UK Championship review: Yan Bingtao beats John Higgins; Mark Allen defeats Nigel Bond and Ding Junhui progresses

Yan Bingtao in action in York
Yan Bingtao in action in York

Yan Bingtao booked his place in the last four of the UK Championship with a 6-3 defeat of John Higgins at the York Barbican.

The Chinese youngster, who won the Riga Masters earlier in the season, will face compatriot Ding Junhui in the semi-finals on Saturday after dominating a scrappy and turgid affair that was low on quality and high on unforced errors.

Higgins' chance to lift the UK Championship trophy for a fourth time slipped away with an abject display that - a flawless run of 123 in frame eight apart - was dominated by lapse positional play and a host of missed pots.

The very fact Bingtao was able win by such a comfortable scoreline despite not registering a single break of 50 or above in the whole match paints an accurate picture of the standard of play produced by both players though Bingtao's ability to hold his own in the safety department was, ultimately, a crucial factor in deciding the outcome of the contest.

A break of 78 in frame two had seemingly seen Higgins burst into life but he saw the 1-1 scoreline quickly turn into a 4-1 deficit as he spurned a number of good chances to force his way back into the match and the fifth frame, one in which he had built up a useful advantage, was to prove a big moment as Bingtao took his opportunity to pinch the frame and move into an almost unassailable lead.

Higgins did rally by winning two of the next three frames - the latter thanks a fine century break - but just as he appeared set to close the gap to 5-4, another elementary positional shot went wrong and with the run off the balls now starting to favour Bingtao, the latter calmly closed out the match when left with the balls at his mercy in frame nine.

Higgins said: "I just wasn’t good enough – I played really badly,” he said. “I think it was the tightest table I’ve ever played on and I just never got to grips with it at all.

"It’s really tough when you’re trying to get things going and it seems as though things are landing awkwardly, and that’s how it panned out today.

"But every credit to Yan, he dealt with the conditions a lot better and only took on chances that he was favourite to get. His safety was top-notch and he had me in all sorts of bother.

"I’ve got no complaints – the best man certainly won. I think he’s showing all the signs that he can go very far in the game. He won the Riga Masters earlier this season and now he’s in the semi-finals at the UK Championship, so he’s obviously doing something right.

"If you don’t play well enough at events you don’t deserve anything. It’s pretty soul-destroying but I’ll go home now and get ready for the Scottish Open next week."

Higgins: I have no complaints with defeat | UK Championship Snooker

Resurgent Ding marches on

Ding's resurgence continued as he brushed aside Liang Wenbo 6-2 in another strong display that suggests the 2005 and 2009 winner could go all the way again this weekend.

Having beaten Ronnie O'Sullivan in a high-quality match on Thursday, Ding continued where he left off here, breaks of 79, 101 and 76 the highlight of his afternoon's work.

Ding said afterwards: "Making the semi-finals is amazing, but it means I have to go on and win the competition now!

"I’m very pleased with the way I played and how I’ve improved throughout the tournament. I’m not getting too carried away but I’m feeling confident now in front of any opponent.

"I think I’m maybe feeling less pressure now than at the start of the season. I was given some really useful advice about the best methods for me and it seems to be working out there on the table.

"Yan’s a really talented player and he’s flying up the rankings table. He’s already beaten Neil [Robertson] and John in impressive fashion so he’ll be very confident and it’ll be a tough game for sure.

"I think I might still have room for improvement but at the moment I’m doing enough to win so I’m happy. That’s what it’s been like all week so I hope I can just carry that on now."

Junhui: I have to go on and lift the trophy now! | UK Championship Snooker

Maguire sees off Stevens

In the battle of the former champions, 2004 UK Championship winner Stephen Maguire got the better of Matthew Stevens, the Scot eventually prevailing 6-4 after an absorbing tussle.

Both players have found their best form of the season in York and they each played their part in a high-quality affair that featured a host of big breaks, particularly from Maguire.

The Scot actually reeled off breaks of 56, 51, 135 and 55 in the opening six frames but a brilliant clearance of 60 from Stevens allowed him to level the scores at 3-3.

When Stevens won frame seven moments later he would have fancied his chances but Maguire wasn't perturbed, producing a stunning display of snooker to win three frames on the bounce thanks to further contributions of 123, 83 and 66, closing out the match in terrific style.

Allen ends Bond fairy late

Mark Allen finally ended Nigel Bond's dream tournament but only after an engrossing quarter-final encounter that went down to the wire, last year's beaten finalist holding himself together brilliantly to win a final-frame decider with a nerveless break of 69.

Bond, runner-up at the 1995 World Championship and now one of the elder statesman of the game, has been the story of the event with his defeats of Judd Trump and Gary Wilson grabbing public imagination, and he pushed Allen all the way in this fiercely-contested affair.

Despite winning the opening frame thanks to a break of 70, Allen had slipped 3-1 behind at the mid-session interval as Bond dictated terms with a mix of rock-solid safety play and impressive scoring.

Mark Allen and Nigel Bond
Mark Allen and Nigel Bond

However, Allen returned from the break with runs of 89 and 98 to win three frames on the bounce and lead 4-3 before a missed red to middle stopped him in his tracks when on course to move within one frame of victory.

When Bond stepped in to draw the scores level once more, the match always appeared destined to go the distance and so it proved, the next two frames being shared before Allen eventually scrambled over the winning line.

Having found Bond's safety play too hot to handle for most of the night, Allen actually got on the front foot early in the deciding frame with a number of wonderful returns and when he finally forced Bond to blink, Allen potted a tricky red with the rest before striding to victory with a fine run of 69 that featured a number of classy cannons and precise positional shots.

Allen will play close friend Maguire in Saturday's second semi-final.


  • Watch the World Championship LIVE on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with analysis from Jimmy White and Neal Foulds

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