Mark Selby crowned first ever Virtual World Snooker Champion

Mark Selby has been crowned the first ever Virtual Betfred World Snooker Champion in front of thousands of online spectators this afternoon.

The three-time winner, represented by gamer Scott Edwards, overcame John Higgins, controlled by Benny De Nayer, at a simulated Crucible Theatre.

Today should have seen the final of the real-world tournament in Sheffield, which was postponed until 16 August due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Scott Edwards, the pre-tournament favourite, will visit the Crucible during the rearranged championships to lift his trophy.

Speaking after his victory, he said: “I am buzzing but above all it is just a massive feeling of relief. The pressure of being favourite before the tournament was weighing on me.

“It means so much for me to get the win. Realistically I am never going to be virtual world champion in any other sport.”

The World Snooker Tour teamed up with video game publisher Ripstone to run the tournament, with 16 of snooker’s top online players competing for the trophy on PlayStation 4 consoles.

The prize package also includes a cue signed by the world’s top pros, a copy of Snooker 19 Gold Edition and a chance to watch live matches first-hand.

“I felt confident because I have won 75% of my online tournaments over the past year, so it was just about holding my nerve,” Mr Edwards said.

“I have played Benny plenty of times before and have a good record against him,” he added.

Simulated sporting events have proven popular during lockdown, with the Virtual Grand National raising more than £2.6m for the NHS.

The simulated snooker championships were broadcast on YouTube and Facebook, with YouTube hits receiving almost 150,000 views alone throughout the tournament.

A WST spokesperson said: “Snooker fans around the world will be missing our sport’s biggest tournament, so this is the next best thing, especially for anyone who loves video games.

“It’s been a chance to get behind your favourite player, follow the action and marvel at the skills of the best exponents of Snooker 19.”