January 19, 2016

The Rack Pack Review: A Triumph of Sound and Vision

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:50 am

Alex gets a touch up. Photographer: Amanda Searle

When I heard that the BBC were planning to show a film about the great rivalry of 80’s snooker played by actors I was immediately both curious and cautious. Having grown up in this golden era of the baize I was concerned that they’d fail to capture just how great it really was, snooker was the obsession of millions, from kids like me to twenty-somethings, from working mens clubs to housewives and grannies, it seemed back then that everyone had their favourite players.

The biggest rivalry in those days without a shadow of doubt was between Alex Higgins and Steve Davis. Alex, the maverick and all round nutcase and Steve, the robotic humanoid next door. They couldn’t have been wired up any differently as people and their mutual distaste for each other was orchestrated and nurtured behind the scenes by the ringmaster himself, Steve’s manager, Barry Hearn.

The Rack Pack opens up with a bang, with Higgins, played brilliantly by Luke Treadaway, seeing off the old guard in the form of John Spencer to the strains of ‘Black Dog’ by Led Zeppelin, giving us a subtle clue of what is to come, to win his first world title in 1972 in very different surroundings than we’re used to these days. The portrayal of a working class hero is evident from the start.

The film is primarily about Alex and originally apparently that was the plan, until the writers discovered that there was so much more to the 1980’s snooker scene than him. This era was all about change and showmanship; ‘Dallas with Balls’ as Hearn so eloquently puts it. As Alex himself had given the old guard a firm kick up the arse in the 1970’s, he himself was to fall victim to a changing of the guard not too long afterwards in the form of Davis, played again quite brilliantly by Will Merrick, who portrays a man growing in confidence as the years go by, from being a nerd with a notebook to someone no longer prepared to be bullied by Alex backstage at The Crucible, where two of the best lines in the film are uttered, in particular when Alex is describing witnessing the birth of his daughter and why despite all the warnings this didn’t phase him.

Behind it all is Hearn, played to perfection by Kevin Bishop. Arguably, whilst Davis is perhaps portrayed a little too wet behind the ears for greater comedic effect and Alex’s role is slightly romanticised to brush over some of the more unsavoury and extreme aspects of his personality, Hearn is played more or less to the letter. The one-liners are delivered with perfect timing and mask the ruthlessness with which he operated. As Alex changed the face of the public perception of snooker in his heyday, so Hearn did in his. Arguably without Alex none of this would have been possible and The Hurricane’s belief that this was the case would ultimately contribute to his demise as those around him, including his best friend Jimmy White, played by James Bailey, thrived under Barry’s brave new world, with Matchroom Slippers and Aftershave all thrown into the bargain.

While Barry is busy changing the sport and Alex enjoys the dying embers of his snooker career to great excess we also get a glimpse of The Hurricane’s tempestuous home life. The stresses and strains of his relationship with his wife Lynn (Nichola Burley) are played out emotionally enough so as to not be disrespectful whilst still maintaining a feel of how life had changed since they took to the dancefloor as sweethearts to the strains of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, illustrating perfectly the two sides of Alex.

As well as the character portrayals, the film also has a blinding soundtrack and the sets are absolutely fantastic, in particular the recreation of The Crucible, which has been carried out to the letter. Throw in The Who, Thin Lizzy, Jimi Hendrix, T-Rex and Grandmaster Flash, which predictably accompanies a scene depicting use of illegal substances and this element of the package takes you back to the time and the place perfectly.

We are told from the start that the film is inspired by real events and that some elements may not really have happened, but that is what drama is all about. So what if Higgins is shown breaking off from the yellow side? So what if Dennis didn’t wear his glasses until a little later than portrayed? So what if Alex’s breakdown at The Crucible wasn’t in a one table situation? So what if Big Bill was twice the size of the actor that plays him? So what if Tony Knowles’s character appears to be as old as The Bolton Stud is now and so what if David Vine tells us that Steve Davis is 2/5 at the bookies and he’s carelessly chalked up at 5/2? In the great scheme of things their historical accuracy is about as important as the truth in the metaphorical and touching final scene between Steve and Alex, all represent artistic license and the factual inaccuracies would only, as Clive Everton might say, be of academic importance.

My only criticism, from a purely selfish point of view, is that the end feels a little rushed, I’d like the aftermath to have been explored deeper, but like all great watches, it left me wanting more. I’ll watch it again, and again and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before it airs on TV. But for now, the detail of how to watch it, in the UK at least, is linked below. If you enjoy it as much as I do here is an old post which sums up my own personal view of this era, snooker will never be the same, but why would we want it to be? If this film tells us anything, it’s that change is inevitable.               

Those of you that can, can download and watch it to your heart’s content here. You can also check out the tracklist here.

Rack 2

January 17, 2016

The Masters Final

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:31 am
Mr Ronnie O'Sullivan MBE

Mr Ronnie O’Sullivan MBE

A fantastic tournament reaches its conclusion today as Ronnie O’Sullivan faces Barry Hawkins in a repeat of their 2013 World Championship Final, which Ronnie won 18-12.

Hawkins thoroughly deserves his place in the final and has improved as each match has gone on, topping this off with a fine display over Judd Trump yesterday. He’s definitely a player that should be in everyone’s calculations come April and he proved again that on the big stage he is increasingly comfortable and I should think he’ll be really looking forward to the challenge ahead today.

The bad news is that he’s only beaten Ronnie once, way back in 2002 with all nine of their subsequent meetings being won by The Rocket. You can take a look at the head to head here.

As for Ronnie, he came through against Stuart Bingham last night and then marched into his press conference, declaring just before it started that he had ‘the touch of a rapist’. I’m sure this was off the record but it’s been put out there and I’d be surprised if a few people don’t take offence to his rather colourful, industrial language.

I think it’s a southern England thing, the only people I have ever heard put things in these terms seem to be southerners, unless I have just led such a sheltered and privileged life as to not have been exposed to such phraseology, I doubt it though as I worked in some right shitholes around Liverpool in my earlier working life and I have never heard that said around here by anyone. I wouldn’t say I am particularly offended, I just don’t find it a very nice thing to say when our language could offer up something a little more appropriate to the situation. 

Anyway, as we all know Ronnie can do and say what he wants so he won’t give a flying fuck who he has offended. He continues to proclaim that he isn’t cueing well but he looks in pretty good shape to me. Perhaps that is what comes of such high self expectation, for as we all know, he is his own harshest critic.

So what can we expect today? Well it’s been such a brilliant tournament can we really expect anything other than an even more brilliant end to it? The downside obviously remains the oxygen thieving shaved chimps that they let in to shout GWOORRNN RONNIE at a volume which increases in direct correlation to how many pints of lager the mostly fat, bald middle-aged men have consumed. I’m sure they’d find his rape comment just a good bit of bants and dismiss anyone taking offence as a lard arsed feminist or swamp donkey. It’s just a laugh so get over it.

Yesterday I posted up the right results for both semi-finals so I hope at least one of you got on the double which paid well over 70/1. Today, I think it might go closer than some would have it, the 10/3 best odds on Hawkins looks about right and given the head to head history it’s going to take a massive psychological effort from him to win. I wouldn’t totally dismiss it though if he can just forget who he is playing.

But when we have a tournament this memorable, it usually ends up having a memorable winner so for me it has to be Ronnie, in terms of a scoreline I’d plump for 10-7 to The Rocket which is a best price of 8/1. Now to go and start praying that Dennis isn’t commentating.    

January 16, 2016

Masters Semi Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:27 am
His partying days are over.

His partying days are over.

The weekend sees what promises to be a pulsating conclusion to a great Masters at Ally Pally which further delighted the crowds yesterday with a quite extraordinary match between Robbo and Judd, Judd’s total clearance in the final frame being not just the break of this tournament, but possibly of any tournament of the last decade.

What we may be seeing here after a few false starts is the new improved Judd, gone is the party going, hedonistic playboi and what has emerged from the wreckage seems to me to be what I’ve always thought he has always been anyway, a dedicated and focused player who is now doing what he really enjoys more, playing snooker. It also helps I suppose that he appears to have Miss World there supporting him.

He faces Barry Hawkins this afternoon, who is gradually getting better and better and will be hoping that Judd has had his big performance so that he can come in under the radar. Judd himself admitted yesterday that he prefers being the underdog in matches, something he most definitely won’t be very often if this form continues and today he finds himself as firm favourite against a fellow one time Crucible runner-up.

Tonight sees the return of Ronnie after his fine performance against Selby, though it has to be said that Selby didn’t really play all that well. The commentators continue to suffer from a dose of verbal orgasms whenever Ron strokes one in and I do feel that sometimes they over-egg things a little. Judd’s break yesterday far outshone Ronnie’s 70-odd to clinch the match against Selby, however good that was.

That moves me on to something that always takes the shine off a great performance from The Rocket. His fans. Not all of them, just the pre-pubescent ones who continue to spout verbal wank whenever he beats The Jester. They seem to blot out the times that the boot has been on the other foot and when reminded stick to the delusion that he only beats Ronnie when Ronnie lets him. Not only are they terrible losers, but also even more distastefully for me, they are ungracious winners.

Anyway, he faces World Champion Bingham who came through against the odds against Higgins last night. I’m really pleased for Stuart and it would be some achievement to win this so soon after the World Championship and still not be rated by some people who should know better. Maybe some will never accept how good he is, I’m sure Ronnie’s fans will have something to say if their hero lets him win again like he did in Sheffield.

In terms of betting this week, it’s been a total write off. From the first match when Murphy lost, subsequently letting down not only the main first round acca but also the 29/1 sevenfold, the writing has been on the wall. Therefore I will simply list the matches below with a link to the head to heads and give what I think the score will be. I’ll just stick to a correct score cross double but I won’t trouble you all with that.

Click on the match for the Head to Head Record, courtesy of Cue Tracker.


Barry Hawkins v Judd Trump

Prediction: Hawkins to win 6-4


Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stuart Bingham

Prediction: O’Sullivan to win 6-3 

Open an account and bet below at Marathon Bet by clicking the banner.     SB

January 15, 2016

2016 Q School Open for Entries

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:38 am

In amongst all the hullabaloo of The Masters, yesterday saw the launch of this season’s Q School, with entries now open to all amateurs who want the chance to compete on the main professional tour.

The tournament will start on May 11th and will once again be staged at the Meadowside Leisure Centre in Burton and with the arrangements for amateur players still very much up in the air for next season, this still represents the main way of qualifying to the tour.   

The format is the same as last year with two tournaments and eight two season tour cards up for grabs, those being given to the semi-finalists in each of two events. The entry fee remains £600 and Q School is open to players of all ages and nationalities (subject to terms and conditions). Those eight players will go on to compete on the World Snooker Tour. 

Entries are now being taken, just go to here and follow the instructions. The closing date for entering Q School is Wednesday April 6 at 12pm, which I assume will be extended for players who are destined to fall off the tour following the World Championship qualifiers.

The official Q-School website can be found here


January 13, 2016

Masters Quarter Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:02 pm
The Best of Enemies

The Best of Enemies

The Masters moves into the quarter final stages on Thursday and kicks off with an absolute belter as Ronnie O’Sullivan takes on Mark Selby for the first time since Selby snatched away his World Crown at the Crucible two seasons ago. This was a match that many believe wounded O’Sullivan as much and possibly more than any other in his long career and left a battle scar which he hasn’t ever really recovered from fully to this day.

In Selby and O’Sullivan snooker still retains one of sport’s big rivalries. The disdain with which Ronnie sometimes talks about Mark makes it all the more exciting. He often unfairly dismisses him as a negative, slow, methodical player, the only player in the game who can win when he’s playing crap and generally someone who audiences don’t want to watch. Selby usually rises above these childish taunts but hardly ever refers to Ronnie by his first name these days, preferring instead the far less endearing and much more impersonal ‘O’Sullivan’ when he is forced to talk about him. 

To fuel the flames, it’s fair to say that you also very rarely find someone in the partisan world of snooker fandom who likes them both, in fact more often than not they adore one and detest the other in equal measure. Insults from both camps fly around on social media like cluster bombs and it can all get a bit schoolyard at times, but it all adds to the perceived needle between the two, so it’s largely harmless I suppose. As far as I know it’s never resulted in any physical violence, although this may only be because some of the more dedicated/insane people who indulge in such quarreling can’t track their online sparring partners down in real life to knock the shit out of them.

Personally, I like watching them both play, though admittedly it did take me longer to appreciate exactly how good Selby really is and I’m all for these differences in approach and think that is why, apart from growing up with Jimmy and crying like a baby in 1984 when he lost to Steve Davis at The Crucible, I have never really been one to get upset at the player I want to win not winning. After all, it’s all part of sport and I don’t really take it all that seriously as there are far more important things in life than knocking a few balls around with a stick, particularly when it’s not even you holding the stick.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed this so far and I much prefer this type of tournament to the cramped, rushed, conveyor belt type feel of some of the others, the UK Championship now included. The match between Ronnie and MJW obviously stood out, the standard wasn’t great and both needed more chances than they would have done at their best to finish frames off but that made for great theatre, it may have sharpened Ronnie up for Thursday, where he’ll need to improve to stand a chance against The Jester.

Shaun Murphy stole the headlines for all the wrong reasons on the opening day for carelessly missing three times and forfeiting a frame on his way to defeat by Mark Allen. Selby himself whitewashed Ricky Walden, who like Ding Junhui, beaten by Ballrun in a match currently being used to cure insomnia, looks a shadow of the player we know he can be. Judd and Mags produced a decent match too and Judd did well to kick on following a Maguire comeback. The reformed playboi later proclaimed that he is bored of ‘going out’ now so is going to dedicate himself 100% to snooker rather than partying. He even divulged that he didn’t have a day off the table over Christmas, so it seems 2016 may see the new improved Trump at long last. Partying after all, is hugely overrated – just ask Charlie Sheen.

Elsewhere, Barry Hawkins showed glimpses of a return to form in beating Joe Perry and at time of writing I don’t yet know if Robbo will have set up the big Friday afternoon second rounder with his stablemate following John Higgins fine performance to continue his 100% win rate over Liang Wenbo to set up a clash with the World Champion and put himself firmly in the mix in the process with some stunning snooker.

Below is a look at each of the matches, starting with Thursday afternoon. My advice is to phone in sick, blatantly lie that a close relative has died, alternatively kill a close relative, but just make sure you do anything humanly possible to be on a sofa with a mug of tea and your biscuit of choice for the best rivalry in the sport.

Click on the match for the Head to Head Record, courtesy of Cue Tracker.        

Thursday 1pm

Mark Selby v Ronnie O’Sullivan

Well, I’ve covered most of the personal stuff above so all that remains now is to give an opinion on who is going to win. I plumped for Selby to win the championship at the start and I thankfully didn’t see anything in the first round to totally put me off, though Higgins is now firmly on the radar in this half. Ronnie’s matches here are always a spectacle and the dramatic way in which he defeated Williams probably masked over some of the cracks that are evident in his game, demonstrating that this is definitely a different kettle of fish than the Mock Tudor splendour and relaxed surroundings of Crondon Park. Ronnie needed multiple chances in most frames, he looked a little shaky when on the real pressure balls at times and relied a lot on mistakes by his opponent. He showed flashes of brilliance, but he usually does and this has to be matched by consistency if he’s going to clinch the title this week. I think Selby is due a big win and that’s why I am sticking with him here, I’m surprised Ronnie is favourite actually. Selby has proved time and again that he is not the type to crumble under pressure and hopefully he’ll have his fair share of support in there for this to combat the GWOORN RONNIE bellends. I hope it’s a classic but I genuinely think Selby will win with a bit in hand and wouldn’t put anyone off the 11/8 on offer.

Predicted Score: Selby 6-3.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on more than 1 century in the match pays 6/5. 

Thursday 7pm

Mark Allen v Barry Hawkins

The decisive head to head stat in favour of Allen does slightly mask the fact that it is Hawkins who has prevailed in their two most notable recent meetings, if you are prepared to discount a best of 7 in the recent Champion of Champions, which I am. They met at The Crucible last April and Hawkins won 13-11, a few years earlier Allen had won 13-12 at the same last 16 stage so these two have had a few tussles down the years. Hawkins has been struggling a bit to find any really consistent form this season so far but he showed signs that a return to something like his best isn’t far away against Perry in the last round. Allen benefited from Murphy’s carelessness and despite looking very nervous when closing the match out he did so with his trademark grit and determination. I think this one is pretty evenly matched to be honest and it could well be the better of the two Thursday matches in terms of overall standard, I fancy it to go close, perhaps even all the way for a thrilling Thursday night finale, gun to head, Allen.

Predicted Score: Allen 6-5.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on there being over 9.5 frames in the match at 6/5. 

Friday 1pm

Judd Trump v Neil Robertson

Before you read on I’m not recommending a bet on this match, it’s not one I’d feel comfortable calling after Neil’s practice session last night against a clearly unwell Marco Fu who looked beaten after a couple of shots. We can’t really gauge how Robbo is playing from that as it was just a case of going through the motions in the end. What I will say is that I’d give Judd more of a chance now than I would have done before seeing his game and his all round attitude against Maguire. Oh yes, and just look at that head to head! 201 frames played and Trump leads by a single frame, with the matches, 24 in all, standing at 12/12. As Dennis would probably say, incorrectly, you can’t get any closer than that. There are obviously a few very close matches in amongst these that have been contested by Django Fung’s two top boys, there is no reason to think that this will be anything other than close. Perhaps it’s Judd’s turn this week.

Predicted Score: Trump 6-5

Friday 7pm

John Higgins v Stuart Bingham

As you might expect, Higgins holds the aces in terms of the head to head record between these two with Stuart’s only really half decent competition win against John coming all the way back in 1999 in the Welsh Open. On first round form this is a no-brainer. Higgins was fantastic against Liang Wenbo who definitely caused him some problems while Ballrun overcame Ding in a very forgettable match for the two of them. Their form will have to differ drastically from their opening matches for this to be anything other than an easy win for Higgins. So can that happen? Of course it can, anything can and this is the World Champion we are talking about, he can beat anyone on his day as he’s shown, but at the prices, with the momentum with Higgins I think The Wizard of Wishaw still looks like value at 4/6 with Marathon Bet, I would have had him at 2/5 on his first round showing alone, it’s another day yes, but I just can’t see either of their form turning around so quickly, it has to be Higgins.

Predicted Score: Higgins 6-2.

Recommended Bet: 5 points on Higgins at 4/6 with Marathon Bet. 2 points on Higgins (-1.5 frames) at 11/10. 2 point double on Selby and Higgins pays almost bang on 11/4. 

Open an account and bet below at Marathon Bet by clicking the banner.  


January 8, 2016

The Masters Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:50 pm
Selby sports his new designer boil on the poster this year.

Selby sports his new designer boil on the poster this year.

Sunday sees the start of one of my favourite tournaments on the calendar, The Masters, from it’s new home of Alexandra Palace in that London. Whilst the atmosphere there is always lively, thankfully it won’t be anything like that darts circus that’s just packed up and left town. They’ll probably sell more packets of hard boiled sweets and cups of tea (none of that fancy modern-flavoured muck) than pints of lager, vodka red bull chasers and E-Cigs once the snooker crowd show up and long may that difference continue.

While there are those who aren’t that fond of this type of invitational event, I think they are an absolute must. This is the mid-season reward for a top 16 ranking place as is automatic qualification for The Crucible at the end of the season, if that weren’t the case, the ranking list would be even more irrelevant than it already is for all bar the end of season standings so I’m glad that this showpiece and the Crucible reward are still very much part of snooker’s make-up. Again, long may this continue.

Much will be made of two things this week. Firstly and inevitably, this sees the return of Ronnie O’Sullivan to the main stage. His lower profile outings in the run up have produced mixed fortunes, he lost to Stuart Carrington in the German Masters qualifiers in Wigan, looking quite rusty, but then hit back at Crondon Park this week with a 100% winning run to snatch the first group of the Championship League, playing some very impressive stuff in the process and smashing through the 800 career century breaks barrier. Whether he can bring that game to this very different stage is the big question, if he does, he’s going to be very hard to stop.

The other big talking point will undoubtedly be the toilet breaks. The new rules on pissing and shitting come into force here and anyone seen to be taking one dump shot too many will be landed with a fine. So as well as holding their nerves, the players now have to hold their bladders too. I don’t know about you, but if I drank as much water as some of them do in the hot arena to stay hydrated I’d be struggling to hold it in if the frames went scrappy. I’ve no doubt that the aforementioned Rocket will flout the new rules with his usual healthy disrespect for authority and if he does, I for one will applaud him. It’s an absolutely stupid decision and one which will again bring the discussion at the BBC back to anything other than the snooker itself.

The whole thing kicks off with the holder Shaun Murphy up against Mark Allen. The other day, some of you may know that I ran this whole tournament to a poll vote on Twitter, playing out the matches on the basis of the poll results and attracting over 3500 votes in all. Predictably perhaps and despite me pleading with people to not just vote for their favourite player, Ronnie won it, beating Robbo in the final. But one surprise earlier in the exercise for me was the huge margin of Murphy’s poll rating over Allen. If Twitter is right, this one will be over in the blink of an eye and Murphy will coast to an easy victory. My guess is that on this occasion, the social media machine may have called it wrong.

So basically below I am laying down the gauntlet to the social media giant, it’s SB v Twitter, Judgement Day.

Either way, it will be interesting to see if the results pan out anything like the snooker community predicted en masse. Below, as well as a bit of blurb on each match I’ll list what Twitter predicted and whether I agree or not. Either way, let’s hope for a great week on the baize and not too much focus on the toilet habits of the current top 16 players in the sport, snooker after all, is much better than that. It’s the potting, not the potty, that should be our focus.

For a look at all the head to head records in this tournament on one handy page, head to the excellent Cue Tracker link by clicking here.   

First round:

Shaun Murphy v Mark Allen –  Sunday January 10 at 1pm

The first match of the Masters, beamed live to the freezing and rain soaked UK via the BBC usually serves us up an appetizer for the main course later in the week and I can’t really see this match being too much of an exception. Murphy has a decent advantage on the head to heads and seems to have Allen’s measure in the big events. You could argue that when it comes to the matches that really carry weight, Murphy has a 100% record. I find this quite odd really as Allen is more than a match for the reigning champion and if I was bracketing players together in terms of ability I’d have these two pretty close to each other. But the record is there for all to see and for me that means I have to side with Murphy, but my guess is that the BBC will get the curtain raising drama they want and I wouldn’t be surprised if this went all the way.

Twitter Predicted: Easy win for Murphy.

SB predicts: Very close, Murphy to edge it. 

Barry Hawkins v Joe Perry – Monday January 11 at 7pm

Very little to choose between these two both in terms of ability and career records and it’s quite surprising that they haven’t played each other more often in anything that really matters than they have over the past decade. Joe holds the aces in terms of head to heads but you have to factor in that most of these are on the small stage and that this is in reality the biggest match that the two have ever played against each other. In terms of winning to losing matches this season there is very little to choose between them and they have both had a warm up at Crondon this week with Barry being knocked out in Group 2. This is very much a ‘gut-feeling’ type of match and again I suspect that there won’t be much in it. Gun to head, it’s Hawkins for me, although his form hasn’t been great he’ll probably turn it around at some point. 

Twitter Predicted: Close one, but Perry edges it.

SB predicts: A narrow win for Hawkins.

Judd Trump v Stephen Maguire – Monday January 11 at 1pm

These two meet at this stage for the second consecutive season, Maguire last year running out a 6-4 winner. Indeed, Mags holds a commanding head to head lead over Judd, although it’s different in character to the Murphy and Allen profile, in that they have beaten each other more than once in really big events, so again, like the previous two matches you would expect this one to go very close to the distance. Maguire is a player that usually tends to start playing his best stuff at around this point in the season so that makes him very dangerous and more than capable of going all the way this week. Judd had a nice warm up at Crondon and followed Ronnie into the final stages of that by winning Group 2. I’m going to stick with a horses for courses theory here and take a punt that the result this year will be similar, if not identical, to last season. 

Twitter Predicted: Judd to book his second round place.

SB predicts: Maguire to repeat his win at the same stage last season. 

Neil Robertson v Marco Fu – Wednesday January 13 at 7pm

Strange things happen in Wigan, I once saw a pie shop there that sold Meat and Potato, as well as Potato and Meat pies, when I enquired what the difference was and why the prices differed, the man inside told me there was no difference and looked at me like I had three heads. I’d mistakenly thought it had something to do with ratios, but no, this was Wigan. Anyway, I digress, my point is that in January Robbo strode there like a prize peacock after wiping away the opposition at the UK with a display as good as you will see anywhere, he even threw in a maximum in the final for good measure. The way he demolished Selby there was something I thought I’d never see, he looked clinical, ruthless and just, well, just Robbo. Then he gets to Wigan for the German Masters qualifiers and gets walloped by amateur Ashley Hugill. Talk about coming back to earth with a bump. Here he faces Marco, who holds a slender advantage over the slender Aussie in the head to heads, which may surprise some. Again though, lots of these meetings have been in minor events, though Fu did beat Neil in the final in Australia a couple of seasons back so when it comes to the big stage he’ll not have anything to fear. But I suspect Robbo has his eye on a Grand Slam this season and I’d be surprised if he fell at the first fence here and I suspect we’ll see him in the Final on Sunday.   

Twitter Predicted: Easy win for Robbo.

SB predicts: Robbo with at least a frame to spare.

Mark Selby v Ricky Walden – Tuesday January 12 at 7pm

Most snooker enthusiasts will already be salivating at the prospect of a quarter final between The Jester and The Rocket next Thursday afternoon. It remains one of the best, if not the best, rivalries that the sport has to offer and I for one would like to see them lock horns again for the first time since ‘that world final’ to see if the scars Selby inflicted on O’Sullivan that Bank Holiday weekend have truly healed. If it happens, I suspect that the winner may go on to face Robertson on Sunday. But first off Selby must take care of Ricky Walden, a player who has suffered an amazing slump in form over the last few months. As you might expect, Selby holds the aces in the head to heads winning most, if not all, of the bigger ones. Just on recent form alone you’d have to be a very brave punter to back against Selby winning here so I’m going to vote with the majority on this one. 

Twitter Predicted: A Selby procession.

SB predicts: Selby to win with a bit in hand.

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Williams- Tuesday January 12 at 1pm

Whatever you think of Ronnie, tournaments have more of a buzz when he is in them. His hint that he quite likes the idea of making 1000 centuries before hanging up his waistcoat will have his fans in a goosebump inducing frenzy, let’s enjoy him while we still can as he doesn’t grace us with his presence that often anymore. Here he faces old sparring partner MJW, who has been playing some decent stuff the last year or two despite trying to tell us all that he’s a shadow of his former self. His record against Ronnie, for whatever reason, makes pretty grim reading. He did however beat him for the first time in 12 years in 2014, after a series of beatings in events big and small in all corners of the globe. I’d really like this one to live up to the billing, Ronnie did look very sharp towards the end at Crondon and I suspect he’s probably quite happy to be coming back to play a familiar face playing a familiar game who he has beaten so often. I’d take Ronnie to win this 6-3 or 6-4, to set up the tie that we all want to see in the next round, well apart from Ricky and Willo that is.   

Twitter Predicted: Ronnie in a canter.

SB predicts: Ronnie to start with a solid display.

John Higgins v Liang Wenbo – Wednesday January 13 at 1pm

Liang Wenbo has never beaten John Higgins in a professional match. He got close in 2012 at The Crucible but bottled his numerous chances against an under-par Wizard who would be walloped next round by a retiring Stephen Hendry. Other than that, every match they have played has been very one-sided, seven in all, with Higgins leading the frame tally 41-16 with 9 of Liang’s frames coming in that match at Sheffield. So anyone predicting an upset here is not so much swimming against a tide of evidence as walking head on into a hurricane. Despite this, I am sure there will be those who will see Higgins’ frankly hapless display this week at Crondon, his admittance that he only played for half an hour over Christmas, his poor recent Masters record coupled with Liang’s elevation to ranking event runner-up in the UK as a sign that this could reverse the trend, but I’m not one of them. I suspect Liang will get closer to him than he usually does, but I think John will have enough, even in a rusty locker, to close the match out if it gets tight.

Twitter Predicted: Higgins, but not without a scare.

SB predicts: Liang threatens an upset but Higgins to just scrape through.

Stuart Bingham v Ding Junhui – Sunday January 10 at 7pm

We’ll start this one with another fascinating fact. World Champion Bingham has won all of the last 7 meetings between the pair, most of them being in the period before Ding’s rather inexplicable slump in form. The last time China’s finest managed to beat Stuart was in a decider at The Crucible nearly five years ago; Bingham holding a commanding head to head lead. Despite this, the World Champion isn’t even on the poster for the tournament, yet his opponent, who was last seen trying to hit a bulls arse with a shovel and missing, is there for all to see. I do wonder when some of the shrewdies will see just how much Ding has lost his way lately, it’s not just his game, his whole demeanour has the look of a man who has given the sport his best and perhaps has very little more left to give. I may be wrong, but until there are some signs that he’s going to come back stronger than before, you just can’t back him to beat the current World Champion, who still remains underrated by some who should really know better.  

Twitter Predicted: Close, but Ballrun to prevail.

SB predicts: World Champion to gain revenge for being bumped off the poster by his opponent.


2 points on Mark Selby to win The Masters at 9/1. 2 points on the final to be O’Sullivan v Robertson at 9/1 and 2 points on the final to be Selby v Robertson at 14/1.

3 point acca pays almost 5/1 on Murphy, Robertson, Selby, O’Sullivan and Higgins add Hawkins and Bingham for a 2 point 19/1 sevenfold and add Maguire for a 1 point 53/1 eightfold at Marathon Bet.

2 point treble on all these three matches having more than 9 frames – Murphy/Allen, Hawkins/Perry and Trump/Maguire pays over 8/1.

2 points on Murphy to beat Allen 6-5 at 15/2, 1 point on Allen to beat Murphy 6-5 at 17/2.    

Open an account and bet below at Marathon Bet by clicking the banner.  



For reference, Twitter had the later rounds as Quarter Finals: Murphy > Perry, Robbo > Trump, Ronnie > Selby, Higgins > Bingham. Semi Finals: Robbo > Murphy, Ronnie > Higgins. Final: Ronnie > Robbo. 

January 7, 2016

Vote in the Twitter Masters Poll

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:21 am

As a bit of ‘fun’ I have this morning posted polls on Twitter for every Last 16 match at The Masters to see what the public think. The Last 16 polls close at 12 noon today and each match is listed below for you to cast your vote on Twitter, we’ll then move on to the Quarter Finals this afternoon.





January 3, 2016

January on the Baize and a Snookerbacker Classic Update

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:37 pm
The Masters at Ally Pally is the highlight of the month.

The Masters at Ally Pally is the highlight of the month.

After the Christmas and New Year break it’s now full steam ahead on the baize as a packed schedule takes us all right back to The Crucible in April, with very little time to catch our breath in between then and now.

Before we know it we’ll be back in Sheffield for what I enjoy probably more than any of the main ranking events apart of course from the World Championship itself; namely the qualifiers for the big one which start on April 6th over at Ponds Forge, but there’s a lot more before that including The Masters which starts next Sunday.

Monday 4th January however sees the rather more sedate oak-beamed mock-Tudor surroundings of Crondon Park play host once again to the Championship League, a tournament which sees the bookies topping up their satchels each year at the expense of those who think they can make a few quid on it and punters who would bet on two flies crawling up a wall.

More interesting to me, no not the size of the chairs or the fabled Crondon breakfasts, will be the form of Ronnie O’Sullivan, who surprisingly perhaps has got involved in the league from the start. He’s had mixed fortunes in the past at Crondon but presumably this year it’s all about his preparation for The Masters, as he can’t be too match sharp as things stand having last been seen being beaten fairly and squarely by Stuart Carrington in the German qualifiers. He’ll need to get a lot sharper quite quickly to compete at Ally Pally in my opinion.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Championship League, you can read up on it to your heart’s content by clicking here.

The Masters remains of course one of the highlights of the seasonal calendar and you can take a look at the draw and the order of play for that by clicking here, the opening match on Sunday sees the holder Shaun Murphy taking on Mark Allen. A full comprehensive preview will be up on here at some point this week. 

The Masters is followed by another trip to Crondon and also The World Seniors, won last year by 39 year old geriatric Mark Williams, which this year moves to the Preston Guild Hall. The qualifiers have already been played and those who made it through will join MJW and co for a tournament which I can’t help thinking has lost it’s way a little, being now played out by mostly main tour players rather than the golden faces of the 80’s which launched it in a more nostalgic and to my mind fitting light.


The end of the month also sees the next installment of the Snookerbacker Classic, this time from Chris Norbury’s excellent Elite Snooker Club in Preston, where 16 players will compete to see who can join the Grand Finalists so far, Brian Robertson, Marc Davis, Elliot Slessor and 2014 champion Ant Parsons.

Incidentally anyone who has reserved a place and is yet to pay for any of the remaining events needs to do so now as fees are now due for all qualifiers. If you have reserved a place but not paid or been in touch with me to arrange an extension, or indeed been given an extension and missed it your place is no longer guaranteed.

As things stand, because of late payers there are now places left at all the SWSA dates, these are places that have been previously reserved and are now reverting to first to pay will play. So anyone who wants to nab a place from a late or non-payer, simply make your payment by following the link below. Please note that Preston and Liverpool are both now full.

Venues and Dates

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