Snooker returns to the big time on Friday (31 July) courtesy of the rescheduled 2020 World Championships at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, with the added good news that crowds will be in attendance for the first time since lockdown!
Not that the inclusion of an audience has proven popular with some players, including Ronnie O’Sullivan, but it all adds to what promises to be a real marathon with players cooped up in a bubble for a 17-day slog - and only the mentally tough will come out on top.
As witnessed via the recent Darts World Matchplay, the tournament saw a host of top seeds exiting early, resulting in a 100/1 winner who was making his debut in the tournament! Whether that will happen at the Crucible remains to be seen, but what occurred at the Matchplay serves notice that players are certainly finding things different since lockdown. Indeed, individuals with strong levels of both concentration and stamina with an ideal preparation may find themselves at an advantage over more fragile rivals, which could suit the likes of John Higgins, who made the last three Sheffield finals.
Last 10 World Championship Finals
|2019||Judd Trump (7)||John Higgins (5)||18-9|
|2018||Mark Williams (7)||John Higgins (5)||18-16|
|2017||Mark Selby (1)||John Higgins (6)||18-15|
|2016||Mark Selby (2)||Ding Junhui (Q)||18-14|
|2015||Stuart Bingham (10)||Shaun Murphy (8)||18-15|
|2014||Mark Selby (3)||Ronnie O’Sullivan (1)||18-14|
|2013||Ronnie O’Sullivan (1)||Barry Hawkins (15)||18-12|
|2012||Ronnie O’Sullivan (14)||Ali Carter (13)||18-11|
|2011||John Higgins (2)||Judd Trump (Q)||18-15|
|2010||Neil Robertson (9)||Graeme Dott (Q)||18-13|
One of the amazing facts from above is that the best snooker player of all-time, Ronnie O’Sullivan, hasn’t won the world crown since 2013, and he’ll no doubt be wanting to end that drought. Whether this year’s set-up will suit is another matter, but the Essex man does of course boast an excellent pedigree here - something the majority of past winners also shared.
Last 20 World Champions
|Year||Winner||Age||Seed||Form||Season best||UK best|| World best || World best |
|2019||J Trump||29||7||L64 SF SF||Won||Won||RU||QF|
|2018||M Williams||43||7||QF SF L16||Won||Won||Won||Not qualify|
|2017||M Selby||33||1||W QF L32||Won||Won||Won||Won|
|2016||M Selby||32||2||L32 W QF||Semi||Won||Won||L16|
|2015||S Bingham||38||10||L32 SF SF||Won||Semi||QF||Last 32|
|2014||M Selby||30||3||QF L32 RU||RU||Won||RU||Last 16|
|2013||R O’Sullivan||37||1||- - L128||L128||Won||Won||Won|
|2012||R O’Sullivan||36||14||QF SF W||Won||Won||Won||QF|
|2011||J Higgins||35||2||W QF W||Won||Won||Won||Last 16|
|2010||N Robertson||28||9||L16 L16 L16||Won||QF||Semi||Semi|
|2009||J Higgins||33||5||RU L16 SF||Won||Won||Won||Last 16|
|2008||R O’Sullivan||32||5||L32 RU L16||Won||Won||Won||QF|
|2007||J Higgins||31||5||QF L32 L32||Semi||Won||Won||Last 32|
|2006||G Dott||27||14||L16 QF SF||Semi||QF||RU||Last 32|
|2005||S Murphy||22||(Q)||L48 L48 L32||L32||NQ||L32||Not qualify|
|2004||R O’Sullivan||28||3||QF QF QF||Won||Won||Won||Last 32|
|2003||M Williams||29||3||L16 QF SF||Won||Won||Won||Last 16|
|2002||P Ebdon||31||7||SF RU L16||RU||RU||RU||QF|
|2001||R O’Sullivan||25||4||L32 W L16||Won||Won||Semi||Last 32|
|2000||M Williams||26||3||RU QF W||Won||Won||RU||RU|
There are some interesting trends the majority of past winners displayed in their profile prior to winning the world title, including…
19 came from the top 14 seeds, a sequence interrupted just once in 2005
18 were aged 25-38
18 reached at least a semi-final during the current season
18 failed to win a tournament lat time out
17 made a quarter-final or better during their last three tournaments
15 were seeded 1-7, though only two No.1 seeds triumphed from 20 attempts
The above trends need respecting when eyeing up this year’s potential winner, and the fact 19 of the last 20 winners also came from the top 16 seeds suggests this year’s winner likely to emerge from the higher bracket, hence the following close-up featuring the world’s top 16.
JUDD TRUMP - “Ace”
Last 10 Worlds (latest first): W QF L32 L16 SF QF SF L16 RU - -
2019/20 best: Winner (Players Championship, World Open, International, German Masters, Ireland Open, Gibraltar Open)
Recent tournaments (latest first): SF W W
First round opponent: Tom Ford (Trump 1/9 v Ford 13/2)
The last 18 months witnessed a big shift in Judd Trump’s overall game, going from flashes of brilliance, to a consistent winning machine. That was none more clearer than when finally landing the big one itself at last year’s world championship, which proved Trump’s crowning moment. Even more impressive is how Trump has applied himself subsequently. Often a new world champion can go off the boil following Sheffield, but Trump reacted opposite in winning an astonishing six ranking titles this season, including two of the last three. While it’s going to take a big effort from one of his rivals to stop the “Juddernaut” at present, he still has one big stat to overcome, and that is the dismal record of first-time winners of the world crown returning to defend the title 12 months later - since moving to the Crucible in 1977, there were 17 first-time winners, and none defended the crown.
Verdict: The defending champion is a winning machine this year, and looks sure to go close once more, but faces the “first-time winner” jinx.
NEIL ROBERTSON - “The Thunder from Down Under”
Last 10 Worlds (latest): QF L32 L16 L32 QF SF L32 QF L32 W
2019/20 best: Winner (European Open, World Grand Prix, Champion of Champions)
Recent tournaments (latest first): QF L16 QF
First round opponent: Liang Wenbo (Robertson 1/5 v Wenbo 9/2)
It’s exactly 10 years since Neil Robertson won his only world title, and his record in Sheffield since reads very hit-and-miss. A combination of four first round exits, along with a semi and three quarter-finals, isn’t a true reflection of the Australian’s ability. While he hasn’t made a world final since 2010, Robertson actually achieved something this season he hadn’t before, namely winning three tournaments prior to Sheffield. Indeed, he made three consecutive ranking finals during the winter, and didn’t shape too badly last time out when losing to eventual winner Stephen Maguire in the last eight of the Players Championship.
Verdict: In good form this year and chose to play this tournament instead of flying back to see family in Australia, but hasn’t shone in Sheffield since his 2010 success.
MARK WILLIAMS - “The Welsh Potting Machine”
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L16 W – QF L32 – L32 L16 SF L16
2019/20 best: Runner-up (China Championship)
Recent tournaments (latest first): SF L16 L64
First round opponent: Alan McManus (Williams 1/4 v McManus 7/2)
Despite a below-par season, it would take a brave man to write off the chances of Mark Williams following his shock third world title two years. Indeed, it is that 2018 victory in Sheffield which kept the Welshman seeded as high as No.3 in this renewal, as his 2020 form hasn’t been great. Bar making the China Championship final last autumn, and a Gibraltar Open semi before lockdown, there hasn’t been much to crow about - unlike in 2018 when Williams picked up three trophies earlier in the season prior to winning in Sheffield. But, he remains a three-time winner of this, and his followers will be hoping he turns up fresh and ready - he’ll need to with old foe Alan McManus up first.
Verdict: A three-time winner and capable, but form this season hasn’t been great and needs another career best effort at the age of 45 to close.
MARK ALLEN - “The Pistol”
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L32 QF L16 L16 L16 L16 L32 L32 QF QF
2019/20 best: Runner-up (Tour Championship)
Recent tournaments (latest first): RU QF L64
First round opponent: Jamie Clarke (Allen 1/12 v Jamie Clarke 8/1)
Mark Allen will be hoping his recent form at the recent Tour Championship last month continues in Sheffield, as he enjoyed a terrific run to the final. While losing 10-6 to Stephen Maguire, he destroyed Mark Selby 9-2 in the semi and showed his trademark battling qualities to beat Shaun Murphy 9-8 in the quarters. With six semi-final appearances earlier in the season, the Pistol appears to firing, but the one major hurdle he needs to overcome is his poor Crucible record. Knocked out before the quarter-finals in seven of his last eight visits, the Irishman will need to put that right if going deep.
Verdict: In fair form, but has a history of flopping at this venue.
JOHN HIGGINS - “The Wizard of Wishaw”
Last 10 Worlds (latest): RU RU RU QF L16 L32 L32 L16 W L16
2019/20 best: Semi-final (World Open, Northern Ireland Open)
Recent tournaments (latest first): QF QF QF
First round opponent: Matthew Stevens (Higgins 1/4 v Stevens 3/1)
There could be worse 20-1 shots than John Higgins to win a fifth world title, especially having made the final for the last three years. The Crucible really brings the best out of Higgins, who appears to step up as soon as he arrives in Sheffield. That was certainly the case 12 months ago when the then 43-year-old reached only one final eight months earlier. Some may point to Higgins’ age, but that wasn’t an issue during the last three years when showing incredible stamina to reach the final act, and that could prove a huge advantage for the Scotsman in what promises to be a war of attrition at this year’s championship. With players set to remain in a tight bubble for 17 days, mental strength will play a huge part, and that’s something John Higgins has plenty of.
Verdict: The four-time winner almost made it five when falling at the last hurdle in recent years. His mental strength will prove an asset.
RONNIE O’SULLIVAN - “The Rocket”
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L32 L16 QF L16 QF RU W W QF QF
2019/20 best: Runner-up (Shanghai Masters)
Recent tournaments (latest first): L64 SF QF
First round opponent: Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (O’Sullivan 1/5 v Un-Nooh 4/1)
While the likes of John Higgins may thrive under 17 days of pressure at what promises to be a more compact snooker environment than ever, Ronnie O’Sullivan may not be looking forward to the prospect. That may sound harsh for someone who previously won five titles in Sheffield, but The Rocket has made no secret of disliking long stints at venues, while recently stating he didn’t agree with playing in front of a limited crowd at this year’s tournament. But hey, this is Ronnie O’Sullivan we’re talking about, and it’s possible he may turn up as fresh as paint before wiping the floor with everyone - he won just the one title this season (Shanghai Masters), and won’t arrive overcooked by his standards - last year he won five titles earlier in the season and went out in the first round at the Crucible. The Essex man lined-up at 5-2 for this 12 months ago, and there will be plenty of his followers who may think there is a bargain to be had at double those odds this time around.
Verdict: Not won this title for seven years and may not enjoy the set-up of this year’s unique event, but has too much talent to be dismissed at drifting odds.
MARK SELBY - “The Jester from Leicester”
Last 10 Worlds (latest first): L16 L32 W W L16 W L16 L32 QF SF
2019/20 best: Winner (English Open, Scottish Open)
Recent tournaments (latest first): SF L32 QF
First round opponent: Jordan Brown (Selby 1/9 v Brown 13/2)
A few years ago, Mark Selby lined-up as the favourite for this title having won it three times from 2014-2017, but the 37-year-old hasn’t really hit those heights during the last few years. While still playing to a high standard - as proven when landing both the English and Scottish Opens earlier this season - his record in the majors hasn’t been great. Indeed, Selby failed to make a semi-final in his last eight majors (World, UK & Masters) since winning his last world crown, though it’s hard to imagine The Jester from Lester won’t win the world title ever again - he’s just too good not to. He made the last four of the Tour Championship a month ago (despite being well beaten 9-2 by Mark Allen), which was a good sign, and possesses the type of steely mindset that will be required at this year’s very different renewal in Sheffield.
Verdict: A three-time world champion and took two ranking titles this season, so every chance he could feature at a venue he enjoys. Interesting at bigger odds than usual.
KYREN WILSON - “The Warrior”
Last 10 Worlds (latest): QF SF QF QF - L32
2019/20 best: Runner-up (Welsh Open, Gibraltar Open)
Recent tournaments (latest first): RU L26 L64
First round opponent: Anthony Hamilton (Wilson 1/6 v Hamilton 4/1)
Who knows which hairstyle Kyren Wilson will emerge with in Sheffield following lockdown - it was highlighted when last seen! - but he’ll only be interested in which colours he’s knocking in the pockets at the Crucible. The Warrior was one of the new faces on the scene around five years ago when labelled as a future winner of this title, so at the age of 28, he’ll be aware that time is just starting to tick by. His record in Sheffield remains solid via three quarter-finals and a semi on his last four visits, just the sort of profile required as the single table set-up is a unique occasion. As for recent form, then admittedly that is more unknown, though he went well pre-lockdown with a couple of finals, and is suited to the longer format of the world championships.
Verdict: Has climbed the rankings year-on year (8-9-13-16-56) and played well at the Crucible previously. Capable of going all the way at generous odds.
STEPHEN MAGUIRE - “On-Fire”
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L32 QF L32 L32 L32 L32 SF L32 L16 QF
2019/20 best: Semi-final (German Masters, English Open, Riga Masters)
Recent tournaments (latest first): L32 L16 L128
First round opponent: Martin Gould (Maguire 1/3 v Gould 21/10)
A 125-1 shot 12 months ago, the bookies are being less generous this time around following Stephen Maguire’s recent resurgence - the Scotsman is now a 28-1 chance. Having reached only one ranking final since 2013 - the 2018 Riga Masters - Maguire served notice his game was returning when winning the six-ball championship in September (beat John Higgins 8-6), before making the UK Championship final (lost 10-6 to Ding Junhui), prior to a Players Championship semi in March, when only losing 6-5 to eventual winner Judd Trump. However, he recently topped those efforts by winning last month’s Tour Championship (beat Mark Allen 10-6), a real sign that his consistency is also cemented. It’s a return to form that needs respecting, as demonstrated by Mark Williams when winning this title a few years ago having enjoyed a revival beforehand, and the fact he’s earned his nickname “On-Fire” as a man worth following when hot, then now could be his time to grab world glory.
Verdict: Back to form and won last time out. Made two semi-finals here previously and a “live” 28-1 shot.
SHAUN MURPHY - “The Magician”
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L16 L32 L16 L32 RU QF QF L32 L16 QF
2019/20 best: Winner (Welsh Open, China Championship)
Recent tournaments (latest first): QF SF L16
First round opponent: Noppon Saengkham (Murphy 1/6 v Saengkham 4/1)
As big as 66-1 prior to Sheffield 12 months ago, Shaun Murphy now arrives with a much better chance at 16-1 for a second world crown. He famously won his first world title in 2005 when a virtual unknown to most armchair fans, and proved that was no fluke by making two more finals - the last in 2015. The Magician picked up a ranking trophy in each of the following three years, before blanking last term, but made up for that by winning two ranking trophies in 2019/20 - the first time he’s achieved such a feat in a near 20-year career. He also reached the Players Championship pre-lockdown, and showed fair form in the recent Tour Championship when beaten 9-8 in the last eight by eventual finalist, Mark Allen. However, it’s hard to know what frame of mind Murphy will be in following the recent death of close friend, Brandon Parker, though if he ever needed motivation to win back the world crown, then that could be it.
Verdict: Knows how to win this title and enjoying a good season, but faces a tough section of the draw.
DING JUNHUI - “The Dragon”
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L16 QF SF RU QF L32 QF L32 SF L16
2019/20 best: Winner (UK Championship)
Recent tournaments (latest first): L16 L16 L32
First round opponent: Mark King (Junhui 1/6 v King 7/2)
A failure to win the world championship would go down as one of snooker’s biggest disappointments, should Ding Junhui never get his hands on the game’s biggest title. The Dragon picked up the second biggest prize, the UK Championship, for a third occasion in December, demonstrating he very much has the game to beat anyone when he’s on song - to put landing a third UK title into context, only Ronnie O’Sullivan (7), Steve Davis (6), Stephen Hendry (5), and John Higgins (3) won it more than twice - Mark Selby and Neil Robertson won it only twice apiece. But, that’s all in the past, and what form Ding brings to the Crucible is what matters, and that’s anyone’s guess as he missed the Tour Championship owing to travel restrictions from China to the UK. Indeed, when he’ll be in quarantine when returning this week, so it’s hard to know what state of mind he’ll be in. However, he won tournaments from out the blue in the past, including December’s UK, so the best policy could be to see how he plays in his opener, as he’ll still be available at decent odds if coming through that.
Verdict: Yet to win the world title in 13 attempts, but took the UK three times. Current form an unknown, though.
DAVID GILBERT - “The Angry Farmer”
Last 10 Worlds (latest): SF - - L32 - L32 - L16 - -
2019/20 best: Runner-up (English Open)
Recent tournaments (latest first): L16 L64 L128
First round opponent:
Despite starting last year’s world championships as a 125-1 shot, David Gilbert produced some fine snooker in defying those odds to some extent by making the last four. That single-table set-up will be put him in good stead for future cracks at this title, and he proved that was no fluke by making The Masters semi’s in January. The 39-year-old then made the English Open final when way below-par in a 9-1 defeat by mark Selby, before his form tailed off before lockdown. Again, as with many other players in Sheffield, it’s hard to know what form The Angry Farmer will be in, and a first round exit in last month’s Players Championship wasn’t an encouraging sign.
Verdict: An improver during the last few years and semi-finalist here in 2019, but form dipped in 2020.
JACK LISOWSKI - “Jack-Pot”
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L32 L16 - - - - L32 - -
2019/20 best: Runner-up (Scottish Open)
Recent tournaments (latest first): L32 L32 L32
First round opponent: Anthony McGill (Lisowski 4/7 v McGill 11/8)
Having overcome serious illness earlier in his life to move up the world rankings (11-26-54) is a commendable effort from Jack Lisowski, but whether he can win this title is another matter. Two ranking finals were the highlight during the last few years, but that first ranking title still evades him, and not many players get off the mark in Sheffield. Indeed, his game appears more suited to the shorter format, as he struggled in the longer matches, and the fact he didn’t take part in the Tour Championship leaves plenty of guesswork regarding his form. Drawing one of the toughest qualifiers in Anthony McGill also makes life tough.
Verdict: Made strides in recent years, but yet to win a ranking title and both big-match ability and recent form remain a concern.
STUART BINGHAM - “Ball-run”
Last 10 Worlds (latest first): L16 L32 L16 L32 W L32 QF L32 L16 –
2019/20 best: Winner (The Masters)
Recent tournaments (latest first): L32 L128 L32
First round opponent: Ashley Carty (Bingham 4/7 v Carty 11/8)
A possible second round clash with three-time winner Mark Williams is hardly what the 2015 winner Stuart Bingham would have been seeking in the draw for this year’s world championships, and the Essex man will be hoping he can produce the game which in January secured The Masters. That high-profile victory came from out the blue in terms of his form this season, as Bingham hadn’t made the last eight prior to Ally Pally, and hasn’t shown much since either. Ball-run can never be written off, though, having won two of the biggest televised tournaments, and the fact his Top 16 ranking status is under pressure may bring out the best in him.
Verdict: The 2015 champion hasn’t gone close in four return visits since, but won The Masters in January from out the blue, and needs to repeat that level of form.
BARRY HAWKINS - “The Hawk”
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L16 SF SF QF SF SF RU L32 L32 L16 L16
2019/20 best: Winner (Paul Hunter Classic)
Recent tournaments (latest first): L64 L32 L64
First round opponent: Alexander Ursenbacher (Bingham 1/4 v Ursenbacher 3/1)
Barry Hawkins’ incredible run at the Crucible - where he made a final and four semi’s in six years - finally came to end 12 months ago when dumped out in the second round by Kyren Wilson. He exacted revenge for that, however, by beating Wilson in a below-par renewal of the Paul Hunter Classic final three months later, but there wasn’t much to report after, failing to make the last four in 15 subsequent tournaments. The Hawk needs a big tournament here to help avoid losing his elite Top 16 status, but with the likes of Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby and Neil Robertson as possible early opponents in the draw, he looks up against it.
Verdict: Boasts a tremendous pedigree in Sheffield, but not enjoying a good season and may have let his chance slip away.
YAN BINGTAO - “Yan the Man’
Last 10 Worlds (latest): - - L32
2019/20 best finish: Winner (Riga Masters)
Recent tournaments (latest first): QF L128 RU
First round opponent: Elliot Slessor (Bingtao 2/9 v Slessor 10/3)
At the age of just 20, Yan Bingtao is one of the most improved players on the circuit, and fully deserves his Top 16 seeding. The man from China also arrives in Sheffield off the back of a career best season, winning his first ranking title in July via the Riga Masters, before three semi-finals, and then a final in March’s Players Championship when outgunned 10-4 by Judd Trump. One of the aforementioned semi’s also came in the UK Championship where he lost out to eventual winner and fellow countryman Ding Junhui (put out John Higgins and Neil Robertson earlier). The bad news is that he could face defending champion Trump in the second round, but there will be more pressure on the Englishman than there will be on Yan the Man, and that may work in his favour. He also boasts valuable experience in Sheffield, having lost narrowly in the first round to former champion Shaun Murphy (10-8) on his only appearance three years ago - even more admirable considering he was just a 17-year-old teenager.
Verdict: Improving and enjoying a tremendous season, including a high-profile UK semi-final. Capable of ruffling a few feathers in Sheffield.
The importance of concentrating on the world’s top 16 players can also be seen via this season’s results, with all 19 tournaments won by a current top 16 player.
|Jul||Riga Masters||Yan Bingtao||Mark Joyce||5-2|
|Aug||International Championship||Judd Trump||Shaun Murphy||10-3|
|Aug||Paul Hunter Classic||Barry Hawkins||Kyren Wilson||4-3|
|Sep||Shanghai Masters||Ronnie O’Sullivan||Shaun Murphy||11-9|
|Sep||China Championship||Shaun Murphy||Mark Williams||10-9|
|Oct||English Open||Mark Selby||David Gilbert||9-1|
|Nov||World Open||Judd Trump||Thepchaiya Un-Nooh||10-5|
|Nov||Champion of Champions||Neil Robertson||Judd Trump||10-9|
|Nov||Northern Ireland Open||Judd Trump||Ronnie O’Sullivan||9-7|
|Dec||UK Championship||Ding Junhui||Stephen Maguire||10-6|
|Dec||Scottish Open||Mark Selby||Jack Lisowski||9-6|
|Jan||The Masters||Stuart Bingham||Ali Carter||10-8|
|Jan||European Masters||Neil Robertson||Zhou Yuelong||9-0|
|Feb||German Masters||Judd Trump||Neil Robertson||9-6|
|Feb||World Grand Prix||Neil Robertson||Graeme Dott||10-8|
|Feb||Welsh Open||Shaun Murphy||Kyren Wilson||9-1|
|Mar||Players Championship||Judd Trump||Yan Bingtao||10-4|
|Mar||Gibraltar Open||Judd Trump||Kyren Wilson||4-3|
|Jun||Tour Championship||Stephen Maguire||Mark Allen||10-6|
The top three in the betting, Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson, have all won the world crown and are respected. However, at their current odds, there are enough reasons to take them on - Trump being the hardest to find holes in admittedly, but the first-time champion jinx is offputting.
There have also been some surprise results in the sporting world since lockdown, with a 100-1 winner in last week’s darts, a 150-1 winner at Royal Ascot, a top three in the Epsom Derby returning odds of 25-1, 50-1 & 66-1, England’s cricket team losing the First Test against the West Indies (when odds-on) and league champions Liverpool losing 4-0. The message appears to be look for value.
With that in mind, it could pay to attack the market leaders with a number of fancies at bigger prices, including Mark Selby (14-1), Kyren Wilson (20-1), John Higgins (20-1), Stephen Maguire (28-1) and Yan Bingtao (40-1). Selby knows how to win here and is having a fair season; Wilson is still improving and looks sure to win a major sooner rather than later; Higgins is proven in tough conditions and could get on another roll having made the last three finals; Maguire is the form horse and boasts two previous semi’s here, yet is still around 28-1; Bingtao is fast improving and could turn out to be the first champion from China in what has proven a strange sporting summer.
NAME THE FINALISTS
The “dream” final many would love to see is Judd Trump versus Ronnie O’Sullivan, which is also the bookies’ 5-1 favourite. For that to happen would mean a repeat of the 2017 final in terms of seedings, when the No’s 1 & 6 met, while punters who envisage the top two seeds clashing in a Trump/Neil Robertson can get 9-1. It needs remembering, though, that the No.1 and No.2 seeds last met in a final way back in 1987 when Steve Davis played Joe Johnson. But, should Trump fall to the defending champion jinx, then someone from his half of the draw like John Higgins could make his fourth consecutive final, possibly in a repeat of the 2001 final against O’Sullivan, chalked at 22-1.
Year - Seeds in world finals
2019 - 7 beat 5
2018 - 7 beat 5
2017 - 1 beat 6
2016 - 2 beat qualifier
2015 - 10 beat 8
2014 - 3 beat 1
2013 - 1 beat 15
2012 - 14 beat 13
2011 - 2 beat qualifier
2010 - 9 beat qualifier
2009 - 5 beat 3
2008 - 5 beat 14
2007 - 5 beat qualifier
2006 - 14 beat 8
2005 - qualifier beat 6
2004 - 3 beat 13
2003 - 3 beat 5
2002 - 7 beat 5
2001 - 4 beat 2
2000 - 3 beat 9
1999 - 2 beat 5
Punters hoping for a maximum 147 during the next fortnight may stand a better chance if players get tempted by the increase in prize at £40k - which is effectively £55k, as another £15k is on offer for the tournament’s highest break. There were 10 maximums recorded in Sheffield since Cliff Thorburn’s first in 1983, and backers envisaging another perfect 36 balls being struck can get 11/8, with 8/15 for the £40k bonus not being collected.
Investors looking for bigger odds, however, might fancy naming which player might rack up the highest break of the competition, and there remain some key names below who already won that accolade on more than one occasion this season.
Highest breaks this season
|Jul||Riga Masters||145 - Jack Lisowski|
|Aug||International Championship||141 - Mark Allen, Judd Trump|
|Aug||Paul Hunter Classic||120 - Barry Hawkins|
|Sep||Shanghai Masters||142 - Barry Hawkins|
|Sep||China Championship||145 - Mark Allen|
|Oct||English Open||147 - Tom Ford|
|Nov||World Open||144 - Judd Trump|
|Nov||Champion of Champions||140 - Mark Allen|
|Nov||Northern Ireland Open||147 - Stuart Bingham|
|Dec||UK Championship||147 - Barry Hawkins|
|Dec||Scottish Open||143 - Jack Lisowski|
|Jan||The Masters||144 - David Gilbert|
|Jan||European Masters||146 - Thepchaiya Un-Nooh|
|Feb||German Masters||138 - John Higgins|
|Feb||World Grand Prix||142 - Neil Robertson|
|Feb||Welsh Open||147 - Kyren Wilson|
|Mar||Players Championship||140 - Neil Robertson|
|Mar||Gibraltar Open||144 - Judd Trump|
|Jun||Tour Championship||139 - Stephen Maguire|
Most centuries this season (2019-20)
Centuries in World Championships
|Year||Televised stage (Last 32)||Highest break|
|2019||100||143 – John Higgins|
|2018||84||146 – John Higgins|
|2017||74||146 – Ronnie O’Sullivan|
|2016||86||143 – Kyren Wilson|
|2015||86||145 – S Bingham & Neil Robertson|
|2014||58||140 – Neil Robertson|
|2013||55||143 – Neil Robertson|
|2012||71||147 – Stephen Hendry|
|2011||74||138 – Ding Junhui & Mark King|
|2010||60||146 – Mark Allen & Graeme Dott|
The most interesting number from above concerns the number of centuries struck at last year’s world championship, which was ironically “100”, and a new record for any snooker tournament. The bookies have dangled a carrot in this market, as they quote odds-against at 5-4 that 91 centuries or more will be accumulated, with 4-7 for less - they clearly take the view that last year's century bonanza was a one-off.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS best bets (scale 1-5 points):
2pts MARK SELBY TO WIN (14-1, Boylesports, 888sport, Unibet, 12-1 general)
1pt KYREN WILSON TO WIN (22-1, Paddy Power, Skybet, Betfred, 20-1 general)
1pt JOHN HIGGINS TO WIN (22-1, William Hill, 20-1 Betfred)
1pt STEPHEN MAGUIRE TO WIN (30-1, Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook, 28-1 general)
1pt YAN BINGTAO TO WIN (50-1, Paddy Power, Betfair Sports, Boylesports, 40-1 general )