The leaves have fallen from the trees, the weather is colder and the planet has that post-apocalyptic feel to it. That must mean it is winter, and that also means that three of snooker’s premier tournament s are just around the corner.
We’ll have to wait a tad longer for the Masters and the World Championship, but we have a very appetising entrée in the form of the UK Championship, which come live from York’s Barbican Centre from November 22 to December 4.
This is the second-most prestigious tournament in the snooker calendar behind the Worlds, and despite Barry Hearn being on the end of plenty of rancour after changing the format to a 128-man open draw, it has certainly helped to enliven proceedings. Essentially, that means that the best two players in the world could meet in the first round, with no seedings to protect them.
Neil Robertson is the defending champion after he navigated his way through the draw and defeated Liang Wenbo in the final 12 months ago, so can the Aussie defend his crown?
UK Championship Snooker Betting Tips
Mark Selby (6/1 win only)
The major events always seems to bring out the best in the snooker world’s classier operators, and they don’t come much more Rolls Royce like than Mark Selby.
The reigning world champion has enjoyed a stellar 2016 already with that Worlds triumph backed by wins at the Paul Hunter Classic and International Championship, plus a finalist appearance at the Shanghai Masters, and so the Jester from Lester is clearly in a rich vein of form at the moment.
Big events call for big temperaments, and Selby has that in spades. You don’t win two world titles, three Masters crowns and the UK Championship unless you’ve got bottle, and so having Selby on side for this tournament makes perfect sense.
Stuart Bingham (28/1 each way)
Bingham endured a wretched spell after winning the World Championship in 2015, and as so often happens when a life-changing event occurs many wondered if he would ever recapture his best form.
Fast forward to the second half of 2016 and the burly potter looks to have found his feet. Winning the Shanghai Masters helped, of course, and in the past month or so alone he has reached the semi-finals of the English Open and International Championship, plus the final of the China Championship. Everything is moving in the right direction, and at just the right time with the UK and Masters coming up.
Bingham boasts a pretty good record at the Barbican Centre with back-to-back semi-final appearances in 2013 and 2014, so it is clearly a venue and format he enjoys.
Michael Holt (150/1 each way)
A bit of a stab in the dark this one, but the open format of the draw means that there could be opportunities for ‘lesser’ players to navigate their way to the latter reaches of the tournament; they certainly did last year, when the unheralded David Grace reached the last four and Liang Wenbo was a losing finalist.
Fortune could favour Holt then, with the Nottingham cueman reaching the quarter finals of two ranking events in China as recently as October, plus the final of the Riga Masters earlier in the year. If good form is the key to slicing through this UK Championship draw, Holt could well be a huge outsider to have on board.