The biggest piece of news yesterday was of course that two players were tested positive to covid-19 and, as a consequence they and three other players who had been in contact with them have been withdrawn from the tournament.
This vindicated Anthony Hamilton’s decision to withdraw from the CLS last week because no tests were done that time. I sincerely hope that WST will now make sure tests are done at all events, including next week.
More positive tests might appear today …
Stephen Maguire staved off a fightback from Chinese teenager Chang Bingyu to win 5-3 and book his place in the second round of BetVictor European Masters in Milton Keynes.
Maguire has already tasted success in Milton Keynes this year. He was victorious at the elite eight-player Tour Championship in June, beating Mark Allen 10-6 in the final. That saw him earn the £150,000 top prize, as well as a £100,000 bonus for topping the Coral Series standings.
This tournament marks the early stages of a quest for another bumper payout. The player who accumulates the most prize money over the six-event BetVictor European Series, will land a huge £150,000 additional payout.
The Scot claimed the opening two frames, before a fine century run of 117 by Chang reduced the gap to 2-1. That did little to deter Maguire, who claimed the following two frames to move one from victory at 4-1.
Maguire began to visibly show his frustration after spurning opportunities to wrap the match up, with Chang taking two on the bounce to make it 4-3. However, a fine break of 93 saw the six-time ranking event winner over the line with a frame to spare.
“I’m just happy to get through,” said 2004 UK Champion Maguire. “I was starting to think that I’d thrown that match away there. I honestly thought it was going 4-4. I’m just over the moon that I managed to get out there before the decider.
“A lot of the other players thrive on the crowd, which I don’t. All the players need to get used to this. I think it is going to be like this well into next year. Any tournament that you guys put on, the players should be very grateful.”
Shaun Murphy edged out Liang Wenbo in a late night thriller 5-4 to book his progression to the second round.
Murphy fired in a century run of 105 in the fourth frame to lead 3-1 at the mid-session interval. When they returned, Liang blitzed his way back into contention. Breaks of 85, 90, and 59 took him to the verge of victory at 4-3.
Liang looked set to clinch an impressive win, before missing a red to the middle and breaking down on a break of 55. Murphy produced a steely clearance of 64 to force a decider.
China’s Liang had further chances to close out the tie, but eventually Murphy got over the line by clearing the colours to win the final frame on the black. That sets up an intriguing second round meeting with Alan McManus.
Tour rookie Aaron Hill produced an impressive display to beat Andy Hicks 5-2. That earns the current under 18 and under 21 European Champion a mouth-watering second round clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Crucible semi-finalist Anthony McGill battled to a 5-3 victory over Luo Honghao, while Yan Bingtao whitewashed Barry Pinches 5-0.
Once again, this report focusses on the televised/streamed matches and the top players.
Young Chang Bingyu showed some good things and, in a tiered system, would probably have progressed through a couple of rounds, gaining more experience, more confidence, some ranking points and some money …
From 3-0 down, Zhou Yuelong went on to beat Alexander Ursenbacher by 5-4. Although he lost very heavily to Neil Robertson in his first ranking final last season in this very tournament, I believe that he’s one of the players who could well take their first ranking title this season.
The 16 years old Antek Kowalski beat Sean Maddocks by 5-3. I’m not sure why WST uses Antoni instead of Antek as his first name but, maybe, it’s Antek’s own choice as it is “easier” to non-polish ears? Whatever… Sean Maddocks and Aaron Hill are probably the most “fancied” rookies this season, but keep an eye on Antek Kowalsi. He’s really good.
Jamie Clarke confirmed his Crucible form by beating Ricky Walden by 5-3, and Jamie Jones is making the most of his return to professional snooker, beating Dominic Dale by 5-1.
You can hear Jamie here, speaking of what it means to be back
The young Ben Mertens was beaten 5-0 by Robert Milkins, despite having the only 50+ break of the match to his name. The score is one-sided however all frames but one, the first, were close. Robert of course has loads of experience, whilst Ben is only 15, and I imagine that this experience was the telling factor when it came to win the close frames.
Zhao Xintong lead 4-2 and still was beaten by Nigel Bond who won the last three frames. I didn’t see the match, but I somehow expected this based on what I witnessed in the past from Zhao. He has no answer to the type of game the likes of Nigel Bond play.