Crucible 2019 – last interviews before it starts

The World Championship starts in a few hours and Shamoon Hafez (BBC) has been interviewing some if the main contenders.

World Championship 2019: Ronnie O’Sullivan seeks sixth title at Crucible

It’s not great that Mark Williams is feeling this way, but I can understand why he does.

Indeed just have a look at the poster:

WC2019Poster

He’s completely in the background, whilst Mark Selby who has not done much at all this season in right in front. Mark Also wasn’t on the cover of the new game “Snooker 19” that Worldsnooker is promoting. That’s hard to understand unless Mark is indeed right.

In my opinion he’s been a great World Champion but that view may not be shared by everyone. There is a trend now to ask sportsperson to be “Mr/Mrs Perfect”. Well spending the whole year celebrating on social media with a lot of drinking involved, and getting in trouble in Dubai for being too explicitly flirty (with his own wife BTW) may not be what’s expected of Mr Perfect. But what Mark certainly has done, and I believe it’s much more important than being Mr Perfect, is being a champion to which the man and woman of the street can relate/identify. Because, we, real humans in real life, we are not “Perfect” and it’s hard to relate to an image that bears no “reality”.

 

Crucible 2019 – The Press Day

Traditionally the Friday before the World Championship is the Press Day. The top  16, the officials and the sponsor meet the members of the press.

Here are some images and videos that emerged today on social media

Meeting the press:

Ronnie remembers his best and worse Crucible moments with Eurosport

And he’s been talking to the sponsor…

As always, Ronnie sounds a bit low-key, but I honestly believe that this is part of trying to ease the weight of expectations a bit.

Meanwhile the fitters are getting the arena and practise room ready

Whilst Matt Huart has been working on a blog about the rankings (now there’s a surprise!)

Four to Fight for Season End Top Ranking

19th April 2019

Four players head to the Crucible from this Saturday looking not only to claim the Betfred World Snooker Championship title, but also to end the season as snooker’s world number one ranked player.

View the latest provisional end of season rankings

For the last seven successive seasons the honour has gone to three-time world champion Mark Selby, however having already been deposed as world number one by Ronnie O’Sullivan in recent weeks and with the prize money from his 2017 Crucible success due to fall from him ranking, there is a real possibility that this run will come to an end this year.

O’Sullivan favourite

Leading the race to finish the campaign ranked at number one for the first time since the end of the 2009/10 season is current top ranked player Ronnie O’Sullivan. The five-time world champion heads to Sheffield with a provisional total of £1,196,500 to his name, almost £200,000 clear of his closest rival.

Leading the chase is defending champion Mark Williams, who is the only player other than Ronnie whose prospects of claiming top spot remains in his own hands. This is because winning the tournament once again would guarantee that the Welshman would return to the top of the list, even if O’Sullivan were to reach the final.

Outside chance

The other two players who can still mathematically regain top spot are Neil Robertson and Mark Selby, however both would need some help by way of an early exit for O’Sullivan.

Both players would in fact need to win the tournament to stand any possible chance of leapfrogging the top two, with O’Sullivan also losing before the semi-final stage.

If O’Sullivan were to reach the last four, only Williams would be able to deny him a place at the top of the season-end rankings for what would be the sixth time in his career, while Williams is looking to finish there for a fifth time.

Also a £50000 prize has been announced for a 147 at the Crucible.

The prize for making a maximum break at the 2019 Betfred World Championship will be £50,000.

Snooker’s biggest tournament starts on Saturday and runs for 17 days, with 32 players battling for the title. And a 147 at the Crucible will be worth a £50,000 bonus.

Maximum breaks are usually rewarded from the rolling pot for 147s but with that pot down to £5,000 following Stuart Bingham’s maximum at the China Open, World Snooker and WPBSA have decided to boost the prize up to £50,000.

There is also a high break prize of £10,000.

147s at the Crucible

Cliff Thorburn 1983
Jimmy White 1992
Stephen Hendry 1995
Ronnie O’Sullivan 1997
Ronnie O’Sullivan 2003
Mark Williams 2005
Ronnie O’Sullivan 2008
Ali Carter 2008
Stephen Hendry 2009
Stephen Hendry 2012

147s this season

Michael Georgiou – 2018 Paul Hunter Classic
Jamie Jones – 2018 Paul Hunter Classic
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh – 2018 English Open
Ronnie O’Sullivan – 2018 English Open
Mark Selby – 2018 Champion of Champions
John Higgins – 2018 Scottish Open
Judd Trump – 2018 German Masters qualifiers
David Gilbert – 2019 Championship League
Neil Robertson – 2019 Welsh Open
Noppon Sanegkham – 2019 Welsh Open
Zhou Yuelong – 2019 Indian Open
Stuart Bingham – 2019 China Open

Yes, that’s 7 years ago. A maximum at the Crucible remains a rarity because a number of factors, notably the pressure because of the importance of the event and of course nobody will take unduly risks . With the big bonus gone, there wasn’t much incentive for the players to try to make one. They finally understood that it seems.

And everyone else has been doing previews. Here is mine.

Crucible 2019 – One day to go and here is my preview

WC2019OneDayToGo

It all starts tomorrow …

Leo Scullion will be the one refereeing the final. I don’t think there is anyone in the snooker community who isn’t happy for Leo. He’s a top referee, a lovely man and, after going through a very hard period of ill-health, he’s back where he belongs, at the table, in the white gloves. It doesn’t come bigger than the World Championship final and he totally deserves the honour. Here is an interview he gave shortly after being told that he had been chosen:

Good luck Leo and enjoy it!

So there is our draw:

Mark Williams v Martin Gould

It’s hard to know what sort of form Mark Williams will come into this. After celebrating for most of the season, he’s been back in practice. However no miracles happen last-minute and he’s not shown any real form, nor consistency. In China he was beaten by Ken Doherty in the last 64. Martin Gould himself hasn’t got the best of seasons, but did get through the three matches he needed to qualify … without much sparks. Willo will want to make an honourable defence I’m sure, and purely for this reason, because he’ll want it badly, I’m making him favourite to win this one. Mark Williams 10-7.

David Gilbert v Joe Perry

Joe Perry has looked in great form in the qualifiers last week, he’s been scoring well too, but it’s fair to say that he’s not been tested. That said Perry is always hard to beat, especially in long matches, unless he’s badly out of form, which he’s not. David Gilbert comes here as a seed for the first time, on the back of an excellent season – his best ever – but still without silverware. This is a match that I expect to be very close, and, because Perry comes here with three wins under his belt, and certain of £20000, he will probably be the more relaxed of the two. Therefore I make him favourite. Joe Perry 10-7.

Barry Hawkins v Li Hang

Barry Hawkins always seems to thrive at the Crucible over the last years. He’s up against Li Hang, who is a debutant and has spent enormous energy to qualify. Despite Barry’s rather indifferent season, I expect him to have too much for Li Hang. Li Hang though will give it his all and fight hard.  Barry Hawkins 10-5.

Kyren Wilson v Scott Donaldson

Kyren Wilson hasn’t done much at all since winning the German Masters early February. He’s up against Scott Donaldson, a debutant, who had to fight extremely hard to get at the Crucible. The mental and emotional energy Donaldson spent in overcoming Lu Ning on Wednesday night must have been huge! This is what he told the press afterwards: “I’ve never felt like that in my life, I could hardly breathe out there. I couldn’t push my arm through. I can’t believe I won that game”. Purely because Scott’s lack of experience on the biggest scene of all, and his probable state of exhaustion, I expect Kyren Wilson to win. Kyren Wilson 10-6.

John Higgins v Mark Davis

John Higgins has not been in great form this season, his motivation has been low, and he’s up against a man who is his Nemesis. Mark Davis has won 8 of their last 10 encounters if we exclude the championship league snooker. That doesn’t sound good , does it? Add to that the fact that Davis has looked very solid in the qualifiers and there is only one possible prediction. Mark Davis 10-6.

Stuart Bingham v Graeme Dott

In contrast with the matches above, this one promises to be a battle of two men on form. Graeme Dott played really well at the EIS and Stuart Bingham had an excellent season. I would be very surprised if this one wasn’t very close! Graeme Dott is as hard as a match player as it comes. He’s a former World Champion, he’s been in the final at the Crucible three times. The only concern seems to be his stamina. He does not appear to be as resilient to tiredness as he used to be as a younger man. Therefore I’ll go for Stuart, but only just. Stuart Bingham 10-8.

Shaun Murphy v Luo Honghao

Shaun Murphy had a nightmare season, with no real signs of improvement. His opponent is a teenager, a debutant, but someone who won the inaugural WSF tournament last season and showed great temperament in the qualifiers last week. Luo may not be the heaviest scorer, but his all round game is very solid. He will give Shaun Murphy chances, but the opposite is true also, Murphy will give him chances too. If it goes to the wire, I expect Luo to take it. Luo 10-8.

Neil Robertson v Michael Georgiou

Neil Robertson is the man in form. He’s been in the last four finals coming into this tournament. I can’t seen debutant, and fits ever Cypriot at the Crucible, Michael Georgiou get past him, or even get really close to him. I just hope Michael does not have a complete nightmare and will be able to savour the moment. Neil Robertson 10-4.

Mark Selby v Zhao Xintong

Mark Selby has not been himself, especially on British soil, for the best of two years. I can’t see any signs of change coming into this tournament. He’s up against a young man who, having dropped off the tour, has immediately requalified and has really made the most of this season. Zhao throws the odd mistake when you don’t expect it – he seems to go in-off a lot – be he’s a scary potter. If he doesn’t freeze – he’s a debutant after all – and, unless Mark Selby all of sudden comes back to his old self, he will have too much for Selby. Of course, Zhao may freeze, Selby may find form, but as things stand right now, I have to side with Zhao. Zhao Xintong 10-6.

Luca Brecel v Gary Wilson

This match is very hard to predict. Luca Brecel showed sure signs of coming back to form and when he is on form, he’s brilliant. Gary Wilson was playing well and scoring heavily last week. He certainly has a good chance here. I really can’t see a favourite. Match over 16 frames either way.

Jack Lisowski v Ali Carter

Ali Carter won all his matches very easily last week. However I don’t think that he’s been really tested: his highest ranked opponent was Jimmy White, currently ranked n°79, and at nearly 57, far from the force he once was. Jack Lisowki on the other hand had an excellent season. He still looks a bit fragile at times, especially when facing unfamiliar situations. But he has been here before, he has won here before too. Jack Lisowski 10-7.

Mark Allen v Zhou Yuelong

Zhou Yuelong and Zhao Xintong have been friends since they were just children. They had very similar parcours. However they are very different as players. Zhou is predominantly a match player. Despite his young age he’s a complete player too. A lot here will depend on what Mark Allen will show up. Allen hasn’t looked right since the Masters. To his own admission he’s not been at his best mentally. To me his withdrawal from the China Open is not a good sign. Zhou Yuelong 10-6.

Judd Trump v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh

A match between two mad potters? Maybe, although Judd Trump has been much more cautious and tactical – all being relative of course – in recent times. “Theppy” was rather impressive last week. Judd Trump, after his defeat to Ronnie in Llandudno, has looked a bit “tamed” in China, losing in the first round to Robbie Williams. Is it significant? It’s hard to tell. This is match I can’t predict. Match to go over 15 frames with at least one century each.

Ding Junhui v Anthony McGill

Ding had a very quiet season, a bad season. The Crucible isn’t his favourite patch. He always faces incredible pressure from his home media here. Anthony McGill hasn’t got a great season either. He got through the qualifiers with any brilliance. What he did show though was a lot of resilience, something Ding has lacked at times in the past. This is why I favour McGill. Anthony McGill 10-7.

Stephen Maguire v Tian Pengfei

I believe that Stephen Maguire will have too much of everything for Tian Pengfei who is playing at the Crucible for the first time. Too much experience, too much potting power and a rather intimidating presence as well. That said Tian is no kid, he might be able to cope with it all. But somehow I doubt it, at least this time. Stephen Maguire 10-5.

Ronnie O’Sullivan v James Cahill

So Ronnie, who has been the best player of the season so far, who is back to World n°1 despite playing only a reduced schedule, is facing a debutant who is an amateur as well. That should be dead easy, no? Well maybe not, and here are the reasons why: 1. contrary to Ronnie, James Cahill will have no expectations on his shoulders, he’s already dome much better than anyone expected – 2. he’s played Ronnie before, and although he lost, the matches were close – 3. James whilst he was a pro, was managed by the Grove, so they very likely played each other in practice, if only occasionally, which takes away the fear factor – 4. James will be extremely confident, he knows he’s playing well. Still I don’t think he can cause an upset. Ronnie 10-5.

Crucible: The Draw is out!

The draw for the Crucible is now decided, it has just been made, live on social media

Crucible 2019 Draw

Mark Williams (1) / Martin Gould
David Gilbert (16) / Joe Perry
Barry Hawkins (9) / Li Hang
Kyren Wilson (8) / Scott Donaldson

————————————

John Higgins (5) / Mark Davis
Stuart Bingham (12) / Graeme Dott
Shaun Murphy (13) / Luo Honghao
Neil Robertson (4) / Michael Georgiou

————————————

Mark Selby (3) / Zhao Xintong
Luca Brecel (14) / Gary Wilson
Jack Lisowski (11) / Ali Carter
Mark Allen (6) / Zhou Yuelong

————————————

Judd Trump (7) / Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Ding Junhui (10) / Anthony McGill
Stephen Maguire (15) / Tian Pengfei
Ronnie O’Sullivan (2) / James Cahill

I will analyse this later … tonight or tomorrow. It’s nearly time for my train. Home bound!

World Championship 2019 Qualifiers – the 16 are known!

After eight hard fought days, here they are:

Tian Pengfei – China (defeated Soheil Vahedi 10-5, Ryan Day 10-3 and Matthew Stevens 10-8) – Debutant

It’s fair to say that Tian had no easy draw there. He scored really well against Ryan Day and Matthew Stevens, two experienced players, both tournament winners. And Ryan was the highest ranked player in the draw. It will mean a lot to Tian who had some painful defeats in those qualifiers in the past, notably at the hands of Fergal O’Brien.

Gary Wilson – England (defeated Sanderson Lam 10-5, Dominic Dale 10-3 and Liang Wenbo 10-6)

I only saw Gary Wilson in his last match at the EIS but he was impressive, and one that seeds would prefer to avoid. The first two frames did set the tone of this match: Gary won the first frame with a 134, Liang replied with a 141 in the second. Gary had seven breaks over 60 in this match, including three centuries, and whilst Liang was a bit inconsistent Gary was solid from start to finish.

Luo HongHao – China (defeated Marco Fu 10-7, Robbie Williams 10-8 and Tom Ford 10-8) – DebutantFirst year as a pro

Where to start? Here is the youngest player in the Crucible draw. He’s only 19 and this is his first year as a pro. He’s the inaugural WSF champion. He defeated three seasoned pros this week, including Marco Fu. He has a very solid temperament. And he’s “multi-gifted”: his command of English is very good, he’s a very talented pianist and a good photographer too.

Anthony McGill – Scotland (defeated Ashley Hugill 10-8, Duane Jones 10-5 and Robert Milkins 10-8)

Anthony McGill qualification is a statement of resilience. Even when not playing that well he’s hard to beat. Back against the wall, you can trust him to find something.

Graeme Dott– Scotland (defeated Hamza Akbar 10-2, Xu Si 10-4 and Kurt Maflin 10-2)

One sentence here: this week Graeme played like the World Champion he was. The game face is on, the gritty “terrier” is back. Beware!

Li Hang – China (defeated Niu Zhang 10-5, Ian Burns 10-8 and Ben Woollaston 10-8) – Debutant

The least that can be said about Li is that he earned it! His last two matches were long and very hard-fought. Some might be tempted to smile at his unusual sense of fashion, his rounded face. The man has an iron will to win. The thing that might play against him next week is that he will be even more tired than most.

Martin Gould – England (defeated Mostafa Dorgham 10-0, Gerard Greene 10-6 and Daniel Wells 10-8)

I didn’t watch Martin Gould at all this week. Going by the scores in his matches he’s in solid form.

Michael Georgiou – Cyprus (defeated Lee Walker 10-7, Peter Ebdon 10-8 and Yan Bingtao 10-8) – Debutant – first time Cyprus is represented at the Crucible

Not many expected Michael Georgiou to play at the Crucible, after an indifferent season (understatement). But look at who he beat! Two very hard match players in Lee Walker and Peter Ebdon were his first victims. Yan Bingtao is not in his best form, and his confidence is low, ok, but his talent remains and Michael still had to beat him. He has every reason to be proud, he made his country proud. I hope he enjoys his debut.

Ali Carter – England (defeated Paul Davison 10-1, Jimmy White 10-4 and John Astley 10-4)

I didn’t watch any of Ali Carter’s matches. I can’t judge how he’s playing. In my opinion he’s not really been tested. His highest ranked opponent was Jimmy White n°79 in the rankings and turning 57 in less than a month.

Zhou Yuelong – China (defeated Robin Hull 10-7, Liam Highfield 10-5 and Eden Sharav 10-6)

Zhou is returning to the Crucible. I only watched his last match, against Eden Sharav. He played a very mature game – it’s easy to forget that he’s only 21.

Mark Davis – England (defeated Rod Lawler 10-6, Fergal O’Brien 10-4 and Lyu Haotian 10-7)

Mark Davis is the oldest man in the Crucible draw. He’s a lovely man, popular with the fans and very, very solid at the table. He got the better of two of the hardest match players in the game before facing young Lyu Haotian. Once “Mavis” got on top of him, there was only one winner. Lyu had very traumatic experiences off the table when he came to play on the tour as a 15 years old rookie. He remains fragile. I do hope he finally gets over it one day and can do his talent full justice.

Thepchaiya Un-nooh – Thailand (defeated Jonathan Bagley 10-4, Mark Joyce 10-5 and Joe O’Connor 10-6)

I watched Theppy’s first and the last match. In round three he played Joe O’Connor. It was very high quality. Joe O’Connor is in his first year as a pro and has done tremendously well. He should be proud. “Theppy” scoring power is just too much for about anybody when he’s on form. And he is. He’s great to watch as well. Jonathan Bagley who is a WSS player and an amateur did very well actually. The match could have been closer had Jon found his ground from the start. But everything was new to him and the fist session was just a learning curve.

James Cahill – England (defeated Andrew Higginson 10-9, Michael Holt 10-7, and Michael Judge 10-6) – DebutantAmateur

James Cahill was impressive throughout. He came at the EIS an amateur, aiming to secure his return to the pro ranks via the one year list … which he did. Michael Holt was probably one of the favourites to qualify for the Crucible. James denied him. Amazingly, in the last round he faced another amateur: WSS player Michael Judge. Michael Judge himself created a “story”. Before last Monday he didn’t even know that he was playing. He was invited to replace Zhang Jankiang who was denied a visa. He then beat Peter Lines and Xiao Guodong to reach the last round at EIS…

Scott Donaldson – Scotland (defeated Craig Steaman 10-8, Ken Doherty 10-4 and Lu Ning 10-9) – Debutant

Scott Donaldson had reached the semi-finals in Beijing so it is maybe no surprise that he did well at the EIS. What could not be expected is how the last match against Lu Ning panned out. Scott lead 7-2 and 9-4 before Lu Ning fought back to force a decider. And even in that decider, Lu Ning fought to get the snookers he needed, and got them … before Scott eventually fell over the line. By that time he probably didn’t even remember his own name! Lu Ning deserves a lot of credit. In his previous match he had defeated Mark King, which is never easy. Lu Ning is in the first year of a two years card. He’s already climbed to world n°68.

Zao Xintong – China (defeated Adam Lilley 10-2, Noppon Saengkham 10-5 and Matthew Selt 10-4) – Debutant

Zao looked never in trouble last week. Noppon Saengkham was the one who ran him closest and it wasn’t very close. Now, maybe Noppon hadn’t got the best of preparation: getting married just before the WC qualifiers isn’t maybe ideal. Anyway I wish all the happiness in the world.

Joe Perry – England (defeated Simon Lichtenberg 10-1, Zhang Yong 10-1 and Martin O’Donnell 10-3)

I didn’t watch any of Jo Perry’s matches. I can’t judge how he’s playing, although he has obviously been scoring heavily. He may not have been really tested though.

Some interesting “numbers”

There will be six players from China in the Crucible draw this year, the five above and Ding. That’s the most there ever was. With “Theppy” that’s seven from Asia.

The three youngest players in the draw are all Chinese: Luo (19) Zhou (21) and Zhao (22). Amateur James Cahill (23) is the youngest british player. Should Luo or Zhou win the title they would become the youngest ever World Champion. Stephen Hendry is the holder of that record. Zhou woul beat him by 11 days; Luo by two years and 18 days.

It’s the first time that an amateur has qualified to play at the Crucible in the World Championship.

Here are the “Judgement Day” reports on Worldsnooker:

Mornings

James Cahill will become the first ever amateur to grace the Crucible, after he defeated Michael Judge 10-6 at Betfred World Championship qualifying in Sheffield.

With both players competing as amateurs this week, the historic Crucible first was guaranteed regardless of the result.

Cahill spent four years as a professional on the tour, before dropping off in 2017. However, performances as a Q School top up this term have seen him earn a tour card for next season, when he will regain his professional status.

The Blackpool potter has already highlighted his big match mettle with two giant killing UK Championship wins. In 2014 he came through a final frame decider to beat Ding Junhui 6-5 during a run to the last 16. Earlier this season he downed the then world number one Mark Selby 6-3 in the opening round.

Judge’s remarkable run comes to an end, but he has the consolation of £15,000 of prize money for reaching this stage. The Irishman, who spent 19 seasons as a professional before dropping off the tour in 2011, only found out last Monday he would be playing in this event after Zhang Jiankang pulled out. He went on to record two post-midnight 10-9 victories against Peter Lines and Xiao Guodong.

Cahill looked composed this afternoon in the Judgement Day pressure cooker. From 8-6 up, he showed no signs of finishing line nerves, firing in breaks of 64 and 60 to push his way over the line.

“This is the best buzz I’ve ever had playing snooker. I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet, but I know what I’ve achieved and it is something special,” said 23-year-old Cahill. “I’ve shown a lot of character and bottle this week. There was a lot more at stake than just qualifying for the Crucible. I’ve had to try and get my tour card for the next few years, which I’ve done. The fact that it is my first time qualifying as well added extra pressure, I made two really good 60 breaks to get over the line.

“To be the first amateur at the Crucible is not something I’m proud of as I see myself as a professional. It is a record though and I am happy to break records if I can. It is nice just to get through this year and now hopefully it will now get easier for the rest of my career and eventually I can get into the world’s top 16 and won’t even have to qualify.”

Anthony McGill ensured his place in tomorrow’s draw by summoning a superb fightback to come from 7-2 down and defeat Robert Milkins 10-8.

He fired his way back into contention, making breaks of 97 and 118, as he claimed seven frames on the bounce to establish an unlikely 9-7 advantage. Milkins pulled within one, but a contribution of 52 helped McGill to seal a remarkable victory.

The Scot will now compete at the Crucible for a fifth consecutive season. Although he has struggled to find his best form this term, having not gone beyond the last 16 of any event. He will be hoping today’s fightback acts as a catalyst for a return to top form on snooker’s biggest stage.

McGill said: “Sometimes I maybe just don’t care enough. I’m quite philosophical and sometimes I need a bit more fire in my belly. I had it today and I wish I could get that feeling for every match. I need to pick up my standard, but I’m in the event so I can turn it around.

“Immediately after yesterday’s session I thought I was beat. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that he still had three frames to win. I knew I could make it hard for him. I actually quite fancied it when I woke up today.

“This is the biggest match of the season for everyone outside of the world’s top 16. The pressure of getting to the Crucible is more than most matches you will play. When you come back at someone they feel it regardless of what event you are playing in, but I knew that would be doubled with what was at stake for Rob.”

The tour’s fastest player Thepchaiya Un-Nooh was the first player over the line today, beating tour rookie Joe O’Connor 10-6.

Thailand’s Un-Nooh made his Crucible debut 12 months ago, facing eventual finalist John Higgins. Un-Nooh put on a strong showing before succumbing to a 10-7 loss. Following today’s victory he stated he wouldn’t mind being pitted against the illustrious Scot again in tomorrow’s draw.

“I would like to get a rematch with John Higgins and play him again,” said Un-Nooh. “In the first session against Higgins I didn’t play well, but came back in the evening. He was 6-3 up and that was too far for me to get close to him. Hopefully this year I will draw him again.”

Michael Georgiou defeated China’s Yan Bingtao 10-8 to secure his maiden Crucible appearance and become the first ever Cypriot to compete in the final stages of the World Championship.

Prior to this week Georgiou had endured a torrid World Championship record, having suffered three first round exits and one second round defeat. However, he turned that around this week with today’s victory and earlier wins over Lee Walker and 2002 World Champion Peter Ebdon.

“I don’t know what to say really. It hasn’t sunk in yet. Yan is a fantastic player and he made me work for it. Somehow I have stumbled over the line and the Crucible awaits,” said 2018 Shoot Out winner Georgiou. “It is every kid’s dream to go to the Crucible. There is so much history attached to it and now I am going to get to play there.

“It is a long term goal to inspire more people to play snooker in Cyprus. To be the first Cypriot at the Crucible is great, there is a first for everything. I am just hoping I can do them proud and hopefully this will gain interest for the sport and grow it slowly.”

46-year-old Mark Davis will be the oldest player in the draw tomorrow after he secured his place with a 10-7 win over Chinese prospect Lyu Haotian. Davis is now the most successful player in the history of World Championship qualifying, having negotiated the process ten times.

Zhou Yuelong defeated Eden Sharav 10-6 to secure his second Crucible appearance and end his opponent’s hopes of becoming the first Israeli to reach the final stages. While 2016 German Masters winner Martin Gould came through 10-8 against Welshman Daniel Wells.

Gary Wilson secured his place in the draw with a hard fought 10-6 defeat of Liang Wenbo. It will be Wilson’s second time at the Crucible. His last appearance saw him succumb to a narrow 10-7 loss against Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2015.

Afternoons

There will be four Chinese debutants at this year’s Betfred World Championship after Zhao Xintong, Luo Honghao, Tian Pengfei and Li Hang progressed at qualifying in Sheffield.

They join Asian number one Ding Junhui and Zhou Yuelong in tomorrow’s draw, meaning that there will be a record six Chinese players at the Crucible this year, beating the previous best of five set in 2017.

Zhao Xintong secured his debut with a sensational display to beat Indian Open champion Matthew Selt 10-4.

The 22-year-old has reinvigorated his game this term. He dropped off the tour at the end of last season, before immediately securing his return through Q School. Since then he has enjoyed a superb campaign, reaching a maiden ranking event semi-final at the 2018 China Championship and making the last eight of the 2019 Welsh Open.

Zhao’s improvement hasn’t come at the expense of his quickfire and attacking style of play. He’s second only to Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in terms of average shot time this season. He overpowered Selt today with his break building, making contributions of 51, 54, 124, 79, 72, 51, 103, 72 and 56 on his way to victory.

“I played very well in this match. I had more confidence than in the last two rounds. I made a lot of breaks which gave me that confidence,” said Zhao. “It will be very exciting to play at the Crucible, but I’ll maybe a little bit nervous because it is my first time there.”

2018 WSF Amateur Champion Luo Honghao booked his maiden trip to the Crucible with a narrow 10-8 win over Tom Ford.

The talented 19-year-old produced a fine display to secure his progression. Luo composed runs of 57, 64, 61, 54, 60, 106 and 66 on his way to the impressive victory.

Luo had already showcased his ability in an enthralling battle against Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals of the English Open earlier this season. He eventually lost out 5-3, but has stated he would like to face the Rocket in his opening match at the Crucible.

Luo said: “Every top 16 player is better than me, so it is no different playing Ronnie O’Sullivan. I just have to learn and enjoy the match. I want to play against my idol. I really love Ronnie, so I want to face him at the Crucible.”

Tian pengfeiTian Pengfei survived a Matthew Stevens fightback to progress with a narrow 10-8 victory.

This was 2015 Ruhr Open finalist Tian’s 11th attempt to qualify for the World Championship and it had looked like he may have to wait another year, when two-time finalist Stevens started to cut away at his significant lead.

Tian held a 9-3 advantage, before Stevens crafted breaks of 114, 95, 67, 60 and 143 as he claimed five frames in a row to make it 9-8. However, Tian showed his character by making a contribution of 56 to take the match and prevent a deciding frame.

“I was 9-3 up, but for the next five frames he didn’t really give me any chances. It did give me a lot of pressure. I am really lucky to win this game. Matthew is a good player,” said Tian. “I thought it would go to a decider, there was so much pressure in that last frame. I haven’t ever experienced anything like that before.”

Li Hang came through a hard fought battle with Ben Woollaston 10-8 to book his Crucible debut. The 2017 China Championship semi-finalist won two frames in a row from 8-8 to clinch the victory.

A relieved Scott Donaldson won an epic deciding frame to edge past Lu Ning 10-9 and book his Crucible debut.

The Scot held a 9-4 advantage, before China’s Lu dug deep to force his way back into the tie and take the match to a final frame.

Donaldson appeared to be over the line when he held a 64-24 advantage, with his opponent needing two snookers. Lu managed to get them, but Donaldson held his nerve and composure to pot the final red and a yellow to secure victory. That win means that in total there will be seven debutants at this year’s World Championship.

Donaldson said: “I’ve never felt like that in my life. I could hardly breath out there. I have no idea how I managed to make that break in the last frame. You realise that is why you have to put in hour after hour every day. We can all play well when there is no pressure. I can’t believe I won that game. First of all I can’t believe I nearly lost it, now I can’t believe I won it.”

Graeme Dott won his 15th consecutive World Championship qualifying match, beating Norway’s Kurt Maflin 10-2 to reach the Crucible.

Scotland’s 2006 World Champion will now appear in the final stages of the World Championship for the 20th time in his career. The wins for Dott and Donaldson now mean there will be five Scottish players at the Crucible, as they join Anthony McGill, John Higgins and Stephen Maguire.

41-year-old Dott has shown impressive form this week, dropping just eight of the 38 frames he has played.

“I played really well. This year is probably the best I’ve played at the qualifiers. I had one bad session against Xu Si, but other than that I’ve played really well in the three matches,” said Dott. “When they changed the format to three matches five years ago, I started to think I might never get back because it is a hard three games. To win 15 matches in a row and come through every year is really impressive.”

Joe Perry eased past Martin O’Donnell 10-3 to book his Crucible place. The Gentleman enjoyed an even more dominant week than Dott, losing just five of his 35 frames. He thrashed Germany’s Simon Lichtenberg and China’s Zhang Yong by 10-1 scorelines in the earlier rounds.

Ali Carter booked his place at snooker’s Theatre of Dreams with a 10-4 defeat of world number 102 John Astley.

The Captain has now reached the final stages for 17 consecutive years, having never missed the Crucible since 2002.

The draw for the final stages will take place at 11am tomorrow. You can watch it live on our YouTube and Facebook channels. For further details click here.

 

 

World Championship 2019 Qualifiers – Final Day

Tonight, or early tomorrow morning we will know who are the 16 qualifiers, who will join the 16 seeds at the Crucible starting Saturday.

Here is how things stand righ now

WC2019QualsFinalDayStandings-1WC2019QualsFinalDayStandings-2

The draw will be made tomorrow and you should be able to watch it live at 11 am UK time. I write “should” because this hasn’t exactly be going to plans in the past!

And here is how you can watch the action today.

World Championship 2019 Qualifiers – the 128 have become 32

This is the line-up for the last round of the World Championship 2019 qualifiers. Tomorrow night we will know who will be at the Crucible…

Tian Pengfei 0-0. Matthew Stevens
Gary Wilson 0-0 Liang Wenbo
Luo Honghao 0-0 Tom Ford
Rob Milkins 0-0 Anthony McGill
Graeme Dott 0-0 Kurt Maflin
Li Hang 0-0 Ben Woollaston
Daniel Wells 0-0 Martin Gould
Michael Georgiou 0-0 Yan Bingtao
Ali Carter 0-0 John Astley
Eden Sharav 0-0 Zhou Yuelong
Dark Mavis 0-0 Lyu Haotian
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 0-0 Joe O’Connor
Michael Judge 0-0 James Cahill (both amateurs)
Lu Ning 0-0 Scott Donaldson
Matt Selt 0-0 Zhao Xintong
Martin O’Donnell 0-0 Joe Perry

Ten Asian players in the line-up, five of them under 22 years of age, including Luo Honghao a 19 years old rookie. The two youngest non asian players are Joe O’Connor and James Cahill, both 23. Joe O’Connor is also a rookie.

In terms of tour survival here is how things stand now

Yesterday’s results mean that Jimmy White is now off the tour. Mike Dunn immediately came on social media, calling for him to get another invitational tour card. As much as I like Jimmy, I think he shouldn’t. The Seniors tour is developing well, and I’m 1000% behind every effort made to make it bigger and better so that players like Jimmy have a platform to play and continue to entertain. Watching him play, and get beat more often than not, in qualifiers, is sad really. Yesterday Jimmy started well, but he doesn’t have the stamina anymore for long matches.