A shade over two months after Mark Selby lifted the world title in Sheffield, the new snooker season gets underway on Sunday when the entire tour are invited to the Morningside Arena in Leicester for the Championship League Snooker tournament.
Kyren Wilson won this quirky event last year to enjoy the benefits that come with it. He’ll be out to defend the title in a tournament which provides players the chance to get their cue arm going ahead of the bigger events to come later in the season.
2020 – Kyren Wilson
2020 – Luca Brecel
The whole tour are invited into the tournament with it now getting ranking event status. The 128 man field have been split into 32 groups of four in the first round. Each group is a round robin with everyone playing everyone else over the best of four frames with two points for a win and one for a draw. The player who tops the group goes through to the second stage where the 32 remaining players are split into eight more groups of four over the same format. Those eight winners then go into two more groups where the winner of each will battle it out in a best of five frame final for the title. Two groups will be played on each day until the final day when the Championship groups and final are played. The tournament are is being shown on Free Sports on TV and on Matchroom.live.
Judd Trump has dominated the snooker scene for the past couple of years but even though he failed to get his hands on the world title in that time, he goes off as the favourite to win this tournament. You would imagine the event is right up his street with the shorter format rewarding aggressive snooker. Trump made the final of the ranking event tournament that was held last season so he has form in the competition so you would have to think that if he has been on the practice table he is a large runner here.
Ronnie O’Sullivan never picked up the world title last season either but he will start out as a second favourite in this tournament. The first thing to consider though is whether he will actually turn up. He has entered the event but he did that last year only to pull out at short notice. If he does show up it suggests he will be up for having a go at winning it because these aren’t usually the events he gets himself up for. It isn’t even like he is looking to shift some rust because he plays early in the first stage so he would have a month until the proper ranking events begin. He always has to be respected but I think he can be passed over here.
Kyren Wilson actually won the ranking event and the non-ranking event of this tournament last season so to say that he loves the thing would be something of an understatement. As the defending champion he will be motivated to get the job done here and I suspect motivation could be an important thing for us betting on the competition here. He’ll be gutted that he couldn’t get home in the World Championship but he ran into a Shaun Murphy who was inspired in the last four. Wilson has shown an appetite for this event though which could mean something.
This isn’t really an event that you would associate with John Higgins but the fact he appears here shows that he is looking to start the season quickly. He had a disappointing World Championship so he’ll be looking to make up for that here. Higgins made the final groups of this tournament last season and only went out on frame difference so there is no problem with the format not suiting him or anything like that. If he has put some time in on the practice table he could be a live runner to take the title here.
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This is the third time this tournament has been run in this format so we have a little bit of a guide to go by and the four players who made the final group in the first event were: Luca Brecel, Ben Woollaston, Stuart Bingham and Ryan Day – four pretty attacking players who are decent under pressure, score heavily and get in from distance. The second year had the likes of Judd Trump, Zhou Yuelong, Kyren Wilson and Zhao Xintong making the final groups so that trend continued. They are all prepared to take risks as well and that is the sort of player I’m looking for in this third running.
I definitely think this is an event for the scorers rather than the safety playing plodders and of course in the previous events we saw a few groups decided by the highest break so I certainly wouldn’t want to be on someone who can’t score that well. In an ideal world we would have someone with a good long game and a bit of a snooker brain but we’re not going to get everything I guess. Definitely the scorers for me.
We don’t know the draw for the second and third groups which is a bit of a mess to say the least so we are largely having to bet blind on this tournament but given that Betway are offering four places on it, it would be wrong of us to refuse to indulge and as such I’ve picked out a couple of players who fit the profile above, who have a point to prove which I think is important as it means they will likely take it seriously and have been on the practice table, and who have a pretty kind first group.
Those two players are Tom Ford and Matt Selt, both of whom should be higher up the rankings than they are but who have shown they can get in the mix when they are in decent form. This is a home game for the Leicester man Ford which should help his motivation while Selt has done an interview on the World Snooker website claiming he wants to be consistent and lift his ranking. These two should come through their opening groups and from there who knows what happens but they are only a few wins from a payout then which reels me in.
Back T.Ford to win Championship League Snooker (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 41.00 with Betway (1/4 1-4)
Back M.Selt to win Championship League Snooker (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Betway (1/4 1-4)