UK Championship 2011: Allen Edges Fu, Walden Wins

And then there were four. The afternoon matches went largely to form as Neil Robertson and Judd Trump each won to set up a repeat of their memorable World Championship opener from the Crucible earlier this year but there was a shock in store this evening as Ricky Walden defeated Shaun Murphy to reach only his second ranking event semi-final…

Evening Session

It has been a controversial week for Antrim’s Mark Allen following his press-conference remarks on Monday, but tonight it was all about his performances on the table as he edged Marco Fu 6-5 following an enthralling contest.

Following a scrappy opener, Allen doubled his advantage following a couple of swift scoring visits in frame two to place his opponent under some early pressure. As was the case yesterday during his win against Mark Selby however, Marco was more than up to the task and he pulled one back with an excellent clearance to the pink of 73 before then being able to draw level.

The closest frame of the match was to prove the fifth as following the resumption after the mid-session interval, Mark looked well set to move back into the lead as he left Marco requiring a snooker, only to inadvertently knock the blue in when attempting an exhibition double. Following this however Marco was able to clear to force a re-spotted black, only to watch with horror as Mark appeared to fluke it with a length of the table double!

Having moved two clear again at 4-2, memories of the Masters were to come flooding back as having won the match from 4-1 down on that occasion, Marco then won three in a row this evening to move into the lead for the first time at 5-4 as highlighted by an exceptional clearance in frame eight, not to mention a run of 131 the frame previously.

Allen earlier this week with coach Terry Griffiths

The first chance of the tenth frame fell to Marco and as he crafted an excellent three-ball plant, the momentum looked to be with him. From there however the pattern of the match was to shift once more as under pressure, Mark made his highest break of the match to force a decider which he would eventually take in two scoring visits.

Full credit to Mark who moves into his second successive UK Championship semi-final and having come so close before will now be hoping to break his losing run in the last four of major events with a win on Saturday.

To do so however he will have to see off Ricky Walden who continued his memorable week with a convincing 6-3 victory against 2008 champion Shaun Murphy this evening.

Having shared the first two frames, Shaun snatched a hard-fought third frame to lead 2-1 before Ricky hit back to level at 2-2 at the interval.

Looking set to be a tight match, from here however it was Ricky who would stretch away by moving into a 4-2 lead, before what for me would prove to be a pivotal seventh frame. Down to the colours it looked for all the world like Shaun would snatch it to close to just one behind at 3-4, only for a surprising miss on the green to hand the chance to Ricky with which he was to make no mistake.

To his credit Shaun dug in by taking the following frame but Ricky had played the better snooker and was not to be denied a deserved victory and a place in just his second ranking event final as he took a 6-3 victory in the next.

Flying the flag for the qualifiers in the tournament, Ricky not only has the incentive of his first major championship to play for but if he can go on to lift the trophy he will gain a wildcard spot at the Masters as well as lift himself into the top 16 of the provisional rankings.

Afternoon Session

Earlier in the day, Neil Robertson continued to justify the pre-tournament favourite tag that he had with a number of seasoned observers with a 6-2 victory against two-time champion Ding Junhui, while Judd Trump rifled in three centuries on his way to a 6-3 success against Stephen Maguire.

Those two will now meet tomorrow in what promises to be an excellent match and with Neil now in far better form than he had been in at the World Championship when they met back in April, he will be hoping for revenge for that reverse.

Judd though looks to be full of confidence at the moment which leaves it nicely poised.

And best of all, the match will be contested over 17 frames as the tournament finally reverts to its traditional longer format.