Snookerbacker

October 15, 2017

The English Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:42 pm

*AHEM* I think I *AHEM* know this one *AHEM*

Barnsley wouldn’t be my first answer when asked the city from which dreams are born, but next week we’ll find out who is this year’s contender in the snooker equivalent of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ as the second English Open winner is crowned.

For those who don’t know, the winner of this, like Liang Wenbo last year, will become the focus of speculation as regards their chances of also completing unlikely victories in the other three Home Nations events and bagging Barry’s million pound bonus.

It has to be said that when Liang won this last year, we all knew that Bazza’s reward money was safe, so much so that nobody even talked about it being a possibility and the speculation-ometer was stuck on zero. It could only really get interesting if Ronnie, Selby or possibly Ding or Higgins win this, then at least the column inches might get a little wider with wild speculation.

One bookies is apparently offering odds of 500/1 on it happening. I’m sure a few people will chance their arm and a few silly quid at this and at least they know that their bet will still be in tact at the end of this week, though for how much longer than that I can’t really be sure. But in an increasingly unpredictable world who knows? Perhaps the dark forces behind Brexit, Trump (not Judd, the insane one) and Kick-free chalk may once again conspire to rob Bazza of his precious lolly.

As ever they have had to grab some big name or other to say that they think the unthinkable can happen and when you need someone to do that the first person you turn to is of course Shaun Murphy. He claimed that while it was unlikely it wasn’t impossible and said he would relish being the last man standing by winning this week.

As hinted at above, I reckon there are only two players currently on the tour that would have a chance in hell of winning all four, probably most likely Mark Selby as Ronnie’s heart these days doesn’t really look to be in it. After labelling 70% of the tour ‘numpties’ he’s now busy plugging the latest book that he has *AHEM* written and telling everyone that if he hadn’t chosen snooker he’d probably have won an Olympic medal at running or been world champion at Formula One, so we are clearly very honoured to have nabbed him.

It all kicks off on Monday in Barno, unfortunately it’s another best of 7 job so the match betting doesn’t really appeal to me. It’s a big week this for Neil Robertson who as things stand looks highly unlikely to be lining up at The Masters, quite an extraordinary tumble down the rankings and a defeat in the Shanghai qualifiers last week to a player who hadn’t yet won on tour has really set the alarm bells ringing for fans of the Thunder, so a timely win here is more or less essential for him.

In terms of the outrights, just one from each section for me, but with 131 players starting out, it’s a bit of a lottery this, quite apt given the pot of gold on offer at the end of the rainbow.

Recommended Outrights: Barry Hawkins 22/1, John Higgins 14/1, Ding Junhui 10/1, Kyren Wilson 33/1. 

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

October 9, 2017

The Shanghai Masters (in Wigan)

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:20 pm

The local delicacy of Wiganers.

After much moaning and groaning from the players we finally now have the draw for the Shanghai Masters, the qualifying for which takes place at Robin Park in Wigan from Wednesday until Friday.

It’s caused a bit of a kerfuffle has this. For reasons apparently ‘beyond the control’ of the sport’s sole controlling body, the draw wasn’t made available last week when it should have been. This has led to a lot of players having to frantically arrange their travel plans at the last minute, including three players on mainland Europe who insist on making things awkward for World Snooker and more importantly themselves by living in their country of birth.

There were a few stabs at why this delay happened, claims that World Snooker had lost the draw hat proved unfounded as did one player’s assertion that someone had sabotaged the tombola used to pull all the names out.

However, I think I know what the problem might have been, it seems that more players have entered it than should have done, which has caused something of a headache for the draw makers and obviously this confusion led someone into a spiral of anxiety so much so that they phoned in sick and let others work it all out. Ban the wildcards.

The result is that the talented and improving Billy Joe Castle and rather cruelly Soheil Vahedi have to play an extra match, it seems a bit off picking on two tour newbies, one of whom has enough trouble as it is with visas without all this, but clearly World Snooker have no time for such sentiment and poor old SV has been well and truly shafted.

The matches this week are the best of nine and after some doubt as to whether this tournament would go ahead at all it’s nice that it’s been secured. The bad news, for me at least, is that what made it stand out, namely the tiered qualifying, is gone and we’re back to the flat draw, which I know some people think is the way forward but I’m more for a bit of variety myself.

Ronnie O’Sullivan has decided to have the afternoon off Twitter on Friday to line up against Chris Keogan, no doubt one of those players that Ronnie so affectionately refers to as a Numpty. Let’s see how he fares in his first match since his outburst, which was not exactly the best way of making new friends was it?

Here’s the draw and format for the qualifying round of the 2017 Shanghai Masters.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

The 2017 main event will be held at the Shanghai Indoor Stadium from 13th to 18th November, 2017.

October 1, 2017

The European Masters

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 2:11 pm

He’s no longer on the second floor

It’s been 23 years since ranking event snooker took place in Belgium but that long wait is finally over as the tour takes in Lommel this week for the European Masters, sponsored by *insert random bookie name* with a winners prize on offer of £75,000.

There’s a peculiar custom at least here in the UK about the lack of famous Belgians. I’m not sure where it comes from but ironically when someone here is asked what is the most famous thing you know about Belgium, one popular response is that there is nobody famous that comes from Belgium.

Some smartarse will probably tell you that Audrey Hepburn was Belgian, snooker buffs will point to the diminuitive referee Olivier Marteel, who amusingly, to me at least, is known in China as ‘The Belgian Truffle’, but there is definitely a new candidate emerging in the shape of The Belgian Bullet, Luca Brecel. He sits perched at the top of the one year ranking list and appears to be going from strength to strength on the baize, he’s also now looking very good for a place in The Masters and with a following wind, a seeded spot at The Crucible being up to 12th in snooker’s overall pecking order.

Whether he can yet claim to be Belgium’s finest export since Hepburn is of course open to debate but the olive loving potter with the lovely smile will be coming into this week full of confidence in front of an expectant home crowd, eager to impress again and build on his tremendous start to the season.

One player who has yet to find anything like his form is World Champion Mark Selby, who despite being stacks ahead of the rest on the main ranking list is currently languishing in 51st on the one-year list. He was of course hindered early on in the season after he dropped his wallet on his foot and nearly lost a toe, but he’s not got going at all since then, losing most recently to Lee Walker in China, but it’s surely only a matter of time until he starts brinkmanshipping himself back up the one year list, he’s due to meet Luca in the quarter finals this week.

As the nights begin to draw in it now starts to feel a bit more like weather for snooker. It’s pretty much full throttle in terms of tournaments from here until December with the gaping gap now having been plugged by the welcome return of The Shanghai Masters to the calendar.

Unfortunately this is another best of seven comp, which all but rules out match betting for me. I will however continue to play on the outrights in the forlorn hope that a big outsider might bring home the vegetarian bacon. One from each quarter it is again for me.

Recommended Outrights: Mark Allen 20/1, Ryan Day 28/1, Luca Brecel 33/1, Yan Bingtao 80/1. 

You can view the match schedule here and the draw can be found here.

The Eurosport TV schedule can be found here.

September 25, 2017

International Championship Qualifiers

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:45 pm

Back to Preston

After a few weeks of jetsetting to both India and China, the snooker tour returns to UK shores this week for the qualifying round of the prestigious International Championship in Preston at the iconic Guild Hall venue.

One of the reasons I like this event is because it embraces longer matches. Every single one of the matches below is played over the best of eleven frames, lovely jubbly, giving this tournament an identity of its own, something that unfortunately a few of the other Chinese competitions don’t yet have.

A bit of a blog first below, I have listed the matches together with the best price available (on Monday) for each player. It’s crying out for a good old fashioned bet and I’ll probably post daily bets on Twitter. Obviously with it being long matches, we have to try a monster acca too, be rude not to, so that’s at the foot of this post.

If you want to tune in there will be selected matches on Eurosport Player or you could while away the hours staring at the live scores here. If you are wondering where reigning champion and World Champion Mark Selby and a few of the bigger Chinese names are, their first matches are held over to the main venue.

The qualifiers run from Tuesday September 26th to Friday September 29th at the Guild Hall in Preston. Tickets are available and cost just £5 – for details click here.

The main event will run from October 29th to November 5th in China. 

Tuesday 26th September 
09:30 Andrew Higginson (3/10) Josh Boileau (7/2)  
09:30 Gary Wilson (1/3) Thor Chuan Leong (3/1)  
09:30 Robbie Williams (11/10) Zhang Anda (9/10)  
09:30 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (8/15) Sam Craigie (7/4)  
09:30 Tom Ford (2/5) Scott Donaldson (12/5)  

14:30 Alan McManus (3/5) Rod Lawler (13/8)  
14:30 Alfie Burden (8/11) Mi Xi Wen (11/8)  
14:30 Joe Perry (1/8) Paul Davison (63/10)  
14:30 Michael Holt (1/6) Leo Fernandez (9/2)  
14:30 Ryan Day (1/6) Chen Zifan (6/1)  

19:30 Jamie Jones (4/7) John Astley (15/8)  
19:30 Stuart Bingham (1/6) Sean OSullivan (11/2) 
19:30 Tian Pengfei (5/11) James Wattana (5/2) 

Wednesday 27th September 
09:30 Daniel Wells (4/5) Ian Burns (11/10)  
09:30 David Grace (10/17) Xu Si (6/4)  
09:30 Mark Williams (1/9) Boonyarit Kaettikun (6/1)  
09:30 Martin Gould (2/9) Mitchell Mann (7/2)  
09:30 Mike Dunn (6/11) Martin ODonnell (16/11)  

14:30 David Gilbert (3/10) Liam Highfield (11/4)  
14:30 Graeme Dott (3/10) Nigel Bond (11/4)  
14:30 Robert Milkins (4/11) Yuan Sijun (9/4)  
14:30 Stephen Maguire (1/8) Alex Borg (6/1) 
14:30 Xiao Guodong (1/3) Jimmy White (5/2) 

19:30 Anthony McGill (1/4) Aditya Mehta (14/5) 
19:30 Kyren Wilson (1/7) Rhys Clark (9/2) 
19:30 Marco Fu (1/5) Akani Songsermsawad (4/1)  
19:30 Neil Robertson (1/10) Craig Steadman (13/2)  

Thursday 28th September 
09:30 Chris Wakelin (4/5) Cao Yupeng (11/10) 
09:30 Jimmy Robertson (6/11) Michael Georgiou (7/4)  
09:30 Mark Allen (1/6) Peter Lines (11/2)  
09:30 Dark Mavis (1/3) Ian Preece (5/2)  
09:30 Peter Ebdon (1/2) Fang Xiongman (7/4)  
09:30 Ricky Walden (1/8) Billy Joe Castle (11/2) 

14:30 Fergal OBrien (1/4) Zhang Yong (7/2)  
14:30 Kurt Maflin (4/9) Joe Swail (15/8)  
14:30 Matthew Selt (1/2) Alexander Ursenbacher (17/10)  
14:30 Rory McLeod (8/13) Ross Muir (13/8) 
14:30 Stuart Carrington (11/17) Lee Walker (7/5) 

19:30 Ali Carter (1/20) Jamie Curtis-Barrett (9/1)  
19:30 Barry Hawkins (1/10) Hammad Miah (13/2)  
19:30 Mark Joyce (1/12) Kurt Dunham (15/2) 
19:30 Shaun Murphy (1/25) Matthew Bolton (16/1) 

Friday 29th September 
09:30 Hossein Vafaei (1/3) Duane Jones (5/2)  
09:30 Jack Lisowski (1/2) Lukas Kleckers (7/4)  
09:30 Li Hang (2/5) Soheil Vahedi (2/1)  
09:30 Michael White (4/9) Eden Sharav (9/4)  
09:30 Sam Baird (1/3) Li Yuan (5/2)  

14:30 Anthony Hamilton (3/10) Sanderson Lam (11/4)  
14:30 Luca Brecel (1/5) Allan Taylor (7/2)  
14:30 Mark King (2/9) Christopher Keogan (10/3)  
14:30 Noppon Saengkham (2/5) Niu Zhuang (12/5)  
14:30 Oliver Lines (4/11) Hamza Akbar (9/4)  

19:30 Ben Woollaston (2/5) Jak Jones (9/4)  
19:30 Dominic Dale (1/3) Jackson Page (5/2)  
19:30 Judd Trump (1/20) Chris Totten (11/1) 
19:30 Ronnie OSullivan (1/16) Gerard Greene (8/1)

RECOMMENDED MONSTER ACCA: Pays almost 5/1 at Bet 365 – Higginson, Holt, Perry, Mark Williams, Maguire, Fu, McGill, Kyren Wilson, Walden, Allen and Vafaei. 

Snooker and Betting – Uneasy Bedfellows?

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:00 am

Picture the scene. A damp rainy morning in April, a stones throw away from The Crucible, hushed anticipation in the air, a medium sized crowd is beginning to form, largely recognisable faces, the snooker crowd; the anoraks, the carrier bags, the thermos flasks and eight tables set before them ready for action.

The players emerge to spatterings of applause within the sports hall, OK it’s the first round of qualifiers but perhaps, just perhaps, a few of this band of 16 hopefuls might make it all the way to The Crucible and from there, who knows?

It’s time for all the matches to start, some players get straight down to it, no messing around, shake hands, let’s get on with it. Others go through their ritual of water pouring, hand wiping, nose blowing, cue wiping and then they are ready to start. But wait a minute? What’s just happened on Table 3? Haha, what a weird start to that match! I think it was Leo Fernandez who was lining up his break off shot? What did he do? I think he must have feathered the white! He must be really nervous, poor bloke. Anyway, no harm done, a few smiles around the table from both players and the ref and that seems to have settled him down.

All seems perfectly innocent doesn’t it? Yes, until the next day we hear that hefty bets had been placed on that very eventuality, namely Leo making the first foul stroke of the match, well he sure made sure that happened, it’s a good job he won the toss or his opponent Gary Wilson might have gone in-off and all the money would have been lost. 18 long months later Leo is due to play his next match after sitting out his return to the professional circuit as a result, I’m sure he probably thinks now that it wasn’t really worth it after all.

This might sound like I am singling Leo out for special mention and it is true that amongst the latest round of WPBSA statements his case is rather different. But betting on snooker by players appears to be something of an epidemic in our sport.

In the past few months Stuart Bingham, Joe Perry, Alfie Burden and at the weekend Kurt Maflin have all fallen foul of the rules and received (apart from Bingham who awaits his fate) suspended suspensions and fines of differing amounts as well as the public shame of their financial luck, or in some cases lack of it, being detailed for all to see. For the record, from the ones we know, only Perry had made a profit.

What I think a lot of fans struggle with here is why the players do this? You would have to have been living on Mars to be unaware of the rules. The high profile cases of John Higgins and Stephen Lee brought betting and snooker into the mainstream media with the latter’s career left in tatters because of it. We do have to wonder is this the thin end of the wedge? How many other players are doing it? How many have and are now trying to bury the evidence? How many are currently being investigated?

The commonality between all these cases and the reason behind what some might see as the lenient sentences was that they were, mostly, betting on other matches, there is no indication or accusation that any of them were on the fiddle or ‘doing a Leo’ and they all co-operated fully once it was clear they had been rumbled.

There are even some fans that have contacted me directly that feel it should not even be against the rules. There is an argument that if indeed it is brought out into the open and players are allowed to bet on matches that don’t involve themselves, then what’s the problem? After all, almost every tournament these days outside China has bookies stamped all over it, is it any wonder that the players, given their knowledge of the sport, wouldn’t want to try and make a few quid?

Obviously a much more concerning trait for me is the number of matches that we seem to be able to accurately guess the outcome of before a ball is hit, usually by virtue of a massive tumble in odds. It also has to be said without a hint of prejudice that in almost every case to date, this has involved players from Thailand and from China. The fact that it appears that a few of these matches seem to have gone uninvestigated is more of a concern to me.

The fact that this match and this match were investigated and no action was taken is frankly staggering, given that a look back at the Twitter exchanges on the day had a gang of us all knowing both scores in advance. Similar conversations happened before this match started a couple of weeks ago and again, miraculously, the huge drift in the betting of the losing player proved decisive. These are three of a bunch of matches which seem to have either been investigated and nothing found or been swept under the carpet. This match and the 4-2 result here are others that have been looked at and been filed under ‘nothing to view here’, again despite the fact that the snooker social media community at large seemed to know the results before a ball was struck. 

So whether it’s just the players being a bit dumb or choosing to ignore the blatantly obvious rules or something more sinister, we continue to live in a sporting world where these things just keep happening. Perhaps it’s time to get harsher when it comes to punishments? Perhaps it’s time to open it up and make it all more transparent and allow the players to bet freely within certain guidelines? Perhaps it’s time to introduce some counselling for players with a gambling problem? Perhaps it’s time that more effort was made to distance snooker from its bookie friendly image? One thing is for certain, something has to change.

Next up, a betting preview on the International Championship qualifiers tomorrow, see what I did there?

September 17, 2017

Yushan World Open Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:19 pm

‘The arse end of China’, was the description given to me by one tour player last season about this week’s host city. The snooker tour heads to the rather remote area of Yushan for the World Open just a couple of days since John Higgins triumphed in India. 

As well as the accessibility problems associated with this venue, other notable events from last season included luggage not arriving, players getting food poisoning and the eventual winner Ali Carter eating an interesting variation on tomato soup.

The early signs aren’t that promising this time either, clothes appear again to have gone astray in a couple of cases. Most notably for the luckless Jamie Jones, who, despite for once arriving himself in the correct city is without his treasured snooker garments. He’s playing tomorrow morning and as things stand is looking to borrow some clobber from whoever is around, let’s hope he finds someone around about his own height and build or god knows what he’s going to come out looking like, I’m thinking Tom Hanks at the end of Big when he’s walking off and turning back into a kid. Poor JJ.

Anyway, the total prize money for the event is £700,000 with a top prize of £150,000, matching the China Championship and International Championship as the ranking events outside the UK with the highest prize money. So it’s not to be sniffed at. Despite this the holder didn’t feel the urge to return to defend his title and have some more soup so we will see a new name on the trophy this time around.

It’s a busy old tour these days and they are flying all over the place this month and just two days after this finishes it’s back to Preston for some qualifiers before they head to Belgium for the European Open. No rest for the wicked.

I’ll again try my semi-trusted method in the outrights of selecting a player from each quarter. An each way punt on runner up Anthony McGill at 28/1 last week keeps the decent run going so let’s see if we can go one better here and bag an early season winner.

Recommended Bets: Win Only – Mark Selby at 5/1. Each-Way – Liang Wenbo at 66/1, Dave Glbert at 100/1, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh at 150/1.    

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

September 11, 2017

Indian Open Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:37 pm

Captain Moab and his Majestic Muzzy

The global snooker circus heads this week to India, Vishakhapatnam to be exact, that’s easy for you to say, as the latest world ranking event the Indian Open runs from September 12th to the 16th.

This is a new venue and a lot of the players are very excited about their view from the hotel balcony, swathes of open seas and golden sands are there as far as the eye can see so at least there will be some consolation for those unfortunate enough to having travelled half way around the globe stocked up on Imodium only to be pumped in the first round.

One of the reasons I always like to tune in to this one is the annual treat that is the Indian snooker commentators. They really are a treasure to behold. Absolutely unashamedly and unapologetically biased towards Aditya Mehta and before him Pankaj Advani, scathingly critical of anything they perceive to be an easy miss or careless mistake, proclaiming the player in question regardless of their lofty ranking, no better than club standard and frequently paying gushing compliments to the Indian snooker chiefs who sit their proudly showing off their bushy moustaches to anyone who cares to admire.

You can usually hear these guys on the bookmaker streams but I wish they’d hire them on Eurosport Player for the 5 days and really mix it up a bit. There would be nothing better than hearing some of the players rattled at their cutting jibes borne of their own carelessness but in years gone by we haven’t had the pleasure of their company on there.

As for the tournament itself, it’s a shame that a few more of the big names didn’t make the effort this time to reward the Indian guys faith in our sport, but it opens up the chance for a name lower down the rankings to perhaps steal the show and land a big cheque.

Anthony McGill returns to defend his title and he’s sure to face the wrath of the commentators early doors as he has the audacity to play on the same table as the aforementioned Mehta. Expect a balanced, fair, unbiased and reasoned commentary on that from the boys in the box. Not.

I’ll probably post up some match bets up on Twitter through the tournament if you’d care to follow me on there but in terms of the outrights I think McGill stands a decent chance of posting a good defence of his title from his top seeding in the draw. I think the form player Shaun Murphy has to be backed to go one better than the last two finals – he’s also become the latest player to employ the services of Sight Right and has been gushing about it on social media. I’ll back my Chinese pal Ghou again although the bookies have cottoned on to the fact now that he’s decent and I’ll also plump for Michael Holt, who to me would fit the bill as a winner from those itching for a title.

Recommended Bets: Shaun Murphy 8/1, Anthony McGill 28/1, Michael Holt 50/1, Ghou Yolonge 66/1.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

Head to eurosportplayer.com for more information on how to sign up for the service and click here for details of which tournaments you can watch throughout the season.

August 24, 2017

The Paul Hunter Classic

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:24 pm

It’s the time of year again when snooker players across the world gather in Fürth, Germany to celebrate the life of one of snooker’s brightest stars who sadly left us far too early for the Great Billiard Hall in the Sky. The Paul Hunter Classic is a regular feature on the calendar and now a well-established event, perhaps some might like it to be a little higher profile but it’s always a treat for the German fans who as ever, turn up in their droves armed with sausages and brimming with facial hair.

Sadly, despite all the hullabaloo and cork-popping which greeted Eurosport’s ten year deal with snooker, they haven’t seen fit to put this one on the telly, instead, those of us who pay the subscription to the Eurosport Player get to choose between action from three tables online, tables which I am sure will also be covered live by the usual bookie sites too.

The amateurs have been battling away since Wednesday for the right to make the main starting line-up with the professionals who come in on Friday for the traditional PTC style format.

The draw is probably best followed here though the World Snooker website remains far from ideal and very clunky to use, with some things almost impossible to find on there. To summarise, one half of the draw plays down to 8 players on Friday and the other half on Saturday before the final 16 get together to fight out the final knockout stages on Sunday. All matches are the best of seven frames although on current form matches involving Fergal O’Brien will feel more like the best of 77.

A few of the players of course will be racing here from China where Luca Brecel broke his ranking event duck with a famous victory over Shaun Murphy in the final of The China Championship. The beaming olive-loving Belgian gives mainland Europe their first ever ranking event winner and few in the game will begrudge him his moment of glory. Take that Brexit.

It’s great that more and more countries are embracing the sport and it would be nice if Germany followed suit with a ranch of their own young talent. As things stand, Luca is one of only a handful of younger players who might be able to fend off the lurking Chinese contingent who surely are now only a few years from filling a lot of the top spots on the tour. Once some of the old guard start getting careless there are now a number of young Chinese players who to me look the strongest mentally that they have produced. The mental side of the game is something for whatever reason I have always thought has been the downfall of others that have been heralded as the next Ding Junhui, but I think that’s now being addressed and is helped in no small part by the community of players building around Victoria’s in Sheffield.

Anyway, that’s enough of me rambling on. Let’s take a look at the outrights and see what we can find. If the mood takes me when it comes to match betting I’ll probably bash these up on Twitter in the mornings. If anyone followed them during the recent Preston qualifiers I hope you did as well as I did, that was a very decent week and almost made me like best of sevens, almost…

The tried and not very trusted method I tend to adopt in these big fields and PTC style formats is to pick out a player in each quarter and look for any other mad scraps of value that might be out there so here goes nothing. The top quarter in particular could throw up a semi-finalist at a big price so I’ll lump a few each way punts in from that section.

Paul Hunter Classic Outrights: Win Bets: Stuart Bingham 12/1, Kyren Wilson 14/1. Each Way Bets: Dominic Dale 80/1, Gary Wilson 100/1, Chris Wakelin 250/1, Alexander Ursenbacher 300/1.

August 11, 2017

The China Championship

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:28 am

The impressive arena in China

Snooker’s new Evergrande China Championship took place for the first time in 2016, as an invitational event. It was staged in the city of Guangzhou in the Guangdong Province of South East China where John Higgins beat Stuart Bingham 10-7 in the final.

This year it becomes a world ranking event, contested by 128 players with total prize money of £700,000 with the winner’s cheque of £150,000. Qualifying took place in Preston back in June and the final stages get underway on Wednesday 16th August with the final being played, oddly, the following Tuesday.

It might be just me here but I think this tournament represents a huge chance missed by China. Despite the impressive prize money the format is much the same as all their other events and doesn’t stand out at all from the crowd. Had it been kept as a 16 player invitational event it could have been billed as The China Masters and acted as a real stand out early season event in the calendar for the current top 16 players.

Instead, 64 of them plus a few wildcards whose matches were held over from Preston pile into the arena to play yet another conveyor belt event with most of them playing on outside tables. I’m beginning to get very bored of this format, it’s not appealing from a spectator point of view, it’s not unique and quite frankly it’s a bit of a switch off. But as one person pointed out to me the other day when I asked them about the possibility of getting involved in snooker sponsorship, we’re now being seen very much as a ‘bookies game’ and the more matches there are, the better for the bookies. I think we’re now all clear that this is the path that the sport has decided to follow.

Of course, it is slightly hypocritical of me to deride this. After all, a major part of this blog in the past has been betting focused. But I like to think that in building up the blog to what it was in the past there was also a love for the sport that might have shone through the murky waters of recommended accumulators. Betting on snooker is fun, but for me the focus is now on this side of the game too much and we’re forgetting that fans like a bit of variety as well as having a few quid on to heighten interest.

However, one thing China is good at is attracting sponsors from outside the gambling sector, something that we in the UK seem to find impossible to do. While Jason Ferguson beavers away trying to get snooker recognised as an Olympic sport, we continue to go cap in hand to any betting firm that will have us to sponsor events in the homeland of snooker, there’s something there that doesn’t quite sit right to me.

Anyway, there are still fans out there who enjoy this kind of format I am sure so it’s only right that we take a look at the draw and see what we can find.

For the China Championship draw click here.

I’m going to stick to one player in each quarter and there are some decent odds around in the outrights on some big names that I think need to be thrown in. In the top quarter I quite like the look of Stephen Maguire (40/1) who will be there pushing hard for his Masters place having had a decent finish to last season and a solid enough start to this, I think he’s got a tournament in him this season. The draw could also have been harsher for Ali Carter (66/1) who finds himself in a very winnable section of the draw, he’s not had a great start to the season by his standards and I’m sure he will be focused on maintaining his top ten place with a run in this having decided not to defend his World Open title that he won in China last season.

In the bottom half it would be no surprise to see the lesser spotted Ronald go deep in this, particularly given Judd’s recent display following his laser eye surgery, which may take some getting used to under the brighter TV conditions that he will inevitably find himself playing under, but in quarter three I’m looking lower down at Marco Fu (28/1) for a bit of value from a winnable section. Finally down in Higgins’ section I’ll take a punt on new dad Mark Allen (50/1) to keep the nappy budget afloat with a decent run.

I also have to avail myself of the ridiculous 400/1 on Ghou Yolonge (or Zhou Yuelong as World Snooker insist on calling him). OK he’s in Selby’s mini section of the draw but he’s improving in leaps and bounds and I’d be gutted if I missed out on his first big breakthrough, which I am convinced is just around the corner.

It’s all covered by Eurosport, the opening sessions of the day’s play at some ungodly hour when only the most avid fans or insomniacs are awake in my part of the world, it’s high time China towed the party line and changed their clocks to European time if you ask me.

July 31, 2017

Nine Days in Preston

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:46 am

Snooker seems to spend a lot of time in Preston these days. The once iconic Guild Hall is increasingly now seen as the go to place for Qualifiers and this next week and a half is no exception with no fewer than three events holding their opening rounds there before the main events in India, Belgium and China take place.

It’s been a funny old month on the baize. The Hong Kong Masters seemed like a great success with huge crowds turning out to watch Neil Robertson triumph, it’s just a shame that we weren’t able to watch it with the exception of a dodgy streamed site. Then we had the World Games where Kyren Wilson bagged a gold medal and Ali Carter the silver and at the same time over in China, England led by Ronnie O’Sullivan beat the home team in a Ryder Cup style event that I knew absolutely nothing about, so while there has been a lot of snooker going on, it’s not exactly been high profile when it comes to a global audience.

It’s back to the qualifiers this week though as the Indian Open, the European Masters and the World Open kick off. The World Open replaces the Shanghai Masters on the calendar which sadly is no longer on the schedule.

This is a shame as it was always seen as the best event there was in China by the players who seemed to love going there, instead they will have to return to Yushan which saw outbreaks of food poisoning last year in the middle of nowhere when Ali Carter took the title, one that he’s decided not to defend this time. Ronnie O’Sullivan is also nowhere to be seen and hasn’t entered any of the three events, perhaps a sign that he’s going into semi-retirement mode again and picking and choosing when and where he plays, he is another who expressed disappointment at the scrapping of Shanghai.

Whilst Preston isn’t universally popular with the players, one thing it remains is an excellent venue for fans to go and watch and with tickets as low as £5 for a whole day’s worth of action where you can flit from table to table effortlessly if you are in the area it’s well worth a visit.

The draws are contained in the links below if you can make out the names, it seems that several of the keys on the World Snooker computer are missing so it might be time for Bazza to fork out for a new one with all that dosh he’s been raking in. It all gets underway on Tuesday and runs rights through until the middle of next week. The India and Europe events are all played over the best of seven while the World Open is played over the best of nine.

Click here for the Indian Open Draw

Click here for the European Masters Draw

Click here for the World Open Draw

Click here for the format for all three events

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