Epic night at the EISS as Swail gains Wenbo revenge

Back from the final night of qualifiers at the EISS and what an emotional evening of snooker it was as Joe Swail gained his revenge over Liang Wenbo for that match at the Crucible back in April. Click below to read all about that and the other matches today…

After a busy weekend for me away from the snooker action I was unsure as to whether I fancied making the trip over to Sheffield today but in the end I was glad I did as I saw a thrilling climax to the Joe Swail/Liang Wenbo match. However, that was not all I saw…

The calm before the storm

Arriving at about 1:45pm as the matches from the morning session were coming to a conclusion, I decided to hang around downstairs for a while before the start of the four afternoon matches 45 minutes later. While doing so I bumped into a number of players including Dominic Dale, Stephen Lee, Judd Trump and Michael Holt who all let me take photos of them, though the lighting being quite dark in there didn’t help with the sharpness unfortunately.

Still, some photos taken I headed up into the gallery for the afternoon and initially sat in a position that allowed me to see three of the four tables in full, though I was concentrating on Ian McCulloch and Matthew Stevens who resumed at 7-1 up.

Dominic Dale

In Ian’s case he just picked up where he left off yesterday and took the two frames he needed without too much resistance from opponent Joe Delaney. Matthew though looked a little flat against Marcus Campbell and took a few more frames to get over the line, though he did so before the mid-session interval to secure a 9-3 win. the most amusing moment came at the end of the second frame of the day when with just the black on the table, neither player could pot it for ages and both shared a joke about it before Marcus eventually sunk it for 8-2 at the time.

Despite coming back from 4-0 to 4-3 against Andrew Higginson the previous day, from what I saw of Anthony Hamilton’s match with him today he looked to be having a total nightmare, something borne out by the fact that he only took one frame before losing 9-4.

Alan McManus

As he seemed to be really struggling I had a wander over to the final match taking place, that between Alan McManus and Barry Hawkins which resumed at 5-3 to Barry. It was quite strange to see Alan in action without his distinctive old cue with the white joint in the middle, but his other mannerism of raising up of the shot before striking the white every time was there for all to see. He did not seem to play too badly but Barry was in pretty impressive form, taking his chances and losing just one frame today on his way to a 9-4 win. The key moment came at 7-4 in the frame before the interval as Alan got in first with a break of 39 in a frame he had to win, but things took a turn for the worse from that point and Barry stepped in to make it 8-4 and effectively kill off any hopes of a fightback.

A long wait

With all of the afternoon matches being as one-sided as they were though, it did not make for exciting snooker, or indeed much snooker at all as the session was done with by about 4:30pm. This left a long wait until the conclusion of the final six matches, though it gave me the chance to take a couple more photos and get ready for what promised to be a thrilling night of snooker.

Firstly though it should be pointed out that of the players I bumped into, perhaps the most surprising was Alan McManus who considering he had just lost 9-4 was nice and even smiled for a photo for me. It is the first time that I have met him, but at the Crucible I had heard from regulars that he isn’t one of the most approachable players. I found him to be absolutely fine though and I heard from someone else that he signed a lot of things earlier on in the day so fair play to him.

Evening Session

With the amount of top matches to be completed tonight, I was a bit torn as to which ones to watch so eventually settled for a seat in the centre of the gallery which would allow me to watch those involving Lee, Trump, Jamie Cope and Holt.

Joy for Judd

Judd Trump

The one that immediately stood out was Judd’s match as he started off the session with a terrific century break of 116, before looking like doing it again in the next before breaking down on 51. He at least did enough to take the frame and moved 7-3 up, though the next proved to be a nightmare as he found himself in a couple of nasty snookers, right behind the green on one occasion and between the yellow and brown on the next.

His opponent Michael Judge was actually playing quite well himself as he told me later, but Trump was just a bit too good when he wasn’t having to escape from snookers and ran out a 9-6 winner. As Judge said, he’s going to win tournaments sooner or later.

Brilliant Burnett wins battle of the Jamies

Jamie Burnett

While this was going on, just to the right Jamie Burnett was surprisingly moving into a two frame lead against the much-fancied Jamie Cope at 6-4, a gap he managed to maintain until the end when he won it 9-7. It is fair to say that Cope just did not fire for whatever reason and never really looked happy, but Burnett also played very well, certainly better than I have ever seen him play on TV. I caught a word with him afterwards and he was visibly chuffed, said it was scrappy and some frames could have gone either way but he really needed the win. On his match against Stephen Maguire in Telford he described it as a “tough one!” 😀

Hitman in a hurry

The first match of the evening to conclude though was actually that between Michael Holt and Fergal O’Brien, the Hitman coming out a 9-4 winner. By far the best moment though came just before the interval as Michael landed badly on a red that was near the side-cushion, but after a lot of preparation he went for it into the green pocket with pace and nailed it, leaving Fergal needing snookers. It was an outstanding shot, probably the best single ball pot I saw all day and one that I am sure Del Hill appreciated as he looked on from the gallery. Finishing off the match with back to back centuries when they resumed, it was great to see that Holt appeared to be well and truly over his disappointment from Bahrain.

Relief for Lee

Stephen Lee

Next up was the match between Stephen Lee and Andy Hicks which at 7-1 to Lee at the start of play, did not look like it was going to be one of the longer matches tonight. Andy though kept in there, taking the first two frames against a visibly frustrated Lee who was actually really struggling for some reason. Stephen left the arena after both the second and third frames to try and compose himself but nothing seemed to work as Andy kept on taking his chances and pulled the score back to 7-5, keeping his chances very much alive. Lee though finally got off the mark tonight after the interval as they shared the next two frames to move the scoreline to 8-6, before everything seemed to go Stephen’s way in the next. He not only got away with messing up his break-off shot by nearly going in-off in the corner pocket and then the right-centre, but the white stayed on the table and rolled into such a position where it snookered Hicks behind the brown on all reds for good measure, much to Andy’s annoyance! That was the beginning of the end as a couple of visits from Lee saw him take a 9-6 win and avoid falling victim to one of the great comebacks in recent seasons.

Best til last

When Stephen edged over the line it meant that there were just two matches left still playing, a curious match between Steve Davis and Adrian Gunnell which saw the Nugget go from 5-3 up, to 7-5 down, to winning 9-7, and the one that I decided to watch, Joe Swail versus Liang Wenbo.

After that unforgettable match at the Crucible against Wenbo in April that ended so bitterly for Joe and ultimately cost him a return to the all-important top 16, his season this time around has been something of a disaster as he had lost every ranking event match he played before today.

Andy Hicks

Right from the first ball today though, he really upped his game as breaks of 88, 94, 134 and 105 from him go to show. Wenbo though is no mug and kept himself in contact with Joe, the match going to 7-7 at the point when I shuffled across the gallery to watch it. The atmosphere at the qualifiers has generally been pretty quiet, but it was interesting tonight in this match as supporting Wenbo were players such as Li Hang, Liu Chuang and famous footballer Sun Jihai, while Swail had several close friends and the likes of Michael Judge and Joe Delaney in his corner. All in all it made for a nice atmosphere and good support for both players and the match entered its closing stages.

Re-spot drama

In frame 17 it was Joe who made the most of his chances to move 8-7 up, despite Liang’s attempt to play for snookers that prompted several ‘tuts’ from the fans who wanted him to get on with frame 18! Once it got going though it turned out to be quite amazing as both had chances to take it, before Joe was presented with what seemed like a golden opportunity to take the match on the colours.

Crucially though, with the blue and black on their spots and the pink up close to the yellow spot, Joe much to his disappointment made things tricky for himself by coming wrong side of the blue off the final brown. Though he potted the blue and came round to add the pink to leave himself seven points ahead with seven on, the white finished right on the bottom cushion and left him with a shot almost identical to that which Stephen Hendry faced at the Crucible in 1995 when he made his famous 147. Agonisingly for Joe having taken it on, it got as close to going in as it possibly could have without dropping, remaining right in the jaws for Liang to easily put away.

This meant that the frame would go to a respot and with referee Alan Chamberlain giving Liang the choice of heads or tails, he went with heads and a head it was, prompting him to put Joe in to break off as is the norm in these situations. Having seen Swail play a standard shot to put the balls on opposite side cushions, Wenbo then attempted to double the black into the corner pocket though when it missed he left it safe as he so often does, much to the annoyance of the Swail fans in the house! After a few more shots it was Liang who again went for another dangerous long attempt, into the same corner that Swail had missed into just minutes previously before the re-spot. Though Liang’s effort also rattled in the jaws several times however, his effort just dropped in and he celebrated with a shout and a fist pump before going out of the arena at 8-8.

Goodness only knows what Joe must have been thinking, one of his supporters was sat next to me almost in tears and another made the comment “if he loses this then he will be on the phone to the Samaritans”, and you could see where he was coming from given what had gone before back in April and in this match too.

Joe Swail and Michael Judge

Deciding Frame

First chance in the decider though went to Joe and he made a good job of it, making a nice 61 before a poor split on the reds brought the break to an end. As Wenbo got in with an excellent red however, it looked like this might prove to be in vain as a number of brave shots set up what looked like being more heartbreak for Joe as he moved closer and closer to victory.

Just as I was beginning to think that this could be one of the best pressure clearances that I had seen in a while, things began to get interesting when the final red went in. With the final yellow just to the left of its own spot, Wenbo pointed his cue at where he wanted to leave the white, but when actually playing the shot came across too far and left himself an awkward cut-back requiring the use of the rest. The way things had gone so far I still expected him to make it, but amazingly he did not and Joe suddenly had a reprieve which he grabbed with both hands.

Potting up to the brown to leave Liang needing a snooker he showed little emotion, but when the added insurance of the blue went in and the handshake came from Liang, Joe was delirious, clenching his fist, shouting loudly (twice!) and really letting out probably months of pent up frustration as his first win of the season was confirmed. It just meant so much to him and even afterwards as people came up to congratulate him, he seemed stunned at what had just happened and his head was just all over the place I think. I was so pleased for him though, the importance of that win to Joe could not be underestimated and it might just be the result that kickstarts his season. Nothing at all against Liang but Joe really deserved to win that match and seeing what it meant to him was actually quite special, amazing to think that it was only a qualifier as it had all the drama of a much bigger occasion at the end there.

There was also a nice moment minutes later as Liang left the building and walking past Joe and Michael Judge, they exchanged a few words and a handshake, before Joe and Michael kindly stood for a photo together for me. It was a great way to end an absorbing night of snooker and I just wish that more than about twenty people had been able to see it.

I hope that this provides you with a nice insight as to how the evening unfolded and that I haven’t made too many typos as at 3:30am, I’m shattered to be honest!


Matthew Stevens 9-3 Marcus Campbell 98(65)-15, 115(101)-8, 7-69(48), 94(89)-0, 94(41)-1, 60-27, 83(83)-8, 91(52)-19, 73-1, 42-55, 20-56, 71(46)-0
Ian McCulloch 9-1 Joe Delaney 55(48)-22, 116(116)-7, 75(41)-14, 109(109)-0, 42-67(48), 73(40)-32, 67(42)-26, 119(119)-16, 61(41)-18, 66-49(48)
Anthony Hamilton 4-9 Andrew Higginson 50-62, 7-67(66), 47-63(53), 47-60, 61-54, 64-8, 75(68)-25, 0-124(58,53), 31-73(55), 81(81)-31, 51(40)-71, 57-62(55), 9-61
Barry Hawkins 9-4 Alan McManus 0-91(91), 80(65)-18, 63(43)-34, 67-15, 70-56, 14-114(114), 68(48)-6, 0-129(129), 36-78(38), 76(76)-0, 75(40)-0, 75(40)-39(39), 64-2, 86(82)-7
Michael Judge 6-9 Judd Trump 22-71, 86(70)-7, 68(50)-56(56), 44-79(57), 59(59)-62(61), 34-77, 1-73(73), 0-117(116), 31-67(51), 71-0, 8-73(65), 75(51)-41, 86(78)-0, 8-118(106)
Stephen Lee 9-6 Andy Hicks 104(52,47)-9, 92(38)-27, 48-56,70(40)-0, 96(44)-23, 79(54)-35, 60-57, 74(41)-25, 8-59(52), 47-61(54), 24-83(51), 21-59, 65(44)-54, 32-87, 78-0
Joe Swail 9-8 Liang Wenbo 25-74(53), 88(88)-36(36), 100(94)-0, 30-81, 48-69, 134(134)-0, 66-4, 12-61(40), 67-28, 105(105)-19, 55-87(56), 33-83(59), 59(42)-18, 50(48)-68, 62-11, 63-70(respot black), 75(61)-47(47)
Steve Davis 9-7 Adrian Gunnell 72-37, 18-93, 64(64)-24, 12-68(63), 92(92)-10, 100(100)-32, 56-70(40), 61-5, 11-66(48), 17-65, 36-70, 54-69, 59-15, 75(75)-0, 95(87)-12, 74(53)-40(40)
Fergal O’Brien 4-9 Michael Holt 44-74(62), 50-59, 68-13, 22-73(53), 40(40)-84(47), 58-27, 59-75, 77(43)-36, 26-64(61), 74(66)-24, 33-68(62), 32-106(106), 40-102(102)
Jamie Cope 7-9 Jamie Burnett 24-70, 78(55)-40, 77(50)-67, 13-64(56), 94(40,54)-0, 26-71, 26-63, 103(45)-1, 51(45)-62(39), 1-113(61,51), 80(51)-5, 0-86(53), 66-47, 27-61(43), 69(69)-12, 40-63(59)