June 21, 2016

The Riga Masters – The Season Begins

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:21 am
Kyren Wilson - on the up.

Kyren Wilson – on the up.

This week sees the snooker season beginning in earnest as the first trophy will be handed out over in Riga in what used to be a EPTC event and is now a fully fledged ranker, if still largely run under a rather rushed EPTC format over just three days.

It’s best of sevens all the way to the final, when we get to see a rare best of nine finale. Indeed when you look at the calendar these days it’s something of a novelty not to have best of sevens dominating, I’ve counted 12 events in the entire season that are best of seven or less and that to me is a great shame and largely switches me off for quite a fair chunk of it. It comes to something when I am only really looking forward to The Masters, to a lesser extent the UK and The World Championship when the season hasn’t really even started yet, but that’s how Bazza has decided it’s going to be and he won’t listen to a boring old traditionalist like me.

A handful of the top players didn’t bother entering this one including for some reason the holder Barry Hawkins, Shaun Murphy who decided to get married instead, as you do, Ding who never enters this type of event and of course Ronnie who only plays in the UK these days unless it’s an exhibition for a load of dosh. But we do have the likes of World Champion Selby, Robbo, Judd, Higgins etc. to keep the crowd entertained.

I’ve decided that this season a solid tactic is to back two or three players blind in the hope that they deliver a title at a decent price over the course of the season. The first is Kyren Wilson, who continues to come on in leaps and bounds and is now into the top 16 with plenty of scope to climb higher and solidify his Masters place. He impressed throughout last season and has to be one to keep on the right side of in this one. I’ll also start having a punt each time on Dave Gilbert, I’ve always rated him and he’s playing as well now as he ever has so I’d expect to see him competing at the business end a few times this season, he’s also my biggest fan, he told me in Sheffield.

It is always interesting to see who breaks through in a particular season and there are plenty of names at long odds that are more than capable of raising their game and nabbing a title, for this particular comp you see the likes of Michael Holt and Sam Baird at 150/1 in places, the promising Zhou Yuelong (or as Dennis prefers to call him Ghou Yolonge) starting at odds of around 200/1, SBC Champ Sam Craigie at 500/1 and the man he faces in the first round here former SBC champ Martin O’Donnell as long as 300/1 and you just never know who might turn the corner this season and nab a title at astronomical odds just as Kyren did last season in Shanghai.

Apparently the live TV coverage of this isn’t up to much and we’re still waiting for the new improved streaming service that is yet to replace the World Snooker Live Streaming Channel, not really sure what’s happening on that front.

Following Riga we have another fortnight gap until the potters pack the Imodium for India. It’s a bit like last year in that the start of the season is a little bit stop/start, but once we hit September it’s pretty much blanket snooker all the way through to the end of the season. I just wish they’d not have so many best of sevens.

The draw for the Riga Masters is here and the format is here and it all kicks off on Wednesday and finishes on Friday, at which point we will know if the UK still wants to be part of Europe or not. There are a couple of heldover matches, one sees the return to pro snooker for Welshman Darren Morgan who recently won a European title to bag a wildcard, the other sees Marco Fu taking on a local lady player who the bookies rate at just 1000/1 to take the title when arguably she should be that price to beat Marco, at least Dick Turpin wore a mask.

Recommended Bets: Outright – Kyren Wilson at 22/1 and Dave Gilbert at 80/1. First Round Acca – Jimmy Robertson, Ali Carter, Stuart Bingham, Zhao Xintong and Kyren Wilson pays just on 9/2.   

English Amateur Snooker Board Embraces English Partnership

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:20 am

epsbplamnSaturday saw a change in how amateur snooker is run in England as the National Governing Body status of the English Amateur Snooker Board (EASB) will soon be transferred to the English Partnership for Snooker and Billiards (EPSB), once certain conditions requested by the EASB have been met.

The EPSB is the brainchild of WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson and aims to unite amateur snooker under one umbrella organisation, bringing together junior, disabled and ladies snooker as well as the mainstream amateur game.

What does it all mean? Well, one of the initiatives is to introduce a Kitemarking Scheme for what’s left of the falling number of snooker clubs in England, with the aim of making them more welcoming and safer places to be, encouraging more people to take up the sport.

Other stated aims of the project are:

  • Ensuring there are no barriers for talented individuals to reach their full potential.
  • Promoting and marketing the sport to women to increase participation levels.
  • Inspiring facilities that can accommodate disabled players providing equal opportunities for all.
  • Creating pathways for future Paralympians
  • Encouraging children from schools into the club environment ensuring a transition into adult participation in sport in England.
  • Encouraging people over 55 to keep active through Snooker and Billiards, improving the physical and mental health of an ageing population.
  • Promoting the physical and mental health benefits of playing Snooker and Billiards.
  • Educating people through sport. Aimed at improving basic numeracy and literacy of people of all age groups.

Amateur players still reading this (if you haven’t nodded off yet), will probably be scratching their collective heads wondering if this will make any difference to them this season. Well, the short answer is probably not. Whilst it’s all very noble and ticks a lot of political boxes in Jason’s quest to get snooker into the Olympics, it doesn’t seem to address the concerns of many amateurs at the lack of competitive and meaningful competitions to play in this season, following the removal of the European Tour.

The EASB will continue to run their competitions, including the English Amateur Championship and their various ongoing tour contests. But despite claims that this agreement brings together professional and amateur snooker there are still no competitions other than Q-School that offer promotion for amateurs onto the professional ladder.

I’m at a crossroads with my own tournament and only after discussions over the next few weeks will I make a decision whether to run it or not, largely because I am a little discouraged at not being afforded even a sniff at a pro-card for the winner despite 5 years of growth and success, compare this to a recent minuted EASB meeting which expressed serious concern at the lack of participation in their events, I’ve seen quite the opposite.

In short, to me this is about ticking boxes. It is very heavy on wording and political correctness but to me lacks any detail about how amateurs are going to be catered for this season, other than through the existing system of voluntary organisations and unpaid or underpaid helpers. Unfortunately, the plan that myself and Shaun Murphy had in mind seems something that was dead before it even got off the ground despite receiving almost universal support from players and high profile people involved in snooker.

I remain concerned for the future of the amateur sport in the UK despite this latest development. Actions, after all, speak louder than words.

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