March on the Baize
With April’s Betfred World Championship looming large, today we look ahead at some of the events which form part of the crucial run-up to the tournament with big ranking points to be won over the month of March.
We also preview the invitational tournaments set to be contested over the coming weeks, as well as the landmark new WSF Championships event to take place in Malta.
ManBetX Gibraltar Open (7-11 March)
Already underway, the third edition of the ManBetX Gibraltar Open will not only see the season’s 17th piece of ranking silverware contested, but also the crucial seeding cut-off which will decide the 16-player field for this month’s Ladbrokes Players Championship in Llandudno.
Won last year by Shaun Murphy, the event carries a top prize of £25,000 and with a few of the sport’s bigger names missing, could provide one of the players further down the ranking list an opportunity to make a big breakthrough as the likes of first-time winners Michael Georgiou, Luca Brecel and Ryan Day have done already so far this season.
As well as the battle for places at the Players Championship, with four players still in with a chance of securing a spot in Llandudno, every result could also impact upon the Race to the Crucible, with just three ranking events remaining before the final 16 are set for Sheffield.
WSF Championships (14-24 March)
Away from the professional circuit this month also sees the staging of the first WSF Championships, a prestigious new event open to amateur snooker players from across the globe and providing access to the World Snooker Tour.
As well as a week-long mixed-gender event carrying a main tour card for the winner and places at the professional World Championship qualifiers for each of the four semi-finalists, the event also includes this year’s WLBS World Women’s Snooker Championship and the WSF Seniors Championship, a new competition for players aged over 40.
The women’s and seniors events will both run across four days from 14-17 March, with the mixed gender event to be played from 18-24 March.
Romanian Masters (14-18 March)
A new invitational event featuring 16 of the world’s best players will be staged across four days in Bucharest, Romania later this month.
Featuring the majority of the current top 16 and carrying a total prize fund of €200,000 including €50,000 to the winner, the event provides an opportunity for those competing to gain confidence boosting success ahead of this year’s World Championship the following month.
- The draw for the Romanian Masters is available here (note that Shaun Murphy will be replaced by Mark King in the draw following Murphy’s withdrawal)
Ladbrokes Players Championship (19-25 March)
The biggest UK event outside of snooker’s ‘triple crown’, the Ladbrokes Players Championship returns later this month to be contested by the world’s top 16 players on the one-year ranking list following the Gibraltar Open.
With a first prize of £125,000 and a total prize fund of £380,000, the event could prove crucial in the Race to the Crucible with just next month’s China Open to follow before the World Snooker Tour heads to Sheffield for the season’s climax.
The event was won last season by Judd Trump, who at the time of writing is among 15 players confirmed to be returning to Llandudno in 2018, with just one place still to be determined at the Gibraltar Open.
Championship League (26-29 March)
The month concludes with the final stages of this season’s invitational Championship League event at the Ricoh Arena, with a place at the Champion of Champions on offer to the eventual champion if they have not already qualified.
The first two days will see the seventh and final regular group contested, with the winner to join a winner’s group including Zhou Yuelong, Mark Selby, Kyren Wilson, Ali Carter, Mark Williams and Martin Gould, to battle it out for the title and a return trip to the Ricoh Arena this November.
Learn more about the World Snooker Tour at www.worldsnooker.com