November 23, 2018

UK Championship Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:29 am

It’s a great time of year for snooker fans this as we all shift attention to The Barbican in York for the UK Championship, the first of the BBC events this season and only a few short weeks later the other side of Christmas we have The Masters, for which the final field of 16 will be decided in York.

There is a lot of talk amongst snooker fans that the UK isn’t the event that it used to be. Indeed, I myself feel a bit less excited about it than I used to, the eroding of the match lengths and the flat 128 draw to me make it feel a bit less prestigious, but weigh that against the excellent venue, apart from the Sports Hall, and the fact that the BBC give it some airtime (though again not as much as they used to) and it is what it is.

As you’d expect, all the big names are involved and once we get past the first three rounds (or as Ronnie prefers to refer to them, the Numpty Rounds) things will begin to take shape. Looking at the draw, the main protagonists all seem on paper to have a strong chance of making the latter stages but I’m sure we’ll see someone take on the mantle of David ‘Amazing’ Grace a few years back and go deep when you least expect.

I’m firmly of the opinion however that we’re not going to see an unexpected name lift the trophy at the end, the draw simply can’t allow it as the players who come good in major events are mainly keeping out of each others way until the last 16 or in some cases the last 8. I’ve looked at each quarter individually below and given my usual masterful, crystal-ballesque insight.

Quarter One:

The holder Ronnie O’Sullivan is a firm favourite to make the semi-finals and you have to say that the draw has been particularly generous to The Rocket. His form is rock solid and he’s winning and knocking in tons for fun so he is definitely the man to beat here. On balance I’d say the two players with the best chance of doing that in this section are Jack Lisowski and Shaun Murphy. Last year’s runner-up Murphy is in desperate need of a run in this to get into the ranking events later in the season as he is languishing currently at 54th in the one year list and struggling to find his game, conversely, Lisowski is flying and continuing where he left off last season and is assured of his place in at least 2 of the Coral series of events. If Jack ends up playing Ronnie in the last 16 I think he’ll run him close and from there anything is possible. The prices on Murphy being quoted at some firms are bordering on farce and are worth a punt regardless, but on balance this quarter should go with the seedings.

Predicted Quarter Outcome: O’Sullivan to beat Murphy in the Last 8. 

Quarter Two:

Another who seems to have benefited from a pleasant draw is John Higgins, as if he needs it. I can’t see any issues that he can’t overcome prior to a quarter final meeting with Judd Trump, the only potential banana skin for me being Liam Highfield. Man of the moment Judd will be buoyed by his win in Belfast and hungry to add another major to his CV, he has form here of course and something tells me that the win last week will get that pesky monkey off his back and he too will fly through to a quarter final match up with Higgins, with only Ryan Day who I feel might have something to say about that. I really fancy Higgins to go deep in this and add this title to his list of major successes.

Predicted Quarter Outcome: Higgins to beat Trump in the Last 8.

Quarter Three:

The bottom half of the draw to me looks much more competitive than the top half. There are a multitude of possible outcomes and my guess is that if we are to see a ‘shock’ semi finalist it will come from this half of the draw. The obvious name that stands out is of course Mark Selby, he’s looking a bit more like Mark Selby these past few weeks rather than the Mark Selby who has been doing an impersonation of Mark Selby for much of the last year or so but without the winning titles bit. His path to the last 8 though isn’t easy and amongst others he’ll have to possibly tackle the in form Dave Gilbert, who could be the man to be on at a huge price if you fancy an upset this year. Other live contenders in this section are Barry Hawkins and Judd’s best mate Kyren Wilson, both with proven big stage pedigree, I’d be surprised if the quarter final from this section didn’t feature two of the names mentioned here, which includes the four times I mentioned Mark Selby, OK five times.

Predicted Quarter Outcome: Selby to beat Hawkins in the Last 8.

Quarter Four:

Another fairly open quarter which involves the in-form Mark Allen and snooker’s newest international playboi Mark Williams. Drinker and part-time snooker world champion Williams has said that he’s not arsed if a) he doesn’t win another match all season and b) he isn’t ranked number one in the world. He’s as mad as a hatter so he’s probably telling the truth. Allen will be coming here on the back of a disappointing homecoming in Belfast after his most recent triumph in China and I’d say he’s favourite for this section of the draw on his current form. Neil Robertson is coming back to form too so it would be no surprise to see him at the business end again at a venue that I know he enjoys and for me his predicted last 16 with Allen holds the key to the winner of this quarter, with possibly Stephen Maguire coming through to meet the winner in the quarter final.

Predicted Quarter Outcome: Robertson to beat Maguire in the Last 8.         

You can play around with the draw here to arrive at your outright conclusions.

You can view the match schedule here.

Recommended Bets: John Higgins to win the UK Championship at 11/1. Each Way – Dave Gilbert (250/1), Neil Robertson (22/1), Shaun Murphy (55/1 – Boosted) and Jack Lisowski (40/1).

Quarter Winners Acca: O’Sullivan, Higgins, Selby and Robertson pays 114/1.

First Round Acca pays almost 10/1 – Honghao, Sijun, Jimmy Robertson, Li Hang, Bingham, McManus, Gilbert and Saengkham.

Doubles, Trebles and an Acca (Acca pays over 55/1) on Sharav, Swail, McLeod and Baird.


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