There are two tournaments left in the snooker season, and despite the sporting calendar being hit hard by the Covid-19 virus, the Tour Championship remains on the schedule and begins at Venue Cymru in Llandudno on Tuesday.
Ronnie O’Sullivan won this tournament reserved for the best eight players in terms of ranking money won on the season last year, but he hasn’t qualified for the event this time around meaning we will get a brand new champion.
2019 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
There are only seven matches in this tournament with the quarter finals being played over two sessions of action and the best-of-17 frames and the semi-finals over two more frames. The final is the only match of the season outside of the World Championship to be the best-of-25 frames with the winner being crowned over three sessions played on Saturday evening, Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening.
Top Four Seeds
Judd Trump has been the player of the season, winning an unprecedented sixth title of the campaign in Gibraltar on Sunday, and he is the top seed this week. Having won the Players Championship, he is in poll position to win the Coral Series to go with the BetVictor Euro Series which he scooped when landing the Gibraltar Open over the weekend. If burnout isn’t an issue the 7/4 favourite is very much the one to beat this week.
Shaun Murphy has been the number two seed throughout the Coral Series thus far and he remains that for the Tour Championship. The Players Championship semi-finalist looks to have a favourable draw here and with his eyes on a strong tilt at the world title next month, if it goes ahead that is, he’ll be looking for a big week here at 15/2.
English Open and Scottish Open champion Mark Selby arrives in Llandudno as the third seed this week. A couple of years ago he was as close to unbeatable over these kind of distances and you would find, but he hasn’t been in superb touch in recent times and there is a vulnerability about him. If he comes good though he’s more than capable of delivering a strong run for the title at 11/2.
Neil Robertson had the Euro Series snatched from his grasp at the weekend but he heads to Llandudno knowing that if he wins the Tour Championship he will also take the Coral Series title away with him too, so the Australian certainly doesn’t lack for motivation over the week ahead. The World Grand Prix winner will fancy his chances in Sheffield and as runner-up here last year looks a leading chance to go one better at 10/3.
Lower Four Seeds
The UK Championship winner Ding Junhui has made it in this week as the fifth seed. That title success is rapidly getting the look of a fluke result about it rather than the norm, because he has delivered very little of note either side of that it has to be said. He is 18/1 to win the title this week and while he would certainly have the capabilities of doing so if he is at his best, the general feeling is that he won’t be.
His countryman Yan Bingtao has been in excellent form since the turn of the year and all that has been lacking is a second title on the season to add to his win in the Riga Masters at the outset of the campaign. He made the final of the Players Championship and played some lovely stuff that week. He will fancy his chances over this longer format as well and could be a danger. There might just be one or two with a little too much nous for him for him to go all the way, but with Sheffield in his sights a good run would be no surprise.
Mark Allen was the number one seed for this tournament 12 months ago and comes here as the seventh seed this year. Illness has hampered him in recent times but at least we know if he turns up here he is fit and well as he’ll be encouraged to be in self-isolation otherwise. If there is a good thing from an indifferent spell it is that he’ll be fresh and eager to finish the season well. That can never be underestimated at this time of the season.
John Higgins is the eighth and final man into the field and whenever he is in a tournament he is dangerous, especially over a format like this which allows him to get his teeth into the contest. He wasn’t here last year so this will be an event that he’ll be relishing and he might well free up as a result. He should be underestimated at his peril based on his record in big events.
I’ll go with one bet this week and I’m very much avoiding the top half because arguably the three best chances are in that part of the draw in Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and John Higgins. The bottom half looks wide open with doubts over whether Shaun Murphy can keep up his good form and whether Selby is the force of old. That leaves Yan Bingtao and Mark Allen and I fancy the latter is worth a bet this week.
Allen hasn’t had his greatest season, I’m sure he’ll admit that, but he is in the field here so it can’t have been a terrible one either. In fact although he hasn’t made a final yet, he has made six semi-finals over the campaign and run into some monster performances in them it has to be said. Allen won’t want to go the whole season without a final or a title so I’m expecting him to be motivated both here and in Sheffield, but especially here given that we might not get to Sheffield. Although he was ill in Southport he still smacked in three tons in winning his first round game. If he beats Murphy in the first round this draw could open up quite quickly. At 14/1 he looks a value shot to me.
VOID – Back M.Allen to win Tour Championship (e/w) for a 1.5/10 stake at 15.00 with Betfred (1/3 1-2)