Paul Krishnamurty previews all four first round matches on Tuesday. To be covered, as always, on Betfair Live Video...
"Yan Bingtao represents stand-out value at 9/4 to beat Selby...this is a classic case of a rising star being under-rated against a fading one."
Good news, snooker fans, or indeed anyone looking to watch live sport- the Tour Championship goes ahead! As in Gibraltar last week, it will played behind closed doors, with players avoiding handshakes.
Elite field to compete over longer matches
Involving the top-eight players on the one year ranking list, this will be the last event prior to the World Championship. In one respect it represents ideal preparation, as all matches are played over multiple sessions.
First round matches are played over best-of-17, followed by best-of-19 for the semi-finals and best-of-25 in the final.
One might expect the formbook to therefore stand up and, if so, there can be no question whom that favours. Judd Trump broke the record for ranking event wins in one season by landing his sixth title in Gibraltar on Sunday. It is hard to argue with odds of [2.7] for the title.
That said, I could manufacture a case to oppose him here. Judd wasn't always firing on all cylinders in Gibraltar but, in the style of a true champion, found something extra time and again. He's in the tougher half of the draw here too.
Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui will open proceedings in Llandudno tomorrow. Here I much prefer the Aussie, whose general standard has been very close to Trump's over recent months. In fact take out his defeat in their German Masters final encounter and I might have argued his form was superior.
The head-to-head between this pair is also close, with Robertson leading 8-7. The recent gulf between them has been wide, though, apart from Ding's unlikely return to peak form at the UK Championship. I like 13/8 about him beating the 3.5 Frame Handicap and am also taking 4/7 about the easier 1.5 Frame Handicap as part of a double with the next match.
Murphy is my first round banker. He has been in considerably better form than Allen and dominated their recent match at the Players Championship 6-2. 'The Magician' is a live candidate for the Crucible, whereas Allen's form can at best be described as in and out of late.
Note the extreme head-to-head stats between this pair - Murphy leads 13-5. That is much more one-sided than their career achievements would imply. Take 4/6 in a double with Robertson to win the match and Evens for the 1.5 Frame Handicap.
The betting for tomorrow evening's match looks all wrong, with Yan Bingtao representing stand-out value at 9/4 to beat Selby. Both will be disappointed by their Gibraltar efforts but defeats over best-of-seven are always forgivable.
Otherwise, the Chinese prodigy is in better form. In fact this is a classic case of a rising star being under-rated against a fading one. I would price this up as almost even and still be inclined to back the youngster. However rather than going all in on the win, I'll try a back-to-lay, given Selby's pedigree when it comes to turning around impossible situations over longer matches.
Trump has beaten John Higgins in their last four meetings, but still trails the Scot 13-12 over the course of their careers. That doesn't feel too relevant because Judd has improved beyond all recognition since that last defeat at the 2018 World Championship.
However the 'Wizard of Wishaw' is famously better over the longer format. Given predictably (and unarguably correct) one-sided odds here, this is a no-bet for me.
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2019/20: -2 units
2018/19: +154.5 units
2017/18: +106 units
3 units double
Back Neil Robertson to win the 3.5 Frame Handicap 2u @ 13/8
Back Shaun Murphy 5u @ Evens to win the 1.5 Frame Handicap
Back Yan Bingtao 6u @ 9/4 (vs Selby)
Place order to lay 12u @ [1.4]