SNOOKER expert Ed Acteson (@EdActeson) returns with a wonderful preview of the UK Championship.
UK Championship | 22nd November – 4th December 2016 | BBC/Eurosport
Due to its mutilated format, the UK Championship has become my least favourite of the three snooker majors.
The absence of qualifying means a bloated field of 128 players, at least 100 of whom have virtually zero chance of winning the thing.
Most of the best players will have to endure two or three rounds of dross opposition before encountering anybody of a similar standard and I think that is to the detriment of the casual viewer.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been a casual viewer since first discovering ludicrous 10-fold football accumulators as a youngster and, as such, if I’m to fully immerse myself in this event, I’ll need to put the rent money on the line once more.
Steering clear of Selby and Wiggins
With so much at stake, I’ve done the research and the dilemma is that my two biggest fancies, Mark Selby and John Higgins, are in the same quarter of the draw.
Higgins has been in stunning form recently, winning back-to-back tournaments (Champion of Champions, China Championship) before reaching the last-16 in the Northern Ireland Open last week.
Higgins’ two victories were preceded by the International Championship, which Selby won. With Ronnie O’Sullivan not the player he was, or that his price suggests, Neil Robertson on a shocking run of form and Judd Trump continuing to fall short of his own potential, Selby is in my eyes the best player in the world now and I am continually looking to get him onside.
However, I don’t particularly want to choose between Higgins and Selby and feel that the winning quarter market could be the way to avoid such a decision.
By backing the 4th Quarter (3/1 Betfair) to win, we get both players onside as well as Mark Allen, Kyren Wilson and Anthony McGill, all three of whom could also go well if they start playing well.
Back Bingham at bulbous quotes
It’s an interesting angle that gives us interest until the semi-finals at least and the player I feel could lie in waiting at that stage is 2015 World Champion Stuart Bingham (28/1 Betfred).
Bingham has a runner-up finish, two semi-final exits and a quarter-final loss among his last four tournaments so is a man in high confidence. That confidence might be buoyed when he notices that winnable ties against Barry Hawkins and Shaun Murphy are his hardest possible opponents en-route to another semi-final.
His victory in the world championship proves he has the nerve and calibre to win at this level and 28/1 is a sufficiently juicy price to tempt me in.
Walden the outside shot
Finally, a long shot on the other side of proceedings in Ricky Walden (80/1 Coral).
It’s the half of the draw that features most of the big names (O’Sullivan, Trump, Robertson, Williams, Junhui) but I could make arguments against all of them, primarily citing form and consistency.
Walden has been a semi-finalist here twice in the last five years and I feel he is a potentially dangerous opponent who might slip under the radar and take out some bigger names who will be eyeing each other.
At 80/1 (Coral) it’s undoubtedly a long shot, but he’s as short at 33s elsewhere and it’s a price that I can see tumbling if he gets some momentum behind him.