Betfred World Championship 2009: Tournament Preview – Part Four

Here is the final part of my Betfred World Championship preview and we are down to the bottom quarter of the draw featuring the likes of Stephen Maguire and Ali Carter…

Before I get onto the matches themselves, a quick word of thanks to Jim who has provided me with the head to head statistics for each of the matches.

To view my the previous parts, please click the here:


Match Thirteen: Ali Carter (7) vs Gerard Greene (33)

2008 runner-up Ali Carter gets his campaign underway with a potentially tricky tie against Gerard Greene who is looking for his first win at the Crucible in what will be his fourth attempt.

Head to Head

Ali holds a 2-1 advantage here having won 5-4 in the last 32 of the qualifying event for the 2000 Masters, and 3-1 in group 6 of last seasons Championship League. In between, Gerard won 5-1 in the last 48 of the British Open five seasons ago. Greene has hit two centuries in three matches against Carter.

Crucible History


  • 2003 – R32 lost 10-5 to Paul Hunter
  • 2004 – R32 lost 10-7 to David Gray
  • 2005 – R16, lost 13-7 to Ronnie O’Sullivan
  • 2006 – R32, lost 10-8 to Stephen Lee
  • 2007 – QF, lost 13-12 to Mark Selby
  • 2008 – F, lost 18-8 to Ronnie O’Sullivan


  • 1999 – R32, lost 10-2 to John Higgins
  • 2003 – R32, lost 10-3 to Peter Ebdon
  • 2005 – R32 lost 10-9 to Steve Davis

Season So Far

Second on the one-year list having won one title and reached the semi-finals of three others, Ali Carter is right up there as one of the form players of this season, consistently producing excellent snooker and being rewarded with some excellent results to go with it.

Gerard meanwhile has also had a solid year, winning all but two of his opening round matches and as it stands, moving back up into the top 32 in the rankings. His best result from the first seven events was a last 32 spot in China, though he will be looking to go further at the Crucible.

Why Ali Will Win


Having struggled to turn his talent into results for much of his career, what a special year it has been for Ali Carter who has now developed into one of the world’s very best players. For a while I did wonder whether he would ever go on to capture that first title but he did not let his repeated semi-final exits get the better of him, has kept on playing to an excellent standard and eventually made a deserved breakthrough.

The question now is will this be a one-off, or will it be the case that this proves to be just the beginning of a golden spell for Ali? Given the form that he has shown this season I can only imagine that it will be the first of many titles and that it will give him so much confidence to push on and who knows, maybe even go one better at the Crucible than he did last year. Any lingering doubts over his temperament have now been banished and if form over the last 12 months is anything to go by, he has to go into not just this match, but the tournament as one of the favourites.

Also though Gerard has had a a very consistent season in that he has won his opening match on a number of occasions, he has struggled to go beyond the last 48 of tournaments, suggesting that perhaps he finds it difficult to beat the players ranked above him such as Ali.

Why Gerard Will Win

Gerard though will not be coming to the Crucible to roll over and after three previous last 32 exits at the famous theatre will be desperate to go further this year. He might have struggled to run deep in previous tournaments this season but from what I saw of him against Ken Doherty at the final qualifying round in Sheffield, he looks to be in good form and capable of giving Ali a scare if the world number 7 is off his game.

Speaking of Ali, though he has been consistently excellent throughout the season, one slight concern in that according to David Hendon on Snooker Scene blog, Ali was unable to practice before the recent China Open due to a ‘health issue’. Whether this is something as trivial as a cold or something more serious I have no idea, but it makes you wonder whether this might affect his preparation for Sheffield. Hopefully not, but if it does then Gerard might be able to take advantage.

My Prediction

If Ali is off his game for any reason then Gerard could cause an upset here but for me this is one of the easier matches to call as I cannot see beyond a Carter win based on the form he has shown so far this season. Stranger things have happened (Ebdon/Mazrocis anyone?), but I will say 10-5 to the Captain.

Match Fourteen: Neil Robertson (10) vs Steve Davis (29)

Bahrain Championship winner Neil Robertson may have returned to form this season but one man who has managed to get the better of him already is six-times world champion Steve Davis who is back again for his 29th crack at the Crucible…

Head to Head

Neil might be the higher ranked player but it is Steve who has held the upper hand in their professional meetings so far. In fact he leads the series 3-1 thanks to a 5-3 victory in the last 32 of the 2004 Daily Record Players Championship, 4-2 in last season’s Premier League and 5-4 in the last 32 of the Grand Prix earlier this season. Neil meanwhile hit a 109 on the way to his only win over Davis, 6-3 in the semi finals of his ultimately successful 2007 Welsh Open campaign.

Crucible History


  • 2007 – R32, lost 10-7 to Stephen Hendry
  • 2006 – QF, lost 13-12 to Graeme Dott
  • 2007 – R16, lost 13-10 to Ronnie O’Sullivan
  • 2008 – R16, lost 13-7 to Stephen Maguire


  • 1979 – R16, lost 13-11 to Dennis Taylor
  • 1980 – QF, lost 13-9 to Alex Higgins
  • 1981 – WINNER, defeated Doug Mountjoy 18-12
  • 1982 – R32, lost 10-1 to Tony Knowles
  • 1983 – WINNER, defeated Cliff Thorburn 18-6
  • 1984 – WINNER, defeated Jimmy White 18-16
  • 1985 – F, lost 18-17 to Dennis Taylor
  • 1986 – F, lost 18-12 to Joe Johnson
  • 1987 – WINNER, defeated Joe Johnson 18-14
  • 1988 – WINNER, defeated Terry Griffiths 18-11
  • 1989 – WINNER, defeated John Parrott 18-3
  • 1990 – SF, lost 16-14 to Jimmy White
  • 1991 – SF, lost 16-10 to John Parrott
  • 1992 – R32, lost 10-4 to Peter Ebdon
  • 1993 – R16, lost 13-11 to Alan McManus
  • 1994 – SF, lost 16-9 to Stephen Hendry
  • 1995 – R32, lost 10-7 to Andy Hicks
  • 1996 – QF, lost 13-10 to Peter Ebdon
  • 1997 – R16, lost 13-3 to Ken Doherty
  • 1998 – R16, lost 13-7 to Mark Williams
  • 1999 – R32, lost 10-9 to Joe Perry
  • 2000 – R16, lost 13-11 to John Higgins
  • 2003 – R32, lost 10-6 to Stephen Lee
  • 2004 – R32, lost 10-7 to Anthony Hamilton
  • 2005 – QF, lost 13-4 to Shaun Murphy
  • 2006 – R16, lost 13-7 to Shaun Murphy
  • 2007 – R32, lost 10-9 to John Parrott
  • 2008 – R32, lost 10-8 to Stuart Bingham

Season So Far

After the nightmare that was 2007/8 for Neil, this season has seen him return to some sort of form, highlighted of course by victory in the Bahrain Championship last November. He is not quite back to his 2006/7 best yet but a semi-final in the recent Welsh Open as well as a last 16 appearance in China shows that he is at least winning matches again.

It has been a similar story for Steve Davis who without winning a title, has been very consistent, winning six of his eight last 48 matches and moving up into the top 16 on the one-year rankings. His recent form has not been quite as strong as early in the season when he made two consecutive quarter-finals, but his qualifying victory against Lee Spick from 5-0 down was a key result and he put up a good fight against O’Sullivan in the Welsh Open in February.

Why Neil Will Win

When he won two titles during the 2006/7 season, Neil appeared to have joined snooker’s elite for the long-term, but last season for whatever reason it just not happen for him and he started 2008/9 ranked 22nd on the provisional list. This season has been much better though and while he is not quite back to where he was in my opinion, the consistency is coming back and he has not lost a match at the last 32 stage since the Grand Prix back in October – funnily enough against Steve Davis.

As far as his game is concerned, it goes without saying that Neil’s long game is still excellent, up there with the the very best in the sport. Not just this though but his tactical game is now much stronger than it used to be (in that he actually has one!), in fact probably better than when he won those first two titles a couple of seasons ago when his success was largely down to his attacking qualities.

If he can score well, make the most of his opportunities and crucially, compete with Steve in the scrappy frames, I would expect him to have enough to see off the six-times champion.

Why Steve Will Win

Last season as I watched Steve put up a great fight but ultimately going down 10-8 to Stuart Bingham in the first round, I wondered whether we would see him back at the Crucible again. He was 50 years old, sliding down the rankings to the fringes of the top 32 and his performances offered little encouragement as he struggled in particular with his scoring.

What a difference a year makes though as he has enjoyed a successful 2008/9 season and is genuinely producing the best snooker that I have seen from him in the last two or three seasons. His famed safety game is still as strong as ever, right up there with the likes of John Higgins at the top of the game, while his scoring is now much improved as evidenced by a superb break of 132 against O’Sullivan in the Welsh Open. Sure he might still make a few too many unforced errors and miss a few long balls, but he is now taking more of his chances and pushing his higher ranked opponents all the way.

What will also help him of course is the vast experience at the World Championship that he has gained since he made his debut back in 1979. To put things into perspective, Steve has played 80 matches at the Crucible Theatre, winning 58 of them while Neil has played just eight, winning four. Steve has gone on record as saying that he does not that experience is really an advantage, but I can’t help but think that it will be, particularly at this tournament with so much on the line.


This is an intriguing match-up and one that I can see going either way. If Neil plays to his best I think he will win, but if he has a off-day and struggles to cope in the tactical exchanges, Steve is playing well enough to punish him and win his 81st match at the Crucible. Think Neil will shade it, possibly 10-8.

Match Fifteen: Mark King (15) vs Rory McLeod (44)

Having caused one of the shocks of the tournament last season by defeating Mark Selby 10-8 to move back into the top 16, Mark King is going to have to win again at the Crucible if he is to stay there. Out to stop him however will be debutant Rory McLeod, the first black player to compete at he Crucible….

Head to Head

Mark holds a slender 1-0 advantage here having won their only previous encounter 5-3 in the last 48 of the Northern Ireland Trophy a couple of seasons ago.

Crucible History


  • 1994 – R32, lost 10-5 to Darren Morgan
  • 1998 – R16, lost 13-9 to Matthew Stevens
  • 1999 – R16, lost 13-4 to John Higgins
  • 2000 – R32, lost 10-8 to Drew Henry
  • 2001 – R16, lost 13-5 to Patrick Wallace
  • 2002 – R16, lost 13-12 to Ken Doherty
  • 2003 – R32, lost 10-5 to Drew Henry
  • 2004 – R32, lost 10-9 to Graeme Dott
  • 2006 – R32, lost 10-6 to Stephen Maguire
  • 2008 – R16, lost 13-9 to Peter Ebdon


  • N/A

Season So Far

Back in the top 16 for this season, Mark struggled to win matches early on as he lost in the first round of three of the first four tournaments. Since then though he has won his last three and though he has failed to progress beyond the last 16 in any, he has at least given himself a chance of keeping his place in the elite group.

Rory meanwhile has not gone beyond the last 32 of an event, but has improved on last season by winning five of his eight opening round matches, qualifying for the TV stages of three. Most impressively, two of those (the UK and World Championship), involve the longer frame matches so that bodes well for Sheffield.

Why Mark Will Win

While Mark has not set exactly set the world alight this season, he remains a solid, tactically astute competitor who will give anyone a tough match in Sheffield. His defeat of Mark Williams in the China Open recently in particular was an impressive result and showed that he might just be running into his best form at the perfect time.

What should also be in Mark’s favour is that despite being a very experienced player himself, opponent Rory McLeod is not so used to performing in front of the TV cameras, indeed he has only reached the last 32 of an event on five previous occasions. I watched both of his qualifying matches at the EIS and Rory battled really hard, but making his debut at the Crucible there is a chance that he could freeze, something that Mark will be quick to punish.

Finally Mark is also in a position where he must win in order to stand a chance of staying in the top 16. While this can be a negative factor for many players, it did not do him any harm last season against Mark Selby and he has come to the Crucible needing to perform enough times already to know what to expect.

Why Rory Will Win


Rory might not be a familiar face to some viewers, but he is a professional with nearly 20 years experience who knows every trick in the book. While he might not have had much joy previously in front of the TV cameras, he is a fierce competitor player to face in the qualifiers, as I saw when he got the better of Andy Hicks and Ian McCulloch last month.

Furthermore he can also draw encouragement from his most recent last 32 performance when having fallen 6-0 down against world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan, he rallied superbly to recover to 6-5 before eventually going down 10-6. He might not have won the match but at least he was able to relax and play some high quality snooker when at one stage it looked like he might be whitewashed. If he can take some confidence from this performance and bring it to the Crucible against Mark King then you can be sure that he will at the very least make a great fight of it.

My Prediction

Both players are capable of scoring heavily but I can also see this one turning into a real battle as both Mark and Rory fight for every single ball. I would certainly not rule Rory out but King starts as favourite for me and I can see him running out a 10-6 winner.

Match Sixteen: Stephen Maguire (2) vs Jamie Burnett (45)

Oh dear, the one tie that everyone within snooker will have wanted to avoid following the allegations of match-fixing from when these two last met at the UK Championship back in December. Still, it is what it is and both will be looking to progress to the last 16 in a much quieter fashion.

Head to Head

Stephen holds a 2-1 advantage against Jamie having won 5-4 in a qualifying event for the 1999 Scottish Masters after he’d just turned pro and of course emerging as the 9-3 winner earlier on this season in THAT match in the UK Championship. Jamie’s only win was a 5-2 result in the last 64 of the 2003 European Open despite a 131 break from his fellow Scot.

Crucible History


  • 2004 – R32, lost 10-6 to Ronnie O’Sullivan
  • 2005 – R32, lost 10-9 to Ronnie O’Sullivan
  • 2006 – R16, lost 13-4 to Marco Fu
  • 2007 – SF, lost 17-15 to John Higgins
  • 2008 – QF, lost 13-12 to Joe Perry


  • 1996 – R32, lost 10-9 to Terry Griffiths

Season So Far

Lacklustre defeats in the China Open and Grand Prix aside, Stephen has had another consistent season without quite hitting the heights of 2007/8 when he won two ranking event titles. As well as semi-final appearances in the UK Championship and Shanghai Masters, he has reached a further three quarter-finals which has kept him nicely up the rankings.

While Jamie Burnett’s 2008/9 season is only going to be remembered for one match, he has quietly enjoyed a strong season, losing just two first round matches and reaching the last 32 of the Grand Prix, UK Championship, Welsh Open and now the World Championship.

Why Stephen Will Win


Though he might not have added another trophy to his collection, the world number two has still played some good stuff this season, particularly at the Wembley Masters where he came through a stunning match with Neil Robertson in which between them they made five consecutive centuries.

I just get the feeling with Stephen that as he is in what should theoretically be the peak years of his career and has already won other important ranking event titles such as the UK Championship, he is really focusing on the World Championship at the moment. He has stressed how important to him it is that he can go on to win the big one over the course of the next two or three seasons and although he put in an uncharacteristically poor performance in losing 5-0 to Dave Harold at the China Open recently, I can see him having a really strong run at it this season.

Controversy or not, the last time these two met back in Telford it was Stephen who ran out a comfortable winner and with his greater experience of playing at the Crucible, will come into the match as a hot favourite. He has won the majority of his last 32 matches this season and has lost few to significantly lower ranked players who you would expect him to beat. Similarly although Jamie has had a strong season, consistently winning his early matches, he has struggled against those inside the top 16, losing 5-0, 9-3 and 5-3 so far.

Why Jamie Will Win

Having said all that it looks a pretty bleak outlook for Jamie, but there are also a few reasons why he should be optimistic going into the match too.

The most obvious is that his own form is pretty good this season, so if Stephen does struggle out there for whatever reason, he should be able to apply some pressure. This could be interesting because although his fellow Scot is now an excellent player, one question mark that I think hangs over him is his temperament, which for me has stopped him really pushing on and becoming the dominant player that he perhaps could have been over the last few seasons. If Jamie can play well and get a lead, then Stephen could lose his temper and perhaps end up beating himself. It would not be the first time.

Jamie has nothing to lose here, with his top 48 place already secured for next season, whereas Stephen, as so often is the case with the ‘favourite’, has everything to lose. Having lost out to Terry Griffiths in agonising circumstances back in 1996, Jamie has had to wait 13 years for a second chance on the biggest stage of all and when you add to that the criticism he received following his last meeting with Stephen in Telford, he is a player who will be even more keen to impress.

My Prediction

As you can see therefore, it promises to be an interesting match and one that will no doubt attract headlines for all the wrong reasons. Once all is said and done though it is what happens on the table what will count and if Stephen plays anything like his best, I can see only one winner. 10-4.