International Championship 2012: Down To 16

With big names including John Higgins and Mark Williams already out of the tournament, as well as two players ranked outside of the top 64 through to the last 16, the first couple of days of the International Championship have not been without incident. Click below for a summary of the results and of the key ranking implications…

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Coming into the tournament on the back of his recent victory at the Shanghai Masters, John Higgins was a man tipped by many to repeat the feat in Chengdu at this week’s International Championship. China’s Cao Yupeng however had other ideas, coming back from 2-0 down to record a surprise 6-3 victory against the four-time world champion.

Despite seeing Higgins record three breaks over 70, Cao was able to win five consecutive frames in the middle part of the match to move into the last 16 of a full-ranking event for the third time in 2012, an impressive feat given how many matches that his ranking requires him to win in order to do so. Next up for him will be a match with Mark Allen, who he of course defeated in controversial circumstances back at the Crucible in April.

As for John, as well as being a disappointing result at the biggest event of the season so far, the defeat rules him out of contention for the number one ranking at the season’s next seedings revision, set to take place on Monday.

No such trouble meanwhile for Judd Trump, who won a hard-fought match with Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien today, also by a 6-3 scoreline. Though a number of the frames were close affairs, breaks of 80, 118 and 96 mid-match from Judd would ultimately prove telling, and keep alive his own hopes of usurping Mark Selby at the top of the rankings.

Awaiting Judd will not be Stuart Bingham as perhaps many expected, but India’s Aditya Mehta, after the ever-improving qualifier pulled off a shock against the former Australian Goldfields Open champion, winning 6-4. Following a tight match with wildcard Zhu Yinghui on Sunday, Mehta came out of the blocks quickly today by taking the opening four frames, only to see Bingham win the next four following the interval to level the match at 4-4.

Aditya though was not to buckle and was able to win the next two frames to book his place in the last 16 of an event for the first time. Not only that, but the extra ranking points gained will also see him move up to at least  67th place at the next seedings revision, potentially high enough to gain him entry to the Shoot Out, as well as a top 64 seeding for the UK Championship with the likes of Stephen Lee, Stephen Hendry and Joe Jogia unlikely to be involved.

Elsewhere, the battle or the top 16 has taken an interesting twist as Martin Gould lost out narrowly to Marco Fu in a deciding frame, ending his hopes of a second appearance at the prestigious Masters tournament in January.

Still in with a chance of taking the last potential (depending on the resolution of the Stephen Lee situation), place from the absent Barry Hawkins is Mark Davis, who defied his previously poor record against Mark Williams in competition to record a 6-4 win. If he is to do so, Mark must now defeat Marco Fu on Wednesday when they meet in the day’s opening session.

The other two players in with an outside chance of crashing the top 16 party by winning the title are Peter Ebdon and Dominic Dale, the latter taking the last three frames against Scotland’s Graeme Dott on Monday to reach the last 16 of a full-ranking event for the first time this season. With a match against wildcard Lu Haotian awaiting, Dominic will fancy his chances of a useful run this week, some five years after his last ranking event victory.

Rounding off the remaining results so far, Barry Pinches became the latest to fall at the hands of a wildcard as he lost out a decider to Lu Ning, who followed up that win with a strong performance against Ricky Walden today, before losing 6-4. Ding Junhui secured a much-needed 6-1 victory against 14-year-old Zhou Yuelong to set up a last 16 tie with Shaun Murphy, while Matthew Stevens survived a scare yesterday against Zhao Xintong, the man who defeated Ken Doherty earlier in the tournament.