Ali Carter scored a gripping 10-9 victory over last year’s winner Stuart Bingham on the opening night of the Betfred World Championship.
The Curse of the Crucible struck yet again as Bingham failed to become the only first-time winner to successfully defend the title. He joins Steve Davis, Dennis Taylor, Graeme Dott and Neil Robertson as those to have lost in the opening round.
The first night in Sheffield produced high drama – as it so often does – as Bingham came from 5-1 and 8-5 down to lead 9-8, only to lose the last two frames in a tense finish.
It has been a disappointing season for Basildon’s Bingham, one of the few highlights coming at last month’s World Grand Prix when he was runner-up to Shaun Murphy. He admits he has struggled with the extra weight of expectation which inevitably comes with the moniker World Champion, and that was in evidence today as nerves affected his game and he only showed glimpses of his smooth break-building skills. His hopes of finishing the season as world number one are almost certainly gone.
Carter, meanwhile, was delighted to continue his run in snooker’s biggest tournament, having come through three qualifying rounds. The Captain is now through to the last 16 to face Stephen Maguire or Alan McManus. The world number 31 from Chelmsford reached the final in 2008 and 2012, losing both to Ronnie O’Sullivan, and will be confident of another deep run.
Trailing 5-4 after the first session, Bingham made a 41 clearance in the first frame tonight to square the match.
Carter’s run of 69 saw him regain the lead and he took a 42-minute 12th frame by clearing from brown to black. Runs of 58 and 52 in the next made it 8-5 at the interval.
Bingham’s fight back started with a run of 88 in frame 14. Both players had chances in the next and it came down to the last red. Carter potted it to lead 50-39 it but then missed a tricky brown to a centre pocket, and a cool clearance from Bingham reduced the deficit to 8-7.
Carter had first opportunity in the 16th but made just 6 before missing a tricky black. Bingham’s 68 got him back on level terms. The 17th followed a similar pattern as Carter missed a red to top corner on 13 and Bingham punished him with an excellent 113, the first century of the match. Carter responded brilliantly with a century of his own, 102, to make it 9-9.
In the decider, which lasted 43 minutes, Carter made 39 before losing position, and as the balls ran into awkward positions, he was able to nurse his lead throughout. Bingham had chances to reduce the deficit but twice missed the pink to a centre pocket. Carter led by 31 points after potting the yellow, and though his opponent got one of the two snookers required, he eventually clinched the result by knocking in the brown.
“I’m delighted to win,” said 36-year-old Carter, winner of three ranking events, who has now won his last seven matches against Bingham. “I fancied winning the decider, I felt as if it was my turn. I’m fitter than anyone here, I’m feeling better than I’ve ever felt. I don’t feel like it’s taken anything out of me, I’m really enjoying being here.
“Everything was set up to go wrong for Stuart, the writing was on the wall for him. Hopefully I can bring another title back to Essex. This season is a rebuilding season for me, one brick at a time.”
Bingham said: “I’m obviously gutted, I didn’t really get a clear chance in the last frame. I didn’t feel comfortable all the way through the match, I missed chances and maybe it wasn’t meant to be.
“I made too many errors, in fact I can’t believe I made a match of it. Hats off to Ali, I hope he goes on and wins it.
“I’ll keep the roar I got this morning with me for the rest of my life. I tried to keep a smile on my face when things weren’t going right.”
How the first-time winners have fared the following year
1980 Terry Griffiths: Lost in the second round to Steve Davis
1981 Cliff Thorburn: Lost in the semi-finals to Steve Davis
1982 Steve Davis: Lost in the first round to Tony Knowles
1986 Dennis Taylor: Lost in the first round to Mike Hallett
1987 Joe Johnson: Lost in the final to Steve Davis
1991 Stephen Hendry: Lost in the quarter-finals to Steve James
1992 John Parrott: Lost in the quarter-finals to Alan McManus
1998 Ken Doherty: Lost in the final to John Higgins
1999 John Higgins: Lost in the semi-finals to Mark Williams
2001 Mark Williams: Lost in the second round to Joe Swail
2002 Ronnie O’Sullivan: Lost in the semi-finals to Stephen Hendry
2003 Peter Ebdon: Lost in the quarter-finals to Paul Hunter
2006 Shaun Murphy: Lost in the quarter-finals to Peter Ebdon
2007 Graeme Dott: Lost in the first round to Ian McCulloch
2011 Neil Robertson: Lost in the first round to Judd Trump
2015 Mark Selby: Lost in the second round to Anthony McGill
2016 Stuart Bingham: Lost in the first round to Ali Carter