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Saturday, 30 April 2016

Semi Final Round Up Plus Final Preview

Ding Junhui will face Mark Selby over the next two days for the £330.000 top prize and more importantly the title of 2016 Betfred World Champion.

This will be Ding's first appearance in a world final after many years of struggle at the Crucible and perhaps the way he held off the determined comeback of Alan McManus,never losing his focus in what was a superb match,that has been the main difference this year.

This was really a cracking match from the very beginning with Ding at his free flowing,break building best,rolling in four centuries in the first session to lead 6-2

When that lead became 9-3 in the second session ,it looked as Ding may be heading for a second session to spare victory in a row,but McManus has in many ways been the story of these championships & he continued to roll back the years,claiming the next four to finish the session just two behind at 9-7.

Into the third session and McManus closed the gap to one at 9-8,but Ding regained his grip to take the next three to lead 12-8.Mcanus wasn't quite ready for the fairytale to end though as he rallied again to close to 12-10.

Ding,who must have been wondering what he had to do to shake off this veteran Scot,won the next to lead 13-10 and then in what was probably the pivotal moment of the match,he clinched the last of the session on the black to lead 14-10.

This proved a bridge to far for McManus today and it was Ding,who,collecting a record seventh century of the match along the way, sealed the win 17-11.

The other semi final between Mark Selby & Marco Fu always had the look on paper that it may be a more methodical affair and so it proved in a match that can prob be best described as "one for the purists"

This one was tight the whole way through with Selby,holding the advantage after the first session at 5-3,only for Fu to win the second session by the same score to level it up at 8-8.

Neither player was playing at the top of their game here as the score moved on t 10-10 at he interval,then 11-11 and eventually 12-12 as Selby took a 76 minute final frame of the morning to leave it all square.

Into the final session and what was effectively now a best of nine.To be fair to both players the standard improved slightly,but what didn't change was the fact that  they could still not be separated. as the score went 13-13,14-14 & 15-15.

Now though that little bit of experience that Selby has of winning here just began to show and he edged ahead again at 16-15 7 in another frame that lasted over an hour Selby eventually got over the line to win 17-15

So what can we expect in the final,Well undoubtedly the favourite based on a evidence over the past fortnight is Ding.He has looked back to his very best in among the balls,as evidenced by his phenomenal break building stats,but more than this,as I said above,his focus has been exceptional.It can't be a coincidence that he has had the services of Terry Griffiths in his corner.

As for Selby,well he hasn't been playing anywhere near his best,but how often has he won tournaments where he has seemed to have no form at all.What he does have of course is an amazing will to win and a never say die attitude.Also having won the title here two years ago he knows what it takes to lift this title.

This final will be intriguing to watch but I just think that maybe Ding's time has come and wouldn't it be well deserved  

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

World Championship Quarter Finals Round Up & Semi Final Preview.

After two days of the most extraordinary days of snooker action four men remain in the hunt for the 2016 world title and each will just be starting to feel that this may just be their year.

Alan McManus at 45 bridged a 23 year wait for another chance at the single table set up with a hard fought 13-11 win over John Higgins.

This one looked on paper as though it would be a tough old fashioned tussle and so it proved as we started the night with Higgins leading 9-7.The first four were shared to eave it 11-9 to Higgins at the interval.

At this point though something unexpected happened,just when we were expecting the four time champ to seal the deal,he actually was the first to blink as runs of 71 &52 firstly drew McManus level and then a 128 & 60 saw him over the line to a famous victory 13-11.

In the semi final he will face his fellow qualifier Ding Junhui who had things a who had things a whole lot easier as he swept past Mark Williams 13-3.The first four frames here were actually shared,but from here Ding upped a gear to go through with a session to spare.

So hard as it is to think of Ding as a qualifier,he actually is and as such we are guaranteed someone who started in Ponds Forge getting into  in the final.Mcmanus will no doubt feel he is riding the crest of a wave here this week,but in reality.will Ding ever have a better chance of claiming the games big prize

Score prediction Ding wins 17-8

Marco Fu reached the single table set up for the first time in ten years with what the record books will show as a 13-11 win over Barry Hawkins,but that doesn't even to begin to explain just what a match this was.

Indeed how different it all looked in the early stages,as Hawkins,still recovering from his marathon match in the previous round couldn't get going early on ans Fu lead after the first session 7-1.

That became 9-1 this morning when Fu took the opening two frames,but Hawkins at the time managed to firstly stave off the humiliation of losing with a session to spare by winning the next three to make it 9-4 & then the last two of session to give himself a squeak at going into tonight at 10-6.

Out they came for the final session and it was again Hawkins who ramped up the pressure on Fu with runs of 50,75 & 85 putting him back within one at 10-9.

Fu was now visibly under the most extreme pressure,but breaks of 50 & 93 moved him to the hill at 12-9.Into a lengthy 22nd frame where Fu had the chance to claim victory on the green,but he missed and it eventually went to Hawkins to make it 12-10.That became 12-11 in the next & it looked for all the world like we were heading for a decider when Hawkins lead by 60-0 in the 24th,but Fu,who had now gone 41 mins without potting a ball,rolled in a superb long red & then produced as big a bottle clearance as we're ever likely to see to to win a classic 13-11.

He will next face Mark Selby,who like Fu built a big lead early on and held his nerve when things got close later. Selby had not looked anywhere near his best in his first two matches here ,but was more like his old self here in opening up a 6-0 lead over Kyren Wilson.

Plenty of people have compared young Wilson to Selby and the way he battled in this one you can see why.After getting off the mark by taking last two of first session to go 6-2 he got back within two in the next at 8-6,but Selby took a crucial last two of the session to lead again by four at 10-6.

Into the morning and the writing was on the wall for Wilson when Selby moved it to 12-6,but Wilson had one more trick up his sleeve,knocking in a new tournament high break of 143.That was to be his last hurrah though as Selby sealed the win in the next 13-8.

So its Selby v Fu for a place in the final. Obviously the betting here will favour Selby,but he has looked poor at times this championship & taking for granted that Fu can recover from tonights game mentally,he may shock a few here.That said though I still think Selby will have a enough to prevail
Score prediction Selby 17-13

Monday, 25 April 2016

World Championship Day 10 Round Up

Day 10 and the most dramatic day of the tournament so far,as the hot favourite for the title Ronnie O'Sullivan,went down 13-12 to Barry Hawkins in a real Crucible classic.

Hawkins had lead 5-3 in this one after they had shared the second session he lead coming into tonight 9-7.Its funny how often you see in these long matches that an early lead can last the whole way through a match and it seemed to be happening here as twice Ronnie got within one,only for Hawkins to win the next to keep the gap at two going to the interval 11-9.

Out they came to play to a finish and what looked the decisive moment as Hawkins moved within one of victory at 12-9.This was not a case of Ronnie been disinterested and just how much he wanted this was evident as two quickfire frames brought him within one again at 12-11.

Hawkins had a chance to seal the victory,but after a kick he never gained full cueball control and when he presented Ronnie with one last chance he duly took it to set up dramatic conclusion.

Into the decider and it was Ronnie who potted the initial red,but failing to get position on a baulk colour a tense safety battle ensued. With only a few reds in the open it looked like whoever got the first scoring chance would be in pole position and when Hawkins got in,he build a lead that despite his best efforts Ronnie could not retrieve.The final nail in O'Sullivan's coffin came when in potting a red the cueball went in off and Hawkins was left with the easiest of match ball reds to claim a famous 13-12 win.

So Hawkins marches on to the quarter finals and can take great pleasure from the fact that not only has he laid some of his "Ronnie ghosts" to rest,but he did so against a Ronnie playing very very well.If that doesn't give him confidence going forward,nothing will.

With Ronnie now gone suddenly the bottom half of the draw looks very open and those left will start to maybe fancy their chances.That will certainly be the case for Kyren Wilson who held off a Mark Allen comeback to book his last 8 place.

Starting off this morning with an 11-5 lead Wilson was a big favourite to advance,but just as he had done last night Allen won the first four of the day to pull back within two again at 11-9.

The interval though once again checked the Ulstermans momentum and Wilson held his nerve to take the two he needed to win 13-9.

There will also be those who feel that this may just be the year that Ding Junhui finally makes a charge at the games biggest prize after seeing off Judd Trump here 13-10.

This one had not been the free scoring match we.had expected early on,but that changed this morning as both men started to fire in the big breaks.The tone for the session was set in the opening frame with Ding first in with 65 only to see the frame go to Trump with a 70.Ding though quickly re-established his four frame lead with a 72 and moved to the hill with a 91,his lead 12-7.

Trumps back was now very much against the wall,but to his credit he came out fighting.Runs of 61,56 & 88 saw him claim three in a row as Ding looked to be feeling the pressure,but the Chinese managed to hold himself together to win the next and win the match 13-10.

Ding can now look forward to facing Mark Williams in the quarter finals ,but for Trump its a case of back to the drawing board.He has played it down since,but surely the fact he lost four frames in a row following his interval Twitter spat with Dominic Dale during the first session cannot be discounted as coincidence.Maybe he needs to learn how to focus more during a game. If he doesn't change something we may well be looking back at 2011 as the closest he's got to winning a title that for so long looked to be his birthright.

Meanwhile making his way serenely through the tournament is John Higgins who clinically saw off Ricky Walden to set up an all Scottish quarter final against fellow veteran Alan McManus.

Starting the night 10-6 ahead Higgins took the opening frame to go 11-6.Walden to his credit managed to pull two back to make it 11-8,but runs of 92 & 99,either side of the interval,saw Higgins home with a comfortable 13-8 win.

So eight men start out tomorrow maybe just feeling this could be their year.Whatever happens we have a few very interesting days ahead.

Quarter Final Draw
Alan McManus v John Higgins
Ding Junhui v Mark Williams
Marco Fu v Barrly Hawkins
Kyren Wilson v Mark Selby

Sunday, 24 April 2016

World Championship Day 9 Round Up

Day 9 at the championship and although officially no match finished today,in three of the four matches its going to take a major turnaround tomorrow to change what looks like the inevitable results.

Lets start though with the one that could be about to produce the biggest shock of all,as Barry Hawkins leads Ronnie O'Sullivan 9-7 .

Hawkins of course started today with a 5-3 lead and will no doubt have settled in his mind to share todays session 4-4 and that is exactly what happened.Apart from laying the ghost of his crushing Masters final defeat,Hawkins will also be taking great heart from the fact that he is currently leading a Ronnie playing in the balls as well as ever.The difference here is that every slight mistake from Ronnie is been punished.It makes for fascinating final session between these two tomorrow evening.

As for the other matches,well they seem all but decided as the leaders in each hold big overnight advantages.

John Higgins kept up his challenge for a fifth title by extending his lead over Ricky Walden to 10-6.
Starting at 5-3 the first four were shard to leave it 7-5,but it was Higgins who took three of the next four to stand just three more frames from securing his place in the last 8.

On paper the tie of the round looked to be the clash between Ding Junhui & Judd Trump and although this one hasn't yet turned into the free scoring match we might have expected,I'm sure Ding wont mind as he holds a 10-6 lead going into tomorrows final session.

Looking even better is Kyren Wilson who is six clear of Mark Allen at 11-5.This was an extraordinary match with Wilson amazingly taking an early 7-0 lead,before Allen got off the mark in the final frame of the session to trail 7-1.

Into the night and Allen began to fight back,taking the four to the interval to stand just two behind at 7-5.Things were now perfectly poised,but although he had his chances Allen could not close the gap any further and Wilson pulled away again to build what is surely an unassailable 11-5 lead.

With no morning session all four of these matches play to a finish tomorrow afternoon and evening

Saturday, 23 April 2016

World Championship Day 8 Round Up

Day eight at the championship and we now have half the quarter final places filled after a day of  real tense dramatic Crucible finishes

2014 champ Mark Selby booked his place in the last eight tonight,but only after coming through a real dogfight with Sam Baird

This one was real nip and tuck in the first session and it started out again here this morning as they shared the first four to make it 6-6..From here what looked a decisive move from the world number one took him three clear at 9-6..Baird though kept his hopes alive,winning the last of the session to make it 9-7

Into the night and again Selby seemed to take control going four clear at 11-7,but from here Baird dug deep and started to drag his way back.11-7 became 11-11 as Selby showed signs of real struggle,losing the lengthy frames that are normally his forte.

Another shock was now on the cards ,but Selby is never beat till the very end and he dug deep into his reserves to take the two he need to advance to the next round with a 13-11 victory.

Earlier in the day the old man of the tournament Alan McManus reached the quarters for the second time in three years with a hard fought 13-11 win over Ali Carter.

The 45 year old started the day trailing Carter 9-7,but after winning the first of the morning with a superb black,he also took the next with a century before adding the next two to go to the interval 11-9 up.

Carter managed to stop the rot in the next to close to 11-10,but a close 22nd frame was decided with a McManus fluked snooker on the brown which put him on the brink at 12-10.Carter did rally again to claim the next with a century,but the Scot would not be denied and as he won the 24th frame to seal the 13-11 victory

Another player proving the myth that this is a young mans game is Mark Williams,who this morning held off a brief Holt rally to secure his last 8 place with a 13-8 victory.

Starting the final session with a 10-6 lead ,Williams took the first to extend that to 11-6.Holt now with nothing to lose suddenly started scoring and runs of 75 and 109 pulled it back to 11-8.

Into the next and Holt was well in again,but just when it was starting to look that this may become interesting,Williams nicked it in typical style and duly took the next as well to claim the 13-8 win.

In matches that started out today ,those who were already giving the trophy to Ronnie O'Sullivan were given something to think about as Barry Hawkins took the last three of the session to lead 5-3 overnight,

Also holding a 5-3 lead is John Higgins who just about deserved to have that edge after a quality first session against Ricky Walden.

Friday, 22 April 2016

World Championship Day 7 Round Up.

Day seven at the Crucible and I thinks its fair to say that when the story of this years tournament is written,todays action wont feature too prominently,but this can often happen in a long tournament and we still had some potentially big stories developing.

In the only match to finish today Marco Fu overcame a neck injury to become the first man to reach the quarter finals with a 13-9 victory over Anthony McGill.

Starting the day with a 5-3 lead Fu saw the first three frames of the morning go to his opponent to trail 6-5,,but took the next to level things up at 6-6. From here Fu took three of the last four to share the session and retain the two frame lead he held at the start of the day leading now 9-7.

Into the night and although McGill took the opening frame to reduce his arrears to 9-8,Fu stretched away again to move to the brink at the interval at 12-8.On resumption McGill made it 12-9,but Fu took the next to seal the win 13-9.

In other matches yet to be completed Ali Carter and Alan McManus shared the second session to leave Carter still leading by two at 9-7.They play to a finish in the morning.

Also in the morning 2013 champ Mark Selby will be looking to assert some authority on his match with Sam Baird after failing to shake off his less experienced opponent this afternoon,the eight frames shared 4-4.

Things are looking much better for another former champ though,as Mark Williams recovered from a sluggish start against Michael Holt to turn an early 4-1 deficit into a 10-6 overnight lead.

They play to a finish tomorrow afternoon where on the other table,tournament favoutite Ronnie O'Sullivan starts out against Barry Hawkins.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

World Championship Day 6 Round up

Day six at the Crucible may have brought the end to the first round at this years championship,but boy did it go out with a bang on the most dramatic day of the tournament so far.

In what was the match of the tournament , Kyren Wilson enhanced his growing reputation in the game with a hard fought 10-9 victory over Joe Perry in the most dramatic  of circumstances.

Starting out tonight with just the minimum between them,Wilson leading 5-4,this had the look of a game that would be close and what transpired was a night of punch & counter punch as these two battled it out for the final place in the last 16.

Into the action and the first four were shared to leave it at 7-6 to Wilson going to the interval.When they resumed ,it was Perry who took the next two to lead 8-7.From here though Wilson showed just what he was made of,producing two super clearances to edge ahead again at 9-8.

The next frame was one of those frames you only seem to get at the end of long format matches,as both players fought tooth and nail for 57 minutes,before Perry finally potted the pink to force the decider.

So we got the decider the match deserved and although it wasn't quite as dramatic as the previous frame,both players did spurn good chances,before a fluked snooker proved a bridge too far for Perry,who could only hit and hope his escape.From it he did manage to hit a red,but leaving Wilson on he held it together to seal a fantastic win.

Before this it had seemed to story of the day was  Judd Trump,who battled his way back off the floor to beat Liang Wenbo 10-8

Starting the day at 6-3 Liang must have been sniffing that a big win was on the cards and when he won the first to go four clear at 7-3 it seemed another seed may be heading for the exit door.
Trump was really under it  here and really should really have lost the next as well,but Liang has at times in the past struggled to put matches away and it was to happen here as he let several good chances slip,the result been instead of 8-3 we had Trump closing to 7-4.

This was to prove just the lift that Trump required and,starting to look more like his old self he reeled off the next four as well to lead for first time at 8-7.Liang did win the 16th to make it 8-8,but it proved only a blip as Trump marched on the second round,taking the next two to win 10-8.

He will now face Ding Junhui in a match that promises to be a cracker.

Of the second round matches that started today,Fu and Carter hold slight advantages over their respective opponents,,McGill & McManus,both leading 5-3,but there is a long way to go in both.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

World Championship Day 5 Round Up.

Day five at the championship and as the first round draws to a close many will be just starting to wonder,could this be the year Ding Junhui makes a real challenge for the games biggest prize.

On paper his match today with Martin Gould always looked like it could be a tasty one and so it proved as it ebbed and flowed al day to the delight of the packed crowd.

Into the match and it was Ding who got off to a flyer,with only an horrendous kick on the pink stopping him from leading 3-0.He steadied himself though to lead 3-1 at the mid session interval,On resumption,the next four were shared,before an astonishing 111,that really had to be seen to be believed brought Gould within one at 5-4.

In to the night session then and the momentum seemed to be with Gould as he won he three of the first four to lead for the first time in the match at 7-6.

Then came what appeared to be the pivotal moment as leading by 46 with only one red remaining,Ding somehow managed to lose the frame to trail by two at 8-6,

Just how would the Chinese respond after such a hammer blow? Well the answer was by stepping up and producing his A game

Runs of 132 & 84 drew Ding level at 8-8,before another century put him ahead again at 9-8.Gould had now not potted a ball for half an hour,but although he did have his chance in the next, a missed final red was to be his last chance as Ding cleared the colours to win 10-8.

Ding will no doubt be filled with confidence and its possible that his early exit in so many tournaments this season could prove to be a blessing in disguise as he has very few miles on the clock this yr.

Looking at the draw.most would have looked at a possible round two clash between Ding  &Judd \Trump as a tie not to miss,but an all Chinese affair is looking the more likely as Liang Wenbo opened up a 6-3 overnight against Trump this afternoon in an at times scrappy session.Trump will certainly have to up his game when they resume tomorrow afternoon if he is to avoid joining the growing list of seeded casualties.

Another seed with work to do is Joe Perry who lost the last three of tonights session to trail Kyren Wilson 5-4 overnight.

Elsewhere in other matches that finished today,Mark Allen quickly booked his last 16 place,taking the four frames he needed to beat Mitchell Mann 10-3 and Barry Hawkins set up yet another Crucible encounter with old adversary Ronnie O'Sullivan,finishing off his match against Zhang Anda 10-5.

Tomorrow of course we only have two sessions as Round one draws to a close and the opening shots of round two are fired in anger.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

World Championship-Day 4 Round Up

Day four at the Championship and although the shocks have been plentiful already this week I think its safe to say that today we had the biggest so far as the 2010 champ & second favourite for the title this year,Neil Robertson crashed out 10-6 to Michael Holt.

Holt has been playing well of late and with a recent tv victory over Ronnie to his name started confidently in this one,quickly establishing a 3-0 lead.Robertson though started to find his scoring boots and with fine runs of 60,101 & 107 drew things level at 3-3.

It now seemed he had weathered that early storm,but Holt came out strong in the next,taking it with a 115 of his own,before also claiming the next to go 5-3 & then the last of the afternoon on the black to again lead by three at 6-3.

Into the evening then and despite what had gone before Robertson was still favourite with the bookies to advance to the last 16.This however is a very different Michael Holt to the fragile player of old and  in a series of closely fought frames he moved himself to the brink at the interval leading 9-4.Robertson to his credit managed to pull two back when they resumed,but it was too little too late as Holt took the frame he needed to record a famous 10-6 win.

Huge disappointment for Robertson who has never really been able to reproduce since,the form he showed in winning the UK last December.It'll be a case of back to the drawing board for him as he tries to get to the top of the mountain again,For Holt though he can now look forward to a last 16 clash against another left handed former world champion,Two time winner Mark Williams.

Elsewhere two other former champions built on large overnight leads to book their place in the last 16

Coming into this mornings session with a 7-2 lead Mark Selby's thoughts would have been on putting this to bed quickly,whereas his opponent Robert Milkins would have been setting himself a target of winning the first mini session 3-1 to get back in the match.As it happened Milkins did even better than that,flying out the blocks to take the first four frames in little over an hour to pull himself back within one at 7-6.

This game was now very much back in the balance and the first frame after the interval took on monumental importance.Thankfully,from Selby's point of view he took it to stop the Milkins surge and duly went on to take the  two as well to seal his place in Round two,winning in the end 10-6.

Also holding a 7-2 overnight lead coming into today was John Higgins,but despite losing the opening frame of this afternoons session to Ryan Day,there was to be no sweat lost for the four time champ as he reeled off the next three he needed to record a 10-3 victory.He can now look forward with confidence to a last 16 clash with Ricky Walden later in the week.

Finally in matches that started today both Mark Allen & Barry Hawkins enjoy overnight 6-3 leads over Mitchell Mann & Zhang Anda respectively

Monday, 18 April 2016

World Championship Day Three.

The first of three Mondays at the championship and a day after one legend officially hung up his cue,three more of the all rime greats showed today that their is still plenty of life left in them yet.

Ronnie O'Sullivan is a short price with most bookies to claim a sixth title here and it could be argued he may well claim that title with out again facing an opponent playing as well as David Gilbert did here.

The fact that today started with Gilbert somehow 6-3 down after a first session where the Tamworth native was the top of his game was a mystery and he kept up that high standard this morning to push Ronnie into producing his best to eventually win 10-7.

Of course by now the result is only secondary as Ronnie will once again be grabbing the headlines tomorrow for the wrong reasons after refusing to speak to the media following the match.He can expect a hefty fine from World Snooker for this and you really have to wonder at times why he brings these things on himself.

Elsewhere his fellow veteran Mark Williams quickly booked his place in the last 16,turning a 7-2 lead into  a 10-4 win over Graeme Dott & John Higgins looked in superb form this morning as he opened up a 7-2 lead over Ryan Day.

In the evening matches Michael White looked as though he may have weathered the storm against Sam Baird when he turned a 5-4 overnight deficit into a 7-6 interval lead,but not for the first time,that 15 minute break changed things as Baird reeled off four in a row when they resumed to run out a 10-6 victor.

On the other table,recent two time ranking runner up Ricky Walden was having a real battle against Robbie Williams as both men struggled for form.Walden looked in real trouble here when he trailed 7-5,but a four frame burst moved him within one of the win at 9-7 and although Willaims produced a great century to get back to 9-8,Walden got over the line in the next to win 10-8.

In the other match started today Mark Selby seemed a bit rusty early on following his recent absence from the game,but seemed to warm to the task and opened up a comfortable 7-2 lead over Milkins at end of play.

So that was that for today.Tomorrow see's two more of the real fancies for this tournament entering the fray as Mark Allen & Neil Robertson cue up for the first time at this years championship.It'll be interesting to see if the betting markets are correct.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

World Championship Day Two.

Day Two at the 2016 World Championship and although we saw two more big names topple ,for a certain generation there is one story today that outranks all others,the official retirement of Steve Davis.

Steve of course has been all but retired since he lost his tour place in 2014,but now in the light of the recent passing of his father Bill he has made it official.

To fully document just what Steve Davis has done for snooker both on and off the table over the last 38 years would take far more than a mere blog post so lets today  just simplly say thank you to "The Nugget " and wish him a long and happy retirment from the table.

Back to the action on the table and after yesterday seeing last years champion bow out,today we saw the man he beat in that final also exit the event as Shaun Murphy went down 10-8 to Anthony McGill.

McGill was the story of the tournament here last year when he knocked out Mark Selby,before falling to Murphy in the quarters.On the back of that then it must be said he's had a disappointing season,but there s something about this venue that agrrees with him and he starting this morning 5-4 behind,he recovered from losing the first frame this morning to reel off the next four,with some superb all round matchplay to lead 8-6.

From here,in typical Murphy style, Shaun twice got back within one with runs of 88&70 ,but could never just get level and it was McGill with breaks of 117 & 97 who closed out the match to win 10-8.

In the other match to finish today Alan McManus got the better of the battle of the Scots as he beat Stephen Maguire 10-7.

This is McManus's 20 appearance at the Crucible and the 45 year old needed all that experience as Maguire threatened a comeback comeback when the score went 7-6 from 7-3. at the mid session interval.Maybe it was a case of the break in play coming at the right time as McManus took the next two to go 9-6 and although maguire won the next,it was the veteran McManus who closed out the win 10-7.

In other actiuon Ronnie O'Sullivan somehow finds himself leading 6-3 against David Gilbert who was playing superbly at time.They play to a finish in the morning.Mark Williams is in an even stronger position against his fellow former world champ Graeme Dott,the Welshman leading 7-2.

The other two games that started today are much closer affairs with two more seeds in some trouble as Ricky Walden & Michael White both trail their respective opponents Robbie Williams & Sam Baird by the odd frame 5-4.

All of those matches finish tomorrow as two more big guns ride into town to start their camapaigns in the shape of John Higgins &Mark Selby. Another great days action ahead.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

World Championship Day One

Day one at the Betfred World Championship and we have already lost our defending champion as Stuart Bingham went down 10-9 to Ali Carter in a real Crucible thriller..

Bingham has really struggled under the weight of the crown this season and that more than any "Crucible curse" would have been his main concern as he headed towards Sheffield this week.With this in mind he would surely have preferred an easier opponent than Ali Carter against who he has very poor record.

His certainly wouldn't have felt any better early on as Carter won frame after frame to lead 5-1.Bingham though rallied to take the last three of the morning and finish the session just the one behind at 5-4.

That quickly became 5-5 when they resumed in the evening,but it was Carter who pulled away again to lead by three at 8-5 going to the interval.Things were now looking ominous for Bingham,but he wasn't going to give up his title without a fight & producing glimpses of the form that saw him lift the trophy last year he came back to draw level at 8-8 and then take the lead for the first time since the opening frame with a century to lead 9-8.

Carter was now looking jaded as his exertions in the qualifiers seemed to have left their mark,so its then all the more remarkable that he somehow managed to dig deep again to draw level at 9-9 with a break of 102.

Into that decider then and although he didn't clinch it in one visit a useful early visit from Carter with the balls going awkward was enough to give him the advantage he needed and he eventually got over the line to win 10-9.He'll now await the winner between the two Scots Maguire & McManus in the last 16 with McManus currently with the edge leading 6-3.

For Bingham it will be a case of looking forward to next season where he will hopefully find the freedom in his game again now unburdened by the responsibility of the title.One thing for certain though is that although he will no doubt be disappointed with how he played in his year as champion,he can certainly look back with pride a the way he represented crown.

In a new departure this year we had two matches finishing on the opening day and the other one was certainly a much more one sided affair as Marco Fu swept past Peter Ebdon 10-2.Fu was simply superb here & although possibly helped by an opponent in Ebdon who was drained from his tough week at the qualifiers, two centuries and four more 70 plus breaks speak volumes about how well he played

Fu can sit back tomorrow morning and watch Shaun Murphy & Anthony McGill fight it out for the right to face him in round two.Murphy holds a slender 5-4 after their first session this afternoon.

A dramatic day one then with two players safely through to the last 16 and they will be joined by two more tomorrow.Also of course in the afternoon we have the first appearance of Ronnie O'Sullivan.It'll be interesting to see just how up for a titl at a sixth title he is.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

World Championship Preview

So here we are on the eve of the annual snooker extravaganza at The Crucible theatre with 32 players still dreaming of lifting that famous trophy on the first Monday in May.I must admit I have found a large part of this season to be pretty uninspiring,but often the long matches bring out all that is best in the game and I have no doubt it will do so here again.

In many ways this could well have been the shortest preview I've ever written,because I am firmly of the opinion that if the Ronnie 'Sullivan we saw at the Welsh Open shows up at The Crucible,he will win this in a canter. His performance that week was not just miles ahead of anything else we've seen this season,but was up there with the best we've ever seen in the games history.That win of course came on the back of a sixth Masters title in January and confirmed that when in the mood there is still noone near him.This in addition to a favourable enough draw to at least the quarter finals makes him a worthy favourite & maybe,if your someone who likes a bet at a short price,possibly worth a wager,I've certainly seen worse 7/4 shots.

That said though,if that Ronnie doesn't show up I think we have possibly the most open World championship we've ever seen,with possibly up to 10 other real contenders for the crown of which these are the most probable

Suppose the obvious place to start is with defending champion Stuart Bingham,who shocked the snooker world last year with his run to the title.Unfortunately for Stuart the heightened expectation that comes with the crown has weighed heavily on his shoulders this season and he has really struggled to get any sort of run going.This plus the dreaded "Crucible curse" would make him becoming the first first time winner to defend the title seem very unlikely,but who knows,he climbed the mountain once so why not again.

The man most people see as the the main threat to Ronnie is the 2010 champion Neil Robertson. Robertson looked to be playing as well if not better than ever when he lifted the UK Championship last December and although his form has tailed off a bit since  he may well be just concentrating on peaking at the right time.He certainly will have to be at his best in what looks the most competitive quarter of the draw.

Next in the betting and also in that quarter is Judd Trump, who finally got back to winning ways,lifting the China Open title for a second time a couple of weeks ago.Trump though has had a very in and out sort of season and on that evidence its hard to imagine him getting through this championship without having a few mini crises along the way.How he ultimately does will depend on how he handles them.he has at such times in the past been found wanting.

Last years runner up Shaun Murphy by his own admission struggled for a long time to get over that defeat,but produced a commanding performance in winning the World Grand Prix last month and will once again be eyeing up another run at the title here with a potential quarter final against Ronnie in the offing

 The big story early in the season was the re-emergence of John Higgins who was showing that life can at least begin again at 40,as he won the Australian Open & the International Championship before pushing Robertson harder than anyone else at the UK.Since then though that odd silly miss has crept into his game again and I just have my doubts that he can sustain his form long enough these days to challenge at the business end.

Its seems strange to have gotten this far through my preview without mentioning Mark Selby,but such has been his lack of form this season it is easy to overlook the 2014 champ.The fact that he pulled out of the most recent events for personal reasons you have to just wonder if his mind will be fully on the job here.If its not a potentially tricky first round opponent in Robert Milkins was the last thing he wanted.However if he is up for this he will prove as difficult to beat as always.

The spectacular fall from grace of Ding Junhui has been sad to watch this season and even a recent rally in form wasn't enough to spare him the indignity of having to qualify for the championship. To his credit though he knuckled down to fairly breezed his way through the qualifiers and it may well be having come here in years past with massive expectations on his shoulders,that this may turn into a blessing.He will need to hit the ground running though as he faces German Masters champ Martin Gould in round one before a potential clash with Trump in round 2.

Of the others recent Player Championship winner Mark Allen may well see this as his best chance of winning the games biggest prize,especially if Selby in the same quarter fails to shine & maybe Ricky Walden could put his recent final defeats behind him to produce a run.

All in all a fascinating 17 days ahead with the following my recommended value bets

Ricky Walden to win his quarter 11/2

Mark Allen to win his quarter 5/2

Round One Lucky 15 : Ebdon (9/4) Carter (7/5) Perry (10/11) McManus (9/4)