UK snooker championship preview by Vladimir Sinitsin

Nov 23 '15

Our snooker pundit Vladimir Sinitsin is giving his view on the upcoming UK Championship.

UK Championship kicks off on November 24. All the 128 participants have gathered in York, where the tournament will be held till December 6. The importance of the tournament guarantees full responsibility of the players who have tried their best to gain the optimal conditions.

The first six months of the snooker season are over. Who is playing well? Who’s in the best form now? Let’s find the answer in the last month, which saw four tournaments – in Daqing, Sofia, Coventry and Hong Kong.

The undisputed leader of the season is John Higgins, who has won two of the three ranking tournaments in snooker. John has neither lost his skills, nor motivation. Why shouldn’t he win another title? It’s obvious that Higgins is now far ahead of the rest. His competitors are deep in their problems and far from best conditions. The biggest rival of Higgins is Mark Allen. I would call him the most progressive player in the top 16. Mark showed some great performance in Sofia and reached final in Coventry, where he lost to Robertson.

I connect the loss to Allen’s fatigue. Robertson had time for a rest, while Allen would play non-stop. Still, Mark Allen has become a player, interesting to watch. His game is modern and brave, and, most important, has a lot more subtle tactical moves now. To sum up, I would put Allen on the second place after Higgins.

The most successful snooker players are utility players. And there are only a few of them. Besides Higgins and Allen, there are Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui and Shaun Murphy.

Selby is good, he’s deserved to top the world snooker rankings. But he hasn’t reached his best form yet.  There are objective reasons for that – family circumstances and not feeling well. Neil plays very hard. He’s full of pragmatism and lacks emotions and virtuosity. It’s opposite with Mark Williams, who has game, but doesn’t have enough martial spirit.

Ding has achieved a lot, but has not revealed his full potential yet. If he improves his skills, and it’s possible with Terry Griffiths as a mentor, we would see a player that would dominate for years, like Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry did.

Shaun Murphy played fantastically for a long time. But his excessively aggressive style didn’t work at the most important tournaments of the season. I think he missed a brilliant chance to become two-time world champion. He’s still one of the brightest and most powerful players in the world.

What about Judd Trump? He’s always a bookmakers favorite. Bookies are guided by public opinion, which is created by mass audience, not too versed in snooker. Those who understand more, know that Judd plays eye-catchingly, but not efficiently. It’s not enough to hit the balls hard to win. Trump is not versatile and snooker is about getting more points than your opponent. He’s got a lot of weak sides. Trump is not very good at winning equal frames. He’s not tactically flexible. He’s not good at choosing the right shots, too. Trump scores century breaks, but more often he loses the breaks at 30-40 points. This shows lack of training. I don’t know about his training, but Trump himself says he’s more a playboy than a professional snooker player.

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