Michael White and Robbie Williams each secured a place in the second phase of the BetVictor Championship League Snooker – Ranking Edition after a dramatic day of snooker at the Morningside Arena in Leicester on Wednesday.
Two closely fought groups left both White and Williams needing a draw in their respective final matches to advance to the last 32 stage of the new season’s first ranking event.
White, a two-time ranking tournament winner, won a tense third frame on the blue against fellow Welshman Ryan Day to ensure the point he required to top the table, adding the fourth for a 3-1 victory.
And Williams, the world no.50 from the Wirral, also did enough against Joe O’Connor, securing a 2-1 lead to claim top spot and going on to win 3-1.
White, 31, opened his account in Group 10 with a 3-1 defeat of India’s Himanshu Jain, compiling breaks of 66 and 68. The Neath potter then completed a 3-1 victory over Jiang Jun, a 17 year-old from China making his debut on the World Snooker Tour, highlighted by a run of 101.
Day raised the stakes in the decisive final match by making a break of 72 in the opening frame before White responded with his second century of the session, 124. But the real drama came in the third where, after a hard fought battle, Day went in-off the green and left it on, leaving White a simple clearance to lead 2-1.
“My first match was a bit edgy, but I got better as the day went on. I scored heavily against Ryan so I’m happy,” White said.
“I’ve been practising a fair bit since the World Championship because I really wanted to make a good start to the season.”
O’Connor enjoyed a fine 2022/23 season, reaching the Scottish Open final and the semi-finals of the Players Championship. The Leicester cueist was the top seed in group 22 but suffered a shock 3-1 defeat in his first match to Alfie Davies, a Welsh amateur and son of former professional Anthony Davies.
Although O’Connor then defeated Zak Surety 3-0, Williams went into their final match having drawn with Surety and beaten Davies, so had an extra point and therefore needed only a draw.
Williams, a semi-finalist in last season’s British Open, finished on seven points with O’Connor pushed down to third place behind Surety.
The action continues on Thursday with Kyren Wilson, former winner of both the ranking and invitation versions of the Championship League, as top seed in the group on table 1 that also features Andy Hicks, Louis Heathcote and Josh Mulholland.
The group on table 2 comprises Thailand’s former Shootout champion Thepchaiya Un Nooh, Gateshead’s Elliot Slessor, Brazilian Victor Sarkis and Florian Nuessle of Austria.
The BetVictor Championship League Snooker is the first ranking event of the new season and was won last year by Luca Brecel, who went on to be crowned world champion.
The tournament takes place over three stages, starting on Tuesday, 26 June. Winners’ Week will run from Monday 17, July concluding with Finals Day on Friday, 21 July. The eventual winner will also receive an invite into the 2023 Champion of Champions this November 13 to November 19 alongside the £20,000 first-place prize.
Both Tables 1 and 2 will be broadcast around the world with Table 1 available on Viaplay Extra in the UK. Fans in Scandinavia, Baltics, Netherlands, and Poland will be be able to watch on Viaplay. See where to watch in your country here. The tournament will also be live on betting websites around the world, as well as on global OTT platforms and Matchroom.Live.
DAVE HENDON REPORTS