Crucible 2019 – Day 10 and mini QF preview

The last day of the second round at the Crucible had only two sessions but it was quite intense! This is the line-up it delivered for the quarter finals:

David Gilbert v Kyren Wilson
John Higgins v Neil Robertson

Gary Wilson v Ali Carter
Judd Trump v Stephen Maguire

Before going to a mini-preview of those matches here are the reports by Worldsnooker on yesterday action.

Ali Carter 13-9 Zhou Yuelong

Ali Carter won six consecutive frames in the final session of his match with Zhou Yuelong at the Betfred World Championship to win 13-9 and reach the quarter-finals for the sixth time.

Chelmsford’s 39-year-old Carter has a reputation for raising his game at the Crucible, having reached the final in 2008 and 2012, and once again he found his rhythm when he needed it most. He trailed China’s Zhou by margins of 5-1 and 9-7, but dominated the final session to win comfortably.

Carter goes through to the quarter-finals to face Gary Wilson on Tuesday and Wednesday. Both players have now won five matches in the event having come through the qualifying rounds.

World number 19 Carter has been unlucky to run into an in-form Ronnie O’Sullivan in both of his previous visits to the final, but with O’Sullivan out of contention this time, he could be forgiven for dreaming of the ultimate prize. Having battled cancer twice as well as Crohn’s disease, he has come through tougher tests in his life.

World number 35 Zhou was the youngest player in the field at 21 and had reached the second round in Sheffield for the first time, but fell away today in the concluding stages. Still, the £30,000 pay day is the biggest of his career.

A scrappy opening frame today went Carter’s way, and he rattled through the next three frames with breaks of 72, 72 and 55 to go 11-9 ahead. Frame 21 came down to the last red, Carter potting it and clearing up to extend his lead.

The 22nd also came down to the last red, and this time Carter missed a tough long pot to gift his opponent a chance to clear. Zhou got to the final black but over-cut a tricky pot to a top corner, leaving Carter to slot in the black for victory.

“It feels like I’ve swum the Channel to get through that match,” said four-time ranking event winner Carter, whose best run so far this season took him to the final of the World Grand Prix in February. “It was only in the end where Zhou’s lack of experience showed and that’s about the only thing I had over him in the end.

“He just kept coming back at me in the second session. I climbed a mountain to go 7-6 in front and then slid all the way back down again to go 9-7.

“I gave Peter Ebdon a call before I went out today. I said it’s about time I did something special and I need a special performance to get through. He just told me to go out and do what I know how to do. I produced it to 12-9. It was a bit sticky to get over the line but I’m delighted to get through.

“I just stuck to my principles in the last six frames, doing the simple things well. It’s the hardest thing to do when you’re bang under pressure, and I can’t tell you how much pressure there is out there.

“Gary Wilson is a very  good player, he did a job on Selby. He’s going to want to get to the one table set up just as much as I do.

“I feel like I deserve to be world champion. I haven’t won it, I’ve lost in the final twice to Ronnie. It’s my chance to put things right. This tournament is the one that means everything to me. I’ve been here for 17 years and with everything I’ve been through, to get to another quarter-final is not a bad record in itself.”

Zhou said: “Ali played better than me today. Coming into the last session I was a little bit nervous. I still had a chance in the last two frames but I’d lost some concentration. I didn’t sleep well last night so I was feeling the pressure.

“In the last two weeks, since the qualifiers started, I haven’t been eating well. Every day I have just a little bit to eat, because of the pressure. Now the game has finished I can relax now, and it has made me want to win more.”

I didn’t see anything of the last session, so can’t say anything about the action. But I listened to both players post-match interviews with Eurosport and Ali was full of praise for his young opponent, branding him a “very tough match player”. That coming from someone who is a very tough match player himself means a lot, especially considering that Zhou is only 21. Zhou’s interview was revealing about how much pressure he felt, unable to sleep and eat properly. He never played a best of 25 before, over three sessions. Ali himself admitted that experience played a major part in the outcome of this match. I’m sure that we will see much more of Zhou.

Kyren Wilson 13-11 Barry Hawkins

Kyren Wilson completed a fightback from 6-1 down to beat Barry Hawkins 13-11 and reach the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship.

The high quality encounter saw the pair fire in nine centuries between them, with Wilson contributing five and Hawkins compiling four. That is second only to Ding Junhui and Alan McManus’ 2016 semi-final, where they made ten centuries – the most ever in a single match at the Crucible.

27-year-old Wilson is now through to his fourth consecutive Crucible quarter-final, where he will face David Gilbert, who beat defending champion Mark Williams. The Warrior reached the one-table semi-finals for the first time in 2018. His superb run was ended by John Higgins on that occasion, as he succumbed to a valiant 17-13 defeat against the four-time World Champion.

Wilson has enjoyed one of his best seasons on the World Snooker Tour. The world number eight has picked up two ranking titles in a season for the first time. He earned silverware by coming from 2-0 down to defeat former mentor and 2002 World Champion Peter Ebdon 4-2 in the final of the Paul Hunter Classic. The Kettering potter was also victorious at the German Masters, beating David Gilbert 9-7 to lift the trophy in front of 2,500 fans at Berlin’s Tempodrom.

Crucible specialist Hawkins misses out on reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in seven years. The Londoner made the world final in 2013, losing to Ronnie O’Sullivan, and has won more matches at snooker’s Theatre of Dreams than any other player since that year.

Wilson claimed yesterday evening’s session to cut Hawkins’ advantage to 9-7. It didn’t take long for the Warrior to wipe out the Hawk’s remaining two-frame cushion this afternoon. He took the first two of the session to draw level for the first time since the start of the match at 9-9.

However, three-time ranking event winner Hawkins moved to the front once again in the following frame, compiling a run of 64 to go 10-9 up. Wilson then ensured parity at the mid-session interval with a break of 84.

Wilson had looked in position to edge into the lead, before breaking down on a contribution of 43. That allowed Hawkins to step in and counter with a break of 69 to regain the lead at 11-10

Fortunes were reversed in the following frame. Hawkins was in first, before misjudging a plant to the bottom corner on 41. Wilson stepped in and made a sublime clearance of 81 to make it 11-11.

From that moment Wilson ruthlessly charged to the line. He made consecutive century breaks of 125 and 132 to clinch a superb win.

Wilson said: “Towards the end I was able to reel off the frames very comfortably, and scored very heavily. I’ve worked really hard for this event. This is where you put in the time practising for, you rely on it and it comes out. Obviously it’s very pleasing for me that I managed to play well at the key part of the match.

“I always feel like I bring my best game to the Crucible. I usually start off quite slow. It’s one of those venues where you just need to ease your way into it. I played some very good snooker yesterday evening and today. My form is starting to rise and that is what you have to do if you want to try and go all the way in the tournament.

“It’s going to be a very tough game against David Gilbert. He’s probably one of the best cueists on the tour and he’s fantastic to watch. We had a good game in the German Masters final earlier this season and I’m sure another one is in store. He’s beaten the defending champion and looked good in doing it.”

Hawkins said: “The session yesterday evening cost me. The way I started I felt great, but last night it disappeared. That sums up my season, up one minute and down the next. I’m a bit disappointed but he finished the match off brilliantly at the end there.

There isn’t much to add to this. It was one of the best matches of the tournament so far. Kyren Wilson fighting spirit is quite something and I would love to see him go all the way. Barry Hawkins used to be a picture of consistency, but wasn’t this season, as himself admitted, and that made the difference. Both made mistakes in this match, but Kyren managed to step up a gear when he needed to. That’s a very positive sign.

John Higgins 13-11 Stuart Bingham

Four-time Crucible king John Higgins won a tough battle against Stuart Bingham 13-11 to set up a blockbuster quarter-final against Neil Robertson at the Betfred World Championship.

Robertson has been the player of the tournament so far but could face an almighty test against one of snooker’s all-time greats. After a poor season, barren of silverware, Higgins has the capacity to rise to the occasion in the Crucible cauldron.

The 43-year-old Scot was devastated to lose in the final in both 2017 and 2018, missing out a fifth world crown, and will use that as motivation for another title challenge.

Higgins was pushed all the way by 2015 champion Bingham and there were never more than two frames between them after Higgins recovered an early 4-1 deficit.

Going into tonight’s conclusion they were level at 8-8. World number five Higgins won the opening frame with a break of 97. He had a chance to clear from 60-0 down in the next but ran out of position on the yellow on 46, and Bingham got the better of a battle on the colours to restore parity.

A trademark Higgins clearance of 76, from 51-0 down, put him 10-9 ahead. Bingham looked set to level in frame 20 until he missed a red to a baulk corner on 67, and again Higgins punished him with a 50 clearance.

After the interval, world number 12 Bingham showed his fighting qualities as he took two fragmented frames to level at 11-11, before Higgins made a 43 in the next as he regained the lead. Early in frame 24, Bingham went for a risky plant on two reds, which missed its target. Higgins took advantage with a break of 63, and he later potted the penultimate red to secure a 15th Crucible quarter-final.

“It’s a great win,” said Wishaw’s Higgins. “Stuart’s a tough player, an unbelievable player, so I’m over the moon. I nicked a couple of frames from 9-9. When it went 11-9 the pressure went back on to me, I seized up a little bit and Stuart played well. I felt as if I wasn’t getting through the ball, I was bashing it. I managed to regroup and played two decent frames to win it.

“I put in some work with Anthony McGill and Stephen Maguire before coming here, so I was coming prepared better than I have been in the rest of the season.

“Neil’s the tournament favourite for a reason. He could be sitting here with five tournaments under his belt this season but for Ronnie O’Sullivan beating him in a couple of finals. He’s playing with a lot of confidence so he’s going to be tough to stop. I’ve just got to play my own game and see where it takes me.”

Bingham said: “I had my opportunities in the first four frames tonight and I probably could have won all of them. When you’re 50 points up and you leave John a chance he will punish you. At the moment it’s tough to take, but I enjoyed myself and it was a good battle.

“Overall I’ve had a very good season, winning a couple of tournaments, and I have to take the positives out of having a good match with John.”

Not the result I wanted. I’m no fan of either player here but I would support anyone against John Higgins in any match. I used to like him, really did. He’s a formidable player, no question. But I was in the media room on a certain night in May 2010 and, unless dementia gets the better of me, I will never forget what I saw and heard that night. The absolute horror of it, felt by all at the time, amplified by the fact that Higgins was (still) the reigning World Champion and the World n°1. It remains my opinion that he got away with it extremely  lightly. Enough said. Bingham’s attempt of that plant was the wrong shot at that time of the match in my opinion. The way the balls opened, leaving a red over a pocket, I knew this was the end for him. I switched off the television.

Judd Trump 13-9 Ding Junhui

Judd Trump produced a blistering display, as he came from 9-7 down to defeat Ding Junhui 13-9 and reach the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship.

Victory sees Bristol’s Trump secure his sixth appearance in the last eight of snooker’s biggest tournament. He will face Stephen Maguire for a place in the one-table semi-finals, which Trump hasn’t featured in since 2015.

Masters champion Trump has now levelled Ding at 6-6 in their head-to-head record.  Both players are former finalists at the Theatre of Dreams and have been heavily tipped as contenders to be the next first time World Champion. However, it is Trump who remains in the hunt to break his Crucible duck this year.

Ding appeared to have the momentum at the end of yesterday’s second session, taking the final two frames to secure his 9-7 lead. However, Trump stopped China’s 13-time ranking event winner in his stride this evening.

Breaks of 93, 79, 53 and 103 helped him to take the first five frames and move one from victory at 12-9.

World number seven Trump then appeared to be in position to complete a clean-sweep of the frames when he missed an easy blue on 47. Ding had the opportunity to steal, but missed the pink when trying to force position on the final yellow. A safety battle ensued, before a mistake from Ding allowed Trump to deposit the yellow and clear to secure victory.

“I was prepared to go out there and fight for every point tonight. I went out with the mentality that I wasn’t going to lose,” said 29-year-old Trump. “Stephen Maguire is always going to be a tough player. Ali Carter is always going to be a hard game and Gary Wilson is playing the best snooker of his life. There are no easy games anymore. This is the last eight of the World Championship, so I’m going to have to be on my game from the very start.

“I can’t afford to start the next match how I have in the first couple of games or it will be a long way back and I’ll be going home. Hopefully I can play like I did tonight. I just need to stay calm.”

Ding said: “He played great this evening. I only got a few chances. In the first two frames I had some opportunities, but didn’t score heavily enough. He came back strongly this evening and looked very good.

“I’m going to spend some more time with my daughter now. She was born at the start of the season, and I haven’t had a lot of time with her. I’ll look forward to next season, but I’m not going to worry or push myself too much.”

Judd Trump played well in this session, and sensibly too. In his interview with Eurosport he said that he had been working hard between sessions and made a few technical changes. It showed, and all credits to him for that. However, unless he improves further I can’t see him winning the title this year. Of course he still has the opportunity to improve and build himself into better form. What I mean is this: in the studio, the ES pundits were piling up the superlatives about Judd’s game, however, when Jimmy White was asked who was playing the better snooker between Judd Trump and Kyren Wilson, his answer was immediate: Kyren. Trump’s game is more spectacular, but not necessarily always efficient just yet. As for Ding … what can I say? IMO he will never win the World Championship, I’m not even sure if will ever win another tournament again. He looked like a man with no self-belief and no motivation at the table, or later during his press conference. He was all smiles. He was going to see his little girl … Well, Ding has been carrying far too much expectations, for far too long, and from a very young age. I don’t blame him if he just wants to “live”. His little girl will grow up fast, those early years are to be treasured. Will he be allowed to? I’m not sure. I think he should be. Away from the limelight. He’s only 32 and a good long break from the game might rekindle his appetite after a while. Carrying on like this will not.

Now onto my mini preview for what it’s worth

David Gilbert v Kyren Wilson

Both players impressed me. Both played really well in the first two rounds. Very little separates them in terms of the snooker they played, although they have quite different styles. What could make a difference here is experience of the bigger stage, and experience of winning. For that reason I make Kyren favourite. Kyren Wilson 13-10.

John Higgins v Neil Robertson

Neil has been the better player in the second half of the season. Since February he has only lost two matches, both finals, and the man who beat him isn’t in the draw anymore. He’s also the youngest player of the two, and has got some time to rest before this match. I think (and hope) that he will have too much for Higgins. Neil Robertson 13-9 (or better).

Gary Wilson v Ali Carter

Experience is on Ali Carter’s side, but in my opinion Gary Wilson has played the better snooker coming into this match. Gary’s tactical game has been impressive: his accuracy with pace and angles was phenomenal. He’s also got some time to rest. Ali Carter just came out of a very hard battle. Gary Wilson 13-10.

Judd Trump v Stephen Maguire

Now I’m not sure what to do with this one. Neither player has been consistent. About anything could happen. However I would be surprised if Maguire ran away with the match, whilst Trump might win by some margin if Maguire gets frustrated, although he recovered well from bouts of frustration in the previous rounds. I’ll abstain. Twiches, outrageous flukes and cuebangs.


Crucible 2019 – Day 9

There was no play to a finish yesterday. Life got in the way of snooker and I only managed to watch Ding v Trump and the evening part of Hawkins v Wilson.

I was very pleased to see Ding starting to play the way he can. He’s a beautiful player to watch when on form. Judd appeared anxious and tentative. From 5-1 up at a point he’s now 9-7 down and I really hope that Ding will finish the job tonight.; that would be a much-needed confidence boost. Steve Davis in the Winter Garden suggested that Judd Trump wasn’t dealing too well with the expectations that are now firmly on his shoulders, with Ronnie and Mark Selby both out. That’s very likely true and it’s made worse by his own brazen attitude and apparent arrogance. I’m not sure why he gives this image of himself, because the Judd Trump I have met several times outside the context of a match or the media room isn’t that person.

The second session of the Barry Hawkins v Kyren Wilson match wasn’t of the highest quality, but entertaining. Surely this wasn’t the Hawkins who had four centuries in the morning including a 147 attempt:

2019 WSC: Barry Hawkins 147 attempt – Kyren Wilson

Kyren Wilson himself was far from perfect. He’s a great potter but spends a lot of energy chasing the balls because his positional game is below what is expected from a top 16 player. He could have finished the session level or even in front. His determination and fighting spirit, on the other hand, are admirable. His nickname – the Warrior – is totally appropriate. That said, if Barry returns anywhere to the form he’s shown yesterday morning, it will be difficult for Kyren to win the last session by 6-3 or better, which is what he requires.

As I wrote above, I saw nothing from the other matches, but Stuart Bingham as well missed on a maximum:

2019 WSC: Stuart Bingham 147 attempt – John Higgins

The £50000 bonus is clearly doing the trick. The last maximum at the Crucible was made by Stephen Hendry in 2012, on the opening day, and only days before he retired. Since there has been none, but this year there are quite a number of attempts…

All matches conclude today, and I will be firmly in Zhou’s camp. The young lad is showing a lot of maturity and a great temperament so far.

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Moning session

Barry Hawkins made four centuries as he built a 6-2 lead over Kyren Wilson in the first session of their last 16 match at the Betfred World Championship.

All scores

Hawkins has a tendency to produce his best snooker at the Crucible – he has won more matches than any other player in Sheffield over the past six years. And once again the 40-year-old Londoner has raised his game on the big stage.

After getting the better of a scrappy opening frame, world number nine Hawkins had a chance of a 147 in the second, but missed the black on 105 with just one red left. Breaks of 82 and 130 put him 4-0 up at the interval.

Wilson replied with a 111 in the fifth but couldn’t contain his opponent as Hawkins knocked in 136 and 137 to lead 6-1. Only once before in Crucible history have two players made four centuries in a row between them; that was during the 1999 semi-final between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry.

The record for the most centuries made by one player in a match at the Crucible is seven, set by Ding Junhui when he beat Alan McManus in the semi-finals in 2016. Mark Selby made six tons in a second round match against Stephen Hendry in 2011.

Wilson took the last frame of the session to trail by four. They resume for eight more frames on Sunday at 7pm. First to 13 goes through to the quarter-finals to face David Gilbert.

On the other table Zhou Yuelong earned a 5-3 advantage against Ali Carter in their first session.

The winner will face Gary Wilson in the last eight, meaning that a qualifier is guaranteed to reach the one-table setup.

It was China’s talented 21-year-old Zhou who imposed himself on the tie in the early stages. He took the opener with a contribution of 67. Carter levelled by taking a 58-minute second frame, but breaks of 106, 105 and 64 helped Zhou into a 5-1 advantage.

Two-time Crucible finalist Carter claimed the final two frames of the session with breaks of 62 and 60 to end just two behind at 5-3.

Afternoon  session

Ding Junhui overturned a first session deficit to lead Judd Trump 9-7 heading into the concluding session of their last 16 tie at the Betfred World Championship.

Both players are chasing a maiden world title, having been heavily touted as contenders to be the Crucible’s next first time winner for several years. Trump was runner-up to John Higgins in 2011, while Ding lost out against Mark Selby in the 2016 final.

Masters champion Trump had held a 5-1 advantage during the opening session. However, Ding stayed in touch by taking the final two frames to trail 5-3 coming into today.

Ding won two on the bounce at the start of the session to restore parity at 5-5, before Trump edged in front once more thanks to a break of 90. World number ten Ding ensured he went into the mid-session level, as a break of 81 made it 6-6.

When they returned Ding took to the front for the first time in the match, compiling a break of 55 to go 7-6 up.  Trump hit back with a contribution of 62 to draw level, but Ding claimed the last two frames of the session to lead 9-7. They will play to a conclusion from 7pm tomorrow.

On the other table former World Champions Stuart Bingham and John Higgins are locked together at 8-8 heading into their final session.

With the score at 4-4, 2015 Crucible king Bingham took the opening frame of the afternoon with a break of 70. However, four-time World Champion Higgins responded immediately with breaks of 79 and 74 to lead for the first time since the opening frame of the match at 6-5.

Bingham then embarked on an ambitious attempt at a maximum break. He potted the first 14 reds with blacks. However, he failed to convert the final red, which was glued to the baulk cushion, ending his run on 112.

They then traded frames, with Bingham making another century run of 106 to level at 7-7. Higgins took the 15th frame and had looked set to lead heading into the concluding session. However, the Scot missed the final green and Bingham stepped in to clear to the black and restore parity at 8-8.

They will play to a finish tomorrow at 7pm.

Evening session

Kyren Wilson got the better of his second session with Barry Hawkins, but still trails 9-7 heading into tomorrow afternoon’s conclusion to their second round tie at the Betfred World Championship.

Hawkins held a 6-2 advantage after this morning’s opening session, but his lead has now been cut to two frames. World number nine Hawkins fired in four centuries in a superb showing this morning. He is known for reserving his very best snooker for the Crucible, having won more matches at the Theatre of Dreams than any other player in the last six years.

Wilson has also shown his pedigree in Sheffield. The Warrior reached his first World Championship semi-final last season and made the quarter-finals in the previous two years. The 27-year-old has already won two ranking titles this season at the Paul Hunter Classic and German Masters.

World number eight Wilson immediately piled the pressure on Londoner Hawkins this evening. He fired in breaks of 95 and 68 to take the opening two frames and cut his deficit to 6-4. However, there was an immediate response from Hawkins, who claimed the next two frames to lead 8-4 at the interval.

When they returned, a century break of 104 saw Wilson move within three at 8-5. Hawkins took a tight 14th frame before Wilson made a sublime break of 131 to edge back into the match at 9-6. He also won the final frame of the evening to set up an intriguing final session. They will play to a conclusion tomorrow from 1pm.

On the other table, Zhou Yuelong came from 7-6 down to lead Ali Carter 9-7 going into their final session.

China’s 21-year-old Zhou is playing in the second round at the Crucible for the first time and, so far, has the edge over experienced Carter, who was runner-up in 2008 and 2012.

The winner of this tie faces Gary Wilson in the last eight, which means that a qualifier is sure to go through to the semi-finals.

Chelmsford’s 39-year-old Carter trailed 5-1 early in the match, but recovered to 5-3 by the end of the first session and won the first frame tonight with a break of 57. Zhou came from 55-0 down in frame ten to win it with a superb 68 clearance and go 6-4 ahead.

There was an embarrassing moment for Carter in the 11th as he cleared the table and headed out of the arena, believing he had won the frame, only to be called back by the marker to play a respotted black as the scores were tied. His blushes turned to smiles when Zhou, attempting a safety shot on the black, went in-off to gift the frame to world number 19 Carter.

The Englishman kept his momentum going with a run of 75 in the 12th, and an excellent 51 clearance in the 13th which put him ahead for the first time in the match at 7-6.

But it was world number 35 Zhou who grasped the momentum at the tail end of the session. He made a 65 clearance for 7-7 then won the next with a run of 66, before getting the better of a fragmented final frame.

They return to the fray at 1pm on Monday.


Crucible 2019 – Day 8

Yesterday we lost both the defending champion, Mark Williams, and the man who had been World n°1 for more than four years and who, with Ronnie’s early exit, had an opportunity to regain that spot, Mark Selby. Both were poor but their circumstances are very different. We are only half through the second round and seven of the seeds have gone already, including the top three.

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Morning session

World number 32 Gary Wilson secured the biggest win of his career, defeating three-time Crucible king Mark Selby 13-10 to reach the last eight of the Betfred World Championship.

Wilson will now turn his attentions to a first ever Crucible quarter-final. The former taxi driver from Wallsend faces either Ali Carter or Zhou Yuelong for the right to compete in the one-table setup. That means a qualifier is guaranteed to make the semi-finals.

33-year-old Wilson has now secured the biggest payday of his career, with £50,000 assured for reaching the quarter-finals. That supersedes his previous best, which came for reaching the final of the 2015 China Open where he picked up £35,000. On that occasion he faced Selby and succumbed to a 10-2 defeat.

Defeat will be a big blow for Selby. The 15-time ranking event winner lost his world number one spot to Ronnie O’Sullivan last month, having held the position since February 2015. He has now failed to win an event in the UK for two years, dating back to his victory at the 2017 World Championship.

Wilson claimed the final three frames of yesterday’s second session to emerge with a 9-7 advantage. However, Selby turned up the heat when play got underway today. A break of 81 saw him take the opener, before claiming the 18th frame to level at 9-9.

Despite Selby’s strong start, Wilson refused to buckle in the Crucible cauldron. He traded frames with his illustrious opponent to reach 10-10. As they entered the business end of the encounter, it was Wilson who looked the most comfortable.

A break of 86 saw Wilson move 11-10 up. The following frame was a fragmented and tactical affair. Wilson gained the upper hand and won a 49-minute frame to edge one from victory at 12-10. He crossed the line in style with a fine break of 92.

Wilson said: “It wasn’t so much the best performance of my career, but it’s the best result of my career so far. I’m absolutely over the moon to have won that game. Mark missed a few, I missed a few and it got a little bit scrappy at times. But, I held my nerve quite well and that basically got me over the line.

“There are other players on the tour that you look at and think, there’s no reason I can’t do as well as that. It’s just about doing as best I can. This is the biggest stage we play on, and I want to play my best snooker.

“I don’t mind who I face next, it’s just about playing the opponent and hopefully I’ll get the result and go through. I don’t feel like I’m playing well enough yet to do well in the tournament. I’ve got through a couple of great games and I’m really proud of myself, but I know I’m going to have to play better.”

Selby said: “It was a strange match all the way through. I was in and out of focus. In the last few years, when it has come to the crunch, I’ve fancied the job. I felt a little bit edgy out there and I think that is probably because of the season I’ve had. I probably lacked a little bit of confidence. Gary played well and he deserved to win.

“I won’t go back to the practice table too soon that’s for sure. I’ll have a good month off, go on holiday and then come back to practice only a week or two before the season starts again. It’s such a long season. You need to try and forget everything and just go again next season.”

Gary Wilson deserves every credit. He very simply was the better player all match. He has been playing remarkably well since the start of the competition, both at the EIS and at the Crucible. Actually, against Mark Selby, Gary’s performance, still excellent, wasn’t quite as good as against Luca Brecel, but it was more than enough. Gary is set to play the winner of Ali Carter v Zhou yuelong, and I certainly don’t put it past him to reach the one table set up this year.

Afternoon session

Stephen Maguire came through a nerve shredding encounter with James Cahill to win 13-12 and clinch his place in the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship.

Scotland’s Maguire will now face either Judd Trump or Ding Junhui in the last eight. It’s the sixth time that world number 15 Maguire has reached the Crucible quarter-finals. However, he hasn’t done it the easy way. Both his matches this year have now come down to a deciding frame, having already edged out China’s Tian Pengfei 10-9 in round one.

Cahill’s fairytale run comes to an end. The Blackpool potter became the first ever amateur to compete at the Crucible by qualifying. In doing so he also secured his professional tour card for next season by virtue of the one-year list. Cahill then produced a seismic shock in World Championship history, when he knocked out world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-8 in the opening round.

Maguire came into this afternoon’s concluding session with a 9-7 advantage, after producing breaks of 83 and 121 to take the final two frames of the second session. When play got underway today, Cahill quickly reeled him in with runs of 63 and 74 to draw level at 9-9.

A contribution of 65 helped Maguire to edge back in front. However, Cahill ensured parity at the mid-session by taking the next frame to make it 10-10.

When play resumed Cahill took the lead for the first time in the match, making the most of a table length double to clear with 25 and steal the frame. Maguire then levelled at 11-11 thanks to a break of 71, before a dramatic 23rd frame.

Cahill appeared to be in a strong position among the balls, before fouling the pink with his waistcoat. Both players then spurned opportunities to move one from victory. Eventually Cahill crucially missed the final brown. A safety battle ensued, with Maguire depositing the brown first to get over the line in the frame and move one from victory.

Cahill clinched a tense 24th frame to force a decider. However, it was Maguire who held his nerve with contributions of 29 and 30 to book his quarter-final spot.

“I’m not enjoying it. Two deciders and two matches I could have lost easily, but I’m still in it,” said 38-year-old Maguire. “I’ll hold my hands up, I was gone out there, my cue action went to bits and I didn’t believe I could pot a ball in the end. Somehow I managed to muster up a decent last frame. I don’t know where that came from.

“I’m shattered at the moment. I’m going to change my tip tonight and then I’ve got two days off. I’ll smash in the new tip, work on a bit of technique and try and improve for that next match.”

Cahill said: “It’s swings and roundabouts. I was in a bit of a flow, but then the interval came and sort of took it away from me. It’s hard to keep that flow going, but if you can then it is possible to reel off a few frames with the momentum. It was a good game and I wish him all the best.”

To be honest this was a completely crazy match. It wasn’t great snooker, it was even a bit slapstick at times, but it was quite eventful and dramatic. Stephen Maguire was extremely honest in his postmatch interview – he always is – and I like him for that. He’s playing Judd Trump or Ding Junhui next. That match has only just started and it’s also not going as expected, albeit in a different way.

here is the decider

2019 WSC: Stephen Maguire – James Cahill (final frame)

On the other table John Higgins came back from 3-1 down to finish the session all square with Stuart Bingham on a 4-4 score. I didn’t see a ball of that, so can’t comment.

Evening session

Mark Williams saw his reign as Betfred World Champion ended by a 13-9 defeat against David Gilbert at the second round stage.

Williams, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby, the top three ranked players in the world, have all left Sheffield within the first two rounds.

Three-time Crucible king Williams was in the emergency department of the Northern General Hospital until late last night suffering from chest pains and he was clearly off-colour today, both in his demeanour and performance.

But that takes nothing away from former tractor driver Gilbert, who is competing as a seed at the Crucible for the first time and has broken new ground by reaching the last eight. His next opponent is either Barry Hawkins or Kyren Wilson.

A strong run at the Crucible caps off a career-best season for Tamworth’s 37-year-old Gilbert; this term he has reached two ranking event finals as well as climbing into the top 16. One of those finals, at the Yushan World Open, ended in cruel defeat as he let slip a 9-5 lead against Williams, losing 10-9. He admitted that was in his mind tonight, but this time there was no surrender.

World number three Williams trailed 9-7 going into the final session and took the first frame tonight to halve his deficit. But Gilbert quickly quashed his opponent’s hopes of a fight back as breaks of 62, 52 and 139 gave him three frames in a row and made it 12-8 at the interval.

World number 16 Gilbert might have sealed victory in frame 21 had he not missed a tough final red with the rest along a side cushion. Williams took advantage to pull one back and he had first chance in the 22nd but could only make 33. This time Gilbert punished him with a match-winning run of 89.

“I really enjoyed the match from start to finish,” said Gilbert, who had won just one match at the Crucible before this year. “In the last session I was so comfortable and calm within myself and it was one of my best ever performances. I really felt like I deserved the win, I stuck to my guns all day.

“It means everything. It wasn’t so long ago I was struggling to get through the qualifiers and now I’m at the Mecca of snooker and I’ve just beaten the defending champion. I feel like if I play the way I did there and keep that up I can cause people some grief.

“When Mark nicked the frame to go 12-9 it reminded me of the Yushan final, but I just had a chuckle to myself and thought keep going. I was prepared to go for my shots all day. I wasn’t going to back down no matter what happened.”

Williams, asked about his chest pains, said: “I just couldn’t stick it yesterday, I didn’t know what it was. Mike Ganley (tournament director) phoned the doctor and said to go straight to A&E and get it checked out, so that’s what I did. I was there for a few hours. The doctors said they were 99 per cent sure it wasn’t a heart problem. I’m going to have some more tests when I go home now and see my own doctor.

“I just feel terrible, and I played how I feel, dreadful. I tried my best, but I just had nothing there for the whole match. I was needing two or three chances to win frames, and you’re not going to get them every frame. Dave played well, he made some cracking clearances and I couldn’t keep up with him.

“I have loved being introduced as defending champion, it’s just a shame I’ve got to go out this way. I tried my best, I could have easily given up and lost 13-3 or 13-4 but I stuck in there.”

On the other table Masters champion Judd Trump emerged with a 5-3 advantage against Chinese number one Ding Junhui.

World number seven Trump came through one of the matches of the tournament so far in the opening round, beating Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 10-9. While Ding booked his second round slot with a hard fought 10-7 win over Anthony McGill.

Trump composed breaks of 61, 57 and 50 on his way to earning a 5-1 lead. However, Ding will be happy to have kept himself in touch. He halted Trump’s run of four frames on the bounce by taking the fifth frame, before a break of 67 saw him end the session just two behind at 5-3.

Both Mark Williams and David Gilbert deserve huge praise. Gilbert for the way he won, the quality snooker he played, and his refreshing unsophisticated manners with the media. Mark Williams for battling it through valliantly whilst obviously unwell and tired. So much so that there wasn’t even a trace of mischief in his postmatch this time. It’s actually worrying. Chest pains can be a lot of things and I sincery hope that it’s nothing serious in this case. Get well soon Willo! And, finally, it was lovely to see Mark Williams’ son and wife very sportingly applauding David whilst he completed the win. Well done the Williamses.

On the other table, it finished 5-3 to Judd Trump. Baffling doesn’t even start to describe how it felt watching this match. Actually Ding could have been 7-1 up, or even 8-0 up had he taken the opportunities he was given, or should I write “gifted”. But Ding was making glaring mistakes, missing about everything that wasnt short-range, and another few that were short range. He found himself 5-1 down and, fortunately for him and the interest of the match, managed to play two decent last frames. Trump … where do I start? He played most of this session smashing the balls at full force/speed, most of the times totally unnecessarily. Opening the packs this way, he propelled the balls all over the table, often to find out that he was on nothing easy, and ending up breaking down prematurely, with enough on the table for his opponent to steal the frame … had the said opponent been equipped with his normal game. This was the case in each of the three frames Judd won with breaks of 61, 57 and 50  before the MSI. After the MSI there were no more breaks over 50 from him at all. But there was a very bad miscue whilst playing at full speed/force, after which he appeared a bit more subdued. I wonder if he damaged his tip. My husband, who is a “casual” snooker fan, was watching with me, and his reaction to what he saw was “Something isn’t right here, are they competing honestly?”. Enough said. I do believe that both were competing honestly BTW, only one with his usual arrogance at the table when he feels on top, and the other, either as a man under huge pressure … or one whose concentration has been left in the dressing room. To me Judd Trump playing that way is NOT exciting, it’s infuriating. I much more prefer to watch him play the way he can and does when facing an opponent he respects. Yesterday, at times, it was almost as if he was trying to physically intimitade his opponent. End of rant.



Crucible 2019 – Day 7

It’s hard to explain but it felt like a rather strange day yesterday at the Crucible.

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Morning session

Neil Robertson holds a healthy 10-6 advantage over Shaun Murphy heading into this evening’s concluding session of their Betfred World Championship second round tie in Sheffield.

Australia’s 2010 World Champion Robertson is competing in the last 16 of the World Championship for the tenth time. He has enjoyed one of his finest seasons on the World Snooker Tour, having picked up titles at the Riga Masters, Welsh Open and China Open.

Murphy came into this week off the back of one of his worst ever seasons on the professional circuit. He has suffered nine first round defeats during the campaign. However, he returned to his dazzling best in the opening round. The Magician destroyed China’s Luo Honghao 10-0 to become only the second player in Crucible history to inflict a whitewash on his opponent, following John Parrott’s 10-0 win over Eddie Charlton in 1992.

Robertson came into the session with a 5-3 lead. As play got underway this morning, 37-year-old Robertson extended that advantage by making a break of 67 to move 6-3 ahead. Murphy then pulled one back and they traded frames to arrive at the mid-session with Robertson leading 7-5.

Robertson then edged further in front. However, Murphy replied once more with a break of 59 to make it 8-6. The subsequent 15th frame could prove to be pivotal.

Murphy had looked set to move within one, before missing a frame ball brown, Robertson punished that error. He eventually converted a long range blue and cleared to the black to steal the frame. Robertson compounded the disappointment for Murphy by taking the last frame of the session to end it 10-6 up. They will return to play the best of 25 clash to a finish at 7pm.

On the other table, Stephen Maguire opened up 5-3 advantage against the Crucible’s first ever amateur competitor James Cahill.

Scotland’s Maguire booked his second round spot thanks to a nerve-jangling 10-9 win over Tian Pengfei. While Cahill hit the headlines with a giant killing 10-8 defeat of world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Maguire made two century runs of 103 and 125 to open up a 5-2 lead. However, Cahill took an important 38-minute final frame of the session to end just two behind at 5-3.

Up to there, things looked relatively normal. Neil Robertson in this session played a notch under the level he had shown in the first session of the match but did more than enough. The difference was made in the safety department, that’s where Neil really outplayed Shaun. I didn’t see anything of the other table so can’t comment.

Afternoon session

Gary Wilson will take a 9-7 advantage over Mark Selby into the concluding session of their second round clash at the Betfred World Championship in Sheffield.

Wallsend’s Wilson currently has an unenviable head-to-head record against three-time World Champion Selby. He’s lost all five of his previous matches with the Jester from Leicester. Their most recent meeting came at the 2016 English Open, where Selby secured a 4-0 whitewash. Wilson was also on the wrong end of a 10-2 scoreline in the final of the 2015 China Open.

However, it’s Wilson who has been setting the pace this afternoon. The world number 32 is competing in the last 16 at the World Championship for the first time. His decider in the previous round against Luca Brecel was the longest frame in Crucible history, but he came through to seal a fine 10-9 win.

Wilson secured a 5-3 lead after the opening session and he continued to push on this afternoon, despite 15-time ranking event winner Selby throwing everything at him.

Selby took the opening two frames with breaks of 64 and 84 to level at 5-5, before Wilson responded with a run of 60 to regain the lead.

Selby then fired in contributions of 120 and 74 to take the lead for the first time in the match at 7-6. However, Wilson showed his steel with breaks of 97, 115 and 78 to claim the final three frames of the session and emerge with a 9-7 lead. They will play to a finish at 10am tomorrow.

On the other table David Gilbert seized the early initiative against defending champion Mark Williams, to take a 5-3 cushion after their opening session.

The match is a repeat of this season’s dramatic Yushan World Open final. On that occasion Gilbert held a 9-5 advantage, but let it slip as Williams roared back to win 10-9.

Gilbert is competing as a Crucible seed for the first time and he put on an impressive display this afternoon. Breaks of 61, 61 52 and 58 helped him to earn a two-frame gap heading into tomorrow. They resume at 10am.

Gary Wilson continued to play well against Mark Selby, although he looked very nervous for a while in the middle of this session. There was a long phase where Mark Selby was chasing one single snooker and Gary Wilson managed to deny him and, that, in my perception, is what allowed Gary to settle again. He had got the upper hand in the aspect of the game that is his opponent strength.

On the other table David Gilbert won the session over the defending champion. It later transpired that Mark Williams was feeling unwell suffering for chest pains. After getting advice from a doctor at the Crucible he was rushed to hospital.

This is what he tweeted from there:

A&E. Could be hear a while , couldn’t stick the chest pains no more. Lucky there wasn’t any more frames to play .

and later:

Doctors are confidant it’s not anything to do with my heart🙏. Awaiting more tests at 10 o clock .

So that’s good news, and the more important is of course Mark’s health. It may be the World Championship, at the end od the day it’s only a game of snooker.

Mark is supposed to resume his match this morning. We’ll see what happens. I expect him to try to play even if he’s not 100%, but really it would be foolish to go against the doctors advice if they think that he’s unfit.

In a far more serious note, but quite bizarre, Shaun Murphy was in the Winter Garden during the afternoon doing punditry, whilst his own match was still underway and he was due to play in the next session. Even weirder, he gave comments over his own match before it was over. That’s a bit baffling. But maybe it was his way to take his mind off the match.

Evening session

Neil Robertson became the first player into the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship as he took the last five frames of his clash with Shaun Murphy to win 13-6.

It was snooker of the highest quality from Australia’s Robertson – he fired three centuries and six more breaks over 50 as he turned a potentially tough second round match against 2005 Crucible champion Murphy into a comfortable victory. World number four Robertson now meets John Higgins or Stuart Bingham on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Having won three ranking titles and reached three other finals this term, 37-year-old Robertson is enjoying the best season of his career. And he could finish it by becoming the first non-British player to lift snooker’s most famous trophy twice, having done so for the first time in 2010.

Murphy, by contrast, has had a disappointing campaign by his high standards, failing to add to his trophy haul. He looked back in form in a 10-0 demolition of Luo Honghao in the first round this week, but was no match for Robertson.

Breaks of 106, 79, 57, 127, 67 and 62 helped Robertson build a 10-6 lead in the first two sessions. The match would have been closer had Murphy not missed a crucial frame-ball brown at 8-6 during the second session.

And there would be no fight-back from the Englishman in tonight’s conclusion; in fact he potted just one ball. Robertson compiled runs of 120, 88 and 95 as he sailed over the winning line.

“The first session yesterday was a wonderful standard from both of us,” said Robertson, winner of 16 ranking titles. “This morning was a little bit tougher, there were some close frames, but I pinched a couple of big frames on the black.

“Tonight was a great way to finish off the match. I’m playing with freedom. It’s a lot easier said than done, but I’m just going out there and playing. There will always be nervous moments, because as a competitor you want to win. Just ask my son, when we play Monopoly or Scrabble I hate losing, even to him – if I lose I flip the board over!

“But at the same time the bigger picture is going out there and performing for the crowd, hoping they see a great match and making some big breaks for them. I’d love to win it, no doubt whatsoever, but I’m just trying to play well and it’s working.”

Murphy said: “I was bang under it from the moment I was drawn against Neil Robertson. He was just too good, he played too well, scored too well, his safety was too good, his tactical play was too clever, and frankly if he keeps playing like that he’ll win the tournament. If he keeps playing like that get the engravers ready, his name’s going on the trophy.

“I played well in my first match, I was really thrilled to have a good performance again. That’s given me a bit of confidence going forward into next season. I’ll put the cue down for a few weeks, get back on the practice table, and try and pick up next season where I’ve finished this season, which is in a much better place than I’ve been for most of it.”

On the other table, Stephen Maguire holds a 9-7 overnight lead going into the concluding session of his match against James Cahill. Having knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan in round one, Cahill is battling hard as he seeks to continue his run.

Glasgow’s Maguire led 5-3 after the first session and took two of the first three scrappy frames tonight to go 7-4 ahead. Blackpool’s Cahill fought back impressively as breaks of 69 and 52 helped him recover to 7-7. But it was Maguire who finished the session strongly as runs of 83 and 121 saw him regain the advantage.

They resume at 2.30pm on Saturday.

Neil duly wrapped off the match in no time. Shaun didn’t make another frame and some suggested that his presence in the Winter Garden earlier was a sign that he had somehow given up. I’m not sure about that. I don’t believe that spending time at the practice table necessarily helps at that stage unless there is a specific issue the player needs to work on. Shaun’s issue was quite simply that currently Neil is a better and more complete player and time in practice wasn’t going to fix that for him anyway.

On the other table, it was a miss fest and cuebang central. The standard of the match between Stephen Maguire and James Cahill was pretty terrible, to the point it was hilarious at times. The ES pundits were having a blast in the studio. Maguire was mightily frustrated and that didn’t help is concentration. He was oozing anger. Somehow he managed to regain some composure to win the last two frames with some decent snooker. Truth to be said Stephen is a bit on a hiding to nothing in that match: his opponent has absolutely nothing to lose here as he’s already achieved much more than anyone expected, even if it was again an ailing opponent.

Crucible 2019 – Day 6 and a mini last 16 preview.

Yesterday saw the conclusion of the first round at the Crucible and the start of the last 16. We lost another seed in Jack Lisowski. Bizarrely, all four seeds who lost in the last 32 were in the bottom half of the draw. The top half now presents a very strong line-up.

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session

Ali Carter put on a steely display to beat Jack Lisowski 10-6 in the opening round of the Betfred World Championship in Sheffield.

World number 19 Carter, who came through qualifying to book his Crucible place, is making a 17th consecutive appearance at snooker’s Theatre of Dreams. That run is made even more impressive by the fact that Carter has battled and beaten cancer twice during that period and suffers from Crohn’s disease.

39-year-old Carter, nicknamed the Captain, enjoyed a memorable result last year at the Crucible, defeating Ronnie O’Sullivan in a fiery second round encounter. He was then beaten by eventual winner Mark Williams in the quarter-finals. Carter is a two-time World Championship finalist, he was runner-up to O’Sullivan in 2008 and 2012.

Lisowski arrived in Sheffield as a seeded player for the first time in his career this week. A fine season, where he has reached finals at the Riga Masters and the recent China Open, has seen him ascend to 11th in the world. However, it was Carter who proved to be too strong in the Crucible cauldron this afternoon.

Carter edged to a narrow 5-4 advantage after yesterday evening’s opening session. When the pair came out today, Essex cueist Carter ramped up the pressure on Lisowski.

He took the opening two frames, before a break of 73 made it 8-4. Carter then claimed a tight 13thframe on the colours to make it four on the bounce and move one from victory at 9-4.

Carter had then looked set to wrap up the tie, after a stunning long range green set up an opportunity to clear the colours. However, he missed a difficult black with the rest and left it over the pocket for Lisowski to make it 9-5.

Gloucester’s Lisowski then turned on the heat with a century run of 124 to close within three frames at 9-6. However, a break of 46 helped Carter to get over the line and book a second round meeting with China’s Zhou Yuelong.

“Jack is so talented, he’s such a great young player. He has a lot of special moments to come here, there’s no doubt about that. I’ve never seen a talent like him apart from Ronnie O’Sullivan,” said Carter. “It was a horrible match because me and Jack have been through similar sorts of things and he is a really good friend.

“Zhou Yuelong is another tough young opponent. I am looking forward to that match and to the challenge. You have to relish it out there. It is tough, but it’s what we all play snooker for.

“There have obviously been a few shocks this year. Ronnie got beat and he didn’t really look up for it to be honest. That was very strange, but he is under a lot of pressure.”

Lisowski said: “I’m pretty gutted. I just didn’t quite get into it today. I definitely didn’t have the run of the ball. I was just hanging on yesterday and hoping I could put him under a bit of pressure. He was probably the worst draw out of the 16 qualifiers that I could have got. I knew I had to be on it and I was quite impressed with how he played. It has been a good season for me. I can have a break now and come back stronger next season.”

For once Ali looked cheerful 😉 It’s all happening at the Crucible!

Meanwhile, on the other table, Shaun Murphy missed a chance for a maximum. He makes the headlines but trails Neil Robertson by 5-3 at the end of their first session

Shaun Murphy missed the last red when he had an opportunity to make the first 147 at the Crucible for seven years.

Murphy trails Neil Robertson 5-3 after the first session of their second round clash at the Betfred World Championship.

In the last frame of the session, Murphy potted the first 14 reds with blacks, but then failed to convert a tricky final red to a centre pocket.

Only Cliff Thorburn, Jimmy White, Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams and Ali Carter have made maximum breaks at the Crucible, and the last 147 was from Hendry in 2012. The prize for a maximum is £50,000 plus the £10,000 high break prize.

Robertson took the first three frames of a high quality session with top breaks of 106 and 79. Murphy pulled one back and made a 53 in the next, only for his opponent to snatch it with a 57 clearance.

A 109 from 2005 World Champion Murphy made it 4-2, then 2010 Crucible king Robertson replied with a 127. Murphy’s 112 in the last frame was the fourth century of the session. They play eight more frames at 10am on Friday with the conclusion from 7pm on Friday; first to 13 goes through to the quarter-finals.

Here is the attempt:

2019 WSC: Shaun Murphy 147 attempt – Neil Robertson

Shaun actually played better than I expected, but Neil looks definitely the strongest player in the field.

Evening session

Kyren Wilson booked his second round spot at the Betfred World Championship in Sheffield with a 10-4 defeat of Scott Donaldson.

World number eight Wilson has shown his Crucible pedigree in recent years. The Warrior reached his maiden World Championship semi-final 12 months ago. On that occasion Wilson fell short against John Higgins by a 17-13 scoreline. He also made the quarter-finals in the two years prior to that.

Donaldson was making his Crucible debut, having come through qualifying for the first time. The Scot won an epic deciding frame with China’s Lu Ning. He had held a 9-4 advantage, before Lu clawed his way back to level. However, Donaldson managed to claim a 67-minute final frame to win 10-9.

It was Donaldson who required a fightback this evening, after trailing 6-2 following the first session. The Perth potter did take the opening frame with a break of 63, but the turnaround never fully materialised.

Wilson won the following two frames to make it 8-3, with Donaldson taking the last before the mid-session to go in at 8-4. When they returned Wilson powered over the line. He made breaks of 63, 52 and 55 on his way to completing the 10-4 win. He will now face Barry Hawkins up next for a place in the quarter-finals.

27-year-old Wilson said: “That was a potential banana skin avoided. I think that’s the best way to sum it up. I was on a bit of a hiding to nothing playing Scott, who is a debutant. Firstly I would just like to say I think he handled himself very well, was very professional and I’m sure he will be back here again for many years to come. For me, I’m very pleased to get the win.

“Barry Hawkins is a fantastic match player. He has a brilliant record at the Crucible and I think the only thing missing from his resume is the trophy. It is going to be a very tough game. I think there is going to be a lot of tactical play, as we try to out manoeuvre each other.”

Donaldson said: “I was beaten by the better player. My cue ball was all over the place in the first session, understandably given it was my first time here. I really enjoyed the second session tonight, so I’ll go away happy to be honest. I know what to expect if I get here again.”

On the other table, three-time champion Mark Selby slipped 5-3 behind against Gary Wilson in the first session of their second round match.

World number 32 Wilson is playing in the last 16 at the Crucible for the first time but has impressed so far against an opponent ranked 30 places higher.

Breaks of 55, 68 and 100 helped Wilson take a 3-1 lead. The next two frames were shared, then Selby made a 72 to close the gap to 4-3. And Selby looked favourite in the last of the session when he led 53-0, but Wilson snatched it with runs of 39 and 24 to take an overnight lead.

They play eight more frames at 2.30pm on Friday, with the final session at 10am on Saturday

The match was much closer than the score suggests. A lot of frames came to the colours. Kyren will not be entirely happy with his form just yet, but he’s still in the draw and it all that matters.

Yesterday I mini-previewed the two last 16 matches that had to start on thr day. I’m on the right track with that for now at least.

Now about the six other matches:

Mark Williams v David Gilbert

A lot will depend on how well Mark Williams will play. In his first-round he was solid enough but still gifting his opponent more opportunities than he would like. If he does that against David Gilbert he will be in trouble. This match to go to the last mini-session.

Barry Hawkins v Kyren Wilson

Barry Hawkins always seems to come to his best at the Crucible and this year looks no different. Unless Kyren Wilson improves massively I can’t see him go past the “Crucible Specialist”. Barry Hawkins – 13-8.

John Higgins v Stuart Bingham

This one is impossible to call for me. I haven’t watched John Higgins so I’m not sure how he plays. What is sure though is that Stuart Bingham can’t allow losing 7 frames on the bounce in this match! Because he did that in the first round, I make John Higgins favourite.

Ali Carter v Zhou Yuelong

Zhou Yuelong was impressive in the first round. He’s much more mature than his age would suggest. He’s a match player too and a good one. Will he have enough against an experienced campaigner like Ali? Not sure. Ali Carter – 13-9.

Judd Trump v Ding Junhui

Now, this is the tie of the round! If I’d had to predict this before a ball was struck at the Crucible, I’d have made Judd a huge favourite. However, after watching them both in the last 32 – with Judd taken to a decider and lucky to go through – I now favour Ding. Ding Junhui – 13-9.

Stephen Maguire v James Cahill

James Cahill played with freedom against Ronnie. He had achieved more than anyone expected already, by qualifying as an amateur and securing his professional status for the coming season. He’s a much better player than his “amateur” status suggests as Judd Trump told the press: “From what I’ve seen of James Cahill, no exaggeration, his cue action is up there with anyone I’ve ever seen. ‘He’s so smooth. He really believes in himself, if he cut out those easy balls he missed he would have won very comfortably yesterday.”. Don’t forget that they both were managed by Grove for four years. He would know. But now that James got this far, expectations will be on him and he didn’t downplay them. Will that work for him? Not sure. Stephen Maguire 13-8.



Crucible 2019 – Last 16 pre-preview

As the first round isn’t over yet, I don’t want to do a full preview of the last 16 just yet. That will be coming tomorrow (hopefully). However two matches will start today and, because I don’t want to be biased by how the first session goes, here is how I see those two going.

Neil Robertson v Shaun Murphy

Although Shaun Murphy whitewashed young Luo HongHao and played superbly in the process, I remain unconvinced about his form. His young opponent never settled, Shaun was never under any sort of pressure out there. He’s not been tested at all. That won’t be the case against Neil who is now in my eyes a massive favourite for the title. I expect Neil to win this one very comfortably.

Mark Selby v Gary Wilson

Mark Selby is yet to convince me about his return to form. Gary Wilson played brilliantly and was extremely solid against Luca Brecel. This one will be close I think, but it’s Gary Wilson to win for me – 13-11.


Crucible 2019 – Day 5

Day 5 at the Crucible saw another seed, Mark Allen, depart whilst Jack Lisowski is also behind after his first session. Judd Trump only just survived. And, after Michael Georgiou and Luo HongHao, another debutant, Li Hang, was inflicted an absolute trashing.

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Morning session

Masters champion Judd Trump won a barnstorming clash with snooker’s fastest player Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 10-9 to reach the second round of the Betfred World Championship.

The highly anticipated meeting between two of the sport’s most natural talents lived up to its pre-match billing. Trump has enjoyed his best season on the World Snooker Tour, having picked a second Triple Crown title at the Masters and he secured further wins at the Northern Ireland Open and the World Grand Prix.

Un-Nooh has averaged just 17.11 seconds per shot this season, which is quicker than any other player on the circuit. Appropriately, he won his maiden ranking title at the single frame Shoot Out earlier this year. The Thai was making his second Crucible appearance this week, having come through qualifying for the last two years.

The pair produced fireworks aplenty in snooker’s Theatre of Dreams. Un-Nooh led 6-3 after an opening session which lasted just over two hours. Throughout the entire match both players averaged under 20 seconds per shot.

Trump stormed to the opening frame of the morning with a superb break of 82. Un-Nooh responded to move 7-4 in front, before Trump took four frames on the bounce to lead for the first time since the opening frame at 8-7.

They continued to trade blows, with Un-Nooh restoring parity thanks to a contribution of 69. Trump moved one from victory at 9-8, then Un-Nooh ensured the match went to a decider as a sublime break of 78 made it 9-9.

Un-Nooh had first chance and made 26 before running out of position when trying to open the pack off of a red. Trump converted a risky cross double on a red to set up a break of 53. The match came down to a safety battle with two reds remaining, and a crucial mis-cue from Un-Nooh proved his last meaningful shot, as he left Trump the chance to add ten points which proved enough.

“I was making him work for his chances, his long potting was a lot better and he was scoring a lot heavier. I was relieved to get a half chance in the last frame after he had split the balls open,” said ten-time ranking event winner Trump. “Thepchaiya was one of the names that everyone wanted to avoid. I think he’s one of the best players and he’s still probably improving. He has a scary style to play against. He goes for everything and puts you under a lot of pressure. I’m very relieved, to come back from 6-3 down is a great win for me.

“You just don’t want to go out in the first round here. I think the top 16 put a bit of extra pressure on themselves and in the end it was probably my experience which got me over the line today.”

Un-Nooh said: “Last year was my first time at the Crucible and there was a lot of pressure. I learned from that experience. I was relaxed in the first session, but I did put a lot of pressure on myself today. Hopefully I can get back here next year.”

On the other table, Crucible specialist Barry Hawkins surged into an 8-1 lead over Li Hang and needs just two more frames when they resume at 7pm tonight.

Hawkins has won more matches at the Sheffield venue than any other player over the last six years, reaching the final in 2013 and four other semi-finals.

And the Londoner, who turned 40 yesterday, dominated the opening session against China’s Li, one of seven players making a Crucible debut this year. Breaks of 84, 85, 77 and 55 helped Hawkins take an 8-0 lead. Li won the last frame to avoid the risk of a whitewash, but he needs nine of the last ten tonight.

Effectively Thepchaiya did lose this match in the first half of yesterday’s session when he allowed Judd to come back at him. He was missing balls that he wasn’t missing the day before. But even so, Judd was very lucky in the decider that his opponent landed on nothing having opened the balls, and that the double he took went in. That was a very risky shot at that stage of the match. Was that the right shot? Well, it’s debatable. It was a chance and he took it. It went in. Had it not gone in, Judd would probably have lost the match and I wonder if he would have been “crucified” by some fans for taking the “wrong shot”, and “show disrespect for his opponent” and, therefore being “rightly punished for it”. The basic line is that the players need to play their game. Attacking players when seeing a chance will try to take it. They will not go into their shell because they know that approach won’t work for them. Thepchaiya, faced with the same situation, would very likely have gone for it too.

2019 WSC: Judd Trump v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (final frame)

Afternoon session

World number six Mark Allen became the latest seeded player to be knocked out in the first round of the Betfred World Championship as he lost 10-7 to qualifier Zhou Yuelong.

Allen joins Ronnie O’Sullivan and Luca Brecel as the top-16 ranked players to have fallen so far at the Crucible. He came from 9-2 down to win five frames in a row, but it was too little, too late as China’s Zhou secured victory in the 17th frame.

On his second appearance at the Crucible, 21-year-old Zhou won his first match at the venue, and his reward is a last 16 tie against Jack Lisowski or Ali Carter.

Allen has had one of his best seasons, winning ranking titles at the International Championship and Scottish Open, but it finishes on a low note with defeat in the first round at the Crucible for the first time since 2013. The Northern Irishman has not reached the semi-finals in Sheffield since 2009.

World number 35 Zhou built a 7-2 lead in the opening session on Tuesday with top breaks of 86, 54, 101, 53, 73 and 74. He took the opening frame today with a run of 70 then made a 37 clearance in the next for 9-2.

Allen’s fight-back began with breaks of 68 and 60 for 9-4, and when he cleared with 72 in frame 15 after Zhou had missed a red on 60, the tide was turning. Allen’s 131 total clearance made it 9-6, and Zhou was clearly feeling pressure as another missed red in the 16th allowed Allen to draw within two frames.

But when Zhou got the better of a safety battle on the last red in the 17th, he grasped his chance, cutting the red into a top corner and clearing the table.

“I’m happy to win,” said Zhou, whose best career moment was winning the World Cup for China alongside Yan Bingtao in 2015. “Mark played very well from 9-2, he scored fast and heavily. I just had to wait for my chance and concentrate on every shot.

“I think this was my best match of the season, especially yesterday’s session. I’m excited for the next match. I was happy to play against Mark, he’s one of the best players in the world. I enjoyed it.

“In snooker you just have to do your own job, concentrate on yourself. If you think about your opponent too much it has a bad effect on your own game. I just focus on myself.”

Allen said: “The way I played in the first 11 frames, I didn’t deserve to win a match – it was embarrassing. I prepared really well for the tournament and I was hitting the ball great leading up to it, but just went out there and played like terribly

“I really fancied the job from 9-6. I’m disappointed with the way it ended with a bad safety on the red in the last frame because I felt like I had him on the ropes. I’m proud of the way I hung on even though I was no where near my best.

“The early and middle part of that match was really hard to be part of because I was struggling mentally. I didn’t really know where I was. I didn’t know what I was doing with my technique. I’d miss by three inches and go back to my seat thinking I’ve got to try something different next time. At 9-2 I went for everything and all of a sudden I found some form so maybe there’s something in that.”

On the other table, Kyren Wilson established a 6-2 lead over Scott Donaldson in a match which finishes on Thursday evening.

Wilson, a semi-finalist here last year, took the first three frames with a top break of 100. Debutant Donaldson won two of the next three frames but Wilson snatched the seventh with a 33 clearance to go 5-2 up and won the last of the session on the colours.

Allen has had one of his best seasons, yes, but not so much after Christmas. Since he had done pretty little and, to his own admission, had not been in the best mental shape. He was showing signs of improvement in the recent weeks, but I still expected him to struggle and I was right. That was plain to see on Tuesday. He did extremely well to make a match of it yesterday, but it was indeed too late and too much to do. Zhou Yuelong is only 21 but he’s already a very mature player and the way he kept his focus and composure whilst Mark Allen was coming back at him showed that. It also gained him huge praise from Stephen Hendry.

Evening session

Crucible specialist Barry Hawkins stormed past world number 28 Li Hang 10-1 with a relentless display in the opening round of the Betfred World Championship.

Despite being runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan at the 2018 Shanghai Masters, it has been a modest season so far for Hawkins. However, he arrives at the Crucible with the knowledge that he has won more matches than any other player at snooker’s Theatre of Dreams over the last six years. 2013 finalist Hawkins has now clocked up 19 match wins in Sheffield over that period.

Barry Hawkins’ Recent Crucible Performances

2018 Semi-final

2017 Semi-final

2016 Quarter-final

2015 Semi-final

2014 Semi-final

2013 Runner-up

It hasn’t all been plain sailing for the Hawk at the Crucible. The three-time ranking event winner lost his first five matches at the venue and also succumbed to a 10-1 loss on his debut appearance, losing out against Ken Doherty in 2006.

It was a harsh introduction to Crucible snooker for debutant Li. The Chinese 28-year-old pinched the last frame of this morning’s session against Hawkins to trail 8-1. That meant he avoided the same fate of compatriot and fellow debutant Luo Honghao, who became only the second player to suffer a whitewash at the Crucible in losing 10-0 to Shaun Murphy.

Hawkins swiftly brought a close to proceedings when play got underway this evening. He fired in breaks of 69 and 95 to wrap up the 10-1 victory and book a second round meeting with either Kyren Wilson or Scott Donaldson.

Hawkins said: “Li struggled there and to be honest I was hoping he would, as it’s his first time here. It’s a little bit ironic, as I lost 10-1 on my first time here and now I’ve beaten him 10-1. It is strange how things work out.

“It’s horrible when someone’s struggling, but in the World Championship I’ll take it all day long. I’d rather win 10-1 and get through easily, relax for the next few days and watch everyone else sweat it out like Stuart Bingham did last night. You can’t feel sorry for your opponent too much. He’ll come back stronger for sure.”

On the other table Ali Carter established a slender 5-4 advantage over Jack Lisowski, to set up an intriguing final session when they play to a finish tomorrow afternoon at 1pm.

World number 19 Carter eased through qualifying to book his Crucible place, dropping just nine of the 39 frames he played. While Lisowski is competing as a seed for the first time, having upped his world ranking to 11th after a fine season

They traded blows in the first four frames. Lisowski top scored with a century break of 101 to make it 2-2 at the mid-session.

Carter then imposed himself on the game with three frames on the bounce to make it 5-2. The eighth frame came down to a re-spotted black. After a period of impressive safety play, Carter took an ambitious double and left the ball over the corner pocket for Lisowski to deposit.

Gloucester’s Lisowski then claimed the final frame with breaks of 40 and 44 to leave the tie in the balance heading into tomorrow.

I didn’t see a ball of the Hawkins-Li match. Regarding the other match, I wonder why I put myself through this sometimes. I like Jack, I really do, but watching him play can be mightily frustrating. His talent is huge, he pots some incredible balls, and then, when you less expect it, he throws in a howler, usually leaving an open table to his opponent. On the other hand, I really struggle to warm to Ali Carter. He’s a very good player, a very hard match player. I know that he’s gone through a lot, I certainly know than Crohn disease is painful, to say the least. But still. He permanently comes across as an angry person, someone who will feel aggrieved by minor things. Maybe I read him wrong, but that’s my perception and it’s a bit baffling to me precisely because he has gone through so much and I’d expect him to get perspective on minor sources of annoyance. Anyway, I spent the evening cursing at the TV screen whilst wondering why I didn’t turn the box off. 😕

More endearing, yesterday was Disability Snooker day at the Crucible, with plenty going on in the winter garden to promote disability snooker. Top players, including Shaun Murphy, Nigel Bond, and Judd Trump, took time to meet the WDBS players at and off the table. Well done to them!

Shaun and Nigel tried special glasses simulating different kinds of vision impairments. A few images here on WDBS Facebook page.

It was also an opportunity to announce a new sponsor for the WDBS tour: 360Fizz

Crucible 2019 WDBS day

It was also “Awards day” with the “Vic Hartley WDBS Player of the Season Award” going to wheelchair player Daniel Lee. Well done Daniel!

🏆 WDBS PLAYER OF THE SEASON 🏆 We are delighted to announce that the Vic Hartley WDBS Player of the Season for 2018/19 is Daniel Lee. He takes home a special bespoke cue case, presented by and Dawn/Ann, the daughters of Vic Hartley 👏

We lost Vic Hartley quite suddenly end March and many like me couldn’t believe the sad news. He was a diamond of a human being. Creating such a worthy award named after him is a great initiative by WDBS. All of us who knew Vic are heartbroken. 💔

WDBS has published this moving piece witten by Michael Day.

Remembering Vic Hartley

The inaugural winner of the prestigious Vic Hartley WDBS Player of the Season Award will be announced during Wednesday’s World Snooker Disability Day in Sheffield; an honour named in tribute to our friend and colleague who sadly passed away last month.

Vic was born on the 25th July 1931 in Shepherd’s Bush, London. He began work for a local coach company, first as a mechanic, then a driver, before commencing national service where he was based in Egypt. He discovered a passion for this way of life and later joined the Territorial Army, Royal Electrical Mechanical and Engineers Regiment. Afterwards he had a spell at the Royal Military College of Science in Shrivenham.

Loving husband to Beryl for nearly 50 years before she passed away in early 2010, the happy couple were proud of their two children, Dawn and Ann, and their three grandchildren Karl, Dean and Chloe. After feeling unwell on Thursday 28th March, Vic was taken to hospital where he passed away in the arms of his girls.

Enthusiastic about several different sports, Vic’s biggest affection was towards snooker – a pursuit that would involve him in various roles over many years.

Originally signing up for his local team, he was drawn towards the administration and running of the local league. He enjoyed crucial roles such as Treasurer and Results Secretary, and only up until last year he still had ongoing input.

His love for the sport also led him into refereeing. Vic qualified and later achieved Class 1 status – he would go on to have a long and distinguished career in officiating that would see him travel up and down the country and beyond. Away from his own baize duties he was eager to support upcoming referees too, using his years of knowledge and wisdom to tutor and mentor.

Vic represented the English Association of Snooker and Billiards impeccably, regardless of whether he was refereeing at local and national events, or further afield during major European and international competitions. One of his proudest highlights was in 2002 when he refereed at the Crucible Theatre during the World Ladies Snooker Championship.

Having gained experience refereeing disabled and wheelchair players at Stoke Mandeville earlier on in his career, Vic was very keen to be a part of, and promote, World Disability Billiards and Snooker which was established in 2015, officiating in the opening event at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.

Since then the WDBS circuit has grown in strength, and a constant within that uprising success was Vic’s participation at several tournaments; even after a spell of ill-health left him sidelined for a short period, he returned to action in 2018. Only in March – a few days before his passing – Vic was at Jesters Snooker Hall in Swindon to greet players, guardians and staff during this year’s Southern Classic. He was with snooker right up until the end.

His fondness of WDBS was apparent and donations from his recent funeral were gratefully received by the organisation.

Vic was respected by all his peers and away from the table his energy and effervescent nature left us in high spirits. Whilst he leaves a hole within the sport, he will always be remembered by the snooker community.

In honour of his time, effort and commitment, his legacy will also live on through the new Vic Hartley WDBS Player of the Year Award that will be presented annually after each season. As well as the distinction of this title, the winning player will also receive a luxurious bespoke cue case designed and hand crafted by Rob Reed from RR Cue Cases.

A player from each disability category has been nominated for the prize, this year’s shortlisted contenders are Daniel Lee (Groups 1 and 2), Daniel Blunn (Group 3), Mickey Chambers (Groupsa 4 and 5), Michael Farrell (Group 6A), Daniel Harwood (Group 6B), Nick Neale (Group 7) and Shabir Ahmed (Group 8).