The first round of the Betfred World Championship concludes and the second round gets underway inside the behind closed doors setting of the Crucible Theatre on Wednesday, on a day where a number of stars are back in action.
We saw the first truly big shock of the event on Tuesday which will immediately act as a reminder to the big names that they have to be on their mettle. We also saw some fantastic snooker with century breaks seemingly everywhere you looked. There is no reason to think that won’t continue on Wednesday.
I’m sure everyone knows the format by now but for those who are unsure of it, it is long course snooker all the way over this 17 day marathon. The first round is the best-of-19 frames which goes up to the best-of-25 for the second round and the quarter finals. The semi-finals at the best-of-33 frames and then the four session final will see a champion crowned on the third Saturday and Sunday over the best-of-35 frames.
It was not a day to be a seeded player on Tuesday that is for sure. Shaun Murphy became the first seeded casualty when he was walloped 10-4 by Noppon Saengkham while in the evening session Mark Allen came a cropper at the hands of Jamie Clarke 10-8. Mark Selby dodged a banana skin against Jordan Brown coming away a 10-7 winner but he didn’t play at all well. Stephen Maguire ended the day trailing Martin Gould 7-2 while Barry Hawkins will go into Wednesday leading Alexander Ursenbacher by the same score.
In Play Betting
There are two matches that are in play heading into Wednesday but whether there are any bets to be had in them I’m not really sure. Both matches have a 7-2 score and while I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of comeback from Stephen Maguire against Martin Gould, I kind of have that covered courtesy of the bet I have on over 9.5 50+ breaks in that one. There has currently been eight. I don’t really need to get involved in that and I didn’t really see a huge edge in the other one so I’ll sit the in play stuff out on Wednesday.
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John Higgins vs Kurt Maflin (Wednesday 1pm, Thursday 10am & Thursday 7pm)
The three-session format of the tournament begins with the former champion and man who has been beaten in the last three finals here, John Higgins, taking on one of the best performers from the opening round in the Norwegian star Kurt Maflin.
It might be pushing it to say that Higgins was at his best in the first round against Matthew Stevens but he always had the Welshman at a comfortable length. He made six breaks of more than 50 but with a high of 74 so there is a lot more to come from the Scot, but given that he hadn’t played for so long it was a more than acceptable effort. Maflin was exceptionally good against Dave Gilbert in the opening round. He fired in four centuries and further runs of 61, 56, 56, 97 and 63. If he reproduces that effort here he is entitled to lay down a serious challenge to Higgins.
It is interesting that Maflin has won the only previous meeting between these two earlier in the season in the China Championship. He didn’t just win it, he won 5-3 having been 3-0 down. That shows that he can still score against Higgins which makes me think the 4.5 frames he is getting here could be one too many. I’d imagine experience would get Higgins over the line, but he doesn’t look to be firing on all cylinders to me at the minute. Higgins has only hit one century in his last five matches which shows he isn’t in top gear. I’m not sure second gear sees off a confidence and big scoring Maflin by five frames. I’ll take the Norwegian with the start in this one.
Mark Williams vs Stuart Bingham (Wednesday 7pm, Thursday 2.30pm & Friday 10am)
Two former winners of this title meet in the first of the matches that take place over three days as Mark Williams, who won the title most recently in 2018, takes on the 2015 champion at the Crucible in Stuart Bingham in what looks like being a fantastic match between two classy operators.
These two both had periods where they struggled in the first round, but given the prolonged inactivity of the pair heading into the tournament that might have been to be expected, however when they were on their game they looked very classy indeed. Williams booked his spot here with a 10-5 win over Alan McManus where he won all six frames in the second session with runs of 50, 79 and 59. Bingham rarely looked at his best in a 10-7 win over Ashley Carty but still had breaks of 90, 109, 96, 57, 58 and 82. There should be more to come from both of them it is fair to say.
You would think that this will be a tight match because they are pretty evenly matched in terms of form and game style. Both men are disciples of the SightRight system and it just feels like a tight match. They don’t have a history of producing them though so I’m going to watch the first session and see how things sit with an eye on a bet on Thursday and beyond. We are on Bingham for the quarter so we have enough initial interest here.
WON – Back K.Maflin (+4.5 frames) to beat J.Higgins for a 3/10 stake at 1.73 with Coral