2021 Northern Ireland Open – QFs

At last,  yesterday brought something to cheer up Csilla …

Here are the WST reports about what happened at the tables

Afternoon session

Pistol Fires To Reach Semis

Northern Ireland’s number one Mark Allen battled from 3-0 down to beat defending champion Judd Trump 5-3 and reach the semi-finals of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open.

It’s the first time 2018 Masters champion Allen has reached the semi-finals in his home event here in Belfast. Apart from a trip to the quarters in 2016, the Pistol has failed to go beyond the last 16 in this tournament. The Antrim cueman, who has won five ranking titles, has openly admitted to suffering from the pressure of a home crowd previously.

This afternoon’s result ends a run of nearly four years without losing a match in this event for 2019 World Champion Trump. He racked up 25 consecutive match wins in the Northern Ireland Open and picked up the title three years on the bounce, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 in the final each time.

It had looked as if Trump was set to make it 26 match wins in a row this afternoon. He charged to a 3-0 lead, making breaks of 100 and 91 along the way.

Trump then had a chance to make it 4-0, but failed to convert the frame and Allen summoned a crucial clearance of 41 to take it on the black and establish a foothold at 3-1.

When play resumed Trump composed a break of 61 in the fifth. However, Allen worked his way back into the frame and a clearance from the green saw him steal a second consecutive frame on the black to make it 3-2.

Allen then restored parity, before moving one from the win with a fine break of 128, which made it 4-3. The eighth frame came down to a battle on the colours. Allen eventually got Trump in a decisive snooker on the brown and cleared from a resultant free ball to seal a significant win. He’ll face Ricky Walden in the last four tomorrow over the best of 11 frames.

“From 3-0 down and out of the game to 3-2, all of a sudden I started feeling really calm and good in my game,” said 35-year-old Allen.

“Everyone is susceptible to nerves, whether you are Ronnie who has won six world titles or Judd who is a winning machine at the moment. I don’t care what anyone says, when it comes to closing out a match you are nervous. I felt there were mistakes from Judd that don’t normally happen. I don’t know whether that was me, the atmosphere, the table or how he was feeling. It is up to the other person to capitalise and I felt like I did that towards the end.

“With only four players remaining tomorrow it is a big opportunity, but I don’t want to put any more pressure on myself than is already there. I do enough of that. I am just going to try to enjoy the experience. Normally I am watching on TV come the weekend and everyone is telling me how good the Waterfront atmosphere is. It will be nice to be a part of it.”

Walden is through to his first ranking event semi-final in five years after coming from behind to beat 2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy 5-4.

Walden last graced the semis of a ranking event in 2016 at the China Open. In the years that followed he suffered from severe back problems. However, cortisone injections and physiotherapy since then have led him back to full fitness.

Murphy had established a 3-1 lead this afternoon. However, a sparkling run of snooker from Walden saw him turn the match on its head. Breaks of 98, 84, 70 and 91 helped him to take four of the next five frames and run out the victor.

The Allen v Trump match really turned on one shot: Judd Trump missed a straightforward frame ball red in frame four allowing Mark Allen to step in and win the frame by 58-53. That miss surprised everyone. When they resumed after the MSI, you could sense that the atmosphere had changed, and despite scoring a break of 61 in frame five, Judd lost that frame as well and it was obvious that his confidence had been shaken.

I believe that the interval was a key factor here. Both players had 15 minutes to reflect on what had just happened. Mark knew that despite being behind, it was now only two frames, not four and that, if he could also win the next, he would well and truly be back in the match. Judd probably went into the MSI shocked and aggrieved to have missed that easy red, and fully aware that the job was far from done. If they had played the next frame right away, the psychological impact of that miss on both would probably have been minimal, but having a quarter of an hour to ponder on that miss and its consequences,  magnified it.

There was a funny moment in that match …

Evening session

Higgins Into Last Four

Scotland’s four-time World Champion John Higgins came from behind to beat David Gilbert 5-3 and reach the semi-finals of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.

Tomorrow evening will be 31-time ranking event winner Higgins’ 76thappearance in a ranking event semi-final. He will be up against China’s Yan Bingtao in a repeat of this year’s Masters final, where he fell short 10-8 in an epic encounter.

The Northern Ireland Open title represents a rare gap in Higgins’ CV. However, he did make the semi-finals in 2019, when he was defeated 6-3 by eventual winner Judd Trump.

Today’s clash was the first meeting between Higgins and Gilbert in a ranking event since they contested a memorable 2019 World Championship semi-final. On that occasion Gilbert was on the end of a heart breaking 17-16 defeat. He suffered more disappointment at the hands of Higgins this evening.

However, Gilbert will leave Belfast with the consolation of £10,000 after another impressive run, which included knocking out World Champion Mark Selby yesterday evening. He picked up a maiden ranking title earlier this season at the recent BetVictor Championship League.

It was Gilbert who started strongest tonight, firing breaks of 79 and 69 to take an early 2-0 lead.

However, from that point Glasgow’s Higgins took charge of the tie. Breaks of 81, 64 and 67 helped him to four on the bounce and move a frame from the win at 4-2. Gilbert clawed back within a frame, before a dramatic eighth.

Higgins missed a match ball green with the rest and allowed an opportunity for Gilbert to force a decider. The Tamworth cueman narrowly missed the green himself, leaving it over the pocket with Higgins snookered. He came off the top cushion, potted it and wrapped up his 5-3 victory.

“I’m delighted in winning but it was embarrassing there,” said 46-year-old Higgins, who was visibly frustrated with his performance despite the result. “I was missing shots by feet. My action was all over the place and I think I brought Dave down, because his action started to go as well. It was pretty tough at the end there.

“I think when you are just coming off, you are thinking about the shots. Maybe in half an hour I will be buzzing about being in the semi-finals. I was missing shots with the rest as well.

“We’ve known about Yan since he was 12 or 13. He had the same game then as what he has now. He is a man beyond his years with his way around the table. He has obviously been watching players like Ronnie, Steve Davis and Mark Selby.”

Yan was in red hot form during a 5-0 quarter-final whitewash of Mitchell Mann.

The Chinese 21-year-old is a former Northern Ireland Open finalist, having reached the title match in 2017. He came within a frame of the Alex Higgins Trophy against Mark Williams in a gut wrenching 9-8 defeat.

However, since then he has picked up his maiden Triple Crown title at the 2021 Masters and a first ranking title at the 2019 Riga Masters.

Yan wrapped up this evening’s win in just two hours and nine minutes, signing off with a century run of exactly 100.

I must confess that I didn’t see anything from the evening action but Yan’s demolition of Mitchell Mann doesn’t surprise me at all. Mitchell is a good solid player, but not a top player, Yan definitely is a top player.

Ronnie was in the ES studio in the evening…


One thought on “2021 Northern Ireland Open – QFs

Comments are closed.