August 11, 2017

The China Championship

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:28 am

The impressive arena in China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the China Championship draw click here.

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

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

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

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

July 31, 2017

Nine Days in Preston

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:46 am

Snooker seems to spend a lot of time in Preston these days. The once iconic Guild Hall is increasingly now seen as the go to place for Qualifiers and this next week and a half is no exception with no fewer than three events holding their opening rounds there before the main events in India, Belgium and China take place.

It’s been a funny old month on the baize. The Hong Kong Masters seemed like a great success with huge crowds turning out to watch Neil Robertson triumph, it’s just a shame that we weren’t able to watch it with the exception of a dodgy streamed site. Then we had the World Games where Kyren Wilson bagged a gold medal and Ali Carter the silver and at the same time over in China, England led by Ronnie O’Sullivan beat the home team in a Ryder Cup style event that I knew absolutely nothing about, so while there has been a lot of snooker going on, it’s not exactly been high profile when it comes to a global audience.

It’s back to the qualifiers this week though as the Indian Open, the European Masters and the World Open kick off. The World Open replaces the Shanghai Masters on the calendar which sadly is no longer on the schedule.

This is a shame as it was always seen as the best event there was in China by the players who seemed to love going there, instead they will have to return to Yushan which saw outbreaks of food poisoning last year in the middle of nowhere when Ali Carter took the title, one that he’s decided not to defend this time. Ronnie O’Sullivan is also nowhere to be seen and hasn’t entered any of the three events, perhaps a sign that he’s going into semi-retirement mode again and picking and choosing when and where he plays, he is another who expressed disappointment at the scrapping of Shanghai.

Whilst Preston isn’t universally popular with the players, one thing it remains is an excellent venue for fans to go and watch and with tickets as low as £5 for a whole day’s worth of action where you can flit from table to table effortlessly if you are in the area it’s well worth a visit.

The draws are contained in the links below if you can make out the names, it seems that several of the keys on the World Snooker computer are missing so it might be time for Bazza to fork out for a new one with all that dosh he’s been raking in. It all gets underway on Tuesday and runs rights through until the middle of next week. The India and Europe events are all played over the best of seven while the World Open is played over the best of nine.

Click here for the Indian Open Draw

Click here for the European Masters Draw

Click here for the World Open Draw

Click here for the format for all three events

July 18, 2017

The Hong Kong Masters

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:12 am

Marco will be sporting his massive watch during the event.

It’s a new event on the calendar this week, though rumours I am hearing are that it’s a strictly one-year only affair as the crème brûlée of the snooker world jet to Hong Kong for the invitational Hong Kong Masters which sees 7 of the world’s top 8 players in action alongside bums on seats man Ronnie O’Sullivan.

The bad news is that the coverage of this in terms of TV seems to be severely restricted, which is a shame as apparently it’s a huge deal over there and a sell-out, with tickets trading on the black market at many times their face value, kind of like if Viagogo ever got let out onto the streets.

Crowd favourite will undoubtedly be Marco Fu, the local man has been described this week as the greatest ‘athlete’ that Hong Kong has ever produced. ‘Athlete’ is a little misleading as anyone who knows Marco or has witnessed him around venues would probably describe him as more of a chilled out tortoise than a frantic hare, but it’s a good headline.

The one player from the top 8 who is missing is Ding Junhui. Ding commands a fee of around £85,000 for appearances in China and Hong Kong and this by all accounts proved too steep for the organisers who told him where he could shove his appearance fee. But it’s still a stellar line up playing in front of presumably humungous crowds so it’s a shame that we can’t get to watch it as I love a good invitational tournament to break up from the sardinefests so prevalent of late.

Anyway, a list of the players and the matches are detailed below. I think as an interest you could do worse than take a punt on Marco rising to the occasion at a fairly generous 11/1, with Ronnie at 5/1 an attractive proposition too considering Mark Selby is playing his first tournament back from nearly losing a toe by dropping something heavy on it, presumably his wallet. Ronnie as we know thrives in the invitationals with the big crowds and I wouldn’t put it past him tottering off with the trophy and first prize here after putting on a show for the adoring fans. Anyway it all kicks off on Thursday.

• Current World Champion and world number one – Mark Selby
• Four-time World Champion and world number two – John Higgins
• 2017 Players Championship winner and world number three – Judd Trump
• 2017 World Grand Prix winner and world number five – Barry Hawkins
• Former World Champion and world number seven – Neil Robertson
• Former World Champion and world number eight – Shaun Murphy
• Five-time World Champion – Ronnie O’Sullivan
• Hong Kong’s top player and world number six – Marco Fu

First round draw (all times are UK time):

Best of 9 Frames

Barry Hawkins v Marco Fu (July 20th at 7am)
Mark Selby v Neil Robertson (July 20th at 12 noon)

Judd Trump v Shaun Murphy (July 21st at 7am)
Ronnie O’Sullivan v John Higgins (July 21st at 12 noon)

Semi Finals and Final are Best of 11 Frames.

June 21, 2017

The Curtain Raiser: Riga Masters Opens New Snooker Season

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:50 am

After a week long worth of qualifiers in Preston to establish the starting fields in both this and the China Championship in August, the real curtain raiser for the new season starts on Friday with the Riga Masters from Latvia, which will be fully covered by Eurosport.

Essentially this event is a slight teak on the old PTC format thankfully with one less round at the venue, opening up with 7 tables in action, followed by 5, before it moves to two main tables for the last eight onwards. They’ve also made the semi-finals and final a little longer than the seven frames format in that they are now the best of nine.

Neil Robertson returns to the scene of his most recent trophy, strange to think that having started the season so well he was to not lift any more silverware over the course of a long season, while battling with his very modern addiction, that of video games, which put him off stride on the table and led to an ultimately disappointing season for the Aussie. Do we have a new curse? Who wants to win this if your season goes tits up afterwards?

Contrast this with Mark Selby, snooker’s most recent millionaire who won a total of 5 titles last season including 2 of the big 3, he’s got so much dosh these days that he can afford to pick and choose his events this season and despite entering this he is a late absentee. Apparently however this is no summer holiday choice on the part of The Jester, Mark has apparently carelessly dropped an unspecified but I assume fairly heavy object on his toe, so misses this because of injury rather than choice.

I’m not going to be covering the best of seven frame events this season, they don’t really interest me and in a way it helps me look forward to the events that I always enjoy. I’ll probably watch a bit of it if I am sat in front of the telly at any point but for me the snooker doesn’t really get interesting until it starts getting a little cooler and the nights become a little darker and earlier, not when it’s blazing sunshine outside.

But that’s not to say it won’t be a decent event for those that choose to watch it, but from a betting point of view I’ll probably just stick to the outright market as I find the best of sevens very unpredictable and am seeing less and less value in the match betting as the bookies become a bit more savvy to any potential ringers out there. But at big prices, the ‘one in each quarter’ tactic looks to be the way forward for this event, especially given the lack of big names in the field.

The flatter playing field is definitely more evident nowadays and the old adage that anyone can beat anyone has never been truer within the lower ranks especially, so match betting in short formats in snooker these days is a slippery slope to being a bookies mug punter in my opinion, though we do often see the cream rise to the top at the business end of things.

If you are planning to duck in and out of events this season as I am you can take a look at the full calendar for the season here.

Riga Masters Outrights: Stephen Maguire (12/1), Mark Williams (20/1), Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (100/1), Hossein Vafaei (125/1). 

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

Here’s the Eurosport TV schedule for the Kaspersky Riga Masters in the UK.

Friday 23 June

0900-1145 LIVE day one on Eurosport 1
0900-2000 LIVE day one on Eurosport Player
2145-0045 Day one on Eurosport 1

Saturday 24 June

0900-1245 LIVE day two on Eurosport 1
0900-1300 LIVE day two on Eurosport Player
1630-1825 LIVE day two on Eurosport Player
2110-2300 Day two on Eurosport 2

Sunday 25 June

0900-1300 LIVE quarter-finals on Eurosport 1
1430-1700 LIVE semi-finals on Eurosport 2
1830-2130 LIVE final on Eurosport 2

May 30, 2017

One Week in Preston: Riga and China Qualifiers

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:01 pm

All focus on Preston again this week.

The snooker season gets underway in Preston on Wednesday with a week of qualifiers for two events, the Riga Masters and the China Championship. The final stages of Riga will take place at the end of June and the China Championship will conclude in mid-August.

As there is currently an election on in the UK I’m putting in place a policy of my own this season. My manifesto states that I’m not going to cover any of the best of seven events in any great detail. It worked last season and made me look forward more to the events with the longer matches, I don’t like the short matches so I’m not going to bother with them, simple as that.

So for the first event, the qualifiers for Riga, I’m giving it a wide berth. However, when the matches revert to Best of 9 frames for the China event I’ll post up a few predictions when the bookies get their act together and price them up.

It’s fair to say that quite a few of the game’s big names have decided very much like myself to not get involved in Riga, there’s no O’Sullivan (unless you count Sean), Higgins, Trump or Ding so a somewhat depleted field are competing in that one, with a lot of the places being made up by the Q-School Order of Merit list posse, who remember still have to pay entry fees unlike the main tour professionals, who now enjoy free entry to all the events they want to enter.

All those names missing for Riga do appear in the first round draw for the more lucrative Chinese event which is hardly surprising given the £150,000 first prize. This of course is the event which last year was a highly entertaining invitational tournament won by John Higgins, but this year as originally planned it reverts to a flat field ranking event for all the 128 tour players. Personally I think they missed a trick here to establish a Chinese Masters type equivalent and keep it as an invitational for the top 16, that seems to me to be a gap in the market that a big Chinese sponsor might want to plug.

So, despite the rest of us sitting outside in the vain hope that we might see that big round yellow thing in the sky for more than a few hours a month, the potters are back indoors and hard at it on the baize. If you want to check out the full season calendar and plan ahead to times when snooker feels like it should be on click here to do so. Just an opening season punt below, let’s see if we can start with a winning bet.

Riga Masters Roll Up: Pays nearly 11/2 – Yan Bingtao, Stuart Bingham, Peter Lines, Sam Craigie and John Astley. Add Chris Wakelin for a 13.5/1 Acca. Then Add Zhao Xintong for a 31.5/1 Acca.

Check Oddschecker for Best Odds Available.  

Click here for the updated Riga Masters draw

Click here for the updated China Championship draw

Click here for the format

The qualifying rounds run from May 31 to June 6 at the Guild Hall in Preston, with the winners going through to the final stages. Tickets for the qualifiers are available now, for details CLICK HERE for the Riga qualifiers (May 31 to June 2) and HERE for the China qualifiers (June 3-6).

May 8, 2017

Form An Orderly Q

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:41 pm

The focus of snooker for the next two weeks. Nice tree.

Tuesday morning sees the start of an event which will both drive and destroy dreams as we go through the annual lottery of snooker’s Q-School, where 200 plus amateurs of differing abilities will be whittled down to just 12, who will then start their journey into the professional ranks.

It’s as harsh a format as you can imagine and even a cursory look at the first round draws in each of the events once again makes you wince at how many good players are grouped together.

But for many it’s their last chance to know what they might be doing this time next month. The choice? Preparing for the professional year ahead and looking at dates and travel plans or trying to get a job somewhere else.

Good luck with tha…(VOTE LABOUR)

The headline for the qualifiers this year is of course that they won’t have to immediately stump up entry fees, these having been abolished by Mr Hearn, who also came up with a plan for the losers here to fund it, there are no flies on him that’s for damn sure as mustard.

It’s being held at the iconic (but it has to be said quite unpopular with top players) Preston Guild Hall and includes many names that you will recognise. Tony Drago (have a watch), Joe Swail, Barry Pinches, Andy Hicks, Jamie Cope – yes that’s THE Jamie Cope, Martin O’Donnell, Allan Taylor, Sean O’Sullivan, Sanderson Lam and many more are among the former professionals in action as well as the superbly named Shaun Sultana, who on currant form should be in with a grape chance given the date.

Seriously though, who’d be a snooker player? These guys, well the ones with half a chance, are playing for their livelihood. The reality is that for the losers, which is the vast majority of them, it’s a future full of uncertainty. In what other line of work are two weeks so vital to the next two years of your life?

It’s not fair, it’s not fun but for twelve of them (the four semi finalists from each event and the four others who win most frames from the two combined) it’s the key to a couple of years of routine, something which I have always found is essential to snooker player’s mental health and wellbeing.

For what it’s worth I’ve had a few quid on each quarter in Event 1. I’ve gone for experience with Joe Swail and Andy Hicks, I’ve gone for who I think is the best Chinese hope in Chen Zifan and I’ve gone for a player I know is granite and in form on the amateur circuit Anthony Parsons.

For serious backers I’d suggest a look at Steven Hallworth given his draw but he’s too short for me to have a dabble with the size of my satchel.

I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I’ll watch with interest. Good luck to the boys and girl that know I’m rooting for them over the two events.     

Event 1 Draw

Event 2 Draw


April 30, 2017

World Championship Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:08 am

And then there were 2. We approach the two day final which some might say is one for the purists, with the defending champion up against a four times winner who just keeps bouncing back for more.

It’s not really been a championship of memorable matches but undoubtedly the best one was the semi-final between Selby and Ding.

I’m pretty sure that had it been against anyone else Ding would be in the final, but Selby seems to summon up something, from somewhere, when he needs it most, much like his opponent today John Higgins does when he’s at his best.

There is little doubt on form who goes into this as a very strong favourite and the odds on Selby are as restrictive as I can remember in a match involving Higgins who can still be backed at 9/4 to carry off the famous trophy. But we are talking about two players here who have played a total of 201 professional frames against each other and are seperated by just a single frame, so is it as clear cut as the bookies suggest?

They met of course on and at this very stage ten years ago to the calendar weekend with Higgins winning the third of his four titles 18-13. This is the fifth time they will have faced each other at The Crucible with Higgins holding a 3-1 advantage so if you look at some of the stats out there, you begin to wonder if this really is simply a case of a Jester Coronation.

Then you have to look at how they got here. Selby was workmanlike in his first three matches, losing just ten frames to Fergal O’Brien, Xiao Guodong and a totally out of sorts Marco Fu, before being pushed to the wire by Ding and letting out a celebratory fist pump and table smack rarely if ever seen from him.

Higgins meanwhile, in what most considered to be the ‘easier’ half has had to beat Martin Gould and three seeded players in Mark Allen, Kyren Wilson and Barry Hawkins, losing just four more frames than Selby in doing so against most would agree, a far tougher foursome.

So again, a strong case can be made for Higgins based on history and what’s happened here. So why is Selby such a strong favourite?

My opinion is that Selby is now a better all round player than Higgins. Perhaps John still has the edge on shot selection and arguably is as good as Selby in the balls but tactically I think Selby is outplaying everyone these days. When it comes to bottle they are probably the best two in the business so there really isn’t a lot to choose between them at all despite John’s advancing years.

It’s a match up that I’m sure Bazza would not have picked given the choice. It will lack that razzmatazz that he thinks snooker needs more of. It’s the sort of match that staff in old people’s homes around the country will be rejoicing at as they can just plonk it on and sit the residents down in front of until the last one has nodded off while they go off shopping. Like I said in the intro, it’s definitely one for the purists.

I’m going to rely on the fact that John will come into this battling and showing that ‘don’t let the bastards grind you down’ spirit that has seen him raise his game time and again when many are writing him off. I hope it doesn’t live up to expectations and is a hugely entertaining match with plenty of thrills and spills.

In terms of a scoreline I’ll go for 18-15 to Selby (14/1 best price) and him joining the elite band of the games greats who have won this great event more than twice.

Thanks for tuning in throughout the championship and for all your tweets and messages. The blog itself has hit over 85,000 visits over the course of the 17 days so you’ll be pleased to hear that you are not alone in tuning into this particular corner of the webosphere. Now for two more days and a well earned break.   

April 27, 2017

World Championship Semi Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:17 am

The One Table Situation

It’s time for the famous ‘one table situation’ cliches to kick in as we move to the business end of things at The Crucible with five more days of snooker’s showpiece still to go. Just four of the original 144 remain (Anorak Stat Check: 143 if you remember that Patrick Wallace withdrew) and we have as strong a semi-final line up as I can remember.

I’m going to leave the big preamble and no doubt at some point I’ll refer back to Barry Hearn’s press conference yesterday and what it will mean for the amateur game in the UK and beyond, suffice to say that I’m delighted that he’s decided to give the amateur and grass roots game some long awaited and much needed TLC from 2018 onwards.

Now though to the two matches, the big question is, can anyone stop the defending champion?

Mark Selby v Ding Junhui

Since 12 months ago when these two contested a close final they have met twice more, in two finals over in China sharing the spoils. Ding won 10-6 in Shanghai and ended up in tears and lost in Daqing to a rampant Jester 10-1 and also ended up in tears. But what’s happened since then may explain Ding’s emotional state on both occasions, sadly his mum passed away from cancer at a very young age and I’m sure both matches were played out with that at the forefront of Ding’s mind so I’d discount the hammering in Daqing and instead concentrate on how they are both playing here. I’m sure it would mean everything to Ding to win this and it would be nice if he could blot out the pressures coming from China and just concentrate on what it means to him and those closest to him if he were to achieve his lifelong dream. He has conquered one goal in beating Ronnie but there is still plenty of work to do against a player who seems to be getting better and better as the years go on and is now as close to dominating the sport as anyone has been since Hendry. Selby is in fantastic form and his win over Marco was a virtuoso display from a master at his craft. I’m torn here by wanting Selby to lift a third title and climb into the next echelon of champions who have won it more than twice and my desire to see Ding win it for his mum. But if this place teaches you anything it’s that the better player usually wins over the longer distance and the better player is undoubtedly Selby this week.

Predicted: Selby 17-12.

John Higgins v Barry Hawkins

Such is the nature of snooker these days that these two have only ever met once over anything longer than best of 7, that was here in 2010 when Higgins beat Barry 10-6 in Round One before his famous second round defeat by Steve Davis. Higgins has for the first time since he last won this, brought his best game to The Crucible and like Selby looks to be destined for the final. Barry typically talked down his chances after beating Maguire but his mindset for this match may just help him if he’s going in knowing he is a big underdog. One thing that struck me about the comments after Higgins’ last match was how disappointed Kyren Wilson was in his own performance, he lamented at the number of close frames he lost and the number of chances he let slip so that perhaps tells us that despite thinking Higgins is in top form he is giving opponents rays of hope. Hawkins by his own admission will have to improve in leaps and bounds here to win but there is the possibility that his poor performance is now behind him and Higgins is still yet to bowl in a dodgy session. I think if Barry is to win this he’s going to have to rely on John having a woeful run of frames at some point and him being able to mop up the scraps he’s left. I’d like Barry to win but somehow I just can’t see it happening.

Predicted: Higgins 17-12.

Recommended Bet: Double on Selby to make more than 2 centuries and Higgins (-2.5 frames) pays over 5/2 at Bet 365 – if you fancy this but don’t have an account with them click the banner below to take advantage of a new customer offer. A mad double on the two predicted scores pays 168/1 with the sponsor.

April 24, 2017

World Championship Quarter Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:54 pm

It’s Quarter Final time at The Crucible as we head into the second week of this great championship with only 8 of the 32 starters remaining.

It’s been an eventful opening week, the first part of which I spent in the snooker bubble of Crucible Square where I met the usual crew of anoraks and snooker fanatics as well as catching up with some familiar faces behind the scenes.

It’s a strange place Sheffield at this time of year and if you aren’t careful you can begin to believe that the rest of the world doesn’t exist while the snooker is on. As usual after spending the first five days there I headed back to the safety and security of my arsedent to watch the rest of the championship. I’d like to thank World Snooker for letting me access the inner sanctum of The Crucible again, it’s a great experience for a snooker fan like me and I know how lucky I am to be able to do this. 

All things said, as things stand I don’t think it’s been a particularly stand out championship so far but with the eight names that are left I think that will probably change this week. Each match up is worthy of being a ranking final in its own right and we’re surely on a direct path to classic semi-finals and final, with all manner of permutations still a possibility.

So without further a do I’ll take a look at each of the four great matches awaiting us from Tuesday onwards.

As ever, click on the match to take you to the head to head record.

Mark Selby v Marco Fu

You know when your car is about to conk out but just keeps going? It chugs, it stalls, but it just about moves? Or for dog lovers, when that old hound has run its last lap but hangs on in there because its owner can’t bear to be without it? Well, to me that’s Marco Fu in this championship. He’s lost almost as many frames as it’s possible to lose to still be here but he still is. Now, in the words of Ol’ Blue Eyes he faces the final curtain in the shape of the defending champion who is not even playing that well but still coasting through. If you take a look at the stats from his last match against Guodong and blot out the score you’d be forgiven for thinking that he lost. But Selby is basically doing a Selby here and like a great opera singer, warming up for the main event with a few practice notes. He’s got his eye on the one table situation and Marco won’t be troubling him here, the car is buggered and the poor old dog is ready for the knackers yard.

Prediction: Selby 13-7.

Recommended Bet: Selby (-3.5 frames) at 6/5. 

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Ding Junhui

A renewed Rocket has been displaying the sort of tenacity that we associate with him walking off with trophies in his opening two matches and has dug deep when he had to. Clearly motivated by Shaun Murphy’s motivational slagging off in the last round he played like someone with a point to prove and kept Murphy at arms length the whole match. Ding on the other hand fell over the line against Liang having started the match well. In terms of the head to heads, these are very one-sided. If you discount two old Premier League match ups (which I do), you need to go back to 2006 for Ding’s last and only victory over Ronnie in anything half important, Ronnie has since then beaten Ding everywhere from Sheffield, through China, via London, Coventry and Newport. I’ll be honest, before I saw the last round I really fancied Ding to win this one but after witnessing Ronnie’s manner around the table I think he’ll once again assert his authority over China’s finest and possibly in some style.

Prediction: O’Sullivan 13-10.

Recommended Bet: O’Sullivan (-2.5 frames) at 10/11. 

Kyren Wilson v John Higgins

Well I got into a right load of lumber over on Twitter the other night for daring to have the audacity to say that I don’t really enjoy watching Higgins too much, OK it was in the context of a tongue in cheek slur on Steve Davis so that wasn’t helping but the way some people reacted you’d think I’d broken into their house, rogered the family cat before murdering their nan. Even if I don’t enjoy watching him that much only a blind person would argue that he isn’t a class act on the baize and his win over Mark Allen put his cap firmly in the ring as a potential champion come next Monday. Kyren is rediscovering his form at last after a pretty turgid few months and he’s not without a chance here if he reproduces the form he showed against Bingham, but something tells me that he’ll also need John to have at least one bad session for that to be enough for him to win, something he doesn’t really look like doing. 

Prediction: Higgins 13-9.

Recommended Bet: Higgins (-3.5 frames) at 10/11.

Barry Hawkins v Stephen Maguire

A pretty even head to head record between these two as you might expect with them being quite evenly matched. Maguire seems to be happy being a non-seeded player this year and is doing the reverse of when he’s been seeded of late and playing like a seed (if you catch my drift). He’s lost just 5 frames so far at The Crucible so any talk of Ponds Forge fatigue can pretty much be consigned to the dustbin, he’s even managed the best part of a week back in Glasgow to rest and recuperate. Barry is continuing his strong form at The Crucible which is now seeing him on most people’s shortlist, including mine, of possible new champions from the start and I was impressed how he pulled away from Graeme Dott and finished the job off clinically in the final session. They are both cueing superbly so I expect this one to be a high quality affair littered with big breaks. I’ve backed them both in the outrights so this is my interest semi-finalist, gun to head I’d go for Mags, but I hope the bullets are blanks.

Prediction: Maguire 13-12.

Recommended Bet: Over 2 centuries in the match at 5/6. Over 22 frames in the match at 11/8.

RECOMMENDED ACCA: Selby (-3.5), O’Sullivan (-2.5), Higgins (-2.5) and Maguire (+2.5) pays over 12/1. 

April 20, 2017

World Championship Second Round Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:47 pm

So the first round banana skins have been either picked up and placed in the bin or slipped upon and now we get to the three session matches, this championship just gets better and better.

Rather than give the big preamble here I’ll save this for the daily morning posts, so let’s get straight into the eight matches in this round, obviously this post will be updated as and when first round matches finish.

As ever just click on the match in question to take you to the head to head record courtesy of Cue Tracker.

Mark Selby v Xiao Guodong

Selby was clinical rather than dazzling in the opening round, dispensing with his opening day opponent Fergal O’Brien with his usual ruthless precision. He didn’t really score that heavily in terms of centuries but sometimes he’s like that and Fergal isn’t the type of player that leaves things wide open so it’s very much a case on Mark’s side of ‘job done’. Guodong justified most people’s faith in him coming through against the seeded player Ryan Day but in the process of his 10-4 win only hit three breaks over 50 with a highest of 78, this against a player who does give you a few chances. That is something he will have to improve on vastly to win here and I’m not sure he’ll get the same level of scoring chances in this that he had against Day. Selby has beaten him on both previous meetings, not easily, but all things together to me this points to a comfortable win for the defending champion over the longer distance, I think he’ll probably win every session, my guess would be 6-2, 5-3 and 2-1.

Predicted: Selby 13-6.

Recommended Bet: Selby to make more than one century in the match at 5/6 with Bet 365. 

Neil Robertson v Marco Fu

They’ve locked horns quite a few times down the years these two but this will be their first Crucible meeting. Marco ensured his intro would have some reference to him being snooker’s new comeback king after his heroics against Luca Brecel in the first round but any repeat of his first session shenanigans here will surely see him on the first train out of Sheffield. Robbo was solid in his first round match against a nervous debutant with one ton and a further 5 breaks over 60, he was also back to his sharp talking best afterwards and you can tell he’s bang up for this after by his standards a pretty average season. Some might say that with Marco having dodged a (Belgian) bullet that his name is already being etched onto the trophy but for me he’s going to have to improve a lot here to win. I’m siding with Robbo as I don’t think he’s quite done with this whole Crucible caper just yet.

Predicted: Robertson 13-8.

Recommended Bet: Robertson (-3.5) at 7/4 with Bet 365.

Shaun Murphy v Ronnie O’Sullivan

It’s a pretty open secret in the snooker world that these two don’t really get on, in fact I’d go as far as to say they probably really dislike each other, which makes this a real mouth watering clash for us fans. Ronnie’s rage against the machine after round 1 grabbed the headlines of course but on the table he looked pretty sharp to me too. Murphy survived a frightener and but for a fluked final red ahead of a real pressure clearance could have been on his way home, but he survived. The last time they met here, a highly disciplined Rocket gave Shaun a massive walloping over this distance, it remains to be seen if he can recreate that again here given his seemingly rather different mental state but my guess is that this will be a bit closer than that one. Murphy did score his first meaningful win over Ronnie at the German Masters in 2015, their last meeting. They both seem to be needing a few chances to polish off frames at the moment and that makes for a close match usually, let’s hope they don’t let us down. Let the needle match commence.

Predicted: O’Sullivan 13-10

Recommended Bet: O’Sullivan (-2.5 frames) at 10/11. 

Liang Wenbo v Ding Junhui

All Chinese clashes at the Crucible are like buses, you wait years for another one to happen and then you get two within a week. Ding scored so heavily against Ghou in round one with three tons and a further 6 breaks of 50 or more and surely a repeat of this is all that’s required to win here. Liang did something that I’m not used to seeing him do to win his opener and that’s dig in and make a real match of things, he seems to be enjoying life in the top 16 and looks set to stay there for a while but he doesn’t have the scoring power of Ding on the big stage yet. In terms of the head to heads, they are all in minor events except for their meeting here back in 2009 when Ding won 10-8 in Round One. I can’t see anything other than a Ding win here and I’m definitely sensing that it’s going to be him and Selby going to battle in the semi-finals this time around.

Predicted: Ding 13-8

Recommended Bet: Over 2 centuries in the match at 4/5. 

Stuart Bingham v Kyren Wilson

Well the head to head between these two makes very interesting reading doesn’t it? Two matches in full ranking events and two comfortable wins for Kyren, plus two minor wins on top makes it 4-0 over the 2015 World Champion. Both rose to challenges in Round 1 and after the match Bingham admitted that he would need to improve in order to win this one, his defeated opponent Ebdon, who knows both of them well said he thought it would be a tight match, but that he fully expected Kyren to be World Champion in the next three years, a bold prediction which I assume means that he thinks he’s in with a chance this year. The record books favour Kyren then, but the bookies make Bingham favourite, I have to say before I saw the head to head I agreed with the bookies and think the odds are about right, for me this is a close final session affair with Bingham using his Crucible experience to his best advantage, but I could be wrong.

Predicted: Bingham 13-12.

Recommended Bet: Winning Margin to be Under 3.5 frames at 11/10. 

Mark Allen v John Higgins

Both players seemed keen to talk down their chances after the first round so here we will get to see which one of them was justified in doing so. Mark Allen claimed he was lucky to win against Jimmy Robertson and apologised to him at the end while Higgins more or less wrote off his chances of winning the title for a fifth time either this year or in any other, so confidence is not high on the list of either players attributes as things stand. This should be an open, attacking match and the head to head between the two is pretty close. Higgins has won all their long match encounters including a semi-final here back in 2009 and a semi-final earlier in the season in the middle of his big money run. I think now Higgins has got a decent win out of the way it might be just what he needs to have a good run in this, he’s been quiet in 2017 and sometimes that can work in a players favour. I fancy Higgins to do the job here.

Predicted: Higgins 13-10.

Recommended Bet: Match to be level at 4-4 after first session at 11/4. 

Barry Hawkins v Graeme Dott

This promises to be an entertaining, attacking affair with two players who don’t hang around going head to head over the best of 25. I watched every ball of Dotty’s win over Ali Carter and he’s still such a sharp player, his long potting is excellent and he is a maestro at picking out long range pots to nothing. He’s not a heavy scorer which is possibly his biggest weakness these days but under pressure there are few better than him. Barry, like Dotty, saves his best for Sheffield and I think this one could be a real classic if they both bring their Crucible games to the table. In terms of scoring, Barry wins but if like Ali, he lets Graeme front run, he’ll do well to catch the Scottish Terrier. The 4/1 available on Dott for this match is quite frankly too good to not back just for interest, for me he’s a 7/4 shot here. But I’ve backed Barry in the outrights and the way he dispensed of the potentially dangerous Tom Ford leads me to believe he’s bang up for this again. But, in a curious twist, despite thinking Hawkins will probably win I’m going to recommend backing Dott as those odds are just bonkers.

Predicted: Hawkins 13-9.

Recommended Interest Punt: Dott to win at 4/1 with the sponsors. 

Stephen Maguire v Rory McLeod

‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off’ springs to mind when I think about Rory beating Judd. It was an unlikely result and I’m not sure that the focus on Judd’s injury was in the best possible taste as Rory definitely deserves a lot of credit for the way he handled the match and let’s face it, his impatient, over-confident, some might argue complacent opponent. What Rory did do, under the expert tutorage of Peter Ebdon, was get inside Judd’s head or to quote Alfred Burden ‘The Highlander doing Judd’s canister clean in’, something that players have been known in the past to do to his opponent here. Mags was superb in Round 1, 8 breaks of 50 or more and a strong all round tactical game to wallop McGill 10-2 followed by a few days back home sets him up nicely for this. During the McLeod/Trump match I availed myself of the 66/1 available on Maguire and that has to now look like decent value. Can lightning strike twice? Perhaps. But this time I think we’ll see Maguire bully from the off and not make the mistake that Judd did of letting Rory back into it, after all, he was keeping an open mind after his first match and hinted that he thought Rory might be his next opponent, so he’ll be ready for this.

Predicted: Maguire 13-9

Recommended Bet: Maguire to make more than one century in the match at 6/5 with Bet 365.

Recommended Multiple Bet: Bingham/Wilson over 22 frames, O’Sullivan (-1.5 frames), and Ding and Selby both to make more than one century in their matches pays over 17/2 at Bet 365.

If you fancy either of the bets above but don’t have a Bet 365 account just click the banner below to take advantage of free bet offer for new customers. 

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