The potters are back at the Motorpoint arena in Cardiff for the 2020 Welsh Open. It’s not the more lucrative tournament, but it’s fairly important for a number of reasons. For those involved in the race to the Coral series, it’s about getting or staying into the one year top 16. For many more other players, it’s about the race to the Crucible, and ultimately their survival on the tour. The 2020 China Open being “postponed”, there are only two ranking tournaments after this one before the World Championship: the Shoot Out and the Gibraltar Open. Neither pay much. There is £32000 for the winner at the Shoot Out and only £25000 for the winner in Gibraltar. The 2020 China Open would have has £225000 for the winner. More importantly, it would have paid £5000 just for winning the first round match. In Gibraltar players will need the QF to get that much, and at the Shoot Out they would need the SF.
And it’s not just about getting to the Crucible, it’s also about what they will have to do to get there. Indeed, this year, the World Championship qualifiers are “tiered”. Of course, Barry Hearn didn’t go “loud” about this change on social media, but it’s there: this year there will be four rounds of qualifiers in Sheffield:
R1: 81-112 v 113-144
R2: R1 winners v 49-80
R3: R2 winners v 48-17
R4: R3 winners v R3 winners
There is no prize money for the seeded loosers at any stage.
This means that players below n°80 in the rankings will have to play four matches, instead of three last season, to get to the main draw. On the other hand, they will not meet the strongest opponents in the early rounds.
Players in the 49-80 bracket will have to win three matches to get to the Crucible, the first of them being againts a lower ranked opponent.
Players in the 48-17 bracket will have to win only two matches, but their first one is likely to be tougher than it used to be with the system used in recent years.
This is the prize money schedule for this season.
So that’s what is at stake.
Williams’ Winning Start
Mark Williams got his ManBetX Welsh Open campaign up and running with a 4-1 defeat of Oliver Lines in Cardiff.
Welshman Williams, who has 22 ranking titles and three Crucible victories to his name, is arguably the greatest player ever to emerge from his country. However, it is now over a year since he last lifted a trophy at the 2018 World Open.
Williams is a two-time Welsh Open champion, having won the event in 1996 and 1999 and he will face Jordan Brown next as he aims to extend his bid for a third title this year.
Williams, who has recently recovered from gout problems which hampered him during the World Grand Prix, top scored with a break of 87 this afternoon, wrapping up victory in under an hour and a half.
“The gout is gone, fingers crossed it never comes back. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Actually, I would wish it on my worst enemy to let someone else see the pain, but I never want it again,” joked Williams.
He added: “I played alright in patches today. It was a bit scrappy as well, but I am just over the moon to get through. If I hadn’t been practising for the last month I would probably have lost that match, but I managed to stick in and get over the line.
“I’ve let myself down over the last 12 months. When I said I didn’t practise, I literally hadn’t picked up my cue and just went to tournaments knowing I was going to get hammered. I just had enough of it in the end and thought that I might as well practise for the rest of the season and get a bit of momentum going.”
World Champion Trump Aiming For Maiden Cardiff Title
Judd Trump got his quest for a first Welsh Open title underway with a 4-1 defeat of James Cahill.
The Ace in the Pack narrowly edged Cahill in their most recent meeting at the Northern Ireland Open. On that occasion, Trump led his counterpart 3-0 before being pegged back to a decider. He came through a 4-3 winner and went on to take home the title.
World number one Trump has already won four ranking titles so far in a sparkling season, including the recent German Masters in Berlin. If he were to register another win this week it would equal the record for most in a season jointly held by Stephen Hendry, Ding Junhui, Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
It didn’t take Trump long to get up and running this evening. He fired in a fine run of 132 to get himself off the mark, before establishing a 3-0 lead. Cahill pulled a frame back, but it was just a consolation as Trump came through a 4-1 victor. He faces Craig Steadman or Billy Castle next.
“It is more about winning this tournament for me,” said Bristol’s Trump. “I grew up close to here and I have always had tremendous support from the Welsh. It would be nice to get the job done one year here. I always enjoy coming here, especially since the event has been in Cardiff.”
Ding Downs Fu
Ding Junhui came through with a 4-2 win in an entertaining clash with Marco Fu.
UK Champion Ding compiled breaks of 80, 92 and 66 on his way to victory. Afterwards China’s top player sent out a message of support to all those impacted on by the Coronavirus outbreak.
WST and the WPBSA have already pledged to donate £1,000 to organisations in China providing medical support, for every century this tournament. Ding has also made a personal donation.
Ding said: “It is very helpful to have this donation. Thanks to all the players and the World Snooker Tour. I just want to do everything that I can to help.”
Welshman Matthew Stevens secured an impressive 4-2 defeat of David Gilbert to book his second round place.
Masters champion Stuart Bingham came from 2-0 down to beat Martin Gould 4-2, while Jack Lisowski beat China’s Li Hang 4-2.
Judd Trump didn’t play particularly well after the first frame. Cahill had a lot of occasions and, actually, looked like someone fighting a hangover out there. I know that how Trump played yesterday doesn’t mean much but he will need to improve if he wants to win the tournamen; he probably will.
The Ding v Fu match was entertaining, both players playing very positively and at a nice pace.
Mark Williams played OK, no more, but given the state he was in last week, it’s a massive improvement.
Now, WST did not report (much) about the most significant of yesterday’s results.
Regarding the race to the Players Championship, both David Gilbert and Joe Perry lost yesterday leaving them vulnerable as they are currently 14th and 13th in the one year list. Gilbert in particular could be in danger.
Regarding the race to the Crucible, Lee Walker is currently provisionally seeded 80, but he lost yesterday. A decent run by Ian Burns could see him drop in the “lower” bracket for the World qualifiers. Anthony Hamilton won yesteray, taking the 48th spot in the provisional Crucible seedings, at the expense of Chris Wakelin who lost.
Regarding the Tour survival, both Martin Gould and Michael Georgiou lost yesterday. They occupy the 63th and 64th spots in the provisional end-of-season rankings…
Finally, quite unexpectedly, Simon Lichtenberg beat Ryan Day, getting a win at long last. It’s largely insignificant in terms of ranking or chance to stay on tour, but it’s great that he eventually gets something positive from his experience on tour. Except for Mark Williams, in general, the Weslh players have a terrible record in their home tournament.
Today, Ronnie is in action. He’s safe for the Crucible (provided he enters the tournament) but he needs to get at least to the SF to have any chance to defend his Players Championship title. His opponent Zhang Jiankang hasn’t done much on the tour, and will almost certainly lose his tour card come April, but he did get to the last 16 in Glasgow last December. Should Ronnie win today, he’s due to face Stuart Carrington next. Stuart won a long and slow match that went to a decider against Mike Dunn yesterday. He’s not the type of player that Ronnie enjoys playing…
Here is the tournament preview by the ES pundits