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Snooker: Championship League 1 Preview

The snooker season kicks back into action with stage one of the Championship League on Tuesday and over the next month many of the world's star attractions will be on show.

The ranking event may take place early on in the calendar but that hasn't put off the likes of Judd Trump, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Mark Selby, Kyren Wilson, Mark Williams, Mark Allen and Zhao Xintong, who are among those set to use this as valuable match practice.

Dave Gilbert claimed first prize at the Morningside Arena last year and with £328,000 up for grabs in prize money it provides the perfect platform for players to get their season off to a positive start.

What

2022 Championship League Snooker

Where

Morningside Arena, Leicester

When

From Tuesday June 28th to Friday July 29th

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Odds

Judd Trump 5/1, Ronnie O'Sullivan 6/1, Mark Selby 9/1, Kyren Wilson 12/1, Zhao Xintong 14/1, Mark Williams 14/1

Over the next four weeks there will be 32 groups of four competing in a round-robin style format, with the matches featuring four frames which means a contest can be shared 2-2, and only the winner will advance to stage two of the event.

Two groups are pencilled in on each day with Tuesday starting with Group 13, which features David Grace, Craig Steadman, Aaron Hill and Ben Hancorn, and Group 24, contested by Robert Milkins, Allan Taylor, Andy Hicks and Sanderson Lam.

Wilson and Zhao should make their presence felt

It may be a low-key start to proceedings in Leicester, but it won't be long until the leading players are out in force and although the snappy format improves the chance of a shock, the cream should still rise to the top.

Gilbert is the defending champion and beat Mark Allen in the final while Kyren Wilson took the honours two years ago at the expense of Trump two years ago, so the event is expected to go to a player in and around the world's top 20.

Trump is tournament favourite at 5/1 and O'Sullivan is a 6/1 chance, but there may be some better value to be had down the betting with Wilson and Zhao the obvious two alternatives.

Some groups look more competitive than others but the Warrior, who is a 12/1 chance to win the event for a second time, appears to have been dealt an easy hand.

World number eight Wilson is housed in a section alongside Zhang Anda, Michael Judge and Luke Simmonds and is understandably 3/10 to come out on top.

That means a place in the last-32 should be the Warrior's for the taking and he is notoriously a quick starter to the season, having also made the last eight of this event last year, so he is expected to be up for the challenge.

The other interesting alternative is rising Chinese star Zhao, who is up to world number six after winning the UK Championship and German Masters last season.

The 25-year-old is very much here to stay and he looks a potential champion of this event, having landed in Group 4 with Michael Holt, Hammad Miah and Adam Duffy. He is understandably 3/10 to win that section and is 12/1 to go on and be crowned champion.

Short format should suit Ford

Tom Ford made stage three of this competition last year, having won his group in the opening two phases of the competition, and he should take some stopping in Group 26 at 4/6.

Ford comes up against Chris Wakelin, Ian Burns and Anton Kazakov and ought to stamp his authority over this short format, which suits his game. The world number 30 is an excellent break-builder and he should thrive under these conditions.

Another player worth considering is Lu Ning to get the better of Oliver Lines, John Astley and Chen Zifan in Group 29.

The Chinese cueman made the quarter-finals of the British Open early on last season, so should be ready to go for this event and he does have a class edge on his rivals when operating at the top of his game.

Those looking for an upset may want to side with Marco Fu in Group 22.

This is a tough looking group with Fu taking on Jimmy Robertson, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Ian Martin, but Fu showed signs of promise in World Championship qualifying last season and at his best would be able to outclass his opponents.

The Hong Kong star is a former world number five and at 5/2 he may have been underestimated in the market.

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