2021 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 1

Here are the WST reports on day 1 at the World Championship Qualifiers.

Morning and afternoon:

Hicks Beats Evans To Boost Survival Hopes

Andy Hicks scored a 6-2 victory over Reanne Evans in the first qualifying round of the Betfred World Championship – a result which could earn him two more years on the professional tour.

Hicks reached the semi-finals on his Crucible debut in 1995 but has not played at the venue since 2007

Former Crucible semi-finalist Hicks came into today’s match in danger of relegation, but victory has added £5,000 to his ranking tally which gives his hopes of a fresh two-year tour card a huge boost.

Women’s World Champion Evans is still seeking her first win in the qualifying rounds of snooker’s biggest event since she beat Robin Hull in 2017, and her dream of becoming the first woman to reach the Crucible will have to wait at least one more year. She will have a tour card for the next two seasons having been awarded a place, along with Ng On Yee.

The first two frames today were scrappy affairs, Hicks taking them both. The 47-year-old from Devon made impressive clearances of 54 and 42 in the next two frames to lead 4-0.

Evans enjoyed a revival after the interval, compiling a run of 65 to win the fifth frame, then adding the sixth by converting a cocked-hat double on the final black to a centre pocket. But Hicks made a break of 69 in the next to lead 5-2, then dominated frame eight to set up a second round match with Eden Sharav.

Hicks, who beat Evans 6-3 at the same stage last year, said: “It was a match I just wanted to get out of the way. I might have been favourite to beat Reanne, but she is not to be taken lightly. It gives me a great chance of staying on the tour for another couple of years. I didn’t score that heavily today, but there were glimpses of playing well.

“There is no greater place to play than the Crucible, that is the reason I still get my cue out at 47 years old. If I didn’t think I had a chance to get there, I wouldn’t play any more. I would just love to get back there, especially if there is a crowd.

“I said to Reanne afterwards that she deserves a place on the tour for the next two years. She is going to find it tough, but she is good enough.”

Evans said: “I needed to make a better start but I lost the scrappy frames. It took me a while to get into the match, even through I have been working really hard to be ready for the conditions. I played better after the interval and felt good, but things just didn’t go my way. The next two years will be a big learning curve for me, it’s a great opportunity for me to improve.”

The best performance of the opening session in Sheffield came from Oliver Lines, as he fired breaks of 125, 78, 122, 93 and 134 to beat Dylan Emery 6-1.

Soheil Vahedi suffered relegation from the tour as he lost 6-5 to Belgian amateur Julien Leclercq. Iran’s Vahedi led 5-2, but his opponent hit back to take the next four frames with a top break of 114. Leclercq, 18, was only awarded a place in the event at short notice after Poland’s Antoni Kowalski pulled out due to injury.

Barry Pinches also drops off the tour as he lost 6-0 to tour rookie Jamie Wilson, who fired breaks of 60, 54 and 71.

Evening

Hendry Wins Battle Of The Legends

Stephen Hendry beat Jimmy White 6-3 in the first qualifying round of the Betfred World Championship as as he graced the stage at snooker’s biggest tournament for the first time since 2012.

Seven-time World Champion Hendry made his comeback at last month’s Gibraltar Open, losing to Matthew Selt

Hendry got the better of an epic rivalry between these two legends during the 1990s – winning four Crucible finals – and once again tonight he came out on top. After a nervy opening, Hendry settled into the match and made fewer mistakes than his opponent, inflicting more misery on White, who could now face relegation from the tour.

Scotland’s 52-year-old Hendry still needs to win three more matches at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield to make it to the nearby Crucible, but will go into his second round tie with China’s Xu Si on Wednesday evening with the satisfaction of having won a professional match for the first time in nine years.

White, age 58, could lose his pro status if other results go against him. He would then have to rely on a trip to Q School or a fresh invitational tour card if he is to compete on the circuit next season.

White has lost all six of his Crucible finals

Londoner White won a scrappy opening frame, then Hendry took the second with breaks of 37 and 34. Frame three lasted 43 minutes and came down to the colours. Hendry got the snooker he needed on the pink, and – after a safety exchange on the black – knocked in a mid-range pot to a top corner to lead 2-1.

That proved a turning point as Hendry made a break of 53 to lead 3-1 at the interval, then got the better of a fragmented fifth frame to extend his lead. White looked set to pull one back until he missed a red to a top corner on 58, and Hendry punished him with an excellent 66 clearance for 5-1.

White battled back, making a break of 58 as he took frame seven, then adding the eighth for 5-3. But Hendry controlled the ninth and sealed victory with a run of 52.

“I’m not happy about the way we both played, I had hoped we would both play well and it would be a great match. There was a lot of tension, Jimmy looked bang under it,” said Hendry, who made his World Championship debut in 1986 and played his 100th match in the tournament tonight.

“I was trying to relax and enjoy the occasion. The result probably meant more to Jimmy than it did to me. When you look back at the finals we played, we both had natural, flowing cue actions. Tonight it was stuttered and staggered, our average shot time felt like about four minutes.

“The only time when I found some rhythm was when I made the clearance to go 5-1. Something switched on inside me – that instinct to pinch a frame. And I won a frame when I needed a snooker – that’s a collector’s item! So there were a couple of little highlights and I’ve got to be happy with the win. The rhythm I have on the practice table, I’m not taking into the match yet. There were only a handful of shots I hit well tonight.

“I don’t think I will have frightened anyone with that performance and I’ll be the underdog again in my next match. I’ll just go and enjoy it and keep my expectations low. It’s too soon for me to qualify for the Crucible. Every match is a bonus and helps me get used to being out there. Next season will be a different matter because I will have more competitive snooker under my belt.

“Who knows, I might come back on Wednesday and get on a roll. But there are frailties in my game that won’t hold up over four matches. My goal at the moment is just to improve.”

James Cahill, who beat Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible two years ago, saw off Sean Maddocks 6-1 with top breaks of 60, 63 and 75.

WST also announced bonuses for 147s

147 Bonuses At Betfred World Championship

WST and the WPBSA have agreed to provide a prize of £40,000 for a 147 made at the Crucible this year during the Betfred World Championship, and £10,000 for a maximum made during the qualifying rounds.

These bonuses are on top of the £15,000 high break prize which will apply throughout the whole event.

The qualifying rounds at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield run from April 5 to 14. Then the main event at the Crucible runs from April 17 to May 3.

If more than one player makes a 147, then the prize money will be shared equally.

WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “The 147 is such a magical moment, and it is also an incredible feat of skill. To achieve a maximum break under the pressure of the Betfred World Championship is remarkable. So it is fitting that we offer very substantial rewards during this event. I would love to see another historic 147 made this year.”

Last year, John Higgins became the seventh player to make a 147 at the Crucible, during his second round match against Kurt Maflin.

Crucible Maximums
1983 – Cliff Thorburn
1992 – Jimmy White
1995 – Stephen Hendry
1997 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2003 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2005 – Mark Williams
2008 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2008 – Ali Carter
2009 – Stephen Hendry
2012 – Stephen Hendry
2020 – John Higgins

Now here is my take on what I saw yesterday.

The way Reanne played was disappointing. She was disappointed herself. When she finally found some fluency it was too late.

Julien Leclercq did himself proud. It was an excellent and very mature performance for someone so young. Despite the late call and a very difficult travel to the UK, he played a very good match. I was obviously happy to see Julien play so well and win, but I felt truly sorry for Soheil Vahedi. Soheil is a great guy, he loves his snooker and he looked utterly disconsolate and extremely distraught towards the end of the match. I do hope that he has good people around him, to get him through the next days or weeks. I will publish an interview with Julien a bit later today.

As for the last match I watched … it was painful for the best part of it. No matter how hard the commentators tried to big it up, it was a poor match. The moment Stephen Hendry stole the third frame, having needed snookers, I knew what was going to happen. Credits to Hendry though: very often in the past, especially towards the end of his career, when he had a stinker of a performance, he became disinterested and threw the towel in. Yesterday, he applied himself despite the obvious frustration. As for Jimmy, nothing has changed really unfortunately. I’m confident though that he will get another invitation card should drop off the tour and fail to qualify through the Q-School.

My attention today will be on Jamie Clarke v Iulian Boiko, Rory McLeod v Brian Ochoiski and, if on stream, Allan Taylor v Bai Langning.

5 thoughts on “2021 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 1

  1. Lewis, I love your Grim Reaper comparison to Don Giovanni’s Commander. It was a sad match, but I did not expect high quality or anything, except that Jimmy would be able to scrape through and keep hold of his card instead of having to beg for one anew.

    The Reanne Evans-Hick match was equally disappointing, especially as Reanne had her chances in the early scrappy frames and I would really like to see a woman with a little success on the main tour. She is like 12-time champion for the women, it scares me to think what kind of standard can be there, knowing of course that they could not have the regular games during the pandemic.

    Very nice interview with Julian (in the other post – and made me happy about my French too 🙂 ), very level-headed comments.

    • Sadly I do feel like Reanne Evans has missed the boat, and the lockdown has not helped her at all. I also have doubts about Ng On Yee. The women who might make a breakthrough are probably the next generation such as Nutcharat Wongharuthai or Bai Yulu, who plays at the CBSA Academy with the boys (her weibo page is very interesting). Maybe they will get a their chance in a few years’ time, whilst they are still young enough to adapt to the tough challenges they will face.

      • I found some match of these two on YouTube for the quieter times, but I really just hope they would not be sucked in by the Women’s Tour, because it looks like the kiss of death top me. 😦

  2. The only match I saw much of was Fan Zhengyi’s win over Zak Surety. There was an interesting moment when he potted 12 reds and blacks, but missed a difficult red in the yellow pocket. He normally refuses centuries, but would he have gone for a 147? We will never know.

    After that, I had to work, so I didn’t see any of the much-touted White-Hendry match. However, I could see from social media that is wasn’t living up to the exaggerated hype. Perhaps the cruelest comment was that Leo Scullion was probably the best player out there! It must have been agony for Jimmy White. I had the vision of Hendry as a Grim Reaper figure returning to drag White into retirement (or the Commendatore from Don Giovanni)… But of course that won’t happen. There is no way he would want his career to end with that match.

    In some ways, it was appropriate outcome. Snooker is too often flooded with nostalgia and sentimentality – it’s necessary to have a reality check. The reality is that a ‘professional’ snooker player must work hard to achieve a high-standard and earn their opportunities; competition is harsh, and they need to be tough.

    With that in mind, it was great to see some young players do well: Lines, Zhao, Fan, Wilson, Gao, Leclercq, Cahill. Oli Lines scored brilliantly, but for him the question is always whether he can maintain a strong enough level – the ‘B-game’ problem that most young players suffer from.

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