On Day 7 at the 2020 Crucible

Only one last 16 match has concluded and we already have a surprise! I won’t say a “shock” because there are no “shocks” nowadays, as the level down the rankings is far better than it once was and because of the unusual circumstances. I hate the word “shock” anyway…

Kurt Maflin, the qualifier from Norway, has beaten John Higgins by 13-11 from 10-11 down, and he did so with breaks of 80, 75 and 63 in the last three frames. Earlier in the match John Higgins had scored a maximum break, his 10th, but his first at the Crucible.

Here are WST accounts on that match:

John Higgins’ maximum

John Higgins composed the tenth maximum 147 break of his career in his second round Betfred World Championship tie against Kurt Maflin.

The run came in the 12th frame this morning and puts the Scot in line for a £40,000 bonus for the maximum, as well as the £15,000 high break prize.

It’s the first time Higgins has made a 147 at the Crucible and he becomes the seventh player to achieve the feat. Higgins’ perfect break is the first to be made at the Crucible since Stephen Hendry’s contribution against Stuart Bingham in 2012. It’s the 11th in total to have been made at the Theatre of Dreams.

The 45-year-old becomes the oldest ever player to make an official maximum break, beating previous record holder Mark Davis.

It’s the sixth 147 of the season, and 157th in snooker history.

Prior to the event Higgins predicted there would be a 147 and stated that this year’s tournament could be the best ever in terms of standard.

Higgins said: “This will probably surpass any tournament with the standard you will see. Everybody will be giving it everything for a month solid and put the tough hours in. Everybody will be hungry, there will be nobody tired or jaded. They will all be going in firing on all cylinders. I really think it could be the best tournament standard-wise. Even though we might not have the crowd, I think it could be the best.

“Everything involved adds up to that. Mentally people will be giving it extra, because the event could have been taken away from them. Everyone will be sharp as a tack. It could break all the records in terms of centuries. I definitely think there will be a maximum break. There are only a select few players that have made one at the Crucible before. I think the whole situation and the crowd gets on top of you normally at the Crucible. I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t one or maybe even two this year.”

Crucible Maximums

  • Cliff Thorburn – 1983 World Championship
  • Jimmy White – 1992 World Championship
  • Stephen Hendry – 1995 World Championship
  • Ronnie O’Sullivan – 1997 World Championship
  • Ronnie O’Sullivan – 2003 World Championship
  • Mark Williams – 2005 World Championship
  • Ronnie O’Sullivan – 2008 World Championship
  • Ali Carter – 2008 World Championship
  • Stephen Hendry – 2009 World Championship
  • Stephen Hendry – 2012 World Championship
  • John Higgins – 2020 World Championship

You can watch it here:

Higgins and Maflin finished the morning session all square

John Higgins came from 7-4 down to level at 8-8 with Kurt Maflin going into the final session of their Betfred World Championship second round match.

A fabulous session at the Crucible saw Higgins become the first player to make a 147 at the Crucible since 2012, and set up a blockbuster conclusion to the last 16 tie tonight. Qualifier Maflin has been ahead for most of the match but can’t shake off a determined opponent. First to 13 frames goes through to the quarter-finals.

The first two frames today were shared, then Norway’s Maflin made a break of 97 to lead 7-4. Scotland’s Higgins made his perfect break in frame 12, potting 15 reds with blacks and clearing the colours to make it 7-5 at the interval.

In frame 13, Higgins made a trademark 55 clearance to pull within one frame, before Maflin gave himself daylight again with a run of 81 for 8-6. Four-time Crucible king Higgins, who has lost in the last three finals, made a 71 to take frame 15.

In the last frame of the session, Maflin led 66-8, but could only sit in his chair as Higgins knocked in a long red to initiate a brilliant  63 clearance, highlighted by a superb pot on the last red to a baulk corner. They resume at 7pm.

On the other table, Noppon Saengkham came from 3-1 down to lead Mark Selby 5-3 at the end of their first session. Thailand’s Saengkham knocked out Shaun Murphy in the first round and has his sights set on another major scalp.

After losing the first frame, three-time World Champion Selby knocked in breaks of 84, 70 and 201 to lead 3-1. But the tide turned after the interval as Saengkham fired 76, 122 and 64 to go 4-3 up. Selby led 48-11 in the last frame of the session, only for Saengkham to clear with 50. They resume at 7pm for eight more frames.

But Maflin prevailed eventually in the evening.

Kurt Maflin won a classic second round match 13-11 to make it a bittersweet day for John Higgins at the Betfred World Championship.

Earlier in the day, Higgins earned a piece of Crucible history as he became only the seventh player to make a 147 at the famous venue, and the first since 2012. But the Scot admitted afterwards he would have gladly swapped the maximum for a place in the quarter-finals, having suffered a surprise defeat to Norway’s Maflin.

Four-time champion Higgins has been in the final in each of the last three years, but this time faces an early trip home having been outplayed in the closing stages of a thrilling contest.

World number 43 Maflin had never won a match at the Crucible before this week, but has now knocked out David Gilbert and fifth seed Higgins to book a meeting with Anthony McGill or Jamie Clarke in the last eight. One of those three qualifiers will be in the semi-finals.

Maflin dominated the first two frames of tonight’s final session to go 10-8 ahead, and he led 43-0 in the next, only for Higgins to take it with an excellent 78 clearance. Wishaw’s Higgins won the next two to lead 11-10, but that sparked a Maflin revival as he knocked in runs of 80 and 75 to go 12-11 ahead.

In frame 24, Maflin made 63 before missing a tricky red to a centre pocket. Higgins had a chance to counter but made just 7 before rattling a red in the jaws of a top corner. A safety exchange ended with a Higgins error and Maflin added 29 points for victory.

“It was a really good, hard fought, entertaining game,” said 36-year-old Maflin. “I enjoyed it, it had everything and it was a high standard. It was great to be involved in.

“At the interval I spoke to my dad and he told me to speed up because I was taking too long over shots. He said I’m good enough and I should go for my shots and keep focused. John made it so tough, I gave it everything in the locker. I was running out of gas at 11-10 down but the reserve tank kicked in.

“It feels brilliant. My wife and kids will be proud of the fact that I’m in the quarter-finals. It makes it worth all the sacrifices. I’m ready to play again.”

Higgins said: “Kurt played amazing, to finish it the way he did. He bulldozed his way over the line. I’m disappointed because I had a chance at 11-10. When I come away from the tournament I will reflect on the 147, but at the moment I’d swap that for a place in the quarter-finals.”

Meanwhile, three-time champion Mark Selby came from 5-3 down to level at 8-8 against Noppon Saengkham in their second session. They play to a finish on Friday from 2.30pm.

Leicester’s Selby made a flying start to the session as breaks of 76, 55 and 120 gave him the first three frames and put him 6-5 up. But he didn’t pot a ball in the next two frames as Thailand’s Saengkham took them with runs of 74 and 43.

Selby levelled at 7-7 with an 81 before Saengkham regained the lead with a 105. The final frame of the session was settled when Selby knocked in a cracking long pot on the last red, to square the match overnight.

I highlighted the part above in bold because, quite often, when a player is struggling you read comments from fans “advising” them to play slower and more conservatively. Over all the years I’ve been watching snooker I’ve formed an opinion that this is NOT helpful in the vast majority of situations. I leads to overthinking, loss of rhythm and increased anxiety. Kurt’s dad advice was the right one.

Mark Selby and Noppon Saemgkham are locked at 8-8 after two sessions. Short accounts on this match are also included in the above WST accounts. Mark Williams and Stuart Bingham are also all square at 8-8. Neither is playing well.

Finally, Yan Bingtao leads Judd Trump by 5-3 after their first session and here is WST report:

Judd Trump will need a second round fight-back if he is to continue the defence of his Betfred World Championship crown as he is 5-3 down against Yan Bingtao after the first session of their best-of-25 tie.

Trump is aiming to break the Curse of the Crucible as no first-time winner has retained the title the following year, but he’ll have to win ten of the last 17 frames against Chinese ace Yan to reach the quarter-finals.

At the age of 20 years and six months, Yan would become the youngest ever World Champion if he goes all the way to the trophy, a record currently held by Stephen Hendry who was 21 years and four months when he won his first title in 1990.

A scrappy opening frame lasted 38 minutes and went Trump’s way, before Yan levelled with a superb break of 133. Trump regained the lead and made a 65 in the fourth, but his opponent clawed his way back into the frame and eventually won it by clearing from the last red for 2-2.

Yan reeled off three frames in a row after the interval with runs of 91, 42 and 93 to lead 5-2. In the last of the session, Yan had a chance to clear, but missed the brown off the last red when he trailed 67-37. A relieved Trump took advantage to reduce his arrears. They return at 10am on Friday for eight more frames.

On the other table, former champions Mark Williams and Stuart Bingham finished tied 8-8 at the end of their second session. They are back on the baize at 10am on Friday to play to a finish.

Williams led 5-3 overnight and took the first frame today on the colours. Bingham won frame ten with a run of 115 the pinched the next two with late clearances, before making a 76 in the 13th to hit the front at 7-6.

In the 14th it was Williams’ turn to make an important clearance as he squared the match, and the Welshman took the next to lead 8-7. He could have stolen the 16th as well but missed a tricky final green. After a brief safety exchange, Bingham converted a thumping long pot on the brown and added blue and pink to leave the contest in the balance.

It’s fair to say that at 5-2 down Judd Trump looked very uneasy, slumped in his chair. The commentators seem to systematically under-rate Yan just because he’s not what they expect from a 20 years old and because they struggle to “categorise” him. They like to put players in “boxes”; A is fast and attacking, B is a methodical all-rounder, C is “the best with the rest”, etc… They struggle to find a fitting box for Yan and apparantly it annoys them big time! “I don’t know what he is” … in the words of Stephen Hendry. Well, he’s Yan, and he’s the best young prospect our sport has at this point in time.


8 thoughts on “On Day 7 at the 2020 Crucible

  1. Unfortunately Yan just seems to have collapsed and that, I’m afraid, is part of the reason why he is not held in higher esteem. As to good finals, it is obviously a question of taste, but I don’t find it enjoyable that whomever he plays, I only want the guy to miss, so nott a single match played by Trump is good for me. Even if he plays Ronni, it’s a pain to watch. 😦

  2. Despite the fact that Stephen Hendry has played practice matches against Yan Bingtao, he still keeps this line about being ‘unable to work him out’. For me it’s quite simple: when he plays the big matches on the main table, he’s still not comfortable, so is constantly fighting his instincts, which results in inconsistent decisions and generally a negative approach. Maybe by the time he’s 21 or 22 he’ll have enough confidence to play the more positive game which he is capable of.

  3. Only one thing interests me, is Trump going out 🤣. Btw he looks ill and has lost weight. Maybe has had Covid-19.

    • I doubt it Ivan… He was always very thin, and never looks well when things don’t go his way at the table. To me he looked anxious and upset.

    • Seconded, Ivan, in the top half I only care about Trump losing. Hope he doesn’t have COVID-19 and won’t start infecting everyone else around. And yes, I enjoy watching Maflin for example (where was he until now?), but I hate the idea that all the upsets only make Trump’s draw easier. The sooner he is out the more enjoyable it will become.

      • Well, after the demise of Higgins, the top half of the draw has collapsed to the extent we are looking at one of Trump, Yan, Gould, Wilson, Maflin, Clarke or McGill in the final. If you want the final to be a good match, then it does lean towards Trump. Possibly Wilson might make a good fight of it, but we haven’t seen him yet. We’ve seen many times that Trump can play poorly in early rounds and recover, so long as he doesn’t actually lose. It’s far too early to write him off after just one poor session, which he only lost 5-3.

      • I think Maflin could be a contender this year. Of course, if he reaches the final, he might be overwhelmed. But without a crowd, I expect him to get over that rather quickly.

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