Kyren Wilson

World Snooker Championship tips: Semi-finals betting preview and best bets

The line-up for the semi-finals of the World Snooker Championship has been confirmed – Richard Mann provides his last-four verdict.

Snooker betting tips: World Championship semi-finals

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Two semi-finals few could have predicted. No Ronnie O'Sullivan. World title number eight will have to wait. No Judd Trump. Next stop Mykonos, no doubt. No John Higgins. The renaissance incomplete. No sign of the three Marks; Allen, Williams, and Selby. Better luck next year.

Instead, the final four comprise of three qualifiers and Kyren Wilson, beaten finalist here in 2020 and this year belying a poor season results-wise having previously looked one of the next generation sure to become a serial winner.

There's still time and a scrap of 11/8 is the best you'll find about Wilson in the outright market following impressive defeats of Dominic Dale, Joe O'Connor and Higgins so far.

The 13-8 win over Higgins could prove to be a particularly significant one. Perhaps even career defining. Higgins wiped the floor with Wilson here 12 months ago and beat him in the semi-finals in 2019. Not this time.

Wilson dominated from the outset, racing into a 4-0 lead and then standing firm in the face of a number of Higgins' comeback attempts of the like Allen was powerless to stop on Monday night. Perhaps the old Kyren WIlson might have cracked under such pressure, but things might just be different now.

As we have seen time and time again, experience counts for so much in this sport and Wilson has got that now. He has handled the pressure better than in previous years and perhaps being the father of a young family has offered him some perspective. He cuts a more relaxed figure nowadays. Still hungry, but not desperate.

Maximum man Kyren Wilson
Kyren Wilson making a maximum at the Crucible in 2023

That desperation has been evident from the very beginning with Wilson and this championship was always top of the list. But you can want something too much and Wilson now looks like a man who has finally found the right balance.

Perhaps that is overcomplicating things. This is a player who has always potted brilliantly, possessed a far superior safety game than almost anyone of his age group, while his control of the cue ball has improved out of sight in the last couple of years. He has all the tools and thankfully for him, has hit his hot streak just at the right time.

Against Dale and O'Connor, Wilson scored heavily and Higgins was unable to withstand the storm, for all he tried every trick in the book. Two centuries and eight more fifty-plus breaks for Wilson in that match and when you add his ability to mix it with and at times dominate someone like Higgins in the safety department, it's a formidable prospect.

A second final appearance would appear highly likely, then. The market certainly thinks so, but Gilbert has the credentials to suggest he will at least offer Wilson stern resistance.

I'm not sure whether he has the all-round game to outplay Wilson over four sessions, but Gilbert might reckon he can outgun Wilson in the scoring department if playing somewhere close to his best.

Gilbert can be streaky and things haven't gone to plan for him this season, either, but he reeled off three centuries in his comfortable victory over Stephen Maguire in the last eight, taking his tournament tons tally to nine when including his two wins in qualifying.

The 42-year-old is a real force when on song and there is no reason to think he won't continue to produce something close to his best in the one-table set-up. He did in 2019 when only a whisker away from reaching the final.

That experience, as painful as it was, won't be lost on him, but the suspicion is that his ceiling is just that bit lower than Wilson's, with the stars this year seemingly aligning for a player who has made no secret of his desire to become world champion.

The one man left in the draw who has been world champion is Stuart Bingham, and he is currently second favourite for the title following his brilliant 13-10 win over O'Sullivan on Wednesday night.

Like Gilbert, Bingham and his opponent in the last four, Jak Jones, came through qualifying, but Bingham's pedigree, particularly at the Crucible, is there for all to see.

Not only was he champion in 2015, Bingham also pushed Selby very close in the semi-finals in 2021 and he, too, has come good from nowhere, finding inspiration in Sheffield and producing his best form for a couple of years.

He's beaten some terrific players in Gary Wilson and Jack Lisowski so far, but slaying O'Sullivan, who was a heavy tournament favourite having won five titles already this season, must go down as one of his greatest ever wins.

Crucially, Bingham was able to match O'Sullivan in the break-building department, something very few are generally able to do, but something that has always been his strength. He made three centuries against the Rocket and a host of other sizeable contributions.

If Bingham is to become champion again, it will be his experience and his scoring that gets him over the line.

It's those traits that mean quotes of 8/15 for him to beat Jones in their semi-final appear entirely justified, though Jones keeps on surprising, making the quarter-finals last year and then going even further this time around.

And in beating Si Jiahui and Trump, he has put away a brilliant young talent who was tipped for big things this year and a serial winner and former world champion who is the second best player in the world right now. Jones has certainly done it the hard way.

Jak Jones beat Judd Trump
Jak Jones beat Judd Trump to reach the semi-finals

Jones knows his way around the table and you get the sense he won't be overawed by the occasion.

He could've blinked when Trump levelled at 9-9 on Wednesday morning, but his response was to produce his best snooker of the tournament, breaks of 87, 61 and 106 helping him win four frames on the bounce to seal the biggest win of his career.

If he's to keep pace with Bingham, Jones will have to produce that level of scoring for longer. Trump played poorly, not enjoying conditions or the terms that match was played on, but Bingham won't be phased however this goes down.

It means this is an incredibly tall order for the Welshman, but he continues to confound and don't be surprised if he pushes Bingham hard before just coming up short.

A Wilson/Bingham final does look the most likely scenario from here. The two men with the most illustrious CVs, with titles and records that their semi-final opponents can only look at with envy. Both have real Crucible experience and pedigree, and that counts for plenty at this stage of the snooker marathon.

6/5 makes limited appeal, however, especially when considering this has been a tournament full of shocks. Nothing has been straightforward in Sheffield this year, both on and off the table, and there is likely more twists and turns to come.

Wilson will be hoping for a different outcome. That the betting has this right and that he will make it to his second Crucible final where this time, there won't be O'Sullivan standing in his way.

This wasn't how this year's story was supposed to end, but with O'Sullivan gone, Wilson appears to be waltzing towards World Championship glory.

Posted at 2320 BST on 01/05/24

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