Snookerbacker

April 13, 2014

Sunday at Ponds Forge: Round 3 Concludes

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:28 am
Poomjaeng: Just one match away from a swift return to the Crucible

Poomjaeng: Just one match away from a swift return to the Crucible

Sunday sees the second and final day of the third round at the World Championship Qualifiers as sixteen more are whittled down to eight to face the highest seeded players in the qualifying event on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Yesterday saw eight players progress to the final round, leaving them just one match away from The Crucible. In order, Dechawat Poomjaeng ended the run of Craig Steadman and now faces Ken Doherty to qualify, there will be lots of people rooting for Poomy, I’ve nothing against him personally and the novelty affect he had last year was enjoyable for about an hour or so, but very much like Dennis Taylor used to get on my wick with his funnyman routines, it’s not really my cup of tea.

Jimmy Robertson, who made his Crucible debut a couple of years ago rallied from 9-8 down to beat Scot Anthony McGill in a decider, he now faces Dave Gilbert. SB Classic 2013 runner-up Kyren Wilson continued his impressive run from the first round to hammer Alfie Burden, he’ll be a match for highest seed Graeme Dott in the final round on that form and Dott is no certainty to get through.

There was a welcome return to form for Andrew Higginson who by all accounts played very well to dispense with Kurt Maflin, his prize is a meeting with Dominic Dale in the final round. Alan McManus set up a meeting with Mark Williams in beating Peter Lines in the match that predictably finished last in the session, Angles and MJW have had some tussles down the years with Williams holding the upper hand, but that could be an interesting one and surely will be live streamed.

Jamie Jones impressive form continued and he beat Aditya Mehta a little more comfortably than I expected and that means India’s hopes of a representative at the Crucible rest with Pankaj Advani, Jones now plays Michael Holt to qualify. The final two winners yesterday were Jamie Cope and Tom Ford. Jamie finally ending the unlikely run of Maltese journeyman Alex Borg to set up a match with Mark King. A ‘driven’ Ford, to a deluge of puns on Twitter, managed to ‘clear his road’ to the Crucible with renewed ‘focus’ to put the ‘brakes’ on Luca Brecel, it’s ‘fiesta’ time in the Ford camp and he’s so popular he’ll need an ‘escort’ to his next match with Matthew Stevens etc etc.

So as things stand it’s only Kyren out of yesterday’s winners who may be a Crucible debutant, but there are still a few in there today that have never played there and in the final round there is also Xiao Guodong involved who has never reached the final stages before.

The EBSA Play offs are also now down to their final three matches and today sees the winners of the three finals gain their tour card. Unfortunately Syd Wilson and Gaz Allen couldn’t make their finals but Jamie Clarke did and now faces Ian Glover in his section final. Zak Surety also made his final and plays Michael Georgiou, who I think used to be a professional, with the other final being contested by Mitchell Travis and Steven Hallworth.

Here’s today’s matches, only three of which have a head to head record, click on the highlighted match to view it.

Sunday 11am & 5pm

Mark Joyce v Michael Wasley
Robbie Williams v Pankaj Advani
Robin Hull v Ian Burns
Martin Gould v Igor Figueiredo (LIVE STREAM)
Jamie Burnett v Cao Yupeng
Stuart Carrington v Nigel Bond
Matt Selt v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (LIVE STREAM)
Joe Swail v Li Yan

Michael Wasley remains the last of my punts at 16/1 to make it to the Crucible and the way he is playing suggests that he’s not without a chance of beating Mark Joyce, his scoring in the last round against Rory McLeod was good with 8 breaks over 50, 6 of which were frame winners, I have a sneaking feeling he can turn over the odds in that one. Robbie Williams is a player that’s had a fine season and again I can see him progressing at odds against in his match with Pankaj. I watched a lot of Pankaj’s first match and he wasn’t really scoring very heavily when left chances, he’s a fine match player but he’s not a prolific break maker, Robbie is for me marginally the heavier scorer and I think he’ll end the Indian dream today. Finland’s Robin Hull is giving this a good old go and his win over Tian Pengfei in the last round and the manner in which he did it signals that he won’t be at all concerned about his match with Jimmy’s conqueror and last year’s World Snooker ‘Rookie of the Year’ Ian Burns, again for me, the outsider Hull is the one to be on there, he’s a top player when he’s fighting fit. Martin Gould found his potting boots in his last match with three centuries, a repeat performance will be enough to beat Igor comfortably you would feel, but he’s no sort of price to be backing. The Burnett/Yupeng clash is a tough call, but on their last round performances I’d make the Scot a marginal favourite, as do the bookies. Another outsider I think may upset the odds is Stuart Carrington, he faces Nigel Bond following his surprise win over Jack Lisowski and he’s been in decent form this season, Bond is beatable these days and not the force of old. Matt Selt and Un-nooh is another very tight call, Un-Nooh is no pushover but only hit one break over 50 in his last match while Selt scored a little better, I went for Selt to qualify so I’ll stick with him. Finally, Joe Swail takes on China’s Li Yan, it wouldn’t be a proper world qualifiers if Joe didn’t give us all some thrills and hope that he’ll one day get back to the Crucible and given his form so far this week there is no reason to suspect that he’ll not be lining up against Guodong for his place.

Just one more thing, I wish the Swail match was streamed, but it looks like live streaming company Perform are taking a punt on another early night following last night’s 6.04pm end to the live streamed matches, despite there being snooker on until well after 10pm. I really think World Snooker are missing a trick not putting a camera on each table for this and making more of an event of the whole qualifiers, but they appear almost anonymous on their website this week and have barely uttered a tweet on Twitter.

Predicted Winners: Wasley, Williams, Hull, Gould, Burnett, Carrington, Selt, Swail.

Recommended Bets: 2 point treble on Burnett, Selt and Swail pays over 9/2 at Sportingbet. 6×1 point doubles and a 1 point acca on Wasley, Williams, Hull and Carrington (Best price on the acca is over 29/1 at Bet Victor)  

You can view match prices at Apollobet here   

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April 12, 2014

World Championship Qualifiers: Round 3

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:24 am
Jamie Jones: I reckon he'd approve of the long match format.

Jamie Jones: I reckon he’d approve of the long match format.

We’re half way through the qualifiers for the World Championship now and this weekend we will see who qualifies to play in the final matches on Tuesday and Wednesday, Monday being a rest day while they re-cover the tables.

We also see the session times change and the early sessions starting at 11am followed by a 5pm concluding session. Effectively this means that most matches will be playing all day with very little in the way of an interval if the pattern of the week so far repeats itself. Most first sessions have taken at least 4 hours to reach their allocated 9 frames and some have been hauled off beforehand so some of these guys are in for a very long day, hope they’ve packed their bananas.

But credit to World Snooker for not messing with the length of the matches. There were a few people who were whispering that the early rounds may be shortened this year and I’m glad they were wrong. It’s usually me that starts these troublemaking rumours but this time my conscience is clear.

However much in other areas there is a push to shortening formats and ‘sexing up snooker’ (apologies for that gut-wrenching term) there remains something special about the two session matches that we don’t see in any other event now until at least the semi-final stage (International Championship) but in every other event, the final.

A prime example of why this format produces drama that short matches can’t came yesterday when Jamie Jones, 9-4 down, low on confidence and seemingly dead and buried, came back in thrilling fashion to beat Joel Walker 10-9. You would not have got that level of intensity in any other event on the calendar and to lose that would be a crying shame.

If you think it’s been a bit tense and twitchy so far, you ain’t seen nothing yet. As we approach today there will not be a player out there who will not be letting thoughts of The Crucible kick in, that’s when we’ll see who has got what it takes. Each of these players are now just 2 matches and 20 frames away from finishing the season at the home of snooker and there are a number of nationalities still represented. As well as China, the UK, Thailand and India, this round also sees players from far-flung places such as Finland, Malta, Belgium, Walsall, Brazil and even the Cockney Quarter in Norway thrown into the global mix, much I’m sure to the delight of Bazza and co.

Well, well. After an absolute shambles bettingwise in Round 1, Round 2 got the ship well and truly back on the water. The recommended treble and acca landed yesterday as well as two legs of the trixie and this adds to the bets landed on Thursday so it’s looking pretty good again. Unfortunately, the ‘To Qualify’ bets aren’t looking quite as healthy but the 16/1 outside poke on Michael Wasley is still alive and well, he faces Mark Joyce tomorrow.

So it’s time to see what we can find from the weekend matches, hopefully the good betting run will continue.

Click on the matches for head to head statistics where the two have met before.

Saturday 11am & 5pm

Dechawat Poomjaeng v Craig Steadman
Jimmy Robertson v Anthony McGill
Alfie Burden v Kyren Wilson – LIVE STREAM
Andrew Higginson v Kurt Maflin
Peter Lines v Alan McManus
Aditya Mehta v Jamie Jones - NOT LIVE STREAMED!!!!!
Alex Borg v Jamie Cope
Tom Ford v Luca Brecel – LIVE STREAM

Kyren: Did a job on Rod.

Kyren: Did a job on Rod.

Some cracking match ups in this session with the personal stand out for me being the one between Jones and Mehta. Both times they have met in the past they’ve been seperated by just a single frame, each winning one decider. As a result it’s almost impossible to split them and most bookies haven’t and have this as a coin toss. If you fancy this to be 10-7 or closer, which is the logical conclusion you have to think, Paddy Power are offering 4/6 on there being over 16 frames in the match. Jamie has the confidence boosting win he’s been looking for under his belt and although I’ve recommended Mehta as the Crucible qualifier from this section, that win changes things a little and now if I was betting on the match I’d go for Jones. While that one may produce late night thrills and spills by virtue of it being close, you can’t see the match between Peter Lines and Angles McManus being anything other than a bit of a marathon. McManus starts a marginal favourite and I’d say that’s justified on form this season. Another Scot that I think will progress from this round is Anthony McGill. Although he didn’t score that heavily in his opening match I just think he’s a better player in the tactical department than his opponent Jimmy Robertson who I think will need to be quick out of the blocks if he is going to win. Kyren Wilson hammered Rod Lawler in the last round and that takes some doing, he faces Alfie Burden who also came through comfortably against Barry Pinches, this again has the makings of a real close one and again it’s worth taking a look at the frames, gun to head I’d favour Kyren to win a close one. It’s good to see Jamie Cope coming back to form and a walloping of John Astley should give him enough confidence to face Alex Borg of Malta in buoyant mood. Borg is a strange one, I’ve seen him play a couple of times and both times it’s left me wondering how he ever wins a match, this I think has jaded my view of him a bit as he can obviously play when he puts his mind to it, I’m leaving that one alone as there is no value in backing Jamie and I may be totally wrong about Alex. Another player I always stupidly under-rate is Poomjaeng, maybe it’s the ‘novelty factor’ he added to Sheffield last year before getting absolutely annihilated by Michael White that’s the reason, I dunno, but today I think he’s probably a worthy favourite to beat Craig Steadman, the man who ruthlessly went and beat the Nugget the other day without a thought for traditionalist anoraks like me, but I won’t back Poomers, I just can’t. There are two marginal odds-against players that I think are worth a dabble though in Kurt Maflin and Luca Brecel, Maffers scored well enough in his opener to suggest that victory over Andrew Higginson isn’t out of the question in what could be another close one and Brecel is a player that tends to win in batches and seems to always play his best over the longer format, he can take advantage of a fair draw against Tom Ford in another that I think could go the distance.

Predicted Winners: Poomjaeng, McGill, Wilson, Maflin, McManus, Jones, Cope, Brecel.

Recommended Bets: 2 point double on both Wilson/Burden and Jones/Mehta matches being over 16 frames at over 7/4 with Paddy Power. Add the match between Ford/Brecel for a 1 point treble pays over 7/2 at the same firm and add Higginson/Maflin for a 1 point acca which pays almost 7/1. 3 point double on McManus and McGill pays 7/4 at Apollobet

Sunday 11am & 5pm

Mark Joyce v Michael Wasley
Robbie Williams v Pankaj Advani
Robin Hull v Ian Burns
Martin Gould v Igor Figueiredo
Jamie Burnett v Cao Yupeng
Stuart Carrington v Nigel Bond
Matt Selt v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Joe Swail v Li Yan

PREVIEW TO FOLLOW

You can view match prices at Apollobet here   

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Jamie Clarke - 2 matches from professional.

Jamie Clarke – 2 matches from professional.

Today also sees 12 amateur players play their first match in the European Billiards and Snooker Association Play-Offs at Ponds Forge. The field is made up of a mix of EPTC Amateur Cup winners and those who have done the best over the course of these events.

There are some familiar names in there for those who follow the Snookerbacker Classic including this year’s losing semi-finalist Welshman Jamie Clarke, twice losing quarter-finalist Syd Wilson and 2012 losing semi-finalist Zak Surety, along with Zack Richardson who reached Grand Finals Day this season and regulars Gareth Allen and Martin Ball.

Basically the format is that there are two semi-finals and a final in each section, the finals being played on Sunday. The winners of each final will then receive a two-year professional tour card so there is a lot at stake here.

You will be able to follow the live scoring for these here. I can’t find any information anywhere in terms of how many frames these matches are played over but if it’s following the format of the rest of the tournament they will remain the best of seven frames.

Section 1
Ian Glover 4-2 Gareth Allen Sat Apr 12th, 11am
Sam Harvey 2-4 Jamie Clarke Sat Apr 12th, 11am

Section 2
Steven Hallworth 4-1 Martin Ball Sat Apr 12th, 11am
Mitchell Travis v Zack Richardson Sat Apr 12th, 5pm

Section 3
Michael Tomlinson v Zak Surety Sat Apr 12th, 5pm
Sydney Wilson v Michael Georgiou Sat Apr 12th, 5pm

April 11, 2014

World Championship Qualifiers Day 4: Round 2 Concludes

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:04 am
Jimmy: Another tilt at the big one.

Jimmy: Another tilt at the big one.

Round Two concludes today at Ponds Forge and amongst those in action is none other than Jimmy White, who, unlike The Nugget looks to be almost certain to stay on the tour regardless of what happens today.

It was the end of the road for Steve Davis yesterday and it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll be back on the tour as a professional player again. His defeat to Craig Steadman means he’s left with the option of Q-School or just simply playing for fun in the PTC’s next season. He obviously has an open invitation to any SB Classic that he’d care to grace.

The good news is that yesterday was a very profitable day on the betting front. The 2 point 17/2 acca landed as did the banker bets, despite Rod Lawler losing to Kyren, had he not we’d be dancing in the streets of Scousepool, but it wasn’t to be. So it’s time to now look ahead to today and the next rounds.

Myself and Mrs SB had a lovely night last night in Sheffield at the Legends by the way. Classic Champ Ant Parsons performed in his game with Hendry and very nearly made a century at the Crucible, watched on by his proud mum and dad. It was a very enjoyable night and something I’d recommend to anyone, the Crucible was packed to the rafters, the set up was very professional and JV in particular put on a really good show. It’s basically like an all year round snooker pantomime and good old harmless fun. We also ended up drinking too much.

Anyway, here’s today. I’m a little pushed for time (breakfast calls) so it’s simply a roll call and a little bet. Normal service will resume for Round 3 later on.

10am & 7pm

Jimmy White v Ian Burns
Martin Gould v Mitchell Travis (LIVE STREAM)
Gerard Greene v Igor Figueiredo (LIVE STREAM)
Jamie Burnett v Vinnie Calabrese
Cao Yupeng v Scott Donaldson
Jack Lisowski v Stuart Carrington
Nigel Bond v Ross Muir
Matthew Selt v Rhys Clark
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v Alexander Ursenbacher
Anthony Hamilton v Joe Swail
Dave Harold v Li Yan

Recommended Bets: 3 point treble on Selt, Yupeng and Bond pays just over 2/1 at Apollobet. Add Burns for a 1 point acca which pays just over 4/1 at Apollobet. 0.5 point trixie on Figueirdo (9/4), Calabrase (5/2) and Swail (7/4) at Sportingbet. 

2.30pm

Jamie Jones 3-6 Joel Walker (LIVE STREAM)
Marcus Campbell 2-7 Alex Borg
Jamie Cope 8-1 John Astley
Tom Ford 6-3 James Cahill
Yu DeLu 3-6 Luca Brecel
Mark Joyce 5-4 Chen Zhe
Rory McLeod 4-5 Michael Wasley
Liu Chuang 2-6 Robbie Williams
Pankaj Advani 3-5 Li Hang (LIVE STREAM)
Tian Pengfei 4-5 Robin Hull

You can view match prices at Apollobet here   

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April 9, 2014

World Championship Qualifiers Day 3: Round 2 Commences

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:24 pm
Born Survivor? It's a big day for my mate Steve on Thursday.

Born Survivor? It’s a big day for my mate Steve on Thursday.

Day Three at Ponds Forge sees some of the winners from the first round taking on the seeds on the next rung up the ladder. Familiar names like Steve Davis, Alan McManus and Rod Lawler amongst those starting their campaign in Round 2.

Day 2 saw the conclusion of Round 1 and it’s fair to say that from a betting point of view I’m glad to see the back of it. We saw a few more deciding frames and a few unexpected results, in that category I’d include wins for Alex Borg, Hendry’s cousin James Cahill and Swiss player Alexander Ursenbacher.

Mike Dunn appeared to have left his cue arm behind in China as his hectic few weeks caught up with him and he was walloped by Rhys Clark, whilst the likes of Joe Swail, Ian Burns, Robbie Williams and Scott Donaldson all prevailed.

Sadly, Ant Parsons lost in a close fought affair with Chen Zhe, Syd Wilson lost in a decider to Michael Wasley and my pal Allan Taylor lost 10-8 to Joel Walker. One amateur who battled through was Mitchell Travis, who if you remember beat Marco Fu in the UK Championship, he beat Sean O’Sullivan 10-9, Sean now bound for Q-School with a whole host of others including Martin O’Donnell who suffered as a result of Sam Baird losing, despite still being in this.

Ironically, seeing as he played like a man with no eyes, Tony Drago has got Luca Brecel to thank for keeping his place on the main tour. Luca’s win yesterday put him into the top 64 on the money list meaning that Drago slips in the back door via the EPTC list. It was also nice to see Igor Figueiredo putting in a good performance and the jolly Brasilian is clearly just going to treat this as a bit of good old fashioned fun having sat out the season because he hasn’t got a sponsor.

Anyway, I’m off to Sheffield this afternoon to watch Ant Parsons pick up the last part of his SB Classic winner prize and play at the Cucible with Stephen Hendry. Myself and Mrs SB will then I’m sure, be partaking in some Indian cuisine in a little place I know.

CLICK ON THE MATCHES FOR HEAD TO HEAD STATISTICS WHERE THEY EXIST.

10am & 7pm conclusion

Dechawat Poomjaeng v Zhang Anda
Steve Davis v Craig Steadman – LIVE STREAM
Jimmy Robertson v Liam Highfield
Anthony McGill v Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon
Alfie Burden v Barry Pinches
Rod Lawler v Kyren Wilson
Andrew Higginson v Martin O’Donnell
Kurt Maflin v Daniel Wells - LIVE STREAM
Peter Lines v Cao Xinlong
Alan McManus v Paul Davison
Aditya Mehta v Christopher Keogan

Rod: Decent Price.

Rod: Decent Price.

There are a couple of matches here that I think are too close to call and some where I feel there might be a bit of value in the odd double/treble and acca, indeed two I consider to be bankers. I’ll rule out the Poomjaeng match as he is too unpredictable and I won’t touch Martin O’Donnell’s match for fear of heart ruling head, but suffice to say that a repeat of his first round performance makes him right on a par with the higher seeded Andrew Higginson. Whilst I think the legend that is Sir Steve of Davis will win what is a crucial match in terms of his tour survival chances (as will be the next one if he wins) I don’t think it’s worth a bet as there are other matches where I believe it’s better to put your dosh, added to this Craig Steadman is no pushover. There is no point in backing Aditya Mehta against the surprise package Chris Keogan, his odds are restrictive but you’d have to say he will be pleased with his opening opponent and I think from watching Chris he may be outdone in the tactical game that seems to be his strong suit by Adi. My banker of this session in terms of a bet would have to be Kurt Maflin, whilst it’s clear that Daniel Wells rallied in his first match when behind any repeat of that first session against Kurt will see him dead and buried, Kurt is usually a strong front runner at this level and I’d not be surprised if he won that one with a bit in hand. Another decent scorer I’d be prepared to take a chance on is Jimmy Robertson who plays Liam Highfield, Liam won his first practice session against a very poor opponent losing 3 more frames than he should have done with a highest break of just 62, with only two more in the 50′s, he’ll need to up his game considerably to beat Robertson. Regulars will know that I’m a big fan of Anthony McGill and I’d take him to outwit Thanawat, though it’s clear that his 10-8 win over Sanderson Lam in R1 was a quality encounter. Another Scot I like is Alan McManus, who remains as tough as teeth and has had a half decent season this time around. I think he’ll come through what is likely to be a long one for the traditionalist anoraks against Paul Davison. Cao Xinlong has been criticised by a few people openly now for overly, possibly even deliberately slow play, but this is not something that will bother the experienced Peter Lines, who needs all the wins he can get, the Leeds man is another confident pick. There will be plenty who will fancy SB Classic 2013 runner-up Kyren Wilson to turn over my old pal Rod Lawler, but I’m not one of them. Rod has had his head down for a few weeks preparing for this and after a cracking season I think he’s a live outsider to make the Crucible, he’s a decent price for this match at a shade under Evens and I’d say a bit of value, Kyren will have to prepare for a grind if he is to stay in it. Finally, though a less confident selection it has to be said, I’d go with Alfie Burden to beat Barry Pinches. Barry came through his first match in trademark workmanlike fashion against a careless opponent and I just feel that Alfie is the heavier scorer of the two these days and that is crucial in these longer encounters where two familiar faces meet.

Selections: Anda, Davis, Robertson, McGill, Burden, Lawler, O’Donnell, Maflin, Lines, McManus, Mehta.

Recommended Bets (all best price): 4 point double on Maflin and Robertson pays 20/21 at Apollobet. 2 point treble on those two plus Peter Lines pays nearly 2/1 at Apollobet. 2 point acca adding Rod Lawler pays over 4/1 at Apollobet. 1 point acca adding McGill and Burden pays over 10/1 at Apollobet. 2 point acca on Maflin, Robertson, Lines, Burden, McGill and McManus pays almost 17/2 at Apollobet. 1 point on all 7 named at almost 16/1 with Apollobet. Back any of these at this link: Apollobet    

Jones: Needs a kickstart.

Jones: Needs a kickstart.

2.30pm (conclude 2pm Friday)

Jamie Jones v Joel Walker – LIVE STREAM
Marcus Campbell v Alex Borg
Jamie Cope v John Astley
Tom Ford v James Cahill
Yu Delu v Luca Brecel
Mark Joyce v Chen Zhe
Rory McLeod v Michael Wasley
Liu Chuang v Robbie Williams
Pankaj Advani v Li Hang – LIVE STREAM
Tian Pengfei v Robin Hull

There are just two matches in this section which I’d have in the category of a ‘banker’ winner and they come in the form of Marcus Campbell and Mark Joyce, who I expect to come through against weaker opponents. Next down the rung in terms of fancied players in a session which could produce a few tight finishes and the odd upset would be Jamie Jones, Yu Delu and Tian Pengfei. Jones is a very backable price against Joel Walker, Joel is having a great time of things while Jamie is playing well without winning lately. But over the longer distance I think usually the best player will come out on top and JJ feels that the run in something is just around the corner, sometimes players sense this and I’d be prepared to back him at the price on offer. The potential for outsiders to come through in this section is most evident for me in the shape of John Astley who plays Jamie Cope, James Cahill who plays the out of form Tom Ford and Li Hang, who scored well enough in his first match to suggest he could run Pankaj Advani of India close. Odds against shot Robbie Williams is proving to be a formidable force in the qualifiers and I’d also be prepared to take a punt on him turning over Liu Chuang. The match I won’t touch is the one between Rory McLeod and Michael Wasley, this for me could go either way. So all in all this isn’t a session that I’d get heavily involved with and for me it may be best having a look at the value out there on the likes of Jones, Williams and Hang and combine them with some of the morning matches.

Selections: Jones, Campbell, Astley, Cahill, Delu, Joyce, McLeod, Williams, Hang, Pengfei.

Recommended Bets (Best Prices on offer in brackets): 10 x 1 point doubles, 1 point acca on Jones (4/5), Williams (6/5), Hang (6/4), Lawler (4/5) and Jimmy Robertson (8/13) – best place to back the acca is at Paddy Power where it pays nearly 24/1.

You can view match prices at Apollobet here   

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World Championship Qualifiers Day 2

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:21 am
The MO'D dazzled on Day 1.

The MO’D dazzled on Day 1.

It’s day two over at Ponds Forge and following the 11 players we saw win through yesteday today sees the conclusion of Round one with the outcomes of a further 21 matches decided.

The best performance of the day yesterday in terms of quality undoubtedly came from The MO’D, Martin O’Donnell. He brushed aside the potentially tricky Shane Castle 10-1 with three centuries including the highest of the day, a 139.

Indeed, on day one alone there were a total of 15 centuries, more I’m sure than any other first round day in the history of the championship. Perhaps this ‘strength in depth’ argument has some basis after all, without doubt there was some great snooker played in the opening matches.

We saw three matches go to deciders, with wins for Daniel Wells, Cao Xinlong and Paul Davison, but unfortunately my mate Sandi Lam couldn’t overturn Thanawat and ended up losing 10-8 after also contributing two centuries himself.

There were comfortable wins for Liam Highfield against the hapless Abumdas, Zhang Anda who saw off Andrew Pagett and for Barry Pinches, whose opponent Hammad Miah managed to somehow arrive 7 minutes late for his match apparently unable to find the venue, unforgiveable really for any professional player in the biggest tournament of them all.

More workmanlike wins came from Craig Steadman and from SB Classic 2013 runner-up Kyren Wilson in what was a very good day all round for SB Classic boys, the shock of the day coming at the hands of another regular in Sheffield’s Chris Keogan, the amateur who managed to score what is surely the best win of his career by beating professional Michael Leslie of Scotland 10-6. I definitely didn’t see that one coming as I’m sure not many did. Chris is a great lad and I’m delighted for him, even if his loss did inflict the first betting wound of this great championship and drew a line through the big acca’s.

In the matches yet to be decided I’m pleased to say that SB Classic Champ Ant Parsons is well in contention and that my pals Allan Taylor and Syd Wilson are also, like Ant, well in the hunt as they all start 1 frame down this afternoon at 4-5, three of eight matches that reached that scoreline after yesterday afternoon, more deciders on the way today you feel. The other two see strong leads for Li Hang of China and for Finland’s Robin Hull who is 7-2 up on Tony Drago.

Tony revealed last week that he’s been suffering from depression and seemed to indicate that this was at least in some part due to the pressure he was putting himself under to stay on the tour, he did look a shadow of himself yesterday it has to be said and I hope things work out for him as he’s given us some great entertainment both on and off the baize throughout his career.

As ever, there were a few ermm ‘comments’ about the venue from players. Lots disagree with the idea of open plan snooker for a World Championship, but I’m getting the distinct feeling that the luxury of a dividing wall will now be confined to just one place, namely the Crucible.

Windy‘Gale Force Winds!!!’ one player exaggerated about some air conditioning, ‘Worst Venue Ever!!!’ another proclaimed forgetting that he has said the same about countless others.

But surely the main grip was justified in that somehow the carpets hadn’t been properly secured making some shots akin to playing on an ice rink. There are always teething problems in any new venue but that oversight was a little careless it has to be said with matches delayed as emergency gaffer tape was employed in rather chaotic scenes.

Snooker remains a sedate, gentlemanly sport and surely Bazza doesn’t want to see his precious commodities risking life and limb while reaching for that tricky green with their extension? It could lead to bloodshed or at worst ‘death in service’ for which Baz would, I’m sure, have to fork out a pretty penny or two unless he’s amended the small print in the contracts. Or perhaps he has his sights set firmly ‘outside the box’ and we can expect ‘Snooker on Ice – Live from Blackpool’ next season on Sky, after all, what’s a few bruises sustained here and there when opportunities like that come knocking to add to the prize money figures? 

So, it’s time to try and claw back the money that Leslie has lost us after day one, remember there are two tables on full show at the World Snooker TV Channel and service yesterday was good so the £3.99 to watch these is small potatoes in the great scheme of things. Also, if you didn’t catch War and Peace by Mike Dunn yesterday it’s here, where Mike describes the despair and euphoria he has felt this season in great detail. In fairness, it’s a very decent insight into the mind of a full-time potter and well worth a read.

Recommended Bet: 2 point acca pays almost bang on 4/1 at Hills on the morning starts Saengkham, Donaldson, Carrington, Grace and Dunn.  

10am & 7pm conclusion

Ian Burns v Fraser Patrick
Sean O’Sullivan v Mitchell Travis
Adam Duffy v Igor Figueiredo
Noppon Saengkham v Vinnie Calabrese (LIVE STREAMED)
Scott Donaldson v Ahmed Saif
Stuart Carrington v Andrew Norman
David Grace v Ross Muir
Mike Dunn v Rhys Clark (LIVE STREAMED)
David Morris v Alexander Ursenbacher
Alex Davies v Joe Swail
Li Yan v Elliot Slessor

2.30pm to a conclusion

Joel Walker 5-4 Allan Taylor
James Wattana 5-4 Alex Borg
Sam Baird 4-5 John Astley
Gary Wilson 4-5 James Cahill
Luca Brecel 4-5 Lee Page (LIVE STREAMED)
Chen Zhe 5-4 Ant Parsons
Michael Wasley 5-4 Sydney Wilson
Robbie Williams 5-4 Lyu Haotian
Li Hang 7-2 Ratchayothin Yotharuck
Tony Drago 2-7 Robin Hull (LIVE STREAMED)

You can view match prices at Apollobet here   

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April 8, 2014

Dunn and Dusted: The Highs and Lows of Life as a Snooker Pro

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:57 pm
Dunny: A Crazy Season.

Dunny: A Crazy Season.

Life as a snooker professional these days is full of highs and lows and there is no better way to illustrate that than the season a certain Mike Dunn has had this time. From being on the brink of looking for a job to a semi-final in the China Open last week, it’s been quite a period for the popular Teessider.

Below, Dunny candidly tells us all about his season, why his Pot Noodle addiction is probably already out of hand, what goes through your mind when you are playing for your livelihood, why an incident with a flowerbed almost resulted in carnage, what Peter Ebdon has been stuffing him with away from the table and finally, how a decision he made turned his fortunes around.

Mike is in action tomorrow in the World Championship Qualifiers in Sheffield having got back from China on Monday.

Ni Hao! That’s Chinese for hello by the way, that’s what I’ve been saying for the past 4 weeks now and SB has asked me to tell you a bit about my season which peaked last week when I made the semi finals of the China Open. I’m sat on the flight home from China pretty bored and on my way to Sheffield for the World Championship so thought I would tell you all about it.

My future on the tour has been very much in peril after a poor season last year (2013) due to illness, I only earned less than £5000 which plummeted me to around 80 in the world on the money list. The money list target is top 64 in the world to stay on tour, the problem was in the 2014 season I had to earn 2 years money to have any chance of retaining my pro-status which looked a mammoth task. I was top 32 and had a 147 not so long ago so I couldn’t believe how much I had dropped down the rankings :(

Anyway, I battled away with a great start and a new John Parris cue qualifying for nearly everything so things were looking good and I thought ”I can do this!” India, Australia and China came and went then I got to the UK, losing close game to Luca Brecel 6-4 first round and although he finished well, a couple of flukes (which does happen) really sickened me as it was a match I knew I had to win to keep in the 64 hunt, my head was battered after that game so I decided to get off Twitter and Facebook and get my head down on the table with no distractions of reading about rankings. Haikao qualifiers and German Masters came shortly after which I got through in so I thought ‘great I’m now back on track’ the only problem was I drew Mark Allen in China and Ding in Germany. Take it from me, they are not the sort of draws you want when you need to climb the rankings.

Ding gave me a good hiding in Germany 5-1 but I vowed not to give up. After all, I was hardly in an exclusive club was I?

Oh yes, while all this was happening my other chance of staying on tour was the EPTC’s, I was going OK on that list and had to finish top 8 with a group of players outside the 64 money list, going into the last comp in Poland I was 6th with others hot on my tail, straight away the draw gave me Steve Davis second match and I knew he would be hungry to win as he was in a similar position to me, the match was a mess, I dare say SB would call it that word he likes to use a lot ‘careless’! In short, I couldn’t pot a ball, Steve played ok but we were both out of sorts. After that I ended up 11th on the list, I wasn’t really helping myself was I? The pressure was immense and I was struggling with it.

You do get used to pressure as a pro and everyone has different ways of dealing with it, some are obviously better than others but sometimes it’s just way too strong to control.

Worse for me after Poland was to come as my rivals had put themselves in strong positions on the money list and EPTC list, I started to think this was ‘game over’ and that they were not under as much pressure as me as they had an advantage but it was also really annoying because I had beaten most of them earlier in the season (some of them twice). This isn’t fair, I thought, not really a great frame of mind to be in really is it?

I had to pick myself up again and qualified for the China and Welsh Opens with 2 great wins. Ali Carter beat me second match in Newport 4-3 which was a bit of a blow because I thought I had him at one point. But great players like Ali fight back and he did to beat me, after the high of qualifying, came another low…..this time my cue and case were thrown into a flowerbed over the road from the venue, I was at a PROPPA low and had a 6 hour drive in front of me to get home! Fortunately, no flowers were hurt as a result as I know SB wants them back in the venues….

Everyone has their addictions

Everyone has their addictions

I finally got home and looked again at the money list which wasn’t great reading and then I thought there’s only one thing for it, you play in 2 china events within a month, stack the case with as many Pot Noodles as you can legally get through customs and stay out there for 4 weeks and dedicate yourself to snooker just like a teenager again. If you give it your all and fail then there’s nothing more you can do, I didn’t have a choice it was a must. The noodles weren’t going to buy themselves after all.

The first event was Haikao against Mark Allen which I knew was going to be extremely tough to get a result so I was always looking at Beijing as my main tournament and also I wouldn’t have jetlag by the time it came round so it would be a major advantage along with the practice out there at the World Snooker China Academy.

I like Mark, we always have chats at breakfast in China as we are two players that are usually pacing the room at 4am wide awake. I started pretty well in the match but I lost when I might have won. I’d made the mistake again of thinking about the rankings during the match. You just can’t help it when you HAVE to win, I was putting myself under more pressure AGAIN!

Usually when a pro player loses they want the next flight home, you just want to get away from the place that made you feel pain. It’s normal for players to change flights but I couldn’t as I had committed to stay in China. I had possibly 4 weeks in front of me when really I wanted home, it was mental torture……

The cost of staying in China was going to be about £1000 in hotels and day to day living, my head was battered with “it’s over go home” negative emotions starting to creep in just like they had most of the season, your emotions go up and down like a (SB EDIT – can’t be having you getting a fine on my account Dunny) fiddler’s elbow in this game…..

Whilst I practiced in Beijing, I agreed with the WPBSA that I would help teach people in China to be coaches so after a week’s practice I jumped on a plane to Xi’an, a massive city in the centre of China, that was incredible! I had 4 days there and they loved me!! I suddenly felt on top of the world again, they listened to every word I said about snooker and I even did a exhibition while I was there and played great! Autographs and pictures were in overdrive in the club were I was stationed, I felt so happy with all the attention it gave me the massive lift I needed.

The China Open was only a week away now so I jumped on the plane back to Beijing to put in some hard graft on the table. I had really great practice to look forward to with the Chinese wildcards (I can almost hear SB from here wanting to ban them!) who in practice were very tough players.

I was now into my 3rd week in China and not having English speaking friends around me was starting to take it’s toll, my head was splitting from talking slow and clear to help the Chinese what I was saying. But to be honest I was also grateful to them as they were speaking some English because after all I was the alien not them. I think they felt sorry for me!

Word had also got back from Xi’an about how well the teaching I had done had gone and as a result I was offered a high-paid job out there to coach if I wanted it! This was brilliant because if I fell off the tour what was I going to do with my life? That’s a question that most professionals have to face at some point and I was being handed a direction and I plan to take them up on their offer at some point. My mood soon became positive again!

Anyway, back to the snooker. The tournament was only 2 days away and players  started to arrive, including my best mate Peter Lines who I was playing in the first round :( it was a nightmare draw for both of us, everyone plays their mates on tour at some point but this was my last chance to remain on the tour.

The match started nervously but Pete settled quicker and pulled away to lead 4-1. I was at the point of no return. I started plating more freely this time though rather than tensing up and felt I had nothing to lose, which I didn’t really. Next thing I knew it was 4-4 and luck had played a big part in some of the frames helping me get there. Cutting a long story short we fought over pink and black for the match. Luck played another big part in me winning , I doubled the pink full length of the table as a safety and it went in! There’s always a chance of getting a pot double but against my mate at 4-4 it was crazy! The pressure hit me even harder as I was faced with a long black to win which I couldn’t have hit any better. I couldn’t look Pete in the face afterwards and apologised for the luck on the pink. He naturally was devastated :( I didn’t sleep at all that night, snooker can be a very cruel game sometimes.

Next match was Tian Pengfei, my rival for a 64 spot! It was now in my hands to stay on tour which is all I could have asked for. I had beaten him 10-2 in the worlds one year and 5-1 so I used them results in my mind to focus more. It worked and I won 5-3. Delighted again to do so.

The more I was winning the more the pressure got worse because I knew how close I was to staying on tour. Craig Steadman or Steeeeeeeeedman as the Chinese ref called him was in my way of a last 8 spot where I knew the money jumped up to 12.5k, Craig’s also a good mate and little did I know he was having problems with his cue………I never touched it honest! About halfway through the match a noticed a funny noise coming from it and I just thought his tip was a bit hard as I had my own game to think about ,I played OK in the match and so did Craig but I came through again. Craig told me after the match and his ferrule had come loose and it did restrict him on many shots and I’ve got to say I was feeling for him as he has big matches in the world coming up, we managed to find a Chinese cue doctor so hopefully he was going to be OK for the world.

Mark Selby and I were up next! A nice easy quarter final! I can honestly say I fancied taking the match to a close one, Mark is an incredible player and proven it time and again, I was massive underdog but if it went scrappy which I hoped it did I had a chance! He went 2-1 up and it went to a pink and black ball game before the interval, I potted a great pink to finish perfect on the black to see 2-2 on the scoreboard which made the interval cup of tea taste great. We all don’t drink much tea really, it’s just the commentators way of saying we’re going to the bog probably..

Ebbo was stuffing Mike with yellow'uns.

Ebbo was stuffing Mike with yellow’uns.

I’ve known Mark a long time and off the table we always have a good laugh around the venues, before the match and at the interval we were talking to each other as though we weren’t playing each other, he’s a really funny bloke off the table and always asks me how my health and family are every time we meet up. Anyway Peter Ebdon was stuffing Banana’s into me (my mouth SB….) and giving me a pep talk before I went back out which was nice as I still felt strong in my mind about winning.

I made 2 very good clearances in the match after the interval and went 4-3 up and then started to relax. In my mind a 4-5 loss was something I could hold my head up high about (sounds mental me saying that but that’s how players think sometimes) it was a long final frame like cat and mouse until I had my chance to win. I remember being faced with a tricky last red, I really wanted to play safe as I was scared of missing it but I knew if I played safe I would have bottled it so I went full blooded, all out, potted it and had a great chance to win only needing green a few shots later but I missed the green and wondered had my big chance gone? All sorts of things go through your head in a match, positive and negative, it’s crazy sometimes, I eventually fell over the line with huge relief and was into the semi finals….WOW!

Mark wasn’t at his best in the match but I would like to think at times I put pressure on him and made him miss, make no mistake though Mark at his best would have made things really difficult for me!

I needed at least 15 mins before the press conference as I had a ickle weep afterwards thinking about everyone back home. This long long long trip had been worth it. I was SAFE! and months and months of worry about staying on the tour had finally gone away just like that!

The relief was all too much and all I could think about were my sons back home and couldn’t wait to talk to them. It was a media frenzy in the press room and around the venue as the world number 2 was out, beaten by me! My Twitter and phone were going mental! I couldn’t keep up as everyone was so nice to me it felt totally amazing. I didn’t get to sleep that night till 5am as my brain couldn’t switch off but it felt great.

The next day I felt relaxed and calm about playing Ding in the semi’s which was probably my downfall, the hunger and fight that got me this far was gone, for 10 months of fighting my future was unclear but now it was crystal clear. There was nothing left in the tank, at practice before the game I was mentally exhausted so I just went in the game with a smile on my face and tried to enjoy it the best I could, which I did, well as much as you can enjoy getting beat!

Ding didn’t play well in the match but his safety was superb and I felt I didn’t see a ball after the first 2 frames. I was really glad he won the tournament as we also practice together.

My playing future is still uncertain as I am 42 but I’m in a strong position next year on the rankings so it gives me at least 2 years more of playing as a pro, also I will be working in China as a coach so who knows what events I will be playing in?

The main thing is I’ve done  myself and family proud the last month and it’s all been worth it. Now for the World Championship…. life as a snooker player eh?

All the Best Everyone

Mike

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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