22.2.10

THE RACE FOR THE CRUCIBLE

This Friday sees the start of the qualifiers for the Betfred.com World Championship.

Yes, it really has come round that quickly.

There are in effect two World Championships: the one everyone watches on TV or at the Crucible and the dogfight to get there. The latter can often be more interesting and more exciting.

To not be at the Crucible as part of the 32-man field for the televised phase is to end the season in disappointment. I’ve known players literally leave the country so as to avoid the 17-day marathon, although with increased global TV coverage this gets harder every year.

The Crucible, which has just been refurbished, holds an iconic place in the hearts of snooker players everywhere. To experience its unique atmosphere is a goal in itself. To win the title there is a lifetime’s ambition come true.

The first day of qualifying, staged at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, sees a few ghosts of Crucibles past return for the pre-main tour round.

These are professionals who remain WPBSA members, among them David Taylor, the ‘Silver Fox’ who was one of snooker’s best known faces in the 1980s.

Taylor, now 66, last played in the World Championship 13 years ago. He last played at the Crucible 23 years ago. He was a semi-finalist there 30 years ago.

Why enter this year? Well snooker is, as with all players, in his blood. He won’t qualify but his participation will please nostalgics.

Taylor faces Bournemouth’s Paul Wykes in the first round.

Les Dodd competed at the Crucible three times, the last of which was in 1994. A former slimmer of the year, Dodd is not quite as svelte as he once was but is back for another go and plays Philip Minchin on Friday.

Barry West was so set on becoming a professional snooker player that he didn’t bother to go and pick up his O Level results.

He played twice at the Crucible, in 1987 and 1988, losing first to Ray Reardon (the six times champion’s last ever victory in Sheffield) and then to Doug Mountjoy. West meets Christopher Flight this week.

Four non-main tour players will face off against James Wattana, Jordan Brown, Michael White and Brendan O’Donoghue until we get down to the last 96 proper.

The final qualifying round takes place from March 7-9.

If you’ve never been to watch, I heartily recommend it. I’m not saying there’s tension in the air but there’s more twitching than you’d find in Bill Oddie’s holiday snaps.

There are six tables and you can watch at least three at once from the back of the badminton hall.

And there are many star names in action, including former champions John Parrott, Ken Doherty, Steve Davis and Graeme Dott as well as six times runner-up Jimmy White, twice finalist Matthew Stevens and younger faces pushing for top 16 inclusion, notably Judd Trump, Liang Wenbo and Ricky Walden.

This isn’t the World Championship you will see at the Crucible and by the time April 17 comes along the qualifiers will be all but forgotten.

But if you like your snooker tense, dramatic and – for some – heartbreaking then the qualifying atmosphere is one to be sampled.

Details of how to buy tickets can be found here.

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to Colin Roscoe of Connah's Quay?
Also Ken Owers who came out of Fleetwood?
Two good players who were symbolic of the 80's journeyman.

Dave H said...

Colin Roscoe used to be an ice-cream salesman but I'm unaware as to whether he went back into that business.

Not sure about Ken Owers, although he did work for the WPBSA on the circuit as 'security' for a couple of years.

I'm think I'm right in saying his TV debut in the 80s was in an ITV tournament and consisted entirely of a cutaway of him in his chair while his opponent (Neal Foulds possibly?) potted various balls to beat him.

Anonymous said...

The two I remember were Doug French and Jim Meadowcroft.
Nice guys too.

Steve said...

Would be a real shame if no one is broadcasting the matches. Would go against Barry hearn's new ideas of trying to make more Snooker avilable by everyone, hope he comes to an last minute agreement with 110sport.tv or someone.

jamie brannon said...

The qualifiers are fascinating as the prize is huge, but they are never more interesting than the Championship itself. I can't recall in my time watching the game a below par World Championship. Also for quality the final stages are always better.

Anonymous said...

No Tony Knowles this year then...

Dave H said...

Have you ever been to the final qualifying round, Jamie?

Anonymous said...

If he answers that with a 'yes' dave then hes either joking, lying, or he was sleepwalking while he attended.

The final qualifiers have drama like no other situation and ive been to 'them all', including many behind the scenes

jamie brannon said...

Yes I have, I enjoyed it apart from seeing Jimmy lose. I think the tension is great like the final day of the fotball season for a club facing relegation. I just feel though the fear of losing dilutes the standard of play. The Crucible though never lets your down in general plus even when the snooker is patchy, the immediacy and the importance of what is on offer makes it compelling viewing. I still feel the qualifiers should get better coverage as they are as you say vitally important. Seems a bit unjust to Wattana and the three others playing those non-tour pro's.

Anonymous said...

When 110sport announced they would cover the qualifiers i got excited not for the Shanghai or Grand Prix qualifiers but for this the World Qualifier.

2 tournaments in to their pledge went belly up which is disappointing to put it mildly.

i hope something will be done but with only this week to go before it starts im not hopeful.

Matt said...

I went the the majority of both the qualifying event and the final stages last year and I must admit that I probably enjoyed the qualifiers more.

Part of that was probably down to the fact that it was my fifth season at the Crucible and the first at the EISS but with Lee/Trump, Davis/Spick and a few others it was probably the qualifiers at which I saw the most interesting matches.

Anonymous said...

hopefully someone records tomorrows cash in the attic, and puts it on youtube..............

Dave H said...

I agree the standard of play is often diluted, but if you take vicarious pleasure in watching other people suffer then you can't beat it

Anonymous said...

Dave

i think you would agree standard of play is secondary to standard of match.

some of the best matches that has been over the years has been when players struggle.

some say possibly the reason snooker isn't as popular today is standards are getting higher and higher.

i don't necessarily believe that myself however they could have a point.

snookerbacker said...

I'd rather watch every single qualifying match than have to endure the King v McLeod match again from last year.

mathmo said...

I remember watching Andy Hicks versus Jimmy White last year in the second round of qualifying. It was nip and tuck all the way to 8-6 to Andy Hicks. Then I think Jimmy went for a comfort break, came back without his bowtie and knocked in an 80 break, then Hicks knocked in a 135 but Jimmy followed that up with a 120 to leave it at 9-8 to Hicks. A scrappy frame then ensued with Jimmy losing 10-8.

A great match!

Anonymous said...

Dave, will this be televised by 110 or someone similar? I'd like to go but Sheffield is a long way - amybe bookmakers will be streaming the event?

Dave H said...

I don't know but the fact it hasn't been advertised anywhere suggests not

Anonymous said...

Talking of qualifiers reminds me of the other match I saw at the UK qualifiers in 2008. Jimmy was 8-6 down to David Grace and managed to win the next two (it was first to 9), and then did one of the best breaks of 81 I have ever seen (definitely the best clearance I have seen live) to win 9-8. The in the next round Jimmy managed another 9-8 win, and eventually lost in the next round to Rory McLeod 9-8 where I was frantically checking the internet on my phone while I was on holiday.

Those three matches didn't do my health any good.

Anonymous said...

WORLDSNOOKER.COM says that David Taylor last played at the Crucible in 1990

Dave H said...

He last played there in 1987

Anonymous said...

Anyone remember what happened to Mark Flowerdew, Jamie Woodman and Kristan Helgasson?

Janie Watkins said...

To Anon at 4.55pm

I saw Doug French quite often up until a couple of seasons ago as he still came to play in the "seniors" events at the Pontin's Festivals.

Which reminds me that one very obvious name missing from the draw this year is Barry Stark, who I thought still retained his membership as a wpbsa coach.

Other names we might of seen if they hadn't had to give up their wsa membership to play pios etc are people like Mike Hallett.

moondan said...

My wish for the next generation of players and snooker fans is they have a snooker channel where all qualifier matches are transmitted, surely it has to come.

A snooker match is only ever worth watching if the result is important.
Qualifying for the worlds is probably the most important match any player has to play if he is outside the 16, so drama, nerves, highs and lows, would make these matches very special to watch.

Some say Im pipedreaming, I dont think so, within 10 years is my guess. And fervent hope.

David Caulfield said...

David Taylor last played in the Crucible in 1990 where he lost to Jimmy White!

Dave H said...

No he did not!

Although no doubt it's on Wikipedia, which will make it unquestionably true.

His last appearance was in 1987. If you don't believe me, ask David himself!!!

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia shmicapidia

Dave H said...

Surely this is the internet's smallest ever dispute: when was the last time David 'The Silver Fox' Taylor played at the Crucible?

I've checked back in Snooker Scene. Jimmy White beat 'Dustbin' Danny Fowler 10-4 in the first round in 1990.

Taylor was beaten 10-5 by James Wattana (whatever happened to him?) in the third of five qualifying rounds.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to Dustbin Danny Fowler by the way.
Last I heard he was working on an organic farm in or close to his native Worksop.

Anonymous said...

I've just received tickets for the main championship (YESSS!); Now I almost wish I'd applied for some qualifier tickets as well!

Greg P said...

"Wikipedia Schmikipedia"?

That was hilarious. I laughed at that a lot more than I should have.

BTW, I'm starting to have more doubts about Mr. Hearn now after reading that latest interview with the Telegraph. Is he just being "coy" or is he really that casual about changing snooker's fortunes... I'm thinking he might turn out to be the biggest disappointment since... the other saviour guy whose name begins with B.

Dave H said...

Boris?

It's probably best to wait until Hearn unveils his plans rather than writing them off before hearing them

David Caulfield said...

Fair enough. Away from that, I hope Tony Drago continues his fine form and reaches the finals. don't think the longer format will suit him though

Dave H said...

Looking at this year's draw I can't see there being many surprise qualifiers

Greg P said...

That's what people said to me last time. "Just give him a chance."

Although, I suppose the stakes are lower here, as much as I love snooker.

BTW, how do you know Mr. White was disparaging snooker with that Tesco remark? Remember it's the Telegraph, he might have just been having a rant about how the riff raff are always getting drunk off the cheap booze, implying that they can't actually see the players properly.

Dave H said...

Good point!

Greg P said...

David (Caulfield) I think you might just be over-analyzing there. Maybe I'm wrong but, it's 1 session of 9 frames, then 1 session of 10, so it's not that much different from just playing two best of 9s in a day. And he's been playing (and winning) best of 9s all season. And there's a break of a few days before the final round. Yes he's getting on a bit but it's not exactly like slave labour or anything.

I'm really hoping he can do it but not holding my breath. All the way from the first round to the Crucible would be quite something.

Dave (H), great comeback with the Boris remark, btw.

David Caulfield said...

Greg, you're right but the way I'm looking at it is that Tony doesn't have an overly difficult job, but neither is it easy. Goudong, Song, McCulloch and Hawkins. All beatable but all capable of good snooker on their day. Don't think Drago can catch them all on the off days while he's on one of his good ones. We'll see.

The Joe Delaney > Adrian Gunnell > Steve Davis route and the Bjorn Haneveer > David Gilbert > Martin Gould > Nigel Bond route are the two most likely to spring a surprise final qualifier I would have thought. Matt Selt's draw isn't bad either all things considered. Jimmy's is woeful

Anonymous said...

In my view the best qualifier was the Nick Walker v Rod Lawler match.

Nick went into a 9-0 lead at the break, but the 2nd session - on the same day - turned out to be a different kettle of fish.

Rod won the the first frame to make it 9-1, then the 2nd, and the 3rd, and the 4th. Even at the interval, nobody gave Rod a chance, but when they went back into the arena the tide seemed to have turned and it went 9-5, 9-6, 9-7, 9-8, & 9-9.

The deciding frame was - believe it or not [sarc.] - a tense affair, but somehow Nick managed to pull himself together and won it.

Nick came to our house a week or so later and I asked him what he did at 9-9. He said "I went into the toilets, locked myself in a cubicle, and said if I lose this frame I will be the laughing stock of snooker for years to come. I then told myself to get a f**kin' grip and start playing again!" It worked.

Nick was one of the nicest blokes I met on the snooker circuit, and hope he is happy at whatever he is doing. Last time I spoke with him was at Paul's funeral, and he told me he was working in London.

Janie Watkins said...

I can't believe anyone refers to Wikipaedia for snooker facts - there are so many errors there.

Remember when they reported Mike Hallett was dead - even Mike was a triful surprised at that one!!

David is definitely correct about Taylor's last Crucible appearance. I was there!

Andrew B. said...

Wikipedia now has its facts straight about David Taylor :-)

Anonymous said...

Nick Walker works as a recruitment consultant now.

jamie brannon said...

In defence of Wikipedia, a study was done that showed that it makes only marginally fewer mistakes than the Britannica books. The majority of there facts are in line with say Chris Turner's snooker archive, which itself contains the odd error.

jamie brannon said...

Also I do enjoy the tension that sport brings, but not neccesarily the squirming unless it is Liverpool! One thing I like about the qualifying venue is the fact that you can see 3 tables at a time. However, the location is very grim.

Anonymous said...

Why is it grim Jamie??

jamie brannon said...

Incidentally though I would not say that Wikipedia should be used for the BBC snooker stats, it is just not as bad as some people say.

The venue is excellent, but when I went for a snack near the Don Valley Stadium it was very grey and depressing part of Sheffield.

jamie brannon said...

Can't see many shocks this year, but don't write off Drago or Jimmy. Tony is in excellent form and Hawkins aside has a favourable draw. White won't mind playing Doherty or Swail en route, he would have been more vulnerable against a Wenbo or a Walden.

Anonymous said...

im beginning to think this is the Jamie blog

zzzzz

jamie brannon said...

I am not going to say sorry for making a large number of comments, if Dave doesn't like it then he iss in the position to not put them up. I admit though I love this outlet to talk snooker as it is far better than 606, where you get too much bitchiness that is not concerned with the game.

I admit I have rised to the bait again by saying that, but I have a compulsion to respond.

Keith said...

Hearn has said he wont change the Crucible format, but when you see the names (young and old) that could miss out, you do wonder if we couldn't squeeze a few more matches in with a prelim round.

jamie brannon said...

Ceefax page 381 is updating the scores from the qualifiers which they dont usually do, most won't care as you will have computer access at home, but personally it is a surprising bonus. Neil Selman won today, the resident coach of The Reardon snooker club where I play.

Off topic, but influenced by your tweet about the BBC "appalling Winter Olympic coverage". Hazel Irvine should be dropped as the snooker presenter for me as she keeps making all thse silly remarks like and then laughing at them, she does it on the snooker too. Aside from her the snooker team is first class like most of the BBC Sport coverage, I have to say I was bit shocked how vehement you were Dave about it!!

Anonymous said...

thanks for your response Jamie. i bet my mate youd respond before 5pm that day. £5 up. yay

Anonymous said...

Hi i am looking for some information on Jim meadocroft he was on the scene around about 70's and early 80's i actually have a hand signed cue by him and i would like to know some of the background of the guy whos on my cue i would be very grateful if any had any info on the gentleman thanks

Halflife said...

Colin roscoe picked me up in a cab this morning. He and his current partner own Kath's cabs in Buckley