Snookerbacker

April 27, 2017

World Championship Semi Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:17 am

The One Table Situation

It’s time for the famous ‘one table situation’ cliches to kick in as we move to the business end of things at The Crucible with five more days of snooker’s showpiece still to go. Just four of the original 144 remain (Anorak Stat Check: 143 if you remember that Patrick Wallace withdrew) and we have as strong a semi-final line up as I can remember.

I’m going to leave the big preamble and no doubt at some point I’ll refer back to Barry Hearn’s press conference yesterday and what it will mean for the amateur game in the UK and beyond, suffice to say that I’m delighted that he’s decided to give the amateur and grass roots game some long awaited and much needed TLC from 2018 onwards.

Now though to the two matches, the big question is, can anyone stop the defending champion?

Mark Selby v Ding Junhui

Since 12 months ago when these two contested a close final they have met twice more, in two finals over in China sharing the spoils. Ding won 10-6 in Shanghai and ended up in tears and lost in Daqing to a rampant Jester 10-1 and also ended up in tears. But what’s happened since then may explain Ding’s emotional state on both occasions, sadly his mum passed away from cancer at a very young age and I’m sure both matches were played out with that at the forefront of Ding’s mind so I’d discount the hammering in Daqing and instead concentrate on how they are both playing here. I’m sure it would mean everything to Ding to win this and it would be nice if he could blot out the pressures coming from China and just concentrate on what it means to him and those closest to him if he were to achieve his lifelong dream. He has conquered one goal in beating Ronnie but there is still plenty of work to do against a player who seems to be getting better and better as the years go on and is now as close to dominating the sport as anyone has been since Hendry. Selby is in fantastic form and his win over Marco was a virtuoso display from a master at his craft. I’m torn here by wanting Selby to lift a third title and climb into the next echelon of champions who have won it more than twice and my desire to see Ding win it for his mum. But if this place teaches you anything it’s that the better player usually wins over the longer distance and the better player is undoubtedly Selby this week.

Predicted: Selby 17-12.

John Higgins v Barry Hawkins

Such is the nature of snooker these days that these two have only ever met once over anything longer than best of 7, that was here in 2010 when Higgins beat Barry 10-6 in Round One before his famous second round defeat by Steve Davis. Higgins has for the first time since he last won this, brought his best game to The Crucible and like Selby looks to be destined for the final. Barry typically talked down his chances after beating Maguire but his mindset for this match may just help him if he’s going in knowing he is a big underdog. One thing that struck me about the comments after Higgins’ last match was how disappointed Kyren Wilson was in his own performance, he lamented at the number of close frames he lost and the number of chances he let slip so that perhaps tells us that despite thinking Higgins is in top form he is giving opponents rays of hope. Hawkins by his own admission will have to improve in leaps and bounds here to win but there is the possibility that his poor performance is now behind him and Higgins is still yet to bowl in a dodgy session. I think if Barry is to win this he’s going to have to rely on John having a woeful run of frames at some point and him being able to mop up the scraps he’s left. I’d like Barry to win but somehow I just can’t see it happening.

Predicted: Higgins 17-12.

Recommended Bet: Double on Selby to make more than 2 centuries and Higgins (-2.5 frames) pays over 5/2 at Bet 365 – if you fancy this but don’t have an account with them click the banner below to take advantage of a new customer offer. A mad double on the two predicted scores pays 168/1 with the sponsor.

April 24, 2017

World Championship Quarter Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:54 pm

It’s Quarter Final time at The Crucible as we head into the second week of this great championship with only 8 of the 32 starters remaining.

It’s been an eventful opening week, the first part of which I spent in the snooker bubble of Crucible Square where I met the usual crew of anoraks and snooker fanatics as well as catching up with some familiar faces behind the scenes.

It’s a strange place Sheffield at this time of year and if you aren’t careful you can begin to believe that the rest of the world doesn’t exist while the snooker is on. As usual after spending the first five days there I headed back to the safety and security of my arsedent to watch the rest of the championship. I’d like to thank World Snooker for letting me access the inner sanctum of The Crucible again, it’s a great experience for a snooker fan like me and I know how lucky I am to be able to do this. 

All things said, as things stand I don’t think it’s been a particularly stand out championship so far but with the eight names that are left I think that will probably change this week. Each match up is worthy of being a ranking final in its own right and we’re surely on a direct path to classic semi-finals and final, with all manner of permutations still a possibility.

So without further a do I’ll take a look at each of the four great matches awaiting us from Tuesday onwards.

As ever, click on the match to take you to the head to head record.

Mark Selby v Marco Fu

You know when your car is about to conk out but just keeps going? It chugs, it stalls, but it just about moves? Or for dog lovers, when that old hound has run its last lap but hangs on in there because its owner can’t bear to be without it? Well, to me that’s Marco Fu in this championship. He’s lost almost as many frames as it’s possible to lose to still be here but he still is. Now, in the words of Ol’ Blue Eyes he faces the final curtain in the shape of the defending champion who is not even playing that well but still coasting through. If you take a look at the stats from his last match against Guodong and blot out the score you’d be forgiven for thinking that he lost. But Selby is basically doing a Selby here and like a great opera singer, warming up for the main event with a few practice notes. He’s got his eye on the one table situation and Marco won’t be troubling him here, the car is buggered and the poor old dog is ready for the knackers yard.

Prediction: Selby 13-7.

Recommended Bet: Selby (-3.5 frames) at 6/5. 

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Ding Junhui

A renewed Rocket has been displaying the sort of tenacity that we associate with him walking off with trophies in his opening two matches and has dug deep when he had to. Clearly motivated by Shaun Murphy’s motivational slagging off in the last round he played like someone with a point to prove and kept Murphy at arms length the whole match. Ding on the other hand fell over the line against Liang having started the match well. In terms of the head to heads, these are very one-sided. If you discount two old Premier League match ups (which I do), you need to go back to 2006 for Ding’s last and only victory over Ronnie in anything half important, Ronnie has since then beaten Ding everywhere from Sheffield, through China, via London, Coventry and Newport. I’ll be honest, before I saw the last round I really fancied Ding to win this one but after witnessing Ronnie’s manner around the table I think he’ll once again assert his authority over China’s finest and possibly in some style.

Prediction: O’Sullivan 13-10.

Recommended Bet: O’Sullivan (-2.5 frames) at 10/11. 

Kyren Wilson v John Higgins

Well I got into a right load of lumber over on Twitter the other night for daring to have the audacity to say that I don’t really enjoy watching Higgins too much, OK it was in the context of a tongue in cheek slur on Steve Davis so that wasn’t helping but the way some people reacted you’d think I’d broken into their house, rogered the family cat before murdering their nan. Even if I don’t enjoy watching him that much only a blind person would argue that he isn’t a class act on the baize and his win over Mark Allen put his cap firmly in the ring as a potential champion come next Monday. Kyren is rediscovering his form at last after a pretty turgid few months and he’s not without a chance here if he reproduces the form he showed against Bingham, but something tells me that he’ll also need John to have at least one bad session for that to be enough for him to win, something he doesn’t really look like doing. 

Prediction: Higgins 13-9.

Recommended Bet: Higgins (-3.5 frames) at 10/11.

Barry Hawkins v Stephen Maguire

A pretty even head to head record between these two as you might expect with them being quite evenly matched. Maguire seems to be happy being a non-seeded player this year and is doing the reverse of when he’s been seeded of late and playing like a seed (if you catch my drift). He’s lost just 5 frames so far at The Crucible so any talk of Ponds Forge fatigue can pretty much be consigned to the dustbin, he’s even managed the best part of a week back in Glasgow to rest and recuperate. Barry is continuing his strong form at The Crucible which is now seeing him on most people’s shortlist, including mine, of possible new champions from the start and I was impressed how he pulled away from Graeme Dott and finished the job off clinically in the final session. They are both cueing superbly so I expect this one to be a high quality affair littered with big breaks. I’ve backed them both in the outrights so this is my interest semi-finalist, gun to head I’d go for Mags, but I hope the bullets are blanks.

Prediction: Maguire 13-12.

Recommended Bet: Over 2 centuries in the match at 5/6. Over 22 frames in the match at 11/8.

RECOMMENDED ACCA: Selby (-3.5), O’Sullivan (-2.5), Higgins (-2.5) and Maguire (+2.5) pays over 12/1. 

April 20, 2017

World Championship Second Round Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:47 pm

So the first round banana skins have been either picked up and placed in the bin or slipped upon and now we get to the three session matches, this championship just gets better and better.

Rather than give the big preamble here I’ll save this for the daily morning posts, so let’s get straight into the eight matches in this round, obviously this post will be updated as and when first round matches finish.

As ever just click on the match in question to take you to the head to head record courtesy of Cue Tracker.

Mark Selby v Xiao Guodong

Selby was clinical rather than dazzling in the opening round, dispensing with his opening day opponent Fergal O’Brien with his usual ruthless precision. He didn’t really score that heavily in terms of centuries but sometimes he’s like that and Fergal isn’t the type of player that leaves things wide open so it’s very much a case on Mark’s side of ‘job done’. Guodong justified most people’s faith in him coming through against the seeded player Ryan Day but in the process of his 10-4 win only hit three breaks over 50 with a highest of 78, this against a player who does give you a few chances. That is something he will have to improve on vastly to win here and I’m not sure he’ll get the same level of scoring chances in this that he had against Day. Selby has beaten him on both previous meetings, not easily, but all things together to me this points to a comfortable win for the defending champion over the longer distance, I think he’ll probably win every session, my guess would be 6-2, 5-3 and 2-1.

Predicted: Selby 13-6.

Recommended Bet: Selby to make more than one century in the match at 5/6 with Bet 365. 

Neil Robertson v Marco Fu

They’ve locked horns quite a few times down the years these two but this will be their first Crucible meeting. Marco ensured his intro would have some reference to him being snooker’s new comeback king after his heroics against Luca Brecel in the first round but any repeat of his first session shenanigans here will surely see him on the first train out of Sheffield. Robbo was solid in his first round match against a nervous debutant with one ton and a further 5 breaks over 60, he was also back to his sharp talking best afterwards and you can tell he’s bang up for this after by his standards a pretty average season. Some might say that with Marco having dodged a (Belgian) bullet that his name is already being etched onto the trophy but for me he’s going to have to improve a lot here to win. I’m siding with Robbo as I don’t think he’s quite done with this whole Crucible caper just yet.

Predicted: Robertson 13-8.

Recommended Bet: Robertson (-3.5) at 7/4 with Bet 365.

Shaun Murphy v Ronnie O’Sullivan

It’s a pretty open secret in the snooker world that these two don’t really get on, in fact I’d go as far as to say they probably really dislike each other, which makes this a real mouth watering clash for us fans. Ronnie’s rage against the machine after round 1 grabbed the headlines of course but on the table he looked pretty sharp to me too. Murphy survived a frightener and but for a fluked final red ahead of a real pressure clearance could have been on his way home, but he survived. The last time they met here, a highly disciplined Rocket gave Shaun a massive walloping over this distance, it remains to be seen if he can recreate that again here given his seemingly rather different mental state but my guess is that this will be a bit closer than that one. Murphy did score his first meaningful win over Ronnie at the German Masters in 2015, their last meeting. They both seem to be needing a few chances to polish off frames at the moment and that makes for a close match usually, let’s hope they don’t let us down. Let the needle match commence.

Predicted: O’Sullivan 13-10

Recommended Bet: O’Sullivan (-2.5 frames) at 10/11. 

Liang Wenbo v Ding Junhui

All Chinese clashes at the Crucible are like buses, you wait years for another one to happen and then you get two within a week. Ding scored so heavily against Ghou in round one with three tons and a further 6 breaks of 50 or more and surely a repeat of this is all that’s required to win here. Liang did something that I’m not used to seeing him do to win his opener and that’s dig in and make a real match of things, he seems to be enjoying life in the top 16 and looks set to stay there for a while but he doesn’t have the scoring power of Ding on the big stage yet. In terms of the head to heads, they are all in minor events except for their meeting here back in 2009 when Ding won 10-8 in Round One. I can’t see anything other than a Ding win here and I’m definitely sensing that it’s going to be him and Selby going to battle in the semi-finals this time around.

Predicted: Ding 13-8

Recommended Bet: Over 2 centuries in the match at 4/5. 

Stuart Bingham v Kyren Wilson

Well the head to head between these two makes very interesting reading doesn’t it? Two matches in full ranking events and two comfortable wins for Kyren, plus two minor wins on top makes it 4-0 over the 2015 World Champion. Both rose to challenges in Round 1 and after the match Bingham admitted that he would need to improve in order to win this one, his defeated opponent Ebdon, who knows both of them well said he thought it would be a tight match, but that he fully expected Kyren to be World Champion in the next three years, a bold prediction which I assume means that he thinks he’s in with a chance this year. The record books favour Kyren then, but the bookies make Bingham favourite, I have to say before I saw the head to head I agreed with the bookies and think the odds are about right, for me this is a close final session affair with Bingham using his Crucible experience to his best advantage, but I could be wrong.

Predicted: Bingham 13-12.

Recommended Bet: Winning Margin to be Under 3.5 frames at 11/10. 

Mark Allen v John Higgins

Both players seemed keen to talk down their chances after the first round so here we will get to see which one of them was justified in doing so. Mark Allen claimed he was lucky to win against Jimmy Robertson and apologised to him at the end while Higgins more or less wrote off his chances of winning the title for a fifth time either this year or in any other, so confidence is not high on the list of either players attributes as things stand. This should be an open, attacking match and the head to head between the two is pretty close. Higgins has won all their long match encounters including a semi-final here back in 2009 and a semi-final earlier in the season in the middle of his big money run. I think now Higgins has got a decent win out of the way it might be just what he needs to have a good run in this, he’s been quiet in 2017 and sometimes that can work in a players favour. I fancy Higgins to do the job here.

Predicted: Higgins 13-10.

Recommended Bet: Match to be level at 4-4 after first session at 11/4. 

Barry Hawkins v Graeme Dott

This promises to be an entertaining, attacking affair with two players who don’t hang around going head to head over the best of 25. I watched every ball of Dotty’s win over Ali Carter and he’s still such a sharp player, his long potting is excellent and he is a maestro at picking out long range pots to nothing. He’s not a heavy scorer which is possibly his biggest weakness these days but under pressure there are few better than him. Barry, like Dotty, saves his best for Sheffield and I think this one could be a real classic if they both bring their Crucible games to the table. In terms of scoring, Barry wins but if like Ali, he lets Graeme front run, he’ll do well to catch the Scottish Terrier. The 4/1 available on Dott for this match is quite frankly too good to not back just for interest, for me he’s a 7/4 shot here. But I’ve backed Barry in the outrights and the way he dispensed of the potentially dangerous Tom Ford leads me to believe he’s bang up for this again. But, in a curious twist, despite thinking Hawkins will probably win I’m going to recommend backing Dott as those odds are just bonkers.

Predicted: Hawkins 13-9.

Recommended Interest Punt: Dott to win at 4/1 with the sponsors. 

Stephen Maguire v Rory McLeod

‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off’ springs to mind when I think about Rory beating Judd. It was an unlikely result and I’m not sure that the focus on Judd’s injury was in the best possible taste as Rory definitely deserves a lot of credit for the way he handled the match and let’s face it, his impatient, over-confident, some might argue complacent opponent. What Rory did do, under the expert tutorage of Peter Ebdon, was get inside Judd’s head or to quote Alfred Burden ‘The Highlander doing Judd’s canister clean in’, something that players have been known in the past to do to his opponent here. Mags was superb in Round 1, 8 breaks of 50 or more and a strong all round tactical game to wallop McGill 10-2 followed by a few days back home sets him up nicely for this. During the McLeod/Trump match I availed myself of the 66/1 available on Maguire and that has to now look like decent value. Can lightning strike twice? Perhaps. But this time I think we’ll see Maguire bully from the off and not make the mistake that Judd did of letting Rory back into it, after all, he was keeping an open mind after his first match and hinted that he thought Rory might be his next opponent, so he’ll be ready for this.

Predicted: Maguire 13-9

Recommended Bet: Maguire to make more than one century in the match at 6/5 with Bet 365.

Recommended Multiple Bet: Bingham/Wilson over 22 frames, O’Sullivan (-1.5 frames), and Ding and Selby both to make more than one century in their matches pays over 17/2 at Bet 365.

If you fancy either of the bets above but don’t have a Bet 365 account just click the banner below to take advantage of free bet offer for new customers. 

April 13, 2017

World Snooker Championship Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:52 pm

Every year I sit down on the Thursday before it all starts and wonder how to build up the anticipation with a cutting and straight to the point opening paragraph, but no matter what I say on here it’s always just leading up to one thing; the best 17 days of the year for snooker fans, like Christmas and all your birthdays all rolled into one. Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s Crucible time.

After all the drama of the qualifiers we have just two days to catch our collective breath before the Crucible wall descends from the rafters and the opening click of the balls signals the start of another epic 17 days of drama.

World Numero Uno Mark Selby returns to defend the title he won for the second time 12 months ago, this time without the burden of the Crucible Curse on his shoulders, though of course he’s not done himself any favours in the curse department by winning the China Open; nobody has ever done that and won this too, so immediately the Snooker Gods are frowning upon him from the Great Billiard Hall in The Sky.

This year also heralds the 40th year at this great venue, the BBC might mention it a couple of times. In 1977, John Spencer lifted the trophy for the first time here and ever since then Sheffield has become known globally as the home of snooker. Down the years The Crucible has witnessed some of the iconic sporting moments in history, the birth of televised snooker through the Davis years, Cliff’s 147, Alex begging for his baby, Hendry’s annual battles with Jimmy, Ronnie’s fastest maximum, Ebdon’s 12 break and that bloke with the glasses shaking his finger.

I am heading there for the media day on Crucible Eve and as usual staying for the first round before heading back to watch the action like most other people from the comfort of my own sofa arsedent in the company of the usual band of commentators and pundits on both the BBC and Eurosport, as well as our three dogs and that person that lives with me who occasionally rather annoyingly asks me to move my feet to hoover under them, usually at a crucial point in the frame.

I think this year it’s actually justifiable to say it’s the most open championship we have seen in years. I don’t quite know how you quantify that with any hard data but it just feels like this year there are a multitude of possible outcomes, perhaps because it’s now clear that Ronnie O’Sullivan is not well ahead of the rest of the field on his day, if anything the one player who stands out these days is undoubtedly Selby, who has now finished World Number 1 for the past 6 seasons, just two short of the all time record holder Hendry.

The bookies have Selby and the in-form Judd Trump vying for favouritism just ahead of O’Sullivan, with a lot of fancy prices available on the others. If you want to see how favourites have fared over the years, take a look at this.

Anyway, that’s enough of my waffling on, here goes nothing as I take a look at each match individually and gaze into my increasingly misty crystal ball in the hope that I can forsee what might happen. Whether you have a bet or not, just enjoy the tournament. I’ll be spouting my usual nonsense on Twitter if you’d care to follow me on there during it, apologies if you do already, I’ll grow up one day I promise.

Right, here we go.  

Click on the match for the head to head record courtesy of Cue Tracker.

QUARTER ONE – all played on Table 1

Mark Selby (1) v Fergal O’Brien (Saturday 10am & 7pm)

The defending champion is up against The Ferginator who smashed all records in Ponds Forge by competing in and winning a deciding frame which lasted over two hours, longer in fact than the world record for running a marathon. His reward is a match on the opening day after presumably, not having had a great deal of sleep. There are plenty that will look at this match up with sleep uppermost in their mind but that does Selby an injustice as I think he’s a great player to watch. It’s been over a decade since O’Brien got the better of The Jester and I think the champion will be quite happy with this first round draw, I can see him bossing this from the off and winning with a bit in hand to start off his defence impressively.

Prediction: Selby 10-4.

Ryan Day (16) v Xiao Guodong (Wednesday 10am & 7pm)

Ryan Day was one match away from the qualifiers this season as he watched his friend Mark Williams try in vain to win the China Open, him losing in the final secured Day’s place back in the top 16. He’s drawn one of the three Chinese qualifiers Guodong, who he has beaten on their only meaningful meeting to date over in Germany. Xiao is no mug and impressed in the qualifiers, particularly against Mark King, losing just 8 frames in his three matches, he’s also been here before, losing narrowly to Ali Carter on that occasion so he’s unlikely to let the venue get to him. Day has produced some of his best snooker here and The Crucible seems to bring out the best in him so that makes this quite a difficult one to call, as I’d say Guodong is probably one he’d have wanted to avoid. 

Prediction: Guodong 10-8.

Neil Robertson (9) v Noppon Saengkham (Wednesday 2.30pm & Thursday 2.30pm)

Robbo faces the first debutant of the preview, Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham who actually beat Neil on their most recent meeting. Our Noppy came through two gruelling matches in the qualifiers, a late night decider against Anthony Hamilton followed by a 10-8 win over Lee Walker from behind so he’s proved that he can scrap it out. That win over Neil is something of an exception really as Noppon seems to have a ‘level’, he beats and gets beaten by players ranked similarly to him but seldom beats top 16 players. That and the fact he’ll likely take a few frames to get used to the surroundings by which time Neil might have established an unassailable lead makes Robbo a good thing to progress in my opinion. I know that he’s been focusing fully on Sheffield for the last month and he’s determined to re-establish himself at the top of the game. 

Prediction: Robertson 10-4.

Marco Fu (8) v Luca Brecel (Sunday 7pm & Monday 7pm)

Luca returns to the Crucible after a five year absence, his lovely smile in tact just for Dennis to admire. After beating Dom Dale in the qualifiers he calmly said that he’d ‘fully expected to win quite easily’, with no hint that he might have been being ironic. He’s a bit like an assassin who offers you a cup of tea and a piece of cake before blowing your brains out is Luca, calm and mellow on the outside but a fierce, cocky, competitive little sod on the inside. Marco comes into this on the back of a great season buoyed by his run to the semi-finals here last year, he has also never lost to his opponent in four meetings. Luca claims that he is going there to win this year, a bold prediction, one that I think he might have to reassess after this match.   

Prediction: Fu 10-8.

QUARTER TWO – all played on Table 1

Shaun Murphy (5) v Yan Bingtao (Sunday 10am & Monday 2.30pm)

I remember Shaun getting a little bit upset when the BBC website decided to run with ‘Shaun Murphy beaten by Chinese Schoolboy’ as a headline after he lost to Bingtao in the 2015 Champion of Champions, since then he got his revenge in a decider in China only to be beaten again by him in the recent German Masters, when thankfully the BBC decided to reel it in a bit, possibly because Yan had left school in the intervening years. Bingtao is obviously a huge talent, I’d like to see his passport though as he looks a lot older than 17, but that aside this is a very tough draw for both of them. In Shaun’s favour is the venue, it’s very rare that any player coming here for the first time feels instantly at ease and I think Shaun will be keen to stamp his authority on the match from the off in the knowledge that once Bingtao does get used to it, he’s going to need a cushion of a few frames, that’s the way I see this match going, Murphy going ahead early then keeping his opponent at arms length.

Prediction: Murphy 10-8.

Ronnie O’Sullivan (12) v Gary Wilson (Saturday 2.30pm & Sunday 2.30pm)

Ronnie seems more bothered about the impending war between the USA and Russia at the moment than the fact he’s playing in Sheffield at the weekend, what strange priorities some people have? Perhaps it’s a sign that his state of mind isn’t quite right or perhaps he’s fooling around with us all. Bazza has been trying to wind him up by telling him to grow up and start talking to the media properly, we’ll wait and see is he heeds this fatherly advice. He faces another debutant in Gary Wilson, fresh from really impressing at Ponds Forge including of course his maximum break. Again though the advantage is heavily with O’Sullivan with Gary never having played here before, Ronnie also, relatively speaking comes here a little ‘under the radar’ with not that many people tipping him for the title, I’m not either but I don’t expect him to lose here. 

Prediction: O’Sullivan 10-5.

Liang Wenbo (13) v Stuart Carrington (Tuesday 10am & 7pm)

Stuart Carrington is the man responsible for Mark Williams not being here and he lines up at The Crucible for the second time in his career having lost to Judd Trump in 2015 to face Liang Wenbo. Carrington has had an average season and again he is another player who doesn’t usually trouble top 16 players as a habit. Liang of course won his first ever ranking event this season following on from his runners-up spot in the UK in the previous one and he is now definitely finding his feet in the elite ranks. He actually comes here on a bit of a losing streak but I don’t think he’ll be unhappy with his draw and I think his scoring should be enough to come through quite easily.

Prediction: Liang 10-5.

Ding Junhui (4) v Zhou Yuelong (Monday 10am & Tuesday 2.30pm)

The all-Chinese clash sees the greatest they have ever produced against one of the new crop who Dennis likes to call Ghou Yolonge. Ghou is a cracking talent and proved his pedigree by beating Ben Woollaston in a decider to get here. He’s met Ding twice but from 12 frames has only won one of them so there may be a little bit of hero worship to get over here as well as the fact that again, he has never played here before. In contrast to Bingtao, Ghou looks younger than his 19 years (maybe they switched passports) but he’s still learning the ropes nevertheless and he is one I am sure we’ll see a lot of in the future under the guidance of the lovely Victoria in Sheffield. But in terms of this match I think it’s a case of teacher and pupil for now.   

Prediction: Ding 10-4.

QUARTER THREE – all played on Table 2

Stuart Bingham (3) v Peter Ebdon (Sunday 2.30pm & Monday 10am)

This is more like it, a good old fashioned old-school grapple for Sunday afternoon viewers who don’t want to watch Ronnie. Ex-Champ Ballrun was the latest victim of The Crucible Curse last year and after his heroics of the previous year we hardly noticed he was there last time after his opening day defeat by Ali Carter. Ebdon did as only Ebdon can do in the qualifiers, the way he beat Michael Holt 10-9 on the final black was of a like I have never seen, how he managed to claw it back the way he did and hold himself together at the end I don’t know and there remains something other-worldly about him at times. They have met at this stage once before in 2011 when Bingham won 10-8 and I reckon we might see history repeat itself here.   

Prediction: Bingham 10-8.

Kyren Wilson (14) v David Grace (Saturday 2.30pm & Sunday 10am)

They will have to make a higher entrance at The Crucible this year to accommodate snooker’s tallest player, David Grace, a giant from Leeds. Gracey steps out onto snooker’s hallowed turf in what he describes as his ‘dream come true’ to face Kyren first up. Kyren hasn’t had a great season but showed signs recently that he might be coming back to form in China. David actually holds a favourable advantage in the head to heads but they’ve all been in minor best of 7 frame events so this is new territory for them both. Again, the debutant factor might be a deciding factor here but I actually have a feeling that Grace will adapt to this fairly well, he also won’t be short of vocal support. I think this might end up being the shock/story of the round. 

Prediction: Grace 10-8.

Mark Allen (11) v Jimmy Robertson (Sunday 7pm & Monday 7pm)

Mark Allen’s recent record at The Crucible hasn’t been great and here he faces the dangerous Essex man Jimmy Robertson who will be hoping to make it third time lucky having been here twice and lost. Jimmy had a tough path through the qualifiers and coped well with the style of Rod Lawler to get here, I think he’ll be a tough draw for Allen and any hint that Mark might be suffering his Crucible jitters will be an opening for him. It could be one of the ties of the round this one and I’ll take Allen to nick it in the pressure cooker decider. 

Prediction: Allen 10-9.

John Higgins (6) v Martin Gould (Monday 2.30pm & Tuesday 10am)

Four times champion Higgins has gone a bit quiet since his incredible winning streak earlier in the season. Since then, for reasons only known to him, he decided to change his cue, he’s subsequently failed to reach the last 8 of anything since December. Gould had a run to the semi-finals of the German Masters but aside from that he’s had a pretty average season by his standards, but qualified in solid form and remains a superb ‘single ball potter’ whatever that means. Every year he plays here Gould is reminded of ‘that match’ against Neil Robertson but he’s also played some great stuff here and even claimed that he now uses the experience as a positive (his nose grew when he said it to be fair) as it made him a better player, but I think again this one might go against the seeded player. 

Prediction: Gould 10-7.

QUARTER FOUR – all played on Table 2

Barry Hawkins (7) v Tom Ford (Wednesday 7pm & Thursday 7pm)

Tom Ford was a right old misery when he got through, you’d think someone had just sent him an inflated tax bill the way he came across in the interview, perhaps he was remembering his previous Crucible appearances and wondering if he could be bothered putting himself through it again, who knows. He’s not been here since 2014 when he was beaten in Round 1 by Judd and here he faces someone who seems to save his best snooker for here in Hawkins. I think this quarter will produce the finalist from the bottom half and Hawkins who is becoming something of a Crucible specialist must be included in anyone’s calculations, I expect him to win here with a bit in hand.  

Prediction: Hawkins 10-5.

Ali Carter (10) v Graeme Dott (Tuesday 7pm & Wednesday 2.30pm)

It’s a tough draw for both players this and Ali will know from the off that he’s got a match on with the former champion. Dotty the Terrier has been hibernating all season and has all of a sudden come to life for this, where he undoubtedly produces his best snooker. Ali has been consistent winning the World Open earlier in the season and making the business end of a few events. These two had an epic battle here in 2011 which I was lucky enough to watch live, it basically hinged on a double that Dott played in the frame he clinched victory 13-11 and these two remain as evenly matched a pair as any in the game, despite Graeme’s fall in the rankings. If someone asked me if one match were to go to a decider which would it be, this would be my immediate pick.    

Prediction: Carter 10-9.

Anthony McGill (15) v Stephen Maguire (Saturday 10am & 7pm)

Is it just me or is there an all Scottish clash every year in Round 1? It’s like the Scottish balls in the draw are covered in haggis crumbs or something but once again it’s a North of the Border derby with the seeded player being not how it has looked in the past. Mags will have been watching the draw, if he was awake, through a steaming hangover after claiming on Wednesday that he was going out to get drunk and I can only imagine the expletives that came from his mouth when he saw when he had to play. McGill would more likely have been sitting with a cup of hot soya milk in his jimjams such is the difference between the two. Maguire is the toughest draw of the lot for a seed and I think he’ll quite like coming here as a non-seeded player, McGill may end up as the fallen rather than the giant killer this year.

Prediction: Maguire 10-6.

Judd Trump (2) v Rory McLeod (Tuesday 2.30pm & Wednesday 10am)

Does everyone know the story of the tortoise and the hare? Well in that story the hare (Judd) races off and thinks he’s got the race won before he gets distracted and then the tortoise (Rory) plods past to beat him. Oh and that old phrase, ‘it’s a marathon not a sprint’ or ‘slow and steady wins the race’. Well you know what? They are a load of old cobblers. Judd is in fine fettle and Rory didn’t really impress me at all in the qualifiers. This is the Acca Ruiner to beat all other Acca Ruiners if those old stories and phrases end up being a spooky snooker prophecy. This particular hare ain’t getting beat by no tortoise, no sir, it’s Judd all the way in this one.

Prediction: Trump 10-3.

RECOMMENDED BETS:

Outrights: Selby 9/2, Ding 14/1, Hawkins 18/1 (previously backed at 25/1), Bingham 25/1, Fu (previously backed at 40/1, but no further bet recommended, price now too short), Carter 50/1 (previously backed at 80/1).

Round 1 Acca pays over 5/1 on Selby (-2.5 frames), Murphy, Bingham, Ding, Liang, Trump (-3.5 frames) and Neil Robertson (-2.5 frames)

Handicap Treble pays over 6/1 on Grace (+3.5 frames), Gould (+2.5 frames) and Dott (+2.5 frames)

Doubles, Trebles and an Acca: Guodong, Grace, Gould and Maguire, acca pays over 72/1.

Match Centuries Treble at Bet 365: All matches to have more than one century pays 6.35/1 at Bet 365: Selby v Fergal, Fu v Brecel, Murphy v Bingtao. Add Trump v McLeod for an 11.69/1 Acca.

If you fancy that treble or acca but don’t have an account with Bet365 click the banner below and sign up to take advantage of a new customer offer   

April 11, 2017

Crucible or Bust: Judgement Eve/Day

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:22 am

Eyes on the Prize

Tuesday and Wednesday sees the annual twitchfest that is Judgement Eve and Day where we get to see who will be lining up against the 16 seeds in the draw on Thursday, before it all kicks off at The Crucible on Saturday morning.

It’s fair to say that there are quite a few names still in the mix that raise an eyebrow. Included amongst those are Alexander Ursenbacher, who is striving to become the first amateur player to make it to snooker’s hallowed ground, also still there are unlikely names like Lee Walker, Akani Songsermsawad, David Grace and Hammad Miah. With the way the matches have panned out we are assured of at least two Crucible debutants this year.

Like last year, World Snooker have decided to have a live show all day with Neal Foulds and Rob Walker, where we are guaranteed to hear every result as it happens. It worked really well last year and was compulsive viewing. My only worry this year is the move to Facebook rather than You Tube.

My experience of live streaming on Facebook isn’t great and I hope this decision isn’t a step backwards. It’s also on Eurosport Player for those of us who subscribe to that, I’m not alone in being a bit cheesed off with that this week either, very poor standard of coverage and freezing every few minutes before asking me if I want to ‘Go Back Live’. Errrmmm, yes, because that is what I am paying for.

Anyway, I hope it all runs smoothly today and tomorrow but I’d feel easier about that if they’d stuck to You Tube, which is of course designed to cope with this kind of thing. Here are the matches, looking back at the original preview I called 5 of these match ups correctly.

Where the players have played each other before click the match for the head to head stats. To find out who plays when click here. Remember for all matches it’s a maximum of 9 frames today and the match conclusions tomorrow, sessions are at 11am and 5pm UK Time both days.

Mark Williams vs Stuart Carrington (Live Streamed)

Tom Ford vs Hossein Vafaei (Live Streamed)

Lee Walker vs Noppon Saengkham

Li Hang vs Stephen Maguire

Mark King vs Xiao Guodong (Live Streamed)

Ben Woollaston vs Ghou Yolonge

Jamie Jones vs Graeme Dott

Fergal O’Brien vs David Gilbert

Akani Songsermsawad vs David Grace

Luca Brecel vs Dominic Dale

Gary Wilson vs Michael White

Rory McLeod vs Hammad Miah

Michael Holt vs Peter Ebdon (Live Streamed)

Rod Lawler vs Jimmy Robertson

Yan Bingtao vs Alexander Ursenbacher

Yu Delu vs Martin Gould

PREDICTED QUALIFIERS: Williams, Vafaei, Saengkham, Maguire, King, Woollaston, Jones, Gilbert, Songsermsawad, Brecel, White, McLeod, Holt, Robertson, Bingtao, Gould. 

To watch on Facebook Live go to the World Snooker Facebook page and for Eurosport Player click here.

March 26, 2017

China Open Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:11 pm

Hoping to trick The Snooker Gods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quarter 1

Judd Trump/Jason Weston v Ashley Hugill

Ross Muir v Eden Sharav

Anthony McGill v Tian Pengfei 

Martin Gould v Fan Zhengyi

Mike Dunn v Andy Hicks

Liang Wenbo/Itaro Santos v Rory McLeod 

Ben Woollaston v Kurt Maflin

Joe Perry v Hossein Vafei Ayouri 

PREDICTED QUARTER FINALISTS: McGill v Wenbo  

Quarter 2

Shaun Murphy v Allan Taylor 

Graeme Dott v Gary Wilson

Michael White v Yu De Lu

Ali Carter v Stuart Carrington 

Michael Holt v Jimmy White/Li Yuan

Mark Williams v Zhang Anda

Dark Mavis v Rhys Clark 

John Higgins v Ian Burns

PREDICTED QUARTER FINALISTS: Carter v Holt 

Quarter 3

Stuart Bingham v Scott Donaldson

Robert Milkins v Noppon Saengkham 

Mark King v Sanderson Lam

Kyren Wilson v Xiao Guodong

Mark Joyce v Fraser Patrick 

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Gareth Allen 

Matt Selt v Ghou Yolonge

Ding Junhui/Sean O’Sullivan v Paul Davison

PREDICTED QUARTER FINALISTS: Guodong v Ding  

Quarter 4

Daniel Wells v Jamie Cope

Alan McManus v Matthew Stevens

Stephen Maguire v Fergal O’Brien 

Li Hang/Luo Honghao v Aditya Mehta

Ricky Walden v Alex Borg/Niu Zhuang

David Gilbert v Andrew Higginson 

Jimmy Robertson v Martin O’Donnell 

Mark Selby/Adam Stefanow v Alfie Burden 

PREDICTED QUARTER FINALISTS: McManus v Gilbert 

 

January 11, 2017

The Masters Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:34 pm

The Potters are heading to the Palace

Well would you Adam and Eve it? It’s only that time of year when we head to ole Laandan Taan and feast our mince pies on the delights of ‘Ally Pally’ for The Masters snooker. Hopefully they will have had enough time to clean up all the piss stains and vomit residue left behind by those common ‘working/under class’ rabble that frequent the ‘darts’, making way for the altogether more gentlemanly and ladylike and slightly obsessive attendees who visit our far superior sport in their droves and their anoraks. The pints and nuts are replaced by Bovril and fruit bonbons and the raucous roars by polite applause at deft safeties, dump shots and well judged positional cannons, we are just so much more civilised than that other shower and long may that gulf between the two sports live.

Last year saw Ronnie O’Sullivan at his brilliant best romping to the title with an absolute walloping of the hapless Barry Hawkins who didn’t show up for the final, but one year on it’s now become a worryingly long time for the avid and sometimes rabid fans of The Rocket since he’s had a trophy in his hands. Perhaps this is the week he can rediscover the winning formula and stop this increasing talk of his playing career in gradual demise? Mostly, I admit, from this corner of the blogesphere in the hope it might not be true and I’m wrong like I was about Higgins. 

As ever there are plenty there to try and stop him getting his mits on the Paul Hunter Trophy, in fact, I think I’m right in saying that for the first time in Masters history every player involved this year has won at least one ranking title. Of course, this is largely due to the amount of snooker there is these days but it’s still quite a stat nonetheless and just highlights what a quality field we have lining up, starting on Sunday afternoon with the said Rocket Ronald taking on Liang Wenbo, who is making his second appearance at The Masters following his breakthrough into the top 16 for the first time last season. He has since of course captured his maiden ranking title at the English Open in Manchester.

There are a few ‘regulars’ that are missing out this year after an undignified topple down the rankings, we have no Ricky Walden or Stephen Maguire, two players who we are used to lining up with the game’s elite. Indeed in Maguire’s case you need to go back to 2003 for the last time he didn’t compete at The Masters, he made his debut in 2004 and has been an ever present since then until now; his current ranking of 25 not helping his cause. In Ricky’s case, his run of four consecutive years in the top 16 has come to an end although at 17 he was pipped to the final place by that peskie newbie Kyren Wilson.  

Kyren is the only debutant in London this year, his win at the Shanghai Masters in 2015 saw him zoom up the rankings, he’s managed to hang on to his top 16 place for this being around £30k ahead of Walden and he also plays on day one against Ding Junhui, so Sunday sees a big day for the Chinese snooker fans as well as for Kyren on his first visit to the sacred palace of potters.

This is one week in the snooker year that I always look forward to, we get to see every match and every ball potted in the company of the usual crew at the BBC, or if you prefer, Eurosport. Of course the BBC can be trusted to deliver the goods along with the V-Neck sweaters, slapstick/crap mid-sesh features, tales about ill or dead/soon to be dead golf buddies and Cliff Thorburn in the afternoons, with the Red Button on hand for the evening. I’ll probably stick with JV, Dennis, giggling Ken, JP’s eyebrows, Hendry’s acerbic put downs, Hazel’s filofax of facts, my mate Steve and the rest of the gang in the afternoons before tuning in to Eurosport for the evening with all the grown ups, as long as Phil Studd isn’t commentating with Mike Hallett on those (hint hint if you are listening – please split them up my ears can’t handle it).

I’ve taken a look at each match individually below and if you click on the match it will magically take you to the head to head record and a journey through anorak paradise courtesy of Cue Tracker, the only thing you can’t analyse on there is respective shoes sizes, you have everything else at hand to form your punting or non-punting opinion. It goes without saying that when you get the cream of the crop together in a competition the betting gets very tough indeed, but here goes some misguided opinions anyway. Now sit back and enjoy a feast of snooker at one of the best venues on the tour, it all starts on Sunday so get the snacks in for some proper winter snooker. 

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Liang Wenbo – Sunday January 15, 1pm

Liang – Bonkers

In common with most players on the circuit Liang Wenbo’s head to head statistic against Ronnie doesn’t bode well for his chances here. Their matches of late have tended to be close though which tells me it’s usually getting over the line rather than ‘rabbit in the headlights’ syndrome that’s mostly to blame for Liang. His newly found winning formula can in part be attributed to his opponent here who seems somewhat intrigued by the bendy faced Chinese player, so much so that Ronnie decided to take him under his wing and give him a few tips. Watch this match closely in terms of body language, I’ve never seen Ronnie smile at anyone the way he smiles at Wenbo during play, it’s very unusual for him to show any emotion during a match these days in particular a smile. My guess is that Ronnie enjoys his match ups with this quirky ‘marmite’ type character, which is probably why he usually beats him and probably will again here.

Match Prediction: O’Sullivan 6-4 

Neil Robertson v Ali Carter – Tuesday January 17, 7pm

It’s 4 years and 8 meet ups since Ali managed to turn over Robbo, he’s lost most of his matches against him on the big stage including a 6-1 drubbing here two years ago. To be fair they were pretty level pegging until Ali’s much documented health problems but lining up against someone who has beaten you on the last seven occasions you have met might just niggle slightly. Robbo himself though isn’t at his best yet this season, we are used to seeing him in the later stages routinely but for whatever reason it isn’t clicking for him as yet and his ranking is as low as I can remember it for quite a while. Ali has a ranking event win under his belt already this season from capturing the World Open, this of course got him here, but his results since then have been a bit patchy and you get the feeling that both these players need the timely confidence boost that a win here will bring. I think this one could go close but I’m just going to take Robertson to edge it, either way, if O’Sullivan is waiting, book your seat on the sofa for Round 2.

Match Prediction: Robertson 6-4 

Judd Trump v Marco Fu – Tuesday January 17, 1pm

Marco was is great form in Scotland when capturing the Home Nations event over there, his comeback in the final against John Higgins must have really given him a boost as he has lost his way in the past in big finals and it may be a real sign that he’s ready to win a real biggy. He can also take heart that he’s beaten Judd at this stage here before three years ago in a decider, he’s in form and he’s got that to his credit. Judd has been pretty consistent this season so far and of course won over in Romania but his form just before the Xmas break losing 5-1 to Tom Ford and his poor showing in the UK Championship means he’s got a bit to prove here. At the start of the season a few of his peers were saying that this could be Judd’s year, if it is to be so, he’ll want to bag another title before going to Sheffield and until then this is the biggest, but I have to say, I think Marco with the wind in his sails could upset the applecart here. Perhaps a quiet ‘under the radar’ few months might help Judd focus on the ultimate goal in April, it worked for Selby last year after all.

Match Prediction: Fu 6-3

John Higgins v Mark Allen – Monday January 16, 1pm

Moneybags

Plenty of people became superlatived out in that run just before Xmas that Higgins put together. His confidence grew in direct correlation with his bank balance (I’ve seen the graphs) as he once again turned back the clock to show us all what a fantastic winner and competitor he is. His last two matches against Mark Allen he has won with a bit in hand though Allen did turn him over here at this stage two years ago. Higgins doesn’t have a ‘great’ Masters record, although it’s still better than almost every player who ever picked up a cue, much like Steve Davis who despite winning everything else under the sun didn’t always perform at his best in this. But Higgins hasn’t come into it playing as well as he is now for some time. Allen’s season can at best, by his standards, be described as OK, he’s got to a couple of quarter finals, one semi in the Champion of Champions but he’s not reaching the heights of previous early seasons just yet. You have to stick with Higgins here and he’d be my pick for the winner of the top half of the draw.

Match Prediction: Higgins 6-2 

Stuart Bingham v Joe Perry – Monday January 16, 7pm

Joe Perry holds the bald head to bald head advantage between these two familiar faces, Bingham of course has now leaped above Joe in snooker’s hall of fame but the two of them through the years have been pretty evenly matched and probably been labelled in the same bracket of player for the vast majority of their careers. It’s funny when one player of two who have met a lot suddenly makes that giant step up like Stuart did, does Joe think it could or should have been him? Does he think any differently when playing Stuart since he became a world champion? Does Stuart now consider himself a rung above on the ladder looking down? Oh, the complex mind of a snooker player….Anyway, I digress. Stuart was very consistent in the early part of the season with semi-final and final appearances but he’s yet to lift a trophy since his Crucible triumph which must niggle a little, Joe has had some disappointing results since reaching the final of the World Open and will be hoping 2017 marks a new start for him. I find this one quite difficult to call but just on current form and consistency I’ll stick with Stuart.

Match Prediction: Bingham 6-4 

Ding Junhui v Kyren Wilson – Sunday January 15, 7pm

Debut boy Kyren hasn’t played Ding since the Quarter Finals of his Shanghai Masters triumph and Ding seemed to be in a bit of a sulk following his crushing loss to Mark Selby in the final of the International Championship in front of his home crowd, a 10-1 loss that seemed to deeply affect him emotionally and since then he’s not really been his normal self. You’d hope that the former Masters champion has had some time to reflect on that over the break and realise that after all it’s just a snooker match and lots of people would find it very difficult to cope with Selby when he’s on a mission, it will be interesting to see what happens next time the two meet given that The Jester also ended Ding’s world champion dream last May aswell, he’s probably sick of the sight of him. Anyway, I’ll trust to luck that Ding’s head is back on straight and if it is I’d expect him to win here with a little bit to spare.

Match Prediction: Ding 6-3 

Shaun Murphy v Barry Hawkins – Wednesday January 18, 7pm

Of the 11 meetings between the pair, Murphy has won 9 of them. OK, it is skewed a little by the smaller events but if you look at what I’d term meaningful head to heads Murphy still leads 5-1. I wonder why that should be given that Barry is a well established top 16 player? Maybe it’s one of those hoodoo’s that certain players have over others or maybe the style of play Barry adopts which is usually fairly attacking just suits Shaun? Who the devil really knows? Murphy can probably count himself a little unlucky this season so far to have lost in a couple of great matches to almost flawless performances, most notably for me Bingham in the China Championship earlier in the season, but there are those who continue to mumble about him just being too attacking and needing to tighten up a bit and dare I say it, be more like Selby and less like, well, Murphy. This match closes the first round and I just get the feeling that it might be one of the best of the eight, I can see it going to a decider and if it does I’ll count on the hoodoo to see Murphy throothroo.

Match Prediction: Murphy 6-5

Mark Selby v Mark Williams – Wednesday January 18, 1pm

The Master of Brinkmanship meets the laid back Welshman for the 26th time in their careers with the head to head extremely close both in terms of matches and frames played, Williams slightly ahead on both. Quite amazingly for people like Dennis, when I’d say it was more ironic really, MJW was the last player to have held all the ‘big three’ titles at the same time; the World Championship, the UK and this. But Selby is now in a position to also do just that and join an extremely elite group of players to have done so, with MJW being handed the chance to retain the status quo by beating him here. To give you an idea of how elite a group this is, Ronnie’s name ain’t down so he’s not comin’ in. Will this add to the pressure for Selby? Well MJW had better hope not as that is when The Jester thrives, to me he is the closest we have had to a dominating player since Hendry. His consistency is now as strong as ever, he is light years ahead on the money/ranking list and unlikely to be toppled for at least two years from his perch and he has to be the fancy in the bottom half to get to the final. It would be nice to see him join the club in arguably a more competitive era of snooker than that of Hendry and Davis, though perhaps not Williams. Even so, maybe then, deservedly, he will finally be accepted as one of the sport’s ‘greats’, just not by Ronnie’s fans. 

Match Prediction: Selby 6-3

Outright Bets: Mark Selby at 4/1 and John Higgins at 9/1.

Recommended First Round Acca: Ding, Higgins, Selby and Fu pays 15/2 at Marathon Bet.

I will be tweeting daily handicap/century doubles throughout the first round. 

December 3, 2016

UK Championship Semi Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:48 am

We are down to the one table situation in York today as the best of 11 frame semi-finals are battled out with all four left, after a tournament of shocks, being established names in the sport.

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Shaun Murphy faces Mark Selby this afternoon and the head to head between these two is as you’d expect, incredibly close with Mark ahead by one match of the 35 they have contested and just three frames up out of 259.

Tonight, Ronnie O’Sullivan faces Marco Fu with Ronnie, as he does with most, holding a commanding head to head lead but Marco has beaten him on the big stage in the past so it’s still a test for The Rocket, who will hope to improve on his rather understated performance last night.

Let’s hope it’s a great day in York and a fitting conclusion to this prestigious event tomorrow.

RECOMMENDED BET: SINGLE ON SELBY 6-5 AT 13/2. 

November 11, 2016

The COC Semis

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:47 am
It's been a while

It’s been a while

Now the groups are all done it’s time for the final four to battle it out in two best of eleven frame semi finals in Coventry before tomorrow sees the two session final decide who will be this season’s COC of snooker.

The groups were all entertaining enough and I do have some time for this format, at least it’s a bit different and obviously the coverage afforded this event by the excellent ITV team adds very much to it. So much so in fact that Neal Foulds has said that this event should be ‘up there’ with snooker’s most prestigious events like the Masters, the UK and the World Championship. Personally I’d have this on the second rung of the ladder as I think there are at least two tournaments in China that merit inclusion in a Grand Slam type bracket more than this one, but we’ll agree to differ on that.

Talking of agreeing to differ, Twitter is getting a bit more tetchy these days. All I have to do is simply say something mildly non ‘on message’ about John Higgins and all hell breaks loose. It’s almost like to some I have accused them of rogering a goat the way people can react. Maybe that’s the post-Donald world we now live in, where people can do something wrong one minute and the next it’s all forgotten about like it never happened, much like Donny himself who now seems to love, respect and admire those who he has been spouting his venomous bile towards these last few months. He was only joking.

One Trump who won’t be triumphant this week is Judd, the ‘Ace in the Pack’ himself being trumped by Higgins who progresses again to face Ding Junhui this afternoon in the first semi-final. It’s quite a remarkable run that Higgins is putting together, it makes you wonder why he’s been so poor at The Crucible these past few years, never looking like adding to his tally of four world titles, perhaps this season he might re-emerge as a contender again as he clearly still has everything it takes to be at the top of the tree. Ding in the meantime came through a pretty mediocre affair with Ali Carter before dispensing with Stuart Bingham who frankly looked like he just wanted to go to bed by the end.

In the other semi-final tonight we find Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen. Ronnie struggled through his group on Monday, he looked at times a little disinterested but was never really asked a serious question all day and by the end looked a bit bored by it all, his post match interview showed signs that his inner chimp was escaping from the box. He also had a go at Marks and Spencers about his new shoes, so much so that the following day the retail giant announced it was closing loads of shops and concentrating on food rather than clothing, such is the power The Rocket yields.

Allen is in great form and must fancy his chances of upsetting the crowd tonight. I suspect the Ronnie that we’ll see later won’t be the one we saw on Monday, I’d imagine he’ll be relishing the possible match up with Higgins in the final for a real old school battle of the greats. They haven’t really locked horns on the big stage now since 2011 when Higgins beat him on the way to what could prove his last world title win, for the fans I think it would be a real treat to see them battle it out in a big final again, it’s almost a decade since they met in a major final so it’s very much overdue.

So it’s unsurprisingly from me a nod to nostalgia and I’ll go for a Higgins versus O’Sullivan final, if you click on the match fixtures below you’ll find the head to head stats on Cue Tracker. The Even money available on Higgins to win this afternoon looks like a decent bet to me.

Semi Finals

1pm – Ding Junhui v John Higgins

7pm – Mark Allen v Ronnie O’Sullivan

September 26, 2016

One Week in Preston

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:50 am

The Guild Hall in Preston is snookers home for the next few days as the iconic venue which has seen many a night of high drama on the baize plays host to two qualifying events, firstly the new European Masters which unfortunately follows the best of seven format and more interestingly the International Championship which is played over the much more appealing best of eleven.

I won’t be getting involved in the best of sevens from a betting perspective and instead will spend the next three days taking a good look at the best of eleven match ups and hopefully coming up with a few winners. All you need to know is below. 

Click here for the European Masters draw

Click here for the International Championship draw

click-here-for-the-format

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