The 888casino Champion of Champions is a new event which starts tomorrow at the Ricoh Arena and, refreshingly, it rewards success.
In this era of flat draws and ‘fairness’ it should be remembered that achievements are worth celebrating. Winning is to be admired. Excellence is to be applauded. The top players deserve to be recognised for being the top players.
Thus, the cream of snooker will gather in Coventry for the next six days, chasing down a top prize of £100,000 in this ITV4 televised tournament.
This is effectively a re-tread of the Champions Cup, also televised by ITV, which ran as a seasonal curtain raiser from 1999-2001.
That event featured round robin groups. Thankfully, this one does not. In fact, there aren’t really groups at all. It’s a straight knockout, it’s just that each quarter of the draw is played in a single day.
So the first four days will feature two best of sevens in the afternoon and a best of 11 quarter-final at night.
The qualification requirements were rightly made clear when the tournament was announced: winners of all major tournaments, then the list topped up using the world rankings.
All ranking titles were shared last season and with Stuart Bingham added as Premier League champion and Martin Gould as winner of the Championship League, that left just two more available places.
Shaun Murphy takes the first and Mark Davis, by a margin of just 75 points over Robert Milkins, the second, although it could be argued Davis should be in anyway as world six reds champion.
Mark Selby, fresh from his Antwerp triumph on Sunday night, kicks off against Murphy on Tuesday afternoon, the winner to play John Higgins or Stephen Maguire in the evening.
ITV’s renewed involvement is welcome, as is Clive Everton’s return to the commentary box alongside two first rate analysts in Neal Foulds and Alan McManus.
It will be interesting to see what crowd figures are like. The Midlands has been a traditional stronghold for snooker but many traditional bases in the UK have been in decline, with clubs closing down at an alarming rate.
(Also, I’ve never understood why people think auditoriums should be full on a weekday afternoon when most people are at work.)
Hopefully, the crowds will grow during the week. New events need time to build. I hope the Champion of Champions becomes a permanent fixture on the calendar. It’s good to have different types of tournaments.
This is a new event which Barry Hearn’s Matchroom has pulled together out of nothing. He has assembled a great field, a sponsors, big prize money and a terrestrial broadcaster.
It deserves to succeed and, with the quality on show, it surely will.