Snooker Shootout: Friday Night Live!

So then, the snooker shootout is now underway, click below for updates throughout the evening’s 15 matches…

Friday Night Blog

Good evening everyone, so here we are as Sky’s Andy Goldstein introduces the tournament as the most exciting tournament in snooker’s history…not sure about that!

On the positive side though, the venue looks very interesting, shaped as something of a bowl. Stephen Hendry is there, having a chat with Andy Goldstein and predicts that the event will be won by someone other than one of the top names, interesting.

Without further ado, the first match is soon underway as Mark Allen and Ryan Day ‘lag’ for the right to choose who will break off. Mark wins and elects to put Ryan in to break, something that works to his advantage as he gets in first. Interesting voiceover over the tannoy to introduce the players, unsurprisingly amused everyone in the arena, hopefully will relieve a bit of tension…

Time coming up to five minutes, Ryan slightly ahead but neither has got in with a brilliant chance yet. Shot clock time due to be reduced to 15 seconds soon, that will be interesting…

Down goes the shot clock and Ryan Day looks to have the measure of his opponent, now 22 points ahead and slowing the pace down as far as he can to preserve his lead as far as possible, something we will see a lot of this weekend I suspect. There also is the first example of the ball in hand rule coming into play as Allen goes in-off, though it did not make too much difference with the frame already won for his opponent.

Ryan gives a brief interview to host Andy Goldstein following his win, confirming that he was wasting time towards the end of the frame to ensure that Mark could not get back at him. Such is the quick pace of the event though, we are already into the first advert ahead of the second match between Michael Holt and Stephen Lee.

Without wanting to sound a bore, the lively crowd are already starting to get on my nerves, particularly as they count down the last five minutes of the shot clock when appropriate. Probably a good thing that I stayed at home for this one!

On with the second match and Michael Holt has become the first player to fall foul of not hitting a cushion with a safety shot. Not only is this a foul in the competition, but it gives Stephen Lee ball in hand and the chance to put some points on the board…

Lee 31-2 up as the shot clock comes down to 15 seconds, but Holty is in the balls…he reached 30 but a bad miss when in I think could well have cost him frame and match, Stephen back at the table with less than three minutes to go…and it has indeed, Lee our second winner.

Third man through is Nigel Bond following the evening’s closest match so far against Joe Jogia. It was a scrappy affair with both having their chances but a couple of bad misses from Joe were to eventually prove costly, Nigel taking possession of the table for the last couple of minutes.

Next up after the break, Stephen Hendry against Fergal O’Brien. Funnily enough it might suit Stephen to play a bit quicker, I don’t necessarily think that slowing down his game in recent years has done him any favours. We shall soon see…

For those wondering incidentally, the players are not wearing their waistcoats, instead they are all in black polo shirts with their world ranking on their sleeve and names on their back.

The first loser of the evening Mark Allen has posted on Twitter:

“that was fun………………. NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Stephen looks to be amused by the whole thing, not seen him enter the arena with that big a smile in a while. Best ‘lag’ of the evening by a distance from Stephen there, not far off from finding the top cushion. He has put Fergal into break but following a missed red from the Scot, it is O’Brien who has the first chance in and around the black spot. Not the quickest player generally, it will be interesting to see how he gets on…

This is the best snooker of the night so far from Fergal, the break up to 41 inside three minutes. As I say that though, he misses an awkward red to the right-centre and now Hendry has his chance to counter. Has to play safe on just 11 though, an attempted cannon not quite going his way.

41-12 to Fergal as the shot clock changes to 15 seconds. The crowd are booing any attempt to play a safety shot or a snooker, make of that what you will. Stunning pot from Hendry down the cushion gives him a chance, with three minutes to go, can he catch him up? He can’t, a very good performance from Fergal there, the highest quality match tonight by far and interesting to see the Irishman take to the tournament so well.

Next up were Robert Milkins and Martin Gould and the most one-sided match of the evening so far. Martin just about won the lag and put Robert in to break, but it proved to be costly as Martin then missed a long red and Milkins potted a plant from distance for an initial 41.

An enjoyable last couple of matches, not sure if it’s because I’ve had the sound muted as I was on the phone. Hmm.

Next up, Jamie Burnett breaking off against Andrew Higginson, will he be able to up the pace tonight? The Scot has the first chance, stretching over the table with the extended rest to up his break up to seven.

Neal Foulds joking that the match between Steve Davis and Peter Ebdon could be a goalless draw, Phil Yates describing it as the tortoise v the tortoise. The jokes are endless!

Tom Ford

Change of referee for this match by the way, Michaela Tabb in for Paul Collier.

This match hasn’t really got going yet, but with three minutes to go it is nearly over, four points separating the two players, Jamie just ahead…

That is the first moment of blind panic we have seen from a player tonight! Jamie faced with an awkward long red but with one second to go and his mind clouded with indecision, he just hit it and has not got away with it. Fabulous chance now for Andrew Higginson to make the decisive break…and he does for a 27-16 win. As I say, that was the first moment there where a player was forced to just hit it and hope for the best, and it proved to be costly. Some composed play from Higginson following that though, and he is deservedly through.

Stephen Maguire against Tom Ford starts with a frankly hilarious lag, Ford going up, down and back up the table he overhit it so hard. Not that it did him any harm as a missed long red from Tom’s break-off proved to be the Scot’s last shot, a break of 83 from Tom setting a decent target for the high break. On a side-note it was quite entertaining to see Maguire packing up his extension and everything while Tom seemingly did not bother to bring his, just the cue!

Ding wins the lag and chooses to break, that has been a rarity tonight. Typically Dale then knocks in the long red, only to miscue on the blue, oops! Crowd getting more and more lively now…

Great chance for Dominic here following a Ding miss, that 83 could be under threat already, just needs to get nicely on a colour. Interesting ploy from him, he’s not rushing at all, using each of his 20 seconds well. Break now up to 45, shot clock down to 15. I don’t think that Ding will be getting back to the table.

Nice shot there of Hendry and O’Sullivan chatting with Davis looking on, three legends.

And that’s that, a break of 70 puts Dale through to the next round with three minutes to spare. I was very impressed with him there, he looked to have a very good idea of how to play this format, taking his time and then slowing down even more as he approached frame ball. Could be one to watch. Ding didn’t get a look in.

Jimmy White time now, he has won the lag against Ali Carter and has elected to break…

For those wondering how it looks on TV, here is a photo of my TV screen, top stuff.

Strong start from Jimmy here but he has let Carter back in and the Championship League’s most recent winner moves into the lead as the frame passes the five minute mark. Supporters of the Whirlwind will be fearing the worst I suspect…and a great shot from Ali to split two of the remaining reds looks likely to be enough to see him through to the next round…and it is, despite some late pressure from Jimmy.

Michael Judge and Alan McManus next up, could this be Michael’s last TV appearance? Quite possibly, a methodical Alan McManus never really looked troubled and is through to the next round. Judge did have a chance to counter but a horrible miscue which saw the cue ball end up on the floor brought his break to an abrupt end.

Next up, the big clash between Mark Williams and John Higgins but it has proven to be a one-sided encounter as John played a terrific frame of snooker to again defeat his old rival.

Raising the bar further however is Ronnie O’Sullivan, no stranger to the shot clock of course, as the three-time world champion made the first century break of the evening, 113. For a while a 147 was on the cards and Ronnie knew it, confirming so in his post-match interview with Andy Goldstein whilst also swearing at the comment that there is no prize for a maximum. Given some of the things I have heard from the crowd also, this is not one for younger viewers!

Ebdon and Davis are next on and it will not surprise you to know that there have been no balls potted after two minutes. Steve though is first in and has a reasonable chance to score with the reds spread far and wide…and he takes it in a couple of visits despite a late chance for Ebdon. For whatever reason Peter looked distinctly uncomfortable while Davis did not, no doubt aided by his familiarity with player under a shot clock having been involved in the Premier League on many occasions.

An interesting interview with the six-times world champion as ever, Steve saying how it may be the case that players are rather ‘honest’ this weekend but that with a few more events like these people might attempt to make forty and put the black safe or come up with other tactics.

Marcus Campbell and Jimmy Michie enter the fray and there is a good bit of banter between the two, Marcus fluking a red and celebrating with a fist pump before grinning in the direction of Michie who responds by slumping in chair. Both enjoying themselves out there. Like Michael Judge, the way Jimmy’s ranking is going it might be the last that we see of him on TV, we shall see on that though.

Michie’s turn for a fluke, naturally he celebrated too! 30-8 to Campbell now and Marcus is back to the table…

It hasn’t been Jimmy’s night, he has certainly had some great chances but he has missed many by a distance and only looked like maybe getting into it when Marcus played a foul safety shot when no ball touched the cushion. 19 points behind, he had a minute to bridge the gap but it was not to be and Campbell is through to the second round.

Joe Swail

A few interviews now between Andy Goldstein and the players, the most notable thing being Andy introducing Joe Perry as Joe Swail. Oops.

Last up tonight we have Mark King and Jimmy Robertson, the latter being little known but certainly a useful player and one capable of causing an upset. Not a regular in front of the cameras though, he is certainly second favourite to his opponent who has amassed an early 31 point lead. His experience here is shining through and playing safe whenever troubled, he gave Robertson no chance to get any sort of foothold in the match. Another player who looks to have the format sussed.

So that’s it for this evening, hope that those of you not able to watch on Sky enjoyed the report. For what it’s worth I probably enjoyed that more than I was expecting, though I did find the boisterous crowd to be somewhat irritating. The arena though is fabulous, a brilliant setting for big time snooker and as far as the play was concerned, it was intriguing to see how the various players would approach the match tactically and deal with the challenge of a new format.

It was also good (as pointed out by @MaximumSnooker on Twitter), to see so many unfamiliar faces in front of the TV cameras and give everyone a chance to shine. Not unfamiliar to the diehard snooker fans of course, but to the wider audience. This was a big positive to the World Open and I think will be the way to go for tournaments in the future.

Overall the presentation of the event was quite good and from what I understand, certainly less over the top than other ventures such as Power Snooker. If day one is anything to go by, I think that we will see this event back in the future and it will be interesting to see what the TV ratings were like…