Snookerbacker

April 7, 2014

World Championship Qualifiers Day One

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:05 pm
The Crucible will seem like a dream for those starting out in Round 1.

The Crucible will seem like a dream for those starting out in Round 1.

Ponds Forge in Sheffield opens its doors to snooker for the very first time on Tuesday as the World Championship Qualifiers come to town.

You can read my comprehensive qualifiers betting preview by clicking here which includes head to head statistics where available, an assessment of the season’s form so far for each qualifying section and all the recommended bets for the first round and Crucible qualification.

All the matches are the best of nineteen frames with the opening session scheduled to play nine. Though there are one or two well-known snails on show which should mean that we’re guaranteed some very late finishes this next week or so.

Particular highlights on day one include a plethora of SB Classic players in action including the current champion Ant Parsons and the 2012 winner Martin O’Donnell, as well as 2013 Runner-Up Kyren Wilson and three former grand finalists Allan Taylor, Sanderson Lam and Syd Wilson, so I’d like to wish all those players the very best of luck.

I wonder if any of the players starting out in Round 1 will make it through all the way to the Crucible? It’s obviously against the odds but it has been done before, indeed it’s been done in both the last two seasons, so it’s not impossible.

Wherever you are in the world, there will be two live streamed matches in every session played broadcast on the Official World Snooker TV website (click here to register for £3.99 for the month) and you can keep up with the live scores of the other matches via the scoreboard here.

The long road to the Crucible begins……

10am & 7pm conclusion

Zhang Anda v Andrew Pagett (LIVE STREAMED)
Craig Steadman v Jak Jones
Liam Highfield v Khaled Belaid Abumdas
Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon v Sanderson Lam
Barry Pinches v Hammad Miah
Kyren Wilson v Chris Norbury (LIVE STREAMED)
Martin O’Donnell v Shane Castle
Daniel Wells v Ryan Clark
Jamie O’Neill v Cao Xinlong
Paul Davison v Chris Wakelin
Michael Leslie v Christopher Keogan

2.30pm (conclude Wednesday 2.30pm)

Joel Walker v Allan Taylor
James Wattana v Alex Borg
Sam Baird v John Astley
Gary Wilson v James Cahill
Luca Brecel v Lee Page (LIVE STREAMED)
Chen Zhe v Ant Parsons
Michael Wasley v Sydney Wilson
Robbie Williams v Lu Haotian
Li Hang v Ratchayothin Yotharuck
Tony Drago v Robin Hull (LIVE STREAMED)

You can view match prices at Apollobet here and their To Qualify Prices here    

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April 4, 2014

My Big World Championship Qualifying Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:59 pm
Ponds-Forge-Sheffield

There will be different types of table at Ponds Forge from Tuesday.

It’s here.

The World Championship Qualifiers start on Tuesday at their new home, Ponds Forge Leisure Centre in Sheffield, not far from the venue that all the 112 players involved want to reach. The main event itself starts just three days after the last ball is potted, at the home of snooker, The Crucible Theatre. It’s the best time of the year for snooker fans.

In my opinion, the qualifiers is one of the best events of the year, in fact after the World Championship itself, the Masters and to a lesser extent nowadays the UK Championship, this is up there with the one I really look forward to. Simply because there is so much at stake for every player there, namely the chance to finish the season at the Crucible. They will all be giving it their all and that usually makes for compelling viewing.

There will be drama, there will be stories, there are likely to be shocks and surprises, there always is, will we see some new faces at the Crucible? Will some of the old favourites return for another tilt at the dream? How about the Chinese players? Will we see the beginning of the much heralded Chinese revolution on the baize with a huge Chinese contingent starting at the Crucible? What about the two Indian players, will they make their country proud by qualifying for the biggest event snooker has to offer? Whatever happens, this is what the snooker season has been leading up to.

Bring it on.

I recommend you sign up to World Snooker TV for £3.99 this month as I just have, they will be covering two tables every session live and for once, you don’t even have to live in the North Pole or the Amazonian rainforest to watch it, so it’s worth the small expense to be able to see it without having to put your face right next to the screen at the bookies sites.

Below, I have taken each section of the draw and given my thoughts. At the foot of the post I will recommend some bets. I’ll be posting round by round from now until May 5th, when this great championship comes to an end.

THE SIXTEEN QUALIFYING SECTIONS 

How it works: There are 4 players in each section who begin in Round 1. The two winners then progress to play the next named player in Round 2. The two winners of those matches then meet in Round 3 and the winner of that match plays the highest seeded player in the rankings in their section final. The winner takes their place at the Crucible. 

SECTION 1

Zhang Anda v Andrew Pagett winner plays Dechawat Poomjaeng
Craig Steadman v Jak Jones winner plays Steve Davis
Winner plays Ken Doherty

Season Form: Both first rounders Zhang Anda and Andrew Pagett have largely had seasons to forget, Anda did however have a decent run recently in European Tour 8 getting further in that than Andrew has in anything all season. Jak Jones has lost all his 15 matches on the Main Tour this season and will have to raise his game markedly to trouble Craig Steadman in the other first round match up. I’d imagine that last year’s Crucible joker Dechawat Poomjaeng will dispense with the winner of the Anda/Pagett encounter but the big match in this section will be the legend that is Steve Davis’s push to keep his tour place against, I’d say, Steadman. I think Steve will be bang up for it, he’ll draw a crowd and I think he’ll do enough to keep his place on the tour by winning his first and possibly his second match against, I’d guess Poomjaeng, who I still think is a little overrated personally. This sets up a possible clash with Ken Doherty and in truth, you’d have to make Ken a hefty favourite against whoever he plays. But this is Davis, this is a big challenge and it’s not beyond him to get to the Crucible again donning the waistcoat rather than the V-Neck sweater which is the ultimate prize should the BBC pair have to battle it out. I have to plump for Ken, with Steve maintaining his pro status by reaching the final round.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Ken Doherty. 

SECTION 2

Dave Gilbert - Rocking the Silver Threads.

Dave Gilbert – Rocking the Silver Threads.

Liam Highfield v Khalid Abumdas winner plays Jimmy Robertson
Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon v Sanderson Lam winner plays Anthony McGill
Winner plays Dave Gilbert

Season Form: It goes without saying that Liam Highfield has been handed the easiest draw of the round and should and will progress unless his arms fall off, even then I’d make him a slight favourite to be honest against Khalid, who remains the most inexplicable professional on the main tour. Thanawat plays my mate Sanderson Lam in the other match and although I think Sandi will give a good account of himself and not get thumped, you have to fancy the Thai player there to come through. Either way I think this is a section which will see the seedings go to plan and we’ll see McGill against Jimmy Robertson in the penultimate round. McGill is a player I really rate and I think he has the game  and the attitude to get into the top 16 at some point, I’d back him to beat Robertson and come through to face Tamworth farmer Dave Gilbert in the final round. It’s difficult as I think both McGill and Gilbert are top 32 players and it’s always nice to see the best 32 at the Crucible, but this never happens of course. Gilbert is a quality player and I think if he plays McGill this could be very very tight indeed, but McGill is the only player I think who can threaten Dave here so you have to stick with the top seeded player given all the possible scenarios and the fact he has just one match to prepare for.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Dave Gilbert. Worth a Punt: Anthony McGill.

SECTION 3

Barry Pinches v Hammad Miah winner plays Alfie Burden
Kyren Wilson v Chris Norbury winner plays Rod Lawler
Winner plays Graeme Dott

Season Form: Some decent players in this highly competitive section will be vying for the right to play Danger Man Dott to qualify. Hammad Miah has won 9 from 27 starts in his first season as a pro but he’s a player I think is quite underrated by some and could push the more experienced Barry Pinches close. SB Classic Runner-Up from 2013 Kyren Wilson faces Chris Norbury from Preston and Kyren has shown enough form to suggest he can progress there. Either way and whoever gets through the first two matches they will need to up their game to beat Alfie Burden and Rod Lawler respectively and although it’s not beyond the realms that one of the early starters could make it all the way to the final round I think it’s quite unlikely. Dott will be a player that the seeds will want to avoid should he make it to the Crucible and you have to think that he will, he’s in good form and will not want to miss out on the big one having been pushed out of the Crucible seeded places by virtue of the World Champion being automatically seeded number one, despite his ranking being outside the top 16.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Graeme Dott.

SECTION 4

Martin O’Donnell v Shane Castle winner plays Andrew Higginson
Daniel Wells v Ryan Clark winner plays Kurt Maflin
Winner plays Dominic Dale

Season Form: The MO’D, Martin O’Donnell faces amateur player Shane Castle, who got the public’s attention in York losing narrowly to Mark Selby, so even though he remains an amateur at least for the next few weeks he is a dangerous opponent for Martin. Ryan Clark has won just two matches this season and faces Daniel Wells, who should have enough in the tank to progress. Whoever makes it out of this foursome has very stiff opposition in the next round. Andrew Higginson can be one thing or the other and has struggled for consistency all season, while Kurt Maflin is one of the heaviest scorers in the game when he’s on song and can rattle frames off at a rate of knots. I actually fancy Maflin here to progress onto a tie with highest seed Dominic Dale and I’d make that a coin toss, I just have a slight inkling that Kurt will be lining up for the first time at the Crucible this time rather than crowd favourite Dom, it’s about time he played there.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Kurt Maflin.

SECTION 5

Jamie O’Neill v Cao Xinlong winner plays Peter Lines
Paul Davison v Chris Wakelin winner plays Alan McManus
Winner plays Mark Williams

Season Form: Jamie O’Neill comes here from his best performance of the season in a main ranker in Beijing and has a highly winnable draw here against Xinlong who has won just 5 times from 17 starts and is on a big losing run. In the other first match tough match player Paul Davison faces dark horse Chris Wakelin who I rate. Wakelin has started his first year as a professional with promise and while I think he’ll need another year before beating more established players regularly he’s a player I’d keep an eye on next season in the qualifiers. Either way the victors come up against Peter Lines and Angles McManus, two experienced wily old pro’s – a tough test. Whilst I could potentially see O’Neill turning over Lines on current form I think Angles will have the measure of his first opponent and progress to a match against Mark Williams to qualify for the Crucible. Whilst there is the pressure of expectancy on MJW, he’s coped with worse and to be honest he’s a confident pick to make it to the place he lovingly refers to as a ‘Sh!thole’, let’s face it, the World Championship would not be the same without him.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Mark Williams.

SECTION 6

Mehta - Danger Man.

Mehta – Danger Man.

Michael Leslie v Chris Keogan winner plays Aditya Mehta
Joel Walker v Allan Taylor winner plays Jamie Jones
Winner plays Michael Holt

Season Form: Scot Michael Leslie has struggled for results again this season but has taken a few decent scalps along the way including most notably Jack Lisowski in the UK Championship, I think he’ll have a bit too much for Sheffield based amateur and SB Classic regular Chris Keogan. My pal Allan Taylor will be looking ahead to next season and a push to improve his results, Albo faces Welsh Open quarter finalist Joel Walker first up and the draw could have been kinder to him, but he’s more than capable of causing a minor upset there. Either way, again I don’t feel any of the opening four will get past their next opponents Aditya Mehta and Jamie Jones. Jones is struggling for results while playing well, which is never pleasant, but perhaps after something of a career downturn since his Crucible heroics of 2012 he’s beginning to turn the corner. Mehta is a player that I rate highly with an unflappable way about him around the table, he is a threat to anyone on his day, his win ratio is as high as anyone in his ranking position this season and on that basis I’d take him to squeeze through against Jamie. If he does, I think he might continue the momentum against Michael Holt and cause an upset, but if Holt is not to be at the Crucible I think Mehta in this section is the only person that can stop him.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Aditya Mehta.

SECTION 7

James Wattana v Alex Borg winner plays Marcus Campbell
Sam Baird v John Astley winner plays Jamie Cope
Winner plays Mark King

Season Form: As I write this Mark King is in the Quarter Finals in Beijing but whether he loses there or wins the trophy he’ll be back in plenty of time for his final qualifying match, but who will he be up against? Well, I think this is a section where we may see a ‘first rounder’ make the final match, but whoever it is I don’t think they will beat King. James Wattana should beat Alex Borg but he usually finds one too good eventually these days and for me that player is either Marcus Campbell or whoever he plays after that. I think the dark horse in this section is the winner of the match between Sam Baird and John Astley, two players who are more than capable of raising their games against better players. It’s a match I can’t call though I notice the early prices have Baird a very strong favourite, probably on balance you’d back Sam but that match is no walk in the park for him. Until Jamie Cope starts showing anything like the form he used to he’s impossible to fancy with any confidence, he still wins the odd match but he’s not right, that is crystal clear. If Baird has got that far I think he could turn over Marcus too but realistically this section is set up for Mark King, despite his advancing years and lack of hair, he’s still a hell of a competitor, OK he tends to play his best stuff in China these days but I reckon he’s got one foot in the Crucible already with this draw.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Mark King. Worth a Punt: Sam Baird.

SECTION 8 

Gary Wilson v James Cahill winner plays Tom Ford
Luca Brecel v Lee Page winner plays Yu Delu
Winner plays Matthew Stevens

Season Form: As well as former World Champions Graeme Dott and Mark Williams, another name you wouldn’t usually expect to be playing at this stage is Matthew Stevens, a Crucible semi-finalist as recently as 2012 and twice a runner-up. But he is here by virtue of a season to forget and he is one player that definitely can’t pull the old burnout stunt, his season has gone downhill since a strong start in Wuxi where he reached the semi-final and has never really got going. So is there anyone in this section that can further compound his misery? Eyes will immediately be drawn to Yu Delu, who beat Ronnie in Preston and nearly beat Robbo in Beijing. I expect him to deal with the winner of Luca Brecel and Lee Page (most likely Luca) while in the other section I’d take a punt on Gary Wilson to win through against Cahill and Tom Ford, another who has had a pretty poor season by his standards. So can either of them defeat Matthew? I’d say personally that Delu has the best chance but on pedigree alone I think I’ll have to stick with Stevens. Somehow the Crucible wouldn’t be the same without him.  

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Matthew Stevens. Worth a Punt: Yu Delu.

SECTION 9

Classic Champ Ant Parsons.

Classic Champ Ant Parsons.

Chen Zhe v Ant Parsons winner plays Mark Joyce
Michael Wasley v Syd Wilson plays Rory McLeod
Winner plays Robert Milkins

Season Form: This section sees this season’s Snookerbacker Classic Champion Ant Parsons make his World Championship debut in what has been a great year for the Teesider. He’s up against Chen Zhe, a beatable Chinese opponent nicknamed ‘Sleepy’ by his pals. He’ll need to be wide awake to cope with a very determined and ruthless player who take it from me, is a threat to any lower professional the form he is in recently. Also up is SB Classic Quarter Finalist Syd Wilson and he takes on Gloucester’s Michael Wasley who’s had a decent season all in all, hardly ever losing to lower ranked players. The two will have met a few times as amateurs I’m sure and it could be a close affair but Wazza seems to have taken to the professional ranks better than most of his peer group. The winners of these come up against two tough match players in Mark Joyce and Rory McLeod and any of them will have their work cut out there given the experience these two have of grinding out results. Rory holds the upper hand in his meetings with Joyce but Mark does tend to do a little better the longer the format so I’d marginally fancy him to arrive in the final round to play Rob Milkins. I can see that being a close match if it happens and like I say, Joyce does tend to play better over the longer format, but Rob is the second highest seeded player in this event for a reason and he’ll fancy his chances whoever he comes up against from this section you’d feel. I wouldn’t completely rule out Rob’s fellow Gloucester man Wasley though if he gets to this stage.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Robert Milkins. Worth a Punt: Michael Wasley.

SECTION 10

Robbie Williams v Lu Haotian winner plays Liu Chuang
Li Hang v Ratchayothin Yotharuck winner plays Pankaj Advani
Winner plays Fergal O’Brien

Season Form: Ratchayothin Yotharuck of Thailand is an interesting proposition, his results suggest he’s a pretty poor player at this level but on closer inspection he’s had some very close matches with players ranked much higher than him, he faces Li Hang of China who has beaten some very decent players this season and may fancy his chances in this section dominated by Asian players. Young Lu Haotian who looks about 11 years old is another coming on nicely and his opener against Robbie Williams could go either way with the winner I believe having a decent chance of turning over the inconsistent and frankly underwhelming Liu Chuang. But this is a section where I think that with the possible exception of Yotharuck, any of the other six names could win it. Fergal O’Brien isn’t quite the steely force of old but I’m sure he’ll be bang up for this as he always is and it’s always nice to see him at the Crucible. Pankaj Advani of India will be many people’s pick here and it’s clear he’s a very good player indeed and improving now he has given snooker the lions share of his time over billiards, but I’m going to stick with the Chinese in this one and of the three Chinese players in there, the one I think will pose the biggest danger is first round starter Hang, so I’ll go for him to be a player that can come through from the very first round.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Li Hang. Worth a Punt: Lu Haotian.

SECTION 11

Tony Drago v Robin Hull winner plays Tian Pengfei
Ian Burns v Fraser Patrick winner plays Jimmy White
Winner plays Peter Ebdon

Season Form: Three familiar faces in this section in crazy Maltese barnpot Tony Drago, the Whirlwind Jimmy White and the man who’s never short of bananas Peter Ebdon. Drago kicks off against Robin Hull, the Finnish player who has been plagued by injury all his career but can still play a bit, I expect the winner in any case to lose to the dangerous but inconsistent Tian Pengfei in the round that follows. Ian Burns has suffered a somewhat similar fate to the last World Snooker ‘Rookie of the Year’ Jack Lisowski and has not really lived up to the tag which last season saw him labelled a real danger man, his match with Scot Fraser Patrick could go either way and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the winner turned over Jimmy White in the next round, Jimbo as good as secured his tour survival in Beijing and I think he’ll be OK even if he loses here, but obviously I’d love to see him and the Nugget in the first round draw. For me though this section is all about Ebdon and Tian and Ebdon has shown enough form in Beijing to suggest he is tuned for this. I again expect the top seed to progress.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Peter Ebdon.

SECTION 12

Wenbo - Crackers.

Wenbo – Crackers.

Sean O’Sullivan v Mitchell Travis winner plays Martin Gould
Adam Duffy v Igor Figueiredo winner plays Gerard Greene
Winner plays Liang Wenbo

Season Form: This is another section where I believe the winners of the first two matches will lose to their next round opponents Martin Gould and Gerard Greene. It’s good to see that the smiling Brasilian Igor has entered this, he’s basically been strapped for cash so has been unable to fulfill his professional obligations but if he’s been practising he’s not a bad player at all and with the pressure off could easily beat Adam Duffy, a player who has won just one from his last eleven starts. Sean O’Sullivan is another who has struggled with life as a professional and like Duffy has won just one match from his last eleven, he faces amateur Mitchell Travis who famously beat Marco Fu and Kurt Maflin in the UK Championship, potential banana skin for Sean there. Gouldy seems to have lost his way a bit lately and I really can’t think why that is, a meeting against the in-form Gerard Greene who seems to be able to win without scoring very heavily may be enough to see him off for the season. This is all leading up to me saying that I think Liang Wenbo is probably the player who I’d say if someone were to ask me for a ‘certain’ qualifier, his price will reflect this I don’t doubt. A word of caution though, like Poomjaeng, Dale and a couple of others, Greene is a player I hardly ever back and recently that has cost me.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Liang Wenbo.

SECTION 13

Noppon Saengkham v Vinnie Calabrese winner plays Jamie Burnett
Scott Donaldson v Ahmed Saif winner plays Cao Yupeng
Winner plays Ben Woollaston

Season Form: A very open section this, possibly the most open of the lot. Scott Donaldson should have little more than a warm up in his first match and that will allow him to settle down. Scott is a player I will admit to underrating a little through the season but he’s beaten some decent players and is on an upward curve. Considering his ranking, Thailander Noppon has a decent win ratio this season (W16 L20) and he doesn’t lose very often to players ranked as low as the happiest man in snooker, Aussie Vinnie Calabrese. I don’t actually think that Vinnie is the pushover that some do and I think that match could go either way personally, but I do slightly favour old Noppo. Jamie Burnett has been largely anonymous this season and seems to find someone to beat him in either the first or second match of every event, though a last 16 appearance in the German Masters did break that season cycle and he couldn’t have wished for a nicer section if he can get his game in order. I expected Cao Yupeng to progress better than he has and for some reason he’s suffered what has happened to so many Chinese players in the past, namely, they break through and then immediately start going downhill, maybe the weight of expectation placed on them in their home country is to blame, I don’t know. Anyway, I started by saying this was open, that wasn’t meant as a slight on Ben Woollaston, who is of course the best player in the section, but I reckon whoever faces him will fancy their chances. Gun to head, I’d say Woollaston, but he’s there to be shot at.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Ben Woollaston. Worth a Punt: Scott Donaldson.

SECTION 14 

It's a thumbs up from me.

It’s a thumbs up from me.

Stuart Carrington v Andrew Norman winner plays Jack Lisowski
David Grace v Ross Muir winner plays Nigel Bond
Winner plays Ryan Day

Season Form: This next statement is basically a ridiculous assumption by yours truly but I reckon there are only two possible qualifiers from this section, Ryan Day obviously, as he is in the final match already..and Jack Lisowski, who isn’t. I manlove Andrew Norman and if I was able to handpick three players I’d like to see from the lower professional ranks playing at the Crucible he’d be there with Allan Taylor and The MOD, but I think even he’d agree that he’s not really a live betting proposition to be there. The big man from Leeds and friend of the blog David Grace will no doubt be delighted that I am not tipping him to cause an upset, he does a lot better when I don’t after all. For the record, I think he’ll win his first match, sorry Gracey. I might as well cut to the chase in that I think whoever Jack faces in his first match is in for a bit of a quickfire hiding, even taking into account Stuart Carrington’s improved form of late. Then he’d face either (for me) Bond or Grace, I’ll plump for the former. Either way, again I can’t see Lisowski slipping up. Ryan Day awaits the winner and I think with two wins under his belt, if he doesn’t get carried away, Lisowski can and will beat him. I think the Crucible needs to showcase great young players like Jack and hopefully he’ll get a chance to build on his debut there last year, where like so many future winners before him, he was slightly overawed.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Jack Lisowski.

SECTION 15

Mike Dunn v Rhys Clark winner plays Matt Selt
David Morris v Alexander Ursenbacher winner plays Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Winner plays Michael White

Season Form: Again as I write, Mike Dunn is playing in the China Open having done fabulously well there (he’s just beaten Selby in the QF’s), he’ll hopefully arrive to play his first match on Wednesday morning and however he gets on with what is left of his amazing week in Beijing he may be suffering some sort of after-effect. But here’s my opinion, I don’t think Mike will qualify anyway, he’s done what he had to do over in Beijing and has even in the meantime secured a future there as a coach if he wants it, he’ll be delighted, elated at ever so slightly living the dream and eventually I think it will catch up with him, it’s bound to and this again just goes to show how ridiculous this cramped schedule is. Therefore the player I see progressing in this section is the hungrier and definitely less tired Matt Selt, who is also in decent form himself. With respect to Ireland’s Davy Morris and Swiss Alexander (a distant cousin of mine) I’d also expect the very decent Un-Nooh to progress from there. It then becomes all about Selt and Un-Nooh for me. Selt has beaten him twice, including over this distance and I think they are both progressing at more or less the same rate. Either way, the winner plays another player who like his mate Jamie Jones will be looking to return to a place with great memories in Welshman Michael White. Michael has been playing very well of late but my concern with him is always the pressure he puts himself under, and so, I reckon the winner of Selt and Un-Nooh may be the outside punt here after a confidence boosting win, I’ll plump for Selt.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Matt Selt.

SECTION 16

The Outlaw: Bit of a Crowd Favourite.

The Outlaw: Bit of a Crowd Favourite.

Alex Davies v Joe Swail winner plays Anthony Hamilton
Li Yan v Elliot Slessor winner plays Dave Harold
Winner plays Xiao Guodong

Season Form: This section could produce some real grinding stuff. Tough matchplay and a loyal crowd is always guaranteed when Joe Swail enters the fray, he remains a real people’s player does Joe. He’s got a really tough opener against Alex Davies but he’ll know how tough that is and expect Joe to go into the match, as only he does and can, for the long haul. He’ll probably win 10-9 at around 2 o’clock in the morning after needing 2 snookers on the blue or something. Joe has no recent form to speak of, but since when has that mattered with him? If he wins he plays Anthony Hamilton from Pottingham, a player who admits to getting a bit tired after a couple of days snooker on the bounce but who has all the talent in the world. We also have Elliot Slessor from the North East, a great player and one of Jimmy’s protege’s, he faces one of the weaker Chinese players in Li Yan, so should progress if he plays his natural game, he’ll then go to school with Dave Harold. Either way, I reckon this section is about which of the older blokes get through to have a crack at Guodong, who for me is probably the third best Chinese player on the tour. The draw is tailor made for Xiao. Or is it?

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Xiao Guodong. Worth a Punt: Dave Harold. Always Worth a Punt: Joe Swail.

RECOMMENDED FIRST ROUND BETS

5 point acca on Steadman, Highfield, Wells, Leslie and Donaldson pays just over 2/1 at Ladbrokes (I got just over 3/1 at Paddies on this before posting) 

4 point acca add Wattana, Brecel and Wasley pays bang on 11/2 at Ladbrokes.

2 point acca add Kyren and Gary Wilson pays almost 10.5/1 at Ladbrokes.

2 point treble on O’Neill, Carrington and Swail pays over 3/1 at Paddy Power.

2 point double on Slessor and Figueiredo pays almost 6/1 at William Hills.

TO QUALIFY RECOMMENDED PUNTS

3 points on Jack Lisowski at 5/1 with William Hills.

1 point on each: Li Hang 14/1 Apollobet. Dave Harold 7/1 Apollobet. Yu Delu 5/1 Apollobet. Scott Donaldson 9/1 Apollobet. Michael Wasley 16/1 Apollobet. Lu Haotian 28/1 Apollobet.

You can view match prices at Apollobet here and their To Qualify Prices here    

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China Open Finals Weekend

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:21 pm

It’s Finals weekend in Beijing and the headlines today are all about one man, Mike Dunn, who has had a dream week out there having secured his tour place and now reached his first ranking semi-final in a long career.

The downside for him (if there is one) is that getting back for his World Championship Qualifier on Wednesday morning is going to be a bit of a rush but I don’t think he’ll mind too much and may just turn up in Sheffield and play on adrenalin.

He faces Ding who missed more than he would usually to beat Mark King and he’s not without a chance. In the other semi-final I fancy Ali Carter to beat Robbo. Bettingwise the 3 points on Ding at 11/4 and the point on Ali at 20′s are what we have left to get out of the week in profit.

Here’s tomorrow. 

Saturday – Semi Finals Best of 11 frames

7.30am (UK Time)
Neil Robertson v Ali Carter 

12.30pm (UK Time)
Ding Junhui v Mike Dunn 

Recommended Bet: 2 point double pays 5/2 at Paddy Power on Carter (+1.5 frames) and Dunn (+3.5 frames)

You can view outright prices at Apollobet here as well as match betting here.  

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China Open Final: Ding v Robertson

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:00 pm

It’s the final in Beijing and the two men, other than Ronnie O’Sullivan, who have largely dominated the season meet up in the final event before the World Championship.

The debate will be had (basically because I’ll start it) should either fail to perform at the Crucible as to the wisdom of their decision to enter this after such a long season, but for now let’s look forward to what hopefully should be a cracking final.

I don’t think either have looked like world-beaters this week and they go into it pretty even formwise. Robbo has improved as the week has gone on and I’d slightly favour him to win. If I was having a decent bet I’d back over 16.5 frames in the match at the 10/11 on offer but instead I’ll just recommend a sit back and enjoy it few quid, the real betting will be done from Tuesday onwards and here’s a comprehensive look at why.

Recommended Bets:  1 point Robertson to win 10-8 at 10/1 with Stan James. 1 point on Robertson to win 10-9 at 19/2 with Sportingbet.  

The Final – Best of 19 Frames – click match for head to head record

Ding Junhui v Neil Robertson

You can view outright prices at Apollobet here as well as match betting here.  

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April 3, 2014

China Open Quarter Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:13 pm

China Open Quarter Finals tomorrow in Beijing. All the three main contenders to Ronnie are still there and Ding looked very sharp today in particular.

Click on the match for the head to heads which includes one particular World Championship Final that paid for the vast bulk of Mrs SB and I’s wedding, happy days.

Bettingwise, we have Dotty (50/1), Ali (20/1) and main pick Selby (6/1) still in the outrights, something is bound to go wrong so it’s time to add to the book.

As an aside, Mike Dunn is due to play in Sheffield at 10am on Wednesday in the World Qualifiers.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Ding Junhui to win the China Open at 11/4 with Betfred. 

7.30am

Neil Robertson v Graeme Dott
Ricky Walden v Ali Carter

12.30pm

Ding Junhui v Mark King
Mike Dunn v Mark Selby

You can view outright prices at Apollobet here as well as match betting here.  

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Ronnie’s Blueprint for Snooker’s Future

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:20 am
Ron's been giving it the verbals.

Ron’s been giving it the verbals.

Our World Champ is never far away from the glare of publicity and this week, as he hasn’t got very much to do having sat out China, he’s decided to use his time telling us how he thinks snooker can improve and ensure a golden future.

He blogs about all sorts of things here and tells us why he likes to have a rest between tournaments to avoid getting bored of them, I know how he feels on that score. He also tells us how he feels going into the World Championship and why his mindset is slightly different this time around having played in more tournaments this season, explaining that he reckons last year was a one-off and that he doesn’t think he could ever take a year out again and come back to win the World Championship, even though he’d like to.

He also says that he would have loved to have gone to Beijing this week, but that he was forced to make his mind up two months ago (i.e. quite understandably, before the qualifiers). Anyway, two months ago our Ron wasn’t feeling arsed with all the travelling, but if you asked him last week after losing in the last 16 of the PTC Grand Final, he’d have gone. He conveniently leaves out the fact that the qualifiers were two months ago and that in terms of planning the governing body probably need to know of his intentions more than a couple of days in advance, but this is Ronnie, he can say what he likes.

He then has a go at the new structure and he doesn’t seem to be a big fan of going to Barnsley to qualify, he says that he doesn’t know any other sport where the top 64 in the game have to go to qualify for the tournament elsewhere before it starts. This is his way of saying that he thinks the flat 128 works, but only if everyone plays at the venue in the space of a week. Leading him on to call for bigger venues to be used.

All the first bit comes across as a bit of a rant but he does finish with what I think are two good points, one is to shift the top heavy prize money structure to a more measured one which ensures that all professionals are paid enough to at least ply their trade while on the tour without having to worry too much financially. His idea of the prize money being split into two tours is interesting.

He says ‘If I was running snooker, I’d be all for a two-tier system that works so well for golf. You would maybe have 50 players on the main Tour playing for £6-7 million, and the other 80 playing for £2 or 3 million on the lower Tour. They wouldn’t really be much worse off than they are at the moment, but would be playing for a place on the main Tour’.

I actually think that’s not a bad idea to be honest and leads on to his second point of offering prize money even to first round losers to cover expenses. This is a point which seems almost unthinkable to Bazza of course but let’s bear in mind that (in most cases) these guys are professional for a reason, they have earned it, so why should they not be guaranteed at least a working wage? In what other profession are you asked to work for nothing? Indeed, as things stand, pay for the privilege? This is a real problem lower down the ranks and lots of players are in financial trouble, this isn’t something that will just magically go away.

Lots will disagree I’m sure, but for me, this time Ronnie has actually made a couple of very good points and I think he’s finally understanding that he could, quite ironically given some of his past outbursts, end up being a very positive spokesperson for the professionals who dream one day of having his success. Even if it does mess with Bazza’s revolution.

April 2, 2014

China Open Last 16

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:12 pm

Here is the Last 16 line-up in Beijing, the scoreboard broke today and there was no way of finding out the final session results other than some reliable sources on Twitter, the governing body as I type are still yet to release the official results, all a bit of a mess really.

Bettingwise we still have Selby (6/1), Higgins (14/1), Dott (50/1), Carter (20/1) and Ebdon (150/1) alive in the outrights.

Anyway, the head to heads can be found by clicking on the match.

7.30am

Neil Robertson v Yu Delu
Luca Brecel v Graeme Dott
Shaun Murphy v Ricky Walden
Ali Carter v Peter Ebdon

Predicted Winners: Delu, Dott, Murphy, Ebdon.

12.30pm

Ding Junhui v John Higgins
Mark King v Jamie O’Neill
Craig Steadman v Mike Dunn
Jimmy White v Mark Selby

Predicted Winners: Higgins, King, Dunn, Selby.

You can view outright prices at Apollobet here as well as match betting here.  

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April 1, 2014

China Open Last 32

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:08 pm

China Open PosterThe China Open continues with the Last 32 whittling down to 16 on Wednesday over in Beijing.

In the meantime for anyone who hasn’t seen it, the draw for the World Championship Qualifiers was released last night and can be viewed by clicking hereA full comprehensive preview of the qualifiers will be up before the end of the week, they start next Tuesday in Sheffield.

There is something of a sense of ‘let’s just get this one over with’ at the moment in snooker and for me at least, the qualifying draw is a lot more interesting than what is happening over in China, which is of course a shame as it’s a decent tournament.

There’s still tour places to be sorted out of course and players left in this who will be seeing it as their big chance to retain their tour cards. Obviously, Matt over at Pro Snooker Blog is the man to consult over this matter. He explains all the numbers and qualification criteria on his money list here.

In terms of that first round multiple, wins for Dunn and Selt with Fergal as a non-runner kept things on an even keel. There are again a few odds against shots tomorrow worth looking at I reckon.

Just a pointer that Martin O’Donnell and Craig Steadman have played three times before and each time it’s gone to a decider, it’s funny how sometimes there are quirky match-ups where that happens, the other example I can think of are Maflin and Guodong whose last five have all gone the distance, wonder how many others there are? Either way, it’s a great chance for either MO’D or Steadman to make the last 16 of a full ranker.

In the meantime here are the match times and head to heads for tomorrow. 

Where there are previous meetings each match has a clickable link to view. 

2.30am

James Wattana v Yu Delu
Luca Brecel v Dominic Dale
Xiao Guodong v Ricky Walden
Peter Ebdon v Judd Trump
Mike Dunn v Tian Pengfei
Jimmy White v Alfie Burden

Predicted Winners: Wattana, Dale, Guodong, Trump, Dunn, White.

7am

Neil Robertson v Mark Williams
Graeme Dott v Dave Harold
Shaun Murphy v Dechawat Poomjaeng
Ali Carter v Matt Selt
Michael White v John Higgins

Predicted Winners: Williams, Dott, Murphy, Carter, Higgins.

12.30pm

Ding Junhui v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Marco Fu v Mark King
Jamie O’Neill v Fergal O’Brien
Martin O’Donnell v Craig Steadman
Nigel Bond v Mark Selby

Predicted Winners: Un-Nooh, King, O’Neill, O’Donnell, Selby.

Recommended Bets: 3×1 point doubles and a 1 point treble on Jimmy White, James Watanna and Xiao Guodong treble pays best priced 11/1 at Apollobet. 2 points on MJW to beat Robertson at 7/4 with Ladbrokes. 1 point on Ali Carter to win the China Open at 20/1 with Ladbrokes.  

You can view outright prices at Apollobet here as well as match betting here 

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March 30, 2014

The Congestion Continues: The China Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:12 pm
It all feels a bit too congested.

It all feels a bit too congested.

Following yesterday’s conclusion in Preston and victory for Barry Hawkins it’s now the turn of Beijing to host the latest tournament in this frankly barking mad end of season snooker calendar, starting at 2.30am UK time on Monday morning.  

This is usually a really good event, but the congestion this year in the calendar for me threatens to ruin it. It’s wedged between the PTC Grand Finals and the start of the World Championship qualifiers and I’m sure a lot of these players would rather be practicing this week for their World Championship assault than playing in this.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think there is too much snooker, sometimes that’s said tongue-in-cheek but this end of season madness I think proves my point. This is even before we get to the 2 day gap (one of which is a public holiday in the UK) between the world qualifiers finishing and the first day at The Crucible, leaving journalists, bookmakers and bloggers very little time to big our main event up. We need a minimum of a week in hand to really get the appetite of the public at large up to fever pitch, this year unfortunately it will all be a little rushed. Even the radio station that normally broadcasts the Crucible draw live isn’t interested this year as reported here.

But, at least for this year, it is what it is and we all have to put up with these ludicrous decisions on timings. This madness shows no sign of stopping next season with some dates already announced, one of which sees the most financially lucrative tournament in China, the International Championship, finish the day before the Champion on Champions starts in Coventry. Unless Bazza has invented a teleporter for the finalists this is surely up there with one of the most ridiculous decisions in scheduling history in any sport, one or both of the finalists in China will probably be qualified to play in Coventry too unless Gerard Greene steps in again to save the day. Seriously, what are they thinking?

Looking ahead to Beijing, like I say it’s a real shame that this is now being seen by some as an unwelcome distraction, but there is still a lot of dosh up for grabs and with Robbo, Selby and Ding (co-favourites for this) all being dumped out in Preston against the odds to get them over there, they’ll be wanting to get back into the groove and enter the Crucible as the last ranking winner.

Of the three, I think it’s Selby who has the best draw and he’s the man I’ll be backing to win this week. There may be a few doubts over Robbo if you believe that he wasn’t too well last week, he’s not had long to get over it and if you are feeling a bit ropey the last thing you need is a flight to the other side of the world. As for Ding, obviously he’s a danger but I sense he’s just beginning to slip a bit formwise lately and weirdly I think he’d benefit from an early exit in this. I actually think that winning this is probably more of a curse than a boost for Crucible chances, it’s proved to be in the past anyway as nobody has ever won this and the World in the same season and given that I don’t think Selby will win the World Championship, he ticks all the boxes.

Of the other hopefuls, the price on John Higgins remains attractive enough to have a punt at and after that I’ll be looking at three outsiders in the shape of Graeme Dott, who hasn’t won a tournament for donkey’s years but seems to be playing OK and has won this before. I’ll also risk a very small punt on two times champion Peter Ebdon and young buck Jack Lisowski, both of whom are capable of building a head of steam if things go their way.

It’s also a big week for some players with regards to their own tour survival, not least Jimmy White who faces David Morris first up. Just a note that Tony Drago, Stuart Bingham and Stephen Maguire have all withdrawn, Bingham has a funeral to attend and therefore Martin O’Donnell progresses to the last 32, Maguire has a bad back giving Dave Harold a bye, no idea what’s up with Drago, maybe he’s slapped himself too hard again, but Alfie Burden is the beneficiary of his absence.

UPDATE: Barry Hawkins and Mark Allen have also withdrawn. 

Oh yes, I almost forgot. Ban the Wildcards.

Recommended Bets: 3 points on Selby at 6/1 with Apollobet. 2 points on Higgins at 14/1 with Ladbrokes. 0.5 points each way on Dott (50/1 Apollobet), Lisowski (150/1 Sportingbet) and Ebdon (150/1 Corals).

First Round Bet (Best Prices in Brackets) 10 x 1 point doubles, 10 x 0.5 point trebles and a 1 point acca on McGill (7/4), Dunn (6/5), Advani (15/8), O’Brien (9/4) and Selt (7/4) – as a guide the acca pays 134/1 at Bet Victor. 

For head to heads stats for each match click here and enter the two names.

Monday 31st March

2.30am

Xiao Guodong v Hammad Miah
Ken Doherty v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Jack Lisowski v Dominic Dale
Luca Brecel v Yuan SiJun
John Astley v Yan Bingtao
Mike Dunn v Peter Lines

7am

Yu Delu v Chen Zifan
David Morris v Jimmy White
Aditya Mehta v Mark King
Graeme Dott v Rory McLeod
James Wattana v Mark Joyce
Alfie Burden w/o Tony Drago

12.30pm

Neil Robertson v Anthony Hamilton
Sam Baird v Zhao Xintong
Dechawat Poomjaeng v David Grace
Kyren Wilson v Jamie O’Neill
Barry Pinches v Nigel Bond

Tuesday 1st April

2.30am

Marco Fu v Li Hang (possibly rescheduled)
Kurt Maflin v Judd Trump (possibly rescheduled)
Martin O’Donnell w/o Stuart Bingham
Pankaj Advani v Ricky Walden
Yu Delu/Chen Zifan v Duane Jones
Dave Harold w/o Stephen Maguire
Tian Pengfei v Gary Wilson

7am

Ding Junhui v John Astley
Michael Wasley v John Higgins
Luca Brecel w/o Mark Allen
Matt Selt v Ryan Day
Fergal O’Brien w/o Barry Hawkins
Peter Ebdon v Jimmy Robertson

12.30pm

Stuart Carrington v Mark Selby
Shaun Murphy v Jamie Cope
Anthony McGill v Mark Williams
Ali Carter v Jamie Jones
Craig Steadman v Michael Holt
Michael White v Sam Baird/Zhao Xintong

You can view outright prices at Apollobet here as well as match betting here.  

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March 29, 2014

PTC Grand Finals: Finals Day

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:07 am

Here is the line up for today which sees one of the remaining four carry off the £100,000 first prize. Bettingwise, the recommended 40/1 on Marco Fu carries hopes and you’d have to fancy him to make the final. I’d probably marginally favour Judd to win it but Marco is a battler so we’ll wait and see. I’ll be working on a China Open preview later as this starts in Beijing on Monday in this ridiculously congested calendar. 

1pm

Gerard Greene v Marco Fu

NB 2pm

Barry Hawkins v Judd Trump

7pm
Gerard Greene/Marco Fu v Barry Hawkins/Judd Trump

You can view Apollobet’s match prices here

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