The third round of the World Championship qualifying competition concludes on Monday and by the end of the three sessions of play at the English Institute of Sport we will know the identity of those who will line up for Judgement Day.
The winners on Monday will be one win away from joining the 16 seeded players in the draw for the final stages of the event on Thursday and could be lining up at the Crucible as early as Saturday so the drama and tension is likely to go up a notch now.
Martin Gould revived his career in this qualifying competition last season and he’ll look to make it through to Judgement Day when he takes on Duane Jones in the main table match in the morning session. The other high ranked player on show in the morning session is Ben Woollaston. He faces the lower ranked player remaining in the competition in Bal Langning who has performed miracles given that he hadn’t played this season before this week.
The other two matches probably look like better games overall in truth. The first of them sees the Welsh Open champion Jordan Brown going up against a Steven Hallworth who has looked decent enough so far this week. The other game is between two players who are the closest ranked of any match on show over the course of the day as Luca Brecel meets a Mark King who was made to work hard in the previous round.
There are two huge names still to get their campaigns underway this week and the first of those does so in this afternoon session as Ali Carter begins another quest for a world title which has so far eluded him. He has an awkward test against the exceptionally good Chinese youngster Pang Janxu to negotiate though. That will be on the main table and on the other streamed table Zhao XIntong will look to make progress when he meets the Polish youngster Kacper Filipiak.
Two other matches take place in this session as well. Martin O’Donnell might have his work cut out against Alexander Ursenbacher, who qualified last season but never got the true Crucible experience without the crowd so he is motivated to taste that this time around. Hossein Vafaei will look to qualify for the Crucible for the first time this year. He meets Sam Craigie in what could be the best match of the day.
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This is the session in which the former world champion Stuart Bingham will begin his qualifying campaign in. The 2015 world champion will take on Chen Zifan in a match he will be expected to win but one in which he is the one under serious pressure to come out on top in. The former semi-finalist Gary Wilson will be on the other streamed table. He goes up against the veteran Gerard Greene who doesn’t have a whole lot to lose.
There are names synonymous with this competition everywhere you look on Monday and another of them will compete on one of the outside tables as Matthew Stevens starts out another World Championship campaign. He faces Chris Wakelin who is better than his ranking suggests. Xiao Guodong is the other highest ranked player on show in this third round. He has a date with Ian Burns for a place at Judgement Day.
I’ll take one over the course of the day on Monday and it comes in the middle session where I like Alexander Ursenbacher to get the better of Martin O’Donnell and set himself up with another shot to qualify having come through this competition last season. O’Donnell has plodded his way through the season without really doing a huge amount and I fancy he will be one of the seeded players who is there for the taking with the pressure more on him to deliver.
One of the reasons why we see a lot of shocks in terms of a ranking point of view is because the players coming in fresh face opponents who have all had a match and settled into the conditions. Ursenbacher hasn’t just had a match in this competition, he played very well in it. Admittedly Lukas Kleckers was probably a handy opponent for him but he still had to beat him, which he did and scored well in the process. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a couple of years Ursenbacher is comfortably the higher ranked of these two and he can show why here.
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