The UK Championship is widely regarded as one of the biggest snooker events in the world. It makes up one leg of the Triple Crown and with it offers a prize pool that is beaten by very few, such is the stature of the event.
It takes place in November and December and is the last of the major tournaments of the Calendar year. It actually comes at the mid-point of the snooker season and is one that many targets as a top ranking event to gain entry into the World Championship.
UK Championship Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Updated tips will be added shortly before the start date.
The world’s best snooker players are used to competing in the UK Championship the week after the Northern Ireland Open. What they’re not used to is playing both tournaments at the same venue. Such is the way of things in the middle of a pandemic and no player will be caught complaining about an extended stay in Milton Keynes, even if they will all miss the buzz of playing at the York Barbican in front of a sell-out crowd.
The 2020 World Championship showed that engrossing snooker can be played both with and without fans in attendance and the big names are back for a crack at the tournament which is second only to the Worlds in terms of prestige. As ever, we are in for some thrilling snooker and we suspect the usual suspects to be the ones competing come the business end of the tournament.
Judd Trump - 10/3
Even the best player in the world wants a shot of confidence heading into a major tournament. For each of the last two years, Judd Trump has had exactly that ahead of the UK Championship with wins in the Northern Ireland Open but was unable to capitalise on it by winning the big one. Will it be different this time around? The world number one won this way back in 2011 but since then has only returned to the final once, losing to Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2014.
As ever, Trump’s level of play at the Northern Ireland Open was of a very high standard but it included something extra special - a 147 break. Trump admitted afterwards that he finds the nerves difficult to deal with in the midst of a maximum attempt but the elation is all worth it after what he calls “10 minutes of perfection”.
Winning the UK Championship won’t require perfection but it will require a much larger number of spells of sustained brilliance. For some, Trump’s style of play is too brash, to aggressive and at times simply too reckless to achieve the sort of relentless excellence required to be truly dominant at the top of the sport.
In fairness, since he first burst onto the scene going for every pot, he has become a little more conservative. Trump isn’t about to change his style further for anybody though and the world number one remains a thrilling watch, capable of attracting fans to the sport. He will have a huge amount of support from those watching the snooker from afar and the quality of his snooker recently marks Trump out as the rightful bookies’ favourite at a best price of 10/3.
Ronnie O’Sullivan - 4/1
Like Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan is one of snooker’s great entertainers. Wiser old heads have been telling O’Sullivan to reign it in his whole career but the 44-year-old has had tremendous success doing it his own way and he is going to take his laidback approach to snooker into the UK Championship.
Always good for a soundbite to help sell the sport, O’Sullivan has spoken candidly about the role that snooker now plays in his life. He’ll talk about his preference for running over snooker and his ability to roll with the punches rather than getting worked up about a match but it is obvious to anybody who watches O’Sullivan that there is still a fire that burns inside him, especially on this sort of stage.
That fire was evident throughout the World Championships. O’Sullivan had to dig very deep to get through battles against Mark Williams and his old rival Mark Selby before proving far too good for Kyren Wilson in the final at the Crucible. A small number of fans were allowed in to watch O’Sullivan’s dominant performance in that final, a match which should give him even more confidence ahead of the UK Championship.
Nobody has won this tournament more than Ronnie O’Sullivan and despite his limited playing schedule he heads to Milton Keynes as the world number two. He’s lost just one of the eight UK Championship finals he’s appeared in and is understandably being well backed to add to his tally of seven tournament wins. He loves saving his best snooker for the biggest, most prestigious events and proving himself against rivals new and old and at 4/1 you really can’t write O’Sullivan off. He has won this three times in the last six years with another final appearance in that time as well so 4/1 is sure to tempt many punters.
Mark Allen - 16/1
Mark Allen was as disappointed as anybody that the Northern Ireland Open was unable to be played in its usual home of Belfast. The Ulsterman loves playing in front of his home fans so was already frustrated to play in Milton Keynes instead and that was before he found the quality of the tables to be below standard.
Allen, twice a losing finalist at this tournament, is something of a perfectionist when it comes to the quality and upkeep of his own personal practice tables so it is especially galling for him when a tournament table falls below his own expectations. Despite finding it difficult to judge the bounce off the cushions and the speed of the baize, Allen secured some good results in the Northern Ireland Open.
He also has some very good recent form having won the Champion of Champions tournament earlier in November where he won matches against Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan for the loss of just four frames. He also reached a glut of semi finals in the earlier stages of the season.
The 34-year-old’s strong recent form has seen some support come his way for the UK Championship. He also has form in the tournament as said, with runs through to the final in both 2011 and 2016. Another such run would require his very best snooker but Allen, the world number eight, has been showing signs that his best is not far away so is well worth each way support in the betting at nice odds of 16/1.
UK Championship Recent Winners
|2020||Neil Robertson||Judd Trump||10-9|
|2019||Ding Junhui||Stephen Maguire||10-6|
|2018||Ronnie O’Sullivan||Mark Allen||10-6|
|2017||Ronnie O’Sullivan||Shaun Murphy||10-5|
|2016||Mark Selby||Ronnie O’Sullivan||10-7|
|2015||Neil Robertson||Liang Wenbo||10-5|
|2014||Ronnie O’Sullivan||Judd Trump||10-9|
|2013||Neil Robertson||Mark Selby||10-7|
|2012||Mark Selby||Shaun Murphy||10-6|
|2011||Judd Trump||Mark Allen||10-8|
About the UK Championship
The tournament is one of the biggest in terms of player numbers with 128 being present over the course of the 2-week event. The qualification process is pretty simple in that the players are based on their World Ranking, so the top 128 players are entered. If a player is unavailable to play or withdraws prior to the start of the tournament, the next ranked player will step in and so on, until the field is full to capacity.
The draw is made up into 8 sections, which includes 16 players in each section. Players are distributed in terms of ranking. So, seed 1 would play seed 128, seed 2 would play seed 127, seed 3 would play seed 126 and so on, working down. The top seeds are kept a part as best they can. Again, Seed 1 plays in the top half and seed 2 plays in the bottom. The earliest the 1st seed would be able to play a top 32 ranked player would be the last 32 round.
UK Championships First Round Matches by Ranking
|1||1 v 128||64 v 65||32 v 97||33 v 96||16 v 113||49 v 80||17 v 112||48 v 81|
|2||41 v 88||24 v 105||56 v 73||9 v 120||40 v 89||25 v 104||57 v 72||8 v 121|
|3||5 v 124||60 v 69||28 v 101||37 v 92||12 v 117||53 v 76||21 v 108||44 v 85|
|4||45 v 84||20 v 109||52 v 77||13 v 116||36 v 93||29 v 100||61 v 68||4 v 125|
|5||3 v 126||62 v 67||30 v 99||35 v 94||14 v 115||51 v 78||19 v 110||46 v 83|
|6||43 v 86||22 v 107||54 v 75||11 v 118||38 v 91||27 v 102||59 v 70||6 v 123|
|7||7 v 122||58 v 71||26 v 103||39 v 90||10 v 119||55 v 74||23 v 106||42 v 87|
|8||47 v 82||18 v 111||50 v 79||15 v 114||34 v 95||31 v 98||63 v 66||2 v 127|
All rounds in the tournament are played as best of 11 legs. This is until the final where the players will play best of 19. The format is relatively short considering it’s one of the majors, but with the huge number of games that need to be played, it’s one of the traits of the UK Championships.
The short format is often more interesting as well and upsets are often very common throughout. In 2017, 2nd seed Ding Junhui was knocked out in the first round by Leo Fernandez, ranked 127th.
Venue – The York Barbican
Unlike a number of the bigger tournaments in world snooker, the UK Championships haven’t had a particularly long-term venue to host. It’s been hosted at the likes of the Preston Guild Hall, Bournemouth International Centre and the Tellford International Centre. It currently resides in the Barbican Centre in York, where it’s been played since 2011 and previously from 2001 to 2007.
The Barbican Centre is one of the biggest arenas in York and holds a capacity crowd of 1,500 for snooker games. It’s had several refurbishments over the years, with the most recent seeing the grand opening happen in 2011 after a £1.5 million refurbishment job.
The 2020 edition of the UK Championship was held at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
The prize money on offer is the second largest on tour at the minute, with over £1 million on offer from the 2020 tournament. The winner will pick up a cheque worth £200,000 which is the third largest cheque, behind only the World Championships and the Masters.
The prize money is distributed as the following based on performances:
Sponsorship, as with all sports, plays a huge role in the makeup of the UK Championships. It has actually had periods where there have been no sponsors at all, mainly in 2001, 1996 and 1991. The majority of their longer-standing sponsors have come in the form of bookmakers.
The current sponsors is that of Betway, who have been main sponsors since 2015. Other bookies that have held deals at some point have included the likes of Coral, William Hill and 12Bet.com. Outside of the bookmaker sponsors, they have also been able to utilise money coming from Pukka Pies, Travis Perkins, PowerHouse, Liverpool Victoria, Royal Liver Assurance, StromSeal and Tenants.
The most successful player in the tournaments history is Ronnie Sullivan, who has managed to win 7 career UK Championship titles. What’s most impressive about Sullivan’s record is that he’s made 8 finals in total losing just one to Mark Selby in 2016. Second on the list of all-time winners is Steve Davis. He’s won the event on 6 different occasions throughout the 1980’s in a period where he dominated the game. Davis is also tied for the most final appearances with Stephen Hendry on 10.
Other players who have enjoyed success at the tournament include the likes of John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui, Mark Williams and Mark Selby, all multiple winners in their own right.
Stephen Hendry holds the record for the most century breaks in a final with 7. His 10-5 win against Ken Doherty saw the Scotsman rack up the points in a record that has remained intact since 1994.
The first UK Championship was held in 1977 at Tower Circus, Blackpool. It was then known as the United Kingdom Professional Snooker Championship. Originally the event was only open to British players, but this was later amended in 1994 when it was open to all professional snooker players, regardless of nationality.
The first tournament was won by that of Patsy Fagan, who beat Doug Mountjoy, 12-9, with a first prize of £2,000. Just a year later the tournament made its first move to that of the Preston Guild Hall, where it remained up until 1997. The tournament now carries more ranking points than any other on tour, apart from the World Championships, making it a popular tournament for the players.
Over the years the UK Championships has been centre stage for many quality finals. Whilst there are many to choose from, including the likes of John Virgo and Patsy Fagan winning, winning their only major titles, the standout final took place in 1989.
The 1989 final included Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry. Davis had dominated the sport throughout the 80’s and with it was one of the best players of all time. But, he subsequently lost that final to a young Stephen Hendry 16-12, before losing the 1990 final to same player a year later, this time 16-15. It was the start of Hendry’s dominance of the sport throughout the 90’s and the end of Davis’ reign as the world’s best.
In 1993 the structure of the tournament changed, moving from a best of 31 to a best of 19 frame final. In that same year Ronnie Sullivan was to win his first ranking event and became the youngest player to do so at the time aged just seventeen. Eight years later he inflicted the biggest final defeat, playing against Ken Doherty winning 10-1 with some of the best snooker of his career.
Whilst Davis hadn’t retired from the game altogether, in 2005 he reached his first ranking event final for two years aged 45 and he was up against an 18-year-old Ding Junhui. He subsequently lost to Junhui 10-6, but the final was the biggest age gap between two players in any ranking event final.
The Barbican Centre in York had been hosting the event from 2001 through to 2006 and then again from 2011 onwards. The structure of the event changed in to best of 11 frames for all games apart from the final.
Steve Davis is easily one of the most successful players in the tournaments history. He has the second most tournament wins with six, surpassed by Ronnie O’Sullivan only in 2018.
Davis was able to dominate for much of the 1980’s, with all six of his victories between 1980 and 1987 where he had final victories over fellow greats such as Alex Higgins and Jimmy White amongst others. He was also runner up on three occasions during the 80’s where he lost out to Higgins once, and twice to the new sensation that was Stephen Hendry.
At the turn of the 20th century Davis struggled to recapture the form and consistency that made him one of the best players of all time but he did reach his last final in 2005, where he was beaten by China’s Ding Junhui.
He’s the only player to have won four UK Championship titles in a row and after officially retiring in 2016, some 38 years after first competing, he ended with 28 ranking event wins and 55 non-ranking event wins as part of an illustrious career.
Ding Junhui burst onto the scene in 2003, turning professional aged just sixteen and he’s gone to win three UK Championship events. The first was in 2005 against Steve Davis, the second was in 2009 against John Higgins, both of which are classed as two of the legends of the sport. His latest title came in 2019, defeating Scotsman Stephen Maguire in the final, knocking out the previous champion, Ronnie O’Sullivan, in the last sixteen.
He’s now the most successful Asian player of all time and has 14 ranking event wins to his name, including the World Open, Shanghai Masters (x2) and the Players Championship.
He’s made over £3.6 million in prize money, made 6 maximum breaks and over 500 century breaks, whilst also being ranked as high as world number 1 in 2014.