Snookerbacker

March 26, 2017

China Open Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:11 pm

Hoping to trick The Snooker Gods

Just one more event to go before the big one gets underway and it’s off to Beijing this week as the last 64 plus the pointless wildcards decide who is going to carry ‘The Curse of the China Open’ with them back to Sheffield.

Let’s start off by stating that as well as the wildcards who shouldn’t be there that there are far too many players in this from the beginning. I’m not a fan of these sardine-like events that seek to cram in as many players as physically possible into an over-crowded venue, I’d much prefer a maximum of 32 players making the trip.

Of course a lot of these players will leave for back home before they have had time to unpack to start their preparation for the World Championship qualifiers next week no doubt wondering why they bothered with this in the first place, which is a shame as it’s usually a decent event and is well-established on the calendar, but it was much better when it started with less players.

Most of the big names are here though Neil Robertson decided not to bother entering and is instead working on his preparation for The Crucible, which of course is up to him. Somewhat eyebrow-raising is the fact the Ronnie O’Sullivan has chosen to continue with his tournament preparation by entering and qualifying, so let’s see if he is looking any sharper than he has been lately.

It’s pretty nip and tuck in the race for favouritism for the World Championship. O’Sullivan has been favourite all year but even the bookies are now beginning to doubt that he has that sixth title in him with some firms now favouring Mark Selby and others not being able to decide between those two and the in-form Judd Trump who defends the title he won 12 months ago here, meaning that there is a very real possibility that once the opening ball is struck at The Crucible, we’ll have co-favourites.

I know I should be talking about this event but I can’t help but see this as mere preparation for the main event of the year, the fact we won’t see more than half the players puts me off it a bit so it’s minimal stakes as the order of the day. I think we might see a big priced winner this week and quite like the look of Liang Wenbo, who would be a hugely popular champion if he could do it, so he’d probably be my main pick at 50/1 to rule himself out of being World Champion.

The Snooker Gods have chosen not to induce The Crucible Curse this year as Selby defends for the second time so you can be damn sure as eggs is eggs that they will decree that once more, whoever wins here won’t be lifting the trophy in early May, those pesky snooker gods.

Recommended Outright Bets: Liang Wenbo 50/1, Ali Carter 50/1, Ding Junhui 12/1. Each Way: Dave Gilbert 100/1 and Xiao Guodong 175/1. For Match Bets on a daily basis see Twitter. 

Quarter 1

Judd Trump/Jason Weston v Ashley Hugill

Ross Muir v Eden Sharav

Anthony McGill v Tian Pengfei 

Martin Gould v Fan Zhengyi

Mike Dunn v Andy Hicks

Liang Wenbo/Itaro Santos v Rory McLeod 

Ben Woollaston v Kurt Maflin

Joe Perry v Hossein Vafei Ayouri 

PREDICTED QUARTER FINALISTS: McGill v Wenbo  

Quarter 2

Shaun Murphy v Allan Taylor 

Graeme Dott v Gary Wilson

Michael White v Yu De Lu

Ali Carter v Stuart Carrington 

Michael Holt v Jimmy White/Li Yuan

Mark Williams v Zhang Anda

Dark Mavis v Rhys Clark 

John Higgins v Ian Burns

PREDICTED QUARTER FINALISTS: Carter v Holt 

Quarter 3

Stuart Bingham v Scott Donaldson

Robert Milkins v Noppon Saengkham 

Mark King v Sanderson Lam

Kyren Wilson v Xiao Guodong

Mark Joyce v Fraser Patrick 

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Gareth Allen 

Matt Selt v Ghou Yolonge

Ding Junhui/Sean O’Sullivan v Paul Davison

PREDICTED QUARTER FINALISTS: Guodong v Ding  

Quarter 4

Daniel Wells v Jamie Cope

Alan McManus v Matthew Stevens

Stephen Maguire v Fergal O’Brien 

Li Hang/Luo Honghao v Aditya Mehta

Ricky Walden v Alex Borg/Niu Zhuang

David Gilbert v Andrew Higginson 

Jimmy Robertson v Martin O’Donnell 

Mark Selby/Adam Stefanow v Alfie Burden 

PREDICTED QUARTER FINALISTS: McManus v Gilbert 

 

March 12, 2017

Players Championship Final: Trump v Fu

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:19 am

We are down to the final two in Clan-Did-No and after an epic deciding frame win over Ding last night Marco Fu joins Judd Trump in the final, the two being probably the form players on the tour as things stand.

They have played each other quite a lot over the years and Judd holds the head to head advantage, but it was Marco who won their latest battle on the big stage in a decider at The Masters, so it’s a tough one to call.

Judd perhaps will come into this fresher given he had a day off yesterday and despite his recent habit of looking for all the world like he’s going to win an event only to lose unexpectedly towards the end, something tells me that this won’t happen today, so I’m going to stick with my original tip for the title to prevail. In terms of a scoreline, I’ll plump for 10-7 which is best priced 8/1.

It’s been a great week of snooker and what follows is a couple of weeks of rest before we head to Beijing for The China Open and the straight into the World Championship.

March 10, 2017

Players Championship Semi-Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:38 pm

Memories of a bad tempered classic

Friday evening and Saturday evening see the finalists decided at Venue Cum-ri in Clan-did-no as the Players Championship moves to the best of 11 frame semi finals, this tournament just keeps getting better.

Whenever this evening’s match up occurs I am immediately transported back to the classic Crucible match that Ali and Judd fought out in 2012 (was it really 5 years ago?). It is without doubt the best match I have seen live since the UK Championship classic finals I witnessed in the 1980’s as a kid, the fact that I was lucky enough to be right down there in the bearpit on the press seats made it even more special. I’d just got to know Ali and was privy to a lot of his ‘under the breath’ moments, of which there were many, during all three sessions of the match.

At the time, there was some needle between the two, not on a personal level but Ali was getting increasingly frustrated at the luck that Judd was having through the match, one incident in particular, which will be revealed in Ali’s book, really riled him and led to a spat on Twitter mid-match between the pair of them, it has to be said, largely instigated by an increasingly agitated Ali. The match really did have everything and it was an experience I will never forget, I suspect Ali won’t either, the manner in which he won couldn’t have been scripted better if it was a movie.

Since then, if you disregard the Championship League encounters they have met just three times, with Ali winning two of them. In fact, if you take out minor events Judd has only beaten Ali once when he whitewashed him at the German Masters. I’m really looking forward to this one, it’s a great stage, it’s Friday night and there is a place in the final at stake, I’m friends with Ali so obviously I’ll be rooting for him but I just hope it lives up to the billing and the best player on the night wins.

Saturday sees Marco Fu taking on a resurgent Ding Junhui in the other semi-final. Marco played solidly against Mark Selby and in the end came through surprisingly comfortably. He’s definitely a different animal these days and assuming his nerves hold up, has to be a challenger in every tournament he plays. He’s matured as a player and is playing a more attacking game, which is reaping the rewards.

As for Ding, his form looks to be returning to something like his best at the right time of year. It can’t have been easy for him emotionally over the past few months and it’s nice to see him smiling again, I’m sure everyone in snooker will echo that.

So here goes a look at what might/probably won’t happen. Great match tonight, stay in, get the beer/wine/soft drinks in, hit the arsedent and enjoy. 

Friday 7pm

Ali Carter v Judd Trump

Judd’s long game in particular has been outstanding this week and he’s definitely the stand out player from the four remaining but his record against Ali isn’t good and I know that Ali is champing at the bit for this one, as he does whenever he is facing a top player. I can forsee two possible scenarios in this match, a comfortable victory for Judd or a deciding frame, if it comes to that I would take Ali every day to win. One thing I will say is that I think the winner of this one will win the tournament and you can still get 8/1 on Carter in the outrights to do just that. But Judd is looking unstoppable to me so far this week so if you put a gun to my head I’d go with scenario one and a 6-3 win for Trump, but obviously I’ll be hoping for scenario two and a late night deciding frame thriller, with the winner having a day off tomorrow that won’t be a disadvantage come Sunday.

Predicted: Trump to win 6-3 (with alternative prediction Carter 6-5

Saturday 7pm

Marco Fu v Ding Junhui

To follow.

March 8, 2017

Players Championship Quarter Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:56 pm

Quarter Final Classic?

We arrive on Wednesday evening at the one-table situation in what is quickly becoming one of my favourite events on the snooker calendar in Clan-did-no as The Players Championship reaches the Quarter Final stages.

It’s a strange schedule really, to clarify, we start the quarter finals tonight with Ronnie and Judd and they finish with Ding v Hamilton on Friday afternoon, then the winner of Ronnie and Judd is back on Friday evening to play the first semi-final. There is no play on Saturday afternoon as ITV cover something where angry little people whip animals for pleasure then the second semi-final is played on Saturday night before Sunday’s two session final.

But what a joy it is to see just 16 top players at a venue, all thoughts of the Shootout, the Championship League and the seemingly endless best of seven comps are now but distant memories as I sit and wonder why more events can’t be just like this. But like I said in my initial preview, this excitement is borne out of the fact that I’ve been totally non-plussed with snooker for the past month and a half and now look forward as I do every year with wonder, to Sheffield via here and Beijing.

Ronnie’s been a bit rude about the host town and didn’t seem to want to hang around there for any longer than he had to. This obviously drew criticism from the Clan-did-no Tourist Board as ever since he mouthed off ITV have been at pains to tell everyone about all the attractions on offer at the seaside resort, from Ryan Day going on about something for adrenaline junkies to them more or less ordering Mark Selby to go to the seafront after his match and buy some fish and chips when he clearly just wanted to go back to his hotel for a kip, they are clearly doing a mop up operation from the unshaven Rocket’s verbal tirade on the opening night.

But nights like tonight is what snooker is all about, snooker’s two box office stars in a packed out one table set up, live on a station that doesn’t treat its viewers like they have just hatched. Buckle down for Ronnie v Judd, they both seem to be in great form, maybe we’ll see something special.

Wednesday 7pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Judd Trump

It’s hard to seperate the two these days both literally and formwise, they’ve been on the road together for a great part of the last year and a half and I think that’s helped Judd more than it’s helped Ronnie. Judd confirmed last night after winning that he doesn’t fear Ronnie the way some other players still clearly do and I believe him. This probably comes from spending time with him and seeing him at his most relaxed as well as his usual on-table aura-surrounded, worshipped superstar. It feels like Judd’s time to take over as snooker’s box office is now a little overdue, but this season there are a few shrewdies detecting (as they and I have before it has to be said) that his moment is about to arrive. Ronnie played as well as I have seen him play in a while in the first round and if he continues in that form he’ll win tonight, as he’s still the best when he is at his best, just. It’s all ifs and buts this and there will be plenty who will be backing both, I go for Judd in a decider and I’ve also daftly had a bet on there being a maximum along the way. There’s one born every minute.

Predicted: Trump 5-4.

Thursday 1pm

Neil Robertson v Ali Carter

Even being introduced as Neil Robinsaaaaa wasn’t enough to knock Robbo off his stride in the first round and what followed was him coming back to some kind of semblance of his old self in hammering Barry Hawkins 5-0 in fine style. It’s four years since Ali beat Neil in anything of any meaning and the Aussie has won their last six big tussles, including at The Masters a couple of months back so on the history books you’d have to side with Robbo now we know he is coming back to form. Ali of course loves a challenge and will see this as a chance to stick a long overdue snooker shiner on his opponent. Carter is probably in the top 5 players of the season on the results he’s been posting and he’s finding a level of consistency that has in the past not quite been there. He took care of Shaun Murphy in a decider and if he’s to overturn this mini-hoodoo here he may again need all the frames to do it, but with Robbo back to form and holding the head to head aces I have to side with him.

Predicted: Robinsaaaaaa 5-3. 

Thursday 7pm

Mark Selby v Marco Fu

Selby holds quite a commanding lead between these two in the head to heads and they last met in a tight semi-final at The Crucible last season on Selby’s way to his second world title. I don’t know if it was that tournament or some time later that Marco transformed into the totally different player that lines up here. Gone is the rather robotic, fairly pedestrian player who could at times be quite sleep inducing, now we have someone who sees the shot and plays it, attacking more often than defending, maybe it’s something to do with that clock he wears on his wrist giving him lekky shocks if he takes too long. Selby wasn’t at his best in the first round but as usual won in a decider anyway, but his safety play unusually for him was what was letting him down and his opponent really let him off the hook quite a few times when clean in the balls. Marco is becoming a fantastic break builder and his confidence is sky high, I backed him last month for the World Championship at silly odds and I reckon he might just pip this one as long as he can avoid the decider.

Predicted: Fu 5-3

Friday 1pm

Ding Junhui v Anthony Hamilton

Ding managed to capture victory not so much from the jaws but the stomach lining of defeat against Higgins, 4-0 down with a highest break of 21 despite multiple chances and it looked for all the world like his recent poor form was to continue, but after the comeback of the season was complete here he is lining up against The Sheriff in Round 2. Pottingham’s finest performed extremely well in taking care of Stuart Bingham on day one and a repeat of that performance will make him very hard to beat. Ding holds a commanding lead in the head to heads but they haven’t met in anything this big for a decade so with Hamilton in such good form this might be one where the head to head stat will not really come into play. Hamilton is such a heavy scorer when he is in the mood and appears to be playing without a care in the world, just happy to be mixing it with the big boys like he used to and at long last earning some money from snooker. I’m going to take him to carry on his stunning run of recent form and do what Higgins couldn’t finish in round one.

Predicted: Hamilton 5-2

Recommended: Singles and a Double on Fu and Hamilton, best price for double is over 9/1 at Boylesports. 

March 6, 2017

Players Championship First Round

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:49 pm

We now know the full first round line up for Llandudno so let’s take a look at the matches, a reminder that these are all Best of 9 played in a two table format before reverting to one table from the Quarter Finals onwards.  

Top Half

Mark Selby (1) v Ryan Day (16) – Tuesday 1pm

Marco Fu (8) v Anthony McGill (9) – Tuesday 1pm

Ding Junhui (5) v John Higgins (12) – Wednesday 1pm

Stuart Bingham (4) v Anthony Hamilton (13) – Monday 7pm

It goes without saying that this is a very difficult event to have any confidence in when punting. By definition these are the 16 current best players in the world and as such there is very little between them, so anyone who comes out on top after the tournament can definitely give a nod to Lady Luck. Ryan Day is in great form lately and comes to this from securing his place in it in Gibraltar. He faces the undisputed world number one and will be hoping that he hasn’t left his form behind at customs, Selby usually wins the meaningful matches between the two and there isn’t anything that suggests a break in that pattern will happen here. Marco Fu had a stunning run of form recently and faces Shootout King Anthony McGill who is becoming a verified top 16 player thanks to his consistency, but he’s yet to beat Marco in 4 attempts so despite his recent improvement I’m going to take Marco to shade that one and set up a quarter final with Selby. The price of Ding Junhui in the outrights reflects his recent form which it must be said will be secondary in his mind to the recent loss of his young mum, let’s just hope that he can rediscover his best form soon, until then I think you have to side with John Higgins on Wednesday, while on day one Ballrun attempts to shoot down German Masters Champ and Pottingham’s Sheriff, Anthony Hamilton. I’d have that one as pretty much even on current form and wouldn’t put anyone off a punt on Hamilton at 3/1, he’s won their last two meetings including the semi-final in Berlin so on that alone, that price is too big.

Predicted Winners: Selby, Fu, Higgins, Hamilton.

Recommended Match Bet: 3/1 on Hamilton to beat Bingham at Bet 365

Predicted Half Winner: Higgins. 

Bottom Half

Barry Hawkins (3) v Neil Robertson (14) – Tuesday 7pm

Ali Carter (6) v Shaun Murphy (11) – Wednesday 1pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan (7) v Liang Wenbo (10) – Monday 7pm

Judd Trump (2) v Mark King (15) – Tuesday 7pm

Barry Hawkins is always on the shortlist of potential winners these days and even though he faces Neil Robertson first up the bookies now rate him higher in the outrights than the Aussie, who it has to be said seems to have forgotten how to win tournaments at the moment, that of course is a coin toss but I’ll just side with Hawkins who has won their last two meaningful matches. Ali Carter skipped the Shootout and Gibraltar and faces the man coming back from the rock with the trophy Shaun Murphy. Carter has enjoyed the upper hand in their more meaningful meetings and is in decent form as he proved in Germany so it may be worth siding with The Captain given Murphy’s busy recent schedule. Day one kicks off with surely more of the same from Ronnie and Liang, Liang will look for all the world like winning only to miss something crucial and let Ronnie off the hook just like The Masters and most other times they have faced each other. While in-form Judd Trump faces Northern Ireland winner Mark King, Judd has had much the better of the head to heads and I’d expect him to win again there with a little bit in the tank, I expect a good week for him.

Predicted Winners: Hawkins, Carter, O’Sullivan, Trump.

Predicted Half Winner: Trump

Recommended Bet: Judd Trump to win the Players Championship at 11/2.

Match Treble: Selby, Fu and Higgins pays over 5/2. Add Hawkins and Carter for almost 20/1 acca.  

Best Outright Odds: 9/2 Selby/O’Sullivan, 11/2 Trump, 12/1 Higgins/Hawkins, 14/1 Robertson, 16/1 Murphy, Bingham, 18/1 Fu, Ding 40/1 Carter, Day 66/1 McGill, 80/1 Wenbo, 100/1 Hamilton, 175/1 King. 

March 5, 2017

The Players Championship – The Return of Proper Snooker

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:43 pm

Come, come, come…. Nuclear Bomb

The wait is over. At last we have said goodbye for another season to the best of seven and shorter format matches as we approach the business end of another busy period on the baize, starting on Monday from Llandudno in Wales (which for some reason the Welsh refer to as ‘Clan-did-no’, totally ignoring how it is spelt), with the Players Championship.

Anyway, Clandidno is the kind of town that Morrissey wrote about in ‘Everyday is like Sunday‘, the seaside town that they forgot to close down kinda place. But it has its charm and being a bit of a miserable sod sometimes I quite like towns like that. I’ve chosen to live just around the corner from one actually and it’s the kind of place I went to on holidays with the family as a nipper. Think ‘Kiss me Quick’ hats and candy floss, that kinda vibe is where the Didno is at.

As I write the latest PTC style event in Gibraltar is coming to an end and because this tournament is seeded in terms of the 1 year list (1 v 16, 2 v 15 etc.) we don’t yet know the full match line up, although we do know who the final 16 are. This of course is not ideal when you only have today to write a preview, seeing as a prerequisite of writing a preview about betting on matches would be to actually know what those matches are. Not really ideal is it, either for the blogger or the bookie.

I’ve been a bit disappointed with the calendar of late, I make no secret of the fact that I think there are far too many tournaments these days with shorter formats and since the back end of the Welsh Open snooker has been a big switch off for a bluff old traditionalist like me. I’m sure I’ve missed some great matches, but I’m equally glad that I’ve not really bothered with any of it as it means I can now look forward with added enthusiasm and fresh eyes to this, to The China Open and then to the World Championship, including of course the qualifiers which are sometimes as riveting as the main event itself.

So why am I so keen on this event? Well, it’s kind of a bit like The Masters for ITV, the only difference is that these first rounds are best of nine rather than elevens and they are played on two tables rather than one but other than that we are seeing the 16 players who have performed best over the course of the season battle it out for a decent purse, even the first round losers get £10k just for turning up, which to me does feel a bit protectionist but you could argue that every player has had an equal chance to get here so I’m largely in favour of it.

Like I said, it’s difficult to write a preview when you don’t know the matches, when we do I’ll pop them in the space below and update as the tournament goes on. I very much enjoy the ITV coverage when they have a decent event and I’m sure they will do this one justice, it’s just a shame that the draw isn’t known for a decent betting preview, but I’ll pen my thoughts before the session starts tomorrow evening with Ronnie O’Sullivan and his good pal Liang Wenbo locking horns again (one of the few match ups we do know).

UPDATE – FULL DRAW AND FORMAT

First round Draw:

Mark Selby (1) v Ryan Day (16) – Tuesday 1pm

Marco Fu (8) v Anthony McGill (9) – Tuesday 1pm

Ding Junhui (5) v John Higgins (12) – Wednesday 1pm

Stuart Bingham (4) v Anthony Hamilton (13) – Monday 7pm

Barry Hawkins (3) v Neil Robertson (14) – Tuesday 7pm

Ali Carter (6) v Shaun Murphy (11) – Wednesday 1pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan (7) v Liang Wenbo (10) – Monday 7pm

Judd Trump (2) v Mark King (15) – Tuesday 7pm

February 5, 2017

German Masters Final: Carter v Hamilton

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:12 am

The culmination of a highly enjoyable few days in Berlin sees Ali Carter taking on Anthony Hamilton in the final. The historic city of Pottingham is holding its collective breath in the hope that their lawmaker can bring home a trophy for the first time in his professional career.

You can check out Ali reaction to reaching the final here and Anthony’s here and the head to head record here. I think Ali will win, for a correct score I’d plump for 9-5, but how could anyone begrudge a celebration at Pottingham Village Hall? The champagne is on ice and the bunting is being dusted off.

Let’s just hope it is a final befitting of a great event which is made even better by the vast numbers in attendance. I must get back there next year, it’s well worth the trip. 

February 4, 2017

German Masters – Semi Final Saturday

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:18 am

Four Englishmen over 35 years of age contest the finals weekend over in Berlin, yet more proof if ever it were needed that snooker is very much a middle-aged man’s game these days. Where are the next generation of potters coming from?

There is always lots of talk about the Chinese Revolution in snooker and I’ve always been sceptical about that concept, but now it almost seems inevitable that the battles that lie ahead in snooker will be almost tribal in character. On one side we have the ageing old guard and on the other the up and coming Chinese yoof. Eventually, unless the UK and the rest of Europe get the grassroots in order there is only one direction that this sport is heading so enjoy this last ‘golden era’ of snooker in Europe while you can (note: where exactly are any decent players on this vast continent outside of the UK?).

Anyway, that was what I thought when I woke up and saw the line up this morning. I didn’t watch any of the snooker last night I’m afraid as I had other things on, but I’ll be glued to it today as The Captain faces The GOAT and Ballrun squares up to The Sheriff. Despite being friends with Ali and Stuart, I’m probably, like most snooker fans of my age, secretly rooting for Hamilton this weekend. He’s not someone I know personally but his interview yesterday after beating Selby just hammered home what a great guy he is. It would be lovely if his mum and dad got to witness his first ranking win, which is long overdue for a player as good as he is.

I’ll not bother with any predictions today but I am really looking forward to the weekend’s action. It’s a great line up for someone like me, four proper players and whoever wins, I think it will make real fans happy. Oh yes and another message to Philip Studd, it’s not called the Templedrum, you are just making yourself look stupid now. In the words of the great Stephen Patrick Morrissey, that joke isn’t funny anymore. 

Click on the match for the head to head. Interestingly, it’s the first time Carter and Gould have played each other over longer than Best of 5 in the Championship League, whilst tonight’s protagonists go way back to a first meeting in 2003.

Saturday 1pm

Martin Gould v Ali Carter

Saturday 7pm

Stuart Bingham v Anthony Hamilton

February 3, 2017

German Masters Quarter Final Evening

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:10 pm

It’s Quarter Final time on Friday evening as the four winners from last night and the four winners from this afternoon’s session play down to the last four in Berlin. Here is a look at each of the matches, click on the match for the head to head record.

Martin Gould v Ryan Day

It’s been a very strong defence so far from reigning champion Gould which is impressive as he has never found himself in this situation before. He hit the ground running against Walden in the last round and basically won the match in the first session, despite a bit of a wobble at 4-0 up he managed to hold himself together to get over the line 5-3 in the end. Ryan Day was not just up against Robin Hull last night but also a very vocal crowd there to support the Fin. From 3-0 and 4-3 down Day produced the goods with two centuries including a one visit ton in the decider which must give him a lot of confidence going into this evening. He seems to be scoring the heavier of the two but as ever with Ryan it will depend which way the wind is blowing if he can keep that up tonight and not let the careless mistakes start creeping in. Gould holds the lead on the head to heads but lots of these are best of five, largely meaningless Championship League matches, in ‘real’ matches they are one apiece. All the signs are that this one could go the distance and then it’s down to who can hold himself together best, gun to head I’d go for Gould but I think the bet here is the one below.

Recommended Bet: Over 7.5 frames at 5/6 with Paddy Power

Tom Ford v Ali Carter

Tom Ford continues his run following his 147 on the first night, he put paid to Mark King on one of the outside tables last night and that earns him a crack at The Captain who came through a great match against the ferocious potter Zhao Xintong on the main table. Ali looks very confident this week and his way around the table as well as on it reminds me of when he won here in 2013, he seems to thrive on the atmosphere that this place creates. The draw itself has opened up for him a little with Ronnie going out and I’m sure he would not have expected Ford to emerge from the section he was in but that should not mean that Ali will underestimate the Leicester man. It’s clear that both are in very good form so you probably have to just think about who you believe the better player is and the one most likely to handle the pressure if this gets twitchy, on both counts I’d say Carter and given that he also has the head to head advantage it would be foolish not to side with him.

Predicted Winner: Carter

Stuart Bingham v Yan Bingtao

No sign of any nerves from the young Chinese player in his 5-1 win over Michael Holt, finishing with breaks of 115 and 61 to close the match out. He’s attracting a lot of attention and I have to say he seems to be progressing at a better rate than some of his ilk who have gone before him. He faces Ballrun who continued his hoodoo over Dave Gilbert in taking the last three frames to steal a win in the decider displaying all the qualities that made him a world champion. Bingham no doubt had the tougher afternoon and that could play a part in the result here, Bingtao will play as if he has nothing to lose and I think he’ll make this a heck of a match.

Recommended Bet: Over 7.5 frames at Evens. 

Barry Hawkins v Anthony Hamilton

Finally Hawkins and the Sheriff. It is absolutely astounding to me (I am easily astounded) that these two have only met twice over the years, most recently in the Northern Ireland Open semi-final a few weeks ago which Barry won 6-5. Hamilton had a great win over Selby, again without his trademark prolific scoring whilst Barry had another workmanlike win over Ben Woollaston. He’s making his way through pretty much unchallenged so far Barry and there is a nice way about him around the table at the moment. Again both come into this having had the mental challenges this afternoon and Anthony has in the past complained that he can struggle at times with fatigue on a long day and that might just play a part here, I’m going to take Hawkins for a comfortable win again.

Recommended Bet: Hawkins (-1.5 frames) at 4/6.  

February 2, 2017

German Masters Last 16

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:26 pm

It’s fast and furious in Berlin

The rounds come thick and fast in Berlin as Thursday evening sees the start of the Last 16 of the German Masters with tomorrow seeing those in the bottom half of the draw playing twice, at 2pm and 7pm and concluding the quarter finals in time for Saturday’s semis. Phewwwwww.

I always think this part of the tournament feels a bit rushed personally and that it would benefit greatly from starting on the Tuesday rather than the Wednesday to spread it out a little more evenly, or alternatively make more use of the morning sessions on day one and day three.

I know that the venue is expensive to hire and in demand so that probably has something to do with not extending it by a day, but having two morning sessions, three if you count Saturday, with no matches seems a bit daft to me. Either way, tonight sees the first four last 16 matches and the lucky winners of these will only have to play once tomorrow in the evening session.

The matches at 2pm tomorrow will have a bearing on the evening I’d say, the winner of a long drawn out 5-4 job which finishes around 6pm might face someone who breezed through in an hour or so and that adds an extra bit of spice to things I suppose. I remember Selby losing in those circumstances when I visited there and when he came out for the evening he looked like a walking corpse having had an afternoon tussle with Ding, he looked absolutely shot to bits even more so than he usually does, he duly got walloped on an outside table by Barry Hawkins and no doubt fell into bed almost immediately afterwards.

Here is a look at tonight’s matches, click on the match for the head to head statistics. Tomorrow’s will follow sometime soon.

Thursday 7pm

Martin Gould v Ricky Walden

Ryan Day v Robin Hull

Tom Ford v Mark King

Ali Carter v Zhao Xintong

(To be fair), Martin Gould played well in his opener but you have to say that his opponent Jamie Jones didn’t put up much of a fight (to be fair), but (to be fair) that doesn’t take away from a solid performance from the defending champion and a much needed confidence boosting win for the Pinner Potter (to be fair). He faces Ricky Walden who edged out John Astley in a decider with a highest break of 68. On first round performances you’d follow Gould but when Ricky gets on a roll he can start motoring and he holds a commanding head to head lead so we’ll see. Robin Hull ended Jimmy White’s hopes also in a decider and the heavy scorer from Finland now faces Ryan Day who apparently didn’t put a foot wrong against Mark Allen in an unexpected 5-1 win, we’ve been here so often with Day, we all know he should have won events but he never does, I think he’ll win tonight but after that who knows? Perhaps the rushed formula of these two rounds might suit him until he has to start thinking about what round he has reached on Saturday, talking of rushed formulas, the head to head shows us that the only time they have played each other was on Robin’s way to winning the Shootout last season, as head to head relevance going into a match goes that has to be up there with the most tenuous. 147 man Tom Ford faces Ronnie’s conqueror Mark King. The K-Dog is carving out a bit of a fanbase in the twilight years of his long career and is producing his lifetime best snooker, like most people in snooker I can’t help but like King and I hope he can keep this run going, he’s usually better in the limelight than on the outside tables but I think he’ll edge this one. He has won their only two meetings, both in deciders so perhaps back that again. Finally, Ali Carter who played very solidly in whupping the increasingly fading force Maguire, much like he played when he won here actually, he plays one of the Chinese wonderkids Zhao Xintong, a boy who basically goes for everything and gets quite a few of them, if Ali keeps this tactical he’ll win in a canter, if he allows the Boy Wonder to hit the ground running and turn this into a potfest he risks coming unstuck. Fans of The Captain will hope he keeps this very much in the traditions of the old school on the televised table.

Predicted Winners: Walden, Day, King, Carter.

Friday 2pm

Stuart Bingham v Dave Gilbert

Michael Holt v Yan Bingtao

Ben Woollaston v Barry Hawkins

Anthony Hamilton v Mark Selby  

Dave Gilbert continued his impressive recent form in the first round knocking out Marco Fu to earn a tie with Stuart Bingham here, Stuart wasn’t at his best in the first round and benefited from a careless early display by an inexperienced opponent, his experience saw him fall over the line but I don’t think he’ll get that luxury today against Gilbert, the head to heads are particularly interesting here as Bingham has won all of their 8 previous meetings so that has to make a difference to the punting, until I saw that I really fancied Gilbert, but that has done enough to put me off, so it’s a watching brief for me this one. Michael Holt cruised through in Round 1 and now faces the up and coming Chinese player Yan Bingtao, who took care of Dominic Dale. I think experience will be the key here and although Bingtao is clearly a talent I’d take Holt to win this one comfortably now we are reaching the latter stages of the event. A great win for Ben Woollaston over Neil Robertson sets up a tie with the solid Barry Hawkins who produced a decent display against Michael White, I just have a feeling about Barry this week and think he’s due a trophy, I’m sticking with him in this one. Finally, The Sheriff of Pottingham Anthony Hamilton continues to plough his trade and having seen off one multiple world champion he now faces another, the current one Mark Selby who has yet to lose a frame in this tournament having qualified with two whitewashes before doing the same to the hapless Un-Nooh yesterday. Hamilton has a good record against Selby winning 4 of their last 5 meetings but the key to his game has always been his heavy scoring which wasn’t in evidence against Williams, I think at 4/1 he is worth an interest bet but only that as you’d expect Selby to emerge at the end of it.

Predicted Winners: Gilbert, Holt, Hawkins, Selby.  

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