Stockport Open 2020 | Tournament Preview

World Disability Billiards and Snooker will return to the Hazel Grove Snooker Club this weekend for its opening events of the new calendar year. The Stockport Open 2020 will feature a plethora of current and former champions mixing it with contenders and debut cueists from across several disability classification groups. 

Open Day 

Traditional with most WDBS events, the curtain is raised with our ‘Friday Open Day’ where we welcome individuals and groups to the venue, providing them with a relaxed atmosphere where they can learn about the organisation and receive tips from our dedicated coaches. Competitors for the weekend’s tournaments will also arrive and settle in, taking the opportunity to practise on the tables. 

Wheelchair and Ambulant Events (Groups 2-5) 

Several big-name players will contest the modified Group 2+4 event which features 19 entries. 

Multiple-time WDBS main event winner and Scottish international William Thomson is one of the fancied cueists to take the title, as too is wheelchair player Tony Southern, the reigning Belgian Open and UK Disability champion. 

Other contenders include former Manchester Classic winner Andy Johnson, last year’s runner-up Peter Yelland, two-time professional major ranking event finalist Dean Reynolds and youngster Ben Rawson. 

Twelve months ago, in the keenly contested Group 3 event, John Teasdale claimed his maiden WDBS main event title after a memorable comeback against Joe Hardstaff in the final. Both Teasdale and Hardstaff will be back, as too will former Open Disability champion Nigel Coton and tour regular Kal Mattu. 

Defending Group 5 champion Mickey Chambers will be seeking career title number five in Stockport but will face stiff opposition in rivals such as Humber Classic champion David Moore and recent main event finalists Dean Simmons and Ivor Halnosky. 2019 Challenge Cup winner Phil Woodwiss and three-time event semi-finalist Gareth Ward are also set to be present. 

Intellectual Disabilities (Groups 6A and 6B) 

In Group 6A, Faisal Butt will be looking to retain the title and pocket an incredible fifth victory inside a year. Butt has built up a rivalry with the also successful Michael Busst, who managed to overcome him in the Champion of Champions final in Gloucester last autumn. Warren Ealy and Michael Farrell – the other two qualifiers for that Champion of Champions – will be looking to secure their first gold medals. 

Leroy Williams is aiming to continue his recent dominance of Group 6B; the Liverpool based potter currently holds four main event accolades. Amongst the contenders to his title includes Christopher Goldsworthy, runner-up at the 2019 Southern Classic. 

You can keep up-to-date with all the action from Stockport throughout the weekend by visiting our social media channels on Facebook and Twitter, and all the latest draws and results via snookerscores.net here.

WDBS – A Year On

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) recently celebrated its first anniversary following its creation in July 2015.

A subsidiary company of the WPBSA, snooker’s world governing body, WDBS was created to run tournaments and other cue sports activities for people with disabilities.

During its first 12 months, the WDBS has overseen events staged in Gloucester, Manchester and Woking, providing opportunities for players from all eight WDBS classification groups to compete.

WDBS players have also had the opportunity to visit top professional events including the World and UK Championship tournaments televised by the BBC, meeting top professionals including Mark Allen, Mark Williams and Alan McManus.



One of the long-term ambitions of the WDBS is to see snooker regain a place in the Paralympics. It is perhaps a surprise to many that snooker was consistently included until as recently as 1988 and certainly within the UK there is a long history of disability snooker events.

For many years these were exclusively for wheelchair players, before the DSE (Disability Sports Events) began to stage competitions including a wider range of disabilities. Unfortunately in more recent years the events ran into difficulties for various reasons, with the final DSE event held in 2011.

One man who has played a significant role in the organisation of disability snooker within the UK is the EASB’s Clive Brown (pictured below working at the Woking Open), who now continues to be involved as a tournament director and also WDBS board member.

“Following the final DSE event in 2011, the regular players were asking me what was going on,” said Brown.

“I spoke to Jason Ferguson (Chairman of the WPBSA) and explained the problem we had. We had a few initiatives and interested parties, but something was needed to co-ordinate everything and get something going nationally. We had meetings over a couple of years, which initially led to an event at the South West Snooker Academy in 2013.Danielle

“Following that we carried on talking and also Jonathan Adams became involved which was very helpful to be able to tap into his knowledge and expertise of disability events. We managed to form a nucleus of interested people to take things further and ultimately this became the WDBS that exists today.

The Story So Far

Already in its first year the WDBS has made a significant impact, with 50 individual players having taken part in our three events to date. These include players with disabilities that have never been included within previous disability snooker events, which Brown describes as a major breakthrough:

“For many years there was just a national disability championship once a year,” said Brown. “But over the past 12 months we have held three events, with a view to holding more events next year. “WDBS is certainly opening up opportunities for people with disabilities; in particular those who are part of new categories such as the partially sighted and hearing impaired which we haven’t done before. There are also a lot more group six players with learning disabilities taking part.

“It’s a slow process but we are making inroads and generating much wider coverage of all categories of disability snooker.”


Player Response

The response from the players who have so far taken part in one of more of our three events has been positive, with a clear desire on their part for more and more events in the future.

Respondents of the recent WPBSA Insight Survey  cited the key benefits of playing snooker as including social interaction, being able to relax, as well as the opportunity to compete on a level playing field.

“All of the players that take part in disability snooker events always thoroughly enjoy the events,” continued Brown. “They want more. It’s very clear that they want something over and above playing snooker at a local level. They want to play competitively with people with disabilities, on a level playing field. They are competitive events, fun events and enjoyable events. Once you have been to one you certainly want more.

“As well as the diehards that have been involved for as long as I have been in disability snooker, already we have found a lot more who will become very loyal followers and participants over the coming years.

“It’s also nice to see that we have engaged with a lot more younger players as well who are the future of snooker. At one stage there was a danger of previous events becoming a club of ageing players but it’s nice that we are now making inroads now into a new generation.”


The Future

Of course while so much has already been achieved within the first 12 months, there is still a long journey ahead if snooker is to achieve its ultimate ambition of restoring the sport to the Paralympic Games.

Publicity of the events held so far, including television features during the coverage of professional main tour events has helped to put the WDBS on the map and our goal is to continue its growth over the coming years.

“I think it’s a slow process,” continued Brown. “We do need to learn how to work with more disability groups. It will take time to get in contact with the many hundreds of disability groups that are being run by local authorities and local organisations to actually try and engage with people that enjoy playing snooker.

“It’s a process that we hope will see the number of events that we are holding increase year-on year and encourage others to hold events for disabled. It may well be that the EASB will be holding some small events too which would be a very positive development.”

WDBS Classification Guide: Group One

World Disability Billiards and Snooker events are open to players with a wide range of disabilities, but how do we decide which players will play in each event and who they will play?

To explain, starting from this week we take a look at the WDBS classification system and hear from some of the players who have played in our events so far about their snooker experiences.

WDBS Disability Classification

The WDBS classification system comprises 36 individual profiles, which have then been allocated to eight groups, used to categorise events.

The system has been taken from the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) profile toolkit and revised to suit snooker and billiards.

Group One (profiles 1-7)

Wheelchair profiles

Profile 01: Almost no use in four limbs. Need to use a power wheelchair, or a manual wheelchair.

Profile 02: Almost no use in four limbs, but can bend elbows. May use a power wheelchair or a manual wheelchair.

Profile 03: Wheelchair user with very poor balance and inability to grip and release objects.

Profile 04: A person with almost no use in all four limbs, but with good trunk control. Able to push a wheelchair in some way.

Profile 05: A wheelchair user who has difficulty controlling their limbs when trying to perform any activity.

Profile 06: A wheelchair user with poor trunk control and slightly weak hands, or difficulty in controlling arms.

Profile 07: A wheelchair user with good use in one arm, may use a power wheelchair or manual Wheelchair.

Group one is the first of two classifications (as well as group two) for wheelchair users, either power or manual.

The group is made up of six disability profiles (1-6), in addition to a seventh which can fall under either group one or two depending on whether the player can make a bridge with their leading hand.

At the WDBS events held to date, both groups one and two have competed together in events for wheelchair users. Of the two wheelchair groups, players who fall under group one are the most affected by their disability when playing across all groups and have therefore received a 14 point start when playing against players from group two.

Player’s view

Surrey’s Graham Bonnell has competed in WDBS events as a group one player, winning the group one/two event at the inaugural WDBS Open Disability Snooker Championship last November in Gloucester.

From Oxted, Bonnell was involved in a motorcycle accident in 1983 when he was just 18, in which he suffered a broken neck. A few years later he was invited to play snooker at the local British Legion and has since gone on to captain a team in his local league.

Bonnell competes in WDBS events as a profile six player (and therefore group one), as a result of his incomplete quadriplegia.


“My bridge hand is of a group one player, but the grip in my back hand which holds the cue is not of group one or not strong enough for group two,” explained Bonnell.

“I can usually get down on the shot quite well, nearly as well as an able-bodied player.”

As well as playing the game for enjoyment, Bonnell has also found that snooker has become a key part of his everyday life from a physical perspective:


“I have been playing snooker for over 20 years and do now find that it helps with my day to day living,” said Bonnell. “For example leaning over the table to play the shots helps with spasm and to keep my body trunk more supple.

“I usually play four times per week, but when I don’t play for a week or two, I know all about it! It becomes so much harder to play.”

And with the 2016 Open Disability Snooker Championship around the corner this October, Bonnell is looking forward to defending his title and catching up with the WDBS team:

“So far I have only played in one event (Gloucester 2015), which went well as I won!” continued Bonnell.

“I also enjoyed visiting Sheffield for this year’s Disability Day and getting to meet more people, as was the case at the Friday Open Day at the Woking Open in May.

“It has also been good getting to know the WDBS team and I am looking forward to seeing everyone again in Gloucester this year.”

You can learn more about the English Federation of Disability Sport and their recently launched #TogetherWeWill campaign to help encourage disabled people to become more active.

Come back next week to read more about our classification system as we turn to Group Two players…

WDBS Announces 2016 Calendar

The WDBS has today announced its 2016 calendar with new events to be held in Manchester, Woking and Gloucester this year.

The announcement follows the successful staging of the 2015 Open Disability Snooker Championship at the South West Snooker Academy last November, which was open to five of the eight different WDBS classification groups.

The new calendar ensures that players from all eight different disability groups will have the opportunity to participate during 2016.

The first tournament will take place on the weekend of 19 and 20 March at Q’s Sports and Entertainment Bar, Manchester. The event will be open to groups 1-5, with full details and the entry pack to be released shortly.

On Friday 18 March there will also be a free open day at which people with any disability are encouraged to attend.

The second event will be held at the Woking Snooker Centre between 20 and 22 May. It is proposed that for the first time this will include tournaments for group 6-8 players, subject to receiving sufficient entries.

There will again be a free open day on 20 May, open to people with any disabilities.

The WDBS will also return to the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester from 15-16 October. A two-day tournament will be open to groups 1-5, with an open day for people with all disabilities to be held on 14 October.

Further information and entry details for the events in Woking and Gloucester will be released in due course.

WDBS Chairman Nigel Mawer said: “After the success of our inaugural event in Gloucester I am really pleased to announce our new WDBS events for 2016.

“We are still learning and through these events we want to understand how we can best meet the needs of our players. This is the start of a long road to create snooker events around the world for people with disabilities.”

WDBS director and ambassador Jonathan Adams added: “The announcement today shows the commitment of the WDBS to the future of disability cue sport in the UK and of fulfilling the goals that we set out to achieve last September.

“Following our inaugural event at the South West Snooker Academy we have received growing interest from the able bodied snooker tour and already we are starting to showcase how snooker is a sport for all and not just the privileged few.

“With help from our partners and new supporters we are excited to help the growth and development of snooker in 2016 and beyond.”

Pockett Hails New Opportunities

Last November saw the WDBS host the 2015 Open Disability Snooker Championship at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.

Tony in action at the SWSA

Tony in action at the SWSA

Staged by the new governing body for World Disability Billiards and Snooker, the tournament marked the first step on the long road back to the Paralympics for cue sports and proved to be well-received by those who took part.

One of those players was Gloucester’s Tony Pockett, who finished as runner-up in the Group 4/5 event to India’s Raja Subramanian. Pockett, who suffers from chronic back pain, decided to end a 24-year absence from snooker when by chance he heard about the tournament on the local radio:

“I was driving in the car when I heard about the tournament and thought that it sounded interesting,” said Pockett. “To be honest, in my position you have got to be in a positive mood to even think about entering something like this. If the event had been somewhere else I might not have gone, but because it was on my doorstep I thought that I would make the effort and go.”

Tony and his wife Carol attended the Betway UK Championship in December

Tony and his wife Carol attended the Betway UK Championship in December

Tony first began to play snooker at the age of 14 and regularly played in local leagues in Gloucester, however was diagnosed with dropfoot in 1988 when a piece of disc in his spine crushed the nerve going to his foot. He underwent a spinal decompression operation three years later that unfortunately was unsuccessful and prior to this tournament had barely played snooker since.

Pockett said: “I had to give up work and snooker because of my spine and I haven’t played since then properly. I’ve played two games in Weston Super Mare with my son, other than that it’s the first time and my cue had been in the bedroom since 1991!

“I used to play seven days a week as my father was a groundsman at sports and social club. We could be there all through the holidays and that’s where it first started off. When I met my wife I said that I should always go and play snooker on a Sunday lunchtime whatever happens, but when I gave up work that was it.”

Pockett, whose wife Carol also suffers with a disability, explained that for him the event has opened doors and that he would now like to continue to play snooker on a more regular basis, having already arranged to meet with other players from the event.

“My wife said that it must be the first time she has been left on her own all day for 25 years,” added Pockett. “She is disabled as well, so we live a very limited life. The event has opened the doors for me in a way. It has given me the interest to have a go at it now, whereas before I would say ‘no ok mate’. It has been really good, so laid back and the organisation has been superb.

Tony and the other players meet David Grace in York

Tony and the other players meet David Grace in York

“I was watching the younger lads play and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves which is wonderful. What can you get better than this? Nobody felt outclassed.”

As one of the group finalists in Gloucester, Pockett was also invited to attend the final Saturday of the Betway UK Championship and was given a special backstage tour of the venue, including the television studios, main arena and practice tables.

He was particularly thrilled to meet the likes of Steve Davis, John Parrott, John Virgo and Dennis Taylor, as well as David Grace who took time out from his semi-final preparations to pose for photographs.

Check out our photo galleries on Facebook for more images from both the 2015 Open Disability Championship and of Tony’s visit to the Betway UK Championship.

The WDBS will be announcing details of its 2016 events during the coming weeks.