Tour Championship 2020 News

Of course the poster that serves as “feature” image on this post is outdated. The Tour Championship has been postponed and is now scheduled to be played later this month, at the same place and with the same sanitary precautions as the Championship League Snooker over the last two weeks.

Ronnie is on the poster, but won’t be there as he didn’t qualify. Ding Junhui did qualify but won’t be there either, as you can read here:

Thursday 11 Jun 2020 06:25PM

China’s Ding Junhui has pulled out of the Coral Tour Championship and has been replaced in the draw by Stephen Maguire.

Ding is currently in China and has decided not to travel to the UK for the tournament which starts on June 20th. WST worked with the UK government to find ways for Ding to play in the event while observing the current quarantine requirements for anyone arriving in the UK. However Ding has decided that as a safety precaution he prefers to avoid extensive travel and remain in China at this stage.

Ding expressed his appreciation for the effort that WST and the UK Government have put into making it possible for him to compete.

The tournament at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes runs from June 20th to 26th and features the top eight players on the one-year ranking list.

Scotland’s Maguire is ninth on the list and therefore next in line for a place in the £380,000 world ranking event. He replaces Ding directly in the draw and will face Neil Robertson in the first round.

That will be the opening match of the tournament on Saturday June 20th, followed by Judd Trump v John Higgins on the Sunday, Mark Selby v Yan Bingtao on the Monday then Shaun Murphy v Mark Allen on the Tuesday.

All quarter and semi-finals will be best of 17 frames, with the final best of 19. The event will have extensive live coverage on ITV4 with sessions at 1.30pm and 7pm.

The Coral Tour Championship is the third and last event in the Coral Series and has a top prize of £150,000. The leading money winner across the three events will also receive the Coral Cup and a bonus of £100,000.

The World Snooker Tour has returned with the Matchroom.Live Championship League, with all 116 players, officials and staff testing negative for Covid-19. The same rigorous procedures on testing, sanitisation and social distancing will be followed at the Coral Tour Championship.

I’m feeling uneasy with this. The way things are presented, that withdrawal appears to be Ding’s decision, motivated by personal reasons, and not something he was forced into by circumstances over which he has no control. However, I have serious doubts about this, and Lewis comments on recent previous posts on this blog indicate that those doubts are probably justified.

WPBSA chairman, Jason Ferguson is putting every effort in trying to get all players at the World Championship starting in about a month time with the qualifiers. He is adamant that no player should be left out and that the World Championship should be played in his full format. He was interviewed by Press Association:

Snooker chief intends to have ‘true World Championship’

Snooker chief Jason Ferguson has confirmed his sport has no intention of reducing the size of this year’s World Championship following the sport’s successful return from Covid-19 lockdown this week.

Eleven days of action in the Championship League in Milton Keynes saw Belgium’s Luca Brecel emerge victorious late on Thursday night in one of the first domestic events to battle through the restrictions.

The rearranged World Championship is set to start behind closed doors at the Crucible at the end of July and Ferguson, who is chairman of the sport’s governing body, the WPBSA, is adamant its integrity will remain intact.

Ferguson said: “One hundred and forty-four players will start out for the World Championship, and the challenge is to ensure the access is there for every player.

“We are working closely with the government, through our all-party parliamentary group, on how we can make these processes of quarantine work and we’re waiting on the next stage of reopening as well.

“Whether or not we get huge crowds, the idea is to make sure that the World Championship is a true World Championship, that can be contested at the highest level with all the players who have earned the right to be there.”

Snooker’s next event, the eight-player Coral UK Tour, which is due to start on 20 June, has been hit by the withdrawal of Ding Junhui, who elected not to travel from China despite representations being made on his behalf.

The 11-day Championship League event was played under tightly-controlled conditions, with all players and officials tested for the virus – there were no positives – and required to remain at the venue for the duration of the tournament.

Some players questioned how such a necessarily sterile environment will translate onto a bigger stage but Ferguson is convinced the Crucible atmosphere will cut through irrespective of the unique circumstances.

“There is something magical about the World Championships, about walking down those steps into that arena in front of a packed crowd,” added Ferguson.

“This time when the players walk out it may be a little quieter than usual. But it will still be the Crucible, it will still be the World Championships and at the end of it somebody will still lift the trophy and the cheque for half a million pounds.”

I have no doubts that Jason is sincere and is giving it everything he has to reach his goal and have everyone who wants to play, playing in Sheffield next month, but the truth is that it’s not in his hands and it’s going to be very difficult. If Chinese players can’t get a visa, and can’t find a seat on a plane, there is no way they can come over. If the UK government doesn’t agree to ease the quarantine measures for professional snooker players, most “non-UK” will find it difficult to get there, prepared as they should be for the main event of the season. They will be put at a huge disadvantage if they need to stay in isolation, without possibility to practice, provided that they can make it to the UK in the first place. Formula One has got such exception, which is a bit crazy when you think about how many people are involved in those F1 teams, but, of course, Formula One is HUGE money. Comparatively snooker is minuscule …

Anyway, back to the Tour Championship, here are the draw and format published by WST:

Friday 12 Jun 2020 06:11PM

The Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes will host the Coral Tour Championship from June 20th to 26th.

Here’s the updated draw following the withdrawal of Ding Junhui:

Judd Trump v John Higgins

Neil Robertson v Stephen Maguire

Mark Selby v Yan Bingtao

Shaun Murphy v Mark Allen

The format will be:

Saturday June 20th: Neil Robertson v Stephen Maguire

Sunday June 21st: Judd Trump v John Higgins

Monday June 22nd: Mark Selby v Yan Bingtao

Tuesday June 23rd: Shaun Murphy v Mark Allen

Wednesday June 24th: Semi-final 1

Thursday June 25th: Semi-final 2

Friday June 26th: Final

All quarter and semi-finals will be best of 17 frames, with the final best of 19. The event will have extensive live coverage on ITV4 with sessions at 1.30pm and 7pm.

The Coral Tour Championship is the third and last event in the Coral Series and has a top prize of £150,000, from a total prize fund of £380,000. The leading money winner across the three events will also receive the Coral Cup and a bonus of £100,000.

Coral Cup standings after the Coral World Grand Prix and Coral Players Championship:

Judd Trump £132,500
Neil Robertson £100,000
Yan Bingtao £50,000
Shaun Murphy £30,000
Stephen Maguire £30,000
John Higgins £27,500
Mark Allen £15,000
Mark Selby £15,000

As you probably noticed, reading the above, the matches have been shortened for this one, the idea being to play on just one table, and one match per day.
This of course makes it a bit easier when it comes to enforce social distancing, and sanitary precautions.

However, this will not be an option at the Crucible, if Jason is true to his word. Unless the situation improves significantly, and the UK government guidelines change, I still can’t see how this tournament can possibly be played at the Crucible in its traditional format.

5 thoughts on “Tour Championship 2020 News

  1. As you know, I have never been to the Crucible, so I’m not sure about the seating. If it’s possible to remove a few rows of seats, then the extra space might make it possible to replicate the environment in the Marshall Arena. Possibly they might have do get rid of the cameramen, but that’s not a show-stopper.

    The other issue with the Crucible is the lack of hotel facilities, so they probably can’t have a sealed environment. I seem to remember years ago staying in a hotel very close to the Crucible, so there may be ways around this. To be honest, these are small problems compared to things they have solved already.

    The qualifiying tournament remains the biggest challenge.

    And then Q School? That’s potentially even more players onsite at once.

    • I’m not sure if the seating at the Crucible can be changed. I have been at the venue countless times and It was always the same. The seats are extremely close to each others and and very close to where the players sit together in the early rounds. If there are no commentary boxes in the arena, and no photographers boxes, they can probably make sure that the players sit apart from each other, and have the marker, and scoreboard upstage. But the venue is very intimate, and much smaller than it looks on TV. The dressing rooms are another issue. Usually only the four dressing rooms that are on the same floor as the tournament office and the stage door, are used and shared by all players. During the first rounds each dressing room is used by two or three different players, every day, often with minimal time to do even basic cleaning. There are more dressing rooms upstairs, but even smaller and very basic. If sanitising is required this will be a major issue, and might force to rethink the schedule in such a way that matches are completed over consecutive sessions.

      • You certainly have had a change of mind over the so-called epidemic. It’s not so much that you are singing a new tune, it’s more like a whole opera. Ironically, you were closer to the truth in the beginning. Any particular reason for your volte-face?

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