After yet another week without any snooker on our screens, the International Championship qualifiers – or first round if you will – gets under way on Monday in Barnsley.
The postponement of the Indian Open until March of next year meant that the scheduled qualifiers for that event was moved from the week just gone by until February.
That change resulted in another barren spell and, while the second half of the season after Christmas will be hectic to put it mildly, this opening half has been somewhat stilted.
In fact, it’s been quite difficult to get into the 2014/15 campaign properly because just when some momentum appears to be building there comes another sudden stoppage.
If this continues in future years there must surely be a concerted effort to alter contracts with the earlier tournaments and delay their staging to allow for a more compact schedule – as expressed more expansively here back in July.
Indeed, after the qualifiers for Chengdu concludes, there’s another week off before the third European Tour event in Bulgaria while a further fortnight minus the baize subsequently ensues.
Anyway, that debate will be ongoing but the more pressing matter is that of the last 128 of the International Championship.
Now in its third year, the Chinese ranking event is quickly establishing itself as one of the most important, helped of course by the fact that it is one of the most lucrative.
Last year’s champion took home £125,000 and there was a whopping £625,000 up for grabs in total.
Unsurprisingly, the two winners of the tournament so far have been star names in Judd Trump and Ding Junhui and with the format slightly longer it is widely expected that the big guns will be firing again come the competition’s climax at the start of November.
Before all that, though, the likes of world champion Mark Selby, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, Ding, Trump et al will have to be wary of becoming an early casualty in South Yorkshire next week.
Inevitably, one or two out of the favoured band of top 10 or 12 competitors usually slip up in this round so it is just a question of who will it be on this occasion.
With no disrespect intended to the lower ranked players, let’s hope that scenario doesn’t befall on the likes of the ‘Jester’ and the ‘Rocket’, as the tournament would suffer without them.
Four Irishmen are in action with pros Ken Doherty, Fergal O’Brien and David Morris being joined by amateur John Sutton – who has been invited to play following his excellent results at Q-School back in May, where he narrowly failed to become a Main Tour graduate.
Sutton comes up against Jamie Burnett, which isn’t the worst draw in the world as the Scot has been struggling for form so far this season.