Snooker’s Champion of Champions tournament returns this week, and Ronnie O’Sullivan is top seed and favourite to retain the trophy he won last year.
The non-ranking tournament was short-lived between 1978 and 1980, before it was revived in 2013 replacing Premier League Snooker on the sport’s calender. It brings together every ranking-event winner from the last season, with the remaining places filled using the world rankings. The sixteen competitors have been split into four groups of four, with each group, consisting of two semi-finals and a final, played over the course of a day during this week. The four group winners progress into Saturday’s semi-finals, with the two winners competing for the title in a 19-frame final over two sessions.
The event is held at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena, will be televised live on ITV4, and boasts a £270,000 prize fund; with £100,000 to the winner, £50,000 to the runner-up, and the rest split among the other contenders. The seeds for the tournament are Ronnie O-Sullivan (1), Mark Selby (2), Neil Robertson (3), and Ding Junhui (4). The four are split across the four groups as follows:
Group 4 – Matches to be played Monday 3rd November
Ding Junhui v Dominic Dale
Barry Hawkins v John Higgins
Group 2 – Matches to be played on Tuesday 4th November
Mark Selby v Steve Davis
Judd Trump v Stephen Maguire
Group 1 – Matches to be played Wednesday 5th November
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stuart Bingham
Shaun Murphy v Marco Fu
Group 3 – Matches to be played Friday 7th November
Neil Robertson v Ali Carter
Ricky Walden v Mark Allen
This is a quick-fire tournament with the opening group matches played over seven frames, and the ‘final’ of each group played the same evening over 11 frames. To pick an outright winner of the tournament, it pays to look first at the players who will win their groups to qualify for Saturday’s semi finals.
Group 4, being played first on Monday, features world number 3, Ding Junhui, who won five ranking titles in the 2013/14 season. He’s one of the games best players at the moment but disappointed recently when he was knocked out in the qualifying round for the International Championship by Chinese amateur Wang ZePeng. However that does mean he comes here fresh, and despite worries about form, he has to be taken seriously. We would take Ding to beat Dominic Dale, and fancy that Barry Hawkins will overcome John Higgins to set up a group final against China’s star player.
Skybet offer +750 on Junhui to win the tournament
While Coral go +2500 on Hawkins
Group 2 is set to be played on Tuesday, and includes reigning world champion Mark Selby, Judd Trump, Stephen Maguire, and legend of the game Steve Davis. With Selby due to play Davis he looks to have a good passage through to the final of this group, where he could face either one of Trump or Maguire. On paper that match looks too tight to call, but whichever player gets through will have their work cut out against Selby in the evening.
Selby is available at +700 with BetVictor to take home the trophy
Group 1 is scheduled for Wednesday and features a mouth-watering clash between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stuart Bingham – the man Ronnie beat 10-8 to claim the crown in 2013. While the other match sees Shaun Murphy take on Marco Fu. It’s a tough start for O’Sullivan but if he can get past Bingham he ought to make it through to the weekend semi finals. However, Bingham won their last match in the UK Championships, not long after last year’s final, and he is arguably the player in better current form. If he beats the world number four, it could open the way for either him, or Shaun Murphy to reach the business end of the tournament.
Ronnie O’Sullivan has been installed as +275 favourite with Paddy Power
Stuart Bingham can be backed at +2500 with Paddy Power
Shaun Murphy is available at +1600 with Skybet
Group 3 takes place on Friday, and at first glance looks highly competitive with world number 2, Neil Robertson taking on Ali Carter; and Ricky Walden and Mark Allen playing out a repeat of yesterday’s International Championship final, which Walden won 10-7. But coming back from China to play in Coventry just a few days later will be difficult for both players, and this could be an easy route to the Semis for Robertson. However, Walden must be full of confidence after that win in China, so could come into the reckoning if momentum can carry him through.
Robertson can be backed at +700 with BetVictor
Walden is available at a massive +2500 with Bet365
The Semi finals
Looking at groups 2 and 3, both Selby and Robertson look to have every chance of making the semi finals, with reasons to go against the other players in their groups. Both Ricky Walden and Mark Allen may have something to say about that, but you have to wonder how much that International Championship final will have taken out of them, and it’s a very quick turnaround to perform at their best here just five days later.
Groups 1 and 4 look much more open and it’s tough to pick a winner in each. Plenty of money will go on Ding Junhui, but with question marks over his form, world number 5 Barry Hawkins could cause something of an upset. In Group 1 it’s hard to back against Ronnie O’Sullivan – one of the most naturally-talented players the game has ever produced – and if he plays anywhere near his best he should be in the shake-up.
With this in mind we’re tipping Mark Selby to show why he’s ranked number 1, and think he represents decent value. With each way terms offered on the first two, we’re also going to have a small bet on an outsider in Barry Hawkins, who could spring a surprise if he can get through the group at the expense of Ding Junhui.
Snooker Champion of Champions Tournament – 3rd to 9th November (final on the 9th)
Mark Selby to win the tournament +700 with BetVictor
Barry Hawkins to win the tournament (Each Way) +2500 with Coral
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