2018/19 Provisional Calendar

Worldsnooker has issued the provisional calendar for the 2018/19 season.

Find it here

Note that there are a few new venues for the main tour events, that the Tour Championship is now on and that the Challenge tour ten events are duly scheduled.  The Hong Kong Masters and the Romanian Masters have gone. The Hong Kong Masters was a huge success so this is a bit disappointing, but on the other hand it was part of the festivities around the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong and China reunification, which obviously was one-off event.

Regarding venues, moving tournaments around of course allow for new audiences getting access to live snooker, but, on the other hand, having a “dedicated” venue with history contributes to the tournaments identity. What’s your view?

2018 Snooker Awards

Ronnie and Willo collect two awards each … (source Worldsnooker)

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Crucible king Mark Williams each won two categories at the annual World Snooker Awards ceremony in London tonight.

O’Sullivan took the main Player of the Year award having enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career, capturing five ranking titles in a single campaign for the first time. The 42-year-old won the English Open, Shanghai Masters, UK Championship, World Grand Prix and Players Championship.

O’Sullivan also received the Kunlunshan Fans’ Player of the Year award, voted by many thousands of fans on Twitter, Facebook, WeChat and Weibo.

Williams won the Betfred World Championship last Monday for the third time in his career and first since 2003; the 43-year-old becoming the oldest player to conquer the Crucible since fellow Welshman Ray Reardon in 1978. Earlier in the season he also lifted silverware at the Six Red World Championship, Northern Ireland Open and German Masters.

He was handed the Snooker Writers’ Player of the Year award, voted by the sport’s journalists. And Williams also received the Performance of the Year award for his tremendous display at the Crucible.

The Rookie of the Year category was won by China’s 20-year-old Xu Si, whose impressive debut season was highlighted by a run to the semi-finals of the Indian Open.

Magic Moment of the Year was won by Michael Georgiou for his dramatic victory at the Coral Shoot Out, beating Graeme Dott to the title with just a few seconds on the clock.

Ding Junhui was inducted into snooker’s Hall of Fame. Asia’s best ever player, Ding has won 13 ranking events and had a huge influence on the growth of snooker in China over the past 12 years.

Barry Hearn

Also inducted into the Hall of Fame was World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn, for leading the global development of the sport since he took charge in 2010.

The awards ceremony at the Dorchester Hotel also helped raised money for Jessie May Children’s Hospice at Home, which is World Snooker’s official charity – for more details see www.jessiemay.org.uk

World Snooker Awards: 2017/18 winners
Player of the Year – Ronnie O’Sullivan
Kunlunshan Fans’ Player of the Year – Ronnie O’Sullivan
Snooker Writers’ Player of the Year – Mark Williams
Performance of the Year – Mark Williams
Rookie of the Year – Xu Si
Magic Moment of the Year – Michael Georgiou
Hall of Fame – Ding Junhui and Barry Hearn

Ronnie however was not present at the Dorchester to collect his, which didn’t go down well with the other players (and he may to be fined as well I suppose). Shaun Murphy and Steve Davis collected Ronnie’s awards on his behalf  and had a little dig at him in the process.

here are some images of the night and a short video of Willo collecting the “writers player of the year” award

Damien Hirst had teamed with John Parris to produce a very special cue that was auctioned during the Awards night, all profits going to the Jessie May Charity 

 

Mark Williams is your World Snooker 2018 Champion!

Congratulations “Willo” !!!

 

Willo2018WCMark Williams won an incredible final last night to lift the World Title Trophy for the third time and 15 years after his second. He beat John Higgins by 18-16. Last year, at the end of the season he wanted to put an end to his career. Joanne, his wife, who convinced him to carry on couldn’t stop crying … this title is hers too in many ways!

The final was high quality and incredibly tense. John was never in front, but kept coming back. He was 4-0 dow, came back to 7-7. Mark pulled away to 14-7, back came John at 15-15 … Mark stuck to his guns all match, he never stopped to attack even when his form dipped for a few frames. He made some incredible daring shots during this final. John never gave up, kept battling, stole a number of frames from well behind … as he does.

I’m very happy that Mark won, he’s always been my second favourite player, that cheeky rascal! As for John Higgins, people who follow me on twitter will know that I certainly wasn’t routing for him; he is an incredible player, no question, he’s probably a nice person and a great family man too, but after what happened in 2010, I have lost respect for him and I can’t help that. I was in the media room at the time, I can’t possibly forget what I saw and heard there.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker

Mark Williams won the Betfred World Championship for the third time by beating John Higgins 18-16 in one of the all-time great Crucible finals.

Williams won seven consecutive frames from 7-7 to lead 14-7, and despite a rally from Higgins to 15-15 he closed out victory in the 34th frame, in the closest final since 2005.

And his promise to bare all for his winning press conference turned out to be the naked truth as he spoke to the world’s media dressed in nothing but a towel.

Having lifted the trophy in 2000 and 2003, Welshman Williams sets a new record of 15 years for the longest gap in between titles. The 43-year-old is the oldest winner since Ray Reardon took the crown in 1978 at the age of 45.

He joins Mark Selby as a three-time Crucible champion, behind only Stephen Hendry with seven, Steve Davis with six, Ronnie O’Sullivan with five and Higgins with four.

Williams didn’t even make it to the Crucible last year having dropped out of the top 16 and lost in the qualifying rounds. He insists he contemplated retirement last summer, having not won a ranking title for six years. Throwing the dice, he tried the SightRight coaching method, which completely changed his alignment and ball-sighting. The results have been astonishing.

Williams has won three ranking titles this season, bringing his career tally to 21, and capped it off with snooker’s most prestigious prize. The Cwm cueman banks the biggest cheque in snooker history, £425,000, to bring his total for the season to £885,400. He jumps from seventh to third in the world rankings.

Williams, Higgins and O’Sullivan, the trio of all-time greats who all turned professional in 1992, have won ten of the 20 ranking events between them this season.

Having finished runner-up to Selby last year, Higgins becomes the first player to lose back-to-back finals since Jimmy White lost five in a row from 1990-94.

Like Williams, the 42-year-old has had a fine season, winning two ranking titles to bring his career tally to 30, but finishes it on a low note, missing the chance to join O’Sullivan on five world crowns. His £180,000 prize money is quite a consolation and the Scot moves up one spot to fourth in the rankings.

Mark Williams – road to the title
Round one: Beat Jimmy Robertson 10-5
Last 16: Beat Robert Milkins 13-7
Quarter-finals: Beat Ali Carter 13-8
Semi-finals: Beat Barry Hawkins 17-15
Final: Beat John Higgins 18-16

Williams held leads of 5-3, 10-7 and 15-10 after the first three sessions. Higgins needed a fast start in tonight’s concluding chapter and he got it with a break of 131. Williams looked set to take the next until he missed a red to a centre pocket on 58, and his opponent punished him with a 67 clearance to close to 15-12.

Another trademark clearance from Higgins, 82 from 47-0 down, got him within two frames. And he dominated the next with runs of 47 and 39 to make it 15-14 at the interval. Frame 30 followed a familiar pattern as Williams got in first and made 47 before missing a red to a top corner, and Higgins ruthlessly punished him with a 62 clearance to square the match for the first time since 7-7.

Williams finally got a frame on the board in the 31st with runs of 41 and 33. And he carried that momentum into the next with a 100, the 84th century of the tournament, to go 17-15 up.

In a dramatic 33rd frame, Williams made 63 before missing match-ball pink to a corner pocket. Yet again Higgins showed nerves of steel to clear with 68 and keep his hopes alive.

But Williams wasn’t to be denied; he fired in a sensational red to a centre pocket and compiled a  run of 69 to secure a glorious victory. All three of his Crucible triumphs have come with an 18-16 final scoreline.

What a match to be involved in,” said Williams. “The break in the last frame was one of the best I’ve made under pressure in my life. What an occasion, to play John at the Crucible in the final is unbelievable. I’m so happy I won.

“The pressure wasn’t too bad but John was making some amazing clearances. He’s the best I’ve ever seen at clearing up. The man is different class.

“A year ago I was thinking about chucking it, and here I am having just won the World Championship. Where has it come from? If I never win another tournament, or my form goes downhill, I don’t care. I’ve just done something I never thought I would. I’ve been playing some unbelievable stuff this season and I felt I could have a good run here.

“I’m looking forward to coming back next year – I’m going to keep my mouth shut and not say anything stupid to end up with no clothes on. But if I win it next year I’ll do a cartwheel naked!

Williams was supported throughout the event by son Kian and wife Joanne and added: “The little rascal (Kian) has been off school all week and has been up here all the way through. Joanne couldn’t stop crying. I even got a little bit emotional at the end as well, it’s a big occasion. I thought these days had past.

Higgins said: “I was a embarrassed at 14-7, I didn’t want to lose with a session to spare. I came back well to make it 15-15. In the next two frames I played some bad shots. It was like I wasn’t standing up to the pressure. I made it 17-16 but then he made one of the best breaks I’ve ever seen under pressure.

“Mark wasn’t even here last year. So for him to go from not even qualifying to really doing a number on everyone is great. When you’re rivals you can’t really be friends, but it’s never stopped me having an unbelievable amount of respect for Mark as a player. When we’re getting to the twilight of our careers, it was a dream to play him in the final. That’s what we live for.

“I’ve lost two finals in a row now and it heart-breaking. It’s like a drug this game – and that atmosphere tonight, the one table set up, if I never get here again at least I can say I’ve sampled it a few times.

“People are saying it could be your last chance but I could come back and make a fist of it next year, you just never know what’s going to happen. I’ll definitely be back to give it another go.

Here are the end-of-season rankings

  1. Mark Selby
  2. Ronnie O’Sullivan
  3. Mark Williams
  4. John Higgins

The “Class of 92” won 10 of the 20 ranking events (not counting the shootout) this season, Ronnie won 5, including the UK Championship, Mark Williams won 3 and is World Champion, John Higgins won 2. They were born in 1975. Mark Selby will be 35 next month. Where are the young players?

Mark Williams had promised to do his press conference naked … he was true to his word.

World Championship 2018 – Ahead of the Final …

So today, John Higgins and Mark Williams, two members of the “Class of 92” will compete in the World Championship Final, both in their 25th season as pros. Ronnie, John Higgins and Mark Williams have already won nine ranking events between them this season: five for Ronnie, two each for Higgins and Williams. Come Monday night together they will have won 10 out of 21 ranking titles in the 2017/18 season, including the two “Triple Crown” ones. That’s both truly remarkable and worrying for the future of the sport.

The semi finals couldn’t have been more different.

John Higgins defeated Kyren Wilson by 17-13. For most of the match, John Higgins played well below his best. He made unforced errors and his positional game was poor by his standards. Kyren Wilson, despite being the heaviest scorer, failed to capitalise enough on John’s mistakes. That was particularly true in the second session. Of course Kyren had never played at the Crucible with just the one table. It’s very intimidating and he needed time to settle. He finished the first session 5-3 down and played catch-up all match. In the last session John Higgins found form and ran away. A more experienced Kyren certainly could, and probably would  have won this match.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker

John Higgins will compete in snooker’s biggest match for the second successive year after defeating Kyren Wilson 17-13 to reach the Betfred World Championship final.

Scotland’s Higgins has lifted silverware at the Crucible on four occasions, but fell just short of a fifth world crown last year. He had looked to be in position for the title when he led Mark Selby 10-4, but fell foul of a fightback and lost out 18-15.

This afternoon’s momentous victory for 42-year-old Higgins sees him become the first player over the age of 40 to reach the world final in consecutive years. He’s also the oldest Crucible finalist since Ray Reardon in 1982, who was aged 49.

In contrast, 26-year-old Wilson’s bid to become the youngest World Champion since Shaun Murphy in 2005 came to an end. However, he did have a landmark win against Mark Allen in the last eight to ensure his passage to the one-table semi-finals for the first time in his career.

Awaiting Higgins in tomorrow’s showpiece match will be either a repeat of the recent Welsh Open final which the Scot was victorious in 9-7 against Barry Hawkins, or a meeting with fellow member of the Class of 92 and two-time World Champion Mark Williams.

The pattern of the semi-final saw Wilson cling to the coat-tails of Higgins. The Warrior was within a frame of the Scot on eight occasions during the tie, but he trailed for the duration of the match.

They came into this afternoon’s concluding session with Higgins’ lead at 13-11 after they shared the frames yesterday evening.

Wilson got off to the perfect start today with a superb break of 90 and pulled within a frame at 13-12. From there 30-time ranking event winner Higgins stamped his authority on proceedings.

He claimed the 27th frame, before a stunning break of 136 saw him move within two of the finish line at 15-12. A contribution of 53 helped Wilson reduce the gap. However, Higgins ruthlessly stormed over the line with runs of 100 and 98 to seal victory.

Higgins said: “I’m so proud that 20 years after I won my first world title, I’m sitting here ready to compete in another final. It’s a fantastic feeling. It would be extra special to play Mark Williams, he’s won it twice before and would be going after a third one. I’ll be going for a fifth.

“Kyren put me under it, but he just couldn’t get level with me. He reminds me so much of Mark Selby when I played him in the final in 2007. They’re different players, but they have a certain aura about them. When Kyren comes to the table, you think he is going to pot everything, and he often does. Maybe his cue ball control isn’t as tight as some other players, but his long potting is phenomenal. He learns from every single match he plays, and I’m sure he’ll do big things here in the future.

“At the time, I felt last year was my best opportunity to win it again. I don’t know how the next game is going to transpire, I might be well behind and not have an opportunity. I just felt that because I was so far in front against Selby that it was a great chance. We’ll need to see how the first day of this final goes.”

Afterwards Wilson admitted that not finishing the opening session level with Higgins could have been a pivotal moment.

Wilson said: “I think in hindsight it is probably down to the very first session. Walking out into the one table setup, I’ll hold my hands up, it was so unique and different to the two tables. The pleasing thing for me is that I didn’t crumble and I really held myself together and battled on. I feel very comfortable out there now.

“I really wanted to get level and see how John would respond to that. When I got within one he just seemed to get stronger, so I wanted to see what would have happened if I did get level.”

Mark Williams beat Barry Hawkins by 17-15, having never been in front until the 31st frame when he went 16-15 up. Both players played fantastic for three sessions, with Mark Williams – who finished the first session 5-3 behind – getting level twice, at 5-5 and 10-10, but never in front. Then in the last session both seemed to feel the pressure and it became a bit of a twitch fest. That was quite understandable: this was Barry’s fifth semi final in the last six years, but he managed to get to the final only once, Mark’s last final appearance was in 2003 an,d last year he failed to even qualify. Eventually Mark showed why he’s a double World Champion, he remained the most positive of the two, and got himself over the line. Some of the shots Mark Williams came up with in this match were incredible: surely he’s the most creative shotmaker on the tour for sure!

Here is the report on Worldsnooker

Mark Williams won an epic battle with Barry Hawkins 17-15 to clinch his place in the Betfred World Championship final, 15 years after his last appearance in the showpiece match.

Williams was World Champion in 2000 and 2003 and his remarkable return to snooker’s biggest match is the longest gap between Crucible final appearances.

On a night of high drama, both players looked edgy as a shroud of tension descended upon the Theatre of Dreams.

They came into the session with Hawkins leading two-time World Champion Williams 13-11. However, 43-year-old Williams resolutely stuck to his task and reeled the Hawk in, trailing by just one at 15-14. There was then an extraordinary 30th frame.

Hawkins had an opportunity to clinch the frame, but missed the third last red. Williams stepped up to the plate with a sublime clearance of 42 to steal, which included a phenomenal positional shot from the black to the yellow.

Welshman Williams then claimed a scrappy 31st frame to lead for the first time in the match. Both players spurned opportunities under considerable pressure in the next. Hawkins was looking to force a decider and Williams aiming to edge over the line.

They eventually came down to the final pink, with the clock just shy of midnight. Hawkins turned down a difficult shot across the top cushion. He didn’t receive another opportunity at a pot, with Williams eventually firing in a long range pink and depositing the black to seal a nerve shredding win.

Victory sees the Welshman set up a showdown with legendary 42-year-old Scot John Higgins, who has tasted World Championship glory in Sheffield on four occasions. The meeting between two of snooker’s Class of 92 will be the first ever Crucible final to be contested between two players over the age of 40.

Williams and Higgins boast a wealth of experience and honours to their names. They have 50 ranking titles between them, with Williams having won 20 and Higgins holding 30 titles. The longevity of their success can be illustrated by the fact that regardless of who is victorious on Monday evening, the winner will become the oldest World Champion since Ray Reardon in 1978.

“I’m knackered,” said Williams. “I haven’t felt that nervous since I beat Stephen Hendry on a re-spotted black in the (1998) Masters final. I was gone in the end, I couldn’t pot three balls on the trot. Luckily for me Barry was feeling the pressure. We both collapsed. It must have been great to watch, it was like two pub players trying to get over the line.

“I’m over the moon to be in the final. I got there in the end, I don’t know how. Somehow I managed to pot a really good pink. I thought I had missed the last black, but when it dropped in I was so relieved.

“My arms and legs didn’t feel like mine. I had no feeling in my arms at all. The last thing I wanted was to play another frame. The drama and the atmosphere out there was unbelievable. I forgot how good that arena is with one table, it’s been so long.

“I’ve just got to go out there and enjoy the final. Hopefully if it does go close towards the end, I won’t collapse like a cheap tent again. I’ve grown up with John, played him in all the tournaments, and now we’re in the final of the World Championship. It’s unbelievable, I can’t wait.” 

Hawkins said: “The final frame was brutal, we were both twitching all over the place. I felt good at 15-14, I was in the balls and felt quite composed, but I took my eye off a red, and from then on I started twitching.

“Mark played a lot of clever shots, good safeties, and kept potting good long balls and battling away like he does. He’s a class player, one of the all-time greats.

“I’ve played pretty well for most of the tournament, and I fancied getting to the final. Tonight I let myself down a little bit.”

So, who is going to lift the trophy on Monday night? It’s hard to tell actually. If they both play like they did in the first three sessions, it should be Williams, if they play like they did in their last session, it will be Higgins. Higgins will start the fresher of the two today, but Williams is the fittest and this might well be a huge factor tomorrow, if he manages to at least stay close on the first day.

My head is saying Higgins, my heart wants Williams. Go Willo!

Finally, the Eurosport pundits had an interesting discussion at the end of the match, all in agreement that the tournament is too long. I’m certain that most fans will strongly disagree, but then the fans are just sitting and watching, the players have to compete and it’s completely different. Mark Selby was advocating for the QF being shortened to best of 19, the SF to best of 31 (it was best of 31 in the early 90th BTW) and the Final best of 33. I wouldn’t want to see the QF being best of 19 personally. What I would like to see though is the tournament to start on the Friday evening, and the schedule rearranged so that there would be only two sessions on the SF Saturday, making sure that none of the finalists has to cope with a late night finish. Don’t forget that when the match is over, both players have media duties and the winner still has filming to do with the BBC. It would be even better actually if the tournament started on a Thursday and finished on Sunday because … outside the UK, the Monday is a working day. There is no such thing as a “Bank Holiday”. If the game is to become truly global, then maybe, this should be taken intio account?

World Championship 2018 – Day 13 – Semi Finals kick-off

Both semi finals first sessions were played yesterday and both ended on a 5-3 scoreline, but they were otherwise very different.

John Higgins leads Kyren Wilson by 5-3. Kyren would had never played at the Crucible on the one table setup looked out of sorts for most of the first mini-session and found himself 4-1 down. In the second mini-session he came to life and it should have been 4-4 really, but an unexpected miss from Kyren cost him dear. Ronnie was commentating on the second mini-session and pointed out that Higgins wasn’t actually playing that well: his positional game  was not great and he wasn’t timing his shots as well as he usually does. This may have been caused by fatigue from the QF match vs Judd Trump, but I’m not sure because it seems to me that it’s been like that for the whole tournament. So this session was full of mistakes, twist ans turns.

Barry Hawkins leads Mark Williams by 5-3 and both players played really well. Barry Hawkins was awesome, and Mark Williams not far behind. Really high quality session. Barry started with a century, Mark finished with a century.

Ronnie introduced both session from the Crucible floor and these quotes, reported by the press, pleased me. Sometimes you have to miss something to realise how much it’s important to you.

ronnie-o-sullivan-Eurosport 2018EUROSPORT

Ronnie O’Sullivan says it doesn’t feel right not playing at the World Snooker Championships
The final four get underway today with Kyren Wilson taking on John Higgins at 1pm and Mark Williams battling Barry Hawkins in the evening session.

Despite going into the tournament among the heavy favourites, O’Sullivan is only a spectator after Ali Carter knocked him out in the second round.

And he admits not being involved in the semi-finals will take some getting used to.

Previewing the matches for Eurosport, O’Sullivan said: “Obviosuly with the two-table set-up there isn’t as much room around the table.

“They’ll come out today and there will be so much space and that might take the first four frames to adjust.

“But this is the ultimate really. This is the best thing any player can dream of, playing here.

“It’s great to be working for Eurosport and I love doing this, but if felt kind of weird coming out here and seeing the one table because I’d rather be here playing.

“Second prize is sitting here watching some of the best snooker players in the world. I’ve got the best seats in the house!”

World Championship 2018 – Day 12 – SF: Hawkins, Williams, Wilson and Higgins.

Yesterday decided who will play at the one table setup …

Here are the reports on Worldsnooker for each of them

Barry Hawkins

Barry Hawkins reached the semi-finals of the Betfred World Championship for the fifth time since 2013 by beating Ding Junhui 13-5.

World number six Hawkins fired two centuries and eight more breaks over 50 in an emphatic win over third seed Ding. London’s 39-year-old Hawkins now meets Mark Williams or Ali Carter over 33 frames on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a place in the final.

Crucible specialist Hawkins has now won 18 matches at the famous venue since 2013; no other player has won as many matches over the same period, including three-time champion Mark Selby. That’s a remarkable turnaround for a player who lost in the first round in his first five appearances  at the Crucible from 2006 to 2010.

With a tremendous all round game and steady temperament, three-time ranking event winner Hawkins has all the attributes to go one step further than he did in 2013 when he lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final.

He led 11-5 going into today’s final session, and won a scrappy opening frame today before finishing the match with a break of 117.

“It’s a little bit surreal really,” said Hawkins, who made a slow start to the current season but showed consistency in recent weeks by reaching the final of the Welsh Open and China Open. “I was expecting a really tough game there from Ding, but I got a nice bit of momentum and to beat him 13-5 is a great result.

“I felt like he gave up in the end, his body language suggested that he didn’t fancy the job today. It was important for me to get it over and done with because a lot of funny things can happen in this place. I’ve got to give myself credit. I put him under pressure, and he wasn’t used to that in this tournament so far.

“Even though I’m playing well now, I know how easy it is to have a bad couple of sessions and before you know it you’re going home. I can’t get too carried away because I know exactly what can happen. I’m in the semis, there will be only four of us left, and I’ve got a chance.

“Mark Williams and Ali Carter are both great players. Ali is having a great tournament, he beat Ronnie O’Sullivan and is playing really well. Mark Williams has had the season of his life. It’s going to be really tough against either player.”

China’s Ding will have to wait another year to continue his quest to become the first Asian player to win the world title. He said: “I missed too many chances in and around the black ball area. My position wasn’t good. I didn’t put enough pressure on Barry and he punished me heavily.

“Some days you play well, some days are different. I tried to play well and score heavily but what can I say? It wasn’t working out there.

“Barry’s got enough experience here. He’s got a good record here and he’ll have a lot of confidence to go on and win it.

“I believe I can still win this one day. I’ll always keep up my hopes and I’ll never give up. I’m a sportsman, I can’t give up.”

Ding’s performance was quite terrible to be honest, and whatever he says, the general feeling, including in the ES studio is that he gave up in this match, and very early too. There seemed to be no fight in him whatsoever as soon things weren’t going his way. This was the first real test he had and he collapsed big time. Unless something changes in his mindset he will never be World Champion.

Mark Williams

Mark Williams reached the semi-finals of the Betfred World Championship for the first time since 2011 by beating Ali Carter 13-8.

Welshman Williams has had his best season for 15 years, winning two ranking titles, and is now finishing the campaign in style on the biggest stage. He pulled away from Carter to win five of the last six frames and earn his sixth Crucible semi-final.

World number seven Williams, age 43, will face Barry Hawkins over 33 frames on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a place in the final. Champion in 2000 and 2003, Williams is aiming to become only the sixth player to lift the famous trophy in Sheffield more than twice.

Williams insists that he contemplated retirement at the end of last season, but he has found a new lease of life this term and is playing his best snooker since he won all three Triple Crown events during the 2002/03 campaign.

He led 9-7 going into the final session and took the first frame tonight with a break of 83. Carter, who knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan in the previous round, made a 51 in the next but Williams crucially cleared the colours to go 11-7 ahead.

World number 15 Carter pulled one back with a 54 but could barely stem the tide as his opponent made a 113, his fourth century of the match and eighth of the tournament, to make it 12-8 at the interval. And Williams soon closed out victory by taking a scrappy 21st frame.

“It’s going to be special – I’m going to enjoy this semi-final more than any other because the tour’s getting stronger,” said Williams, who didn’t even qualify for the Crucible last year having dropped out of the top 16. “I’m getting older and I don’t know how many more years I’ll be getting to semi-finals.

“I’m playing the best stuff I’ve played in donkeys’ years. I’m playing with a lot of confidence, I’m relaxed, I’m throwing frames away and I couldn’t care less. I just get on with it and forget about it like I used to back in the good old days. I felt in control of myself all throughout the match. I never felt like I was going to lose.

“I haven’t played Barry Hawkins in a long time. He produces his best stuff here so it’s going to be a tough game, but I don’t really care who I play. I’m just over the moon to be in the semi-final. Sometimes you can get a bit nervous going out there but not me, I just cannot wait to get out there.

“I haven’t won it since 2003, and I honestly thought my days were up. But with the season I’ve had so far, why not?”

Carter, who was runner-up in Sheffield in 2008 and 2012, said: “Mark played really well, I just felt like I was hanging on in there. We all want to win this so bad. It’s so important and it’s an opportunity missed. It’s been a positive end to the season.

“I’ll take a lot of confidence from beating Ronnie O’Sullivan but I’m looking forward to having a couple of months off now and then regrouping for next season.

“If Mark continues to play like that then he’s got every chance. Everywhere you look there are great players. I’d like see a new champion.”

I didn’t see much of this one, but for what I saw, “Willo” is playing really well and is very laid back. He will be dangerous. He promised to come naked to his press conference if he wins the title. I’m not sure if this prospect will gain him supporters … personally I’m not a big fan of heavily tattooed guys. Nevertheless I would be very happy to see him lift the trophy!

Kyren Wilson

Kyren Wilson is through to the semi-finals of the Betfred World Championship for the first time after defeating Masters champion Mark Allen 13-6.

The showdown with Allen was a repeat of the 2018 Masters final, which took place at Alexandra Palace in January. On that occasion Wilson lost out 10-7, but he gained his revenge today in an emphatic style.

Kettering’s Wilson, 26, is now just two victories away from becoming the youngest World Champion since 2005 when Shaun Murphy lifted silverware at the Crucible as a 22-year-old.

The Warrior will fancy his chances of achieving that feat after progressing beyond the last eight at the third time of asking, having lost quarter-finals in 2016 and 2017.

Defeat for Allen ends his hopes of making a first semi-final appearance since 2009, when he lost out 17-13 in a tremendous battle with John Higgins.

Wilson came into this afternoon requiring just two frames for victory. A stunning performance yesterday evening saw him take seven of the eight frames to establish a commanding 11-5 advantage.

Northern Ireland’s Allen took the opening frame of the afternoon to close the gap and make it 11-6, but that did little to deter Wilson.

The Englishman fired in a break of 48 as he moved one from the win and a run of 53 in the next helped to wrap up a momentous victory.

Wilson will now face a semi-final against either four-time Crucible king John Higgins or eight-time ranking event winner Judd Trump, who Wilson defeated to lift his only ranking title to date at the 2015 Shanghai Masters.

Wilson said: “It’s a very special feeling. You dream of playing at the Crucible in the one table set up. It’s a personal goal I’ve now reached, so I’m very pleased and very excited to experience it.

“Mark told me to enjoy the one-table set up, play well and that he hopes I win it. It was very nice of him. He came into my dressing room straight after and wished me well, which shows the class of the guy.

“I’ve always believed I could win this tournament. I feel like every year I come here I’ve got stronger. I was little bit like a rabbit in the headlights in my very first year, which I’m sure many players were, but after the second year I realised how good it is playing here and I love it. It’ll be a new experience tomorrow in a brand-new arena, so I’m just going to enjoy the occasion. I’ve never played a match over 33 frames before, so it’s just going to be good fun.”

Afterwards Allen gave a frank assessment of his performance, saying: “I was rubbish really from start to finish. I never felt involved in the match in any way. I felt quite flat, and for the quarter finals of a World Championship it’s pretty embarrassing to say that. There was very little intensity there.

“It’s something that I’ve got to sit down with my coach Chris Henry and talk about. I never really got into that match mentally. It was like I was watching it from the outside looking in.

“I’m 32 years-old, but I’m still very inexperienced when it comes to World Championship snooker and those long matches. I still have lots to learn, it’s been seven years since I was last in the quarter finals. If I can keep knocking on the door and putting myself in those big matches year in year out, as the likes of Hawkins and Selby do on a regular basis, sooner or later the door will open.”

This is another match I only watched in chunks. Kyren Wilson played well for what I saw, but indeed Mark Allen was flat. I honestly believe that the best thing Mark Allen could do for his career and for himself is to work on his fitness and his diet; that would improve his stamina and it’s all he’s lacking IMO.

John Higgins

John Higgins was victorious in one of the greatest ever Crucible quarter-finals at the Betfred World Championship, as he sealed a thrilling 13-12 win over Judd Trump.

On a night of tension in Sheffield, the steely Scot typically summoned some of his best snooker at the business end of a match which he trailed for the majority of. Incredibly out of the six deciding frames the four-time Crucible king Higgins has been involved in at the World Championship, he has now won five.

They came into this evening locked together at 8-8, after the Scot fought back in the second session from 7-3 down. Tonight’s action transpired in a similar manner, with Trump seizing the early initiative. He claimed the first two frames to make it 10-8.

Higgins pulled one back and there was then a dramatic 20th frame. It came down to a safety battle on the final pink, which Trump eventually edged before depositing the last two colours to go 11-9 ahead. The Ace in the Pack punched the air as he left the arena.

When they returned it was 30-time ranking event winner Higgins who turned up the heat. Breaks of 75 and 72 saw him force his way back level at 11-11. He then compiled a sensational run of 134 to move to the verge of victory at 12-11.

Higgins looked set to secure the win until he broke down with just three reds left. Trump stepped up by making an incredible clearance of 40, which included a nerveless cut-back black to get onto the last yellow.

In all came down to a nail-biting deciding frame. However, Higgins dealt with the substantial pressure and got over the line to reach the last four thanks to breaks of 43 and 41.

It is another tough defeat on the big stage for 2011 UK Champion Trump. He suffered a similarly agonising loss in his Masters semi-final in January, when he was beaten 6-5 against Kyren Wilson.

This is the ninth time Higgins has reached the last four at the Crucible and the illustrious Scot will now set his sights on a seventh World Championship final when he begins his semi-final clash with Kyren Wilson tomorrow afternoon at 1pm.

Higgins said: “I couldn’t really stand up straight at the end there. It’s an unbelievable venue, even if I had lost that match, the buzz was incredible. It was just a great feeling. I don’t know how many more times I’ll be coming back and having those feelings.

“I think the reason I won was that I just enjoyed it. I was thinking that even if I had lost, this might have been Judd’s time to win it. It must be heartbreaking for him, you see his Mum and Dad up there, and it is tough. I know what that is like, but personally to come out having won is a brilliant feeling.

“He was the better player in that match, I was just hanging on his coat-tails. He must hate the sight of me, but he will win the World Championship without a shadow of a doubt. He’s such a great all-round player now, his tactical game doesn’t really get talked about, but he plays some great tactical shots as well. Along with his potting capabilities, he’ll definitely be back to win it.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Kyren Wilson. I think he believes he’s going to be World Champion, if not this week then in the future. He’s a really professional young guy. He’s all business and is learning every year. It’s going to be a mammoth semi-final.”

A disappointed Trump said:  “I’m 28-years-old now and I need to start winning these tournaments if I want to be the best. I take no positives from losing. In the end I should have been tighter in the last frame, but the way he pots balls under pressure, I don’t think there’s anyone else who would even take those balls on, not even Ronnie O’Sullivan. I think he’s probably the most calm under pressure in the game.

“I thought I was unlucky to lose in the end. He played really well in the last four or five frames, but after I made that clearance at 12-11 you just want that chance. He twitched a red in the last frame but left it safe. He plays some amazing snooker at times, where you can’t play against him. I just stuck in there and you’ve got to get the luck against him. Time and time again it just doesn’t happen.”

Yes, Judd was the better player, and, yes, John Higgins was there for the taking BUT … once again reading Judd’s comments I feel he’s in denial. The only comment I agree with is “In the end I should have been tighter in the last frame”. Thinking that your opponent will not play certain shots is either naïve or arrogant, and it’s not a matter of luck over such a long match. Judd failed to pounce when he had John on the ropes, he failed to keep it tight when he went in front. He should have won really, he has all the ability needed to do it, the clearance he put together to force a decider is evidence of that. And then in the decider he played a shot that cost him dear and triggered baffled reactions on social media from people wondering if he thought he was playing in the club…

And those who follow me on twitter will know that I badly wanted Judd to win this match. And now I will support Kyren Wilson in the semis !

World Championship 2018 – Day 11 – Ding and Allen in danger

Crucible2018Day10Results

Those are the scores as we enter the second and last day of the QF round.

And Ronnie is back in the studio alongside Colin Murray, Jimmy White and Mark Selby

BackstageESUK01.05.2018

So what do we do with yesterday’s outcome?

Ding was really poor against Barry Hawkins. Barry was rarely first in the balls but efficiently capitalised on his opponent mistakes. The ES pundits team, especially Mark and Ronnie, stressed that there was something fundamentally wrong in Ding’s attitude: as soon as things don’t go his way, he seems to give up. Ronnie suggested that Ding could benefit from seeing someone, just like himself has benefitted from seeing Steve Peters, as himself also in the past has been guilty of self-sabotaging when things were getting sticky. Both Ronnie and Mark agreed that if nothing changed the chances for Ding to ever become World Champion were close to zero. Ding played seemingly outstanding in the previous rounds and the truth is that he’s not been seriously tested. That said, Barry Hawkins in his quiet way has an outstanding record at the Crucible over the last 5 years. He should not be underestimated: he is playing well in winning this match.

It came to a surprise to me that after finishing the first session all square, Mark Allen lost the second session by 7-1. I don’t know how it happened, as I didn’t see it, but I was always expecting “The Warrior” to come into that match fired up and determined to “avenge” the Masters final defeat. Kyren must be on the warpath!

Judd Trump has a small advantage over John Higgins, starting the day 5-3 up. It could and should have been more. I’m a bit nonplussed that nobody seems to recognize that when John Higgins is put under pressure nowadays, he DOES miss more often than in the past. He was vulnerable yesterday and, once again, if Judd had played just a fraction more cautiously he could have easily been 6-2 up.

Finally Ali Carter and Mark Williams are all square and I couldn’t for the life of me pick a favourite there. Before the match “Willo” jokingly said that he may have to walk sideways to avoid a barge… but at the table both are playing it tough.

Speaking of “barges”, Ronnie explained this on ES yesterday

 

So, exactly as I initially understood, Ali started the whole thing by barging Ronnie first, but as usual, the media just ignored it, and only focused on Ronnie’s retaliation. Ronnie is taking it all with a good zest of humour…

Another interesting bit yesterday was the interview with Chris Henry on the impact of battle scars and how it works in the players brain. I’ll try to find a footage of that one.

And finally the pundits discussion around the future of the game and the importance of developing grassroot snooker. Hopefully the new World Snooker Federation will be up to the task.