Northern Ireland Open – Four shots to put you in the black


SNOOKER analyst George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) shares this outright views ahead of the Northern Ireland Open.

Northern Ireland Open | 12th-18th November 2018 | Eurosport

The second Home Nations event of the season parks up at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast this coming week for the Northern Ireland Open.

The 128-man field are gunning for the Alex Higgins Trophy and £70,000, won last year by Mark Williams when he defeated Yan Bingtao 9-8 in the final.

The first event of the Home Nations series this season – the English Open – took place in Crawley and it was won by Essex's Stuart Bingham.

Bingham is the only player in the field still in with a chance of a £1 million bonus if he wins all four of the Home Nations events.

Bingham said recently, “I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about the £1 million.” “But I’m only a quarter of the way there, I’d still have to win another 21 matches and every match is tough. If I win the Northern Ireland event then ask me again!”

I think there's a good chance he can win this week, on his debut in this event, to keep that dream alive – and he's my first port of call in the first of four outright picks.

Bingham showed in Sussex what a classy all-round operator he is. He really dug in during the English Open final against Mark Davis. He used his previous final knowhow to good effect.

He's found an important element in snooker – winning ugly. He's a former World Champion for a reason. He can also break build heavily too. The victory in Crawley, gives him such a lease of life and positivity after looking so down in the dumps last year following his ban from the sport.

Bingham, who's only ever lost 20 times from 134 first-round contests, has a kind draw in Belfast. He's not 40/1 this time but I expect another good run from ‘Ball-Run' at 25/1.

Onto my second pick. Kyren Wilson was a semi-finalist here in the inaugural event in 2016. He took out Ronnie O'Sullivan and Mark Williams en route back then. Two years on, he's a much more accomplished player, and I want him onside this week.

For me, Wilson is a future World Champion in waiting. He's got everything you want in a top snooker player. He's dedicated, calm, has a wonderful temperament, incredible backbone, fighting spirit, brilliant under pressure, an ever-improving break builder. You name all the attributes, Wilson has got them.

He's already won the Paul Hunter Classic and the 6 Reds World Championship this season. Plus he has reached the semi-finals in Shanghai and also Coventry this week and a quarter-final in Riga. He's won 83% of his matches this season. In 36 matches this season, he's hit an incredible 93 breaks over 50. I can't talk more highly about the lad.

I said a while back, Kyren won't be 20/1+ for much longer in events. Well he's surprisingly 22/1 for glory this week in Belfast. That's worth snapping up. His draw doesn't look overtaxing.

I advised Joe Perry for this on Twitter on Thursday morning at 50/1. He remains that price and I still think it's value. He's in Wilson's section of the draw – they could meet in the quarter-final. He came agonisingly close to hitting a career first 147 in this event last season.

So far this season, Perry has won nine of his 11 best-of-seven matches.

He was surprisingly beaten by Daniel Wells in Crawley but, a week earlier, he made the European Masters final in Lommel, losing 9-6 to Jimmy Robertson.

He was bitterly disappointed with his display in the final but that event did prove that Perry is still good enough to compete at the top level.

He's not flashy, but is incredibly consistent and rock solid. He knows his way around a snooker table – and has the game to beat anyone. Don't forget, he slammed Mark Selby 10-4 at Sheffield in April.

He will take great heart from his week in Belgium. At 44, ‘Gentleman Joe' is far from finished. Being in your 40s this season is like the new 20s. It would be no surprise to see the Chatteris cue-man go well.

One of the emerging talents from China this season has been 18-year-old Yuan Sijun. His first season on tour last season yielded eight wins from 25 matches. He's won 12 times already this season.

Of those 12, he's beaten established stars Kyren Wilson, Mark Allen, Ding Junhui and Ricky Walden. He should have taken the scalp of Neil Robertson in Daqing, losing 6-4 in the last 16, after leading 3-1 and 4-3.

He's shown naivety a few times this season (understandable at such a young age) but especially in the defeat to the Aussie. He knocked in a 72 and looked destined for a 5-3 lead but Neil grabbed a snooker then cleared to win frame eight by a point. Yuan didn't recover.

He's knocked in an incredible 41 breaks over 50 this season, although just the one century. This proves he can kill players off with steady frame winning breaks. He's destined for the top.

He's afraid of no one, like most of his fellow countrymen. I think he'll have a big run in an event this season. It could be in Belfast. He won't be 250/1 (Blacktype) for many events after this season has been and gone.

Best Bets

Northern Ireland Open – Stuart Bingham 25/1 SkyBet

Northern Ireland Open – Kyren Wilson 22/1 Bet365

Northern Ireland Open – Joe Perry 50/1 Betfred

Northern Ireland Open – Yuan Sijun 250/1 BlackType

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