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The International Championship is set to cue off on the 25th of October, and most of the world’s best have made their way to China to contest the £657,000 prize pool. It’s the third world ranking event of the season, and will be held in Daqing in the north east of the country for the first time.
The likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump are not there to compete for various reasons, which gives the tournament a fairly open feel to it, and there is plenty of value to be had among the contenders. Kyren Wilson comes here off the back of his first major championship win when he shocked Judd Trump to take the Shanghai Masters, and he will have his supporters, while John Higgins will hope to continue the form which saw him take the Australian Open. Ding Junhui will have plenty of local encouragement, and the likes of Neil Robertson and Mark Selby are top class players. It promises to be a cracking week of action, and we’ve got a couple of fancies at tasty prices in Stuart Bingham and Mark Williams.
The tournament only began in the 2012/13 season, but it has the third highest prize fund and winner’s cheque of all ranking events on the snooker calendar, behind the World and UK Championships. Judd Trump won the inaugural title defeating Neil Robertson 10-8, Ding Junhui beat Marco Fu 10-9 to take the crown in the following season, and Ricky Walden beat Mark Allen 10-7 to win last year’s competition.
The tournament will move from Chengdu to Daqing for the first time this year, where it will be held at the Baihu Media Broadcasting Centre.
The Contenders for 2015
The Welshman and former world number one has been in good nick this last year, and he still looks capable of troubling the very best when his game comes together. He’s a lively outside bet in a very open tournament, and crucially, finds himself in the opposite half of the draw to Mark Selby and Neil Robertson. You can take a look at the full draw and format for the tournament here.
Williams won the World Seniors Championship in March this year, and he’s gone close in a handful of ranking tournaments throughout the year. He reached the semi finals of this competition last year, beating Barry Hawkins and Ronnie O’Sullivan on the way to a 9-8 defeat to Mark Allen in the last four. He went on to reach the semi final of the Welsh Open, where he beat Judd Trump and Marco Fu before losing out to Ben Woollaston, who was on his way to his first ranking event final. He reached a semi final again, this time at the Indian Open, but was knocked out by fellow Welshman Michael White. He finally went one further in the Players Tour Championship reaching the final, only to be beaten 4-3 by Joe Perry who made it his first ranking tournament win. Williams run in that competition was notable for the scalps of both Mark Selby and Judd Trump.
While Trump won’t be playing, Williams can also avoid Selby until the final at least after being put in the top half of the draw, away from both Selby and Robertson. Williams will play Ian Burns in his opening match, and looks to have a reasonable route through to the quarter finals, where Ricky Walden or Mark Allen could potentially lie in wait.
Williams is in decent form, he has bundles of experience, and has been given a good draw; he’s worth an each way investment at a big price, with most bookies paying half the odds for a top two finish.
Bingham actually beat Williams to claim his first ever ranking event victory back in 2011, where he came back from 8-5 down to win 9-8 at the Australian Open. He added the Shanghai Masters and the World Championship to his trophy haul last season, and over the last year or so has been playing some of the best snooker of his career. He beat Mark Allen 10-3 in Shanghai in the final to record an emphatic victory, and that came after knocking out home favourite Ding Junhui in the semi final. His season got even better though with the World Championship win after an incredible final which saw him get the better of Shaun Murphy by 18 frames to 15.
He’s held his form and reached the semi final of the recent Shanghai Masters, going down 6-3 to Judd Trump. The draw hasn’t been exceptionally kind, and after an initial wildcard round against Steven Hallworth, Bingham will face Yu De Lu. From there a quarter final against either John Higgins or Shaun Murphy would be the most likely outcome, and beyond that he could come up against one of Robertson or Selby if he gets as far as a semi final. It’s certainly a much tougher prospective route than that facing Williams, but it always pays to have a ‘runner’ in each half of the draw, and Bingham is an attractive price for a current world champion in good form.
Mark Selby is ranked ahead of Bingham as the current world number one, and he will be a danger to all in the tournament. Neil Robertson is ranked third in the world, but it’s been a long time since he won the 2013 UK Championship, and he is passed over at a pretty small price. Finally Ding Junhui will naturally receive huge support on ‘home’ ground. The Chinese star hasn’t quite hit the heights of the 2013/14 season when he won five ranking titles, but he remains a vastly talented player who is more than capable of winning here.
To win the International Championship 2015
25th October – 1st November
Mark Williams – Each Way
Stuart Bingham – Each Way
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