A farcical decision saw an already eliminated player given a second chance.
David Gilbert topped Group H in Stage Two of the Championship League, but much of the attention surrounded the withdrawal of Ronnie O’Sullivan from the competition.
The Rocket had won Group 32 last month to safely progress from Stage One, but it was confirmed on Monday morning that he would take no further part in the event.
Bizarrely, Group 32 runner-up Mark Joyce, who had already been knocked out of the tournament, was asked to fulfill the spot vacated by O’Sullivan.
The Championship League is promoted by Matchroom, which often stages events with formats and rules tailored to their own needs, but how this is deemed fair when this edition is being staged as an official ranking event has perplexed many.
Professional players Joe Perry, Alfie Burden, and Gary Wilson were among the people to complain about the unusual decision on social media, with former Matchroom chairman Barry Hearn rebuffing their concerns and claiming that the league format permits this kind of decision.
In last year’s Championship League, a similar situation occurred and the group continued with the three remaining players encountering each other in round-robin play twice instead of just once.
As it was, Joyce somewhat inadvertently saved the integrity of the tournament by mustering just a single draw across the day’s play, finishing last.
The absence of O’Sullivan left Gilbert as the obvious favourite, and the Englishman didn’t disappoint as he won all three of his matches with a perfect record which included a magnificent 143 total clearance against Craig Steadman.
Totally agree Alf. It happened last season when a player failed a Covid test and they played 3 in a group. Everyone played each other twice 🤷♂️
— Joe Perry (@joegentlemanjoe) August 9, 2021
In Group G, meanwhile, China’s Cao Yupeng continued his successful return to the sport having graduated from the CBSA qualifiers following the end of his match-fixing ban.
Cao, a former Scottish and Gibraltar Open runner-up, drew with compatriot Yan Bingtao in his first outing before sealing victories over Barry Hawkins and Matthew Selt to progress through to Stage Three from a tough group.
Six more groups in Stage Two are still to be completed this week, with Groups E and F taking place on Tuesday at the Morningside Arena.
Shaun Murphy, Graeme Dott, Ali Carter, and Gerard Greene contest Group E, while Stuart Bingham, Ryan Day, Alexander Ursenbacher, and Ashley Hugill are set to battle it out in Group F.
Live coverage continues on FreeSports and Matchroom.Live.
Click here to view the full draw (Times: CET)