International Championship 2017 – Day 5

The quarter finals in Daqing today delivered drama and surprises in equal measure.

Mark Selby cruised through with a 6-2 win over Robbie Williams who was playing a QF match for the first time in his career. Normal service …

In all other three matches though it was the lowest ranked player who prevailed.

Martin Gould beat Ali Carter by 6-5, and, in my opinion, what made the difference in the deciding frame is the players attitude: Martin went full blood for the chances he got, no matter how difficult, Ali was more careful, waiting for better opportunities … that eventually never came.

Mark Allen won a thriller, beating Judd Trump by 6-5. The 60 clearance Mark made to lead 5-4, taking the frame by just one point, is one of the very best break under pressure you will ever watch.

AND … Yan Bingtao beat John Higgins by 6-2. The boy – he’s only 17 – loves the big stage and is no intimidated by the big names. I was actually expecting Yan to win; as I said John hadn’t been really tested until this stage and although the scores were one-sided in his previous matches, what I had seen hadn’t entirely convinced me. This win from the young man puts Ronnie’s defeat slightly in perspective: without denying that Ronnie was far from his best, that win, and today’s win are first and foremost the result of Yan excellent performances.

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session:

Mark Selby is two wins away from retaining his OPPO International Championship title following a 6-2 win over Robbie Williams to book a semi-final spot.

The world number one defended his Crucible crown at the World Championship in May. It was the first time he has ever defended a ranking title in consecutive seasons. Following his victory here in Daqing in 2016, he will be hoping to achieve the feat for a second time this week.

Despite the defeat, Williams can reflect on his his most significant run in a ranking event. He reached the semi-final stage at the 2013 Indian Open. However, this is the 30-year-old’s biggest career payday, racking up £21,500.

Williams was the first to grasp the lead after claiming the opening frame. However, the 12-time ranking event winner responded by claiming the subsequent two frames with runs of 90 and 59.

The world number 63 wasn’t going to let Selby out of his sights early on and compiled a gutsy break of 106 to ensure parity at 2-2 heading into the interval.

When they returned Selby made his charge to the line, winning four consecutive frames and making breaks of 81, 60 and 93 along the way.

“I took my chances more times than not today. Robbie had a chance to make it 4-3 and if he did it could have been a different game,” said Selby. “It’s going to be played over two sessions tomorrow and think every player likes the longer format. It gives you more chance to get involved into the match. In best of nines you need a quick start, but tomorrow there will be more time to settle into the game.”

Martin Gould booked his place to take on Selby tomorrow with a tense 6-5 defeat of world number 14 Ali Carter. It will be the Pinner potter’s sixth semi-final appearance of his career.

Gould moved into a 5-3 lead, making a top run of 105 along the way. However, he spurned opportunities to close out the match and Carter punished him by taking two on the bounce to set up a decider.

It was in vain for the Captain, as Gould seized the moment, making a break of 81 to secure his place in the last four.

Gould said: “I had a couple of chances to win 6-3 and if you don’t take them sometimes it comes back to bite you. I am just thankful that I got a good opportunity to clear up in the decider. As long as you get to six first it doesn’t matter.

“It is going to be a tough match tomorrow. It’s the semi-finals of a major event and you aren’t going to play some random guy off the street. You will face the best.

“I don’t care whoever I play. If I play like I know I can then I am able to beat anybody. That includes Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan. It is just a matter of how I turn up on the day. It is the same for everyone. If you turn up and play how you can then anything is possible.”

Evening session:

Yan Bingtao kept his brilliant run going at the OPPO International Championship in Daqing by beating John Higgins 6-2 to reach the semi-finals.

China’s 17-year-old Yan thrashed Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-1 earlier in the week and has also knocked out Ricky Walden and Jack Lisowski, before another emphatic win over legend Higgins today.

Yan, who won the Rookie of the Year award last season, is through to the semi-finals of a ranking event for the first time. The world number 53 will face Mark Allen over 17 frames on Saturday.

Yan Bingtao – Five Facts
– Won the World Cup for China alongside Zhou Yuelong in 2015 at the age of 15.
– Beat Shaun Murphy at the Champion of Champions when he was 15.
– During the season he lives in Sheffield.
– Last season he became the first pro player born in the year 2000.
– Reached the quarter-finals of the German Masters and the last 16 of five other events during his debut season.

Yan took a 3-0 lead with top breaks of 52 and 99 then four-time World Champion Higgins pulled one frame back. After the interval, Yan made a superb 123 to go 4-1 ahead. Higgins got the better of frame six but there would be no fight back from the Scot as his teenage opponent won the seventh and then sealed victory in the eighth with a run of 89.

“I’m happy with my performance and it’s a little break through for me,” said Yan, already guaranteed £32,000 for reaching the semis. “I coped with the pressure well. I got off to a very good start and after I built a 4-1 lead I knew the chances were there for me, as long as I could control myself. Luckily I held it together.

“I’ll stay calm and not think about winning the title just yet. I wanted to get to my first semi-final, so the pressure came from there. It doesn’t really matter who I play next, the key is to bring my best to the match table.”

Asked about comparisons with Ding Junhui – who won his first ranking title at the age of 18 in 2005 – Yan responded: “Ding is a legend for China, it would be so hard for anyone to achieve more than he did for the modern day young players. All I can do is to be the best Yan Bingtao.”

Allen won an exciting match against Judd Trump by a 6-5 scoreline, to reach his second consecutive semi-final in China having got to the same stage of the Yushan World Open.

Northern Ireland’s Allen led 3-1 with a top break of 117 then Trump made 89 and 58 in getting back to 3-3. The next two were shared then Allen made a superb 60 clearance to take the ninth from 59-0 down. Trump made a 110 to set up the decider.

Both players had chances and it came down to the last few balls. Allen cleared from the last red to pink to clinch victory – the key shot coming when he potted the green and nudged the blue off the side cushion.

“I have showed all week that I’ve got good battling qualities,” said world number 11 Allen. “That’s the third decider in a row I have come through. To get one over on Judd in such a big tournament gives me a massive boost.

“Yan is an awesome talent. He’ll be a top 16 player and a tournament winner in no time – but hopefully not this week. He has no fear against the top players – having beaten Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins he’s not going to worry about me. He’ll bring a lot of support and it should be a good atmosphere. I’ll give it my best shot.”

Someone who will be following the action over the next two days is Neil Robertson: he needs Mark Selby to defend his title for him to be in the Champion of Champions next week. Of course, Mark Selby is more than capable to do just that, however if anyone else wins on Saturday night, that person will take the last spot in the very lucrative event next week, and Neil will have to watch it from home.

A last thing: should Yan Bingtao win this tournament, he would become the youngest ever full ranking event winner, taking that record off Ronnie who holds it since 1993. Ronnie would still remain the youngest ever winner of a Triple Crown event … well … unless … you know …  there is the UK Championship in December