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Has Snooker Lost it’s Loopiness?

By Glenn Cowan

This month sees the start of the 2016 UK Snooker Championships, which of course for monetary purposes has the official name of the betway UK Championship. If you don’t actively follow snooker then you might not know that this is the 2nd biggest ranking tournament after the World Championships, and is one of the Triple Crown Ranking events.128 players from around the globe will be vying to stay in the tournament right through to the final, which takes place on Sunday 4th December.

What to Expect

Without question the usual array of snooker super-stars will be on show at the Barbican in York.Expect to see the likes of John Higgins, Marco Fu, Ali Carter, Mark Selby, Mark Williams go far in a competition that will see the eventual winner pocket a cool £170,000, out of a total prize fund of £850,000. Not bad for a couple of weeks work ! The real serious snooker will no doubt start somewhere around the Last 16 round or Quarter Final stages. These are scheduled to take place from Wednesday 30th November through to Friday 2nd December as the fight for the championship starts to heat up.

Previous Winners

Last years event, the first sponsored by betway saw Australian Neil Robertson take the title in a reasonably comfortable fashion from China’s Liang Wenbo. The Aussie running out 10-5 winner. This was the second time that Robertson claimed the top prize having beaten England’s Mark Selby 10-7 in the 2013 final.

Another first from last year was that it was the very first time that a UK Championship final had been contested by two overseas players. Is the UK’s domination of the green baize starting to finally wane?

Steve Davis still commands the most amount of wins from this tournament. Romford born Davis played in the final an unbelievable 10 times, running out winner in 6 of these.It should also be remembered that Ronnie O’Sullivan (2014 winner) is just one win behind Davis in the all time winners chart. O’Sullivan has had slightly better luck than Davis in the final, having not been beaten in 5 previous attempts. Winners with an impressive 100% final record include previously mentioned Robertson and China’s Ding Junhui, these two have won both finals they played in. Other winners with the same 100% record are John Virgo (England) and Patsy Fagan (Ireland), younger readers will probably have to Google these names!

Chinese Invasion

Interestingly Snooker in the far east, notably China seems to be on the up and up.The world’s largest population have a knack in recent times of producing some high quality snooker players. Aside from Junhui and Wenbo there are a few names that should be worth following.

Tian Pengfei has lept up 34 places in the world rankings to sit inside the top 50 for the first time. With others like Xiao Guodong, Li Hang, Zhou Yuelong, Yu Delu, Zang Anda, Cao Yupeng, Zhang Yong and Lu Ning all rankings inside the top 100 it's no wonder that snooker is bracing itself for a potential chinese take-over.

Has Rocket Ronnie Run Outta Fuel?

Its pretty hard to tell just which Ronnie O’Sullivan will turn up to major tournaments nowadays.

It’s also pretty clear that the five time World Champion isn’t in it for the money, an impressive £8M or so in the bank from prize-money alone is likely to be provide an insight into this.

So just does make the Rocket tick? That question is likely to lead to being the perpetual showman in a sometimes interesting sport ! Will we see the O’Sullivan that has rattled in no less than 13 ratified maximum breaks in professional competitions? Will we see the O’Sullivan that holds the 3 quickest competitive maximum breaks, with the final black being sunk in the fastest one in a mere 5 mins and 20 seconds? Or will we see the O’Sullivan that shook snooker when he deliberately missed the chance of a 147 in the Welsh Open upon discovering that the prize was a “paltry” £10,000. Readers might recall the furore in the media after O’Sullivan opted to take the Pink instead of the final Black as he went on to record 146.

 

Whichever O’Sullivan turns up, let's hope that he adds his own form of magic to the tournament.

Mark Selby heads upWorld Rankings the rankings at the time of writing, with a huge lead over Stuart Bingham. Selby has amassed £827,942 prize money in ranking events versus the £545,846 that Bingham has collected.Judd Trump isn’t too far off the pace in 3rd position, having earned £516,499. The first of China’s superstars follows Trump with Ding Junhui picking up a tasty £443,925.Shaun Murphy, John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Joe Perry and Mark Allen make up the remainder of the top 10 World Ranked players.

For those who aren’t familiar, the World Rankings are made up of all prize money that has been earned from events that carry a ranking status. However, this doesn’t include invitational events such as the Masters, Championship League events or the Champion of Champions. Neither does it include prize money gained from maximum breaks or high break prizes.

New Direction of Snooker?

There is no doubt that the influence from the far east, with notable Chinese players in the running to pick up tournament wins along the way.It isn’t quite the same for Thailand;however, they do have a couple of players inside the top 50, with Thepchaiya Un-Nooh currently enjoying the heights of being ranked 32nd in the world.

Other names to watch out for in the future include, Dechawat Poomjaeng, Noppon Saengkham, James Wattana and Akani Songsermsawad.Could one of these Thai names become a household name and win a major ranking tournament, perhaps not, but time will tell.

Watch this space, folks!!