THE DAFABET Champion of Champions proved a welcome addition to the circuit last season and should provide a fascinating week of action in Coventry.
There are a lot of ranking events now, which is all to the good, but they tend to be rather crowded affairs with a mass of players and tables. There is a lot to be said for a one table tournament featuring the elite, concentrating on quality over quantity.
The 16-man field at the Ricoh Arena is drawn from 13 title winners from a list of 26 tournaments, topped up from the ranking list.
Ronnie O’Sullivan starts the defence of his title on Wednesday. World champion Mark Selby is in action on Tuesday while Neil Robertson kicks off on Friday. Ding Junhui is top seed today, tackling Dominic Dale and then Barry Hawkins or John Higgins.
Ricky Walden and Mark Allen, who have just contested the International Championship final, lock horns again in the first round on Friday.
As they had both already qualified, Ali Carter takes the last place, which is great news for him and for snooker considering all he has been through.
Steve Davis, no longer a main tour player but forever a legend, will also be making a rare TV appearance having won the World Seniors Championship.
The format – two best of seven frame first round matches in the afternoon and a best of 11 quarter-final at night – works well and is something a bit different to every other event.
The Champion of Champions last year marked ITV’s return to televised snooker and the coverage on ITV4, led by the first rate commentary team of Clive Everton, Neal Foulds and Alan McManus, was very well received.
The ratings were so good that ITV4 have signed on for five years and added another tournament to their portfolio, the World Grand Prix, which takes place next March. Because of their commitment to the Europa League football, there will be no play in Coventry on Thursday.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.