It’s a relatively new tournament with £150,000 going to the winner. Played over the course of a few best-of-9’s, a best-of-11 in the semis and a standard best-of-19 in the final; can defending champion Mark Selby retain his China Championship trophy and also win his first ranking title since this event last year?
Based in Guangzhou (Southern China), the China Championship came to surface in 2016 as an invitational event with a £200,000 top prize however, it was always the intention to carry it forward as a ranking event. Built on the growing partnership between World Snooker and China, this tournament was also likely introduced to schedule closely with other events held in Asia to minimise long distance back-and-forth travel for the players.
The event received a small amount of backlash for the decision to convert it to a ranking tournament. A lot were pleased that there was an equivalent to the Masters held in China in terms of exclusivity and how lucrative it was. The tournament in its first iteration provided the most prize money for any event outside of the UK. Many were concerned that its change to ranking status involving a similar qualifying and durational format would make it too similar to other ranking events.
When the first China Championship was taking place, the players competing would consist of the Top 10 players based off general rankings and the Top 4 players outside this on the one-year ranking list. The last two were chosen by the CBSA (Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association). In this instance, they selected Marco Fu and Liang Wenbo.
Regardless, the prize money involved (which is the same as a Coral Cup event) hasn’t discouraged participation among the top players. Higgins pocketed the top prize in the inaugural edition, while Brecel won his first ranking tournament in the following year’s China Championship. The 2018 championship saw its closest match as Selby edged out Higgins in a final frame decider, pushing the finish after midnight.
It’s easy to predict one of the usual suspects taking it home this year but similar to other tournaments, players have to go through a qualifying match in order to make the main-64 draw. And this is where we sometimes see top seeds not making it through. Players like Bingham, Wenbo, Carter and Wilson are among those this year that didn’t get through qualifying stages. Nevertheless, this is something that is to be expected with the way events are structured nowadays.
What do you think of the China Championship? Which opening matches are you looking forward to? I think Fu vs Gilbert and Un-Nooh vs Yuelong will be stellar matches!