A friend and I ventured down the M1 motorway to
support Kuldesh Johal in his bid to make an impression in the game of
The Benson & Hedges Masters is an annual
tournament open to all professional players ranked outside the top sixteen and
those players who are working their way up the challenge tour rankings.
Coincidentally this same day was scheduled to be
quite a significant day in the calendar as the return to competitive play of
Alex Higgins was anticipated.
Much publicity was generated by this potential
match but sadly both the fans and the press were let down as Alex was reported
to be unwell, and thus unable to play after all. Some cynical observers have
already been heard to say that the whole thing was a ploy to build up
additional publicity for the launch of Alex's new book.
I have no idea whether this claim is true, but
if not, I offer sympathy to Alex as wisdom tooth problems can be very painful.
I would not recommend that he should have the tooth removed as he will leave
himself open to further criticism, as the press will no doubt declare that "he
has had the last bit of his beleaguered wisdom removed altogether".
Moving on to the event that did take place, I
was lucky enough to see Tony Knowles in action. He looked every inch the
professional. In his waistcoat and suit he played with authority and skill, and
was successful in his best of nine match 5-4, showing a glimpse or two of the
form that took him to world number two in the rankings in the mid 1980's.
The Towers in Mansfield is an ideal venue for
this type of tournament and boasts excellent facilities, the staff were
courteous and helpful throughout the day.
My friend Kuldesh was not successful in his
match and was as you can imagine quite disappointed, however he resolved to
turn this setback into a stimulus for renewed motivation and a stint of even
more serious practise. I wish him well for the World Championship qualifiers in
Even though I could not stay at the event for
more than a brief few hours, one player did make a very positive impact on me
as an observer. His name is David Gilbert. His style is very smooth and quite
brisk, his cue delivery is punctuated by an extra long final back swing and
delivery. This mannerism seems to help him time his shots extremely well.
I also noticed that David looked at the angles
required for success in a very Matthew Stevens like manner and would bet that
he has a high regard for the former Benson & Hedges Masters championship.
We can only hope that he can emulate the Welshman's success, as individualistic
styles such as David's are particularly good for attracting large and
enthusiastic audiences to our sport.
I hope that whoever takes over sponsorship of
the Masters will recognise the value of this tournament and will replicate the
format after Benson & Hedges have departed, if not I lament the future and
it's reduced number of development opportunities for the younger players.
Well done Benson & Hedges for investing in
Snooker for as long as you have and no thanks, I don't smoke and never have,
despite the high profile involvement your company has had with my favourite
sport. I wonder whether this revelation might influence the Government that we
collectively helped to elect, sadly it seems not.