Posts by: Matt Huart

Disability Snooker to be Showcased at Crucible Theatre

Four leading players from the 360Fizz World Disability Billiards and Snooker Tour have earned the opportunity to compete at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield this August for the first time.

To be staged as part of the 2019 ROKiT World Seniors Snooker Championship, the session will take place on the morning of 18 August from 10:00am and feature four highly decorated players who compete regularly on the WDBS circuit.

Among those in action will be Daniel Lee, who plays in the Group 2 wheelchair category and earlier this year was named as the Vic Hartley Player of the Season in recognition of his success during the 2018/19 campaign.

He will be joined by Daniel Blunn, who was born with cerebral palsy and competes as a Group 4 player. Blunn has been a part of the WDBS family since our first event in November 2015 and has to date claimed an incredible eight events, including three during the current campaign.

Representing sensory disabilities are Coventry’s Nick Neale, a six-time winner of competitions for players with visual impairments and deaf player Shabir Ahmed, who has established himself as the dominant player in his category with six titles and was last year recognised at the Deaf Sports Personality of the Year Awards by finishing in third place in the overall voting.

The event will be the first as part of a three-year agreement which will also see disability snooker return to Sheffield in 2020 and 2021.

Nigel Mawer, WDBS Chairman said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for our players to be able to play at the home of snooker and from speaking to them already I know just how excited they are to be able to live their dream and walk out on the same stage as their heroes.

“The event is going to be a real celebration of disability snooker and I would like to encourage all of our players to come along and support those competing and make it a day to remember!”

Tickets are already on sale at the price of just £1.47 when purchased with a full-price ticket to any other session at the ROKiT World Seniors Snooker Championship, so book now to avoid disappointment, by phone 0114 249 600 or online HERE.

The ROKiT World Seniors Snooker Championship will run across four days from 15-18 August 2019 and feature several all-time greats of the game including ‘King of the Crucible’ Stephen Hendry and 10-time ranking event winner Jimmy White.

There will also be a session on the morning of Saturday 17th August held to showcase the talent on the World Women’s Snooker Tour.

Disability Snooker Champions Decided in Derby

A trio of main event champions, each with their own intriguing stories, emerged from last weekend’s dramatic World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) Derby Open.

Supported by leading packaging company DS Smith, the event was held at the Cueball Derby, a regular tour stop featuring players with both visual (Group 7A/7B) and hearing impairments (Group 8). It was the final tournament of the 2018/19 WDBS campaign and the first to run a new system which saw Group 7 split into two competitions to reflect the classification structure run by British Blind Sport.

Group 7A – Glory for Gallacher

Gary Gallacher claimed his maiden WDBS main event title in the new Group 7A category.

Scotland’s Gallacher was already a two-time Challenge Cup winner in the past – his most recent being at the Southern Classic in Swindon during March – but this success represents his most significant accolade on the circuit so far.

The 57-year-old was supreme during the round robin phase, topping the group with a 100% record without dropping a frame. Qualifying for his first final at this level, Gallacher would face 2018 UK Open finalist Bob Craft, who finished second in the standings.

After the opening two frames of the final were shared, Gallacher fluked the final pink in frame three before sinking a terrific black to capitalise on his good fortune. He then added the fourth frame to seal his maiden crown.

During his earlier round robin win against Craft, Gallacher also made the highest break with an effort of 43.

Group 7B –  Neale defends

In the Group 7B classification, defending champion Nick Neale survived a comeback from Mike Gillespie in the final to retain the title.

Neale made light work of qualifying for the showpiece as he finished first in the round robin standings after winning all his fixtures 2-0. Following on from his heavy scoring at this same venue last year, the Birmingham cueist rattled in breaks of 82, 80, 80 and 75.

A repeat of the 2018 final in Derby materialised as 2017 champion Gillespie progressed in second; the deciding factor being a 2-0 group stage win over four-time WDBS victor Paul Smith, who missed out in third.

The final was looking like a stroll in the park for Neale as he fashioned a 2-0 advantage, but a resolute Gillespie responded by making a 72 break in frame three before forcing a decider. However, Neale was not to be denied his sixth WDBS title when he controlled and secured the fifth frame for a 3-2 victory. It meant that Neale’s imposing streak continues – this was his fourth successive WDBS competition win.

Group 8 – Nicholas cashes in

There was a major surprise in Group 8 as Nicholas Cash burst on to the WDBS scene during his first appearance to record one of the circuit’s most memorable successes.

Cash’s campaign nearly ended in the group stages, as he narrowly qualified in second place on frame difference after three players had all won two matches each. In the knockouts he defeated Daniel Booth (2-0), Champion of Champions winner Lewis Knowles (2-1) and then 2017 Hull Open champion Blake Munton (2-1). Against both Knowles and Munton, Cash recovered after losing the opening frame.

The biggest upset was still to come, though, when Cash overhauled six-time WDBS winner and defending champion Shabir Ahmed, who had imperiously reached yet another final without losing a single frame throughout.

In a see-saw encounter that went to a deciding frame, Ahmed, who trailed by 20 points, looked like repeating his heroics from this venue in last year’s final by snatching it on the colours when he deposited yellow to pink. However, after Ahmed had failed to attain ideal position on the black, Cash later seized an opportunity by impressively potting it for an emotional victory.

Challenge Cup champions

For those who did not qualify for the knockout stages, two separate Challenge Cup competitions were staged.

In the Group 7 event Ben Chappell defeated Ron Allen, 2-1, to take gold for the first time at a WDBS event following two previous silver-medal placings. Mark Forrest also claimed his first win in the Group 8 tournament following a 2-0 success over Daniel Harvest.

Simon Berrisford, WDBS Vice Chairman said: “The event has been a fantastic success – certainly one of the most remarkable and entertaining ones we’ve ever had. Splitting the Group 7 competition using British Blind Sport guidelines added a new, sharp dimension to proceedings, whilst the Group 8 division continues to thrive; testament to the record-breaking 27 players who took part.

“WDBS would like to thank Danny Cooper and all his team at Cueball for their brilliant facilities and, of course, Nigel Coton and Michael Buckley of DS Smith Featherstone who passionately supported the event.”

WDBS will return next month with the start of the new 2019/20 season.

Derby Open 2019: Tournament Preview

The final stop on this season’s World Disability Billiards and Snooker circuit takes place this weekend, as the Cueball Derby once again plays as host to the 2019 WDBS Derby Open.

Supported by leading packaging company DS Smith, the event is staged for players with visual (Group 7) and hearing (Group 8) impairments who will both compete within their own individual classification groups. Using British Blind Sport guidelines, for the first time Group 7 will be split into two sub-categories dependent on the competitor’s severity of impairment.

Open Day

Before the competitive action gets underway at the weekend, Friday will be our regular curtain-raising Open Day where individuals and groups of all disabilities are encouraged to come along and try snooker regardless of previous experience. A mix of both technical coaching and fun activities will be provided by our team of WPBSA World Snooker coaches at the Go Green Energy Coaching Zone.

Group 7A

Formation of the 7A category means we are guaranteed a new main event champion in Derby.

Potential candidates for the title include Bob Craft and Gary Gallacher. Craft came close to a maiden WDBS triumph last year when he reached the final of the UK Open, whilst Scotland’s Gallacher is a two-time Challenge Cup winner, most recently at March’s Southern Classic held in Swindon.

Another tour stalwart, Scott Swanson, will also make the trip down from across the border, seeking to go deep in the event. Recent tour addition Hassan Ali will be back in action, whilst newcomers Danny Dyche and Donna Healy-Sharpe make their debuts.

Group 7B

Group 7B contains a trio of former winners and a pair of two-time finalists, but the player to beat is the in-form Nick Neale.

Last year at this venue, Birmingham’s Neale defeated Mike Gillespie, 3-1, in the final. Neale was in irresistible form throughout that weekend, constructing several half century breaks including a top effort of 92. Since then Neale has remained the kingpin in the category scooping further titles at the Champion of Champions, Hull Open and the Southern Classic.

There are, however, players who have the tools to topple him, this includes Gillespie who won at the Cueball during its first hosting of a WDBS tournament in 2017. The player who Gillespie defeated in the final that day – Paul Smith – is a four-time gold medalist on the circuit whose latest glory was at the Open Disability Championship last autumn.

David Baker and Ronnie Allen are aiming to go one better and become a main title winner having both been close in the past with two runners-up finishes each. David Martin and Ben Chappell will also be hopeful of reaching new territory.

Group 8

Shabir Ahmed has pretty much dominated the Group 8 scene for the majority of the past two years and will go to Derby as the tournament favourite once again.

Ahmed has fond memories of the Cueball venue; it was here in 2017 where he claimed his first WDBS title, while 12 months ago he retained the title in dramatic circumstances when he came back to oust rival Lewis Knowles in an epic final that went to the final black in the deciding frame.

In total Ahmed has now won six WDBS titles, including five of the last six Group 8 events staged since the start of 2018. The only blot on that record was at November’s Champion of Champions when Knowles overcame him in a final frame to secure his elusive maiden win. Knowles has since lost to Ahmed in the Southern Classic final some eight weeks ago, but that success in Gloucester proves that he can defeat the group’s number one player.

This category continues to thrive with a record field of 27 set to participate in the coming days. Within the entry are 2016 Woking Open champion David Ingham and 2017 Hull Open champion Blake Munton. WDBS main event finalists Richard Gott and Nikolas De Whytell are also scheduled to be present.

View full tournament information, including draws and results during the event online.

2019/2020 Provisional Calendar Announced

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) is today pleased to announce its provisional calendar of events for the 2019/20 season.

As was the case during the current campaign, next season’s newly rebranded 360Fizz WDBS Tour will comprise at least eight weekend events.

The calendar includes a number of returning events, including the Parris Cues Champion of Champions which returns for a second-successive season, as well as the long-established all-classification groups Welsh Open and Open Disability Snooker Championship events.

For the first time players from Groups 1-5 will have the opportunity to compete at a regular Group 6-8 venue, the Tradewell Snooker Centre in Hull, while the Belgian Open will be expanded to include players from all-eight classification groups for the first time in 2020.

The tour will also return to Hazel Grove Snooker Club following a successful first event earlier this year, taking a new January slot in the calendar.

Further information in respect of each event will be released over the coming months, including event entry packs and classification information.

Provisional 2019/20 360Fizz WDBS Tour Calendar

28-30 June 2019
Humber Classic (G1-6) – Hull

9-11 August 2019
Welsh Open (G1-8) – Cwmbran

20-22 September 2019
Open Disability Snooker Championship (G1-8) – Northampton

19-20 October 2019
Parris Cues Champion of Champions (G1-8) – Venue TBC

15-17 November 2019
Hull Open (G7-8) – Hull

10-12 January 2020
Stockport Open (G1-6) – Hazel Grove, Stockport

6-8 March 2020
Belgian Open (G1-8) – Bruges, Belgium

May 2020
TBC (G7-8) – Venue TBC

Please note that all dates are provisional and subject to change 

Lee Crowned 2018/19 WDBS Player of the Season

Daniel Lee has been named as the inaugural winner of the Vic Hartley WDBS Player of the Season award.

Named after the late Vic Hartley, a long-time referee and friend of WDBS, the honour was bestowed upon wheelchair player Lee during this year’s Disability Snooker Day celebrations at the Sheffield Winter Garden earlier this week.

As well as the prestige of becoming the first WDBS Played of the Season, Lee was also presented with a unique cue case by Rob Reed of RR Cue Cases. The stunning case was made in WDBS colours and carries design features including the WDBS logo, the player of the season wording and most importantly, Lee’s name across its handle.

The award follows a successful season for Group 2 player Lee, who has won two titles in his group (Northern Classic and Champion of Champions), as well as the mixed classification Welsh Open event last July at which he emerged victorious from a field of 55 players with all disabilities.

Off the table Lee has also been a fantastic ambassador for disability snooker throughout the season and has been heavily involved with work at Stoke Mandevile, the home of the Paralympic Games, to provide more opportunities for disabled people to play snooker. He recently qualified as a Level 1 WPBSA World Snooker coach and provided support at the 2019 Inter-Spinal Unit Games.

We would like to thank everyone who attended the day, including Dawn and Ann who are the daughters of Vic Hartley, as well as Rob Reed for the fantastic prize donated.

Nominations by group:

Groups 1/2: Daniel Lee
Group 3: Daniel Blunn (nb: competed in this group for the majority of the season)
Groups 4/5: Mickey Chambers
Group 6A: Michael Farrell
Group 6B: Dan Harwood
Group 7: Nick Neale
Group 8: Shabir Ahmed

DS Smith to Support Derby Open

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) is today pleased to announce that the upcoming Derby Open will be supported by DS Smith.

Entries are already open for the final event of the 2018/19 season which will take place for a third time at the Cueball Derby, one of our most well-established venues.

The weekend will begin on Friday 17 May with an open day for people with all disabilities to come and try snooker, with expert coaches on hand to provide advice and support at the Go Green Energy Coaching Zone.

Over the following two days (18-19 May) both deaf and visually impaired players will then compete in tournaments, with a Challenge Cup event on the second day for players who do not progress from the group stage to ensure that everyone has plenty of snooker to enjoy throughout the weekend.

DS Smith is a European leading packaging company of customer-specific packaging with emphasis on state-of-the art packaging design and local service close to customer facilities. The company has a product portfolio that includes transit packaging, consumer packaging, displays and promotional packaging, customised protective packaging and industrial packaging.

The support provided by DS Smith comes as a result of exhibition evenings featuring Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White, held over the last year in Lincoln and organised by former WDBS champion Nigel Coton and his wife Ali. Both events were made possible with the support of DS Smith, with surplus funds from ticket sales donated to WDBS.

Michael Buckley, Managing Director of the DS Smith Featherstone business, who lives near Derby, will be in attendance over the weekend to understand how the WDBS has grown and to present prizes on the Sunday.

Learn more about DS Smith online: www.dssmith.com/uk/packaging

360Fizz to Sponsor 2019/20 WDBS Tour

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) has announced a ground-breaking new partnership that will see 360Fizz become the title sponsor of the WDBS Tour for the next two seasons.

The new agreement will see the creation of the 360Fizz WDBS Tour which will include tournaments for people with physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities, alongside fun open days at which people with all disabilities are encouraged to come and try snooker.

Founded by Jonny Welch 360Fizz is a successful promotion, marketing and management agency with a talent portfolio boasting both well-known celebrities and up and coming talent. Fizzthinks360 offers a ‘360’ service including promotion, strategy, web design & development, app development, email marketing, digital media and social media.

Already 360Fizz has been the title sponsor of three individual WDBS events (Welsh Open, Humber Classic and Open Disability Snooker Championship) during the current season and both parties are delighted to be able to formalise this close association with through a new wider-reaching partnership.

Nigel Mawer, WDBS Chairman said: “This agreement represents a significant milestone for WDBS and I am delighted by the support that has been provided by Jonny and his team at 360Fizz. The progress that we have made since our first event in Gloucester nearly four years ago now has been pleasing to see, however we are ambitious and recognise that there is still work to be done if we are to achieve our ultimate aim of restoring snooker to its rightful position at the Paralympic Games.

“The support provided by 360Fizz under this agreement provides us with a sound platform from which to be able to continue our development and we look forward to being able to encourage more new people from around the world to pick up a cue and participate in our wonderful sport.”

Jonny Welch, owner of 360Fizz said: “During the past year it has been a pleasure to be involved with WDBS and in particular to be able to meet the players who are an inspiration to us all. I have personally already learned a lot about people’s disabilities through my involvement with WDBS events which has helped me to be able to provide a better and more inclusive experience for people with disabilities at events that I have managed.

“All of us at 360Fizz are proud to be able to support disability snooker to be able to help more people to be a part of something so special. The WDBS family has made me feel welcome from day one and I look forward to attending several events next season!”

For more information about the 360Fizz WDBS Tour including its events and classification criteria visit: https://www.wdbs.info/

Learn more about 360Fizz: https://360fizz.com/

Remembering Vic Hartley

The inaugural winner of the prestigious Vic Hartley WDBS Player of the Season Award will be announced during Wednesday’s World Snooker Disability Day in Sheffield; an honour named in tribute to our friend and colleague who sadly passed away last month.

Vic was born on the 25th July 1931 in Shepherd’s Bush, London. He began work for a local coach company, first as a mechanic, then a driver, before commencing national service where he was based in Egypt. He discovered a passion for this way of life and later joined the Territorial Army, Royal Electrical Mechanical and Engineers Regiment. Afterwards he had a spell at the Royal Military College of Science in Shrivenham.

Loving husband to Beryl for nearly 50 years before she passed away in early 2010, the happy couple were proud of their two children, Dawn and Ann, and their three grandchildren Karl, Dean and Chloe. After feeling unwell on Thursday 28th March, Vic was taken to hospital where he passed away in the arms of his girls.

Enthusiastic about several different sports, Vic’s biggest affection was towards snooker – a pursuit that would involve him in various roles over many years.

Originally signing up for his local team, he was drawn towards the administration and running of the local league. He enjoyed crucial roles such as Treasurer and Results Secretary, and only up until last year he still had ongoing input.

His love for the sport also led him into refereeing. Vic qualified and later achieved Class 1 status – he would go on to have a long and distinguished career in officiating that would see him travel up and down the country and beyond. Away from his own baize duties he was eager to support upcoming referees too, using his years of knowledge and wisdom to tutor and mentor.

Vic represented the English Association of Snooker and Billiards impeccably, regardless of whether he was refereeing at local and national events, or further afield during major European and international competitions. One of his proudest highlights was in 2002 when he refereed at the Crucible Theatre during the World Ladies Snooker Championship.

Having gained experience refereeing disabled and wheelchair players at Stoke Mandeville earlier on in his career, Vic was very keen to be a part of, and promote, World Disability Billiards and Snooker which was established in 2015, officiating in the opening event at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.

Since then the WDBS circuit has grown in strength, and a constant within that uprising success was Vic’s participation at several tournaments; even after a spell of ill-health left him sidelined for a short period, he returned to action in 2018. Only in March – a few days before his passing – Vic was at Jesters Snooker Hall in Swindon to greet players, guardians and staff during this year’s Southern Classic. He was with snooker right up until the end.

His fondness of WDBS was apparent and donations from his recent funeral were gratefully received by the organisation.

Vic was respected by all his peers and away from the table his energy and effervescent nature left us in high spirits. Whilst he leaves a hole within the sport, he will always be remembered by the snooker community.

In honour of his time, effort and commitment, his legacy will also live on through the new Vic Hartley WDBS Player of the Year Award that will be presented annually after each season. As well as the distinction of this title, the winning player will also receive a luxurious bespoke cue case designed and hand crafted by Rob Reed from RR Cue Cases.

A player from each disability category has been nominated for the prize, this year’s shortlisted contenders are Daniel Lee (Groups 1 and 2), Daniel Blunn (Group 3), Mickey Chambers (Groupsa 4 and 5), Michael Farrell (Group 6A), Daniel Harwood (Group 6B), Nick Neale (Group 7) and Shabir Ahmed (Group 8).

World Snooker Disability Day 2019

World Snooker Disability Day will once again be staged during the Betfred World Snooker Championship in Sheffield on Wednesday 24th April 2019.

With activities to run throughout the day at the ‘Cue Zone’ situated at the Winter Garden, close to the Crucible Theatre, the event aims to raise awareness of disability snooker and encourage people with disabilities to participate in snooker as either players, fans or officials.

For the first time our official charity for the day will be the Motor Neurone Disease Association, with their logo to be featured as part of branding and promotional material around the day, as well as collections around Tudor Square.

The event is jointly organised by World Snooker and World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS), an organising body of several disability snooker events across the UK and mainland Europe during the past four years. The long-term goal for WDBS is to see snooker return to the Paralympics, at which snooker was one of its founding sports and was held most recently in 1988.

Cue Zone activities

Under the guidance of WPBSA World Snooker coaches Steve Rutter and Ian McAllister, the day will see regular WDBS competitors demonstrating their skills in matches against members of the general public, both in individual and doubles matches.

The day will also see the inaugural presentation of the Vic Hartley WDBS Player of the Season Award, with the winner to receive a unique bespoke cue case by RR Cue Cases.

Nigel Mawer, Rob Reed and Simon Berrisford stand smiling

#Cue4All

Once again World Snooker Disability Day will form part of the #Cue4All initiative organised by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, which aims to promote the inclusive nature of snooker and billiards.

Even if you cannot make it to the Crucible on the day, be part of the celebrations by hosting open days at your club, offering free taster sessions, running snooker challenges, promoting your community snooker sessions and sharing stories on social media about the groups or individuals who access your snooker facilities.

Remember to tag in the hashtag #Cue4All across social media so that we can share your inclusive activities during this year’s Betfred World Championship!

Disability Champions Crowned in Swindon

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) held its first event of the year for visually impaired and deaf players at Jesters Snooker Hall in Swindon last weekend.

The Southern Classic saw 49 players from four classification groups battle it out across two days, with a mix of new and returning faces in action.

The competitive play followed an initial open day which welcomed a variety of guests including students from Crowdys Hill School, representatives from Vision West of England and Robert Buckland QC MP (Swindon South).

Groups 6A / 6B

Group 6A saw Faisal Butt claim his second successive title following a 3-1 victory against David Mac.

Champion last month at the Northern Classic, Butt progressed through the round robin stage without the loss of a frame before the 39-year-old defeated Warren Ealy and Michael Busst to reach the final.

His opponent Mac meanwhile was competing in his first standalone Group 6A event and having achieved his best-ever match break of 29, booked his place in the final with a deciding-frame success against Michael Farrell.

The title match in our tournament for people with learning disabilities saw the opening two frames shared, before Butt claimed the following two to secure victory.

In Group 6B there was a long-awaited second title triumph for Leroy Williams, who completed a comeback 6-4 victory against debutant Christopher Goldsworthy in the final.

Having both progressed from a five-player group, it was 26-year-old Goldsworthy who raced into a 3-0 lead, before Williams crucially grabbed the fourth on the final black ahead of the mid-session interval to get a frame on the board.

Although Goldsworthy would take the first on their resumption to restore his three-frame lead, from there it was all Williams as the former Northern Classic champion won five in a row to turn the tables and end a run of five final defeats stretching back over 13 months.

Group 7

In the Group 7 competition for people with visual impairments there was a third successive title win for Nick Neale who defeated Welshman Ronnie Allen 4-0 in the final.

Once again Neale dominated the breaks list with a top run of 76 during the weekend and having progressed through his five-player group with a 100% record, saw off four-time champion Paul Smith in the semi-finals to reach the title match.

Allen meanwhile came through the same group in second place, before defeating David Baker in the last four to set up a re-match with Neale.

Ultimately however it was to be Neale’s day as he needed just 63 minutes to complete a whitewash victory and secure his fifth-career WDBS title.

Group 8

Shabir Ahmed defeated long-term rival Lewis Knowles 3-1 in the final to capture a record sixth Group 8 title since he joined the WDBS Tour two years ago.

Having each topped their groups during the opening day of play, the pair progressed through the knockout rounds without dropping a frame to set up their fifth final meeting.

As is often the case it was a cagey affair between the two with every frame coming down to at least the final pink. It was multiple champion Ahmed who took the first two and looked to be set to complete a whitewash victory in the third, before Knowles cleared with 31 to steal the frame and keeps his hopes alive.

Ahmed was not to be denied however and subsequently clinched the fourth frame on the pink to get over the line and secure his first title of 2019.

Challenge Cup

The Challenge Cup competition for players not qualified for the knockout rounds was won by Gary Gallacher, who defeated Lee Finbow 2-0 to secure his second gold medal almost three years on from his first at the Woking Open in May 2016.

As always, the WDBS Team would like to extend its thanks to our hosts at Jesters Snooker Hall and to all of the players, supporters and officials to helped to make the event possible.

Our next event for players from Groups 7-8 will be the Disability Classic which is to run from 17-19 May at the Cueball Derby. Entry for the event will be available shortly.

View full tournament results from the Southern Classic via the WPBSA Tournament Manager here.

View event photos at our Facebook page here.

View the updated WDBS Roll of Honour here.