April 30, 2011

Latest Standings in the Betfred Prediction Contest

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:37 pm

Thanks to Doctor Dish for updating the rankings. Remember there is a first, second and third prize from Betfred for this one. Good luck to everyone still in the running.

Standings after the conclusion of the first semi-final:

Tobias Bolt 50
Volcano 49
maryusg 47
ultravinyls 47
liggandestolen 45
Richieboy44 45
Sam Hoar 43
Sean óg 41
Jan-Eric 41
ZiggerZagger 41
dombach 40
Russ 39
venga1 38
Hansi 37
Lou Macari 37
Spongy 37
Ben 36
Ian Powell 36
Tom 35
noci 34
Marina 34
Louis Jordan 34
Darren 34
MaxJames 34
kim hawkins 34
mrsdominicdale 34
invader 32
Elena 32
Godspeed 32
Dr. Walker 32
Teo 30
onestep 30
The Nugget’s Lunchbox 29
jaykay 29
urindragon 29
Dub 29
bedrock 29
EnochShowunmi 28
DoctorDish 28
Steve Hobson 27
Nick M 27
chris 27
Philip 27
thewizard 25
bigclive 25
deco800 25
GER147 24
Dani Martínez 23
Lorraine 23
Knopfler 22
Mark Colling 22
Tina 22
Edo 22
Bezmondo 22
totee 22
Pete 22
Joe Gibney 22
lolo 22
tees freeze 22
The Game 22
KJBets 22
Tim R 20
northernmonkey 20
The Snooker Oracle 20
davide 18
Anna 18

Crucible Day 15: Judd-ment Day

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:17 am

Love is in the Air

Good Morning Everyone. Today we find out who will be contesting this year’s final as Mark Williams takes a narrow lead into the third session against John Higgins and Judd Trump and Ding Junhui are locked in battle at 12-12 and play their concluding session this afternoon.

It was a cracking day yesterday and I say that in a strictly non-bunting and trestle table type way. OK, the general concensus is that the bride looked beautiful and that she and her sister ensured that male attention was never far from the screen but it’s over now and it’s time to witness the end to what has been a long old season and a cracking Betfred World Championship.

Whoever is in the final I think we are assured a better one than last year. The players seem a little fresher than Robbo and Dotty seemed going into their epic, with the possible exception of Higgins who always looks knackered anyway. My personal choice of final for entertainment purposes has to be Williams against Trump and I hope this is the match we will all be looking forward to watching tomorrow. But the other two aren’t going to go down without a fight.

Trump was magnificent again last night and turned the match around again at one point to lead, though it has to be said he has had a little bit of run of the ball to help him along his way. But he has really come of age these past few weeks and that wave he is riding the crest of seems like it could even carry him to the title. Ding must be wondering what he has to do to shake him off. MJW has been floating and gliding since the championship began and how he didn’t win yesterday’s session is a mystery. Higgins remains the most solid match player in the game and even when he is not at his best he is so hard to beat.

Marriage fever appears to be in the air at the moment with even MJW talking about it. He has been speaking to Hector Nunns about his forthcoming marriage to long-time fiancee Jo Dent, who he says he has now run out of excuses not to marry. He talks amongst other things of rather getting married in a tracksuit and hooking up with Mark Selby for a night on the town in Mexico for a last night as single men and ‘a few beers and a few tears’. You can read the full article here.

The sponsors Betfred now have the laidback Welshman as 15/8 favourite for the title, after he was very nearly odds-on for a spell yesterday before Higgins won the last two of the session. They have Trump and Ding at 11/4 and pre-tournament favourite Higgins at 10/3 and now the outsider of the pack. There are also still a whole range of markets available on the matches if anyone isn’t and still wants to get involved.

I’m hoping for a tension packed day at the Crucible, though would settle for that being confined to this afternoon while MJW floats his way into the final. The constant references to ‘floaters’ at the BBC seems to continue despite most people associating the word with something entirely different. Dennis even claimed yesterday at one point that Stephen Hendry can ‘spot a floater from 2 miles away’. Now I know that the King of the Crucible has amassed career earnings into the zillions but with all the homeless people in the world it’s really not on that he has the equivalent of a taxi ride to get from the sink basin to the toilet in his Scottish Castle. But his eyesight must be amazing to spot one from that distance, clearly the reason why he has won so many titles.

Celebrity Twit Stephen Fry continued the ‘Carry-on-esque’ themed baize mutterings on Twitter yesterday by twice referring to Ding as Dong. I don’t know if he’d been at the creme-de-menthe or he was joking or if he genuinely doesn’t know the name of ‘the young Chinese sensation’ but his Willie award for Best Celebrity Baize Fan is now hanging in the balance as I really wanted Jarvis Cocker to have it anyway.

Talking of the Willies, it’s only a week or so until this year’s lucky winners are announced on the blog. Categories will range from your average fodder, such as those that will be presented at the inferior World Snooker Awards next week in London, to the more imaginative ones, including the one that everyone is waiting for, the Worst Commentator Willie, for which John Evans is no longer the certainty that he was as little as two months ago. Those looking to pick up awards for fashion include the made-over Selby and at the other end of the spectrum, Andrew Paggett. There will be haircut based awards too, Stephen Lee making a last ditch effort at the Crucible to nab that from the iron grip of Stuart Pettman, who still qualifies for the awards for last season despite dropping off the main tour. He remains the barnet to beat.

If there are any categories that you would like to see awards for please do not hesitate to voice your opinion in the comments section.

Oh and if World Snooker are reading this, time is getting short now, Mrs SB and I have still not had our invite to your Awards ceremony. Only when we have this can you come to the Willies, if we don’t get one, a Willie may be coming your way and it won’t be one of the coveted ones.

Feel free to have a natter below and let’s look forward to a top day on the baize.

10am and 7pm

Mark Williams 11-13 John Higgins


Judd Trump 12-12 Ding Junhui

April 29, 2011

Crucible Day 14: Wedding? What Wedding?

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:16 am

The scene down our road earlier.

Good morning everyone. The semi finals continue today and by tonight we may have a clearer idea who will be contesting the final on Sunday and Monday.

Today also sees lunatics in the UK and I dare say the entire population of America go stark raving mad over a royal wedding. Trestle tables and bunting suppliers will be wondering what all this talk of a global economic crisis is as they supply street party essentials to deluded crackpots across the nation to ‘celebrate’ the wedding of a bloke losing his hair that is clearly punching above his weight by marrying a bit of top class totty from the polo set.

Yes, this is the day when people conveniently forget all about the inequalities and unfairness of life and the privileges of birth and raise a glass of babycham to the happy couple. The difference being that they are certain to be happier than those raising the glasses as if they are feeling a bit down they can just stick a pin in a globe and say ‘let’s go there today and drink Pimms’. Whilst the rest of us get on with our work and rather routine lives. As you might gather I don’t have a lot of time for pomp, circumstance and the royals. His mother was also a top drawer psycho so I hope that pretty little thing he’s marrying has forced him to undertake the necessary psychological tests before agreeing to this.

I have a dreadful feeling that Mrs SB will want to watch it though as she will be interested in the dress and what Kate looks like, I may give it a look, but only for the Mrs of course.

The real interest for sane (ish) people across the nation is further north in Sheffield where this morning Judd resumes against Ding. The first session saw a rip roaring start with a century apiece. Judd’s in particular being of note for the final red he potted to screw back for the black at breakneck speed. For me, it was definitely shot of the championship up to that point but he cracked a long red in later on in the session which was a match for it. That boy is some potter. Ding has done well to be only two down though and Judd didn’t look quite as comfortable at times as he has all week. He did however win the final frame and his recent front-running displays suggest that he will be hard to peg back. I wonder when he will realise the magnitude of what it is he might achieve this weekend? That is when we will know if he can be champion.

In the other match, the man I would marry if I wasn’t married already and he wasn’t and we were both of that persuasion and knew each other Mark Williams took the early advantage over John Higgins. The first frame of that match could not have been more different to the first semi-final and could probably have been bettered by a replacing the players with a couple of barnpots from Gardeners World. But MJ did what he does best and won the scrappy frames without really playing very well. To not play well and lead John Higgins 5-3 after 2 centuries from the Wizard? I’ll take that.

But as well as the snooker action there is also another reason to tune in to the BBC coverage today. A masterstroke by the Beeb sees the return to our screens of the Bolton Stud, Tony Knowles. I hope that the bride and groom have done all the important bits by then as doubtless the viewing figures will plummet when TK’s feature is on.

Knowles: Stud.

In fact, I have heard a rumour that due to popular demand, big screens all over the capital will be switching over to Knowlesy regardless of the point the wedding has reached. Rumour has it that should this feature coincide with the marriage vows, the service will actually be delayed so that the assembled congregation can watch dreamboat Tony strut his Bolton stuff and tell us all about why he is going to be a professional again by beating anyone they put in front of him at the Q-School.

Feel free to have a natter below, though I must warn you that there will be a strict yellow and red card system in operation in the comments section for anyone talking about the wedding too much. In fact, I have just shown myself a yellow card and given me a stern ticking off for my future conduct. Now then, where did I put that bunting….

10am and 7pm

Judd Trump 7-9 Ding Junhui


Mark Williams 5-3 John Higgins

April 28, 2011

Hot of the Press: Hendry to Carry On!

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:10 pm

Stephen Hendry has confirmed to the BBC that he is to carry on playing next season.

‘The decision was influenced by staying in the top 16’ Hendo said ‘I am going to have to play in everything, even the events I don’t like, I’ve got to give it 100%’ he told Hazel Irvine as Steve Davis stood next to him with a silly grin on his face while thinking about re-enacting kicks using peppers in his feature later on.

This is at odds with a totally fabricated and misinformed article that appeared on a snooker website earlier this week.

The Big Debate: Gardening v Snooker – Have Your Say

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:25 am

According to the Daily Telegraph today gardeners around the UK have expressed ‘horror’ that the BBC has decided to replace its flagship horticultural programme ‘Gardeners World’ with live snooker this weekend, in what it calls ‘the busiest time of the year’ for getting the lawnmower out.

A busload of trowel yielding Alan Titchmarsh groupies are apparently careering towards the Crucible to attempt to put a stop to this affront to their human rights. The riot vans have been dispersed across Sheffield City Centre with rumours circulating that suspect packages have been received by some senior BBC executives. On further inspection however, these were identified as harmless and were merely marigold seeds sent to ‘frighten’ the big wigs at the Beeb.

It seems that plants such those being described in fine detail by Willie and co are not the type that the angry green fingered mob want to be watching with their gin and tonics come Saturday.

In the article, some senior figures in the gardening world are clearly very upset one said  “This confirms how out of touch the BBC is with what is going on. It is not very good planning on what is going to be one of the biggest weeks of the gardening year” while another one said “What timing! It’s daft. It’s a ridiculous thing to do. The BBC is not taking gardening as seriously as they once did. Gardeners’ World is just getting going under Monty Don. This seems anathema.There will be more people in the garden this period than ever before because a lot of people aren’t going away on holiday because of the economy.” Strong words indeed and enough to put anyone off their potting.

Whilst World Snooker have declined to comment on this, a close friend of their’s who wishes to remain anonymous said ‘What the f**k are this lot on about? If they like the f*****g garden that much why don’t they stay the f**k out there? If they’re busy watching the f*****g telly anyway who the f**k is doing the garden? For f***ks sake. Tell the f****rs to F**k off and leave them f*****g to it’. Strong words again which add some balance to the debate.

So what do you think? What kind of plants do you prefer to watch? Deft reverse impact two ballers as crafted perfectly by the likes of the Welsh Potting Machine Mark Williams or delphiniums perfectly potted in a decorative border by Monty and his team of compost loving devotees?

This is a debate that must be had and this website is not afraid to confront the BIG questions that matter.

The full article is here.

Have your say in the comments section and don’t hold back.

Crucible Day 13: Semi Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:32 am

Knowledgeable: The Audience.

Good morning everyone. Well what a night it was last night at the Crucible. OK, the scorelines show comfortable wins for John Higgins and Ding Junhui but the manner in which they achieved them had the ‘knowledgeable’ Crucible crowd gasping.

Earlier in the day the wins expected for both Judd and MJW were completed with minimum fuss. Both looked impressive and Trump looks so dangerous in the balls it’s scary. I can also report that my mancrush on Mark is still going strong after two more frames of silky smoothness finished off the charge of Mark Allen.

Last night saw John and Ron resume at 8-8 and at the beginning of the session Ronnie looked sharp and having thrown away an 8-5 lead looked back up for the battle. But as ever, Higgins dug deep and the best match player in the business managed to establish a lead before fluking a ball in the 23rd frame and clearing up to win. Ronnie was philosophical in defeat and claimed he isn’t good enough to win titles anymore and that his practice game is even worse. He hasn’t been giving the game his full attention for a couple of seasons now and it showed last night as for once he was obviously trying his heart out but just couldn’t find the shots he needed. Perhaps we have seen the best of him.

On the other table Mark Selby rattled off the first four frames of the session to level at 10-10 before playing a red along the cushion at breakneck speed instead of rolling it in. Ding Junhui took full advantage and it is the Jester who must pack up the designer labels this morning and head home while the Chinese go bonkers for their man.

Bettingwise things are still going ok. But a win now for MJW is the only icing left to decorate the cake with. Talking of cakes, Steve Davis used a couple of them in a BBC feature yesterday to demonstrate a kick. I’m not sure who came up with that idea but the Nugget clearly found this surrealist piece right up his street. Hazel in the meantime sat cross legged talking of ‘threesomes’ which conjured up all sorts of antics for the anoraked crowd in the background who thought they might have been in for a treat. But sadly, the cakes were as ‘out there’ as things were allowed to get.

We were also treated to the sight of a proper celebrity in the audience last night. Sheffield homeboy Jarvis Cocker adding a ‘different class’ to the famous snooker fan set by firmly putting Damien Hirst, that tiresome self important pub quiz oink CJ, the bloke from Kasabian that looks like Jesus and the warm up man from Supermarket Sweep in their place. Jarvis is music royalty and it’s about time we had proper stars getting interested in the baize. Though he was predictably there to watch Ronnie of course, I look forward to the day that he is one of the last ones to leave a particularly gruesome Peter Ebdon match, that would show he was in touch with the common people.

Here’s how I see the semi-finals going:

1pm start: Best of 33 frames

Judd Trump v Ding Junhui

Head to Heads: 0-1

The head to head statistic is irrelevent here and refers to a match back in 2005 in the UK Championship which Ding won 9-2. But Judd was only about 5 then so it’s really not worth bothering yourself with. What can you say about Judd? Untroubled by two world champions and trouncing Martin Gould on the way to the one-table scenario he has the look of someone who is phased by nothing and nobody. Deadly in the balls and only needing one chance to put frames to bed. But how will he cope with the new set up? Ding also plays on the one-table scenario for the first time and I have always thought that he would thrive on it. He’s over the claustrophobic early rounds and can now adapt back to where I believe he plays his best snooker, in a more ‘stadium like’ arena. For me though there are too many unknowns in this match to get involved in an outright bet on who will win. My leaning would be towards Ding but Trump will only need to bring the game he has been playing all week to the match to win so I’d be relying on that not happening. Instead, let’s trust these two fearless potters to provide a feast of breaks for us and get involved in the century break market.

Prediction: Ding

Recommended Bet: 2 Points Over 4.5 centuries in the match at 6/5 with Paddy Power

7pm start

John Higgins v Mark Williams

Head to Heads (last 15 years): 13-11

In contrast to the two contesting the other semi final this one consists of two Crucible stalwarts bidding for another final appearance and possibly a title to add to their five collective world crowns. Interestingly, despite their long careers they have only met twice at the Crucible, both times were at this very stage and both times Williams won. Of course I have backed Williams in the outrights and it goes without saying that I want him to win. But I also think he will. He is simply playing better than Higgins this week and looks a lot fresher than his opponent. Higgins just keeps on winning though and yesterday against O’Sullivan was a prime example of why you should never write him off. At 8-5 down he looked beaten but Ronnie let him off the hook and he got stronger as the match went on. Mark has not been troubled as yet in this so it remains to be seen how he will react if this gets close, but given his track record I’d be surprised if this was an issue.

Prediction: Williams

Recommended Bet: 3 points Williams (+2.5 frames) at 4/5 with Boylesports

Good Luck if you are having a bet.

(photo courtesy of Monique Limbos)

April 27, 2011

Crucible Day 12

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:05 am

He just makes me feel fuzzy.

Good morning everyone. Well the tournament seems to be racing along now and it’s all just going too quickly for my brain to comprehend. I want Barry to extend it to a month.

But what a climax to this great tournament we are in for. It looks very much like Judd Trump and Mark Williams will be in the semi finals but who will they play? Will we have a clearer idea of that after the morning session or are we in for high drama that only the baize is capable of providing later this evening?

Seriously though, come on, this is the greatest sport in the world. I say that with a bias unsurpassed by humankind of course but I firmly believe it to be true. Why watch a bunch of overpaid, over-rated and ridiculously overhyped thicko’s running around a pitch moaning when you can watch the baize skills along the lines of those on display yesterday from Judd and MJ?

Is Judd ready to be world champion? You bet your life he is. Anyone that says he isn’t needs their head examining and so far he has been the player of the tournament. But how many players have promised so much and never lifted the coveted title? The obvious first example of that is Jimmy, who perhaps but for the brilliance of Alex Higgins in 1982 might have won it at around Judd’s tender age and but for the ruthlessness of Hendry, would probably have won it at least twice in the nineties. But what of Matthew Stevens? He has come within a whisker of the title on two occasions and could never make that final leap to greatness, his great friend and the sadly missed Paul Hunter was tragically never allowed to try and make amends for his semi-final defeat by Ken Doherty in 2003, the last time that Williams lifted the title.

Of course these are just three players that haven’t fulfilled their destiny and other names that trip off the tongue are Ali Bassiri, Hugh Abernethy and Dermot McGlinchey. Two other former greats Tony Knowles and Mike Hallett have drawn each other in the first Q-School event I see. Knowsley will no doubt bring hoardes of concubines with him while Mike will have to resist the urge to criticise his shots and keep quiet for a couple of hours, a real challenge for the Grimsby Grumbler.

Anyone that has been hanging around the thriving Tweetsville community through the tournament will know that yesterday I developed what can only be described as a deep and meaningful mancrush on my main outright pick Mark Williams. Watching him ‘float’ and ‘glide’ the balls into the pockets gives you a warm fuzzy feeling akin to that childhood one where you get drenched on the way home from school and your mum is waiting for you with a towel, a fresh change of clothes, a hot cuppa, a jam butty and your favourite snooker video, or is that just me? Well, it’s my blog so I don’t care. I love him and I think he’s ace.

Talking of all things camp, the lunatic that runs this place ran a poll yesterday for who has the loveliest bum in snooker and I am pleased to report that Mrs Snookerbacker won it. If her birthday wasn’t complete enough this was the icing on the cake to go along with all the well-wishes on here and on Twitter which included professional players, referees and all the boys in the BBC studio.

Loves his snooker

I can also claim the coveted honour of making JP laugh ‘alot’ and even burst into song when asking him a question about a feature he appeared to be doing with 80’s glam rocker Limahl from Kajagoogoo. I think it was him anyway and he hasn’t changed much.

Anyway back to the certified nutcase, the latest craze sweeping the snookering bingo public is your very own Rory McLeod TV remote control. I wish he’d grow up and take the game seriously, or failing that send me a free one to test drive.

Back on the table Ronnie and John are locked in battle and twice John has tried to assert his authority (whatever that means) on the game and twice Ronnie has levelled. This promises to be a tight one I think and I expect some high drama later, if not high quality, which both of them seem to be lacking so far in the event. Selby started well in his match against Ding but then appeared to lose the plot a bit before regaining his composure to go into this morning just 5-3 down. I did find it very strange that the Jester went into the quarter finals as the bookies favourite as he hardly has the winning pedigree of some of the others.

In other news, I managed to pick up a virus on my laptop yesterday called Windows Recovery and I had to take it to one of those shops where computer people fix things. I was surprised that one of them seemed to have developed some social skills and we even got onto the subject of snooker, I can’t think how that happened, I’m sure he started the conversation but I played along with it and it turned out that he also knew Rod Lawler, small world isn’t it? Meanwhile his assistant who looked a bit like Karl Pilkington was tapping away at my little machine without saying anything until I interjected and asked what was happening, his two word answer ‘typical virus’ made me feel a little better and I asked if it could be fixed to which he replied ‘yes’, I asked when, he said ‘Thursday’ I asked how much, he said ’40’ and that was the end of that. I wouldn’t necessarily say that he had a reassuring presence about him but I trust him to do the job as he obviously knows what he’s doing and those five words were enough to calm me down, though Mrs SB is a little miffed that I have now stolen her laptop and immediately downloaded my snooker package onto it. But she has new shoes and a handmade card from me which will be unveiled to you all later today so she’s ok despite not managing to persuade Rishi to get her some tickets for the final for free. Talking of fine art, I am still accepting contributions to the wallchart gallery until the end of the championship, so get busy people.

Oh yes, I knew there was something else I had to say. Whilst I am generally an easy-going type of chap and a lot nicer since meeting Mrs SB than I ever was before I would just like to say that I hope the person responsible for that virus and all his known family and close friends die in a freak yachting accident off the coast of Sardinia. Soon and painfully.

Feel free to natter away below:

10am & 7pm

IN PLAY: Mark Selby 10-10 Ding Junhui


RESULT: Mark Williams 13-5 Mark Allen


RESULT: Judd Trump 13-5 Graeme Dott

2.30pm & 7pm

RESULT: Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-13 John Higgins

April 26, 2011

Crucible Day 11 Discussion

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:10 am

For your convenience and for anyone that wants to chat about today’s matches

10am & 7pm

Mark Williams 11-5 Mark Allen

Judd Trump 11-5 Graeme Dott


Ronnie O’Sullivan 4-4 John Higgins

Mark Selby 3-5 Ding Junhui

Just noticed that the Q-School draw is now up on the World Snooker website here

Twitterrific Snooker Giveaways

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:27 am

‘It’s just self indulgent twaddle’

‘It is populated by self-promotionists with no other outlet available to them’

‘Saddo 30 and 40 somethings gather there to try and appear intellectual’

‘It’s for people that really do need to get a life’

‘Too many twits make a twat’

No, these are not quotes describing this website though to be fair they would probably double up as such. These are comments that have been squarely aimed at Twitter by those not yet accustomed to the ways of Tweetsville.

But just to let you know that each night this week I will be setting a ten minute teaser during the evening session of the snooker for you to win Crucible souvenirs. A particularly pleasant and very cute German skater girl was the winner of a T-Shirt and Programme last night for her answer to ‘who is your favourite commentator and what song would they walk out to?’ Highly intellectual stuff as ever.

All you have to do is follow me by clicking here and pressing ‘follow’. You can always join up for the week and then leave your account to rot.

In other news, inconveniently, it’s Mrs SB’s birthday today and she would like people to send her some presents. Nice ones. I’ve asked her to change her birthday to a day outside of the World Championship but she won’t. If you want to read the latest epic tale about a trip to the launderette click here, it’s really exciting stuff….

April 25, 2011

Betfred World Championship Quarter Finals Preview **UPDATED**

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:17 pm

Our New Baize Pop Star

We already know two of the quarter final match ups and the other two we will know at the end of the evening. But I thought to get things started on the betting front it was worth previewing the first two below and then adding the other two first thing in the morning so as we can give some consideration to a multiple bet.

I also thought it was an idea to say the word two far too many times in that two sentence introduction.

Here’s the first two matches consisting of the two players we know to be through:

Judd Trump v Graeme Dott

Head to Heads 0-2

Both matches in the head to head statistics took place in PTC events earlier in the season where Dotty ran out 4-0 and 4-1 winner. Judd however is currently blossoming in his new role as the pin up boy of the baize and the way he is going we’re sure to see a Nandos logo appearing on his waistcoat some time soon as he appears to live in there while in Sheffield. He has been nothing short of a revelation in this after his success in China and the way he dispensed with the Goat in the last round was ultra impressive. He has developed what all the best players possess and that is the ability to front run in a match, his overall match game has improved immensely, he is fearless and that makes him a top player with a huge future ahead of him. Dotty meanwhile lives and breathes the Crucible every time he comes here, he might as well bring his favourite slippers he is so at home here. His match with Ali was high quality and at times neither of them looked like missing, but gone are the days that players will underate the diminuitive Scot with the heart of a lion. I think this is a very tough one to call but the weird thing is I don’t necessarily think that means it will be close. Against Mrs SB’s advice I’m going to side with Juddly, though I’m not going to back him, but I just think when someone is riding high like this it’s worth riding with them until they come a cropper.

Prediction: Trump

Recommended Bet: 2.5 points win over 2.5 centuries (10/11 Betfred)

Mark Williams v Mark Allen

Head to Heads: 1-3

Another cracking match in prospect here with the two Marks locking horns for the first time at the Crucible. The biggest match they have played against each other which was the only time they played over the longer distance was won by Williams 9-5 in the UK back in 2007, which would have been a good win at the time for the Welshman as it came in the period that he was struggling for results, much like Allen has been lately. Depression, little Lauren, final frame deciders and stuffed soft toys would make a victory for the Irishman in this tournament a tabloid dream, which would only be topped by successes for Trump or of course the Rocket, but I think he’s going to have to raise his game from the first two rounds to live with MJW here. Of course the laid back Welshman is my main outright pick for the championship and I see no reason whatsoever to abandon him here.

Prediction: Williams

Recommended Bet: 2.5 points Williams to win by between 1 and 3 frames (13/5 William Hills)

Mark Selby v Ding Junhui

Head to Heads: 6-6

Despite crossing swords on numerous occasions these two have never played a match longer than best of eleven frames. The last two times they have met have both resulted in wins for Selby and I marginally favour the Jester to do the same in this as I’m still not convinced that Ding is quite at home in this venue. That might sound like a sweeping statement given his great comeback against Stuart Bingham last night but I firmly believe that if he had been in that position against Selby he would have lost. I am now going to make an even more ridiculous statement, go back and read Si-Ting Chi-Lee’s interpretation of the match these two played in China last month, which includes some comments from Ding at the end. He hates playing Selby and says as much to he press there. However brilliant the Jester’s performance against Hendry was, he will scrap for all he’s worth if he has to if it means grinding out a win. I think he has Ding’s measure and will once again deny him the chance of flourishing in the less claustrophobic one table set-up.

Prediction: Selby

Recommended Bet: 3 points on there being over 22.5 frames in the match at (11/10 with Betfred)

John Higgins v Ronnie O’Sullivan

Head to Heads (last 15 years) 18-15

Meetings between these two have become increasingly rare these days given Ronnie’s lack of enthusiasm of late. But the Rocket appears to have rediscovered a temporary love for the game this week and flashes of brilliance mixed with an uncharacteristic determined streak helped him take care of Smurf yesterday. I don’t know if anyone else spotted the look on Ronnie’s face when Murphy had snatched the penultimate frame on the black last night after ‘that missed red’ by naughty old Ronald but the smirk he did to the crowd behind the fist clenching Magician was priceless. It said to me ‘don’t get carried away big fella, I can put you to bed whenever I choose’, it’s a long time since Ronnie has had that level of confidence against a top player. John meanwhile was having the life sucked out of him by Rory ‘The Dementor’ McLeod and will be grateful to have a real match to get his teeth stuck into. These two have a respect for each other that goes back to their very first dramatic encounter at the Crucible in the early nineties and they have had some classic tussles. Higgins was as bad as he has been in a decade against Rory but I think we can forgive him that, I still question whether playing in the Scottish Professional event the week before the World Championship was the right decision though and had he not done that I would recommend a huge bet on him to win this match without hesitation. If they both bring their current A games to the table this will be a classic and I hope they do. As for a bet I’d not recommend going mad on this as anything might happen, but to low stakes for a half decent return I’ll be backing the bet below.

Prediction: Higgins

Recommended Bet: 2 points on Higgins to win by between 1-3 frames at 9/4 with William Hills

Multiple Bet: 2 point accumulator on Trump, Williams, Selby and Higgins pays over 13/2 almost everywhere.

(original Judd image used courtesy of Monique Limbos and pimped up my Moi)

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