A busy few days of action in the China Championship qualifying round reached a climax on Sunday at the Barnsley Metrodome.
Pencilled in to be the third ranking event of the 2019/20 campaign towards the end of September, the China Championship is another lucrative event that offers a champion’s cheque of a cool £150,000.
As such, the majority of the top players have entered this year, the third in a row that the tournament will be staged as a ranker.
Ronnie O’Sullivan was the usual absentee while the likes of world champion Judd Trump, former world number one Mark Selby, and home favourite Ding Junhui all had their China Championship qualifying round fixtures held over to the main venue in Guangzhou.
However, there were still a number of major stars who were forced to compete in the cubicles to gain that elusive victory that would send them jetting off back to Asia.
Two-time former winner John Higgins required all nine frames but managed to hold off Andy Hicks in a decider while Neil Robertson wasn’t at his free-flowing best in a 5-3 success over Gerard Greene.
The Australian will be among the bookies favourites in the betting odds and will be looking to narrow the gap on Trump at the top of the world rankings.
It was easier for third seed Mark Williams and Shaun Murphy, recently a runner-up in the International Championship in China, with the pair more easily dismantling the challenges of Andy Lee and Fan Zhengyi.
Mark Allen and Kyren Wilson recorded 5-1 thumpings while Jack Lisowski went one better with a whitewash hiding of Oliver Lines that featured five breaks above 50.
Luca Brecel, the champion in 2017, was another player who earned safe passage after a 5-1 victory over Zhang Anda.
It was more difficult for a few of the other top competitors with the likes of former ranking event winners Ryan Day, Marco Fu, and Joe Perry only prevailing with tight 5-4 scorelines.
Undoubtedly the biggest upset came in the form of Stuart Bingham’s 5-3 reverse against Jordan Brown.
Ali Carter also bowed out after losing 5-4 to Alexander Ursenbacher, at one point surrendering a telling advantage in which his opponent required three snookers in one of the earlier frames.
Surprise World Championship semi-finalist Gary Wilson lost to Jak Jones while Liang Wenbo exited at the hands of Mitchell Mann.
Despite the latter’s absence the host nation will be well represented, though, with Xiao Guodong and talented youngsters Zhou Yuelong, Yuan Sijun, Lyu Haotian, and Luo Honghao among those advancing.
Liang Wenbo’s loss will be a blow, as he has for many years lived in Guangdong, so practically counts as a local. With Zhang Anda, Xu Si and Andy Lee losing, Marco Fu will be the only Cantonese speaker to make it.
But Michael White lost again, from 3-1 up against Joe O’Connor. He needs a result from somewhere, as his career appears in free-fall now. He will be under enormous pressure from here to the end of the season.
You have a point about White. 74th on the provisional end of season rankings, so he has a lot of work to do.