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.

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

This is the first of a series of posts, in the build-up of the 2019 WSS ROKiT World Championship, starting at the Crucible on August 15.

The opening match of the competition, played at 10 am on August 15, 2019 will see Tony Knowles do battle with Chen Gang.

Tony Knowles came to fame when he beat Steve Davis by 10-1 in the first round of the 1982 World Championship at the Crucible. Steve Davis was the defending champion, and the pre-tournament favourite for the title. Tony Knowles was an un-heralded outsider. That he beat Steve was a huge surprise, that he beat him by 10-1 was a seismic shock. He went on to reach the quarter-finals in the tournament. In the next two seasons he managed to win two ranking tournaments.

If you speak to Tony nowadays, he will probbably tell you how himself and his contemporaries traveled Europe and the world promoting snooker everywhere. Those memories are dear to him. And he’s right. How many remember that snooker was popular outside the UK/Ireland at the time? Yes, it was. Eurosport started covering snooker as early as the late 1980 th and lots clubs opened in western mainland Europe.

You can read Tony’s profile on this blog here

And Tony’s profile by Elliott West here

Chen Gang is a bit of an unknown quantity, to us Europeans at least. He’s 42 and from Anhui, a Chinese Province, west of Shanghai. He runs a club there, and is a respected coach. He also regularly competes, with success, in China national competitions. Chen Gang was considered to be the best player in Anhui – “Anhui first cue” – until recently, when Niu Zhuang, a 25 years old former professional raised the bar. Chen Gang was runner-up in the Chinese Qualifying Event and was afterwards chosen to be CBSA nominee for the 2019 WSS ROKiT World Championship.

Match mini preview

I would have liked to find some footage of Chen Gang in action in order to know a bit more about his game … but I failed. Therefore I have no idea about the type of player he is. However he’s relatively young, 42, and, more importantly, he is an active player who still competes regularly, as opposed to Tony Knowles who is retired and will probably lack any form of match sharpness. Therefore I make him favourite to win this match, despite the possibly intimidating surroundings and the China-UK  time difference.

Prediction: Chen Gang to win.

Happy Birthday Joe Johnson



Happy Birthday Joe Johnson!

Our reigning WSS ROKiT Masters Champion turn 67 today.

Joe became famous by winning the 1886 World Championship, beating Steve Davis by 18-12 in the Final. He was a 150-1 outsider and had never won a match at the Crucible before. He came as close as possible to beat the Crucible Curse the next year, reaching the final, but this time losing by 18-14 … to Steve Davis.

Joe will play at the Cucible again on August 15, 2019 in the evening. He is amongst the twenty players who will do battle to be the 2019 WSS ROKiT World Champion. His opponent will be either Wael Talaat from Egypt or James Wattana from Thailand. Can he lift the trophy again?

If you wish to know more about Joe …

Here you’ll find his profile on this blog

and here you will find his profile by Elliott West