Snookerbacker

December 11, 2017

Scottish Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:07 am

After a pulsating week in York it’s now time to head North of the Border for the Scottish Open from Glasgow, the third leg of the Home Nations series and the final full event of 2017.

I’ll not be covering this on here as it’s not an event that I can really get my teeth into or get excited about. Following this and before the Christmas break there are German Masters qualifiers in Barnsley next week, then finally the potters get a bit of a rest.

For now I’ll just bash a few interest outrights out but like I say, I’ll probably give this one a wide berth. You can see the draw here and the match schedule here and the event is covered live on Eurosport.

Recommended Outright Picks: Neil Robertson 16/1, Yan Bingtao 33/1, Joe Perry 50/1 and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh at 150/1.

December 10, 2017

UK Championship Final

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:41 am

The best of enemies

The final of the UK Championship is once again being contested between two giants of the game. We may have had a fortnight of shocks but as so often happens, when all is said and done it’s big players that win this and 2017 in York will prove no exception.

Ronnie O’Sullivan is going for a record equalling 6th title, only Steve Davis has won this 6 times, even Hendry only managed to win 5 so it’s a chance for Ronald to once again trump the Scot today.

He faces Shaun Murphy, once champion and once a runner-up. Murphy has got steadily better as the week has gone along and given he managed to beat Ronnie in their last final a few weeks ago in Coventry you’d hope that he won’t let The Rocket command from the start as he has been allowed to do in his previous two matches, racing to 4-0 leads over Gould and yesterday, Stephen Maguire.

Their head to head shows Ronnie ahead, but you just get the feeling that Shaun is beginning to peg this back a little lately. Ronnie has benefited this week from opponents failing to take their chances, he’s left quite a few but both Gould and Maguire and to some extent Akani have let him off the hook, will Murphy capitulate in the same way? You would think not.

Revenge will be on Ronnie’s mind as he did not look best amused at losing that final last time. It’s an open secret that the two of these don’t really get on which adds to the atmosphere whenever they meet on the big stage, you can’t beat a bit of needle.

Having recommended Murphy at 25/1 each way in the main preview I can happily sit back and enjoy the match, cheering on for The Magician. If someone was threatening to shoot all my known family unless I made a prediction and given the Nostradamus like accuracy of the semi-final post yesterday I’d plump for a 10-6 win for O’Sullivan given the way his matches have gone this week, but I hope I’m wrong and I hope that Murphy wins, if only so I can crow next time I am invited back onto the radio that this was my first ever radio tip.

It’s been a very enjoyable week, but after this I’m not going to bother with the Scottish Open which starts tomorrow. We’re back to the grindstone of Best of 7 comps which I’m not a fan of, so I’ll just hope that Murphy can upgrade our Christmas nut roast to a luxury mushroom wellington with a triumph today and then see you all back here for The Masters.

December 9, 2017

UK Championship: Semi Final Saturday

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:56 am

The BBC deal is far from a shambles

So here we have it, we’re down to the infamous ‘one table situation’ in York as the final four players contest the best of eleven frames semi finals today after what has been a very entertaining championship.

Barry Hearn turned up at the venue yesterday and when he makes an appearance on your screens it’s usually because he’s got something to announce and yesterday was no exception. This time he was there to reaffirm the BBC’s commitment to showing snooker in the afternoons, unless of course there is some posh boys rugby on or it clashes with a particularly important episode of Flog It. They have further committed to putting it on the red button in the evenings for the next 5 years unless there is something better on at the same time. The Beeb will continue to cover one table at the big three events, namely this, The Masters and the World Championship.

It’s not been confirmed yet whether Dennis Taylor comes as part of the overall deal. Tense negotiations are ongoing and dwarf anything that’s been done so far on Brexit, which let’s face it wouldn’t be difficult. Dennis is asked to sit outside and talk about golf and Patsy Fagan with passers-by while the grown ups make a decision. It’s thought that the deal is worth millions but as ever Bazza is trying to get it on the cheap and pleading with the BBC to include Dennis to bring the price down. More news when I have it.

Anyway, enough of my gossip, here’s what we have to look forward to today, including a mouth watering match this afternoon, click on the match for the head to head stats.

1pm – Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stephen Maguire

Rumour has it that Martin Gould spent most of his pre-match time yesterday carelessly lounging around the venue while Ronnie played on the practice table for a couple of hours. This certainly told as O’Sullivan basically got the match won in the first half an hour before Gould could find anything like his touch. The gifts he handed Ronnie early on wouldn’t have looked out of place under the tree on Christmas Day and the grateful Rocket lapped them up. Whether a better prepared player might have given him a sterner test remains to be seen and possibly will be seen today. Maguire is in fine fettle coming into this and presents Ronnie with possibly his first real test of the championship. As you’d expect, the head to heads strongly favour O’Sullivan, but they have only faced each other twice in anything meaningful in the last 5 years, with one win apiece. I’ve had a feeling all week that at some point Ronnie will come unstuck, but all too often players just seem to melt when they come face to face with him, I don’t think Maguire will, but this has allowed Ronald to build up a head of steam and perhaps now we’ll see him at his very best. I think he’ll shade it, but I think Maguire will push him harder than anyone has all week. Let’s face it, if he’d have caught him in the form he was in against Akani he’d have beaten him, but now there is another win under his belt he faces a more focused animal. Remember in an interesting sub-plot, Maguire is playing this match to nick Liang Wenbo’s Masters slot, with the rest of the field now decided.

Predicted: O’Sullivan 6-4 

7pm – Shaun Murphy v Ryan Day 

Christmas at SB Towers will be upgraded if Murphy can carry off the 25/1 recommended bet this weekend but first he has to contend with snooker’s new deciding frame specialist Ryan Day, who has now finally done enough to be playing at The Masters after Christmas and you have to say deservedly so. Murphy walloped Mark King in the last round and has looked pretty good since his very lucky escape against Liam Highfield earlier on in the tournament. The draw has fallen nicely for him with Higgins and Selby going out early and now just Day stands in the way of him and another grand slam final. Their head to heads tell us very little as the vast majority of them have been in lowly events so we just have to take this one on form coming into it. Day has had three deciders on the spin now and has come through them all so the last thing Shaun will want is this to go close. Perhaps now that The Masters race is run Day will relax a little, but this is still a huge match for him, possibly you might argue the biggest of his long career and it remains to be seen if he’ll rise to the occasion. My guess is that this will be one of those matches where Shaun imposes himself from the start and keeps distance between them, so I’ll take The Magician to pull another winning performance out of the hat and land the each way spoils.

Predicted: Murphy 6-3  

December 8, 2017

UK Championship Quarter Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:00 am

Things are hotting up in York

After a pulsating night on the baize last night which saw Ronnie O’Sullivan narrowly scrape through against Sunny Akani we’re now into Quarter Final Friday. All four quarter finals take place today and as well as the prestige of the UK title itself there is still also the sub-plot of the final line up for The Masters next month still very much in the balance.

Liang Wenbo is in a very precarious position as things stand and he’ll be hoping that the top half of the draw is won by O’Sullivan and that Mark King doesn’t make the final, I think I’m right in saying that if those two things happen he’s safe. Ryan Day now looks almost certain to be lining up in Ally Pally but I’m sure there are anoraks out there who can think of a permutation to stop that happening (I’m guessing a King v anyone but Ronnie final and a certain result in said final would bump Day out)….anyway, this blog is not for anoraks so let’s have a butchers at the four matches taking place today.

Click on the match for the head to head.

1pm

Stephen Maguire v Joe Perry

Two old hands who seem to be at the top of their game this week meet here and one look at the head to head stats shows you who has been the dominant force of the two down the years. It’s almost a decade since Perry last beat Maguire, with 11 meetings since, of varying importance all being won by the Scot. That said, strangely, Perry has won probably their most important match up in the World Championship Quarter Finals back in 2008 in a decider, so if he’s trying to muster up some confidence he could do worse than watch a few shots of that match on You Tube before this afternoon. Quite why Mags has such a dominance over a player who has always been more or less his equal in the rankings for years is a mystery to me but one of the quirks of the game sometimes. Perry was magnificent the other night against Mark Allen and a repeat of that performance has to give him a real chance of breaking this hoodoo, but I’ve been very impressed by Maguire all week and coupled with the head to head will take him to snatch a close one.

Prediction: Maguire 6-4 

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Martin Gould

Just the three past meetings between these two and all of them have been won by The Rocket. I think the one thing we can safely predict here is an open game, Gould seems to thrive sometimes when thrown in the bear pit and it would be no surprise to me if he were to cause an upset here. Ronnie had a long night last night but he seems sharp of mind and focus this week and I don’t think that this will be a factor in the match. I would say however that Ronnie is missing more than he usually does this week and let’s be honest, he should really have lost last night and I dare say a more experienced player would have punished him more than Sunny did. There is a school of thought which says Ronnie already has one and a half hands on the trophy but I’m not sure I agree. I’m going to predict a shock this afternoon, the aftertimers are going to love this one.

Prediction: Gould 6-4

7pm

Shaun Murphy v Mark King

Mark King appears to be riding the crest of a wave of late, a newly found confidence borne of not having to worry so much about where the money for his next tattoo is coming from seems to have given him a real career Indian Summer. Yet again though we have a heavily one-sided match up in terms of head to heads here. The pair have met 14 times and King has won just once, though it must be noted that Murphy’s hold over him was broken in the China Open last year, once Mark had broken his ranking title duck. They met last month in the Champion of Champions on Shaun’s way to lifting the title and although Murphy does have a major edge in their past duels, he never really dishes out a hammering. King’s confidence and cockney sparrow-like charm is quite infectious these days and I think it’s winning him an army of new and nostalgic fans, Murphy gave Ricky Walden a right old walloping yesterday but you’d expect the MK Don to put up more of a fight given his recent form. I think this one will follow a similar pattern to a lot of their previous meetings with Shaun keeping Mark at arms length. Oh yes, I’m not really sure about all this Kojak stuff, it sounds like something that a 5 year old would make up.

Prediction: Murphy 6-4     

Ryan Day v Mark Joyce

The fourth Quarter Final again is heavily weighted in terms of previous meetings. This time, 7 matches played and Day has won 6 of them. You have to say that Day has been extremely impressive this week and for me the most impressive thing about him is that when he’s been asked real questions he has responded, two deciding frames of dominance is not something that you’d immediately associate with Ryan Day but that’s just what he’s dished out in the last two rounds. Joyce is an enigma to me, he just seems every now and again to post results that far outweigh his lowly ranking position while routinely losing to anyone that can hold a cue for three quarters of the season. I’ll obviously favour Day here but anyone betting on this one needs their head examining, it is with absolutely zero confidence or conviction that I make the prediction below, so watch it land.

Prediction: Day 6-3  

December 6, 2017

UK Championship Last 16

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:48 am

The final 16 players left in this year’s UK Championship will be battling it out for the next two days as the arena closes in and we’re now down to what is always referred to as the ‘two table situation’ where the atmosphere at The Barbican really intensifies.

John Higgins once again takes centre stage this afternoon against Mark King alongside the Battle of the Jocks as Graeme Dott locks horns with Stephen Maguire. The chasing pack are making things very awkward in terms of who will be at The Masters in January with Day, King, Maguire, Gould, Perry and Walden all still in it here. Just when Ryan Day, who plays this evening, shook off the challenge of Neil Robertson he now has that crowd breathing down his neck too. It’s still all up in the air and every match in this round bar the two evening ones tomorrow will have a bearing on the final Ally Pally line up with Liang Wenbo and Anthony McGill still uncertain of their starting places and needing results to go their way.

There are just 5 of the current top 16 left in the event which is a new record. The defeats for Barry Hawkins and Luca Brecel yesterday cemented the new age of the numpties and just Ronnie, Higgins, Murphy, Allen and Day are left there, though technically you could argue that Day is actually 17th given we are playing without Stuart Bingham, I’ll leave the official decision to the anoraks on that one.

Anyway, here’s the line up for the next 48 hours. Outright pick Murphy (25/1) is still in there grappling. In terms of fancies in matches they are all so hard to call but given that Dotty has struggled a little with consistency after big wins in the past I think Maguire could win their clash this afternoon. I’d hazard a guess that the increasingly impressive Lyu Haotian will beat Mark Joyce to the delight of Joyce’s mum and it will be interesting to see how Ronnie copes with the speed and tactics of his opponent, who whitewashed Hawkins last night. It’s all up for grabs.

December 1, 2017

UK Championship Last 64 – A weekend in York

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:24 am

The BBC rolls into town on Saturday to pick up the coverage of the UK Championship after the first round has been done and dusted so it’s time to dim the lights, put the fire on and settle down to watch a week of quality snooker as the cold wintry nights take hold. Bliss. 

There have been a couple of big news stories over the first few days, firstly we had the continuing saga of Ding Junhui’s poor run of form. Whether this can be attributed to the problems he has been having with his eyes recently is unclear, but from 5-1 up and coasting he managed to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory and it was Leo Fernandez who booked his place into the second round.

The other big story was none other than Jimmy ‘Whirlwind’ White. The Peter Pan of Snooker rolled back the years to score a famous victory over Ali Carter. It’s amazing to think that Jimmy is still in there punching, I remember as a very young kid absolutely idolising him and crying when he lost the World Championship final in 1984, then a decade later wondering how he missed ‘that black’ against Hendry. To think that today he is still competing and winning at the top level is quite something, he plays Norwegian Cockney Kurt Maflin next on Saturday night.

Other than those, most of the first round matches went according to the seedings, 49 of the 64 highest seeded players won and other than the two matches mentioned, you wouldn’t really class any of the other ones were the lower ranked player came through as a huge shock. Notable mention should also go to Ken Doherty, who has been in good form all season and came through 6-3 against Gary Wilson and now faces Neil Robertson for a place in the Last 32 on Saturday afternoon, with the BBC axing Willie and JV on commentaries for this you’d think they’ll be hoping Kendo doesn’t get much further or the rest of them will be racking up the overtime.

The matches for the weekend are listed below along with match times, recommended bets below. I’m off to York on Sunday so I dare say I’ll be tweeting the usual nonsense while I’m nosing around and getting the usual tellings off behind the scenes. If you’ve nothing better to do, which I’m sure you have, you can follow me on there.

Saturday

Sunday

Recommended Bets: Weekend Monster Acca pays just over 12/1 on Dave Gilbert, Stephen Maguire, Marco Fu, Luca Brecel, Kyren Wilson, Shaun Murphy, John Higgins, Anthony McGill, Martin Gould and Barry Hawkins. Doubles, Trebles and an Acca (Acca pays over 23/1) on Lyu Haotian, Jack Lisowski, Alan McManus and Jamie Jones. Singles on Mitchell Mann (4/1) and Chris Wakelin (6/1).

November 29, 2017

UK Championship: Thursday in York

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:21 pm

It’s been a decent start on the betting front to the UK Championship with the longer matches feeling far more in my comfort zone when it comes to the trademark accumulators.

I think the temptation sometimes in these events is just to lump in the top players in these multiple bets regardless of any other factors and usually, I guess, that would work over the longer format, but I’m glad I dodged Ding Junhui. His price was ridiculously short given his recent eye problems and the swerve paid off. I have got a couple of wily old punters that can vouch for me being uncharacteristically wise before the event on that one if anyone thinks I’m just crowing….as if I would?

Similarly, it’s really not worth putting any potentially banana-skinny players on your accas at silly odds-on prices (anything over around 1/7) at this stage, even if they do romp home against opponents who could probably turn them over one in ten times over a best of seven. The days of 16-folds on the first round of the snooker as a banker are I’m afraid, long gone.

I’ve kicked off my own acca tonight by including John Astley to beat Scott Donaldson to double the stake/odds on the one below but in terms of a recommended I’d stick with the ones listed. I might bash a few odds and sods on Twitter over the next few days if anyone is bored enough to follow me on there. 

Recommended Mini-Monster SB Acca Bet for Thursday pays 11/2 with Marathon Bet: Dave Gilbert, Graeme Dott, Mark Williams, Alan McManus, Ali Carter, Chris Wakelin and Michael Holt.   

Hold on to your Hats: Crazy Snooker Returns!

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:05 am

Having already witnessed some crazy action on the table in Day 1 with the exit of Ding Junhui, it seems timely to once again touch base with those wacky dudes at the championship sponsors Betway, who have again been subjecting a few of our potters to their Crazy Snooker antics ahead of the big event after the success of their campaign last year which stacked up more than 500k views online in just a few days. Does that count as viral?

They promise that this year’s offering is bigger and better and, wait for it, CRAZIER!! than ever before. It’s so crazy that they have even enlisted Dennis and JP to have a go alongside established and very non-crazy tour players Neil Robertson and Kyren Wilson. Neil returns to the scene of his bitter defeat last year to serial winner Mark Selby to try and go one better in a doubles match with Kyren’s help.

It’s yet to be confirmed whether Barry Hearn is considering granting this event ranking status, but it’s probably more entertaining than the Shootout so it wouldn’t be that controversial would it? Anyway, for all you crazy dudes out there, have a watch, can the Legends outgun the tour players? Can Neil reverse his harrowing defeat of last year? Can Dennis, in his element being able to finally talk about golf with good reason, resist the urge to name drop his famous and long dead golf pals or mention Cliff Thorburn flying in first-class?

All will be revealed below in this belting two-parter, with guffaws aplenty. Those crazy guys…..

November 27, 2017

UK Championship: Solid Selby can Reign Supreme

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:25 am

It’s that time of year again, the time when the BBC vans rock up to the snooker and declare that there’s not really been much happening on the baize since Hazel and the gang left us in Sheffield. Yes, it’s the first ‘major’ event of the season in York as this fantastic city opens it’s doors to the anoraks once again for the UK Championship.

It’s no secret that some snooker fans, myself included, would rather this be a bit more like it used to be, two session matches throughout, not as many players at the venue and a maximum of two tables in use. 

I’d say that from the purists point of view, what Bazza has done to this event represents one of his very few mistakes since assuming his dictatorship. It just doesn’t feel as prestigious as it used to, but it’s still a lot better than most of the other events on the calendar and the host city is fabulous so I’ll just leave my annual gripe parked there.

Mark Selby returns as defending champion, last year his victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final marks the last meeting between the pair, who can theoretically meet again at the business end if their form holds up, they start understandably as joint favourites to lift the trophy a week on Sunday.

This historic tournament usually sees the cream of the crop rise to the top and in the past decade it has only been won by 2 players, Judd Trump and Ding Junhui, who have not been world champions. In fact, since it was made a ranking event all the way back in 1984, there has only been 1 winner, Stephen Maguire, who has not contested a world championship final, so you’d suspect that the likelihood of a surprise name racing through the field this year is pretty slim. Basically, big names win this.

So other than Selby and Ronnie, who comes into this in fine fettle? Well, you’d have to give Shaun Murphy a chance after his performance in Coventry and in particular the way he dispensed with O’Sullivan in the final. I’m quite surprised to see him as long as 25/1 in places, that could be great value. Judd Trump, despite his show of petulance in Belfast in losing to Stuart Carrington, is in decent form and is overdue a major win, it’s also a big tournament for Neil Robertson, whose Masters chances depend on a decent run and other results going his way. John Higgins is also as dependable as ever and the longer matches we know will suit him.

Ding Junhui is an interesting proposition in this, he’s been having some serious problems with his eyes recently so it will be interesting to see if he is fully over this following a truly awful display in Coventry a couple of weeks ago, Northern Ireland winner Mark Williams has his own issues back home and it remains to be seen if he can retain his form and his focus in this, the man he beat in the final, 17 year old Yan Bingtao could theoretically break the pattern of an established player making off with the title as could Luca Brecel but you have to say that history is stacked against that happening. Other possible outsiders might include former finalist Mark Allen, Kyren Wilson, Barry Hawkins and Ali Carter, but you really have to fancy one of the big boys to land the spoils and this is of course reflected in the outright market, with the possible exception of that price on Murphy which really has to be taken even without looking at the draw.

Recommended Outrights: Mark Selby at 5/1. Each Way on Shaun Murphy at 25/1. Each Way on Ali Carter at 80/1. Each Way on Anthony McGill at 125/1.

Recommended Tuesday and Wednesday First Round Monster Acca: Ryan Day, Marco Fu, Kyren Wilson, Stephen Maguire, Ricky Walden, Luca Brecel, Anthony McGill, Hossein Vafaei, Jimmy Robertson, Shaun Murphy pays over 6/1 at Marathon Bet.           

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

The BBC’s coverage of the event gets under way on Saturday.

November 20, 2017

Northern Ireland Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:02 am

Belfast plays host this week to the Northern Ireland Open, the second leg of the Home Nations Series which sees last week’s winner in Shanghai, Ronnie O’Sullivan continue his unlikely quest towards snatching Bazza’s million pound bonus.

It’s back to the old PTC format, numpties and all, for this one so it’s not a tournament I’m that excited about. Interest will obviously increase if Ronald manages to win it and go half way towards the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But my focus lies in what follows, namely the UK Championship which kicks off next week in York, but for those interested in a best of seven conveyor belt style event the matches are listed here and you can enjoy it all to your heart’s content on Eurosport and on Quest. 

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