April 12, 2013

World Championship Final Qualifying Round

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:43 pm
It's desperate isn't it?

It’s desperate isn’t it?

We are nearly there. One of the best weekends of the snooker season as 16 winners and 16 losers await their fate and the chance to be included in the biggest event of them all at the Crucible. This is the fourth and final Qualifying Round for the World Snooker Championship 2013.


It’s been a brilliant week of snooker so far and so good in fact that for me this is probably in the top three events of the season, behind the main event itself and the Masters. I would place it ahead of the UK Championship now that the matches have been shortened with my own soft spot event the German Masters in fifth place simply for the crowd, venue, city and incredible atmosphere. This I would place marginally ahead of the best Chinese event The International Championship.


There are three players still in the mix who have been here all week; Dechawat Poomjaeng, Liam Highfield and Sam Baird being this trio, Sam and Liam coming through tense deciders in both Round 2 and Round 3. The tension was clear in Round 3 and the number of close finishes is understandable, this is a huge deal for these players and now they are all within touching distance of a place in the draw on Monday and a chance to walk out to a packed crowd at the Crucible to play a top player.

If you fancy it being another tense weekend with plenty of deciders or you think that there won’t be any, there is a bet for you in the top market on this page.

Jimmy White is flying the flag for the oldies, unlikely wins against two Chinese opponents have seen him through to play Rob Milkins and I am sure that one will draw a crowd. We lost Tony Drago but what a match that was against Dave Gilbert, it might not have screamed quality, but it had everything, including a referee who forgot to turn his microphone off in time and turned the airwaves blue with his colourful language (watch from around the 5.00 point).

The daft fucker.

Alfie Burden came through a gruelling encounter with Dave Harold and my old pal Rod Lawler survived a great comeback by Anthony McGill to also win a decider and set up a date with Martin Gould, continuing his frankly incredible season.

Mark Joyce played very solidly in the safety department to come through against Joe Swail who gave it his best shot after qualifying from the members rounds which now seem like weeks ago. Alan McManus continued his decent run of form in knocking out fellow oldie Nigel Bond and young trio Jack Lisowski, Ben Woollaston and Michael White all came through too and will be hoping to make their Crucible debuts this time around.

Matt Selt came through with a hard fought win over Thanawat and there are still two Chinese players left in the mix in the shape of Liang Wenbo, who for me looks very dangerous at the moment and now faces the highest seed in this round Dark Mavis, the surprise package Yu Delu has been knocking in centuries for fun including the highest of the week of 140 pipping Selt’s 138 to the top of the leaderboard.

It’s now all set up for a fascinating and extremely tense weekend and it’s brilliant that we are all able to watch it and see for ourselves just how much this means to the players. The final weekend has a real experience versus youth feel to it and it will be interesting to see which, if either come out on top.

Bettingwise we are nicely in front, the longer matches are a welcome relief from the lottery of best of sevens which now seem to take up far too much of the season in my opinion. If I could show Bazza and company the figures for this blog when the tournaments with the longer matches are on (by that I mean best of 11 plus) compared to the ones which are more quickfire, I think it would prove conclusively what the snooker audiences and snooker punters prefer. After all, it’s not always just about pleasing the lowest or widest common denominator, you have to look after your core market too even if we are all bluff old traditionalists who would like to see two day finals the norm.

So, here we go for the weekend match ups, I’d like to wish all the players the best of luck, as ever this is written from a betting perspective rather than a personal one. I know who I would like to see at the Crucible, but that doesn’t mean I think we will.

In the words of the late Jack Karnehm and directed at all the 32 involved, I will simply say ‘Good Luck Mate’.

Let battle commence….

Click on the matches for head to head statistics, where there is no link the players are meeting for the first time.

Saturday 13th April 10am starts (conclude at 7.30pm)

Ryan Day v Ben Woollaston   

Andrew Higginson v Michael White  

Fergal O’Brien v Jack Lisowski

Jamie Cope v Dechawat Poomjaeng

Michael Holt v Mark Joyce   

Marco Fu v Dave Gilbert

It's time for Jack to strike.

It’s time for Jack to strike.

Ben Woollaston is one of the most improved players of the season and he won his first match in a canter with six 50 plus breaks, he faces a player who I think is the toughest draw of the round in Ryan Day, a quarter-finalist at the Crucible last year, arguably an underachiever but usually very reliable in qualifiers. All that said, he I am sure would rather be playing someone else too, it could be tight but I will side with the experience of Day though Ben would be a nice addition to the Crucible and a handful for any seed. Another big improver is Michael White from Wales and two tons and five more half centuries saw him beat Zhang Anda last round. There is no doubt that this boy has the talent, but does he have the bottle to win tomorrow? He faces Andrew Higginson who beat Stephen Lee (remember him?) at the Crucible last year, I think that’s a tough one to call and they are both capable of reeling off frames in no time at all, I have a sneaking feeling White’s time may have arrived and a good start may see him right. I’d make Jack Lisowski the bet of this session, one century and seven half centuries saw him breeze past the not insignificant challenge of James Wattana and it would be great to see him at the Crucible, I just hope he doesn’t draw Judd and we can see what a player he is in his own right. He has been hammering the practice at the SWSA by all accounts and seems ready for the challenge of The Ferginator, tough as teeth and ready to spoil the party. Jamie Cope needs a win tomorrow, he really does. His confidence must be shot to pieces at the moment, his latest loss coming in the wildcard round in the China Open, one of the rare tournaments he qualified for this season. Dechawat Poomjaeng bids to become the sole Thai representative at the Crucible and brushed aside Anthony Hamilton in the last round though I have heard that The Sheriff may have been suffering with a bad neck which affected his preparation, but that takes nothing away from Poomy who had previously won a decider against Liu Chuang and a first rounder against Michael Leslie, that said, Cope does have one of the better draws here so will be disappointed not to return to the Crucible, but he himself has problems which affect his game sometimes and I don’t know if this is still a factor in his poor form. Mark Joyce’s safety play against Joe Swail was magnificent and won him that match and perhaps the extra motivation of a new baby will play a part in his match with Micheal Holt, we have seen this kind of thing inspire new fathers before to win more and stay away from home for as long as possible to avoid the bawling sprog. But Holt is the better player of the two without any doubt, he’s in good form, as vocal as ever and I expect him to be in the draw on Monday assuming his head is screwed on correctly. Finally, a match that could be a real belter, Marco Fu has come right back to form late in the season and I know is a lot of people’s idea of a live outsider come Crucible time, indeed I would class him as a player that Ronnie would want to avoid at all costs in the first round as it could be a very quick hello/goodbye if he draws Marco. But Dave Gilbert is no pushover, he proved again against Drago that he has the nerve, he definitely has the game and I think he’s great to watch. My guess is that this one could be one of the ties of the round. Gun to head, I’d marginally plump for Marco.

Selections: Day, White, Lisowski, Cope, Holt, Fu.

Number of deciders: 2.

Saturday 13th April 2.30pm starts (conclude at 2.30pm Sunday 14th April)

Ken Doherty v Matt Selt    

Tom Ford v Alan McManus  

Martin Gould v Rod Lawler   

Mark Davis v Liang Wenbo

Liang: Heavy Scoring in Round 3.

Liang: Heavy Scoring in Round 3.

Former Champion and BBC Pundit Ken Doherty will be hoping to swap his regulation V-Neck Jumper for a waistcoat at the Crucible and faces Matt Selt for the first time to return to the Crucible once more. Matt had a tussle with Thanawat last round but held his nerve to come through a tight one and I am sure he will fancy his chances against a player with his best years behind him. But Ken is still craftier than a fox in a needlework class listening to Kraftwerk and I just fancy it will be him that makes a heroic return to the scene of his greatest triumph, but again I think it could be tight and not as clean cut for Ken as I predicted originally. Alan McManus is enjoying a resurgence of sorts in his results and beat his opponent here Tom Ford 5-3 in December so won’t be short on confidence on that front. Now then, Angles by definition isn’t known for his heavy scoring but eight half-centuries against Nigel Bond and a late night battle with Aditya Mehta coupled with his recent results make him a big danger to Ford, who I have to say I had earmarked as a decent prospect to qualify, his recent semi-final appearance in the PTC Grand Finals losing to Neil Robertson will have filled him with belief and I do still think he will have a bit too much on the scoring front for Alan, he will need to boss the game from early on though you feel. Next up is Rod, who takes on Martin Gould for a place at the Crucible. My fellow Liverpudlian Rod has had a brilliant season regardless of the result here and as much as I like Gould, Rod’s a pal and therefore I will be rooting for him, do I think he will win? No probably not, but he will give it his all as always #inrodwetrust. Finally, Mavis, the unluckiest man in snooker when it comes to rankings faces typically what I consider to be one of the toughest draws he could possibly have, a Liang Wenbo who is in form. A demolition job on the in-form Jimmy Robertson which included a century and a further 9 half centuries is some going and if he plays like that again he will be very hard for anyone to beat. I have one of my ‘feelings’ again (no not that one), it’s not scientific but I think Liang will win and probably win quite easily making Mavis wonder what he has to do to get to the Crucible as of right this season while throwing darts at a picture of Ronnie. As I say, it’s not scientific but Liang is in really good shape and he tends to be a player that gets on a roll, his price is a bit skinny, but a winner is a winner and you can’t spend value.

Selections: Doherty, Ford, Gould, Liang.

Number of Deciders: 0

Sunday 14th April 10am starts (conclude at 7.30pm)

Mark King v Yu Delu   

Marcus Campbell v Liam Highfield   

Joe Perry v Sam Baird   

Dominic Dale v Alfie Burden 

Peter Ebdon v Kurt Maflin   

Robert Milkins v Jimmy White

I love this picture.

I love this picture.

China’s Yu Delu has been something of a revelation this week, his break making has been tremendous, he has beaten two players that many didn’t expect him to in Ian Burns and Jamie Burnett and he is now up against the experienced Mark King for a place at the Crucible. Bald Eagle King is still a fine player, you see him around venues and it is clear he still loves the game as he did when he was a kid, he is one of the few players that stick around to watch sometimes and he will be desperate to get to the venue again and mix it up a bit. I think he will put an end to Yu’s challenge as I think he is the type of player that can play the player, which is sometimes what you have to do, he is very good at that. Marcus Campbell and Liam Highfield is one that I can’t call and I am actually very surprised that Marcus is such a heavy favourite given Highfield’s exploits this week and his recent form. He seems like a player that has discovered some focus to his game, his tweets talk of his dedication as if he wants people to know that he’s putting the hours in (though he could do without the pictures in fairness). This approach is definitely paying off lately and if this match were decided on confidence Highfield would win hands down. Actually, I do think this might be to some the shock of the round, but not necessarily to seasoned snooker watchers, Liam is worth a bet. Sam Baird is a player I find almost impossible to judge, either brilliant or careless, rarely an in between, he wins in spurts and loses the same way for often longer periods. His comeback win over Rory will give him the confidence he needs to take on pink stablemate Joe Perry. Joe himself had a decent start to the season before hitting a bad patch but he now seems to be getting things back on track. I don’t mean this to sound mean (yeah right) but I do think he struggles when things go close, which this might, but you have to fancy him to win given his experience, in many ways this match again illustrates the young v older dimension to this final weekend, which will prevail? Then comes Dom Dale, still ploughing his trade after all these years and still as wacky/spacey/weird as ever with an unfathomably large female following (I’m a man, I just don’t get it). Alfie Burden stands between him and a place at the Crucible and this is one of the matches that I alluded to in the introduction where I can’t let the heart rule the head (there is another one to come….) and I will stick with my original conclusion that Dom will win through, sorry AB. Peter Ebdon, Peter Ebdon….Peter Ebdon…a mystery, wrapped in a riddle and surrounded by a countdown conundrum with bells on. Has there ever been a player as unpredictable as him? He has been bloody awful now for months, he’s been chopping and changing his stick but by all accounts has refocused for this by practising/picking balls out with/for Ronnie. Kurt Maflin on the other hand was simply superb at times against Steve Davis and a repeat performance will surely see him come through in a canter, but since when has logic had any effect on Ebbo? He might be shouting ‘Vegan Power’ (as you do) in the Badminton Hall on Sunday night while everyone else is watching….Jimmy White…..Can he do it? Can he make the Crucible? Can he? Can he? Poor old Mill Hopkins has been cast as very much the villain of the piece here and it’s a no win for him in some people’s eyes, but that would presume he’s at all bothered. I’m sure he’s as up for this as any other match and truth be told it is one of the best draws he could have hoped for. For all my lifelong love affair with Jimmy, our shared triumphs and tears albeit one-sided, this has to be an impossible dream. Doesn’t it?

Predicted Winners: King, Highfield, Perry, Dale, Maflin, Milkins.

Number of Deciders: 2.

Recommended Bets: 2 points on each at best price: Michael White (11/8 Apollobet), Liang Wenbo (Evens Sportingbet), Kurt Maflin (20/21 Boylesports) and Liam Highfield (15/8 Sportingbet).

Apollobet have a few specials up here and given that the last two rounds have both included four deciders it might be worth having a punt on the two bets below, the second in case it gets super-twitchy.

Recommended Bets: Apollobet Specials: 2 points on there being 4 or 5 deciders at 4/1. 1 point on there being 6 or more at 20/1. Back them here

Previously Recommended:  3 points on the Special Acca: Dale, Doherty and Lisowski at 10/3 and 2 points on the Special Acca Day, Milkins, Gould, Fu and Lisowski at 13/2 at Skybet (these are no longer available)   

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