'Shotgun' format a great leveller - Williams

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2003, 12:00am

He may be the world champion, but Mark Williams admits the shotgun-style best-of-three-frames format in the preliminary round of the Euro-Asia Snooker Masters Challenge could be a great leveller.

'This format evens things out. It won't give us an advantage and it will be very exciting. It will be anybody's game,' said the Welsh world number one yesterday.

Williams and his peers will break new ground tomorrow when the post-Sars relaunch event gets under way at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The preliminary rounds of the one-off tournament are being played on an intriguing abbreviated format that offers the underdogs - from Asia - the chance to score an upset.

'I have never played this format before. Normally the first rounds of a ranking event are played over a best-of-nine-frames format. And with everyone wanting to win, we should see some good snooker,' said Williams.

World number six Ken Doherty, the opponent Williams defeated to win the world title at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield in May, echoed those views. 'Everybody has a chance with this format. We will have to get off to a good start right away. There is no room for a comeback,' said Doherty.

Perhaps Doherty was thinking of his rousing fightback in the final against Williams when he came back from a 10-2 deficit to level scores at 16-16, finally conceding the world crown after Williams won the next two frames to clinch a nerve-wracking encounter.

'This is our first event since that final in May and we will all be a bit rusty because of the long break,' said Doherty.

'The group stage in this event is going to be tough.'

Eight players are split into two groups of four. In one half is Williams, England's Jimmy White, Thai James Wattana and Chinese teenage prodigy Ding Junhui.

In the other half are Scot Stephen Hendry, the world number two, Doherty, Hong Kong's Marco Fu and Pakistan ace Shokat Ali.

The top two players in each pool at the end of a round-robin format will move on to Saturday's semi-finals which are best-of-nine frames. Sunday's final is best-of-11 frames.

'It is a very exciting format. The fans get the chance to see their favourite players three times in the first round,' said Sindhu Pulsirivong, the Thai president of the Asian Confederation of Billiards Sports.

With prize money of GBP70,000 - the winners will take home GBP30,000 - the professionals are bound to be dead keen and will not treat this event simply as an exhibition.

Williams, who pocketed GBP270,000 when he won the World Championship, confirmed his serious intent saying this was 'good money' and that everyone would be giving it their best shot.

'There are only eight players in the field and to win a purse of 30,000 quid in a couple of days is very good. We will be taking it seriously,' Williams said.

Hong Kong fans are bound to get their money's worth.