Day 1, Part 1 UK Snooker Championship

Day 1, Part 1

Hazel Irvine presents all the action from the York Barbican, as world and defending UK champion John Higgins takes on Rory McLeod in the first round best-of-11 frame match.

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Snooker is back on the BBC and back in York. After a five-year absence,


the championship returns to this magical city and tour newly


refurbished Barbican Centre. That is not all that is new. -- to a


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John Higgins is the UK champion. Brilliant!


So take your pick. Any one of those champions and a whole host of


others besides could be the man to win snooker's second most important


event. Since we were last on air in May, times have been changing in


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Yes, the players have certainly been notching up the miles,


travelling all the world. Steve Davis has a few stamps on his


passport this season. John Parrott has watched it all from the comfort


of his armchair. Lovely to see you both. Steve, it has been a full-on


start for everyone, hasn't it? There have been 10 PCT tournaments


and a couple of invitations. The players are certainly match sharp


coming into the UK Championship. They may not be as fresh as in


previous years but they certainly know what shot selection is all


about. It really is a beery -- a busy


period for everyone. There are one or two grumbles emerging about the


workload. How healthy is the situation if you're a professional


player these days? It has probably gone from the


sublime to the ridiculous for some of them. They have had hardly any


work and then suddenly they have had hardly a day off. It is


difficult to play in every event. All of this means that the world


rankings are chopping and changing all the time. These are the current


headlines from the top 16. We have a new world No. 1, Mark Selby,


taking over from Mark Williams. Judd Trump has moved up to number


seven. Stuart Bingham has shot into Number 11. He will not is there is


no Stephen Hendry. He has dropped out after two decades. There is no


Stephen Ebden either. I wonder how everyone will react to this new


format. John, give up the headlines from that. To win a match he


previously had to get nine frames, now you have to get six. There is


going to be a result in every single session. The disadvantage is


that the top players are thinking, the more frames to play the bigger


the chance I have of winning. -- frames I play. It was reduced to


the best of five in the Grand Prix last year. I think it will happen


here as well. They will soon get used to the format.


It increases after the semi-finals. John Higgins has had something to


say about this. As a 6-time winner in the longer format, what do you


think and what is the current talk amongst the players? Players think


they have a longer chance over a longer distance. The players who


would like it to be shorter are the ones who perhaps take their chances


of it. Back in the past and I would have wanted it as long as it could


be. Barry Hearn has come in in the last two years, he has increased


the price money -- the prize money. He has ruffled a few feathers


because he has shortened some of the formats, perhaps tinkered with


them too much for some of the purists. My take on it is, if you


were inventing the tournament tomorrow, what type of tournament


would you invent? We live in a faster world and people want


results quicker. I think the best thing would be a balance. I think


there is so little between the players at the top. I did a preview


for the BBC website and when they mentioned each of the players I


said, yes, he could win it, he could win it. It may prove to be a


masterstroke. Here they are around here is how


they all line up. -- here they are and here is how. Stephen's route


here was trickier than usual. looking forward to playing at York


again. Steve Davis is playing against


Ronnie O'Sullivan. He is excited. People have to stop talking


pathetically. It is a game of snooker, 11 frames. It is the same


for everyone. Dominic Dale will try to bring down


Judd Trump. I am going to focus on winning,


whereas before I was just focusing on getting through the first frame.


If I play like I did in the World Championships I think I have a good


chance. Matthew Stevens won the UK in 2003.


He meets Marcus Campbell. Graeme Dott's book hit the shelves


recently. He takes on Matthew Selt. No matter what, it will be a world-


class player who wins the event. Mark Williams has been runner-up in


both of the major ranking events already. He is up against Joe Jogia.


London's Martin Gould is at last in the top 16. I think the fact that


there will be two tables in York this year, every match will be


televised and you can watch it. I think that makes a massive


difference. For me, that balances it out.


Ali Carter is up against Robert Milkins. It has been a big season


for Stuart Bingham. He is up against Marco Fu. The world No.


is Mark Selby. It was only a few years ago that we


only had six tournaments and we did not know where the next one was


coming from. Now we're playing week-in week-out. It is just a few


frames less, it does not bother me. Among the more tasty morsels in


round one has to be Ronnie O'Sullivan and Steve Davis. Steve,


you have played two qualifying matches. We got 96 on the tour. I


am delighted to be here. When I knew I would be playing Ronnie I


was delighted as well. There will be a lot of eyes on it. It is only


the best of 11. It is like the best of one, best of 11. Anything else


leap that you -- we power to achieve from that draw?


The all-Scottish encounter. It is always fascinating to see Stephen.


He is in here at the moment knocking a few balls around. He is


obviously getting geared up for it. It is always fascinating to see


what standard his game is at. It will be a good match.


As tradition dictates we are going to start with John Higgins, the


defending champion. You might remember that amazing comeback


against Mark Williams in the final last year against -- in Telford.


John has had a relatively quiet start to the season. We have been


chatting to him about this championship and lots of other


things besides. You might just get a clue that we spoke to him in


November. This is obviously one of the biggest events that we play in.


I would love to do well and give a good account of myself. It has


taken a little while to get used to this season again. I think when


you're in that sort of bobble for the last year -- bubble, and you


were just playing match to match. Rory, a tough game. He does well in


the qualifying matches but when it is on the TV he maybe doesn't play


as well as he does in qualifying, but I am sure that will be his goal


this year. A player in his 21st year as a


professional, will they call them up The Highlander, Rory McLeod! --


MUSIC: "Jamming" by Bob Marley The defending UK champion, John


We have had record advance ticket sales for the championship.


Remember, it is the best of 11. Just one session until the semi-


finals. The first to six goes through. Rory McLeod has taken a 2-


1 lead over Labour Scot in this match. The Southampton player is


If he has gone far enough he might be able to come over and bring the


yellow into play. It looks as if it has the perfect angle to go off the


baulk cushion. I think he can force the angle of the plays it with a


bit of right-hand side. I am not sure if he can force that angle. I


think he might be able to pull this off. If he hits it hard he can move


them. He is going to try and get the snooker. Not many players would


have played to leave the snooker. A lot of players would have tried to


disturb both of those. If he did not get the cannon you still have


the chance of a snooker. Has he got the snooker? He does not want that


yellow to career into the blue. He will be disappointed with that.


This yellow will certainly tie up the frame for John Higgins. Where


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Barring a snooker we're going to If he can stand this white there is


a chance of getting a snooker behind the black. He has potted the


green. Has he? I do not think he can get past the black. This will


be some shot. He would have to come off of two cushions to get the


green. If he goes across the table he would have to get so much swerve


on its. Not a bad effort but it is not there.


NR25 points remaining. -- There are That will do very nicely. I think


he has an angle to miss the middle pocket and get nicely on to the


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He played it well. He looks to have He has got that snooker and it


looks as if he will tie the frame. That is a certainty now. When he


rolled to the green to play the snooker he was up as if he had


You always want to win the toss and put your opponent in. Rory wins the


toss. John goes to the table. In the old days you played it up and


down the sports to leave the black tights to the cushion. It will be


interesting to see which way John plays it. You just have to avoid


the double-kiss. He has played that very well. He has the cue ball near


the cushion. But you always leave the possibility of the double.


the cue ball up against -- up at the other end of the table. If he


tries to flick the black on to the top cushion behind the black spot


that can go wrong, so why not have a go at the double and leave plenty


of distance between the balls? This may go close to the left corner


He got us like double-kiss but he will settle for the outcome. -- a


He has played it better this time. I do not think the double is on


this time. That is a great shot that John Higgins has played. It


looked very simple and straightforward but it was judged


to perfection. The only advantage from Rory's point of view is that


the cue ball as a little further Where is the black going to finish?


He can cut this in but he has to keep an eye on the cue ball. It


will be flying up and down the He safely avoids the in-off. It


looked like Rory McLeod was going to pinch that frame. He did not. It


is all square as we got to the mid- session interval.


Rory is proving pretty stubborn and problematic for John Higgins, just


as he was in the second round at the Crucible a few months ago when


it was a very hard-fought match, something like seven hours. When


they come back from the interval, Rory McLeod has taken the fifth


frame. He leaves it 3-2. We're going to join them live now. This


is frame six. And it is hello to Dennis and John.


Hello to you, Hazel. Great to be back at the Barbican Centre and


great to see Rory McLeod making the world champion work very hard here.


That was a good friend that he won with a nice break of 54 that helped


him on his way. He is proving he has quite a good temperament.


He is certainly relishing the fact of playing the world champion. John


Higgins is slightly up against it. He has not really produced his best.


He had a break of VAT on the first. Since then he has not really been


scoring that well when he has had his chances. He certainly had a


chance in the last frame and broke down prematurely.


He has hit is a bit hard. I do not know if the first red passes the


black. -- hit this. He made decide -- he may decide. The reds had been


split beautifully. You are always trusting a little bit to luck as to


where the cue ball goes. It needed to run through another six inches


APPLAUSE It went in, and that was the most important thing.


There was a lot of pressure on that at 3-2 behind. He needs another


You were right, John. What a golden opportunity he has left for Rory


McLeod. Off we go with the sort of chance that you would set up for a


John Higgins did have a little bit of a goal at the Association about


the change to the number of frames. Players do like longer friends,


especially someone like John. It adds a bit more pressure to him. If


he loses this friend he has a lot You can see Ding Junhui in the


background. Usually there is a curtain that comes down, a dividing


wall, but this is open plan. It is the sort of thing that the players


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have got used to. It means the If he gets a nice angle on this red


he will play for the blue. The pink is available. It is plain sailing


Going way back to the second frame, it looked like Rory was going to


fall behind. But he did make a nice break and won the frame and it has


certainly given him the confidence to go on and produce this kind of


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He is in the driving seat at the Not bad. It is a little bit more


awkward than he would have liked. He is having to use the rest.


I think he has got an angle for the black. Pink to the middle, black to


Just about perfect. I am seeing signs of a growing confidence in


Rory. He is not the quickest player, I do not mean that as a detriment


It is all about confidence. He is on the verge of getting himself


into the top 32. Before I retired, I went to practise with him and he


never missed in practice. He has never really produced the snooker


that he consistently produces in Pot this red, goal in front... A


formality, surely? Not much fun, practising with people who never


I think that is one of the great pet hates of the snooker player.


Playing with someone who never misses. Get the worst player in the


club! That is the way I used to John Higgins currently has the


highest break in this match. The break of 80 that he made in the


opening frame. Sometimes when his back is against the wall, that is


when he produces his best snooker. A remarkable comeback in last


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That is now the highest break of A terrific break. I do not know


whether it was the UK Championship one year, he was when -- well down


but he some the produced three centuries, it might have been in


four frames. He did not win the match, but he certainly played some


marvellous snooker. He has run out of position their slightly. I think


he had so an eye on bringing the last red away from the pressure.


Can he make the century? He needs to pop the blue. Not quite. John


Higgins, world champion, in trouble, against Rory McLeod, who leads.


Looking calm and composed. We know he has been playing well over the


past few seasons. I think this is the story of things to come in the


world of snooker. Rory has been a pro for 21 years. I could not


believe that! For many years, considered a journey man, going


nowhere. All of a sudden, instead of having six tournaments in the


season, now we have got so many tournaments where the general


standard has got better and a lot of the players who were considered


the Jenny men are getting enough matchplay to become better players


and also having enough confidence that they can perform at the level.


Seeing the likes of John Higgins and Rory in some of the smaller


tournaments, getting more opportunities to play, in that


respect, is the fear factor of diminished slightly, John? I think


so. Familiarity breeds contempt. Why not beat them in front of a


television camera? That should not make a difference. That has held


him back. If he was a race was, you would think that Rory McLeod never


produces it on the racecourse. When he comes to the television stages


and the camera, he never really did himself justice. He is now. He is


indeed. From John's -- from the John's perspective, he knows that


it is only best of 11 and suddenly he thinks, he has got to catch up.


That is slightly problematic in itself. He is be difference between


a best-of- 11 and best of 17. Perhaps John Higgins was looking at


damage-limitation to get out of recession and come back in the


evening. Now it is not damage limitation, it a couple of frames


and he could be out. It is much more cut-throat. Normally, the


players better under match conditions do come to the forefront.


Back we go to the match. It is fascinatingly poised, this


first round match with the defending champion slightly up


Not quite. There is a possible pot here. He can get the cue ball round


the back of the black. His long hot success rate is much better than at


This would be a nice one up to slot in. Let us see what he can make of


Slightly awkward here. But he can screw back for the blue Label --


for the blue from this, to try to get the white whip on the position


a little bit. -- away from the cushion a little bit. John normally


goes into the pink fold ball. It is If he gets it right this time with


a slightly better angle, he will then cannoned into the pink and


He has underhit it slightly again. Still a bright colour at the back


of the bunch, if he can't get into No, he has underhit back. That is


probably the worst positional shot he has played for a while. He is


going to have to force up the position here. He underscrew it


back by car it a way. -- by quite a Look at where the cue ball has


gone! That is a bit unlucky. Absolutely, very unlucky. Not only


did the cue ball run through and get past the blue, the red you


think he would be looking at, but Made no difference. If it stops


short of the bold line, he won How is the cue ball? It has come up


The two reds are not even a plant so he can not get that. Can he get


past one of those reds to the left side of the table? It must be very


He has done well. He put everything into the pot there and sacrificed a


That looks much better this time. He has got a lovely little angle to


pot best red and leave himself nicely on the black for the same


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He just went a little bit too far so had to play the cannon. He is OK.


This is typical of the defending champion and current world champion.


When his back is against the wall, that is when he does seem to be


Look at that determination on his face when he his down on the shop.


Needs a nice little cannon here to A couple of reds and a couple of


colours would see him well in this frame. A little bit of work to do


How is it running? He will not be getting the red this visit. That


was careless. A positional shot on the blue back was the poor shot.


Rory McLeod will be thinking he is This was the one that did not get


the right side of the blue. He could do with the lifting this red


That middle jaws is trying to spoil He has not got many points to play


with. He can afford one pink. The rest will have to be blacks to win


the frame in one visit. It may put him off playing the plant. Can he


Looking at the angle, it he may be able to screw this white and get on


He has not stuck anything up. Nothing easy, that is for sure. I


think Rory when he took the plant on, thought, if I do not get this,


I am going to lose the frame. was worth the risk, obviously. You


have got to take some risks. He has got away with it. He will be coming


John has managed to get two reds near the question which is a big


John will not mind back. A pretty good shot from Rory. The red has


cornered near the back kitchen. -- bap cushion. If he can just get


I thought he could only see the edge of it but what a great long


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Terrific cueing going on here. Rory has not managed to score a point in


this frame. As you said, that is what you expect from John Higgins.


You have got to scrape this man off He will not bother about that. Back


for tea break has a queue at the frame. He closes the gap. John


Higgins is just one behind now. The world and UK champion looks


like he is suddenly in the group. He is up against it. He is up


against someone who you do not win frames easily against. That was an


exemplary performance. Rory McLeod is very difficult to play against.


If it does not help from John's perspective that after the World


Championship he said that he did not get back into the start of the


season very quickly. It has taken him a while to find his feet. He


does have a tendency to produce the right form for the right moments.


Is that more difficult with a crowded schedule to be able to


manage? Possibly, but I think every player will get themselves in the


right frame of mind for the event. The only difficulty is that


sometimes in the first round, the first day, that is when you can get


caught cold. He has got to switch his snooker brain on. He proves he


is able to do that. The alarm bells will be ringing. What makes Rory


such a tough opponent? Years have faced him a fair bet. -- him you


have faced him a fair bet. He is a top-class snooker player. The big


thing that has been missing his performance in front of the TV


cameras, as I mentioned before, but that looks like it is in the past.


He has taken flak for being a more methodical player. Fair or not?


do not think it is flat, it is just how he is perceived. He is a


quality player. He has the opportunity bit more events if to


flourish. There was not enough before and people were perhaps not


depressed but down in the dumps that they did not get enough


matchplay. The other thing was that when they are so few events, you


put so much effort in that sometimes you go up in trying not


to miss a ball rather than thinking you can win the event. Beck is not


a case of that at the moment. -- that is not the case at the moment.


In terms of motivation for John, I read early on the season that he is


now targeting seven world titles. He has clearly had to reassess his


ambitions. How realistic a target do you think that is for John going


forward? He is one of the few players I would think it is


possible for them to when it got a budget in their 40s. It has not


been done ball so long. -- to win the World Championship in their 40s.


He is one of those players. His strike rate is very good. To


compare him fog Ronnie O'Sullivan who says he has under-achieve, John


does get himself in the right state of mind for the big events.


Remember it is first to six who will go through. A few more minutes


to enjoy the frame. Thank you, Hazel. A poor shot from


Normally you would think, is he on a baulk colour? With the blue not


being on its spot, he has got a chance with the blue. With any


player playing Rory, for some reason, their style of play, you


feel as though you are sat in your seat quite a while. Looking at the


table time, Rory McLeod has 61% table time, John Higgins 39%.


Sometimes you never seem to get a rhythm going, do you? You have got


to readjust and concentrate that bit harder when you are playing


like that. You are always going to come up against different styles of


play and John has been able to cope with all of the styles that have


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That was a bit unlucky. He may only I said it was a couple of minutes.


Coverage will continue of both matches on this afternoon online


and on the red button. We are back on the air again on BBC Two at


4:30pm. Well under way here in York but we are certainly less jovial


than usual because we are missing a couple of great friends and


colleagues who lit up the snookers seen with their skills and smiles.


We miss them both. A tremendously well respected referee died in


After a five year absence the UK Championship returns to York, where the top 16 players are drawn against 16 qualifiers. World and defending UK champion John Higgins takes on Rory McLeod in the first round best-of-11 frame match. Hazel Irvine presents all the action from the York Barbican.

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