On Day 3 at the 2020 Crucible

Day 3 at the Crucible saw Ronnie build a 8-1 lead over Thepchaiya Un-Nooh

They resume their match this morning (Sheffield time).

Other than that here are WST reports on the action yesterday

Afternoon session:

John Higgins may have lost the last three Betfred World Championship finals, but he has not given up hope of a fifth title and started his 2020 campaign strongly with a 10-5 defeat of Matthew Stevens.

Higgins is making his 26th consecutive appearance at the Crucible but his hunger for success remains strong. The Scot can now look forward to a second round tie against either David Gilbert – who he beat in the semi-finals last year – or Kurt Maflin.

World number five Higgins was runner-up to Judd Trump last year, to Mark Williams in 2018 and to Mark Selby in 2017. In all he has appeared in eight finals in Sheffield – only Stephen Hendry has played in more.

Welshman Stevens trailed 6-3 overnight but made a strong start today with a 138 total clearance. Higgins took two of the next three to lead 8-5 then crucially snatched a 32-minute 14th frame by clearing the colours. He made a 53 in the next as he sealed his spot in round two.

“When it went 6-4 I was thinking I just wanted to win one frame to be 7-6 ahead at the interval,” said 45-year-old Higgins. “So to nick two and be 8-5 ahead was massive.

“To come to the Crucible after all these years and walk out with no fans there – it’s not nice. But it’s still the Crucible and I was still on edge. I fell sorry for the debutants because they will not experience what it is like when it’s packed.

“In the big events so far this season I have let myself down. I am coming here a big underdog, but for the past month I have put a lot of work in and felt as if I have been hitting the ball pretty well. A couple of months ago I didn’t even think this tournament would happen so it is brilliant to be involved.

“I have got a chance. I have been through it all and I know what it takes. I’ll be ready for the next game.”

Evening session:

Neil Robertson believes that the unique Crucible atmosphere can still inspire him, despite the lack of crowd, as he reached the second round of the Betfred World Championship with a 10-5 win over Liang Wenbo .

World number two Robertson was pushed hard by his Chinese opponent for much of the contest, but grew stronger at the business end as he set up a meeting with Barry Hawkins or Alexander Ursenbacher in the last 16.

Surprisingly for a player of his calibre, Robertson has not reached the Crucible final since he won the title in 2010, and in fact has been knocked out in the first round four times in that period. This time the event is played behind closed doors, but Robertson still hopes to draw inspiration from his surroundings.

After an excellent season which has seen him lift trophies at the Champion of Champions, European Masters and Players Championship, he is in good enough form for a tilt at the title.

Liang won the opening frame today with a break of 82 to draw level at 5-5, only for Robertson to fire runs of 97 and 89 for 7-5. Frame 13 came down to the last red and Liang missed a tough pot to a top corner when leading 61-40, handing his opponent the chance to extend his lead to three frames at the interval.

That effectively ended Liang’s resistance, as Robertson was able to take the last two frames with a top run of 50 to complete the scoreline.

“Without a crowd it’s all about who plays the best snooker,” said Australia’s 38-year-old Robertson. “But the Crucible still creates a different atmosphere, you are still walking down the stairs, the seats and the dividing wall are still there, the lights are coming down. So it still feels great being out there, it’s just unfortunate that there’s no crowd. The applause when a player makes a century or wins a frame is a nice touch.

“When the draw came out I was hoping to get one of the debutants because they are not used to the Crucible. So to get Liang was up there with the toughest draws. He made an unbelievable break to go 5-5 and I was wondering how I was going to shake him off.  I missed a couple then he started to get nervy and miss a few which helped me out. I pinched really important frames at key moments, especially the one to go 8-5 ahead.

“It’s disappointing that I haven’t been back to the final since 2010. I have won so many big tournaments since over a long distance. It is something I have to address, I spoke to Joe Perry about it. Look at John Higgins, he has sessions which he should lose 6-2 and he gets out of them 4-4, while I’ve had 4-4 sessions which I should have won 6-2. Tightening up my safety a bit and making sure I am playing the right shot all the time will make a difference. I have worked a lot on my fitness and I felt fantastic tonight. I wish I had done that a few years ago.”

Late evening:

Norwegian Kurt Maflin secured his first ever match win at the Crucible, after edging out David Gilbert 10-8 in a thrilling first round clash at the Betfred World Championship.

Maflin became Norway’s first and only Crucible competitor so far in 2015. On that occasion he lost a nerve shredding encounter with Mark Selby 10-9. He sealed his return to the Theatre of Dreams for the first time since then at the recent qualifying event, thrashing Matthew Selt 10-1 in the final round.

For the second consecutive year, Gilbert leaves Sheffield after a heartbreaking loss. He went on a superb run to the semi-finals in 2019, but succumbed to a gut-wrenching 17-16 defeat against John Higgins.

It was Maflin who held a narrow 5-4 lead after yesterday’s opening session. He doubled his advantage when he fired in a century run of 102 in tonight’s opening frame. Gilbert hit back with breaks of 102 and 93, before taking the 13th frame to lead 7-6 at the mid-session interval.

Maflin restored parity when they returned, but Gilbert claimed a dramatic 15th frame on the pink to lead 8-7. World number 43 Maflin refused to wilt and embarked on a superb 147 attempt. Having potted 13 reds with blacks, he failed to get good position on the next red. He potted it, but clipped the yellow and broke down on 105.

Maflin recovered from the disappointment of missing out on the maximum by moving one from victory with a contribution 63 which made it 9-8.

Gilbert had looked favourite to force a decider, but spurned two opportunities on the final red. The second of those misses left the balls at Maflin’s mercy and he cleared to the pink and booked a second round clash with John Higgins.

Maflin said: “I felt like I played pretty well and pretty solid. I feel like I could have beat Dave 10-6 or something and I made it a little bit hard for myself. It meant a lot as I think I have grown a little bit as a snooker player. My all round game is getting stronger, I feel like I can mix it up with anyone now.

“I think this result will take off in Norway in terms of social media. I have quite a big following and fanbase behind me. There are a lot of people interested and sending me good luck messages on Twitter. They are a real good bunch of people and I really appreciate all of the support I am getting from back home in Norway.

“Me and John are good pals. He is one of my favourite players to watch, you have to put him in the top four players of all-time easily. I can’t wait to get back out there in a couple of days and start again.”

It’s a bit weird that there is no mention at all about Yan Bingtao going 7-1 up on Elliot Slessor. Elliot Slessor probably didn’t start the championship in the best frame of mind, if this piece by Phil Haigh is anything to go by. Here is an excerpt:

‘I’ve always pictured me, my missus and my granddad, who come to all the tournaments with us and support us through thick and thin. Only being able to take one, I’m absolutely gutted, really.

‘It’s spoilt it a bit, for me, because I’ve always pictured how it would be, and now I’m just seeing it as another tournament.

‘Just play it and get out the way, it’s not how I pictured qualifying for the Crucible when I was younger. Hopefully I’ll qualify again and enjoy it and look forward to it a bit more.

‘It’s not that I’m not looking forward to it, but it has spoilt it, I thought I’d be buzzing and over the moon, but I’m not. It’s 100% taken the shine off. ‘I don’t really care about the crowd, it’s just those two, they’re the only two people in the world who mean the world to us.

‘I like a crowd there, but it could be 30 or 30,000, if the two people I want there in the right scenario aren’t there, it is gutting.

‘I’ve been with my missus for seven years, nearly eight, I’ve been thinking about this since I was a kid, but it is what it is. I play my game and if it’s not good enough I come home.’

After the session, Elliot came on Facebook and posted this:

Elliot Slessor reaction after bad session 3/8/2020

Hopefully, he gives a better account of himself today.

They introduced “canned applause” yesterday and people’s opinions on them are divided. Ronnie looked totally nonplussed the first time he heard them. Personally, I would get rid of them asap. There is no crowd. It sounds weird and totally artificial, a bit like the laughers in “Friends” … like telling the viewers in front of their television or screen “Now is your time to laugh/applaud”.

Other than Ronnie’s match, I didn’t see much of the action. From the little I saw, Liang Wenbo got very nervous in the second session. Neil was playing well but Liang got opportunities; he didn’t take them.