The opening day of the China Championship is split up into three sessions of play with the held over matches being played out with a sprinkling of first round games mixed in on what looks to be a good first day of action.
The day sees the defending champion Luca Brecel begin his title defence while the likes of Stuart Bingham, Mark Williams, John Higgins and Ding Junhui all take to the green baize to get their campaigns underway.
Early Morning Session
The defending champion gets his quest for another title underway when he faces Joe O’Connor on one of the main tables in his held over match. The other main table will be occupied by Graeme Dott. He faces Bai Langning in the needless wildcard round for a place in the main draw.
The outside tables will be busy in this session. Tom Ford battles Nigel Bond in the first round while Mark Joyce and Joe Perry meet in what should be a competitive tussle. The other outside matches are all wildcard games with Jimmy Robertson facing Chang Bingyu, Mike Dunn plays Luo Zetao and Stuart Carrington meets He Guoqiang.
It is all about two stars of the game in the second session of the day with Liang Wenbo and Mark Williams the big attractions on the TV tables. Wenbo plays Alfie Burden in his held over match for a place in the first round while Williams takes on the dogged but dour Rod Lawler to make it into the main draw.
Elsewhere it is the first round all the way as Mark Allen faces Matt Selt on one of the outside tables with Jack Lisowski playing Kurt Maflin on another. Stuart Bingham is another big name away from the cameras. He faces Peter Ebdon and Anthony Hamilton goes up against Jamie Jones. Stephen Maguire faces Scott Donaldson and Mark Davis meets Xiao Guodong in what could be the pick of the matches on the day.
The crowds get to see their hero for the first time this week in the later session when Ding Junhui takes on Lee Walker on one of the main tables. It is the former champion John Higgins who does battle on the other when he faces Allan Taylor. The latter is a first round match with Ding playing his held over one.
Once again the outside tables will be full with some star names on them as Neil Robertson and Ali Carter are away from the spotlight. Robertson takes on Gerard Greene while Carter meets Fergal O’Brien. Michael White plays the home hopeful Mei Xi Wen and Dave Gilbert plays Hossein Vafaei in what should be a good contest. Sam Craigie meets Mark King and Alexander Ursenbacher faces Yuan Sijun in the other games.
I’ll go with a couple of bets on the opening day of action with the first one coming in the second session of the day where I expect Xiao Guodong to come through against Mark Davis. Guodong played some really nice stuff at the Shanghai Masters but ran into a Mark Allen who was in excellent form but I don’t see that happening again. This will be the first competitive match for Davis since the Paul Hunter Classic which was a good while ago and in truth although he made the last 16 there he didn’t have the toughest of draws. This will be tougher for the Englishman and in conditions that Guodong will be familiar in and in home surroundings he’s my pick.
Later in the day I think Hossein Vafaei could be worth taking. He hasn’t played in many events this season but he has qualified for every one that he has entered and is unbeaten for the campaign. He faces a test against Dave Gilbert for which the World Open finalist is a rightful favourite but the Iranian is a little overpriced at 6/4 given that he is yet to be beaten this term. Vafaei can scrap and he can score so there is enough in his game to take this price.
Back X.Guodong to beat M.Davis for a 4/10 stake at 1.80 with Coral
Back H.Vafaei to beat D.Gilbert for a 3/10 stake at 2.50 with William Hill