having come through matches against Willie Thorne, James Wattana and notably king of the Crucible Stephen Hendry in a dramatic match earlier in the day.

Awaiting him in the title match was Jimmy White, winner of three of the last four major events staged on the ROKiT World Seniors Tour including the World Seniors Championship at the Crucible Theatre back in August. The Whirlwind had already defeated Rory McLeod and Patrick Wallace earlier in the day, producing one of the shots of the tournament with a do or die pot on the pink during a final frame against McLeod, which paved the way for a match-clinching run of 104.

White continued his scoring streak at the start of the final, notching up a break of 101 to open his account before Judge responded in kind with a knock of 114, equalling his own tournament-high break set earlier in the day.

In contrast the third frame was to prove a nervy affair, White eventually taking it on the pink to head into the mid-session interval with a narrow lead. Judge again drew level as he comfortably took the next frame, before what proved to be the most crucial frame in the tournament. It was White who raced into what looked to be a decisive lead with a break of 69, only to see former world number 24 Judge respond with a break of 48 and eventually clear from the brown to lead in the match for the first time.

White continued to fight but the momentum was now with Judge, a break of 54 ultimately proving decisive as he added the sixth frame to seal the biggest triumph of his career to date.

“It is fantastic, I can’t believe it,” said Dubliner Judge. “It’s why we play in these qualifying events to get to play at these venues and to become UK champion after a good friend of mine Ken [Doherty] won it here last year to make it two Irish victories in a row is great.”

“I was delighted when I hit the century break in the second frame [of the final] to let him know that I was in the match. I felt pretty good and was a bit disappointed not to win the third frame, but I went and out and did what I wanted to do and won the next to get back into the match. And then then the fifth frame to win it from 69 points was unbelievable. I am so proud of myself that I held myself together in the end.

“When I was growing up Jimmy was my hero so to beat him in the final of the UK Seniors Championship with him playing well too, it couldn’t have been better for me. I have seen so many players at the end of tournaments lifting a trophy on my TV at home and have obviously never done it myself before, so it is just a dream come true. Showing that trophy around to the crowd. Whatever happens after this I have done it so I can finish up proud.

“I would like to give a big shout out to Jason Francis for putting this tour together, without him and all of the team we wouldn’t be here. I would also like to thank everyone at home, my family and friends including my mum, my sister Paula, my wife, my kids and everyone else. Also my good friend and sponsor Anthony Bonner who has helped me out over the last few years – sorry to everyone I have forgotten but I am a bit tired!”

As in 2018, the event was well-supported by the city of Hull with large crowds in attendance on both days, as well as live TV coverage provided by FreeSports TV.

There was a bonus prize of £1,000 offered by the Tradewell Snooker Club, won by Stephen Hendry, while Judge also claimed a special prize on offer of a Chamberlain 1875 watch by virtue of his tournament-high break.

Photos by Matt Huart and Monique Limbos.

Here is – in pictures – how the day unfolded:

QF

Michael Judge 3-1 James Wattana

Jimmy White 3-2 Rory McLeod

SF

Stephen Hendry 2-3 Michael Judge

Jimmy White 3-0 Patrick Wallace

The Final and trophy ceremony

Jimmy White 2-4 Michael Judge

Thank you indeed Jason Francis, thank you to the fantastic Hull crowd … and thank you as well to Leo Sculiion and his team who did a great job from start to finish!

WSSUKChamps2019-9523

 

World Seniors Championship Added To ManBetX Champion Of Champions Qualification Criteria

This is the announcement

The World Seniors Championship has been added to the qualification list for snooker’s ManBetX Champion of Champions, which will take place at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry from November 4-10.

Jimmy White won the Seniors title at The Crucible on Sunday, beating Darren Morgan in the final. The World Seniors Championship will be added to the bottom of the ManBetX Champion of Champions Qualification List, meaning White is not yet assured a place at the Ricoh Arena.

The Qualifying List comprises 28 spots, which are split into seven sections. Tournaments within each of the seven sections are listed chronologically. The first 16 different players on the list will form the line-up for the 2019 ManBetX Champion of Champions. The World Women’s Snooker Championship is listed 27th on the list, with the World Seniors to be listed 28th.

With twelve players having already been assured of their place at the ManBetX Champion of Champions, if the five remaining events yield three repeat winners then White will receive his invite to play at the Ricoh Arena in November, live on ITV4.

Tickets for the 2019 ManBetX Champion of Champions are on sale now. Prices start from just £11 per session with Premium and VIP packages also available. The draw and schedule for the event will be announced during the week prior to the tournament.

Featuring tournament winners from the previous 12 months, the ManBetX Champion of Champions is broadcast live on ITV4 and has become one of snooker’s biggest tournaments since launching at Ricoh Arena in 2013. The likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy have all lifted the trophy.

The tournament starts with a quartet of four-man groups played over four days from Monday, November 4 until Thursday, November 7. The winner of each group progresses to the semi-finals, with one played on Friday, November 8 and the other on Saturday, November 9. The final on Sunday, November 10 will be over 19 frames.

That’s a great recognition for the WSS Tour. Of course, the 2019 Seniors World Champion is not certain to be in Coventry just yet, but he’s in with a chance.

WSS ROKiT Phones.com 2019 World Championship – Jimmy White is your Champion!

After six heatbreaking defeats in finals at the Crucible, Jimmy White’s dream finally came true! Yesterday evening he became World Seniors Snooker Champion in the iconic venue! He beat Darren Morgan by 5-3 in an excellent final.

Here is the report by WPBSA:

White Wins at the Crucible

19th August 2019

Jimmy ‘Whirlwind’ White has defeated Darren Morgan 5-3 to win his second ROKiT Phones.com World Seniors Snooker Championship title at the iconic Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

View all tournament results

Held at the undisputed home of snooker for the first time, the four-day event saw both White and Morgan come through a field of 20 players comprised of former greats champions and amateur qualifiers from across the globe to contest the title match.

The final would prove to be a tightly contested affair during which the players were never separated by more than a single frame until the final ball was potted.

Former world number eight Morgan drew first blood with a clearance to the pink from the last red to take the opening frame, before White countered a break of 55 with a dish of his own to level the scores.

The following two frames were also shared as the pair headed to the interval locked at 2-2, before 10-time ranking event winner White hit the front for the first time with a break of 53.

It was Morgan’s turn to respond positively as he claimed the sixth frame for 3-3, before White hit a match-high break of 86 to move one away from finally breaking his Crucible duck, having famously lost in the final on six occasions at the professional World Championship.

As the tension grew, it appeared as though the final was destined to head for a deciding-frame as Morgan established a useful advantage with the remaining reds awkwardly placed.

White, however, had other ideas as he fought back to within five points with two reds remaining, before eventually earning what would prove to be a match-clinching chance to seal an emotional victory at the Crucible Theatre.

The success comes an incredible 38 years after White made his Crucible debut back in 1981 and earns him the top prize of £25,000. The success caps a fantastic season which has already seen the 57-year-old claim victories at the Irish Seniors Masters and the 6-Red World Seniors Championship tournaments.

“It sounds strange to be world champion at the Crucible,” said White. “I have been playing really well, I lost the form on Thursday coming here and today I managed to get my game together and I felt very strong. I am delighted to win because [Darren] Morgan plays all of the time, he is a top amateur, so he is very sharp. I knew I had a tough match, it looked like it was going to go 4-4 so it could have been anybody’s and sometimes you have got to take these opportunities.

“On Thursday I was playing fantastic stuff and I went to Barnsley [for the China Championship qualifiers] and lost 5-4 after I should have won and everything just went out of the window.

“Tony Knowles [former world number two] said to me that I wasn’t standing right and that my back leg needed to lock like years ago. I actually looked at a couple of videos last night and he was right, my back leg used to be straight. It gave me a lot of confidence today and I potted some real good long balls. A great example was the red to get in to win the match, you are even money to get them anyway but it was a great cueing shot.”

And the full story in pictures!

WSS ROKiT 2019 World Championship Build-up – Jimmy White v Rhydian Richards

The last match at the ROKit 2019 World Championship on August 16, 2019 will oppose Jimmy White to Rhydian Richards.

Jimmy White of course doesn’t need any introduction. He’s won everything – or about – as a professional except the World Championship and he has been a prolific winner on the WSS tour as well. He is extremely popular with the fans and his love for the game is immense.

I’m not going to repeat all I wrote in his profile on this blog, you will find it here.

You will also find his profile by Elliott West here.

Rhydian Richard, on the other hand, has never been a professional. He qualified for the WSS ROKiT 2019 World Championship by winning the first qualifying event.  He had already qualified for the Seniors World Championship in the previous season, and had beaten Joe Johnson in the first round. Rhydian has also beaten Darren Morgan in the 2018 Welsh Open – a main Tour event – and in the Final of the 2017 Welsh Amateur Championship. In 2016 he reached the semi-finals of the European Men Championship. All this is telling you one thing for certain: he’s a very capable player!

This is the last frame of the match between Darren Morgan and Rhydian at the Welsh Open 2018

For what I have been able to find, Rhydian and Jimmy have never played each other.

Mini Preview. I have to make Jimmy favourite, not just because of his record, but also because Rhydian has never before played at the Crucible. It’s a very special experiance and it can be intimidating. However, I expect a hard fought match.
Prediction: Jimmy White to win.

WSS ROKiT 2019 World Championship Build-up – Dennis Taylor v Stuart Watson

The evening session on 16 August 2019 will start with the match between Dennis Taylor and Stuart Watson.

Dennis Taylor of course will forever be associated with that “famous black” and the 1985 Final when he became World Champion, beating Steve Davis 18-17 in the early hours of the Tuesday morning , with over 18 Millions watching on BBC. Here you go…

But there is much more to Dennis than this match and this black. Dennis was ranked as high as n°2 in the World and won 19 professional titles, including the Masters and – of course – the World Championship.

Dennis loves to crack a joke … or many, but don’t be fooled: at the table he wants to win, badly and very seriously!

You will find Dennis profile on this blog here

And his profile by Elliott West here

Dennis opponent, Stuart Watson, has never been a pro. He earned his spot at the Crucible by beating Patrick Wallace by 3-0 in the final of the qualifying event 2, in Jersey.

Stuart has played a lot of snooker on the WSS tour over the last two seasons and earned the “most improved player award” at the “end-of-season” week-end in Newbury last June. 

More recently Stuart played at the Pink Ribbon 2019, a charity event organised for ten years at the South West Snooker Academy by Paul Mount and his team. There were nearly 400 entries this time. Amateurs competed over two days for the privilege to get to the “pro stage” and play some of the top professionals. Mind you … the final was played between Mark Allen and Stuart Bingham. Well, Stuart was one of those top amateurs who did reach the pro stage. He’s a seriously good player!

Mini Preview. Although Dennis Taylor still can play a a high level on his day, he tends to be a bit inconsistent nowadays. Dennis of course is used to the surroundings and that may be in his favour. Stuart Watson on the other hand has never played at the Crucible, it will be all new and maybe, intimidating. But I’m sure that he will relish the challenge, and he’s very solid. Prediction: Stuart Watson to prevail in a decider (and, why not? on the final black … )

My advice to Stuart … don’t listen to Dennis quips 😉 he will try every trick that old fox!

 

 

WSS ROKiT 2019 World Championship Build- up – Stephen Hendry v Tony Drago/Dene O’Kane

The second match on the afternoon of August 16, 2019 at the WSS ROKiT 2019 World Championship will see the “King of the Crucible”, Stephen Hendry take on either Tony Drago or Dene O’Kane.

WSSMasters2019GThorburnvHendryQF-6372

Stephen Hendry made the Crucible Theatre is own place during the nineties, winning the World Championship at the iconic arena a record seven times: in 1990, 1992-96 and 1999. He remains the youngest ever Snooker World Champion. He also changed the way snooker is played forever. He used to claim the “safety is over-rated”. He was all-out attack, and never changed that approach even when his form dipped and wins eluded him. He won 75 titles in total, 36 ranking events, including 18 “Triple Crown” events. He made 775 competitive centuries as a pro, including 11 maximum breaks. In May 2012, after featuring in his 27th consecutive World Championship, he announced his retirement from the game. He had spent 23 consecutive seasons in the top 16 of the world rankings.

In the first round of his very last World Championship he made this maximum break…

You will find Stephen Hendry profile on this blog here

And Stephen’s profile by Elliott West here

Reading the above you would be entitled to think that his opponent – Tony Drago or Dene O’Kane – stands no chance. Actually, after retiring Stephen really walked away from snooker for a long while, in part because he couldn’ accept to play at a lesser standard, in part because of his commitments in China where he was appointed to promote Chinese Pool, in part because of major changes in his private life.

He opened up about his career, its highs and its lows in his autobiography

Since he came back to play on the Seniors Tour, two years ago, he has struggled and he hasn’t won an event yet. Could it happen this week? It’s hard to tell.

Only one way to find out: come and watch! I won’t make any prediction …

Mohammed Abdelkader to replace Wael Talaat at the 2019 WSS ROKiT World Championship

The news was shared yesterday by World Seniors Snooker and Jason Francis:

Mohammed AbdelkaderMohammed Abdelkader to replace Wael Talaat in ROKiT World Seniors Snooker Championship.

We are very sorry to learn that Wael Talaat from Egypt, the African Nations representative has not been able to receive his passport in order to travel into Sheffield. Mohammed Kammah has named Mohammed Abdelkader as their federations replacement and he will line up in the first round against James Wattana on Thursday.

Jason Francis said, “We are sorry for Wael who we know has been practising hard for this event, he is devastated at not getting his passport in time for travel to represent Africa. We welcome Mohammed and know he will do his continent proud”

Mohammed Abdelkader is from Cairo where he works in real estate, he is a current World Seniors Tour Player.

To see Mohammed play James, or any of the other matches please click this link https://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/events/snooker-seniors

 

WSS ROKiT 2019 World Championship Build-up – Joris Maas v Leo Fernandez

The second session on August 16, 2019, will feature two players who are probably little known by the general public or the casual snooker fan: Joris Maas will play Leo Fernandez.

Joris qualified for this event by winning the qualifying leg in Toronto.

Joris Maas is the reigning National Champion in his country, The Netherlands, a title he won last June. Actually Joris has been in the final of The Netherlands Snooker Championship all of the last three times it was played.

Joris has never been a professional, however he is playing quite a lot of snooker at amateur level and with considerable success. The best source for those interested in knowing Joris a bit better as a player is probably his profile on Cuetracker. As you will see Joris has been very active, and won a lot of matches, since 2011.

I fully expect to see some big orange patches in the Crucible crowd for this session!

Leo qualified for this event by winning the fourth qualifying leg in Couldston

Leo Fernandez has been on and off the main tour: 1995–1997, 1998–2001, 2002–2006, 2007/2008, 2016–2018 … that’s 12 seasons in total; his highest ranking was 67. He’s never gone past the last 16 in a ranking event, but, make no mistake, he’s a very capable player on his day. His highest break in professional competition is 140.

In 2017, he knocked Ding Junhui out of the UK Championship in the first round …

You will find more about Leo in his profile on Cuetracker

Off the table, Leo is a warm, smiling character. The love of his life is his family, his partner and his “little princess”. To say that he is a doting father is the mother of all understatements!

This match may not immediately attract the casual fan, but I believe that it is probably one of the most interesting games of the first rounds.

Why? Because Joris and Leo are evenly matched, and both of them play on a regular basis. This should be very good snooker, close and extremely competitive.

Leo may have a mini advantage as he has played at the crucible before, in 1999, where he had the misfortune to meet a certain Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last 32. Leo had won five matches to qualify, Ronnie went on to reach the semi finals.

 

 

 

 

 

WSS ROKiT 2019 World Championship – Great Sponsoring / Partnership News!

The build-up series will continue tomorrow, but today is the time to share two great pieces of news regarding sponsoring and partnership.

This is the first one:

Canadian Legend Cliff Thorburn has today announced he will be working with Purple Pharma at next week’s ROKiT World Seniors Snooker Championship promoting and encouraging people to carry Bleed Kits

Trauma is the leading cause of death for people under 40 in the Uk, having a bleed control kit on the scene means quick and immediate action to control a catastrophic bleed before the emergency services arrive.

Cliff said “When I played I was known as a tough match player, someone once said of my play that every shot was a pint of blood, I was stunned to hear how many lives could be saved if more of these kits were on site and people learnt the skills to make a difference”

As part of Cliffs promotion of Purple Pharma every ROKiT World Seniors Event will carry Bleed Kits on site. A kit like the one pictured costs just £32.50 plus Vat and delivery. You can get one by calling 07383 432 627 or email orders@purplepharma.com

Bleed Control Kits, helping reduce deaths from catastrophic bleeding.

Bleed Control Kit

(source Jason Francis on Facebook)

And this is the second one:

The ROKiT World Seniors tour today welcomes Chamberlain 1875 as its Official Watch Partner for the 2019/20 Season.

Chamberlain1875.com is a Belgian company developed and created by Snooker Historian Nico Smeets who is a player himself.

Nico has long had a fascination with the origins of our game, invented by Sir Neville Chamberlain in Ootacamund in India. His company pays homage to the games creator and honours him with the creation of 20 swiss handmade time pieces.

Chamberlain1875.com watches will be available to purchase at all ROKiT World Seniors Events and Nico himself will be on hand to talk you through the history of the game and his watch collection.To celebrate the launch of this partnership Chamberlain 1875 are going to present a watch to the player who makes the highest break during the tournament. The piece, aptly named ‘The Crucible’, is a stunning piece of Swiss watchmaking and has a value in excess of £1000.
Jason Francis, Chairman of ROKiT World Seniors said “I have been so impressed with Nico’s passion in honouring the memory of Sir Neville Chamberlain, who invented our great game, but also his commitment and attention to detail in producing his watch range, all of which commemorate or pay homage too a part of the sport of snooker. The person who wins ‘The Crucible’ Watch has a time piece to rival anything out there in terms of quality but of course is unique in its connections to our history”The price range of the watches is from 699 to 5000 Euro. Chamberlain 1875 is available online and in selected stores.

Jason Francis, Chairman of ROKiT World Seniors said “I have been so impressed with Nico’s passion in honouring the memory of Sir Neville Chamberlain, who invented our great game, but also his commitment and attention to detail in producing his watch range, all of which commemorate or pay homage too a part of the sport of snooker. The person who wins ‘The Crucible’ Watch has a time piece to rival anything out there in terms of quality but of course is unique in its connections to our history”

The price range of the watches is from 699 to 5000 Euro. Chamberlain 1875 is available online and in selected stores.

(source Jason Francis on Facebook)

Chamberlain1875-3