Reflections #1: Five things we learned from… UK CHAMPIONSHIP 2019

Yes, I’m back, I know it’s surprisingly quickly, but after my surprisingly successful Round 1 predictions, I kicked back to watch the UK Championship (and do uni work, but that’s how it works). So here, I’m going through five key points from the tournament that we have found out.

DISCLAIMER: This is written between sessions in the UK final (Ding 5-3 Maguire), so I will not be going through the Masters draw. I will likely do that sometime over the Christmas period, and it deserves it’s own entry.

1: Lightning Strikes

Well I didn’t see this coming. Michael White has had, let’s be honest, a crap season. And he wasn’t much better last season. Between the season start in June and the start of this tournament near the end of November, can you guess how many matches the former World Number 15 had won? The answer is… 1. One match. That was also in June.

So you can guess how his match against the veteran Fergal O’Brien went can’t you? Yep, he won (6-2). It turned out that Michael had actually bothered to look like a snooker player here! After an excellent performance against a quite frankly embarrassing Mark Williams, he had an all-time classic against Mark Davis, which even sent the live scores website into meltdown (It said Mark had won the deciding re-spot, only to change it’s mind afterwards and tell the truth).

Sadly it wasn’t to be for Michael after that, despite a brilliant start against Stephen Maguire, but it was still a great run, and critical for someone who is outside the Top 64 (who are guaranteed their tour card for next season) on the provisional EOS (End of Season) rankings. Hopefully this will be just the motivation he needs to play again, because he is far too good to be down there.

2: Lay The Favourite

It was a great tournament (and as I write, still is), just not really for the top players in the game. Of the Top 16, 4 reached the Last 8 (Higgins, Ding, Allen, Maguire). Of the other 12, only 4 reached the Last 16 (Bingham, O’Sullivan, Robertson, and Selby), with only one (Bingham) losing to a player ranked higher than him (Higgins).

Especially poor were Shaun Murphy and Dave Gilbert, both Top 16 players losing in Round 1 to players ranked in the 100s (Eden Sharav #121 and James Cahill #118 respectively). Other players who disappointed include Barry Hawkins (4-6 against #55 Alan McManus in the Last 64), and Kyren Wilson (5-6 to #56 Marco Fu having lead 4-1). As for the World Champion, World Number 1, and World’s least appealing I’m a Celebrity contestant (yes those rumours have been around again!), oh boy am I going to get to him!

3: Even Stevens!

How good is it to see Matthew Stevens at the business end of majors again? The 2003 UK Champion and twice World Finalist came into the tournament off of a mediocre start to the season, but looked like business here. 6-0 against Chen Feilong was impressive. Then a rollercoaster 6-5 win against Ryan Day saw him into the Last 32, where he made a flying start on route to a 6-2 win against Anthony Hamilton, to lead to a match against Mark Selby.

A match which went on forever (a little like this blog). After a good few hours of play, Matthew eventually made the multi-time World Champion pay for a lack of ambition in the last frame, eventually winning it after midnight, an absolute granite performance.

Sadly a granite performance wasn’t enough to see off Stephen Maguire in the Last 8, losing three successive frames from 4-3 ahead a disappointing end to a great tournament. Will we see him at the business end again? Who’s to say? But once a hot young prospect, then one of the world’s best potting machines, Matthew Stevens is surely now one of the world’s best grinders.

4: The Name’s Bond… Nigel Bond… 00147

Well wasn’t this unexpected? After a few seasons of struggle and being seen as approaching the end, 54 year old Nigel Bond rolled back the years in the Barbican, producing a run which will live long in the memory. A shock 6-5 win against Luca Brecel in Round 1 was followed by another decider, this time against exciting tour newcomer Louis Heathcote, to book a Last 32 meeting with the World Champion, World Number 1, and unstoppable machine Judd Trump.

And this is where things get… interesting. After a standard first few frames, Trump went into the interval underwhelming, but still leading 3-1. It turns out that the worst thing to ever happen to Judd was the interval. As they returned he seemed unable to produce any kind of strong performance, while Nigel got stronger and stronger. After a tense final frame, Bond eventually won 6-3 against a player ranked 97 places above him in the world, to progress to the Last 16 of the UK for the first time since 2007.

When there, he overcame a 5-2 deficit against the previous round’s Century machine Gary Wilson to prevail in another decider, and reach the Last 8. There he lead Mark Allen 3-1, but seemed to struggle with the idea of being ahead at the interval, and despite a gritty performance, he eventually succumbed in, yes, you guessed it, a decider!

Bond’s run wasn’t pretty, but what it did prove was the strength of professional snooker these days. It is a sport where truly, anybody can beat anybody. Sure he didn’t win, but the performance of Nigel and of Matthew Stevens as mentioned before, prove that you are never too past your prime or too low on confidence to win.

5: Backs Against The Wall

The big question coming here was regarding the Race to the Masters. Technically about half the tour could have qualified with victory, but realistically it was three from four, with Stephen Maguire, Ali Carter, Joe Perry and Ding Junhui fighting it out.

You may have noticed that two of those names just happened to make the final. Maguire’s potting throughout the tournament was absolutely superb, and particularly against Matthew Stevens in the QF, he was absolutely immense, doing more than enough to cement his place at Ally Pally. His highlight must have been the semis though, absolutely creaming Mark Allen 6-0 to reach a 3rd UK final, 12 years after his last.

As for Ding, he came into the tournament on a rotten run of form, having reached beyond the Last 16 once in ranking tournaments this season, and twice in the last year, and needing a good run to get into the Masters. Reaching the final was just that run, including a 6-4 win against Ronnie O’Sullivan, and crucially in the previous round, a 6-4 win against his Masters rival Ali Carter.

When all was said and done, it was Ding, Maguire, and Perry who ended up in the 16, with Ali on the outside looking in. And then Ronnie pulled out of the Masters due to (lack of passion/boredom/laziness/”personal reasons”), which made the entire Race completely pointless. Thanks Ronnie!

If you like this blog, please share, and comment with your thoughts on whether Judd should be embarrassed losing to a geriatric, and whether you think Maguire will win another major.

Snooker Predictions: UK Championship 2019 (Last 128)

Another year drawing to a close and another trip to York (just not for me, I’m saving myself for Llandudno in March!!!). As you (probably) know, the UK Championship is one of the biggest tournaments on the calander, and it’s the one i look forward to the most, after the World Championship and (don’t murder me please) the Shootout. In this I’m just going to run through my last 128 predictions along with players’ rankings and who I think will win each section, and an overall prediction. Right then, here we go! (predictions in bold)

Section I

(2) Ronnie O’Sullivan vs. (a) Ross Bulman
(64) Sam Craigie vs. (65) Tian Pengfei
(32) Noppon Saengkham vs. (97) Jackson Page
(33) Anthony McGill vs. (96) Mitchell Mann
(16) Ding Junhui vs. (113) Duane Jones
(49) Mike Georgiou vs. (80) Oli Lines
(17) Ali Carter vs. (112) Brandon Sargeant
(48) Rob Milkins vs. (81) Harvey Chandler
Section 1 winner: Ronnie O’Sullivan vs. Ali Carter


(41) Li Hang vs. (88) Jamie Clarke
(24) Xiao Guodong vs. (105) Rod Lawler
(56) Marco Fu vs. (73) Craig Steadman
(9) Kyren Wilson vs. (120) Riley Parsons
(40) Liang Wenbo vs. (89) Dominic Dale
(25) Tom Ford vs. (104) David Grace
(57) Daniel Wells vs. (72) Zhang Anda
(8) Shaun Murphy vs. (121) Eden Sharav
Section 2 winner: Xiao Guodong vs. Shaun Murphy

Section III

(4) John Higgins vs. (124) Peter Lines
(60) Lu Ning vs. (69) Joe O’Connor
(28) Matt Selt vs. (101) Ian Burns
(37) Michael Holt vs. (92) Adam Stefanow
(12) Stuart Bingham vs. (117) Lei Peifan
(53) Martin Gould vs. (76) Alfie Burden
(21) Thepchiya Un-Nooh vs. (108) Jamie O’Neill
(44) Zhao Xintong vs. (85) Alex Ursenbacher
Section 3 winner: John Higgins vs. Zhao Xintong

Section IV

(45) Stuart Carrington vs. (84) James Wattana
(20) Yan Bingtao vs. (109) Igor Figuredo
(52) Peter Ebdon vs. (77) John Astley
(13) Jack Lisowski vs. (116) David Lilley
(36) Mark King vs. (93) Chang Bingyu
(29) Lu Haotian vs. (100) Andy Lee
(61) Robbie Williams vs. (68) Luo Honghao
(4) Neil Robertson vs. (125) Alex Borg
Section 4 Winner: Yan Bingtao vs. Neil Robertson

Section v

(3) Mark Williams vs. (126) Fraser Patrick
(62) Michael White vs. (67) Fergal O’Brian
(30) Zhou Yuelong vs. (99) Fan Zengyi
(35) Mark Davis vs. (94) Si Jiahui
(14) Stephen Maguire vs. (115) Billy Castle
(51) Mark Joyce vs. (78) Jordan Brown
(19) Graeme Dott vs. (110) Barry Pinches
(46) Yuan Sijun vs. (83) Hammad Miah
Section 5 Winner: Mark Williams vs. Stephen Maguire

Section vi

(43) Matthew Stevens vs. (86) Chen Feilong
(22) Ryan Day vs. (107) Soheil Vahedi
(54) Anthony Hamilton vs. (75) Sam Baird
(11) Dave Gilbert vs. (118) James Cahill
(38) Martin O’Donnell vs. (91) Kishan Hirani
(27) Ricky Walden vs. (102) Xu Si
(59) Liam Highfield vs. (70) Mike Dunn
(6) Mark Selby vs. (123) Andy Hicks
Section 6 Winner: Dave Gilbert vs. Mark Selby


(7) Mark Allen vs. (122) Jimmy White
(58) Andrew Higginson vs. (71) Jak Jones
(26) Scott Donaldson vs. (103) Chen Zifan
(39) Ben Woolaston vs. (90) Zhang Jiankang
(10) Barry Hawkins vs. (119) Gerard Greene
(55) Alan McManus vs. (74) Elliot Slessor
(23) Jimmy Robertson vs. (106) Kacper Filipak
(42) Kurt Maflin vs. (87) Rory Thor
Section 7 Winner: Mark Allen vs. Kurt Maflin


(47) Chris Wakelin vs. (82) Ashley Carty
(18) Gary Wilson vs. (111) Bai Langning
(50) Sunny Akani vs. (79) Lee Walker
(15) Joe Perry vs. (114) Simon Lichtenberg
(34) Hossein Vafaei vs. (95) Louis Heathcote
(31) Luca Brecel vs. (98) Nigel Bond
(63) Ken Doherty vs. (66) Mei Xiwen
(2) Judd Trump vs. (127) Amine Amiri
Section 8 Winner: Judd Trump vs. Gary Wilson

2019 UK Champion: Ronnie O’Sullivan vs. Mark Selby

The power of two (decades): Film review

Ahh great Pokemon films, how I’ve missed you! Not for years have you shown your head and truly made a claim for being top class. But once in a while, your franchise comes out with something so magnificent that it sucks all the drifters back in again.

Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You may have been released around 18 months, but… listen, I’ve been busy, ok? And the Pokemon films haven’t been the most magnificent recently, with duller entries like Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel, ALL of the Generation 5 films, and please don’t get me started on the disorganised clusterfuck that was Hoopa and the Clash of Ages. But I found this film on demand, and well… I decided to give it a go.

Like with my previous review, this film will be marked on a simple 100 point system, split into five sections: Graphics (how good did the characters and the backgrounds look), Plot (did the story make sense, was the pacing correct, was the story adequately), Score (how good was the music for the film, did it fit the themes of the film), Characters (Were all the characters relevant and likeable, were their intentions correctly signalled, were they effective in their roles), and Overall Impressions (What did i think of the film as a whole, did everything fit together nicely). Anyway, that’s enough babbling, let’s get reviewing!


When i first saw the updated graphics for the modern generation of Pokemon, oh how I laughed. But, i will admit i was wrong. Because when you see the character models and how they move in the film, it makes total sense. The characters are being drawn with detail that only Japanese artists seem to understand.

The scenery looks brilliant, and some of the scenes (such as the grey buildings crumbling) look fantastic. All the textures look realistic, and each character looks like they took time and effort to create.

The best graphics though came in Sorrel’s backstory, which i will expand on later on. The sight of the frozen Luxray was (no pun intended) absolutely chilling, but it was so beautifully done. Not many places to go with the scoring on this one.
Score: 20/20


The film is very much split into two acts. The first act is an updated and cut-down version of the first handful of anime episodes, following everyone’s favourite permanent child (other than Peter Pan and members of PETA) Ash Ketchum, who gets his first pokemon aged 10. If you don’t know what a pokemon is, err why are you here? Seriously, how did you get this far? Anyway, focus. I’m just going to go over the important details here, the specifics about the main characters is in the fourth section.

So Ash goes to get his first pokemon, but all the starters have gone (you would think Professor Oak would have measures in place for this), so Ash is instead stuck with an obnoxious Pikachu who won’t get in his Poke Ball and has to be dragged around (to begin with) with what rather resembles an electrical cord. However, a run-in with a flock of angry Spearow bonds them.

After a quite significant time skip, he goes to the Pokemon Centre to… get his ears blasted off by Pokemon’s resident MILF, Delia Ketchum. Talking of blasting off, Team Rocket are in disguises as they are wanted criminals. But they couldn’t have made their disguises any more obvious. It’s here that Ash meets his companions for the film: Sorrel (from Veilstone City, just needs a pair of glasses and a sister to be a spitting image for Max), and Verity (whoever came up with Verity clearly wanted Dawn in the film so badly but was told no so he gave us a partial clone).

From here they sneak up on an Entei (bad idea, also a throwback to Pokemon 3), Ash and Verity argue while Sorrel channels his inner Confucius while proving he watched the weather forecast), then Suicune appears in front of Verity (cool moment, kinda throwback to Pokemon 4), and Ash rescues a Charmander after it’s trainer Cross abandons it, saying there’s Charmanders like it all over the place (again, what was stopping Oak getting one?), leaving Ash to adopt it.

After hiding in a cave, Ash challenges Cross with Charmander (who has now evolved to Charmeleon), and gets pissy when he loses (so heroic!). After a weird alternate reality scene, they take the Rainbow Wing (which he obtained at the start of the film), and go to meet Ho-Oh.

They meet a mountain guide (who is almost certainly a much older Ash imo), and then go to use the Rainbow Wing, but instead have to battle Cross again. Charmeleon evolves (again, to Charizard), and Cross is defeated.

Marshadow then steals the wing (i have no idea why) and turns it dark, while using it to possess about 7000 pokemon which all suddenly happen to live on this remote mountain), causing Ash and co. to fight back.

Eventually Ash takes a hit for Pikachu and disappears, before Pikachu wards off the other pokemon with an electric move. Pikachu then picks Ash’s hat up and cries (throwback to Pokemon 1), somehow causing Ash to return. The important parts of the film end with Ash battling Ho-Oh, to no shown result.

So what do i think of it? I think the plot was generally very good, but the pacing was all over the place at times. Also the film felt like it really lagged in the middle. But I did like the plot other than that. The first half was a nice (if very compressed) throwback to the start of the anime, and the other act was an imaginative story revolving around the mischief of Marshadow). It was good. But far from perfect.
Score: 14/20


The opening to the film was a cover of the original Pokemon theme song, covered by Ben Dixon. And it was really good. Not quite as good as some other versions (X&Y), but I still love it.

The ending theme is what I really have to talk about though – the atmospheric I Choose You. The lyrics really make you feel like they were thinking of all of Ash’s companions when they wrote it. And the way that Haven Paschall performs it makes it emotional and tender (gee I really like reviewing films that make me cry don’t I?)

I’m not going to keep up the suspense, because the score was really good. And while it wasn’t my absolute favourite cover of the original song, I appreciate the fact they had another version recorded especially. Really very little to complain abut here.
Score: 20/20


This is where some marks might disappear. Start with Ash, because he is the best character in this. His journey in the film from unprepared rookie to a lionhearted warrior is truly perfect. I only wish they had more time in the film to expand that further.

Verity, as i said earlier on, was clearly a replacement for Dawn for whatever reason. She had a nice personality, and an interesting look, but I just wish they could have had her deviate a bit more from Dawn’s formula (has a Piplup, from Twinleaf Town, has a famous mother). But she’s still a sweet character and importantly, she wasn’t too screechy or whiny.

Sorrel was probably the weaker character, apart from one thing: his backstory. I alluded to a frozen Luxray earlier, and this is it: when he was younger, he and his Luxray got caught in a blizzard, with Luxray keeping him warm. When he came to, he was fine. Sadly however, Luxray had frozen to death. They really didn’t mess about there.

The saddest thing about that however, is that it meant nothing, because his confidence issues and wariness of Pokemon afterwards were never brought up again.

The villain was Cross. No, i don’t mean that he was quite grumpy, his name was ACTUALLY Cross. He transitioned during the film from an aggressive, egotistical dick to just the first two (hey, nobody’s perfect eh?), being determined to prove he’s stronger than anybody else. His line peddling of only being interested in “strong” pokemon provided a perfect foil to Ash as well, calling back to Ash’s best rival from the anime, Paul.

The characters are a mixed bag. There was lots of good about them, but there was also significant bad points for two of them. I just wish they’d shown consistency with Sorrel, and actually written Verity’s character… at all.
Score: 12/20


Pokemon: I Choose You was an excellent film. It was a movie which felt like it was greater than the sum of it’s parts. The film felt as long as it was, but that is no bad thing, as it was mostly entertaining throughout.

They especially did a great job of getting the emotion over to the point where you actually felt it yourself. I really enjoyed the film, and it’s between this and the equally atmospheric Pokemon 5 (Pokemon Heroes) in terms of my favourite Pokemon film.
Score: 18/20
Overall Score: 84/100

That’s all from me then. As usual if you want to check out my stories you can do that, my fanfiction name is Primal WolfBlood. I’m on Facebook and on Twitter (@PhiltheRenegade). Until next time, Viva La Revolution!

Written by Phil Robinson
(P.S. If you don’t know what a MILF is, ask your parents/older siblings/any irresponsible adult).

2019 World Snooker Championship Preview: Part 1

So this Saturday heralds the return of the snooker world championship. 128 players rolled up last week to the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, all with the same aim of qualifying, having made their preparations (or in the case of Michael Judge, rushing down from Dublin last minute).

Some matches went quickly (4 whitewashes), some slowly (Thanks Peter Lines and Michael Judge for keeping people up till 3). In the end, 16 men (sorry Reanne and Ng Onyee, there’s always next year) survived there rounds, winning 30 frames to make it to hallowed ground: The Crucible Theatre (which is just the other side of the city).

I will be filming my travels and exploits in Sheffield on Saturday, and in another first for me (how long until I run out of firsts?), will be uploading the videos to YouTube.

Anyway, the purpose of this blog entry is to introduce the first round ties, analysing the seeds and the underdogs, and giving my picks for who wins and who will walk away with the trophy. Let’s start with the World Champion and International Playboi, The Welsh Pub Machine, Mark Williams.

Mark Williams (1) vs. Martin Gould

This season has largely felt like the Mark Williams Invitational Pub Crawl. In his defence, he has turned up to more tournaments than I expected and even won one this season. As for the rest of the season, there isn’t much to report in all honesty. But Mark will want to give a good showing, and would like to not go out in the Last 16 this time (like he did the first two times he defended a world title).

His opponent in Martin Gould is rather inconsistent. On his day he is more than good enough to win, and scores very heavily. But too often he looks lackluster, and I have never been enthused by his safety game. Gould put in an excellent performance in the last qualifier though to beat a plucky Daniel Wells though.

Gould, though a great player, doesn’t look like challenging Williams, and I don’t see it being curtains for the champ in Day 1 for the second tournament on a row.
Prediction: Williams, 10-3

David Gilbert (16) vs. Joe Perry

If you had shown this match to any snooker fan 12 months ago, they would have likely thought Perry would be the seed such is his stature in the game. But we’re here with one of the tighter matches (the gap in the rankings is only 2 places).

Such is the season Gilbert is having, having reached two Ranking finals this season, and a further three QFs. “The Angry Farmer” as he is comically known has been one of the stories of the season.

As for Perry, his season has been quieter. However he ran rampant in qualifying, dropping only 5 frames in 3 matches. Make no mistake: when he gets going, Perry can still play with the best of them. There’s also the small matter of him pulverising Selby last season, and holding Mark Allen for two sessions.

This match up could go either way. On balance I’m backing Gent, for the experience. But can easily see it going the other way.
Prediction: Perry, 10-8

Barry Hawkins (9) vs. Li Hang

So, we come to our first of SEVEN debutants (the most this century). The tour’s Chinese contingent tends to fall into two catagories: younger players with much promise, and older players who have underachieved.

Li Hang is one of the latter category. Having first turned pro in 2008, it wasn’t until last season that he really gained traction, reaching his first Quarter (and Semi) final.

Li is a real scrapper, and proving to be very good at it. He’s come off a final qualifying match against Ben Wollaston where his highest break was 53 (he only made one ton in 30 frames won at the EIS), so he will have to score better if he’s going to be a serious challenger. Graft and grit however, get you a long way in such a marathon of a tournament.

That’s really where the good news ends for Li however. If you could choose a seed to face, you likely wouldn’t pick somebody who has reached the Last 8 every year since reaching the final in 2013, including FOUR semi-final defeats, and is arguably THE best scrapper on tour. Such is the task facing Li Hang.

Bazza has not had a good season. The past two years have been curious for him, as he tends to struggle for form through most of the season, do enough to be around the Top 10 in the rankings, and then suddenly be an all-conquering demon at the Crucible.

It has become customary at this time of the year in the Hawkins household to discuss the results of the season with a spare five minutes (that’s all it takes really). But Barry is living proof that nobody talks about how bad your season was if you do well here.

As for the result, it’s difficult to look past Barry here. Li will need to settle quickly, and he’ll need all his fight and grit to get close to Barry, who could run away with it if playing well. If Barry isn’t playing well, it could be very scrappy.
Prediction: Hawkins, 10-5

Kyren Wilson (8) vs. Scott Donaldson

From the match I am probably looking forward to the least to the one I’m looking forward to the most. I could talk for hours about why I love these two.

Kyren has had a really strong season, and comes into this tournament as the truest definition of a dark horse. He’s won the German double of the Paul Hunter Classic (in Furth) and the German Masters (in the atmospheric and beloved Tempodrom (Berlin), as well as the invitational 6-Reds Championship, and a further four Quarter-Finals in Ranking events. If you include non-ranking events, he’s reached the Last 8 (or better) of 10 tournaments, a truly fantastic record, and resides in the World’s top 8. He improves every year at the Crucible, and he’ll be hard to stop this year.

As for Scott, it’s been a breakout season for him as well. Having started the season 58th in the world, Semi-Finals in Furth and recently in the China Open have seen him rise to the brink of the Top 32 (provisionally ranked 34th). And now the man from Perth (Scotland, not Australia) has reached the World Championships for the first time (despite his best efforts to lose against Lu Ning).

If Scott plays at his best, this will be a very good match. But ultimately he’d likely need Kyren to be below par to win. I can see him coming close though, and this could be a name-making performance.
Prediction: Kyren, 10-8

John Higgins (5) vs. Mark Davis

John insists he’s happy with the draw, but there must be a part of him wishing he’d got anybody else. His season has been up and down, with him clearly struggling with motivation at times. But the fact remains that he has been in the past two finals here.

It’s nice to see Mark back at the top table after a few years away, in a season where he finally reached a ranking final, aged 46. A 10-7 victory against the highly-rated Lyu Haotian proved his form and stamped his ticket to this stage.

Now for the reason John might have wished for a different opponent. Mark has a superior head-to-head against Higgins, 10 wins to 7. 6 years ago, a merely 40 year old Davis beat Higgins at this stage. It’s not likely to be the prettiest match in the world (we’ll get to that later), but it is far from a long shot to say that the man his friends call Smiler could pull the same trick again. And maybe this will signal the end of The Wizard as a top threat.
Prediction: Davis, 10-9

Stuart Bingham (12) vs. Graeme Dott

With the amount of great players in the qualifiers, you’re almost bound to get a meeting of former World Champions at this stage. Bingham went all the way in 2015, but has never looked like getting there since. However in a season where he isn’t being touted as a threat despite 7 ranking quarter-finals, maybe he’ll be the surprise package again. If you hadn’t already guessed, “Ball-Run” has done quite well this season.

Graeme Dott is a little bit of a curious case (like Benjamin Button). He is clearly well past his best now, and for the most part has done little in recent seasons, but despite that has only failed to qualify once since the turn of the millennium. His disposal of Kurt Maflin 10-2 in the qualifiers was efficient and expertly handled.

But Bingham is a much different threat to Maflin. And against a top threat, it’s difficult to back Dotty anymore. As for Stuart, if he continues his excellent form of the season, there’s no reason why he can’t go far, and should be far too good here.
Prediction: Bingham, 10-5

Shaun Murphy (13) vs. Luo Honghao

The term “Annus Horribilis” refers to a terrible, no good year. Such a term could describe Shaun’s season, but even that would be putting it mildly. Murphy just never got going this season, and it’s a shame to see such a great player struggling so. Not even a final in the Scottish Open can paper over the cracks.

Shaun’s even lost his crown of the best piano player on tour to Honghao, the winner last year of the first ever WSF Championship (and to date the only one). It’s been a promising start on tour for Honghao, who did excellently early on but has slowed down since. In qualifying he saw off veteran Marco Fu, very impressively.

Honghao has done well since coming on tour and will make lovely music there (just check out his piano playing on youtube!) for years to come, but Shaun’s got a point to prove. And a Smurph with a point to prove can be the most dangerous foe of all.
Prediction: Murphy, 10-6

That’s all for Part 1, Part 2 will have the rest of the draw and my overall pick.

How to Train Your Dragon III: THE HIDDEN WORLD. A review

Today, I went to see a film at the cinema for the first time since school. It was a film called How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. This would prove to be interesting, as it is the first film by Dreamworks Animation since their takeover by Universal. For this film, I will split my review into five catagories: Graphics, Plot, Score, Characters, and Overall Impressions, For each one, I will score out of 20, to give a nice round score out of 100. So will the influence of Universal have an effect on the quality of the final product?


I could sum this up within a line if I wished. But I will put more detail in for you all. The graphics in this film were absolutely gorgeous. And I mean gorgeous, I cannot put into perspective how good they were. There are not words.

I think the best way I can describe it is that all the characters look… human. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it’s very difficult and rare to have animated characters that look completely human, completely believeable.

As for the scenery, they really pushed the boat out on this one. Berk used to be a quaint little Viking village. Now though? It’s a bustling dragon community growing by the second. And they have put the same attention to detail into every little part of Berk, from the houses to the cliffs, even to the snow on the rooftops. I really cannot score the graphics anything other than top marks.
Rating: 20/20


The plot of the film in basics is the same as the last one – An evil, possibly psychotic Dragon hunter targets Toothless, the rare and mystical Night Fury, in the quest to catch all the dragons.

That is where the similarities begin and end. Grimmel is a very different animal to Dragon from Film 2, which I will point out later. The plot of this film was very much catered to continuing the story told in number 2, as well as Dragons: Race to the Edge on Netflix.

The entire first third of the film was dedicated to Hiccup and Astrid’s story, with the constant will they won’t they of marriage, as well as balancing the demands of a relationship and being chief. A rather amusing minor plot meanwhile, was Snotlout’s constant pursuit of Valka, Hiccup’s mother.

And now for the villains. The main villain is Grimmel the Grisly, assisted by his three underlings if you will; Griselda (voiced by Vick Hope), Ragnar (voiced by Olufur Darri Olafson), and Chagtai Khan (voiced by David Tennant).

I appreciated the fact that at no point did Grimmel feel like a replacement for any previous villans, instead having his own motivations and desires.

As the plot progressed, it became clear that Hiccup and Toothless were on their own individual stories, and that them being in each other’s stories was putting them both in danger.

The scene near the end with the Dragons and Humans leaving each other was just beautiful and tearjerking. It really did an excellent job of bringing the story full circle from dragons being feared and kept away for peace to dragons being sent away with love for peace.

Overall, the plot was really strong. It achieved the difficult balance of bringing the plot full circle and saying why the dragons are no longer with us, while also keeping the story somewhat open to future adaptations. The only thing I would say is that the plot did feel slightly recycled from the last film.
Overall: 18/20


The score for each film has been conducted by John Powell, and the first two films were spot on, with the music perfectly reflecting not only the tone of the scene, but also the traditional theme of the film.

As for this film? Well he’s done it again, put it that way. The music isn’t something that can really be described, more experienced, preferably on your own in a quiet, distraction-free environment, or with the film itself.

There is just a certain magic to the music of the film, from the beautifully calm strings to the rousing, triumphant updraft of the music as it progresses (I’m probably sounding like Beethoven now!)

I’d love to pick a fault in the score, but… well, there just isn’t one. I can’t fault the film at all for the music and the sound. It’s not just something you listen to, it’s something that you feel. And I feel the soundtrack for these films like I feel no others.
Overall: 20/20


The usual cast of characters were back, along with a couple of new ones. The main character, as usual, was Hiccup. Early on it looked like there hadn’t been much development in his character, but as the film wore on, it became clear that he was walking a tightrope between being a good chief and being a dragon lover, eventually having to choose between the two and give up his dream.

The villain of the whole operation was Grimmel the Grisly. Again, early on he seemed to be cut from the same cloth as Drago. However, it soon became clear that they differed in their motivations. Drago hunted Dragons for making an embarrassment of him, whereas Grimmel lives for the thrill of the hunt, and specifically hunted all the Night Furies to the verge of extinction purely for the thrill and for the accolades it brought him.

Snotlout provided the comedy relief in the film, with his affections having shifted from Astrid (in Film 1 and the TV series) to Ruffnut (at the start of Film 2) to Valka in this movie. His constant macho rivalry with ex-hunter Eret, Son of Eret was entertaining throughout, and fitted in perfectly with his character traits that we love.

The true star of the film though, was Astrid. I had an issue with the fact that she was rather underused and neglected for much of the second film, but that was corrected in this film, and in a big way.

In this final instalment, Astrid went from glorified cheerleader to the most integral part of the plot, being Hiccup’s moral guide and providing the guiding hand and voice of confidence which he largely lacked as the struggling young chief.

The theme between the two of getting married was bounced around a lot early on in the film, and Astrid’s playful personality and steely grit proved to be exactly what the story needed. I’m sounding like a broken record now, but there really wasn’t much that could/should have been changed with the characters.
Overall: 19/20

Overall Impressions

In this final section, the film will be rated on how well it fitted the individual factors together. The film lasted for around 105 minutes, but it felt like about 30. This is no negative, instead being that time flew due to how good it was.

The film flowed like nothing I’ve ever seen. It changed direction constantly, from being light-hearted and comical, to a gripping thriller, to a tear-inducing drama, and finally a rousing, triumphant end.

The end credits were something that I will never forget equally. They acknowledged the history of the franchise and showed screenshots of some of Hiccup and Toothless’ most important scenes together, reminding everyone why they love the film so much.

Overall, this film was absolutely wonderful, and I would definitely say it’s the best film I have personally ever seen. I asked at the start of this review if the influence of Universal would affect film quality. Let’s put the answer this way – if this film is anything to go by, Dreamworks could be in Dreamland.

Overall Impressions: 20/20
Overall Film Rating: 97/100

Thank you for reading. If you like this review, you’ll love Dragon Heart, my story which takes an alternative look to the events after HTTYD2. You can find it at this link here:

Snooker Review 1: Does Snooker have a gambling problem?

Image courtesy of World Snooker

On the 1st December 2018, two snooker players were found guilty of match-fixing, and banned. These players were Yu Delu (World number 52 as of his ban), and Cao Yupeng (World number 44 as of his ban). On their own, these would not contribute a crisis, merely a sad case of greed overcoming sense. In context however, a deeper issue is revealed. 

Figure 1: Cao Yupeng, one of the players banned for betting offences. 

To explore the issue of gambling, first, we need to explore the exact laws of the sport’s governing body, the WPBSA, to understand the exact offences being committed. 
The relevant laws are laws and A breach of the rules to place, accept, lay or otherwise make a Bet with any other person in relation to the result, score, progress, conduct or any other aspect of the Tour and/or any Tournament or Match officially sanctioned by the relevant governing bodies. A breach of the rules to fix or contrive, or to be a party to any effort to fix or contrive, the result, score, progress, conduct or any other aspect of the Tour and/or any Tournament or Match. 

Now you can see the issues. The rules are clear in so much as you are not allowed to place bets on any matches, regardless of whether you are in the match or not. 

However, here is my issue. Under Barry Hearn, the sport of Snooker had grown exponentially. The sport is in ruder health than arguably ever before. But this rapid growth has come at a cost. 

The way the tour is run, players have to pay for their own travel to venues. This can get especially problematic when you are grafting to try and stay on tour, and spending any money you earn on travelling to your next tournament, hoping for that big break (no pun intended!)

This, inevitably, leads to some players looking to make money elsewhere. And betting is a lucrative way of doing this. The reason for this, is to do with Psychology (which is kind of handy!)

Gambling is often times described as a mug’s game. But the truth is that it is only a mug’s game if you cannot analyse the field correctly. I am not claiming that gambling is 100% fool proof, as all gambling carries an element of risk. 

What I am saying is that you can analyse. It only takes you to look at head-to-head records, current form, history in certain events/venues etc. The point I make is that you can make much money from playing the bookies and choosing long odds which you are confident in. 

My bigger issue with the gambling however, is sponsorship. The so called “Triple Crown” of Snooker (UK Championship, Masters, World Championships) are all sponsored by betting companies (Betway, Dafabet, and Betfred respectively). The last time any of these events was not sponsored by a gambling company was 2009 (Pukka Pies for the UK). 

I completely understand the reasons why these events are sponsored by gambling companies. These companies will offer their sponsorship, and much prize money, to encourage the humble working fan to place a bet with their company. 

On a personal note, this works. I placed my first ever bet in 2017. It was on the Snooker World Championship. And do you know where I placed the bet? That’s right – Betfair. Because they sponsored the event and therefore I thought of them first. 

So what’s my point then? My point is that the corruption of betting in snooker is caused in part by these betting companies sponsoring. Where is the encouragement to resist temptation when the temptation seemingly comes from the governing bodies themselves? 

I am not encouraging or glorifying betting or corruption by any means. The laws are there for a reason, and anyone who breaches them must be punished accordingly. 

So we come back to out initial question: Does snooker have a gambling problem? My answer is No. There are 128 players on tour at any one time, and over 120 of them can spend their time on tour apparently without breaching any betting laws. But I end on a more poignant question, regarding the players who have been caught out on these laws: Greed? Or Opportunity?

Project Spire + Blog additions.

Hi, not been here for a while, just an announcement about Project Spire. If you don’t remember, I don’t blame you, Project Spire is my plan to write my own novel, completely separate to my fanfictions.

Scheduling and ideas issues have lead to Project Spire to be entrenched in the planning stages in recent months. I am considering different ideas, but there is going to be nothing significant in the near future probably.

Therefore, this blog will become more of a general writing blog again. I will be sharing my views on writing, some of my stories, and any updates on my ambitions.

Please note that in no way is this me giving up on my dreams to have my own novel. Rather, it is an admission that I underestimated the challenges of completely fabricating an entire universe of my own creation. It will happen. It’s more of a not now. I am hoping to resume the planning in the coming days.

Also, I will be adding sporting content in the coming days: Snooker. I did predictions for the Snooker World Championships in April, but had to stop after the second round as I was revising for exams in early May. Thankfully I breezed through the exams, and am now preparing for University Year 2.

The snooker content will be opinions of mine on various news subjects, as well as predictions and previews for the major tournaments: Champion of Champions, UK Championship, Masters, and World Championships.

That’s all for now, until next time folks.

Project Spire Week 1

Right, this is my first update on Project Spire. If you are reading this and don’t know what Project Spire is, you do realise you can just read my last entry? If you don’t want to though, Project Spire is my aim to become a full-fledged author.

Now I must make one thing clear: this is not my ultimate career choice. This is just a side project, I have no intention of becoming an author as a career. Therefore, not all my time is focused on this.

As such, there is no active timescale for the completion of this. I will aim to get it complete as quickly as possible, but obviously I have fanfiction, I am starting a voluntary post soon working with people who have disabilities, and I have various other projects in the pipeline. But anyway, let’s get on with the update!

Project Spire Week 1

To start off with, progress was slow. I came into this with little, other than a vague idea of some recurring themes in the story. I first had to come up with the basic framework – who the main characters are, what they fight for, why they fight for it etc.

I also had to come up with a plot. There is no story unless you have a plot, a reason for people to actually read it. In the end, I chose a faux espionage plot, because it’s different from anything I have ever written before.

Therefore, as a start, I have most of the basic plot, the main characters (names as yet undecided), and I have a basic idea, which is building an army using black magic and force of character, as well as the blurb for the eventual novel.

If this isn’t making a great deal of sense at the moment, I am unsurprised. At the start, it doesn’t always make a lot of sense, due to you having to fill in gaps and coming up with different ideas at different times.

I have also been looking around for an illustrator to prepare the front cover for me, with no success as of yet. If you are, or know someone who is capable of preparing high-quality full-body pictures (preferably including anime pictures), please send me a link on twitter @PhiltheRenegade.

I will be back sometime next week to update on any more progress. If I’m not, that means there hasn’t been any significant progress. Until next time, All for the Renegades!

Should I stay or Should I go?

I haven’t posted for a while, because I have been considering the future of this blog. I came to the decision that while I enjoy commenting on Snooker, doing reviews and all the rest, I have to focus my piece of the internet on one particular area. And that is writing.

Writing is my one true release. It is the place in which I can keep my mind active, and embrace my creative side while having an outlet to express it at the same time. So if you want my Snooker reviews, I apologise, but am considering starting another blog dedicated to that. And I am open to doing game reviews in the future.

So that’s all for this post. I will continue to write my fanfiction stories, and I will not only update you on the progress of my storytelling and the joy and art of writing, I will also keep updating you on my new secret project: Project Spire. If you want to know what Project Spire is, I’m going to tell you now.

Because I write fanfiction (which I am mighty proud about), I am taking the next step, and looking to self-publish my own commercial novel. This will take shape in stages.

Stage 1: Basic plan – throw ideas at a wall (word document),  and see what sticks. Start with the basic ideas (who is the main character(s), what are they trying to achieve, how do they look to achieve this).

Stage 2: Framework: Build a plot around the basic plan. Fill in the blanks and work out who the supporting characters are, as well as finalising the aims of the characters.

Stage 3:  Fill in the Details:  Give everyone characteristics. Put faces to the names.  What makes them important.  Why do you care about them? What is the desired reaction?

Stage 4:  Write the novel:  Once the plan is complete, write the story itself. Draft and redraft, change any details which necessitate change, but stick to the plan where possible and update the plan where not.

Stage 5: Proof-read: Once the novel is complete,  read over it to check it makes sense. is everything spelt correctly? Are all character details consistent? Is there progress in the plot? If the answer to all this is yes, go to publishing.

Stage 6:  Aesthetics: Design the front and back covers. They have to be eye-catching, while reflecting the content. Make people interested enough to want to buy it. People buy with their eyes:  they will not buy unless they like the look.  Design the blurb, making sure that it is a synopsis of the plot, while not giving away much, keep people intrigued without telegraphing the end result.

Stage 7:  Dummy Run:  Have a few copies published for myself and a few trusted friends. Ask for their honest opinion: does the story flow, what do they feel reading it,  is the content easy enough to read while being engaging? Is it suitable for the target audience? This is the chance to get active feedback and change anything which is “imperfect”.

Stage 8: Publish: Make a final (certain) draft,  and then have it published, and hope people read and enjoy. And then get the next chapter ready, going through the same format.

I will keep people updated on Project Spire (hopefully every week!), so everyone can see how events are progressing. If you have any questions, find me on Twitter @PhiltheRenegade. Until next time, remember: the sky is the limit of your ambitions. It’s up to you how far away the sky is.

Snooker Predictions: Round 2

Right, so I did predictions for Round 1 of the World Snooker Championship last week, and I hope you read it. If you didn’t, why are you reading this? Anyway, I will now give predictions for Round 2, which is like Round 1, except with half the players, and even more snooker to be played (probably).

Firstly, I did quite well in the predictions for Round 1. As I write this, Judd Trump leads Chris Wakelin 8-7, so I cannot say if I got that prediction correct. However, I got 10/15 for the others. Therefore, I will only be predicting 7 matches, as oppose to 8. Here we go:

Joe Perry vs. Mark Allen: I have deliberately not seen the score of this match thus far. Perry was impressive against Mark Selby in Round 1, and Mark Allen had to fight to beat Liam Highfield, so both players will be up for this.

Joe is a very classy player, but hasn’t had the greatest of results since reaching the final of the Top 16 shootout the Masters in 2017. Mark on the other hand won the Masters this year, and I have him edging this one.

Prediction: Mark Allen, 13-11

Kyren Wilson vs. Jamie Jones

One of those which is pretty much an open and shut case for me. Jamie looked ambitious against Shaun Murphy, and knocked in a lot of chances that were left for him, hence him scraping through.

And therein lies the reason I don’t have him winning: Kyren is a different kettle of fish. He is very good tactically, and I’m not convinced Jamie will get 13 chances to win. Jamie may be better from long-range, but Kyren won’t leave him the chances.

Prediction: Kyren Wilson, 13-6

John Higgins vs. Jack Lisowski

Are you surprised about LIsowski winning? I’m not. He played very well and scored extremely heavily against a former World Champion. And now he faces another one.

Higgins had to work VERY hard against Thepchiya (sorry if I spelt his name wrong) Un-Nooh, and that is the worst thing that Lisowski could have wanted. Higgins has his game where he needs it. I see a similar match to Higgins and Un-Nooh, maybe without the planking on the table.

Winner: John Higgins, 13-9

Ding Junhui vs. Anthony McGill: How Ant beat Ryan Day I will never know. He was the worse player for a majority of the match, but the fact he won will give him confidence.

Ding’s never lost to McGill in 3 meetings, but this is a much longer format. However, Ant will have to really up his game to even challenge Ding, the way he played in Sess 2 against Xiao.

WInner: Ding Junhui, 13-6

Lyu Haotian vs. Barry Hawkins: Never back against Barry Hawkins in Round 2. Lyu played well against Marco Fu, but how well did he need to play?  Barry beat Stuart Carrington, but the standard was pretty dreadful in the second session. As I say though, don’t back against Barry.

Winner: Barry Hawkins, 13-4

Mark Williams vs. Robert Milkins: It’s the “we don’t like the surname Robertson” society. They met in the World Championships before. It ended very badly for Milkins. Willo was generally pretty good against Jimmy Robertson, who did give him a degree of help.

Milkins was his scrappy self against Neil Robertson, but Neil was frankly dreadful and deserved to lose. Williams is too good tactically to let Milkins in close enough for significant breaks.

Winner: Mark Williams, 13-3

Ronnie O’Sullivan vs. Ali Carter: Carter has an abysmal record against Ronnie (who doesn’t? Other than Elliot Slessor!), and even though he showed his graft against Dott, and however nice it would be to see Carter win again, I just don’t believe it will happen.

Winner: Ronnie O’Sullivan, 13-7

I’ll be back in a few days for the Last 8