The Champion of Champions will return to the World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) Tour on Saturday 10 June and the race is on to secure qualification through each of the eight classification groups.
To be held for the first time since 2019, the tournament will return with an exciting new format which will see the top two players from each group contest a longer-format final at the stunning Landywood Snooker Club.
With the crucial ranking cut-off to follow the upcoming Wilson Interiors Hull Open – the final ranking event of the 2022/23 season – below we take a look at the current state of play within each group and who might qualify.
The WDBS rankings operate on a rolling two-year basis (excluding the 2020/21 season which did not take place), with points earned during 2019/20 to be removed during the course of this season. No points are due to be removed following the Hull Open, meaning that it is all about what players can add during the weekend in Hull.
Please note that all calculations made below are without knowing the entries and formats for the Hull Open.
With two titles and two finals earned during the current counting period, England’s Tony Southern is already assured of his place at the Champion of Champions.
Shahab Siddiqui is the favourite to join him there, with a potential run to the final in Hull to mathematically guarantee qualification, while a semi-final or Group 3rd result would be enough to secure his place if either he or Southern were to win the title.
Of the chasing pack, Kurt Deklerck or Gary Swift would need to at least reach the final to potentially equal Siddiqui’s total, while Gavin Gormley would need to win the title with Siddiqui not playing the event.
With two ranking event titles secured already so far this season, Kal Mattu is guaranteed his place in Landywood, but there is set to be a close fight in Hull to see who will join him there.
The favourite is last season’s Hull Open winner Nigel Coton, who despite not having competed so far this season, carries a slender advantage over both Kit Kennedy and Joe Hardstaff into the final event.
For Coton, the title would guarantee his place at the Champion of Champions for a second time, while the final would also be enough unless either Kennedy or Hardstaff were to win the title.
For Kennedy, he must finish at least third in what is expected to be a single round-robin group, while Hardstaff would need to reach at least the final to remain in contention to overhaul Coton.
Both Clive Brunton and Poland’s Adam Wilk would have an outside chance of qualification, but would need to win the title and hope that other results would go in their favour in Hull.
In Group 4 there is set to be a thrilling four-way battle between the four outstanding players in the category over the past two years.
Having moved to top spot for the first time following the action in Bruges, two-time Champion of Champions runner-up William Thomson is in pole position to return to the event as he seeks to make it third time lucky.
With a lead of 3,200 points to second placed David Church and a further 1,000 points advantage to Daniel Blunn, Thomson heads to Hull knowing that a run to the semi-finals will be enough to guarantee his qualification. This is because even if those immediately behind him were to contest the final, only one would be able to attain enough points to overhaul the Scot.
The battle for second place is likely to come down to whoever can progress the furthest between Church and Blunn, with Church set to take the place should the pair reach the same round.
There is also still hope for Hull’s own Carl Gibson, who would qualify by winning his third title – IF David Church does not reach the final.
Group 5 is the first group to have a confirmed final line-up with both Mickey Chambers and Dean Simmons assured of their places at the Landywood Snooker Club.
Defending champion Chambers is comfortably assured of his place following his unblemished run during the past two seasons which has yielded two titles, while Simmons has reached three finals and a further three semi-finals during that time to also book his place.
As with Group 5, we also have a confirmed final line-up in Group 6A with Alan Reynolds and Mohamed Faisal Butt holding a significant lead to the chasing pack.
The pair have dominated Group 6A during the past two seasons, having between them claimed each of the titles on offer to date during that period.
Defending Group 6B Champion of Champions Leroy Williams confirmed his return to the tournament for 2023 following his victory at the recent Belgian Open.
Behind him, recent British Open champion Matthew Haslam is favourite to join him there, but is not yet safe with four players behind him in close enough range to claim the second spot.
The title in Hull would be enough for Haslam to confirm his place, while the final would also be enough, except if Christopher Goldsworthy were to win the title. A semi-final run would also be sufficient, unless one of the three players behind him were to lift the title.
For Goldsworthy, Noonan and Geronimo, they must reach at least the final, while James Hart must win the title and hope that other results would go his way.
Mike Gillespie will return to the Champion of Champions following the strongest spell of his WDBS career to date which has seen him claim three titles during the past two seasons.
He will be joined by one of four players, including last season’s Hull Open champion Paul Smith, who will head back to the Tradewell Snooker Club looking to hold onto second place. A return to the final would be enough for Smith to guarantee qualification, while a semi-final run would leave him safe but for a player behind him winning the title.
For Ronnie Allen, the Welshman must reach at least the semi-finals – more likely the final should Smith enter the event – while Dylan Rees must reach at least the final. Having claimed four titles to date in Group 7, Rees has only entered two of the past seven tournaments, meaning that he has work to do in order to qualify for the Champion of Champions.
Finally, Gary Gallacher must win at least the title if he is to remain in contention to qualify.
The battle for qualification in Group 8 is set to go to the wire with no player yet assured of their place at this year’s Champion of Champions.
For defending champion Shabir Ahmed, qualification is all but assured, with his participation in Hull set to be enough to guarantee the points needed to stay clear of third placed Taylor.
Inaugural Group 8 Champion of Champions Lewis Knowles is also well-placed to qualify, having claimed a brace of titles during the past 12 months. If he were to defend his title in Hull, Knowles would guarantee his place, while the semi-finals would also be enough, unless Gary Taylor were to win the title.
Taylor must mathematically reach at least the semi-finals – more likely the final – to bring himself into contention, while Scotland’s David Grant has an outside chance, if he were to win the title and both Knowles and Taylor were to exit relatively early on.
The Wilson Interiors Hull Open will take place from 19-21 May 2023 at the Tradewell Snooker Club and entry for the event is now open via WPBSA SnookerScores.