2019 China Championship
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Preview: 2019 China Championship

The third ranking event of the campaign gets under way on Monday with the start of the 2019 China Championship in Guangzhou.

There has been quite a lot of snooker already this season but ranking events have been somewhat few and far between.

While a lot of the higher ranked players have enjoyed the luxuries of being invited to various invitational events on the calendar, several of the lower ranked competitors have been irritated by the lack of opportunities to compete.

Indeed, since the World Championship qualifiers in mid-April, a period when most of the tour would have played their final games of last term, there has only been the Riga Masters and International Championship to earn money from for many.

This has led to some overexaggerated claims of a return to the part-time days of a decade ago.

However, let’s not become irrational.

There are still at least 15 more ranking events to go before the end of this campaign and the months ahead will become more frenetic as time goes by.

Mark Selby returns to Guangzhou as the defending champion, with this event representing the only one that the former world number one triumphed in during an unusually barren 2018/19 season.

The three-time world champion is among a select few players who had their qualifying round fixtures held over to the main venue.

Selby takes on Chen Feilong in his preliminary match while current world champion Judd Trump enters at the same stage along with Chinese pair Ding Junhui and Yan Bingtao.

For Selby and Ding, the 2019 China Championship marks one of the last chances available for them to capture a title that would simultaneously grant them with an invitation into the prestigious Champion of Champions in November.

Mark Williams is in a similar boat having failed to grasp his hands on any silverware since the World Open last summer.

The Welshman faces countryman Kishan Hirani in the last 64 and is in a difficult section of the draw that also features Ricky Walden and former China Championship winner Luca Brecel.

While the draw suffers from a notable absence in Ronnie O’Sullivan, the majority of the other heavy-hitters will be in action.

That includes last year’s runner-up John Higgins, Australian Neil Robertson, former Masters champion Mark Allen, and the in-form Shaun Murphy.

Murphy has reached the finals of two tournaments in China in recent weeks – losing to Trump in the International Championship title decider before a narrow reverse at the same hurdle to O’Sullivan in Shanghai.

The “Magician” faces a tricky opening obstacle in the form of teenage prospect Yuan Sijun, one of the many players from China who will be attempting to perform well on home soil.

In general, the early rounds of these ranking events can be difficult to predict and it can often simply come down to which four or five cuiests discover form at the right time.

Another significant factor could be how well each player deals with the conditions.

While some players strive in loud surroundings with a boisterous and energetic crowd to contend with, that might not exactly be the case in this tournament.

The China Championship has been a fixture on the schedule since 2016 but, like a lot of the other events staged in the country, has generally failed to attract large crowds or an inviting atmosphere on a consistent basis.

The money is good, though, which is one of the reasons why there aren’t too many complaints from the players themselves and why, sometimes to the confusion of fans in other parts of the world, tournaments continued to be held there.

With a total prize fund of £751,000 and a champion’s cheque worth £150,000, the 2019 China Championship provides the next opportunity for players from top to bottom to earn their way from the game.

Live coverage is on Eurosport.

Click here to view the 2019 China Championship draw (Times: CET)

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