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