April 5, 2016

World Championship Qualifying Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:34 pm

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’ sang Andy Williams famously when referring to Christmas, but for me Santa and his bulging sack is second in line to what starts tomorrow and runs all the way to the start of May. Yes folks, it’s time to strap yourselves in for this year’s World Snooker Championship, sponsored again by Betfred and kicking off on Wednesday with the qualifiers at Ponds Forge, where 16 players will emerge to take on the seeds just down the road at snooker’s very own Theatre of Dreams.


The format of this is brutal of course, which is what makes it so entertaining, we’ll no doubt see scenes of joy and laughter but also tears and tantrums as the players outside of the top 16 attempt to win 3 best of 19 matches to qualify. There will be shocks but I’m sure there will also be form players that qualify with ease. As ever there are a few no-hopers in there who have inexplicably been handed a wildcard ahead of those more deserving on the Q-School top up list, but at least the likes of Ding Junhui and Ali Carter have little more than a practice session before facing their first test, which is nice for them.

The approach I have decided on is to strip the draw down into the neat little 16 four match sections, I’ll say a bit about each and where possible recommend a bet or two. Traditionally this event has given us some rich pickings so hopefully this year will be no different. It’s full steam ahead from now on ladies and gents, who’s coming with me? Come on, you know you want to.


To watch the streamed tables, my advice is to bite the bullet and fork out a few quid on the official streaming site as the quality and size of picture is usually better than the bookies. The full printable PDF draw is here and the format is here. If you haven’t yet seen how the seeds are placed in the main Crucible draw, you can take a look at that here.

Right, let’s go. All the recommended ‘To Qualify’ Bets are with the sponsors.



The widely predicted Chinese Snooker Revolution hasn’t really happened has it? It’s so off-track now that their star of snooker Ding Junhui has found himself dumped at Ponds Forge, how the devil did that happen then? But the good news for Ding is that he has little more than a practice session first up, no disrespect to his opponent, but I’m afraid I have never heard of him. So can anyone stop Ding from qualifying? I’d say the most obvious choice to put a spanner in the works would be Andrew Higginson but barring a recent run in the last EPTC he’s not really done anything to suggest that he can, Gary Wilson is obviously another who is capable but I’m sure Ding won’t be too disappointed in his draw and I expect to see him at The Crucible, though I would be over the moon if Sean O’Sullivan could spoil the party.  

Predicted Qualifier: Ding Junhui 



A tougher section to predict with Jamie Jones heading it up and you’d expect him to meet Ian Burns in Round 2, the other match up I’d say would involve Peter Ebdon who I’d take to beat a fading James Wattana and I’d also back him against either Gerard Greene or Jimmy White. So the safest bet is Ebdon to qualify given I feel he is the most likely to make the third match. With Jamie Jones being not in the best form of his life and the same can be said for Ian Burns, I think this is simply a case of back the player with the experience who has the smoothest path and for me that has to be Ebdon.  

Predicted Qualifier: Peter Ebdon (2 points at 11/4)



A very competitive section this with I’d say three of the four first round matches being something of a coin toss. I think that Mark Joyce will probably have a bit too much experience for the quickfire Zak Surety and Joyce does tend to have a decent record against faster players for one reason or another. Syd Wilson and Chris Wakelin are both capable to causing ‘upsets’ in their matches and Gaz Allen may fancy his chances against Robbie Williams, with Robbie not having as good a season as last year going into this. On balance though I think the winner of Woollaston and Wakelin may end up strolling out at The Crucible and at the prices to qualify, the value is Wakelin and he’s worth a few quid, though my prediction would be Ben.

Predicted Qualifier: Ben Woollaston

Recommended Bet – 1 point on Wakelin at 14/1



Another former World Champion Graeme Dott seems to have been handed a pretty straightforward opener and I’d also say that his next opponent could have been tougher, though Noppon Saengkham can play, I’d be surprised if he stopped Dotty from making the final round. Up at the top Mike Dunn has been showing some decent form lately and I’d back him to come through over James Cahill and whichever Chinese opponent he faces next which for me leaves a Dott v Dunn finale. Dott holds command on a pretty irrelevant head to head but despite this meaningless statistic I think he’ll be tough to stop and also a very dangerous first round opponent should he make The Crucible. 

Predicted Qualifier: Graeme Dott



Another tough section sees Rob Milkins, after a disappointing season by his standards, also lining up here again when he has previously been in the top 16. I don’t know his opponent but assume it will be a quick win for him given how fast he plays and I’d say a second rounder against Joel Walker awaits, which again I would take Milkins to win. In the bottom half, century machine Kurt Maflin will be looking to make the main venue again after a great match last year against Mark Selby and it could be a real tortoise and hare affair if he ends up playing Rod Lawler in the second round, one thing is for sure, fans of safety and dump shots won’t see many in his first match against the equally attacking Sandi Lam. By virtue of Kurt’s heavy scoring I think I’ll take a punt on him in this section to edge out Milkins in Round 3. 

Predicted Qualifier: Kurt Maflin (2 points at 10/3)    



Mark King is in good form and Michael Holt has a decent draw so I think straight away you are led to the conclusion that this section is between these two and I can’t really see any way that they won’t be meeting in Round 3. That said, Fraser Patrick, David Grace and Peter Lines are all capable of putting a run together if they hit the ground running but something tells me that this section is all about King and Holt. It will be interesting to see how many frames (the now former) Ladies World Champion Ng On Yee takes from Lines, I’d guess no more than 3 or 4 but you never know I suppose. You can’t read much into the head to heads between King and Holt so you probably have to go on recent form, which again doesn’t tell us much, if they do meet I can see it being very close to a decider either way.

Predicted Qualifier: Mark King



I caught a bit of Michael Wasley in practice the other day at the SWSA and I don’t know how he is facing the prospect of losing his tour place, but the reality is that he is and he has a very tough draw to boot against Angles. I wish him well but fear the worst there. I can see Angles progressing in the next round too and my favoured opponent in the last round would be Jimmy Robertson, simply because the other main runner Stuart Carrington has only had a week or so to recover from an injury sustained in China when he was forced to withdraw while in Beijing. Jimmy has been to The Crucible before and I’m sure would love to get there again, but I have to side with the experience of McManus to again don his tartan strides on snooker’s biggest stage. 

Predicted Qualifier: Alan McManus (4 points at 9/4)



Some very familiar names in this section with what I’d say are four very interesting first rounders, three of which I think can go either way. The exception to this would be the Alfie Burden v Tony Drago encounter which I would take Alfie to come through with a bit in hand to set up a possible encounter with Ryan Day, who again I think Burden will feel confident against if it goes close. Alfie is in decent form and for me is the dark horse in this section. Andy Hicks could well turn over Ken Doherty and the top match is a very even affair with the very dangerous Ayouri a threat to anyone. I think it is worth backing both Burden and Ayouri here despite the more obvious match up being Day and Pengfei, we’ve got to have one big shock haven’t we?  

Predicted Qualifier: Alfie Burden (1 point at 11/2)

Recommended Bet: 1 point on Hossein Ayouri at 18/1 



Kyren Wilson will consider himself a little unfortunate to be here given what a fantastic season he has had and I’d expect him to be lining up in his second match against the in-form Martin O’Donnell, not an easy draw on current form for Kyren or Martin. Matthew Stevens lurks at the bottom of this section and his season does not encourage any great confidence in his chances, but he does tend to save his best for the longer matches so he cannot be written off even with the presence of Joe Swail just above him as a likely second round opponent. When Joe gets on a roll he is a very dangerous player and he also tends to raise his game against higher ranked players, I think he will push Stevens very close and if he can win there he’ll have an army of support for his last match, bottle to spare, I’m going to take a punt on him to upset the odds and qualify from this section. 

Predicted Qualifier: Joe Swail (1 point at 5/1)



A very tough section this and I think a strong case can be made for six of them. Anthony McGill of course has had his time in the sun at The Crucible but like Wasley and Jamie Jones before him has not really kicked on following this, perhaps a curse in itself for those who are unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight unprepared? Everyone in snooker knows how good Thepchaiya Un-Nooh is and I don’t think he will be too unhappy with his draw here. I do think his presence at The Crucible will enhance it and if he takes to the stage he will be a very tough first round draw for anyone.

Predicted Qualifier: Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (3 points at 5/2)



Belgium’s Luca Brecel has had his most consistent season to date this time around and to me is beginning to look the complete player, I think he has a very bright future in the sport after a couple of rocky years and for me he is a strong favourite to qualify from this section. Those around him in the top half all have consistency issues and Brecel is a far heavier scorer than any of them, talking of heavy scorers, when Sam Baird clicks there aren’t many ranked around where he is that can command the balls as he does, but again, consistency is a big issue for Sam. Tom Ford is the obvious candidate to stand in Luca’s way and he walloped The Belgian Bullet 10-1 in this in 2014. But Luca is a different player now and not the type to let that experience affect him should the two lock horns again.

Predicted Qualifier: Luca Brecel



This one is probably one of my more confident picks in amongst these little mini-battles. Dave Gilbert for me will take all the beating in this section. Jack Lisowski does not seem to have grasped the chance he had a few seasons back for whatever reason and although it sounds daft to say this about someone so young, he may not get that chance again. I can’t really fancy Rory either although I think he will probably beat Lisowski to face Gilbert in the section final, I just think Gilbert is a notch up from the other 7 in this section, some by a little, some by a canyon.

Predicted Qualifier: Dave Gilbert



Another tough call this one which I’d narrow down to Matt Selt, Mitchell Mann, Robin Hull and the Thai loon Dechawat Poomjaeng. Selt has started really showing what a fine player he is this season and although Marmite continues to annoy everyone with his First Class flight photos on Twitter, there is no denying that he can play this game. Mitchell I know has taken confidence from qualifying for the China Open and is very dangerous on his day, whether he is quite up to Selt’s level quite yet I don’t know. As for the other section, I always call Poomjaeng wrong, I am guilty of multiple charges of writing off his chances too easily and I plead guilty to all of them, I’d take Shootout Champ Robin Hull to beat him but I’ve probably got that wrong too, if he plays Selt in the final match he’ll probably do his head in and turn up again at The Crucible to delight the crowd with his Charlie Chaplin routines. But no, it can’t happen again…SURELY? CAN IT? 

Predicted Qualifier: Matt Selt



Steve Davis plays in honour of his late father Bill and what a fairytale it would be if he managed to make another appearance at The Crucible with this added motivation. His match against Fergal is likely to be one for the snooker purists so I’m sure he’ll enjoy it, the best of luck to him, but qualification is a very big ask this year for The Nugget. That said if he does beat Fergal, he has a chance to really tie Zhou (Ghou) Yuelong (Yolonge) in knots using his years of experience against the young Chinese player, but even then, the scoring of young Ghouy will probably be enough. I’m a bit confused about who to side with in this section but a safe bet for the final match has to be Dark Mavis, I’ve no idea who Krustev is and can only assume he has some compromising pictures of one of the board and that’s why he is there, anyway I digress. Mavis it is.     

Predicted Qualifier: Dark Mavis



Two more inexplicable wildcards mean that Ali Carter will face Cao Yupeng in the second round barring limbs falling off, I’d also think that Oli Lines will be lining up against Dom Dale. From that line up you have to favour experience telling over the longer format which leaves us with a Carter v Dale final round. The head to head tells us that in all five meetings between the pair there has always been the same winner, so perhaps predictably, but even taking out what I hope will happen, it has to be Carter. Whoever draws him first at The Crucible is in for a battle that’s for sure. 

Predicted Qualifier: Ali Carter



The final section sees two of my pals Allan Taylor and Jamie Clarke up against very tough first round opponents in Xiao Guodong and Jamie Burnett, the bottom section throws up a chance for Ashley Hugill to make a name for himself again following a recent whitewash of Neil Robertson as he takes on Jamie Cope, who is very inconsistent these days and was beaten at this stage last year by Steve Davis. Liang Wenbo has had his best season on the tour to date but is so terribly frustrating to back, for me this section has the potential for an all-Chinese final round to ensure at least one Chinese player at the main venue, but the spanner in the works is Burnett, still very capable and still a very heavy scorer, he’ll take advantage if Liang lapses.

Predicted Qualifier: Jamie Burnett

RECOMMENDED FURTHER BETS: 10 x 1 point trebles and a 1 point acca on ‘To Qualify’ markets on Alan McManus (9/4), Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (5/2), Luca Brecel (11/8), Dave Gilbert (7/4) and Matt Selt (15/8) – acca pays over 212/1.

MATCH SINGLES BETTING: 5 points on Lee Walker (-6.5 frames) at 15/8 with Betfair. 5 points on Jimmy Robertson (-6.5 frames) at 6/4 with Betfair. 1 point on Steve Davis to beat Fergal O’Brien at 8/1 with the sponsors.

No Monster Acca this year as the bookies are giving nothing away on the favourites. 

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