We are down to the penultimate stage of the World Championship qualifying competition on Monday, and for the 16 men who take to the baize at the English Institute of Sport things are getting very serious, as a place at the Crucible Theatre is up for grabs.
Everyone involved now has already had some action on the tables in this event so we should see the standard go through the roof now. We should also see the tension and the drama crank up another notch or two as well.
It is a 128 player event but this competition should be thought of as 16 eight player tournaments with each tournament winner progressing to take their place in the main draw. The first round sees those ranked 81-128 in the world and the 16 invited players battling it out. The 32 winners then progress to take on players ranked 49-80. Those winners go through to meet someone ranked 17-48 in the third round and the 32 winners from that round meet in the final round with the winners going into the main draw. The first three rounds of the tournament are the best of 11 frames with the final round the traditional best of 19.
The TV table and the streamed table are both in operation over the course of the day. These matches, like all in this round, are over the best of 19 frames across two sessions so we do not have afternoon and evening sessions. The televised table sees the current Indian Open champion Matt Selt on show. He meets Kurt Maflin in what looks like a great match up. There is a clash of styles on the other table however as Fergal O’Brien goes in search of a guaranteed two-year tour card when he takes on a Liang Wenbo who looked in decent nick at the recent Championship League.
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All six outside tables are also in use over the course of the day with Alexander Ursenbacher taking on Andrew Higginson, the latter who can seal his place on the tour with a win. Martin O’Donnell plays Elliot Slessor in another of the matches while Noppon Saengkham meets Eden Sharav. Anthony Hamilton will be looking to get back to the Crucible Theatre but Scott Donaldson stands in his way. The other two matches sees Ashley Carty looking to continue his rise in the game when he faces Robert Milkins while Alan McManus meets Louis Heathcote.
I’ll go with a couple of bets over the course of the day. Both of them come on the outside tables and even at 10/11, slightly shorter than he was originally priced up at, it is hard to ignore the form of the Swiss ace Alexander Ursenbacher. He goes up against Andrew Higginson who has come through a couple of rounds but hasn’t played amazingly well in doing so and he might have to raise his game against the talented Swiss star. Ursenbacher took care of the in form Gary Wilson in the previous round, running out a 6-3 winner with runs of 141, 93, 68, 62 and 57. That was under the TV lights so he’s in decent nick. Higginson crawled over the line against Daniel Wells and unless he ups his game dramatically I expect Ursenbacher to be making his debut at the Crucible next week.
The match between Alan McManus and Louis Heathcote is an interesting one in terms of it is experience against a relative newcomer but it is the lower ranked Heathcote that I like in this match. McManus overcame the challenge of Wu Yize in the previous round but there was a key moment at 3-2 when he had an outrageous fluke to take the frame otherwise it could have been 3-3 and anything could have happened. McManus wasn’t great in that game unlike Heathcote whose win over Ali Carter in the previous round was deserved and emphatic. Heathcote made breaks of 53, 57, 72 and 75 in defeating Carter and he saw off a competent Kishan Hirani in the second round of qualifying too. He looks overpriced to see off an undercooked McManus.
WON – Back A.Ursenbacher to beat A.Higginson for a 3/10 stake at 1.91 with Boylesports
Back him here:
Back L.Heathcote to beat A.McManus for a 3/10 stake at 3.20 with Betfred