So here I am, in Sheffield, for what is effectively the start of the World Championsphip, the three rounds of qualifiers held in Ponds Forge. For the first time since 2010, I will not be at the Crucible, but those 8 days of qualifying rounds are maybe even more filled with tension than the main event. For so many players here it’s their career that’s at stake.
So what do you need to know to fully understand and live through what’s going on?
The draw and format are of course available on Worldsnooker but the easiest way to “understand” the draw is probably to read Snookerbacker’s preview and you’re not compelled to bet for it …
As you will see, Patrick Wallace has withdrawn. The reason for this is, unfortunately, that he has just lost his father. My thoughts are with Patrick and his family. I had a chat with Patrick at the World Seniors and he is very lovely and kind person and he was looking forward to this event too.
To know who plays when, the easiest source is, in my opinion, the snooker.org site
To understand what is at stake, other than qualifying for the Crucible, here is Matt Huart Tour Survival Guide. You can trust Matt to keep this up-to-date, day by day even if matches finish at ungodly hours!
So, what will I keep an eye on?
- We have two ladies in the draw this time: Reanne Evans and On Yee Ng. Reanne is up against Robin Hull and has her work cut out obviously but … who knows? Two years ago she ran Ken Doherty very, very close. On Yee was absolutely outplayed by Peter Lines last year, but she’s improved, she’s a hard worker and her strength is tactical play. She’s up against Nigel Bond, not the biggest scorer nowadays but a fine tactician. I could be interesting.
- Two greats of the game are in serious danger to be relegated: Ken Doherty, who was the World Champion exactly 20 years ago and Jimmy White. Ken’s situation looks very much beyond rescue and family circumstances don’t help: Ken lost his mother less than two weeks ago. Ken has a winnable first round, facing Jason Weston but is likely to face Ben Wooollaston next and I can’t see him win this one in current form. Jimmy on the other hand has a good chance to stay on tout via the one year list IF he wins his first match and he’s facing Jack Lisowski. It won’t be easy but, you never know…
- I’d love to see Hossein Vafaei play at the Crucible, and, of course, I want Mark Williams to be there too – he should be there by right in my opinion. Mark is up against Zhao Xintong who is very, very dangerous when his potting boots are on. To me, it will be about how well Mark will be able to cope with the tiredness and the aftermath of the China Open last week. If he is fresh enough, he will be the one dictating the style of play and he will neutralize young Zhao. Hossein has an easy opener but then could face Matthew Selt, and possibly next Tom Ford or Chris Wakelin. Not easy but, again if he’s not too tired after making the SF in China only a few days ago, he’s very capable of beating any of those.
- I will also follow what happens to Anthony Hamilton. I expect him to qualify. He’s always loved the World Championship, and long formats seem to suit him. Nobody will want to draw him in the last 32 I reckon.