It’s been an exciting season full of snooker with new formats and innovations but there is still one tournament that stands head and shoulders above the rest – and it starts tomorrow.
The qualifiers for this year’s Betfred.com World Championship begin at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield where the hopefuls will be attempting to join the top 16 at the Crucible Theatre next month.
And however much drama there will be at the Crucible in front of the TV cameras, the qualifiers produces immeasurable tension and intrigue of their own.
They start with a round featuring WPBSA members and coaches not on the main tour – a day giving plucky outsiders a chance to play in the World Championship or a monumental waste of everybody’s time, depending on your point of view.
Among the former Crucible performers on show will be Tony Knowles, a three times semi-finalist, David Gray, Les Dodd and Paul Cavney.
But the qualifiers start in earnest on Saturday when the action moves to the Badminton Hall, which is open to the paying public.
Legends such as Jimmy White and Steve Davis will rub shoulders with rookies such as Jack Lisowski and Anthony McGill. The qualifiers are a great leveller: everyone is desperate to get through, the standard of play is not always high – it’s all about getting the result.
Trudging away after defeat is hard, doubly so for those who don’t have the China Open to look forward to.
The knowledge that the World Championship is on TV and you’re not in it is hard to swallow and there is also the small matter of the qualifying deciding who remains on the tour and who will have to go through Q School in May.
It’s a horribly nervy time for the players: the Crucible is just a few miles down the road but probably feels light years away. Only 16 places are available so there will be far more disappointment than joy.
If you are able to go along and watch any of the action then I thoroughly recommend it. The drama and excitement on offer is in keeping with the best that the World Championship can offer.