STUART Bingham’s 4-0 victory over Oliver Lines in the final of the Haining Open was obviously good news for the world No10 – but there were other clear beneficiaries.
Bingham is now on for some kind of China hat-trick ahead of the International Championship, having won the Shanghai Masters so impressively last month before this latest Asian Tour success. The years of travelling to the Far East for virtually every event are paying a handsome dividend.
Before looking at the implications of this result for the Champion of Champions line-up, for which Bingham had already qualified, a quick word for Lines junior, the European Under-21 champion and son of Leeds professional Peter.
Still just 19, Lines is making a very good fist indeed of his first season in the professional ranks.
A 6-4 win over world champion and world No1 Mark Selby, remarkable in many ways but not least for being achieved from 4-0 down, got him to Chengdu next week for the International Championship.
And reaching the final of an Asian Tour event is another big milestone for a talented prospect, and the perfect warm-up for his unwanted wild-card match in Chengdu.
A win for Lines today would have seen him gatecrash the lucrative event in Coventry supposedly for winners only starting on November 3, and rubbing shoulders with Ronnie O'Sullivan, Mark Selby and the rest. The only way he can do that now is by winning the International Championship.
But defeat means that John Higgins is definitely safe for Coventry, and joins Marco Fu and Ricky Walden at the Ricoh Arena.
And it also keeps Ali Carter in with a real chance of snatching the 16th and final place. He is in pole position thanks to his post World Championship ranking of 13 – UNLESS there is a winner in Chengdu not already qualified. That is on balance unlikely given the quality of those in action in south-west China but by no means impossible.
There will be many who would like to see Carter at the Champion of Champions given his recent health battles and emotional winning comeback triumph at the General Cup – but there are players well capable of depriving him of that chance in action in Chengdu.
Photographs by Monique Limbos