Snookerbacker

April 23, 2014

World Championship Round 2 Match Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:11 pm
Ronnie continues his defence on Thursday.

Ronnie continues his defence on Thursday.

Round 2 gets underway on Thursday as Ronnie O’Sullivan continues his defence of the title against Joe Perry.

The upsets in Round 1 have meant that the betting side of things from a match point of view have taken a bit of a bruising, although there is still plenty of outright interest and one Quarter bet that I still think could land at 9/1.

Now as we move into the best of 25′s, we have more of an idea of what we are dealing with in terms of how the players, in particular the seeded ones, are playing, so hopefully this will make the punting side of things a little easier.

I’ll list the matches in order of the draw and recommend a bet on each of them, the post will be updated as and when we know the match ups.

Click on the match to view the head to head stats courtesy of Cue Tracker.  

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Joe Perry (Starts Thursday 7pm)

Ronnie’s first match had a feeling of déjà vu to it to me. The way in which he dispensed with Robin Hull was reminiscent of his clinical but largely unspectacular first round wins of the last two years against Peter Ebdon and Marcus Campbell, that’s even before you look at the identical scoreline. So therefore all the signs are there again that he’s getting geared up for another serious tilt at the title and given his dominance in the head to heads over Perry it would only be the very brave or foolish who would predict anything other than a comfortable win for The Rocket. The two met at this stage 15 years ago, but so much water has passed under the bridge since then you’d need a frogman outfit to think that’s relevant, Ronnie won 13-9 on that occasion for the record. I can’t see Ronnie losing and he will probably win one or both of the first two sessions 6-2, for me that means he’ll just squeak under in the handicap that most firms have pitched this at.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on O’Sullivan (-5.5 frames) at 10/11 with Apollobet.  

Shaun Murphy v Marco Fu (Starts Sunday 10am)

PREVIEW TO FOLLOW.

Barry Hawkins v Ricky Walden (Starts Friday 10am)

The two semi-finalists from last season meet again, this time two rounds earlier. Walden has actually had his revenge on Barry since by beating him in a decider at The Masters, coming from 5-2 down to pip him 6-5. On the face of it these two are very evenly matched and their head to head stats back this up. For years the two of them have been either just in or just on the cusp of the top 16 but it’s fair to say that in the last two seasons it’s Hawkins that has kicked on. Barry is quickly becoming a Crucible specialist and comes into this fresh having missed China after winning the PTC Grand Finals, he’s definitely one of the men in form and I think will be eyeing up another possible crack at Ronnie in the semi-finals now that Ding is out of the running. He played very well in Round 1 against Dave Gilbert and I think he has the look of a man with bigger things on his mind here.

Recommended Bet: 2 points on Hawkins to win (-2.5 frames) at 11/10 with Paddy Power.   

Dark Mavis /Dominic Dale v Michael Wasley (Starts Saturday 7pm)

PREVIEW TO FOLLOW.

Mark Selby v Ali Carter (Starts Thursday 2.30pm)

Both narrow winners in round one Mark Selby and Ali Carter reprise a Quarter Final match up from 2007 which saw Selby win in a decider. First round performances suggest that this could be another Crucible classic and you’d expect it to go close. Selby looked OK in spurts in his win over Michael White but somehow managed to only fall over the line from a fairly comfortable position. Ali huffed and puffed his way through against Xiao but accelerated when challenged so both should be prepared for a decent battle here. Selby’s form has been very suspect this season, he’s not looked the force he has done in previous years but as ever his strong suit remains his ability to win when he looks like losing. Ali’s had his own issues this season and that’s understandably affected his form but for me he remains a very tough prospect at The Crucible and a better player here than he is anywhere else. I’ll stop short of tipping Ali to win though if you put a gun to my head I’d say he will, the handicap is a safer proposition in my opinion.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Carter (+2.5 frames) at 10/11 with Totesport. 

Alan McManus v Ken Doherty (Starts Friday 2.30pm)

Rumours that this match is being sponsored by Saga Holidays are greatly exaggerated as these old foes do battle at The Crucible for the third time. They last met in 2005 when Angles prevailed 13-11, a full 11 years almost to the day that Ken had beaten him here by the same score. That means that we are now seeing the two do battle for the third decade on the trot in the same round, all very oddly coincidental. So we’ve established that it will probably be 13-11 but who’s going to win? Well on first round performances I’d have to plump for McManus, simply on the basis that he was pushed harder to win. Ken did what he had to do but was hugely helped by the second session surrender of Stuart Bingham, who said afterwards that he thought Ken would have to raise his game markedly to get any further. Whatever happens, it’s a great achievement by them both to get this far at this stage in their careers, it might not be high on quality, but something tells me it will make up for this in tension.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on the winning margin to be Under 3.5 frames at 11/10 with Paddy Power.   

Judd Trump v Ryan Day (Starts Saturday 2.30pm)

Judd’s first round performance left a lot to be desired, he was slow, he was poor in all areas and he missed and misjudged ball after ball. He wasn’t punished but one thing you can be sure of, if he plays like that again he won’t be going any further against a player with a very good win under his belt already and a lot of Crucible experience. Judd proclaimed himself not too bothered about how he played and more interested in the result but surely he must be a little bit concerned. Day goes into this as an underdog with the bookies but I get the sense that I am not the only one who fancies him to win here. On first round performances and it could even be argued on recent form, I’d make Day favourite. It remains to be seen whether Judd can get himself back up to scratch and rase his game for the biggest venue of them all or whether the bookies have made a huge mistake here.

Recommended Bets: 2 points on Day at 12/5 with Apollobet. 3 points on Day (+3.5 frames) at 4/5 with Totesport.  

Mark Allen/Michael Holt v Neil Robertson /Robbie Williams (Starts Sunday 10am)

PREVIEW TO FOLLOW.

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and you can also view their match betting by clicking here.   

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Photos used courtesy of Monique Limbos. Click here to view her photos on Facebook.

Day Five: Riding on a Train (to Sheffield)

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:00 am

Modern Life is Rubbish

Modern Life is Rubbish

My life is just one long snooker marathon these days, as I make my way to The Crucible this morning for goodness knows what. 

I’m probably on a train as you read this and as a result only have time to briefly summarise the main talking points from Tuesday, I’ll be working on a match by match second round preview today and aim to have that up on here at least in part, possibly later today.

So as time is of the essence, yesterday saw wins for Alan McManus who knocked out John Higgins and Ricky Walden who ended the run of Kyren Wilson with a final frame that threatened to extend into June. Elsewhere, good leads were established in other matches by a very impressive Marco Fu and a slower version of Judd Trump with Barry Hawkins and Mark Allen taking slender one frame advantages into today.

Angles used his press conference afterwards to have a good old rant about all things modern, so I’m obviously, as a traditionalist anorak with a great love of tartan trousers, going to listen.

Our Alan reckons that the younger players aren’t getting their collective bonces down enough on the baize and prefer instead to spend too much time on the internet, he singled out in particular Facebook and Twitter, the two internet social media evil giants.

But Angles isn’t too bothered about that as what it means is that the likes of him and Ken and all the other fortysomethings with a bit more nouse can keep on earning the bunce, he said “The old guard are still holding quite a big chunk of the top 16 or 32. I think there’s still plenty of room for guys at the age of 40 and over to compete at the higher level of the game. Today’s world isn’t good for young people in snooker terms because they spend all their time on Facebook and it’s killing their snooker. They’re too busy reading and writing about snooker, instead of getting their nut down and practicing hard. I’m on Twitter but I don’t tweet very often.”

I say bravo to that, there’s far too much rubbish written about snooker on the internet and it’s mostly read by dimwits. Ermm. Anyway, Alan then took to Twitter to thank his fans for their support and tell them what he was having for his tea.

But despite his chatter, he can’t be making that much money as when asked about his tartan trousers, he added: “I’m going to have to stick with them because they’re the only ones I’ve got”. I do hope he’s found a decent dry cleaners after his close shave with John, we may need to have a whip-round for him if he wins another one.

The other big story was Judd being hauled off a frame early in his match with Tom Ford. It’s surely an embarrassment for the Boy Wonder to suffer the ultimate humiliation and forever now be labelled as a snail on the baize. Hopefully he’ll start speeding up again soon as this is not what Barry wants from him at all.

Talking of Barry, it’s 2pm today for his latest musings, including the much anticipated talk of format change and the yes or no to the wildcards. Jimmy might actually need one as if Michael Wasley can win his next match he’ll be relegated off the tour at the expense of a certain Martin O’Donnell.

Apologies for the condensed post today, but I don’t want to miss my date with Beardy Medal Man, I’ve a train to catch. Choo Chooo.    

10.00am

Barry Hawkins 5-4 David Gilbert 
Judd Trump 6-2 Tom Ford

2.30pm

Marco Fu 6-3 Martin Gould
Neil Robertson v Robbie Williams

7pm

Dark Mavis v Dominic Dale
Mark Allen 5-4 Michael Holt

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and you can also view their match betting by clicking here.   

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April 22, 2014

World Championship Day Four

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:41 am
Ermm, yeah. It really happened.

Ermm, yeah. It really happened.

Alright hang on a minute, that wasn’t supposed to happen was it? Day three in Sheffield produced yet more drama as the unlikely figure of Michael Wasley, who by day can be seen cleaning out toilets and running to Tesco to stock up on bread at the Gloucester Academy, added his name to a very short list of Crucible giantkillers, seeing off Ding Junhui 10-9 in a thriller.

It’s difficult to know where to start with this, superlatives will be used on every blog, every journal, every newspaper that covers this incredible achievement by the man everyone who meets him immediately refers to as ‘Wazza’. Ding came into this, for the first time really in my eyes as a very real contender for the title, but a combination of Michael’s fearless attitude to the match coupled with the Crucible demons once again working their wicked ways means Ding ends the season as a first round loser, having been winning almost everything else. The curse of the China Open once again proving just as real as it’s distantly related Crucible hoodoo. Those pesky snooker gods….

I won’t go into the ins and outs of the match but will say this. Wasley played incredibly well, I would go as far as to say that his performance is at the top of the pile when it comes to Crucible match debuts, he fought back from 3-6 down having looked a little jaded at the end of the first session to bring the fight to an increasingly animated Ding. His positivity, his obvious appeal as the big underdog in a country prone to not really liking winners that much and his rock-solid nerve under pressure proved a winning combination. Having now met him on many occasions, I am absolutely thrilled for him, he’s a grafter, but that should not detract from his talent. He’ll feel like it was all a dream this morning.

The victorious hero said afterwards ‘It will take a good night’s sleep to get over it. The crowd were great, they really brought me along and it’s great playing in front of them performing – I just want to do it all again tomorrow. Throughout qualifying I thought I played really solid, I think I upped my level yesterday and not just today. Coming into the session 6-3 down I knew what I had to do to try and win it. I knew Ding was coming into this with a lot of pressure being one of the favourites, and I just had to try and capitalise on that which I did. It’s been amazing, you only dream of playing in places like this and it’s taken a lot of hard work and support from everybody. It’s all coming together now. I’ve got a big taste for it.’

I just hope all this fame doesn’t go to his head as he promised to change the tip on my cue next time I saw him and we agreed a price. Just because he’s now a fucking superstar doesn’t mean I’m paying above the odds, we agreed a fiver and that’s all I’m paying, like it or lump it. AND I know you’ll be reading this so don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Ding was left to lick his wounds but was more gracious in defeat than he had been in getting there, a defeat which will at least ensure that he is now firmly embedded in the Crucible history books, albeit not for the reason he’d like. China’s wait for a world champion goes on.

Elsewhere during the day, Mark Selby also won a decider against Michael White. Normally of course this would be the headline of the day but such was the scale of Wazza’s win, it’s relegated to a supporting paragraph. The Jester will be lining up against Ali Carter in the potential tie of the round starting Thursday.

Joe Perry came back to beat Jamie Burnett, another player that recovered from a 3-6 deficit. Afterwards Joe said he was pleased with himself but Burnett wasn’t exactly a ray of sunshine, claiming he didn’t enjoy playing anymore and wouldn’t care if he dropped off the main tour. Another Crucible rookie Kyren Wilson started well against Ricky Walden but resumes this evening at 6-3 down after the Chester man who still hasn’t got a nickname took the final five frames of the session.

The other match yesterday saw what most days would be the headline on this blog, namely, Alan McManus stepping out into the arena in a pair of Tartan Trousers.

Angles cut quite a dash in his strides and sartorially I reckon upped the game from Clark Gable Murphy. Cruel jibes from some quarters proclaimed he’d arrived late to The Crucible having come straight from the golf course without time to change, another troublemaker who shall remain nameless suggested that he’d mugged the Crucible chef as he’d forgotten his normally understated threads. Whatever the truth of the matter, the trousers definitely had an effect on the match as a stunned and mesmerized Higgins struggled to cope with them.

Albert shows Stephen how to rock the beard as small children stare in wonderment.

Albert shows Stephen how to rock the beard as small children stare in wonderment.

At 5-1 up, the magic trousers looked to be coasting all the way to a massive overnight lead but then something odd happened. Higgins, on 49 and seemingly in for a serious maximum attempt, broke down, to the despair of Stephen Hendry on Twitter who during the break (aftertiming) said he’d backed the maximum to be made at some point in the tournament.

As pockets were hurriedly widened even further to please the King of the Crucible and the Scottish mafia, Higgins was off again and this time got to ten reds and blacks before breaking down on 80 on another attempt, to the despair of half of Scotland who by then had lumped on Hendry’s ill-judged advice. Perhaps he’ll get one today, who knows, he’d better had or they’ll string him up when he gets home, they don’t like parting with money those jocks. Anyway, Angles and his trousers resume at, yep you guessed it, 6-3 in front again.

So another dramatic day in Sheffield, so dramatic that there isn’t even time to talk about ‘Smilewatch’, the new craze that’s sweeping the nation when Beardy Medal Man aka Uncle Albert comes on our screens. No time either to talk about how excited Steve and JP are about their new TV toy thingy and the slow-mo shot replays or to mention Dennis’s two gaffes of the day in somehow referring to SWSA supremo Paul Mount as Paul Round and picking out the narkiest kid in the Crucible on camera claiming he was delighted to be there while Animated Angry Kid was remonstrating with his mother about something she’d done that he didn’t like, probably breathing.

Everything is so dramatic on the baize we have no time for such trivial tittle-tattle today.

Tuesday sees another jam-packed day as Round 1 enters the business end of things, I’ve also included the schedule for Wednesday below as this time tomorrow I’ll be on a train to Sheffield with the express purpose of tickling Uncle Albert to see if I can force a smile out of him. So tomorrow’s post will be a little later and directly from The Crucible, if the Wifi is working which is always a toss of a coin in the media bearpit. It’s Bazza’s big day tomorrow too so stay tuned for his latest madcap ideas.

10am

Marco Fu v Martin Gould
John Higgins 3-6 Alan McManus

2.30pm

Barry Hawkins v David Gilbert
Judd Trump v Tom Ford

7pm

Ricky Walden 3-6 Kyren Wilson
Mark Allen v Michael Holt

Wednesday 

10am

Barry Hawkins v David Gilbert 
Judd Trump v Tom Ford

2.30pm

Marco Fu v Martin Gould
Neil Robertson v Robbie Williams

7pm

Dark Mavis v Dominic Dale
Mark Allen v Michael Holt

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and you can also view their match betting by clicking here.   

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Photo used courtesy of Monique Limbos. Click here to view her photos on Facebook.

April 21, 2014

World Championship Day Three

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:46 am
Ken orders a drink the minute he wins.

Ken orders a drink the minute he wins.

Another day in Sheffield follows a dramatic night at The Crucible last night which saw two matches going to a decider as Shaun Murphy and Ryan Day booked their places into the Last 16.

But that wasn’t the only drama on Day Two by a long chalk and earlier it was the turn of Dublin Darling Ken Doherty to turn back the clock and post a win over the hapless Stuart Bingham. Ken had returned to the arena with a one frame deficit but he needn’t have worried as Ballrun proceeded to play one of worst sessions of his or indeed anyone’s life, seemingly unable to string more than two or three balls together as Ken giggled to himself in the corner, unable to believe his luck as his opponent missed here, there and everywhere.

It was Ken’s first win at The Crucible for donkey’s years and he was clearly chuffed to bits at the end of it. He then looked ahead to his next match and said ‘I’m coming here to enjoy myself but I’m not coming here to make up the numbers. I’m here, like everybody else, to give their best – this tournament only comes around once a year’. Stuart couldn’t understand why he played like he did and said that Ken would have to improve a lot of progress further, putting rather a dampener on the previously celebratory mood.

The afternoon saw Rubik Cube Master Michael Wasley walk out to the arena for the first time with a big smile on his face, he played very well early on under the circumstances but returns today 3-6 down to Ding. Ding was a bit grumpy yesterday and was getting very annoyed at himself at times, but he got himself in order towards the end of the session after all the toys had been discarded from his pram.

On the other table, another notorious Crucible grump Ali Carter returned to conclude his match against Xiao Guodong. It was during this match that Dennis decided to step in with his vast knowledge of all things international. He spoke of the other Chinese players he’s familiar with, Ding, Liang Wenbo and Dechawat Poomjaeng from ermm, Thailand, this latest attempt at diplomatic relations meeting with a stunned silence from his commentating colleague The Nugget. The less said about that gaffe the better really as it comes just as the dust had settled on him calling China ‘The Land of the Rising Sun’, which very nearly resulted in a Nuclear War in the East.

Anyway, Ali huffed and puffed, kicked his cue, ruffled his hair so much that by the end of the match he resembled a distant cousin of Ken Dodd but ultimately came through the match unscathed, which is more than could be said for his hair. Afterwards he praised his opponent for his unflappable way around the table before praising himself even more; ‘The clearance he did to go 8-8 was massive but all credit to me for making the 80 break and playing a granite last frame there to win it’ he said modestly. He is now up against the winner of Mark Selby and Michael White so we could be on for another Captain Classic in Round 2, he doesn’t do things the easy way does Ali.

Then it was the turn of the evening protagonists to return. The understated Shaun ‘Clark Gable’ Murphy returned in a suit which is meeting with mixed reviews to his Superman theme music and eventually managed to overcome Jamie Cope from Stoke on a dramatic Crucible evening that the BBC couldn’t be arsed broadcasting, instead concentrating on things from years ago that everyone has seen 100 times before.

Shaun was in jovial mood after the match and joked ‘If that’s what this tournament’s got in store for me over these 17 days then I want to go home, I feel like I’ve got the nerves of a 75-year-old and I’m only 31. I’m just glad I’ve got one of these in the locker because it’s so hard out there – the first round is like a bloodbath’. Nobody can ever accuse him of exaggerating.

Cope in the meantime continued the spirit of sour losers and basically claimed that Shaun had only won because he wasn’t cueing properly saying ‘I just couldn’t control my arm today. If I’d have felt like I did yesterday, I’d have probably won 10-5′. But unfortunately for him matches aren’t decided on probably’s and he’s definitely not in the next round.

On the other table a spirited fightback by Stephen Maguire ultimately resulted in him running out of gas at the end, losing a decider to the man with shovels for hands, Ryan Day.

Big HandsRyan said afterwards that he’d really enjoyed the game from start to finish, though I’m not sure he’d have said that if he’d lost while Maguire bemoaned his ‘season from hell’ saying that he’s glad that it’s over, though the way things are at the moment in snooker all that means is a fortnight off before the next tournament in Bongo Bongo Land, but my guess is that Mags might be one of those who picks and chooses more next season, we’ll see.

Dennis’s Eastern gaffe aside, it was a fairly uneventful day off the baize, largely because of the BBC’s frankly shit coverage in the evenings. The afternoon however saw JP get his little go on the new screen that they have got for themselves in the Winter Gardens with Hazel yelling over to him struggling to be heard when he was trying to explain something as they were watched on by the strange Uncle Albert impersonator they have hired in for the championship.

Anyway, it was a great day’s snooker yesterday and bodes well for a championship that unlike last year seems not to be relying too much on gimmicks and characters and more on what’s happening on the table.

Today sees Ronnie’s opponent for Round 2 decided this morning as Jamie Burnett resumes against Joe Perry 6-3 up, while Mark Selby starts out against Michael White and plays to a finish this evening. Ding and Wazza play to a finish this afternoon as Scots Higgins and McManus start out and tonight it’s the turn of another Crucible debutant Kyren Wilson to enter the arena to face icky Walden.

10am

Joe Perry 3-6 Jamie Burnett
Mark Selby v Michael White

2.30pm

Ding Junhui 6-3 Michael Wasley
John Higgins v Alan McManus

7pm

Ricky Walden v Kyren Wilson
Mark Selby v Michael White

You can read my full championship preview here and Mrs Snookerbacker’s spooky championship prediction here

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and you can also view their match betting by clicking here.   

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Photo used courtesy of Monique Limbos. Click here to view her photos on Facebook.

April 20, 2014

World Championship Day Two

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:00 am
Ronnie is safely through.

Ronnie is safely through.

It’s Day Two at the Crucible and today we will see four matches conclude and two fresh ones begin and it’s fair to say that all the seeded players aren’t having things their own way.

Ronnie however came through 10-4 in his first match against Robin Hull and proclaimed himself afterwards as ‘here to do a job’, after of course, his usual gushing congratulations to his opponent on managing to reach The Crucible, thankfully just stopping short of his usual praise for what a great season he’s had, as poor old Robin has hardly played in anything else Ron had obviously done his research.  

While Ronnie played OK, the score probably flattered him a little, but ominously it’s the same scoreline as he’s won by in Round 1 for the last two years so perhaps he’s once again just warming up.

JP proclaimed that a pink he played early in the match was ‘already shot of the championship and it’s only day 1′ which is a bit of a shame as I was looking forward to the next 16 days, but when JP raises those arched-eyebrows you know he’s deadly serious so Ron is already a winner in his eyes.

The highlight of the day in the commentary box was undoubtedly JV carelessly falling off his seat. Unfortunately, it wasn’t caught on camera but it sounds as if he was OK. His co-commentator Nugget admirably holding the fort through his giggles as the dishevelled bearded one got himself back in order. World Snooker have instigated a full investigation to find out what happened and word has it that Stephen Lee is in the frame for tampering with the chair just before John went in there, well, he gets the blame for everything else so they might as well add that to the list and bang another couple of years onto his sentence.

Anyway, resuming today we have firstly Stuart Bingham against Ken Doherty, who are locked in battle with Ballrun leading 5-4. Ken’s fans made a lot of noise in the first session and are clearly either right behind their man or they’ve started on the Guinness earlier than usual. Bingham will probably feel that he should be a little further in front and this promises to be a great finish to kick start the morning of day two.

Ali Carter looked to be absolutely coasting at 4-1 up and in the balls to Xaio Guodong, but a shot going into the pack off the blue resulted in a red going in too and it’s fair to say this altered the match and more importantly The Captain’s previously relaxed mood considerably. As Ali huffed and puffed around the table as only he can, Xiao, in a pair of £400 silver scoobies made his way back into the match. Having drawn level at 4-4 a tense last frame saw The Captain battle back to the front, it remains to be seen how crucial that frame will be and the two resume this afternoon in what could be a great day’s action.

Resuming in the evening are Shaun Murphy and Jamie Cope alongside Stephen Maguire and Ryan Day. Both seeds are behind with Maguire in particular really up against it resuming at 3-6 with Ryan Day having managed to win the final frame of the session. Mags will need to start well it goes without saying, but if he wins the first mini-session he’s right back in it. I’m sure that this fact might be mentioned once or ten times on the BBC.

Shaun, who is quickly turning into the Clark Gable of the Baize with these dapper threads he’s wearing will need to smarten up his act on the baize today as he resumes 4-5 down to the resurgent Jamie Cope. The Stoke Potter looked very sharp in the first session and we know he has the experience and game to win and Shaun will be hoping to avoid another unwelcome first round exit in a season when he goes into this as a real contender, would be a waste of a good suit too.

Off the table, World Snooker Dictator, I mean Director, Barry Hearn used yesterday to really get the snooker community going by saying that on Wednesday he’s going to make an announcement about changes to the format of the World Championship next year. Many widely (probably wrongly) assumed that this will mean he’s shortening the matches but I don’t think that’s what he’s talking about. My hunch is that the flat 128 structure will be adopted with each player needing to win 2 matches to get to The Crucible next season, but we’ll see.

He also said that he’ll be announcing his decision on the Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, Jimmy White wildcard melodrama too, he seems to be siding with keeping them all on the tour, at least on a temporary basis, having courted opinion on the matter on Twitter and apparently having added up all the feedback to come up with a 77% approval rating. Rumours that he used the same calculation that brought about the re-election of Robert Mugabe with a 125% share of the vote is I’m sure untrue.

He also said he’s been having positive discussions with both the BBC and Sheffield about the Crucible’s long term snooker future and again indicated that he doesn’t want to move it away ‘during his lifetime’. He even referred to himself as a ‘traditionalist’ which is odd as he used the very same term as an insult a few weeks ago, though he did add the word ‘anorak’ to give it further gravitas. He also said that other TV channels are making positive noises about snooker, which probably just means Sky want another bloody Shootout.

I’ll be at The Crucible for the press conference so we’ll wait and see what our lord and master has to say on all these and no doubt more matters. I’ll be taking my anorak, my collection of train timetables and a packet of rotten tomatoes just in case.

Cliff: Flying in soon (flight class unspecified)

Cliff: Flying in soon (flight class unspecified)

Thankfully, I wasn’t there yesterday as the stage belonged to someone called Louis from a band. World Snooker teased us all as they proudly proclaimed he had 16 million Twitter followers prior to the great unveiling of who their mystery man was, they then set about googling who he was themselves before pretending to be hip and trendy and making puns on their song names, none of which I recognised apart from the name of an old Blondie rip-off they’ve massacred.

For me this was all a bit of an anti-climax but I’m sure someone, somewhere in the fiercely protective snooker community recognised him. At least Dennis didn’t cotton on as god only knows what he’d have started saying about it all. I’m sure he’d have been wholly inappropriate as only he can be so it’s probably a good idea that the two were kept well apart from each other. Thankfully our Den stuck to wittering on about golf, 1985, Patsy Fagan, Fred Davis and what time and date Cliff Thorburn is flying in from Toronto this year. The one reassuring constant in an ever changing world.

So here are today’s matches. It’s a huge day for SWSA workhorse Michael Wasley as he takes on the thankless task of playing Ding. Hopefully he’ll just relax and enjoy it, though the likelihood of him stopping China’s great hope at this stage has to be considered slim. Gentleman Joe Perry also starts out this morning against Scotland’s Jamie Burnett in the match that will decide O’Sullivan’s 2nd Round opponent.

10am

Joe Perry v Jamie Burnett
Stuart Bingham 5-4 Ken Doherty

2.30pm

Ding Junhui v Michael Wasley
Ali Carter 5-4 Xiao Guodong

7pm

Shaun Murphy 4-5 Jamie Cope
Stephen Maguire 3-6 Ryan Day

You can read my full championship preview here and Mrs Snookerbacker’s spooky championship prediction here

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and you can also view their match betting by clicking here.   

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Photo used courtesy of Monique Limbos. Click here to view her photos on Facebook.

April 19, 2014

World Snooker Championship Day One

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:52 am

It’s time for the show to begin in Sheffield.

I’ll be writing plenty over the next 17 days so let’s keep it simple for starters. Here is what is happening today.

10am

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Robin Hull
Stuart Bingham v Ken Doherty

2.30pm

Shaun Murphy v Jamie Cope
Stephen Maguire v Ryan Day

7pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Robin Hull
Ali Carter v Xiao Guodong

RECOMMENDED BET UPDATE: Apollobet have an interesting market up which asks who the highest seeded player will be to lose in Round 1, if you have read my preview you’ll see that I think this is a round which will be dominated by the seeded players so I think 1 point on 28/1 shot Mark Davis might be a shrewd bit of interest.  

You can read my full championship preview here, my ‘Fate of the Favourites’ post here, Deco’s Novelty Bet Recommendations here and Mrs Snookerbacker’s spooky championship prediction here

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and bear in mind that if Judd Trump is champion they are refunding outright stakes to a maximum of 100 Euros. You can also view their match betting by clicking here.   

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April 17, 2014

World Championship Preview: Can Anybody Stop The Rocket?

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:13 pm

WORLD_SNOOKER_CH_534289d27e53dAfter the incredible drama of the final qualifying round at Ponds Forge it’s straight over to The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, the home of snooker, for this year’s World Snooker Championship which starts on Saturday and runs for its traditional 17 day ‘marathon of the mind’ until May 5th.

These are the best two weeks of the year to be a snooker fan. They are also both the best and most demanding times to be a snooker blogger or a journalist, the turnaround time between the end of the qualifiers and the start of the main event this year is just two days, which for me is too short a time to get everyone really talking about the event as much as its status merits.

But come Saturday morning, all my moans and groans about the schedule will be forgotten as I, like millions of others around the globe will sit and watch the Crucible curtain (well, wall, if you want to be pedantic) and a hush of anticipation descend on this great championship once more. All eyes, with due respect to the players on table 2, will be on one man. That man is the defending champion and undoubted king of the box office, Ronnie O’Sullivan.

This year, Ronnie is attempting something that only the other two great winners of the modern game have done, that is to win three World Titles on the spin. Only Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry (who won five consecutive titles) have done this before.

He is also seeking to join Steve Davis and Ray Reardon as a six-times champion, which will put him just one behind Hendry. His performances the last two seasons have understandably led to him being the shortest priced favourite for many years.

His season has been a little busier than last, which wouldn’t be difficult in fairness, he’s won The Masters, Champion of Champions and The Welsh Open in convincing fashion and has inflicted heavy final defeats on two of his main rivals, namely Ding Junhui and Mark Selby, in the process. He is without doubt the man they all have to stop.

So can anyone do just that? Ding has been in prolific winning form this season but the question marks still remain when he comes up against Ronnie, something he is seeded to do in the semi-finals here. Selby has not been the prolific winner of previous seasons and for me has been struggling to find form for some time, but he still manages to earn the tag ‘The Master of Brinkmanship’ from observers and remains a very tough opponent.

World Number 1 Neil Robertson, the champion four years ago, is many people’s idea of Ronnie’s main rival. They are seeded to meet in the final and Robbo will be wanting to banish Ronnie’s tag of invincibility on the biggest stage of them all. Judd Trump comes into this in a lot less media glare than usual, a quiet season by his standards may not be a bad thing in preparation for this, it didn’t do Ronnie any harm last year, but his form will have to pick up markedly if he is to stand a chance.

Then there’s old hand John Higgins, he is steadily getting back to form as the season draws to a close after cue troubles and will be hoping he’s peaking in perfect time, a championship win for him would draw him back level in world titles with his great rival O’Sullivan, there’s his incentive right there. A final between these two greats would be quite something.

Other contenders? Shaun Murphy, in great form at the moment and back in the winners enclosure. Last year’s runner-up Barry Hawkins, he’s made the final once, so why can’t he do it again? Stephen Maguire, considered by many to be the best player never to win the title. Marco Fu, always a danger and one of the most consistent players on the tour. Or what about Ali Carter? Beaten twice in Final’s by Ronnie and again seeded to meet him at that stage this year. Mark Allen perhaps? A great talent and a real battler on his day who fears nobody, or perhaps the reward for Stuart Bingham’s years of dedication to the sport he loves?

Joe shocked the world in '86

Joe shocked the world in ’86

When all is said and done, there are 32 players starting out who will all, to a more or lesser extent be thinking about holding the trophy aloft. We’ve seen surprise winners in the past of course, most notably Joe Johnson << watch that link, it will make you smile Graeme Dott and Shaun Murphy, Shaun coming all the way from the qualifiers to lift the trophy. Maybe it’s time for someone who has won through in the last few days at Ponds Forge to have the 17 days of their life and shock the world? It’s happened before.

Whoever you fancy for the title, my hope is that the snooker doesn’t let us down. Let’s banish all thoughts of burn-out, let’s hope all the top players, indeed all the players involved, bring their A-game to the table. If they do, we are in for a cracking championship.

Incidentally if you haven’t read my ‘Fate of the Favourites’ post, click here to see how favourites have got on at the Crucible since 1981, some of it might surprise you.

For ‘once a year’ snooker fans, I welcome you as ever along for the ride, just remember, this is a nice polite place where we discuss things like the re-introduction of flowers into the arena and why Chinese fans always sit at the top. If it’s pure venom or vehement allegations that someone is ‘at it’ that you want I think the Betfair snooker forum is still operational.

Also, be sure to check out other top sites devoted to the sport along the way, including Pro Snooker Blog and Inside Snooker, both shining examples of snooker’s thriving online community.

The terminally deluded can also follow my largely insane and unintelligible ramblings on Twitter for as long as you can stand them by clicking here and clicking follow in the time-honoured way. I’ll be making my way to the media scramble at the Crucible midway through the first week so expect some cutting insight there… 

Now let’s have a look at the tournament. The betting has gone very very well this season, let’s see if we can finish off with a bang, though the fact I’m not recommending a bet on the player I and most people think will win it, means we may not end up with the champion again. 

Where the players have met previously, click the match to go to the Head to Head statistics, courtesy of the brilliant Cue Tracker website.

Top Half: Quarter One:

Can Robin Finnish off The Rocket?

Can Robin Finnish off The Rocket?

Ronnie O’Sullivan (1) v Robin Hull (Saturday 10am and 7pm)

The blue riband event of snooker starts with Ronnie up against Finland’s Robin Hull. In many ways this is the perfect draw for Ronnie, it’s a test, but not one that should result in defeat. Hull has been one of the outstanding players in the qualifiers and has got here through a grapple with Peter Ebdon, he is far from a ‘wet behind the ears’ rookie and has played here before. His career has been dogged by injury and health issues but when he’s right, he’s a very solid player. OK, let’s get this out of the way, I strongly fancy Ronnie to defend his title again successfully but he’s no sort of price to be backing now, the only reservation I have had is that I have thought all along that if he does lose, he’ll lose early on, possibly in his first match. But he has what I’d say is the perfect draw, a mediocre test first up, gradually getting tougher as each round goes along. Only a shock of Tony Knowles/Steve Davis proportions can put the skids on his title defence at the first hurdle. Robin isn’t one of the qualifiers that I’d have as a potential banana skin to O’Sullivan.

Prediction: O’Sullivan

Joe Perry (16) v Jamie Burnett (Sunday 10am and Monday 10am)

These two met in a final qualifying match two seasons back and it was Perry who prevailed 10-8. Joe had a career slump a few years ago but now appears to be right back to his best, a solid season means he gets in as the 16th seeded player, 15th ranked in the world. Burnett was pegged back three times in his last qualifying match against Ben Woollaston but rallied each time when challenged. You feel that if he’s going to win here he’ll have to start well as I’d say if Joe starts the stronger he’ll keep his head in front. Joe is an experienced Crucible player and Jamie has played there three times in his long career and never won a match. Perry won’t be happy to be the possible next opponent of O’Sullivan but I don’t think he’ll be too disappointed with his first round draw.

Prediction: Perry

RECOMMENDED BET: 2 points on Perry (-2.5 frames) at 13/8 with Stan James. 

Shaun Murphy (9) v Jamie Cope (Saturday 2.30pm and Sunday 7pm)

It’s nice to see Jamie Cope back at the Crucible where he’s had some of his career highs. He’s another that has battled with health issues and is working through the effect an involuntary tremor is having on his game with a sports psychologist. He’s got 3 qualifying wins under his belt including a good win over Mark King in his last match so clearly the work is beginning to pay off. Shaun Murphy took an age to get back to the winners enclosure but two tournament wins at the back end of the season has put him firmly back in the mix as a potential threat to anyone. Back in 2003 these two met in the very first qualifying round when they were a lot younger, their careers have taken different paths and Murphy is without doubt now one of the game’s star names. I think Shaun is the main threat to O’Sullivan in this section and I can’t see him losing here.

Prediction: Murphy 

Marco Fu (8) v Martin Gould (Tuesday 10am and Wednesday 2.30pm)

Twice these two have met at this stage and twice Gould has won, but with 10-9 in 2010 and a 10-8 the following year there has been very little in it. Gould has had a terrible season by his standards but something clicked at Ponds Forge and he breezed through. It could be argued that he was helped a little by the performance of his opponents but you can only beat what is in front of you and he did that in style. Marco is super-consistent these days and more often than not this season has been seen at the business end of tournaments including winning the Australian Open and losing in a decider in the final of the prestigious International Championship to Ding. On season form there is only one winner and that’s Fu, but The Crucible does strange things to players and having beaten him at this stage twice before, Gould has the psychological advantage going into the match and Fu has doubts. But I still just think that Marco will get his revenge, he’s in the form of his career this season so I’ll go for third time lucky for the Hong Kong cueist.

Prediction: Fu  

Can The Hawk swoop again?

Can The Hawk swoop again?

Quarter Two:

Barry Hawkins (5) v Dave Gilbert (Tuesday 2.30pm and Wednesday 10am)

I think this match could be the unlikely classic of the round. Hawkins is back to the scene of his greatest career moments last season where he pushed The Rocket as hard as anyone has in the last two year’s Crucible events. He faces the talented Tamworth farmer Dave Gilbert, who scored consistently enough in his qualifying match against Jimmy Robertson to suggest his game is in decent shape. Hawkins has risen to number 4 in the world on the back of his runner-up slot last season and his subsequent form has been good, winning the recent PTC Grand Finals event in Preston and then understandably taking the decision to duck out of the China Open to prepare for this. His results have been steadily improving since March and I get the feeling he is a player that will come here in very good shape indeed with memories of last year still fresh in his mind. Gilbert is no pushover and has won matches at the Crucible before against the odds, he won’t be phased. I expect a high quality, close match, with Hawkins just shading it.

Prediction: Hawkins     

Ricky Walden (12) v Kyren Wilson (Monday 7pm and Tuesday 7pm) 

‘Fearless’ is not a phrase that can be applied to all snooker players but at certain moments in time it aptly describes their demeanour and attitude at that precise point. Step forward Kyren Wilson. His run to here has been fantastic, his form and attitude impeccable and he was even impudent enough to say after qualifying that he wanted a crack at the champion. Instead, he faces Ricky Walden, who still hasn’t got a nickname. When Kyren beat Graeme Dott, the Scot was full of praise for him through gritted teeth and from what I know of Kyren (he was runner-up in the 2013 Snookerbacker Classic) he’s not the type to get phased easily. Ricky is another player whose results are improving again as the season reaches a climax and his run to the semi-finals last year make him some people’s dark horse. Neither of these two hang around and I don’t expect this to last very long, it could be the shock of the round, or would it really be a big shock given how well Wilson is playing? But again I’m going to side with the more experienced seeded player who I think will like playing another out and out attacker.

Prediction: Walden 

Mark Davis (13) v Dominic Dale (Wednesday 7pm and Thursday 1pm)

Two SWSA stablemates next up as Shootout King Dale takes on Dark Mavis. Mave hasn’t been in great form coming into this and the main reason he’s seeded so highly is really because of his early season and PTC performances so I don’t think he’ll come here in overly-confident mood personally. For me he is the most vulnerable seeded player. Dominic has lost his first round match at the Crucible now on his last five visits though it has to be said the draw hasn’t been very kind to him (Jimmy White in 2002, then Mark Williams, Ronnie and Judd twice), unlike this year. He has a solid win behind him over Andrew Higginson and his results of late are pretty decent. Up to now I have sided with the seeded player in all the matches in this half, but this is one where I fancy the qualifier to progress, Dale comes into this in the better form and the head to head is encouraging, I think Mavis might struggle here against a more confident opponent. I hardly ever back Dom but I just have a feeling about this one.

Prediction: Dale

RECOMMENDED BET: 3 points on Dale at 13/8 with Betfred. 

Ding Junhui (4) v Michael Wasley (Sunday 2.30pm and Monday 2.30pm)

China’s big hope is next up and prolific winner Ding has never looked more ready to mount a serious challenge on the world title than now. If Ronnie does lose before the semi-finals and Ding is still in it he will immediately go favourite for the title with millions willing him on to win. He faces black-ball re-spot winner Michael Wasley (‘Wazza’) from Gloucester, who I am sure is just delighted to be here after an epic road all the way from the first qualifying round. I’ve always said that while the World Championship remains at the Crucible, Ding won’t win it, but he now looks like he can, if he avoids O’Sullivan. Only the staunchest Wazza fanatic would tip him to win here, I just hope he enjoys the experience as he’s a really top lad, but I’m afraid he’s been handed a stinker of a draw.

Prediction: Ding 

The Master of Brinkmanship

The Master of Brinkmanship

Bottom Half: Quarter Three:

Mark Selby (3) v Michael White (Monday 10am and 7pm)

As I said in the preamble above, I think Selby has been struggling now for some time with his form. OK, he’s still posting wins regularly but it’s the manner in which he is winning which would be of concern to me as a supporter of his chances of being world champion. I don’t think he can possibly win this tournament playing the way he has been all season and it’s testament to his temperament that to most other players what he’s done, playing I’d say his C game, would constitute a great season for them. Michael White reached the Quarter Finals here last year and beat Mark Williams at this stage before dispensing with Dechawat Poomjaeng in a bizarrely one-sided match which I still struggle to comprehend on the back of his win over Maguire. White came back well in his qualifying match from being 6-3 behind to Matt Selt and will come into this believing he can cause another major upset. Whilst I’d stop short of saying that he will, I think a good look at the handicap markets might be the way to go as I can’t see Selby running away with it, let’s face it, he very rarely does.

Prediction: Selby

Ali Carter (14) v Xiao Guodong (Saturday 7pm and Sunday 2.30pm)

Ever-present Ali Carter hasn’t lost a first round match at The Crucible since 2006 when he was beaten 10-8 by Stephen Lee and he tends to find his best form at the sport’s biggest and best championship having twice been runner-up to O’Sullivan. He has been handed the draw that most players might say they would not have wanted, Chinese danger man Xiao Guodong. Xiao made his breakthrough in the Shanghai Masters this season losing in the final to Ding and since then his results have been decent, but not amazing. In fact looking at it, the only player he has beaten from the top end of the sport this season is a below-par Stephen Maguire in Shanghai so this is a step up in class for him. He won his qualifying match convincingly but in truth had very little to beat against a player that I’m still amazed got that far. He’s a Crucible debutant up against a Crucible first round specialist, I don’t see there being a shock here and my only virtual raised eyebrow is at why the draw has pushed Ali’s price out to a backable one (50/1 from 33/1). The price on Carter to win this match is also for me, very backable.

Prediction: Carter

John Higgins (11) v Alan McManus (Monday 2.30pm and Tuesday 10am)

These two compatriots have had some battles over the years, Higgins coming out (as he usually does) on top on most occasions. Angles is here by virtue of knocking out another of their mutual sparring partners Mark Williams, but believe me, despite Alan showing glimpses of form, that was not a match to write home about, it was absolutely awful in parts with the commentator even being forced at one point to ask whether it was a match between two club players or the World Championship. Higgins was last seen claiming to be (at last) fairly happy with the way his game is heading and when he starts making confident noises your best advice is to listen. He’s had trouble with changing his cue, he doesn’t like practicing at his house and he doesn’t like all the players coming round to play there. Generally he’s been a bit of an old misery this season (it’s age, we all have our off years). I have in the past predicted that his career is beginning to slide away, but as is my prerogative, I’m going to give him one last chance to prove me wrong. As a shameless nostalgist (def: A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past – think that about covers it) there is nothing I’d like better than him and Ronnie in the final.

Prediction: Higgins

Stuart Bingham (6) v Ken Doherty (Saturday 10am and Sunday 10am)

Two more of the more senior generation battle it out as Ballrun Bingham faces Crafty Ken, the Darling of Dublin, they don’t make nicknames like those anymore do they? Ken did what he had to do to beat Poomjaeng to get here and the win included a run of 7 frames in which he made a 50-plus break in all of them, including a ninety-odd and a century, so there’s clearly life in the old darling yet. Stuart is another who comes here having missed the China Open but I’d imagine he’s spent the time he had spare sharpening up for this being the grafter that he is. He made the Quarter Finals for the first time here last season losing to O’Sullivan in a very one-sided match but he’s since beaten Ronnie in the UK Championship, I’d argue that he’s the only player this season to beat a fully committed and sharp Rocket, so that must give him confidence. I’d imagine he’ll be quietly pleased with this draw and for all Ken’s bags of experience, Stuart’s the one to be on here.

Prediction: Bingham

Judd and Shaun locked in battle last year.

Judd and Shaun locked in battle last year.

Quarter Four:

Judd Trump (7) v Tom Ford (Tuesday 2.30pm and Wednesday 10am)

Leicester’s Tom Ford is here having seen off another Crucible regular Matthew Stevens in the final qualifying round, he faces Judd Trump who as recently as 2010 he hammered 10-3 in the qualifiers for this. Judd hasn’t won anything this season and has seen his ranking drop as a result, remember the euphoria when he became world number one for about a week? Thought not. In Judd’s short career to date however he does have some great Crucible memories, his defeat in the final to Higgins followed a superb semi-final win over Ding, his epic match with Carter the following year and his match with Murphy and ultimately Ronnie last year all live long in the snooker memory. I reckon that not being so much in the spotlight this season might just help him focus, they haven’t even put him on the programme this time. His love of ‘the good life’ (shiny cars/birds with air between their ears/overpriced designer goods/shit music etc.) is well known and I do think it has proved a slight distraction in the past but he also works very hard on the table, especially for big tournaments and that is something people don’t often give him credit for. I think he’s a dark horse in this and if I was going to pick a finalist from this half, it would be Judd.

Prediction: Trump 

Stephen Maguire (10) v Ryan Day (Saturday 2.30pm and Sunday 7pm)

The head to head between these two doesn’t exactly make pleasant reading for Ryan Day or his legion of fans in Wales. Other than their first meeting back in 2000 he hasn’t beaten Stephen Maguire in all events in 13 further starts. A lot of these matches were at Crondon Park which for me should be scrubbed off any meaningful head to head record but it still is quite strange that he hasn’t beaten him in 14 years, even there. Maguire is another who missed China, claiming to be ill, so he’ll be well rested for the job in hand here assuming he’s recovered. Plenty of people feel that Mags is the champion-in-perpetual-waiting and that he always tends to find someone to beat him just when you think he’s finally in the zone, for whatever reason. Day is a player who can be one thing or the other and on his day he can still mix it with the best. I can’t really get around that head to head stat in this match though and that has to be the deciding factor in the selection of Maguire, I’m not sure the bookies have yet cottoned on to how dominant Mags is in these fixtures given the odds on offer at the moment. Anyway, I think the winner will lose to Trump in the next round regardless of the result.

Prediction: Maguire

Mark Allen (15) v Michael Holt (Tuesday 7pm and Wednesday 7pm)

The gloriously self-admiring Michael Holt had a very good qualifying win over the in-form Jamie Jones with seven breaks over 50 in the process. He’s lost his last five first round matches at The Crucible and will be looking to do better this time around against Mark Allen who has lost first round as the seeded player for the last two years. It’s the first year in a while that Allen’s name isn’t being widely spoken of as a main contender in the event and perhaps that might help him a little and take the pressure off. Either way, one of these two will overcome an obstacle that they have got a little too used to falling at recently. A good performance in the World Open and some time off for Allen (who also withdrew from China) should mean that he comes to this one fresh, I can see this being a very entertaining match, as well as very attacking. If that’s the case I have to go with the player who I believe is the heavier scorer of the two and that’s Allen, who remains a player that is frustratingly not making the most of his obvious natural talent.

Prediction: Allen

Neil Robertson (2) v Robbie Williams (Wednesday 2.30pm and Thursday 7pm)

Merseysider Robbie Williams potted a screamer of a black to beat Fergal O’Brien on a re-spot to claim his first date at The Crucible after a superb season. His reward is a tie against the World Number 1 and 2010 champion Robertson who came a cropper at this stage last year to Robert Milkins and sparked the ‘Burn Out’ debate as a result. These two met in the UK Championship and Neil ended up a comfortable winner on his way to the title playing some great stuff last December. He was last seen a couple of weeks ago in the final at China looking like death warmed up to me, he’s had a couple of weeks to recover but I think his long hard season may be beginning to catch up with him and that’s the last thing you want going into the biggest event of them all which calls for full focus under intense pressure from the word go. I’m a big fan of Robbo but I don’t fancy him to be champion this year and my finalist from this half would be Higgins, Trump or Carter, but he is a fierce competitor and I could be very wrong to write him off. He should win this match though to perhaps set up a super second round clash with Allen.

Prediction: Robertson

RECOMMENDED BETS (MATCH ACCUMULATORS)

5 point acca on Murphy, Trump, Higgins and Bingham pays over 5/4 at Apollobet. Add Selby for a 3 point acca pays almost 15/8 at the same firm. Add Carter, Hawkins and Maguire for 2 points pays over 7/1 at Betfred. Add Perry for 1 point pays over 11/1 at Paddy Power. 4 point double on Carter and Maguire pays just on 6/4 at Corals add Perry and Hawkins for a 2 point acca at 7/2 with the same firm.

RECOMMENDED BETS (EACH WAY OUTRIGHT)

2 points each way on Judd Trump at 12/1 with Ladbrokes. 1 point each way on John Higgins at 20/1 with Ladbrokes. 1 point each way on Ali Carter at 50/1 with Apollobet, 1 point each way on Shaun Murphy at 20/1 with Apollobet and 1 point each way on Barry Hawkins at 33/1 with Apollobet (all bets with Judd Money-Back Insurance – see below)

RECOMMENDED BET (OTHER)

2 points on Ali Carter to win Quarter 3 at 9/1 with William Hills. 

I WILL BE POSTING FURTHER SINGLES/DOUBLES/SPECIAL BETS ON A DAILY BASIS THROUGHOUT THE TOURNAMENT.  

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and bear in mind that if Judd Trump is champion they are refunding outright stakes to a maximum of 100 Euros. You can also view their match betting by clicking here.   

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Guest Blog: Deco’s Novelty World Championship Bets

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:00 pm
Everyone loves a novelty.

Everyone loves a novelty.

Long term blog contributor and shrewd pundit Deco proved himself last year to be the Master of the Novelty Bet with an unforgettable recommendation of a foul stroke in a frame which landed in dramatic fashion. I’ve invited him back this year to tell you all what weird and wonderful predictions he’s come up with this time after staring into his crystal ball.

This is what Deco thinks…. 

First up for those who think O’Sullivan is a certainty (which I don’t) I think there’s a couple of decent novelty bets that offer a better alternative than the 5/4 win price. The first of these is 13/8 O’Sullivan to make over 10 tournament centuries at Apollobet. He will have to win 71 frames to become champion and it doesn’t seem unreasonable that just over 1 in 7 of these will involve century breaks. One associated bet there is the 5/1 O’Sullivan to make a tournament 147 with Apollobet again. This looks a bit big to me given Ronnie’s 147 record and it’s a decent interest bet if you can’t bring yourself to back the outright price.

In terms of the high break market the two I will be backing with Apollobet again are Xiao Guodong 50/1 and Marco Fu 25/1. Generous each way odds make those the bets for me – 4 places paying 1/5 the odds. Marco is a century machine when he gets going and I have a feeling Xiao is the dark horse this week if he can get past a tough match with Ali first up. If he can get going he is another who can reel off a total clearance or three.

With the century market in mind, one match I think is worth a decent punt is Gould v Fu. Gould was looking back to his old self in qualifiers and given that their matches usually go close, I think the 4/7 over 1.5 centuries Gould v Fu with Bet365 is the standout price in that market in round 1.

Moving onto some of the more obscure markets and following SB’s brief to the letter, I was tempted by a couple of the frame time specials at Apollobet, but I think they look about right pricewise, however there’s one bet I do like: 8/1 any player to win their match to nil at William Hill. There’s a couple of first time qualifiers who I think could fall to pieces if they don’t get that first frame on the board early doors and given that some firms are going 9-1 on O’Sullivan to beat Hull 10-0 alone, that 8-1 is obvious value.

The obscure bet of the week for me though is one I tried out in the Ebdon first round match last year and it came off memorably. Basically, it involves backing a foul in first frame which is Evens in the match between Davis v Dale with Bet365. This market is repeated every frame and usually around evens. The trick is to pick the match that will be the most scrappy of the round and keep backing the foul in each frame. From memory last year, I think 75% of Ebdon’s frames in his first match involved a foul, so by that logic the even money is a decent bet. One word of advice though: go with the match you think will be scrappiest, for me it will be this one as they’ll both fancy their chances of going further this week than they probably anticipated and that could lead to what SB I’m sure would describe as ‘careless snooker’.

Whoever you’re backing best of luck. For the record I’m going with a fresh winner in Mark Allen or Judd Trump, but don’t rule out a return to form from Higgins or the dark horse Xiao Guodong.

April 16, 2014

The World Snooker Championship Draw and Session Times

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:10 pm

The Draw for the World Championship will appear below as soon as it is announced at noon on Thursday (the plan is to do it in real time for those who can’t watch it live). After which time I will be locked in a padded cell with a letterbox through which toast will be posted by Mrs SB until I have finished my preview, the dogs will have to walk themselves. Trying to contact me in the meantime would be a futile exercise. See you all again when it’s done.

First Round – Best of 19 Frames 

Top Half (All played on Table 1)

Ronnie O’Sullivan (1) v Robin Hull (Saturday 10am and 7pm)

Joe Perry (16) v Jamie Burnett (Sunday 10am and Monday 10am)

Shaun Murphy (9) v Jamie Cope (Saturday 2.30pm and Sunday 7pm)

Marco Fu (8) v Martin Gould (Tuesday 10am and Wednesday 2.30pm)

Barry Hawkins (5) v Dave Gilbert (Tuesday 2.30pm and Wednesday 10am)

Ricky Walden (12) v Kyren Wilson (Monday 7pm and Tuesday 7pm) 

Mark Davis (13) v Dominic Dale (Wednesday 7pm and Thursday 1pm)

Ding Junhui (4) v Michael Wasley (Sunday 2.30pm and Monday 2.30pm)

Bottom Half (All played on Table 2)

Mark Selby (3) v Michael White (Monday 10am and 7pm)

Ali Carter (14) v Xiao Guodong (Saturday 7pm and Sunday 2.30pm)

John Higgins (11) v Alan McManus (Monday 2.30pm and Tuesday 10am)

Stuart Bingham (6) v Ken Doherty (Saturday 10am and Sunday 10am)

Judd Trump (7) v Tom Ford (Tuesday 2.30pm and Wednesday 10am)

Stephen Maguire (10) v Ryan Day (Saturday 2.30pm and Sunday 7pm)

Mark Allen (15) v Michael Holt (Tuesday 7pm and Wednesday 7pm)

Neil Robertson (2) v Robbie Williams (Wednesday 2.30pm and Thursday 7pm)

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and bear in mind that if Judd Trump is champion they are refunding outright stakes to a maximum of 100 Euros.   

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April 14, 2014

Final Qualifying Round Preview – Who Will Make The Crucible?

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:50 am
Preparations at The Crucible are underway for Saturday's start.

Preparations at The Crucible are underway for Saturday’s start.

It’s time for the tables to be re-covered on Monday at Ponds Forge as we move into the business end of the qualifiers. There are sixteen more matches to be played, the winners of which will take their place at The Crucible.

Once these are done, the draw for the big one will be taking place in London on Thursday at the media launch of the event for Saturday’s start, loads of time for a preview then…don’t start me off as I’m in a good mood today.

Apparently it will be available to watch at the World Snooker You Tube Channel, I’m not sure if it will be live or not as they seem to have gone on holiday this last week or so and don’t seem to be covering the qualifiers at all, but I will confirm on here when I know.

Sunday saw eight more players through to the final round. Michael Wasley set up a meeting with fellow Gloucester man Rob Milkins with a win over Mark Joyce, I flagged Wazza as a dark horse to qualify and took the 16/1 available at the start, though he does start as an outsider against the far more experienced Milkman.

Merseyside’s Robbie Williams continued his excellent season by ending the hopes of a nation as he came back from behind to beat India’s Pankaj Advani, India will have to wait at least another year before seeing one of their top boys in action at the Crucible. The win also means Robbie breaks into the top 64 on the money list for the season and retains his main tour status with the cash in tact for the start of next season. Well deserved for him as he’s had a really decent season overall and performed brilliantly at times in the PTC’s, he now faces Fergal O’Brien.

Unlike India, Finland still has its hopes alive in the shape of the rejuvenated Robin Hull, who is another, like Williams and Wasley who has been here since Round 1, he now faces Peter Ebdon to qualify. Robin’s great progress in this has also prompted a surge in blog hits from his home country, so I am now officially ‘Big in Finland’. There were also wins for first rounders Stuart Carrington and Li Yan, Stuart comfortably beating Nigel Bond and Li ending Joe Swail’s campaign in the last match to finish.

Matt Selt impressed with a steamroller job on Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, taking 8 frames on the spin from 2-2 and looking extremely good in the process. Another very cosy winner was Martin Gould who for the second time this week won 10-1. Gould didn’t really have to play that well to dispense with a totally out of sorts Igor Figueriedo, poor old Igor couldn’t hit a bulls arse with a shovel and put in possibly one of the worst displays of the season by any player.

Igor: Hopeless.

Igor: Hopeless.

Jamie Burnett completed the roll-call of Sunday winners by knocking out Cao Yupeng of China, this means that China will have an absolute maximum of four players at the Crucible and a minimum of three by virtue of the all-Chinese final round clash between Guodong and Li Yan.

Indeed, looking at the final match ups, it’s totally dominated by players from the UK and Ireland with the only other exceptions being Finnish Robin and Thai Poomjaeng. Given that 13 of the 16 seeded players at the Crucible are also from the UK and Ireland, this may not end up having the ‘global’ feel of which the Chairman is so determined to have us all want. I’d rather have the best players personally and don’t really care where they come from but it’s perfectly clear that most of them are still from around these parts.

Before I move on to preview each match individually, I have to mention it don’t I? I do hope a few of you have been following the recommended bets this week. Yesterday saw all those doubles and the 29/1 recommended acca land with outsiders Wasley, Hull, Williams and Carrington all doing the business. Anyone who follows me on Twitter will also have seen some handicap bets on Gould I flagged in-running as he was leading 3-0, it was crystal clear that Igor was in for a good thumping and the bookies were very slow to spot this. Careless and long may it continue.

Anyway, all this ensures a very tidy profit on the week and bodes well for the rest of this championship. After a frankly awful opening round we’ve turned a loss into a good profit in style, I think this season will end up as the most profitable of any of the four since the blog began, assuming we don’t go mad over the next three weeks.

It’s highly likely that after the World Championship I’ll be taking a longer break than usual from the blog as I don’t think May is an appropriate month to restart the next snooker season and never have, but for now we continue at a pace right through until someone has picked up the trophy.

The matches are previewed individually and there are some recommended bets. Where the two have met before I have included a click through link to the superb Cue Tracker website so you can take a look.

Tuesday 11am & 5pm

A recurring theme throughout these matches will be momentum versus ranking. Your bets very much depend on whether or not you view the fact that the players who have qualified to this stage having played a minimum of two matches will have an advantage over those coming here for their first match. My guess is that we’ll see mixed results, but the one element that will always be the deciding factor in this round is bottle. This is where it all gets very twitchy.

Ken Doherty v Dechawat Poomjaeng

There is little doubt now that Poomjaeng is a player that I have been foolish to underrate. He’s had wins over Zhang Anda and Craig Steadman to make it this far and is within touching distance of qualifying for the second year in succession. Standing in his way is former champion Doherty whose current form is pretty poor and who has had a fairly average season while remaining in the top 32. Ken is really hard to predict these days but when he prepares properly for something he can still fight right to the death, I think the question here is whether he has done so this time. If he has I think he’ll win, but if he’s not been putting the hours in he’ll lose. If you know how Ken has prepared you’ll have a bet on this, if not, like me, you won’t.

David Gilbert v Jimmy Robertson

Dave Gilbert is most snooker pundits idea of the perennial under-achiever, he’s got all the talent in the world yet has not really translated that into results. For me he is a top 16 player and I like the way he plays the game, he’s thoughtful without being slow and usually plays the right shot, when he’s in form he’s a match for anyone. Jimmy Robertson is having a good week, I didn’t expect him to beat Anthony McGill but he did so in a decider after an earlier win over Liam Highfield. Jimmy’s main strength for me is his breakbuilding but he’s not been scoring too heavily this week and for me that’s where he’ll come unstuck here. I fancy Gilbert to win with a few frames to spare.

The Highland Terrier.

The Highland Terrier.

Graeme Dott v Kyren Wilson

If Kyren Wilson plays like he has been in the previous rounds he stands every chance of turning over many people’s idea of the potentially toughest Crucible draw for the seeds, Graeme Dott. His win over Alfie Burden was ruthless and he’s been consistently scoring well over his three wins to date, including a 10-3 success over German Masters semi-finalist Rod Lawler. Dott too comes here in decent form and has beaten Kyren convincingly on their only meeting to date which was not that long ago. While I don’t think it will be an easy match for Graeme I do think that he’ll win and that this will be the end of the road for Kyren after some great displays.

Dominic Dale v Andrew Higginson

Andrew Higginson has struggled all season for consistency but at last appears to be finding some in this. Six breaks over 60 saw him home in convincing fashion against Kurt Maflin and we know that when Andrew clicks he can be very dangerous indeed. He faces Shootout Champ and housewives favourite Dale whose form since winning the novelty event has held up well. I think these two are evenly matched and any other year Andrew might well be the higher ranked player as he has been in the past, this is one where I think having two wins under your belt at the venue will prove decisive, therefore for me it has to be Higginson.

Mark Williams v Alan McManus - LIVE STREAMED

Mark Williams finds himself in the qualifers for a reason, he simply hasn’t been winning enough matches at the big events this season with the last 16 hurdle proving impossible to get over. Despite this he’s done well in the PTC’s even winning one of them early in the season so on paper his win ratio is very good, but this isn’t enough to keep him in the Crucible slots. Alan McManus has played and beaten two grinders so far this week but playing MJW will be a completely different story, he’ll need to score as heavy as Williams to compete and on the evidence of the first two matches he won’t. For me, Williams is Crucible bound, he’d better be, as he’s on the banner displayed outside that I walked past the other day.

Michael Holt v Jamie Jones

This match for me is what the qualifiers is all about. Jamie Jones comes into it rediscovering the form that took him to the Quarter Finals two years ago after a slump since. He’s used his lifeline against Joel Walker, winning from 9-4 down before taking care of Aditya Mehta in the last round. He beat Michael Holt 4-0 in February in a PTC so won’t fear The Hitman coming into this. Michael has had a few recent disappointing results and if that starts playing on your mind it can be destructive to a player like him who wears his heart on his sleeve. Like the Higginson match above I think this one might be decided on momentum, form and confidence coming into it, which is why I just favour Jones to qualify.

Mark King v Jamie Cope

Last time these two met in a big event they were both top 16 players, Jamie’s run to the semi-finals of the 2011 Masters after beating Mark in the quarter finals will seem like a distant memory to him, he’s not done as well in anything since and his form has totally eluded him. But this week we’ve seen signs that it’s on its way back and he’s been scoring heavily in dispensing with John Astley and Alex Borg. For me however King is a different animal to Jamie’s previous two opponents and is another that comes into this in decent form. Whilst I think this could be fairly close I’m going to side with higher seed King, who is still a force in the tactical department and capable of winning and keeping his head if it gets scrappy, something Jamie has never been very good at, I expect King to set out this match the way he wants it played and scrap the win.

Matthew Stevens v Tom Ford - LIVE STREAMED

Tom Ford absolutely hammered Luca Brecel in his last match after beating James Cahill previously. Ford hasn’t had a great season but is very capable and has bundles of experience. He faces twice runner-up Matthew Stevens who is another that has been dumped out of the top 16 for not having a good season. Since a semi-final appearance in the Wuxi Classic in June I’ve been waiting for him to get going again and I’m still waiting. A lot of this depends on how well Matthew has prepared for this, he is notorious for not practicing much and relying on his talent to do the work for him and it has worked for him in the past, but will he now have to start putting in the graft? I think this one is a very tough call, I’d marginally side with Stevens but only on gut instinct and that’s not really a good basis to have a bet, Ford is the value.

Wednesday 11am & 5pm

Robert Milkins v Michael Wasley - LIVE STREAMED

The Gloucester Derby between Milkins and Wasley, eagerly anticipated by people who walk around with straw in their mouths. Wasley has played very well all week and battled hard for his wins over Syd Wilson, Rory McLeod and Mark Joyce and will be full of confidence, particularly in the style he beat McLeod. Milkins starts this a hefty favourite and for sure he’s most people’s pick I would think. I’ve backed Mike at 16/1 to qualify so I’m happy to just sit back and see how that gets on, you have to fancy Rob but his price isn’t something I’d get involved in personally.

Fergal O’Brien v Robbie Williams

The Ferginator enters the fray to face the flying high Robbie Williams who comes into this having secured his place on the tour next season how he wanted. He’s also got here when handed a very tough draw and his win over Pankaj Advani must give him the confidence to think he can go all the way to the Crucible, he’s also beaten Fergal on their only previous meeting and doesn’t strike me as the type of player to let any slowing down tactics affect him at all. Fergal himself made the final of the last PTC event and usually has one or two stand out performances per season these days. This is one which for me has the feeling of an upset on the cards, Williams can play safe in the knowledge that he’s had a great season, Fergal is the one who is under pressure here. I’m going for Robbie to fly the flag for Merseyside at the Crucible.

He's not Finnish yet. Robin Hull with a real whopper of a trophy.

He’s not Finnish yet. Robin Hull with a real whopper of a trophy.

Peter Ebdon v Robin Hull

Another player with the wind in his sails is Robin Hull. Wins over Drago, Pengfei and Burns have included three centuries and a further sixteen breaks over 50 so there is absolutely nothing wrong with his game in the scoring department. But now, it gets serious and you don’t get more serious than a determined Peter Ebdon who showed signs in China that he’s tuning up for this after a quiet season. Before the qualifiers began I said I thought Ebdon was nailed on to qualify, but that’s the beauty of this event, things can force you to change your mind and with betting being stubborn is no way to win. I think Robin is in with a serious chance here and I’d love to see how this one pans out on the Live Stream so I hope they cover it. Hull has missed countless tournaments over the years with a recurring health problem but those in the game know how good he is when he’s fit. It’s so hard to call this as Ebdon is so unpredictable and as much as I’d like to see Peter at the Crucible I’m going to take a chance on Robin, he’s playing so well he has to have a big chance.

Liang Wenbo v Martin Gould - LIVE STREAMED

Another potential cracker here and again a player in Wenbo that I thought going into this was a shoo-in for the Crucible, but now I’m not so sure. Martin Gould has dropped just two frames on his way here but it has to be said that his opponents have not exactly proved difficult so this is his first real test. Liang is beginning to get more consistency into his game and that’s what lacks with so many of the Chinese players, he’s clearly on his day very close to a top 16 player but so is Martin which makes this all about who is in the better form on the day. I suspect that one of them will win with a bit in hand, I’ll plump for Liang, but I think it’s the toss of a coin who wins here. No bet.

Ben Woollaston v Jamie Burnett

Another potentially tight one this with Burnett having scored two decent wins on his way here. Ben has flown up the rankings these past few years and now is a familiar face on our screens, particularly if you watch the Eurosport PTC’s where he seems to be on as much as the likes of Higgins and Selby, or maybe it just happens to be him on when I’m watching. Anyway, Burnett’s strength has always been his scoring and it was evident in his first match but not so much in his win over Yupeng, when he obviously dug deep to win. Maybe that’s a sign that his game is now less about big breaks and more about scrapping out a win. Ben made his Crucible debut last season and will be keen to get back there to do better this time. He is a very consistent player in the qualifiers and I think he may have been expecting someone else in this match, he’s a big chance to get to the Crucible again and I think he will.

Ryan Day v Stuart Carrington

Stuart Carrington very unfairly, is the sort of player who if introduced at the Crucible would likely draw the reaction of ‘Who?’ from the audience. He’s for some an unlikely name to be battling it out at this stage having seen off the more familiar faces of Jack Lisowski and Nigel Bond in the last two rounds, but to snooker people, we’ve seen how his form has been this year so there’s no doubt he’s got here on merit, one century and twelve further fifty plus breaks is testament to that. He faces Ryan Day who, like Woollaston was probably mentally preparing to face someone else (probably Lisowski) so may be pleasantly surprised at his final round draw. But complacency is not a great idea at this stage of things and any hint of it from Day and he’ll be heading home. Looking at the odds, Day is the heaviest match favourite of the round, he should win, but I’d question that logic personally.

All White on the Night?

All White on the Night?

Michael White v Matt Selt

A svelte Matt Selt (nice rhyming) was very clinical in his last match and produced as good a display as I’ve seen from him. He now faces last season’s quarter-finalist Michael White who has followed this with a good, if not brilliant season. He’s very highly rated by some in the know is Michael and he proved last year that the big stage doesn’t phase him, but that won’t stop the nerves creeping in here. The two have never met so we have nothing to go on formwise but at this level that doesn’t really matter too much. I was toying with the idea of sticking with Selt here as I did flag him as the qualifier for this section but the more thought I give it, the more I am coming down on the side of the Welshman, who remains the heavier scorer of the two on his day.

Xiao Guodong v Li Yan

Finally, the all-Chinese affair between Guodong and Yan. It’s fair to say that Li is a big surprise to be at this stage and he’s got here by seeing off old stagers Harold and Swail after beating Elliot Slessor first up. His scoring is very average indeed with only 7 breaks over fifty in the 30 frames he’s won. When I said above that I thought Ryan Day’s hefty favouritism with some bookies was out of kilter with some other matches, this is what I meant. Guodong is in a different league to Li and all being well, you’d expect him to win quite easily here, he’d be the banker of the round in my book and a welcome addition to the Crucible numbers.

Recommended Bets:

4 point treble pays just on 7/4 at Ladbrokes on Dave Gilbert, Mark Williams and Xiao Guodong. Add Graeme Dott for a 2 point acca that pays 11/4 at the same firm.

6 x 1 point doubles and a 1 point acca on Andrew Higginson, Jamie Jones, Ben Woollaston and Robbie Williams (acca pays best almost 15.5/1 at Bet Victor).

2 points on Robin Hull to beat Ebdon at 2/1 with Bet 365.

2 points on Tom Ford to beat Stevens at 6/4 with Paddy Power. 

You can view match prices at Apollobet here   

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