The 2021 UK Championship – Day 1

There was one big upset on Day 1 at the York Barbican as Shaun Murphy was beaten by Si Jiahui, currently an amateur.

Let’s start with WST reports:

Afternoon session

Wilson – Great To Be Back

Kyren Wilson enjoyed the York Barbican atmosphere and his own performance as he beat Soheil Vahedi 6-2 in the first round of the Cazoo UK Championship.

This tournament was played in Milton Keynes last year behind closed doors but now returns to its home in York, where it was first staged in 2001. Wilson made a 147 in the event last year and reached the quarter-finals – matching his best run – and hopes to go further this time.

Wilson is a winner of four ranking events

The Kettering cueman was far too strong for his Iranian opponent today, making breaks of 71, 56, 110 and 86 as he set up a last-64 match with Jak Jones.

That was a tough first round draw, Soheil has beaten a few top players so I’m pleased to get the win,” said world number five Wilson. “It’s brilliant being back here, the set-up is fantastic.

There was a pretty good crowd in there for my first game which was nice, and the table played beautifully. It’s so good to be back in York. You want to get the first few rounds out of the way as the tournament feels more classy when the numbers are cut down, so I’m delighted to get through.

Wilson suffered a 6-0 defeat against Judd Trump in the semi-finals of the Cazoo Champion of Champions last Friday but quickly put that result out of his mind with a weekend trip to Yarmouth. “I actually went and played in an eight-ball pool team event,” he added. “That was a bit of fun and a chance to release the shackles, I had a few beers and enjoyed myself.

Last year’s semi-finalist Lu Ning suffered a first round exit against promising rookie Wu Yize, who top scored with 115 in a 6-3 success.

Zhou Yuelong boosted his chances in the Race to the Cazoo Masters as he thrashed Chen Zifan 6-1 with a top break of 80.

Yorkshireman David Grace, another former semi-finalist, saw off Peter Devlin 6-2  with a top run of 104 while Anthony McGill white-washed Iulian Boiko 6-0.

Wu Yize was the object of some very negative comments on social media after wins earlier this season. People downplaying his achievements and saying that he’s unidimensional. He may be, he’s still very young – he only turned 18 last month – but the fact that nobody can deny is that, as a rookie, he has won 5 out of 6 of his first round matches so far.

Iulian Boiko, who is in his secind year, but still only 16, was far too young when awarded a tour card, and still is too young, especially considering that he has to live as an expat in the UK, away from his family. I just hope the experience will not leave him irretrievably damaged, something that happened to others before him. I have said it before and will say it again: WST should reinstatiate an minimal age limit for turning professional. It used to exist, and it was 16 at the start of the season. I would even increase it to 18, because 16 may be OK if you have your family around you, but not if you have to live on your own as an expat, need to learn a different language, adapt to a diffrent culture AND play professionally.

Evening session

Murphy Stunned By Amateur Si

Shaun Murphy suffered a first round exit at the Cazoo UK Championship for the third time in four years as he lost 6-5 to Chinese amateur Si Jiahui.

World number six Murphy lost to Chen Feilong in the opening round in York in 2018 and to Eden Sharav in 2019, and now must endure another early exit from a tournament he won in 2008.

Si finished fifth on the 2021 Q School ranking list and earns a place in the event as a top-up amateur

Murphy, who reached the final of the Betfred World Championship in May, was suffering from neck and shoulder pain and only intensive physiotherapy allowed him to compete, but would still have expected to beat a 19-year-old opponent who has never been beyond the last 16 of a ranking event. Si is into the last 64 this time to face Dominic Dale.

Si took the first three frames with a top break of 65 and might have added the fourth but for a miss on the final brown. Murphy made it 3-1 but then saw his opponent compile a run of 76 in frame five, and Si took the sixth as well to lead 5-1.

In frame seven, Si got the two snookers he needed on the last red, and had a chance to clear for victory but missed the final blue to a centre pocket. He also let slip chances in the eighth frame and Murphy took advantage with a break of 60 to close to 5-3. Runs of 87 and 85 from the Englishman got him back to 5-5.

In the decider, Murphy trailed 44-53 when he converted an excellent long pot on the penultimate red, to leave the remaining balls at his mercy. But he then missed the blue to a top corner, and Si cleared the table for victory.

It was a shame to come all the way back to 5-5 and then miss the blue,” said Murphy. “Last week I was in agony on every shot. I have worked with my physio John Cox every day. I wasn’t able to hit any balls until today. Over the weekend I had episcleritis (inflammation within the eye) and I could barely see at one point. That cleared up thanks to the help of Specsavers in York.

I don’t know a snooker player who doesn’t have problems with their neck and shoulders. This is something I have suffered from for many years and it has flared up very badly for me. Every shot was painful today. I don’t want to take a break from playing. I have to be ready to play at the Scottish Open and to try to get into the World Grand Prix.”

John Higgins, the most consistent player of the season so far having reached the final of the last three tournaments, eased to a 6-1 win over Michael Georgiou. Breaks of 60, 112, 55 and 134 helped Higgins set up a second round match with Sunny Akani or Steven Hallworth.

Michael didn’t really turn up today, he missed chances,” admitted Wishaw’s Higgins, who travelled straight to York on Monday from Bolton, where he was runner-up at the Cazoo Champion of Champions. “Yesterday I was just dozing on the sofa and watching Netflix. I woke up today and felt a bit better.

In the final against Judd on Sunday I got blitzed. In the other two finals this season I had my chances, but I lost and that’s the way it is. I’m trying to forget about that and I’ve come here to have another good tournament. Against the very top boys, maybe I get found out a little bit. I need to try to find a way to beat one of them.

York’s Ashley Hugill won a match at his home venue for the first time, beating Mark Davis 6-4 with a top break of 79. “I am delighted, it’s a huge relief,” said Hugill. “I was just so determined not to lose, especially in front of my family.

Stephen Maguire, who lifted the trophy in York in 2004, beat Sanderson Lam 6-3 with top breaks of 100 and 105.

Shaun has put on a lot of weight again during the lockdown and this isn’t helping probably. I’m not “body shaming” him here. A lot of people have struggled in various ways since the covid-19 outbreak, and it’s ongoing. We do not know what Shaun has been going through. Shaun is usually gracious in defeat but yesterday was different.

Shaun Murphy blasts snooker policy on amateur players after shock UK Championship defeat: ‘It’s not right’

George Flood

Shaun Murphy was stunned by amateur Si Jiahui at the UK Championship in York on Tuesday

Shaun Murphy was stunned by amateur Si Jiahui at the UK Championship in York on Tuesday

Shaun Murphy has blasted snooker authorities for allowing amateur players to compete in professional tournaments.

The 2005 world champion suffered a huge upset against Si Jiahui of China in the first round of the UK Championship on Tuesday evening, losing a thrilling clash 6-5 at the York Barbican.

Afterwards, Murphy – beaten by Mark Selby in the World Championship final at The Crucible earlier this year – ranted that Si should never have been in the competition in the first place.

I feel extremely hard done by that I have lost to someone who shouldn’t even be in the building,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

I don’t know why we as a sport allow amateurs to compete in professional tournaments. This is our livelihood. This is our living. We are self-employed individuals and not contracted sportsmen. We don’t play for a team.

The other 127 runners and riders in the tournament, it is their livelihood too. It is wrong, in my opinion, to walk into somebody who is not playing with the same pressures and concerns I am.

He played like a man who does not have a care in the world, because he does not have a care in the world. It is not fair, it is not right.

I am not picking on him as a young man, he deserved his victory. Amateurs should not be allowed in professional tournaments, the end.

This is our livelihood. This is how I put food on the table. This is how I earn money. Since turning professional at 15, I have earned the right to call myself a professional snooker player. He hasn’t done that. He shouldn’t be on the table.

Other than the fact that there are only 122 professionals this year… which obviously is an issue … what do we do with this.

Recently Mark Williams also took a stand against top-ups, and I agree with them both, in principle, but as long at WST “sells” the Q-School to amateurs with the promise for them to get opportunities to play in main tour events provided they did well enough in the Q-School and that there are spots to fill. they need to keep their promises. Obviously this season there will always be at least 6 spots in all “128 persons” events.

Si Jiahui can play. Last week-end he was runner-up to David Lilley in the Q-Tour event one. It’s not true that amateurs have no pressure. Entering those events cost them entry fees, and as far as the Chinese players are concerned, CBSA will have an eye on their performances I’m sure.

Ronnie will be in action tonight against Michael White. Michael is a two times ranking event winner but has clearly lost his way in recent year. On paper it’s not the easiest of draws, but ir might suit Ronnie because Michael will play an open game.

This interview with Eurosport gives us some indication about his state of mind:


Ronnie O’Sullivan has reflected on his infamous UK Championship quarter-final with Stephen Hendry in 2006 that saw the Essex icon quit after only five frames of the best-of-17 frame contest. The seven-times UK winner admits his mind was elsewhere during that match as he trailed 4-1, but believes sports psychiatrist Steve Peters has been key in extending his elite career 15 years later.


Ronnie O’Sullivan has no regrets over his decision to walk out of his infamous UK Championship quarter-final with old foe Stephen Hendry in 2006, but is surprised he is still competing at the elite level 15 years later.

O’Sullivan has lifted the UK title a record seven times since becoming the youngest winner of a ranking event at the age of 17 years and 358 days with a glorious 10-6 win over Hendry in 1993.

But Rocket Ronnie’s most discussed moment at the UK Championship arguably came when he decided to quit his best-of-17 frame encounter with the Scotsman during the first session at the Barbican Centre in York.

O’Sullivan was trailing 4-1 when he missed a tough red leading 24-0 in the sixth frame before shaking hands with a stunned Hendry and equally bewildered Dutch referee Jan Verhaas.

O’Sullivan confesses he was in a fragile mental state at the time, but has improved his outlook due to work with celebrated sports psychiatrist Steve Peters over the past decade.

When asked if he thought he would have reached his 30th season as a professional upon reflection, O’Sullivan said: “Probably not, you know, probably not.

“But then again, I was going through a bit of a hard time at the time which I’m not sure I spoke about in either of my books. I don’t know. But yeah, I just wasn’t in the mood to play snooker so I walked out and that was that.


“But I’m not sure the last time I done it, I really wanted to do it.
“It is only because of Steve and the work I’ve done with him that kind of kept me curious. So it was like a new way of looking at it.

“You know, you have snooker coaches, and you go through a lot of them and you think: ‘oh, that’s that done, there’s nothing else to learn there’.


And that’s been really interesting and good for me to go down that road.

O’Sullivan begins his latest UK campaign, his 29th after opting out of the tournament in 2015, against attacking Welshman Michael White on Wednesday evening.

He would dearly love to clasp an eighth UK trophy on 5 December, the day of his 46th birthday, but feels there is more to life than winning snooker tournaments.
“Success for me is just to enjoy your work and enjoy the people you surround yourself with,” he told Eurosport.

I think for the last 15 years, I’ve been guilty of doing a lot of stuff for a lot of other people and feeling like I had to. The guilt of not doing maybe kind of beat yourself up.

“But I’ve had a bit of a wake-up call recently.

“Recently I just thought: ‘you know what, I’m going to live life for myself for a change, you know, and just not worry about this, that and the next thing.

So yeah, I feel quite free at the moment and I’m enjoying the freedom and the options that I have now.

Whereas before, I would never really embrace them because I still had a good life. I still enjoyed what I’d do, but I always made sure that it was okay with somebody else if I’d done X, Y and Z.


I’m more than happy for you to come and visit me and join me if you missed me enough. If not, I’ll catch you later. Have a nice time, this is what I want to do now.

I feel like I’m at that stage in my life where I’m fit and healthy and I just want to experience as many great things as I can.

Obviously, I’d still make sure come back and do my punditry work for Eurosport because I love doing that.

There’s other stuff that I do away from snooker that I would make sure I do too, but it wouldn’t stop me from leading the life I want to live.

10 thoughts on “The 2021 UK Championship – Day 1

  1. Good point Lewis about the golf, it was the British open as well. Remember Emma Rad got a wildcard for Wimbo and got to the 4th round, so it can work in the sports favour. I was really pleased for the lad.

  2. “He played like a man who does not have a care in the world, because he does not have a care in the world.”

    What the hell is Murphy thinking here? Of course the amateur players care, if they earn enough money/ranking points, they can (re-)qualify for the tour through the 1-year list, like James Cahill did in the 2018/19 season. Jiahui is currently just £2,000 behind Ashley Hugill on that list.

    Murphy, on the other hand, received £12,500 last week for showing up and losing to Bingtao.

    • It wasn’t counting towards Murphy’s ranking though. But yes, the amateurs do care. I’m still of the opinion that they should not be there. Mark Williams said the same and it was not on the back of a painful defeat. They did not qualify, they should not play in profressional events. That simple.

      • So you would prefer they gave byes to the top 9 players? That’s not the way sport works. What they could have done was award 1-year cards to the top 6 on the Q School OM, but their whole structure of Q School and tour cards isn’t very clever…

        But whatever his opinion, Shaun Murphy’s comments were way out of line. He’s defined the term ‘professional tournament’ in self-serving way, overriding the entry protocol that he himself has signed up to. Last week he accepted an entry to a the CoC on the basis of a special rule allowing some non-Champions to fill the draw. To say his opponent ‘should not have been there’ is very poor sportsmanship.

        In fact Si Jiahui is trying desperately to make a living out of snooker – he’s stayed here in the UK continuously since the 2020 WC, and will nodoubt be here in the summer for Q School 2022 and hopefully beyond. That’s 2 years unable to work outside snooker (as a foreign pro), and unable to see his family. He certainly didn’t ‘play without a care’ when he allowed Murphy to claw back from 5-1 to 5-5. Actually, Si always plays an open game – potting is his main strength. A more thoughtful top player might have looked to take advantage of Si’s weaknesses.

        I can only expect Murphy to distance himself from his words: many players have regretted things said immediately after a loss. There is indeed an issue with players participating on both pro and amateur tours simultaneously, but those are matters to be worked out, and launching an attack focused at a 19-year old, who doesn’t even get the chance to speak for himself, is ungracious.

      • So, a bunch of byes for the top players instead? They’re short 6 pros for every ranking event this season, plus Marco and Igor, and any positive Covid testing players. Should the top 8 or so players just get opening round byes all season? Lucky dip for the top 16 for who gets the byes?

        Mark Williams thinks there should be only 64 professionals, which is a very harsh cut-off.

      • Why is Murphy complaining anyway? He should consider himself lucky to get an easy draw such as an Amateur. At the end Si was simply better and Murphy lost because he played poorly. End of

    • It is surprising that Murphy was not his usual gracious self, but since Mark Williams also raised this issue, I wonder if there is a concerted effort/general unhappiness about this issue among the players.

      Personally I’m happy that even those who did not achieve professional status, could remain in the UK: I worried about the visa.regime. But I understand there is something amiss about topping up professional tournaments with non-professionals, It might make sense to offer more tourcards, although it might result in the same problems: bye-s or the invitation of nonprofessionals as not everyone enters every tournament.

      • Yes exactly. For example, Wimbledon tennis sometimes offers a first-round place to a ‘lucky loser’ – someone who already lost in a qualifier. These things happen in sport. Shaun Murphy himself tried to qualify for a professional golf tournament as an amateur. OK, WST had to make a difficult decision how to fill their draw, but they made the decision, and it’s nothing new. Shaun Murphy has subtly renamed WST as ‘World Professional Snooker Tour’. There’s no firm definition what ‘professional’ actually means. Many players, such as David Grace and Fraser Patrick, have jobs outside snooker to support their income.

        Yes, I am pleased if this leads to a debate about the system, which is inadequate in many ways, but you can’t rewrite the rules after losing a match.

      • Yes and Robertson as well.The latter however came up with something rather weird and TBH frankly baffling. I’ll write about it later.

Comments are closed.