The third decider in as many days this morning saw a spirited fightback from Matt Selt halted at the finishing line by Barry Hawkins. The thoughts of both, including Matt’s on the size of the pockets and Barry’s on why Nigel Bond was on his mind below.
April 20, 2015
Another Crucible win for John Higgins yesterday over Rob Milkins, does he still think he’s got what it takes? Is the fire still there? Watch below and see what you think..
Anthony McGill following his 10-9 win over Stephen Maguire last night, you’ve just gotta love the guy..
April 19, 2015
Graeme Dott progressed earlier with a typically gritty performance against Ricky Walden, as ever he was not short of a word or two…
Marco Fu this morning overcame Jimmy Robertson 10-6 to book a full week off ahead of a possible second round meeting with Judd Trump, afterwards, a typically laid back Marco was philosophical about his chances.
Mark Selby, the reigning champion, went a small way last night to defying those pesky old snooker gods in a tension filled final frame win over the superb Kurt Maflin.
He came into the press conference (just before what you see below) with a mightily relieved and particularly high-pitched ‘WHOOOP’, clearly ecstatic to have come through such an epic battle from 8-9 down having been pegged back from 8-4 up.
Being in the arena proved once more why there truly is no theatre quite like the Theatre of Dreams and the annual argument about this ever moving is never far from snooker fans lips at this time of year. But we’re here for at least another three with the excellent and much missed sponsor and if what Bazza says is to be believed in terms of the growth of the sport and projected plans, to even think about moving it would be, well, just rather silly really.
Last night, if proof where needed provided us with further confirmation of what this place can provide. The tension filled the air, Selby fans, of whom there are many, sat unable to take in what they were seeing in front of their own eyes. Was their man being dismantled? Could he, like he’s done so many times before, prove that their faith in him was justified or would ‘The Curse’, which was mentioned once or twice…..just be too much for him?
But for now, he marches on and his celebration, which for some absolutely absurd reason was questioned by some on social media, obviously people who either a) don’t like him b) didn’t want him to win or c) don’t understand what this means to him, showed us why this is the best tournament of them all. Any talk of ‘disrespect’ and such like being immediately dispelled when on leaving the press area, we were confronted with the two protagonists having a friendly chat backstage having just walked off, Kurt; disappointed? of course, offended? definitely not.
And it’s only Day 2…..
Check out my full Round 1 preview here
April 16, 2015
It’s here. For snooker fans the best two weeks and three days of the year starts on Saturday, like an extended Christmas for baize hungry fanatics, as all eyes descend on the home of snooker; The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, for the start of this year’s World Championship. Thankfully back with the sponsor it should never have lost, Betfred.
I had planned to lead this piece with talk of ‘The Crucible Curse’, but even this has been overshadowed by the shambolic way in which the draw took place earlier.
Someone carelessly forgot to make the You Tube link live for us to watch and we were left collectively scratching our heads as random tweets started to appear with the draw contained in them, incredibly at one point the BBC and World Snooker differed on who Shaun Murphy had drawn, the governing body incorrectly tweeting Smurf’s first opponent as Anthony McGill. Shaun himself could be seen briefly (when the draw did eventually appear just as it was about to finish) with a golf club in his hand menacingly walking towards the chief protagonists before the whole thing went off again just before Betfred’s Mark Pearson swore live on air. Just prior to this a round of applause finished things off as everyone in the room, Bazza and Nugget included, remained blissfully unaware what a total cock up the whole thing had been from start to finish.
Even the reigning champion Mark Selby was forced to ask someone on Twitter who he was playing on Saturday morning as a healthy mixture of incredulity, humour, disappointment and the odd insult flew at breakneck speed to the World Snooker Twitter account. Slapstick scenes and all rather typical in a way, a total balls up from the off, you’ve just got to take your hat off to the governing body, nobody fucks up quite like they do.
But anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the curse. It really materialised properly when Steve Davis lost to Tony Knowles 10-1 in 1982 when a hot favourite to retain the title he had won for the first time a year earlier, but before him Terry Griffiths and Cliff Thorburn had fallen foul of The Curse and since then, no first time winner has gone on to retain the title, the last total failure being Neil Robertson.
So can the current champion Mark Selby break this unusual pattern? This mystical mystery? He’s racking up the curses too, as from winning the China Open he is also up against history and the snooker gods again, with no winner of that ever going on to win this. It never rains but it pours.
The BBC will probably mention ‘The Curse’ one or two, or several hundred times depending on how far poor old Mark gets so you have to feel for him. He’s saying all the right things but to me he looks like a man overcome with, possibly even possessed by these mystical demons, either that or he had a bit of a cold at the press launch the other day. So is The Curse real? Well, there’s a few who think it is and I ain’t gonna argue with no snooker gods on this. No Sir.
Right, it’s time for the match by match preview with recommended bets, I’ll also include my idea of the winner at the end though the title of the blog does give you a fairly obvious clue, so either scroll right down, or read on and get in the mood….
CLICK ON THE MATCH FOR THE HEAD TO HEAD RECORD.
Mark Selby (1) v Kurt Maflin (Saturday 10am & 7pm)
Kurt Maflin came through a gruelling match with Fergal O’Brien, narrowly pipping him in a decider on Wednesday evening. He’s been rewarded by a match against the reigning champion in the time slot that I think most qualifiers wanted to avoid. Selby himself hinted at the launch of the event that he wouldn’t mind drawing a Crucible debutant and that is exactly what has happened. Mark himself said that The Crucible is so unique that it can take a bit of getting used to and if Maffers doesn’t switch on from the start he could find Selby gone without trace. As with all great players, Selby is not only dangerous from behind but he’s also a very strong front runner. Kurt has beaten him on the main stage in the past though in Berlin, but the vast Tempodrom and the tiny, almost claustrophobic Crucible are two very different animals. I think Selby will come through here and probably win with a bit in hand.
Prediction: Selby to win 10-5.
Stephen Maguire (16) v Anthony McGill (Saturday 2.30pm and Sunday 7pm)
An all Scottish clash for the opening weekend as 16th seed Mags takes on Anthony McGill who qualifies for The Crucible for the first time following another dramatic match with Mark King which he very nearly lost from a winning position. Long standing readers of this tripe will know that I really rate McGill, he is a bit old school and perhaps that’s why, he also likes The Smiths. But again the question needs to be asked about how he will adjust to this venue against a player who will feel that he should probably have been World Champion by now, but who is without doubt still good enough to be. Again, my money has to be on the seeded player here, I hope Ant gives a good account of himself and I’m sure he will but I can’t see him winning.
Prediction: Maguire to win 10-7.
Joe Perry (9) v Zhang Anda (Wednesday 10am and 7pm)
Joe Perry is now a force to be reckoned with and I have a feeling he might come out of this quarter the winner. He has to be happy with his draw here, he has played Zhang ‘Mighty Mouse’ Anda twice in PTC events and never lost a frame to him. Most will remember Zhang taking Hendry to a decider in his debut here a few years back, that was one very very strange match that in that even though it went close you never really thought Hendry was going to lose. He’s done well to get here again anyway after a quiet season. But Perry has landed a plum draw here and returns to the scene of his great match against Ronnie last season. He could be a dark horse in this I reckon.
Prediction: Perry to win 10-4.
Shaun Murphy (8) v Robin Hull (Wednesday 2.30pm and Thursday 7pm)
Unlike Joe, Shaun has landed what I believe to be one of the worst draws he could have had, but strangely the bookies odds don’t suggest this. Finland’s Robin Hull is a great player, dogged by health issues over the years, he has never quite reached the potential we know he has, but maybe in his later career he can start putting that right. He’s played Shaun twice before, losing both times, but he comes into this with three solid wins behind him, including a defeat of Ben Woollaston, knocking in 6 centuries and countless other 70 plus breaks along the way and on the back of a Last 16 spot in the China Open. He is clearly in a rich vein of form. So could this be a shock? Yes, I think it could be, after all Robin played very well here last year against Ronnie, but Masters champion Shaun has played well all season and can’t be underestimated, I reckon this one could be very very close, possibly the tie of the round.
Prediction: 10-9 to one of them.
RECOMMENDED BET: 2 points on Hull at 6/1 with the sponsors. 5 points on Hull (+4.5 frames) at 10/11. 3 points on Hull to make a century in the match at 11/4 with Bet 365.
PREDICTED QUARTER WINNER: Joe Perry.
Barry Hawkins (5) v Matt Selt (Sunday 10am and Monday 10am)
Matt Selt can’t really be compared to Marmite, as not enough people love him, but it has to be said that he’s playing the pantomime villain so well these days you’d almost believe he really is a total bellend. His tongue in cheek comment about wanting to draw Ali Carter to ‘bash him up’ like the last time they played (when Ali won) was taken totally the other way by some. Possibly as a result of some previous in the week involving smashing balls all over the place and calling a respected promoter a ‘fat mess’ in a very public spat. But in amongst all this he is playing the snooker of his life and he’ll be happy to have drawn Barry, a former runner-up, who has not been in great form for a while, though he did show slight signs of improvement in China. Very much like the match above I think this one could go very close to the distance and Selt has the momentum and the game to score a very unpopular win. Pass the marmite.
Prediction: Selt to win 10-8.
Mark Allen (12) v Ryan Day (Tuesday 10am and 7pm)
Mark Allen’s recent World Championship form has been pretty poor for a player so good. In the last three years he’s done no better than the Last 16 and has been beaten at this stage twice. He’s been handed another very tough draw here and his head to head with Ryan Day is very close, Allen being one up on matches and Day leading their frame scores by a single rack. Allen has been busy preparing for this while the other top players were in China so should come here fresh, Day proclaimed himself ‘knackered’ after the qualifiers but he’s not playing until Tuesday so he’ll have a chance to get some rest. Match sharpness might be the key here and that’s why I’m going to side with the Welshman.
Prediction: Day to win 10-8.
RECOMMENDED BET: 3 points on Day at 2/1.
Ali Carter (13) v Alan McManus (Monday 7pm and Tuesday 2.30pm)
Surprisingly these two have only met once since 2006 and their head to head stands at 2-2. Angles produced what his final round opponent in qualifying Mitchell Mann called ‘the best safety game I have ever seen’ and undoubtedly that is how he wins matches these days. Ali hasn’t got going again yet since his time off but he always plays his best at The Crucible, very rarely does he lose matches here through playing badly and his first round record is as good as anyone in the sport. I watched all his match with Selby last year at close quarters and Mark was just ruthless, his safety was sublime and when he got in he scored, Ali stayed with him but he was just too good in the end. I think if Ali goes into this match in the same mindset he’ll win, as he’ll compete in the safety department and Alan will not punish him as heavily as Selby did.
Prediction: Carter to win 10-7.
Neil Robertson (4) v Jamie Jones (Sunday 2.30pm and Monday 2.30pm)
Neil Robertson will be many people’s tip for champion, he’s very consistent and has had a lot of time away to prepare having flown home early after defeat in China, some might say after a rather disinterested performance. He is also playing an opponent in Jamie Jones that he has never lost to in four meetings and we all know how Neil can use things like this to his advantage in the mind games department. It’s great to see Jamie back here, he was a quarter finalist a few years back and won over a lot of people, what followed was a slump in form but he’s now back to the venue where people remember him most. That said, he beat amateur Adam Duffy in his last match in qualifying 10-8 without making a break over 50. To say he will have to improve markedly to trouble Robbo is putting it mildly. Though I don’t think Neil will win the title, I can see him progressing here with a few frames to spare.
Prediction: Robertson to win 10-4.
RECOMMENDED QUARTER WINNER: Neil Robertson.
Ding Junhui (3) v Dark Mavis (Monday 2.30pm and Tuesday 10am)
Before the draw was made I thought Mavis was the one that most would want to avoid. To me in the qualifiers he looked very solid indeed and breezed through his final match in no time against an under-par Ken Doherty. He’s drawn the enigma that is Ding Junhui, walloped by lower ranked opponents and amateurs all season and unable to buy a win, he showed some signs of recovery in China where he also beat Mavis 5-1. That would suggest that perhaps he has been fooling us all year and just fancied a bit of a rest before making the big push at the end of the season. His Crucible record could be better and he’s lost in Round 1 twice in the last 3 years, famously last time to Michael Wasley. I still don’t think this venue suits him for whatever reason and once you have it stuck in your head that you should really play better here that’s a difficult demon to shift. I think he’ll probably win here but I can’t see him lifting the trophy and I’d take him to lose in the last 16.
Prediction: Ding to win 10-8.
John Higgins (14) v Rob Milkins (Saturday 2.30pm and Sunday 7pm)
Higgins is coming in to form at just the right time and when that happens at this time of year you need to sit up and take note. I have already recommended an each way bet on him at 40/1 and I don’t see any reason to change my mind as that represents some decent value. He has landed another very tough draw in Rob Milkins who came through a decider on Wednesday night and is straight back on this weekend. Rob has had much the better of their recent meetings and John hasn’t beaten him since 2011, the pattern being that Higgins won their first four and Rob has won the next four, something that does tend to creep in when the very best players get toward the end of their careers. But this is The Crucible and this is John Higgins and I for one can’t oppose him here.
Prediction: Higgins to win 10-6.
Marco Fu (11) v Jimmy Robertson (Saturday 10am and Sunday 10am)
The super consistent and constantly underrated Marco Fu takes on Jimmy Robertson who makes his second career appearance at the venue. Jimmy came through a real test against Xiao Guodong in qualifying and that has to give him confidence, though facing the rather robotic Fu first thing on Saturday may not be the best tonic for him. Their head to head doesn’t really tell us anything or give any clues and it’s a match that I think will probably go as most would expect, a solid, workmanlike, nothing to write home about win for Fu.
Prediction: Fu to win 10-6.
Judd Trump (6) v Stuart Carrington (Wednesday 7pm and Thursday 1pm)
Before everyone started hating Matt Selt, it was usually Judd who took the brunt of a lot of quite unfair abuse on social media, I say unfair because from what I have seen he’s a nice lad. He faces Crucible newbie Stuart Carrington who he has never played before professionally though apparently they played a lot as juniors. Stuart knocked out the promising Joel Walker, the vegan powered Peter Ebdon and the dangerous Li Hang to get here so he’s proved he can handle all types of player over the long distance. We all know what to expect with Judd, all out attack when the mood takes him but these days a more measured tactical game with it when he has to. Since about November I have had the feeling that this is Judd’s year, something just feels right this time. I’m certain he will be a World Champion and now feels as good a time as any. He’s my tip for the title.
Prediction: Trump to win 10-3
PREDICTED QUARTER WINNER: Judd Trump
Ricky Walden (7) v Graeme Dott (Saturday 7pm and Sunday 2.30pm)
Grumpy Graeme didn’t like having to play 3 matches to qualify but he played them and won through to face Ricky Walden, who still hasn’t got a nickname, that’s if you discount the rather erotic sounding ‘Stamina Man’ and the less memorable ‘From Chester’. Oddly, for two players that have been around for so long and often been ranked in similar sections they have only met twice and never in a major tournament. Graeme has been scoring well in the qualifiers and as we know, gives it his all in every match. Ricky has had a good season, winning the International Championship and finishing runner-up in India so he’ll go into this with confidence. It’s a tough one to call this but I just think these days Ricky is a notch higher than Graeme in terms of scoring and consistency so I’ll side with him.
Prediction: Walden to win 10-8.
Stuart Bingham (10) v Robbie Williams (Monday 10am and 7pm)
Robbie Williams came back to stun Michael Holt in the qualifiers and is a player that snooker folk know is a warm order, he was also responsible for knocking out Poomjaeng to the dismay of Charlie Chaplin fans across the globe who were looking forward to more of his slapstick antics at The Crucible. Robbie will hope this goes slightly better than last season, when he was soundly walloped 10-2 by Neil Robertson on his Crucible debut. Stuart Bingham is one of the big boys these days and not someone you want to run into in the early rounds, when he’s on song he’s as good as anyone and like Joe Perry, I think he might be a bit of a dark horse in this and I’d expect him to make at least the Quarter Finals.
Prediction: Bingham to win 10-5.
Mark Williams (15) v Matthew Stevens (Tuesday 7pm and Wednesday 2.30pm)
The all Welsh clash has all the hallmarks of the tie of the round as these two good friends cross cues in a repeat of the final 15, yes that’s 15, years ago. God I feel old. If there is a player that you’d say is the ‘form horse’ coming into this championship it is without doubt Williams. His recent form has been superb and the results have followed, despite only picking up the World Seniors trophy at the age of 39, he has maintained consistency now for months. Matthew has again had a quiet season but a bit like Ali Carter usually produces his best here. I’m really looking forward to this one but I think the way MJW has been playing lately may be the difference between the two so I’ll take him for a narrow win.
Prediction: Williams to win 10-7.
Ronnie O’Sullivan (2) v Craig Steadman (Tuesday 2.30pm and Wednesday 10am)
Despite repeatedly trying to claim that he isn’t favourite this year, he is. Yes, The Rocket has been playing down his chances with a bit of reverse psychology for a while now. However, as this post shows, he possibly doesn’t like being favourite at all. He faces another Crucible newbie in Craig Steadman, who was feeding the media some great lines after qualifying with a good win over Jamie Burnett having previously knocked out Michael White. The two have never played each other before and Craig did actually say that this was the draw he wanted so he could enjoy the experience and I’m sure he will. As ever when weighing up a World Championship, you have to take into account ‘which Ronnie will turn up’, his mindset lately has looked increasingly fragile and I think his defeat to Selby last year dented his belief a little. But it goes without saying that if his head’s screwed on right he is the man to beat, but something is telling me that this year someone, possibly Judd, will do just that.
Prediction: O’Sullivan to win 10-4
PREDICTED QUARTER WINNER: Ronnie O’Sullivan.
PREDICTED SEMI-FINAL RESULTS: Perry to beat Robertson and Trump to beat O’Sullivan.
PREDICTED WINNER: Judd Trump
RECOMMENDED OUTRIGHT BETS: 4 points on Judd Trump to win the World Championship at 13/2. 1 point each way on Joe Perry at 80/1. (Previously Recommended 1 point each way on John Higgins at 40/1). 1 point on Joe Perry to win Quarter 1 at 11/1.
RECOMMENDED ACCAS: 5 points on Selby, Neil Robertson, Bingham, Perry and Trump pays a shade over Evens. Add Fu for a 4 point acca pays over 7/4. Add Mark Williams for 3 point acca pays 11/4. Add Walden and Higgins for a 2 point acca pays over 8/1.
TWO ONE POINT BIG PRICED BETS: Robin Hull to hit highest break at 150/1 and Kurt Maflin to hit highest break at 100/1 at Sportingbet.
OTHER: 3 points on Robin Hull and Kurt Maflin both to make at least 1 century in their first round matches at over 7/1 with Bet 365.
April 14, 2015
Tuesday and in particular Wednesday are probably as tense as snooker gets. The final 32 from this year’s qualifiers are soon to become the 16 qualifiers for the best tournament the sport has to offer. Ankle clips at the ready.
There has been lots said about the new format, mostly by those criticising it who are the most affected, but you cannot deny that for the fans, this has been a real positive.
We’ve been hooked online since day one and that isn’t something that, hand on heart, you could have said about the old format. It’s not fair of course, just ask Martin Gould or Michael White, but the 16 winners on Wednesday will not care at all as they will have climbed the three obstacles that were put in their way by nasty old Bazza and will be ready for the fun to begin down the road on Saturday.
Personally I would have preferred eight matches played in full on Tuesday and the same on Wednesday, but they have gone with making all the players dwell on their first session overnight before reappearing to finish it all off on Wednesday, making the possibility of a few turnarounds far more likely in my opinion as the demons start to mess with leader’s minds in the dark hours. I just hope they have stocked up on toilet roll for the final day of play as they’re gonna need it.
So here is the running order, let battle commence.
Unfortunately, given the quick turnaround I can’t waffle on about these matches at length or try and get to the bottom of how Dr. Matt Selt managed to cure himself of manflu yesterday in a matter of hours while upsetting everyone on Twitter, more of that if he qualifies which I think he probably will, but regardless, I’ve given my predicted winners and who I would trust with a bet.
If you want a look at the head to heads, head to Cue Tracker here and enter the two player names.
Tuesday and Wednesday 11am
Craig Steadman v Jamie Burnett
Mark King v Anthony McGill
Adam Duffy v Jamie Jones
Mitchell Mann v Alan McManus
Ryan Day v Jak Jones
Yu Delu v Graeme Dott
Dark Mavis v Ken Doherty
Matthew Stevens v Joe Swail
Predicted Winners: Burnett, McGill, Jones, Mann, Day, Dott, Mavis, Stevens.
Tuesday and Wednesday 5pm
Li Hang v Stuart Carrington
Robin Hull v Igor Figueiredo
Fergal O’Brien v Kurt Maflin
Zhang Anda v Liang Wenbo
Xiao Guodong v Jimmy Robertson
Robbie Williams v Michael Holt
Matthew Selt v Tom Ford
Andrew Higginson v Robert Milkins
Predicted Winners: Carrington, Hull, Maflin, Wenbo, Robertson, Holt, Selt, Milkins.
Recommended Bet: 3 points on Dott, Mavis, Hull and Maflin pays over 10/3 at Boyles. 1 point on Mitchell Mann at 4/1.
April 10, 2015
Sunday and Monday sees us move one step closer to knowing who will be lining up at The Crucible as the second round is played out.
The event so far has really captured the snooker fraternity’s imagination, confirming that there really is nothing like the World Championship to get people talking.
Talking of people talking, the increasingly adventurous social media moguls over at World Snooker decided to venture into the murky world of You Tube for Reanne’s match against Crafty Ken, always a risk given the dark, sinister underbelly of pond life that resides within the notoriously troll-infused waters of the comments section.
Sure enough, it wasn’t long, about 1 comment in to be precise, until the chat deviated away from the snooker and on to more pressing matters. First of all, Ken’s age was open for debate with one keen fan claiming he was ‘about 65 and well too fukin (sic) old anyway’, this led to others questioning if his advancing years could explain the reason why ‘he’s shit now’. Then up popped someone who claimed to be Jimmy White, a lot of the brainless mob actually believing that they were chatting to the great man himself, there truly is one born every minute or ten every second in the case of You Tube commenters.
The chat evolved, unlike those involved in it, onto technique based questions, one very eloquent poster posing the burning question ‘do her tits get in the way when she is down on the shot?’, an interesting debate followed. Then the ‘comedians’ came out with some good old fashioned 1970’s Bernard Manning style sexism; ‘what is she doing out of the kitchen? LOL’ being a particular lowpoint, well, someone had to say it, it was the elephant in the room after all.
Once they had then had a few digs at me (apparently I am an 11 year old bellend, which makes a nice change from being an old man in a wheelchair on benefits – but I suppose it’s nice to get a mention) we moved through the obligatory match fixing chat; ‘Barry Herns (sic) has bunged Ken to throw this’ claimed one well-informed individual who chose to remain anonymous, onto a few nickname suggestions, one in particular that World Snooker and Rob Walker may like to consider for next Saturday. Clearly bored with The Jester from Leicester tag one creative type decided it was time for change and that the World Champion should henceforth be known simply as ‘The Cunt’, we’ll see how that pans out.
But at least one poster stuck to the snooker, this guy clearly has some degree of talent in the sport if his claim that ‘I’ve made a 147 with mee cock’ is to be believed. I haven’t seen him advertise this anywhere other than You Tube, so I’d suggest he gets himself a quarter page ad in the next edition of Snooker Scene, the exhibition bookings would surely flood in on the back of that.
Others in the firing line included Stephen Lee, John Higgins and Judd Trump, so all in all it was a really successful experiment from the marketing team at World Snooker who seemed oblivious to the fact that every reputation in the sport as well as the sport itself was slowly being dismantled to the side of their flagship match for all to see. They were just delighted that over 2000 had tuned in to watch, again, they seemed totally unaware of the fact that they weren’t actually watching at all.
Anyway, on here we do stick to the snooker, well sometimes anyway and the tension and drama will only continue and intensify over the next few days as the wheat is seperated slowly from the chaff and we’ll all be there to watch it all unfold, how cruel are we?
You can view the full draw here and if you want a look at the head to heads, head to Cue Tracker here and enter the two player names for a wealth of information. Also, if you haven’t already it is definitely worth signing up to the World Snooker TV Channel, if only for a month so that you can watch the live streamed tables, to do that click here and click ‘Sign Up’, it’s not a lot of money for what you’ll get to see.
Bettingwise we are way ahead after Round 1. A couple of wrong calls but singles on Mitchell Mann (11/4) and Zhang Anda (7/4) as well as the four point 9/2 Bumper Acca landing covered those and then some. Let’s see what we can do in Round 2…
Sunday 10am & 7pm
Michael White v Craig Steadman
Cao Yupeng v Anthony McGill
Tian Pengfei v Jamie Jones
Gerard Greene v Mitchell Mann
Andrew Pagett v Alan McManus
Ryan Day v Alex Davies
Jak Jones v Jack Lisowski
Stuart Carrington v Peter Ebdon
Igor Figueiredo v Rod Lawler
Mike Dunn v Yu Delu
Fraser Patrick v Graeme Dott
A fine performance after an early scare saw Michael White progress through round one, but not without a fight from the impressive Steven Hallworth. As I said in the original preview I expect him to come up against Un-Nooh in the final round so will take him to land the odds against Craig Steadman. Anthony McGill progressed comfortably and now faces Yupeng, I don’t think this will be straightforward for Ants and there is no value at all in backing him at a price I’d say is way too short. Tian Pengfei raced to a 6-0 lead against Rory with one-visit snooker and Jamie Jones also impressed in his opener so that one could be quite a match, toss of a coin for me that one and a possible decider on the cards. Gerard Greene by all accounts behaved like a petulant kid in his first match, intimidating his young opponent Slessor so much that after the match he outed him, he faces Mitchell Mann who is bang in form and I fancy Mitch to overturn GG here. Andrew Pagett was the subject of a hefty gamble in round one, so much so that a couple of firms stopped taking bets on him to beat his Chinese opponent, which he duly did, I can’t see him beating Angles who had a good win over Michael Wasley. Ryan Day had a real scare against the impressive Jamie Clarke and will need to improve to reach The Crucible, I’d take him to win again but Alex Davies seemed to be playing decent in round one so you just never know. Jack Lisowski struggled but eventually came back to defeat Allan Taylor, I was surprised that Jak Jones beat Mehta but looking at the scoring it doesn’t look like it was much of a match so I’ll side with Lisowski again there. Stuart Carrington is more than capable of upsetting Ebdon, but everyone’s favourite vegan usually finds a way to win in matches like this and he’s been playing so well I can’t see him not fighting in the final round. Rod Lawler I expect to bring Igor’s World Championship to a close, looking at his match against Bond it would appear to suggest he didn’t really have to do a lot to win, Bond’s best break being a meagre 38. 10-0 first round winner Yu Delu similarly didn’t have to stretch himself to get a result and he’ll have a much tougher time against Mike Dunn who did what he had to do first round, Dunny however wasn’t in high scoring mode while Delu knocked in four half-centuries and a 133 so I’d side with the Chinese player there just based on first round performance. Finally, Graeme Dott takes on Fraser Patrick, both again had pretty straightforward first round wins, but Dotty was far and away the heavier scorer and I expect him to land the odds there on his way to a Crucible place.
Predicted Winners: White, McGill, Jones, Mann, McManus, Day, Lisowski, Ebdon, Lawler, Delu, Dott.
Sunday 2.30pm and Monday 2.30pm
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v Jamie Burnett
Mark King v Marcus Campbell
Adam Duffy v Sam Baird
Dark Mavis v Oliver Lines
Lee Walker v Ken Doherty
Matthew Stevens v Peter Lines
Joe Swail v Dominic Dale
Fergal O’Brien v Chris Wakelin
Mark Joyce v Zhang Anda
Zhou Yuelong v Liang Wenbo
Thepchiaya Un-Nooh remains a backable price here against Jamie Burnett. When he’s not messing around he’s a very dangerous player and probably as good as anyone we have seen out of Thailand, Watanna included. Marcus Campbell had a warm up in Round 1 whereas Mark King was a player who was handed a more tricky first rounder, given Marcus’s poor recent form and King’s relatively decent stuff I have to side with Kingy there, but he’s no kind of price really and would not have been 4/11 best had this been played a season ago. I was impressed with Adam Duffy in his win over Gould which was undoubtedly the shock of the first round, but Gould himself was poor and I’m sure will be disappointed in his performance. Sam Baird is one of those players that can turn it on when he’s in the mood and I fancy that to be an entertaining match, difficult to call so it’s best left alone. Mavis is obviously one of the class acts playing this week and is heavily odds on to beat Oli Lines, Oli however has the game to win and I wouldn’t be surprised if this produced a shock. LeeWalker has to fancy his chances against Ken, poor old Kendo has done precious little all season and only just squeezed through against Reanne, 5/2 on Walker looks huge to me. Pete Lines made hard work of his first match, which on paper looked a procession for him, he now faces Matthew Stevens and the two have had just the two close matches in the past, I’d fancy Matthew for this but if it goes close, which it probably will, you never know. Dominic Dale isn’t a player I’d usually trust with my life savings but his price to beat Joe Swail looks worth an investment, when he’s on song he can still produce and Joe isn’t the force of old. Chris Wakelin is a player I rate and he’s worth siding with at 2/1 against Fergal, Mark Joyce has been quietly getting the results of late and is a difficult opponent, given his style and pace but Zhang Anda is good enough to keep with him over the longer distance and again I think might land the odds as he did last round against Hamilton. Zhou Yuelong is winning over a lot of people as China’s next big thing, he faces China’s last next big thing Liang and isn’t beyond springing another surprise.
Predicted Winners: Un-nooh, King, Baird, Oli Lines, Walker, Stevens, Dale, Wakelin, Anda, Yuelong.
Recommended Bets: 3 point treble on Michael White (morning session), Dominic Dale and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh pays 5/2 at Boyles. 2 points on Lee Walker at 5/2. 2 points on Oli Lines at 5/2. 2 points on Chris Wakelin at 2/1. 2 points on Zhou Yuelong at 5/2.
Monday 10am and 7pm
Gary Wilson v Li Hang
Ben Woollaston v Robin Hull
Steve Davis v Kurt Maflin
Xiao Guodong v Liam Highfield
Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon v Jimmy Robertson
Dechawat Poomjaeng v Robbie Williams
Noppon Saengkham v Michael Holt
Matt Selt v Jimmy White
Tom Ford v David Gilbert
Luca Brecel v Andrew Higginson
Darryl Hill v Robert Milkins
Gary Wilson touched down safely after his China Open adventure and got through his first match comfortably enough. Assuming he has now fully caught up on sleep he should now be OK. His opponent Li Hang gave Chris Melling a right old pasting with some heavy scoring so Gary will have to be sharper this time around, can see that possibly being a surprise win for the Chinese player. Robin Hull is another who scored much heavier than his more fancied opponent Ben Woollaston in Round 1 and Ben will have to up his scoring a notch in my opinion against the very dangerous Fin who of course qualified last year and played Ronnie. A dramatic black ball victory for The Nugget will surely be his crowning moment this year, Kurt Maflin will punish the mistakes that Jamie Cope didn’t and you have to fancy a comfortable win for Maffers there. Xiao Guodong will fancy his chances against Liam Highfield but they were both 10-1 winners in Round 1 and Liam should not be underestimated there, though I’d agree that Xiao is a slight favourite. Thanawat threw up a surprise in Round 1 and now faces Jimmy Robertson who is a player who I think long matches bring the best out of, I’d marginally fancy him for that one. Poomjaeng is a player I always underestimate and that’s why you should not take any notice of me when I say I think Robbie Williams will beat him, I’ll probably be wrong again. As for Michael Holt, he came away from his last match complaining about the tables but I thought he looked very solid and I think he’ll get the better of Thai Noppon. Matt Selt you’d expect to see off Jimmy, Selt was in a right nark the other day and may face some action for doing this midway through his match. I’m going to plump for Dave Gilbert to beat Tom Ford, Tom hasn’t had a great season and Gilbert is a player I have always liked and rated highly, bit of an underachiever really. You can’t see Rob Milkins losing but you have to say what a great result for new young pro Darryl Hill in the last round over James Cahill, clearly one to watch out for next season. Finally, Luca and Andrew Higginson, The Belgian Bullet hasn’t lost a frame yet and for me is now looking like the real deal, I’ll take him to land the odds here as the bookies have clearly spotted this too and make him a short priced favourite against his far more experienced opponent.
Predicted Winners: Hang, Hull, Maflin, Guodong, Robertson, Williams, Holt, Selt, Gilbert, Brecel, Milkins.
Recommended Bet: 3 point acca pays over 2/1 on Maflin, Holt, Selt and Gilbert add Brecel for a 2 point acca which pays over 4/1, add Guodong for a 2 point acca which pays over 7/1. 2 points on Hull at 7/4. 2 points on Hang at 5/4.
April 7, 2015
It’s here, following on from the farcically late draw as a result of an absolutely barking mad schedule, it’s now time for snooker’s showpiece. While Mr Joseph Public may not be switching on until Mark Selby breaks off at the Crucible in under a fortnight, snooker anoraks and normal fans unite as the World Championship begins at Ponds Forge, just down the road from the main venue, on Wednesday.
I’ve long said that the qualifiers are the second best event of the season, huge tension, big money and two session matches, what more could a bluff old traditionalist like me ask for? This is what real snooker competition is and it’s a far cry from the short formats and crash, bang, wallop affairs which seem to dominate the calendar these days. This is what it’s all about.
I can’t start looking at the matches without a quick word on the calendar. The close proximity of this event to the end of the China Open and the start of proceedings at The Crucible is far from ideal. If they MUST have a tournament finish a few days before this then surely a switch between China and an invitational event like the COC would be more suitable? In terms of the other end, the two day gap between this ending and Mark Selby’s defence beginning is far too short to get everyone in a frenzy and for the media hype machine to get into full flow and bookies to get their prices up. It needs looking at but I suspect it won’t change, because it makes too much sense.
Of course the big change this year that’s got tongues wagging and fingers, errmm, wagging aswell, is the qualifying format, for Chairman Bazza seems intent on changing something about everything, there’s probably a syndrome name for that (maybe Meddlers Syndrome?). This time, all the players seeded outside the top 16 have to win 3 matches to qualify, whether you are Michael White or Rob Milkins at the top of this list or Rodion Judin (who?) or Ivaylo Pekov (hey?) at the bottom of it. I have to say some of the players in this opening round might as well change their name to BYE.
Whether you agree with this change or not, that’s how it is. Some might argue that all of them, the top 16 included should start at Ponds Forge, some might argue that those seeded higher should have to win less matches as they have worked hard all season to get their ranking as high as possible, which is where I’d stand on this as I think the top 16 should be rewarded with a Crucible place and likewise those ranked 17-32 should be rewarded with less matches to win. I’d also argue that the whole thing should be seeded, why is Michael White playing a fellow professional whilst for instance, Xiao Guodong and Marcus Campbell have people hardly anyone but their mum and dad have even heard of?
Another twist comes later in the tournament of course, once we are at The Crucible the top 16 are under real pressure, even more so than normal, because if they are dumped out first round they won’t get anything towards their ranking, but they will get the £12,000 for losing first round so that is some consolation.
However, contrast this to the likes of Campbell, Peter Lines and a few others who surely only have to turn up to bag £6000. Fair? Probably not. Does Bazza care? Definitely not. Did I get the first edit of this section factually wrong? No comment.
But now isn’t a time for moaning, we have a cracking snooker month ahead and it’s the best time of the year to be a snooker fan. We are reminded why long matches are best, why Sheffield is snooker’s spiritual home, why Beardy Medal Man should be knighted and why the BBC are the comedy gift that keeps on giving, but for the next week and a bit, the focus is on who will be lining up at snooker’s mecca and who will be sitting at home or going on holiday to escape.
Below are the first round matches and a look at each session. Let the show commence….
You can view the full draw here and if you want a look at the head to heads, head to Cue Tracker here and enter the two player names for a wealth of information. Also, if you haven’t already it is definitely worth signing up to the World Snooker TV Channel, if only for a month so that you can watch the live streamed tables, to do that click here and click ‘Sign Up’, it’s not a lot of money for what you’ll get to see.
Wednesday 10am & 7pm
Michael White v Steven Hallworth
Craig Steadman v Rhys Clark
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v Barry Pinches
Mark King v Michael Leslie
Cao Yupeng v Ross Muir
Anthony McGill v Hossein Vafaei Ayouri
Martin Gould v Adam Duffy
Rory McLeod v Tian Pengfei
Jamie Jones v Ashley Carty
Gerard Greene v Elliot Slessor
Alfie Burden v Mitchell Mann
The first players to get underway in this great championship are no doubt the ones that might have ended up most frustrated with the delayed draw. Michael White missed out on the Crucible by a single place and also by virtue of Ali Carter’s frozen seeding, but he’s had a fantastic second half of the season, most notably in India and I expect him to reach at least the final qualifying round where I’d say he’ll play Un-Nooh, the very talented Thai player, Michael could have asked for a nicer draw but to win through you have to beat good players at some stage. I think the players most likely to come through this session without the need for dramatics are Craig Steadman and Cao Yupeng, but you can make a case for any of the others going close so I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a turn up or two in the evening on day one. Martin Gould has been playing very well lately and you would expect him to come through against Adam Duffy and you could argue that Mark King should have enough experience and nouse to overcome Michael Leslie, but stranger things have happened. Hossein Ayouri took an age to get a visa through to compete and is highly rated both in his home country and in Ireland where he has been practising while waiting, some shrewd punters have latched onto a ridiculous price put up on him by one firm and this has since been drastically cut to the 4/1 on offer now, which I think is about right given how much I rate his opponent McGill. I think Tian Pengfei will narrowly edge out Rory McLeod and Jamie Jones can take care of the very dangerous amateur Carty, but again this could be closer than the odds suggest. There will be those who fancy an early exit for Gerard Greene against Elliot Slessor but I’d side with Greene personally. The one upset I will take a punt on here is Mitchell Mann to beat Alfie Burden, Mitchell won a very strong pro-am, The Paul Hunter, in Leeds at the weekend beating Oli Lines in the final, he is more than capable of taking that form to Ponds Forge.
Predicted Winners: White, Steadman, Un-Nooh, King, Yupeng, McGill, Gould, Pengfei, Jones, Greene, Mann.
Recommended Bet: 2 points on Mitchell Mann at 11/4.
Wednesday 2.30pm & Thursday 2.30pm
Lu Haotian v Andrew Pagett
Alan McManus v Michael Wasley
Ryan Day v Jamie Clarke
Alex Davies v Michael Georgiou
Aditya Mehta v Jak Jones
Jack Lisowski v Allan Taylor
Li Hang v Chris Melling
Stuart Carrington v Joel Walker
Peter Ebdon v Lu Ning
Ben Woollaston v Sean O’Sullivan
A few of my snooker pals are taking part in this session, Allan Taylor, already assured of his two year tour card has been handed Jack Lisowski, whose form this season has inexplicably dipped, a chance for Allan if he can find some momentum. Sean O’Sullivan has been given a stinker against Ben Woollaston, a player who I think will end up contesting the final round with Rod Lawler. Jamie Clarke has also been handed a prize turd of a draw against Ryan Day, I think Ryan will be looking at the draw thinking he’s got one foot in the Crucible already personally. Then there is Michael Wasley who was last year’s first round hero but who faces a quarter finalist from last year and super-solid Alan McManus, again, not a great draw for Wazza or Angles given some of the names floating about here. I’d say the value in this set of matches lies with Joel Walker, he plays Stuart Carrington, who while a dangerous opponent will be someone that the improving Walker will fancy over the longer distance, he’s only a shade of odds on and I think that’s a bit tasty. You have to think that the in-form Peter Ebdon will progress and the same can be said for India’s Aditya Mehta. Michael Georgiou is a half decent price to beat Alex Davies for anyone looking at a double or treble on this session and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Chris Melling give Li Hang a game. That just leaves Andrew Pagett against young Lu Haotian, it’s Padgy’s snooker swansong this tournament and I think he’s capable of winning here, but a tough match will await and I don’t think we’ll be seeing him and his rather camp looking pink suit back at The Crucible.
Predicted Winners: Pagett, McManus, Day, Georgiou, Mehta, Lisowski, Melling, Walker, Ebdon, Woollaston.
Recommended Bet: 4 points on Joel Walker at 9/10.
Recommended Day 1 Acca: 2 points on Greene, Pengfei, Georgiou and Walker pays over 6/1.
Thursday 10am & 7pm
Nigel Bond v Igor Figueiredo
Rod Lawler v Michael Tomlinson
Mike Dunn v Itaro Santos
Yu Delu v Hans Blanckaert
Fraser Patrick v Brandon Sargeant
Graeme Dott v Mark Owens
Dark Mavis v Joe O’Connor
Oli Lines v Ian Glover
David Morris v Lee Walker
Ken Doherty v Reanne Evans
Matthew Stevens v Ahmed Saif
Possibly a few more rather one-sided matches on show here, expect straightforward wins for Rod Lawler, Mike Dunn, Yu Delu, Fraser Patrick, Graeme Dott, Dark Mavis and Matthew Stevens. It’s great that Reanne Evans has been rewarded for all her efforts in the sport but to draw Ken Doherty, on paper looks like a bit of a stinker. But they will know each other well from their work on The Legends and perhaps that might help Reanne relax a little into her game, a win would be unexpected but I hope she gives a good account of herself. Nigel Bond has the potential banana skin of Brasil’s Igor first up and Nigel is a bit of an enigma these days, he can obviously still play a bit but he’s very hard to predict so I’d leave that one well alone. Oli Lines is a player that Bazza will be hoping and praying makes The Crucible, young, good looking (I suppose), a potential favourite with the young female fanbase, a dad on tour and one hell of a game in him I’d also like to see him make it. He’s a cracking lad with a great attitude and if he gets on a roll he is more than capable of being this year’s Wazza. David Morris is looking good enough to suggest that his match against Lee Walker shouldn’t cause him too many problems. It’s a favourite’s session this one, so just leave out the unpredictable Bond who will probably win but only an eyebrow raising shock can stop you collecting.
Predicted Winners: Bond, Lawler, Dunn, Delu, Patrick, Dott, Mavis, Lines, Morris, Doherty, Stevens.
Recommended Bet: 3 points on all the above except Bond pays 13/8.
Friday 10am & 7pm
Peter Lines v Rodion Judin
Joe Swail v Alexander Ursenbacker
Dominic Dale v John Astley
Fergal O’Brien v Hammad Miah
Chris Wakelin v Nico Elton
Jamie Cope v Steve Davis
Mark Joyce v Ian Burns
Anthony Hamilton v Zhang Anda
Zhou Yuelong v Zak Surety
Liang Wenbo v Chris Norbury
Xiao Guodong v Ong Jia Jun
Peter Lines and Xiao Guodong won’t have many better chances to win £6000 for very little effort and should come through their matches very easily given their experience and pedigree over largely unknown opponents. Others that I’d say should win without too much of a fuss are Fergal O’Brien, Chris Wakelin and Liang Wenbo, though caution is always urged where Liang is involved. Dominic Dale should progress against John Astley but if John gets a foothold in the match early that could be a scare for last year’s Quarter Finalist. Mark Joyce and Ian Burns are pretty evenly matches but Mark has had the better season of the two so I’d marginally favour him, but again, not one to bet on for me. Zhou Yuelong has shown enough to suggest he can progress against Zak Surety, but Anthony Hamilton could face a potential upset against another Chinese player Zhang Anda, The Sheriff hasn’t been really been firing with both barrels this season it has to be said, even managing to get whitewashed by Ahmed Saif in the Welsh Open, he might be there for the taking. Joe Swail needs a run in this for his two year card and we all know what Joe does when he has to, he also seems to play much better over the longer distance and I think he’ll start with a win over my cousin Alexander. That just leaves The Nugget, who has a book coming out next week, it’s pretty good, I’ve started reading it. He takes on Jamie Cope who we all know has had problems with his shaking arm off and on for ages now, I know Steve will be going there to win, he always does and who would put it past him if he stays with Cope first session? Not me.
Predicted Winners: Lines, Swail, Dale, O’Brien, Wakelin, Davis, Joyce, Anda, Yuelong, Wenbo, Guodong.
Recommended Bet: 3 points on Zhang Anda at 7/4.
Friday 2.30pm and Saturday 2.30pm
Jamie Burnett v Alex Borg
Marcus Campbell v Ivaylo Pekov
Sam Baird v Tony Drago
Liam Highfield v Oliver Brown
Kyren Wilson v Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon
Jimmy Robertson v Chuan Leong Thor
Dechawat Poomjaeng v Daniel Wells
Robbie Williams v Lee Page
Michael Holt v Syd Wilson
Matt Selt v Lyu Chenwei
Marcus Campbell needs a run in this to keep his tour place and it’s nice of World Snooker to give him £6000 just in case he falls off, if he loses that one I will eat an extremely large piece of headwear. But apart from that one there aren’t too many gifts being handed out in this set of matches. Michael Holt will obviously start a big favourite against my mate Syd and only a big reversal of form and fortune will stop The Hitman progressing. The SB Classic runner-up on Sunday Daniel Wells faces Thai joker Poomjaeng, I genuinely think Dan is good enough to give him a run there but he probably won’t have enough to win, Poomy is a player I routinely underrate and I have learned my lesson. I don’t know much about Chuan Leong Thor (who seems to have his name in random orders depending on what day it is) other than he’s run Bingham and Cope close recently, I’d imagine Jimmy Robertson, another who I think seems to play better over the longer format, will have enough in the tank to beat him. Sam Baird is another who seems to enjoy this format and has had epic qualifiers in the past, he faces Tony Drago, who last week played in an amateur only event in Malta, work that one out. I’d expect the much improved Matt Selt to progress along with Robbie Williams, who hasn’t reached the heights of the early season recently but should win with a bit in hand. Another SB Classic runner-up, Kyren Wilson will be looking for another run to The Crucible and he’s got the game to make an impact this week for sure, I expect him to beat Thanawat comfortably. Liam Highfield faces Oliver Brown who has had some great results this season on the back of his amateur Q-School ranking, but again, over the long distance I think Liam is much the better player and will carve out a win. This leaves Jamie Burnett and Alex Borg, I have been guilty more than once of underrating Borg and I’m not going to make that mistake again, while I’m sure a lot of punters will be putting Burnett near the top of their list of 1st Round bankers, I won’t be, Borg is capable of an upset there, he’s not as poor as some people believe he is.
Predicted Winners: Burnett, Campbell, Baird, Highfield, Wilson, Robertson, Poomjaeng, Williams, Holt, Selt.
Recommended Bet: 3 points on all the above except Burnett pays over 4/1 at Ladbrokes.
Saturday 10am & 7pm
Gary Wilson v Eden Sharav
Robin Hull v Martin McCrudden
Kurt Maflin v David Grace
Noppon Saengkham v Lukas Kleckers
Jimmy White v James Wattana
Tom Ford v Andrew Norman
Dave Gilbert v George Pragnall
Luca Brecel v Saqib Nasir
Andrew Higginson v Scott Donaldson
James Cahill v Darryl Hill
Robert Milkins v William Lemons
The late starters include Gary Wilson, runner-up in the China Open who has thankfully been given time to recover from his amazing performance over there, he faces Eden Sharav and you’d obviously expect him to win there given his current form and the fact he has that time to re-adjust. Other ‘bankers’ in this session for me are Noppon Saengkham, Dave Gilbert, Luca Brecel, James Cahill and Rob Milkins, all are handed ties that they could, in some cases arguably should, more or less wrap up in the first session. Martin McCrudden from Ireland has his fans, I’ve never seen him play but know enough about him to suggest his match with Robin Hull, another needing a run here, might be tighter than some expect. Kurt Maflin is another in fine form and one of the heaviest scorers in the game, he’ll be looking to carry that on all the way to The Crucible. Andrew Norman is jacking it all in at the end of the season and doesn’t practice much at all so he won’t be too upset with me saying that Tom Ford should come through there, despite Ford’s relatively poor form of late. The match that really interests me from a betting point of view is Scott Donaldson against Higginson, Andrew is totally out of form and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see promising Scot Scott cause an upset there, although it would only be an upset really at the bookies as I think a lot of ‘snooker shrewdies’ might agree with me on that one. Finally, Jimmy against James Wattana, an absolutely suicidal match to bet on, leave it alone, there’s plenty more wheelbarrows in the sea.
Predicted Winners: Wilson, Hull, Maflin, Saengkham, White, Ford, Gilbert, Brecel, Donaldson, Cahill, Milkins.
Recommended Bet: 3 points on Donaldson at 7/4.
RECOMMENDED BUMPER ROUND ONE ACCA: 4 POINTS PAYS JUST UNDER 9/2 AT PADDY POWER: Michael White, Yu Delu, Matthew Stevens, Graeme Dott, Oli Lines, Rod Lawler, Dark Mavis, Fraser Patrick, Peter Lines, Liang Wenbo, Chris Wakelin, Matt Selt, Luca Brecel, Noppon Saengkham and Dave Gilbert.