OUR snooker expert Ed Acteson (@EdActeson) returns with a wonderful preview of the forthcoming International Championship.
International Championship | 23rd-30th October
The first seven ranking tournaments of the season have produced an incredible 38 unique quarter- finalists from the maximum possible 56. We have seen seven different winners and only two players have reached more than a single final. In short, snooker is more open than ever before.
The 8th event, the International Championship, begins in Daquing, China on Sunday and will employ a best of 11 format until the semi-finals. Most modern events tend to feature opening rounds that are best of nine and this slight increase in length should theoretically see a slight reduction in the amount of favourites being beaten.
However, a bizarre draw has seen the three best players in the world, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby and Neil Robertson, seeded within the same half of the draw.
Despite this irregularity, the trio still make up three of the four favourites in the betting, which indicates a distinct lack of value to me, especially considering that the nightmarish half also features world champion Stuart Bingham and Liang Wenbo, who is arriving confident from victory at the inaugural English Open last Sunday.
You could argue a case for any of these players and as such I don’t see any merit in their diminutive odds, especially given the currently open nature of snooker that I have already alluded to.
Instead I will look across to the other half where local favourite Ding Junhui (9/1 – various) will be hoping to become the first double champion of the season.
Earlier in his career, Ding seemed to struggle with the pressure of playing in home tournaments. However, it is an issue he eventually overcame and in 39 Chinese tournaments entered, he now boasts the proud record of five quarter-final exits, six semi-finals, four runner-ups and six wins.
Furthermore, four of his six victories have occurred within the last five years and I fancy another strong showing from him here. He shouldn’t have too much to fear until the quarter-finals and I think at 9/1 will give you a real run for your money.
Ding’s most likely semi-final opponent is the form player in the world at the moment, Judd Trump (13/2 – Betfred), whose chances I also love.
Trump is the current 2nd favourite in the outright market and, in truth, it is only the shortness of his odds that has prevented me from making him my premier pick. However, they are reflective of his kind draw and as such it is difficult to argue.
Trump has already reached two finals this season, in the last two tournaments he has entered, and has a laughably easy draw compared to Mark Selby for example; a similar standard player who is only a point larger in the betting in some places. It would be no surprise to see a Trump v Ding semi-final and is an eventuality I will be hoping for.
Finally, a brief word for Michael Holt (125/1 – various), a big outsider in that ominous lower half of the draw). Holt began the season superbly, finishing runner-up to Neil Robertson in the Riga Masters. A lean couple of months followed but he looked back to his best in last month’s Shanghai Masters, eventually bowing out in the quarter-finals.
Holt didn’t have an easy run in either event and was forced to overcome Mark Selby, Stuart Bingham, Anthony McGill, Mark Williams, Kyren Wilson and Ronnie O’Sullivan, only losing to Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui who would go on to win each event respectively.
He faces a similarly tough task this week but with so many sharks swimming in his side of the water, could spring a surprise on anyone who makes the mistake of focussing on more dangerous foes ahead rather than addressing the task at hand. For a small each way interest, you could do a lot worse.
International Championship – Ding Junhui each way (9/1 Bet365)
International Championship – Judd Trump each way (13/2 Betfred)
International Championship – Michael Holt each way (125/1 Bet365)