August 24, 2017

The Paul Hunter Classic

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:24 pm

It’s the time of year again when snooker players across the world gather in Fürth, Germany to celebrate the life of one of snooker’s brightest stars who sadly left us far too early for the Great Billiard Hall in the Sky. The Paul Hunter Classic is a regular feature on the calendar and now a well-established event, perhaps some might like it to be a little higher profile but it’s always a treat for the German fans who as ever, turn up in their droves armed with sausages and brimming with facial hair.

Sadly, despite all the hullabaloo and cork-popping which greeted Eurosport’s ten year deal with snooker, they haven’t seen fit to put this one on the telly, instead, those of us who pay the subscription to the Eurosport Player get to choose between action from three tables online, tables which I am sure will also be covered live by the usual bookie sites too.

The amateurs have been battling away since Wednesday for the right to make the main starting line-up with the professionals who come in on Friday for the traditional PTC style format.

The draw is probably best followed here though the World Snooker website remains far from ideal and very clunky to use, with some things almost impossible to find on there. To summarise, one half of the draw plays down to 8 players on Friday and the other half on Saturday before the final 16 get together to fight out the final knockout stages on Sunday. All matches are the best of seven frames although on current form matches involving Fergal O’Brien will feel more like the best of 77.

A few of the players of course will be racing here from China where Luca Brecel broke his ranking event duck with a famous victory over Shaun Murphy in the final of The China Championship. The beaming olive-loving Belgian gives mainland Europe their first ever ranking event winner and few in the game will begrudge him his moment of glory. Take that Brexit.

It’s great that more and more countries are embracing the sport and it would be nice if Germany followed suit with a ranch of their own young talent. As things stand, Luca is one of only a handful of younger players who might be able to fend off the lurking Chinese contingent who surely are now only a few years from filling a lot of the top spots on the tour. Once some of the old guard start getting careless there are now a number of young Chinese players who to me look the strongest mentally that they have produced. The mental side of the game is something for whatever reason I have always thought has been the downfall of others that have been heralded as the next Ding Junhui, but I think that’s now being addressed and is helped in no small part by the community of players building around Victoria’s in Sheffield.

Anyway, that’s enough of me rambling on. Let’s take a look at the outrights and see what we can find. If the mood takes me when it comes to match betting I’ll probably bash these up on Twitter in the mornings. If anyone followed them during the recent Preston qualifiers I hope you did as well as I did, that was a very decent week and almost made me like best of sevens, almost…

The tried and not very trusted method I tend to adopt in these big fields and PTC style formats is to pick out a player in each quarter and look for any other mad scraps of value that might be out there so here goes nothing. The top quarter in particular could throw up a semi-finalist at a big price so I’ll lump a few each way punts in from that section.

Paul Hunter Classic Outrights: Win Bets: Stuart Bingham 12/1, Kyren Wilson 14/1. Each Way Bets: Dominic Dale 80/1, Gary Wilson 100/1, Chris Wakelin 250/1, Alexander Ursenbacher 300/1.

August 11, 2017

The China Championship

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:28 am

The impressive arena in China

Snooker’s new Evergrande China Championship took place for the first time in 2016, as an invitational event. It was staged in the city of Guangzhou in the Guangdong Province of South East China where John Higgins beat Stuart Bingham 10-7 in the final.

This year it becomes a world ranking event, contested by 128 players with total prize money of £700,000 with the winner’s cheque of £150,000. Qualifying took place in Preston back in June and the final stages get underway on Wednesday 16th August with the final being played, oddly, the following Tuesday.

It might be just me here but I think this tournament represents a huge chance missed by China. Despite the impressive prize money the format is much the same as all their other events and doesn’t stand out at all from the crowd. Had it been kept as a 16 player invitational event it could have been billed as The China Masters and acted as a real stand out early season event in the calendar for the current top 16 players.

Instead, 64 of them plus a few wildcards whose matches were held over from Preston pile into the arena to play yet another conveyor belt event with most of them playing on outside tables. I’m beginning to get very bored of this format, it’s not appealing from a spectator point of view, it’s not unique and quite frankly it’s a bit of a switch off. But as one person pointed out to me the other day when I asked them about the possibility of getting involved in snooker sponsorship, we’re now being seen very much as a ‘bookies game’ and the more matches there are, the better for the bookies. I think we’re now all clear that this is the path that the sport has decided to follow.

Of course, it is slightly hypocritical of me to deride this. After all, a major part of this blog in the past has been betting focused. But I like to think that in building up the blog to what it was in the past there was also a love for the sport that might have shone through the murky waters of recommended accumulators. Betting on snooker is fun, but for me the focus is now on this side of the game too much and we’re forgetting that fans like a bit of variety as well as having a few quid on to heighten interest.

However, one thing China is good at is attracting sponsors from outside the gambling sector, something that we in the UK seem to find impossible to do. While Jason Ferguson beavers away trying to get snooker recognised as an Olympic sport, we continue to go cap in hand to any betting firm that will have us to sponsor events in the homeland of snooker, there’s something there that doesn’t quite sit right to me.

Anyway, there are still fans out there who enjoy this kind of format I am sure so it’s only right that we take a look at the draw and see what we can find.

For the China Championship draw click here.

I’m going to stick to one player in each quarter and there are some decent odds around in the outrights on some big names that I think need to be thrown in. In the top quarter I quite like the look of Stephen Maguire (40/1) who will be there pushing hard for his Masters place having had a decent finish to last season and a solid enough start to this, I think he’s got a tournament in him this season. The draw could also have been harsher for Ali Carter (66/1) who finds himself in a very winnable section of the draw, he’s not had a great start to the season by his standards and I’m sure he will be focused on maintaining his top ten place with a run in this having decided not to defend his World Open title that he won in China last season.

In the bottom half it would be no surprise to see the lesser spotted Ronald go deep in this, particularly given Judd’s recent display following his laser eye surgery, which may take some getting used to under the brighter TV conditions that he will inevitably find himself playing under, but in quarter three I’m looking lower down at Marco Fu (28/1) for a bit of value from a winnable section. Finally down in Higgins’ section I’ll take a punt on new dad Mark Allen (50/1) to keep the nappy budget afloat with a decent run.

I also have to avail myself of the ridiculous 400/1 on Ghou Yolonge (or Zhou Yuelong as World Snooker insist on calling him). OK he’s in Selby’s mini section of the draw but he’s improving in leaps and bounds and I’d be gutted if I missed out on his first big breakthrough, which I am convinced is just around the corner.

It’s all covered by Eurosport, the opening sessions of the day’s play at some ungodly hour when only the most avid fans or insomniacs are awake in my part of the world, it’s high time China towed the party line and changed their clocks to European time if you ask me.

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