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International Championship 2015 - Discussion

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  • International Championship 2015 - Discussion

    I believe this tournament has already started, hasn't it?

    I haven't had much time lately, so it's caught me by surprise a little. I even missed the deadline for the fantasy game. I can't really manage a proper preview this time, but I would still like to say that I look forward to watching the snooker. It's been one of my favourite events since it came onto the scene a few years ago, mainly because the best-of-11 format is just generally more entertaining and gives the tournament a somewhat "grander" feel. I also enjoyed the Chengdu pandas, so hopefully the atmosphere surrounding the tournament will still be good now that it's moved to Daqing.

    More than half of the tour have made the trip to China, starting with the last64 round, plus the few qualifying matches that have been held over, and of course the customary wildcard round as well. There have been a few casualties in the qualifiers though, most notably Judd Trump and Stephen Maguire, with Ronnie O'Sullivan also missing.

    As has been the norm in recent times, there was a PTC event held during the week, in Haining, with Ding beating Walden in the final. As always, the question is whether the players who have made the trip early will have any advantage, and I suspect they will.

    Finally, let's have a quick looks through the draw. I know I always say it will be quick and in the end it isn't really, but this time just a few thoughts on the main contenders will have to do...

    Quarter 1:

    Ricky Walden/Tian Pengfei v. Cao Yupeng
    Liang Wenbo/Alex Taubman v. Andrew Higginson
    Kyren Wilson v. Jamie Cope
    Mark Allen v. Joe Swail

    Mark Williams v. Ian Burns
    Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v. Ross Muir
    Martin Gould v. Zhou Yuelong
    Sanderson Lam v. Michael Wild

    We start off with what is undoubtedly the strongest section of the draw. Ricky Walden and Mark Allen could meet in a repeat of last year's final, which was a really good match, but it would only be at the last16 stage here. Walden had to withdraw from Shanghai due to the birth of his son, but he has already had success since, reaching the final in Haining. He is a real specialist in these Chinese events, as is Allen, who has reached four major finals in China, and only one outside of it. Allen also did well in Shanghai last month, where he reached the semi-finals before losing 6-1 to Kyren Wilson. Which brings us to our next contender here... It was a superb performance from Wilson in Shanghai, and it came out of nowhere really. He had shown some promise before, most notably by getting to the quarter-finals in Shanghai two years previously, but there was nothing to really indicate he had matured enough to contend for titles. The luxury of being the underdog is now gone though, so it will be interesting to see how he handles it. Being the winner of the previous major event was almost like a curse for most of the past decade, but in the more recent past it hasn't been as bad. Also here is Liang Wenbo, who could be really dangerous in this slightly longer format. He has a habit of struggling in the qualifiers, but the last time he made it to the venue stage of this tournament he went on to reach the quarter-finals, beating O'Sullivan on his way. It should be an interesting game against Andrew Higginson in the 1st round, the opponent he beat in the final qualifying round to get to Shanghai last month. It will also be interesting to see how all the Chinese players do on their home soil, and we have another couple in this section alone. Tian Pengfei was a finalist in the recent Ruhr Open in Mülheim, so clearly in decent form at the moment. He has done well in all kinds of minor events in the past, but in the major ranking events he has never been beyond the last16. He is 28 now, so should be coming into his best years. Also here is Cao Yupeng, another familiar Chinese name, although in his case there really isn't any cause for optimism, as his recent form has been very poor. Jamie Cope also deserves a mention after his decent showing in Shanghai, another good traveller and a former China Open finalist.

    If the first section is extremely tough to call, the second one has two names that stand out. Mark Williams is one of the most successful players ever in the Chinese events, and it was his run to the semi-finals of this event last season that started his resurgence. He played alright in Shanghai, reaching the quarter-finals, and he followed it up with a decent run in the Ruhr Open as well. His biggest competition should be Martin Gould, the runner-up in the Australian Open this season. Obviously a dangerous player when on form, especially when his confidence is high, as it seems to be at the moment. He played quite well himself in Shanghai, but unfortunately lost a match he probably should have won, against Bingham in the quarter-finals. Ian Burns had a surprising run to the last16 in this event last year, although he did have a pretty favourable draw. He also reached the last16 in Australia at the start of this season, so I'm sure he is looking forward to this week. Thepchaiya Un-Nooh could also be a danger, a quarter-finalist in Haining and a very fluent scorer when on form. What about the young Zhou Yuelong? A fantastic run to the World Cup title with Yan Bingtao in the summer, and another chance to show us what he can do on the big stage here, outside of the qualifying cubicles of the UK. I still can't forget how happy he was after his big moment, just hugging John Higgins and not letting him go. I do hope his match against Gould here is televised, but since the people who make these decisions are notoriously stupid, I'm not holding my breath. Finally, a quick mention for Michael Wild as well, after his sensational 6-0 win over Trump in the qualifiers. It will be difficult to follow it up, but you never know...

    Quarter 2:

    Barry Hawkins v. Chris Wakelin
    Jimmy Robertson v. Darryl Hill
    Allister Carter v. Jack Lisowski
    Marco Fu v. Matthew Stevens

    Noppon Saengkham/Lin Shuai v. Oliver Lines
    Xiao Guodong v. David Gilbert
    Ryan Day v. Mark Joyce
    Ding Junhui/Sam Craigie v. Craig Steadman

    A strong presence of local players in the second quarter as well, although the main contenders are mostly British. Barry Hawkins is certainly one of them. He had a very slow start to last season, and it looks like it might be something similar again, apart from a recent quarter-final appearance in Mülheim. He is probably the best player to have never won a major event in China, but he certainly has the class to get rid of that title. Marco Fu looks like the player who could cause him the most trouble in this section, although his 1st round exits in both major ranking events this season suggest he is out of form at the moment. This is one of his best events though, or at least it was when it was held in Chengdu, where he never failed to reach the quarter-finals, and his 2013 final against Ding was one of the best finals in all the time I've been watching snooker. Matthew Stevens is a tough 1st round opponent here, which makes it one of the best prospects of the round. It's quite a common pairing in recent years, but it's Fu that has to be the favourite at this point in time. Ali Carter could also be one to watch. He tends to lose in the qualifiers quite often these days, but once he gets to the venue he is always dangerous, and he has already won a PTC title this season. His record against Hawkins is superb, against Fu more evenly-matched, but he did beat Fu in their biggest match to date, the final of the 2013 German Masters. Of the "lesser names", I think Jimmy Robertson is definitely the biggest danger. He has a habit of coming over early to play in the PTCs, and he did so this week as well, reaching the semi-finals in Haining. That should probably give him a slight advantage over most of the competition, and he has a fairly easy opening match as well. I would not be surprised to see him get past Hawkins here, if not further. Jack Lisowski should perhaps be mentioned as well, a player whose progress has stalled in the last season or two, and his last match on the big stage was rather pathetic, against Trump in Australia. It's unlikely that he goes through here, but he does have the kind of game that allows for surprises.

    Ding Junhui failed to qualify last year, which probably has a lot to do with why his match was held over this time. He lost a close match to the eventual champion Wilson in Shanghai, then captured the title in Haining to signal a return to form. He can be a slow starter in matches, so I think the best-of-11 format will suit him here, as it has done in the past, most notably in 2013, when he won the title with some superb snooker. After Maguire's defeat in the qualifiers, there is no really big name Ding has to face before the quarter-finals. The biggest danger for him is probably his old nemesis Ryan Day, who beat him in the 1st round of both the UK and the World Championship in 2012, as well as the 1st round of the German Masters last season. Ding got a bit of revenge in Shanghai last month, but I'm sure he would prefer to avoid Day this time, if possible. The player that could help him out in that respect is Mark Joyce, a quarter-finalist in the World Open in Haikou not so long ago, although without any great form coming here. Xiao Guodong has also been unimpressive so far this season, but he has always been an inconsistent player that just suddenly pulls out a good run somewhere. His match against David Gilbert is also among the ones I would like to see in this 1st round, but I have no clue whether it will be televised. Gilbert is probably playing the better of the two at the moment, having reached the semi-finals of the Ruhr Open a couple of weeks ago. Anyone else going through here would be a surprise for me, although I suppose Noppon Saengkham could be a decent bet. He beat Maguire pretty convincingly in the qualifiers, and he also beat him at the venue stage of this tournament last year, 6-5, and if I remember correctly Maguire made six breaks over 50 in that match and still lost.

    Quarter 3:

    Mark Selby v. Mike Dunn
    Anthony McGill v. Sean O'Sullivan
    Lee Walker v. Daniel Wells/Fang Xiongman
    Michael White v. Dechawat Poomjaeng

    Graeme Dott v. Jamie Burnett
    Peter Ebdon v. Ken Doherty/Chen Zifan
    Fergal O'Brien v. Tom Ford
    Neil Robertson v. Martin O'Donnell

    Mark Selby hasn't had the best start to the season, going out early in Australia, then missing Shanghai due to a death in the family, so he will be looking for a good result here. Traditionally he is a very strong player in the best-of-11 format, probably the best out of anyone in recent years. I have his match against Mike Dunn playing in the background as I type this, so Selby could already be out by the time I finish, 2-1 down at the moment, but if he does battle through he should be one of the tournament favourites, even if he is not quite at his best. Dunn did beat him in the quarter-finals of the 2014 China Open though, in what was a big surprise at the time. He also reached the last16 in Shanghai and the semi-finals in Mülheim this season, so he is clearly playing well. We haven't seen much of Anthony McGill since his good showing at the World Championship in April, but I suppose we are still early in the season. He had a great win over Selby on that occasion, so he knows he can compete with the top players now, but on the other hand Selby will be looking for some payback, and McGill certainly won't be underestimated by anyone now. The list of realistic contenders to reach the quarter-finals in this section probably ends with Michael White, a quarter-finalist in this event last year. He did not play too well in the World Cup in the summer, but he seemed to regain some of his form in Australia, where he lost 5-4 on the final black in the quarter-finals. Shanghai was disappointing though, so he will be looking for better here. His 1st round match against Dechawat Poomjaeng is a repeat of a 2nd round match at the Crucible a few years ago, a match White rather surprisingly won with a session to spare. He also pushed Selby 10-9 at the Crucible in 2014, the year Selby went on to win the title, so I suspect Selby will not care for the players he has been drawn against in this section.

    Neil Robertson has an equally tough job to reach the quarter-finals, but at least most of his possible opponents have a poor record against him, the most notable exception being Peter Ebdon. I suspect Shanghai left a pretty bitter taste for Ebdon, after he threw away the match against Murphy in 1st round. On the other hand, this tournament is probably fondly remembered, with good runs in each of the last three editions. He also has an abnormally good record against Robertson in China, having won all five of their major matches in the past. And when I say "past", I mean the recent past in which Robertson is the top player and Ebdon is the outsider. Then we have Graeme Dott, a semi-finalist in this event two years ago. Like Ebdon, Dott also seems to play most of his best snooker in China these days, although his recent form is not very encouraging. You may remember the last match between Robertson and Dott, in the UK Championship last season, when Dott led 5-0 and only won 6-5 in the end. If we saw something like that here, I would be delighted. Fergal O'Brien had gone a long time without reaching a major quarter-final before Shanghai last season, but a year later it seems like it could be another long drought. Similar story with Jamie Burnett, a quarter-finalist last year, with great wins over Ebdon and Trump along the way, but nothing to suggest he is likely to repeat that result. Finally, the last realistic challenger Robertson could have is Tom Ford, but their record is very one-sided in Robertson's favour. So, I think Robertson's main problem are his own weaknesses at the moment. He has matches where he makes a couple of centuries and just thrashes opponents, but whenever it goes close Robertson seems to be in trouble. His poor record in deciders over the last two seasons is very surprising, especially in comparison to the rest of his career. The first two major events of the season saw him lose 5-4 in the 1st round, and something similar happened in the last PTC he played in. Hopefully he can find a bit of confidence to start winning these close matches again, because it's really the main thing that is stopping him winning titles at the moment...

    Quarter 4:

    Shaun Murphy v. Luca Brecel
    Kurt Maflin v. Jamie Jones
    Michael Holt v. Rod Lawler
    John Higgins v. Zhao Xintong

    Joe Perry v. Aditya Mehta/Wang Yuchen
    Dominic Dale v. Matthew Selt
    Ben Woollaston v. Robbie Williams
    Stuart Bingham/Steven Hallworth v. Yu Delu

    We end with another strong quarter, probably on par with the first one. The first little section could see a last16 match between Shaun Murphy and John Higgins, which seems a little early for that pairing. Murphy has returned to winning ways in the last two seasons, but at the same time he is also failing to reach the business end of events more often than he used to. Personally, I would accept that trade-off, but I'm sure Murphy is looking for a little more consistency. He has never been a strong player in China, so an early exit wouldn't surprise me majorly. Could it happen against Luca Brecel? Well, Brecel would certainly be competitive with the kind of performances he produced in the Welsh Open last season, but again, it's the consistency that is lacking, and he doesn't really have a solid B-game to compensate for lack of form. Jamie Jones could also be a potential problem for Murphy. Already a semi-finalist in a major ranking event this season, and two previous notable wins over Murphy, including in the 2012 World Championship. Then there is Kurt Maflin, a semi-finalist in the China Open at the end of last season, which was his first really major result in the game, and he had a win over Murphy along the way. He also made the trip early to play in Haining, so there shouldn't be any struggle with jetlag or anything like that. Rod Lawler will be making his season debut at a major venue, while Michael Holt will be making his debut in general at the venue stage of this tournament, having lost in the qualifiers in the first three editions. These two may not be the favourites to go through here, but they are not complete outsiders either. Another match I would definitely like to see is Higgins against Zhao Xintong in the 1st round. Zhao has already had a lot of success in this event even before he turned professional, so it will be interesting to see if he has matured as a player since the last time we saw him. Last year in Wuxi he had a convincing win over Lisowski, but when facing Murphy in the following round his inexperience was quite apparent. He couldn't really have got a tougher draw here though. Higgins is back to being one of the best players in the world, and while most of his opponents on his way to the Welsh Open and the Australian Open titles were lower-ranked players, his own performance was something like the kind of standard that was winning him titles in the past. He should be too strong for all players apart from Murphy in this section, but then again, Higgins' record in the International Championship is not the best, and his record in the best-of-11 format is surprisingly underwhelming as well. He is clearly taking this event seriously though, having played in the PTC in Haining during the week, which had not been his habit in the past.

    Stuart Bingham is the biggest name in the bottom section of the draw. After the 1st round exit in Australia I was beginning to suspect he might have a difficult season, but he immediately replied with a solid run to the semi-finals in Shanghai. It looks like he is here to stay as a top player for some time, and certainly one of the men to beat here. His biggest obstacle should be Joe Perry, another player who is playing the best snooker of his career at the moment. He lost to the eventual winner in both major events this season, and I expect it will take a good player to take him out here as well. He was a semi-finalist here in that classic 2013 edition of the tournament, and the finalist of the Wuxi Classic last season. He also has quite a good record over Bingham. Other names worth mentioning? Matthew Selt certainly, although he seems to prefer Australia to China, having reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on three occasions in the past. Dominic Dale is also always worth keeping an eye on as a former ranking event winner in China. Ben Woollaston usually plays better in the best-of-7 format, even his run to the Welsh Open final last season falls into that category, as does his run to the quarter-finals in Haining last week. Other candidates to go through could be Aditya Mehta, who has also done nothing outside of the short format so far, and perhaps Yu Delu, who usually plays better at Chinese venues than he does in the qualifying in the UK, although his recent results are not very encouraging.

    Possible QF line-up:

    Ricky Walden v. Mark Williams
    Marco Fu v. Ding Junhui
    Mark Selby v. Neil Robertson
    John Higgins v. Stuart Bingham

    So there we are... Selby has already won in the mean time, and we have some other results as well. Apologies for any mistakes in the above text, I had to rush through it a little. I usually take my time, but on this occasion it just wasn't possible, and I thought a half-hearted attempt was still better than breaking a 7-year tradition. In any case, it was a night well spent. Pointless to go to bed now, I will just stay up to watch the next session.

  • #2
    Great review !
    That amazes me we have'nt seen much of Anthony McGill. I think he's gonna dominate this game in future years !!
    He's my favorite player in this game. Very consistent player .


    • #3
      Didn't Walden's red into the green pocket in the last frame pop out of the pocket ? It wasn't even that hard.
      Congrats to Tian Pengfei though,another 'shocker' for the 'wonder bairn' ;-)


      • #4
        bit of a mad brown to go for there from sam at the end of that. still see him winning this though


        • #5
          Originally posted by trains View Post
          Didn't Walden's red into the green pocket in the last frame pop out of the pocket ? It wasn't even that hard.
          Congrats to Tian Pengfei though,another 'shocker' for the 'wonder bairn' ;-)
          It was overcut,the wonders of youtube.
          Zhao Xintong v John Higgins tomorrow at 0630 British time will be worth a watch for me.
          Last edited by trains; 26 October 2015, 02:47 AM. Reason: CET - not + an hour,duh


          • #6
            Weird choice to show Robertson-O'Donnell instead, although with the benefit of hindsight, it wasn't too bad. Nice start and finish from Robertson, with a bit of a slump in the middle of the match. I wonder what would have happened had O'Donnell been able to make it 3-3.

            I preferred to watch the Higgins-Zhao match, and was slightly disappointed with how many chances Zhao was wasting, but I think the pivotal moment was as early as the second frame, when he led something like 55-0, and Higgins produced a miraculous clearance to steal the frame on the black. Higgins took control of the match from that point, and the only real contribution from Zhao for the rest of the match was that wonderful total clearance of 142, started with a long red and never in trouble after that. Looking forward to seeing him again.


            • #7
              ^^ Yes white on the black cushion needless attempt at a difficuilt red into the yellow pocket in the 7th frame just after the 142,went to 2 - 5.
              Delu v Bingham might be interesting,Delu's overdue a bit of an impact I think.


              • #8
                Originally posted by trains View Post
                Delu v Bingham might be interesting,Delu's overdue a bit of an impact I think.
                Good win for Yu. I missed the first two frames, so I don't know what they were like, but in the remainder of the match there were two frames Bingham lost on the black from a long way in front, and another frame he pretty much threw away. Decent chance for Yu to progress further in this tournament, playing Ben Woollaston in the next round.

                Good chance for young Zhou Yuelong as well, he beat Martin Gould in the 1st round, and now plays Sanderson Lam in the last32.


                • #9
                  Anyone got the schedule for live coverage on eurosport ?


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by birkirhlyns View Post
                    Anyone got the schedule for live coverage on eurosport ?

                    note, where it says HD, it is not just the HD channel but also on the standard one as well

                    does look like Eurosport will be showing the semis and Final sessions LIVE! woo hoo!
                    Last edited by DeanH; 26 October 2015, 06:14 PM.
                    Up the TSF!


                    • #11
                      is it just me, or is WS Livescores not working this morning?
                      watching via Sessions
                      Up the TSF!


                      • #12
                        good to see jimmy showing some of his potential, if he keeps this up he'd be hard to stop


                        • #13
                          wow, J Higgins starting at a gallop, 5-0 with century breaks, brilliant stuff; SM must be stunned, if only I could watch it
                          Up the TSF!


                          • #14
                            Just catching up with the Higgins match, just shows that form is temporary and class is permanant!
                            After 15 reds and 15 blacks i did this


                            • #15
                              And fair play to Smurph for hanging around to sign autographs after that hammering, top man.
                              After 15 reds and 15 blacks i did this