Tour Championship Snooker: Bets advised for all four first round matches

World Snooker Champion Judd Trump
Judd Trump is tipped to dominate John Higgins again

The rescheduled Tour Championship begins on Saturday, with comprehensive coverage on Betfair Live Video. Paul Krishnamurty previews the first round...

"I have serious doubts about whether Higgins will arrive in good form. He has regularly struggled in January, following a Christmas break from the game."

Back Judd Trump to win the 2.5 Frame Handicap 8u @ 1.784/5

When the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed, the Tour Championship was literally a last minute casualty, as the snooker authorities left postponement to the last possible moment. Following the sport's successful return at the Championship League, it will now start on Saturday.

The same social distancing rules will apply at the same Marshall Arena venue in Milton Keynes. One important difference with the earlier plan is that Ding Junhui has withdrawn, replaced by Stephen Maguire.

Long matches should theoretically help the favourites

This finale of the Coral Cup series is an eight-man knockout event, based on the one year ranking list. Matches are played over best of 17 frames until the final, which will be best of 19.

Longer matches mean the formbook is likelier to stand up than usual, although quite what that formbook quite entails is an open question. Only four of these played in the Championship League and, of those, only Judd Trump progressed past the opening group stage.

Market leading duo in same half of the draw

If we are working on wider, previous form, the draw seems rather lop-sided. We try to avoid tipping short odds-on chances on these pages but 8/15 about the top half winning is pretty solid.

Trump and Neil Robertson are considerably ahead of the rest, but will meet in the semi-final if both progressing this weekend. That somewhat dampens my enthusiasm for an outright bet on either at odds of 2.77/4 and 4.77/2.

Neil Robertson v Stephen Maguire

I do expect that will be the case. Both were reportedly practising during lockdown and, whilst they were beaten in that somewhat random format last week, didn't look in terrible touch. Robertson for example made plenty of mistakes in 12 frames played, but also hit three centuries plus a 90.

Maguire actually leads their head-to-head 12-8 and has often produced his best snooker against this opponent. Their matches have often been classics.

That should guard against taking 1.282/7 against the Aussie but I do expect him to progress. Maguire only got into this event at late notice so there must be a question mark about his preparation. I'm backing Robbo to win 9-3 or 9-4.

Back Neil Robertson to beat Stephen Maguire 9-3 1u @ 8.07/1
Back Neil Robertson to beat Stephen Maguire 9-4 1u @ 6.86/1

Judd Trump v John Higgins

This is a repeat of last year's world final. Again, I have serious doubts about whether Higgins will arrive in good form. He has regularly struggled in January, following a Christmas break from the game, and is generally seen to best effect following lots of match practice.

Trump didn't hit such breakbuilding heights but did win 14 frames out of a possible 22. The world champion and number one starts big favourite against anyone nowadays and won all four of their encounters over the past 13 months. Take 1.784/5 about him beating the 2.5 Frame Handicap.

Back Judd Trump to win the 2.5 Frame Handicap 8u @ 1.784/5

Mark Selby v Yan Bingtao

Favourite amongst the bottom half, Selby hinted that he had been practising before the resumption, but it didn't show in his performances. Frankly, whilst he has bundles of pedigree over longer matches, I simply don't trust him nowadays and he seems under-priced for every tournament.

Pre-lockdown, Bingtao was in fine, progressive form, reaching the final of the Players Championship and semis of the Welsh Open. We can only guess about his practice levels but one would hope that a youngster, with everything still to prove, will have taken every available opportunity. 2.8815/8 about the upset here is fair value.

Back Yan Bingtao 3u @ 2.8815/8

Shaun Murphy vs Mark Allen

The head-to-head stats between these two relatively well-matched major winners may surprise - Murphy leads 13-5. He would also be well ahead on pre-lockdown form. That validates odds of 1.635/8 about the Englishman but I'm loathe to take such short odds given that he didn't play in the Championship League. Too much guesswork.

The bet I like here is Over 2.5 Centuries at Evens. Scoring was very easy on these tables in Milton Keynes last week and we saw dozens of century breaks, despite players coming in cold. Both of these are heavy scorers even when not in tip-top form.

Back Over 2.5 Centuries 3u @ 2.01/1

Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty


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