Championship League
A shot in the arm for so many that live televised sport is back on Monday in the form of the Championship League. World Snooker deserve the plaudits for being pro-active and Stealing a march on their rivals. Extensive ITV coverage will enhance the otherwise low-key reputation of the Championship League, the format now takes on a similar shape to ITVs British Gold Cup/Yamaha Organs Trophy that became the International Masters in the 1980s. While the prize money probably doesn’t excite the leading players’, they have been quick to support the event which can only add to the kudos of the event. The lower-ranked players will be thankful for an opportunity to earn sooner rather than later in an event that with qualification for the Champion of Champions means the winner’s purse is nearer £50,000 and potentially career-changing.
For five years in, the 80s the event consisted of best of 3 frame format matches before the latter stages and noticeably Steve Davis domination of the sport continued as he managed to win three from four that he competed in. The other two champions were Ray Reardon and Alex Higgins proving that despite the format, class rose to the top. When comparing the two we remember snooker back in the 80s lacked the strength in depth of the modern game however, during these events there were several shocks. Yorkshireman, John Dunning reached the final at the age of 57 while other veterans such as Dave Martin, Ray Edmonds and Doug French became adept at beating their higher-ranked opponents in the format.
For this reason, it becomes impossible to conclusively say that any player has no chance at the group stage while becoming quite the opposite. Should a lower-ranked professional play a match near his potential under the television lights this will immediately increase his confidence while of course should he play poorly the momentum and confidence could evaporate for the day. Momentum will be the key ingredient and should the higher-ranked players find it early in the group they have potential to steamroller given their experience under the television lights. The beauty of the format, however, is one major upset against the group favourite and all the others will fancy their chances of progressing which can quickly bring about the domino effect.
The group stages are extensively covered by ITV so I expect there will be plenty to learn in running and value bets to be found
Group A
Stuart Bingham – Will love the format and if he finds his momentum, he has the look of a player likely to win the tournament if he gets on a roll.
Ricky Walden – Not to be overlooked with his experience and fluent style. Fits the category of a veteran who could flourish in format.
Jordan Brown – Slow burner but already beaten Stuart Bingham and David Gilbert twice in the current season. Potentially an awkward opponent in group stages.
Jamie Clarke – Outsider in the group whose best results have come in the Shootout so could inflict an upset or two.
No bet

Group B
Judd Trump – A strong favourite even in this format
Daniel Wells – Performed well before under television lights reaching semi-final of the Scottish Open last season.
Elliot Slessor – Two Career victories over Ronnie O’Sullivan and could easily be the one to beat Judd Trump if anyone can
David Grace – Like Wells he has proven ability to play under televised conditions from his UK Championship semi-final appearance a few years ago.
Elliott Slessor at 12.00 (Betfred) or in his match v Judd Trump worth considering.

Group C
Michael Holt – Won the Shootout, an event he is well suited too and I expect this format and his new-found confidence look perfectly matched.
Mark Davis – Experienced sort who will flourish if he can get a few wins under his belt.
Mark Joyce – A player who impresses me when he reaches the television stages.
Louis Heathcote – Made an impressive start to his rookie season and a potential wildcard for the group.
A trappy group with Holt a deserving favourite but no bet. Holt is worth considering each way at 201.00 (Boylesports)

Group D
Joe Perry – Model professional who will be suited by the event if he finds his fluency.
Mark King – Northern Ireland Open winner and probably suited by pressurised format.
Sam Baird – Had a poor season but the three-month break can only help him clear his mind and re-set.
Harvey Chandler – Has promise but overall found life difficult as a professional. Could easily upset anyone at the group stage.
No bet

Group E
Mark Selby – Has performed superbly in the short format home nations events this season.
Liang Wenbo – Having a season of consolidation and gradually re-building his confidence looking through his results.
Joe O’Connor – Last season’s Rookie of the Year has struggled this season. Nothing unusual for a promising player to have a poor second season and not live up to expectations. This is a perfect opportunity to get back on track.
Lee Walker – Experienced journeyman professional who reminded fans what he is capable of by beating Judd Trump at the English Open. Not to be overlooked in the group stage matches.
No bet

Group F
Ali Carter – Gritty competitor who can never be discounted
Matt Selt – Winner of last year’s Indian Open who is always difficult to beat.
Sam Craigie – Having a poor season and failing to build on a good 2018/2019. Remains respected when his confidence returns
Dominic Dale – Just the type of experienced player to flourish in the format.
Wide Open group that Dale could have a say in but at his price it’s no bet.

Group G
Barry Hawkins – Having a poor season and the break should have allowed him to clear his cluttered mind.
Anthony McGill – I did think he was starting to return to his best before the break and a dark horse in all markets.
Craig Steadman – Will be there to pick up the pieces if the higher ranked players struggle.
Hammad Miah – Struggled all season and in need of a confidence boost.
A no bet group although McGill could be a dark horse in the outrights at 151.00 (Boylesports)

Group H
Jimmy Robertson – Winner of last season’s European Masters who has plenty of televised experience.
Ben Woollaston – Consistent fluent sort who could be well suited by the format.
Liam Highfield – His break-building stats indicated he had improved slightly this season so the perfect opportunity to prove that.
Alexander Ursenbacher – Plays well in short format home nations events who can go deep when he finds his momentum.
An impossible task to find the winner of this group with all players capable of going further should they progress.

Group I
Jack Lisowski – Obvious chance if he finds his momentum.
Luca Brecel – Exactly same comments apply as above.
Robbie Williams – Grinds away well and beat John Higgins in German Masters so the dark horse of the group if the favourites don’t fire.
Oliver Lines – Had a poor season but if he has cleared his mind remains a player of potential who on his day could win his group matches.
Robbie Williams opened at 8.00 for the group and I think the best now is 6.50 which still has a tad of potential should the two favourites be slow out of the blocks.

Group J
Ronnie O’Sullivan – A brilliant pro-am and short format player who has often found it has the affect of focusing his attention.
Chris Wakelin – The sort of player who will be around if the others play below par.
Michael Georgeiu – A momentum player as illustrated by his shootout win of 2018 and remains dangerous in this format.
Kishan Hirani – Struggled all season but could still cause opponents problems.
Ronnie plays well when returning fresh from a break but Michael Georgeiu could be dangerous if Ronnie has an unexpected loss.

Group K
Mark Allen – Happy to have had a break from the sport having looked fatigued since the UK Championship.
Martin O’Donnell – Martin is a proper grinder who will make the game difficult for his opponents.
Michael White – I was taken with his quarter final in the UK Championship reminding everyone what a fluent high-class player the Welshman still is. We know he liked the Shootout so this format will suit if he gets his tail up.
Nigel Bond – The UK Championship also reminded everyone that Nigel Bond could still play and he is just the sort of veteran to prosper.
I definetly like opposing the two favourites in this group with Michael White (6.00) and possibly Nigel Bond.

Group L
Kyren Wilson – Of all the top players I reckon Kyren Wilson will be the best prepared.
Ryan Day – Out of form but a momentum player if he can get some confidence building wins in the bank.
Alfie Burden – Without doubt a Masterchef candidate but not to be overlooked in this format where his relaxed style could be an advantage.
Chen Feilong – Cannot overlook anyone in the group stages but looks to have a mighty task.
Kyren Wilson looks a strong favourite but no bet at price.

Group M
David Gilbert – Fluent sort who will be suited by format if he is timing the ball well.
Stuart Carrington – Local lad to me and very capable as his results have proved.
Jak Jones – Had a good season and awkward opponent.
Jackson Page – A fluent player who appears capable of better.
Wide open group with perhaps Jak Jones a shred of value at 8.50.

Group N
Gary Wilson – Should be suited by this format and looks a strong group favourite.
Matthew Stevens – High-class performer who could be suited by tournament if he has been practising.
John Astley – Respected but has little television experience.
Mitchell Mann – Seems to be back close to his best after struggling with his mental wellbeing. Capable of a shock win or two during the group stage.
Gary Wilson a strong group favourite but his price is poor however at 81.00 this fluent Geordie who is comfortable on television looks overdue a breakthrough.

Group O
Tom Ford – Inconsistent but high-quality performer when he gets it right.
Rob Milkins – Re-building his game in recent months with encouraging results to help. If he could negotiate the group 301.00 would not look too bad.
Mike Dunn – His experience could serve him well in the format if he can remain competitive.
Ian Burns – Opened at 8.00 which I thought was too big for the group and thus I took some. Beat Judd Trump just before Christmas.
A group where the favourites could be caught cold and anything over 6.00 on Ian Burns could be worth a small bet.

Group P
Neil Robertson – Obvious chances
Kurt Maflin – 7.00 looked a tad big for Maflin given he should be suited be format.
Ken Doherty – Do not overlook the Irishman who will be suited by television coverage.
Ashley Carty – A big ask but a player capable of big breaks who has potential on his day.
Difficult to go against Neil Robertson but should he lose a match Kurt Maflin at 7.00 is tad of value with Ken Doherty not overlooked.

Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson will be hard to stop in the later stages should they find their momentum. Gary Wilson 81.00, Michael Holt 201.00, Michael White 301.00, Anthony McGill 151.00 and Rob Milkins 301.00 are five random darts worth considering to small stakes.
Overall though it will be great to have competitive snooker back so keep stakes small while learning who is playing well for a few in-play bets.