This article first appeared in the Mar/Apr 2012 issue of World Gaming magazine.
Beijing will host this year’s China Open snooker tournament from March 26 to April 1. The total prize money will be a staggering £400,000 with £75,000 going to the winner.
Automatic seeding into the event will be granted to the world’s top 16 players including defending China Open champion Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and China’s own Ding Junhui. A qualifying tournament was held from February 21 to 24 at the World Snooker Academy in Sheffield, England, where players from all over the world battled it out for the remaining 16 spots. From here, the eight lowest ranked players still need to confirm their place once they arrive in Beijing. On March 26 they will play eight amateur “wildcard” players from China and the wider Asian region. The winners of these matches will find their way into the official 32-man starting field. This method of selecting the draw gives local players experience against international competition, turning their dream of playing world-class professionals into a reality.
“Ivan Hirschowitz of World Snooker told World Gaming magazine, “The China Open has been a regular tournament on the calendar since 2005 and it has become one of the most keenly anticipated events of the season. The Chinese snooker fans are extremely passionate about snooker and it has been wonderful to see the explosion of interest in our sport in China over the past few years. The players love coming to the great city of Beijing and we are really looking forward to the 2012 China Open.”
Once the starting field of 32 is set, the tournament proceeds as a straight knockout event. Players play down to 16, eight and then four competitors. Finally there will be just two players remaining to battle it out for the title. A snooker tournament is similar to a tennis tournament in that ranked players are placed on different sides of the draw to ensure the best players have the opportunity of meeting late in the competition.
Although still dominated by players from Great Britain, there are some incredible Chinese snooker players. All local eyes will be on Chinese Champion Ding Junghui, who shocked the world and won this tournament back in 2005 as a wildcard entry. Ding is currently ranked fourth in the world, and recently took out the Welsh Open snooker tournament, pocketing £30,000 in the process. As the only Chinese player in the official starting 32 (before wildcards), he is sure to be the crowd favorite in Beijing.
Support for snooker in China has been steadily growing in recent years, and the China Open is an excellent flagship tournament. After England, China had the most representatives at the Sheffield qualifying event, with eight players from the mainland and Marco Fu from Hong Kong.
Despite five of these nine Chinese players making it to the final round of qualifying, none of them were able to overcome the last hurdle to make it into the starting 32 players for Beijing. Both Yu Delu and Cao Yupeng performed particularly well, winning three qualifying matches in a row to make it to the last round of qualifying. With all this snooker talent coming out of China, don’t be surprised if we see a Chinese world number one before the decade is out.