World Open 2010: Reflections

Long format, short format – it seemingly makes little difference this year as both the World Open and World Championship tournaments have seen Australia’s Neil Robertson emerge as the winner. Click below for some of my observations on the tournament and what we have coming up during the next few weeks…

So then, are best of 5’s the real deal?

Firstly the positives. As the fact that five of the eight quarter-finalists demonstrated, the short format did not result in the sort of lottery that many had predicted prior to the start of the event. In fact although there were a few upsets, as would occur during any event regardless of the format, the pressure on the shoulders of the qualifiers not so used to playing on the big stage in front of the TV cameras seemed to magnify further as some lost matches despite having several clear opportunities to win.

One aspect of that tournament that I did like was the fact that all of the matches at the venue stage were played on the one table in front of the cameras, meaning that we were able to see players such as Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and James McBain which would in all likelihood not have happened at a regular ranking event. Though the lower ranked players were ultimately outclassed by their opponents, the experience of playing not only in front of the cameras, but more importantly under the arena lights as noted by Davy Morris will have been invaluable.

Other plus points? One factor that has been cited by a few fans is the fact that the poorer matches are over more quickly, although I am not personally quite so convinced by that as arguably the greater pressure caused by the importance of each frame under such format could lead to the deterioration of quality.

On the downside, personally I do feel that although there were some entertaining matches played this week, I struggled to ‘get into’ the matches in the same way that I would a longer match, either a best of nine or a longer match. It could also be argued from an attacking point of view that the added importance of each frame led to the players turning down more chances than perhaps they usually might do.

More generally regarding the event, I was not particularly impressed by the between-frame music. Whether or not this is an undue distraction to the players I am not so sure but personally I did not feel that it added anything to the experience, either of the viewer or the spectator. The Pot Black music played pre-match at the Crucible on the other hand, now that was classic.

The other major drawback to the event for me was the ranking points allocation which despite there being a logical reason to this in relation to giving the event equal status to the Chinese events in order to appease the BBC, was nevertheless too high. The fact that Neil Robertson had to play just 28 frames on his way to this title in comparison to 87 on his way to the World Championship makes the fact that he earned just 3,000 more points for the latter seem a little ridiculous for me.

On balance though I do feel that despite some reservations, the event was a success and judging by the comments of fans on some of the other snooker blogs and forums out there, I am not alone. There is definitely a place for this tournament on the calendar and to have a number of different formats is crucial as Barry Hearn has already outlined.

What I feel should also be stressed however is that while the World Open was a success, this does not mean that this should impact on the format for other established tournaments such as the UK or World Championship. Some for example have called for the World Championship to be shortened but personally I would be absolutely gutted if that ever were to happen. The longer format for me, not only of the matches but of the 17 day journey to the title remains the true test of a player and should remain. There is room for both and hopefully that will be recognised.

So what happens now? Immediately on the back of this tournament we have the second EPTC event taking place in Bruges from tomorrow (Thursday), until Sunday. Not only is this another opportunity for the players to gain ranking points but it is of course the last tournament to be placed before the seedings are altered ahead of the UK Championship and Masters tournaments.

The top 16 is pretty much decided now with Peter Ebdon and Jamie Cope in, Ryan Day and Liang Wenbo out. The only man who can change this is Matthew Stevens should he win the event and see Marco Fu lose out in the first round. The race for top 32, 48 and 64 places however are far more open.

Following this revision to the seedings I will then work on an updated provisional list, deducting the points from the 2008 Bahrain/UK Championship tournaments and inserting the columns for the remaining events to the second revision.

Oh and last but not least, we have a Premier League triple header from Preston tomorrow!