It’s back to China for the snooker circuit this week with the second staging of the International Championship in Chengdu.
There are a lot of tournaments these days and, wisely, different formats. This one features longer matches, with best of 11s until the semi-finals, which are best of 17, with a best of 19 final.
In longer matches, there is more time for a narrative to form and, of course, more time for the match to turn around.
In qualifying, only one member of the top 16 (Ricky Walden) failed to reach Chengdu, which suggests this new format has made little real difference to the game’s status quo.
Judd Trump is defending champion. He wrote on Twitter last week that he would retain the title and make a 147. Twitter is not the Old Bailey but Trump is clearly revved up for the week, unsurprisingly as his start to the season has been disappointing.
The two best players this campaign have been Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui.
Robertson has made 33 centuries already – only 28 fewer than Trump’s record of 61 set last season – while Ding has appeared in three successive finals, winning the ranking events in Shanghai and India.
However, Robertson and Ding are drawn in the same quarter this week.
A major challenge could come from Ronnie O’Sullivan, who plays his first full ranking event since winning a five world title last May.
Mark Selby hasn’t pulled up many trees so far this season but, like many, may feel this is the time to get going, with the meat of the season coming up in the next few months.
There are familiar and less familiar names jostling for points and money this week. Any tournament is enhanced by the presence of a couple of legends and Steve Davis and Jimmy White have both qualified, though they will have to play wildcards.
Players are always well treated and well looked after in China but apparently practice facilities are not as they should be. One player contacted me to say that with so many players at the venue and so few tables he has had to wait two days to have a knock – hardly ideal.
There is much snooker to plough through with 64 players plus four wildcards. The top prize is £125,000.
This is only the second year of the International Championship but it feels like a big event, and the standard of snooker will surely reflect that.
It’s live all week on Eurosport and Eurosport2.