Professional snooker returns on Wednesday with the qualifiers for the International Championship at the Metrodome in Barnsley.
60 matches will be completed over the course of four days in South Yorkshire, where fans are invited to go and watch the action unfold for free.
There are 128 players competing in this year’s International Championship, so you may be wondering why there are only 60 matches and not 64.
The reason for that is because four qualifying round ties – those involving world champion Stuart Bingham, defending champion Ricky Walden, and China’s numbers one and two Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo – are being held over to October’s main event in Daqing.
It will be interesting to see what kind of change the move from Chengdu to Daqing in the north-east of China will result in.
The International Championship began in 2012 amid the promise that it could become snooker’s fourth major and first outside the UK.
However, after a good start to its tenure on the calendar, the 2014 edition was arguably one of the most disappointing tournaments of the last campaign, with a dreadful turnout at the peak of the event’s problems.
That discussion can be reserved for next month, though, as the competitors back in England will simply be concerned about emerging victorious from their single encounter to ensure they are on a flight to the Far East.
Following the Australian Open and Shanghai Masters, this is the first ranking event of the season that requires the higher ranked players to enter from the opening stages.
This leaves the inevitable risk that one or more of the top stars will have an off day and fail to book their spot in China, which is great for the underdog but arguably a setback for the tournament itself and its sponsors.
The likes of world no.1 Mark Selby, former champion Judd Trump, last year’s finalist Mark Allen and Australian Neil Robertson all must safely negotiate a best-of-11 tie in Barnsley.
Masters champion Shaun Murphy faces one of the many Chinese in the draw, Lu Chenwei, who will surely be motivated in his attempt to qualify for a home tournament.
Recent Shanghai Masters champion Kyren Wilson tackles Malaysia’s Thor Chuan Leong, who proved he was no slouch by reaching the last 16 of the Paul Hunter Classic in August.
Irish trio Ken Doherty, Fergal O’Brien and David Morris are in action – the latter with a tricky tie against up and comer Sanderson Lam – while countryman Leo Fernandez meets Ben Woollaston as an amateur replacement to make up the numbers.
Antrim’s Allen is challenged by Scotland’s Scott Donaldson with fellow Northern Irishmen Joe Swail and Gerard Greene up against Allan Taylor and Martin O’Donnell respectively.
Ronnie O’Sullivan has opted out of this event and his participation in the upcoming Champion of Champions remains uncertain, so we could have to wait until the UK Championship for our first glimpse of the ‘Rocket’.
Categories: Snooker News