John Higgins and Martin Gould, both two-time BetVictor Championship League Snooker winners, topped their respective groups on Thursday to advance to Stage Two of the ranking event, which is being staged at Stadium MK, Milton Keynes.
Higgins began his day against French youngster Brian Ochoiski, and the 21-year-old showed his talent immediately with a break of 85. He could have gone 2-0 up, but a missed red on 58 handed the initiative to Higgins, who cleared to level the match before making breaks of 90 and 107 to take all three points.
Joe O’Connor then dispatched Amine Amiri 3-0 before drawing 2-2 with Ochoiski. Higgins then also defeated Morocco’s Amiri, meaning the final match between O’Connor and the Scot would be decisive. The four-time World Champion only needed a draw and was assured of that when he went 2-0 up.
“I was happy to get a couple of wins because confidence is quite low just now,” said Higgins, who eventually drew 2-2 with O’Connor.
“Ochoiski played the wrong red when he was looking really good, and he’d have probably gone on to win the frame. I was thinking at 2-0 down you’re basically out of the tournament because you’d be doing well to come back and win the next two frames, and to get a loss you’d probably be out. I was happy to turn it around.
“I’m using a new tip and a new chalk which all the boys are using. Rob Milkins came up to me at the European and said he was using the new chalk which Neil Robertson uses. Rob likes what I like usually so since he said it to me I thought I’d give it a go and it’s been good.”
On table two, Gould advanced when Simon Lichtenberg failed to beat Igor Figueiredo in the final match of Group 26. Gould had earlier beaten the Brazilian and Kurt Maflin, but a defeat to Lichtenberg meant the German would advance with victory in the last match, but a 3-1 defeat meant he in fact finished bottom of the group.
BetVictor Championship League Snooker continues on Friday with defending champion Luca Brecel among those in action. Coverage of both tables will be available at Matchroom.Live, with UK television coverage on Freesports.