It will take eight days and a great deal of snooker to find the 16 qualifiers who will join the elite top 16 for the final stages of the Maplin UK Championship.

The qualifying for snooker's second biggest ranking tournament got underway at chilly Prestatyn today with 80 hopefuls doing battle for the Telford places.

I've given up attempting to predict who will come through because the strength in depth these days is such that literally anyone could.

Only four of the qualifiers for the Grand Prix in Aberdeen made it through to the Northern Ireland Trophy at Belfast.

Even though the formats were different, this illustrates that the days of players qualifying for every event with a string of victories under their belts has gone.

The UK qualifiers are two days longer than originally planned because only the top 16 are seeded through this season rather than the top 32 as in previous years.

Therefore, the likes of Matthew Stevens [the 2003 winner], Joe Swail and Mark Allen will be in action in North Wales next week alongside former champions Jimmy White and John Parrott.

I'd advise anyone who has never been to Pontin's to go and watch because there's always plenty of drama in the qualifiers, especially when the nerves start to bubble up.

The prize of playing on TV is such that, on a good day, you can see more twitching than in one of Bill Oddie's nature shows.

No comments: