Snookerbacker

August 23, 2016

Paul Hunter Classic Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:30 am

Paul HunterIt’s been quite a while coming but this week sees the return of snooker action to our screens as the potters head to Bavaria, the Stadthalle Fürth to be precise, to compete for the Paul Hunter Classic, which was famously and poignantly won last season by newly crowned World Open Champion Ali Carter.

It’s one of only two events that provide top class action for the amateurs this season and they get underway on Wednesday at the venue. Again it’s played over the best of seven format all the way through to the final on Sunday, with €25,000 on offer for the eventual winner. It’s also a chance for the snooker community to remember Paul and again lament on what a tragic loss it was for the sport when he left us.

Unfortunately a few of the bigger names in the sport have chosen to give this a miss. Obviously there is no Ronnie O’Sullivan and also AWOL are the likes of Neil Robertson (too busy playing video games), Shaun Murphy (on baby watch), Judd Trump (on holiday), Ding Junhui (never plays in these) and Mark Williams (playing golf and bingo). But the current world champion is in the mix as is the holder and man in form Carter, so there is enough quality in there to keep us all entertained over the weekend.

I haven’t yet seen the Eurosport schedule but I am assuming it will get a bit of coverage on the TV stations (EDIT – it isn’t on the TV channel unfortunately) as well as full coverage on Eurosport Player, which seemed to be working fine once it got up and running for the last couple of events so might be worth an investment if you haven’t already, given that they cover everything on there throughout the season.

Mark Selby is a very short priced favourite for this in a huge field. Granted that he does look the stand out in his section of the draw but 4/1 best price in a field of 128 is a bit skinny for my liking. He might well win it of course but I’d prefer to take a punt on others that are more than capable over the shorter format at much longer odds.

Draws could have been worse for the likes of Ricky Walden, the holder Carter, the man he beat in China Joe Perry and lower down the experienced Angles McManus, so it’s worth just spreading some shrapnel around on others rather than steaming in to Selby in my humble opinion.

So here is my band of merry men, best of luck if you are having a punt.

Recommended Outright Bets: Ricky Walden (16/1), Ali Carter (25/1), Michael Holt (80/1), Joe Perry (22/1), Dave Gilbert (66/1), Alan McManus (125/1).

Click here to view the full draw.

Click here to view the format.

July 29, 2016

World Open Nears Conclusion

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:16 am
We're approaching another lull in the calendar

We’re approaching another lull in the calendar

We’re down to the final four at this season’s World Open from Yushan before another quite large gap in the calendar which sees almost a month without any snooker at all going on in this rather sedated start to the new campaign.

It’s been quite an entertaining tournament so far, though again for all but a handful of matches the attendance has been quite poor, not helped really by below par performances from the Chinese contingent, in particular Ding, who looked as rusty as a rusty thing covered in rust.

The large gaps that are appearing in the calendar are not to everyone’s liking, in particular I have noticed those who are a little newer to snooker and who perhaps were only switched on to it after the coronation of Herr Bazza, but for old hands like me it really isn’t a big deal and I look forward to events more when there has been a few weeks of inaction. It is however a far cry from the 365/24/7 snooker that the incoming chairman promised would happen when he was anointed. 

But the newbies need not be too despondent as when the calendar picks up again there are plenty of opportunities to watch snooker. It kicks off at the back end of August in Furth for the annual Paul Hunter Classic which of course was famously won last year by the returning Ali Carter, who is also involved at the business end of the current tournament.

Following this, September is dominated by the Shanghai Masters but it’s in October that things really start picking up with the European and English Opens as well as the lucrative International Championships all being played then, so that’s quite a month.

 

So as we approach the last throes of snooker for a while, it’s time again for a bit of downtime until Germany, no prizes for guessing who I’d like to win the World Open from here. Not least because he was recommended at 66/1 to do so.

Semi Finals

Ali Carter 6-1 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 

Neil Robertson 2-6 Joe Perry 

Final

Ali Carter 10-8 Joe Perry

July 21, 2016

World Open Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:16 am

World OpenThe biggest tournament of the early season gets underway in China on 25th July as Yushan plays host to the World Open, it’s a new venue and officially Shaun Murphy is here to defend the title he won in 2014, with this having been scrapped from last season’s calendar.

There is over half a million quid on offer here which is a step up from the recent jaunts to Latvia and India, but this still isn’t enough to tempt Ronnie O’Sullivan to hop on a plane and take part, instead he was last seen skulking around Elvis Presley’s pool room. It’s probably more likely that The King himself jumps out of a nearby wardrobe to take up the challenge with The Rocket than Ronnie ever playing competitively in China again.

Perhaps more surprising is that Mark Allen, who won this two years on the spin before Murphy, also decided this was too early to come back to the baize, other top players all decided that this wasn’t one to miss so we’ll see how costly that decision could be to Mark at the end of the season, or arguably more importantly when seedings for the World Championship are decided, although looking at how much money he won last year he is unlikely to end up outside the top 16 any time soon.

It was good to see a new face lifting a trophy in India and Anthony McGill finally fulfilled the years of promise he has shown to become the latest virgin ranking winner beating Kyren Wilson, who surely has a good season ahead of him, in the final. Now anoraks everywhere are left to ponder who the next first time ranking winner will be, I’d take a punt on Michael Holt given his upturn in form recently, he can’t be far away now I don’t think and is still going off at three figure prices in almost everything. 

There isn’t much else really to report on the snooker front, the whole scene goes a little quiet over the sunnier months and that’s no bad thing. Who knows, by the time we get to November we might all be fully refreshed and chomping at the bit for a bit of baize having been starved of it for so long. I certainly prefer this to the 24/7 feel of a couple of seasons ago, but that said, I do wonder where the next generation of professionals are coming from given the lack of any effective replacement for the PTC’s for amateurs.

Anyway, back to this. One good thing about this event is that it returns to the best of 9 format for the early rounds so it’s nice that the Chinese events at least are not being swept away with this tedious move to best of sevens in everything. It’s making me like the Chinese events a lot more than the ones closer to home as I continue to be switched off by the shorter format, I’m particularly disappointed that such a great new initiative as the Home Nations series is subject again to best of sevens when most snooker fans yearn for longer matches to mix it up a bit.

This one is covered on Eurosport TV which is good and also available on Eurosport Player, which is now up and running after a few early teething problems in India, I signed up to it and it’s a pretty good service, at least so far.

Bettingwise, I’m happy to take a punt that Ding Junhui will come into this fresh and buoyed by his Sheffield adventure, he’ll have all the support as ever to lift him and perhaps this season we’ll see him get back to something like the player we saw at The Crucible, but who before that, hadn’t been seen for quite a while.

I’m also going to throw in a few each way punts on players that are more than capable of having a run in this. Snooker in the early season isn’t always dominated by the big name players and although you have to look at Neil Robertson’s draw and make him a worthy favourite, there really isn’t any such thing as a certainty when we get down to the last 32 or so of a ranking event, particularly this early in the season when a lot of them would probably much rather be on their holidays. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a player outside of the top 16 go deep in this so it’s worth spreading your bets around in each quarter in the hope that you’ve found the right man.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

Recommended Bets: Win: Ding Junhui 10/1. Each Way: Ali Carter 66/1, Michael Holt 150/1, Liang Wenbo 80/1, Kurt Maflin 250/1, Zhou Yuelong 300/1. Quarter Bets: Michael Holt to win 3rd Quarter at 25/1, Kurt Maflin to win 1st Quarter at 40/1. 

July 4, 2016

Indian Open – Potters Head to Hyderabad

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:43 am
Back early to defend his title.

Back to defend his title.

Tuesday sees the start of five days of action from Hyderabad in India as the potters, hopefully not destined to spend more time on the potty than potting take part in the Indian Open.

One of the aspects of this that is different is of course the Indian commentators, expect many scathing attacks on players if they dare to miss what they decide is an easy ball or they dare to misjudge a safety, much talk of players being ‘club standard’ is to be expected if anyone has a bad day at the office. Those boys don’t pull their punches and they will also be suitably biased towards their own players, making sure that they mention Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta more times than Dennis mentions golf in Sheffield regardless of who they are actually watching.

This continues the stop/start feel to the beginning of the new season, first we headed to Preston for a week of qualifiers, including the first round of this event, then a few weeks later came the Riga Masters in Latvia, which to be honest passed me by in a heartbeat and was won by Neil Robertson, now a couple of weeks later it’s this and then we have another couple of weeks to wait until the biggest event so far of the season, the World Open in Yushan, China.

This stuttering start does have its critics but I’m actually a fan of it and would rather we had a fortnight between all tournaments, with perhaps some lesser event like the Championship League providing the baize heroin injection for those who just need more and more of it, which I don’t. It’s not really until November that the events start coming thick and fast and that’s fine by me as the UK Championship and The Masters are there to keep us cozy when the nights start drawing in. For now, let summer do its thing and keep the snooker at a minimal level.

There’s not been that much happening in the baizeworld really over the past few weeks, it’s all a bit quiet while everyone takes in the changes that are happening over here in other areas and tries to get their heads around that, perhaps a focus on snooker every now and again might provide the therapy that I know I need after the week that’s just taken place in the UK.

This is covered on Eurosport Player if you have it, I haven’t so I’d better sort that out if I want to watch it. I do hope they take the Indian coverage though and we get to hear their sometimes comical thoughts on what is unfolding in front of them. We’ll also get to see one of the more bizarre presentation ceremonies at the end which seems to go on forever as every Captain and his mate gets introduced to the bemused winner and loser and Jason Ferguson stands there in his regulation suit and tie combo trying to look interested.

I managed to recommend a winning acca on the Riga preview, albeit at shorter odds by virtue of Kyren Wilson’s withdrawal, which was a certainty since I made him the poster boy of the preview, predicting big things for him this season. Happily he has recovered from the health scare that stopped him travelling to Latvia and is back in action here, where he faces my pal Martin O’Donnell first up.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the updated format

Recommended Bets: Outright – Marco Fu (12/1) Shaun Murphy (11/2) Stuart Bingham (12/1). First Round Acca –  Joe Swail, Dechawat Poomjaeng, Matthew Stevens, Mike Dunn and Anthony McGill pays just over 15/2.

June 21, 2016

The Riga Masters – The Season Begins

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:21 am
Kyren Wilson - on the up.

Kyren Wilson – on the up.

This week sees the snooker season beginning in earnest as the first trophy will be handed out over in Riga in what used to be a EPTC event and is now a fully fledged ranker, if still largely run under a rather rushed EPTC format over just three days.

It’s best of sevens all the way to the final, when we get to see a rare best of nine finale. Indeed when you look at the calendar these days it’s something of a novelty not to have best of sevens dominating, I’ve counted 12 events in the entire season that are best of seven or less and that to me is a great shame and largely switches me off for quite a fair chunk of it. It comes to something when I am only really looking forward to The Masters, to a lesser extent the UK and The World Championship when the season hasn’t really even started yet, but that’s how Bazza has decided it’s going to be and he won’t listen to a boring old traditionalist like me.

A handful of the top players didn’t bother entering this one including for some reason the holder Barry Hawkins, Shaun Murphy who decided to get married instead, as you do, Ding who never enters this type of event and of course Ronnie who only plays in the UK these days unless it’s an exhibition for a load of dosh. But we do have the likes of World Champion Selby, Robbo, Judd, Higgins etc. to keep the crowd entertained.

I’ve decided that this season a solid tactic is to back two or three players blind in the hope that they deliver a title at a decent price over the course of the season. The first is Kyren Wilson, who continues to come on in leaps and bounds and is now into the top 16 with plenty of scope to climb higher and solidify his Masters place. He impressed throughout last season and has to be one to keep on the right side of in this one. I’ll also start having a punt each time on Dave Gilbert, I’ve always rated him and he’s playing as well now as he ever has so I’d expect to see him competing at the business end a few times this season, he’s also my biggest fan, he told me in Sheffield.

It is always interesting to see who breaks through in a particular season and there are plenty of names at long odds that are more than capable of raising their game and nabbing a title, for this particular comp you see the likes of Michael Holt and Sam Baird at 150/1 in places, the promising Zhou Yuelong (or as Dennis prefers to call him Ghou Yolonge) starting at odds of around 200/1, SBC Champ Sam Craigie at 500/1 and the man he faces in the first round here former SBC champ Martin O’Donnell as long as 300/1 and you just never know who might turn the corner this season and nab a title at astronomical odds just as Kyren did last season in Shanghai.

Apparently the live TV coverage of this isn’t up to much and we’re still waiting for the new improved streaming service that is yet to replace the World Snooker Live Streaming Channel, not really sure what’s happening on that front.

Following Riga we have another fortnight gap until the potters pack the Imodium for India. It’s a bit like last year in that the start of the season is a little bit stop/start, but once we hit September it’s pretty much blanket snooker all the way through to the end of the season. I just wish they’d not have so many best of sevens.

The draw for the Riga Masters is here and the format is here and it all kicks off on Wednesday and finishes on Friday, at which point we will know if the UK still wants to be part of Europe or not. There are a couple of heldover matches, one sees the return to pro snooker for Welshman Darren Morgan who recently won a European title to bag a wildcard, the other sees Marco Fu taking on a local lady player who the bookies rate at just 1000/1 to take the title when arguably she should be that price to beat Marco, at least Dick Turpin wore a mask.

Recommended Bets: Outright – Kyren Wilson at 22/1 and Dave Gilbert at 80/1. First Round Acca – Jimmy Robertson, Ali Carter, Stuart Bingham, Zhao Xintong and Kyren Wilson pays just on 9/2.   

May 1, 2016

The World Championship Final: Ding Junhui v Mark Selby

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:19 am
Let Battle Commence

Let Battle Commence

Another World Championship draws to a close and no doubt lots of snooker nuts will be a bit depressed on Tuesday morning when it’s all over for another year. But before then, there is the small matter of who will be our champion to decide. Will it be China’s glory year or can Leicester look to bag a champion’s double?

Depending on who you ask, Ding carries the hopes of between 100 million and a whole continent on his small shoulders over the next 48 hours, though he is slightly more realistic and accurate in estimating that it’s probably nearer 20 million. The interviews he did yesterday were very insightful and it’s clear that he prefers to be away from ‘the madness’ of the Chinese crowds and will not allow himself to get carried away until he has finished the job. Even then, you can’t really see him wanting to get pissed up and go trawling London’s nightlife, he’s just not that kinda guy really is he?

Ding has turned having to qualify into a positive thing and saw it as valuable match practice, he breezed through of course and for once wasn’t in the spotlight from day one, he clearly prefers this and you do wonder if he’d have been seeded would he be contesting the final today? My guess is probably not.

His game is razor sharp and Alan McManus can rightfully be very proud of his semi-final performance, he’d probably have beaten Selby or Fu had the draw fallen differently but it wasn’t to be. It’s fair to say however that he has played a major role in the championship this year and won an army of new fans, even at this stage in his career. I’ll just miss his walk-on music and little finger flick to the crowd.

JV - fucked up big time.

JV – fucked up big time.

Selby was at his torturing best yesterday and even had Willie and JV resorting to expletives in the commentary box. His ermm ‘mate’ and fellow Leicester man Willie describing his match as ‘pathetic’ while JV lamented that he wanted to watch the horse racing and Match of the Fucking Day. With friends like them two who needs enemies?

The hapless pair had hoped their intellectual musings wouldn’t be picked up on air, but of course they were and a wrap on the knuckles followed with JV sent back to his hotel for the evening session but apparently not the rest of the championship, to the disgust of many easily offended viewers from suburbia. We’ve had no word from Willie, even though arguably his one word analysis of the match showed a little more contempt for the fortunate position he found himself in, one which a lot of people would have given their right arm to be in. He really is a very silly Willie sometimes.

But let’s not dwell on that, who’s going to win? Well, the form clearly steers you towards Ding and even taking into account Selby’s Crucibility and torturability I just can’t see him sticking with China’s finest for a match of this duration. I think he has to be at his best from the off and he’s been far from that this whole tournament so far. If Ding starts well I think he’s going to be very hard for Selby to peg back even with his legendary brinkmanship.

I’d like it to be a classic of course but only the hardest hearted snooker fan, or perhaps one who is a racist, would begrudge Ding the win. It would be great for the sport but better still it would mean we’d all get to see his little smile light up The Crucible on Monday night, just as long as the talk of a Chinese Revolution is kept in perspective.

So for me it’s somewhere in the region of 18-10 to Ding. HEAD TO HEAD HERE. Below are some bets for anyone that way inclined.

Recommended Bets: 2 points on Ding to be leading after 8 frames at 13/8. 2 points on Ding to win the first frame and win the match at 21/10. 4 points on Ding to make more than 2 centuries in the match at 5/6. 2 points on Ding -3.5 frames at 3/1. 1 point on each – Ding 18-9 at 33/1, 18-10 at 25/1 and 18-11 at 20/1.

April 28, 2016

World Championship Semi-Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:45 am
Two becomes One today. Let's just hope they have picked the one on the left.

Two become One today. Let’s just hope they have picked the one on the left.

And then there were four…..two seeds are left in the bottom half, only one of whom was seeded to be there and two qualifiers from Ponds Forge will battle out the top half semi final, which starts this afternoon.

Once again, this great championship has thrown up some big surprises, imagine the odds at the start on the likes of Ronnie, Robbo, Judd, Allen, Murphy and Higgins all being dumped out before the semi-finals? But that is precisely what has happened after a breathtaking night of drama at The Crucible on Wednesday, proving once again why there is truly no better place on the planet for snooker.

The nostalgic amongst us, in that I of course include myself, will be rooting for Alan McManus, his press conferences (if you haven’t watched them yet, do yourself a favour), have endeared him to the press and public alike and his general sense of wonderment and reflection on his achievement already are somewhat reminiscent of Stuart Bingham last year and we all know what happened then.

Angles laughs off the fatigue argument and gave very good reasons for doing so after winning last night, even claiming that the best of 33 over 3 days feels less tiring to him than the best of 19 in the first round. His opponent, who carries the hopes and dreams of a nation should however be fresh as the proverbial daisy given that he actually lives in Sheffield so presumably with his day off has just done a bit of housework. After all, those dishes don’t clean themselves.

Ding of course would be a huge winner for the sport and it’s global ambitions, it would even be worth us having to endure the inaccurate talk of the Chinese Snooker Revolution just to see his smiling face when he won. He may not get a better chance than this and looks more relaxed this year than any other, what I will say however is that his last match for me was something of a false result, given the problems MJW had with his equipment, in MJW’s words, Ding played alright but he’d have lost that match to anybody.

The other semi-final sees the rather understated presence of the champion of two years ago Mark Selby, who has steadily made his way here without yet facing a seeded player, but having taken care of the very dangerous Kyren Wilson in typical workmanlike fashion in his last match. He’ll face Marco Fu who was very nearly the victim of the fightback of the century by Barry Hawkins, he held himself together admirably at the end but the manner in which he allowed Barry back into it will cause concern for his supporters and those who crave an all-Asian final.

So who will be contesting the final on Sunday and Monday? I’d love to see Angles there but equally wouldn’t mind if Ding made it and ultimately became the champion, I’d have more chance of getting my SB Classic £1000 World Champion Scholarship off Selby I reckon but that shouldn’t come into play. The likely final for me is Ding against Selby, it would be a great spectacle for the sport if it were to happen, though equally I’d like to see Angles there, but the head has to rule the nostalgic heart on that one.

Semi Finals (click on the match for the head to head)

Alan McManus v Ding Junhui (Starts at 1pm Thursday)

Marco Fu v Mark Selby (Starts at 7pm Thursday)

Recommended Bets: 3 point double on each match having over 3 centuries pays just under 5/2. 3 points on Selby to have over 2 centuries at 5/4.  

April 26, 2016

World Championship Quarter Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:08 am
Camera

Click the pic to view my other Instagram Crucible photos

We are down to the final eight in Sheffield as the business end of the championship approaches. What we have left are five seeded players and three who came through the qualifiers, can a qualifier win this great championship for the first time since Shaun Murphy in 2005? Alan McManus, Ding Junhui and Kyren Wilson will be hoping so.

It is a shame that much of the first week has been ruined by the table used for the top half of the draw, it’s not often that I agree 100% with players going on about big bounces and kicks but even to an amateur eye like mine, table one has been totally ridiculous all week and has ruined the chances of a number of players.

It’s not too much to ask to have perfect tables for this and unfortunately, the Star tables, for whatever reason do not play with the consistency of the old Riley ones. Whether it’s the cloth, the balls or the tables themselves, you’d think World Snooker would be asking some very tough questions of their suppliers, no matter what it means to the financial bottom line as someone is clearly not delivering the right quality product.

There have been some highlights so far, Carter and Bingham gave us the annual Day 1 thriller, despite the table they were trying their best to play on, Judd’s first rounder against Wenbo as well as his later match with Ding helped things along, while the late night decider which saw Ronnie on his way home provided that extra spice. We’ve seen very strong performances from Sam Baird, Michael Holt and Kyren Wilson and also some of the old guard coming to the fore, just look at the last eight and once again it proves, if any further proof were needed, that snooker is very much a middle-aged man’s game these days predominantly. There is no substitute for experience.

So here is a look at the last eight who now battle it away to reach the ‘one table situation’, will it be a new champion or a familiar face at the end adding their name again to the famous old trophy? Time will tell….

CLICK ON THE MATCH FOR THE HEAD TO HEAD.  

Alan McManus v John Higgins 

Och aye the noo naa, it’s only an all Scottish Quarter Final. It’s over 20 years since these two old muckers first locked horns and they’ve been meeting regularly ever since. A look at the head to head sees John with a slender advantage, but it’s Angles that has won their last two encounters, including a first rounder here two seasons back. John however sounds in determined mood and it could be argued that the draw is falling into place for him to equal Ronnie’s five world titles. He’s a different player to the one who has been bereft of confidence for the past few seasons here and looks very much like his old self, which is bad news for the others, he is also now installed as the favourite to win the title. Alan has had a great run and I hope it continues, but the heart can’t overrule the head on this one and I’d expect John to win with a bit in hand although he does look a little tired, the bookies agree so there isn’t really any value out there.

Prediction: Higgins 13-6    

Ding Junhui v Mark Williams

Both look in fine fettle moving into this mouth-watering Quarter Final, Ding looks to be finding life a little easier than usual as a qualifier and looks a little more at home in a venue he has struggled with a lot in the past, many now think it’s his year. Williams on the other hand continues to play down his chances, claiming he has no chance of winning it and that the winner isn’t even in his half (though he said this when Ronnie was still in it). He is a law unto himself but I don’t think everyone is fooled by this and within lies a steely competitor who I am sure thinks he is still capable of adding to his world crown tally and he won’t get a better chance than this to do so. I think he’s in great form and if this comes down to a battle of temperament at the end I would always stake my last penny on Williams. He is the proven winner here and he’s playing as well if not better than Ding, I think the bookies have got this one wrong.

Prediction: Williams 13-9

Recommended Bet: 4 points on Williams at 9/4

Marco Fu v Barry Hawkins

Wasn’t this supposed to be Ronnie against Murphy? But against all odds we have Marco and Barry lining up to do battle after The Hawk’s heroics against Ronnie. Marco is as ever, the quiet man in all this, he’s made his way here with mixed performances, brilliant against Ebdon and a bit patchy against McGill, but he’s capable of scrapping when he has to. Barry is attempting to make it four consecutive years getting to the one table situation, which will have the anoraks reaching for the almanac to find out when this was last done (I’m guessing Hendry). Of course he is yet to win it but against Ronnie he showed that he has both the game and the bottle to go that extra step. I’d be surprised if he lost here, Marco has played well, but Barry at times, has been sublime and has to take so much confidence from his last match.

Prediction: Hawkins 13-8

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Hawkins (-2.5 frames) at 5/4 

Kyren Wilson v Mark Selby

Selby is coming through in typical style and doing just enough to win, which we now come to expect from him. He had a scare against Sam Baird and any repeat of that performance will obviously see him in a real dogfight again here. Kyren has been so impressive and approached his match against Mark Allen in ruthless style and perhaps more tellingly, in the style of a future champion, winning the match effectively in the first session. Who is to say he won’t do the same here? Selby to me doesn’t look to be playing as well as he was when he won it two years ago and the wind is in The Warrior’s sails, this is one of those matches where logic is thrown out of the window in return for a ‘funny feeling’, that is what I have about Kyren here, perhaps this is his time.

Prediction: Wilson 13-10

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Wilson at 9/4

Recommended Bet: 2 point double on Williams and Wilson pays almost 10/1. 2 points on Williams to win the Championship at 16/1. 2 points on Kyren Wilson to win the Championship at 12/1.

April 21, 2016

World Championship Round Two Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:03 am
Crucible

I took this, good isn’t it? To see my other Crucible snaps just click on the picture (Instagram)

I’m back from The Crucible now and ready to hit the arse dent in the sofa hard for the next 12 days, or hopefully (read on) just the 10, to enjoy the rest of this great championship.

We’ve seen big names fall already and my fancy for the final Neil Robertson is the biggest casualty so far. As I write Judd is up against it too and will need a great comeback against the man who has been inexplicably featured on all the venue posters from the start despite having to qualify, Liang Wenbo, to make it in to the last 16.

Ronnie is for whatever reason not speaking to the press, which as ever generates a story in itself. My own feelings about it is that it’s a familiar and rather distasteful pattern of his behaviour that seeks to focus all attention on himself when it might otherwise be focused on others, but I might be being unfair to him there.

The far more interesting news of course was Steve Davis retiring, just the day before Ronnie stole the headlines. People of a certain age, including myself, know what a complete legend he is and was. We lived through the years of his dominance and all sought to be the ‘next Davis’. Only one person succeeded in doing so and he’s now firmly established behind the microphone at the BBC. If you didn’t live through this time in snooker, you can recapture it through endless You Tube footage or alternatively get a full-on dramatised and slightly romanticised hit of what a crazy time it was for the game by watching The Rack Pack, which I reviewed and linked to here earlier in the year. It is well worth 1 hour, 26 minutes and 6 seconds of your time.

Anyway, as ever I digress and waffle on without a care. The second round is upon us and there are 8 matches that need my urgent attention, so here goes.

For head to heads, click on the match.

Ali Carter v Alan McManus

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, I want Ali Carter to win this championship and if he makes the final I will be back in Sheffield as part of Team Carter. It will reflect in the bets I put up so if you choose to ignore this match preview and move on, I shall not hold it against you. Ali came through a fantastic battle against the reigning champion on Saturday, lots of people I saw asking on social media at one point who he was talking to during the decider, well, actually it was me. He casually strolled over at one point when the frame was at it’s most tense and asked what I fancied eating later in the evening, that is a story I can probably dine out on for a bit should he go on to win it. He faces the man he beat in the first round last year Alan McManus, Alan is playing better this year than he was last and Ali should not take him lightly, he kept him at arms length in their match last time and he will need to do the same here. I think this match will suit Ali, he tends to thrive when it becomes tactical and no doubt this will be, I fancy him to win with a bit in hand, hopefully he won’t make this any more difficult than it might otherwise be.

Prediction: Carter 13-9.

Recommended Bet: 4 points on over 1 century at 11/10.

Ricky Walden v John Higgins

Higgins played superbly in Round 1 and came away from it saying he felt better about his game than he has for at least 5 years at The Crucible. Ricky on the other hand came through a frankly turgid battle against Robbie Williams in a match which left us all wishing that there didn’t have to be a winner. This is a new round and Ricky may have got his howler out of the way, but if he plays like that again here he’ll lose, and lose very heavily. Higgins to me looks like a man on a mission and set to face Ali in the quarter final. Ricky did beat John in China so they do have recent form, but on a purely horses for courses level, it has to be Higgins here in a canter, he looks very dangerous just now.

Prediction: Higgins 13-8.

Recommended Bet: 5 points on Higgins (-2.5 frames) at 10/11. 1 point on Higgins (-6.5 frames) at 9/2.  

Judd Trump v Ding Junhui

Judd came through an epic encounter with Liang and produced a spirited fightback to win, showing bags of character and even afterwards treating his supporters to a drink. Ding was also pushed by Martin Gould but came through to set up this mouth-watering tie. The head to heads are dead level at 5-5 with only a few frames between them, however over the best of 25 last season at the Quarter Final stage Judd absolutely walloped Ding and these kind of defeats can leave mental scars on the defeated one so you’d think Judd goes into this with every confidence. He’s Hendry’s tip for the title and if anyone knows when a player is in the right frame of mind to win here it’s him. I’d stick with Trump here but I do think it will be closer than it was 12 months ago.

Prediction: Trump 13-10.   

Mark Williams v Michael Holt

Snooker’s very own Mills and Boon match up takes to the biggest stage of them all. I have encouraged these two to hug instead of shake hands at the start of the match so we’ll see if that happens, maybe the bookies might price it up. Both had strong first round performances and Holt is clearly now an altogether different player to what has gone before. MJW was almost flawless against Graeme Dott, he had some running but even without taking this into account he was as good as he’s been in a decade and afterwards confirmed quite a few times that he was happy to be in the next round. Holt was magnificent against Robbo and this has to go down as his best career performance, once again the Dai Lama, Terry Griffiths, seems to be working his magic of the mind on Holty. Michael can take heart from the fact that even pre-Terry he comfortably beat MJ in Germany on their most recent relevant meeting and I just fancy he might step up to the challenge again, either way, this one will be close, of that I am certain. May the bromance begin.

Prediction: Holt 13-11.

Recommended Bet: 2 points on Holt at 5/2. 

Anthony McGill v Marco Fu

Great wins for both in the first round with performances to match leaves them each with a big chance to make an impact in the next round against likely opponent O’Sullivan. McGill seems to be thriving here again and people in the know are not surprised, he is after all, definitely the best player to come out of Scotland in the last 15 years. Marco was epic against Ebdon and scored so heavily, he did however come away with a mention of how he’s been here before and played well first round only to hit a second round wall. They will both be looking at this as a winnable match and a chance for a crack at The Rocket so for that reason I think it could get close and very twitchy. McGill however has a very confident way about him and his temperament is a big asset, that’s why I’ll take him to progress and in the next round, give Ronnie one hell of a game.

Prediction: McGill 13-10.

Recommended Bet: 2 points on McGill at 13/8.    

general-melchett

We’ll catch Ronnie totally orrrrfff guard.

Barry Hawkins v Ronnie O’Sullivan

As head to heads go, this is pretty one-sided. The first time these two met was in Scotland in 2002, Barry won. Since then he has lost every time so that is 14 years, two World Championship meetings and one Masters Final drubbing to try and somehow reverse. This match puts me in mind of that old Blackadder quote, where when questioned about going ‘over the top’ to fight the Germans in the field armed only with sticks for the umpteenth time and never changing tactics, General Melchett replies that the brilliance of the tactic is that they’ve already done it countless times and failed and therefore it’s the last thing the enemy will expect them to do again. So can Barry reverse the inevitable? Well, to put it bluntly, no. Ronnie has a way with certain players, usually ones that he feels need putting in their place, Barry is one of them. Sorry Hawk.

Prediction: O’Sullivan 13-5

Recommended Bet: 2 points on O’Sullivan (-7.5 frames) at 14/5.  

Mark Allen v Kyren Wilson

Another potentially fantastic tie here as the much improved Kyren seeks to reach is first Crucible quarter final. Kyren beat Mark on his way to his ranking success in Shanghai earlier in the season and since then he’s never really looked back. He is easily the most improved player of the season and given that he’s still fairly new on tour, after this he is likely to be ranked in the top eight in the world, some achievement. Mark of course will as ever be difficult to beat, bags of bottle and I’m sure a frustration that he’s not yet managed to go really deep in this will no doubt fire him up. I’d say that the winner of this match will progress again in the next round to make the one-table situation, but it’s such a tough call. Looking at the odds, I think Kyren is a shade too long and is worth a punt.

Prediction: Wilson 13-11  

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Over 21.5 frames in the match at 10/11.

Sam Baird v Mark Selby

Two matches between the two so far and both went to deciders, albeit in best of sevens. Sam is at last coming of age and he is a player that we all know is capable of making that breakthrough, perhaps he is this year’s surprise package. The Jester grappled in his usual never-say-die way to get the better of Rob Milkins in the first round but was given a lot of chances in the first session and was allowed to more or less win the match then. His self-imposed break from snooker is still the subject of discussion and plenty are saying that he doesn’t look right, but try telling opponents who remain glued to the bottom cushion for shots on end that. I think this could possibly be an upset, but the sensible part of me slaps myself for thinking that. At the prices I think Sam is worth a small interest, but this is Selby, he’s granite when things get tough and I think if this does go close he’ll draw on lessons learnt from his defeat to McGill last time, no curse this year so that is one burden lifted. For the record however, I don’t think his name is on the trophy this year, he’s not playing anywhere near as well as he was when it was.

Prediction: Selby 13-10.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Baird (+6.5 frames) at 9/10. 1 point on Baird at 7/1.

RECOMMENDED ACCA: 3 points at over 13/2 with Marathon Bet on – McManus (+4.5), Higgins (-2.5), Holt (+3.5) and Baird (+6.5).  

April 14, 2016

The World Snooker Championship Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:40 pm

TrophyYou try sometimes to think of a fancy title for a blog post, but sometimes it’s best just to stick with what it is. Never truer in the case of this post, the one I look forward to writing every year, the preview to the best sporting event in the world, yes folks, we’re approaching 17 days of unashamed bliss for snooker fans, as we head to The Crucible for the World Championship.

The past week and a bit at Ponds Forge has come and gone far too quickly for me, even now as I write this I kind of don’t want the World Championship to start because that means it will be over quicker. The first day ignites childhood memories in me like nothing else, sitting on the floor with toast in my mouth gazing up at the opening break-off shot as the Crucible wall is lowered and people start coughing nervously, to think that 30 odd or so years later I can actually be there to witness it still makes me pinch myself to check it’s real.

The qualifiers have been through the mill, some more than others and it’s also amazing for me that two recent Snookerbacker Classic Finalists, Kyren Wilson and Mitchell Mann, are lining up in the last 32 having qualified. There are players who’ve had to go to Ponds Forge who would usually be using the previous couple of weeks to practice, players like Ding Junhui and Ali Carter, who now line up against seeded players. This makes the first round even more exciting, if that were possible.

The BBC will again be on hand to guide us all through the action as if we’ve all just hatched, Dennis will roll out the same old tales about golf and the late, great Fred Davis while Stephen Hendry ignores everything he says. JV will once again attempt to answer the enigma which has flummoxed even the greatest minds since God made Adam out of plastercine, namely, where the cue ball is going. Steve and JP will attempt to fathom out the latest bit of technology that they’ve been lumbered with while Ken giggles at them and Hazel will have her Crucible file with her, the contents of which are tip top secret, Beardy Medal Man will be proudly showing off his shiny object and we’ll all be along for the ride. Bring it on.

So without further ado, let’s have a look at each of the first round matches individually, taking a look at head to heads and what betting markets are out there to get involved in. I hope you enjoy reading what lies beneath. I’m travelling to Sheffield tomorrow so stay tuned on here, on Twitter and on Facebook (Turn Notifications on to receive new blog post alerts) for 17 days of madness.

If you click on the match title you will be led to the head to head record between the two players courtesy of the excellent Cue Tracker website. Here goes…… 

QUARTER ONE

Stuart Bingham v Ali Carter (Saturday 10am and 7pm)

As curtain raisers go, it really doesn’t get much better than this. 10am on Saturday morning sees the reigning World Champion Bingham taking on Ali Carter, the two have been rivals on the baize since their amateur days. Many will feel that Ali should have won the title before Stuart and of course last year was an unexpected result, but Stuart proved on the biggest stage that he could handle the pressure and he’s been a great ambassador as champion. But can he beat THE CURSE? Plenty have tried and failed to retain the title after they’ve won it for a first time, amongst them the game’s greats, Davis, Hendry, O’Sullivan, Higgins, Williams and last year Selby, only Joe Johnson and Ken Doherty have ever come close and plenty of people compared Stuart’s win with Joe’s in terms of shockability. But what a tough opener this is, Ali looked in great form at Ponds Forge and I don’t think it’s taken a great deal out of him. Like many others, I think The Curse will rear it’s head again and the Snooker Gods will be backing Ali, as I am.

Predicted Winner: Carter 10-7

Recommended Bet: 4 points on Over 1.5 centuries at 11/10. 3 points on Carter at 13/8.  

Stephen Maguire v Alan McManus (Saturday 2.30pm and Sunday 2.30pm)

Hoots man! It’s the all Scottish clash that always seems to come up at this time of year as the tartened-up Angular man takes on Mags, who it has to be said has underperformed here the last two years. Alan put in a great display again at Ponds Forge and the manner in which he dispatched of Jimmy Robertson in the final round says to me that he’s very sharp. Maguire squeezed into the top 16 by virtue of a good performance in China but before then he was seen wandering the streets of Glasgow looking for a bulls arse to hit with his shovel. Again here I fancy the qualifier to cause an upset, Mags does hold the head to head advantage but Angles has won three from the last four meetings, Alan is worth a punt in this.

Predicted Winner: McManus 10-8

Recommended Bet: 2 points on McManus at 9/4.

Ricky Walden v Robbie Williams (Sunday 10am and Monday 7pm)

Robbie, like McManus, is unbeaten in three years at Ponds Forge and comes here for the third year on the spin after a largely disappointing season. Ricky has finally started winning again, putting in two final appearances over the last month after spending the rest of the season getting walloped by journeymen. He claims to have gone back to basics with his technique and the rewards are there for all to see. It’s the best time of year to hit form and he’ll have benefited from the time off he’s had since finishing runner-up to Judd in China, he’s usually pretty solid early on and Robbie hasn’t really produced his best here in the previous two years so you have to make the in-form Walden a confident selection.

Predicted Winner: Walden 10-4

John Higgins v Ryan Day (Monday 10am and Tuesday 2.30pm)

These two meet up at The Crucible for the third time with the head to heads at one apiece. Twelve years ago they met at this stage and Higgins won in a decider and there is nothing to suggest anything other than a close one here. Day impressed in the qualifiers and looked solid in closing out his victory over Ken Doherty and while John isn’t quite the force of old he’s still in good shape and will no doubt be looking at this quarter thinking that he has a great chance of winning it. Day is what I’d class in the ‘potential banana skin’ category and probably quite high on the list of qualifiers that you’d rather someone else drew, he’s got some Crucible pedigree so this for me is a very tough call. It’s all about who bosses the match from the start and I suspect if Higgins starts well he won’t be headed.

Predicted Winner: Higgins 10-7

Recommended Bet: 3 points on over 1.5 centuries at 10/11.

QUARTER TWO

Judd Trump v Liang Wenbo (Wednesday 2.30pm and Thursday 2.30pm)

Another qualifier high on the list of ‘one to avoid’ is Wenbo. The sponsors were so confident that he’d qualify that he’s plastered all over the posters at the venue, an odd decision given how unpredictable he can be, but someone obviously knew something. Judd was in dazzling form in China and carried off his long awaited next ranking title in style. This time last year I thought Judd would take all the beating, I flagged him up as the winner and right up to the semi-final stage when he lost to Ballrun I was convinced his name was on the trophy. He’ll be delighted to hear that I don’t think that this year. I hope he wins it one day, he’s too good not to, but I just can’t see it happening this time (remember there is a China Open curse too). But I think he’ll win here, it will be fast and attacking and right up Judd’s street, if it’s a potting competition there is only one winner.

Predicted Winner: Trump 10-6

Martin Gould v Ding Junhui (Wednesday 10am and 7pm)

Poor old Gouldy, grafts all year to get himself into the top 16 and is then handed the prize turd of a draw that is Ding. Some felt that given China’s finest had to qualify, he could be written off this year, but qualify he did without getting out of first gear and I reckon he’s used the qualifiers to sharpen up his match play, after all he’s not done much all season to merit any support. The spotlight has been off him but when he gets to the venue it will be quickly switched on again. Before this draw, I fancied Gould to have a run in this and I still see this one going close, Martin is in great form and playing the best snooker of his life this season, whilst I am sure to the outside world he’ll claim he doesn’t care who he plays, I’ll bet inside that he’s cursing his luck. With match sharpness on his side, I have to side with Ding.

Predicted Winner: Ding 10-8

Mark Williams v Graeme Dott (Sunday 7pm and Monday 2.30pm)

The battle of the world champions. Williams was relying on results to stay in the top 16 and thankfully for him they went his way and he does have a decent head to head record against Graeme. Like Trump’s match this is bound to be an attacking affair and is one that I think will probably be one of the better first round ties in terms of entertainment. Graeme produced the goods at Ponds Forge but did look a little tired afterwards, indeed even beforehand he spoke of what a slog was ahead of him so you could argue that he might not be going into this in the right frame of mind. MJW has had a decent rest and has no doubt been putting the hours in as preparation, I fancy him to ride this one out with a few frames to spare.

Predicted Winner: Williams 10-5

Neil Robertson v Michael Holt (Tuesday 10am and 7pm)

Just as Martin Gould will have uttered something that rhymes with Clucking Bell on hearing the draw, I’d say so too will Michael Holt have. A marathon encounter with Mark King in his final qualifier will no doubt have left him elated to be back for another crack at The Crucible. He’s complained in the past that he has underperformed here and even left his press conference last year shouting ‘oh my god I’m so shit’, but something seems to have clicked with him this season after working with Terry Griffiths and his whole demeanour looks a lot better, he’s even beaten an in-form Ronnie and that takes some bottle. Robbo however is another who will have had a good rest and time to totally focus on this, for me he is the man most likely from this half to be contesting the final, this is perhaps an ideal first match for him as he’ll need to be at his bullying best from the off, if he is, like the Higgins match I’d take him to lead all the way to the end.

Predicted Winner: Robertson 10-6

QUARTER THREE

Shaun Murphy v Anthony McGill (Saturday 2.30pm and Sunday 10am)

The bottom half of the draw opens up with Shaun up against last season’s Quarter Finalist and conqueror of Mark Selby, Scotland’s Anthony McGill. It’s some achievement from Ant to get here again, in the past we’ve seen the surprise packages from one year fade away the next but he’s had good wins to get here, not least over Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in his last match. Murphy will no doubt use the Crucible stage to dress up again, who can forget his Superman style outfit last season? Some cruelly mocked his sartorial elegance but he ended up winning ‘Best Turned Out Potter’ award from the sponsors, he also ended up in the final, beating McGill on the way. This section looks set up for a Murphy v O’Sullivan match up in the Quarter Finals and I don’t think we’ll be seeing a repeat of last year from McGill, Murphy has never lost to him and I don’t see that pattern changing here.

Predicted Winner: Murphy 10-7

Marco Fu v Peter Ebdon (Saturday 10am and 7pm)

As well as Ali and Stuart on the opening day, Marco and Peter will also be playing to a finish. Ebbo has been banging on about how cruel the qualifiers are and claimed that no qualifier could possibly win it as they’d be too tired from Ponds Forge. I think he may have been talking mostly about himself given the huge mental effort he makes when he’s playing. At 9-3 down the other night to Gerard Greene he looked dead and buried, but from somewhere he found the strength and belief to win and now he’s here again, claiming that vegans ‘don’t do tired’. Marco holds the narrowest of advantages in the head to head and their only previous Crucible meeting saw Peter win a semi-final in 2006 in a decider, so all pointers are that this could go very close and produce some late night Day 1 drama, I’m going to side with Marco, but I think this one is a coin toss.

Predicted Winner: Fu 10-9

Recommended Bet: 2 points on over 17 frames in the match at 7/4.

Barry Hawkins v Zhang Anda (Tuesday 7pm and Wednesday 2.30pm)

Another Crucible appearance for Mighty Mouse Zhang Anda, a rather under the radar Chinese player who seems to save his best for the longer format matches, at first sight Hawkins will probably be pleased with his draw but Zhang for me is another banana skin opponent who could just cause an upset if Barry isn’t careful. They have met twice and Barry has won twice, I hope he wins again as I think he’ll prove a test for O’Sullivan in Round 2, I know Ronnie really rates Barry and we’ll get to see if he’s really up to the job if the two progress. No strong feelings on this match other than a fairly workmanlike Hawkins win.

Predicted Winner: Hawkins 10-5

Hard to oppose this year.

Hard to oppose this year.

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Dave Gilbert (Sunday 2.30pm and Monday 10am)

Make no mistake, this is one of the tougher draws for Ronnie. I’ve been an admirer of Dave Gilbert’s for many years and of late he’s been achieving results that he should probably have achieved a decade ago. I like the way he plays the game and his way around the table, he’ll be a test for Ronnie. The Rocket hasn’t been seen since he lost to Holt in the Grand Prix but was at his majestic best at the Welsh Open. They’ve even shifted a load of comps back to the UK next season to keep him happy, something that he isn’t always in Sheffield. As ever, we’ll know quite quickly how he is feeling, last year I think we all knew he wouldn’t win, the shoe incident and the chalk on the table tomfoolery were clues enough. I think he’ll probably be a different animal this year, he’s been putting in the hours and is obviously the man they all have to better, if he’s on song, who can stop him? Oh yes, and stand by for BBC Gilbert O’Sullivan puns, you have been warned. 

Predicted Winner: O’Sullivan 10-4

QUARTER FOUR

Mark Allen v Mitchell Mann (Tuesday 2.30pm and Wednesday 10am)

I am over the moon for Mitchell, just two years ago he was runner up in my own tournament before turning professional and now he’s at the game’s biggest stage. His game is very solid with a cue action that does not buckle under pressure, he’s had a few issues with his confidence but thankfully now these appear to be a thing of the past. His draw could have been kinder, though he did say ‘anyone but The Rocket’ after qualifying so at least that’s come true. Allen won his next long awaited ranking title last month after a pretty barren spell by his standards and comes here with his tail up, whilst I think Mitchell will give him a game, he’s probably got enough experience to handle the only debutant in the field this year. But I wish Mitch all the luck in the world.

Predicted Winner: Allen 10-6

Joe Perry v Kyren Wilson (Wednesday 7pm and Thursday 7pm)

Kyren, like Ding and Ali, will have been high on the seeds list of ones to avoid when he qualified. The manner in which he took care of business against a sharp looking Matthew Stevens underlined what a great player he has become these days. Like Mitchell, he also has some SB Classic history and like Mitchell he lost in the final before going professional and now look at him! I suspect that he won’t be too unhappy with this draw and will fancy his chances at a shot against The Gent, he also has a valuable week to recover from the qualifiers so fatigue should not come into play. Joe has produced some of his best snooker here and I’m sure Kyren will not take this task lightly, I think this one could be very close, just on experience of the venue, I think I’d just marginally favour Joe.

Predicted Winner: Perry 10-8

Michael White v Sam Baird (Sunday 7pm and Monday 7pm)

Two heavy scorers who on their day can rattle off frame after frame at a rate of knots, if they are both on their game this could be a real cracker. Michael is another who squeezed in to the top 16 despite a few disappointing recent results and his season so far hasn’t really matched up to the last one. Sam fought off Liam Highfield in a high quality final round qualifier and will come here in confident mood. It’s difficult to know how he’ll play, he’s been here once before and was walloped 10-2 by Stuart Bingham, will he have learnt from that or will it be more of the same again? I’m going to play it safe here and go with the seed, but if Sam turns up it might get edgy this one.

Predicted Winner: White 10-4

Recommended Bet: 2 points on White (-4.5 frames) at 12/5.

Mark Selby v Rob Milkins (Monday 2.30pm and Tuesday 10am)

There will be an increased focus on Mark Selby this year given that he withdrew from the two previous events for personal reasons. If your head isn’t screwed on correctly the last place you want to be playing snooker is at The Crucible, but Selby I’m sure will be able to block out the demons and get on with the job. He’s got a very tough opener against Rob Milkins, the fastest cueman in all of Quedgeley, and Milky knows what it’s like to play and beat one of the big boys in Round 1, having done just that to Neil Robertson a few years back. Selby does hold a decent head to head lead but a lot of their matches have gone very close. I hope Selby is over his personal problems as I want all the top players to be 100% for this, if he isn’t, Milkins will pounce and he’ll be on the first bus outta town.

Predicted Winner: Selby 10-7

RECOMMENDED MULTIPLE AND OUTRIGHT BETS: 3 points each way on Neil Robertson at 6/1. 1 point each way on Ali Carter at 80/1. 2 points on Carter to win Quarter 1 at 8/1.

3 point 1st round acca pays over 11/1 at Ladbrokes on: Walden, Trump, Ding, Mark Williams, Robertson, Murphy, Hawkins, White and Selby. 

2 point acca on there to be more than one century in all these matches pays over 17/1 at Bet 365 – Bingham/Carter, Higgins/Day, Gould/Ding, Robertson/Holt, Selby/Milkins.

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