On Day 12 at the 2020 Crucible

Yesterday was the last day of the quarter finals, and it was also the last of the two table setup. The fitters have been at work and today there will be just one table. That’s when the Crucible arena really delivers its unique atmosphere, although, this time, there will be no crowd to enjoy it… at least for the semi-finals.

This is the semi-finals line-up:

Kyren Wilson v Anthony McGill

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Selby

Just like last year, we still have a qualifier in the draw, this time it’s Anthony McGill.

How did we get here? Here are the reports by WST.

Mark Selby beat Neil Robertson by 13-7 (morning session)

Mark Selby wrapped up a 13-7 quarter-final win over Neil Robertson at the Betfred World Championship to move within two matches of a fourth Crucible crown.

The meeting of two former champions didn’t feature a single century break, but Selby produced a safety masterclass as he battled his way into the semi-finals for the first time since 2017. World number seven Selby will now face Mark Williams or Ronnie O’Sullivan on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. If he goes all the way to the trophy, the 37-year-old will join John Higgins on four Crucible titles.

Selby has recently started working with psychologist Chris Henry and is playing with renewed self-belief. Australia’s Robertson, by contrast, looked short of inspiration and his sequence of not reaching the final since his 2010 triumph goes on. He made just four breaks over 50 in the 20 frames.

Leicester’s Selby led 11-5 overnight and took the first frame today with a break of 91. Robertson came from 56-1 down to pinch the next, helped by a fluke on the penultimate red. Frame 19 came down to the colours and Robertson potted blue and pink to raise his hopes of a fight back at 12-7.

World number two Robertson was on a break of 53 in frame 20 when he missed the black off its spot. Selby made 14 then trapped his opponent in a tough snooker on the last red, and from the chance that followed he cleared with 33 to become the first man into the semi-finals.

“In the first two sessions I was near faultless in terms of my safety and my all round game,” said Selby after reaching the last four at the Crucible for the sixth time. “I was close to my best in that part of the game. I didn’t give Neil many chances. I can’t wait for the semis now, it seems a long time ago that I was last there.”

Asked about his decision to work with Henry,  Selby added: “I went through a spell of doubting myself because I was not winning tournaments. Before that I had got used to winning, and when I stopped I realised how hard the game can be. I knew my mindset was negative so I felt I needed to work with someone to deal with that. I have only been working with Chris for a month but it seems to be working.”

Robertson said: “Mark’s defensive safety was absolutely unbelievable. He didn’t let up and didn’t open up any of the frames. He got his gameplan absolutely spot on and kept it super tight. I just couldn’t get any free flowing scoring going at all. The balls were very scrappy.

That was one of the best safety performances I’ve ever put in, but playing Mark I probably should have spotted the danger signs a little bit earlier and maybe opened things up more.

“You have to try and work out how not to be broken down. In football, when a team puts ten men behind the ball and camps in their box, you need to find answers for that. I probably played 35 frame winning safety shots against Mark and Barry (Hawkins) and both of them kept finding escapes and playing unbelievable safety shots in return.”

The part I put in bold is key. At times yesterday Neil was on nearly 30 seconds AST.  He got dragged into playing a game that’s not his and that rarely works no matter how good the player.

Kyren Wilson beat Judd Trump by 13-9 (afternoon session)

Judd Trump became the latest victim of the Curse of the Crucible as he lost 13-9 to Kyren Wilson in the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship.

Trump had hoped to become the only first-time winner to successfully defend the title the following year, but he was beaten by an outstanding opponent in Wilson. It has been a record breaking season for Trump, becoming the first player to win six ranking titles in a single campaign, but since the tour returned from lockdown he has not hit the same heights.

Defeat for Trump also means he finishes the season on 102 centuries, just short of Neil Robertson’s record of 103.

World number eight Wilson goes through to the semi-finals at the Crucible for the second time – his first came in 2018 when he lost to John Higgins. This time he will start strong favourite against either Kurt Maflin or Anthony McGill over 33 frames.

The 28-year-old from Kettering, known for his fierce determination, has been something of a bogey player for Trump in recent years. Wilson has now won eight of their 13 meetings, including victories in the final of the 2015 Shanghai Masters and the semi-finals of the 2018 Masters. This performance is up there with his career best.

Trailing 10-6 overnight, Trump won the opening frame today with a break of 72, before Wilson hit back with a 94 to lead 11-7. Bristol’s Trump kept fighting and made 100 and 62 to take the next two frames and make it 11-9.

But world number one Trump potted just one ball after the interval, as Wilson dominated frame 21 then sealed victory in the next with a superb 104.

“It is definitely up there with my best wins,” said Wilson. “Judd has been on a phenomenal run. He really held himself well as World Champion. I knew I’d have my hands full and that he’d come all guns blazing from 10-6 down. I’m delighted to have held him off at the end.

“I take a lot of motivation from the greats like Hendry, Davis, O’Sullivan, Higgins and Williams. I can imagine they’d be thinking, ‘I want to beat this guy, I want to be better than this guy’. There is no point trying to dodge them. We’d never played each other at the Crucible, it was the one place I wanted to play Judd. I’m really pleased we managed to put on a good performance.

“I won’t take anybody for granted. Whether it is Kurt Maflin or Anthony McGill, they are both fantastic players and fantastic lads. It will be a dream to be in the semi-finals of the World Championship and everything will feel like a bonus for them. That makes them very dangerous.

“For me it is the best venue on Earth. I love coming here and I am so glad they’ve managed to get it on this year.”

Trump said: “Even in the last frame, the bits of luck you need to win the tournament just weren’t going my way. I’m not disappointed with how I played. I battled until the end. I felt good out there but Kyren played some very good stuff. He scored pretty heavily and got the run at the right times, that is a pretty dangerous combination.

“In the last frame I went into the pack and finished on nothing again. It’s just minor things which can affect snooker in such small ways. The difference between 9-7 and 10-6 is huge. A millimetre either way changes the whole game. I’m not going to be too hard on myself. If Kyren plays like that and gets good run of the ball he will be very hard to stop. His long potting was brilliant over the three sessions, he looks like he has improved. He will definitely be my favourite to win the title from here.

“In the past we didn’t get on that well, but we did a few exhibitions together and we get on nowadays. His style is slightly different to mine, I think it is brilliant for the game that I can have someone from my own age group to compete with for the next ten or 15 years. To me, he looks like he has really improved. He’s taken a step up from when we played before. It is all about me trying to put my foot back on the gas and get ready for next season, to keep up where he is at.”

Curse of the Crucible – where the first-time champions have fallen

1980 Terry Griffiths – lost in second round to Steve Davis
1981 Cliff Thorburn – lost in semi-finals to Steve Davis
1982 Steve Davis – lost in first round to Tony Knowles
1986 Dennis Taylor – lost in first round to Mike Hallett
1987 Joe Johnson – lost in final to Steve Davis
1991 Stephen Hendry – lost in quarter-finals to Steve James
1992 John Parrott – lost in quarter-finals to Alan McManus
1998 Ken Doherty – lost in final to John Higgins
1999 John Higgins- lost in semi-finals to Mark Williams
2001 Mark Williams – lost in second round to Joe Swail
2002 Ronnie O’Sullivan – lost in semi-finals to Stephen Hendry
2003 Peter Ebdon – lost in quarter-finals to Paul Hunter
2006 Shaun Murphy – lost in quarter-finals to Peter Ebdon
2007 Graeme Dott – lost in first round to Ian McCulloch
2011 Neil Robertson – lost first round to Judd Trump
2015 Mark Selby- lost in second round to Anthony McGill
2016 Stuart Bingham – lost first round to Ali Carter
2020 Judd Trump – lost in quarter-finals to Kyren Wilson

Again I did put some bits in bold. Indeed Judd Trump didn’t play anywhere near his best after the lockdown, be it in the CLS, in the Tour Championship or indeed here. He did win six tournaments this season and will surely be voted “player of the season” but it’s worth noting that he didn’t perform well in any of the three “majors”: in the 2019 UK Championship, he went out in the last 32, beaten 6-3 by the 54 years old Nigel Bond and at the 2020 Masters he went out in the first round, beaten 6-3 by Shaun Murphy. Each time he had been boasting his chances when speaking to the press ahead of the event. It’s good to be confident, and nothing wrong with showing it, but, at times, it backfires because it also puts unecessary pressure on yourself. Again also, he couldn’t refrain to mention bad luck. Sorry but over three sessions, you’re bound to get some bad luck, and so does your opponent. 

Ronnie beat Mark Williams by 13-10 from 7-2 down. They played two sessions yesterday and you can read all about it here.

Anthony McGill beat Kurt Maflin by 13-10. They played two sessions yesterday. It was a great effort by Maflin who was trailing by 7-1 at the start of the day.

Morning session:

Anthony McGill moved within three frames of a first semi-final appearance at the Betfred World Championship as he took a 10-6 lead over Kurt Maflin going into their concluding session.

They resume at 7pm tonight with first to 13 frames to go through to the last four to face Judd Trump or Kyren Wilson.

Maflin started the second session 7-1 behind, and though he took five of the eight frames this morning, the Norwegian may regret missing chances to narrow the gap further.

A break of 87 gave Maflin the opening frame today and he won the next on the colours to make it 7-3. He made 62 in the next but couldn’t finish the frame off and his opponent eventually cleared from brown to black to steal it. That gave McGill a boost and he made an 86 to lead 9-3 at the interval.

World number 43 Maflin won frame 13 with an 87 and he took a scrappy 14th to close to 9-5. In the next he had a chance to clear from the penultimate red and got to the final pink before missing it to a baulk corner, only to enjoy a huge slice of fortune as the pink rolled across the table into a centre pocket to give him the frame.

Both players had chances in the last of the session, but it was world number 39 McGill who got the better of a safety tussle on the third-last red and secured his four-frame cushion

Evening session:

Anthony McGill reached the semi-finals of the Betfred World Championship for the first time by beating fellow qualifier Kurt Maflin 13-10.

McGill saw a 9-3 lead reduced to 12-10, but eventually got over the line to set up a best-of-33 clash with Kyren Wilson over the next three days.

The Glaswegian has played 67 frames over the past eight days, having beaten Jack Lisowski 10-9 and Jamie Clarke 13-12 in the previous two rounds. But the 29-year-old seems to have the mental and physical sharpness to keep going as he aims to continue his superb run. The former Indian Open and Shoot Out champion is already guaranteed his career biggest pay day of £100,000.

This will be his fifth ranking event semi-final and first since 2017. McGill’s only previous ranking quarter-final appearance this season had come at the Shoot Out, but the Crucible has brought the best out of him.

Norway’s Maflin can reflect on excellent wins over David Gilbert and John Higgins, but played poorly in the first session against McGill, going 7-1 down, and it was too big a deficit to make up.

A break of 92 gave world number 39 McGill the first frame tonight to put him 11-6 ahead. Maflin pulled one back then made a 73 to close to 11-8, only for McGill to respond with 75 to lead 12-8 at the interval.

World number 43 Maflin kept battling, making a 69 to win frame 21 then a superb 81 clearance to take the next from 54-0 behind. He had one chance in frame 23 but only made 11, and McGill took it with runs of 47 and 12 to secure the result.

“This morning I was so nervous,” admitted McGill. “I was pleased to only lose the session 5-3 because my game wasn’t there at all. To go 10-6 instead of 9-7 was massive. Kurt had the better of it today and it was only the 7-1 lead that got me over the line.

“I was feeling tired yesterday but played well, I was running on adrenaline. I just always try to play the right shot, regardless of how the match is going. My temperament probably suits the longer matches.

“I’ll make sure I enjoy the match against Kyren because this is a special place to play on one table and I might never get back there. I have never even been to watch a semi-final here so I haven’t seen the arena like that with my own eyes. It’s still six pockets and the same number of reds!”

Maflin said: “I’m disappointed, I played terrible the whole match. Anthony dug in and won the frames but I had chances in all of them. I have no idea why I started so slowly in the first session, and from 7-1 down it’s very hard to get back into it. By tomorrow I will feel more positive because it has been a good experience.

“Producing the stuff that I know I can on the big stage and beating John Higgins are the highlights for me. I’m looking forward to next season starting in a month’s time. I have been in every newspaper and TV channel in Norway, more and more people are watching snooker there and supporting me which I am thankful for. Hopefully I’ll be flying that flag again next year and getting a bit further.”

 

 

 

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