And so it's back to China for the longest running of the current Asian ranking events, the China Open in Beijing.

This was first staged (as the China International) in 1999 and ran until 2002. It disappeared due to lack of funds but returned in 2005 as a one-year deal.

Ding Junhui, as a wildcard, won the title and lit the blue touch paper for the snooker boom that has resulted in five Chinese ranking events next season.

The tournament has long since outlived the need for wildcards but a World Snooker bod explained to me in Galway - rather trenchantly, although we'd both had a drink - that without a guaranteed amount of Chinese players the sponsors will not cough up the dough to underwrite these tournaments.

I hope Jimmy White beats Omar Alkoraj (who is Syrian, not Chinese) because he will then play Judd Trump: one generation of left-handed flair player against another.

When Trump flew to Beijing this time last year he was barely known outside snooker circles.

Even within them there were those saying he couldn't possibly be all that because, by the age of 21, he had had the effrontery not to be a world beater.

But all that changed as he allied his sensational potting game with mature safety to go all the way to the title.

A few weeks later he was in the World Championship final. He is now UK champion and world no.3.

He has over 80,000 followers on Twitter and has enjoyed an increased media profile. He is great news for our sport.

I'm glad that the China Open now comes before the World Championship qualifiers because in previous years it has found itself overshadowed.

The Crucible draw is usually out by now and players who failed to qualify have been down in the dumps and have produced performances to match. All that can wait: the China Open is a major tournament in its own right and deserves to be treated as such.

Thankfully World Snooker has listened to common sense and scheduled two first round matches for day one so as to start the tournament with some big names.

One of them is Neil Robertson, who plays Jamie Cope. Robertson seemed to me to be dog-tired at Crondon Park last week after a very busy and successful season. He is also in the middle of moving house, with the incumbent stress that that involves.

He always gives it everything but may welcome the break after China to prepare for the Crucible (in fairness, he was also playing with a new tip, which didn't help).

Similarly, Stephen Lee is on a roll but flew straight from Galway to Hong Kong for a series of exhibitions and there is a danger that he could hit a wall (and I don't mean the Great Wall).

The other first round match on Monday features Martin Gould against Stephen Hendry.

Gould's form has been poor of late and it seems to me he has suffered from a curious syndrome that affects many players when they join the top 16.

These guys spend years chasing down a place in the elite group and it seems that when they get there they find it hard to mentally adjust.

It's all too easy to start looking over your shoulder, the hunter becoming the hunted and all that.

Hendry played well to beat Gould at this season's Australian Open, but you never know when Hendry will play well these days.

He won the first ranking event staged in China in 1990 and still has an aura about him, but this counts for little if he can't produce the goods.

There's no word yet on whether Ronnie O'Sullivan and Ali Carter will play due to their respective illnesses.

One thing I do know is this: any player who tweets about how boring Beijing is needs to take a long look at themselves.

I've been there a few times and it's a fascinating city, full of history and with plenty to see. Go there with an open mind and you might be pleasantly surprised by how much you enjoy it.


Anonymous said...

Thats Ronnie not going...

likahokeith said...

Dave , one of the Chinese players should have to focus, he's Chen Feilong.

In national events, Chen defeated Ding Junhui several times, almost undefeated against Ding(Chen lost in 2007).

If he defeated Woollaston, he may have the chance to extend the undefeat results to Ding.

Anonymous said...

621 he cant be both undefeated and almost undefeated !!

Anonymous said...

How can the players like Beijing when there are no bookies, bingo halls and Nandos within range?
Nevermind the terracotta army, bring on the late night poker schools between inert and blinkered numpties.

likahokeith said...


Well, this is the special case for 2012 China Open, I'm not sure whether Chen can or cannot.

P.S. Why don't you type my name?

Anonymous said...

The Terracotta army isn't in Beijing.