September 30, 2013

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

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:24 pm


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.  


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.


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.   


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


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


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.  


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.


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.

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