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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

World Championship 2013 Quarter finals preview

Ronnie O'Sullivan v Stuart Bingham
The question coming into this championship was,how Ronnie would compete after a year out of competition and I think the evidence of what we have seen so far suggets,that far from the lack of match fitness telling over the tournament,the opposite might be the case as he appears to be getting stronger with every session,In his match with Carter he was put under severe pressure a times but was by the end playing his best snooker so far,albeit that his long ball percentage could still be improved upon.

Bingham on the other hand has had another good season and played well to shake off Mark Davis in round two.He has at times looked very capable of scoring heavily when in the balls but has also had moments in matches where his snooker brain seems to have gone walkabout,This is something he can't afford to do against Ronnie and I expect O'Sullivan might just move up another gear here to and win 13-6

Shaun Murphy v Judd Trump
This one really looks to be the tie of the round as these two have both been in fine form here so far. Trump came into this tournament with many question to answer after what had been a poor second half of the season but has looked back to near his best in his wins here over Dale and Fu.

Murphy on the other hand has had a decent season that has seen him at the business end of most tournaments but has failed to lift a trophy.Murphy talked recently about his frustration his failure to convert these chances into trophies and I think he will be frustrated here again as I expect Trump to go through may 13-9.

Michael White v Ricky Walden
This is perhaps the hardest match to call as neither of these men have any form at this stage of a World Championship.White here has lived up to his growing reputation in the game by firstly showing his bottle to see off Mark Williams in round one and then showing his powers of concentration to ignore all the goings on in his encounter with Poojaeng  to record an easy win,

Its hard to believe Walden had never won a match at the Crucible befoee his 10-1 walloping of Holt in round one and he answered those who question his temperament by holding off the comeback of Milkins in round two,

This one could really be close but I think the experience of Walden might just be enough to see him through to the semi final by a scoreline of 13-11

Ding  Junhui v Barry Hawkins
I think its fair to say that this is a quarter final few have predicted when the draw came out.but its what we have in a quarter that has been filled with shocks.Hawkins reached his first Crucible Quarter final courtesy of a fine win the first round over rising star Jack Lisowski and a tough battling win over a below par Mark Selby in the second.

Ding has shown battling qualities of his own holding off the McManus comeback in round one and coming back himself from 6-2 down against King in round two.Many have questioned over the years if Ding has what it takes to compete at the Crucible ,but I feel his run to the semi final two years ago and indeed his fightback against King here,showed he does have the stomach for the fight.I think he'll move one step closer to his dream here with a comfortable 13-7 win

Monday, 29 April 2013

World Championship Day Ten

Today saw the conclusion of round two and now only eight men remain with a hope of becoming the 2013  Betfair World Championship.

Ronnie O'Sullivan again showed that he is the man to beat with a 13-8 victory over Ali Carter.In a match where his frailties on long shots briefly threatened to derail his championship it was once again his brilliance once in the balls that saw him through.

In the first session he had at one stage lead 5-1 but Carter rallied to 5-3.Ronnie then started the second session with an 86 to go 6-3 but Carter knocked in breaks of 73 & 87 to make it 6-5 before a 105 from Ronnie restored his two frames lead at 7-5.

Despite this break Ronnie was still looking a little tired and Carter started to put him under a little pressure by winning the next two to make it 7-7.This was now you felt the crucial part of this match and Ronnie answered any questions we may have had about how much he want this winning the last two of session to lead 9-7 overnight.

Th first frame tonight was a tight affair that Ronnie eventually won to go 10-7.Carter knocked in a super long red in the next to set up a gutsy 86  to just stay in it at 10-8,but here Ronnie just put on the afetrburners to win the next three with quickfire breaks of 88,106 and 88 and seal the 13-8.

So what did we learn from this match.Well just as in his first game here,his break building once among the balls is as good as ever but his long game just hasn't fully clicked yet.That said if he is to win this title from here he will be playing every day and You have to feel he'll only get stronger as the week goes on.

His opponent in the quarter finals will be Stuart Bingham after he saw off the determined challenge of Mark Davis to win 13-10.This one had looked on paper like it would be nip and tuck the whole way and so it was to prove as they traded frame for frame to in the early stages to go 4-4 after the first session.

This pattern continued into the second session as the score became 5-5 before Bingham finally won two in a row to go 7-5.At this stage he would have been looking to kick on but maybe through trying too hard the opposite began to happen as Davis once again fought back  to level at 7-7.The momentum seemed to be with Davis now and he took the lead for the first time in the match at 8-7.This was to be short lived though as Bingham leveled again at 8-8.

Starting off this afternoon it was again Bingham who got off to the better start going 10-8 but once again Davis responded to level at 10-10.It looked as though this one could go all the way but it was Binmgham who found his form aftewer the interval to go 11-10 with his second century of the match and he won the next two to reach his first Crucible quarter final.

With the elimination of Robertson,Selby and Allen form the bottom half of the draw a lot of attention has gone onto Ding Junhui with many thinking that this is possibly his best chance to win the title This was maybe on his mind as he looked badly out of sorts in going 6-2 behind following his first session with Mark King.

The beauty of the longer frame matches are that they allow players recover from a bad start and the consensus seemed to be that if Ding could win the second session he would still go through.As it happened he was to .do better then that winning the first five to take a 7-5 lead and although King briefly stopped the tide to level at 7-7 Ding won the last two to take a 9-7 overnight lead.

Starting this afternoon Ding looked in good form again taking the opening frame to go 10-7 but a missed black off the spot in the next allowing King to win it and close to 10-8.To his credit King also won the next to get to 10-9.It seemed now that we may may have a match on our hands,but Ding knocked in a cool century to go 11-9.and closed the match out after the interval to win 13-9.

The last man into the Quarter finals was Ricky Walden who held off a brave fightback from Robert Milkins to progress by a scoreline of 13-11.

This at one stage had looked like it might finish with a session to spare as Walden extended his 5-3 lead from the first session to 9-3.Milkins first objective was to avoid this indignity.He managed to do this by winning the next and also securing the last two of the session to keep himself just about still in the match trailing 10-6 going into the final session.

In the past Walden has often been criticised for a failure to press home his advantage in matches and it looked as though those old failings were coming back o haunt him here as Milkins won the first two of the night to make it 10-8.He would have been relieved then to win the next with a 61.Milkins wasn't going to lie down though and won the next two to make it 11-10.The pressure was now on but Walden wasn't to be denied as he made it 12-10 with a run of 79.Milkins kept his hopes alive winning the next but Walden secured victory with an 86 to finish it 13-11 . He will now play debutant Michael White in the quarter finals,

So eight men left and one week from tonight we will have our 2013 World Champion.I thinks its fair to say we are now at the business end of things.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

World Championship Day Eight

Day eight at the 2013 Betfair World Championship and proof that lightening can strike twice.

When Barry Hawkins knocked out Mark Selby in the first round her last year,all the talk was of the neck injury that Selby had been suffering from and perhaps not enough credit was given to Hawkins for his performance.That certainly wont be the case this year as the Australian Open Champion produced some great snooker to eliminate the world no.1 and with it dash his hopes of winning this seasons grand slam.

This one was nip and tuck all the way and Selby came into this afternoons final session holding a slim 9-7 lead.Very often in these situations,the first frame can be vital and so it proved here with Selby missing an easy black to open a three frame lead,Hawkins capitalizing to make it 9-8.That became 9-9 shortly afterwards and although Selby retook the lead in the next,it was Hawkins again who leveled at 10-10 at the mid session interval.

The feeling throughout this match was that although Selby was always leading he just never playing at his best and Hawkins took advantage of this to take the lead in the next and make it 11-10.That became 12-10 and when Selby missed a long red in the next Hawkins pounced to win the match 13-10.

This victory caps off what has probably been Hawkins best ever season and he can be rightly proud of how ,in many ways he outSelbyed Selby here by sticking to him throughout.

For Selby,he can look back on what has been a strange season for him.If he is honest with himself hell admit that he never really played at his best but still managed to win two of the games biggest prizes,The UK Championship and The Masters,Here he looked a little jaded to me and perhaps a few weeks off now might be just what he needs.

The defeat of Selby here,along with that of Robertson earlier means that Judd Trump can become the season ending World no.1 if he win the title and that dream is still very much alive after he beat Marco Fu 13-7 to reach the quarter final.

Starting the day leading 6-2 he may have believed the hard work was done,but Fu is a tough competitor and in the second session this morning he threw everything he had at Trump to close within one at 8-7 before Trump nicked the last to go into tonight 9-7 ahead.

Coming out tonight Trump was in no mood for messing around and after a longish first frame he quickly found his form to finish off the match in clinical fashion 13-7.He will now face another one of the tournaments in form men,Shaun Murphy in what promises to be a superb quarter final clash.

In matches that got underway today Ronnie O'Sullivan holds a 5-3 lead over Ali Carter in a rematch of last years final,Carter winning the last two of that session to stay in touch  going into tomorrow afternoon and could we have another major shock on our hands as Mark King holds a 6-2 advantage over Ding Junhui going in to the second of their sessions also tomorrow.

The day though undoubtedly belongs to Barry Hawkins who at 34 reached his first world championship quarter final.

Friday, 26 April 2013

World Championship Day Seven

Day seven at the Betfair World Championships and today we had a former world champion coming through an old fashioned Crucible thriller,a young debutant further enhancing his growing reputation and two of the pre tournament favourites starting to show some form.

In the battle of the World Champions it was who cam out on top but only after a proper late night thriller.The day had started with Murphy leading 6-2 but the one thing we know Dott is is a fighter and he came storming back to take second session 6-2 and level the match at 8-8 coming into tonights final session.

What we effectively had now was best of nine and that became a best of five as they shared the next four frames to go 10-10.In a match as close as this you always get key moments and we certainly had one of those in the next when after 55 minutes of battling away we went to a respot only for Dott to play an awful shot gifting the frame to Murphy.That seemed to be playing on Dott's mind a little as Murphy also took the next to go to the brink at12-10 but Dott to his credit  showed all his fighting qualities to close to 12-11,The next was a tight nervy affair as you would expect at this stage but it was Murphy,who went 25 minutes without potting a ball during it,who made the most of his best chance to claim the win 13-11

He will now be starting to fancy his chances of claiming a second World title and a possible quarter final clash with Judd Trump will have us all getting very excited.Dott will no doubt look back on that respotted blck as the turning point but he can reflect on another high class Crucible campaign.

A few monthes back coming into the staging of the Welsh Open I remember reading several articles bemoaning the state of Welsh snooker but after this week it appears they may just have a savior in the shape of 21 year old Michael White.

White to be fair has been talked about as a potential start since he was a teenager but here he has shown the snooker world in general,just what a talent he really is.

Coming in today with  7-1 lead from his first session with Dechawat Poomjaneg he would have been determined to make sure he finished the job with a session to spare and he quickly won the first two frames to go 9-1.Poomjaneng did win the next and had his chances to win the twelfth but it was White who took it to go to the interval leading 10-2.An 83 made it 11-2 and although Poomjaeng made it 11-3 White sealed the win impressively with runs of 73 and a 102.

All this means he can now have a rest in the morning as he awaits the winner between Robert Milkins and Ricky Walden  in the quarter final.For Poomjaeng it means the end of the road but he will leave the tournament with happy memories of his first time at the Crucible and indeed no one who saw him play will forget him either.

World no.3 Judd Trump has had a mixed time of it of late but at times in his first match against Dale he showed signs that he was rediscovering his best form and that was again the case today as he finished his first session against Marco Fu with a 6-2 lead.

There hadn't been much to separate these two in the opening four frames as they went to the interval at 2-2. but it was then that Trump found an extra gear and breaks of 127,61 and 112 made it 5-2 before he cleared in the last to that 6-2 overnight lead.

In last years World Championship world no.1 Mark Selby,suffering from a painful neck injury,went out in the first round to Barry Hawkins.and he provided the opposition again today as they started their second round.

Selby seems to have a habit of winning frames without seemingly been at his best and that was again the case here as he took a 5-3 lead from the first session.Into the second session and it was Hawkins who got the better of a couple of lengthy frames to level at 5-5 That became 6-6 at the interval but it was Selby who  found a bit of form when play resumed as he raced into a 9-6 lead.Hawkins to his credit though managed to take a vital final frame and will only trail 9-7 when they resume tomorrow,with all very much still to play for.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

World Championship 2013 Day Six Round Up

Day six at the 2013 Betfair World Championship and another big name bites the dust.with the elimination of the 2010 Champion Neil Robertson at the hands of Robert Milkins.

Starting this afternoon with Robertson holding a narrow 5-4 lead the type of session we were going to have was evident in the very first frame,Milkins taking it by doubling the blue after 45 minutes of action.Milkins also won the next to take a 6-5 lead before Robertson leveled with a 84..This pattern continued with a series of tight frames that were traded one for one taking the score to 8-8

Things were getting more tense by the minute and the match was to hinge on a long 17th frame that would eventually go to Milkins,but not before Robertson had got three of four snooker he had needed to try and get back into it.Milkins was again in first in the next but broke down on 51 giving the Aussie one last chance.As was the case all afternoon though Robertson couldn't make the most of it and Milkins won the frame to seal a famous 10-8 victory

For Milkins this will rank with the best in his career and he spoke afterwards about just how far he had sunk in his personal life before turning it around.At 37 he joins Mark Davis (40) and Mark King (39) in knocking out some of the so called big guns this week and it may well be the case that with the increase in tournament could well have the impact of lengthening some players careers as they are now constantly getting match practice as opposed to having to try motivate themselves to go down the club.

For Robertson though this will be a bitterly disappointing result.No doubt he will look back at the first session where he was playing well and lead 5-2 but let the last two frames slip as the key moments in the game.I have felt for some time that he tends to start looking for problems that aren't there when the pressure comes on and this has the effect of knocking him out of his natural stride.It has been a joke I've had with a friend of mine that he is slowly turning into Peter Ebdon and I can kind of see what my friend is saying.He really needs to use the off season to reassess his approach to the game,That may sound harsh on someone who has had the season he had,but if he is to be challanging for the real big titles he needs to get back to playing to his strengths .

In last remaining first round encounter,Stuart Bingham rounded off a 10-2 victory over Sam Baird having com into the session leading 8-1.He will no doubt have a tougher time when he takes on Mark Davis in round two.

Elsewhere in the second round clash between the two former world champions,it is the 2005  winner Shaun Murphy who holds a 6-2 lead over the 2006 winner Graeme Dott.With everything that was going on in the last week the performance of  Murphy in round one has gone mainly unnoticed,but he was arguably the player of the round and he started here in the same vain with two centuries in the opening four frames. He didn't quite match it after the interval but he goes into the second session tomorrow morning in a very strong position.

In the other second round match which started tonight Michael White holds a commanding 7-1 lead over Dechawat Poomjaeng.who failed to reproduce the snooker that saw him beat Maguire in the last round.He will have to find something special in the second session if he is to keep his remarkable run going.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

World Championship 2013 Day Five Round Up

After a couple of days where we have seen some of the player who were been tipped as potential winners of this years title a level of normality returned to the championship today with some of our big guns comfortably going through.

This time last year Judd Trump came into the world championship as the bookies favourite but failed to really get going.This season,after a few monthes of indifferent results,he has come in this week as almost the forgotten man and that may very well suit the world no.3.

Starting the second session today leading 6-3 he lost the first frame of the morning to Dale but quickly found his stride winning the next three with breaks of 104,73 and 61 to go 9-4 ahead.Dale managed to delay the inevitable winning the next but Trump sealed the victory  in the 15th frame to win the match 10-5.

Trump talked afterwards about how much work he has put in ,in recent weeks preparing  for this championship and time will tell if that work has paid off.It can certainly be said if he returned to the form he displayed in the International Championship,he will be a match for anyone.

Next up for Trump will be a second round clash with Marco Fu after the man from Hong Kong survived a real scare against Matthew Stevens.

Resuming today leading 6-3 Fu won three of the first four frame to move within one of victory.leading 9-4,Stevens though knows better then most that matches here are never over until they are over and started to fight his way back .Playing some of his best snooker of the match he clawed his way back,winning the next three to close to 9-7.

Things were now starting to get interesting  but it was Fu who held his nerve to clear from the blue and win a 53 minute 17th frame to clinch the 10-7 win.

Sometimes the bare score doesn't tell the whole story and that was certainly the case yesterday when Ding emerged from his first session with Alan McManus with a 7-2 lead.That score was grossly unfair ti the Scot who played a lot better then that.Starting today he seem determined to set that right winning the first three frames of the day to close the deficit to 7-5.

In the first round last year Ding lead Ryan Day 9-6 only to lose the match and with that in mind he would have been relieved to stop the rot in the next making it 8-5.This seemed to knock the fight  out of McManus and Ding won the next two to claim the 10-5 win.

For a while last night it looked as though we might have the possibility of a whitewash as Mark Selby lead Matt Selt. 5-0 despite not playing anywhere near his best.Selt managed to avoid that indignity and even started to play some good snooker closing to 6-3 at the end of the session.

That is how they started tonight and it looked like we may have a match on our hands when Selt won the opener to make it 6-4. Selby though wasn't going to let that happen and he slowly started to find his form to run out a 10-4 winner and set up a second round clash with the man who beat him here last year,Barry Hawkins

In the last two first round matches that have yet to be completed,Robert Milkins won the last two frames of session to keep himself well in touch with Neil Robertson,the Aussie holding a 5-4 lead going into tomorrow afternoons conclusion and barring a miracle Stuart Bingham will complete an easy win tomorrow evening when he resumes with an 8-1 lead over Sam Baird.

We have a rare free morning tomorrow with play not starting until 2-30 when as well as the conclusion of round one we have the beginning of round two With Shaun Murphy starting out against Graeme Dott and Michael White playing Dechawat Poomjaeng.Things are starting to take shape.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

World Championship Day Four Round Up

Day four at the 2013 World Snooker Championship and we may have had three of the games big guns starting their campaigns,but all that was overshadowed by the performance of one man.Stand up Thailands Dechawat Poomjaeng.

In the first session of his match with Stephen Maguire,Poomjaeng waved his arms, gestured to the crowd and smiled his way into the hearts of the Crucible crowd as he established a 5-3 overnight lead against the Welsh Open champion.

It was really lovely to see someone getting so much enjoyment out of their Crucible debut,but the opinion of most was that Maguire would come back today and stamp his authority on the game.That looked to be exactly what was happening as he took the opening three frames this afternoon with runs of 70,91 and 93.Poomjaeng wasn't for rolling over though and he quickly hit back with a 74 of his own to level at 6-6,before also taking the next to lead again 7-6.

This one was quickly becoming a classic and after Maguire leveled at 7-7 and then again at 8-8 it was the Thai who edged ahead again with a run of 54 to make it 9-8,This put him one away from a famous win.but he was to be made wait to claim it as they were called ashore early to leave time for the start of the night session

Returning on  the first available table Pooomjaeng looked set for victory but it was Maguire who snatched a nervy tense 18th frame and we were in to a decider.They say all you want at this stage is a chance and that chance fell to the Thai who held himself together to move to the brink of victory with a break of 63.It was do or die time for Maguire now and when he missed a difficult red to the centre pocket,Poomjaneg sealed the win.

Just how much this win meant to the 34 year was obvious in his celebration and we should not forget he had to get through four rounds of qualifying just to get here. Maguire though will be bitterly disappointed with how he played and at times during this match his frustration almost boiled over.This can never be helpful and maybe he could take a leaf out of his opponents book and try enjoy what he is doing a bit more.

 The night belonged to Poomjaeng though and the Crucible crowd certainly have a new hero.He will no doubt have plenty of support against fellow debutant Michael White when they meet later in the week to fight it out for a place in the quarter finals round.

In the other match that finished today Ali Carter set up a second round clash with Ronnie O'Sullivan in what will be a repeat of last years final..Starting this evening with a slender 5-4 lead over Ben Woollaston he signalled his intention early with a run of 106 to go 6-4 up. Woollaston had his chances in the next few but when he failed to convert any of them the writing was on the wall and the German Masters champion ran out a comfortable 10-4 winner.

In other matches that started today.Ding Junhui looked in fine form against the veteran Scot Alan McManus and it is surely only a matter of finishing this one off when he resumes tomorrow leading 7-2.

Judd Trump looked a little more like his old self as he opened up a 6-3 lead over Dominic Dale with the highlight being new high break of the championship a 142.World number 1 Mark Selby also made a strong start against Crucible debutant Matt Selt,who at least found his feet a bit towards the end of the session to still have a slim chance tomorrow.Selby still leading 6-3.Also looking good is Marco Fu who leads Matthew Stevens 6-3

The day though belonged to Dechawat Poomjaeng who proved for once and for all that we do most definitely still have characters in the game.

Monday, 22 April 2013

World Championship Day Three Round Up

Well anyone who felt that the one thing this Championship was missing after the first couple of day was a genuine shock result, they certainly got what they were looking for today as two of the pre tournament favourites,John Higgins and Mark Allen,bit the dust

Coming in this afternoon trailing 6-3 from the first session,Higgins knew he needed a good start and that was exactly what he got winning the first with an 81 break.In the next he was again in first,but just as he was looking set to close within one frame at 6-5 he missed a straight forward black off the spot and Davis re-established his three frame lead at 7-4.Higgins won the twelfth to get back to 7-5 but as was becoming the story of the afternoon he just couldn't make that extra leap to close the gap further and Davis won the 13th to go to the interval leading 8-5.

When he comes to analyse this match Higgins will no doubt pin point his inability to get any real momentum going,but he will also be thinking about how,just when he needed it most,he got absolutely no run of the ball.

His first bit of bad luck came in the 14th fame,when after picking his way through some awkwardly placed reds he potted a hanging green,only to see the white ricochet off a number of reds before going in off.This gifted a chance to Davis which,as was the pattern in the match he duly took to go one away from victory at 9-5.Higgins showed all his battling qualities to win the next to but once again the snooker Gods were not on his side as,going along nicely in the 16th frame he attempted to split the reds off the green and a red flew into the corner pocket.This was to be his last contribution as Davis held his nerve to roll in a break of 87 and seal a famous 10-6 win.

This put the cap on what,after a very encouraging start, has been a very disappointing season for Higgins.The start of his demise can be maybe traced back to his defeat to Davis in the UK Championship when with the winning line in sight he unexpectedly missed.History was to repeat itself a month later when something similar happened against Murphy in the Masters and he never looked the same player since.

When he lost here last year to Hendry in the second round, it was probably the worst any of us had ever seen him play and many were beginning to write him off.The fact he could come back and win,what many still regard as the match of the season,against Trump in Shanghai show that you can never really count him out,but you just wonder,after such a long career,how many more times can he go to the well?

For Davis though this has been a season to remember.He has reached three ranking semi finals,finally got into the top 16 and now has recorded his biggest ever victory at the Crucible beating one of the games true greats.All this for a man who has been a pro for over 20 years and  who will turn 41 in August.Whats more he has achieved all this by playing some fine snooker.In this one he never let up against Higgins and took his chances well when they came,It just shows perhaps how much of this game is down to confidence.

Confidence is not something that is normally lacking in Mark Allen and a case can certainly be made that he has been the unluckiest player this season,as despite retaining his World Open title he has consistently played very well in matches,only to come up against someone playing at their peak.That was again the case today as Mark King produced his best snooker in quite some time to record a 10-8 win.

This one had all the signs of been close as King won the opening two frames only for Allen to draw level at 2-2.that became 3-3 and 4-4 before King edged the last of the session to lead 5-4 going into the evening.

The evening session began with a series of tight close frames that saw Allen edge 7-5 ahead at the mid session interval,King won the next to make it 7-6 but when Allen again established a two frame lead at 8-6 and it looked as though he may have weathered the storm.

This was not to be though as King started to play his best snooker of the match.Breaks of 74 and 89 saw him draw level at 8-8 and when Allen,by now feeling the pressure missed a straight forward red,King again pounced with an 81 to go 9-8 ahead.In the next Allen again had his chance but when he missed a cut red to the.King again came in to seal a famous win.

This is the second year in a row that Allen has exited the world championship in round one and he will reflect on a season that could have been so different.I wonder maybe could he look at his style and see if there is anything there that he can do to stop players playing their natural games against him without compromising to much on his own game.

For King this is a famous win and not one that,in truth many would have expected.He will be happy not just with the win but also with the standard he produced.He will be looking forward to second round clash with Ding Junhui and Alan McManus

When Graeme Dott was drawn to play Peter Ebdon there was plenty of talk about how long this one would take with people remembering their 2006 World final encounter.and those fears proved to be correct as this one dragged out to a third session.

This was Ebdon's 22nd consecutive appearance at the Crucible and he could never have played any worse then he was here in the first session where hi finished trailing 6-2.It is to his great credit then that,unlike many others who would have possibly just given in,he came out this morning ready to battle it out,In a long and engrossing first four frames he managed to get right under the skin of Dott,taking them all to level at the interval.Dott was clearly getting more and more frustrated at this stage but the 15 minutes allowed him to clear his head and he stopped the rot to go 8-6 ahead before they were called ashore to allow the afternoon session.

Coming back tonight Dott was in no mood to hang around and having made it 9-8 he rounded off the win with a century to win 10-6.Next up for him will be Shaun Murphy in what will be a very different test.

In the matches that started today we could have another shock on our hands as Dechawat Poomjaneg leads. Stephen Maguire 5-3.Poomjaeng who had to come through four rounds of qualifying just to get here seemed determined to enjoy himself from the outset and the crucible crowd responded, immediately taking to the smiling Thai..That said he also played some good snooker and Maguire will have to improve when they resume tomorrow afternoon.if he is avoid a shock exit.

Another debutant determined to make his mark on this championship is Ben Woollaston and he will go into tomorrows second session against last years runner up Ali Carter just the one frame behind at 5-4.

A day of shocks then at the Crucible  and the potential for a couple more to come,Add this to the fact that tomorrow we also have Mark Selby,Ding Junhui and Judd Trump entering the fray and this tournament is just starting to get interesting..

Sunday, 21 April 2013

World Championship Day Two. round up.

Day two at the Crucible and after a first day dominated by the return of Ronnie,things returned to normal today with four player more players joining him in round two.

When the draw for the first round was made people immediately started to look at it to see what seeds were vulnerable and one of the games that was pin pointed was the all Welsh clash between two time former champion Mark Williams and Crucible debutant Michael White.

In his first World Championship in 1997 Williams defeated Terry Griffiths in the first round and it was very much seen as the passing of the torch in Welsh snooker to the next generation,In years to come we may very well be talking about this match in the same White showed great character to win this one 10-6.

Coming in this afternoon White held a 5-4 lead,which in truth could have been more only for a Williams rally late in the session.That became 5-5 when Williams won the opening frame this afternoon.The next was a scrappy affair but it was White who took it to regain the lead 6-5 before breaks of 65 and 72 extended that to 8-5 at the interval.

White now had 20 minutes to sit in his dressing room and contemplate what he was about to achieve and in the next those thoughts were maybe still in his mind as he started to miss a few and Williams won it to close to 8-6.Throughout his career we have often seen Williams dig in and rescue matches from similar positions to this,so it a measure of  just how good this young man is that White perhaps played his best snooker of the match to win the next two frames with breaks of 90 & 96.

For Williams this was a disappointing finish to what has been a disappointing season,He will have to start thinking seriously about where he see's himself in the game going into next season.Hopefully a few weeks off will give him the perspective he needs to come back stronger next season.

As far as White is concerned you feel this is the just the beginning of what promises to be a long and successful career.In his post match interview he came across as a very nice,level headed and well spoken young man These thing can only be a plus for someone who we will be an awful lot of in the coming years

Another young man expected to make the leap to the very top level in the game is Jack Lisowski,but he will have to wait another year to make an impact on the games biggest stage as he went down here 10-3 to the very impressive Barry Hawkins.

These have been a good couple of monthes for Lisowski and a lot was expected of him coming in here but it was not to be as he just couldn't cope with his more experienced opponent who controlled the match from the outset.It's a steep learning curve but I'm sure he will learn from the experience and come back stronger

As for Hawkins he started tonight at 6-3 and took the opener,before reeling off the next three to  seal the 10-3 win before the interval.In this form he will be a match for anyone this week.

This match finishing so quickly this evening meant that Shaun Murphy and Martin Gould had the arena to themselves as they resumed with Murphy holding a slender 5-4 lead.This one was one of those "too close to call" encounters that was pinpointed when the draw came out.and it looked like we were in for a long night as we started with a first frame that took 58 minute.Crucially though it was Murphy who won it and from there he just went from strength to strength

Murphy took the next two with runs of 95 and 78 to go 8-4 .Gould did manage to pull one back before the interval to make it 8-5,but Murphy was in no humour to hang around and with breaks of 106 and 95 he sealed the 10-5 win.

Murphy in full flow lie this is a joy to watch and ne has played like this at various stages this season.his problem has been sustaining it all the way through and it will be interesting to see if he can do it here.

In the other match that finished today Ricky Walden quickly added the two frames he needed to seal a 10-1 win over a badly out of sorts Michael Holt.

Talking of players low on confidence.the same very much applies to Peter Ebdon who seemed at times unable to even pot a ball as he limped through his first session with Graeme Dott.This one finished a frame early with Dott leading 6-2 and it will take something extraordinary to happen overnight for Ebdon to get back into this one.

Another former World champion with his work cut out tomorrow is John Higgins,as he will resume  6-3 down to Mark Davis.. Higgins has struggled of late after playing some superb stuff early season and he will have to at his very best if is to overhaul Davis who continues to prove there is life after 40 for a snooker player.

2 down 17 to go.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

World Championship 2013 Day One round up

After all the weeks and monthes of anticipation,the day that all snooker fans have been looking forward to,probably since the end of last years championship finally arrived today with the start of the 2013 Betfair World Championship.This day is exciting enough on its own but as we all know this year it was given that extra bit of spice with the return of the games prodigal son.

There are still those who insist the game is bigger then any one player and indeed they are correct to a certain extent,but no one can deny that the almost unprecedented level of coverage this years event has generated is down to one thing and that is the return of Ronnie.The question most people were asking though was how he would perform after almost twelve monthes out?

We didn't have to wait too long for an answer to that question as with his first scoring chance he rolled in a sweet break of 82 to go ahead 1-0.Campbell won the second but two superb clearances of 62 & 71 from Ronnie saw him go into the interval 3-1 ahead.

Campbell must have been sitting in his dressing room wondering how he was behind as he had played pretty good stuff in the opening four frames,but things were soon to go from bad to worse as Ronnies lead became 5-1.Campbell did win the next to close to 5-2 but Ronnie closed out the morning session winning the last two to lead 7-2 going into the evening session.

Coming out to resume this evening Ronnie seemed determined to get this over with quickly,He quickly made it 8-2 with a break of 102 and that became 9-2 with a run of 90.Campbell to his credit wasn't going to roll over and he managed to take to match to its midsession interval winning the next two to close the gap to 9-4.There was to be no shock comeback though and Ronnie closed it out in the next to record a comfortable 10-4 win.

In a very interesting post match press conference the hinted that his sabbatical from the game was down to some bad advice he had received about hos contract and that if he had just chatted to Barry Hearn first he might not have taken a break at all.Whatever the full story is,he has promised we can read all about it in new book which is to be published later in the year.We'll just have to wait and see.

Of course of more immediate concern is what did todays victory tell us about the state of his game?Well one thing we did learn for sure is that his touch,among the balls is a good a ever but that also his all round game will need to tighten up if he is to progress further into this tournament,Having said that he will be satisfied to have got this one out of the way and to borrow a phrase from horse racing he will certainly come on for the run.

Apart from Ronnie we did have four other matches begin today so here is a brief round up.

Ricky Walden has never won a match on his previous two visits to The Crucible.but that is surely going to change here as he leads Michael Holt 8-1 after this mornings session.Walden did play well here and set an early high break target thans to a run of 140 but he was greatly helped by a poor display from Holt.This one plays to a finish in the morning but surly the result is a foregone conclusion

In the afternoon we had the much talked about debut of Jack Lisowski as he faced off against Barry Hawkins.Big thins are expected of Lisowski in the coming years but this was always going to be a test for him against Hawkins,who has already won a ranking title this season and so it proved.The young man did make the perfect start with an 82 in the first and really should have gone ahead 2-1 but a missed red with the rest cost him dearly and he also lost the next to trail 3-1 at the interval.

Lisowski did manage to join the exclusive club to make a century on their Crucible debut when he compiled a break of exactly 100 in the next but it was Hawkins.who was in the ascendancy and winning the next three to stretch his lead to 6-2.Lisowski did win the last of the session to keep himself just about in touch at 6-3 but will need to produce something special when they resume tomorrow night.

In a match that always looked like it could be a close one Shaun Murphy holds a slender 5-4 advantage over Martin Gould.Guld got off to the better start here taking the opening two before Murphy found his stride to make it 2-2.Murphy won the next to go 3-2 but Gould leveled again at 3-3.Murphy won the next two to go 5-3 but Gould again responded to take the last of the session to set up a grand stand finish tomorrow night.

Finally we had an all Welsh encounter when former two time champion Mark Williams faced another debutant Michael White. If White was feeling any nerves early on he certainly wasn't showing then and having taken the opening frame in one visit he went on to establish a 3-1 interval lead.That became 4-1 and a shock seemed to be on the cards but Williams showing all his experience won the next three to force his way back into this and level at 4-4. The final frame could have gone either way,but it was White who held his nerve to claim it and finish a session that both player will be happy with leading 5-4.They play to a finish tomorrow afternoon.

So one day down and 16 to go.After all the fuss Ronnie can go home and relax until his second round match begins next Saturday and we can look forward to tomorrow with the conclusion of all the above matches as well as the start of the Dott v Ebdon and Higgins v M Davis clashes.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

World Championship 2013 preview Part 2 "The Probables"

Ok in part one I looked at all the players who could,if all the cards fell right,possibly lift the world title come the first Monday in May.Today I focus on the players who I believe,when we get to the business end of things in the second week,will the main people in contention to become the 2013 world champion.

I suppose there is really only one place to start and that is with the man who comes here as the defending world champion, Ronnie O'Sullivan.When Ronnie won his fourth world championship last year he stated his desire to take a break from the game and unlike the many times we have heard this before,this time he actually followed through with it. This lead to a season long will he wont saga which was only resolved when he announced on the eve of the closing date that he would after all be back to try and defend his world title.
Of course by this stage he had missed the deadline to enter any other tournament so he would be coming in this week with zero match practice.

So the question is this,can someone,who hasn't played a tournament for twelve monthes possibly be sharp enough to compete against battle hardened players who have been competing week in week out? or indeed could the fact that he is coming in fresh actually be an advantage? The one thing we do know is if Ronnie shows up in the same form as he did last year,there is no one who can stop him claiming his fifth world title.

In the absence of O'Sullivan one man has dominated the seasons two other major events when,in the space of 6 weeks Mark Selby lifted the UK Championship and The Masters.What made these two wins all the more remarkable was the fact that,and I think he could probably admit this himself, he didn't play his best snooker to do so.What he did do however was keep battling away and his craft around the table came to the fore when he needed it most.He has also got to latter stages of many other tournaments and it is this consistency that see's him come to the Crucible as the world no.1.

Basically in Selby we have a player who can score heavily and also has the ability to dig out the win even when not playing at his best,why shouldn't he win the world title? Well if there is one reason I feel he might just fall short of the ultimate prize it is,as I see it a tendency to turn a little negative when the pressure is on.I sometimes feel he is playing not to lose rather then playing to win.and this compromises his natural game often to his detriment.I'm not sure over two weeks of hard matches which he will face here,that he can avoid slipping into these habits.

Another player who I have also felt sometimes falls into the "trying not to lose" category is Neil Robertson.When the Aussie first burst on the scene he was out and out potter and one of the best long potters in the game.Over the years he honed a great all round game and has become one of the hardest match players we have.He ended a long ranking event drought in the recent China Open,after narrow defeats in finala to Trump in the International Championship and Ding in the PTC Grand Finals.earlier in the season.In last years championship he was unlucky to run into Ronnie in such superb form in the quarter finals and indeed it could be argued his form up to that point had been even better then when he won the title itself in 2010.This year the draw has maybe been a little kinder to him and were he to reach the semi final he would surely fancy his chances against whoever come through the dogfight that is the bottom quarter of the draw.Make no mistake Robertson is a live contender to lift his second world title.

If you are someone who believes in patterns then the player to follow here is John Higgins who bids to follow up his victories in '07,'09 and '11 with a fifth world title in 2013.This has been an odd season for Higgins as in the early part of it he looked like he had put last seasons horrors behind him with a stirring comeback win to beat Trump in the Shanghai Masters final.He followed this up with a couple of final appearances in PTC events.The turning point seems to have come with two narrow defeats,firstly to Mark Davis in the UK and then to Shaun Murphy in the Masters.What made these defeats different from others in his career was that in both games Higgins was at the table with the chance to win them and let those chances slip.These defeats seemed to hit him hard and it could be the case that as you get older these sort of losses become that little bit harder to recover from.

That said Higgins has often been at his best in his career when people have started to write him off and it would be no surprise to anyone to see him back here at the height of his powers..

From Higgins we go to the man who he beat in the final to win his most recent world title in 2011 Judd Trump.When Trump won his maiden ranking title in the China Open in 2011 and followed it up by reaching that world final beating the defending champion Neil Robertson along the way,he announced himself to the world in the most spectacular way.His attacking style drew immediate comparisons with Alex,Jimmy and Ronnie and it seemed as if he was the new star for the age.Since then his career has been a series of highs,among them the 2011 UK Championship and the 2012 International Championships and lows like losing a 12-9 lead against Carter here last year and his shock defeat to Joyce in the UK last December.

Since then he has largely struggled and come in here with people once again asking questions his application to the game. Of course we must remember he is still only 23 and it would be a surprise if he didn't win a world title at some stage,but then again the same was said when Jimmy lost that epic semi final to Alex Higgins in 1982 and we all know what happened there! That said I do fully expect Trump to be a multiple world champion but I really don't think it will be this year

Last but not least could this be the year that Ding Junhui finally become the first Asian world champion? Anyone who saw just what he produced in Galway recently at the PTC finals would certainly say yes as he produced some fabulous snooker throughout and beat Neil Robertson in the final with a phenomenal 99% pot success rate.What has always impressed me most about Ding is the way he break builds and I can pay him no greater compliment then to say he reminds me of Ronnie and Higgins when he is among the balls.In 2011 he maybe put the theory that he can't handle the pressure of a long tournament when he only narrowly went down to Trump in the semi final.He did lose in the first round last year to Ryan Day but looking at the draw for this years the fact he is in such a difficult section could actually work in his favour as it will focus the mind from the outset.Ding has shown in winning two UK Championship and The Masters that he isn't afraid of lifting the games bigger prizes and I for one would not be shocked to see him go very close here again.

So to wrap up having looked through the betting markets I see what I think are some good value bets

Shaun Murphy to win his quarter,best price 7/2

Ding Junhui to win his quarter ,best price 3/1

The winner to come from the top half , 1/1

And finally who do I think will win?Well this is almost an impossible question to answer because we simply don't know what form Ronnie O'Sullivan is going to show up in after his year out.That said if anyone can come back from such a break and reproduce his best it is Ronnie.This coupled with the fact that although we have seen some good snooker this season we have not seen anyone produce the standard O'Sullivan did in Sheffield last year just makes a price of 6/1 to good to ignore.

There you haveit then,a fifth world title for Ronnie on the way?please let me know what you think,but whatever happens lets hope this World Championship shows the world just what a fabulous sport this is..

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

World Championship 2013 preview Part 1 "The Possibles"

Well here we,after a long season that has seen more snooker been played then ever before,we stand now on verge of one of the most eagerly anticipated World Championships we have ever seen.

Never in my lifetime watch snooker can I remember a World Championship with the potential for so many stories,Can Ronnie return after a year out to claim a 5th world title? can Selby join a very exclusive club to have won the games three major prizes in one season,having already won the UK and Masters titles ?can Trump or Higgins refind their early season form that at one stage seemed set to see them dominate?can Robertson claim a second world title? or will someone come out of left field and shock us all?

There are so many potential outcomes here that, I have decided to take a similar approach to New Zealand Rugby and split those who I see with a chance of lifting the trophy into two categories "The Possibles" and "The Probables"

Tonight I will be looking at the "possibles",by which I mean those players who could very well lift the world title but in my opinion would need a strong tailwind and everything to go right for them to do so.

First up is last years runner up Ali Carter.When it come to a tournament as unique as the world,perhaps the most important factor in picking potential winners is looking for someone with proven form over the course and distance.Every Crucible winner,with the exception of Robertson, over the last thirty years has appeared in more then one final.That shows that if a player is suited by this event they will consistently do well .and few of the more fancied players have better records here then Carter.In his career he has twice reached the final where he has run into Ronnie on both occasions and also reached a semi final.This season despite his continued battle with poor health,he has won a third ranking title,lifting The German Masters.If he is to progress here,he will in all likelyhood have to face O'Sullivan again in round two but if he were to get by that test he would start to fancy his chances.

This has been a very strange season for Shaun Murphy.The 2005 world champ has consistently got himself into contention at the business end of tournaments,but in truth has never really looking like winning one.He spoke of his frustration at this recently when he said he didn't dream as a kid of reaching quarter finals and semi's.For all this,he still possesses one of the most natural and smooth cue actions in the game and as he showed against Carter in that UK semi final , is capable of producing a string of frames where he is just unplayable. If he capable of doing it over 17 days again,I'm not so sure but I can certainly see him reaching another semi final.

When Stephen Maguire ended his five year ranking event drought in February,lifting the Welsh Open he very nearly busted his hand thumping it on the table ,such was his relief at been in the winners circle again.Maguire has never been able to hide his emotions and at times it seems his love of snooker is so great that it borders on hating it.When he won the 2004 UK championship many were predicting a period of dominance for the Scot but it never materialized.He has at times played very well at the Crucible,most recently last year when he reached the semi final but whether or not he can keep his emotions in check for the 17 day marathon is debatable.If he could he is more then capable of matching anyone.

It seems strange to be putting one of the games true legends,who has won everything in the,as well as this famous trophy twice in the "possibles" category but thats where Mark Williams finds himself after a couple of indifferent seasons..Two years ago it seemed Williams had fully recovered from a few lean tears to be almost back to his best form as he climbed back to the top of the world rankings and only was beaten by an inspired Higgins in the world semi final.He started the next season  full of confidence as well,but losing close finals to Bingham in Australia and Selby in China having been in control in both,seemed to knock the normally unflappable Williams and he has struggled to find his game ever since.It might be stretching it at this,at the age of 38 to see him win another world title but if he could somehow find his "A" game he could surprise a few.

A question that is often asked in snooker and in sport in general,is what separates the top players from the rest? I think often it can just be just a matter of self belief and that has certainly been the case in recent seasons with Stuart Bingham. After many years of toiling away on the fringes of the the games elite Bingham finally won a ranking event lifting the 2011 Australian Open.That victory earned him a place in this seasons Premier League and he showed there that he was more then capable of mixing it with the best beating Judd Trump in the final.The Crucible draw puts him in the same quarter as O'Sullivan and Higgins so he will possibly have to play better then he ever has before to make an impact here but thanks to those wins he wont be afraid of anyone.

The final player I'll put in the "possibles" category is Mark Allen.This has been a good season for the Ulsterman who defended his World Open title in China and has turned in a number of great performances only to run into players playing at their peak.This has happened so often you have to wonder if it is a coincidence or possibly something to do with Allen's style of play that allow players to find their natural rhythm.Allen is a very talented player and I think him capable of winning many more ranking titles as well as lifting a world title but looking at the draw for this years,(he is the same quarter as Ding and Selby) I find it hard to think someone wont play at their peak again and eliminate him.That said I think it would be great for the game if Allen were to lift the title...

Thats the "possibles" dealt with then,Tomorrow I move on to the "probables"and give some betting advice for those who fancy a flutter.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

World Championship Final Qualifying round

After a week of tension and high drama we finally know the identity of the 16 players who will join the games elite in the draw tomorrow and head to the Crucible next weekend with dreams of  World Championship glory.

In a world where it seems everything is being reduced to bitesize portions you still can't beat the drama of the longer framed matches and so it proved again here this week with many nail biting finishes.

So after all that who have we left?

Well for starters, in what could be a sign of the way the game is going we'll have 6 players making their Crucible debuts next week.

The biggest headline grabber of them all is probably Jack Lisowski who has seemed of late to be finally moving out of the shadow of his former housemate Judd Trump.Here,although he did trail Fergal O'Brien 2-0,the result was never really in doubt and he comfortably pulled away winning in the end 10-4.You get the feeling this young mans star is just going to keep rising and there will a few of the big guns nervously watching the draw tomorrow hoping to avoid him.

Another man who will be making his debut will be Matthew Selt after he withstood a spirited fightback from Ken Doherty. It had all seemed so simple earlier on for Selt as he moved within one of victory at 9-4,but if there is one thing we have always known about the 1997 champ,it is that he never gives up and slowly he started to come back.In an extraordinary match 9-4 became 9-9 and  the Dubliner was on the verge of completing one of the greatest comebacks of all time but somehow Selt managed to hold himself together enough to fall over the line winning 10-9.

Other men who will be making their debuts will be Ben Woollaston who beat former Crucible quarter finalist Ryan Day 10-9,Michael White who beat Andrew Higginson 10-4,Dechawat Poomjaeng who beat Jamie Cope 10-3 and Sam Baird who also beat Joe Perry by 10-3.

There was to be no fairytale Crucible return for Jimmy White as Robert Milkins beat him 10-5 to end his dreams for another year..Jimmy holds a special place in the heart of all snooker fans,especially around World Championship time but in truth he just missed too many today and Milkins is too good a player to be doing that against.

It wasn't all doom and gloom for the veterans though and Alan McManus,who has been playing well of late will be back at at The Crucible for the first time since 2006 after he beat Tom Ford 10-5

Mark Davis,who was knocked down the seedings one place by the return of Ronnie,reached the finals with a 10-6 win over Liang Wenbo.This was no more then Davis deserved after a season that has seen him reach the semi finals of a ranking event for the first time after over twenty years on the circuit.

On the other side of the coin Peter Ebdon has had a nightmare of a season but managed to find a little form here to beat Kurt Maflin in a tough matchplay encounter,eventually winning 10-8

Other familiar names in the draw include Michael Holt who survived seeing his 8-0 lead turn into 9-7 before he finally shook off Mark Joyce,Marco Fu who beat David Gilbert 10-6,Marcus Campbell who beat Liam Highfield 10-4,Dominic Dale who beat Alfie Burden 10-5,Martin Gould who beat Rod Lawler in a marathon 10-7 and in the last match to finish Mark King who scrapped past Yu De Lu 10-9.

All eyes now will turn to the draw that will take place at 1.30 Monday afternoon,then its on the Crucible next Saturday.

Friday, 12 April 2013

World Championship Qualifiers,round up & final round preview

There was a time in the not so distant past,that if you wanted to get snooker scores for non televised events,you either went to ceefax or hoped the papers the next day might carry them.Times have certainly changed and this was never more evident then with this weeks qualifying rounds for the World Championship.Not only were we able to access live streaming of two tables during each session,but also via the live scores section on the world snooker website and a  small but dedicated group of tweeters we were treated to a frame by frame(and sometimes a ball by ball) account of the matches as they unfolded.

Thanks to this we were able to get a much clearer picture of the drama that is the qualifiers as 80 men battle it out to leave  the 16 who will make the trip to the spiritual home of snooker next weekend,The Crucible theatre.

Before we get to the final qualifying round this weekend lets briefly look at the week so far.

The first high profile casualty this week was Luca Brecel who couldn't repeat his heroics of last season,when he became the youngest player to reach the Crucible,losing here 10-6 to amateur Fraser Patrick.Luca really hasn't made the progress many were expecting this year and apart from his super run to the UKChampionship quarter finals he has struggled to make an impact on the circuit.It may be too early to be saying this as he is still only 18,but I think next season could really be a make or break one for the young man.

Also exiting early was Cao Yupeng who shocked Mark Allen in last years first round but went out here to Zhang Anda in round two.

The fairytale of the week was the run of Joe Swail who came through three pre qualifying rounds just to get to round one and enjoyed victories over Advani and Duffy before eventually going out to Mark Joyce.The word is that Swail will be rejoining the circuit proper next season and it will be great to have the likable Ulsterman the game,

There was to be no fairltale for  Steve Davis who was perhaps a little unfortunate to run into one of the seasons form players in Kurt Maflin.The difference in this one was the heavier scoring of Maflin and from 6-6 he played his best stuff of the match to win 10-7.It is looking increasingly likely that Davis's last hurrah,as far as the Crucible is concerned was that great victory over John Higgins in 2010 and if it is well I suppose there were worse ways to sign off..

For Maflin,he will again need to score heavy when he takes on 2002 champion Peter Ebdon.If he can do this he has a chance but if it becomes a dogfight you still have to favour Ebdon..

When Steve was going out on one table another veteran was keeping his Crucible dream alive on another as Jimmy White followed up his victory over Tian Pengfei with a win over Xiao Goudong and now faces Robert Milkins in the final qualifying round.The Whirlwind hasn't reached the Crucible since 2006 and I think few would begrudge him one last standing ovation in the arena he lit up for so long.That said he will have to be at his best to get past Milkins.

Jamie Jones enjoyed a run to the quarter finals at the championship last year but has had a  miserable season this year and it was to continue here as he went out 10-9 to Liam Highfield.This one had a typically tense finale but Highfield impressed earlier in forcing his way back into it and I wouldn't be surprised to see him beat Marcus Campbell and make his Crucible debut.

Irish interest again comes in the shape of the two men who carried to flag for Irish snooker over the last twenty years,Ken Doherty & Fergal O'Brien.Doherty has had a pretty successful season on the whole,qualifying for most events and it wouldn't be the biggest shock in the world to see him get by Matthew Selt here.

Fergal on the other hand  has a much trickier assignment against one of the games rising stars Jack Lisowski.Jack has shown some great form of late and followed up good showings in China and Galway with a comprehensive 10-4 victory over James Wattana here.His problem here will be coping with the pace Fergal plays at but I feel Jack is getting to a stage now where these types of matches are not a problem to him and expect him to progress to make his Crucible debut.

Another stand out clash see's Ryan Day take on Ben Woollaston.Twelve monthes ago Day caused a major shock beating Ding Junhui in the first round at the Crucible and followed up that by repeating the feat in the UK.Apart from that though,the man who once promised so much has not produced any consistent form and he may just be caught out here by someone,in Woollaston who is very much on the upgrade as a player.

These are some of the more intriguing clashes we'll have over the next two days but other matches that are worth checking out include Tom Ford taking on Alan McManus,,Alfie Burden playing Dominic Dale,Marco Fu taking on David Gilbert.and Mark Davis playing Liang Wenbo.

I think it's fair to say then we are in for a weekend of nerve jangling action as we wait to see who the 16 men will be who will join the games elite in the hat on Monday for the draw for the first round at The Crucible.As a wise man once said,"Lets get the boys on the baize"