Snookerbacker

September 30, 2013

International Championship Qualifiers Preview: From Barnsley to Chengdu in One Match

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:24 pm

Barnsley.

This week sees the International Championship qualifiers take place at the Barnsley Metrodome starting on Tuesday with the first 32 matches and ending on Wednesday with the other 32. Each player winning their match guaranteed prize money of £3000 and a trip to China.

It was a new event on the calendar last season and I have to say that it was one of my favourites. Why I hear you ask? Well, simply because it has longer matches, with best of 11 framers right from this stage up to the semi-finals which are both blissful two session best of 17 affairs followed by a final of the best of 19.

This is a welcome break from Bazza’s favoured quickfire best of 7 fodder and also a preferred format for someone that likes a bet on matches, 11 frames arguably proving a truer test of who is the better player than perhaps 7 ever can.

It was won last year by Judd Trump, who obviously heard that there was record prize money for a Chinese event beforehand, ever the magpie it was Judd who flew over and nabbed all the gold in what was to prove his one and only tournament win of the season, beating Neil Robertson 10-8 in the final.

But before the baize boys get to strut their stuff on the red carpets of Chengdu they must first go to Barnsley to qualify, that has been made perfectly clear to them all in the contract. Once again World Snooker have managed to deliver a venue at the heart of a bustling cosmopolitan mecca, with the new addition of Doncaster having already delivered tropical like temperatures (and that was just inside the arena). One can only imagine the disappointed towns and cities across the UK that just missed out on hosting this event, Oldham, Birkenhead, South Shields, Brixton and Burnley must all wait to fight another day having surely been shortlisted.

I’m probably doing Barnsley a huge disservice here, having only passed through there vowing never to return again in my life just the once. I’m sure residents will defend it with honour and I pride myself on always giving a balanced view on this blog, so if you click here you will be able to read a local’s personal, heartfelt, eloquent and moving portrail of his hometown.

Anyway, on the plus side World Snooker has announced that entry for spectators at the Metrodome is FREE and there’s no need to book, you just need to turn up on the day. On the minus side you don’t get your expenses reimbursed or your personal injury insurance cover.

Now let’s have a look at the prize money, the betting and the matches and see if there is anything to take our fancy.

Prize Money

Winner: £125,000
Runner-up: £65,000
Semi-finals: £30,000
Quarter-finals: £17,500
Last 16: £12,000
Last 32: £7,000
Last 64: £3,000
Last 128: BuggerAll

You can check out the match prices for these at Apollobet by clicking here.

For full head to head records enter the names of the two players concerned into this handy tool courtesy of the excellent Cuetracker.  

9.30am

Alan McManus v Darren Cook
Ben Woollaston v Lee Spick
Fergal O’Brien v David Grace
Rod Lawler v Ian Burns
Ricky Walden v Aditya Mehta
Mark Allen v Chen Zhe
Dave Harold v Sam Baird
Dominic Dale v Pankaj Advani
Joe Perry v Tony Drago
Jamie Jones v Andrew Pagett
David Gilbert v Sean O’Sullivan

Of the market favourites in this first session I would have to say that the ones that it would be the biggest surprise to see lose would be Alan McManus, Ben Woollaston, Mark Allen and Dave Gilbert so I would say that an opening acca on those four to try and sure up the coffers is probably the order of the day at just over 11/8 with Apollobet. There are however a few other matches that could upset the odds, the Indian duo of Mehta and Advani are both capable of overturning their higher ranked opponents but I’d say Pankaj is the most likely of the two to do so, I’d probably side with Ian Burns to get his season going with a win over Rod Lawler in what could be a long one and likewise predict wins for Jamie Jones, Joe Perry and Fergal O’Brien. It’s interesting that the experienced but short on matches Dave Harold is odds against in some places against Sam Baird, unless there is something really amiss with Big Dave, I’d say he should really be starting favourite for that one so that would be my only other bet of this session.

Recommended Bets: 3 point acca McManus, Woollaston, Allen and Gilbert pays just over 11/8 at Apollobet. 2 points on Dave Harold at 11/10 with Sportingbet. 

Barnsley has modern traffic lights in some areas.

Barnsley has modern traffic lights in some areas.

2.30pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Joel Walker
Barry Hawkins v Rhys Clark
Jimmy White v Liam Highfield
Steve Davis v Allan Taylor
Michael Holt v Craig Steadman
Alfie Burden v Daniel Wells
Adam Duffy v Michael Wasley
Marco Fu v Robbie Williams
Stuart Bingham v Ratchayothin Yotharuck
Martin Gould v Fraser Patrick
Mark King v Lu Haotian

This session sees World Champion Ronnie surely cruise through to Chengdu. His opponent Joel Walker has shown promise in glimpses in the past but only a lacklustre, going through the motions performance by The Rocket will give Joel a chance here, my feeling is that O’Sullivan is increasingly giving it 100% every time he plays now that the tour is basically tailor made for him. Other favourites you would expect to progress are Barry Hawkins, Michael Holt, Marco Fu and Stuart Bingham (all at restrictive odds) but in the others I think you can make a strong case either way. I’d take Liam Highfield to edge out Jimmy White and would marginally side with Alfie Burden and Martin Gould in their matches. It’s a huge test for The Assassin Allan Taylor in his live streamed encounter with The Nugget and I’ll just watch that I think, the two outsiders I could see winning are Michael Wasley and young Chinese Lu Haotian.

Recommended Bets: 4 x 2 point singles and a 1 point acca on Burden (4/7 Bet Victor), Highfield (5/6 Stan James), Wasley (6/5 Stan James) and Haotian (2/1 Stan James). Further 2 points on Wasley at 6/5. Acca pays over 16/1 at Stan James.   

7.30pm

Shaun Murphy v Christopher Keogan
Peter Lines v Hammad Miah
Jamie Burnett v Mohamed Khairy
Gerard Greene v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Marcus Campbell v Zhang Anda
Peter Ebdon v Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon
Jack Lisowski v Vinnie Calabrese
Dechawat Poomjaeng v Joe Swail
Tom Ford v Gary Wilson
Nigel Bond v Oliver Brown

A far tougher session than the previous two this one and I’d say this is the one where we will see the most upsets. The only three favourites I would say will come through barring a shock would be Shaun Murphy, Jamie Burnett and Jack Lisowski. After that, I don’t think any result would surprise me too much. Hammad Miah has shown himself to be capable enough but you would think the experience and current form of Peter Lines would be too much for him at this stage in his career, Gerard Greene was in the form of his life recently in Germany and a repeat of that will see him through against Un-Nooh, but any lapse and Greene will surely be beaten by the improving Thai player. Marcus Campbell has had a mediocre start to the season and could find Zhang Anda tough going but you’d imagine that fellow seasoned tour pro Nigel Bond will be sharp enough to cope with Oliver Brown who would be looking for his biggest ever and first professional scalp. I noticed that Peter Ebdon had a recent feature about this tournament on World Snooker which to me had some similarities with his bizarre public announcement a couple of season’s ago that he wasn’t playing very well, this might be because he faces Thanawat and he may feel he needs to explain away poor form in advance for reasons best known to him so this says to me that TT will probably win. Ebbo is hardly setting the world on fire at the moment and the only thing on fire in Thanawat’s world lately has been his house. I notice a few firms have decided not to price this one up. The two interesting betting propositions in this session for me are Joe Swail and Gary Wilson, Swail is battling personified and will I’m sure be desperate to get on the plane to China and Wilson, despite a tough opponent in Tom Ford is in fine form at this stage of the season and is worth sticking with until that stops.

Recommended Bets: 3 x 2 point singles and a 1 point treble on Thanawat (11/10 Corals), Swail (5/4 Stan James) and Gary Wilson (6/5 Stan James). Treble pays almost 9/1 at Corals. 

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Wednesday 2nd of October

9.30am

Mark Selby v Martin O’Donnell
Ali Carter v Barry Pinches
James Wattana v Jamie O’Neill
Stephen Maguire v David Morris
Michael White v Alex Borg
Anthony Hamilton v Paul Davison
Kurt Maflin v Luca Brecel
Jimmy Robertson v Michael Leslie
Ken Doherty v Stuart Carrington
Andrew Higginson v Li Yan
Anthony McGill v Ross Muir

Again, it’s helpful to start with the favourites that you would expect to come through barring shocks and I’d say you would have to side with Ali Carter as your banker of the day along with Michael White, Jimmy Robertson and Anthony McGill, I think that would be my morning acca in this session as for me on paper they should all win with a bit in hand. My glaring omission for some will be the exclusion of Mark Selby from that list and some may accuse me of donning the old rose tinted spectacles as he’s up against the original Snookerbacker Classic Champ Martin O’Donnell, but I genuinely think that The MO’D is finding his feet and he only lost in a decider to Selby in Germany recently, it’s a big ask to win of course against as tough a match player as Mark but there’s no value sticking Selby in an acca at 1/6 best price. I’d give every other outsider in this group of matches a chance to be honest, particularly Paul Davison who is a huge price against Anthony Hamilton in a match which for me could go either way. The Luca Brecel/Kurt Maflin match shouldn’t last too long and you do feel that young Luca needs to start making the venues soon after a great season two cycles back, he’s not really kicked on and you’d have to fancy Maflin there. Andrew Higginson is struggling at the moment and his opponent Li Yan is capable enough and could be a bit of value if Andrew has an off-day. David Morris is another that could well pull off a giant killing act and I reckon a small interest on him to beat Maguire should be considered, on balance in the other two matches not mentioned I’d plump for the experience of Ken Doherty and James Wattana, but for me it’s an acca and a couple of singles in this session.

Recommended Bets: 3 point acca on Carter, White, Robertson and McGill pays just under 7/4 at Ladbrokes. 3×1 point singles on Li Yan (2/1 Stan James), David Morris (12/5 Sportingbet) and Paul Davison (11/4 Bet 365)    

A nice view of some closed down shops in Barnsley

A nice view of some closed down shops in Barnsley

2.30pm

Neil Robertson v Li Hang
Mike Dunn v Scott Donaldson
Ryan Day v Chris Wakelin
Tian Pengfei v Alexander Ursenbacher
Xiao Guodong v Jak Jones
Liu Chuang v Robin Hull
Matthew Selt v Chris Norbury
Yu De Lu v Alex Davies
Matthew Stevens v Mitchell Travis
Cao Yupeng v James Cahill
Ding Junhui v Shane Castle

The favorites expected to progress in this crop would be World Number 1 Neil Robertson, Tian Pengfei, Xiao Guodong, Cao Yupeng and Ding Junhui, giving the afternoon acca a distinctly eastern feel. I’d tentatively add Liu Chuang to it to enhance it, but with a note of caution that if his opponent, Finland’s Robin Hull brings his A game he can really compete at this level. Matthew Stevens is not having a great start to the season but he would be disappointed to lose to Mitchell Travis who, whilst having taken professional scalps would have to have his best result to win here. Ryan Day faces dark horse Chris Wakelin and Ryan, very like Andrew Higginson in the morning session is getting quite hardto predict bringing either his best or worst to the table at the flick of a switch lately, but you would expect him to win that one. Scott Donaldson has started the season very well indeed and at a shade under Evens might still be a bit of value against Mike Dunn, Alex Davies is very capable but I think I’d still marginally side with Yu De Lu in that one, the Chinese having won a recent meeting between the two. Finally, everyone’s favourite pro snooker blogger Matt Selt is up against Chris Norbury, while Matt is very short oddswise to win, you’d think he probably will but there isn’t any value in that one really.

Recommended Bets: 2 point acca Robertson, Yupeng, Guodong, Pengfei and Ding pays 6/4 at Apollobet. Add Chuang for a point acca pays over 5/2 with the same firm. 2 points on Donaldson at 4/5 with Apollobet.  

7.30pm

Judd Trump v Cao Xin Long
Mark Joyce v Andrew Norman
John Higgins v John Astley
Rory McLeod v Darryl Hill
Jamie Cope v Kyren Wilson
Graeme Dott v Elliot Slessor
Mark Williams v Ahmed Saif
Robert Milkins v Noppon Saengkham
Dark Mavis v Lee Page
Liang Wenbo v Ryan Clark

The final session is dominated by short priced favourites and it’s hard to make a case for some of the opponents that they face it has to be said. I don’t know much about Judd’s opponent but he does count Mike Dunn, Dom Dale and Ding Junhui amongst his scalps in minor events, he loses more than he wins though so you suspect that Judd will be OK despite being a little out of form lately. Of the short priced favourites I expect Rory McLeod, Mark Williams, Rob Milkins, Dark Mavis and Liang Wenbo to come through unscathed so a maximum bet fivefold is recommended, but there might be a couple of uneasy ones elsewhere. John Astley is no slouch and John Higgins is another that isn’t looking the force of old lately, I suspect he’ll win but it might not be as easy as the 1/8 best odds suggest. Elliot Slessor is well known to readers of the blog from his SB Classic exploits and he’s a player that has improved in leaps and bounds in a couple of short years, he’s seemingly unphased by the pressure and I expect him to give Graeme Dott a game, he’s worth a small wager at the odds. I also fancy last year’s SB Classic runner-up Kyren Wilson to continue his great recent run with a win over Jamie Cope, who isn’t the player of old. Finally, my mate Andrew Norman, the hardest working man in snooker bar none faces Mark Joyce, Joyce is one of those players that seems to be thriving on the plethora of tournaments on offer and is posting some very decent results, just on that basis, I’d have to side with him in that one.

Recommended Bet: 5 point acca on McLeod, Mavis, Williams, Wenbo and Milkins pays 5/4 at Apollobet. 2 point double on Wilson and Joyce pays almost 13/8 at Sportingbet. 1 point on Slessor at 3/1 with Stan James. 0.5 points on Astley at 6/1 with Corals.

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Snookerbacker Classic 2014 Gloucester Opening Weekend Review

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:15 pm
First Qualifier Ben 'Man in Black' Harrison

First Qualifier Ben ‘Man in Black’ Harrison

Mrs Snookerbacker and I have just returned to Liverpool following a cracking opening weekend of snooker in Gloucester to mark the start of this season’s third Snookerbacker Classic as we begin the search for our next champion. 

The first weekend saw one quarter of the Grand Final places filled as four qualifiers made it at the first time of asking, Ben Harrison and Kishan Hirani coming through on Saturday and two finalists from last season Adam Wicheard and Jamie Clarke making it through on Sunday.

We eventually arrived on Friday into Gloucester after horrendous traffic and I headed straight for the South West Snooker Academy to set up while Mrs SB caught up on some beauty sleep. I had arranged to meet Craig Scotford aka The Wizard of Glos for a game after setting up, having foolishly relied on him to book the table for 4pm as planned.

It turned out that he’d booked it for 7.30pm instead despite assuring me it was booked at the correct time, luckily his utter carelessness didn’t matter too much as we got a table anyway and my glorious return to the baize continued with an emphatic 5-2 victory over the hapless Gloucester man. It was my first ever game on a Star table, these boys and girls don’t know they are born, the shite I used to have to play on when I was trying to make my way in the game I’ll tell yer.

Anyway, Saturday came around as quick as a flash after a relatively early night was had on Friday and the now famous silver (antique) cake stand was erected by the fair hand of Mrs SB who had been busy making chocolate cornflake cakes all week, it’s fair to say that these once more proved popular with the hungry potters and their guests, as well as Terry Griffiths who helped himself to more than one on Sunday and seemed very taken with the delightful first lady of the baize.

Indeed, on Saturday in particular it had a really vibrant bustling feel to it at the Academy, it’s really nice that the players are bringing guests with them and the Clan Jones (Hannah, Mark and co.) as ever added to the cheery feel around the venue. Cider man Scotford also rolled in to provide the unwitting entertainment value.

We caught word early on that one of the favourites for the weekend Shane Castle had forgotten about the event and was not turning up so a long wait was in store for Darren Bond, who thankfully this season had remembered to bring his shoes with him.

There were a number of new faces involved this time, young Aaron Cook from Gloucester was one of the first to arrive and keen as mustard, he’s just been handed an ambassador role for World Snooker’s Functional Snooker project and is very proud of this and is working to help others while improving in leaps and bounds himself.

Other new faces included Tom ‘Discount’ Davie, Terry Challenger and a crop of youngsters in Kieran Dwyer, Adam Bobat, Ashley Hugill (whose name I kept pronouncing wrong, sorry about that), Kurtis Weaver, London’s Andrew Scott and Tyler Rees from Wales. It’s really nice that the juniors are now seeing the Classic as an event in which they can gain valuable match experience at top venues.

Kishan Hirani is through to his first Grand Finals

Kishan Hirani is through to his first Grand Finals

On the table, the eye-catching match of Round 1 between Jamie Clarke and Syd Wilson ended in a 4-1 victory for the Welshmen, little did they suspect that almost 36 hours later they would be contesting a final qualifying round, the last match of the weekend.

As Mark Jones held court seemingly oblivious to the fact that his long suffering wife Theresa was trying to get their car fixed outside and Reanne Evans’s daughter Lauren played with some balloons that had been bought for Phil O’Kane’s birthday in the players area while her mum flicked me the ‘V’ sign more than once, news began to reach me of an altercation in one of the downstairs matches, descriptions ranged from ‘World War Three’ to ‘Handbags at Dawn’ and it did at one point threaten to put a bit of a dampener on the day, but thankfully the incident passed and there were no further such occurences all weekend. I’m glad to say that 99.9% of the weekend was played in the true spirit of the SB Classic and the feedback from the players has been as positive as ever which is always very nice to hear.

As Saturday wore on a great match took place between Ben Harrison and Zak Surety with one visit frames being the order of the day and Ben eventually coming through 4-2. Ben was clearly intent on making Grand Finals Day for the first time in three seasons having come so close in the past and he was to be the first person to do so with an impressive run dropping just one further frame in beating Phil O’Kane and Kurtis Weaver to book his place back at the SWSA on March 1st.

The bottom half was a little slower having had more deciders and it took a further four hours for this to be completed. Despite the delays the final between Kishan Hirani and Mike Rogers from Hastings was a very entertaining match and very high quality, with Kishan eventually running out a 4-2 winner just as the clock struck 10.15pm; our latest ever finish to a qualifying event. Kishan is a Grand Finals debutant and was all smiles afterwards despite being obviously very tired having had to wait for other matches, as had his opponent.

WICHEARD AND CLARKE ARE SUNDAY BEST

Sunday found us relocated to the downstairs area of the SWSA as a function was being set up in the usual holding area upstairs. Despite this, the cakes again took centre stage and players milled around taking advantage of the free teas and coffees and the goodies that had been supplied by John Parrott Cuesports for them on arrival.

Matt Lancaster and Jack Bradford replaced the two Saturday winners who despite being through already decided to come along anyway to support their mates and generally hang out. Harrison in particular was uncharacteristically dishevelled having celebrated his qualification in Gloucester the previous night and being in need of a large bacon butty. But Ben being Ben of course, it mattered not a jot and he still looked ruggedly handsome, the swine.

Adam Wicheard reaches his second consecutive Grand Finals Day.

Adam Wicheard reaches his second consecutive Grand Finals Day.

Jack Bradford came along with his girlfriend Sophie, a right little cracker who made good on her promise to give Mrs SB some gel nails (whatever they are), Harrison and Yorkshireman Damian Wilks looked on, no doubt tempted to get involved in a bit of manicure action themselves but both ultimately bottling it keeping their manliness in tact. In the meantime I was frequently on ‘Phil O’Kane Hunt’ trying to locate the errant potter around the building when it was time for him to get his cue out, I’m going to bring a lead with me next time with his name on it.

On the table Andy Marriott hit what was to be the highest break of the weekend, an 89, which surely will not stand for too much longer at the top of the Highest Break board, the one surprise of the weekend being the lack of century breaks in what was a very strong field. My guess is that the next event at Liverpool may see a decent target set for the £300 overall highest break prize.

Other notable performances came from Callum Lloyd, who played consistently well all weekend and as a result tops the Snookerbacker Order of Merit list having won 19 frames over the course of events one and two and Ryan Causton, Darren Bond, Kurtis Weaver, Wilks and O’Kane who lead the chasing pack. The list can be viewed here with the top two at the end of the qualifiers automatically gaining a place at Grand Finals Day next March in Gloucester.

As the day drew on the fatigue was beginning to show on those left in it. They had been hard at it for two solid days and the final between Adam Wicheard and Matthew Day saw a quite scrappy affair and ended in a win for the local man Wicheard. Matthew however is another that put himself in jostling position on the Order of Merit with a good run on Sunday.

Adam was beaten in the quarter finals at Grand Finals Day last year by eventual runner-up Kyren Wilson so is obviously one of the main contenders in March. He was playing with a relatively new cue after famously snapping his previous one in his final match a Q-School in the summer. He’s clearly now getting to grips with his new one and didn’t seem overly concerned at the loss of the other one.

In the other final, a highly impressive display by Jamie Clarke saw him whitewash a very tired Syd Wilson. Jamie is another losing quarter finalist from last season, he was beaten by the eventual champion David Gray and he will be looking to go one better in this and on the form he showed over the weekend he has to also have a big chance. Syd has boxed clever and entered most of the qualifiers including the next one in Liverpool so he is clearly a player that can climb the Order of Merit list as a back up should he fail to qualify in a winners slot.

Welshman Jamie Clarke is in the Grand Finals again.

Welshman Jamie Clarke is in the Grand Finals again.

With the slightly earlier finish on Sunday came a chance for myself and Mrs SB, complete with her new fancy nails, to take in a curry and take stock of the weekend, or at least we would have been able to had the curry house not chosen to play songs more befitting of a chavvy nightclub than a nice relaxing meal. Why would a restaurant do that on a quiet Sunday night? I’ll never know, but suffice to say our enjoyment of a perfectly nice meal was somewhat dampened by some bloke warbling on about walking like Rihanna (I have no idea how she walks and really don’t give a flying fuck if I’m honest).

So there we have it, Harrison, Hirani, Wicheard and Clarke are through to the Snookerbacker Classic Grand Finals 2014 and our next stop is Liverpool at George Scotts for a double event in October.

Thanks as ever to the SB Classic family of sponsors, referees Clive, Nick and the inimitable Roycey who I am sure will recount his experience of the first events of the season on here soon (he has a story to tell) and finally to all the fantastic people at the South West Snooker Academy, all of whom go out of their way to make sure this is a great event both on and off the table.

Oh and Clare, the curry pie was delicious, more next time please xx

Oh and Reanne, V.

You can view everything you need to know about this season’s Snookerbacker Classic by clicking onto this page, I am still taking waiting list requests for all of the remaining events. As all the winners had entered more than this event there are places becoming available to those at the top of the waiting lists. Please get in touch if you would like your name adding to any event, if payment deadlines are missed by those with reserved places and you are ready to pay you can nab the places from under their noses. It’s the only fair way to do it with the demand high and places limited.

You can view all Saturday’s results here, Sunday’s here and the Snookerbacker Order of Merit latest standings here.

September 27, 2013

Keep in touch with the Snookerbacker Classic

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:59 am

We’re heading down to Gloucester today for the first two heats of the Snookerbacker Classic which kicks off at 9.30am on Saturday. 

You can keep up to date with the scores as they come in for Saturday here and for Sunday here and on the right hand side of this page the Order of Merit list will be updated throughout the tournament.

Everything you need to know about this season’s event can be found by trawling through this page

Let’s hope for another great year.

September 26, 2013

Stephen Lee: Spot the Difference

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:28 am
Who's Bad?

Who’s Bad?

A raft of coverage has been given to yesterday’s announcement, lots of it duplicated and lots of it getting quite frankly, a little bit dull. It’s inevitable that a ban of the length given to Stephen Lee will attract comment from those not normally pre-disposed to discussing snooker and hand-in-hand with that unfortunately goes many views from a scale of misinformed or misguided to those just talking total bollocks or making stuff up.

I don’t wish to labour the points being made but a few people have asked me a quite legitimate question about this whole episode and I felt that the blog was probably the best place to answer it.

As well as Stephen Lee, frequent references and comparisons were made on social media sites yesterday with the case of John Higgins, there were also some less frequent mentions of Aussie bad-boy Quinten Hann and even less frequent ones about Peter Francisco, with many asking how Lee’s sentence compared in terms of fairness to the one’s dished out to others.

Firstly, I will qualify what I am about to write by saying that these offences happened under different administrations, this is the first response that you would get from any official involved in any of the cases mentioned if you are asking them to justify the length of sentence and consistency. That’s their ‘get out of jail card’ if you’ll forgive the pun.

There are huge differences between the cases of Lee and Higgins, there are sketchy similarities in the cases of Lee and Francisco and there are similarities in the cases of Higgins and Hann. Let me explain.

Lee v Higgins

I always thought it was an odd decision to have these two heading up a World Championship launch in front of the Bet Fred banner a few years back (Ronnie pulled out at the last minute so Lee stepped in). Higgins had emerged from his 6 month ban in tact and in the process had nabbed back his World Crown, Lee was in and out of court and had been investigated by the Crown Prosecution Service, an investigation that yesterday resulted in his 12 year ban.

But there is a huge difference between the two cases, OK, Higgins was filmed agreeing to throw frames in exchange for £300,000, he looked relaxed and was accompanied by his manager Pat Mooney who would later be lambasted for his part in the whole affair. Higgins didn’t look (as he later claimed to be) afraid for his life and he failed to report the meeting to the governing body on arriving home. The fact however remains that Higgins did not fix the match in question which was never played, we are not to know whether he would have done given the chance, but he didn’t. Higgins’s sentence reflected the fact that he had failed to report this approach, for his part he said afterwards that he didn’t think he would have done even if the meeting had not been exposed as a set-up, he did however maintain that he had no intention of going through with it and was only agreeing to do so to get out of the meeting as quickly as possible and back home. The sentence also reflected his previous record of exemplary behaviour and his role as an ambassador for the sport.

Stephen Lee has been found guilty of fixing 7 matches, from all of which it has been shown he made a substantial financial profit. There lies the difference between the two cases.

Result: Lee (12 years plus £40,000) v Higgins (6 months plus c. £85,000).

Potcha HannHiggins v Hann

Quinten Hann was a renowned bad-boy of the circuit and an explosive personality, prior to the snooker-based scandal he found himself accused and completely cleared of rape, he had frequent scrapes with other players (an account of his behaviour towards Graeme Dott in Dott’s book is unintentionally hilarious), he freely admitted turning up to play at the 2005 World Championships with a hangover because he thought his cue hadn’t arrived and was happy to admit he did not practice. He also famously challenged Andy ‘short and bald’ Hicks to a fight after their 2004 game at the Crucible and stepped into the boxing ring to fight Mark King. For all that, he was a popular member of the tour and a media godsend.

Where did it all go wrong? Well, like Higgins he was caught in a ‘newspaper’ (I use the terms loosely) sting. He was filmed arranging to fix the outcome of a match in the China Open in exchange for £50,000, the payment was not made and the match in question was never played. Hann was given an 8 year ban on the grounds that “a member shall not directly or indirectly solicit, attempt to solicit or accept any payment or any form of remuneration of benefit in exchange for influencing the outcome of any game of snooker or billiards.”

The ban came after Hann had announced a few days earlier that he was quitting snooker anyway and he did not attend the hearing to defend himself, unlike Higgins. Also unlike Higgins, he could hardly draw on his exemplary behaviour in the past to carry any weight. There were suggestions in some quarters that he had been intending to quit for some time and knew that the whole thing was a hoax.

I got very close to an interview with Quinten a couple of years ago, I agreed to tell his full side of the story in his own words on here but at the last minute he pulled out. He did claim that snooker ‘left a very sour taste in my mouth’ and at one point seemed tempted to say more. I got the distinct feeling that he felt he had been royally shafted by the administration at the time.

For all his faults, I think we all kinda miss him.

Result: Hann (8 years plus £10,000) v Higgins (6 months plus c. £85,000).

Francisco: Had a mare.

Francisco: Had a mare.

Peter Francisco

Arguably, the South African is the Godfather of Bad Boys and just as Stephen Lee was embarking on his career, Peter’s was coming down to earth with a bump. The bizarre thing about this one is that despite him being famous for losing 10-2 at the Crucible to Jimmy White in a match that saw odds plummet on that scoreline from 9/1 to 7/4 before a ball was struck, he was not handed a 5 year ban for match fixing and still picked up the prize money he was due for that match. He was officially banned for “not conducting himself in a manner consistent with his status as a professional sportsman” whilst being cleared of match fixing by the then chairman John Spencer, who also liked a bet. Francisco’s representative later said that the sentence and ruling amounted to banning someone for not playing well, meanwhile the cleaners at the WPBSA headquarters were busy sweeping notes under the carpet. Peter is now back playing and was eligible to return to the professional ranks this season having done very well back home, but he declined, probably for the best.

Result: Francisco (5 years)

Conclusion: 

Anyone who was making comparisons yesterday between the cases of Stephen Lee and John Higgins should read this and then read it again. They are simply not the same, regardless of how you feel about the difference in sentences or the players themselves. I’d argue that a better comparison for those who believe Higgins was dealt with leniently, an argument which for what it’s worth I believe to be true, is to look at what happened to Hann. One might argue that Higgins’s reputation and a heavier fine bought him seven and a half years, but again I point to different administrations in charge of the game at the time.

Is Lee’s sentence fair? Well, based on the evidence and judgement yes it is, he should not be allowed back onto the professional circuit and the 12 years will see to that. He has bitten the hand that feeds and no excuse of being weak-minded, easily led or financially strapped for cash should be given the time of day. He continues to protest his innocence, but I can’t help thinking this will do him more harm than good in the long run. If you can’t do the time, as they say, don’t do the crime.

Be careful with your comments on this post, Cheers.

September 25, 2013

Lee Banned from Snooker for 12 Years for Match Fixing

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:30 am

Lee1Stephen Lee has today been handed what effectively amounts to a career-ending ban from snooker for 12 years for his part in match-fixing along with a £40,000 legal costs fine.

It was widely expected that the punishment handed out to the player would be one of a life ban from the sport and while it doesn’t quite go that far, it means that if Lee were to make a reappearance in professional snooker he’d be nearly 50 when attempting to do so.

The ban includes the 11 month period he has already spent out of the sport which means that he would be 49 before he could return as things stand.

Lee’s agent Adam Quigley has confirmed that the 38-year-old will lodge an appeal against the ban. Lee himself is yet to issue a statement.

The Full Statement:

WPBSA Statement – Stephen Lee

After a hearing that took place between 9th – 11th September 2013, on 16th September 2013 Adam Lewis QC found Stephen Lee was in breach of the 2005 and 2006 WPBSA Members Rule 2.9;

“Stephen Lee is found guilty of “agreeing an arrangement… [and of] …accepting or receiving or offering to receive… payment or… other… benefit… in connection with influencing the outcome or conduct of” each of the seven matches in breach of Rule 2.9.”

A hearing was held on 24th September 2013 where submissions on sanction were made by the WPBSA and Stephen Lee.

On 25th September 2013 Adam Lewis QC delivered his decision on sanction in writing.

He concluded that that the appropriate sanction is that Stephen Lee serve a Suspension of twelve years under Rule 12.1(a) of the Disciplinary Rules.

That suspension is to be calculated from 12 October 2012, when the interim suspension was imposed. Therefore Stephen Lee will not be able to participate in snooker before 12th October 2024.

He has ordered that he should pay a contribution towards those costs of £40,000.

The WPBSA has a zero tolerance approach to match fixing and this is further evidence of our uncompromising approach to dealing with such issues.

Jason Ferguson the Chairman of the WPBSA said: “We take no pride in having to deal with such serious issues. However this demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that snooker is free from corruption. It is an important part of our anti-corruption approach that players found to be involved in fixing matches or any aspect of a match are severely dealt with. We work closely with partners globally and the message we are sending is that if you get involved in match fixing you will be found out and removed from the sport.”

Under the WPBSA Disciplinary Rules Stephen Lee has a right to appeal the finding and the sentence imposed.

The hearings to deal with this matter were conducted through Sport Resolutions UK who are wholly independent of the WPBSA.

September 23, 2013

Snookerbacker Classic Gloucester Match Times

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:11 am

SB 2014 poster2Saturday and Sunday sees the start of this season’s Snookerbacker Classic from Gloucester which will see the first 4 qualifiers through to Finals Day and below you will find the start times for all matches. 

Players are asked to arrive 15 minutes before their match start times and there are penalties for late arrivals as detailed in the terms and conditions of the tournament.

You can keep up to date with the scores as they come in for Saturday here and for Sunday here and on the right hand side of this page the Order of Merit list will be updated throughout the tournament.

Saturday 28th September, South West Snooker Academy, Gloucester.

(All matches best of 7 frames, 2 qualifiers)

9.30am – top half

Callum Lloyd v Billy Brown
Darren Bond v Shane Castle
Aaron Cook v Kurtis Weaver
Ryan Causton v Jordan Winbourne
Andy Marriott v Terry Challenger
Phil O’ Kane v Hannah Jones
Sachin Plaha v Ben Harrison
Zak Surety v Tom Davie

11am – bottom half

Kishan Hirani v Matthew Day
Ben Jones v Ashley Hugill
Tyler Rees v Adam Bobat
Damian Wilks v Hassan Vaizie
Reanne Evans v Andy Neck
Mike Rogers v Kieran Dwyer
Adam Wicheard v Andrew Scott
Jamie Clarke v Syd Wilson

12.30pm (approx) – Round 2

2.30pm (approx) Semi-Finals

4pm (approx) Finals

SB 2014 poster1Sunday 29th September, South West Snooker Academy, Gloucester.

(All matches best of 7 frames, 2 qualifiers)

9.30am – top half

Adam Wicheard v Shane Castle
Zak Surety v Damian Wilks
Ben Jones v Darren Bond
Andy Marriott v Hannah Jones
Matthew Day v Hassan Vaizie
Tom Davie v Sachin Plaha
Andrew Scott v Phil O’Kane
Terry Challenger v Ryan Causton

11am – bottom half

Ashley Hugill v Tyler Rees
Jamie Clarke v Billy Brown
Andy Neck v Ben Harrison
Reanne Evans v Mike Rogers
Aaron Cook v Callum Lloyd
Adam Bobat v Kishan Hirani
Kieran Dwyer v Syd Wilson
Kurtis Weaver v Jordan Winborune

12.30pm (approx) – Round 2

2.30pm (approx) Semi-Finals

4pm (approx) Finals

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE WINNER OF THE TOP HALF OF THE DRAW ON SATURDAY WILL BE REPLACED IN SUNDAY’S DRAW BY MATT LANCASTER AND THE WINNER OF THE BOTTOM HALF OF SATURDAY’S DRAW WILL BE REPLACED BY JACK BRADFORD.  

Asian PTC2 this week

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:22 am

The second Asian PTC of the season is off and running and although I won’t be covering it in any kind of depth you can keep up with the matches and scores at the World Snooker website by clicking here. Should any match betting become available then you will find Apollobet’s prices here.

It’s fair to say it hasn’t attracted a lot of the big names this one (Scott Donaldson is the number one seed based on the PTC listings) but there are a few in there including Shanghai Master Ding and the draw for it can be found by clicking here, it remains to be seen how many of the main tour names that have entered actually turn up though.

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September 22, 2013

Arson About at Thai Player’s Home

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:15 am
Passakorn - under suspicion of match fixing

Passakorn – under suspicion of match fixing

It’s been made public this morning that the residence in Rotherham which houses the Thai snooker players was subjected to an arson attack back in August, just three weeks after two of them fell under suspicion for match fixing.

While it has not been established if there is a concrete link between the dodgy goings-on in Doncaster which saw Passakorn Suwannawat and Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon both lose in the wake of unusual betting patterns it does seem coincidental that their house, which they were not in at the time, was targeted.

If this is the case, this is a sinister twist in the story, I understand that the attack followed a visit from the police to question the players about any involvement in match fixing.

Nigel Mawer, the head of the sniffer dogs at the Integrity Unit said ‘Whether the matches are connected to the arson, I don’t know, but that is one of several possibilities that could be considered.’ He didn’t mention what the other ones were.

Thai snooker is no stranger to controversy of this kind and even a casual Google Search of James Wattana will reveal death threats and even murder linked to such things, so it’s not something that you really want to get yourself involved with if you value your health.

The fire brigade have established that the fire was started deliberately and it is now in the hands of the police to investigate who might be behind it and for what reason.

I have also received unconfirmed reports that Passakorn is unlikely to continue his professional snooker career having had his funding withdrawn and is back in Thailand unlikely to return.

September 21, 2013

Shanghai Masters Final: It’s a Chinese Thing

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:39 pm

It’s been a long time coming but Sunday sees the first ever all-Chinese ranking final as the master Ding Junhui takes on the apprentice Xiao Guodong over 19 frames.

No doubt we shall again be told that this is something that will be standard practice in a few years time as the phrase Chinese Snooker Revolution/Takeover etc. is wheeled out. Now you can call me a weathered old cynic but this is just something I can’t see happening any time soon. For all the decent players that have come out of China, Ding is still by far and away the only one capable of winning the World Championship and competing with the real big hitters of the game. Despite the globalisation of the sport, the evidence is still that the vast majority of top players are coming from the UK, with Ding and Robbo really the only exceptions.

But that’s to take nothing away from Xiao, who has beaten good players to get here and performed at the very top of his game on the big stage, so good luck to him. Not too much good luck you understand as the 14/1 recommended bet on Ding to win this and break his Chinese torture will see us come out of the week again in decent profit, continuing the strong recent run of betting.

I won’t be having a bet on the final, but like most people I would expect Ding to win with a bit to spare, possibly 10-6.

Final

Ding Junhui v Xiao Guodong

For head to head click here

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September 20, 2013

Shanghai Semi-Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:43 pm
Ding: Mustard.

Ding: Mustard.

It’s been a very enjoyable week of snooker over in Shanghai and we are now down to the final four. We are assured a new name in a full ranking event final as Michael Holt meets Xiao Guodong in the first one while the more experienced finalists Ding Junhui and Barry Hawkins in the other one.

Holt looked as good as he has ever looked on TV earlier today and seems to have a new found sense of confidence about him, a swagger around the table has replaced the shoulder shrugging and calm assurance has replaced his erratic twitches. Everyone knows that he is good enough and now perhaps is his time to prove it.

Guodong is another who has shown in the past that he’s capable of taking the mantle from Ding in a few year’s time and he came through a battle with Dark Mavis who finally got to learn again what it feels like to get beat, an all-Chinese final is still a possibility for the highly excitable audience.

Ding was superb against Robbo and outplayed him in every department, I know I said it yesterday but his big strength is that he very very rarely plays the wrong shot and that had Robbo on the defensive from the word go today. It will take some performance from one of the three left in this to beat him in that form as for me today he would have beaten anyone, O’Sullivan included.

Finally, Barry Hawkins, another relatively late developer came through in fine fashion to do to Mark Selby what he usually does unto others, namely coming back from 4-2 down to win. A great performance from The Hawk and he is another player that has found a new wave of confidence of late, bred of course from the only thing that makes that possible, winning.

Bettingwise, not the best day on the match betting front but the 14/1 recommended on Ding to win at the start of the week now looks very big indeed as he’s now best priced 11/8. If he can pull it off then the very good recent run will continue and I have to say I wouldn’t back against him now.

(Click on matches for head to head)

7am

Xiao Guodong v Michael Holt

Best Prices: Holt (Evens Apollobet), Guodong (Evens Bet 365).

Prediction: Holt to win 6-4 

12.30pm

Barry Hawkins v Ding Junhui

Best Prices: Ding (4/6 Paddy Power), Hawkins (6/4 Stan James) 

Prediction: Ding to win 6-3

Recommended Bet: 4 x 0.5 point cross doubles (The Hallett Bet) on Holt 6-4 or 6-5 and Ding 6-3 or 6-4 depending on what firm you bet with you can get 6/1 best price on all those scorelines.

If anyone is having any trouble getting their bets on to their desired stake with Apollobet, please email me at [email protected] with your username 

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