Snookerbacker

February 28, 2011

Championship League Group Five

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:07 am

Allen: Plays well here.

Good Morning Everyone. It’s time to head off to Crondon Park again today for the Championship League Group 5.

I will be backing Mark Allen to win this group outright to small stakes at 10/3 with Boylesports, he has a solid record here and is usually very hard to beat.

Feel free to discuss all things Crondon in the comments section if you are having a bet. Lots of the firms are pricing up the matches if anyone wants to play on them, you can usually get to watch it on Bet365 if you have a few pounds in your account.

You can keep up with the results on the official website here.

The running league table can be viewed here.

MONDAY FEBRUARY 28
TABLE ONE

Mark Allen (100) 3-0 Matthew Stevens
Ding Junhui 3-0 Ricky Walden
Matthew Stevens 3-2 Ryan Day
Ricky Walden 0-3 Liang Wenbo
Matthew Stevens 0-3 Mark King
Ryan Day 3-2 Liang Wenbo

TABLE TWO

Ryan Day 0-3 Mark King (136,110,127 – I kid you not)
Liang Wenbo 2-3 Mark Allen
Mark King 2-3 Ding Junhui
Mark Allen 1-3 Ryan Day
Ding Junhui 1-3 Liang Wenbo
Ricky Walden 3-2 Mark King

TUESDAY, MARCH 1
TABLE ONE (all times are approximate)
Mark Allen 3-0 Ricky Walden
Mark King (Q) 3-1 Liang Wenbo
Matthew Stevens 0-3 Liang Wenbo (Q)
Ryan Day (Q) 3-1 Ding Junhui

TABLE TWO (all times are approximate and subject to change)
Matthew Stevens 3-0 Ding Junhui
Ryan Day 3-2 Ricky Walden
Mark Allen (Q) 3-2 Ding Junhui (E)
Matthew Stevens 3-1 Ricky Walden (E)
Mark Allen 3-0 Mark King

SEMI-FINALS

Allen 3-2 King

Day 3-2 Liang

FINAL

Mark Allen 0-3 Ryan Day

February 27, 2011

China Open Qualifiers Final Day

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:41 am

Temperature's Rising in Sheffield.

After three days of action in what by all accounts is an overly hot and sticky atmosphere in Sheffield we reach the point where the current seeds 17-32 enter the tournament for the right to board the flight to Beijing at the end of March.

I would say ‘for the right to qualify’ but that wouldn’t be true, as the lower ranked unseeded players face the distinct possibility of having to play the grossly unfair wildcard round the minute they get off the plane. I know I am always going on about it but it’s out of order and it should be consigned to the sporting dustbin. These guys work hard to qualify for venues, particularly the lower ranked players who are sometimes fighting for their place on the tour next season so why should they be greeted by the sight of a usually capable player, fully acclimatised to play the biggest match of their year? If someone can give me an argument that this is in some way fair I will shut up, but until then I’ll continue shooting my mouth off to anyone who will listen.

Well, at least it’s only my mouth I’m shooting off, not like a certain Premier League footballer who continues his path to self-destruction this morning in the papers. I’m not a football fan in the slightest but I’m aware of this little fellow through association with his shiny, fluffy, nationally treasured estranged wife. What a complete arse he is, it just goes to prove the age old adage, money can’t buy you class.

Talking of money, a fine day yesterday for the bank on these in what is turning into a very good few days work, restoring my faith in the qualifiers after a period of us sleeping in seperate rooms. Joe Swail managed to win on the midnight hour last night with a colours clearance that was greeted with delight by a half-asleep yours truly and a groan of ‘has it finished at last’ by the sainted snooker widow lying next to me in bed. Good old Joe managed to out scrap Angles 5-3 adding to a good night’s work from Fergal O’Brien and James Wattana. I think we may have frightened Stan James off snooker for life as they aren’t even pricing it up today. Good work ladies and gentlemen.

The only real fly in the ointment yesterday was Tony Drago losing after looking a strong favourite at 2-0 up. If he would have managed to win I’d probably be in celebration mode already and be looking at the World Qualifiers which begin at the end of this week in earnest. A full preview of the opening matches we know will be up this week in plenty of time for us to bash the bookies. But don’t forget beforehand we have the annual meeting of the ‘Clapped-Out Club’ where the likes of Les Dodd, the Bolton Stud Tony Knowles, Ali Bassiri and company get together to discuss proposed changes to the winter fuel allowance and bus pass eligibility criteria. But something tells me that this year there are a few shrewdies cottoning onto the fact that this is their way in to the big event as they are joined by a bigger field than usual including David ‘White Pants’ Gray and paperboy Sam Baird. Could a Clapped Out member fly the flag for the exclusive club at the Crucible this year?

Anyway, back to matters in hand.

IN THE CASE OF ALL MATCHES THE NEXT OPPONENT MAY CHANGE BECAUSE OF THE WILDCARD ROUND

10am (Head to Heads shown in fixtures where applicable)
49. Stephen Lee 4-0 Alfie Burden (winner to play Mark Williams at the venue)
50. Ryan Day 1-0 Tom Ford (winner to play Ronnie O’Sullivan at the venue if he turns up)
51. Matthew Stevens 4-3 Anthony Hamilton (winner to play Stephen Hendry at the venue)
52. Mark King v Kurt Maflin (winner to play Ding Junhui at the venue)
53. Stuart Bingham v Mark Joyce (winner to play Ali Carter at the venue)
54. Marcus Campbell v Rory McLeod (winner to play Mark Allen at the venue)

Alfie: Good Week.

OK, I’ll start with the matches I won’t be recommending, but might have an interest in as I think there is a bet in most of these this morning. Kurt Maflin is having a week to end all weeks here and proved yesterday that as well as being able to mix it with hotshot Jack Lisowski he could also handle players like Big Dave. Well, it’s more of the same today against Mark King, who is by the way, the next victim of ‘Answers on a Postcard’ this week. Maflin is a tempting price at 2/1 but I must remember my old motto ‘never bet in a match with Mark King in it’ so I won’t. Matthew Stevens is another at a backable price against Hamilton who he beat last week in Wales. I might have an interest on that one but Hamilton is a player that can turn it on if he is in the mood, nevertheless I do fancy Matt to make the venue again here as the Sheriff, despite a comfortable victory yesterday didn’t have much to beat. Matthew is ranked 14th now on the provisional end of season list and seems to be following his fellow Welshman MJW in a phoenix from the flames act. Stephen Lee has a good record against Alfie Burden but since a real run of form earlier in the season the Rolls Royce appears to be developing engine trouble and Alfie has been a player that has done me a few favours so I might have an interest on him overturning the odds and the history books in that one. That leaves the three I will be getting involved in, Ryan Day another Welshman that is somewhere near back to being dangerous again after a very lean spell, I’d take to beat Tom Ford who didn’t score that heavily yesterday and will need to up his game considerably to live with Day’s scoring power. Stuart Bingham in my view is a class above Mark Joyce and is another for your accumulators along with Marcus Campbell, who I think can outwit blog legend Rory McLeod who only managed one half century yesterday in his marathon yawnfest with Pinches, so they are my three for this morning.

Recommended Bet: 3x1point doubles and a 1 point treble: Day (4/7), Campbell (10/11) and Bingham (8/13) at Boylesports.

2.30pm
55. Andrew Higginson 0-1 Robert Milkins (winner to play Jamie Cope at the venue)
56. Dominic Dale 2-1 Jimmy White (winner to play Mark Selby at the venue)
57. Liang Wenbo 4-3 Nigel Bond (winner to play John Higgins at the venue)
58. Martin Gould 2-0 Mike Dunn (winner to play Ricky Walden at the venue)
59. Ken Doherty v Issara Kachaiwong (winner to play Graeme Dott at the venue)

Higginson and Milkins are two quite similar players. Both like to be in the balls and neither likes to hang around too much so that should make for an entertaining encounter between the two. The only time they have met was back in 2009 when Milkins rode out the easy winner and to me he comes into this in the better form of the two. I think at odds against it is worth taking a chance on the Milkman in a match that is likely to suit his game. Dom and Jimmy haven’t met since a World Championship match at the Crucible back in 2002 when Jimmy won 10-2, Dale has looked to be getting back to a bit of form recently and a recent defeat by Ebdon in the Welsh was a surprise to me but he has said on his blog that he wasn’t feeling very well. I’d love Jimmy to prove me wrong so won’t have a bet but Dale is probably one for the accumulators here. Martin Gould is on a really poor run of form recently and faces Mike Dunn, while plenty will see Gould as a certainty for this one, I’m not one of them and until he starts winning again he is best left alone in my view. Kachaiwong has been a surprise package this week and it would only need a repeat of his form to date in this to give Ken a game, but his scoring isn’t fantastic and you’d expect the Darling of Dublin to outfox him. Liang Wenbo comes to his match against Nigel Bond after being reportedly under-prepared for his latest 5-0 defeat to Dave Harold a couple of weeks ago, due to personal circumstances. The possibility that he is still short of practice makes Bond a bet in a match that he would have a strong chance in anyway.

Recommended Bet: 2 points win Nigel Bond at 5/4 Paddy Power and 1 point win Rob Milkins at 6/5 Paddy Power.

Recommended Morning and Afternoon Acca pays 9/2 at Sportingbet I’d go with 1 point on Day, Bingham, Dale and Doherty.

7pm
60. Joe Perry 1-0 Rod Lawler (winner to play Shaun Murphy at the venue)
61. Mark Davis 1-0 James Wattana (winner to play Stephen Maguire at the venue)
62. Judd Trump 1-0 Ben Woollaston (winner to play Marco Fu at the venue)
63. Gerard Greene 1-0 Fergal O’Brien (winner to play Peter Ebdon at the venue)
64. Barry Hawkins 1-3 Joe Swail (winner to play Neil Robertson at the venue)

Trump: Needs to get his season back on track.

A lot of old rivalries revisited tonight and in my view the head to head statistics don’t really carry a lot of weight with a lot of the meetings going back a few years, even in the case of Judd Trump’s win over Woollaston which was back in 2007. Some really even looking matches to finish off the qualifiers here and anyone that can predict the winner in all five of these with any confidence is a brave person indeed. So as ever that leads me to consider where there might be some value in backing the outsiders. Probably my main focus tonight will be on Fergal O’Brien to beat Gerard Greene, with only two wins in ten coming into this Greene won’t relish what might be a tough tactical affair against Fearless and at odds against I think the Irishman is worth a bet to get one over on his opponent from over the border. Mark Davis is another that comes into this on a bad run of form and it will be interesting to see how he copes with James Wattana, who comes to this match fresh and I’m sure determined to make it to China given his precarious position in the rankings. Ben Woollaston managed to beat Jamie Burnett last night without hitting a 50 break so you would assume even a rusty Judd Trump should easily account for him. Two more in the tricky ones are left with Perry/Lawler and Hawkins/Swail. I think Perry might just be a little too strong for Rod, who is on a rich run of form, it could be a tight one though and that’s why I’ll be leaving that one alone. Given what I said last night about Joe Swail being a player to stick with when he starts winning I’ll give him another chance tonight against Barry Hawkins, who is another that comes into this not quite at his best.

Recommended Bets: 2x1point singles and a 1 point double Swail and O’Brien both 5/4 at Sportingbet.

Good Luck if you are having a bet.


February 26, 2011

China Open Qualifiers Day 3

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:07 am

Do you know the Maflin Man?

I’ll admit to making rather merry yesterday with the lovely Mrs Snookerbacker and missing quite a bit of the snooker as a result. Well, I am allowed a day off now and again surely? It was probably a good job as I’d have been feeling rather deflated after the afternoon results, but once again the evening came to the rescue and means we live to fight another day with the double and treble both giving me a nice little pot to wake up to this morning.

A couple of shocks for me yesterday in Jack Lisowski and Jamie Jones losing. Lisowski in particular must be disappointed to lose to Maflin, but it was a high quality match which saw no fewer than four centuries (two each) with the highest being a 140 by Maffers and further breaks of 95, 76, 61 and 56. That is seriously impressive stuff and probably one for the record books for such an early stage in an event, where centuries are few and far between. I would venture to suggest that even Warrington’s king breakbuilder Mighty Mike Chester would be impressed, he’s another that is great in the balls but lacks that killer instinct to clinch frames….(click here)

I was also surprised at the scale of the loss by young Scot Anthony McGill, though I didn’t back him I would not have expected him to be beaten quite so easily by Ben Woollaston. But sanity was restored with wins for Jimmy, Joe Swail, Rod Lawler and James Wattana who all live to fight again today. James setting up a real ‘Back to the Future’ tie with the Nugget tonight.

So it’s time to have a look at todays matches. Where there is a head to head statistic it is included in brackets.

10am
33. Matthew Selt v Alfie Burden (0-1)
34. Tom Ford v Liu Song (1-1)
35. Anthony Hamilton v Joe Jogia (3-0)
36. Dave Harold v Kurt Maflin
37. Mark Joyce v Joe Delaney (0-1)
38. Rory McLeod v Barry Pinches (0-1)

Some interesting match ups this morning and the head to head that immediately stands out is Anthony Hamilton’s over Joe Jogia. The last time they met over this distance The Sheriff came out a 5-1 winner, though in their meeting since in a PTC Jogia got a bit closer and lost in a decider. I’d be surprised if Hamilton lost that one but as we know anything can happen in these and the price is restrictive anyway for a single bet. Since Mark Joyce’s run in the UK he has lost to Alan McManus and Rod Lawler, on paper he should beat Joe Delaney but with the Irishman pitched at the 7/4 mark he is a tempting proposition, but he has ‘The Pinches Factor’ for me where betting is concerned so I’ll leave that one alone. Kurt Maflin is flying and is 6/4 to beat Big Dave Harold, he comes however fresh from an attacking potfest against Lisowski and Dave has a habit of bringing potters down to earth with a banana bump, again not one I’ll get involved in. With Barry Pinches also in action I could be forgiven for ignoring this session altogether but there are two bets that I like. The first is Alfie Burden to beat Matt Selt, I rate Alfie as marginally the better player of the two and given he has a win under his belt I’m happy to keep the faith with him, the other is the 6/4 on the consistent Lui Song to beat Leicester’s Tom Ford. The Songman seems to be a player worth siding with in these events, a demolition job on Gunnell behind him yesterday coupled with the fact that Ford comes into this on the back of two heavy qualifying round defeats, leads me to think that a shock might be on the cards here.

Recommended Bets: 2 x 1 point singles Liu Song (6/4 Sportingbet) and Alfie Burden (10/11 Stan James). 1 point double on the two of them pays a shade over 7/2 at Sportingbet.

2.30pm
39. Robert Milkins v David Gilbert
40. Peter Lines v Jimmy White (1-3)
41. Nigel Bond v Bjorn Haneveer (1-1)
42. Mike Dunn v James McBain
43. Tony Drago v Issara Kachaiwong (1-2)

Speedy

Jimmy is back this afternoon to take on Peter Lines. Last time the two met was last October in a PTC event when Jimmy won 4-0. Lines is on a bit of a losing streak at the moment and I marginally favour Jimmy to win this one, but he’ll have to play better than he did yesterday with a high break of just 60, not one I’d bet on with any confidence this one. The most interesting head to head is Drago’s match. I would normally be putting the Maltese Falcon in an accumulator without a second thought in a fixture like this but reading the head to heads has made me do a double take. These two have had three almighty tussles, Kachaiwong winning the last two on deciding frames, most notably in a World Championship qualifier in 2008, 10-9. The one time Tony has beaten him was 9-7 in the UK in 2006. The one thing that makes me still think Drago will win this is that all these meetings were when his career looked to be in terminal decline, unlike these days when he is seldom beaten by a player ranked lower than him. It’s good to see Dave Gilbert making a go of it here, a whitewash of McCulloch earning the Cuban from Tamworth (it’s a long story, I’ll explain in the comments section) a crack at the Shootout Runner-Up Milkins, I’d expect Rob the Milkman to have just a little bit too much for him there. Shootout winner Bondy faces Bjorn Haneveer, the Belgian part-time carpenter ending a losing streak yesterday with his defeat of Kuldesh Johal, but he will need all his tools to produce a more polished performance on the table today to take care of 007. James McBain came through in unspectacular style yesterday against Jones judging by the scoring and you would expect Twitter comedian Mike Dunn to take care of him.

Recommended Bet: 1 point win Mike Dunn (5/6 Paddy Power)

Morning and Afternoon Multiple: 1 point Accumulator on Hamilton, Bond, Milkins and Drago pays 4/1 at Paddy Power

7pm

44. Michael Holt v Rod Lawler (3-1)
45. Steve Davis v James Wattana (3-1 all pre-1995)
46. Jamie Burnett v Ben Woollaston (0-0)
47. Fergal O’Brien v Matt Couch (1-1)
48. Alan McManus v Joe Swail (3-2)

The Outlaw: On a Run.

Michael Holt has won the past three meetings between himself and Rod Lawler, but as we all know he can be incredibly unreliable and is never one to stake your house on. Added to this is the fact that Rod is in a decent run of form at the moment. If I was having a bet in this one, which I’m not, I’d probably side with my fellow Liverpudlian. Another match that doesn’t really interest me from a betting perspective is Burnett and Woollaston. Ben is on a great run in this and could be the next Kurt Maflin, Jaybee is inconsistent and again is not one I would trust (literally). The bet of the night for me has to be Joe Swail, who takes on the King of the Angles Alan McManus. Swail is one to stay onside with when he’s on a winning run as he is a momentum player, the flip side of that is when he starts losing he can go in the opposite direction match after match, but he’s playing well, moving up the rankings as a result and I think he has a win in him tonight. I backed him earlier at 5/6, but that now seems to have disappeared. James Wattana is another I backed earlier at 11/8 to beat Steve Davis, he is showing enough to suggest he can win the battle of the veterans. Steve I’m sure won’t be that bothered about going to China but I’m sure will enjoy a chance to lock horns with a blast from the past. Finally we have Fearless Fergal taking on Matt Couch who came through an absolute marathon match last night/this morning. I would expect Fergal to win that one quite comfortably.

Recommended Bets: 2 points win Joe Swail (3/4 Boyles). 1 point win James Wattana (6/5 Boyles). 1 point double O’Brien & Swail (just over 6/4 Boyles). 1 point treble O’Brien, Swail, Wattana (pays over 9/2 at Boyles).

Good Luck to anyone having a bet.

February 24, 2011

China Open Qualifying Day 2: Enter the Whirlwind (UPDATED)

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:06 pm

Jimmy: Flying.

Day Two from Sheffield as the players make their rocky road to Beijing sees the Whirlwind enter proceedings in the afternoon session. The good news being that it looks like Jimmy will comfortably keep his tour place this year after a number of good performances in the qualifiers.

That is actually a great achievement when you look back at this point a year ago, when he seemed to be coming to the end of his competitive playing career, but just lately he has had a spring in his step and whilst he must find life in the qualifiers a far cry from the glory days, he has to be admired for knuckling down and getting on with it. Any younger players out there with inflated ego’s and deflated skills should take note. The man is a walking, talking legend.

At time of writing, there are two accumulators still in the offing but I thought it best, both for the good of readers and my own timetable to get the preview for the morning matches up early tonight. I intend to update this post with an afternoon preview when prices start appearing, or failing that, tomorrow morning. The evening session will then follow accordingly.

UPDATE: It ended up being a good start yesterday, both recommended accumulators obliging despite a couple of losses earlier in the day.

10am

17. Alfie Burden v Zhang Anda (H2H 2-0)
18. Adrian Gunnell v Liu Song (H2H 2-1)
19. Joe Jogia v Xiao Guodong (H2H 2-0)
20. Jack Lisowski v Kurt Maflin
21. Jimmy Robertson v Joe Delaney
22. Barry Pinches v Liam Highfield

At least we have some head to heads to go on for the morning matches. Whilst Alfie Burden has got the better of Anda in their previous two meetings he will be aware of how dangerous Mighty Mouse can be and with a win under his belt he may get a little closer to him this time than he has in the past. But I fancy Burden to carry on where he has left off from the two previous one-sided affairs to land the odds in that one. Adrian Gunnell leads Liu Song in their head to heads but in their last meeting Song won fairly easily, in this one I think the momentum is with the Songman and although Gunnell does have his moments I think the early price on his consistent opponent is too good to pass up to turn the favourite over. Joe Jogia leads Xiao Guodong 2-0 in their previous meetings with the last one going to a decider in a PTC. I have fancied Guodong to do a little better this season as having watched him I think he has a bit of talent but he hasn’t really delivered as yet. I’d imagine that one will be close again and I’d marginally favour the Chinese player to turn the tables, but probably one best left alone. Barring a TV hangover the superb Jack Lisowski should take care of Kurt Maflin, despite a decent performance today from the Norwegian One and he is one for the accumulators. I’d argue that Jimmy Robertson is a cracking bet at the early odds to beat Joe Delaney, but Joe is the player that has inflicted on yours truly possibly my most embarrassing moment on the blog, I don’t want to talk about it, suffice to say it was a pretty bad selection on my part around this time last year…But that aside, Robertson is 25 places ahead of Delaney on the provisional ranking list for the end of the season yet could still do with a couple more wins to make sure he’s not leaving it to the wire to keep his tour place. I believe he will go one step closer in the morning and should be backed. As for the last match, as you know I don’t bet on matches involving Barry Pinches, it’s an allergy.

Recommended Bets 3 singles: 1 point Liu Song 11/10, Alfie Burden 8/13, Jimmy Robertson 8/13 all at Stan James. 1 point treble on the three pays just under 9/2.   

Andy Hicks: Couple of Wins for Safety

2.30pm
23. Ian McCulloch v David Gilbert (H2H 1-0)
24. Jimmy White v Liu Chuang
25. Bjorn Haneveer v Kuldesh Johal
26. Jamie Jones v James McBain
27. Andy Hicks v Issara Kachaiwong

Highlight of these matches is of course the Whirlwind who takes on deadpan Chinese comic Liu Chuang. On recent form you would expect Jimmy to win cosily enough but the bookies are taking no chances with him, the 1/2 being about right. Johal versus Haneveer is a horrible match and not usually one I’d bet on, however Johal at 6/4 with Stan James has some appeal to small stakes against the Belgian who seems to have lost his way a bit this season and is on a losing run. It’s nice to see Dave Gilbert looking to be playing ok again, it is highly probable that it’s too little too late as far as his tour place goes but at his best you’d give him a chance against McCulloch, Stan James again taking a chance on him being out of sorts by chalking up 13/8. Jamie Jones is a player that has been impressing me with his results this season, he wins most matches he plays in this company and I see no reason to oppose him today. Thai player Kachaiwong won his first qualifying match of the season yesterday and now faces Andy Hicks who looks more or less safe for his tour place next season but will be looking to make that certain with a couple of wins here to ease the pressure. I’ll probably have a small bet at the prices on Johal and Gilbert but I’ll not recommend those.

Recommended Bet: 2 point double on Jamie Jones and Andy Hicks at just over 11/8 Sportingbet.

7pm

28. Rod Lawler v Kyren Wilson
29. Stuart Pettman v James Wattana
30. Anthony McGill v Ben Woollaston
31. Matthew Couch v Paul Davison
32. Joe Swail v Michael White

None of the above have ever faced each other competitively and there are some potentially tricky calls this evening. One of my favourites Anthony McGill hasn’t quite lived up to the billing in the same way as Jack Lisowski has and although I’d expect him to beat Ben Woollaston, it’s not a bet for me at the odds. Rod Lawler seems to have hit a decent run of form and assuming he can dictate the pace of the game against his rather speedier opponent I would expect him to come through his match unscathed. I’ve no thoughts on Couch and Davison except that it will probably be close and the two matches that I will probably get involved with are Joe Swail to beat Michael White, Joe has broken back into the top 48 and will be looking to cement his place with a run to another venue here against his less experienced opponent who landed our little touch last night. In the other match I’ll keep faith with James Wattana at Evens with Paddy Power to overturn everyone’s favourite pin up boy Pettman, who has not been playing at all well lately.

Recommended Bet: 1 point double on Swail and Wattana at 2/1 with Paddy Power, add Rod Lawler for a 1 point treble which pays 7/2 with the same firm.

Daily Accumulator: I’d go with a 2 point accumulator on Lisowski, Jamie Jones, Andy Hicks and Rod Lawler that pays over 7/2 at Sportingbet

Good Luck if you are having a bet today.

February 23, 2011

China Open Qualifiers Day One

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:08 pm

It's a long way to Beijing for this lot.

The last two sets of qualifiers have been a lesson learnt for me. Both the German Masters and the Welsh Open threw up some unexpected results in these stages that went totally against the form book, but as with all things, love, life, gambling on snooker post Bazza, you have to take the rough with the smooth.

Tomorrow sees the start of the penultimate main ranking event of the year as the China Open Qualifiers get under way from the slightly less Oriental surroundings of ‘Snooker City’ Sheffield.

Fourteen matches in all will be covered on the World Snooker scoreboard and I for one am going to be a little bit more selective and studious before recommending a bet in this. But it’s four days of competitive snooker and with the bookies pricing it up it’s always nice to take them on. So let’s see what we have from the first crop of lower seeded players, all of whom will be fighting tooth and nail to avoid having to attend the Q-School in May, to retain their tour place. This could get dirty.

Where the players have met previously I will include head to head statistics in brackets, where I think there might be a reasonable bet to be had I’ll flag that up and also attempt to flag a bet for multiple backers.

Thursday February 24

10am

1. Patrick Wallace v Zhang Anda
2. Liu Song v Noppon Saengkham
3. Xiao Guodong v Dermot McGlinchey
4. Simon Bedford v Kurt Maflin
5. Andrew Pagett v Joe Delaney
6. Liam Highfield v Jamie O’Neill

None of the players above have met competitively before which means we must have a look at their overall form coming into their opening matches for the season as a whole. The top match sees that wily old dog Paddy Wallace up against Mighty Mouse Zhang Anda, who in truth has done nothing since his incredible run to the Crucible last season. There is nothing to suggest he can win here except the fact that well, this is the China Open and he just might. But weighing things up I’d leave that one alone. Plenty will fancy the heavily odds on Liu Song to beat his Thai opponent but this is another I would urge caution on as Noppon recently had good wins in the Welsh Open against Matt Couch and Adrian Gunnell. A much better prospect is the third Chinese player in action, the dangerous Xiao Guodong who though as short as Song in terms of odds, to me is a much safer bet to beat Dermot McGlinchey, who rarely wins. The second best bet of the morning in my opinion is Simon Bedford to beat the struggling Norwegian Kurt Maflin, Maffers is yet to win a qualifying match this season and Bedford has played and beaten a lot better than him. I can’t really see a decent bet in the two bottom fixtures and if I was you I would stick to a hopefully safe double to start the day off in profit.

Recommended Bet: 2 points double Guodong and Bedford pays just under Evens at Stan James

2.30pm

7. David Morris v David Gilbert
8. Liu Chuang v Jak Jones (1-0)
9. Igor Figueiredo v Kuldesh Johal
11. Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon v Issara Kachaiwong

I can’t find a great deal to get excited about in this crop of matches. Liu Chuang should annihilate Jak Jones but the price reflects the probability of that happening. Figueiredo and Johal are two players that randomly throw in good and bad performances and can beat each other and again the odds are nothing really to get excited about. I think probably the only bet I will have in this session is on the improving David Morris to beat Dave Gilbert, who seems to be going through a decline at present. Talented though Gilbert is, he just seems somewhere else at the moment. A good run in the UK masks a terrible record over the shorter format recently and with Morris backable at odds against here, a solid performance from him could overturn the odds. In the battle of the Thai players, it may also be worth taking a chance on Thanawat, as he is heralded across Thailand as the next big thing and his watching countrymen may be expecting him to beat Kachaiwong, who also is another that doesn’t seem to win all that often.

Recommended Bets: Two 1 point singles on Morris (6/5 Sportingbet) and Thirapongpaiboon (4/5 Stan James)

Wattana: Bags of Experience.

7pm
13. James Wattana v Justin Astley
14. Ben Woollaston v Reanne Evans
15. Paul Davison v Adam Wicheard (1-0)
16. Michael White v Michael Judge (1-1)

One of the four matches that finish the day sees the reappearance of Reanne Evans, surely playing her first and last season as a professional on the main tour. Winless and facing surely another certain defeat against Ben Wollaston. Paul Davison beat Adam Wicheard 4-0 last October in their only meeting to date and can be backed at 8/11 to carry on that frame winning run and win again here. But I think there is a little more fun to be had with backing Michael White to beat Michael Judge, who couldn’t buy a win until someone stuck him up against Reanne in the recent Welsh qualifiers and anyone that followed that match will know that Reanne could well have beaten him. The young Welshman on the other hand, by virtue of his performances in the PTC events looks set to remain a professional next season and has taken some decent scalps. I can’t see him slipping up here, but these are the qualifiers and I haven’t seen any medical certificates. Another decent bet I would think is James Wattana, who should have too much experience for Justin Astley.

Recommended Bet: 2 point single Michael White at 4/6 with Stan James

Recommended Multiple Bet: 2 points Acccumulator on Guodong, Wattana, Woollaston and Chuang at just under 5/2 with Stan James and add Michael White for a 1 point accumulator at over 9/2 with the same firm.

Good Luck if you are having a bet.

Ronnie Giving Youngsters a Chance to Crash into the Big Time

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:30 am

Ron sets the test

When he isn’t crashing cars into people’s front gardens, being his own harshest critic and queuing at the doctors for a sick note, Ronnie O’Sullivan is busy doing his Willy Wonka act and making sure that the youngsters of today are given every opportunity of one day owning their own sports car that they too can crash into walls in quiet suburban areas. He’s such a great guy.

As we all know, our Ron is involved in finding the Future Stars of Snooker with those crazy boys and girls at Rileys and he’s been spending his time coming up with rather a novel way of putting these hungry young tykes to the test, quite literally in fact, as even though our Ron probably had about as much patience in his exams as he has for snooker these days he’s set them an exam. How mean is that? 

But fear not, the youngsters won’t be expected to be able to read and write by the time they take to the baize so parents all over the land can breathe easier and continue to ignore cries of ‘please help me with my homework dad’, whilst cracking another beer open and putting their feet back up to watch the snooker. For this is what they call ‘a practical’. 

The eight lucky finalists must take on the three challenges below, one of which judging by the terminology appears to have been jointly designed by Ron and the Voice of Welsh Snooker, John Evans. Can the youngsters negotiate cush pot to middle bag?

The tests are: 

1)    Six Red Challenge
Finalists must build as big a break as possible. Three reds are placed between blue and pink balls with three between pink and black. The finalist can choose the initial cue ball position. 

2)    Snookered
Finalists must hit a nominated red ball with the cue ball. The cue ball will be placed behind the brown ball at the top of the table.   

3)    Cush Pot
Finalists must pot four red balls along the back cushion, each time followed by the black. Finalists are then free to clear the table if all reds are potted – earning them bonus points.

From the steaming wreckage of his car Ron said: “This is a very important part of the Future Stars process. I have drawn from my match experience to develop tasks that the finalists will find challenging”.

Tests rightly consigned to the scrapheap were the ‘Just Finish on 140 and Walk Off Test’ and of course the famous ‘When you’ve finished the test claim that you haven’t played well since you were 3 years old Test’ 

An Evans/Rocket Collaboration

But dusting himself off for a quick escape from the law Ron continued “The hardest part is finding the balance between difficulty and the ability to achieve top marks. I don’t want to make it easy for them. Contestants can now see what they have to achieve to win this competition. Hopefully it will encourage them to practice even harder than they are now.”

He then jogged away to the sound of police sirens in the background. 

Regional tournaments at Rileys clubs across the UK will produce 120 regional finalists, who will eventually be whittled down to just the lucky final eight. The eight finalists will attempt the of tasks at the final in May – during the World Championships in Sheffield.

The preliminary rounds, a best-of-five frame Super 6s knockout, takes place on Saturday March 19 at Rileys clubs across the UK.

Players aged 16 or under on April 30 can register FREE at www.rileys.co.uk/futurestars before February 28.

So if you are a pushy parent and want a bigger widescreen TV to watch the snooker in the future get your reluctant offspring off the Xbox and entered. Who knows? One day, it could be you claiming on the home insurance when the little sod runs into your wall with his first car. We can all dream…

To find your nearest Rileys club visit www.rileys.co.uk

In the meantime, I am still waiting for any firms to price up the China Open Qualifiers which start tomorrow. Assuming they do I will get a preview up later of the matches that are being played. I have sensed a reluctance amongst a lot of firms with these very early matches and just in case they are reading, Jimmy Michie has retired. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to have a dabble as the days progress

It’s then Championship League from Crondon Park next week before the World Qualifiers kick off next Thursday. I’ll be giving these my full attention with daily previews and recommended bets over the course of what could be a nerve racking week, make sure your F5 button is in perfect working order is my advice in advance.

February 22, 2011

World Cup of Snooker Edges Nearer

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:50 pm

Robbo could struggle for a partner

World Snooker have announced today that they are in advanced negotiations with the Thai Billiards and Snooker authorities about staging a Snooker World Cup over there in July.

On their website they say: ‘We are in advanced stages of discussions with the Billiard Sports Association of Thailand about the staging of the World Cup in Bangkok from July 11 to 17, and we hope to make a formal announcement on this shortly’. 

‘The provisional format includes 20 two-man teams from around the world and we expect to release full details in the coming weeks. At this stage the criteria for selecting players has not been finalised’.

It’s another step in the right direction if it comes off. A lot of people including myself have been suggesting an event like this be reinstated onto the calendar for a while now, it seems only sensible given the increased focus on the globalisation of the sport, thankfully not just in China, but also countries like Germany and Brasil.

I wonder who will be representing each nation then? Perhaps the only nailed on team line up will be the Belgian double act of Bjorn Haneveer and Luca Brecel. You’d imagine that Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo would be flying the flag for China, that is unless they let Hong Kong’s Marco have a go. If not he might struggle for a partner.

But what about the UK nations? Higgins and Maguire or Dotty or even Hendry for Scotland? Williams and Day, Stevens or Dale for Wales? For Northern Ireland Mark Allen and Joe Swail or Gerard Greene? An English pairing of any two from Mark Selby, Ali Carter, Shaun Murphy and Ronnie would leave two of the world’s top ten players disappointed not to be taking part. At least we can be sure that Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien will probably get the nod for Ireland I would have thought.

But who the hell is Robbo going to play with? Crocodile Dundee? Dame Edna? Skippy? Either way, I think he might have to carry the ‘down unders’ slightly. Other nations that could struggle a little are Norway, where Kurt Maflin might have to select a member of the pop group A-ha to help him out and Brasil where, if they accept dual nationality boy Igor back to represent his place of birth he might have to call on the ball skills of Ronaldhino to give them any chance.

The home nation I would think are likely to draw on experience and youth in James Wattana and Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon.

Well that’s a few of the nations, who am I missing then? I assume that India will enter along with Pakistan, perhaps Rory’s coaching of the Qatar national team will pay dividends, or David Roe’s Iraqi baize boys perhaps?

Quick on the Draw

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:18 am

Following the latest revision of the rankings list, the World Snooker tombola was working at ten to the dozen yesterday to ensure that all the necessary remaining line-ups for the season were completed.

You can view the draw for the China Open Qualifiers which begin on Thursday here. Though I would treat the final column on this as provisional as they are bound to introduce wildcards into the final stages at some point, Tian Pengfei is usually the most dangerous of these. 

You can also now view the qualifying draw and format for the Betfred World Championship which starts a week on Thursday with the annual knockabout of the Clapped-Out Club before moving onto the serious stuff here.

Finally, the seeding positions and draw for the big one itself at the Crucible can be viewed here.  

The World Snooker tombola wasn’t the only busy receptacle yesterday as after drawing names out of the Green Baize Hat last night for the World Championship Qualifying Tickets (Courtesy of World Snooker) I can announce the result:

Saturday 12th March Winners: RedandBlackBlog & Jaykay

Sunday 13th March Winners: Black Whippet & Deco800

If you could all just email me your full names and addresses and I’ll ensure the tickets are waiting for you at the venue. If any of you would like to swap days with another winner, please just agree this in the comments and confirm your date to me by email at [email protected]

For anyone that didn’t win but would still like to attend this nerve-jangling event, you can purchase tickets by following the links on this page.

I still haven’t marked the Welsh Open Prediction Contest for the free £50 bet from Betfred, I’m hoping to get some time to do so today. Honest!

UPDATE: I think Joe Gibney has won the Prediction Contest with a final score of 70 points, with his unique prediction system that was bound to work at some point! In second place I have Philip on 62 points. If you can just have a quick check of your own score as I am assuming that the winner will be one of the three that predicted Higgins to win it and therefore scooped the 25 bonus points. As for Joe, please email me for details of how to claim your prize and unless we have an objection before 5pm this evening I will arrange for it to make it’s way to you. If you don’t have an account with Betfred please click the side banner on the blog to open one, that way your £50 free bet should also be matched!  

February 21, 2011

Carry On Regardless

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:01 am

Sir Rodney conducts a board meeting in the pre-Bazza era.

After the excitement of recent ranking events this week sees a rarity. Three days when there is no snooker. Just what is Bazza playing at? Surely we would not have had such a lull in the days of Sir Rodney Effing? At this rate the players will be calling for an EGM to grill poor old Chairman Baz, who, from all accounts seemed more bothered yesterday with balls of a different kind and his other toy, Leyton Orient. Shameful.

Anyway, John Higgins did it again last night as we all know. An incredible performance in the context of what he has been through these past few weeks and he must surely be the man to beat in Sheffield which is now just a matter of weeks away. Between him and Mags they also managed to land the nailed on recommended bet yesterday meaning that we finished off the week well in front.

But in the more immediate future our attention is shifted to the East. Well kind of, anyway. The China Open qualifiers are taking place in Sheffield from Thursday to Sunday to see who can book themselves on the flight over to Beijing. I wouldn’t use the word ‘qualify’ of course, as the China Open will continue the unfair tradition of letting the shit-hot locals have a crack at the jetlagged lower ranked players once they get over there. The wildcard round in ranking events being a particular bugbear of mine, and yes, I would include Berlin in that too.

Following this, we have another couple of groups at Crondon Park next week in the Championship League before embarking on one of the best weeks of the year for baize fans, namely, the qualifiers for the Crucible.

I have two tickets to give away for both finals days on March 12th and 13th courtesy of World Snooker where you will get the chance to see all the nail-biting action from those who will be playing their final matches in the hope of being in the mix at the Crucible. I’m also hoping to get there myself at some point. Should you wish to be entered into the prize draw to win these tickets please let me know in the comments section and I will think of a fair way of deciding who gets them. No begging please as it can get awkward for both parties and is a little unsavoury and not very British….for more information about tickets and how to get hold of them click here.

To get involved in a good old natter about the upcoming Betfred World Championship click on the box on the sidebar or here where you can also see how the seedings will pan out should they all negotiate the banana skin in Round 1.

All in all, we are now entering the best period of the season in what so far has been a period of seismic shift in the fortunes of our beloved baize, which will culminate in events unfolding at the Crucible in April.

On a personal level, myself and Mrs SB are attending a funeral today so the result of the Prediction Contest may have to wait until tomorrow. If anyone fancies pitching their hat into the ring as a possible winner then please do so and I’ll take a look.

Not too long to wait now.

February 20, 2011

Welsh Open Final: It’s a Scottish Thing

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:31 am

Today sees the conclusion of the Welsh Open which appropriately is fought out by two, ermm, Scotsmen. As Alan McManus takes on Murdo McLeod in the final. Only joking, it’s Higgins against Maguire.

I have to say that I am quite relieved, as I thought that the next time Mags did this well in a tournament I would be homeless having spent the whole week and all of my life savings backing against him all week. But I have largely kept him onside and although I am disappointed both from a personal point of view and for the sake of the Not So Great Blog Bet Pot that Selby didn’t win last night I think on balance Mags deserves a shot at the seemingly unstoppable Higgins who made light work of the Captain yesterday.

The afternoon session saw Ali fly into an early lead with a century and he looked to be in a position to dominate before missing a fairly straightforward pot in the second frame. From then on there really only looked like one winner and Ali never looked like challenging John, who visibly grew in confidence as the match went on. His interview afterwards saw him again break down when talking about his dad. If I was him I would lay off snooker for a week or two now and come back for the China Open having spent a bit of quality time with those around him. But he has a job to do today first of course.

As for Mags, his revitalised introduction from Rob as ‘one of the nicest guys in the game’ seemed to be borne out when he decided to completely ignore Rob’s incisive questioning about the snooker to tell his kids to get to bed. He appeared far more relaxed than the new grown up version of Mark Selby and this was reflected in the result. As with so many of his performances lately, the Jester chose to grind and slog it out rather than take the game to his opponent. As in my opinion he is a much better player when he makes chances for himself and is in amongst the balls I really don’t understand why he’s started to play quite negative snooker.

Mrs Snookerbacker has been on hand the last couple of days with her observations about the players too and when it comes to one of her favourites the Jester, although she likes his new clothes and his hair, she thinks that he may have lost ‘a bit of his sparkle’, that’s about as cutting as she gets. On the plus side, the show of emotion towards his kids made her pay Mags a rare compliment. The wily Scot obviously being aware that the way to win the lady vote over is to be seen to be a devoted dad or failing that, to like animals. If he walks on with a whippet today I’ll know he’s read the blog.

All in all it’s been a fairly good week’s snooker without really getting the pulses racing in the same way Berlin did. I can’t help thinking that this may be the last time we see the event held in Newport, but I’m sure wherever it’s held the BBC will retain the services of John Evans, to the bewilderment of both his colleagues and the public at large. It is truly a mystery as to why they let him loose on the unsuspecting audience. Without giving too much away, he should get his dinner suit ready for May, as barring miracles there will be an award waiting for him at the Willies, the same one as last year.

Yesterday also meant that we now know the final seedings for the World Championship and these can be viewed as they will appear in the draw here. An interesting quarter at the bottom sees Higgins, Murphy and Ronnie all involved. Some might see this as a ‘quarter of death’ but it could be argued that Higgins will be delighted with it. Talking of Ronnie, he is the subject of the Nugget’s views this morning, Steve claiming that if he quits it’s no great loss to the sport, perhaps in a last ditch attempt to wake the Rocket up to his current freefall. You can read all about it here.

In further developments, the players are also being asked for their views on possible changes to the miss rule, with options for change contained in a letter sent out to them by Jason Ferguson, the contents of which can be read here. One of the scarier suggestions is that with any miss a player will get a ball in hand anywhere on the table, as they did in the Shootout. Please, if any players are reading this, don’t vote for that, don’t be silly now. Changes I’m sure will happen, but I hope whatever they are they are sensible, my preferred option, which doesn’t appear to be there is the option to take a ball in hand from the ‘D’ after three misses.

Have it Wales.

I’d be interested to hear other views on this, especially if there are any players that would like to chip into the debate on the comments section.

It’s also time to say goodbye to the Welsh Icons, today’s lady might not be instantly recognisable to everyone, her name apparently is Amanda Protheroe-Thomas and she is best known, again apparently for a Welsh football show called (I kid you not) ‘Sgorio’. Maybe she might turn her hand to the baize and give Evvo a week off next year? Perhaps even a snooker version of Sgorio might be in order? ‘Potio’ or ‘Safetio’, just an idea.

OK, enough of that drivel, now let’s have a look at the final.

John Higgins v Stephen Maguire (H2H 5-3)

Higgins best price 4/7 Paddy Power

Maguire best price 13/8 Betfred

As often happens we are left with the two best players of the week to fight out the final. Emotionally, they seem to be in very different places with Mags in jovial spirits while John looks increasingly vulnerable after his matches. But on the table, Higgins remains clinical and ruthless and a repeat of his form yesterday will ensure that he lifts his third ranking title since his comeback. Mags is looking to win his first since the 2008 China Open. The last time they met was in the UK Quarter Final in December when Mags was beginning to show signs of coming back to form. Higgins won that one 9-7 and had to be on the top of his game to do so. Looking back over their meetings they have had a fair few tussles these two and only once has there been more than two frames between them, on that occasion there were only three so in my book that makes the bet below the only one to be on here. It would need a reversal of eight years of history between the pair to stop this one from collecting. So form an orderly queue at the payout desk Ladies and Gents.

Recommended Bet: 3 points winning margin to be under 3.5 frames at 4/6 with Paddy Power

(Quick Update: This bet can actually be got at 4/5 with Skybet by backing over 14.5 frames to be played in the match, apologies for missing that better price and thanks to co-pilot Onestep for pointing it out)

Best of Luck to anyone having a bet today.

First Session Update:

John Higgins (Sco) 3-5 Stephen Maguire (Sco)
0-83 (59) 32-71 (53) 0-101 (89) 121-1 (120) 72-58 (72) 0-88 (76) 40-71 71-18 (70)

RESULT: 9-6 to Higgins – I think we may have landed a touch there.

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