UK Championship 2017 – Day 2

There weren’t any shocks yesterday in York, but there was a surprise and a good one. Basem Eltahhan from Egypt was due to play Mark Selby in the evening on the main table and I must confess that I didn’t expect anything from this match as Basem, who is in his first year as a pro, had only played two matches until now, and lost both by 4-0. I had planned to watch Allen vs Kleckers and only turned to the other table because the streaming on table 2 was bad and because Kleckers was playing badly as well. Well, Basem Eltahhan gave Mark Selby a serious challenge and the match turned out to be quite interesting. Basem is a rookie, he made a few mistakes – in particular he overhit the cue ball a few times – but he still ran the World Champion very close. He should be proud of his performance. And, I have said it before, first round losers should get something, even if it does not count towards their ranking. It takes two to play a match and yesterday both players gave the paying public and the promoters a lot of value through their performance. It would only be fair that both get something for their work. Giving something minimal to the first round losers shouldn’t be seen as “rewarding mediocrity” – those who lose all the time won’t make it anyway – it should be seen as an investment so that newcomers on the main tour are put in the best conditions to develop to their full potential. Not everyone is a quick learner. Mark Selby was 24, and his ninth year on the tour when he won his first ranking title in 2008, and then had to wait until 2011 before he won another. He was then in his 12th season. He has now turned into a serial winner and the dominant force on  the circuit.  Neil Robertson also was 24 when he won his first ranking title, the 2006 Grand Prix and he had dropped off the tour twice before finding his foot. His game was very raw when he arrived from Australia, he needed time to learn. Could he do it under today’s circumstances? Not sure. He had no money and needed a side job to support himself. That would difficult nowadays with a full calendar.

Anyway here is the day 2 report on Worldsnooker

Judd Trump eased into the last 64 of the Betway UK Championship with a 6-0 whitewash of Matthew Bolton.

World number two Trump top scored with 137, the highest break of the tournament so far, as he set up a second round meeting with Chris Wakelin or Lee Walker.

Bristol’s Trump captured this title in 2011 and comes to York in good form having won the European Masters and reached the final of the Shanghai Masters in recent weeks.

“I felt good, I’ve practised hard for this and I felt sharp out there,” he said. “I didn’t really give him a chance until the final frame, so hopefully I can keep that up.

“This is one of the better tournaments and it was a nice crowd out there for the first round. I’ve done well twice here but I’ve been inconsistent and not done well the past couple of years. I’m due a run here.”

Trump was asked about last week’s Northern Ireland Open when he lost in the first round to Stuart Carrington, and conceded the last frame early, with seven reds still on the table, by pushing his cue into the pack.

“It’s not something that I regret. I think everyone has done it over time,” said the 28-year-old. “I didn’t do anything horrible to Stuart, I didn’t punch the table like other people have done or bang my cue. I just gave up too early when he was going to win because the balls were everywhere.

“I said good luck to Stuart and didn’t mean it in a bad way. I was just down on myself and too tired having done a lot of travelling. When you’re not sleeping, you’re not thinking straight.”

World number one Mark Selby had to battle for nearly four hours to beat Egypt’s Basem Eltahhan 6-4. African champion Eltahhan made breaks of 79 and 99 in sharing the first four frames. Selby made 58 and 76 to lead 4-2 but his opponent, ranked 131, kept fighting and took two of the next three to trail 5-4. Defending champion Selby eventually sealed victory in frame ten with a run of 63.

Selby said: “It was unbelievable. To perform like Basem did throughout the match, he played like a top 32 player. He has only played a couple of matches before (losing both 4-0) but he did himself proud tonight.”

Shaun Murphy enjoyed a comfortable win, beating Pakistan’s Hamza Akbar 6-1. World number six Murphy lost the opening frame but then reeled off six in a row with top runs of 74, 55, 129, 52 and 74.

Anthony McGill showed his break-building class in a 6-2 win over Ashley Hugill, knocking in 84, 66, 105, 108 and 110.  Luca Brecel came from 4-3 down to beat Soheil Vahedi 6-4.

Mark Allen saw off Germany’s Lukas Kleckers 6-2 with top runs of 81, 101, 99, 104 and 72. “I scored well but I didn’t really play well, I was getting chances that I won’t get against the top players,” said Northern Ireland’s Allen. “I’m just happy to get over the line because the first round here is not easy. I feel my game is in good shape.”

China’s Lyu Haotian, a semi-finalist last week in Belfast, beat Anthony Hamilton 6-1 with a top run of 107 while Iran’s Hossein Vafaei top scored with 93 in a 6-4 win over James Wattana. Ricky Walden made a 118 in a 6-1 defeat of Duane Jones.

Leeds cueman Peter Lines edged out Zhou Yuelong 6-5 so remains on course for a possible third round meeting with son Oliver Lines, who beat Mei Xiwen 6-3.

India’s Aditya Mehta potted pink and black in the deciding frame to beat Sam Baird 6-5 while Jack Lisowski made a 124 in a 6-4 win over Wang Yuchen.

As for Ronnie he was also in action in the evening … in WHSmith with a pen

According to Jason Francis the famous spoon with the 108 dots, that Ronnie used to try to keep his focus during his SF against Selby at the UK Championship 2007, turned up for signing …

UK Championship 2017 – Day 1

The opening day of this year’s UK Championship started with very sad news: Chris Webb, “Spider”, has left us, he’s lost his battle against illness. Chris was a larger than life, warm character, always ready for a laugh. Messages of sympathy literally flooded social media. He will be missed by the whole snooker family … and by me. My heart is heavy writing these lines.

This is Chris at the World Championship 2010, the first ranking tournament I ‘covered”.

Spider

I was introduced to him by Janie Watkins. My thoughts are with his family and many friends.

On the baize, day 1 in York brough just one upset, but a major one: Ding Junhui managed to lose by 6-5, from 5-1 up to Leo Fernandez, ranked n° 128, winless until now this season and suffering a back injury. Ding had suffered from eyes problems in the recent weeks but there was none of that apparent when he built a 5-1 lead with no less than six breaks over 50. What’s going on with Ding?

Anyway … here is the day report on Worldsnooker

Ding Junhui was the victim of a massive upset on the first day of the Betway UK Championship as he lost 6-5 to world number 130 Leo Fernandez.

China’s Ding seemed to be flying into the last 64 at the York Barbican when he led 5-1, but the world number three saw his lead crumble as 41-year-old Fernandez scored the best win of his career.

It’s a familiar feeling for Ding at this tournament as, despite winning the title in 2005 and 2009, he has suffered surprise defeats in recent years to James Cahill, Adam Duffy and Jamie Jones.

Ding has been suffering from an eye infection in recent weeks but his vision seemed intact in the first six frames as he rattled in breaks of 60, 55, 80, 91, 66 and 87 to go 5-1 up.

Sussex-based Fernandez, who turned pro in 1995, made a 47 clearance in frame seven and that turned the match. He won two more scrappy frames then made an 80 in the tenth for 5-5.

Fernandez built a 55-1 lead in the decider, then Ding had a chance to clear but failed to nudge the pink off the side cushion in potting the blue. Ding played safe but left his opponent a tough pot to a centre pocket, and Fernandez dropped it in to clinch victory.

“It’s my best moment in snooker for sure,” said Fernandez, who has never been beyond the last 16 of a ranking event. “At 5-1 down I was thinking about the train journey home. I tried to stay calm and enjoy it.

“I’m suffering from a slipped disc in my back and sciatica so I’m lucky to be here. It was hard fighting the pain. The adrenaline kept me going and I started to play well. I’m having physiotherapy and acupuncture. I might need to have surgery which could end my career, but if that happens at least I’ll take this win with me.”

John Higgins won an all-Wishaw derby against Chris Totten by a 6-1 scoreline. Tour rookie Totten, who idolised Higgins during his junior days, fell 2-0 behind then won the third frame on the black. Higgins stole the fourth with a trademark clearance of 64 then capitalised on mistakes from his opponent to make it 4-1. Three-time UK Champion Higgins added the next two with top runs of 40 and 58 to book his second round place.

“The big turning point was the fifth frame when Chris looked like making it 3-2, but he missed a black and I got back in to make it 4-1,” said world number five Higgins. “The experience will stand Chris in good stead. He’s got two years on the tour now to try to cement his place.

“He’s already beaten Neil Robertson this season and it was in the back of my mind that he’s not frightened to beat the top players. I took him to my club a few years ago when he was just a young boy. I will try to have a few more games with him before the Scottish Open. Everyone talks about the Chinese youngsters coming through so it would be good to have a few British boys as well.

“I struggled a bit tonight so I’ll be on the practice table back home for the next few days to be ready for the weekend.”

Ryan Day saw off Jamie Curtis-Barrett 6-0, a result which boosts his hopes of qualifying for the Masters in January (for the latest on that race click here.)

Welshman Day knocked in breaks of 90, 110, 86, 122 and 83, though in fact it could have been even better as he missed the green in frame four when on course for a 147 which could have earned him a £15,000 bonus.

“The green was on the baulk cushion, I wasn’t perfect on it and I wobbled it in the pocket,” said Riga Masters champion Day. “I played with a lot of freedom today, the game came easily to me.”

Kyren Wilson make breaks of 108 and 101 as he beat Sean O’Sullivan 6-1 while Stephen Maguire saw off Yuan Sijun by the same scoreline, rattling in runs of 58, 78, 66, 128, 87 and 127. Northern Ireland Open runner-up Yan Bingtao also won 6-1, beating Zhang Yong with a top break of 103.

China’s Zhao Xintong edged out Rory McLeod 6-5 while Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh beat Elliot Slessor 6-5 with a run of 99 in the decider.

Marco Fu top scored with 110 in a 6-2 win over Nigel Bond while Mark King made a 98 in a 6-0 win over Boonyarit Keattikun.

You can follow the detailed scores on Cuetracker

Scottish 2017 Open Draw and Format

ScottishOpen2017Poster

Worldsnooker has published the draw and format for the Scottish Open 2017

The draw and format for the Scottish Open is now available.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

The tournament runs from December 11 to 17 at the Glasgow Emirates.

Tickets are still available – for details CLICK HERE

With no Selby … they will have to change the poster again. But this time Ding is playing in it, as is Ronnie who will face Michael Georgiou in the last 128, on December 12, not before 1pm. Not an easy draw, but then John Higgins is to face Jack Lisowski in round 1 …

 

Northern Ireland Open 2017 – Mark Williams is your Champion

Congratulations Mark Williams !

Mark Williams NIO Champion 2017

And thanks to both players for a fantastic and gripping final. Yan Bingtao played his part – and how! – and there is no doubt that he will win something soon. But tonight I’m pleased for Mark who had to face very difficult personal circumstances this week. I hope that his wife Joanne will be alright and out of hospital soon. Now, Mark, this brand new trophy would be a the perfect container for giant bunch of flowers …

Here is the report on Worldsnooker

Mark Williams has claimed his 19th ranking title after a stunning 9-8 defeat of Chinese teenager Yan Bingtao in the Dafabet Northern Ireland Open final in Belfast.

The two-time World Champion was either behind or level right until the final frame today, in what was one of the most enthralling matches of the season so far.

Williams’ last ranking victory came at the 2011 German Masters. His win tonight ends a spell of 14 years without ranking silverware on UK soil, where he last tasted glory in the 2003 LG Cup in Preston.

The Welshman stands alone in fifth place in the all-time list of ranking titles won. He’s now six ahead of Mark Selby and Ding Junhui who have won 13 titles.

All-Time Ranking Titles

  • Stephen Hendry 36
  • Ronnie O’Sullivan 30
  • John Higgins 29
  • Steve Davis 28
  • Mark Williams 19

Williams can now look forward to the Dafabet Masters in January after securing his place at the showpiece invitational event. He will also climb back to 11th in the world rankings.

17-year-old Chinese prodigy Yan came agonisingly close to eclipsing Ronnie O’Sullivan’s record as the youngest ever winner of a ranking event. However, he will have to settle for the runner-up spot in his maiden appearance in a ranking final.

The afternoon session saw Yan seize the initiative, earning himself a 5-3 advantage coming into this evening’s all important final session.

Yan came roaring out of the blocks tonight by making the highest break of his career, a run of 137, to move 6-3 ahead.

However, Williams showed his steel to claim the tenth frame and runs of 90 and 58 saw him draw level at 6-6.  They then traded blows before a thrilling fifteenth.

Yan had looked set to take the frame before breaking down on 60. Williams then had an opportunity to steal the frame, but landed awkwardly on the final red, which he missed with his run at 45. An extended safety battle ensued, before Yan eventually moved one from victory at 8-7.

Williams levelled and then took the final two frames to take home the title on the decider and claim the Alex Higgins Trophy 9-8.

Williams said: “Everything I threw at him, he was just potting long ones for fun and making breaks. You have to realise that he is only a 17-year-old. That is unbelievable. He was only one frame from breaking Ronnie’s record. If he keeps improving like that he is going to be winning many titles.

“I said to myself a while ago if I could get to 20 ranking titles I would be over the moon. You never know now. I just need one more.

“Up until six or eight months ago I thought I was never going to get another title. I have changed coach to Steve Feeney and he has helped me loads.

“My only aim for the season was qualifying for the Masters. I’ve done that now and my next one is to try and qualify for the Crucible.

Yan was disappointed not to claim the silverware in his maiden ranking final. However, he was reflective upon what he achieved and positive about his chances of reaching further finals.

I am disappointed not to beat the record,” said the 2016/17 Rookie of the Season. “But I will always have another chance so I will look to the next event.
 
“I really liked the venue, the crowd and the fans in Belfast. I’m looking forward to next year here
 
“After this, I feel confident despite losing because I reached the final. I know how to handle this occasion so I will aim high for more finals rather than semi-finals.

Videos of interest:

The Final preview:

Session 1 review:

The Final review by the Eurosport team, with Mark Willams:

Mark Williams interview with Worldsnooker:

Northern Ireland Open 2017 – Day 6

There was a lot of drama on day 6 in Belfast as the semi finals were played in the one table setup.

Mark Williams beat Elliot Slessor by 6-2 (report on Worldsnooker)

Mark Williams is through to the 31stranking final of his career following a 6-2 defeat of world number 82 Elliot Slessor at the Dafabet Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.

The two-time World Champion hasn’t won a ranking event on UK soil since the LG Cup in 2003 and will be hoping to rectify that in tomorrow’s final. His opponent will be a Chinese teenager, with Yan Bingtao and Lyu Haotian clashing in this evening’s second semi-final.

Slessor will be disappointed to drop out in the last four, but he can reflect positively on a week which has seen him earn his career best payday of £20,000 and reach hisfirst ever ranking semi-final.

This afternoon it was Williams who made the strongest start. He fired in a fine run of 127 to move 2-0 in front.  Slessor responded with a break of 70 to stay in touch, but a contribution of 71 ensured Williams restored his two frame lead, to go 3-1 ahead at the interval.

When they returned Slessor pulled one back to make it 3-2, but Williams then claimed three frames on the bounce to secure his spot in the final. The normally relaxed Welshman showed a rare sign of emotion out in the arena as he clenched his fist after depositing the final ball.

“He missed a few and it could have been a lot closer. I nicked one to go 5-2 and it was pretty much over then,” said the 18-time ranking event winner. “I nearly gave up playing this year. It was only my wife that talked me around. I’m glad she talked me out of it.

“I’m enjoying it. I haven’t been in a final for a while so I am going to enjoy tomorrow. I’m still trying, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan are still winning tournaments. They are still winning tournaments and I am doing alright this season so you never know.”

Slessor was disconsolate and found it hard to see the positives in the immediate aftermath of a disappointing loss.

He said: “I felt comfortable out there, it wasn’t the pressure I just wasn’t able to play, I was really poor in the quarter-final as well – I’ve got no idea.

“I’m trying to think how I could possibly have played that badly in front of my own eyes.”

Elliot was extremely embarassed with his own performance, which is understandable because as a professional he takes a lot of pride in his own performance. However I hope that he realises soon that, having never played at this stage, it is only normal that nerves kicked in and that it’s part of the learning process. He acquited himself very well all week and we will certainly see more of him soon. Ronnie has been full of praise for his conquerer;

Yan Bingtao beat Lyu Hao Tian by 6-2 (report on Worldsnooker)

Yan Bingtao is through to the Dafabet Northern Ireland Open final after a comprehensive 6-2 defeat of compatriot Lyu Haotian.

The Chinese teenagers have a combined age of 36 with Yan being 17-years-old and Lyu aged 19. It was the first occasion that a ranking event semi-final has been contested between two teenagers.

Prodigious talent Yan has already shown his ability this season, defeating Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins on a run to the semi-final stage of the International Championship earlier this month. However, tomorrow will be his maiden appearance in a ranking event final.

If the 17-year-old were to be victorious tomorrow he would become the youngest ever player to win a ranking event, eclipsing O’Sullivan’s UK Championship victory in 1993.

The first part of this evening’s clash saw both players locked together and some tight early exchanges. The opening four frames were split and they went into the mid-session at 2-2.

When they returned it was Yan, who reached the semi with a tremendous burst to the line. He won four frames in a row, including runs of 75 and 114, to book his place in the final.

Yan said: “We both felt nervous in the first part of the game. We know each other so well by practising in the academy together. After the break I adjusted and played well. I came out on top and hold my nerve.

“I’ve played so many quarter-finals and semi-finals and every time is a learning experience. Each one makes me stronger.

“Ronnie O’Sullivan is my idol. If I can put in a good show tomorrow and beat  his record it would be a great honour and I would be very proud.”

Here are the pundits on Eurosport about this match:

Victoria Shi and Nigel Bond deserve a lot of respect for the way they run their academy and support their players. The results they get prove that they are doing a sterling job. It’s hard enough for those young men, or even boys, to be away from their family, in an alien culture, having to cope with a completely different language. They need an anchor point and that’s exactly what Vic Snooker Academy provides.

Some people on social media suggested that this is not a “proper” ranking event and doesn’t compare with Ronnie’s UK win in 1993. It is a ranking event, and trying to belittle Yan Bingtao’s achievement should he win today is petty and unfair. Records do get beaten over time in every sport, and beating them is part of the incentive for up and coming sportpersons to excel themselves. I’m certain that Ronnie will just be happy for the lad, should Yan Bingtao lift the trophy tonight. It’s good for the sport.

That’s IF we have a final at all

Indeed Mark William’s wife, Jo, has been very unwell over the last weeks. The state of he health is extremely worrying. Earlier this week, she was in hospital, then came back home, but was taken to hospital again, in an emergency, yesterday late afternoon. Under the circumstances, Mark is considering to withdraw; he is clearly horribly worried and it’s totally understandable. At the time of writing, he hasn’t withdrawn yet but Worldsnooker has already stated that, should Mark be forced to retire from the final, Yan would be awarded the win and become the champion. I hope it doesn’t come to that. Neither player would want that.

My thoughts are with Mark and his family, I really hope everything gets sorted and Jo can come back home fully healthy very soon. That’s the most important thing, far more important than any match, record or trophy. 

 

 

Northern Ireland Open 2017 – Day 5 – QF

Yesterday morning, ahead of the QF round, I  predicted this line-up for the SF:

Elliot Slessor vs Mark Williams

Yan Bingtao vs Lyu Hao Tian

And it’s exactly what we got.

Elliot Slessor battled through a match that lasted over 5 hours to finally emerge the winner over Li Yuan in a deciding frame. It wasn’t pretty and it pushed the Mark Williams vs Mike Dunn match well behind schedule but Elliot who is through his first ever semi final won’t care.

Mark Williams got his first ever win over Mike Dunn in a ranking event, and in a match of meaningful length. It’s clear that Mark nowadays is a better player than he was 3 or 4 years ago and this was never even close.

The two evening matches went to a deciding frame. Yan Bingtao held himself together against the very dangerous Robert Milkins and came back from 2-0 down. It was probably the best match I got to watch in this tournament, really quality and entertaining. I didn’t see anything from the Lyu vs Tian match so I can’t comment.

Vic Snooker Academy has two teenagers in the SF here. They are doing wonders for their players. Lyu was a wonderkid at 14, got on the tour too early IMO, without the right entourage, lost his way and fell off it. He’s back with a bang and he’s only 19… As for Yan, should he win this event he would dethrone Ronnie as the youngest ever ranking event winner. Ronnie however would remain the youngest ever triple crown event winner, he won both the UK and the Masters as a teenager.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

17-year-old Yan Bingtao won a tremendous clash with Robert Milkins 5-4 to progress the semi-finals of the Dafabet Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.

Chinese prodigy Yan remains on course to become the youngest ever winner of a ranking event and tomorrow’s match will be his second semi-final within the space of a month.

He went on a tremendous run at the recent International Championship, demolishing Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-1 and brushing John Higgins aside 6-2, before bowing out against Mark Allen in the last four.

Milkins, who has now made 17 quarter-final appearances in his career will need to continue his quest to reach a first ranking final.

Yan now faces compatriot and fellow teenager Lyu Haotian for a place in the final. 19-year-old Lyu came out on top of a tense clash with former Ruhr Open runner-up Tian Pengfei 5-4.

Mark Williams is through to the last four following a 5-1 defeat of Mike Dunn. Two-time World Champion Williams is now favourite to clinch his first title since the 2011 German Masters, being the only top 16 player left after a week of shocks.

46-year-old Dunn, who has been struggling with illness this season, will reflect positively on an event which saw him reach only his fourth ranking quarter final.

Williams went 1-0 down this afternoon, but fired in breaks of 63, 71 and 53 as he blitzed to five frames in a row and secured his second semi-final appearance of the season.

Williams said: “I’ve been into the quarter-finals a couple of times and the draw has opened up. Then I ended up getting beat. I don’t look at it like that. It would be nice to win one. I’ll just try my best and if I win great, if not then no problem.

“It’s the first time in a long time I have been favourite. I don’t remember what that feeling is like. Let’s see what happens at the weekend.”

Elliot Slessor came through a four and a half hour marathon with Li Yuan 5-4. With the opportunity for either player to reach their first ever ranking semi-final there was a lot on the line. It was Slessor, who has already defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan this week, who handled the pressure best and claimed the decider .

Ronnie was in the studio in the evening, with Neal and Colin, providing some high quality punditry and analysis:

Other than that Ronnie also issued another tongue-in-cheek, rather hilarious, manifesto.

Venting his frustration this way at what appears to be a lack of common sense from the authorities at times is probably better than losing it during a post match. My opinion anyway. He’s not challenging the rules, just the way they are enforced in total disregard for the actual situation sometimes.

 

UK Championship 2017 – Change in the draw

Worldsnooker has today published this information:

Rhys Clark has withdrawn from next week’s Betway UK Championship for medical reasons and has been replaced by Jackson Page in the draw.

Clark was due to face five-time UK Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the opening round at the York Barbican on Thursday November 30 at 7.30pm. Page replaces him directly so the amateur will now face O’Sullivan on the same date and time.

Allowing Page to replace Clark in the draw is in line with the new Tournament Withdrawal procedure introduced on the 30 August 2017, for more details click here

Ebbw Vale’s 16-year-old Page reached the last 32 of last season’s Welsh Open while competing as an amateur. In May he was the leading player in the Q School ranking list who didn’t gain a tour card.

Tickets for the Betway UK Championship are still available – for details click here.

Certainly a more difficult opponent than Rhys Clark for Ronnie, but he might actually prefer that. Mismatches are not his thing.