Seniors Snooker - 2017 World Seniors Snooker Championship
22nd-24th March 2017 / Baths Hall, Scunthorpe, England
SNOOKER LEGENDS SET TO CROSS CUES ONCE AGAIN
Time for some fun and nostalgia this week, but with a serious prize at the end of it, as we prepare for the revamped 2017 World Seniors Snooker Championship.
For a while it looked as if this title wouldn't be played for this season after the five year contract for the event (in its old guise) had expired and wasn't renewed.
However, Jason Francis of the popular Snooker Legends set up has rescued and breathed new life into the championship which is now exclusively for players who currently don't hold a professional tour card.
Amateur players aged 40 or above were given the unique opportunity to compete in all 4 of the qualification heats held. The winners of each advancing to the main stage at the Baths Hall in Scunthorpe where they will rub shoulders with some of the best. Read more about the qualifiers from England, Germany and Ireland here.
The overall champion of this year's competition will not only receive the title, trophy and a handsome £10,000 payday, but also a guaranteed place in the World Championship Crucible qualifiers next month at Ponds Forge. It leaves us with a number of intriguing possibilities and permutations.
The 12 player field consists of 8 former major champions and the 4 qualifiers.
All 8 of the invited legends have been seeded in accordance to their career accomplishments in terms of World Championships, Triple Crown Events and Ranking Events won. On that criteria only one person can be the top seed - the most successful player of all time, Stephen Hendry, who will be in competitive action for the first time since the 2013 World Seniors.
World Champions Cliff Thorburn, John Parrott, Dennis Taylor and Joe Johnson are the next respective seeds with 1977 UK Champion Patsy Fagan Number 6, two-time ranking event winner Tony Knowles Number 7 and former Classic winner Willie Thorne Number 8.
Seeds 5-8 will face the quartet of qualifiers in the Preliminary Round on Wednesday. In reality - and a reflection of the odds, the returning stars may find it tough against players who are still relatively match sharp and very active on the amateur circuit.
The winners of that will then face the top 4 seeds on Thursday in the Quarter-Finals, with the Semi-Finals scheduled for Friday afternoon and the Final in the evening.
Just like the qualifiers, all matches will be the best of 5 frames (an increase from the old format), although a black ball re-spot will determine the tie should it reach 2-2. The only exception to this is the final which will be extended to the best of 7 frames.
The pre-tournament favourite is actually Peter Lines who emerged as the first qualifier from the event held in Newbury last month. A professional for over 20 years, Lines got relegated from the circuit last season but has still regularly been in pro competitions this campaign as a Q-School Top Up entry. He has had some decent results too; most notably knocking out defending UK Champion Neil Robertson in Round One at the Barbican in York before Christmas.
Hendry is 5/2 second favourite. Should the great Scot win this event, he will head to Ponds Forge just three further wins away from appearing at the Crucible once again - his last professional appearance there was in 2012.
It is obviously difficult to gauge what Hendry's form is like, although he has been practising around his media and business arrangements in preparation. Having the most successful snooker player ever involved in this tournament - and possibly Sheffield, can only be good for the sport.
Patrick Wallace was the last qualifier through after claiming the Irish heat in Dublin a couple of weekends ago. The former World Championship Quarter-Finalist still plays to a high standard as he showed with a string of big breaks in advancing. Fellow qualifiers Jonathan Bagley and Aidan Owens are also match fit as they compete on the EASB circuit and beyond.
Thorburn, Parrott, Taylor, Johnson, Fagan and Knowles have all taken part in World Seniors action this decade, but with relatively little success. Thorne is set to play competitively for the first time since 2002.
Written and published by Michael Day on the 20th March 2017