The International Championship may have only been added to the Professional Snooker Schedule in 2012, but the “first overseas major” as it is affectionately known offers players the chance to bag the third highest winner’s prize in snooker, and as many ranking points as the UK Championship.
It’s therefore no surprise 4 of the previous 5 renewals have been won by the current top-4 players in the world in Mark Selby, Ding Junhui, John Higgins and Judd Trump, whilst the other was won by current world number 24 Ricky Walden.
The format of best-of-11 frames up until the semi-finals also allows the better players more time to recover from a slow start, unlike many of the best-of-7 frames matches used by many lesser tournaments, whilst the semi-finals are then best-of-17 frames, and the final best-of-19 frames.
International Championship Betting Guide
Mark Selby 5/1, Ronnie O’Sullivan 5/1, Judd Trump 11/2, Ding Junhui 9/1, John Higgins 10/1, Neil Robertson 12/1, Shaun Murphy 20/1
It’s not easy dismissing any of the top players, with Trump, Ding and Higgins all playing decently and having won here before, whilst Ronnie O’Sullivan will arrive here full of confidence after winning the European Masters in Barnsley.
However, it’s world number one Mark Selby who makes the most appeal, as the triple world champion has learned how to peak for the big occasion in the last couple of seasons. In 2015/16 he won the World Championship for a second time having also reached the semi-finals of the UK Championship.
After a slow start to the 2016/17 season, it was in this very event that he clicked into top gear, beating Stuart Bingham 9-3 in the semi-finals before absolutely routing Ding Junhui 10-1 in the final. He was then again able to produce his best snooker where it mattered most by winning both the UK Championship and the World Championship for a brilliant treble.
It was therefore no surprise to see Selby make a similarly slow start to the 2017/18 season, but Selby again looks to have timed his return to form to perfection by warming up for this event with a relatively easy win in the Haining Open, where he also bagged a 147 break just for good measure.
That means Selby has now collected the last 4 really big tournaments, the World Championship, International Championship, UK Championship and World Championship again – demonstrating, not for the first time, that the pressure of defending a title also doesn’t bother him.
I don’t expect him to have things all his own way with all the top players in form but, having proved he’s the man for the biggest of occasions, and with the longer format giving him a chance to recover is he’s slow out of the stalls in any match – the 5/1 for a Selby win looks on the generous side.
2017 International Championship Tip
Mark Selby @ 5/1