2019 World Championship

In the first round match between Neil Robertson and Michael Georgiou two instances of note could be observed in the third frame.

The first was that there were no spots available to re-spot the Pink early in the frame after a pot by Neil. It therefore had to go as close to its own spot as possible and in a direct line from that spot to the face of the top cushion. The dilemma was how was this to be achieved with complete success, the importance of which cannot be overstated.

The technique employed by referee Olivier Marteel is one that has much merit. The Pink was firstly placed on the bed of the table and behind its spot from the perspective of the referee standing facing the top cushion, with enough clearance to be sure that the closest red ball was not contacted. A line of sight was then taken from that position to ensure that the Pink lined up with the Blue and Black balls still on their spots. Olivier then moved to the side cushion and with a forefinger gently rolled the ball to within a few millimetres of the obstructing red. The final positioning of one millimetre or less was achieved by placing the same forefinger firmly onto the table just behind the ball in a bent position with the heel of his hand also firmly on the table and then using the middle knuckle of the forefinger to pivot against the ball and move it minimally and precisely.

The second incident was when Neil was forced to play a safety stroke, again early in the frame with quite a few reds left and still gathered in a bunch between the Black and Pink spots. The cue ball was just off the top cushion so that cueing the stroke had to be made over the top of that cushion. There was a red ball close to the side cushion between the Centre spot and the Baulk line that was easily accessible for the striker. In the course of preparing to play the stroke the cue ball was contacted by the tip of Neil’s cue which moved it about an inch. Olivier Marteel rightly called a foul and announced the penalty. Michael Georgiou came to inspect and then asked that the cue ball be replaced and that the stroke be replayed by Neil. This was complied with and the stroke was then successfully negotiated by Neil without complaint. At no time was a miss called by the referee or asked for by Michael despite the declaration by one commentator that it was called, so it must be inferred from this that both players and the referee were conversant with Section 3. Rule 11 i) which states that balls can be replaced and the offender asked to replay a stroke if fouling when hampered in the execution of that stroke regardless of a miss being called or even being allowed for that stroke. As Neil was feathering in preparation of the stroke a miss could not be called and I’m sure that many in the audience and those watching around the world would have been slightly baffled at the course of these events, the explanation of which can be found, as in all other things, in the rule book.

The ninth frame of this match was also slightly unusual with two more things of note. It happened that a pot on the Blue was successful but with the Black being very close to the Centre spot, meaning that the Blue had to be spotted on the Black spot. This was also a very tight fit and it did just sit on the spot but with two red balls very close to it. It then happened a little later in the frame that a pot on the Black meant that it had to be re-spotted. Intervening strokes had firstly sent the Blue to the side cushion and one red had nudged the other closer to the Black spot and was now not further away than 26.25 mm. and probably much closer. The distance was checked by Olivier with his ball marker who then correctly spotted the Black on the Centre spot. This confused Neil who went to check with Michael, if the Blue had been spotted there, why the Black would not now spot. Both Michael and Olivier confirmed to Neil that the closest red had subsequently been nudged a little closer to the Spot which now prevented its placement there.

The other talking point was the very unusual occurrence later in the frame of two reds being lined up with the right top pocket and two others lined up with the left top pocket and Neil making two consecutive plants to start the frame winning break.

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