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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.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

World Championship Day Six.

Day Six at the dafabet World Championship finally brought an end to the first round as well as the opening shots been fired in round 2..

In the last of the first round matches Neil Robertson showed he is a real contender for the title here this year with a fabulous display of break building against Crucible debutant Robbie Williams in securing a 10-2 victory. Yes it could be argued that he wasn't been put under any pressure from an opponent who seemed to freeze on the games biggest stage,but you can't be but impressed with a display that included four more centuries,bringing his season total to 97. Among these was a superb 140 the highest of the tournament so far.

He will surely face a stiffer test when he comes up against Mark Allen in round two,but on this evidence he may well take some stopping here.

Earlier Dominic Dale won a match at the Crucible for the first time since the year 2000 when he rounded off a 10-5 win over Mark Davis. Leading 7-2 overnight Dale won the opening two frames of the afternoon to extend his lead to 9-2 before a brief rally from Davis closed it to 9-5.There was to be no big comeback though as Dale secured the the win in the next.

If this afternoons session is anything to go by,the second round of this years championship is where things start to come to the boil,with Mark Selby & Ali Carter serving up eight frames of high quality

Carter was quickest out of the blocks taking the opening frame to lead 1-0.From here it was Selby who started to find his game,winning two in a row to go 2-1 and that became 3-1 when he won the fourth on a respotted balck. That seemed to be a pivotal moment as he extended his advantage to 5-1 ,but Carter rallied late to leave things beautifully poised going into the mornings second session.

5-3 is also the overnight score in the other second round match to begin tonight,but its not to the man you might expect ,as its Joe Perry who holds that advantage over Ronnie O'Sullivan. It was always a case in this one that for Perry to have a chance,he needed a good start and that is what he got here against an unusually out of sorts O'Sullivan, Of course this sort of situation can bring its own pressures,but Perry seemed to be handling things well as he opened a 4-1. Ronnie at this stage rather belatedly found some form taking the next with a century ,before taking the next to make it 4-3. Perry though kept his composure to end the session with a deserved lead ,They resume tomorrow afternoon in what should be a fascinating session.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

World Championship Day Five

Day five at the dafabet World Championship and as the first round started to draw to a conclusion,the search for the player who might challenge the dominance of O'Sullivan here continued.

One thing for sure is,if that player is to be Judd Trump,he will have to improve greatly on what we have seen from him in his 10-8 victory today over Tom Ford.

After yesterdays hard fought first session,which had to be called ashore a frame early,it was Trump who started the day with a 6-2 lead,but in a session where it took Trump the guts of an hour to pot his first ball,it was Ford who made the running to close to within one at 6-5.He really could have leveled it up in the next ,but Trump managed to pull himself together enough to restore his two frame lead at 7-5.

The next two frames were shared to leave it 8-6,before Ford rallied again to level things up at 8-8.Another shock was certainly on the cards now and more worryingly for Trump it wasn't as if Ford was winning these frames in one visit.Into the 17th and both players again had chances,before Trump edged ahead again at 9-8.Victory came in the next as he took it to record a 10-8 win.

The old adage that as long as your still in the tournament you still have the chance to improve,most certainly applies to Trump here,but my God ho is going to have to if he is to stand a chance of going one better than he did in 2011 & lifting the title.

When all this was going on,on the other side of the screen Barry Hawkins was resuming with a 5-4 lead over David Gilbert having rallied late on in the first session,winning the last three from 4-2 behind to hold that overnight lead.

This run of frames for Hawkins was to continue,as Gilbert spurned three good chances to take the opening frame,allowing Hawkins to pounce with a 93 to make it 6-4. From here further contributions of 50,71 &53 saw Hawkins run away with this one and record an impressive 10-4 win over what looked a tricky opponent.

His second round opponent,in a repeat of last years semi final will be Ricky Walden

Another tie that looked tough on paper was the meeting of Marco Fu & Martin Gould. but it was the seed from Hong Kong who prevailed 10-7 in what was arguably the best match we've seen standardwise this week.

After the first session Fu lead 6-3,but Gould got out of the blocks here with a 66 to make it 6-4.Fu though,who has enjoyed a wondeful season,hit back immediately with breaks of 88 & 114 to lead 8-4. Back Gould came again to close to 8-6 before Fu won the next to go 9-6.A 69 clearance from Gould reduced the deficit to 9-7,but a run of 80 sealed the win for Fu to set up a mouth watering second round tie with Shaun Murphy.

In the other match completed today Mark Allen secured a first round win here for the first time in three years as he won all five frames played tonight to convert his 5-4 overnight lead into a 10-4 victory over Michael Holt. The standard in this one was once again not of the level we would expect from these two men,but Allen will be happy to be through,not least because he suffered a bout of food poisoning on the eve of the match.

This leaves two matches outstanding in round one,but it looks only a matter of dotting the i's & crossing the t's as Neil Robertson and Dominic Dale both hold 7-2 leads over Robbie Willliams & Mark Davis respectively

In other news today the big announcement from Barry Hearn turned out to be not as earth shattering as some had feared as he announced that the World Championship matches would remain best of 19  minimum for all rounds and that the top 16 would still automatically qualify for the Crucible.The big change was the news that the qualifiers would be decided by a flat draw for those ranked 17 to 144 with all former champions welcome to enter.

Also on this subject,the legends wildcards that had been touted didn't materialize,but instead we have places been made available for up to four multiple tournament winners if the full 128 places in the draw aren't filled .This of course raises the possibility of seeing Davis and Hendry still competing o the circuit should they so choose.

In other changes,the only two remaining ranking events on the circuit that don't use the flat 128 draw The Shanghai Masters & the Australian Open will both revert to this when their new contracts come into force over the next two years.

Finally he also announced that Latvia will also host its first European Tour event this coming. August.

Tomorrow see's the end of round one and of course the start of the best of 25 frame second round matches with \Ronnie O'Sullivan again in action

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

World Championship Day Four

Another day and another seed crashes out of the 2014 dafabet World Championship as four times champ John Higgins exited the tournament at the hands of fellow Scot and great friend Alan McManus.

McManus,having seen the late rally from Higgins yesterday afternoon that reduced his arrears from 6-1 to 6-3,would have been fully aware of the need to stamp his authority on this one again as they started out today and helped by some poor play from Higgins,thats what he did as he extended his lead to 8-3.Higgins won the next,but McManus moved to within one of victory,taking the last before the interval to lead 9-4.

It was at this stage though,that perhaps with a"nothing to lose" mentality that Higgins started to cue really well.he won the 14th with a 111 & when McManus ran out of position in the next he pounced again to make it 9-6. That became 9-7 with a 94 in 16th frame and suddenly a comeback which looked so unlikely a short time before was now most certainly on.

Into a tense 17th frame we went and after both player had had good early chances It looked McManus's for the taking until he missed the final red. This gave Higgins the chance to get another one on the board ,but when he overcooked a cut blue to the middle,McManus wasn't to let this chance slip and he cleared to record a famous 10-7 win.

For Higgins,this was more disappointment,but like all  his performances in the second half of this season there were enough glimpses of form to say if he can pull it together a little more consistently,he can still challenge for titles.McManus on the other hand can look forward to a second round clash with fellow veteran  Ken Doherty

In the other match that finished today Ricky Walden eventually saw off the challenge of Kyren Wilson 10-7 in a long mentally exhausting encounter.Walden,who lead 6-3 overnight extended that lead to 8-4 before Wilson staged a comeback to pull it back to 8-7.Walden was now visibly feeling it,but he eventually won the next to go 9-7.Both players were almost out on their feet at this stage and as the 17th frame turned into a comedy of errors lasting 73 minutes it was Walden who,despite having failed on several occasions to kill it off,eventually potted match ball yellow to collapse over the line.

When the draw was made one match that people a mark beside for its shock potential was the clash between Marco Fu & Martin Gould,but it is the man from Hong Kong who holds sway after their first session this morning. Fu was quick out of the traps in here to lead 2-0 & 4-1 before Gould rallied to close to 4-3. From here Fu pulled away again though and took the last two frames to take a 6-3 overnight lead.

Judd Trump started his campaign for a first world title this afternoon and I think its fair to say that if this is to be his year,he'll have to improve on what we saw this afternoon in a long error strewn session with Tom Ford.So slow was progress in this one that it had to be called ashore a frame early with Trump leading 6-2.
They play to a finish in the morning.

On the other table,last years runner up here Barry Hawkins also made a slowish start.but found his scoring boots late on to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 end of session lead over David Gilbert

Mark Allen will take a 5-4 lead into tomorrow after a mixed first session with Michael Holt where the story was more of frames been lost from the jaws of victory rather than of high quality snooker. That said Allen will be happy to hold that lead having gifted two consecutive frames to Holt to trail 4-3 before Holt returned the favour in the next to leave it 4-4.Allen then won the last to hold the slenderest of leads overnight.

Monday, 21 April 2014

World Championship Day Three

Day Three and the question was,after all yesterdays drama,what would today have in store,?Well the answer was every bit as much drama and more,as debutant Michael Wasley produced one of the biggest shocks in Crucible history to beat Ding Junhui.

To be honest this just didn't seem on the cards early on as,after a sluggish start yesterday afternoon,it looked like Ding had weathered the storm when he stretched into a 6-3 overnight lead.Any thoughts however that it was going to be straight forward afternoon for the Chinese were quickly put to bed by Wasley as he won the opening 3 frames to level things up at 6-6.Ding,who has a poor enough record at the Crucible was looking as ruffled as he has in a long time here he would have been relieved to win the next and lead at the interval 7-6.

After the interval Ding established a two frame lead at 8-6 and again looked to have got out of jail,but a lengthy 15th frame went to Wasley and the young Crucible debutant then leveled things up again at 8-8.So long had this session gone on that only one more frame could be played before they were pulled ashore for the start of the evening session and it went to Ding to put one from victory at 9-8.

Back they came then tonight for an unscheduled third session and Wasley produced a stunning 103 to level it up again and force the decider,In a frame similar to those we have seen so many times over the years at this great venue this decider was full of drama with both players having their chances before the decisive moment on the final red came with Wasley fluking it into the centre pocket.From here he cleared to the blue before having to endure some wonderfully laid snookers from Ding until his chance finally came and he slotted it in to seal a famous victory.

Dings poor record on the sports biggest stage continues then and its Michael Wasley who will play the winner between Mark Davis & Dominic Dale in round two, One thing for sure,after this he will fear noone.

Elsewhere,in what seems to be becoming the theme of the first round,Mark Selby survived a deciding frame shoot out with Michael White,the Leicsterman eventually coming through 10-9

Selby,who has had a poor season by his standard, would have been wary of his opponent coming here,so no doubt he was delighted with his start here as he lead 3-0 and 5-1.White though,who reached the quarter final here last season dug deep to end the morning session just the one behind at 5-4.

Into tonight and it was Selby again who started the quicker taking the first three frames  to open an 8-4 lead.White thoug, once again rallied and reeled off four frames of his own to level it up at 8-8.Selby regained his composure in the next to go 9-8,but White leveled again to ensure  we had a 19th and final frame.That frame was to go to Selby thanks in main to a timely break of 57 and the former world no.1 booked his place in the second round.

In the battle of the veteran Scots it is Alan  McManus who holds sway leading John Higgins 6-3 after their first session this afternoon.Indeed it could have been a lot worse for Higgins here as he trailed at one stage 6-1 before  a late rally kept his hopes alive,they play to a finish tomorrow morning.

If Higgins is looking for inspiration he need look no further than Joe Perry who set up a second round clash with Ronnie O'Sullivan after a spirited fightback from 6-3 overnight against Jamie Burnett Perry was quickly out of the blocks this morning,winning the opening two frames with breaks of 87 & 70 ,before a couple of scrappy ones also went his way to see him take the lead at 7-6.

That became 9-6 after the interval and although Burnett did pull one back with a 111,the end was not far away as Perry wrapped up the 10-7 win.

In the other match to begin today Ricky Walden holds a 6-3 lead over Kyren Wilson.They play to a finish tomorrow night.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

World Championship Day Two

The dafabet World Championship my be only in its second day,but we have already seen what makes this event so special after a day of high drama  at the Crucible Theatre.

Its hard to know where even to start with today,but I'll begin with the night session which produced two dramatic final frame deciders.

2005 champ Shaun Murphy had to dig deep into his reserves to finally get past a resurgent Jamie Cope 10-9 after a tense final session that really could have gone either way.The opening frame indeed was sign of what was to come as Cope got in first with a 64 break before missing a red & Murphy cleared with a 75 to level the match at 5-5.Cope,to his credit didn't let this get him down,won the next two to lead 7-5 before Murphy won the next to share the evenings spoils going to the interval.

Murphy also won the next to level things at 7-7,which was then followed by 8-8 and 9-9 to set up the decider this one had seemed destined to have from early on in the evening. In that deciding frame both players had their .chances,but it was Murphy who proved the stronger,finally sealing the victory on the pink. For him it will be much relief that he has survived this early potential banana skin,but also lets hope that Jamie can get over this disappointment and get back to where he was in the game before his troubles began a few seasons back.There is no doubt he is a super talent.

Meanwhile on the other side of the screen Stephen Maguire was battling for all he was worth against Ryan Day but to no avail as the Welshman held his nerve to win 10-9. This was a real high quality match and the fact that it went to a decider says much about Maguires fighting qualities as he trailed 8-4 and 9-6 at different stages in the. night.From 9-6 down he had actually produced some of his best snooker to reel off three in a row with runs of 58,74,& 91.Day though was also in good touch and he made the most of his chance in the last to get over the line with a break of 92.He now awaits the winner of Judd Trump & Tom Ford in round 2

The day had begun with Ken Doherty,the 1997 champion & grand old man of the tournament at 44, producing the first shock of the week beating Stuart Bingham 10-5. Bingham had lead 5-4 overnight,but after a very scrappy opening frame that could have gone either way,it was Doherty who found some form with breaks of 55 & 60 helping him to a 7-5 lead.Bingham was now all at sea and lost the next to go to the interval 8-4 down. On the resumption of play it was Doherty who again found his scoring boots to win the two he needed with runs of 57 & 60 and record a famous 10-5.

This was amazingly the first match \Ken has won here since 2006 and at this stage of his career he knows every victory on the games biggest stage is to be savoured. He can now sit back and relax for a day or two  as he awaits the victor between two players he knows very well John Higgins & Alan Mcmanus.

Two time runner up here Ali Carter also came through a tough test with Xiao Guodong with Carter finally getting the better of the Chinese 10-8 after a titantic struggle this afternoon. Carter had lead this one 5-4 overnight,but it was Xiao who got off to the better start today,winning the opening two frames to lead 6-5. Carter won frame 12 to level it at 6-6 and the next two were also shared to make it 7-7\Carter edged ahead again in the next to make it 8-7 and indeed looked set to make it 9-7  when he knocked in a 59 break in frame 16,but Xiao countered with a 69 of his own  to make it 8-8. From here though Carter proved the stronger and finally saw off his stubborn opponent winning the next two to win 10-8

People looking for someone to challenge O'Sullivan's recent dominance of this event have focused on five time ranking winner this season Ding Junhui,but the Chinese didn't have it all his own way in the opening session against Crucible debutant Michael Wasley and was maybe a tad lucky to have to be 3-3 after a decidedly shaky start.From there though he knocked in a wonderful 136 in opening up a 6-3 overnight lead with this one playing to a finish tomorrow afternoon.

Also finishing off in the morning session tomorrow are Joe Perry & Jamie Burnett with a shock very much on the cards here with Burnett holding a 6-3 lead.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

World Championship Day One

Day one at the 2014 World Championship and we started off the way last years championship finished,with a victory for Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Its one if the traditions in our sport of course ,that the defending champion completes his first match on the opening and it has often proved to be tricky in the past,but O'Sullivan put those fears to rest early here,quickly establishing a 3-0 lead,helped in part by a break of 124 before Robin Hull managed to get off the mark with a century of his own to make it 3-1

It looked like the Finn was going to pull another one back in the next,but Ronnie got the snooker he required on the yellow and cleared to go 4-1.From there the score was to go 5-1 before Hull got another frame on the board ,but Ronnie closed out the session,taking the final two frames to lead 7-2.

Into tonight then and it seemed Ronnie was mentally already in the next round as four scrappy frames before the interval were shared to leave it 9-2.On resumption of play,the end wasn't long coming as Ronnie wrapped up a comfortable 10-4 win which really taught us nothing other than that Ronnie is in Sheffield and brought his cue along.There will be far more testing days ahead in than this one.

Elsewhere Stephen Maguire has his work cut out for him if he is to advance to Round 2 as he trails Ryan Day 6-3 after their first session.The Scot, who has been struggling with a back injury of late,did get off to a good start here taking the opening frame before Day responded with a 130 break to level it up and the next two were also shared to go to the interval at 2-2

From here Days high quality break building continued as he moved to 4-2 before also taking a couple of scrappier ones to lead 6-2. These were now worrying times for Maguire,but he at least managed to keep himself in with a chance,winning the last to make it 6-3 & set up a big final session tomorrow evening.

Also finishing off tomorrow night,in what is already looking like it could be one of the sessions of the tournament,will be Shaun Murphy & Jamie Cope and this one couldn't be more delicately poised with Cope leading 5-4.

This was another high quality session and indeed Murphy will,probably with some justification,be wondering how he is behind having played some wonderful stuff,but behind he is having seen his 4-2 lead turn into a 5-4 deficit.

Another match with nothing in it is the clash between  Stuart Bingham and the 1997 champ Ken Doherty with Bingham also holding a slender 5-4 lead. The standard in this one wasn't of the highest order,but it was Bingham who took the early lead at 3-0. Doherty to his credit battled back to 3-2. Bingham made t 4-2 before Doherty pulled it back to 4-3 with a 91 before letting a couple of glorious chances to level it up slip through his hands as Bingham made it 5-3, Doherty did win the last to set things up nicely for their final session in the morning.

Finally in another match that is too close to call Ali Carter leads Crucible debutant Xiao Guodong 5-4.It was Carter who had taken the early initiative in this one leading 4-1 before the Chinese came back strong to level it up at 4-4.The final frame of the session could have gone either way,but it was Carter who took it to lead by the smallest of margins going into the second session tomorrow afternoon.

So concludes day one then and with all the above in mind,we seem set to be in for quite a day two tomorrow.

Friday, 18 April 2014

World Championship preview

Here we go then,after a wonderful week of drama at the qualifiers,we are now just one day away from the start of the tournament that most snooker fans have been  probably been looking forward to since we saw Ronnie hold aloft the trophy last May bank holiday Monday.

Firstly before I get into this preview a word on the qualifiers which this year provided as much excitement as any full tournament we've seen this season,with a raft of close finishes,including two respotted black ball deciders,Xiao Guodong,Kyren Wilson,Michael Wasley & Robbie Williams all coming through to make the Crucible for the first time and the ending of few era's with former champions Peter Ebdon & Mark Williams both failing to qualify,as well as Steve Davis falling off the main tour.

On to the main event then and what a difference a year makes.On the eve of last years championship the talk was of how would Ronnie O'Sullivan perform after a year out of the game.Well one year on and we now know that only did Ronnie show up in splendid form at The Crucible & claim his fifth World title,but also in his limited outings this season he has appeared in equally good form,claiming the titles at The Champion of Champions,The Masters & the Welsh Open.It is for this reason that he starts this years event as a very short priced favourite,Indeed it could be argued that this preview could end here as it may simply be the case that if he turns up in that sort of  form again, there is noone who can stop him. equaling the modern day efforts of Ray Reardon & Steve Davis & sealing a sixth world crown

So what if Ronnie isn't his peak here,who are the other contenders?Well the obvious place to start is with Ding Junhui,who,in Ronnies absence,has dominated the year,finally shaking off his inability to win on home soil and equaling the record held by Stephen Hendry of winning five ranking titles in a season. His record to date in the World Championship has been sketchy in the past,but he did reach a semi final here three years ago and is arguably playing better now than ever.If he and Ronnie both win through their sections,they will meet in the semi final & what a prospect that would be,

The other man who has grabbed the headlines this season has been Neil Robertson as he has smashed the centuries in a season record & still holds an outside chance of making it a century of centuries in the season. For all that though and despite winning the UK Championship,i'm sure he would swap all records for a couple more titles to his name.Also of late he has shown a few signs of burnout from a busy year & although he deserves great credit for his battling efforts to defend his China Open title recently,reaching the final despite suffering from the flu,he may regret that trip now and I just don't see this being his year.

If Robertson has been struggling a little of late,that and more applies to Mark Selby who has had,for the most part,a season to forget.The successes he has had have been more down to his battling qualities than any sort of form and unless this improves drastically  it would be a shock if he could grind his way to the title.

Other players of note are 2005 champ Shaun Murphy who has been in fine form of late,but you feel would have to step it up again for a potential QF with Ronnie.John Higgins who of course has been successful over course and distance four times,but of late despite showing some signs of revival has also just started to throw in that odd unexpected miss that seems to curse great players just as their game begins to go into decline.& Judd Trump who comes here completely under the radar after a quite season,but may very well be the player who emerges from the section of the draw including Stephen Maguire, Mark Allen & Robertson.

AS you may have gathered from the above I really can't see past Ronnie O'Sullivan here but anything can happen & I'm sure every player who walks down those famous Crucible steps into the arena will firmly believe they can be the last man standing come May 5th.

Recommended Bets.
John Higgins to win his quarter 7/2
Judd Trump to win his quarter  2/1

Full first round draw

Top half
Ronnie O'Sullivan v Robin Hull
Joe Perry v Jamie Burnett
Shaun Murphy v Jamie Cope
Marco Fu v Martin Gould
Barry Hawkins v David Gilbert
Ricky Walden v Kyren Wilson
Mark Davis v Dominic Dale
Ding Junhui v Michael Wasley

Bottom half
Mark Selby v Michael White
Ali Carter v Xiao Guodong
John Higgins v Alan McManus
Stuart Bingham v Ken Doherty
Judd Trump v Tom Ford
Stephen Maguire v Ryan Day
Mark Allen v Michael Holt
Neil Robertson v Robbie Williams

Friday, 11 April 2014

Steve Davis relegated from the tour.

At a time approaching 1am,in a venue within walking distance of The Crucible Theatre,the final curtain fell,(for now at least) on the 36 year professional career of Steve Davis,as he bowed out of the World Championship qualifiers,going down 10-8 to Craig Steadman.

Coming in to this Steve knew he was in the position that to remain in the top 64 in the rankings he needed to at least win his way through one qualify round,but sadly that proved beyond him.That is not to say he went down without a fight,indeed having trailed at one stage 9-5 he showed all the experience and ringcraft that 36 yrs on the tour gives you to grind his way back to 9-8. Both players at this stage were nearly out on their feet,but in the end a missed green to the middle from Steve was to prove the key moment as Steadman potted green,brown & blue to seal the victory.

With the battle to stay on tour becoming so tight in recent months,you have to wonder,though he is unlikely to admit it publicly,does Steve now regret foregoing his place in the UK Championship and a couple of PTCs before it in favour of doing "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here".Yes it could be argued that he still had plenty of chances to make up the ground on his return,but the pressure had by then increased and it was always going to be a big ask.So it proved here.

So what now for the 56 year old six times former World Champion? Well if as he has stated in recent he wishes to continue to play until he is 60 he still has a couple of options he can pursue.Firstly he could enter Q school in May with the prize for those who qualify of a two year tour card or alternatively he can enter all next seasons PTC events as an amateur and regain he place through the order of merit.

It is therefore unlikely,even if he is not a professional right now,that we have heard to last of Steve Davis as a snooker player,but even so as I watched him pack away his cue at 1 am last night,the hint of a tear falling from my eye,it certainly felt like the end of an era

Sunday, 6 April 2014

China Open Final .Ding wins again.

Ding Junhui's remarkable season continued today in Beijing as he beat Neil Robertson 10-5 to claim the 2014 China Open title and with it equal Stephen Hendry's record of five ranking titles in a single season.

The feeling coming into this one was that the start was probably more important to Robertson than Ding as coming after a week where the Aussie had come through illness and some tough matches,it was questionable if he would have enough in the tank to raise it again if he fell behind. With that in mind,the match couldn't have started worse for him as Ding came out of the blocks fast with breaks of 87 & 61 helping him go 3-0 up.

Robertson won the next to but Ding again asserted to win the next three to lead 6-1.Robertson did at least manage to win the eighth frame with a 102 break to move his seasons total to 93 and keep alive his hopes of the century of centuries,but Ding also took the last of the session to lead 7-2.

Robertson took the opening frame of the night to make it 7-3 ,but a 104 quickly established Dings five frame lead,before the next two were shared leaving the Chinese on the brink at the interval leading 9-4.Robertson won the first after the interval,but Ding was not to be denied taking the next to claim the title 10-5.

Where do you start when summing up this achievement by Ding. Last season when we had 10 different winners of the seasons ranking titles the word was that in this modern era we would never see a time where one player dominated again.I think that theory has been well and truly blown out of the water by this season.

What is perhaps even more impressive about this run by Ding is that for so many seasons the pressure of playing in China seemed to strangle him,to the point we wondered if he he would ever give his home fans the victories they craved. Well three ranking titles on home soil this season have put that fear to bed.

So one more tournament remains of this 2013/14 season and its the big  at the Crucible in two weeks. It seems strange that a man who has won five ranking titles wont be going there as a heavy favourite for the title,but that says more about  the way Ronnie O'Sullivan has blown everyone away the last two years than anything else.That said these two are in the same half of the draw and so could meet in the semi finals.If there is to be any slip from Ronnie,Ding could very well be the one to capitalize on it.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

China Open Semi Finals round up + Final preview

The final of 2014 China Open will see two of the players who have forged the narrative of this season square off against each other as ,defending champion Neil Robertson takes on,four time ranking winner this season Ding Junhui for the top prize of £ 85,000.

I'd say if anyone told Neil Robertson last Monday that he would be in the final tomorrow he would have laughed at them,such was the state of his health as he battled the flu,but to his credit he battled for every ball all week and in the last two days has seemed to be back to something approaching normality.The manner of his victory today over Ali Carter will certainly be a tonic to him.

As Robertson fought his demons earlier in the week the matches were characterized by scrappy frames,but that wasn't the case here,as breaks of 69,79 & 70 saw him open up a 4-0 lead.Carter briefly rallied after the interval,taking the fifth on the black having come from well behind & the closing to 4-2 with a break of 106 .This revival was to prove short lived however a 67 break moved  Robertson to 5-2 & he cleared to win the next and seal his final place with a 6-2 victory.

His final opponent will be home favourite Ding Junhui after the Chinese brought the fairytale run of Mike Dunn to an end with a comfortable 6-0 win. Ding was not at his free flowing best here,but in truth he didn't have to be,as Dunn failed to take advantage of any scoring chances that came his way.

This all of course wont matter the Ding whose remarkable season rolls on.This will be his sixth ranking final of the season and with four already in the bag he will really be up for the fight to equal Hendrys record of five in a season.Strangely,considering for how long playing at home seemed to weigh heavily on his shoulders,the fact that this final will be before such an enthusiastic crowd may well help him achieve this.

For that reason,plus the fact that I feel Robertsons exertions this week will have to eventually take there toll I'm going for a Ding win by a score of something around 10-6

Friday, 4 April 2014

China Open Quarter Finals Day

Quarter final day at the 2014 China Open and despite the fact we had the defending champion as well as the local hero in action there is really only one place we can start.

Mike Dunn has been a professional for the last 23 years,but up to this week had never before gotten beyond the last 16 of a ranking event.That however is now no longer the case as the 42 year old today overcame World no.2 Mark  Selby 5-3 to record what is surely the biggest win of his career & reach the semi finals.

There was little sign of what was to come early on as Selby,despite losing the opening frame,produced runs of 51 & 68 to take a 2-1 lead, From here things got a little scrappy and Dunn took the next two on the black before Selby won another close frame to level it up a 3-3. From here Dunn produced his highest break of the match,a 63,to lead 4-3 and he held himself together to take a lengthy eighth frame to seal a famous victory.

His reward for this is a semi final against the home favourite Ding Junhui after the Chinese once again delighted his fans with a 5-2 win over Mark King.

It was Ding who raced out of the blocks in this one to go into an early 3-0 thanks to breaks of 53,67 & 69.King to his credit battled back,taking the next two to make it 2-3,but it was Ding who again pulled away to secure the win.

In the other half of the draw a slightly healthier looking Neil Robertson held off a gritty fightback from Graeme Dott to take his place in the semi finals with a 5-3 win.The first couple of frames were shared in this one before Robertson opened up a 3-2 lead at the interval. The fifth frame appeared to be the pivotal moment of the match after Dott,having forced a respot surrendered it easily allowing Robertson to go 4-1 ahead.

Dott as we know though is a fighter and he quickly took the next two frames to close to 4-3.He also had a decent scoring chance in the next ,but failed to make most of it and defending champion Robertson moved one step closer to retaining his crown sealing the win 5-3.

Robertson's semi final opponent will be Ali Carter,who is doing his best here this week to finish a difficult season on a high.Today he faced Ricky Walden and looked in fine touch as breaks of 61,51 & 75 saw him open up a 3-1 interval lead. Walden did come out the stronger on the resumption,but having seen the score go 3-3 it was Carter who once again pulled away to win 5-3.

So now we have four men remaining in the hunt for the title and although logic dictated that we are looking at a Roberson v Ding final,we have seen many stranger things happen in this game to allow us be able to state that with any confidence.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

China Open Last 16 round up.

Eight players still remain in the  hunt for the 2014 China Open after todays action in Beijing.

Among them,somehow is the defending champion Neil Robertson who,despite still suffering from a flu like virus,showed a deep desire to defend his title by coming through in another final frame decider 5-4,this time against Yu Delu.So obvious is his discomfort that I don't think any snooker fan would have thought any less of him for pulling out of this event,but to his great credit he has battled for every frame in every match and although it hasn't been pretty at times,he is still here.

He will face another test of his resolve in the next round where he faces Graeme Dott after the Scot beat young Belgian star Luca Brecel 5-2. 

Home favourite Ding Junhui produced probably the best snooker of the tournament so far when he beat JOhn Higgins 5-2 to book his quarter final place, The score here could have been a lot closer,but for a Higgins miss on frame ball yellow as he tried to level things up at 3-3.Ding pounced to clear to make it 4-2 and never looked back as he sealed victory in the next with a classy break of 124.

He will now face mark King who brought the fine run of Jamie O'Neil to an end,beating him in the end 5-3.

Ricky Walden also produced a fine performance to get past recent World Open Champion Shaun Murphy 5-3 and he will now play Ali Carter who put his seasons struggles behind him to beat Peter Ebdon also by a scoreline

Elsewhere Mark Selby ended the hopes of Jimmy White beating the veteran 5-1,a scoreline which doesn't do justice to how close some of the frames were,and he will now meet  Mike Dunn who beat Craig Steadman 5-3.

Quarter Finals Draw
Ricky Walden v Ali Carter
Neil Robertson v Graeme Dott
Mike Dunn vMark Selby
Ding Junhui v Mark King

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The China Open -The story so far.

The 2014 China Open is down to the the last 16 after today action,so here in highlight form are the stories so far.

1.Defending champion Neil Robertson is still in the hunt to defend his title after todays 5-4 victory over Mark Williams,This despite the fact that he is still quite obviously feeling the effects of a recent virus.He will now face Yu Delu who continued his fine recent form beating James Wattana 5-1.

2.Home favourite Ding Junhui.s pursuit of a fifth ranking title this season also continues after his 5-3 Un-Nooh. His next opponent,in what is undoubtedly the tie of the round,is John Higgins who seems this week to be building on some recent good performances,Here he got through with  5]1 win over Michael White.

3.In the shock of the tournament so far the 2011 champion, Judd Trump crashed out 2012 champion Peter Ebdon,going down 5-4.Up next for him in the last 16 is Ali Carter.

4.Jimmy White has done his chances of retaining his tour place no end of good by winning his opening two matches here in good style.That moves him up to 59 in the rankings & I would guess all but assures him his place for next season.He now faces Mark Selby tomorrow

5.Belgium's  young star Luca Brecel will make what has been this season a rare last 16 appearance  here after his win over Dominic Dale 5-1.He'll now face the gritty Scot  Graeme Dott.

6.Shaun Murphy has shown his recent good run of form was no flash in the pan as he reached the last 16 here only dropping one frame, Up next for him is Ricky Walden.

Heres a full list of tomorrows Last 16 matches
Neil Robertson v Yu DeLu
Luca Brecel v Graeme Dott
Shaun Murphy v Ricky Walden
Ali Carter v Peter Ebdon
Ding Junhui v John Higgins
Mark King v Jamie O'Neil
Craig Steadman v Mike Dunn
Jimmy White v Mark Selby