http://snookerscene.blogspot.com/2010/0 ... -open.html
What, then, are we to make of the new World Open, tickets for which are already on sale?
Well, it’ll certainly be different to those tournaments that make up the bedrock of the circuit.
First up, I think Barry Hearn was right to scrap the Grand Prix a season early. The BBC told him they didn’t want to show it from 2011. If the World Open is popular they may take that instead and therefore not reduce their portfolio from four tournaments to three.
The Grand Prix was regarded as a big deal when it was sponsored by Rothmans and held at the Hexagon Theatre in Reading.
However, it has been moved around over the last 15 years and had several – and sometimes no – sponsors, all of which cost it its identity. Put simply, it is in the shadow of the BBC’s big three: the World Championship, UK Championship and Wembley Masters.
That said, the Grand Prix had a rich history. It was the first ranking title won by both Stephen Hendry and John Higgins, and indeed Neil Robertson, and will be missed by many.
The World Open is being billed as the FA Cup of snooker. The Grand Prix had a random draw for the last two seasons but only in three rounds. The World Open draw will be random throughout, although players will be seeded to come in at certain times (as in the FA Cup).
The 96 main tour players will be joined by 32 amateurs. 20 of these will qualify through clubs, there will be two invited women, two juniors, two former world champions and six players from around the world.
This could, in theory, mean first round matches like Alex Higgins v Luca Brecel and Maria Catalano v Tian Pengfei.
The first round chucks the 32 amateurs in with players ranked 65-96. The 32 winners then go into the second round with those ranked 33-64.
The top 32 come in at the third round stage. Most of these matches will be played at the World Snooker Academy in Sheffield but 11 will be held over for TV (i.e. the ones featuring the best known players).
So far, so good. However, criticism is sure to follow about the length of matches. They are only best of five, all the way up to the final which is just best of nine.
For a tournament carrying ranking points, many will feel this is too cut-throat.
Then again, players said the same 30 years ago when best of nines became commonplace.
The reason for both is the same: television.
All snooker formats – including that of the World Championship – were invented for TV, not passed down by the snooker ancestors over centuries. As TV changes with society, so must sport. Most have. Snooker has been slow to.
Are best of fives too short? Yes, I’d say so.
Should best of nine frame finals be encouraged? No.
But do we want the BBC to show a fourth tournament or not?
The answer is an obvious yes and they are not going to broadcast one that is similar to what’s already on offer so the World Open, though not a tournament many traditionalists will necessarily relish, at least fits the bill.
The acid test will be whether audiences take to it. It could be a double-edged sword for viewers. On the one hand it’s something completely different; on the other this could be the reason for not watching.
We’ll see what they make of it at the SECC in Glasgow come September.
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