Champion of Champions 2018 – Group 2

Yesterday the last group was played and we now have our semi-finals line up.

It’s Ronnie v Shaun Murphy today, in a rematch of last year’s final, then Mark Allen v Kyren Wilson tomorrow.

Here Worldsnooker reports on Group 2 action

Mark Allen remained on course for back to back titles as he beat Barry Hawkins and Neil Robertson at the ManBetX Champion of Champions to reach the semi-finals.

Playing some of the best snooker of his career, Allen won the International Championship in China last week and looks hard to stop in current form. He’ll face Kyren Wilson in Coventry on Saturday night for a place in the final.

World number seven Allen beat Hawkins 4-2 in his opening match. A superb break of 140 from Allen set the tone for a high scoring contest, before Hawkins replied with 87 and 94 to lead 2-1. Northern Irishman Allen then fired 102, 86 and 76 to take the last three frames.

Robertson edged out world number one Mark Selby 4-3 despite a 147 from Selby in the second frame.

The group final, a repeat of the last Sunday’s International Championship final, was a one-sided affair as Allen thrashed Robertson 6-1. A 42 clearance gave Allen the opening frame and a 119 made it 2-0. Robertson pulled one back with a 69 but he scored just 11 points in the last four frames as Allen rattled in runs of 102, 123, 98 and 75.

“The first frame was scrappy, but after that I didn’t really put a foot wrong,” said Allen. “I scored well, as I have been doing for a while now. I limited Neil to a few half chances. I had more confidence than Neil going into the match having won the final last Sunday, but he has more than enough experience to know how to deal with that. To beat a player of Neil’s class twice in a row, and the way I have done in, stands me in good stead.

“I’m not getting carried away as I’ve still got two very tough matches to get through if I’m going to win this tournament. But I quietly fancy my chances. I always have good matches with Kyren.”

Selby’s 147 report:

Mark Selby made a sublime 147 maximum break during his first round clash with Neil Robertson at the ManBetX Champion of Champions in Coventry.

The break came in the second frame of the best of seven tie and is the third 147 of Selby’s career. He went on to suffer a 4-3 defeat at the hands of Australia’s Robertson.

It had been five years since Selby last constructed snooker’s perfect break in tournament play. The last time he achieved the feat was at the 2013 UK Championship, where he fired in the 100th ever official maximum break during his semi-final win over Ricky Walden.

This effort is the 144th ratified competitive maximum and leaves the total just three short of the magic 147 mark.

And the 147 itself …

The Group 2 preview included an interesting interview with Barry Hearn:

There is no denying that BH has revived a dying tour and that the various subplots that the current calendar creates add interest to the season, although, as Hector Nunns explains in the last Snooker Scene issue this has not resulted in added interest from the media.

But however Hearn wants to present the situation, it’s a fact that the current system doesn’t seem to help young players to develop. Kyren Wilson and Jack Lisowski are 26 and 27 and those are the only two non-Asian seen as stars of the future. At that age Ronnie, Williams and Higgins all were World, UK and Masters champions. Part of the issue is that snooker is declining at a grassroots level, partly because of cultural factors, partly because the pro-am circuit has shrunk to a misery. There are many reasons for the latter, including the fact that the PTC tour has, in its time, attracted most of the interest of the amateur… and money, and the fact that a busy professional tour means that the pros don’t have time for many pro-ams anymore. The flat draw has his advantages, notably, it gives lower-ranked players the opportunity to play the top guys, and some television exposure. But it’s also a very brutal system, especially with no money for first-round losers. It can be dispiriting – many players have been open about anxiety and depression in the last years – and, in my opinion, it does not favour players development which is a real issue as the young ones coming through the amateur ranks are not properly prepared for the pro tour because of the decline of the grassroots circuit. I would be strongly in favour of a return to a tiered system, maybe in a slightly different form (*), in at least half of the main tour events.

Oh, and Mark Selby had a right moan on twitter about no prize money for the 147, although with a touch of humour. Apparently, Barry Hawkins had to pay for the Indian restaurant – losers banquet? – because poor Mark is skint! (**)

(*) more on that in a future post.

(**) well done Mark!