We have the conclusion of the second round and the start of the third round in the World Championship qualifying event on Saturday as the higher ranked players take to the baize for the first time this week.
Things get a little more serious from here. Those who come through the afternoon and evening session matches will be just one win away from making it to the Crucible Theatre so there is no danger of the tension and drama dropping from here on in.
The veteran Mark King is the man who kicks off his campaign on the main table on Saturday morning. He bids to pick up the first of the three wins he needs to make it to the Crucible when he takes on Florian Nussle who had a good win in the previous round. The other match of interest sees Chris Wakelin, one of the many players this week who has needed a win to secure his playing rights for next season, taking on the dangerous Lei Peifan.
The other two matches in the session sees two other men in the same boat as we conclude the second round. Ian Burns will be off to Q-School if he doesn’t see off Simon Lichtenberg while Chen Zifan will be joining him there unless he can beat Mitchell Mann, who himself needs to keep winning to avoid having to qualify for the tour once again. This one promises to be a very nervy and tense session of play!
The third round begins in the afternoon session and it does so with the highest seed in the qualifying competition getting his campaign underway when Zhou Yuelong meets his countryman Xu Si, the player who ended the hopes of Stephen Hendry in the previous round. Also on one of the main tables is the Gibraltar Open semi-finalist Matt Selt. He will go up against the former world finalist Nigel Bond for a place at Judgement Day.
Two other matches take place in the session including the two players who are seeded one apart from each other in the form of Elliot Slessor and Liam Highfield, with the winner moving to within a win of the main draw. Scott Donaldson will also be looking to book his spot at Judgement Day when he takes on the popular Dominic Dale, who saved his tour place with his win in the last round and could be playing with a bit of freedom from that.
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We only have three matches in the evening session because of the Covid-19 enforced withdrawal of Noppon Saengkham. Tom Ford is the star attraction and he will grace the main table when he looks to come past the dangerous Chinese player Chang Bingyu to move within a win of the Crucible. Kurt Maflin had a good run in the main draw last season and if he is to have a chance of replicating that then he has to beat Jak Jones on Saturday evening.
That leaves one match for the outside tables in the arena, which you will be able to watch on the bookmaker streams that offer such a facility in this tournament. It might actually be the best of the matches overall in the evening as Robert Milkins looks to move to within a win of a place at the Crucible when he takes on a Joe O’Connor who will be hugely motivated to get there for the first time in his career.
We had a decent priced winner on Friday and we’ll attempt to get another on Saturday as there is only the one bet that I like. That comes in the match between Kurt Maflin and Jak Jones where I’m not so sure the outsider is being taken as seriously as he should be. That is Jones, who has had a pretty good season after forcing himself to give the snooker a real go and take it seriously. Given that he has done that, it is no surprise that he has had his best season so far.
He made it to the World Grand Prix this season courtesy of a run to the quarter final of the English Open and overall has beaten the likes of Jack Lisowski, Kyren Wilson, Yan Bingtao, Liang Wenbo and Ryan Day and all in proper ranking events not these new quirky things that have cropped up to fill the calendar. Maflin has been inactive in 2021. He pulled out of the Welsh Open which means the only competitive hit he has had since the World Grand Prix was a Championship League group last month where he lost all his matches. He could well be underdone and given that Jones had a fine win over Jamie Wilson in the last round where he scored well, and has had a good season on top of that, I think he’s a bit of value in this one.
Back J.Jones to beat K.Maflin for a 3/10 stake at 2.63 with Betfair
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