On Day 5 at the 2020 Crucible

Yesterday was the most dramatic day at the Crucible this year so far, with Shaun Murphy and Mark Allen departing, and Stephen Maguire in serious danger to follow them out of the Championship.

Here are the reports by WST:

Noppon Saengkham beats Shaun Murphy by 10-4 (morning session)

Shaun Murphy became the biggest shock casualty of the first round of the Betfred World Championship so far as he lost 10-4 to world number 42 Noppon Saengkham.

Defeat extends Murphy’s poor run of results at the Crucible in recent years as he has now lost in the opening round in three of his last five appearances, and in the second round on the other two occasions.

Overall it has been a fine season for the world number ten – he has won two ranking events in a single campaign for the first time in his career – but the enforced break caused by lockdown ended his momentum and he lacked sharpness throughout this contest.

Thailand’s Saengkham was a semi-finalist at two ranking events in 2018, but to beat a former World Champion at the Crucible is undoubtedly the best win of his career. The 28-year-old from Samut Prakan goes through to the last 16 to face Mark Selby or Jordan Brown.

It may have been a best-of-19 but a turning point came as early as the second frame when Murphy, leading 1-0, missed a straight-forward red on a break of 67 and his opponent punished him with a fine clearance. That set the tone for the match as former world under-21 champion Saengkham pounced on Murphy’s errors.

The Thai led 6-3 overnight and took the first two frames today with breaks of 53 and 63. He had a chance in the next as well but missed a tricky red to centre on 52 and Murphy made a 46 clearance for 8-4.

But that did not spark a fight-back, as Saengkham recovered to take frame 13 with a run of 60 to lead 9-4 at the interval, and he soon wrapped up victory with a run of 76 in frame 14.

“The is the biggest win of my life, it is my dream,” said Saengkham, the third Thai player after James Wattana and Dechawat Poomjaeng to win a match at the Crucible. “I am surprised. I couldn’t sleep last night because I was 6-3 up. I went to sleep at 1am and woke up at 5am. I still can’t believe I beat him. I just tried to concentrate on every shot, just focusing on the table.

“I thought about the people in Thailand watching me, I hope they are happy and proud of me. I would like to play Mark Selby next, I will try my best.”

Murphy said: “That performance did come as a surprise to me as much as anyone, I didn’t see it coming. My preparation has been very good, I have put a lot of time in on the practice table. My form has been good this season with two titles and other finals, so this was a shock to me. But we are all human.

“I was very much below par across the whole match. Probably the worst two days of my snooker year came together at the worst possible time. But that aside, Noppon played very well, I can only heap praise on him. I made mistakes but that was because he put pressure on me and had me under it right from the word go.”

Murphy’s former manager and close friend Brandon Parker passed away last month but he refused to use that as an excuse for defeat. “I came here wanting to honour Brandon’s memory as well as I could,” added the 37-year-old.  “You dream of winning the title and dedicating it to him. But I would never dishonour him by saying that has caused me a problem. This is just a snooker tournament. I tried my absolute best, and I lost.”

Shaun Murphy doesn’t want to make excuses – he rarely does, if ever – but it’s likely that what happened in recent weeks has affected him. He said ” we are all human” and he wouldn’t be human if he was immune to the loss of a dear friend and mentor as well as to the complicate circumstances around Brandon’s funerals. That’s taking nothing away from Noppon’s merit. He played very well and stayed composed all along. He should be proud, and I’m certain that they are very proud of him at home as well.

Mark Allen lead Jamie Clarke by 5-4 at the end of the morning session

World number four Mark Allen holds a narrow 5-4 lead over Jamie Clarke after a scintillating session of snooker in their Betfred World Championship first round clash.

Allen fired a barrage of four centuries and is now just one away from equalling Ronnie O’Sullivan’s record for most in a best of 19 match at the Crucible. The Rocket made five in his first round clash with David Gray in 2000.

The Pistol came into this year’s event already in good form, having reached the final of the recent Tour Championship, where he was runner-up to Stephen Maguire.

World number 89 Clarke has more than held his own on his Crucible debut, having negotiated the qualifying stages to save his place on the circuit. He needed to come through three rounds at the English Institute of Sport to avoid relegation from the tour and reach the Theatre of Dreams.

This morning’s encounter got off to a blistering start. Northern Irishman Allen piled the pressure on Clarke, composing breaks of 136 and 105 to move into a 2-0 lead.

Welshman Clarke was undaunted and crafted a century run of his own with a superb 136 to cut his arrears in half. Clarke then needed three snookers in the fourth frame, but got them and clinched it on the black to make it 2-2 at the mid-session.

When they returned, Clarke pinched a second consecutive frame on the black to move ahead for the first time at 3-2. Allen responded swiftly and took to the front once more with back-to-back century breaks of 122 and 104. He then claimed the eighth frame on a re-spotted black to lead 5-3.

However, Clarke crucially clinched the final frame of the session to trail by just one heading into tonight’s conclusion. They return at 7pm.

But ended up beaten by 10-8 in the evening

Jamie Clarke made an astonishing Crucible debut by knocking out world number four Mark Allen, winning 10-8 in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

Allen made five centuries, tying the record for a first round match at the Crucible, set 20 years ago by Ronnie O’Sullivan. But he couldn’t shake off a determined opponent and it was Clarke who finished the match strongly to book a second round meeting with Anthony McGill.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for Clarke, who lost his first nine matches this season and came into the last tournament needing to make it to the Crucible just to keep his professional status. The world number 89 won three matches to make it through the qualifying rounds and has now scored a career-best result against former Masters champion Allen. The 25-year-old from Llanelli is guaranteed £30,000, by far his biggest pay day.

Before the qualifiers started he spent a week practising with Noppon Saengkham in Sheffield and that has clearly paid dividends as both players scored shock victories today – Saengkham knocking out Shaun Murphy.

For Northern Ireland’s Allen it’s a desperately disappointing end to a season in which he has reached  seven semi-finals but failed to add to his tally of titles. He has reached just one Crucible quarter-final in his last nine appearances.

Allen led 5-4 after the first session this morning  and started strongly tonight with a break of 105. Clarke pinched the next by clearing from yellow to black, then compiled runs of 53 and 80 to lead 7-6 at the interval. Frame 14 came down to the colours and Clarke enjoyed a huge stroke of good fortune as  he fluked the brown and added blue and pink for 8-6.

A run of 59 gave Allen frame 15 and he led 44-0 in the next, only for Clarke to make a superb 74 clearance. Five-time ranking event winner Allen made a 76 to close to 9-8, but couldn’t gain a foothold in frame 18. Clarke’s run of 48 put him in control, and when he converted a long plant with five reds left, he was able to add 12 points which proved enough.

“Never in a million years could I have dreamed of this,” said the Welshman. “I went into the qualifiers without a lot of confidence, just hoping to win one match. After that I got on a roll. I am in shock at the moment. I went out there today to enjoy every minute and I was loving the experience.

“Mark was playing well and I was just trying to hang on to him, until the end when I had a chance to win. I will keep the same attitude in the next round and my belief is growing.”

Allen said: “For a debutant, Jamie played out of his skin. With no crowd there it was difficult to put him under pressure. I made too many mistakes on the safety side.”

This match was reminiscent of the Ronnie O’Sullivan defeat to David Gray in the first round at the Crucible in 2000. Ronnie made five centuries in that match and three more 50+ breaks, but was still beaten by 10-9 by David Gray who did’nt score a century all match. Ronnie has spoken about this match a few times, and said that this match was a real shock to the system because it was the first time that he was beaten whilst knowing that he had played really well. Allen won’t say that he played really well despite the 5 centuriesthis year . He looked very nervous towards the end, and made too many mistakes. Many saw him as a real contender for the title and I think this weighted him down. He’s not the best under the pressure of others’ expectations. His record in the Northern Ireland Open is indicative of that.

As for Jamie Clarke, what a performance! He struggled for the best part of his two years as a rookie professional. As David Grace put it on Facebook “‪Jamie Clarke lost the final match to turn pro 5 or 6 times before he finally got his Tour card, now he’s in the Last 16 at the Crucible!”. Take a bow Jamie. Stephen Hendry was in the commentary box for the second session and I can’t remember him getting so “involved” in a match he was commenting on before. You could sense that he was “living” it with Jamie. Not that he ever “took side”, he remained neutral but he was clearly excited by what he was witnessing.

Of the other matches, I didn’t see much.

Martin Gould built a 7-2 lead over Stephen Maguire (afternoon session)

Martin Gould rattled in four centuries as he took a 7-2 lead over Stephen Maguire in the first session of their Betfred World Championship clash.

The pair came into this tournament with contrasting fortunes so far this season, as Gould was in danger of tour relegation while Maguire was on a high having won the Tour Championship. But Gould came through the qualifying rounds to secure his pro status and is now playing with freedom and confidence.

After sharing the first two frames, the former German Masters champion reeled off five in a row with breaks of 103, 77, 103, 100 and 83. Maguire took frame eight on the colours but Gould finished the session on top with another run of 103.

He became the second player today – after Mark Allen – to make four centuries in a session. Both are within one of equalling Ronnie O’Sullivan’s record of five tons in a best-of-19 match at the Crucible, set in 2000 against David Gray.

Londoner Gould needs three more frames when they resume on Wednesday evening to reach the last 16 in Sheffield for the third time.

Mark Selby beat Jordan Brown by 10-6 (afternoon session)

Three-time World Champion Mark Selby saw off Crucible debutant Jordan Brown 10-6 to book his place in the second round of the Betfred World Championship.

World number seven Selby has picked up two ranking titles this season, winning both the English and Scottish Opens to become the first player to win two Home Nations Series titles in a single campaign.

The 17-time ranking event winner will now face Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham in the second round. Saengkham recorded a shock 10-4 win over Shaun Murphy to reach the last 16. Selby will be hoping to progress and reach the quarter-finals for the first time since he last won the world title in 2017.

World number 73 Brown gave an impressive account of himself on his first trip to snooker’s Theatre of Dreams. Despite eventually succumbing to defeat, he can leave Sheffield in the knowledge that he has secured his professional status, which was under threat prior to last month’s qualifying event.

The tie was finely poised coming into this afternoon’s concluding session, with Selby holding a slender 5-4 advantage. Breaks of 50 and 65 saw Selby move 7-4 ahead in the early stages, but Antrim’s Brown refused to fade away. He claimed the next two frames to trail 7-6 at the mid-session.

When they returned, Selby claimed the next three on the bounce to clinch his 10-6 victory and a place in the second round.

“The first round is always the hardest to win. You are always really edgy and you don’t feel you are a part of the tournament until you get that out of the way,” said 37-year-old Selby. “It is very different this year. I still felt nervous at the start. That is just what the Crucible does to you. Whether there is a crowd or not, it is such a prestigious tournament, everyone wants to do well in it. You try that little bit harder than anywhere else.

“I suppose I was a little bit surprised that Noppon beat Shaun. There are no easy games anymore though. I’ve played Noppon a few times and he was fantastic. For the players, I don’t think it was that much of a shock. The viewers watching will obviously put it as a bigger one. Knowing how he can play, it doesn’t surprise me that much.

“I’ve been a bit in and out this season. I’ve had events back-to-back when I’ve not performed at all or looked like winning a tournament. I won two in quick succession and then I went back to not playing great again. That is down to how tough the standard is. Sometimes I haven’t played badly, I’ve just been beaten by the better player.”

For the little I saw, Mark Selby was well below his best, but of course, even then he’s always hard to beat.

Barry Hawkins leads Alex Ursenbacher by 7-2 (evening session)

Barry Hawkins opened up a dominant 7-2 lead over Alexander Ursenbacher after the first session of their Betfred World Championship opening round clash.

Hawkins boasts one of the most impressive Crucible records in the sport over recent years. Since 2013, he’s reached a final, four semi-finals and a quarter-final at snooker’s Theatre of Dreams.

Ursenbacher came through qualifying with a thrilling 10-8 win over Andrew Higginson to become the first Swiss player to reach the final stages of the World Championship.

With his very first shot at the Crucible, Ursenbacher fired in a tremendous long red and made 54 from it, as he claimed the opening frame.

However, from there Hawkins took complete control of the tie. Breaks of 70, 56, 57, 62 and 65 saw the world number 15 pull clear of his opponent and establish a 7-2 advantage.

They will return to play to a conclusion on Wednesday afternoon from 1pm.

Today we have only two sessions as the tables are recovered ahead of the second round.


2 thoughts on “On Day 5 at the 2020 Crucible

  1. That’s the problem with these upsets: it is fantastic to see the qualifiers do well and there are some who is enjoyable to watch, like Maflin or one is happy about, like Gould (although I do like Maguire), but it just makes the later rounds terrible with Trump having an easy route.

  2. Everything is so unpredictable. Nobody would have guessed the Murphy-Saengkham and Allen-Clarke results. The ‘form book’ can also be ripped up as the post-lockdown successes of Brecel, Woollaston, Allen, Maguire didn’t count for anything in the World Championship. Players like Jamie Clarke, Ash Carty and Martin Gould weren’t even expecting to be still on tour a couple of weeks ago.

    The top half of the draw has almost collapsed, and ought to be a straightforward path fro Judd Trump. The bottom half is intact (only Murphy is missing), with the top-8 seeds favourites in their last-16 matches. But really, I don’t know what to expect next…

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