The World Championship about to begin, James Cooper has analysed the performances of the 32-man field and picks out two quarter bets.
2pts Neil Robertson to win Quarter Three at evens (Sky Bet)
0.5pt Anthony McGill to win Quarter Two at 11/1 (BetVictor)
Firstly, a recap as I have lifted an extract from my Masters article to quickly explain the process used.
"Like a league table in football, tournament results can clearly tell you plenty, but the serious bettor needs more than raw wins and losses to give themselves an edge. Expected wins and run to form (RTF) % are a couple of tools I employ to get a better handle on the current form of players.
"Expected wins essentially tell you how many victories a player should have won given opponents faced and length of match. A positive difference in the table attached indicates a player overperforming; conversely a negative number represents underperformance.
Run to form (RTF) is a concept employed by Timeform when assessing the form of a trainer or jockey and while several factors are used to come up with relevant %, I have kept it simple with a binary Y/N or (1-0) using my pre-game frame supremacy figures."
The below table charts the season so far (with the exception of the Championship League and Shoot Out events) and hopefully gives a useful insight that match results alone cannot.
When drawing conclusions from data like this, it’s important to remember that the two form categories are weighted to help inferior players while making it tough for the top operators to shine.
With that in mind and unsurprisingly given his four-tournament haul, Neil Robertson’s positive expected wins and RTF numbers make for seriously-impressive reading. The RTF figure in particular hammers home the point that not only is the Australian playing to a brilliant standard on a regular basis but he’s also ruthlessly efficient in dispatching the opposition.
Since collating ratings around four years ago, Judd Trump has been top-rated from inception but Neil Robertson now holds the mantle as my standard-bearer and while I will wait until Thursday before modelling the entire event, it’s highly likely that Robertson will be favourite with me using the skeletal draw as it stands and provided he isn’t paired with Ding Junhui (should he qualify).
Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan are next in the betting and while the former hasn’t been at his sparkling best this season (as shown in his Ex’ Wins and < 50% RTF), Champion of Champions and Turkish Masters wins hardly suggest he is in crisis and while a recent interview clearly showcased frustration, Judd is evidently still a major contender.
As for O’Sullivan, a brilliant World Grand Prix win against Robertson is as persuasive a single piece of form as there’s been this season. A European Masters reversal to Fan Zhengyi was clearly a gilt-edged opportunity missed but his underlying numbers are solid.
Having burst on the scene at around the age of 15, I must confess I thought Luca Brecel was in danger of being consigned to the super-talented underachiever tray. Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case and in some style, too, as the table indicates he has been the best player of this group relative to expectation.
Of course, given his lowly rating in comparison with the aforementioned trio, it’s easier for Luca to post positive numbers, but it’s clear for all to see that he has thrived this season, shrugging off a final defeat in the UK Championship with a devastating display of potting in the Scottish Open a week later.
When he’s on, Brecel is evidently a match for anyone, but a quarter featuring Neil Robertson and John Higgins asks a pretty big question of the Belgian.
While Kyren Wilson boasts very pleasing on the eye neutral numbers and is perhaps the easiest player to price up, Mark Selby and Zhao Xintong are the two most difficult for compilers to weigh up.
Mark Selby’s status as an all-time-great is unquestionable, recording win number four in this event a year ago. This season has been pretty miserable and he has revealed an on-off battle with depression so clearly he isn’t a single-figure price on his form this term.
That said, this is a unique event and ranked number one, his draw on paper doesn’t look too daunting. However, Mark Williams and Barry Hawkins bring bundles of Crucible experience to the table and Yan Bingtao’s output this term means he demands the utmost respect, so I’m not really sold on the claims of Selby, at least from a pre-tournament perspective.
Good RTF and a positive expected wins return indicate that Xintong has had a fine season and of course he has, running out a brilliant winner of the prestigious UK Championship before a scintillating display in the final when doubling his tally in Germany.
Xintong is the brightest prospect in the game and even though he has eased a fraction for outright glory in recent weeks, I am still struggling to align my rating with the market.
A quarter-final clash with new mentor Ronnie O’Sullivan would be a fascinating watch but at present, I tend to think that his potential rather than current level has been built into his current price.
Now it’s time to look at the 16 qualifiers based on my Expected wins and Run To Form calculations (excluding the Championship League and Shoot Out). The table below will hopefully help the reader assess the well-being of those hoping to take the scalp of a seed in Round 1.
From a fairly large sample of matches, Hossein Vafaei has just about been the pick of the bunch when it comes to performance against expectation. Even more so when you consider his Shoot Out win has been omitted from calculations.
Unfortunately for the Iranian, a first-round draw against Judd Trump is far-from-ideal and while I was hoping to back him against several other seeds, Judd may prove to be a bridge too far.
Noppon Saengkham’s impressive form figures are mainly derived from the fact he has faced a pretty brutal schedule this term so it’s credit to him he has recorded 14 victories against my expected 12.05 wins. Kyren Wilson, Ali Carter, Stuart Bingham, Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins (twice) Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy have all been opponents for Noppon this season so he ought not to fear a clash with Luca Brecel.
Any player ranked around the outskirts of the top 64 making it to the Crucible has to viewed as a big success and while the metrics I have employed lend itself to over-performance from such players, it’s pretty evident that Jackson Page and Ashley Hugill have progressed well in advance of my season-opening ratings.
Jackson will fancy having a crack at Barry Hawkins but it would come as no surprise were the Hawk to put his vast experience to good use, while Hugill can count himself unlucky to draw the best player in the game at present in Neil Robertson.
When compared with the odds available, there isn’t a lot of value to be had in sections 1 and 4 but the middle two quarters do present betting opportunities in the shape of Anthony McGill and Neil Robertson.
McGill should be content with his opening fixture against Liam Highfield and while things certainly crank up a notch or two after with Judd Trump and then perhaps Kyren Wilson or Ding Junhui to round the section off. Even so, he’s still a 9/1 shot with me so 11/1 slightly underestimates the likelihood of another deep run in this event for McGill.
The way I calculate progression percentages does tend to lend itself to siding with the superior players in this best-of-19 quickly followed by best-of-25 format and in Q3 it’s certainly no exception, with Neil Robertson strongly fancied to oblige at even-money.
It’s pretty hard to map a better first two ties for the Australian and while John Higgins is always a tough opponent (were that match to occur) I would mark that game up as a 4/9 v 9/4 encounter without the benefit of visual clues and when that is a worse-case-scenario last-eight match, it’s not too difficult to argue he’s a good bet at evens given he’s 8/11 with me.