Adam Drury reveals his snooker tips for the first of the Triple Crown events in York, including a winner, each-way, and outside bet.
Winner: Ronnie O’Sullivan
O’Sullivan has not played much snooker this season, but that only makes him even more of a dangerous animal.
The defending champion’s consistency when he has participated this season is phenomenal. In four tournaments, he has reached one semi-final, one final and lifted two titles, all while seemingly happy and enjoying the game.
The 42-year-old – who, thankfully, has not followed through on his threat to enter I’m a Celebrity rather than play in this event – has a fine recent record in this competition, too. He has reached three of the last four finals at the Barbican Centre, winning twice.
Those factors – combined with a favourable draw that sees him pitted against the out-of-form Ding Junhui and Shaun Murphy in his quarter – results in him being the overwhelming favourite to win this title for a record-breaking seventh time.
Each-way bet: Kyren Wilson
With O’Sullivan poised to emerge from the top half of the draw, your each-way bet should come from elsewhere.
And despite joining the in-form Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Mark Allen in the bottom half, it is difficult not to be lured by Wilson’s big price.
The 26-year-old impressed with runs to the final of the Masters and semi-final of the World Championships last season, and has started this campaign like a player who will soon claim a Triple Crown event for himself.
He followed victory in the Paul Hunter Classic with a run to the final of the prestigious Champion of Champions earlier this month, where some extraordinary bad luck denied him victory.
Wilson evidently has the temperament and ability to stay at the very top of the game, so take advantage of a price that is longer than a few players who are not in the form to make much of a mark.
Outside shot: David Gilbert
After an impressive start to the season, including a run to his first ranking final at the World Open in September, Gilbert has to be considered a dark horse for this event.
The 37-year-old beat Marco Fu and Barry Hawkins on his way to that final – where he was agonisingly beaten 10-9 by Mark Williams – and ran into Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals of the Northern Ireland Open when looking strong a fortnight ago.
Considering that he has flirted with a place in the top 16 for some time now, the world No. 19, who has knocked in 12 centuries already this season and has a kind run to the Round of 16, is absolutely capable of mixing it with the favourites for this title.
To win quarter: Stephen Maguire
Given that he has been pitted against Mark Williams – who is hardly in the best nick having indulged in some well-deserved party time after winning the World Championships in May – Maguire has every chance of setting up a showdown with either Neil Robertson or Mark Allen to win Quarter 4.
A semi-finalist in this event last season, the Scotsman’s other primary test would be Ali Carter, who was knocked out in the first round last season and has not finished better than a quarter-finalist in any event so far this term.
The 2004 champion has already reached two semi-finals this season, including on British soil in October’s English Open.
Back him now, rather than waiting for that likely quarter-final against Allen or Robertson – who would come into that match having possibly encountered a lengthy affair against the other.
First-round shock: Lu Ning to beat Anthony McGill
McGill’s form has not been good this season, with the nadir a 4-0 defeat in the first round of the Northern Ireland Open against Alexander Ursenbacher a fortnight ago.
The Scotsman is a former quarter-finalist at this event, but looks some distance from replicating that this year. He has been knocked out in the first round in four of his six ranking event appearances, only progressing to the third round in the other two.
That leaves him vulnerable to an upset when he takes on Lu Ning on Thursday evening.
The 24-year-old has made a serious mark on the tour for the first time this season, reaching the third round of the Paul Hunter Classic before an encouraging run to the fourth round in Nothern Ireland a couple of weeks ago.
Backing him at the +2.5 handicap in a race to six holds some value, but a victory is not out of the question.
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