The 2022 UK Championship – Day 1

The 2022 UK Championship started yesterday at the York Barbican. With the tiered draw, there are only two table in the arena and WST/WPBSA did a really good job with the setup.

Here are some pictures they shared on social media:

Having the crowd sat on three sides always creates a better atmosphere. As you can see that there was a huge crowd, and this picture doesn’t show many sat in the upper part of the arena. That got quite full as well. There is a partition, like at the Crucible. Here though players have significantly more space to move around the table. Well done!

Now here are the reports by WST on the action:

Afternoon session

Zhao Floored In First Round In York

World number 47 Sam Craigie scored a shock 6-2 win over Zhao Xintong in York as the defending champion fell at the first hurdle of the Cazoo UK Championship.

China’s Zhao beat Luca Brecel in the final at the Barbican last year, and soon afterwards won his second ranking title at the German Masters. But his form has been patchy since then – the 25-year-old has not been beyond the quarter-finals of a knockout ranking event since February.

Craigie won two qualifying matches to book his place in York, and today scored one of the best wins of his career in front of a sell-out crowd. The 29-year-old from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne is through to the last 16 of a ranking event for the sixth time in his career, and first time in a Triple Crown event.

A break of 83 in the opening frame settled Craigie into the match. Zhao took the next two, but Craigie then fired runs of 78 and 69 to go 3-2 ahead. World number eight Zhao had chances in the sixth but didn’t capitalise, and his opponent made a 36 clearance to double his lead.

Frame seven came down to a battle on the brown, and Zhao went in-off when attempting safety, which gifted the frame to Craigie. And another error from Zhao in the eighth, missing a red to a top corner, proved his final mistake as Craigie finished in style with a 104. He now faces Ryan Day or Jimmy White.

It was a good performance,” said Craigie. “The crowd were absolutely phenomenal. I’ve never felt anything like that before. At the start everyone was behind Zhao, and it was midway through that it seemed to switch. I don’t know why but I’m not complaining. The first frame settled me down. If I hadn’t have started quick, he could have easily pumped me 6-0 and I could have been home by now.”

Craigie was watched by his partner and their daughter and added: “After you win it’s brilliant, giving them a hug. It’s the first time for my eldest daughter, and she’s been buzzing all day. I was struggling to prepare for the match and she was just buzzing. It’s nice to get the win for her. I’m going straight home now, I’ve been in a hotel for a week so I need to go home and get everything washed!

Zhao said: “I couldn’t play well, I had pressure. Today is different, it’s my first time defending a title. I can’t say what happened. Maybe next time I can do it.

On the other table, close friends Mark Allen and Jordan Brown embraced at the start and end of their first round content, but it was world number nine Allen who remains in York thanks to a 6-4 success. This was the first time that the Northern Irish duo had met in a professional tournament.

Allen has been the player of the season so far having won the Northern Ireland Open as well as reaching the final of the Cazoo British Open, and he is clearly one of the favourites for the record £250,000 top prize over the coming nine days in York. His next opponent is Kyren Wilson or Matthew Selt.

The standard today was superb with two centuries and six more breaks over 50 in the ten frames. Brown made an 84 in taking an early 2-0 lead, but Allen recovered to win five of the next six frames with top runs of 68, 105, 113, 63 and 55. He could have wrapped up the result in frame nine but, after potting the last red, he missed a tricky brown to a centre pocket when he trailed by 29 points.

Brown closed to 5-4 then had a chance to set up a decider, but after making 21, a routine pink to a centre pocket hit the far jaw. Allen dominated the rest of the frame to seal his progress.

Allen said: “It was not a match I was looking forward to. As much as I try to block that out, try to do the right things, I was always conscious of it – that’s one of my best mates in the other seat. We’ve known each other since we were 12. So, I don’t get anywhere near the amount of enjoyment out of that that I would usually. But I’m very  happy to be in the next round. I thought he handled the early part of the match much better than I did, but as the match went on I felt like I held on a bit better than he did.

I’d love to have to wait another four and half years to play him because I’m invested in Jordan, I want him to do well, I know his family, I know how much they’ve put in to his snooker. He’s someone I am an avid follower of, and a supporter of. And I know he’s the same with me, so, it’s just disappointing that we had to meet so early. It’d be lovely to meet in a final someday.”

I truly hate how the word “shock” is constantly over-used. There was absolutely no shock here. I totally expected this outcome. Zhao hasn’t been playing well for some times and he was always going to be under pressure, this being his first title defence. Sam had already played a couple of matches, he had secured some ranking points and money and he knew that his form is there. The Allen vs Brown was a good match.

I thought that both players handled it well despite the difficult circumstances. When they hugged at the start of the match, Ronnie, who was in the ES studio, said that he couldn’t understand this. I’m certain that Stephen Hendry or Steve Davis couldn’t either. The “old school” players would never engage with their opponent right before a match, they wouldn’t even talk to anyone!

Evening session

White’s Run Ended On ‘Magical’ Night

Jimmy White’s biggest occasion on the World Snooker Tour for 12 years ended in a 6-2 defeat against Ryan Day at the Cazoo UK Championship, but the Whirlwind still described it as a “magical” experience which he will never forget

All-time legend White showed vintage form in the qualifying rounds, winning four matches including a tremendous victory over Stephen Maguire. The 60-year-old couldn’t replicate that performance in the first round proper in York, but the reception he received from the crowd will live long in the memory. The fans rose to their feet for a standing ovation as White was introduced into the arena.

That’s why I still play snooker, for their support on nights like this,” said the 1992 UK Champion, whose last occasion of this magnitude was at the 2010 Masters. “It was magical, mind-blowing. I will never forget it.

Day won the Cazoo British Open last month and the Welshman was too strong for White as he booked a last 16 clash with Sam Craigie, who knocked out defending champion Zhao Xintong earlier in the day.

White should have won the opening frame, but in potting the final brown he lost position on the blue and then missed a difficult pot to a top corner, allowing Day to snatch it. Londoner White also failed to take chances in the second frame, though he did make a 55 in the third to trail 2-1. World number 16 Day then pulled away with runs of 127 and 105 as he went 5-1 ahead.

Breaks of 49 and 44 helped White pull one back, but there would be no fairytale ending as Day made a 63 in frame eight and clinched the result.

In the first frame I had two or three chances, I could have taken one and settled down,” admitted White. “In the second I got frustrated and made some mistakes with my shot selection. You can’t keep letting a player like Ryan off and he got stronger.

Day said: “Jimmy was my favourite player when I was growing up, my hero. To share that occasion with him was a privilege. When he walked into the arena the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up. I was full of adrenaline and nerves for the first few frames but after that I managed to calm myself down and play well.”

On the other table, eighth seed Kyren Wilson survived a late rally from Matthew Selt to win 6-3 and earn a second round meeting with Mark Allen. Kettering’s Wilson has already won the European Masters this season while Allen has won the Northern Ireland Open so that match will bring together two form players. Wilson reached the semi-finals at the Barbican a year ago, notably knocking out Ronnie O’Sullivan before losing to Luca Brecel, and is in the hunt again for a first Triple Crown title.

He looked sharp tonight as he cruised into a 5-0 lead with top breaks of 103 and 101. Back came Selt to 5-3 with 65, 71 and 55 and the Essex cueman had an early chance in frame nine but was unlucky to snooker himself in potting the first red. Wilson got the better of a safety exchange and made 74 to end the resistance.

He made it tough for me from 5-0, every credit to him,” said 30-year-old Wilson. “It was nice to end the match with a big break. This is a huge event and it feels bigger this year because of the set up. The arena and the CueZone and FanZone areas are fantastic and the event feels very classy now, the UK Championship deserves this. My game feels in very good shape and I’ll have to play well to have a chance against Mark Allen. We will both want to go for the jugular.

I knew it would be a special atmosphere tonight, being in the same arena as Jimmy. He deserved every moment of that. Jimmy is the Godfather of snooker, he has had an amazing career.

Even watching on television you could sense the electrified atmosphere in the arena when Jimmy came down the stairs. He deserves it. He has been a fantastic ambassador for snooker for over 40 years, still is and still plays to a very high level on his day. He’s an icon.

Jimmy should have won the first frame, and probably the second as well. Had he managed that, who knows how the match would have unfolded. But he didn’t. Ryan Day, once he settled played well and deserved the win.

I saw very little of the other match … the two hours time difference (here in Greece) caught up with me.

I put some of Kyren’s quotes in bold. That’s exactly what the event, and snooker in general, needs. Class, no gimmicks, no DJs, no T-shirts or sloppy casual dress. The billiards sports’ dress code is part of what makes then unique, distinctive, gentlemen (and women) sports.

6 thoughts on “The 2022 UK Championship – Day 1

  1. Hmm, I don’t remember any talk of Ronnie helping Xintong last year before he won the UK, when he was losing all those qualifiers (July-November 2021), but okay.

  2. Yes, the media will always resort to simple formulas: “shock”, “upset”, “crash out” or conversely “safely through”. Of course, Zhao’s exit is a technical ‘shock’, but as you say, it was very predictable. He should have won the Summer Championship League, and then had that fateful trip to Hong Kong, which have probably wrecked his season. It does open up an opportunity at the top of the draw, probably for Ryan Day.

  3. Obviously, I’m a huge Ronnie fan, and I think Xintong is great too, but…when exactly did Ronnie start “helping” Xintong? After his two big ranking wins? Seems likes an odd time to start getting any sort of coaching or help from another top player. Sometimes the greatest in their field, do not make the greatest teacher/coach.

    Unless something changes in the next 12 months with Xintong, it could be the hardest fall from the Top 16 (Top 8 even!) ever.

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