The 2011 UK Championship is now over. It's time to take a look back at 9 fabulous days of snooker. I want to include everyone here to express your opinion and answer the following questions to conclude this championship.
1. Was the new format a success or a failure?
It wasn't totally bad; but the tournament's history certainly seemed detracted from this year by the change. I've always made known my opposition to the best of 11 format for the UKs and it's not changed that I certainly think that for the final stages on TV matches should be played over 13 frames earlier on rather than 11. That said as someone who's only been to the Crucible and session snooker before (when not on duty) it was different to watch matches from first ball to last. The format certainly I would say didnt help numbers. There were more than a few around York who were not happy with the 11 frame matches for the first rounds; one woman telling me she would not watch any of it until Friday when the rightful length was back on screen.
It also showed how different the 11 frame format is to a 17 frame format played over two sessions. Take Allen v Walden as the first example; the way Ricky played to go 5-3 up would make it very hard to see Mark coming back had that been 11 frames. I wouldnt have expected John Higgins to lose if his match against Stephen Maguire had been over 17 frames either.
I think that having three thrilling matches in the 'session snooker' situation made the event for me. It also showed IMO what the game was jeapordising in beginning the 'abolition of session matches'
Like I said to Monique; if we had two or three tournaments which had best of 17 frame semi-finals (to go along with the standard 9 frame and 11 frame early round matches as seen in most TV rankers) then a reduction to 11 frames would not grate as much as it does. At the end of the day the Top 16 may now play one session match in a season; and that I'm afraid is not good enough. Eventually the first round at Sheffield will be reduced because of their being too much of a discrepancy between the Worlds and other first round formats. (Something which was irrelevant at best of 17 in the UK)
The schedule can certainly incorporate session snooker; if you play Roll on Roll off at the weekend I don't see how it can't be done during the week. In that way you can do Rounds One and Two over 11 frames from Saturday to Tuesday and then increase the matches to best of 17 frames for the quarter-finals (and retain all 31 matches on TV)
2. Was the return to York the right choice?
Yep. Plenty to do and as one player eliminated in the first round put it; 'it's not bad losing in York because there's so much to do.'
York; coupled with the fantastic offers price wise that World Snooker were offering (3 sessions for £21 with no screen making it 6 matches is something too tempting to resist; spent a lot more than I would even at the Crucible normally) - When you went around York there was plenty on and as Sonny highlighted on twitter; the snooker brought £1m to the economy in just nine days (which felt longer [A positive]
3. What was your favourite match of the tournament?
The final; a clear example of why we need session matches.
4. Which players disappointed you?
Ali Carter. The way he played and his behaviour IMO against Allen was well out of order. Going for shots without any sort of consideration a half hearted 'cant be bothered' approach. His attitude in his 6-2 defeat to Allen stank and it really annoyed me.
5. Which players surprised you in a good way?
Ricky Walden's return to form was good. Yes I'd give him every chance of beating Lee who's better days are behind him but I expected Mark to beat him as well as Shaun. Thoroughly deserved to reach the last four and the end of the session came just at the wrong time for him.
6. What will Trump achieve in 2012?
Judd is very much like Ding was when he was very young. Immensely talented and could take on and beat the top players at the top of their games; Beating a top 16 player as a 16 year old TV debutant; the 2005 China and 2006 NI Trophy's for example along with that UK title he won in York in 2005.
The thing for Judd is that he's not been given a huge bump that Ding had when Ronnie thumped him 10-3 at the Masters. Yes he lost to John Higgins in the world final having had a decent lead (John won the Monday 11-5) overnight but he's not had a real bruiser with anyone yet. When he does (and all players do) it will be interesting to see how he responds.
7. What was your overall favourite moment?
Several; generally it was Mark Allen's return to form and I was thrilled for the OnQ team. I wanted Mark to win but last night was just fantastic to watch from both players. Both credits to the game.
My funniest moment however came at the Cuezone on Thursday I think it was. Myself and another lad were having a game of six red snooker (the most you're allowed) and Janie Watkins came out from the media centre. Had a chat and she picked up the cue to have a go. I went over for a laugh and spotted the black calling out '72' which some folk nearby with their back turned most of the morning turned to face the table getting really excited.
8. How much did you enjoy this tournament overall?
I'll give it 8/10. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. A nice break and as many will testify it's great to catch up and put the world to rights with all your friends in the game. That we had a watered down format IMO is the one slur on this championship which as Monday drew to a close clearly became something very special.
Roll on the Masters!