Wednesday sees the opening day of qualifiers for this season’s China Open from the cubicles in the Sheffield Academy. After the success of the recent International Championship with its higher prizes and longer matches, you could argue that this is now no longer China’s prestige tournament, despite it’s relatively long history as the leading event over there.
It was won last year for the second time in four seasons by Peter Ebdon, who himself had to qualify and again won after showing little form coming into it. Who can forget the final? Well, I’d like to and you’d be forgiven for doing so too as it was a long drawn-out affair between Ebbo and Stephen Maguire which kept the watching public awake (well I’m assuming some of them were awake and possibly watching) until well past their bedtime and threatened to kill snooker off in China for good at several points in the match.
But thankfully the Chinese aren’t the type to bear grudges and our man Ebbo has been allowed back in and installed as Number 1 seed for this, meaning that the world number 18 Barry Hawkins must play on Saturday ahead of the Masters which starts on Sunday. But it’s not a massive issue for our Baz as he’s not lining up in that until Tuesday afternoon in London, where he faces Judd Trump.
More of an issue is the continued exclusion of Stephen Lee from the main ranking tournaments. He has again been unceremoniously dumped out of the draw for this which takes place just before the World Championship so you have to wonder if we are likely to see him at all again this season.
It will be very interesting to see what happens as he’s already been completely starved of any earning potential from most of the season’s major events. Suppose he is found to be innocent of all charges and allowed back onto the tour with immediate effect? How will he react to this intermittent loss of earnings? I think for everyone’s sake it would be better to reach a conclusion in this matter sooner rather than later as it is now beginning to drag on a little since he was first suspended. I did hear that it was supposed to be done and dusted within three or four weeks of the first action but that obviously hasn’t happened for whatever reason.
Anyway, that’s for another day and the first day here sees the lowest ranked players start the long road to China to face a (insert your chosen expletive here) wildcard first round. The line up and betting preview for each session is detailed below. It’s well covered by the firms and the live stream is available in all territories apparently, which is good news for the people that clicked on here from the Falkland Islands last week, presumably by accident while looking for soft German porn, if not, I’m not really bothered if we give it back to the Argies, as I wasn’t in the 80’s.
All Apollobet’s match prices for today can be found by clicking here.
Kurt Maflin v Michael Wild
Li Yan v Daniel Wells
Pankaj Advani v David Grace
Robbie Williams v Mohammed Khairy
Paul Davison v Joel Walker
Zhang Anda v Fraser Patrick
Kurt Maflin could last be seen knocking them in off the lampshades (not literally) in Munich against Robbo and despite the fact that he remains extremely inconsistent for a player that’s as good as he is I’d take him as a decent bet to progress to round two here against amateur Michael Wild who narrowly missed out on a tour place via the PTC route and now presumably will head to Q-School (still room in the Gloucester SB Classic). Li Yan is on a bit of a losing streak lately and has been beaten in his last 6 matches, couple this with a slight upturn in the fortunes of Daniel Wells, who I have always thought was a decent player and never understood why he doesn’t win more and this for me has the makings of an upset. The Pune Piston, Pankaj ‘The Punk’ Advani (he’s got to decide soon) has been highly impressive in patches this season and faces Leeds man Davy (Baby) Grace, both Pankaj and his compatriot Aditya Mehta were showing signs of fatigue towards the back end of last month and it remains to be seen if they can get back to their early season form. Billiards man Pankaj is not the best long potter in the world from what I’ve seen and if Grace adopts the right tactics I can see him getting through here, again against the odds. Robbie Williams should dispense with Mohammed Khairy from what I’ve seen, Khairy has had all sorts of problems getting to tournaments and now he has he’s only won one frame from eleven, the ‘Booshman’ (don’t ask me) Williams on the other hand has been beating players higher ranked than him all season, one way traffic that one for me. Paul ‘Snowy’ Davison is fiercely tenacious in these early rounds and sometimes can get a run going, usually by winning final framers, but he’s on a losing streak at the moment too and his young opponent Joel Walker may fancy his chances of upsetting the apple cart here. Fraser Patrick is respected by his peers as a very decent player and he faces ‘Mighty Mouse’ Zhang Anda first up in a match I find difficult to call so it might be worth having a look at the handicaps as the bookies have Anda as a strong favourite, he’ll probably win but I don’t think he’ll win easily.
If this session doesn’t make you feel that some nickname overhauls are in order nothing will.
Selections: Maflin, Wells, Grace, Williams, Davison, Anda.
Recommended Bet: 2 points treble on Wells, Williams* and Patrick all +2.5 frames at just over 7/4 and 1 point on Wells at 6/4. All with Apollobet.
*EDIT – CARELESS. THERE IS AN OBVIOUS TYPO IN THE FIRST BET, WILLIAMS WAS CLEAR FAVOURITE TO WIN AND WAS NEVER AVAILABLE ON THE HANDICAP, IT SHOULD HAVE READ GRACE WHICH I’M SURE ANYONE THAT BACKED IT KNOWS. THE BET WON EITHER WAY ANYWAY WHICH IS GOOD.
Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon v Justin Astley
Tony Drago v Gareth Allen
Ian Burns v Michael Leslie
Dechawat Poomjaeng v Sam Baird
Craig Steadman v Sean O’Sullivan
Thanawat and Justin Astley have met twice, both back in 2010 and the Thai player won both times in close matches, from memory he was on a bit of a roll then before going off the boil a bit. Astley is a very capable player but Thanawat seems to be on that roll again lately and will be looking to build on his recent strong performances here, sometimes you’ve just gotta roll with it. Tony ‘Self-Harm’ Drago is a player I never bet on or against these days and he takes on Welshboy Gaz Allen who qualifies for this by virtue of his Q-School performance last season, you’d expect Drago’s experience to win the day and to be fair he’s quite a decent price for those that want a bit of it but he’s so unpredictable, one thing is for sure, this one won’t take long. Ian Burns is now one of the biggest names in this category of players, he shows no signs of letting up in his quest to climb the rankings and I can’t see him slipping up against Michael Leslie who gained his first win over a professional last month but Burns beat him 6-1 earlier in the season and for me all these factors make him nailed on here and I am prepared to stake my failing reputation on it and as you can’t get any interest out of the banks these days this is worth a few more pennies than usual. Dechawat Poomjaeng wins more than he loses at this level and faces Sam Baird who currently loses more than he wins, I’d have to side with the more consistent Thai player here but not with a bet. Finally, Sean ‘The Storm’ O’Sullivan takes on the experienced Craig Steadman. Sean has won two from his last four and is showing signs that he’s finding his feet but Stedz wins more than him, nevertheless I’d be prepared to side with O’Sullivan this time in a match that might kick start a better run for him.
Selections: Thanawat, Drago, Burns, Poomjaeng, O’Sullivan.
Recommended Bet: 5 points on Burns to beat Leslie at 2/5 with Stan James. (relatively this would be a 10-15 pointer)
Tian Pengfei v Martin O’Donnell
Aditya Mehta v Simon Bedford
Chen Zhe v Scott Donaldson
Michael Wasley v Jamie O’Neill
Liam Highfield v Passakorn Suwannawat
Tian Pengfei stands in the way of The MO’D (at last a decent nickname) and they’d better bloody put it on the live stream or else. Pengfei is obviously a big hurdle at this stage but I sense that the reigning SB Classic Champion Martin is turning a corner and this would be a massive win for him, he’s 2/1 best price and that’s too big in my book, but I don’t need a bet on it and will wish him good luck and will be screaming at the scoreboard, nevertheless, it’s a tough match for him. I underrated Simon Bedford to his advantage all through the recent qualifiers for the World Open and I think I flagged up a bet against him in every round and what did he do? He only went and qualified that’s what and he even beat Ken Doherty. He faces Mehta who I had a very brief Twitter exchange with after his loss in that very tournament and he seemed a bit down, but he’s a cracking player and very nice to watch and for me has a rounded mind that can cope with such things so Simon will be pleased to know that I am again going against him in that one. The match that Adi was so down about was a 5-4 loss to Scott Donaldson and it’s true that in reality he should have won it, but Donaldson is improving too and has beaten his opponent here Chen Zhe on their only previous meeting in a decider, this is very evenly matched this one and could go either way so the handicap on the outsider Donaldson is the way to go. Michael Wasley made a 147 today (Tuesday) and faces Jamie O’Neill, it was all going really well for Wazza until his unexpected loss to Leslie in the World Open but he’s a hard working lad, he’s even doing the bar tonight at the SWSA but I fancy him to put it all right in this. Liam Highfield is another on the up and he faces Passakorn who is basically losing for a living at the moment, he’s lost his last 17 matches and not won since June.
Selections: Pengfei, Mehta, Donaldson, Wasley, Highfield.
Recommended Bet: 1 point treble on O’Donnell, Bedford and Donaldson all +2.5 frames at just over 2/1 with Apollobet
Recommended Daily Acca: 4 points on Maflin, Williams, Burns and Highfield pays 3/1 at Apollobet.