Staging a tournament

As there is no action for now, Worldsnooker is taking time to tell us what happens behind the scene and today published a feature on what it takes to stage a  ranking tournament.

Staging a ranking tournament involves many intricacies, which may not be immediately apparent. The task of showcasing the finest 128 snooker stars on the planet is one which requires rigorous attention to detail and precise execution.

Whether it be for those tableside in the arena, or those sitting in front of the television preparing for a session of world-class sport, the giants of the green baize provide entertainment to many millions of people every year.

Beaming television coverage to more than 50 countries around the world, accommodating thousands of fans in the arena and looking after 128 players, competing on eight tables, requires extensive planning.

The process of organising a ranking event typically begins years before the players take to the baize. World Snooker’s Operations Director Nigel Oldfield plays a key role in putting together the calendar and finding venues. Much like the players out in the arena, he needs to be thinking several steps ahead.

Oldfield said: “The first part of the process is finding the dates and that comes by looking at where we can fit the event within the overall calendar and undertaking discussions with broadcasters. At the moment, I have not only got a draft calendar for the 2019/20 season, but also the 2020/21 season. You need to be thinking that far ahead of yourself to be able to manage things.

“Once that has been done we need to find a suitable and available venue. The sort of venue which is required really does need to fulfil some very specific criteria, which narrows down the number of places we can go. Ideally it needs to have its own box office. But most significantly it needs to be able to hold eight tables at the same time as ensuring a good experience for the fans front of house and hosting 128 players backstage.”

The next part of the process is ensuring a packed-out crowd. Established tournaments like the World Championship sell out a year in advance. Fans queued through the night outside the Crucible to get their hands on tickets for the 2019 Championship. However, most other events require extensive promotion. World Snooker’s event management and marketing team, based in Bristol, spend months before each tournament working on branding, ticket promotions, artwork and advertising in order to raise awareness.

For events to be successful, they must be at the forefront of public consciousness. The emergence of social media as arguably the world’s most powerful news and marketing tool has changed the way we consume content. While we still obtain much of our information from traditional means like newspapers, televisions and radios, we are now equally invested in using phones, tablets and laptops for our news.

It is the job of Ivan Hirschowitz, who heads up World Snooker’s media team, to work with the global and local press to give them the access to events, while directing the in-house coverage of tournaments on digital platforms.

Hirschowitz said: “The media build up to a tournament will begin several months before it starts, usually around the opening of the box office and the announcement of the venue. We always have a partnership with the biggest regional newspaper and we’ll work with local media to build up the event and raise awareness. Social media is such an important way of communicating with fans so we have invested a lot in building up the quality of our digital content. We can convey messages about tournaments and tickets to half a million fans with the click of a button, which just wasn’t possible a decade ago.

“At our biggest tournaments we have more than 100 journalists applying for accreditation, from countries including China, Thailand, India, USA and around Europe. It has been fantastic to see snooker grow as a global sport over the past decade. During events it’s not unusual for our media staff to work 16-hour days. But you can’t beat the excitement of following a match to its conclusion well after midnight!”

Live television also requires plenty of man-hours and complex preparations from the on-site production team and host broadcaster. Eurosport televise the Home Nations series and their innovative coverage has attracted much praise from the snooker community and beyond.

 

Andy Goldstein and Colin Murray present Eurosport’s programmes, with the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds providing cutting-edge analysis and expert tips from the practice room. The man in charge of making sure it all comes together is producer Paul Whipps.

“It is amazing how smoothly everything runs in terms of setting up,” said Whipps. “This is our third year of the Home Nations, so once the guys are in the venue, they know exactly how to lay the cables and put things together. They are incredible.

“Once the action gets under way we are live for both the afternoon and evening sessions and I will do a running order for the whole day. We always have a 15-minute introduction before play gets started and although the agenda for the afternoon is set, you can’t really plan too much for the evening show. A lot of what is discussed will come as reaction to the afternoon. I’m relying on lots of help from the team. I’ll speak to Andy, Jimmy and Ronnie about the key points and our head commentator David Hendon often makes suggestions as well. We want to be able to react to whatever is happening on and off the table.”

Before a tournament starts, most venues are empty spaces which need lighting, snooker tables and crowd seating to be put in place with expert precision. TranSport are contracted by World Snooker to direct the rigging process and put up the event infrastructure. Will Cope oversees the process.

He said: “Two or three months beforehand we have a drawing nailed down which shows where everything is going to go. We create a set of rigging notes which tells everyone who is going into the arena, in what order and at what time. There are a range of contractors including ourselves, the carpet fitters, the table fitters, the lighting guys and the cameramen. There are a lot of elements to bring together at the right time, including the structures to support the lighting and all of the cabling. We are the first piece of the jigsaw and we have to get our work done before the table fitters can come in.”

World Snooker Services are tasked with the critical role of getting the tables in position for the action. Both fitting and servicing the tables throughout the tournament is a specialist skill which requires each element to be executed perfectly to create top class playing conditions for the world’s finest snooker stars. Pete Godwin is one of the directors of the company and has more than 35 years of experience in the trade.

“Usually you only have three days to rig the tables as you need to come in after other people have done their job,” said Godwin. “The arena tables have to be put in, up to the slates, and then left to settle overnight. You need to have enough staff there to get the job done on time, but it is a very long process and a skilled job. Before any player gets to the table they all need to be signed off. We need to do level checks, speed checks, cushion reaction check and pocket template checks. Then during the intervals or between matches we brush and iron the tables to make sure they are in top condition. As the event goes on we are also taking tables out. We go from eight tables to six, to four, to two and then down to one for the semi-finals, when we strip the table down to recover and start again.”

 

Tournament Director Mike Ganley and his team oversee the events and ultimately take responsibility and make key decisions for everything which goes on in the match arena.

“I don’t think people necessarily understand how much work goes on in the background,” said Ganley. “We have the referees, the security and officials, media and event managers, so to start with there is the handling of staff. We are constantly in touch with the players, the officials and the broadcaster to make sure that the tournament runs to plan.

“I work with a group of tournament director staff and we share the events out. Whoever is in charge for a certain event has to be the contact and make tough decisions and answer questions. The buck does stop at the tournament director’s desk. That is where it has to stop as somebody needs to have the final say.”

During a season of tournaments in the UK, we use:
2.5 kilometres of snooker cloth
96,417 tickets
2,662 hotel nights for staff
7,828 litres of water
4,650 accreditation lanyards

It’s indeed a lot of work, and I can confirm that Ivan and his team, the fitters, the TV guys, the referees, the cameramen (and women!) and tournament director staff work extremely long hours to make sure that everything runs smoothly.

However some of the things written in this article surprise me a bit. From April 2010 to January 2016 I have been in a lot of tournaments. The “Triple Crown” tournaments are usually well advertised, and them being run for years in a row in the same city and venue does help. But for the other tournaments, I must say that my own experience is that, more often than not, the locals are largely unaware that a snooker tournament is happening close to their home, even the taxi drivers, who naturally tend to meet and speak to many people, often know nothing about it. In those events, especially the smaller ones, I was often the only photographer on site particularly in the early stages. Then the local press usually sent someone for the semi finals and final, or if a local player was in action, or… if Ronnie was playing. At the big events, the UK Championship, the Masters and of course the World Championship there were more people in the media room. The BBC guys, both from television and radio, the written press and photographers. But it was mostly always the same guys event after event and their number was closer to 40 than 100. Things might be different in Asia, but when I attended the Shanghai Masters in 2012, it was roughly the same.

By the way, Hector Nunns who is a (nearly) permanent presence in the media room wrote a feature in a recent issue of Snooker Scene, lamenting about the lack of interest in snooker shown by the newspapers in the UK nowadays. This of course is not WSA fault, it’s largely linked to the rise of social media and the fact that nowadays most people don’t read papers as much as they once did. Actually to “sell” the written press tends to rely a lot on sensationalist stories and catching titles. Unfortunately for snooker, that means that, more often than not, it’s either about Ronnie or about some match fixing “scandal”. So, snooker really owes a lot to mark Williams for his naked press conference. THat put snooker on the radars…

 

 

German Masters 2019 – Qualifiers – Last 64

So, yesterday was the last day of action at the tables for this year. The last 64 round of the German Masters qualifiers came to a conclusion. The highlight of the day was certainly Judd Trump’s 147, that came in frame three of his match vs Lukas Kleckers.

This was the 146th official 147 in snooker history. Who will make the 147th 147, and when?

Other than that, the last 64 yielded no real surprise, although some matches were very close. In particular Chris Wakelin could, and IMO should, have beaten John Higgins.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker:

Judd Trump made the fourth maximum break of his career during a 5-0 win over Lukas Kleckers in the second qualifying round of the D88.com German Masters qualifiers on Friday evening.

Trump’s perfect break came in the third frame of the match at the Barnsley Metrodome. The world number five also fired runs of 75, 74 and 137 as he booked his place in the last 32 in Berlin.

The 29-year-old from Bristol becomes the eighth player to make more than three official 147s, joining Ronnie O’Sullivan (15), Stephen Hendry (11), John Higgins (9), Ding Junhui (6), Shaun Murphy (5), Stuart Bingham (4) and Marco Fu (4).

It’s the seventh 147 of the season and 146th in snooker history.

The final stages of the £396,500 world ranking event will take place at the famous Tempodrom venue in Berlin from January 30 to February 3.

John Higgins came through a tough battle against Chris Wakelin, winning 5-4. Wakelin led 53-24 in the decider but four-time World Champion Higgins snatched it with a 41 clearance.

World number one Mark Selby has been top of the rankings since he won this title in 2015 and he secured his return to Berlin with a 5-1 defeat of John Astley, making breaks of 100,100, 68, 77 and 70.

Matthew Stevens made four centuries in a 5-2 win over Ken Doherty. After losing the first frame, Welshman Stevens took five of the next six with runs of 70, 136, 111, 115 and 119.

Jack Lisowski made a 145 in the fifth frame of a 5-4 win over Gary Wilson. The deciding frame came down to the colours and Lisowski potted the blue for victory.

China’s Ding Junhui made a 101 in a 5-2 win over Kuldesh Johal while Kyren Wilson saw off Oliver Lines 5-2.

Barry Hawkins made a cool 62 clearance, from 57-4 down, to beat Stuart Carrington 5-4 while Neil Robertson made 135 and 102 in a 5-2 win over Gary Wilson.

Last year’s runner-up Graeme Dott misses out this time as he was edged out 5-4 by Michael Georgiou. Peter Ebdon made a 64 in the decider to beat Mark King 5-4.

Mark Williams and Shaun Murphy were among the winners on Thursday evening, for more details click here.

And this is the account, by Wotrldsnooker, of the matches played on the previous evening:

Defending champion Mark Williams secured his place in the final stages of the 2019 D88.com German Masters with a 5-1 win over Jak Jones in the second qualifying round in Barnsley on Thursday.

Williams won the title for the second time at the iconic Tempodrom venue last season, beating Graeme Dott 9-1 in the final. And he goes through to the last 32 this time, beating fellow Welshman Jones with top breaks of 103, 106, 62 and 61.

Shaun Murphy made a remarkable seven centuries in his two matches in Barnsley. Having knocked in four tons in his first round tie against Martin O’Donnell, Murphy then saw off Jimmy White 5-2 with top runs of 124, 131 and 105.

China’s Zhou Yuelong made a 136 in a 5-2 defeat of Dominic Dale. That result means Zhou will go to Berlin still in with a chance of qualifying for the Coral World Grand Prix – for more on that race click here.

Ryan Day made breaks of 75 and 83 in the last two frames as he came from 4-3 down to beat Sunny Akani 5-4.

And this concludes the year as far as snooker is concerned. Tomorrow, I’ll do a feature about the highs and lows as I see them…

 

Germans Masters 2019 – Qualifiers – Last 128

The first round of qualifiers for the German Masters 2019 was played over three days earlier this week. Among the “casualties” we have Ali Carter and Anthony Hamilton, two former German Masters Champions, Anthony McGill, Luca Brecel, Marco Fu, Daniel Wells who was semi-finalist last week in Belfast and Andrew Higginson.

Yesterday, the evening session saw the start of the last 64 qualifiers round.

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker

Day 1 – December 18, 2018

Judd Trump was off to a winning start with a 5-2 victory over Robbie Williams as the D88.com German Masters qualifiers got underway in Barnsley.

 

All players need to win two matches this week to make it to the final stages in Berlin (January 30 to February 3).

World number five Trump was the highest ranked player in action on day one and he fired breaks of 82 and 114 in a comfortable win over Williams. His next opponent will be Hammad Miah or Lukas Kleckers.

Ken Doherty beat Alan McManus 5-0 in a match between two players with a combined age of 96. Doherty, who turns 50 next year, made top breaks of 71 and 90 as he set up a match with Matthew Stevens. Welshman Stevens scored a 5-3 win over Luca Brecel.

Kyren Wilson came from 1-0 down to beat Ian Burns 5-1 with breaks of 76, 56, 64 and 75. Stephen Maguire top scored with 107 in a 5-3 defeat of Daniel Wells.

China’s Zhou Yuelong edged out Zhang Anda 5-4 to keep alive his hopes of a top 32 place on the one-year ranking list and a spot in the Coral World Grand Prix – for more about that race click here

Sam Craigie impressed in a 5-2 win over Ali Carter while Dominic Dale saw off Michael Holt 5-1 with runs of 54, 70, 64, 58 and 78.

Entry to watch the qualifiers at the Barnsley Metrodome is free and fans can gain access to the arena on a first-come-first-served basis.

Day 2 – December 19, 2018

Shaun Murphy made four century breaks in a 5-2 win over Martin O’Donnell in the first qualifying round of the D88.com German Masters in Barnsley on Wednesday.

All players need to win two matches this week to make it to the final stages in Berlin (January 30 to February 3).

Murphy enjoyed a welcome return to form at last week’s Scottish Open, reaching the final, and he showed his break-building class again with runs of 129, 103, 136 and 137 in a superb display against O’Donnell.

In the second round Murphy will face veteran Jimmy White, who beat Harvey Chandler 5-2 with a top break of 84.

Defending champion Mark Williams was pushed hard by China’s 17-year-old Fan Zhengyi, but pulled away from 3-3 to win 5-3 with breaks of 119 and 135 in the last two frames. Williams now plays Jak Jones.

Australia’s Neil Robertson needed just 65 minutes to beat Jamie Clarke 5-0, making top breaks of 66, 64 and 118. He now meets James Cahill.

China’s Ding Junhui fired runs of 59, 54, 63, 104 and 77 as he beat Nigel Bond 5-0 to set up a match with Kuldesh Johal.

Germany’s Lukas Kleckers moved within one win of qualifying for his home tournament with a 5-2 win over Hammad Miah. Kleckers will face Judd Trump with a place in Berlin at stake.

Gary Wilson beat Chen Zifan 5-4 with a top break of 120. As it stands, that result keeps Wilson in the the top 32 of the one-year ranking list in the race to qualify for the Coral World Grand Prix – for more on that story click here

Jordan Brown edged out Anthony McGill 5-4 with a top break of 109 while Barry Hawkins made a 143, the highest break of the tournament so far, during a 5-1 victory over Michael White.

Jack Lisowski top scored with 110 in a 5-1 win over Mark Joyce while Anthony Hamilton, who won this title in 2017, suffered a 5-1 defeat against Luo Honghao.

There was no report by Worldsnooker on the last 128, played on day 3, December 20, 2018.

Ronnie and Mark Allen, winners of the last two tournaments did not enter. This is always a difficult slot in the calendar. Players are tired, the environment in qualifiers in unappealing and the holidays are just around the corner. Moreover, as Rolf Kalb stressed on twitter, there are no held-over matches for this one, with the risk that the World Champion and the Defending Champion might not make it to Berlin. He will this time as it’s the same players, the one and only mark Williams.

But there were wildcards involved as well and both lost. If the idea is to promote local/European amateurs, this is not the way to do it.

One of the wildcards was young Ben Mertens. Ben is Belgian, he only turned 14 mid October and he is the reigning under-16 World amateur Champion.

Ben Mertens

He was pitted against Yuan Sijun, one of the best and most improved young Chinese players. Ben lost heavily. He’s never played in pro environment, and I’m not sure how often he has played on a star table. His father was full of praise for Yuan, but also said that Ben was a bit overawed, which surely isn’t surprising. He’s still only a child. Yuan BTW will be in Berlin, having beaten Noppon Saegkham yesterday evening.

Scottish Open 2018 – Mark Allen is your Champion!

Congratulations to Mark Allen, 2018 Scottish Open Champion

ScottishOpen2018AllenChampion

Mark Allen bounced back from the disappointment of losing to Ronnie in the UK Championship final a week ago, by winning the next event in Glasgow yesterday evening. He beat Shaun Murphy by 9-7 in the final. Congratulations.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Mark Allen defeated Shaun Murphy 9-7 in a thrilling BetVictor Scottish Open final in Glasgow to secure his fifth ranking title.

The match had looked set to go all the way to a decider, before Murphy miscued on 29 whilst among the balls at 8-7 down. Allen pounced and went about compiling a match winning break. However, he had appeared to have missed a pink to the middle, only to fluke it in the corner. The Northern Irishman made the most of his good fortune and completed a clearance of 83 to take home the title.

Allen is currently enjoying the best form of his career. He’s now claimed two ranking titles in 2018, having already tasted silverware at the International Championship. Allen was also runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan at last week’s UK Championship.

The £70,000 winner’s cheque cements his place at the top of the one-year money list. The 32-year-old has now earned £353,000 in ranking competition so far this season.

The Pistol now turns his attentions to the defence of his Masters title next month, when he returns to Alexandra Palace in London for the elite 16-man invitational event, which he won at the start of the year.

This week represents a significant return to form for 2005 World Champion Murphy. The Magician had looked to be in trouble in the race to be at February’s World Grand Prix. Only the top 32 players in the one-year list qualify, with Murphy coming into this week ranked 65th. However, the £30,000 runner-up prize will act as big boost to his chances, moving him up to 31st.

It was Northern Ireland’s Allen who took command in the afternoon session, he fired in breaks of 82, 64 and 70 to come from 3-2 down to lead 5-3 heading into tonight.

The evening saw Allen extend his advantage by taking the opening frame. However, Triple Crown winner Murphy wasn’t going down without a fight. He claimed three frames on the bounce, including a sublime 115 break in the 12th to go into the last mid-session interval all-square at 6-6.

The Magician then took to the front making it 7-6, but it was the Pistol who found another gear as the finish line came into sight. Breaks of 66 and 134 took him one from victory and he secured the win with that dramatic run of 83 to win 9-7.

“As the match went on, I got stronger. At 7-6 down I produced some good snooker,” said Allen. “Shaun will probably rue a few missed chances, as his long game was ridiculously good today. He created a lot of good opportunities which he didn’t quite convert into frame winning chances.

“I was playing with my little girl in the mid-session interval. I just kept her occupied for 15 minutes. I miss her a lot and she obviously misses me a lot given her reaction when I came in. It actually completely relaxed me.

“We all know how good every player is when it comes to the Masters. There are no easy matches and I will need to perform to my very best to try and defend my title.”

Afterwards a disappointed Murphy looked to his miscue in the 16th frame, when in position to take the match into a deciding frame.

Murphy said: “A miscue is a bad shot. There is nothing unlucky about that. I had my chance to make it 8-8 and I scored 29 points. If you look at the great champions and legends they seize those opportunities. Perhaps that is why I don’t have the same trophy cabinet that some of them do.”

“Losing hurts. It doesn’t matter what level you are at. It doesn’t matter who you are. We are playing to win. That is what champions do, they find a gear. I had Mark Allen banged to rights at 7-6 and he found a way to win.”

The Scottish Open 2018 is the last televised event of 2018. Eurosport  is doing a great job.

Thank you guys!

EurosportTeam2018

Ronnie was in the commentary box, with Phil Studd, for the first four frames of the final.

ScottishOpen2018ROSStuddComs

Now there is only one more snooker event left this year and it starts tomorrow: the qualifiers for the 2019 German Masters.

Worldsnooker has published the draw and format last week

The draw and format for the qualifying rounds of the D88.com German Masters is now available.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

The qualifiers will run from December 18 to 21 at the Barnsley Metrodome and admission for fans is FREE!

All players need to win two matches to make it through to the final stages at the famous Tempodrom venue in Berlin, to run from January 30 to February 3.

Mark Williams will be defending the title and other top stars in the field include Mark Selby, Judd Trump, John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui, Barry Hawkins, Shaun Murphy and Kyren Wilson.

Ronnie didn’t enter, unsurprisingly, but should be in Berlin as a pundit and commentator. Players need to win two matches, and this event usually throws a few surprises as top players are tired after a very busy first half of the season and often find it difficult to find motivation for a qualifying event so close the Xmas break.

Scottish Open 2018 – Day 6

Semi Finals day in Glasgow delivered this Final line-up: it’s Mark Allen v Shaun Murphy. So, despite the top 3 players skipping the event and any number of early exits, we still have two of the top 16 in the Final.

Here is how we gor there (source Worldsnooker)

Mark Allen 6-5 Daniel Wells

Masters champion Mark Allen staged a dramatic fightback to reach the BetVictor Scottish Open final, winning the last four frames to defeat Daniel Wells 6-5 in their last four clash.

The Pistol is now through to his third ranking final of the season so far, having won the International Championship and been runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan at last week’s UK Championship. Allen will face either Judd Trump or Shaun Murphy tomorrow as he aims to pick up just his second ever ranking title on British soil.

Welshman Wells will leave Glasgow disappointed at not being able to convert his lead and reach a maiden ranking final. However, he will still be able to reflect positively on making his first semi-final appearance.

Wells looked by far the stronger player in the opening stages. He capitalised on a slow start from Allen, establishing a 4-0 advantage at the mid-session.

When they returned Allen crucially got his first frame on the board, coming from 55-0 down to steal. A break 59 then helped him to move within two of world number 66 Wells.

Wells had looked to have halted the fightback after a 31 clearance saw him take the seventh on the black to move within a frame of victory at 5-2. However, at that point it was Allen who upped his game to go on a four-frame blitz, making breaks of 79, 106 and 129 on his way to the 6-5 win.

Allen said: “I feel for Daniel. He was dominating that match right up until 5-3. He hit the ball with his arm on a rest shot and everything turned from there. I didn’t give him any chances after that and started playing well myself.

“He was so positive in the early part of the match. I felt as the match went on he sort of went into his shell. He turned a few shots down and I sensed that and got a bit more confidence myself. I’m sure when he looks back at that he will regret not taking a few on and closing the match out earlier.”

Wells was understandably disappointed at missing out on the final, but says that today’s match will be an important experience in his career.

“It is a tough learning curve. It has been a huge experience for me and to be honest I am proud of how I handled myself,” said the world number 66. “I felt comfortable throughout the match and fair play to Mark. It takes a top player to come back from 5-2 down and do it the way he did, not really giving me a chance.”

Shaun Murphy 6-3 Judd Trump

Shaun Murphy put on a superb display to defeat world number five Judd Trump 6-3 and reach the final of the BetVictor Scottish Open in Glasgow.

That sets up a mouth-watering showpiece clash between Murphy and one of his best friends Mark Allen.  It’s the Magician who has a 10-4 lead in their head-to-head record. However, their contrasting fortunes so far this season see the Pistol head into the clash as the form player.

Masters champion Allen is enjoying one of his most consistent campaigns on the World Snooker Tour, having already won the International Championship and been runner-up at last week’s UK Championship. While 2005 World Champion Murphy has suffered six first round exits so far this season. However, this evening’s performance showcased an emphatic return to form.

Murphy came out of the blocks at breakneck speed. Incredibly he mopped up the first three frames in just 25 minutes, making breaks of 89, 93 and 70 to establish a 3-0 advantage. A fine break of 69 saw Trump notch up his first frame and stay in touch at the interval.

When they returned Murphy reasserted his authority with a run of 82 to make it 4-1. The 2011 UK Champion Trump claimed the next, before a dramatic seventh frame.

Murphy found himself needing pink and black to move just one from victory. After doubling the pink, he missed a cut-back black. That afforded Trump the opportunity to pull within one, he duly obliged and made it 4-3.

Triple Crown winner Murphy won a tense eighth and then got himself over the line in style with a break of 71 in the ninth.

Murphy said: “To play like that, having improved each match, is beyond my wildest dreams. I came here this week just trying to turn things around. I didn’t expect to be talking about going into the final. I’m really excited.

“Working with Chris Henry again has been very important. He has come over from Bruges with our old notebooks from four or five years ago and we have made some technical changes. That was an immediate fix. Then it is about those six inches between your ears. You don’t realise how far you have let your mentality go until an expert in the field points it out to you. Then you can start looking yourself in the mirror and having some serious conversations.

“Mark and I are very close. We are really good mates. He is in the form of his life. Tomorrow when we shake hands we will want to beat each other, but immediately after there will be hugs and maybe a few drinks.”

Now this all looks so very serious in those reports but, regarding the Allen v Wells match, the reality is slightly more hilarious. The truth is that Mark Allen arrived in Glasgow determined to have a “good week” and “enjoy himself”, which basically means having a drink or ten with mates in evenings! And i’s exactly what he did. So yesterday, as he freely admitted afterwards, he came to his match badly hungover and couldn’t pot a ball for his life until the MSI. During said MSI, the pundits were discussing what was going on and what each player had to do, and Ronnie who had mainly kept silent until directly asked the question, advised “a few beers” for Allen. He may well have known exactly what state Allen was in because they are good mates. And whilst they were discussing it … Allen was  doing exactly that: having a few drinks. He came back like Lazarus after that! From 4-0 and 5-2 down! But Daniel Wells will kick himself because he could and should have won this match. What happened is that instead of taking his chances, he started defending his lead. That doesn’t work, not against a top player in the modern game. Daniel had the best run of his career, he has a lot of positives to take, and, hopefully, he will learn from the experience too. Allen’s postmatch was hilarious. He freely admitted to his “sins” and was totally unrepentant, clearly planning more of the same in the evening. And Jimmy, of all people, preaching moderation and trying to talk him out of this inebriated plan was quite amusing.

The Shaun Murphy v Judd Trump semi final was a bit more conventional. The way Shaun played in the first three frames was phenomenal. And then, all of a sudden, doubts crept in after Judd managed to win the last frame before the MSI. Shaun started missing all sorts. But Judd was missing as well, demonstrating once again that, under pressure, he’s vulnerable, especially when he is expected to win. No signs of Judd quotes after the match suggest that he didn’t take the defeat well.

And, of course, today is also SPOTY day. Let’s see if snooker gets more that a 15 seconds  mention this time. I wouldn’t hold my breath over it.

Shaun Murphy though thinks it’s all weird and a snobbish snub

Scottish Open 2018 – Day 5

With just two tables and a slightly longer format, yesterday saw the start of the “business end” of  this rear Scottish Open in Glasgow. Two matches were played in the afternoon, both very one-sided affairs with the highest ranked players winning easily, and two in the evening, a bit more eventful. Shaun Murphy and Mark Allen both whitewashed their respective opponents. But Ryan Day was well beaten by Daniel Wells who has now booked his place in his first semi-final in a ranking event, and Stuart Carrington gave Judd Trump a good game.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker:

Mark Allen is through to the semi-finals of the BetVictor Scottish Open after a 5-0 whitewash victory against Alfie Burden in Glasgow.

The Pistol is enjoying one of the most consistent runs of his career, having won 18 of his last 20 ranking event matches. He produced a blistering display of break building power in winning the International Championship last month. Allen fired in 14 century breaks on his way to picking up the title.

Burden, who is celebrating his 42nd birthday today, secured one of the biggest wins of his career yesterday. He defeated home favourite and four-time World Champion John Higgins 4-2. However, he couldn’t follow up that display this afternoon.

Allen compiled breaks of 52, 86 and 61 on his way to a routine victory in just over an hour and a half.

Allen said: “It was solid rather than spectacular. I feel for Alfie a little bit, as he missed some pots that he shouldn’t have. I just picked up the pieces, kept it tight when I needed to and didn’t make many errors.

“It is nice that I have been on a decent run lately, but I know how quickly things can turn around. I’m not going to get too carried away, I am just going to enjoy the run that I am on.”

Allen will face Welshman Daniel Wells up next, who emphatically defeated compatriot Ryan Day 5-1 to reach his first ever ranking event semi-final.

Wells received a first round bye after his opponent, the winner of last week’s UK Championship Ronnie O’Sullivan, pulled out of the event. The Neath potter has taken full advantage, only dropping three frames on his way to the last four.

He showed no sign of finishing line nerves this evening. From 2-1 up he fired in breaks of 76, 54 and 71 to emerge with the 5-1 victory.

Shaun Murphy claimed his place in the last four with a 5-0 whitewash of Sam Baird.

The Magician is enjoying an upturn in form this week, having lost six first round matches this season. Murphy is now potentially just two games away from a first ranking title since the 2017 Gibraltar Open.

Murphy said: “I’ve just come out of this fog and mist of confusion and disappointment I’ve been in for the last few months. I’d say whatever happens this weekend I will call it a bit of a turning point for my season. I have renewed optimism going into 2019.”

Murphy faces a blockbuster last four clash with Judd Trump. The Ace in the Pack negotiated a tough test from Stuart Carrington to come through 5-3.

Trump produced three century runs of 101, 117 and 119 on his way to this evening’s victory.

Ronnie was again in the ES studio, as well as in the commentary box.

Ronnie was commentating on the Trump v Carrington match and here is the link.

As for the semi finals, here are my views.

Mark Allen faces Daniel Wells and I think that Mark will have too much for Daniel over best of eleven, on the main table. My prediction is that Mark will win with a bit in hand, by 6-2 or 6-3.

In the other semi-final Shaun Murphy and Judd Trump should provide a much closer match. Should. Shaun played much better yesterday, and Judd has looked vulnerable when Stuart Carrington came back at him from 2-0 down to 2-2, then staying with him for 3-3. Actually, Judd revealed in his postmatch interview how much the presence and support of his brother Jack is helping him in moments like this, when doubts start to creep in. I can’t really call this match. Shaun plays an attacking game, which suits Judd better than Stuart’s more methodical approach, although Stuart was certainly not negative yesterday. But on the other hand, it means that both will give the other opportunities and it will very much be on the form of the day.

 

Scottish Open 2018 – Day 4

Day 4 in the Home Nations is always very busy, with two full rounds – Last 32 and Last 16 – played to completion.

I missed always all the action because I was traveling back from Athens to Brussels.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Shaun Murphy scored one of his best wins of the season so far, beating Kyren Wilson 4-3 to reach the quarter-finals of the BetVictor Scottish Open in Glasgow.

Triple Crown winner Murphy has had a difficult start to this campaign, having succumbed to six first round defeats. However, the 2005 World Champion has started to show signs of a return to form this week, especially in tonight’s victory.

By contrast world number ten Wilson has enjoyed a strong first half of the 2018/19 campaign and claimed back-to-back titles at the Paul Hunter Classic and Six Red World Championship three months ago. However, it was Murphy who edged a tightly contested tie this evening.

There was a high standard of play when the match got underway, with each of the first four frames being won with a break of over 50. Murphy ensured that those frames were shared thanks to a sublime contribution of 124 in the fourth to make it 2-2.

Wilson then moved one from victory. However, it was 36-year-old Murphy who won the final two frames, including a break of 82 in the decider, to progress.

Murphy said: “Kyren has been building his reputation and he now comes into every tournament as one of the players you talk about. While he has been building that reputation, I have sort of been on sabbatical. I feel like I have been in the jungle for the best part of a year or so. However, that feels like a big win for me. I am holding back on calling it a turning point in my season, but it was an important result.”

Alfie Burden secured one of the biggest wins of his career so far, defeating Scotland’s four-time World Champion John Higgins 4-2 on home turf.

Burden came within a frame of falling off the tour at the end of last season. He narrowly kept his card after beating David Gilbert 10-9 in a crunch game at World Championship qualifying. Burden has shown similar levels of tenacity this week, winning two matches 4-3 from 3-0 down.

“It feels amazing. John is the best player, alongside Ronnie O’Sullivan, to have ever played the game,” said Burden. “I just kept fighting, like I have done all week. Those wins from 3-0 down have given me the mentality to never give up whatever happens. It is not easy to do that when you have John Higgins sitting in the other chair, but you have to blank that out and try to take your chances.”

Up next Burden will face Mark Allen, who downed Scotland’s 2006 World Champion Graeme Dott 4-2 to book his place in the quarter-finals.

The Pistol is coming fresh off his run to last weekend’s UK Championship final, where he lost out 10-6 to Ronnie O’Sullivan and he will be hoping to go one step further this weekend.

Judd Trump is through to the quarters after a 4-1 win over Ian Burns. The Ace in the Pack, who recently won the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open, has only conceded two frames over the course of the week.

Ryan Day and Daniel Wells both won to secure an all-Welsh last eight meeting. Day saw off Asian number one Ding Junhui 4-2, while Wells whitewashed his good friend Matthew Stevens 4-0.

Sam Baird defeated four-time ranking event winner Ali Carter 4-3 to clinch his place in the quarters and Stuart Carrington also secured his spot in the last eight line-up after beating Tian Pengfei in a deciding frame 4-3.

As I wrote above, I saw very little, but what I saw was a couple of frames of the Murphy-Wilson match. I’m quite puzzled to read that this was a “high quality” encounter. Yes, in both frame I watched, one of the players eventually made a telling break, but before getting to that point, and after when for snookers,  both made a lot of mistakes, some quite baffling for players of their caliber. Kyren looked badly out of sorts, and Shaun played some real stinkers.

Ronnie is back on the couch and commentating on matches.

The first one contains a chat with Ronnie about his UK Championship win and the reasons why he withdrew from this tournament.

If you are interested in Ronnie’s commentary, here are two links

Ding v Zhao (from middle of frame 2)

K. Wilson v Murphy