Stuart Bingham has discovered who he will play in his first match back after he was banned from the sport for betting on snooker matches.
And it is a cracker with Bingham – the world champion of 2015 – taking on six-times world Championship finalist Jimmy White in the China Open qualifiers this weekend.
Bingham has not played a competitive match since he was given a six-month ban (three months and a day suspended) by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association in November after the governing body found the cueman guilty of betting on matches totalling more than £35,000 including some of his own matches.
There was no suggestion that Bingham’s bets impacted on either his performance or the result of any match. However, it was found he made bets from accounts in his own name and in his manager’s name in recent years.
After being found guilty, Bingham was ordered pay £20,000 in costs.
But Bingham can now prepare for life back on the baize after missing several big tournaments including the International Championship, Shanghai Masters, Champion of Champions, Northern Ireland Open, Scottish Open, UK Championship and The Masters.
Bingham will play White on Sunday evening hoping to secure his place in the China Open – the season’s penultimate ranking event before the World Championship.
Qualification for the China Open has just been made more significant than ever before after it was announced total prize money for the competition was almost doubled, reaching the £1million mark.
The winner of the China Open will receive a cheque for £225,000 – only the World Championship has a bigger prize for the winner. Last year’s China Open winner won £85,000. With huge prize money at stake, some of the world’s top players will want to make sure they have no slip up in the Far East. If they do slip up it could could cost them a guaranteed place at the World Championships and them having to play the three gruelling qualifying matches,
Meanwhile, defending champion Mark Selby will face Wang Yuchen in the qualifiers, while world number 2 Ronnie O’Sullivan takes on Scotland’s Ross Muir.
All qualification matches take place between Saturday, January 27 and Monday, January 29 at the Barnsley Metrodome Arena – which was the host venue for this season’s English Open.
Selby beat Mark Williams 10-8 to win the 2017 China Open. He then went on to win the World Championship for a third time just weeks later.