Covid Crucible

Anthony McGill and Jamie Clarke decided that some needle needed to be introduced to their 2020 2nd round World Championship match at the Crucible. The questions raised are firstly, why, secondly, who was at fault and a thirdly, who was in the wrong. Now the second two questions might seem the same but can be differentiated by considering which player made the first, either deliberate or inadvertent wrong move and which player was then at fault for continuing, or acting in a way which would continue, the altercation?

I think it fairly safe to say that the ‘why’ is easily answered with Anthony far in arrears with the frame score at 7 – 2 in favour of Jamie at the time and with Jamie standing within the vision of Anthony at the end of the table, presenting an opportunity which was not disregarded. Anthony’s tactic was to berate Jamie for standing in his eye-line and then carrying the argument to excess by continuing the complaint even as Jamie was making his way back to his seat. Jan Verhaas was the referee and quite rightly interceded at this point to calm things down.

The upshot was that Jamie won that 10th frame but only by two points and did not then win another frame for the rest of that session or in the next, with the frame scores then being 8 – 8 and the eventual winner, albeit in the final deciding frame, being Anthony. The tactic, if it was such, seemed to have worked and evidence of how distracting it was to Jamie was highlighted by a tweet during an interval when he posted ‘if you want to dance, we can dance’.

Now Jamie was certainly in the wrong by standing in line of sight of the striker but this has been in evidence many times at the Crucible, especially with the two-table set up as this was, without players getting upset or trying to start a war. If it was so upsetting to Anthony he was well within his rights to ask his opponent to resume his seat with a polite ‘can you sit down Jamie please, you’re bothering me standing there’, or words to that effect, even if that wasn’t the first time it had happened. Instead he chose belligerence to which Jamie responded. The correct thing to do was to make the request then ask the referee to intercede upon non-compliance. The referee, Jan Verhaas would then have spoken to the player and would have been well within his rights to issue a warning the next time it happened and the frame for any further indiscretion.

If it was a tactic it worked to perfection and if it was just bad temper at being so far behind then a warning to Anthony for unsporting behaviour would certainly have been justified.

In another match and at the quarter final stage. Ronnie was up against Mark Williams and there came a point very late in the match which I think gives us all a little lesson. Mark missed a Yellow after being in a snooker, which left the Cue-ball some distance away in Baulk as the Yellow was at the top of the table just in front of the Black. The immediate question was ‘is that a Free Ball’? It was certainly very close but the initial reaction from the referee was ‘no’. With Ronnie looking uncertain it was decided to take some measurements using a couple of Reds from off the table, one against the Yellow to see if that Red could be struck full ball and so tell if the finest edge of the Yellow was able to be struck and one against the offending Pink ball to see if the Cue-Ball could go past it to make that fine edge connection without first striking the Pink.

The end result was a change of decision with the Free Ball now being awarded, but the question which now surfaces is, why wasn’t the measurement made in the first place before making the incorrect decision and especially with the margins so fine? I think we can safely say that if any kind of similar situation ever crops up for any of us that no decision without measuring first should be the mantra. On the question of using Reds instead of ball markers for this process it would be my preference to use markers with straight edges rather than curved balls where it would be much easier to see if one is visible past the other or not, there is also the very remote possibility of removing the wrong Red afterwards if it were the more often occurrence of it being a Red as the ball in question rather than a colour and which would all but be eliminated by using a contrasting coloured and shaped marker.

Another small point of discussion and once again involving Anthony McGill was the incident in his match against Kyren Wilson. This was in a frame where the last Red was on the table with Anthony snookered behind the Yellow near the left hand (on the screen) centre pocket with the Black in the jaws of the right-hand top pocket and the Red about 8 ins. in front of the Black, all three balls and the Cue-Ball in line with each other. The only escape was to play off the Baulk cushion to come back down the opposite side of the table to where the Red was sitting. Quite an easy escape on the face of it, especially with the Red close to the junction of the side cushion and the top cushion. There was one huge problem, the scores were close in this frame and any mistake by Anthony, either by knocking the Black into the pocket and then leaving the Red at the mercy of his opponent into the same pocket, or otherwise leaving it in a potable position, would mean the end, not just of the frame but of the match as the frame scores then stood at 16 each in a best of 33 frame match. A ‘miss’ was called each time as Anthony tried his hardest to just lay up to the Red or to contact it gently so as not to touch the Black, either with the Cue-Ball or by knocking the Red onto it, sitting as it was on the lip of the pocket. Referee Brendan Moore had no such constraints and was correct in every call which continued until penalty points were required, following the Cue-Ball on its gentle path up and down the table each time to ensure that it could be seen if even slight contact were made or if there was no contact.

The point to be made is that even though this was a World Championship match with top professional players, Kyren was only stopped from being crowned after defeat by Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final, where a ‘miss’ is called virtually every time, even where an escape path is not as straightforward as this one. It would be expected that any referee would do the same in any match in any tournament without any consideration of possible consequences and with consideration only of whether an acceptable attempt was made commiserate with the skill possessed by the striker to strike the ball on.

Anthony’s comment afterwards was that ‘the Snooker gods were against me’. If that could possibly be true then maybe it was retribution because of his less than acceptable behaviour in the match with Jamie.

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