Following the initial partial release of the calendar for the new 2015/16 season prior to the World Championship, World Snooker have since been busy filling in the gaps and the schedule for the season is now very much taking shape.
In terms of obvious talking points, the first is of course the replacement of the Wuxi Classic with the revived World Cup (also in Wuxi), while the Australian Goldfields Open retains its usual early July spot ahead of a month long break.
I have always found the ‘false start’ introduced in recent seasons to be a peculiar one, although it does present the opportunity to those players who would like an extended summer break following the Crucible with the ideal opportunity to have that, without really suffering in terms of their ranking, particularly with the absence of a ranking event in Wuxi.
As the circuit resumes, snooker will return to Riga for a second successive year in August, before the qualifiers for the Shanghai Masters, the Paul Hunter Classic, the Six Red World Championship and the venue stages of the Shanghai Masters.
So far, so familiar, but there is a twist in late September as there is set to be an Asian Tour event held in Singapore, the first such event to be staged outside of China. This will be followed be the International Championship qualifiers and then the Ruhr Open, which this season swaps places with the Bulgarian Open, a change that I understand relates to a German religious holiday known as ‘Totensonntag‘ which last year fell on the day of the final in Mulheim, something that would not have been permitted for a second successive year.
Following on from Germany this year will be another Asian Tour event, this time from China, before the venue stages of the International Championship are held, though the location of that venue itself is still to be confirmed.
Unlike in 2014, this year sees a justified break take place between that event and the Champion of Champions, before the year finishes in a similar fashion to last year with the Bulgarian Open, UK Championship, a further European Tour event and the German Masters qualifiers prior to Christmas.
Moving into the 2016, following the usual Championship League action either side of the Masters, the calendar does change noticeably compared to last season as the ‘Seniors/Shoot Out double’ is brought forward from March to late January, filling the slot vacated by the cancellation of the Haikou World Open this year.
Beyond that are the venue stages of the German Masters, ahead of the qualifiers for the China Open, but not the India Open which at present at least, is not on the calendar at all.
The Welsh Open takes up its regular mid-February spot, ahead of more Championship League action either side of the final event of the European Tour in Gdynia and the second staging of the World Grand Prix from Llandudno, which effectively takes India’s spot as a ranking event next year.
Rather than heading straight out to Thailand for the Players Championship, this year there will be a nine day gap before the event with its venue still to be confirmed. From there however, the season run-in will again see the tour head to Beijing for the China Open, before returning to Sheffield for the qualifiers and ultimately venue stages of the World Championship at the Crucible.
All in all, the changes appear to be for the positive, in particular the extra week between the International Championship and Champion of Champions events, as well as the slightly easier schedule in the run-up to the Crucible, with the extra week allowed by the absence of the Indian Open, as it stands at least.
There are still though blanks to be filled in terms of a few of the venues, while of course we still await the confirmation of when the ranking cut-offs will fall, as well as the full prize money schedule for the new season.
Hopefully we will soon have some answers…