2018 CHAMPIONSHIP LEAGUE SNOOKER - A PREVIEW
We don't have to wait long at all for the first professional snooker action of the new year as the Ricoh Arena in Coventry hosts the opening four groups of 2018 Championship League Snooker starting tomorrow.
This tournament certainly divides opinion but this will be its 11th consecutive annual edition. It was originally brought in by Matchroom in 2008 essentially as a qualifier for the now defunct Premier League and because of the distinct lack of other events. Despite the ever expanding and busy new snooker world, the competition has managed to still be part of the top tier calendar.
The format and prize structure is a little bit complex (there is a link to a Wikipedia page here that may explain it better than I can!) but the event is set to feature 25 different players playing across 7 Qualifying Groups and then culminating in a tournament ending Winners' Group. It is not all played in one go and the overall champion will not be known until the end of March. The winner is likely to also gain a ticket into the 2018 Champion of Champions, which will be played at the same venue (although under completely different conditions - there'll be a crowd for a start!)
That is one of the quirky attributes here - it is played behind 'closed doors', however, it is streamed on a number of bookmakers websites. It can also bizarrely reward you for losing.
In the 2017 edition, Ryan Day competed in six qualifying groups before advancing to the Winners' Group where he was the overall Runner-Up. The Welshman accumulated a very handy £32,600, which was £11,700 more than what overall champion John Higgins banked. Personally, on the whole, I think the tournament is OK, but I would perhaps like to see a 'three strikes and you're out rule' where you can only play in a maximum of 3 qualifying groups.
Obviously not all the top names elect to enter, although there is an intriguing list of players for 2018 which includes Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy, Neil Robertson, Judd Trump, Luca Brecel and defending champion Higgins - just to name a few.
Below are the dates for each group and who is scheduled to compete (you do see a few withdrawals from this event, though, so this could change).
GROUP 1 - 2nd & 3rd January
Kyren Wilson, Stephen Maguire, Ryan Day, Mark King, Michael Holt, Anthony Hamilton, Zhou Yuelong
GROUP 2 - 4th & 5th January
4 players from previous group and Neil Robertson, Mark Selby, Barry Hawkins
GROUP 3 - 8th & 9th January
4 players from previous group and Ali Carter, Anthony McGill, Mark Allen
GROUP 4 - 10th & 11th January
4 players from previous group and Shaun Murphy, Liang Wenbo, Judd Trump
GROUP 5 - 23rd & 24th January
4 players from previous group and Martin Gould, Ricky Walden, Mark Williams
GROUP 6 - 25th & 26th January
4 players from previous group and Joe Perry, Michael White, David Gilbert
GROUP 7 - 26th & 27th March
4 players from previous group and John Higgins, Luca Brecel, Ben Woollaston
WINNERS' GROUP - 28th & 29th March
All 7 Group Winners
Written and published by Michael Day on the 31st December 2017