“Just checked my euro millions numbers...... Looks like I have to make this trip to china today!!! There's always Tuesdays draw I suppose!!!”
So said a mischievous, and exclamation mark happy, Mark Allen before boarding for Wuxi where he is, of course, “bored outta my brains.”
I also checked the Euro Millions numbers and found I hadn’t won and would have to carry on writing this blog, although it probably didn’t help that I hadn’t bought a ticket.
Allen’s just got married so any time away from home right now is difficult but his antipathy towards China shows no immediate sign of abating, despite the two ranking titles he has won there.
And that’s the point. Whatever he thinks of the place it doesn’t seem to affect his performance. In some ways it may even relax him because if he does lose he knows he’s back on the plane home again.
Today he faces Peter Lines, a nice bloke and solid pro from Leeds, in the last 64.
It seems a long time ago now that Peter beat John Higgins in a ranking event in China, primarily because it is. It was 14 years ago in Shanghai.
Since then he’s toiled mainly in the cubicle set up, although he was a UK Championship quarter-finalist a couple of seasons back.
Allen tends to score heavily and, if he does, he’ll surely win. Rustiness, though, is apt to be exploited.
Judd Trump’s preparation for the tournament pre-qualifying was ideal: he went to Vegas with his mates, had a terrific time, came back and made three centuries to win his match in under an hour.
Today he plays Li Hang, a young Chinese player making his second attempt to survive the pro ranks.
Trump doesn’t strike me as a great one for post mortems. When you’re that age you tend to live for the moment. So it’s unlikely he’s thought much about some of his performances last season when he looked like he could become the player to take a stranglehold at the top of the world rankings.
It didn’t quite happen but he is still close to Neil Robertson and Mark Selby in the three-way battle for world no.1.
There was an encouraging win yesterday for Jimmy White, who beat Ricky Walden, the defending champion.
White has struggled to produce much in the way of form on television in recent times so this will be a boost for the enduring crowd favourite.
Lu, some say Lyu, Haotian also advanced. He is only 15 and already the youngest professional ever to win a match by qualifying.
He summed up the change to the system for a player in his position thus: “The new format meant I only had to win one match to qualify, which is extraordinarily good for the new players on tour like me. It’s much easier to get through, because before I would have had to win four matches in a row.”
Hard to argue with that, and good use of the word ‘extraordinarily’ to boot.
One problem with having so many players at the venue, though, is that practice time is severely limited with only two tables afforded for what is, after all, an important part of a tournament for any player.
Indeed, one player emailed me to say: “The practice sheets have been scrapped. It’s now an every man for themselves scenario.”
Finally, a word for WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson, who made a speech at the opening ceremony, an occasion less exciting than it sounds, which was note perfect and even ended with a phrase in Chinese.
He is apparently learning some local lingo in an effort to better communicate with the movers, not forgetting the shakers, in China, which is creditable bearing in mind the usual strategy of Brits in foreign climes is to say something akin to: “Do you speak English, or am I going to have to shout?”