March 26, 2017

China Open Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:11 pm

Hoping to trick The Snooker Gods

Just one more event to go before the big one gets underway and it’s off to Beijing this week as the last 64 plus the pointless wildcards decide who is going to carry ‘The Curse of the China Open’ with them back to Sheffield.

Let’s start off by stating that as well as the wildcards who shouldn’t be there that there are far too many players in this from the beginning. I’m not a fan of these sardine-like events that seek to cram in as many players as physically possible into an over-crowded venue, I’d much prefer a maximum of 32 players making the trip.

Of course a lot of these players will leave for back home before they have had time to unpack to start their preparation for the World Championship qualifiers next week no doubt wondering why they bothered with this in the first place, which is a shame as it’s usually a decent event and is well-established on the calendar, but it was much better when it started with less players.

Most of the big names are here though Neil Robertson decided not to bother entering and is instead working on his preparation for The Crucible, which of course is up to him. Somewhat eyebrow-raising is the fact the Ronnie O’Sullivan has chosen to continue with his tournament preparation by entering and qualifying, so let’s see if he is looking any sharper than he has been lately.

It’s pretty nip and tuck in the race for favouritism for the World Championship. O’Sullivan has been favourite all year but even the bookies are now beginning to doubt that he has that sixth title in him with some firms now favouring Mark Selby and others not being able to decide between those two and the in-form Judd Trump who defends the title he won 12 months ago here, meaning that there is a very real possibility that once the opening ball is struck at The Crucible, we’ll have co-favourites.

I know I should be talking about this event but I can’t help but see this as mere preparation for the main event of the year, the fact we won’t see more than half the players puts me off it a bit so it’s minimal stakes as the order of the day. I think we might see a big priced winner this week and quite like the look of Liang Wenbo, who would be a hugely popular champion if he could do it, so he’d probably be my main pick at 50/1 to rule himself out of being World Champion.

The Snooker Gods have chosen not to induce The Crucible Curse this year as Selby defends for the second time so you can be damn sure as eggs is eggs that they will decree that once more, whoever wins here won’t be lifting the trophy in early May, those pesky snooker gods.

Recommended Outright Bets: Liang Wenbo 50/1, Ali Carter 50/1, Ding Junhui 12/1. Each Way: Dave Gilbert 100/1 and Xiao Guodong 175/1. For Match Bets on a daily basis see Twitter. 

Quarter 1

Judd Trump/Jason Weston v Ashley Hugill

Ross Muir v Eden Sharav

Anthony McGill v Tian Pengfei 

Martin Gould v Fan Zhengyi

Mike Dunn v Andy Hicks

Liang Wenbo/Itaro Santos v Rory McLeod 

Ben Woollaston v Kurt Maflin

Joe Perry v Hossein Vafei Ayouri 


Quarter 2

Shaun Murphy v Allan Taylor 

Graeme Dott v Gary Wilson

Michael White v Yu De Lu

Ali Carter v Stuart Carrington 

Michael Holt v Jimmy White/Li Yuan

Mark Williams v Zhang Anda

Dark Mavis v Rhys Clark 

John Higgins v Ian Burns


Quarter 3

Stuart Bingham v Scott Donaldson

Robert Milkins v Noppon Saengkham 

Mark King v Sanderson Lam

Kyren Wilson v Xiao Guodong

Mark Joyce v Fraser Patrick 

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Gareth Allen 

Matt Selt v Ghou Yolonge

Ding Junhui/Sean O’Sullivan v Paul Davison


Quarter 4

Daniel Wells v Jamie Cope

Alan McManus v Matthew Stevens

Stephen Maguire v Fergal O’Brien 

Li Hang/Luo Honghao v Aditya Mehta

Ricky Walden v Alex Borg/Niu Zhuang

David Gilbert v Andrew Higginson 

Jimmy Robertson v Martin O’Donnell 

Mark Selby/Adam Stefanow v Alfie Burden 



March 21, 2017

The World Seniors Championship – King Hendry the Eighth?

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:04 am

The King is back

There is a new improved look to this year’s World Seniors Snooker Championship and thanks to Jason Francis, the creator of the hugely successful Snooker Legends Tour it has now got back to what it always should really have been, a nod to nostalgia with some real competitive edge thrown in for good measure.

The headline of course is that the winner of the event at Baths Hall, Scunthorpe, will be lining up at Ponds Forge for the World Championship qualifiers and that a certain seven times world champion could quite possibly be that player. Stephen Hendry starts his journey on Thursday taking on, probably given that Willie Thorne can’t see the end of the table, Aiden Owens, a qualifier from the German leg of the four events held so far.

Hendry doesn’t start as the bookies favourite however as this honour goes to Peter Lines, quite understandably given that he is unquestionably the most active player in the field in terms of real match competitiveness and for me it is his to lose.

But wouldn’t it be nice if Hendry could do it? If he does, he’ll have a few weeks to really get his game in shape for the World Championship qualifiers and if that happens, who would want to draw him first round? It would also be quite a story to big up the qualifiers.

The road starts here anyway and the match schedule is detailed below. The matches are priced up at sponsors Bet Stars, with all four regional qualifiers favourite against their more recognisable opponents and it is hard to make a case for Willie, Patsy or Joe, though Tony Knowles may have a squeak against his opponent Jonathan Bagley you’d think. For me though Lines and Patrick Wallace are probably the two to beat, but like everyone else, I’ll be rooting for the Bairn.

You can watch the Seniors on your phone or connected device by searching for and downloading the Bet Stars app. It may also be possible to watch it on this site.


Wednesday 22nd March @ 1pm
Match 1                Joe Johnson (5) v Patrick Wallace
Match 2               Patsy Fagan (6) v Peter Lines

Wednesday 22nd March @ 7pm
Match 3                Willie Thorne (8) v Aiden Owens
Match 4                Tony Knowles (7) v Jonathan Bagley

Thursday 23rd March @ 1pm
Match 5                John Parrott (3) v Winner of Match 1
Match 6                Dennis Taylor (4) v Winner of Match 2

Thursday 23rd March  @ 7pm
Match 7                Stephen Hendry (1) v Winner of Match 3
Match 8                Cliff Thorburn (2) v Winner of Match 4

Friday 24th March @ 1pm
Semi Final 1
        Winner of Match 8 v Winner of Match 5

Semi Final 2        Winner of Match 7 v Winner of Match 6

Friday 24th March @ 7pm
The Final              Winner of SF1 V Winner of SF2

March 12, 2017

Players Championship Final: Trump v Fu

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:19 am

We are down to the final two in Clan-Did-No and after an epic deciding frame win over Ding last night Marco Fu joins Judd Trump in the final, the two being probably the form players on the tour as things stand.

They have played each other quite a lot over the years and Judd holds the head to head advantage, but it was Marco who won their latest battle on the big stage in a decider at The Masters, so it’s a tough one to call.

Judd perhaps will come into this fresher given he had a day off yesterday and despite his recent habit of looking for all the world like he’s going to win an event only to lose unexpectedly towards the end, something tells me that this won’t happen today, so I’m going to stick with my original tip for the title to prevail. In terms of a scoreline, I’ll plump for 10-7 which is best priced 8/1.

It’s been a great week of snooker and what follows is a couple of weeks of rest before we head to Beijing for The China Open and the straight into the World Championship.

March 10, 2017

Players Championship Semi-Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:38 pm

Memories of a bad tempered classic

Friday evening and Saturday evening see the finalists decided at Venue Cum-ri in Clan-did-no as the Players Championship moves to the best of 11 frame semi finals, this tournament just keeps getting better.

Whenever this evening’s match up occurs I am immediately transported back to the classic Crucible match that Ali and Judd fought out in 2012 (was it really 5 years ago?). It is without doubt the best match I have seen live since the UK Championship classic finals I witnessed in the 1980’s as a kid, the fact that I was lucky enough to be right down there in the bearpit on the press seats made it even more special. I’d just got to know Ali and was privy to a lot of his ‘under the breath’ moments, of which there were many, during all three sessions of the match.

At the time, there was some needle between the two, not on a personal level but Ali was getting increasingly frustrated at the luck that Judd was having through the match, one incident in particular, which will be revealed in Ali’s book, really riled him and led to a spat on Twitter mid-match between the pair of them, it has to be said, largely instigated by an increasingly agitated Ali. The match really did have everything and it was an experience I will never forget, I suspect Ali won’t either, the manner in which he won couldn’t have been scripted better if it was a movie.

Since then, if you disregard the Championship League encounters they have met just three times, with Ali winning two of them. In fact, if you take out minor events Judd has only beaten Ali once when he whitewashed him at the German Masters. I’m really looking forward to this one, it’s a great stage, it’s Friday night and there is a place in the final at stake, I’m friends with Ali so obviously I’ll be rooting for him but I just hope it lives up to the billing and the best player on the night wins.

Saturday sees Marco Fu taking on a resurgent Ding Junhui in the other semi-final. Marco played solidly against Mark Selby and in the end came through surprisingly comfortably. He’s definitely a different animal these days and assuming his nerves hold up, has to be a challenger in every tournament he plays. He’s matured as a player and is playing a more attacking game, which is reaping the rewards.

As for Ding, his form looks to be returning to something like his best at the right time of year. It can’t have been easy for him emotionally over the past few months and it’s nice to see him smiling again, I’m sure everyone in snooker will echo that.

So here goes a look at what might/probably won’t happen. Great match tonight, stay in, get the beer/wine/soft drinks in, hit the arsedent and enjoy. 

Friday 7pm

Ali Carter v Judd Trump

Judd’s long game in particular has been outstanding this week and he’s definitely the stand out player from the four remaining but his record against Ali isn’t good and I know that Ali is champing at the bit for this one, as he does whenever he is facing a top player. I can forsee two possible scenarios in this match, a comfortable victory for Judd or a deciding frame, if it comes to that I would take Ali every day to win. One thing I will say is that I think the winner of this one will win the tournament and you can still get 8/1 on Carter in the outrights to do just that. But Judd is looking unstoppable to me so far this week so if you put a gun to my head I’d go with scenario one and a 6-3 win for Trump, but obviously I’ll be hoping for scenario two and a late night deciding frame thriller, with the winner having a day off tomorrow that won’t be a disadvantage come Sunday.

Predicted: Trump to win 6-3 (with alternative prediction Carter 6-5

Saturday 7pm

Marco Fu v Ding Junhui

To follow.

March 8, 2017

Players Championship Quarter Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:56 pm

Quarter Final Classic?

We arrive on Wednesday evening at the one-table situation in what is quickly becoming one of my favourite events on the snooker calendar in Clan-did-no as The Players Championship reaches the Quarter Final stages.

It’s a strange schedule really, to clarify, we start the quarter finals tonight with Ronnie and Judd and they finish with Ding v Hamilton on Friday afternoon, then the winner of Ronnie and Judd is back on Friday evening to play the first semi-final. There is no play on Saturday afternoon as ITV cover something where angry little people whip animals for pleasure then the second semi-final is played on Saturday night before Sunday’s two session final.

But what a joy it is to see just 16 top players at a venue, all thoughts of the Shootout, the Championship League and the seemingly endless best of seven comps are now but distant memories as I sit and wonder why more events can’t be just like this. But like I said in my initial preview, this excitement is borne out of the fact that I’ve been totally non-plussed with snooker for the past month and a half and now look forward as I do every year with wonder, to Sheffield via here and Beijing.

Ronnie’s been a bit rude about the host town and didn’t seem to want to hang around there for any longer than he had to. This obviously drew criticism from the Clan-did-no Tourist Board as ever since he mouthed off ITV have been at pains to tell everyone about all the attractions on offer at the seaside resort, from Ryan Day going on about something for adrenaline junkies to them more or less ordering Mark Selby to go to the seafront after his match and buy some fish and chips when he clearly just wanted to go back to his hotel for a kip, they are clearly doing a mop up operation from the unshaven Rocket’s verbal tirade on the opening night.

But nights like tonight is what snooker is all about, snooker’s two box office stars in a packed out one table set up, live on a station that doesn’t treat its viewers like they have just hatched. Buckle down for Ronnie v Judd, they both seem to be in great form, maybe we’ll see something special.

Wednesday 7pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Judd Trump

It’s hard to seperate the two these days both literally and formwise, they’ve been on the road together for a great part of the last year and a half and I think that’s helped Judd more than it’s helped Ronnie. Judd confirmed last night after winning that he doesn’t fear Ronnie the way some other players still clearly do and I believe him. This probably comes from spending time with him and seeing him at his most relaxed as well as his usual on-table aura-surrounded, worshipped superstar. It feels like Judd’s time to take over as snooker’s box office is now a little overdue, but this season there are a few shrewdies detecting (as they and I have before it has to be said) that his moment is about to arrive. Ronnie played as well as I have seen him play in a while in the first round and if he continues in that form he’ll win tonight, as he’s still the best when he is at his best, just. It’s all ifs and buts this and there will be plenty who will be backing both, I go for Judd in a decider and I’ve also daftly had a bet on there being a maximum along the way. There’s one born every minute.

Predicted: Trump 5-4.

Thursday 1pm

Neil Robertson v Ali Carter

Even being introduced as Neil Robinsaaaaa wasn’t enough to knock Robbo off his stride in the first round and what followed was him coming back to some kind of semblance of his old self in hammering Barry Hawkins 5-0 in fine style. It’s four years since Ali beat Neil in anything of any meaning and the Aussie has won their last six big tussles, including at The Masters a couple of months back so on the history books you’d have to side with Robbo now we know he is coming back to form. Ali of course loves a challenge and will see this as a chance to stick a long overdue snooker shiner on his opponent. Carter is probably in the top 5 players of the season on the results he’s been posting and he’s finding a level of consistency that has in the past not quite been there. He took care of Shaun Murphy in a decider and if he’s to overturn this mini-hoodoo here he may again need all the frames to do it, but with Robbo back to form and holding the head to head aces I have to side with him.

Predicted: Robinsaaaaaa 5-3. 

Thursday 7pm

Mark Selby v Marco Fu

Selby holds quite a commanding lead between these two in the head to heads and they last met in a tight semi-final at The Crucible last season on Selby’s way to his second world title. I don’t know if it was that tournament or some time later that Marco transformed into the totally different player that lines up here. Gone is the rather robotic, fairly pedestrian player who could at times be quite sleep inducing, now we have someone who sees the shot and plays it, attacking more often than defending, maybe it’s something to do with that clock he wears on his wrist giving him lekky shocks if he takes too long. Selby wasn’t at his best in the first round but as usual won in a decider anyway, but his safety play unusually for him was what was letting him down and his opponent really let him off the hook quite a few times when clean in the balls. Marco is becoming a fantastic break builder and his confidence is sky high, I backed him last month for the World Championship at silly odds and I reckon he might just pip this one as long as he can avoid the decider.

Predicted: Fu 5-3

Friday 1pm

Ding Junhui v Anthony Hamilton

Ding managed to capture victory not so much from the jaws but the stomach lining of defeat against Higgins, 4-0 down with a highest break of 21 despite multiple chances and it looked for all the world like his recent poor form was to continue, but after the comeback of the season was complete here he is lining up against The Sheriff in Round 2. Pottingham’s finest performed extremely well in taking care of Stuart Bingham on day one and a repeat of that performance will make him very hard to beat. Ding holds a commanding lead in the head to heads but they haven’t met in anything this big for a decade so with Hamilton in such good form this might be one where the head to head stat will not really come into play. Hamilton is such a heavy scorer when he is in the mood and appears to be playing without a care in the world, just happy to be mixing it with the big boys like he used to and at long last earning some money from snooker. I’m going to take him to carry on his stunning run of recent form and do what Higgins couldn’t finish in round one.

Predicted: Hamilton 5-2

Recommended: Singles and a Double on Fu and Hamilton, best price for double is over 9/1 at Boylesports. 

March 6, 2017

Players Championship First Round

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:49 pm

We now know the full first round line up for Llandudno so let’s take a look at the matches, a reminder that these are all Best of 9 played in a two table format before reverting to one table from the Quarter Finals onwards.  

Top Half

Mark Selby (1) v Ryan Day (16) – Tuesday 1pm

Marco Fu (8) v Anthony McGill (9) – Tuesday 1pm

Ding Junhui (5) v John Higgins (12) – Wednesday 1pm

Stuart Bingham (4) v Anthony Hamilton (13) – Monday 7pm

It goes without saying that this is a very difficult event to have any confidence in when punting. By definition these are the 16 current best players in the world and as such there is very little between them, so anyone who comes out on top after the tournament can definitely give a nod to Lady Luck. Ryan Day is in great form lately and comes to this from securing his place in it in Gibraltar. He faces the undisputed world number one and will be hoping that he hasn’t left his form behind at customs, Selby usually wins the meaningful matches between the two and there isn’t anything that suggests a break in that pattern will happen here. Marco Fu had a stunning run of form recently and faces Shootout King Anthony McGill who is becoming a verified top 16 player thanks to his consistency, but he’s yet to beat Marco in 4 attempts so despite his recent improvement I’m going to take Marco to shade that one and set up a quarter final with Selby. The price of Ding Junhui in the outrights reflects his recent form which it must be said will be secondary in his mind to the recent loss of his young mum, let’s just hope that he can rediscover his best form soon, until then I think you have to side with John Higgins on Wednesday, while on day one Ballrun attempts to shoot down German Masters Champ and Pottingham’s Sheriff, Anthony Hamilton. I’d have that one as pretty much even on current form and wouldn’t put anyone off a punt on Hamilton at 3/1, he’s won their last two meetings including the semi-final in Berlin so on that alone, that price is too big.

Predicted Winners: Selby, Fu, Higgins, Hamilton.

Recommended Match Bet: 3/1 on Hamilton to beat Bingham at Bet 365

Predicted Half Winner: Higgins. 

Bottom Half

Barry Hawkins (3) v Neil Robertson (14) – Tuesday 7pm

Ali Carter (6) v Shaun Murphy (11) – Wednesday 1pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan (7) v Liang Wenbo (10) – Monday 7pm

Judd Trump (2) v Mark King (15) – Tuesday 7pm

Barry Hawkins is always on the shortlist of potential winners these days and even though he faces Neil Robertson first up the bookies now rate him higher in the outrights than the Aussie, who it has to be said seems to have forgotten how to win tournaments at the moment, that of course is a coin toss but I’ll just side with Hawkins who has won their last two meaningful matches. Ali Carter skipped the Shootout and Gibraltar and faces the man coming back from the rock with the trophy Shaun Murphy. Carter has enjoyed the upper hand in their more meaningful meetings and is in decent form as he proved in Germany so it may be worth siding with The Captain given Murphy’s busy recent schedule. Day one kicks off with surely more of the same from Ronnie and Liang, Liang will look for all the world like winning only to miss something crucial and let Ronnie off the hook just like The Masters and most other times they have faced each other. While in-form Judd Trump faces Northern Ireland winner Mark King, Judd has had much the better of the head to heads and I’d expect him to win again there with a little bit in the tank, I expect a good week for him.

Predicted Winners: Hawkins, Carter, O’Sullivan, Trump.

Predicted Half Winner: Trump

Recommended Bet: Judd Trump to win the Players Championship at 11/2.

Match Treble: Selby, Fu and Higgins pays over 5/2. Add Hawkins and Carter for almost 20/1 acca.  

Best Outright Odds: 9/2 Selby/O’Sullivan, 11/2 Trump, 12/1 Higgins/Hawkins, 14/1 Robertson, 16/1 Murphy, Bingham, 18/1 Fu, Ding 40/1 Carter, Day 66/1 McGill, 80/1 Wenbo, 100/1 Hamilton, 175/1 King. 

March 5, 2017

The Players Championship – The Return of Proper Snooker

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:43 pm

Come, come, come…. Nuclear Bomb

The wait is over. At last we have said goodbye for another season to the best of seven and shorter format matches as we approach the business end of another busy period on the baize, starting on Monday from Llandudno in Wales (which for some reason the Welsh refer to as ‘Clan-did-no’, totally ignoring how it is spelt), with the Players Championship.

Anyway, Clandidno is the kind of town that Morrissey wrote about in ‘Everyday is like Sunday‘, the seaside town that they forgot to close down kinda place. But it has its charm and being a bit of a miserable sod sometimes I quite like towns like that. I’ve chosen to live just around the corner from one actually and it’s the kind of place I went to on holidays with the family as a nipper. Think ‘Kiss me Quick’ hats and candy floss, that kinda vibe is where the Didno is at.

As I write the latest PTC style event in Gibraltar is coming to an end and because this tournament is seeded in terms of the 1 year list (1 v 16, 2 v 15 etc.) we don’t yet know the full match line up, although we do know who the final 16 are. This of course is not ideal when you only have today to write a preview, seeing as a prerequisite of writing a preview about betting on matches would be to actually know what those matches are. Not really ideal is it, either for the blogger or the bookie.

I’ve been a bit disappointed with the calendar of late, I make no secret of the fact that I think there are far too many tournaments these days with shorter formats and since the back end of the Welsh Open snooker has been a big switch off for a bluff old traditionalist like me. I’m sure I’ve missed some great matches, but I’m equally glad that I’ve not really bothered with any of it as it means I can now look forward with added enthusiasm and fresh eyes to this, to The China Open and then to the World Championship, including of course the qualifiers which are sometimes as riveting as the main event itself.

So why am I so keen on this event? Well, it’s kind of a bit like The Masters for ITV, the only difference is that these first rounds are best of nine rather than elevens and they are played on two tables rather than one but other than that we are seeing the 16 players who have performed best over the course of the season battle it out for a decent purse, even the first round losers get £10k just for turning up, which to me does feel a bit protectionist but you could argue that every player has had an equal chance to get here so I’m largely in favour of it.

Like I said, it’s difficult to write a preview when you don’t know the matches, when we do I’ll pop them in the space below and update as the tournament goes on. I very much enjoy the ITV coverage when they have a decent event and I’m sure they will do this one justice, it’s just a shame that the draw isn’t known for a decent betting preview, but I’ll pen my thoughts before the session starts tomorrow evening with Ronnie O’Sullivan and his good pal Liang Wenbo locking horns again (one of the few match ups we do know).


First round Draw:

Mark Selby (1) v Ryan Day (16) – Tuesday 1pm

Marco Fu (8) v Anthony McGill (9) – Tuesday 1pm

Ding Junhui (5) v John Higgins (12) – Wednesday 1pm

Stuart Bingham (4) v Anthony Hamilton (13) – Monday 7pm

Barry Hawkins (3) v Neil Robertson (14) – Tuesday 7pm

Ali Carter (6) v Shaun Murphy (11) – Wednesday 1pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan (7) v Liang Wenbo (10) – Monday 7pm

Judd Trump (2) v Mark King (15) – Tuesday 7pm

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