Snookerbacker

October 14, 2018

The English Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:07 pm

Back with the numpties at the car boot sale

This week sees the first of the four legs of the Home Nations events, with snooker being played in Crawley, where apparently there has been an event before, but I can’t remember what it was.

These are of course the events that form part of the pot at the end of the rainbow that is £1 million for anyone that can win all four of them. In fact, finding the pot at the end of said rainbow is probably a piece of piss compared to the nigh on impossible task here.

Ronnie O’Sullivan returns to competitive action and seems to be getting a bit confused with the ranking list. The recent Shanghai Masters winner and current world number three believes that if he were to win this event he’d be the lowest ranked player ever to win a professional tournament.

The hapless Rocket is basing this ridiculous assertion on the fact that he’s not earned any money so far this season in ranking events, on account that he hasn’t been playing in them. But he’ll clearly reassert this stupifying piece of buffoonary several times as the week goes on to try and make people believe him.

Don’t. It’s fake news.

He’s also been having a go at the poor old Numpties again, reminiscing back to the good old days when he just played at venues in front of huge crowds and never had to qualify for anything and wondering why people who in his words are ‘very poor at the game’ are professional.

What he appears to be blotting out is that as well as the holy trinity of the Class of ’92, who are still owning three of the top four spots on the tour in which he is of course included, there are also a few thousand others who were in that class who now put ‘ex-professional snooker player’ on their social media profiles, leaving out the bit that they were only professional because they paid to do it when the floodgates were opened for anyone with a cue and a bulging wallet to do so. Mark my words, he played a lot more numpties in his early days than he does now, The Norbreck in Blackpool was like a mecca for numpties back in the day.

Again, fake news.

What isn’t fake news is the suspension of Jamie Jones that happened this week which I wrote about here and also a rather bizarre outburst from Mark King in the qualifiers in Barnsley during his match with Gerard Greene. Poor old Kingy got so frustrated at his lack of form that he huffed and puffed, banged and clanged and even told the referee to piss off. I think despite his protestations and sincere apologies at the end of the match he might be at least £250 lighter in the coming weeks.

Anyway, oh yes, this comp. You can predict your own outcome of it here and watch it on Eurosport all week. It’s best of sevens until the latter stages with 128 players in from the start, or as Ronnie likes to call it ‘car boot snooker’.

Here’s my outright selections for Crawley (where is Crawley by the way?). I have a feeling O’Sullivan will win it, but his price is way too short so some value each way pokes are the order of the day.

To Win Outright: Barry Hawkins (25/1) and Mark Allen (45/1 – Boosted)

Each Way: Stuart Bingham (40/1) Ryan Day (66/1) Yan Bingtao (66/1) Dark Mavis (150/1) and Gary Wilson (250/1) 

September 21, 2018

China Championship

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:00 am

You wouldn’t know from the photo but Shaun actually lost.

It’s back to China we head again next week, this time for a ranking event and the China Championship in Guangzhou, which this year sees total prize money of £725,000 with the winner bagging £150,000 of that purse. Luca Brecel is back to defend the title he won in style here last year before he turned rubbish for the rest of the season. It’s the third year of this event and the second time it’s been a ranker. 

Shanghai Master Ronnie has decided to skip this to give the others a chance and there are a few players who would really benefit from getting their seasons up and running as we enter the busy winter months on the baize.

One of them is current world number one Mark Selby, who looks set to be knocked off his perch by Williams in the not too distant future. If he’s to finish the season yet again as the number one player these are the events that he needs to start winning, but as yet he’s not really looking in great shape and seems to be continuing where he left off at the back end of last season, namely badly.

Others who will be looking at this event to springboard their seasons will be the likes of Judd Trump, John Higgins, Shaun Murphy and Stuart Bingham, while the recent form player so far this season Kyren Wilson will be looking to continue on the upward slope and climb up the rankings further EDIT – Kyren Wilson has withdrawn from the event since this preview was written.

Given O’Sullivan’s absence and the mediocre early form of some of the big players it’s wide open this one and this is reflected in the bookies going 11/2 on favourite Higgins, probably the first time for a while that Selby hasn’t gone off favourite in an event Ronnie isn’t in.

Looking at the draw however the 12/1 widely available on Ding Junhui could be a bit of value. I also raised an Roger Moore like eyebrow at the price on Bingham so that has to be backed.

Of the outsiders I think there is potential for the top quarter to throw up a semi-finalist at long odds so it’s worth having a punt on defending champion Brecel at 190/1 (Bet Boost) and Tom Ford at 200/1, either of whom are capable of making the last four if things go their way, Luca does look like he is returning to form and if you are a believer in horses for courses you’ll be positively salivating at that price. I’ll also throw in Graeme Dott at 190/1 (Bet Boost) from lower down in the tougher bottom half, so that’s my lot for this.

Recommended Outrights: Ding Junhui 12/1 (WIN), Stuart Bingham 45/1 (E/W), Luca Brecel 190/1 (E/W), Graeme Dott 190/1 (E/W), Tom Ford 200/1 (E/W).

Recommended Acca pays over 7/1 Joe Perry, Jamie Jones, Stuart Bingham, Dave Gilbert and Gary Wilson.    

You can view the full draw and even work out your predictions in this handy event planner here (and even enter the competition if you want to submit your predictions), view the match schedule here and view the Eurosport schedule here.

September 7, 2018

Shanghai Masters – All Change

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:30 am

Defending Champion Ronnie is amongst those competing for the big bucks here

I’ve been dipping in and out of the snooker so far this season and I plan to keep it that way for the most part, but now and again, as well as the big three UK based tournaments, I’ll awake from my semi-retirement slumber to focus on a decent event and this year, the newly formatted Shanghai Masters is one that I think might be a good watch.

The 2018 World Snooker Shanghai Masters will be held from 10th to 16th September at Shanghai Regal International East Asia Hotel and this year it becomes the richest ever invitational event in snooker’s history. 24 players, the top 16 from the current ranking list and 8 further Chinese players will battle it out for a total prize fund of £725,000.

Given that it’s always been referred to as a ‘Masters’ competition, it didn’t really make sense it being effectively a professional open event all these years and this fits far better with the remit.

Given the exclusive nature of this new format and the money at stake it now has a chance to cement itself in the calendar as the Chinese version of our own blue riband event at Alexandra Palace and it’s no surprise that all the big names will be there competing in what unanimously seems the Chinese city of choice amongst the players.

China is also keeping up its recent tradition of extending matches to a longer format, that’s one thing they do better than the UK. Matches here up to and including the quarter-finals will be played over the best of 11 frames, semi-finals best of 19 and the final a unique best of 21 frame encounter. 

Possibly the best way to work out your bets is by clicking away on the event prediction page at snooker.org as it seems the governing body still haven’t worked out how to get something resembling a readable, never mind interactive draw onto their spiders website, a website which is in dire need of some long overdue attention, it really is a mess.

It’s difficult to know how all of the top players are playing at the moment as they are mostly still feeling their way into the season, but early season winner Neil Robertson could face Ronnie early doors and recent (minor) ranking event winner in Germany Kyren Wilson could face Judd Trump. The whole draw just screams quality and I’d like to see all the players ranked 9-16 come through the first round to give this a real Masters feel. There is full coverage on Eurosport so this I reckon will really feel like the real start to the season as we look forward to some cracking ranking events around the corner, almost wall to wall until Christmas.

There is no such thing as a good draw in an event like this but you can look and see that a couple of the proven winners have potentially more comfortable paths to the semi-finals, after that of course it becomes coin-toss central. But looking at the draw I’d be prepared to risk a few quid on John Higgins. He tends to start winning stuff when he realises his holidays are done and dusted and he comes into this fresh having only played two competitive matches so far this season, winning both very easily. To me he looks a good bet to make it to the semis and there he could face O’Sullivan, who he has beaten 5-0 and 5-1 in their most recent meetings, over 2 sessions I’d be prepared to plump for the Scotsman again there.

In the other half, I’d say similarly World Champion and recent World Open winner Mark Williams looks to have a winnable path to the last four and I’d back him to be there before backing any of the players in the quarter of death above him. Mark Selby has won a minor event already this season but he admitted that he didn’t play that well to win it afterwards, but of course that’s what he does best and who would argue with him being able to do it again this week? 

So, in short I’d be backing the top 4 seeds to make the semi finals here, Higgins v Ronnie and Williams v Selby, but simply because I think he’ll have had the most comfortable route there and given his recent record against The Rocket, my only bet in the outrights here is Higgins. But you could of course try the quarter betting roll up too. I’ll post a first round acca here when all the wildcards have hopefully been dispatched.

RECOMMENDED BETS: John Higgins to win the Shanghai Masters @10/1 with Sportingbet. Acca pays over 17/1 boosted at Ladbrokes on Quarter winners being O’Sullivan, Higgins, Selby and Williams.   

August 23, 2018

The Paul Hunter Classic

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:24 am

After a busy week of qualifiers in Preston the tour returns this weekend to Germany, the town of Fürth near Nuremburg to be precise for the annual Paul Hunter Classic, which celebrates the all too short life of one of snooker’s great young stars.

Amateur players are already battling it out over there while the professionals make their way to the venue. It has to be said that it’s quite disappointing that so many of the top players are giving this a miss, it always seems like a very well run event in a nice arena, but unfortunately the prize money and prestige of it lessens year on year, despite the healthy German crowds that turn up to enjoy it all.

Of the really top players you can only really pick out Shaun Murphy and Kyren Wilson, which means that this is potentially a tournament that might produce snooker’s next ranking event winner, it’s not often you find Jack Lisowski, who is arguably the early player of the season, vying for favouritism in the outright markets but that’s exactly what has happened here.

Much like a lot of the tour, I’m not going to really be covering this in any depth but given the field it would be silly not to at least have a crack at the outrights, so a few against the field follows…

RECOMMENDED OUTRIGHT BETS (ALL EACH WAY): GARY WILSON 25/1, JAMIE JONES 33/1, TOM FORD 33/1, ROBERT MILKINS 40/1, JIMMY ROBERTSON 50/1.   

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

 

August 5, 2018

The Yushan World Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:39 pm

Back to winning ways in Haining

The second ranking event this season gets under way on Monday in what has in the past affectionately (I think, might be wrong here) been known by one of the players as ‘the arse end of China’ AKA the county of Yushan in China’s Jiangxi Province, where last year Ding Junhui lifted the title on home soil.

It’s a real planes, trains and automobiles trip for the potters this one, some of whom will turn up, get beat and then wonder why they bothered. But that’s the nature of the beast these days and for all the tough decisions about leaving your wife and that little person who doesn’t know who you are back home, that’s what it takes to make it at this game and these Chinese comps aren’t going anywhere soon. This week sees total prize money of £735,000 with a top prize of £150,000.

The past week has seen a few of the potters doing battle with some select Chinese players in the very secretive annual Haining Open, though in truth it’s about as open as that Book of Condolences they had for Jimmy Savile in Leeds Cathedral. I’ve no idea how the players playing in this are selected but anyway, there were some right old shenanigans going on there over the course of the event.

Marmite Matt Selt continued his charm offensive by letting a huge roar out with accompanying fist pump when beating a Chinese opponent who it is claimed was determined to put poor old Selty off at every opportunity, the after match handshake was more of a brush of hands and the Chinese player appeared to flick the finger at someone just after it. All very schoolyard.

Elsewhere, Liang Wenbo continued to do his second rate impression of Ronnie O’Sullivan by conceding a match early after missing a black off its spot. The petulant bendy faced cueman worships our Ronald and is frequently seen out dining with him on ducks gonads and antelopes arsecheeks and Ronnie has clearly been giving him advice on etiquette, I wonder what the Chinese for gobble is?

Anyway, amongst all this anarchy at least one thing didn’t change. World Number 1 Mark Selby ran off with the title having trailed Li Hang 4-1 in a best of nine final, so The Jester comes to Yushan with a trophy in tow and looking more like the man we all know and love.

As for this, it’s still very early in the season for me to bet with any confidence but I’ve had a good look at the draw and I think there might be one or two lesser known names making the last four, so I’ll just play on a few outrights and possibly put a few match bets up on Twitter each morning. Best of luck if you are getting involved.

Recommended Bets: Win Bets – Neil Robertson @9/1 Mark Allen @22/1. Each Way Bets – Marco Fu @40/1, Luca Brecel @125/1, Chris Wakelin @160/1 and Gary Wilson @200/1.  

The best way to work out your outright bets probably continues to be by playing around with the main draw here whilst the Eurosport 2 television schedule can be found here.

July 24, 2018

Snooker Returns – The Riga Masters

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:00 am

Ryan defends in Riga

OK, technically it had already returned with the qualifiers in Preston, but let’s be honest, only the most ardent of anoraks will have taken any notice of that. This week however it’s back on the box as the annual Riga Masters from Latvia opens up the snooker season proper.

Ryan Day made his ranking breakthrough in this last season, the first of three tournament wins in his best season as a professional and he is back to defend his crown having had his match heldover, also involved is World Champion Mark Williams.

Unfortunately, but largely understandably, a few of the other top players have decided to give this one a miss, there’s no Ronnie, no Selby, no Ding or Judd but there is the likes of Robbo, Murphy, Allen, Carter and Hawkins. The take up however was so low that there were a few walkover versus walkover matches in the qualifiers (to be fair they were more entertaining than a few of the others), so it’s fair to say that this one isn’t exactly ticking all the boxes with the players, I think probably through a mix of the time of year and the relatively low prize money.

But on the plus side it gives the numpties more of a chance. It’s a good opportunity for the lower ranked players to hit the ground running in what is again a marathon season, but even at this early stage, a semi-final or better showing from a lowly ranked numpty might mean the difference between staying on tour and dropping off, so it could be a good week for one or two to find some early season form and get their tail up for when we really get going.

In terms of the blog, I’ll be again dipping in and out of the snooker this season. The days of chasing hits and visits are long gone and it can get a little repetitive covering everything so I’ve decided to also work on a seperate snooker-related project that I’m quite excited about. I’ll be starting this when the weather gets a bit cooler and probably asking a few general questions on here and on Twitter as research.

In the absence of anything that makes any sense on the World Snooker website of late, probably the best way to view the draw (and enter the competition if you so wish) is the excellent Event Prediction draw page at snooker.org – until the governing body make some sort of effort to sort out their website to make it more informative and accessible then I’ll carry on linking to these, which are much simpler to work out, sometimes as they say, less is more.

I’ll leave you with a few outright bets, which looking at the draw might be worth a few early season quid.

Recommended Outright Bets: Kyren Wilson win at 7/1, Marco Fu each way at 35/1 (Bet Boost at Ladbrokes), Jamie Jones each way at 66/1, Zhou Yuelong each way at 80/1. 

May 6, 2018

World Championship Final – Back to the Future

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:12 am

If ever there was an excuse to reference my favourite film of all time this is it. It’s 26 years since this pair turned professional and this Bank Holiday weekend sees them rev up the DeLorean to 88mph and step back in time to contest the World Championship Final. For once I’d argue that the phrase ‘Quite Amazing JV’ is actually bang on the money.

John Higgins was first world champion in 1998, Mark Williams in 2000. Higgins is after a fifth title to equal another graduate from the Class of 92 Ronnie O’Sullivan, whilst Williams is seeking a third to put him level with Mark Selby, arguably the only player since these three burst onto the scene to break into their sacred triangle.

I make no secret of the fact that I want Williams to win, both from a financial point of view and from a personal one. He’s easily my favourite player to watch, including O’Sullivan, and I’d argue that 2 world titles doesn’t do his talent justice. But unfortunately he’s had to put up with John and Ronnie throughout his career and in truth when it comes to the stats and the record books he’s stuck at number three.

So can he change this pattern and overturn Higgins, who it has to be said is playing as well as ever coming into this and starts as a worthy favourite (best price 8/13, Williams best price 13/8).

It’s a tough ask for Williams, the schedule means that Higgins is better rested but they both had energy sapping semi-finals, which again heightens the argument that there should really be some kind of gap between the semi-finals and final. Perhaps earlier starts to the final sessions might be considered, personally I have always thought the semi-finals should be three and not four session matches to allow a rest day before the final.

They have met at The Crucible three times and for once the record books show Williams ahead at 2-1, he also won their most recent encounter last year in China so if he needs a pick me up, there it is right there.

I just hope that these two great champions turn up with their best games, despite what has gone before. Higgins proclaimed to have ‘plenty left in the tank’ when he spoke emotionally to Hazel, also stressing that the energy levels don’t have to cope with Selby this year like they did last, whereas Williams said he was ‘knackered’. You can watch both press conferences below, including Mark reiterating that if he wins he will do his press conference stark naked, almost an excuse for me to start supporting Higgins.

So may battle commence, I am unashamedly biased and I really hope Williams wins, do I think he will? If someone had a gun to my head I’d say the bookies odds are spot on and Higgins will win with a few frames to spare, but I really hope I am wrong.

Here are the head to heads.

Enjoy.

   

May 3, 2018

World Championship Semi Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:09 am

The stage is set

Three days until we know who will be contesting the final and I think I’m probably right in saying that this is the most open semi-final line up in years, no obvious winner from the four of them, all of whom are two wins away from getting their name on that famous trophy, either for a fifth time, a third time or for the first time depending on who wins.

It’s funny this year, usually by now I’m kind of starting to get a bit miserable thinking about the end and the inevitable post-Crucible blues, but this year, the longer it goes on the more I am enjoying it, and actually looking forward to a few snookerless months afterwards.

The one thing I have to mention here is how poor the coverage has been on TV this year, not just the BBC, but also Eurosport, who have decided without warning to stop showing both tables on their TV channels, which we have to subscribe to, but instead to have just one on telly and one on Eurosport Player, which we also have to subscribe to. A very greedy and grubby decision by the fat cats at the top.

The BBC, as we’ve come to expect, have been routinely not showing the second table on TV and instead point us to the various other means by which we can watch, all of which, with the exception of the bookies streams that they don’t point us in the direction of have a time delay.

I’m sorry but when Wimbledon is on you can choose between a whole multitide of courts on the Red Button and when the Olympics is on they have all sorts of obscure and dull as dishwater sports covered by this service, yet they can’t be arsed to have both tables covered on there for this. I know you can watch it online, but if you have one table on the TV you can hear what has happened on the other one about a minute before you see it online and that to me is next to useless.

Anyway, that’s my rant over with. In terms of betting, anyone who has religiously followed my outright bets will know what a strong position we are in. Each way bets on Williams at 40/1, Wilson at 40/1 and Hawkins at 28/1 are still going, meaning that we’ll have at least one finalist to collect from, if we can get Higgins beat, we might have two….

Click on the matches below for the head to heads.

Kyren Wilson v John Higgins

Thursday 1pm, Friday 10am and 7pm, Saturday 2.30pm

Higgins gave Kyren a good old pasting in the Quarter Finals on his way to the Final last year and comes into this on the back of a trademark quality performance and win over Judd Trump in a decider last night. Kyren on the other hand is coasting through, easy wins over Matthew Stevens and Jamie Jones before a surprisingly straightforward triumph over Mark Allen means he comes to this having dropped just 14 frames, far fewer than anyone else in the semi-finals. If Kyren doesn’t win it this year I’m pretty certain he will at some point, he has the look of a world champion, scoring heavily, great under pressure and sensible in his shot selection, a little like Mark Selby. I’ve made a lot about Higgins stamina, he’s now getting to the stage where he’s going to need the reserves in place mentally and physically to carry on and push for the line and his match with Judd will have taken it’s toll on him in my opinion, even having come through with a session to spare in his previous match. It’s a match that I have a vested interest in already and I’ll be cheering Kyren on for that reason and also because I like him and I want him to win, so the prediction below is probably best taken in that spirit.

Prediction: Wilson to win 17-13     

Barry Hawkins v Mark Williams

Thursday 7pm, Friday 2.30pm, Saturday 10am and 7pm

Two players who are familiar with the one table situation as Crucible specialist Hawkins takes on the revived and quite brilliant Mark Williams, who O’Sullivan apart, has been the Player of the Season this year. Hawkins surgical dismantling of Ding was ruthless, Barry is probably as nice a person as you could wish to meet, mild-mannered, loves dogs, very polite and the sort of boy that any girl’s mum would want to be waiting for them down the aisle. But put him on a snooker table in Sheffield and he seems to turn into a cutthroat killer. MJW is very similar, perhaps apart from the mother-in-law bit, almost sloth like in demeanour, but absolutely hard as nails on the table, which for me makes this the most intriguing of the two semi-finals. They have both been clinical so far at the business end of their matches when challenged and that says to me that this will be a blow for blow kind of match, one where there may never be more than 2 or 3 frames between them. I really fancy this one to go very very close and I’d even discount the fact that Barry has not beaten Mark in any of their meaningful meetings, he’s a completely different player here. I can’t really pick a winner, but gun to head, I’m sticking with my original tip on the main preview.

Prediction: Williams to win 17-15       

May 1, 2018

World Championship Quarter Finals Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:15 am

The One Table Situation beckons.

Mark Allen v Kyren Wilson

Tuesday 10am/7pm and Wednesday 2.30pm

It’s 9 years since Mark Allen last made an appearance in the semi-finals and the one table situation would be a completely new experience for Kyren so these two represent the least experienced World Championship semi-finalist whoever wins. Allen has played extremely well so far with wins over Liam Highfield and Joe Perry. His match against Joe was in my view the best so far in terms of all round quality and the final session, which Mark won 5-0 saw him up his scoring game too with his first and second century of the championship so he is clearly improving. Interestingly he said that his new coach, Chris Henry, has taught him some off table coping mechanisms, including ‘breathing techniques’, quite how that works I don’t know but it’s definitely doing the trick so far. Kyren has been untroubled in his previous two matches against Matthew Stevens and Jamie Jones, dropping just eight frames in total. He’s not scoring as prolifically as his opponent is but you could argue that this isn’t really his style and his match play tends to make up for it. The two of course fought out The Masters final in January which Allen won but they also met here over this distance two seasons ago when Kyren came out on top 13-9. Indeed their head to head could not be closer with 4 matches each and 43 frames each. At the start of the championship I thought Kyren would be the only player that could stop Selby from winning this quarter, but that hasn’t panned out and Allen’s form for me is too impressive to ignore. He doesn’t look like he’s ready for burn out and despite having backed Wilson in the outrights I just have to side with the Ulsterman, who for me now looks a likely finalist from this half.

Prediction: Allen to win 13-10    

John Higgins v Judd Trump

Tuesday 2.30pm and Wednesday 10am/7pm

Here’s an interesting stat. Judd Trump has never beaten John Higgins over anything longer than Best of 9 frames, he’s come close, particularly last time they met in the 2016 Scottish Open semi-finals when Higgins won 6-5, but a stat is a stat and facts can’t be skewed or altered, Judd has to do something here that he’s never done before if he’s to go any further. Let’s also face it, he’s lucky to have come through his first match against Chris Wakelin and he couldn’t have asked for a more careless final session from his last opponent Walden who from going 9-8 up decided to play like a man with no eyes. But you can only beat what is in front of you and Judd was impressive in closing that match out, riled by Ricky seemingly taking liberties against him and using this as a motivation to win. He hit four tons against Walden so as ever he’s reliable in the scoring department but can he cope with the master tactician here? Higgins is yet to be behind in any match here and his demolition job on Jack Lisowski bought him some relaxation time, something that I think he needs if he is to win this judging by his performance last year when he looked to all the world the champion before running out of puff on the final day. The head to heads favour Higgins and like Wilson he’s dropped just eight frames to get here while Judd has lost 18 frames already. Judd will have to seriously up his game in all departments to stand a chance here in my opinion.

Prediction: Higgins to win 13-9   

Ding Junhui v Barry Hawkins

Tuesday 10am/7pm and Wednesday 10am

With just seven frames dropped Ding comes into this as probably the best all round player of the championship so far. His first session performance against McGill was described by his opponent as faultless and when Ding is programmed to hoover mode there are few in the sport that can trouble him. The problem with Ding is always how he copes when it goes close and Hawkins record against him suggests that this is what will happen here. They met 5 years ago at this stage and Barry came out a 13-7 comfortable winner and he does hold a slight advantage on their head to heads so this is by no means another Ding procession in the making. Despite somewhat struggling over the line against Lyu Haotian, Barry made four centuries in that match as well as eight further breaks over 50 so he’s clearly looking at winning frames in one visit and to beat Ding that’s exactly what he needs to do again here. It’s a really tough one to predict this and in terms of a bet I would definitely be looking at a neutral one on the breaks as I can see this being a high scoring quality affair which could possibly go the distance and if it does I’d be tempted to side with Hawkins given his recent pedigree here. But there is obviously also a chance that Ding could establish a big lead early on so the first session to me holds the key to the match. If Barry is ahead or level I’d fancy him to win, but if Ding races to the front early, this could be very one-sided, I reckon the former is probably most likely.

Prediction: Hawkins to win 13-12    

Mark Williams v Ali Carter  

Tuesday 2.30pm and Wednesday 2.30pm/7pm

You really couldn’t get much more of a polar opposite in snooker in terms of temperament than these two. The laid back floating Welshman, without a care in the world against snooker’s newly christened Mr Angry, well, we were all getting a bit bored of ‘The Captain’ anyway weren’t we? This sounds far more appropriate and would make a great T-Shirt for Ali’s fans. Matches like this are what The Crucible is all about, two players looking to re-ignite their World Championship CV’s, MJW with a third title and Ali with a chance to win it now he’s bumped off the man who has stopped him twice. I’ve heard a few people say that Ali has already had his final, but they clearly don’t know him. If you think that he is happy with what he has done so far and that’s enough for him you’d be much mistaken. You could argue that Williams comes into this scoring more consistently than Carter, he’s not known for his prolific century making as in the past he’s just arsed about once the frame is won but this new model seems to be switched on these days to see the breaks out. It’s quite surprising given the length of their careers and their time spent in the top 16 that they have never met here, in fact they have only ever met once, ten years ago, in any match over one session. Williams holds the aces in the head to heads but not by much, but this is one where I don’t think previous really matters. Having backed Williams in the outrights at big prices I am going to keep faith with him but I’d not be surprised by any outcome in this one, I just hope it’s a clean fight and nobody gets hurt, with no punching below the belt.

Prediction: Williams to win 13-11

RECOMMENDED BETS:

Mark Allen to be leading after 8 frames and to win the match at 7/4 with Bet 365.

John Higgins (-2.5 frames) at 6/5 with Bet 365.

Barry Hawkins to make more than 1 century at Evens with Bet 365.

Ali Carter to make more than 1 century at 10/11 with Bet 365.

DOUBLES, TREBLES AND AN ACCUMULATOR ON ALL THE ABOVE – ACCA PAYS OVER 22/1.

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April 25, 2018

World Championship 2nd Round Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:35 am

The first round at The Crucible is always a real buzz, it’s where the premise is set for the mood of the rest of the championship and where the stories are made, first time winners, shocks, impressive and shaky starts, we usually get them all and this year is no exception.

It’s funny really, in that we seem to have completely changed the focus when it comes to the players that have come here through qualifying. In recent years, in fact every year since the format changed the talk has been about those arriving from the qualifiers being ‘dead men walking’, potters that were already potted out after the gruelling marathon of (then) Ponds Forge and now the EIS.

But this year the message being peddled is a very different one. Tired? Burnt out? Not on your nellie, these qualifiers are primed to precision, they have spent the last week and a half harnessing their already razor sharp skills and winning those three matches. Coming here match fit is now the new burnt out. If we are to believe what we are being told it’s now the seeds who are at a huge disadvantage in Round 1, having had their feet up since Beijing, waiting to wallop a clapped out zombie in Round 1 only to be met by a potting machine. That’ll learn ’em.

The players are clearly beginning to believe all this with one of them even saying that next year it might be an advantage not to be seeded. It just proves the old promotional message, say it loud enough and enough times and eventually people will believe it. Especially if you back it up with ‘evidence’, though if you dig deeper into the evidence it’s clear that the pattern of seeds v qualifiers these past few years has altered very little in terms of how many get through Round One and how many don’t.

Anyway, it’s time to have a look at the second round, match by match. At time of writing the first round bets flagged up have gone extremely well and I hope this will continue as we move into the 3 session best of 25 framers. If you aren’t following me on Twitter you may have missed the specific daily bets that have been flying in, so sorry about that, but I have been telling you to do so now for quite a while. Hashtag Careless.

So, who will be lining up in the quarter finals this year? Remember, for the head to heads just click on the match and be transported to the magical kingdom of Cue Tracker.

Joe Perry v Mark Allen

Highly impressive form from both of these two in Round 1 with Joe schooling the World Champion and World Number 1 Selby and Allen keeping a dangerous Liam Highfield at arms length for the match entirety. In terms of scoring, Perry had the edge of the two in the opening round with Allen being solid enough but with a highest break of just 89. The head to heads between the pair are dead level and only a single frame seperates them in a total of 55 played, so you’d imagine that they will need more or less the full 25 quota to sort this one out. Perry to me looks very content with his form and is playing very ‘matter of factly’, with a way around the table that suggests he’s not really that arsed if he loses because he quite fancies a holiday. Allen on the other hand seems eager to prove that he can produce over the longer distances consistently and not just the short ones. The Masters Champion does have a little to prove at The Crucible as for a player as good as he is he has little to show here for his efforts, Perry has a better record at The Crucible and to me he looks quietly confident. There won’t be much in this but I’m going to just side with The Gent.

Prediction: Perry to win 13-11   

Kyren Wilson v Jamie Jones

Jamie Jones again came alive here in Round 1 and won another fantastic encounter with Shaun Murphy with heavy scoring and bottle in reserve. Kyren was a little more under the radar with his workmanlike performance against Matthew Stevens, this included a run of four frames in the middle of the match which basically got it won for him. He’s a bit like that Kyren, he tends to feel his way into a match and then all of a sudden flick a switch and start dominating, a very rare and advantageous quality to have. Jamie on the other hand is very much a maverick, you seem to live the match with him and feel how he is feeling which is probably why he has such a loyal and enthusiastic fanbase. They have never met over anything more than best of seven but Jamie will probably be glad this one is a lot longer as he’s lost 5 of their 6 previous encounters. My feeling on this match is that Kyren will not give Jamie anything like the chances that Shaun did. He plays a lot tighter a game than Murphy and is prepared to wait patiently for an opening and force his opponent to make errors. Jamie could well get a flyer and pick up where he left off but I have a feeling this match might be one in which Kyren wins or draws every session and rides out the match as one big one made up of three short ones. Hence the predicted scoreline.

Prediction: Wilson to win 13-9 

John Higgins v Jack Lisowski

Jack at last seems to be producing what most of the living Western world knew he had in him on the big stage and his performance against Stuart Bingham not only demonstrated his ferocious potting and break building but also a cooler head when things get tight, which it goes without saying he is going to need here. The good thing about playing Higgins is that you know exactly what you are getting, the downside is that what you are getting can sometimes be impossible to match. He didn’t look quite at his best against Un-Nooh but once challenged he pulled out what was necessary. It goes without saying that Jack will need to be at his best to win here and even then that might not be enough, this is a huge test for him and if he can overcome it I think he’s a live contender to lift the trophy, he did also beat Higgins convincingly recently in China. It’s a real head versus heart this one, unfortunately for me this time, it has to be Higgins.

Prediction: Higgins to win 13-10  

Ricky Walden v Judd Trump

Well, what can you say about Judd’s first match other than, you’re sooo Judd Trump? Looked for all the world to be coasting only to start playing like a man with no eyes and get pegged back, this time though he managed to win and avoid yet another roasting by snooker fans on social media, but is it simply a case of delaying the roast for another few days? Walden said he was happy with how he played in his opener but he was another who looked very edgy towards the end against Brecel, though he never really looked like losing. But for both of them this is a new day and if patterns are anything to go by this might again be a very tetchy affair. Judd holds the aces in the head to heads but for me a repeat of his previous match and he’ll be heading home, Walden too I think will need to step up a gear and try his best to boss this one from the start. But hey, whatever pattern the match takes it will still take winning and if it gets close I’d side with Ricky.

Prediction: Walden to win 13-11

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Ding Junhui v Anthony McGill

McGill battled through and showed his fighting qualities at the end against Ryan Day, who was inexplicable awful in the second session and allowed the Scotsman back into it with very little resistance. Ding on the other hand dominated Xiao from the off and looks content and happy, his health concerns that plauged him during the UK and The Masters now seem like a distant memory and he is obviously a big contender again for the title. A bit like Judd, Anthony has already used his get out of jail card and you have to say that this match is probably a mountain too high for him, I expect Ding to win quite comfortably.

Prediction: Ding to win 13-6  

Lyu Haotian v Barry Hawkins (never played each other)

Contrasting pathways here for these two. Its fair to say that if we take first round form at face value and apply it to this match then Lyu would ride out a comfortable winner. His scoring prowess against Marco was there for all to see and it isn’t clear how much of this was down to the fact that Fu was just not ready for the match and how much was Lyu believing that he can actually become an unlikely star here this year. Barry can console himself with the fact that things can only get better, if his tactic is to gradually build up to a peak at the business end of the championship he has started as planned as he was as poor as I’ve seen him in a long time in beating Carrington the other night in a match, shall we just say, that won’t be getting many repeat watchers on You Tube. In terms of head to heads and very much like when all the toilets were stolen from the local billiard hall, we have nothing to go on. Hawkins fans will just have to hope that the opening round was a blip and not an indicator of Barry’s form and that Lyu starts missing. Having backed Barry in the outrights I hope he wins but he will have to improve a lot and hope his opponent begins to feel the occasion. That’s enough to make me select the Chinese player, but I won’t be having a bet in this one.

Prediction: Lyu to win 13-11     

Mark Williams v Rob Milkins

The walk-on tunes when these two walk out belong more at the British Legion than The Crucible but what follows will be every inch worthy of this great stage. MJW got the match won against Jimmy Robertson early and you could sense that he lacked a bit of motivation coming out to finish it off before he finally did and in some style. He proclaimed himself afterwards in the form of his life and who are we to disagree? Rob bossed Neil Robertson from the off in their match and Neil didn’t, it has to be said, put up a great deal of resistance, but that takes nothing away from Milkins achievement, like Jones he comes here and beats the same seed in the same round as he has done before. I think this one will probably go the same was as the match involving Jones in that Williams will win or tie each session, keeping the Gloucester man at arms length. 

Prediction: Williams to win 13-8 

Ali Carter v Ronnie O’Sullivan

Ooooohhhhh Ali, look at the head to heads….I know you don’t want to and I know you remember every match but it’s something we just can’t ignore. 14-0 including 4 times here, is it possible that it might, just be 15th time lucky? Once Ronnie woke up on Sunday and heard Selby had lost he decided he might as well come back and beat Maguire after all. Despite the early scare and misfiring rocket headlines on hold he came through in the end in an assured way and a way, I’d argue, that he hasn’t the last two years, looking focused and happy. He sat with the press for ages afterwards extolling the virtues of celery, plugging his book and claiming he will live until he’s 200. For his part, Ali showed all his famous battling qualities to come back from a 3-6 deficit to Dotty and overturned that particular Crucible hoodoo, so at least he can draw on the fact that he reversed historical form here in the last round. But to see anything other than an O’Sullivan win here would I think be me speaking as a mate of Ali’s rather than a blogger, I have to side with Ronnie to do for the sixteenth time, something he has done fifteen times before. Best of luck Cap.

Prediction: O’Sullivan to win 13-8

RECOMMENDED SECOND ROUND ACCA: Pays 13/2 at Marathonbet: Perry, Wilson, Higgins, Williams and O’Sullivan all to win.

RECOMMENDED HANDICAP ACCA: Perry (+2.5), Wilson (-1.5), Higgins (-2.5), O’Sullivan (-4.5) pays over 9/2 at Bet 365. 

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