2021 NI Open – Ronnie wins his last 32 match

Ronnie beat Alfie Burden by 4-1 yesterday afternoon to book his place in the last 16 today: he will face Yan Bingtao in the afternoon.

Here are the scores:

2021 NI Open - L32 - ROS v Burden - Scores

And the very short report by WST:

2021 NI Open - L32 - ROS v Burden - 1Ronnie O’Sullivan eased to a 4-1 win over Alfie Burden to earn his place in the last 16. The Rocket composed runs of 57, 54 and 70 during the tie and will now meet Masters champion Yan Bingtao, who defeated Oliver Lines 4-0.

There is also a more comprehensive report by Eurosport:

Ronnie O’Sullivan dispatches Alfie Burden to power into last 16 of the Northern Ireland Open in Belfast

Ronnie O’Sullivan remains on course to go one better than the previous three renewals of the Northern Ireland Open. After losing to Judd Trump in the final in 2018, 2019 and 2020, the Rocket eased to a comfortable win over Alfie Burden at the Waterfront Hall on Belfast. Up next is a clash with Yan Bingtao

2021 NI Open - L32 - ES - 2

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s impressive start to the Northern Ireland Open continued with a 4-1 win over Alfie Burden.

The world number three beat Stuart Carrington and Andy Hicks for the loss of one frame, and he was never in any danger against Burden.

O’Sullivan complained of a flat atmosphere in his win over Hicks. If he was feeling flat against Burden, he disguised it extremely well as he dominated the contest to ease into the last 16.

The Rocket settled quickly, and a couple of contributions secured the opening frame for the three-time beaten finalist.

Burden, who is back on the tour after coming out of retirement to emerge through Q School, had a chance in the second.

He knocked in an excellent break of 51, but broke down and the gulf in class between the two was demonstrated by a tale of two greens.

Burden got nowhere near his long pot, while one shot later O’Sullivan stroked his effort into the bottom right to set up a steal of the second.

There was disappointment etched on Burden’s face as O’Sullivan picked his pocket in the second, and a wild pot on a red in the third summed up his mood.

“I think the cameraman behind the pocket was in more danger than the pocket,” said Neal Foulds on Eurosport commentary.

O’Sullivan did not pass up the gift horse, as he rolled in a break of 54 to move within one frame of victory.

Burden is no mug, and he showed his quality by taking the fourth in a single visit with a fantastic break of 127 to stop the rot.

O’Sullivan looked unfazed by Burden’s show of quality, and he wrapped up victory in the following frame.

Burden potted an excellent red but missed a brown when attempting to get back to the reds. O’Sullivan pounced in ruthless fashion as he made a difficult table look simple with a break of 70.

Up next in the last 16 is a clash with Yan Bingtao who cruised to a 4-0 win over Oliver Lines.

Mark Williams, who is battling gout, appeared to be moving more freely on Wednesday and he rallied from two frames down to claim a 4-2 in over Jak Jones to set up a meeting with fellow Class of ’92 legend John Higgins.

2021 NI Open - L32 - ROS v Burden - 2

O’Sullivan completes comfortable win over Burden

Ronnie also clarified his previous comments about the atmosphere, insisting that it’s in no way because of the fans

Ronnie O’Sullivan sets ‘flat’ comment straight for Belfast snooker fans: ‘They’re like family to me’

2021 NI Open - L32 - ROS v Burden - 3

Ronnie O’Sullivan eased past Alfie Burden in the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open and then performed a turnaround by hailing the crowds that have been flocking to the iconic Waterfront Hall in Belfast.

O’Sullivan caused a stir earlier this week by labelling the atmosphere at the iconic venue as “flat”.

But the six-time World champion stressed after yesterday’s victory – which sets up a last 16 clash with China’s Yan Bingtao in the £405,000 showpiece – that he would “never criticise any snooker fan”.

“It’s never got anything to do with the crowd, the Belfast crowd,” he said.

“The set-up out there means you can’t get a good atmosphere because there is no-one sitting down the side, so you feel like you’re playing to an empty auditorium.

“When I said it was a flat atmosphere, it’s because you feel like you’re not playing to anyone, you can’t see a crowd.

“The way it was put across, it looked like I was saying it was the fans, but it’s not up to the fans – it’s the auditorium, it wasn’t set up right and that’s no fault of the fans.

“They’ve got three tables so it’s like you’re playing to a scoreboard. When you have fans down the side, they gee you up and keep you going, and it does create a different atmosphere.

“I’d just like to put that straight because every snooker fan, they’re like family to me so I wouldn’t criticise any snooker fan. They’ve helped me through many ups and downs over the years.

“It was never a slight at the crowd, it was more that I think the set-up doesn’t allow it to be a good atmosphere, so it’s difficult playing under those circumstances – that’s what I was trying to say.”

After beating Burden 4-1, O’Sullivan also highlighted the difficulties faced by professionals further down snooker’s food chain.

“I know Alfie well and I felt for him out there. Unless you are at the very top it’s difficult to make a living from snooker. I mean even the extra expense of coming to Belfast instead of playing in England makes it more difficult for some of the players,” said the 45-year-old World number three.

You can actually listen to that part of the postmatch here:

As always with the ES coverage, there are some interesting Q&As.

In this one, reported by Phil Haigh in the metro, Ronnie tells us about the players he sees as better than him in certain aspects of the game:

Ronnie O’Sullivan names players ‘better than him’ at certain aspects of snooker

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day One
Ronnie O’Sullivan is happy to admit that other players are stronger than him in certain areas (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan picked out the likes of John Higgins, Neil Robertson and Kyren Wilson as players better than him in some aspects of snooker, claiming that he is the absolute worst in a couple of departments of the game.

The Rocket was answering question’s in Eurosport’s entertaining ‘Who’s better?’ feature, where players are hit with areas of the sport and they must admit who – if anyone – is better than them.

Always extremely complimentary towards his old rival John Higgins’ game, it was no surprise to see O’Sullivan pick out the Wizard of Wishaw in three categories.

The Englishman reckons the Scot has the edge on him in safety play, temperament and clearing up.

O’Sullivan also gave Kyren Wilson the nod as a better rest-player than him and Neil Robertson as a superior long-potter.

 

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s ‘Who’s better’ answers

  • Rest-player – Kyren Wilson
  • Safety-player – John Higgins
  • Long-potting – Neil Robertson
  • Temperament – John Higgins
  • Break-building – Tough, but if I was to say someone, probably Judd [Trump]
  • Clearing up – John Higgins
  • Practicing – Everybody
  • Breaking-off – Everybody
  • Being ambidextrous- Nah, I’m taking that one, it’s the only thing I’m better than everybody else at
  • Polishing shoes – Everybody because I’ve never polished them
  • Ironing their shirt – Marco Fu
  • Enjoying themselves off the table – Maybe Mark Williams, he seems to enjoy his life off the table

O’Sullivan reluctantly suggested Judd Trump could be better than him at break-building, but really seemed like he wanted to choose himself, saying: ‘ Tough, but if I was to say someone, probably Judd.’

The Rocket was being humble, but one category he couldn’t deny his greatness in was being ambidextrous, saying: ‘Nah, I’m taking that one, it’s the only thing I’m better than everybody else at.

The 45-year-old was especially self-deprecating, though, when it came to breaking-off and practicing, at which he claimed that every single other professional is better than him.

I’m not so sure about the “practicing” bit. Ronnie always says that he doesn’t practice, but that claim has been challenged many times by fellow players who know him well.

Now onto my views on yesterday’s match… and today’s challenge

I certainly agree that Ronnie’s break-off is dire and it showed again in his match yesterday. He left at least one red for his opponent to go at from every break-off. Also, his long potting wasn’t great; it wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t good enough to compete with the best. Those two weaknesses in Ronnie’s game provided Alfie with a lot of opportunities. On the other hand Ronnie competed well, was very good in the balls as always and his attitude was excellent.

Today he will face Yan Bingtao, and, IMO, Ronnie will need to improve to have any chance to win. Yan has been very solid, and if he gets as many opportunities as Alfie got, there is only one winner.

2021 Northern Ireland Open – Last 64

The last 64 round was nearly completed over the last 2 days and all the guys in the poster are still in the competition.

Ronnie beat Andy Hicks by 4-1, and will play Alfie Burden today. Read about that here.

Other than that here are WST reports about the last two days:

Monday morning and afternoon

Selby Edges Cao In Thriller

World Champion Mark Selby narrowly held on to his place in the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open, winning 4-3 after opponent Cao Yupeng missed the final black in the decisive frame at the Waterfront Hall.

Leicester cueman Selby had taken control of the decider with a break of 66, which left China’s Cao requiring a snooker. However, he got the penalty points he required by laying a tricky snooker on the green.

Eventually it was Cao who had the chance to win after clearing up to the final black, which was in the centre of the top cushion. He took it on, but left the black over the pocket for Selby to take his place in the last 32. Next he faces either Gary Wilson or Rory McLeod.

Selby said: “Once he landed straight on the pink, my mind would have been made up to try to play a decent safety shot and wait for another chance. I understand why he has gone for it, he probably thinks he might not get another chance. It was a tough shot to take on under the circumstances.

“I felt good out there. I thought Cao played well from start to finish. I have always rated him, even when he was on the tour a few years ago. I knew I was in for a tough match before it started. I really enjoyed it, from a neutral’s point of view I’m sure it was a good game to watch.”

Shaun Murphy defeated Bai Langning 4-2 to clinch a place in the last 64, where he will now face Allan Taylor.

Murphy has struggled in this event in previous years, today’s victory sees him progress beyond the last 128 for just the second time, having succumbed to four previous first round exits.

The Magician reached his fourth Crucible final in May, but missed out on a second world title after losing an epic contest with Selby 18-15. However, having not taken to the baize since a 3-2 loss to Selby at the British Open in August, there were signs of rust this afternoon.

Despite being unable to amass any breaks of note in the first four frames, Murphy managed to battle to a 3-1 advantage. Bai kept the tie alive with a fine run of 73 to pull within one at 3-2. However, it was Murphy who got over the line with a break of 59 in the sixth.

Murphy said: “This has not been somewhere I’ve had great success at over the years. I love coming to Belfast. It is one of those funny balancing acts. I love coming here, but I keep losing on the table. I’m thrilled to get through and be able to spend a few more days here.

“I think the gap has been too long to carry any momentum into this season. Had we been in non-covid times maybe I’d have been able to carry that on. That is my first win in a proper match since the semi-finals of the World Championship back in April.

“I am expecting a stern test from Allan Taylor. He is a good friend of mine off the table. I was thrilled for him when he got back on the tour. He spent the year as the MC for these events, a job which I know he loved. He is a real entertainer, known for his impressions. He is a bit of a modern day John Virgo.”

Masters champion Yan Bingtao survived a scare against world number 93 Duane Jones, coming from 3-1 down to pull through 4-3, while Luca Brecel came from 2-0 down to beat Liang Wenbo 4-2.

The shot Cao took on that last black was deemed the “wrong shot” by Alan McManus, and, inevitably, given Cao’s past history, there were suggestions of “match fixing” by the usual suspects. I don’t believe it. Cao had already lost that match, he needed penalty points. He could have conceeded, The truth is likely to be what Mark Selby suggested: he saw an opportunity to win and no matter how difficult the shot was,  he went for it because he didn’t fancy his own chances in a safety battle against the World Champion.

Yan Bingtao wasn’t the better player in his match against Duane Jones, but battled incredibly hard. Only sheer will to win got him through.

Monday evening

Wounded Williams Battles Through

Mark Williams fought past the pain to defeat Elliot Slessor 4-3, despite suffering from gout at the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open.

Tickets are still available for the remainder of the event, for details click here and for the match schedule click here

The Welshman was on the verge of withdrawing from the event prior to his first round game, but elected to fly over and managed to beat Mark Joyce 4-1 yesterday.

Williams, a winner of 24 ranking titles, has been given special medical dispensation to wear a slipper on his left foot this week, due to being unable to get his normal shoe on.

The three-time World Champion was visibly limping as he emerged for the start of the game. Despite that, he managed to produce a break of 90 to take the first frame.

Williams then added two of the next three frames to move one away from victory at 3-1. However, world number 43 Slessor clawed his way back into contention by claiming two on the bounce to force a decider.

Williams controlled it and breaks of 29 and 40 saw him emerge a 4-3 victor in three hours and 20 minutes. He will now face either Martin Gould or Jak Jones.

Williams said: “It must be difficult for my opponents as well. They can see me hopping around the table. I can’t get to easy shots. I can’t put any pressure on it. If I land wrong side on the black or the blue, I can’t play them.

“I tried my best, like I do every time. Even at 3-2 up though, I didn’t want to be out there. It started to throb again, that had stopped. I was on it for quite a few hours yesterday and nearly four hours there. I’d had enough.

“I was very close to not coming. I went to bed last Monday fine and I woke up on Tuesday screaming in pain. I couldn’t put my foot down. The first time my foot touched the ground was on Saturday night and that was when I booked my flight.”

World number three Ronnie O’Sullivan eased to a 4-1 defeat of former Crucible semi-finalist Andy Hicks.

It was six-time World Champion O’Sullivan who imposed himself on the tie from the off. He fired in a fine break of 76 to take the opener.

Devon’s Hicks responded by snatching the second frame on the black with a break of 55. However, from that moment the Rocket took charge. Runs of 54, 65 and 90 allowed O’Sullivan to take three on the trot and get over the line. Next up he faces Alfie Burden.

World number five Kyren Wilson produced a superb performance to sweep aside Robert Milkins by a  4-1 scoreline. The Warrior fired in breaks of 127, 73, 51 and 120 to book a last 32 meeting with Mitchell Mann.

Scotland’s four-time World Champion John Higgins defeated Pakistan’s Farakh Ajaib 4-2. Higgins missed the 15th black in a fine 147 attempt, ending his run on 113 in the second frame. Further breaks of 85 and 54 helped him to the win. He faces Luca Brecel in the next round.

Oliver Lines continued his fine run of form with a 4-0 whitewash of Ben Woollaston. Breaks of 54, 115 and 71 helped lines to the comprehensive win. His reward is a last 32 clash with Masters champion Yan Bingtao.

I saw nothing from that session other than Ronnie’s match, so can’t comment really. I’m just slightly surprised that Farakh Ajaib took two frames off John Higgins. Farakh scores heavily when in, but he tends to go for absolutely everything. John is usually very adept at neutralising that type of opponent.

Tuesday morning and afternoon

Trump Storms Through With Ultimate Whitewash

Defending champion Judd Trump blitzed to the last 32 of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open, preventing WSF Junior Open winner Gao Yang from registering a single point during a 4-0 whitewash.

The Ace in the Pack is aiming for a remarkable fourth consecutive Northern Ireland Open title this week, having beaten Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 in each of the three previous finals. After today’s victory, Trump has now won 23 consecutive matches in this event.

World number two Trump is also currently engaged in a battle for summit of the world rankings with Mark Selby. Whatever happens this week, Trump will leapfrog current number one Selby to reclaim top spot.

Trump racked up 333 unanswered points during this afternoon’s encounter, compiling breaks of 54, 100, 60 and 52 to complete the whitewash. Next up he faces Gao’s Chinese compatriot Lu Ning.

Trump said: “He let me in quite easily in the first couple of frames. I know the top players aren’t going do that. It is still pleasing to score like I did and put pressure on him early on. I made a couple of good breaks and all-around my game was pretty good there. It was a bit of a stepping stone for the next round.

“You don’t want to lose in any tournament, especially one you’ve won the last three times. This tournament is special and there is always a good atmosphere in that one table situation, everyone wants to be there.

“He (Lu Ning) has had a few good results over the past couple of years. He is a dangerous player and is a little bit slower and it can be tough to play against. I know I will have to start similarly to how I did today and get on top of him early on.”

Northern Ireland’s number one Mark Allen secured his place in the last 32 with a hard fought 4-2 defeat of Peter Devlin.

Allen delighted the home fans in the opening round by making a 147 break in his 4-1 defeat of Si Jiahui. He couldn’t quite reproduce those fireworks today, with a solitary contribution of 55 being his only half century. However, he got the job done and will face either Simon Lichtenberg or Matthew Stevens next.

Recent BetVictor Championship League winner David Gilbert produced a superb display to whitewash David Grace 4-0. Gilbert fired in runs of 127, 62, 51, 66 and 66 on his way to victory.

Stuart Bingham defeated Sam Craigie 4-2, while Jimmy Robertson edged out Sunny Akani 4-3.

Judd Trump’s performance was both entertaining and painful to watch. Entertaining because he basically played exhibition stuff from start to finish, painful – for me at least – because it’s not nice to watch a young player getting completely crushed and disintegrate in front of a crowd. Judd, to his credit, admitted in the studio that it was “hard not to feel bad”. Gao Yang had faced Judd last year in this same tournament and had been completely outplayed. Judd had made a 147 in that match as well. Yesterday the young lad looked ovewhelmed right from the first ball and couldn’t score a point. I hope that he has good people around him. This could be seriously damaging.

Peter Devlin got off to a slow start. From 3-0 down, he battled back and actually produced the best snooker of the match for two frames. Speaking in the studio after his win, Mark Allen was full of praise and admitted that he was impressed. He was probably relieved as well that Peter didn’t find his form right from the start of the match…

Tuesday evening

Robertson Extends Perfect Start

Australia’s Neil Robertson is yet to lose a frame in this year’s BetVictor Northern Ireland Open, after recording a second whitewash win of the event by beating Xu Si 4-0 in Belfast.

The 39-year-old is making his first appearance on the circuit since bowing out of the World Championship at the hands of Kyren Wilson back in April. He missed the British Open in August due to getting married to long term partner Mille during the event.

World number four Robertson defeated Barry Pinches 4-0 in his opening round tie and it was another straightforward victory this evening. The win took just one hour and 17 minutes and he signed off with a fine century break of 102. Robertson now faces Ricky Walden in the last 32.

“Two clean sheets! It is nice to do that, because players are aware of what scores you are winning by as they are trying to get a gauge of how you are playing,” said 2010 World Champion Robertson.

“The fact that I’ve won two games 4-0 tells you I’m not giving my opponents too many chances. I’ll look to build on that and be stronger.

“The wedding was amazing and everything we hoped it would be. I was very nervous in the lead up, hoping everything would go well. I was probably more nervous going out to do the dance than anything in my life. That went really well. It was a surprise to me I managed to do the job well and Mille was fantastic throughout the day.”

Stephen Maguire held his nerve to edge out Hammad Miah 4-3 in a fiercely contested clash.

Miah had led 3-2, before 2004 UK Champion Maguire forced a decider. It looked as if it would be going the way of Miah when he led 53-0. However, Maguire pulled off a superb clearance of 63 to steal the tie. Next up he will face either Liam Highfield or Ryan Day.

Shaun Murphy came from 3-1 down to defeat Allan Taylor 4-3, while Jack Lisowski defeated Fan Zhengyi 4-2.

Neil Robertson played well indeed. The first frame was close, but after that Xu only scored 17 points as Neil completely controlled the game. The postmatch in the studio was lovely.

After that… I have to admit … it’s a blurr. No I didn’t drink 😉  – I have never been drunk in my life despite loving my glass of wine – but it was getting late here in Greece, and it had been a rather stressful day: another powerful earthquake, 6.4 richter, was felt on the island, the second within two weeks. I just hope that our volcano behaves …

SantoriniVolcano

This is him… in the 50th … when my husband was a toddler, and his family fled the disaster – lava, deadly fumes, earthquake and tsunami – after my mother-in-law’s best friend was killed in the collapse of her house.  Even to this day, there are collapsed houses everywhere here … some with broken furniture, old paintings, children toys and faded wedding photos still lying around.

Yeah… snooker is just a game.

 

2021 Nothern Ireland Open – Ronnie wins his last 64 match

Ronnie booked his plsce in the last 32 round yesterday evening by beating Andy Hicks by 4-1. Here are the frames scores:

2021 NI Open - L64 - ROS v Hicks Scores

And the report by WST:

2021 NI Open - L65 - ROS v Hicks - 3World number three Ronnie O’Sullivan eased to a 4-1 defeat of former Crucible semi-finalist Andy Hicks.

It was six-time World Champion O’Sullivan who imposed himself on the tie from the off. He fired in a fine break of 76 to take the opener.

Devon’s Hicks responded by snatching the second frame on the black with a break of 55. However, from that moment the Rocket took charge. Runs of 54, 65 and 90 allowed O’Sullivan to take three on the trot and get over the line. Next up he faces Alfie Burden.

I wouldn’t say that Ronnie “eased” through that match. It was a very professional performance from both. It’s easy to forget what a fine player Andy Hicks was in the 90th. Andye actually reached the semi-fimals of all four BBC events back then – the Grand Prix was a BBC event at the time and one of the majors – and he was ranked as high as number 17 in 1995/96.

Ronnie struggled at te start of the match, making a lot of mistakes during the first ten minutes. But he kept his patience and his focus. He never surrendered to frustration. As usual he was good in the balls, he put a lot of thoughts in his shot selection and didn’t do anything reckless. His long game wasn’t the best though.

Both players appeared to struggle with the conditions a bit. From what I saw they must have been quite heavy. Ronnie was “hitting” the ball a lot, rather than stroking it.

Wathing the match, I reflected that the younger players would benefit a lot from playing the likes of Andy. They would learn a “professional” side of the game that they rarely experience in junior events.

I have to say that the postmatch reported by Eurosport surprised me a bit:

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ‘VERY BORED’ IN WIN OVER ANDY HICKS IN BELFAST – ‘I WASN’T BOTHERED IF I WON OR LOST’

“I kind of struggled with the table and I struggled with the atmosphere – there was really no atmosphere out there,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport. “I was really not enjoying the atmosphere and wasn’t really bothered if I won or lost, to be honest with you. That’s not a good attitude to have, so I tried to talk myself out of it, but it is what it is, you know.”

2021NIOpenL64ROSESStudio

Ronnie O’Sullivan has admitted that he was “very bored” during his win over Andy Hicks at the Northern Ireland Open, and he was less than happy with the atmosphere in Belfast.

The Rocket was a 4-1 winner in the first-round match, but he revealed to Eurosport in his studio interview that he was not overly impressed with the conditions and “struggled” to get up for the occasion.

I kind of struggled with the table and I struggled with the atmosphere – there was really no atmosphere out there,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport.

I’m playing alright, so normally I can generate the atmosphere but, I don’t know… it felt like years ago, every time we played a tournament, every match felt like a big night, like a Champions League night, whereas out there, it was poor… it was hard.

I don’t know, you’ve got all these games going on, you’ve got people walking about, you know… I struggled. It’s the atmosphere. These flat draws, you’ve just got to hope you get through to the quarters and click into a spark.

It was very flat out there. I was very bored out there… I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible, to be honest with you. I was thinking, ‘please, just don’t let this go long, two-three hours’.

I WAS REALLY NOT ENJOYING THE ATMOSPHERE AND WASN’T REALLY BOTHERED IF I WON OR LOST, TO BE HONEST WITH YOU.

That’s not a good attitude to have, so I tried to talk myself out of it, but it is what it is, you know.”

Looking ahead to his second-round match, O’Sullivan added: “Hopefully the atmosphere is a little bit better than it was tonight. Yeah, listen, it is what it is, you know… it’s paid practice for me.

I come here and hit a few balls… it’s all a bit of a bonus, you know, so I’m not really too bothered either way really, just, yeah.

O’Sullivan, who has lost in the final of the tournament for the last three years in succession, was not at his very best at any stage but still made four half-century breaks and only conceded a solitary frame.

The Rocket will next take on Alfie Burden, who was a 4-2 winner against Yuan Sijun, in the second round in Belfast.

Ronnie didn’t look overly happy out there, but never looked like he doesn’t care either. The interview however confirms my feelings about the conditions.

Here is the interview:

2021 Northern Ireland Open – Day 1

WST had promoted this day as “Super Sunday” and it lived to be indeed a “Super” day of snooker in Belfast, with 13 of the top 16 in action and all of them winning their match.

Here is the report by WST:

Trump Seals Opening Round Win

Defending BetVictor Northern Ireland Open champion Judd Trump got his bid for a fourth consecutive win in the event underway with a comfortable 4-1 defeat of Andrew Pagett at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.

Remarkably Trump has lifted the Alex Higgins trophy for the last three years, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 in the final on each occasion.

Bristolian Trump temporarily switched cue sport disciplines to try his hand at 9-ball pool in the US Open recently. Back in a more familiar environment, he wasn’t quite at his clinical best this evening and showed signs of rust in the stages. Welshman Pagett claimed an edgy opening frame.

The Ace in the Pack then stepped his game up a gear and composed breaks of 50, 65 and 79 on his way to four frames on the bounce to claim a place in the last 64. Trump now faces China’s WSF Junior Open winner Gao Yang.

Trump said: “It is tough in the first round. You are always edgy. I’ve not played in a tournament for what seems like forever. I’ve not been playing against anyone in practice, so it is hard to know where I am with my game. When you get out there, it is completely different. If you make mistakes at home on your own, it doesn’t matter. When you get out there you are punished. It was disappointing to lose the first frame, but the balls went a bit scrappy. In the end I am just happy to get the win.

The atmosphere here is the top three of any event for me, especially when it gets down to that one table setup. I can feel the passion from the fans and that rubs off on me. Any kind of support like this, whether it is the Masters, German Masters or here, is brilliant. When you see the arena fill up here it is amazing.

It was so different to this environment playing at the pool. When I am here everyone expects me to win or do well every time I come to the table. Whereas at the pool I was just able to enjoy it. If I am able to bring that sort of mindset over to snooker it would be good.

O’Sullivan got his tournament underway with a 4-0 whitewash defeat of Stuart Carrington.

The Rocket coasted to the win in just 52 minutes this evening. He composed runs of 90 and 120 on his way to victory.

Despite holding a record 37 career ranking titles, O’Sullivan endured a barren campaign last season in terms of silverware. He reached five ranking finals, but couldn’t convert any into a tournament win. However, he is unconcerned by his wait for title number 38.

O’Sullivan said: “I have tremendous faith in my ability, that if I play alright I should have a chance of winning. If I don’t, I still should have a chance of winning. I’ve won a lot of tournaments not playing my best. I never question my ability. Winning tournaments is just a by-product of what you do. If you consider five finals a bad season, then that is quite a compliment.

Mark Allen left his home fans elated by making the second 147 of his career – read more on that story here.

Neil Robertson eased to a 4-0 win over Barry Pinches with a top break of 95. Jack Lisowski made a 137 in taking a 3-0 lead over Ashley Hugill, and eventually won 4-3 with a 57 in the decider.

John Higgins pulled away from 2-2 to beat Joe O’Connor 4-2, while World Champion Mark Selby compiled runs of 101 and 112 in a 4-1 defeat of Mark Lloyd.

Stephen Maguire could face a battle in the coming months to keep his top 16 place as he currently lies 46th in the provisional end of season rankings but the Scot helped his cause by beating Steven Hallworth 4-2 with a top break of 75.

I sat down and looked at the rankings the other day and the good thing is I’m looking ok in the race to the Masters – I would rather be sure of a place in that event than the Crucible, because I’ve always got a chance to qualify for Sheffield.

I felt nervous today because it feels like the first tournament of the season, even though we had a couple of others over the summer. At 2-2 I wasn’t feeling good and my opponent looked favourite to win, then I won a long fifth frame to go 3-2 up and finished the match well.

Mark Williams secured a battling 4-1 win over Mark Joyce despite struggling with gout, while local favourite Jordan Brown succumbed to a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Gary Wilson.

And here is Mark Allen’s reaction to his 147

Mark Allen described making a 147 at his home tournament as one of the best moments of his career after his fantastic maximum break wrapped up a 4-1 first round win over Si Jiahui at the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open.

Allen’s 147 was far from straight-forward as he ran out of position several times and had to play brilliant recovery shots. After potting the 15th black he left himself a tough yellow to a top corner, but slotted it home and cleared the colours. His local supporters raised the roof at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast as the final black went in.

It’s right up there with the best moments of my career,” said Antrim’s Allen, whose only previous 147 came at the 2016 UK Championship. “To do it here means so much to me, to give fans that buzz. It’s a memory I will hold for long time. I potted a good yellow, then a horrible brown. I couldn’t stop shaking on black, I just had to let arm go though and luckily it went in.

I have made around eight or nine hundred maximums in practice. But it’s very nerve-racking to do it in a big arena. I wanted to do it for the fans because I have given them nothing to cheer for in the past in this tournament. I don’t think Alex Higgins or Dennis Taylor ever made a 147 here so it’s great to be the only Northern Irish player to do so.

I was relaxed as ever pre-match. I played well and my safety was good. Even without the 147 I was happy with my performance. I have a target on my back every year here, whoever I play has the chance to knock out the home favourite.

Allen’s 147 will earn him the £5,000 high break prize if it is not equalled. It’s the 170th maximum in snooker history and sixth of the season.

 

Mark Allen looked calm, and played the best I ever saw him play in his home tournament. The fans were respectful as well, which has not always been the case when he was playing here in the past. That said he was helped by Si Jiahui who, after a good first frame, made some unexpected mistakes and looked a bit frustrated.

Here are the last minutes of Mark Allen’s 147:

The Jack Lisowski v Ashley Hugill match was a strange affair, and, TBH, I found it quite painful to watch. Jack started well and found himself 3-0 in no time. He was cruising. But Ashley Hugill took control of frame 4 and turned it into a very slow going, disjointed, scrappy affair that seemed to last forever. He completely broke Jack’s rhythm. He continued in the same vein in the next .. and the next. It eventually came to a decider and, frankly, by that time, Jack looked gone; how he found something and won it, I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong, Ashley was doing what he had to do: he was trying very hard to win and found a way to derail Jack. But it wasn’t pretty and that’s an understatement.

You can read more about Ronnie’s match here

As for Jordan Brown, he has, so far, never confirmed the quality he showed to win the 2021 Welsh Open and he was poor again yesterday.

2021 Northern Ireland Open – Ronnie wins his last 128 match

Ronnie made light work of his last  128 match yesterday. Here are the scores:

2021 NI Open - L128 - ROS v Carrington Scores

And the report by WST:

O’Sullivan got his tournament underway with a 4-0 whitewash defeat of Stuart Carrington.

The Rocket coasted to the win in just 52 minutes this evening. He composed runs of 90 and 120 on his way to victory.

Despite holding a record 37 career ranking titles, O’Sullivan endured a barren campaign last season in terms of silverware. He reached five ranking finals, but couldn’t convert any into a tournament win. However, he is unconcerned by his wait for title number 38.

O’Sullivan said: “I have tremendous faith in my ability, that if I play alright I should have a chance of winning. If I don’t, I still should have a chance of winning. I’ve won a lot of tournaments not playing my best. I never question my ability. Winning tournaments is just a by-product of what you do. If you consider five finals a bad season, then that is quite a compliment.

Ronnie played well. He played attackimg snooker but wasn’t reckless. He probably missed one easy ball. When he left his opponent a chance, it was never an easy one.

Speaking to Eurosport after the match, Ronnie insisted that he will play this season on his own terms:

Ronnie O’Sullivan has no plan for his schedule for new season: ‘If I don’t feel like playing, I won’t’

I am always playing catch-up but I have to accept that,” Ronnie O’Sullivan said following his win over Stuart Carrington. ”Playing half a season I am still top-16, top-eight. I need to get a result now and again, but being in the top-16 is not as important as it was. As long as you are in the top-64 you are in the draw.” 

2021NIOpenL128ROSESStudio

Ronnie O’Sullivan has admitted he does not have a plan in place for his schedule for the new season.

O’Sullivan elected to miss the British Open in August, meaning his season kicked off at the Northern Ireland Open on Sunday.

There were no signs of rust as he crushed Stuart Carrington 4-0 to set up a meeting with Andy Hicks on Monday.

O’Sullivan is expected to commit to all of the Home Nations events, but he has said he will leave decisions on entries quite late.

I don’t have a plan,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport. “I will just play when I feel like it. If I don’t feel like playing, I won’t.

O’Sullivan had a packed schedule last season, but says that was on account of the travel restrictions and many events being held in Milton Keynes.

I didn’t have to go backwards and forwards from China,” O’Sullivan said. “Logistically, normally, I can’t do the flying round the world four times in three weeks.”

The 45-year-old, who was beaten in five finals last season, does not feel he is compromising his ability to challenge for titles by hand-picking his schedule.

2021 NI Open - L128 - ROS v Carrington - 2

I am always playing catch-up but I have to accept that,” he said.” Playing half a season I am still top-16, top-eight. I need to get a result now and again, but being in the top-16 is not as important as it was. As long as you are in the top-64 you are in the draw.

I have tremendous faith in my ability that if I play well I have a good chance of winning. Even if I don’t I still have a chance, as I have won tournaments when not at my best. I never question my ability.

Winning tournaments is a by-product of what you do. If being in five finals is a bad season, it is a compliment to my ability.

I love the game. I prefer practicing and being at home. I don’t enjoy the tournaments as much, as you have so much time. You are hanging around. Filling the boredom up is hard.

The privilege I get from playing gives me the ability to have the life I want. You need to play a few tournaments as I probably would not get my cue out of my case to practice.

It’s hard to keep the motivation and stay fresh when you have been playing at the top for nearly 30 years, and actually playing for over 35 years. For Ronnie it’s about managing his schedule, for Mark Williams it’s about keeping practice at a minimum. It may not please their fans, especially if they don’t win as much as they used to, but it’s key to their longevity. We have to enjoy them whilst it lasts.

Here is the interview:

2021 Northern Ireland Open – Day 0.5

The season started in earnest – hopefully – yesterday evening with three matches in front of a rather small crowd.

Here is the report by WST:

Robertson Sees Off Zhou

Former European Masters champion Jimmy Robertson sealed a fine 4-2 win over world number 17 Zhou Yuelong to clinch his place in the last 64 of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.

World number 48 Robertson came within a match of tour relegation at the end of last season, but defeated Zhao Jianbo 6-5 at World Championship qualifying to save his place on the circuit.

The Bexhill cueman’s preparations for this week’s event were far from ideal, having only been released from Covid-19 isolation on Thursday.

Robertson composed breaks of 50,70 and 59 on his way to victory this evening and will now face Sunny Akani in the last 64.

“I’m feeling really good about myself and my game. I still need to improve in areas on the table but my head, the way that I’m thinking and everything off the table is going well,” said 35-year-old Robertson.

“I’ve always struggled over the years with playing in certain situations, being on the main table with eyes on me and things like that. I know I won a tournament a few years ago, but I lost a lot of confidence and matches after that. I’m working with a mental coach called AP O’Neil now and it is going really well. If you think bad things then bad things will happen on the table. You just have to stay positive. It is helping me.”

WSF Junior Open winner Gao Yang recorded a straightforward 4-0 defeat of Northern Irish under-21 champion Christopher Clifford.

Gao composed breaks of 85, 81 and 58 on his way to a win which took just an hour and 15 minutes to complete. He will now face either defending champion Judd Trump or Andrew Pagett in round two.

Lee Walker snuffed out an Anthony McGill fightback to edge through with a fine 4-3 victory. Welshman Walker had charged to a 3-0 advantage, making breaks of 60 and 67 along the way.

However, McGill charged back into contention in a three-frame blitz which included a total clearance of 137. It all came down to a decider and Walker got over the line with a clinical run of 53. Next up he faces Louis Heathcote.

All three matches were on the Eurosport player, which is great, except for the terrible background noise on the Zhou v Robertson one.

With the top 16 seeds starved of actual matches for months, many are expecting upsets, and it’s exactly what we saw yesterday evening.

Gao Yang played really well, but, in fairness, his opponent didn’t give him any sort of challenge. I wasn’t surprised at all TBH. Christoffer Clifford, aged 19,  may be under-21 champion in his country but he didn’t show anything even remotely convincing at the table. He was coming back from Portugal, where he had been competing in the EBSA under-21 Championship; he had played 5 matches there, won only two, against a 14 years old and a 13 years old… What’s the point really? It doesn’t do the lad any favour and won’t exactly put the local amateur snooker in the best of light.

On the other two tables, the top seeds, who come here completely “cold”, found themselves 3-0 down before eventually finding some form. But in both cases, it was too much to do, too late. That said, both Jimmy Robertson and Lee Walker played well, and both held it together when it mattered. Jimmy has been vulnerable to pressure in the past, but not this time. Lee is usually solid under pressure, but still had to do it after McGill’s three frames blitz.

Today we get a full day of snooker. For me, the most interesting match on the menu is Yan Bingtao v Hossein Vafaei. It’s part of the morning session and will only be on the player.

As already mentioned, Ronnie has’nt got an easy start, as he will face Stuart Carrington.

Stuart was interviewed by Phil Haigh:

Stuart Carrington has beaten Ronnie O’Sullivan before and is relishing the chance to do it again

Welsh Open 2020 - Day 3
Stuart Carrington takes on Ronnie O’Sullivan in Belfast on Sunday night (Picture: Getty Images)

Stuart Carrington has been handed one of the toughest draws in the game as he faces Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round of the Northern Ireland Open on Sunday, but he has beaten the Rocket before and fancies doing it again.

The 31-year-old did not have a great deal of experience on tour when he met O’Sullivan for the first time ever at the 2016 German Masters qualifiers.

The Grimsby man turned in a fine performance to down the Rocket 5-3, despite O’Sullivan knocking in breaks of 126, 94, 64 and 51 along the way.

Tasked with beating the six-time world champion again this Sunday night in Belfast and he is relishing the prospect.

‘A million per cent. As soon as the draw came out it’s a massive buzz,’ Carrington told Metro.co.uk. ‘Live on TV, Sunday night in front of a packed crowd. If you can’t get up for that you shouldn’t be playing the game.

‘It was special,’ Carrington added on his first meeting with the Rocket. ‘A qualifier for Germany in Wigan. Even there, it was a leisure centre in Wigan and it was still a packed crowd.

‘I played really well and beat him fair and square, it gives you that bit of confidence. At the end of the day you’ve got to treat it as another match, but I know that if I play well I’ve got a chance and can beat him, so why not.

‘I’d only been on the tour a few years and the first proper big match I’d played. Obviously walking out there, 200-300 people there but they’re all shouting “Come on Ronnie!”

‘It’s pressure but it’s an extra incentive to show what you can do, I remember it spurring me on at the time. I played really well, and as the winning line approached I didn’t shy away from it, I was really proud of myself to get over the line in the way I did.

‘To know that you can do it under the pressure and against the game’s greatest ever player, it proves to me that I can do it if it comes to that point.’

ROS v Carrington gettyimages-1205869307
Ronnie O’Sullivan will know that Carrington poses a threat in Belfast (Picture: Getty Images)

O’Sullivan has since exacted revenge on Carrington, scoring wins at the 2019 Northern Ireland and 2020 Welsh Opens, but the world number 51 has competed with and beaten the best in the business in the past and knows he can do it again.

‘Yeah I do [know I can compete with elite players], that’s the frustrating part,’ he said. ‘I know what I can do in practice, I know what I can do against the top boys in tournaments, it’s just finding some kind of consistency, that’s the key for everyone.

‘There’s so many players including  myself that know we can do what the top boys can do, it’s just trying to find the consistency.’

Welsh Open 2020 - Day 3
Carrington is a two-time ranking event semi-finalist (Picture: Getty Images)

It has been difficult to find much consistency at this stage of the season with long gaps between matches, and short format matches being played at the Championship League and British Open.

Carrington has played even less than many other players having drawn top 16 players in the Northern Ireland and Scottish Opens, so his matches are held over to the main venues rather than playing qualifiers over the last month.

‘It’s been a disjointed start to the season and that’s how my game’s been, to be fair, stop-start,’ he said. ‘A couple of half decent performances amongst some that were non-existent.

‘The summer after the World Championship, a few weeks off and maybe enjoyed myself a bit much. I started the season a bit rusty and it knocks your confidence when you’re not winning matches. It’s been plenty of hard work on the practice table since then to turn things around.

‘You can be playing really well in practice, go to the Championship League [winning his first group], then it’s three or four weeks till the next comp so it felt like back to square one again. It was a good start at the Championship League but then you lose your match sharpness and I struggled at the next comp.

‘I’ve drawn Ronnie in the Irish and Jack Lisowski in the Scottish, so I’m going to the venue for those, weeks after the other qualifiers. I don’t think the players are keen on the way things are at the moment. No one really knows where they are regarding the game, everything’s so stop start. Fingers crossed that from now until Christmas it’s quite busy for most of us.’

While Carrington is excited by the prospect of facing O’Sullivan and Lisowski on the big stages of the Home Nations events, he also knows that facing top 16 players in the opening round could end up costing him a lot of money.

‘It’s a funny one,’ he said. ‘Going to Ireland we’re on no money unless we win. So rather than going to Barnsley for a qualifier it will cost me £50, but Ireland could be £700 and we get nothing at all which is just wrong.

‘I can see why the top 16 are held over, but would it hurt them to play the qualifier here? Probably not. It’s very poor. I’m sure the top 16 aren’t bothered about the money getting there, but for the lower-ranked players it’s a lot of money.

‘£250, or something daft, to cover your costs to get to the event would be good. 128 pros and unless we win a match we’re not guaranteed a wage, it’s wrong.’

Stuart’s assessment about the season so far, and the prize money is correct.

There is however something that he doesn’t say, something that doesn’t even cross his mind probably, when mentioning the cost of qualifiers vs the cost of having to play at the venue abroad: he is privileged to be a British player, with all qualifiers played in his own country. Mainland European players, and Asian players have to travel “abroad” for EVERY qualifier, even for their home tournaments, or they have to live “abroad” in the UK, as expats, currently facing a fair amount of hostility aswell. It costs them a lot more, financially and psychologically. He is right that not being guaranteed a wage is wrong, but having all qualifiers played in the UK is wrong as well and the fact that’s it’s always been this way doesn’t make it right.

More snooker news – 09.10.2021

A bit “en vrac” this… whilst they finish the rigging in Belfast (hopefully it’s almost  finished by now)

On Yee Ng is finally on her way to the UK … safe trip On Yee!

OnYeeTravel

World Snooker Federation Championships have been announced and scheduled for February 2022:

Sheffield to Host 2022 World Snooker Federation Championships

The World Snooker Federation (WSF) is today delighted to announce the staging of the 2022 WSF Championships next February with two prestigious international tournaments set to offer direct access to the World Snooker Tour (WST).

Hugill won the WSF Open in 2020

The WSF working in partnership with the WPBSA, snooker’s world governing body, is now set to deliver the most significant amateur competitions held globally in our sport. This season’s event will again include the WSF Junior Championship (Under-18) previously won by China’s Gao Yang and the return of the WSF Championship, last won by England’s Ashley Hugill in 2020.

For the first time, the WSF Championships will be held in Sheffield, considered the spiritual home of snooker globally from 15-28 February 2022. The host venue for the tournament will be the state-of-the-art Ding Junhui Snooker Academy, with additional support provided by Victoria Snooker Academy as the host practice venue.

Both tournaments will once again be open to players of all nationalities and genders, with the winner of each to earn a two-year professional Tour card from the start of the 2022/23 season. Additional opportunities will be earned during the events where places will become available at the World Professional Snooker Championships.

Jason Ferguson, WSF President said: “We are today thrilled to be able to announce the return of the WSF Championships for 2022 as we look to build upon our successful 2020 event in Malta.

“The city of Sheffield is a location synonymous with the rich history of our sport and there can be no greater inspiration for the players who will be competing from all over the world than the sight of the iconic Crucible Theatre nearby.

“In particular, we are delighted to be able to work with two world class snooker facilities, which are both regularly used by some of the world’s leading players on the World Snooker Tour. Together with our city partners with whom we have worked with for many years, we are extremely excited to be able to deliver a fantastic snooker event for all amateur players.

“Our aim at the WSF is to provide more opportunity for players with the ambition to achieve their dreams.”

Entry for both tournaments will be made through WPBSA SnookerScores with further information to be released in due course.

The good news of course is that it’s happening. It’s good to have more amateur snooker back, Sheffield is a great place and those two academies are top class facilities. But … it’s in England, and once again it will be easier, less costsly, less travel hassle, and no administrative paper work for the British players.  I do hope that this is only because of the ongoing crisis, because organising events in the UK is easier at the moment for those in charge, and that the trend will not continue in coming year, but this choice of location is only reinforcing the already existing “UK bias”. Remember guys … W in your acronym stands for “World”.

WST has already announced Jamie O’Neill withdrawal from the 2021 Northern Ireland Open. Their livescores pages show that Tom Ford has withdrawn as well. Mark Williams, on the other hand, is still scheduled to play.

Finally … I’m not expecting anything from this tournament. The top 16 seeds will all be “rusty” as they haven’t played competitively for a long time. It’s hard to predict anything.

Judd Trump seems to have the easiest “quarter”, with the notoriously volatile Maguire and Mark Allen who has a terrible record in his “home” tournament.

In the second quarter, there is a real opportunity for either Shaun Murphy or Stuart Bingham as Neil Robertson hasn’t played at all competitively since the World Championship and had other things on his mind… including the small matter of getting married.

Ronnie hasn’t an easy draw: both Stuart Carrington and Andy Hicks are the kind that could cause him problems in the early rounds. Yan Bingtao, Ali Carter and Kyren Wilson are in that quarter as well.

The last quarter is probably the hardest of all, featuring Mark Selby and John Higgins as well as the two men who have won the first two events of the season, David Gilbert and Mark Williams (if he’s able to walk …).