Snooker news – 26 October 2019

So … some updates on the events mentioned yesterday

Michael Judge, from Dublin, Ireland, has beaten Jimmy White by 4-2 in the final to become the 2019 Seniors UK Champion.

Michael Judge WSS UK Champ 2019

Congratulations Michael !

You can read all about it here:

Day 1 in Hull in Pictures

Day 2 in Hull in Pictures

Thepchaiya Un-nooh has won the Haining Open, beating Li Hang in the Final

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Congratulations Thepchaiya!

All the results are available on snooker.org

Meanwhile, some players went back to school

Jackson Page and Elliot Slessor were among players who visited Ziwei Primary School in Haining during the China Billiards and Snooker Association tournament this week.

The two British stars were joined by Chinese potters Zhao Xintong and Bai Yulu, along with Jason Ferguson and Nigel Mawer of the WPBSA.

They played snooker with ten students in grades three and four, before meeting the school’s Headmaster.

Ziwei Primary School was established in 1906 and is renowned for extracurricular sports activity. It has a snooker course which has given coaching to more than 300 students. Coaches from the Haining Billiards and Snooker Association visit the school twice every week to develop the technical skills of young players.

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It’s nice to see a female player involved for once. After all there are about the same number of girls and boys in primary school, kit’s important to break the “snooker = male only” image. Bai Yulu (center) plays in CBSA events along the men. She’s only 16 and a very promosing prospect.

Snooker news – 25.10.2019

First … Ronnie has arrived in China. He shared this video on twitter:

My guess is that this is Shanghai.

The Championship League Groups 3 and 4 were played earlier this week with Gary Wilson beating Kyren Wilson to win the first one, and Scott Donaldson beating Graeme Dott to win the second. Group 4 was very eventful, with several match incidents involving Matt Selt triggering a lot of social media activity – at this time I’m still not sure what this was all about – and Scott Donaldson becoming ill and then recovering enough to win the thing.

Group 3 results (snooker.org)

Group 4 results (snooker.org)

The WSS ROKiT Phones.com UK Championship is underway in Hull 

This is my “report on Day 1 in Pictures”

Enjoy!

 

 

Main Tour Snooker goes to Austria…

Worldsnooker has just published information regarding the European Masters 2020

Austria will stage a world ranking event for the first time in January when the BetVictor European Masters take place in Dornbirn.

The event will take place at the Messe Dornbirn venue from January 22nd to 26th and it’s the first event in the new BetVictor European Series.

Dornbirn is a city in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg, in the west of the country close to the borders with Germany and Switzerland.

Tickets for the tournament are ON SALE NOW, starting at just 20 Euros. There are also VIP options available.

Click here for ticket information

To buy tickets click here

The qualifying rounds will take place in December, with 128 players each needing to win two matches to make it to Austria, and 32 going through to the final stages. All matches up to and including the quarter-finals will be best of nine frames with no intervals.

Total prize money will be £407,000 with a top prize of £80,000. The tournament will be televised by Eurosport.

The new BetVictor European Series also comprises the BetVictor German Masters, (January 29 to February 2), the BetVictor Shoot Out (February 20-23) and the BetVictor Gibraltar Open (March 13-15).

A unique ranking list will run throughout these events, with the player earning the most money across the BetVictor European Series receiving a bonus of £150,000.

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are delighted to be staging a world ranking event in Austria for the first time in our history. It’s another major step forward in our quest to make snooker a global sport. We have seen fantastic figures for television and digital audiences in Austria in recent years and now the fans there have the chance to see the world’s best players competing live for a prestigious trophy.

“The venue in Dornbirn is superb and it is a beautiful part of Austria so we will to see fans coming from far afield to experience the event.

“It’s the first tournament in the BetVictor European Series so the top players will aim to get off to a strong start, with their eyes on the £150,000 bonus. We look forward to a great event.”

Best of nine with no interval? That’s a novelty and I’m not quite sure I like it. Nine frame swithout a break is quite long: for the players, for the referee and for the audience. More importantly, the interval gives players time to refresh, regroup, to go to the practice table, or to think and sometimes overthink about the way the match went. Many intervals have changed the course of a match and getting rid of it, is also getting rid to some of the psychological aspects of the longer format.

I don’t think there is much chance to see Ronnie in this one…

Snooker News – 22.10.2019

More happened last week than just the English Open.

The Women’s Tour was in Australia where Mink (Nucharut Wongharuthai), still only 19, won her first ranking event, beating On Yee Ng by 4-2 in the final.

Here is WPBSA report


Maximum Mink Wins First Ranking Title

20th October 2019

Nutcharut Wongharuthai has defeated Ng On Yee 4-2 in the final of the Australian Women’s Open to capture her first-ever ranking event title on Sunday.

View tournament information

Held for a second time at the Mounties venue in Sydney, Australia, following last year’s inaugural event, the competition saw 24 players battle it out to become champion across four days of hard-fought action.

It would be the top two seeded players who would make it through to the showpiece match, Thailand’s Wongharuthai ominously doing so for the loss of no frames, while defending champion On Yee made it back-to-back finals in Sydney with victories against Jessica Woods and So Man Yan in the latter rounds.

Contested over the best of seven frames, the final saw 19-year-old Wongharuthai make the faster start by moving into a 2-0 lead, before former world number one On Yee hit back with a run of 70 to get herself off the mark. Mink, as Wongharuthai is also commonly known, took the fourth frame to restore her two-frame advantage, only for On Yee to again close the gap with a second 70 break to stay in the match.

Wongharuthai was not to be denied however, runs of 38 and 37 in the sixth and ultimately final frame proving enough for her to claim glory for the first time on the World Women’s Snooker Tour.

Victory for the Thai star adds to a career-best year which has already seen her reach her first World Championship final and become the first woman to make a verified 147 break back in March. She is now also guaranteed to climb to a new career-high ranking of number three, overtaking Rebecca Kenna who did not compete in Australia.

Wongharuthai’s success also represents the first ranking event win for a player other than On Yee or Reanne Evans on the circuit since Maria Catalano claimed victory at the Connie Gough Trophy back in February 2017 and the Thai star also finished the week with the highest break after her run of 90 during the group stage.

All at World Women’s Snooker would like to thank the Australian Billiards and Snooker Council for their hard work in running this event during the week.

Congratulations Mink!

This week, the Championship League Snooker continues with Groups 3 and 4.

Group 3 is in its second day and you can follow it on snooker.org

Meanwhile, this week a significant number of main tour players are already plaing in China, in a CBS event: the Haining Open.

Non Chinese main tour players: Mark Selby, Barry Hawkins, Jackson Page, Michael Georgiou, Jimmy Robertson, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Craig Steadman, Billy Castle, Jordan Brown, Mark Davis, Mark King, Michael Holt, Igor Figueiredo, Ricky Walden, Stuart Bingham and Elliot Slessor

Chinese players who compete(d) in the main tour or the Q-School: Zhou Yuelong, Zhao Xintong, Wu Yize, Zhang Yong, Zhang Jiankang, Pang Junxu, Mei Xiwen, Chang Bingyu, Zhang Anda, Fang Xiongman, Luo Honghao, Ju Reti, Lu Ning, Xu Si, Li Yan, Si Jiahui, Li Hang

Note that Barry Hawkins and Mark Selby withdrew from the Championship League to play in this one.

The full draw is here: http://bems.crandtec.com/index.php?g=&m=Index&a=huiwaisai_live&e_id=NzU%3D&s_id=MTcw&type=1

 

Mark Selby is the 2019 English Open Champion

It was a master class from Mark Selby in a 9-1 demolition of David Gilbert yesterday in Crawley. This is the best we have seen from Selby in a very long time.

Congratulations Mark Selby!

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker and WPBSA

First session (Worldsnooker)

Mark Selby is just two frames away from winning the 19.com English Open as he leads David Gilbert 7-1 after the first session of the final.

Selby has controlled the best-of-17 final so far in Crawley and looks to be closing in on his first Home Nations title. The match resumes at 7pm with first to nine frames to take the £70,000 top prize and the Steve Davis Trophy.

Leicester’s 36-year-old Selby is aiming to win his 16th ranking title and first since the 2018 China Championship. His hasn’t won a title on UK soil since landing his third World Championship crown in 2017.

The world number five has a formidable record in ranking finals in recent years, having won 12 of his last 13.

That stat will give little encouragement to Gilbert, especially as he needs eight of the last nine frames tonight to win his first ranking title.

He has lost his three previous finals – against John Higgins at the 2015 International Championship, Mark Williams at the 2018 Yushan World Open and Kyren Wilson at the 2019 German Masters.

The 38-year-old from Tamworth is sure to pass the £1 million mark for career earnings today but that will be little consolation if he can’t launch a fight back in the concluding session.

World number 12 Gilbert scored just 14 points in the first four frames as Selby rattled in breaks of 88, 68, 79 and 85. Frame five came down to a safety battle on the last red, Selby trapping his opponent in a snooker and clearing up from the chance that followed to go 5-0 ahead.

Gilbert got off the mark in the next in some style with a break of 101. But Selby responded with 130 and 97 to take the last two frames of the session.

Second session (Worldsnooker)

Mark Selby won his 16th ranking title with an emphatic 9-1 victory over David Gilbert in the final of the 19.com English Open in Crawley.

Gilbert described his opponent’s performance as a “masterclass” as Selby missed just seven balls in the whole match.

Leicester’s 36-year-old Selby extended his superb recent record in ranking finals as he has now won 13 of his last 14, since the 2014 World Championship.

It’s his first Home Nations title since the series was launched in 2016, and he will head to next month’s 19.com Northern Ireland Open in Belfast as the only man who can win the unique £1 million bonus on offer for capturing all four trophies in the series.

The £70,000 top prize moves him one place up the world rankings to fourth. His total of 16 ranking titles brings him level with Neil Robertson, behind Ronnie O’Sullivan (36), Stephen Hendry (36), John Higgins (30), Steve Davis (28) and Mark Williams (22).

Having monopolised the world number one position for 49 months, losing the top dog status was a blow to Selby in March this year. But he has bounced back strongly this season, reaching two semi-finals before this week’s triumph. His performance in today’s final was a reminder of his ability to control matches with superb break-building and near-flawless safety.

Gilbert has now lost all four of his ranking finals, albeit each of them against top class opponents; he was runner-up to John Higgins at the 2015 International Championship, to Mark Williams at the 2018 Yushan World Open, and to Kyren Wilson at the 2019 German Masters.

The £30,000 pay-day takes his career total earnings past the £1 million mark and moves him up one place to 11th in the world. But that will be no more than small consolation to the 38-year-old from Tamworth as he is left waiting for his first taste of silverware.

Selby dominated the first session, taking a 7-1 lead with top breaks of 88, 68, 79, 85, 130 and 97.  Gilbert had two chances in the opener tonight but couldn’t make the frame secure. Selby fluked a snooker on the last red, and from the chance that followed, cleared the table for 8-1.

And a few minutes later the contest was over as Selby’s break of 101 sealed the title.

“It’s amazing, I’m quite emotional,” admitted Selby. “Over the last 12 months, mentally it has been tough.  I have been second guessing myself, questioning myself and wondering if I would win another tournament again. It was that bad. I was playing well in practice then in matches I have been crumbling and not showing anything, it was frustrating. To win a trophy is great in terms of getting the confidence back.

“I play David a lot in practice and that’s the kind of tempo I play at. I knew today that if I was second guessing myself and taking too long over shots, David would have been thinking I was nervous. So I just tried to play the way I do in practice, which is not easy on the televised table under pressure but I managed to do it.

“I’m gutted for David because he’s a great player and an even better lad off the table. If I wasn’t in the final I probably would have been here supporting him. He keeps knocking on the door, it’s only a matter of time before he turns one of the finals into a win and when he does that I think he’ll win a lot more.

“When I first started playing snooker, if you had said I’d win three world titles and 16 ranking events I would have laughed at you. It’s incredible. If I can win 20 ranking titles before I retire I’ll be over the moon.

“It’s great to win a tournament with my daughter (four-year-old Sofia) here because it’s the first time she has seen me win a final when she understands what’s going on.”

Gilbert said: “Mark was brilliant, I don’t think there were many players in the world that would have given him a game today. It shows the level you have to play at to win one of these things. He didn’t give me anything easy, his safety just killed me. It was a masterclass.

“I’m still miles away from being one of the better players in the world – I am decent but they are on a different planet and that showed today. I’ve had a great week, it’s brilliant to get to another final and I can take away positives. I’ve got to improve and get better if I want to win one a tournament.

“He does that to my all the time in practice. I have lost that many fivers to him, I can’t tell you. I really enjoy playing him, he’s a legend of the game.”

WPBSA report with links to the important ranking information

Selby Thrashes Gilbert In English Final

20th October 2019

Mark Selby won his 16th ranking title with an emphatic 9-1 victory over David Gilbert in the final of the 19.com English Open in Crawley.

Gilbert described his opponent’s performance as a “masterclass” as Selby missed just seven balls in the whole match.

Leicester’s Selby extended his superb recent record in ranking finals as he has now won 13 of his last 14, since the 2014 World Championship.

It’s his first Home Nations title since the series was launched in 2016, and he will head to next month’s 19.com Northern Ireland Open in Belfast as the only man who can win the unique £1 million bonus on offer for capturing all four trophies in the series.

The £70,000 top prize moves him one place up the world rankings to fourth. His total of 16 ranking titles brings him level with Neil Robertson, behind Ronnie O’Sullivan (36), Stephen Hendry (36), John Higgins (30), Steve Davis (28) and Mark Williams (22).

It’s his first ranking title since the 2018 China Championship, some 13 months ago, and first on UK soil since he landed his third World Championship crown in 2017.

Having monopolised the world number one position for 49 months, losing the top dog status was a blow to Selby in March this year. But he has bounced back strongly this season, reaching two semi-finals before this week’s triumph. His performance in today’s final was a reminder of his ability to control matches with superb break-building and near-flawless safety.

Gilbert has now lost all four of his ranking finals, albeit each of them against top class opponents; he was runner-up to John Higgins at the 2015 International Championship, to Mark Williams at the 2018 Yushan World Open, and to Kyren Wilson at the 2019 German Masters.

The £30,000 pay-day takes his career total earnings past the £1 million mark and moves him up one place to 11th in the world. But that will be no more than small consolation to the 38-year-old from Tamworth as he is left waiting for his first taste of silverware.

Selby dominated the first session, taking a 7-1 lead with top breaks of 88, 68, 79, 85, 130 and 97.  Gilbert had two chances in the opener tonight but couldn’t make the frame secure. Selby fluked a snooker on the last red, and from the chance that followed, cleared the table for 8-1.

And a few minutes later the contest was over as Selby’s break of 101 sealed the title.

Mark Selby played at a very, very high standard yesterday and any snooker fan will have appreciated the fantastic skills on display. The match however had little tension as David Gilbert didn’t have the good start he needed to make it a real contest.

The most interesting part of the evening was in fact Mark’s interview with the pundits after the match. It once again illustrates that being hugely successful doesn’t necessaruly make you confident, a fact that seems to escape many fans. Mark mentioned that he had to force himself to play at a good pace, not to slow down, because he knows that a slow pace isn’t helping his game. It’s another aspect that many fans don’t get. I have been guilty of that: for years I thought that Mark’s slow play was a tactic to disrupt the opponent rhythm and I hated it. I thought that he had far too much talent to need to resort to such tactics, and of course he has talent in spades. The first doubts in my mind came after a conversation I had with Mark at the German Masters a few years back. In my mind he should have been full of confidence, and he clearly genuinely wasn’t.

David Gilbert was all smiles after the match, in stark contrast with the reactions we have seen from someone like Kyren Wilson for instance. Maybe this is what Davis is lacking: the ultimate winner mentality. Such mentality is a strong drive to success. It has to be said however that it can be destructive too: you only need to read Ronnie’s or Stephen Hendry’s bios to understand it.

The 2019 English Open – Day 6 – SF

Today’s final will be competed between Mark Selby and David Gilbert.

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker about how we got there:

Afternoon session:

Mark Selby came from 5-3 down to beat Mark Allen 6-5 in a five-hour battle to reach the final of the 19.com English Open in Crawley.

In an exciting finish, Allen missed opportunities to win as Selby took the last three frames to reach the final of a Home Nations event for the first time since the series was launched in 2016.

He will meet David Gilbert or Tom Ford over 17 frames for the £70,000 first prize on Sunday. The champion will go to next month’s 19.com Northern Ireland Open in Belfast a quarter of the way to landing the £1 million bonus on offer for winning all four events in the series.

Selby will be playing in his 25th ranking final and aiming for his 16th title, which would bring him level with Neil Robertson. He is aiming to win his first title since the 2018 China Championship and first on UK soil since he landed his captured his third World Championship crown in 2017.

Breaks of 82 and 93 helped Leicester’s Selby take a 3-1 lead, then Allen hit back after the interval, winning frame five and making a 96 for 3-3. Frame seven lasted  67 minutes and came down to a battle on the colours, Allen winning it to go ahead. The eighth was also scrappy and once again Antrim’s Allen came out on top to go 5-3 up.

In the ninth, Allen was on 62 and just two pots away from victory when his attempt to double a red to a centre pocket narrowly missed. It came down to the pink and black, Selby getting the better of a safety battle and potting both balls to keep his hopes alive. And he added frame ten with a run of 57.

World number five Selby had first chance in the decider, making  29 before missing a tricky blue. Allen replied with 24 then failed to convert a tough long red to a baulk corner. That proved his last shot as Selby added 64. Remarkably, the pair have met seven times in best-of-11 matches and all seven have finished 6-5.

“I had to dig in and show my resolve from 5-3,” said 36-year-old Selby. “Before that Mark was playing well, he looked confident and he was putting me in a lot of trouble. We always have close games and it was good to come out the winner this time. The double he went for at 5-3, I thought it was in from where I was sitting. I was lucky.

“Last season my safety was letting me down so it’s nice to get that side of my game back. I get on really well with both David Gilbert and Tom Ford so it will be great to play either of them in the final.”

I’m not sure why this report doesn’t mention that Mark Allen himself had come from 3-1 down to lead 5-3, at a time leaving his opponent potless for well over 40 minutes.

It was a bizarre mùatch TBH. One wouldn’t really guess looking at the scores but for very periods of play there was no fluency whatsoever. Both players gave their opponent a lot of penalty points, Mark Selby in particular was guilty of that.  It was a comedy of errors at times. Mark Allen should have killed the match and win 6-3. He failed to do so, and, when playing Mark Selby it’s often fatal and it proved to be.

Evening session:

David Gilbert moved within one win of his first ranking title by beating Tom Ford 6-3 in the semi-finals of the 19.com English Open.

Tamworth’s Gilbert will face Mark Selby over 17 frames on Sunday, with the winner to lift the Steve Davis Trophy and bank £70,000.

It will be Gilbert’s fourth ranking final and his first on UK soil. He has lost two finals in China, against John Higgins and Mark Williams, as well as one in Germany against Kyren Wilson. Once again this time he’ll be up against a formidable opponent, but having played to a high level throughout the week in Crawley, world number 12 Gilbert will be confident that this could be his turn to go home with the silverware.

Ford took the opening frame tonight with a break of 53 then Gilbert levelled with an 80. The next two frames came down to the colours, and Gilbert took both to lead 3-1.

Leicester’s Ford hit back after the interval with 102 and 74 to level at 3-3. But 38-year-old Gilbert regained the initiative with a superb 134 total clearance in frame seven, then runs of 65 and 52 put him 5-3 ahead.

Ford had two scoring chances early in the ninth but could only muster 12 points, and when he missed a red to a top corner, Gilbert stepped in with a run of 34 which took him close to the winning post. Ford battled for snookers but Gilbert potted green and brown to secure the result.

“I felt tired tonight, I haven’t had much sleep this week and it caught up with me tonight,” said Gilbert. “My body was a bit heavy, my arms didn’t quite feel the same and I wasn’t timing shots well. But that happens sometimes, I didn’t worry about it.

“At 3-3 Tom was looking stronger, I knew I had to step up and find my rhythm again, and I made a good break to go 4-3.

“I’m glad to be playing Mark in the final because he’s a good friend. He has helped me a lot over the last few years by letting me practise with him. I have learned a lot from him and I’m looking forward to sharing the dancefloor with him. He is a legend and I’m just trying to make my way through.”

The final starts at 1pm.

This was a much more fluent match than the afternoon one. Tom Ford looked very dangerous at the start, but appreared to lose confidence in frame two after making a couple of errors. He’s much better under pressure than he used to be but still looked vulnerable to it in yesterday’s semli-final.

Mark Selby has to be favourite to win today. He has the pedigree and the experience. But if David Gilbert can set himself in the mindset of just enjoying the occasion and doesn’t put too much pressure on himself, he certainly has his chance. I would be delighted for him.

Neither finalist has yet qualified for the 2019 Champion of  Champions, so Jimmy White will have to wait and hope that there is a repeat winner in Yushan.

Finally Ronnie again caused outrage on social media with this:

Now, seriously folks, this was just a bit of impish banter. Of course he doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t cound officially. He explains it himself: in his own mind, a 147 should be the “perfect break” and therefore not involve any recovery shots (nor  flukes I guess). He’s been very critical of his own 5’20” (actually now revised to 5’08”) 1997 break: more than once, he said that it was a “bad break”, because he was “out of position so many times”. That’s the OCD perfectionist mixed with the mischievious kid inside expressing themselves ot there 😉

Ronnie has been out of order a few times this week: he certainly was when he kicked the rest.  The way he expressef himself about playing lower ranked players after round one wasn’t very considerate although Mark Selby, speaking after beating Mei Xiwen also spoke about why playing an unknown quantity can be difficult. And he clearly hates the venue and has made no mystery of it. But frankly the above isn’t “serious” …

 

The 2019 English Open – Day 5 – QF

I saw very little from yesterday’s action as I traveled for most of the day. So here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session

Mark Selby came from 3-0 down to beat Mei Xiwen 5-3 and reach his third consecutive ranking event semi-final at the 19.com English Open.

David Gilbert also booked his spot in the last four at K2 Crawley with a 5-4 victory over Ricky Walden.

Selby hasn’t won a tournament since the 2018 China Championship, and hasn’t lifted a trophy on UK soil since the 2017 World Championship. But the three-time Crucible king looks to be returning to form, and having lost in the semi-finals of two ranking events already this season, he’ll be looking to go further this time. He faces Mark Allen or Lee Walker on Saturday.

China’s Mei was playing in his first ranking event quarter-final today and he looked comfortable in the early stages, firing breaks of 108, 48 and 56 to take the first three frames.

Selby’s top break at that stage was just 1, but he dominated the fourth frame to get a foothold, then stepped up a gear after the interval, winning four frames in a row with top runs of 69, 70 and 132.

“I started off poorly but I’m happy with how I turned the game around,” said world number five Selby after reaching his 44th ranking event semi-final. “The fourth frame was a big turning point. Once I won that I felt settled and I played better after the interval. From 3-1, that was about as good as I’ve played this week. I scored well and it was the most comfortable I’ve felt.

“It was important I finished it off, because even though I’d gone from 3-0 down to 4-3 up, if he nicks the next one suddenly it’s down to a decider. Thankfully it didn’t get to that stage. Over the years longer games have favoured me, but semi-finals are always tough and I’m going to have my work cut out to win.”

Gilbert boosted his hopes of winning a first ranking title by coming through a high quality battle against Walden.

Breaks of 85 and 63 put Tamworth’s Gilbert 2-0 up, then Walden reeled off three in a row with 91, 125 and 46. Gilbert hit back with 69 for 3-3, then the next two were shared to leave the match in the balance.

Walden had first chance in the decider, but after potting the first red he went for a tough pink to a centre pocket and missed his target. Gilbert punished him with a superb 75.

“I don’t blame Ricky for going for that pink, he had played positively all through the match,” said Gilbert, who was runner-up at the Yushan World Open and German Masters last season. “Luckily for me he missed it and I made a good break.

“People go on about me losing in two finals and the semis of the World Championship last season, but I’d take that kind of season for the next ten years. Of course I want to win events, but I’m not Ronnie O’Sullivan – I’m realistic. I’ll keep turning up with my cue with the right attitude and try to improve.”

Regarding what happened in the Selby v Mei match, I believe that the facts that 1. there was an interval and 2. Selby won the last frame before it, were key to what happened next. Mei is not used to play on the television table, with just one table focusing all the audience attention. He had never reached the QF stage before. He probably started the match as the underdog, even in his own mind, not having too many expectations but determined to give it all. And then … he runs 3-0 up against a 3 times World Champion, but loses the last frame before the MSI. He must have had plenty to think about during those 15/20 minutes. Maybe – only maybe – we could have had a different outcome if he hadn’t got time to dwell on what just happened in the first four frames.

Other than that, I’m glad to see Ricky Walden playing well again. He’s a cracking player when on form and it’s a shame that back injuries ruined his career for many years.

Evening session

Mark Allen eased to a 5-1 win over Lee Walker at the 19.com English Open to earn a semi-final against Mark Selby.

Neither Allen nor Selby have won a tournament so far in 2019 so both will be determined to come out on top when they clash at 1pm on Saturday in Crawley, with the winner to go through to Sunday’s final. Northern Ireland’s Allen won three titles in 2018, including the Masters, but hasn’t found the same level of form since.

He won the first four frames tonight with top breaks of 54, 51 and 80. Walker took the fifth on the colours but his hopes of a fight-back were dashed when he under-cut a black to a top corner at 17-32 in frame six. Allen’s run of 40 sealed the result.

World number seven Allen admitted his biggest challenge tonight was staying patient, as he is the eighth fastest player on the pro tour while Walker is the second slowest.

“Lee is good at dictating the place of play,” said Allen. “I always felt as if I was one miss away from a very long scrappy frame. For a while in the second frame it became a war of attrition. It challenges you mentally, but I didn’t let it get to me. It wasn’t free flowing in the way I like it to be, but I knew I just had to wait for my chances.

“I’m looking forward to playing Mark tomorrow. He’s one of the top century makers of all time and he knows how to win any type of frame. He has a point to prove because recently he hasn’t been winning titles like he usually does.”

Tom Ford reached his fourth ranking event semi-final with a 5-0 thrashing of Tian Pengfei. Leicester’s Ford made a 147 in beating Shaun Murphy on Thursday, and though he didn’t reach the same heights tonight, he had more than enough firepower to dismiss the challenge of China’s Tian.

Breaks of 62, 52 and 128 helped world number 25 Ford set up a match with David Gilbert on Saturday evening.

“It took me a couple of frames to get into the match tonight,” admitted 36-year-old Ford. “Luckily for me, Tian struggled as well. It was hard to find a rhythm. Tomorrow it’s down to one table and I’ll need to settle down quickly. David has played in the semis at the Crucible so he knows what it’s like.

“I feel good in myself, and I feel good mentally. It’s not as if I don’t know how to win tournaments because I won two Players Tour Championship events a few years ago.

“I grew up with David, we played each other a lot at junior level, so we know each others games.”

The last frame of the Allen v Walker match is the only action I saw yesterday. Mark Allen at a point was shown as having 84% pot success, Lee Walker had something like 77/78%. That’s indeed all the indications of a scrappy match. I also caugth some of the ES pundits discussion during the MSI, with Ronnie insisting that Mark hadn’t played at his best level by any means. Clearly this is not the Pistol type of game, and Mark Selby today might well inflict him some more of the same. Before anyone jumps at me for being a “Ronnie fan girl, Selby hater, thinking he’s slow and boring” … that NOT what I mean. What I mean is that Mark Selby is a player who can be fluent when he wants to, but can turn into “the torturer” when he needs to. He’s an intelligent player, who is able, and willing, to adapt his game depending on his opponent style and how the match unfolds. If he feels that he needs to disrupt his opponent fluency to win, that’s what he will do. It will be an interesting match.

I make David Gilbert favourite in the other match. Tom Ford hasn’t a great record on the television table, especially in the latter stages of major tournaments. That said, Tom revealed that he’s been working with a sport psychologist this season, and, judging by his results so far, it really does help him. So this match too will be interesting. Tom at his best is a very dangerous player, the question is whether he will be able to bring his best game out under added pressure today.