International Championship 2012: Trump Closes On Top Spot

We are down to four players at the 2012 International Championship following the conclusion of today’s quarter-finals which saw Judd Trump edge closer to snooker’s top ranking, while Lu Haotian’s remarkable run came to an end…

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With a couple of thrilling meetings already behind them in recent times at last season’s UK Championship and German Masters tournaments, Judd Trump and Mark Allen today delivered another classic in a match with no fewer than nine breaks of 60 or above.

Indeed with the exception of just a couple of frames, the match was an exhibition of heavy scoring as the two left-handed potters traded breaks, but as Judd pushed two clear at 4-2 and 5-3, he looked to have the upper hand. To his credit, Mark demonstrated his fighting qualities to battle back, particularly in frame ten where he overturned a 41 point deficit with a couple of particularly brave shots, to force a decider.

Judd though was not to be denied, a break of 60 as started by a well-executed plant paving the way for what would prove the decisive break.

Through to his second successive ranking event semi-final, after a relatively quiet spell for him during the past six months, Judd looks to be finding his form at just the right time with this tournament and the UK Championship in close proximity. It is interesting to see just how comfortable Judd looks on the big stage now, in comparison to those early years in his career where he looked far more relaxed at the qualifiers.

Those days are now a long time behind him and with just one more victory in this tournament, Judd will become just snooker’s tenth number one ranked player since 1975.

To make that potential a reality, Judd must defeat Peter Ebdon in tomorrow’s semi-final, after the 2002 world champion and reigning China Open champion recorded a 6-0 whitewash against Ricky Walden today. A match barely at its interval by the time that Judd had potted the winning balls against Mark Allen, it was placed at a more steady pace and contained just one break over 50, but Peter will not care about that as he kept his hopes of a place at the Masters alive.

A lot is said about Peter Ebdon and his style of play, indeed if I were Peter I would not be rushing to join up to Twitter given some of the abuse that comes his way, but at 42 years of age, to win the China Open, reach the final of the Australian Goldfields Open and now be in the semi-finals here as a qualifier is some achievement and shows that he can never be ruled out. He has nothing but my respect both on and off the table.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, 14-year-old Lu Haotian briefly threatened to upset Neil Robertson today by moving into a 2-1 lead, before the Australian hit back to book his place in the semi-finals of a ranking event in China for just the second time in his career.

A player who I rate as one of the top two or three in the sport, Robertson is long overdue a title in China and with the added prestige and longer matches here at the International Championship, perhaps this will be his week.

Hoping that won’t be the case will be Shaun Murphy, who ended the run of the ever-dangerous Marco Fu today to book the final place in the semi-finals. I have not seen a lot of Shaun this week, but looking at the numbers, with seven breaks over 50 today, he looks to be playing extremely well and is well capable of going the distance in Chengdu.

With the semi-finals, comes the best of 17 frames, two-session matches and how nice it is to be able to type that, in a sport seemingly dominated by the best of 7 affairs often seen in PTC events. While shorter matches are necessary with the sheer amount of events on the calendar these days, for me the longer formats offer stories that are just impossible to be told over seven frames.

Who wins it from here?