UK Championship 2018 – Day 12

So after 12 days we have just two players remaining in York, Ronnie, the defending champion, and mark Allen, the reigning Masters champion. There were a lot of early exits for top players but, eventually, it’s two of the very best who will be competing in the Final. Marl Allen is at the top of the current one year list, and this only confirms that he is the man in form. Ronnie is currently 6th, quite remarkable for a player who is only competing in his third ranking event of the season, and a win today would propel him to number 2.

Here is how we got here:

Ronnie beat Tom Form in the semi finals and you can read all about that match here.

Mark Allen beat Stuart Bingham in the other semi final, a match that went the distance.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Mark Allen will face Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final of the 2018 Betway UK Championship after the Northern Irishman defeated Stuart Bingham 6-5 in a thrilling last four clash in York.

The Pistol has enjoyed great success at snooker’s Triple Crown events in 2018. He will now have appeared in two of the three Triple Crown finals this calendar year. Allen secured the best moment of his career so far by beating Kyren Wilson 10-7 in the Masters final back in January.

This will be the second time that Allen has graced the UK final, after being runner-up to Judd Trump in a memorable clash in 2011.

Allen faces the daunting task of downing defending champion O’Sullivan tomorrow, who has won 26 of his last 27 matches here in York. However, 32-year-old Allen has had the upper hand in their Triple Crown head-to-head record, having won all three of their meetings to date.

2015 World Champion Bingham was making his third appearance in a UK Championship semi-final this evening. However, he is yet to make the final having lost all three of his semi-final matches in York.

Despite Allen taking the opening frame with a break of 99, it was Bingham who took charge in the opening stages this evening. He claimed three frames on the bounce to secure a 3-1 lead at the mid-session interval.

They traded century breaks when they returned. Allen fired in a run of 104 to move within a frame, before Bingham reasserted his authority with a sublime 132 to lead 4-2.

Bingham then spurned opportunities to hammer home his advantage in the seventh frame, allowing Allen in to steal it on the final pink.

Two breaks of 54 in consecutive frames helped Allen to move 5-4 in front. However, Bingham forced a decider and high drama ensued.

The recent English Open champion Bingham was dealt two major blows, going in-off on twice when potting reds. That afforded Allen the opportunity to book his second UK final appearance with a break of 64.

Allen said: “There is nobody in the sport that I haven’t beat, so there is nothing to fear in that way. It has always been my own performance that worries me the most. I want to go out there and entertain like every other top player does. This week it was more grit and determination that got me through.

“I’m looking forward to the final. That is why we play the game. You want to face the greatest ever on the biggest stage. The UK final is a pretty big stage. I’m excited, I’m looking forward to it and I have an alright record against Ronnie.

“You are going to be judged in your career on how many Triple Crown events you have won. I just have one at the moment so I have a long way to go if I want to be regarded as a top player in the history of the sport, but I’m just excited to have the chance to win another.”

In both matches, the players seemed to struggle with their positional accuracy, notably the over-hit a lot of shots. The table had been recovered and was obviously playing very differently from what it had done on the previous day.

The Final  today will be refereed by Marcel Eckardt, from Germany.

Mark Allen has indeed beaten Ronnie in all three of their triple crown matches. However I’m not sure that we can draw much from this. Two of those wins came in 2009 (WC) and 2011 (Masters) in early rounds at a time where Ronnie was really low. The last one came this year at the Masters, in the QF: Ronnie was unwell and Mark in great form and on his way to win the title.

After being taken to a decider by Ken Doherty, Ronnie won all his matches here in York comfortably. The draw of course opened up for him after Judd Trump and Ding Junhui crashed out. During his postmatch interviews yesterday said that, in a way, he was feeling less pressure going into the final because Mark Allen is a top player and this is a fifty-fifty match so he’s not expected to win easily. He has however a lot at stakes: a possible record-breaking 7th UK title, going with a record-breaking 19th Triple Crown.

Mark Allen had a tougher route: he had to beat Neil Robertson, Stephen Maguire and Stuart Bingham en route, although, it’s fair to say that Maguire had a stinker in the QF.

As much as I’d like to see Ronnie lift the trophy tonight, on form, I have to make Mark Allen the favourite, but only just because Mark has a history of putting too much pressure on himself at times. Le’s hope it’s a great match.

 

UK Championship 2018 – Ronnie wins his Semi Finals match

UKChamps2018ROSSF-Winner

Ronnie beat Tom Ford by 6-1 to book his place in tomorrow’s final.

There is a lot at stake there tomorrow in terms of records. Indeed nobody had defended the UK crown since Stephen Hendry in 1996 and a win for Ronnie would place him ahead of Steve Davis with 7 UK titles for 6 to Davis. It would also put Ronnie ahead of Stephen Hendry in terms of Triple Crown titles, with 19 for Ronnie to 18 for Stephen. And, of course, winning this one again 25 years after his first would be some feat!

But Ronnie will probably have to play better than he did today if he is to win, although the match stats aren’t too shabby. Hopefully the records won’t be too much on his mind.

UKChamps2018SFROS-Stats

Tom Ford had occasions and I expect that Mark Allen or Stuart Bingham will make more of them if they are presented with opportunities tomorrow.

A lot of frames got a bit scrappy, and Ronnie missed a couple of balls he would normally pot, but he stayed patient and focused on the job. Towards the end of the match, one could sense that Tom didn’t really believe that he could win anymore.

UKChamps2018ROSSF-Scores

This result also means that the line-up for the Masters 2019 in now known, although the seeding can still change, with Stuart Bingham possibly overcoming Ding Junhui for the 8th place. Jack Lisowski, placed n°16, is the only debutant.

Remember that the top 8 are seeded in the Masters, with the 9-16 randomly drawn against them. This means that Ronnie could possibly play John Higgins in the quarter finals, and Mark Allen  or Jack Lisowski in the semi finals.

Thanks to Tai Chengzhe for those great images

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Ronnie O’Sullivan reached the final of the Betway UK Championship for the eighth time with a 6-1 thumping of Tom Ford in York.

O’Sullivan has now won 26 out of 27 matches in this tournament over the past four years, having lifted the trophy in 2014 and 2017 and reached the final in 2016 and 2018. He has also won 25 out of 27 matches so far this season having won the Shanghai Masters and Champion of Champions and reached two other finals. A quarter of a century after winning his first UK title back in 1993, he is as powerful a force on the baize as he has ever been.

In Sunday’s final he will face Mark Allen or Stuart Bingham over 19 frames, with the winner to earn £170,000. Victory would give O’Sullivan his seventh UK title and 19th Triple Crown success, surpassing records he currently shares with Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry respectively.

Ford, playing in a Triple Crown semi-final for the first time, started well today with a break of 68 to win the opening frame, but could not take the chances that came his way in the remainder of the match. World number three O’Sullivan made top breaks of 122, 71 and 51 as he strolled into his 49th ranking final.

“I’m pleased to be in the final,” said Chigwell’s 43-year-old O’Sullivan. “Tom missed a few balls, that’s what happens in big matches. Whenever I have got to a semi-final and played the likes of Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Mark Williams it’s not easy. I like to consider myself in that bracket so maybe my opponents are feeling what I feel in those situations.

“I got into the match in the second frame and at 3-1 at the interval I felt good and knew I just had to keep going. It’s great that I can keep performing for the crowd because they are willing me on. The fans know I have a big heart for them. I try to play with a smile on my face and if I play a decent match it might brighten up someone’s day.

“York is a fantastic place, even when you are not playing you can walk around the streets and there are lovely coffee bars. It’s a beautiful place to spend ten days. This is where you want to be playing tournaments, in great cities like this. We’re lucky to have such a great venue for a great tournament.

“Tonight it will be two heavyweights going toe to toe and whoever I play tomorrow it will be a very tough match.”

Here is Ronnie’s full post-match interview with Worldsnooker

Coverage

Previews

Mid session analysis

The action

Reviews

Ronnie isn’t opposed to the idea of discussing the situation regarding the alleged “breakaway”, but clearly has little faith that it will bring any changes. He also insisted that this would be a “last resort” for him, it’s not what he wants really.

Interview

Ronnie asked about the possibility of being n°1 again

In the media …

Here is the report on BBC website:

UK Championship: Ronnie O’Sullivan beats Tom Ford 6-1 to reach final

 

 

UK Championship 2018 – Day 11

This is it, today we are at the one table setup.

Ronnie will face Tom Ford in the afternoon, then Mark Allen will face Stuart Bingham in the evening.

In the background, the discussion around Ronnie’s “breakaway” comments continues to rage.

How did we get there?

You can read all about Ronnie’s win over Martin O’Donnell, and the raging discussion here.

This is how Tom Ford, Ronnie’s opponent got to the SF (Worldsnooker)

UK Champs 2018 Tom Ford QFLeicester’s Ford scored an impressive 6-2 win over Joe Perry to reach his third ranking semi-final. He has made just one final before – at the 2016 Paul Hunter Classic where he lost to Mark Selby.

World number 36 Ford made breaks of 76 and 80 in taking the first four frames. Perry pulled one back with a 121 and had chances in frame six but Ford crucially took it on the final black. Frame seven went Perry’s way but when he missed the black off the last red at 45-56 in the eighth his chance was gone as Ford potted yellow, green and brown to clinch the result.

“Joe let me off today, I expected him to play better,” said Ford. “Winning the sixth frame to go 5-1 was a big moment.

“Ronnie is the greatest player ever and I know I will need to score heavily to have a chance. The fans will cheer him on and 99% will be on his side.”

Asked how he would prepare for tomorrow, Ford added: “I just want to get back to my hotel room now because my three-year-old son Jack was in a nativity play today so I want to see the pictures and videos.”

As for the other semi final, here is how we got there (Worldsnooker)

Stuart Bingham produced a sublime display to brush Kyren Wilson aside 6-1 and book a semi-final spot at the Betway UK Championship in York.

Despite the barnstorming victory, Bingham did have a bittersweet moment this evening as he agonisingly missed out on a 147, breaking down on 120 after missing the final yellow in the third frame. However, he won’t rue that for too long after securing a third UK Championship semi-final appearance.

It’s the first time Bingham has ever beaten world number 11 Wilson, having lost all four of their meetings prior to this evening. Kettering’s Wilson will leave York disappointed that he didn’t cash in on his fine form this week, which included a superb 6-2 win over Barry Hawkins yesterday evening.

Basildon’s Bingham took the opening two frames, before his near miss on the maximum put him 3-0 ahead. He then consolidated his considerable advantage by making a break of 53 to go into the mid-session four in front.

When they returned, the five-time ranking event winner moved one from victory with a break of 84. Wilson responded, but it was Bingham who got over the line to secure an emphatic 6-1 victory.

Bingham said: “I was fortunate that Kyren had an off day, but he was due one after beating me in our first four meetings. I just kept it tight, he made his mistakes and I seemed to capitalise on them.

“I missed the pink on 134 for £167,000 at the 2002 World Championship. Once you have done that, you can miss anything and it doesn’t really get to you. That was 16 years ago and it still haunts me, so in terms of today it was more about getting the job done than making the 147.”

Bingham will face Mark Allen in the last four after the Northern Irishman defeated close friend Stephen Maguire 6-1 in his quarter-final tie.

Allen and Maguire had only met twice in ranking competition prior to this evening. The Masters champion was a comfortable winner on this occasion, making breaks of 53 and 122 along the way.  This will be the first time Allen has reached the semi-finals of the UK Championship since appearing in the final in 2011.

“I started well. In the first three frames I didn’t miss many and got on top. With a 3-0 lead in a first to six the job isn’t done, but you will need to play poorly to lose from there,” said Allen. “The thing I struggled with most was playing Stephen. I didn’t get any enjoyment out of playing him at all and it felt like a hollow victory.

“Stuart has probably been the form player this week. He has been awesome and scored very heavily. I am going to have to play better, but it will be the one table setup in a UK Championship semi-final against a class act like him. What’s not to be excited about?”

It was all a bit strange really. Joe Perry maybe had nothing left in the tank after beating Judd Trump – he looked very flat. Kyren Wilson played really badly, looked totally out of sorts and never looked like he could give Bingham any sort of challenge. Maguire started very poorly, just like yesterday, but there was not “after MSI miracle” this time. All the matches were rather one-sided and that was certainly unexpected, especially in the evening.

Anyway … here is Bingham 147 attempt:

UK Championship 2018 – Ronnie wins his QF match

The defending champion is still in the tournament.

UKChamps2018ROSQF-Winner

Ronnie beat Martin O’Donnell by 6-1 in the quarter finals round.

UKChamps2018ROSQF-Scores

It looks like a comfortable win “on screen” but really it wasn’t. Ronnie started and finished with a century, but in between, the match was pretty scrappy and Ronnie did show signs of frustration at times when balls kept running awkward again and again. In the pre-Peters days this is a match he could well have lost, but he promptly refocused, showed patience, kept playing the right shots, and it eventually paid off.

He will now face Tom Ford in the semi-finals. Tom did beat Joe Perry by 6-2, a result and a scoreline that, I reckon, very few expected.

Big Thanks to Tai Chengzhe for those images

Coverage

The previews

The mid-session analysis

The BBC one had Barry Hearn as a guest. The first part did show that Ronnie is far from being the only one amongsts the top players not happy with the way things are. Barry Hearn, as usual talked well. However his moto being “I want to create opportunities for the young players”, I’d like him to explain why there aren’t any actually coming through this system. Because other than Kyren Wilson, and to an extend Jak Lisowski, I don’t see any and they both are over 25. At that age, Ronnie, John Higgins and Mark Willams all had won the Triple Crown, and players like Matthew Stevens and Paul Hunter were established top players. They all came through the tiered system. Of course there are promising young Chinese players, but they have a whole development system in China, and even so, none of them seems to be able to challenge Ding status any time soon.

They also touched the “slow play” issue. I don’t see why something new should be put into place. Section IV of the rules is there, just enforce it. And BTW, I wonder if Barry Hearn knows it exists because what he is proposing in the end, is already there.

The reviews

Hearn’s interview with Eurosport (basically saying the same thing he did on BBC)

The action

In the media

UKChamps2018ROSQF-Presser

The (short) report on BBC website

UK Championship: Ronnie O’Sullivan beats Martin O’Donnell 6-1

And the report on Worldsnooker

UKChamps2018ROSQF-2

Ronnie O’Sullivan moved within two wins of a record seventh Betway UK Championship title and 19th Triple Crown victory by beating Martin O’Donnell 6-1 in the quarter-finals.

The Rocket will now meet Tom Ford (Saturday at 1pm) who reached his first Triple Crown semi-final by beating Joe Perry 6-2.

In winning the title last year in York, O’Sullivan equalled Steve Davis’ record of six UK victories and Stephen Hendry’s mark of 18 Triple Crowns, so he is within touching distance of pushing the boundaries of his remarkable career a step further.

O’Sullivan made a fast start today with a break of 102 in the opening frame before O’Donnell, who has never reached a ranking semi-final, fought back by winning the second on the colours. World number three O’Sullivan regained the lead with a run of 79 then got the better of a 35-minute fourth frame to lead 3-1 at the interval.

World number 59 O’Donnell had chances in frame five but couldn’t take them and his opponent cleared from the last red for 4-1. And O’Sullivan cruised through the last two frames with 81 and 106, the latter break taking his career century tally to 984.

“It was nip and tuck at the start, I felt fortunate to be 3-1 up at the interval,” admitted Chigwell’s O’Sullivan, who first won this title 25 years ago. “I just tried to be patient. It was one of my better matches in the tournament in terms of my all round performance. Martin kept it tight at the start and I sensed he believed he could win. I had to draw on all of my experience.

“I’m playing for the fans because they have supported me so well over the years. I love to win and pick trophies up but that shouldn’t come at the expense of playing for the crowd.”

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s semi-final, O’Sullivan added: “Tom Ford is a fantastic player, attacking and fearless with nothing to lose.”

And please read Lewis excellent comment below. He’s absolutely right. And with a ban from adds about betting just being decided things don’t look great for the future.

Also suggestions that Ronnie could be banned for his comments about “breakaway” are ludicrous in my opinion. I don’t think this could be justified in front of a court of justice. He’s not been cheating, he’s not been insulting, he has just been talking of the possibility of him getting away from the main tour, and playing on a – for now purely hypothetical – other platform with no ambition to create an actual  rival tour. Yes, the biggest box office player suggesting that he might go away because he’s unhappy might be damaging. But then, hey! You can’t force him to be happy.

On a more optimistic note, Ronnie is now 12th in the race to the Grand Prix. So he will qualify for it. And he isn’t badly placed for the players Championship either.

UK Championship 2018 – Day 10

Yesterday in York decided on the quarter finals line-up and it didn’t yield what most expected. Indeed in the afternoon, bot Judd Trump and Ding Junhui crashed out. Actually I’m not surprised at Dings defeat, he never looked in any sort of form in the earlier rounds. As for Judd Trump, I expected Joe Perry to give him a serious challenge but still expected Judd’s potting power to get him through. Not so. Once again Judd has been found out when forced to play a game that isn’t his natural “pot them all” approach, and it’s strange because he has a very good safety when he applies himself to it.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Martin O’Donnell scored the best win of his career as he beat two-time champion Ding Junhui 6-4 at the Betway UK Championship, while another former winner, Judd Trump, was also knocked out, losing 6-4 to Joe Perry.

World number 59 O’Donnell had never won a match in this tournament in five previous attempts, but has got through four rounds this time in York to ensure his biggest career pay-day of £22,500. And he has earned the chance to take on defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals on Friday at 1pm.

London’s 32-year-old O’Donnell has enjoyed a significant improvement this season as he had never previously gone beyond the last 16 of a ranking event, but has now made three quarter-finals, having reached the same stage of the China Championship and International Championship. With the help of former world number 16 Ian McCulloch, his coach for the past three years, O’Donnell has found consistency in his performances and a knack of dealing with pressure on the big stage.

From 3-2 down against Ding, O’Donnell took three frames in a row with top breaks of 44, 49 and 90. China’s Ding, who won this event in 2005 and 2009, pulled one back and had a scoring chance in frame ten but ran out of position on 21 and played safe. O’Donnell knocked in an excellent long red to initiate a match-winning run of 41.

“I’m not here just to get to quarter-finals so I haven’t achieved anything yet,” said O’Donnell, who has beaten four Chinese players in this event. “I’ll relax tonight and get ready for tomorrow. Ronnie is the greatest player ever and it will be a privilege to play him. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and take the game to him. I practise six or seven hours a day believing that when I get my chance I’ll be able to take it.

“A lot of players seem to struggle to play their own game against Ronnie. I’ll find out tomorrow what it’s like to play him. He’s got that aura around him. But I’ll just focus on my own game and see what chances I get. That will be the challenge for me, not to look over at him in his seat or worry about what he’s doing. I’ve got to stay calm, be patient, be aggressive and see what happens. He could beat me 6-0 and it has still been a good tournament for me.

“I have sat in many venues watching Ronnie and cheering him on myself. I’d imagine the crowd will be one-sided tomorrow. But crowds like a battle so hopefully I can stand up and produce that.”

World number 21 Perry enjoyed a superb win over Trump to reach the UK quarter-finals for the sixth time. Fifth seed Trump had arrived in York in top form having won the Northern Ireland Open last month, but his winning streak comes to an end and the 2011 UK Championship remains his only Triple Crown title.

Cambridgeshire’s 44-year-old Perry, who reached the final of the European Masters in October, will now face Tom Ford on Friday afternoon.

Trump made breaks of 81 and 97 in taking a 3-1 lead then Perry hit back strongly after the interval, making a run of 100 in frame five then a vital yellow-to-pink clearance in the sixth for 3-3. Trump regained the lead with a break of 100 but Perry took a scrappy eighth frame and cleared from the last red in the ninth to go ahead for the first time. And The Gentleman finished the contest in style with a 136 total clearance in the tenth.

“Judd blasted me off the table before the interval, which is what you expect when you play him,” said Perry, who won his only ranking title at the 2015 Players Championship. “I got back into it and rode my luck.

“I don’t think I’m going to get better at snooker at my age, but I can still learn, and over the last five years my temperament has got so much better. I can deal with stuff out there now, whether I win or lose. I’m not going to lose any matches any more through bad temperament. You just have to stick in there whatever happens.

“Tom Ford is a very talented player who hasn’t fulfilled his potential, he’s a great scorer and very natural. I always enjoy playing him.”

Trump said: “We both had loads of chances and missed quite a few balls. There was a big turning point at 4-4 when he doubled the last red. But before that I had chances to go 4-2 and didn’t take them. Joe got a bit of run at the wrong moments for me.

“I haven’t felt great in this tournament, I have just been scraping through and you can’t rely on that. I should have got through the match today with my experience but I missed too many balls. Sometimes I try too hard instead of being relaxed.”

The evening matches went the way most expected probably. Stuart Bingham has been scoring heavily this week, and that, combined with a touch of luck here and there, was too much for Akani. Kyren confirmed that he’s a man in form. Barry stayed with him before the MSI but, after that, it was very one-sided.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Kyren Wilson emphatically reached his first Betway UK Championship quarter-final after a 6-2 defeat of world number six Barry Hawkins.

In fact, prior to this week, Wilson had never been beyond the last 32 here in York. However, the 26-year-old has enjoyed the best calendar year of his career so far in 2018.

The Warrior was runner-up to Mark Allen at the Masters, appeared in the World Championship semi-finals and has picked up silverware at the Paul Hunter Classic and Six Red World Championship. He will be hoping to cap off a golden 12 months with a maiden Triple Crown title this week.

Hawkins established the early advantage this evening after making a contribution of 87 to take the opener. However, that was the only time he would be lead for the remainder of the tie, as his opponent turned on the style.

Breaks of 69 and 49 helped Wilson into a 2-1 lead, before a century run of 102 from Hawkins saw him restore parity at the mid-session.

When they returned Wilson stormed to victory with a clean sweep of frames. Breaks of 95, 78, 81 and 61 allowed him to him win four on the bounce and secure the impressive 6-2 win. He will now face 2015 World Champion Stuart Bingham in the last eight.

“It was nip and tuck up until the interval and It looked like it was going to be really close. Once play got back underway I just thought I needed to stay positive,” said Wilson. “If I got into a bit of a tactical safety battle he might have outplayed me. He gave me a chance in the fifth frame and I felt like from there I really had to punish him. After that I had the momentum.

“It will be a clash of the top 16 against Stuart in the quarter-finals. Nowadays that isn’t always the case at this point in an event, as the standard is so strong and people you wouldn’t expect to get this far are creeping into the latter stages.

“Stuart is a very good player and I always enjoy matches with him. He attacks, goes for his shots and scores quite quickly. It is always an enjoyable match and I will look forward to it.”

Bingham defeated Thailand’s Sunny Akani 6-2 to set up his quarter-final showdown with Wilson.

His victory ensures he will compete in the UK Championship last eight for the sixth time. Thailand’s Akani bows out at the last 16 stage for the second consecutive year, after he lost out 6-5 in a memorable clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan 12 months ago.

Bingham top scored in this afternoon’s clash with a run of 117. His last eight meeting with Wilson will take place tomorrow evening at 7pm.

So this is what we have today:

Afternoon: Ronnie v Martin O’Donnel and Joe Perry v Tom Ford

Evening: Stuart Bingham v Kyren Wilson and Mark Allen v Stephen Maguire

There is a clear favourite in each of the afternoon matches, although neither Ronnie or Joe should underestimated their opponent. The evening id definitely “heavyweight” and both matches will probably be very close.

 

UK Championship 2018 – Day 9

It was a day of deciders at the Barbican… The birthday boy, Ronnie had a swift win – 6-1 – over Jack Lisowski, but all three other matches finished on a 6-5 score line.

Everything about the Ronnie v Lisowski match is here.

Stephen Maguire was 4-0 down at the MSI and looked on hiw ay to Glasgow. But the MSI turned things on their head and the second part of the match offered the fans a thrilling come back that included three centuries and a 97 from the Scot. Indeed Stephen won five on the trot before Mark briefly rallied. But that was that, a 67 by Maguire in the decider sealed the fate of the match.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker: (excerpt)

Stephen Maguire made a brilliant clearance in the deciding frame to beat Mark Williams 6-5 in the last 16 of the Betway UK Championship.

Ronnie O’Sullivan also booked his place in Friday’s quarter-finals in York by hammering Jack Lisowski 6-1.

World Champion Williams let a 4-0 lead slip as his hopes of winning snooker’s two biggest ranking titles in the same year disappeared. Glasgow’s Maguire, who had told his father to “get the car ready” when he trailed 4-0 at the interval, produced one of the best fightbacks of his career as he set up a quarter-final with Mark Allen or Neil Robertson.

Maguire has struggled to find his best form in recent years, but has shown a significant improvement this season and is now guaranteed a place at the Masters for the first time since 2016 (for the Race to the Masters click here).

Welshman Williams made a top break of 81 in taking the first four frames, but Maguire was a different animal after the interval as he piled in runs of 122, 120, 109 and 97 to go 5-4 ahead. He had several chances to seal victory in frame ten, notably missing the final yellow when leading by 20 points. Handed a lifeline, Williams cleared for 5-5.

And two-time UK Champion Williams had first opportunity in the decider, making 33 before running out of  position and playing safe. Maguire spotted a plant among the pack of reds and executed it perfectly to set up his chance. The last red was tight against a side cushion but he doubled it to a centre pocket and went on to make 63 to clinch the result.

“I’ve never made a comeback like that,” said 37-year-old Maguire. “For the first four frames I couldn’t have been any worse. I told my dad to get the car ready at the interval. It was 2.20pm so I thought we could be finished by 3pm and back in Glasgow by 7pm. I decided to pull the cue right back and hope for the best. To get back to 4-3 I kept him off the table. I have been in his position and no one likes their opponent coming back at him.

“I twitched the yellow at 5-4 when I thought the game was done. When I had the double on the red in the last frame I just went for it because I had decided at 4-0 I was going to go for everything. I am free-rolling now because I should have been out. I am going to keep playing the same way in my next match.

“It’s a big scalp for me because I haven’t been challenging the top boys so to beat the World Champion when he has been playing well – it doesn’t get better than that.”

The evening session provided two more matches going the full distance, and late into the night as well.

The Mark Allen v Neil Robertson clash came across as a bit strange in my eyes in that, from the start Mark Allen looked the better player, but it didn’t really show in the score. Neil Robertson kept plugging away, and, quite extraordinarily found himself 5-4 up, with a mere 79% pot success. Mark Allen then stepped up a gear or two and finished with two centuries.

I didn’t see anything from the other match, but it came as no surprise to me that it was extremely slow going despite the fact that both players actually made some very decent breaks; indeed Lu Ning is naturally a very slow player and, him not being used to the big stage surely wasn’t going to help the matter.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Mark Allen booked his place in the quarter-finals of the Betway UK Championship after emerging a 6-5 victor in a thrilling clash with Australia’s Neil Robertson.

Victory for the Pistol sees him reach the quarter-finals of the UK Championship for the first time since 2013. While 2010 World Champion Robertson continues a poor run of results against Allen, having now lost their last four meetings.

The Thunder from Down Under was first to get a frame on the board this evening. However, 2011 UK Championship runner-up Allen responded with breaks of 77 and 62 on his way to taking three frames on the bounce to lead 3-1 at the mid-session.

Robertson then clawed his way back into the tie by clinching a glut of tight frames. After claiming a 27-minute fifth, the two-time UK Champion won the following two on the final black, by a single point, to lead 4-3.

Allen restored parity, before 14-time ranking event winner Robertson extraordinarily won another frame by a single point to move one from victory at 5-4. However, it wasn’t to be for the Australian, as Allen summoned his best snooker at the crucial moment.

The Northern Irishman surged over the finishing line from behind in typically steely fashion, firing in back-to-back century runs of 102 and 114 to clinch an impressive victory.

The Pistol now faces Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals after the Scot came from 4-0 down to beat Mark Williams. However, Allen admitted to feeling the pressure this evening after celebrating prematurely when potting a long pink prior to match ball in the decider.

“It was a bit silly of me to celebrate when I did. I wondered what I had done,” said Allen. “It was the most pressure I have probably ever felt potting the final four balls, but luckily enough I did it.

“I felt like I was playing the better snooker this evening. Yes there were errors, but I thought I was the better player. You aren’t going to beat a class act like Neil too often from 5-4 down. He didn’t score a point in the last two frames so it was a good way to close out the match.”

Tom Ford booked his first ever Triple Crown quarter-final appearance with a late night 6-5 win over China’s Lu Ning.

There was never more than a frame between the pair in an epic clash which lasted four hours and 45 minutes. Ford top scored with a century run of 108. The Leicester potter will now face either Judd Trump or Joe Perry in the last eight.

Ford said: “I could see from the first frame that he was playing really slowly and normally when that happens my head goes and I find it really difficult to stay concentrated. So the thing I am most pleased about with this win, is that I hung in there and managed to get over the line.

“I honestly don’t think I have played particularly well so far in this tournament. I’ve had a few 6-5 wins and Alan McManus didn’t turn up in that match. The draw opened up a bit for me, but I know I will have to play better in the quarter-final.”

Speaking about “Slow play”, some journalist working for the BBC had reported that Jak Jones had been blaming Leo Scullion, the referee, for putting him off his game by asking the players to play “more attacking”.  That would have been out of order because, under section IV of the rules, the referee is entitled to intervene if they thing that a player is taking a unecessary long time over the selection or execution of the shots, but has no right to make any sort of call about the style of play itself. Yesterday, it transpired that Leo had spoken to the players about the time they were taking over their shot selection, which was perfectly within his rights. And Jak Jones himself came on twitter fuming because his quotes had been taken out of context, making it look a completely different story than what it was: he never blamed anyone for his defeat and honestly said – during his interview – that Akani deserved the win as he was the better player.

This happens quite often, media building a sensationalist story out of nothing or not much, by taking quotes out of context, or by reporting only part of what was said. And, it happens even more with the “high profile” players. Witnessing this was the reason why I started recording and publishing the entire postmatch interviews. It didn’t go down well, neither with some journalists, nor with WS, and it eventually got me in trouble.

UK Championship 2018 – Ronnie wins his last 16 match

Ronnie booked his place in the quarter finals this afternoon by beating Jack Lisowski by 6-1.

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Tha match was eagerly anticipated but didn’t quite live to expectations. Jack Lisowski had looked deadly in the previous round and played some scary stuff in the first frame. But Ronnie stayed calm, playing good match snooker and capitalizing on Jack’s mistakes. The third frame proved to be the turning point: Jack looked set to win it, but Ronnie managed to steal it. After that Jack looked increasingly vulnerable as the match unfolded and, after the MSI it was truly one way traffic.

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Big thanks to Tai Chengzhe for those images

In the media…

This is the report on BBC website

UK Championship: Ronnie O’Sullivan dispatches Jack Lisowski in York

And the report on Worldsnooker

Defending champion O’Sullivan, celebrating his 43rd birthday today, needed just 87 minutes to beat Lisowski as he continued his pursuit of a record seventh UK title. He now meets Martin O’Donnell or Ding Junhui.

After losing the first frame, O’Sullivan reeled off six in a row with breaks of 88, 118, 12 and 68. Lisowski must now sweat on other results to find out whether he has earned a Masters debut; Tom Ford could edge him out by winning the tournament and Joe Perry can do the same by reaching the final.

O’Sullivan said: “I know how dangerous Jack is and what a great season he has had. He reminds me of myself when I first came on to the scene because he pots some amazing balls and can play any shot in the book but misses a few easy ones. That’s why I didn’t do as well in my early career as I do now, I couldn’t cut out missing the easy ones and you can’t afford to do that and win consistently. I get super nervous before matches but you have to learn how to perform under pressure.

“I haven’t played great this week, I think that is obvious. My consistency is better. I’m going through a transition period working with (coach) Steve Feeney and SightRight. I believe in the changes I am making but there is a difference between practice form and taking it out to the match table. Although I won five titles last season I was pretty poor, I only played one good tournament at the English Open. At the World Championship I felt I couldn’t pot a ball from more than two feet. So I knew I needed to reinvent myself and find a game to allow me to compete. The changes I am making are giving me more power, more accuracy and opening up a range of shots I haven’t been able to play.

“I’ve always got my eyes on the biggest prizes which is why I’m always looking to improve. I’ve always been as dedicated as a pro as anyone in their chosen sport. People just say I’m talented but they should come and watch me practise and see what I go through. Even the other lads at the club say they’ve never seen anyone play with the same intensity as me. I might not play for six or seven hours a day, but I’ll do two or three where I’m in the zone and very focused.

Interesting bit about the practice.

Coverage.

The previews

The MSI analysis

The action

And the reviews

And interviews

A very happy birthday then Ronnie!

Enjoy your evening and meal with friends …

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