The Betfred.com World Championship qualifiers get underway in Sheffield today, a few miles from the Crucible but, in a snooker sense, light years away from the game’s theatre of dreams.

Only 16 players are going to make it through the qualifying quagmire as legends of the sport join seasoned campaigners and new faces in trying to make it.

It’s always a nervy couple of weeks. It means so much to get to the Crucible.

There are many players at the qualifiers who have already played in the TV stages and just as many who have not.

But who is going to make it this year?

Obviously, the players seeded 17-32 are at an advantage in only having to play one match, but this won’t lessen the anxiety they feel.

There are several players in this bracket having good campaigns. Peter Ebdon has just won the China Open, although in the past tournament wins seem to have taken quite a bit out of him (when he won the China title three years ago he immediately lost in the first round at the Crucible).

Ebdon will play Sam Baird, David Grace, Alfie Burden or Jack Lisowski, all younger attacking players.

Lisowski suffered a disappointing reverse to Steve Davis on his World Championship debut last year. He has found it difficult this campaign to adjust to building on the great start he made last season.

I think Jack will be fine eventually, but if he does come through to play Ebdon it will be very tough.

Stephen Hendry is in the world qualifiers for the first time in 24 years but has only lost one qualifier all season and, over 19 frames, is going to be hard to beat.

Hendry still beats most players ranked below him, just not many ranked above him. He faces Yu Delu, Michael White or Matt Selt, all three of whom could pose him problems. Hendry, though, will be more determined than at any point this season. He has played at the last 26 Crucibles, a proud record he wants to continue.

Ken Doherty, who beat Hendry in the 1997 final, has done little of note since reaching the Australian Open semi-finals last July. He could well play an Anthony, McGill or Hamilton, in the final qualifying round.

Steve Davis and Jimmy White, the two oldest players on the circuit, each have to win two matches to qualify.

White could play Liu Chuang, who beat him 10-9 last year, before Jamie Cope in the last round. Davis could play Ben Woollaston, who is having a good season, to meet Dominic Dale.

But who is going to make it? And more particularly, who will be the surprise names who come through this year?

For the last couple of season’s we’ve had the likes of Zhang Anda and Andrew Pagett come through the pack. Of course, shock qualifiers wouldn’t be shock qualifiers if they could be predicted, but that needn't stop us trying. In years past, several unheralded players have made it. Remember Spencer Dunn? Or John Giles? Or Paul Cavney?

The Chinese contingent is quietly improving so maybe one of them can go the whole way. Tian Pengfei is a player who seems better than his world ranking and Li Yan has already qualified for this season’s UK Championship.

Kurt Maflin plays the sort of attacking game in which he doesn’t expend as much mental energy as some of the more methodical players.

Sam Craigie has produced some good results this season and Adam Duffy, who lives close to Sheffield, also has potential.

Who knows? The fun, for the fans anyway, is in the finding out.

The action starts today with the WPBSA non-tour members round, always a bit of a slog. John Parrott is the star name featuring here.

Ludicrously, there is only one match tomorrow, and that’s assuming Igor Figueiredo turns up, so the main action starts on Saturday with the last 96 round.

Good luck to all the players involved. This is like a school exam, driving test and trip to the dentist rolled into one.

There will be disappointment for many and joy for some. There will great drama along the way.


Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to Gino Rigitano ?

Anonymous said...

He dead.

Richie Segal said...

Not JP !

jamie brannon said...

It is probably a bit silly to have this opening gambit before Saturday, but it is always interesting to see who decides they can't resist an attempt at making the Crucible, even though their best form deserted them a long time ago.

It is a pity that Lisowski would have to play Ebdon in the last round, as would be good to see him make a breakthrough. I really enjoyed my brief look at him during last years Welsh Open.

Not entirely ruling him out, but these qualifying matches can sometimes go scrappy due to the immense tension, and you would favour Ebdon to get the job done in those circumstances.

Davis will probably find either Woollaston or Dale too strong.

However, White has a real chance this year. He is in decent touch, seems confident, and if he plays Cope will be facing a guy who's career has hit the buffers.

Anonymous said...

for the 2nd time this decade i agree with you jamie.

Anonymous said...

Just looking at a couple of the Chinese names you've mentioned there - Liu Chuang rocked up at The Crucible and gave O'Sullivan a good match; Zhang Anda almost beat Hendry there.

But neither has done anything since really. It seems there are quite a few Chinese players capable of having a good tournament, but not so many who can then build on it.

Wonder if Lu Ning will go the same way after his heroics last week?

Janie Watkins said...

Well we've already had some great drama in the very first matches, as Jamie O'Neill recovered from 4-2 down to edge out David Gray 5-4.

Patrick Wallace thumped JP 5-0 and Joe Delaney came back from the dead to beat Stephen Rowlings 5-4.

Next episode at 6pm

Anonymous said...

Igor is in England just to play the qualifiers so should turn up.

Anonymous said...

Janie - please refrain from devaluing the word 'great'. Epecially as, in this instance, it is clearly an inappropriate way of describing a match of this calibre.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Janie - please refrain from devaluing the word 'great'. Epecially as, in this instance, it is clearly an inappropriate way of describing a match of this calibre.

9:29 PM

ive watched great amateur matches locally.

stop being a bully.

janie, youre doing fine.

thanks for the update.

Nige said...

There is always someone who wants to criticise. Janie - ignore them - I love your enthusiasm. Hope to bump into you again in the next few weeks.

kildare cueman said...

Gino Rigitano is alive and living in Edinburgh

Anonymous said...

dave any news on what matches are been streamed live on world snooker tv tommorow?

Dave H said...

It's Andrew Pagett v Aditya Mehta and Yu Delu v Patrick Wallace and then Andrew Norman v Figueiredo/O'Neill and Ian McCulloch v Luca Brecel.

garymoss87 said...

Very good article

Janie Watkins said...

you can say what you like. I couldn't give a ****

Drama can be great in any context, although it was appalling grammar for which I apologise!

Watching two flies crawl up a wall is pretty mind-numbing, but if you've had a bet with a friend, then it could be great drama watching the conclusion of the race!

I rest my case.

jamie brannon said...

I actually agree great drama can be seen at a lower level, but truly great play can only be seen at the elite level.

It was a surprise to see Gray bow out.

Thought Parrott might fare a little better, but it wouldn't surprise me to see Wallace go on a run.

Li Yan could be one to watch. It is a pity Lu Ning can't take part.

Janie Watkins said...

I never said anything about great play. I said great drama.

Now that boat race was definitely great drama!!
Bad outcome, disgraceful from swimmer in water, broken oars, should be re run but great drama.

Anonymous said...

Janie, you don't have to apologise for anything.

Anonymous said...

Igor won! It seems like he's finally started his season.

jamie brannon said...

I wasn't saying you had, but the word great in terms of quality of performance is badly overused in sport.

Anonymous said...

i think the word great is underused WRT terms of quality of performance.