Yesterday saw the conclusion of round 3 at the EIS, and today the last round will start. The Judgement Day will decide who are the 16 qualifiers who are going to the Crucible. We also go back to the best of 19 format, however all matches will be played in one day. Nobody will be sitting on a lead or pondering about a deficit overnight.
It’s fair to say that round 3 has not been a great one for the seeds. All three top seeds – Joe Perry, Ali Carter and Gary Wilson – are out of the competition having failed to win their first match. That’s 15000 ranking points “missed”. In fact, nearly half of matches in this round – 14 out of 32 – were won by the lowest ranked player.
What this shows IMO is that the tiered system, often branded “unfair” by the lower ranked players, is actually helping them. They start with more winnable matches, and when they eventually meet the to seeds, they are match sharp and have some good ranking points in their purse already whilst their opponents are cold and under more pressure because, ranking-wise, it’s all or nothing.
Jamie Clarke pulled off a shock 6-4 defeat of world number 17 Joe Perry to move one win from tour survival and the Crucible at Betfred World Championship qualifying in Sheffield.
The Welshman suffered opening round losses in his first nine tournaments this season, to leave his place on the circuit hanging in the balance. However, qualification for the Crucible this year comes with the added bonus of a fresh two-year tour card for any player outside of the world’s top 64.
World number 89 Clarke will now face Thailand’s Sunny Akani over the best of 19-frames to qualify for the final stages. Today’s opponent Perry, the highest seed in the qualifiers, will leave Sheffield bitterly disappointed to miss out on the Theatre of Dreams for the first time since 2017.
There was never more than a frame in this afternoon’s keenly contested clash, until the players found themselves locked together at 4-4. From that stage, 25-year-old Clarke made a decisive burst, compiling breaks of 66 and 72 to get himself over the line.
“In the past on TV, I’ve wilted and never played that well. It was really nice to show I can play under pressure in the last few frames,” said Clarke. “Before I went out there, it sounds a bit cheesy, but I was visualising being 5-4 up or 5-5. My whole body was shaking and I was just trying to handle the pressure. It was fantastic and I’m very proud.
“I think I’ll enjoy the last round. I’m not expected to get through. My bag was packed before this match, I was ready to shoot off. I was under no pressure, I felt great at the end and that I could handle the pressure.”
Northern Ireland’s Jordan Brown all but guaranteed his tour survival with a thrilling 6-5 defeat of Iranian Hossein Vafaei. Up next he’ll face Ryan Day, who beat Barry Pinches 6-4 today.
In this afternoon’s encounter, Brown and Vafaei were level at 3-3, when the game sparked into top gear. Vafaei composed consecutive century runs of 133 and 109 to move a frame from victory at 5-3.
However, Brown dug deep to keep his dreams of qualification alive. Contributions of 109, 51 and 73 saw him turn the match on its head and dramatically win 6-5.
Mark King emerged a 6-3 winner over 1997 World Champion Ken Doherty to seal his place at Judgement Day.
King hasn’t appeared at the final stages of the World Championship since 2013. He will now face Ian Burns for a spot at the Crucible.
Defeat for Doherty means that he loses his tour card, after dropping out of the world’s top 64. Despite the loss, the six-time ranking event winner remains determined to continue plying his trade and hasn’t abandoned his ambitions of returning to the Crucible.
Doherty said: “You always want to play at Sheffield. That is the big one. It is such a special place. It is very disappointing that I’m not going to be there. I’ve had a lot of great years there. Who knows, maybe I’ve played my last time there, but I haven’t given up hope.”
Anthony McGill produced a blistering display to dispatch Welshman Jak Jones 6-1. Scotland’s former Crucible quarter-finalist McGill fired in breaks of 123, 83, 61, 62 and 71 to storm to a comfortable win.
Martin Gould battled back from 3-0 down to beat Chris Wakelin 6-4, while 2006 World Champion Graeme Dott thrashed David Grace 6-0.
It’s great to see Jamie Clarke eventually playing the way we all knew he can, but that he very rarely managed to produce under pressure.
Ken Doherty has lost his tour card – it’s all over the news – and I don’t think he’ll get an invitational card this time.
Regarding the “Tour Survival” topic, here is Matt Huart explaining what’s at stake in the two coming days:
Tour Survival 2020: Judgement Day Preview
27th July 2020
With six days completed at the Betfred World Championship qualifiers we now know the 32 players who will battle it out to join the world’s top 16 at the Crucible in just four days time.
A much clearer picture is also emerging in respect of the battle for ‘Tour Survival’ and below we summarise all of the key movements and look ahead to what might still change.
The Story So Far
So what has changed during the first six days of this year’s most iconic tournament?
The Top 64
- Elliot Slessor and Liam Highfield have broken into the top 64, each winning two matches so far in Sheffield
- The pair replace Robbie Williams and Jak Jones, Williams having started the tournament provisionally ranked 58th
The One-Year List
- Both Jones and Williams have effectively taken the places of Slessor and Highfield on the one-year list in a straight swap.
- Michael White has been overtaken by Fergal O’Brien, with the Irishman progressing at least one match further in Sheffield
- Jordan Brown remains among the four set to receive a new tour card following his two wins so far
What can still change?
From an initial field of 144 to just 48 heading into the final qualifying round, there remain nine ranked outside of the top 64 who can still affect how the battle for Tour Survival will unfold.
- Fergal O’Brien
- Jordan Brown
- Sam Baird
- Ian Burns
- Ashley Carty
- Alexander Ursenbacher
- Louis Heathcote
- Jamie Clarke
- Eden Sharav
Of these, Burns, Ursenbacher, Heathcote and Sharav are currently on the first season of their two-year tour card so are not themselves in danger, however could affect other players if they were to break into the top 64 with a deep run in Sheffield.
Uniquely, the remaining five players, whether 66th placed Fergal O’Brien, or Jamie Clarke in 83rd place, all stand within one match not only of a Crucible appearance, but a renewed tour card. This is because of the change this year which will see every player who qualifies for the Crucible guaranteed a two-year tour card from the start of next season, even if they finish outside of the regular qualifying positions.
Themes to follow
The lowest ranked player inside the top 64 who would not earn a reprieve via the one-year list, Joe O’Connor must hope that no more than two players overtake him during the remainder of the tournament to stay on tour.
Defeats for Mark Joyce, Jak Jones and Ken Doherty today have strengthened his position significantly, leaving Liam Highfield, Fergal O’Brien and a more distant Jordan Brown as his closest competitors.
If O’Connor were to slip out of the top 64, it could also provide a lifeline for Welshman Michael White through the one-year list, as he currently faces relegation following his third round defeat to Noppon Saengkham.
Of those currently outside of the top 64, only Fergal O’Brien can break into that group over the next two days, with victory against Liang Wenbo on Monday enough to see him climb to as high as 60th position. This would be at the expense of Mark Joyce, who would take his place on the one-year list.
The next closest player to the top 64 is Jordan Brown, although he would need to reach the quarter-finals next month if he were to break into that bracket.
In respect of the one-year list, defeat to Liang would not see O’Brien fall outside of the top four of the one-year list over the next two days at least, with Ashley Carty his nearest challenger needing to reach the last 16 to overtake the Irishman.