It was another eventful day in Beijing as the last 32 round was played to its completion over two sessions.
Afternoon session (morning in Europe)
Mark Selby was in action against Ben Woollaston on the main table, whilst Neil Robertson faced Sam Craigie on table 2. Neither of the top seeds had it all their way.
Mark Selby played solid match snooker and prevailed by 6-3, but Ben Woollaston had chances and probably lost at least two frames that he really should have won. From what I saw today, Selby is certainly playing better than he has for most of the season but is still not quite where he was last season. That said Selby had two 135 in that match. Tomorrow he will face Lyu HaoTian. That should be interesting!
Neil Robertson found himself 4-1 down to Sam Craigie, but eventually, beat him by 6-5. I didn’t see much of that match, however it was obvious that towards the end Neil’s experience of the big stages was key to victory.
On the outside tables, Barry Hawkins quietly continued his progression by outplaying Michael White; he won 6-1 and for me he’s a dark horse in this competition. Kyren Wilson scored very heavily in getting the better of the tenacious Mark King by 6-4. He’s another one who could possibly win this week IMO. Stuart Bingham, who had to win his last 32 match to secure his Crucible spot duly did so: he beat Ricky Walden by 6-5. Ricky seems to be playing well again and I’m quite happy with that. Of course Stuart did something else too … he spoiled Ronnie’s party a bit! They now have to share those £42000.
What is also great to see is young players winning: Jack Lisowski beat John Higgins by 6-2 and that’s a bit of a surprise, Zhou Yuelong beat Jak Jones by the same score, which is less of a surprise, and Lyu HaoTian beat Fergal O’Brien in a deciding fame. Now that’s something because Fergal is as hard a match player as you will ever see. This victory shows how much Lyu has matured. He always had the talent but when he first came on the tour he was only a child lost in an alien culture and he seriously went astray. He’s back and that’s great to see.
Evening session (afternoon in Europe)
Mark Williams, Ding Junhui, Cao Yupeng and Graeme Dott all won easily. Mark Williams made “only” five breaks over 60 in a blitz 6-1 win over Michael Holt! Graeme Dott did the same in his 6-3 win over Chris Wakelin, whilst Cao Yupeng had “only” one century and three breaks over 50 in beating David Gilbert by 6-2. Shabby! Ding was 2-2 with Xiao Guodong at the MSI, then he must have got some magic tea during said MSI because Xiao didn’t pot another ball in the match whilst Ding scored two centuries and two other breaks over 80!
Mark Allen had to work harder to get the better of young Yan Bingtao. He eventually won by 6-4. Despite this, he’s not yet safely in the top 16.However, with Gary Wilson having beaten Joe Perry, by 6-4, the only way Mark Allen could be forced to qualify is for him to lose in the next round AND one of Tom Ford, Gary Wilson, Cao Yupeng, Graeme Dott, Jack Lisowski or Zhou Yuelong to win the title come Sunday. If Allen was to win tomorrow, he would be safe and it is then Ali Carter who could be sent to the qualifiers if one the six outsiders was to become China Open Champion. Ali is already out of the tournament so it’s not in his hands anymore!
Tom ford beat Elliot Slessor by 6-4 and deserves a lot of credit for what he does in Beijing. It’s only last week that he was in hospital for a surgery. Hats off!
And finally we have Luo Honghao … the 18 years old winner of the inaugural WSF Mixed Championship in Malta only 10 days ago. He’s still in this, quite remarkably. He beat Duane Jones by 6-5.
Despite losing today both Sam Craigie and Elliott Slessor have got something very positive to take home: they are now n°1 and n°2 in the list of 8 players who will automatically get a new tour card despite being out of the top 64, because they are the 8 best on the one year ranking list outside the top 64.
Finally, Ronnie and Stuart 147s this week mean that the prize for a 147 in the next tournament is reset to a mere £5000. Only that the next tournament is the World Championship … That doesn’t look right? Indeed. And Barry Hearn on social media has hinted that something will be done about it!