Snookerbacker

April 8, 2019

World Championship Qualifiers – Destination Crucible

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:00 pm

What it’s all about

Every year I say it so I’ll make no excuse for doing so again. The World Snooker Championship may start on April 20th for some people, but we know better don’t we? Because we know that it starts on Wednesday, when the first balls are struck in Sheffield at the qualifiers, in what for me is the second best stand alone event of the season, behind what is to come at The Crucible.

*Goosebumps*

The joy on the players faces who make it through this is plain for all to see, no player wants to finish their season watching the big one from their living room, knowing that they had their chance to be there, but the majority of the 128 starting out here will be doing just that, but while they are still in the mix, there is hope.

Once again the host venue is the Sheffield Institute of Sport, which last year took over from Ponds Forge and this move seemed to be popular with the players, if not as convenient location-wise for the fans.

You should think of these as 16 mini-tournaments within one big one, each consisting of eight players, with four quarter finals, two semi finals and a final in each section, whittling down the 128 players, which includes 15 invited amateurs to the 16 that will walk out at The Crucible in a couple of weeks time to face one of the seeded players.

The final day, or Judgement Day as it is now universally known by Team Anorak, is just fantastic. Rob Walker and Neal Foulds ramp up the volume in snooker’s very own version of Super Saturday, so if you haven’t booked that day off work or are otherwise engaged, cancel all plans and get sat in front of your chosen device to watch it, you won’t regret it. Once this is done and dusted, the following day sees the draw for the main event and we’re then just a day away from it all starting at The Crucible, making April the month which snooker fans love the most.

So to the matches, for convenience I have split this up into the 16 sections, all you need to do is decide who qualifies from each one, easy eh? This post will concentrate on the ‘To Qualify’ market and not on individual matches. I’ll be doing seperate posts on matches as the three rounds progress.  

Section 1

Ryan Day v Oliver Lines
Tian Pengfei v Soheil Vahedi
Matthew Stevens v Thor Chuan Leong
Chris Wakelin v Fan Zhengyi

Ryan Day will be on a lot of people’s shortlist when it comes to players who they would expect to qualify with ease this week, but as we know there is no such thing as a cast iron certainty in snooker these days (though that said, a match in section 7 comes pretty close). He’s got a tricky opener against Oli Lines and a tough second match whoever he plays, Tian Pengfei still being a very dangerous player when he is on song. That’s even before we look further down to a possible run for Matthew Stevens who to me always looks more at home in the longer format. There we also find Chris Wakelin, who qualified last season and ran Judd Trump so close at The Crucible. Day has been a bit off the boil lately and I think he is possibly worth opposing in this section, he has only played Stevens twice over the longer format and both times Matthew has won with a bit to spare so I’m going to take Stevens to qualify again here.    

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Stevens to outfire Day on Judgement, ermm, Day.  

Section 2

Gary Wilson v Sanderson Lam
Dominic Dale v Chris Totten
Liang Wenbo v Basem Eltahhan
Rory McLeod v David Grace (a)

Dominic Dale has indicated that he intends to retire from snooker when he drops off the tour but with him pretty safe now in the one-year rankings we’re not likely to be saying goodbye to The Spaceman just yet, I’d expect him to beat Chris Totten but after that a possible match with the dangerous Gary Wilson who meets Sandi Lam first up will for me signal the end of his World Championship for another year. In the bottom section Liang Wenbo lurks, but his form of late is extremely patchy and nothing is ever guaranteed with him. David Grace has had a great season in the amateur game and has been rewarded both with a tour card and a place in this. It would be quite odd if he were to meet Liang in the second round given that not that long ago they battled in the UK Championship semi-final, but he has to get past Rory first which won’t be either easy or pretty, Rory himself is in danger of falling off the tour and a loss to Grace would seal his fate. But I think the Leeds Giant has a shot of a place at the back end of this with his confidence extremely high and the future bright, but for me Wilson is probably one of my stronger fancies to qualify.   

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Wilson to beat Grace on Judgement Day. 

Section 3

Robbie Williams v Sam Baird
Marco Fu v Luo Honghao
Sam Craigie v Rhys Clark
Tom Ford v Ross Muir

Robbie Williams is something of a qualifiers specialist but this section sees dangers at every corner for the Merseyside man. His opener against Sam Baird is far from easy and he then may face Marco Fu, who is just not the force of old lately, perhaps because of the issues he has had with his eyesight. But for me the qualifier from this section will come from the bottom two matches. I expect Sam Craigie and Tom Ford to both win their openers and Sam showed in China recently just what a player he is when he is on-song and I’m sure he has his sights set on The Crucible this year given his strong late season form. He’s played Ford once before and beaten him in a decider and I reckon if they do meet it could again be very close, a real coin toss that one but I fancy the winner to kick on and qualify.  

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Ford to outscrap Williams on Judgement Day. 

Section 4

Akani Songsermsawad v Chen Zifan
Robert Milkins v Luke Simmonds (a)
Duane Jones v Kishan Hirani
Anthony McGill v Ashley Hugill

Anthony McGill has some vivid recent memories as both a qualifier and a seed of The Crucible and showed some signs in China that his form was returning after a quiet season for him compared to recent years and he’ll be favourite to return to the main venue from this section. Despite the fact that Duane Jones now has a ranking event semi-final behind him I’d take McGill to be lining up on Judgement Day but against who? Sunny Akani is a bit of a cult figure with some snooker fans, unorthodox doesn’t quite cover it when it comes to his technique but it does get results and you’d expect him to be facing Rob Milkins in the second round, I think the key to that match will be Milkins not getting frustrated with Sunny, as some have in the past to their undoing, they have never met before. Either way, I think McGill is the player to be on in this section, he has a 100% record against Milkins and I don’t see the level headed Scot getting tetchy if he plays Akani.    

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: McGill to edge Milkins on Judgement Day. 

Section 5

Graeme Dott v Hamza Akbar
Xu Si v Sean O’Sullivan
Stuart Carrington v Pang Junxu (a)
Kurt Maflin v Mitchell Mann (a)

The Highland Terrier that is Graeme Dott will fancy his chances in this section I reckon, I can’t see him not making the final round and from there he’ll be like a dog with a bone, snapping at your heels to get it all over with. The bottom section is interesting, I’ve no idea how good the Chinese player is as he only appears to have one match under his belt of any consequence, which he lost, so I’m assuming that we can write him off and instead concentrate on the Carrington v Maflin/Mann match up, of those I think Kurt’s scoring wins the day as Carrington isn’t playing as well this season as he has been though he is still ranked higher than Maflin. Either way, I can’t see either of them getting past Dott, who I think will qualify comfortably from this section.     

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Dott to bite Maflin on Judgement Day. 

Section 6

Li Hang v Niu Zhuang
Ian Burns v Farakh Ajaib (a)
Ben Woollaston v Elliot Slessor
Mike Dunn v Nigel Bond

It might surprise some that Li Hang is actually the highest ranked player in this section, but the Chinese player has been on the up this season and for me he is the one to beat here. Ben Woollaston comes fresh from his quarter final showing in China and confidence will be high but he faces a very dangerous opponent in Slessor first up. The bottom match sees two tour veterans Mike Dunn and Nigel Bond locking horns and possibly sharing Werthers Originals and swapping tales of their ongoing ailments. While Dunny, despite his mutterings to the contrary, looks set to stay on the tour, it will be goodbye to Nigel unless he has an unlikely run in this, if Mike can stay off his sick bed for a week I think he’ll see this as a section he can win, but for me this is one which will see the first Chinese player coming through. 

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Hang to beat Dunn on Judgement Day. 

Section 7

Daniel Wells v Jamie Clarke
Hossein Vafaei v Zhang Anda
Gerard Greene v Aaron Hill (a)
Martin Gould v Mostafa Dorgham (a)

I could go for the obvious wisecrack that Martin Gould mostafa chance of coasting through his first match but that would be both juvenile and unfair on an opponent who, as far as I can find, has only ever managed a 60 break once in any of the competitions where records are held, put it this way, Gouldy has had to do a lot more for ten grand in the past I’m sure. He’s been a little anonymous this season Gould, then he came from nowhere to win the Championship League in March after his last outing saw him pumped 6-0 by Rod Lawler, very strange. He has dropped to 30th in the end of season rankings just ahead of who I think is his biggest threat in this section, Iran’s Hossein Vafaei. Vafaei as all snooker fans know is a very talented player and I’m sure one day he’ll break into the top 16, I can see this being a match up between Gould and him on Judgement Day and after two meetings they are 10 frames each, this could be all about conkers this one.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Hossein to pip Gould on Judgement Day.  

Section 8

Michael Georgiou v Lee Walker
Peter Ebdon v Harvey Chandler
Mei Xiwen v Florian Nuessle (a)
Yan Bingtao v Lukas Kleckers

Another player making noises about retirement at the end of the season is Peter ‘Brexit’ Ebdon, he finds himself in a very cosmopolitan section of the draw with a Cypriot, an Austrian, a German and a couple of Chinese players, it’s almost like the snooker gods are playing a joke on him. Anyway, he has a potential banana skin (sorry I can’t help it) with Chandler first up, but despite showing plenty of promise, Harvey doesn’t win very often, I’d say then Ebbo would have sufficient in his vegetable drawer to make it past Georgiou or Lee Walker, though if it’s Walker there will surely be a sudden deluge of refs phoning in sick that day. In the bottom section Yan Bingtao stands out and judging by his ranking status he really should fly through to Judgement Day despite some mediocre form lately, if he does I think he’ll have built up enough momentum to take care of Peter, but of course part of me would love to see Ebbo back at The Crucible just one more time, but I fear for him this week, leave does really mean leave with neither a short or a long extension.   

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Bingtao to beat Ebdon on Judgement Day. 

Section 9

Ali Carter v Paul S Davison
Jimmy White v Ross Bulman (a)
Michael White v Andy Hicks (a)
Yuan Sijun v John Astley

The big hitter in this section is of course Ali Carter, The Captain’s match against O’Sullivan last year will live long in the memory for all sorts of reasons, most of them bad tempered, and I am sure he will be disappointed not to have secured a Crucible spot as of right. He has however been handed a plum draw through to Judgement Day with a possible match up against Jimmy White in the second round, the lad Jimmy is playing is not a pushover by all accounts, though the occasion may just be a bit much for him you’d suspect. The bottom section sees the much talked up Yuan Sijun facing John Astley before possibly then meeting a stiff task against either Michael White or Andy Hicks. White has really plummeted down the ranking list these last two seasons and his confidence seems a long way from the days when he was in the top 16 and lifting the odd trophy, the experienced Hicks will fancy his chance there I reckon. But can any of them stop Carter? I don’t think so, clear the runway on Judgement Day for The Captain.      

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Carter to beat Hicks on Judgement Day. 

Section 10

Ricky Walden v Alfie Burden
Eden Sharav v David Lilley (a)
Zhou Yuelong v Robin Hull
Liam Highfield v Hammad Miah

The head to head between Walden and Burden shows that with the exception of when they first met, they do have very close matches and despite the fact that Walden is way ahead in the rankings I do think they are pretty evenly matched. When it comes to recent form however, Walden showed a bit in China while unbelievably Alfie is yet to win a match in 2019. From the bottom two matches you have to fancy the highest seeded player Zhou (or as Dennis calls him Ghou Yolonge), Liam Highfield has not kicked on after a good season last year and I just can’t see the injury prone Robin Hull or Hammad Miah getting close to the Chinese player. The amateur David Lilley who takes on Eden Sharav can’t be ruled out of the top section either so that’s quite a tricky one to predict. Either way though I’m plumping for another Chinese player to make it here.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Yuelong to beat Burden on Judgement Day. 

Section 11

Fergal O’Brien v Jackson Page (a)
Dark Mavis v Rod Lawler
Alexander Ursenbacher v Jordan Brown
Lü Haotian v Ashley Carty

A couple of experienced players who are on a really bad run of form of late are Fergal O’Brien and Dark Mavis, their opponents in the top section, particularly the young Welsh prospect Jackson Page cannot be ruled out springing surprises there and even making it all the way to The Crucible, but Fergal as we know tends to thrive over these longer matches and you’ll have to scrape him off the table, a possible second rounder against Rod Lawler could very well break all records and put the timetable back a few days. In the bottom section I can look no further than Lu Haotian, for me now he is currently the best Chinese player outside Ding and I expect him to qualify from this section whoever he faces.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Haotian to beat O’Brien on Judgement Day.  

Section 12

Mark Joyce v Billy Joe Castle
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v Jonathan Bagley (a)
Joe O’Connor v Joe Swail
Jimmy Robertson v Chen Feilong

I think most of us would like to see the swashbuckling Un-Nooh qualify here, he’s infectious to watch when in full flow and finds himself in what I’d say is a very winnable section indeed. Mark Joyce isn’t quite the threat he once was and is another who is winless in 2019. I’d fancy the decent Billy Joe Castle to come through that one but can’t see him getting near the Thai player. In the bottom section Jimmy Robertson will take all the beating and he does hold a 3-0 head to head advantage over Un-Nooh over shorter matches. Despite the presence of fans favourite Joe Swail in that section I can’t see anything other than an Un-Nooh/Robertson shootout for the Crucible here. 

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Un-Nooh to outgun Robertson on Judgement Day.

Section 13

Xiao Guodong v Jak Jones
Peter Lines v Zhang Jiankang
Michael Holt v Brandon Sargeant (a)
Andrew Higginson v James Cahill (a)

You’d imagine that all the players on the left hand side would come through in Round 1, though amateurs Sargeant and Cahill are no pushovers. If that does happen we will have the sixth meeting between Michael Holt and Andrew Higginson and guess what? Higginson has never beaten him. Up at the top, Guodong will be looking to further the Chinese feel to the qualifiers but he’ll have to be patient if he faces Peter Lines, who can grind down the best of them. So for me Holt will face either Xiao or Lines on Judgement Day, whoever it is, I think the Hitman will prevail.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Holt to beat Lines on Judgement Day.  

Section 14

Mark King v Igor Figueiredo (a)
Lu Ning v Allan Taylor
Scott Donaldson v Craig Steadman
Ken Doherty v Andy Lee

Ken Doherty proved that there is life in the old dog yet in China by beating Mark Williams, but as with all players as they get a bit older it’s the consistency that he seems to struggle with and that’s not great going into 3 best of 19’s. Scott Donaldson and Craig Steadman both enjoyed themselves in China with Scott making his first ranking semi-final, so it’s a shame that two form players meet in the first round as both will really fancy their chances. The winner of that match I’d say will have too much for Ken and in the top section I’d be looking at the experience of Mark King coming through. I’d plump for a Donaldson/King final here and I wouldn’t be surprised if it went to the wire.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Donaldson to pip King on Judgement Day. 

Section 15

Anthony Hamilton v James Wattana
Matthew Selt v Dylan Emery (a)
Zhao Xintong v Adam Lilley (a)
Noppon Saengkham v Adam Stefanow

The Sheriff of Pottingham should get an automatic place at The Crucible for having both the best nickname and coolest walk on tune in snooker, but sadly the powers that be don’t act on my emails. There are a couple more amateur players in this section but I’d be surprised if they survived long against their professional opponents. I’d fancy the Hamilton/Selt and Zhao/Noppon match ups in round two and the Thai player is one that I rate highly, he’s a heavy scorer and despite an indifferent run of results just recently is looking like being in the top 32 at the end of the season. It’s just that recent form that stops me plumping for him here and instead going with recent first-time ranking winner Selt.  

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Selt to beat Noppon Judgement Day (see what I did there?) 

Section 16

Alan McManus v Ng On Yee (a)
Martin O’Donnell v Adam Duffy (a)
Zhang Yong v Reanne Evans (a)
Joe Perry v Simon Lichtenberg

Last but not least the second highest seed after Day, Joe Perry, finds himself in the girls section. You have to say that Joe has been handed a pretty decent path to the final for a player of his ability and having two less strenuous matches ahead of Judgement Day can be beneficial in preserving energy. Whoever he plays you suspect will have come through in a less pedestrian way. Martin O’Donnell’s early season form has seen him catapult up the rankings but results lately haven’t quite been up to that purple patch. Alan McManus is always a threat over this longer format and despite now being more recognised for his verbal dexterity and extravagant taste in cravats than his exploits with a cue he should never be taken lightly. I’d say this section won’t see a media dream all-female duel on Judgement Day but rather one between two experienced older pro’s each trying to return to the sport’s finest venue.      

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Perry to outfox McManus on Judgement Day.

RECOMMENDED BETS:

Doubles/Trebles/Acca on Ford 11/2, Haotian 11/5, Yuelong 12/5, Holt 10/3.

Trebles/Fourfolds/Acca on Haotian 11/5, Donaldson 15/4, Selt 11/4, Wilson 5/2, Vafaei 9/2.

Acca – (pays 37/1) Un-Nooh, Perry, Dott, McGill and Bingtao.

Single at Ladbrokes: Tom Ford to qualify at 12/1 (saw this after the bets above were placed)

Added: 13/10 at Black Type Bet on at least 6 of my selections winning.

Added: 80/1 at Black Type Bet there being no debutants at The Crucible this year.

Added Handicap Match Bet: Pays near 10/1 Matt Selt (-6.5), Gerard Greene (-5.5), Rob Milkins (-4.5), Jimmy White (-3.5)    

EVENT INFORMATION

Dates: Wednesday 10 April – Wednesday 17 April

Venue: English Institute of Sport, Sheffield, 200 Coleridge Rd, Sheffield S9 5DA

Tickets: There are two official box offices for this event.  They are SIV Tickets and See Tickets.

SIV: book online, click here

See Tickets: book online, click here

April 7, 2019

Final Crucible Seedings

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:28 am
  1. Mark Williams (1) v Qualifier 

Dave Gilbert (16) v Qualifier 

Barry Hawkins (9) v Qualifier 

Kyren Wilson (8) v Qualifier 

—————————————————— 

John Higgins (5) v Qualifier  

Stuart Bingham (12) v Qualifier 

Shaun Murphy (13) v Qualifier 

Neil Robertson (4) v Qualifier  

—————————————————————-

Mark Selby (3) v Qualifier  

Luca Brecel (14) v Qualifier 

Jack Lisowski (11) v Qualifier 

Mark Allen (6) v Qualifier 

——————————————————– 

Judd Trump (7) v Qualifier 

Ding Junhui (10) v Qualifier 

Stephen Maguire (15) v Qualifier 

Ronnie O’Sullivan (2) v Qualifier 

March 27, 2019

The China Open – The Crucible countdown begins

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:25 am

The China Open has been staged in the country’s capital every year since 2005 and is the most historic event held in China. In 2018 it became the only snooker event other than the World Championship to hit the £1 million prize money mark, thanks to a new four-year agreement between World Snooker and promoter Star Xing Pai, cementing its place as the top event over there, having been leapfrogged in terms of prize money by a few other, newer events. (more…)

March 18, 2019

Tour Championship Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:15 pm

It’s all about the raaaannkings (photo credit Pete Burns)

We’re now entering the best period of the snooker season and in just over a month all eyes will be on The Crucible for the big one. But what makes this season even better is that we’ve got a kind of mini World Championship warm-up with this new event; the only other event of the season with multi-session matches from the beginning and the final one of the Coral Series trilogy.  The Tour Championship takes place at Llandudno’s Venue Cymru and sees the top eight players from this season’s one-year money list compete for a top prize of £150,000.

What makes this exciting for a stubborn, opinionated, die-hard old traditionalist like me is the long match format. The first round, or quarter finals if you prefer are played over the best of 17, with the semis adopting the Crucible first round format of best of 19 before a three session final at the weekend over another familiar Sheffield distance, the best of 25. So it’s a chance for one of the top players to really piss on the Crucible lamppost and go into the big one in fine fettle having won over the longer format less than a month earlier. In short, this is a proper comp.

As usual, the bookies favourite is Ronnie and it is a chance for us to possibly assess his form over more than one match over the multi-session distances. Interestingly, he is involved in one of the two first round matches that have been scheduled over 2 days, so he has some time to kill in between sessions, in the past this kind of thing has seen him go off the rails a bit in Sheffield, though with all his antics lately I don’t think we’d really notice the difference if he did.

For ranking anoraks, this event also has the added spice of Ronnie possibly returning to the top of the raaaaaaaaannnnnnkkkkkkking list for the first time this decade at the expense of Mark Selby, whose time at the top of this list is almost approaching the age range of Dennis Taylor’s jokes.

As you would expect it’s an all star line up and I’d say that the eight on show here are probably close to the eight I might have expected at the start of the season, although you could argue that John Higgins and possibly Shaun Murphy (currently languishing in 30th on the one year list) are notable absentees, with Ding Junhui hardly playing in anything it’s no real surprise that he hasn’t made it.

A mention also for Dave Gilbert whose fantastic season saw him just £4500 behind Kyren Wilson, who qualified in 8th spot and therefore takes on the number one seed Mark Allen. I reckon Dee Gee would have taken 9th at the start of the season and won’t be too upset at missing out and he is still available at daft prices for Sheffield for anyone interested (I took 190/1 yesterday). He’s playing well enough to have a run there and played very well against Ronnie last time he was there back in 2016, he’s also very close to securing a seeded place with Ryan Day looking like the main threat to that as they head to the final cut off event in Beijing at the start of April.

Allen has had a season of two halves really, his pre-Christmas form was fabulous and he was comfortably top of the one year list playing probably as well as I have ever seen him play, but since he was beaten at The Masters it’s slipped a little, so it remains to be seen if he can get it back in time for the World Championship, which you have to say he is long overdue a good run in.

A player coming into very good form at the right time is Neil Robertson and he should feel quietly confident in his match up with Selby given the latter’s relatively pedestrian form of late. There is a school of thought that believes The Jester losing the top spot will see his form turnaround to get it back, or perhaps just the threat of losing it this week will be enough for him to start being Selby again?

Another player in sparkling form is Judd Trump. Judd is currently a justified second favourite for the World Championship and you feel if he can win here, perhaps beating Ronnie in a semi-final along the way, his price may shorten further and he may even by vying for favouritism this time next month. Judd faces World Champion Williams who has now said he’s busy preparing for his title defence and getting his head down on the practice table rather than playing bingo and golf, going fishing and getting trousered all year to celebrate his success last year.

Ronnie faces Gibraltar Champ Stuart Bingham fresh from his win on The Rock over the short format. Ronnie has a very commanding lead over First Poke in the head to heads, Stuart will need to hit the ground running and put that out of his head if he’s to knock out the worst Australian impersonator since Michael Caine trying to be Chips O’Toole at the end of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

It’s all covered on the excellent ITV4 so expect plenty of adverts about our impending death and how much it all costs the ones you leave behind, also look forward to lots of comical scenes of people having accidents that are ‘not their fault’ during the break.

Click on the match for the head to head record.

Quarter Final Draw

Mark Allen vs Kyren Wilson (Wednesday 1pm and 7pm)
Neil Robertson vs Mark Selby (Tuesday 1pm and 7pm)
Judd Trump vs Mark Williams (Tuesday 1pm and Wednesday 1pm)
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Stuart Bingham (Tuesday 7pm and Wednesday 7pm)

Predicted First Round Winners: Allen, Robertson, Trump, O’Sullivan – fourfold pays nearly 6/1 at Black Type.

Predicted Tournament Winner: Trump – Best Price 5/1 at Blacktype.

Recommended Enhanced Treble – Trump (-2.5), Robertson (-1.5) and O’Sullivan (-3.5) is 10/1 at Ladbrokes. 

Name the Finalists – Robertson and Trump 19/2 at Ladbrokes.

Special Bet – More than 2 centuries in every match, 50/1 at Ladbrokes. 

March 13, 2019

The Gibraltar Open – Who will Rule the Rock?

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:16 am

It’s time again for the annual jaunt to Britain in the Sun. The Gibraltar Open clings to its slot in the tour much like 98% of it’s UK population wanted to cling to the EU, sadly for them that isn’t what the result produced and you do have to also wonder how long this event will remain a staple on the snooker calendar.

Very much like most of the best players on the tour I’ll be sitting this one out but I have had a few wagers on the outrights after a scan of the draw so I’ve listed them below.

Bets: Kyren Wilson to win Gibraltar Open at 9/1, Dave Gilbert to win Gibraltar Open at 25/1. Each Way Scott Donaldson at 100/1, Zhang Anda at 100/1, Tom Ford at 130/1. 

You can plot your very own outcome to the Gibraltar Open here

Click here for the format

The amateur qualifying rounds take place on March 13-14 followed by the last 128 from March 15 to 17.

March 4, 2019

The Players Championship

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:00 am

Tonight sees the start of the Players Championship, the second of three events in the new Coral series, this one sees the top 16 players on the one year ranking list battling it out in a Masters style format at the iconic Preston Guild Hall, so what’s not to like about that then?

In terms of the players who have qualified there are just three from outside the current 2 year top 16 list who have made it, those being Ali Carter, Jimmy Robertson and Joe Perry, who replace the absentees, Luca Brecel, Ding Junhui and Shaun Murphy who all miss out, so it’s a chance for those three to narrow the gap and really put pressure on those on the brink of a seeding place at The Crucible.

The first round is a two table set up with tonight kicking off with O’Sullivan and Hawkins on one table and Allen and Maguire on the other, Allen being the number one seed for the event. It then moves to a one table situation from the quarter finals onwards with all matches up to the final being the best of 11 frames, with Sunday being contested over 19 frames. It’s also covered extensively by the excellent ITV and their schedule can be found here.

The man in form at the moment is undoubtedly Judd Trump, who is now contesting favouritism for the big one in Sheffield with O’Sullivan, indeed with just Mark Selby joining them at single figure odds there are a few decent prices around if you fancy the winner not coming from those three.

Despite Mark Allen heading up the ranking list he comes into this on the back of some disappointing form and he faces a stern test tonight against Stephen Maguire, who has got into this by virtue of consistently reaching the later rounds of events without ever really being on the brink of winning one. There are some cracking ties as you’d expect, including Selby taking on Higgins and World Champion Williams taking on Carter so there is plenty to get your teeth into.

Here is the schedule for the first round. 

Mark Allen (1) v  Stephen Maguire (16): Monday March 4 at 7pm

David Gilbert (8) v Stuart Bingham (9): Wednesday March 6 at 1pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan (5) v Barry Hawkins (12): Monday March 4 at 7pm

Mark Selby (4) v John Higgins (13): Wednesday March 6 at 1pm

Neil Robertson (3) v Joe Perry (14): Tuesday March 5 at 1pm

Mark Williams (6) v Ali Carter (11): Tuesday March 5 at 1pm

Kyren Wilson (7) v Jack Lisowski (10): Tuesday March 5 at 7pm

Judd Trump (2) v Jimmy Robertson (15): Tuesday March 5 at 7pm

Recommended Outright Bets: Mark Selby to win Players Championship at 10/1. Mark Williams to win Players Championship at 15/1.

Match Betting: Double on Maguire and Hawkins pays over 8/1. Acca on Williams, Robertson, Wilson and Bingham pays 11/2.

Special: A century in every match at 28/1 with the sponsors. 

   

February 26, 2019

Indian Open Preview (well sort of)

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:30 am

Captain Mohan – The Main Man.

Tragic circumstances surrounded the postponement of the Indian Open earlier in the season, but as promised, the World Snooker Tour returns to Kochi in the Kerala region of India for the short but sweet Indian Open, which starts on Wednesday.

There has been a rare two day break in the calendar following Thepchiaya Un-Nooh’s win in the Shootout. I didn’t watch much of it but what I did see didn’t offend me too much in terms of the action on the table, but off it the crowd of shaved chimps continues to annoy so it wasn’t something I was ever going to embrace again with open arms.

They add nothing with their primitive, repetitive and frankly meaningless chants. They remind me very much of hardcore jazz musicians, in that the noises they emit are pure enjoyment and genius to them, but an absolute load of fucking bollocks to everyone else.

Before that, Judd Trump continued his namesake’s bid for world domination with another big trophy win in the World Grand Prix in Cheltenham. He’s truly the man to beat at the moment and appears to have the advantage over all the other main players, including O’Sullivan. It remains to be seen whether he can retain this form for the rest of the season but if he can, it’s surely the most justifiably fancied he’ll ever have been going into Sheffield.

Following that, another player who will really fancy his chances in Sheffield Neil Robertson, ran out the winner in Cardiff at the Welsh Open beating one of the favourites for this week Stuart Bingham in a great final.

At the other end of the spectrum, we continue to try and find out where Mark Selby has left his A Game, he’s leaving it late this year but he’s done similar in the past and turned up nigh on unbeatable at The Crucible so it would be folly to write him off as a big contender just yet.

At least he’s only looking for his A Game though, Shaun Murphy is half way through the alphabet and must be approaching the high Scrabble scorers when it comes to his current form. As ever, he’s been publicly lamenting his invisible game on the airwaves and explaining the negative effect that social media was having on him. In fact with this and his various ambassadorial and committee duties, plus of course his commentary work one wonders where he finds the time to put some practice in, perhaps there lies the problem, it’s usually the simplest solution that is the correct one after all.

‘I’m sure I left it round here somewhere’

Shaun is back in action this week and faces one of the Indian wildcards, Lucky Vatnani, who can play a bit and is double figure prices to beat him. Make no mistake, given that Shaun also recently lost to Adam Stefanow in a match in which he played at times like a man with no eyes and as a consequence also misses the China Open, any repeat of that form will see him on the way home no sooner than you can say Chicken Madras, or most likely he’ll just rock up to the commentary box to tell the others where they are all going wrong.

In terms of this week, the short best of seven format again presents an opportunity for a new name on a ranking trophy. The final of course is just the best of nine so this really is a whistlestop tour of the region before we head to Preston for the Players Championship, which should be a decent ‘Masters style’ 16 player event next week.

This event is usually available on the bookies sites and if you are really lucky you will be able to hear the in-country commentary. This is a thing of great beauty, unashamedly biased towards the home players, scathing in it’s criticism of ‘club standard’ snooker and totally populated by people called Captain who have wonderful facial hair.

There is also a rumour circulating that it will be covered on Eurosport Player, which at this time of year is well worth investing in on a month by month basis if you are an avid snooker fan, given that it’s only a few weeks to the World Championship qualifiers. 

I make Bingham quite a strong favourite for this one, the draw he has is kind and it strikes me that he’s in great form, but at 6/1 I wouldn’t say he’s exactly value given the format. Instead I’ll plump for a few of the others each way and the first ranking win for Lisowski, all those below I think are capable of a decent week at long odds, including Un-Nooh who can be boosted to absurd odds at Ladbrokes if you are quick, like he is.

Recommended: Win – Jack Lisowski (11/1). Each Way – Luca Brecel (28/1) Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (60/1) and Sam Baird (160/1) 

You can play around with the draw to select your outright picks here.

Click here for the format

February 4, 2019

The World Grand Prix

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:52 am

The snooker takes no rest and it’s now time for the World Grand Prix to take centre stage on ITV. This forms the first part of the three ‘Coral Series’ events, a new innovation this season, and pits together the top 32 players on the one season list (or to be more specific the 7 month list) in a 32 man knockout. (more…)

January 29, 2019

The German Masters

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:00 am

The Templedrum

Most bloggers and fans will proclaim the German Masters to be one of their favourite events on the calendar. Having made the trip to Berlin myself I can confirm that there is a great atmosphere and packed crowds inside the Tempodrom (or if you are Phil Studd ‘The Templedrum’) with a unique table set up that offers the crowd a great viewing experience, so what’s not to like?

I ask this question as it’s become obvious to me over the years that whilst this is a firm favourite with fans, it’s not so for the players. They site a few quirks that they aren’t that happy with, the lighting levels on the outside tables and the fact that often the crowd near their table are busy watching (and clapping) shots from another match are often top of the list of moans but overall, for the viewing public both at the venue and at home, it’s a pretty entertaining few days.

The starting field for the qualifiers was pretty strong, though as ever Ronnie didn’t grace this one with his presence. Masters champion and the boy who would be king Judd Trump is here though and faces his first outing after being much touted by many in the know as the new ‘man to beat’ in snooker, his win in London even prompted some to talk of the great coronation, the new Davis/Hendry moment, when the pupil became the master and Judd finally assumed the mantle from O’Sullivan.

I’m not so sure I have to say. O’Sullivan had a howler in the final and it’s clear he was outplayed, but I really need to see more of this new style of play from Judd on a consistent basis before I believe that this new dawn isn’t another false one that we’ve seen now a few times from him. A win in similar style this week would go some way to really rubber-stamping his Crucible credentials so it’s interesting too from that viewpoint.

It’s a nice compact 32 man field this and my main focus from the betting point of view is trying to call Shaun Murphy home to complete this bet, he qualified for this before Xmas in some style, knocking in 8 tons in the 10 frames he won, but his subsequent performance at Ally Pally wasn’t that encouraging and I hope he finds what he had in December back soon or I fear he may be the man to let me down.

It will also be interesting to see if the Mark’s at either end of the draw can get their season going. World Champion Williams shows no signs of letting up on his kebab drizzled lifestyle while Selby clings on to the Number 1 spot like a one armed man clinging to the side of a skyscraper with no help in sight, with only a matter of time before the inevitable drop occurs.

One player I sense might have a decent week here is Ding Junhui, for me he looked pretty decent at The Masters and he at least looks like he’s enjoying it again now, which is of course half the battle with him, I’d also have a look at the 147th 147 man Dave Gilbert, who might be able to take advantage of a Selby wobble if it happens in his section of the draw. In the top half, I think Joe Perry stands a fighting chance in the top quarter after a fairly quiet season with Judd battling it out in the second quarter, though something tells me he won’t win it.

It’s covered on Eurosport from Wednesday and if you haven’t tuned in before, do so. It gets really pumped as the days go by.

Recommended Bets: Win – Ding Junhui (13/1 – Boosted), Each Way – Joe Perry (40/1), Dave Gilbert (100/1). 

You can plot your own German Masters here, I will be posting match bets on Twitter of a morning.

Here’s the updated draw and format for the final stages of the 2019 German Masters at the Tempodrom in Berlin, following the completion of the qualifying rounds.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

January 20, 2019

Masters Final

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:38 am

I’m not going to waffle on about this, we’ve potentially a riveting final in store between Ronnie and Judd and hopefully it will showcase snooker to the wider audience in the best possible way.

It’s fair to say that Judd has as good a record against Ronnie as most if not all other players on the tour, apart from Elliot Slessor, so it’s all set up to be a close run thing. Despite this, Ronnie is a heavy favourite with the bookies so if you fancy Judd to turn him over again there is a bit of value there.

Personally, I think whilst Judd will probably rise to the occasion, we are due a virtuoso display from the Rocket and part of me feels this is all geared up for the 147th 147 (25/1 at Boylesports). I’ve managed to predict all Ronnie’s correct scores this week and weirdly not for the first time. It’s a bit like when Muhammad Ali used to tell everyone how many rounds he’d take to knock someone out, except I do it for Ronald and it’s not boxing so the similarity is somewhat tenuous.

Needless to say I haven’t had a penny on any of them so today I’ll be investing in him to win 10-7 and lose. Let’s hope for a great final and weep that Hawkins and Robertson let that century bet down as if there isn’t one today I’ll eat my vegan hat.    

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