Bluebell Wood Open 2013: Tournament Review

Ricky Walden’s triumph at the season’s third European Tour event yesterday brought to an end three days of action at the Doncaster Dome, four if you include Wednesday’s amateur event.

Click below for my round-up of the event from what rightly or wrongly, proved to be a surprisingly controversial venue…

  • Click here to view the final results from ET3
  • Click here to view the latest projected seedings
  • Click here to view the latest provisional money list


Arriving at the venue early afternoon on Thursday, much of the chatter concerned the previous day’s amateur rounds, which saw five rounds played out for just six places in the main draw, with a schedule that always had the look of an ‘all-nighter’ about it.

As it turned out, I understand that the final matches came to a conclusion at around 2:30am in the early hours of Thursday morning, with five of the fatigued qualifiers due to play again in the main event later that day.

As it had been earlier in the week for the India Open qualifiers, the venue was extremely hot and not in a pleasant way. Even as a spectator I found it very difficult to sit in there for prolonged periods of time, actually coming out at times to sit in the sun to cool down. While the players were not required to wear waistcoats for the event, instead sporting their now regulation European Tour polo shirts, it was clear both from Twitter and speaking to them in person that few were happy with the conditions.

Regardless, the action continued, Judd Trump taking on Ding Junhui in an all-star opening round match, Ding eventually running out the winner on his way to making it through to the final day, while Pankaj Advani came back from 2-0 down to defeat Peter Ebdon in another of the day’s early matches. Advani would also qualify for Saturday, later defeating Rory McLeod in a match high in quality safety play, but ultimately dominated by the multiple word billiards champion.

Interestingly it would be the two streamed tables which would draw the majority of the spectators, not just for Ding’s match, but for the whole of the day. For me though, I like to watch the non-streamed tables at PTC events, partly to provide updates on the matches that people can’t just watch anyway, but also to try to spot new talent and watch players that I haven’t seen before.

The first match that I was able to watch was Anthony Hamilton’s victory against Simon Bedford, Hamilton showing glimpses of the scoring prowess which has made him one of the game’s heaviest scorers during the past 15 years, before he later added the scalps of Marcus Campbell and China’s Li Hang to reach the last 16.

As well as Trump’s exit, another top player to crash out of the tournament on its opening day was Mark Selby, who surrendered a 2-0 lead to Australian number two Vinnie Calabrese over on table one. Perhaps more importantly for Vinnie, he was able to back up the win with victories against Thailand’s Dechawat Poomjaeng and David Morris to progress to the final day.

Perhaps one of the most impressive performances of the day came from Jimmy Robertson, who during his second match against Stuart Bingham came back from 3-0 down to force a decider. He then fell 72 points behind, as Bingham chased a maximum break, before coming back to clear with 73 and snatch the final frame by a point.

Also shining was Steve Davis, who I watched defeat Kyren Wilson with a vintage performance, preceding an amusing moment outside as Roland from Snooker Island described him as being ‘not bad for an old man’, whilst unbeknownst to him, Davis was walking past! Steve would later go on to roll back the years with a terrific comeback against Jamie Jones to make it to the last 16.


Back the following day at the venue being Christened as the sauna, there was another shock early on as world number one Neil Robertson became the latest top player to exit the tournament at the first hurdle, losing to China’s Liang Wenbo.

The story of the day to many however, was the return of defending world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and as you would expect, the fans turned up in force to see his opening match against Chinese prodigy Lyu Haotian, the 15-year-old former International Championship quarter-finalist.

While good to see people at the venue, it was frustrating in some respects as clearly many were under the impression that despite all of the other tables in the hall, there was only one match being played, with loud talking and people entering and leaving between frames on that table, with little regard for the other matches in progress.

Despite the fanfare, on the table it was Lyu who shone early in the match, taking an early 2-0 lead, before clearing with 61 in frame four to move one away at 3-1.

O’Sullivan though looked as sharp as ever in the balls and was eventually able to turn the tide, breaks of 48, 50 and finally a 700th career century break of 116 seeing him through a 4-3 winner and into the next round.

A quick cigarette followed for Ronnie, before he was back in action on one of the non-tv tables, this time against Fergal O’Brien. While the Irishman has form for beating O’Sullivan in PTC events, having done so a couple of years ago in Gloucester, there was to be no repeat this time and the five-time world champion would advance to the last 32 a 4-1 winner.

That was to be as far as the Rocket’s return would go however, as he fell to a fine performance from Leeds’ Peter Lines later in the evening. Having already seen off another world champion in the form of Ken Doherty, Peter then defeated fellow Leeds pro David Grace in the second round, before taking care of O’Sullivan.

Also through to the final day were Stephen Maguire and Shaun Murphy, the latter having defeated Jack Lisowski’s conqueror James Wattana, as well as a still-hobbling Jimmy White to improve upon recent defeats in full ranking event competition.

Elsewhere, Mark Allen and David Gilbert were also qualifiers, as well as eventual champion Ricky Walden who saw off former top 16 players Ryan Day and Ali Carter on his way to the last 16. The final man through to the final day was Rod Lawler, who defeated Scotland’s John Higgins to rebound after a tricky start to the season following his remarkable 2012/13 season.


Arriving in Doncaster at the end of the last 16 stage, it was clear that most of the matches were going according to form, but the stand out player early on looked to be Ding Junhui, who had hit four century breaks, including a rare 146 against Jimmy Robertson. Described by a fellow player as having played like a God, it already looked as though he would take some stopping.

Also in form however, looked to be recent Australian Goldfields Open champion Marco Fu, who edged out Steve Davis, before recording a comfortable victory against Mark Williams to join Ding in the semi-finals.

Over in the other half of the draw meanwhile, Shaun Murphy continued his return to form with a win against Tom Ford, before coming back from 2-0 down to overcome old rival Stephen Maguire to reach the last four. There he would face Ricky Walden, who also came back from behind to defeat Mark Allen in the previous round.

Ricky would not waste time in making it through to the final, breaks of 72, 70 and 60 enough to end Murphy’s run, but the match between Ding and Fu would prove to be a titanic struggle, eventually won by Hong Kong’s Fu.

To his credit, Ding fought hard from 3-0 down, something that you would not necessarily associate with the reigning PTC Finals champion, but could not quite finish the job.

Following a short break, as well as the conclusion of the amateur event, won by Oliver Lines, son of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s conqueror Peter, Marco and Ricky began their final on table two, before a crowd in the region of 40 people.

A terrific century break of 113 aside, it was Ricky who looked the stronger early on, before Marco fought his way back into the match to force a deciding frame.

To say that would prove to be a nervy affair would be an understatement, both players struggling for any sort of fluency, with the black running on to a side-cushion early on. As Walden in particular began to wobble, it started to look as though it might be Fu’s title, before a final twist which would turn the match around.

It would begin with a timely fluke for Walden to begin what would prove to be the match-winning break, however to concentrate on what would do a great disservice to what was a terrific clearance from Ricky. In particular, the last red along the cushion was to prove one of the shots of the tournament, not only in isolation, but in the context of what had happened to him during the previous or so.

His first European Tour victory, earned using a new cue following his run to the last four at last season’s World Championship, the success all but secures Ricky a place at the PTC Grand Finals later in the season and helps move him up to sixth in the latest projected seedings list. Fu meanwhile consolidates his place in the world’s top 16, while maintaining his strong start to the season.

Looking back at the event as a whole, in particular against the backdrop of a lot of criticism from the players which you may well have seen on Twitter, there are definitely lessons to be learned. That said, the problems I would say are nothing that can’t be fixed, for example Alan McManus was one talking a lot of sense yesterday with regard to the conditions and the time of year at which tournaments are staged.

By all accounts, the venue at the Barnsley Metrodome, which will be used for four separate qualifying events later in the season, is a similar facility and we can only hope that the heat will be less extreme, while some thought may be given to which way the tables are to face, with the baulk end unusually being away from the spectators this week.

Any criticism, of course, must be measured against the fact that last season the players were competing in cubicles and people like me, would not have had the opportunity to watch the action, a fact that is not lost on me. That said, at the same time the players should expect to play in the best conditions and while some will knock them for ‘moaning’, there are legitimate complaints that the governing body will no doubt be aware of.

Next stop – the European Tour continues, with the Paul Hunter Classic later this week, live on Eurosport…