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I’m still buzzing after one of my fullest days out in a while. A 4am wake-up and the best part of four hours on the M1 brought me to the amazing venue that is the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds – and there will rarely be a snooker club welcome to match the one awaiting the day’s players (except at the other dates in this series, of course!). Mr and Mrs SB were sat at the control desk, behind neatly-lined rows of goody bags (players only, sadly) and to one side sat a fine selection of Mrs SB’s homemade cup-cakes.
Also in the bar area was resident professional Peter Lines, a very interested spectator for the day given the involvement of his young lad Oliver as one of the leading contenders. I took the opportunity to say a quick hello and reminisce over a match I’d seen him play at Willie Thorne’s in Leicester – thankfully he was completely unfazed that I had chosen to talk about a match he’d lost: top man!
My day’s viewing kicked off with a chance to see Sanderson Lam playing in his home venue and what a start he gave us, crashing in a 93 with his first visit. He knows it should have been more, following a loose red into a middle pocket jaw, but it sent a clear signal of intent to his opponent, Martin Ball, who struggled to find his range in the match. Despite Martin battling back to level the tie briefly at 1-1, the momentum and the flow was all with his opponent and Sandy went about his business purposefully and clinically, closing out a comfortable 4-1 win.
For the second round I moved to the far side of the club to watch the experienced Ant Parsons put relative newbie Sean Hopkin (the Shaun Murphy scholar) to the sword. But for a slight dip in the fourth frame, his performance was patience and control personified. I ought to learn something from watching that, really…
By now, it was late-lunch time, and I was delighted to find that the barbecue chicken melt was almost worth the 370 mile round-trip on its own. After polishing that off, I discovered that Mr Parsons had almost booked his place in the final, while the other half of the tournament was getting held up by the young Mr Lines, who was on a mission to play as many free frames of snooker as he could… Well, that’s what Sandy said anyway.*
Needing a bit of a break from watching snooker and feeling the opportunity call of so many empty tables, I took to one for a little warm-up ahead of a much anticipated challenge match between myself and Snooker Island’s Roland Cox. I raced to a comfortable 3-1 defeat against the flying Scotsman Stevie Baillie, but thankfully this had the desired sharpening effect on my play for the next encounter.
My game against Roly took on extra significance (for me) as a chance to show an app-sceptic that it was indeed possible to play snooker while using the MySnookerStats app to score for yourselves. Some of his doubt was simply down to the misapprehension that you would have to record every shot at the instant that it is played, whereas in reality you can afford to exchange a couple of shots every now and again before you go back to update the app – just rest the phone on a cushion, out of eye-line. The average shot time still works out pretty accurately over the course of a whole session. I think my quick demonstration of how to hold the phone while doing the scoring also helped:
- Hold the phone as though scrolling a Twitter timeline, but with the thumb pressed into the button-less middle of the screen to secure it.
- Slide your cue between the fingers which rest behind the phone, to give yourself a free hand with which you can respot the colours, so that you never have to put any equipment down.
I’m delighted to say that the overall demonstration was a huge success and Roly was forced to admit that the presence of the MySnookerStats app was not really so distracting once he got used to the idea that you no longer need to walk back to the scoreboard at the end of a visit.
He could also see that the app had no impact whatsoever on my most marvellous ball-run for the session. There were a few key moments in the game at which I suspect he could employ Shotmaker (the Islanders’ snooker shot graphics system) to help convey his full horror. However, he might need a 3D update to satisfactorily describe the high arc of the blue ball as it returned to the centre of the table, Lazarus-like, from the depths of the middle bag where he’d drilled it, only to sit ready and waiting for me to pounce. Ah, happy days!
Eventually, the familiar call of “just one more frame” had to go unheeded because the Parsons-Lines final was at last ready to start, albeit away from the main showpiece table where the Neil Robertson Exhibition crowd were excitedly gathering. (I know! What a splendid day out!) I think Roly is already keen for a rematch, but I’m happy to treasure the memories just now.
Anyway, Oli was true to form in the final, eventually closing out his fourth deciding frame of the day to take the finely-detailed artwork prize and claim his place in the final eight of the event. Remember that the two finalists on that day will have their entrance fees to Q School paid.
Meanwhile, there was a lot of schmoozing to be done in the bar, plus a decent buffet to polish off (he said, scoffing the last of the onion rings). I enjoyed catching up with Matt Selt who has recently relocated to the North as he echoed the sentiments of the great John Shuttleworth (worth a listen!), and the irrepressibly positive Kev Ellis of Ellis Sports Promotions: not only does he put together a good snooker exhibition, but he also has great taste in snooker apps!
I think I may also have met Matt from ProSnookerBlog but he seemed to be relaxing in the bar and enjoying the
#careless banter, rather than watching snooker, tweeting or blogging. So perhaps it wasn’t really him? There were certainly a few lookalikes on show that day…
Finally, then, just a massive thanks to Mr Snooker Backer and his lovely wife Mrs Snooker for their great hospitality and welcome. It’s a unique day out, that’s for sure, and fully recommended if you’ve got any aspirations to play at the Q School standard (or above!).
Remember, for the stats, go here.
*Not really, I made that up.