It was a day of heartbreak to be honest, and yet thrilling in many ways.
In the morning session, Ronnie lost by 10-8 to James Cahill. You can find everything about that match here. It did not come to a surprise to me. This is presented in the media as the biggest shock ever at the Crucible. That’s nonsense. When a player is blatantly unfit, and whoever is his opponent at the Crucible, they will be beaten more often than not. Actually I even find that the media coverage is a bit disrespectful for James Cahill. All the headlines are about his amateur status. What James did IS remarkable, even against an ailing Ronnie, and he did it because he IS a far better player than his current amateur status indicates. This was illustrated by his season: he became the first amateur ever to manage to regain his professional status through the one year list. He beat Mark Selby and Ding Junhui in the UK Championship. He beat Shaun Murphy at the Welsh Open. He beat Michael Holt and Andrew Higginson – two seasoned pros who have been in ranking finals – to qualify for this. James has been a pro for four years. He was very young, he probably didn’t always have the right attitude. But his determination to come back, illustrated by his work with Chris Henry, and what he’s achieved all season is where the focus should be.
Quietly under the radar, Stuart Bingham had built a 8-1 lead on Graeme Dott on the other table during that same session.
David Gilbert reached the second round of the Betfred World Championship after beating Joe Perry 10-7 on day four in Sheffield.
Gilbert is competing as a seed at the Crucible for the first time, having enjoyed his best season on tour to date. Finals at the Yushan World Open and the German Masters have seen him force his way into the world’s top 16. He’s now booked a second trip to the last 16 of the World Championship.
The Tamworth cueman faces defending World Champion Mark Williams up next. Williams was also his opponent in the Yushan final and on that occasion Gilbert surrendered a 9-5 advantage to lose 10-9. He also fell agonisingly short in the German Masters final in Berlin, losing 9-7 to Kyren Wilson.
Perry, a World Championship semi-finalist in 2008, came through the qualifying stages for this event in emphatic style. He won 30 of the 35 frames he played, comfortably booking his Crucible spot. The Gentleman secured a memorable 10-4 victory over the then defending champion Mark Selby in last year’s first round, but failed to replicate that result today.
Gilbert came into this afternoon’s session with a healthy 6-3 advantage. He added to that by taking the opening frame this evening, but Perry responded emphatically with a break of 136 to make it 7-4.
After Gilbert edged a tight 12th frame, Perry continued to try and cut into the advantage. He composed breaks of 69 and 72 to close in at 8-6. Former Players Champion Perry then drew within one after stealing the 15th on the black.
However, it was Gilbert who claimed two on the bounce to progress 10-7 and set up his last 16 showdown with Williams.
“Well I fell over the line in the end, but I’ll certainly take it. This is a very good result, as my form hasn’t been good lately. I feel like I didn’t play that well in the end, but I scrapped like mad. I am delighted to come through,” said Gilbert. “I woke up on Monday with severe man flu. I just didn’t feel like getting up at all, so I’ve struggled with concentration and my headache is bad, but this is the Crucible so you can’t just throw the towel in.
“This is a massive win for me. I have fallen off the tour before and now I am in the top 16 and in the second round of the World Championship about to play the defending champion. It is all to play for and I’ve got nothing to lose now.”
Perry said: “I thought I played alright. I just missed too many easy balls at crucial times. I feel like I played the better snooker and outplayed Dave. I made chances for myself, but just kept missing colours off their spots. You can’t do that against anyone.”
On the other table Thepchaiya Un-Nooh took a surprise 6-3 lead over Judd Trump in a clash between two of the tour’s most explosive talents.
Un-Nooh, the fastest player on the circuit, won the single frame Shoot Out earlier in the year to claim his maiden ranking title. While Trump has enjoyed his best season on the World Snooker Tour. He secured a second Triple Crown victory at the Masters and captured further silverware at the Northern Ireland Open and World Grand Prix.
A show-stopping session this afternoon lasted just over two hours, with fireworks from both players. Trump top scored with a sublime 141. However, breaks of 69, 60 and 54 helped Thailand’s Un-Nooh into a commanding 6-3 advantage. They will play to a conclusion tomorrow morning at 10am.
David Gilbert always had the talent, but now, helped by Sightright, he seems to be perfectly equipped to do this talent justice. His next opponent is the reigning World Champion. Not an easy task but I would refrain to write David Gilbert off.
Judd Trump, another player tipped as a huge favourite this year, is 6-3 down to Thepchaiya Un-nooh and “Theppy’s” lead is totally deserved. He was excellent in qualifiers, and I think that the pundits were right on this one. They said that if Judd Trump tries to beat Thepchaiya at the potting game, he’s going out. He will have to play a much more tight, tactical type of snooker if he is to win. Stephen Hendry in commentary was having a giggle saying that “Theppy’s” concept of safety was just to put the white on the cushion and that, nowadays, this was “amateurish”, only to continue with “well it’s obviously a good day for the amateurs!”.
The evening session brought more surprises and heartbreak.
Stuart Bingham denied Graeme Dott one of the greatest Crucible comebacks of all-time, staving off Dott’s charge from 8-1 down to emerge a 10-9 victor in the opening round of the Betfred World Championship.
Bingham’s relief to have edged through will be heightened by the fact that he now remains in the hunt to cash in on some superb form heading into this year’s event. The 2015 Crucible king has secured silverware at the 2018 English Open and the 2019 Gibraltar Open this season. His progression to round two will see him meet another former World Champion in the form of John Higgins.
If 2006 World Champion Dott were to have completed the typically tenacious fightback, it would only have been topped by Dennis Taylor’s epic 18-17 defeat of Steve Davis in the 1985 final, in terms of greatest deficits erased at the Crucible. On that occasion Taylor came from 9-1 down to take home the title.
The seven-frame deficit faced by Dott would have matched the second biggest to ever be overturned at snooker’s Theatre of Dreams. That came when Nigel Bond battled from 9-2 down to beat Cliff Thorburn 10-9 in the first round in 1994.
Scotland’s Dott faced the daunting 8-1 scoreline following the first session, but came roaring back into the tie this evening. He composed breaks of 114, 70 and 77 to close the gap to 8-4. However, Bingham still looked on course to claim a comfortable win, when he pinched the last frame before the mid-session to lead 9-4.
Dott narrowed the gap further to 9-6, before Bingham gave away the 16th frame in extraordinary circumstances. He forfeited the frame after three consecutive fouls, while attempting a thin safety shot, incurred the three-miss rule.
The tension ramped up, as Bingham started to falter further. Dott battled to take the 17th and make it 9-8 and proceeded to fire in a steely run of 88 to force a decider.
Both players spurned opportunities to clinch the most dramatic of victories. However, it was Bingham who was crucially able to craft a run of 35 amid the almost unbearable tension. He managed his lead and got over the line for the thrilling 10-9 win.
Bingham said: “This morning I felt really good, I was taking every chance I got. This evening Graham took the game to me. I didn’t really do much wrong to lose the first three frames, so I was trying to stay positive. How I got over the line in the end I’ll never know, I was shaking.
“Everything was going against me, everything was going wrong. After the three misses things went from bad to worse. I just wanted a chance in the balls. I had a couple of opportunities. Maybe I should have been more aggressive as I was trying to pick off reds rather than open the pack up. Somehow in the decider I made a break to and managed to stay in control.”
Dott said: “I was gutted this morning. The way Stuart probably felt tonight, I felt this morning. I just never really settled. I think once he saw that I wasn’t settled he just kicked on and played quite well. At 8-1 you feel you’re beat basically.
“I’ve played well tonight and I’ve played well in the qualifiers. This is where we want to play, you want to finish the season here rather than the qualifiers and you want to try and enjoy it when you get here. I enjoyed tonight because I started to hit the ball like I was in the qualifiers. I’m just glad I gave him a game, there’s nothing worse than getting beat 10-1.”
On the other table China’s world number 35 Zhou Yuelong put on a superb display to lead former Masters champion Mark Allen 7-2.
The talented 21-year-old Zhou requires three more frames to secure a shock victory. He produced breaks of 86, 54, 101, 53, 73 and 74 on his way to the impressive scoreline.
Graeme Dott played very positively and showed incredible fighting spirit in coming back from 8-1 down to 9-9. People who despise him, who brand him “slow and boring”, know nothing about him, nor do they about snooker. Here is a man who has been in three world final, who is a former World Champion and did play like one yesterday evening. Hats off “Dotty” ! I was gutted to see him losing in the end, and I’m sure that I wasn’t alone.
Here are two key moments:
Stuart Bingham forfeiting frame 16 under the three miss rule:
Finally, Zhou Yuelong is leading Mark Allen by 7-2 at the end of their first session. Mark Allen has not been right mentally since the start of the year. Some wanted to read his withdrawal from the China Open as something he chose to do to better prepare for the Crucible. I never bought that. I saw it as a sign that he is still struggling badly. He was extremely poor yesterday evening by all accounts.
At one point he went for nearly 1 1/2 hour without potting a ball…