China Open Snooker Betting: Two players to back from each quarter

Three-times China Open champion Mark Williams
Mark Williams has been second only to Ronnie O'Sullivan this season

Ronnie O'Sullivan's victory at the Players Championship takes the season's profit from our regular snooker column to over 139 units. Here's Paul Krishnamurty's eight-man staking plan for the China Open...

"Ronnie O'Sullivan's form is in another league but at just 3.55/2 to win what amounts to seven individual matches, we can afford to take him on with each-way alternatives."

With two ranking tournaments remaining this season, the stakes could not be higher. Just shy of £3M in prize money is up for grabs at this week's China Open and the World Championship, for which qualifying will begin just three days after this finishes.

Now that money determines the rankings, that means there is still plenty to sort out before Sheffield. With £225,000 to the winner, somebody could potentially come from nowhere to earn a top-16 seeding and crucially swerve three qualifying rounds. The man currently in 16th place, Ryan Day, is already out and extremely vulnerable.

Back Mark Williams 2.5u each-way @ 16/1
Back Stephen Maguire 1u e/w @ 33/1

Day's two closest pursuers - Mark Allen and Stephen Maguire - are pitched in the same quarter, along with both of last year's finalists. Twelve months ago Mark Selby was peerless in the sport, landing the odds both here and defending his world title, while Mark Williams was battling in vain to qualify for the Crucible. The dynamics are very different now.

While still number one, Selby hasn't played anywhere near his best this term, besides winning the International Championship. In contrast Williams is second on the one-year list, and justifiably so having played as well as anyone bar Ronnie O'Sullivan. The evidence from Llandudno suggested that remains the case. Williams loves this event, winning three times from five appearances in the final.

Regarding the rankings race, Maguire has much more to do but an easier early draw. I think he'll reach the last-16 at least and, if facing Selby there has nothing to fear on their respective form. Allen has a tricky starter and probably a brutal last-32 against Yan Bingtao. Both of those potential winners are dodged precisely because of that draw.

Back Gary Wilson 0.5u e/w @ 175/1
Back Zhang Yong 0.25u e/w @ 425/1

There's plenty of quality here too but I'm prepared to take on the two big-guns. John Higgins has never won the China Open nor reached the final since 2009, and has tricky opponents from the outset. Likewise Ding Junhui will have to get past Michael Georgiou, then maybe Xiao Guodong and Kyren Wilson, just to reach the last-eight.

Kyren in particular is respected but preference is for a couple of huge outsiders, including his namesake. Gary Wilson reached the final here in 2015 and is a better player now. Impressive en route to the Welsh Open semis, he hit a rich vein of form this time last year to qualify for the Crucible.

Zhang Yong is a player who'd escaped my attention until the Shootout, where he played some great stuff to reach the quarter-finals. Of course that one-frame format is meaningless but this 22 year-old followed up with another last-eight appearance in Gibraltar, scoring pretty well throughout. Like so many of this season's Asian semi-finalists, Yong could be under the radar.

Back Neil Robertson 2.5u e/w @ 16/1
Back Graeme Dott 0.5u e/w @ 125/1

Shaun Murphy defied injury and lack of practice to reach another final in Llandudno and 'The Magician' has definitely the strongest form claim in this section. However he's another with a poor tournament record, only once reaching the final ten years ago and will have few - if any - easy games.

For instance in the last-32, he's scheduled to meet German Masters conqueror Dott. Champion here in 2007, Graeme showed resurgent form in Germany and at the Shootout and may have made further progress but for running into career nemesis O'Sullivan twice since.

Robertson gets the nod over Stuart Bingham here on the basis of an easier draw. Only Martin Gould or Zhou Yuelong look realistic alternatives to reach the quarters and the Aussie is hinting, in patches at least, of returning to the level that won this title in 2013.

Back Cao Yupeng 0.5u e/w @ 90/1
Back Anthony McGill 0.5u e/w @ 66/1

This event's position on the schedule has always had it's detractors, coming immediately before Sheffield and significantly impacting preparations. I doubt it is a coincidence that several top players have surprisingly ordinary records here and nobody more so than O'Sullivan, who hasn't reached the final since 2000.

In fairness, that could also have been said before the Shanghai Masters and Ronnie ran away with that as he has so much this season. His form is in another league but at just 3.55/2 to win what amounts to seven individual matches, we can afford to take him on with each-way alternatives. McGill, who produced one of the shocks of the season to beat Higgins 6-0 last week, is capable of giving Ronnie a game in the last-16 should that match-up materialise.

Yupeng has now reached two ranking finals, producing a very high standard in the process. The pressure on the top Chinese players is immense this week but the way he responded after what must have been a devastating defeat in the Scottish Open suggested he'll make the most of the big stages.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

2017/18 Profit/Loss

+139.5 units

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