Continuing my recent flirtation with entering competitions which I really don’t belong in, I turned up at the Grove Snooker club in Harold Hill, Essex, for an Open event, which I’d been promised a number of top players would be entering. I had fully intended to simply be an interested spectator, and maybe show a few people the app and tell them about my site, but a mate suggested I might as well have a game just for the experience. And I’m glad that I did, although that’s not because I played well.
The comp was organised by Bill King, father of Mark who is currently ranked #16 in the world, so at least I felt that my entrance money would find its way into a safe pair of hands…
My opponent in the first round was Joe Jogia. Not yet a household name, I asked him if he played much. “A bit,” he nodded. He rattled in a 50 with his first chance to cruise the first frame, and added a 137 total clearance to seal the second. At this point I asked him if he was, in fact, on the Main Tour. It turns out that he has just qualified to be in that very special Top 96 bracket by virtue of winning the PIOS (the Pontin’s International Open Series – the only way to reach the professional ranks) – and he’s provisionally ranked number 69 in the world. At this point, I relaxed, knowing that in about twenty minutes I would be ordering a burger and chips in the bar and then be on my way home.
As the scrappy third frame drifted out of my reach, Gary Filtness (co-organiser) wandered past and reminded us that I should actually have an 18 start since Joe is on the Main Tour. I pointed out that had I known about this, I would have only lost the previous frame by 119 points. It was far too late for the extra points to rescue me in this one either, so I conceded and we started the last, I mean the fourth. In fact, I’m sure Joe was starting to feel sorry for me and did his best to ease off and give me a few chances to pinch it. I resolutely refused to take advantage, even when just an easy red and the six colours on their spots remained. As the green rebounded from the jaws of the pocket, my fate was sealed.
The burger and chips were excellent, by the way, and it was a good chance to sit down and hear a few stories from Bill and Gary. I can’t repeat any of them here, unfortunately…
Later on, I watched as Joe compiled a 147 against Stuart Bingham. This was the first time I’d ever witnessed one live and it was a treat. The applause from the eight-strong crowd had barely settled down by the time we realised that Mark King on the other table was embarking on a maximum of his own. I watched in disbelief as he strolled round and dispatched the final colours. Two in ten minutes. Surely this kind of thing doesn’t happen often?
If you want to see some top quality snooker, you should check out the next Open event (once the date is confirmed). Meanwhile, I’ll focus on the bread and butter of the local league instead!