2021 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 7

Here is the report by WST:

Brazil’s Figueiredo One Win From History

Brazilian number one Igor Figueiredo is one win away from becoming the first South American to compete at the Crucible, after defeating Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 6-5 to earn a Judgement Day spot at Betfred World Championship Qualifying.

Figueiredo will now face Mark Joyce in the final round with a place at the Theatre of Dreams on the line. The extent of his success this week can be illustrated by the fact that he hadn’t previously won a match at Crucible qualifying since 2015, when he lost to Robin Hull in the final round.

The 43-year-old from Rio De Janeiro first turned professional in 2010, having only played on a full-size snooker table for the first time a year earlier. Figueiredo bases himself out of the Q House Academy in Doncaster and lives away from his wife and three children, who are back home in Brazil, in order to pursue his professional snooker career.

He showed his talent today by battling back from 5-4 down to defeat Thai number one Un-Nooh. A superb break of 84 forced a decider, before Figueiredo crafted a gutsy run of 59 to take the final frame.

World number 85 Figueiredo said: “It is a big dream to get to the Crucible. I maybe won’t sleep tonight thinking about this. For most people the dream is to become World Champion. My dream is to visit the Crucible one time. I would be the first South American player to compete there. I can’t explain, my dream is nearly real.

“I’m living in the UK to improve my level. I miss my wife and my children a lot every day. I see pictures and get power from them to survive and work hard. I have been working ten hours a day over the last two months for this tournament. Sometimes it is painful in my body because I have worked so hard for this moment.

“In Brazil the tables are ten feet and there is a lot of pool. I just started to play snooker in 2009 at 32 years old. I’d never played full size in my life. I’m so happy because I think I have improved a lot. This tournament has amazing players and I started at 32 years old. I believe in myself and I feel like a star player.”

Ryan Day came through an enthralling encounter with Louis Heathcote 6-5. The Welshman missed a black off the spot to emerge a 6-4 victor. However, a crucial break of 30 saw him claim the decider on the colours.

Day will now face Ricky Walden on Judgement Day. Walden was a comfortable 6-1 winner against Peter Lines, who has now been relegated from the circuit and will need to go to Q School.

Jamie Jones is through to the final round after a 6-3 defeat of Michael Holt. That leaves the Welshman one win away from a Crucible berth in his first season back on the World Snooker Tour.

Jones has enjoyed a strong season, having regained his professional status through Q School in 2020. The Welshman dropped off the tour at the end of the 2019 season whilst suspended. However, his return to the circuit has seen him produce some good snooker, including a run to the semi-finals of the 2020 Scottish Open.

Jones now faces Li Hang for a place at the Crucible, after the Chinese cueman overcame Andrew Higginson 6-2.

I’m quite happy for the big mam from Brazil although, at the same time, I’m sorry for Thepchaiya Un-nooh. I like to watch them both. Jamie Jones is really making the most of his retunr to the main tour, all credits to him. As compared to previous “cases”, I always thought his pinishment was particularly harsh, but maybe, in a strange way, the setback  may prove to be the defining challeng that made him a better player and a stronger person.

All three Thai players fell at first hurdle.

On the other hand of the 20 Chinese players involved in the qualifiers, 12 are still in the draw, and three are well placed to be redeemed via the one year list.  Over 2 in 3 of the Chinese players who competed on the Tour this season are under 25. Clearly they will be a big part of the future in our sport. Yet, there is next to none coverage by WST of their accomplishments during those qualifiers. Four of them played and won yesterday. Yet again, the above report only mentions one of them “en passant”.

Judd is right in saying that there is far too much focus on the older players, and I will add that there is also too much focus on the Bristih/Irish players. I know that it may be more diificult to interview the Chinese players, because of the language barrier especially as Tai Chengzhe, the assistant media officer is still stuck in China, but a number of the younger players do speak decent english.

And, as expected, Jimmy White got another invitational Tour card:

Jimmy White Awarded New Invitational Tour Card

Jimmy White has been given an invitational tour card for the next two seasons on the World Snooker Tour, due to his outstanding contribution to the sport.

The 58-year-old Londoner lost to Stephen Hendry in the first qualifying round of the Betfred World Championship this week.

Despite some impressive results this season, including a run to the last 16 of the BetVictor Gibraltar Open, White would drop off the tour at the end of the season. However his invitational tour card, first awarded in 2017, has been extended by two years.

White has won ten ranking titles as well as the Masters, and has reached the final at the Crucible six times.

In a joint statement, WST Chairman Barry Hearn and WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “Jimmy is one of snooker’s one-time greats, not only in terms of his achievements on the table, but also in his massive worldwide popularity. He has done so much to promote snooker through his playing style and charisma. He remains a great asset to our sport and we had no hesitation in offering him a tour card for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons.”

White said: “I would like to thank Barry and Jason, I am very grateful for this opportunity and I’m looking forward to a new start next season.”

In all there will be four invitational tour card holders during the 2021/22 season: White, Marco Fu, Ken Doherty and Stephen Hendry.

This didn’t go down well with a few, including Mark Allen who branded the decision “shocking”.

Screenshot 2021-04-12 at 10.18.53Screenshot 2021-04-12 at 10.19.03

I have to admit that I’m in two minds about this.

Let’s put it this way. I do understand why WST wants to reward the players who massively contributed to grow the game especially in those times or places when it struggled. Therefore I don’t mind such wildcards, but they should come on top of the 128 regular spots. They should not take spots that should go to promising prospects. Very rarely do all players enter the draw anyway. Yes, it would limit the spots for the Q-school top-ups, but I do object to the top-ups anyway, largely because, with all Q-schools and all qualifiers held in the UK this system mainly favours the UK based players AGAIN. I will change my mind when qualifiers will be scrapped or played at/near the final venue for all events, and there will be an Asian and European leg of the Q-school, or even better, no Q-school in its current form at all. In it’s current format I’m not at all convinced that the best players do come through it.


3 thoughts on “2021 World Championship Qualifiers – Day 7

  1. I had the feeling about the Trump-piece that he meant to make the game popular among British players, because apparently it is really popular among the Chinese and it seems that for better or worse there is more care for their development too. But it is and will be a problem if they are to become the new up and coming players and the audience does not get to know them, so yeah, the media should start talking about and to them.

    The existence of a wildcard system can legitimately be criticized, but I don’t think Mark Allen did himself any favours by publicly doing it. And I see the problems with giving it to Jimmy, but for now I’m happy about it, seeing his despair after the Hendry-match. I know it is all personal and does not take the interests of the game into account, but I can’t help it. 🙂

  2. The trouble with giving Jimmy White (and Stephen Hendry) wildcards is that it reinforces the narrative of snooker being backward looking, obsessed with the 1980’s and 1990’s ‘golden era’. WST are apparently frustrated about failed Olympics bids and Sports Personality Awards. But I don’t think you can have it both ways: either snooker is serious competitive sport, or it’s light entertainment. My approach would be to make most tournaments invitational, which could mean that tournament organisers are responsible for their preferred wildcard inclusions. That decouples things from the sport’s governing body. Ultimately snooker’s appeal will depend on the quality of the matches. Did the White-Hendry match live up to that? I think not.

    As for Q School, I’ve done simulations that indicate that the current format is most likely to produce 2 weak sections, and that it’s usually the case that the strongest 10 players cannot all qualify, because they clash in the random draws. That’s why I proposed a Swiss Elimination format, where the best players usually do qualify, and the Order of Merit list is also fair (there are no byes in Swiss).

    In fact, Q School already started today! The CBSA tournaments in Beijing run from April 12-16, with 2 ‘Q Schools’ producing a total of 4 tour players for 2021-23. There are 58 hopefuls, including former professionals Zhang Anda, Zhang Yong, Cao Yupeng, Zhang Jiankang, Fang Xiongman, Li Yan and Ju Reti. There are also some talented young players: Wu Yize, Liu Hongyu, Peng Yisong and Chen Ruifu. There are two women, including Bai Yulu, who is capable of winning a few matches. There is no Mei Xiwen, who seems to have decided to abandon his professional career, aged 38 and with a small child. The Chinese players who have been relegated here will have to rely on the UK Q School in May.

    Yesterday’s action in Sheffield again produced some very close matches, and there was very bad luck for some, particulary Thepchaiya, who lost to his practice partner Igor Figueiredo due to two massive flukes. Figueiredo’s interview reminds us that the overseas players have been here a long time, separated from their families. Thepchaiya also has that issue, and his form has been poor recently. It may take him some time to recover his ranking to rejoin the top-16.

  3. Jimmy is 83rd on the one-year list, several players, that you would expect more from, has done worse. I enjoy his participation on the table, and off the table with Eurosport. But maybe enough is enough. Limit on number of wild cards, perhaps?

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