Northern Ireland Open 2019 – Last 128

No less than four top 16 players went out in the first round of the 2019 Northern Ireland Open: Neil Robertson, David Gilbert, Jack Lisowski and Ding Junhui. Of course, Mark Williams did not enter, so that leaves us with only 11 members of the top 16 after just one round. To this, you have to add the unexpected demise of a good few top 32 members: most notably Ryan Day, Anthony McGill, Noppon Saengkham, Xiao Guodong, Lyu Haotian, Tom Ford and Gary Wilson … plus Hossein Vafaei who is n°33. That’s a lot of “upsets”.

Neil Robertson might have suffered from a kind of “hangover” effect after the heights of last week-end, but there is nothing to “explain” the other ones, other than the fact that it’s best of seven and top players are under pressure because they are expected to win. Ding’s defeat is particularly worrying. He’s spiralling down at an alarming speed. He was playing David Lilley, a former WSS player and a rookie on the tour.

Other matches were mighty close. Judd Trump lead 3-0, with three centuries, before being pegged back to 3-3 by James Cahill. Cahill played well, but he capitalised on Judd’s mistakes whose long potting went missing for a while. Stuart Bingham made a 147 – his sixth – in the first frame of his match but was still taken to a decider by the much improved Lu Ning. Barry Hawkins also had to play a deciding frame to overcome Eden Sharav.

This is Bingham sixth maximum:

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Day 1 – Monday, November 11, 2019

Mark Selby came through a hard fought encounter with China’s Xu Si 4-2 to book his place in the second round of the Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.

Selby remains in the hunt to cash in on the £1 million bonus on offer for any player who wins all four Home Nations events in a single season. The Jester from Leicester won the first tournament of this year’s series at the English Open.

His victory at the Crawley event saw him earn his first piece of silverware in over a year. Selby capped the week off with a stunning display in the final, missing only seven balls on his way to a crushing 9-1 defeat of David Gilbert.

This afternoon Selby looked to be in danger of a surprise exit when world number 97 Xu spurned a golden opportunity to move 3-1 ahead. He missed a black to the top right corner allowing Selby to draw level at 2-2.

Three-time World Champion Selby ruthlessly punished that error, making breaks of 64 and 73 to emerge a 4-2 victor.

Selby said: “The win in Crawley was really important. Especially for my mindset more than anything else. Even when he had the black to go 3-1 up, I still fancied myself to win the match. I am definitely in a better mindset so I have come here very confident.”

David Lilley secured his first victory as a professional with a shock 4-2 win over Chinese number one Ding Junhui.

Former World Amateur finalist Lilley is making his debut season on the World Snooker Tour after coming through Q School earlier this year. He fired in breaks of 96, 82, 84 and 71 on his way to victory this afternoon.

Stephen Maguire recorded a 4-0 win over Declan Lavery despite currently suffering from a broken ankle.

The Scot picked up the injury while out in China at the recent World Open. He was forced to wear a protective boot for his 4-0 first round loss at the Champion of Champions last week.

Maguire had been given dispensation to play in trainers today due to the injury and produced breaks of 76 and 50 on his way to the whitewash win.

Maguire said: “I tried to play last week with the space boot on. It just wasn’t possible. My wife and family aren’t happy that I am playing without it because I might do further damage to it. The only way I can play is to use these trainers and give myself half a chance.”

Northern Ireland’s Jordan Brown delighted the home crowd with a fine 4-2 win over Thai legend James Wattana. While Ken Doherty defeated Michael Georgiou 4-2.

2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy whitewashed Fraser Patrick 4-0 and 30-time ranking event winner John Higgins emerged a 4-2 victor against Chang Bingyu.

What Mark Selby says there about confidence and mindset is very true, and very important. I think that Ronnie is a bit in the situation now where Mark was before the English Open, having suffered a few unexpected defeats and struggling for consistency. I’m sure he cares much more than he is willing to admit. The brazen attitude is just an attempt to lower the expectations on himself, and hence the pressure.

Day 2 – Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Defending champion Judd Trump negotiated a stern first round test against James Cahill to emerge a 4-3 victor at the Northern Ireland Open in Belfast

The Ace in the Pack lifted the title here a year, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 in a thrilling final. That ended a run of 13 months without a ranking silverware and marked the beginning of a golden season for Trump, who picked up maiden Masters and World Championship titles.

Trump has solidified his position at the summit of the sport this season by becoming world number one after victories at the International Championship and World Open. He comes into this week off the back of narrowly losing a thrilling Champion of Champions final 10-9 to Neil Robertson on Sunday.

30-year-old Trump started off this afternoon’s match in blistering fashion. He fired in consecutive century breaks of 106, 122 and 111 to charge into a 3-0 lead.

From there Cahill, nicknamed the Giant Killer after defeating Ronnie O’Sullivan at this year’s World Championship while playing as an amateur, mounted a comeback charge.

The Blackpool potter stole the fourth frame on the black to keep his hopes alive. Cahill then made it 3-2, before breaks of 56 and 55 helped him to force a decider. Trump eventually edged his way over the line with a run of 75 to wrap up the 4-3 victory.

“I always felt in control and I always felt like I could score heavily throughout the whole game,” said Bristol’s Trump. “I think he is the sort of person that needs to be on the big stage to play his best and once again he proved it. He came back well.”

36-time ranking event winner Ronnie O’Sullivan booked his place in the second round with a hard fought 4-2 win over world number 80 Oliver Lines.

O’Sullivan claimed a tightly contested 35-minute tactical frame to take a 1-0 lead. However, Lines restored parity and then moved to the front by taking the third frame on the black to lead 2-1.

The Rocket secured three frames on the bounce, including a break of 87, to turn the match on its head and emerge a 4-2 victor.

O’Sullivan said: “I’d much rather just hammer people to be honest. 10-1 or 9-0, I love all of that. I don’t enjoy having to battle. Every match this year feels like it has been a deciding frame. I’m just happy to still be in the Northern Ireland Open, it is a great tournament and I still want to be in it.”

Northern Ireland’s number one Mark Allen got his campaign off to a solid start after a 4-2 win over Sam Craigie.

2018 Masters winner Allen, who exited in the first and second rounds in the last two years, has admitted to suffering from nerves in front of his home fans in the past.

However, he secured victory today with contributions of 74 and 77. After his match he admitted to adopting a different approach to the event to try and negate any nerves.

Allen said: “I tried not to get too involved with the crowd today. I’ve had a completely different approach to the tournament this year. I’ve tried to stay away from all of the tickets and phone calls. I have also done as few interviews as possible. I am just trying to treat it like any other tournament. I am even staying in a hotel and I only live 20 minutes away.”

“It would be a dream to win. This event was added to the calendar three years ago and it is definitely on my radar. I am a very proud Northern Ireland supporter and I want to do it for the fans. First and foremost I need to do it for myself though and I haven’t been doing that in previous years.”

Stuart Bingham fired in the sixth 147 of his career on the way to a dramatic 4-3 defeat of China’s Lu Ning. The 2015 World Champion had led 3-0, but was pegged back to a deciding frame which he eventually claimed on the pink.

You can read more about Ronnie’s win here (with some images and footages)

2019 Northern Ireland Open 2019 – Ronnie wins last 128 match



Ronnie won his opening match in Belfast, beating Oliver Lines by 4-2. To be honest, it was a struggle, but, he is still in it and it’s all that matters.


Here is the report on Worldsnooker (excerpt)

36-time ranking event winner Ronnie O’Sullivan booked his place in the second round with a hard fought 4-2 win over world number 80 Oliver Lines.

O’Sullivan claimed a tightly contested 35-minute tactical frame to take a 1-0 lead. However, Lines restored parity and then moved to the front by taking the third frame on the black to lead 2-1.

The Rocket secured three frames on the bounce, including a break of 87, to turn the match on its head and emerge a 4-2 victor.

O’Sullivan said: “I’d much rather just hammer people to be honest. 10-1 or 9-0, I love all of that. I don’t enjoy having to battle. Every match this year feels like it has been a deciding frame. I’m just happy to still be in the Northern Ireland Open, it is a great tournament and I still want to be in it.”

This is the preview of yesterdays evening session:

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Oliver Lines – NI Open 2019, last 128

The first minutes are missing. Ronnie broke off to nestle to the back of the pack. It didn’t work as he left a red in the middle, that Oliver gratefully took.

The review of that match with Ronnie:

So, Ronnie is well aware that his break-off is a weak link in his game, but doesn’t know how to solve it… I remember him, a few years back, saying that getting a couple of balls lose was something desirable because he didn’t fancy getting involved in ten minutes plus going up and down the table before the frame actually started developping. On av erage though, players were less aggressive at the time and didn’t go for everything in sight.

And great thanks to Tai Chengzhe for these images



Neil Robertson is your 2019 Champion of Champions

Congratulations Neil Robertson!


Neil Robertson beat Judd Trump in a quite extraordinary match, winning by 10-9 yesterday evening. A quite emotional neil celebrated with his family.


Here is the official report


Judd Trump 9–10 Neil Robertson
47-69, 0-112 (112), 86-8 (86), 50-71 (56), 121-0 (121), 127-0 (127), 119-0 (119), 0-96, 0-124 (111), 75-36, 0-104 (104), 70-58, 84-7 (84), 36-91 (81), 75-41 (62), 0-135 (135), 62-60, 69-76 (Trump 69), 0-137 (137)

Neil Robertson won a brilliant ManBetX Champion of Champions final, making his fifth century of the match in the deciding frame of the final against Judd Trump at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry.

It is the second time Robertson has won this title, after lifting the trophy in 2015, and it was the third match in the tournament which the Australian had won in the deciding frame. The final was one of the highest quality from both players, with eight centuries made in the 19 frames played, and it was fitting that the match went all the way.

Robertson had led 5-4 after the first session, in which Trump had made three consecutive centuries to lead from 3-1 down.

Trump soon made it 5-5 before Robertson’s lead was restored with a 104 which had the audience anticipating a maximum before the Australian missed his 14th red to the middle. Trump took the next two to lead again and from there they took alternate frames to 8-8. At the end of the 17th, Trump got the snooker he required with just three balls remaining and was one up with two to play.

His opportunity for the win came in the next fame and he looked set for victory until he missed on a break of 69. Robertson required one snooker, and the remaining balls, to tie the frame. With one red remaining he got the snooker required and subsequently forced the respot and then took the frame after Trump took on a tough long pot, missed it and left a cut to the middle with which Robertson held his nerve.

In the deciding frame The Thunder From Down Under made a brilliant 137 for the title, and £150,000 first price.

“To play a match like that, the pair of us, it is the best match I have ever been involved in and I’m sure a lot of people here would say it is probably the best match they have ever seen,” said Robertson. “The standard was incredible.

“There were a lot of centuries, a couple of frames went down to the black and I had to dig deep to force the decider. If you had told Judd and I before the match that this would be the standard we would play, against a lot of other players it would have been done and dusted halfway through the second session.

“It was a great credit to both of us; we never backed down, kept played the shots and that’s the sort of snooker people want to see. I am sure everybody watching got a great buzz. This is one of the few genuine occasions where you can say it is unfortunate to have a loser in the match.

“This is the first time [daughter] Penelope has seen me win. She doesn’t really know what’s going on, she’s only seven months old! It is really special for me. When she was born I wanted to win more tournaments so she could be there as well and it’s the best feeling in the world when you can win tournaments and share those moments with your family.”

The 2020 Champion of Champions will be staged at Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes from November 2-8. Tickets go on sale this Monday, November 11 priced from just £11 per session at

Here are the last frames of the match, and the trophy ceremony with the interviews from both players.

Both spoke well and gave this great tournament the conclusion it deserved.

Judd Trump joins Neil Robertson in the 2019 Champion of Champions final

Judd Trump beat Mark Allen by 6-4 yesterday evening, to book his place in the final today. He will face Neil Robertson over best of 19.

Here is the official report:


Judd Trump 6–4 Mark Allen
67-8 (52), 89-0 (61), 95-0 (67), 24-70 (56), 0-140 (140), 0-114 (106), 0-69 (69), 93-35 (82), 80-43, 98-0 (98)

Judd Trump will face Neil Robertson in the final of the ManBetX Champion of Champions after the World No.1 defeated Mark Allen 6-4 in their semi-final at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.

Trump took a 3-0 lead in the match and looked on-course to be four up at the mid-session interval, but a kick with 24 on the board handed control to Allen. From there it was 45 minutes until the World Champion would score again.

Allen made 393 points without reply to go from 3-0 down to 4-3 up with breaks including a 106 and the tournament’s highest so far, a 140. Trump responded with an 82 and with the help of a fluked red regained his lead in the ninth frame. A perfect split early in the tenth presented Trump the opportunity to seal victory, which he did with a break of 98.

“At 4-3 down he was looking in complete control,” said Trump. “I was unlucky not to go 4-0 up, I got quite a bad kick but the same happened to him when he could have gone 5-3 up. The game turned a little bit on a few bits of luck either way. I looked out of it; he didn’t look like missing from where I was sat. He looked in complete control but I managed to pot a few crucial balls at crucial times, I got a bit of luck to go 5-4 up and made a good break in the last.

“Over the last few years Neil has really come back to form, the same as me. He had a massive win over Ronnie from what I saw last night. They were both playing well so he will take a lot of confidence from that but my record against him is pretty good so I go in fancying my chances.”

I think the Judd Trump was a bit lucky that Mark Allen got off to a very slow start. Judd missed his fair share of long pots in this match, but for the first three frames and a bit, Mark Allen looked completely out of sorts. When Mark was coming back at him, Judd didn’t look at all confident sat in his chair. If Mark had been competing right from the start, the match could have been very different. Also, the fluke in frame eight was massive.

Why Mark was so out of sorts, I’m not sure. There were quite a bit of “Go Mark” shouting in the crowd at the start of the match, and, in the past, Mark has been known for not coping really well with those situations where he has a lot of supporters in the audience. His record in his home tournament, the Northern Ireland Open is far from great; last year he lost to Niu Zhang in the first round, the previous year he had lost in round 2. So, maybe – only maybe – that’s what happened again here.

So, who will win today? Well, if both play like they played in the semi finals, there is only one winner and that’s Neil Robertson. But, of course, today is another day, another match, and nothing guaranties that either of them will come to the table with their SF form…


Champion of Champions 2019 – Neil Robertson beats Ronnie in the SF


Neil Robertson beat Ronnie by 6-5 to book his place in the Final, where he will play either Mark Allen or Judd Trump. It’s the first time in six appereances in the tournament that Ronnie doesn’t reach the final.

Here is the official report:


Ronnie O’Sullivan 5–6 Neil Robertson
73-7 (66), 40-67, 1-71 (62), 81-7 (81), 0-108 (108), 81-55, 45-87 (87), 86-0 (86), 60-57, 0-135 (135), 6-104 (90)

Neil Robertson beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-5 in one of the standout matches of the season so far to book his place in the final of the ManBetX Champion of Champions at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.

It is the second time 2015 champion Robertson has reached the tournament final but the first time in six appearances that O’Sullivan hasn’t.

In a gripping match played in front of a sold out crowd, both players were leading at stages but neither ever by more than one frame. At 4-4 the ninth went down to the final black and a brilliant shot sent O’Sullivan one up with two to play.

Robertson, however, responded in style with the tournament’s highest break so far, a fine 135 made under pressure. In the decider, O’Sullivan missed a safety as the cue stopped short of the pack, leaving a red on for Robertson, who duly began a clearance of 90 to win a compelling match of the highest standard.

“I was extremely determined today, concentrated on my own game and made sure I was going to be very aggressive, as he has been all week as well,” said Robertson, who will face either Judd Trump or Mark Allen – who meet tomorrow evening – in Sunday’s best-of-19 final.

“We have a huge amount of respect for each other. Ronnie has got the better of me the last few times we have played, and in a couple of big finals obviously. You don’t want to make a habit of losing to somebody, even though a few of the times I have lost to him he has played fantastic stuff.

“There was a lot of high scoring, some great potting, a couple of close frames. The crowd were great and I am sure they really enjoyed the match. It was an awesome match to be a part of. We were both extremely aggressive, neither of us backed down and that’s what makes it most pleasing; I beat him my own way, playing my natural style.

“Judd and Mark are both brilliant players, I have had some wonderful matches with them and it will be two lefties in the final. I can’t wait to get out there and play in another final.”

Despite the defeat, there is a lot of positives to be drawn from this match. Ronnie was calm, collected and played extremely well himself. He was aggressive, without being reckless. His shot time was his usual … and certainly nothing even close to the 10 seconds he was – allegedly – targeting when interviewed on Thursday.  What probably made the difference is the long potting. That has always been one of Neil’s strongest weapons, and, yesterday, he was deadly. Ronnie wasn’t too bad himself, he got quite a number of long pots too, but, when he needs to play those shots with power, he tends to lose some accuracy. That of course is an issue.

It was an excellent match, one that every fan of the sport will appreciate, even if, we, as Ronnie fans, would have preferred a different result.

Many thanks to Tai Chengzhe for those great pictures


Champion of Champions 2019 – Group 1

Ronnie booked his place in the semi finals, where he will play Neil Robertson tonight, but not without a scare …

Here is the official report:


Ronnie O’Sullivan 6–3 John Higgins
29-92 (92), 75-27, 104-0 (104), 0-121 (89), 85-0 (77), 35-75, 85-6 (85), 90-20 (53), 74-49

Ronnie O’Sullivan 4–3 Jimmy White
6-83 (56), 0-73, 52-61, 135-0 (74), 61-19, 78-38, 76-29 (76)

John Higgins 4-2 Stuart Bingham
78-1 (78), 71-24, 56-80 (Bingham 56), 39-77, 70-22 (61), 117-1 (84)

Ronnie O’Sullivan beat John Higgins and Jimmy White to set up a ManBetX Champion of Champions semi-final against Neil Robertson at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.

O’Sullivan has reached the final of this event every time he has played it and will now meet ‘The Thunder From Down Under’ in Friday’s best-of-11 semi-final after coming through Group 1 on Thursday.

The Rocket had survived a Whirlwind-sized scare as he came from 3-0 down against World Seniors Champion Jimmy White to win 4-3 in a match that will live long in the memory for the sold-out Ricoh Arena crowd. He then met Higgins in the group final after the Wizard of Wishaw had beaten Stuart Bingham 4-2 in his group semi-final.

The first six frames of the best-of-11 group final where shared between O’Sullivan and Higgins but from there it was dominance from the defending champion. A break of 85 took O’Sullivan ahead and he extended his lead to 5-3 in the eighth before closing out the match in the next frame.

“I didn’t play great but I don’t think John played well,” said O’Sullivan. “If John is on form I don’t like playing him, when he is on form he is your worst nightmare. I will go out there tomorrow, have a bit of fun and try and get my shot clock down to 10 seconds if I can. It is a good venue and a good table.”

Jimmy White came to this event, driven and determined to play his very best snooker. Ahead of his match he was interviewed by Hector Nunns:

Jimmy White knows emotional Ronnie O’Sullivan clash could be final time they ever meet

Two of snookers legendary figures meet in Coventry on Thursday knowing it will be the final time they could meet


Jimmy played extremely well in the first three frames and a very big upset looked to be on the cards. Ronnie was all over the place and his long potting was non-existent. In frame three though, the game became closer. From then on, Ronnie started playing better – without actually playing well – and Jimmy started to look edgy. It was a very strange match overall. It was, as expected, played in front of a big crowd and both players got a lot of support. Ronnie, despite the obvious struggle, continued to attack. Here it is:

And some great images by Tai Chengzhe


The next match was a bit strange as well. John Higgins started very well. He looked really sharp. However, as the match unfolded, errors crept in both players game.

Nevertheless, at the end of the afternoon, I had very little hope that Ronnie could win the group. I was wrong.


John again had the best start, but, again, his standard dropped a bit as the match unfolded. Ronnie, on the contrary, started to slot the long ones in. He played fast, furious and ultra attacking. It worked a treat. It was spectacular, entertaining,  edge of the seat stuff … and the crowd loved it!

If Ronnie plays tonigh like he did against John, he has every chance to make it to the final again. But will he? It’s hard to tell. He seemed to be in high mood, yesterday, upbeat and a bit restless. He said again that he doesn’t care, but his expression, his body language and the way he played to come back at Jimmy, tell me he did care, at least a bit, even if, maybe, it was only pride driving him.

And once again, big thanks to Tai Chengzhe for these

Champion of Champions 2019 – Group 2

Judd Trump is the one who emerged from yesterdays group. He will play Mark Allen on Saturday evening.

This is the official report


Group 2 Final
Judd Trump 6–3 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
73-37, 64-43 (60), 114-16 (114), 132-0 (128), 6-113 (73), 93-0 (89), 33-73 (61), 27-93 (66), 81-0 (71)

Group Semi-Finals
Judd Trump 4-
0 Stephen Maguire
101-0 (76), 102-4 (102), 69-57, 75 (68)-31

Kyren Wilson 3-4 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
82-19 (62), 47-63 (63), 0-81 (51), 7-94 (90), 103-24 (102), 102-0 (98), 8-69 (69)

Judd Trump defeated Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 6-3 in the ManBetX Champion of Champions Group 2 Final to set up a semi-final clash with Mark Allen at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry.

Trump had earlier beaten Stephen Maguire 4-0 in his group semi-final and was the same score ahead of Un-Nooh at the mid-session interval in their best-of-11 group final.

The match was a repeat of Sunday’s final of the Yushan World Open, which Trump won 10-5, the sixth tournament he had won in the last 12 months.

The World No.1 made a flying start but after the break Un-Nooh fought back. A 73 reduced the deficit, but Trump looked on the verge when he took the sixth with a 89 to go 5-1 up. His Thai opponent, though, wasn’t going out without a fight and closed the gap to 5-3 before Trump completed the victory with a 71 break in the ninth.

“I felt good towards the end of the match,” said Trump. “I had a big lead at the interval and a couple of things didn’t go my way towards the end, but I always felt if I had a chance I would take it.

“Recently I have been getting off to good starts and putting opponents under pressure and that was the same today. He was missing a few more than he normally does and I was able to pounce on his mistakes.

“I stayed pretty confident. If it had gone 5-5 I would have been under pressure but I knew I would get another chance and I had the belief I would take it. I have a lot of confidence from the win in Yushan and I am bringing that into this event.

“I saw a little bit of Mark Allen’s match last night. He is an attacking player, I think the table will suit him because it is very, very fast out there and with his cue action that will suit him. It will be a tough semi-final and I’ll have to improve my game from how I played today.”

The group phase of the ManBetX Champion of Champions concludes on Thursday as Ronnie O’Sullivan faces Jimmy White before John Higgins takes on Stuart Bingham.

Judd Trump played well and Theppy, far from his best, was unable to apply much pressure. He fought with all he had though. Both players must still have been jet-lagged – they only arrived back in the UK on Tuesday – but Thepchaiya looked the more affected of the two. It’s maybe not surprising as he already felt tiredness in China. He had told the press that the excitement and the stress of the latter stages were preventing him from sleeping and eating properly. He said that he had lost weight … hopefully he will get back to normal soon or he will disappear altogether!

Regarding the schedule … there was again a discussion on twitter yesterday, starting with one person claiming that the schedule was disgusting and that “surely” the Yushan finalists should have been playing today instead. That immediately evolved into a Ronnie slagging-off party, some suggesting that he had requested to play today, others that WS was “pampering” him, sparing him traveling or spending more time in Coventry … The whole thing was totally unfounded. Ronnie was ALWAYS due to play the last qualifier. At the time Worldsnooker and Matchroom published the schedule, there were still players in the draw in Yushan that had not yet qualified, notably Michael Holt. If one of those had won the World Open they would have been Ronnie’s opponent. They, of course, would have been playing in the Final in Yushan, and, moreover, they would have had to make the necessary arrangements for their travel and stay in Coventry. They couldn’t have done it before they actually qualified. So it was perfectly logical to schedule that group last.

Ronnie plays today … and I just hope he plays better that he did in recent weeks.