The UK Championship begins inside the Barbican Centre in York on Tuesday and it does so with a couple of sessions in the first round of the biggest tournament of the campaign so far, with spots in the televised stages the reward for the winner.
There are 64 matches in the first round of the competition so the big names are nicely spread out but on the opening day of play we get to see the likes of Neil Robertson and John Higgins taking to the green baize.
There are eight matches in all eight first round sessions this week. Two of those games are on the streamed tables which can be accessed at the bookmaker sites and on one of them to open up the play is the former champion Neil Robertson. He takes on the Maltese player Alex Borg for a spot in the second round. The other streamed offering sees Stuart Bingham looking to make progress when he takes on the potentially dangerous Chinese player Lei Peifan.
The closest first round match in terms of the world rankings is on one of the outside tables when Sam Craigie meets Tian Pengfei. Elsewhere, Ali Carter faces Brandon Sargeant, Li Hang meets Jamie Clarke and Liang Wenbo takes on Dominic Dale in what looks like a decent first round match. Lu Ning plays Joe O’Connor while the other match in the session sees Zhao Xintong going up against Alexander Ursenbacher.
This is the session where John Higgins will look to begin his quest for the UK Championship title once again. He will have to overcome the challenge of Peter Lines on one of the streamed tables if he is to progress. At the same time as that match is taking place, David Gilbert will take on James Cahill on the other streamed table in a match which sees two of the stars of the World Championship battling it out for a second round spot.
Once again the outside tables will be filled in this session. Noppon Saengkham faces Jackson Page in one of them while Anthony McGill meets Mitchell Mann on another one. Daniel Wells faces Zhang Anda in a pretty open match with the other games seeing Michael Holt looking to continue his good form against Adam Stefanow, Matthew Stevens facing Chen Feilong and Luca Brecel playing the former world finalist Nigel Bond.
I’ll go with just the one bet over the course of what is actually a tricky opening day of the competition in a lot of ways. There are a lot of favourites who are very short but out of form but then a lot of handicap lines which are either one frame too many or light or the prices don’t really weigh up taking the risk that is involved in getting stuck into them. There is one which just about fits the bill though which I’m happy to take.
That comes in the form of a Luca Brecel who played very well in the recent Northern Ireland Open and who I fancy will go well again here. He takes on Nigel Bond and while at the 1/5 mark he’s too short to back to win, the Bet365 asian handicap line of -3 is much more interesting. That means that if Brecel wins 6-0, 6-1 or 6-2 we win the bet, 6-3 win means we get our money back while 6-4 or 6-5 or any Bond win means we lose. I don’t think Bond scores well enough to get four frames here. In the tournament in Belfast, Brecel banged in three tons and a 60 in a 4-0 win over Matt Selt. That is the scoring power the Belgian has found again and that can overwhelm Bond here.
Back L.Brecel (-3AH) to beat N.Bond for a 4/10 stake at 1.85 with Bet365