Snookerbacker

March 31, 2013

Crucible Seedings Confirmed

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:36 pm

It’s now less than three weeks until the start of the World Championship at the Crucible in Sheffield and following Neil Robertson’s win in Beijing the seedings for the big event are now known. 

Match 1. Ronnie O’Sullivan v Qualifier
Match 2. Ali Carter v Qualifier
Match 3. Stuart Bingham v Qualifier
Match 4. John Higgins v Qualifier
Match 5. Shaun Murphy v Qualifier
Match 6. Graeme Dott v Qualifier
Match 7. Matthew Stevens v Qualifier
Match 8. Judd Trump v Qualifier

Match 9. Neil Robertson v Qualifier
Match 10. Ricky Walden v Qualifier
Match 11. Mark Williams v Qualifier
Match 12. Stephen Maguire v Qualifier
Match 13. Mark Allen v Qualifier
Match 14. Ding Junhui v Qualifier
Match 15. Barry Hawkins v Qualifier
Match 16. Mark Selby v Qualifier

In the meantime the qualifiers for the big event are the main focus and they kick off with the WPBSA Members Not on Tour event aka The Clapped-Out Club on Thursday, the draw and format for which can be found here.

The draw for the qualifiers will be done tomorrow and available on the World Snooker website, they will start in earnest next Saturday and run until the following Sunday. Once the 16 qualifiers are known the draw will be made for the Crucible Live on Talksport Radio on Monday April 15 at 1.30pm UK Time. It’s then a week of talking about Ronnie before we get down to business on Saturday 20th.

Can’t wait.

You can find Apollobet’s latest prices for the World Championship here.

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March 30, 2013

China Open Final: Robbo v Selby

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:35 pm
Time to do it again.

Time to do it again.

It’s the final of the China Open and a really decent match in prospect between two of the big hitters of the sport who will both be hoping to grab the title before turning their attentions to Sheffield.

There is still a possibility that Robbo could nab the number 3 seeded spot and get out of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s half and plonk Judd in his place with a win, otherwise this is how the Crucible draw is currently shaping up.

1. Ronnie O’Sullivan v Qualifier
16. Ali Carter v Qualifier
9. Stuart Bingham v Qualifier
8. John Higgins v Qualifier
5. Shaun Murphy v Qualifier
12. Graeme Dott v Qualifier
13. Matthew Stevens v Qualifier
4. Neil Robertson* v Qualifier

3. Judd Trump* v Qualifier
14. Ricky Walden v Qualifier
11. Mark Williams v Qualifier
6. Stephen Maguire v Qualifier
7. Mark Allen v Qualifier
10. Ding Junhui v Qualifier
15. Barry Hawkins v Qualifier
2. Mark Selby v Qualifier

*If Selby wins these seedings remain unaltered, if Robertson wins Trump and Robbo swap places.

Of course it’s not all about the Crucible but it’s interesting to the neutral, would Robbo be better off winning or losing? Would anything be better than being in the bottom ‘Quarter of Death’? And other questions….

Turning the attention to the Final it has all the hallmarks of a classic. I am going to bowl one in here and say that I don’t think Selby is playing as well as some are saying he is. He’s been solid but in truth he’s not really been punished for mistakes the way in which Robbo might do.

Robbo to me looks in the better form of the two and that’s why I’ll predict a first ever tournament win in China for the Aussie. It’s not been a great betting week but in for a penny in for a pound and I really can’t see the maximum bet below not landing.

Prediction: Robertson 10-8 (Best Priced 17/2 generally)

Recommended Bet: 5 points on there being more than 16.5 frames at 10/11 with Sportingbet.  

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Thanks as ever to Monique Limbos for the photo

March 29, 2013

China Open Semi Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:22 pm
There was some confusion with Shaun's name

There was some confusion with Shaun’s name

It’s semi-finals time in Beijing and as so often happens even when there are a few shocks we are left with four big hitters to battle it out for the first prize in the China Open.

As I had nowhere in particular to go this morning I had decided to get up and watch the action from the off, switching between screens from the one I really wanted to see which was MJW and Selby to the other match which I had been led to believe was between Shaun Murphy and Jack Lisowski.

So imagine my surprise when I was confronted with a contest between two players that were dead ringers for Shaun and Jack but who clearly were imposters based on what the Chinese referee was calling them. I appeared to be watching a match between Joan Murphy and Jack Lisowikkiki.

As the pair played out this semi-final and the referee seemed oblivious to the fact that it wasn’t the two who were meant to be playing it was Lisowikkiki that got the better of the early gambits with Joan to take a 4-2 lead. At this point the referee may have twigged that something was up as after a foul shot I am sure I heard him rather cruelly refer to Jack as a Jabberwocky, after which the Jack imposter completely lost his cool allowing Joan in to steal the match 5-4.

The lovely Joan said after her win “There’s a fine line between winning and losing and I had a bit of luck at the right time, Jack is a player we’re going to see a lot more of in the next 10 or 15 years – we have glimpsed the future this week.”

She then added “People better learn how to say his name properly because he’s going to be around for a long time. He’s very talented and confident and he plays an aggressive style of snooker” and with that off she waltzed, I don’t know what has happened to Shaun but Joan is a fitting replacement in my book.

In the other match the resurrection of MJW didn’t quite come to fruition and Mark Selby, guided by a huge slice of Luck Pie which he chose to ignore in the Press Conference came through their encounter 5-1, I’d say the scoreline flattered Selby slightly but he was admittedly the better of the two and said afterwards “It was quite similar to yesterday, I didn’t play fantastic. Mark had a lot of chances but he missed too many balls. He kept giving me chances and I managed to take them in the end. As long as I keep winning then I have the chance to play better, and I’m only two matches away now from winning the title. I feel relaxed and I’m enjoying playing.”

In the second session Stephen Maguire came through a comfortable 5-1 winner against Stuart Bingham who appeared to have left his game in the dressing room. It wasn’t a great match and Maguire was candidly honest afterwards saying “Stuart and I both played garbage today, I started off ok but after that it got worse. If I could afford it I would give the crowd their money back, but I can’t” (yeah right there were only about five there the tickets aren’t that much, ya tight arse Scottish………sorry about that).

He continued “It just felt like a practice match, we both felt very flat. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and just hoping I can find a bit of form. If not my luck will run out sometime, I can’t win the tournament playing like that. I feel as if my form is hiding away somewhere, it’s a case of putting in some graft and hoping to find something.”

Joining Mags in the semi finals is Neil Robertson who was a bit patchy against Marcus Campbell but was given so many chances it would have been harder for him not to win a very scrappy match, eventually 5-2. Robbo said afterwards “It’s a dream semi-final line-up. The four of us all came through together and started winning tournaments around the same time. Both semis will be hard to call. I always enjoy playing Stephen Maguire, he’s very attacking and it makes for an open game. Hopefully we’ll see some world class snooker in both games tomorrow.”

Better than today would be a start.

Anyway, you can only beat what’s in front of you and Mags and Robbo both did that and line up in the second semi-final tomorrow. Bettingwise, the maximum recommended handicap bet on Robbo landed but it’s all been a bit sketchy and I can’t help wanting this one to be over to concentrate on the World Championship, the draw for which is out on Monday. We still have the 16/1 outright on Maguire running but his assessment above doesn’t exactly instill confidence.

While tomorrow is another day, I’d have to plump for wins for Selby and Robbo personally for anyone wanting to get involved in the match betting but I’ll stick to a small interest bet for buttons.

6.30am GMT

Shaun Joan Murphy v Mark Selby

Predicted Score: Selby 6-3 (Best Price 6/1 at Apollobet)

11.30am GMT

Neil Robertson v Stephen Maguire

Predicted Score: Robertson 6-4 (Best Price 11/2 at Skybet)

Recommended Bet: 4 x 0.5 Correct Score Doubles Selby 6-3, 6-4 and Robertson 6-4, 6-5. (Combination prices of 6/1 and 11/2 almost everywhere)   

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March 28, 2013

China Open: A Good Friday Quarter Final Line Up

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:17 pm
MJW is Back

TA-DAAA! MJW is Back

It’s Easter in the UK and in some other countries that are locked in the stifling iron grip of a religious-led political agenda designed to brainwash billions of obeying humans into not enjoying their lives, just in case a white fluffy good man in the sky gets all cross with them and sends them to a red bad man under the ground with a tail to burn for all eternity. What a lovely story to tell your children.

But let’s not let a silly old theoretical debate and ontological argument about common sense and believing in fairy tales detract from a cracking Quarter Final line up at the China Open this Good Friday. After all, if it wasn’t for those medieval crackpots making up their stories we’d all have to go to work and miss the snooker and where would that leave us? Stuck in work that’s where so let’s all just tow the line and carry on praying.

I dare say that before the first session on Thursday there were two players on their knees doing just that at the snooker gods asking them to shine down on them, those same mischievous gods certainly put a certain Mr Carter through the mill, maybe he’s been flying too high for their liking in his plane and they wanted to teach him a lesson.

Ali looked good at 4-2 up on Mark Williams only to see an easter resurrection of Jesus-like proportions from MJW. Not since old JC climbed out of his tomb in the world’s first ever magic show have we seen such a return to form so quickly. MJ was back to his floating best as he glided back into the match to effortlessly win 5-4 and leave Ali sweating on his automatic Crucible place.

But those unpredictable snooker gods clearly hadn’t heard enough prayers coming from the Dark Side as Mavis also threw away a 4-2 lead to fall to the angelic Jack Lisowski who marches on and leaves poor old Mavis having to qualify for the big one again, despite finishing as the 16th ranked player. Lisowski reaches his first ranking event quarter final and who is to say he can’t go further given the momentum behind him? He even got a Twitter congratulations from Bazza after the match, who of course is snooker’s closest thing to Jesus so perhaps this will be his week? Blessed.

Afterwards, snooker’s new hot prospect said “I felt more pressure today than I ever have before, because I had a good win against Judd and I wanted to make it count, I threw away two frames to go 4-2 down but then I held myself together and made my best ever comeback. I played good snooker and I’m just so pleased to have won. When I played Judd we were both really attacking, but I knew today it wasn’t going to be like that and I had to play more safety. I was pleased with that side of my game and I’m learning to mix it up more. In the last two tournaments I’ve beaten the top two players in the world. I think I’m good enough, it’s just a question of doing it when it matters.” You can almost hear him maturing from here.

Anyway, all this means that Ali will be seeded 16th at the Crucible and barring defeats to qualifiers in Round 1 will line up against Ronnie O’Sullivan in a best of 25 frame last 16 match, quite a prospect that will be. As for Jack, if he can make it further he is in with a chance of only needing to win one match to make it to Sheffield, it would be a bit of a loss to the game if he isn’t there really. First round versus Ronnie anyone??

In the other two matches there were wins for Mark Selby who continued his impressive form to beat Ricky Walden 5-2 and as a result took the number one spot from Judd (with only Neil Robertson capable of getting it off him this week) and for ‘quiet man’ Shaun Murphy who managed to fend off a late rattle by The Dentist and come through 5-3.

In the second session of the day Robbo looked extremely sharp and also had the run against Mark Allen to coast into the next round, both him and Selby look to have found their form after a period where they both were starting to look a bit tired. I don’t think Allen will be too concerned and he now has a decent rest to get ready for his Crucible challenge which he’ll hope will last longer than last year when he famously (and some might say carelessly) did this.

In the other matches Stuart Bingham won the last four frames of his match to stop Rob Milkins’ charge and will take confidence from that. Ballrun is a seriously top player these days and could easily play himself into the Crucible reckoning this week too. Stephen Maguire struggled through against a below-par Barry Hawkins but he’ll take the win and he remains our only remaining outright hope after Ali crash landed.

In the final match to finish a decider was fought out between the two Scotsman at the opposite end of the size spectrum Marcus Campbell and Graeme Dott, with Marcus finally getting the better of the nine frame tussle on the final frame pink from forty behind. It’s a good win for Campbell as normally from 4-3 up Dott would be a very strong favourite in that match-up so well done to him as he marches on to face Robbo.

Bettingwise, it’s one of those weeks on the match betting, two deciders going the wrong way was enough to make it a losing day and it’s now probably up to Maguire to secure some kind of profit on the week, but we’ve had a very good run on the outright markets lately so you never know.

Here is the line up on Friday, click on the match for the head to heads.

They meet again.

They meet again.

6.30am GMT

Jack Lisowski v Shaun Murphy (never met)
Mark Williams v Mark Selby

If the wind is in anyone’s sails in this tournament so far it is Jack Lisowski, his quickfire win over Judd was followed by a more determined ‘get your nut down’ grind to pip Mavis, now he faces an even stiffer test in Shaun Murphy who will be desperate to put himself back into the realistic reckoning for the World Championship with a good show here. The two are scoring similarly, if anything Jack a little heavier than Shaun, Murphy wins hands down on experience but Jack is fearless and if they are going in he’s a real handful. I think the odds all in all are about right, but momentum and confidence are incredible things for a snooker player, Jack will be feeling on top of the world and there will be a bit of him possibly allowing himself to think about actually winning this, he’s seen Judd do it and knows what is required, I think this will be a belter and the handicap on Lisowski is the bet for me.

In the other match the two Marks lock horns again and have a fairly even record down the years, they have had some right old battles and in particular the Shanghai Final in China two seasons ago when Selby won a decider. With MJW still bemoaning the pitfalls of his long game but looking razor sharp in the balls Selby will probably employ the old brinkmanship tactic tomorrow and try and tempt MJW to go for one too many, this of course might be his way to win with ease should MJ succumb to temptation. But the prices are out of kilter with the class of the two, whatever you say about Williams he is still mustard in the balls and was right back to his brilliant best at the end of his match with Carter, at the price you have to back him.

Recommended Bet: 2 points on Williams to beat Selby at 7/4 with Apollobet.

11.30am GMT

Marcus Campbell v Neil Robertson
Stephen Maguire v Stuart Bingham

Most people’s banker of the day will be Neil Robertson and there doesn’t seem to be any real reason to oppose him in his quarter final against Marcus Campbell. He is scoring heavily, he’s getting the run, Marcus has only ever beaten him in the Shootout and he wants to win in China. I could construct a carefully worded argument as to why this might be close but I really don’t think it will be so I won’t, for once, waffle on.

Stephen Maguire and Stuart Bingham are pretty even in the head to heads and fought out a great Welsh Open final which Mags won 9-8. The bookies continue to slightly underrate Stuart and I don’t think he minds that one bit, he has been labelled a ‘hard-worker’ and ‘a true pro’ by almost every commentator, myself probably included but this ignores the fact that he is now definitely in my opinion a top 8 player. His results speak for themselves and unlike last season when he peaked too early he’s had his ropey patch and seems to now be getting back his winning edge. I’ve backed Maguire in the outrights so I have to stick with him but to be honest I fancy Bingham to win this match and at 6/5 I would make him value.

Recommended Bet: 5 points on Robertson (-1.5 frames) at 8/15 with Apollobet. 

Recommended Treble: 2 points on Lisowski (+2.5), Robertson and Bingham (+2.5) pays almost bang on 2/1 at Apollobet

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March 27, 2013

China Open Day Four

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:06 pm
Racialism is alive and well in China (bit off to not let dogs in though)

Racialism is alive and well in China (bit off to not let dogs in though)

Day Four in Beijing sees the last 16 matches all played to find out who will be lining up in Friday’s Quarter Finals.

The miserable run in China for Ding Junhui continued as he was beaten by Barry Hawkins in a very odd match. Barry heaped the pressure on Ding to lead 4-0 before missing chance after chance to put the match away before eventually getting himself together to win in the eighth frame. I’m sure had he lost that frame he’d have been on the plane home but it’s Ding that finds himself once again dumped out early in a Chinese event. In the understatement of the year the eventual winner said afterwards “I started twitching a bit”, I’d hate to see him twitch a lot.

Paul Collier tweeted about the poor etiquette of the crowd during this match and it’s clear that some of them don’t know how to behave in a snooker environment.

Blog regular Deco is also over there and had the benefit of a translator to earwig on what some of the crowd were shouting during the match, his personal favourite being “Bury the Foreign Devil” which presumably was aimed at the poor old Hawk.

Poor form really and dare I say it, a little bit racialist.

In the other first session matches there were wins for Ricky Walden, Dark Mavis and Mark Williams. MJW came through a potential banana skin against Lu Haotian, but unfortunately World Snooker chose to go with a different headline to my suggested ‘Williams Shits on Lu’ idea.

Anyway, MJ said afterwards “My eldest boy is only five years younger than Lu, it’s not easy to play someone that young. Lu has got a really bright future, he’s probably as good as half the players who are on the tour now. For the last few months I’ve been playing quite well but I can’t pot the long balls any more. If I can get 20 per cent of my long game going I could be a handful for anyone.” He now faces a mouth-watering tie against Ali Carter.

In the second session the main talking point was the addition of the name of Mark Selby to the Careless Black Club, he joins Ken Doherty and Barry Pinches as members of the exclusive band of players who have missed the final black on a 147 in tournament play. But good old Jester took it all on the chin and managed a smile afterwards, it only cost him £23,500 anyway so it’s not a massive deal… Anyway, Selby managed to get himself back on track and in truth was put under no pressure whatsoever by an under-par King and the 5-1 scoreline was about right.

Afterwards Selby said  “It’s been a while since I played that well.  I have come here to find a bit of form ahead of the World Championship so it’s a good start.” As for the missed black he added: “I left myself a really tough black, it wasn’t nerves it was just a tough shot and I missed.” He then turned round and kicked the media office cat.

There was also a win for Neil Robertson in the battle of the Robertsons which wasn’t so much a battle as a procession for the Aussie who looked in pretty good nick, at least Jimmy can console himself for now with Selby’s missed black which means he still holds the highest break. Mark Allen continued his excellent run of form with a win over Anthony McGill and Stuart Bingham and Liang Wenbo fought out a real marathon only reaching their interval by the time all the other matches had finished, it was eventually won by Ballrun 5-3 with Wenbo just managing to scrape the recommended handicap bet and make it a profitable day bettingwise, just about.

In terms of the outrights we still have Maguire and The Captain onside and they both continue their quest on Day 4, here’s the line up.

Thursday – (click on matches for head to head stats)

Selby - Careless

Selby – Careless

6.30am GMT

Jack Lisowski v Dark Mavis
Ricky Walden v Mark Selby
Rory McLeod v Shaun Murphy
Mark Williams v Ali Carter

Mavis has beaten Jack Lisowski two out of two times so far but Jack’s performance against Judd suggests that this will have little bearing on the match and I think the momentum he will have got from that coupled with the fact that Dark isn’t firing on all cylinders will see him win again and possibly set this tournament alight. Selby looked razor sharp against Mark King and by all accounts Ricky Walden played solidly to beat Ken Doherty too, but Jester in the mood he was in in his first match should not be opposed lightly and I think he’ll be lining up in the Quarter Finals aswell. Shaun Murphy takes on Rory McLeod and this is a potentially tricky match for Murphy if he’s not totally on his game, McLeod seemed to be scoring pretty heavily against Matthew Stevens and if he does so again might just cause an upset, on balance it’s best left alone that one. I’d say the most interesting match in this session is Ali v MJW, MJ admits his long game has all but left the building and if that is the case he can’t really hope to compete with a player at Ali’s level, he might be pulling our legs but he’s definitely not 100% or anywhere near it in that department but remains dangerous in the balls. While his current level is still good enough to cope with players outside the upper echelons of the game, I doubt it is enough to cope with the Captain so I would make Ali my bet of the session here.

Selections: Lisowski, Selby, Murphy, Carter.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Carter at 8/13 with Skybet. 2 point treble on Carter, Lisowski and Selby pays bang on 5/2 at Apollobet.  

11.30am GMT

Stephen Maguire v Barry Hawkins
Stuart Bingham v Robert Milkins
Marcus Campbell v Graeme Dott
Mark Allen v Neil Robertson

The undoubted match of the session here is the bottom one featuring Mark Allen and Neil Robertson but ironically it is the only one of the four that I will ignore from a punting perspective. Both are in great form and whoever loses will have a bit more time to prepare for the Crucible, Robbo is favourite and the fact that his stated aim is to win a title in China this season makes me just favour him to come through. I reckon Stephen Maguire could well have a say in this tournament and I would take him to come through against Barry Hawkins who can struggle under pressure and beat his first top 64 player in China since 2007 when coming through against an under-par Ding. Stuart Bingham scored well against Liang Wenbo and is a force to be reckoned with for anyone, if he plays similarly I can’t see him slipping up against Rob Milkins who in truth was lucky to beat Higgins. Marcus Campbell has a decent head to head against Graeme Dott but anyone that saw their two first round matches and compared them would have to favour Graeme, who has won the only meeting these two have had over there, so I’m pretty quietly confident in the treble below.

Selections: Maguire, Bingham, Dott, Robertson

Recommended Bet: 3 point treble on Maguire, Dott and Bingham pays over 11/4 at Paddy Power

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March 26, 2013

China Open Day Three

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:41 pm
Jack was flying high against Judd.

Jack was flying high against Judd.

It’s Day Three in Beijing in a tournament that is already producing a few shocks, the two big casualties of Day 2 being the out-of-form John Higgins and current world number one Judd Trump who lost to his mate Jack Lisowski in a blistering match.

The first session of the day saw Higgins continue his poor run and from looking very like winning 5-3 he managed to lose in a decider to Rob Milkins in very un-Higginslike fashion, I am beginning to wonder if he has another world title in him the way he’s playing lately. On the other televised table the defending champion Peter Ebdon continued his own miserable run of results and lost out to Marcus Campbell in a pretty poor match if truth be told.

Ebdon said afterwards “I’m very disappointed to lose” before presuming that “Marcus got a bit embarrassed because of how much ball run he got, but these things happen”. I don’t know how true that is but one thing I do know is that Peter is going to have to rely on more than just luck to get anywhere near the Crucible this year on that showing, his game seems shot to pieces to me.

In the other match of the first session Thailand’s Dechewat Poomjaeng beat Chinese wildcard Zhu Yinghui 5-2 with breaks of 91, 67, 80 and 51, good old Poomypoos.

Then came Jack’s finest hour against his pal Judd, he really did perform like a seasoned professional and out-naughtied his more high-profile opponent at times with some fast and furious snooker. The excellent Phil Yates made the very good point that he has seldom seen a player outside of the world’s top 40 perform with such ease on the big stage, he was so excited that I don’t think he mentioned Stephen Hendry once during the match.

On that showing there is no doubt that Jack is heading right to the top of the game or at least very near it. My only doubt at this stage would be whether he can adapt his game when he faces more methodical/tighter players and become more consistent, which may sound daft given his record against Mark Selby but I still think he’s a lot more comfortable against players like Judd who give him more chances. We shall see of course and the win led to what I think is a slight over-reaction by the bookies regarding his Crucible price considering as things stand he’s not even in a position to book his hotel until he’s won two matches.

The new golden boy of snooker said afterwards “When I was young I liked watching Ronnie O’Sullivan. Not only do you need to win but people need to enjoy watching you, so I try to play quickly and with both hands like Ronnie. Hopefully that gets more people into snooker as it’s better than being boring and slow”. His depressed gaze then falling on a screen showing the Rory McLeod match….

I ermm ‘interviewed’ Jack a while back and you can read it here.

As all that was going on Shaun Murphy battled away to keep up his 100% record against Andrew ‘Chuck Norris’ Higginson who is still sporting his beard, it was a workmanlike rather than sparkling display from our Smurf but a win as they say is a win and given he is a bit under the radar this week perhaps his mind is on breaking his current title drought. Our mate Ali Carter also made one step closer to a guaranteed automatic Crucible spot with his win over the wildcard and in the other match Rory eventually got the better of a marathon with Matthew Stevens, scuppering the daily double and leaving us playing catch up.

I sense that this week is going to be one of uncertainties on the betting front and we may again have to rely on the outright picks to dig us out of the losers pit, perhaps we may yet again see another different ranking event winner? Who knows, we soldier on as ever.

Wednesday 27th of March (click the match for head to head stats – if no link they have never met)

Are you afraid of the Dark?

Are you afraid of the Dark?

6.30am GMT

Ding Junhui v Barry Hawkins
Mark Williams v Lu Haotian
Ricky Walden v Ken Doherty
Dark Mavis v Dechawat Poomjaeng

Barry Hawkins has met Ding a few times in smaller events but only twice in main ranking ones and in those he holds a 2-0 lead but they haven’t met in a big one for 6 years. Ding’s record in China has got gradually worse over the years and it is blatantly obvious to all but the Chinese that they have heaped unreasonable amounts of expectation on him at too early an age, but with maturity he may rediscover his winning ways over there and he’s bang in form so I fancy him to start with a win. I think I am right in saying that Mark Williams is still the most successful player ever in China and he faces 15 year old Lu Haotian, the wildcard who looks about 8. This kid can play, of that there is no doubt and if MJW isn’t firing on all cylinders as he hasn’t really been lately a good performance from the wildcard could find him out, I’d leave that one well alone personally. Weirdly, Ricky Walden hasn’t played Ken Doherty since 2007 and despite the fact that Ricky is the higher ranked these days something initially makes this a tricky match to take a view on. Ricky can be quite unpredictable and both brilliant and mediocre in equal measure, Ken is the same in terms of unpredictability but clearly has his best days on the baize behind him and for me he isn’t playing and winning at the same level as Ricky is these days. Walden also has the better results of the two of late and he does still theoretically stand a chance of not making the Crucible automatically depending on performances from Ali Carter and Dark Mavis so has a big incentive to win, he’s a backable price too and probably the bet of the day. Finally, Mavis faces Poomjaeng, Mavis has hit a bit of a wall lately and since his great run to the semi-finals of the UK his results have been poor by his standards. Poomjaeng on the other hand is winning a lot more than he is losing lately, albeit at a lower level than Dark’s, that could be a close one but only a brave punter would back Poomy to carry off what would be his best career win.

Selections: Ding, MJW, Walden, Mavis.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Walden at 4/7 and 1 point double on Walden and Poomjaeng (+2.5 frames) pays 11/8 all at Apollobet.

Liang - worth a dabble.

Liang – worth a dabble on the handicaps

11.30am GMT

Mark Selby v Mark King
Neil Robertson v Jimmy Robertson
Mark Allen v Anthony McGill
Stuart Bingham v Liang Wenbo

Mark Selby has a great chance to regain world number one spot now Judd is out of this, it won’t make a lot of difference to him come Crucible time as he will still be seeded in the opposite half to Ronnie O’Sullivan, it just means that he would be at the bottom of the draw rather than the middle. Anyway, he faces Mark King who has beaten him before in big events in the first round twice (Masters and the World Championship), but overall Selby has a decent advantage in the head to heads. He comes here for the first time since deciding to go it alone and manage his own affairs and I think he’ll probably win but the handicap on King appeals to me (I know I know, never bet in a match with Mark King in it….. but still…). Cockney sparrow Jimmy Robertson hit a 142 and two further centuries in his match against the wildcard and his reward is a date with his namesake Neil who is desperate to win a tournament in China and could still mix the Crucible seedings up a bit if he does that this week and push Judd or Selby into Ronnie’s half of the draw. Again I’d be prepared to take a chance on this being closer than the bookies see it given Jimmy’s first performance, he’s also won the pair’s only previous meeting. The handicap bet theme will also continue into the next two matches, I think Scotland’s Ant McGill has a fighting chance of taking three frames from the in-form Mark Allen and that Liang Wenbo has a similar chance of taking three from Stuart Bingham, I think if there is going to be an upset in this session Wenbo might be the one to cause it but Stuart is the better of the two under pressure if it goes close.

Selections: Selby, Neil Robertson, Allen, Bingham.

Recommended Bets: 3 points on Wenbo (+2.5 frames) at 8/15 with Apollobet. 4 x 1 point singles and a 1 point acca on Wenbo, Jimmy Robertson, King and McGill (all +2.5) at Apollobet – the acca pays almost 10/1.   

Take a look at all the match prices over at blog partners Apollobet.     

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March 25, 2013

China Open Day Two

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:03 pm
Ebbo starts his campaign

Ebbo starts his campaign

It’s Day 2 in Beijing as the China Open continues and today we see the first round get underway in earnest with appearances from the likes of John Higgins, Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy as well as defending champion Peter Ebdon.

Monday saw wins in the first session for Graeme Dott, Jack Lisowski, Anthony McGill and Jimmy Robertson, the latter three beating wildcards and Dott knocking out Marco Fu in the main event.

Robertson in particular should take heart from his win as he hit a career high break of 142 in the process as well as two more centuries on top so he’s clearly bang in form.

In the second session Jamie Cope became the latest victim of the unfair and unnecessary wildcard round as he was beaten by Zhao Xintong who now goes on to face Ali Carter who I hope knocks him out. Thankfully, this was the only wildcard that won through and comfortable wins for Rory McLeod and Liang Wenbo in the same session at least restored a bit of order.

In the other main match of the day Stephen Maguire came through against Michael Holt. Holt led 3-1 at the mid-session interval but Maguire came back solidly to win the next four frames and progress, I think he might take a bit of stopping this week personally as he looked pretty good towards the end and resisted the urge to cuebang.

In other news, blog regular Deco who now lives in that part of the world has travelled over to Beijing to watch the action, but it turns out that he booked a hotel next to the wrong University 17 miles away and can’t find where it is they are playing so that has to go down as one of the most carelessly planned trips of a lifetime.

I’m sure his lack of planning over there will not be mirrored in his innovative new venture called ‘Snooker Tours’ which offers people in China the chance to experience the UK’s best snooker tournaments as part of a fantastic package, take a look at the website here and share it with any Chinese friends you have.

Here’s the line up for Tuesday (click the match to see the head to head record courtesy of Cue Tracker)

Am I passing up the bet of the week?

Am I passing up the bet of the week?

6.30am GMT

Peter Ebdon v Marcus Campbell
John Higgins v Robert Milkins
Dechawat Poomjaeng v Zhu Yinghui

Ebdon is and remains an enigma where this event is concerned, twice he has come here with less than a cat in hell’s chance and twice he has won it. His form coming into this is abysmal, he’s been chopping and changing cues, buying and selling them on Ebay and banging on about bananas to anyone who’ll listen. He faces Marcus Campbell who has beaten him three times out of four in the last three seasons, for me Campbell has to start favourite for this one but the bookies disagree, the one niggle is that I know better than to go gung-ho against Peter in Beijing but I may regret that caution tomorrow, Campbell can be backed as large as 11/10 and I am sorely tempted to have a decent bet on that, we’ll see. John Higgins form can at best be described as patchy lately, he looks to have lost some of his mental edge when things get tight to me but is obviously still a major force in the sport, he faces Rob Milkins aka Mill Hopkins who beat him 5-3 in their last meeting in China in the World Open last season, it’s no easy opener for Higgins and pricewise I think he’s too short anyway and wouldn’t put anyone off a small interest on his opponent. Thailand’s Dechawat Poomjaeng isn’t exactly a regular at venues and faces a wildcard that has wins over Dom Dale, Michael Holt and Daniel Wells to his credit and far more experience of this kind of environment than his older main tour opponent, it would be no surprise to see another wildcard victory there.

Predictions: Campbell, Higgins, Yinghui.

11.30am GMT

Judd Trump v Jack Lisowski
Shaun Murphy v Andrew Higginson
Matthew Stevens v Rory McLeod
Ali Carter v Zhao Xintong

Higginson: Rugged.

Higginson: Rugged.

A decent crop of matches here so we’ll start with the battle of the Grove playboi’s as Judd faces Jack in Round 1 after Jack’s successful negotiation of the wildcard round on Day 1. Lisowski actually leads the head to heads 2-1 having won the last two meetings between the pair (all PTC events) so this is far from an easy opener for Judd. They have never met in China though and I reckon Judd might just edge it as he seems to increasingly play his best stuff over there. If you discount a 6-reds encounter Shaun Murphy has a 100% record against Andrew Higginson who could last be seen sporting a very Chuck Norrisesque beard in Galway. Shaun has been a bit quiet of late and not been tweeting to tell us if he’s got his head down on the baize or the golf course, perhaps a conscious decision to re-focus? The head to head itself suggests Andrew might not cope too well with Shaun for whatever reason and you have to go with the form book there. I have a rather funny story concerning Matthew Stevens and Rory McLeod but I’m not going to spill the beans on here, Matthew also has a 100% record against The Dentist who came through the wildcard round easily enough. Stevens is playing a lot better lately and I fancy him to come through that one. Finally, Ali Carter takes on the wildcard that dumped out the luckless Jamie Cope, I have heard some very good things about this kid but generally when they come up against a player of Ali’s ranking the gulf in class shows, I expect the same to happen here.

Predictions: Trump, Murphy, Stevens and Carter.

Recommended Bet: 3 point double on Murphy and Stevens pays almost Evens at Ladbrokes.  

Take a look at all the match prices over at blog partners Apollobet.     

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Betfair to Sponsor World Championship

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:03 pm
Is snooker too reliant on the bookies?

Is snooker too reliant on the bookies?

It’s now 26 days until the start of the World Championship and today the online bookmaking exchange Betfair has been unveiled by World Snooker Dictator, I mean Chairman Barry Hearn as this year’s sponsor.

While it’s good that we finally have a big name company backing the snooker’s blue riband event I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed by the news to be honest.

Betfair has been sponsoring the EPTC events this season and perhaps tellingly pulled out of sponsoring the Grand Finals in Galway to make way for another bookmaker the Asian firm Dafabet, no doubt with this bigger fish to fry in mind.

They have also sponsored The Masters, The German Masters and the Sky Shootout this season, so this news is hardly a rabbit out of the hat from our Baz.

It does kind of fly in the face of the great ones stated aim of making every tournament stand out on its own merits, though you could of course argue that the World Championship does this on its own anyway. Whoever the sponsor is, it won’t matter one little bit to the watching public when the players walk out on the opening Saturday and we’ll all just enjoy it as much as we always do.

There will be those who continue to bemoan the over-reliance on bookmakers that the sport, particularly in Europe currently has and compare this to the ultimately doomed tobacco-riddled sponsorship days of the 1980’s and 90’s, though in the 80’s in particular the sport was also attracting other sponsors from all sorts of sectors.

The anti-bookie brigade do have a valid point of course but it’s not through the want of looking for alternatives that Betfair are the sponsors of a major event again. The search continues for appropriate benefactors unrelated to the bookmaking sector and the plight of Bazza (who today joined Twitter) and company this season was highlighted very succinctly yesterday by Dave Hendon here, who makes some very interesting points about the snooker ‘brand’ and how this is currently in a state of confusion. From my own personal dealings I know that this is a concern to people at the very top of the sport.

Anyway, these days we probably need to be thankful for small mercies and at least there is a big name on board and the panic for now at least, is over, even if I would have preferred them to stick with Betfred personally.

My main concern is how the Crucible will look decked out in the yellow and black corporate colours and what colour will the carpet be? Will they bring the long overdue foliage back into the arena? Will spectators be issued with sunglasses to counter the golden glare that awaits them on this hallowed turf of snooker’s mecca? These are the questions I want answered and pronto. This is what really matters.

Bazza: Geezer

Bazza: Geezer and Tweeter

Here’s the official blurb from the bosses anyway….

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “The World Championship is one of the great sporting occasions. It’s a tournament which draws the attention of everyone who loves sport, who loves to see the most talented competitors do battle under the most intense and pressurised conditions.

“We are thrilled to welcome Betfair as title sponsor for the first time. They have shown tremendous support for our events this season and the exposure they have already gained for their brand on a worldwide scale has been phenomenal. The World Championship is guaranteed at least 120 hours of coverage from the BBC and a global audience of 360 million.

“It is building up to be the most fascinating Championship we’ve ever had, so anyone lucky enough to be inside the Crucible cauldron to see the action live should savour every moment. I hope the Betfair team enjoy the 17 days of sporting drama as much as I will.”

Betfair spokesman Barry Orr said: “We are delighted to be extending our partnership with World Snooker, and the opportunity to further increase our commitment to the sport through title sponsorship of this marquee event is an exciting prospect. The return of Ronnie O’Sullivan also means that the line-up is as strong as ever and the stage looks set for a thrilling first ever Betfair World Championship.”

The event will feature the top 16 seeds at the cut-off point after the China Open, which finishes on March 31, plus the 16 players who come through the qualifying rounds, which run from April 4 to 14 at the English Institute of Sport – Sheffield.

Tickets for selected sessions of the tournament are still available so BOOK NOW to secure your seats for the greatest snooker show on Earth. Call 0844 6565 147 or visit sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

March 24, 2013

China Open Day One

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:52 am

China_Open_Snooker_LogoIt’s the start of the China Open over in Beijing with the first day traditionally dominated by the wildcard round, with two first round matches also being played.

You can read my full preview for the tournament here and you can tune in to Eurosport all week to catch the action.

In terms of the matches on show Marco Fu faces Graeme Dott early doors and with Marco having been in action at Crondon Park as late as Thursday and having already been a player complaining of feeling the effects of the hectic travel schedule you wonder whether he’ll be able to cope with Graeme if he’s on song, Dotty will presumably be a little fresher than his opponent but Marco has been in the better form of the two recently without doubt.

In the first session wildcard matches you would not think that Anthony McGill will struggle to get through and his price reflects this but the other two matches could produce closer encounters. Jack Lisowski’s opponent beat Michael White at Wuxi and has run Rob Milkins to a decider too so he is no pushover, while Jimmy Robertson’s opponent has run Jamie Cope and Cao Yupeng to deciders and is more than capable of a win over a player of Jimmy’s ranking.

In the second session the main match is between Stephen Maguire and Michael Holt, two of the most demonstrative players in the game. The Hitman has been playing OK recently and is obviously capable of beating his higher ranked opponent but on balance you’d have to plump for Maguire.

In terms of the wildcard matches, Lu Ning has wins over Matt Selt and Barry Pinches to his name and has also run Ricky Walden and Ken Doherty close so the path for Liang Wenbo to progress is far from clear and if all-Chinese encounters at this stage in the past is anything to go by expect a decider. The amusingly named Hu Hao (Who How) has a win over Ryan Day on his CV but must try and cope with The Dentist, never an easy or particularly pleasant experience when Rory reaches for his instruments. Jamie Cope is another who will need to be on his mettle as he plays Zhao Xintong who seems to have replaced World Amateur Champion Muhammed Asif at a late stage. Xintong beat Andrew Higginson 5-1 in the World Open and Ken Doherty 6-5 in the International Championship before losing a decider to Mathew Stevens, any lapse in form from Cope will be pounced on by the wildcard you would think.

But as ever I wish the players who deserve to be playing the best of luck. Ban the wildcards.

Recommended Bet: 3x1point doubles and a 1 point treble Wang Yuchen (+2.5), Lu Ning (+2.5) and Zhao Xintong (+2.5) at Apollobet, the treble pays almost 9/2. 

6.30am GMT

Graeme Dott v Marco Fu
Anthony McGill v Heydari Nezhad Ehsan
Jimmy Robertson v Wang Yuchen
Jack Lisowski v Zhou Yuelong

11.30am GMT

Liang Wenbo v Lu Ning
Stephen Maguire v Michael Holt
Rory McLeod v Hu Hao
Jamie Cope v Zhao Xintong

Take a look at all the match prices over at blog partners Apollobet.     

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March 21, 2013

China Open Preview: Trump Can Regain Momentum

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:17 pm
Judd can sharpen up for the Crucible in Beijing.

Judd can sharpen up for the Crucible in Beijing.

Monday sees the start of the penultimate ranking event of the season as the players fly over to Beijing for China’s oldest though not now most financially lucrative tournament, the China Open. Defending champion and Beijing specialist Peter Ebdon is bidding for his third win in five years in this event. 

It’s a very important tournament this, not just in terms of who takes home the title and the £85,000 first prize but also in terms of jostling position for the World Championship. This is the final chance for players to improve their ranking before the final draw is done and for players like Ali Carter and Dark Mavis, their performances here may make the difference as to whether they will gain an automatic place at the Crucible or have to win a match to get there in the qualifiers.

Once the revision to the ranking list is done at the end of this tournament the draw for the World Qualifiers which start just four days later will be done. In other words, from Monday it is almost non-stop intense snooker all the way to the Crucible.

Of course the rankings expert is Matt at Pro Snooker Blog and he’s done his usual excellent piece on what this might mean to players involved in this here for anyone that thinks this will give some that extra bit of motivation to do well in this.

The prize money for this event is listed below:

Winner: £85,000
Runner-up: £35,000
Semi-finals: £20,000
Quarter-finals: £11,000
Last 16: £7,500
Last 32: £6,000
Last 48: £2,300
Last 64: £1,500
High TV break: £3,500
High non-TV break: £700

Oh and a 147 Break: A Bottle of Cherry Coke (small)

Total: £425,000 (plus the coke)

Eurosport will have their usual excellent extensive coverage and if you happen to live in the North Pole you will probably be able to watch it on the live streaming channel too. The draw for the China Open is here and the match schedule, including the bloody wildcard round thankfully I presume for the last time in this event, is here.

I’ll do the usual now and take a look at the draw quarter by quarter and select the outright bets, this has been extremely profitable of late and 5 from the last 7 main ranking event winners have been recommended at odds of 13/2, 7/1, 25/1, 12/1 and 14/1 taking the blog into record profits, so let’s hope we haven’t peaked too soon.

Any excuse....

Any excuse….

Quarter One (click on the match for the head to head)

Peter Ebdon v Marcus Campbell
Graeme Dott v Marco Fu
Mark Allen v Anthony McGill/Heydari Nezhad Ehsan
Neil Robertson v Jimmy Robertson/Wang Yuchen

Peter Ebdon’s run of late has been nothing short of hideous but since when has that made a difference? Twice in the last four seasons he has come here playing like a man with no eyes and twice he has walked off with the title, so can he do it again? If you are a believer in horses for courses and history repeating itself then you’ll be rushing to have a few quid on him. Personally, just like the other two times he won it I would be flabbergasted if he did it again particularly given the quarter he finds himself in as champion. All eyes are drawn to the bottom two matches in this quarter and surely a possible/probable match up between Mark Allen and Neil Robertson will decide the eventual semi-finalist from the ten players, Robbo must be wondering what he has to do to get back in the winners enclosure and you do wonder at what point his run of losing finals will start to get to a player that was so used to winning them. I think he will win the quarter but I don’t think he’ll be lifting the trophy despite the fact that one of his stated aims this season was to improve his form in China, which he has undoubtedly been doing. I’ll pass him by in this I think as I think his mind may be on bigger things and as a fan I hope that he’s just fooling us and will come out all guns blazing at the Crucible.

Predicted Quarter Winner: Neil Robertson (13/8 at Apollobet)

No Recommended Bet.

Quarter Two (click on the match for the head to head)

Stephen Maguire v Michael Holt
Ding Junhui v Barry Hawkins
Stuart Bingham v Liang Wenbo/Lu Ning
John Higgins v Robert Milkins

Can Ding win ever again in China? Is he bovvered? The Sheffield man looks totally at home these days in the UK which is great news for bluff old traditionalists like me who despise and resent the ongoing China bias in the calendar, what’s wrong with good old Blighty? What better way to restore normal order than for China’s greatest ever player to come out and say he likes the UK better than China and wants to change nationality? He’s even smiling more these days for gods sakes as he no doubt explores the glorious English countryside with his beloved Apple breathing in all the fresh air while dissing the slums from whence he came in the East, top man. Anyway, England’s own Ding John Way faces fellow Englishman Barry Hawkins first up who until very recently had one of the poorest records of any top player in China, in fact he still does. A potential meeting with Stephen Maguire or my new third best pal Holty awaits Ding so if he’s going to break his losing cycle over there he’ll have to do it the hard way. Regulars will know that I backed a fancy World Championship price about John Higgins back in August and unless he comes back to form it won’t look as big as it did back then and I’ll wonder why I bothered. He’s got no easy path either with Rob Milkins first up who’s been showing some decent form of late and then possibly Stuart Bingham who has proved he can beat anyone on his day and more than often recently does just that. For me last year’s runner-up Maguire is the value in this section, he’s been a bit quiet of late and this might be the event where he plays himself back into the Crucible reckoning.

Predicted Quarter Winner: Stephen Maguire

Recommended Bet: 2 points on Maguire to win the China Open at 16/1 with Apollobet.  

Quarter Three (click on the match for the head to head)

Judd Trump v Jack Lisowski/Zhou Yuelong
Dark Mavis v Dechawat Poomjaeng/Zhu Yinghui
Matthew Stevens v Rory McLeod/Hu Hao
Shaun Murphy v Andrew Higginson

Judd Trump was busy doing a photoshoot with Loaded lads mag this week and was pictured with a couple of scantilly-clad dolly birds with hardly a stitch on and possibly even less furnishings between the ears, hardly ideal preparation for a ranking event you would have thought and Mrs SB was very upset about it. In fact, the whole thing caused a bit of a Twitter debate and even led to a very rare serious post from this bloke on his blog here called ‘Tits’, my opinion is that it’s just lazy marketing and that his manager needs to up his game with his prize possession now Ronnie has flown the nest. Anyway, Judders faces a possible snooker pinball match against his ‘boi’ (I believe that is the lingo these days) Jack Lisowski, attention as they say, all pockets. I think this match might help Judd focus and Jack is on record as saying that his pal is the ultimate professional when he plays him and all thoughts of friendship are left behind. Judd has a fairly decent draw to the quarters in my view and may just kick on from there. Matthew Stevens form is at last improving and it would be no surprise to see him meet Judd in the Quarter Final even though he has The Dentist up first and then a possible match up with Andrew Higginson or Shaun Murphy who is another that has gone a little quiet lately. I think the naughtiest player ever to grace the modern game could go close this week and he’s my main pick to rediscover his form and lift the trophy.

Predicted Quarter Winner: Judd Trump

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Trump to win the China Open at 13/2 with Apollobet.

Was a bit grumpy in Galway

Ali was a bit grumpy in Galway

Quarter Four (click on the match for the head to head)

Mark Williams v Lu Haotian (w/o Mark Joyce – withdrawn)
Ali Carter v Jamie Cope/Zhao Xintong (replaces Muhammad Asif)
Ricky Walden v Ken Doherty
Mark Selby v Mark King

Another wide open section at the bottom of the draw and after Ali Carter’s bad tempered display in the PTC Grand Finals he’ll be looking to cement his Crucible slot with a run in this. Assuming he can win his first two matches my guess is he’ll be lining up in Sheffield without the need to qualify, possibly seeded to meet Ronnie in the second round which is quite a prospect. He’ll have to get past both Jamie Cope and possibly MJW to do so though and despite the relatively poor form from Williams of late he’s bound to come back into some kind of groove soon in my opinion as I believe a lot the challenges he faces are possibly in his mind rather than his game. I reckon if Ali is fired up, which he should be here he remains one of the most under-rated players on the circuit and he might take advantage of the form of those around him, but don’t discount Mark Joyce either, he’s playing well lately and could just cause a first round shock assuming he gets past Chinese paperboy Lu Haotian which is no certainty. In the bottom section Mark Selby and Mark King have had some scraps down the years and King won’t go into this fearing his opponent. Interestingly Selby has revealed a split from his manager Mukesh Parmar in his latest blog where he also reveals he likes bingo and that he won £78 to add to the £250,000 plus that he’s picked up in prize money recently. Well, they do say money goes to money don’t they? I’d marginally fancy Selby to come out of that foursome but King is capable of an upset and he usually plays his best in China so a sneaky quarter bet may be the order of the day on him at a price, like Robertson something is telling me that Selby’s focus may be elsewhere. Only one solid bet for me in this section and that’s The Captain, I’ll also take some of the fancy outright price too. EDIT – Mark Joyce has withdrawn from the event as his Mrs has just had a sprog.

Predicted Quarter Winner: Ali Carter

Recommended Bet: 2 points on Carter to win the Quarter at 9/2 with Apollobet and 1 point on King at 16/1. 2 points on Carter to win the China Open at 25/1 with Apollobet.     

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