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.


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


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

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. 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. 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)



WSS ROKiT 2019 World Championship Build-up – Aaron Canavan v Au Chi Wai

The Defending Champion, Aaron Canavan will be first at the table at 10 am on August 16, 2019, the second day of the Championship. Aaron will play Au Chi Wai who won the Qualifying event in Beijing last season. Don’t be confused by the double naming, it’s the same guy!

Aaron was a surprise winner in 2018. He has never been a pro and had rarely played outside the Channels Islands. Aaron may not have had a stellar season but he has been – still is – a wonderful World Champion and ambassador for the WSS ROKiT Tour. He welcomed players at his club in Jersey, for a qualifying event, and, at every occasion,  stressed how much the opportunities offered by the World Seniors Snooker Tour have made a difference in his life. In April, he was invited to play in the Main Tour World Championship Qualifiers, facing Robert Milkins, a former top 16 player, in the last 128. It was always going to be a huge task: everything was unchartered territory. Aaron was beaten by 10-1 but he gave it his all, and, in the second session ran his opponent much closer than the score suggests. Here is what he had to say before the match.

And when he finished runner-up at the six reds World Championship last season, with no prize money for his efforts, this is what he told the press in Jersey.

Thank you Aaron.

You will find Aaron Canavan profile on this blog here

And Aaron’s profile by Elliott West here

His opponent, Au Chi Wai, is 49, from Hong Kong, and regularly plays in National competitions, in snooker and in pool, in China. Last May, Au Chi Wai played in the Q-School and reached the QF in the second event (source Cuetracker)

He has never been a pro, but has played in some of the Worldsnooker events. In 2010, he played as a wildcard at the China Open; his opponent was James Wattana. He played on the Asian Tour regularly whilst it was organised, reaching the last 32 in event 3 in the 2014 /15 season. (source cuetracker)

He also regularly plays in the Asian Championships. He  reached  finals on several occasions.

Au Chi Wai profile on wikipedia is minimal, but here it is

You can watch Au Chi Wai in action here, in an exhibition match in Hong Kong, against Mark Selby, in 2015.

Mini Preview: this is a hard one to call. Clearly both players are extremely capable. Aaron will feel both the motivation and the pressure of being the defending Champion. Au Chi Wai will want to do well in repesenting his country, he will come prepared but may suffer from jet-lag a bit. I’ll sit on the fence here … 



WSS ROKiT 2019 World Championship Build-up – Cliff Thorburn v Tony Knowles/Chen Gang

The last match on the first day of the Championship maybe be a long one… indeed, on August 14, 2019, the second match of the evening sees the return of “The Grinder”.


Cliff Thorburn might be the oldest player in the draw – he’s 71 – it would be a huge mistake to dismiss the popular Canadian. He’s there to win. Always!

Off the table he’s a charming gentleman, with a huge dry sense of humour, at the table he’s a relentless predator. His record speaks for itself: he won 25 titles including the 1980 World Championship  and the Masters three times (1983, 1985, 1986), he made two 147, including the first ever at the Crucible (1983), he reached the n°1 spot in the professional World rankings.

You will find Cliff’s profile on this blog here

And Cliff’s profile by Elliott West here

Cliff will play either Tony Knowles or Chen Gang.

If Cliff meets Chen Gang, it’s hard to predict what will happen as very little is known outside China about the CBSA nominee. It will be unchartered territory for both of them.

If Tony Knowles wins his first round match and is Cliff’s opponent in the evening, it’s a different story. They have played each other seven times as professionals, with Tony winning four times, for three wins to Cliff. Here is their head-to-head details on Cuetracker.

Two of those matches were just one frame and probably don’t mean too much. They won one each.

Probably the most significant of the five remaining matches is the 1983 World Championship semi final, a match that Cliff won by 16-15. At no time was there more than two frames between them. It was that close. It was the third match in a row that Cliff won in a decider in that competition. That tells us two things: in their prime they were evenly matched, and, win or lose, Cliff has to be scraped off the table!

Nowadays though, I think that Cliff is sharper and plays snooker more often than Tony. Therefore I expect Cliff to prevail.

WSS ROKiT 2019 World Championship Build-up – Joe Johnson v James Wattana/Wael Talaat

The evening session of the first day of the WSS ROKiT 2019 World Championship, 15 August 2019, sees the start of the second round matches.

The first of these matches opposes Joe Johnson to the winner of James Wattana v Wael Talaat.


Joe Johnson is the reigning WSS ROKiT Sheffield Masters, a title he won at the Crucible, last April.

The Crucible is a venue where Joe has history. He was a 150-0 outsider when he beat Steve Davis by 18-12 to become World Champion. He reached the final again the next year, coming very close to beat the “Crucible Curse”, and again he faced Steve Davis but this time lost by 18-14. The 1986 World Championship remains the only ranking event he won.

During the 90s Joe continued to compete despite suffering multiple heart attacks such is his love for his sport. He still has the passion, the prospect of playing at the Crucible still gives him goosebumps. You can be certain he will put the work in – is putting the work in – and will fight with all he has.

You will find Joe Johnson’s profile on this blog here

And Joe Johnson’s profile by Elliott West here

Joe will face either James Wattana or Wael Talaat. In my preview of their first round match I explain why I fancy James Wattana to prevail.

Joe and James have played each other professionally only twice, with James prevailing both times: you can see their head-to-head here on cuetracker. At the time Joe’s health was already a big concern, James on the other hand was a young professional – he turned professional in 1989 – he was in his early twenties, already a tournament winner.

Should James win his first round match, as I expect, things might be a bit more balanced this time. Because James is still playing on the  main tour, he has to be favourite, but I know better than to discount Joe’s passion and will to win. This should be a very interesting match.

Should Wael win, we are in for a in for a trip into the unknown. They have never met at professional level, and as far as I know, they have never played each other.

WSS ROKiT 2019 World Championship Buid-up – Willie Thorne v Darren Morgan

The second match of the afternoon session on August 15, 2019 at the WSS ROKiT 2019 World Championship will see Willie Thorne take on Darren Morgan.

Willie Thorne nowadays is probably best known as a snooker commentator and pundit, but during his professional days, between 1975 and 2001, he was one of the best players in the World. He won seven professional titles, including one raking event, the 1985 Classic. However what made Willie stand out at the time was his attacking style and his exceptional break building. He made 126 centuries – only the third player to pass the 100 mark back then – including a 147.

You will find Willie Thorne profile on this blog here

And Willie’s profile by Elliott West here

Willie’s opponent is Darren Morgan from Wales. Darren is the reigning Welsh Amateur Champion, as well as the currently European and World Masters Champion. He competed professionally from 1988 to 2007. He was part of the top eight in the world. His best achievement as a professional was to beat Steve Davis by 9-8 to win the 1996 Irish Masters in the iconic Goffs; he also reached three other major finals. Since retiring, Darren Morgan continues to play at a very high level: he has accumulated no less than 20 Amateur titles since 2007!

You will find Darren Morgan’s profile on this blog here

Mini Preview

Willie Thorne hasn’t played much in recent years, having suffred a number of health issues. Amongst other things, Willie’s eyesight became problematic. Last year he underwent a surgery, in the hope to improve the situation. It has helped but it’s still not perfect. Darren Morgan on the contrary is still playing regularly and at a very high standard. Testimony of that is his recent Welsh Amateur Champion title. Therefore I can see only one winner here. Prediction: Darren Morgan to win.

WSS ROKiT 2019 World Championship Build-up – James Wattana v Wael Talaat

The second session of the  WSS ROKiT 2019 World Championship at the Crucible will start on August 15, 2919 at 2pm, and first at the table will be James Wattana from Thailand and Wael Talaat from Egypt.

James Wattana of course is a legend of the game. James first came to prominence when, in 1886, aged only 16, he won the Thailand Masters as an amateur, beating Terry Griffiths in the final. Three years later, he turned proffessional. He went on to win three ranking events, to climb as high as number three in the world and to make three 147.

The second of those maximum breaks came at the 1992 British Open, and lasted just over 7 minutes, a record at the time. The funny thing is that his opponent was Tony Drago, probably the fasted player on the tour. You can watch it here:

James also had a maximum against Ronnie O’Sullivan 😉

James Wattana was the first Asian player to reach the top levels in snooker and inspired a generation of aspiring players in Asia. He is a God in his country.

At 49, James is still competing on the Main Tour, under an invitational card. On form he remains a beautiful player to watch.

You can read James Wattana profile on this blog here.

Wael Talaat on the other hand is not really well known. He’s from Egypt and lives in Caïro. In his country, he is hugely respected as a player and as a coach. He was African Champion on three occasions – in 2007, 2009 and 2011 – and was runner-up four times as well in 2002, 2010, 2016 and 2017.

Wael had a short spell on the Main tour. In 1998 he played nine matches as a professional, but failed to win a single one of them.  (source cuetracker)

In 2015, he requalified for the Main Tour, as Runner-up in the African Championship. However he only played in one event, the 2015 Six Reds World Championship, losing all five matches he played. (source cuetracker)

That doesn’t look very promising, but bear in mind that African players probably don’t have the kind of opportunities to play, nor the conditions and opposition they would need to reach their full potential.

Wael does not have a profile on wikipedia.

Mini Preview

Based on the players respective records, and considering that James Wattana is still playing on the professional circuit, and is familiar with the Crucible surroundings, I have to make the Thai legend a strong favourite. Whatever happens though, I hope that Wael Talaat will have the opportunity to show what he can do, and more importantly will enjoy the occasion. Prediction: James Wattana to win.

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

The second match of the first session of the championship, stating at 10 am on 15 August 2019, opposes Tony Drago from Malta to Dene O’Kane from New-Zealand

Tony Drago, nicknamed “The Tornado” is fast, furious, emotional and larger than life.

Nothing will tell you more or better about Tony than this documentary he filmed with Snooker Legends.


At the snooker table, Tony is best known for his extremely fast play. Ronnie O’Sullivan is a snail in comparison…. there is never a dull moment when he plays.

Tony played a lot on the Snooker Legends circuit, and notably was a member of the winning “rest of the World” team at the 2013 Legends Cup!


In 2017, Tony suffered a very serious health scare. Fortunately he’s recovered now albeit a light lighter than he used to be. How godd is his form though remains to be seen.

You can read about Tony’s carreer in his profile on this blog

And more about Tony in his profile by Elliott West

Dene O’Kane was born in 1963, in New Zealand. He first qualified as a professional snooker player in 1984, and played on the snooker Main Tour until 2001. He then requalified in 2006 but was immediately relegated at the end of the 2006/2007 season. His highest ranking was 18, and his highest break a 140, which he made at the 1990 World Championship. His best result on the main tour was a final – which he lost by 9-8 to Mike Hallett – at the 1989 Hong Kong Open, back then a ranking event.

After being relegated in 2001, Dene continued to play as an amateur with considerable success: he won the BSF World Masters Championship three times (2004, 2005 and 2008) and he was Oceania Champions three times as well (2005, 2006, 2007).

More recently he played in the 2012 Seniors World Championship organised at the time by Worldsnooker. Dene was seeded in the last 16 and beat Barry West and Jimmy White before losing in the semi finals to Tony Chappel. Here is this SF match, refereed by the legendary John Williams, who also refereed the famous 1985 World final:

Mini (non-) preview

I have to admit that I have absolutely no clue about how this match will pan out. Dene played really well in 2012, but that was 7 years ago, Tony hasn’t played much over the last two years due to health issues. Therefore I honestly can’t predict anything at all.