SNOOKER specialist George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) previews the Challenge Tour 3, picking out his favourite fancies.
Challenge Tour 3 | 5th-6th October 2019
I’m dipping my toe into the Challenge Tour for the first time – the second tier of World Snooker.
This season’s tour includes six events in the UK and four in Europe. We are into the third event and its host is one of the UK’s top clubs, the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds, home to numerous pros including David Grace and father and son duo Peter and Oli Lines. Even the late Paul Hunter plied his trade here.
At the end of the 10 events, 16 players will go into a final play-off tournament. These will be the winners of the 10 events, plus a minimum of six players from the Challenge Tour rankings. The two players winning the semi-finals of the play-off tournament will be awarded two-year cards to the World Snooker Tour, for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.
Of the 64 entered, I’m going to have a small crack at five outrights; one from Quarters 1, 3 and 4 then two in Quarter 2.
Paul Davison (50/1Ladbrokes)
As we are in Yorkshire, I might as well start with one of its own, Paul Davison (Quarter 3). He’s the yo-yo man of snooker who is normally too solid for this level but not quite good enough for the main tour. Even so, he defeated Stephen Maguire, Li Hang, Noppon Saengkham, Lu Haotian and Stuart Carrington last season and nearly beat Neil Robertson.
Davison went very close to instant promotion back to the main tour at Q School in May, losing in the penultimate round in the first event. One thing ‘Snowy’ is, is experienced. A pro since 1992, he’s been round the block (most importantly this block) on many occasions. He’s made six similar level finals down the years, winning three in 2007, 2009 and 2010. He possibly could meet two of the star performers from Events 1 and 2, Andrew Pagett and Jake Nicholson en-route to the quarter-final.
Recently turned 48, Davison who has his own methodical slow style, lost in his first match in events one and two but I’m going to forgive him that, as he’s more than capable on his day of winning one of these events – he’s amateur top class.
I very nearly fell out of my chair when I saw Davison’s opening outright price of 80/1 – it was insultingly big. Certainly up there with one of the best outright prices I’ve ever come across in snooker. He’s now 50/1 and even that is way too big for me. 60/1 with a Ladbrokes boost, he should be 20/1 max.
Allan Taylor (14/1 Ladbrokes)
Snooker impressionist Allan Taylor (Quarter 1), like Davison, dropped off the main tour last season. I came through the junior ranks with Allan, played him many times at the Northern Snooker Centre, and have always liked him as a player and person.
The scouser has a lovely cue action and at this level, is a huge threat to any player. He missed event one but made the semi-final in event two losing to the aforementioned Pagett, 3-0. That was a slight surprise as he had beaten some better players than him in the previous rounds, including two fellow ex pros Adam Duffy and Lukas Kleckers.
Taylor is a lot shorter than Davison at 14/1 (Davison is as good as Taylor) but still worth a crack. Taylor is a real confidence player and can gain that with what looks a weak draw in front of him, even though it’s just best-of-five all the way through the tournament. He’s got plenty of junior experience in this format and venue which might count for something. ‘The Albino Assassin’ is a big player this weekend in Leeds.
Christopher Keogan (50/1 Ladbrokes)
Another Yorkshireman in the field, is Doncaster’s Christopher Keogan (Quarter 4) who is a part-time teacher. Keogan spent the last two seasons on tour and had a pretty unsuccessful time, winning only three times.
As a wildcard top-up, he competed in this seasons Rīga Masters. He qualified for the venue beating Hong Kong number two, Andy Lee 4-3, then over in Latvia, had a fantastic scalp defeating world number 23, Xiao Guodong, 4-1. In round three he lost 4-1 to Mark King.
Keogan, who wears Dennis Taylor type glasses, had a very good run in Challenge tour event one in Nuremberg losing 3-2 in the semi-final to Derby’s Oliver Brown. Moving forward to Saturday, in a club he knows very well, he’s a live-wire 50/1 shot. It’s a touch big and I can see him outrunning those odds considerably.
Aaron Hill (80/1Ladbrokes)
Lastly, there’s two young stars of the future I like in quarter two; Ireland’s Aaron Hill and Ukraine’s Iulian Boiko.
Hill is the current European U18 champion and performed with enormous credit as a wildcard at World Championship Qualifying in April this year. He pushed experienced pro, Gerard Greene very hard in Sheffield eventually losing 10-7. He had breaks of 72, 63, 53, 53 to prove he’s a real stellar talent.
He surprisingly under performed at Q School in May. In the Challenge tour, he lost to event one finalist Brown 3-2 then made the quarters in event two losing to Iranian Amir Sarhosh. Hill is a proven top quality customer at junior level and has the capabilities to be a similar menace amongst the fully grown amateurs. He could pop up in one of these for sure and at 80/1, is worth a go to prove it.
Iulian Boiko (100/1 Ladbrokes)
At 14-years-old, Boiko is one of the youngest competitors but my goodness does he have a future in this game.
There was a qualifying event in August to get through to the main draw of the Paul Hunter Classic invitational and Boiko won the whole lot, winning six matches on the spin including beating pro, Barry Pinches in the final, 3-2. The field wasn’t exceptional by any means but to win it, really was a top achievement for his age. Ricky Walden dealt with him comfortably 4-0 at the main venue but a cracking experience for the lad all the same.
He’s been in Lviv for the Ukrainian Amateur Championship over the last few days, losing in the semi-final. Boiko lost to Hill in the quarter-final of the European U18s in February and might have to face him on the way to the latter stages again here in Leeds. In Event two, Boiko lost to eventual winner, Jake Nicholson in the last 16, 3-2. Nicholson only conceded four frames the whole event so it was a grand effort from the Ukrainian.
Boiko has been playing in adult tournaments since he was eight-years-old so for someone so young, he has got experience and is undoubtedly improving. He’s my biggest price at 100/1, and although his inexperience might be his downfall, Iulian goes for his shots and proved over in Germany, he’s not afraid of losing. The exuberance of youth!
Challenge Tour 3 – Allan Taylor (14/1 each-way Ladbrokes)
Challenge Tour 3 – Paul Davison (50/1 each-way Ladbrokes)
Challenge Tour 3 – Christopher Keogan (50/1 each-way Ladbrokes)
Challenge Tour 3 – Aaron Hill (80/1 each-way Ladbrokes)
Challenge Tour 3 – Iulian Boiko (100/1 each-way Ladbrokes)