July 31, 2017

Nine Days in Preston

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:46 am

Snooker seems to spend a lot of time in Preston these days. The once iconic Guild Hall is increasingly now seen as the go to place for Qualifiers and this next week and a half is no exception with no fewer than three events holding their opening rounds there before the main events in India, Belgium and China take place.

It’s been a funny old month on the baize. The Hong Kong Masters seemed like a great success with huge crowds turning out to watch Neil Robertson triumph, it’s just a shame that we weren’t able to watch it with the exception of a dodgy streamed site. Then we had the World Games where Kyren Wilson bagged a gold medal and Ali Carter the silver and at the same time over in China, England led by Ronnie O’Sullivan beat the home team in a Ryder Cup style event that I knew absolutely nothing about, so while there has been a lot of snooker going on, it’s not exactly been high profile when it comes to a global audience.

It’s back to the qualifiers this week though as the Indian Open, the European Masters and the World Open kick off. The World Open replaces the Shanghai Masters on the calendar which sadly is no longer on the schedule.

This is a shame as it was always seen as the best event there was in China by the players who seemed to love going there, instead they will have to return to Yushan which saw outbreaks of food poisoning last year in the middle of nowhere when Ali Carter took the title, one that he’s decided not to defend this time. Ronnie O’Sullivan is also nowhere to be seen and hasn’t entered any of the three events, perhaps a sign that he’s going into semi-retirement mode again and picking and choosing when and where he plays, he is another who expressed disappointment at the scrapping of Shanghai.

Whilst Preston isn’t universally popular with the players, one thing it remains is an excellent venue for fans to go and watch and with tickets as low as £5 for a whole day’s worth of action where you can flit from table to table effortlessly if you are in the area it’s well worth a visit.

The draws are contained in the links below if you can make out the names, it seems that several of the keys on the World Snooker computer are missing so it might be time for Bazza to fork out for a new one with all that dosh he’s been raking in. It all gets underway on Tuesday and runs rights through until the middle of next week. The India and Europe events are all played over the best of seven while the World Open is played over the best of nine.

Click here for the Indian Open Draw

Click here for the European Masters Draw

Click here for the World Open Draw

Click here for the format for all three events

July 18, 2017

The Hong Kong Masters

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:12 am

Marco will be sporting his massive watch during the event.

It’s a new event on the calendar this week, though rumours I am hearing are that it’s a strictly one-year only affair as the crème brûlée of the snooker world jet to Hong Kong for the invitational Hong Kong Masters which sees 7 of the world’s top 8 players in action alongside bums on seats man Ronnie O’Sullivan.

The bad news is that the coverage of this in terms of TV seems to be severely restricted, which is a shame as apparently it’s a huge deal over there and a sell-out, with tickets trading on the black market at many times their face value, kind of like if Viagogo ever got let out onto the streets.

Crowd favourite will undoubtedly be Marco Fu, the local man has been described this week as the greatest ‘athlete’ that Hong Kong has ever produced. ‘Athlete’ is a little misleading as anyone who knows Marco or has witnessed him around venues would probably describe him as more of a chilled out tortoise than a frantic hare, but it’s a good headline.

The one player from the top 8 who is missing is Ding Junhui. Ding commands a fee of around £85,000 for appearances in China and Hong Kong and this by all accounts proved too steep for the organisers who told him where he could shove his appearance fee. But it’s still a stellar line up playing in front of presumably humungous crowds so it’s a shame that we can’t get to watch it as I love a good invitational tournament to break up from the sardinefests so prevalent of late.

Anyway, a list of the players and the matches are detailed below. I think as an interest you could do worse than take a punt on Marco rising to the occasion at a fairly generous 11/1, with Ronnie at 5/1 an attractive proposition too considering Mark Selby is playing his first tournament back from nearly losing a toe by dropping something heavy on it, presumably his wallet. Ronnie as we know thrives in the invitationals with the big crowds and I wouldn’t put it past him tottering off with the trophy and first prize here after putting on a show for the adoring fans. Anyway it all kicks off on Thursday.

• Current World Champion and world number one – Mark Selby
• Four-time World Champion and world number two – John Higgins
• 2017 Players Championship winner and world number three – Judd Trump
• 2017 World Grand Prix winner and world number five – Barry Hawkins
• Former World Champion and world number seven – Neil Robertson
• Former World Champion and world number eight – Shaun Murphy
• Five-time World Champion – Ronnie O’Sullivan
• Hong Kong’s top player and world number six – Marco Fu

First round draw (all times are UK time):

Best of 9 Frames

Barry Hawkins v Marco Fu (July 20th at 7am)
Mark Selby v Neil Robertson (July 20th at 12 noon)

Judd Trump v Shaun Murphy (July 21st at 7am)
Ronnie O’Sullivan v John Higgins (July 21st at 12 noon)

Semi Finals and Final are Best of 11 Frames.

July 7, 2017

Break Off

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:25 am

Snooker always takes a back seat for me at this time of year and this year is no different. I gave the sport the same approach last season and found that it heightened my enjoyment of the events I look forward to most, namely The UK Championship, The Masters and the World Championship, including the brilliant qualifiers.

I also enjoy a few of the ITV events too so all in all for a snooker fan and blogger who has been there, done that and bought several anoraks that suits me just fine.

Thing is though, I’m increasingly growing more nostalgic these days about snooker. I’ve always of course, since the early days of this website made more than a passing nod to the golden era on the table, but now I seem to be experiencing something of a neo-nostalgia as I think back to the exciting time of starting this up and joining what I still believe was the golden triangle of snooker bloggers alongside Dave Hendon and Matt Pro Snooker.

Between us we seemed to have it covered. Dave had the inside track and journalistic prowess to bring even the most seemingly pedestrian stories to life, generating discussion in the days well before the snooker community descended on Twitter, he’s now busy putting his wordsmithery to far more constructive use as a playwright, gaining many plaudits already in a short time, while still keeping his eye in on the baize with Eurosport and his regular podcasts.

Matt of course was where you went for stats and in particular rankings nuances which sometimes only he seemed to understand fully. His seemingly endless stream of factual and statistical knowledge and enthusiasm fed a hungry crowd of anoraks more than they could chew and his site definitely contributed hugely to the growth of snooker in the UK and further afield in recent years, it also helped increase sales of anoraks across Europe by 23.6%.

This festering corner of the information super highway was where the less discerning reader would end up, for tittle tattle, gossip, the odd pisstake and a little bit of betting. The angles were covered and the daily stream from each of us seemed to confirm what for me was the golden era in snooker based websites.

As with all people wearing rose-tinted spectacles. I don’t think the overall feel, not necessarily standard of website, is quite the same. I can’t really pinpoint why that is but Dave packing in his to join the excellent Inside Snooker with Hector Nunns, another site which now unfortunately only appears sporadically, seems to have started the domino effect. Matt has swapped his anorak for a shirt and tie and has since joined the WPBSA and maintains their website with a familiar slant on rankings, whilst I, well, I’ve just lost a little bit of my early spunk and don’t post anything like as much as I used to these days. 

There are still of course many excellent websites out there covering the sport and all have their avid readers and fans, there is also of course the excellent Cue Tracker which must get tremendous traffic when the big events are on, but it’s fair to say that the snooker community these days tends to do its communicating with the rest of the waking (spellchecked) world via Twitter.

In my opinion, Twitter has also peaked in terms of its snooker community and while there remain some very interesting, shrewd, witty and light-hearted tweeters there are far too many idiots getting involved and unfortunately still a few players on there who just don’t really get how they ought to be portraying themselves as professional sportsmen, with sometimes fickle fans hooked on their every word and viewpoint. Also, and I am of course guilty of this, it’s not focused only on snooker and inevitably leads to other discussions/arguments, most notably politics in my case where I seem at odds with a vast majority of the snooker tour in believing the UK is a country being laughed at for it’s collective stupidity. But like all things, even if the UK regresses back to the stone age the sport will evolve into something else and people who love it will find other ways to communicate why they do.

Anyway, these are just a few thoughts I had while I struggled to sleep last night, the others were far too rude to write down pre-watershed and I’m pretty sure one of them is probably illegal in some countries, but the message from me is that it’s all about the future and not about the past. Just because I’m getting a bit jaded with something it doesn’t mean that everyone is. The World Cup is currently being played in China but it’s appeal isn’t really for me, the Shanghai Masters appears to have been scrapped from the calendar which is a shame as I used to like that one, but there are new events planned in new places so I’m sure it’s all in hand. Everything changes.

I’ll be back here when I find an event I’d like to get involved in and the mood takes me. I’ve threatened retirement from blogging too many times to think that this time I mean it and the fact that I’ve written this largely to fill a messy gap that was bugging me on the front page from a tournament a few weeks ago tells me that when the time is right I’ll be back. Until then….    

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