Inter-sessions news … Masters 2020 draw and Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters.

The draw for the coming 2020 Masters has been made during the MSI of the UK Championship 2019 first session and here is the draw:

Masters2020Draw

Remember: the top eight are seeded with the remaining eight drawn randomly against them. The 2019 UK champion will face Joe Perry whilst the runner-up will face Neil Robertson.

Also a new tournament, the Saudi Arabia Snooker Master has been announced

Kingdom Adds Snooker to Grass Roots Sports Portfolio

Saudi Arabia has announced it will host a World Snooker Tour event for the first time in 2020.  The event, part of the 2020/21 World Snooker Tour calendar, will run from the 4th-10th October 2020 in Riyadh.

The Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters will be a world ranking event with all 128 tour players in the field.

A structured draw will see players seeded 65th to 128th compete in the first round. The 32 winners will face those seeded 33-64, after which the top 32 seeds will enter the draw in the third round.

The tournament also showcases four local players competing against four Tour players seeded 65thto 128th competing in the first round, drawn at random. All players will be required to win at least one match for prize money to count towards their world ranking. Total prize money will be £2.5 million.

The newly formed partnership with World Snooker kick starts a ten-year deal, throughout which the Kingdom aims to raise the profile of snooker at grass roots level.

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “This is a giant leap forward for our sport. We have enjoyed tremendous global expansion over the past decade, particularly in Asia and Europe and we are thrilled to stage a new and momentous tournament in the Middle East.  We have a packed calendar throughout the year which creates a competitive marketplace for new events.  Snooker has grown to such an extent that we are now creating exceptional tournaments at this level.”

Hearn added: “For the fans in Saudi Arabia it is a wonderful opportunity to see the best players in the world competing for a huge title. We look forward to working with our partners on delivering a huge event.”

WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson added: “One of our biggest ambitions is to bring snooker to every corner of the planet so this is a step of huge significance. It gives us a firm footprint in the Middle East and we believe this will be the beginning of a boom for our sport in the region.”

Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Chairman of the GSA, said: “This partnership adds further to our hosting of a diverse range of international sports in Saudi Arabia. Having held motorsport and boxing events in recent months, and with tennis and equestrian events to follow, we are thrilled to add the Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters, which will see world class snooker played in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2020.

“Our aim is to provide opportunities to those in our country and region to see the world’s best, in a bid to inspire and encourage participation and spectatorship. Part of this ten year agreement sees a commitment from Matchroom to host clinics within universities and schools prior to each tournament to educate and encourage our youth to try snooker.”

Carlo Boutagy, CEO of CBX, the official promoter of the event in Saudi Arabia said: “CBX is delighted to introduce snooker at world level to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The union with World Snooker and GSA provides the perfect template to bolster the popularity and awareness of snooker at a grass roots level in Saudi Arabia.  We look forward to working with schools and clubs throughout the Kingdom in building snooker as the exceptional sport it is.  This competition provides the perfect motivational platform for aspiring snooker players throughout the Kingdom.”

He added: “We are extremely proud to begin a new association with Matchroom and World Snooker.  Our organisations have a dynamic wealth of expertise in delivering world class sporting events and I’m confident this will be a truly exceptional partnership. The history of the sport, combined with the vision CBX shares as a promoter, means the fans, aspiring future snooker players and current Tour players can look forward to what will be an exceptional tournament.”

£500000 for the winner is huge, and I suppose that only countries like Saudi Arabia can afford to offer that kind of money for one tournament. There are a couple of interesting aspects here, well worth noting:

  • We have a return of the tiered system
  • The first round losers will get paid, although their money won’t count towards ranking. Similarly, players seeded who lose their first match will get paid, but won’t get the ranking points.

So then, it seems that with enough money on offer, Barry Hearn is totally ready to diverge for his “principles”. No doubts the sponsors have insisted on such structure to make sure that the top players are all present in the latter stages. So then … (sarcasm alert) … top players will be “protected” (*) and “mediocrity will be rewarded”.

I have no doubts that other sponsors will follow suite and insist on a similar structure for their events. Personally, I’m all for it. Everyone wins: the sponsors, the organisers, the lower ranked players who get more winnable first matches, and get paid for their efforts win or lose, the top players who aren’t forced to play qualifiers in not-so-great venues in front of three men and a dog, and viewers who are guaranteed to see all the top guys at the venue. What’s not to like?

(*) Actually, seeded players are not protected at all: they potentially face tougher opponents right away, and get no ranking points should they lose.

It’s Ding v Maguire in the Final of the 2019 UK Championship

UK2019FinalLineup

This is how we got here … reports by Worldsnooker

Afternoon session – Ding beats Yan

Ding Junhui remained on course for a third Betway UK Championship title by beating Yan Bingtao 6-2 in an all-Chinese semi-final.

Ding fired five breaks over 50 in a comfortable victory as he set up a final meeting with Stephen Maguire or Mark Allen in York. First to ten frames on Sunday will win the trophy and £200,000 top prize.

I need to win. It has been a long time,” said Ding, who hasn’t won a ranking title since the 2017 Yushan World Open, 27 months ago. “I need to get my confidence back. I don’t need to prove anything to anybody. I just want to win. That’s my dream.

Ding, who captured this title in 2005 and 2009, will be aiming for a 14th ranking title and fourth Triple Crown victory as he also won the Masters in 2011.

The 32-year-old hadn’t previously reached a ranking semi-final since February 2018 and has become a father for the first time in that period. He now looks to have regained his focus on snooker and form on the table.

In the first ever all-Chinese semi-final in a Triple Crown event, world number 16 Ding took a 3-0 lead with breaks of 68, 85 and 60. Frame four came down to the last red and 19-year-old Yan potted it and cleared to the blue to get off the mark.

Ding won a scrappy fifth frame before Yan, the first teenager to reach the last four of a Triple Crown event since 2007, compiled a run of 95 to close to 4-2. But Ding closed out the match by taking the next two frames with breaks of 53 and 60.

“I played well today and put Yan under pressure in the first few frames,” said Ding. “He’s young, he’s a good talent. But if you put anyone under pressure they will make mistakes. My long potting was good and if I can do that and play good safety I will be dangerous.

“I like this tournament, it’s very exciting. I am concentrating, still believing in myself, just doing the right thing all the time. At the start of the season I didn’t look too confident or strong. I disappeared sometimes. This time I have come back strongly and I have beaten some good players, especially Ronnie O’Sullivan. Of course, there is a lot of pressure as I really want to do well, however I try not to think about it.

“Yan is still young , he’s done very well this season, he has won one tournament (the Riga Masters) and reached semi-finals of the UK. He’s a great player.”

The result means that Yan misses out on next month’s Dafabet Masters – he could have jumped into the top 16 by winning today’s match.

Ding played well all tournament. Yan was solid in the tactical department but didn’t score enough especially in the last two or three matches. Ronnie was quite harsh on him in the Eurosport studio. I don’t think that was deserved. Of course he does not play the type of snooker that Ronnie appreciates. Ronnie is a big fan of Zhao Xintong, and said that Yan is “limited”. Time will tell and Zhao might indeed be more talented, probably is, and more exciting to watch, but, for now the simple facts are that Yan, at 19, has won a ranking event, reached the final of another one (NI Open 2017) and the semi final of this UK Championship. Zhao is 22 and has done nothing close to that, nor have any of the other young players in that age bracket actually.

Here is the review by the ES pundits, with interviews of both plzyers.

Evening session – Maguire beats Allen

Stephen Maguire white-washed Mark Allen 6-0 with what he described as an “unbelievable performance” to reach the final of the Betway UK Championship.

The 38-year-old Glaswegian will face Ding Junhui in Sunday’s best-of-19 frame final, with the trophy and top prize of £200,000 up for grabs.

Maguire needed just 89 minutes to dismiss Allen in a match which most expected to be a closely-fought battle. Breaks of 95, 129, 72, 50 and 100 helped him to an emphatic win with a near-flawless display.

Having won this title back in 2004, he is aiming to become the tenth player to win the UK Championship on multiple occasions. His only other Triple Crown final came at the 2007 UK Championship when he lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Maguire is aiming for his sixth ranking title and first since the 2013 Welsh Open. He has won two invitation events already this season – partnering John Higgins to World Cup glory for Scotland, and beating Higgins in the final of the Six Red World Championship.

Just six weeks ago, Maguire fractured his ankle while travelling to the World Open in China, and must have feared he would need a spell on the sidelines to recover. He continues to walk with a slight limp, but his game is razor sharp.

“That was an unbelievable performance, I felt strong from the start,” said Maguire tonight. “I felt as if I was going to pot everything. The ones I went for all went in.

“I want the title badly. I’ll enjoy it if I settle down and get involved in the game. I know how it is out there in a final. It’s all about getting off to a good start. These big finals don’t come by that often. I’m pushing 40 now so I might not have that long left.

“It would be special. My son keeps asking me when I’m going to win a tournament. He thinks it’s quite easy! I’d love to bring a trophy back to show the family.

“Ding is different class. I’ve got a lot of respect for him and I love the way he plays. I’ve got my work cut out. I’m going to attack and open the reds up. If he scores better than me then he’ll win but if the reds are there I’ll fancy potting them.”

Maguire was simply sensational yesterday, and watching him, I couldnt help to wonder how he’s not won much, much more in his career, how he’s not played to the potential he showed 15 years ago. He went missing for years. The answer is probably that, too often, he let his emotions get the better of him, anger and frustration.

As for Mark Allen, it’s a bit of a concern that it’s the fith time already thise season that he loses in the semi finals. After his previous match, he admitted that he struggled with the favourite tag, he’s notoriously under-performed when playing “at home”… Maybe there is something there that needs to be addressed: a lot of snooker is won or lost in the head.

If both play to their strengths we are in for a real treat.

Ronnie explains why he decided not to enter the Masters 2020

Speaking in the ES studio Ronnie has explained why he’s not entered the Masters 2020

here is the article on the ES site

Ronnie O’Sullivan has explained that he did not want to give a half-hearted performance at the Masters and that’s why he has chosen not to enter the event.

O’Sullivan’s non-entry to the Alexandra Palace tournament, which starts on January 12, was announced earlier today with Ali Carter, the world No 17, named as his replacement.

However, the seven-time Masters champion has clarified his January plans, suggesting he wanted someone with more passion for the sport to take part.

“The personal reasons were news to me!” said O’Sullivan, a pundit on Eurosport this week at the UK Championship after being knocked out by Ding Junhui.

“I’ve just decided not to enter the event.

“Everything is fine. I think it’s just a mistake on World Snooker’s part. Maybe they felt they had to put something out.

“Putting personal reasons I felt was a little bit strong so hopefully they will correct it and say it was a slight mistake.

“It’s a fantastic tournament but I just didn’t want to really play in it this year. I’m looking forward to doing some other stuff.

“The Masters is such a great tournament that I just think that spot should go to somebody that is really dedicated to the game, loves the game and will give 100 per cent.

“At the moment, I’m just playing to enjoy it and I just think the place is better off going to someone else.”

 

Ronnie will not play at the Masters 2020

Worldsnooker has just posted this:

Ronnie O’Sullivan has pulled out of next month’s Dafabet Masters for personal reasons.

The tournament at Alexandra Palace in London runs from January 12 to 19.

The world’s top 16 players qualify for the event. But O’Sullivan has decided not to take his place.

The player ranked 17th, Ali Carter, will now qualify.

The draw for the first round will be made on Sunday afternoon during the mid-session interval of the Betway UK Championship final, televised by BBC.

It’s of course disappointing for us, fans, but Ronnie had said earlier this season that he might not play in it. I still expected him to enter, obviously I was wrong.

I just hope there is nothing bad or wrong with himself or those close to him.

 

York Barbican – Day 10 at the 2019 UK Championship

It was quarter finals day in York. Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session:

China’s 19-year-old Yan Bingtao strengthened his reputation as the best teenager on the planet by beating John Higgins 6-3 in the quarter-finals of the Betway UK Championship.

Yan set up a meeting on Saturday with Ding Junhui, who saw off Liang Wenbo 6-2. It will be the first time that two Chinese players have clashed in the semi-finals of a Triple Crown event.

Defeat for three-time UK Champion Higgins means that 12 of the world’s top 13 players have now been knocked out, with number seven Mark Allen the highest ranked left in the field.

Yan won his first ranking title earlier this season at the Riga Masters, becoming the first teenager to win a ranking event since Ding in 2006. He had never previously been beyond the last 32 of a Triple Crown event but, in what seems to be his breakthrough season, he is thriving this week on the big stage in York.

In fact Yan was far from his best today – his top break was just 43 – but he took advantage of numerous errors from Scotland’s Higgins.

Three scrappy frames before the interval all went Yan’s way – Higgins taking the other with a run of 78. The next two were shared then a 43 from Yan put him 5-2 ahead.

Higgins sparked into life with a 123 in frame eight and had a clear opportunity in the ninth, but only made 31 and his opponent punished him with 40 and 35 to clinch victory.

“This is one of my best ever wins, although neither of us played well,” said Yan. “It was very scrappy with lots of balls missed. I didn’t expect to beat Neil Robertson (in the previous round) or John Higgins. This gives me a lot of confidence. When I looked at the draw before the tournament I never thought I would go this far. I’m looking forward to playing Ding – we have never met before in a pro tournament and the first time will be in the semi-finals of the UK Championship. I hope it will be a good match.”

Higgins said: “When you play as badly as that it’s pretty soul destroying but I get used to it. Yan dealt with the conditions a lot better and he only took chances on which he was favourite to get. His safety was top notch, he had me in all sorts of bother. The best man certainly won. He’s got a great all round game. He maybe has to score a little bit better to get right to the very top of the game but I’m sure that will come. He’s a lovely young boy as well, fair play to him.”

Ding Back On Track

Ding outplayed Liang in a Chinese derby to reach his first UK Championship semi-final since he won the the title for the second time in 2009.

It has been a barren two years for Ding since he won his 13th ranking title at the 2017 Yushan World Open – this is his first ranking event semi-final for 22 months. He has become a father for the first time during that period which has undoubtedly affected his priorities in life and form on that table. But the 32-year-old has shown signs this week of a return to his best.

Breaks of 79 and 101 helped give him a 4-1 lead over Liang. A 33 clearance gave Liang frame six, but Ding hit back to win the seventh then sealed the result in the eighth with a run of 76.

“I’m very pleased with the way I played,” said Ding. “I’m just trying to learn. Everyone is different at finding the best way to deal with the pressure. I don’t get upset or think negative thoughts, I just play the simple shots, play everything the same.

“If you don’t wake up and feel good it’s tough, but sometimes you feel very good. I just want to play like I did today, that was enough for me.

“Yan has talent and he is flying up the rankings. He has won a tournament already this season so he must be very confident. I think he’s ready for the top level.”

Liang’s hopes of a Masters place are now gone, but Yan still has a chance if he can reach the final.

The match I watched was Yan BIngtao v John Higgins and I’m very pleased with the outcome. It is true that John Higgins was nowhere near his best, but Yan’s safety game, and mature approach of the match were exceptional, especially for someone so young. To beat John Higgins without a single break over 50, but outplaying him in the tactical department is remarkable.

Evening session:

Nigel Bond’s brilliant run at the Betway UK Championship came to an end at the quarter-final stage as he lost an exciting battle against Mark Allen 6-5.

Bond had knocked out the likes of Judd Trump and Gary Wilson and looked like he might extend his run when he led 3-1. But Allen fought back for victory and he’s just one win away from his third UK final, having been runner-up in York in 2011 and 2018. On Saturday evening he’ll face Stephen Maguire, who scored a 6-4 win over Matthew Stevens.

Northern Ireland’s Allen, the highest ranked player left in the field at seventh in the world, is aiming for his second Triple Crown title having won the Masters last year.

But his hopes looked to be fading tonight as 54-year-old Bond took a 3-1 interval advantage with a top break of 74. Allen stepped up a gear to win the next three frames with top runs of 89 and 98 to lead 4-3. Bond won the eighth with a run of 87 then Allen regained the lead with a 69.

A scrappy tenth frame went Bond’s way to make it 5-5, but a safety error from the Englishman early in the decider let Allen in for a run of 69. Bond battled for snookers, but when he missed a tough blue after potting the penultimate red he offered the handshake.

“I was very edgy all day, it’s not often you are big favourite to win a match at this stage of a major tournament,” said 33-year-old Allen. “I didn’t handle it well and I nearly became another notch on Nigel’s belt. I’m very proud of the way I played from 3-1 down. I hit some balls during the interval to try to get some rhythm  and after that I played better. In the last frame I felt very calm.

“When I play Stephen Maguire we will be trying to batter each other off the table. We will both go for our shots because we don’t know any other way.”

‘Angry’ Maguire Comes Good

Maguire’s aggressive style of play paid off as he came from 4-3 down to win the last three frames against Stevens.

Glasgow’s Maguire won this title in 2004 and has since reached the final in 2007 and the semi-finals on four other occasions, but is yet to hold the trophy again. He is targeting his first ranking title since 2013.

A break of 135 put him 3-2 up tonight before Welshman Stevens stole frame six with a 60 clearance and the seventh by doubling the final blue to a centre pocket. But 2003 UK Champion Stevens scored just nine points in the last three frames as Maguire knocked in runs of 123, 83 and 66.

“At 4-3 down I decided to go for my shots because I was getting dismantled, losing all the close frames,” said 38-year-old Maguire. “I was angry because I gifted him a couple of frames. I would rather go out swinging. If the shots I had gone for didn’t go in I could have lost 6-3.

“I’m just going to attack now. My safety isn’t as good as some of the other players so it’s better for me to try to make matches into a scoring battle.

“Mark Allen is tough, gritty, he scores fast and he can grind frames out. He’s in the top eight for a reason. I have lost a few semi-finals here so I’m determined to reach the final this time.”

Maguire is now sure of a place at the Dafabet Masters, while Stevens is out of the running. If Yan Bingtao reaches the final in York he’ll be among the top 16, otherwise it will be Joe Perry at Alexandra Palace next month.

I watched the Allen v Bond match up to 3-3. By then it was past midnight where I am. Nigel Bond lost eventually but what he achieved here, in York, is truly remarkable.

In fact both matches showed one thing: in an era where it seems it’s all about centuries and big breaks, tactical, methodical players can still win, derail their opponents by breaking their rhythm and propose a different style of game that’s just as enjoyable! (*)

Thank you Nigel. You’re a Legend, and an example for every aspiring professional.

As for today, I expect Ding to beat Yan, mainly on experience and scoring power. After watching yesteday’s match, I believe that Stephen Maguire has a good chance to beat Mark Allen who doesn’t seem to handle pressure so well when being the favourite.

Ronnie is back to the ES studio today.

(*) If I’m honest, when I first got interested in snooker, I didn’t understand that side of the game, so I didn’t understand it. It takes time and knowledge of less immediately obvious aspects of the game.

York Barbican – Day 9 at the 2019 UK Championship

This is not the UK Championship … it’s the Resurrection Championship.

Yesterday saw wins for Nigel Bond, Ding Junhui and Matthew Stevens as well as the exits of Ronnie and Mark Selby.

Nigel Bond, allegedly well past his prime, having taken the scalp of the World Champion in the previous round, beat Gary Wilson by 6-5 from 5-2 down. Gary who was semi finalist at the Crucible last April had looked extremely strong this week… until mid match yesterday. It didn’t go down well with Gary. Remarkably, Nigel Bond, at 54, has become the oldest UK Championship quarter-finalist in 39 years. Fred Davis was 67 when he reached the last eight in 1980 (source David Hendon on twitter)

Matthew Stevens who has gone missing for years now, all of a sudden looks like the player he was in the early 2000th again.

This is the clearance he made to force a decider

Ding had looked unhappy, dispirited and demotivated for the best part of the last two seasons, and here he is, playing the marvellous brand of snooker we know he can … at the expense of Ronnie. Ronnie had no complaints. He probably played better than most who are still in the tournament, but Ding outplayed him in large part of their match, exploiting Ronnie’s current weakness, his unreliable long potting.

You can read all about the Ding v Ronnie match here

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session:

Ronnie O’Sullivan was beaten at the Betway UK Championship for the first time since 2016 as he lost 6-4 in a high quality match against Ding Junhui in the last 16.

O’Sullivan has lifted the trophy seven times and was aiming for a third successive crown, but was second best today against an inspired Ding in York. The result means that the top four players in the world – O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Williams and Neil Robertson – have been knocked out before the quarter-finals.

Ding, who won this title in 2005 and 2009, goes through to the last eight to face Liang Wenbo in a Chinese derby. World number 16 Ding has had a disappointing run of form having not win a ranking title for over two years, but on today’s evidence looks to have regained his scoring prowess.

Breaks of 82, 51 and 110 put Ding 3-0 ahead before O’Sullivan pulled one back with a run of 78. Ding won the fifth but didn’t pot a ball in the next three frames as O’Sullivan fired 77, 107 and 124 to level at 4-4.

In frame nine, Ding led 60-0 when he missed a red to a top corner, but O’Sullivan’s reply ended at 16 when he missed a red himself, allowing his opponent to regain the lead. Ding made 45 in the tenth before missing a red to centre, but he soon got back in and added 37 for victory.

“I played well, about 90% of my best,” said 32-year-old Ding. “Ronnie didn’t pot many long balls so he left me chances. I knew I had to start well because he can switch it on at any time, score heavily and win frames. I played good safety. Hopefully I can remember this feeling and play like this in every match.

“I didn’t play many tournaments earlier in the season so I needed ranking points and that’s when the pressure comes. Everyone is looking at me expecting me to win.”

Ding’s mother died in 2017 so he has deep sympathy with Liang, who suffered the same misfortune last week. “He’s got a tough time now,” said Ding. “He is very brave to keep playing and winning. We all love to see him playing well again.

“I know how he feels.  (When it happened to me) my mind was here but my heart was back home. I think he’s the same. I’m sure he just wants to win matches for his mum.”

O’Sullivan, who turns 44 today, said: “I was happy to win four frames because that could have been a mauling. I had a couple of chances from 4-4 but I didn’t take them. I missed a few balls at vital times. Ding played a great match and deserved to win. He could win this but there are still so many good players.”

O’Sullivan will be back in action next week at the Scottish Open in Glasgow.

Bond – I’ll Die Another Day

Nigel Bond followed up his win over Judd Trump by coming from 5-2 down to beat Gary Wilson 6-5 – with the help of a monumental fluke in the deciding frame.

At the age of 54, when Bond meets Mark Allen on Friday he will become the oldest UK Championship quarter-finalist since Fred Davis who was 67 when he reached the last eight in 1980.

Wilson took the opening frame then Bond won a marathon 67-minute second before adding the third to lead 2-1. Breaks of 78 and 75 helped Wilson take the next four frames as he went 5-2 up.

World number 98 Bond won the eighth then made an 85 for 5-4. Wilson, a Crucible semi-finalist earlier this year, had a clear match-winning chance in the tenth but missed the black with one red remaining when he trailed by two points. Bond punished him to set up the decider.

The crucial moment came when Chesterfield’s Bond went for a long red to a top corner and missed his target, but the red hit another which drifted the diagonal length of the table and dropped into a baulk pocket. From that chance he made 66 which proved enough.

“When the fluke went in I thought it must be written in the stars,” said 1996 British Open champion Bond, whose last quarter-final appearance in this event came in 2003. “Gary went for a crazy plant at 5-2 and sometimes the balls don’t forgive you.  It was frustrating not to play as well as I did against Judd. Once I was 5-2 down I found a better rhythm.

“I’m proud to have been a pro for 31 years, I have never dropped off the tour or needed a wild card. The money I have earned here (£24,500 guaranteed) will help me stay on for longer. Moments like this are more special now.”

A fuming Wilson said: “The whole match was a joke, I had no form at all. Not just the fluke in the last frame, but every time he missed the balls finished awkward. It was pathetic. Nigel was snatching at every shot. He’s a great bloke but he got away with murder today. I had my chances though so I only have myself to blame.”

Evening session:

Two-time winner Mark Selby was knocked out of the Betway UK Championship, losing 6-5 to Matthew Stevens in a match which finished at 12.30am.

Selby couldn’t convert a 5-4 lead into victory and he follows the likes of Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams, Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy in dropping out before the quarter-finals.

Welshman Stevens, champion back in 2003, now faces Stephen Maguire, who saw off Michael White 6-4. The last time Stevens reached the last eight in York was 2012.

World number 43 Stevens led 3-1 at the interval with a top break of 54 then Selby hit back with three in a row, making runs of 51, 52 and 49, to lead 4-3. Stevens took the eighth with a break of 77 and had chances in the 51-minute ninth but couldn’t take them and Selby eventually got the better of a safety battle on the yellow and cleared to lead 5-4.

Selby looked in control of frame ten when he led 39-7 with four reds left, but Stevens cracked in an excellent long red and cleared with 45. The scrappy decider lasted 46 minutes, Stevens making breaks of 29 and 17 which gave him a lead to defend, and when he slotted in another fine long pot on the penultimate red he was able to add the points he needed.

“It wasn’t a pretty match,” admitted 42-year-old Stevens. “I was very lucky because Mark had chances to win 6-4.”

Maguire – He Should Have Killed Me Off

Scotland’s Maguire recovered a 4-2 deficit to win the last four frames against Welshman White. World number 14 Maguire won this title in 2004 and has since reached the quarter-finals a further ten times.

The Glaswegian has already won two titles this season – the invitational Six Red World Championship and the World Cup alongside John Higgins. He is now chasing his first ranking title since 2013.

White fired breaks of 104, 115 and 91 in taking a 4-2 lead. Maguire took a scrappy seventh frame then made a 56 in the next to level at 4-4. In the ninth he cleared with 41 to force a respotted black then potted it after a safety error from his opponent. That proved vital as Maguire clinched victory in the tenth with a break of 116.

“From 4-2 he should have killed me off, he had chances,” admitted 38-year-old Maguire. “I was nicking frames. Michael will feel he has missed the boat tonight. All the matters for me is the win. I didn’t play well but I can improve tomorrow.”

Quarter-Final Line-Up

Ding Junhui v Liang Wenbo
John Higgins v Yan Bingtao
Stephen Maguire v Matthew Stevens
Mark Allen v Nigel Bond

If Ding can maintain the level he played at yesterday, he has to be the favourite for the title come Sunday and if Yan Bingtao plays the way he did to beat Neil Robertson, he should also beat John Higgins who has progressed without being convincing.

Ding’s match v Liang Wenbo may prove difficult psychologically. Ding has gone through exactly the same ordeal as Liang. He too lost his mother when she was in her 50th. He probably feels a lot of empathy and sympathy for his opponent. He will have to block that out. Liang has shown outstanding courage this week, he was very emotional after his last match. How much has it taken out of him? What has he left in the tank? It’s hard to know.

The Maguire v Stevens match is hard to call – it should be close. Finally, the way things have gone when Agent 00147 was on a mission this week, I’ll abstain from predicting anything about the Allen v Bond match.

 

UK Championship 2019 – Ronnie’s defence comes to an end at the hands of Ding Junhui in the last 16.

Ding Junhui put an end to Ronnie’s hopes for a 8th UK Championship title, a possible 3th in a row, and a 37th ranking title as he beat him in the last 16 round. All four top seeds have now left the tournament.

It was a very high quality match:

UKC2019ROSL16Scores

Ding was the best player today and totally deserved the win. He started very strongly by winning the first three frames, denying Ronnie a single point! At that point, I have to admit, I was fearing that Ronnie would suffer the same kind of complete drubbing that Neil Robertson suffered yesterday at the hands of Yan Bingtao. Ronnie however managed to punish a rare mistake by Ding to go to the interval “only” 3-1 down. Ding won the first after the MSI and things looked very dire for Ronnie. But he did respond well, and managed to get back to 4-4 with two centuries. Ding didn’t surrender – as he had done only too often in the recent years – he hit back, and fully exploited the most obvious weakness in Ronnie’s game currently: his long potting.

Ronnie stuck to his game plan, attack, and took a few very risky shots. He got a fair share of them but he last one – a very tricky pink in the middle pocket that he missed – proved to be his last. After the match, Ronnie was very gracious and smiling. He likes Ding and has a lot of respect for him.

For the neutral it was an excellent match, and, as a snooker fan, I’m very happy to see Ding playing so well again, enjoying his snooker and smiling. He’s a beautiful player. I wouldn’t mind if he won the title come Sunday.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker:

Ronnie O’Sullivan was beaten at the Betway UK Championship for the first time since 2016 as he lost 6-4 in a high quality match against Ding Junhui in the last 16.

O’Sullivan has lifted the trophy seven times and was aiming for a third successive crown, but was second best today against an inspired Ding in York. The result means that the top four players in the world – O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Williams and Neil Robertson – have been knocked out before the quarter-finals.

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Ding, who won this title in 2005 and 2009, goes through to the last eight to face Liang Wenbo in a Chinese derby. World number 16 Ding has had a disappointing run of form having not win a ranking title for over two years, but on today’s evidence looks to have regained his scoring prowess.

Breaks of 82, 51 and 110 put Ding 3-0 ahead before O’Sullivan pulled one back with a run of 78. Ding won the fifth but didn’t pot a ball in the next three frames as O’Sullivan fired 77, 107 and 124 to level at 4-4.

In frame nine, Ding led 60-0 when he missed a red to a top corner, but O’Sullivan’s reply ended at 16 when he missed a red himself, allowing his opponent to regain the lead. Ding made 45 in the tenth before missing a red to centre, but he soon got back in and added 37 for victory.

“I played well, about 90% of my best,” said 32-year-old Ding. “Ronnie didn’t pot many long balls so he left me chances. I knew I had to start well because he can switch it on at any time, score heavily and win frames. I played good safety. Hopefully I can remember this feeling and play like this in every match.

“I didn’t play many tournaments earlier in the season so I needed ranking points and that’s when the pressure comes. Everyone is looking at me expecting me to win.”

Ding’s mother died in 2017 so he has deep sympathy with Liang, who suffered the same misfortune last week. “He’s got a tough time now,” said Ding. “He is very brave to keep playing and winning. We all love to see him playing well again.

“I know how he feels.  (When it happened to me) my mind was here but my heart was back home. I think he’s the same. I’m sure he just wants to win matches for his mum.”

O’Sullivan, who turns 44 today, said: “I was happy to win four frames because that could have been a mauling. I had a couple of chances from 4-4 but I didn’t take them. I missed a few balls at vital times. Ding played a great match and deserved to win. He could win this but there are still so many good players.”

O’Sullivan will be back in action next week at the Scottish Open in Glasgow.

Here is the match as well as both players interviews with BBC at the end of it:

Big thanks to Tai Chengzhe for those very nice pictures