Visitors to the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield later this week will have a chance to witness more twitching than they might find at a birdwatching convention as the final qualifying round of the 888.com World Championship takes place over four days.

For the players, this is one of the biggest matches of the year. The difference between qualifying and not qualifying is huge for a number of reasons.

Failure at the qualifiers means players miss out on the big financial rewards on offer at the Crucible as well as ranking points (almost double most other tournaments) that will help determine their positions for next season.

But disappointment at not qualifying can be boiled down very simply to this: you’re not part of the World Championship.

When it comes round, you have to either watch it on TV, pretend it’s not on or go away on holiday to escape it (not easy now it’s on so many channels around the world).

So who is going to get through?

Jimmy White will be the main focus of interest (unless you’re a reader of worldsnooker.com, who have instead focused on Mike Dunn, one of their own board members!).

Jimmy missed out last year and, at 45 years of age and well down the rankings, will probably be at the Crucible for the final time if he does beat Mark King a week today.

We all know that he’s never won it and lost six finals but this ignores the fact that, in his heyday, he had one of the best Crucible records and did as much as anyone, and more than most, to draw millions of TV viewers to the event.

No disrespect to King, but I’d love to see Jimmy qualify and draw Stephen Hendry in the first round. It’d give us nostalgics one last chance to wallow in one of snooker’s most fascinating rivalries.

John Parrott impressed last year but needs to beat Joe Perry – something he’s never previously done – to avoid going to Sheffield purely as a BBC broadcaster.

And what of the young guns? Jamie Cope, Mark Allen and Judd Trump would certainly enliven the championship.

Liang Wenbo and Liu Chuang would also take some of the pressure off Ding Junhui by helping him to fly the flag for China.

Cope, Liang and Liu are among seven players who could make their debuts at the Crucible next month.

The others are Adrian Gunnell (four times a loser in the final qualifying round), Scott MacKenzie, Ricky Walden and Rory McLeod.

Rory faces Matthew Stevens, runner-up in 2000 and 2005, and would become the first player of Afro-Caribbean descent ever to play at the Crucible if he beats him.

The draw is being held on March 11 when the 16 qualifiers are paired against the top 16.

Before that happens, there will be plenty of twitching, sweating and anxiety on display.

I for one can't wait.


Anonymous said...


I'm going to the EIS, Sheffield on Saturday for the Final World Championship Qualifiers and the game between Mark Allen and Ricky Walden.
It's the first qualifying event I will be attending since the days of watching Bristol's Jamie Woodman and Mark Johnston-Allen in the qualifiers at Stoke on Trent and Blackpool.
This years final qualifiers has to be the strongest yet, but as much as I am a fan of Mark Allen and I for one think he could cause the world's elite trouble at Sheffield I think Ricky Walden is an unfulfilled potential who could certainly cause an upset.
I recollect a great game I and about four other people enjoyed against Michael Holt at the 2007 Welsh Open which dispite losing 5-4from 4-2 up he showed he had a great game to trouble the top players. Victory in a Ravensacre Pro-Am has shown that.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to watch Parrott vs Perry on Monday. Last train is at 8:30PM so I will have to leave at about 8! What do you think the chances are of it finishing by then?! ;)

Anonymous said...

AHH.... I seen on Betfair forum, that it is sold out Monday. I also called EIS and they said the same.

Its unusual, maybe cause Jimmy White is playing. Already paid for train.
They said to "turn up on the day and hope to get a ticket"


Anonymous said...

No chance of an old fixed-position webcam at any of these? I know WS wants people to turn up instead, but for minimal investment it would be great for fans of Jimmy or the young guns.

Dave H said...

No webcam, which is a great shame for Jimmy's fans who can't get in.

If you've booked your train ticket then it's probably still worth coming to see if they can squeeze you in.

Just shows Jimmy's pulling power is as strong as ever.