Follow by Email

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

UK Championship Preview

Today the eyes of the snooker world focus on York for the start of the 2015 UK Championship.

This of course is traditionally the games second biggest prize and despite what has seemed a determined effort to destroy it recent years,it still remain so in the minds of most snooker people.

Personally I still can't understand why this event couldn't have been  given a similar protected status to that given to the World Championship,but we are where we are and 128 players will start out today in the hope of lifting the title.

One man who isn't there is the defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan,who is still to play a competitive shot this season,though reports at the weekend suggest he will be back for the Masters.

In his absence we are left with a wide open tournament that you could maybe name 6 or 7 players as the winner and any one of them wouldn't be a surprise.

On the evidence of this season so far John Higgins would have to high on anyones list of contenders.A years ago it seemed his career was in terminal decline,but he has lifted two ranking titles already this season & a repeat of the form he showed in the International Championship would make him man to beat here.

Other players who will be buoyed up by recent good form will be Neil Robertson,who won the recent Champion of Champions & the man he beat in that final Mark Allen who had lifted the a PTC event the week before.

Things have not gone so well this season for our world champions Stuart Bingham,who has struggled under the weight of the crown,but the chance to hold both titles at the same time might give him an extra incentive here.

Also in the "yet to set the world on fire" category we can put the likes of Mark Selby & Judd Trump you can never rule either of these two men out & indeed that can be extended to Ding Junhui & Shaun Murphy.

So all in all we are in for 12 days of fascinating snooker with the BBC coverage starting at the weekend.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

International Championship - Higgins Rules Supreme

John Higgins today added the 2015 International Championship title to his list of career wins beating David Gilbert 10-5 in the final in Daqing.

This,Higgins second title of the season,having already lifted the Australian Open in July,will have all the more significance for the Scot,because it draws him level with his boyhood hero Steve Davis on the 28 ranking title mark.

Strangely that 28th title for Davis came in the Welsh Open in 1995 where he beat a 19 year old John Higgins & it was in the Welsh Open earlier this year that Higgins finally ended a 29 month title drought,a win that it now seems has sparked new life into a career that was just threatening fade out.

Any obituaries that were been written then though can now well and truly be torn up as what we saw this week was the vintage Higgins that lifted three world titles in five years between 2007-2011.

The final itself  was a high quality affair and his opponent David Gilbert,who was appearing in his first ranking final,can maybe curse his luck a bit that he ran into someone playing so well,as on another day,against another opponent, he could really have gone close to his maiden victory

As it was he did well here to stay in touch for so long and may will look at a couple of possible turning points like in frame 6 where Higgins nicked it on the colours and frame 13 where he missed a tricky red on 54 & Higgins dished with 88 to to go 8-5.It was that frame that seemed to finally break the Englishman as he lost the next two after the interval to go down 10-5.

Gilbert has always struck me as one of those players who might just be one good run in a big tournament away from really kicking on & making a name for himself in the game.Hopefully now for him that time has come.

Today though belongs to John Higgins.As well as drawing him level with Davis, this win also moved him ahead of Ronnie O'Sullivan on the ranking titles list. That seemed unlikely to happen around this time last yr as Ronnie was claiming a fifth UK title & Higgins was struggling so badly for form.Here we are now though almost 12 months later with Ronnie yet to hit a ball in anger this season and Higgins looking to the future with renewed hope.Not only that,he seems to have also rediscovered the consistency that is needed to compete for the games real big prizes.A fifth world title for the Wizard of Wishaw come next May anyone?

Thursday, 29 October 2015

International Championship Quarter final round up.

And then there were 4 after a day of hard matchplay snooker at the the International Championship in Daqing.

The first semi final tomorrow will see Thepcheaiya Un_Nooh face David Gilbert after both came through tough deciding frames to book their places in the last four.

Un-Nooh of course has been no stranger to deciders this week having played four of them already just to reach this stage and he showed what good form he was in,turning a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead. Mark Allen though is no pushover and pulled it back to level things up at 4-4.From here the standard upped another gears Un-Nooh knocked in a 99 break to go 5-4 only for a 114 from Allen made it 5-5.

Into that decider then and it was Un-Nooh who was always in control of it to run out the 6-5 winner.

Meanwhile on the other table David Gilbert was battling it out against the 2013 runner up Marco Fu.

 This was a real high quality encounter with Fu looking in great touch as he opened up a 4-2 with the help of breaks of 66,72 & 89.Gilbert though is one of those players who has threatened for a long time to make a name for himself in the game and maybe now that time has come.He levelled things up here at 4-4 before a break of 130 put one away from the match at 5-4.Fu though levelled with a 78 to make it 5-5.

The decider here was a real nailbiter and looked to be going the way of Fu ,but Gilbert held his nerve to clear from the last two reds and seal the 6-5 victory on the black.

If the semi final line up in the top is a surprising one,there is something quite familiar about the two who will contest the one in the other half of the draw.

Mark Selby stayed in contention for the title with a 6-4 victory over Neil Robertson.

There is always a danger when these two hardened match players face each other that they may well cancel each other out and so it seemed today as both struggled to find any real fluency.The telling move in this came when Selby took three frames in a row to lead 4-2 and although Robertson knocked a 127 to get within one again at 5-4 ,Selby did enough to get over the line 6-4.

John Higgins seemed t be picking up where he left off yesterday against Murphy when he raced into a 4-0 lead early on here against Joe Perry.This was indeed a run of 15 consecutive frames over three matches from Higgins,but Perry stopped the rot taking the next and he gradually dragged himself back into it.

Higgins was now feeling the pressure ,but managed to pot a superb pink in frame nine and followed it with the black to seal a 6-3.

So now we are down to the final four we revert to a single table set up and that rarest of things in todays game,a best of 17 semi final.Lets savour a weekend of glorious snooker drama

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

International Championship Last 16 round up

Last 16 day at the International Championship and as is often the case at this stage of a big event,we the usual mix of one sided matches & closes finishes.

Undoubtedly the performance of the day came from John Higgins who produced the kind of display that was once his trademark to ease past Shaun Murphy 6-0. This on paper looked like the tie of the round,but such was the scoring power on display from Higgins that the writing was on the wall here from early on.Breaks of 56,74 & 62 saw him to 4-0 at the interval,but if anything he stepped up another gear when they resumed & a break of 138 & 78 sealed an impressive victory.

As Higgins was easing his way into tomorrows quarter final the man he will next face was in a fight all the way deciding frame on one of the outside tables,It could all have been much easier for Joe Perry as he stood one frame from victory at 5-2,but back came Ben Woollaston,taking the next three to level at 5-5.Perry though held his nerve in the decider to go through 6-5.

World no.1 Mark Selby was far from his best today ,but in truth he didn't need to be as he was presented chance after chance by his Welsh opponent Michael White.The Leicesterman ran out a comfortable 6-3 winner in the end,but will surely have to up his game in the next round against his old adversary Neil Robertson.

Robertson for his part saw off the challenge of Graeme Dott by a scoreline of 6-1,the decisive moment in this one coming in frame 5 where needing a snooker with just pink & black remaining, Robertson got one and then cleared potted the two remaining balls to lead 4-1.From here he quickly mopped things up with runs of 73 & 75 to seal the win.

In the top half of the draw Mark Allen brought the run of Tian Pengfei to an end with a 6-1 win & will now play Thepchaiya Un-Nooh who beat Zhou Yuelong 6-5.The quarter final line up will be completed by Marco Fu who beat Jimmy Robertson 6-3 & David Gilbert who beat Dings conqueror Ryan Day 6-4

Quarter Finals
Mark Allen v  Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Marco Fu v David Gilbert
Mark Selby v Neil Robertson
John Higgins v Joe Perry

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

International Championship Last 32 round up.

Last 32 day at the International Championship in Daqing and on another busy day of action here are the headlines.

Home favourite Ding Junhui bowed out to his old nemesis Ryan Day after their match went to their customary deciding frame,the Welshman winning in the end 6-5.He'll next face David Gilbert who kept up his fine recent form with a 6-4 victory over Oliver Lines.

World no.1 Mark Selby gained a small bit of revenge against his Crucible conqueror Anthony McGill,winning comfortably here 6-1 to set up a last 16 clash Michael White who bear Lee Walker 6-3

Neal Robertson came through a tough examination against Fergal O'Brien bating the Irishman 6-3 and will now face Graeme Dott who beat Peter Ebdon by the same scoreline.

In what on paper looks to be the standout match of the last 16 Shaun Murphy will face John Higgins,Murphy having beating Jamie Jones 6-2 & Higgins coming from 3-1 down to bear Michael Holt 6-3.

There wont be back to back ranking titles for Kyren Wilson after the recent Shanghai Masters winner went down 6-3 to Mark Allen.He will now play an in form Tian Pengfei who followed up his win earlier in the week over defending champion Ricky Walden,with a 6-3 victory today over Liang Wenbo.

Mark Williams went down 6-5 to Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and he will play Zhao Yuelong who took care of Sanderson Lam by the rather more comfortable scoreline of 6-0.

Elsewhere Yu Delu couldn't repeat the performance that saw him beat world champion Stuart Bingham in the last round as he went down 6-5 to Ben Woollaston .He will now play Joe Perry who beat Dominic Dale 6-3 & finally Jimmy Robertson produced some snooker to beat Barry Hawkins 6-4 & will ow play Marco Fu who beat Jack Lisowski 6-3.

Last 16 draw
Tian Pengfei v Mark Allen
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v Zhao Yuelong
Jimmy Robertson v Marco Fu
David Gilbert v Ryan Day
Mark Selby v Michael White
Graeme Dott v Neil Robertson
Shaun Murphy v John Higgins
Joe Perry v Ben Woollaston

Monday, 19 October 2015

The season so far plus other bits & bobs.

Maybe its the first  real signs of a winter chill in the mornings,or the gradual drawing in of the evenings or maybe even the fact I attended a wonderful exhibition last night as Steve Davis & Ken Doherty entertained an enthusiastic theatre full of snooker fans,but I figured today was as good a day as any to fire up this blog again for the long season ahead.

Today,indeed saw the start of the Haining Open,the first of seasons Asian Tour event & next weekend sees the start of the International Championship,but more of that later in the week when I will be writing preview.For now though I'll quickly look back at what we've seen so far this 2015/16 season.

In a summer where we haven't seen quite as much snooker as we have in recent years,not in itself a bad thing,we have none the less been treated to a couple of superb finals.

The first of these was in the Australian Open in Bendigo where in the first round saw home favourite Neil Robertson  crash out 5-4 to Matt Selt,a fate which also befell to the first reigning world champion to make the trip down under Stuart Bingham who went down 5-4 to Fergal O'Brien.

The title itself though was to go to John Higgins who,despite turning 40 only a few weeks before this event,proved there was still life left in the "Wizard of Wishaw"as he came through a thrilling final of the highest quality with Martin Gould by a scoreline of 9-8..

This was the 27th ranking title of his illustrious career and whereas another world title may at this stage prove to be beyond him,you certainly wouldn't rule out another ranking title victory which would draw him level with Steve Davis on the all time list.

If Higgins victory was a salute to the golden era of the last 20 yrs,then the victory of Kyren Wilson in the Shanghai Masters was very much one for the next generation as the 23 year old produced some stunning snooker to claim his first ranking title with a superb 10-9 win over Judd Trump.

This was another really thrilling final with Wilson digging deep on more than one occasion to hold off a spirited Trump fightback,before clinching that decider with a fine 75 break.Such was the level of his displays in this tournament we will surely be seeing a lot more of this young man who bucked the recent trend of victories for the thirtysomethings.

Also this summer  have seen three of the European Tour events with,Barry Hawkins winning the Riga Open with a 4-1 final win over Tom Ford,Ali Carter lifting all our hearts as well as the trophy in the Paul Hunter Classic with a 4-3 victory over Shaun Murphy and Rory Mcleod,at the ripe old age of 44,claimed his first title with a 4-2 win over Tian Pehgfei in the Ruhr Open.

Away from the table the it has to be said man causing the most stir on social media has surprisingly been Shaun Murphy.

The first of his utterances to get people talking was his well thought out proposal of reducing the main tour  to 64 from 128,with the top 48 keeping there places every year and the other 16 places been filled from a new challenge tour.

I actually think this wouldn't be the worst idea in the world.Since the game has gone to the flat 128 draw I think certain events have lost their narrative with the UK Championship been all but destroyed as a event which is supposed to be the second biggest in game.

We also have first round matches been played long before the actual event and even worse in places where large numbers can be accommodated we have events been squashed into a tight schedule.Less players allow tournament organisers a little more breathing space and maybe even allow a return to some even slightly longer formats instead of these annoying best of 7's.

The other topic that Shaun seemed to start the debate on during the recent Ruhr Open was the subject of a shot clock. I'm not sure if he had started this before or after the record for the longest frame was smashed by Alan McManus & Barry Pinches as they broke 100 minute barrier,but it seemed to grow legs after that with everyone seeming to want to throw in their two cents worth.

Lets though just draw a line through this immediately.The day a shot clock is introduced to the game is the day the music dies.No discussion,no arguments, no exceptions.It would be the day the game of snooker as we know it dies.

Anyway thats all from me for now .As I said above I'll be back later in the week with a preview for the International Championship.Until then happy snookering.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

World Championship 2015 - What did we learn?

Well thats all folks,a season that started way back in China last June  comes to an end with a memorable final last night in Sheffield and the crowning of a new world champion So as the dust settles on another Crucible marathon and Stuart Bingham rides off into the sunset with the sports most coveted title,just what have we learned over the last 17 days?

Well there is only one place to start and that is with our new champion.Stuart Bingham is hardly a new name to snooker fans,but I'm sure most people like myself only ever looked on him as being a solid pro,capable of producing the odd big result against one of the top players,but not someone who would ever win one of the "big Three". Boy did he prove us wrong here.Not only did he produce some superb snooker, to win this title,he managed to produce it when under the most severe of pressure.There is no greater measure of a true champion than that.

Staying with the final Shaun Murphy showed us again in defeat just what a gentleman he is and you got the feeling his words of praise were not just meaningless soundbites,but genuinely heartfelt.No doubt he will be devastated to lose the final,but he can look back on a championship where he produced perhaps his best snooker at the Crucible since he lifted the title in 2005 and following on from a great season,this leaves him well placed to challenge for the games big prizes again next season.

Judd Trump can also look back on a season where he started to get his career heading the right way again,but will no doubt feel he may have left this title behind him,such was his standard in the early rounds.I got the distinct impression,especially in the first session again Bingham in the semi finals,Judd was suffering a little from the "expecting to be playing Ronnies"and may have underestimated his opponent.(Something we were all guilty of with Bingham). Of course everyone expects that one day Trump will be a world champion and while I share that view,nothing is guaranteed.If he can build on his efforts this season though,it is more likely that day will come than not.

From talk of a potential future champion to some great champions of the past and perhaps the signs we are nearing the end for the "class of '92". It has seemed for a couple of seasons that the chances of John Higgins or Mark Williams adding to their world title tallies were slim,but  maybe now the that is  also the case for the most decorated of that trio,Ronnie O'Sullivan. Ronnie just didn't seem to ever settle into this tournament and  as he has been since the Welsh Open,he  was strangely irritable. In my preview blog for this tournament I said that I felt if Ronnie had claimed his sixth title last year against Selby,that I had no doubt he'd be winning a seventh here.The fact is he didn't and there is now a strong possibility that he may not have it to challenge for the title here again.

As they say time or tide though wait for no man and there will always be players coming along to take their place.The question is where are they?

We constantly hear of all these great young players coming through,but the evidence just isn't there to support it.Bingham at 38 winning his first world title is seven years older than Davis & Hendry were when they won their last and it comes on the back of a season where seven of the nine players who won ranking titles were 31 or older.People will point to the likes of Michael White,Luca Brecel & Anthony McGilll who shocked Selby here as well as others,but a time comes where potential must be translated into results. I do really feel though that if the right player were to come through now,there is an opening to dominate this game for a decade.

Finally to a topic that had Twitter up in arms,particularly from the one table set up on and that was the pockets which seemed at times bucketlike. Ok that is a slight exaggeration,but there is no doubt that compared to other years they were certainly a little more forgiving.Barry Hearn responded to complaints on Twitter by saying they were templated as usual,but there are ways around this such as undercutting that can make them marginally more accepting of the ball.At this level the slightest easing of the difficulty makes a massive difference,as we saw here with the century break record being smashed.

As a one off this wouldn't be something worth worrying about,but the fear would be that if it continued into other events,in the mistaken belief that all snooker fans want to see is wham bam one chance frames then it would awful for the game. After all for all the big breaks in the final the most compelling frame lasted 64 minutes.

So thats it then,I don't think when we look back on this fortnight we will remember it  as one of the great championship,but in Stuart Bingham we got a winner who show showed all the all the traits we like in our champions,skill, humility, determination & calm under pressure.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has read this blog over the season and I hope it proved informative, I will be using the next couple of months to try and spruce things up a bit around here and I hope to come back with a bigger and brighter website for the new season.Till then,take care & enjoy your summer.

The Green Baize