Crucible 2019 – Day 4

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.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker on the afternoon 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.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker:

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:

The decider:

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…

Allen goes missing




Crucible 2019 – Ronnie loses to James Cahill in the last 32

Ronnie had a fantastic season but it ended in bitter disappointment with a first-round exit, the first one in 16 years.

Ronnie had prepared well for the championship and had said earlier that working with Sightright had given him hope that he might, maybe, be World Champion again. He’s currently World number 1, despite playing only in half of the tournaments, and unless Neil Robertson or Mark Selby win the title, or Mark Williams gets to the final again, Ronnie will finish the season at the top of the rankings. But it wasn’t meant to be in Sheffield this year.

ROS Crucible 2019 L32 Scores

As you can see despite everything, it wasn’t the worst match.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker:

Amateur James Cahill pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Crucible history, to defeat world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-8 at the Betfred World Championship in Sheffield.

23-year-old Cahill came through qualifying to secure his World Championship debut and become the first ever amateur to compete at the Crucible. He has now inflicted O’Sullivan’s first opening round defeat since 2003, when he lost out to Marco Fu. The Rocket has only lost at this stage four times in his entire career.

The magnitude of the upset is amplified by five-time World Champion O’Sullivan’s superb season heading into this year’s event. He’s entered tournaments sparingly, but has won five of the 11 he has taken part in. The 36-time ranking event winner lifted silverware at the 2018 Shanghai Masters, 2018 Champion of Champions, 2018 UK Championship, 2019 Players Championship and the 2019 Tour Championship.

First Round Crucible Shocks
Tony Knowles 10-1 Steve Davis (1982)
Stuart Bingham 10-7 Stephen Hendry (2000)
David Gray 10-9 Ronnie O’Sullivan (2000)
Michael Wasley 10-9 Ding Junhui (2014)
Rory McLeod 10-8 Judd Trump (2017)
James Cahill 10-8 Ronnie O’Sullivan (2019)

Blackpool’s Cahill is no stranger to giant killing victories, having beaten Ding Junhui and Mark Selby at the UK Championship, in 2014 and 2018 respectively. Despite competing this week as an amateur, he had previously spent four seasons as a professional, before dropping off the tour in 2017.

Cahill has already ensured his professional status for next season. He’s amassed enough money on the one-year ranking list, in appearances as a Q School top up, to earn a two-year tour card starting next term.

They came into this morning’s concluding session with Cahill holding a surprise 5-4 advantage. O’Sullivan stamped his authority in the opening frame with an imposing break of 97.

However, Cahill showed his steel and refused to buckle in his first appearance in the Crucible cauldron. He responded with a break of 84 to regain the lead at 6-5, before claiming the following two frames to lead 8-5 at the mid-session.

When they returned O’Sullivan turned up the heat and made breaks of 104 and 89, on his way to three frames in a row to make it 8-8. As the finishing line came into vision for both players, they then battled it out in a hugely dramatic 17th frame.

Cahill got in first with a contribution of 62, before breaking down on a straightforward red. O’Sullivan appeared to be in position to punish the mistake, but landed on the wrong side of the final pink and missed it on a break of 53. Cahill eventually deposited the pink and potted a tough black to move one from victory at 9-8.

O’Sullivan had the first opportunity in the following frame, but broke down on 42. Cahill held his nerve and made a steely clearance of 53 to secure the biggest win of his career. He will now face Stephen Maguire in the last 16.

Cahill said: “I was a bit nervous when I went out there, but after that I settled really well. I felt like I was playing another tournament, which I think was a big part of it. He started coming back at me, but that is what you expect from Ronnie. I made a couple of good breaks to get back into a flow. He was under a lot of pressure himself. He didn’t want to lose to me and I’m just glad I managed to hold myself together and win at the end there.

“You’ve got to believe you can beat anyone. I’ve got so much respect for Ronnie, he is such a great player and is my idol really. But there’s only so much respect you can have for these people, because at the end of the day you’ve got to go out there and beat them. If I had too much respect, then I probably wouldn’t have cleared up at the end.

“I won’t be losing to Stephen Maguire for the sake of being flat. If he outplays me, then fair enough. When I beat Ding in the UK Championship, I did all these interviews and then was flat coming out the following day. I’ve learned from that and matured as a person and a player.”

O’Sullivan said: “I will look back and think that it has been a very successful season. I treat every tournament I play in like the World Championship. This one just wasn’t meant to be.

“I thought he did well, especially in the last couple of frames. He potted a good pink and black. That clearance at the end was a very good clearance. He held himself together well playing at the Crucible.

“I just felt a little bit under the weather. My legs are like lead and my arms feel really heavy. I’m not making excuses, I just felt absolutely exhausted to be honest. I tried to do as much as I could, to hang in there and see if I could manage to somehow get through the match, and after I few days I might have felt better. But it wasn’t meant to be.”

Big thanks to Tai Chengzhe for those great images.


MissingClip 2019 WSC: preview of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – James Cahill match (Session2, Eurosport)

MissingClip 2019 WSC: preview of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – James Cahill match (session2, BBC)


MissingClip 2019 WSC: MSI of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – James Cahill match (Session2, Eurosport)

MissingClip 2019 WSC: MSI of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – James Cahill match (Session2, BBC)


2019 WSC: review of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – James Cahill match (Session2, Eurosport)

MissingClip 2019 WSC: review of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – James Cahill match (Session2, BBC)

The action – frame by frame:

Here is Ronnie’s press conference:

Jason Francis had posted this on twitter before the session:

only those who have played here can understand the pressure the magical crucible theatre brings. no one arrives with more expectation, no one feels it more. He has conquered that 5 times, uphill today against a great young player who has nothing to lose. Dig deep mate

Matt Huart WPBSA posted this:

An “exhausted” Ronnie O’Sullivan in for his press now. Speaking well and professionally but definitely doesn’t look himself physically, as it appeared during the match.

And Mike Dunn – who is more adept to rough banter than softness – tweeted this

Doesn’t look healthy in this match Ronnie, wouldn’t surprise me if he says he’s ill in the press conference. Looks very tired and lacking energy.

Neither Matt, nor Mike are “Ronnie fanboys”. This is the reality they perceived.

So everyone who wants to come up with “disrespect”, “not trying”, “not giving a f**k”, abstain. You’re wrong. Yes, Ronnie’s shot selection was not the “correct shot” one. But if you feel unwell and exhausted, then you know that the longer the match lasts, the lower your chances are to win it. So you will take risks and hope it works for you. Not to mention that it’s hard to think clearly under such circumstances. From 5-8 down Ronnie fought with all he had. As a fan I’m happy with that even if I’m bitterly disappointed to see him lose, as I’m sure he is himself. He prepared well for this tournament. I hasn’t worked out as hoped. It’s unfortunate but those things happen. Ronnie always comes at the Crucible under the weight of very high expectations too. That makes it even worse if/when the player doesn’t feel 100%.

James Cahill played brilliantly, held himself together when it mattered most. His last clearance was remarkable. He is an amateur, but he has been a pro for four years. He’s no rookie. This season, as a top-up he has managed to regain his tour card via the one year list, despite not playing in all tournaments, and I believe that he’s the first to achieve that. He has beaten Mark Selby and Ding Junhui in the UK Chamionship, and Shaun Murphy in the Welsh Open. Surely that shows he’s probably better than many of the actual pros in current form. He’s been working with Chris Henry. He deserves every credits for what he’s achieved, but this win, albeit being a surprise, is not the cosmic shock some wants to make of it.

So from me now it’s

Congratulations James Cahill and good luck in the rest of the tournament.


Crucible 2019 – Day 3

Well, well … I’ve had better days a fan.

It started right in the morning with Luo HongHao owning himself a whole host of unwanted records. I really like Luo, I watched him play in the qualifiers last week and he’s much, much better than he showed. I was really hoping that he would at least be able to get one frame, to show what he can do at the table. But it wasn’t to be.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker on yesterday’s morning session:

Shaun Murphy became only the second player in Crucible history to whitewash his opponent as he beat Luo Honghao 10-0 in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

It’s the first whitewash since John Parrott beat Eddie Charlton 10-0 in 1992.

China’s 19-year-old Luo, making his debut at the Sheffield venue, set an unwanted record for the lowest number of points scored in a match at the Crucible. He amassed just 89 points, beating the previous record of 191 scored by part-time binman Danny Fowler when he lost 10-1 to Stephen Hendry in 1993.

The result is all the more remarkable given that Murphy has had a sequence of poor results in 2019; this is the first time he has reached the last 16 of a ranking event since December.

But the 36-year-old has looked back on form at the venue where he lifted the trophy in 2005. Breaks of 138, 102, 101, 76, 62 and 123 helped him build a 9-0 lead in Sunday’s opening session. And a run of 59 in the first frame today completed the emphatic shoreline.

World number 13 Murphy now meets Neil Robertson in what could be an epic second round clash.

“After the season I have had, never in my wildest dreams did I think I could come here and win 10-0,” said Murphy. “Going out this morning, it was tough to try to put that potential 10-0 to the back of my mind and try to play the right shots.

“Luo is a very talented player and to get to the Crucible in your first pro season is an amazing achievement. I’m sure he will use this as inspiration. The arena here can do funny things to the best of us so he should shrug it off and move on.

“This has been the worst season of my life, I have been in a daze. Yesterday I felt like Shaun Murphy again. In a way I’m looking forward to this season being over, but while I’m here I’ll give it my best.

“Neil Robertson has had a brilliant season and he’ll be the overwhelming favourite. I’ll just be trying to stay with him. No one is expecting me to win and that suits me fine.”

Luo said: “It’s my first time at the Crucible and it’s a really different feeling. I was very nervous. I’ve never felt like this before because the Crucible is the dream for every player. It is amazing to get here.

“I didn’t feel like I was playing a match. I was enjoying the place. After this time I want to improve myself, my technique and my skill. I’m still not good enough to play against the top players, they’re too strong.”

On the other table, three-time champion Mark Selby is in danger of a shock defeat as he trails another Crucible debutant from China, Zhao Xintong, 5-3 after their first session.

Selby was knocked out in the first round by Joe Perry last year and he needs to win seven of the last 11 frames tonight against 22-year-old Zhao to avoid another early exit.

The match started with three scrappy frames and Zhao more than matched his opponent in the safety exchanges, winning all three. Selby pulled one back with a break of 102 but Zhao replied with a run of 90 then added frame six to lead 5-1.

Then Ronnie had a nightmare session … which is quite ironic in its own way because he looked like someone who hasn’t slept for a month out there. He missed all sorts, and his shot selection was very bizarre, especially after the MSI. It was clear that he didn’t want the session to be a long one.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker about that match:

Ronnie O’Sullivan finished the opening session of his first round match at the Betfred World Championship 5-4 down against amateur James Cahill.

World number one O’Sullivan made numerous uncharacteristic errors, while Cahill stood up to the challenge of competing against an illustrious opponent and becoming the first amateur to play at the Crucible.

O’Sullivan has won five of the ten tournaments he has contested this season, reaching seven finals, but he may need to raise his game on Tuesday to avoid one of the all-time Sheffield shocks. He must win six of the last ten frames when they resume on Tuesday at 10am.

The opening frame came down to a safety battle on the final black, resolved when Blackpool’s 23-year Cahill slotted an excellent long pot to a top corner. O’Sullivan replied with breaks of 51 and 86 to go 2-1 up then Cahill’s 71 left them all square at the interval.

Five-time World Champion O’Sullivan made a 53 in winning frame five and he compiled a run of 54 in the sixth but later missed the final brown, allowing his opponent to clear for 3-3. Crucible debutant Cahill looked set to take the lead when he made 70 in frame seven, but O’Sullivan later got the snooker he needed on the green and cleared to regain the lead.

A break of 54 helped Cahill take the eighth for 4-4, and in the last of the session he took advantage of two surprising missed pots from O’Sullivan to go ahead at 5-4.

And here is my take on it.

That said everyone is going about James Cahill being an amateur, and he is, but it’s worth remembering that he has been a pro for four years, that he beat Michael Holt and Andrew Higginson to qualify for this, that this season only, as a top-up he beat Liang Wenbo, Shaun Murphy and Mark Selby (in York, at the UK Championship, no less). He’s not fazed by the big names. He’s actually more experienced than a good number of the actual young pros. He’s always been very talented and he’s now working with Chris Henry.

Meanwhile John Higgins managed to beat Dark Mavis. People who know me, know that’s not the result I wanted.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker on that one:

Four-time Crucible king John Higgins clinched his place in the second round of the Betfred World Championship with a 10-7 win over Mark Davis, despite spending seven hours in A&E yesterday.

His brother Jason suffered a fractured kneecap after falling down the Crucible stairs at the conclusion of yesterday’s opening session. Higgins accompanied him to hospital and they will now return home to Glasgow, with Jason due to have an operation tomorrow.

On the table Higgins faced a tough test against world number 38 Davis, who has been his bogey player in recent times. The Wizard of Wishaw had lost six out of his last seven meetings with Sussex cueman Davis coming into this week.

Scotland’s Higgins, who has 30 ranking titles to his name, has been the Crucible runner-up for the previous two seasons. He led Mark Selby 10-4 in the 2017 final, before losing out 18-15. Last year Higgins was defeated 18-16 in an all-time classic final against Mark Williams.

By his own admission Higgins has struggled to shake off those losses. He has failed to win a tournament this season and has suffered several surprising defeats. However, he recently set up a training unit with compatriots Anthony McGill and Stephen Maguire and appears to be reaping the rewards of the increased practice.

Higgins came into this afternoon with a 6-3 advantage following yesterday’s play. However, breaks of 57 and 64 helped Davis to immediately close the gap to 6-5. They then traded frames as they went into the mid-session with Higgins 7-6 in front.

The Scot moved to the verge of victory with two sublime breaks of 135 and 132. He clinched the tie in the 17th frame, to book a second round meeting with either Stuart Bingham or Graeme Dott.

Higgins said: “I’ve lost a few games to Mark in the past, he’s such a tough all round player. I think he let me off the hook a bit. I played well yesterday, but today I think he let me off the hook. He missed a few balls he wouldn’t normally miss against me and I managed to come through.

“My brother’s fall was a total freak accident. After he watched me play yesterday, I was going to go and get changed and then we were going to meet for a bit of lunch. Coming off the final step at the Crucible his trainer stuck and his full force went down on his knee, and he’s fractured his kneecap. He was in a bad way yesterday, we were at the hospital for about six or seven hours. Because it’s a bank holiday weekend it was really busy. They weren’t going to be able to give him an operation until Wednesday, so hopefully we can get him up the road back to Scotland and he can get an operation tomorrow.

“I’d like Graeme to win because he’s one of my mates on the tour and a fellow Scotsman, that would be a great occasion. Stuart has been one of the players of the season. People are saying our half of the draw is pretty easy, but there are four World Champions and that’s not counting Barry Hawkins and Kyren Wilson. There’s never an easy draw, and there’s always shocks aplenty here.”

Afterwards Davis was philosophical about the defeat and positive looking ahead to next season.

“I’ve played a lot worse than that and won plenty of matches, that’s for sure. I barely did anything wrong yesterday and was only 6-3 down,” said Davis. “I enjoyed every minute of it. My game’s as good as ever, but I’m 46 year’s old, so I wasn’t even sure if I was going to get here again. I brought my family up and just really wanted to enjoy it, and I did. My boy loves it. He came to Crawley, which was his first taste of it, and I think he’s got the bug”

“I’ve been working with Chris Henry as my coach this year and that’s given me a bit of enthusiasm to practice, which does get harder as you get older.”

That said I hope  that John’s brother Jason will be OK and will recover promptly and completely. Health is much more important than any game of snooker.

Finally, Mark Selby came back from 5-1 down to beat Zhao Xintong, who seemed to have forgotten completely how to build a break during the evening session. This comeback was not a story of Mark Selby’s proverbial grit getting him over the line, it was a story of his opponent ability to score vanishing. That said, Selby DID fight and battle despite not playing well at all by any top player standards and he deserves full credit for it.

This is the report by Worldsnooker on the evening session:

Mark Selby summoned some of his best snooker to overturn a first session deficit and beat Zhao Xintong 10-7 at the Betfred World Championship.

Three-time World Champion Selby has arrived in Sheffield this week with less of a media spotlight than he has become accustomed to. He recently lost his world number one spot, which he had occupied since February 2015, to Ronnie O’Sullivan. This is also the first time since 2016 that he hasn’t entered the event as defending champion.

China’s talented 22-year-old Zhao has turned his fledgling career around over the last 12 months. He dropped off the tour at the end of last season. However, he immediately regained professional status at Q School and has since reached a maiden ranking semi-final at the 2018 China Championship and clinched a Crucible place for the first time.

Debutant Zhao impressed in this morning’s session, taking a 5-1 lead. However, Selby did claim the last two frames to head into this evening’s play just two behind at 5-3.

15-time ranking event winner Selby then stamped his authority from the off in the concluding session. Breaks of 62 and 131 saw the Jester from Leicester take the opening two frames to restore parity at 5-5. They then traded frames and headed into the mid-session locked together at 6-6.

When the pair returned, Selby took the lead for the first time in the match thanks to a break of 83. Zhao levelled at 7-7, but three frames on the bounce saw Selby over the line to reach the second round, where he will face Gary Wilson.

Selby said: “I’m over the moon to get through. I knew it was going to be a tough game when the draw came out. I’ve played him a few times now and he’s such a laid back guy, nothing really fazes him. No matter what the occasion is, he’s going to play his attacking game. Some of the balls he potted out there were unbelievable.

“The first round is always a potential banana skin, no matter who you play. You’ve always got the nerves at the Crucible in the first match. You’ve just got to get that first match out of the way and you feel as though you’re part of the tournament then.”

David Gilbert dominating Joe Perry is a bit of a surprise. I did expect it to be closer because of Perry’s vast Crucible experience and the way he’s performed here in previous appearances. But Gilbert was always vastly talented, and now, with Sightright help, he’s doing his talent justice. That’s why he’s a seed for the first time. So maybe it isn’t a surprise after all.


Crucible 2019 -Ronnie trails James Cahill after session 1 in last 32

Ronnie is 5-4 behind to James Cahill after the first session of their last 32 match at the Crucible. It was a bizarre and very disappointing session for Ronnie, and for his fans.

Ronnie started rather well, although he finished the first mini session all square:ROSL32Stats-1

As you can see from those stats Ronne had been the better player, but it didn’t show in the scores. This was due to the odd error here and there and to surprising shot selection at times. For instance, needing only the brown – that was on the baulk cushion – to win the first frame, Ronnie chose to power it in, likely trying to get position on the blue. Had he rolled it in he would have given it every chance. As it was he missed it and Cahill stole that frame. And this was only the first of many to come.

After the MSI it got worse. Ronnie looked very frustrated, and indeed like someone who didn’t want to be there. He was rushing his shots and his concentration was gone. It’s hard to know exactly why, but I think that part of it was the way the table was playing. Both players had many kicks, and splits didn’t work, more often than not leaving the white stuck in the pack. Hendry who was commentating on the match, along with Steve Davis, reflected on that a few times. Perfectly executed splits left players with little or nothing to go at, at least nothing remotely easy. Ronnie has often said in recent years that the most important for him was to enjoy his snooker and it was very obvious that he wasn’t enjoying it today out there! Actually, it could easily have been much worse than 5-4 behind!

James Cahill played well overall and above all, handled the occasion very well. He looked comfortable from the start. He was the more patient. He didn’t let errors and conditions affect him. He 100% deserves to be in front.

Here are the session stats:


The degradation in Ronnie’s game after the MSI is quite obvious. James Cahill himself made his fair share of errors, but Ronnie didn’t punish them.

Big thanks to Tai Chengzhe for those great pictures:


MissingClip 2019 WSC: preview of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – James Cahill match (Session1, Eurosport)

MissingClip 2019 WSC: preview of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – James Cahill match (Session1, BBC)

MissingClip 2019 WSC: MSI of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – James Cahill match (Session1, Eurosport)

MissingClip 2019 WSC: MSI of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – James Cahill match (Session1, BBC)

MissingClip 2019 WSC: review of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – James Cahill match (Session1, Eurosport)

MissingClip 2019 WSC: review of the Ronnie O’Sullivan – James Cahill match (Session1, BBC)

And the action frame by frame:

As you can hear, the pundits were a bit at loss at what happened out there. As Alan McManus stressed Ronnie HAS prepared well for this event. Earlier, during the morning session, he could be seen on the practice table with Steve Feeney. So what happened there is difficult to understand.

But, certainly, after the MSI he didn’t apply himself the way he has done in the Tour Championship for instance. He looked frustrated, unhappy, and … well, yes, quite tired as well. All we can hope for is that tomorrow is a better day.

If I’m honest, I’m not optimistic.



Crucible 2019 – Day 2

It was a day of highs and lows ending in pure late-night drama

But before I come to that, here is the review of Mark Williams win yesterday, including an interview, where he, once again, expresses his unhappiness about how he has been treated whilst he was World Champion

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker and coverage:

Morning session

Ding Junhui fired three centuries and six more breaks over 50 as he reached the last 16 of the Betfred World Championship with a 10-7 win over Anthony McGill.

There were some uncomfortable moments for China’s Ding at the business end of the match as McGill came from 9-5 down to 9-7, but a superb 106 in the 17th frame put Ding into round two. He will face an intriguing clash with Judd Trump next, if Trump gets through his first round test against  Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.

World number ten Ding has had a disappointing season by his standards, failing to reach the semi-finals of a ranking event. The 32-year-old will hope he can finish it in style as he continues his quest to become the first player from Asia to conquer the Crucible.

He built a 6-3 lead in the first session yesterday with runs of 64, 70, 64, 52 and 129. In today’s concluding session he knocked in 99, 134 and 91 to extend his advantage to 9-5.

Scotland’s McGill took a scrappy 15th frame on the colours then came from 42-0 down to snatch the next. But Ding quashed any hopes of a fight back with his third century of the tie.

“I played ok, not that bad,” said Ding, who won his 13th and most recent ranking title at the 2017 Yushan World Open. “At 9-7 it was looking like he could come back to 9-9. In the last frame I missed a chance and I thought ‘this is bad.’ It’s lucky that I left nothing for him and I got another chance. The first round is always tough.

“I’m not worried about who I’m playing next round. I’ve got to face the best players if I want to win the title. Judd is playing great this season. He’s so confident, he wants to beat everybody and he tries to win everything.

“I’m not a big name at this World Championship, which is normal because the fans want to talk about the players in form. I think Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby are the favourites to win. I haven’t had a good season.”

McGill said: “I should have won a couple of more frames yesterday. The match could have gone my way but Ding is some player – just a class act. His cue ball control was so good, it’s such a strength and mine isn’t at the same standard. I don’t think I played that bad. Out of the five times I’ve played here, that is by far the most confident I’ve felt. I really enjoyed it. But he’s just that bit better.

“I’d put Ding right there in terms of contenders. He’s a funny player because he’s a top player but he seems to get some odd results where you think ‘how the hell did he lose that?’ He’s got so much class.

“I’m really excited for next season – my results this year have been so bad but I feel like my game is starting to get there. I’m only a few shots away from playing really well. I’m looking forward to getting back into it and keeping up the good work that I’m doing. Plant the seed, keep watering it, give it some sunshine and it’s going to grow!”

On the other table, four-time Crucible king John Higgins took a 6-3 lead over Mark Davis.  Sussex cueman Davis has been a bogey player for Wishaw’s Higgins in recent years, winning six of their last seven matches, but this time the Scot looks in control.

A break of 57 gave Davis the opening frame then Higgins levelled with a 100. The next two were also shared before Higgins stepped up a gear after the interval, taking four of the next five with runs of 61, 75, 84 and 63.

They play to a finish on Monday at 2.30pm with Higgins needing four more frames for victory.

I have to admit that I didn’t expect Ding to play so well. At the Crucible there is always massive pressure on him from the Chinese media and he hasn’t coped too well with that in the past. Add to it that he’s had a very bad season and there was no reason to feel optimistic about his performance. But apparently, I got it all wrong. Maybe, precisely because his season was so bad, the expectations on him aren’t as high as usual, and, maybe, becoming a father has given him a sense of perspective that allows him to distance himself from all the expectations. Whatever, Ding did play extremely well and had too much for Anthony McGill, who, to his credit, fought to the last ball … as I expected (At least I got something right here … hum)

Afternoon session

Shaun Murphy produced a supreme display to take a clean sweep of the frames and lead China’s 19-year-old Luo Honghao 9-0 after the first session of their Betfred World Championship round one tie.

Crucible debutant Luo has been given a harsh introduction to competing at snooker’s biggest event. 2005 World Champion Murphy restricted Luo to just 78 points and requires only one more frame for victory in the best of 19 clash.

That means Luo is in danger of setting a new record low for points scored in a Crucible match. Danny Fowler currently holds the unwanted record, having only managed 191 points in his 10-1 defeat to Stephen Hendry in 1993. The only ever player to suffer a Crucible whitewash was Eddie Charlton, who lost 10-0 to John Parrott in 1992.

It was a session which saw Murphy, nicknamed the Magician, return to his spellbinding best form. The seven-time ranking event winner had come into this week off the back of one of his worst seasons in recent years, having suffered nine first round exits.

Despite that, Triple Crown winner Murphy looked as sharp as ever when play got underway, putting on a relentless showing of break building power which included four centuries. He crafted contributions of 138, 102, 101, 76, 62 and 123. They return tomorrow morning at 10am to play to a conclusion.

The winner of this match faces either Neil Robertson or Michael Georgiou, who are in a similar situation in their first round tie.

Australia’s 2010 World Champion Robertson also holds a 9-0 advantage, having restricted his Cypriot counterpart to just 107 points in their match.

Robertson and Georgiou finish off their tie this evening at 7pm.

Gary Wilson leads Belgium’s Luca Brecel 9-8 in their opening round contest, which was pulled off before they could reach a conclusion this afternoon.

Brecel had led 7-5, before a superb charge from Wallsend’s Wilson saw him surge back into contention. He made breaks of 106, 85 and 55 as he took four frames in a row to move 9-7 in front. However, Brecel claimed a nervy final frame to stay in the tie at 9-8.

They will play to a finish on the first available table in this evening’s session.

Another one that I got totally wrong! Shaun Murphy played superbly and poor young Luo, who had been hyped before his Crucible debut, looked a picture of despair and embarrassment in his chair all match. I hope that he can at least get one frame today. I remain unconvinced about Murphy’s true form though. Why? Because, earlier during the season, he started matches like a runaway train, but as soon as his opponent managed to win a couple of frames and put him under pressure he collapsed. Luo didn’t manage to put him under ANY pressure. Shaun could as well have been playing at an exhibition out there. As for Luo, I do hope he has some good people around him, able to lift his spirits and help him understand that it’s not the end of his world. Neil Robertson, when playing at the Crucible for the first time, in 2005, trailed 7-2 after the first session. He was 23, not 19, he was a pro for 6 years, not a rookie. So it does happen to the best. And … he finished that match, losing by 10-7 to Stephen Hendry, which was more than honorable!

Evening session

Neil Robertson’s outstanding form continued as he crushed Michael Georgiou 10-1 in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

Robertson has already won three ranking titles in a season for the first time in his career and arrives in Sheffield on a run of four consecutive ranking finals. His performance on the opening weekend strengthens his status as one of the favourites for the title at the Crucible.

Georgiou became the first ever Cypriot player to compete at the Crucible, and while he suffered a heavy defeat, he at least avoided the ignominy of becoming only the second player to be whitewashed at the famous venue, after Eddie Charlton who lost 10-0 to John Parrott in 1992.

Starting tonight’s session 9-0 down, Georgiou was also in danger of setting a new record for the lowest number of points scored in a match at the Crucible,  held by part-time binman Danny Fowler who amassed 191 points during his 10-1 defeat to Stephen Hendry in 1993. A break of 90 from Georgiou in the first frame tonight saw him avoid that record and raised the biggest cheer of the day.

Robertson took a 9-0 lead on Saturday with top breaks of 58, 100, 96, 68, 120, 85 and 55. Despite losing the first frame tonight, he sealed victory in the next with a 64 clearance which included a series of flamboyant pots.

And the 37-year-old Australian, who won this title in 2010, looks in the mood to become the first non-British player to lift the famous trophy twice.

In the last 16 he could face a blockbuster clash with Shaun Murphy, who played tremendous snooker today in taking a 9-0 lead over Luo Honghao.

I had a great start, put Michael under a lot of pressure and just kept him in his chair,” said world number four Robertson. “It’s a brutal game when you’re on the receiving end of a heavy defeat or heavy loss in a session. When you draw a debutant I guess you can take advantage of them not knowing what to expect when they get out there.

“I know he won the Shoot Out but he probably hasn’t experienced anything like that before. The crowd are so close to you that even when you make the slightest of mistakes you can hear them whispering. I was really pleased with how I played yesterday for sure. I was just pretty ruthless.

“Yesterday when I left the Crucible it took me about 45 minutes to get to the top of the road because I stopped for all the selfies and autographs. I was 9-0 up so I didn’t mind having to wait. I had about 400 people tell me ‘you’ve got to let him win a frame!’ The killer instinct in me was saying I’d love to win 10-0, but I like Michael a lot and I wanted him to take something away from the experience of playing here. I tried to win the first frame tonight but he made a really good break.

“The most important thing for me was to finish nice and early so I can go back home for a few days, chill out and practise before heading back up. If I play Shaun Murphy next, he will definitely be up for it because he doesn’t like not being talked about as a potential candidate to win the tournament, he’ll be very determined to put that right.

“Whatever happens it’s my best ever season by a million miles. I’m just playing and enjoying it and I guess that makes me a very dangerous opponent.”

Georgiou said: “I was really pleased that I could show people what I could actually do on the table tonight. I didn’t actually expect the noise from the crowd to be that high. It’s definitely inspiring to be here. Yesterday I just found myself looking around which is probably the wrong thing to do. It was the first time that I’ve actually stepped inside the Crucible and my focus wasn’t on the match.

“That’s up there with one of the best experiences of my life. It’s so crazy, I’m used to watching it all on TV and watching the documentaries. I didn’t expect it to be so small but it was just brilliant. The noise was crazy when I walked out. The crowd were fantastic, the table was great, like an ice rink. It has definitely inspired me to work harder next season and get here again.”

Although short, the end of the Robertson v Georgiou game was endearing. Neil Robertson is merciless at the table – as he should be – but off the table, he’s a kind soul and this showed in his press conference and general attitude. There was absolutely nothing patronising there. As already stated above, he had a difficult start at the Crucible. Michael Georgiou will never be a world-beater, but he’s a good player, and a great guy, very positive. He made history for his country, he should be proud despite the defeat.

That match was followed by the conclusion of Luca Brecel v Gary Wilson

Gary Wilson won the longest frame in Crucible history, which lasted 79 minutes and 31 seconds, to get over the line and defeat Luca Brecel 10-9 in their opening round clash at the Betfred World Championship.

The epic deciding frame came after the pair were pulled off at the end of the afternoon session, with Wallsend’s Wilson leading his Belgian counterpart 9-8. Brecel managed to force the decider when they resumed, before a cloud of tension descended on the Crucible Theatre.

The final frame got off to a cagey start, requiring a re-rack after a period of stalemate. They then embarked on a tactical battle longer than any other to have taken place at snooker’s Theatre of Dreams. Several reds gathered to the left of the black spot on the top cushion. The clock wore on, as they jostled for position to dislodge them.

Eventually Wilson managed to get in and crucially doubled the final red to allow him to clear with 31 and win the nerve-shredding contest.

The previous record for the longest frame at the Crucible was 76 minutes and 11 seconds, during a semi-final match between Mark Selby and Marco Fu in 2016.

Both players were battling for their first ever Crucible match win. Brecel, now 24-years old, became the youngest ever player to compete at the Sheffield venue back in 2012, aged 17. He lost on that occasion and has failed to record a win in four appearances at the Crucible.

Former China Open runner-up Wilson’s only other match in the final stages of the World Championship was a 10-7 loss against Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2017. He has now tasted victory at the second time of asking. Wilson’s prize is a second round meeting with either three-time World Champion Mark Selby or young Chinese star Zhao Xintong in round two.

“I’m just over the moon to get through it on the right side,” said 33-year-old Wilson. “I gave it 100% for the whole match and when I got a sniff of a chance it went my way.

“I tried not to give anything away. Even the moments when I left a bit of a long red and he potted it, I was annoyed. I knew that 15 or 20 points in that scenario were massive. I just wanted to leave as little as possible and do as much as I could.

“You know deep down in your gut what the right shot is and when to play it. I did with that double at the end. As soon as I got on the blue I had to try and get on the double for the last red. I knew it had to be played.

“Luca came in here just a second ago, he shook my hand and was nothing but complimentary. He just said that I had got out of some great escapes and it was phenomenal. He is a great kid and I don’t know if I would have been as nice five minutes after getting beat.”

This was the match of the tournament so far. Gary Wilson was indeed phenomenal. His composure was incredible and his knowledge of angles was there with the very best! The decider provided incredible drama and tension and, this type of game is the best advert that snooker could get!

Late evening conclusion

Stephen Maguire benefitted from a huge slice of good fortune with a fluke at a vital moment as he beat Tian Pengfei 10-9 in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

Maguire looked certain to lose 10-7 deep in the 17th frame when he needed a snooker on the colours. But he got the snooker on the blue,  then went for a risky pot to a baulk corner. He missed his target by several inches, but the blue hit the cue ball again and deflected into the other baulk pocket. He added pink and black to snatch the frame then, almost inevitably, recovered to win 10-9. It was a cruel way to lose for China’s Tian who was making his Crucible debut.

Glasgow’s Maguire had lost in the first round eight times in his previous 15 visits to Sheffield, but this time he’s through to the last 16 to face Ronnie O’Sullivan or James Cahill.

Tian led 5-4 after the first session and won the opening frame tonight. World number 15 Maguire responded with a break of 131, but his opponent won a scrappy 12th frame then made a 104 in the 13th to lead 8-5 at the interval. Runs of 44 and 105 helped Maguire get back to 8-7 before Tian took the next with a 57.

After the drama of the 17th frame which made the score 9-8, Maguire made a 75 to force the decider. World number 81 Tian had first chance and made 42 before running out of position. Maguire replied with 51, then got the better of a safety exchange on the last red before clearing to the brown which proved enough.

“I was very lucky, I fluked a crazy blue,” said 38-year-old Maguire, who reached the semi-finals here in 2007 and 2012. “Before that when I potted the brown I thought I had gone in-off and I took a step towards Tian to shake hands. But the white stayed out and I got the snooker. Then the fluke was outrageous.

“I have been on the receiving end and I know that it’s the worst feeling in the world, when you know you should have already won. So at 9-8 I felt I was going to win. I just can’t believe I am still in the tournament.

“If I play Ronnie in the next round it would be a special occasion because he has an aura about him that no one else has. He is better than he has ever been because he doesn’t let anything upset him. He’s the best ever so I would have to play unbelievable stuff.”

Here are …

The outrageous fluke on the blue that allowed Maguire to survive in the match

The decider

Regarding Tian, there were people out on social media, including the usual “chinese players cheat” brigade, suggesting he had not been competing honestly in the past, and that his behaviour had been inappropriate on occasions. I don’t know Tian personally, and I don’t know if there is any truth in this. What I do know though is that, either those persons have eviddence of what they claim, and then should act accordingly and report him to the appropriate authorities, or they don’t and then they shouldn’t villify the man on social media.

Today Ronnie starts his first match against James Cahill. It would be foolish to underestimate James, who played extremely well last week and has played Ronnie three times in the past and ran him close each time. He’s beaten Shaun Murphy and Mark Selby this season. He’s working with Chris Henry too. This IS a potential banana skin.

Crucible 2019 – Day 1

Before the first ball was hit at the Crucible, there were, as usual various previews on show.

MissingClip (BBC)

(ES, with interviews of various players, including Mark Williams and Ronnie)

(Ken Doherty who apparently still believes that Selby is n°1)

As usual on the opening day of the World Championship, only one match was played to a finish, the one featuring the defending Champion. Mark Williams won his opening match by 10-7. His introduction by Rob Walker – that was later shared on twitter by Williams himself – was banter, and I found it rather hilarious – but apparently didn’t go down well with the PC brigade! And Mark was far from impressed by Worldsnooker as you will hear in his press conference

Other than that Michael Georgiou had an absolute nightmare out there and could become only the second player to suffer a whitewash at the Crucible: the first and, up to now only whitewash came in 1992 when John Parrott, the defending champion, beat Eddie Charlton by 10-0. He’s trailing Neil Robertson by 9-0.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker on the afternoon session:

Neil Robertson is one frame away a potential whitewash victory, leading Michael Georgiou 9-0 after the opening session of their first round tie at the Betfred World Championship in Sheffield.

The Australian has arrived at the Crucible in some of the best form of his career, having won three ranking titles in a season for the first time. 2010 World Champion Robertson lifted silverware at the Riga Masters, Welsh Open and the recent China Open.

Thus far it has been a nightmare debut for Georgiou in snooker’s Theatre of Dreams. Playing as the first ever Cypriot to compete in the final stages of the World Championship, he’s in danger of breaking the unwanted record of least points scored in a match at the Crucible.

Georgiou has amassed 107 points so far in the tie and requires 85 more to beat the record low of 191 set by Danny Fowler in his 10-1 defeat to Stephen Hendry in 1993. The only player in Crucible history to suffer a whitewash defeat was Eddie Charlton, who lost 10-0 to John Parrott in 1992.

Robertson, who has 16 ranking titles to his name, showed his class in abundance this afternoon as he piled the pressure on Georgiou. He fired in breaks of 58, 100, 96, 68, 120, 85 and 55 to move to the verge of victory at the end of the session, leading 9-0.

They will return to play the best of 19 match to its conclusion tomorrow at 7pm.

China’s top player Ding Junhui opened up a 6-3 advantage against Anthony McGill in their opening round clash.

Former Crucible runner-up Ding enjoys a 4-0 lead over McGill in their head-to-head record.  He put on a dominant display to beat the Scot 13-4 in the second round here in Sheffield 12 months ago.

McGill has it all to do if he wishes to progress, but is no stranger to comeback victories. The two-time ranking event winner overturned a 7-2 deficit against Robert Milkins in qualifying to come through a 10-8 victor. He also beat Ryan Day 10-8 from 7-3 down in the first round last year.

The opening two frames were shared, before 13-time ranking event winner Ding claimed three on the bounce to make it 4-1. McGill replied by taking the sixth frame, but a stunning run of 121 saw Ding move 5-2 in front.

Ding then moved a further frame to the good, before McGill kept himself in contention with a break of 76 to make it 6-3 at the close of play.

They will play their final session tomorrow morning at 10am.

Here is Worldsnooker report on the evening:

Mark Williams staved off a Martin Gould fightback to begin the defence of his Betfred World Championship title with a 10-7 win at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

Gould pegged World Champion Williams back from 9-4 to 9-7, before the Welshman eventually managed to get himself over the line and book a second round meeting with either David Gilbert or Joe Perry.

Williams recorded a sensational win at last year’s World Championship, claiming the title in an all-time classic final with John Higgins 18-16.

The victory capped off a remarkable resurgence for Williams, who didn’t even qualify for the event in 2017. The three-time Crucible king set a new record of 15 years for the longest gap between world titles, having also lifted the famous trophy in 2000 and 2003.

Since that victory Williams did partly, by his own admission, let his foot off the gas with some extensive celebrations and a cut back in practice. However, the 22-time ranking event winner did still manage to add to his title tally by winning the Yushan World Open last August.

Williams held a 6-3 advantage after this morning’s play and a dramatic opening frame this evening saw him extend that cushion.

A break of 52 helped Gould to come from behind and force a re-spotted black. However, his efforts to claw his way back into the frame were in vain as Williams deposited a superb black from long range to move further ahead at 7-3.

Gould claimed the following frame to reduce the gap to three, but breaks of 70 and 69 helped Williams to move to the verge of victory at 9-4.

However, it was from there that the Pinner potter mounted a charge to push himself back into contention. Consecutive breaks of 70, 87 and 76 saw him move within two frames of Williams to make it 9-7.

The World Champion wasn’t to be denied a second round berth, he controlled the seventeenth frame to secure the 10-7 victory.

“The first round is always one of the toughest to get through and he was probably one of the hardest qualifiers to draw,” said 44-year-old Williams. “Overall I thought I played really well. It was only towards the end that I started getting a bit twitchy. He got back from 9-4 to 9-7 and if he had made it 9-8 then I would have been under pressure. It was a tough first round match and I thought I played quite well.

“I just think my form has been improving for the last month or two and it showed there. Even though the last few frames were a bit scrappy, overall it was good.

“It was absolutely brilliant walking out this morning as defending champion. I’ve been looking forward to that for months. The cheer and support that I had was unbelievable. It was probably the loudest applause I have ever had walking into an arena. It was a brilliant feeling, I was buzzing.”

On the other table, 15th seed Stephen Maguire fell 5-4 behind against Crucible debutant Tian Pengfei. Maguire has lost in the first round in eight of his 15 previous appearances in Sheffield and will need to win six of the last ten frames tomorrow to avoid a ninth early exit.

Tian, one of six Chinese players in the field this year, took the opening frame with a break of 52. Glasgow’s Maguire levelled with a run of 80 then took a scrappy third frame, before Tian made it 2-2 with a 59.

In frame five, Maguire came from 58-0 down to take it with a clinical 62 clearance, then he added the sixth for 4-2. But Tian rose to the occasion as the session progressed, winning the last three frames with runs of 45, 100 and 70. They resume on Sunday at 7pm.

And Mark Williams press conference after his win:

As you can hear there was a bit more there than Worldsnooker reported.

Ronnie remembers the season…


Ronnie gave a little “break-off” master class on ES:

Eurosport recalled the 1994 final … a painful memory for Jimmy White, his fans and his friends.

And, finally here is the program for today:


and a short feature by Rob Walker about the only teenager in the draw, Luo Honghao


Nothing against Shaun Murphy, but I would love to see Luo go through …


Crucible 2019 – last interviews before it starts

The World Championship starts in a few hours and Shamoon Hafez (BBC) has been interviewing some if the main contenders.

World Championship 2019: Ronnie O’Sullivan seeks sixth title at Crucible

It’s not great that Mark Williams is feeling this way, but I can understand why he does.

Indeed just have a look at the poster:


He’s completely in the background, whilst Mark Selby who has not done much at all this season in right in front. Mark Also wasn’t on the cover of the new game “Snooker 19” that Worldsnooker is promoting. That’s hard to understand unless Mark is indeed right.

In my opinion he’s been a great World Champion but that view may not be shared by everyone. There is a trend now to ask sportsperson to be “Mr/Mrs Perfect”. Well spending the whole year celebrating on social media with a lot of drinking involved, and getting in trouble in Dubai for being too explicitly flirty (with his own wife BTW) may not be what’s expected of Mr Perfect. But what Mark certainly has done, and I believe it’s much more important than being Mr Perfect, is being a champion to which the man and woman of the street can relate/identify. Because, we, real humans in real life, we are not “Perfect” and it’s hard to relate to an image that bears no “reality”.