Andy : 118, 128, 139, 135 | Odrl : 135, 133

A very successful opening session from my point of view. Although it has to be said that I did not play all that well, it was more a case of Andy struggling tonight. Probably the worst he has played against me in a playoff match so far.

Frame 1: I was determined not to make any silly mistakes, but that only lasted a couple of shots. I hit the middle knuckle and left a plant for Andy. Any hope of him breaking down was extinguished immediately, when he played a great split from the pink, off the side cushion with side, one of the best shots of the night. He then cleared the table with a flawless 139.

Frame 2: A couple of safety shots at the black end, until Andy left a possible blind-pocket cut, which I took on and got. I then made a total clearance of my own, a 133, playing very slowly and nervously, but I managed to get there in the end.

Frame 3: I played a poor safety and left a long pot for Andy. He surprisingly missed it, leaving everything on. I took some of the loose reds and got to about 45, before losing position. I attempted a tricky plant, missed it by a mile, and left the frame for Andy. He immediately made a mistake though, missing a straight blue, trying to force a cannon to two of the reds on the side cushion. The white finished in an awkward spot, a tricky pot to the middle the only realistic option. It is not usually my forte, but I potted this one and got past snookers required. Andy then left a red over the middle pocket. I missed it, the white cannoned into the pink, which cannoned into the black and knocked it in, 7 away. At that point Andy could win by a point, three reds still on the table. We played a couple of safety shots, until I went for a red along the side cushion and missed it. Andy had a decent chance of clearing the table, but immediately played a poor shot, knocking the pink in.

Frame 4: A fairly scrappy frame. Andy played a good safety to force an opening. He made a small contribution, then played a poor positional shot, followed by a safety. A couple of safety shots later I left a possible pot, very difficult, but Andy got it, great shot. He then inexplicably missed a fairly simple red, and I made a nervy clearance to win on the pink.

The second session was an epic battle, with incredible caution and concentration from both players, as well as some high scoring.

Frame 5: I played one of my ill-advised shots where I push a red up the table and leave the white near the black. This led to an exchange of containing safety, until I left the red to the yellow pocket from distance. Andy got it, then cleared the table with a nice 128.

Frame 6: Andy played a good safety shot where he brought a red out and covered everything, leaving only a thick contact on the pack available. I played it, trying to leave the white on the black cushion, but I brought a red with me into a potable position. Andy looked well on his way to making it 3-3, but he was unlucky with the split, not finishing on anything easy. He went for a cut into the middle pocket and missed it. I then made a very composed 92 clearance to re-establish my advantage.

Frame 7: An epic frame, one of the longest and most enjoyable I have ever played! There were two re-racks before any ball was potted. Both times a situation developed where safety was just getting very predictable, without a realistic chance of mistakes. On the third attempt the frame was finally resolved. After about two hours of safety, Andy finally left a possible red to the middle pocket, a very tricky pot, and some pace required to get on a colour. Unfortunately I missed it. Andy then made a marvelous clearance of 118, certainly not easy after such a prolonged safety exchange. On top of that, a couple of the colours were tied up, so he mostly had to play blacks and yellows.

Frame 8: A similar frame, although the safety exchange was not quite as long. A red finished near the blue spot, so we played containing safety at the black end, until Andy misjudged a shot and left a fairly straight red to the middle. This time I got it, then cleared the table with 135. I am not ashamed to admit I jumped triumphantly out of my chair after getting a favourable split, because this now puts me 2 in front with 3 to play. Against any other player, I would be confident of winning from here. :)

Of course, it could not just have been a simple win. Andy even had to help me get over the line in the end...

Frame 9: Another scenario where a red went up the table, onto the side cushion, this time as a result of Andy\'s shot. We both played back to baulk a couple of times, until I decided to just go for it down the cushion. I got the pot, finished on the blue with enough angle to split the pack off the side cushion. I got it perfectly, but I covered the black spot. I proved once again that break building without the black is a weakness of mine as I broke down early. In fact, I finished above the black spot and snookered myself on every colour, except for the super thin black which I eventually played and missed. This left the table for Andy, now slightly more open, but still plenty of work to be done. He compiled an excellent break to win the frame in his first and only scoring visit.

Frame 10: A long safety battle, until a certain idiot decided it would be a good idea to play a plant from distance. It was set to the side of the pocket, and I just squeezed it the wrong way from the angle I was playing it. Andy punished my stupidity with an excellent 135. These two breaks really were good, because it took him a while to open up the black to both pockets. So, 5-5 it was, decider to follow.

Frame 11: I decided not to go for anything even remotely risky this time. So the only way I would let Andy in would be with a safety mistake. And that was exactly what happened, although credit to Andy, it was a forced mistake, the result of a good snooker. Andy then immediately played the red that was available, even though it was not easy. He got the pot, and the white traveled across the table through the pack and he finished on the long blue. With the frame at his mercy, Andy misjudged the pace on the blue, leaving it short, and more importantly, leaving me in the balls. I immediately got the black re-spotted. After a couple of the loose reds, I played a textbook split, then stayed on the black and got over the line, 68 ahead with 67 on after I missed a fairly simple pink. Andy got himself up for playing on for the one snooker he needed, but like earlier in the match, he messed up his opening shot and left a red over the pocket.

I was going to post a smug comment about the changing of the guard and the end of an era and such, but after scrapping over the line against an ill and out-of-form Andy, I might as well skip it. :)

Thanks for a great match, especially the early part, and good luck in the next event.