Snookerbacker

August 20, 2014

Paul Hunter Classic Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:21 am
Back in Action in Germany

Back in Action in Germany

The European tour continues this week as the Stadthalle Fürth, Fürth in Germany plays host to many people’s favourite on this tour, the Paul Hunter Classic, named after one of snooker’s brightest and sadly departed stars.

It was won last season by Ronnie O’Sullivan and happily he’s back to defend his title. Despite his detractors and critics it remains for most a more interesting tournament when Ronnie is involved, he’s not been seen since the World Championship but appears on the face of it keen to get back to competitive action now that the tour is organised to his exact specifications.

Indeed the only really notable exception in this is Ding Junhui, who seems to be becoming the new Ronnie the way he’s picking and choosing lately. But other than that we have all the big guns, World Champion and World Number 1 Selby, Wuxi winner Robbo and early season winner in Australia Judd are all in the mix.

It’s a fitting tribute to Paul that this is becoming something of a main event. OK, the prize money is still low compared to the main rankers but to all intents and purposes that is how it feels and it would be nice if the prize money on offer one day reflected the esteem in which it’s held by the players and fans, but the good news is that it’s getting there.

The tournament also sees the beginning of a slightly busier period in the calendar, a fortnight after this ends we’re off to Shanghai for the Masters there and in between is the 6-reds, which Dark Mavis will probably win again.

In terms of this event, the dream semi-final line up would be Ronnie or Judd against Selby with Robbo arguably in the ‘easier’ half of the draw. This in effect makes Robertson an automatic outright pick given his relatively smoother path to Finals Day. Ronnie starts the event as favourite and if you are a firm believer in horses for courses he more or less cantered to victory here last season, beating unlikely finalist Gerard Greene and breaking the trophy afterwards. Selby however is already back to winning ways and will want to cement his current status to the max, possibly by putting Ronnie to bed again in the semi-finals. Indeed snooker is now increasingly getting the feel of a big 4 or 5 who seem to be pulling away from the chasing pack a bit, my guess is that Ronnie, Mark, Neil, Judd and Ding will be sharing quite a few titles amongst them this season while the others look on.

All that said, it’s always worth hunting around for big each way prices and this is especially true where the bookies are paying out on the semi-finalists, which most of them now appear to be doing. My each-way long shot for this one is the in-form Alan McManus at 200/1 with Betfred to compliment a couple of the more obvious picks in the outrights of O’Sullivan at a best priced 4/1 and Robertson who is available at 7/1. I’m not doing points anymore but they are three I’m backing in this and I’d be surprised if one of the big names isn’t holding the trophy aloft on Sunday.

You can view the draw for the Paul Hunter Classic including the amateur rounds here and you can take a look at the Eurosport schedule by clicking here.

I’ll bash some match bets up as and when the tournament begins.

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August 6, 2014

Viva La Riga! The Riga Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:33 pm
The impressive arena

The impressive arena

It’s been a fragmented start to the new snooker season and feels a little bit like being stuck in an airport waiting a month for your connecting flight. The Wuxi and Australian events, won by Neil Robertson and Judd Trump respectively were followed by the longest gap in snooker since the days of Sir Rodders, but with the first ever Latvian professional tournament, we now see the season kick off in earnest.

By the looks of the pictures of the arena I have seen, it looks like a cracking venue, the image above was taken by World Snooker Services who are setting it all up for the amateur rounds which kick off on Thursday. There seems to be plenty of space and viewing platforms with 11 tables to choose from, a veritable sweet shop of snooker for those baize hungry Latvians to suck on.

It’s great that snooker is now fully embracing the European market and I think the calendar now has much more of an even feel about it. It’s not too heavily weighted either in the UK or China, though they do still have all the more prestigious events, with a whole swathe of smaller events in Europe alongside the fantastic German Open in Berlin and of course the Aussie Open which continues to cling onto the tour for dear life by virtue of the obvious enthusiasm of the organisers down under, undoubtedly given a further boost by this season’s championship won by Judd. There’s also the Indian Open of course which this season moves to Mumbai and strong rumours of a new event in Dubai with lucrative prize money attached.

The gap in the calendar has, from what I’m hearing, been welcomed by all the players and I dare say some of the hard working people around the circuit who would also have needed to recharge their batteries and had a well-earned holiday. This may not have been by design and of course the second Asian PTC was cancelled seemingly because of some issues with the parties involved, but all in all it’s made the snooker community hungry again for a bit of action.

The draw for the Riga Open can be viewed here, the order of play over at Snooker Island here and the Eurosport schedule here.

Prize Money

Winner: £20,883 – not bad for a few days work.
Runner Up: £10,000 – not to be sniffed at.
Losing SF’s: £5000 – got to be pleased with that, fair play.
Losing QF’s: £3333 – covers the trip comfortably and pays the mortgage for a month I suppose.
Losing L16: £1917 – well it’s not cost anything and I got a few days away, no dent in the bank balance.
Losing L32: £1000 – I might as well have stayed at home.
Losing L64 £583 – For fuck’s sake the Mrs is gonna kill me.
Everyone Else: A really expensive city break and the chance to contract a sexually transmitted disease while you wait for your flight home.

So who are the main contenders then? Well, the two winners so far this season Robbo and Judd are both involved, as well as World Champion Mark Selby and a host of other big names. The only real notable exceptions are Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui, Ding being amongst a whole host of Chinese players that cannot play in this, presumably because of visa restrictions.

It’s impossible to know who is going to hit the ground running after such a long break but it has to be said that Robertson’s draw is probably as good as anyone could hope for and he has to have a big chance of carrying off favouritism in the form he’s in, other than that, a punt on a few outsiders is all there is to be had at this stage for me. Note that if you are betting each way, most of the firms are betting only on the Finalists at half the odds, a more realistic punt would be to take the odds at somewhere betting on the final four at a quarter of the odds, there’s not always that much difference.

If you fancy signing up for a free matched £25 bet at Betfred, click the banner at the foot of this post and open an account there.

Check out Monique’s photos from the venue in the comments section Facebook link.

Recommended Bets: 2 points on Neil Robertson at 6/1, 1 point each way on Joe Perry at 33/1, 0.5 point each way on Martin Gould at 50/1, 0.5 point each way on Robin Hull at 250/1.  

June 29, 2014

Australian Goldfields Open Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:10 am
It's chill-out time, Aussie style.

It’s chill-out time, Aussie style.

On Monday we return to the land where men are men and shiela’s are second class citizens. Yes, it’s down under we go for this season’s Australian Goldfields Open from the freezing cold city of Bendigo.

I don’t think I was alone in being fairly surprised that the future of this tournament, at least in the short term, was rubber-stamped towards the end of last season, but I also don’t think I’m alone in being glad that it was.

Although I never watch the very early matches, whenever I have tuned in for the coverage of the mid-morning starts it’s been first rate, with a nice relaxed style from the studio and the chance to listen to the velvetesque tones and laid back style of the undisputed King of the Snails Robby Foldvari in commentary.

It’s also a nicer format at the main venue than we’ve seen in Wuxi this week, with less of a conveyor belt feel about it and a simple two table set up with 32 players made up of 16 seeded players and 16 qualifiers plus two wildcards, keeping the tone of the relaxed feel of the tournament.

Despite all its plus points, a lot of the top players still don’t want to enter it. Lots moan about the financial side of things, claiming that flying to (sometimes) the other side of the globe for the possibility of earning less than they could earn for an exhibition at home is a waste of their precious time.

That may be the case for some and I suppose the better off players coming to the end of their careers who perhaps aren’t quite as driven as the younger crop have a point. But it’s nice that some of them do make the effort and support the event, they’ve a decent amount of time off after this so why not combine it with a holiday? That’s what I’d do, but some potters aren’t exactly known for their adventurous ways and will probably head home the minute they are beaten.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me is that Marco Fu has chosen not to defend the title he won last season. One can only assume that he has personal reasons for this as he’s competed in Wuxi and is not one that drops out of events lightly. It would be interesting to know why Marco didn’t enter though. But there are still enough big names in there to make it a decent spectacle for the locals who include of course, Maggie the Dog, the much loved pooch who attends and has won the hearts of the likes of Stuart Bingham and Shaun Murphy in the past.

Of course the locals will all want to see Robbo break his Aussie duck this week after a good week in Wuxi, rumour has it that Neil almost forgot to enter this and got his entry in at the last minute, which is very unlike him (it isn’t). Anyway, let’s hope he’s a bit more chirpy this week after his table gripes in China, he usually looks more settled at home and he will definitely want to win this for the crowds having disappointed them on the last three occasions.

Just a word on the wildcards, I’m not that familiar with Johl Younger but the other bloke, Matthew Bolton, has been the subject of a right old ding-dong in Snooker Scene of late. Apparently, our Matty got tanked up at the World Amateurs and started giving some Chinese kids the verbals in what was described as a borderline racist pissed up rant during which he ‘mocked their speaking style and mimicked their Oriental features’. He hit back with a right old go at the reporter Marcus Stead, who witnessed this in full, and all hell then broke loose both in the magazine and in a wider context on Facebook, which led on to a go at the editor Sir Clive of Everton, at one point Stephen Lee chipped in to say he’d knock Clive over in his car if he saw him. It’s been quite entertaining as a bystander I have to say.

Anyway, the draw for the tournament is here and I usually tune in to the action via the Bet 365 live streaming service which runs the Australian TV coverage, if you get the chance take a look, I like the way they cover snooker and it’s a bit like the way ITV set things up, which of course is a world away from the BBC with its sometimes ridiculous features, inappropriate howlers in commentary and it’s tendency to treat the viewers as if they are retarded, when as we all know, only half of them are.

Here’s my outright thoughts and the match schedule is included below.

Recommended Bet: 4 points on Neil Robertson to win the Australian Open at 7/2. 1 point each way on Ricky Walden at 33/1.  

Monday (ALL TIMES ARE UK) 

12am
Andrew Higginson 5-0 Matthew Bolton
Dominic Dale 5-0 Johl Younger

3am
Mark Allen 2-5 Fergal O’Brien
Matthew Stevens 5-3 Luca Brecel

Followed by
Robert Milkins 5-3 Liang Wenbo
Ryan Day 3-5 Mark Joyce

10am
John Higgins 5-3 Tom Ford
Ricky Walden 5-0 Marcus Campbell

Tuesday

2.30am
Dark Mavis 5-3 Dominic Dale
Stuart Bingham 5-0 Scott Donaldson

Followed by
Fergal O’Brien 2-5 Matthew Stevens
Xiao Guodong 5-2 Liam Highfield

10am
Robert Milkins 5-2 John Higgins
Stephen Maguire 0-5 Jamie Jones

Wednesday

2.30am
Shaun Murphy 5-0 Jack Lisowski
Joe Perry 4-5 Alan McManus

Followed by
Judd Trump 5-2 Rory McLeod
Barry Hawkins 2-5 Peter Ebdon

10am
Neil Robertson 5-2 Andrew Higginson
Michael Holt 3-5 Martin Gould

June 21, 2014

Wuxi Classic Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:22 am
Robbo won a little pot last year.

Robbo won a little pot last year.

Monday sees the start of the final stages of the first main ranking event of the season and the return of snooker to our screens via Eurosport as the Wuxi Classic gets underway in China.

Of course the big news from the qualifying round that has already been played is that local boy Ding, who has just won the first Asian PTC event crashed out, losing 5-0 to Oliver Brown who now takes on Oliver Lines in the Last 64. Answers on a postcard if two people called Oliver have ever played each other in a professional tournament before, but I digress…

The big names in this are holder Robbo and newly crowned World Champion Selby. Robbo has even got a bye in the Last 64 because Alexander Ursenbacher had trouble getting a visa, which is unfortunate for him as I’m sure he was looking forward to taking on Neil on the big stage, but it wasn’t to be as the Chinese don’t like the Swiss.

In amongst the more recognisable faces there are a few players who’ll be visiting China for the first time, there are also 4 wildcard matches but I’ve decided that I’m not going to moan about these fucking pointless and unfair inclusions this season. Oops, bang goes another promise.

All the bookies have their prices up and predictably the outright betting is headed by the big two, there is therefore a bit of value out there if you think they might be a bit rusty and fancy a winner who might not be a usual suspect. It’s always very difficult to know who will be the most prepared players there and who wishes they were on their summer holidays having only dusted off the cue a few days ago.

Below you can view all you need to know about the tournament and if you want to take a look at any head to heads you should know by now that the fabulous Cue Tracker website is the place to be, simply click here, enter the two names and marvel at the statfest which awaits your analysis. Talking of anoraks, you still have time to enter your season team into the Anorak List, to find out what that’s all about click here, this tournament and Australia won’t count so there’s still plenty of time to get your entry in.

In terms of an outright bet in this, I’ll limit stakes considerably in view of the timing of the tournament and just take a punt that the big boys won’t start with a win.

Outright Bets: 1 point each way on Marco Fu at 28/1 and 1 point each way on Ricky Walden at 33/1. 0.5 point each way on Jack Lisowski at 80/1 and Martin Gould at 100/1.

You can view the Eurosport schedules for the week by clicking here and you can view the draw for the tournament by clicking here.

Prize Money Breakdown

Winner: £85,000
Runner Up: £35,000
Losing Semi-Finalists: £21,000
Losing Quarter-Finalists: £12,500
Losing Last 16: £8,000
Losing Last 32: £6,500
Losing Last 64: £3,000

Order of Play (Last 64 and Wildcard Round) – UK Time

Monday 23rd of June
3am

Ricky Walden v Peter Lines
Yu DeLu v Yan Bingtao
Andrew Norman v Zhao Xintong
Scott Donaldson v Chen Zifan
Robbie Williams v Niu Zhuang
Fraser Patrick v Sam Baird

7.30am

David Grace v Judd Trump
Xiao Guodong v Robin Hull
Tony Drago v Stuart Bingham
Gary Wilson v Alan McManus
Michael Holt v Rory McLeod
Kurt Maflin v Anthony Hamilton

12.30pm

Neil Robertson w/o Alexander Ursenbacher
Marco Fu v Craig Steadman
John Higgins v Anthony McGill
Cao Yupeng v Mark King
Fergal O’Brien v Ben Woollaston
Michael Georgiou v Marcus Campbell

Tuesday 24th of June
3am

Rod Lawler v Shaun Murphy
Jack Lisowski v Lyu Chenwei
Mark Joyce v Mark Williams
Jamie Cope v Michael White
David Morris v Robert Milkins
Michael Tomlinson v Martin Gould

7.30am

Lee Page v Barry Hawkins
Liang Wenbo v Jamie Burnett
Stephen Maguire v David Gilbert
Joe Perry v Scott Donaldson/Chen Zifan
Chris Melling v Andrew Norman/Zhao Xintong
Oliver Brown v Oliver Lines

12.30pm

Robbie Williams/Niu Zhuang v Mark Selby
Zhou Yuelong v Graeme Dott
Jamie Jones v Ken Doherty
Ryan Day v Matthew Selt
Barry Pinches v Yu DeLu/Yan Bingtao
Chris Wakelin v Joe O’Connor

Recommended Match Bets: 2 point double on Fraser Patrick and Jamie Burnett pays just on 6/1. 2 point acca on Milkins, Gould, Oli Lines, Wakelin and Dott pays over 5/1. 2 points on McGill to beat Higgins at 5/2. 2 points on Gilbert to beat Maguire at 2/1.  

June 16, 2014

Yixing Open (APTC1) Starts Tuesday

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:24 am

The first Asian Tour event of the season, the Yixing Open won last year by Joe Perry, starts on Tuesday over in China. Look, there’s the poster below to prove it. Not sure what Ding’s doing with his arm and it looks like they snapped MJW while he was drying his hands in the gents.

If you have any interest in having a bet you can find the outrights from two firms by clicking here, it’s a bit of a lottery and with all the Chinese players in it it’s not a betting proposition for me as there are too many unknown unknowns even before you start thinking about the known unknowns.

The full draw for it can be viewed here.

YIXING

May 29, 2014

Australian Open Qualifiers

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:06 am
A few players are skipping this one.

A few players are skipping this one.

The Australian Open qualifiers get under way on Friday in Gloucester and this sees a return to the old format of qualifiers rather than the flat structure on which Bazza is so keen.

It’s fair to say that this tournament continues to struggle. There are a handful of big names that have chosen not to enter, namely Ronnie (obviously, it’s more than a mile from his house), Ding Junhui (in a nark with World Snooker) and World Champion Mark Selby (burnt out), but the real issue seems to be lower down the pecking order.

With so many professionals not entering it has got to the point where the player in 48th position on the Q-School Order of Merit, Sanderson Lam, has been invited to play (he faces a fellow amateur in Round 1 while strangely there are all-pro match ups).

There were even amateur players who were offered the chance to pay the £150 entry fee for a chance to win £83 by winning their first match who strangely didn’t think that this was for them, this coupled with the fact that there is a clash with a big European amateur event with a pro-ticket still up for grabs in Bulgaria.

The first round of the qualifying draw is a real mix of professionals and amateurs and the format is such that to get to Bendigo, the first rounders will have to win four matches.

CLICK HERE for the updated qualifiers draw

CLICK HERE for the qualifiers format

CLICK HERE for the final stages draw

I’m going on holiday on Saturday with Mrs SB so I won’t be around to cover this. The betting on the Wuxi qualifiers produced a profit and but for Kyren Wilson losing a decider would have seen a 100% strike rate with the two decent prices Oli Lines and Fraser Patrick obliging.

Like I say, I’m not around for the next week so very much like a few of the players, I’m skipping this one….

You can check out the match prices at Oddschecker here.

The qualifying rounds of the Australian Goldfields Open run from Friday May 30 to Tuesday June 3 at the The Capital Venue at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester, and tickets are on sale now. It’s a chance to see many of snooker’s leading players live in world ranking events and it’s great value for money at just £10 per day for an adult ticket (£5 for OAPs and juniors). There’s also a five-day pass available for the whole event at just £35 for adults or £17.50 for OAPs and juniors. You can book tickets now by CLICKING HERE

May 23, 2014

Wuxi Classic Qualifiers

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:14 am
It seems like only yesterday...

It seems like only yesterday…

Just a few short weeks since the curtain fell at the Crucible and Mark Selby was crowned World Champion the new season is upon us. 

The qualifying rounds of the Wuxi Classic run from Saturday May 24 to Wednesday May 28, followed by the Australian Goldfields Open qualifiers from Friday May 30 to Tuesday June 3. Selby has opted to play in the Chinese event, but like quite a few others is giving Australia a miss, even Robbo ermm, ‘forgot’ to enter apparently and was squeezed in at the final hour kicking and screaming.

CLICK HERE FOR THE WUXI DRAW

CLICK HERE FOR THE WUXI FORMAT

All the action takes place at the The Capital Venue at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester, tickets are available for just £10 per day for an adult ticket (£5 for OAPs and juniors). There’s also a five-day pass available at just £35 for adults or £17.50 for OAPs and juniors.

You can book tickets now by CLICKING HERE and it will be the last chance you will get to see the set up at the SWSA in a ranking event context before changes are made, this effectively being the final World Snooker event held there. 

Right, that’s the plugging done.

Just 24 hours before the Wuxi gets underway and the draw was still not complete, despite the fact that some of the unknown matches (involving Q-School top-up players) are taking place at 10am on Saturday.

UPDATE at 3.15pm on Friday: The completed draw has still not been confirmed by World Snooker.

UPDATE: Finally put up on website at 4pm.

Now we know that with the introduction of the money list and the bus passes that have been granted to the old geezers this season that draws are going to be made up by non-main-tour professionals for most, if not all, ranking events. But let’s hope that we don’t have to wait until a day before play for every tournament to actually find out who’s playing who and when. It’s far from ideal and possibly yet another indicator, if this were needed, that these events are at least a fortnight too early in the calendar.

As it goes, World Snooker have had to go down as low as 23rd on the Q-School Order of Merit list (Mark Owens who by sheer chance has drawn Robbie Williams) to fill this particular tournament, goodness knows how low they’ll be going to fill the gaps in the Australian Open that follows, they may have to rope in the window cleaner at the SWSA for that one.

Despite the blog being busier than ever, I am awaiting confirmation of a bookmaker deal for the season so I’m not going to be going too heavy on the betting preview for this event or for the Aussie qualifiers. The bets below are a punt at the start of a long season ahead. Hopefully, normal service will be resumed once a partnership deal is tied up.

Recommended Bets:

3 point acca on Michael Holt, Ali Carter, Anthony McGill, Joe Perry and Kyren Wilson pays over 9/4. (WITH ALI’S WITHDRAWAL THIS PAYS A SHADE OVER 2/1)

2 points on Oliver Lines to beat Dave Harold at 7/4. 2 points on Fraser Patrick to beat Jimmy White at 13/8. 2 points on Ratchayothin Yotharuck to beat Ken Doherty at 12/5. 1 point treble on these three pays over 22/1.

Find all prices at Oddschecker.

May 16, 2014

Q-School Event 2

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:00 am

Following the qualification of Craig Steadman, Tian Pengfei, Zhang Anda and Chris Melling from the first event, today sees the beginning of the second chance for the remaining players at Q-School 2. 

Three of the four qualifiers so far are ‘bouncebacks’, professionals who have briefly slipped back to amateur status for a couple of weeks but who have now immediately returned to the main tour. Melling is a former professional but is better known for his exploits on the pool table. I’ll admit to knowing almost nothing about him but some shrewd observers obviously rated his chances and he justified support at the bookies.

Once again, Boylesports and Apollobet are pricing this up and as we broke even on the first event with Steadman qualifying at 13/2, narrowly missing a profit with Jamie Clarke’s final frame loss to Anda, it’s time to have another go on these.

Recommended Bets: 1 point on each John Sutton 8/1, Mitchell Mann 12/1, Martin O’Donnell 6/1, Michael Leslie 14/1. 0.5 points on Shane Castle 8/1 and Jamie Clarke 12/1.

The draw for Q-School 2 can be viewed here.

May 8, 2014

Q-School Event 1 Preview: Who Will Qualify?

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:52 am

Q-SCHOOL 2014The carnage begins on Saturday in Gloucester at the South West Snooker Academy / Capital Venue as goodness knows how many amateur players set about battling it out at this season’s two Q-School events in the hope of bagging one of the final eight main tour places for the coming season.

Originally, there were of course meant to be 3 events with 12 qualifiers, just like last year, but after issuing the details World Snooker decided to chop this back to 2 events with 8 making it onto the tour, also chopping the entry fee down from £1000 to £600. I’m still not sure why they did that or what happened to the four extra places (perhaps these are the legends wildcards announced last week that we’re not allowed to call wildcards?) but that’s where we’re at.

These events also mark the beginning of some changes at the Quedgeley venue. Following Q-School and some qualifiers for the Wuxi Classic and Australian Open, this will mark the end of World Snooker events in Gloucester for good, with the annual Pink Ribbon Pro-Am tournament marking the last big event to be staged there in its current set up.

Following these tournaments they will be moving the snooker side of the business to occupy the upstairs area. There will be some structural changes but the quality of the snooker facilities will remain and the message is very much ‘business as usual’ when it comes to snooker.

The eight Star tables will continue to be maintained to the highest standards and the venue will be concentrating more on holding their own tournaments and events, staging top amateur competitions like my own and supporting the community around with various activities. It will also remain as a top class practice facility.

These changes will be put in place not long after the end of the Pink Ribbon, a tournament which will remain, though perhaps with a slightly different format in future years. The Academy (which I’ll always really refer to it as by habit) will remain very much at the ‘high end’ of snooker facilities in the UK and will continue to support both professional and amateur players. I’m really looking forward to staging the SB Classic there again this season and will be announcing all the dates shortly.

Back to Q-School matters and there is plenty of representation here from the Snookerbacker Classic Grand Finalists this year as you might expect, including the runner-up Mitchell Mann and losing semi-finalists Jamie Clarke and Ben Harrison. They all return to a venue they play very well at to try and take that leap into the main tour, all are more than capable enough of doing so. Unfortunately, this year’s champion Ant Parsons had to make some tough choices recently and decided not to enter, a decision made with lots of other important considerations in mind and not made lightly.

The SB Classic link doesn’t stop there though as the finalists from the first ever Classic are also involved. Martin O’Donnell was narrowly relegated from the tour by just a single place but will be hoping for an immediate return and John Sutton from Ireland is back after a mini-retirement to try his hand at it too.

There are many familiar names competing in the form of other relegated professionals including Tian Pengfei, Zhang Anda, Jamie O’Neill, Liam Highfield, Craig Steadman, Daniel Wells, Paul Davison, Li Yan, Chen Zhe, Sean O’Sullivan and more. They all perhaps hold a slight advantage in that they’ve come straight from the professional ranks to compete.

There are amateurs who have made strides and gained experience as wildcards this season too such as Sanderson Lam, Duane Jones, Syd Wilson and Shane Castle, who will all hope their fleeting daliance with the professional game will help them cope with the intense pressure of this minefield of an event.

There are names which snooker anoraks will also recognise like Shokat Ali, Jeff Cundy, Leo Fernandez and Lee Walker alongside many others who have the experience of former professional status to help them through the event, including Mike ‘Has anyone got a rope’ Hallett, who’s also giving it another go and my ‘dark horse’ for this Anthony Harris, who can still play a bit.

MO'D - Been there. Done that.

MO’D – Been there. Done that.

There is betting available on Event One at both Apollobet and Boylesports, with prices up on which four players will qualify from the first tournament.  The draw for event one can be viewed here while event two can be viewed here.

So who might be worth a punt? Well at the risk of being accused of blatant favouritism I think O’Donnell has a really solid chance at the 8/1 on offer, he has a tough draw, who hasn’t? But he was playing his best stuff towards the end of the season and having spoken to him he’s been fully in the Q-School zone now for months, if he brings his A Game there aren’t many in this field that can beat him. He also has the advantage of having played and won through in this event at the first time of asking before.

In the top quarter my eyes are drawn to two players, one is Zhao Xintong, a player of immense promise and should he cope with the pressure he’ll be a tough one to stop, you can take a look at his recent results by clicking here. The other is SB Classic runner up Mitchell Mann, who is available at 20/1 to make it through this tournament. I rate Mitchell very highly indeed and I’ve seen at first hand just how good he is, he has a tough opener but if he can get his head down and play how he did on SB Classic Finals Day, he is definitely one to watch. (See comments – it seems Xintong is not playing in Q-School, I have therefore increased the stake on Mitchell)

In the second quarter, the man to beat is Paul Davison who has been priced up at 8/1 to qualify, Paul is a seasoned professional who has won through Q-School before. His experience will count for lots in this intense atmosphere and I think he’s going to be very hard to stop in Event One. Also in this section is Jamie Clarke, who finds himself right down there in Davison’s section and for me has been handed a tough test, but he plays his best in Gloucester and will be bang up for it should he end up playing the more experienced Yorkshireman. Of the bigger prices in this section and one who is in a seperate half to Davison, take a look at Michael Wild and Hossein Vafaei, both with a chance if Davison doesn’t do the business. UPDATE: Apparently Vafaei has again been refused a Visa, thanks to Monique for the information.

In section three I have already flagged O’Donnell so this leaves section four which sees Sanderson Lam attempt to make the push for professional, there are tough players in all sections but along with Ryan Causton, Sandi isn’t in the worst part of the draw. Eyes are drawn also to the names of Liam Highfield and Craig Steadman and down at the bottom of the section Zack Richardson will be quietly confident given his draw. The more you look the more potential qualifiers you see in this one but I’m going to stick with experience here and plump for the in-form Steadman.

It’s a really tough school this and many great players will leave disappointed for another year. But I can offer a slight silver lining as they’ll then all be fully eligible to enter the SB Classic again next season as well as compete in the PTC’s with the professionals. Further to this, it’s very likely that those who don’t qualify but perform the best will be making up the numbers in quite a few major professional events, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

I’d just like to wish all the best to everyone competing, but in particular those that I have got to know and class as good friends from my contact with the amateur game. If you are in the area why not pop down to the Academy to watch? It’s bound to produce some high drama. Let battle commence.

Recommended Bets: 2 points on O’Donnell at 8/1. 2 points on Davison at 8/1. 1 point on Steadman at 13/2. 1 point on Mitchell Mann at 20/1. 0.5 points on Jamie Clarke at 12/1, Sanderson Lam at 12/1 and Michael Wild at 20/1.

May 4, 2014

World Championship Final: Can The Jester Topple The Rocket?

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:42 am

FinalToday sees the start of this year’s World Championship Final and the culmination of what’s been a long long season sees Ronnie O’Sullivan taking on his old foe Mark Selby over 35 frames at the home of snooker.

It’s not a final that I expected to be honest. I have thought all along that Ronnie would make it three in a row but I more or less wrote off Selby from the start after what by his standards has been a largely disappointing season, but he’s been superb over the past fortnight and played his trademark tough, matchplay snooker and deserves a crack at the best player there is on the biggest stage of them all in his second final.

His 17-15 win over Neil Robertson last night was an example of how tough he is to beat when he’s at his best and Robbo praised him afterwards for his tenacity and winning mentality, claiming that he’d played really well himself but just couldn’t peg Selby back. Robbo said: “He played probably the best I’ve ever seen him play. With that many sessions, for him not have a period where he’s missing easy balls is every credit to him.”

Ronnie of course had the day off and apparently went for a 15 mile run and it’s certain that he will go into the final as the fresher of the two, though Selby, famed for his stamina claims that he isn’t a bit tired and is looking forward to the final: “I don’t feel tired at the moment. I’m sure when I get back I won’t sleep because of the adrenaline. Ronnie’s a genius – he doesn’t fear anyone. He’s played some great snooker in patches, but in other patches he’s missed balls and nobody’s punished him. I know I’m going to get my chances, it’s just a case of whether I take them or not. I’m a lot more confident now than I was in my first final in 2007. I was a qualifier then so any match I was winning was a bonus. But over the last few years, I’ve won a few tournaments and every time I go to one if I don’t win it I see it as a failure. I’m confident going into tomorrow and hopefully I can pull through over the two days.”

Just how crucial this extra day will be remains to be seen but it’s definitely a factor in my opinion. As Robbo pointed out after the semi-final, “so much depends on how much rest Mark can get, and how much he has left in his tank.”

The two last met in The Masters final, when Ronnie ‘did a job’ on Selby having lost in finals to him before. Selby however was not playing as well then as he is now and this might even be worth writing off when you look at how this match might pan out. After all, Selby has proved more than once in the past that he’s capable of upsetting Ronnie and really getting under his skin, he’s one of the few players that has done that and he has beaten a firing Rocket before, so why can’t he do so again?

But when push comes to shove, I think you have to still favour Ronnie to prevail, he is beginning to play very very well now and no matter how well Selby is playing, if Ronnie is in the mood he cannot be beaten by anyone. In terms of a scoreline I’d go for 18-12 to O’Sullivan (Best Price 11/1 at Corals), with him also making a few tons along the way. In fact, following the success of the maximum century bet in the Robbo/Selby semi-final, I think it’s time to double up on this one as I can see there being a fair few big breaks in what I hope is a superb final.

It all kicks off at 2pm this afternoon with the first eight frames of the match. So do whatever you have to do before then and settle down to watch two fierce rivals battle it out.

You can view the head to head statistics between these two old rivals by clicking here

Recommended Bet: 5 points on there being over 5.5 centuries at 11/10 with Apollobet. 

You can view the match odds at Apollobet by clicking here.

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 Photos used courtesy of Monique Limbos.

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