Initially the European Masters was supposed to have all 128 players at the venue, and to be staged in Cluj. But a rather disappointing audience at the Titan Trophy in Cluj prompted a change of plans: it was decided to go back to Bucharest, a bigger city with much better connections. After a good deal of searching in vain for a bigger suitable venue, it was also decided to hold the event in the Globus Circus, where the Snooker Titans exhibitions took place. This was good and bad news at the same time. Good news because this is a great venue, a bit similar to Goffs, a bear pit with guaranteed great atmosphere. Bad because it meant that bringing 128 in Bucharest was no more a possibility, it had to be 32. Well, in fact, it will be 34, because the promoters agreed with Worldsnooker that they would have two last 64 matches held over to the venue: Mak Selby’s, the World Champion, and Ronnie’s the Romanian crowd’s favourite. And this is why we are having two qualifying rounds played in Preston this week …
Yesterday saw the completion of the last 128 round, and the good news for the fans and the promoters is that both Mark Selby and Ronnie won their opening match, both by 4-1, so they definitely will be in Bucharest next week: Mark will face Fergal O’Brien, and Ronnie will play Daniel Wells in the two last 64 held-over matches.
The promoters promised at least ten top 16 players in Bucharest … which was a bit of a gamble because there is no way they can guarantee that. But it’s still on track for now despite a few surprises in the last 128. First Ding had to withdraw, apparently because of visa issues. If this is true, it’s a real shame. Then, as often with the very short format, there were a few unexpected “casualties”: Kyren Wilson, Joe Perry, Michael White, Martin Gould, Stephen Maguire, Matthew Selt, Robert Milkins and Mark Williams all lost their opening match. All the guys on the poster are still on course though, but Shaun Murphy’s match went to a deciding frame, as did Judd Trump’s one as well.
Today the last 64 round will be played to completion except for the two held-over matches.
Here is Ronnie’s last 128 match versus Lyu Chenwei
Ronnie lost the opening frame, but then scored 4 breaks over 50 to secure the win rather comfortably. Lyu had the highest break of the match, a 96.
After watching the match here are my thoughts. Ronnie’s attitude was excellent but his game is not up to scratch yet. Against a top player he would probably have been beaten soundly because Lyu had chances in every frame, except maybe the last, and the match was much, much closer than the score suggests. In particular Ronnie’s long game was almost non-existent, except in the last frame, and that meant that he had to rely on his opponent mistakes to get in. Players need a long game to create chances for themselves. His safety game however, despite not being at his best yet, was much better than in the match against Holt last week. In many ways this was probably exactly the type of match he needed. Lyu is very sound tactically and his long game is good too, so playing this type of opponent can only help Ronnie improve his game where it’s still wanting.