Snookerbacker

February 24, 2020

The Players Championship

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:00 am

Full of old people and Tories

Tonight sees the start of the Coral Players Championship from the new venue of the Waterfront in cultural metropolis of Southport in Merseyside and it’s the top 16 from the one year list competing for a total prize pot of £385,000, all covered by the excellent team at ITV4.

The Hitman Michael Holt stole the last place in this from Ronnie O’Sullivan by winning the Shootout and this means Ronnie won’t be in competitive action again until he steps out at The Crucible in April, assuming that he doesn’t make the trip to Gibraltar in a couple of weeks time and decides that he is going to play in Sheffield.

As well as being worth watching as it’s on ITV, this event also sees a return to the Best of 11 format so it’s a little bit like The Masters in that respect, albeit starting out with the two tables. Following this there will just be the Gibraltar Open and the 8 player Tour Championship to go before all eyes turn to Sheffield for the showpiece of the year, the current seedings for which can be found here.

Here’s the draw for this week. The bets listed below are just for interest at half decent prices but I actually think this one will probably go to form and Judd and Robbo will probably meet in the final, which itself is available at 5/1.      

(1) Judd Trump v Michael Holt (16) – Tuesday February 25 at 7pm

(8) John Higgins v Graeme Dott (9) – Tuesday February 25 at 1pm

(5) Ding Junhui v Stephen Maguire (12) – Monday February 24 at 7pm

(4) Mark Selby v Mark Williams (13) – Monday February 24 at 7pm

(3) Neil Robertson v Joe Perry (14) – Tuesday February 25 at 1pm

(6) Yan Bingtao v Kyren Wilson (11) – Tuesday February 25 at 7pm

(7) Mark Allen v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (10) – Wednesday February 26 at 1pm

(2) Shaun Murphy v David Gilbert (15) – Wednesday February 26 at 1pm

RECOMMENDED BETS: Stephen Maguire each way at 66/1, Dave Gilbert each way at 28/1. 35/1 on there being at least one century in every match.

   

February 20, 2020

Race to The Crucible

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:00 pm

It won’t be long

Hello all, long time no see. As you will have probably gathered, blogging is now something of a come and go kind of pastime to me these days and I’m not planning on reviving the glory days any time soon. But I’m hanging on to this shrinking corner of the information superhighway for now for when the whim takes me to put virtual pen to virtual paper.

One thing that is guaranteed to whet my appetite however is the World Championship and with the cancellation of the China Open I’m hoping that the draw for the qualifiers will be made a bit earlier this year to really give us a chance to have a good old study. The qualifiers remains one of the best events of the whole season and this year with the return to the tiered system it promises to be a bit different and in my view also a bit fairer on those ranked just outside the top 16 who have worked hard to be where they are all season. 

I’ve already had a few bets which I will list at the foot of this post, one of them is a bet I requested from Ladbrokes which reflects my current thinking on what might happen in April and May, in that I believe The Curse will rear it’s ugly head again and that we might see another year where perhaps the two finalists aren’t plucked from the top of the betting market.

As ever the crucial element of all bets is the draw which is why I’d never commit to backing the winner until we know the 32 players and where they line up in the draw, so as usual, I’ll be updating the field below after each of the 4 remaining tournaments ahead of the qualifiers to show how they would line up where it to start tomorrow.

I’ll firm up those whose position in the draw is certain in red. You can find the provisional rankings ahead of the big one

, with the Coral Tour Championship being the last tournament the players will have to jostle for their place in the top 16 ahead of the qualifiers starting on the 8th April.

First Round as things stand

Judd Trump (1) v Qualifier

Joe Perry (16) v Qualifier

Shaun Murphy (9) v Qualifier

Kyren Wilson (8) v Qualifier

Ronnie O’Sullivan (5) v Qualifier

Jack Lisowski (12) v Qualifier

Stuart Bingham (13) v Qualifier

John Higgins (4) v Qualifier

Mark Williams (3) v Qualifier

Stephen Maguire (14) v Qualifier

Dave Gilbert (11) v Qualifier

Mark Allen (6) v Qualifier

Mark Selby (7) v Qualifier

Ding Junhui (10) v Qualifier

Barry Hawkins (15) v Qualifier

Neil Robertson (2) v Qualifier

Bets placed so far: All Each Way – Dave Gilbert at 45/1, Graeme Dott at 190/1, Gary Wilson at 130/1, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh at 190/1, Stephen Maguire at 100/1. Special Bet: Trump, Selby, O’Sullivan or Robertson not to make the final at 19/4. 

January 19, 2020

The Masters Final

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:36 am

We meet again

They have been turf war rivals since they were juniors in Essex and today on the second biggest stage of all the two forty-somethings clash for the right to be crowned Masters Champion on the first year of a new decade.

Ali Carter and Stuart Bingham may not have been the names most were expecting to be lining up today (although ahem, I did advise Stuart as a decent each way bet in the original preview) but it’s still a scintillating prospect of a final for all sorts of reasons.

Ali of course shouldn’t even really be playing and has taken full advantage of the generous Christmas present afforded to him by Ronnie O’Sullivan’s decision not to play, I wonder how The Rocket is feeling now about that knee-jerk reaction given that the overall feel of the week has been very much the type of showpiece tournament he professes to love and in which he usually thrives? I’d hazard a guess that he won’t be missing next year.

Stuart has his eye on leg two of the triple crown having won the world but never the UK and the similarity of this run to his world championship win is not lost on snooker fans. At The Crucible too his previous record before going all the way was pretty woeful and he’s turned his previous Masters disasters on their head this week having been beaten first round eight times in nine appearances.

I’m not going to predict a result, I just hope it’s a decent spectacle to finish off what has been an entertaining week. If not the best standard of snooker overall, with only 15 centuries up to now, we have seen it has certainly served up several moments of drama.

Just a note that both players are yet to make a century in the tournament and I think if the winner were to keep that statistic it would be a major first in the modern game and something of a 21st century Perrie Mans tale, who famously won The Masters back in 1979 with a highest break of just 48. Quite amazing JV.

So let the Essex turf war commence, will be Ali’s Pally or Ballrun’s second crown? You can take a look at the dead level head to head record here. 

January 18, 2020

The Masters Semi Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:44 am

Do you remember the first time?

It may not be the line up that anyone was expecting but we still have a great weekend of snooker ahead of us at Ally Pally in what has been one of the strangest Masters tournaments of recent years.

The new set-up has been almost unanimously praised by the players and fans and it really feels now that this is a huge occasion again. I have always thought that this was the one to win after the World Championship and I think this week and the changes that have been made have cemented that reputation, so much so that I’m already looking forward to next year and possibly a trip to ‘that London’ to bag me a sofa.

Coupled with this overall feel in terms of tournament ranking lists is the downgrading of the UK Championship format which I hope will be the next thing to be looked at. Let’s get back to the last week being two session matches from the Last 32 onwards rather than this car boot sale feel with multiple tables, it would bring back the prestige to the event, much like the tweaks to this have done. Personally I don’t even think the UK is third in the rankings anymore, such is the extent to which the new format has ruined it.

I particularly like the new graphics that are being used this week and the montages made for each individual player based mostly on their nickname, but god knows what they are going to do if Ricky ‘I haven’t got a nickname’ Walden ever qualifies again. He’ll probably just have a big RW behind him as nicknames are forwarded and rejected by a panicked Rob Walker and the BBC nickname department. Fingers crossed that Ricky continues to operate outside of the upper echelons of the sport.

The sofas are innovative and I think definitely suit the arena, luckily the tournament is scheduled to coincide with a DFS sale, Bazza as ever doesn’t miss a trick. I’m less keen however on the bar at the top and a few people have commented that it’s not really sound proofed and can get a bit shouty as the free bar flows. I’m not a fan of all this corporate hospitality stuff and in my experience it is usually full of freeloading arseholes, usually rich (financially, definitely not intellectually), who are rude to the serving staff, but if that’s the way things are going then so be it. Give me the hushed tones of The Crucible any day of the week. Quiet please. 

Anyway, we’ve all got a semi on today so who is your winner from here?       

Shaun Murphy v Ali Carter (1pm Saturday)

Controversy overshadowed Ali Carter’s quarter final win over John Higgins, a win he somehow achieved by only making one break over 50 in the match. It’s clear that a lot of people on social media just don’t like Ali these days and decided that because of this, he cheated. This is quite a childish and simplistic way to approach things in my opinion and my guess is that if it had been a player they liked they’d have formed a different opinion, I prefer to judge the situation rather than the person in it. I’m of the belief that Ali obviously believed he’d made contact with the yellow ball and therefore immediately corrected the referee, who really should have taken one of two options at that point, either stand her ground or ask for a second opinion from the second referee (who arguably could have intervened to offer support), but it’s such an intense atmosphere out there especially for a referee relatively new to this type of occasion and who prior to this I have to say has been faultless. People are people and we all make errors of judgement, even I did that once. Whatever the outcome, I don’t think this affected the result either way and Carter is here because he won 6 frames and Higgins won 3. Murphy has been very workmanlike so far, nothing fancy but doing enough and clearly reaping the rewards of the hard hours on the practice table over the festive season while everyone else was getting trousered. Ali holds a slight advantage in the head to heads and I know that Murphy is a player he likes playing as almost inevitably you are going to get chances throughout the match. But if he doesn’t up his scoring in this, which I suspect he will, there is only one result. Murphy has that swagger about him this week and looks fully zoned in so I think he’ll just have a bit too much for Ali in the scoring department in this one, he’d still be my pick for the title at this stage.

Prediction: Murphy 6-4   

Dave Gilbert v Stuart Bingham (7pm Saturday)

Well, there is a head to head record to sit up and take notice of. These two have played each other ten times and Bingham has won every single time yet it is his opponent who starts this match as marginal favourite. It’s not even as if you can explain this away by saying that lots of these matches came at a time when Dave Gilbert wasn’t as good as he is now, Bingham clearly has his measure and that alone should really be enough to cast the form book aside and absolutely lump on the Essex man. There is no doubt that Dave is enjoying his debut at Ally Pally and his clinical scoring is seeing him establish unassailable leads against players who have traditionally been a notch ahead of him in the rankings, he’ll have to do the same again tonight you feel against a player who is slowly finding his touch and is now further in this than he has ever been before. I tipped up Stuart to reach the final in the original preview by virtue of what I considered to be a generous draw and I’m going to stick with him solely because of that head to head. If he could set up a final against Murphy it could be the biggest grudge match Ally Pally has ever seen.

Prediction: Bingham 6-3

January 16, 2020

The Masters Quarter Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:10 am

After a first round full of surprises it’s time to move on to the last eight, the matches are covered below and if you click on the match it will take you to a magical place full of statistics for your inner anorak.

Shaun Murphy v Joe Perry (Thursday 1pm)

Plenty were expecting this to be a showdown between the Current World and UK Champions but Shaun and Joe had other ideas. Murphy looked as sharp as a tack in dispensing with Judd, he said afterwards that he’d only had Christmas Day off the table in the break and missed lots of family functions to practice, so there is a lesson to us all, it is clearly worth falling out with all your nearest and dearest over Christmas to get results. Joe was cool as the proverbial cucumber in his clinical dismantling of Ding, who apart from a 135 break in the second frame looked back to the Ding we knew and didn’t love before the UK, in other words, distinctly average. If you take out a couple of best of three framers these two have played which Joe won you will deduce that The Gent has only beaten Murphy once in 7 meetings and a head to head like that may play a part in the final outcome. For me Murphy may just have the edge here but I expect a high quality encounter between two players who have been there and bought the waistcoat. Murphy has a great chance to reach the final now the draw has opened up and it won’t have escaped him, I’d make him favourite for The Masters now.

Prediction: Murphy 6-3       

Ali Carter v John Higgins (Thursday 7pm)

These two went through a phase a couple of seasons back where they seemed to be meeting every other week and when you look at the head to heads they have locked horns many times over the years, more so than some players who have been in the highest ranks over the same period. Quite amazing JV. It has to be said that on the big stage Higgins has a decent advantage over Ali. Both you could argue are possibly past their best these days but the competitive spirit never dies and you won’t find many players with more of that than this pair. Higgins beat some bloke doing a poor impersonation of Barry Hawkins in the first round and looked OK, if a little shaky on the long ones. Ali used a Mark Selby fist-pump to inspire him to turn the tables on The Jester in the first round and is looking to make the semi-finals for the very first time in his career. I think this is a tough call, particularly if Carter gets an early lead. I suspect that whoever is ahead after five frames may kick on and win, but who?

Prediction: Higgins 6-4   

Dave Gilbert v Stephen Maguire (Friday 1pm)

Come on then, how well did Dave Gilbert play on his Masters debut? Perhaps because his wife Abbie was nearby on the sofa, presumably with a nice glass of something he might have just felt like he was practising at home, whatever it was he took to the Ally Pally like a racist to Brexit and if he reproduces that performance for the rest of the week he should really win this, what a sporting moment that would be. Maguire produced the mother of all comebacks against Robbo and left the stunned Aussie shell-shocked. Clearly Maguire has been knuckling down lately in practice and is reaping the rewards in the big events following his UK final appearance. As ever with this tournament it’s how they turn up and play on the day, if they both play their best we are in for an absolute classic and if that is the case get on the overs on the centuries. I’m plumping for Dave to win a classic because I kinda love the guy.

Prediction: Gilbert 6-5   

Kyren Wilson v Stuart Bingham (Friday 7pm)

Two of the more assured performances without the bells and whistles saw Kyren survive an early Jack Lisowski onslaught to win six on the spin and Stuart dominate after the mid-session interval to send Mark Williams packing. What strikes me most about this match up is what I’d say is an unlikely head to head record and whenever I see that I have to take it into account. Ballrun has only beaten Kyren once, albeit convincingly in their six meetings and given the vast gulf in experience between the pair I find that quite surprising. There is no doubt that Kyren raises his game to another level in the big events and the way he coolly dealt with Jack when he could easily have lost his head early on was testament to that. Stuart has a woeful record at The Masters, similar to the one he had at The Crucible before he lifted the trophy, could that be an omen? I did tip up Stuart in the main preview though I admit I wasn’t aware then that Kyren has something of a hold on him, but given Ballrun has hammered him once on the big stage, I’m sticking with the big man.

Prediction: Bingham 6-4 

January 9, 2020

The Masters Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:30 pm

The World Champion and defending Master is back.

Sunday afternoon sees the start of the snooker showpiece of the winter as we all settle down to watch The Masters from Alexandra Palace in London, which isn’t really a palace but let’s not dwell on such things when we have sixteen of the best players on the planet competing for the top prize.

Much will be made of the absence of Ronnie O’Sullivan and my guess is that knowing him, he’ll find a way to grab a headline or two over the course of the week just to make sure we haven’t forgotten that he’s letting them all win by not coming. It’s a shame that he isn’t playing and I have to say when he said earlier on in the season that he’d not play in the UK, this or the World Championship I thought this was the one he was least likely to swerve, but he’s full of surprises is our Rocket.

Anyway, as we all know, he’s not the best anymore and Judd Trump is back to the scene of his triumph last year ahead of his World Championship procession to defend his title. As ever, it’s not necessarily the holder who plays in the opening match anymore and Judd fans will have to wait until Tuesday to see their hero, with newly crowned UK Champion Ding Junhui facing Joe Perry in this year’s BBC Sunday afternoon delicacy.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at what the first four days have to offer up. Click on the match to take you to the head to head record as well as other anoraky facts and stats at Cue Tracker.

Top Half

Judd Trump v Shaun Murphy (Tuesday January 14 at 1pm)

An unlikely UK Championship exit at the hands of Nigel Bond put paid to Judd’s attempt to hold the UK, Masters and World Championship trophies in his cabinet at home the other side of Christmas. But his run from the start of the season to that defeat was very strong and you could argue that he was overdue a careless one. After his disastrous season last year, Murphy came firing out of the blocks to claim the China Championship at the start of the season just after a narrow defeat to Ronnie in Shanghai’s final, so his work over the closed season with Chris Henry has clearly reaped the rewards. Judd dished out a drubbing in their last meeting in the final of the International Championship and holds a narrow advantage in the head to heads. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to his defeat in York, whether it signals the start of a quiet period leading up to his defence in Sheffield or whether it will simply motivate him to recapture his best, it’s a real test for him this and I can see this being a tight one.

Recommended Bet: Over 9.5 Frames at 11/8 with Hills.     

Ding Junhui v Joe Perry (Sunday January 12 at 1pm)

The curtain raiser at Ally Pally on that cosy Sunday afternoon with Hazel and the gang is traditionally a match I tend to win money on. I don’t even usually look at the players in any great depth, don’t even glance at the head to heads, I don’t ask what the form book says, I don’t question whether one of them can bully the other in the scoring or tactical department, I merely back over 9.5 frames and have a punt on a decider. It’s amazing how many times this materialises. So, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  

Recommended Bets: Over 9.5 frames at 5/4. Match to go to a decider at 7/2.  

Mark Selby v Ali Carter (Sunday January 12 at 7pm)

Of all the people that Ali Carter would not have expected a Christmas present from it’s Ronnie, but that is precisely what he was given when O’Sullivan announced he wasn’t playing here so the World Number 17 takes his place in the tournament to face the three times Masters champion, who for one reason or another, hasn’t really done much in this since his last final in 2014, never progressing beyond the Quarter Finals since then. Selby has an extremely good record over Ali, the last time they met was at The Crucible back in 2014, in a match I watched from beginning to end from the press seats, it was a masterclass from Selby in keeping your opponent at arms length on his way to the title. Ali has only won 2 matches in The Masters in his whole career and sometimes I suppose a venue, or a feel of an event can do that, with that in mind, you’d have to fancy the in-form Jester to prevail here and perhaps recapture his best form on the BBC.

Recommended Bet: Selby -1.5 frames at 8/13 generally  

John Higgins v Barry Hawkins (Tuesday January 14 at 7pm)

A combined total of 50 years in the professional game between these two and surprisingly in all that time they have only met 10 times. Quite amazing JV. As you’d expect, Higgins has the upper hand but they have had two close battles in their most recent encounters with Barry most recently winning a decider in Shanghai. For a player of Higgins pedigree you could argue that his Masters haul of two titles is something of an underachievement and he’s made no secret of the fact that this isn’t a favourite venue of his. Barry has done OK here without setting the place alight and does tend to be a bit in and out just lately, with Higgins having had the best season of the two so far. I’m sensing that Higgins is beginning to just lose a little bit of the magic, particularly in his long game, but he obviously remains as tough as teeth to beat. This is another that I can see coming right down to the wire, possibly even the last few colours to decide who progresses, it just has that feel about it to me.

Recommended Bets: Over 9.5 frames at 11/10. Match to go to a decider at 10/3.     

Bottom Half

Neil Robertson v Stephen Maguire (Monday January 13 at 1pm)

The first thing that struck me when I looked at the head to head stats between these was the lead Maguire has; ‘have I missed something here?’ I mused, but it turns out that this is mostly attributable to the early days in Robbo’s professional career when Mags was arguably at his career best. Since Robbo became World Champion he’s established a lead in the head to heads between the pair, though Maguire has beaten him at The Masters before and quite convincingly too. The UK Championship to me represented the best chance Mags has had to win a major for a decade and I think part of him will see his defeat to Ding as a chance missed given the way he was playing to get to that stage. His main issue down the years much like Robertson has been consistency and I’m sure both of them would rather have been playing someone else. Robbo is very generously donating stacks of his own money for the centuries made in this event to the Australian bushfire victims and for any of the annual Masters Mugs like me who have a go on a ton in every match, I’d be very surprised if this was the match to let us down.

Recommended Bet: Maguire to make at least 1 century in the match at 11/8 with Marathon Bet.   

Mark Allen v Dave Gilbert (Monday January 13 at 7pm)

It’s great to see Dave Gilbert making his Masters debut after 17 years toiling away on the circuit, his run to the semis and so nearly the final in Sheffield capped off a tremendous season and he’s carrying through some of that form into this one and is now firmly established in the top 16. Mark Allen is always a threat at The Masters and the rowdy nature of the (unknowledgable) Ally Pally rabble seems to be right up the sharp-shooting Pistol’s alley. They’ve not met that often down the years but Allen as you’d expect is ahead on the stats, although their last meeting at the beginning of the season saw Gilbert winning 5-3, a sign that he can now mix it with the best of them. I just feel that a combination of a new venue and the fact that Allen likes it here will see the Northern Irishman over the line with a couple of frames to spare this time.

Recommended Bet: Mark Allen (-1.5 frames) at 20/21 (widely available)     

Kyren Wilson v Jack Lisowski (Wednesday January 15 at 1pm)

The two least experienced players in the line up face each other first up with Lisowski currently enjoying a superior head to head over his more successful opponent. Kyren has been a little subdued by his standards so far this season and hasn’t really troubled the business end of anything so far, other than a World Open semi-final appearance early in the season. He’s also lost quite a few matches to players outside the top 16, more perhaps than any other player here this season, so clearly that’s a concern for his fans. Lisowski, like Kyren, is another who has established himself in the top 16 in a relatively short period of time after a few years of that dreaded tag of being ‘the next big thing’. I think this could get a bit twitchy and I can’t see either of them running away with it, I also think that if one first round match won’t have a century in it and sends a few of us into therapy again, it is most likely to be this one.

Recommended Bet: Over 9.5 Frames at 6/5 with Hills.

Mark Williams v Stuart Bingham (Wednesday January 15 at 7pm)

The first round concludes with a battle between perhaps the two least likely world champions of the last decade. 52 years between them as professionals and a pretty close head to head to match, heads that incidentally have significantly less hair on them than when they started out. It’s actually quite surprising that they haven’t met more than they have considering they’ve both been in the upper(ish) echelons of the sport for the best part of 20 years, but sometimes that’s one of those strange quirks that snooker throws up. Talking of throwing up, MJW has taken to posting videos of him totally off his trolley over the festive period and if his preparation talk is to be believed he’s not really all that bothered at all about snooker anymore. Yeah Right. That said, I think Bingham is due a run in something and if he can get over this one I think he’ll make the semis and from there anything is possible.

Recommended Bet: Bingham to win at 10/11 (widely available)

Further recommended Bets: Outrights – Mark Selby at 7/1 and Stuart Bingham each way at 25/1

Recommended Treble – Over 9.5 frames in Ding/Perry, Higgins/Hawkins and Wilson/Lisowski pays almost 9/1 at Hills

Annual Masters Mugs Bet (recommended on Twitter last week) – 33/1 on a century in every match at Ladbrokes/Coral (now backed in to 22/1)    

November 25, 2019

Betway UK Championship Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:00 am

Can anyone stop the big two?

It’s that time of year again, it’s time to head to York for the Christmas markets and the UK Championship, it’s also the week where the BBC come to town and pretend that this is the first tournament since The Crucible.

It’s always an exciting time for snooker fans, not only do we have this, but on the other side of the festive season we also have The Masters and a big part of proceedings here will involve players jostling for position and the right to make the top 16 for Ally Pally with only this and the Scottish Open left to go towards rankings.

But the main aim for the potters will be to add a major title to their CV. It’s usually a very familiar face who ends up taking home the trophy and to be honest for me it would be a big surprise if that weren’t to happen again with the big four players Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby all in great form coming into this, indeed each of the last 8 UK Championships have been won by one of those four and I’d say the odds on one of them winning it again would be very short.

There are many diehard snooker fans that bemoan the demise of this event, whether it be the 128 at the venue or the length of the matches, we do tend to hark back to the classic UK Championships in Preston. But I still think this one holds its own as a major, the venue and the city of York are fantastic and although I think they should reinstate the two session semi-finals, the matches are long enough to ensure that generally, the best players last until the end.

So is there anyone outside of the main four mentioned that might have a chance to break their stranglehold on this title? I suppose the first name that springs to mind now outside the top 4 is Mark Allen who is more than capable of raising his game at the highest level as he’s proved by winning The Masters, Shaun Murphy is coming back into form, John Higgins remains a danger but we’re yet to see much this season from the likes of Kyren Wilson or indeed the enigma that is Ding Junhui, who was last seen trying to hit a bulls arse with a shovel and missing, he currently lies 16th in the rankings, only £4000 ahead of Ali Carter so a poor show here will see him bumped out the Masters.

So, lets have a look at the quarters and see if there is anyone lurking within who might upset the odds.

Quarter 1

The defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan heads up the draw and I’d imagine he’s a man with a point to prove following his narrow defeat to Judd Trump in Belfast, meaning that with most bookies, Ronnie is now a firm second favourite. Looking at his draw it looks pretty straightforward up to the last 16 when I’d say he might have a test in the shape of Ali Carter or perhaps Ding Junhui who may end up having a Masters knockout match in the Last 32, but I’d say his main barrier to winning the quarter comes in the shape of Shaun Murphy. Murphy has been impressive since his season to forget last time with a narrow defeat to Ronnie in the Shanghai final and a title of his own at the China Championship, but on balance I think you have to side with Ronnie to at least make the semi-finals this year.

Predicted Quarter Winner: Ronnie O’Sullivan

Quarter 2

This quarter contains the in-form Neil Robertson and John Higgins and they are seeded to meet in the quarter finals here, but there are a few players that may have something to say about that. Higgins has been posting some decent results as ever but for me he’s not quite as clinical as the Higgins of old and I think there are a couple of banana skins facing him here, not least Stuart Bingham who made his sixth career maximum in Belfast and to me looks to be playing very near his best lately. He can negotiate his opening three matches (though Thepchaiya Un-Nooh will prove a test) to set up a meeting with Higgins and if that happens I think he’ll progress further to a possible match up with Robertson in the quarter finals, at the odds on offer and considering he’s playing well I think Bingham is worth an each way bet in this.

Predicted Quarter Winner: Stuart Bingham

Quarter 3

Another wide open section this with the member of the fab four in this one being Mark ‘6 minutes and 13 seconds’ Selby. Other names that might fancy their chances in this section include Mark Williams, Dave Gilbert and Stephen Maguire and there are some fancy prices around in the quarter betting if you don’t fancy Selby to emerge, he’s arguably the most likely of the top four to perhaps slip up in the early stages with Ricky Walden, a player who likes it here, in his mini-section. Although he’s definitely playing better than he was last season, The Jester is still a little inconsistent and for me he’s not a player to be putting the mortgage on this week. If it wasn’t for the fact that he generally runs out of steam in long events I’d quite fancy a punt on Graeme Dott from what I think is a pretty decent section of the draw. Gilbert still seeks his maiden ranking title and what a week this would be to do that, he has to have a decent chance of making at least the semis and from there with his Masters debut surely already in the bag for after Christmas, who knows?

Predicted Quarter Winner: Dave Gilbert

Quarter 4

It’s only November and Judd Trump has already won £412,000 this season, with three ranking titles already won and the first talk in snooker for some time of potential domination of the sport, he’s definitely embraced his World Champion status and is sweeping all before him with some incredible snooker. It’s fair to say that his section of the draw right up to the Last 16 is extremely winnable, even if he isn’t on his A game so it would be a big shock not to see him at the business end of things again. The only threat I can really see to him making the last eight without coming out of first gear is Gary Wilson but you’d not expect Gary to reverse the Crucible semi-final result there. It’s all set up for a quarter final between him and Mark Allen who also has a fairly straightforward route to the last 16, try as I might I can’t see anything other than a Trump/Allen quarter final and I think if there is anyone this week that could possibly spring a surprise on Judd, it’s Allen.

Predicted Quarter Winner: Mark Allen.

Recommended Outright Bets: Mark Allen at 16/1, Stuart Bingham each way at 35/1, Dave Gilbert each way at 50/1, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh each way at 130/1. Allen at 9/2 and Bingham at 8/1 to win their quarter. Quarter 3 winner punts on Graeme Dott at 20/1, Ricky Walden at 25/1. 

You can view the draw here

November 22, 2019

An Interview with a Rocket

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:03 pm

Decided to play here after all

With the Betway UK Championship fast approaching, the sponsors Betway have caught up with the defending champion to talk about stuff, it was probably meant to be focused on the event but as ever with Ronald it kind of veers off into other avenues, although to be fair they do a half decent job of reeling him back in to the matters in hand.

He talks about why last year’s win meant more to him than a lot of his others, what he feels about being compared to other sporting greats and why it’s not the right time to be making comparisons between him and Judd Trump….

Three decades and 72 titles into his professional career, there will be one thing motivating Ronnie O’Sullivan when he pitches up at the York Barbican to defend the Betway UK Championship title.

“Coffee,” O’Sullivan says. “There are some lovely coffee bars up there, there are a couple of fantastic restaurants.”

O’Sullivan is smirking as he says this, but the inference is clear: simply turning up isn’t enough for him anymore. There has to be something more to get him going.

Take winning last year’s UK Championship, which he celebrated with far more gusto than usual, standing on the barriers surrounding the table and lifting the trophy aloft before pouring a bottle of water over his head.

“I was being riled up by the crowd,” says O’Sullivan, who is the second-favourite to defend his title in 2020.

“Obviously, it was an important match and sometimes your emotions overspill.”

“I took quite a bit of stick during the game, which I thought was a bit uncalled for. It became more emotional for me than usual.”

But there was more to it than that.

“I just thought: ‘Two fingers up to you. You’re going to have to watch me celebrate 19 major titles.’”

By winning his 19th Triple Crown event – five World Championships, seven UK Championships and seven Masters titles – O’Sullivan became the most prolific major winner in snooker history, beating Stephen Hendry’s tally of 18.

The record reaffirms what several people already believed, that O’Sullivan is the sport’s greatest ever player.

In a recent Instagram post, the Rocket declared breaking Hendry’s record as “one of my proudest moments as a snooker player…a huge achievement”, seeming to finding a level of satisfaction that generally eludes him.

“It’s the consistency,” O’Sullivan says. “Anything that relates to consistency is pretty cool, and it was done over a long period of time.

“I’ve won a lot of major tournaments with a lot of pressure involved. I think it’s got to be up there with one of the best achievements that anyone can achieve in any sport.”

Reaching the top of your game inevitably results in cross-sport comparisons.

Neil Robertson referred to O’Sullivan as the “Roger Federer of the snooker table, and probably even better than that” in March, a comment that O’Sullivan admitted he was flattered by.

“The best way to be able to judge how your career’s gone is by comparing it to others,” he says.

“I look at Federer and Tiger Woods going for their majors in tennis and golf. They have four majors a year, whereas we have three, but I’ve been going a bit longer, which I suppose makes my record not look so good. I haven’t done the maths.”

Those that have, however, will see that though O’Sullivan has been going longer, his record in majors stands up next to Federer’s and Woods’.

The Rocket has triumphed in 25 per cent of the Triple Crown events he has competed in, winning 19 of 76. Federer pips that record, winning 25.6 per cent of his majors so far, while Woods has won 17.9 per cent of his.

O’Sullivan was comfortably the youngest major winner, too, winning the UK Championship at just 17, whereas Federer and Woods were 22 and 21 respectively.

It’s not hard to see why he has kept pace with such phenomena. The sportspeople he admires most are perfectionists, obsessed with winning, and combine it ruthlessly with their genius talent.

Consequently, O’Sullivan has become more impatient with mediocrity.

“Because I’ve played sport, I look at lesser players in other sports and just see them as the equivalent of someone down the rankings in snooker,” he says.

“I just think: ‘I ain’t got time to watch people like that.’ I want to watch someone who’s doing the business.

“I wouldn’t watch tennis unless it’s Federer, Djokovic or Nadal. I wouldn’t watch football unless Messi’s playing and I wouldn’t watch golf unless it’s Tiger Woods. I switch over to something else.”

Where O’Sullivan doesn’t compare is prize money. His career earnings from snooker sit at £10.9m – a remarkable sum, but one that is dwarfed by Federer’s £103.5m and Woods’ £118.7m.

“Tennis, golf, F1 and football are global sports,” says O’Sullivan. “I’m not stupid, they look totally glamorous.

“Snooker’s appeal is not as great. I get it, but you make the best of what you can do.”

Not a great just yet

The emergence of Judd Trump as a serial winner should boost snooker’s profile, with O’Sullivan now facing a genuine rival in terms of winning trophies and doing so with panache.

Trump wrestled the Masters title off him last January, beating him in the final, before winning the World Championship in May.

But O’Sullivan says it is too early to judge whether Trump can challenge him for the crown of snooker’s GOAT.

“We’re best off having this conversation in 10 years’ time,” he says.

“To be an all-time great you’ve got to do it over 10 to 12 to 15 years. He’s had one good season, and great sportsmen do it for far longer than that.

“He’s a fantastic player and a fantastic talent, but talent will only take you so far. There are a few more ingredients involved.”

For all of his nonchalance, O’Sullivan thinks and speaks like a champion.

After 27 years of walking the walk, it is fair to say he belongs in the company of Federer, Woods and others when it comes to being one, too.

Ronnie was speaking to Betway 

November 19, 2019

WIN! Tickets for the Betway UK Championship!

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:00 am

The team at UK Championship sponsors Betway have been in touch and offered me some tickets to give away for the UK Championship in York this year, so people, it’s competition time.

The tickets on offer are for the evening session of Thursday 5th December at The Barbican, I have two pairs of tickets up for grabs.

Please only enter if you intend to go or know someone that would gladly take them off your hands, they are non-transferable (i.e. you can’t sell them) as it’s names on the Guest List at the door on the night.

HOW TO WIN – GUESS THE WINNERS

The simple task you have in front of you is to simply select the winner of each of these matches, which all take place on the opening day of play, Tuesday 26th November. As a tie break question you should give your estimate of the highest break of the day. In the event of a tie, this will be used to select the winners.

So here are the matches:

HOW TO ENTER:

Tweet your 16 selections with using the hashtag #SBUKtickets and follow this with your highest break of Day 1 guess – example below

 

RULES:

One entry per person.

Entries close the minute the first ball of the day is struck.

In the event of a tie in the predicted match score, those closest to the highest break of the day will win the tickets.

The winners will be decided by me with no arguments.

November 1, 2019

Champion of Champions

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:16 am

You wouldn’t want it in the house

I’ve really not been switched on at all to the snooker so far this season, but with the cold days and nights beginning to bite, I think this week will finally wake me from my slumber as we head to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry for the annual Champion of Champions event, covered by ITV4.

Now usually this corner of the internet would be peppered with childish quips relating to the unfortunate hashtag that this event has afforded itself, largely I’ll confess down to me. Knob gags and frankly juvenile innuendo would be well under way by now, but not this year, oh no, a brave new dawn means that I’m not going to be making any suggestive noises about feeling aroused by the week ahead or looking forward to the climax or anything of the sort. This is serious stuff and will be treated as such by me, no more Mr Smutty. I promise.

I’m really not sure why I’ve not taken any interest in the snooker so far this season, but as winter draws in and the heating goes on I’m hoping that this will bring with it a rebirth of my passion for all things baizey. It has happened to me before actually, I more or less switched off from snooker from around 1997 until I started this website in 2010. During that period I only really bothered with the World Championship and The Masters and even then you’d not find me in an arsedent in the sofa for 17 days in early Springtime. I can’t think what it was that got me back into it but since 2010 I’ve more or less been 24/7 snooker so I suppose I am due a bit of downtime now and then.

I like this event, which is weird really because I shouldn’t. It has best of seven matches, a weird group format for the first few days, far too much lighting and it’s played on what can only be described as an oversized pool table, yet it is one of the events in the calendar that I’ve come to look forward to, possibly because it’s the first of the ITV ones, whose coverage (and adverts for funeral planning) I think is excellent.

In terms of the table, it’s manufactured by Rasson and is probably one of the ugliest tables I have ever clapped eyes on. Despite it’s hideous exterior however it was roundly praised by all who graced it last season with several top players saying they preferred it to the Star Tables used at every other event, so it just goes to show that you shouldn’t always judge a book by it’s cover.

There has already been some controversy in terms of the field this year, at time of writing there is a strong possibility that Jimmy White will be lining up as World Seniors Champion, even though this is not a main tour event, this only won’t happen if Michael Holt wins the World Open, whoever it is will face Ronnie O’Sullivan on Thursday. Less controversially we also welcome Women’s World Champion Reanne Evans to the event and she lines up against Shaun Murphy on the opening Monday.

Anyway, I just thought I’d post something up about this to try and get my interest going again ahead of a few decent events coming up, not least the UK Championship at the end of the month in York which is always a great occasion, I might post a few bets up on Twitter in amongst my political rants and retweets about rescuing dogs and definitely NO smutty knob related snooker gags.

It wouldn’t really be fair of me to post any recommends up as I’ve hardly watched a ball this season but I’ll probably have a crack on Neil Robertson in the outrights as he’s had plenty of time to find his way there having not been playing in China this week. It should be a decent week and I look forward to settling down on the winter weeknights to watch it, there’s nothing like settling down to a bit of CO…..STOP IT. 

The official Champion of Champions website can be found here

CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS DRAW & SCHEDULE

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 4 | GROUP 4
1pm
 | Group Semi-Finals (best of 7)
Neil Robertson vs. Martin Gould

Shaun Murphy vs. Reanne Evans

7pm | Group Final (best of 11)

Robertson/Gould vs. Murphy/Evans

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 5 | GROUP 3
1pm
 | Group Semi-Finals (best of 7)

Mark Selby vs. Yan Bingtao
Mark Allen vs. Matthew Selt

7pm | Group Final (best of 11)

Selby/Yan vs. Allen/Selt

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 6 | GROUP 2
1pm
 | Group Semi-Finals (best of 7)

Judd Trump vs. Stephen Maguire
Kyren Wilson vs Thepchaiya Un-Nooh

7pm | Group Final (best of 11)

Trump/Maguire vs. Wilson/Un-Nooh

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7 | GROUP 1
1pm
 | Group Semi-Finals (best of 7)

Ronnie O’Sullivan vs. Jimmy White 
John Higgins vs. Stuart Bingham

7pm | Group Final (best of 11)

O’Sullivan/White vs. Higgins/Bingham

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8 | Semi-Final
Winner Group 1 vs. Winner Group 4

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9 | Semi-Final
Winner Group 2 vs. Winner Group 3

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10
The Final

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