Snookerbacker

August 2, 2019

International Championship

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:01 pm

Mark won’t want to let go of the vase

The International Championship burst onto the snooker calendar a few years ago with record breaking prize money and it remains one of the most prestigious tournaments in terms of cash prizes around, it gets underway on Sunday in Daqing where Mark Allen defends the title he won 12 months ago.

There are 8 heldover matches from the qualifiers kicking things off, these include Allen’s potential banana skin against Peter Lines and recent Riga Masters Champion Yan Bingtao’s opener against Alfie Burden.

It is also the first outing of the season for the World Champion Judd Trump, who comes into this as favourite, something that he’s going to have to get used to every time he lines up from now on, such is the expectancy following his dazzling Crucible performance.

As you would expect it’s a high quality field with only O’Sullivan missing from the big hitters so it will be very interesting to see who has been putting the hours in over the extended break and who has got a decent tan and a dusty cue case.

It’s always difficult to gauge form this early in the season but in the seven years this has been running it has only really produced one eyebrow raising winner, Ricky Walden (remember him?) back in 2014, from outside the upper echelons of the game, with Trump, Higgins, Selby and Allen sharing the other titles, so history tells us that you’d have to gamble that the winner will be someone with proven trophy pedigree and not from the lower ranks. The big question of course is who will be taking home the vase, I mean trophy?

In the top quarter, assuming Allen doesn’t slip on that banana skin early on you’d have to give him a favourites chance of reaching the semi-finals given he’d have a very winnable path to the last eight. In Quarter two, you have a few big hitters in the shape of John Higgins, who has already lifted the World Cup this season and has form here, recent Pink Ribbon winner Stuart Bingham and lurking at the bottom of the quarter, Neil Robertson, who I am assured will turn up on time for this one. It will also be interesting to see if Shaun Murphy can get back to anything like any form this early in the season at fancy prices in the outrights, but the bad news is that he’s in probably the toughest section of the draw.

Quarter three would usually be an automatic tick in the Mark Selby box, but until he starts playing like Mark Selby again I think I’d give him a wide berth and for me this is the section that could produce a semi-finalist from a little lower down the ranks, Crucible semi-finalist Dave Gilbert perhaps. The bottom quarter is where Judd opens his account for the season and he’s seeded to meet another member of the Riga Careless Crew Kyren Wilson in the semi-finals but there are obstacles for both along the way if there is any rustiness there. It will be interesting to see how Judd reacts to his new status of the man they all want a shot at, it’s a whole new ball game for him this season.

So, it’s potentially a very decent week of snooker ahead and it is of course all covered on Eurosport, I’ll back a couple to low stakes for some interest and just use this as an assessment early on of who might be looking good for a decent season.

Recommended Bets: (All E/W) Mark Allen @20/1, Stuart Bingham @22/1, Dave Gilbert @40/1, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh @190/1. Quarter Betting Doubles/Trebles/Acca on Allen, Bingham, Gilbert and K.Wilson, acca pays 749/1 at Ladbrokes.  

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

Click here for the Eurosport listings

July 25, 2019

It’s Snooker Time!

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:09 am

Snooker: A*, Model Painting A*, History: U

This weekend sees the return of competitive snooker on Eurosport as the potters, well some of them at least, head over again to Riga in Latvia for the Riga Masters.

The qualifiers for this were held about a month ago and since the Snooker World Cup, which I didn’t watch a ball of, it’s been a welcome break to allow both players and fans to regroup and look forward to the months ahead on the baize.

Despite it being holiday season, there are still a few big names who have decided to make the trip. Mark Selby will be attempting to put a fairly miserable season last time behind him and rediscover his winning ways early doors, Mark Williams is going there not having picked up his cue for a month, which he said when he won The World Open last season too, and Neil Robertson, fresh from his realisation that Chernobyl was actually real also adds prestige, if not an in depth understanding of political and nuclear history, to the starting line up.

But this has to be seen as a chance for some of the lower ranked players to pick up a bit of pocket money to help them on their way to another busy season, despite the fact that there are mutterings afoot that not all those lower down the rankings are that happy with the way the calendar is beginning to shape up.

There does seem to be an increasing move toward invitational events with the odd free-for-all car boot sale events so beloved of Ronnie O’Sullivan falling by the wayside. You don’t want to go upsetting those numpties too much Bazza, they’ve been propping the purse strings up for the last few years.

Ronnie himself as we know has vowed to not play in any of the Triple Crown events this season, which I will believe when I see it, instead opting for the likes of the Champions Cup (Champion of Champions) and the Regal Welsh (Welsh Open) to dazzle us with his brilliance, though I’d say we’ll definitely see him at Ally Pally in January and probably also at The Crucible, for his annual meltdown.

I’m going to be flitting in and out of tournaments this season and other than the three big ones I’ll not be going too heavy on the old gambling, unless something really stands out. I’ll bash up a couple of recommended outright bets for these lesser tournaments, but with the best of sevens back in town here, no match betting for me until the longer matches come around again.

Recommended Outright Bets (all E/W): Ali Carter (18/1), Joe Perry (25/1), Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (33/1), Lyu Haotian (66/1). 

Enjoy if you are tuning in, here is the Eurosport schedule.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

June 13, 2019

Tipping Point

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:43 pm

There has been a noticeable rise lately in the number of snooker tipsters on social media. Tipsters exist in all sports so there is no reason whatsoever that snooker should be any different, but the way it’s increased lately, particularly in what I’d term the ‘wet behind the ears’ brigade, has awoken me from my semi-blog-retirement to recount my own experiences in this area, and hopefully offer some advice to those new to these shark-infested waters.

It may or may not interest you to know that I have never called or considered myself a snooker tipster. This is not the reason that I set up this website many years ago. My passion, if you can call it that, as well as snooker itself, was always the writing side of things and I’d been more or less bullied, in the nicest possible way on the old Betfair Snooker Forum to set it up, no doubt because everyone on there was sick of me and wanted to chat amongst themselves without me sticking my oar in all the time.

Indeed, the name of the site (Originally – Top Drawer – The Snookerbacker Blog) was only named as such because that was the name I chose at random for my Betfair handle, I was a backer not a layer, a lover not a fighter and it seemed obvious to me that simply carrying this over onto a new and different site would bring my online friends from Betfair here with me, which it duly did. A happy by-product of my chosen name (or as many have laughably referred to it in the past ‘my brand’) was the double meaning it gave later to my ambitious 5 year amateur tournament adventure backing grass roots snooker. This was purely by accident.

As I rambled on and on, sometimes posting several blogs daily, it became apparent from the increasingly busy comments section on here that it was gaining quite a following. The early obsession with ‘hits’ and ‘visitors’ which all bloggers have came and went and people seemed to enjoy what they were reading as much as I was enjoying writing it, but soon the questions started being asked by my original chums, those who put me up to it in the first place – ‘this is good and all that, but errrmm, where’s the tips snookerbacker?’

So, the almost accidental, and largely reluctant fall into writing previews for snooker events and accompanying them with bets began, with me trying as best I could to carry on enjoying the writing side of things while putting my neck on the line with my supposed in-depth knowledge of the sport.

To be fair, it started pretty well, and I have to say at this point that it was becoming rather enjoyable writing up conclusions and seeing the winners roll in, the very definition of beginners luck was happening to me. Of course there were bad calls, which inevitably brought about the odd, literally, negative comment.

One particular call that stands out was a recommended bet on Sam Baird in a World Championship qualifying match in the early days which he impressively managed to lose 10-0. This brought about probably my favourite insult of all time when one person, who had presumably been convinced enough by my rationale on Sam’s credentials to carry off a comfortable win and not lose 10-0 to follow me in accordingly with his pocket money, decided that he wanted me to ‘DIE in a house fire in my wheelchair clutching my benefit book’, quite why he dreamt this very specific scenario up I’ll never know, but suffice to say it didn’t happen, well not yet anyway.

It turned out that a very nice member of Sam’s family contacted me not long after the match to tell me he’d been in bed with flu in the week before the match. To be fair, I have met Sam a few times since those days and he always seems to have a cold, but how was I to know that then?

Anyway, where was I? Before I start losing the point and getting all rose-tinted about the good old days. Oh yes, that’s it, the pressures that tipping brings.

I was beginning to get interest from bookmakers wanting to advertise on the site and unlike now, in those days they were quite prepared to pay a decent sum of money for this once they saw the traffic this place was getting and the customers it could get for them in a market that was at this point just emerging in the early days of Barry Hearn’s dictator…I mean leadership. However, this increased the gambling focus of the site and with that came a more intense period of tipping up matches and tournaments, to such an extent that it was almost expected on a daily basis and the level of subsequent thought going into the bets diminished accordingly.

Coupled with this and a massively increased amount of traffic, people I’d never encountered before were starting to demand I publish my profits and losses even though I’d never reached into anyone’s pocket to tell them to back my tips, nor asked anyone for any subscription fee of any kind and I really couldn’t be arsed, but the inevitable accusations then began that I was ‘covering up’ and ‘hiding something’ (quite what I don’t know) and that I was ‘in bed with the bookies’, which I most definitely wasn’t as I always demanded a flat fee up front for any deal and not, unlike some I have heard about, who stood to gain more by people following in any losers they flagged up – the old ‘profit share’ payment agreements, I was always, and remain, on the side of the punters.

I didn’t really like where this was beginning to head to be honest and my honeymoon period was definitely over.

You have to remember that this was at a time when very few snooker websites existed and in terms of blogs, I was beginning to be talked about in the same sentence as Dave Hendon’s pioneering Snooker Scene Blog, where people went for in-depth behind the scenes news and the legendary Pro Snooker Blog, which was the information and rankings bible for anoraks. The only difference was that my clientele came for toilet humour and degenerative gambling. I did however consider myself, almost certainly delusionally, as one of the golden triangle of snooker bloggers and now it was all beginning to fall on its arse because of betting.

Anyway, as the sleepless nights worrying about flagging up losers and wondering where the next winner was coming from increased my lack of enjoyment, a saviour arrived in shape of a blog follower called Mark who offered to do all the profit and loss maths for me and send me a chart every time it needed updating, all I had to do was put it on here and not worry about people asking stuff like that anymore, he also reassured me that he’d checked already and that I was holding my own with reputable tipsters he’d encountered in other sports, so that made life a little easier and my deflated ego feel a little more stroked.

So in conclusion, to the new breed of tipster that has started inhabiting the old bogs and cesspits in which I used to forage and emerge stinking of shit, I can offer some advice and observations gained from experience, mostly because I have either done, or at least considered doing, all of them. You can take the advice if you like, you can ignore it, I really don’t give a toss, but here it is.

  1. You are never profiting as much as you think you are, take a step back, if you tip on things just because they are happening you can never win in the long term, you have to be selective and be prepared to leave whole events alone if nothing takes your fancy.
  2. Don’t cry when you lose, don’t make excuses, don’t claim that the match was bent and definitely don’t personally insult the player that lost. Oh and (quite specific this one) don’t claim that a fellow tipster was lucky to select a massive priced winner because you’d done the research and it shouldn’t have won, that can only make you look stupid and the other tipster look even better.
  3. Don’t take it, or yourself, too seriously, most rational people understand that you lose more than you win, in terms of quantity of bets. In my case that happened a lot and the reason I remain in decent profit year on year is that the winners are quality over quantity when it comes to the prices. In other words, nobody rational cares if you win or lose a few quid backing 20 short prices if you bag them a big winner every few weeks. On a personal level, at the end of this, the best you can hope for is that people respect your opinion if not always listening to it, the next best is that you are forgotten and not ridiculed and hated by the people you led astray with your awful tips. The worst does not bear thinking about. 
  4. Unless you have a tried and thoroughly tested method which is solidly based on mathematical theory, don’t even think about charging for tips because you think you’ve got it sussed. You haven’t, you will end up stressed out, looking stupid and people won’t trust you ever again. 
  5. Even if you think you are having a fair strike rate on a certain event, don’t go down the subscription route, refer back to Point 1 and read all these points again.

Anyway, it’s largely been fun being a reluctant tipster, with the occasional ‘oh fuck it’s time to end it all, where’s the matches, oh fuck they are in my other wheelchair with the benefit book in’ moment to spice it up. But I’ve definitely noticed a change of tone amongst those doing the tipping recently and I’m glad I did it when I did as I think you’d need either nerves of steel, a masochistic personality, a never ending supply of hard drugs or probably all three to take it on at the level I did. I’ll factor in that I think betting on snooker is much more difficult now than it was when I started out, so you’ll probably need more drugs.

Just remember, when the fun stops, make sure that big winner isn’t far away or you’re fucked.

Here endeth the lesson.                 

June 9, 2019

Season Specials

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:21 pm

Off we go again

This is more of a memory jog post for me really but today a couple of firms are pricing up some season long bets and as I did last year, I’ve decided to have a play on them.

The markets in question are on individual players to have a ranking event success over the course of the season and Black Type Bet are happy to accept multiples on these markets so I’ve gone with four players who at the prices to me represent a great bet to sit down and cheer on this season.

I’d go as far as to say that I would be disappointed if the first fourfold at a shade under 7/1 hadn’t landed by the end of January.

I’ve followed those four as bankers with variations on a further three riskier players, two of whom are still seeking their maiden ranking title but are getting closer as the seasons pass and the other who is usually reliable to produce the goods during what is an increasingly lengthy season.

I have steered clear of the obvious picks as you’d imagine Judd, Ronnie, Selby and Robertson will all get their hands on some silverware at some point this season, indeed in the case of Robbo, it’s basically an annual tradition now for him.

If you do fancy going at the really short prices, you would have to factor in that Ronnie won’t be playing as much this season, indeed if his latest rant can be with taken with anything more than a pinch of salt he’s planning to skip all three ‘triple crown’ events. You’d also imagine that Judd will be a little more choosy now he’s World Champion and that Selby and to a lesser extent Robbo will continue to pick and choose, but that’s more of a gamble.     

So if you decide to have a play head over to Black Type or Ladbrokes/Corals to see what you can find, my bets are below. Remember these are ranking events only, The Masters and any other invitational events don’t count.

Recommended Season Specials (all with Black Type Bet):

Fourfold pays over 13/2 on John Higgins, Kyren Wilson, Mark Williams and Mark Allen.

Fivefold pays over 21/1 on those four plus Jack Lisowski.

Sixfold pays over 35/1 on those five plus Stuart Bingham.

Sevenfold pays over 121/1 on those six plus Dave Gilbert.

 

May 14, 2019

Q-School 2019 Details

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:30 am

It’s back to school for the potters.

The World Championship may be over but for amateur snooker players, the biggest event of the season is nearly upon us as we head to Wigan for this season’s Q School. The four semi-finalists from each of the 3 multi-player events will earn a place on the World Snooker Tour for 2019/20 and 2020/21, with a further 4 players also receiving tour cards, presumably from the Order of Merit list that runs over the three events.

It’s the usual mix of players, from those fresh from dropping off the main tour last season, to those who’ve been ploughing the amateur and senior tours in preparation, to the rookies to the no-hopers, it really is a real mish-mash of standards here and always makes for a very competitive couple of weeks.

This year a few bookmakers have priced up qualification from Event 1 which starts on Saturday, whilst Ladbrokes/Corals have also come up with a wider ‘to qualify at any point’ market.

There are some very familiar names there looking to bounce straight back on to the tour including the likes of Allan Taylor, Peter Lines, Sean O’Sullivan, Robin Hull, Ross Muir, Rory McLeod and Sandi Lam alongside a few Chinese players who are looking to re-enrol like Xu Si and Zhang Yong and European players Alexander Ursenbacher and Lukas Kleckers.

There are also familiar names to snooker fans who are also throwing their cue back into the ring after a spell away from the main tour like Jamie Cope, Barry Pinches and Andrew Pagget. We also have Reanne Evens, Rebecca Kenna and Ng On Yee in there flying the flag for the Women’s Tour as well as a smattering of players that hardened snooker fans might remember from back in the day who also fancy their chances of one last stab at the main tour.

I’ve had a few bets here and there but have avoided the favourites and looked at the capable players further down the list who are more than capable on their day of defying big odds, in Event 1 I’ve had a stab at Ben Hancorn at 80/1 and Wu Yize (who I have heard good things about) at 40/1.

I’ve had a daft multiple at Black Type which will probably bankrupt them if it wins on Sandi Lam (8/1), Barry Pinches (14/1), Leo Fernandez (25/1) and Billy Joe Castle at 12/1, all to qualify from the first event. Wish me luck with that as I’ll need it.

In terms of three lively outsiders in the ‘Qualify at any time’ market I’ve gone with Peter Devlin (15/1), Shane Castle (11/1) and a lad called Riley Parsons at 33/1, who I remember playing in my tournament a few years back and who looked very talented, he’s recently won a qualification event in Gloucester so has clearly kept it up.

The draws for all three 2019 Q School events, and the format of play are detailed on the links below. The events run from May 18 to June 4 at Robin Park Leisure Centre in Wigan.

Click here for event one draw

Click here for event two draw

Click here for event three draw

Click here for the format

 

May 2, 2019

World Championship Semi Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:02 am

It’s been a tournament of shocks so it’s no surprise that a couple of names that are still alive and kicking for the famous ‘one table situation’ are not ones that a lot of people will have expected.

I think it’s been an enjoyable championship so far if not quite raising the roof in a way that others have, the lack of a quarter final deciding frame was a bit of a let down and there will be many that will see the two matches we are faced with now as being one way traffic, but the championship is not done yet and there is still time for one final twist.

I’m not going to bother with recommended bets as I have enough interest still left in the championship with the 190/1 each way outright bet on Dave Gilbert and a special frames bet I requested at Ladbrokes, which basically entails the losers of every match from here on reaching 12 frames, so fingers crossed on that.

I will say that of the two players who start as outsiders in these matches I think Gary Wilson probably has the better chance of causing an upset. Dave Gilbert for the third match running faces another player who has denied him a ranking title in John Higgins. Their head to head strongly favours Higgins but Dave can take some encouragement from the fact he beat John on their last meeting in the 2017 World Open.

Judd and Gary have met each other on one occasion, again this was at the World Open and Gary rode out a 5-3 winner, so Judd will be looking to beat the Tyneside man for the first time to reach another final, perhaps again facing Higgins as he did in his only previous final appearance back in 2011.

I’ve been incredibly impressed with Wilson in this tournament and I honestly think he is more than capable of causing another upset. I think the 5/1 on him beating Judd represents a bit of value and I might have a nibble of it.

But I suppose it would be silly not to expect the final to be contested between Trump and Higgins, but as we know, this championship does sometimes throw up the unexpected, so it’s far from the nailed on certainty that the bookies seem to want to have us believe. Let’s just hope for two cracking semi-finals and if the losers could see fit to win 12 frames it would be greatly appreciated.

Dave Gilbert v John Higgins (Thursday 1pm, Friday 10am & 7pm, Saturday 2.30pm)

Gary Wilson v Judd Trump (Thursday 7pm, Friday 2.30pm, Saturday 10am & 7pm)  

April 29, 2019

World Championship Quarter Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:06 pm

It’s goodbye to the two table set up after this round

Four more best of 25 frame matches over Tuesday and Wednesday before we reach the one-table situation and it’s fair to say even Nostradamus couldn’t have predicted this eight correctly.

Click on the match for the previous head to head meetings. Pick and choose the recommended bets if you’d like a multiple.

Dave Gilbert v Kyren Wilson (Table 1, Tuesday 10am/7pm, Wednesday 2.30pm) 

Dave Gilbert again faces someone who has stopped him winning a ranking final in the sublime Kyren Wilson, who was patient against a barrage of centuries from Barry Hawkins to pounce when the pressure was on and rattle in two match winning tons of his own. Dave ended the tenure of the reigning champion, who though clearly not feeling himself, still gave it a good go, but Dave played extremely well and looked confident in the balls, something you feel he will have to do again from the off here. Kyren really looks like he is enjoying himself in the Crucible cauldron and absolutely nothing seems to be phasing him. If one thing has been missing from his game this season it is high scoring, frame winning breaks, but even without that he’s got a very high win ratio, so now he has it, watch out world. Having backed Dave at 190/1 a few months ago and recommended against him in both matches so far he’ll be delighted to hear that I’m doing so again, I think the eventual champion comes from the top half of the draw and it could well be Kyren.

Prediction: Wilson to win 13-8

RECOMMENDED BET: Wilson (-3.5 frames) at 11/10

Neil Robertson v John Higgins (Table 1, Tuesday 2.30pm, Wednesday 10am/7pm)

You have to go back almost 6 years to the last time Higgins got the better of Robertson, indeed all but 2 of John’s 7 victories over Neil have come over the best of seven frames or less, when the frames rack up, it’s the Aussie who historically takes command. Higgins closed out a tight fought win over Stuart Bingham last night in typically workmanlike style and anyone who was writing him off before the championship is being reminded of his Crucible pedigree once again as he aims for a third successive final. Robertson has been elevated to tournament favourite now based not only on his pre-tournament form but on his performances so far here, including a dismantling of Shaun ‘ten jobs’ Murphy in the last round. He’s lost less frames than any other player left in this and for me goes into this as a strong favourite. Higgins will obviously put up more of a fight than his previous two opponents but if Neil sticks to the game plan and ignores who is sitting next to him I think we’ll see the Aussie back at the one-table set-up again, after all it’s been long overdue. But I don’t expect the demolition jobs of previous rounds.

Prediction: Robertson to win 13-10

RECOMMENDED BET: Over 4 centuries in the match at 11/8

Gary Wilson v Ali Carter (Table 2, Tuesday 10am/7pm, Wednesday 10am)

Much will be made of the fact that this is a guaranteed qualifier into the semi-final, but as we all know, Ali Carter is a qualifier in name only so it won’t exactly add novelty value if he once again makes it to the one table situation. Gary however, despite his undoubted self-belief would probably have doubted you just a little if you’d told him he’d be one match away from the wall-less arena set up having dispensed with Mark Selby in clinical fashion. There will be those who will tell you that he simply took advantage of a below-par Jester, but I’d disagree, Wilson played very very well, as he has in every match he has ever played at The Crucible and I think Carter will have to play very well here to beat him; better than he has done so far in his first two matches at least. They have met on one occasion, just over a year ago in China when Wilson rode out the 6-4 winner. In terms of scoring, Wilson is doing that a lot heavier than Ali so all the pointers are towards the Wallsend man, The one doubt in my mind has to be the experience levels of the two, but you only get experience by ermm, getting experience, and for me Wilson is playing well enough to win so has to be given the nod.

Prediction: Wilson to win 13-10

RECOMMENDED BET: Gary Wilson to win at 19/10. Gary Wilson (-1.5 frames) at 12/5. Gary Wilson to have the highest break in the match at 11/8.     

Stephen Maguire v Judd Trump (Table 2 Tuesday 2.30pm, Wednesday 2.30pm/7pm)

These two have met once this season when Maguire came out on top in Berlin ending a run of six straight defeats to Judd, which included a couple of real wallopings. Maguire has ridden his luck and then some in this, but sometimes the Snooker Gods like to play things that way and who is to say that his luck is bound to run out eventually? Judd benefited from a complete collapse by Ding Junhui last night, Ding inexplicably seems to have forgotten how to break build and you have to say that unless he really knuckles down his chances of being a world champion are more remote now than ever. On the contrary Judd now carries the hopes of his fans into another second week campaign and this time the naughty snooker is being kept to a minimum and Mr Safety has been invited to the party. Of the two this week it’s Maguire that has been noticeably the heavier scorer and I may be swimming against the tide here in giving him a decent chance here. Judd now has to cope with being a strong favourite to reach the final from this half and that brings with it all sorts of pressure, Maguire I’m sure will just be there to give it a go and I would not be surprised at all if he pulled off the win, I’m not sure how this one will go, I’d say it will either be a walk in the park for Trump or very very close indeed.

Prediction: Either Judd 13-6 or Maguire 13-12.   

RECOMMENDED PUNT: Maguire to win at 7/2.   

RECOMMENDED WILSON SPECIALS (Ladbrokes): 

Kyren and Gary Wilson to win by more than 1 frame, have more than 1 century and have the highest break in both their matches at 20/1.

Kyren and Gary Wilson to win by more than 3 frames, have more than 1 century and have the highest break in both their matches at 50/1.

For there to be 15 or more centuries in the Quarter Finals at 11/4

    

April 24, 2019

World Championship Round Two

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:07 pm

As the opening round draws to a close it’s time to take a look at the ties in the Last 16, this post will be updated as and when matches are known, just click on the match for the head to head record.

Remember that we now move to the 3 session Best of 25 frame matches for the next two rounds of the championship.

We’ve lost Ronnie, we nearly lost Judd and we’ve had a whitewash from a resurgent Shaun Murphy, alongside deciders and one-siders aplenty, what does the next round have in store? Let’s take a look shall we?

TABLE 1

Mark Williams v Dave Gilbert (Friday 25th 2.30pm, Saturday 26th 10am and 7pm)

The defending champion started solidly enough with consistent scoring against Martin Gould and once he got a hold in the match he never really looked like being headed. Gilbert came through a very tough opener against Joe Perry by the same 10-7 scoreline but somehow that one felt a lot tighter than Williams’ match did and Dave held himself together well when Perry threatened a comeback at the end. Their last meeting will have left a snooker scar on Gilbert, it was the World Open final at the start of the season when Dave was just one frame away from his first big ranking title, only to lose the last five frames and hand the title to Williams. But the scar will not really be about the opponent rather than the occasion itself so I wouldn’t say that will play a part here. As you might expect, Williams had the better of their previous encounters and he looked like he was bang up for this in the first round, I can see this being a match where he establishes an early lead and keeps his opponent at arms length.

Prediction: Williams 13-10     

Barry Hawkins v Kyren Wilson (Sunday 28th 10am/7pm, Monday 29th 1pm) 

The pair’s third meeting of the season with Wilson currently ahead 2-1, but it’s Barry who has the overall advantage, which is probably what you’d expect considering that Wilson, these past couple of seasons, is a completely different proposition to the player who struggled to get a frame off Barry at the start of the decade. I expect this to be a very ‘neat’match, with very few mistakes and plenty of breaks over 50, if not over 100. I think it will be won and lost on the tactical side of the game and who has the stronger safety game, something which they are very evenly matched at. Barry hasn’t had a great season by his own standards but much is always made of his Crucible pedigree and his amazing consistency here, but I’m going to side with Kyren just on the basis that he’s very much on the up and has the look once again here of someone who means business.

Prediction: Wilson 13-11

Recommended Bet: Over 23 frames in the match at 9/4 

John Higgins v Stuart Bingham (Saturday 27th 2.30pm, Sunday 28th 2.30pm, Monday 29th 7pm)  

Another pairing where the last time they met was a final, this time back in 2016 when Higgins won the China Championship. Much has been made of Higgins poor recent form but he looked pretty sharp in the first round with three centuries and five further breaks over 60. Bingham, 8-1 up and cruising against Dotty decided just chill out and watch a bit of snooker from his seat before somehow regaining his composure to win in a decider, so it’s fair to say that he’s used up a little more mental energy than he might have been expecting to after the first session. The head to heads are convincing in Higgins favour and you’d be a fool to oppose him on his first round form, he’ll be looking to kick on from that and we all know how dangerous he can be when he gets his tongue between his teeth.

Prediction: Higgins 13-8    

Shaun Murphy v Neil Robertson (Thursday 25th 1pm, Friday 26th 10am/7pm)

Just one frame dropped between the two men who breezed through the first round against opponents who looked like they had just landed on Earth and were just getting the hang of stuff. But you still have to go out and perform and they both did and both looked razor sharp in the balls, which came as no surprise with Robertson but Shaun looked as confused as everyone else in the audience did with the way he was knocking them in after a season best described as forgettable. The last time they met over a long distance was Murphy’s Masters win in 2015, when he gave Neil a right old pasting in the final, oddly, the last time they met at all was just over 4 years ago which given they have been permanent fixtures in the top 16 is one of those odd snooker anomalies. Shaun proclaimed after the match that if they both play the same again this could be a classic, I hope he’s right, but I detected some flaws in Murphy’s game that are still there, he wasn’t punished at all when he got a bit careless and that won’t happen here. I can only see one outcome in this and it has to be Robertson, comfortably.

Prediction: Robertson 13-6      

TABLE 2

Mark Selby v Gary Wilson (Thursday 25th 7pm, Friday 26th 2.30pm, Saturday 27th 10am)

Gary Wilson became the first qualifier to proceed into Round 2 with a tense win over Luca Brecel that included an incredible final frame which went on for about a week. His only ranking final to date came back in 2015 when he was heavily defeated by his opponent here, who seemed in very jovial spirits after a customary first round comeback from 5-1 down to Zhao Xintong. His scoring was very similar to Higgins in that match with three tons and a whole host of frame winning contributions so it may not be wishful thinking now to believe that after a very nervy start, he might just be coming back to his best. I did think after the match he seemed incredibly relaxed and perhaps the mantle of being Number 1 is something he’s happy to get rid of, but he’d better not be too sick of it because there is every chance with the early exit of O’Sullivan that at the end of this he’ll be back there again. As for this match, I can’t see Gary getting too close, if it goes tactical which I’m sure it will at some point, Selby should have enough in the tank to pull clear eventually and not eek every last drop out of the match.

Prediction: Selby 13-8

Ali Carter v Zhou Yuelong (Sunday 28th 10am/7pm, Monday 29th 1pm) 

A pretty meaningless head to head between the pair means that we should only really go on their form to get here, this of course being the only match where both players have already won 40 frames in the championship. Ali was clinical in his first round against Lisowski, who it has to be said at times played some real kamikaze snooker. Yuelong held himself together well in the face of a comeback from Mark Allen when he had already benefited from an inexplicably bad session from Mark. I’m pretty convinced that Ali will see this as a match that he should not lose and I’d expect him to look to really impose himself from the start and if he does, I can see him winning this very comfortably.

Prediction: Carter 13-6    

Judd Trump v Ding Junhui (Saturday 27th 7pm, Sunday 28th 2.30pm, Monday 29th 7pm)

Plenty, including me, will be scouring the ties in this round and wonder where the annual classic second rounder is coming from, well I’d look no further than this one. Drama seems to follow Judd around here and he needed all 19 frames to take care of Theppy and set up a fourth World Championship meeting with Ding, with Judd leading 2-1. In competitive snooker over the years they have played a total of 142 frames and Ding leads 72-70, which just tells you all you need to know about how evenly matched these two are, arguably here we are seeing the best players ever to play the sport without being a World Champion, an accolade that at least one of them will maintain for at least another year. Of the two, Ding was by far the heavier scorer in Round 1 and also looked the most comfortable with the surroundings, which he doesn’t always here. I’ve always thought both of these two are vulnerable in the two table set up and don’t really relax until they reach the bigger stage from the semi-finals, only losing there to stellar performances rather then under-performing. On first round form I’d have to plump for Ding, who like Selby, looks like a man with a weight lifted from him, but I’d not put him in any straight accumulators as this one could get very twitchy.

Prediction: Ding 13-11     

Stephen Maguire v James Cahill (Friday 26th 10am/7pm, Saturday 27th 2.30pm)

Two players who may suffer from a bit of shell shock even being here, Maguire because he should really have been beaten in the first round and possibly owes his win to a fluke, Cahill well, I don’t really have to elaborate why he might think he is dreaming do I? It’s a very odd one this for me as history tells us that when the unlikely giant slayer re-enters the arena to start again, he tends to under-perform and go out with a whimper and leave everyone saying what a shame it was he’d beaten so and so, but I have a feeling Cahill may prove an exception to this, particularly if Maguire gets a bit careless as he can do quite often. The one thing that I think will divide them however is Maguire’s heavier scoring. Cahill was knocking tons in for fun in the qualifiers but he didn’t get near one against Ronnie, despite some very good frame winning breaks. I’ll side with history here and plump for Maguire but I wouldn’t be surprised if Cahill gave a decent account of himself again.

Prediction: Maguire 13-9

RECOMMENDED BETS: Total Frames Treble – Williams/Gilbert Over 21, Robertson/Murphy Under 21, Ding/Trump Over 22 – pays 13/2. Add John Higgins (-2.5 frames) and acca pays over 16/1. Match Handicap Acca: Higgins (-1.5), Robertson (-2.5), Williams (-2.5), Ding (+3.5), Selby (-3.5) pays just under 12/1.  

April 21, 2019

Ding Junhui Press Conference

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:02 pm

Ding Junhui produced the goods today with a 10-7 win over Anthony McGill, he sets up a possible mouth-watering encounter with Judd Trump in Round 2. Here he has a little chat and it seems he is happy to be under the radar this year.  

April 18, 2019

World Championship 2019 Preview – Ronnie Can Make it Super Sixth

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:15 pm

The World Awaits….

Seventeen days of snooker bliss awaits us from Saturday when defending champion Mark Williams gets things underway on Table 1 for the first round of the World Snooker Championship from The Crucible.

It hardly seems like 12 weeks, never mind 12 months, since Williams turned back the hands of time and carried off the trophy for the third time, he’s spent most of the intervening period getting trousered and playing golf, with the occasional snooker match in between and never I’d guess has a champion enjoyed and shared the fruits of his labour so publicly, perhaps he is the natural successor to the original People’s Champion.

Similarly to last year, when it has to be said he came into this in great form, he’s shed a few pounds. The difference between this year and last however where MJW is concerned is that by relative standards he’s had a quiet season on the table, but that isn’t always a bad thing and sometimes the eventual winner is someone who has been flying under the radar for a while, or famously on one occasion, someone who hadn’t even left the runway all season.

Someone who most definitely hasn’t been flying under the radar this year however is Ronnie, who has been in superb form all season with only the occasional blip. His heavy defeat at The Masters to Judd Trump has already been avenged in Llandudno and the two are set to meet up in the quarter finals here, a match which if it happens will surely not let anyone down.

Similarly in fine fettle coming here is Neil Robertson, fresh from his China Open win. Robbo’s not made the one table set up here for a few years now and has come into it in great form before and disappointed, but he’s looking as strong as ever in the balls with 78 centuries this season already to his name. If he brings the same form he’s been showing of late with him he is in with a great chance from the slightly more lenient top half of the draw which he played himself in to by winning in China.

Has anyone seen Mark Selby anywhere? The Jester’s form has deserted him completely for the most part of the season. OK, you could argue that he’s been a little unlucky to lose a few close ones against his peers, but he’s also thrown in the odd howler which is very unlike him. However, he is another player who has won here in the past after a quiet season, so beware sleeping giants and all that.

Perhaps this might be a ‘Bingham Year’ in that we’ll see an unexpected pair of hands on the trophy on May Bank Holiday Monday, could someone lower down the top 16 or even a qualifier do the business and have a dream 17 days on the baize totally against the form book? Any scenario is likely here so the only advice I will give is to be prepared to expect the unexpected.

So without any further ado, here are the match by match previews. Click on the match to see the head to heads and scroll down for any bets that are recommended, including a list of the ones I have flagged up through the season already and backed.

Let the adventure begin…..

QUARTER 1 (TABLE 1)

Mark Williams (1) v Martin Gould (Saturday 20th 10am/7pm)

The reigning champion faces a tough opener against the Championship League winner Gould who qualified with victories over Daniel Wells and Gerard Greene after an opening ten grand practice session. What is most surprising about their head to head record is that they haven’t faced each other more, particularly in the years where Gould was skirting around the top 16. They have both picked and chosen events this year, Williams understandably, Gould less so and his reasons for not entering events, particularly overseas, that count heavily towards rankings remains something of a mystery. It’s fair to say that before the win in Coventry, Gould had done next to nothing all season and has spent a lot more time away from the baize than on it. Williams I am sure will be proud to be introduced as champion and he’s far too experienced to let the occasion get to him, Gould scored OK in the qualifiers but will have to up that considerably to trouble Williams here.

Prediction: Williams 10-6      

David Gilbert (16) v Joe Perry (Monday 22nd 7pm / Tuesday 23rd 2.30pm)  

Twelve matches played between these two and precious little to seperate them would indicate to me that this one will be very close. Perry for me is probably the qualifier all the seeds wanted to avoid, he knows how to win here and to all intents and purposes it is irrelevant who is the seeded player in this match, as any other day it could be the other way around. Joe only lost 5 frames in the qualifiers, less than any other player, and it never looked like anything but a formality for him so you’d imagine that match sharpness will be there, he’s also avoided a first weekend start which I think will please him. Dave has had such a wonderful season and it is great to see a player of his huge ability get into this as of right, it’s a new experience for him being here without having had to qualify and sometimes new experiences are a little difficult to get used to. I’ve backed Gilbert at silly odds in the outrights but when this draw came out, I sort of put that one in the pending disposal file, I just think Joe will be the sharper and he is the most experienced of the two here.

Prediction: Perry 10-7  

Barry Hawkins (9) v Li Hang (Wednesday 24th 10am/7pm)

One of the debutants Li Hang faces a Crucible specialist in Hawkins so on paper and knowing what we know about this place, Barry has to be happy with this draw. Li was quite the opposite of Perry in the qualifiers and came through two real tight matches to qualify. Incredibly, he beat Ben Woollaston 10-8 with only one break over 50, a 53, so it’s fair to say that a reprisal of that scoring can only see him on his way home early here. However he has been steadily rising up the rankings year on year and is now hovering around the top 32 so though he doesn’t really look like a world beater, he can clearly scrap out results and that is sometimes what you need to do here. Barry’s not had a great season barring a run to the semi-finals in the World Grand Prix and if you discount a final appearance against Gould in the Championship League he’s struggled, but this is the kind of draw that I think will suit him, he can scrap too and I think this will help sharpen him up for the next round and perhaps another annual Crucible run, as is traditional in the Hawkins household at this time of the year.

Prediction: Hawkins 10-4   

Kyren Wilson (8) v Scott Donaldson (Wednesday 24th 2.30pm / Thursday 25th 7pm)

Whenever a seeded player is asked who they would like to draw at The Crucible in the first round, most state a preference for someone who has never played there before. Well, Kyren Wilson must have been a good boy because he has got just that in the form of the improving Scott Donaldson. Scot, Scott who is Scottish and from Scotland put his friends, family and fans through the ringer in late night Judgement Day drama in squeezing through a decider and the bonus for him is that he doesn’t have to start again until Wednesday. The bad news however is that he is facing a player hungry for Crucible success, who exudes confidence and is predicted by many to be a future champion. German Masters champion Kyren has been steady all season, losing only the odd match that you’d say he shouldn’t have and for me a steady approach from him here will be enough to set up a second round match with Hawkins which I think might produce the semi-finalist from this section.

Prediction: Wilson 10-5 

QUARTER 2 (TABLE 1)

John Higgins (5) v Dark Mavis (Sunday 21st 10am / Monday 22nd 2.30pm)

There aren’t many players on the circuit who can say that they hold a superior head to head record over John Higgins, but Mavis is one of them. Of their last 10 meaningful matches, Higgins has only won two and at this very stage 6 seasons ago Mavis qualified and beat the four times champion and runner-up for the last two seasons, 10-6. It’s strange that sometimes these things happen in head to heads, whether it’s a style of play that suits the way you play or just a psychological advantage, it’s clearly something which gives Mavis this apparent hold over Higgins. So, all in all, he should really be over the moon with this draw and Higgins less so, Mavis has three solid wins under his belt from the qualifiers and the fact that Higgins has been far from his best of late should give The Dark One further hope. Nothing is going to stop me from predicting an unlikely first round exit for John this year, given what the form and history books coming into this tells me.

Prediction: Mavis 10-8 

Stuart Bingham (12) v Graeme Dott (Tuesday 23rd 10am/7pm)

The Terrier really got his teeth into the qualifiers. Dotty continued his 5 year unbeaten World Qualifiers run in only losing 8 frames over three best of 19 matches and scoring heavily in the process of doing so. He said afterwards he didn’t care who he drew as long as he got a few days off and that’s fell into place nicely for him. That confirms to me that the only reason Graeme doesn’t continue to compete at the highest level more regularly is down to his stamina, he just seems to be running around knocking them off the lampshades one minute and then almost comatose the next. I think he’s always a threat when he first turns up fresh here and having watched him lead from the front against Ali Carter a few years back it’s clear if he gets his nose in front he is very difficult to peg back so that is where Bingham will need to be at his sharpest from the start of the match and assert. I struggle to call this but oddly, I reckon we’ll have an inkling who is going to win after the first four frames, the prediction below is not a confident one as this one is very difficult to call before a ball is struck and if Dott gets the early lead I’d reverse the score prediction below in his favour.

Prediction: Bingham 10-6      

Shaun Murphy (13) v Luo Honghao (never played before) (Sunday 21st 2.30pm / Monday 22nd 10am)

I’d wager good money that the piano references before this match on the BBC will be off the chart. Shaun as we know fancies a little tinkle but if this match was decided on recitals, he’d be heading home before you could say Beethoven’s Fifth. Luo, who wears a glove on his bridge hand, is a bit nifty on the ol’ joanna and he proved this week that his talents extend to potting as well as playing. He had three wins against three good opponents, including a first round defeat of an under par Marco Fu, he scored ok but only scored one ton in the 30 frames he won so you’d imagine he’s not going to be outscoring Shaun here. Murphy comes into this in woeful form, the worst season of his career can only get worse if he loses to a debutant here and my advice to him would be to just treat this as an experience to enjoy, very much like when you play the piano, then if and when you get sent home, regroup and come back stronger. But I don’t expect him to lose here, just by virtue of the fact that he’ll get chances and with them he’ll be knocking enough in to win. Now then, you sing and I’ll play.

Prediction: Murphy 10-7

Neil Robertson (4) v Michael Georgiou (Saturday 20th 2.30pm / Sunday 21st 7pm)

Robbo is a lot of people’s idea of the champion this year and I wouldn’t put anyone off backing him. He’s also been handed a Crucible virgin here in the shape of Michael Georgiou, who for anyone who doesn’t know who he is, is the player they use on that BBC2 lead in to the snooker where the rest in the shape of a number 2 starts giggling. Anyway, he will be the first Cypriot to grace the Crucible stage but what a stinker of a draw he’s gone and landed himself with. Michael is another who used up a lot of energy (and frames) in the qualifiers, but he’s clearly a player who has massively improved over the past two seasons and one that I have been guilty of writing off too much. Robbo though comes into this in prime peacock mode, strutting around the table and looking every inch the player he was when he lifted the title and more recently when he made the ton of tons. It would be a huge shock if he were to fall at the first here and it’s difficult to see him not making the one table set up at least this year in my opinion.

Prediction: Robertson 10-3 

QUARTER 3 – TABLE 2

Mark Selby (3) v Zhao Xintong (Monday 22nd 10am/7pm)

The three times World Champion has been handed who most believe is the toughest debutant of the lot here and he will be under no illusions about how well he’ll have to play if Zhao settles in and feels at home quickly. Oddly, I think it will help Selby focus in getting a tough first round draw. The pair met in the China Championship semi-final at the start of the season with Selby narrowly winning 6-4 despite a spirited comeback from his young opponent. Zhao scored heavily in his wins over Noppon and Matt Selt to get here and clearly has the game to really progress, but as ever, it will be down to how he copes with the first time Crucible nerves. Selby can have no excuses in terms of burn out this season as he’s usually gone these days before the BBC vans even arrive, perhaps the lack of expectation of him may just finally bring him back to his best, which is as we know, a recent multiple world championship winning best.

Prediction: Selby 10-8  

Luca Brecel (14) v Gary Wilson (Saturday 20th 10am / Sunday 21st 2.30pm) 

This could be a real cracker this under the radar. Wilson was the pick of the final round qualifiers for me with a stunning win over Liang Wenbo which included 3 centuries and 4 further 70 plus contributions, that type of snooker is very very hard to beat and he’ll, I suspect, be quite happy to have dodged some of the more fancied seeds and drawn Luca. After a very unpredictable season, the Belgian Bullet has finally pulled the trigger lately and put up a great show in China last month reaching the semi-finals and losing out to eventual winner Neil Robertson so his confidence will be ramped up coming into this. Gary has a match under his belt here when he gave Ronnie a scare and doesn’t seem the type of player to me that lets anything get to him. His confidence is high and I think he might just carry off the win here in what I think will be a high scoring match.

Prediction: Wilson 10-9 

Jack Lisowski (11) v Ali Carter (Wednesday 24th 7pm / Thursday 25th 1pm)

Another absolute corker of a tie here, with China Open runner-up Lisowski facing the man who knocked out Ronnie, almost in more ways than one last year, Ali Carter. Carter, like Perry, came through the qualifiers with the air of a player who was just going through the motions and it wouldn’t feel like The Crucible if he wasn’t there, which this year after a superb season Lisowski is as the seeded player. I’ve got a theory about Jack so bear with me, when he gets into a situation that he’s not used to, he tends to use it as a learning experience, it happened first round at The Crucible when he lost his first match here easily and then reversed it last time against Bingham, then he got walloped second round by Higgins, I think he’ll use his final loss in China against Robbo to put that right when it happens again. What I am saying is that when he knows he can do something and has done it before he seems quite comfortable and when he has had a bad experience he has the ability to turn it round. Following this half-baked theory through to its entirety for anyone who is still awake, that logically suggests that this year he will make the semi-finals, so let’s see how that pans out. Anyway, as tough a match as this is to call, I think Lisowski is so good these days that it’s getting very hard for me to back against him against any more than a handful of top players.

Prediction: Lisowski 10-7       

Mark Allen (6) v  Zhou Yuelong – never played before (Tuesday 23rd 7pm / Wednesday 24th 2.30pm)

Coming back for his second visit to The Crucible is Dennis’s favourite Chinese player Ghou Yolonge aka Zhou Yuelong who faces double ranking event winner this season Mark Allen. It’s fair to say that when it comes to The Crucible, Allen has underachieved, sometimes players just don’t play their normal game at certain venues and for whatever reason, often here Allen’s superb game seems to sometimes disappear. Around December last year Allen was arguably playing the best snooker of anyone apart from Ronnie, but since then he’s struggled on the table and by his own admission off it too, he skipped the recent trip to China despite having been expected to play so it’s hard to know if he did that to get sharp for this or because he’s just not right mentally. Zhou was scoring heavily in the qualifiers and was also showing emotion, which is something we’re not always used to seeing from the Chinese players, so if there is a market on fist-pumps in this one, get on the overs.

Prediction: Yuelong 10-7  

QUARTER 4 – TABLE 2

Judd Trump (7) v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (Tuesday 23rd 2.30pm / Wednesday 24th 10am) 

I’d imagine this will be a slow, dogged affair between two plodders – said no-one ever. A word of advanced warning to anyone with front row tickets to this one, take a safety helmet, because the way these two boys crack them in, if one flies off you’ll be joining the Great Billiard Hall in the Sky with the Snooker Gods if it catches you square on the bonce. What a match this promises to be. When the draw came out I immediately thought to myself that this is not the draw Judd would have wanted, but perhaps I’m wrong in that assumption? Does he want a good old fashioned potting contest to get his latest title tilt going or would he rather prove to everyone how well behaved his snooker is these days? It’s like when George Michael left Wham! and started making grown up songs, desperate to be accepted as something more than a pretty face…anyway, where was I? Oh yes, no idea what could happen here, but they both score for fun so I’d take a good look at the break markets. I don’t think Judd will win the title this year but if he gets through here I hope he gets that match with Ronnie that we all want to see.

Prediction: Trump 10-6 

Ding Junhui (10) v Anthony McGill (Saturday 20th 2.30pm / Sunday 21st 10am)

Sometimes in life things are hard to forget, your first kiss, the first time you fell in love, your first dog, the first time you smelt freshly cut grass, the first time you turned up at The Crucible for a second round match full of hope on Table 2 against Ding Junhui and got an absolute pasting in front of millions of worldwide viewers. That is what Anthony McGill will have to put out of his mind if he is to get anywhere near winning here (the last one I mean not the grass or kiss stuff). A masterclass from Ding against him on this very table saw him race to a 9-0 lead over the bewildered Scot before cruising to victory, those kind of scars can take time to heal. Anthony performed escapology in the final qualifying round turning around a 7-2 deficit against Rob Milkins but he’s not beaten Ding in 4 attempts. I think despite the fact Lord Lucan has been easier to spot than Ding this season, the head to head tells me all I need to know here as the pair return to the scene of the crime twelve months ago.

Prediction: Ding 10-4    

Stephen Maguire (15) v Tian Pengfei – never played before (Saturday 20th 7pm / Sunday 21st 7pm)

It’s taken him a while, but finally Tian Pengfei has made it to The Crucible. Tian is part of the slightly older contingent of Chinese players (see Liang Wenbo, Xiao Guodong, Zhang Anda) who have flattered to deceive early in their careers and remain incredibly inconsistent. With wins over Ryan Day and Matthew Stevens under his belt I don’t think there will be many Welsh people cheering for him but he’s played well enough despite falling asleep towards the end of the Stevens match and nearly clutching defeat from the jaws of victory. I think Tian is a fine player but he’s just too inconsistent to think of anything other than a bit of a modern day journeyman, it’s nice he will get the chance to play here at least once but I can’t see him pulling up any trees against the fairly consistent Maguire, who by all accounts has been putting the hours in with Higgins and McGill at a new set-up north of the border, he should get to have another crack at Ronnie in the Last 16.

Prediction: Maguire 10-5  

Ronnie O’Sullivan (2) v James Cahill (Monday 22nd 2.30pm / Tuesday 23rd 10am)

‘People are actually forgetting that they played before in the UK and James Cahill was a bit like a rabbit in the headlights’ exclaimed JP rather presumptuously at the draw ceremony. People are actually forgetting that because it actually never happened. They have played each other three times before, but never in the UK and each time James has put up a decent show without winning. Much will be made of Cahill’s current amateur status and there will indeed be a few diehards out there who will say he shouldn’t even be in this, but he’s professional again in a few months time, is clearly more than good enough to be in the worlds top 144 players unlike a few of the others they let in so it’s not really something I’d get too animated about. So to Ronnie, oh Ronnie, oh Ronnie, what do I do? Do I? Don’t I? Will you just let me down if I tip you to win this thing? For me the draw is ideal for him, not so much this one, but the quarter he is in, challenging enough from the next round onwards and his possible match with Judd (or dare I say it Ding?) in the QF’s I’m sure he will see as the ultimate challenge, he tends to win ultimate challenges more than he loses them. He’d then be down to the one table situation where his record speaks for itself and this year if he gets that far I can’t see him not winning the title. Whilst I have ummed and aaared for weeks over this, I think this is his best chance for a few years to win it in a highly competitive field and though I think that the outright price is too short for me to back, if he does win, he tends to win in some style so I’ll be recommending ‘Ronnie with Benefits’ as my main bet this year in the outrights.

Prediction: O’Sullivan 10-4    

RECOMMENDED BETS: O’Sullivan to win the World Championship, make over 1 century in every match and to not need a deciding frame at 13/2 with Ladbrokes. Ding Junhui to win the World Championship at 35/1 at Black Type.

RECOMMENDED MATCH MULTIPLE BETS: (more to follow on Friday) 

Mark Williams, Stephen Maguire, Shaun Murphy, Barry Hawkins, Kyren Wilson and Ding Junhui acca pays 11/2 with Bet 365.

Joe Perry, Dark Mavis, Gary Wilson, Jack Lisowski trebles and an acca, acca pays 29/1 at Boyles.

Over 1.5 centuries in all these matches Brecel/Wilson, Lisowski/Carter, Selby/Xintong, Allen/Yuelong and Trump/Un-Nooh – special bet at Ladbrokes pays 6/1.

None of these players to make more than one century in their first round match – Mark Williams, Shaun Murphy, Kyren Wilson, Barry Hawkins – Acca pays 9/1 at Bet 365.

Total Frames in Match – Higgins/Mavis over 16, Brecel/Wilson over 16, O’Sullivan/Cahill over 13, Trump/Un-Nooh over 15, Gilbert/Perry over 16 – Acca pays over 19/1 at Bet 365.

Ladbrokes Special – Every player to hit more than 1 50 plus break in the first round at 20/1 (Boosted).    

ALREADY BACKED: A century in every match was 22/1 now 11/1. Neil Robertson to win China Open and Reach Crucible Final 12/1 (Requested at QF stage in China). E/W Outright on Mark Williams 20/1. E/W Outright on Jack Lisowski 80/1. E/W Outright on Dave Gilbert 190/1. 

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