I must admit, I carelessly forgot to check the schedule for this assuming that it started on Monday like all the other Chinese events but it’s actually Sunday in the early hours that the lucrative International Championship gets underway in Daqing.
John Higgins is the holder and his ‘held over’ match from the qualifiers against friend of the blog Syd Wilson is amongst the 24 matches taking place on the opening day, on account of this daft premise of taking the world and his dog to the main venue, rather than trimming the field to allow us to view more matches and give it a real sense of occasion. When this is suggested to Herr Hearn it meets with the old ‘makes no bizznizz sense’ response, which is a pity.
This championship in itself has always been a highlight of the first part of the season, particularly as it follows a longer match format from the start, with best of 11 framers being the order of the day, so at least we can thank them for sticking to this and not going down the lazy and rather boring best of 7 route so favoured by European tournaments.
Players coming into this in form you’d say are Judd Trump, Liang Wenbo, Ding Junhui and who can possibly leave out good old Matt Selt, who comes fresh from a tour event tournament win. Does he, you ask? Well, yes as Matt came through the event that only him and his Southern and Yorkshire pals seems to get wind of and is the new Haining Open Champion.
World Snooker followed an innovative new marketing concept for that one by only telling a couple of players and hoping they’d pass it on to the others just to be nice and not just keep schtum and try and win some dosh on the quiet. I believe next week the governing body are piloting a revolutionary communications method which involves two baked beans tins and a piece of string so let’s see how that works out.
So it’s a busy old day tomorrow with some of the matches due to get underway at 2.30am UK time. As ever Eurosport picks up the mantle of coverage, they are improving in leaps and bounds with the addition of a studio at European events but I’m not sure whether they will or can extend this to further afield, perhaps if they can find a piece of string long enough they could employ the new World Snooker patented communications strategy to help with this.
Ronnie O’Sullivan, who rumour has it is receiving a huge appearance fee just for turning up kicks off a rare foray to China on Monday against the dangerous and in form Xiao Guodong, I definitely wouldn’t rule out a shock there with the Chinese player as long as 9/2 in places to make home advantage pay. I have a good feeling about the Chinese players this week and fancy that we could see one of them lift the trophy next weekend, time will tell.
RECOMMENDED OUTRIGHT BETS: WIN – Ding Junhui @9/1 and Neil Robertson @17/2. EACH WAY – Ali Carter @66/1 and Xiao Guodong @200/1.
RECOMMENDED MATCH BETS: Value Punts – Zhou Yuelong (Ghou Yolonge) @5/2, John Astley @7/4, Daniel Wells @5/4 Xiao Guodong @9/2. ACCA – Jimmy Robertson, Martin Gould, Michael White, Michael Holt, Ryan Day and Li Hang pays over 10/1 at Hills.