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Friday, 5 May 2017

Thoughts On The Game

So this is it then, the 2016/17 season is now confined to the history books & Mark Selby has rode off into the sunset with the sports most coveted trophy,but what about the season that was? Well here are some of my thoughts on what we've seen over the last 12 months.

Looking back Monday night on the previous 17 days of snooker action,I couldn't help but think how this world championship had been a perfect snapshot of what we had seen over the entire season,some really great moments,but on the whole some pretty uninspiring stuff.

We get told time and time again that the standard is getting higher a,but the evidence simply does not exist to support this.Of course with so many tournaments now,it would be impossible for every one of them to be a classic,I mean not every "Super Sunday" in the Premiership produces a goalfest,but I do feel overall and  perhaps the first time in the modern era,the standard at the top of the game has probably regressed slightly.

Evidence of this I think is clear in the number of players over 40 who are still competing at the business end of tournaments.This is in stark contrast to what we saw,say 15 years ago.Some of this can be attributed to the fact that in days past the players who got to that age maybe didn't have same practice motivation & now with constant tournament play that this is not such an issue,but you can't say ,wonderful and all as their victories were to see,that Mark King & Anthony Hamilton are better players now then they were in their 20's or 30's.

Another thing we must start to come to terms with is that the days of the "class of 92" are  slowly coming to an end,This may seem a strange thing to say in a season where Ronnie won a 7th masters & Higgins won two big early season tournaments,before getting within 3 frames of a world title,but bear with me while I explain.

Ok firstly these two greats on their day can still produce snooker that's better than anyone still playing the game,but I think where the problem lies with them now is that they can't be guaranteed to produce it when its needed most.Ronnie for example started very poorly in the UK final against Selby & even with a late rally couldn't claw his way back.The same can apply to his lacklustre middle session against Ding in the worlds.That would not have happened an O'Sullivan in his prime Yes he did win the Masters,but I don't think anyone can say he was at his best there either.The same applies to Higgins.who lets be honest, at his height, would not have lost a world final from 10-4 up against anybody.

I  have no doubt these two will once again be challenging for trophies next season,but I think the chances of them adding to their World title hauls are getting slimmer.

At the other end of the spectrum we have a number of young players who started to make waves this year and its from this generation that the next great champions may come.Most notably among these players yet to reach 20,we had the Chinese trio of Yan Bingtao,Zhao Xintong & Zhou Yuelong..These three will no doubt be winning tournaments in the coming years as possibly also will Jackson Page from Wales who at 15 is the current world under 18 champ and showed he is the real deal,by making the third round of the Welsh Open.

Sadly things don't look as healthy for snooker here in the Rep Of Ireland.This years marked the 20th anniversary of that memorable night when Ken Doherty lifted the world crown and its hard to see that success been repeated anytime soon.At 45 Fergal O'Brien is admirably holding back the tide as long as he can to remain our highest ranked player,but with Ken dropping off the tour,before been awarded a two year legends wild card,the next highest ranked Irishman is Josh Boileau.

Now Josh is a talent,but in the first year of the two year tour card he obtained by winning the European Under 21 title,endured a tough season.That said ,a victory over Shaun Murphy in Wales and a wonderful fightback from 7-2 down to 9-9 against subsequent Crucible qualifier Gary Wilson,showed this lad can play.Hopefully a good start to this season can ease his demotion fears and allow him to establish himself properly on the tour for many years to come.The future of Irish snooker may for the foreseeable future ,rest in his hands.

Finally though lets talk about the man currently head & shoulders above his peers at the top of our game.It says a lot about what we have come to expect from Mark Selby,that when the fightback begun in the final ,there was a certain inevitability about him going on to lift the title. We have seen time and again with him  that he has an extraordinary will to win, that coupled with a superb big match temperament and an unflinching self belief have helped establish him as the greatest champion of his generation.

With everything I have said above,its hard to see where his challengers for the games big prizes are going to come from in the next few years.This of course will lead to the inevitable debates about where Selby stands on the all time list. I have said before that I don't think he is near the level of the likes of Davis,Hendry,O'Sullivan or Higgins & nothing that happened in the last fortnight has changed my mind in that. Suppose the basis for my argument on this is that the true greats,in this case the four i have listed above,would have been multiple world titles in any era.I'm not yet sure that can be said about Selby.

The fact remains though that he is the preeminent force of his generation  and it will be up to the others to step up to the mark to challenge him next season

Anyway that's it from me .I may look in more detail in the coming weeks at those ranked immediately below Selby in the ranking & what they need to do for the coming season to narrow the gap,but for now thats it.Best of luck to all competing in Q school next week.Ciao.

Monday, 1 May 2017

World Final Selby Reigns Supreme

Mark Selby is the champion of the world again after beating John Higgins 18-15 to claim the title for a third time in four years at the Crucible this evening.

In doing so he joins a very exclusive club of back to back winners here that also includes Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry & Ronnie O'Sullivan and has now firmly established himself as the greatest champion of his generation.

Starting today at only 10-7 behind having struggled for much of yesterday,the parallels with the 2014 final against Ronnie were there to see and the vital third session was almost a carbon copy of three years ago.Here  Selby switched into full suffocation mode & this coupled with some superb breaks when the chances occurred saw him turn that 10-7 deficit into a 13-11 lead at the end of a shortened afternoon session.

Into the evening and any hopes of a revival  for Higgins seemed remote as Selby stretched further ahead  to lead 16-12 at the interval.To his credit Higgins dug deep like the great champion he is,claiming the next three to get within one at 16-15,but when Selby knocked in another brilliant pressure red in the next to start a nerveless break of 131,the writing was on the wall and he duly did the necessary in the next to seal the 18-15 win.

As a result of this Selby has virtually secured his place at the top of the world rankings for the foreseeable future & when we consider that this was his fifth title of a season that also include another UK crown,this may be as close to total dominance as we're ever likely to see again.

For Higgins,well he will be devastated that he let a 10-4 lead,with an opponent seemingly all at sea, slip through his fingers. Looking at it now its hard not to draw comparisons between him and his fellow 41 yr old Wladimir Klitschko who at the weekend lost in a dramatic fight against Anthony Joshua.These were truly great champions,giving it their all,but ultimately time was shown to have caught up with both of them.

As for Selby people will now  be talking about him in terms of been alongside the likes of Hendry ,Davis,O'Sullivan & Higgins in the all time list. Personally I don't think it does ,but rather than rain on his parade tonight I will blog about it later in the week.One thing that is for sure is that he has a depth of belief  that makes him very hard to beat when he he up for it and he sets the target all must aim for when the new season starts in about a months time!!

Finally thank you to everyone who read this blog during the championship,I hope you found it informative & enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.Don't forget I can also be found on Twitter @thegreenbaize.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

World Final First Day Round up

Day one of the 2017 final completed then & John Higgins finds himself with a 10-7 lead over Mark Selby after an intriguing two sessions.

This is rather strangely,the first world final contested by two multiple world champions,but even the greats are not immune to early nerves and both here struggled early on to come to terms with both the occasion and the table conditions..

The first few frames were shared,but the first real break came in frame four as  Higgins rolled in a fabulous 141 to go to the interval level at 2-2.

This break seemed put Higgins in the groove and with Selby, perhaps showing the effects of his long semi final with Ding,struggling to get going, Higgins started to exert full control on all aspects of the game ,winning the last four to lead 6-2.

Out for the night session then and the despite sharing the opening four again to move the score along to 8-4,it was Higgins who stepped on the gas again to move six clear at 10-4. Selby was now in some real trouble,but in a repeat of his late efforts against Ronnie on day one of the 2014 final,he capitalised on a rare missed pink from Higgins to close to 10-5,before,with a renewed spring in his step, he also took the last two to be very much still in this a 10-7.

With all things now left  beautifully poised for tomorrows afternoon session,what will each player be feeling tonight?

Well I suppose initially the happier will be Selby, after enduring the day he had,to be able to dig out those last three frames will almost feel like he's in front.He'll be now thinking ,a good nights sleep to shake off the last of the Ding hangover and go at it hard tomorrow.

Higgins on the other was probably leaving the venue cursing himself for letting Selby off the ropes and not securing a bigger overnight lead,but I'd say by the time he reached his hotel he will have been reflecting on a job well done today and the fact that a 10-7 offered this morning would have been snapped at.

One thing is though regardless of how they feel now,both men will be starting to eye up the third session as the one to make their decisive move for the title. In that 2014 final Selby did a real number on Ronnie & eventually broke him in that corresponding session ,but against Higgins,he will not be able to boss things to that extent and that may prove the difference in the end.

If Higgins is to secure the eight frames he needs for a fifth world crown,he will need to produce one of those all round flawless days that he has done so often in the past.

Its going to be a fascinating watch.Session three starts at 2pm

Saturday, 29 April 2017

World Final preview

The final of the 2017 world championship will see Mark Selby & John Higgins face each other over the best of 35 frames ,after both came through contrasting semi finals today at The Crucible.

Mark Selby reached his third world final in four years here,but only after eventually seeing off the determined challenge of Ding Junhui 17-15 in one of the most memorable semi finals here in years.

John Higgins on the other hand had a far more straight forward path to the title decider with 17-8 victory over a badly out of touch Barry set up this rematch of the 2007 final.

Well of course a lot has changed in a decade.That final victory heralded the start of another period of dominance for Higgins through his early 30's,which would see him add a further two world titles to his CV over the next four years and cement his place on snookers "Mount Rushmore"alongside Davis,Hendry & O'Sullivan.

For Selby this final appearance came as a surprise to many,but it undoubtedly put him forward as one of the next generations real rising stars and the intervening years have seen him establish himself as possibly the games current dominant figure.

So a decade on from their previous meeting in a world final what can we expect?

Well in contrast to that final, Selby will start this one as a strong favourite after showing,yet again, in that semi final win over Ding ,that he has a depth of character unparalleled among the current generation. The fact is he has played like a champion here all tournament. growing in confidence performance round after round and looking set to peak when it matters most.

Higgins for his part has also produced some of his best snooker here & his victory over Mark Allen in round two was up there with his finest Crucible performances.Since then his performance level has dipped a bit,but that fact that Hawkins was playing so poorly probably didn't help his concentration either.and that coupled with an overwhelming desire to reach another world final at the age of 41 ,might have seen him just try too hard. I think now that he has achieved that goal,the shackles may come off again & the John Higgins of old might just be lurking underneath.

If that does happen this could turn into a really fascinating match as Higgins is certainly someone who can cope with Selby's hard match play.

What this boils down to is this. Can Higgins at 41 summon one last big effort & produce the snooker that has seen him win four of these titles? I think if he can ,he can certainly win a fifth title here.I just have a sense though that that may be beyond him and by Monday night we will be looking at Mark Selby,three time world champion.


Friday, 28 April 2017

World Championship Semi Finals The Story so Far

The second day of action in the semifinals for this years championship  and after an engrossing days action,things are set up nicely for tomorrows final sessions.

The tie between defending champion Mark Selby & Ding Junhui is turning into a real Crucible classic as these two heavyweights of the sport go into tomorrows final session locked together at 12-12.

The two sessions these two played today really had everything snooker can offer from,big breaks to pressure pots to wonderful safety and all things in between.

Coming out this morning,Ding held an overnight 5-3 lead,but it was Selby,doing what Selby does best who bossed the early proceedings, taking a series of lengthy hard frames to edge ahead.This session was really reminiscent of the way Selby played to break O'Sullivans resistance in the final of 2014,so it was a tribute to Ding that he managed to get a couple of frames on the board with big breaks to at least show he was still in good stroke.Even allowing for this though, Selby finished the morning with a 9-7 lead 

Into the night then and a vital eight frames for Ding.,who you felt, really needed to win the session to keep his hopes alive.Here though an extraordinary thing happened.Not only was Ding competing with Selby in the safety battles,but he was noticeably getting the better of them & for the first time in this championship Selby was showing the signs of feeling real pressure.

The question was could Ding turn this superiority into winning the session? This he duly did in style,taking the last two of the night with centuries to win the session 5-3 & set up the grandstand finish tomorrow afternoon.

The other semi final has been a little more sedate & with two sessions played it is the four times champion John Higgins who holds the upper hand,leading Barry Hawkins 10-6.

This one has lacked the fireworks we've seen in the other semi final,but Higgins wont be worrying about that if  he manages tomorrow evening to reach yet another Crucible final.They resume for their third session at 10am with Hawkins needing to do something special if the result of this one is be thrown into question,

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

World Championship Semi Final preview

Quarters finals completed and eight has become four in the hunt for the 2017 world title.

The first semi final will be a rematch of last years final,as Mark Selby once again faces Ding Junhui over four sessions at the Crucible.

Selby reached yet another semi final here with a dominant display all round matchplay to ease past Marco Fu 13-3 with a session to spare.

Selby had started this championship with a comfortable,but not spectacular win, over Fergal O'Brien. Indeed he wasn't that brilliant in his first two session against Xiao in round two,but in the last session of that one something clicked into gear for him and that continued here as he was simply superb against Fu. There is no better time to be finding your best form than at the business end of world championship .

In many ways the same thing applies to his opponent Ding Junhui who,got a major monkey off his back by finally recording a big tournament win over Ronnie O'Sullivan in a cracking match today.

The damage in this one was done by Ding in the middle session where a series of big breaks left him with a 10-6 overnight lead. Good as that was though,it was perhaps even more impressive today that ,when Ronnie started to fight back,his game held together and the big breaks kept rolling in as he got over the line in the end 13-10.

So what can we expect here? Well looking back at last years final,it could be argued that it was the first session ,where Selby got off to a flyer leading 6-0 that decided things,as try as he might, Ding could not get back level with him.Obviously the Chinese no.1 will be hoping for a better start here and I just think that if he can stay with Selby early on,that that may just make the difference.

I'm going for a Ding win 17-13

The other semi final pits four time champion John Higgins against Barry Hawkins who has become something of a Crucible specialist in recent seasons with a number of notable scalps.

Higgins reached his first semi final here since 2011 with a comfortable 13-6 win over Kyren Wilson whereas Hawkins will be pleased that,after seeing his good lead over Stephen Maguire disappear when the Scot levelled at 9-9,he managed to rally again to run out a 13-9 winner.

For this one I think we can apply the same logic as we did in the quarter finals.If Higgins plays his best,then there is only one winner ,but if he's below that for any reason,then Hawkins is just the type of  player who could take advantage.That said though Higgins has always been the type who,the further he get into a tournament ,the harder he is to beat and I expect him to come out on top here Score prediction 17-10

Away from the table Barry Hearn made some exciting announcements today relating to a new Challenge tour,better dispersal of the prize money further down the ranking and the eradication of tournament entry fees. All positive things .Now if only he'd do something with the UK Championship to make it great again and a few less best of sevens and things would be great!

PS I hope some of you had a few pound on my recommended bets at the start,I suggested Higgins (2/1) to win his quarter & Ding 5/2 to win his .Also value each way title bets on Higgins 16/1 & Hawkins 18/1 still both in play with one guaranteed some return.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

World Championship Day Eleven Round up

Day eleven at the championship heralded the beginning of the quarter finals and was most notable for the one sided nature of all the contests

We'll start with the Ronnie O'Sullivan v Ding Junhui match and here "The Rockets"quest for a sixth world title is in real danger of coming unstuck against an opponent who seems to have finally found his Crucible groove.

The first session of this was played this morning and Ding was quick out the blocks with a century & two breaks of 70 plus to lead 3-0.Then a sea change as back came O'Sullivan to level at 3-3 before the last two were shared to leave it 4-4.

The general consensus at this stage was that Ronnie had weathered the storm and would pull away tonight,but although the first two were shared again,making it 5-5 ,it was Ding who started to score heavily again & a visibly under pressure O'Sullivan was struggling to find any answer as the Chinese moved 10-5 ahead.

Belatedly Ronnie did manage to get the last of the session with a run of 104,but at 10-6 down will need an almost perfect session tomorrow if he is to avoid defeat.

If Ronnie task from 10-6 down is difficult,then Kyren Wilsons one from 11-5 down must be nye on impossible,especially against a John Higgins playing as well as he is.

You have to feel a little for Kyren here though as with the scores tied at 3-3 he suffered some tip damage & subsequently lost the next two frames to trail 5-3 going into tonight. Here he never really got going as Higgins turned the screw and barring a miracle,this one might not last for very long when they play to a finish in the morning.

Also going into tomorrow with a commanding lead is Mark Selby,who made sure he exploited any tiredness Marco Fu may have been feeling after last nights heroics,flying out the gate, to take an early 5-0 lead this afternoon

Fu to his credit took the next two & could have taken the last of the session as well,but it eventually went to Selby to leave the defending champ with a healthy 6-2 overnight lead.

In the other match with only the one session played,Barry Hawkins leads Stephen Maguire 5-3.Hawkins had gotten the better of the early exchanges here to lead 5-1,but in a potential turning point in the next Maguire got the couple of snookers he required to take it on the black,before also adding the last of the session to trail by just two overnight.

All four of these matches play to a finish tomorrow,so by this time tomorrow night we'll be down to just four remaining in the tournament and with the venue then reverting to the single table set up, its then the fun really begin!

Monday, 24 April 2017

Day Ten Round up + Quarter Final Preview

Day ten at the Crucible and with the last of the round two matches completed,eight men stay in the hunt for glory next Monday evening.

Before we start talking about that though we must look back at one of the most dramatic matches of the tournament so far.

Coming out tonight locked together at 8-8 Marco Fu & Neil Robertson were probably both wondering what they would have to do to shake their opponent off,but after taking two lengthy frames to move 10-8 in front,it looked as though Robertson might have made the decisive move for victory.

This is a different Fu these days though and, as his cue arm started to flow,break of 78 & 115 quickly drew him level again at 10-10.

The best of 25 was now reduced to a best of 5 and in a dramatic frame 21 when they resumed,it was Robertson who nicked it on the black,a fact he celebrated with a bit of "COME ON" shouting & table move 11-10 in front.

Fu though was not finished yet and took the next to draw level at 11-11 & then produced a fine run of 69 to move 12-11 in front.

Into the 24th and Fu looked for all the world to be clearing to win it,but the cruellest of kicks on a red when only a few pots from victory  allowed Robertson to counter & things were once again boil down to the black.Robertson was to have the first chance on it but when he wobbled it to the yellow pocket it was left to Fu to pot it with the rest and claim the  13-11 victory

In the other round two matches today Mark Selby & Barry Hawkins quickly got the three frames required to turn their 10-6 overnight leads into 13-16 win over Xiao Guoding & Graeme Dott respectively

So into the last eight we go and what a stellar line up we have left.

Mark Selby v Marco Fu
A repeat of last years semi final here with Selby emerging victorious then by 17-15 and another close one may be on the cards here.Selby for all that his progress has been smooth thus far,hasn't looked in superb form,that is until his final three frames this afternoon and it could well be  that he's playing his way into the championship for the business end.

Fu,as we've seen above and in his first round against Brecel has not had quite the opposite path to this stage and if there is a bit of battle fatigue, Selby is just the man to exploit it.For that reason I'm going for a Selby win Score prediction 13-10

Ronnie O'Sullivan v Ding Junhui
Ronnie has had the look of a man on a mission here so far this championship & as we've often seen with him over the years,its when he feels he has something to prove,that he is at his most dangerous.Ding has also looked very good at times here during the first two rounds and showed that he  does have the temperament for these longer matches,producing when needed to see off Liang Wenbo 13-12 in the last round.

That said though you can't ignore Ronnie's vastly superior record against Ding,particularly in longer matches, & I expect him to come through this one as well Score prediction 13-8

Kyren Wilson v John Higgins
This has the look of been a real cracker with both players coming through some real stern tests to get this far.

Higgins has looked back to something near his best and needed to be to see off Mark Allen in the last round. What would have pleased him most in that victory were the frames where he dished from way behind,because they show just how well you are handling the pressure.

The same can be said for Wilson who also handled Stuart Bingham biting at his ankles for three session with great maturity.

I think this one could in the end boil down to whether Higgins can reproduce his form from the previous round.If he can there is only one winner,but if his level drops even a little Wilson is the type of player who will punish him.

For all that though I do think Higgins can keep his form going & will win this.Score prediction 13-10

Barry Hawkins v Stephen Maguire
Another tricky one to call here between a man in Hawkins,who many fancy as a dark horse for the title and Maguire who has only lost five frames in his first two matches here.I really am struggling to find a way to separate these two,but maybe the fact that Maguire has also had three qualifying matches in the week before this event may count against him when the pressure comes on 7 for that reason i'm going for a Hawkins victory,but it may be close.Score prediction 13-11

Sunday, 23 April 2017

World Championship Day Nine Round up

Day nine at the championship and with no match scheduled to finish today,a quiter day than yesterday was always on the cards.

I say no match scheduled to finish today,but that was not quite how it worked out as Stephen Maguire continued his smooth progress through the championship with a 13-3 victory over Rory McLeod.

There was always the danger,that, after his heroics against Trump, this one may have a feeling of"after the Lord Mayors show" for McLeod and so it turned out as he never settled against an opponent brimming with confidence.

Maguire has now reached the quarter finals at the Crucible,losing only five frames so far at the venue & will enjoy his Monday off as Barry Hawkins & Graeme Dott battle it out to face him in the last eight.

For a brief period tonight Hawkins may have also held out hopes of a Monday off when he held a 9-3 lead,but Dott wasn't done for yet and he roared back to 9-6.Hawkins though will certainly be sleeping a little easier after taking the last of the session to lead by four again over night at 10-6

Also holding a 10-6 overnight lead is our defending champion Mark Selby,who shared another efficient if not brilliant session today against Xiao Guodong and is well placed for another last 8 appearance.

The one potential bit of drama tomorrow might well come in the Neil Robertson  v Marco Fu match as these two go into their final session locked together at 8-8. Of the two Fu will certainly be the happier as it was he who trailed 4-1 in the first session before taking the last three of the session to level it at 4-4.Then followed a night where neither could pull away,leaving things nicely poised going into tomorrow.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

World Championship Day Eight Round up.

There was a feeling during the week on social media that despite some bright moments that this championship hadn't really caught fire yet,but if today is anything to go by things are only going to get better.

So often in these multi session matches its impossible to keep your form going throughout so the secret is to make hay when things are going your way.When Mark Allen looks back on his defeat here to John Higgins,he may well reflect on that first session yesterday,where playing at his absolute best he somehow only came out of  it with a 5-3 lead.

Higgins was always likely to make him pay for that and got off to the perfect start this morning taking the opening four to move ahead 7-5.Allen bounced back after the interval with a 116 in the next to close within one at 7-6 & looked well placed to level when on a run of 70 in the next,but Higgins dished with 72 to extend his lead to 8-6.From here the last two were shared  to leave it 9-7 going into the final session.

Into the night then and Allen,needing a fast start, was first in again taking the opener to get within one at 9-8,but history was to repeat itself in the next as first in again Allen,thanks to a kick,broke down on 58 & Higgins dished once more to go 10-8

A 120 in the next from Higgins extended that lead to 11-8 & although Allen pulled another back,this one was all but over with Higgins going through 13-9 

So with Higgins quest for a fifth world title gathering momentum in the bottom half of the draw the possibility of a dream final between him & his fellow legend Ronnie O'Sullivan becomes a real possibility as Ronnie also booked his place in the last 8 today by quickly polishing off his match with Shaun Murphy this morning.

Just how big that last frame yesterday afternoon was in the context of the end result we'll never know,but starting today leading 10-6 Ronnie was never likely to let this slip and looking fully focused again, he quickly rounded  off a comfortable 13-7 win.

He'll next face Ding Junhui who came through a real high quality encounter with his fellow Chinese Liang Wenbo that went all the way to the 25th and final frame.

This was a real scoring feast as these two punched and counter punched over the three sessions & perhaps the difference came down to the greater experience as Ding rallied late to see off Liang 13-12

In the matches that started today Stephen Maguire  & Mark Selby both hold 6-2 overnight leads against Rory McLeod & Xiao Guodong respectively & seem in control,but we know too much at this stage to take anything for granted,don't we ?

Friday, 21 April 2017

World Championship day Seven Round up

Day seven at the championship and with the potential banana skin of the first round safely negotiated,the players remaining in the championship looked to step things up,with the result we had some really top quality snooker to enjoy.

A situation that often seems to arise in these longer frame matches is a player establishing an early lead & no matter what their opponent can throw at them they seem to be able to maintain the lead throughout.

That was certainly the case in the match between Kyren Wilson & 2015 champ Stuart Bingham where having managed to claw his way back from 5-0 to 5-3,Bingham,could never manage to,get the two frames in a row he needed to draw level.

That was especially the case in the morning session as frame for frame were traded up to 8-7,before what was possibly the matches defining moment.Needing a snooker,Wilson laid a fiendish snooker on the last red and from the resulting foul,took full advantage of the resulting free ball to to clear and take a 9-7 lead into the night.

Into the night and despite a run of 137 & a maximum attempt that ended on 80 Bingham could not get back into it and it was Wilson who moved into the quarter finals with a 13-10.

Elsewhere Ronnie O'Sullivan,resuming with a 6-2 lead would have had slight hopes of finishing with a session to spare today whereas Shaun would have been eyeing a winning session at least get a foothold in the match heading to the mornings final session.

Today it was Murphy who started the better taking the opener,but Ronnie quickly found his groove again to extend his lead to 9-3 at the mid session interval.

Ronnie now needed the four remaining frames to finish with a session to spare,but any hopes he had of doing this quickly disappeared as Murphy resumed all guns blazing & suddenly with a series of big breaks the game was very much back on,the score now 9-6.

One frame remained then and what a frame it turned out to be as both players missed a series of chances before a fluked yellow looked to be giving it to Murphy.There was to be one more twist though as he missed the subsequent green and Ronnie cleared to lead 10-6.They finish in the morning

The all Chinese clash between Ding Junhui & Liang Wenbo also lived up to its promise and after two highly entertaining sessions its Ding who holds the slight advantage at 9-7,but there could be plenty of snooker left in this one.

Finally Mark Allen must be wondering,after a session where he had three centuries & an 80 odd,just how he only has a two frame lead over John Higgins,but that the way it and its all very much to play for when they resume in the morning,the Ulsterman leading 5-3.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

World Championship Day Six Round Up

Day six & the quietest day of the championship so far with no morning session & the first of the round two matches getting underway.

Before we get into them though, we had final throws of round one to deal with,as Neil Robertson & Barry Hawkins looked finish off the job  against Saengkham & Ford respectively.

Starting the day with an 8-1 lead Robertson was never likely to be in trouble here despite the Thai putting a bit more shine on the scoreboard & the 2010 champion set up a last 16 clash with Marco Fu winning in the end 10-4

Hawkins also enjoyed a healthy 7-2 overnight lead against \Tom Ford and like Robertson, he didn't need to break sweat tonight running out in the end a 10-3 winner.

In the round two matches that got underway today Kyren Wilson holds a 5-3 overnight lead  against Bingham,but its the 2015 champion who'll probably be slightly the happier as things stand having trailed here at one stage 5-0.In honesty the standard wasn't the best at times and both players will be looking to improve when they resume in the morning.

Standard of play certainly wasn't an issue in the other last 16 match that commenced today and its a highly focused & motivated looking Ronnie O'Sullivan who holds a deserved 6-2 lead over Shaun Murphy.

This really was Ronnie at his fluent best and although Murphy produced a nice break of his own to level at 1-1, the session was dominated by O'Sullivan, who if he can produce the same level of performance tomorrow,will slightly fancy his chances of finishing this with a session to spare. Murphy may have other ideas though!!

Heres what we can look forward to tomorrow
Kyren Wilson v Stuart Bingham 10am
Liang Wenbo v Ding Junhui 10am

Ronnie O'Sullivan v Shaun Murphy 2.30pm
John Higgins v Mark Allen 2.30pm

Kyren Wilson v Stuart Bingham 7pm
Liang Wenbo v Ding Junhui 7pm

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

World Championship Day Five Round up

Day five at the world championship & there is only one place to start & that is with what is,quite simply, one of the biggest shocks we've seen in the 40 years at the Crucible.

After the big turnaround yesterday afternoon where McLeod,helped perhaps by a little Trump showboating,turned a 4-0 deficit into a 5-4 overnight lead.the question coming out this morning was could Trump reassert his grip on the game or could McLeod build on the momentum he had from his fine finish yesterday afternoon?The answer to this was probably neither as a real slog of a session took hold.

This was not pretty snooker to watch as frames after frame got scrappy,but at the same time you could not take your eyes off it as each play struggled to find any fluency.and each small break was costing a pint of blood. Such were the length of the frames that it soon became apparent that we would not be finishing before the afternoon session began and would need to return for an unscheduled third session at the end of the days play,

At this stage though vitally for McLeod,with the knowledge that they were been called ashore,he managed to steal himself for one big effort and a break of 66 saw him move within one of victory at 9-7.

Out they came tonight then and although Trump managed to pull one back McLeod again steadied himself in the next,with a series of big pots, to get over the line 10-8 for a thoroughly deserved victory & a Last 16 clash with Stephen Maguire.

For Trump this was another failure on the sports biggest stage & that final in 2011 remains the closest he has come to claiming the sports biggest prize.Who is to say if he will ever get that close again.

In other matches completed today Graeme Dott who is  in the "rolling back the years"stage of his career did just that to beat Ali Carter 10-7.

This one was another example of just how important every mini session is,even in these long matches as Carter never really fully recovered from a slow start and despite great runs of 111,104 & 88 today,he could never land a blow on the 2006 champ who advances to another last 16 at this championship.

In the other match to finish today Xiao Guodong produced a stunning display of long potting to ease past Ryan Day 10-4 and book a second round clash with Mark Selby.

Elsewhere two of the games big guns look all but through to the next round,holding as they do big overnight leads with Neil Robertson leading Noppon Saengkham 8-1 & Barry Hawkins having a 7-2 advantage over Tom Ford.

Today though belongs to one man and that is Rory McLeod,who responded brilliantly when asked about Trumps shoulder injury,by mentioning that everybody has niggles and that he's one of the oldest players left on the tour.Well done again Rory.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

World Championship Day Four Round up

Day four didn't quite have the fireworks of yesterday,but on a day where three matches finished the last 16 is really starting to take shape and we have some real mouth watering clashes in store.

John Higgins & Ding Junhui will no doubt both have slept soundly last night,leading as they were 7-2 over Martin Gould & Zhou Yeulong respectively ,but as we saw last night with Marco Fu that is not necessarily a decisive advantage.

The one thing you do need though if you are to come back from such a deficit is a bit of help from your opponent.and whereas Luca gave that extra bit assistance to Marco in their match,neither Higgins or Ding were likely to crumple under the pressure in the same way,leaving Gould & Zhou wondering what might have been had they had better opening sessions.

The scores in the end had Higgins running out a 10-6 winner & Ding a.10-5 one

Ding will now face his fellow countryman Liang Wenbo in the last 16 after Liang came through a real test against Stuart Carringtom.

Indeed a shock looked very much on the cards here as,playing quite beautifully, Carringinton  won five in a row,which included three consecutive centuries to go from 2-0 down to 5-2 in front.

From here though crucially Liang took the last two of the session to reduce his arrears to 5-4 going into the second session.

The big scoring didn't continue into the night session as a real nip and tuck battle started to unfold,but from 7-7 it was the more experienced Liang who pulled away to clinch a 10-7 victory

In matches starting today Judd Trump discovered,if he didn't already know,that nobody is going to roll over and hand him this title,he's going to have to earn it.This was really a session of two halves,as before the interval Trump played like defeat was out of the question storming to a 4-0 lead,but perhaps beginning to believe his own infallibility he started to push the boat out too far & Rory McLeod took full advantage . reeling off the last five to take a 5-4 overnight lead & leave thing perfectly poised going into tomorrow morning

Finally 2006 champion Graeme Dott will go into the second session of his match with Ali Caret with a three frame advantage  leading as he does 6-3 after their first session.

Monday, 17 April 2017

World Championship Day Three Round up

Day three at the Crucible and further evidence,if it was needed,that for all the quickfire best of seven events we now have on the circuit,nothing really compares to the unfolding drama you only get in long format matches.

That was certainly the case in the extraordinary match we witnessed between Marco Fu & Luca Brecel.

When Fu knocked in a century to take the last of the first session,it looked as if it was only small consolation as he still trailed the young Belgian 7-2 overnight,but nobody told Marco that as he came out all guns blazing tonight to try and claw his way back.

The first two of the session were shard to make it 8-3,but from here Fu really got going & against an opponent who seemed to be wilting before our eyes he amazingly took the next five to level it up at 8-8.

Considering all that had gone before Brecel did brilliantly to take the 17th frame to go 9-8,but Fu forced the decider taking the next and  after one of those tension filled frames,Fu took got in first and having built an early 48 point lead he controlled it eventually getting over the line to complete what at the start of the night seemed the most unlikely of comebacks,and break the young Belgians heart.The score 10-9

Meanwhile in the other side we were having one of those old fashioned ding dong matches with Mark Allen eventually pulling away from 8-8 with Jimmy Robertson to win 10-8.

Earlier in the day 2005 champ Shaun Murphy managed to secure his place in the next round,but only after surviving a real scare against the young Chinese sensation Yan Bingtao.

Starting the day leading 6-3 Murphy took the opening frame to go 7-3,but Yan took the next two to close to 7-5.This gave the last before the mid session interval added importance,but when Murphy took it and then the next when they resumed the writing looked on the wall for the 17 yr old.

Yan though wasn't prepared to say goodbye to the Crucible just yet and visibly warming to the task he took the next three to close within one at 9-8.This was now game on and in a way it was sad that the decisive moment came when Murphy fluked the third last red and cleared to nick it on the black and secure the 10-8 win.

Murphy can now look forward to a last 16 encounter with Ronnie O'Sullivan while Yan can look back with great pride on his Crucible debut.I know its a cliche,but we will certainly be seeing a lot more of this young man in the years to come.

Elsewhere Stuart Bingham finally saw off the as always determined challenge of Peter Ebdon 10-5 to advance to the last 16  and a meeting with Kyren Wilson.

In the matches that started today two of real contenders for this title moved within touching distance of the second round with convincing first session displays.

Ding Junhui produced the scoring display of the tournament so far to lead his fellow Chinese Zhou Yuelong 7-2 and John Higgins did likewise later to also open up a 7-2 lead over Martin Gould.

So it only looks like a matter of  dotting the i's & crossing the t's tommorrow in those matches,but having witnessed what we did today,can we ever be certain of anything in this sport

Sunday, 16 April 2017

World Championship Day Two Round up

Day two at the Crucible and as has been so often the case, the day was dominated both on & off the table by one man.

Coming into the day Ronnie O'Sullivan had a real fight on his hands as he lead Gary Wilson by just the single frame at 5-4 and although Ronnie took the opener to lead 6-4 Wilson showed he wasn't for rolling over with a century to close to 6-5.From here though Ronnie visibly upped a gear as breaks of 124,74 & 83 moved to the brink of round two at 9-5.

Wilson to his credit fought on & closed to 9-7,but another big break,this time a 90 saw Ronnie over the line & his joy was obvious as he punched the air in delight.

This was only half the story though as reports began to surface mid evening on the BBC sports pages of an interesting press conference.I'm not going to start quoting it word for word here,but I fully urge anyone interested to not just read the transcript ,but to actually listen to it online.He actually comes across as far more measured & calm than it reads in reports.

The other man going through to the last 16 today was Kyren Wilson,who despite playing far below his best,managed to get it together enough near the end to pull  away from 7-6 & finally break the resistance of David Grace,taking the last three frames to win 10-7

Elsewhere Shaun Murphy will go into tomorrow morning with a 6-3 lead over 17 yr old Yan Bingtao after a highly entertaining first session. Murphy looked at times to be striking the ball as well as ever,but Bingtao also had his moments too which included joining that exclusive club to get a century on their Crucible debut. Murphy though will be delighted that he took the final frame of the session to be three clear & he will want to finish this off quickly when they resume tomorrow afternoon

The battle of the former world champions between Stuart Bingham & Peter Ebdon couldn't be more evenly poised as the 2015 champ holds a slender 5-4 overnight lead. The real fireworks in this one though came in the last of the session as Ebdon fought back from 42 behind with 27 on the table to nick it on a respotted black.He then rolled back the years with a good old fashioned roar of "come on"though it must be said this time around it was only done tongue in cheek.

Also delicately poised is the clash between Mark Allen & Jimmy Robertson with the Ulsterman taking the last three of the session from 4-2 down to lead 5-4.

Things look a little more straight forward in the last match of the day though as Luca Brecel produced a stunning session to lead former two time semi finalist here Marco Fu 7-2.Brecel has been talking a big game in the build up to this and here at least he seems to backing it up.

As I said above though,the headlines tomorrow will only be focusing on one man.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

World Championship Day One Round up

Day One at the Crucible and what probably amounted to the earliest conclusion to the days play we can expect over the next fortnight,as both matches been played to a conclusion ended before the sun had fully set in the sky.

As is always the case the defending champion got things underway this morning and Mark Selby was in no mood to hang around as he flew out of the blocks to lead Fergal O'Brien 4-0 to the mid session interval. It was hard not to feel for Fergal, who after a long and draining week at the qualifiers, could surely have with a few more days rest before commencing his tenth crucible campaign.As it was thoguh things were to only go from bad to worse for the Dubliner when they resumed as the scoreline moved to 8-0 and the possibility of a whitewash  loomed large.Thankfully for him though he managed to avoid that embarrassment by taking the last of the morning to make it 8-1

Into the evening then and although O'Brien was to get another on the board the world no.1 quickly put things to bed,running out a 10-2 victor.

So the perfect start for Selby then who was more solid than spectacular.,but there is plenty of time for that to come later in the tournament.for now he can sit back for a week and watch all the other fight to join him in the last 16.

Another man through with the minimum of fuss is Stephen Maguire who,although unseeded and forced to qualify,managed to ease his way into the second round with a convincing 10-2 win over Anthony McGill.

The first four frames in this one were shared ,but from 2-2 Maguire upped a gear to lead 7-2 at the end of the mornings play and he quickly got the three he needed when they resumed tonight to book a last 16 clash with Trump or Mcleod

In the other games that started today we have perhaps a sniff of a real upset as Gary Wilson trails Ronnie O'Sullivan by just one frame at 5-4 at the end of their first session

As expected Ronnie got off to the better start here against the debutant and when he won frame six on a respotted black to make it 5-1, having earlier got the snooker he required,another runaway victory looked on the cards.Wilson though has been in sparkling form all week at Ponds Forge and took the next two to close to 5-3.

Ronnie seemed set to take the next ,but missed a tricky frame ball red to the middle on a break of 63 & although he did later pot a red to leave his opponent needing a snooker,Wilson got it to leave things beautifully poised going into tomorrow afternoons concluding session.

Also very much in the balance is the clash between Kyren Wilson & David Grace after the debutant Grace showed his battling skills to go into tomorrow mornings session trailing also by just one at 5-4.

So as I said, an earlier finish to day one than we might have expected,but I doubt it will be the norm as things are only just warming up!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

World Championship Preview

So after the warm up act of a dramatic week of qualifiers at Ponds Forge,we now move onto the main event with what looks like possibly the most open event in many years.

Mark Selby v Fergal O'Brien
As is always tradiiton the tournament starts on Saturday morning with the defending champion getting his defence underway and Mark Selby here starts his campaign for a third world title against Fergal O'Brien.Considering the week he's had to get here,which included a 2.30 am finish to one match and a marathon two hour decider on Wednesday night,Fergal would probably have prefered a few more days rest,but he'll be just happy to be back at the Crucible again for a tenth time in his career.That said though I don't expect him to trouble Selby a whole lot and I see the Leicesterman running out a straight forward victor here, Selby 10-4

Ryan Day v Xiao Guodong
This is one of those really tough games to call here,with Day so often producing his best over the longer matches .Guodong on the other hand has been in sensational form all week in the qualifiers though and if he can keep the momentum going into the Crucible itself,I think he may just do enough
Guodong 10-7

Neil Robertson v Noppon Saengkham
Considering how high he normally features on the list of potential winners here every year,it seems odd that noone is mentioning Robertson as a real title contender this year,but its hardly surprising on the back of what ,by his standards has been a poor season.It is worth noting though that he gave the China Open a miss to fully concentrate his efforts on this tournament and that coupled with an opponent in Saengkham who is making his debut at the Crucible after a gruelling week in the qualifiers,I think we're looking at a comfortable win for the Aussie Robertson 10-5

Marco Fu v Luca Brecel
One of the ties of the round here with The Scottish Open winner Fu taking on one of the games real natural talents in Brecel. Brecel has been talked about for so long you tend to forget he is only 22,but there comes a time when a talent must be fulfilled and he has struggled to make the business end of tournaments.Fu has the much greater experience of these type of matches and I think that will give him the slight edge he needs Fu 10-8

Shaun Murphy v Yan Bingtao
Another intriguing match up here with the former champ taking on a debutant that many expect will be making the trip to the Crucible for many years to come.Bingtao has been a real revelation this season whereas Murphys form has been,by his usual standards ,most inconsistant.I think there could be a real story here with Yan Bingtao causing a major upset Bingtao 10-7

Ronnie O'Sullivan v Gary Wilson
Can anyone remember the last world championship where Ronnie didn't start as favourite for the title? That said though after a season where,despite claiming a seventh Masters title Ronnie has been losing to a lot of opponents that he really shouldn't be,the question is,Is the great mans powers finally on the wane?
Wilson on the other hand rode the crest of a wave,that included a 147 to reach his first Crucible at the age of 31 That said Ronnie should still be too strong and will get though Ronnie 10-3

Liang Wenbo v Stuart Carrington
This one pits the English Open winner from earlier in the season against the man who ended Williams hopes of making it to Sheffield again. Liang is nothing of not unpredictable,but should still win this one Liang 10-6

Ding Junhui v Zhou Yuelong
A fascinating clash of the generations here as the long established Chinese number one takes on a young man who will be hoping one day to take that mantle.Ding has shown flashes this season of a return to form and last years runner up will have enough experience here to see of the young debutant and keep his title dreams alive Ding 10-7

Stuart Bingham v Peter Ebdon
Stuart Bingham has had a pretty turbulant time of it since he won the title here two years ago,but victory in the recent Welsh Open will have given his confidence a much needed boost. Ebdon qualified for his 24th Crucible campaign with the type of dogged display of pressure ball potting that has marked his career over the last quarter century.Stuart will know ,that nothing in this one will be handed to him,but I think he will still have enough to go through Bingham 10-7

Kyren Wilson v David Grace
Going by what had gone before this has been a disappointing season for Wilson who hasn't really kicked on the way many would have expected. Grace on the other hand is making a belated Crucible debut and will be buzzing ahead of this one.Tough one to call this with any scoreline possible,but I think Wilson will edge it Wilson 10-8

Mark Allen v Jimmy Robertson
Another potential shock could be on the cards here after a season where Allen has talked a good fight,but has yet to really show it on the table. That makes him vulnerable here to an opponent like Robertson and I think he may well be heading for an early exit here again J Robertson 10-6

John Higgins v Martin Gould
The question here is,can Higgins rediscover that early season form that saw him lift trophies in China & Coventry? If he can,then not only will he win this match,but a serious run at a fifth world crown may well be on the cards.If he can't then Gould could well nab him here.I'm going to wager Higgins can rally again though and in the slightly easier half of the draw could go deep into week two.Higgins 10-6

Barry Hawkins v Tom Ford
Few have better records in the big tournaments in recent years than Barry Hawkins,and the "Hawk" may well represent the value bet for the crown here this year.I certainly expect him to win this one comfortably Hawkins 10-5

Ali Carter v Graeme Dott
A real tough one to call here between two players who one their day can beat anyone.Both seem to thrive in this long matches as well and I expect this to possibly need the full 19 frames. Carter may just have enough in the bank though to see out the victory Carter 10-9

Anthony McGill v Stephen Maguire
Of all the players coming through the qualifiers Stephen Maguire was the man all the seeds wanted to avoid,but McGill was the unlucky one to draw the angry Scot.I suppose technically if Maguire wins,its a shock as the unseeded player,but few will see it that way and I think he may win this with a bit in hand Maguire 10-5

Judd Trump v Rory McLeod
I have to admit to being among those who thought by now that Judd Trump would be the dominant player in the game,but after a season where he has been at the business end of a lot of tournaments,he comes here as one of the favourites.If you are to go all the way to the title,the one thing, you need is to get through the early rounds with the minimum of fuss & expect Trump to do that here Trump 10-4       

Recommended bets
Ding to win his quarter 5/2
Higgins to win his quarter 2/1
Higgins to win title 16/1 ew
Hawkins to win title 18/1 ew
First Round outsider treble Bingtao (12/5), J Robertson (7/2) Guodong (13/8)

Monday, 6 February 2017

Hamilton the German Master

After 26 years on the circuit and at the ripe old age of 45,Anthony Hamilton is finally a ranking event winner,after fighting back to beat Ali Carter 9-6 to lift the 2017 German Masters title in front of a pack house at the Tempodrom in Berlin last night.

Long since been regarded by everyone in the game as the best player never to have won a ranking title,Hamilton must have surely felt at this stage of his career that his chance of doing so may have gone,but in an era of the game where it seems 40 is the new 20,he finally shook that monkey off his back,to win this in style..

Its worth bearing in mind at this stage also that only a year ago it looked as though Hamilton may well fall off the tour ,but a couple of wins in the Gdynia Open saw  him stay on by the skin if his teeth.

From there this season the signs of an upturn in form were there,with a quarter final in the English Open and and unlucky semi final defeat to Hawkins in the Northern Ireland Open.This week that form continued with fine wins over Williams,Selby & Bingham on his way to the final.

In the final itself it seemed early on as if that hard fought semi final victory had taken its toll on him as he trailed 3-0 & 5-2,but crucially he took the last of the afternoon session to trail 5-3 going into the night.

From here he turned on the style,producing the kind of break building that has always been talked about in the game of been his norm in practice to win five in a row to stand on the brink at 8-5.Carter to his credit dug in to take the next,but Hamilton for once wasn't going to denied,as he closed out the win in the next to seal a famous 9-6 win.

I'm not sure looking at him,as the packed Tempodrom rose to salute their new champion,that the enormity of what he had just achieved had fully sunk in,but as his parents,who had come to Berlin for a spot of sight seeing,came down to congratulate him it gave us one of those moments that brings a lump to the throat of all sports fans.

Of course immediately on Twitter last night the discussion  turned to the question of who is now the best player not to have won a ranking event.The fact that until last night the answer would have unanimously been Hamilton,shows just what a wrong has been righted here. Well done The Sheriff of Pottingham. 

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Ronnie Secures a Record 7th Masters title

Ronnie O'Sullivan now stands alone as the winningmost player at The Masters,after seeing off Joe Perry 10-7 to lift the title for a record seventh time,but boy did he have to work hard for it.

The finals of recent years have pretty much all been one sided affairs and the vast majority of snooker fans expected the same here,but the clues that this might be a little different were there early on as a nervous looking Ronnie threw in a few uncharacteristic misses and Perry punished him to take a 3-1 lead to the interval

That was to become 4-1 and really should have gone 5-1 in the next,but a missed red from Perry gave Ronnie the chance to nick it & he went on to somehow escape from an afternoon where he had a high break of 58 level at 4-4.

Into the night and still not firing on all cylinders Ronnie started to pull away,taking the first four to lead 8-4,but back came Perry with inch perfect runs of 117 & 92. to close to 8-6.

Ronnie responded with a 112 of his own to move to the brink at 9-6 & although Perry narrowed the gap to 9-7,Ronnie won a battle on the last red in the next to clear to the pink and much to his relief get over the line 10-7

If ever it was evident just what working with Dr Steve Peters has done for Ronnie,then it was today, as struggling yet again with tip problems,perhaps also a little with huge expectations and against an opponent who looked set punish any mistake,he managed to keep,a dare I say Selbyesque, level of professionalism to seal the win.

We have been so used over the years to seeing Ronnie  steamroller his way to titles,it was actually nice to see him apply himself to the task with such determination.

For far to long the sadness of Ronnie was that he didn't seem capable of getting the same level of enjoyment from playing the game that we got from watching him.That seems to have changed now,as possibly with the knowledge that his best days are not going to last forever,he is now relishing every challenge.

It would of course be remiss of me not to mention Joe Perry who has had another fabulous week and,but for a few missed chances could have pulled off one of the sports biggest shocks here today.Hopefully he can bring this form forward to claim another title somewhere soon.He's too good not to have won more in the game.

Finally though what about our record breaking champion?I have never been one of those people who believes that Ronnie has to break Stephen Hendrys world championship record in order to be considered the greatest ever.He is the best snooker we have or probably will ever see and that  for me is beyond argument.That said though I do think anytime one of Hendry's records is broken it is worth marking and  those of us who have witnessed this,will be waiting a long time to see it bettered. 

Well done snookers true Master Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

The Masters Semi Final round up

The 2017 Masters final will see six times champion Ronnie O'Sullivan take on Joe Perry for the £200,000 top prize after a dramatci day of semi final action.

This will be Ronnies twelfth Masters final,but he only got there by coming through a dramatic and high quality semi final against his in form opponent,Marco Fu.

Fu has been in the form of his life recently and his intentions here were clear from early on,as with runs of 89 & 110 he took an early 2-1 lead.Then drama as the tip on Ronnies cue needed replacing and the interval was taken a frame early to accommodate Paul Colllier in his efforts to fit a new one.

Well it certainly seemed to do the trick as a on resumption a quickfire 95 drew things level at 95 & from here things only got better.A 141 from Fu put him ahead again at  3-2,but not for long as Ronnie produced a 122 to level things up 3-3.

Into the next and it was Ronnie who got in first before breaking down on 47 allowing Fu to clear with 83 to go 4-3. History looked to be repeating itself in the next,but this time with a potentially match winning lead on his mind,Fu missed a red with the rest and Ronnie cleared to go 4-4.

From here Ronnie finally took control to go on and seal his 6-4 win with runs of 83 & 69.

The second semi final was not the line up we may have expected,but Joe Perry and Barry Hawkins were certainly there on merit,having each produced some fine form in beating their more fancied opponents.

This was a far more tentative affair with the opening four frames shared to go to the interval at 2-2.The occasion seemed to be getting to both players as they both missed uncharacteristic balls,but it was Hawkins who slowly started to open a lead.Three frames in a row put him on the brink of the final at 5-2,but just when it looked as though Perry was dead in the water back he started to come back.

Perry nicked the next from needing a snooker to trail 5-3 & by now starting to cue more smoothly,his confidence grew.He took the next to get back with one an then the tenth to force the decider.

Hawkins by now must have been thinking not again in a career blighted by letting big leads slip.,but slipping away it was.

In the decider Hawkins even managed to get in first and build a 50 point lead,but there was no stopping Perry now & he produced a wonderful 70 to the blue to clinch a famous win.

So what of the final?Well I suppose it boils down to just how much Perry has left in the tank after that extraordinary win..Ronnie will rightly start a warm favourite and if I'm honest I don't see anything other than a record seventh masters title going the way of "The Rocket".by a margin of maybe 10-4 or 10-5.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Masters Semi Final Preview

Into the last four we go then at the 2017 Masters and not the line up that many would have expected

Ronnie O'Sullivan v Marco Fu
Ronnie O'Sullivan is now within touching distance of defending his crown & claiming a seventh Masters title,but will have to first get past an opponent in Fu who is riding the crest of a wave at the moment.

Ronnie reached yet another Masters semi final after getting the better of Neil Robertson in a match that never really lived up to expectations,Not that it didn't start well,the first couple of frames were shared with big breaks,but from here things got little scrappy.Although showing flashes of form as he did in his first match,Robertson is still quite clearly not yet back to his best and Ronnie took full advantage to run out a comfortable 6-3 winner.

Marco Fu for his part kept up his fine recent form & once again produced a superb all round display to easily sweep by Mark Allen 6-2.

So what of this semi final,Well of course Fu's recent good run didn't just begin in his victory in Scotland,but in the UK Championship where ,but for a kick he may well have beaten Ronnie to reach the final.He will also have no fear of playing Ronnie as he has beaten him on some of the games big stages in the past.

Still though for all this I just think Ronnie will win this.He has certainly not been near his best yet this week,but that can always just a day away with Ronnie & I think the carrot of another big title will spur him on to victory.It will be close though.
Ronnie to win 6-4

Barry Hawkins v Joe Perry
Not the pairing many would have expected ,but both these two are here on merit having produced some dominant performances this week.

Hawkins has a record as good as anyone on the games biggest stages in recent years & that continued today as he brought an end to the Mark Selbys dreams of the "Selby Slam".

Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the afternoon for Hawkins was the fact that when it twice looked as if Selby was about to claw his way back,he managed to steady the ship and was well worth his 6-3 victory.

Perry meanwhile has been on paper the most impressive performer this week & he followed up his 6-1 victory over Bingham with another 6-1 win tonight against a badly out of sorts Ding Junhui.

This one is hard to call,but I just think the greater experience at this stage could be the telling factor and I expect Hawkins to reach the final for a second year in a row
Hawkins to win 6-3

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The Masters Quarter Finals preview.

After what has been a week of snooker at its very best,16 have become 8 in the hunt for the 2017 Masters title.

Ronnie O'Sullivan v Neil Robertson
First up we a real battle of the giants as two of the games greats face off against each other.Ronnie of course is lucky to be still here this week after surviving a match ball black against Liang in round one,but in the end closed the match out well to squeak through 6-5.

We often see the reprieved man in these events go on to be victorious,but Ronnie will know he will need to play better if he is continue in his quest for a seventh Masters title here.That is because last night against Ali Carter,we saw the type of display from Neil Robertson that had been missing so far far this season.This really was the Aussie back to his free scoring best,slamming in long pots and building big frame winning breaks.

So a fascinating match lies in store,but I just feel this is the type of match Ronnie thrives on in the big arena and he may just edge it here
Ronnie to win 6-4

Marco Fu v Mark Allen
Both these men will be coming into this match with heightened confidence after each coming through final frame deciders in round one..

If ever there was proof that success breeds success,thee Marco Fu is it. In the days of old,the way his first round match began here,Fu would have been gone from this tournament,but despite some fabulous stuff from Trump to lead 3-0,Fu's head never dropped and drawing on the comeback he made last month to beat Jon Higgins in the Scottish Open final,he again fought back here,knocking in three centuries of his own to edge past his opponent 6-5.

The match between Mark Allen & John Higgins never quite reached those heights,but was fascinating none the less and it was the man from N.Ireland who got revenge for some recent defeats to see off the Scot 6-5.

This has the makings of another close one,but i just think Fu is riding the cresy=t of a wave at the moment and fancy him to maybe nick this.
Fu to win 6-4.

Joe Perry v Ding Junhui
The most one sided victor in the first round belonged to Joe perry who swept past Stuart Bingham 6-1 in a typically solid Perry display.He will have to produce that or better again here to see off his Chinese opponent Ding Junhui.Ding,who came here this year on the back of five successive first round defeats at the Masters since he lifted the title in 2011,got through a potentially tricky first round clash with rising star Kyren Wilson 6-3 and will now be fancying his chances of making an impact here this week.

Perry is just the type of player Ding has struggled against in the past ,but I still expect the Chinese to come through this
Ding to win 6-3

Barry Hawkins v Mark Selby
Mark Selby stands just three wins away from the "Selby Slam",but only after coming through the sternest test this afternoon against Mark Williams.Selby had looked superb early on as he lead 3-1,but after the interval when things got scrappy he found for once an opponent at least his equal in digging things out.Williams had even carved out the first chance in the decider,but the cruellest of kicks on the blue proved to be his last shot as Selby produced a gutsy clearance to fall over the line 6-5.

Williams was also a deciding frame loser in the first round here last yr against Ronnie,who of course went on the claim the title & Selby will be hoping history repeats itself this year.

Standing in his way next is Barry Hawkins,who was a convincing 6-1 win over Shaun Murphy tonight. Hawkins is very much a man for these big tournaments and was runner up here last year,.If he produces his best he is well capable of beating beating the world champ,but I think much like Ronnie,it could again be a case of  a lucky escape spurring Selby on and I see him reaching the last 4.
Selby to win 6-2

Friday, 13 January 2017

The Masters Preview

Well after a short break from our screens over the Christmas period,snooker returns with a vengeance this weekend,as all eyes focus on the "Ally Pally" in London for the start of the 2017 Masters and what a fascinating tournament it promises to be.

Top Half
Ronnie O'Sullivan v Liang Wenbo
Ronnie was at his imperious best here last year as he swept aside Barry Hawkins 10-1 in the final to claim a sixth Masters title and although he has as of yet failed to reach that level again this season his overall application in his matches has been excellent.After a few near misses it is surely only a matter of time before hi wins again and where better than here in his own back yard.

Liang Wenbo has already had a season to remember,lifting the English Open title and its not beyond the realms of possibility that the unpredictable Chinese could cause an upset here,but I just don't see it happening
Score prediction; Ronnie to win this one 6-2

Neil Robertson v Ali Carter
This could be an interesting one. All recent form between the two points to a Robertson victory,but after a good start to the season,the Aussie went completely off the boil towards the end off 2016,so Ali may well smell blood here.That said though I still think Robertson might just edge it in a close encounter that may well go the distance.
Score prediction Robertson 6-5

Judd Trump v Marco Fu
Another intriguing encounter here with Trump trying to put aside an indifferent Masters record against the tours most recent winner in Scottish Open victor Marco Fu. Trump for his part has also tasted success this season,but after that impressive victory in European Masters,it has once again been disappointing that he hasn't kicked on to challenge for silverware more consistently.I still think Trump might edge this one though.
Score prediction Trump 6-3

John Higgins v Mark Allen
Leave aside Selby and without doubt the player of the season has been John Higgins. The legendary Scot has been at times back to his very best with superb victories in the China Championship & the Champion of Champions.He may even have claimed another UK had it not been for a deciding frame defeat by Selby .Included in those fine runs were a couple of victories over his opponent here and despite a poor Master record by comparison with everything else I expect Higgins to progress here .
Score prediction Higgins 6-4

Bottom Half
Stuart Bingham v Joe Perry
A match here that will also be hard to call,but that is mostly down to the fact that both these players have largely struggled after decent starts to the season. I think though Binghma might have the edge here,provided Mrs Bingham hasn't gone into labour!!
Score prediction Bingham 6-2

Ding Junhui v Kyren Wilson
Potentially the tie of the round here with the Chinese no.1 taking on the brightest of the games rising stars.Ding delighted his home fans with victory over Selby in the Shanghai Masters in September,but when he was beaten 10-1 by the same opponent in the International Championship it seemed to rock his fragile confidence again and his form dipped thereafter.Wilson has also had a mixed time of it,at times looking the real deal and at others looking that he still has much to learn,just how he handles his debut here may well tell us where he is.

Another tough one to call,but I think experience may seal it for Ding
Score prediction Ding 6-4

Shaun Murphy v Barry Hawkins
Murphy has been in the headlines in recent weeks with his stated aim of becoming world no.1 and although this tournament does not carry any ranking points,victory here would maybe show that such a dream may still be achievable. His opponent here Hawkins will be hoping to go one better than last year,but a remarkable head to head record in Murphys favour here may well be the telling thing.
Score prediction Murphy 6-3

Mark Selby v Mark Williams
The big question this week is can Selby join the elite club who have held the games three biggest prizes at the same time. Selby was at his very best  just last month in beating Ronnie to claim the UK  title and a repeat of that form here would certainly see him go very close to achieving that.Ironically Selby's first round opponent here is the last man to hold all three majors at the same time, Mark William,The Welshman has shown flashes of his old best of late,but I doubt he has it still to repel Selby
Score prediction Selby 6-2