The 2023 World Snooker Championship has now reached the semi-final stage and that means the single table format will return, making the atmosphere at the Crucible Theatre all the more intense and special.
The tournament has been a real mix, with the top half of the draw producing numerous shocks, and two surprise semifinalists, while the bottom half of the draw has seen the top two seeds pick their way through the tournament to clash in that second semi final.
Ronnie O’Sullivan, the top seed and pre-tournament favourite with bet365 Sport, was one of the casualties to lose out in the top half which means that we now have a new favourite for the Championship.
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Let’s now recap how the tournament has progressed so far, before we take a look at both the semi-finals which start on Thursday 27th April.
Seeds are shown in brackets.
🎱 NEW OIL AND GAS WILL SNOOKER US
🦺 At around 7:20pm, two Just Stop Oil supporters have disrupted the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, interrupting play. The pair proceeded to cover the tables in orange powder paint before being removed by… pic.twitter.com/xWJXjW82jf
— Just Stop Oil (@JustStop_Oil) April 17, 2023
First Round (Best of 19 Frames)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (1) 10-7 Pang Junxu
Ding Junhui (16) 6-10 Hossein Vafaei
Luca Brecel (9) 10-9 Ricky Walden
Mark Williams (8) 10-5 Jimmy Robertson
Judd Trump (5) 6-10 Anthony McGill
Jack Lisowski (12) 10-7 Noppon Saengkham
Robert Milkins (13) 10-9 Joe Perry
Shaun Murphy (4) 9-10 Si Jiahui
Mark Allen (3) 10-5 Fan Zhengyi
Stuart Bingham (14) 10-4 David Gilbert
Ali Carter (11) 6-10 Jak Jones
Neil Robertson (6) 10-3 Wu Yize
Kyren Wilson (7) 10-5 Ryan Day
John Higgins (10) 10-3 David Grace
Gary Wilson (15) 10-8 Elliot Slessor
Mark Selby (2) 10-8 Matthew Selt
The first round saw a number of upsets as well as an unwanted surprise when protestors stormed the table, one throwing orange powder all over the table and the other stopped by the referee before they could glue themselves to the table.
That interrupted the games between Mark Allen and Fan Zhengyi and the Robert Milkins v Joe Perry game was the one most adversely affected with one session cancelled due to the orange powder and the clean up required following that.
More conventional shocks followed in the first round as the fourth and fifth seeds (Shaun Murphy and Judd Trump) both exited the tournament, with Murphy losing a last frame decider to qualifier Si Jiahui and Trump well beaten by Anthony McGill, the Scott who always saves his best for the World Championship, or so it seems.
Ali Carter (11) and Ding Junhui (16) were the other two seeds to fall at the first stage losing to Welshman Jak Jones and Iranian Hossein Vafaei respectively.
Vafaei would light the fuse for his second round game with Ronnie O’Sullivan by giving an interview where he made some off-the-cuff remarks that were sure to get the Rocket fired up.
Kyren Wilson made headlines when he knocked in a 147 maximum break in his victory over Ryan Day, be still holds the top spot in the highest break contest and is on for a windfall of £55,000 (£40,000 for the 147, £15,000 for the highest break prize) should nobody be able to match his maximum.
Second Round – Best of 25 Frames
Ronnie O’Sullivan (1) 13-2 Hossein Vafaei
Luca Brecel (9) 13-11 Mark Williams (8)
Anthony McGill 13-8 Jack Lisowski (12)
Robert Milkins (13) 7-13 Si Jiahui
Mark Allen (3) 13-4 Stuart Bingham (14)
Jak Jones 13-7 Neil Robertson (6)
Kyren Wilson (7) 2-13 John Higgins (10)
Gary Wilson (15) 7-13 Mark Selby (2)
After a strange break shot in the second frame of his game with Ronnie O’Sullivan, Hossein Vafaei succumbed to a 13-2 mauling at the hands of the rocket, however him smashing the triangle of reds at the break did cause some discussion amongst pundits as to whether it was a sign that Vafaei had effectively accepted defeat before the contest had started.
The closest encounter in the second round saw Belgian Luca Brecel overcome 3-time former World Champion Mark Williams in a cracking contest.
In contrast, John Higgins raced into an 8-0 lead over Kyren Wilson and never looked in any danger as the 4-time World Champion won his second round game 13-2.
Three qualifiers made it through alongside the five seeds, Anthony McGill overcame Jack Lisowski 13-8, Si Jiahui defeated Robert Milkins 13-7 to take another scalp, while Jak Jones did likewise with an impressive 13-7 win over Neil Robertson.
Quarter Finals – Best of 25 Frames
Ronnie O’Sullivan (1) 10-13 Luca Brecel (9)
Anthony McGill 12-13 Si Jiahui
Mark Allen (3) 13-10 Jak Jones
John Higgins (10) 7-13 Mark Selby (2)
Luca Brecel produced a stunning comeback in his quarterfinal with top seed Ronnie O’Sullivan. The Belgian trailed by a 10-6 scoreline after the first two sessions of the match, but in the final session, he rattled off seven straight frames in a row against the Rocket to claim a stunning upset win to reach the semi finals.
There he will face Si Jiahui, the final remaining qualifier who once again went to the final frame to secure a victory over Scot Anthony McGill. The Chinese star has made a mockery of his current World Snooker Ranking of 80th and in his first year in the Main tournament, after being a losing qualifier for the past three years, he has already guaranteed himself his best pay cheque of the season, after surpassing his third round finish at the European Masters.
The other semifinal will pit the two top seeds from the bottom half of the draw against each other with Mark Allen overcoming Welshman Jack Jones 13-10 to maintain his brilliant form this season, while Mark Selby has quietly continued on his way through the tournament with a 13-7 win over John Higgins.
Semi Finals – Best of 33 Frames
Luca Brecel (9) v Si Jiahui
Both these players have knocked out some top class names on their way to the semi final with the likes of O’Sullivan, Murphy and Williams all sent home by either one of the duo.
Jiahui’s progress to the semifinal has been amazing, considering this is his first Crucible campaign and his best finish in a ranking event was a third round spot. He failed to qualify for a number of events this season and as such, he is something of an unknown here.
Brecel has excelled after winning his first First Round match at this tournament this year and he has improved as the tournament has gone on.
The Belgian is 2/5 to land the win with Jiahui a 2/1 chance.
Tip – This will be a close one but I’m backing Brecel to be the winner at 2/5.
Mark Allen (3) v (2) Mark Selby
No disrespect to Brecel or Jiahui, but both these players will feel that if they can make it through this semi-final, then they will have an outstanding chance of becoming World Champion.
That would be a fifth title for Selby, matching Ray Reardon’s tally, while it would be a first for Allen and a fitting end to a snooker season where the Northern Irishman has been by far the most consistent player on the tour.
Bet365 have Selby as the 8/15 favourite to win the match, with Allen a very appealing 6/4 given his form over the year.
Tip – This will be a close one but I am backing Allen’s improvement in form and temperament to pay off for the Irishman here.
The two semi-finals will be played from Thursday through to Saturday, with the final taking place on Sunday and Monday.