I was asked recently on Twitter if I thought a qualifier could win the World Championship.

My immediate thought was ‘no.’ After all, if non-top 16 players by and large do not threaten to win other major tournaments, why should they triumph at the Crucible?

Only two have. Terry Griffiths did so in his first season as a professional in 1979. There were fewer players in those days but it was still a remarkable achievement and arguably one of the most significant in the game’s history as it persuaded until then unsure amateurs that they too could take the plunge and embrace the pro ranks with some possibility of success.

The second was Shaun Murphy in 2005. This was also remarkable, not just the achievement but the all-guns-blazing way it was accomplished.

Murphy had never lacked for self belief but, even so, to be 16-16 in the world final and then win the two clinching frames with big breaks took real guts.

Is it conceivable anyone can follow in Griffiths and Murphy’s footsteps in 2013?

Of course, we don’t yet know who the top 16 seeds will be at the conclusion of the China Open, but maybe this is the point.

In years gone by, the 16 seeds for Sheffield were not the 16 most in form players.

For instance, Murphy beat Chris Small in the first round in 2005. Small was at the time suffering from the debilitating back condition which would end his career.

Alain Robidoux was seeded for the Crucible in 1999 despite having failed to win a single match all season.

So the current top 16 is a more accurate barometer of who has played well over the last two seasons, although of course lower down there have been strong performances which have not been rewarded as greatly in terms of ranking points.

In terms of shock winners, we must surely look to younger players who, like Murphy, are relatively unencumbered by mental scars.

For instance, last year Jamie Jones reached the quarter-finals and very nearly the semis.

There’s Jack Lisowski. Jack is a ferociously attacking player, much like his friend Judd Trump, who himself came within three frames of winning the title as a qualifier two years ago.

Lisowski is the sort of player who, if he got to the Crucible, could put the frighteners up a few established players.

How about Luca Brecel? His road to Sheffield is long enough but he qualified last year and was a UK Championship quarter-finalist earlier this season. Like Lisowski, he has a fearless quality in keeping with his age.

Michael White, a good friend of Jones, looks impressive and is trying to make the next step up, beating top players.

The Chinese have several prospects but Cao Yupeng was one who proved he could handle the big stage when he beat Mark Allen in the first round last year.

Or perhaps we are looking in the wrong place. Even Murphy had had a fair amount of TV experience prior to his world title triumph, which is surely crucial in terms of Crucible success.

So older hands such as Marco Fu or Joe Perry or Ryan Day, all well versed in the long matches of the World Championship, may be in with a shout.

But for any qualifier to win the title this year they would have to beat a combination of O’Sullivan, Trump, Selby, Robertson, Allen, Higgins, Ding, Maguire, Murphy, Bingham and Carter, possibly one in each round, which sounds like a mission too far.

So my answer to the original question is this: not impossible but not likely.


Anonymous said...

The only realistic potential qualifier winner I believe is Martin Gould, if indeed he is a qualifier. (currently ranked 18 after last weeks Haikou Open.)

Other qualifiers who have had a good run in years gone by was Ebdon who in 1992 at 250/1 reached the quarter finals and Andy Hicks who I believe was a qualifier in 1995 who reached the semis. I remember Hicks beating Steve Davis in the first round so he must have been one. Backed him that year e/w at 500/1 with Corals and hedged in the semi finals on Bond at 6/4 for the place part of my bet. Oh happy memories! Lisowski, Brecel, Michael White etc I've no doubt will reach the latter stages in years to come, but there not ready yet. Perhaps a quarter final at very best.

Anonymous said...

If Luca gets a lucky draw, his TV experience at York might help him progress a little way this year.

Personally I think this years winner will be somebody well known to us, somebody with a bank of Crucible pressure experience under their belt.

Anonymous said...

Judd Trump nearly pulled this off in 2011, just six years after Murphy, and just after his breakthrough run in the China Open. Mark Selby reached the final in 2007 as a qualifier, as did Graeme Dott in 2010 (who was out of the top 16 at that time).

Here's the thing: Dave says the more infrequent seeding updates make it more likely for all the in-form players to be at the Crucible, but it also makes it more likely for top players to temporarily drop out of the top 16 too, who have a real chance of winning it. Indeed, if O'Sullivan loses this year he will be out of the top 16 most likely for next year's event, but would you bet against him?

Anonymous said...

holty if his heads right

Anonymous said...

Given the form he was in, if he is cleared Stephen Lee is (effectively) a top 8 player effectively 'demoted' to the qualifiers by his suspension... he could be like Snooker's Paulo Rossi if he comes back and wins (ok, I know Rossi was returning from a ban rather than a suspension).

In general though it is difficult to see a real 'outsider' winning the big one given how little tournament snooker is played over anything more than 9 frames - but plenty of the players you name have the potential to go all the way in good time..

Anonymous said...

Never forget the ongoing malaise of our top flight players. Those who trudge from venue to venue all season pursuit of points over prizes.
I foresee a nuclear winter coming for the like minded Barry Hearn nodders and winkers while the less vociferous amongst the ranks pull up trees at the crucible.
In short, I anticipate a winner of the world champs who enccompasses workmanlike tendencies and also total pleasure in being part of the bright lights of Sheffield.

Anonymous said...

Could be Jimmy's year.

Anonymous said...

I saw Jimmy's interview on the worldsnooker site - "I hope I don't draw the Rocket" lets get real here, Jimmy has to win 3 matches to qualify I believe, and it would be a fantastic achievement alone for him just to play at Sheffield. He keeps saying he's playing great in practice etc etc, but does he not realise the majority of others are playing equally as well if not better in practice. I admire Jimmy's belief in his ability but he seems to lack a sense of realism.

Anonymous said...

Jimmy has every readon to be optimistic. Short of lifting the trophy, he had one of the best records at Sheffield.
He is more than capable of winning 3 qualifiers and who knows what could happen if he gets to the venue. I've backed him every year since '82. That missed red with the rest in frame 30 v Higgins in '82 still gives me nightmares. He would come closer still in years to come but certain he would have beaten Reardon and would have won many more.
So, £20.00 @ 300/1..c'mon Jimmy !!

Anonymous said...

Exactly, "he had" one of the best records...I'm also not sure of "he is more than capable of winning 3 qualifiers" He hasn't played at Sheffield since 2004 I believe. Yes he had every reason to be optimistic in the mid 90's and even the late 80's but we are now in 2013 and Jimmy has passed his 50th birthday. Jimmy even struggles to reach world ranking venues these days. The reality is, he's odds against to even ever play in the final stages again. 300/1?? You can get 1000/1 with a few firms on oddschecker. Always shop around for the best price my friend.

Anonymous said...

6:50pm Holty's head is never right, its gone way to far up his own arse..

Anonymous said...

"but certain he would have beaten Reardon" Personally I think Reardon would have tied him up in knots and taught the 19/20 year old a lesson.

Anonymous said...

A White victory would have been the game's greatest fairy tale. Similar to Tom Watson almost winning at Turnberry in 09.
Sadly, in both cases, not to be.
But who knows ?.......

Anonymous said...

I never get the "White would have beaten Reardon" thing. Reardon hammered Jimmy 10-5 in the final of the Grand Prix later that year, and I daresay Jimmy would have been under even more pressure in the world final. I mean, yeah he could have won it but it was far from a foregone conclusion.

kildare cueman said...

I'd want 300-1 about Jimmy reaching the last 16.

Anonymous said...

White has never been short of support. That said, it has never failed to amaze me that he has also had his fair share of those who thought, having been so perilously close to winning at Sheffield, he would never reach another final.
Yet, back he came. His reluctance to change his style has been both his undoing and the reason he has kept so many on the edge of their seats for so many years.
I may be in a majority of one, but I still believe that he could do it.
Go on Jimmy !!!!

Anonymous said...

I hope Jimmy qualifies,I really do,would love to see him there.But for winning it,well,you have to remove your rose coloured glasses and look at the cold hard facts im afraid.He has done nothing in recent years to suggest a win,nothing,and I dont say that to knock him at all.
If he had won a title playing well in recent months,even a PTC,you could make half a case for suggesting he might have a run,but he has done nothing to suggest this.
Listen,im one of his biggest fans and backed him all the time to win at the Crucible in the 90`s and early noughties.....but on the available evidence you cant reach any other conclusion that his ship has sailed and hes had his chance.
He just fell short on many occasions,but what a player he was and what joy he has given snooker fans.
I hope he qualifies I really do,and would love to see him realise his dream,and there would be no more popular winner,but,nearly impossible now.
That said,prove us wrong Jimmy,and good luck!!

Anonymous said...

Jimmys only "crime" s to get older,off course,he will never be the player he was,unfortunatly,old age catches up with everyone....

And 6.19 is entirely correct about oddschecker,you can go to there,find the snooker page and instantly see which bookie is offering the best price,and go with them.If your gonna have £20 @ 300/1,great,but why have "only" 300/1 when you can get 750/1 or even 1000/1 even,for the exact same bet!
In the internet age theres no excuse not to shop around for value coz its so easy to do now.

Nige said...

Me neither Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms 8.27am. In fact Reardon beat Jimmy 4 times without defeat the following season - in the Professional Players Tournament final to which you refer, The UK (9-8), B & H Masters (5-2) and the Yamaha Organs Trophy final (9-6).

Ray's biggest fan!

Anonymous said...

White'ifs & maybes ..

It amazes me that 10+ years after he was a potential world champion, people still believe he might win one day.

I would love to see him do well, but I'd say 1000/1 is about right.

Ronnie for his 5th!

Anonymous said...

3 qual matches + 5 matches at the venue.
Tall order but far from impossible.
What is for certain is that, if he gets to Sheffield, he is guaranteed the best ever reception. Better even than the reigning champion. If he is able to harness some momentum and good will, then the pressure is on his opponent all the way through the tournament.
Go on Jimmy !

wild said...

Jesus jimmy has done absolutely nothing all season and not played at the crucible for almost 10 years mate hes got as much hope of winning it as Joe Davis has and hes been burried for 30+ years.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who was watching the game in the 90s will have fantastic memories of Jimmy - there are few sportsmen before or since who were as popular with the British public - I'd put him on on a special level along with people like Bobby Charlton, Red Rum and Jess Ennis.

However the fact remains he hasn't won a match at a venue since 2008 (when he managed a very credible win against Xiao Guodong in the wildcard round in Shanghai) and sadly his last big TV appearance (at the Masters 2 years ago) was quite painful to watch.

Much as I'd love to see him at the Crucible I remember with sadness Alex Higgins' last appearance, and I wouldn't like to see Jimmy go through the same thing.

Richie Segal said...

Last appearance in 2006, massive massive achievement to even qualify

Anonymous said...

There have been many mediocre performances on route to victories. When you consider those that have won the WC just once, it demonstrates that it is possible to pick up a victory without playing at your best or totally dominating the event.
Given a favourable draw, a few big name early exits and a run of good form, then it is possible that White could still do it.
Difficult, yes. Impossible, no.

Andre said...

Yeah I totally agree that the "White would have beaten Reardon easily" thing had he reached the final in 1982 is just BS, cause Reardon was far far more superior in the defensive part of the game and could have frustrated a very young and all out attack Jimmy back then. Plus, let's not forget, Reardon took 16 frames off Alex, almost the 18 required to win, no easy feat that at all against Alex playing the snooker of his life. And yeah, it would be amazing if Jimmy even qualifies having to win 3 matches, let alone win the whole thing, but I would love him to qualify and maybe play at the Worlds one last time, but realistically, I don't think he will, sadly. Hope I'm wrong though.

Ron Florax said...

I'm having a great laugh with the people who think White can still win. It would take such a miraculous turn of events that it just won't happen! Steve Davis winning is more likely!