June 9, 2019

Season Specials

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:21 pm

Off we go again

This is more of a memory jog post for me really but today a couple of firms are pricing up some season long bets and as I did last year, I’ve decided to have a play on them.

The markets in question are on individual players to have a ranking event success over the course of the season and Black Type Bet are happy to accept multiples on these markets so I’ve gone with four players who at the prices to me represent a great bet to sit down and cheer on this season.

I’d go as far as to say that I would be disappointed if the first fourfold at a shade under 7/1 hadn’t landed by the end of January.

I’ve followed those four as bankers with variations on a further three riskier players, two of whom are still seeking their maiden ranking title but are getting closer as the seasons pass and the other who is usually reliable to produce the goods during what is an increasingly lengthy season.

I have steered clear of the obvious picks as you’d imagine Judd, Ronnie, Selby and Robertson will all get their hands on some silverware at some point this season, indeed in the case of Robbo, it’s basically an annual tradition now for him.

If you do fancy going at the really short prices, you would have to factor in that Ronnie won’t be playing as much this season, indeed if his latest rant can be with taken with anything more than a pinch of salt he’s planning to skip all three ‘triple crown’ events. You’d also imagine that Judd will be a little more choosy now he’s World Champion and that Selby and to a lesser extent Robbo will continue to pick and choose, but that’s more of a gamble.     

So if you decide to have a play head over to Black Type or Ladbrokes/Corals to see what you can find, my bets are below. Remember these are ranking events only, The Masters and any other invitational events don’t count.

Recommended Season Specials (all with Black Type Bet):

Fourfold pays over 13/2 on John Higgins, Kyren Wilson, Mark Williams and Mark Allen.

Fivefold pays over 21/1 on those four plus Jack Lisowski.

Sixfold pays over 35/1 on those five plus Stuart Bingham.

Sevenfold pays over 121/1 on those six plus Dave Gilbert.


May 14, 2019

Q-School 2019 Details

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:30 am

It’s back to school for the potters.

The World Championship may be over but for amateur snooker players, the biggest event of the season is nearly upon us as we head to Wigan for this season’s Q School. The four semi-finalists from each of the 3 multi-player events will earn a place on the World Snooker Tour for 2019/20 and 2020/21, with a further 4 players also receiving tour cards, presumably from the Order of Merit list that runs over the three events.

It’s the usual mix of players, from those fresh from dropping off the main tour last season, to those who’ve been ploughing the amateur and senior tours in preparation, to the rookies to the no-hopers, it really is a real mish-mash of standards here and always makes for a very competitive couple of weeks.

This year a few bookmakers have priced up qualification from Event 1 which starts on Saturday, whilst Ladbrokes/Corals have also come up with a wider ‘to qualify at any point’ market.

There are some very familiar names there looking to bounce straight back on to the tour including the likes of Allan Taylor, Peter Lines, Sean O’Sullivan, Robin Hull, Ross Muir, Rory McLeod and Sandi Lam alongside a few Chinese players who are looking to re-enrol like Xu Si and Zhang Yong and European players Alexander Ursenbacher and Lukas Kleckers.

There are also familiar names to snooker fans who are also throwing their cue back into the ring after a spell away from the main tour like Jamie Cope, Barry Pinches and Andrew Pagget. We also have Reanne Evens, Rebecca Kenna and Ng On Yee in there flying the flag for the Women’s Tour as well as a smattering of players that hardened snooker fans might remember from back in the day who also fancy their chances of one last stab at the main tour.

I’ve had a few bets here and there but have avoided the favourites and looked at the capable players further down the list who are more than capable on their day of defying big odds, in Event 1 I’ve had a stab at Ben Hancorn at 80/1 and Wu Yize (who I have heard good things about) at 40/1.

I’ve had a daft multiple at Black Type which will probably bankrupt them if it wins on Sandi Lam (8/1), Barry Pinches (14/1), Leo Fernandez (25/1) and Billy Joe Castle at 12/1, all to qualify from the first event. Wish me luck with that as I’ll need it.

In terms of three lively outsiders in the ‘Qualify at any time’ market I’ve gone with Peter Devlin (15/1), Shane Castle (11/1) and a lad called Riley Parsons at 33/1, who I remember playing in my tournament a few years back and who looked very talented, he’s recently won a qualification event in Gloucester so has clearly kept it up.

The draws for all three 2019 Q School events, and the format of play are detailed on the links below. The events run from May 18 to June 4 at Robin Park Leisure Centre in Wigan.

Click here for event one draw

Click here for event two draw

Click here for event three draw

Click here for the format


May 2, 2019

World Championship Semi Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:02 am

It’s been a tournament of shocks so it’s no surprise that a couple of names that are still alive and kicking for the famous ‘one table situation’ are not ones that a lot of people will have expected.

I think it’s been an enjoyable championship so far if not quite raising the roof in a way that others have, the lack of a quarter final deciding frame was a bit of a let down and there will be many that will see the two matches we are faced with now as being one way traffic, but the championship is not done yet and there is still time for one final twist.

I’m not going to bother with recommended bets as I have enough interest still left in the championship with the 190/1 each way outright bet on Dave Gilbert and a special frames bet I requested at Ladbrokes, which basically entails the losers of every match from here on reaching 12 frames, so fingers crossed on that.

I will say that of the two players who start as outsiders in these matches I think Gary Wilson probably has the better chance of causing an upset. Dave Gilbert for the third match running faces another player who has denied him a ranking title in John Higgins. Their head to head strongly favours Higgins but Dave can take some encouragement from the fact he beat John on their last meeting in the 2017 World Open.

Judd and Gary have met each other on one occasion, again this was at the World Open and Gary rode out a 5-3 winner, so Judd will be looking to beat the Tyneside man for the first time to reach another final, perhaps again facing Higgins as he did in his only previous final appearance back in 2011.

I’ve been incredibly impressed with Wilson in this tournament and I honestly think he is more than capable of causing another upset. I think the 5/1 on him beating Judd represents a bit of value and I might have a nibble of it.

But I suppose it would be silly not to expect the final to be contested between Trump and Higgins, but as we know, this championship does sometimes throw up the unexpected, so it’s far from the nailed on certainty that the bookies seem to want to have us believe. Let’s just hope for two cracking semi-finals and if the losers could see fit to win 12 frames it would be greatly appreciated.

Dave Gilbert v John Higgins (Thursday 1pm, Friday 10am & 7pm, Saturday 2.30pm)

Gary Wilson v Judd Trump (Thursday 7pm, Friday 2.30pm, Saturday 10am & 7pm)  

April 29, 2019

World Championship Quarter Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:06 pm

It’s goodbye to the two table set up after this round

Four more best of 25 frame matches over Tuesday and Wednesday before we reach the one-table situation and it’s fair to say even Nostradamus couldn’t have predicted this eight correctly.

Click on the match for the previous head to head meetings. Pick and choose the recommended bets if you’d like a multiple.

Dave Gilbert v Kyren Wilson (Table 1, Tuesday 10am/7pm, Wednesday 2.30pm) 

Dave Gilbert again faces someone who has stopped him winning a ranking final in the sublime Kyren Wilson, who was patient against a barrage of centuries from Barry Hawkins to pounce when the pressure was on and rattle in two match winning tons of his own. Dave ended the tenure of the reigning champion, who though clearly not feeling himself, still gave it a good go, but Dave played extremely well and looked confident in the balls, something you feel he will have to do again from the off here. Kyren really looks like he is enjoying himself in the Crucible cauldron and absolutely nothing seems to be phasing him. If one thing has been missing from his game this season it is high scoring, frame winning breaks, but even without that he’s got a very high win ratio, so now he has it, watch out world. Having backed Dave at 190/1 a few months ago and recommended against him in both matches so far he’ll be delighted to hear that I’m doing so again, I think the eventual champion comes from the top half of the draw and it could well be Kyren.

Prediction: Wilson to win 13-8

RECOMMENDED BET: Wilson (-3.5 frames) at 11/10

Neil Robertson v John Higgins (Table 1, Tuesday 2.30pm, Wednesday 10am/7pm)

You have to go back almost 6 years to the last time Higgins got the better of Robertson, indeed all but 2 of John’s 7 victories over Neil have come over the best of seven frames or less, when the frames rack up, it’s the Aussie who historically takes command. Higgins closed out a tight fought win over Stuart Bingham last night in typically workmanlike style and anyone who was writing him off before the championship is being reminded of his Crucible pedigree once again as he aims for a third successive final. Robertson has been elevated to tournament favourite now based not only on his pre-tournament form but on his performances so far here, including a dismantling of Shaun ‘ten jobs’ Murphy in the last round. He’s lost less frames than any other player left in this and for me goes into this as a strong favourite. Higgins will obviously put up more of a fight than his previous two opponents but if Neil sticks to the game plan and ignores who is sitting next to him I think we’ll see the Aussie back at the one-table set-up again, after all it’s been long overdue. But I don’t expect the demolition jobs of previous rounds.

Prediction: Robertson to win 13-10

RECOMMENDED BET: Over 4 centuries in the match at 11/8

Gary Wilson v Ali Carter (Table 2, Tuesday 10am/7pm, Wednesday 10am)

Much will be made of the fact that this is a guaranteed qualifier into the semi-final, but as we all know, Ali Carter is a qualifier in name only so it won’t exactly add novelty value if he once again makes it to the one table situation. Gary however, despite his undoubted self-belief would probably have doubted you just a little if you’d told him he’d be one match away from the wall-less arena set up having dispensed with Mark Selby in clinical fashion. There will be those who will tell you that he simply took advantage of a below-par Jester, but I’d disagree, Wilson played very very well, as he has in every match he has ever played at The Crucible and I think Carter will have to play very well here to beat him; better than he has done so far in his first two matches at least. They have met on one occasion, just over a year ago in China when Wilson rode out the 6-4 winner. In terms of scoring, Wilson is doing that a lot heavier than Ali so all the pointers are towards the Wallsend man, The one doubt in my mind has to be the experience levels of the two, but you only get experience by ermm, getting experience, and for me Wilson is playing well enough to win so has to be given the nod.

Prediction: Wilson to win 13-10

RECOMMENDED BET: Gary Wilson to win at 19/10. Gary Wilson (-1.5 frames) at 12/5. Gary Wilson to have the highest break in the match at 11/8.     

Stephen Maguire v Judd Trump (Table 2 Tuesday 2.30pm, Wednesday 2.30pm/7pm)

These two have met once this season when Maguire came out on top in Berlin ending a run of six straight defeats to Judd, which included a couple of real wallopings. Maguire has ridden his luck and then some in this, but sometimes the Snooker Gods like to play things that way and who is to say that his luck is bound to run out eventually? Judd benefited from a complete collapse by Ding Junhui last night, Ding inexplicably seems to have forgotten how to break build and you have to say that unless he really knuckles down his chances of being a world champion are more remote now than ever. On the contrary Judd now carries the hopes of his fans into another second week campaign and this time the naughty snooker is being kept to a minimum and Mr Safety has been invited to the party. Of the two this week it’s Maguire that has been noticeably the heavier scorer and I may be swimming against the tide here in giving him a decent chance here. Judd now has to cope with being a strong favourite to reach the final from this half and that brings with it all sorts of pressure, Maguire I’m sure will just be there to give it a go and I would not be surprised at all if he pulled off the win, I’m not sure how this one will go, I’d say it will either be a walk in the park for Trump or very very close indeed.

Prediction: Either Judd 13-6 or Maguire 13-12.   

RECOMMENDED PUNT: Maguire to win at 7/2.   


Kyren and Gary Wilson to win by more than 1 frame, have more than 1 century and have the highest break in both their matches at 20/1.

Kyren and Gary Wilson to win by more than 3 frames, have more than 1 century and have the highest break in both their matches at 50/1.

For there to be 15 or more centuries in the Quarter Finals at 11/4


April 24, 2019

World Championship Round Two

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:07 pm

As the opening round draws to a close it’s time to take a look at the ties in the Last 16, this post will be updated as and when matches are known, just click on the match for the head to head record.

Remember that we now move to the 3 session Best of 25 frame matches for the next two rounds of the championship.

We’ve lost Ronnie, we nearly lost Judd and we’ve had a whitewash from a resurgent Shaun Murphy, alongside deciders and one-siders aplenty, what does the next round have in store? Let’s take a look shall we?


Mark Williams v Dave Gilbert (Friday 25th 2.30pm, Saturday 26th 10am and 7pm)

The defending champion started solidly enough with consistent scoring against Martin Gould and once he got a hold in the match he never really looked like being headed. Gilbert came through a very tough opener against Joe Perry by the same 10-7 scoreline but somehow that one felt a lot tighter than Williams’ match did and Dave held himself together well when Perry threatened a comeback at the end. Their last meeting will have left a snooker scar on Gilbert, it was the World Open final at the start of the season when Dave was just one frame away from his first big ranking title, only to lose the last five frames and hand the title to Williams. But the scar will not really be about the opponent rather than the occasion itself so I wouldn’t say that will play a part here. As you might expect, Williams had the better of their previous encounters and he looked like he was bang up for this in the first round, I can see this being a match where he establishes an early lead and keeps his opponent at arms length.

Prediction: Williams 13-10     

Barry Hawkins v Kyren Wilson (Sunday 28th 10am/7pm, Monday 29th 1pm) 

The pair’s third meeting of the season with Wilson currently ahead 2-1, but it’s Barry who has the overall advantage, which is probably what you’d expect considering that Wilson, these past couple of seasons, is a completely different proposition to the player who struggled to get a frame off Barry at the start of the decade. I expect this to be a very ‘neat’match, with very few mistakes and plenty of breaks over 50, if not over 100. I think it will be won and lost on the tactical side of the game and who has the stronger safety game, something which they are very evenly matched at. Barry hasn’t had a great season by his own standards but much is always made of his Crucible pedigree and his amazing consistency here, but I’m going to side with Kyren just on the basis that he’s very much on the up and has the look once again here of someone who means business.

Prediction: Wilson 13-11

Recommended Bet: Over 23 frames in the match at 9/4 

John Higgins v Stuart Bingham (Saturday 27th 2.30pm, Sunday 28th 2.30pm, Monday 29th 7pm)  

Another pairing where the last time they met was a final, this time back in 2016 when Higgins won the China Championship. Much has been made of Higgins poor recent form but he looked pretty sharp in the first round with three centuries and five further breaks over 60. Bingham, 8-1 up and cruising against Dotty decided just chill out and watch a bit of snooker from his seat before somehow regaining his composure to win in a decider, so it’s fair to say that he’s used up a little more mental energy than he might have been expecting to after the first session. The head to heads are convincing in Higgins favour and you’d be a fool to oppose him on his first round form, he’ll be looking to kick on from that and we all know how dangerous he can be when he gets his tongue between his teeth.

Prediction: Higgins 13-8    

Shaun Murphy v Neil Robertson (Thursday 25th 1pm, Friday 26th 10am/7pm)

Just one frame dropped between the two men who breezed through the first round against opponents who looked like they had just landed on Earth and were just getting the hang of stuff. But you still have to go out and perform and they both did and both looked razor sharp in the balls, which came as no surprise with Robertson but Shaun looked as confused as everyone else in the audience did with the way he was knocking them in after a season best described as forgettable. The last time they met over a long distance was Murphy’s Masters win in 2015, when he gave Neil a right old pasting in the final, oddly, the last time they met at all was just over 4 years ago which given they have been permanent fixtures in the top 16 is one of those odd snooker anomalies. Shaun proclaimed after the match that if they both play the same again this could be a classic, I hope he’s right, but I detected some flaws in Murphy’s game that are still there, he wasn’t punished at all when he got a bit careless and that won’t happen here. I can only see one outcome in this and it has to be Robertson, comfortably.

Prediction: Robertson 13-6      


Mark Selby v Gary Wilson (Thursday 25th 7pm, Friday 26th 2.30pm, Saturday 27th 10am)

Gary Wilson became the first qualifier to proceed into Round 2 with a tense win over Luca Brecel that included an incredible final frame which went on for about a week. His only ranking final to date came back in 2015 when he was heavily defeated by his opponent here, who seemed in very jovial spirits after a customary first round comeback from 5-1 down to Zhao Xintong. His scoring was very similar to Higgins in that match with three tons and a whole host of frame winning contributions so it may not be wishful thinking now to believe that after a very nervy start, he might just be coming back to his best. I did think after the match he seemed incredibly relaxed and perhaps the mantle of being Number 1 is something he’s happy to get rid of, but he’d better not be too sick of it because there is every chance with the early exit of O’Sullivan that at the end of this he’ll be back there again. As for this match, I can’t see Gary getting too close, if it goes tactical which I’m sure it will at some point, Selby should have enough in the tank to pull clear eventually and not eek every last drop out of the match.

Prediction: Selby 13-8

Ali Carter v Zhou Yuelong (Sunday 28th 10am/7pm, Monday 29th 1pm) 

A pretty meaningless head to head between the pair means that we should only really go on their form to get here, this of course being the only match where both players have already won 40 frames in the championship. Ali was clinical in his first round against Lisowski, who it has to be said at times played some real kamikaze snooker. Yuelong held himself together well in the face of a comeback from Mark Allen when he had already benefited from an inexplicably bad session from Mark. I’m pretty convinced that Ali will see this as a match that he should not lose and I’d expect him to look to really impose himself from the start and if he does, I can see him winning this very comfortably.

Prediction: Carter 13-6    

Judd Trump v Ding Junhui (Saturday 27th 7pm, Sunday 28th 2.30pm, Monday 29th 7pm)

Plenty, including me, will be scouring the ties in this round and wonder where the annual classic second rounder is coming from, well I’d look no further than this one. Drama seems to follow Judd around here and he needed all 19 frames to take care of Theppy and set up a fourth World Championship meeting with Ding, with Judd leading 2-1. In competitive snooker over the years they have played a total of 142 frames and Ding leads 72-70, which just tells you all you need to know about how evenly matched these two are, arguably here we are seeing the best players ever to play the sport without being a World Champion, an accolade that at least one of them will maintain for at least another year. Of the two, Ding was by far the heavier scorer in Round 1 and also looked the most comfortable with the surroundings, which he doesn’t always here. I’ve always thought both of these two are vulnerable in the two table set up and don’t really relax until they reach the bigger stage from the semi-finals, only losing there to stellar performances rather then under-performing. On first round form I’d have to plump for Ding, who like Selby, looks like a man with a weight lifted from him, but I’d not put him in any straight accumulators as this one could get very twitchy.

Prediction: Ding 13-11     

Stephen Maguire v James Cahill (Friday 26th 10am/7pm, Saturday 27th 2.30pm)

Two players who may suffer from a bit of shell shock even being here, Maguire because he should really have been beaten in the first round and possibly owes his win to a fluke, Cahill well, I don’t really have to elaborate why he might think he is dreaming do I? It’s a very odd one this for me as history tells us that when the unlikely giant slayer re-enters the arena to start again, he tends to under-perform and go out with a whimper and leave everyone saying what a shame it was he’d beaten so and so, but I have a feeling Cahill may prove an exception to this, particularly if Maguire gets a bit careless as he can do quite often. The one thing that I think will divide them however is Maguire’s heavier scoring. Cahill was knocking tons in for fun in the qualifiers but he didn’t get near one against Ronnie, despite some very good frame winning breaks. I’ll side with history here and plump for Maguire but I wouldn’t be surprised if Cahill gave a decent account of himself again.

Prediction: Maguire 13-9

RECOMMENDED BETS: Total Frames Treble – Williams/Gilbert Over 21, Robertson/Murphy Under 21, Ding/Trump Over 22 – pays 13/2. Add John Higgins (-2.5 frames) and acca pays over 16/1. Match Handicap Acca: Higgins (-1.5), Robertson (-2.5), Williams (-2.5), Ding (+3.5), Selby (-3.5) pays just under 12/1.  

April 21, 2019

Ding Junhui Press Conference

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:02 pm

Ding Junhui produced the goods today with a 10-7 win over Anthony McGill, he sets up a possible mouth-watering encounter with Judd Trump in Round 2. Here he has a little chat and it seems he is happy to be under the radar this year.  

April 18, 2019

World Championship 2019 Preview – Ronnie Can Make it Super Sixth

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:15 pm

The World Awaits….

Seventeen days of snooker bliss awaits us from Saturday when defending champion Mark Williams gets things underway on Table 1 for the first round of the World Snooker Championship from The Crucible.

It hardly seems like 12 weeks, never mind 12 months, since Williams turned back the hands of time and carried off the trophy for the third time, he’s spent most of the intervening period getting trousered and playing golf, with the occasional snooker match in between and never I’d guess has a champion enjoyed and shared the fruits of his labour so publicly, perhaps he is the natural successor to the original People’s Champion.

Similarly to last year, when it has to be said he came into this in great form, he’s shed a few pounds. The difference between this year and last however where MJW is concerned is that by relative standards he’s had a quiet season on the table, but that isn’t always a bad thing and sometimes the eventual winner is someone who has been flying under the radar for a while, or famously on one occasion, someone who hadn’t even left the runway all season.

Someone who most definitely hasn’t been flying under the radar this year however is Ronnie, who has been in superb form all season with only the occasional blip. His heavy defeat at The Masters to Judd Trump has already been avenged in Llandudno and the two are set to meet up in the quarter finals here, a match which if it happens will surely not let anyone down.

Similarly in fine fettle coming here is Neil Robertson, fresh from his China Open win. Robbo’s not made the one table set up here for a few years now and has come into it in great form before and disappointed, but he’s looking as strong as ever in the balls with 78 centuries this season already to his name. If he brings the same form he’s been showing of late with him he is in with a great chance from the slightly more lenient top half of the draw which he played himself in to by winning in China.

Has anyone seen Mark Selby anywhere? The Jester’s form has deserted him completely for the most part of the season. OK, you could argue that he’s been a little unlucky to lose a few close ones against his peers, but he’s also thrown in the odd howler which is very unlike him. However, he is another player who has won here in the past after a quiet season, so beware sleeping giants and all that.

Perhaps this might be a ‘Bingham Year’ in that we’ll see an unexpected pair of hands on the trophy on May Bank Holiday Monday, could someone lower down the top 16 or even a qualifier do the business and have a dream 17 days on the baize totally against the form book? Any scenario is likely here so the only advice I will give is to be prepared to expect the unexpected.

So without any further ado, here are the match by match previews. Click on the match to see the head to heads and scroll down for any bets that are recommended, including a list of the ones I have flagged up through the season already and backed.

Let the adventure begin…..


Mark Williams (1) v Martin Gould (Saturday 20th 10am/7pm)

The reigning champion faces a tough opener against the Championship League winner Gould who qualified with victories over Daniel Wells and Gerard Greene after an opening ten grand practice session. What is most surprising about their head to head record is that they haven’t faced each other more, particularly in the years where Gould was skirting around the top 16. They have both picked and chosen events this year, Williams understandably, Gould less so and his reasons for not entering events, particularly overseas, that count heavily towards rankings remains something of a mystery. It’s fair to say that before the win in Coventry, Gould had done next to nothing all season and has spent a lot more time away from the baize than on it. Williams I am sure will be proud to be introduced as champion and he’s far too experienced to let the occasion get to him, Gould scored OK in the qualifiers but will have to up that considerably to trouble Williams here.

Prediction: Williams 10-6      

David Gilbert (16) v Joe Perry (Monday 22nd 7pm / Tuesday 23rd 2.30pm)  

Twelve matches played between these two and precious little to seperate them would indicate to me that this one will be very close. Perry for me is probably the qualifier all the seeds wanted to avoid, he knows how to win here and to all intents and purposes it is irrelevant who is the seeded player in this match, as any other day it could be the other way around. Joe only lost 5 frames in the qualifiers, less than any other player, and it never looked like anything but a formality for him so you’d imagine that match sharpness will be there, he’s also avoided a first weekend start which I think will please him. Dave has had such a wonderful season and it is great to see a player of his huge ability get into this as of right, it’s a new experience for him being here without having had to qualify and sometimes new experiences are a little difficult to get used to. I’ve backed Gilbert at silly odds in the outrights but when this draw came out, I sort of put that one in the pending disposal file, I just think Joe will be the sharper and he is the most experienced of the two here.

Prediction: Perry 10-7  

Barry Hawkins (9) v Li Hang (Wednesday 24th 10am/7pm)

One of the debutants Li Hang faces a Crucible specialist in Hawkins so on paper and knowing what we know about this place, Barry has to be happy with this draw. Li was quite the opposite of Perry in the qualifiers and came through two real tight matches to qualify. Incredibly, he beat Ben Woollaston 10-8 with only one break over 50, a 53, so it’s fair to say that a reprisal of that scoring can only see him on his way home early here. However he has been steadily rising up the rankings year on year and is now hovering around the top 32 so though he doesn’t really look like a world beater, he can clearly scrap out results and that is sometimes what you need to do here. Barry’s not had a great season barring a run to the semi-finals in the World Grand Prix and if you discount a final appearance against Gould in the Championship League he’s struggled, but this is the kind of draw that I think will suit him, he can scrap too and I think this will help sharpen him up for the next round and perhaps another annual Crucible run, as is traditional in the Hawkins household at this time of the year.

Prediction: Hawkins 10-4   

Kyren Wilson (8) v Scott Donaldson (Wednesday 24th 2.30pm / Thursday 25th 7pm)

Whenever a seeded player is asked who they would like to draw at The Crucible in the first round, most state a preference for someone who has never played there before. Well, Kyren Wilson must have been a good boy because he has got just that in the form of the improving Scott Donaldson. Scot, Scott who is Scottish and from Scotland put his friends, family and fans through the ringer in late night Judgement Day drama in squeezing through a decider and the bonus for him is that he doesn’t have to start again until Wednesday. The bad news however is that he is facing a player hungry for Crucible success, who exudes confidence and is predicted by many to be a future champion. German Masters champion Kyren has been steady all season, losing only the odd match that you’d say he shouldn’t have and for me a steady approach from him here will be enough to set up a second round match with Hawkins which I think might produce the semi-finalist from this section.

Prediction: Wilson 10-5 


John Higgins (5) v Dark Mavis (Sunday 21st 10am / Monday 22nd 2.30pm)

There aren’t many players on the circuit who can say that they hold a superior head to head record over John Higgins, but Mavis is one of them. Of their last 10 meaningful matches, Higgins has only won two and at this very stage 6 seasons ago Mavis qualified and beat the four times champion and runner-up for the last two seasons, 10-6. It’s strange that sometimes these things happen in head to heads, whether it’s a style of play that suits the way you play or just a psychological advantage, it’s clearly something which gives Mavis this apparent hold over Higgins. So, all in all, he should really be over the moon with this draw and Higgins less so, Mavis has three solid wins under his belt from the qualifiers and the fact that Higgins has been far from his best of late should give The Dark One further hope. Nothing is going to stop me from predicting an unlikely first round exit for John this year, given what the form and history books coming into this tells me.

Prediction: Mavis 10-8 

Stuart Bingham (12) v Graeme Dott (Tuesday 23rd 10am/7pm)

The Terrier really got his teeth into the qualifiers. Dotty continued his 5 year unbeaten World Qualifiers run in only losing 8 frames over three best of 19 matches and scoring heavily in the process of doing so. He said afterwards he didn’t care who he drew as long as he got a few days off and that’s fell into place nicely for him. That confirms to me that the only reason Graeme doesn’t continue to compete at the highest level more regularly is down to his stamina, he just seems to be running around knocking them off the lampshades one minute and then almost comatose the next. I think he’s always a threat when he first turns up fresh here and having watched him lead from the front against Ali Carter a few years back it’s clear if he gets his nose in front he is very difficult to peg back so that is where Bingham will need to be at his sharpest from the start of the match and assert. I struggle to call this but oddly, I reckon we’ll have an inkling who is going to win after the first four frames, the prediction below is not a confident one as this one is very difficult to call before a ball is struck and if Dott gets the early lead I’d reverse the score prediction below in his favour.

Prediction: Bingham 10-6      

Shaun Murphy (13) v Luo Honghao (never played before) (Sunday 21st 2.30pm / Monday 22nd 10am)

I’d wager good money that the piano references before this match on the BBC will be off the chart. Shaun as we know fancies a little tinkle but if this match was decided on recitals, he’d be heading home before you could say Beethoven’s Fifth. Luo, who wears a glove on his bridge hand, is a bit nifty on the ol’ joanna and he proved this week that his talents extend to potting as well as playing. He had three wins against three good opponents, including a first round defeat of an under par Marco Fu, he scored ok but only scored one ton in the 30 frames he won so you’d imagine he’s not going to be outscoring Shaun here. Murphy comes into this in woeful form, the worst season of his career can only get worse if he loses to a debutant here and my advice to him would be to just treat this as an experience to enjoy, very much like when you play the piano, then if and when you get sent home, regroup and come back stronger. But I don’t expect him to lose here, just by virtue of the fact that he’ll get chances and with them he’ll be knocking enough in to win. Now then, you sing and I’ll play.

Prediction: Murphy 10-7

Neil Robertson (4) v Michael Georgiou (Saturday 20th 2.30pm / Sunday 21st 7pm)

Robbo is a lot of people’s idea of the champion this year and I wouldn’t put anyone off backing him. He’s also been handed a Crucible virgin here in the shape of Michael Georgiou, who for anyone who doesn’t know who he is, is the player they use on that BBC2 lead in to the snooker where the rest in the shape of a number 2 starts giggling. Anyway, he will be the first Cypriot to grace the Crucible stage but what a stinker of a draw he’s gone and landed himself with. Michael is another who used up a lot of energy (and frames) in the qualifiers, but he’s clearly a player who has massively improved over the past two seasons and one that I have been guilty of writing off too much. Robbo though comes into this in prime peacock mode, strutting around the table and looking every inch the player he was when he lifted the title and more recently when he made the ton of tons. It would be a huge shock if he were to fall at the first here and it’s difficult to see him not making the one table set up at least this year in my opinion.

Prediction: Robertson 10-3 


Mark Selby (3) v Zhao Xintong (Monday 22nd 10am/7pm)

The three times World Champion has been handed who most believe is the toughest debutant of the lot here and he will be under no illusions about how well he’ll have to play if Zhao settles in and feels at home quickly. Oddly, I think it will help Selby focus in getting a tough first round draw. The pair met in the China Championship semi-final at the start of the season with Selby narrowly winning 6-4 despite a spirited comeback from his young opponent. Zhao scored heavily in his wins over Noppon and Matt Selt to get here and clearly has the game to really progress, but as ever, it will be down to how he copes with the first time Crucible nerves. Selby can have no excuses in terms of burn out this season as he’s usually gone these days before the BBC vans even arrive, perhaps the lack of expectation of him may just finally bring him back to his best, which is as we know, a recent multiple world championship winning best.

Prediction: Selby 10-8  

Luca Brecel (14) v Gary Wilson (Saturday 20th 10am / Sunday 21st 2.30pm) 

This could be a real cracker this under the radar. Wilson was the pick of the final round qualifiers for me with a stunning win over Liang Wenbo which included 3 centuries and 4 further 70 plus contributions, that type of snooker is very very hard to beat and he’ll, I suspect, be quite happy to have dodged some of the more fancied seeds and drawn Luca. After a very unpredictable season, the Belgian Bullet has finally pulled the trigger lately and put up a great show in China last month reaching the semi-finals and losing out to eventual winner Neil Robertson so his confidence will be ramped up coming into this. Gary has a match under his belt here when he gave Ronnie a scare and doesn’t seem the type of player to me that lets anything get to him. His confidence is high and I think he might just carry off the win here in what I think will be a high scoring match.

Prediction: Wilson 10-9 

Jack Lisowski (11) v Ali Carter (Wednesday 24th 7pm / Thursday 25th 1pm)

Another absolute corker of a tie here, with China Open runner-up Lisowski facing the man who knocked out Ronnie, almost in more ways than one last year, Ali Carter. Carter, like Perry, came through the qualifiers with the air of a player who was just going through the motions and it wouldn’t feel like The Crucible if he wasn’t there, which this year after a superb season Lisowski is as the seeded player. I’ve got a theory about Jack so bear with me, when he gets into a situation that he’s not used to, he tends to use it as a learning experience, it happened first round at The Crucible when he lost his first match here easily and then reversed it last time against Bingham, then he got walloped second round by Higgins, I think he’ll use his final loss in China against Robbo to put that right when it happens again. What I am saying is that when he knows he can do something and has done it before he seems quite comfortable and when he has had a bad experience he has the ability to turn it round. Following this half-baked theory through to its entirety for anyone who is still awake, that logically suggests that this year he will make the semi-finals, so let’s see how that pans out. Anyway, as tough a match as this is to call, I think Lisowski is so good these days that it’s getting very hard for me to back against him against any more than a handful of top players.

Prediction: Lisowski 10-7       

Mark Allen (6) v  Zhou Yuelong – never played before (Tuesday 23rd 7pm / Wednesday 24th 2.30pm)

Coming back for his second visit to The Crucible is Dennis’s favourite Chinese player Ghou Yolonge aka Zhou Yuelong who faces double ranking event winner this season Mark Allen. It’s fair to say that when it comes to The Crucible, Allen has underachieved, sometimes players just don’t play their normal game at certain venues and for whatever reason, often here Allen’s superb game seems to sometimes disappear. Around December last year Allen was arguably playing the best snooker of anyone apart from Ronnie, but since then he’s struggled on the table and by his own admission off it too, he skipped the recent trip to China despite having been expected to play so it’s hard to know if he did that to get sharp for this or because he’s just not right mentally. Zhou was scoring heavily in the qualifiers and was also showing emotion, which is something we’re not always used to seeing from the Chinese players, so if there is a market on fist-pumps in this one, get on the overs.

Prediction: Yuelong 10-7  


Judd Trump (7) v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (Tuesday 23rd 2.30pm / Wednesday 24th 10am) 

I’d imagine this will be a slow, dogged affair between two plodders – said no-one ever. A word of advanced warning to anyone with front row tickets to this one, take a safety helmet, because the way these two boys crack them in, if one flies off you’ll be joining the Great Billiard Hall in the Sky with the Snooker Gods if it catches you square on the bonce. What a match this promises to be. When the draw came out I immediately thought to myself that this is not the draw Judd would have wanted, but perhaps I’m wrong in that assumption? Does he want a good old fashioned potting contest to get his latest title tilt going or would he rather prove to everyone how well behaved his snooker is these days? It’s like when George Michael left Wham! and started making grown up songs, desperate to be accepted as something more than a pretty face…anyway, where was I? Oh yes, no idea what could happen here, but they both score for fun so I’d take a good look at the break markets. I don’t think Judd will win the title this year but if he gets through here I hope he gets that match with Ronnie that we all want to see.

Prediction: Trump 10-6 

Ding Junhui (10) v Anthony McGill (Saturday 20th 2.30pm / Sunday 21st 10am)

Sometimes in life things are hard to forget, your first kiss, the first time you fell in love, your first dog, the first time you smelt freshly cut grass, the first time you turned up at The Crucible for a second round match full of hope on Table 2 against Ding Junhui and got an absolute pasting in front of millions of worldwide viewers. That is what Anthony McGill will have to put out of his mind if he is to get anywhere near winning here (the last one I mean not the grass or kiss stuff). A masterclass from Ding against him on this very table saw him race to a 9-0 lead over the bewildered Scot before cruising to victory, those kind of scars can take time to heal. Anthony performed escapology in the final qualifying round turning around a 7-2 deficit against Rob Milkins but he’s not beaten Ding in 4 attempts. I think despite the fact Lord Lucan has been easier to spot than Ding this season, the head to head tells me all I need to know here as the pair return to the scene of the crime twelve months ago.

Prediction: Ding 10-4    

Stephen Maguire (15) v Tian Pengfei – never played before (Saturday 20th 7pm / Sunday 21st 7pm)

It’s taken him a while, but finally Tian Pengfei has made it to The Crucible. Tian is part of the slightly older contingent of Chinese players (see Liang Wenbo, Xiao Guodong, Zhang Anda) who have flattered to deceive early in their careers and remain incredibly inconsistent. With wins over Ryan Day and Matthew Stevens under his belt I don’t think there will be many Welsh people cheering for him but he’s played well enough despite falling asleep towards the end of the Stevens match and nearly clutching defeat from the jaws of victory. I think Tian is a fine player but he’s just too inconsistent to think of anything other than a bit of a modern day journeyman, it’s nice he will get the chance to play here at least once but I can’t see him pulling up any trees against the fairly consistent Maguire, who by all accounts has been putting the hours in with Higgins and McGill at a new set-up north of the border, he should get to have another crack at Ronnie in the Last 16.

Prediction: Maguire 10-5  

Ronnie O’Sullivan (2) v James Cahill (Monday 22nd 2.30pm / Tuesday 23rd 10am)

‘People are actually forgetting that they played before in the UK and James Cahill was a bit like a rabbit in the headlights’ exclaimed JP rather presumptuously at the draw ceremony. People are actually forgetting that because it actually never happened. They have played each other three times before, but never in the UK and each time James has put up a decent show without winning. Much will be made of Cahill’s current amateur status and there will indeed be a few diehards out there who will say he shouldn’t even be in this, but he’s professional again in a few months time, is clearly more than good enough to be in the worlds top 144 players unlike a few of the others they let in so it’s not really something I’d get too animated about. So to Ronnie, oh Ronnie, oh Ronnie, what do I do? Do I? Don’t I? Will you just let me down if I tip you to win this thing? For me the draw is ideal for him, not so much this one, but the quarter he is in, challenging enough from the next round onwards and his possible match with Judd (or dare I say it Ding?) in the QF’s I’m sure he will see as the ultimate challenge, he tends to win ultimate challenges more than he loses them. He’d then be down to the one table situation where his record speaks for itself and this year if he gets that far I can’t see him not winning the title. Whilst I have ummed and aaared for weeks over this, I think this is his best chance for a few years to win it in a highly competitive field and though I think that the outright price is too short for me to back, if he does win, he tends to win in some style so I’ll be recommending ‘Ronnie with Benefits’ as my main bet this year in the outrights.

Prediction: O’Sullivan 10-4    

RECOMMENDED BETS: O’Sullivan to win the World Championship, make over 1 century in every match and to not need a deciding frame at 13/2 with Ladbrokes. Ding Junhui to win the World Championship at 35/1 at Black Type.

RECOMMENDED MATCH MULTIPLE BETS: (more to follow on Friday) 

Mark Williams, Stephen Maguire, Shaun Murphy, Barry Hawkins, Kyren Wilson and Ding Junhui acca pays 11/2 with Bet 365.

Joe Perry, Dark Mavis, Gary Wilson, Jack Lisowski trebles and an acca, acca pays 29/1 at Boyles.

Over 1.5 centuries in all these matches Brecel/Wilson, Lisowski/Carter, Selby/Xintong, Allen/Yuelong and Trump/Un-Nooh – special bet at Ladbrokes pays 6/1.

None of these players to make more than one century in their first round match – Mark Williams, Shaun Murphy, Kyren Wilson, Barry Hawkins – Acca pays 9/1 at Bet 365.

Total Frames in Match – Higgins/Mavis over 16, Brecel/Wilson over 16, O’Sullivan/Cahill over 13, Trump/Un-Nooh over 15, Gilbert/Perry over 16 – Acca pays over 19/1 at Bet 365.

Ladbrokes Special – Every player to hit more than 1 50 plus break in the first round at 20/1 (Boosted).    

ALREADY BACKED: A century in every match was 22/1 now 11/1. Neil Robertson to win China Open and Reach Crucible Final 12/1 (Requested at QF stage in China). E/W Outright on Mark Williams 20/1. E/W Outright on Jack Lisowski 80/1. E/W Outright on Dave Gilbert 190/1. 

April 16, 2019

It’s Judgement Time

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:32 am

32 men start out today and by the close of play tomorrow only 16 of them will be left, they will then be placed into the draw for the World Championship on Thursday, then take their place against the 16 seeds at The Crucible which starts on Saturday.

You can check out my original selections to make it through here, happily 14 of the 16 of them are still in the mix going into two of the biggest days in the snooker calendar so anyone who followed the bets in with me will have a lot of interest going into the final matches.

I’ll update all the scores on here periodically as the days go along, but you must try and watch the live stream with Rob Walker and Neal Foulds if you can on the official World Snooker You Tube Channel. It’s a real show that they put on and it perfectly captures the drama of this nerve jangling finale. Rob’s verbal acrobatics when it comes to pronouncing Chinese names, of which this year there are quite a few, is worth tuning in for alone.

Anyone who can’t watch it can follow the scores live here. So now all you need is a comfy chair and a load of snacks.

A reminder that all 16 matches play their first nine frames today and conclude tomorrow on Judgement Day. And also, remember, you can’t win today, but you can go a long way towards losing.

No pressure then.

Tian Pengfei 7-2 Matthew Stevens (5pm) 
Gary Wilson 5-4 Liang Wenbo (11am) 
Luo Honghao 5-4 Tom Ford (5pm) 
Rob Milkins 7-2 Anthony McGill (11am) 
Graeme Dott 7-2 Kurt Maflin (5pm) 
Li Hang 0-0 Ben Woollaston (5pm)
Daniel Wells 4-5 Martin Gould (11am)
Michael Georgiou 5-4 Yan Bingtao (11am) 
Ali Carter 6-3 John Astley (5pm) 
Eden Sharav 4-5 Zhou Yuelong (11am)
Dark Mavis 4-5 Lyu Haotian (11am) 
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 5-4 Joe O’Connor (11am) 
Michael Judge 3-6 James Cahill (11am) 
Lu Ning 2-7 Scott Donaldson (5pm) 
Matt Selt 2-7 Zhao Xintong(5pm) 
Martin O’Donnell 3-6 Joe Perry (5pm)

TO WATCH BOTH DAYS: Just click here for the Facebook page and click the live stream, or click here for the YouTube channel.


April 13, 2019

WIN – Crucible Day 1 Tickets

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:45 pm

Here is your chance to win two tickets to the World Snooker Championship at The Crucible for the opening afternoon of snooker’s greatest occasion on Saturday 20th April.

Here is what you have to do.

   Below there are 11 matches, all of which start at 10am on Sunday and conclude the same evening. All you have to do is simply:




All entries MUST use this hashtag and must all be in before the start of play for your entry to count.

You will receive 1 point for the match winner and a further 5 points if you guess the total centuries correctly. In the event of a tie, the closest guess without going over the centuries total will be the winner. If it is still a tie, a random draw will be made. 

Your tickets will be posted to you by first class post in time for the opening day. Please do not enter if you cannot use the tickets, and anyone who wins them and sells them on will be named and shamed. 

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.


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.


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)    


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

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