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  • Betway 2019 UK Championship

    Not long to wait for another Tournament . Anyone know when the draw is made ?
    Still trying to pot as many balls as i can !

  • #2
    Originally posted by neil taperell View Post
    Not long to wait for another Tournament . Anyone know when the draw is made ?
    Not sure - but I will be there 26-28th
    https://www.ebay.co.uk/str/adr147

    Comment


    • #3
      The draw is out
      https://www.worldsnooker.com/betway-...-and-format-2/

      Comment


      • #4
        Fraser Patrick v Mark Williams and Jimmy White v Mark Allen .......2 tough matches there for the underdogs.
        Still trying to pot as many balls as i can !

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by neil taperell View Post
          Fraser Patrick v Mark Williams and Jimmy White v Mark Allen .......2 tough matches there for the underdogs.
          Very bad draws - but a lot of shocks to come I am sure.
          https://www.ebay.co.uk/str/adr147

          Comment


          • #6
            4 more days of boredom.
            Can't wait for this pandemic to end so we all can start playing again.

            Comment


            • #7
              What TV channel is it being shown on ? please dont say Eurosport
              Snooker is a game of simple shots played to perfection, Joe Davies

              Comment


              • #8
                EUROSPORT!
                and Eurosport Player


                and BBC

                this is one of the few that BBC will be covering

                BUT only from the middle Saturday
                "traditionally" no play on first Friday - presumably to allow the BBC to get their kit together.
                but Eurosport will start from Tuesday

                Remember - BBC usually use their Red Button (RB) channel to cover the snooker live when not on main channel, and also for table 2 as well.
                On Sky this channel is 981 and of course you can record and pause etc.
                I don't know the channel for RB on the other platforms.
                Last edited by DeanH; 22nd November 2019, 10:16 AM.
                Up the TSF!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by John Flaf View Post
                  What TV channel is it being shown on ? please dont say Eurosport
                  Not a lover of Eurosport ?
                  Still trying to pot as many balls as i can !

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Soon be time to get some bets on... first couple rounds are always good for some fun accumulator punts

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by John Flaf View Post
                      What TV channel is it being shown on ? please dont say Eurosport
                      John, don’t know if of any interest to you but therz a Black Friday offer available for the Eurosport Player. 19.99 for a year. Haven’t looked at the small print but I think I’ll sign up. Will give me my “snooker fix” when nothing available on normal channels. I had it last year. Got it FREE cos I signed up for a trial of Amazon Prime. Think the coverage was ok. Can’t remember who the commentators were.
                      I’ll be watching the UK on BBC but the Player will fill in the gap till BBC coverage starts.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I have had ESPlayer subscription for a few year now and it works really well, tip, when two tables are on sometimes you have to refresh the "on now" screen as often only one table will display.

                        A good shout Nifty, I got 12-months last March for ?19.99 and my account info says that it will renew at the same

                        https://auth.eurosportplayer.com/product


                        I tend to try to watch BBC especially for the fill-VTs they do which are great but still slide to ES for the commentators as many of the old lot on BBC drive me to distraction - lets hope the BBC has McManus and maybe some others this year
                        Up the TSF!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by neil taperell View Post

                          Not a lover of Eurosport ?
                          Not at all Neil I've never watched it, I just don't like the idea of paying subscriptions to anyone when I pay a TV licence fee, so I will watch it on the Beeb. I watched the NI open on quest as I have free sat TV
                          Snooker is a game of simple shots played to perfection, Joe Davies

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            So, the UK Championship starts tomorrow...

                            It is the 4th major ranking event of the season and the first one staged outside of China. Unfortunately the tournament has lost most of its prestige in recent seasons and now ranks behind the China Open in prize money and average length of matches. Still, all the best players in the world are here, so there should be a good atmosphere and some good snooker played, and this could also be a good opportunity to revitalise this forum a little bit. I will do my bit by having a quick look at the draw...

                            Quarter 1:

                            Ronnie O'Sullivan v. Ross Bulman
                            Sam Craigie v. Tian Pengfei
                            Noppon Saengkham v. Jackson Page
                            Anthony McGill v. Mitchell Mann
                            Ding Junhui v. Duane Jones
                            Michael Georgiou v. Oliver Lines
                            Ali Carter v. Brandon Sargeant
                            Robert Milkins v. Harvey Chandler

                            Ronnie O'Sullivan is top seed as defending champion and, since this tournament is strictly seeded according to the rankings, he could have expected a slightly more favourable section than the one he got here. As always though, O'Sullivan's chances will mainly depend on how well he plays himself, because he is still a class above anyone he is likely to face until at least the semi-finals. He has only appeared at the venue stage of four events this season, but he has mostly been successful, with a title in Shanghai and strong runs in two other events where he was beaten in close matches against two of the very best players in the world. This is the part of the season where O'Sullivan usually plays his best snooker these days. The UK Championship in particular has probably been his strongest event in recent times, with three wins and a final from his last four appearances. Definitely my favourite to come through this section, and probably one of the safest bets to do so in the entire draw this year.

                            The reason I say O'Sullivan's draw could have been more favourable is mainly that Ding Junhui is potentially a much stronger player than you would normally expect the 16th seed to be. I say "potentially", because the reality is that Ding is sliding further down the rankings with each event, and he doesn't really seem to have the ambition or the motivation to turn it around at the moment. He only reached one ranking QF in the entire last season, and it looks like it will be more of the same this season, with one lone run to the QF of the International Championship and a bunch of early exits. It's also been years since he last had a good result in the UK Championship or any other event in this part of the season. Ridiculously poor run of results at an age where he should be playing his best snooker, but obviously there is always the potential for him to find his form and play a big part in this event. On the other hand, he could go out in the 1st round again, against Duane Jones who actually beat him during that miraculous run to the SF of the German Masters last season.

                            Same thing with Anthony McGill to be honest. Instead of becoming a real contender in the major events, he went an entire season without reaching the business end of any event, minor or major, which is a really poor statistic in this era for someone of his class. Like Ding, he has extended his dreadful run of results into this season as well, which means he hasn't reached a ranking QF for 20 months now. Hopefully he can turn it around soon, otherwise he is sure to drop out of the top32 in the near future. Ali Carter is another player who is still waiting for a good result this season. I remember him being one of the most popular players on this forum back when it was still booming, but I don't think he has gotten many new fans recently with his miserable demeanour any time things don't go his way. Even his comments after losing to Gary Wilson in the WC were just plain unpleasant, and I don't think you can expect any great success if you don't approach the game in a positive manner.

                            Of the less prominent names, I think Noppon Saengkham could be worth keeping an eye on. He is the kind of steady, methodical player that could benefit from the matches being slightly longer here, and he came within a frame of reaching a major ranking final last season, so I would expect him to play a good tournament or two this season as well at some point. Tian Pengfei as well, although all of his best results so far have been in the short format, including a run to the QF of the English Open this season. He actually has a positive record against O'Sullivan whom he would most likely play in the 2nd round here, and I'm sure some people will remember the controversial win he had against him in the 2010 China Open, when it was suggested that O'Sullivan missed a black off the spot on purpose to lose 5-3 instead of going into a decider. Ancient history now of course, but still a somewhat interesting talking point if they do end up playing each other this week.

                            Li Hang v. Jamie Clarke
                            Xiao Guodong v. Rod Lawler
                            Marco Fu v. Craig Steadman
                            Kyren Wilson v. Riley Parsons
                            Liang Wenbo v. Dominic Dale
                            Tom Ford v. David Grace
                            Daniel Wells v. Zhang Anda
                            Shaun Murphy v. Eden Sharav

                            The second section is a little more difficult to call, but two players do stand out. Shaun Murphy has probably been the second most successful player of the season behind Trump, especially in the biggest events. His triumph in the China Championship was actually his first ranking title outside of the short format in more than five years, and he also reached the finals of the International Championship and the Shanghai Masters. Almost all of his losses this season have been against world-class players, which is nice to see after the struggle most of last season was for him. An in-form Murphy is definitely still a strong force in the game, especially in this format, and I'm sure he will be looking to redeem himself here after losing to a complete outsider in the opening round a year ago.

                            Kyren Wilson should be the biggest obstacle standing in Murphy's way here. It would actually be an interesting clash to see, because they've only ever met once outside of the short format. I definitely expect Wilson to challenge for the big titles this season. He did last season as well, most notably winning the German Masters in February, but he still needs to make another step up to really match the best players in the world. So far this season he has come up a little short, with the run to the SF of the World Open probably being his best result. He had a pretty favourable draw that week though and, to be honest, he really should have beaten Un-Nooh in the SF from well ahead. I think he does live up to his nickname most of the time, which is something I really like about him, but unless he is really in top form he can't quite match the firepower of someone like Murphy (who, by the way, has the stupidest nickname in all of snooker and we should all collectively make the decision to just ignore it ).

                            Even though the rankings don't quite agree, I think this section looks to be filled with players who could potentially cause problems for the two favourites. The Chinese contingent for instance. I mean, Liang Wenbo as the 40th seed just looks incredibly misleading, because this is a player who has won a title and spent time in the top16 not that long ago, and his age suggests he should be in the prime of his career at the moment. Unfortunately things haven't quite worked for him, and he has actually failed to reach the business end of any event that carries ranking points for the past two seasons and a half, which, like I said earlier, is a terrible statistic nowadays with so many tournaments available. Let's not forget he is a former finalist here, and always a crowd favourite. In any case, it should be a good opening match against Dominic Dale, probably one of the best prospects of the 1st round. Xiao Guodong had a minor drought himself a few years back, but he seems to be going in the right direction again, climbing up the rankings without doing anything spectacular. I actually think he is a very underrated player who could easily come through this section if things work out for him. Li Hang also, a very steady player, well-suited to the slightly longer matches, although his best result this season came in the short format, a QF in Riga. And of course we have Marco Fu here as well, clearly a more dangerous player than his ranking of 56 suggests. He hasn't been able to regain his form after taking a short break from the game two seasons ago, but it's worth remembering he was a top8 player before that, so you never know.

                            Another player worth keeping an eye on here is Tom Ford, who survived a number of deciders to reach the SF last year, arguably his best achievement in snooker to date. This season he has followed it up with runs to the QF of the International Championship, beating Wilson along the way, and the SF of the short-format English Open, where he actually beat both Wilson and Murphy in the early rounds. We could actually have a bit of a grudge match here if Ford and Liang meet in the 2nd round, as I'm sure a lot of people will remember Ford losing to Liang 6-5 in the last16 here four years ago, then criticising his style and pace of play after the match instead of taking responsibility for his own poor play. On the other hand, if David Grace beats Ford in the opening round, a match against Liang would actually be a repeat of the SF from that year, although I am by no means expecting Grace to play a big role in this event. In fact, I can't remember any other semi-finalists in any event of this stature who've had an otherwise such an unremarkable career as Grace has.

                            Quarter 2:

                            John Higgins v. Peter Lines
                            Lu Ning v. Joe O'Connor
                            Matthew Selt v. Ian Burns
                            Michael Holt v. Adam Stefanow
                            Stuart Bingham v. Lei Peifan
                            Martin Gould v. Alfie Burden
                            Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v. Jamie O'Neill
                            Zhao Xintong v. Alexander Ursenbacher

                            Similar section to the previous one, with two players clearly standing out. Compared to other top8 players, John Higgins is experiencing a bit of a drought as far as titles are concerned, with the 2018 Welsh Open being his most recent one, but he has also shown good consistency in getting to the business end of tournaments. This season he has done so twice, getting to the SF of the World Open where he pushed Trump all the way, and also to the SF of the Northern Ireland Open in the short format, again losing to Trump. He's got quite a favourable draw in the early rounds here, so I would expect him to make the last16 fairly comfortably. That said, Lu Ning did push him all the way in Yushan this season, and Joe O'Connor surprisingly beat him in the QF of the Welsh Open last season, in a run that he hasn't come close to repeating since.

                            It was actually Stuart Bingham who beat O'Connor in the SF that time, and he is the one player I would put on par with Higgins here. The rankings have him at 12th, but it's worth remembering he had to skip several events during his suspension two seasons ago, and those are exactly the points that have kept him outside of the top8 at this point in time, even though he probably belongs there with the kind of snooker he is playing. Well, maybe not if we only take the first part of this season into account, because his best result is only a QF in the World Open. He did produce some of the best snooker anyone has played all season to get there though, scoring four centuries and a 97 in his win over Selby. He then lost to Higgins in the following round, adding to his 13-11 defeat in the World Championship, and Higgins again beat him in the Champion of Champions a few weeks ago, so the edge is definitely with the Scot if they run into each other here.

                            The third favourite in this section would probably have to be Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, a finalist in the World Open this season. Despite his proficiency in the Shoot-Out and his ridiculously fast pace of play, all three of Un-Nooh's best results in normal snooker have come in the major events, and by major I mean those with matches of at least medium length. They weren't flukes either, he had to beat some strong opponents each time. I still stand by what I said about him after the World Open though. His decision-making on the table is just not good enough at the moment, and I don't think he will magically become a top player solely with the injection of confidence he got from that result. Martin Gould actually plays the game in a similar manner to Un-Nooh, but I think it would be somewhat safer to dismiss him here, because his results over the last two years have been nothing short of dreadful, and he has slipped all the way down to 53rd in the rankings as a result. And we have another couple of really attacking players in this mini section, with Zhao Xintong and Alexander Ursenbacher meeting in the opening round. Zhao prevailed when they met in the last16 of the Welsh Open last season, before becoming another one of Bingham's victims in the QF, but so far this season he hasn't had a particularly good run in any event yet. Ursenbacher has had more success, getting to the QF of the Northern Ireland Open just recently, beating Bingham along the way.

                            Of the more experienced players we should also mention Matthew Selt, who took advantage of an easy draw to reach the SF of the Riga Masters in the short format this season, adding another good run to his Indian Open title from last season, and Michael Holt, a quarter-finalist in the World Open a month ago.

                            Stuart Carrington v. James Wattana
                            Yan Bingtao v. Igor Figueiredo
                            Peter Ebdon v. John Astley
                            Jack Lisowski v. David Lilley
                            Mark King v. Chang Bingyu
                            Lyu Haotian v. Andy Lee
                            Robbie Williams v. Luo Honghao
                            Neil Robertson v. Alex Borg

                            One of the weaker sections of the draw in my opinion and one where it's difficult to see any major surprises happening. Neil Robertson is just a class, or rather two classes, above his competition here, so he would need to be out of sorts, or someone would need to play unusually well to stop him reaching at least the QF here. It seems unlikely though, as Robertson's period of mediocre results definitely came to an end last season when he won three of the six finals he played in, most notably the China Open in April, which was his first title of that kind of prestige since his triumph in the UK Championship back in 2015. To be fair, he underachieved in the big three Chinese ranking events in the first part of this season (failing to qualify for one of them due to his poor orientation skills ), but his triumph in the Champion of Champions was fairly good compensation. Even more so because he beat Trump in the final, making him the only player in the world to beat Trump on such a big occasion since March.

                            Jack Lisowski is the other top16 player in this section, thanks mostly to the big points he got by reaching the final of the China Open last season. On last season's form, his ranking would be well deserved, but this season we are yet to see anything at all from him. A bit of a shame, because he really looked like he was finally beginning to mature as a player. There's still a lot of snooker to be played this season though, so I wouldn't give up on him just yet. The thing is though, he has a pretty dreadful record against Robertson, and he actually lost to him in all three of his best runs last season, which were the finals of the Riga Masters and the China Open, and the SF of the International Championship. I might actually put Yan Bingtao above Lisowski here, but of course that's not particularly surprising given how close they are in the rankings. Disappointing last season for Yan, after being a few balls away from becoming the youngest player ever to win a ranking event the season before, but he did open this season with a win in Riga, joining an elite group of players who have won a ranking event as teenagers. If you will allow me a little negativity though, I think this achievement happened mostly due to the dumbing down of ranking events in general in the Hearn era, because winning a series of best-of-7 and two best-of-9 matches where your strongest opponent is Matt Selt should in no way constitute a ranking title. But since it does, I will use my own judgement about how much each title is worth. Anyway, it's not so much his results, but rather the lack of world-class snooker that worries me with Yan, because we have definitely seen him play a lot better back in 2017 when he was only 17. Still, a nice chance for him here to set up that last16 clash with Robertson.

                            It takes a bit of digging to find any other contenders here. I guess the other big Chinese prospect could do some damage, Lyu Haotian, although his series of 1st round exits this season doesn't exactly inspire any confidence. We have to go back to last September and his run to the SF of the China Championship to find his most recent good result, but of course that's still better than the vast majority of players in that age group have managed recently. Luo Honghao is an interesting prospect as well, a quarter-finalist in the Riga Masters at the start of the season. He tends to get outclassed by the top players at the moment, but he is definitely one to keep an eye on.

                            As for the more experienced players, I would mention Mark King, a former semi-finalist here, though he tends to do better in the short format these days, with runs to the QF of the Riga Masters and the Paul Hunter Classic this season. Peter Ebdon also had something of a resurgence in the short format last season, after a prolonged period of pretty poor results, but this season he just doesn't seem to be a factor in the game. Stuart Carrington is perhaps the better bet, yet another quarter-finalist from Riga, but more consistent these days than the two veterans.

                            Quarter 3:

                            Mark Williams v. Fraser Patrick
                            Michael White v. Fergal O'Brien
                            Zhou Yuelong v. Fan Zhengyi
                            Mark Davis v. Si Jiahui
                            Stephen Maguire v. Billy Joe Castle
                            Mark Joyce v. Jordan brown
                            Graeme Dott v. Barry Pinches
                            Yuan Sijun v. Hammad Miah

                            I think this section probably rivals the previous one for being the weakest in this year's draw. Mark Williams contributes quite a bit to that, because he is supposed to be the 3rd seed but is not really playing to top4 standard at the moment, at least not in my opinion. The results that are keeping him this high are becoming a little dated now. Williams has struggled with motivation throughout his career, so periods of great results have always been followed by periods of him struggling to live up to his reputation, and I kind of get the feeling he doesn't have the ambition to keep himself in the kind of form that won him his last World title anymore. I could very well be wrong though, and he did come within a frame of winning the China Championship earlier this season, so he is clearly still a force to be reckoned with, regardless of his form.

                            Stephen Maguire as the other top16 player here is also a little underwhelming. It was mainly consistency that got him back up the rankings, but you would expect a top16 player to be someone capable of winning tournaments and, apart from stuff like the World Cup or Six-reds, Maguire hasn't really won anything in the last five years. Beware though, Maguire has reached the business end of the UK Championship ten times in the past, making it his strongest tournament, and he beat Williams in all three of their previous meetings in this event, including last year when he played ridiculously well from 4-0 down. He is still waiting for a good result this season and I think it could happen for him here.

                            If not Maguire or Williams, perhaps Graeme Dott could do something this week. He has been playing okay in recent times and his China campaign went pretty well too, with a run to the QF of the International Championship as his best result. Dreadful record against Williams though, so he could do with someone else knocking Williams out before the last16. Mark Joyce was a finalist in Riga this season, although the competition he beat there was quite poor. Also, he doesn't tend to play more than one or two good tournaments a season, so I suspect he may have already had his highlight. What about Mark Davis? A semi-finalist here back when it was still two-session matches, and he came close to winning his first decent title in the English Open last season. He is in his late 40s now, so the consistency has understandably gone, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him have a good tournament at some point. Let's have a few words about Michael White as well... I couldn't quite believe my eyes when I saw he was ranked 62nd in the world! Okay, his rise up the rankings in his mid 20s was mainly due to his performances in the short format, where he even managed to win a couple of titles, but I fully expected him to start playing well in the big events at some point as well. To have him completely disappear by the age of 28 is just shocking, and I have to wonder whether the rage issues we saw from him at the table at times have contributed to his downfall. He should take a look at Maguire's career as an example of what can happen if you don't learn to control your emotions. I hope he manages to turn it around at some point.

                            Since this section is not the strongest, I wonder if a few of the Chinese players might play their part as well. Zhou Yuelong put in a pretty respectable performance at the Crucible in April, which was surely good experience for the type of atmosphere he can expect here if he gets through a couple of rounds. He seemed to be in pretty good form in the World Open last month, eventually losing 5-3 to Kyren Wilson in the SF. I'm looking forward to seeing what Yuan Sijun can do as well. He had a surprisingly good last season for such an inexperienced player, and one of his better runs was in the World Grand Prix where he beat both Williams and Maguire on his way to the QF, so I don't see why he shouldn't fancy his chances in this section. He did pretty well to get through the early rounds in Belfast just recently, before running into O'Sullivan in the last16. Si Jiahui is the youngest of the lot at 17 years of age, but he won several matches in both Home Nations events this season, so he is clearly one to look out for as well.

                            Matthew Stevens v. Chen Feilong
                            Ryan Day v. Soheil Vahedi
                            Anthony Hamilton v. Sam Baird
                            David Gilbert v. James Cahill
                            Martin O'Donnell v. Kishan Hirani
                            Ricky Walden v. Xu Si
                            Liam Highfield v. Mike Dunn
                            Mark Selby v. Andy Hicks

                            I think it's fair to say this section isn't the strongest either, but in this case it's not because of the two top16 players here. Mark Selby is still one of the best players in the world, but he set such a high standard in some of the previous seasons that his current results seem like something of a slump, even though he is still winning titles every now and again. In fact, his performance to win the English Open last month was pretty bulletproof, particularly the final against Gilbert. He also reached the SF of the International and the China Championship, losing to the eventual champion both times, and he was only beaten by an extraordinary performance from Bingham in the World Open. In spite of these very solid results, Selby comes to this event as the 6th seed, which is by far the lowest he has been for something like eight years. Well, it's his results here and at the Crucible that are the cause of that, because he has lost at the first or second time of asking in both of these tournaments in the past two years. He is definitely vulnerable in the early rounds here, at least before we get to the proper TV stage. On the plus side, his draw is not too difficult.

                            I think there is a strong chance David Gilbert makes the last16 as well. On the one hand it's unusual for someone to get to number 11 in the world without winning any event, but on the other hand you can't really argue with his ranking at the moment. Last season saw him reach two major finals, and he was a frame away from doing so at the Crucible as well. It looks like this season will be more of the same for him. He has already got to the business end of three ranking events, including a run to the final of the English Open. It was a bit of a beating in the end, 9-1 to Selby, but Gilbert made a much better effort in the International Championship which was only 6-5 to Selby, so he definitely has his chances here. He surely must be the best player not to have won any kind of ranking event at this point. Might be difficult to do it here, but I definitely expect it to happen at some point with so many events available now.

                            Ryan Day has been somewhat quiet so far this season. Last season he couldn't quite reproduce his heroics from the season before, but he still managed to reach the business end of five rankings events, although all of them were short format. As I said though, nothing from him this time around. Ricky Walden has done a little bit better, getting to the QF of the English Open where he narrowly lost to Gilbert. I think he is probably one of the most underrated players of the last decade, though most of his best results have been in China, and he is clearly not the same player he was three or four years ago at the moment.

                            Matthew Stevens is someone I usually dismiss, but I've kind of learnt my lesson after his superb display in the International Championship last season. That was over a year ago though, and since then it's been early exits in every single event. I actually have more faith in Anthony Hamilton, as his run to the QF of the Northern Ireland Open is very recent, and he did beat Gilbert there. I quite like Martin O'Donnell's chances as well. Nothing from him so far this season, but last season he got to the QF of three of the biggest ranking events, including this one. If Selby goes out before the last16, I definitely see O'Donnell as the player who is most likely to take advantage. What about James Cahill? His results suggest I should just ignore him here, but this is someone who has beaten Ding, Selby and O'Sullivan on the big stage in the past, and he came close to beating Trump this season as well. He is yet to win a frame against Gilbert though, as he was whitewashed both times they've met in the past.

                            Quarter 4:

                            Mark Allen v. Jimmy White
                            Andrew Higginson v. Jak Jones
                            Scott Donaldson v. Chen Zifan
                            Ben Woollaston v. Zhang Jiankang
                            Barry Hawkins v. Gerard Greene
                            Alan McManus v. Elliot Slessor
                            Jimmy Robertson v. Kacper Filipiak
                            Kurt Maflin v. Thor Chuan Leong

                            Interesting section. Mark Allen starts as favourite. This time last year he held two of the biggest titles in snooker and was looking to add a third one, and he only just missed out by losing to O'Sullivan in the final. It must have been bitterly disappointing to end such a strong season with a 1st round defeat at the Crucible. It's funny, he keeps skipping the China Open to prepare for the WC, but the only time he did well at the Crucible in the last six years was the one time he did go to China. In any case, good to see him starting this season strongly, four semi-finals to his name already, two in ranking events and two in the big two invitational events in this first part of the season. I'm sure he would trade them all for a big title though.

                            Barry Hawkins is Allen's biggest obstacle on paper, although the UK Championship has never been a strong tournament for him, with only one run to the QF in 14 appearances at the venue stage. He is another top player who has been waiting a long time for a title, if you don't count the Paul Hunter Classic which has sensibly had its ranking status removed this season (if only we could do the same with other ridiculously short events such as Riga and Gibraltar, not to mention the Watford abomination ). Apart from that win, Hawkins' best result this season has been a run to the QF of the China Championship, which is a little underwhelming I suppose, but I've got used to Hawkins playing below his best in the first half of the season by now. He also lost 4-0 when he played Allen in the English Open, so he is definitely second favourite in this section.

                            Looking through the rest of this section, there is actually only one more player who has reached the business end of any event this season at all, and that's Kurt Maflin. He got to the SF in Riga, in a fairly weak field, and he also got to the QF of the China Championship, a proper major event, beating the likes of Higgins and Dott along the way. It wouldn't be a total surprise to see him advance here. Speaking of surprises, Jimmy Robertson's triumph in the European Masters last season was completely unexpected (Allen was one of his victims there), but unfortunately it didn't inspire him to any further good performances. In fact, the past year was pretty dreadful for someone of his ranking.

                            Tough to find any other possible contenders here, but there is a mini reunion of some of the players who played a surprisingly big part in last season's China Open, which is now the second most rewarding tournament behind the WC. Scott Donaldson was a semi-finalist there, adding to his QF from the Welsh Open earlier that season. Despite not doing much this season yet, he looks like someone who is going in the right direction, and I could definitely see him raising his game in the same way the likes of McGill and Michael White did at that age. He did lose 4-0 to Allen when they met in Belfast though. Ben Woollaston was the player Donaldson beat in the quarter-finals in Beijing. It was a very welcome strong result for Woollaston after two fairly mediocre seasons, and it was also the first time Woollaston had ever reached that stage of an event outside of the short format, which I found to be an amazing statistic at the time for someone who had spent several seasons ranked inside the top32. And finally, Alan McManus found himself in that China Open QF as well, but for him it was a very isolated good result in an otherwise unsuccessful period.

                            Chris Wakelin v. Ashley Carty
                            Gary Wilson v. Bai Langning
                            Sunny Akani v. Lee Walker
                            Joe Perry v. Simon Lichtenberg
                            Hossein Vafaei v. Louis Heathcote
                            Luca Brecel v. Nigel Bond
                            Ken Doherty v. Mei Xiwen
                            Judd Trump v. Amine Amiri

                            Okay, it's not a huge mystery what my prediction will be here. Judd Trump has quite comfortably established himself as the best player in the world over the past year. He won two of the first three major ranking events of the season, as well as the Northern Ireland Open just recently. It took Neil Robertson playing out of his skin to beat him in the Champion of Champions final, which is the only time Trump has even lost a big-occasion match since March. I don't know that anything else really needs to be said... If you can survive O'Sullivan coming back at you with big breaks in a final and still win without much fuss, and if you can basically thrash an in-form Murphy in a major final, you must be playing at a pretty high standard. But it's not just his level of snooker, it's also his commitment and his incredible calmness that has impressed me with Trump in recent times. He said he basically plans to play in everything while things are going this well for him, and I say why not... It will be interesting to see how long he can keep it up for and how many more titles he can add this season. He starts this tournament as the clear favourite for me.

                            Joe Perry is the other top16 seed here and, to be fair, he is doing alright himself at the moment, although his expectations are obviously much lower than Trump's. The two of them have actually played each other three times already this season, all in China, with Trump winning in the International Championship and the World Open, while Perry prevailed in the China Championship. The latter saw Perry reach the QF, before adding a run to the SF of the Northern Ireland Open as well. He is 45 now, but it looks like it might be another strong season for him. Let's not forget that he also beat Trump here last year, and if he were to do so again, it would be three quarter-finals in a row for him at the UK Championship.

                            There are other tricky opponents here as well though. Luca Brecel has dropped well outside of the top16 now that some big points have come off for him, but he is a proven winner with plenty of room to improve, and he always seems to play well in this event. His only good result in recent times is the SF in last season's China Open though, so he could really do with a good run here. Gary Wilson could also be a big danger in this section. His performance at the Crucible was quite remarkable, with wins over Brecel, Selby and Carter. He couldn't quite give Trump a particularly close game in the SF, but even so... Decent start to this season as well, particularly his run to the QF of the International Championship, in an almost identical format to what we have here.

                            Hossein Vafaei is another player who is still improving, 25 years of age now, so we could see him featuring more and more in the big events over the next couple of years. He has already reached a major SF this season in the China Championship, losing narrowly to Mark Williams. I'm sure he would prefer to avoid Brecel here though, because the last time they played Brecel won 6-0. We also have two veterans who got to the QF of the English Open this season. Lee Walker actually beat both Trump and Gary Wilson along the way, while Mei Xiwen recorded an equally impressive win over O'Sullivan. Finally, I will mention Sunny Akani as well (for some reason I struggle using that name without cringing ). No impressive results to point out with him, but he does tend to play well at this venue, reaching the last16 in 2017 and 2018. The first of those could have been even better, as I'm sure most people will remember the incredible misfortune he had when clearing up to beat the eventual champion O'Sullivan.

                            Possible QF line-up:

                            Ronnie O'Sullivan v. Shaun Murphy
                            John Higgins v. Neil Robertson
                            Stephen Maguire v. Mark Selby
                            Mark Allen v. Judd Trump


                            There we are then... It looks like I will be out with the cold this week, so it will be nice to have some snooker to watch. I'm sure it will be an enjoyable tournament.

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                            • #15
                              Brill write up as usual
                              Up the TSF!

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