It’s a long road to the Crucible but not as long as it once was.

In 1992, Spencer Dunn won a record 11 matches to qualify for that season’s World Championship. These qualifiers were, for reasons unknown, played in September – nearer the previous season’s event than the one the players were competing in.

It helped create some surprise qualifiers: Dunn, John Giles and Shaun Mellish, who earned the distinction of becoming the first player to sport an earring at the Crucible.

Among the other qualifiers were Karl Payne, who later appeared on TV singing as Rick Astley on ‘Stars in Their Eyes’, and some teenager by the name of Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Most years you get at least one qualifier who is, even to many snooker fans, a complete unknown.

Last year it was Zhang Anda. In 1992 it was Chris Small, who won eight matches to qualify before beating Doug Mountjoy in the first round.

John Parrott has qualified more often than any other player, a total of nine times. Tony Drago and Nigel Bond can equal this record if they make it through this year.

Were Bond to lose in the final qualifying round he would equal Michael Judge’s record for most defeats – seven – at this stage.

For more – much more – of all this I can recommend Chris Downer’s excellent Crucible Almanac, available through Snooker Scene’s mail order service.

Of course it means a hell of a lot to get through to the Crucible, which is why the snooker is not always the most free flowing.

A decade ago I sat with a handful of other poor saps in Newport waiting for the final match of the final qualifying round to finish.

At 1.40am, Gary Wilkinson duly beat Jason Ferguson 10-9. Their contest clocked in at 11 hours, 38 minutes duration, the longest ever best of 19 frame encounter.

Gary (who won 10-9) is now working diligently backstage for World Snooker – waiting for everyone else to finish – while Jason has become WPBSA chairman.

The rest of us present that night formed a support group and meet regularly in a church basement.

Jimmy White starts out today as he bids to reach the Crucible for a 26th time.

It’s 27 years since White was first in the world final. Many players on the current professional circuit were not even alive.

Some weren’t even alive when he played Stephen Hendry in their first final 21 years ago but they, like Jimmy, are fully aware how special the World Championship is and how much it would mean to be part of that 32-man field when the draw is made on March 21.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure Jimmy White used to wear an earring back in his early days. Probably 1982.

Anonymous said...

For the record I know of a player who appeared at The Crucible (once) who wore a ring through a different appendage that his earlobe.
He announced his retirement recently.

Matt Lester said...

Great stuff Dave and anoymous you're right Jimmy did wear an earring. I'll be there tonight Dave if you're still around?

Mal said...

Think Gary Wilkinson and Jason Ferguson's record is under threat!

Lawler and Wallace which to be fair was never going to be over in a flash is still 1-1 after 2 hours 40 minutes. Looks like being 3 hours for 3 frames. Dave can I request that you stick rigidly to this match and keep us all up to date as I'm sure many of us will want to know every twist and turn!

Carl Freidericksen said...


Will you be commentating on the Hainan Classic Snooker and do you have any idea of what Eurosport will show?

thanks very much


Dave H said...

Yes but I don't know the specific matches yet

jamie brannon said...

I can't believe Lawler and Wallace are still at 4-4, didn't they start at ten?

I hope Jimmy can pull through. Three years ago went to watch Jimmy play Mark King at the qualifiers and it was a packed house, I would imagine not far off today.

Wattana v Burnett looks tasty, both seem to be scoring well of late.

Mal said...

Just over 7 hours for 9 frames - That is actually slower than the longest best of 9 match which was 434 minutes for the 9 frames between Foldvari (who made Griffiths look like Drago - well nearly!) and Williamson.

However, if the match stays close, it needs about another 4 and 3/4 hours to beat the longest for a best of 19 frame match.

Wattana will need to beat Burnett and Wenbo to secure his place on the tour - results of players around him has meant he needs a bit more. Tough task, but he seems to be playing well and if he can beat Burnett, then Wenbo seems lacking confidence - He has certainly had some good results since getting back on tour and it is a shame they are doing the top 8 on the PTC staying on rather than the overall one year list as he would be fine on it.

jamie brannon said...

Yeah, would love to see it happen but feel that Burnett has raised his game since all the controversy. He reached the final of Shanghai, let's not forget.

I thought three wins might be enough. There are other routes back onto the tour, but obviously would prefer to guarantee it.

Anonymous said...

Steve James wore an earring in 1991.

Janie Watkins - SWSA Media Officer said...

This "poor sap" must take issue Dave!

That match in Newport didn't finish as early as that - In your dreams!

It was much nearer 3am. Because I had a 45 minute drive home and I walked in the house at 4am!

Pity the poor ref - I think it was Paul Collier who was scheduled to be reffing at 9am in the Challenge Tour the next morning in - HARROGATE!! They were good to him and told him to be there by noon!

Did we ever find out the name of the stray wino who made up 50% of the late night audience!!

Janie Watkins said...

If Wattana beat Burnett he regains his top 64 place and that would also knock Igor off tour, as he's hanging on at no 8 on the ptc list.

Anonymous said...

I hope for Wattana as well. When I was backpacking around Asia 20 years ago, all the thai snooker halls - even those built of a few pieces of wood at a small village in the northeast - were full of posters showing the national hero then. This was the time when I fell in love with snooker, a sport not many people gave attention here in germany when becker and graf served.
But concerning the new regulation (PTC instead of Top 8 one year list): They gave a chance to all pros as well. and wattana missed a fair couple of events (would have loved to see him at Fürth where he did not entry). So who is to blame???

Mal said...

Hi Janie et al,

With regards to Wattana, he is provisionally 66th on prosnooker blog. When Michael White's points go in, he drops to 67th.
Even if he beats Burnett and M.White, Chuang and Song all lose, he would only overtake White, thus be 66th. Another win - over Wenbo, would lift him above, Chuang, Song, Haneveer and McCulloch - so he definitely does need to get to the crucible.

I still think it should be all events that count towards the one year list and not just the PTC.

Anonymous said...

If all the events counted then it would be the top 72 qualifiers. The PTC inclusion gives the chance for new blood as the PTC is open to all. Long live the PTC!

(Although a money list based final stages is the logical way forward).

This Chuang - reached the Crucible at 17 and gave Ronnie a scare. Dark horse.

Mal said...

Hi anon 11:12

If all events counted, it would not be the top 72 - as it would be the one year list, not the two year list, so would give more of a chance to those who performed in the big tournaments in the 2010/11 season rather than just the PTC, but of course the PTC would be part of that.

Well, Wattana doing well atm 7-5 up on burnett with a slight lead in frame 13. He may have a big game against Wenbo to qualify for crucible and stay on tour - he has certainly been stronger in both second halves of the seasons.