Snookerbacker

April 9, 2018

World Championship Qualifiers Draw and Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:17 pm

The Dream of the 128

So it is upon us. While Joe Public at large might think the World Snooker Championship doesn’t start for a couple of weeks, we know better. The World Championship Qualifiers get under way on Wednesday and I can’t bloody well wait.

The qualifiers have a new home this year as snooker returns to the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield. It’s proved a popular move with the players and seems generally more adaptable to such a prestigious event than the more central Ponds Forge. Fans have mixed feelings but at the end of the day the players should be playing in the best possible surroundings given what’s at stake here.

As ever, fates will be decided over the coming week, not only of the 16 players destined for the hallowed turf of The Crucible but also in terms of tour survival and relegation, so this truly is a test of everyone’s mettle as absolutely every player there has something to play for.

You should think of these as 16 mini-tournaments within one big one, each consisting of eight players, with four quarter finals, two semi finals and a final in each section, whittling down the 128 players, including 15 invited amateurs to the 16 that will walk out at The Crucible in a couple of weeks time to face one of the seeded players.

I’m not going over the top when I say that I think this event as a stand alone is as exciting and addictive as any of the majors. OK, the biggest names in the sport aren’t there, but everyone else is and every year without fail a big story emerges from these qualifiers. If you have never thought about getting involved with them before, I strongly advise that you give it a go, whether just watching the stream, joining in the fun on social media, or even going along there yourself, you won’t regret it.

The coverage on Eurosport Player culminates with Judgement Day next Wednesday, when all the final sessions of the last 16 matches are played. Think ‘Soccer Saturday’ with more balls. You’ll never look at snooker the same again after watching it, trust me. You can watch this bit of the coverage live on the World Snooker Facebook page.

Can you tell I’m getting a bit too excited?

The sections are detailed below, along with some thoughts on who I think stands the best chance of making it through. I’ll post match bets throughout the event on Twitter

Let the drama begin.

Section 1

Ryan Day vs. Igor Figueiredo

Mitchell Mann vs. Peter Lines

Robbie Williams vs. Jak Jones

Peter Ebdon vs. James Wattana

One of the top players of the back end of this season Ryan Day finds himself in the qualifiers following his careless early exit in the China Open qualifiers which had they been played a bit later he’d probably have coasted through. He faces Brazil’s Igor Figueiredo in his opener and I don’t think he’ll be overly concerned there. He does face a difficult match next up against either Mitchell Mann or Peter Lines, Mitchell desperately needs a run in this to keep his tour card and he did make the main venue two seasons ago so knows how it’s done. Robbie Williams will be gutted that this isn’t at Ponds Forge as he was near on unbeatable there and he faces the improving Jak Jones whose one year ranking looks like being enough for him to remain on tour. Lurking at the bottom is former World Champion and current carrot cruncher Peter Ebdon who tends to turn up for this, I fancy him to beat Wattana. Overall though you have to fancy Day to qualify with his recent form but if he has to get over Ebdon to do so all it will take is Peter to get under his skin a bit for the doubts to creep in, I think Day will need to put distance between them early on in the match if it happens.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Day to beat Ebdon on Judgement Day. 

Section 2

Zhou Yuelong vs. Ian Preece

Daniel Wells vs. Kurt Dunham

Tom Ford vs. Leo Fernandez

Liam Highfield vs. Chen Zhe

Dennis likes to call him Ghou Yolonge but everyone else calls him by his name, Zhou Yuelong. He qualified for The Crucible last year and gave a good account of himself then against national hero Ding. He’ll fancy his chances of making it to Judgement Day though Welshman Daniel Wells might have something to say about that, Dan has played solidly all season and will be remaining on the tour as things stand as a result of his higher ranking. Despite having his appendix out just before the event Tom Ford was in great form in Beijing and looks to be peaking at the right time, unlike his appendix, he’ll fancy his chances here too. One player I think is quietly improving is Liam Highfield and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see him have a say in this section, he has beaten his opponent here Chen Zhe on their only meeting to date and holds the same record against Ford. But on balance I am going to stick with the promising Chinese player here.  

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Zhou to beat Highfield on Judgement Day. 

Section 3

Matt Selt vs. Ng On-Yee

Mark Joyce vs. Adam Duffy

Mei Xiwen vs. Basem Eltahhan

Xiao Guodong vs. Chris Totten

Marmite Matt Selt takes on Ladies World Champion Ng On-Yee in the opener and should progress to a tie with Mark Joyce to decide the top half of this section, Joyce and Selt are pretty evenly matched and despite the presence of Xiao Guodong in the bottom half, who you’d have to say looks a shoo-in for Judgement Day, I’d say that the winner of that one would be my favourite to qualify from this section. Trouble is that I find the Selt/Joyce match up should it happen impossible to predict. I’ll take a punt on Marmite and then take him to finish the job to the delight of his adoring fan.  

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Selt to beat Xiao on Judgement Day. 

Section 4

Stuart Carrington vs. Nigel Bond

Ben Woollaston vs. Kacper Filipiak

Zhang Anda vs. Zhang Yong

Martin Gould vs. Paul Davison

An interesting section here with three players in Gould, Woollaston and to a lesser extent Carrington who we’ve come to expect at the big events, so at least two of them won’t be there this time. Nigel Bond is always a tricky player to evaluate but even if he manages to beat Carrington first up I’d be surprised if he went much further as he struggles to follow a good result with another one these days. The presence of the two Zhang’s doesn’t really enter the equation for me with neither of them members of the stronger Chinese contingent so it’s just a case of Gould against either Carrington or Woollaston for a Crucible spot. Whoever he plays, I think I’d side with Gould.  

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Gould to beat Woollaston on Judgement Day.

Section 5

Graeme Dott vs. Adrian Ridley

Sonny Akani vs. Lukas Kleckers

Dominic Dale vs. Reanne Evans

Mike Dunn vs. Duane Jones

Former Champion and twice Runner-Up of this great championship Graeme Dott has found some form lately and is always a danger to any seeded player at The Crucible as he proved against Ali Carter last year. He should win his opener in a canter and may then face the unique Sonny Akani who has a legion of fans on social media cheering him on and should take care of Lukas Kleckers to set up a tie with Dott. In the bottom half Dominic Dale faces 11 times World Ladies Champion Reanne Evans and Mike Dunn faces a potentially tricky tie with the improving Duane Jones. The listing screams Dott v Dale as the final but I’d not be surprised to see this section throw up a surprise in Akani or perhaps even Jones. Now watch Dale qualify with ease…  

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Dott to beat Jones on Judgement Day.

Section 6

Michael Holt vs. Thor Chuan Leong

Elliot Slessor vs. Eden Sharav

Robert Milkins vs. Aaron Canavan

Scott Donaldson vs. Tyler Rees

I think you have to fancy the higher seeded player (the one on the left) in all these ties which include the newly crowned World Seniors Champion Aaron Canavan who will be playing his first ever match in a professional tournament. Milkins beat Donaldson at the last 80 stage a couple of years ago so will fancy his chances of making Judgement Day to face Holt or Slessor, a match which could go very close. Holt holds the head to head advantage over Elliot but the Geordie lad is flying high at the moment following a strong performance beating Ronnie O’Sullivan in Beijing. I’m going to take a punt that this section can throw up a shock and produce a Crucible new boy.     

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Slessor to beat Milkins on Judgement Day.

Section 7

Rory McLeod vs. Ian Burns

Li Hang vs. Ashley Hugill

Lyu Haotian vs. Fang Xiongman

Anthony Hamilton vs. Martin O’Donnell

A fiercely competitive section this and you could realistically make a case for all of them. Judd’s conqueror last year Rory has a tough opener against Ian Burns and the match below is no easier to predict with the improving Ashley Hugill up against Li Hang. Anthony Hamilton hasn’t been doing much lately which may or may not mean his back is playing up again, either way he’s got a toughie first up against my pal Martin O’Donnell. But my fancy in this section is Lyu Haotian who has shown great improvement this season and is very nearly into the top 64 just on his one season earnings. For me he is the man to beat here.  

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Lyu to beat Li on Judgement Day.

Section 8

Matthew Stevens vs. Ryan Thomerson

Fergal O’Brien vs. Yuan Sijun

Ken Doherty vs. Josh Boileau

Mark King vs. Gerard Greene

A section filled with familiar faces this one, Matthew, Fergal, Ken and The MK Don aka The KDog aka Kojak all looking to finish their season on a high at The Crucible, in Ken’s case in a waistcoat rather than a BBC regulation V-Neck sweater. You’d fancy them all to make their respective semi-finals against opponents they’ll be expecting to beat and then it’s a real dog eat dog slugout for the place. Out of the four, King has been playing the best stuff all season so I’d expect him to edge out Ken before becoming even more popular in Ireland and beating Fergal too possibly into the wee small hours of Judgement Night. It would be nice to have him back at the main venue.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: King to beat O’Brien on Judgement Night.

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Section 9

Liang Wenbo vs. Rod Lawler

Zhao Xintong vs. Aditya Mehta

Yu Delu vs. Sean O’Sullivan

Jamie Jones vs. Craig Steadman

I can’t see any reason why Liang Wenbo won’t be lining up on Judgement Day to make a push for The Crucible. Rod Lawler looks totally devoid of confidence lately so I expect Liang to coast through there and follow this up with another comfortable win in the next round. In the bottom section you’d be looking towards Jamie Jones to come through but Yu Delu can’t be taken for granted and has quietly climbed the rankings this year, he could be the dark horse here in my book. Delu has also beaten Liang on their previous three meetings so I’m going to take a punt on an upset in this section.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Yu to beat Liang on Judgement Day.

Section 10

Jack Lisowski vs. Christopher Keogan

David Grace vs. Wang Yuchen

Alan McManus vs. Rhys Clark

Oliver Lines vs. Harvey Chandler

Jack Lisowski played really well over in China and you have to say from 4-0 up on Kyren Wilson in the Quarter Finals he should really have tied it up, but as we’ve seen time and again with him he never quite manages to fulfil his undoubted potential when it matters most. Here though for me he’s unstoppable in the top half and will most likely face Alan McManus to qualify. Angles missed out on The Crucible last season following his semi-final heroics the year before and I think he might just fall short again here. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Lisowski was the first name of this particular session going into the Crucible Top Hat.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Lisowski to beat McManus on Judgement Day.

Section 11

Andrew Higginson vs. David John

Cao Yupeng vs. Robin Hull

Lee Walker vs. Kristijan Helgason

Ricky Walden vs. Joe Swail

A few familiar names here with the likes of Walden, Higginson, Hull and Swail all in the mix, but for me here the stand out favourite has to be Cao Yupeng. Cao is almost Selby-esque around the table these days in the way he plays, not quite as good obviously but to me it’s clear he is modelling himself on all things Jester and the results are beginning to come with it. Ricky has struggled all season with injury and although he’s getting a bit of form back he’s not the player he was a couple of seasons ago and three best of nineteens is going to test anyone’s resolve, he may not even make it past Swail if Joe is on song. This section for me has to be all about Yupeng.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Cao to beat Swail on Judgement Day.

Section 12

Michael Georgiou vs. Matthew Bolton

Dark Mavis vs. Sanderson Lam

Sam Craigie vs. Jimmy White

Joe Perry vs. Ross Muir

Jimmy White sets out again on an unlikely journey to The Crucible and faces Snookerbacker Classic Champion Sam Craigie first up, Sam won praise from Neil Robertson last week in China for a brilliant performance and I’d fancy him to send the Whirlwind home there and then line up against Joe Perry. In the top half Dark Mavis will fancy his chances but he’s not really done anything of note this season and it wouldn’t be the greatest of shocks if he didn’t make Judgement Day with Shootout champion Georgiou possibly the most likely to stop him. For me though the key match here to decide the winner will be Craigie against Perry, Sam to me looks like he’s ready to make a really big impact soon and where better to start than here.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Craigie to beat Mavis on Judgement Day.

Section 13

Yan Bingtao vs. Jackson Page

Tian Pengfei vs. Li Yuan

Kurt Maflin vs. Hamza Akbar

Chris Wakelin vs. Xu Si

Yan Bingtao was already being touted as the main danger man for the seeds even before the draw was made but even though he’s making giant strides, it would be a mistake to assume he will coast through this as a result. That said he’s not got a bad draw though Jackson Page is probably not far behind him in the way he’s progressing at such a young age, though he looks about 25. In the bottom section I have to stick with my lucky charm Chris Wakelin, whenever I back him he wins, in that way he’s kind of the opposite of Dominic Dale for me. But I’ll stop short of saying that he can stop Bingtao, this kid is pretty special, look out seeds.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Yan to beat Wakelin on Judgement Day.

Section 14

David Gilbert vs. Billy Joe Castle

Alfie Burden vs. Jamie Curtis-Barrett

Gary Wilson vs. Adam Stefanow

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh vs. Alexander Ursenbacher

Long time professional Alfie Burden faces an uncertain future and needs a couple of wins here to secure his tour card without the need to travel to Q-School, but you’d expect him to chalk up at least one before taking on Castle or Gilbert. I was really impressed with Billy Joe at the start of the season but I’ve not seen much of him since, same with Ursenbacher who looked to have come on in leaps and bounds earlier on and since then has fallen away a bit. Talking of falling away, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh has plummeted down to nearly 60th in the rankings which is quite a shock given how well he has played the last couple of seasons. To me however the winner of this section lies elsewhere in the consistent and solid Gary Wilson who remember last year qualified and gave O’Sullivan a bit of a headache.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Wilson to beat Gilbert on Judgement Day.

Section 15

Sam Baird vs. Soheil Vahedi

Jimmy Robertson vs. Alex Borg

John Astley vs. Marvin Lim

Michael White vs. Niu Zhuang

Michael White could have been handed a tougher section it has to be said and looking at this I’d be surprised if he doesn’t make the final round. In the top half the unpredictable Sam Baird faces a tough opener against Vahedi who has proved himself very capable this season, but I’d not take him to stop Sussex boy Jimmy Robertson from joining the Welshman for a Judgement Day showdown. There is nothing in their head to head so if this match up does happen I can see it being a very tight encounter, perhaps even a Judgement Day decider.    

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Robertson to beat White in a Judgement Day thriller.

Section 16

Noppon Saengkham vs. Chen Zifan

Hossein Vafaei vs. Jamie Cope

Hammad Miah vs. Jordan Brown

Stephen Maguire vs. Allan Taylor

The obvious name that leaps out here is Stephen Maguire, too good to be in the qualifiers but results don’t lie and he’s there to slog it out with all the numpties. It’s a bummer of a draw again for Allan Taylor who always seems to draw a big name early on lately and only a very brave man would back against Maguire careering to Judgement Day in this section. Up at the top Jamie Cope returns as an amateur but faces the dangerous Hossein Vafaei who I’d expect to come through to face Mags at the end. There will be plenty who will fancy an upset there but I’ll keep faith with the Scotsman, if Maguire faces anyone but Vafaei in his last match I think he’s a Crucible certainty but with Vafaei, he’ll still have a bit of work to do.

Predicted Crucible Qualifier: Maguire to beat Vafaei on Judgement Day.

RECOMMENDED BETS ON THE TO QUALIFY MARKETS:

Fourfold on Dott, Lisowski, Gould and Bingtao pays nearly 8/1 with Black Type.

Yankee on Yupeng 7/4, Gary Wilson 7/4, Yuelong 7/4 and Haotian 11/4 with Black Type.

Doubles on Craigie 7/1, Selt 10/3, Slessor 5/1, Delu 4/1 with Black Type.

Single on 5 Chinese Qualifiers at 4/1 with Black Type.

One for the Big Punters – Over 3 Chinese Qualifiers at 4/5 with Black Type.

FIRST ROUND MATCH ACCUMULATOR pays 11/2 with Black Type – Woollaston, Joyce, Carrington, Haotian, Yupeng, Doherty, Burden, Maflin, Robbie Williams, Yuelong and McManus.

FIRST ROUND MINI-SESSION BET all to be leading after 4 frames Dott, Lisowski, Wilson and Stevens pays 9/2, add Milkins pays 11/2 at Bet 365.  

Click here for an exclusive offer to blog readers on Taom Version 2.0 chalk. If you are in the UK you will not get this cheaper anywhere else. Be sure to go through this link or you will be charged the full price at the checkout.

EVENT INFORMATION

Dates: Wednesday 11 April – Wednesday 18 April

Venue: English Institute of Sport, Sheffield, 200 Coleridge Rd, Sheffield S9 5DA

Tickets: There are two official box offices for this event.  They are SIV Tickets and See Tickets.

SIV: book online at sivtickets.com

See Tickets: book online – click here

BETFRED WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFIERS BOX OFFICE INFO

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