Snookerbacker

April 30, 2010

Crucible Heroes and Villains

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:56 pm

The Nugget - Better at Snooker than Comedy.

I thought it was an opportune moment to do a spot of reflection and deliver who and what I think have been the winners and losers over the course of the last two weeks (has it really been that long?)

This is my highly opinionated and biased World Championship Heroes and Villians, Winners and Losers.

Please feel free to add yours in the comments boxes.

HEROES & WINNERS

The Eventual Champion – Four cracking players in the semi-finals, whoever wins will top this list.

Steve Davis – Legend, can’t really say a lot more can you? Whoever wins, this is The Year of the Nugget.

Martin Gould – The Pinner Potter may be remembered by some as ‘that bloke with the little glasses that Robertson came back against’ but his snooker apart from that session was sublime.

Graeme Dott – From blasting Ebdon off the table to his current tussle with Selby, his top 16 place has been secured by virtue of fearless, attacking snooker.

Tactical Snooker/Dump Shots/Containing Safety – Big breaks and one visit frames are soooo Noughties, we want snooker not quickfire pool on a snooker table.

Liang Wenbo – Another that gets into the top 16 and he didn’t even need to win a match.

Snok – It’s Dutch for Snooker apparently…

'2 down with 3 to play'

Coventry Footie Shirt Man – A Crucible stalwart and something of a national institution. Soon everyone will become a Coventry fan.

Clive Everton & Neal Foulds – The dream team. Baffling why they are not the BBC’s pairing of choice. Superb analysis and stories from Clive, insightful punditry from Neal.

Leo Scullion – It WAS a touching ball. The Pulse confirmed it.

The Betfair Snooker Forum – Otherwise known as the retired comedians club, in the past this has been a hostile place where only the brave and thick-skinned survive, but with help from quality posters and more than a touch of humour, this is now a wonderful, fluffy place to be.

Mrs Snookerbacker – Surely the first lady of snooker deserves an honourable mention for her insightful take on the baize boys.

The BBC Red Button – The BBC has it’s knockers (oo er missus) but you can watch every ball live on the red button and with a spare laptop, you can watch the two table situation and pretend you have the best seat in the house.

'It wasn't that shot, it was the one before'. Willie loves a good catchphrase.

Richi Persad – Growing in confidence and seems a thoroughly good egg.

The Great WT – Top Drawer, as ever. A class act on and off the baize. A consistent performer and the Master of the Cliché. The Top Drawer Blog Icon.

Zhang Anda – Tipped by some as a future champion. Incredible performance to qualify and almost did the unthinkable and sunk Hendry.

Musical Walk-ons – Some better than others, shame Stuart Pettman didn’t have a good championship, I like Faithless. At last Ronnie has got a decent song, that last one was pants.

VILLAINS & LOSERS

Jamie Cope – Sulked away and was dumped out by Ali Carter and then had to watch Dott steal his top 16 place, he’s had better fortnights. He probably backed Gould to beat Robertson too.

Ronnie O’Sullivan – Even Selby is taking the mickey out of him now. His attempts to humiliate Leo Scullion being a low point in the championship for me.

John Higgins – John who? Used to be a decent player this fella.

To me, to you. The Belgian Ref has been chuckled out.

The Chinese snooker revolution – We’re still waiting, their promised days of total domination are not quite materialising just yet.

The Belgian Ref – After Michaela mistakenly picked up the cue-ball he decided to do it too. Michaela on duty in the semi-finals, the Belgian Ref, who looked a bit like one of the Chuckle Brothers is nowhere to be seen.

John Parrott commentating – Some things just don’t work, time to head back to the studio John, that’s your real strength.

Stephen Hendry – Down in the dumps at the moment and considering his future. Looked a shade of his former self when trounced by Selby.

147 cards in the audience – Some things are just plain wrong. Stop it before someone gets hurt.

Freeview Viewers – Only one table televised on freeview, bad form for lovers of the baize.

The Kick – Plenty of bad contacts this year. Climate change is kicking in.

Light Entertainment – The heady days of light entertainment could not have been further from our minds as Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis attempted to make everyone laugh by ‘recreating’ their big final. The one compensation was that it was free to get in.

Stuart Pettman – Silly hair and a performance to match. Won 1 frame before being sent back to Black Lace country.

AC/DC – I’ll only say this once, change Robbo’s walk on music back to the original NOW!

People who take mobile phones that are switched on into the arena – Bring back Capital Punishment I say.

Jimmy White – A stalwart on the losers list, this year he is on because he didn’t win it, again.

WINNER OR LOSER?

The Pulse – there is obviously only one way to decide the fate of The Pulse, winner or loser?

The best thing since sliced bread or a steaming pile of horse manure?

April 29, 2010

A Big Day for Robbo and Ali: Semi Final Day Two

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:52 pm

Rope A Dope - Ali is on the ropes

Friday sees a day when we will get a lot closer to knowing who will be competing in the final on Sunday and Monday.

By the end of Friday Neil Robertson and Ali Carter will have played three quarters of their match while Mark Selby and Graeme Dott will be half way through.

10am

Neil Robertson 6-2 Allister Carter
60-7, 124(124)-0, 70-60(42), 92(91)-11, 124(47,76)-0, 49(45)-64(40), 85(52)-27, 0-107(38,69)

Eight more frames of this one in the morning and the first session was dominated by Robertson. While he played ok, he was gifted chances by a very tired looking Ali Carter.

Perhaps watching the ‘hilarity’ of Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor re-enacting the final from 25 years ago (and yes Dennis was really 15/8 with Betfred) earlier in the day had made him lose the will to live? Who knows? But he didn’t do himself justice after all the good work he’d done the night before to knock Murphy out.

There will be a few people who, if Robertson gets to the final will wonder what he’s doing there. Even as a Robertson backer I admit that the sequence of games I had in mind for him were O’Brien (got that one right), Fu, Higgins and Ding, an altogether different propostion from his actual path of O’Brien, Gould, Davis and Carter, but as I said in a previous post, you can only beat what is in front of you and he is doing just that.

Ali will be glad to have nicked two frames in a session which at one point was beginning to look like a whitewash, which would have effectively meant game over. But Robertson will be delighted with the scoreline aswell and is a very strong front runner who will be very difficult to stop.

Overall, I’m still happy with the recommended first handicap bet and with the firms still having these markets up and running I am tempted to go in again on the Robertson minus 4.5 frames this time at 8/11 with Stan James, as I do think that first session will have a bearing on the match and I’ll be surprised if Ali even gets back on level terms. To me, Robertson is final bound, whether ‘The Pulse’ agrees or not.

A Grandstand Finish is predicted for Graeme and Mark

2.30pm Mark Selby 3-5 Graeme Dott

105(79)-27, 53(53)-68(35), 71(70)-19, 77(48)-6, 26-65, 68(50)-10, 105(93)-4, 0-142(142)

A gritty performance from the Jester last night means this one is teed up nicely for a possible grandstand finish. They are both similar players in terms of their mental strength but you get the impression that Dott is playing with a more carefree attitude than Mark as he seems to have already done what he came here to do and that makes him a very dangerous opponent.

Selby is a more realistic price in the outright market now than he was yesterday morning but for me he is still too short. He has yet another former world champion to beat before he even thinks about the final and at this stage Dott is holding the advantage.

I still have a sneaking suspicion that Dott might just pull this off and at this stage at least the 5/2 recommended bet on him to do that looks ok, for backers and layers it is now a tradeable price as he is as short as 6/5 to win the match now on the exchanges. Whether you sit tight on it or trade now is really up to you.

I’d expect it to remain close and Selby as we know isn’t a player that lets his head drop if he is behind, I think he’ll be content with the scoreline as will Graeme, all to play for in this one and I think it will be very close.

Robertson - Likes 40 winks.

7pm Neil Robertson 10-6 Ali Carter

140(140)-0, 74(36)67(35), 32-55(35), 27-100(76), 12-82(33), 0-82(81), 84(59)-8, 84(59)-8, 104(104)-0

Robertson resumes this evening needing seven more frames for a place in the final. Ali looked like he might get back into this but ran out of steam at the end of the session and Robertson showed great resolve to win the last two and re-establish his four frame advantage from the first session. With the later stages of the match approaching, that four frame lead will start looking bigger.

Neil sometimes struggles in the morning as he is a bit of a lazy so and so, but he looked fresh as a daisy this morning and opened up with a total clearance, he tends to play better the later is in though and a session win tonight would go very close to sealing the deal.

The handicap bet of Robertson -2.5 is currently looking very good I do think he’ll hang on and I don’t think he’ll struggle to get over the line, he seems to know how to handle Ali and looks to me the likely winner.

Semi-Final Preview – History in the Making

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:35 am

You see that cockney man who thinks it's not a touching ball and is his own harshest critic? That's you that is.

Today sees the beginning of the long single-table format road to being the champion. It may already have been a rollercoaster ride for us, but for the eventual winner they have only won just over half the frames (1 frame over to be exact) they need to lift the trophy and go down in the history books as the first champion of this new decade.

Talking of history, one man who will shun the historical texts will be Graeme Dott. He is the only player left that has won it before and at the start of each of the last four decades we have seen a new name on the trophy, Ray Reardon, Cliff Thorburn, Stephen Hendry and Mark Williams all winning their first (and in Cliff’s case, only) titles in these years. So the big question for Dotty is will he turn the tide of history? On Monday will he be able to say to himself ‘I created history today’ .

As well as the semi-finals starting out, today also sees a ‘rematch’ of the 1985 World Final between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor, perhaps that was what was on MC Rob Walker’s mind yesterday. Incredibly, the bookies have priced up this light-hearted affair, Dennis available at 15/8 with the sponsors Betfred, barking mad…

But to today, this is the ‘jockeying for position’ day in these 33 frame marathons, nothing can be won or lost today and as many have proved in the past even a heavy defeat in the first session doesn’t count anyone out of contention, but an 8-0 lead for any of these boys would be welcomed obviously.

Dott - Been there, done that.

Today is about seeing who adapts best to the change in conditions, they have all been here before and their respective records are:

Graeme Dott Won 3 Lost 1

Ali Carter Won 1 Lost 1

Mark Selby Won 1 Lost 1

Neil Robertson Won 0 Lost 1

They will all wake up this morning thinking they can win it, which makes the rest of the tournament a mouth-watering prospect. The latest odds have Selby as a clear favourite, but to anyone that knows anything about the game his price is too short, this is anyone’s now and it could get very twitchy.

Betting wise this has now eclipsed the China Open as my most profitable event. I stand to cash in on whoever wins and quarter bets on Robertson and Selby are in the bag as well as a cheeky trixie yesterday on Dott, Carter and Selby, all close, all ending up coming good. I think this week at least I am blessed with good fortune.

One of them will win me a very tidy sum indeed, a record amount for a mediocre punter like myself, while the others will win me a handsome profit and enough to keep Mrs Snookerbacker in shoes and organic beauty products (are you listening Ian W?) for the rest of the year. But all this means I can approach these matches in an unbiased, non-pocket-talking way and try and steer some more winnings for faithful followers from those nasty bookies. Let’s take them to the cleaners shall we?

So to the preview:

Respect. Is Due. To You.

2pm

Neil Robertson v Allister Carter

Head to Heads: 2-2

Crucible Meetings: 13-8 Robertson in 2009

Last Meeting: 5-2 Carter Welsh Open 2010

Trivia:

If Carter wins this match he will overtake Ronnie O’Sullivan as world number two.

If Robertson wins this match he will overtake Carter as world number three.

If Robertson wins the championship he will overtake O’Sullivan as world number two.

A great performance from Ali Carter last night when he finally got his game into gear to beat the once again flattering to deceive Shaun Murphy. Neil Robertson can only beat what is put in front of him and while on paper wins over Fergal O’Brien, Martin Gould and Steve Davis sound like a very easy path he has been made to work for it, albeit not by the Nugget who was obviously concentrating more on his epic match with Dennis that precedes this.

These two will be well aware of the ranking situation here and this has been the real mini-battle in the list all season behind the big hitters Higgins and O’Sullivan. They will both be keen to prove they are the better player and I think that bodes well for a very entertaining match.

Robertson was top of my shortlist at the beginning and I don’t see any reason to change my mind. I think he is a slightly better player than Ali and is just beginning to show what he is capable of, Ali is a fighter and a very strong match player, but he does sometimes struggle with nerves at the business end of tournaments, though he is learning to cope with that by talking down his chances, he’s a clever lad. I just think Robbo will edge this.

Recommended Bet: Robertson -2.5 frames (6/5 Sportingbet)

Selby - Pumped Up

7pm

Graeme Dott v Mark Selby

Head to Heads: 2-1

Crucible Meetings: 13-10 Selby in 2009

Last Meeting: 13-10 Selby in 2009 World Championship

Trivia:

Mark Selby needs to win this championship to secure a top eight ranking

Graeme’s win yesterday relegated Jamie Cope from the top 16 for next season, Graeme is now ranked 14 but could climb to higher with a win here, Mark King is at 15 and Liang Wenbo is ranked 16.

It’s nice that two of the three on my shortlist are still in the championship. Selby’s win last night continuing the hoodoo he seems to have over Ronnie in the big matches, there are some mind games going on there but the good guy always wins in the end in my world.

I for one was not upset to see the back of the Rocket, he behaved badly yesterday and to me he needs to take a long look in the mirror and remember that he is first and foremost, just a snooker player, that’s all. He isn’t an icon, he isn’t a national treasure and he isn’t above the game, I think he lost a few fans yesterday. A stark contrast to the fine sportsmanship we witnessed from Mark Allen and Shaun Murphy in particular.

But that’s enough about him, this is about the future of snooker and perhaps this championship will see the emergence of a new ‘decade dominator’ in Selby. He has been magnificent so far and has come through the quarter of death unscathed. He always looks shattered so you can’t really tell if he is feeling it or not.

Graeme has achieved what he set out to do and is now back where he belongs in the top 16. He is a fine fine player. I also have grown to really like watching him play, he is attacking, fearless and determined, he also wears his heart on his sleeve.

Graeme can approach this safe in the knowledge that a loss will not be the end of the world, I’m not sure you can say the same about Mark. He has a point to prove and is only half way to proving it.

To me, at the prices for a match that could go either way the bet has to be:

Recommended Bet: Graeme Dott (5/2 Betfred)

They should be two great matches and I’ll continue to follow them on here as they unfold. Good luck everyone.

Reactions to Yesterday

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:23 am

All eyes are on the prize

What a day it was yesterday!

While I’m sorting out the semi-final preview I’ll leave you with the reactions of the players, I’ll put Ronnie at the top to get him out of the way but the other interviews are a lot more interesting in my opinion.

The Defeated Ronnie click here ‘in his own little world’

His Conqueror Mark click here like a kid in a sweet shop

The only previous winner Dott click here ‘he’s seen it all before’

The Captain Carter click here reckons ‘he can’t win it’

And my main man Robbo click here ‘forgot his mobile phone’

Semi Final preview to follow.

April 27, 2010

Day Eleven Preview *UPDATED feat.'Touchgate'*: Is your finger on the pulse?

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:25 pm

Finger on the Pulse - the BBC have done painstaking demographic research

Tomorrow all questions will be answered, although for viewers of the BBC coverage, the voters on ‘The Pulse’ obviously already know who is going to win this anyway, which makes quite frankly a mockery of the championship. Joe Davis would be turning in his grave.

I thought it was rather interesting when Dennis Taylor gave his assessment of the Pulse voters that ‘they haven’t gone far wrong yet JV’, which to me is very odd, because they have been predicting all sorts from the winner of a match in frame 1 (usually getting it wrong) to ‘is Mark Williams the best ever Welsh player’ now, just because they say resoundingly that ‘No he isn’t’ is Dennis basically saying that they are correct? I’d want a bit more proof than that myself, but obviously The Pulse has spoken and we must abide by the final decision of Judge Den, they should ask it who is going to win the General Election and save a whole lot of hassle for everyone next week.

I have to say that I myself prefer the factual questions like one that is currently on there which asks how many times John Virgo will say ‘where’s the cue ball going’ click here to vote (no please, don’t, no please please, oh too late) but this could be rife with bribery and corruption and surely should not be encouraged in the modern game. Willie ‘Top Drawer’ Thorne has been rumoured to be crossing JV’s palm with gold to ensure he gets the correct answer and takes a bundle of cash from the other commentators. Despicable behaviour if you ask me. There are also more grammatical gems such as ‘Can Davis do a Robertson and make a comeback against Robertson?’ I’m sure you’ll agree this is highly intellectual stuff for the razor-sharp watching audience.

Anyway, today sees the conclusion of the quarter finals.

Ali needs to up his game a notch

10am

Allister Carter 3-5 Shaun Murphy (Second Session)

This scoreline could have been very different had Ali taken his chances in the first session. In the first two frames he broke down when in frame winning positions to allow Murphy in to clear up. Murphy seems to be cueing well now but I still retain my doubts about him winning the event, though plenty will have him down as a finalist. I’ve seen this once too often with him when he looks strong, consistent and authoritative around the table and then inexplicably misses and loses frames he should win. But as yet in this, he isn’t and he has the experience and the temperament to win, maybe it’s because I don’t really want him to win it, which is a very poor excuse when considering a bet.

In terms of the mid-match odds Shaun remains a healthy favourite at a skinny best price 1/4 with a few firms while Ali can be backed at 17/5 best price at William Hills.

It just has the feeling of a close one to me this, always has, but Ali needs to start playing how we know he can if he is to stay in touch. You feel he must win the first mini session tomorrow morning and definitely avoid losing it.

Mark Allen 8-8 Graeme Dott (Final Session)

A great match so far and for me this could be on a par with Saturday for drama this morning. Tea and Biscuits at the ready for the snooker equivalent of two kids in a playground going toe to toe. Hard to split them, Dott has the experience to win but Allen can just reel off frames like nobody’s business. With Dott still odds against I have seen worse bets, we need one more century to land the centuries bet and at this stage the Dott +2.5 frames looks on. Hopefully it will set us up nicely for the ill tempered match between Selby and O’Sullivan this afternoon.

2.30pm

Steve Davis 4-12 Neil Robertson (Final Session)

It was nice of Neil to let Steve come back today. I’m a little disappointed with myself I have to say, the odds against that was available for Robertson to win this match -5.5 frames was the obvious bet in this one and I think I let all the hype around the Nugget cloud my judgement, I hope some of you saw through this and landed the odds. To land the fifties bet we need three this afternoon by my calculations, which, unless Neil is feeling charitable, looks unlikely.

Ronnie - His own harshest critic. Damn, bang goes my big interview, sorry Ron, slip of the tongue.

Mark Selby 4-4 Ronnie O’Sullivan (Second Session)

What a tense, bad tempered affair this one is. Mark may have missed a golden chance to put Ronnie away early on in the match as the self-critical Rocket was clearly in one of his sulkier days. That is the thing about Ronnie, the game has to be going his way for him to enjoy it. I feel that some of his antics are verging on poor gamesmanship and merit a warning as he is clearly trying to intimidate his opponent at times. He respects Mark Williams and John Higgins, he says so openly but I feel he has an almost grudging respect for Selby, he even, rather unsportingly said after Selby beat him in the Masters that he didn’t think Mark ‘had the game’ to win a world title. He may just be made to eat those words come Monday evening.

This match is finely in the balance and you have to say the firms still offering 8/13 on Selby with a 2.5 frame start are taking some chances. I’m happy to stick with my initial prediction of Selby at 7/4, he’s now a best price 6/4 at Boylesports so he must have done something in the bookies eyes to make them sit up and take note. A big day tomorrow for the two of them and importantly for Ronnie backers I’d say, possibly quite a long one against a player that he doesn’t seem to enjoy playing.

Shaun will need to hold himself together tonight.

7pm

Allister Carter 8-8 Shaun Murphy (Final Session)

At one point this morning this looked to be all over. Ali has been routinely gifting frames to Shaun who is taking his chances but he’s getting so many it would be rude not to. However, after the interval Ali came back a different player, more aggressive to the point of being angry and knocking balls in with a seeming desire to crack them in half. He should get angry more often if he plays like that. Anyway from 8-4 down he has drawn level to 8-8 and that has to hurt the super-confident Murphy. Shaun is still the favourite but this is another one that I have always thought would go very close, it depends who holds themself together the best on who will be facing Neil Robertson in the semi-final.

I’m not going to be bold enough to make a prediction but I’d like Ali to win and of course land the handicap odds flagged up at the beginning of the match for faithful blog followers. Whatever the result and whatever happens it should be quite a night tonight.

Mark Selby 7-9 Ronnie O’Sullivan (Final Session)

High drama this afternoon as Selby took the final two of the session to stay within touching distance of the Rocket. The big talking point however once again was the increasingly volatile behaviour of O’Sullivan. For anyone who didn’t see ‘Touchgate’ click here , to me Ronnie’s behaviour, whether he was right or he was wrong was nothing short of disgraceful, he behaved like a playground bully and should apologise to poor old Leo Scullion before the session tonight.

Scully - Will be watching this back on tape this evening

These referees are paid peanuts to do the job and shouldn’t have to put up with that kind of thing. Anyway, it was touching, the Pulse viewers said so 67% to 33% so Ronnie can’t argue with that. They also said that he should apologise so this is now a cast iron certainty given the accuracy of their predictions so far. I was trying to think where I’d seen Leo Scullion before, it ended up being the name that sparked my fading memory, he used to star in advertisements, here’s one here. He’s quite a good singer too as you’ll see if you click here.

In terms of the match it is still in the balance in my opinion and the first couple of frames will give us more clues. It depends on who dictates the pace of the match, Selby has done well to be only two down when most players would have folded, so hopefully he’ll make a good fight of it. It should be a great night tonight to match the super action this morning when the 169/1 shot Graeme Dott won again (have I mentioned that bet before????)

After all the rigours of the day and the twists and turns, why not put your feet up reach for your tipple or illegal substance of choice and listen to the theme tune to ‘Frame of the Day’ from when this great game ruled the world. Brings back memories of David Vine and his heavy spectacles, whispering Ted Lowe, Jack Karnehm, John Pulman, Ray Reardon, Eddie Charlton, Fred Davis, The Hurricane………..

All credit for finding this forgotten gem of a track goes to naal75_dev at Betfair.

April 26, 2010

No Laughing Matter: The Quarter Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:04 pm

No more jesting: Mark has to knock off the jokes and I can't hide under the table anymore.

Tuesday sees things start getting ultra-serious when this great championship enters the final stages. It’s fair to say that a couple of these matches at least are not the ones that were widely predicted at this stage.

Obviously the unlikely hero to some and star of the show so far has been Steve Davis, his performance already the equivalent of a seventh world title to most people and he takes to the stage today against the man at the top of my Crucible shortlist Neil Robertson.

Another surprise package to some has been the reimurgence of the former champion Graeme Dott after a big slump in the rankings and a win for him against the very impressive Mark Allen would bring him a welcome return to the top 16 after a couple of years scraping around in the qualifiers.

This afternoon sees arguably the tie of the round begin, no not Shaun Murphy again, it’s Ronnie O’Sullivan against Mark Selby, when these two lock horns in big matches it’s usually memorable but they’ve never met here. To complete the last eight we see who I think is now the games most consistent player Ali Carter play Shaun Murphy who dumped out a disappointing Ding Junhui last night, meaning no representation for China at the quarter final stage, the Chinese onslaught onto the snooker scene not quite ready yet.

Bettingwise Monday afternoon saw some very odd strokes of good luck in the century break bets with Ali Carter managing to hit two against Joe Perry to land the odds and with Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams managing to hit all four of the ones we needed to land the 11/10 post match odds, but they did this in four of the last five frames of the match, which wasn’t exactly the gameplan.

Any deluded fool with blind faith in yours truly (not advised by the way) who still fancied this to happen before the final session and decided to have a go on it would surely have got a three figure price. They should also never ever consider doing it again and should seek professional help and sectioning immediately for their own good.

In terms of the outright betting two out of three of the initial shortlist of winners are still there, Robertson and Selby, whilst the third, Ding went out. I won’t mention my bet on Dott again but it means that I have a representative now in all but one of the last 8 matches.

So let’s see what those nasty tightfisted bookies are offering us poor punters for the last 8:

Steve and his fans 'The Snoks' after his win against Higgins

10am

Steve Davis v Neil Robertson

Head to Heads: 3-2 (all since 2004)

Last Relevant Meeting: 10-2 Robertson, here last year.

I have to admit I was surprised at the head to head here as the last time I remember these two playing each other it was one of the most one-sided matches imaginable, last year at the Crucible. Whatever happens here Davis has won the hearts of snooker fans all over the world and may well be responsible for a resurgence, who knows? What a legacy that would be to leave the game with after all this time. The man in snooker terms at least, is a true one-off.

But enough of this sentimental gushing we want a winning bet here. Surely lightning can’t strike twice and the thunder will prevail here? Surely? I’m asking the question as  don’t know the answer. Davis will play exactly the same game as he has against King and Higgins and will try to frustrate Robertson at every opportunity, all the pressure is on Neil but he proved he could handle that in the last round, unlike me, I was almost behind the sofa shaking like a baby at the end. Trying to find a bet on this is difficult, as the minute you decide on one you remember the Nugget’s smiling face at the end of the last match and just can’t bring yourself to hit that ‘confirm’ button.

But I figure the best way to approach this is clinically, assess the form, assess the performances of the players and their opponents so far, assess who is improving and who isn’t. On all those counts it has to be Robertson and it has to be fairly comfortable. I think he has had the ideal preparation for this and that his profile so far is fitting in with John’s when he won last year. He’s grinding out results and sooner or later his fabulous potting game and courage will return.

Robbo - usually gets out of bed at the crack of noon

My only reservation is that the first session is in the morning when Robbo isn’t at his best, I would not be surprised to see this end 4-4 after the first session (or even Davis leading, a bigger price than the first bet recommended) so that is the reason for the first recommended bet, as you will then effectively have a bet on Robertson to win the match at 4/1, the second one follows the old adage fortune favours the not so brave and expects some tight safety duels, containing safeties and dump shots but surely there will be a few 50 breaks, or something like that anyway.

Recommended Bet: Half-Time / Full Time Result (First 8 frames and Match Result) TIE/ROBERTSON (4/1 Bet 365)

Also: Over 11.5 50 breaks in the match (4/6 Skybet)


Mark Allen v Graeme Dott

Head to Heads: 2-1

Last Relevant Meeting: 5-1 Allen China Open last month

Graeme’s one win between the two was in a round robin match at the Grand Prix a few years ago and can probably be discounted, in fact I’d argue that in this ‘Clash of the Titches’ the record book can be thrown out of the window. I would argue that in terms of consistency, these have been the two outstanding players of championship so far. Did I mention my bet on Dott? OK, I’ll move on…

Make no mistake these two are both challengers for this title and I would not be a bit surprised to find one of them in the final, despite the more illustrious names that await the winner in the next round. They both love the venue and have enjoyed their finest moments here. This year they hold 4 of the 5 highest breaks of the championship at this stage and have 8 between them so far with only a 147 to stop Allen taking that prize.

I’m very impressed with both of them and can’t split them. I think the only reason why Allen is such a strong favourite is that he did well here last year and he’s higher in the rankings, but if I had to pick a winner I’d go for Dott who may look like a whippet but he’ll fight like a Rotweiller, he is more experienced, he needs the win to get back into the top 16, so has the incentive which may even inspire him and that could count for a lot in this match. I’d expect this to be a punch for punch affair.

Recommended Bet: Dott (+2.5 frames EVENS Tote)

Also: Over 2.5 century breaks (5/6 Paddy Power)

Dott has the pedigree, chum.

2.30pm

Ali Carter v Shaun Murphy

Head to Heads: 3-3

Last Relevant Meeting: 5-2 Carter (Welsh Open 2009)

Fair play to Shaun Murphy, he is finally beginning to show some form after a very poor season. I’m sure he’d say that this was the plan all along but even he couldn’t convince himself of that. But it is Ali that has the better of the recent duels between the two in terms of ranking events and he showed plenty of character to bounce back yesterday after a late surge by Joe Perry threatened his solid record this year in terms of early rounds.

Ahhhh Diddums.

Murphy for me is still missing too many easy balls but over the longer matches the fact that he is also producing winning clearances and big breaks when given chances means he is largely getting away with it. As ever his greatest weapon is his self belief but I do wonder how he will cope with Ali who won’t give him anything like the chances that the rather careless Ding did.

Carter gave Murphy a real going over in this in 2008, winning 13-4, will that spur Murphy on or sow the seeds of doubt just enough for Ali to win again? There is little doubt that this won’t be the scoreline this time, it is screaming ‘final frame decider’ to me this one and for that reason I will take the world number three in waiting to deliver the handicap odds. I also hope he wins, as I like him.

Recommended Bet: Ali Carter (+2.5 frames 5/6 Skybet)

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Selby

Head to Heads: 6-3

Last Relevant Meeting: 10-9 Selby watch it here (Masters Final 2010)

Ronnie - Had a go at Rob, the big bully.

The tie of the round gets underway with the first eight frames today and I have always had a feeling that these two would meet at this stage this year. Many will see this as deciding the winner as it will see the successful player emerge from the ‘Quarter of Death’, to see Selby’s reaction to beating Hendry click here and to see Ronnie’s reaction to his hard fought win over Mark Williams click here ,to see him getting wound up at blog icon, poor old Rob Walker click here. Anyway, both of them should be well up for this match.

The two recent times that Selby has got the better of Ronnie have been in deciding frames in finals, the Masters clip above and the Welsh Open in 2008. But it is Ronnie that holds the advantage in the head to heads.

I thought Selby was tremendous against Doherty and even better against Hendry, but Ronnie was awesome in the final session yesterday against Williams, the best he’s been since the Masters. I just hope they both carry that form over to this match. I can see it being tight but at the odds there is only one bet for me here. Just sit back, relax and enjoy it.

Recommended Bet: Mark Selby (7/4 Ladbrokes)

Neil is taking no convicts, I mean prisoners.

7pm

Steve Davis v Neil Robertson (1-7 Second Session)

If he comes back from this one I think Hollywood will be knocking on the door. The last two matches have stood Robbo in good test for this test. Steve looks to have had his glory for this year and can content himself with the memory of Saturday as being for me, the highlight of the sporting year. Never mind the World Cup, this is your sports personality of the year. But he won’t be winning the World Championship and may even get tomorrow off if Neil doesn’t let up. My man is coming good at the right end of the tournament.

A rare serious moment between the two giggling imps.

Mark Allen v Graeme Dott (5-3 Second Session)

Mark Allen came out today in very determined mood and raced into a four frame lead at the speed of light, only missing a couple of pots. Dott looked like death warmed up when he entered the arena but the colour returned to his cheeks after the mid-session interval and he came back fighting and will be pleased to be just two frames down after the first session. The two of them were having a right old chinwag between frames and looked like they were telling each other jokes, an interesting tactic I have to say.

I still think this one will be a punch by punch affair and with Allen a very good front runner he is the obvious favourite, but for those that still fancy Dott for this he is 7/2 at Boylesports and bigger on the exchanges at the interval. I’m considering possibly going in and backing him before this session gets under way but I’ll leave that up to you.

April 25, 2010

Day 10 Preview: All's Square in Love and War

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:44 pm

Match of the Championship in prospect?

Monday is the day when we decide the final eight.

In all probability this might even eclipse the drama that we saw on Saturday as we start the day with two of the four remaining last 16 matches all square and one of them still very close.

Awaiting the winners are those already sure of a quarter final place, Steve Davis, Neil Robertson, Graeme Dott and Mark Allen.

In the top half of the draw Davis faces Robertson and Ali Carter or Joe Perry will face Murphy or Ding

In the bottom half Allen faces Dott and Mark Selby or Stephen Hendry faces Ronnie O’Sullivan or Mark Williams.

Today sorts all those ‘ors’ out.

10am

Ding Junhui v Shaun Murphy (5-3 Second session of 8 frames)

A bit scrappy from these two today but Ding came out with the advantage. To me he does still look the stronger player of the two with Murphy’s ‘trusted cue action’ just letting him down now and again. I think sometimes he relies on it too much without questioning whether it is as good as he thinks it is. The number of very easy balls he was missing in the first session had to be seen to be believed. But that is what Murphy has in his favour, belief, often to the point of delusion, and while he has that he is still a danger, but he does need the game to match and too often lately that isn’t being delivered. I still fancy Ding for this one and in my view, along with Robertson he still has a say as to whether the trophy will need to pass through customs for the first time since 1980.

Mark Selby v Stephen Hendry (4-4 Second session of 8 frames)

Mark Selby won a frame today at 2-4 frames and0-75 points down that could have given Hendry a huge advantage in the match if he’d lost it. He then dug deep and won the last of the session, even refusing a good chance at a maximum break to level up. Hendry should be at least 5-3 up here but once again he just seems to have taken his foot off the gas when he is in front, something that he never did when he was at his best. Whatever he says, it is quite obvious that he does not have the hunger he once had but you can see that determination in Selby (and Robertson for that matter), and this counts for a great deal at the sports Blue Riband event. The second session resumes this morning and it’s still in the balance, my feeling is that this one is Selby’s to lose, he is playing the better snooker of the two overall and is still showing signs of being a future champion when he gets going, his nerve should not be questioned, but his cue action is not as solid as some. But I’ll stick with him in this one.

He's beginning to annoy me

2.30pm

Allister Carter v Joe Perry (10-6 To a Conclusion)

These two have been bashing balls around now for two sessions and Ali has somehow got to a point where he is only three frames away from the Quarter Finals. Joe struggled in the second session and Ali showed again why he is so highly ranked, he is a great match player in the early rounds. You can’t really see any way back for Joe now in this and with the table on the other side of the arena packed to the rafters, even the paying spectators at the Crucible will want Ali to finish him off early so they can get to see the main event. In terms of the recommended bet on this one, they have at least managed one century between them, one more and the odds are landed.

Mark Williams v Ronnie O’Sullivan (8-8 To a Conclusion)

Many will think that Mark Williams missed out on a golden chance to put Ronnie away in the second session, but I’m sure he won’t feel like that. Two seasons ago he could only have dreamt of coming here with a ranking title under his belt and matching Ronnie shot for shot. Ronnie looks more determined then he has of late but is still playing some inexplicable shots, Mark is more measured and seems to have spent more time at the table, yet it’s level. It’s a coin toss now this one and it would be foolish of me to assert that my call on Ronnie to win is a sure thing, in fact with Williams available now at 6/4 the sensible bet is the Welshman. But I’ll stick with Ronnie.

7pm

Ding Junhui v Shaun Murphy (8-8 To a Conclusion)

I wonder how important the last frame of this mornings session will turn out to be to the outcome of this match. Shaun winning it has now set this up nicely. The commentary team are all saying that Shaun is the better player, I think he is marginally but I don’t think it’s that obvious that he is cueing the better of the two. Tonight could be a Crucible classic and may well justify Murphy’s assertion that this indeed is ‘the tie of the round’. I’m sticking with Ding.

Hendry - Looks a bit bored.

Mark Selby v Stephen Hendry (11-5 To a Conclusion)

A very solid performance from Mark this morning should guarantee an early night for the Jester tonight. The centuries bet looks dead as despite there being two (I’d need another two) there has been two breaks of 99, you win some you lose some. But the handicap looks in good stead unless Hendry comes out with a magic wand tonight. But given his demeanour and the form Selby is showing that isn’t something I expect to happen.

This should leave the scene clear for a nerve racking end to the Ding v Murphy encounter in front of the whole of the Crucible crowd.

Day Nine Preview: Everyday is not like Sunday

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:16 am

I aged a bit yesterday

After all the excitement of yesterday today sees a rather calmer day with just the afternoon and evening sessions to mull over.

To be honest I think I for one need the rest, what with the tension over Davis and then the edge of your seat Robertson comeback, nerves suffered and the old ticker must have speeded up a bit. A think I aged ten years yesterday, making me not that far behind the Nugget, so there’s still hope.

I’ve always thought that every day should see at least two conclusions to matches to keep the viewers interested but Sunday is the first day that nothing is resolved, barring runaway winners.

We see the start of two great match ups in Murphy versus Ding and Selby versus Hendry and it will be interesting to see if anyone takes an advantage in both those matches. Then this evening we see the continuation of the two stalemates involving Carter and Perry and Ronnie and Williams.

Puntingwise we are also now on a roll and hopefully we can keep it up.

2pm

Ding Junhui v Shaun Murphy

Head to Heads 3-4

Last Relevant Meeting 9-3 Ding 2009 UK Championship

The last two UK champions come face to face again today in what Murphy modestly billed as ‘the tie of the round’. Their last meeting saw a runaway victory to Ding on his way to Pukka Pie glory, but Murphy was suffering with a heavy cold on that occasion, though to be fair to him he didn’t use that as an excuse. Ding has been in pulsating form recently and when he gets in amongst the balls he very rarely misses anything easy, a bit like O’Sullivan. He has been the player of the season without a doubt and that is reflected in his number one ranking on the one year list. He annihilated the hapless author and serial bad hair day man Stuart Pettman in round one in clinical fashion while Murphy fell over the line in the end against Gerard Greene. It’s the tie that everyone expected at this stage and will very likely produce at least a semi-finalist. I fancy Ding for this, on current form he is a live contender and Murphy has flattered to deceive all season, at some points producing superb performances then mysteriously playing like a muppet. Ding has won their last three meetings, albeit one in the Matchroom Championship League, but I’ll take him to continue the winning run here.

Recommended Bet: Ding Junhui (8/13 Paddy Power)

Selby - Likes a Chortle

Mark Selby v Stephen Hendry

Head to Heads 6-5

Last Relevant Meeting 9-5 Selby 2009 UK Championship

It’s been so long since we saw Selby I’d almost forgotten he was still in this. But he will have had a good week’s practice since giving Ken Doherty a snooker lesson in Round 1. He made nine breaks over 50 in that match and was in blistering form. Hendry gave us all some late night drama against Zhang Anda in winning the last three frames of the match to seal a 10-9 victory that had a sense of the inevitable about it in the end. Can we take this as an indication of the Hendry of old resurfacing? He should be inspired by Steve Davis’s performance yesterday and is 12 years the Nugget’s junior so still has plenty of gas in the tank. But with Selby in this form it is a very different proposition for the King of the Nineties here. I’m going to recommend two odds against bets on this match:

Recommended Bet: Mark Selby -4.5 frames (11/8 Skybet)

Recommended Bet: Over 3.5 century breaks (11/10 Blue Square)

7pm

Allister Carter v Joe Perry (Second Session 4-4)

Caught some of this last night and there is no doubt that Joe Perry is finding his game slowly but surely. They seemvery evenly matched and this isn’t reflected in the prices at this stage. I still think Ali will edge it but this could go close.

Mark Williams v Ronnie O’Sullivan (Second Session 4-4)

I saw snippits of this in between the Robertson epic yesterday and at one point it did look like Ronnie was going to blow Mark away, but winning the last three of the session sets this one up nicely. Still a very tough one to call and again the prices at this stage seem at odds with what we’ve seen so far. Has Ronnie given us all a tip that some of us have ignored? Time will tell, but with Higgins going out the stakes on this match might just be very high indeed.

Good Luck whatever you decide.

If Everyday is Like Sunday for you click here for a timeless classic.

For those who like their music don’t forget to click on your favourite intro tune by going here Mark Allen is currently topping the ranking list closely followed by a whole host of others.

For those interested in fashion, hairstyles, shoes and girly things Mrs Snookerbacker will be updating her preview tonight with her thoughts on the Championship so far, she hasn’t watched a lot of it but you know what women can be like, she wants to say something so I must obey. It keeps her happy and stops her talking about the Ash Cloud that ruined her holiday plans.

The Comeback King

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:27 am

I wasn't expecting you. Neil faces Steve in the Quarters.

Neil Robertson produced one of the all time Crucible comebacks yesterday.

His 13-12 victory over Martin Gould securing him a Quarter Final match up with the day’s other winner Steve Davis.

In his post-match conference he spoke of Martin Gould stealing Ronnie O’Sullivan’s soul, more about the rumours that he had already checked out of his Sheffield apartment before the start of yesterday’s session and why he was glad that Davis won, and it wasn’t because he’s nostalgic.

To watch his press conference in full click here

To see Gould’s reaction to the match click here you’ve got to feel for the lad. He was superb for most of the match, as he was against Marco Fu and it would be nice if he got over this and came back a better player.

April 24, 2010

HE DID IT! – The Nugget send Higgins Packing

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:29 pm

I haven’t been this shocked since Ricky Martin announced he was gay. The way this weekend is going Jimmy Saville will win the London Marathon.

The performance from the one and only Steve Davis this morning was nothing short of miraculous and brought a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye of every nostalgic snooker fan across the globe.

His 13-11 defeat of John Higgins to progress to the Quarter Finals to me has to be up there with sport’s biggest ever shocks. It is definitely without any doubt the biggest shock that I can remember in snooker.

It would only be eclipsed if he won it.

But he can’t, can he?

To relive it again click here

Viewers outside the UK click here

To hear from John click here

To see the great man himself before he got interrupted click here

For Steve’s full press conference click here

and as if that wasn’t enough Robertson completes Mission Impossible and beats Gould 13-12. Wonderful stuff, what a day!

As a homage to the Nugget the betting talk will continue in earnest tomorrow. For after all, this is primarily a snooker blog and days like these don’t come along too often for the greatest sport in the world.

See you all tomorrow with a comprehensive preview of the Sunday matches, no snok in the morning.

LEGEND

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