We are two days into the International Championship 2019 qualifiers and already the combined impact of a longer format and good prize money is obvious.
All the top players – except Ronnie – have entered and those who have been in action already have all won their matches: Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Stuart Bingham, Shaun Murphy, Ali Carter, Ryan Day, Barry Hawkins, Jack Lisowski … all are already through and China Bound. Even Michael White and Liang Wenbo have found something and won. Liang actually found … his scoring boots: he made 7 breaks over 50, including a 107, in winning only 6 frames. Zao Xintong and Xiao Guodong also qualified, but Lyu Haotian lost to Duane Jones
Two young players deserve a special mention. Louis Heathcote, who just turned professional last month, beat Noppon Saengkham by 6-4 to qualify for the main event. Going by the scores, it was a high quality match: Noppon had breaks of 126, 112 and 78 whilst Louis scored breaks of 67, 77, 103 and 78, the last three in the last three frames of the match. Louis, remember, did also beat Ryan Day a few days ago to qualify for the Riga Masters. Impressive from the rookie. Yuan Sijun, who attracted Stephen Hendry’s attention and is still only 19, beat Gerard Greene by 6-0 with breaks of 108, 75, 57 and 66. He also had qualified for Riga with a win over Noppon Seangkham.
I haven’t seen much of the action at all, but Mark Selby looked solid in his match against Sam Baird (who was quite poor, truth to be said). Neil Robertson demolished Oliver Lines by 6-0 with three centuries; that can’t have been too shabby.
It all continues today and tomorrow. Luca Brecel got a bye.