Players Championship 2020 – Day 4

I’m not sure if there is something like “International Decider Day” (*) but if there is, it probably was yesterday. Both quarter finals played yesterday followed a similar pattern: one player, playing the better snooker, took a big lead, only to be pegged back to 5-5, before winning the decider. Here are the reports by WST:

Afternoon match: Maguire 6-5 Selby

Stephen Maguire booked his place in the semi-finals of the Coral Players Championship with a thrilling 6-5 win over Mark Selby in Southport.

The Scot, who was runner-up to Ding Junhui at the UK Championship earlier in the season, will face World Champion Judd Trump in his second ranking semi-final of the season. Today’s win is 2004 UK Champion Maguire’s first over Selby since the 2016 German Masters.

It puts him in a strong position to edge into the series finale at the Coral Tour Championship. Only the eight best players on this season’s one-year list will make it to Llandudno. Maguire occupies ninth position in the live rankings and trails compatriot John Higgins by just £6,500 with this week and the Gibraltar Open to go.

Despite today’s loss Selby is assured of his place in the North Wales event. The three-time World Champion sits comfortably in third position on the one-year list after victories at the English and Scottish Opens this season.

Maguire enjoyed an electric start to this afternoon’s encounter, breaks of 67 and 73 helped him to establish an early 3-0 advantage. Selby then bossed a tight tactical fourth frame to stay in touch at the mid-session at 3-1.

Maguire moved 4-1 ahead, before three on the bounce from the Jester from Leicester levelled things at 4-4. Maguire moved a frame from victory courtesy of a fine break of 79. However, Selby typically refused to throw in the towel, claiming the 10th frame to force a decider.

It was Maguire who provided the most telling contribution in the final frame, with a break of 53, which saw him secure the 6-5 win.

Maguire said: “I don’t know what it was like to watch, but it was tough to play in. I thought I had it. I was coasting at 4-1 up and then the wheels came off. Mark did what he does and just ground it out. Somehow I managed to fall over the line.

“Before I came down here, qualifying for Llandudno wasn’t on my mind at all. Now I am in the semis I think the money jump would take me in if I win. There is only Gibraltar left. Now it will be in the back of my mind for the next match, but it is a semi-final of a major tournament and that is more important.”

Stephen Maguire said that the wheels came off, but that’s not the full story. I was watching this and Mark Selby had so much run of the balls, or rather, Maguire had so much things going against him, that I expected the latter to lose his patience and start being reckless. It didn’t happen. He stayed patient and focused and, eventually, it paid off. It’s good to see and makes the Scot a very dangerous animal.

Evening match: Yan Bingtao 6-5 Perry

After a marathon four hours and 29 minutes of play, Yan Bingtao edged past Joe Perry on the final black to book his place in the semi-finals of the Coral Players Championship with a 6-5 win.

Talented 20-year-old Yan had looked set for a far more straightforward victory, when he led former Players Champion Perry 5-2. However, his nerves were apparent when he started to stumble at the finishing line, allowing Perry to claw his way back into the tie.

Chatteris cueman Perry stole the eighth frame on the black, before a break of 72 saw him ramp up the heat on his less experienced Chinese counterpart at 5-4. The Gentleman then levelled things up at 5-5 to set up an extraordinary decider.

The gruelling 58-minute frame had looked as if it was going Perry’s way, when Yan left the final pink over the yellow pocket. However, Perry surprisingly failed to acquire position on the last ball, as the contest came down to a black-ball fight. Eventually Yan deposited a gutsy pot to the green pocket to seal a nerve-shredding victory.

Yan will now face either Shaun Murphy or Mark Allen in what will be the seventh ranking semi-final of his career. He has enjoyed a fine campaign so far, which includes winning his maiden ranking title at the season opening Riga Masters.

Today’s victory sees Yan take a massive stride towards qualification for the series finale at the Coral Tour Championship. Only the top eight players on this season’s one-year list will progress to the elite Llandudno event. Yan currently sits in sixth position as things stand.

Perry still has an outside chance of snatching a Tour Championship place, but he will now need to win the upcoming Gibraltar Open and hope other results go his way. He is in a strong position to secure automatic qualification for the World Championship, sitting in 16thspot in the live world rankings.

Yan said: “I had too many thoughts in my head and it felt difficult to win even when I was two or three frames ahead. It happens to me a lot when I am facing a match winning opportunity, especially against top 16 players. I hope I can get rid of this problem in the future.

“I’m glad to play every match in this type of tournament, because I can play top players all of the time. They are stronger players and more experienced. I’m still not quite used to the one-table setup, because I get too nervous and think too much. I feel extra pressure when it comes to the key shots.”

Perry said: “I got myself into the game. The first six or seven frames are the worst I have played in years. I lost my temper and banged my cue. I apologised for that as I haven’t done it for a long time, but I was so frustrated. I got myself together, played a bit better and I should have won. I had the pink over one pocket and the black over another and I still didn’t win. I only have myself to blame.”

That’s two very honest post-match quotes from the players. Yan Bingtao still lacks a bit of self-confidence on the big stage; the final he lost to Mark Williams in Belfast in 2017 seems to have impacted his confidence quite severely at the time. But his game shows a lot of maturity and is similar to John Higgins game in many aspects. He’s very patient and ready to grind it out. He’s only just 20 but he has this in him. He’s also a flag-bearer for the youngest generation of Chinese players, the one who shows them they can win. He’s one of them, not a half god as Ding is.

(*) there seems to be “International Days” for about anything nowadays.

Whilst in Southport, David Hendon, Alan MacManus, Phil Yates and Neal Foulds gathered to produce this podcast:

They discuss Judd Trump and his chances to win the World Championship this season,  and the fate of the Class of 92.

Well worth listening!

David Hendon sensibly reminded the others that both times that the chips were really down earlier this season, at the UK and at the Masters, Trump lost early, meaning that with all the pressure on him at the Crucible, he might struggle.

Alan McManus refuses to write the class of 92 off, but explains that, at this stage of their career they might no more be willing to spend their lives on the road and in hotel rooms. That’s probably how himself feels as well…

One thought on “Players Championship 2020 – Day 4

  1. So a bit different from the Shoot-out then!

    Yes, Alan McManus is a brilliant analyst – the best. He is a bit rooted in his own generation, with reverence for some players. It will be interesting to see at what point in the future he’s willing to let go…

    Indeed, there were previews from all the pundits who seemed to be talking about the Joe Perry of a few years’ ago, not the inconsistent player he now is, sadly. I’ve seen several terrible performances by him. He can still play well sometimes, but two big back-to-back matches are a bit much to expect.

    Yan Bingtao does find it hard to score heavily in the big matches. He looked very tense throughout, and lost his touch on many positional shots. In the circumstances the 100 and 90 he made to lead 3-2 were great fighting efforts. But his tactical play in the last frame was the impressive thing, and that’s a big deal for a 20-year old. All these semi-final appearences will do him a huge amount of good, as will the TC.

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