February 26, 2018

Welsh Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:39 am

The Welsh Open gets underway today in Cardiff, it’s the fourth and final leg of the Home Nations events and that means a return to the best of sevens. Consequently it’s not an event that I’ll be getting too involved in from a match betting point of view but having had a look at the draw I’ll take three against the field in the outrights.

It’s covered on BBC Wales, Eurosport and Quest all week.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the order of play

Click here for the TV schedules

Recommended Bets: John Higgins at 12/1, Mark Allen at 28/1, Stuart Bingham at 30/1.

February 23, 2018

Sean Maddocks – Record Breaker

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:50 am

Sean with the Merseyside Open Trophy.

It might not be a name that snooker fans are familiar with yet, but Liverpool junior Sean Maddocks recently wrote himself into the Guinness Book of Records, usurping none other than Ronnie O’Sullivan in becoming the youngest player ever to make a 147 maximum break in competitive tournament play. 

Sean is a player that I know from the Snookerbacker Classic. He was awarded two free places in the event a couple of years back when he was just 13, even then it was clear that he had a good eye for the game but I’d never have guessed that a matter of 18 months later he’d be beating hardened Merseyside players of all ages to become the Merseyside Open Champion.

The Merseyside Open is a very prestigious event around these parts and has a list of winners which include John Parrott, Rod Lawler and other Merseyside professionals of the past like John Whitty and Ian Brumby. In fact Sean beat John Whitty in the final in December, compiling a break of 129 (he missed the final black for a total clearance) in the process.

But it is the 147 maximum break that grabbed the headlines yesterday once the record was verified. Sean beat Ronnie’s record by just 8 days, compiling his break in a Lite Task tour event in Leeds at the Northern Snooker Centre against Jake Nicholson.

With Sean being a Liverpool lad I’ll take a keen interest in his progress, I’ve known his coach Neil Johnson since we were kids and he’s keeping Sean’s feet firmly on the ground and focusing on his potential to rise through the sport, I know he rates him as a really exciting prospect and he told me yesterday that he’s recently made his 100th century break, which is quite astonishing for someone so young.

So watch this space, Sean has entered Q-School this year and whether he progresses from there or not, the experience should stand him in good stead for a crack at the new Challenge Tour next season, assuming he makes one of the top 64 slots. 

Who knows? He might be the start of the fightback against the Chinese youngsters coming through?

February 18, 2018

World Grand Prix

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:14 pm

Bit careless putting the holder Hawkins on the poster. He ain’t qualified this year.

After all the hullabaloo last week in Watford, it’s time for the return of real snooker as we head up north to Preston for this season’s World Grand Prix. This is the event which rewards the 32 top players of the season with a chance to further raise their ranking status and improve on what already for some has been a very successful season.

Without doubt, the man of the moment in snooker just now is Mark Williams. His triumphant return to the champion’s table just before Christmas continued with that win over in Berlin where he looked as close to unbeatable than anyone has all season. This of course, MJW attributes to the benefits of the Sight Right coaching technique and the new lease of life this has afforded him on the baize.

Similarly to the world championship triumph of Stuart Bingham, who Williams faces in the first round here, MJW has seen immediate results with his new technique, he’s even embraced it so much as to do his coaching course and become one of the disciples, there to spread the gospel according to Sight Right to anyone that will listen.

Now a lot of stick has been levelled towards this coaching method, some particularly unsavoury stuff from a few no-marks over on Twitter which went far beyond the banter threshold. To be more specific, the vemon seems to be aimed more at the man behind the myth that is Steve Feeney. Steve isn’t really one for engaging on social media and instead chooses to ignore anyone that disagrees with him or questions his techniques or motives. Whilst I am all for ignoring people who get personal I think he takes it to the extreme and seems to alienate people as a result, but each to their own I suppose.

Whether Sight Right is the long term answer to every struggling snooker player’s prayers is yet to be seen. Certainly it appears to have an immediate ‘correction’ (some might say placebo) effect, but the benefits long term are harder to gauge, which to me suggests that it is simply a technique which corrects mistakes and sloppiness that may have crept into already gifted players games. I very much doubt that it is something that can improve players to a level they were incapable of before, only practice and matchplay, I’d argue, can do that.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the World Grand Prix. Williams joins the likes of Mark Selby, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and most of the usual suspects for a straight 32 man knockout comp this week, all covered over on ITV with I dare say regular updates from the happiest place on earth, yes, the Johnstone Decorating Centres, where not only does life revolve around cups of tea and saucy innuendo, but the sun always shines and everyone is always smiling, it must be the paint fumes I reckon.

The first two rounds unfortunately are the best of seven, before the matches get a bit longer and it starts getting interesting. I really don’t see why these can’t be best of nine from the off, it would make this a much better event and make it quite unique and one to really look forward to, but I really struggle to get enthused with these lottery matches at the beginning. But the flip side of this is of course the excellent ITV coverage (and the decorators obvs). It means that once again we’ll be able to sit there not suffering cringeworthy ‘features’ and be treated like we actually know what snooker is all about by the panel of experts.

I’ll leave the matches alone in terms of recommended bets but I may post the odd flutter on Twitter. With a classy field this size though it’s worth having a good look at the draw and having a bash at the outrights. Traditionally you’d not say that this is a tournament that Ronnie O’Sullivan will enjoy, it’s a few days between matches more than 20 miles from his house and he doesn’t tend to perform as well in this type of event as some others. Mark Selby will be keen to get back on track, the snooker world is holding it’s breath as I think we all know a win is coming, but I’d not touch him until there are some real signs that he’s getting back in the groove, so that means it might be worth looking at a few big prices this week.

These are the ones I’m backing. 

Recommended Outright Bets: Neil Robertson (16/1), Yan Bingtao (40/1), Kyren Wilson (40/1), Stephen Maguire (50/1).

You can see the draw below and the format is here.  

February 8, 2018

World Snooker Challenge Tour Further Details Announced

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:03 am

It’s a chance for amateurs to get a taste of the big time.

More details were released yesterday by World Snooker about the Challenge Tour for the best amateur players which will be starting next season. The main points are summarised in the bullet points below.

  • Ten events, played over two days using a minimum of eight tables
  • Each event will consist of the top 64 from the 2018 Q School Order of Merit (who have not qualified for the World Snooker Tour) plus a maximum of eight wildcards, giving a maximum field of 72 players.
  • If any of the top 64 do not enter an event, the eight wild cards will then be added. If there are still less than 64 players in the event, we will use the Q School Order of Merit to top up to 64.
  • Events will be played in a mixture of venues being used by World Snooker for other events, plus selected snooker clubs.
  • Players will be allowed to play in both World Snooker Tour and Challenge Tour events if eligible.
  • Once agreed, a tender will be issued for clubs to host events in the UK and National Governing Bodies to host events in mainland Europe.
  • The events are likely to be played at regular intervals between May 2018 and March 2019, taking place in a mixture of venues in the UK and continental Europe.
  • The Top Two from the final Challenge Tour Order of Merit at the end of the season will receive World Snooker Tour cards for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.
  • The prize money breakdown for each Challenge Tour event will be:
    Winner £2,000
    Runner-Up £1,000
    Semi-Finalists £700
    Quarter-Finalists £500
    Last 16 £200
    Last 32 £125
    Total £10,000
  • Each event will have an entry fee of £50. World Snooker will retain all entry fees and issue draws/formats
  • All matches best of five frames.

Well, the first thing I will say is that this is great news for amateur players who are serious about a career in the sport. There is potential for the very best to earn over £10,000 of the overall £100,000 pot as well as having playing opportunities at professional events.

The model is basically a carbon copy of what Shaun Murphy and I proposed, the only difference with our model is that I was asking for £100,000 in the form of a loan to get it off the ground. World Snooker can raise this themselves so it makes more sense for them to take the idea and run with it.

I hope that the wildcards are put to good use in encouraging junior players, it wouldn’t be fair if these were hand-picked old professionals who could just be dropped into any event and win it. Logistically, 64/72 player fields are manageable, I think we proposed a tour of 128 for financial reasons and in order to make the tour self-sufficient quicker and pay the loan back, but the number selected makes it more compact and would have been my preferred field.

The one thing of course that all the players on this tour will need to think about are expenses, particularly with some events seemingly heading all over Europe. Anyone routinely losing in the first and second rounds will need pretty deep pockets to compete in all the events. It is however good news that they will only be played over 2 days, which cuts down on the old PTC style expenses.  

The one tweak that I would definitely make is to reward the next 8 or 16 players in an overall Order of Merit list outside of the top two who win the tour cards. It’s not unfeasible that there could be two runaway winners of the top two spots that begin to become clear after half the events have taken place, after seven or eight they could be home and dry. That would leave a bunch of players who are there or thereabouts but mathematically have no chance of the top spots being expected to play in the last couple of events. My experience as a tournament director would lead me to believe that the way of ensuring that these players commit to all events is to offer a further list which rewards them for their season efforts.

Whether this ends up being a final knockout event for a further tour card or even perhaps takes the form of a few free Q-School places for the following season I don’t know, but I think that’s something that they need to consider.

Overall however, this is a huge step in the right direction for amateur snooker and should be embraced by all. I really look forward to keeping a close eye on it next season.

February 6, 2018

Q-School and Challenge Tour Format Announced

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:42 am

It’s back to school for the potters.

As you may know, I always take an interest in any happenings on the amateur circuit and yesterday saw criteria announced for this season’s Q-School as well as the first details emerging of the much anticipated Challenge Tour, a new initiative designed to grow the sport at grass roots level and give the best amateurs more competitive playing opportunities.

Q-School, again held at Meadowside in Burton-on-Trent, has introduced a few changes for this season. Instead of having two events with four qualifiers from each and four further from an Order of Merit, we now have three events where the final four in each will receive a 2 year initial professional tour card. This is also reflected in the entrance fee which has risen (or reverted back if you prefer) from £600 to £1000.

The Challenge Tour is also mentioned and it appears, as expected, that only those willing to fork out the £1000 for Q-School will be eligible to play in it. For those outside of the 12 qualifiers from the 3 events, the top 64 on the Order of Merit will be given the option of competing on the Challenge Tour. The Tour will comprise a series of 10 events, venues yet to be confirmed, which will require a further £50 per event entry fee to be paid by the 64. It is unclear as to whether they will be required to commit to entering all 10 from the outset, or whether this will be done on an event by event basis, my guess would be the former for purely logistical reasons.

Each of the 10 Challenge Tour events will have prize money of £10,000, making a total pot of £100,000 available to the 64 top performing amateurs at Q-School next season, so this has to be a step in the right direction.

What has been announced is basically a carbon copy of an idea that myself and Shaun Murphy pitched back in the day, but I’m not going to ruffle any feathers about that. Anything that addresses the ongoing shortage of quality amateur events in snooker has my full backing and I’d be happy to help out if approached.

It’s a step forward for the amateur game. It’s as close to a semi-professional tour as you’re going to get and for those who perform the best, it might even reap an income that they can live on,  given that I’d estimate that the winner of each one will get at least £2500, though you’ll need to keep an eye on the expenses if any of these events are further afield.

It will be very interesting to see how all this is received. For players serious about the sport who don’t make it through Q-School it’s a chance to really nurture their talent against their peers. I am assuming that at the end of the Challenge Tour the top few will all receive professional cards and assuming that to be the case it seems a natural and long overdue step that snooker is taking here.

I look forward to finding out more about this new initiative for amateurs.  


And for the online entry system CLICK HERE

February 2, 2018

The German Masters Continues

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:50 am

Set-up to Fail? The unique table arrangement in Berlin isn’t to everyone’s liking

The unique German Masters continues at a pace today with this being the day where we whittle down the current field of 12 to the final 4, with the four winners from this afternoon’s session having a bite to eat between matches and returning this evening.

But it’s not just this quirk that makes this event different from any other. As ever, lots has been made of the venue itself, with fans gushing about it and its audience orientated and friendly set up. But unfortunately this mass hysteria doesn’t seem to be extending to the players, several of whom have become more vocal in their dislike of The Tempodrom this year.

Having seen the set up first hand I can see both sides of the argument. It is, without doubt, the best place I have been outside of The Crucible to watch snooker. That probably says more about my attention span than the venue itself, but it’s ideal for someone like me who likes to dip in and out of matches making a general nuisance of himself rather than hook onto one in stony silence. In that respect it reminds me a little of the Guild Hall in Preston but more of The Barbican in York, when the multi-table set up allows the audience to hover around visually and sometimes physically when appropriate, taking in the best bits of each match on display.

What is different about Berlin is the way the tables are facing. In the other two venues I’ve mentioned the tables are set up in the traditional way, with a distinct audience behind each one, usually set fairly far back. Here, the audience, some of whom are not watching the match they are sitting next to are almost on top of the players, with the notable exception of the main TV table, which as you can see from the picture above is quite different altogether in terms of location and audience proximity.

It goes without saying that this creates a distraction. It’s fair to say that a lot of the audience members, perhaps in particular those whose only experience of watching live snooker is here, aren’t aware that when they are watching the centre table, there is a match going on right in front of them between players who’d appreciate it if they’d not roar with laughter or start cheering and whistling loudly at the goings-on on the main table when they are about to enter a crucial stage of their own.

It’s led to Masters Champion Mark Allen, who describes his relationship with the event as ‘hate, hate’ to threaten not entering next time if something isn’t done about the set up, he is just one of a long line of potters who seem less than enamoured with this venue. Another problem that is frequently highlighted is the lighting on the outside tables, even to the point where it’s claimed there are shadows over some of the pockets, which is obviously not ideal in a professional event.

The thing is, all this is surely fixable. They have enough capacity, they have enough time, to have just four tables, all facing in the same direction and all with adequate lighting without any discernible upset to the paying public. If the consequence of not doing this is that more and more top players choose to skip this in an already overcrowded calendar then surely this is something the organisers must look into and act upon, or else risk the entire future of the event.

It’s too good a tournament and too good a venue not to give this a go – perhaps a trip to The Barbican with a camera and a notebook, ahead of next year’s tournament is something the event promoters should make a priority. In terms of size, whilst the Tempodrom is bigger, there isn’t that much in it in terms of floor space, which The Barbican seems to utilise the better of the two despite this venue having more room.

Anyway, I thought I’d share those thoughts given that said organisers were kind enough to include a link to this garbage in the official tournament programme. If the set up changes next year, you Germans better be lining up to thank me if I make it back there, though I would be concerned as a recent convert to the Church of Vegan about your sausage intake, they’re no good for you you know.

Here’s what’s going on today.

2pm German Time

Dark Mavis v Ryan Day

Mark Joyce v Shaun Murphy

Graeme Dott v Mei Xi Wen

Liang Wenbo v Xiao Guodong

8pm German Time

Jimmy Robertson v Mark Williams

Ding Junhui v Judd Trump

Mavis/Day v Joyce/Murphy

Dott/Mei v Liang/Xiao

Main image kindly sent on by Sylvia Moeller on Twitter 

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