SUNDAY sees the start of another major ranking event in the snooker calendar with the International Championship taking centre stage in the snooker world. Here are some of the key facts ahead of what is another big week of action.
What is the International Championship?
IN SIMPLE terms it is one of the snooker’s biggest ranking events in the calendar and is currently the most lucrative outside the UK with a whopping £125,000 on offer for the winner.
Only the UK Championship and the World Championship offer bigger prize money in terms of ranking events.
The new China Championship will offer £200,000 for the winner but for this season only will be an invitational event comprising a small number of players.
Where is it going to be held and when does it start?
AS LIKE the previous four editions of this tournament it will be held in China, which is certainly no stranger to snooker with the huge nation also hosting the Shanghai Masters, the China Open, the World Open and, as mentioned above, the new China Championship.
More specifically the major tournament will be held in the Baihu Media Broadcasting Centre in Daqing – a city north-east of China. According to its Wikipedia page, Daqing is the oil capital of China.
All the action gets underway on Sunday, October 23 with the final taking place seven days later on Sunday, October 30.
Who is defending champion?
SCOTLAND’s John Higgins is the reigning International Championship champion.
The Wizard of Wishaw beat David Gilbert 10-5 twelve months ago to win the competition for the first time. Should he successfully defend his title, Higgins will notch up a 29th major ranking title. Only the great Stephen Hendry has won more with a total of 36.
Other winners of this tournament, which launched in the snooker calendar back in 2012, include Ricky Walden, Ding Junhui and Judd Trump who won the first event beating Neil Robertson in the final.
What is the tournament’s format?
WITH big money on the table, matches in this tournament are long with players being pushed all the way to get their hands on the lucrative prizes on offer.
First, second and third round matches as well as quarter-final ties will be the best-of eleven frames.
The two semi-finals will be played on separate days (Friday and Saturday) and will be the first to nine – the same length as the Home Nation finals (English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Open).
And the final will be a best-of 19 frames (race to ten).
How did the qualifying event go?
QUALIFICATION for the event took place at the end of September in Preston and saw some big casualties with the likes of Mark Allen and Barry Hawkins suffering shock early exits.
But the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stuart Bingham, Judd Trump and Neil Robertson sealed their places with victories.
Defending champion Higgins, world number one Mark Selby, Ding Junhui and new English Open winner Liang Wenbo will play their qualifying games at the venue stage.
Other prizes on offer
AS WELL as a meaty pay cheque and the International Championship trophy on offer, there are other benefits for the lucky winner.
This year’s winner will also secure themselves a place in the upcoming and popular Champion of Champions event, taking place in Coventry in November.
Currently 14 out of 16 players have been confirmed for the week-long event which once again will be shown live on terrestrial channel ITV 4.
But two places remain with the winners of the International Championship and the China Championship to be added to the main draw.
World Snooker has announced that should any player win one of the events who has already qualified for the Champion of Champions, then the highest non-already qualifier in the one-year ranking list will take their place in the draw.
Currently world number two Stuart Bingham is the leading player from the list who is not yet secured a spot in the Champion of Champions so he will certainly be looking at what goes on with much interest – that’s obviously if he doesn’t win the tournament himself.
But should Bingham suffer an early exit then it could bring other players to the party.
It is also worth noting that the qualification for the Masters cuts off at the end of the UK Championship, meaning those in the world’s top 16 at that time will secure a spot in the prestigious event at London’s Alexandra Palace in January.
With big money available it could make for a very interesting week as far as this season’s Masters line-up is concerned.
Where can I watch it?
Eurosport is the answer! The channel, like in the past four years, will screen live coverage of the event throughout the week with uninterrupted coverage on its subscription-paid Eurosport Player service.
World Snooker’s website will show the exact times of Eurosport’s coverage in the coming days.