Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Then there were four...

Only four players are left bidding to become the 2011 world snooker champion - and this is where the Crucible comes into its own as one of sport's greatest venues.

With today's conclusion of the quarter-final matches, the home of snooker is transformed into a one-table venue - and now it's time for that special feeling.

The intensity of the whole place amplifies and the atmosphere multiples.

Only a small percentage of professional snooker players ever get the chance to sample this great snooker setting. This year it's left down to Mark Williams, Judd Trump, John Higgins and Ding Junhui to battle it out on the greatest snooker scene of all.

A word about O'Sullivan..

It's no surprise that on the night when Ronnie O'Sullivan was eliminated from this year's World Championship, this was what a lot of fans wanted to talk about.

His 13-10 quarter-final defeat to John Higgins has got everyone talking. So I gathered it probably warranted a blog of its own.

Some people will argue it's no bigger news for O'Sullivan to be knocked out over any of the other top players. But, like it or not, it's bigger news. His fans go wild. It causes days of debate.

But tonight, I think it's time to break the mould. Rather than focus on where it went wrong for O'Sullivan, I want to talk about where it went right.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

World Championship predictions: Moss v Pegram (part 4)

We're down to the quarter-final phase of the competition now.

OnCue continues its prediction head-to-head between editor Gary Moss (GM) and former professional player Jason Pegram (JP) to guess every score at the Crucible.

With just seven matches remaining, there's no room for errors.

So far, Pegram leads 28-24.

The correct score prediction for Ronnie O'Sullivan's 13-10 win against Shaun Murphy helped Pegram's cause last night, but it's not over yet.

Here's a reminder of how it's scored:

1 point for a correct winner

2 points for a correct winner and within frame of the scoreline

3 points for a correct winner and the perfect scoreline

Here's what the lads think for the last eight matches...

Monday, 25 April 2011

Let's get down to business

It's difficult to complain about the standard of snooker over the opening ten days of this year's World Championship.

But tonight - as the eight quarter-finalists were confirmed - we were spoilt to one of the great sessions at the Crucible venue where both sides of the curtain was loaded with drama.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Fab four fly into quarters

Four names are confirmed for the quarter-final Crucible line-up and it's not been without a story.

Impressive Mark Williams was the first man through with a 13-4 demolition of Jamie Cope. I said just a couple of days ago that the Welshman is one of the two players to beat.

He's playing as well as he has been all season and easy wins so far means he'll have plenty of spare energy in the tank to mount a serious challenge as the week goes on.

People are beginning to talk about Judd Trump as a potential champion too. He was spectacular again when he beat Martin Gould 13-6. More long potting. More big breaks. More rave reviews. He looks to be really enjoying his snooker at Sheffield this year. And why shouldn't he? He's come so far and no everyone is watching him.

The best part of Trump's story is that it's not just hype.  I think he'll even believe he can win it now. And if confidence is what it takes, he's got it aplenty.

Also through is Crucible-specialist Graeme Dott. The Scot is bidding it to make it to his fourth Sheffield final in eight years. He's made it this far following a 13-11 win over Ali Carter. Can he go on? He'll be scrapping that's for sure.

Then there was the incredible story of Mark Allen. He won his second decider of the championship last night with a last gasp win against Barry Hawkins.

I said before the tournament how the Crucible has the potential to bring out the best in players struggling. Fighting against depression, Allen has shown bottle and character to come this far. Preparation to this tournament could hardly have been worse for him. It's a funny old game.

Elsewhere, Ronnie O'Sullivan wasn't at his very best yesterday but still managed to open up a 6-2 lead against Shaun Murphy. And Mark Selby showed much improvement from his first round performance to build a 7-1 advantage on Stephen Hendry.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Higgins and Williams still the men to beat

Nearly a week has passed at this year's World Championship - but in my eyes nothing much has changed.

John Higgins and Mark Williams are still the players to be beaten. They've both been the most impressive performers so far.

Due to face each other in the semi-finals, I can't help but see this a the potential trophy deicider.

Sure, Ding Junhui, Shaun Murphy and Ronnie O'Sullivan have also shown they have the raw quality of title-winning form but so far only against feeble first round opposition.

Higgins and Williams meanwhile have already faced must sterner tests and look in champion mode.

Their break building has been effortless. And safety imperious. Despite both being handed arguably the most difficult first round draws, they're still in the race and have yet to be troubled. They've not even been made to sweat.

Mark brushed aside his Welsh counterpart Ryan Day 10-5 in the opener and now leads Jamie Cope 12-4 in the second, while John Higgins took care of Stephen Lee 10-5.

This shows they're coming through difficult games without a hint of a problem. The beauty of this is that they'll be ready for the tricky matches later in the tournament but still have plenty left in the tank.

It's also worth mentioning they both look as if they have plenty of gears to drive through as well. I can only see them improving. Between them they have five world titles. They know how to play the Crucible game.

So, you'd be silly not to back these two.

Just a thought anyway!

World Championship predictions: Moss v Pegram (part 3)

With more than half the matches already played at the Crucible, points are becoming more and more valuable in the OnCue head-to-head predictions.

Editor Gary Moss is testing himself against former professional Jason Pegram, and the standard has been fairly impressive.

Here's the second installment of last 16 matches...

Ali Carter v Graeme Dott

JP: I've backed Dott to get to the semi-finals and I'll stick by that. Carter has probably got more talent, but Dott has got more grit. I still question Ali's temperament and I think he's still a little bit too big for his boots. He needs that attitude to change to become a top four player. Dott 13-10

GM: Very little between these two players. They're both great fighters and capable of winning the title. They both played well in the first round. I can see this one going the full distance. Dott 13-12

John Higgins v Rory McLeod

JP: I think Higgins could give him a 28 lead and still win this match. He's just too good. Rory is a great player off the TV and I would never mock his ability but he plays such a dated game. He like it's the 1980s and it's boring. He plays a lot with Peter Ebdon so maybe that's had an affect. I'm not a fan of watching Rory. Higgins 13-5

GM: Higgins is still the man to beat at the Crucible this year in my opinion. No disrespect to Rory but this a is a fairly kind draw for the Scot. He's so good in every department. I can see him being a comfortable winner. Higgins 13-5

Mark Allen v Barry Hawkins

JP: Allen will be buzzing after beating Matthew Stevens. He shouldn't have won that one. I was gutted for Matthew. By the sounds of things, Allen is having a bit of a tough time. I think he'll win this match but I'm not convinced by him. He plays quite a messy game and doesn't keep control of the white. That means he has to pot a lot of crazy balls. Allen 13-9

GM: With Allen having already secured his top 16 status, he will be able to enjoy this match much more than his last. When he plays with freedom, he always looks more dangerous. Barry proved with his win against Stephen Maguire that he can upset the seeds, but I think Allen will just have too much. Allen 13-10

Stephen Hendry v Mark Selby

JP: I'd love to see Hendry win an eighth world title. I think he deserves it. He's the best winner and pressure player I've ever seen but I'll be backing Selby. He can win this tournament. Selby 13-7

GM: An important match for Stephen, who needs a result to stay in the top 16. I think he'll make a real fight of it, but after his first round slog and Selby coming through against Jimmy Robertson fairly unscathed, I think he'll be a lot fresher. Selby 13-8

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Comeback on the baize

The Crucible always produces its fair share of comebacks.

Yesterday was no exception as we were spoilt with two classics.

Martin Gould and Mark Allen are two of the most exciting players to watch in the game - and they both overturned deficits to progress to the last 16.

The Pinner potter resumed against Marco Fu trailing 6-3. It was little surprise that he came out all guns blazing. The difference in his second session though was that his ambitious shots were all coming off.

Fu looked horribly switched off. Gould looked up for it big time. That was the difference.

Confidence isn't so easy to come by for poor Allen at the moment. Battling against depression, he admitted in the press conference after his match with Matthew Stevens that there were times he wanted to smash the balls up.

That makes his tale even more remarkable as he fought back from 9-6 down to win on a decider. The World Championship has a funny way of bringing out the best of players in adversity. Maybe this will be the turning point the Northern Ireland man needs. It was a special moment. One we'll probably remember for many years.

On a cracking day, a mention too for Graeme Dott and Rory McLeod who also booked their slots in the next round.

Dott beat Mark King 10-7, while Rory progressed to the last 16 of a ranking event for the first time, beating Ricky Walden 10-6.

The tournament really is in full swing now. As we go into the Easter weekend, what more will the boys have in store for us?

World Championship predictions: Moss v Pegram (part 2)

Last week, OnCue launched a prediction head-to-head between editor Gary Moss (GM) and former professional player Jason Pegram (JP) to guess every score at the Crucible.

There's been little to choose between them so far, with the current score sitting at 15-13 in favour of Moss

Correct score predictions of 10-9 in the Stephen Hendry against Joe Perry match and 10-8 to Stuart Bingham versus Peter Ebdon, have given Moss the slight edge so far.

But Pegram hit the nail on the head saying Mark Allen would beat Matthew Stevens in a decider. It's all still to play for.

With second round matches beginning today, here's the first half of the last 16 draw. What will the lads go for this time?

Here's a reminder of how it's scored:

1 point for a correct winner
2 points for a correct winner and within frame of the scoreline
3 points for a correct winner and the perfect scoreline

Let the battle continue...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Essex double march on

Not every day can produce fireworks at the Crucible.

Day four was one of those where the action simmered.

After the drama on day three, things settled down in Sheffield as eight players began their World Championship campaign and two matches played to a conclusion.

In the two that finished, Essex duo Ronnie O'Sullivan and Stuart Bingham advanced to the last 16.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Legends lead the way

It was left to two of the true Crucible greats to lead the way on an exciting day three at the World Championship.

Three-time champion Ronnie O'Sullivan was the most-anticipated player to walk out in front of Sheffield the crowd today and he didn't disappoint, turning on the style to open up a commanding 7-2 advantage over Dominic Dale.

The Rocket has endured a barren season and even threatened to quit this year's tournament just a fortnight ago. This has seen his odds to lift the title drop to an unusual 8/1 shot.

No matter how he's playing though, you always feel he's got a chance if he gets his game together. And today, he certainly couldn't be accused of disinterest.

From ball one, he was firing on all cylinders and looked in the zone. It was the kind of focus we haven't seen from Ronnie all season. An action-packed session saw him muster some incredible breaks, including two shots at a maximum 147 and his 100th Crucible century.

And ironically it was the Rocket's quality long potting which gave him the edge. I say ironically because it's this area of his game that has fallen so dramatically adrift over the last couple of seasons.

It was a breath of fresh air to see Ronnie entertaining again. He was playing like a showman and dare I say it, like a potential world champion. It's only early days of course. He hasn't even won this match yet, but the signs were encouraging as he dazzled the crowd.

Whether he has the patience to keep it going for the whole tournament is an entirely different challenge of course. But what a great start. If we're prepared to kick him when he plays badly, we should praise him equally when he impresses.

The other legend who wowed the Crucible crowd today was the greatest of them all, Stephen Hendry.

The seven-time champion is scrapping for his life to retain his top 16 spot for the start of next season. He came through the 10-9 winner against Joe Perry in an enthralling game on the other side of the partition.

Resuming with what looked a healthy 6-3 lead - even with Hendry's  vast experience - he couldn't hide his nerves as Perry fought back to set up a classic.

In the end though, Hendry came through in the decider. But it's not a surprise to see Hendry deliver when under pressure. That's exactly what he did back in his glory days time and time again

The win moves the Scot back up to 15th in the provisional world rankings, but with Stephen Lee, Ricky Walden and Mark Allen just behind him, it's likely he'll still need another win to guarantee his status.

Elsewhere, Ding Junhui made a brief appearance under the Crucible lights. The Chinese star resumed 8-1 up against Jamie Burnett and wrapped up a 10-2 win. Bigger tests will lie ahead for him if he wants to win the trophy, but it's still a terrific start that means he'll have plenty left in the tank for his second round match.

While Ding may have been on and off in a flash, there was plenty more table time for Stephen Maguire and Barry Hawkins.

It was a bit of slag to say the least but Hawkins eventually sealed his first win at the Crucible in six attempts in the deciding frame.

After racing into a 4-0 lead, he continued to take advantage of an off-colour Maguire to end the first session 6-3 up. At 8-4 he looked home and dry, but lost the next four before eventually stumbling to the winning post in dramatic fashion.

It looked as if he was handing victory to Maguire and was scared to see the job out. But a classy break of 92 in frame 19 saw him home.

Today also saw an impressive milestone hit. Peter Ebdon's game with Stuart Bingham marked the 1,000th match at the Crucible.

In a tournament enriched with history, this first session was hardly a classic but Bingham did well to recover from 4-2 down to take a 5-4 lead overnight.

Stuart started horribly and even tweeted at the mid-session about how tired he was. But he managed to find something from nothing and it could prove the difference as Ebdon failed to punish him.

The story so far...

It feels like I've been chasing my tail over the last couple of days.

Running yesterday's London Marathon means I've not been able to update the blog for a couple of days, but already there's been plenty to talk about from the Crucible.

Five players have already been sent packing.

The most notable of these was defending world champion Neil Robertson, who was given his marching orders by Judd Trump on the opening day.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

It's Showtime

The wait is finally over!

Today sees the start of this year's World Championship.

17 days of hard match snooker awaits, and I can't reiterate enough what an open field it is for the title this time round.

John Higgins goes into the tournament as the favourite, having already scooped five titles since returning from his suspension earlier this season.

It's definitely not a forgone conclusion for the Scot though.

There's world number one Mark Williams also in the frame alongside other form men this season including Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby and Ding Junhui.

Then there's the matter of the defending world champion Neil Robertson. The Aussie is bidding to become the only first-time winner to retain the trophy.

You shouldn't be writing off Ronnie O'Sullivan either. We all know what he's capable of.

Then there's the next band of players. The likes of Stephen Maguire, Matthew Stevens, Mark Allen, Ali Carter, Peter Ebdon and Graeme Dott, all capable of getting their games together for a challenge.

Hand on heart though, I have to back Higgins. He looks like the complete player right now. I fancy him to come through beating Selby in the final. We'll see how that predictions fares as the tournament unfolds.

I'll be keeping you right up to date with the action on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as written reaction on the blog.

But for now, enjoy the snooker!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Crucible Countdown: 1 day to go

No need for any more talking.

We're just a day away from the curtain being raised on another World Championship at the Crucible.

Sit back, relax and enjoy some classic footage from the sport's greatest tournament down the years...

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Peter Ebdon EXCLUSIVE interview: "I'm capable of another World Championship"

Peter Ebdon will be making history when he walks out to play at the World Championship this season.

It will be the 20th year in succession he's appeared at the Crucible. And only the great legends of Stephen Hendry Steve Davis, John Parrott and Jimmy White can boast this.

Still among the top 16, Ebdon does more than just make up the numbers on the professional circuit. The 17-day endurance test of the World Championship is in many ways tailor made for him, as one of the game's toughest competitors.

This was proved in 2002 when he lifted the world title at one of three finals he's appeared in.

At the age of 40, he hasn't written off his chances of adding another to his name either.

OnCue spoke exclusively to Peter in the build-up to the Crucible to reminisce about his days as champion plus much more.

Crucible Countdown: 2 days to go

Typical to the build-up to every season at the Crucible, the media is having a field day.

The snooker hacks aren't the only people talking though.

With just two days to go until the start of this year's World Championship, most of the players will be couped up in snooker club's across the country tirelessly putting in the hours ready for their ultimate test.

But to continue OnCue's Crucible Countdown, I scoured the web for what some of the players have been saying ahead of the tournament.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

World Championship Predictions: Moss v Pegram

It's time to stick a neck out.

There's nothing worse than sitting on the fence.

This year's World Championship is so close, it's within touching distance.

To add a bit of spice to the competition, OnCue editor Gary Moss (GM) is going head-to-head with former professional player Jason Pegram (JP) to predict every score at the Crucible.

The contest begins with a look down the first round matches.

Points will be awarded as follows:

1 point for a correct winner
2 points for a correct winner and within frame of the scoreline
3 points for a correct winner and the perfect scoreline

Let the battle commence...

Crucible Countdown: 3 days to go

A blog is nothing without its readers.

And snooker is renowned for its vast base of knowledgeable fans, so it figured I should combine the two with three days to go until World Championship.

After the vast success of OnCue's prediction panel for the UK Championship, 12 readers give their opinions ahead of the big kick-off.

O'Sullivan seeks motivational help

 Can anyone save Ronnie O'Sullivan's ailing snooker career?

Well, that's the task of psychologist Dr Steve Peters, who is working with the Rocket to help recapture his enjoyment for the game.

The world number 10's decision to seek help comes after he verbally told World Snooker he was quitting this year's World Championship.

When asked to put his withdrawal into writing, he reconsidered and is now working with the man who helped Great Britain's eight gold medal cyclists ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

You can read the full story here.

The journalist chooses to call this move a "last throw of the dice" for O'Sullivan, who has endured a torrid season.

But, surely this is a great sign. It proves Ronnie does still want to play snooker, and does still want to be successful. It shows his hunger hasn't completely vanished.

Good luck Ronnie!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Crucible Countdown: 4 days to go

It's the same old story every year.

As soon as the World Championship comes along, everyone's got something to say.

Just take a look at my blog as an example. It's littered with my views, and it's no big surprise with it being the most eagerly-anticipated snooker event in the calendar.

The hype is immense, but people are thirsty for build-up.

The OnCue Crucible Countdown continues with the views of two of the most insightful bloggers in the game today.

Dave Hendon from Snooker Scene and Matt Huart from Pro Snooker Blog share what they're looking forward to most at the Crucible this year.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Crucible Countdown: 5 days to go

Plenty has been said about the 32 players competing at this year’s World Championship.

But making the trip to the Crucible is a special feeling for the referees as well.

Nine officials have been named to take charge of the 31 games.

To mix up OnCue’s Crucible Countdown, resident columnist Paul Collier has penned a few a words on each of them.

Jan Verhaas

The Dutchman takes charge of his fourth final this year. I’ve only ever had the honour of one world final, but I’m sure it doesn’t get any less special each time. Jan and I have known each other a very long time and have spent a lot of time together because he joined the circuit a season before me in 1991. He’s a popular guy with the players because he’s a familiar face, and a good bloke to have around.

Eirian Williams

Like me, Eirian is a Welshman. But he’s got the bragging rights because he can speak fluent Welsh. I can understand most but not all of it. He’s been around a long time and loves the game. He’s big on the rules and has sat in on the Rules Committee many times.

Michaela Tabb

When Michaela broke through, she was given a hard time by a lot of other referees because rather than coming through the system, she was hand-picked for the role. I tried to see both sides of it and I think it’s great for the game to have a female referee. She does a very good job and earned her world final on merit. A lot of people don’t realise she’s only part-time. She only works 80 days a year for World Snooker and balances it with being a full-time mum alongside it.

Brendan Moore

I get on great with Brendan. His first year on the circuit coincided with my last in the 2004/05 season. I was assigned as his mentor then and I was around to answer any of his questions. We would talk for hours about the rules of the game and I always thought he looked comfortable. He gives me a bit of stick as well because he’s done the UK Championship final, and it’s the only one I haven’t yet. Being a Sheffield lad, he loves it at the Crucible.

Pete Williamson

Pete is probably the most experienced referee out there. He’s been about a little longer than Eirian and Jan. He’s a big fan of his billiards, and I’d like to get involved with that a bit more too. He’s also keen on his pop music. I think he goes to some concert or another every week.

Olivier Marteel

Olivier puts in a lot of work in Belgium for the game. He’s the tournaments director out there and snooker really needs people like that. He’s enthusiastic for the game and this is his second time at the Crucible. I hope he has another good tournament.

Terry Camilleri

I’ve not seen him for quite a while because he’s from Malta and doesn’t come over all that often unless it’s for longer tournaments. There are a lot of keen referees in Malta but I think he usually gets the edge because he’s one of the youngest and a good prospect.

Colin Humphries

A very committed referee. He works as a civil servant for his full-time job and works a lot of over-time and books all his holiday to contribute to snooker. That takes a lot of good planning with his calendar. He’s stepped up very well in recent years.

Leo Scullion

I was chuffed for Leo getting his first final at the recent China Open. Just before he went on, I sent him a message wishing him good luck and reassuring him that there were only 115 million people watching. He just replied afterwards and said it was “awesome”, so I guess he enjoyed it. Outside of snooker, he still works as a cab driver in Edinburgh.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Crucible Countdown: 6 days to go

OnCue's Crucible Countdown has already touched on some of this year's qualifiers.

They all arrive at the Crucible with very unique tales.

Matthew Stevens as well as debutants Jimmy Robertson and Andrew Pagett have already come under the microscope, but today as the countdown drops below the one-week mark, I'd like to take a closer look at another four who I'll have a careful eye on.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Crucible Countdown: 7 days to go

In a week, I'll be settling down on my sofa ready for the first session of this year's World Championship.

That thought alone motivates me to keep on writing my Crucible Countdown.

And with it being arguably the most open tournament there's ever been, how can we complain.

Yesterday, OnCue focused on the chances of some of the former winners. Today, I'm assessing the chances of some of the names in the frame to become first-time winners.

Here's half a dozen who I believe are in with a real shout...

Friday, 8 April 2011

Crucible Countdown: 8 days to go

With eight days to go until the start of the greatest snooker show on earth, it feels like a good time to take a look at the eight former world champions taking part this year.

As well as talent, winning this event is all about know-how.

A quarter of the this season's field have lifted the trophy before, and will hope to add another one to their collection.

OnCue looks back at the triumphs of the former winners, and ahead to their hopes this time round.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Crucible Countdown: 9 days to go

We're down to single figures in days until the greatest snooker event on earth kicks off.

Thirty-two players fighting it out at the Crucible for the prestige of the World Championship.

OnCue has been bringing you day-by-day build-up, already looking at at the fortunes of the some of the biggest names in the hat.

But today, it's time to take a look at the two Crucible debutants.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Crucible Countdown: 10 days to go

Over the past few days, I've been casting my eye across the chances of the tournament's title favourites.

There's one man I've forgotten; Ronnie O'Sullivan.

It's difficult to know where to start with the Rocket, but today OnCue focuses on the most naturally-gifted player ever to pick up a cue.

What can we expect from Ronnie at the Crucible this year?

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Crucible Countdown: 11 days to go

Closer and closer we roll to this year's World Championship.

We're down to just 11 days to go.

With the chances of Neil Robertson and John Higgins already assessed, OnCue continues its Crucible Countdown today with a closer look at another of this year's title front runners.

Only one player has picked up more ranking points this season than the current world number one Mark Williams and he's back performing to the levels which saw him lift the title in 2000 and 2003.

He's already being widely-tipped to capture his third championship this time round.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Crucible Countdown: 12 days to go

Starting to find a good bit of rhythm with this Crucible Countdown now.

Yesterday, OnCue dissected the chances of reigning champion Neil Robertson defeating the Crucible Curse.

Keeping in line with that theme, today it's time to look at the chances of the tournament's favourite John Higgins.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Trump triumphs at China Open

So there you have it, Judd Trump is the 2011 China Open champion.

The 21-year-old has hit a massive milestone in his career, winning his first ever major ranking event with a 10-8 win against Mark Selby in the final.

Judd has played some superb snooker this week, and thoroughly deserves to lift the trophy.

He cannot be accused of easy route either as he beat Marco Fu, Mark Davis, Peter Ebdon, Shaun Murphy and Selby along the way.

But this was the week Trump came of age. He's a bright young talent who has won this title playing his natural attacking style of play. That must be commended.

It's good news for him, and even better news for snooker.

All those years of hard work travelling to junior events have finally paid off, and now up to 11th in the provisional world rankings, he can almost certainly look forward to starting next season in the top 16.

As for the game, a new star has been born.

Winning matches against the top players is one thing, but winning finals is very much another. Today, he beat one of the game's best pressure players.

World number two Selby has a real knack for delivering when under the limelight, but Judd was having none of it. After building up a 5-3 lead in the first session, the Jester kept threatening to bully his way back into the match, but Judd played with maturity well above his years to see the job out.

He's been a pleasure to watch all-week long.

His victory now sets up for a cracker of a match at the Crucible, where he'll meet defending champion Neil Robertson on the first day in Sheffield.

Crucible Countdown: 13 days to go

There's a small matter of a ranking event final to be played today in Beijing.

Judd Trump is taking on Mark Selby for the chance to be crowned China Open champion. It promises to be a cracker, but that won't throw me off of my Crucible Countdown.

With 13 days to go, OnCue gets down to the nitty gritty.

Reigning champion Neil Robertson goes into this year's World Championship bidding to become the only first-time winner to retain his crown at the Crucible.

Can he finally crack the Crucible Curse?

Saturday, 2 April 2011

China Open - Day six - Trump reaches first ranking final

I could have stayed in the comfort of my own home and watched the two semi-final matches of the China Open today.

Instead, I stupidly decided to embark on a 400-mile round trip to see Spurs draw 0-0 away to Premier League bottom-side Wigan.

It's not the first time I've been disappointing on my travels following my football team - and it definitely won't be the last.

But while I was away from the snooker action, Judd Trump successfully reached his first ranking event final.

Crucible Countdown: 14 days to go

It's only a fortnight now until the curtains are raised for this year's World Championship.

The field is probably as open as it's ever been and people are predicting the most exciting tournament of all time.

That's quite a bold claim. But with the quality of ranking events we've already enjoyed this season, you wouldn't bet against it, and you certainly won't want to be missing too much of the action either.

In the second edition of OnCue's Crucible Countdown, I'm looking back at what happened just 12 months ago, when Neil Robertson became the first Australian to lift the world title.

Friday, 1 April 2011

China Open - Day five - Tremendous Trump advances to semis

Another day has passed at this year's exciting China Open, and again the standard of snooker was of the highest order.

Day five always threatened to be a thriller with five world finalists among the line-up.

But as eight title hopefuls became four in Beijing, it was 21-year-old Judd Trump who led the way.

Crucible Countdown: 15 days to go

Welcome to the OnCue countdown for the greatest snooker event on the planet.

Today marks the start of April, and there's only 15 days between now and the start of this year's World Championship.

This means 32 of the best snooker players in the world will soon be battling it out for the right to be crowned world champion.

It doesn't matter what has gone so far this season. This is the big one.

I'll be bringing you build-up every day until the start.

Starting today, I'm tackling the venue. Everyone talks about how special the Crucible is as a setting for this great tournament. To kick off the countdown, here's why the Crucible is special to me...