Crucible curse strikes again as Stuart Bingham loses in first round

Ali Carter claims 10-9 victory in classic opening day encounter

Stuart Bingham gives a thumbs up to the crowd after losing his first-round match to Ali Carter  during day one of the Betfred Snooker World Championships at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. Photograph:  Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire.

Stuart Bingham gives a thumbs up to the crowd after losing his first-round match to Ali Carter during day one of the Betfred Snooker World Championships at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire.

 

Stuart Bingham became the latest victim of the ‘Crucible curse’ as the man who lifted the trophy last May crashed out on day one of the Betfred World Championship.

The 39-year-old said in the week leading up to his first-round clash with Ali Carter that to be asked about the fabled curse was “an honour”, as it reminded him of his achievement.

But as two-time former finalist Carter stunned him 10-9 in a classic match, Bingham was left to reflect on the fact he was joining illustrious company, this time for the wrong reasons.

Sixteen previous first-time world champions had tried and failed to retain the title when returning to Sheffield 12 months on from their maiden triumphs, and Bingham becomes the 17th on the cursed list.

It has become snooker’s mountain that cannot be climbed, and cursed or not, Bingham was on his way home.

From 8-5 behind he had strung together four frames in a row to lead 9-8, hitting the front with a 113 break.

But back came Carter, firstly when making 102 to level and force the decider and then when edging over the line after both men saw match-winning opportunities slide by.

Bingham missed two pinks to the middle that were to prove so costly, and then a tough final red when the frame hung in the balance.

Carter cut it in and added the pink to effectively end Bingham’s hopes.

A superb yellow followed, and the man who has twice survived cancer in recent years was soon able to celebrate one of his finest victories.

During his glory run last year, Bingham saw off Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy in successive matches to take the title, each time as the underdog.

This time the roles were different, with Bingham the favourite despite his opponent’s pedigree in this arena.

Carter said he would be “fresh as a daisy”, despite having to contest three best-of-19-frame qualifying matches, the most recent on Wednesday when he saw off Dominic Dale.

Neither he nor Bingham were anywhere close to daisy-fresh when at 11.25pm the handshake came.

Bingham said: “I’m gutted to be going back home. I battled to 9-8 and missed a couple of chances to wrap the game up.

“Fair play to Ali. It just wasn’t meant to be for me. It was a tough draw and I just came up short. I hope he goes on to win it now.”

Carter said: “Stuart had everything to lose and nothing to gain.

“I felt he was a good draw for anyone – not because of the standard of player he is because he was the world champion.

“But he hasn’t had the best of seasons and coming here with everyone talking about the Crucible curse, it’s set up for him to go wrong.

“He’s been a deserved world champion and hopefully now I can bring another title back to Essex. I think the Rocket (O’Sullivan) and the Nugget (Steve Davis) have nicked most of them and it’s my turn to nick one I think.”

Peter Ebdon was a victim of the so-called curse in 2003, exiting to Paul Hunter in the quarter-finals.

Back for a 23rd Crucible appearance, Ebdon did not last long as the 45-year-old suffered a 12th first-round exit, beaten 10-2 by the impressive Marco Fu.

Hong Kong cueman Fu made breaks of 81, 111, 138, 84, 50 and two runs of 71, prompting Ebdon to say: “It’s one of the best performances anyone’s ever put up against me at the Crucible.

“You have to think that if he could continue to play like that for the next two weeks he’ll have every chance of winning the World Championship.”

Shaun Murphy, the 2005 world champion, beat Scotland’s Anthony McGill in the quarter-finals last year, and they were matched together in the opening round this time.

Firing in breaks of 61, 93, 76, 109 and 55, Murphy edged 5-4 in front of the Glasgow cueman, in a match that finishes on Sunday.

McGill has been mentored through the early years of his career by 45-year-old Alan McManus, who was a semi-finalist at the Crucible in 1992 and 1993 and on Saturday rolled back the years to take charge of his first-round clash with fellow Scot Stephen Maguire, building a 6-3 lead.

Maguire faced the threat of a fourth consecutive first-round Crucible exit, after 10-9 losses to Dechawat Poomjaeng, Ryan Day and McGill in the last three years.

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