Snookerbacker

June 5, 2016

Good Week, Bad Week

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:21 am
Happysad

Some left Preston a lot happier than others

The concentration of no fewer than three ranking event qualifying matches in one week in Preston was bound to produce some winners and losers. For some, the first few events are crucial to their chances of staying on the tour and it is precisely these players that would have been looking to hit the ground running in Preston. So who were the biggest winners and losers of the week?

It’s not so much the dosh that those who won all three matches carried off with them, but more the potential this gives them to add to their money pot and in turn move up the rankings when others around them are sat at home. Some who didn’t progress in either the Indian Open, World Open and Riga Masters, will now have all summer to reflect on this, with nothing to play in professionally until the end of August at The Paul Hunter Classic in Germany.

I spoke to a few of the players when I went over to Preston last Sunday and there was mixed views on whether they liked the intensity of playing in three ranking events in the same week, it’s fair to say that most I spoke to didn’t like the format. Personally, I do, but I’m not a player so I’m allowed to. It brings a nice focus to the sport early on in the season and is followed by a break before the tournaments themselves, but you have to feel for those who have gone home potless. I am still not a fan of snooker so early in the season though.

Add to this that World Snooker didn’t release the tour qualification criteria until two of the tournament qualifiers had finished and you have some disgruntled potters on your hands, though no doubt the response from the powers that be, or to be more precise, Barry, would be to shut up and win, then your place looks after itself. He’d then use his line about the sport being brutal no doubt.

Anyway here is a look at the main beneficiaries and the not so fortunate following their week in Lancashire.

WINNERS

It’s been a great week for my mate Allan Taylor who tops the one season ranking list if you sort it by first name (a minor detail) having qualified for all three overseas events, racking up a minimum of £6525 in prize money. It’s great that The Assassin has started the season so positively and I really hope this is the beginning of a great run for him as a nicer fella you could not wish to meet. Other notable names amongst the 17 players to have started the season in style are Kyren Wilson, Luca Brecel, Zhou Yuelong (Ghou Yolonge) and Anthony McGill, who will all be looking to the future with hopes of really making their mark this season, Kyren in particular is only a ranking update or so away from a place in the very elite of the sport. Some established names are there too such as Graeme Dott, Stuart Bingham, Mark Williams, Matthew Stevens, Ryan Day, Mark King and Dark Mavis (Mark Davis). All these players will have left Preston with a smile on their faces after a top weeks work.       

LOSERS

At the other end of the spectrum are those who leave Preston with not a lot to look forward to for the next three months. There are a few in there that you might have predicted would face a stiff challenge but there are others who will leave wondering if they have missed the early season boat, amongst them are Craig Steadman, Scott Donaldson, Paul Davison and Syd Wilson.

Mustard

Mustard

THE IN-BETWEENERS

There will be players who are in neither camp who will still consider the week in Preston to have been largely positive and it is at this point we showcase the Snookerbacker Classic Champion Sam Craigie, who despite missing out on India, managed to take his first big scalp in Ken Doherty to qualify for the World Open, he also qualified for Riga so has already earned at least £4525 which puts him on a par with the likes of Ali Carter, John Higgins, Joe Perry, Judd Trump, Michael Holt and Neil Robertson. Players like Mike Dunn, Peter Ebdon, Stephen Maguire and Marco Fu won’t lose much sleep having qualified for India and China but not Riga, while Shaun Murphy having qualified for India managed to wangle his World Open match against Sanderson Lam being held over to the main venue by virtue of the fact he was getting married. Those probably less satisfied with their week’s work having only qualified for Riga include Chris Wakelin, Tian Pengfei, Ken Doherty, Sean O’Sullivan and Chen Zhe.

THE NO-SHOWS

Ronnie O’Sullivan. Igor Figueiredo. Kritsanut Lertsattayatthorn (That’s easy for you to say…). Rouzi Maimati, Mei Xiwen (both only confirmed as Chinese nominations for the tour this week). Ding Junhui, Liang Wenbo and Aditya Mehta had qualifying matches held over to their respective country events but did not enter either of the other two. Mark Allen also opted out of all three events, despite entering Riga, obviously not realising that the qualifiers would be in Preston, he like me is probably not a big fan of this holiday season snooker.

THE EXCLUDED

Leo Fernandez was suspended and awaits a hearing over an alleged breach of betting regulations relating to a match in the World Championship Qualifiers. World Snooker believe Leo has a ‘case to answer’ in relation to suspicious betting patterns. The incident does not, I believe, relate to the outcome of the match and rather centres around an incident during it.

You can take a look at all early season rankings here.

June 3, 2016

All Change

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:57 am

penWorld Snooker finally revealed their plans for tour qualification yesterday after much hounding by players and fans on social media, after all the season did start last weekend so it would have been a good idea to tell players in advance. It revealed a change to the way players can stay or be promoted on to the main professional circuit next season.

Where once there was the EPTC Order of Merit to pluck 8 players from to remain on the tour, there is now a one season ranking list where the top 8 who aren’t in the top 64 will remain on tour with a fresh 2 year card. Clear? OK we’ll move on to the next one.

Where once there was the EPTC/EBSA Amateur ranking list from the 6 European Tour events, we now have a similar system from the 2 that remain, namely the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany and the Gibraltar Open, in errmm, Gibraltar. The top eight amateurs from this list being forwarded to a play off to play for two tour cards. These are of course open to all nationalities. 

Well, you can probably guess which one of these I am fine with and which one I am not.

You read it correctly. Amateur players in the UK now have to travel to Germany and Gibraltar to stand any chance, outside of Q-School, of turning professional. The last two seasons have been a feast for the amateurs though very costly, this season we are entering the famine, which also doesn’t come cheap.

You may remember that last week myself and Shaun Murphy announced our proposal for the future of the amateur game, it was read by over 30,000 people and even picked up coverage on the BBC. It was met with overwhelming positivity by a sometimes sceptical snooker community and discussions between the WPBSA, World Snooker, Shaun and I have been going on in the background.

I’m not stupid enough quite yet to spit the dummy out, there is nothing to suggest that we still might not be able to do something for the amateurs this season, outside of a scaled down Snookerbacker Classic. But with news yesterday of another 2 main tour nominations being given to China, in addition to the IBSF nominations and the tour cards for the Asian Champion and Asian Under-21 Champion, I do have to ask why the same cannot be extended to the UK, where the sport is as popular as ever amongst amateur players and let’s face it, the standard is higher than all other areas outside Asia, for now at least.

Like I say, discussions are ongoing, some more positive than others. But at least now the alternative for amateurs is out in the open and up for discussion. If you are a promising young player or even one of the many that have been steadily improving over the last few years thanks to the EPTC circuit and feel ready to take that next step up into the professional game, as things stand your options this season are limited to three competitions. That’s a pretty grim prospect for the new breed of budding professionals and a serious worry for the future of the sport in the UK, you can’t build a house on shaky foundations.  

With this in mind and the World Snooker masterplan now revealed, I wonder, can they really afford to close the door on our proposal?

May 26, 2016

Qualifying Week in Preston

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:13 am

PrestonThe Guild Hall in Preston was once synonymous with top level snooker. It was the home of the Coral UK Championship in the golden years and has hosted some of snooker’s most epic matches. Unfortunately since those days it’s been mothballed by the snooker world and the ghosts of those great matches left to hang in the air. But this week, after a brief revisit over the last couple of seasons, snooker is back at its old stomping ground for a cluster of three qualifying events.

We won’t be seeing quite the level of excitement of those bygone days, indeed it is unfortunate for me to report that unless you sign up for a bookies account, you won’t be able to see anything at all given that Livesport is no more and we’re yet to be given a replacement, which is what I thought all the champagne flowing at The Crucible was all about when Barry reeled out Eurosport? Maybe I missed the point on that one.

Anyway, the three events that are playing their first round matches from Saturday onwards are the Indian Open (Best of 7’s – boooo) which has a large number of Q-School top-ups making up the first round, The World Open (Best of 9’s – yay) and The Riga Masters (Best of 7’s – boooboooboooo).

It’s a novel approach to the qualifiers lumping them together like this but I think it makes perfect sense and really makes it quite an exciting start to the season. Those who win all their three qualifying matches will feel a lot better about the weeks ahead than those who lose all three. Just bear this in mind, if anyone does lose all three, which I am sure some will, they will not be playing competitively again until the end of August – 3 months from their last match, that’s some gap in their season and perhaps the dawn of a new era without the EPTC’s which used to provide such an effective filler – are we missing them already? I know the amateurs are. 

Preston is also a chance for the new professionals to test themselves for the first time, among them the SB Classic Champion Sam Craigie, who I think will ruffle a few feathers this season, he starts out against David Grace in the Indian qualifier.

It’s just a shame that a lot of people won’t be able to watch these.

If you are in the area you can always pop over with your fiver and go in and watch it live of course. There are plenty of reasons to, as almost every session will have a top player in action somewhere or other. I’m popping over there on Sunday for a watch so will report back with my view of how it is all set up. It will be a far cry from when I used to go to the UK Finals as Nipperbacker I would think, the place was electrifying then and clouded in smoke, I think Sunday will be a little more sedate than that, but not too much more I hope.

The draw for the Indian Open is here.

The draw for the World Open is here.

The draw for the Riga Masters is here.

The format of the matches including the ones that you can watch on the bookie sites is here.

There are so many matches I don’t really know where to start with a bet but might post up a few as the week goes on.   

May 23, 2016

A Decent Proposal

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:51 am
The proposal has some serious backing.

The proposal has some serious backing.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will probably not have failed to notice that it’s that time of the year again where I come up with some idea or other for the year ahead, or in this case, a few years ahead. Just last week myself and none other than former World Champion Shaun Murphy submitted a proposal to the WPBSA designed to revolutionise amateur snooker in the UK and Europe for many years to come.

Amateur players that I speak to are concerned at the lack of events that they have to play in next season. The removal of the EPTC tour will hit them hardest and with no sign as yet of any tour cards being offered for an alternative amateur circuit it seems that as things stand the only option available will be Q-School, which is quite a long way off.

That is why I decided to write down a plan together with Shaun for consideration. Shaun is looking to put together a Junior Series, as part of the main proposal. His plan is to stage a series of Junior events with the winner receiving a year’s worth of coaching and mentoring from him, as well as free entry for the following season onto the main amateur tour.

Shaun says ‘The aim of the Junior Series will be to encourage participation amongst juniors of all abilities and to find the next stars of the future. When I competed as a junior and thanks to Malcolm Thorne, we had junior events week-in week-out and the standard of play rose because of that. I want to see that return and go further by offering The Shaun Murphy Scholarship which will take the winner of the series and give them a year of tuition with myself and entry onto the amateur tour, worth £1000, similar to the Faldo Series in golf’.

The main tour itself will be not dissimilar to the current professional tour. There will be 10 monthly events, each charging an entry fee of £100 and each with a prize money pot of at least £6000, with the winner of each event receiving £2000 and each stage below half of that, down to the losers in the last 16 who will each get £125. So in all we’d have an amateur tour with a total prize fund of at least £60,000 and the potential for lots of players to earn a decent slice of that.

The 10 events would be staged across the UK and Mainland Europe at suitable venues. Venues with space, but perhaps lacking the quality of tables would be encouraged to bid for funding to upgrade their facilities.

All events would count towards a season-long money list, from which the top two players would gain a main tour card. With those ranked 3-18 playing off in a 16 player tournament for a further main tour card. The tour would be open to all players, regardless of nationality.

Both Shaun and myself see this as a workable model for the future of amateur snooker and we are both keen to get going. It will take some time to come into action and if accepted we could see it starting in time for season 2017/18. Interim arrangements for this new season would have to be discussed if this proposal is accepted.

We welcome any comments about this from players and public alike. We’ve had messages of support from a lot of people in the snooker world and we really appreciate that. Our aim is to professionalise the amateur game and have a structure that gets amateurs playing highly competitive snooker regularly, this of course would be supplemented by existing competition like the national amateur championships and the pro-ams and amateur tournaments that are run regularly by David Grace in Leeds and Andrew Norman in Gloucester.

The Snookerbacker Classic

Obviously if this proposal is accepted, the SB Classic will have served its purpose and will either cease to be or be run in a very small window. This season, I have decided to scale it back a little and will be releasing dates for 4 qualifying events, all to be held in Gloucester soon. These will be 32 player events with 4 qualifiers to the Grand Finals from each, making up the 16, the entry fee will rise to £100 per event. Prize money will be dependent on sponsorship but I will be looking to award the winner at least the equivalent £3000 that Sam Craigie won last season, hopefully more than that. More news on that will follow soon. I have also asked the WPBSA if this year’s winner can have an extra incentive and I am waiting to hear back from them on that. 

May 10, 2016

Join The Q – Q School Commences

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:14 am
It's back to school for the potters.

It’s back to school for the potters.

All eyes from tomorrow focus on the Meadowside Centre in Burton as a total of 182 amateur players line up to try and nab one of the twelve remaining tour cards on offer via the annual Q-School.

Apparently the decision to offer four further cards on top of the usual eight was taken ‘because of the demand and high number of entries’ this year. This does strike me as a little odd as surely there was an agreed criteria and structure in place for qualification onto the main tour before entries were opened up? It just makes me wonder where these magical four extra places came from and where/who will lose out as a result? That’s not really been made very clear, as hasn’t the offerings for amateurs next season other than the odd vague response to a tweet.

Anyway, there are plenty of familiar names competing including some of the former professionals that fell off the tour this season, among them are the likes of Tony Drago, Gerard Greene, Cao Yupeng, Barry Pinches, Joel Walker, Craig Steadman (who incredibly qualified to play Ronnie at The Crucible only 12 months ago and now finds himself here) and Peter Lines.

They will be competing against the top amateur players in the sport, many of whom will be familiar both from the EPTC circuit and the Snookerbacker Classic. This season’s SBC runner-up and subsequent English Amateur Champion Jamie Bodle, as well as semi-finalists Jamie Clarke and Gary Thomson and former champion Ant Parsons are all in the mix along with a host of other SBC regulars.

It’s a tough school out there and as ever the four semi-finalists from the two events get their two year card, in addition this year the four highest on the ongoing Order of Merit list over the two events will join them on the main tour, a point is scored on this list for every frame won.

It’s a shame none of the bookies have priced any qualification market up as it would have made it more interesting for us neutral observers, but the best of luck to all involved, especially the ones I have got to know well over the last few years.

The draw for Event 1 is here and Event 2 here.

May 3, 2016

Until next season….

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:00 pm

The season is now officially over and seeing as the running order for next season, which begins next week with Q-School), isn’t yet available on the official website, here’s a photograph of the banner from the Winter Gardens for anyone who plans their life around snooker, like anyone is that sad….

See you all on the other side and thanks for continuing to tune in, the site has had nearly 65,000 visitors over the last 17 days, you really ought to find something better to do.

Calendar

World Champion and Runner Up Interviews

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:22 am

It’s the end of another long season and time for a short break before it all kicks off again. Congratulations to Mark Selby who thoroughly deserved the win over Ding last night. Here is what they both had to say after the match.

Mark Selby, 2016 World Champion

Ding Junhui, Runner Up

May 1, 2016

The World Championship Final: Ding Junhui v Mark Selby

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:19 am
Let Battle Commence

Let Battle Commence

Another World Championship draws to a close and no doubt lots of snooker nuts will be a bit depressed on Tuesday morning when it’s all over for another year. But before then, there is the small matter of who will be our champion to decide. Will it be China’s glory year or can Leicester look to bag a champion’s double?

Depending on who you ask, Ding carries the hopes of between 100 million and a whole continent on his small shoulders over the next 48 hours, though he is slightly more realistic and accurate in estimating that it’s probably nearer 20 million. The interviews he did yesterday were very insightful and it’s clear that he prefers to be away from ‘the madness’ of the Chinese crowds and will not allow himself to get carried away until he has finished the job. Even then, you can’t really see him wanting to get pissed up and go trawling London’s nightlife, he’s just not that kinda guy really is he?

Ding has turned having to qualify into a positive thing and saw it as valuable match practice, he breezed through of course and for once wasn’t in the spotlight from day one, he clearly prefers this and you do wonder if he’d have been seeded would he be contesting the final today? My guess is probably not.

His game is razor sharp and Alan McManus can rightfully be very proud of his semi-final performance, he’d probably have beaten Selby or Fu had the draw fallen differently but it wasn’t to be. It’s fair to say however that he has played a major role in the championship this year and won an army of new fans, even at this stage in his career. I’ll just miss his walk-on music and little finger flick to the crowd.

JV - fucked up big time.

JV – fucked up big time.

Selby was at his torturing best yesterday and even had Willie and JV resorting to expletives in the commentary box. His ermm ‘mate’ and fellow Leicester man Willie describing his match as ‘pathetic’ while JV lamented that he wanted to watch the horse racing and Match of the Fucking Day. With friends like them two who needs enemies?

The hapless pair had hoped their intellectual musings wouldn’t be picked up on air, but of course they were and a wrap on the knuckles followed with JV sent back to his hotel for the evening session but apparently not the rest of the championship, to the disgust of many easily offended viewers from suburbia. We’ve had no word from Willie, even though arguably his one word analysis of the match showed a little more contempt for the fortunate position he found himself in, one which a lot of people would have given their right arm to be in. He really is a very silly Willie sometimes.

But let’s not dwell on that, who’s going to win? Well, the form clearly steers you towards Ding and even taking into account Selby’s Crucibility and torturability I just can’t see him sticking with China’s finest for a match of this duration. I think he has to be at his best from the off and he’s been far from that this whole tournament so far. If Ding starts well I think he’s going to be very hard for Selby to peg back even with his legendary brinkmanship.

I’d like it to be a classic of course but only the hardest hearted snooker fan, or perhaps one who is a racist, would begrudge Ding the win. It would be great for the sport but better still it would mean we’d all get to see his little smile light up The Crucible on Monday night, just as long as the talk of a Chinese Revolution is kept in perspective.

So for me it’s somewhere in the region of 18-10 to Ding. HEAD TO HEAD HERE. Below are some bets for anyone that way inclined.

Recommended Bets: 2 points on Ding to be leading after 8 frames at 13/8. 2 points on Ding to win the first frame and win the match at 21/10. 4 points on Ding to make more than 2 centuries in the match at 5/6. 2 points on Ding -3.5 frames at 3/1. 1 point on each – Ding 18-9 at 33/1, 18-10 at 25/1 and 18-11 at 20/1.

Mark Selby and Marco Fu Press Conferences

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:30 am

A typically late finish last night at The Crucible saw Mark Selby make his way through to the final to face Ding Junhui, beating Marco Fu 17-15.

Here is what they had to say after the match. 

Mark Selby

Marco Fu

April 30, 2016

Ding Junhui and Alan McManus Press Conferences

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:24 pm

It’s the end of the road for Alan McManus who has undoubtedly been one of the highlights of this championship. He bows out gracefully to Ding, who produced a record breaking performance in what at times was a pulsating match.

Ding is into his first final where he will face either Mark Selby or Marco Fu, here is what the two had to say after the match.

Ding Junhui

Alan McManus

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