October 31, 2016

The China Championship Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:44 am
You Win Again

You Win Again

This week a select few are staying on in China following the conclusion of the International Championship to play in this new ‘invitational’ event, the originally named China Championship which sees 16 players play off in a kind of Chinese Masters (probably a better name) type tournament for a winners cheque of £200,000, the biggest prize ever to be awarded in snooker outside the UK.

There are lots of reasons to be excited about this event, firstly and most obviously the prize money is huge, secondly, the matches are best of 11 right up to the best of 17 frame semi-finals and the best of 19 frame final and thirdly, there are only 16 players in it, giving it a real feel of exclusivity and prestige.

Unfortunately, the plan is that next season it’s opened up to 128 players and made into a ranking event exactly like the International Championship, the winners prize money will also be reduced to £150,000. For me, this is missing a golden opportunity to really embed a new format into the calendar and retain a Chinese Masters style tournament rather than it morphing into a replica of what came before. 

Part of the appeal of The Masters is the fact that the 16 who are lining up there have earned their place, this is why I put the word ‘invitational’ in inverted commas at the start of this post, because the players who are here, barring two of them, namely Marco Fu and Liang Wenbo who have been nominated to play by the Chinese Snooker Assocation, are here on merit having performed best in the early part of the season, so this really gives the players who have hit the ground running this season a decent reward for doing so.

It’s unfortunate that Ronnie O’Sullivan isn’t in the starting line up, having pulled out a couple of weeks ago. It’s not clear why he did this or indeed if the decision was entirely his own, but the beneficiary of him dropping out is laid back Welshman Mark Williams who replaces him and is therefore guaranteed £15,000 just for turning up.

The top seeded player is newly crowned International Champion Mark Selby who lines up after a hammering of Ding Junhui in that final. Selby is as close as anyone has come for a number of years in terms of domination, he had a slight trophy blip last season of course but then ended up winning the World Championship, you have to go back to season 2008/9 as the last season he failed to win something and he has also been world number one now at the end of the last five seasons.

Will he be able to take his form with him here? Well, judging by the way he won there seems very little reason why he won’t and for me he remains the player to beat in this. But there are plenty of other contenders should The Jester stumble, unfortunately however both Judd and Ding will be smarting a bit from their hammerings last week, Robbo doesn’t yet seem to be hitting top form, John Higgins seems to be struggling when really asked a question by a top player, Stuart Bingham is another who will want to forget the manner in which he was dumped out last week, Shaun Murphy perhaps may come into this as a dark horse given he played superbly in narrowly losing to Judd and I’d imagine that Ali Carter will also fancy his chances if he gets past Judd in the first round.

So, for me I’m going to go with a Selby (5/1) versus Murphy (14/1) final with an outside punt on Carter (33/1), but I’ll probably just bet on this for a bit of fun as every match could go either way, just looking at the first round below you’d imagine there will be some absolute crackers in there.

Let the Chinese Masters commence and hopefully continue next year and beyond in this format. It’s covered as ever by Eurosport.

Top Half

Mark Selby v Anthony McGill
Mark Allen v Ricky Walden
John Higgins v Mark Williams
Judd Trump v Ali Carter

Bottom Half

Shaun Murphy v Joe Perry
Ding Junhui v Marco Fu
Neil Robertson v Michael Holt
Stuart Bingham v Liang Wenbo


TV Schedule

Tues 1 Nov
0630-0930 LIVE day one on Eurosport 1
1130-1430 LIVE day one on Eurosport 1

Wed 2 Nov
0630-0930 LIVE day two on Eurosport 1
1130-1430 LIVE day two on Eurosport 1

Thurs 3 Nov
0630-0930 LIVE quarter-finals on Eurosport 1
1130-1430 LIVE quarter-finals Eurosport 1

Friday 4 Nov
0630-0930 LIVE semi-finals on Eurosport 1
1130-1430 LIVE semi-finals on Eurosport 1

Sat 5 Nov
0630-0930 LIVE final on Eurosport 1
1130-1430 LIVE final on Eurosport 1

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