Tuesday sees the beginning of one of the richest events, in terms of history and prestige, that snooker has. To a nostalgic old fool like me, the re-introduction of Corals as the sponsors for the UK Championship is bound to bring the memories flooding back.
As a young Snookerbacker I attended this event many times in its heyday, namely the early to mid-1980’s. Snookerbacker the Elder lived in Preston at the time and as an annual Xmas treat he would get me tickets for the final, all four sessions, and in a run of three fabulous years I witnessed Terry Griffiths, Alex Higgins and the Nugget all lift the trophy at the Guild Hall. The first two finals being something really special in an atmosphere that is sadly confined to these years in the UK.
I’ll get the moan out of the way before moving on to who I think might be lifting the trophy this year a week on Sunday. I think the format of this competition has been ruined by Barry Hearn. In events such as these I completely disagree with the 128-man field from the start at the venue.
The Sports Hall at The Barbican is nice enough and I love York as a host city, but I feel the urge to have everyone crammed in there like lemmings rather than have a qualifying event before taking 32 to the main venue is over-riding common sense.
The matches are of course a lot shorter than the glory years, whilst that cannot be blamed solely on the current regime, they have seen fit to shorten them further by reducing the two session semi-finals to best of 11 frames. For me, this tournament isn’t a patch on what it was.
But, it is what it is, whatever that means and from Saturday onwards we welcome back the BBC to the world of snooker. No doubt they will completely erase everything that’s been happening since Selby won the World Championship in May and pretend that there are only really 3 events that matter, but what the heck. At least we get to take the piss out of the gang again. Look out for a new addition to the studio team too.
To reiterate, the format is basically cram them all in from the start and use 8 tables until there are enough hotel rooms vacated in York to move it all into the main arena for the BBC cameras which begin rolling on Saturday. The bigger names will all get to play in the arena from the start, though not necessarily on a televised table, with the lower ranked and riff raff confined to the sports hall.
Having a look at the quarters, it’s very difficult to come to anything other than the conclusion that this will be won by one of 6 or 7 usual suspects. The form of Shaun Murphy in Mulheim has seen his price drop from 25/1 to 16’s and there will still be a few who will be tempted in at that price given his incredible cueing at the weekend and his new found break-building, ‘kill it off in one visit with a maximum’ acumen.
Ronnie O’Sullivan was last seen waltzing to the Champion of Champions title and he’s by all accounts bang up for this and of course, if he turns up in earnest, the others are up against it. He’s short enough given the size of the field but looking at his draw I think he’s more or less certain to make at least the Quarter Finals and from there on he becomes a very short priced favourite indeed, possibly touching odds-on.
You have to wonder how much becoming a father will have affected Mark Selby’s practice regime. He missed Mulheim, either to change nappies or to get match sharp but he may be best watched in this rather than backed. But I said that at the World Championships too and he didn’t do too bad there. Judd Trump is in decent form and is seeded to meet Ronnie in the final again, as he did in Coventry, I would not be a bit surprised if that happened.
Neil Robertson doesn’t yet look 100% to me, but he’s so good even him on 80% is capable of winning this if things go his way. Other players who seem in decent shape coming into this are Marco Fu, Stuart Bingham, Ricky Walden, Rob Milkins and of course Mark Williams, who is looking a bit more like his old self lately, unlike his old rival John Higgins who was last seen roaming a field with a shovel looking for a bulls arse to hit.
The lesser-spotted Ding is another, like Robbo, who to me doesn’t look quite at his best yet but he’s a player that raises his game for events like this so the 10/1 might start looking very generous as the tournament goes on.
In terms of a very big outsider, the only name that stands out at a daft each-way price (300/1) to me is Alan McManus, but in reality you can’t see him making the final so I’ll pass on the each way bet on him for a change.
Recommended Outright Bets: 5 points on Ronnie O’Sullivan at 3/1. 2 points each way on Judd Trump at 9/1. 1 point on Alan McManus to win Quarter 1 at 33/1. 1 point each way on Marco Fu at 40/1. 1 point on Mark Williams to win Quarter 4 at 12/1.
Recommended First Round Acca: 4 points on Peter Ebdon, Anthony McGill, Dominic Dale, Fergal O’Brien, Rod Lawler and Ali Carter pays just on 7/2 with Boyles.
Daily match bets will be added ermm, daily. The best of luck with your bets.
Peter Ebdon v Ross Muir
Robert Milkins v Michael Leslie
Graeme Dott v Alexander Ursenbacher
Barry Hawkins v Ashley Carty
Kurt Maflin v Chris Norbury
Marcus Campbell v Scott Donaldson
Anthony Hamilton v Craig Steadman
Nigel Bond v Stuart Carrington
Alan McManus v Joel Walker
Stuart Bingham v Thanawat Tirapongbaiboon
Judd Trump w/o Rouzi Maimalti
Michael Holt v Zak Surety
Tom Ford v Barry Pinches
Alfie Burden v Chris Wakelin
Aditya Mehta v Alex Davies
Dechawat Poomjaeng v Andrew Norman
Recommended Tuesday Match Bet: 3 x 2 point doubles and a 2 point treble on Donaldson (8/13), Carrington (8/13) and Wakelin (Evens).
John Higgins v Lee Walker
Matthew Stevens v Allan Taylor
Xiao Goudong v Ian Glover
Martin Gould v Lee Page
Anthony McGill v Michael Georgiou
Jamie Cope v John Astley
Gerard Greene v Vinnie Calabrese
Ben Woollaston v Michael Wasley
Dominic Dale v Tony Drago
Ding Junhui v John Sutton
Jimmy White v Dave Harold
Mark King v James Cahill
Matt Selt v Hammad Miah
Andrew Higginson v Tian Pengfei
Mike Dunn v Andrew Pagett
Joe Perry w/o Liu Chuang
Ricky Walden v Steve Davis
Fergal O’Brien v Igor Figueiredo
Ryan Day v Lyu Chenwei
Mark Selby v Oliver Brown
Robbie Williams v Sam Baird
Jamie Burnett v Fraser Patrick
Rod Lawler v Alex Borg
David Morris v Li Hang
Recommended Wednesday Match Bets: 2 points on Astley (+2.5 frames) at Evens. 3 points on Glover (+3.5 frames) at Evens. 3 x 1 point doubles and a 1 point treble Patrick (7/4), Calabrese (11/8) and Wasley (5/4).
Ken Doherty v Mitchell Mann
Dark Mavis v Jak Jones
Marco Fu v Ahmed Saif
Mark Williams v Steven Hallworth
Jamie Jones v Liam Highfield
Luca Brecel v Noppon Saengkham
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v Robin Hull
Jimmy Robertson v Zhou Yeulong
Ali Carter v Zhang Anda
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Daniel Wells
Mark Allen v Eden Sharav
Liang Wenbo v David Grace
Rory McLeod v Ian Burns
Peter Lines v Joe Swail
Jack Lisowski v Chris Melling
Cao Yupeng v Lyu Haotion
Neil Robertson v Joe O’Connor
Michael White v Cao Xin Long
Shaun Murphy v James Wattana
Stephen Maguire v Lu Ning
Kyren Wilson v Gary Wilson
Yu Delu v Oli Lines
David Gilbert v Elliot Slessor
Mark Joyce v Ratchayothin Yotharuck