Ronnie O'Sullivan takes centre stage on Saturday at York but Paul Krishnamurty reckons Tian Pengfei could trouble the defending champion...
"Matthew Stevens isn't in bad form, scoring well enough - probably superior to Ryan Day, but the latter is favourite based on their ranking."
I say it whenever the main BBC coverage starts at a major snooker championship - how often do we see a massive upset or at least moment of high drama involving one of the favourites on this opening day?
Among 16 matches at the Barbican Theatre, the three biggest beasts in action are Ronnie O'Sullivan, Mark Selby and Neil Robertson. All are naturally priced extremely prohibitively against Tian Pengfei, Liam Highfield and Robbie Williams respectively.
Pengfei has twice beaten Ronnie before
All three are limited opponents, hard to make a case for at this level. Of them, Pengfei is preferred to make a match of it. He's actually one of what must be a tiny group of players on the circuit who can boast a superior head-to-head record against Ronnie. He won their first two encounters in 2013, but lost their most recent 4-0, in 2016.
Pengfei always strikes me as a neat and tidy, rather than an explosive player. Arguably the type that troubles Ronnie when he's not firing on all cylinders and frames get broken up. I very much doubt he'll win but try the following for a cheap trade.
Back Pengfei for two units at 4/1 to win five frames via the Sportsbook's +1.5 Frame Handicap. Then place an order in the outright market on the exchange to lay four units at [2.5]. If he hits the target, we double our money. If Ronnie wins 6-5 both win, yielding 12 units profit.
Stevens good value against struggling Day
Next an old favourite. Even long after his heyday when reaching this final three times, winning in 2003, Matthew Stevens has turned up with a decent game at the majors. He's not in bad form, scoring well enough - probably superior to Ryan Day, but the latter is favourite based on their ranking.
There's nothing between them over their careers - Stevens ahead on frames, Day 5-4 up in matches. Both are very streaky types so I'm happy to back the one who seems likelier to hit a hot one at 6/4.
Hamilton is much more reliable than Cahill
How do you price up James Cahill in a major? The shock conqueror of Ronnie at the Crucible already had previous against Selby and Ding, took Judd Trump to a decider in his last event and started this one by eliminating Dave Gilbert. Outside of that this season, he's won once from six, against Jimmy White. The rest of last season didn't amount to much either.
Taking out those shocks, Cahill's form is way behind Anthony Hamilton. 'The Sheriff' remains competitive, only losing to Trump in the quarters last time in Belfast, and proficient against inferior opposition. Better than evens on the exchange looks a steal.
Back Tian Pengfei to win the +1.5 Frame Handicap 2u @ 4/1
Place in-running order to lay Pengfei to win match 4u @ [2.5]
Back Matthew Stevens 3u @ [2.6]
Back Anthony Hamilton 5u @ [2.1]