November 6, 2017

It’s COC Time: The Champion of Champions

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:47 am

Da ITV Massive

Yes folks, it’s that time of year again when I am routinely unfollowed on Twitter for making use of the best hashtag snooker has to offer. The Ricoh Arena in Coventry once again plays host to the Champion of Champions event featuring 16 winners of random events chosen in no particular order from the last 12 months.

The qualifying criteria for this is a thing of great mystery, the list doesn’t really appear to make a great deal of sense in terms of a pecking order, with the UK Championship and The Masters higher than the World Championship and the Championship League ahead of other more high profile events such as the International Championship and the Home Nations events.

Indeed the runner up in Sheffield is afforded the mantle of a champion anyway ahead of a few other events and even the winner of the Shootout gets in. It truly is back of a fag packet stuff at its finest.

As there are players who could have qualified for this more than once, the likes of Selby, Higgins, Trump, Ding and Ronnie, they often have the reach right down to arse end of the tour to make up the field. This time Neil Robertson gets in by the skin of his teeth by virtue of a win in Hong Kong that nobody watched, while 6 Reds Champion Mark Williams misses out.

Robbo didn’t just benefit from Selby winning in China yesterday and keeping Mark Allen out but also from Stuart Bingham’s suspension, so you might say Lady Luck has already smiled on the Aussie, though he does face O’Sullivan in his first round match so that kinda might even things out a bit.

OK, so the lowdown is that The Champion of Champions features 16 players who are split into four groups of four players with each group comprising two semi-finals played over seven frames in the afternoon session, followed by a final in the evening played over 11 frames.

The four group winners proceed to the best of 11 semi-finals, with the Group One winner facing the Group Four winner on Friday, November 10 and the players emerging from Groups Two and Three up against each other on the evening of Saturday, November 11.

The 19-frame final will be played over two sessions on Sunday, November 12.

I quite like this event. Though I do feel there are a couple of players missing who would have made it even better, in particular Allen, who seems to be coming into form. Other notable absentees are of course Williams, Ali Carter and Kyren Wilson, but the field still screams quality and the ITV coverage adds to the whole package. It’s a tournament that I’ll probably get to see a lot of this week, unlike some of the more recent ‘samey’ type events.

So let’s take a look at the draw:

Eyes are immediately drawn to Wednesday and Thursday’s groups. The tournament is arguably tailor made this year for O’Sullivan, who could in theory play two matches on Thursday, one evening session job on Friday, promote his new book and do some cooking on Saturday, before picking up the trophy on Sunday. But the same could of course be said for his main rival in the group, the holder John Higgins.

Group One for me looks to be a decent draw for Ding Junhui. Barry Hawkins hasn’t been playing too well so far this season, Anthony Hamilton has been rarely seen and rumours continue of his crippling back problems so I’d say Ryan Day is the main threat to Ding progressing to the weekend.

Group Two’s favourite has to be Shaun Murphy, Marco Fu is another who isn’t quite producing yet at this point in the season but it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility for either Michael White or Mark King to produce a semi-shock there, but I’ll stick with Murphy I think.

Group Three is an absolute corker, Selby should have had time to recover and is on his way home as I write, but the mouthwatering clash between Judd and Luca will produce a tough evening opponent for him assuming he takes care of Liang Wenbo in the afternoon.

Finally, let’s face it, we all want to see Ronnie v John on Thursday night over the best of 11 don’t we? Robbo continues to struggle with his form but McGill could put his little fly in the ointment given he has a decent record against his fellow Scot, for that reason alone I’d take O’Sullivan for this group given that the format suits him to the inch.

Overall, I’ll stick with Ronnie to win it but the permutations for this are so multiple and a final involving him or Ding, Murphy, Selby, Judd or even Luca is well on the cards. I’ll stick with trebles and an acca on the groups I think for now as it could still be a coin toss when the semi-finals are decided anyway so no real point going in on the outrights until then.

Recommended Bet: Trebles and an Accumulator on Group Winners: Ding, Murphy, Selby and O’Sullivan – Accumulator pays over 26/1.

Match Double: Day to beat Hawkins and White to beat Fu pays 9/2. Ding to beat Hamilton 4-0 at 17/4.  

As well as the ITV coverage this is also live on Facebook and a number of TV channels around the globe. Full details here.

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