February 28, 2017

Who’s the Cock of the Rock?

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:50 am

Gibraltar always strikes me as a place where people who don’t really want to leave the England but would rather live somewhere sunny go to live. It’s full of expats and tax dodging bookies with the odd monkey and red postbox thrown in, so essentially it is a sunny England with monkeys replacing the shaved chimps.

So what better place to select for a snooker tournament? The blue-rinse brigade should be out in force for this one, they are after all if you sit glued to ITV daytime snooker, the target market for the sport. It’s not just the tournament winners that are getting older, so are most of the people watching.

The good news is that this is the last best of seven based event of the season. The seemingly endless tirade of PTC style comps then give way to next week’s Players Championship from Llandudno, followed by the China Open and then of course the World Championship qualifiers followed by the main event itself which starts in around 6 weeks time at The Crucible. It’s a shame that that awful Shootout circus may be a deciding factor in the Sheffield seedings with Anthony McGill’s win taking him above Joe Perry and into the top 16. 

So until there is a tournament on that I can enjoy next week, I’ll just leave you with the draw for this one, roll on next week…

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format    

February 21, 2017

Now then Bazza, this Shootout thing….

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:16 am

Bazza – Bonkers

It may well go down in snooker history as the moment he lost the crowd, like a comedian riding on the crest of a wave only to spoil it with an inappropriately timed borderline racist joke, the day that Bazza entered World Snooker HQ with the crazy idea of making the Shootout a ranking event may be the day that previously adoring fans started having their suspicions that perhaps Mr Hearn was beginning to get ahead of himself.

It may be no coincidence that since he made this colossal cock-up the fans and indeed in some cases the players have been a little more vocal about their baize-related concerns than they had been previously, venting their anger directly at our beloved chairman about everything like playing conditions, lack of practice facilities at big events, late prize money payments and potless potters. Dare I say that it has even lost him some respect?

Make no mistake, it was 100% the wrong thing to do. It’s like making Bullseye a ranking event in darts or a crazy golf tournament one on the PGA Tour. My issue isn’t so much that it is only one frame (if they finish in time) or even that it is subject to shotclock conditions, it’s the fact that it is an event with different rules on the table, it’s not snooker and it counts towards a snooker ranking list, which is, even by Bazza’s standards taking the maverick, ‘I don’t play by the rules’ approach a bit too far.

But it’s not just Bazza that’s to blame, the board that agreed it like obedient sheep also need to stand up and be counted. The fact that a group of people with the best interests of the sport in their hands sat around a room and didn’t think this might not be a great idea is baffling, or perhaps they did and Bazza just went ahead and did it anyway. Either way, it’s not a decision that is likely to make the sceptical non-bookie sponsors sit up and think that snooker is a serious sport after all that they should get involved in.

Aside from the Chinese events we are now totally reliant on gambling sponsors, whether they be recognisable names like Ladbrokes and the sponsors of this rubbish Coral or obscure made up ones like the the sponsors of the Gibraltar comp coming up, Yoyobet or something like that. Let’s just hope the rug isn’t pulled from under our feet like they did with the ciggies.

I’ve never found this event in the slightest bit entertaining, the vast majority of the matches I have seen peeking from behind a cushion have been one-sided, pedestrian affairs. The audience consists of something of a fusion between chimps who have escaped from the zoo and chucking out time at the roughest boozer in town, the shotclock adds nothing but the chance for said crowd to go ‘wooooooooooo’ every now and again. Quite frankly that is enough reason not to watch, but now that all the players will be taking this seriously even what novelty/comedy some people found in it will all but disappear.

A lot of the top players haven’t entered this which gives a number of amateurs a chance to snatch a few quid, I suppose the best/only good thing about this is that it might help a few struggling potters with the bills if they have a run, but god forbid the winner/runner-up gets a Crucible place by virtue of it. For those who will be watching I can only assume you have nothing better to do so you have my pity and I’ll leave you to it, I’m sure you’ll be able to find the draw etc. somewhere before Thursday when it all kicks off.

February 12, 2017

Welsh Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:12 pm

The Welsh Open is the next tournament on the packed snooker calendar, it’s over to Cardiff from Preston to the Motorpoint Arena for the 128 flat structure best of seven tournament.

My thoughts on flat 128’s and best of 7’s in professional snooker are well known so it will come as no surprise that I’ll be ducking out on this one. However, one encouraging piece of news is that the forthcoming Players Championship has reverted to best of 9’s so at least in amongst these frankly for me quite dull, ‘samey’ type events and that dreadful shootout there will be something to get involved in later on in the month as we head towards thoughts of all things Sheffield.

Anyway, as for The Welsh Open click here for the draw and here for the order of play.

February 6, 2017

World Grand Prix Order of Play

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:26 am

From Berlin the World Snooker Bus now travels back to the UK, Preston to be precise to the iconic Guild Hall where the World Grand Prix will see the top 32 players on the one-year ranking list compete for a £100,000 first prize.

It’s best of 7’s until the semi-finals so not really an event I’ll be covering in any great depth but the action starts on Monday night on ITV, so tune in if it’s your kind of thing, the coverage the station offers is always very high quality.

The full draw is here and the order of matches is below. Last night’s winner Anthony Hamilton has been allowed a few days rest back in Pottingham before he plays on Wednesday night against Mark Allen.

Monday February 6

Judd Trump v Tom Ford
John Higgins v Michael White
Dominic Dale v Liang Wenbo
Barry Hawkins v Kyren Wilson

Tuesday February 7
Stuart Bingham v Ryan Day
Shaun Murphy v Michael Holt
Mark King v Stephen Maguire
Mark Williams v Joe Perry

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Yan Bingtao
Marco Fu v Jamie Jones
David Gilbert v Anthony McGill
Ali Carter v Zhou Yuelong

Wednesday February 8
Mark Selby v Martin Gould
Neil Robertson v Ricky Walden
Anthony Hamilton v Mark Allen
Yu Delu v Ding Junhui

February 5, 2017

German Masters Final: Carter v Hamilton

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:12 am

The culmination of a highly enjoyable few days in Berlin sees Ali Carter taking on Anthony Hamilton in the final. The historic city of Pottingham is holding its collective breath in the hope that their lawmaker can bring home a trophy for the first time in his professional career.

You can check out Ali reaction to reaching the final here and Anthony’s here and the head to head record here. I think Ali will win, for a correct score I’d plump for 9-5, but how could anyone begrudge a celebration at Pottingham Village Hall? The champagne is on ice and the bunting is being dusted off.

Let’s just hope it is a final befitting of a great event which is made even better by the vast numbers in attendance. I must get back there next year, it’s well worth the trip. 

February 4, 2017

German Masters – Semi Final Saturday

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:18 am

Four Englishmen over 35 years of age contest the finals weekend over in Berlin, yet more proof if ever it were needed that snooker is very much a middle-aged man’s game these days. Where are the next generation of potters coming from?

There is always lots of talk about the Chinese Revolution in snooker and I’ve always been sceptical about that concept, but now it almost seems inevitable that the battles that lie ahead in snooker will be almost tribal in character. On one side we have the ageing old guard and on the other the up and coming Chinese yoof. Eventually, unless the UK and the rest of Europe get the grassroots in order there is only one direction that this sport is heading so enjoy this last ‘golden era’ of snooker in Europe while you can (note: where exactly are any decent players on this vast continent outside of the UK?).

Anyway, that was what I thought when I woke up and saw the line up this morning. I didn’t watch any of the snooker last night I’m afraid as I had other things on, but I’ll be glued to it today as The Captain faces The GOAT and Ballrun squares up to The Sheriff. Despite being friends with Ali and Stuart, I’m probably, like most snooker fans of my age, secretly rooting for Hamilton this weekend. He’s not someone I know personally but his interview yesterday after beating Selby just hammered home what a great guy he is. It would be lovely if his mum and dad got to witness his first ranking win, which is long overdue for a player as good as he is.

I’ll not bother with any predictions today but I am really looking forward to the weekend’s action. It’s a great line up for someone like me, four proper players and whoever wins, I think it will make real fans happy. Oh yes and another message to Philip Studd, it’s not called the Templedrum, you are just making yourself look stupid now. In the words of the great Stephen Patrick Morrissey, that joke isn’t funny anymore. 

Click on the match for the head to head. Interestingly, it’s the first time Carter and Gould have played each other over longer than Best of 5 in the Championship League, whilst tonight’s protagonists go way back to a first meeting in 2003.

Saturday 1pm

Martin Gould v Ali Carter

Saturday 7pm

Stuart Bingham v Anthony Hamilton

February 3, 2017

German Masters Quarter Final Evening

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:10 pm

It’s Quarter Final time on Friday evening as the four winners from last night and the four winners from this afternoon’s session play down to the last four in Berlin. Here is a look at each of the matches, click on the match for the head to head record.

Martin Gould v Ryan Day

It’s been a very strong defence so far from reigning champion Gould which is impressive as he has never found himself in this situation before. He hit the ground running against Walden in the last round and basically won the match in the first session, despite a bit of a wobble at 4-0 up he managed to hold himself together to get over the line 5-3 in the end. Ryan Day was not just up against Robin Hull last night but also a very vocal crowd there to support the Fin. From 3-0 and 4-3 down Day produced the goods with two centuries including a one visit ton in the decider which must give him a lot of confidence going into this evening. He seems to be scoring the heavier of the two but as ever with Ryan it will depend which way the wind is blowing if he can keep that up tonight and not let the careless mistakes start creeping in. Gould holds the lead on the head to heads but lots of these are best of five, largely meaningless Championship League matches, in ‘real’ matches they are one apiece. All the signs are that this one could go the distance and then it’s down to who can hold himself together best, gun to head I’d go for Gould but I think the bet here is the one below.

Recommended Bet: Over 7.5 frames at 5/6 with Paddy Power

Tom Ford v Ali Carter

Tom Ford continues his run following his 147 on the first night, he put paid to Mark King on one of the outside tables last night and that earns him a crack at The Captain who came through a great match against the ferocious potter Zhao Xintong on the main table. Ali looks very confident this week and his way around the table as well as on it reminds me of when he won here in 2013, he seems to thrive on the atmosphere that this place creates. The draw itself has opened up for him a little with Ronnie going out and I’m sure he would not have expected Ford to emerge from the section he was in but that should not mean that Ali will underestimate the Leicester man. It’s clear that both are in very good form so you probably have to just think about who you believe the better player is and the one most likely to handle the pressure if this gets twitchy, on both counts I’d say Carter and given that he also has the head to head advantage it would be foolish not to side with him.

Predicted Winner: Carter

Stuart Bingham v Yan Bingtao

No sign of any nerves from the young Chinese player in his 5-1 win over Michael Holt, finishing with breaks of 115 and 61 to close the match out. He’s attracting a lot of attention and I have to say he seems to be progressing at a better rate than some of his ilk who have gone before him. He faces Ballrun who continued his hoodoo over Dave Gilbert in taking the last three frames to steal a win in the decider displaying all the qualities that made him a world champion. Bingham no doubt had the tougher afternoon and that could play a part in the result here, Bingtao will play as if he has nothing to lose and I think he’ll make this a heck of a match.

Recommended Bet: Over 7.5 frames at Evens. 

Barry Hawkins v Anthony Hamilton

Finally Hawkins and the Sheriff. It is absolutely astounding to me (I am easily astounded) that these two have only met twice over the years, most recently in the Northern Ireland Open semi-final a few weeks ago which Barry won 6-5. Hamilton had a great win over Selby, again without his trademark prolific scoring whilst Barry had another workmanlike win over Ben Woollaston. He’s making his way through pretty much unchallenged so far Barry and there is a nice way about him around the table at the moment. Again both come into this having had the mental challenges this afternoon and Anthony has in the past complained that he can struggle at times with fatigue on a long day and that might just play a part here, I’m going to take Hawkins for a comfortable win again.

Recommended Bet: Hawkins (-1.5 frames) at 4/6.  

February 2, 2017

German Masters Last 16

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:26 pm

It’s fast and furious in Berlin

The rounds come thick and fast in Berlin as Thursday evening sees the start of the Last 16 of the German Masters with tomorrow seeing those in the bottom half of the draw playing twice, at 2pm and 7pm and concluding the quarter finals in time for Saturday’s semis. Phewwwwww.

I always think this part of the tournament feels a bit rushed personally and that it would benefit greatly from starting on the Tuesday rather than the Wednesday to spread it out a little more evenly, or alternatively make more use of the morning sessions on day one and day three.

I know that the venue is expensive to hire and in demand so that probably has something to do with not extending it by a day, but having two morning sessions, three if you count Saturday, with no matches seems a bit daft to me. Either way, tonight sees the first four last 16 matches and the lucky winners of these will only have to play once tomorrow in the evening session.

The matches at 2pm tomorrow will have a bearing on the evening I’d say, the winner of a long drawn out 5-4 job which finishes around 6pm might face someone who breezed through in an hour or so and that adds an extra bit of spice to things I suppose. I remember Selby losing in those circumstances when I visited there and when he came out for the evening he looked like a walking corpse having had an afternoon tussle with Ding, he looked absolutely shot to bits even more so than he usually does, he duly got walloped on an outside table by Barry Hawkins and no doubt fell into bed almost immediately afterwards.

Here is a look at tonight’s matches, click on the match for the head to head statistics. Tomorrow’s will follow sometime soon.

Thursday 7pm

Martin Gould v Ricky Walden

Ryan Day v Robin Hull

Tom Ford v Mark King

Ali Carter v Zhao Xintong

(To be fair), Martin Gould played well in his opener but you have to say that his opponent Jamie Jones didn’t put up much of a fight (to be fair), but (to be fair) that doesn’t take away from a solid performance from the defending champion and a much needed confidence boosting win for the Pinner Potter (to be fair). He faces Ricky Walden who edged out John Astley in a decider with a highest break of 68. On first round performances you’d follow Gould but when Ricky gets on a roll he can start motoring and he holds a commanding head to head lead so we’ll see. Robin Hull ended Jimmy White’s hopes also in a decider and the heavy scorer from Finland now faces Ryan Day who apparently didn’t put a foot wrong against Mark Allen in an unexpected 5-1 win, we’ve been here so often with Day, we all know he should have won events but he never does, I think he’ll win tonight but after that who knows? Perhaps the rushed formula of these two rounds might suit him until he has to start thinking about what round he has reached on Saturday, talking of rushed formulas, the head to head shows us that the only time they have played each other was on Robin’s way to winning the Shootout last season, as head to head relevance going into a match goes that has to be up there with the most tenuous. 147 man Tom Ford faces Ronnie’s conqueror Mark King. The K-Dog is carving out a bit of a fanbase in the twilight years of his long career and is producing his lifetime best snooker, like most people in snooker I can’t help but like King and I hope he can keep this run going, he’s usually better in the limelight than on the outside tables but I think he’ll edge this one. He has won their only two meetings, both in deciders so perhaps back that again. Finally, Ali Carter who played very solidly in whupping the increasingly fading force Maguire, much like he played when he won here actually, he plays one of the Chinese wonderkids Zhao Xintong, a boy who basically goes for everything and gets quite a few of them, if Ali keeps this tactical he’ll win in a canter, if he allows the Boy Wonder to hit the ground running and turn this into a potfest he risks coming unstuck. Fans of The Captain will hope he keeps this very much in the traditions of the old school on the televised table.

Predicted Winners: Walden, Day, King, Carter.

Friday 2pm

Stuart Bingham v Dave Gilbert

Michael Holt v Yan Bingtao

Ben Woollaston v Barry Hawkins

Anthony Hamilton v Mark Selby  

Dave Gilbert continued his impressive recent form in the first round knocking out Marco Fu to earn a tie with Stuart Bingham here, Stuart wasn’t at his best in the first round and benefited from a careless early display by an inexperienced opponent, his experience saw him fall over the line but I don’t think he’ll get that luxury today against Gilbert, the head to heads are particularly interesting here as Bingham has won all of their 8 previous meetings so that has to make a difference to the punting, until I saw that I really fancied Gilbert, but that has done enough to put me off, so it’s a watching brief for me this one. Michael Holt cruised through in Round 1 and now faces the up and coming Chinese player Yan Bingtao, who took care of Dominic Dale. I think experience will be the key here and although Bingtao is clearly a talent I’d take Holt to win this one comfortably now we are reaching the latter stages of the event. A great win for Ben Woollaston over Neil Robertson sets up a tie with the solid Barry Hawkins who produced a decent display against Michael White, I just have a feeling about Barry this week and think he’s due a trophy, I’m sticking with him in this one. Finally, The Sheriff of Pottingham Anthony Hamilton continues to plough his trade and having seen off one multiple world champion he now faces another, the current one Mark Selby who has yet to lose a frame in this tournament having qualified with two whitewashes before doing the same to the hapless Un-Nooh yesterday. Hamilton has a good record against Selby winning 4 of their last 5 meetings but the key to his game has always been his heavy scoring which wasn’t in evidence against Williams, I think at 4/1 he is worth an interest bet but only that as you’d expect Selby to emerge at the end of it.

Predicted Winners: Gilbert, Holt, Hawkins, Selby.  

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