World Snooker Championship preview
The World Snooker Championship is undoubtedly the climax of the Snooker calendar. All the big names line up in the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield for what is the biggest tournament in terms of world ranking points and prize money.
The tournament will follow the same schedule as in the previous years, with the last 32 matches playing to the best of 19 frames, the last 16 to the best of 25 frames, quarter finals to the best of 25 frames, with the semi finalists playing the best of 33 frames and then 35 frames in the final.
The total prize-pot is £1,111,000 with the winner picking up an impressive £250,000. Enough to even get Ronnie O'Sullivan motivated!
2009 saw John Higgins impressively smash Shaun Murphy 18-9 in the final. He also won it in 2007 with Ronnie O'Sullivan winning in between. No player has won it in consecutive years since Stephen Hendry won it a massive five times in a row from 1992-97.
Steve Davis, the six time world champion who last won in 1989, will appear in the competition for a record 30th time. His World Championship has spanned over five decades since his first appearance in 1979 and he is 250/1 to pull off the seemingly impossible and win his seventh.
A treat for the fans this year is a rematch of the 1985 final between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor. To mark the 25th anniversary of the final which saw Taylor beat Davis in a thrilling 18 frames to 17 on the final black they will play a one-frame exhibition match.
All eyes will, as ever, be on the temperamental Ronnie O'Sullivan who suffered one of the biggest shocks of his career in the China Open, losing 5-3 to Tian Pengfei. The Rocket still starts this tournament as favourite but has warned fans that he is not "expecting too much" from himself.
At 7/2 to win outright, the price seems a bit short considering he was knocked out in the second round last year. Everyone knows on his day, Ronnie is among the best snooker players that have ever graced the baize but his lack of confidence in himself, and lack of interest in the game makes it tricky to gauge if he will turn up on form and is therefore worth a bet.
When betting outright you can get 1/2 the odds on first and second place which gives real interest when looking at some of the bigger priced players that have a good chance of making the final.
After his impressive comeback in the China Open final, Welshman Mark Williams looks decent at 12/1 to win, he has already won two World Championships in 2000 and 2003. Going in to the tournament he is certainly the man in form. The former world number one might have slipped to fifteenth in the rankings but is still a big danger with his penchant for long range shots.
Obviously worth a look is defending champion John Higgins. The current world number four is 9/2 second favourite to retain his title. He has won three times at the Crucible in total and with 21 ranking tournament wins under his belt he certainly has experience on his side.
As an outside long-shot, I think Peter Ebdon is worth an each-way punt at 66/1. The 39-year-old, who won in 2002, has said he is finding some real form in his preparations for the big event. He did not do a lot wrong in China and he only lost to eventual runner-up Ding Junhui due to some impressive potting from his opponent.
Ebdon suffered from a back problem earlier in the season which hampered his play but he says he is back to peak physical fitness and if he can get through his tough first-round encounter with Graeme Dott, there is no reason why he can't cause an upset and go far.
Whatever the outcome, the World Championships is always a thrilling tournament for snooker fans everywhere and I hope whatever radical changes Barry Hearn brings to the sport, the World Championships remains at the heart of the calendar.