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Sunday, 7 December 2014

UK Championship Final Ronnie wins a thriller.

Ronnie O'Sullivan is the winner of the 2014 UK Championship,but only after surviving a late rally from Judd Trump which forced this all the way to a deciding frame for a breathtaking finish to the tournment

In a match that struggled early on to reach the heights standardwise we saw from these two in the final in Coventry last month,it was Ronnie who was proving to be the more clinical in taking his chances as he established an early 5-1 lead.Trump however managed to keep in touch,taking the last two of the afternoon session to make it 5-3.

Into the evening then and there was little sign of the drama that was to come as Ronnie took three of the first four frames to lead 8-4 and when that became 9-4 it looked only a matter of minutes until our champion was crowned.

That seemed to be what Judd was feeling as well,as he missed chance after chance in a scrappy 14th frame,on each occasion looking more resigned to his fate every time he returned to his seat.

Win the frame though he did and then something extraordinary happened.Judd started to find a fluency that had been lacking in his game and the breaks started to flow.Firstly a 120 break made it 9-6,and that was quickly followed by a 127 to make it 9-7 and an 86 to make it 9-8.

Ronnie had now failed to pot a ball for three frames and it must have made strange viewing for him to sit and watch someone doing to him what he has done to so many in the past.

By now he was just desperate for a chance and it was to come in the next,but with the match at his mercy,Ronnie failed to get position on a red & Judd cleared with a marvelous 67 to take us to a decider.

The match was now anybodies and after both had half decent scoring chances,the decisive moment came when Ronnie laid a tough snooker behind the green and Judd's escape presented him with the chance to fall over the line. He duly took it to win a memorable final 10-9.

This was Ronnies fifth UK title in a glittering career ,but rarely has he been put under the pressure he was here and when the dust settles he will look back with great satisfaction at how he held himself together to see it out.

As for Judd he will feel bitterly disappointed that after coming back so well, he could not finish the job.What we have seen though,over the last month particularly,is a Judd that is maturing and after a couple of seasons where his career had appeared to stall,he now seems to be going the right way again.If he keeps on this path the big titles are certain to follow.

As for Ronnie though,what more can we say? This fifth UK title,completed the set to stand alongside his five World & Masters titles. The fact that he has achieved it with a broken ankle that nearly forced him to withdraw last weekend is even more remarkable. These are special times to be a snooker fan and lets hope we have many more years left of watching this sporting genius ply his trade.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

UK Championship Semi Final round up.

Ronnie O'Sullivan will face off against Judd Trump for the 2014 UK Championship title tomorrow after both came through dramatic semi finals at the Barbican Centre in York today.

In York last year Stuart Bingham brought Ronnies hopes of lifting a fifth UK title to an end at the quarter final stage and for long periods today it looked as if history was going to repeat itself as Bingham put O'Sullivan under the most severe pressure.

It has been a feature of the week that Ronnie has not been getting off the the fast starts we are accustomed to and it was the case again here as Bingham quickly established a 2-0 lead,That really should have become 3-0 ,but Ronnie managed to clinch it to get off the mark.

Any disappointment Bingham may have felt though quickly evaporated as he took the next two with runs of 73 & 137 to lead 4-1.From here Ronnie needed something to start happening quickly and with a bit of help from Stuart perhaps seeing the finish line too early, he managed to eventually win frame six to make it 4-2.

This was not the "cueball on a string"Ronnie we are used to seeing,which only go to make the breaks of 68 & 67 he made to level the match up at 4-4 all the impressive.He also had the first chance in the next,but he pushed the boat out a little too far in going for a difficult shot to nothing and Bingham edged ahead again at 5-4.

Cometh the hour though cometh the man and Ronnie produced his best snooker of the match to knock in breaks of 117 & 94 and seal his place in the final with a hard fought 6-5 win.

In the other semi final it seemed as though Judd Trumps serene progress through the tournament was set to continue ,but boy was he made to sweat by Stephen Maguire,before falling over the line 6-4.

As I said,that scoreline looked highly unlikely as Trump took the first four frames to give him a 4-0 interval lead.Maguire got off the mark in the next ,but when Trump knocked in a 100 break in frame six he stood one away from a place in the final at 5-1.

Maguire won the next with a 67 and from here the tension really started to ratchet up. Trump started to miss a few of the balls and Maguire dug in to take the next two and close within one at 5-4.The tenth frame was one of those frames that gets people shouting at the screen as we eventually got to a battle on the green with the score tied at 45-45.The decisive moment came when Trump successfully  snookered Maguire on the green and in the failed attempt the white went in off.

From here Trump potted the balls he needed to book his place in his second UK final.

So what can we expect in the final? Well there is no doubt that purely on form during the tournament Judd would be the favourite,but such things go out the window when its Ronnie you are playing.It is often said too that if you are to have a chance of beating Ronnie you need to get off to a good start,but as we've seen this week that in itself is not enough,you also need to outbattle him.It will be fascinating to see how this one plays out in the opening session.

Of course these two met in the final of the Champion of Champions event last month with Ronnie coming out on top in one of the best finals we've seen in a long long time. If tomorrows clash proves to be as good we are in for a treat!

Friday, 5 December 2014

UK Championship Quarter Finals Round up.

It is often the case with a big tournament like this that you get  either close dramatic matches but not high quality snooker or super snooker snooker & little drama. This years UK Championship has proven to be an exception to these rules as it has had both drama and quality in droves.

The odds on favourite for the title here is still Ronnie O'Sullivan,but boy was he made to work today by the rising star of Scottish snooker Anthony McGill. 

For all the talk of his ankle injury and of course the brilliant maximum to finish the match last night,one thing that seems to have gone unnoticed is the fact that Ronnie has not been as quick out the gates here this week as he normally is and that was again the case here as McGill took the opening two frames to lead 2-0. That lead could really have been 3-0 but Ronnie dug in to make it 2-1 and produced a lovely break of 98 to make it 2-2 at the interval.A 125 from Ronnie when they resumed put him ahead for the first time at 3-2,but McGill won the next to level things again at 3-

The  next two frames were quite extraordinary with both going to the colours and both looking to be heading to McGill only for him to be stopped in his tracks by inexplicable misses on the yellow & green respectively,allowing Ronnie to pinch both and go within one of victory at 5-3.

It is then to his immense credit that McGill managed to produce his highest break of the match in the next,a 103 to close within one again at 5-4. Any thoughts though of this going to a decider were quenched in the next when Ronnie potted a remarkable red to the middle with the white tight on the black cushion and he knocked in a break of 97 to clinch his place in the semi final.

There he will face the man who beat him here in the quarter final last year Stuart Bingham after he completed a stunning comeback to beat Graeme Dott 6-5.This really was a match of two halves,with Dott,as he did against Robertson, flying out of the blocks to lead 4-1.

A close sixth went to Bingham to reduce his arrears to 4-2 and he followed that with a run of 108 to make it 4-3.Dott opened his two frame lead again to go 5-3,but from here Bingham produced his best snooker of the match to level at 5-5,before clinching the decider with another century,this time a run of 103.

Into the evening session and after his slog against Rod Lawler yesterday Judd Trump was in no mood to hang around,beating \Mark Davis 6-1 in around 90 minutes. This one could have been a lot closer had Davis made the most of some early chances but he didn't and Trump will be delighted with his nights work despite letting a good chance for a maximum slip in the last frame.

Trump has hardly had to break sweat this week to reach this stage,but you would be surprised if that was the case in his semi final clash with Stephen Maguire after the Scot finally saw off the challenge of Marco Fu to reach this stage.

Maguire started the better in this one enjoying a  3-1 lead to the interval,He extended that to 4-1 taking the next,but Fu has always been a dogged competitor and started to claw his way back,taking the next close within one at 4-3. Things were now getting tense,but Maguire did enough to take it to go 5-3.He had a chance to win the next,but the fluency he had shown earlier was starting to desert him now and Fu closed to 5-4.

This was by now turning into a real slog,but Maguire held his nerve to pot the balls he needed to go through 6-4. 

Two fascinating semi final encounters in store tomorrow then O'Sullivan v Bingham first up in the afternoon and Trump v Maguire tomorrow night. Lets hope for more drama & quaitiy.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

UK Championship Last 16 Round up.

A dramatic two days at the Barbican,which have seen the exit of the defending champion,the crowning of a new world number one,a possible changing of the guard in Scottish snooker & no shortage of exciting finishes,have  finally left us with eight men still in the running for this famous title.

The obvious place to start is with the dramatic defeat of our champion Neil Robertson at the hands of  Graeme Dott. Following the early defeat of Mark Selby & the exit of Ding the previous evening a win in this one would have meant a return to the top of the world rankings for Robertson,but any thoughts that this was going to be straight forward  for the Aussie were quickly put to bed as Dott flew out of the traps to take a 2-0 lead without Neil potting a ball.

He did manage to at least score in the next but it still went to Dott along with the next two to give the Scot an unbelievable 5-0 lead.We have already seen this week though how much having even a slightly longer format can change the narrative of a match and we saw it here again as Robertson started to fight back.Breaks of 72,100,59,106 & 79 amazingly saw him level things up at 5-5 taking us into a decider.Dott must have been wondering at this stage how it had come to this so it is to his credit that after Robertson had been a bit unlucky in not getting ideal position on a colour ,that Graeme held himself together enough to get over the line to win 6-5.

Next up for Dott is a clash with Stuart Bingham who had an unexpectedly easy afternoon against the recent International Championship winner Ricky Walden,with the Chesterman never getting out of the blocks allowing Stuart clinch a 6-0 win

In the battle of the Scots it was Anthony McGill who came through against his childhood hero John Higgins. Coming into this tournament the season had been one long struggle for Higgins,but here he had started to show some form and was quite impressive  in his victory over Matthew Stevens in the previous round.Sadly for him that was proving to be beyond him as McGill opened a 4-1 lead.

Higgins though as we know has deep reserves of determination and fought his way back,firstly to 4-3 and then to 5-5.A scrappy decider where both had their chances was eventually decided on the last red when Higgins overcut an attempted  pot to the yellow pocket and McGill knocked it in to clear for a famous victory.

McGills reward,if you can cal it that,is a last 8 clash with Ronnie O'Sullivan who lifted the roof off the Barbican with a magnificent 147 in the final frame of his 6-0 demolition of Matthew Selt.It has to be said that as has been the case in his previous matches Ronnie started slowly in this and a 4-0 interval lead probably flattered him,but boy did he turn it on when play resumed.

A maximum attempt in frame five ended with a mixed black on 89,but there was to be no mistake in the next as to the delight of  both the crowd and a fist pumping Ronnie he cleared the 15 red 15 blacks and the colours to record his 13th professional 147. To think this day last week he was nearly withdrawing because of his ankle injury,I think we can safely say now he is warming to the task.

In the other half of the draw another man who will be starting to fancy his chances of collecting a second UK title is Judd Trump.The Australian Open winner continued his progress here today with a  6-3 win over Rod Lawler.

The one thing anyone drawn against Rod knows is that they are going to be in for a long battle and perhaps it says a lot for Trumps growing maturity that he managed to keep his discipline when Rod got within one at 4-3 and closed out the match when the opportunities came.

He will now face Mark Davis,who brought the run of young James Cahill to an end with a solid 6-2 win.There was always a danger here for Cahill,after his heroics against Ding the night before,that this may be a case of "after the Lord Mayors show"and so it proved.but the 18 yr old has had a week to remember and no doubt we will be seeing plenty more of him on the games biggest stages.

The most recent tournament  winner at the start of the championship was Shaun Murphy after his PTC win in Germany.and he will be wondering tonight just how he's not still here with a chance of back to back titles after an extraordinary match with Marco Fu this afternoon.that finished with a dramatic deciding frame

In a match where Murphy was by far the heavier scorer,he looked set for victory when he took the eighth frame to lead 5-3. Fu though got the better of a marathon 58 minute ninth frame to make it 5-4 and then produced his highest break of the match a 67 to level it up at 5-5.

Into that decider then where Murphy was first in with 54,Fu countered before unluckily finding himself snookered on the final red by the black, A safety battle followed which was resolved when Fu double kissed the final red. Murphy just needed to clear to seal the win,but there was to be one final twist as he snookered himself on the yellow from the black & although he hit it,he left Fu on and he cleared to win the match on the black.

His opponent in the quarter final will be Stephen Maguire who brought the run of Irelands David Morris to an end with a solid 6-3 win.Maguire is another who has been struggling of late.but has shown some improvement  and took the early lead here going ahead 3-1.This was the biggest match of Morris's career to date and he battled back to level at 3-3. Maguire though wasn't for letting this slip and he won the next three to close out the match,

So there we have it.What a couple of days we've had Lets hope for more of same over the weekend though I'm not sure our hearts will stand it.

Heres the Quarter Final line up

1pm Graeme Dott v Stuart Bingham
1pm Anthony McGill v Ronnie o'Sullivan

7pm Judd Trump v Mark Davis
7pn Stephen Maguire v Marco Fu

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

UK Championship Last 32 round up.

A week into the UK Championship and we are now down to 16 men left in the running to become the 2014 champion.

Here again are the main talking points.

  • Only one place to start with this really and that is the defeat of Ding Junhui who went out to 18 year old James Cahill.Many had expected an easy passage through for Ding here.but despite starting with a century he never again looked comfortable in the match as he fell 5-1 behind. To is credit he battled back hard to get within one at 5-4. An extraordinary tenth frame looked to be going to Cahill when he left Ding needing three snookers with one red left,but The Chinese got one snooker and a free ball to get back in it and after a tense safety battle he eventually cleared from green to force the decider. .
  • Into the decider and it was Ding who got in first only to miss on 32. Cahill now had his chance and he duly took it with some amazing pots to complete a famous victory.6-5.
  • He'll next face Mark Davis who edged out Joe Perry 6-5.  
  • The defending champion Neil Robertson has struggled a bit of late,but there were signs here that the Aussie is starting to find some again as he beat Peter Ebdon 6-2.Robertson next faces Graeme Dott who knocked in three centuries on the way to a 6-0 win over an out of sorts Robert Milkins
  • There were also signs today that Ronnie O'Sullivan is finding his feet in this tournament,in more ways then one,as he showed flashes of form in beating Ben Woollaston 6-2. It would appear his ankle injury is responding well to the physio he has been receiving and he certainly looked more comfortable moving around the table today.Other be warned!
  • Ronnie now faces Matt Selt who eventually got by Rory Mcleod 6-4.
  • Stephen Maguire played his best snooker in quite some time in beating Mark Williams 6-2 and will next face David Morris,who proved his win over Mark Selby was no flash in the pan,beating Davis Gilbert 6-2 to advance to the the last 16.
  • Another man in the doldrums of late has been John Higgins,but he too has started to find some much needed confidence and went through here with a 6-2 victory over Matthew Stevens.He'll next face Anthony McGill who came through a decider to beat Nigel Bond 6-5
  • Stuart Bingham survived a real test against Joel Walker,eventually coming through 6-5 and will next face Ricky Walden who by contrast had a much easier time in beating Ken Doherty 6-1.
  • Shaun Murphy held off a spirited fight back from Jack Lisowski to take the frame he needed to beat the youngster 6-4.He'll now face Marco Fu,in a replay of the 2008 final.
  • Three centuries help Judd Trump beat Fraser Patrick 6-3 and he next plays Rod Lawler who shocked Mark Allen with a 6-4 victory

Last 16 Order of Play.
1pm Anthony McGill v John Higgins
1pm Stuart Bingham v Ricky Walden

7pm James Cahill v Mark Davis
7pm Neil Robertson v Graeme Dott

1pm Judd Trump v Rod Lawler
1pm Shaun Murphy v Marco Fu.

7pm Matthew Selt v Ronnie O'Sulivan
7pmStephen Maguire v David Morris

Sunday, 30 November 2014

UK Championship Round Two Headlines

Round Two of this years Coral UK Championship has now been completed leaving us with just 32 players left in the hunt to be crowned the champion next Sunday night.

Here in headline form are the main stories from the last two days.
  • Our world champion Mark Selby,was a surprise loser,going down 6-4 to Irelands David Morris.Selby perhaps could be forgiven for been a little off his game here having so recently becoming a father for the first time,but credit to Morris who produced two 70 plus breaks to put it to bed from 4-4.
  • Defending Champion Neil Robertson had to dig deep into his reserves to fight his way past the young rising star Kyren Wilson,coming from 5-4 down to eventually win 6-5
  • Ronnie O'Sullivan felt sufficient improvement in his ankle  to allow him continue in the tournament and although he was not at his best by any means,he still beat Peter Lines 6-3.If things continue to improve for him during the week he will still be the man they all have to beat here this week.
  • Ding Junhui broke the hearts of the Jimmy White supporters,beating the Whirlwind 6-2 in a match that was much closer than that scoreline suggests,indeed Ding only potted 8 more ball than Jimmy in the entire match
  • The comeback of the season award could well be going to Nigel Bond after the 49 year old produced an unbelievable performance to fight back from 5-0 to beat Barry Hawkins 6-5.
  • Judd Trump & Mark Allen both put in impressive performances to beat Luca Brecel & Aditya Mehta 6-0 & 6-1 respectively
  • Mark Williams was in equally  devastating form as he eased to a 6-0 win over Jimmy Robertson.
  • His old adversary John Higgins also recorded a much needed confidence boosting 6-4 win over  Jamie Cope.
  • Shaun Murphy is also through with a 6-3 win over Robin Hull
  • And he is joined in round 3 by fellow former world champions Peter Ebdon (who beat Kurt Maflin 6-1) Graeme Dott (6-3 Anthony Hamilton) & Ken Doherty (6-4 Michael White)
Add to these wins for,among,others Stuart Bingham,Joe Perry,Mark Davis and we could be in for quite a week.The last 32 gets under way Monday at 1pm GMT with all matches now been played in the main arena.

Friday, 28 November 2014

UK Championship Round One Round Up.

Three snooker fill days in York brought the first round of this years UK Championship to a close and with little in the way of shock results,one man and precisely his ankle,has dominated the headlines.

When early in the week Ronnie 'Sullivan tweeted a picture of his swollen ankle I think most of us probably presumed this was a minor knock that, although an inconvenience,would probably be ok for his first round match on Thursday.

This however doesn't appear to be the case and after beating Daniel Wells 6-2 a clearly uncomfortable O'Sullivan told the media that the ankle is more seriously injured than it first appeared and that the pain is such that if it has not healed sufficiently for his next match on Sunday he will withdraw from the tournament.

If this is what ultimately does happen what a real pity for Ronnie who has seldom appeared to come into this championship with such enthusiasm,it would however open the door for some of his main rivals to get their name on the roll of honour.

Such was the way the draw was structured here that all those games big stars reached the second round without much fuss,indeed the only top 16 player to exit was Ali Carter,who is continuing his comeback to the game after his battle with cancer and eventually went down here 6-5 to Zhang Anda

Things kick off again tomorrow with the arrival of the BBC cameras and we have a couple of eye catching matches to look forward to in Round Two among them Ding Junhui v Jimmy White and  on Sunday Luca Brecel v Mark Allen.

Monday, 24 November 2014

UK Championship Preview.

The snooker world once again this week descends on the wonderful city of York and more specifically The Barbican Centre for the first of this seasons "Majors",The UK Championship.

This of course is a tournament,that with its long history will always hold a special place in the heart of snooker fans,despite what has seemed in recent years to be a concerted effort by the powers that be to change all that once made this event so great

Firstly a few years ago the early matches were changed from  "best of  17" to "best of 11",a move that at the time that was in order to make sure that all matches could be played in the main arena in front of the tv cameras.\this move was made redundant last year when the tournament reverted to a flat 128 draw with all rounds played in York.This also caused problems with the BBC insisting some round one matches be held over until they stated broadcasting,leading to a week of confusion which frankly even those most tuned into snooker,struggled to keep up with.

This at least has been resolved to some extent this year with all of round one been played before the BBC arrive.Unfortunately this has come at the expense of the semi finals which will also now only be "best of 11".

All of these changes have devalued our games second biggest prize and surely this tournament would have been better served had it been protected the way the World Championship has.

To quote the phrase of the times though "We are where we are" and 128 players start out over the next few days with the dream of lifting the trophy on December 7th.

The obvious favourite is of course Ronnie O'Sullivan who looked as good as ever in lifting the Champion of Champions title a fortnight ago.To put it simply if he shows up in that form,he will be claiming a fifth UK title next week.If though for some reason he isn't who else can put themselves forward as champion?

Well I suppose the obvious place to start is with Mark Selby,but just how much his preparation for this event has been effected by the arrival of baby Sofia a couple of weeks ago cannot be judged until we see him in the heat of battle.

Selby of course was beaten in last years final by Neil Robertson who along with Ding was the other big story from last season.Both however have struggled so far this term and they will have to step it up a bit on what we've seen lately if they are to challenge here.

A couple of players who have shown some good form this season and may fancy their chances here are Shaun Murphy & Judd Trump.Murphy has dominated the most recent PTC  events,winning the last two including the Ruhr Open on Sunday where he also had a 147 in the final.Trump has also been playing with a new found maturity this season and pushed Ronnie hard in that Champion of Champions event.

Other players worth keeping an eye on include Mark Allen,Mark Williams & Ricky Walden.

Lets hope whatever happens and in spite of everything I've said above we get a tournament that will live long in the memory.

The action starts tomorrow with some matches been streamed via the World Snooker subscription site,with The BBC & Eurosport commencing broadcasting from Saturday

Monday, 10 November 2014

Ronnie is still the Champion of Champions

Ronnie O'Sullivan once again proved last night,that when it comes to champions in snooker they don't come any better than him,as he beat Judd Trump 10-7 in a dramatic final to lift the 2014 Champion of Champions title.

This was the second staging of this event and although Ronnie has won it on each occasion,this match was in sharp contrast to the slog against Stuart Bingham in last years title decider,indeed,if that  was a match that showed Ronnie's fighting qualities this was one that showed just how ridiculously talented he is when in the zone.

What was to come was evident early on as Ronnie took the opening frame with a total clearance of 137 and followed up in the next with a 78 to go 2-0.Trump at this stage had hardly had a shot but managed to get off the mark in the next,before also taking the fourth to level at 2-2.

After the mid session interval Ronnie again opened up a two frame lead with breaks of 87 & 80,but Trump produced a 58 of his own to again get within one  at 4-3.

This was high quality snooker,but it was about to go up a notch as Ronnie produced two of the most beautiful breaks you would ever wish to see, effortlessly floating around the table & rolling in breaks of  139 & 134.The score 6-3 at the end of the first session.

Into the night session & Trump knew he needed a good start and looked to be getting it only to break down on 56.Ronnie immediately countered with 70 to win the frame on the black to make it 7-3 & made that 8-3 with another 70 in the the next.

The possibility of this not even reaching a mid session interval loomed large for Trump,but in a display that can only bode well for his future,he dug deep.knocking in back to back centuries of his own (102 & 100) to close to 8-5 as they headed out for their cup of tea.

On resumption the momentum stayed with Trump as he continued to freeze Ronnie out,producing further breaks of 69 & 90  to close within one at 8-7.

This was now turning into a classic with both men playing at their absolute best.Into the 16th frame and Ronnie finally got a scoring chance again,digging deep with a 63 to leave Trump leaving a snooker,but this was what he got on the final red to leave him needing the colours to force a respot.This was not to be though as he went in off on potting the green and Ronnie ended a four frame losing streak to to move within the touching distance of the title at 9-7.

He duly went on to seal the 10-7 victory in the next courtesy of another century (109) & just how much this meant to him was evident to all as he punched the air on potting match ball.

In their post match interviews both players spoke with real joy of having been part of such a marvelous match & you got the feeling they would quite happily have carried on for another few hours.

This final was a fitting finale to a great week and ITV4 will rightly get praised for the their excellent coverage which among,other things,once again showed the stupidity of the BBC  in dropping the commentary legend that is Clive Everton.from their team.

As for the players,well after a few false dawns it would seem that Trump is finally getting back on the right track and whats more he seems to be developing an all round game that can only be a positive as he tries to reach the heights his talent can bring him to

As for Ronnie,well what can you say? I have often written over the years that one of the great tragedies in snooker was that Ronnie wasn't able to feel the joy in his performances that we as snooker fans felt watching him.Listening to him last night that no longer seems to be the case and we  now have a man who really looks in love with the game again and producing the snooker to match it.The fact that he is doing this a month out from his 39th birthday,an age when the other greats Davis & Hendry had long since seen their game go into terminal decline,is even more phenomenal indeed a case could be made that he is getting even better!!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Flat Draw Controversy ,My Two Cents

Thursday should really have been a quiet day with a break in the Champion of Champions event due to ITV 4's Europa league commitments,but this was not to be,as a heated discussion among players,bloggers & Barry Hearn,brought to a head again the problems with the new flat 128 draw.

This latest flare up was sparked by an article in this months Snooker Scene magazine  where it was pointed out, in a major change in policy, that in future the defending champion,the world champion and the next two highest ranked players from the host country will have their first round matches held over to the main venue.Added to this the loser in these held old over matches will get an extra £2000,but this wont count towards their rankings.

This of course was sparked by the failure of Ding to qualify for both the Wuxi Classic & the International Championship,a situation which no doubt had a bearing on the attendance  at both these events,but it flies in the face of the level playing field for all,that the flat system was supposed to bring to our game.

This is the latest in a number of teething problems that this new system has encountered.To begin with both the Shanghai Masters & Australian Open both initially refused to play ball although the Australian Open will revert to it next year.

We then we had the situation with the UK Championship last years where the BBC insisted on some matches been kept back until they commenced broadcasting,which resulted in a long and confusing week of action which was hard to keep on top of for those of us trying our best too,never mind the casual snooker fan.

From here we went to the German Masters where,with a first round played before christmas in the UK we still had 64 players squeezed into a five day tournament,resulting in what was previously one of the most enjoyable  tournaments on the circuit becoming.for the first few days at least,a complete mess.

This was no the way it supposed to be. This flattening of the draw along with the new ranking system based on prizemoney earned,would make the sport the meritocracy that Barry Hearn had dreamt of.Unfortunately when you start meddling with the draw for commercial reasons that immediately goes out the window.

So what can be done?

Well one of the suggestions was to go back to the old system.I certainly don't think any player that was good enough was prevented from progressing in the game because of it,but just how it would tie in with the rankings based on prize money  is debatable.

Another suggestion is that all 128 players should be at the main tournament venue.This of course in principle sounds the perfect solution,but from a logistical point of view it would be almost impossible to bring about..Firstly you would need venues big enough to house all the matches before you even start to talk about the travelling costs involved for the players.Besides this is what we have now at York and last year made a dogs dinners of the UK Championship.

Another solution would be to reduce the number of professionals on tour to say 64,but I'm not sure many of the lower ranked players would agree with that.

These suggestions are of course only pie in the sky for the moment as I don't see things changing anytime soon. When this flat system was first mooted it did seem a solid idea on paper,but for me its now like one of those non state run schools where the children learn things like basket weaving alongside their normal school work and don't sit any state exams-Wonderful in principle but you still wouldn't take the chance on sending your child to one.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Victory for Walden & Champion of Champions preview

Ricky Walden yesterday produced his best snooker just when he needed it most to see off the challenge of Mark Allen yesterday and claim the £125,000 International Championship title.

In a match that took its time to get going it was Walden who took the the early initiative to lead 3-1,but Allen fought back taking four of the next five to lead 5-4 at the end of the first session.

In truth,although close the first session had not been of the highest quality but that changed in the evening session.Here once again it was Walden who started the the better taking the first three to go 7-5 ahead.As earlier though Allen fought back to level at 7-7 and a grandstand finish to rival those of the last two years here looked on the cards.However Walden was having none of it as he suddenly stepped up a gear.reeling of a string of big breaks to take the match 10-7.

This was the third ranking title of Waldens career and you couldn't but be impressed with the way he roared to victory in that last session.With the confidence gained here he will a handful for anyone he plays from here on out.

Finally though I must comment on the tournament as a whole.Obviously it was dealt a major blow when Ding failed to qualify,but even allowing for this the crowds were very disappointing.I do understand that in China the organizers of these events aren't as worried about this as we would be in this part of the world and that once the tv audiences are strong they are happy,but if this is really to become a tournament that is thought of alongside the games "Big Three"an atmosphere is an essential part of the mix.

Anyway after a couple of empty weeks the action comes thick and fast with the Champion of Champions starting today on ITV4.This event was a revelation last yr in its first outing with Ronnie O'Sullivan coming out on top.

This year the format is the same with a four groups of four playing out semi finals and final each day with the winners reaching the main semi finals at the weekend..

The one problem facing the organizers this year was a lack different of champions through the year so the numbers have been fleshed out by including Steve Davis as World senior Champion & Dominic Dale as Shootout winner as well as the highest ranked players who had not qualified by right.These include Ali Carter,who is making a welcome return to our screens following his brave battle with cancer during the summer.I join everyone else in the snooker world by wishing all the best here.

The format for the week is as follows

Monday Group Four
Ding Junhui v Dominic Dale
Barry Hawkins v John Higgins

Tuesday Group Two
Mark Selby v Steve Davis 
Judd Trump v Stephem Maguire

Wednesday Group One
Ronnie O'Sullivan v Stuart Bingham
Shaun Murphy v Marco Fu

Friday Group Three 
Neil Robertson v Ali Carter
Mark Allen v Rick Walden

Saturday, 1 November 2014

International Championship S/F round up

Ricky Walden will battle it out with Mark Allen tomorrow for the 2014 International Championship title,after both came through contrasting semi finals in Chengdu.

First man through yesterday was Ricky Walden who brought the run of  Robert Milkins to an end in pretty emphatic style by a scoreline of 9-2.

Walden was right out of the traps here,taking a 2-0 lead before Milkins got off the mark,but Walden restored his two frame lead to make it 3-1 at interval.On resumption Milkins closed to 3-2,but that to be the last time he troubled to scorer as a series of big breaks from Walden saw him pull away a comfortable victory.

The second semi final,played today could not have been more different as Mark Allen & Mark Williams played out a classic that went all the way to a deciding frame.

In a match played a break neck speed,It was Allen who started the better,going 2-0 with runs of 92 & 71 before two wonderful centuries (120 &!35) drew Williams level at 2-2.This really was snooker of the highest quality and there was to be no let up after the interval as the big breaks continued and Allen opened up a 5-3 lead to go into the evening session.

It the evening and no sign of things letting up as the frames rattled by at,what in the end was an average of 13 minutes a frame,but it was Allen who opened up a three frame lead to go 7-4.Williams though,obviously buoyed on by his victory over Ronnie,was playing some of his best snooker in quite some time and fought back to level things up at 7-7.

That looked like becoming 8-7 to Williams when he left Allen needing two snookers on the last red,but disaster struck for the Welshman as he hit the black on a failed escape & Allen cleared to regain the lead with the aid of a wonderful double on the black.

Williams though was not done yet and he produced another great break to level at 8-8 and give this match the grandstand finish it deserved.

Into that final frame then and after all that had gone before it was perhaps fitting that both players had their chances to win it,It was Allen who got in first,but it was Williams who looked to have the match at his mercy,only to miss the final red along the top cushion & Allen cleared to the pink to win this superb match 9-8.

This was snooker of the highest order and great as the win was for Allen,it was also nice to see Williams back to near his best.Hopefully it was a sign of things to come from the Welsh legend.

So there we have it. Ricky Walden & Mark Allen will battle it out tomorrow for over the best of 19 to claim the biggest tournament China has to offer. Lets hope we have a great final in front of a packed house.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

International Championship Quarter final round up.

Quarter finals day at The International Championship and today we got an answer to the,"who can stop Ronnie"? question I started each of my blogs with this week. It turned out to someone whose game he knew very well.

Coming out to play today Mark Williams knew that recent history was not on his side.12 years had past since he last was victorious against The Rocket and he would,no doubt, have gotten that old familiar feeling  today when Ronnie took an early 3-0 lead.This however was not the imperious O'Sullivan we had seen earlier in the week and Williams took full advantage to claw his way back.

In an extraordinary run of five frames which saw Ronnie produce a high break of just 27 Williams turned things right around to go within one of victory at 5-3.It was now all or nothing for Ronnie and to his credit he dug deep to produce his best snooker of the match to win the next two frames and force the decider.

Into that frame then and Williams was first in with a proper scoring chance,but on 50 fell out of position.From the resulting safety Ronnie doubled a red to get in but landed to close the the black and when he failed to pot it Williams produced a double of his own to claim a victory which has been a long time in the coming.

He will next face Mark Allen after the Ulsterman produced a fine comeback of his own to overturn a 3-1 deficit against Michael White to go through 6-3.Allen has been in fine form all season and will be looking here to reach his fourth final in recent monthes.

A player still hoping to reach his first final is Robert Milkins and he went one step closer to achieving that dream with a hard fought win over Marco Fu.This was a match that seemed to have decider written all over it from the beginning as they shared the first four frames to the interval 2-2.That became 3-3 and then 4-4 before Milkins moved to the brink at 5-4.Marco was not done for yet though and he leveled at 5-5 to force the decider,however Milkins would not be denied and  a 70 break saw him through 6-5.

In tomorrows semi final,he will face Ricky Walden who brought the run of Jamie Burnett to an end with a straight forward 6-1 win.

Things now change to two session best of 17 matches with a full match played each day.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

international Championship Last 16.

Last 16 day in Chengdu and the question remains the same, can anyone stop Ronnie O 'Sullivan claiming another big title?

One thing is for sure,if someone is to stop Ronnie,they are going to have to play very what we have here this week is a very focused O'Sullivan,who is feeling more confident with every  match.Todays performance did't have the centuries that highlighted his victory over McGill yesterday,but the scoreline was the same. with "The Rocket" running out a comfortable 6-1 winner over Li Hang.

In the quarter final Ronnie will face a familiar foe in the shape of Mark Williams,who kept up his recent  good form winning the last three frames from 4-3 down to eventually see off Sam Baird 6-4.

The standout match on paper today was the clash between Stuart Bingham & Mark Allen. This,of course was a rematch of the recent Shanghai master final that Bingham won,but it was Allen who got the better start today,taking him to a 3-1 lead. Bingham though started to find some form and won the next three to lead 4-3.however Allen was not to be denied,running off a three in a row of his own,to seal a 6-4 win.

His opponent in the Quarters will be Michael White after the young Welshman continued his progress here with a 6-2 defeat of Ian Burns

In the bottom half of the draw,Joe Swail couldn't repeat his giant killing exploits from yesterday as he went down 6-4 to Ricky Walden.

Walden will next face Jamie Burnett who provided the one shock of the day,beating former world champion Peter Ebdon 6-2.

Marco Fu also kept on track for another final appearance in Chengdu after he finally saw off the dogged resistance of Rod Lawler to prevail 6-4 and set up a last 8 encounter with Rob Milkins who also beat Xiao Guodong 6-4.

So there we have  and after all the shocks of recent days we stil have some tasty matches to look forward to tomorrow.Lets hope a few more people show up at the venue to see them!

Last 8 draw
Michael White v Mark Allen
Mark Williams v Ronnie O'Sullivan
Ricky Walden v Jamie Burnett
Marco Fu v Robert Milkins

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

International Championship Story so far.

Three days into the 2014 International Championship in Chengdu and with the big names continuing to drop like flies the question is,as we enter the last 16,can anyone stop Ronnie O'Sullivan from claiming the title here come Sunday.

Lets start though with the shocks  and they don't come much bigger than the 6-5 victory of Joe Swail over Neil Robertson. All this seemed a million miles away when Robertson went into an early 3-0 lead before Swail closed to 3-2..Robertson again asserted to move within one of victory at 5-3,but showing the fighting qualities that have marked his whole career Swail dug in to make it 5-5 before winning the decider for a famous win.

He will next play Ricky Walden who also had to dig deep to edge past Zhao Yeulong,winning the last two frames to record a 6-5 win.

That result came after Robert Milkins turned the recent form book on its head earlier,beating Shaun Murphy 6-1 to set up a last 16 clash with Xiao Goudong,who scrapped past Noppon Saengkham 6-5,but the shocks did not finish there, as Jamie Burnett fought back to win the last two frames to beat 2012 champ Judd Trump 6-5.

Trump had seemed to weather the storm,despite not playing his best,,when he turned a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead,but when he let a chance to close the match slip in the next it allowed Burnett to make a gritty clearance to level it, before sealing his win in the decider.He will now face Peter Ebdon who earlier had impressively beat Joe Perry 6-1

 As all this carnage was happening around him O'Sullivan looks to be in ominously good form  as he put a sluggish start against Ben Woollaston in the first round behind him,to cruise to a 6-1 victory over Anthony McGill in round two. He will next play Li Hang who started the shock results rolling here on Sunday with a 6-1 win over John Higgins and followed it today with another 6-1 win this time over Zhao Xintong

In other results Michael White continued his good start to the season beating Mitchell Mann 6-4 & will next meet Ian Burns who defeated Craig Steadman 6-3.

Mark Williams showed signs of returning to something near his best with a 6-2 defeat of Barry Hawkins and will next face Sam Baird who beat Mark Davis 6-5.

Marco Fu continued his quest to go one better here than last year,beating David Gilbert 6-5 and will next play Rod Lawler who ended the hopes of Fergal O'Brien with a comprehensive 6-1 win.and the remaining last 16 clash will see a rematch of last monthes  Shanghai Masters final with Stuart Bingham facing Mark Allen after Bingham beat Day 6-3 & Allen edged Gould 6-4 in a high quality clash.

Last 16 Draw
Michael White v Ian Burns
Stuart Bingham v Mark Allen
Mark Williams v Sam Baird
Li Hang v Ronnie O'Sullivan
Joe Swail v Ricky Walden
Peter Ebdon v Jamie Burnett
Robetr Milkins v Xiao Guodong
Marco Fu v Rod lawler

Friday, 24 October 2014

International Championship preview.

Well after what  has been a stuttering start to the 2014/15 season,consisting of three full ranking events and a few PTC's,things really begin to pick up pace over the next month with "China's Major" the International Championship starting things off next week in Chengdu.

This tournament of course is a relatively new one on the circuit,but from the outset with its format and prize money it is obviously hoped that in time it will become equivalent to the UK Championship in terms of  stature in the game.

For this this to happen some would argue,as has been the case in its first two years,it needs to continue to be won by the sports biggest names,but two of our brightest stars wont be among those who line up next week having fallen victim to the qualifying round in Barnsley.

The first of these is defending champion Ding Junhui,who,just as was the case with the Wuxi Classic,failed to negotiate the round of 128. I do get the case for the flat draw system,but surely situations like we have here,where practically unknown local wildcards will be playing at the venue next week & China's number one will  not cannot be good for the game. There must be a way around this that satisfies everyone.

The other noticeable absentee is our World Champion Mark Selby who uncharacteristically let a 4-0 lead slip against young Oliver Lines,going down in the end 6-4.This at the time was a major shock,but since then Lines,who is on tour courtesy of his victory in the European Under 21 Championship,has continued to make waves in his first season,following this up with a fine run in the Bulgarian Open and just this morning losing out to Stuart Bingham in the final APTC 2.It would appear,far from that win against Selby been a flash in the pan,that this is definitely a young man we will be hearing plenty more of in the coming yrs.

In the absence of Ding the top quarter looks on all recent form to be a shoot out between Stuart Bingham & Mark Allen.As iIve said already above Bingham this morning added APTC2 to the Shanghai Masters title he won last month, where incidentally in the final he beat Allen.These two are on course for a last 16 meeting here and it would surprise me if the winner of that clash didn't reach the semi final with perhaps only Michael White potentially throwing a spanner in the works.

Into the second quarter & with Ding & Selbys absence it was no doubt a relief to the organisers  that Ronnie O'Sullivan managed to negotiate the first round and will cue up here on Sunday.He faces a potentially tricky opener against Ben Woollaston,but should he  get through there "The Rocket" might start to fancy the job  in a quarter of the draw that,if near his best,shouldn't pose many problems,albeit he may have to face to granite Scottish pair of McManus & Higgins.

Into the third quarter and it may well be a rematch of the 2012 final here with Robertson v Trump that decides it. Robertson,despite a victory in the Wuxi Classic,hasn't produced the consistent form that was his trademark last season just yet,but the season is still young and it will surely come. Trump also has an early season ranking title to his name from his victory in Australia, has rarely since reached the level he did in collecting this trophy two yrs ago.All that said though however this slightly longer format suits both these men and they should enjoy good runs here.

The fourth quarter in the absence of Selby is again an open one,but surely its wide open for Shaun Murphy,who has been brimming with confidence lately to make a real impact in this tournament with the main dangers to him perhaps been,Stephen Maguire,Marco Fu and that young man Oliver Lines who will be looking for a few more major scalps.

The action gets underway on Sunday with Eurosport providing extensive coverage all week.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Shanghai Masters Final - Triumph for Bingham

Stuart Bingham is the 2014 Shanghai Masters champion  after he beat Mark Allen 10-3 in a one sided final yesterday.

Bingham,who away from the limelight  had been probably one of weeks best performers,started like a train in this one winning the opening four frames to lead 4-0 at the first interval.Allen finally got off the mark in the next but the following two were shared to make it 5-2. .A 69 from Allen in the next made it 5-3 with one frame left in the session.

The importance of that frame in the context of the match seemed to get to both players as things got very scrappy,but it was Bingham who eventually took it to lead 6-3,which was in truth a fair reflection of how the session had gone.

Into the final session and another scrappy frame to open,again went to Bingham to move him to 7-3  and from here he never looked back as he went on to win the next three to secure a 10-3 victory/

Glory has come late in the day for Bingham who won his first ranking event aged 35 in the 2011 Australian Open,but few have embraced this new era of snooker with the enthusiasm Stuart has and his "have cue will travel" attitude  has reaped some rich rewards over the last few seasons..

For Allen,though he will be disappointed  to have not made a better game of it yesterday,but this was his third final of the season so far and hopefully he can kick on again and challenge for more titles as the year progresses.

The other news to come this week was the postponement of The Indian Open which has now been switched to March meaning,except for a couple of PTC events in Europe & China we have to wait until the end of October and the International Championship before we see another full ranking event.I would suggest some of our games big stars use this time wisely to tune up ahead of what is going to be a busy time of it from then on.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Shanghai Masters Semi Final round up

The final of the 2014 Shanghai Masters will see Mark Allen face off against Stuart Bingham following a day of comebacks and high drama that certainly gave the crowd their money's worth.

What was to come seemed a million miles away in the first of the days semi finals when Mark Selby flew out of the blocks to take a convincing 3-1 lead over Mark Allen at the interval. That lead became 5-2 shortly after and it seemed only a matter of time until the World Champ sealed the frame he needed to reach another final,but Allen had other ideas.He took a close eighth to close to 5-3 and from here he produced his best snooker of the match,winning the next two with breaks 115 & 64 to level things up a 5-5.

Into that decider then and Selby seemed to have weathered the storm as set about constructing what looked likely to be a match winning break. This wasn't to be however,as a needless attempt to split the reds with his break on 63,left him out of position and a series of scoring visits,the last of which followed a missed pink from Selby to the centre,allowed Allen to clear the colours and claim the 6-5 win on the black.

This win will no doubt have satisfied Allen a great deal having seen been the victim of a similar comeback from Selby in the final of the Riga Open a couple of months back.This time it was the Irishman who out-Selbyed Selby to keep up,what in recent seasons,has been an impressive overseas record

Another payer with a fine record when on his travels is Stuart Bingham,but playing the defending champion Ding Junhui in front of his own crowd,he came into today as the firm underdog.
That seemed to be an accurate reflection of the match when Ding opened up a 4-2 lead,but then something extraordinary happened. Ding seemed to lose his concentration and Bingham started to score in the fashion that had seen him reach this stage of the tournament with the minimum of fuss,

Breaks of  63,59 & 97  were enough to see Bingham reel off four frames in a row and secure his place in the final with a 6-4 victory.

So there we have it, not the final any of us would have been expecting,but a fascinating one none the less. Going on form during the week, Bingham has certainly been the more consistent,but Allen produced his very best stuff in his win over Selby and will no doubt have been filled with confidence following that.

This is really too close to call but with a gun to my head I would slightly favour Allen.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Shanghai Mastersc Quarter Finals round up.

Quarter finals day at the Shanghai Masters and we had a day of relative calm in three of the matches and a real nail biter in the other.

Lets the straight forward results out of the way first.Ding Junhui is still firmly on course to defend the title he lifted here 12 months ago after a convincing 5-2 victory over Graeme Dott. Time was when the weight of expectation seemed to stifle Ding in his home events,but that certainly now it seems well in the past and he will take some stopping this weekend.

His semi final opponent will be Stuart Bingham,who brought the run of Alan McManus to an end,beating the Scot 5-1.

Thins did not fair any better for McManus's fellow veteran Fergal O'Brien,as the Irishman went down 5-0 to Mark Selby. This one could have been a bit closer if at 2-0 down Fergal had managed to take either of the close frames that followed,but he couldn't manage it and Selby wrapped up the whitewash with a 76 break in the last.

The other quarter final also had a one sided look to it when Mark Allen took a tight fifth frame to lead Michael White 4-1,but from here the Welshman found some form,knocking in breaks of 85,83 & 76 to level it up at 4-4. In the decider both had their chances,but it was Allen who eventually fell over the line to win 5-4.

The semi finals take place tomorrow with that Ding v Selby final still very much on the cards.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Shanghai Masters Last 16 round up.

Day four at the 2014 Shanghai Masters and home favouite Ding Junhui stayed firmly on course to defend the title he won here last yr,but not without an early scare against Martin Gould.

As always against the very best player Gould knew he needed a good start here to have a chance and thats what he got,taking the opening frame and a lengthy second to lead 2-0. From here though Ding visibly stepped up a gear and leveled at 2-2 going to the interval.

On the resumption of play Ding extended that lead to 4-2 to stand one away from victory & although Gould managed to pull one back,it was Ding who sealed his place in the last 8 winning the next to secure the 5-3 victory

His quarter final opponent will be Graeme Dott after the Scot won the battle of the former world champions,beating Shaun Murphy 5-3.

World Champion Mark Selby is also well in the hunt for another title after he survived a mid match revival from Michael Holt,which saw Holt level at 3-3 from 3-0 down,to eventually secure a 5-3 win.

Next up for him is Irish veteran Fergal O'Brien,who continued his decent start to the season by defeating Zhao Xindong 5-3.

A free scoring start to this saw the opening six frames shared in this one,before things got a little scrappier & the experience of the Dubliner showed as he ran out a 5-3 winner.Although he did reach the final of a PTC event last yr this is the first time Fergal has reached a full ranking quarter final since 2007. A hard worker at his game,he will not be intimidated by playing the World champ

Talking of veterans,Alan McManus continued his recent resurgence,following up his victory over Ronnie in the last round with a comprehensive 5-1 defeat of his fellow Scot Stephen Maguire here.

It has really been a remarkable few monthes for McManus,who was a quarter finalist at the Crucible in April & he will go into his last 8 encounter with Stuart Bingham here brimming with confidence.Bingham for his part reached this stage with an easy 5-1 dismissal of Dominic Dale.

Tee remaining Quarter final could potentially be the most exciting as Mark Allen takes on Michael White.

Allen reached this stage with a 5-1 victory over Mark Williams & White defeated fellow Welshman Ryan Day 5-2.

So there we have it.8 will become 4 tomorrow as we  approach the business end of things over the weekend. The draw points to a Ding v Selby final,but when have such things in our sport ever been straight forward!

Quarter Final draw 
Ding Junhui v Graeme Dott
Alan McManus v Stuart Bingham
Mark Allen v Michael White
Mark Selby Fergal O'Brien

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Shanghai Masters The Story so Far.

Three days of action at the 2014 Shanghai Masters and with the completion of the last 32,as well as the dreaded wild card round,we have a healthy mix of big names and those hoping to capitalize on some good early season form left to battle it out in tomorrows last 16.

Here are the headlines from what we've seen so far.

Defending champion Ding Junhui eased his way through with a 5-1 victory over  Jack Lisowski.This had looked on paper as if it could be a tricky one for the Chinese,but in truth he was never really put under any pressure.

World Champion Mark Selby also showed some decent form in beating the veteran Irishman Ken Doherty 5-2.,but his World final opponent Ronnie O'Sullivan opponent didn't fair as well in his first ranking outing of the season,going down 5-3 to the resurgent Alan McManus.

There were mixed results for Ronnies fellow members in "The class of 92" with Mark Williams showing he still has the bottle for the fight,beating Barry Hawkins 5-4 but sadly there was more frustration for John Higgins,who in what seems to be becoming a worrying trend for him,couldn't finish the job off from well in front,as he let a 4-2 lead turn into a 5-4 defeat to Ryan Day.

The last 16 will also be missing the winners of this seasons two previous ranking event with both Neil Robertson & Judd Trump crashing out here in the last 32. Robertson will be wondering just how it came to this as he looked in complete control when leading Michael White 3-0,but the Welshman battled back to edge this one in a decider, 5-4.Trump for his part never looked comfortable and was duly punished by Dominic Dale,going down 5-2.

The much criticized Wildcard round claimed its usual couple of victims with Liang Wenbo & Matthew Selt exiting before their tournament really began,Indeed Selts conqueror Zhao Xintong produced another shock in the next round,beating Marco Fu 5-4. He will now play Fergal O'Brien,who is also doing his bit for the over 40's and reached the last 16 with a fine 5-1 over Robert Milkins.

Elsewhere recently crowned "6 red" world champion Stephen Maguire quickly dispatched Jimmy Rbertson 5-1 and  Shaun Murphy & Graeme Dott will face each other in a battle of the former world champs after recording 5-4 & 5-2 wins over  Joe Swail & Yan Bingtao respectively.

Here is the draw for the last 16

Ding Junhui v Martin Gould
Graeme Dott v Shaun Murphy
Dominic Dale v Stuart Bingham
Stephen Maguire v Alan McManus
Michael White v Ryan Day
Mark Williams v Mark Allen
Zhao Xintong v Fergal O'Brien
Michael Holt v Mark Selby

Monday, 7 July 2014

Australian Goldfields Open Trumps Triumph

Judd Trump finally brought an end to his 20 month ranking title drought yesterday,when he beat home favourite Neil Robertson 9-5 to lift the 2014 Australian Goldfields Open title.

In a match that probably never really lived up to its potential it was the 24 year old from Bristol who produced the better snooker to deny Robertson the home victory he craved as well as the chance of collecting back to back ranking titles following his win in Wuxi last week.

It had been Robertson who had gotten off to the better start to lead 2-1,but things were quickly level again at 3-3 before Trump produced runs of 55 & 114 to lead 5-3 going into the night session.

The first frame of the night could have gone either way but it was Trump who took it on the colours to extend his lead to 6-3.That became 7-3 when he also took the next and he followed that up with a  beautifully crafted 101 break to move to the brink of victory at 8-3.

Robertson of course hasn't enjoyed the success he has in his career by rolling over and he started to find some form taking the next two to close to 8-5. There was to be no fairytale comeback here though as Trump took the frame he needed to clinch a fine 9-5 win.

Thinking back to the last ranking event that Trump had won (2012 International Championship) and the way he was playing then,it is hard to believe that ranking title number four has been so long coming,but such has been the decline in his form during that period that many were indeed starting to question were his best days already behind him?

This is a pressure though that Trump has always been under,ever since his heroics at junior level put him on everyones radar as a certain future champion,with this seemingly being borne out by his run to the World final in 2011.What we have to remember is that Judd is still only 24 years old and at a time where the average age of title winners is creeping into the 30's again he still has plenty of time to live up to his potential.

The fact that he decided to play both here and in Wuxi certainly points to player determined to make an impact this season.

As for Robertson defeat here in the final for a second successive year will be hard to take but he can console himself that he has at least picked up where he left off last season and this current run has put him back to the top of the world rankings.

Snooker takes a break now for the month of July.but what we have seen over the last couple of weeks sertainly whets the appetite for whats to come over the autumn and winter months. The fact that we can now throw the name Trump back into to potential tournament winners pot,only adds to what already looks like being a fascinating season.


Monday, 30 June 2014

Wuxi Classic Final,Robertson defends title.

Neil Robertson yesterday repeated his 2013 Wuxi Classic triumph,but only after coming through a titanic battle with his great friend Joe Perry,eventually claiming the crown with a 10-9 victory.

Perry came into this final still in search of his first full ranking title and it was he who got the better of the early exchanges to hold a 5-4 lead after the first session,indeed but for a typically gutsy display from Robertson the lead could have been even more. This however did leave things beautifully poised going into the evening session and it did not disappoint.

In a session where the momentum swung both ways it appeared early on that Robertson had ridden out the storm as he took four of the first five frames to lead 8-5. Perry though managed to stop the rot taking the next and drew level in a dramatic 16th frame,where after initially missing the final black he made the most of a second chance to level things up at 8-8.

Into the next and it was Perry who edged ahead again with a 93 to move to the brink at 9-8. A victory over Robertson though is not something that is gifted to you,but something you must earn and the Aussie was not for rolling over here taking the next with with an 87 to make it 9-9.

Into the decider then and it was Perry who got in first,but when he missed the blue with the rest on 18,Robertson pounced like all great champions do,knocking in a 78 to clinch the title and deny his close friend his day in the sunshine.

For Perry this will a heartbreaking defeat,but he can take some comfort  that,despite the fact he is now in the autumn of his career,he is now playing the best snooker of his life and if he keeps up this level of performance surely another run at a title can't be far away.

For Robertson he will be hoping this will be the springboard to more success this season.Of course last season he followed up his victory here by claiming his first UK Championship as well as the China Open and also that extraordinary century of centuries,but for all that I suspect he will look back at the year with a little disappointment that despite playing some superb snooker he didn't claim more trophies. The question for this season is can he make the leap from consistency to domination.

His next chance to do so comes this week with the tournament he'd like to win possibly most of all.The Australian Goldfields Open

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Wuxi Classic 2014

With World Cup fever currently gripping the globe and Wimbledon starting to take over our screens in this part of world,it would be easy to miss the fact that  the new snooker season has started in earnest,but start it has and eight men  still remain on course to lift the seasons first full ranking title this Sunday in Wuxi.

The very reason of course for this tournament been held in Wuxi is the fact that is the homestead of Ding Junhui,so it is therefore unfortunate that he failed to negotiate the first round which was played in England at the start of June and so was missing from the line up here.The fact that he was been made travel half way around the world to play a qualifying match ,while the local wild cards all had their matches held over to the venue is a discussion for another day,but anyway,Ding seems to have put it behind him quickly as he claimed the first of the Asian Tour events last weekend,beating Michael Holt  in the final.

Another notable absentee from the last 8 is our new world champion Mark Selby who went down 5-2 in the last 32 to the always dangerous Liang Wenbo.

So what of the last eight?Well considering this is only the first tournament of the new season we have remarkably strong line up still standing as we reach the weeks business end.

The obvious stand out tie,is the clash between Neil Robertson &  Shaun Murphy  and this one promises to be an early season classic,with both men picking up where they left off at the end of last term.Robertson it has seemed in recent times,has reached a level of performance that he just doesn't fall below and reached this stage with a comfortable 5-1 win over Michael Holt.Murphy for his part beat one of China's real rising stars ,17 yr old Zhao Xintong  5-2 to reach the quarter finals.

The winner of that one will face the winner of  Marco Fu Barry Hawkins.Both these men have fine early season records and came through today with wins over Stuart Bingham (5-4) & Alan McManus (5-2) respectively.

In the other half of the draw Martin Gould faces Stephem Maguire & Robin Hull squares up against Joe Perry

Gould is making a welcome return to the latter stages of an event for the first time in it seems quite a while and got here with a fine 5-3 victory over an in form Ryan Day.On the face of it Maguires 5-0 win over Judd Trump looks like it was a walk  in the park,but scorelines can be deceptive and this scrappy match was a lot closer than the score suggests.

Hull & Perry brought the runs of two of the Chinese contingent to and end with Hull recording a 5-1 win over Cao Yupeng & Perry beating Liang Wenbo 5-2.

The last eight matches all take place tomorrow with coverage on both Eurosport channels from 7.30 GMT

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

World Championship-Selbys Triumph + Thoughts on tournament

Mark Selby is the 2014 dafabet World Champion after an extraordinary comeback saw him beat Ronnie O'Sullivan 18-14 to claim his first world title.

This had seemed a most unlikely outcome on Sunday evening as at different stages Ronnie lead 8-3 & 10-5,but as he eluded to in his press conference an missed black at 10-5 allowed Selby a chance to win that frame and he then took the next,to end a day where he had not played well at all,just three behind at 10-7.

Selby of course has plenty of previous when it comes to mounting comebacks and in an absorbing start to the third session he completely dictated the play with some proper matchplay snooker to freeze Ronnie out and continue his fightback winning the opening four frames to amazingly lead for the first time at 11-10. Ronnie took the next to level at 11-11 and in a 50 minute 23rd frame looked have done the hard work,only to miss the most routine of pinks to the centre and Selby pounced to go 12-11.

Such was the length of time these frames were taking,the players were called ashore at this stage to give them some time to prepare for last nights final session. On resumption,a superb long red from Ronnie followed by a quickfire century saw him level again at 12-12,but Selby was starting to find his best from of the match now and he won the next three to go 15-12 at the interval

Your don't win as much in the game as Ronnie has if you don't have battling qualities and O'Sullivan showed these qualities to close within one at 15-14.We looked set now for a grandstand finish,but form here Selby produced his best snooker of the match,taking the next two with breaks of 127 & 87 to move to the brink at 17-14. Ronnie had his chance to win the next,but he couldn't get it done and Selby pounced to clear and claim a famous 18-14 victory.

This did of course not only secure a first World title for Selby,but it also completed a career triple crown of the sports major prizes and moved him back to no.1 in the rankings.Not a bad days at all then!

For Ronnie I think its probably fair to comment,that for all the fact that he coasted through the quarter and semi finals,he never really hit the heights that he had in the last two years here.This and the fact he let a five frame lead slip away will be big disappointment to him,but in his press conference he didn't give any reason to think he wont be back next year to try and claim a sixth title.

So then today as the dust settles on the the 2014 world championship what sort of 17 days did we have? Well firstly I don't think this,for all the drama of the first round, will be remembered as a vintage year standardwise and this may actually be a trend that was masked in the last two years by the success's of Ronnie.

Secondly another worrying trend is the ever rising average age of the players competing in the latter stages of events.These are of course solid professionals all,but when you have a situation where there are more players over 40 in the last 8 than players in their 20's it possibly points to the inconvenient truth that there is real a lack of great players coming through.This is something I will blog in more detail about in coming weeks

Thirdly it was a surprise to see Ding Junhui once again fail so dramatically here after a season where he had looked to have slayed many of his demons,but there were signs that Judd Trump is beginning to find some form again so maybe he can hit the heights he has previously again next season.

Fourthly, I want to congratulate the BBC on their coverage. Yes I know it was frustrating to see them leave a final frame decider for a repeat of Eggheads and in many ways thats unforgivable,but their early morning broadcasts were a welcome addition,as was their "Table Talk" section where they actually discussed in detail the real issues affecting the sport. For all the complaints I don't see any other broadcaster who could do it better.

Finaly though lets once again salute our champion.I will hold my hands up and admit I have never looked at Mark Selby as a potential world champion and I think that this was because,for all that I admire him as a professional,I could never really make up my mind if he was a decent player who won more than he should because of his dogged style or a great player who possessed a wonderful B game that saw through even when not at his best. I think I got my answer last night.Well done Mark Selby World Champion 2014

Saturday, 3 May 2014

World Championship Semi Final Round Up + Final preview

The final of the 2014 dafabet World Championship will see two of the sports great champions squaring off against each other as defending & five time champion Ronnie O'Sullivan faces Mark Selby over two days & the best of 35 frames for the games most coveted title.

Mark Selby reached the world final for the second time in his career tonight after a hard fought 17-15 win over Neil Robertson in a match that had everything.

From the outset this looked like it would be a close affair throughout and so it proved as a tight first session left Selby leading 5-3. In what was to become the trend for the match Robertson leveled things up at 5-5 at the start of the second session but Selby pulled away again to hold his lead at the end 9-7.

Into this mornings session then and when u have two players as renowned for their safety game as these two,a session like this was always on the cards and so it proved as a very long,but thoroughly engrossing eight frames left things perfectly poised for tonight ending as it did 12-12.

Out both players came tonight then and an extraordinary thing happen,as two players who at times seem to fall into the trap of not trying to lose rather then trying to win,both started to go for it and produce some fabulous snooker.Robertson was the first to strike,taking a 13-12 lead ,before two in a row from Selby saw him lead again at 14-13.Robertson then took the last before the interval to make it 14-14.

The match now had been reduced to a best of five and it was Selby who took a major leap towards the final taking the next two to move to the brink at 16-14. There was time for one more century for Robertson,bringing his season total to 103,but the end was to come in the 34th frame when a 74 from Selby saw him over the line to win 17-15.

By contrast his opponent in tomorrows final Ronnie O'Sullivan could hardly have had a less stressful path through to his sixth world final as,for the second round in a row,he completed victory with a session to spare,beating Barry Hawkins 17-7.

You always felt for Hawkins to have a chance in this one he needed a good start and thats what he got as he lead Ronnie 2-1. He really should have made it 3-1 ,but Ronnie leveled it and never looked back ending the first session with a 6-2 lead.

That became 10-6 after four majestic frames at the start of the second session.Hawkins did at least manage to find some form winning three of the next four,but still trailed 11-5 going into the third session.Ronnie needed six of the eight frames to give himself a Saturday afternoon off and thats what he got,sealing the victory in the last frame of the night winning 17-7.

So now we have the final that snooker fans have wanted to see for a long time. Selby of course has a great record against Ronnie in final with a head to head record of played six. and each won three.Two of those victories from Selby came from seemingly losing positions and such was the way he got under Ronnies skin in those games,That Ronnie christened him "The Torturer" in his recent autobiography.

These performances will of course give Selby encouragement,but as they say,That was then & this is now.Since those finals a few years back I think most would agree Ronnie has stepped things up in every department of his gameplay and as importantly his approach.For a current formline all you have to do is look at the demolition job Ronnie did on. Selby in The Masters final in January.

In that match,as in his last two rounds here Ronnie was quick out of the blocks and never looked back..It Therefore goes without saying for Selby to have a chance of claiming his first world title he needs to be within touching distance of Ronnie after the first two sessions tomorrow.If I'm honest I just don't see him getting close enough to worry Ronnie and my Score Prediction is 18-10 to Ronnie

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

World Championship Day 12 Quarter Final round up.

After yesterdays series of one sided sessions it had seemed we might be in for a day devoid of drama today,but we need not have feared,as The Crucible served up anther timely reminder of what makes this event so special.

Neil Robertson took a step closer his second world crown with a hard fought 13-11 victory over Judd Trump and in the process finally claimed that ton of tons record he had so desperately wanted.

Coming out today trailing 6-2 ,Robertson started to find his game and closed within one a 7-6 before two from Trump took the next two to lead by three at 9-6 going into tonights final session. Here Robertson again got back to 9-8,but Trump steadied himself going to the interval with his three frame lead restored at 11-8.

Robertson won the next to close to 11-9 and it was from here he started to really turn the screw,taking the next with a run of 70 after a long safety battle,before the moment of history came in the next when a break of 101,not only made it 11-11,but also secured his 100th century of the season.His reaction on potting the green showed just how much it meant to him to achieve this record and he deserves all the plaudits he gets for it.

There was however still a match to be won and Robertson managed to pull himself together to win the next frame as well to go ahead for the first time in the match at 12-11. Trump by now hadn't potted a ball for over an hour and was looking a beaten man. Into the next and there was really only going to one one winner and Robertson duly obliged to win his fifth frame in a row and record a superb 13-11 win.

His semi final opponent will be Mark Selby who came out this morning lading Alan McManus 12-4 and although he lost the first frame he wrapped it up in the next to win 13-5

Just as it had  been with Selby,it was expected that Barry Hawkins would quickly wrap up his quarter final having held an 11-5 overnight lead,but noone told Dominic Dale as the Welshman turned this into a Crucible classic.

In an extraordinary  start to the session Hawkins scored just 50 odd points in the first five frames as Dale roared back to trail by just one at 11-10. The next was more closely fought affair with Dale eventually getting the better of a safety exchange to level at 11-11 and unbelievably he took the next in similar circumstances to lead 12-11.

Hawkins head at this stage must have been spinning so it is testament to the player he has become that h managed to steady himself  up to make a 66 break and force the decider before a 65 in that eventually saw him over the line 13-12.

I'm sure after that,he wont need rocking to get to sleep tonight and a good nights rest will be important as things certainly wont get any easier in the semi final,where he faces defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Ronnie started this morning with a 6-2 lead over Shaun Murphy and although he seemed to be having problems with a new tip on his cue,he wasn't been put under any pressure by well below par Murphy.Leading 9-3 at the mid session interval Ronnie managed to take the next four frames to give himself a night off before starting his semi final at 1 pm tomorrow.

So what can we expect in the semi finals? Well Ronnie will start a short priced favourite to repeat his victory over Barry Hawkins here in last years final. and its hard to see past him doing it again.That said Ronnie.was pushed hard by Hawkins in that final.and he will need to be a little tighter early on in this one than he has been in his previous matches. I still don't see anything other than a Ronnie win though  and it may be a tad comfortable again Score Prediction 17-8 to Ronnie

The other semi final has the look of one of those Crucible crackers that could go all the way as two of the games hardest match players face off. of Course Selby & Robertson met earlier this season in the UK final with Robertson eventually coming out on top ,but that will have little bearing in this one.Going purely on form in this championship the favourite has to be Robertson,but I just have a feeling Selby might cause a slight upset here,There wont be much in it though either way. Score Prediction 17-15 to Selby

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

World Championship Day 11

The first day of quarter final action at the Crucible and although nothing is decided yet,tomorrow is going to have to be a day of remarkable comebacks if the leads gained in all matches today are to be overturned.

Defending champion Ronnie O Sullivan will take a 6-2 into tomorrow mornings second session against Shaun Murphy,but it could all have been so different if Murphy could have taken full advantage of a sluggish start from The Rocket.

A lot of Ronnies subsequent problems against Perry in the last round could be traced back to a bad start and he was again slow out the blocks here as Murphy took the first with a 101 and then the second with a 59 to lead 2-0. He really should have been 3-0,but O'Sullivan managed to nick it having got the snooker he required on the green and then clearing up.Murphy again had his chances in the next,but Ronnie again won it  to somehow go to the interval at 2-2.

From here Ronnie started to find some form,winning the next with a 72 to lead for the first time at 3-2 He then the next on the black to make it 4-2 ,before two majestic breaks of 94 & 134 gave him that 6-2 overnight lead.

Today was supposed to be the day we saw snooker history as Neil Robertson started out against Judd Trump needing one century to complete the ton of tons for the season,but its Trump who grabbed the headlines,with some of his best snooker in quite a while to lead this one 6-2 overnight. It had been Robertson who had taken the first frame here,before Trump quickly leveled things up at 1-1 The next also went to Trump as he took a 3-1 interval lead. From here he seemed to step things up a further notch,making it 4-1 with a run of 107 and then 5-1 with a run of 60. Robertson did stop the rot taking the next,but Trump knocked in another century,this time a 117 to take that 6-2 overnight lead.

In the other two matches it is surely only a matter of finishing things off tomorrow for Mark Selby & Barry Hawkins as they both enjoy big overnight leads.

The run of Alan McManus appears to be at an end as he trails Mark Selby. This clash between two of the games great tacticians had the potential to turn into a real war of attrition and it appeared that was the way it was going to turn out as McManus won a series of lengthy frames to lead 3-2 from 2-0 behind.Selby though found his range to go 4-3 before they payed the price for those long frames and were called in early

On resumption it was Selby who started to play better as McManus began to struggle to keep pace and the Leicesterman pulled away to move within touching distance of the semi finals with a 12-4 advantage.

Perhaps the most impressive performance of the day came from Barry Hawkins who leads Dominic Dale 11-5 after a day of high scoring from the 2013 runner up. breaks of 68,63,78 & 134 saw him lead 62 early on and he continued his fine form tonight to move to the brink of the semi finals and a possible meeting with the man who beat him in last years final Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Monday, 28 April 2014

World Championship Day Ten

Eight men remain in the hunt to be crowned the 2014 dafabet World Champion after todays conclusion of the four outstanding second round  matches.

It had seemed we were going to be in for quite an afternoon of action,with Neil Robertson & Mark Allen resuming,what,to then had been a closely fought encounter,that had seen the Aussie holding a 9-7 lead.It was only in that final frame last night that Robertson had established that two frame advantage that ultimately proved to be decisive,as he took the opening frame today and never looked back.

Its one of those rare things in sport to see someone so obviously "in the zone" but it is precisely what we saw this afternoon as Robertson took the next with a 69 to go 11-7. He immediately got in amongst them again in the next and the question now was could he make that bit of snooker history,his 100th century of the season. Agonisingly for him the answer was no as he missed a black on 94,but that was more enough to put him one away from victory at 12-7.  

The end came in the next frame with another near miss on the record,this time the break ending on 92,but that was the only disappointment in an afternoon of snooker of the highest quality People have been wondering where the challenge for Ronnie was going to come from and I think we can say it may well be the Aussie if he can keep up performances like this..

Of course we have a lot of snooker to be played before we can start thinking about that potential final and Shaun Murphy will certainly hope to have a say as he set up a quarter final clash with Ronnie,beating Marco Fu 13-8.

Murphy had also lead this one 9-7 overall and although the opening two frames here could have gone either way,they went to Murphy to see him lead 11-7.Into the next and a solid 75 from Murphy  moved him to 12-7.Fu was now at the point of no return and although he knocked in a 92 in frame 20 Murphy quickly finished it off after the interval, to book his quarter final place

In the other match to finish tonight Judd Trump finished off the challenge of Ryan Day before the mid session interval recording in the end a 13-7 win. As I said yesterday this scoreline was not really a fair reflection on the play in this one,with Day failing to finish off many frames  he should really have won. Trump though did play better here than he did in his first match,but will also know he'll need to step it up again if he is to push Robertson in their Quarter final match up.

The player with the most straight forward second round win was Dominic Dale who took the first frame this morning to complete a 13-4 win over Michael Wasley.

So that completes the quarter final line up.Here is the full list of  fixtures with added score predictions,all of which will probably serve to prove I'm useless at predictions!!

Ronnie O'Sullivan 13-6 Shaun Murphy
Barry Hawkins 13-3 Dominic Dale
Mark Selby 13- 5 Alan McManus
Judd Trump 11-13 Neil Robertson

Sunday, 27 April 2014

World Championship Day Nine.

Day nine of the dafabet world championship and although no match finished today the action was no less exciting,with some of the games big hitters trading blows

In past two seasons Neil Robertson & Mark Allen have run into each other at The Masters and on each occasion the match has gone down to a final frame decider,It is little wonder then,that this one was so close throughout both sessions played today with frames been traded one for one right up until the end of tonights session when Robertson nicked the last one to lead 9-7 overnight.

It would be a brave man though who would predict that this will be a decisive move and you get the feeling there could be plenty of turns left in this one yet. Regardless of how this finishes tomorrow afternoon though it would be a surprise if we're not toasting Robertson achieving the milestone of centuries of centuries in the season as two more today saw him sit on the 99 mark.

In another match that looks too close to call Shaun Murphy also holds a 9-7 lead over Marco Fu. This one which also started this morning saw the score at 4-4 following the first session before Murphy started like a man in a hurry tonight,winning the opening four frames to lead 8-4. Fu though has been in good form this season and fought back to make it 8-6 before Murphy ensured an overnight lead by making it 9-6.In an ultra important final frame though,Fu kept his hopes very much alive with a classy century to close to 7-9.They play to a finish tomorrow night.

Elsewhere Judd Trump is still on course for a quarter final place after sharing this afternoons session with Ryan Day moving the score from 6-2 overnight to 10-6, Trump has certainly played better in this one than he did in his first round match ,but Day will be ruing several missed chances that could have seen this one be a lot closer.

Dominic Dale also looks all but over the line as he leads Michael Wasley 12-4. Dale has played well here but the exertions of the last couple of weeks seem to have taken there toll on Wasley who hasn't looked the player he did against Ding.

All these matches will conclude tomorrow and by that stage we will be down to just eight players left in this years championship. Things are starting to get serious.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

World Championship Day Eight

Ronnie O'Sullivan's hopes of a third consecutive world crown  remain very much alive tonight ,but only after he produced snooker of the highest possible quality,winning the last two frames with superb centuries,to finally see off the determined challenge of Joe Perry. 13-11.

What was remarkable about yesterday afternoons session in this one was the fact that the twice Ronnie managed to get back within one of Perry,Joe managed to steady himself and pull away again.That was to repeat itself this morning as O'Sullivan took the opener,before Perry moved ahead again making it 10-8 Ronnie.who was showing signs his best form was within touching distance,took the trail 10-9,but Perry showed real bottle,capitalized on a missed red from Ronnie to make sure the first four frames were shared and to take an 11-9 interval lead.

It was now make or break tine for Ronnie and two good scoring visits saw him close with one again at 11-10 when play resumed. Both players had their chances in the next but the crucial moment of the frame and perhaps the match came when Perry potting the blue,attempted to split the reds and agonisingly saw the white drop in the corner pocket.From here Ronnie made 52 to draw level at 11-11 ,before producing those runs of 124 & 113 to get over the line.

His relief was there for all to see as turned to the crowd and punched the air as he left the arena,There are only a handful of players who have ever played the game who could have produced what Ronnie did today under that much pressure,but probably for him the most pleasing aspect of the match was the fact that he had managed to stay in it in the early stages,when he wasn't playing well and Perry was playing superbly.A match like this you feel,where he really had to work for it, can only stand him in goo stead for the rest of the tournament.

Elsewhere Barry Hawkins also booked his place in the quarter finals with a hard fought win over old rival Ricky Walden. These two met here in the semi final last year,where Walden at one stage held a four frame advantage at 12-8 before Hawkins fought back to win it 17-14 and history repeated itself here as Walden last night lead 9-5 with two frames of the session remaining,but saw that lead wiped out by todays midsession interval with the score tied at 10-10.

Things were getting tense now as that pressure you only get at The Crucible seemed to be getting to both players and two error strewn frames were shared to make it 11-11.From here it was going to come down to who managed to steady themselves the better and that was Hawkins as he took the next two frames to win the match 13-11.

In the battle of the veterans Alan McManus came out on top in a match that as expected was hard fought all the way. McManus had been the better player in the first session,until a late rally from Doherty reduced his arrears to 4-3 overnight and it was the Scot again who started the better today,winning the first six frames to lead 10-3. Doherty though has never been one to give up and won the last two of the session again to close to 10-5.

Into tonights final session and Doherty kept his run going reducing his arrears to 10-7 before McManus stopped the rot to lead 11-7.Doherty did pull one further frame back to make it 11-8 but it was McManus who prevailed,taking the next two to secure a 13-8 win and set up a quarter final clash with Mark Selby.

In other matches still in their infancy,Judd Trump leads Ryan Day 6-2 .although Day will be scratching his head as  to how he's four behind because this session was closer than that. & Dominic Dale has a commanding 7-1 lead over Dings conqueror  .Michael Wassley.

Friday, 25 April 2014

World Championship Day Seven

Day seven at the dafabet World Championship and Mark Selby became the first man through to the Quarter finals after a 13-9 victory over Ali Carter.

The first session of this one yesterday was high quality stuff with Carter winning the last two frames to trail Selby 5-3 overnight and although the quality wasn't as high today the pattern remained the same,with Selby always looked on the verge of pulling away and Carter holding on to his coattails without ever looking like drawing level. case in point the fact that Selby again at the end of the morning session held a four frame lead at 9-5,before Carter again won the last two to close the session 9-7 behind.

Into the night then and with the finish line in sight,both players would have realised the importance of starting well and it showed in a nervy opening frame that eventually went to Selby to make it 10-7. The next frame was to follow the same pattern,before again going to Selby and when he cleared with a break of 69 to win frame 19 from 63-0 behind to go 12-7 the end looked in sight,

This is Mark Selby though and as his fans know he doesn't often do things the easy way,He would let a great chance to win the match go in the next and again looked on the verge of victory in the 21st only to miss a red and allow it also go to Carter. The score was now 12-9 and things were starting to get interesting again,but Selby dispelled any thoughts of a comeback taking the next to win the match 13-9.

At the start of this championship Selby was perhaps the forgotten man of the tournament with all the talk mainly focusing on Ronnie,Ding & Robertson,but he will be a strong favourite for his last 8 match regardless of his opponent and who is to say this wont be "The Jesters" year.

Defending champion & odds on favourite for the title Ronnie O'Sullivan has his work cut out for him if he is to advance past round 2 here as he still trails Joe Perry by two at 9-7 following a dramatic session this afternoon.

It has been a long time since we saw Ronnie struggle at the Crucible the way he did last night,but it was widely expected that he would come out today with all guns blazing and regain a foothold in this match.That theory seemed to be bearing out as he took the opening frame with a 93 to close to within one at 5-4. Perry though was cuing beautifully and produced  two flawless frames to go three ahead again at 7-4,before a 66 from Ronnie closed it to 7-5 at the interval.

The 13th was a close affair with O'Sullivan clearing from the yellow to take it and make it 7-6. From here though just as he had done earlier Perry again produced his best snooker to take the next two with runs of 88 & 73 to go 9-7.

The last frame of the session was now massive in the context of the match and both players seemed to realise its significance as they both spurned chances to take it. the decisive moment came on the yellow and it was Ronnie who potted it and cleared to end the session as he began,two behind at 9-7.

They play to a finish in the morning and on the evidence of today what a session it promises to be  with Ronnie certainly playing a little better,if still not near his best and Perry cuing superbly all through,but just at the end of the session showing signs that as the finish line nears he might start to feel it.

The two grand old men of the tournament Alan McManus (43) & Ken Doherty (44) started their second round match today and  it is the Scot who holds the advantage at 4-3 after they had to be called in a frame early.McManus was definitely the better scorer of the two with runs of 69,102 & 71,but the Dubliner stuck in there to stay in touch and you feel theres plenty of mileage left in this one.They resume with the second session in the morning.

In the other match to start today Ricky Walden holds a 9-7 lead over Barry Hawkins after two sessions.Hawkins beat Walden in the semi final here last year and it was he who got off to the better start here leading 3-0 before Walden eventually got off the mark to make it 3-1 at the interval.That scoreline was then reversed in the last four frames to leave it houours even  at 4-4 going into the evening.

Here again it was Hawkins who got off to the better start taking the opener to lead 5-4.,but from here Walden seemed to find a different gear to,knocking in a couple of centuries on his way to winning five frames in a row and taking a 9-5 lead.Hawkins though wasn't for rolling over and he took the last two of the night to trail 9-7.They play to a finish tomorrow afternoon.