Northern Ireland Open 2018 – Day 4 – L32 and L16

Day 4 in the Home Nations series is always a bit hectic with two rounds to complete.

The last 32 round went essentially the way most would have expected, with one massive exception: Li Hang beat Neil Robertson by 4-0, Neil making a telling impact in just one frame, the second, where he scored 52 points. There is no Worldsnooker report on this round.

I didn’t see much of that round, other than the main table matches, so I can’t really commentate on the results. However it’s worth noting the good performances of Eden Sharav, Peter Ebdon and Robin Hull. OK, Robin was beaten in a deciding frame by Ryan Day, but this is a man who said that this season would be his last because of the health issues he’s suffering. A few weeks ago, he looked barely able to hold his cue. Peter Ebdon is another one who hinted that he could retire at the end of the season, because of pains in his back. Clearly they both want to make this season count. They have pride in their sport and it’s great to see. As for Eden, I was very impressed when I first saw him play, as an amateur, at SWSA, six or seven years ago. As a pro he hadn’t really been doing his talent justice until this season, but he seems to be doing that now.

The last 16 round saw both Eden Sharav and Peter Ebdon progress further. It’s Eden first quarter final in a ranking event today. Eden beat Ali Carter to get there and that’s a serious scalp.

The Mark Selby v Hamza Akbar match was a complete mismatch. Selby, being World n°1 has the right to be on television, but it didn’t make for good viewing.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker on the L16 round:

World number one Mark Selby clinched his place in the quarter-finals of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open, after defeating Martin O’Donnell 4-2 in Belfast.

The three-time World Champion has been in fine form this week, having breezed through all three matches prior to tonight, only dropping one frame in the process. However, O’Donnell provided a sterner test this evening.

The world number 60 claimed the opening frame on a respotted black. From there Selby took charge with breaks of 63, 66 and 81 to move 3-1 in front. That proved to be an unassailable advantage as Selby progressed to book a quarter-final meeting with Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.

“I feel good. In patches I still played alright there. Martin has had a good season so far,” said Selby. “Thepchaiya is one of the most talented players on tour and one of the quickest as well. He is very dangerous and should have done better in his career than he has so far.”

Un-Nooh produced a phenomenal display to dispatch Robbie Williams 4-0 in just 37 minutes. The Thai rapidly fired in breaks of 138, 104, 99 and 65 to romp to victory. Incredibly, he averaged just 14 seconds a shot during the game.

Ronnie O’Sullivan came through 4-1 against young Chinese star Zhou Yuelong to secure his quarter-final spot.

The Rocket has been adopting an approach of all-out attack this weekand it has paid off thus far, he’s dropped only two frames. Five-time World Champion O’Sullivan compiled breaks of 58, 83 and 132 on his way to this evening’s win. Up next he faces David Gilbert, who downed Lu Ning 4-0.

Judd Trump came through with a hard fought 4-2 victory against Belgium’s Luca Brecel. The scores were locked at 2-2 when the Ace in the Pack accumulated 316 points without reply to seal the win. He will meet Ryan Day tomorrow, after the Welshman beat Andrew Higginson 4-0.

Eden Sharav secured his first ever appearance in a ranking event quarter-final after coming from 3-1 down to beat Ali Carter 4-3. That leaves world number 18 Carter just the UK Championship to force his way into the top 16 in the Race to the Masters.

Sharav will now face Peter Ebdon for a spot in the last four, after the 2002 World Champion defeated Li Hang 4-1.

Luca Brecel has played better in this event than he has for a very long time. He still lost to Judd Trump who looks impressive. I have a feeling that the comments made about Kyren Wilson possibly becoming a World Champion before he does have really fired him up. I’m curious to see what happens from here, in particular if he comes to meet Peter Ebdon in the SF.

You can readd all about Ronnie’s two matches yesterday here.

Northern Ireland Open 2018 – Ronnie books his place in the QF

Two rounds are played today as the 32 become 8. Ronnie won his two matches today and is now in the quarter finals where he will play David Gilbert.

In his first match today, Ronnie beat Tom Ford by 4-0.


Ronnie played well in that match but not exceptionally well. However, there were no signs of taking things casually this time: he was focused and solid.

Here are a few images of this match, thanks to Tai Chengzhe

Ronnie’s mood after the match was clearly more positive than before it. Despite some misses, he feels that his game is coming together, which is good news with the UK Championship coming next.

In the second match of the day Ronnie beat Zhou Yuelong by 4-1.


In this match Ronnie appeared fully focused. As David Hendon said in commentary he had his “match head” on, and he needed to because Zhou Yuelong is a very capable young player. If in the previous match one could sense that at a point Tom Ford felt beaten, Zhou stayed positive and fighting throughout.

Zhou won the first frame with an excellent clearance after Ronnie missed the last red, playing with the rest cueing awkwardly over the brown. Ronnie played very solidly overall, brilliantly at times. When he made mistakes, he was clearly annoyed with himself, which was good to see. He even banged his head against the table in frustration at one point. But he applied himself from start to finish. The finish BTW was quite extraordinary. After Ronnie missed the black after the 14th red, it seemed for all the world that Zhou was going to clear for 3-2. However, a bad position on the last pink meant that he was not able to pot it. At that state he was leading by one point, meaning that if he potted the pink, Ronnie could only tie. A short battle followed and Ronnie was given a chance on the pink, a very difficult pink. Ronnie potted it, not seeking position on the black.  As a result he was left with a very tricky pot to a middle pocket or a difficult safety … you guess what happened.

It was a very good match actually, and enjoyable too. Ronnie added to his tally of centuries as well, with a great 132 in frame 4.

As you can hear Ronnie was very positive after the match. He feels that his work with Sightrigh is starting to pay off and that he’s more in control of his shots than he used to be.

Here is Ronnie’s postmatch with the sponsor:

and talking China, and expectations for the future

Northern Ireland Open 2018 – last 64 round-up

The last 64 round was played in Belfast yesterday and saw the departure of the defending Champion, Mark Williams who was defeated by Ali Carter.

The pundits discuss rivalry, dominating the sport, winning the world championship, and preview the defending Champion match.

here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Ronnie O’Sullivan put on a display of aggressive snooker in his 4-1 win over Mei Xiwen on day three of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.

The Rocket has already pledged to keep his shot-time down as low as possible this week on social media and he lived up to that promise today, averaging just 14.7 seconds per visit.

The match was characterised by O’Sullivan taking the attacking play at every opportunity. He also adopted an unorthodox breakoff style, trying to hit the opposite side of the pack between the blue and the pink. On one occasion that backfired with the Rocket catching the blue on the way down (watch here).

The attacking approach to the encounter paid off in terms of the result, with the five-time World Champion securing a comfortable victory, making breaks of 119 and 54 along the way.

“Seven matches in a tournament is like a marathon or an ironman,” said O’Sullivan. “The winning line is a long way away. I get interested at the last 16 stage or the quarter-finals. Until that comes I am just going to go for everything in sight, try to be creative and try to have fun. I shouldn’t really change my game no matter what. The aim is to have fun.”

Ali Carter beat defending Northern Ireland Open champion and current World Champion Mark Williams 4-3.

The Captain trailed 3-1, but overhauled Williams’ lead to secure what could prove to be a crucial win. Carter is currently ranked 18th in the world and has just the remainder of this week’s event and the UK Championship left to move into the top 16 and clinch a place at the Masters in January.

Judd Trump stormed to an impressive 4-0 win over Stuart Carrington in just 45 minutes.

Trump produced a thrilling display and compiled breaks of 137, 53, 55, 51 and 69 as he booked his place in the last 32.

World number one Mark Selby was in fine touch as he eased past recent European Masters champion Jimmy Robertson 4-0. While Neil Robertson battled back from 3-0 down to defeat Norway’s Kurt Maflin 4-3.

Not mention by Worldsnooker – despite snooker being described as a “land of opportunities” by Barry Hearn (*) – Chris Totten, BIlly Joe Castle, Hamza Akbar, Hamad Mia and Sanderson Lam, all ranked lower than 90th, reached the last 32 yesterday. Well done to them. However…

Chris Totten for instance has played 10 matches this season, having entered 8 events. Ronnie has played 16, having entered 4 events, and Kyren Wilson has played 39 having entered 10 events, 2 being invitational. If the way to create “opportunities” is to exhaust the top players with a mad schedule, and have us believe there is strength in dept because they come at a stage where they are barely standing … yes then it is a land of opportunities and a dreamland for the bookies.

You can read all about Ronnie’s strange performance yesterday here


Northern Ireland Open 2018 – Ronnie wins his last 64 match

Ronnie is through to the last 32 in Belfast after beating Mei Xiwen by 4-1, in a rather strange match.

NI Open 2018 ROS L64 Scores

The first frame was long and very scrappy and it was obvious that Ronnie’s concentration wasn’t there at all. He made countless mistakes and still managed to win it somehow. Mistakes continued in the second frame, and this time Mei punished him. That seemed to bring Ronnie’s focus back. In the third frame, after the most terrible break-off, Ronnie found something when Mei was unable to take advantage: the result was a well constructed 119. After that Ronnie played decent snooker and finished the match quite comfortably, despite playing at a madly fast pace and taking quite a number of risky shots.

After the match he explained why he felt the need to play this way…

Here is the report on Worldsnooker


Ronnie O’Sullivan put on a display of aggressive snooker in his 4-1 win over Mei Xiwen on day three of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.

The Rocket has already pledged to keep his shot-time down as low as possible this week on social media and he lived up to that promise today, averaging just 14.7 seconds per visit.

The match was characterised by O’Sullivan taking the attacking play at every opportunity. He also adopted an unorthodox breakoff style, trying to hit the opposite side of the pack between the blue and the pink. On one occasion that backfired with the Rocket catching the blue on the way down (watch here).

The attacking approach to the encounter paid off in terms of the result, with the five-time World Champion securing a comfortable victory, making breaks of 119 and 54 along the way.

“Seven matches in a tournament is like a marathon or an ironman,” said O’Sullivan. “The winning line is a long way away. I get interested at the last 16 stage or the quarter-finals. Until that comes I am just going to go for everything in sight, try to be creative and try to have fun. I shouldn’t really change my game no matter what. The aim is to have fun.”

Hopefully as the tournament progresses, Ronnie will feel more motivated and focused.

Tomorrow, in the last 32 , he will play Tom Ford. Tom is a dangerous player, but one who plays a fast and open game and that should suit Ronnie more than Mei’s methodical approach. Should he win, it will be either Michael Holt or Zhou Yuelong in the last 16.

Big thanks to Tai Chengzhe for those great images

Northern Ireland Open 2018 – Last 128 round-up

Top players fell like flies in the first round in Belfast. Kyren Wilson, Mark Allen, John Higgins, Joe Perry, Barry Hawkins, Stephen Maguire, Shaun Murphy, Stuart Bingham, Anthony McGill and Marco Fu all made an early exit. So, with Ding not entering, that’s 9 of the top 16 already out in first round.

Here are the reports on Worldsnooker:

Day 1 – Monday 12 November 2018

Defending champion Mark Williams defeated Alfie Burden 4-2 to avoid joining a raft of big names to fall by the wayside on day one of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.

Welshman Williams secured a dramatic victory last year here at the Belfast Waterfront, defeating young Chinese sensation Yan Bingtao 9-8 in the final to claim his first ranking title since 2011. That sparked an incredible season, which saw Williams go on to win his third World Championship title at the Crucible in May.

The 22-time ranking event winner Williams made breaks of 91, 69 and 91 on his way to booking a place in the last 64, where he will face an enticing clash with four-time ranking event winner Ali Carter.

Williams said: “It is just about winning in the first round. I had three one-visit frames, which is alright in a best of seven. The bits in between were scrappy, but I am still in so hopefully I can improve.

“It is just nice to come here to try to defend a title. I haven’t had the opportunity to do that for ages. It is going to be very difficult. To win an event with best of seven matches two years on the trot is nearly impossible, but I will try my best and see how far I can get.”

Elsewhere there were numerous shock first round exits. Among them was Northern Ireland’s top star Mark Allen, who was defeated 4-1 by world number 90 Niu Zhuang.

Masters champion Allen has been in great form and came into this week off the back of recently claiming the International Championship title in Daqing and reaching the semi-finals at last week’s Champion of Champions.

However, Niu stopped the Pistol in his tracks this afternoon. He composed breaks of 122 and 71 on his way to the win. Afterwards Allen admitted that he finds the additional pressure of playing in front of his home crowd hard to deal with.

Allen said: “I am probably putting myself under too much pressure to play well for the wrong reasons. Being a snooker player you have to be quite selfish and play for yourself all year round. Coming here I try and play for the fans. I try to win for the fans and I want to win the tournament for them.”

Rory McLeod defeated four-time World Champion John Higgins for the first time in his career, progressing thanks to a 4-2 victory.

McLeod had lost all six of their previous meetings, but the world number 61 managed to overturn the odds and secure a shock win.

BetVictor English Open champion Stuart Bingham’s hopes of claiming the £1 million bonus attached to winning all four Home Nations Events were ended with a 4-2 loss against Peter Lines. While Lee Walker overcame last week’s Champion of Champions runner-up Kyren Wilson 4-3.

Day 2 Tuesday 13 November 2018

World number five Judd Trump defeated Matthew Selt 4-2 on day two of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open in Belfast, to book a last 64 meeting with Stuart Carrington.

Trump suffered a difficult defeat at last week’s Champion of Champions, where he was beaten 6-1 by world number nine Kyren Wilson in their group three final.

The eight-time ranking event winner has now lost his last four matches to Wilson, who bowed out of this week’s event yesterday evening against Lee Walker. After today’s match, Trump stoked the rivalry between himself and Wilson when asked by Eurosport about the social media response to that result.

Trump said: “People are obviously saying that Kyren is the next up and coming star, but he is nearly my age and he has won nowhere near the amount that I have won. I think his personality and mine clash a little bit. People are looking for rivals going forward and we are probably going to be that.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan put on a stunning display as he swept past Iran’s Soheil Vahedi 4-0 in just under 45 minutes.

The Rocket claimed the first frame with a break of 86, before sensationally storming to three consecutive century runs of 111, 116 and 108 to secure the win.

“I scored well once I got in, but I missed a few balls,” said O’Sullivan. “He had some chances, missed them and let me off the hook really. Once I get left in around the balls, then I am pretty reliable in that area.”

World number one Mark Selby was a 4-1 victor against Anthony Hamilton, as he booked his last 64 spot.

The Jester from Leicester compiled breaks of 85 and 122 on the way to the win. He will now face Jimmy Robertson tomorrow.

Triple Crown winner Neil Robertson came through a high quality encounter with world number 40 Ben Woollaston 4–3.

The Australian trailed 3-1 to Leicester’s Woollaston. However, breaks of 85 and 67 helped him to overturn the deficit and come through in a deciding frame.

2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy suffered a shock exit after losing 4-2 at the hands of Sam Baird. While Jack Lisowski demolished Hossein Vafaei 4-0.

Eurosport as usual produces a great coverage:

Here are the previews

on day 1

and day 2 (with Ronnie’s masterclass)

Now onto some specific matches

You can read here about Ronnie’s win yesterday

Mark Allen went out first round and, sitting in his chair, all match he looked very nervous, red in the face and uneasy. He’s definitely putting himself under excessive pressure when playing at home and this, once again, was his undoing. The worrying part for Mark is that it seems to get worse over time, not better.

After his defeat Kyren Wilson shared this on social media:

Kyren Wilson unhappy

Kyren is right of course, and I can’t understand why it wasn’t possible with Liang Wenbo withdrawal leaving a table free in the first session on day 2. Ok, it would have been only streamed – but so was Kyren’s match anyway – and in the morning. But at least Kyren would have got another night’s sleep, maybe a more relaxed travel as well. At a very minimum Kyren should have been offered that choice.

Judd’s comments on his “rivalry” with Kyren are showing that in fact he’s concerned about where he stands, rather than confidence about it. Kyren in about 3 years younger than him, but turned pro 5 years later than him. And, true, his record is nowhere near Judd’s, but not everyone develops at the same pace and there is no denial that in the last two years, Kyren has looked the more solid of the two, particularly regarding the mental side of the sport.



2019 ManBetX Champion of Champions winner to earn £150,000.

This was today announced by Worldsnooker and on the tournament official website

Following record crowds and the tournament’s best ever viewing figures the prize fund for the 2019 ManBetX Champion of Champions has been increased to £440,000, with the winner set to take home £150,000.

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s 2018 final win over Kyren Wilson peaked at 990,000 and averaged 616,000 viewers on ITV4 on Sunday evening, the tournament’s highest ever viewing figures, while a record number of snooker fans watched the action live at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.

The continued growth of the ManBetX Champion of Champions as one of snooker’s biggest showpiece events was further evidenced online with a huge growth in the tournament’s reach and engagement with fans on social media.

As a result the winner of the next ManBetX Champion of Champions, to take place at Ricoh Arena, Coventry from Monday 4th to Sunday 10th November 2019, will receive £150,000. The runner-up prize is increased to £60,000 with losing semi-finalists earning £30,000. The four losing group finalists get £17,500 with the losing group semi-finalists to take home £12,500.

Matchroom Multi Sport COO Emily Frazer said: “The ManBetX Champion of Champions set the bar last week for not only seven days of sensational snooker but also a record-breaking live attending audience as well as the highest TV viewing figures yet for the event.

“We witnessed Mark Selby’s 147 on Wednesday which underlined the high level of play that was consistently displayed throughout the event. With consistent growth since the tournament began in 2013 the ManBetX Champion of Champions is now one of the biggest events of the season and our increase in prize fund to £440,000 with an additional £50,000 added to the winner’s prize reflects just how prestigious the Champion of Champions is.

“Our 2019 ticket sales have already broken opening day records with the final selling out quickly. We are poised for 2019 and have plenty of plans to continue growing the ManBetX Champion of Champions and ensure another year of top-quality viewing and providing a different and exciting experience for ticket holders at the Ricoh Arena.”

Lewis Hurt, ITV Sport’s director for the event, added: “The Champion of Champions is a great tournament which consistently delivers high quality snooker and strong audience figures for ITV4. Concluding with another dramatic final- this year’s tournament has once again shown why it is fast becoming one of the most popular events on the snooker calendar for both the players and the fans.”

Justine Hewitt, Head of Operations at the Ricoh Arena, said: “The Ricoh Arena has staged the Champion of Champions snooker tournament for a number of years now and every year the event has gone from strength-to-strength, culminating in a record year for ticket sales in 2018, which reinforces both our venue and the city of Coventry as a top-class destination for a variety of sports.

“Next year’s Champion of Champions tournament will be played during Coventry’s year as European City of Sport, and we are looking forward to playing our part in celebrating Coventry’s diverse sport offering, including welcoming back some of the world’s best snooker players next November.”

Tickets for the 2019 ManBetX Champion of Champions are on are on sale now. Prices start from just £11 per session with Premium and VIP packages also available. VIP tickets include prime view reserved seating with priority entry to arena, access to the tournament lounge where you’ll be able to see players practising before their match, a two-course meal and much more.

Featuring tournament winners from the previous 12 months, the ManBetX Champion of Champions has become one of snooker’s biggest tournaments since launching at Ricoh Arena in 2013. The likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy have all lifted the trophy.

The tournament starts with a quartet of four-man groups played over four days from Monday, November 4 until Thursday, November 7. The winner of each group progresses to the semi-finals, with one played on Friday, November 8 and the other on Saturday, November 9. The final on Sunday, November 10 will be over 19 frames.

What this shows above all is that Ronnie is right in claiming that quality rather than quantity is what brings the fans, and the sponsors money. What this tournament offers is a quality line-up, in a quality venue, with just one table. The players feel appreciated and, in turn, are keen to give it their best. Everyone is a winner.

Of course not every tournament can be restricted to 16 players and just one table, but surely it must be possible to find something in between this luxury and the 128 rushing through the first two rounds, with most matches not being broadcasted and watched only by a few, often only friends and family of the players at the table.

And, BTW, Ronnie has already qualified for this one as defending champion.


Northern Ireland Open 2018 – Ronnie wins his last 128 match


Ronnie beat Soheil Vahedi in less than 45 minutes and added three centuries to his tally in the process. The Iranian player can play better than he did today but looked a bit overawed by the circumstance and or his opponent.

Before the match Ronnie had posted this on twitter:

ROS tweet ahread of the NI Open 2018 l 128

Now he didn’t play many safeties, he didn’t need to, but was definitely slow: about 14 sec AST.  Snail!

Seriously Ronnie played properly and looked in good form.

Here are some great pictures thanks to Tai Chengzhe


The match review was interesting too, and positive.

And a good honest interview with the sponsor too

Ronnie has been quite vocal on twitter about the structure of the tour, and how he feels it affects the players, especially the top players who make it regularly to the latter stages of tournaments and therefore play a lot of matches. He also believes that the top players shouldn’t be forced to play qualifiers and I agree with him. You don’t see it happen in other sports and the reason is simple: broadcasters and sponsors want the best players in their events. Yes, it’s a privilege, but it’s one they earned the hard way. Ronnie, Williams, Higgins … they all started playing in Norbeck Castle in Blackpool, before climbing the rankings by winning match after match after match. The top players are the ones who attract the fans, and the television audience, they are the ones who generate the money. Having them at the venues is benefitting everyone.