May 1, 2016

The World Championship Final: Ding Junhui v Mark Selby

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:19 am
Let Battle Commence

Let Battle Commence

Another World Championship draws to a close and no doubt lots of snooker nuts will be a bit depressed on Tuesday morning when it’s all over for another year. But before then, there is the small matter of who will be our champion to decide. Will it be China’s glory year or can Leicester look to bag a champion’s double?

Depending on who you ask, Ding carries the hopes of between 100 million and a whole continent on his small shoulders over the next 48 hours, though he is slightly more realistic and accurate in estimating that it’s probably nearer 20 million. The interviews he did yesterday were very insightful and it’s clear that he prefers to be away from ‘the madness’ of the Chinese crowds and will not allow himself to get carried away until he has finished the job. Even then, you can’t really see him wanting to get pissed up and go trawling London’s nightlife, he’s just not that kinda guy really is he?

Ding has turned having to qualify into a positive thing and saw it as valuable match practice, he breezed through of course and for once wasn’t in the spotlight from day one, he clearly prefers this and you do wonder if he’d have been seeded would he be contesting the final today? My guess is probably not.

His game is razor sharp and Alan McManus can rightfully be very proud of his semi-final performance, he’d probably have beaten Selby or Fu had the draw fallen differently but it wasn’t to be. It’s fair to say however that he has played a major role in the championship this year and won an army of new fans, even at this stage in his career. I’ll just miss his walk-on music and little finger flick to the crowd.

JV - fucked up big time.

JV – fucked up big time.

Selby was at his torturing best yesterday and even had Willie and JV resorting to expletives in the commentary box. His ermm ‘mate’ and fellow Leicester man Willie describing his match as ‘pathetic’ while JV lamented that he wanted to watch the horse racing and Match of the Fucking Day. With friends like them two who needs enemies?

The hapless pair had hoped their intellectual musings wouldn’t be picked up on air, but of course they were and a wrap on the knuckles followed with JV sent back to his hotel for the evening session but apparently not the rest of the championship, to the disgust of many easily offended viewers from suburbia. We’ve had no word from Willie, even though arguably his one word analysis of the match showed a little more contempt for the fortunate position he found himself in, one which a lot of people would have given their right arm to be in. He really is a very silly Willie sometimes.

But let’s not dwell on that, who’s going to win? Well, the form clearly steers you towards Ding and even taking into account Selby’s Crucibility and torturability I just can’t see him sticking with China’s finest for a match of this duration. I think he has to be at his best from the off and he’s been far from that this whole tournament so far. If Ding starts well I think he’s going to be very hard for Selby to peg back even with his legendary brinkmanship.

I’d like it to be a classic of course but only the hardest hearted snooker fan, or perhaps one who is a racist, would begrudge Ding the win. It would be great for the sport but better still it would mean we’d all get to see his little smile light up The Crucible on Monday night, just as long as the talk of a Chinese Revolution is kept in perspective.

So for me it’s somewhere in the region of 18-10 to Ding. HEAD TO HEAD HERE. Below are some bets for anyone that way inclined.

Recommended Bets: 2 points on Ding to be leading after 8 frames at 13/8. 2 points on Ding to win the first frame and win the match at 21/10. 4 points on Ding to make more than 2 centuries in the match at 5/6. 2 points on Ding -3.5 frames at 3/1. 1 point on each – Ding 18-9 at 33/1, 18-10 at 25/1 and 18-11 at 20/1.

April 28, 2016

World Championship Semi-Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:45 am
Two becomes One today. Let's just hope they have picked the one on the left.

Two become One today. Let’s just hope they have picked the one on the left.

And then there were four…..two seeds are left in the bottom half, only one of whom was seeded to be there and two qualifiers from Ponds Forge will battle out the top half semi final, which starts this afternoon.

Once again, this great championship has thrown up some big surprises, imagine the odds at the start on the likes of Ronnie, Robbo, Judd, Allen, Murphy and Higgins all being dumped out before the semi-finals? But that is precisely what has happened after a breathtaking night of drama at The Crucible on Wednesday, proving once again why there is truly no better place on the planet for snooker.

The nostalgic amongst us, in that I of course include myself, will be rooting for Alan McManus, his press conferences (if you haven’t watched them yet, do yourself a favour), have endeared him to the press and public alike and his general sense of wonderment and reflection on his achievement already are somewhat reminiscent of Stuart Bingham last year and we all know what happened then.

Angles laughs off the fatigue argument and gave very good reasons for doing so after winning last night, even claiming that the best of 33 over 3 days feels less tiring to him than the best of 19 in the first round. His opponent, who carries the hopes and dreams of a nation should however be fresh as the proverbial daisy given that he actually lives in Sheffield so presumably with his day off has just done a bit of housework. After all, those dishes don’t clean themselves.

Ding of course would be a huge winner for the sport and it’s global ambitions, it would even be worth us having to endure the inaccurate talk of the Chinese Snooker Revolution just to see his smiling face when he won. He may not get a better chance than this and looks more relaxed this year than any other, what I will say however is that his last match for me was something of a false result, given the problems MJW had with his equipment, in MJW’s words, Ding played alright but he’d have lost that match to anybody.

The other semi-final sees the rather understated presence of the champion of two years ago Mark Selby, who has steadily made his way here without yet facing a seeded player, but having taken care of the very dangerous Kyren Wilson in typical workmanlike fashion in his last match. He’ll face Marco Fu who was very nearly the victim of the fightback of the century by Barry Hawkins, he held himself together admirably at the end but the manner in which he allowed Barry back into it will cause concern for his supporters and those who crave an all-Asian final.

So who will be contesting the final on Sunday and Monday? I’d love to see Angles there but equally wouldn’t mind if Ding made it and ultimately became the champion, I’d have more chance of getting my SB Classic £1000 World Champion Scholarship off Selby I reckon but that shouldn’t come into play. The likely final for me is Ding against Selby, it would be a great spectacle for the sport if it were to happen, though equally I’d like to see Angles there, but the head has to rule the nostalgic heart on that one.

Semi Finals (click on the match for the head to head)

Alan McManus v Ding Junhui (Starts at 1pm Thursday)

Marco Fu v Mark Selby (Starts at 7pm Thursday)

Recommended Bets: 3 point double on each match having over 3 centuries pays just under 5/2. 3 points on Selby to have over 2 centuries at 5/4.  

April 26, 2016

World Championship Quarter Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:08 am

Click the pic to view my other Instagram Crucible photos

We are down to the final eight in Sheffield as the business end of the championship approaches. What we have left are five seeded players and three who came through the qualifiers, can a qualifier win this great championship for the first time since Shaun Murphy in 2005? Alan McManus, Ding Junhui and Kyren Wilson will be hoping so.

It is a shame that much of the first week has been ruined by the table used for the top half of the draw, it’s not often that I agree 100% with players going on about big bounces and kicks but even to an amateur eye like mine, table one has been totally ridiculous all week and has ruined the chances of a number of players.

It’s not too much to ask to have perfect tables for this and unfortunately, the Star tables, for whatever reason do not play with the consistency of the old Riley ones. Whether it’s the cloth, the balls or the tables themselves, you’d think World Snooker would be asking some very tough questions of their suppliers, no matter what it means to the financial bottom line as someone is clearly not delivering the right quality product.

There have been some highlights so far, Carter and Bingham gave us the annual Day 1 thriller, despite the table they were trying their best to play on, Judd’s first rounder against Wenbo as well as his later match with Ding helped things along, while the late night decider which saw Ronnie on his way home provided that extra spice. We’ve seen very strong performances from Sam Baird, Michael Holt and Kyren Wilson and also some of the old guard coming to the fore, just look at the last eight and once again it proves, if any further proof were needed, that snooker is very much a middle-aged man’s game these days predominantly. There is no substitute for experience.

So here is a look at the last eight who now battle it away to reach the ‘one table situation’, will it be a new champion or a familiar face at the end adding their name again to the famous old trophy? Time will tell….


Alan McManus v John Higgins 

Och aye the noo naa, it’s only an all Scottish Quarter Final. It’s over 20 years since these two old muckers first locked horns and they’ve been meeting regularly ever since. A look at the head to head sees John with a slender advantage, but it’s Angles that has won their last two encounters, including a first rounder here two seasons back. John however sounds in determined mood and it could be argued that the draw is falling into place for him to equal Ronnie’s five world titles. He’s a different player to the one who has been bereft of confidence for the past few seasons here and looks very much like his old self, which is bad news for the others, he is also now installed as the favourite to win the title. Alan has had a great run and I hope it continues, but the heart can’t overrule the head on this one and I’d expect John to win with a bit in hand although he does look a little tired, the bookies agree so there isn’t really any value out there.

Prediction: Higgins 13-6    

Ding Junhui v Mark Williams

Both look in fine fettle moving into this mouth-watering Quarter Final, Ding looks to be finding life a little easier than usual as a qualifier and looks a little more at home in a venue he has struggled with a lot in the past, many now think it’s his year. Williams on the other hand continues to play down his chances, claiming he has no chance of winning it and that the winner isn’t even in his half (though he said this when Ronnie was still in it). He is a law unto himself but I don’t think everyone is fooled by this and within lies a steely competitor who I am sure thinks he is still capable of adding to his world crown tally and he won’t get a better chance than this to do so. I think he’s in great form and if this comes down to a battle of temperament at the end I would always stake my last penny on Williams. He is the proven winner here and he’s playing as well if not better than Ding, I think the bookies have got this one wrong.

Prediction: Williams 13-9

Recommended Bet: 4 points on Williams at 9/4

Marco Fu v Barry Hawkins

Wasn’t this supposed to be Ronnie against Murphy? But against all odds we have Marco and Barry lining up to do battle after The Hawk’s heroics against Ronnie. Marco is as ever, the quiet man in all this, he’s made his way here with mixed performances, brilliant against Ebdon and a bit patchy against McGill, but he’s capable of scrapping when he has to. Barry is attempting to make it four consecutive years getting to the one table situation, which will have the anoraks reaching for the almanac to find out when this was last done (I’m guessing Hendry). Of course he is yet to win it but against Ronnie he showed that he has both the game and the bottle to go that extra step. I’d be surprised if he lost here, Marco has played well, but Barry at times, has been sublime and has to take so much confidence from his last match.

Prediction: Hawkins 13-8

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Hawkins (-2.5 frames) at 5/4 

Kyren Wilson v Mark Selby

Selby is coming through in typical style and doing just enough to win, which we now come to expect from him. He had a scare against Sam Baird and any repeat of that performance will obviously see him in a real dogfight again here. Kyren has been so impressive and approached his match against Mark Allen in ruthless style and perhaps more tellingly, in the style of a future champion, winning the match effectively in the first session. Who is to say he won’t do the same here? Selby to me doesn’t look to be playing as well as he was when he won it two years ago and the wind is in The Warrior’s sails, this is one of those matches where logic is thrown out of the window in return for a ‘funny feeling’, that is what I have about Kyren here, perhaps this is his time.

Prediction: Wilson 13-10

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Wilson at 9/4

Recommended Bet: 2 point double on Williams and Wilson pays almost 10/1. 2 points on Williams to win the Championship at 16/1. 2 points on Kyren Wilson to win the Championship at 12/1.

April 21, 2016

World Championship Round Two Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:03 am

I took this, good isn’t it? To see my other Crucible snaps just click on the picture (Instagram)

I’m back from The Crucible now and ready to hit the arse dent in the sofa hard for the next 12 days, or hopefully (read on) just the 10, to enjoy the rest of this great championship.

We’ve seen big names fall already and my fancy for the final Neil Robertson is the biggest casualty so far. As I write Judd is up against it too and will need a great comeback against the man who has been inexplicably featured on all the venue posters from the start despite having to qualify, Liang Wenbo, to make it in to the last 16.

Ronnie is for whatever reason not speaking to the press, which as ever generates a story in itself. My own feelings about it is that it’s a familiar and rather distasteful pattern of his behaviour that seeks to focus all attention on himself when it might otherwise be focused on others, but I might be being unfair to him there.

The far more interesting news of course was Steve Davis retiring, just the day before Ronnie stole the headlines. People of a certain age, including myself, know what a complete legend he is and was. We lived through the years of his dominance and all sought to be the ‘next Davis’. Only one person succeeded in doing so and he’s now firmly established behind the microphone at the BBC. If you didn’t live through this time in snooker, you can recapture it through endless You Tube footage or alternatively get a full-on dramatised and slightly romanticised hit of what a crazy time it was for the game by watching The Rack Pack, which I reviewed and linked to here earlier in the year. It is well worth 1 hour, 26 minutes and 6 seconds of your time.

Anyway, as ever I digress and waffle on without a care. The second round is upon us and there are 8 matches that need my urgent attention, so here goes.

For head to heads, click on the match.

Ali Carter v Alan McManus

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, I want Ali Carter to win this championship and if he makes the final I will be back in Sheffield as part of Team Carter. It will reflect in the bets I put up so if you choose to ignore this match preview and move on, I shall not hold it against you. Ali came through a fantastic battle against the reigning champion on Saturday, lots of people I saw asking on social media at one point who he was talking to during the decider, well, actually it was me. He casually strolled over at one point when the frame was at it’s most tense and asked what I fancied eating later in the evening, that is a story I can probably dine out on for a bit should he go on to win it. He faces the man he beat in the first round last year Alan McManus, Alan is playing better this year than he was last and Ali should not take him lightly, he kept him at arms length in their match last time and he will need to do the same here. I think this match will suit Ali, he tends to thrive when it becomes tactical and no doubt this will be, I fancy him to win with a bit in hand, hopefully he won’t make this any more difficult than it might otherwise be.

Prediction: Carter 13-9.

Recommended Bet: 4 points on over 1 century at 11/10.

Ricky Walden v John Higgins

Higgins played superbly in Round 1 and came away from it saying he felt better about his game than he has for at least 5 years at The Crucible. Ricky on the other hand came through a frankly turgid battle against Robbie Williams in a match which left us all wishing that there didn’t have to be a winner. This is a new round and Ricky may have got his howler out of the way, but if he plays like that again here he’ll lose, and lose very heavily. Higgins to me looks like a man on a mission and set to face Ali in the quarter final. Ricky did beat John in China so they do have recent form, but on a purely horses for courses level, it has to be Higgins here in a canter, he looks very dangerous just now.

Prediction: Higgins 13-8.

Recommended Bet: 5 points on Higgins (-2.5 frames) at 10/11. 1 point on Higgins (-6.5 frames) at 9/2.  

Judd Trump v Ding Junhui

Judd came through an epic encounter with Liang and produced a spirited fightback to win, showing bags of character and even afterwards treating his supporters to a drink. Ding was also pushed by Martin Gould but came through to set up this mouth-watering tie. The head to heads are dead level at 5-5 with only a few frames between them, however over the best of 25 last season at the Quarter Final stage Judd absolutely walloped Ding and these kind of defeats can leave mental scars on the defeated one so you’d think Judd goes into this with every confidence. He’s Hendry’s tip for the title and if anyone knows when a player is in the right frame of mind to win here it’s him. I’d stick with Trump here but I do think it will be closer than it was 12 months ago.

Prediction: Trump 13-10.   

Mark Williams v Michael Holt

Snooker’s very own Mills and Boon match up takes to the biggest stage of them all. I have encouraged these two to hug instead of shake hands at the start of the match so we’ll see if that happens, maybe the bookies might price it up. Both had strong first round performances and Holt is clearly now an altogether different player to what has gone before. MJW was almost flawless against Graeme Dott, he had some running but even without taking this into account he was as good as he’s been in a decade and afterwards confirmed quite a few times that he was happy to be in the next round. Holt was magnificent against Robbo and this has to go down as his best career performance, once again the Dai Lama, Terry Griffiths, seems to be working his magic of the mind on Holty. Michael can take heart from the fact that even pre-Terry he comfortably beat MJ in Germany on their most recent relevant meeting and I just fancy he might step up to the challenge again, either way, this one will be close, of that I am certain. May the bromance begin.

Prediction: Holt 13-11.

Recommended Bet: 2 points on Holt at 5/2. 

Anthony McGill v Marco Fu

Great wins for both in the first round with performances to match leaves them each with a big chance to make an impact in the next round against likely opponent O’Sullivan. McGill seems to be thriving here again and people in the know are not surprised, he is after all, definitely the best player to come out of Scotland in the last 15 years. Marco was epic against Ebdon and scored so heavily, he did however come away with a mention of how he’s been here before and played well first round only to hit a second round wall. They will both be looking at this as a winnable match and a chance for a crack at The Rocket so for that reason I think it could get close and very twitchy. McGill however has a very confident way about him and his temperament is a big asset, that’s why I’ll take him to progress and in the next round, give Ronnie one hell of a game.

Prediction: McGill 13-10.

Recommended Bet: 2 points on McGill at 13/8.    


We’ll catch Ronnie totally orrrrfff guard.

Barry Hawkins v Ronnie O’Sullivan

As head to heads go, this is pretty one-sided. The first time these two met was in Scotland in 2002, Barry won. Since then he has lost every time so that is 14 years, two World Championship meetings and one Masters Final drubbing to try and somehow reverse. This match puts me in mind of that old Blackadder quote, where when questioned about going ‘over the top’ to fight the Germans in the field armed only with sticks for the umpteenth time and never changing tactics, General Melchett replies that the brilliance of the tactic is that they’ve already done it countless times and failed and therefore it’s the last thing the enemy will expect them to do again. So can Barry reverse the inevitable? Well, to put it bluntly, no. Ronnie has a way with certain players, usually ones that he feels need putting in their place, Barry is one of them. Sorry Hawk.

Prediction: O’Sullivan 13-5

Recommended Bet: 2 points on O’Sullivan (-7.5 frames) at 14/5.  

Mark Allen v Kyren Wilson

Another potentially fantastic tie here as the much improved Kyren seeks to reach is first Crucible quarter final. Kyren beat Mark on his way to his ranking success in Shanghai earlier in the season and since then he’s never really looked back. He is easily the most improved player of the season and given that he’s still fairly new on tour, after this he is likely to be ranked in the top eight in the world, some achievement. Mark of course will as ever be difficult to beat, bags of bottle and I’m sure a frustration that he’s not yet managed to go really deep in this will no doubt fire him up. I’d say that the winner of this match will progress again in the next round to make the one-table situation, but it’s such a tough call. Looking at the odds, I think Kyren is a shade too long and is worth a punt.

Prediction: Wilson 13-11  

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Over 21.5 frames in the match at 10/11.

Sam Baird v Mark Selby

Two matches between the two so far and both went to deciders, albeit in best of sevens. Sam is at last coming of age and he is a player that we all know is capable of making that breakthrough, perhaps he is this year’s surprise package. The Jester grappled in his usual never-say-die way to get the better of Rob Milkins in the first round but was given a lot of chances in the first session and was allowed to more or less win the match then. His self-imposed break from snooker is still the subject of discussion and plenty are saying that he doesn’t look right, but try telling opponents who remain glued to the bottom cushion for shots on end that. I think this could possibly be an upset, but the sensible part of me slaps myself for thinking that. At the prices I think Sam is worth a small interest, but this is Selby, he’s granite when things get tough and I think if this does go close he’ll draw on lessons learnt from his defeat to McGill last time, no curse this year so that is one burden lifted. For the record however, I don’t think his name is on the trophy this year, he’s not playing anywhere near as well as he was when it was.

Prediction: Selby 13-10.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Baird (+6.5 frames) at 9/10. 1 point on Baird at 7/1.

RECOMMENDED ACCA: 3 points at over 13/2 with Marathon Bet on – McManus (+4.5), Higgins (-2.5), Holt (+3.5) and Baird (+6.5).  

April 14, 2016

The World Snooker Championship Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:40 pm

TrophyYou try sometimes to think of a fancy title for a blog post, but sometimes it’s best just to stick with what it is. Never truer in the case of this post, the one I look forward to writing every year, the preview to the best sporting event in the world, yes folks, we’re approaching 17 days of unashamed bliss for snooker fans, as we head to The Crucible for the World Championship.

The past week and a bit at Ponds Forge has come and gone far too quickly for me, even now as I write this I kind of don’t want the World Championship to start because that means it will be over quicker. The first day ignites childhood memories in me like nothing else, sitting on the floor with toast in my mouth gazing up at the opening break-off shot as the Crucible wall is lowered and people start coughing nervously, to think that 30 odd or so years later I can actually be there to witness it still makes me pinch myself to check it’s real.

The qualifiers have been through the mill, some more than others and it’s also amazing for me that two recent Snookerbacker Classic Finalists, Kyren Wilson and Mitchell Mann, are lining up in the last 32 having qualified. There are players who’ve had to go to Ponds Forge who would usually be using the previous couple of weeks to practice, players like Ding Junhui and Ali Carter, who now line up against seeded players. This makes the first round even more exciting, if that were possible.

The BBC will again be on hand to guide us all through the action as if we’ve all just hatched, Dennis will roll out the same old tales about golf and the late, great Fred Davis while Stephen Hendry ignores everything he says. JV will once again attempt to answer the enigma which has flummoxed even the greatest minds since God made Adam out of plastercine, namely, where the cue ball is going. Steve and JP will attempt to fathom out the latest bit of technology that they’ve been lumbered with while Ken giggles at them and Hazel will have her Crucible file with her, the contents of which are tip top secret, Beardy Medal Man will be proudly showing off his shiny object and we’ll all be along for the ride. Bring it on.

So without further ado, let’s have a look at each of the first round matches individually, taking a look at head to heads and what betting markets are out there to get involved in. I hope you enjoy reading what lies beneath. I’m travelling to Sheffield tomorrow so stay tuned on here, on Twitter and on Facebook (Turn Notifications on to receive new blog post alerts) for 17 days of madness.

If you click on the match title you will be led to the head to head record between the two players courtesy of the excellent Cue Tracker website. Here goes…… 


Stuart Bingham v Ali Carter (Saturday 10am and 7pm)

As curtain raisers go, it really doesn’t get much better than this. 10am on Saturday morning sees the reigning World Champion Bingham taking on Ali Carter, the two have been rivals on the baize since their amateur days. Many will feel that Ali should have won the title before Stuart and of course last year was an unexpected result, but Stuart proved on the biggest stage that he could handle the pressure and he’s been a great ambassador as champion. But can he beat THE CURSE? Plenty have tried and failed to retain the title after they’ve won it for a first time, amongst them the game’s greats, Davis, Hendry, O’Sullivan, Higgins, Williams and last year Selby, only Joe Johnson and Ken Doherty have ever come close and plenty of people compared Stuart’s win with Joe’s in terms of shockability. But what a tough opener this is, Ali looked in great form at Ponds Forge and I don’t think it’s taken a great deal out of him. Like many others, I think The Curse will rear it’s head again and the Snooker Gods will be backing Ali, as I am.

Predicted Winner: Carter 10-7

Recommended Bet: 4 points on Over 1.5 centuries at 11/10. 3 points on Carter at 13/8.  

Stephen Maguire v Alan McManus (Saturday 2.30pm and Sunday 2.30pm)

Hoots man! It’s the all Scottish clash that always seems to come up at this time of year as the tartened-up Angular man takes on Mags, who it has to be said has underperformed here the last two years. Alan put in a great display again at Ponds Forge and the manner in which he dispatched of Jimmy Robertson in the final round says to me that he’s very sharp. Maguire squeezed into the top 16 by virtue of a good performance in China but before then he was seen wandering the streets of Glasgow looking for a bulls arse to hit with his shovel. Again here I fancy the qualifier to cause an upset, Mags does hold the head to head advantage but Angles has won three from the last four meetings, Alan is worth a punt in this.

Predicted Winner: McManus 10-8

Recommended Bet: 2 points on McManus at 9/4.

Ricky Walden v Robbie Williams (Sunday 10am and Monday 7pm)

Robbie, like McManus, is unbeaten in three years at Ponds Forge and comes here for the third year on the spin after a largely disappointing season. Ricky has finally started winning again, putting in two final appearances over the last month after spending the rest of the season getting walloped by journeymen. He claims to have gone back to basics with his technique and the rewards are there for all to see. It’s the best time of year to hit form and he’ll have benefited from the time off he’s had since finishing runner-up to Judd in China, he’s usually pretty solid early on and Robbie hasn’t really produced his best here in the previous two years so you have to make the in-form Walden a confident selection.

Predicted Winner: Walden 10-4

John Higgins v Ryan Day (Monday 10am and Tuesday 2.30pm)

These two meet up at The Crucible for the third time with the head to heads at one apiece. Twelve years ago they met at this stage and Higgins won in a decider and there is nothing to suggest anything other than a close one here. Day impressed in the qualifiers and looked solid in closing out his victory over Ken Doherty and while John isn’t quite the force of old he’s still in good shape and will no doubt be looking at this quarter thinking that he has a great chance of winning it. Day is what I’d class in the ‘potential banana skin’ category and probably quite high on the list of qualifiers that you’d rather someone else drew, he’s got some Crucible pedigree so this for me is a very tough call. It’s all about who bosses the match from the start and I suspect if Higgins starts well he won’t be headed.

Predicted Winner: Higgins 10-7

Recommended Bet: 3 points on over 1.5 centuries at 10/11.


Judd Trump v Liang Wenbo (Wednesday 2.30pm and Thursday 2.30pm)

Another qualifier high on the list of ‘one to avoid’ is Wenbo. The sponsors were so confident that he’d qualify that he’s plastered all over the posters at the venue, an odd decision given how unpredictable he can be, but someone obviously knew something. Judd was in dazzling form in China and carried off his long awaited next ranking title in style. This time last year I thought Judd would take all the beating, I flagged him up as the winner and right up to the semi-final stage when he lost to Ballrun I was convinced his name was on the trophy. He’ll be delighted to hear that I don’t think that this year. I hope he wins it one day, he’s too good not to, but I just can’t see it happening this time (remember there is a China Open curse too). But I think he’ll win here, it will be fast and attacking and right up Judd’s street, if it’s a potting competition there is only one winner.

Predicted Winner: Trump 10-6

Martin Gould v Ding Junhui (Wednesday 10am and 7pm)

Poor old Gouldy, grafts all year to get himself into the top 16 and is then handed the prize turd of a draw that is Ding. Some felt that given China’s finest had to qualify, he could be written off this year, but qualify he did without getting out of first gear and I reckon he’s used the qualifiers to sharpen up his match play, after all he’s not done much all season to merit any support. The spotlight has been off him but when he gets to the venue it will be quickly switched on again. Before this draw, I fancied Gould to have a run in this and I still see this one going close, Martin is in great form and playing the best snooker of his life this season, whilst I am sure to the outside world he’ll claim he doesn’t care who he plays, I’ll bet inside that he’s cursing his luck. With match sharpness on his side, I have to side with Ding.

Predicted Winner: Ding 10-8

Mark Williams v Graeme Dott (Sunday 7pm and Monday 2.30pm)

The battle of the world champions. Williams was relying on results to stay in the top 16 and thankfully for him they went his way and he does have a decent head to head record against Graeme. Like Trump’s match this is bound to be an attacking affair and is one that I think will probably be one of the better first round ties in terms of entertainment. Graeme produced the goods at Ponds Forge but did look a little tired afterwards, indeed even beforehand he spoke of what a slog was ahead of him so you could argue that he might not be going into this in the right frame of mind. MJW has had a decent rest and has no doubt been putting the hours in as preparation, I fancy him to ride this one out with a few frames to spare.

Predicted Winner: Williams 10-5

Neil Robertson v Michael Holt (Tuesday 10am and 7pm)

Just as Martin Gould will have uttered something that rhymes with Clucking Bell on hearing the draw, I’d say so too will Michael Holt have. A marathon encounter with Mark King in his final qualifier will no doubt have left him elated to be back for another crack at The Crucible. He’s complained in the past that he has underperformed here and even left his press conference last year shouting ‘oh my god I’m so shit’, but something seems to have clicked with him this season after working with Terry Griffiths and his whole demeanour looks a lot better, he’s even beaten an in-form Ronnie and that takes some bottle. Robbo however is another who will have had a good rest and time to totally focus on this, for me he is the man most likely from this half to be contesting the final, this is perhaps an ideal first match for him as he’ll need to be at his bullying best from the off, if he is, like the Higgins match I’d take him to lead all the way to the end.

Predicted Winner: Robertson 10-6


Shaun Murphy v Anthony McGill (Saturday 2.30pm and Sunday 10am)

The bottom half of the draw opens up with Shaun up against last season’s Quarter Finalist and conqueror of Mark Selby, Scotland’s Anthony McGill. It’s some achievement from Ant to get here again, in the past we’ve seen the surprise packages from one year fade away the next but he’s had good wins to get here, not least over Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in his last match. Murphy will no doubt use the Crucible stage to dress up again, who can forget his Superman style outfit last season? Some cruelly mocked his sartorial elegance but he ended up winning ‘Best Turned Out Potter’ award from the sponsors, he also ended up in the final, beating McGill on the way. This section looks set up for a Murphy v O’Sullivan match up in the Quarter Finals and I don’t think we’ll be seeing a repeat of last year from McGill, Murphy has never lost to him and I don’t see that pattern changing here.

Predicted Winner: Murphy 10-7

Marco Fu v Peter Ebdon (Saturday 10am and 7pm)

As well as Ali and Stuart on the opening day, Marco and Peter will also be playing to a finish. Ebbo has been banging on about how cruel the qualifiers are and claimed that no qualifier could possibly win it as they’d be too tired from Ponds Forge. I think he may have been talking mostly about himself given the huge mental effort he makes when he’s playing. At 9-3 down the other night to Gerard Greene he looked dead and buried, but from somewhere he found the strength and belief to win and now he’s here again, claiming that vegans ‘don’t do tired’. Marco holds the narrowest of advantages in the head to head and their only previous Crucible meeting saw Peter win a semi-final in 2006 in a decider, so all pointers are that this could go very close and produce some late night Day 1 drama, I’m going to side with Marco, but I think this one is a coin toss.

Predicted Winner: Fu 10-9

Recommended Bet: 2 points on over 17 frames in the match at 7/4.

Barry Hawkins v Zhang Anda (Tuesday 7pm and Wednesday 2.30pm)

Another Crucible appearance for Mighty Mouse Zhang Anda, a rather under the radar Chinese player who seems to save his best for the longer format matches, at first sight Hawkins will probably be pleased with his draw but Zhang for me is another banana skin opponent who could just cause an upset if Barry isn’t careful. They have met twice and Barry has won twice, I hope he wins again as I think he’ll prove a test for O’Sullivan in Round 2, I know Ronnie really rates Barry and we’ll get to see if he’s really up to the job if the two progress. No strong feelings on this match other than a fairly workmanlike Hawkins win.

Predicted Winner: Hawkins 10-5

Hard to oppose this year.

Hard to oppose this year.

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Dave Gilbert (Sunday 2.30pm and Monday 10am)

Make no mistake, this is one of the tougher draws for Ronnie. I’ve been an admirer of Dave Gilbert’s for many years and of late he’s been achieving results that he should probably have achieved a decade ago. I like the way he plays the game and his way around the table, he’ll be a test for Ronnie. The Rocket hasn’t been seen since he lost to Holt in the Grand Prix but was at his majestic best at the Welsh Open. They’ve even shifted a load of comps back to the UK next season to keep him happy, something that he isn’t always in Sheffield. As ever, we’ll know quite quickly how he is feeling, last year I think we all knew he wouldn’t win, the shoe incident and the chalk on the table tomfoolery were clues enough. I think he’ll probably be a different animal this year, he’s been putting in the hours and is obviously the man they all have to better, if he’s on song, who can stop him? Oh yes, and stand by for BBC Gilbert O’Sullivan puns, you have been warned. 

Predicted Winner: O’Sullivan 10-4


Mark Allen v Mitchell Mann (Tuesday 2.30pm and Wednesday 10am)

I am over the moon for Mitchell, just two years ago he was runner up in my own tournament before turning professional and now he’s at the game’s biggest stage. His game is very solid with a cue action that does not buckle under pressure, he’s had a few issues with his confidence but thankfully now these appear to be a thing of the past. His draw could have been kinder, though he did say ‘anyone but The Rocket’ after qualifying so at least that’s come true. Allen won his next long awaited ranking title last month after a pretty barren spell by his standards and comes here with his tail up, whilst I think Mitchell will give him a game, he’s probably got enough experience to handle the only debutant in the field this year. But I wish Mitch all the luck in the world.

Predicted Winner: Allen 10-6

Joe Perry v Kyren Wilson (Wednesday 7pm and Thursday 7pm)

Kyren, like Ding and Ali, will have been high on the seeds list of ones to avoid when he qualified. The manner in which he took care of business against a sharp looking Matthew Stevens underlined what a great player he has become these days. Like Mitchell, he also has some SB Classic history and like Mitchell he lost in the final before going professional and now look at him! I suspect that he won’t be too unhappy with this draw and will fancy his chances at a shot against The Gent, he also has a valuable week to recover from the qualifiers so fatigue should not come into play. Joe has produced some of his best snooker here and I’m sure Kyren will not take this task lightly, I think this one could be very close, just on experience of the venue, I think I’d just marginally favour Joe.

Predicted Winner: Perry 10-8

Michael White v Sam Baird (Sunday 7pm and Monday 7pm)

Two heavy scorers who on their day can rattle off frame after frame at a rate of knots, if they are both on their game this could be a real cracker. Michael is another who squeezed in to the top 16 despite a few disappointing recent results and his season so far hasn’t really matched up to the last one. Sam fought off Liam Highfield in a high quality final round qualifier and will come here in confident mood. It’s difficult to know how he’ll play, he’s been here once before and was walloped 10-2 by Stuart Bingham, will he have learnt from that or will it be more of the same again? I’m going to play it safe here and go with the seed, but if Sam turns up it might get edgy this one.

Predicted Winner: White 10-4

Recommended Bet: 2 points on White (-4.5 frames) at 12/5.

Mark Selby v Rob Milkins (Monday 2.30pm and Tuesday 10am)

There will be an increased focus on Mark Selby this year given that he withdrew from the two previous events for personal reasons. If your head isn’t screwed on correctly the last place you want to be playing snooker is at The Crucible, but Selby I’m sure will be able to block out the demons and get on with the job. He’s got a very tough opener against Rob Milkins, the fastest cueman in all of Quedgeley, and Milky knows what it’s like to play and beat one of the big boys in Round 1, having done just that to Neil Robertson a few years back. Selby does hold a decent head to head lead but a lot of their matches have gone very close. I hope Selby is over his personal problems as I want all the top players to be 100% for this, if he isn’t, Milkins will pounce and he’ll be on the first bus outta town.

Predicted Winner: Selby 10-7

RECOMMENDED MULTIPLE AND OUTRIGHT BETS: 3 points each way on Neil Robertson at 6/1. 1 point each way on Ali Carter at 80/1. 2 points on Carter to win Quarter 1 at 8/1.

3 point 1st round acca pays over 11/1 at Ladbrokes on: Walden, Trump, Ding, Mark Williams, Robertson, Murphy, Hawkins, White and Selby. 

2 point acca on there to be more than one century in all these matches pays over 17/1 at Bet 365 – Bingham/Carter, Higgins/Day, Gould/Ding, Robertson/Holt, Selby/Milkins.

April 13, 2016

World Championship: The Fate of the Favourites – A Potted History

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:00 pm
What does history tell us?

What does history tell us?

The Crucible spectacular is nearly upon us and once again, like last year and the year previous, Ronnie O’Sullivan is the undisputed favourite with the bookies.

Ronnie of course didn’t justify his short price last season or the season before but nevertheless starts this time at even shorter odds to land the crown and draw level with Steve Davis on 6 world titles. 

Remember that his previous two consecutive world titles came when he wasn’t favourite with the bookies and history tells us that he doesn’t have a great record when going in as the main fancy.

When you look back at the history books you find that the bookies have given remarkably few players the accolade of Championship Favourite as the years have passed.

The 80’s were predictably dominated by The Nugget, who started favourite for the championship every year from 1981 to 1989. That honour/pressure then reverted to Stephen Hendry, whose 90’s titles mostly justified favouritism, though he did win one when not the strongest fancy in the field.

It was then the turn of O’Sullivan to assume the mantle of the man the bookies both loved and feared, he started favourite for the title 9 times between the years 2000 and 2009, since when we’ve seen other names start as the bookies one to beat, until two years ago when Ronnie was back at the top of the odds list where he stays this time.

So how have they got on? Well, after painstaking research I think I have managed to capture every favourite since 1981, the year a red-hot, red-haired favourite started his 80’s reign….

1981 – Steve Davis (Winner). Despite never having won the World Championship, Davis came into the sport’s main event as a hot favourite. He was to justify the bookies faith in him, beating Doug Mountjoy in the final after seeing off his main challenger that year, reigning champion Cliff Thorburn, in the semi-finals.

1982 – Steve Davis (1st Round Loser). This was the first year that the championship adopted its current format of 32 players in Round 1, this format change resulted in the biggest shock of the decade. Davis, an odds-on favourite, suffering the ‘Curse of the Crucible’ and losing first round 10-1 to Tony Knowles. Alex Higgins picked up the trophy in one of the sports most memorable championships.

1983 and 1984 – Steve Davis (Winner/Winner). The bookies love affair with Davis continued as he put the Knowles defeat out of his mind to win the championship and almost everything else for the next two years. He had just one close match in ’83 against Dennis Taylor but other than that dominated the tournament, winning the final with a session to spare. 1984 wasn’t such a procession and saw Jimmy White nearly carry off a great final comeback, but Davis prevailed 18-16 in the first of Jimmy’s many final defeats.    

1985 and 1986 – Steve Davis (Runner Up/Runner Up). Davis was still starting World Championships as very short priced (in ’85 he was odds-on) favourite but his backers suffered a temporary disruption to normal service in the period that Steve was basically winning almost everything else, re-writing the record books and making stacks for him and his manager Barry Hearn. Defeats at the hands of Dennis Taylor and rank 150/1 outsider Joe Johnson meant he’d failed twice more to justify the bookies faith in him, but at least his loss to Dennis in that famous final did inspire a great verse of Snooker Loopy. Every cloud….

1987, 1988, 1989 – Steve Davis (Winner/Winner/Winner). Despite what went before, the bookies and nearly everyone else on the planet knew we hadn’t seen the end of Davis. He remained short priced favourite and his magnificent treble meant he was the first player of the Crucible era to win three on the spin. Final wins over Johnson who remains the man who has come closest to breaking the first time champion Crucible Curse (2 frames ahead of Ken Doherty), Terry Griffiths and an absolute steamroller job on John Parrott cemented his place as the king of 80’s snooker. But the bookies were sensing this might be his swansong…..

1990 – Stephen Hendry (Winner). Hendry started the 1990 Championship as UK and Masters Champion, having beaten Davis over the longer distance in the UK Final. The bookies had once again called it correctly and young Stephen’s first title was secured, the final saw a win over his early 1990’s sparring partner, the luckless Jimmy White.

Hendry was usually pretty reliable, with the odd blip.

Hendry was usually pretty reliable, with the odd blip.

1991 – Stephen Hendry (Quarter-Finalist). The Curse of the Crucible? Not on your nelly, the bookies laughed off this idea by making winning-machine Hendry a firm favourite to retain his title. But dark forces were at work as Brummie Biker Steve James gunned down Hendry in the Quarter Finals. Scouser John Parrott was to take the title defeating Jimmy White in the final.

1992-1996 – Stephen Hendry (Winner, Winner, Winner, Winner, Winner). There’s not really much more to add to that is there? Starts hot favourite every year and wins five on the bounce, beating Jimmy a further 3 times (don’t mention 1994) as well as Nigel Bond and Peter Ebdon. This was truly a period of pure dominance, the like of which we may never see again?

1997 – Stephen Hendry (Runner-Up). Hendry’s quest for a six-timer may have been what the bookies thought would happen, but the ever-popular and jovial Ken Doherty had other ideas and defied the odds to prevail 18-12 to let Stephen know for the first time what it felt like to be the runner-up.

1998 – Stephen Hendry (1st Round Loser). Hendry became only the second bookies favourite ever to lose in Round 1, his match up against Jimmy White giving Jimmy the chance to shine one last time against his old foe. He couldn’t sustain the form and it was John Higgins who won his first world title and became instantly many people’s idea of the next man in line to dominate snooker, beating the valiant reigning champion Doherty in the final.

1999 – John Higgins (Losing Semi-Finalist). Holder of the UK Championship and the Masters as well as defending champion, Higgins was surely the one to break the Crucible Curse? But it wasn’t to be as Hendry returned to reclaim the rights to the decade that belonged to him, for once not as the bookies main man, he defeated Mark Williams to claim his record-breaking seventh title.

2000 – Ronnie O’Sullivan (1st Round Loser). A new name at the top of the bookies list was now materialising. But Ronnie O’Sullivan, a marginal favourite in an open betting heat which also saw Higgins, Williams and Hendry well backed was beaten first round. Who by you may ask? Snookerbacker Classic Champion 2013, David Gray, that’s who. It was Welshman Mark Williams who was to claim his first World Championship with a win over fellow Taffy Matthew Stevens.

2001 – Ronnie O’Sullivan (Winner) / John Higgins (Runner-Up) – Joint Favourites. The bookies couldn’t split them and in the end only four frames could. O’Sullivan taking his first World Championship after his two closest contemporaries Higgins and Williams. Williams himself falling foul of the old Crucible Curse, losing in the second round to Joe Swail.

2002 – Ronnie O’Sullivan (Losing Semi-Finalist). Those bookies never learn do they? The Crucible Curse is real and Ronnie proved that again in 2002. He lost in the semi-finals to Hendry, who reached an incredible ninth world final. He couldn’t make it a historic Hendry the Eighth though and lost to Peter Ebdon in a dramatic decider to avenge his final defeat of 1996. Stephen’s time in the final was now up.

2003 – 2007 – Ronnie O’Sullivan (1st Round Loser/Winner/Losing Quarter Finalist/ Losing Semi-Finalist/Losing Quarter Finalist). Through the years Ronnie has proved himself the most prolific, least successful favourite in Crucible history. No other player has failed to justify favouritism more times than him. Only once in this five year sequence did he justify the punter’s confidence, making him, at least until recently, someone who was proving very costly to back. 

2008 – John Higgins (Round 2 Loser). Higgins failed to justify the renewed faith the bookies put in him in 2008 and instead, Ronnie, now not quite the warm order he had been the previous 8 years was to claim his third crown, defeating Ali Carter in a one-sided final, this continued a fairly bad run for favourites during the Noughties.

2009 – Ronnie O’Sullivan (Round 2 Loser). This was the last year until recently that Ronnie started clear favourite, he lost early on again, this time in an epic match against Mark Allen. This means that of the nine times Ronnie has started Crucible favourite with the bookies, he has only won the title twice. Perhaps he prefers being the underdog? John Higgins claimed the title a third time to draw level with O’Sullivan in championship wins.

Rocked Higgins in 2010.

Rocked Higgins in 2010.

2010 – John Higgins (Round 2 Loser). This was the year which saw Neil Robertson storm to victory and the pre-tournament favourite and defending champion get himself into something of a pickle with the newspapers. Steve Davis time-travelled in a DeLorean into this year from the 80’s to claim Higgins’ scalp in Round 2, which still remains an amazing Crucible tale. Robertson beat Graeme Dott in a marathon final, played unfortunately under something of a cloud in dark days for the sport. But in brighter news, his 14/1 triumph paid for a large chunk of mine and Mrs SB’s wedding making him a firm favourite of ours, even if he wasn’t with the bookies.

2011 – John Higgins (Winner). It was an altogether different Higgins who entered the arena in 2011, having returned from his ban and after the loss of his father he had looked in superb form with a new found determination and purpose to his game. From the off he looked like justifying the bookie’s faith in him and he duly did in true Higgins style, breaking the pattern of losing favourites along the way and beating a new kid on the block, Judd Trump, in the final. He now led Ronnie 4-3 in title wins in their own personal battle.

2012 – Judd Trump (Round 2 Loser). Judd’s Crucible performance the previous year and the fanfare which surrounded him was enough to convince the bookies that he should start favourite marginally ahead of Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan however proved too good for the field and under the influence of Dr Steve Peters looked a different player to the unreliable and inconsistent one of the previous decade or so. Bear in mind however that he wasn’t favourite to win or widely fancied with many citing his inability to stay focused for the full duration of the tournament. After his triumph, clearly exhausted, he vowed to have a lot of time off, a promise he was to keep. He once again beat Ali Carter in the final.

2013 – Mark Selby / Neil Robertson / Judd Trump (Round 2 Loser/Round 1 Loser/Losing Semi-Finalist). O’Sullivan’s now legendary return to the baize after a season off saw him take his fifth title largely untroubled and never headed in any match, this also meant he overtook Higgins again in their own game of world championship leapfrog. He was available as long as 9/1 a few weeks before the tournament and many claimed he had ‘no chance’ of simply returning after a year off and winning again. But he did just that.

2014 – Ronnie O’Sullivan (Runner-up). As Ronnie attempted the treble the bookies by now had wised up to him and made him the shortest priced favourite for many years. He’d been playing more events and going into this is strong form, unlike the previous year. But it wasn’t to be and the final against Mark Selby was to prove one step too far for The Rocket as Selby became the first new champion since Robertson. Ronnie yet again, was a losing favourite.

2015 – Ronnie O’Sullivan (Losing Quarter Finalist). Again being favourite at the bookies did Ronnie no favours, he was to come unstuck against the eventual champion Stuart Bingham in the Quarter Finals after a mentally fragile first week when most saw the signs that he wasn’t quite up to the job. Losing as the bookies favourite was now becoming a very annoying habit for him. 

So, the figures as they stand are since 1981:

Winning Favourites (Including Joint Favourites): 14

Losing Favourites (Including Joint Favourites): 22

Most Successful Favourites: Steve Davis (6 wins out of 9 attempts) and Stephen Hendry (6 out of 9).

Least Successful Favourite: Ronnie O’Sullivan (2 wins out of 11 attempts).

Most Successful Non-Favourite: Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins (both 3 times winner when not favourites)

Clear Favourites who have lost in Round 1: Ronnie O’Sullivan (twice), Stephen Hendry (once), Steve Davis (once). 

It remains to be seen whether Ronnie can win as favourite this time around, but if you believe in such things the omens aren’t particularly good. He has only ever justified favouritism at the bookies twice from eleven attempts. Contrast this with Davis and Hendry who each won the title six times in their nine times under the favourite spotlight.

If other players, pundits, bloggers or indeed fellow punters are looking for some suggestion or clue that O’Sullivan won’t justify favouritism this year, this is the kind of thing to spend hours boring people in the pub with, convincing them that Ronnie isn’t the man to beat as the bookies would have us all believe.

History is stacked against him after all, that fact is indisputable.


Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:39 am

Today is the day folks. We find out who makes The Crucible and enters the draw which will be made at 10am tomorrow morning at snooker’s very own Theatre of Dreams. A handful have one foot there already, but you just know that there will be a big story today don’t you? 

Follow the live scores here if you can’t turn the sound up at work, but if you are one of the lucky ones who have the day free, the excellent Rob and Fouldsy show will guide you through all the action here

This is how it stands going into today.


April 12, 2016

World Championship Final Qualifying Round

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:51 am
judgement day celebration

RIP: Peter Ebdon at the grave of last night’s referee

So this, as they say, is it.

One more best of nineteen match which if you win it means that you are finishing your season at The Crucible with all the dreams and hopes this brings. Lose and you are either consigned to watching it at home and bitterly tapping away on social media or throwing your cue in the wardrobe for a month and buggering off on holiday. That’s what the next two days are all about.

Every match is a stand out one which is why World Snooker are putting on a show at You Tube. The plan is that Rob Walker and Neal Foulds will be hotstepping between the tables to find out what’s going on and giving us understated (knowing Rob) updates on the who’s, where’s and do you mind if I don’t’s of the day.

It’s not clear so far what matches are live on You Tube but there are rumours that Ding’s is, the information from the governing body thus far has been a little patchy to say the least considering what a big deal this new initiative is.

Anyway, I’m sure we’ll all work it out after the first couple of hours have passed.

Today is all about jostling for position in readiness for tomorrow when all of them conclude, remember the old saying, you can’t win a match in the first session but you can lose it, which of course is absolute garbage as proven by Peter Ebdon last night who came back from 3-9 down to Gerard Greene to win the decider at silly o’clock this morning. Spare a thought for whoever reffed it, I hope they have the day off today, at least Ebbo doesn’t start again until 5pm tonight, all the starting times for ‘Jostle into position Tuesday’ (catchy) are here, with live scoring from 11am here.

Here are the matches and again, I’ll highlight the predicted winner and maybe throw in the odd bet. Round 2 was a mixed bag with quite a few ducking by just the one frame.


11am Tuesday and Wednesday 

Ding Junhui v Nigel Bond

Anthony Hamilton v Robbie Williams (Live at World Snooker TV)

Robert Milkins v Kurt Maflin

Alan McManus v Jimmy Robertson

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v Anthony McGill

Liam Highfield v Sam Baird (Live at World Snooker TV)

Jack Lisowski v David Gilbert

Mitchell Mann v Dechawat Poomjaeng

5pm Tuesday and Wednesday

Ian Burns v Peter Ebdon (Live at World Snooker TV)

Mike Dunn v Graeme Dott

Mark King v Michael Holt (Live at World Snooker TV)

Ken Doherty v Ryan Day

Kyren Wilson v Matthew Stevens

Zhou Yuelong v Zhang Anda

Ali Carter v Dominic Dale

Xiao Guodong v Liang Wenbo

Recommended Bets: 2 point acca on Baird, Gilbert, Carter and Wenbo pays over 6/1 add Dott for a 2 point acca pays over 9/1. 2 point double on Un-Nooh and Hamilton pays over 3/1. 1 point on Bond at 8/1. 

April 10, 2016

World Championship Qualifying Round 2

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:56 am
Two more matches....

Two more matches….

It’s time for match two of a possible three for the lucky Crucible bound potters with some having had a much easier time in the first round than others, even to the extent that we saw three total whitewashes and for a few of them, the easiest £6000 they will probably earn in their career.

I am obviously a strong advocate of the amateur game but I have to say that some of the match ups in Round 1 were always going to end the same way, with some who found themselves thrust into the action for whatever reason World Snooker could find, clearly out of their depth and inevitably struggling to even get that first (and only) frame on the board.

Contrast this with the winner of my tournament last week Sam Craigie, was he not more deserving of a place in this than some of these players? He’d have been a tough draw for a few of the professionals lower down but it seems that World Snooker instead prefer to send the unprepared to the lions on the guise of doing them a favour, testament to this was Jamie Clarke’s late night victory on Saturday, just a few days previously he was contesting a semi-final in the SB Classic. Not that I’m bitter you understand, oh no.

For me the World Championship should be contested by all current professionals and if you must top these up, which in itself is open to debate, completed by players from agreed criteria at the start of the season who have proved themselves to be the best players outside of the professional game, regardless of whether they come from Belgium, Bognor Regis or Bongo Bongo Land. Unfortunately like last season, too many of those excitedly running to the table with a wildcard just aren’t yet up to this very high standard, that said, it does help fill up the kitty early doors from a betting perspective for the shrewder punters amongst you all.

Anyway, that’s the slight gripe and not so hidden agenda issue out of the way, if I can get a place in this for my winner next year they can invite whoever else they like, this is still a cracking event and from now on we’re talking about players who have won the right to be in this round and are now thinking about one thing and one thing only, namely getting to The Crucible in 6 days time.

You can take a look at the schedule for Round 2 here and obviously keep up with the Live Stream on the World Snooker TV website which costs but a few pennies for the month and the live scores can be viewed as they happen, assuming it’s working here.

Bettingwise, the first round was decent, now let’s see what Round 2 brings. I’ve taken a slightly different approach to this round, the maverick in me, and highlighted in BOLD the player I think will win each match up and where appropriate flagged up a bet, multiples are at the foot of the post. You can read back my main preview here where I say who I think will qualify.


Ding Junhui v Ross Muir

Recommended Bet? No. 

Nigel Bond v Gary Wilson

Recommended Bet? 3 points on over 16 frames at 11/10. 

Hamza Akbar v Ian Burns

Recommended Bet? No. 

Gerard Greene v Peter Ebdon

Recommended Bet? 3 points on Ebdon (-3.5 frames) at 6/4. 

Chris Wakelin v Anthony Hamilton

Recommended Bet? No. 

Robbie Williams v Mark Joyce

Recommended Bet? 2 points on Joyce (-2.5 frames) at 7/5.  

Mike Dunn v Li Hang

Recommended Bet? No. 

Noppon Saengkham v Graeme Dott

Recommended Bet? 2 points on Dott (-4.5 frames) at 12/5. 

Robert Milkins v Scott Donaldson

Recommended Bet? 2 points on Donaldson (+4.5 frames) at 11/8. 

Kurt Maflin v Zhao Xintong

Recommended Bet? 3 points on Maflin to make the highest break in the match at 9/10.

Mark King v David Grace

Recommended Bet? 2 points on King (-2.5 frames) at 11/10. 

Peter Lines v Michael Holt

Recommended Bet? 2 points on Holt (-3.5 frames) at 13/10. 

Alan McManus v David Morris

Recommended Bet? 2 points on McManus (-2.5 frames) at 6/5.

Stuart Carrington v Jimmy Robertson

Recommended Bet? No. 

Hossein Vafaei Ayouri v Ken Doherty

Recommended Bet? 3 points on Ayouri (+2.5 frames) at 8/13. 

Alfie Burden v Ryan Day

Recommended Bet? 2 points on Burden at 9/4. 

Kyren Wilson v Martin O’Donnell

Recommended Bet? No. 

Zhang Yong v Matthew Stevens

Recommended Bet? 2 points on Under 15.5 frames at 24/23. 

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v Paul Davison

Recommended Bet? No. 

Craig Steadman v Anthony McGill

Recommended Bet? 2 points on Steadman at 4/1. 

Luca Brecel v Liam Highfield

Recommended Bet? 2 points on Highfield at 15/8 (given the rumours that Luca isn’t well) 

Sam Baird v Tom Ford

Recommended Bet? No. 

Jack Lisowski v Rory McLeod

Recommended Bet? 2 points on McLeod at 6/5. 

Lee Walker v David Gilbert

Recommended Bet? 3 points on Gilbert (-3.5 frames) at 9/10. 

Matt Selt v Mitchell Mann

Recommended Bet? No. 

Robin Hull v Dechawat Poomjaeng

Recommended Bet? No.  

Fergal O’Brien v Zhou Yuelong

Recommended Bet? 2 points on over 16 frames at 10/11. 

Zhang Anda v Dark Mavis

Recommended Bet? No. 

Ali Carter v Cao Yupeng

Recommended Bet? No. 

Oli Lines v Dominic Dale

Recommended Bet? 2 points on Lines at 2/1. 

Xiao Guodong v Jamie Clarke

Recommended Bet? No. 

Jamie Cope v Liang Wenbo

Recommended Bet? 2 points over 15 frames in the match at 9/10. 

RECOMMENDED BIG SECOND ROUND ACCA: 3 points on McManus, Ebdon, Joyce, Gilbert, Holt and Un-Nooh pays well over 6/1 at Marathon Bet. 

April 5, 2016

World Championship Qualifying Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:34 pm

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’ sang Andy Williams famously when referring to Christmas, but for me Santa and his bulging sack is second in line to what starts tomorrow and runs all the way to the start of May. Yes folks, it’s time to strap yourselves in for this year’s World Snooker Championship, sponsored again by Betfred and kicking off on Wednesday with the qualifiers at Ponds Forge, where 16 players will emerge to take on the seeds just down the road at snooker’s very own Theatre of Dreams.


The format of this is brutal of course, which is what makes it so entertaining, we’ll no doubt see scenes of joy and laughter but also tears and tantrums as the players outside of the top 16 attempt to win 3 best of 19 matches to qualify. There will be shocks but I’m sure there will also be form players that qualify with ease. As ever there are a few no-hopers in there who have inexplicably been handed a wildcard ahead of those more deserving on the Q-School top up list, but at least the likes of Ding Junhui and Ali Carter have little more than a practice session before facing their first test, which is nice for them.

The approach I have decided on is to strip the draw down into the neat little 16 four match sections, I’ll say a bit about each and where possible recommend a bet or two. Traditionally this event has given us some rich pickings so hopefully this year will be no different. It’s full steam ahead from now on ladies and gents, who’s coming with me? Come on, you know you want to.


To watch the streamed tables, my advice is to bite the bullet and fork out a few quid on the official streaming site as the quality and size of picture is usually better than the bookies. The full printable PDF draw is here and the format is here. If you haven’t yet seen how the seeds are placed in the main Crucible draw, you can take a look at that here.

Right, let’s go. All the recommended ‘To Qualify’ Bets are with the sponsors.



The widely predicted Chinese Snooker Revolution hasn’t really happened has it? It’s so off-track now that their star of snooker Ding Junhui has found himself dumped at Ponds Forge, how the devil did that happen then? But the good news for Ding is that he has little more than a practice session first up, no disrespect to his opponent, but I’m afraid I have never heard of him. So can anyone stop Ding from qualifying? I’d say the most obvious choice to put a spanner in the works would be Andrew Higginson but barring a recent run in the last EPTC he’s not really done anything to suggest that he can, Gary Wilson is obviously another who is capable but I’m sure Ding won’t be too disappointed in his draw and I expect to see him at The Crucible, though I would be over the moon if Sean O’Sullivan could spoil the party.  

Predicted Qualifier: Ding Junhui 



A tougher section to predict with Jamie Jones heading it up and you’d expect him to meet Ian Burns in Round 2, the other match up I’d say would involve Peter Ebdon who I’d take to beat a fading James Wattana and I’d also back him against either Gerard Greene or Jimmy White. So the safest bet is Ebdon to qualify given I feel he is the most likely to make the third match. With Jamie Jones being not in the best form of his life and the same can be said for Ian Burns, I think this is simply a case of back the player with the experience who has the smoothest path and for me that has to be Ebdon.  

Predicted Qualifier: Peter Ebdon (2 points at 11/4)



A very competitive section this with I’d say three of the four first round matches being something of a coin toss. I think that Mark Joyce will probably have a bit too much experience for the quickfire Zak Surety and Joyce does tend to have a decent record against faster players for one reason or another. Syd Wilson and Chris Wakelin are both capable to causing ‘upsets’ in their matches and Gaz Allen may fancy his chances against Robbie Williams, with Robbie not having as good a season as last year going into this. On balance though I think the winner of Woollaston and Wakelin may end up strolling out at The Crucible and at the prices to qualify, the value is Wakelin and he’s worth a few quid, though my prediction would be Ben.

Predicted Qualifier: Ben Woollaston

Recommended Bet – 1 point on Wakelin at 14/1



Another former World Champion Graeme Dott seems to have been handed a pretty straightforward opener and I’d also say that his next opponent could have been tougher, though Noppon Saengkham can play, I’d be surprised if he stopped Dotty from making the final round. Up at the top Mike Dunn has been showing some decent form lately and I’d back him to come through over James Cahill and whichever Chinese opponent he faces next which for me leaves a Dott v Dunn finale. Dott holds command on a pretty irrelevant head to head but despite this meaningless statistic I think he’ll be tough to stop and also a very dangerous first round opponent should he make The Crucible. 

Predicted Qualifier: Graeme Dott



Another tough section sees Rob Milkins, after a disappointing season by his standards, also lining up here again when he has previously been in the top 16. I don’t know his opponent but assume it will be a quick win for him given how fast he plays and I’d say a second rounder against Joel Walker awaits, which again I would take Milkins to win. In the bottom half, century machine Kurt Maflin will be looking to make the main venue again after a great match last year against Mark Selby and it could be a real tortoise and hare affair if he ends up playing Rod Lawler in the second round, one thing is for sure, fans of safety and dump shots won’t see many in his first match against the equally attacking Sandi Lam. By virtue of Kurt’s heavy scoring I think I’ll take a punt on him in this section to edge out Milkins in Round 3. 

Predicted Qualifier: Kurt Maflin (2 points at 10/3)    



Mark King is in good form and Michael Holt has a decent draw so I think straight away you are led to the conclusion that this section is between these two and I can’t really see any way that they won’t be meeting in Round 3. That said, Fraser Patrick, David Grace and Peter Lines are all capable of putting a run together if they hit the ground running but something tells me that this section is all about King and Holt. It will be interesting to see how many frames (the now former) Ladies World Champion Ng On Yee takes from Lines, I’d guess no more than 3 or 4 but you never know I suppose. You can’t read much into the head to heads between King and Holt so you probably have to go on recent form, which again doesn’t tell us much, if they do meet I can see it being very close to a decider either way.

Predicted Qualifier: Mark King



I caught a bit of Michael Wasley in practice the other day at the SWSA and I don’t know how he is facing the prospect of losing his tour place, but the reality is that he is and he has a very tough draw to boot against Angles. I wish him well but fear the worst there. I can see Angles progressing in the next round too and my favoured opponent in the last round would be Jimmy Robertson, simply because the other main runner Stuart Carrington has only had a week or so to recover from an injury sustained in China when he was forced to withdraw while in Beijing. Jimmy has been to The Crucible before and I’m sure would love to get there again, but I have to side with the experience of McManus to again don his tartan strides on snooker’s biggest stage. 

Predicted Qualifier: Alan McManus (4 points at 9/4)



Some very familiar names in this section with what I’d say are four very interesting first rounders, three of which I think can go either way. The exception to this would be the Alfie Burden v Tony Drago encounter which I would take Alfie to come through with a bit in hand to set up a possible encounter with Ryan Day, who again I think Burden will feel confident against if it goes close. Alfie is in decent form and for me is the dark horse in this section. Andy Hicks could well turn over Ken Doherty and the top match is a very even affair with the very dangerous Ayouri a threat to anyone. I think it is worth backing both Burden and Ayouri here despite the more obvious match up being Day and Pengfei, we’ve got to have one big shock haven’t we?  

Predicted Qualifier: Alfie Burden (1 point at 11/2)

Recommended Bet: 1 point on Hossein Ayouri at 18/1 



Kyren Wilson will consider himself a little unfortunate to be here given what a fantastic season he has had and I’d expect him to be lining up in his second match against the in-form Martin O’Donnell, not an easy draw on current form for Kyren or Martin. Matthew Stevens lurks at the bottom of this section and his season does not encourage any great confidence in his chances, but he does tend to save his best for the longer matches so he cannot be written off even with the presence of Joe Swail just above him as a likely second round opponent. When Joe gets on a roll he is a very dangerous player and he also tends to raise his game against higher ranked players, I think he will push Stevens very close and if he can win there he’ll have an army of support for his last match, bottle to spare, I’m going to take a punt on him to upset the odds and qualify from this section. 

Predicted Qualifier: Joe Swail (1 point at 5/1)



A very tough section this and I think a strong case can be made for six of them. Anthony McGill of course has had his time in the sun at The Crucible but like Wasley and Jamie Jones before him has not really kicked on following this, perhaps a curse in itself for those who are unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight unprepared? Everyone in snooker knows how good Thepchaiya Un-Nooh is and I don’t think he will be too unhappy with his draw here. I do think his presence at The Crucible will enhance it and if he takes to the stage he will be a very tough first round draw for anyone.

Predicted Qualifier: Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (3 points at 5/2)



Belgium’s Luca Brecel has had his most consistent season to date this time around and to me is beginning to look the complete player, I think he has a very bright future in the sport after a couple of rocky years and for me he is a strong favourite to qualify from this section. Those around him in the top half all have consistency issues and Brecel is a far heavier scorer than any of them, talking of heavy scorers, when Sam Baird clicks there aren’t many ranked around where he is that can command the balls as he does, but again, consistency is a big issue for Sam. Tom Ford is the obvious candidate to stand in Luca’s way and he walloped The Belgian Bullet 10-1 in this in 2014. But Luca is a different player now and not the type to let that experience affect him should the two lock horns again.

Predicted Qualifier: Luca Brecel



This one is probably one of my more confident picks in amongst these little mini-battles. Dave Gilbert for me will take all the beating in this section. Jack Lisowski does not seem to have grasped the chance he had a few seasons back for whatever reason and although it sounds daft to say this about someone so young, he may not get that chance again. I can’t really fancy Rory either although I think he will probably beat Lisowski to face Gilbert in the section final, I just think Gilbert is a notch up from the other 7 in this section, some by a little, some by a canyon.

Predicted Qualifier: Dave Gilbert



Another tough call this one which I’d narrow down to Matt Selt, Mitchell Mann, Robin Hull and the Thai loon Dechawat Poomjaeng. Selt has started really showing what a fine player he is this season and although Marmite continues to annoy everyone with his First Class flight photos on Twitter, there is no denying that he can play this game. Mitchell I know has taken confidence from qualifying for the China Open and is very dangerous on his day, whether he is quite up to Selt’s level quite yet I don’t know. As for the other section, I always call Poomjaeng wrong, I am guilty of multiple charges of writing off his chances too easily and I plead guilty to all of them, I’d take Shootout Champ Robin Hull to beat him but I’ve probably got that wrong too, if he plays Selt in the final match he’ll probably do his head in and turn up again at The Crucible to delight the crowd with his Charlie Chaplin routines. But no, it can’t happen again…SURELY? CAN IT? 

Predicted Qualifier: Matt Selt



Steve Davis plays in honour of his late father Bill and what a fairytale it would be if he managed to make another appearance at The Crucible with this added motivation. His match against Fergal is likely to be one for the snooker purists so I’m sure he’ll enjoy it, the best of luck to him, but qualification is a very big ask this year for The Nugget. That said if he does beat Fergal, he has a chance to really tie Zhou (Ghou) Yuelong (Yolonge) in knots using his years of experience against the young Chinese player, but even then, the scoring of young Ghouy will probably be enough. I’m a bit confused about who to side with in this section but a safe bet for the final match has to be Dark Mavis, I’ve no idea who Krustev is and can only assume he has some compromising pictures of one of the board and that’s why he is there, anyway I digress. Mavis it is.     

Predicted Qualifier: Dark Mavis



Two more inexplicable wildcards mean that Ali Carter will face Cao Yupeng in the second round barring limbs falling off, I’d also think that Oli Lines will be lining up against Dom Dale. From that line up you have to favour experience telling over the longer format which leaves us with a Carter v Dale final round. The head to head tells us that in all five meetings between the pair there has always been the same winner, so perhaps predictably, but even taking out what I hope will happen, it has to be Carter. Whoever draws him first at The Crucible is in for a battle that’s for sure. 

Predicted Qualifier: Ali Carter



The final section sees two of my pals Allan Taylor and Jamie Clarke up against very tough first round opponents in Xiao Guodong and Jamie Burnett, the bottom section throws up a chance for Ashley Hugill to make a name for himself again following a recent whitewash of Neil Robertson as he takes on Jamie Cope, who is very inconsistent these days and was beaten at this stage last year by Steve Davis. Liang Wenbo has had his best season on the tour to date but is so terribly frustrating to back, for me this section has the potential for an all-Chinese final round to ensure at least one Chinese player at the main venue, but the spanner in the works is Burnett, still very capable and still a very heavy scorer, he’ll take advantage if Liang lapses.

Predicted Qualifier: Jamie Burnett

RECOMMENDED FURTHER BETS: 10 x 1 point trebles and a 1 point acca on ‘To Qualify’ markets on Alan McManus (9/4), Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (5/2), Luca Brecel (11/8), Dave Gilbert (7/4) and Matt Selt (15/8) – acca pays over 212/1.

MATCH SINGLES BETTING: 5 points on Lee Walker (-6.5 frames) at 15/8 with Betfair. 5 points on Jimmy Robertson (-6.5 frames) at 6/4 with Betfair. 1 point on Steve Davis to beat Fergal O’Brien at 8/1 with the sponsors.

No Monster Acca this year as the bookies are giving nothing away on the favourites. 

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