Yesterday saw the conclusion of the first stage of the 128 men 2020 Championship League Snooker. Tian Pengfei and Li Hang won their group to complete stage two line up.
Tian Pengfei and Li Hang are the final two players to advance to Stage Two of BetVictor Championship League Snooker, after topping dramatic groups at Stadium MK on Monday.
Tian made a 122 in the final frame of his last match, against Noppon Saengkham, and that proved to be the pivotal tie-breaker as he finished top of the group with an identical record to Robbie Williams, against whom he’d earlier drawn 2-2 in the Group 31 opener.
Oliver Lines looked in fine form as he sealed a 3-0 win over group seed Saengkham with a 122 break for a 3-0 win. Williams then got his second draw of the group, against Saengkham, and the fourth match also ended with a share of the spoils as Tian and Lines took a point each.
That meant any one of three players could still advance. Lines needed a point, while a 3-0 win would be enough for Williams. In the event that the match ended 3-1 in Williams’ favour, he’d need to equal Tian’s high break of 122 to advance.
The Merseyside man came agonisingly close to doing just that as he levelled the match at 1-1, but missed the yellow on 111. Williams did go on to win 3-1, but without that high break it was Tian who progressed.
On table two, 15-year-old Iulian Boiko became the youngest ever professional to win a frame on tour as he earned a 2-2 draw with John Astley, before Li registered consecutive 3-1 wins; first against Alex Borg before he then defeated Boiko.
However, the 30-year-old from China took the first two frames against Astley to secure at least a draw and book his place alongside Mark Davis, Joe Perry and Tian in Group H of Winners’ Week, before he eventually won 3-1.
BetVictor Championship League Snooker returns for Winners’ Week from October 26-30. Coverage of both tables will be available at Matchroom.Live, with UK television coverage on Freesports.
FINAL GROUP STANDINGS
P W D L FW FL +/- PTS Tian Pengfei 3 1 2 0 7 5 2 5 Robbie Williams 3 1 2 0 7 5 2 5 Oliver Lines 3 1 1 1 6 5 1 4 Noppon Saengkham 3 0 1 2 3 8 -5 1
P W D L FW FL +/- PTS Li Hang 3 3 0 0 9 3 6 9 John Astley 3 1 1 1 6 6 0 4 Iulian Boiko 3 0 2 1 5 7 -2 2 Alex Borg 3 0 1 2 4 8 -4 1
The format has flaws, but one thing it does – and it’s a very important thing in my opinion – is giving an opportunity to young players and first-timers on the tour to be guaranteed three matches on television/stream against three different opponents, each with their own style and pace. This is invaluable experience.
Yesterday Iulian Boiko managed two draws, in his last match he came back from 2-0 down to force a point. He took at least one frame in each of his matches, against experienced opponents and he earned his first prize money. This is a much positiver experience, and surely a more instructive one, than being clobbered and humiliated on television by the World number one, a powerless spectator for most of the match, before being sent home dispirited and pockets empty.
It also gives us, fans, the opportunity to watch, and learn about, every player in action, including those who never get to the main table in “normal” tournaments.
It has its faults, but for me, this format brings more positives than negatives and I hope it stays on the calendar once the covid crisis is over, maybe with a couple of tweaks. It may not suit the players best, but the TD should have the power to change the order of play in groups in order to avoid “dead” matches. Also, both tables should be “main tables”, with the possibility for the broadcaster to “prioritise” whichever offers the most interesting match. “Most interesting” isn’t the same as “featuring the highest ranked player”, it could, for example, be the match that promises to be the most competitive, or the one with possibly the stronger impact on how the group develops, or … whatever really that “raises the stakes”.