October 31, 2016

The China Championship Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:44 am
You Win Again

You Win Again

This week a select few are staying on in China following the conclusion of the International Championship to play in this new ‘invitational’ event, the originally named China Championship which sees 16 players play off in a kind of Chinese Masters (probably a better name) type tournament for a winners cheque of £200,000, the biggest prize ever to be awarded in snooker outside the UK.

There are lots of reasons to be excited about this event, firstly and most obviously the prize money is huge, secondly, the matches are best of 11 right up to the best of 17 frame semi-finals and the best of 19 frame final and thirdly, there are only 16 players in it, giving it a real feel of exclusivity and prestige.

Unfortunately, the plan is that next season it’s opened up to 128 players and made into a ranking event exactly like the International Championship, the winners prize money will also be reduced to £150,000. For me, this is missing a golden opportunity to really embed a new format into the calendar and retain a Chinese Masters style tournament rather than it morphing into a replica of what came before. 

Part of the appeal of The Masters is the fact that the 16 who are lining up there have earned their place, this is why I put the word ‘invitational’ in inverted commas at the start of this post, because the players who are here, barring two of them, namely Marco Fu and Liang Wenbo who have been nominated to play by the Chinese Snooker Assocation, are here on merit having performed best in the early part of the season, so this really gives the players who have hit the ground running this season a decent reward for doing so.

It’s unfortunate that Ronnie O’Sullivan isn’t in the starting line up, having pulled out a couple of weeks ago. It’s not clear why he did this or indeed if the decision was entirely his own, but the beneficiary of him dropping out is laid back Welshman Mark Williams who replaces him and is therefore guaranteed £15,000 just for turning up.

The top seeded player is newly crowned International Champion Mark Selby who lines up after a hammering of Ding Junhui in that final. Selby is as close as anyone has come for a number of years in terms of domination, he had a slight trophy blip last season of course but then ended up winning the World Championship, you have to go back to season 2008/9 as the last season he failed to win something and he has also been world number one now at the end of the last five seasons.

Will he be able to take his form with him here? Well, judging by the way he won there seems very little reason why he won’t and for me he remains the player to beat in this. But there are plenty of other contenders should The Jester stumble, unfortunately however both Judd and Ding will be smarting a bit from their hammerings last week, Robbo doesn’t yet seem to be hitting top form, John Higgins seems to be struggling when really asked a question by a top player, Stuart Bingham is another who will want to forget the manner in which he was dumped out last week, Shaun Murphy perhaps may come into this as a dark horse given he played superbly in narrowly losing to Judd and I’d imagine that Ali Carter will also fancy his chances if he gets past Judd in the first round.

So, for me I’m going to go with a Selby (5/1) versus Murphy (14/1) final with an outside punt on Carter (33/1), but I’ll probably just bet on this for a bit of fun as every match could go either way, just looking at the first round below you’d imagine there will be some absolute crackers in there.

Let the Chinese Masters commence and hopefully continue next year and beyond in this format. It’s covered as ever by Eurosport.

Top Half

Mark Selby v Anthony McGill
Mark Allen v Ricky Walden
John Higgins v Mark Williams
Judd Trump v Ali Carter

Bottom Half

Shaun Murphy v Joe Perry
Ding Junhui v Marco Fu
Neil Robertson v Michael Holt
Stuart Bingham v Liang Wenbo


TV Schedule

Tues 1 Nov
0630-0930 LIVE day one on Eurosport 1
1130-1430 LIVE day one on Eurosport 1

Wed 2 Nov
0630-0930 LIVE day two on Eurosport 1
1130-1430 LIVE day two on Eurosport 1

Thurs 3 Nov
0630-0930 LIVE quarter-finals on Eurosport 1
1130-1430 LIVE quarter-finals Eurosport 1

Friday 4 Nov
0630-0930 LIVE semi-finals on Eurosport 1
1130-1430 LIVE semi-finals on Eurosport 1

Sat 5 Nov
0630-0930 LIVE final on Eurosport 1
1130-1430 LIVE final on Eurosport 1

October 27, 2016

International Championship Semi Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:32 pm
Prefers the shorter format

Prefers the shorter format

This has been a thoroughly enjoyable tournament so far and what we have left are four of the best players in the sport as the semi-finals get underway tomorrow with the first, a real belter between the men in form Ding Junhui and Judd Trump.

As if we haven’t been spoiled enough with these longer matches the great news is that from here on in every match is a two session one.

The Chinese promoters, increasingly unlike the UK and European ones are sufficiently confident that some of us still have an attention span and memory capacity that is a little longer than that of a turbot and favour an actual match of snooker to unfold before our eyes instead of a game of crash bang wallop, consequently the semi finals are best of 17 frame affairs.

Anyway, where was I? I can’t seem to concentrate for long these days before getting sidetra……….that reminds me I must check the gas meter tomorrow, I’m sure we’re being overcharged.

Ah yes, the snooker tomorrow sorry about that, nice long matches to get us all hooked and what could be more mouth-watering than Judd and Ding the form they are both in? Since Judd got his new stick there has been no stopping him. He has flattered to deceive sometimes in the past and had snippits of brilliance followed by periods where he has struggled both on and off the table but this time he looks like the real deal, his safety game has improved a lot, as it had to and that was demonstrated for all to see in the final frame today against Shaun Murphy in a pulsating match which went to the final black.

Ding in the meantime went 2-0 down to John Higgins before waking up and reeling off the next 6 for a more comfortable win than I was expecting, hitting back to back centuries in the process. With Judd hitting three in his match the overs merchants on the centuries markets in this will surely be playing along tomorrow, I know I will given the players talk of the size of the ever expanding pockets over there. If you fancy this to continue like I do get those prices on the recommended bets pronto before they go, I can feel a double flying in.

In the other semi-final, the World Champion Mark Selby will face the man whose crown he stole Stuart Bingham. Ballrun looked to be in a hurry early on racing to a 4-0 lead over Michael Holt, but not long after it was 4-4 and in the end Stuart fell over the line in a decider, his planned early night and nice meal no doubt turning into a late one in bed with a Pot Noodle, relieved to still be involved. It’s been a good tournament for Holty and surely he’ll soon be going even deeper in a big one.

The tons were flying in everywhere with Mark Selby also hitting back to back biggies as he took care of business against Joe Perry, riding out a fairly comfortable 6-3 winner, while Saturday’s match up doesn’t quite get the excitement levels up to the fever pitch of tomorrow’s, it’s still one that I’ll be looking forward to.

So who wins from here? Anyone got a coin? Heads or Tails? Click on the matches for the head to head record.

Friday – Judd Trump v Ding Junhui

Saturday – Stuart Bingham v Mark Selby

RECOMMENDED BETS: Singles and a Double at Bet 365 – Centuries Market – over 2 in Ding/Judd at 5/6 and over 1 in Selby/Bingham at 5/6.

October 26, 2016

International Championship Quarter Final Thursday

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:21 pm

day-5It’s Quarter Finals Day in China when eight become four and we find out who goes on to contest the two session semi-finals, the field remains top drawer with a world champion contesting each of the remaining matches.

Without doubt the story of the Last 16 is Hitman Michael Holt’s continuing hoodoo over Ronnie O’Sullivan. Some strange things have happened in 2016, Bowie, Wogan and Prince have sadly left us, Dumb Dave Cameron has not so sadly stepped down and taken his pal Gideon with him after his hapless political gamble blew up in his face leaving us all in the shit. We’ve got some bloke off a quiz show who told a pack of lies to oust Dumbo Dave in charge of foreign affairs at a crucial time in our history and of course America may be about to elect it’s most stupid and probably dangerous president ever, which is quite some going given some of the ones that have been before.

But Holty beating Ronnie 3 times? Does this surpass all of these strange phenomenon? A player that Holty himself once admitted ‘made me look rubbish’ on live TV is now putty in his hands. As one tweeter put it today, it’s getting to the point now where it’s a surprise if Ronnie does beat him, such is the power of his hold over the limp and misfiring rocket.

Of course it’s just one match and it will take that and a bit more for Holty to land the big prize this week but it’s clear for all to see that Terry ‘Dai Lama’ Griffiths is once again taking a player with some confidence issues and transforming him into a winning machine. I don’t know what he says to them or whether he puts something in their tea but Griff obviously has the magic that it takes to get through to these sometimes stubborn and ‘know it all’ potters.

The field is full of quality and proven winners, Stuart Bingham seems to be enjoying not being the world champion anymore and flew through against Ali Carter, perhaps he should try not being world champion again next season as he looks a different animal lately, just a suggestion. John Higgins is going about his business largely untroubled in defence of his title, Ding squeezed through another decider to meet Higgins next and many think he is destined to win this week. Add these in to Judd playing as he’s always promised he could, World Champion Selby getting somewhere near his brinkmanshipping best, Shaun Murphy solidly progressing with minimal damage and Joe Perry giving Robbo a thumping and we have some snooker still left to play.

I hope a few of you took the odds on Holt to win today after yesterday’s post, that price was ridiculous and I’ll bet you won’t see him that price if he faces Ronnie again.

So to Thursday…..

RECOMMENDED BETS: ACCA on Selby, Trump, Bingham and Over 9.5 frames in Higgins/Ding pays over 5/1 at Paddies.  

October 25, 2016

International Championship Last 16

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:24 pm

day-4It’s last sixteen time in China with every match that is left containing at least one big hitter in the sport. With a combined total of 14 World Titles between them including all the last 8 played, it’s all to play for.

As well as the World Champions we’ve also got three who have been as close as you can get to snooker’s biggest title in Judd Trump, Ali Carter and Ding Junhui as well as a further two Chinese players still competing. Perhaps the two shock names still in there are Sam Baird and veteran James Wattana who is competing in his first ranking last 16 match for a decade.

The emergence of the ‘new’ crop of Chinese players such as Ghou Yolonge and Yan Bingtao has got everyone talking again about the much heralded Chinese revolution, as they have been for the last decade, yet there are still only 3 Chinese players that can really be referred to as part of the sport’s elite, one, Liang Wenbo only recently really joining these ranks. But you do get the feeling that this new wave are a little bit more rounded than the last lot who routinely seem to burst onto the scene with a bang and then just disappear, remember Cao Yupeng? Tian Pengfei? Zhang Anda? You get my drift.

But still at the top is the dynamic and brilliant but yet to be world champion Ding, he is the benchmark and none of them have yet come close so I’m keeping an open mind on the new revolution, especially as players like Neil Robertson, Judd Trump, Shaun Murphy, Mark Allen and even arguably dual World Champion Mark Selby may yet have their best years ahead of them. We’ll see, but I do agree that the grass roots level in the UK and Europe needs greater attention than it receives if we are to keep up with China.

Ronnie O’Sullivan meanwhile spent yesterday telling everyone that he isn’t good enough to compete with what he refers to as the ‘top players’ anymore. It’s standard fayre from The Rocket and it’s quite possible that he’s said it so much that he is actually beginning to believe it. Perhaps it’s time to start asking him if he is ‘his own harshest critic’ again, that’s a question that always used to go down well, just ask Rob Walker.

Anyway, he is still in the mix and produced just enough to beat Kurt Maflin earlier, he wasn’t at his best but he won, but I’d say he’ll need to step it up a notch or two from here on in if he’s to have a chance of winning this, but of course he has done this before and can do it again, his attitude at least, which has so often been his undoing, seems absolutely spot on, but I wouldn’t have him as bookies favourite, which of course he is.

It’s so hard to call most of these matches, but one thing is for sure, we are in for a cracking day tomorrow. With the sixteen that are left, this tournament is going to take some winning.

RECOMMENDED BETS: Treble – Ali Carter, Ding Junhui and John Higgins pays over 7/2 with Paddies. Punts – Michael Holt at 4/1 and Joe Perry at 13/5. 

October 24, 2016

International Championship Continues

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:21 pm

round-3It’s been a lively start to the International Championship and barring a few upsets the big hitters are all still there, unfortunately accompanied by one of the wildcards, who I hope loses in the next round as he shouldn’t be in the tournament.

The crowds have been good and the evidence is clear to see that Ronnie O’Sullivan is absolutely integral to that. Ding of course always draws a home crowd and I’m sure Liang will also attract them in similar numbers following his recent ranking event win but Ronnie continues to put more bums on seats than anyone in the sport.

In fact he almost put a few bums on the floor earlier following his win over Xiao Guodong, the stampede towards The Rocket after the match as he clung to a marker pen for dear life was quite a sight. Even big Jan Verhaas, a man not known for shying away from a bit of the physicals, particularly when it involves moths, seemed to panic as hundreds of programme, T-Shirt and cue ball clutching Chinese fans raced towards the advertising hoarding with very little concern for their or their hero’s personal safety.

Ronnie continued to oblige but when the heavies from security were forced to step in to stop a full on riot even Ronnie knew that enough was enough and scarpered off with the pen, which presumably belonged to one of the fierce baying rabble just a few metres away. Chaotic scenes and proof it it were needed that the rumoured appearance fee that Ronnie is receiving for gracing them with his presence is indeed money well spent.

Ding in the meantime missed a brown on a 147 to the disappointment of the crowd, but he still managed to come through unscathed after his heroics in the first round when Mitchell Mann had him up against the ropes only for the home favourite to dig himself out by winning the last four frames of the match.

With Selby, Robbo, Judd and co still in there, you have to fancy this is going to be a decent week with a belting finale, thankfully played over something resembling a sensible match length.

In terms of the betting 3 out of the 4 odds against punts recommended in the last round all won our pal Ghou Yolonge at 5/2, the vastly improved Daniel Wells at 5/4 and thespian John Astley who continues to post decent results since his theatrical stint at The Crucible at 7/4. Let’s see if there is any value in Round 3.


Punts – John Astley @7/1, Daniel Wells @12/5, Graeme Dott @13/8

Worth a Decent Bet – Ghou Yolonge @Evens

Treble pays nearly 3/1 – Yolonge, Fu and Wenbo

October 22, 2016

International Championship Starts Sunday

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:06 pm
Winner Winner Marmite Dinner

Winner Winner Marmite on Toast

I must admit, I carelessly forgot to check the schedule for this assuming that it started on Monday like all the other Chinese events but it’s actually Sunday in the early hours that the lucrative International Championship gets underway in Daqing.

John Higgins is the holder and his ‘held over’ match from the qualifiers against friend of the blog Syd Wilson is amongst the 24 matches taking place on the opening day, on account of this daft premise of taking the world and his dog to the main venue, rather than trimming the field to allow us to view more matches and give it a real sense of occasion. When this is suggested to Herr Hearn it meets with the old ‘makes no bizznizz sense’ response, which is a pity.

This championship in itself has always been a highlight of the first part of the season, particularly as it follows a longer match format from the start, with best of 11 framers being the order of the day, so at least we can thank them for sticking to this and not going down the lazy and rather boring best of 7 route so favoured by European tournaments.

Players coming into this in form you’d say are Judd Trump, Liang Wenbo, Ding Junhui and who can possibly leave out good old Matt Selt, who comes fresh from a tour event tournament win. Does he, you ask? Well, yes as Matt came through the event that only him and his Southern and Yorkshire pals seems to get wind of and is the new Haining Open Champion.

World Snooker followed an innovative new marketing concept for that one by only telling a couple of players and hoping they’d pass it on to the others just to be nice and not just keep schtum and try and win some dosh on the quiet. I believe next week the governing body are piloting a revolutionary communications method which involves two baked beans tins and a piece of string so let’s see how that works out.

So it’s a busy old day tomorrow with some of the matches due to get underway at 2.30am UK time. As ever Eurosport picks up the mantle of coverage, they are improving in leaps and bounds with the addition of a studio at European events but I’m not sure whether they will or can extend this to further afield, perhaps if they can find a piece of string long enough they could employ the new World Snooker patented communications strategy to help with this.

Ronnie O’Sullivan, who rumour has it is receiving a huge appearance fee just for turning up kicks off a rare foray to China on Monday against the dangerous and in form Xiao Guodong, I definitely wouldn’t rule out a shock there with the Chinese player as long as 9/2 in places to make home advantage pay. I have a good feeling about the Chinese players this week and fancy that we could see one of them lift the trophy next weekend, time will tell.

RECOMMENDED OUTRIGHT BETS: WIN – Ding Junhui @9/1 and Neil Robertson @17/2. EACH WAY – Ali Carter @66/1 and Xiao Guodong @200/1.

RECOMMENDED MATCH BETS: Value Punts – Zhou Yuelong (Ghou Yolonge) @5/2, John Astley @7/4, Daniel Wells @5/4 Xiao Guodong @9/2. ACCA – Jimmy Robertson, Martin Gould, Michael White, Michael Holt, Ryan Day and Li Hang pays over 10/1 at Hills.



October 18, 2016

The World is Not Enough

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:04 am

As it is a quiet week, at least on the official World Snooker front anyway, I thought I’d flag up something that’s been ongoing on Twitter since I asked the question during the English Open Final, namely, would a player or a fan who has not won the World Championship rather do so or win the million pound bonus for the Home Nations events.

Almost unanimously the fans who responded opted for World Champion status, many were incredulous that anyone who played snooker for a living would not agree.

as one eloquent if a little melancholic tweeter put it…

Then one of the players in the question’s target bracket intervened to back what the fans were saying in their droves with:

So, it’s a done deal surely? Well apparently not Alfie, prepare to be shocked. First of all Mark Williams, who totally ignored that the question was aimed at people who hadn’t been a world champion waded in with his contribution, he even spelled most of it right this time he felt so strongly (I’m being picky on ‘Trophies’):

He was then joined by a couple of others who did fit the brief and came down on the side of dosh over glory:

So is it that straightforward? Personally I thought the players would opt for being World Champion but it’s not that cut and dried and plenty out there would prefer to be rewarded with a huge lump sum as a trade off for their dream. So is this a sign that the mantle of world champion for some has lost its allure or that some players these days are simply realists over dreamers? I much prefer the dreamer approach when it comes to a question like this but I stand accused and guilty of being an old fashioned, stick in the mud traditionalist when it comes to snooker.

What do you think then? Tweet me @snookerbacker if you feel the urge.

October 14, 2016

English Open Quarter Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:03 am

It’s quarter finals day in Manchester and it’s fair to say there are a few names still in there fighting that we might not have expected after a day of shocks in the English Open yesterday which saw Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Allen, Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson all beaten by players way down the ranking list from them.


We do still have two world champions and two world runners-up in there but the undoubted star of the show lower down the ranks is Chris Wakelin, long regarded by the shrewdies amongst us as a decent prospect, the former Asda delivery driver made Ronnie look well past his sell-by date despite booking out of his hotel just before the match. Arguably even more impressively he then went one better in beating the in-form Xiao Guodong who had earlier come from 3-0 down to dump out another million pound hopeful Robbo.

There is still plenty to get involved in now we move to the best of nines, with tomorrow’s semi-finals being best of 11 followed by a two session final on Sunday. So will it be an established name who carries off the weight of snooker’s wannabe millionaire at the end of this, or will we be seeing a first time ranking winner lifting the Steve Davis Trophy on Sunday evening?

Recommended Bets: Hawkins (-1.5 frames), Higgins (+2.5 frames), Wenbo (-1.5 frames) and Wakelin (+2.5 frames) – go for trebles and an acca, acca best priced over 11.5/1 at Marathon Bet. If I was going to recommend a decent single bet, Hawkins at 5/6 would be the one.   

October 13, 2016

English Open Day Four

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:11 am
Ronald: Made to Wait

Ronald: Made to Wait

I have to say I am really enjoying this tournament, despite my usual gripes about the best of sevens I think the coverage offered up by Eurosport has been first class and the matches being covered, particularly yesterday, are offering up a real feast for snooker fans like me who only really switch on to the sport when it’s not sunny anymore.

Play today doesn’t start until 12 noon UK time, so there’s more of a chance for me to pen my totally opinionated thoughts on things a little more. Firstly, the coverage, there is no doubt now that Eurosport have seriously upped their game in this regard. The addition of the studio element gives it all a more polished feel and you wonder why it’s taken so long for them to do this, it’s now barely distinguishable from the excellent ITV format which works so well.

The new thin version of Jimmy White is looking more comfortable in his role as analyst as each tournament goes along and he has the added dimension of being able to tell us snippits about players that we’d not hear anywhere else. How else would we have known that Stephen Maguire has had something of an epiphany over the summer months and has finally decided to give snooker a go? Jimmy told us that snooker’s ‘lad’s lad’ seems to have grown up a bit and has shipped his table away from a club into an office set-up so he feels like he’s going to work, predicting great things for him as the season unfolds, OK after he said this Mags lost so I’d not be taking any of Jimmy’s tips but great insight nonetheless.

The commentary team remain a mixed bag of course, Neal Foulds is as good as ever and seems to have found the knack of forcing Phil ‘More is Less’ Studd to stop for breath, which is quite some feat. Dave Hendon continues to humour Mike Hallett, who yesterday decided it was OK to make fun of one of the children in the audience, no doubt to the head in hands horror of all who heard it. Mike does have a habit of going a bit Catchphrase at times and saying what he sees before engaging Mr Brain, but it does sometimes make for good, if sometimes cringeworthy listening. I haven’t managed to catch any of Ali Carter’s commentary yet but he seems to be getting good feedback from those who have, so that’s another plus.

The PTC format of these events in my opinion takes away a bit of the prestige that the TV coverage builds up. Yesterday being a case in point where an excited crowd including kids on a school night waiting to see Ronnie’s match at 7pm didn’t see him until nearer 10pm. Meanwhile the second streamed table lay empty for 3 hours while the crowd waited for their hero. It really didn’t make any sense to me and this would be a far better event if they took 32 rather than 128 to the main venue.

It’s no doubt that Ronnie is still snooker’s biggest draw by a country mile and his match last night against the latest young Chinese sensation was quite a spectacle, a bit like teacher versus pupil. Despite the efforts of the marketing team at World Snooker to carve out personalities for some of the others while fining them if they so much as fart in a public area, he’s still the one they still all want to see in large numbers. On a general point and at the risk of going down the ‘there are no characters in the game anymore’ route, it was far much more fun blogging about snooker before Bazza’s strict disciplinarian regime took hold. He keeps telling us we are in the entertainment business, but for entertainment we need heroes and more importantly villains, but with players constantly treading on verbal eggshells, that just won’t happen until he eases up a bit on the fines.

Right, I think that’s all I had to say about all that. Today sees two rounds being completed so by later tonight, hopefully not too much later tonight, we’ll know the final 8. Interestingly when Ronnie was told there were possibly two matches for him to play today he said with a trademark smirk’well that suits me fine’, he’s still available at 11/4 to win this, I suggest that you avail yourselves of that this fine autumnal morning.

Recommended Bet: Acca pays over 11/4 at Marathon Bet on Barry Hawkins, Mark Allen, Ali Carter and Judd Trump. Singles worth a punt I’d say are Kristinut Wotshisname to beat Ricky Walden at 4/1, Xiao Guodong to beat Neil Robertson at 58/19, Fergal O’Brien to beat Liang Wenbo at 20/9, Joe Swail to beat Tom Ford at 5/2.

October 12, 2016

The English Open Day Three

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:56 am

Just two days in to the action at Manchester and already we’ve had a maximum, Alfie Burden was the latest addition to the maximum hall of fame last night with his 147 against Daniel Wells, it’s Alfie’s first maximum in his years on the professional tour and also marked his 100th century, so despite losing the match, he did have some consolation.

The big names continue to come through with no real shocks at all to speak of in the first round, you have to feel that the winner of this will come from the small band of players right at the top of the sport, one thing is for sure, the winner will be in the spotlight given the £1 million bonus on offer. I’d hazard a guess that a certain Mr O’Sullivan might be nabbing the headlines going in to the second event, I’m sure he’d enjoy nothing more than making Uncle Bazza sweat a bit, but we’ll see.

Recommended Daily Acca: Fergal O’Brien, Joe Swail, Xiao Guodong, Stephen Maguire, Shaun Murphy and Stuart Bingham pays over 14/1 at Corals.

Single Punts at Decent Prices: Daniel Wells (7/2), Tom Ford (13/8), Peter Lines (10/3), Chris Wakelin (19/5).   

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