Snookerbacker

April 30, 2014

Quarter Final Conclusion

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:05 am
Griff: Major league fuck up.

Griff: Major league fuck up.

Today sees 8 become 4 and it’s Mark Selby and Barry Hawkins who currently look like the first two names into the semi-finals of this year’s World Championship.

Hawkins has a very healthy lead over Dominic Dale and given the news that Dom had promised to sing his intro if he made the semi-final this comes as a huge relief to any sane person currently inhabiting Planet Earth.

The thought of Coventry’s finest belting out a tune live at the hallowed home of snooker is too much to bear and must have given Barry the injection of momentum that he needed to race to an 11-5 lead overnight. That’ll teach him.

Selby and McAngles produced a coma-inducing session of snooker yesterday morning. Their sloth-like ways around the table led to them being hauled off a frame early, failing to complete the allotted 8 frames in the generous 4 hour time slot. However, last night Selby took 8 of the 9 frames played and is now within one frame of the final four. They conclude this morning.

Shaun Murphy will be waking up looking far out to sea for the boat he missed yesterday. At 2-0 up and with a lacklustre Rocket sulking in his seat, the shy, understated potter seemed to be coasting towards a decent lead, but then, to use a technical term, his conkers dropped and a resurgent Ronnie came back at him recognising all the symptoms associated with Extreme Conker Droppage Disorder (ECDD) to take the next six frames of the session, gradually getting better with every one he won.

The ruggedly handsome Stephen Hendry delivered his assessment of the match to a flustered and possibly smitten Hazel straight after the session finished saying “This match is over, if you don’t win the first session against O’Sullivan you have no chance”, almost immediately and ever-conscious of viewing figures and his lucrative contract, JP interjected with his own assessment that it wasn’t neccessarily over but that Shaun had a very tough task on his hands, the biggest understatement since the assertion that Hitler wasn’t all that keen on Jews.

The other match saw Mr 99, Neil Robertson, continue to try to defy the wishes of The Snooker Gods, failing once again to bag that one hundredth hundred and falling 6-2 behind to a very impressive Judd Trump. Whether the distraction of the record books is putting Robbo off the job in hand remains to be seen but Judd is looking very good now for a semi-final slot, he doesn’t let leads slip very often and when his peacock feathers are on display he’s a very tough player to peg back.

Robbo, like Murphy, has a stiff test on his hands but I suspect we’ve not seen the last of him just yet. Fingers crossed that he can also get that illusive century and achieve a feat which is up there with some of the very best sporting achievements, it might be the last match he has the chance to do so.

It was during the Trump/Robertson clash that Terry Griffiths chose to turn the airwaves blue. Snooker wouldn’t be the same without some comedy mishaps and as slip-ups go, this has to be up there with the best of them, but don’t expect it to be played on the next Question of Sport….

Finally, it is with great sadness that I inform you that another great snooker video poster Zsolt Kiss from Hungary passed away at a very young age yesterday after a car accident. He was always happy to help me out with any weird request I made of him to find me obscure snooker footage on You Tube and will be very much missed by the online snooker community. It was his dedication to the sport that led to this piece of TV gold being available for your entertainment. A tragic loss.

10am

Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-2 Shaun Murphy
Mark Selby 12-4 Alan McManus

2.30pm

Barry Hawkins 11-5 Dominic Dale
Judd Trump 6-2 Neil Robertson

7pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-2 Shaun Murphy
Judd Trump 6-2 Neil Robertson

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and you can also view their match betting by clicking here.

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April 29, 2014

Quarter Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:24 am

Crucible 1When the qualifiers started out at Ponds Forge we had a field of 128 players and now as we reach the Quarter Finals we are down to just 8. Thankfully, unlike last year, most of the big boys have brought their A game with them and if Ronnie O’Sullivan is to complete a treble, you’d think he’s going to have to work very hard to do so given the form of Murphy, Robertson, Selby and Trump.

The Quarter Finals usually produce some great matches as the players compete for the chance to experience the one table set-up at The Crucible. As you’d expect, there are some mouth-watering clashes, players like Dominic Dale and Alan McManus find themselves here against the odds, while the other places are filled by the expected seeded players.

In terms of the outright betting, three each-way chances are still in there fighting in the shape of Judd Trump (12/1), Barry Hawkins (33/1) and Shaun Murphy (20/1). O’Sullivan remains the bookies favourite at a best price 10/11 with Apollobet, but he will have seen how well a certain Australian is playing and won’t be looking any further than his clash with Murphy.

It’s all to play for, so without further ado here are the match previews, click on the match for the head to head stats.    

Barry Hawkins v Dominic Dale

I’ve been quite impressed with Dominic so far and he comes to this round having lost the just nine frames, the same amount as Neil Robertson, to get here, so he’s yet to be put through the mill. He’s established good leads in both his opening sessions so far so will be looking to do so again against last year’s runner-up Hawkins, who looked very impressive in the first round but not quite as good in round two against Walden. The head to head tells us nothing and you have to go on form to decide which way this one will go. The bookies have Barry as a very heavy favourite but I think they might be guilty of underestimating Dale here and I think he’s not without a chance of turning Barry over. He’s clearly in very good form and I’m sure will enjoy a great deal of support from his adoring fans so I’d say he’ll make a fight of it and if he leads after the first session would have serious chances of winning.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on there being over 21.5 frames in the match at Evens with Bet 365   

Mark Selby v Alan McManus

You’ve heard that old fable about the tortoise and the hare yeah? Well, this is where the tortoise met another tortoise as two players who both possess a granite-like, bomb-proof tactical game lock horns. McAngles is obviously a huge outsider to win here and it would be a big shock if he were to. Selby was highly impressive in his win over Ali Carter and missed very very little, took hardly any risks and played what I would describe as ‘winning snooker’. Angles has turned over two legends of the sport to get here and is flying the trousers for Scotland and (oddly) for Mrs SB who tipped him to win the title because she lost her keys once in an Indian Restaurant. From what I’ve seen, Alan’s only chance here is to match Selby in the tactical department and to subsequently score heavily enough to make that advantage pay. While undoubtedly, he possesses the experience and wily old skills to do the first bit, I just don’t think he’s scoring heavily enough to make his wins in the tactical exchanges reap their deserved rewards. You can wrap your opponent up in knots all you like, but if when you get your chance you can only make 20 or 30, you ain’t going to end up winning that’s for damn sure as mustard. I hope for Mrs SB and fancy trouser wearers all over the world’s sake that I am wrong, but I can see this being a very very comfortable win for The Jester, who I think will cosily coast into the Quarter Finals and send Alan’s troo’s back to Scotland.

Recommended Bet: 4 points on Selby (-5.5 frames) at 11/10 with Apollobet. 1 point on Selby (-7.5 frames) at 3/1 with Hills. 

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Shaun Murphy

Shaun says he’s going into this match to see ‘where his game is at’ and to learn from the master himself, typically playing down any thoughts that he might win. They met here in 2011 in the Last 16 when a pre-Steve Peters Ronnie won 13-10 and Shaun has only ever beaten Ronnie in the now defunct  Premier League, not an event that I think really has any bearing on this particular setting. In fact, given that these are two top players, it’s strange that they haven’t met more in the big events, but it’s clear that Ronnie is very much the boss when they do end up playing each other. The emphatic way in which a pumped up Rocket came back at Joe Perry in the last round showed any doubters that he’s still bang up for this and the bookies are as long as 4/1 on Murphy to turn him over at the next hurdle. While I don’t think he will, I can’t help thinking that the bookies are rather under-estimating Murphy here, he’s playing well, confident, coming into this as a winner and scoring as consistently as anyone else. There is one firm who are adding a crucial extra frame on the handicap betting at more or less the same price as other firms with one less frame going Murphy’s way and that might make all the difference, I think this might be closer than some expect, I don’t expect Murphy to simply surrender and I think he’ll win at least 8 frames in the match.

Recommended Bet: 4 points on Murphy (+5.5 frames) at 4/5 with Stan James.

Judd Trump v Neil Robertson

The best of enemies meet again, Robertson stuck on 99 centuries following two near-misses against Mark Allen after a session of snooker sent directly to us from The Snooker Gods. Allen proclaimed afterwards that if Robbo keeps that up there is nobody that can beat him and you’d have to say he has a point, there were times in that last session when you could easily be forgiven for forgetting who his opponent was, such was the Aussie’s dominance. Judd is steadily improving as the tournament goes on and that is usually what the eventual winner does, but for me he’s still taking on ten too many and if he doesn’t tighten up against Robbo he’ll be heading home having had a good old fashioned spanking courtesy of his old nemesis. The way Judd plays the game, it would be nothing short of a miracle if Robbo doesn’t finally get to the 100 hundreds in this match, you’d think he’ll want to do that in the first session, ideally the first frame to get it over and done with and concentrate on what he is there to do which is to win the match. If he does do it early on, I’d expect there to be more to come and it’s worth a good look at the centuries market in this match between two prolific high scorers. But in terms of a bet, for me there is only one to be on here.

Recommended Bet: 4 points on Robertson at 4/7 with Stan James. 

Recommended Quarter Final Acca: 3 points pays just on 10/3 at Stan James on Hawkins, Selby, Murphy (+5.5) and Robertson.

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and you can also view their match betting by clicking here.

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Photos used courtesy of Monique Limbos. Click here to view her photos on Facebook.

April 28, 2014

World Championship Day 10 – The Second Round Conclusion

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:37 am
Can he do it?

Can he do it?

There’s no play this morning at The Crucible but plenty to get excited about once things get underway with two and at a stretch possibly three of the remaining matches set for close finishes to decide who makes up the Quarter Final slots.

Unfortunately it’s not been a repeat of his first round performance for Michael Wasley and he comes out for surely the last time this year to face old zebra-feet Dale in their final session in what can only be described as a task of Everest-like proportions. He’ll need to win the session 9-0 and possibly tie those little tassles on Dale’s shoes together to progress again.

Our Dom was the subject of ridicule for Dennis ‘Gok Wan’ Taylor yesterday the minute he stepped out into the arena. Dennis, who used to get all his clothes from one of those Asian markets that sell knock-off gear in places like his home town of Blackburn by the look of it, compared poor old Dom’s shoes in an unfavourable light to Judd’s spiky monstrosities.

I feel that Dennis is being a little unfair on the Coventry-born Welshman there as his shoes are no less ridiculous and devoid of any fashion sense than Judd’s, at least he had the sense not to pay a laughably huge sum of money for his, apparently they cost £160, but rumour has it that when he walked into Tommy Balls, the manager was seen adding a zero with a marker pen, the same one he used to colour in the black bits before presenting them to a delighted Dale.

Judd himself resumes tonight and thankfully has upped his game a little from his hopeless performance in the first round. He leads Ryan Day 10-6 though it has to be said that the scoreline slightly flatters our Juddly. Day has missed four frame balls when seemingly coasting and has allowed Judd to nick each frame to establish a four frame lead. I still think Judd will need to improve further, he’s yet to make a century and with his next match looking likely to be against Robbo, he’s got to really start motoring.

Robbo himself is now on the cusp of making snooker history. Since a rather inebriated Stephen Hendry lambasted him at the bar telling him his break-building was like a club player he’s been knocking in centuries for fun. He’s now on 99 for the season and one away from an absolutely monumental achievement. Hendry in the meantime is being given a lot of credit for something that was just meant as a drunken pisstake, but he’s pretending it wasn’t and taking almost all the credit for Neil’s new found nouse.

He resumes against Mark Allen 9-7 up. He can’t quite shake off the Northern Ireland man, but managed to stretch his lead to 9-7 last night in what could be a crucial final frame. Robertson does look very assured and the two should have the arena to themselves this afternoon in what could still be a real grandstand finish. Allen clearly prefers being the underdog at The Crucible and will be thinking back to his win over O’Sullivan here a few years ago for inspiration. If he can come back and win, will this mean Robbo can’t achieve his milestone?

Rob got into a bit of a Supermuddle.

Rob got into a bit of a Supermuddle.

The other match to conclude this evening will be Shaun Murphy and Marco Fu and this one looks to me like the one that could go all the way. Smurf pulled away from 4-4 to 8-4 last night but Marco produced a mini-fightback to finish 7-9 going into the final session.

Shaun’s Superman walk on theme seems to be causing some confusion backstage and Rob Walker got himself into a right muddle yesterday morning claiming that Shaun’s ‘cue was his Kryptonite’.

Now I don’t claim to be a Superman anorak or dress up like him for fun like some weird people do, but even I know that this fictitious material is the one thing that can knock the caped one a little bit off his stride. This careless error from our excitable MC was soon rectified in the evening though when he said something about a cape, clearly having ordered in a stash of Marvel comics for research following his morning howler.

GEEK ALERT: Several of you who probably think Shaun looks cool in the picture have now pointed out that Superman is DC Comics not Marvel Comics. You’ll probably next say that Shaun’s boots are 6cm too high or something. I apologise for this unforgiveable error on my part. Now get back to reading your train timetables.

Off the table, it’s very much business as usual. All is well with the world and Beardy Medal Man is still there proudly sporting his polished accolade for all to see. He’s even been seen on the baize by the eagle-eyed and has an impressive stance.

Rumour has it that Bazza has seen his potential and is ready to award him a wildcard along with Steve, Stephen and all the other hasbeens. But our Beardy is said to be too proud a man to accept and unlike the others is showing some humility in telling Baz where to shove it. Good on him I say.

So, it’s a day of concluding sessions after yesterday’s day of no conclusions. Let’s hope we get some real Crucible drama ahead of the Quarter Finals, the bottom half is now shaping up into a real mouth-waterer with Selby already there and up against McAngles and the winners of Trump/Day and Robbo/Allen set to do battle.

Up in the top section we know that Ronnie will face Murphy or Fu, while Barry Hawkins will surely be lining up against Dale.

If you missed me talking about my behind-the-scenes experiences in Sheffield you can catch it here.

1pm

Dominic Dale 12-4 Michael Wasley
Mark Allen 7-9 Neil Robertson

7pm

Shaun Murphy 9-7 Marco Fu
Judd Trump 10-6 Ryan Day

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and you can also view their match betting by clicking here.

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Photos used courtesy of Monique Limbos. Click here to view her photos on Facebook.

April 27, 2014

My Three Days at The Crucible (with Crap Photos)

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:31 am
My annual pilgrimage. Hang on who's that walking the other way?

My annual pilgrimage. Hang on who’s that walking the other way?

An unwritten law of being a snooker blogger is that around this time of year you are expected to plan a journey to the home of snooker to experience the best championship in the world at first hand, such has been the case for me these past three years.

The timing of the blog is handy in this respect because I have got to witness the transition of sponsors, from for me at least, the much-missed Betfred to the not-missed Betfair to the current incumbents Dafabet, who I and most people who read this blog don’t have an account with. While the sponsors don’t really matter too much to the snooker fan, whose main concern is probably the colour of the carpet, behind the scenes you do get more of a sense of how committed they are to the tournament.

Betfred remain the best sponsor of this great event we’ve had since the days that you could smoke yourself to death with free tabs and not a care for those around you courtesy of Embassy. The decision to move away from them despite them tabling a fair offer to extend remains for me one of Bazza’s most glaring misjudgments.

Anyway, I arrived there on Wednesday, very early for this year’s pilgrimage and almost immediately the weirdness and surrealism of the whole Crucible bubble started.

As I am getting more forgetful with each passing year, I thought that I’d better open up a word document to remind myself of all the things that were worth mentioning on here when I got home. They were in the form of a reminder list, which I have copied and pasted onto this post in the hope of remembering why I wrote them down and elaborating on them, here goes nothing….

Wednesday

Cuddle from Michaela - Having woken up at 5.30am to get the early train and having then had to run like Usain Bolt to reach another platform at Manchester Piccadilly to get my connection whilst swearing under my breath at people to ‘get out of my fucking way’ and generally being grumpy about the length of time given on my ticket to actually do the journey as the rail company thought you’d be able to without nearly having a heart attack, I received my annual, much appreciated cuddle from the lovely Michaela on my way to the media room, she must have sensed I needed one. What a diamond, but was this to be the highpoint of my whole 3 days? Was it downhill from here?

Usual suspects minus a few faces in media. Seemed quieter than normal. No representation from Dafabet. Ran out of crisps and water - That was my first impression of the bear pit of the media room, the same set up as ever, hearing Rob Walker before seeing him, familiar faces with the addition of some and subtraction of others and a seemingly dwindling presence. Moans and groans about crisps from Matt of Pro Snooker Blog and a continuation of the Sheffield water shortage. Orders were placed and stocks replenished. As for Dafabet, they weren’t in there in any way, shape or form, even Betfair sent one person, but again the much missed presence of Mark Pearson of Betfred was the ‘elephant in the room’.

A crap photo of Bazza explaining stuff to Mark Allen post-corkpops.

A crap photo of Bazza explaining stuff to Mark Allen post-corkpops.

Barry’s changes and champagne – untimely cork popping before anything was announced – nothing really to celebrate - Wednesday saw Barry’s ‘big’ press conference. You always know when he’s about to arrive as the fizz comes out, a bit like The Queen and the smell of paint. This was as packed as the media room got, with Mark Allen, who had just come from the practice table also coming along to find out what he was going to say. It’s fair to say it was pretty underwhelming, the main thing being the changes to the qualifying structure next year, I’ve heard there is something else that he hasn’t told us yet that will grab the headlines a lot more than any of this did. The funniest bit was the untimely cork pops, as Barry started off saying ‘In this sport, there is no way we should be paying any player who can’t win a match’ POP!! – off went the cork. A real champagne moment.

Gould annoyed at question and ‘Marvellous’ – Sometimes the press conferences with players are pretty mundane affairs but sometimes they throw up some gems. Martin Gould had just lost to Marco Fu having played very well. He was then immediately told by a journo that next year he might have to qualify from the start, to which he replied ‘Marvellous’, but it was a question that followed that upset him more, a journalist suggesting that he’d not brought his best game to the Crucible and that’s why he lost, he kept his cool but you could see he was steaming. Outside, he lamented ‘did he not even watch the match at all??’ – I hate to break it to you Martin but…..

Fred West risen from the grave - Ermm, yes I think I’d better leave this one.

Roland on about Selby again. Pissed man from Grimsby. Streak. Dean Reynolds and Mike Hallett. Mike’s phone is off he must be commentating (he wasn’t) - Fellow blogger and founder of Snooker Island Roland Cox is always there or thereabouts at the big event and I met up with him straight from commiserating Gouldy for a pint. As he (as always) started banging on about Mark Selby we were immediately singled out by an absolutely pissed bloke who claimed his mate had offered him £1000 to do a Crucible streak that evening ‘on my kids lives’, he dribbled. Try as we might to get rid of this drooling mess of a man he stuck to us like a limpet. He asked our advice on this important matter and claimed his mate was loaded and he’d definitely pay him ‘on his kids lives’ again. So I replied that he should ask him for five grand instead, which was a mistake as he took this as a sign that we were in the slightest bit interested. Anyway as he downed and spilt most of his 20th pint of the day he proceeded to tell us of his famous friends from Grimsby, Dean Reynolds – ‘a pisshead, just been with him’ and Mike Hallett – ‘great mate of mine’, though mysteriously when he allegedly rang them both their phones failed to answer his call. Funny that. We eventually managed to get rid of this spanner as he went off to annoy someone else.

Holt interview – ‘a bit presumptious’ - Michael Holt is always a guaranteed soundbite for the journos win or lose and when he was told that he ‘would’ have to qualify next year from the first round he quickly seized the opportunity to remind the hapless hack that he might be in the top 16 and that he was being ‘a bit presumptious’. He saved the swearing for less formal settings however and on leaving the media centre shouted at the top of his voice ‘Oh my god I’m so shit!’.

Bloggers convention – Dave from Snooker HQ over from Korea. Early night (midnight), wise decision not to eat in the dump around the corner - A long day ended with Matt, Roland and Dave from Snooker HQ having a pint in The Grad, which to the uninitiated is where you are most likely to see snooker players and officials absolutely wellied most nights, before setting off into the night. I was starving but decided against eating at a takeaway around the corner from my hovel of a hotel that I’d unwittingly thought might be OK. I never trust a takeaway that sells kebabs, pizzas, curries, burgers and almost everything else.

Thursday – Up early – took a picture of the empty media room – Thief! Feeling refreshed I took an early stroll over to the media centre, there was no play on Thursday morning so I had it to myself and tweeted a picture. Gary Wilkinson, obviously not one for trusting people from Liverpool almost immediately entering the room to check I wasn’t unscrewing the brackets on the tellys.

Breakfast and hotel negotiations – By this point I’d made two decisions, one was to stay an extra night on Friday and the second was to switch hotel. So I made my way over to the Mercure right opposite the Crucible to start negotiations on room rates, I succeeded in whittling them down as well as securing Saturday breakfast chucked in. I decided to celebrate with some breakfast in a cafe just around the corner from the Crucible, where I sat outside in the sun and listened to a bloke being interviewed about theatres.

Everyone asking about Mrs SB - A constant theme. Anyone who I bumped in to asked about my better half, underwhelmed by meeting me again obviously.

Ragged off - Big Jan deffo threw this at me, I wasn't imagining it.

Ragged off – Big Jan deffo threw this at me, I wasn’t imagining it.

The Jones’s – a needless green bucket, unaware that Ali started at 1pm and getting picked on by refs - Thursday was Ladies Day in The Crucible and Cue Zone. I met up again with Hannah Jones and family, always a pleasure. Hannah was there to do an interview with the TV and to showcase Ladies snooker along with Reanne and a few others. Myself and Hannah’s mum discussed the presence of a green bucket in the Cue Zone catching drips and decided that it wasn’t necessary. I then left and wandered around, ate a pasty, sat by the fountain and missed the start of Ali Carter’s match, I thought it started an hour later so took my place in the media seats having rushed there and missed the first frame. On entering the arena, Leo Scullion immediately told me off for coming through the Crucible curtain and a hand tapped me on the shoulder asking to see my pass, I turned around to see a smiling Paul Collier, winding me up. I swear Big Jan aimed his wet rag at me too at one point, narrowly missing me.

Ali first session – delighted to get out 5-3 down – best I’ve seen Selby play all season - This was what the trip was all about and while firmly in the Carter camp I couldn’t fail to be impressed with Mark Selby. I don’t think he actually missed anything in the five frames he won and very little in the ones he lost. He was highly impressive and Ali knew it, seeing him afterwards he was clearly delighted to only be two down, having won the last two frames of the session. 

Met The MO’D. Blagged Hannah into the media seats to watch Ronnie. Accosted by the Nugget – After a quick drink with Martin O’Donnell and a catch up it was time to get back to the Crucible as I’d asked for tickets for Ronnie’s match for Hannah and her boyfriend. I managed to sneak her into the media seats to watch the end of the session but as I was doing so, the mickey taking Nugget spotted us and immediately threatened to have me thrown out of the building, aghast at the fact that I was allowed anywhere near there, let alone behind the scenes. I saw him later too and he asked if I’d been ejected after his complaint to World Snooker. They were all picking on me, I was going to bed. G’Night JV.

When I was asleep – Grove tweets - I woke up and had a quick look on Twitter to find that the humble, charitable and philanthropic management company that is Grove Snooker had been at it again. This time, Grove was accusing another snooker website of freeloading onto Neil Robertson to endorse their website for free as well as grant them an exclusive interview – FOR FREE AGAIN!! NO MONEY INVOLVED!! THE CHEEK OF IT!! #liberty. This misguided tweet aimed squarely at those who Grove decided were intent on ripping them off was swiftly removed. Some people need to take a step back from their Ferrari’s and Burger King franchises and think about how these actions come across to the general snooker public, whilst this had nothing to do with Robbo, who I have always found to be a very nice geezer, to some, he may be guilty by association of being greedy, demanding and self-centred. There is more to life than money. Get a grip.   

Friday

Breakfast – Michaela, drizzle, turned down and dumped - I got up early again and as this time I knew play started at 10am assumed that the breakfast cafe around the corner would be open for 8.30am. Unfortunately it is owned by English people so it wasn’t, a very English disease of not opening a breakfast cafe in a hugely demanding fortnight until 9am. Lamenting on my hunger on Twitter, Michaela quickly offered to meet me at her hotel to share the most important meal of the day. To my everlasting shame I took a look out of the window of the media room and saw it was drizzling with rain so didn’t take her up on the offer. I mean, drizzle? Fucking drizzle? Turn down breakfast with Michaela Tabb because of a bit of fucking drizzle? What a shambles of a man I am. I was quite rightly lambasted on Twitter for this stupid decision as well as told by Tabby that my chance had gone. She even used the word ‘dumped’. I am a broken blogger.

Autograph - This was a weird moment. Having watched Ali’s second session with Selby I left the Crucible via the Stage Door. At which point a rather dishevelled looking man approached me. As I rehearsed my two possible next lines (‘sorry mate I haven’t got any change’ or ‘don’t hit the face’) he quickly thrust a pen and a programme at me saying he’d seen me in the arena and would I mind signing it for him. I instinctively took the pen and signed my name (my signature is unreadable anyway), knowing full well that he had no idea who I was. Since returning home Mrs SB has completely taken the piss out of me for this, saying that I should have told him that I wasn’t famous. What would you do? Come on, be honest.    

I had a bit of a fluffy afternoon.

I had a bit of a fluffy afternoon.

Pizza without Michaela. My girly afternoon - Having ended up having tear-filled coffee for breakfast I decided to treat myself to a pizza in Piccolinos, which again is a popular haunt for hungry potters, officials and fans. I embarrassingly asked for ‘a table for one’, the restaurant equivalent of walking into a supermarket and buying a pot noodle and a bottle of scotch, to which they decided to put me slap bang in the middle of the place for everyone to laugh at. Billy-no-mates-or-dates. As I ordered my food who should walk through the door but my ex Michaela, looking as gorgeous as ever and seemingly completely ‘over me’ having given me the boot from our imaginary relationship just hours earlier. She spotted me and breezed over, smiling that smile that only an ex that has moved on to bigger and better things while you gradually slip into self-indulgence can smile. She chatted away to me as if nothing had happened earlier, leaving only to say that I’d had my chance and blown it and don’t even think about asking her to join me. As by now I’d checked into the Mercure I decided that the only course of action was to spoil myself, so having gone to buy Mrs SB some pampering items for her birthday on my return home, I threw an extra bathbomb for myself in there and had a girly afternoon watching snooker in my far more luxurious surroundings having had a bath and cleansed, toned and moisturised. A truly female afternoon to prepare for Ali’s final session in the evening, because I’m worth it sister.          

Ali’s final session and talk of ballet - It wasn’t to be for The Captain this year and Mark ran out a deserving winner. As I sat there following my self-pamper session dreaming of kittens and pretty dresses, Ali was being put through the mill by The Jester, who I must say was extremely chirpy even when the pressure was on and constantly smiling up at friends in the audience, he seems to finally be living up to The Jester tag on the table as well as off it, not many people have a bad word to say about him and he seems a very nice chap. I sat next to a guest of Matchroom who worked in professional golf, a Brummie whose name I didn’t catch but who spoke eloquently of his fascination at being there for the very first time. He spoke of the ‘ballet’ going on between players, referee and cameramen, a reference to how close together everything is in this great arena and the ease with which each performer glides about their business. I saw exactly what he meant and vaguely remembered thinking the same when I first went to the Crucible to watch, I stopped short of asking him his favourite fragrance of bath bomb though as I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea.

Snooker who’s who at the casino - My trip was rounded off with my first ever visit to a casino with Team Carter. Ali was by now in good spirits and over his defeat, he knew how well Selby had played and had tried his best so had nothing to beat himself up about. As a casino newbie I found it very odd having my face scanned as I walked in, all very James Bond, I didn’t have a try on the tables as I’d only have lost. There were loads of snooker faces in there, all trying their luck. It’s not really my thing to be honest and for me is just a posher version of a betting shop. I spent most of my time talking to Team Carter member Horsey’s girlfriend about fluffy things while Ali played pontoon with a different name. All well above my head.

It was then time to turn in and I left them to it in this place where time passes without anyone really noticing. I’d really enjoyed my time in Sheffield but it was time to go home, I can’t do the long stint like the hardened journos and prefer to mix it up with general observations at home about Dennis and co and Beardy Medal Man. Next morning I missed Ronnie telling the press conference to the tune of £250 that he was a ‘fucking miserable bastard’ when he wasn’t playing well, something he rectified as only he can with his breathtaking final session win over Joe Perry, was he just teasing us all along?

Anyway, daily updates will now return as normal. Here’s Sunday….

10am

Shaun Murphy v Marco Fu
Mark Allen v Neil Robertson

2.30pm

Dominic Dale 7-1 Michael Wasley
Judd Trump 6-2 Ryan Day

7pm

Shaun Murphy v Marco Fu
Mark Allen v Neil Robertson

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and you can also view their match betting by clicking here.

You can read my full second round match preview here.  

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April 25, 2014

World Championship Day 8

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:39 pm

I’ll be making my way back from The Crucible on Saturday and then we’ll see the resumption of general daily piss-taking posts at the expense of the BBC for the remainder of the championship.

I’ll also be filling you all in on my Crucible experience this year when I’m back in the land of the living.

Abnormal service will be resumed shortly but for now here is the schedule for Saturday, can Ronnie survive?   

10am

Ronnie O’Sullivan 7-9 Joe Perry
Alan McManus 3-4 Ken Doherty

2.30pm

Barry Hawkins v Ricky Walden
Judd Trump v Ryan Day

7pm

Dominic Dale v Michael Wasley
Alan McManus v Ken Doherty 

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and you can also view their match betting by clicking here.

You can read my full second round match preview here.  

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April 23, 2014

World Championship Round 2 Match Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:11 pm
Ronnie continues his defence on Thursday.

Ronnie continues his defence on Thursday.

Round 2 gets underway on Thursday as Ronnie O’Sullivan continues his defence of the title against Joe Perry.

The upsets in Round 1 have meant that the betting side of things from a match point of view have taken a bit of a bruising, although there is still plenty of outright interest and one Quarter bet that I still think could land at 9/1.

Now as we move into the best of 25′s, we have more of an idea of what we are dealing with in terms of how the players, in particular the seeded ones, are playing, so hopefully this will make the punting side of things a little easier.

I’ll list the matches in order of the draw and recommend a bet on each of them, the post will be updated as and when we know the match ups.

Click on the match to view the head to head stats courtesy of Cue Tracker.  

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Joe Perry (Starts Thursday 7pm)

Ronnie’s first match had a feeling of déjà vu to it to me. The way in which he dispensed with Robin Hull was reminiscent of his clinical but largely unspectacular first round wins of the last two years against Peter Ebdon and Marcus Campbell, that’s even before you look at the identical scoreline. So therefore all the signs are there again that he’s getting geared up for another serious tilt at the title and given his dominance in the head to heads over Perry it would only be the very brave or foolish who would predict anything other than a comfortable win for The Rocket. The two met at this stage 15 years ago, but so much water has passed under the bridge since then you’d need a frogman outfit to think that’s relevant, Ronnie won 13-9 on that occasion for the record. I can’t see Ronnie losing and he will probably win one or both of the first two sessions 6-2, for me that means he’ll just squeak under in the handicap that most firms have pitched this at.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on O’Sullivan (-5.5 frames) at 10/11 with Apollobet.  

Shaun Murphy v Marco Fu (Starts Sunday 10am)

An extremely hard call this one but on first round form the man that undoubtedly stood out from the crowd was Marco Fu, his performance in beating Martin Gould being extremely impressive and assured. Murphy took all his 19 frames to finish off Jamie Cope who said afterwards he was very disappointed with his second session performance and had he not put in a duff session he reckoned he would have won. It’s true that Murphy is far from invincible at The Crucible but having come through the jitters of Round 1 you’d expect him to start playing himself into the tournament from now on. Of all the match ups in this round this is the one I find hardest to call. Fu continues to be labelled a dark horse for some reason yet he is a top 8 player and has been now for a while, Murphy’s form coming into the championship was enough to convince me that this year he has a realistic title chance. I’m going to unashamedly sit on the fence for this one and just assume they will both get to 10, this one could get very close and extremely edgy towards the end.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Over 22.5 frames in the match at 11/10 with Skybet.   

Barry Hawkins v Ricky Walden (Starts Friday 10am)

The two semi-finalists from last season meet again, this time two rounds earlier. Walden has actually had his revenge on Barry since by beating him in a decider at The Masters, coming from 5-2 down to pip him 6-5. On the face of it these two are very evenly matched and their head to head stats back this up. For years the two of them have been either just in or just on the cusp of the top 16 but it’s fair to say that in the last two seasons it’s Hawkins that has kicked on. Barry is quickly becoming a Crucible specialist and comes into this fresh having missed China after winning the PTC Grand Finals, he’s definitely one of the men in form and I think will be eyeing up another possible crack at Ronnie in the semi-finals now that Ding is out of the running. He played very well in Round 1 against Dave Gilbert and I think he has the look of a man with bigger things on his mind here.

Recommended Bet: 2 points on Hawkins to win (-2.5 frames) at 11/10 with Paddy Power.   

Dominic Dale v Michael Wasley (Starts Saturday 7pm)

Two players who have seen plenty of each other over the last few years in Gloucester now form an unlikely duo to reach the Quarter Finals of the World Championship. Wasley’s first round win will go down in Crucible folklore as one of the major shocks ever to happen here, the manner in which he beat Ding was even more impressive, he won, Ding didn’t lose. What you are betting on here is a few things, can Wasley retain the momentum he showed against Ding? Has going back to his base in Gloucester been the right thing to do to get away from his new found fame? Can Dale continue his strong recent form and do what Ding couldn’t? Well you know what? I haven’t a clue. I have looked through all the markets and can’t find a bet that I’d consider value. If it’s very one-sided I’d fancy Dale, if it goes close I’d fancy Wazza. No bet, there are too many uncertainties.

Mark Selby v Ali Carter (Starts Thursday 1pm)

Both narrow winners in round one Mark Selby and Ali Carter reprise a Quarter Final match up from 2007 which saw Selby win in a decider. First round performances suggest that this could be another Crucible classic and you’d expect it to go close. Selby looked OK in spurts in his win over Michael White but somehow managed to only fall over the line from a fairly comfortable position. Ali huffed and puffed his way through against Xiao but accelerated when challenged so both should be prepared for a decent battle here. Selby’s form has been very suspect this season, he’s not looked the force he has done in previous years but as ever his strong suit remains his ability to win when he looks like losing. Ali’s had his own issues this season and that’s understandably affected his form but for me he remains a very tough prospect at The Crucible and a better player here than he is anywhere else. I’ll stop short of tipping Ali to win though if you put a gun to my head I’d say he will, the handicap is a safer proposition in my opinion.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Carter (+2.5 frames) at 10/11 with Totesport. 

Alan McManus v Ken Doherty (Starts Friday 2.30pm)

Rumours that this match is being sponsored by Saga Holidays are greatly exaggerated as these old foes do battle at The Crucible for the third time. They last met in 2005 when Angles prevailed 13-11, a full 11 years almost to the day that Ken had beaten him here by the same score. That means that we are now seeing the two do battle for the third decade on the trot in the same round, all very oddly coincidental. So we’ve established that it will probably be 13-11 but who’s going to win? Well on first round performances I’d have to plump for McManus, simply on the basis that he was pushed harder to win. Ken did what he had to do but was hugely helped by the second session surrender of Stuart Bingham, who said afterwards that he thought Ken would have to raise his game markedly to get any further. Whatever happens, it’s a great achievement by them both to get this far at this stage in their careers, it might not be high on quality, but something tells me it will make up for this in tension.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on the winning margin to be Under 3.5 frames at 11/10 with Paddy Power.   

Judd Trump v Ryan Day (Starts Saturday 2.30pm)

Judd’s first round performance left a lot to be desired, he was slow, he was poor in all areas and he missed and misjudged ball after ball. He wasn’t punished but one thing you can be sure of, if he plays like that again he won’t be going any further against a player with a very good win under his belt already and a lot of Crucible experience. Judd proclaimed himself not too bothered about how he played and more interested in the result but surely he must be a little bit concerned. Day goes into this as an underdog with the bookies but I get the sense that I am not the only one who fancies him to win here. On first round performances and it could even be argued on recent form, I’d make Day favourite. It remains to be seen whether Judd can get himself back up to scratch and raise his game for the biggest venue of them all or whether the bookies have made a huge mistake here.

Recommended Bets: 2 points on Day at 12/5 with Apollobet. 3 points on Day (+3.5 frames) at 4/5 with Totesport.  

Mark Allen v Neil Robertson (Starts Sunday 10am)

Two of the big names in snooker meet in the last 16 and for many this has been the game to look forward to since the draw came out. I was surprised (I shouldn’t be really) at how well Robertson played in his first match, the remarkable century record aside, he looked every inch a player on a mission. He came into the press area afterwards with strong words, saying he’d never prepared better for a World Championship and that he doesn’t fear anyone. Allen played well enough but was helped a little by the second session performance by Michael Holt. I’m going to go against the grain here as I think Robertson will win this fairly comfortably, I feel he’s better in every department of the game than Allen but most importantly on the safety and tactical side which will be the key to getting opportunities in this match. Robbo also needs just 3 more tons to reach the 100 century total for the season, this may the match tailor-made for him to do it in.

Recommended Bet: 2 points on Robertson to win (-4.5 frames) at 2/1 with William Hills.   

ADDED SECOND ROUND ACCA: 3 POINTS ON O’SULLIVAN (at 3-5 down to Perry), McMANUS AND HAWKINS PAYS JUST ON 11/4 AT APOLLOBET.

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and you can also view their match betting by clicking here.   

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Photos used courtesy of Monique Limbos. Click here to view her photos on Facebook.

Day Five: Riding on a Train (to Sheffield)

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:00 am

Modern Life is Rubbish

Modern Life is Rubbish

My life is just one long snooker marathon these days, as I make my way to The Crucible this morning for goodness knows what. 

I’m probably on a train as you read this and as a result only have time to briefly summarise the main talking points from Tuesday, I’ll be working on a match by match second round preview today and aim to have that up on here at least in part, possibly later today.

So as time is of the essence, yesterday saw wins for Alan McManus who knocked out John Higgins and Ricky Walden who ended the run of Kyren Wilson with a final frame that threatened to extend into June. Elsewhere, good leads were established in other matches by a very impressive Marco Fu and a slower version of Judd Trump with Barry Hawkins and Mark Allen taking slender one frame advantages into today.

Angles used his press conference afterwards to have a good old rant about all things modern, so I’m obviously, as a traditionalist anorak with a great love of tartan trousers, going to listen.

Our Alan reckons that the younger players aren’t getting their collective bonces down enough on the baize and prefer instead to spend too much time on the internet, he singled out in particular Facebook and Twitter, the two internet social media evil giants.

But Angles isn’t too bothered about that as what it means is that the likes of him and Ken and all the other fortysomethings with a bit more nouse can keep on earning the bunce, he said “The old guard are still holding quite a big chunk of the top 16 or 32. I think there’s still plenty of room for guys at the age of 40 and over to compete at the higher level of the game. Today’s world isn’t good for young people in snooker terms because they spend all their time on Facebook and it’s killing their snooker. They’re too busy reading and writing about snooker, instead of getting their nut down and practicing hard. I’m on Twitter but I don’t tweet very often.”

I say bravo to that, there’s far too much rubbish written about snooker on the internet and it’s mostly read by dimwits. Ermm. Anyway, Alan then took to Twitter to thank his fans for their support and tell them what he was having for his tea.

But despite his chatter, he can’t be making that much money as when asked about his tartan trousers, he added: “I’m going to have to stick with them because they’re the only ones I’ve got”. I do hope he’s found a decent dry cleaners after his close shave with John, we may need to have a whip-round for him if he wins another one.

The other big story was Judd being hauled off a frame early in his match with Tom Ford. It’s surely an embarrassment for the Boy Wonder to suffer the ultimate humiliation and forever now be labelled as a snail on the baize. Hopefully he’ll start speeding up again soon as this is not what Barry wants from him at all.

Talking of Barry, it’s 2pm today for his latest musings, including the much anticipated talk of format change and the yes or no to the wildcards. Jimmy might actually need one as if Michael Wasley can win his next match he’ll be relegated off the tour at the expense of a certain Martin O’Donnell.

Apologies for the condensed post today, but I don’t want to miss my date with Beardy Medal Man, I’ve a train to catch. Choo Chooo.    

10.00am

Barry Hawkins 5-4 David Gilbert 
Judd Trump 6-2 Tom Ford

2.30pm

Marco Fu 6-3 Martin Gould
Neil Robertson v Robbie Williams

7pm

Dark Mavis v Dominic Dale
Mark Allen 5-4 Michael Holt

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and you can also view their match betting by clicking here.   

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April 22, 2014

World Championship Day Four

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:41 am
Ermm, yeah. It really happened.

Ermm, yeah. It really happened.

Alright hang on a minute, that wasn’t supposed to happen was it? Day three in Sheffield produced yet more drama as the unlikely figure of Michael Wasley, who by day can be seen cleaning out toilets and running to Tesco to stock up on bread at the Gloucester Academy, added his name to a very short list of Crucible giantkillers, seeing off Ding Junhui 10-9 in a thriller.

It’s difficult to know where to start with this, superlatives will be used on every blog, every journal, every newspaper that covers this incredible achievement by the man everyone who meets him immediately refers to as ‘Wazza’. Ding came into this, for the first time really in my eyes as a very real contender for the title, but a combination of Michael’s fearless attitude to the match coupled with the Crucible demons once again working their wicked ways means Ding ends the season as a first round loser, having been winning almost everything else. The curse of the China Open once again proving just as real as it’s distantly related Crucible hoodoo. Those pesky snooker gods….

I won’t go into the ins and outs of the match but will say this. Wasley played incredibly well, I would go as far as to say that his performance is at the top of the pile when it comes to Crucible match debuts, he fought back from 3-6 down having looked a little jaded at the end of the first session to bring the fight to an increasingly animated Ding. His positivity, his obvious appeal as the big underdog in a country prone to not really liking winners that much and his rock-solid nerve under pressure proved a winning combination. Having now met him on many occasions, I am absolutely thrilled for him, he’s a grafter, but that should not detract from his talent. He’ll feel like it was all a dream this morning.

The victorious hero said afterwards ‘It will take a good night’s sleep to get over it. The crowd were great, they really brought me along and it’s great playing in front of them performing – I just want to do it all again tomorrow. Throughout qualifying I thought I played really solid, I think I upped my level yesterday and not just today. Coming into the session 6-3 down I knew what I had to do to try and win it. I knew Ding was coming into this with a lot of pressure being one of the favourites, and I just had to try and capitalise on that which I did. It’s been amazing, you only dream of playing in places like this and it’s taken a lot of hard work and support from everybody. It’s all coming together now. I’ve got a big taste for it.’

I just hope all this fame doesn’t go to his head as he promised to change the tip on my cue next time I saw him and we agreed a price. Just because he’s now a fucking superstar doesn’t mean I’m paying above the odds, we agreed a fiver and that’s all I’m paying, like it or lump it. AND I know you’ll be reading this so don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Ding was left to lick his wounds but was more gracious in defeat than he had been in getting there, a defeat which will at least ensure that he is now firmly embedded in the Crucible history books, albeit not for the reason he’d like. China’s wait for a world champion goes on.

Elsewhere during the day, Mark Selby also won a decider against Michael White. Normally of course this would be the headline of the day but such was the scale of Wazza’s win, it’s relegated to a supporting paragraph. The Jester will be lining up against Ali Carter in the potential tie of the round starting Thursday.

Joe Perry came back to beat Jamie Burnett, another player that recovered from a 3-6 deficit. Afterwards Joe said he was pleased with himself but Burnett wasn’t exactly a ray of sunshine, claiming he didn’t enjoy playing anymore and wouldn’t care if he dropped off the main tour. Another Crucible rookie Kyren Wilson started well against Ricky Walden but resumes this evening at 6-3 down after the Chester man who still hasn’t got a nickname took the final five frames of the session.

The other match yesterday saw what most days would be the headline on this blog, namely, Alan McManus stepping out into the arena in a pair of Tartan Trousers.

Angles cut quite a dash in his strides and sartorially I reckon upped the game from Clark Gable Murphy. Cruel jibes from some quarters proclaimed he’d arrived late to The Crucible having come straight from the golf course without time to change, another troublemaker who shall remain nameless suggested that he’d mugged the Crucible chef as he’d forgotten his normally understated threads. Whatever the truth of the matter, the trousers definitely had an effect on the match as a stunned and mesmerized Higgins struggled to cope with them.

Albert shows Stephen how to rock the beard as small children stare in wonderment.

Albert shows Stephen how to rock the beard as small children stare in wonderment.

At 5-1 up, the magic trousers looked to be coasting all the way to a massive overnight lead but then something odd happened. Higgins, on 49 and seemingly in for a serious maximum attempt, broke down, to the despair of Stephen Hendry on Twitter who during the break (aftertiming) said he’d backed the maximum to be made at some point in the tournament.

As pockets were hurriedly widened even further to please the King of the Crucible and the Scottish mafia, Higgins was off again and this time got to ten reds and blacks before breaking down on 80 on another attempt, to the despair of half of Scotland who by then had lumped on Hendry’s ill-judged advice. Perhaps he’ll get one today, who knows, he’d better had or they’ll string him up when he gets home, they don’t like parting with money those jocks. Anyway, Angles and his trousers resume at, yep you guessed it, 6-3 in front again.

So another dramatic day in Sheffield, so dramatic that there isn’t even time to talk about ‘Smilewatch’, the new craze that’s sweeping the nation when Beardy Medal Man aka Uncle Albert comes on our screens. No time either to talk about how excited Steve and JP are about their new TV toy thingy and the slow-mo shot replays or to mention Dennis’s two gaffes of the day in somehow referring to SWSA supremo Paul Mount as Paul Round and picking out the narkiest kid in the Crucible on camera claiming he was delighted to be there while Animated Angry Kid was remonstrating with his mother about something she’d done that he didn’t like, probably breathing.

Everything is so dramatic on the baize we have no time for such trivial tittle-tattle today.

Tuesday sees another jam-packed day as Round 1 enters the business end of things, I’ve also included the schedule for Wednesday below as this time tomorrow I’ll be on a train to Sheffield with the express purpose of tickling Uncle Albert to see if I can force a smile out of him. So tomorrow’s post will be a little later and directly from The Crucible, if the Wifi is working which is always a toss of a coin in the media bearpit. It’s Bazza’s big day tomorrow too so stay tuned for his latest madcap ideas.

10am

Marco Fu v Martin Gould
John Higgins 3-6 Alan McManus

2.30pm

Barry Hawkins v David Gilbert
Judd Trump v Tom Ford

7pm

Ricky Walden 3-6 Kyren Wilson
Mark Allen v Michael Holt

Wednesday 

10am

Barry Hawkins v David Gilbert 
Judd Trump v Tom Ford

2.30pm

Marco Fu v Martin Gould
Neil Robertson v Robbie Williams

7pm

Dark Mavis v Dominic Dale
Mark Allen v Michael Holt

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and you can also view their match betting by clicking here.   

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Photo used courtesy of Monique Limbos. Click here to view her photos on Facebook.

April 21, 2014

World Championship Day Three

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:46 am
Ken orders a drink the minute he wins.

Ken orders a drink the minute he wins.

Another day in Sheffield follows a dramatic night at The Crucible last night which saw two matches going to a decider as Shaun Murphy and Ryan Day booked their places into the Last 16.

But that wasn’t the only drama on Day Two by a long chalk and earlier it was the turn of Dublin Darling Ken Doherty to turn back the clock and post a win over the hapless Stuart Bingham. Ken had returned to the arena with a one frame deficit but he needn’t have worried as Ballrun proceeded to play one of worst sessions of his or indeed anyone’s life, seemingly unable to string more than two or three balls together as Ken giggled to himself in the corner, unable to believe his luck as his opponent missed here, there and everywhere.

It was Ken’s first win at The Crucible for donkey’s years and he was clearly chuffed to bits at the end of it. He then looked ahead to his next match and said ‘I’m coming here to enjoy myself but I’m not coming here to make up the numbers. I’m here, like everybody else, to give their best – this tournament only comes around once a year’. Stuart couldn’t understand why he played like he did and said that Ken would have to improve a lot of progress further, putting rather a dampener on the previously celebratory mood.

The afternoon saw Rubik Cube Master Michael Wasley walk out to the arena for the first time with a big smile on his face, he played very well early on under the circumstances but returns today 3-6 down to Ding. Ding was a bit grumpy yesterday and was getting very annoyed at himself at times, but he got himself in order towards the end of the session after all the toys had been discarded from his pram.

On the other table, another notorious Crucible grump Ali Carter returned to conclude his match against Xiao Guodong. It was during this match that Dennis decided to step in with his vast knowledge of all things international. He spoke of the other Chinese players he’s familiar with, Ding, Liang Wenbo and Dechawat Poomjaeng from ermm, Thailand, this latest attempt at diplomatic relations meeting with a stunned silence from his commentating colleague The Nugget. The less said about that gaffe the better really as it comes just as the dust had settled on him calling China ‘The Land of the Rising Sun’, which very nearly resulted in a Nuclear War in the East.

Anyway, Ali huffed and puffed, kicked his cue, ruffled his hair so much that by the end of the match he resembled a distant cousin of Ken Dodd but ultimately came through the match unscathed, which is more than could be said for his hair. Afterwards he praised his opponent for his unflappable way around the table before praising himself even more; ‘The clearance he did to go 8-8 was massive but all credit to me for making the 80 break and playing a granite last frame there to win it’ he said modestly. He is now up against the winner of Mark Selby and Michael White so we could be on for another Captain Classic in Round 2, he doesn’t do things the easy way does Ali.

Then it was the turn of the evening protagonists to return. The understated Shaun ‘Clark Gable’ Murphy returned in a suit which is meeting with mixed reviews to his Superman theme music and eventually managed to overcome Jamie Cope from Stoke on a dramatic Crucible evening that the BBC couldn’t be arsed broadcasting, instead concentrating on things from years ago that everyone has seen 100 times before.

Shaun was in jovial mood after the match and joked ‘If that’s what this tournament’s got in store for me over these 17 days then I want to go home, I feel like I’ve got the nerves of a 75-year-old and I’m only 31. I’m just glad I’ve got one of these in the locker because it’s so hard out there – the first round is like a bloodbath’. Nobody can ever accuse him of exaggerating.

Cope in the meantime continued the spirit of sour losers and basically claimed that Shaun had only won because he wasn’t cueing properly saying ‘I just couldn’t control my arm today. If I’d have felt like I did yesterday, I’d have probably won 10-5′. But unfortunately for him matches aren’t decided on probably’s and he’s definitely not in the next round.

On the other table a spirited fightback by Stephen Maguire ultimately resulted in him running out of gas at the end, losing a decider to the man with shovels for hands, Ryan Day.

Big HandsRyan said afterwards that he’d really enjoyed the game from start to finish, though I’m not sure he’d have said that if he’d lost while Maguire bemoaned his ‘season from hell’ saying that he’s glad that it’s over, though the way things are at the moment in snooker all that means is a fortnight off before the next tournament in Bongo Bongo Land, but my guess is that Mags might be one of those who picks and chooses more next season, we’ll see.

Dennis’s Eastern gaffe aside, it was a fairly uneventful day off the baize, largely because of the BBC’s frankly shit coverage in the evenings. The afternoon however saw JP get his little go on the new screen that they have got for themselves in the Winter Gardens with Hazel yelling over to him struggling to be heard when he was trying to explain something as they were watched on by the strange Uncle Albert impersonator they have hired in for the championship.

Anyway, it was a great day’s snooker yesterday and bodes well for a championship that unlike last year seems not to be relying too much on gimmicks and characters and more on what’s happening on the table.

Today sees Ronnie’s opponent for Round 2 decided this morning as Jamie Burnett resumes against Joe Perry 6-3 up, while Mark Selby starts out against Michael White and plays to a finish this evening. Ding and Wazza play to a finish this afternoon as Scots Higgins and McManus start out and tonight it’s the turn of another Crucible debutant Kyren Wilson to enter the arena to face icky Walden.

10am

Joe Perry 3-6 Jamie Burnett
Mark Selby v Michael White

2.30pm

Ding Junhui 6-3 Michael Wasley
John Higgins v Alan McManus

7pm

Ricky Walden v Kyren Wilson
Mark Selby v Michael White

You can read my full championship preview here and Mrs Snookerbacker’s spooky championship prediction here

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and you can also view their match betting by clicking here.   

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April 20, 2014

World Championship Day Two

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:00 am
Ronnie is safely through.

Ronnie is safely through.

It’s Day Two at the Crucible and today we will see four matches conclude and two fresh ones begin and it’s fair to say that all the seeded players aren’t having things their own way.

Ronnie however came through 10-4 in his first match against Robin Hull and proclaimed himself afterwards as ‘here to do a job’, after of course, his usual gushing congratulations to his opponent on managing to reach The Crucible, thankfully just stopping short of his usual praise for what a great season he’s had, as poor old Robin has hardly played in anything else Ron had obviously done his research.  

While Ronnie played OK, the score probably flattered him a little, but ominously it’s the same scoreline as he’s won by in Round 1 for the last two years so perhaps he’s once again just warming up.

JP proclaimed that a pink he played early in the match was ‘already shot of the championship and it’s only day 1′ which is a bit of a shame as I was looking forward to the next 16 days, but when JP raises those arched-eyebrows you know he’s deadly serious so Ron is already a winner in his eyes.

The highlight of the day in the commentary box was undoubtedly JV carelessly falling off his seat. Unfortunately, it wasn’t caught on camera but it sounds as if he was OK. His co-commentator Nugget admirably holding the fort through his giggles as the dishevelled bearded one got himself back in order. World Snooker have instigated a full investigation to find out what happened and word has it that Stephen Lee is in the frame for tampering with the chair just before John went in there, well, he gets the blame for everything else so they might as well add that to the list and bang another couple of years onto his sentence.

Anyway, resuming today we have firstly Stuart Bingham against Ken Doherty, who are locked in battle with Ballrun leading 5-4. Ken’s fans made a lot of noise in the first session and are clearly either right behind their man or they’ve started on the Guinness earlier than usual. Bingham will probably feel that he should be a little further in front and this promises to be a great finish to kick start the morning of day two.

Ali Carter looked to be absolutely coasting at 4-1 up and in the balls to Xaio Guodong, but a shot going into the pack off the blue resulted in a red going in too and it’s fair to say this altered the match and more importantly The Captain’s previously relaxed mood considerably. As Ali huffed and puffed around the table as only he can, Xiao, in a pair of £400 silver scoobies made his way back into the match. Having drawn level at 4-4 a tense last frame saw The Captain battle back to the front, it remains to be seen how crucial that frame will be and the two resume this afternoon in what could be a great day’s action.

Resuming in the evening are Shaun Murphy and Jamie Cope alongside Stephen Maguire and Ryan Day. Both seeds are behind with Maguire in particular really up against it resuming at 3-6 with Ryan Day having managed to win the final frame of the session. Mags will need to start well it goes without saying, but if he wins the first mini-session he’s right back in it. I’m sure that this fact might be mentioned once or ten times on the BBC.

Shaun, who is quickly turning into the Clark Gable of the Baize with these dapper threads he’s wearing will need to smarten up his act on the baize today as he resumes 4-5 down to the resurgent Jamie Cope. The Stoke Potter looked very sharp in the first session and we know he has the experience and game to win and Shaun will be hoping to avoid another unwelcome first round exit in a season when he goes into this as a real contender, would be a waste of a good suit too.

Off the table, World Snooker Dictator, I mean Director, Barry Hearn used yesterday to really get the snooker community going by saying that on Wednesday he’s going to make an announcement about changes to the format of the World Championship next year. Many widely (probably wrongly) assumed that this will mean he’s shortening the matches but I don’t think that’s what he’s talking about. My hunch is that the flat 128 structure will be adopted with each player needing to win 2 matches to get to The Crucible next season, but we’ll see.

He also said that he’ll be announcing his decision on the Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, Jimmy White wildcard melodrama too, he seems to be siding with keeping them all on the tour, at least on a temporary basis, having courted opinion on the matter on Twitter and apparently having added up all the feedback to come up with a 77% approval rating. Rumours that he used the same calculation that brought about the re-election of Robert Mugabe with a 125% share of the vote is I’m sure untrue.

He also said he’s been having positive discussions with both the BBC and Sheffield about the Crucible’s long term snooker future and again indicated that he doesn’t want to move it away ‘during his lifetime’. He even referred to himself as a ‘traditionalist’ which is odd as he used the very same term as an insult a few weeks ago, though he did add the word ‘anorak’ to give it further gravitas. He also said that other TV channels are making positive noises about snooker, which probably just means Sky want another bloody Shootout.

I’ll be at The Crucible for the press conference so we’ll wait and see what our lord and master has to say on all these and no doubt more matters. I’ll be taking my anorak, my collection of train timetables and a packet of rotten tomatoes just in case.

Cliff: Flying in soon (flight class unspecified)

Cliff: Flying in soon (flight class unspecified)

Thankfully, I wasn’t there yesterday as the stage belonged to someone called Louis from a band. World Snooker teased us all as they proudly proclaimed he had 16 million Twitter followers prior to the great unveiling of who their mystery man was, they then set about googling who he was themselves before pretending to be hip and trendy and making puns on their song names, none of which I recognised apart from the name of an old Blondie rip-off they’ve massacred.

For me this was all a bit of an anti-climax but I’m sure someone, somewhere in the fiercely protective snooker community recognised him. At least Dennis didn’t cotton on as god only knows what he’d have started saying about it all. I’m sure he’d have been wholly inappropriate as only he can be so it’s probably a good idea that the two were kept well apart from each other. Thankfully our Den stuck to wittering on about golf, 1985, Patsy Fagan, Fred Davis and what time and date Cliff Thorburn is flying in from Toronto this year. The one reassuring constant in an ever changing world.

So here are today’s matches. It’s a huge day for SWSA workhorse Michael Wasley as he takes on the thankless task of playing Ding. Hopefully he’ll just relax and enjoy it, though the likelihood of him stopping China’s great hope at this stage has to be considered slim. Gentleman Joe Perry also starts out this morning against Scotland’s Jamie Burnett in the match that will decide O’Sullivan’s 2nd Round opponent.

10am

Joe Perry v Jamie Burnett
Stuart Bingham 5-4 Ken Doherty

2.30pm

Ding Junhui v Michael Wasley
Ali Carter 5-4 Xiao Guodong

7pm

Shaun Murphy 4-5 Jamie Cope
Stephen Maguire 3-6 Ryan Day

You can read my full championship preview here and Mrs Snookerbacker’s spooky championship prediction here

You can view the outright odds at Apollobet here and you can also view their match betting by clicking here.   

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Photo used courtesy of Monique Limbos. Click here to view her photos on Facebook.

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