ONE FACTOR BUBBLING away in the background during the Shanghai Masters, and the next few events, is inclusion in the lucrative Champion of Champions tournament in November.

This was a popular addition to the calendar last season because it carries prestige and is intended to be for the cream of the sport. Of the 16 available places, 11 have so far been filled with Shanghai, Bulgaria, India, an Asian Tour event and Chengdu to come.

This means that the likes of Graeme Dott and Michael White, through to the Shanghai quarter-finals, are very much in the hunt.

But it would take five different winners to fill up the field from players not already qualified before a contingency plan to top up the event to 16 was required. It may be helpful to announce what this method will be before it is needed, in the interests of transparency.

One option would be to invite the World Seniors champion, Steve Davis. If the Shootout and Six Reds World Championship are qualifying events then why not the seniors?

Otherwise, it would seem sensible to use the world ranking list to sort out the remaining places. There is, though, one very obvious problem looming up: the International Championship finishes THE DAY BEFORE the Champion of Champions event starts. Coventry is not drivable from Chengdu.

So planning the order of play will be pretty much impossible. Last year, the format was that two last 16 matches were played in the afternoon with a quarter-final at night. That might not be feasible this time around and punters buying tickets may not know who is playing until the day before.

The problem was created by a small hub of players – including Ding Junhui and Ronnie O’Sullivan – winning multiple titles.

Ahead of the evening session in Shanghai, Michael Holt (pictured), Fergal O’Brien, Alan McManus, Martin Gould and Zhao Xintong were all on the list of players who would qualify for the Champion of Champions if they won Shanghai this week.

But there are still big hitters going strong: Ding, Mark Selby, Mark Allen and Stuart Bingham, and they are already confirmed for Coventry.


Photographs by Monique Limbos.