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2016 International Championship

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  • 2016 International Championship

    The third biggest tournament (at least if you look at prize money and ranking points) had already surprises in the qualification. Both Barry Hawkins and Mark Allen failed to make the main draw.
    Hawkins lost 4-6 to Lee Walker, while Allen started a good comeback from 1-5 down against Daniel Wells before losing 5-6 ultimately.
    Also Neil Robertson survived with a scare. He was already 3-5 down against Sam Craigie, before winning 3 in a row to qualify.

  • #2
    I was watching the Sam Craigie match after the mid session interval, when Sam got three of the next four, he looks steady at the table, clean delivery and appears to have all the shots in his pocket; calm and unfussed by playing one of the big names, definitely had Robbo in trouble more than a few times.
    One to watch for in the future
    Up the TSF!


    • #3
      112 ranked Kritsanut Lertsattayathorn's giving Murphy a good run for his money as well, a lovely 86 just gave him a 2 - 0 lead...

      The fast and the furious,
      The slow and labourious,
      All of us, glorious parts of the whole!


      • #4
        Murphy into a bit of a stride now - frame 3 in the bag with a 97 and counting break
        Kritsanut played well so far, hope it continues
        Up the TSF!


        • #5
          Trump not being challenged by Hossein Vafaei Ayouri (yet?) 4-0
          Up the TSF!


          • #6
            Originally posted by DeanH View Post
            Murphy into a bit of a stride now - frame 3 in the bag with a 97 and counting break
            Kritsanut played well so far, hope it continues
            Yeah, good response from Murphy with breaks of 130, 50 then 84 to go 4 - 2 up, and he's in again....

            The fast and the furious,
            The slow and labourious,
            All of us, glorious parts of the whole!


            • #7
              Murphy is playing well now
              Vafaei gets two frames off Trump
              Up the TSF!


              • #8
                Murphy through 6 - 2. Not exactly plain sailing, Kritsanut had his chances and won a lengthy safety battle in the last frame but couldn't make it count.

                The fast and the furious,
                The slow and labourious,
                All of us, glorious parts of the whole!


                • #9
                  So, the third major ranking event of the season starts in a few minutes. Or to put it less controversially, it's the third event without best-of-7 matches this season.

                  The International Championship has been a great addition to the calendar in recent years. It was established with the intention of becoming the most prestigious event held in China, and I think the best-of-11 format has helped greatly with that. The tournament has usually been well supported, with the exception of the year when Ding lost in the qualifiers and didn't make the trip. I used to love those "snooker pandas" when the tournament was held in Chengdu. Well, we are in Daqing this year, and the field is superb. Mark Allen and Barry Hawkins are the only top players who haven't made it through the qualifiers, with the in-form Thepchaiya Un-Nooh probably being the next most notable victim. Kyren Wilson is missing as well, but for some reason he didn't enter the event in the first place.

                  Let's have a look at the entire draw...

                  Quarter 1:

                  John Higgins/Sydney Wilson v. Eden Sharav
                  Jimmy Robertson v. Jak Jones
                  Martin Gould v. Mark Joyce
                  Anthony McGill v. Zhou Yuelong

                  John Higgins is the defending champion, having played some of his best snooker to win here 12 months ago. It was his third and final major title of 2015, but a year later he is in danger of ending 2016 without a single major title to his name. He is still playing some consistently decent snooker, but it's not been enough to get him past the quarter-finals in recent events. Ali Carter beat him in the two biggest events of the season so far, in the quarter-finals of the World Open and the last16 of the Shanghai Masters, then Judd Trump beat him in the quarter-finals of both the European Masters and the English Open recently. They are two players whom Higgins previously had a good record against, but in this section he could possibly meet Anthony McGill, a player he doesn't really have a psychological edge over. McGill of course famously knocked Higgins out of the UK Championship two years ago, in what was a big surprise at the time, but the two players are much more evenly matched these days. In fact, McGill has been one of the players of the season so far, winning the short-format Indian Open in the summer, followed by runs to the quarter-finals of the World Open and the European Masters. It looks like McGill has now reached a level of maturity and consistency that makes him a big danger in any event, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him winning something major in the near future. The third and probably final realistic contender in this section is Martin Gould, but he comes here on the back of some very mediocre recent form. He lost in the qualifiers for the World Open at the start of the season, then had more success in the qualifiers for Shanghai, only to lose 5-0 against a 16-year-old kid in the wildcard round at the venue. He lost 9-8 to Higgins in the final of the Australian Open last season, a very entertaining match, and he will need a return to that kind of form if he wants to meet Higgins in the last16 match here. Of the less realistic contenders, I would mention the young Zhou Yuelong here, a very promising player who got to the last16 of this event last year, beating Gould on his way, although Gould did get some revenge in the English Open last week. Speaking of last week, Jak Jones had a surprising run to the last16 in Manchester, beating Ding on his way, so it will be interesting to see what he can do here. As for Mark Joyce, his form has been quite awful in recent months, but he has been to a major quarter-final in China in the past, so I wouldn't rule him out completely.

                  Matthew Stevens v. Chris Wakelin
                  Ding Junhui/Mitchell Mann v. David Grace
                  Graeme Dott v. Fergal O'Brien
                  Ricky Walden v. Ken Doherty

                  This is probably the "oldest" section of the draw, featuring a number of veterans and former greats. Unfortunately there is very little positive one can say about their recent form. Matthew Stevens, Ken Doherty and Fergal O'Brien have not really been a factor in major events over the last couple of seasons. Graeme Dott is a little bit better, having reached a number of major quarter-finals in China in the last five years, but he has done nothing great since reaching the semi-finals of the German Masters last season. I think we have to look among the younger players for the quarter-finalist in this section. Ding Junhui is the biggest name here. He has decided to skip most of the short-format stuff this season, not sure if that was intentional or just a coincidence. He won his first major title in two and a half years in Shanghai, and he was in tears throughout the victory ceremony, probably the most emotional we have ever seen him. He has been known to get caught out in his opening match at venues in China before, but I think Mitchell Mann is a favourable opponent for him here, and Ding has already beaten him in the English Open just recently. Ding's performance to win this event in 2013 was superb, particularly the final, but I think Ricky Walden's performance a year later was just as good. It's the biggest title Walden has won to date, and all three of his major titles so far have been in China. These travels to the Far East always seem to inspire him to play great snooker, even last season, when he struggled badly, he found some form in Beijing to reach the final and end the season on a fairly good note. He has been quiet so far this season, but he did reach the quarter-finals of the English Open last week, although the draw was very favourable on that occasion. I think Ding and Walden would make for an interesting last16 match in this section, especially as they haven't met much over the years. Is there anyone else who could spoil the party? Well, Chris Wakelin is certainly a name to mention here. He had a minor breakthrough in the English Open last week, reaching the quarter-finals. He had done that once before, in the 2015 Indian Open, but the opposition he had to beat to get that result was extremely mediocre, and just shows what a joke that format is. The English Open is still only a short event, but on this occasion he did have to beat some very strong players, including Ronnie O'Sullivan who let him off the hook in their match a couple of times. Of course Stevens is the higher seed here, but Wakelin did beat him the last time they played, on the final black in the UK Championship last season. And speaking of the UK Championship, last year's semi-finalist David Grace is also here. I think I've mentioned him in all of my previews since he had that run, but it's only recently that he has managed to follow it up with another decent result, by reaching the quarter-finals of the Paul Hunter Classic earlier this season.

                  Quarter 2:

                  Judd Trump v. Ian Burns/Yuan Sijun
                  Tom Ford v. Zhao Xintong
                  Mark Williams v. Wang Yuchen/Xu Si
                  David Gilbert v. James Wattana

                  Judd Trump is the in-form player at the moment, with back-to-back finals in the last two weeks. Can he make it three in a row? Well, it's almost impossible to be in top form for an extended period, and I think we saw that last week when he just ran out of steam against Liang in the final. This will be Trump's first appearance in Daqing, after losing in the qualifiers last year. Of course he had more success when it was held in Chengdu, winning the inaugural International Championship in 2012. Traditionally he has been quite a strong player in China, but this season he lost early in both Chinese events, so he will be looking to make that right here. I think he is close to reaching a level of consistency where he could minimize the early exits, but he is not quite there yet. Still, there are not many players who could surprise him in this section. Mark Williams is his toughest opponent on paper. A semi-finalist in India at the start of the season, but other than that, Williams has not done anything particularly notable recently, especially in the major events. He is just not playing well enough to beat the in-form players at the moment. His last few matches against Trump have all been very one-sided, in Trump's favour of course, most recently in Manchester where Trump won 4-0. In reality I think David Gilbert will be the biggest obstacle for Trump here. He played some good stuff to reach the final of this event last year, and while he hasn't really come close to reaching another final since, we are still seeing a lot of him at venues and he mostly plays alright. The quarter-finals of the World Open is his best result so far this season. Tom Ford could also be a danger here. He is approaching veteran age now, and I think it's fair to say he hasn't had all that many notable results over the years, but he does have the occasional run. He reached the final of the Paul Hunter Classic earlier this season, technically a ranking final now, but it's worth saying that it was best-of-7s all the way to the final, and the opposition he beat was not particularly impressive either. Finally, we have two kids from China who could do something here. It was the International Championship where Zhao Xintong first made a name for himself, back in 2013 when he had convincing wins over Steve Davis and Barry Hawkins, still as a 16-year-old. He impressed in Manchester last week with a fearless performance against O'Sullivan, but unfortunately it was not quite enough to beat him. Still, it was encouraging to see him play well outside of China for the first time, and I expect him to be even stronger here. Yuan Sijun is in a similar place to Zhao three years ago, still an amateur player, but gaining reputation as a very dangerous wildcard opponent. He whitewashed Gould 5-0 in both of his last two wildcard appearances, and I don't think many people would be surprised if he beat Burns here as well.

                  Michael White v. Sam Baird
                  Marco Fu v. Akani Songsermsawad
                  Mike Dunn v. Yan Bingtao
                  Shaun Murphy v. Robin Hull

                  Could this possibly be the weakest section of the draw? It looks quite strong at first glance, but a deeper look through the players and their recent form shows a different picture. Shaun Murphy is the star player here, a status that sometimes seems well deserved, but quite often he fails to live up to it. In 2015/2016 he went an entire season without reaching a single quarter-final outside of the short format, which means his run to the quarter-finals of the World Open this season was his best result in any tournament with matches of at least medium length since his World final in 2015. That's a pretty long period of mediocrity for someone of Murphy's ability. I thought the World Open was a sign of better things from him this season, but unfortunately he followed it up with early exits in the next three events. He has not been a great player in China traditionally, so I wouldn't be surprised by another early exit here. The rankings suggest a meeting between Murphy and Marco Fu in the last16, two old rivals, but I find Fu to be equally unimpressive in recent times. He finished last season strongly, with a run to the semi-finals of the World Championship, but he has shown none of that form this season, losing early in every single event so far. He too has struggled in China over the years, but the International Championship seems to be the exception with him. In fact, he has never failed to reach at least the quarter-finals, and he narrowly lost in a great final against Ding in 2013. There is only one other realistic contender in this section, Michael White. He has climbed up the rankings at a similar time and in a similar way to Kyren Wilson and Anthony McGill, but lately he has been in the shadow of the other two somewhat. He seemed to lose the plot completely towards the end of last season, so it was nice to see him playing a little better again in Shanghai, where he had two good wins to reach the quarter-finals. He hasn't actually been to a major semi-final outside of the short format yet, so this could be a good chance for him. The draw is certainly not too difficult. On the other hand, Sam Baird could be a tricky 1st round opponent, having beaten White in the 1st round at the Crucible last season. Outside chances? Well, the veteran Mike Dunn was a semi-finalist in the China Open two years ago, but his recent form suggests that won't be happening here. I think Yan Bingtao could be a big danger. If Yuan Sijun is a great prospect, what does that make Yan? He too is only 16, but he is already a professional player, and he doesn't seem to be going through the same struggles as other Chinese youngsters when they move to the UK. He has already reached the last16 in several short-format tournaments this season, all outside of China. He also beat Mark Davis 6-2 in the qualifiers for this event, which is quite an impressive result for a such a young player. Akani Songsermsawad is an intriguing player as well, probably one of the least-experienced players around, but still managed to reach the quarter-finals in India, in one of his first professional tournaments.

                  Quarter 3:

                  Stuart Bingham v. Ross Muir/Zhang Jiankang
                  Luca Brecel v. Dominic Dale
                  Allister Carter v. Robbie Williams
                  Stephen Maguire v. Rod Lawler

                  One of the most interesting sections of the draw for me. Stuart Bingham is the highest seed and the favourite to come through, but there are at least two other players here who can play world-class snooker on their day. Bingham is unrivalled in terms of consistency though. He was a semi-finalist in the Shanghai Masters and the English Open this season, and lost 6-5 both times after being ahead for most of the match. Shanghai seems to be his favourite place to play snooker, while his results in the International Championship have been less impressive. Ali Carter is a similar story, a former Shanghai Masters champion and the winner of the World Open this season, but no great results in this particular tournament yet. It was great to see him returning to form and winning another major title in Yushan, but not so great for the top players whose section of the draw he lands in, although his ranking is now catching up to his actual ability. He has had the better of his rivalry with Bingham over the years, beating him at the Crucible this year and in Yushan as well, but Bingham did get some revenge with a very comfortable win in the quarter-finals in Shanghai. Stephen Maguire is another player who isn't particularly fond of the International Championship, at least judging by his previous results here, but he does occasionally play well in China. He had that impressive run in Beijing last season to qualify for the Crucible, and he had another run to the semi-finals in Shanghai this season, in spite of a very unfavourable draw. He may not be a strong title contender in major events these days, but I don't think anyone would be surprised if he came through this section either. Somewhat unlucky for Maguire and Carter that they meet as early as the last32 stage, but it could make for a good early-round prospect. Carter has won most of the previous big matches between them though, including a World semi-final in 2012. Despite the three big players in this section having a fairly poor record in this event, it's hard to see anyone else seriously challenging them. Luca Brecel was of course a ranking finalist last season, in the German Masters, but his performances since have been absolutely dreadful. He was a little unlucky to draw Carter in the 1st round in Manchester, but apart from that, he was the favourite in every single match he has lost this season. It's one thing drawing a Selby or a Robertson and going out early, but another thing altogether drawing the likes of Thor Chuan Leong and Scott Donaldson and consistently losing to them, and I say that without meaning any disrespect. Finally, Dominic Dale is always an unpredictable player. A former Shanghai Masters champion himself, and a semi-finalist in the Paul Hunter Classic this season, but I think it's fair to say not many people expect him to have a major run here.

                  Matthew Selt v. Kurt Maflin
                  Ronnie O'Sullivan v. Xiao Guodong
                  Michael Holt v. Jamie Jones
                  Stuart Carrington v. Daniel Wells

                  And this is probably one of the least interesting sections, although it could open up if Ronnie O'Sullivan is knocked out. O'Sullivan doesn't make many trips to China these days, and he doesn't have much success even when he does make the travel, but he decided to enter the Shanghai Masters and this event this season. He seems to be in reasonably good form at the moment. He could have easily won the European Masters in Romania, and probably should have won it, but he was unlucky when going into the pack on two occasions from 8-6 up in the final. He was less impressive in the English Open, missing an absolute sitter in the decider against Wakelin and going out early. His biggest obstacle in this section is his recent nemesis Michael Holt, who beat him in Shanghai this season and in the World Grand Prix at the end of last season, playing really well both times. He also beat the defending champion Wilson in Shanghai, on his way to the quarter-finals. Reaching the final of the short-format Riga Masters in the summer is another highlight in what has been a pretty good season for Holt so far. I think the other players in this section are less impressive, but as I said, anything could happen if O'Sullivan goes out. Matthew Selt and Kurt Maflin meet in quite an intriguing last64 match, both players having reached the last16 of the World Open this season. Selt has lost in the 1st round of the International Championship in the last three years, while Maflin's memories of China are a little fonder, having reached the semi-finals of the China Open two seasons ago. What about Xiao Guodong? Not too long ago he was a ranking finalist and on the verge of a top16 place, but a shocking last season saw him drop down the rankings dramatically. It's difficult to understand why something like that would happen to a player in his mid 20s, but in any case, I am happy to see him going in the right direction again. He reached the quarter-finals in Riga and the last16 in Manchester this season, which are decent results, the only problem is that he eventually lost to two players he probably should have beaten. If O'Sullivan gives one of his half-hearted performances here, I think Xiao is the kind of opponent who could knock him out. Also here is Jamie Jones, a semi-finalist in the Australian Open at the start of last season. Unfortunately he has failed to push on after that result, so the best result I can mention here is a run to the quarter-finals of the Paul Hunter Classic this season. Daniel Wells getting through here would be very surprising, but I will mention him anyway, because he had a good win over Mark Allen in the qualifiers.

                  Quarter 4:

                  Neil Robertson v. Oliver Lines
                  Gary Wilson v. Anthony Hamilton
                  Joe Perry v. Andrew Higginson
                  Ryan Day v. Aditya Mehta

                  Neil Robertson has had a season of mixed results. He won the opening minor event in Riga, winning all of his matches very comfortably, then looked like he would do the same in the World Open, before running into an inspired Joe Perry in the semi-finals. He then reached another semi-final in Romania, only to lose 6-0 to O'Sullivan. The other events he either skipped or lost early in, most recently in the English Open when he led Xiao Guodong 3-0 before losing 4-3. Robertson used to struggle quite badly in China, but he has now won quite a few events here, so he surely must be one of the big favourites this week. His rivalry with Perry has produced some good matches in recent years. Some of them were pretty one-sided though, with one player playing out of their skin and the other having no answer. Perry's win in the World Open was a perfect example, probably the best snooker he has ever played on the big stage. It was 2-2 at the interval, then Perry came out and made three centuries and a 90 to win 6-2. It was a great chance for him to finally win his first major event, but unfortunately he started the final poorly and left himself too much to do in the end. The worrying thing for him is that, apart from the World Open, he has lost in the 1st round of every event this season. Perhaps the slightly longer matches here will help him find a bit of form again. Ryan Day is another possible opponent for Robertson in the last16 here. They played in both Chinese events this season, Robertson winning in the last16 of the World Open and Day getting revenge in the last32 of the Shanghai Masters, on his way to reaching the quarter-finals. Day's position in the rankings has been quite stable for some time now, not really close to getting in the top16, but not too far off either. He remains a formidable opponent on his day, especially in tournaments abroad. Gary Wilson has some recent history with Robertson as well, I'm sure many will remember their match in the last16 of the 2015 Welsh Open, when Robertson was all over the place and even lost one of the frames with three consecutive misses. That meant Wilson surprisingly reached the quarter-finals of that event, and he did even better two months later by reaching the final of the China Open. Last season's poor results were a major step back for him, so he will be looking for better in the remainder of this season. I wouldn't give Andrew Higginson much chance here, as his previous appearances in China have almost exclusively been 1st round exits, but Anthony Hamilton could be a better bet. It was a big surprise to see him reaching the quarter-finals of the English Open last week, but he did very well to take advantage of Ding and Perry both going out early in his section of the draw.

                  Liang Wenbo/Mei Xiwen v. Tian Pengfei/Chen Zifan
                  Li Hang v. Lee Walker
                  Mark King v. John Astley
                  Mark Selby/Paul Davison v. Alfie Burden

                  On second thought, surely this is the weakest section of the draw. It does have two very strong players, but there is almost no one who could cause any problems for them. Liang Wenbo is the man of the moment, having won his biggest title to date in Manchester last week. He was in control of the final right from the start, and he made a couple of really classy breaks towards the end of the match. It was nice to see someone so genuinely happy and excited to win. Of course things get a little more difficult now. The luxury of being an underdog is gone, and everyone will be looking for a good performance against him. His record in China is actually quite dreadful, he reached the final of the Shanghai Masters back in 2009, but has lost in the 1st round every year since. This year he actually led O'Sullivan 4-1 in the 1st round and still found a way to lose. The China Open has been just as bad for him in this period, but the International Championship has been a little bit better. He could play Tian Pengfei in the last64 here, having lost to him 6-3 in the last32 a year ago. It's amazing to think that Tian has never got beyond the last16 in any major event, even if we use that term very loosely, despite being regarded as a dangerman throughout his career. There is still time though, he is not even 30 yet. Li Hang is even younger, but he too has never made the kind of progress many expected of him. It would be an interesting story if one of the Chinese players got through here, but realistically Mark Selby is the man to beat. He has won pretty much every tournament in snooker, at least those that have been running for a longer period, but the International Championship has eluded him so far. He has had a pretty solid season, he lost to Ding in the final of the Shanghai Masters and to Trump in the semi-finals of the European Masters, and he won the Paul Hunter Classic against a fairly mediocre field. He is probably the most consistent player in the world these days, so his early exit in the English Open last week was a big surprise. It's less likely to happen in the longer matches though, and the format here should suit both Selby and Liang. They don't meet a lot, so this could be an interesting pairing in the last16. Another player to consider is Mark King. He has quite a poor record against Selby, but he did famously beat him in the 1st round of the 2008 World Championship and again in the 2011 Masters, when Selby was a big favourite. It's a different story with Alfie Burden, who has never beaten Selby in a match of any kind. In fact, they've already played twice this season, Selby winning in the World Open and in the quarter-finals of the European Masters. Finally, a quick mention for John Astley as well, a player I've never actually seen play, but he seems to have done surprisingly well in the short-format stuff this season, including a run to the quarter-finals in Riga.

                  Possible QF line-up:

                  John Higgins v. Ding Junhui
                  Judd Trump v. Marco Fu
                  Stuart Bingham v. Ronnie O'Sullivan
                  Neil Robertson v. Mark Selby

                  So there we are... It has taken a class performance from someone to win this event in all previous editions, so I think we can expect some great snooker this week as well. I'm very much looking forward to it. The only question is, do we stay up to watch the night session and sleep over the morning one, or do we go to bed now and get up for the morning session?


                  • #10
                    Love the armchairs, instead of those that wouldn't be out of place at my office
                    Last edited by DeanH; 24th October 2016, 06:39 AM.
                    Up the TSF!


                    • #11
                      They look pretty chic, don't they?


                      • #12
                        It's funny to hear the referee referring to Paul Davison as "Paul". 57 and the frame - Paul.


                        • #13
                          Mr "Paul" had a great chance for 4-4 there, will this be too great a hill to climb? Come on Mr P! (oops!!)
                          Up the TSF!


                          • #14
                            Is this not on Eurosport?
                            This is how you play darts ,MVG two nines in the same match!


                            • #15
                              I'm watching on British Eurosport 2 (Sky411) at the mo.
                              So it will also be on Eurosport player.
                              Up the TSF!