Into the small hours – Day four at the Tempodrom
By Frank B. Halfar
On Saturday we had this much talked about set up, the famous Tempodrom atmosphere again with only the one table in the middle and a packed arena, a 2500-strong audience. It never fails to impress.
Four players left, only one will be able to raise the trophy, but all four have earned this moment, the grand entrance into this hall, a walk before moving down an elevated staircase within the crowd, all to an applause that makes it impossible to understand a single word. While I love the first three days with this unique Tempodrom table arrangement and the ultimate snooker club atmosphere, these opening moments are something to behold, each time.
To be precise, it’s been actually six people today who experienced all this, as the referees also are introduced in this style, just before the players. Today it was Jan Scheers being thus received, before Martin Gould and Ali Carter descended into the arena.
The match looked like a very even one at first, with Gould winning the first frame, then Carter levelling immediately. But the Captain gained in strength as the match progressed, and Gould seemed more prone to errors than on the previous days. I observed some interesting body language from him. There were reactions today, small frowns, the odd shrugged shoulder, when one of his strokes had not worked. All through his triumphant tournament last year, and during the first rounds this time around also, he had been so impressive with his relaxed concentration, as really nothing would perturb him. Give him a really difficult situation on the table, and his face would just look like “hmm, let’s see what we can do about this”. Today something seemed to have got to him. There was a difference. And perhaps that’s what decided this match.
Carter, on the other hand, came across as really certain about himself. Let me illustrate this with a small incident where he mistakenly pulled out one of the long rests from beneath the table, when he really wanted the extension for his cue. He went something like “what have I got here”, put it right back, and produced mild laughter within the audience. Now with the right gadget in his hand, he made a little show of putting the extension onto the false end of his cue, an intentional little “aren’t I clumsy” number. Louder laughs ensued. Naturally, any snooker audience loves this kind of entertainment. For a player, such jests can conjure a narrow line between easing one’s tension, or losing concentration and endangering one’s game. Carter got the dosage of a little self-deprecating humour just right, it seemed.
He led 3-1 by the mid-session interval, and then allowed Gould only one more frame, the fifth. The second part of the match had a noteworthy series of fouls and misses, when Gould had snookered Carter and the white would find a different route around the red several times, but changing the outcome this did not. Only a veteran photographer whispered to me that this is the kind of game situation affording him the very best shots.
Then with a clear 6-2 victory, Ali Carter became the first finalist and keeps the chance alive to break what has just promised to become the “Tempodrom Curse”, namely no one wins this tournament twice. After all, if the Crucible has its curse, why can’t the Tempodrom have one, too? It’s for the Chelmsford potter to prove in tomorrow’s final.
Before he can attend to that, he was already faced with some of the pleasant small burdens of his success. Extra autographs are required, an appearance in the VIP lounge so the higher rollers among the punters can briefly rub shoulders with a finalist. And I allow myself a little indiscretion by passing on that Ali needs to have his shirt dry cleaned – he may just have packed for Berlin without the firmest belief in reaching the final.
The evening session naturally started with the same ritual of earth-shaking loudness, the Tempodrom was sold out today both times. This time it was for referee Theo Selbertinger, Anthony Hamilton, and Stuart Bingham to savour this experience. Hamilton started with a win in a first frame that could have gone either way, and then upped the ante to 2-0, before the 2015 world champion could score his first frame in the third. The fourth was a narrow affair again, with the better end for the “Sheriff”. 3-1 at the interval.
In the fifth frame, Hamilton made a break of 56 that felt like a real statement. Along the lines, “I intend to win this”. Bingham fought on, required a snooker and got it, but it was Hamilton who still took the frame in the end. 4-1. The sixth frame went on for over 45 minutes with again snookers required and Bingham forcing his opponent into two fouls, but the necessary third did not occur. 5-1. The high lead did not seem undeserved, as Bingham clearly did not play at his best, the balls just would not run for “Ball Run”. But to think he were to let up would mean not to know Stuart Bingham very well. He fought! The next three frames were his, and it was way past midnight again. The audience had long begun to thin out (while staying within a remarkable size until the very end) and us stewards hardly knew how to keep standing any longer. 5-4, with everything seeming possible, including a match end at 3am.
But Stuart Bingham was to make only one more stroke, breaking the tenth frame and managing to pot the blue while doing so, surely a very rare feat, and most unfortunate for him. Hamilton scored 77 points and all that was left for Bingham was to congratulate his opponent.
So it really is Anthony Hamilton in the final. Considering not only his history of being so long on the tour and never winning a major, not having reached a final in 15 years, thinking of losing his place on the Main Tour only to come right back, but keeping in mind as well that he had the most difficult imaginable path to the Berlin final, having defeated Mark Williams, Mark Selby, Barry Hawkins, and now Stuart Bingham, it would surely be hard to find anyone begrudging him a success tomorrow. Ali Carter gets a full excuse to feel differently about this.
A great and long day at the Tempodrom, and a very short night ahead. May we be treated to a worthy, a really great, final. You shall read about it here!