Back To The Baize

So after snooker’s brief shut-down for the festive period, the action kicks off again this Friday with the conclusion of the season’s final PTC event, the European Tour 6 event in Munich.

From there will follow the start of the Championship League next week, ahead of the China Open qualifiers and then the big one, the 2013 Masters…

4-6 January 2013 – ET6 – Munich

Kicking off the 2013 snooker year will be the climax on the final PTC event of the season, which was played down to the last 32 stage at the EIS in Sheffield back in November.

Though its staging so close to the start of the UK Championship proved to be controversial with some of the players, the event remains crucial for those bidding to crack the top 24 (or 25 with Ding Junhui already qualified by the APTC list), of the PTC Order of Merit, who will make it to the Grand Finals in Galway later this year.

Among those around the bubble (and still in the competition), are Dominic Dale, Mark Davis, Alan McManus and Liang Wenbo, though with a run deep into the tournament, the door is open for any of the players remaining in the draw to qualify for Galway.

These European PTC events where the early stages are played back in England have proven controversial in some quarters, rightly so given that they inevitably restrict the participation of local amateur players. From a television perspective however, I must admit that I do quite like them, allowing many of the matches to be televised and for me, helping to make the events feel even bigger than perhaps they otherwise would.

With an enthusiastic German crowd sure to be present, it promises to be a good tournament to get us underway in 2013.

7-10, 21-24 January 2013 – Championship League Snooker

Hot on the heels of the action in Munich comes the return of Championship League Snooker, the Premier League qualifying event back at Crondon Park for a sixth year now.

As has been the case during recent years, with the increasingly hectic snooker calendar these days, something has to give for me as a blogger and that will again be the non-ranking Championship League, but with £100 per frame on offer, not to mention a potentially lucrative place in the Premier League in 2013, there remains much to play for in the event.

That said, as has been the case for a while now (see my article from 2011), from the outside I am not particularly convinced of the worth of the Championship League these days, but commercially it must be viable for the organisers as there are no signs that there is any intention to scrap the tournament in the near future.

While a full guide to the event will follow over the weekend, you can view the groups for this year’s competition here at the Championship League website, as well as the rules here.

9-12 January 2013 – China Open Qualifiers

More importantly however, to the snooker purists like myself anyway, are the China Open qualifiers, as the players seeded 17-96 battle it out to make it through to the final overseas venue of the season, this event remaining in its traditional pre-World Championship slot in the final week of March.

The full draw can be viewed here, while as is the norm these days, live action will be brought to you via the betting sites and

13-20 January 2013 – Masters

Rounding off the first block of tournaments this year will be the 2013 Masters, as Neil Robertson bids to defend the title that he won twelve months ago at the Alexandra Palace.

I was asked for my prediction recently by Gary over at the OnCue blog and I found it hard to really single anyone out, opting to back Neil to make it a double in London, though the likes of John Higgins, Judd Trump and Mark Selby in particular will all have something to say about that.

While there are several other players capable of winning it and I will preview the draw in more depth closer to the time, I would be slightly surprised if the eventual victor does not come from the names suggested above.