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2017 UK Championship

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  • 2017 UK Championship

    I know it's still nearly a month to go until this tournament, but I just saw that the "draw" is already out. With the seeding system of this tournament, which is strictly based on the World Rankings down to even the least ranked competitor it was just the question of which version of the world rankings would be used for it and they already held it, not waiting for the next rankings revision, which will happen after the Northern Ireland Open and just before the UK Championship.
    So the draw is pretty simple: The #1 ranked player (defending champion and world number one Mark Selby) plays #128 in the first round, (and from then on theoretically speaking) #64 in the second round, #32 in the third round, #16 in the fourth round, #8 in the quarterfinals, #4 in the semifinals and #2 in the final.
    While #2 (world number two Ding Junhui) plays #127, then #63, then #31, then #15, then #7, then #3 and finally #1.
    And on the contrary #64 opens against #65, #63 against #66 and so on.

    This is just the information for those, who didn't already know.

    Winner: £170,000
    Runner-up: £75,000
    Semi-final: £35,000
    Quarter-final: £22,500
    Last 16: £15,000
    Last 32: £10,000
    Last 64: £5,000

    Here's the complete draw:

    And for those to lazy to click on it ;-), here are at least the Top 16 players as of now and their position in the draw, so this would theoretically be the round of sixteen:

    Mark Selby (#1) -
    Mark Williams (#16)

    Neil Robertson (#9) -
    Marco Fu (#8)

    Shaun Murphy (#5) -
    Kyren Wilson (#12)

    Luca Brecel (#13) -
    John Higgins (#4)

    Judd Trump (#3) -
    Liang Wenbo (#14)

    Ali Carter (#11) -
    Mark Allen (#6)

    Ronnie O'Sullivan (#7) -
    Barry Hawkins (#10)

    Anthony Mc Gill (#15) -
    Ding Junhui (#2)
    Last edited by JimMalone; 25th November 2017, 03:41 PM.

  • #2
    The worst thing about this years second biggest tournament certainly is the fact, that I'm on a business trip between the 29th of November and the 5th of December and so I sadly won't see much Snooker for most of the tournament (if anybody could send me any links for streams I would appreciate it ). At least I will be back in time for the deciding rounds in York and get to see at least a little bit of this tournament.

    As this is the second most important event obviously all great names (aside from the suspended Stuart Bingham) are playing here.

    First Quarter
    Upper half:
    Atop the draw there already is the defending champion, world champion and - at least in my eyes - favorite for this tournament. At the biggest events Mark Selby was in a league of his own recently. He won the last five biggest ranking events - the 2016 and 2017 World Championship, the 2016 UK Championship as well as the 2016 and 2017 International Championship. Surely this incredible streak has to come to an end at some point. Maybe at York? Or can he also make it two UK Championships in a row?
    As it comes with being #1 in the format of this tournament Selby has a seemingly easy route start. He will play against Egyptian Basem Eltahan, then could meet Scott Donaldson, who hasn't garnered any ranking points this season, or John Astley, who did a bit better. The third round could already be trickier though with likely Li Hang or Robert Milkins awaiting.
    The next highest seed in this half of the quarter is Mark Williams, who is thanks to him often being ranked #16, near Selby quite a lot of the time this season. And while I think he should win his first round encounter against Paul Davison, he has a tougher path than Selby to another rendez-vous. Obviously Ryan Day could be the hardest challenge in round three, but also Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Elliot Slessor or Sam Craigie could surprise. Of course the Best-of-11-format should help the better players and Williams has been so consistent this season, making at least the quarterfinals in six ranking events. He could have another good run here, but my personal guess is that after he finally won another title in Belfast he will be not focused enough in York (especially if his wife Joanne still is in hospital) and maybe have an early exit.

    Bottom half:
    Marco Fu (#8) and Neil Robertson (#9) are the top seeds here and based on this season that certainly will be noted with delight by the lower ranked players in this section. Cause Neil Robertson hasn't done anything noteworthy this season by his standard. The Australian's best result came at the English Open, where he reached the quarterfinal. In York he opens against Rod Lawler, than has Ken Doherty or Gary Wilson, which could already be dangerous, though Robertson easily beat Wilson at the International Championship in October.
    Fu has even done less than Robertson, but the man from Hongkong was rarely even seen. He played only four tournaments and had his best result at the International Championship, where he reached the third round. Maybe it's a good sign though, as the tournament in Daqing is the one, which is the closest in its format and worth to the UK Championship. He should have time to adjust as well, meeting Nigel Bond and then either Zhao Xintong or Rory McLeod. With only Anthony Hamilton and Lyu Haotian near him, he can't moan about the draw. Also Fu has reached at least the quarterfinal at this tournament three years in a row now.

    Second Quarter
    Upper half:
    This eighth is not exactly the toughest part of the draw. The top player here is Shaun Murphy (#5) followed by Kyren Wilson (#12) and Ricky Walden (#21). Murphy and Wilson are both players who of course can play tremendous snooker when they have a good day and both have shown it this season. But both are also inconsistent and have shown this this season as well. Murphy had a good start to the season with two finals, then went through a minor slump. He won the Champion of Champions out of nowhere and now crashed out in the first round in Belfast. And Wilson is a similiar, maybe even worse case. He also made two finals this season (at the World Open and the English Open, so one of the bigger and one middleish event), but three times he even failed to qualify for the main event. It should help them that they have a rather easy section, mostly with players who had rather disappointing seasons so far as well and the distance with Best-of-11 should help as well, but I wouldn't be too surprised if they go out early. Who could profitate from this and make the quarterfinal? Maybe Liam Highfield or Jimmy Robertson.

    Bottom half:
    This one is a bit trickier. Cause you've three strong players here battling for the two spots in the round of sixteen. That's due to the fact, that Yan Bingtao is just number #36 on the entry list, but we all can probably agree the youngster right now is playing way better than this. And this is confirmed by the fact that he is already up to #27 in the new world ranking and if we go by this season alone the 17-year-old finalist of the Northern Ireland Open has been the 13th best player.
    And with him in this section are the 2nd best and 7th best player of the season, Luca Brecel and John Higgins, as well as #23 Cao Yupeng. The chinese, who has to play compatriot Tian Pengfei first, would already be the second round opponent of John Higgins, who could then possibly run into Yan Bingtao as early as round three. So the Scotsman, who still hasn't played up to his beast this season, has quite a hell of a draw. On the other half Luca Brecel has it easier with Mark King and maybe Mike Dunn, a quarterfinalist at this weeks Northern Ireland Open as possible threats.

    Third Quarter
    Upper half:
    Judd Trump has become usually quite reliable when it comes to beat the players he "should beat" (numpties as Ronnie O'Sullivan would call them ), though it's true that this also happened to him at this years World Championship. The lost qualifier in the World Open aside, when he still struggled after his eye surgery, he only suffered two early losses: at the beginning of the season at the China Championship and recently at the Northern Ireland Open when he lost surprisingly 2-4 to Stuart Carrington. It would be a bit unusual for Trump to have an early exit again already. He opens against Matthew Bolton, in round two he could have a rather inconvenient opponent though with Lee Walker or Chris Wakelin, which both could give him troubles, but Graeme Dott or Dominic Dale wouldn't be one of the worse round-3-opponents these days.
    At the other side here is not only Carrington, the man who beat Trump in Belfast, but more important Liang Wenbo and Stephen Maguire. But actually from the seeds 9-16, of whom every top player obviously has to have one in his eighth, Liang is one of the better options right now. In the five events the Chinese entered he didn't advance even once to the quarterfinals. And Stephen Maguire, seeded #19, hasn't achieved this in his last seven tournaments as well. Also here is the man who needs a good result more urgently than anybody else: David Grace, who reached the semifinal at the UK Championship two years ago and thus will slip down in the rankings quite a lot after losing all these points.

    Bottom half:
    It's more difficult to see the quarterfinalist here. Cause Mark Allen, who has been in quite good shape recently, reaching the final of the International Championship, has als Ali Carter in his section, though the Englishman lost early in the last two tournaments after he was playing such good snooker for most of the International Championship. And this section is also full of dangerous players who can be a threat on a good day. As for example Zhou Yuelong, though he understandable still suffers to much from the death of his father and isn't at the snooker table totally. Then there is #22-seed Joe Perry, Mark Davis (though he hasn't had a good season so far) and probably most of all Jack Lisowski, who has found some consistency and has been the 14th-best player this season. I'm still not sure if he is able to put together a really good streak over a lengthier format, cause his style of playing is pretty risky.

    Fourth Quarter
    Upper half:
    In Section 7 there's the man, who might be second favorite behind Selby: Ronnie O'Sullivan. So far he has been the best player of this season, the only one to win two titles. First at the English Open and then more important at the Shanghai Masters. This is even more noteworthy as he only played five events so far. But at the most important tournament to date, the International Championship, which is also a Best-of-11-format he already lost in round one. Well, I'm pretty sure this won't happen here. Actually Ronnie has quite a favorable draw, starting against Youngster Jackson Page and then playing Alfie Burden or Michael Georgiou. And the next highest seed in his section is Barry Hawkins, who has been mostly atrocious this season, winning only four of eleven matches, and who also has a really poor record against O'Sullivan, though he beat him at the 2016 World Championship. Also here: Michael Holt and Akani Songsermsawad.

    Down half:
    A lovely prospect of course is the "logical" quarterfinal between Ronnie O'Sullivan and the highest seed in this quarter: Ding Junhui. I would hope the Chinese, world number #3, and number #6 of this season despite only playing four events, has recovered well from his conjunctivitis, but I have no reports about it. So I'm pretty sceptical about his chances for another deep run here. I don't think it's a big issue that he has played so little this season, cause despite this Ding was still victorious at the World Open. There are a few hurdles in his way to the quarterfinals, though some of them should put each other out of the draw.
    After his opener against Leo Fernandez, Ding is set to play Noppon Saengkham or compatriot Zhang Anda, then he could meet Xiao Guodong or Tom Ford. Also his opponent in the round of 16 could is pretty difficult on paper, cause it could be Martin Gould, who recently had good showings at the International Championship (semifinal) and the Shanghai Masters (quarterfinal) and is #15 on this seasons ranking and - as Ding - he skipped the Northern Ireland Open, which could be a good move. Another contender for this spot is this seasons #11 Anthony McGill, but the Scotsmans form was rather decreasing lately. Aside from this duo there is also the always dangerous Hossein Vafaei, who could meet McGill in round two.

    Possible quarterfinals:
    Selby - Fu
    K. Wilson - Higgins
    Trump - Perry
    O'Sullivan - McGill

    As always I tried to predict a few surprises. Going by the favorites the quarterfinals would feature Murphy instead of Wilson, Allen instead of Perry and Ding instead of McGill.


    • #3
      I decided to finally watch some live snooker. I'm flying from Gdansk in Poland to the Leeds-Bradford airport on the 6th of December. I'm spending that night in Manchester and then taking the train the next day to York and attending Thursday's evening session. It's general seating, so I guess I should get there early. Any tips about attending a snooker event would be greatly appreciated. I can't wait.


      • #4
        Try not to fart when the player's on the shot.


        • #5
          Originally posted by jonny66 View Post
          Try not to fart when the player's on the shot.
          That's good to know.


          • #6
            2017 UK Championship

            put your phone on silent before going in to the arena

            you will love the live matches, got any favs you hope to see?
            I only started going to live events a few years ago and am already booked in for next year's Welsh - there all week (going to try and find some veal )
            Up the TSF!


            • #7
              Originally posted by Stony152 View Post
              I decided to finally watch some live snooker. I'm flying from Gdansk in Poland to the Leeds-Bradford airport on the 6th of December. I'm spending that night in Manchester and then taking the train the next day to York and attending Thursday's evening session. It's general seating, so I guess I should get there early. Any tips about attending a snooker event would be greatly appreciated. I can't wait.
              I attended three years ago and it was really good - I came from Australia (had a friend in London and took the train from there).

              I would suggest sitting up in the upper tier - better view and more space, at least that was the case for the days I attend which were there first 3 days. You can also hang around in the lobby area if you want to get some photos with the players. I managed to get photos with Higgins, S. Davis, Selby, Walden, ver Haas and a few others. There is also a smaller area where I believe the lesser ranked players play on the bottom floor.

              You'll enjoy it.


              • #8
                I will be at the UK for tomorrow evening, wednesday and thursday if anybody fancies a pint!


                • #9
                  Originally posted by ADR147 View Post
                  I will be at the UK for tomorrow evening, wednesday and thursday if anybody fancies a pint!
                  You driving or on the train? I could bring your auction thing!


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by gavpowell View Post
                    You driving or on the train? I could bring your auction thing!
                    driving, i will be there with the van. more than welcome to meet for a few! 07757815757.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ADR147 View Post
                      driving, i will be there with the van. more than welcome to meet for a few! 07757815757.
                      Don't drink, no social skills, will pass but I'm hoping to get to a couple of cheap sessions this week, subject to work so I'll stick it back in the car!


                      • #12
                        It should be an interesting couple of weeks, with major ranking snooker returning to Europe after four events in China in the first part of the season. This is the point of the season where the balance of power has been known to change on occasion, with some players raising their game for the two big events in the UK, then keeping that momentum for the second half of the season.

                        The UK Championship has actually been quite an unpredictable tournament in recent times, sometimes featuring strong performances from most of the top players, but other times seeing a lot of surprises and some really unlikely players at the business end. The conditions have not always been the best either, so I hope things will go smoothly this year.

                        I can't possibly go through the draw of 128 players in any detail in half a day, so I will do something a little bit different this time. I will limit my thoughts to what I think are the five main contenders in each section...

                        Quarter 1:

                        Mark Selby v. Basem Eltahhan
                        Scott Donaldson v. John Astley
                        Li Hang v. Gerard Greene
                        Robert Milkins v. Chen Zhe

                        Mark Williams v. Paul Davison
                        Andrew Higginson v. Sam Craigie
                        Ryan Day v. Jamie Curtis-Barrett
                        Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v. Elliot Slessor

                        Mark Selby is the defending champion, having won this tournament a year ago with a great performance, particularly against O'Sullivan in the final. His start to the season was somewhat suspect, but once the slightly longer matches came about in the International Championship, Selby once again proved that he was still the man to beat in this format. I think the statistic is worth repeating again... In ranking events with matches of at least best-of-11, Selby is actually undefeated over the last 24 months. He has now won five events of that type in a row, and reached the semi-finals of the two before that. He just has levels of concentration and patience that very few players can rival, and that makes him very difficult to beat outside of the short format. I agree with JimMalone here, for me Selby is not only the favourite in this section, but also the favourite to win the entire tournament, and a reasonably strong one at that.

                        On paper, Mark Williams is the player Selby should be most worried about. The Northern Ireland Open last week was the biggest title Williams has won since 2011, so the confidence should be pretty high for him at the moment. He has had a very consistent season so far, and I'm fairly certain those six quarter-finals are more than anyone else has managed as far as events that carried ranking points are concerned. Williams seems to be playing well regardless of the format at the moment, although I think it's fair to say that the draw opened up fairly kindly for him in Belfast. It's not so favourable here, with Selby standing in his way if he is to reach the quarter-finals. The two have enjoyed a good rivalry over the years, with Williams winning the last time they played, 5-3 in Shanghai earlier this month, though Selby did of course beat him 6-4 in the International Championship a few weeks prior. With all the stuff that's gone on with Williams over the last couple of days, I think he would do well to have another good tournament here. I wouldn't be surprised if he went out early, and I certainly wouldn't make him favourite against Selby if they did meet.

                        Ryan Day is possibly a good bet to knock Williams out. He too has enjoyed a fairly consistent season so far, although his best results have mostly come in the short format, including a run to the last16 in Belfast. The UK Championship has never been his favourite tournament though, he has never been to the business end of it, not even back when he was a top8 player. Robert Milkins is another player who prefers the short format. He went a round further than Day in Belfast, but in the end they were both beaten by Yan Bingtao in a close match. Elliot Slessor will not make it into my five on this occasion, despite a nice run to the semi-finals last week. I keep mentioning him as a possible outsider ahead of the major events, but his good results seem to be limited to the short format.

                        Instead, I think Li Hang deserves a mention here. He did very well in two major events in China at the start of the season, with runs to the semi-finals of the China Championship and the quarter-finals of the World Open, losing to the eventual champion both times. He has the kind of composed and methodical approach to the game that is well suited to the slightly longer matches, so I can see him beating at least his first two opponents here.

                        Mark Joyce v. Thor Chuan Leong
                        David Gilbert v. Christopher Keogan
                        Gary Wilson v. Ken Doherty
                        Neil Robertson v. Rod Lawler

                        Peter Ebdon v. Allan Taylor
                        Anthony Hamilton v. Lyu Haotian
                        Rory McLeod v. Zhao Xintong
                        Marco Fu v. Nigel Bond

                        A weak part of the draw when you consider the recent form of the two favourites. Many eyes will be on Neil Robertson this week. He is about to lose big points from his UK title two years ago, so it will be interesting to see if he can get a result here and somehow get himself back up the rankings before the Masters next month. Unfortunately he only has a single quarter-final appearance in ranking events this season, and even that was in the short format. That means he has done no better than anyone else in this section, apart from maybe one or two of the real outsiders. On the plus side, he has played really well in the UK Championship since its return to York, and his results include two titles in the last four years. Can he finally find some form when he needs it most?

                        Marco Fu is less desperate for ranking points, but I'm sure he will want to put things right here, after what has been a terrible start to the season for him. If you think back to last year, the UK Championship was where his season really turned around, because he was really poor up to that point last season as well. He has a tendency not to do well in China, so it's not really that surprising that he struggles in the first part of the season. I am not at all confident that Robertson and Fu will do the business and meet each other in the last16, but if they do, it will be interesting to see another round of their recent rivalry. The head-to-head is fairly even, but considering that Robertson was probably the favourite in most of their meetings, I think Fu will be the happier of the two with that record. I have a feeling it will go Robertson's way this time though.

                        The rest of this section is not all that strong either, so I'm struggling to find three more players to point out. I guess David Gilbert should be the next one, a quarter-finalist in the World Open this season. He is playing the best snooker of his career in recent times, but most of his best results have come in China rather than Europe. Lyu Haotian was a semi-finalist in Belfast last week, so clearly in good form at the moment, although I think it's fair to say that the draw did open up very nicely for him in that event. It will be much tougher to make any progress in an event such as the UK Championship, with slightly longer matches and all of the top players being up for it. I think his all-round game is still a little lacking at the moment, so he would not be my pick.

                        I don't particularly fancy Peter Ebdon this week either, as he hasn't been to the business end of the UK Championship at all since he won it 11 years ago, and neither have Ken Doherty or Anthony Hamilton in that time. Gary Wilson only seems to do well in the short format, and that only leaves Mark Joyce, a quarter-finalist in two events that carried ranking points this season. To be fair, both of those had the short format as well, but I just can't see anyone else I would put ahead of Joyce in this section.

                        Quarter 2:

                        Shaun Murphy v. Hamza Akbar
                        Daniel Wells v. Liam Highfield
                        Alan McManus v. Robin Hull
                        Jimmy Robertson v. Alex Borg

                        Kyren Wilson v. Sean O'Sullivan
                        Yu Delu v. Ian Preece
                        Ricky Walden v. Duane Jones
                        Jamie Jones v. Craig Steadman

                        I will disagree slightly with JimMalone in this section, I think it's actually quite a respectable part of the draw, mainly due to the two favourites both being in good form in the first part of the season. Shaun Murphy reached a major ranking final in Guangzhou and a minor one in Fürth, then added the Champion of Champions title as well. Statistically his season is already better than the previous two, even if he doesn't do anything great in the second half. He is 35 now, which would have meant he was coming towards the end of his prime in the past, but these days it seems to be the perfect age to start playing your best snooker. I think it's fair to say that Murphy has not won as much he could have done, with only five major titles outside of the short format in his entire career, so I am sure he will be targeting events such as this one and trying to add to his legacy.

                        Kyren Wilson has also played well this season, reaching a major and a minor ranking final himself, though he did lose heavily in both of them. It will be interesting to see if he can make another step up this season and start winning major titles. A year ago I would have said yes, but this season I have noticed a bit of impatience from him when things are not going his way. He seems to get himself into a negative frame of mind rather quickly, and I think that's a habit he would do well to get rid of. He has never played Murphy in any match of proper length, so this would be a good match to see over a best-of-11.

                        I think the chances are quite high that it does happen, but if either player is going to falter, I think it's more likely to be Wilson, simply because his draw is a little tougher. Ricky Walden is his main danger, a player who was set back by an injury and is only slowly starting to get some form back. I think it's only a matter of time before he has a good run though, so the top players will not be particularly happy to run into him in the early rounds. Jamie Jones could also spoil the party here, as he did for the likes of Ding a year ago when he got to the quarter-finals. His best result this season is the semi-final in the short-format Paul Hunter Classic, while the longer events have not been particularly successful for him.

                        It is tough to find a fifth contender in this section. Alan McManus would be a decent bet normally, but he hasn't done anything of note lately, and he hasn't actually been to the business end of the UK Championship in 20 years. Perhaps Liam Highfield could be a surprise this week. He struggles quite badly in the qualifiers, but he seems to play quite well once he reaches the venue stage of an event, so I think the key for him is to survive the opening days here.

                        Mike Dunn v. Fang Xiongman
                        Mark King v. Boonyarit Keattikun
                        Sam Baird v. Aditya Mehta
                        Luca Brecel v. Soheil Vahedi

                        Yan Bingtao v. Zhang Yong
                        Ben Woollaston v. Li Yuan
                        Tian Pengfei v. Cao Yupeng
                        John Higgins v. Chris Totten

                        One of the strongest sections of the draw for me, with three players who have been challenging for titles this season. Luca Brecel perhaps deserves to be mentioned first, since he is one of the players of the season so far. The UK Championship was actually the tournament where he first showed he could be a top player, reaching the quarter-finals in 2012 when he was still only 17. This time he comes to the tournament as one of the favourites, having won his first major title in Guangzhou at the start of the season, followed by good runs in two of the other three major events in China as well. I must confess I have not really noticed any major changes in play style or shot selection from him this season, but he seems to have developed a habit of winning close matches and deciding frames, and he generally seems quite confident every time we see him on TV.

                        John Higgins has not impressed me as much this season, although he still managed to win the short-format Indian Open two months ago. He has mainly played alright, but his current form isn't really good enough when he comes up against the likes of O'Sullivan. He came up against an inspired Yan Bingtao in the International Championship and was beaten comfortably, as was O'Sullivan that week. To reach the semi-finals of such a prominent event at the age of 17 is impressive, as was his run last week when he came within a frame of taking the title. It would be quite easy for him to dwell on some of his mistakes, or perhaps reflect on what might have been had that split worked out a little better in the penultimate frame, but I hope he is the sort of character who will be able to move on quickly and continue to improve as a player. One thing is certain though, the luxury of being an underdog is now gone, so the likes of Higgins will be well up for it when they play him.

                        This section has another couple of players who did well in Belfast. Mike Dunn, Li Yuan and Tian Pengfei all reached the quarter-finals, but I don't think anyone is expecting them to repeat that kind of result anytime soon. Well, with the exception of Tian perhaps. It could actually be a good match between Tian and Cao Yupeng in the 1st round here. Cao has been playing some good snooker this season, the highlight being his run to the semi-finals of the European Masters last month. His record in York is a slight problem though, as he has lost in the 1st round for five years in a row now and has never actually won a match here.

                        With Brecel withdrawing from the Northern Ireland Open last week, Ben Woollaston is now the only player apart from Gilbert to have appeared at every venue this season, but he too is a short-format specialist, so I will not include him in my five here. I will go for Mark King instead. To be fair, King's best results in recent years have mostly come in the short format as well, most recently in India this season where he reached the semi-finals, but for some reason I have a bit more confidence in him than I do in some of the other players here. He actually lost to a 17-year-old Brecel in both the UK and the World Championship in 2012, so it will be interesting to see how it goes if they meet here.

                        Quarter 3:

                        Judd Trump v. Matthew Bolton
                        Chris Wakelin v. Lee Walker
                        Graeme Dott v. Josh Boileau
                        Dominic Dale v. Adam Duffy

                        Liang Wenbo v. Sanderson Lam
                        Stuart Carrington v. Mitchell Mann
                        Stephen Maguire v. Yuan Sijun
                        David Grace v. Jak Jones

                        Difficult to find five genuine contenders for a quarter-final spot in this section. Judd Trump is one for sure, and he has no reason whatsoever to complain about his draw here. He has now reached a level of consistency that allows him to win some sort of title every couple of months, and this season has been no different. He managed to defend his European Masters title and follow it up with a run to the final of the Shanghai Masters, although that final ended on a very low note with a comfortable defeat to Ronnie O'Sullivan. It was a rather pathetic effort from Trump, but I was at least impressed with the way he managed to keep his composure and still play the right shots even when he was a long way behind. It seems the 1st round defeat in Belfast last week was rather more difficult to take for him, but the next tournament is here already, so he has a chance to redeem himself. He hasn't actually won a tournament of this size or format in more than five years, so he could do with winning something big again.

                        Liang Wenbo is perhaps the next best player in this section, although his recent form has been underwhelming, to put it mildly. There isn't a single result to point out, not even in the really minor events. Well, he did win the World Cup for China in the summer, but in truth it was his partner Ding who did most of the work there. Liang is 30 now, so I think we just have to accept that he will never be one of those players who can string several good results together, he is too inconsistent for that. He is always a danger in single events though, and he is well capable of taking advantage of a fairly weak section such as this one. Also, let's not forget that Liang got to the final of this event two years ago, so he will be losing a lot of ranking points after this week, and that puts him under pressure a little to get a good result here.

                        I think Stephen Maguire will be quite happy to find himself in this section as well. He too has struggled in recent months, but at least he has one result to point out this season, a run to the final of the short-format Riga Masters in the summer. He hasn't actually won a tournament outside of the short format in more than nine years though, so I think it's fair to say that I don't have much confidence in him these days. Still, he has done better in the UK Championship than in any other event over the years, so this is as good a place as any for him to finally play some good snooker again.

                        I could also mention David Grace's surprising run to the semi-finals of this event two years ago, or perhaps Mitchell Mann's run to the semi-finals of the Paul Hunter Classic this season, but I doubt anyone would be particularly impressed with those results. I will therefore go with my gut feeling instead and pick Stuart Carrington as a potential dangerman in this section, even though he hasn't been to the business end of any tournament this season, minor or major. Graeme Dott hasn't either, but I still like his chances better than most players' in this section.

                        Jack Lisowski v. Wang Yuchen
                        Joe Perry v. Billy Joe Castle
                        Kurt Maflin v. Alexander Ursenbacher
                        Allister Carter v. Jimmy White

                        Mark Davis v. Xu Si
                        Zhou Yuelong v. Peter Lines
                        Oliver Lines v. Mei Xiwen
                        Mark Allen v. Lukas Kleckers

                        Unlike some other sections, this one actually features quite a few players who have been in good form this season. Mark Allen first of all, enjoying a much better season than he did last year, with runs to the final of the International Championship and the semi-finals of the World Open. In my previous four previews (that's a nice phrase, isn't it? ) I mentioned his strong record in China, so it's only fair that I mention it here as well. He seems to play most of his best snooker in that part of the world nowadays, so perhaps it's time for a good tournament in the UK for a change. It's a tricky little section for him, but Allen is the favourite as far as the rankings are concerned, and quite possibly my favourite as well.

                        The only player I would put on par with him is Ali Carter, also playing quite well this season, with runs to the semi-finals of the China Championship and the quarter-finals of the International Championship. Allen and Carter have not actually met in a major match in some time, so it would be an interesting one to see. I think Carter is a similar case to Liang these days, in the sense that he can be very dangerous in single events, but I am not really expecting any prolonged periods of good results from him.

                        We also have a couple of relatively new additions to the big stage in this section. Jack Lisowski has finally made something of a breakthrough, after quite a few years of hype. The run to the quarter-finals of the English Open could have been attributed to the short format perhaps, but he backed it up by getting to the semi-finals in Shanghai, beating the likes of Allen and Kurt Maflin along the way. I probably wouldn't fancy him against the really top players, but he could certainly get through a section like this one. Zhou Yuelong has made a name for himself this season as well with a couple of really nice results, but the death of his father seems to have set him back a bit, which is understandable of course. There is a tendency for the young Chinese players to play quite well in the longer format, so perhaps this could be a good week for him. Alexander Ursenbacher is another good prospect who has had a notable result this season, a run to the semi-finals of the English Open to be specific, but this section is too strong for him to be among my five contenders.

                        I will go with experience instead and mention Joe Perry, even though he has done very little since Riga in the summer. It's about time his results improve though, and it's actually not that long ago that Perry would have been the favourite against the opposition he has here. Similar story with Mark Davis, a strong player who is not enjoying a particularly good season, though obviously he doesn't quite have the class of Perry.

                        Quarter 4:

                        Ronnie O'Sullivan v. Jackson Page
                        Alfie Burden v. Michael Georgiou
                        Michael White v. Ross Muir
                        Matthew Selt v. Ian Burns

                        Barry Hawkins v. Kurt Dunham
                        Matthew Stevens v. Hammad Miah
                        Michael Holt v. Niu Zhuang
                        Fergal O'Brien v. Akani Songsermsawad

                        It's hard to see past Ronnie O'Sullivan in this section, not just because he is arguably the player of the season so far, but also because his draw is quite favourable here and potentially includes a couple of players he beat on his way to the final a year ago. His form this season has been a pleasant surprise so far. He has managed to win a major and a minor ranking title, both without being troubled too much, and he also reached the final of the two biggest invitational tournaments in the first half of the season. We've now come to the part of the season O'Sullivan usually does very well in, with the UK Championship being a strong tournament for him, both traditionally as well as in the more recent history.

                        I am not sure who could cause the most problems for O'Sullivan, but the draw would certainly open up if he went out for some reason. Michael White has never played him outside of the short format, so we can't be sure whether he is in the rather small group of players who have the mental strength to give O'Sullivan a good game, but I rather suspect he might not be. He has never really done much in the major events anyway, and that includes this season. He did manage to win the Paul Hunter Classic in the summer though, which was his second ranking title in the short format.

                        Barry Hawkins has been known to give O'Sullivan a good game in the past, but this season he has been absolutely awful so far. I don't think anyone would be satisfied to have his results, let alone someone who is ranked comfortably inside the top16. He was whitewashed by O'Sullivan in Shanghai a couple of weeks ago, in what was surely one of the worst performances I have ever seen from him, so it would take quite a dramatic improvement for him to play good snooker this week. I am sure he will play better after the new year, as he always does, but the UK Championship has never been his strongest tournament, so I don't like his chances here at all.

                        The rankings suggest that Michael Holt and Matthew Selt should play some part in this section as well, but neither has done anything notable this season. I actually have the feeling the two veterans could be a bigger danger. Fergal O'Brien has already played at the business end of a major tournament this season, getting to the quarter-finals of the China Championship in August. And of course who could forget him making five centuries in his win over Hawkins in this tournament a year ago? Matthew Stevens has been less successful, but it's not been a terrible season by his current standards, and his preference for the longer format is well known.

                        Robbie Williams v. Martin O'Donnell
                        Martin Gould v. Joe Swail
                        Hossein Vafaei v. James Wattana
                        Anthony McGill v. Ashley Hugill

                        Xiao Guodong v. Chen Zifan
                        Tom Ford v. Eden Sharav
                        Noppon Saengkham v. Zhang Anda
                        Ding Junhui v. Leo Fernandez

                        Of all the highest seeds in each section, I think Ding Junhui is probably the most vulnerable. He has now taken over from O'Sullivan as the player who plays the least snooker, skipping more events than he enters. There are questions over his physical well-being at the moment, and I have also questioned his motivation a couple of times this season, when it looked like he couldn't really be bothered to play. He still managed to win the World Open though, which is way more than any of his rivals in this section have achieved. He has won the UK title on two occasions in the past, but in recent years his performances here have, for lack of a better word, kind of sucked. Can he reverse that trend this year?

                        I actually think the quarter-finalist in this section could be whoever wins the last32 match between Martin Gould and Anthony McGill. Gould played well in the Chinese events, getting to the semi-finals of the International Championship and the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters, and I agree with JimMalone that skipping the Northern Ireland Open could prove to be a good decision for him. McGill is probably the player who comes closest to rivalling Mark Williams for consistency this season, getting to the quarter-finals or beyond in five events that carried ranking points. The only worrying thing for him is that those were mostly short-format events, whereas the major events saw him lose early in everything except the World Open. If Ding does indeed go out early here, it would present an excellent chance for either of these two to do something in this tournament.

                        Robbie Williams could possibly spoil the party though, as he has the kind of game and pace of play that is generally well suited to this format. He proved that by getting to the quarter-finals of the International Championship this season, although he did have some luck with Bingham getting suspended just before he was due to play him.

                        It's tough to decide on the final player I mention here, because the rest of the competition is quite well balanced. I suppose it should be Xiao Guodong, since he has proven in the past that he can go far in tournaments when he finds his form. I'm not sure he will find it though, because his season has only been okay so far, similarly to Tom Ford and Zhang Anda. It's perhaps worth saying that Zhang and Xiao were both drawn into Ding's section in the World Open as well, and he didn't have much trouble knocking them out on that occasion. Perhaps Hossein Vafaei should have been my final choice, a quarter-finalist in the English Open this season, but I am slightly worried by his lack of good results in the major events. To be fair though, he didn't play in all of them.

                        Possible QF line-up:

                        Mark Selby v. Neil Robertson
                        Shaun Murphy v. Luca Brecel
                        Judd Trump v. Mark Allen
                        Ronnie O'Sullivan v. Martin Gould

                        There we are, a night well spent... Hopefully I don't regret this in the morning if it turns out I have to go into town. Anyway, it should be a great tournament, and hopefully we can get more discussion than we had for the Chinese events.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by DeanH View Post
                          put your phone on silent before going in to the arena

                          you will love the live matches, got any favs you hope to see?
                          I only started going to live events a few years ago and am already booked in for next year's Welsh - there all week (going to try and find some veal )
                          O'Sullivan and Brecel are probably the players I'd most like to see. And, of course, the great players like Selby, Higgins, Murphy, and Trump. The session I'm going to is the end of the last 16, so the players left will all be quite good.


                          • #14
                            Ding lost from 5-1 up. I suppose it's results like that that make people doubt him as a future WC.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jonny66 View Post
                              Ding lost from 5-1 up. I suppose it's results like that that make people doubt him as a future WC.
                              I don't think he particularly cares about any tournament other than the WC. If he wins at the crucible, he will go down as an all time great given the rest of his resume. If he doesn't, he'll go down as a poor man's Jimmy White. It's probably not fair to judge a player mostly based on how he does in one tournament, but that's the way it is.