After a 17-year absence the tournament returns to the calendar.
The British Open begins on Monday morning with the random draw commencing at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.
After a frankly terrible curtain-raising event for the 2021/22 campaign with the mundane Championship League, a more familiar week-long format is being utilised for the upcoming British Open.
However, there are many critics of the system being implemented for this competition as well, with sprint matches once more the order of the day.
Prize, History, and Format
The British Open was once a staple on the Main Tour’s schedule, running annually from 1985 to 2004 at various popular venues such as the Assembly Rooms in Derby and the Plymouth Pavilions.
Most of the star names of that era ended up on the roll of honour, including Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, Jimmy White, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams, and John Higgins.
The latter, in fact, is in some ways the reigning champion, having been the last player to win the title in 2004 before its untimely demise.
Considering its history then, there was a lot of fervour when the announcement was originally made that the tournament would be making an unexpected comeback.
Much of that excitement dwindled considerably upon hearing the format, however, when it was later revealed that the early rounds of the British Open draw would take place over a paltry five frames, with a not-much-better final lasting eleven frames ultimately determining whose hands the hefty £100,000 champion’s cheque ends up in.
If it weren’t for the recent Championship League – arguably the worst ever tournament created from a fan’s perspective – there might be even more anger directed at the British Open’s short format.
As it is, supporters of the game are probably miffed but at least grateful to have a familiar knockout formula to follow throughout the week ahead.
There is certainly one positive aspect to this year’s British Open, which as in years past incorporates an exciting random draw that has already thrown up a few interesting first-round ties.
In reality there are wide range of formats on the calendar at present, which is overall a positive thing as it helps to keep things fresh, but attributing such a huge sum of money to an event with best of fives isn’t ideal and probably the main sticking point.
Crowds will additionally be welcomed back, the first time in almost 18 months that a tournament other than the World Championship will be able to greet supporters at the entrance door.
2021 British Open Draw
The random draw for the British Open was made a few weeks ago, and there were plenty of eyebrows raised on suspicion of just how random it was.
Mark Selby makes his maiden bow for the 2021/22 snooker season against Shaun Murphy, the man he recently beat in dramatic fashion to claim a fourth world crown at the Crucible Theatre.
Perhaps more intriguing is the bout between Mark Allen and women’s world champion Reanne Evans, former partners who have a daughter from their previous relationship and who currently don’t get along too well with one another.
Defending champion Higgins, if you can really call him that, takes on Alexander Ursenbacher while fellow former champions Hendry, Williams, and White face Chris Wakelin, Tian Pengfei, and Aaron Hill respectively.
Nigel Bond, the winner all the way back in 1996, and 1999 champion Fergal O’Brien encounter Duane Jones and Gary Wilson.
World number one Judd Trump is in action against Mitchell Mann while last week’s Championship League winner David Gilbert meets Matthew Stevens.
O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, and Ding Junhui are the high-profile players who have opted against participating in what is the second ranking event of this term.
There are quite a few other fixtures to keep an eye, but in truth it’s a bit of a lottery as any one of the 128 contenders could viably win the three frames necessary to advance to the next hurdle.
Selected Round 1 Fixtures
Mark Selby vs Shaun Murphy
Mark Allen vs Reanne Evans
John Higgins vs Alexander Ursenbacher
Stephen Hendry vs Chris Wakelin
Mark Williams vs Tian Pengfei
David Gilbert vs Matthew Stevens
Barry Hawkins vs Luca Brecel
Graeme Dott vs Martin Gould
Jimmy White vs Aaron Hill
Stuart Bingham vs Robert Milkins
Zhao Xintong vs Cao Yupeng
James Cahill (a) vs Ricky Walden
Judd Trump vs Mitchell Mann
Click here to view the full British Open draw (Times: CET)
Where to Watch the British Open
Viewers in the UK and Ireland will be able to tune into daily coverage on ITV4, with Eurosport broadcasting the event across the rest of Europe.
There will be an option to watch the first five days of the competition for free on Facebook for viewers in certain territories around the world, while title sponsor Matchroom.Live will also be providing coverage on its streaming service via a subscription.
For more information on the various viewing options, you can visit this official WST page.
This event has definitely been diluted compared to its heyday but at least it contains a few exciting features such as the random draw and free-to-air coverage in the UK. I still feel the first showpiece event of the season, however, will be the Champion of Champions in November.
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Any thoughts on the answers Jason Ferguson gave when asked about the format of the British Open?
To quote the article in the Metro, “Formats are a little bit short in this current year… a lot of people also like short formats, so we’re appealing to a mixed audience. Let’s see. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating and the broadcast numbers will tell us what fans thought.”
Does this suggest that if a lot of people watch the event then the numbers will tell them what the fans thought? After being deprived of snooker on TV for so long, many will watch it just because it’s on. There’s unlikely to be many hours of live snooker with the short format and apparently just the 2 TV tables so it could appeal to the casual fan as they may well see many matches completed in less than an hour.
It seems to suggest that if the number of viewers is large enough, they will hail it a success and repeat the format in other events!
The WST and WPBSA both like to keep things close to their chests, so it’s often hard getting an accurate read. Answers like those from Ferguson are common and are designed to cover all bases. What I would say is that snooker does in fact have a variety of formats, including longer matches like seen in the Tour Championship. Best of fives and lower in ranking events are not great, but it’s a complete myth that there are only short formats.
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