The Shanghai Masters made its return on Wednesday as the qualifiers for the newly scheduled event began in Wigan.
There had been a certain degree of shock and dismay earlier in the campaign when the powers announced that the World Open would take place during the Shanghai Masters’ familiar spot at the end of September.
However, whispers soon began to surface that a tournament in Shanghai would survive and so it has been proven, with a new date pencilled in for the middle of November in China.
Of course, the Shanghai Masters will differ this year from all its previous outings as the former contract that resulted in it being one of the last events to carry the old tiered system to qualifying has come to an end.
This year’s edition, then, will transform into the now familiar open flat draw with all professionals starting off from the same round, in theory at least.
The last caveat has been put in place because another new announcement, that was also made this season in conjunction with qualifiers, has by chance come into force for the first time at this ranking event.
Rather than in the past when an event was topped off at 128, additional preliminary rounds can be utilised if warranted – due to the number of professionals on the Main Tour actually being 131 thanks to the three invitational tour cards, or the ever-popular use of wildcards is required.
The peculiar situation then is that the three preliminary round encounters to the actual qualifying round – lost track yet? – will actually be played at the venue stages, ensuring that those competitors will then actually have to win two matches before reaching the first round proper.
Confused? Well, it’d probably be helpful if the authorities didn’t keep chopping and changing everything mid-season but it’s actually all straightforward enough and it’ll become clearer with a quick look at the draw – which you’ll find below.
Anyway, day one at the Robin Park arena produced your usual array of drama, comfortable victories, and a few shocks.
Unfortunately, there was no play streamed on the Eurosport Player, probably as a result of the last-minute scheduling, but disappointing nonetheless.
The highlights, though, included several of the players who have already been featuring regularly this term.
China Championship winner Luca Brecel whitewashed Jak Jones 5-0 while Ryan Day, winner in Riga at the outset of the summer, hammered struggling Irishman Josh Boileau 5-1.
Stephen Maguire, who was runner-up in Latvia against Day, also progressed courtesy of a 5-1 scoreline while the somewhat rejuvenated Mark Allen and Barry Hawkins recorded 5-3 victories over respective Chinese opposition in Zhang Yong and Chen Zhe.
World Games gold medallist and former Shanghai Masters champ Kyren Wilson crashed out, though, losing by the same two-frame margin to veteran Gerard Greene while 2008 winner Ricky Walden’s struggles prolonged with a similar defeat to Mitchell Mann.
Walden has been suffering from several back injuries recently and has made only one ranking event quarter-final appearance in 18 months.
Meanwhile, Chinese quartet Yan Bingtao, Xiao Guodong, Yu Delu, and Wang Yuchen all managed to advance to one of their home events.
Elsewhere, former ranking event winners Mark King and Matthew Stevens were winners late in the day – the latter by knocking in a superb 122 in pipping Fang Xiongman in a decider.
Among some of the others to make it through to the last 64 were Michael Holt, Jamie Jones, and Tom Ford.
On Thursday, the likes of Shaun Murphy, Michael White, and Marco Fu enter the fray.