May 26, 2016

Qualifying Week in Preston

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:13 am

PrestonThe Guild Hall in Preston was once synonymous with top level snooker. It was the home of the Coral UK Championship in the golden years and has hosted some of snooker’s most epic matches. Unfortunately since those days it’s been mothballed by the snooker world and the ghosts of those great matches left to hang in the air. But this week, after a brief revisit over the last couple of seasons, snooker is back at its old stomping ground for a cluster of three qualifying events.

We won’t be seeing quite the level of excitement of those bygone days, indeed it is unfortunate for me to report that unless you sign up for a bookies account, you won’t be able to see anything at all given that Livesport is no more and we’re yet to be given a replacement, which is what I thought all the champagne flowing at The Crucible was all about when Barry reeled out Eurosport? Maybe I missed the point on that one.

Anyway, the three events that are playing their first round matches from Saturday onwards are the Indian Open (Best of 7’s – boooo) which has a large number of Q-School top-ups making up the first round, The World Open (Best of 9’s – yay) and The Riga Masters (Best of 7’s – boooboooboooo).

It’s a novel approach to the qualifiers lumping them together like this but I think it makes perfect sense and really makes it quite an exciting start to the season. Those who win all their three qualifying matches will feel a lot better about the weeks ahead than those who lose all three. Just bear this in mind, if anyone does lose all three, which I am sure some will, they will not be playing competitively again until the end of August – 3 months from their last match, that’s some gap in their season and perhaps the dawn of a new era without the EPTC’s which used to provide such an effective filler – are we missing them already? I know the amateurs are. 

Preston is also a chance for the new professionals to test themselves for the first time, among them the SB Classic Champion Sam Craigie, who I think will ruffle a few feathers this season, he starts out against David Grace in the Indian qualifier.

It’s just a shame that a lot of people won’t be able to watch these.

If you are in the area you can always pop over with your fiver and go in and watch it live of course. There are plenty of reasons to, as almost every session will have a top player in action somewhere or other. I’m popping over there on Sunday for a watch so will report back with my view of how it is all set up. It will be a far cry from when I used to go to the UK Finals as Nipperbacker I would think, the place was electrifying then and clouded in smoke, I think Sunday will be a little more sedate than that, but not too much more I hope.

The draw for the Indian Open is here.

The draw for the World Open is here.

The draw for the Riga Masters is here.

The format of the matches including the ones that you can watch on the bookie sites is here.

There are so many matches I don’t really know where to start with a bet but might post up a few as the week goes on.   

May 23, 2016

A Decent Proposal

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:51 am
The proposal has some serious backing.

The proposal has some serious backing.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will probably not have failed to notice that it’s that time of the year again where I come up with some idea or other for the year ahead, or in this case, a few years ahead. Just last week myself and none other than former World Champion Shaun Murphy submitted a proposal to the WPBSA designed to revolutionise amateur snooker in the UK and Europe for many years to come.

Amateur players that I speak to are concerned at the lack of events that they have to play in next season. The removal of the EPTC tour will hit them hardest and with no sign as yet of any tour cards being offered for an alternative amateur circuit it seems that as things stand the only option available will be Q-School, which is quite a long way off.

That is why I decided to write down a plan together with Shaun for consideration. Shaun is looking to put together a Junior Series, as part of the main proposal. His plan is to stage a series of Junior events with the winner receiving a year’s worth of coaching and mentoring from him, as well as free entry for the following season onto the main amateur tour.

Shaun says ‘The aim of the Junior Series will be to encourage participation amongst juniors of all abilities and to find the next stars of the future. When I competed as a junior and thanks to Malcolm Thorne, we had junior events week-in week-out and the standard of play rose because of that. I want to see that return and go further by offering The Shaun Murphy Scholarship which will take the winner of the series and give them a year of tuition with myself and entry onto the amateur tour, worth £1000, similar to the Faldo Series in golf’.

The main tour itself will be not dissimilar to the current professional tour. There will be 10 monthly events, each charging an entry fee of £100 and each with a prize money pot of at least £6000, with the winner of each event receiving £2000 and each stage below half of that, down to the losers in the last 16 who will each get £125. So in all we’d have an amateur tour with a total prize fund of at least £60,000 and the potential for lots of players to earn a decent slice of that.

The 10 events would be staged across the UK and Mainland Europe at suitable venues. Venues with space, but perhaps lacking the quality of tables would be encouraged to bid for funding to upgrade their facilities.

All events would count towards a season-long money list, from which the top two players would gain a main tour card. With those ranked 3-18 playing off in a 16 player tournament for a further main tour card. The tour would be open to all players, regardless of nationality.

Both Shaun and myself see this as a workable model for the future of amateur snooker and we are both keen to get going. It will take some time to come into action and if accepted we could see it starting in time for season 2017/18. Interim arrangements for this new season would have to be discussed if this proposal is accepted.

We welcome any comments about this from players and public alike. We’ve had messages of support from a lot of people in the snooker world and we really appreciate that. Our aim is to professionalise the amateur game and have a structure that gets amateurs playing highly competitive snooker regularly, this of course would be supplemented by existing competition like the national amateur championships and the pro-ams and amateur tournaments that are run regularly by David Grace in Leeds and Andrew Norman in Gloucester.

The Snookerbacker Classic

Obviously if this proposal is accepted, the SB Classic will have served its purpose and will either cease to be or be run in a very small window. This season, I have decided to scale it back a little and will be releasing dates for 4 qualifying events, all to be held in Gloucester soon. These will be 32 player events with 4 qualifiers to the Grand Finals from each, making up the 16, the entry fee will rise to £100 per event. Prize money will be dependent on sponsorship but I will be looking to award the winner at least the equivalent £3000 that Sam Craigie won last season, hopefully more than that. More news on that will follow soon. I have also asked the WPBSA if this year’s winner can have an extra incentive and I am waiting to hear back from them on that. 

May 10, 2016

Join The Q – Q School Commences

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:14 am
It's back to school for the potters.

It’s back to school for the potters.

All eyes from tomorrow focus on the Meadowside Centre in Burton as a total of 182 amateur players line up to try and nab one of the twelve remaining tour cards on offer via the annual Q-School.

Apparently the decision to offer four further cards on top of the usual eight was taken ‘because of the demand and high number of entries’ this year. This does strike me as a little odd as surely there was an agreed criteria and structure in place for qualification onto the main tour before entries were opened up? It just makes me wonder where these magical four extra places came from and where/who will lose out as a result? That’s not really been made very clear, as hasn’t the offerings for amateurs next season other than the odd vague response to a tweet.

Anyway, there are plenty of familiar names competing including some of the former professionals that fell off the tour this season, among them are the likes of Tony Drago, Gerard Greene, Cao Yupeng, Barry Pinches, Joel Walker, Craig Steadman (who incredibly qualified to play Ronnie at The Crucible only 12 months ago and now finds himself here) and Peter Lines.

They will be competing against the top amateur players in the sport, many of whom will be familiar both from the EPTC circuit and the Snookerbacker Classic. This season’s SBC runner-up and subsequent English Amateur Champion Jamie Bodle, as well as semi-finalists Jamie Clarke and Gary Thomson and former champion Ant Parsons are all in the mix along with a host of other SBC regulars.

It’s a tough school out there and as ever the four semi-finalists from the two events get their two year card, in addition this year the four highest on the ongoing Order of Merit list over the two events will join them on the main tour, a point is scored on this list for every frame won.

It’s a shame none of the bookies have priced any qualification market up as it would have made it more interesting for us neutral observers, but the best of luck to all involved, especially the ones I have got to know well over the last few years.

The draw for Event 1 is here and Event 2 here.

May 3, 2016

Until next season….

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:00 pm

The season is now officially over and seeing as the running order for next season, which begins next week with Q-School), isn’t yet available on the official website, here’s a photograph of the banner from the Winter Gardens for anyone who plans their life around snooker, like anyone is that sad….

See you all on the other side and thanks for continuing to tune in, the site has had nearly 65,000 visitors over the last 17 days, you really ought to find something better to do.


World Champion and Runner Up Interviews

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:22 am

It’s the end of another long season and time for a short break before it all kicks off again. Congratulations to Mark Selby who thoroughly deserved the win over Ding last night. Here is what they both had to say after the match.

Mark Selby, 2016 World Champion

Ding Junhui, Runner Up

May 1, 2016

The World Championship Final: Ding Junhui v Mark Selby

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:19 am
Let Battle Commence

Let Battle Commence

Another World Championship draws to a close and no doubt lots of snooker nuts will be a bit depressed on Tuesday morning when it’s all over for another year. But before then, there is the small matter of who will be our champion to decide. Will it be China’s glory year or can Leicester look to bag a champion’s double?

Depending on who you ask, Ding carries the hopes of between 100 million and a whole continent on his small shoulders over the next 48 hours, though he is slightly more realistic and accurate in estimating that it’s probably nearer 20 million. The interviews he did yesterday were very insightful and it’s clear that he prefers to be away from ‘the madness’ of the Chinese crowds and will not allow himself to get carried away until he has finished the job. Even then, you can’t really see him wanting to get pissed up and go trawling London’s nightlife, he’s just not that kinda guy really is he?

Ding has turned having to qualify into a positive thing and saw it as valuable match practice, he breezed through of course and for once wasn’t in the spotlight from day one, he clearly prefers this and you do wonder if he’d have been seeded would he be contesting the final today? My guess is probably not.

His game is razor sharp and Alan McManus can rightfully be very proud of his semi-final performance, he’d probably have beaten Selby or Fu had the draw fallen differently but it wasn’t to be. It’s fair to say however that he has played a major role in the championship this year and won an army of new fans, even at this stage in his career. I’ll just miss his walk-on music and little finger flick to the crowd.

JV - fucked up big time.

JV – fucked up big time.

Selby was at his torturing best yesterday and even had Willie and JV resorting to expletives in the commentary box. His ermm ‘mate’ and fellow Leicester man Willie describing his match as ‘pathetic’ while JV lamented that he wanted to watch the horse racing and Match of the Fucking Day. With friends like them two who needs enemies?

The hapless pair had hoped their intellectual musings wouldn’t be picked up on air, but of course they were and a wrap on the knuckles followed with JV sent back to his hotel for the evening session but apparently not the rest of the championship, to the disgust of many easily offended viewers from suburbia. We’ve had no word from Willie, even though arguably his one word analysis of the match showed a little more contempt for the fortunate position he found himself in, one which a lot of people would have given their right arm to be in. He really is a very silly Willie sometimes.

But let’s not dwell on that, who’s going to win? Well, the form clearly steers you towards Ding and even taking into account Selby’s Crucibility and torturability I just can’t see him sticking with China’s finest for a match of this duration. I think he has to be at his best from the off and he’s been far from that this whole tournament so far. If Ding starts well I think he’s going to be very hard for Selby to peg back even with his legendary brinkmanship.

I’d like it to be a classic of course but only the hardest hearted snooker fan, or perhaps one who is a racist, would begrudge Ding the win. It would be great for the sport but better still it would mean we’d all get to see his little smile light up The Crucible on Monday night, just as long as the talk of a Chinese Revolution is kept in perspective.

So for me it’s somewhere in the region of 18-10 to Ding. HEAD TO HEAD HERE. Below are some bets for anyone that way inclined.

Recommended Bets: 2 points on Ding to be leading after 8 frames at 13/8. 2 points on Ding to win the first frame and win the match at 21/10. 4 points on Ding to make more than 2 centuries in the match at 5/6. 2 points on Ding -3.5 frames at 3/1. 1 point on each – Ding 18-9 at 33/1, 18-10 at 25/1 and 18-11 at 20/1.

Mark Selby and Marco Fu Press Conferences

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:30 am

A typically late finish last night at The Crucible saw Mark Selby make his way through to the final to face Ding Junhui, beating Marco Fu 17-15.

Here is what they had to say after the match. 

Mark Selby

Marco Fu

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