Professional Snooker / 2016 Kaspersky Riga Masters
22nd-24th June 2016 / Arena Riga, Latvia
2016 KASPERSKY RIGA MASTERS - THE PREVIEW
The first trophy of the new 2016/2017 Snooker Season will be dished out next week come the conclusion of the 2016 Kaspersky Riga Masters.
Previously known as the Riga Open, it will be the third consecutive year that the professional snooker circuit visits Latvia. Mark Selby won the inaugural staging in 2014, whilst Barry Hawkins was successful here last year.
Both editions were part of the European Tour series. Now the ET is defunct, this event is independent in its own right and enjoys a boost in total prize money from 125,000Euros to 200,000Euros. The winner's purse has also been doubled to 50,000Euros.
The format has also been slightly changed this time around. In 2014 and 2015 the tournament was open to amateurs and the entirety of the competition was played at the venue. The 2016 version was initially open to 128 professionals (although various amateur players have filled up vacant spaces) with a round of qualifying being played at Preston's Guild Hall earlier this month.
Matches are the best of 7 frames up to and including the Semi-Finals. However, the Final has been extended to the best of 9 frames, with no mid-session interval.
2 matches have been held over to the Arena Riga venue; top Latvian female player Tatjana Vasiljeva and courtesy of his recent European Amateur Open win, Darren Morgan, (yes, the former professional World Number 8) have both been awarded wildcards. They'll face Marco Fu and Bradley Jones (another ex-pro, now amateur) respectively in the remaining L128 fixtures.
Reigning champion Hawkins was one of five current top 16 stars who elected not to enter (Mark Allen did enter but withdrew from qualifying, thus giving Jak Jones a walkover). The other members of the elite who didn't go Preston were Ronnie O'Sullivan, Shaun Murphy, Ding Junhui and Ricky Walden.
Somewhat surprisingly, especially given the short nature, all of the top 16 who did play qualified. These were Selby, Stuart Bingham, Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, John Higgins, Joe Perry, Mark Williams, Martin Gould and Kyren Wilson. Some had differing degrees of comfort, though - click here for my previous qualifying review article.
The draw from the start was unseeded, so there could be some potentially big clashes early on. Two separate eighths of the draw contain World Numbers 3, 6 and 12 in Trump / Higgins / Fu and 1, 2 and 16 in Selby / Bingham / Wilson.
The tie of the Last 64 could be Selby against Michael Holt, whilst Fu will meet Dott should he get past Vasiljeva.
There looks like plenty of opportunity in the top quarter of the draw with World Number 22 David Gilbert the highest ranked player still in.
Neil Robertson will be looking for his first win on Continental European soil since claiming the Gdynia Open in 2015 when he faces Michael Georgiou.
Trump plays Chris Wakelin and Bingham meets Lee Walker.
Full the full draw and schedule, please the 2016 Riga Masters tournament page on snooker.org here
Written and published by Michael Day on the 18th June 2016