2023 Crucible – Day 15 – Brecel and Selby are our Finalists

Luca Brecel completed the biggest come-back ever to beat Si Jiahui by 17-15 in the first semi-final. He is the first player from mainland Europe to compete in a Crucible Final. Win or lose tomorrow, he’s made history this week and sent WST yet another message that rather than looking at countries like Qatar or Saoudi Arabia, with no snooker culture of history, they should really invest in developing snooker in mainland Europe, starting with reviving the Belgian Open.

Here is the report by WST:

Cool-Hand Luca Pulls Off Record Comeback

Luca Brecel became the first player to win a match at the Crucible from nine frames behind as he recovered a 14-5 deficit to beat Si Jiahui 17-15 and reach the final of the Cazoo World Championship.

The previous record comeback had stood for 38 years, since the 1985 final when Dennis Taylor lost the first eight frames but eventually beat Steve Davis 18-17. This time, Si was just three frames from the winning line when his opponent began his epic revival. Brecel won 11 in a row to go 16-14 ahead, and eventually sealed the result at the end of a dramatic 32nd frame.

At the age of just 20, China’s Si came so close to becoming the youngest ever Crucible finalist, and he would also have been the first debutant to reach the final since Terry Griffiths in 1979. The most important moment of the match came at the end of the third session, late on Friday night, when he missed a straight-forward green on the brink of a 15-9 overnight lead. Instead it was 14-10, and Brecel was able to continue his momentum into the concluding session and complete a remarkable turnaround.

The 28-year-old from Belgium had never won a match at the Crucible before this tournament, losing his first five matches at the venue, but is now showing his talent, flair and charisma to a vast global audience. The first player from mainland Europe to go this deep in Sheffield, he will face Mark Selby or Mark Allen over 35 frames on Sunday and Monday. It will be Brecel’s seventh ranking final and he has won three of the previous six, at the 2017 China Championship, 2021 Scottish Open and 2022 Championship League.

Brecel, who has knocked out Ricky Walden, Mark Williams, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Si, is now sure to jump into the top four from his current ranking of tenth, and could go as high as second if he wins the title. He is aiming to become only the fourth non-British winner of snooker’s most famous trophy, after Canada’s Cliff Thorburn, Ireland’s Ken Doherty and Australia’s Neil Robertson.

Brecel took the opening frame today with a break of 80 to leave the score at 14-11. In frame 26, Brecel led 40-26 when he converted an excellent pot on the third-last red to a centre pocket, and he added the points he needed to narrow the gap to just two. A rapid break of 81 from Brecel made it eight in a row as he closed to 14-13. Frame 28 lasted 36 minutes and came down to the colours. Si trailed 53-40 when he played a weak safety on the blue, and Brecel potted it from distance to square the match for the first time since 1-1.

Brecel took control of the 29th frame with a run of 48, then took advantage of a safety error from his opponent to add 31 and take the lead. Si had two scoring chances early in frame 30 but mustered only 10 points, first missing a tricky black, and then a blue off its spot. From the second error, Brecel made a break of 73 to go 16-14 ahead. Si finally ended a losing streak of 11 consecutive frames with a break of 84.

In frame 32, Brecel looked set for victory until he missed a red to a corner pocket on 43. Si replied with 40 before running out of position on the last red, leading to a brief tactical tussle, resolved when Brecel clipped a thin cut into a top corner, and cleared to the blue before bowing his head in elation and relief.

It was incredible. At 14-5 down I was thinking I could lose with a session to spare,” said Brecel. “To win the last five frames last night was big, especially the last frame when he missed the green which could have made it 15-9. That was a sign for me to keep believing. He wasn’t missing in the first two sessions. Today I was at my best and I got a bit of luck. I was really feeling pressure at 16-15 but I played a good frame.

I didn’t practise for this tournament because I wanted to come here mentally fresh with no expectations. I could have lost to Ricky Walden in the first round, but I played so well at the end of that game and I have got stronger since then. It has been an incredible journey.

This is the first time I have had so much attention from people in Belgium. It feels like the whole of the country is texting me! It’s all over the newspapers. I have never seen anything like it.

I will enjoy the final because I shouldn’t be there. It’s a bonus, there is no pressure on me, unless it’s close at the end. I will play my game and go for my shots. It will be amazing.”

Si, who will jump from 80th to 36th in the rankings, said: “I’m disappointed but my opponent played near perfect snooker for the last two sessions, and my safety wasn’t as good. I have realised I have some flaws in my game and I need to improve. I will go into next season confident and believing I can beat any player.”

That’s a great attitude to have from both players.

Everyone, other than Luca probably was glad to see Si win a frame after losing 11 on the bounce.

Here are some of Ronnie’s thoughts about what happened to Si out there (reported by Phil Haigh)


Speaking when the score was at 14-14, O’Sullivan told Eurosport: ‘He’s been scoring heavily all tournament and for some reason something’s not working.

He’s had chances. I don’t know, it’s weird. The Crucible can do that to you. It can really tighten the arm up. Once the arm tightens up you can’t think more than two balls. It’s a nightmare.

I think that’s what’s happened to him. He’s totally frozen, can’t get his cue arm through. Pressure out there at the Crucible can do that to you.

It’s ok once, if it happens to you, but if you start making a habit of it you can’t win this tournament, because someone’s going to ask those questions at some point.

If you can’t get your cue through, if you’re going to get stage fright…it’s what the Crucible can do to you, I’ve had it before, it happens to all the players out there. It’s horrible to watch but that’s what the Crucible does to you.’

O’Sullivan was glad to see him show that quality and not sink to an even more morale-sapping loss.

I’m pleased that Si got his action back towards the end and finished on a high,’ he said. ‘It would have been horrible if he’d lost all those frames on the trot and not made a break in the last 10 frames.

At least he got over that, put up a fight and Luca had to win it, and he won it well.

Hopefully Si will learn from that, just Crucible nerves, next time in that situation just be patient and get out of it quicker.’

In the evening, there was a possibility of a very, very late finish but somehow Allen went missing at the start of the session and Selby turned the screw … as he does. Allen fought back but it was too much to do, too late.

Here is the report by WST:

Selby Into Sixth Crucible Final

Mark Selby is just one match away from becoming the fourth player to conquer the Crucible five times, having survived a Mark Allen fight-back to win 17-15 in their Cazoo World Championship semi-final.

After Luca Brecel’s epic recovery earlier in the day, another turnaround looked possible when Selby’s 16-10 lead was reduced to 16-15 by gutsy Allen. But Selby’s rare capacity to thrive when the pressure is cranked up in the Crucible cauldron was evident again as he won the 32nd frame, punching the air in celebration as the last balls went down at 12.45am.

Leicester’s 39-year-old Selby, who lifted the trophy in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2021, goes through to face Brecel over 35 frames on Sunday and Monday. A fifth world title would move Selby ahead of John Higgins, and within striking distance of Steve Davis (six), Stephen Hendry (seven) and Ronnie O’Sullivan (seven).

The only final he has lost was back in 2007 when he was beaten by Higgins. Given his superior experience, determination and exceptional all-round game, Selby will start strong favourite against Brecel, who will be playing in his first Crucible final and aiming for a maiden Triple Crown success.

Most Crucible finals
Stephen Hendry 9
Steve Davis, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan 8
Jimmy White and Mark Selby 6

World number two Selby will be playing in his 33rd ranking final – victory would give him a 23rd title and third of the season having landed the English Open and WST Classic.

The result ends Allen’s hopes of taking over as world number one; he would have taken that position from Ronnie O’Sullivan if the result had gone his way tonight. He was playing in the semi-finals in Sheffield for only the second time, and first since 2009 when he lost to John Higgins. The Northern Irishman’s ambition to win the title will have to wait another year, but he can reflect on a career-best season which has seen him win three ranking titles and re-establish himself as a real force.

Selby took the first frame of the evening session to lead 12-10. Allen might have snatched frame 23 from 38 points behind had he not missed the penultimate red to a centre pocket, presenting Selby with the chance to stretch his advantage. The Jester dominated the next three with breaks of 64, 57 and 103 (his ninth century of the tournament) to lead 16-10.

Runs of 43 and 39 helped Allen pull one back, and in frame 28 he laid a snooker on the last red, and took the chance that followed to narrow the gap to 16-12. The fight-back continued as Allen secured the 29th with a double on the penultimate red. Selby was just four pots from the winning line in frame 30 when he missed a mid-range brown to a baulk corner, and his opponent capitalised to close to 16-14. Both players missed chances in a nervy 31st, Selby narrowly failing to convert the last red from distance, and Allen cleared to make it five frames in a row.

Early in the 32nd, Allen went for a long red and missed his target, and Selby made an excellent 64 before running out of position. He was soon back among the balls and added 28 for victory.

Every credit to Mark to come back at me from 16-10 down,” said Selby, whose route to the final has taken him past Matthew Selt, Gary Wilson, John Higgins and Allen. “Neither of us played great, but he found some form at the end. If it had gone 16-16 then anything could have happened. The Crucible is such a special place. When you are out there you are twitching all over the place, no other venue seems to do that to you. There is so much at stake. I will be out there trying my hardest in the final and hopefully that will be enough. Otherwise, it will be incredible for Luca and great for snooker if he wins it.”

Allen said: “I’m disappointed that I didn’t have my best stuff for most of the match. I was enjoying it out there and I could have been there all night, which shows that my fitness has improved and that’s something I will keep working on. There are a lot of positives to take from the season, I have won three titles and had a few other finals and semis, and that’s without playing my best in a lot of those events. I have ticked a box here by reaching the semi-finals, but at the moment I’m frustrated not to have played better.”

Mark Selby will go into this match as a massive favourite of course. He’s been there and done it four times. Luca Brecel hadn’t won a match at the Crucible before this year. Luca won’t beat Selby at Selby’s game. He will know that, he will need to attack. It may not work but it’s his only chance as trying to defend against an opponent like Mark will definitely not work.

2023 Crucible – Day 14 – About Selby, Allen and blue cheese

Yes, I know … that title is a bit bizarre but, I promise, I’m not going mad and I’ll explain.

Yesterday, Si Jiahui and Luca Brecel served us a treat. They got the Crucible crowd in rapture. They played two sessions of wonderful attacking snooker, Si getting 14-5 ahead, only for Luca to win five frames on the bounce in a festival of daring shots and sensational pots. It was enthralling, it was beautiful, it was refreshing and it was 100% what our sport needs to attract more young fans, especially as they are young themselves. Luca will start the last session being 14-10 behind, but he has proved against Ronnie that he’s more than capable to overcome that deficit. No matter who wins to today, both have done wonder for the image of snooker. Luca is flying the flag for Belgian and mainland European snooker. Si’s extraordinary run is exactly what Chinese snooker needs at this moment in time. They attracted praise from the pundits both on Eurosport and the BBC. Deservedly. They also attracted praise from fellow snooker players on social media, most notably from Judd Trump.

Mark Allen and Mark Selby on the other hand were pulled off having played only five frames… Stephen Hendry, definitely didn’t enjoy watching that. While working for the BBC he made his opinion clear: “A dark cloud came over the match table at the Crucible” is what Hendry said and he added .“It was not pretty. It’s not the snooker that I want to watch, but I understand that snooker has to be played in different ways. It’s almost like they’re trying to be too precise, too exact in their match play. Just play the ball sometimes.

Similar opinions were of course expressed on social media, and inevitably, those who expressed it were branded “Selby haters”. That’s ridiculous. The brand of snooker Selby and Allen played is very skilful but it’s not for everyone. It requires a rather deep understanding of the game to appreciate how difficult and sophisticated the brand of snooker they played is. It requires sustained attention and patience to watch it unfold. It is snooker at the highest level, but not the kind of snooker that will attract the masses or the kids. That’s where the thought of blue cheese came to my mind. I absolutely love blue cheese, Roquefort in particular. I’m in a minority, I know it. A shop that would sell only blue cheese, or even mainly blue cheese would almost certainly struggle to stay in business. To survive as a commercial enterprise, they need to offer in priority what the majority of the potential customers demand, and that’s definitely NOT blue cheese. BUT, having it for the connoisseurs, helping customers to discover something different, that they may come to appreciate, yes, that’s good … and even necessary. Snooker has to find the right balance between its “blue cheese” and the more common but popular stuff. And pundits/commentators should try to explain and promote all aspects of the sport.

Now back to the “haters” tag. If someone tells me that they hate blue cheese, I will not suppose that it means they hate the person who produces it. There were times where I really disliked the way Mark Selby played, and was critical of his game as I thought that he was overly negative. I’m not the only one. Graeme Dott, a former World Champion, famously went on a scathing attack after a particularly long and painful evening at the Masters… But hating the person? Never.

2023 Crucible – Day 13 – Si and Allen ahead

After the first day of the semi-finals and one session played in each match, Si Jiahui and Mark Allen both lead by 5-3.

Ronnie was in the ES studio yesterday evening and explained why he believes that Mark Selby is the best equipped to win the title this year: consistency. Ronnie’s argument is that in a long competition like the World Championship, consistency is what players need more than anything else. He’s probably right. One very bad session can be enough to lose you a match, especially if your opponent is consistent. He would know after what happened on Wednesday 🙄. One brilliant session may not be enough as we have seen in the first round when Milkins beat Perry from 7-2 down.

What happened yesterday is that Luca Brecel played OK but was nowhere near his fluent best. Si scored well when in and took his chances, as he has been all tournament so far. On the other table Allen found something special after the MSI and won the last three fames of the session, with three breaks over 60, restricting Selby to just one point!

That’s basically it for today… Don’t get me started on Barry Hearn floating ideas of bringing the Snooker World Championship to Qatar 😡😡😡

2023 Crucible – Day 12 yields an unexpected SF line-up

There will be no member of the “Class of 92” in the semi-finals at the Crucible this year as both Ronnie and John Higgins were beaten yesterday. You can read more about Luca Brecel victory over Ronnie here.

The top half of the draw produced a completely unexpected semi-final as Si Jiahui will face Luca Brecel. This is not what I wished as a Ronnie fan, but having two players under-30, both from outside UK/Ireland, competing at this level on the biggest stage is good for snooker as a sport with ambitions to be global. I appreciate that as a snooker fan.

Here is WST report on Si Jiahui’s QF win over Anthony McGill

Rising Star Si Stuns McGill

Si Jiahui became the first Crucible debutant to reach the semi-finals since 1995, beating Anthony McGill 13-12 in an exciting late night finish at the Cazoo World Championship.

At the age of just 20, Si becomes the youngest player to make it to the last four in Sheffield since Ronnie O’Sullivan in 1996, and the first debutant since Andy Hicks a year earlier. The new Chinese sensation becomes the third player from his country to make it to the famed one table set-up, after Ding Junhui and Marco Fu.

Having won three qualifying matches to make it to the televised stages, Si then knocked out Shaun Murphy 10-9 and Robert Milkins 13-7 before getting the better of an enthralling battle against McGill. He is sure to jump at least 44 places from his current ranking of 80th.

Murphy predicted last week that Si would become the first World Champion from China, and the precocious youngster is just two wins away from fulfilling that prophesy. His next challenge is against Luca Brecel, the best of 33 frames over the next three days. Si, who comes from Zhu Ji in the Zhejiang province of central China, is through to the semi-finals of a ranking event for the first time.

Scotland’s McGill took a scrappy opening frame tonight to lead 9-8. In the next, Si led 44-25 when he missed a red to a baulk corner, playing with the rest, and McGill punished him with an excellent 35 clearance to double his lead. The next two were shared to leave the score at 11-9. Frame 21 lasted 46 minutes and went Si’s way, then the 22nd came down to a safety battle on the colours, and a loose shot on the green from McGill handed his opponent the chance to clear for 11-11.

Si edged ahead with a superb run of 87, only for McGill to bounce back with a 130 total clearance to set up the decider. The key moment came when McGill, trailing 29-7, attempted an awkward red to a top corner, playing left-handed. But he misjudged the chance, hit the wrong red, and handed his opponent an opportunity, from which Si made a vital 41. McGill battled for the snookers he needed but his efforts were in vain.

I genuinely felt pressure during the last frame and I had to keep my nerve under control,” said Si, who won the World Snooker Federation Open last year. “All the spectators were watching. I was offered a lot of opportunities during the match by my opponent, and I thought with that many chances I wanted to win. I felt the desire, which was different from previous matches. I could have lost to Murphy and felt great because I was supposed to lose anyway.

I’ve learned something from this experience and I will be playing under a better mindset from now on. I used to tremble because of nerves in deciding frames but I’m able to get through it more consistently, mentally stronger.

I’ll keep going for my shots because I’m still not as good as others at safety. I’ll go for potting when there are options, try to attack. I will keep trying my best, but I don’t want fans to expect too much. I am surprised to get this far because I didn’t think I was at the level of players who can make it to the semi-finals. I need to improve. So please don’t think of me as great player like Ding!

McGill said: “Si deserved to win because he controlled the decider. The red I played left-handed, I tried to convince myself that I could get through to it. Overall I played badly throughout the match, my game just wasn’t there.

I know that there is a big hurdle for Chinese players when it comes to see Ding for what he is: a great, great player, who had to cope with enormous pressure and unrealistic expectations, someone who changed snooker’s landscape both in his country and worldwide but who probably will remain an underachiever on the biggest scene of the sport.

The bottom half of the draw yielded a clash of two established heavyweights in Mark Selby and Mark Allen. Mark Allen has been the player of the season but has so far underachieved at the Crucible. He only reached the one table situation once before, in 2009. I always said that Mark’s problem at the Crucible was stamina. He was badly overweight and physically not fit. I strongly believe that working on his fitness and losing weight is what allowed him to have the season he had, and get to this stage in this event. Mark Selby has been there and done it… four times already. This is a titanic match.

Here is the report by WST on Mark Selby’s win over John Higgins

‘Animal’ Selby Into Eighth Crucible Semi

Mark Selby moved a step closer to a fifth Cazoo World Championship title as he came from 4-1 down to beat John Higgins 13-7 and earn a semi-final clash with Mark Allen.

Higgins described Selby as “an animal on the table” at the end of a battle between two players with four Crucible crowns apiece.

Victory for Selby levels his head-to-head record with Higgins on snooker’s grandest stage. The pair have now beaten each other three times each at the Theatre of Dreams. Their storied rivalry has included two world finals; Higgins won the title match in 2007 and Selby was victorious in 2017.

Selby will now progress to face a semi-final showdown against player of the season so far Mark Allen. The Pistol earned his place in the last four with a hard fought 13-10 win over Jak Jones.

Defeat ends a disappointing season for Higgins, who failed to go beyond the quarter-finals in any ranking event. It’s the first time that has happened to the Scot since 2012.

Selby came into the evening with a 9-5 advantage following this afternoon’s second session, which was cut two frames short due to over running. When play got back underway a break of 64 saw the Leicester cueman extend his cushion to five frames. Glasgow’s Higgins replied by taking a 37-minute 15th, after crafting a contribution of 65 to make it 10-6.

The 17th frame went the way of Selby, who re-established his five frame lead thanks to a run of 67. Higgins had a chance in the next but fell out of ideal position and missed a black on 38, Selby ruthlessly punished with 91 to move a frame from victory at 12-6.

Higgins defiantly fired in a century run of 102, but Selby quickly stamped up any hopes of a fightback with a break of 67 to wrap up the win and seal a place in the World Championship semi-finals for the eighth time in his career.

It is a massive accolade from someone like John (to be praised). I have so much respect for John as a player and a person. From start to finish I felt I played as good as I can. My safety was as good as it can be, it needed to be. When I got my chances I scored more times than not. It’s a tough combination,” said 39-year-old Selby.

Mark (Allen) has been the form player this year. He is number one on the money list for a reason. He won three tournaments, lost in the final of another and now here he is in the semi-finals of the World Championship. It doesn’t get any easier and will be a tough game. Mark will fancy the job but I’m going to look forward to it.

I always put a lot of pressure on myself because I know what I’m capable of if I turn up. Nobody puts more pressure on me than I do. I don’t read too much into what people think. I know I have a tough game against Mark.

Higgins said: “I played a terrible first frame today. I should definitely have gone 5-4 in front. From then it was downhill for me and Mark got stronger. He just totally took me apart. His safety was incredible. I was in bad positions all day. He is an animal on the table, he really is.

He just continually keeps you on the back foot. When you do come to the table with a chance your mind is a little bit frazzled sometimes. He is a master of the game of snooker. He is an incredible player.

It’s alright doing it against the other players, when you are against the big boys and they are putting it to you, it is about how you come back. I never came back. It is a disappointing end to the tournament for me.”

Both semi-finals are hard to predict. Si has never played at such level and fatigue, an “external” expectations might become negative factors. Luca on form can be unplayable but consistency has been a major issue throughout his career so far. He’s a bit of a maverick. As already mentioned, Allen has been the best player this season but Selby is the one with a vast experience of this setup, he’s done it all before, he’s won the event four times.

2023 Crucible – Day 12 – Ronnie bows out to Luca Brecel

Ronnie’s World Title defence came to an end in the quarter-finals as he was beaten by an excellent Luca Brecel.

Ronnie came to play the third and last session of his quarter-final match today, leading by 10-6, but he failed to win a single frame this afternoon and the match ended on a 13-10 score in favour of his opponent, Luca Brecel.

These are the scores for the third session session: Ronnie left, Luca right

That’s quite damning. Ronnie didn’t play well at all although he didn’t make that many mistakes, but every single one proved very costly. The simple truth is that Luca played exceptionally well today. He looked relaxed and confident, was getting all the difficult shots, scored heavily and starved his opponent of any amount of quality table time. If he carries on that way, he is very capable of winning the title and, of course, that would be great for the development of snooker in mainland Europe, and Belgium in particular.

I don’t know if Luca listened to Alan McManus yesterday, or if someone in his entourage did, but there was no nonsense today, just sheer brilliance.

For Ronnie it has largely be a season to forget. He won two invitational events, but failed to go past the quarter-finals in any ranking event. He has suffered from that elbow injury for most of the season and that probably didn’t help. He also arrived at the Crucible suffering from a bug. But maybe – and it pains me to write this – it’s age finally catching up with him.

Here is the report by WST:

Sensational Brecel Smashes Rocket

No one else can play like that,” said Ronnie O’Sullivan after his hopes of an eighth Cazoo World Championship crown were ended by an astonishing seven frame burst from Luca Brecel, winning 13-10 to reach the semi-finals.

For once, snooker’s all-time greatest O’Sullivan was on the receiving end of a blistering display of attacking snooker. Brecel’s average shot time across the match was just 17.7 seconds as, seemingly unburdened by pressure or doubt, he allowed his remarkable natural ability to take over. The last seven frames took just 75 minutes as the Belgian ace rattled in a series of fluent breaks, thumping balls into pockets with confidence and accuracy. Brecel has won three ranking titles but this was perhaps his best ever performance.

The first player from mainland Europe to go this deep into snooker’s biggest tournament, the 28-year-old will now experience the one-table situation at the Crucible for the first time,  facing Anthony McGill or Si Jiahui over 33 frames on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Brecel did not win a match in his first five visits to Sheffield, but is now making up for that record.

A year ago, O’Sullivan equalled Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles, but despite a resounding 13-2 defeat of Hossein Vafaei in the second round this time, he was outplayed by Brecel, albeit making no more than a handful or errors in the last session. O’Sullivan has won two invitation titles this season but has failed to land a ranking title and will lose his world number one spot if Mark Allen reaches the final this week.

The opening frame today came down to the last two reds. O’Sullivan was trapped in a difficult snooker and handed his opponent the chance to clear and close to 10-7. Brecel then set sparks flying with breaks of 112, 64 and 72 to level at 10-10.

If Brecel’s fans were concerned that the interval might his affect his momentum, they were soon pacified. The last three frames took just 26 minutes and O’Sullivan potted just one ball, as Brecel added runs of 61, 78 and 63 to reach the 11th ranking event semi-final of his career.

To win seven frames in a row against Ronnie is probably the best session I have played,” said ninth seed Brecel. “I was so composed for the whole match, I felt very calm, even at the end. It’s amazing to do that in the Crucible. It was like a dream because there was  big crowd, Stephen Hendry was in the commentary box, I was playing Ronnie and playing my best stuff. It doesn’t get any better than that!

I struggled at the Crucible many times but it has all changed suddenly and I don’t know why. I feel so good here now and I have not struggled to get over the line in my three matches. If I wasn’t happy off the table then I wouldn’t be able to play like this.

The attention in Belgium when I beat Mark Williams was unbelievable. Fans could follow it live online on newspaper websites. I don’t think many people expected me to win but I did, which is great for snooker in Belgium. I am feeling exhausted now, I need to feel fit to be able to play my next match, otherwise I will not be able to play at 12 seconds a shot. So I have to wait to see how I feel tomorrow, but if I feel good I will play the same game.

O’Sullivan said: “Luca was phenomenal, brilliant, amazing. What a player, what a talent. I’ve never seen a talent like that before. No one plays like that, it’s impossible. That was confident, solid, assured. I don’t think he realises how talented he is, it’s very hard for you to see your own gift, other people see it. But he is one gifted snooker player. The way he gets through the ball, the art, the work he gets on the white. He plays with no inhibitions. I’m sure he gets nervous, but when you play like that you don’t really get nervous because it happens at such a good speed. It’s a lovely way to play snooker.

He’s got a great attitude towards the game. He turns up plays, loves it, enjoys his life. Even if he doesn’t win it, it’s still great to have him in the game and we love watching him.

And here are some more quotes, reported by the BBC


He played unbelievable. He is such a good player and I love watching him. He is such a dynamic player and he is full a talent,” O’Sullivan told BBC Sport.

Probably the most talented snooker player I have ever seen. I would love to go and see him win it just for snooker because that is how the game should be played

If I’d have put up a bit more resistance maybe he wouldn’t have played as well but you still have to pot the balls. I just wasn’t playing well enough to have an impact on the game. 

If it was a boxing match they’d have stopped it very early because I was pinching frames and hanging on and it catches up with you at some point.”


It was a great feeling to play like that. I know that if the balls go well for me I can easily win seven frames in a row even against Ronnie, so I am not surprised,” Brecel said.

Mentally I was ready but physically I wasn’t feeling too well, I was sweating and my arm didn’t feel good. It is amazing to beat someone like Ronnie from so far behind.

I felt good from 10-9 down. My cue ball improved when I got to 10-10 and every frame got better.”

Inevitably after this season there will be questions about the future

Here is what Ronnie said only a few days ago as reported by Phil Haigh

I’ve played a lot of matches here,’ he said. ‘At some point it has to end but I hope it doesn’t end soon.

I hope when I’m not performing as well as I need to win tournaments, I can still come here and keep enjoying playing.

If I have to qualify, then so be it. Not do what Stephen Hendry did which was walk away a little bit earlier than he maybe should have done. You can keep playing, enjoying it, reinventing yourself, I don’t have to win tournaments to enjoy this game.

I love my practice more than my tournaments. That is a massive incentive for me to keep playing.

See you next season Ronnie … hopefully fully fit, injury free and happy

2023 Crucible – Day 11 – First of the QFs Round

The quarter-finals round started yesterday and Ronnie had to play two sessions, one in the morning, one in the evening. He is 10-6 up at the end of the day.

Hereafter are the reports by WST:

Ronnie goes 6-2 up in his first QFs session

Rocket In Charge / Allen And Jones Level

Defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan blitzed to a 6-2 lead over Luca Brecel following the first session of their Cazoo World Championship quarter-final in Sheffield.

The Rocket earned his quarter-final spot by making light work of a grudge match with Hossein Vafaei in the previous round. The pair exchanged words in the media ahead of the game, but ultimately O’Sullivan did most of his talking on the table and eased to a 13-2 win.

Brecel’s opening round win over Ricky Walden was his first ever victory at the Crucible, having fallen at the first hurdle in his previous five appearances. The Belgian followed that up with a thrilling 13-11 defeat of Mark Williams to make the quarters.

It was Brecel who made the early running this morning. He averaged just 12 seconds a shot on his way to crafting a magnificent 93 to take the opener. O’Sullivan responded by taking the second with breaks of 56 and 51 to restore parity. They traded the next two frames to end all square at 2-2 heading into the interval.

When play resumed O’Sullivan took complete control of proceedings. He claimed the lead for the first time at 3-2 and then fired in a superb 128 to double his advantage.

The seventh frame saw Brecel come back from requiring two snookers, only to miss the pink and leave it over the pocket for O’Sullivan to move 5-2 ahead. The 39-time ranking event winner then made it five on the bounce with an 85 break to take the last of the session and end 6-2 ahead. They will resume this evening from 7pm.

Ronnie leads by 10-6 at the end of hi second QFs session

O’Sullivan Opens Up 10-6 Lead

Playing his 100th match at the Crucible, Ronnie O’Sullivan took a 10-6 lead over Luca Brecel in the second session of their Cazoo World Championship quarter-final, and is just three frames away from the next round.

This entertaining tie, in which O’Sullivan’s average shot time is 19.1 seconds and Brecel just 17.7,  returns for the concluding session on Wednesday at 2.30pm. First to 13 frames goes into the semi-finals, and if O’Sullivan makes it then he will be into the one-table situation at the Crucible for the 14th time.

World number one O’Sullivan is chasing an eighth world title, which would put him one ahead of Stephen Hendry’s seven. Belgium’s Brecel had never won a match at the Crucible before this tournament, and must win seven of the last nine frames to keep his run going.

Ninth seed Brecel trailed 6-2 after the first session but made the perfect start tonight with a break of 128. In frame ten, O’Sullivan led 49-42 when he missed a mid-range pot on the penultimate red, and Brecel cleared to close to 6-4. O’Sullivan bounced back with a break of 68 to win the 12th and he dominated frame 12 to lead 8-4 at the interval.

Brecel enjoyed a huge slice of good fortune in the 13th as, leading 58-37, he missed an attempted pot on the last red but fluked a difficult snooker, and from the chance that followed he closed the gap. A rapid run of 81 got him within two frames at 8-6. The luck turned in O’Sullivan’s favour in the 15th when, up 26 points, he fluked frame-ball yellow when escaping from a snooker. And the Englishman dominated the last of the night to share the session 4-4 and maintain his advantage.

Here are the scores after the first two sessions:

It’s not telling the whole story though. Ronnie was far from his best and looked very tired. Luca was the better player but his approach to the match and outlandish shot selection at times didn’t impress Alan Mc Manus. Alan was particularly unhappy with Luca playing wild “hit and hope” shots when snookered rigth from the fits escape attempt. Ronnie punished him each time.

Speaking in the Eurosport studio this is what he had to say:

Ronnie O’Sullivan was “vulnerable” against Luca Brecel, according to Jimmy White, and Alan McManus feels the defending champion will leave no stone unturned in a bid to find his best form.

O’Sullivan was put under pressure by Brecel on Tuesday evening, but shared the session to retain his four-frame lead in their World Championship quarter-final.

White and McManus feel Brecel missed a major opportunity to put O’Sullivan to the sword.

Ronnie has been very vulnerable tonight, he has missed so many balls,” White said in the Eurosport studio. “He was laughing when he missed a red by so far.

He’s just not firing on all cylinders and Luca Brecel kept getting in and getting the opportunities and just gifting Ronnie frames.

If you look at the scoreboard, he won’t be happy with his day’s work. He did not play well at all

He played nowhere near like he did against Hossein [Vafaei]. He has not carried on, but is still 10-6 up. For me, the match is done.

He’ll be looking back on how bad he’s played, but the competitor that he is, he’ll see he’s 10-6 up and think ‘I haven’t even played here’.

He will give it maximum again tomorrow to get over the line and reset for the semi-finals

He has had a chance, Luca, there to be in the match, but he’s not now for me. He is too far behind. It will be Ronnie nursing this lead over the line and going again.”

McManus felt O’Sullivan was able to preserve his lead because he played smart snooker, knowing his form was not there.

He is four frames ahead because he was committed to his own cause,” McManus said. “He is not playing well, is in second gear, but is at 92% pot success. What does that tell you? It tells me that every time he lands on something that is a bit dicey, which has been a lot as he is not putting together big numbers, he tucks the cue ball under the baulk cushion. That is what you have got to do.

The match concludes on Wednesday afternoon, and McManus feels O’Sullivan will be at the Crucible early to iron out some issues.

He said: “We can’t get into Ronnie’s mind but if I was hazarding a guess, Ronnie will be in early here tomorrow on the practice table working out a couple of things that he will feel from that session that went wrong

He will take maybe an hour and a half. He did it in the final [in 2020] against Kyren Wilson and it paid off. No stone will remain unturned, I can guarantee it with Ronnie.

There might be a lack of form, but you retain your focus. You don’t give in, you dig in.”

I do hope that Ronnie will be better today and can finish the job quickly this afternoon. We know that he’s not at his best health-wise and he certainly could do with some rest before the semi-finals … if he gets to that stage. Fingers crossed.

Here some pictures shared on social media

As for the other matches … they are all … “all-square”.

Mark Allen and Jak Jones are locked at 8-8. It’s quite extraordinary this from Jak Jones against allegedly the player of the season.

Anthony McGill and Si Jiahui finished their session on 4-4. Si was the better player early on and looked increasingly tired as the session unfolded. He will be happy that it ended all-square.

It’s also 4-4 in the Higgins v Selby match. I didn’t watch any of it but Selby won the last three of the session, without allowing Higgins a single point. Both players are currently on 27+ sec per shot, which is slow … but it’s worth noting that Selby was at 35+ at one point during the first mini-session 🤨.

2023 Crucible – Day 10 – Si, Selby and McGill complete the QFs line-up

The last three of the round 2 matches finished yesterday and those are the reports by WST

Si Jiahui beat Robert Milkins by 13-7

Chinese Wonder-Kid Si Into Quarters

Shaun Murphy’s prediction that Si Jiahui will become the first Crucible king from China took a step closer to reality as the new sensation wrapped up a 13-7 victory over Robert Milkins to reach the quarter-finals of the Cazoo World Championship.

Coming into this tournament, world number 80 Si had reached only one ranking event quarter-final – that came at the European Masters earlier this season. The 20-year-old is now enjoying the best fortnight of his life on the baize, and having won three qualifying matches to make it to the Theatre of Dreams, he has knocked out two heavy hitters in Murphy and Milkins. He is the youngest Crucible quarter-finalist in 25 years.

After a 10-9 reverse in the first round, Murphy offered the view that Si will become the first player from his country to lift the famous trophy, and he is now just two wins away from the becoming the biggest outsider ever to reach the final. His next opponent on Tuesday and Wednesday will be Anthony McGill, if the Scot can convert an 11-5 lead over Jack Lisowski into a place in the last eight.

Si, based in Sheffield, first turned pro in 2019 and was relegated two years later, but returned in 2022 after winning the World Snooker Federation Open and is clearly now a much improved player with genuine potential.

With Jak Jones also into the last eight, it’s the first time that two debutants have reached the quarter-finals at the Crucible since 1988 when Tony Drago and Steve James both took their first bow.

Si led 11-5 overnight and came from 52-22 down to steal the first frame today with a 35 clearance. He looked set to seal the result in frame 18 until he missed a red to a top corner on 68, and Milkins added some respectability to the scoreline with a fine 69 clearance. Welsh Open champion Milkins then came from 30-0 down to take frame 19 with a run of 55 to raise his hopes of a fight back. But Si ensured that the match would not go to a mid-session interval as he secured victory with a run of 105, his second century of the tie.

Since the qualifiers, I have felt peaceful and calm emotionally,” said Si. “I treat it as if it’s a minor event, like a daily practice, and I try to enjoy the Crucible. Rob is a very aggressive player and plays with a quick rhythm, but I was also in the mindset of expecting opportunities in a match against a player of his style, if he’s not in top form. He can be very dangerous when playing well, after all he is a top 16 seed.

I made a comprehensive break to get over line in the end. I believed the come-back was improbable so I took my time and did it patiently. I told myself not to rush it.

After the Welsh Open, I went back to China and spent 20 days with my family. I had a great time with my parents and hung out with my girlfriend. I was homesick because it had been three years since I last went home. My father owns a pool club and all the customers were watching me playing. It’s great speaking to my dad after matches, to get motivation, he’s been genuinely great and supportive. Even when it’s after midnight in China when I’m playing, they all stay in the club on to cheer for their local boy. I’m sure they will do the same for my next match.

Looking ahead to a potential meeting with McGill, Si added: “He has a very decent Crucible record. The only department of game I can compete against him is attacking because my safety is supposed to be the worst among the 32 players! I went for it and potted my way through to the quarter-finals.

World number 14 Milkins said: “I lost a lot of close frames otherwise it could have been a much better match. Si played well but personally I think he will have to improve a lot to win the tournament. He’s a good player but might need a few more years. I’m not disappointed because I have had a great season and I could have gone out in the first round here.

Some might see Milkins’ assessment on Si as an expression of bitterness but not me. I know Robert for a long time and he’s a straight n-nonsense type of guy. He will say it as he sees it and he’s probably right. At 20, Si isn’t the finished article and he knows it. Indeed, his best chance against McGill is to go on the attack. Playing that way may possibly result in a heavy defeat but it’s the only option because, currently, he doesn’t have the game to outplay Anthony in the tactical department.

Mark Selby beat Gary Wilson by 13-7

Selby Set For Biggest Test

Mark Selby defeated Gary Wilson 13-7 to book a blockbuster Cazoo World Championship quarter-final clash with John Higgins, who he describes facing as snooker’s biggest test.

It will be the latest edition of a storied rivalry between two of the sport’s greatest competitors, who have each won the World Championship four times. Selby leads head-to-head meetings between the pair 13-8, but it is Higgins who narrowly has the better record in their encounters on snooker’s grandest stage.

Tomorrow’s match will be the sixth time Selby and Higgins have crossed cues at the Crucible Theatre. They have contested two world finals against each other; 31-time ranking event winner Higgins was victorious in 2007 and 22-time ranking event winner Selby claimed the title in 2017. Higgins currently leads their World Championship head-to-head 3-2.

This evening’s defeat ends a significant season for Wilson, who picked up his maiden ranking title at the Scottish Open last December. The Tyneside cueman beat Joe O’Connor 9-2 in the final to capture the Stephen Hendry Trophy. Having broken through to the world’s top 16, he will be hoping to add further to his trophy collection next season.

They came into this evening’s session with Selby requiring just three for victory, leading 10-6. The Leicester cueman took the opener in emphatic fashion, firing in a century run of 109 and extending his advantage to 11-6.

Wilson replied with breaks of 58 and 53 to take the 18th frame, but any thoughts of a comeback were quickly stifled by Selby, who moved 12-7 ahead. He then claimed the 20th frame to wrap up victory and set up his meeting with Higgins.

Mentally it is the biggest test for me playing John. You need to stay strong, because he doesn’t give you anything. You have to work for your chances. He punishes you more times than not and his safety is second to none. If you let your head drop there is no way in the world you are going to win,” said 39-year-old Selby.

If you are a young lad growing up, you can’t go far wrong looking at John’s game and basing yourself on that. Technically he is very good and his all-round game is very good. I know I’m in for a tough match and the way he played against Kyren Wilson was phenomenal. If he plays anything like that, I know I’ll have to be on top of my game.

I’m very happy to get through tonight. It is a long tournament, you don’t want to peak too soon and for me it is just about winning. You can always improve as the event goes on. It was a tough game against Gary. I felt the balls went scrappy in most of the sessions. It wasn’t too free flowing. You will get some games like that and I’ve been here long enough to know what the World Championship does to you.”

Wilson said: “I don’t overanalyse things too much in terms of who I’m playing. The simple fact of the matter is that I didn’t perform to my level. You aren’t going to win doing that. It isn’t a very positive thing to take from it but there aren’t any, if you look at the whole game I wasn’t up to scratch.

I won my first ranking event this season but that is in the past for me now. I’ve got one and I was really relieved and happy to do it at the time. Straight away it was back to trying to get more. I was hoping my levels would improve a bit and they haven’t really. I take all of the positives in terms of where I am in the rankings, coming here seeded and getting more experience. Looking at the overall picture I am very slowly moving forward.”

I can’t really comment on that match because I didn’t watch any of it. That’s not because I’m a “Selby hater” or a “Higgins hater” … I was just watching the other table. One thing though: I believe that Gary Wilson is often too harsh on himself. Nobody can play at their highest level all the time. Nobody. Mark Selby always makes it difficult for the opposition, no matter who he plays. Gary should take some time off, relax, and before the next season starts, watch the game again, with his coach or whoever is on his side, and objectively analyse what can be improved. He has all the talent he needs but too often gets too harsh on himself.

Anthony Mc Gill beat Jack Lisowski by 13-8

McGill: Snooker Is Drama

Crucible specialist Anthony McGill reached the quarter-finals of the Cazoo World Championship for the third time in four years, keeping his composure to round off a 13-8 victory over Jack Lisowski.

McGill led 10-1 at one stage of this second round clash before Lisowski battled back to within three frames at 11-8. Unflappable, Glasgow’s McGill took the next two, and progresses to a meeting with China’s Si Jiahui.

Asked how he remains calm in those intense situations, 32-year-old McGill replied: “How can you not enjoy being out there? Sometimes things aren’t going well, but you still have to feel a sense of gratitude just to be there. There are a lot worse things you could be doing than losing a game of snooker. Sometimes you win and it’s even better.

We are in a theatre and snooker is drama. It’s the best kind of drama, and no one can tell me otherwise. I love it. It’s a shame we don’t play in more theatres because snooker is perfect for it, and this place is the best of all.”

World number 21 McGill needs one more win to match his best Crucible performance, having reached the semi-finals in 2020 when he lost 17-16 to Kyren Wilson in a classic encounter. The Scot will hope that his considerable experience at this stage of the tournament will give him an advantage against debutant Si.

Trailing 11-5 going into the last session, Lisowski took the first frame tonight with a break of 74 and dominated the next as well to close to 11-7. In frame 19, McGill led 43-24 when he misjudged an attempted pot on the penultimate red, and his opponent took advantage with a 33 clearance to narrow the gap to just three frames.

But two-time ranking event winner McGill dominated frame 20, with breaks of 38 and 48, to go 12-18 ahead at the interval. Lisowski might have pulled another one back but missed a red to a top corner when he led 40-3 in frame 21, and McGill made an excellent 58 to reach his 24th career ranking event quarter-final.

Credit to Jack because he really pushed me hard – he could have been forgiven for giving up at 10-1,” McGill added. “It was a good job I had that lead in the end. If it had gone 11-9 he would have kept the momentum, so to go 12-8 was massive and I played that frame well.

I would love to go all the way to the final this year. But first I have to beat Si Jiahui and I will really be up against it. He is a world class player. I’ll give it my best shot, just as I have in my first two matches.

Lisowski said: “Anthony was solid all the way through. I think he can win the tournament. I managed to make a game of it from 10-1 down, at least I gave the crowd something to watch. That’s the only positive I can take out if it because I wasn’t good enough over the three days.

I need to figure out a game plan for next season. I need a more solid game, I am too patchy. My safety was ok in that match but my scoring and potting weren’t good enough.”

Jason Francis will be thrilled if he reads Anthony’s quotes about drama and theatre – the part I put in bold – because that’s exactly his views as well. The problem is that theatres aren’t usually very spacious and can rarely accommodate more than one table comfortably, severely limiting the size of the playing field.

Jack fought really hard from 10-1 down and he went on the attack in the last session. That’s his strength. I’m not sure that Ebdon is the person he needs in his corner, not in the long term anyway. Jack will never be a top-class defender, that’s not him. He needs a good safety game but he must play to his own strengths and that’s attacking and scoring. Maybe he needs to learn to slow it down a bit at times, but only just a bit, and take a deep breath. IMO Jack’s biggest weakness is that he’s prone to “lack of concentration” moments. I know that Murphy claims that this is not a thing … 😉 … but really … 😂 …

Only eight players remain in the field and the atmosphere at the Crucible , backstage, changes significantly. The buzz of the first week is gone, there are long days without a match finishing. Especially, from the SFs on, there are sessions that feel a bit flat, unless a match gets one-sided ,there are empty seats. Usually it happens in the second and third sessions of the SFs and the third of the Final . It might be even worse this year. The “Century Club” thing already left the entire first row of seats empty in some sessions. That doesn’t look great, and it’s not nice for the players. It doesn’t work at the Crucible.