Snookerbacker

March 31, 2010

Thursday's Match Preview – Let's hear it for the Triers

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:08 pm

Tries His Heart Out: You've got to peel Mark King off the table

By the end of Thursday we will know the Quarter Final line up, it has been a tournament so far very much dominated by the seeded players. But it was the ‘match’ involving O’Sullivan that stole the headlines.

Personally, it’s the first time I will be very careful what I say, as I think O’Sullivan is a fabulous player and a great asset to our sport. But suffice to say I did not expect the result or how it came about. I’ll just leave it at that as in the words of another professional player ‘we’ve all got to earn a living here’, just can’t remember who said it….

In spite of the four timer going down, all other recommended bets on the last thread won. Selby making a 67 clearance in the last to nail the handicap in his match. So still a profitable day and obviously laid some O’Sullivan when I saw the mood he was in, just wish I’d laid more!

This morning saw all four seeds progressing. I called the final frame right with King and Watanna but James just couldn’t get over the line despite being 4-2 up. King impressively knocking in a century to win, credit to him, he is a battler and deserved to win. Ebdon battled through too against the erratic Trump, whose wild play is matched only by his hair. Hendry looked good in patches but still misses too many easy balls and Carter had a practice session to win 5-1.

This afternoon saw O’Sullivan’s surrender at the hands of the wildcard Tian Pengfei. The young lad took the chances he was handed on a plate very well and we know he is a very good player, but the manner in which it finished was strange to say the least. Rolling the black at that pace is a very strange way to play frame ball. In the other matches, Joe Perry came through unscathed and ended Drago’s great season. Murphy’s poor run of form continued and he was given a beating by a rejuvenated Nigel Bond who looked very assured in the balls and turned back the clock somewhat. The World Games Champion clearly enjoys tournaments overseas. Selby as mentioned survived a jittery start to beat Rod Lawler 5-2.

7.30am

Stephen Maguire v Mark Allen (1-0 a pretty meaningless best of 5 match)

These two meet in a ranking event for the first time. Without actually seeing Mark Allen in Round 1 we have to assume that he must have played fairly well to dispose of danger man Dott so easily. He was definitely striking the ball well last week and is now over the tricky first hurdle. He now meets Maguire who looked to be playing well against Hawkins, in particular in the final frame of that match where he produced a great break and long red to seal it. I think this has the hallmarks of a high quality affair and I’m going to stick with my man Allen to win, Maguire doesn’t beat his peers in the rankings as much as he should and Allen is capable to reeling off frames without breaking sweat. He will not fear the Scotsman here.

Recommended: Mark Allen plus 1.5 frames (4/7 Boylesports)

Tian Pengfei v Mark King (1-0)

The new national hero takes to the table again. But enough about Mark King, Tian Pengfei having beaten Ding last year can now add Ronnie’s name to his list of victims, a memorable match indeed. The match against King will be very different, for a start Mark will be trying hard to win and Tian cannot expect the chances he got today in this one. I think King is showing some form lately and may just edge home here and break Chinese hearts.

Some cruel people say Joe Perry looks like Nookie Bear, he's the one on the left by the way.

Joe Perry v Ali Carter (3-3)

Joe Perry scored well in one visit snooker against Drago. Ali had a practice session first match so both have had their little warm up. They are good pals these two and their matches tend to be close affairs. The most famous one being the 17-15 victory for Ali at the Crucible a couple of years back. I’d say Ali is the better player and purely on that fact and his record this season, as up to date form isn’t easy to gauge I’ll plump for Captain Carter.

Recommended: Carter (8/15 Sportingbet)

Nigel Bond v Marco Fu (0-2)

Fu just did what he had to do in his first match but could easily have lost. Bond came from 2-0 down to beat Murphy and looked to be playing ok in the balls. I have a feeling we may see the qualifier go through again here, a close call but I’ll stick with Bond.

12.30pm

Peter Ebdon v Neil Robertson (0-0)

Surprising that these two have never met. But they have been mixing in different circles in recent years with Ebdon on a slow decline and Robbo improving in leaps and bounds. Ebdon showed why he is reliable in final frames against Trump, though could easily have lost and his shot selection is still a sight to behold, he plays the game like nobody else. Robertson has never really done well in China but hit two centuries against Mike Dunn in the first round on one of the non-TV tables. I’d be very surprised however if he doesn’t pot Ebdon off the table here.

Recommended: Robertson (4/7 Generally Available)

Happy Birthday to Me - Ding is no April Fool

Ding ‘Birthday Boy’ Junhui v Mark Selby (5-4)

I assume that we will all get to watch this one tomorrow. The pairs last meeting came in Selby’s Masters when an under-prepared Ding lost 6-1 in the first round. They’ve met in a number of events, their first one coming in 2002, when schoolboy wildcard Ding (he must have been about 7) lost 5-2 to the rookie Selby. Things have changed a lot in the nine years that have passed and both have fulfilled their potential from then. Selby is my main bet for the tournament and I’m going to stick with him to spoil Ding’s Birthday Party which he is celebrating with a huge Pukka Pie instead of a cake in recognition of his UK win.

Ryan Day v Stephen Hendry (3-4)

Ryan Day has won the last 3 meetings between this pair. Hendry is still capable of flashes of brilliance but for one reason or another he continues to miss some inexplicable balls. Ryan easily saw of Milkman Milkins in Round One, nothing spectacular breakwise but it didn’t appear too demanding for him. I find this one extremely difficult to call as they both blow hot and cold. However, I’d marginally favour Day, and at the price will probably back him simply because he is on this winning run against Hendry and the legend just misses a few too many important ones these days.

Recommended: Ryan Day (4/5 Generally Available)

That's another fine mess you've gotten me into

Mark Williams v John Higgins (10-12 – since 1995)

These two old warhorses have met more times than either would care to remember in all sorts of far flung destinations. The pattern these last few years is that they seem to win in blocks. John will win a few, then Mark, then John again. Between 2002-2006 Mark definitely had John’s measure but the pendulum has swung back in favour of the World Champion of late. The Williams/Cope match seemed a top notch one with many high scoring single visits, whereas John looked ill at ease in his first match against Fergal. I don’t think Mark will get many better chances to overturn his old mucker and I’ll chance that he might just do that here.

That’s the lot for today. Still 100% on the singles, let’s see if we can keep it up.

For Multiple Backers I’d go with doubles and a treble on Allen, Robertson and Day, the treble pays over 9/2 at BetFred.


March 30, 2010

First Round Wednesday – Match Preview 'Rocket Wednesday'

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:13 pm

Wednesday is Rocket Day

Tomorrow sees the conclusion of the first rounders and the first appearance of the holder Peter Ebdon and the Rocket Ronnie O’Sullivan amongst others.

It’s great when a plan comes together, all recommended bets on the last thread obliged to set up a nice little purse for the rest of the week, I even managed a fivefold which is getting tougher to do these days. Talking of plans, on the right hand menu you will find Barry Hearns’s outline for the future of snooker in full. If nothing else, it should help you get to sleep.

This mornings games went more or less as predicted, Williams and Robertson in particular seem to be in good form. But I’m afraid the same could not be said of Bjorn Haneveer, who despite numerous chances against Marco Fu failed to capitalise and will now be back in Belgium fitting kitchens by the end of the week, with his son Poppo or whatever name it was. Maguire looked at one point to be going to a decider against Hawkins but produced a fine break in the final frame and looked impressive in the bits they showed. Looks like he is giving the poker a miss this week and concentrating on the day job. Maybe Sharon has had a word with him and he’s going to ‘do the wall’ instead.

This afternoon saw all the seeds going in again, Higgins and Ding making hard work of their games but both coming through eventually 5-3. Ryan Day and Mark Allen both won 5-1, Allen looked to be in scoring mode and I’m content with my quarter bet on him if not the outright.

But does this mean that the seeds are way ahead of the others? If you believe that then tomorrow should be a piece of cake, so let’s see.

Head to Heads in brackets

7.30 am starts

Peter Ebdon v Judd Trump (1-0)

I’ve just got a sneaking feeling about Ebdon coming back to form. He played some really good stuff at Crondon Park recently and though that doesn’t always translate to ranking events the Budapest resident is clearly getting himself fired up about staying in the elite top 16 for next season. He needs the win here and when he needs to he often does, at the very least living where he does he should be Hungary for it (groans from the crowd, couldn’t resist that one sorry). I think his experience might just tie Judd in knots here, who seems to have lost his way a bit lately. Their last meeting saw a 9-4 victory to Ebdon just before Christmas in the UK. I think he’ll beat Judd again.

Hendry - Showing a typically well mannered and cultured side in China

Stephen Hendry v Andrew Higginson (0-0)

The Widnes Warrior Higginson (I think we can safely assume that unless there is an English Civil War in the pipeline, he’s categorised as ‘nickname safe’ for a while) powered to a 5-0 victory in the wildcard round but didn’t do anything spectacular. Hendry has been busy putting his hand in clay and collecting toy cars and flowers since he arrived in China, he’s even been seen coaching some pretty little Chinese girls. But has he had any time to practice? He has said that he is treating this tournament seriously and not just as a warm up for the World Championship and I’m prepared to take a chance that he’ll come through this tricky first match.

Mark King v James Wattana (1-2, all in the 90’s)

If somebody said to you, right, one seed out of the sixteen will get knocked out in Round 1, you would probably look who Mark King was playing. This is a bit unfair as he is becoming something of a stalwart in there and he does that by winning these type of matches. The Thaiphoon and Phoenix from the Flames Watanna is still a handy customer though and I would expect this match to be close, perhaps even go down to a decider. I have a sneaking suspicion that Watanna might pull off a shock here.

Ali Carter v Liu Chuang (1-0, only a best of three match)

The Captain was grounded by Higgins in his attempt to defend his Welsh Open but played some good stuff to get to the final. He has had a long lay off but has been making determined noises in interviews about this event. Liu Chuang, the conqueror of the TV-averse Rory McLeod must be feeling confident, but by the looks of it Rory had a complete howler there and his Chinese opponent had him on the rack from the first frame when he hit a break of 104. This is totally different and a focused Carter should take care of this no problem.

Recommended Bet: Carter (4/11 Sportingbet)

Recommended Bet: Carter minus 2.5 frames (6/5 Boylesports)

Selby has been learning from the best

12.30 starts

Mark Selby v Rod Lawler

The Jester enters the circus here and kicks off the afternoon matches against the rather less gregarious Rod Lawler, the Liverpudlian who could bore the hind leg off a donkey with his penchance for ‘shots to nothing’ and ‘dump shots’. He is unlikely to have time to perform any mime antics with the old wag Selby, as his pal and fellow joker Mark Allen often does. Rod is not into that sort of thing thank you very much, so much for the stereotypical chirpy scouser. Selby is a player in this tournament by my reckoning and a match up with Ding is what the happy clappy crowd will want to see, when Mark can show off all the new jokes he’s been perfecting since his last match to millions.

Recommended Bet: Selby minus 2.5 frames (10/11 Extrabet)

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Tian Pengfei

A big day for the penguin here. He will probably be elavated to the status of national icon if he can pull off an unlikely win here. But Ronnie should treat this as a warm up and may even treat us to a bit of a spectacle, 147 anyone?

Recommended Bet: O’Sullivan to make the highest break of the match (1/3 Sportingbet)

Joe Perry v Tony Drago (1-0)

A big contrast here, not just in styles of play and waistlines, but in how the season has gone for them. While Joe is a top 16 player, probably only for a month or so longer now, Drago started the season at the bottom of the pile as a new boy, albeit an experienced one. A staggering fact is that despite this huge gap, on the provisional one year list, Drago is 4 places ahead of Perry. Some achievement from the man from Malta. Tony wobbled slightly in his first match against 17  year old wildcard Sha, Shil, Shayu, Samyu…oh look it up I can’t spell it, never mind say it, but finished with a 120 break. Joe hasn’t won a competitive match since October. All these facts point to Drago winning, but I’m going to stick with JP.

Recommended Bet: Joe Perry (1/2 Extrabet)

Shaun Murphy v Nigel Bond (1-0)

By his own standards Nigel isn’t having a great season. You can normally rely on him to beat players ranked below him but you can’t say that with any confidence about 007 anymore. This is his last chance to cement or enhance his ranking this season having been dumped out of the World Championship by Martin Gould. Unusually for Shaun Murphy, he has lost two first rounders this year, he normally waits until later on to find someone to beat him since his last tournament win back in 2008. But he is a good thing to win this match I’d say.

That’s it for these but for multiple punters I’d recommend a fourfold of Carter, Selby, Ronnie and Murphy at just over 11/8 with Sportingbet.

Best of Luck Everyone.

The World Snooker Scoreboard Is Still Rubbish

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:10 am

This is where the current scoreboard really belongs

Another ranking event and another woeful day beckons for the World Snooker scoreboard.

The technical team there really needs a shake up. In this day and age and at a time when Bazza is trying to revitalise the game this still remains our only hope of tracking the ‘real time’ action on non-TV tables.

Remember faithful followers to complain directly to the hapless IT department (if one actually exists) at World Snooker please follow this link http://www.worldsnooker.com/contact_WS.htm and bombard them with emails about it until they finally sort it out.

Barry, if you are listening, come on old chap, get it sorted or better still invest in Global Snooker so they can take over.

Merci.

March 29, 2010

Day Two Preview – The First Round Begins

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:57 pm

To Rory, this is the equivalent of a Dalek

Well with all the tension of the wildcard round now over with and two casualties from the main tour we move on to the tournament proper.

Anyone that has noticed Rory McLeod’s worrying trait when the cameras roll would have taken advantage of the 2/1 on his opponent this afternoon, a 5-0 whitewash surely putting the final touches to a miserable couple of weeks for everyone’s favourite Qatarian Snooker Coach, poor old Rory.

The other casualty was ‘lone voice in the wind’ and part-time undertaker, Dark Mavis, who found the talented Tian Pengfei just a bit too prepared for their match. Tian now gets a shot at the Rocket on Wednesday.

Tomorrow though we are faced with players we know, but who is prepared enough for this?

All times are British Times. Head to Heads in Brackets.

7.30am (Set the Alarm. I’ll be probably eating toast while posting on a well known exchange  forum, which I refuse to plug until they let sittingchilly back on there )

Neil Robertson v Mike Dunn (0-1 dates back to 2001)

Robbo opens up against Mike Dunn who knocked out Chris Norbury and an underprepared, pre-Sheffield Nugget to get here, some might say he had a bit of a result draw-wise there. However, since then he has been thoroughly hammered by Stephen Lee in the Crucible qualifiers and on that form alone you have to say that Robertson is highly likely to win this one.

Stephen Maguire v Barry Hawkins (3-1)

Assuming Mags can peel himself away from the hotel poker table he lines up against the dangerous Barry Hawkins whose confidence should be high having qualified for Sheffield and also having recently won the final ever Pro-Challenge event in Scouseland. Maguire has won in China in the past but bombed out last year as the holder, 5-0 to Dave Harold. When the pair met in the Welsh Open recently the miserable Scot came out a comfortable winner. At the prices, Hawkins might be worth a look just in case Mags has an off-day. But only a small interest bet.

Marco Fu Lookalike of the Year 2010, Gok Wan.

Marco Fu v Bjorn Haneveer (0-0)

Marco comes fresh from his unlikely win at Crondon Park to secure his Premier League spot for next year. He has been sporting a rather natty pair of spectacles around the venue and in a certain light can be mistaken for British fashion stylist and part-time tranny Gok Wan. Bjorn on the other hand is now playing his sixth match in this tournament and along with Watanna and Drago could be forgiven for thinking this is at least the semi-final stage by now. I was quite impressed with his composure today against Yu, but Marco is a different proposition and I think this might be Bjorn’s sixth and last match – but at least he can console himself with the fact that he will have won the same amount of matches as the eventual winner.

Recommended: Marco Fu (4/11 Hills)

Recommended: Fu minus 1.5 frames (7/10 Hills)

Mark Williams v Jamie Cope (1-3)

As my earlier preview states, I think Mark might have a good tournament here. Jamie is a great player, no doubt about that and either of these could blow the other off the table. But I’ll side with the Welshman in this one.

12.30pm

Ding Junhui v Gerard Greene (0-0)

Ding is basically a superstar over in China and will have hundreds of millions of fans following his every move in this match. It’s fair to say that the Gerard Greene fan club does not have the same number of followers (currently his family and someone that mistakenly thought he wrote Brighton Rock)  but GG has qualified for the Worlds now aswell with an impressive comeback against the camera shy McLeod, 10-9, a few weeks back. He’ll be confident of giving the Pukka Pies King a fright but you just can’t see Ding losing this one.

Ryan Day v Robert Milkins (0-0)

Ryan showed some signs of a return to a bit of form in the Welsh Open but he still hasn’t really had a great season by his standards. But he’ll feel at home here amongst all the other pandas and for me has a little too much in his locker for Bob Milkins to trouble him. He is a confident selection here.

Recommended: Ryan Day (4/9 Sportingbet)

Recommended: Day minus 1.5 frames (7/10 Hills)

Dotty, playing better since he shortened his cue.

Mark Allen v Graeme Dott (1-1)

Likely to be the match of the day so there is no way we’ll see any of it on the telly. Allen doesn’t have any record to speak of in this event but I believe he comes into it this year as a more mature and measured player. Before he was given a masterclass by Ronnie in Newport he had been showing signs that he was regaining the form that took him to the World Semi-Final last year. Dott is also in buoyant mood, having successfully foiled Jimmy Michie’s table sabotage stunt in Sheffield and qualified he will be a difficult match for anyone. But as I have stuck Allen up in the outrights I can’t very well not tip him up for his opener can I?

Recommended: Mark Allen (4/7 Sportingbet)

John Higgins v Fergal O’Brien (4-3)

Fergal has a good record against the World Champion, better than most of his ranking. After a terrible season he is slowly turning it around by qualifying for the final two events but the draw could have been kinder to him here. Whilst I don’t think John will be too bothered about this event as his Number 1 spot is surely in the bag, I can’t see him tripping up in Round 1. Higgins should set up a showdown with (hopefully) Williams in round 2 with a comfortable win here.

That’s it for tomorrow, but I’ll also recommend a small treble for multiple backers.

Recommended Treble: Higgins, Ding and Robertson pays just on 4/5 at Sportingbet

March 28, 2010

Sanyuan Foods China Open Wildcards and Round 1 Order of Play

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:44 am

Tian Pengfei - Could cause Mavis some problems

I thought it might be helpful following my outright preview below to post the running order ahead of tomorrow’s early start in Beijing.

These daft and unfair wildcard matches take centre stage tomorrow and some of them might see the main tour pros making an early exit if they are not in tip top form. With the likes of Rod Lawler, Tony Drago and James Watanna in action again after already qualifying once.

To read more about each of the wildcards click here.

Interestingly the link page above seems to ignore the fact that one of these players Liu Chuang, actually played at the Crucible a few years back losing 10-5 to Ronnie O’Sullivan in Round 1. He plays Rory McLeod tomorrow afternoon in what could be the television table, and we all know what Rory can be like when the cameras are rolling.

For possible ‘upsets’ I’d say the most likely are Tian Pengfei (11/10 Ladbrokes also the first TV match on Eurosport), who beat Ding here last year and has beaten other top 32 players, Marco Fu and Mark King included. I rate him as a very good player and Dark Mavis will need to be at the top of his game to beat him, another is Yu Delu (5/4 Bet 365) who beat Rod Lawler at this stage last year and faces Bjorn Haneveer who has reached this stage of a ranking event for the first time.

Another possible outsider is Li Yan (2/1 generally available) who in last year’s Shanghai Masters beat Gerard Greene before losing narrowly to Ryan Day, Andrew Higginson is also quite inconsistent. At the price the Thai player and former tour professional Supoj Saenla (11/4 Ladbrokes) could be worth an interest to take advantage if Rod Lawler is not on his game or is not fully acclimatised. I’ll probably have small doubles, trebles and an accumulator on these four for a bit of interest.

I’d say Drago, Watanna and Milkins should all come through unscathed.

I’ll do a first round preview tomorrow when we know who will be playing who.

To get a feel for the madness that surrounds this tournament click the slideshow here (Thanks to the guys at Snooker Fanatic for this)

Monday 29 March 2010

7.30am (UK time)

WC1 – Rod Lawler v Supoj Saenla
WC2 – Robert Milkins v Lu Chenwei
WC3 – Andrew Higginson v Li Yan
WC4 – Mark Davis v Tian Pengfei

12.30pm

WC5 – James Wattana v Au Chi Wai
WC6 – Tony Drago v Shi Shuamgyang
WC7 – Rory McLeod v Liu Chuang
WC8 – Bjorn Haneveer v Yu Delu

Tuesday 30 March 2010

7.30am

Match 2 – Neil Robertson v Mike Dunn
Match 8 – Stephen Maguire v Barry Hawkins
Match 14 – Marco Fu v Winner WC8
Match 15 – Mark Williams v Jamie Cope

12.30pm

Match 3 – Ding Junhui v Gerard Greene
Match 5 – Ryan Day v Winner WC2
Match 7 – Mark Allen v Graeme Dott
Match 16 – John Higgins v Fergal O’Brien

Wednesday 31 March 2010

7.30am

Match 1 – Peter Ebdon v Judd Trump
Match 6 – Stephen Hendry v Winner WC3
Match 10 – Mark King v Winner WC5
Match 12 – Ali Carter v Winner WC7

12.30pm

Match 4 – Mark Selby v Winner WC1
Match 9 – Ronnie O’Sullivan v Winner WC4
Match 11 – Joe Perry v Winner WC6
Match 13 – Shaun Murphy v Nigel Bond

Next Year's Calendar Unveiled

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:07 am

One of the new globally focused formats being discussed

The 2010/2011 snooker calendar has now been published and includes a few new events and a few re-badged ones, as well as two that have been brought in from the cold by the man at the helm, Barry Hearn.

At first glance it looks like there are more events for the players to get involved in and indeed from now on there is something snookery happening every month right up until the 2011 World Championships. A far cry from the long drawn out breaks that the players have had this season.

Still no ‘meat on the bone’ from Barry, though by all accounts the players have been briefed. The main change comes courtesy of his World Players Championship initiative which promises to fulfill Bazza’s brief of opening up the global audience to new formats, as well as his plans for world domination.

Other changes include the renamed ‘World Open’ formerly the Grand Prix, a short ‘European Masters’ event in Berlin in February (might go to that, bloody freezing in February in Berlin though, will need a sturdy hat and some long johns I reckon) and the ominously named ‘Sky Shootout’, where I assume Mags will get his wish of seeing Ronnie get slimed. If he enters it that is, I won’t be watching.

Surprisingly to me the Welsh Open looks to have escaped Barry’s axe and come out unscathed and unchanged. The calendar also looks a lot more packed with the inclusion of the previously ‘unspoken of’ Championship and Premier League events.

All in all the signs are there for change, but for those lower down the rankings not qualifying it looks like being another tough old year. Personally, I’m a bit disappointed at least at this stage that there is no sign of any team events or even a doubles or handicap event. I think giving those a go might have been a bit of fun, but perhaps Bazza has some more tricks up his sleeve and we don’t know the formats of any of these yet.

The full calendar can be viewed by clicking here

The excellent Global Snooker’s view on the proposals and more details can be viewed here.

March 27, 2010

Hands Off the World Championship – Hendry Fires Warning to Baz and Higgins

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:10 am

There seems to be some disagreement in the Highlands as the latest Scot to enter the debate has thrown his hat into the ring on John Higgins comments about changing the World Final Format.

Legend and seven-times World Champion Stephen Hendry issued a ‘hands-off’ warning to anyone thinking of changing the format of the World Championship in an interview with 110sport.tv.

This is at odds with what John Higgins was saying last week when he stated he wouldn’t mind the final reverting to a one day format. I told you he was wrong.

Hendry said that “The world championship is the true test of a player, of his ability, his temperament and ultimately his standing in the game at that time.”

“In the past, I might have considered making changes, but that was at a time when there were more events than there are today. But if it isn’t broken why fix it?”

“I wouldn’t like to see the format tampered with. I think there is scope to try different things with different tournaments. You only have to look at the ticket sales. It is the only tournament that is sold out from start to finish. The fans love it, the players love it and it has a massive TV audience.”

The Scot then was seen pulling a moonie and shouting ‘neh neh neh’ in the general direction of the Wizard of Wishaw.

He also commented on his chances in China and seems to be going there more in hope than anything else:

Stephen needs to change his practice partner

“People will consider this event important because it is the last one before The Crucible. But I am taking this one on its own”.

“I’ve had a poor season by my standards. I haven’t won two matches back-to-back so now wouldn’t be a bad time to start because while I’m happy enough with how I am playing, I badly need some results.”

To be honest I think I’ve discovered why Stephen is not getting the results that he used to, he needs to start playing against similar standard players in practice. It’s no wonder he is struggling for motivation as if you watch the interview he appears to be playing against a tailors dummy (seated in the corner behind him). That’s hardly going to be difficult to beat is it? Won’t answer back either if he pulls another moonie.

He’d be better burying his differences with Higgins and have some practice with him.

You can register here to watch the interview with Stevie at 110sport.tv.

Piece of Trivia: It’s not really a dummy, it’s Stephens old ‘Spitting Image’ (UK TV show from years ago) Puppet which was bought for him as a surprise gift for his 40th birthday last year by the missus.

March 26, 2010

China Open Preview – On Your Marks, Get Set, Go.

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:40 am

Mark and Mark to make their Mark

Monday sees the beginning of the penultimate ranking event of the season in Beijing. For some this is the last chance to climb up the rankings having been knocked out of the World Championship which begins on April 17th, not long now.

It’s always difficult to call this one as there are players that take to the very different conditions like a duck to water and those that can’t wait to get on the next plane home. But with so few chances to pick up ranking points these days this is an important event for those looking to secure a top 8, 16 or 32 place next season.

I am going to predict good tournaments for four players, three of them called Mark. My likely winner is Mark Selby, another I feel will be there towards the end is Mark Allen. In the bottom half I will predict a walk in the park to the semi-finals for Ronnie O’Sullivan and a good tournament for another former world champion Mark Williams.

The First Quarter

Ebbo - Won last year after dismal run

Peter Ebdon starts the defence of his unlikely win here last year with a match against Judd Trump. Ebdon looked to be hitting the ball well in the recent Championship League and I feel he will have too much for young Judd here who has consistently disappointed his followers this season with a string of bad results. Ebdon looks to be peaking at just the right time and is fighting to stay in the top 16, so the motivation isn’t a problem and this is the key ingredient of his game. He should then set up a match with Neil Robertson, who I believe will put the holder out of his misery and make it to the quarter finals. You would imagine a Ding v Selby showdown to decide who joins him and I’ll take Mark to overcome both Ding and the crowd and then go on to beat Robertson. Selby has been over to China a lot recently, he’s looking to get his ranking back up inside the top eight and I believe he will be bang up for this event. When he gets in the mood he’s as tough as anyone to stop.

Q1 Recommended Bets:

1 point win Mark Selby to win Q1 (9/4 Skybet )

2 points win Peter Ebdon to beat Judd Trump (10/11 Sportingbet)

The Second Quarter

I can’t see past Mark Allen winning this quarter. Stephen Maguire is the favourite but as detailed in an earlier post, he doesn’t really seem to like China and bombed out last year in the first round. I think Barry Hawkins may be worth a punt against him in the first round at the odds. Either way, I’d expect Allen to account for the winner after a potentially tricky opener against Graeme Dott. I’d expect Ryan Day and Hendry to take care of their first round qualifiers and Hendry to beat the Welshman to set up a Quarter Final with Allen, which I’d take the Irishman to win without hesitation.

Q2 Recommended Bets:

2 points win Mark Allen to win Q2 (7/2 Boylesports)

1 point win Barry Hawkins to beat Stephen Maguire (2/1 Paddy Power)

The Third Quarter

Oi Mate - You know what time the next bus to China is?

I think it would be seen as a really bad tournament for Ronnie O’Sullivan if he didn’t at least make the semi-finals here. He has played well in China in the past and this may provide a chance for him to close the gap on John Higgins for the coveted number one spot, though he is unlikely to catch Higgins barring big upsets in the final two events. The way I see it he will have to beat Mark Davis or Tian Pengfei, Mark King or James Watanna and then the man who has never beaten him in 5000 attempts Ali Carter (or even perhaps Tony Drago?). I can’t think of an easier path for the Rocket, but this is reflected in the price. I just have an inkling though that he won’t win the event.

Recommended Bet:

4 points win Ronnie O’Sullivan to win Quarter 3 (8/11 Paddy Power)

The Fourth Quarter

John Higgins will rightly start favourite for this quarter and is obviously the one to beat here. However, I think John will have one eye on practising for Sheffield and I wouldn’t back him with any confidence for this event. He’ll have a tough second match against either Jamie Cope or Mark Williams, I just fancy the Welshman to win that one and then perhaps spring a surprise against his old sparring partner Higgins. That would in all likelihood set up a match with Shaun Murphy, though he’d need to have overcome the not unsubstantial threat of Championship League Winner Marco Fu or Top Drawer favourite Rory McLeod to get there. I do think Williams has Murphy’s measure if he is on his game and Murphy is getting out of the habit of winning just lately and may even struggle to get this far. Either way, a speculative punt on yet another Mark to win the quarter is advised.

It must have been the crispy duck

Recommended Bet:

1 point win Mark Williams to win Q4 (11/2 Boylesports)

Outright Bets:

1 point win Mark Selby to win the China Open (17/2 Sportingbet)

0.5 point win Mark Allen to win the China Open (20/1 BetFred)

0.5 point win Mark Williams to win the China Open (20/1 Skybet)

(Now watch Mark King go and win it)

Total Points staked: 13 (I’m not superstitious)

March 25, 2010

Hold the Front Page – Barry's Plans Revealed Tomorrow

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:32 pm

Tomorrow is the day brothers and sisters. Tomorrow is the day that we can say we were there. Tomorrow is up there with the ‘Where were you?’ question, Martin Luther King, JFK, Mandela released, Princess Diana, 9/11, Will Young winning Pop Idol. All these points in history are nothing on tomorrow. As tomorrow is the day that snooker’s fate is decided. Tomorrow will be now forever carved into history as ‘Bazza Day’. As Mr Hearn reveals his ‘blueprint’ for snooker to the players and anyone else who cares to listen.

While the great and the good have spoken out, Higgins, Maguire, Mark Williams and now Mark Selby and top 16 wannabe Michael Holt voicing their 100% backing of the new chairman. An unlikely hero of the journeymen has been the lone voice in the hurricane by having a bit of a go at the self proclaimed Saviour of Snooker. None other than Dark Mavis herself, Mark Davis.

While Baz talks about getting rid of what he calls ‘lazy players’ by which I assume he means people that are not as good as John Higgins and Ronnie and a few others, Davis has been quite vocal in his slightly different view. He is quoted as saying:

“He is not chairman of just the top 16, he is the chairman of the whole tour so he has got to be careful. We all get a vote and if he says something ridiculous it won’t go down too well”. I reckon Mave might be first for the Slime Chamber.

“You are still a good player if you are in the top 64. Is he trying to say that if you are 40th in the world then you don’t deserve to earn a living from the game? If I was a golfer or a tennis player in the world’s top 30 then I would be a millionaire”. To be fair I don’t think he has the physique for either but I take his point.

“He seems only want to look after the top boys. That is fair enough but you can’t just discard the other players”. Ohhh yes I can. Ohhhh no you can’t etc.

“There has been plenty of talk among the players about what he has said but until we know exactly what he plans to do then it is hard to say too much”. Err I think you may already have done that Mave. But he continues:

“I’m not entirely surprised as we knew he had a lot of changes in mind when he took over but it’s typical that the first time I get into the top 32 they talk about changing the system.” Oh I see, it’s about you then, just like the others, they’re a pretty selfish bunch really aren’t they?

But brave words indeed from Davis and to some this will be a welcome interruption to the seemingly endless tide of 100% support for our new Dictator, I mean Chairman.

Mavis may have to contact Arthur Daley to see if Terry is free.

But with Barry basically threatening to throw his toys out of the pram if they don’t like his ideas and vote for change, will enough of them have the bottle to stand up to him if they fundamentally disagree?

I suspect that the players at the top will all follow Baz wherever he cares to lead them, even if it’s off a cliff, but the shafted majority (or mediocre lazy ones, as Baz calls them) may just overturn our Panto Villain if they want to stay in a job. But where will that leave us?

Bazza himself has simply said “Now it is time for professional management to take over and make the sometimes difficult decisions that have to be made in business without the emotion and romance of being too closely involved”.

He’s a tough cookie is Barry, I hope Mavis has got a minder.

By the way I put a caption competition up today to win a free prize, just for fun if you’d like a stab at it. Right hand menu.

Winners Group Halfway Stage – Allen leads the Way *UPDATED* Marco Scoops Gold

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:49 am

Will anyone kethch-up to the Pistol?

A good day yesterday for fans and backers of the impish Mark Allen, the little fella making a 100% start to the Winners Group and already looking a sure thing for tonights final four.
After an initial defeat to John Higgins, my pick Maguire picked himself up to win his next two and lies in second place just ahead of Robertson, who treated us all to the sight of his lovely curly hair yesterday.

Less successful were the hapless Jamie Cope, my other pick, whose form nosedived and he now looks like this groups whipping boy. Higgins too, despite beating Mags let things slip a bit with two defeats, though he isn’t totally out of contention as aren’t Marco Fu and Judd Trump who each won 2 out of 4.

I’m still content with my Maguire bet but Allen looks the one to beat as he looked very good here when he qualified too.

But the second day sees the unlikely triumph of Marco Fu (Barry putting on his best false smile pretending to be happy at the outcome) narrowly edging out Allen in the final.

Maguire topped the group but true to form just when he looked like actually winning something Marco gave him a hiding.

All of them are now on their merry ways to China for Monday’s start. A preview will be up on here tomorrow.

Let me Entertain You - Sky viewers are in for a treat this year.

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