Tuesday, October 30, 2012

International Championship - Opening Rounds

There's lots of places you can find the draw for the 2012 International Championship, but this isn't one of them. To make sense of what I'm yammering about in this article, please consult Wikipedia here2012 International Championship

Well, since I did my initial write-up on this event, Ronnie O'Sullivan has pulled out of the event, Graeme Dott has indeed been beaten by Dominic Dale and the bold form of Stuart Bingham revealed in last week's premier league whitewashes over Selby and Robertson has been brought to a screeching halt as he trails India's Aditya Mehta 4-0. It is for these reasons, and many others over the years, that I only place monetary bets on snooker in sums no greater than $1.00 apiece.

Dott: The draw's really opening up for--oh, wait...
Photo by Monique Limbos
Turning to the matter of O'Sullivan, I understand that he's pulled out of this event for health reasons after completing several Snooker Legends exhibitions over the last several weeks in apparently quite able-bodied shape. The only thing predictable about Ronnie's behaviour has become his sheer unpredictability and though I wouldn't explicitly call him out on being too ill to travel in this particular case, but the sudden decision is somewhat suspect and will leave many fans disappointed.

When I first read the story though, I was less surprised than I was excited for Graeme Dott, who was slated to meet Ronnie in the second round. Dott has seen a bit of form returning now that the season has really gotten going and I expected him to be able to come through against Dominic Dale in the first round. However, Dale is quite unpredictable and he's looked like beating many players ranked well above him at ranking events over the last couple of seasons. Normally, he can't quite get over the line as he demonstrated in his two recent first-round meetings with Judd Trump, but in Chengdu, he disposed of Graeme Dott quite handily and played so well that I can't even be too disappointed. His safety in the ninth and final frame kept Dott tied in knots and it was clear that Dominic Dale had no intention of playing a tenth, effectively quelling a signature Scottish fightback before it could even really get started.

That section of the draw has gotten a little strange as 14 year-old Lu Haotian, who entered as a wild card and defeated his second successive qualifier in a deciding frame to enter the main draw with a 6-5 win over Welshman Michael White. White continues to reaffirm his membership in my honourary Bottleless & Overhyped Tour Player Club alongside the likes of Sam Baird, but I don't mean to suggest that he should've necessarily had this win because Lu Haotian is a bit of a scary young player who seems to play with no fluctuations in expression or emotion whatsoever. So it'll be Lu Haotian vs. Dominic Dale in what should've been Dott-O'Sullivan and frankly, I don't know if I can back Dale in this contest in spite of his excellent performance to knock out Graeme.

Stephen Maguire: Might be due for a win.
Photo by Monique Limbos
The winner of that contest will face either Neil Robertson or Matthew Stevens. Stevens was given a right scare against the Zhao Xintong yesterday who, trailing 4-1, fought back to force a decider after also winning the decider against Ken Doherty in the wild card round. Marco Fu was involved in another deciding frame before coming out on top against Martin Gould and will move on to face Mark Davis who caused a bit of a shock by defeating Mark Williams 6-4 for the first time I can recall in a major ranker since the 1995 World Championship qualifying competition.

Most of the other rounds have gone according to plan, with Mark Allen beating Robert Milkins 6-2, Stephen Maguire winning 6-3 using his ample experience playing Jamie Burnett over the years to come through quite easily and Mark Selby setting the tone with a 6-3 win over Ali Carter. Shaun Murphy shut out Andrew Higginson 6-0 in the only whitewash of the Last 32 in a match that was terribly one-sided in more ways than just the scoreline, reminiscent of his 5-0 win in the Brazil Masters final over Graeme Dott last season.

If Stuart Bingham is unable to come back against Aditya Mehta today, that will still only be the second-biggest shock on the drawsheet as the Crucible conqueror of Mark Allen claimed another big scalp in Chengdu. Cao Yupeng has eliminated John Higgins 6-3 yesterday and will continue to move up the rankings inevitably if these kinds of results keep coming in on his side. Other matches yet to come to a close today include Judd Trump, who looks good to progress against Fergal O'Brien as he currently holds a 5-3 lead. Meanwhil, Lu Ning, another victorious wildcard who won a marathon match (in yet another deciding frame) to send Barry Pinches back home, trails Ricky Walden 3-2 in a match that doesn't seem to be moving very fast either.

Now then, let's revise these predictions:

Haphazard Semifinalist Predictions:
(NOTE: Predicted results are made with my head, not with my heart--but generally speaking, it doesn't make them any more accurate)
  • Neil Robertson
  • Marco Fu
  • Mark Allen
  • Stephen Maguire

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