Who Can Champion The Jet-Lag In Coventry’s Champions Showdown?6 min read
The 2019 Champion of Champions snooker tournament, which gets underway on Monday in Coventry’s Ricoh Arena, will conclude next Sunday when a field of 16 will have been whittled down to a winner via a ‘best of 19 frames’ decider.
In 2018 it was Ronnie O’Sullivan and Kyren Wilson who faced off in the final with the multiple world champion taking the honours 10-frames-to-9.
Qualification for the Champion of Champions tournament has been determined by the winners of key tournaments (27 in total) during the past year. The winners of the first sixteen tournaments on the list were guaranteed a place in the championship but as some players won more than one event, winners lower down the designated list earned a place in the line-up.
Consequently we have some back-numbers in the field such as Jimmy White, who won the 2019 World Seniors Championship, and Reanne Evans – the winner of the 2019 World Women’s Snooker Championship.
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Kyren Wilson, Judd Trump and John Higgins are in the field and given they all made the semi-finals of the World Open in Yushan, China, at the weekend, they are entitled to be hungover, jet-lagged, or a combination of both.
It was Trump that won that title, reaffirming his position as world No.1. But while he was dominant in the final, it was not all plain sailing during the competition. The Juddster only just overcame the lowly ranked Sam Craigie 5-4 in the opening round, he had to go to a final frame to beat Joe Perry in the third round and was the beneficiary of another final frame shoot-out against John Higgins in the semi-finals.
Beaten finalist Thepchaiya Un-Nooh was in the decider courtesy of a 6-5 semi-final victory over Kyren Wilson and beforehand he beat Dave Gilbert by just the one frame in the semis. All of these victories by the minimum margin underline the competitive nature of the game right now.
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Kyren Wilson and Judd Trump all play on Wednesday afternoon which means they will probably not sleep in their own beds beforehand.
Interestingly, in the opening round, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh meets Kyren Wilson once again.
Ronnie O’Sullivan, the 2/1 outright competition favourite, looks to have a bye into the second round courtesy of a first round draw against his good friend, Jimmy White. He’s a prohibitive 10/1 to beat the veteran.
However, before drawing your savings from the building society for some easy interest, do consider O’Sullivan was beaten 5-3 by Dominic Dale in a World Open qualifier when last seen in action.
If that’s a bet fraught with danger, how about the 1/200 about Shaun Murphy beating the 12-time Woman’s World Champion Reanne Evans? Her most notable form-line came in the 2017 World Snooker Championship qualifiers where she defeated Robin Hull 10-8 in the first round. 12 months later she took Dominic Dale to a 7-10 score-line in the same event.
I therefore declare it is foolhardy to ‘buy money’ playing these two shorties in an opening-round double… but many will.
Bingham to better his record
But, there is one first-round match that I’m happy to get involved in; another repeat meeting from last week’s World Open, that being John Higgins vs Stuart Bingham. Of course Higgins was successful last time taking his head-to-head record to 14 wins from 22 meetings, but I think the tide can turn.
Thursday’s match sees Higgins trading as 4/5 favourite but that jet-lag factor could still play a part in his performance and the Scotsman is renowned for ‘bouncing’ (one good performance followed by a bad one). But, as much as anything, it is the overall performance of Stuart Bingham last week which took my breath away and makes me believe he can turn the tables.
Just consider this: In making the final and winning the World Open, Judd Trump produced six century breaks. Yet, despite his exit at quarter-finals, Stuart Bingham recorded nine of them during the tournament! His queuing was simply sublime, most notably in beating the resurgent Mark Selby 5-2 when he recorded four ton-plus breaks.
OK, Higgins did eliminate Bingham in the quarter-finals 5-2 but even then, the two winning frames registered by Bingham saw him record a 138 and 110 break (when 110 was all that was available to him as a clearance).
Thursday 3pm: Stuart Bingham to beat John Higgins
Outright: Stuart Bingham Each Way