Q School is World Snooker’s latest method of producing qualifiers for the main tour.
There have been many over the years. Originally players had to be formally invited by existing players. Later there was the Pro Ticket series then the game went open, then there were qualifying schools and play-offs and a Challenge Tour and an Open Tour and the PIOS and...well, here we are with Q School.
The format is very simple: anyone can enter if they pay £1,000. There are three tournaments. The semi-finalists in each will qualify for the world ranking circuit in 2011/12. 124 players have entered.
As John Parrott said on the BBC last week, there are a lot of players who feel they may be good enough to be professionals. Now is the time to find out.
The entries include new, young players, some old stagers and several players from outside the UK.
It starts on Wednesday with the likes of David Gray, a former Scottish Open champion, Lee Walker, who once reached the Crucible quarter-finals, and Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon, the Thai teenager who made a 147 on the main tour last season in action.
Luca Brecel is also listed, although it’s been reported he has received a World Snooker wildcard (he would have been on the circuit last season after winning the European amateur title but was too young).
Mike Hallett and Tony Knowles, two of snooker’s leading lights in the 1980s/early 90s, will play each other in the first round.
Reanne Evans, the women’s world champion, who failed to win a main tour match last season, faces Sachin Plaha.
It’s an eclectic line-up. Mohammed Raoof, an Indian doctor, will play Craig Barber.
Thai legend James Wattana faces young Sean O'Sullivan.
Jason Tart, a nephew of Stephen Hendry, tackles James Loft.
It’s hard to predict exactly who will come through all of this but I’d be surprised if eight or nine of the qualifiers weren’t players who had already been on the main tour, and some of these probably on it last season.
Kurt Maflin, who impressed in qualifying for the China Open, would be a likely candidate.
This system is tough for players, say, unwell but sport is tough full stop. If you look at the top players of today, everyone of them has come through a qualifying system of some sort – with both merits and negative aspects – and they have all reached the top through their talent and application.
The Q School is certainly a cheaper option than the PIOS and even if players are unsuccessful they can still enter the 12 PTCs.
This is a little like school exams, with all the nerves that they involve, so I wish all players the best of luck.