April 4, 2013

World Championship Qualifiers Round 1

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:33 pm
I know, I know. I should be locked up.

I know, I know. I should be locked up.

While the members enjoy their annual shindig it is now time to turn our attention to the real action, the bona fide start of this year’s World Snooker Championship which begins on Saturday morning at 10am with the first round proper.

It’s the start of one of the twitchiest weeks of the year on the baize when players fight it out to see who the lucky 16 will be to join the top 16 seeded players in the draw for the Crucible and who will be watching it at home through clenched teeth.

For newcomers, this section pairs together the lowest ranked main tour players who have entered the event, they are joined by the two members who make their way into the main draw (as yet undecided at time of writing) and one amateur Fraser Patrick, who gets here courtesy of a further non-entry and his performance at last season’s Q-School.

The winners from these matches move on to face the next 16 up on the ranking list on Monday and Tuesday, the winners from those do the same on Wednesday and Thursday.

On Friday we will know the final match ups going into the weekend as the tables are recovered. On Saturday and Sunday the seeded players 17-32 join the draw for the final qualifying round, where they fight it out with those coming through the previous rounds. The winners of these matches then progress to the Crucible and the random draw made the next day, the losers will need counselling, it’s that harsh.

It has been known for players from this round to go all the way but it’s not a regular occurance by any means, but for now the dream is still alive for all and it’s now time to take a look at the first 16 matches of this great, historic championship which should never ever leave these shores.

If you missed my ‘to qualify’ preview which laid out the draw into sections, it’s here. Now it’s on to have a look at the individual matches.

(Where matches are underlined, click to show head to head record)

Saturday 6th April 10am starts (all conclude at 7.30pm)

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v Scott Donaldson

Zhang Anda v Passakorn Suwannawat

Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon v Jamie O’Neill

Michael Wasley v Sean O’Sullivan   

Craig Steadman v David Grace   

Tian Pengfei v Martin O’Donnell

The MO'D makes his World Championship debut.

The MO’D makes his World Championship debut.

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh has shown some signs this season that he can play a bit, he has wins over Anthony Hamilton, Ryan Day and a few other higher ranked players to his credit and does win more than his opponent Scott Donaldson at this level. That said Donaldson very rarely gets hammered and has run some decent players close this season and scored a couple of good solid wins, but I’d favour the Thai player in this match up just given his tendency to get over the line a little easier. Zhang Anda made the Crucible a few years ago in 2010 from this position and then ran Stephen Hendry very close in Round 1 in what I thought was a very odd match, but like so many of the Chinese players that make an early breakthrough he’s been largely invisible since then. He faces a player with as bad a record as you could hope to wish for and this is the draw they probably all wanted, Passakorn started the season positively with two wins in the Wuxi Classic but then managed to lose seventeen on the bounce before beating the very under-confident Jamie Jones in February, you have to fancy that Anda can progress there. Thanawat has been quite consistent at this level this season and this is something that you can’t say of his opponent Jamie O’Neill who has only won two matches all season against Allan Taylor and Robbie Williams, it will need a big reversal in form from him to stop TT edging closer to the Crucible. Michael Wasley has been very impressive in parts all season and his record is played 36, won 18. He faces fellow first year professional Sean ‘The Storm’ O’Sullivan who has been slower out of the blocks but showing improved form since the turn of the year. I’m sure these two will have met as amateurs a few times but never as pro’s, I don’t know the amateur record between the two and it would be great to know it as this may hold the key to what on paper is a very even match, on professional form you would back Wasley but there may be other things at play between the two. I was surprised initially that David Grace wasn’t favourite in his match with Craig Steadman although it was pointed out to me that Stedz did beat Gracey recently 4-1 in a pro-am, again showing how a keen eye on the amateur game is important as the gap between amateur and lower-professional becomes ever more hazy, it’s probably one to leave alone that but given that the two know each other and regularly exchange banter I’d imagine it will be a close one to decide who owns the territory for now. Finally, it’s great to say that the 2012 Snookerbacker Classic Champion lines up in the World Snooker Championship for the very first time. Martin O’Donnell faces one of the toughest players there is at this stage which in some ways is a bummer but in others will be a real boost if he can win. Tian Pengfei isn’t a world beater by any stretch, but he very rarely loses to players he is ranked higher than, I didn’t even want to preview this match in honesty, I just want Martin to win and therefore I will predict with my heart and all the positivity in the world I can muster as I do believe that if he wins this one, he could be in the mix later in the week. Go on The MO’D.

Predicted Winners: Un-Nooh, Anda, Thanawat, Wasley, Grace, O’Donnell.

Recommended Bets: 2 point double on Un-Nooh and Thanawat (both -2.5 frames) pays 2/1 and 3 points on Anda -1.5 frames at 8/15 both at Apollobet

Saturday 6th April 2.30pm starts (all conclude at 2.30pm Sunday 7th April)

Tony Drago v Mohamed Khairy

Aditya Mehta v Daniel Wells

Luca Brecel v Fraser Patrick (a)

Robbie Williams v Li Yan

Drago - Crackers

Drago – Crackers

Tony Drago is probably the most unpredictable, frustrating snooker player that has ever picked up a cue. He is supremely talented, he is brilliant to watch even now when he gets going but he is the snooker definition of ‘careless’ in every other way. The Maltese Falcon has arguably the best draw of them all against Egypt’s Mohamed Khairy (does he care-y?), he’s missed lots of events this season and the ones he’s turned up for he’s lost in the first round. Drago will win this match, of that there shouldn’t be any doubt and if you want to take the 1/5 at Bet Victor and you can get a decent bet on you should, but always remember that this is Tony Drago. He’s 1/3 at Apollobet -2.5 frames and for that not to land you would need Khairy to win double the amount of frames in this match than he has won all season. I don’t do maximum bets (5 points) on 1/3 shots but would be willing to put 30 points on that one if I was feeling brave so instead will recommend a spread on correct scores which is probably more sensible. Aditya Mehta is a player that regulars will know I like a lot, he plays a very controlled game and has a cue action which I think is unlikely to change under pressure, it’s almost textbook like he has learned it from an old video of Davis/Thorburn/Griffiths etc. and his temperament also seems very solid. He faces Daniel Wells who while a player showing improvement still sometimes loses to players that you would not expect him to lose to at this point in his career, that said this pattern is definitely changing lately and the players beating him are more familiar names. But Mehta will be tuned for this and I think he’s potentially something special so I can’t oppose. Luca Brecel seems to already be a long match specialist, he has a terrible draw this year but you have to beat what is put in front of you. His form since an unlikely run to the UK quarter-finals isn’t great but he qualified for this from here last season and who’s to say he can’t again? Fraser Patrick is a very capable player but I just can’t see him getting near Luca who may immediately feel at home in a venue that was so good to him last year, he seems that kind of player to me. That leaves Robbie Williams and Li Yan, Williams has been consistent this year and can usually be relied on to give it his best and battle, Yan is actually on a really poor run of results, he hasn’t won a match in 2013 and has lost his last 8, he did however beat Paul Davison 10-4 at this venue last season whereas it’s Robbie’s first match here, I’d favour Williams but it’s a no bet that one.

Predicted Winners: Drago, Mehta, Brecel, Williams.

Recommended Bet: 0.5 points on Drago to win 10-0 (40/1), 10-1 (20/1) 10-2 (16/1) or 10-3 (9/1) at Apollobet. 3 point treble on Drago, Mehta and Brecel pays 5/4 at Bet Victor.

ADDED BET: at the mid-session interval Luca Brecel is 4-5 down, he can be backed at 4/6 with Victor Chandler and I would recommend a maximum 5 point bet on that. 

Sunday April 7th 10am starts (all conclude at 7.30pm)

Dechawat Poomjaeng v Michael Leslie

Pankaj Advani v Joe Swail

Ian Burns v Joel Walker

Liam Highfield v Simon Bedford

Chen Zhe v Sam Baird

Paul Davison v Justin Astley

The matches we know: Dechawat Poomjaeng is another Thai player like Un-Nooh that is showing signs of improvement. His record this season is played 43, won 25 and to have that record you need to be a consistent first qualifying round winner and this guy is a fairly prolific one of those, unlike his opponent Michael Leslie who has only won one match all season and has at times looked a little out of his depth, his results albeit losing ones are getting better but not better enough to suggest he has a big chance in this one. I have flagged Ian Burns as a live outsider to qualify for the Crucible and despite the fact that his opponent Joel Walker would not be a great draw for a lot of these players, results this season suggest a win for Burns, but don’t be surprised if this is a little bit closer than some might think it will be, I just think Burns has a winning temperament when it gets close. Liam Highfield and Simon Bedford is a match to leave alone on a day when there are a few matches that would require a decent size shock to see some not progress, I would initially favour Highfield as with the exception of Bedford’s excellent run in the World Open he has been the more consistent this season, but I can see a decider in that one and if that happens I would take Simon to prevail. Chen Zhe has been showing some decent form in the two most recent Chinese event qualifiers and his results suggest that he can get the better of Sam Baird, who tends to play well in spurts, he’s not been seen since a half-decent run in the Welsh Open and I’d favour the busier Chinese player in that one.

Predicted Winners: Poomjaeng, Burns, Bedford, Zhe.

EDIT: The further two matches involve those who have come through the Members Round and Joe Swail lines up against Pankaj Advani, having recommended a small bet on them both to qualify (66/1 Swail and 14/1 Pankaj) it’s not a match I will be getting involved in. I’d say that Joe hasn’t yet shown enough quality to suggest he can go much further but if there is one thing about him it’s that he never knows when he is beaten, could be close but I’d have to favour the Indian player. In the other match the experienced Paul Davison takes on Justin Astley who made the final qualifying round last year only to be beaten by Liang Wenbo for a place at the Crucible, I rate Astley as a pretty decent player and he doesn’t seem to have any problem with his nerves, I think that one could go the distance personally and I wouldn’t write off Justin’s chances at all. But overall I wouldn’t recommend going in heavy on either match, perhaps Astley with the 2.5 frame start at 5/6 with Apollobet is worth a shout but I’ll leave that.

Predicted Winners: Advani and Davison. 

Recommended Bet: 3 points on Poomjaeng (-2.5 frames) at 8/15 at Apollobet. 2 points on Chen Zhe at 11/10 with Corals.

Recommended First Round Acca: 3 points on Un-Nooh, Thanawat, Anda, Drago and Poomjaeng pays over 7/2 at Boylesports. Add Brecel and Burns and this pays almost 6/1 at the same firm, 2 points on that.   

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