Perhaps the most surprising thing about the UK Championship is the lack of surprises over the years.

Sure, there have been plenty of shock results but surprise winners have been thin on the ground.

In fact, I’d say there had only been three in this great tournament’s 30 years.

The first winner, Patsy Fagan, was by no means among the favourites (which would have been Ray Reardon, John Spencer, Alex Higgins and Doug Mountjoy) in 1977.

John Virgo would not have been tipped by many to win the 1979 event.

Mountjoy was 24th in the world rankings and widely thought to be in terminal decline when he won the title for a second time in 1988.

You could argue that, at 17, Ronnie O’Sullivan was a surprise winner in 1993 but most people recognised his prodigious talent and expected him to start capturing titles sooner rather than later.

Most of the game’s great and good have won the UK Championship, with the notable exceptions of Reardon, Spencer, Cliff Thorburn and Dennis Taylor.

This year’s event looks set to be competitive, but could there be a rare shock winner?

The way snooker is these days it seems more likely than a decade ago. But who are the contenders?

Mark Allen is certainly one. I think he’ll give an out of form Stephen Hendry real problems on Saturday and has the sort of game to go all the way.

Ricky Walden could prove a handful for Mark Williams, but would have to claim a series of other scalps were he to advance to the final.

How about someone like Stuart Bingham? He’s playing Steve Davis the first round, who he’s beaten three times out of three.

Or one of the veterans, like Nigel Bond and Dave Harold, aiming to follow Dominic Dale, Marco Fu and Fergal O’Brien in turning back the clock?

We will see over the nine days of the Maplin-sponsored tournament at Telford International Centre, which is broadcast live on the BBC and Eurosport.

And yet, for all the talk of shocks, I can’t help thinking that by the law of averages O’Sullivan – who is 32 years old today – has to win a ranking event some time soon (it’s been 33 months).

Looking at the draw, I fancy him to beat Shaun Murphy in the final on December 16.

That would certainly maintain the notion that, at the UK Championship, the cream always rises to the top.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

Thanks for responding to my last post. Am gonna comment on a few missed posts again...

Anymore news on the 110sport smear campaign? Are these stories that are touting around to do with the players to do with the company now or in the past. So it couldve been when they were Team Sweatershop or Cuemasters. More importantly Ian Doyle doesn't have much to do with his company now, does he?

About the Darts. It is true, that Hearn's company Matchroom Sport have done a fantastic job for the game. The prize money is great and the Premier League as well as the Grand Slam had sold out venues. But, unfortunately, since the PDC have moved the annual world champs from the circus tavern to Alexander Palace, only the last 3 days have sold out the rest remain unsold. Don't get me wrong, what they have done is brilliant, but the venues they are played in are small. Which with TV cameras always makes it look big. Carry on the good work but lets not get carried away. On the money front, surely the Masters is a big pay day still? I just wish Hearn was involved with Doyle in Snooker's decisions!

Pass on my belated congraulations to Clive. By the way, any idea when the paperback version of Clive's book hits the shop. Also, the snooker writers's association never thought of a special player of the year award. I only say this, as player's can have two indifferent seasons but one good year - ie Stephen Maguire in 2004. Has the SWA ever thought of doing this. I thought the battle between Clive and the WSA had finished? The ban doesnt exist in the press room/BBC on tour though, does it.

You mentioning the Swiss Open, as ever, leads me to question whether any new tournaments are coming soon and what is happening to the Irish tournaments? Still none forthcoming? Also, can u tell me how the Pontin's Pro Am works? There seems to be a lot of players from outside the top 16. Are players from the top 16 not allowed to enter? And how is it affiliated with World Snooker? Do you get ranking points at the end of it as there seems to be a number of tournaments with its own system.

Why we're talking about tournaments i am perplexed about the forthcoming Malta one. Can you tell me why if the tournament has been kept it isnt a world ranking one, when the game is crying out for more of them? Also, even though players complained bitterly about the format of the Grand Prix, Malta are doing the same thing. It seems like a snooker jolly holiday to moi. And on the issue of wild cards, 2 given to Maltese players and one to Dominic Dale. Who has the other? Not Fu, then? Seeing as he got the Masters verdict. I just dont understand the way the game is run sometimes.

I really cannot understand why the BBC/world snooker change the final times. I know the BBC hold all the cards as they have the long contracts of the big tournaments with world snooker. Maybe, world snooker don't want to ruin a good relationship with the beeb, so go along with it. All the other BBC finals start at 8pm, but the world final is a different beast. A 2pm start with more frames on the final day would be good enough to start at 8 for a sensible conclusion around 10/11. Not 1am. And your right. Radio and tv dont have to worry, but the print media do. Its hard enough to get coverage, not made any easier by a 1am finish.

Firstly, how sorry I am to hear jimmy white's no.1 fan - his dad - has passed away. Indeed, I remember that night when white won his first world ranking tournament in Scotland since the 1992 UK. There wasn't a dry eye in the house as father and son embraced. I also remember him doing the same the night before, when white beat Ebdon in a fantastic semi.

As for white, I really thought he would have a good uk campaign and would get close to final qualifying. He seems to be surrending to easily now. Dave, didnt u say before that world snooker can give one player a exception to go back on the main tour if they drop out. would white qualify for this? personally, i think he could retire at the end of this season. He won't have to play again till the Welsh Qualifying and, unless, something happens at the Worlds, he may call it a day.

Of the tournaments, well done to Maguire. He really has looked like he did again in 2004. Am looking forward to seeing if he can do it in Telford. 3 years ago he demolished David Gray, I wonder whether he can replicate the same again. He played well in Belfast, but what a run Fergal had. I was rooting for him, as to beat Higgins, O'Sullivan and Allen, he deserved it. Fergal said he didnt want to wait another 8 years for a final. He then gets beat at uk qualifying by bingham. Its so tough if you're outside the top 16 eh?

As for the profiles of Murphy and Allen. I am not a fan of Murphy, but he would be a great ambassador for the game. Taking away the chalk incident, he is a textbook snooker professional to look up to. Erudite and of good personality, he'll go far. His performances this season suggest he'll get the no.1 spot. But will he be as machine like as Davis/Hendry? I don't think so. Am thinking more an Ebdon type, but he'll promote the game well. I think Allen has more scope than Murphy. I remember him outplaying Steve Davis at the Northern Ireland Trophy in 2005 where he had a great run. Having a partner who also plays the game helps, but he seems to have some flare. He seems very similar to when John Higgins first burst onto the scene. He'll be one to follow.

Finally, I have to talk about the premier snooker league. firstly, ding's 6-0 world record points scoring victory over hendry was great to watch. do you think this will effect hendry for the rest of the season? shame ding didn't make the final, but o'sullivan did and really is the champion of the twenty-20 version of snooker. 7 victories, and he took home nearly £90,000 i make it in total prize money. He didn't actually play brilliantly in the semi or final, but just seemed to go up a gear when needed against Higgins. Did you hear his quotes afterwards? He said he ranked the premier snooker league a better tournament than the NI Trophy and others(prob Grand Prix et al.) He has a point. Maguire wins barely £30,000 for a tournament. O'Sullivan ranked this tournament just behind the UK/World. No wonder with money like that.

Also, his quarter-final 147 and 4 other centuries against Ali Carter in Belfast reminds us all as to why we love to watch him play. Absolute brilliance. He did something similar against Dominic Dale in Belfast last year in the semi's, but this was as high as it could go. I think he will beat Hendry's final total of centuries. But only if he keeps playing and doesnt suffer any 'demons.'

As for the UK, Dave, do I presume that now we have a four table set up rather than two, will there be cameras on all four tables to watch the top 16 in action or just the usual two? Am looking forward to seeing Walden play. I think he will beat Williams. As for your prediction, you seem to get most wrong, but I do agree that O'Sullivan could win it. Though, I fear he will do battle - again - with Higgins in the last eight. Like you say the cream does rise, and I think it will next week...

Thanks, Joe

Dave H said...

Hi Joe

The 110sport story has gone quiet since the people making the accusations were told to 'put up or shut up.' Ian Doyle has retired and his son, Lee, is now in charge.

Fair point about the darts but the perception - even if it's only a perception - is that darts is thriving while snooker is declining.

Maguire will be a leading candidate for next year's Player of the Year award but to have another would get confusing. Clive's book has sold really well, I'd imagine the paperback will be out next year. He isn't banned from pressrooms, although he was during the 1998/99 season before the SWA fought for and won a repreive.

If Jimmy dropped off the tour he would be an obvious candidate for a wildcard but the problem is that he can't perform in the qualifying set up at Prestatyn and that problem will still exist if he's invited back.

I don't think Hendry will be affected by Ding's performance as such but it's another sign that he's struggling to keep pace with these guys at the moment.

I'd like to see Walden as well but there are only two TV tables and he's not on one of them. This is because World Snooker have guaranteed the top four and the defending champion - Ebdon, Higgins, Dott, Murphy and Doherty - that they will play on TV tables.