UK Championship 2017 – Day 6

Is there a curse of the poster? None of the guys up there are in the tournament anymore.

Indeed both Judd Trump and Neil Robertson lost yesterday in the last 32. They were joined by Mark Williams, Marco Fu and Liang Wenbo. The only top 16 player to survive the first day of the last 32 was Mark Allen.

This means that Neil Robertson will not be at the Masters come January 2018. Despite this Neil was positive on twitter after his defeat, saying that after going through a difficult period with his family, he is enjoying the game again.

Read here the reports on Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session:

Graeme Dott reeled off six frames in a row to score a 6-2 win over Judd Trump at the Betway UK Championship.

Trump joins Mark Selby and Ding Junhui as the top three players in the world to exit the tournament at the York Barbican before the last 16 stage. Ronnie O’Sullivan, world number four, is now the top ranked player in the field.

Dott, the 2006 World Champion, produced one of his best performances in recent years to set up a fourth round meeting with fellow Scot Stephen Maguire.

Trump started well with breaks of 93 and 78 to win the first two frames, then Dott replied with 86 and 93 for 2-2. In the crucial fifth frame, world number 30 Dott cleared with 47 to pinch it on the black. And that gave him the momentum to take the last three frames with runs of 64, 72 and 67.

“You’ve got to try and attack Judd and is what I did at every chance,” said world number 30 Dott, who reached the semi-finals in York in 2006. “I just felt so comfortable out there, it’s nice to be back playing on TV.

“I get asked the same questions like ‘are you still playing snooker?’ by people like the delivery men and I say ‘yeah I’m still playing, still trying.’ So it’s nice to show people that I can actually play the game. I know I’m playing better, it’s the best I’ve played for a couple of years.”

Trump, UK Champion in 2011, said: “It all changed at 2-0 when I potted a good red but knocked the black in. It all changed after that. I kind of threw the frame away to go 3-2. Graeme probably won’t get the credit that he deserves, if someone else played like that it would be an unbelievable performance. Sometimes you just go through spells where you tend to overthink stuff and I’m going through that at the moment.”

Maguire trailed Liang Wenbo 4-3 when he made a 117 in the eighth frame. The next two were shared then 2004 UK Champion Maguire took the decider with a 67 to win 6-5.

Ryan Day won an exciting Welsh derby with Mark Williams 6-5. Northern Ireland Open champion Williams built a 4-1 lead with a top break of 102 before Day made 76 and 65 in recovering to 4-4. The next two were shared then Williams had first chance in the decider but made just 4 before missing a red to a top corner. Day compiled a run of 68 which proved enough.

Day remains ahead of Neil Robertson in the race to the Masters, while defeat for Liang could leave him in danger of being leap-frogged by both players.

“I stayed confident and patient at 4-1 down and the game then changed,” said Day. “I could sense that Mark didn’t feel too comfortable, I know he’s put a new tip on. After the interval it looked as if he’d sanded it down a bit because it literally looked like there was a Fruit Pastille on the end of his cue.

“It’s a good comeback for me and a good win. Mark’s one of the best players to have played the game and he was full of confidence after winning in Northern Ireland last week. I know I’m playing well, I’m putting plenty of work in and I’m feeling more settled every time.

“The Masters race is there in the back of the mind, but the UK Championship is one of the biggest events so that is incentive enough.”

Up and coming Chinese cueman Lyu Haotian scored one of his best career wins with a 6-4 defeat of Marco Fu. Lyu, 19, reached the Northern Ireland Open semi-finals last month and continued to show his potential as he fired breaks of 121, 85, 85 and 80 in beating world number seven Fu.

Graeme Dott despite being a former World Champion tends to be badly underrated. He’s also got a reputation of being slow and boring which is totally undeserved. It came from his and Peter Ebdon performance in the 2006 final at the World Championship, when, with maximum pressure on the two of them, absolutely knackered, struggled badly to close the match. “Dotty” is naturally attacking and not slow at all.

Judd Trump might have whitewashed his two previous opponents, those who had watched the matches with open eyes and alert mind, knew he was vulnerable. And yesterday he was found out… again. He crumbled mentally. I believe that he needs some form of help both with his frame of mind and his attitude during matches.

Evening session:

Neil Robertson suffered a 6-5 reverse against Mark Joyce at the Betway UK Championship, which means he’ll drop out of the world’s top 16 at the end of the tournament.

Former World, UK and Masters champion Robertson made eight centuries in his three matches in York, but couldn’t shake off his opponent tonight and eventually lost in a tense finish.

The result means that Australia’s Robertson remains in 17th place in the race to the Masters, with the seeding cut off to fall at the end of this event. Assuming the 16 players ahead of him enter, he will miss snooker’s biggest invitation event for the first time since 2006.

Walsall’s Joyce, the world number 42, goes through to a last 16 meeting with Lyu Haotian.

Robertson led 4-3 having made breaks of 128, 79, 105 and 84. Joyce took the next two frames with 50 and 80 then Robertson compiled a run of 90 to make it 5-5.

In the 41-minute decider, Robertson built a 53-14 lead but couldn’t finish the job, and a long red from Joyce set him up for an excellent 42 clearance.

“I’m not quite sure how I managed to hold myself together there at the end in the decider,” said Joyce, who reached the quarter-finals of this event in 2010. “I’m absolutely thrilled. Neil was massive favourite when he was 30-odd in front with four reds left but slowly I managed to get the reds out and obviously when I got the chance they were there to be taken.

“This result is certainly up there with the best of my career, especially given how well Neil played in his first two matches.

“I’m just taking one match at a time, I’m just happy to still be in the tournament. It’s a great tournament and a lovely city and I’m delighted to be here for another couple of days.”

Robertson said: “Mark played a fantastic match. I fired in a lot of breaks and possibly playing against a higher ranked player that might have applied more pressure, but you could see out there that he was really enjoying it and he almost had nothing to lose.

“I’m not disappointed in the way I played at all. I’ve just got to congratulate him on a really great win with a good clearance at the end. I had a couple of really good chances in the decider but I ran out of position on the first and on the second chance I missed a tricky red.

“I’ve just got to keep putting in the hard work which I’m able to do more so now, so that’s a part that I’m really looking forward to.”

Mark Allen, runner-up in York in 2011, scored a 6-4 win over Peter Lines. Northern Ireland’s Allen went 3-0 up with a top break of 57 then Yorkshireman Lines won four of the next six frames with  breaks of 80, 62 and 68. But world number nine Allen finished the match in style with a 119.

“I’m very happy with that win although I maybe didn’t play my best,” said Allen. “I competed well and played well in the safety department but every time I came to the table the balls were a bit awkward, it wasn’t free flowing snooker .

“I feel like I’ve been working on the right things and it’s starting to reflect not so much on my results but certainly on my performances. It’s been one of my better seasons for scoring heavily but it’s the other aspects of the game that I’m more pleased with.

“I felt so relaxed playing out there today, usually with TV there’s a few more nerves than playing on the outside tables but I didn’t really get that today.”

Allen will now face Joe Perry, who enjoyed a 6-3 win over Kurt Maflin. Perry went 4-0 up with a top break of 128, and finished the job in frame nine after Maflin had fought back to 5-3.

Scott Donaldson couldn’t build on his second-round victory over Mark Selby as he lost 6-1 to China’s Li Hang, whose top break was 134.

Today this is what we have in store:

UKChamps2017 Day 7 Schedule

All remaining top 16 players involved face a tricky match, except, maybe, Shaun Murphy. Don’t get me wrong, Jimmy Robertson is a very heavy scorer when on form but, until now, he rarely performs at his best on television. Yan Bingtao has beaten John Higgins in the International Championship a few weeks ago over the same best of 11 format and he relishes the limelight. Michael White is also a heavy scorer and one who is very capable to give Ronnie a hard time, especially if Ronnie’s long potting is not at its best.

Hossein Vafaei will be facing Martin Gould and it’s a shame we won’t be able to see it. Hector Nunns published this nice article about Hossein yesterday:

Meet Hossein Vafaei: The ‘Miracle Kid’ who became the first Iranian professional in the history of snooker

The prodigiously talented Vafaei has had to fight every inch of the way in his short, 23-year-old life merely for the right to play the game he loves

Hector Nunns

An ‘Iranian Revolution’ would usually conjure up images of the Shah and Ayatollah Khomeini. These days, however, you might even hear it used about snooker in the country, thanks to the fiercely determined efforts of Hossein Vafaei.

Vafaei has had to fight every inch of the way in his short, 23-year-old life merely for the right to play the game he loves. A huge talent – confirmed when he won the World Amateur title six years ago –has been suppressed at every turn, mainly through a visa impasse when diplomatic ties between the UK and Iran were cut following the attack on the British Embassy in Tehran in 2011.

But that does not begin to tell the whole story of the boy who grew up in the oil-rich city of Abadan, and who is known to his family as the ‘Miracle Kid’ after his father recovered from a coma having been initially pronounced dead years before he was born.

Vafaei celebrates winning the IBSF World Snooker Championship in Bangalore (Getty)

Snooker was brought to Iran in the days of the Shah mainly by British BP workers, but the clubs then all fell into a state of total disrepair after the sport was banned for over 20 years by the Islamist government for its gambling associations. That was overturned in 2000.

Abadan, on the border with Iraq and close to Basra, was badly bombed during the 1980s war between the two countries. And so it was on a dusty table with a ripped cloth using a warped cue on a street still strewn with the detritus of armed conflict that Vafaei first hit a ball at the age of six.

From that moment Vafaei’s natural ability shone through, and it has been solely a burning need to fulfil that talent that has carried him over some towering obstacles, including a home Iran federation that initially wanted him to stay as an amateur for national glory, to trips all round the world – often unsuccessful – to try and secure visas for professional tournaments.

Things have done been easy for the young snooker sensation (Getty)

Finally, after losing four years of his early career at a crucial time of development, Vafaei – who can for the most part still only play events in the UK, China and India – started to get a fair crack of the whip in the 2015-16 season as diplomatic tension between the UK and Iran eased. And the results came for a player taken under his wing by Ronnie O’Sullivan, the five-time world champion.

Last season Vafaei reached the quarter-finals of the Northern Ireland Open, before knocking out world No2 Judd Trump and making the semi-finals of the China Open. He looks poised to do some more damage this season and plays Martin Gould in the UK Championship for a place in the last 16 in York.

“Not being able to play in a lot of the events meant that I lost my confidence,” Vafaei said.

The 23-year-old wants to see more Iranians playing snooker (Getty)

“I’ve now said to myself this is your time, you have to take your chance. There are still problems with visas, mainly now about the time they take with events coming thick and fast.

“I was in a bad situation, but if I can win I won’t have problems anymore. Ronnie O’Sullivan and China’s Liang Wenbo are my best friends on tour. Ronnie has been helping me a lot, and given me plenty of advice.

“Snooker is very popular in Iran. We have more than 1,400 snooker clubs and it is very big over there. Success for me will make the profile of the sport will become even bigger, I can guarantee thousands of people in Iran will be looking for my score.

“I want to improve the game in my home country. It could be like China, if I can do well we could see more Iranians coming over here.

“My father introduced me to snooker by taking me to one of the local clubs. I saw the table and immediately asked what it was. He took my hand and started teaching me how to play. After a few months I couldn’t leave it alone.”

Vafaei’s father introduced him to the sport (Getty)

Vafaei’s former manager Amir Mazahery is a fellow Iranian but also a professional gambler now based in Ireland.

“There has been a lot of damage done to his career and he has been set back, but he is so talented there is time to repair it and put it all right,” said Mazahery.

“I wish we could have taken that boy who came off a huge amateur win at 15 and run with him without all the obstacles. I honestly believe if he had had a fair run at it like most 16-year-olds he would be in the top four by now.”

Robertson recognises how difficult it has been for Vafaei (Getty)

And the trials and tribulations have not been lost on Vafaei’s fellow professionals. Australia’s Neil Robertson, the 2010 world champion, has spoken often about the relative difficulties experienced by overseas players but recognises that the Iranian’s path has been far tougher than most.

“Hossein should have been on the tour years ago, but it has been crazy for him,” said Robertson. “It is tough and a real handicap for him, those years are important – but you can get it back and the time he has lost will not be permanent damage if the talent is there and his attitude is spot on from now.”

As for Ronnie this is how he spent (part of) his free day … cooking for the ES team:

Oh and …

Happy Birthday Ronnie !

Although Ronnie doesn’t like birthdays and the press will probably end up eating the cake.

According to Douglas Adams, author of the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 42 is the answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything . Let’s hope it will be the answer to today’s match then…