Media Day ahead of the Crucible 2018

The top 16 seeds were to meet the press today at the Crucible. Here are some images shared on social media by Worldsnooker, and thanks to Tai Chengzhe  who sent me a couple more!

Of course, as result there are plenty of articles and interviews out today. Here are links to a few you might like:

World Snooker Championship 2018: Ronnie O’Sullivan avoids Stephen Hendry comparisons (BBC)

World Championship: What makes the perfect snooker player? (BBC)

Ronnie O’Sullivan: Older, wiser and playing the best snooker of his life

World Snooker Championship 2018: Crucible quest continues for qualifying survivors (BBC)

Hector Nunns, on twitter, showed his appreciation for the players efforts and availability

Long day at the Crucible for the Media Day with the top 16. Credit to the players, they’ve all got through a lot of interviews. Some have now gone home, some stayed in if playing Sat/Sun

World Championship 2018 – Ronnie’s previews and goals

This interview, probably originally done for Eurosport, has been published in several media, here is one

O’Sullivan playing down chances of Crucible record as World Championship bid begins

Ronnie O’Sullivan doesn’t normally turn down a challenge – he’s a man more accustomed to scaling the heights of every obstacle he comes across.

Yet Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world snooker titles is one mountain even the Rocket claims he won’t set himself the task of climbing.

On paper, O’Sullivan isn’t that far away from matching Hendry – five world titles to his name already and arguably in the form of his life as he prepares to head to the Crucible for the 26th time next week.

Statistically speaking, the 42-year-old has had the best season of his career. In fact, statistically speaking, no snooker player has ever had a better campaign – O’Sullivan’s five ranking event titles to date equals the single-season record.

He’s the bookies’ favourite heading into the 2018 Betfred World Championship – where he opens up against world No.18 Stephen Maguire on Saturday – and anything other than lifting the trophy aloft two weeks on Monday, for the first time since 2013, would be viewed as a disappointment.

However, O’Sullivan freely admits the 17-day marathon in Sheffield doesn’t particularly suit him – “some people might enjoy that sort of slog style but it’s not my favourite tournament because obviously it goes on a bit too long,” he says – and his numerous interests outside snooker mean he could well retire before having too many more shots at Hendry’s magnificent seven.

Instead, the world No.2 has other goals he still wants to accomplish on the baize.

“I’m motivated by stuff that I think is achievable,” explains O’Sullivan. “Breaking the 36 ranking events that Stephen Hendry holds [O’Sullivan currently has 33] is something that is achievable, so that is one of my goals.

“A thousand centuries is definitely something I will do at some point [he has currently made 937], as long as I don’t have a fatal accident that prevents me from playing!

“That’s something that’s definitely on my radar and obviously the 18 major titles [World Championship, UK Championship and Masters crowns] that me and Hendry both jointly hold is something that I’m in a position to move on and beat. They’re three goals that I’d like to tick off.

“Seven world titles is probably a mountain I wouldn’t want to set myself to climb because I don’t know when I’m going to stop playing.

“I haven’t set a date, but while things are still going pretty well I’ll keep playing. It’s probably the best results I’ve had this season, although my form has probably been better.

“That’s kind of weird to say – how do you have your best season and yet you feel like your form has not been as good as it has been in previous seasons where you’ve maybe not won as much?

“It just goes to show that sport can be pretty unpredictable and you just have to suck it up sometimes and see what you get at the end of it.”

Ealing Times: Ronnie O'Sullivan

The days of the mid-noughties and early 2010s that saw O’Sullivan threatening to quit snooker on a seemingly annual basis and taking a year off from the sport at a time are firmly behind him – thanks in no small part to working with renowned sports psychologist Dr Steve Peters since 2011.

But he has also found plenty of other interests to keep him balanced – he’s a successful snooker pundit on Eurosport, a published crime author and has filmed a documentary called American Hustle for the History Channel, where he explores America’s history with the game of pool.

World Championship 2018 – Round 1 Preview

Crucible20182draws

Previews are in fashion this time of the year, so here is mine…

Mark Selby v Joe Perry

Having watched Joe Perry playing this week in the EIS, I know that he’s playing well, he’s very solid. Nothing fancy but very efficient. He is a tough draw for any seed, even for Mark Selby. Mark Selby played well toward the end of the China Open at the start of this month and he claims that his confidence is back for it. If his form and confidence are indeed back, he should win this match; I certainly don’t expect a one-sided affair, but Mark should have too much for Joe over a best of 19. The only question for me is whether Mark will really show up in the form he found in Beijing. The reason for raising that question is this: earlier this season Mark went to China to defend his International Championship title, and succeeded. He had a very poor start of the season before that event, and everyone thought he had turned the corner. However, the poor form returned almost right away. Mark Selby to win by 10-7

Mark Allen v Liam Highfield

Liam Highfield is a very capable player whose career has been held back by health issues. He played very well at the EIS. Mark Allen hasn’t really played that well since his Masters triumph: he hasn’t got past the last 16 in any tournament since that win. Being the Masters Champion may also add an extra level of expectations on Mark, who has not always coped that well with it. Can Liam Highfield cause an upset? If this wasn’t the Crucible and if Liam wasn’t a debutant, my answer would be yes: he’s good enough. As it is, I doubt it. Mark Allen to win by 10-6

Kyren Wilson v Matthew Stevens

It’s good to have Matthew back at the Crucible. He played solid last week. Still I believe that Kyren will be too much to handle for Matthew, who, in addition, has history of losing matches from well in front. Kyren will not give up, even if he goes behind, and he will apply pressure on Matthew at the slightest sign of weakness or indecision. Therefore I expect Kyren to win by 10-5

Shaun Murphy v Jamie Jones

Remember the World Championship 2012? This was a first round match back then and it was Jamie Jones who came out the winner by 10-8. He then went on to reach the quarter finals. Can we see a return of the “Jones Kid”? Well it’s certainly a possibility if he keeps playing the way he did at the EIS. Also, there is a question mark over Shaun’s fitness. He hasn’t said anything about the state of his neck and shoulders since the China Open (where he probably shouldn’t have gone because long haul flights do no good in such injury cases). It might mean that he’s OK, or it might mean that he doesn’t want to give his opponent an advantage by admitting he’s not 100%. We will only know during of after the match. Because of this uncertainty I will make no prediction.

John Higgins v Thepchaya Un-Nooh

“Theppy” scored very heavily against Alfie Burden in the last round of the qualifiers. Can he put John Higgins on the back foot with a barrage of high breaks? It’s a possibility. However this is Thepchaya first time at the Crucible and it will all depend on how well and fast he adapts. Higgins is a predator at the table, if you show any weakness he will pounce mercilessly. If Thepchaya goes off to a good start and plants doubts in Higgins mind, he’s got chance, he certainly has the game when on form. The problem though is that Thepchaya hasn’t much of a B game and he’s up against an all-round master over two sessions. Can he hold it together? I’m not sure. Higgins to win by 10-5

Stuart Bingham v Jack Lisowski

Now this is an interesting one. Watching Jack at the EIS there were two things that struck me: he now has a more than decent safety game and he’s more patient than he used to be. That, combined with his natural talent makes him a very dangerous opponent to anyone. Stuart Bingham also appeared to be in great form over the last months. This should be an entertaining match, and a close one. My prediction: this match going 10-8 either way.

Luca Brecel v Ricky Walden

Ricky when on form is champagne. Is he on form? He certainly is back playing more than decent stuff without being quite at 100% of his abilities yet. But Ricky has been here before and there will be no intimidation factor. Luca has been very poor to say the least since his China Championship triumph. There have been all sorts of reasons offered for it: injuries, and cue issues. But then, serious slumps after an excellent run have been a bit of a pattern in Luca’s career so far. There was no real sign of improvement at the China Open. Ricky Walden to win by 10-3

Judd Trump v Chris Wakelin

Chris Wakelin is another debutant. He was truly impressive in the qualifiers. He faces Judd who should be well rested, as he didn’t go to China earlier this month. But will he be match sharp? He certainly didn’t impress me lately in competitions. Even in the Championship League Snooker – a tournament tailor made for him – this time he failed to make it to the winners group. All season Judd had an alternance of seemingly brilliant performances and unexpected defeats, often from ahead. At least this time he doesn’t come here having been boasting about it being “his year”. But he will be under pressure and the memories of last year defeat to Rory McLeod – from 4-0 up – will be present surely. It will be all about how Chris handles the Crucible special setup and atmosphere. So here is my (bold) prediction: Chris Wakelin to win by 10-7

Ding Junhui v Xiao Guodong

Ding couldn’t possibly have a better first round draw: he’s a God in China and plays a Chinese player. Xiao has only beaten him once, and that goes back to 2009. Enough said. My prediction: Ding wins by 10-6

Anthony McGill v Ryan Day

Ryan has the momentum. He’s won three events this season. He looked confident and at ease at the EIS. Mc Gill has been inconsistent this season, and not great actually in the second half of it. Despite a stand-out whitewash of John Higgins in Llanduno I think he’s vulnerable here. Prediction: Ryan Day to win 10-6

Marco Fu v Lyu HaoTian

Marco arrives in Sheffield having not played a competitive match since the Masters in January, and claiming that despite the surgery his eye is no better or worse. It’s hard to see him winning under those circumstances, even if his opponent is a 20 years old debutant. Lyu played really well last week and showed a lot of maturity, something he was lacking when he first qualified as a pro (quite normally considering how young he was). Lyu has quietly managed to climb into the top 64 within his first tour card season this time, just but he’s there. Not a mean feat. Prediction: Lyu to win 10-5

Barry Hawkins v Stuart Carrington

Now that’s a hard one for me to predict as I didn’t watch Carrington at all last week. Barry seems to be playing really well again, he seems to be up for it again and his results at the Crucible tell us that the place and the format do suit him. He’s a bit of a Crucible specialist. Based on that: Barry Hawkins to win by 10-6

Mark Williams v Jimmy Robertson

Jimmy Robertson is another one who played well at the EIS, very well even. He claims that he loves the Crucible but hasn’t been really successful there until now. What can he do against a rejuvenated Mark Williams? Not much I’m afraid if Mark is in the form he has shown for most of the season. Mark Williams to win 10-6

Neil Robertson v Robert Milkins

Robert Milkins can score heavily and fast. He does have a better safety game than most give him credit for. However he’s also often guilty of the unexpected miss leaving his opponent bang in. Can he upset Neil Robertson? Despite Neil’s rather indifferent season, I don’t think so unless Neil has a real stinker. Neil showed clear signs of improvement in the China Open, just at the right time. Prediction: Neil Robertson to win 10-6

Ali Carter v Graeme Dott

Looking at temperament there is only one winner here and that’s Graeme Dott. the gritty “snooker terrier” never gives up, whilst Ali has been guilty of throwing his toys out of the pram a good few times in recent seasons, including at the Crucible. I clearly remember how his second round match against Alan McManus went in 2016, I was there. And he lost to Graeme in 2017, by 10-7. I’ll predict much of the same: Graeme Dott to win by 10-7

Ronnie v Stephen Maguire

It couldn’t have been much harder for either of those two. I’m sure they are both delighted… Ronnie like all seeds comes here cold, with the weight of expectations and everything to lose, Stephen played well in EIS, but his record against Ronnie is rather damning. It won’t be an easy match for either. Just because it happened so often in the past, I expect it to stay close until the last mini session then for Ronnie to pull away. Prediction: Ronnie to win 10-7

 

 

 

World Championship 2018 – Draw

Crucible20182draws

I’m just back from Sheffield…

This is the draw and it’s fair to say that Ronnie has got possibly the hardest opponent he could get. Yes, he has a good head to head against Maguire, but whilst Maguire comes here on the back of three wins, knowing that he’s playing well and assured to get at least £18000 in money and ranking points, Ronnie like the other seeds, will be cold and with everything to lose should he be beaten.

Mark Selby also got a hard draw: Joe Perry is a hard match player with all the experience in the world. Mark Selby played well in the China Open, so he’s probably in fine form but… earlier this season he defended the International Championship (again in China) and everyone thought that he was back on tracks, only to slump again to a rather poor level by his own standards for most of the rest of the season. So it will be interesting to see how he plays on Saturday.

I will probably write a more comprehensive preview tomorrow… but for now it’s good nigh!

World Championship 2018 Qualifiers completed

In two days, on Saturday, the reigning World Champion, Mark Selby, will come down the steps at the Crucible theatre and will launch the championship, and his defence… but who will he face? We will know very soon as the draw will be made, live on Facebook, at 10 am this morning…

Here are the results of the qualifying rounds in the EIS, in Sheffield:

Crucible20182Quals results

In that “bag” of qualifiers we find names we did expect to be there, the ones who have been flirting with the top 16 all season: Maguire, Day, Perry. Then we have top players who have had a bad spell but are returning to form: Dott, Stevens, Walden. We have players who have been there before, who we know are very capable and will be wanting to prove themselves: Milkins, Carrington, Jamie Jones, Jimmy Robertson and Xiao Guodong. And finally we have four debutants: Chris Wakelin, Thepchaya Un-Nooh, Liam Highfield and Lyu HaoTian. They come to the Crucible with £18000 guaranteed – money and ranking points – and with three matches played and won. Most of them had fairly comfortable wins in the last round. All of them are dangerous. The seeds come here cold, and, should they lose, will go home empty-handed. Make no mistake they will be under pressure. I do expect a few “upsets” next week.

Here are yesterday’s reports on Worldsnooker

Morning Session

Chris Wakelin will walk out at the Crucible Theatre for the first time in his career after completing a 10-1 demolition of Tian Pengfei at Betfred World Championship Qualifying.

The 26-year-old had already secured comfortable 10-4 victories earlier this week against Xu Si and Kurt Maflin, before his devastating final round win. Wakelin’s Crucible bow will see him earn the biggest payday of his career, having now secured a minimum of £18,000.

Prior to earning his place on the World Snooker Tour in 2013, he worked as a delivery driver in Warwickshire to fund his bid to become a professional sportsman. The world number 55 admits the journey he has been on to reach the Crucible puts today’s achievement into perspective.

“It just shows that with hard work anyone can do well in sport if they really put their mind to it,” said Wakelin. “I never got ahead of myself. I wanted to make sure I was over the line and in the draw before I started thinking about who was going to be coming along to watch and what it will be like walking down the famous stairs. It is a dream for all of the players, so I am just thrilled to finally get there.”

Matthew Stevens secured an emphatic 10-2 defeat of Ken Doherty to qualify after three years away from the Theatre of Dreams.

Today’s clash saw two Crucible legends meet. However, the 1997 World Champion Doherty was some way off the pace set by two-time finalist Stevens.

The Welshman secured a 7-2 lead during yesterday’s morning session and he hammered home his advantage today, sweeping up the three frames he required for victory without reply.

2006 World Champion Graeme Dott once again showed his prowess for the longer format. His 10-7 victory over Mike Dunn was a 12th consecutive win at the World Championship qualifiers and has seen him secure his place at the event for a fourth year in a row.

The 40-year-old will now head to the Crucible full of confidence after a season where he has reached two ranking finals at the German Masters and the Shoot Out.

“I just think longer matches suit the style of play that I have,” said the two-time ranking event winner. “I’ve had a good season. It would have been very disappointing not to finish off the at the Crucible, but no matter what happens I have had a good season.”

Ricky WaldenRicky Walden will finish his campaign at the sport’s showpiece event, after a difficult season which has been plagued by back problems.

The three-time ranking event winner came through his Judgement Day match against Andrew Higginson thanks to a hard fought 10-6 win.

Walden said: “It means everything to qualify. It’s been a horrible year trying to recover from injury and I’ve had loads of support from my family and friends trying to get back on track. Without them, there is no way I would be playing.”

World number 22 Joe Perry held off a Mark Davis fightback to record a 10-7 victory.

The former Players Champion had led 7-2 after the first session, but consecutive century runs from Davis of 136 and 120 at the start of the session saw him burst back into contention. In the end Perry got himself over the line and ensured his qualification for a 15th time.

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh will make his Crucible debut after battling past Alfie Burden 10-8. The quick-fire Thai is sure to produce fireworks on snooker’s biggest stage, he has been the second fastest player on tour this season with an average shot time of just 17.12 seconds.

Robert Milkins will make his eighth appearance at the final stages of the World Championship after easing to a 10-2 defeat of Michael Holt. While Stuart Carrington has come through the qualifiers for a  second consecutive season, defeating Zhang Anda 10-8.

Afternoon Session

Jamie Jones has produced an incredible 10-0 demolition of 2016 English Open champion Liang Wenbo to storm to a Crucible place at Betfred World Championship Qualifying in Sheffield.

In the previous round the Welshman held another substantial advantage at 9-1 against Yu Delu. However, he almost let that lead slip when Yu pulled within just two frames, before Jones edged through 10-7. On this occasion Jones showed no signs of  nerves at the finish line as he relentlessly surged to victory.

The dramatic gulf between the players came as a big shock, with Liang arguably playing the best snooker of the event in the lead up to Judgement Day. The Firecracker made a 147 in his opening match against Rod Lawler and amazingly missed the final black for a second maximum in the last frame.

Following today’s win Jones was full of confidence and ambitiously admitted that he was hoping to get five-time Crucible king Ronnie O’Sullivan in tomorrow morning’s draw.

“I wouldn’t mind playing Ronnie. It is a bit of a strange one, but I have never faced him. I’m playing well,” said Jones. “I don’t think I have ever played better than I did in the first session. I just put him under so much pressure and I knew at 9-0 up that I could just fall over the line really.”

Jack Lisowski put on a superb display to clinch his place at snooker’s biggest event, thrashing 1994 Masters champion Alan McManus 10-3.

The 26-year-old is enjoying a fine season, having gained a new level of consistency. He reached his maiden ranking event semi-final at the Shanghai Masters and has also embarked on runs to the last eight stage at the English Open and the China Open.

His first and only appearance at the Crucible to date came in 2013, when he suffered a disappointing 10-3 defeat against Barry Hawkins. Lisowski is hoping that experience will stand him in good stead when he steps out amid the unique atmosphere of the Theatre of Dreams for the second time.

Lisowski said: “It was a good experience the first  time out. Playing at the Crucible is something that you have to go through to get used to. This time I know what to expect, but until you have won a match there you can never really be that confident.

“My all-round game has come on a lot. I’m not as patchy as I was and I am a lot more consistent. Hopefully this time round I can handle it better.”

Ryan Day will finish off the best season of his career so far by competing on the sport’s grandest stage after defeating 2002 World Champion Peter Ebdon 10-6.

The world number 17 was pipped to the final automatic qualifying spot by Mark Allen, despite winning three events this season – including his maiden ranking title at the season opening Riga Masters. However, he has now come through and will perform at the Crucible for a 13th time.

“It has without doubt been my best season in every aspect. I have been playing with a lot of confidence,” said the 38-year-old. “I’m just relieved to have got through this week of qualifying as if I hadn’t it would have been a bit of a sad way to end with the season I have had.”

Stephen Maguire negotiated a tough battle with Iran’s Hossein Vafaei, emerging a 10-7 winner. The Scot will now appear in the final stages of the World Championship for the 15th consecutive year.

Lyu Haotian secured his place at the Crucible for the first time, thrashing Rory McLeod 10-2 to qualify. Xiao Guodong proved to be too strong for Sheffield’s Adam Duffy, easing to a 10-1 victory.

Liam Highfield ensured there will be four Crucible debutants this year, after securing a 10-4 defeat of Welshman Daniel Wells. While Jimmy Robertson will be looking to win his first match in the final stages. Robertson will make his fourth appearance after qualifying thanks to a 10-7 win over Welshman Michael White.

“Missing out” players I expected to be there are Gould, Gilbert, Gary Wilson.

Lyu HaoTian is the only player under 25 in that bunch… at 25, Hendry, John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie all had won the World Championship. Why? And should we worry for the future?

And it was nice to meet Lewis…

 

 

Last day of the World Championship 2018 Qualifiers…

41 years ago, the Crucible Theatre opened its doors for the first Snooker World Championship played there…

25 years ago, a 17 years old Ronnie O’Sullivan entered the Crucible arena for the first time  to face Alan McManus. He lost 10-7 and his opponent, went on to reach the semi finals. Ronnie remains the youngest player ever to qualify for the World Championship main stages (qualify for, not play at … the qualifiers were played over the summer at the start of the season back then)

today … 16 matches are underway at the EIS, and tonight, or maybe early tomorrow morning, we will know the names of the 16 who will face the seeds at the Crucible from Saturday on. Among those playing today is… Alan McManus, who, should he qualify, could possibly face Ronnie, the seed n°2.

The rigging is underway at the Crucible

But, today it’s all about those 16 matches, that started yesterday.

here is how things stand for now …

WCQuals2018 last day standings

Liang Wenbo – who had a 147 in the first round, and missed the black for a second one in the same match – played absolutely terrible yesterday. The 9-0 score is  hard to understand, even if, to be fair, Jamie Jones played really well.

Someone else who played really well is young Lyu HaoTian, who leads Rory McLeod by 7-2. His safety game in particular was excellent. Also, remember, a win for Lyu today would propel him in the top 64, at the expense of Oliver Lines. Oliver would still stay on tour, via the one year list … at the expense of Sam Craigie who would be relegated.

Jack Lisowski is 7-2 up on Alan McManus. Alan showed signs of anger and frustration throughout the whole match, countless times slapping and banging the table, raising his arms, nodding his head… Fortunately it didn’t seem to affect Jack’s concentration too much.

And off the table Neil Robertson came up with this in the press … 

Earlier this week Yan Bingtao was seriously warned by the referee for banging his cue after a particularly bad miss, and there were suggestions on twitter that Hossein Vafaei would often chalk his cue and move in the eyeline of his opponent. Neil’s interview suggests that those behaviours are mainly to be seen in younger players nowadays. Not sure about that. Cue bangs are ones of Maguire “trademarks” and McManus behaviour yesterday, although not happening when Jack was at the table, could certainly be a distraction particularly in a match as important as this one. At no point, I saw the referee intervening. I’m NOT suggesting in any way that those behaviours are/were deliberately aiming at distracting the opponent, I firmly believe that it’s just a case of emotions running high, not cheating. But there shouldn’t be double standards… If a behaviour is off-putting, something should be done about it.

World Championship 2018 Qualifiers – Taking stock of round 2

Today, in the EIS, the third and last round of the World Championship 2018 will start, and all matches will come to a conclusion tomorrow. Tomorrow has been branded “Judgement Day”, but to me, all the previous six days have been Judgement Days, as many players lost their professional status as the tournament unfolded.

Matt Huart is keeping us updated on his “Tour Survival Blog” One particular scenario deserves our attention.  Should Lyu Haotian win tomorrow , and with Oliver Lines losing tonight, Lyu would climb into the top 64, whilst Oliver would drop off that bracket. Should that happen, Oliver would still keep his professional status, via the one year list, at the expense of Sam Craigie who would be relegated.

Here are Worldsnooker accounts of round 2 results

15 April 2018

1997 World Champion Ken Doherty is one match away from a return to snooker’s Theatre of Dreams after defeating Gerard Greene 10-4 at Betfred World Championship Qualifying.

Doherty hasn’t appeared at the Crucible since 2014 and his run this week is in stark contrast to the scenes at qualifying for last year’s event. The Irishman dropped off the tour following a 10-4 loss to Ben Woollaston.

After being handed an invitational tour card Doherty appeared in a semi-final at the 2017 Riga Masters and has fared well throughout the campaign, reaching the last 16 stage on a further two occasions.

Doherty came into this evening’s session with a slender 5-4 advantage. However, he forced himself over the line at the earliest possible opportunity by taking five consecutive frames.

The victory sees him renew an old rivalry with two-time World Championship finalist Matthew Stevens, who came through 10-9 in a final frame decider against Chinese teenager Yuan Sijun.

“There’s one more match to go so I’m not getting too excited. I’m just pleased to have played very well,” said the six-time ranking event winner. “Matthew and I have had some fantastic matches over the years. I’ve played him at the Crucible and he beat me in the final of the Masters. He is a class act, so it will be a tough match against him.

“I think it is very hard to put the Crucible out of your mind. You can feel the tension in the players lounge, you can feel the tension in the arena and these matches are like no other on tour. It is good and gets the juices and adrenaline going. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.”

Joe Perry ended Jimmy White’s ambitions of a Crucible return with a 10-5 victory. Like Doherty, the Gentleman held a narrow 5-4 lead after the first session and mounted an instant charge to the finish this evening.  He compiled runs of 61, 62, 62 and 74 on his way to securing five out of six frames and sealing the win.

Perry faces Mark Davis in the next round, who has dropped just one frame this week. The former Six-Red World Champion defeated Sanderson Lam 10-1 in his opening round and whitewashed Shoot Out winner Michael Georgiou 10-0 this evening.

China’s Tian Pengfei claimed a shock victory against his compatriot and one of the brightest prospects in the sport Yan Bingtao. The former Ruhr Open finalist came through a deciding frame to win 10-9.

Graeme Dott booked his place at Judgement Day thanks to a 10-2 demolition of the popular Thai Sunny Akani. The 2006 World Champion will face Mike Dunn for a Crucible spot, after the 46-year-old thrashed Dominic Dale 10-3.

Alfie Burden secured a huge victory in his bid for tour survival. He came through a nerve jangling deciding frame to defeat David Gilbert 10-9 and will face either Adam Stefanow or Thepchaiya Un-Nooh for a place at the Crucible.

16 April 2018

Jamie Jones has survived a colossal fightback from Yu Delu to claim a 10-7 win at Betfred World Championship Qualifying in Sheffield.

The Welshman had stormed to a 9-1 advantage and looked set for an early finish, before his Chinese counterpart came charging back. With the score at 9-3, Yu required a six-point snooker, which he got when Jones hit the black on an escape. He went on to win the frame and claimed a further three to pull within two of the Welshman at 9-7.

Eventually, the relieved former World Championship quarter-finalist got himself over the line with a gutsy break of 34. He faces Liang Wenbo for a spot at the Crucible after the Firecracker beat compatriot Zhao Xintong 10-5.

“At 9-1 up I was coasting,” said Jones. “I lost a couple of dodgy frames and in the end it was just momentum against me. I was trying and trying. To be honest the game was going away from me. I made a good break in the last frame and I was pleased to hold myself together after all of that pressure.

“I’m looking forward to the next round now. I just couldn’t see a way I was going to get a chance at the end of today’s match. The pressure was building and I am just relieved to get through. I’ll try and sleep tonight, but I don’t know if I will.”

Ryan Day progressed to Judgement Day after Mitchell Mann conceded their tie due to ill health. Day, who has picked up three titles this season, had already established a 7-1 lead when Mann was forced to withdraw.

Day will face a tough test against 2002 World Champion Peter Ebdon on Judgement Day. Ebdon overcame Robbie Williams 10-5.

Five-time ranking event winner Stephen Maguire defeated Hammad Miah 10-4 to book his spot in the final round. The loss for Miah sees him lose his professional status.

Maguire will face Iran’s Hossein Vafaei for a Crucible berth. Vafaei secured an impressive 10-5 win over Noppon Saengkham to reach Judgement Day and is attempting to become the first Iranian to reach the final stages of the World Championship.

Jack Lisowski put on arguably the performance of the day as he thrashed David Grace 10-3, a result which relegated the Yorkshireman from the tour.

Lisowski fired in breaks of 56, 122, 100, 111, 75, 55, 57 and 73 on his way to a dominant win.

Michael Holt progressed courtesy of a hard fought 10-7 defeat of Gateshead’s Elliot Slessor.

After a fine season in 2016/17, which saw him reach his maiden ranking final at the Riga Masters, Holt has struggled to find his top form this campaign.

In contrast Slessor has enjoyed his best season on the World Snooker Tour, securing two wins over an in-form Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Northern Ireland Open and the China Open. However, it was Holt who showed his experience to book a third round spot.

The Hitman is anticipating a difficult two days of snooker to come, as he attempts to seal his qualification for snooker’s biggest event.

Holt said: “It is very hard. Every player that has been in this last match will tell you it is a very twitchy game. Even if you get a big lead it can swing. It means so much for everyone and they want to get through to the Crucible.”

His opponent in the final round will be Robert Milkins who overcame Perth’s Scott Donaldson 10-8. Victory against Holt would see Milkins appear at the Crucible for the eighth time.

Adam Duffy has remained on course to become the first player from Sheffield to play at the Crucible. He’s defeated Matthew Selt 10-6. While Alan McManus was victorious in a late night thriller with Oliver Lines, winning 10-9.

Now a few thoughts about what I saw at the EIS over the last two days…

Amongst the players most, including me,  expected to make it to the Crucible was young Yan Bingtao. He won’t be there, he lost from 6-1 up to Tian Pengfei, and my feeling is that Yan actually cracked under the pressure big time. He’s still very young of course, we shouldn’t forget that it’s a lot of expectations to cope with for a teenager. But crack he did, and that reminded me of Ronnie’s comments after he beat Yan in the World Grand Prix, questioning his temperament under pressure. At the time I thought that those comments were a bit harsh, but maybe not. Maybe it’s something Yan’s entourage has to take note of and work with him on that specific mental aspect.

Yesterday, Mitchell Mann conceded his streamed match against Ryan Day, citing “ill-health”. This triggered loads of comments on twitter, mostly very sympathetic, suggesting that the issue was related to the well documented bouts of depression Mithchell has suffered in the past. This goes to show how mentality has changed over the last years, and I’m glad it did. But I can’t help to think back at what happened when a certain player, with well documented mental health problems, “cracked” and conceded: he was crucified on social media and in the press, there were talks of ban, and he got a hefty fine. Times a changin… Coming back to Mitchell, he will be relegated from the tour and, maybe, it’s for the better. Snooker is very demanding mentally and emotionally, and, contrary to what happens in more physical sports, there is no possible release of the tension when you are sat in your chair. The most important thing for Mitchell is to get well again, and in a sustainable way too. That’s almost mission impossible when you are competing, and traveling around the globe. Surely, he’s good enough to re-qualify and come back once he’s fit again. In his case relegation might be a blessing in disguise. I’m wishing him the best.