January 22, 2011

World Snooker/Sky Shootout: Can we rule out the Tacticians?

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:26 am

The Nugget using his balls to impress Miss Blackpool

On Thursday I previewed next weekend’s World Snooker/Sky Shootout with a focus on the fast and furious potters that are taking part. But could we be barking up the wrong tree? Will we instead see a weekend of wily tacticians, whose primary aim is to outsmart the ‘pot them off the lampshades’ brigade?

I remember when playing snooker rather than writing about it used to take up a lot of my time and one particular period saw me playing most days with a player that was later to turn professional and was far better than me. He was a ferocious potter and some sessions just made me feel like his own personal, rather deflated referee. I spent a lot of the time taking colours out of pockets while he went on his crusade to pot everything. He once made back to back maximums against me.

But I did have a modicum of success against him on certain occasions by playing a tactical game I liked to refer to as ‘The Temptation Game’, usually accompanied by a musical nod to Heaven 17.

The idea was simple, tempt him into playing a long risky red that I knew he could not resist, which would result in one of two things;

1. Me picking the balls out for another frame.

2. Me getting a chance to make perhaps a 70 or so and persuade him to concede.

It was the snooker equivalent of flipping a coin, but I do wonder if any of the professionals use this when playing players they know will find it hard to turn down even the faintest whiff of a pot.

So could a tactician realistically win this event? The modern day father of all things tactical is of course, The Nugget, who has been busy promoting his old mucker Bazza’s event already this week. He faces another wily old head in the first round in the shape of Peter Ebdon and it will be quite a spectacle seeing these two slow coaches attempting to cope with a 15 second shot clock. Ebdon was averaging 52 seconds per shot in the Masters recently. Perhaps Bazza should be looking at the possibility of having individual sponsors for specific matches, I feel he may have missed a trick not getting the old fellas at ‘Deep Heat’ involved in this one with all the creaking bones on show.

My guess is that players like these two won’t last long as they are far too slow these days to adapt to such a frenetic pace. But that isn’t to rule out those that can speed up when required but still have a tactical game that is in tip top shape.

I’m thinking primarily of players like Mark Selby (22/1 Corals) who I think has a fighting chance of doing well here. Lower down the list there are massive prices about players that can mix the tactics with the potting, Barry Hawkins (66/1 Betfred), Ricky Walden (50/1 Betfred) and Stephen Lee (60/1 Paddy Power) can mix it up and are all capable of winning this. Some might even be tempted by the attractive 75/1 on Ken Doherty at Bet365. The Darling of Dublin can still turn in the odd decent display and is not usually beaten in the tactical department.

One thing that this speeded up version of snooker might also take out is the nerves. The lack of time to dwell on the importance of a shot will do a lot for some players that can let the big occasions get to them. This means that a first time winner might not be out of the question.

I think if you are going to back a few players in this you need to take a view whether to go with the out and out potters or favour those that will be going there with a tactical game plan to frustrate and tempt the potting brigade into surrender. Or like me, you might want to sit on the fence and have a little bit of both.

I’m going to select six players to have a small interest on. At the prices it would be silly to ignore O’Sullivan (16/1 Corals, as low as 9/1 in other places) given his liking for this type of event, but whether he can cope with having to spend so long in a town where a day can feel like a month is another matter. He also faces Marco Fu in the first round which just might tip him over the edge. But I’ll take a chance he’s up for it.

The two Marks, Selby (22/1 Corals) and Allen (25/1 Betfred) are others that I can’t ignore. I’ll also have a go on Judd Trump (40/1 Betfred) in the hope that a mad potter with a limited safety game might prevail. To make up the six I’ll look lower down the list at Ricky Walden (50/1 general) and Matthew Stevens (66/1 Betfred). Matthew has suffered in the past from letting the big shots get to him, but a more fluent potter you couldn’t wish to see and with his experience he could potentially have a run in this.

It’s a lottery of course but there are some massive prices about and as long as you don’t get carried away it might be a fun event to have a punt on. So my advice is pick your team and have a bit on each of them. When you have, post your six on here and let’s see how many actually end up backing the winner. In fact, anyone that does can go into a draw for a snooker related prize.

A reminder of the rules and the draw (stand out matches highlighted):

– 1 Frame knock out
– 1 table in play
– Maximum 10 minutes per match
– Shot clock, first 5 minutes at 20 seconds, next 5 minutes at 15 seconds
– Random draw
– Players must hit a cushion or pot a ball on every shot
– Players ‘lag’ for who breaks (it is sometimes referred to as stringing)
– Blue ball shoot out in event of a tie break

Mark Allen v Ryan Day
Stephen Lee v Michael Holt
Nigel Bond v Joe Jogia (one for the purists)
Stephen Hendry v Fergal O’Brien
Robert Milkins v Martin Gould
Andrew Higginson v Jamie Burnett
Tom Ford v Stephen Maguire
Ding Junhui v Dominic Dale
Jimmy White v Ali Carter
Michael Judge v Alan McManus
Mark Williams v John Higgins
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Marco Fu

Peter Ebdon v Steve Davis (sponsored by Stanna Stairlifts)
Jimmy Michie v Marcus Campbell
Mark King v Jimmy Robertson
Barry Pinches v Neil Robertson
Peter Lines v Barry Hawkins
Shaun Murphy v Rory McLeod (Rory back on the box)
Alfie Burden v Matt Selt
Ricky Walden v Joe Perry
Dave Harold v Judd Trump (The Tortoise and the Hare)
Graeme Dott v Matthew Couch
Jamie Cope v Ken Doherty
Adrian Gunnell v David Morris
Tony Drago v Liang Wenbo (blink and you’ll miss it)
Gerard Greene v Rod Lawler (blink and you’ll be gutted you haven’t missed it)
Matthew Stevens v Mike Dunn (Mike will be appearing at the Blackpool Comedy Club if he loses)
Stuart Pettman v Bjorn Haneveer
Joe Swail v Mark Davis
Andy Hicks v Mark Selby
Anthony Hamilton v Anthony McGill
Stuart Bingham v Ian McCulloch

There is still time to win a cue signed by Ronnie O’Sullivan. Click here for details.

Also, good luck to Allan Taylor who is in action today in Gloucester. Go the Assassin!

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