Kyren Wilson Makes Halloween 147 – Amid Eerie Silence in Empty Venue

It’s more the Championship League than the International Championship.

This week’s ranking event in China is supposed to be the biggest in the country and, upon its inception five years ago, once made serious claims that it could act as the sport’s fourth major tournament.

But one would hardly recognise it as an important tournament, which carries a hefty winner’s cheque of £150,000, when tuning in to watch on the TV or online.

That is because so far this week, in keeping really with how the event has panned out for the last number of seasons, the action has unfolded in front of one man and his dog – or iPhone, rather.

Kyren Wilson today compiled a maiden maximum break of his career but it may as well have been a practice session as he received hardly anything in the way of applause.

That’s because there was practically nobody in the arena for today’s first session of the last 32, not even as defending champion and world number one Mark Selby battled to a 6-4 victory over Tom Ford.

On the adjacent tables, former International champions Judd Trump and John Higgins emerged triumphant while fellow marquee names Shaun Murphy and Ali Carter were also victorious in a ghostly, or perhaps ghastly, setting on Halloween.

Call it whatever you want, it looks absolutely ridiculous and no amount of strong sponsors or attractable playing conditions will give this tournament any believable sense of prestige.

In its inaugural staging in 2012, Judd Trump capped off what was a marvellous week of snooker with a thrilling 10-8 victory against Neil Robertson in the final.

On that occasion, there was a real sense that China had found a genuine major with the longer format, boosted prize fund, and back then even enthusiastic crowds offering it a true sense of importance.

However, straight away from the next year in its former home of Chengdu there were warning signs that its debut showing was a fluke and that reality has only escalated since the move to Daqing.

Daqing is in a remote area of China but this is the country that, remember, boasts way more than a billion people and reportedly gains millions of viewers in television audiences for these snooker competitions – especially on home soil.

It’s obvious that the powers that be are content with simply attracting the sponsors and TV viewership, because not enough is being done to ensure that the location of the venues is better suited to maximizing ticket sales.

These sales might not be the most important in terms of overall revenue for the sport, but in the sense of a tournament’s uniqueness it’s paramount.

Look at the German Masters, for example, which offers less in prize money and struggles to find decent sponsors but is widely regarded as one of the best tournaments outside the big three, thanks in no small part to its packed auditorium each day.

That said, it doesn’t even have to be a crowd of 2,500 people to make it look good, but a capacity of that amount left empty results in a hollow and altogether boring viewing experience.

While not quite as bad as this week’s case so far, and we do live in hope that it will get better as the business end of proceedings develops, the China Championship was similarly barren of bums on seats in Guangzhou earlier this season.

Some will point to the exit of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui on Monday, when there was a decent crowd in to be fair, but every event can’t be solely reliant on those two stars and the fans need to be convinced, whether it’s by reducing ticket prices or some other means, that actually attending can be a worthwhile experience to be enjoyed.

Kyren Wilson knocked in his 147 break today to tie his second round encounter with Martin Gould up at five frames apiece, thus providing a decider.

Gould had trailed 4-0 at the interval but raced back with a brace of centuries and a 91 to lead 5-4, before Wilson’s magical moment.

It wasn’t to be enough for the twice ranking event runner-up from this campaign, as a 70 break in the final frame sent Gould through at the 25 year-old’s expense in an altogether thrilling tie.

Not that anybody there took much notice.

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