The first round of the UK Championship concludes on Thursday, when three more sessions of snooker takes place inside the two halls in the Barbican Centre, on the final day of action before the televised stages begin.
We have had to wait three days but Thursday will see Ronnie O’Sullivan begin the defence of his title while the likes of Mark Allen and the world champion Judd Trump also take to the baize on a day when the tournament cranks up a gear.
Before the true big guns come out to play we have a couple of players from the second tier on show on the main tables. Jack Liswoski is the highest ranked player in this first session of the day and he occupies one of the streamed tables when he goes up against the leading amateur of the past David Lilley who is looking to make a name for himself in the pro ranks. One man who has already done that is Yan Bingtao and he meets Igor Figueiredo on the other main table.
As they have been all week, the outside tables are full in this session with Xiao Guodong on one of them when he takes on Rod Lawler in what could be a clash of styles. Robbie Williams meets Luo Honghao while there is an all-Chinese battle when Zhou Yuelong takes on Fan Zhengyi. Anthony Hamilton had a good run in Northern Ireland recently and he’ll be looking to continue that against Sam Baird while Alan McManus meets Elliot Slessor. The other match in this session sees Ken Doherty going up against Mei Xi Wen.
The world champion Judd Trump is the headline act in this second session of the day. He takes on Amine Amiri in a match he will be expected to dominate while the other main table will be occupied by another player who has triumphed at the Crucible Theatre during his illustrious career in Shaun Murphy. Murphy has already made three finals this year and begins his quest to make it into a fourth one when he takes on Eden Sharav.
Some good players are on the outside tables as you would expect. Tom Ford is one of those and he faces David Grace while Mark King meets Chang Bingyu for a place in the second round. Michael White meets Fergal O’Brien in one of the closer matches of the day while Martin O’Donnell takes on Kishan Hirani. The other two matches sees the Norwegian ace Kurt Maflin facing up against Thor Chuan Leong while Joe Perry has a match he needs to win when he meets Simon Lichtenberg.
Ronnie O’Sullivan begins his title defence in the final session of the first round as he headlines the evening action. He takes on one of the few amateurs in the field in Ross Bulman and that will obviously be on one of the main tables. The other match table will see Mark Allen beginning his quest for a second Triple Crown title when he takes on the legend that is Jimmy White in what will be an entertaining one to watch.
The Shootout champion Thepchaiya Un-Nooh is the main attraction on the outside tables in this session. He meets Jamie O’Neill in a match he’ll be expected to win. Robert Milkins is another on show when he plays Harvey Chandler. Liam Highfield meets Mike Dunn on another table while Ben Woollaston takes on Zhang Jiankang. The European Masters winner Jimmy Robertson is also in action in the evening session when he takes on the Polish star Kacper Filipiak while the other match sees Chris Wakelin meeting Ashley Carty.
I’ll go with a couple of bets over the course of the day with the first of them coming in the morning session where I’m taking on Luo Honghao with Robbie Williams. I highlighted Honghao’s form in the Northern Ireland event recently and although he won his first round there he was soon put in his place. Williams is actually in better form this season than his results suggest and he’ll probably be quite happy that he can’t meet Kyren Wilson until the semi-final of the tournament as the ‘Warrior’ has took care of him in three events this season which is quite amazing misfortune for Williams. Williams showed some good form in Northern Ireland and I fancy him to continue that here.
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh has already met Jamie O’Neill once this season and beat him 5-1 and I fancy him to have things his own way again here. O’Neill hasn’t had a good campaign thus far. That came against Sunny Akani in Belfast a couple of weeks ago but he was then duly trounced 4-0 by Mark Allen in the following round. His best result was probably a 4-3 loss to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the English Open but Ronnie was giving him no respect at all and trying to pot things off the lampshades. Un-Nooh is actually capable of doing that. He is getting closer to the top 16 in the world which is where his talent belongs and I expect him to have no problems in taking care of the Englishman here.
Back R.Williams to beat L.Honghao for a 4/10 stake at 2.00 with Betway
Back T.Un-Nooh (-3.5 frames) to beat J.O’Neill for a 4/10 stake at 2.20 with Coral