How things stand regarding the World Championship 2020

Following Stephen Maguire’s victory yesterday, here is how the top 16 seeding stands ahead of the Crucible.

Judd Trump (1) / Qualifier
Yan Bingtao (16) / Qualifier
Stephen Maguire (9) / Qualifier
Kyren Wilson (8) / Qualifier

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John Higgins (5) / Qualifier
David Gilbert (12) / Qualifier
Jack Lisowski (13) / Qualifier
Mark Allen (4) / Qualifier

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Mark Williams (3) / Qualifier
Stuart Bingham (14) / Qualifier
Ding Junhui (11) / Qualifier
Ronnie O’Sullivan (6) / Qualifier

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Mark Selby (7) / Qualifier
Shaun Murphy (10) / Qualifier
Barry Hawkins (15) / Qualifier
Neil Robertson (2) / Qualifier

That is if Ding enters the competition and manages to get to the UK. Ding opted out of the Tour Championship, allegedly over health and safety concerns, but, as we know, there is more, with players struggling to get visas and the number of flights being severely limited. Therefore his presence is Sheffield at the end of next month is anything but certain.

Two days ago a Chinese friend on twitter posted this:

ChineseNoVisa.png

If Zhou, Xiao, and Zhang really haven’t applied, it extremely likely that they don’t intend to travel at all. Xiao and Zhou are safe for next season ranking wise, and Zhang has next to zero chance to avoid relegation as it stands. So they might feel that it’s not worth the risk and the hassle.

Ding might be under pressure to try to his best to compete at the Crucible, because of his status in China’s sporting scene, but his presence at the Crucible is far from certain as it stands. Should he miss out here is how the seeds draw would look:

Judd Trump (1) / Qualifier
Joe Perry (16) / Qualifier
Stephen Maguire (9) / Qualifier
Kyren Wilson (8) / Qualifier

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John Higgins (5) / Qualifier
Jack Lisowski (12) / Qualifier
Stuart Bingham (13) / Qualifier
Mark Allen (4) / Qualifier

————————————

Mark Williams (3) / Qualifier
Barry Hawkins (14) / Qualifier
David Gilbert (11) / Qualifier
Ronnie O’Sullivan (6) / Qualifier

————————————

Mark Selby (7) / Qualifier
Shaun Murphy (10) / Qualifier
Yan Bingtao (15) / Qualifier
Neil Robertson (2) / Qualifier

What further complicates the situation regarding the World Championship, its qualifiers, and the Q-school, is the situation regarding snooker clubs’ openings. Surely WST thought that by mid-July clubs would be open. As it stands, the UK govt recommendations are unclear and confusing (as they have been since the start of this pandemics). Snooker clubs, it seems, are allowed to open from the 4th of July but no snooker can be played in them, as no indoor sports are authorised. Well, that makes little sense to me.

It probably doesn’t make sense to WPBSA either, judging by those two statements recently published:

This one came three days ago:

WPBSA Statement

24th June 2020

We have noted the announcements by Prime Minister Boris Johnson detailing the planned relaxation of current ‘lockdown’ restrictions within the United Kingdom over the coming weeks.

Together with the independent All-Party Parliamentary Group for Snooker we have been engaged in regular dialogue with the government, including the submission of proposals to the Sports Minister for the re-opening of clubs in the UK.

We are now seeking clarity as to the application of the announcements to snooker clubs and in the first instance will continue to liaise directly with affiliated clubs through ‘The 147 Club’ scheme.

We of course understand the desire from fans and players of our sport to return to the baize as soon as possible. However, we will only be able to issue guidelines for the re-opening of clubs once it is safe to do so and with clear advice directly from the government.

And this one was issued just yesterday:

WPBSA / EPSB Statement: Re-Opening of UK Snooker Clubs

  • 26th June 2020

 

Further to our previous statement of 23 June, together with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Snooker, we have since continued to seek further clarification from both the Department for Media Culture and Sport and the Sports Minister’s office in respect of the proposed re-opening of snooker clubs in the UK.

Having carefully studied the wording of the announcements made by the UK government earlier this week, it is clear that social clubs, including licensed premises are able to re-open from 4th July 2020.

However, what is not clear is whether the snooker facilities in these clubs can be used or not from this date. We are therefore continuing to seek urgent clarity on this point as we understand that clubs are reliant upon activity on the snooker tables in order to be sustainable.

We strongly advise all clubs concerned to seek further guidance and advice from their local Health and Safety Executive who will be able to assess the level of risk. It is ultimately the decision of each club as to whether they are able to re-open based upon all guidance provided.

Jason Ferguson, WPBSA Chairman said: “We are aware that snooker clubs all over the world are currently working hard to ensure that they will be able to re-open safely as soon as it is possible to do so. This includes clubs within England, in particular members of The 147 Club scheme which played a key role in the preparation of proposals submitted to the Sports Minister on 13 May, which contained detailed procedures that we believe will allow clubs to re-open safely.

“It is therefore extremely disappointing that we have not received clarity from government to be able to advise clubs in England and the UK to be able to open safely at this stage.

“Every snooker club provides a vital community social hub and a place to engage in non-contact activity. We therefore would urge each individual club to seek local authority guidance prior to re-opening and in the meantime, we will continue to push for further information from the government to provide certainty during this time.”

If clubs and academies are not able to offer tables to play snooker by the time the Qualifiers begin in Sheffield in about three weeks’ time, it’s a major issue. The qualifiers are meant to involve 128 players, 32 players will start at the Crucible, and during the Championship, the Q-school will be held, potentially involving well over 100 players. They ALL will need to find somewhere to practice, safely. Unless workable guidelines are available, and clubs can open for professional practice, how is that going to work? I can’t see WST or WPBSA taking care of that on top of everything else they will have to cope with already.

 

Stephen Maguire wins the Tour Championship 2020 and the Coral Cup

Stephen Maguire, the man who should not have been in the tournament, has won the Tour Championship 2020, beating Mark Allen in the Final by 10-6. In the process, he snatched the Coral Cup from Judd Trump’s hands, and the £100000 going with it. He also took the highest break prize, £10000 by scoring a 139 in the last session of the tournament. Until that point, he was sharing the highest beak with Judd Trump as they both had a 135 previously. And, finally, he gets also an invitation at the Champion of Champions 2020.

Congratulations Stephen Maguire!

No doubt, Mags must be Trump’s favourite fellow professional this morning!

Anyway, I’m happy. I’ve always liked Stephen Maguire because he’s a genuine guy; he wears his heart on his sleeve and always speaks his mind. He knows how good he can be, but has no big ego.

Here are the reports by WST:

Afternoon session:

Mark Allen and Stephen Maguire set up a blockbuster final session of the Coral Tour Championship, ending the afternoon locked together at 4-4.

There are high stakes heading into tonight’s play. A top prize of £150,000 is up for grabs, with Maguire also able to depose World Champion Judd Trump from the top of the Coral Cup standings with victory. That would see the Scot bag an additional £100,000 bonus.

Surprisingly the pair have only met six times in their career so far. Allen holds the edge in the head-to-head, leading 4-2. However, Maguire won their most recent clash 6-0 in the semi-finals of this season’s UK Championship.

Allen started strongest this afternoon, composing breaks of 50 and 76 to establish an early 2-0 lead. Maguire refused to wilt and contributions of 89 and 69 saw him draw level at 2-2 at the mid-session.

When play resumed, Maguire took the lead for the first time in the match. Allen quickly restored parity with a sublime break of 125 to level at 3-3. They then traded a scrappy final two frames of the session to end 4-4.

The pair will return at 7pm to play the best of 19 encounter to a conclusion.

Evening session:

Stephen Maguire claimed his first ranking title in seven years, beating Mark Allen 10-6 in the final of the Coral Tour Championship in Milton Keynes.

It’s the sixth ranking title of Maguire’s career, with his previous triumph coming at the 2013 Welsh Open where he beat Stuart Bingham 9-8 in the final.

The victory will taste even more sweet for Maguire, given he was a late entry to the event after Ding Junhui elected not to travel to the UK. It sees Maguire leave Milton Keynes with a mouth watering £260,000, the biggest payday of his career.

In addition to the £150,000 top prize, he’ll take home £10,000 for the highest break, a run of 139 which he compiled in the first frame this evening. Maguire also tops the Coral Cup standings, which sees the player who accumulates the most prize money in the series earning a £100,000 bonus.

Allen leaves Milton Keynes with the £60,000 runner-up prize. It will move the 2018 Masters champion to number four in the world, his highest ever ranking.

The players couldn’t be split after the first eight frames this afternoon, emerging locked together at 4-4.

Maguire’s 139 in the first frame tonight set the tone for what was to come. He increased his advantage by claiming the tenth frame to lead by two for the first time in the match at 6-4.

They traded frames to head into the mid-session with Maguire leading 7-5. When they returned it was the Scot who made a decisive burst. Breaks of 78 and 53 moved him to the verge of glory at 9-5. Allen kept the heat up by firing in a century run of 107 to pull within three.

The 16th frame provided huge drama on the colours. Both players laid treacherous snookers, before it all came down to the pink and black. It was Maguire who eventually deposited a long pink and a tricky black to the middle to secure the title with a 10-6 win.

“To win this tournament, with the best players in the world, over a longer format is unreal. It is amazing that I am the last man standing,” said 39-year-old Maguire. “I was all over the place at the end. I thought I’d win it half an hour before that. I had a couple of chances and things would just go wrong. I was just glad I got a shot at that pink. If it was anywhere near a bag, I was going to go for it. I felt good about potting it. I landed alright on the black and the rest was history.

“It’s scary, it has definitely not sunk in yet. The amount of money this tournament has paid is incredible. It is a hell of a lot of money for five days of work.

“If I’m not confident going into any tournament after that then there is something wrong with me. I’ll go back, take a few days off and look forward to practising for Sheffield.”

Allen said: “I made too many mistakes today. You can’t afford to do that in any final, never mind against Stephen when he is playing so well. He stepped it up tonight. I felt I missed the boat, I should probably have been ahead after the first session. All credit to Stephen, he has been knocking on the door for a while now. I am gutted to lose, but if I am going to lose to anyone, it is one of my best mates on tour. I am glad to see him win.”

It was a very good final to watch, it was played in great spirit. Mark Allen’s level dropped a bit in the evening session, and Stephen Maguire upped his a notch. Stephen never allowed frustration to get the better of him, something he’s been guilty of at times in the past.

 

 

Tour Championship 2020 – Day 6 – SF

Not many would have predicted the scoreline we got in the second semi-final yesterday: a 9-2 thrashing of Mark Selby by Mark Allen. Yet, with hindsight, it isn’t that surprising. Mark Selby hadn’t played that well in his first match against Yan Bingtao. It was experience that got him through against a still very young opponent who didn’t look too confident and, as a result, played too conservatively. Mark Allen on the other hand, had beaten Shaun Murphy in a high-quality match, despite the latter scoring six centuries. Obviously, his game is in good shape and his mindset is right as well.

Here is the report by WST:

Mark Allen produced a stunning performance to beat Mark Selby 9-2 and reach the final of the Coral Tour Championship in Milton Keynes.

The Northern Irishman now faces close friend Stephen Maguire over the best of 19-frames for the £150,000 top prize. There is an added incentive for Scotland’s Maguire, who can oust Judd Trump from the top of the Coral Cup standings and bag the associated £100,000 bonus if he wins the title.

Despite this being Allen’s seventh ranking semi-final of the season, tomorrow’s match will be his first final of the campaign. Regardless of the result he will now move to world number four, which will be the highest ranking of his career.

Today’s win boosts Allen’s head-to-head record with three-time World Champion Selby, who he now leads 7-5.

Much of the damage was done in a scintillating afternoon session, where 2018 Masters champion prevented his opponent from potting a single ball in the first four frames to lead 4-0. He went on to establish a seemingly unassailable 7-1 advantage coming into this evening.

Selby offered some resistance tonight, with a break of 71 to take the first frame. However, Allen quickly extinguished any hope of a fightback. He moved a frame from the win, before blitzing over the line with a break of 82.

“The first four frames were what did the damage,” said 34-year-old Allen. “I played as good as I can in the first four frames, he didn’t pot a ball. It meant that going into frames five and six he was still very cold and I had a lot of table time.

“I had to be on guard. You expect him to come out and play freely. He was so far behind, the pressure was off and he could free roll. I was mentally prepared for him to come out and play very well, but I managed to close it out well.

“It is just brilliant to get some really long matches against the best players before Sheffield. However, there is a trophy to be won and a lot of money to be won. It’s not just about getting sharp for Sheffield, you want to come here and win. I’ve won my first two matches, but there are still ten frames to win before I can get carried away.

“We will both be switched on come match time tomorrow. We are both ultimate competitors and fierce on the table, so I don’t expect that to be any different even though we are mates. May the best man win.”

At one point during the match, one of my friends was wondering why Mark Selby didn’t go back to his old grinding ways, messing up the table, trying to break his opponent’s fluency in the process. Only Selby knows the answer, but one reason for that could be that this type of game takes a lot out of the one who plays it. It breaks both players’ rhythm, not just the opponent’s of the player who elects to play it. It’s mentally exhausting and, of course, makes the frames and the match longer because it limits the opportunity for big breaks. Selby is now 37, not old of course, but maybe starting to feel it more difficult to maintain top concentration for very long spells.

I doubt that there will be much grinding today. It’s hard to predict which Maguire will turn up. If it’s the one we saw in the QF, he has every chance to win, if it’s the one we saw in the SF, Allen will probably beat him easily.

 

 

Tour Championship 2020 – Day 5 – SF

Stephen Maguire wasn’t anywhere near his best yesterday, he couldn’t reproduce the form he had shown against Neil Robertson, but still did beat Judd Trump by 9-6. They were locked at 6-6 when they resumed for the last mini-session, but from there, Stephen pulled away.

Both made a lot of mistakes. The difference was that Stephen, of all people, didn’t allow frustration to get the better of him. Judd was very much back to his old ways at times.

Here are the reports by WST:

Afternoon session:

There is nothing to choose between Judd Trump and Stephen Maguire after the first session of their Coral Tour Championship semi-final, which saw them share the frames and emerge with the score at 4-4.

Out of five matches so far this week, it is the fourth time that the players have been level following the afternoon session.

That means there are high stakes this evening, with the Coral Cup and the £100,000 series bonus on the line. It is awarded to the player who accumulates the most prize money over the three-event series. World number one Trump just needs to win tonight to secure the payout, while Maguire must win the tournament.

After a scrappy first three frames this afternoon, Scotland’s Maguire led 2-1. From there Trump made his move to take control of proceedings.

World Champion Trump levelled at the mid-session with a run of 97. A further break of 57 helped the Ace in the Pack to move ahead, before he added another frame to make it 4-2.

Maguire dug deep and halved his arrears, before both players asked for the balls to be changed. It had a positive effect for Maguire, who fired a sublime 132 break to make it 4-4.

They will return at 7pm to play the best of 17 match to a conclusion.

Evening session:

Stephen Maguire battled past World Champion Judd Trump 9-6 to reach the final of the Coral Tour Championship.

It’s been a tremendous run for Maguire, who fired in a remarkable six centuries in his first round win over Neil Robertson. The five-time ranking event winner was a late call-up to this week’s tournament. He replaced China’s Ding Junhui, who was unable to make it to Milton Keynes due to travel restrictions.

Tonight’s victory keeps Maguire in the frame for the bumper £100,000 payout attached to winning the Coral Cup, which is awarded to the player who amasses the most prize money over the three-event series.

Scotland’s Maguire needs to win the final and secure the £150,000 top prize, to dislodge today’s opponent Trump from the top of the standings. Despite losing, Trump will still secure the bonus if Maguire fails to take home the title.

Maguire, who was runner-up to Ding at this season’s UK Championship, will face Mark Selby or Mark Allen in the final on Friday. He will be aiming to end a ranking title drought which extends back to the 2013 Welsh Open.

Despite today’s out of sorts performance, Crucible king Trump will head to Sheffield in July confident of defending his world title. The Ace in the Pack has enjoyed an unprecedented season, having won a record six ranking titles across the campaign.

This afternoon’s action set up a tense evening of snooker, with the players sharing the opening eight frames and ending at 4-4.

They traded the first two frames tonight, before a break of 79 saw Trump edge ahead at 6-5. There was then a crucial 42-minute 12th frame, which turned the tide of the contest. It came down to the colours, with Maguire eventually potting a terrific long blue and setting up a clearance to the black that made it 6-6.

Breaks of 47 and 55 helped Maguire to move to the verge of victory at 8-6. He then clinched his fourth frame in a row, courtesy of a run of 56, to secure the 9-6 win.

“The close frames were the key to victory. I seemed to nick a lot of them, if not all of them, they are just as big as centuries,” said Maguire. “He was showing a little bit out there, he hasn’t been doing that. If he desperately wants to win, there is nothing wrong with that. Everybody desperately wants to win. I don’t mind players showing a bit of emotion. It’s a hard game out there.

“It would mean everything to win the title. It would get me back in that winner’s enclosure, against the top boys. Especially this tournament, this is a proper event. Leading up to the World Championship, it would give me mega confidence.”

The reports by WST are factually correct but don’t reflect the atmosphere oozing from the match. If you didn’t watch and in order to understand what I mean, here the report by Eurosport:

Stephen Maguire continued his dream run at the Tour Championship with a 9-6 win over world champion Judd Trump in the semi-finals.

The 2004 UK champion Maguire made a record six centuries in a best-of-17 frame match in Saturday’s 9-5 win over world number two Neil Robertson – an astonishing feat matched by Shaun Murphy in his 9-8 defeat to Mark Allen on Tuesday night.

But unlike his opening match behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, world number 14 Maguire never had to be at his best to overcome Trump, who surprisingly toiled for any level of consistency as his feared long game largely went AWOL.

“In good conditions, I play well, it’s just a shame the conditions were so bad,” said world number one Trump, who has lifted a record six ranking events this season.

I think I struggled the whole tournament really with the conditions. The conditions were pretty poor and that is why the standard was so bad.

“I think if the conditions are good, I seem to play well but when it’s (like that) out there you are fighting a losing battle really.

“It’s too hot to play snooker today I think.”

Maguire – who is only in the event involving the top eight on the world one-year list as first reserve after Ding Junhui opted not to fly from China – trailed 4-2 as Trump produced breaks of 97 and 57, but his scoring prowess was missing with Maguire enjoying 51 and a wonderful 132 to ensure the first session ended level at 4-4.

Apart from a knock of 79 to lead 6-5, Trump could not escape from his state of torpor and was duly punished with Maguire popping up to win the next four frames including a fine run of 55 in establishing a merited 8-6 advantage with a closing 56 providing the platform for his victory.

The Scotsman will face three-times world champion Mark Selby or former Masters holder Allen in the final over the best of 19 frames on Friday.

Maguire is bidding to win his first ranking event since the 2013 Welsh Open and could land £250,000 if he claims the title on Sunday – a £150,000 first prize and a £100,000 bonus for topping the money list over the three events sponsored by Coral, the World Grand Prix, the Players Championship and the Tour Championship.

“I’m over the moon,” said Maguire. “I think tonight I nicked the close frames. They are the same as making centuries. I’m just delighted.”

Trump must regroup as he bids to become the first maiden winner of the World Championship to successfully defend the trophy next month. He will be in action on the opening day of the event at the Crucible Theatre on 31 July.

And here is Judd Trump mini-interview:

That sounds very much like sour grapes. The truth is that he hasn’t played well since snooker “resumed”. His match sharpness is gone. He was poor in the Championship League Snooker last month, he was poor in this one as well and he surrendered to frustration. That’s the main reason why he was beaten. The conditions were the same for both. Maguire missed a good few as well, but he applied himself.

And it must be particularly sweet to Maguire after Trumps pre-match comments, stating that Maguire was missing two of the three ingredients making a great player; he has talent, but neither the temperament nor the dedication said Trump. ( source: Hector Nunns on twitter)

 

 

Tour Championship 2020 – Day 4 – QF

The last QF of this year’s Tour Championship was a bit of a strange one. Shaun Murphy made 6 centuries, equalling Stephen Maguire’s record only days after he made it, and still lost. Mark Allen looked at his sharpest best but won. What happened there?

Here is the report by WST:

ALLEN BEATS MURPHY IN CLASSIC

Mark Allen edged out close friend Shaun Murphy 9-8 in a thrilling clash at the Coral Tour Championship in Milton Keynes.

Despite losing, Murphy equalled the record for most centuries ever made in a best of 17 match, with six hundred breaks. That draws him level with Scotland’s Stephen Maguire, who had remarkably only set the record earlier this week in his 9-5 win over Neil Robertson.

Victory for 2018 Masters champion Allen sees him reach his seventh semi-final of the campaign, where he will face three-time World Champion Mark Selby. The Northern Irishman will be hoping he can go at least one better this week, having not yet made a final this season.

Allen’s victory sees him close the gap on Murphy in their head-to-head record. However, after losing the previous three meetings with the Englishman, he still trails 13-6.

Defeat for Murphy ends his hopes of winning the Coral Cup and claiming the £100,000 bonus, which goes to the player who accumulates the most prize money over the three-event series. Only Judd Trump and Stephen Maguire, who meet in tomorrow’s first semi-final, can top the standings. Maguire must win the event, whilst Trump just has to win tomorrow.

This afternoon’s action saw Murphy and Allen emerge locked together at 4-4, to set up what would prove to be a pulsating second session.

It was Murphy who was fastest out of the blocks this evening, a break of 100 saw him take the opener, before he added another to lead 6-4. Allen clawed one back, but a sublime break of 131 allowed Murphy to move 7-5 up at the mid-session interval.

Allen typically showed his steel on the resumption, contributions of 76 and 74 saw him draw level at 7-7.

Murphy then fired in his sixth century of the tie, a run of 100, to move one from victory at 8-7. However, Allen refused to wilt under a barrage of break building and forced a decider. Allen then fluked his opening red in the final frame and fully capitalised with a break of 62 to secure a stunning victory.

“It was just ultimate resolve today,” said 34-year-old Allen. “Shaun just kept making hundreds from long reds. My safety just wasn’t quite good enough all day. As the match went on, I started to score a bit better. It wasn’t as heavy as Shaun, that makes me look extremely average in that department. I made two very good breaks at 7-5 down to go 7-7.

“I’ve always been pretty good under pressure. Once I potted that brown in the last frame, I fancied myself to do a job. There was a lot of manoeuvring to be done, but I just took my time and didn’t miss anything simple. It was a nice way to get over the line.

“Personally, the crowd spurs me on. I like the crowd. The way Shaun played today, if the crowd were there, I would have been beat long ago. Everyone would have got behind him. It is our new norm, but it isn’t ideal. I don’t want to do that for too long.

“It is going to be very tough in the semi-finals. Considering how heavily Shaun scored today, I know I will have to play better than that against Mark. My safety wasn’t good enough today and I’ll need to be able to create a lot more chances on Thursday. If I can find a little bit extra, I don’t think I will be far away.”

I didn’t watch the first session, so I can’t comment on that one. It finished on a 4-4 scoreline, therefore the second session was basically a best of 9 match.

Shaun made three centuries in that session, out of four frames he won. He was good  – very good actually – in the balls but the other parts of his game weren’t where they should be to compete at the highest level. Since moving to Ireland, and practicing with Fergal O’Brien, Shaun’s safety has improved massively, but yesterday it went missing. I can only suppose that, due to the coronavirus, Fergal was unavailable for practice… and safety doesn’t come naturally to Shaun. Also, he missed a few routine blacks off the spot. Rustiness probably.

Mark didn’t play that well, but he stuck in there. You could see his determination on his face. The quote I put in bold in the WST report surprises me a bit. Mark suffered some of his more excruciating defeats, playing at home, with everyone in the crowd, their dog, their cat, and other pets, supporting him and wanting him to win. He didn’t cope well with that. He’s good under pressure when the pressure is generated by the situation in the match, I’m not convinced that he is that good under the pressure generated by the fans’ expectations. He got a few bashings on home soil.

The first semi-final is about to start. If both players play the way they did in the QF, Maguire should give Trump a proper beating. But this is another day, another match and I don’t really expect it to go this way. Maguire isn’t the most consistent player. On any given day, he can be awful or he can be wonderful. We will soon find out which Maguire turns up.

 

Tour Championship 2020 – Day 3 – QF

Day three at the Tour Championship 2020 delivered the most interesting match so far in my opinion. Yan Bingtao didn’t win, but he certainly didn’t disgrace himself. He gave Mark Selby a very stern test. Mark won by 9-6, which looks comfortable enough, but the match was extremely close.

Here are the reports by WST:

Afternoon session (4-4):

Mark Selby and Yan Bingtao emerged from a keenly contested opening session of their Coral Tour Championship clash locked together at 4-4 in Milton Keynes.

The pair met at the Champion of Champions earlier this season, where Selby emerged a 4-0 victor. This afternoon’s action was a far closer affair.

Riga Masters champion Yan, who was runner-up to Judd Trump at the Coral Players Championship in Southport, could still win the £100,000 Coral Cup bonus if he takes home the £150,000 top prize this week. The bonus is awarded to the player who accumulates the most prize money throughout the three-event series.

Yan got the better of a scrappy first four frames this afternoon, taking a 3-1 lead into the mid-session interval.

When the players returned, they ramped up the standard. Three-time World Champion Selby fired in breaks of 99, 119 and 61 to lead 4-3. However, Yan ensured parity heading into tonight with a run of 68 to make it 4-4.

They return at 7pm to play their best of 17 encounter to a conclusion.

During the first mini-session, that ended on a 3-1 score in favour of Yan, Mark Selby had an AST over 30 seconds. Himself will tell you that he plays better when he plays faster, but, for some reason can’t help slowing down when not feeling confident. During that mini-session, Yan “out-selbyied” him. By that I mean that Yan played the type of old-school, conservative game, that is usually expected from older players, and Mark Selby in “torturer” mode, rather than coming from a 20 years old. And Mark Selby had little answers. Yan showed a maturity well beyond his years, and a very strong tactical nous. This earned him praise from the commentators. Joe Perry, in particular, was impressed.

After the interval, Mark came out in a much more aggressive mood, played faster and it paid off. It also exposed what is, in my opinion, Yan’s only real weakness: he tends to be too conservative at times. The commentators reflected on the fact that he always seems to “exhaust” all the available loose reds before attempting to develop the pack. That cost him a few times in this match, because, either he failed to open the pack, or it didn’t yield any opportunity to continue the break. When your opponent is Mark Selby, allowing him back at the table is never a good idea. But again, having lost the first three frames after the interval, Yan showed remarkable composure and maturity in the way he managed to win the last of the session.

Evening session (9-6):

Mark Selby defeated Yan Bingtao 9-6 to reach the last four of the Coral Tour Championship in Milton Keynes.

World number seven Selby qualified as third seed for this elite event, having notched up titles this season at the English and Scottish Opens. That made the three-time World Champion the first ever player to win two Home Nations events in a single season.

Defeat for Yan, who was runner-up to Judd Trump at the Coral Players Championship, ends his hopes of winning the Coral Cup and scooping the £100,000 bonus which is awarded to the player who earns the most prize money over the series. Only front-runner Trump, Stephen Maguire and Shaun Murphy remain in the running.

This afternoon’s action saw Selby struggle in the early stages, trailing 3-1 after the first four frames. However, he improved after the mid-session to end level at 4-4.

Selby immediately established a cushion tonight, with breaks of 66 and 57 to move 6-4 ahead. Yan pulled a frame back, before a pivotal 12th. Selby was first in with a break of 64, but Yan rallied to force a re-spotted black. Leicester’s Selby eventually fluked the black to reach the mid-session 7-5 in front.

A superb century break of 105 helped Selby to the verge of victory when they returned. Yan pulled one back, but Selby won a 42-minute 15th frame to seal his 9-6 win. Next up, Selby faces either Shaun Murphy or Mark Allen for a place in the final.

“Overall, I’m happy with the way I played,” said 37-year-old Selby. “The first few frames were obviously quite ropey, but after that I felt I played alright considering we’ve not had that much match practice and aren’t that sharp.

“We are lucky that we have any snooker at all. I was looking at my calendar and thinking that we wouldn’t have any snooker until at least September. Barry and World Snooker Tour and even Matchroom for the Championship League, have done really well to get some events on.

“I’ve got two days off now, so I’ll get some practise in, watch a little bit of the game tomorrow and relax and look forward to Thursday.”

Mark Selby dominated the second session, scoring heavily. It could, however, have turned differently, had Yan won frame 12, and gone to the MSI at 6-6 instead of 7-5 behind. In that frame, and for the second time in a row, Mark had missed frame ball. Yan, however, hadn’t many points to play with, and at one stage, elected to play the brown, rather than to risk a more difficult pot on a higher value colour, knowing that, by doing this he could only tie. He managed to force the re-spotted black, and a lengthy, but excellent, safety battle followed. Yan lost it in the most heartbreaking way. Mark’s last two shots at the black were bad, but the last resulted in a fluke… The MSI came right after and this can’t have been easy for Yan. The difference between 7-5 and 6-6 was massive under the circumstances.

One thing this match definitely did for Yan is to gain him the respect of commentators and pundits. OK, Stephen Hendry still has his reservations – he doesn’t understand what kind of player Yan is – but others saw Yan’s versatility as a positive, something that could disturb his opponents as they would struggle to elaborate a “strategy” against someone they can’t “predict”. Neal Foulds, on the other hand, is now positive that Yan is the brightest young prospect the sport has at this moment in time.

 

Tour Championship 2020 – Day 2 – QF

The second quarter-final at the 2020 Tour Championship could not have been more different from the first one! On Saturday, we saw two fluent players; only one frame had been decided on the colours; yesterday, during the first session, both players were struggling badly. They only had one break over 60 each, they were missing all sorts. They needed over three and a half hours to complete the eight frames. Some will tell you that it was gripping, I call it awful.

Judd Trump improved in the second session, still not playing at his best (understatement!), if anything Higgins managed to get even worse. Some feat. Next time Ronnie goes about lower-ranked players not knowing how to play, he should be forced to watch this one! There was a break over 60 in every frame that session, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. When it comes to Judd Trump, the main difference between this match, and most recent matches, is that he had to rely a lot more on his opponent’s mistakes to get in.

John Higgins, speaking to Eurosport, said that we could see the best standard ever at the World Championship. Well, if he’s to contribute to that, he better gets his head down and his cue out for practice!

Anyway, here is the report by WST:

Judd Trump pulled clear in the evening session to defeat John Higgins 9-4 and reach the semi-finals of the Coral Tour Championship.

Victory means Trump has now won his last five meetings with Higgins, including his 18-9 win over the Scot in the 2019 World Championship final. However, Higgins still leads 13-12 in head-to-head meetings.

Trump is now assured of reaching £1 million of prize money this season. He’s already picked up a record six ranking titles this term, the most anyone has ever won in a single campaign.

Trump will take home a minimum of £40,000 this week, with a top prize of £150,000 on offer. He remains in pole position to claim the Coral Cup and secure the £100,000 bonus, which is awarded to the player that accumulates the most money over the three-event series.

Today’s match was a record breaking 124th ranking event quarter-final appearance for Higgins, who leaves Milton Keynes with the consolation of £20,000.

World number one Trump came into this evening with a 5-3 advantage, after a fiercely contested afternoon session. Tonight’s action was more one-sided, as Trump took a stranglehold on proceedings. Breaks of 67, 53 and 135 moved him to the verge of victory at 8-3.

Higgins provided some resistance by winning the 11th frame, to take the match to a mid-session interval. However, when they returned Trump quickly clinched the tie with a break of 68. The Ace in the Pack now faces Stephen Maguire, who fired in six centuries on his way to beating Neil Robertson in their first round clash.

“I can’t imagine there are many people that have beaten John five times in a row,” said 30-year-old Trump. “It’s pleasing that I now have the confidence against him that I always fancy it and to be honest I’ve always enjoyed playing him. The difference is that in the last couple of years, he doesn’t quite make those clearances that he used to.

“If I was to win another tournament, seven ranking titles would certainly be very difficult to beat for the foreseeable future. I think maybe only Ronnie could beat that if he really dedicated himself. It is nice to be putting these records out there and it is going to be tough for anyone to match them.

“Stephen is probably happy with his form and is confident. I am also confident as well, with how I finished off the match. I am more than happy to play my way into the tournaments. I don’t want to go out firing from the very start, it is tricky to do that three games in a row. I am always comfortable playing him. He is a great player. Hopefully I can get off to a quicker start than I did against John.”

Today, Yan Bingtao will face Mark Selby and I really hope that the young Chinese will do well. I would dearly love to see him win. Now, before anyone comes up with “Ronnie fan – Selby hater”, that’s NOT what motivates me. I actually have come to appreciate Mark Selby’s game a lot. So, no.

There are a number of reasons why I would love to see Yan win today:

  • he’s a very young player. They are the future.
  • he’s the only Chinese player in the tournament, one of the few Chinese players currently in the UK. Keeping China interested in snooker may prove critical in the next season. They put a lot of money in snooker; they won’t do it anymore if there is no national interest in the main tour. Despite WPBSA best efforts, there might be next to no Chinese player at the EIS next month, and even maybe only Yan playing for most of next season.
  • he’s been the target of harsh critics by the pundits, especially on ITV. I think that he doesn’t deserve them. He’s not in the flamboyant mould, right, but he’s getting results, something others who may be easier to the eye aren’t doing. I’d like to see him silence them.