Snookerbacker

March 18, 2019

Tour Championship Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:15 pm

It’s all about the raaaannkings (photo credit Pete Burns)

We’re now entering the best period of the snooker season and in just over a month all eyes will be on The Crucible for the big one. But what makes this season even better is that we’ve got a kind of mini World Championship warm-up with this new event; the only other event of the season with multi-session matches from the beginning and the final one of the Coral Series trilogy.  The Tour Championship takes place at Llandudno’s Venue Cymru and sees the top eight players from this season’s one-year money list compete for a top prize of £150,000.

What makes this exciting for a stubborn, opinionated, die-hard old traditionalist like me is the long match format. The first round, or quarter finals if you prefer are played over the best of 17, with the semis adopting the Crucible first round format of best of 19 before a three session final at the weekend over another familiar Sheffield distance, the best of 25. So it’s a chance for one of the top players to really piss on the Crucible lamppost and go into the big one in fine fettle having won over the longer format less than a month earlier. In short, this is a proper comp.

As usual, the bookies favourite is Ronnie and it is a chance for us to possibly assess his form over more than one match over the multi-session distances. Interestingly, he is involved in one of the two first round matches that have been scheduled over 2 days, so he has some time to kill in between sessions, in the past this kind of thing has seen him go off the rails a bit in Sheffield, though with all his antics lately I don’t think we’d really notice the difference if he did.

For ranking anoraks, this event also has the added spice of Ronnie possibly returning to the top of the raaaaaaaaannnnnnkkkkkkking list for the first time this decade at the expense of Mark Selby, whose time at the top of this list is almost approaching the age range of Dennis Taylor’s jokes.

As you would expect it’s an all star line up and I’d say that the eight on show here are probably close to the eight I might have expected at the start of the season, although you could argue that John Higgins and possibly Shaun Murphy (currently languishing in 30th on the one year list) are notable absentees, with Ding Junhui hardly playing in anything it’s no real surprise that he hasn’t made it.

A mention also for Dave Gilbert whose fantastic season saw him just £4500 behind Kyren Wilson, who qualified in 8th spot and therefore takes on the number one seed Mark Allen. I reckon Dee Gee would have taken 9th at the start of the season and won’t be too upset at missing out and he is still available at daft prices for Sheffield for anyone interested (I took 190/1 yesterday). He’s playing well enough to have a run there and played very well against Ronnie last time he was there back in 2016, he’s also very close to securing a seeded place with Ryan Day looking like the main threat to that as they head to the final cut off event in Beijing at the start of April.

Allen has had a season of two halves really, his pre-Christmas form was fabulous and he was comfortably top of the one year list playing probably as well as I have ever seen him play, but since he was beaten at The Masters it’s slipped a little, so it remains to be seen if he can get it back in time for the World Championship, which you have to say he is long overdue a good run in.

A player coming into very good form at the right time is Neil Robertson and he should feel quietly confident in his match up with Selby given the latter’s relatively pedestrian form of late. There is a school of thought that believes The Jester losing the top spot will see his form turnaround to get it back, or perhaps just the threat of losing it this week will be enough for him to start being Selby again?

Another player in sparkling form is Judd Trump. Judd is currently a justified second favourite for the World Championship and you feel if he can win here, perhaps beating Ronnie in a semi-final along the way, his price may shorten further and he may even by vying for favouritism this time next month. Judd faces World Champion Williams who has now said he’s busy preparing for his title defence and getting his head down on the practice table rather than playing bingo and golf, going fishing and getting trousered all year to celebrate his success last year.

Ronnie faces Gibraltar Champ Stuart Bingham fresh from his win on The Rock over the short format. Ronnie has a very commanding lead over First Poke in the head to heads, Stuart will need to hit the ground running and put that out of his head if he’s to knock out the worst Australian impersonator since Michael Caine trying to be Chips O’Toole at the end of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

It’s all covered on the excellent ITV4 so expect plenty of adverts about our impending death and how much it all costs the ones you leave behind, also look forward to lots of comical scenes of people having accidents that are ‘not their fault’ during the break.

Click on the match for the head to head record.

Quarter Final Draw

Mark Allen vs Kyren Wilson (Wednesday 1pm and 7pm)
Neil Robertson vs Mark Selby (Tuesday 1pm and 7pm)
Judd Trump vs Mark Williams (Tuesday 1pm and Wednesday 1pm)
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Stuart Bingham (Tuesday 7pm and Wednesday 7pm)

Predicted First Round Winners: Allen, Robertson, Trump, O’Sullivan – fourfold pays nearly 6/1 at Black Type.

Predicted Tournament Winner: Trump – Best Price 5/1 at Blacktype.

Recommended Enhanced Treble – Trump (-2.5), Robertson (-1.5) and O’Sullivan (-3.5) is 10/1 at Ladbrokes. 

Name the Finalists – Robertson and Trump 19/2 at Ladbrokes.

Special Bet – More than 2 centuries in every match, 50/1 at Ladbrokes. 

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