The inaugural staging of the International Championship got under way today in Chengdu today as the top players go in search of the lucrative £125,000 top prize.
The sum will be the biggest awarded to a champion of an overseas event but it would be ironic if that piece of history was overshadowed by a wildcard lifting the trophy this day next week.
Because of course the perennial bane of all professional snooker players’ asses that are the wildcards don’t get paid for their participation – no matter how far they manage to get.
And, as always, the much lambasted round, which has become a feature of most tournaments outside of the UK and Ireland but particularly those held in the People’s Republic, has thrown up a couple of ‘shock’ results.
None bigger than the 6-5 defeat of 1997 world champion Ken Doherty by Zhao Xintong, ensuring that all of the Dubliner’s hard efforts to book his flight to China was now all but a waste of time.
Similarly, Michael White suffered decider heartbreak as he went down to up-and-coming superstar 14 year-old Lu Haotian.
Lu will be thanking his lucky stars because it is the teenager that benefits from world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan’s late withdrawal which means he now enjoys a bye into the last 16.
Two other pros avoided similar fates as Aditya Mehta and Cao Yupeng scraped past Zhu Yinghui and Wang Yuchen respectively while Fergal O’Brien (6-3) and Jamie Burnett (6-0) were both able to rightfully qualify for the first round proper with slightly less effort.
Much has been said of the wildcard round across many different blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages so for want of not being too repetitive I’ll keep this brief.
In a nutshell, wildcard rounds are understandable for tournaments that are getting off the ground in countries where snooker has not yet been fully developed – like in Germany, Australia or even Brazil more recently.
In China, this made perfect sense back in 2005 when the revolution began in the country but now that there are a full five ranking events – plus three PTCs – there, it is infuriating to see the round still exist.
Of course, a primary reason will be to do with sponsors and tournament organisers who wish to see more of their home nation players contend, whether or not that comes at the expense of people trying to earn a living seems irrelevant.
At any rate, for now it is there and appears set to stay so join me again in February when I’ll repeat the above rant again at the Haikou World Open.
Meanwhile, a pair of last 32 round encounters were contested as Shaun Murphy – my tip for glory this week – whitewashed Andrew Higginson while Neil Robertson fired in three tons en route to a 6-3 victory over Ryan Day.
The full draw and list of results can be viewed by clicking here.