The inaugural Northern Ireland Open Snooker Tournament is being played at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast, with 16 seeds joined by a further 112 players in a 128-man event with a first prize of £70,000. It’s the brainchild of World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn, who added the event to the main tour alongside the English Open, Scottish Open and Welsh Open to form what will now be known as the Home Series.
It is the second event in the Home Series for which a player can win a £1 Million Bonus for winning all four events but, with Liang Wenbo having already claimed this season’s English Open, the Chinese player is the only player in the field who still has that massive motivation.
Ronnie O’Sullivan is the start name on show this week, and the bookies’ favourite is joined by Ding Junhui, John Higgins, Shaun Murphy and the local fans’ favourite Mark Allen. Meanwhile, big-name absentees include Mark Selby, whilst Judd Trump and Ali Carter are also late withdrawals.
The event runs from Monday 14 Nov – Sunday 20 November, with TV Coverage provided by Eurosport. First-round matches are best of 7-frames, with second-round matches best of 9-frames as are the quarter-finals, whilst the semi-finals will be best of 11-frames, and the final best of 17-frames.
Betting: Ronnie O’Sullivan 11/4, Ding Junhui 6/1, John Higgins 7/1, Shaun Murphy 9/1, Mark Allen 12/1, Barry Hawkins 22/1, Stephen Maguire 22/1, Marco Fu 33/1, Ricky Walden 33/1, Kyren Wilson 33/1, Joe Perry 33/1, Liang Wen Bo 33/1
Ronnie O’Sullivan only found the red-hot John Higgins too good last week, but looks a little short in an event for which his motivation may be in question. The 7-frame opening exchanges also leave him vulnerable if he’s not got his mind 100% on the job this week.
Ding Junhui is playing well but, after a tough schedule over the last few weeks, it’s hard to see him being at his best. You could also say the same about John Higgins but, after a slow start to the season, the Scot has been playing with the exuberance of a teenager the last two-weeks, which is hardly surprising as he’s looked at his very best – and he’s probably the value out of the first three in the market.
However, the player who winning this will surely mean the most to is Mark Allen, and the Northern Irishman only succumbed to O’Sullivan in the semi-finals last week. Meanwhile, with the motivation of that £1 Million Bonus, Liang Wen Bo also makes the staking plan.
Northern Ireland Open Snooker Tips
Mark Allen Each-Way @ 12/1 (Black Type) ½ odds 2 places
Liang Wen Bo @ 33/1 (Black Type) ½ odds 2 places