The Ronnie O’Sullivan ‘forgotten chalk’ narrow escape at the mid-session interval of his BetVictor Welsh Open semi-final against Barry Hawkins saw the world champion rush back to his cue case and back with around 15 seconds to spare before the players were ushered into the arena.
But with the Rocket himself raising the infamous Shaun Murphy/Stephen Maguire situation, now fully a decade go at the 2004 Grand Prix, in his post-match press conference it is probably worth clarifying both the rules and what actually happened in that incident.
There are effectively two ways a player can be docked a frame on this issue, by the tournament director for not being ready to play, or by the referee once the frame has started. Maguire was penalised for not being ready in the first place, so would have been docked a frame whether or not Murphy had spoken to referee Johan Oomen.
The fact that he did has caused him a lot of damage to his reputation, because other players were always going to see that as an unsportsmanlike attempt to ‘steal’ a frame. Murphy himself protested he only asked where Maguire was. The referee fed back to the tournament office that Murphy had brought up the question of the rules, so it became almost a case of who to believe.
Once the frame has started the referee is in charge and has discretion, and does not have to ask the opponent if they consent to a player going back to get their chalk. They can make that decision themselves, and either let the player go immediately, or make him wait until the end of the frame. Technically the referee has the power to dock a player a frame for this, but that is not the advice currently given and in practice would be very unlikely to happen.