After a 77 day snooker hiatus, I’m certain we are all looking forward to the action resuming tomorrow in Milton Keynes with the new and improved Championship League. I say improved, because I want to not only explain the format, but give you the lowdown on a few plus points & what to expect. I’m not going to dive deeply into the safety measures that I know are being employed these next eleven days. I will simply give you one example of how thorough WST have been… ‘On entering the venue/hotel, don’t leave anything in the car because you won’t be allowed to fetch it later’!
Firstly, I’d like to touch on why historically, the ‘four in a group’ set-up hasn’t always been palatable for both competitors & punters alike. I’m happy to say that full credit must go to WST on this occasion, having got the new Championship League format the way it should be, and later, we can explore the reasons why.
Those old enough to remember, may recall one major sporting event where a four team group format became farcical was the 1982 Football World Cup in Spain, where the final group match between West Germany and Austria became a training exercise. Basically, if West Germany won the match 1-0 both teams would qualify. Amazingly enough, the Germans scored after 10 minutes and the rest of the match played out with few, if any, attempts on goal. I hope that whoever decided that this final group match was to be played AFTER the Chile v Algeria (who lost out) game, had their P45 administered on the full time whistle! It’s worth mentioning that the two beneficiaries can’t be held culpable, as they only played their match according to FIFA scheduling.
So, what of the tournament? Cutting it short, a field of 64, consisting of 16 groups, will play round robin format, with the winner only, of each group progressing. With this in mind, the dual positive is that each group placing carries improved prize money, therefore providing no wriggle room in terms of players easing off (not that they would) with final standings riding on virtually every frame. Secondly, with only the winner surviving, and while not every group having all spots up for grabs come the last pair of matches, there will definitely be financial incentive regardless of past results. My hunch is that we will have quite a few situations where all four players will still be able to top the standings as the last two matches are in action. Let’s hope so!
Once down to the last 16, it’s as you were. Four more sections with the winner only progressing to the business end, and with increasing prize money all the way, the pressure will ramp up a notch during the last five days of combat. The final group is certain to provide squeaky bum time, as remember, the winner will bag that coveted spot in The Champion of Champions as the winter swing gets underway.
With each match offering 3 points for a win and 1 point for a draw, it’s possible, and perhaps likely that more than a few groups will end in tied placings. Here is a breakdown of what will be used to determine a winner in the event of two or more players being tied… (1) Points total. (2) Net frame difference. (3) Head to head result (if three or more players are tied, a mini table, using the previous criteria) of those players will decide the group. (4) Highest break in the group. (5) If still tied, the next highest break will apply.
What it will take to win a group could differ massively with a possible four frames to be played in each match. I say possible, because if someone reaches 3-0, the match is done and dusted. It’s worth assuming that a 3-0 victory could, in the end, swing the group in that player’s favour, therefore any such win could be golden!
While each player can only control their own destiny, other results will play a no less significant role. As mentioned above, there really isn’t a final points total for any player to target, other than the obvious three wins that would guarantee progress. Here’s why… and it may seem outlandish, but you could win a group by not even winning a match! I know it won’t happen, (it will now obviously!) but if all six matches are drawn then the highest break will win the group. By the same token, you could win two & draw one, whereas player X has a 3-0 win in amongst his very same results that outranks your own.
As my permutations are getting sillier by the paragraph, I’ll leave it there. Just to say that if you’re a snooker fan of almanac proportions (it always gets a mention) and want to figure out the in-running standings, once you’ve run out of fingers ‘n’ thumbs, keep an abacus handy. It’s gonna be too close to call!
As a footnote, I’d like to pay tribute to our friend & colleague Olivier Marteel. You will know him as one of our many outstanding referees. Over the last few months, Oli has been serving in his proper job on the front line of the coronavirus fight near his hometown of Gijveinkhove in Belgium. This is a fella who spends most of his annual holidays serving our sport in the most professional way imaginable. You know that first time you meet someone? and you think… what a diamond fella he is! That’s Oli! He once said in an interview… “I need snooker”! Well, It’s reciprocal my friend. Be sure to give him a special welcome if as I expect, we get to see him at Sheffield in a couple of months time. Me?… I’m gonna buy him a nice cold one, first chance I get!
Thanks for taking the time to read, and let’s all enjoy some live sport.
Yours in snooker,