What exactly was at stake? Besides the ranking points, a place in the Champion of Champions. And the trophy is absolutely gorgeous.
In group A, Trump won 3-1 against Robert Milkins. The Milkman had chances but failed to take advantage of them. Barry Hawkins and Ryan Day were up next. Hawkins made a century break (116) in the second frame and took the lead of group A with a 3-0 win. Showing remarkable consistency, Hawkins breezed through Milkins with three magnificent breaks of 67, 133 and 143 that gave him his second 3-0 win. The match between Day and Trump ended in a draw. Ryan Day got his first and only victory against Milkins. It came down to the last match between Trump and Hawkins. Trump won the first two frames with breaks of 124 and 110. Hawkins had a chance in frame 3, but by missing the frame ball, he also missed a place in the next stage.
The opening match of group C had China's Zhao Xintong up against Alexander Ursenbacher, from Switzerland. The match ended in a draw. Still in group C, Stuart Bingham and Luo Honghao played the second match. Honghao made a break of 94 to lead 2-1 and then finished the match in style with a break of 111. Bingham only managed to get a draw in his second match against Ursenbacher. Zhao Xintong needed 3 snookers to win the last frame (and the match) against Luo Honghao and he got it. Zhao Xintong proceeded to secure his place in the next stage by defeating Bingham 3-0.
Shaun Murphy struggled in his opening match in group B. He lost to Dominic Dale 3-1. China's Zhou Yuelong defeated Matthew Selt 3-1. The following match involved both winners of the group: Dale and Yuelong. It turned out that the Chinese won the match 3-0 with three magnificent century breaks (134, 122, 134) - a flawless performance from the young player. Shaun Murphy got a win against Matthew Selt 3-1, meaning that the first place in the group would be decided in the last match between Murphy and Yuelong. The English player started with a century. He needed a 3-0 win to book his place in stage three, but failed to win the second frame. The match ended in a draw.
In group D, Graeme Dott had no trouble winning his first match 3-0 against Jamie O'Neill. A break of 139 was the highlight of the match. Mark Selby showed amazing form with two consecutive century breaks (118 points both). He beat Rory McLeod and Jamie O'Neill 3-0. Graeme Dott got a draw against both Rory McLeod and Mark Selby. Selby topped the group with 7 points and scored 4 century breaks in the process.
Group F. Kyren Wilson started well with a 3-0 win against Mark King. Scott Donaldson did the same to David Gilbert in the following match. Kyren was the one to get to the next stage being the only in the group not to lose a match. Scott Donaldson took the second place, Mark King was the third and David Gilbert finished last.
Xiao Guodong, Jordan Brown, Ken Doherty and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh were in group E. Thepchaiya finished with 5 points (one win, two draws and a highest break of 135). Ken Doherty got a draw in the last match against Jordan Brown, compiling a break of 139 in frame 3, which was enough to top the group with the same 5 points as Thepchaiya. Xiao Guodong finished third with 4 points.
Group G. John Higgins started the day against Jamie Clarke with a 3-0 win. The next match between Tom Ford and Martin Gould ended in a draw and so did the match between Tom Ford and Jamie Clarke. Martin Gould got a 3-0 win against Higgins and a second draw against Clarke. At the end of the day, Higgins secured his place in the final stage with a 3-0 win over Tom Ford.
Mark Davis played the first match against China's Li Hang. Davis built a 2-0 lead but the Chinese managed to win the last two frames to get a draw. Joe Perry won the next two matches against Tian Pengfei and Li Hang, taking the lead in the group. Three draws followed: Mark Davis and Tian Pengfei, Joe Perry and Mark Davis, and Li Hang and Tian Pengfei; those results saw Joe Perry top group H.
On table one, Zhao Xintong won the first frame against Judd Trump. The world number one managed to take control of the match and win the next three frames. Zhou Yuelong had better luck against Mark Selby. The Chinese won 3-1 to share the lead with Trump. Selby stayed by the table for his next match against Zhao Xintong. The Chinese player won the first two frames and managed a counter-attack to steal the last frame and thus get a 3-0 win. With that result, Selby was out of the CLS. Trump won all three frames against Zhou Yuelong, which put him in a very comfortable position to top the group. Finally, a draw between the two Chinese players made it impossible to take Trump's place as the group winner.
On table two, Higgins had a smooth start against Joe Perry. The Scotish won 3-0. Kyren Wilson had a 3-1 win against Ireland's Ken Doherty. The English player continued his winning streak by defeating Joe Perry 3-0. Ken Doherty made a 122 break to lead Higgins 1-0, stole the second frame to amplify his lead and finished the match off by winning the third frame. Higgins won the match against Kyren Wilson 3-1, making a magnificent maximum break in the last frame. The match between Joe Perry and Ken Doherty ended in a draw. Kyren was the group winner with 6 points and 7 frames won. Higgins ended in second place with 6 frames won.
Kyren won the final showing great skill and great temperament. This result granted Stuart Bingham a place in the Champion of Champions next Monday. Kyren played bold and aggressive snooker. The world runner-up took the risk, went for his shots and got his reward, which is the fourth ranking title of his career. It is very nice to see such a young and talented player challenge Judd Trump. I hope this turns out to be the greatest rivalry in snooker in the near future. This title shall boost his confidence for the Champion of Champions, where he plays Stephen Maguire in round 1. Kyren was the runner-up in 2018 when he lost 10-9 to Ronnie O'Sullivan in one of the most dramatic finals I've ever seen.