2020 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 8

Yesterday was the last day of the 2020 World Championship Qualifiers and it produced more surprising results.

Here is WST report:

Northern Ireland’s Jordan Brown and Welshman Jamie Clarke earned Crucible debuts by coming through the final qualifying round of the Betfred World Championship on Tuesday night in Sheffield.

The draw takes place at 11am on Wednesday, for details of how to watch click here.

In all there will be five debutants at the Theatre of Dreams this year as Brown and Clarke join last night’s winners Alexander Ursenbacher, Ashley Carty and Elliot Slessor.

Antrim’s Brown came from 4-2 down to beat Ryan Day 10-6, taking eight of the last ten frames with top breaks of 50, 65, 73, 70, 92 and 52.

“It’s not going to sink in for a couple of days,” said the 32-year-old. “I just kept telling myself all day not to let the nerves get to me and to focus on being positive. This is what I have wanted since I was a kid. I have been watching people playing at the Crucible on TV since I was five years old so to be going there myself is really something.”

The world number 73, a close friend and practice partner of Mark Allen, added: “It was a nice feeling to bring my practice game to the match table today. I got in first in a lot of frames and made some big breaks. People from Antrim all get behind each other, so to have two players from the same club at the Crucible is so good for all of the boys back home watching. It’s unreal.”

World number 89 Clarke will be the lowest ranked player in the field at the Crucible, and tonight’s 10-7 win over Sunny Akani also earned him a new two-year tour card.

“It’s a dream come true,” said 25-year-old Clarke. “I just completely broke down at the end. It means everything, like all my Christmases have come at once. I’m going to love the experience at the Crucible, I never thought I would get to play there.”

Martin Gould came into the qualifying rounds with his professional status in doubt, but after knocking out Amine Amiri and Chris Wakelin, he beat Graeme Dott 10-6 to earn his tenth trip to the Crucible. A top break of 127 helped Gould to a fine win over 2006 World Champion Dott.

“I came here with a retirement speech ready because I didn’t expect to stay on the tour,” admitted former German Masters champion Gould. “I just took all the pressure off myself and went out and played. After the first match I felt my game was coming into shape. I put in a lot of work over lockdown and it has paid off.

“I didn’t enter Q School because I decided if I dropped off the tour I would take at least a year off and get myself healthy. Now I can go and enjoy it at the Crucible and when I’m enjoying it I usually play well.  The only way I will retire now is if I pick the trophy up.”

Anthony McGill, who reached the quarter-finals on his debut in 2015, secured his sixth consecutive Crucible appearance by beating Sam Baird 10-1 with a top break of 108.  Glasgow’s McGill has not been at his best this season, reaching just one ranking event quarter-final, but his game has clicked in Sheffield – he lost just two frames in his two qualifying matches.

“I’m not as terrible as I was!” said the two-time ranking event winner. “I’m still making mistakes but it’s a hard game. Things are going in the right direction and I’m practising hard. There are a lot of good players around, it’s not easy to climb the rankings and stay there. I’ve beaten some good players at the Crucible so I’ve got history there.”

Matthew Stevens, runner-up in 2000 and 2005, earned his 17th Crucible appearance with a 10-5 win over Ricky Walden. “I didn’t expect anything because I’d had five months off and only picked my cue up two or three days before I came here,” said Welshman Stevens. “I’d only had about nine hours of practice. I had no expectations and didn’t think I would win my first match, but managed to play ok.

“When it looked like there would be no crowd at the Crucible I felt it wouldn’t be the same, there would be no buzz. Whoever I play I will be second favourite, but I don’t care that much whether I win or lose so I could be dangerous.”

Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh fired breaks of 56, 75, 117, 90, 56, 82, 85, 106 and 72 as he saw off Liam Highfield 10-7. In the opening round last year, Un-Nooh narrowly lost 10-9 to eventual champion Judd Trump, and this time hopes to go further. “I just hope I don’t draw Trump again,” joked the former Shoot Out champion.

Mark King has rescued a disappointing 2019/20 campaign with a strong run in the qualifiers – he has been beyond the last 32 of just one ranking event this season but he will finish it at the perfect place thanks to a 10-6 win over Ian Burns. King lost six consecutive frames to trail 6-3 after the first session but turned the tide tonight to take seven in a row.

“My head was not in a good place before lockdown,” said King, who last played at the Crucible in 2013. “The break actually sorted me out, I did a lot of exercise and played a lot of golf. I’m not taking snooker as seriously now.”

Tom Ford got the better of a tough battle against Stuart Carrington, winning 10-8. “I have always been my own worst enemy in the past, getting down on myself,” said Ford. “This season I have worked on the psychological side to dig myself out of a hole and feel good. That really helped me tonight.”

The 16 Crucible qualifiers with world ranking

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 20
Tom Ford 26
Matthew Stevens 31
Liang Wenbo 34
Anthony McGill 39
Noppon Saengkham 42
Kurt Maflin 43
Mark King 46
Anthony Hamilton 48
Alan McManus 53
Martin Gould 60
Elliot Slessor 69
Jordan Brown 73
Ashley Carty 82
Alexander Ursenbacher 86
Jamie Clarke 89

So, we have five debutants this year, four of wich are under-26. We have five players in the draw who are ranked out of the top 64: Jordan Brown will stay on tour thanks to the one-year list, Alex Ursenbacher is in the first year of his two years tour card, Elliott Slessor is now provisinally ranked 60 after the qualifiers, Ashley Carty and Jamie Clarke will get a new two years card as a reward for reaching the Crucible. On a normal year, the last two would have needed the semi-finals at the Crucible to avoid relegation and would need to go to Q-school to stay on the main tour.

None of the expert pundits predicted more than five of the qualifiers correctly.  I did even worse with only two, which is funny in a way because I predicted a lot of shocks, just couldn’t guess who the “victims” would be …

Everyone will have an opinion as to why there were so many unexpected qualifiers. Of course, the lockdown and the lack of match sharpness played their role, but it was the same for all. The format was shorter than orther years, in the first three rounds, but best of 11 isn’t THAT short. For me the main factor was the tiered system, giving the lowest ranked players a more winnable match to start with, and putting the highest seeds under more pressure as they got the play a more difficult opponent in their first match, being cold, whilst their opponent had already played at least one match and amassed some ranking points coming into it.

All things considered, the qualifiers were at least as interesting this way, if not more, than in previous years. I definitely wish that they keep the tiered system for this event. However, the last two rounds at least should go back to best of 19.

In a few hours WST will make the draw and we will know the Crucible full line-up and format. Bring it on.

2020 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 7

The first “Judgement Day” threw its fair share of surprises

Here is the report by WST:

Alexander Ursenbacher became the first player from Switzerland to reach the Crucible as he beat Andrew Higginson 10-8 in the final qualifying round of the Betfred World Championship.

World number 86 Ursenbacher saw a 6-2 lead cut to 9-8 but got over the line by taking the 18th frame on a respotted black.

The 24-year-old from Rheinfelden will make Switzerland the 19th country to be have been represented by players at the Crucible, when he competes in the main event which runs from July 31 to August 16.

“To be the first ever Swiss player at the Crucible is absolutely amazing,” said former English Open semi-finalist Ursenbacher, who knocked out Gary Wilson in the previous round. “I have always wanted to play at the home of snooker.  I’m surprised at how well I handled the pressure in the end.

“I don’t care who I draw, I just want to go there and play and enjoy it. I just hope I don’t start crying. I am holding the tears back now, that’s how much it means.”

Two other players earned a Crucible debut: Elliot Slessor and Ashley Carty. World number 69 Slessor scored a superb 10-3 win over Martin O’Donnell. From 3-1 down, Slessor won nine frames in a row with a top break of 111.

Slessor, age 25 from Gateshead, is hoping that Wednesday’s draw pits him against Ronnie O’Sullivan, a player he has beaten in both of their previous meetings.

“I want another crack at Ronnie,” said Slessor. “A lot of players wouldn’t want to draw him but given that there will be spectators there, I want to play the main man on the main stage. If I turn up and play well I’ve got every chance.”

Before the qualifying rounds started, Slessor’s fiancé Stephanie insisted that if he made it to the Crucible they would have to make plans for their wedding. “We had a deal,” said Slessor who is now guaranteed £20,000. “She’ll be over the moon. She won’t be bothered about the snooker, she’ll just be happy to be able to start booking the wedding.”

Carty led Robert Milkins 9-4 before losing four frames in a row, but breathed a sigh of relief after taking a scrappy 18th frame for a 10-8 success. The world number 82, age 25, had never previously won a match in the qualifying event but is now through to the last 32 and will be considered the local favourite as he comes from nearby Rotherham.

“I have never felt so much pressure in my life,” said Carty, who needed to win the match to keep his tour card. “I had a few chances from 9-4 but got a bit twitchy and started to think if I lose this I’ll be devastated and I’ll have to go back to Q School. It was the biggest match of my life by a mile. I just had to pull myself together in the last frame.”

Veterans Anthony Hamilton and Alan McManus, who will both turn 50 next year, showed that age is no barrier to success as they both booked a place in the main draw. Hamilton has played at the Crucible 12 times before, most recently in 2008. He earned his return with a 10-5 defeat of Scott Donaldson, pulling away from 5-5 to take the last five frames with a top break of 131.

“For years, playing at the Crucible was part of my life, and now I have been 12 years without it,” said Hamilton. “My game is not good but I have a great attitude. I just aim to have the best attitude in the room, because I have to make up the difference somehow.”

McManus saw off Louis Heathcote 10-5 with a top break of 96. “The old timers are back,” joked McManus, who reached the semi-finals at the Crucible in 1992, 1993 and 2016. “Even without a full crowd it’s still going to be awesome. I found a little something in my game tonight which might help me. I might be able to upset one or two – we’ll see.”

Liang Wenbo got the better of a marathon battle with Fergal O’Brien, winning 10-9  with a tremendous 141 total clearance in the deciding frame. China’s Liang last played at the Crucible in 2017.

Norway’s Kurt Maflin earned his second trip to the Crucible with a 10-1 thrashing of Matthew Selt, his top break 103. “It will mean more to me this time,” said Maflin. “The first time, you just try to take it all in. The second time I will appreciate it more, because I haven’t been there for five years and I have put a lot of work in over the last few weeks.”

Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham also booked a second trip to the Theatre of Dreams with a resounding win as he beat Eden Sharav 10-2 with a top run of 82.

The other eight matches in the final round are on Tuesday – click here for the match schedule. And there are still limited tickets available for the Crucible – for details click here.

These are our eight qualifiers so far, with their ranking : Liang Wenbo (34), Noppon Saengkham (42),  Kurt Maflin (43),  Andy Hamilton (48),  Alan McManus (53),  Elliot Slessor (69),  Ashley Carty (82) and Alexander Ursenbacher (86).

Half of them are non-UK players representing China, Thailand, Norway and Switzerland, three are young players (under-26), two are veterans, none are in the top 32…

I doubt that many predicted that outcome, but it’s interesting. And we might see the return of the tartan trousers…

 

2020 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 6

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.

Anyway, here is WST report:

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.

 

 

Will Shaun Murphy be able to compete at the Crucible?

The question can sound/look provocative, and I admit it, this title is deliberately “catching”, but the question is genuine, and the concerns behind it are as well.

A few days ago, the snooker World lost Brandon Parker. Brandon had been Shaun’s manager for many years, and they were close friends. Shaun was certainly deeply saddened by Brandon’s death. Brandon was living in Portugal in his final months/weeks/days. That’s were he was put to rest, and Shaun, obviously, wanted to be at his friend’s funerals to pay his respects.

Screenshot 2020-07-26 at 00.20.32

Unless I misunderstood, the issue with this is that Portugal is one of the countries that has no agreed “airbridge” with the UK, meaning that anyone traveling to the UK from Portugal, is required to be quarantined for 14 days, and this in turn would mean that unless the usual format of the Crucible is “tweaked”, Shaun will not be in a position to play his first round match. The earliest he could possibly play would be on the 6th or 7th of August, well into the second round.

Now, I do know that Shaun now lives in Ireland, that Ireland may have different rules, and traveling from Ireland to the UK should not require quarantine. However, the potential risk that Shaun could bring the virus into the Crucible, after being in Portugal, is not lessened by the fact that he arrived in the UK via Ireland.

Now, this is by no way a dig at Shaun. He had the most honourable intentions, and probably, in his grieving state, didn’t even consider the possible implications of this trip.

My question is driven by concerns over the safety of the persons involved in the World Championship, the perception of other players and members of the public as well as the credibility of the sport. WST has worked incredibly hard to get events up and running under the current crisis. They have handled the situation remarkably well in Milton Keynes, without a crowd. As a result, hey have secured the right to run an event with a limited crowd as a pilot, something I, personally, still find very risky, considering the nature of the venue. Recently WST have prevented Sydney Wilson to compete in the World qualifiers, despite Syd testing negative to covid-19, because he had symptoms (Syd was eventually diagnosed with tosilitis). It’s hard to understand how they would allow a player returning from a country deemed as “dangerous” to compete, witouth completing the quarantine period, even if he stopped in a “safe” country on his way back. Unless, of course, strict measures were taken to make sure that Shaun’s travel was safe, and that the possiblity of an exposure to the infection kept as low as humanely possible. If such is the case, I believe that it would be good to make this information available in order to reassure  Shaun’s fellow players, the officials, and the members of the public, that Shaun’s trip – otherwise completely justified – will not compromise anybody’s health nor the organisation of  the World Championship.

 

 

2020 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 5

Yesterday was the first day of round 3 at the EIS, the last round played over best of 11.

Introducting my preview I had stated that the tiered system, and the shorter format, could possibly help the lower seeded players, and put the higher seeded ones under more pressure than in the previous years, as, this time, they would come cold in the latests rounds, likely against a stronger opponent, with no ranking points to be gained should they lose. This is no differerent to what happens to the top 16 at the Crucible, and the reason why I always claimed that the tiered system doesn’t actually “protect” them.

Yesterday we lost Gary Wilson, Ali Carter and Luca Brecel, three players that had been tipped by most experts to qualify.

Here is the report by WST

Alexander Ursenbacher produced a superb display to beat Gary Wilson 6-3 and move into the final round of Betfred World Championship qualifying in Sheffield.

Ursenbacher is aiming to become the first ever player from Switzerland to compete at the Crucible. He came within just one match of the Theatre of Dreams in 2017, but lost 10-4 to Yan Bingtao. This year he will face Andrew Higginson in the final qualifying round.

It’s a disappointing end to the season for world number 19 Wilson, who went all the way to the semi-finals last year. The Wallsend cueman beat Luca Brecel, Mark Selby and Ali Carter on his way to the last four in 2019, when a memorable run was ended by eventual winner Judd Trump.

This afternoon’s clash proved to be one of the best of the week so far. Ursenbacher started as he meant to go on, with a sublime break of 141 to take the opener. The pair then traded frames until they found themselves locked together at 3-3.

World number 86 Ursenbacher took a stranglehold on proceedings from that point, making breaks of 68, 62 and 57 to claim three on the bounce and progress a 6-3 victor.

Ursenbacher said: “I’m delighted and relieved. He made the semis last year, so I knew I had to turn up. He had some pressure on his back, he didn’t want to lose his first round after reaching the semis.

“I’ve been feeling confident for the last two weeks. I’ve been practising harder than before. I’m just trying to play my game and it will turn out well if I do that.

“It would mean everything to qualify. It is everybody’s dream to play at the Crucible, if I keep playing like that I have a good chance. I’m trying not to think about it too much, because it is just going to put extra pressure on me, that I don’t need right now.”

World number 87 Louis Heathcote stunned two-time Crucible finalist Ali Carter, progressing with a shock 6-3 win.

This is 23-year-old Heathcote’s rookie season on the World Snooker Tour, he’s now just one victory away from ending it at the Crucible.

In contrast, defeat for Carter ends a remarkable run of 17 consecutive years qualifying for the Crucible. The four-time ranking event winner misses out on the final stages for the first time since 2002.

Heathcote summoned some brilliant snooker to storm to a 4-0 advantage at the mid-session. The Leicester cueman composed breaks of 53, 57 and 72 on his way to a clean sweep of the frames.

When they resumed after the interval the tide started to turn, with the Captain taking three on the bounce to pull within a frame at 4-3. However, Heathcote stopped the rot in the eighth frame, before a gutsy break of 75 saw him secure a massive win. He’ll meet Alan McManus in the final round, who beat Wu Yize 6-3 to progress.

Fergal O’Brien kept his hopes of tour survival alive with a thrilling 6-5 defeat of recent Championship League winner Luca Brecel.

Brecel fired in three centuries during the match, but that was to no avail after runs of 79, 50, 87 and 52 saw O’Brien book a final round clash with Liang Wenbo.

Michael White’s place on the circuit hangs in the balance after he lost 6-4 to Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham, while Mike Dunn announced his retirement from professional snooker after a 6-4 defeat to Martin O’Donnell.

Robert Milkins ended Jimmy White’s dreams of a return to the Crucible, by storming to a 6-1 win and Anthony Hamilton remained in the hunt to qualify for the first time since 2008 after beating Sam Craigie 6-3.

I have highlighted the (IMO) most interesting bits.

Michael White will probably have to play in the Q-school. As it stands he’s out both of the top 64 in the two year list, and the “four” to be rescued via the one year list. Just one more win for either Fergal O’Brien, Jak Jones or Liam Highfield would push them inside the top 64, at the expense of Robbie Williams, but then Robbie is higher than Michael on the one year list, so he, not Michael, would find himself be in the “rescue” zone. Actually, Michael’s best chance would be a combination of results that would push Joe O’Connor – currently provisionaly ranked 62 – outside the top 64 …

I’m wishing Mike Dunn the best in his retirement. See you on the WSS tour soon Mike?

2020 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 4

Day 4 saw the conclusion of round 2 at the EIS

Here is the report by WST:

Ken Doherty kept his hopes of tour survival alive with a 6-4 win over Fraser Patrick in Betfred World Championship qualifying at the English Institute of Sport.

Irishman Doherty had looked to be cruising to victory when he led 5-1, but three frames on the bounce from Scotland’s Patrick turned up the heat, making it 5-4. Doherty steeled himself and got over the line with a classy run of 57.

The 1997 Crucible king last appeared in the final stages of the World Championship in 2014, when he beat Stuart Bingham 10-5 in the opening round before bowing out against Alan McManus.

Doherty will now face Mark King to move within a match of a return to the Theatre of Dreams. It is likely he will still need to beat King to remain on the circuit.

Doherty said: “When he came back to me the pressure really told. I started twitching a few times, but I was delighted with the break I made in the last frame.That gave me a little bit of hope for the next match, that I can still produce it when I am bang under it. There is a lot of pressure out there. People don’t realise watching from home, when you are fighting to stay on the tour or just to stay in the World Championship it means an awful lot.

“It’s the one you want to play in. You want to play at the Crucible. That is the golden nugget for all these players, just to get to the Crucible. There are a lot of tough match-players here and a lot of nerves. Because it is the World Championship, it means a lot more.”

Martin Gould whitewashed Moroccan Amine Amiri 6-0 to clinch his place in the third round.

Victory for the 2016 German Masters winner acts as a huge step towards tour survival, having descended to 60th position in the world rankings. Next up, Gould faces Chris Wakelin for a Judgement Day place.

After today’s game, Gould stressed that despite his perilous position in the rankings, he isn’t taking too much interest in the permutations for the battle to remain on the World Snooker Tour.

Gould said: “I haven’t looked at the ranking list for about four years, maybe even longer than that. I don’t look at it and it doesn’t interest me. All I want is to go out and play snooker. If I can win matches then great, if not then so be it. I am just going to concentrate on every match as it comes.

“It has been more my choice than anything. I’ve chosen not to play in certain events. I’ve tried to cut down my travel. It isn’t a case of playing badly. Most of the time I have played in events, people have played phenomenally against me. It isn’t the case of me being in a bad rut or anything like what some of the commentators have been saying about me lately. I am at the point where my body can’t do it week in and week out, so I pick and choose.”

Sam Baird came from 4-2 down to beat 15-year-old Belgian Ben Mertens 6-4. It ends a memorable week for Mertens, who became the youngest winner of a match in World Championship history by beating James Cahill in the opening round.

Luo Honghao staged a dramatic fightback to avoid immediate relegation from the circuit, he bounced back from 5-1 down to beat Peter Lines 6-5.

Thailand’s Sunny Akani scored a 6-2 win over Lukas Kleckers, while Dominic Dale progressed with a 6-4 defeat of Fan Zhengyi.

Martin Gould was lucky that Hamza Akbar was unable to travel because he would almost certainly have faced a much stronger challenge and, whatever he says, I’m not sure how he would have handled it.

It’s hard to know what exactly happened in the match between Luo and Peter Lines, without being able to watch it. Going by the scores, and what transpired on social media, that match turned on one shot, in frame seven, a frame that Luo won by only three points, potting pink and black to stay in the match. Luo traveled from China with Ding, and they were put into quarantine. It’s only a couple of days ago that a picture of Ding was shared on social media, saying that he was finally out of quarantine and back in practice. Maybe Luo had to cope with the double pressure of facing relegation, should he lose, and knowing that his preparation was’nt ideal.

2020 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 3

The Whirlwind is still blowing,  how being an MC has helped Allan Taylor and Michael White fights back to keep his Tour card.

Here is the report by WST

Jimmy WhiteJimmy White overcame Michael Georgiou 6-4 in a nerve-shredding encounter to book his place in the third round of Betfred World Championship qualifying at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

The Whirlwind will now face world number 47 Robert Milkins, with the winner progressing to the final round of qualifying. White played Milkins for a place at the Crucible on his last trip to Judgement Day in 2013, losing out 10-5.

Today’s result acts as a crushing defeat for Cypriot Georgiou, who will now face relegation from the circuit and a trip to Q School next month to try and rescue his professional status.

The high stakes encounter produced a nervy, yet enthralling spectacle and it was Georgiou who coped best in the early stages. Breaks of 70 and 53 helped him to a 3-1 lead at the mid-session interval.

However, when they returned it was White who started to get the better of some tightly contested frames. The six-time Crucible runner-up took three on the bounce to lead at 4-3.

Georgiou stopped the rot with a superb break of 121, but it was White who took a tense 31-minute ninth frame on the colours to lead 5-4. The legendary ten-time ranking event winner then got himself over the line with a vital break of 41 to win 6-4.

White said: “It was huge. I was in and out of focus. I was dead and buried at 3-1 down after the way I played. Michael let me off a few times and I thought I was going to have to make him win this. Once it got to 3-3, I fancied the job.

“My game is there. Hopefully I can dig a bit of confidence out of this and get out of the traps with Milkins quickly. The standard is getting better and you have to win a lot more frames in one visit.”

Allan Taylor produced the performance of his career so far to thrash Welshman Lee Walker 6-1.

Taylor fired in a 145 break in the third frame, the highest of the tournament and his career so far. It could prove to be a lucrative contribution, with a £15,000 high break prize covering the qualifiers and the Crucible up for grabs.

The Liverpool cueman had trailed 1-0, but contributions of 78, 145, 134, 58, 98 and 112 in successive frames saw him storm to a phenomenal victory. Defeat for Walker sees him lose his place on the World Snooker Tour.

Taylor had swapped the cue for a mic this season, taking up the role of Home Nations Master of Ceremonies. However, he is riding the crest of a wave on the baize at the moment, having recently won the Challenge Tour Playoff to seal professional status for next season.

When asked if he was playing the snooker of his life, Taylor said: “It is looking that way. Considering before I came here, in six years as a professional, I hadn’t won a single match in the World Championship. The way I was performing before I came here, something clicked.

“When I finished those four events as MC I bottled all of the confidence that I got from going in front of the crowd and the cameras. It looks like I have brought it here with me and long may it continue.”

Michael White produced a remarkable display of grit and determination to keep his tour survival hopes alive, battling from 5-3 down to beat Jamie O’Neill 6-5.

The Welshman needed to win to stand a chance of maintaining his professional status. Gutsy breaks of 73 and 67 in the last two frames saw him over the line this evening. Next up he faces Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham.

Michael White isn’t safe yet, far from it, but he’s currently third in the group of four who would receive a new tour card via the one year list.

Jimmy White’s run is truly remarkable. He struggled all season. He still loves the game and still  has an army of fans who would love to see him at the Crucible. Mind you … he had only won one match so far in ranking events this season before these qualifiers and this is his 40th World Championship.

Speaking of fans watching at the Crucible, WST has published this, with some clarifications about the social distancing measures that fans will need to respect.

Snooker fans have the unique opportunity to be among a reduced crowd for the Betfred World Championship as a limited number of tickets are now available for the tournament in Sheffield which starts next week.

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS OF HOW TO BOOK

Last week the UK Government announced that the Betfred World Championship, which runs from July 31 to August 16, had been selected as the pilot indoor sporting event to allow spectators.

All fans who had tickets for the original dates have been given the chance to keep their tickets, and those who have chosen that option will have seats at the famous Crucible Theatre.

Where the full allocation has not been taken up, tickets are available and it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience one of the biggest events in global sport under unique circumstances.

At a later date next week there may be an additional limited number of tickets available.

Fans will be safely welcomed with all Government guidelines on Covd-19 in place. To ensure that these guidelines are met by following a code of conduct, spectators will be asked to:

–           Wear face masks (which will be provided) while moving around the venue, though these can be removed while seated in the arena.

–           Head straight into the arena and to their seats once the doors open, which will be 30 minutes before each session.

–           Observe social distancing and avoid close contact with others outside their social bubble.

–           Observe good hygiene – there will be hand sanitiser stations available.

–           Follow signs and instructions from stewards giving directions around the venue.

–           Avoid the venue if any member of a party displays Covid-19 symptoms.

–           Tickets will only be available online in advance, there will be no sales at the venue.

The full code of conduct will be provided to ticket holders and this is a way of showing respect for public health and all others attending the event.

WST Chairman Barry Hearn said: “The key message for fans is that we want you to enjoy what will be a remarkable occasion. There is a code of conduct to follow so that spectators can be assured that health and safety is our highest priority.

Barry Hearn“A vast amount of work by our own staff, Sheffield Council, the Crucible and the UK Government has gone into the logistics of ensuring that all guidelines can be met and we have total confidence that this will be a successful pilot event. To stage the first indoor sporting event with a crowd is a fantastic triumph for snooker.

“Anyone who has never witnessed the amazing Crucible atmosphere now has the chance to buy a golden ticket. Hopefully next year we will be back to usual circumstances. But the chance to say ‘I was there’ the time the tournament was played with a small crowd is something fans will remember for a lifetime. Those in the arena will be the lucky few.

“We have kept the original ticket prices, starting at just £36, to ensure it is affordable and give fans something to inspire them in these difficult times. But get in there fast because we are expecting every seat to sell very rapidly.

“The very best players in the world, including Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby, John Higgins, Neil Robertson, defending champion Judd Trump and many more, are ready to put on a spectacular show. This is your chance to be there.”

The event is televised across the planet on broadcasters including BBC, Eurosport and Matchroom Live, with a global audience of 500 million.

The Betfred World Championship is supported by Sheffield City Council.

The Crucible is the home of snooker, but its existence is under threat because of the current crisis.

 

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Therefore it’s even more important that the Snooker World Championship runs smoothly and the fans have a HUGE responsibility here. One reckless person could possibly ruin the whole event, and with it, put the very existence of the Crucible even more at risk. If you are going to be there this year think about it, act responsibly, follow the rules and stay away if you have any symptom.