A PLAYER competing in the final stages of a world ranking event for the first time scored the biggest win of his career when the PowerHouse UK Snooker Championship began in York yesterday.

The first round battle between two Thailanders saw world No 114 Kwan Poomjang oust his close friend and world No 31 James Wattana 9-2 at the Barbican Leisure Centre.

This puts 27-year-old Poomjang into the last 32 of the tournament, which ensures him at least £8,000 prize money. He turned pro only last season, when his total earnings for his debut campaign were just over £7,000.

"It is unbelievable," the victor said last night after the match. "We practice a lot together and he usually beats me. This is the first time we have met in competition."

Poomjang's second round opponent will be Glaswegian Graeme Dott, the world No 12, on Wednesday.

A pot from a double off the bottom cushion on a re-spotted black clinched world No 20 Dominic Dale, from Penarth, a tough 9-6 first round win over Scot Euan Henderson, the world No 67.

This gives Dott a second round clash with seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry in the second round on Wednesday.

"I wanted to get the match over so I decided to have a go at the black," Dale said later. "I knew that if I missed the double it would not leave a shot for him. Henderson is a tremendously difficult player to beat, really tough. The days of the slow, methodical players have long gone, so when you come up against one like Henderson it turns into a hard battle.

"I am looking forward to playing Hendry. If you have a desire to improve in snooker then you can't help but learn from playing against Hendry. I haven't played him for some years but I will be gunning for him. It will be an honour to play him.

"I don't think it will help him our second round match not being on television. It might even things up slightly. It will be very tough, I am sure, but sometimes he can have motivational problems when the television cameras aren't there. I hope I am not tempting fate."

Leeds star Paul Hunter, the new British Open champion, will be up against world No 19 David Gray, from Surrey, who won his first round match yesterday 9-7 against qualifier Mark Davis, from Sussex.

"I am looking forward to playing Hunter," said Gray. "I am feeling okay after that first match. I am very happy with my form. In the longer distance matches like these (best of 17 frames) you have more time to settle yourself."

Hunter and Gray play their match on Wednesday.

There was a surprise defeat for world No 23 Fergal O'Brien, knocked out 9-4 by world No 52 Stephen Maguire, from Glasgow, who went 4-1 ahead before the Dubliner rallied but he couldn't make up the deficit. Maguire's second round opponent on Wednesday is last year's UK beaten finalist Ken Doherty.

The first session of play yesterday was watched by just under a 100 spectators and there were about a 100 in the arena last night.

Today's first round matches

10am and 7pm: Drew Henry v Stuart Bingham, Anthony Hamilton v Mark Selby, Michael Judge v Barry Pinches, Nigel Bond v Robert Milkins.

2.30pm: Marco Fu v Gerard Greene, Steve Davis v Paul Wykes, Chris Small v Leo Fernandez, Tony Drago v David Roe.

Tomorrow's first round matches

10am and 7pm: John Parrott v Adrian Gunnell, Allister Carter v Nick Walker, Anthony Davies v Nick Dyson, Dave Harold v Ian McCulloch.

2.30pm (playing to finish): Marco Fu v Gerard Greene, Steve Davis v Paul Wykes, Chris Small v Leo Fernandez, Tony Drago v David Roe.

Updated: 10:19 Tuesday, December 03, 2002