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The Wind Gathers Momentum

Jimmy White won his first qualifying round match for this year’s World Championship with a 10-7 victory over China’s Tian Pengfei on Monday night.

The ‘Whirlwind’ played well in spells and was generally the more composed of the pair in a contest that was error strewn throughout.

50 year-old White, seeking to qualify for the Crucible for the 26th time but what would be the first occasion since 2006, started well by nicking the opening three frames from behind – two on the black and one on the final blue.

A seesaw battled ensued thereafter, though, as many frames went down to the final colours with neither participant able to consistently take advantage of the other’s mistakes.

Tian, 25, fought back well against an increasingly frustrated White, who had several gripes with referee Terry Camilleri, to level at 4-4 but should have still been behind after the first session but for what can only be described as an incredibly stupid shot from his more experienced opponent.

Londoner White had potted frame winning ball red before taking an unnecessary risk to drop in behind the black dead weight – ultimately falling short, snookering himself and handing the halfway initiative to Tian.

That said, it didn’t seem to affect him too badly as White took the opening four frames of the evening’s play to establish an important 8-5 lead.

Even though Tian again responded to reduce the deficit to only one, the People’s Champion was not to be denied and claimed the next two frames, including a fantastic 130 century break, to advance to the penultimate stage at the Badminton Hall in Sheffield.

The support is widespread for the six-time runner-up but winner of ten ranking events and also the Masters in a long, illustrious career.

Almost everyone would love to see him walk through the curtain into the cauldron atmosphere of the Crucible Theatre where he has created so many unique and polarised memories in.

His semi-final defeat to Alex Higgins in 1982, his dramatic final losses in 1984 to Steve Davis, in ’92 and, perhaps most crushingly, in ’94 to his old nemesis Stephen Hendry.

There were plenty of good times, though, including all those runs to the six finals, his magical 147 in 1992 when it was at the time still an extremely rare achievement and a demolition of Crucible King and major foe Hendry in the first round in 1998.

It will still be a tall order for White to qualify in 2013 – he has another Chinese player in the talented Xiao Guodong next before a potential date with the much-improved Robert Milkins – but now he is  up and running at least and his confidence may begin to soar.

Elsewhere, it was a brilliant day for many of the international players which keeps an appropriate global flavour to the competition.

Thailand trio James Wattana, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon all progressed with confident triumphs.

Former two-time semi-finalist Wattana won five of the last six frames with four breaks over 50 to edge Michael Wasley 10-7 while his countrymen enjoyed successes over Gerard Greene and Mike Dunn.

Dunn’s defeat to Tirapongpaiboon leaves the veteran in a precarious position in the world rankings as his place inside the Top 64 is now out of his hands.

If the Middlesbrough man was to drop outside of it, he would fall off the Main Tour and would be forced to enter Q-School if he wished to continue his professional career.

Meanwhile, Zhang Anda emerged victorious in the battle of China’s young hopefuls with a 10-7 scoreline over Cao Yupeng.

Cao memorably beat Mark Allen in the last 32 last season but will take no further part this year with Zhang, who himself qualified in 2010, going on to face another exciting young player in Michael White.

Finally, Norway’s Kurt Maflin saw off Craig Steadman 10-6 to set up a meeting with six-time champion Steve Davis.

Four other ties reached the midway point and will be completed later on this afternoon.

The popular Maltese Tony Drago has endured a dreadful campaign but won his first match and is currently 5-4 ahead of Andy Hicks while Jimmy Robertson has a commanding 7-2 lead over Li Yan.

A pair of clashes fell behind schedule and failed to complete their nine frames with Alan McManus narrowly ahead of Aditya Mehta 4-3 and Rod Lawler 6-2 up on Scottish amateur Fraser Patrick.

Tuesday will also see the start and conclusion of the remaining six matches in this round.

There are three all-English contests – Barry Pinches vs Liam Highfield, Peter Lines vs Sam Baird and Alfie Burden vs Paul Davison.

Yu Delu takes on the impressive Ian Burns, Liu Chuang and Dechawat Poomjaeng will ensure there is another Asian in the next round while the ‘Outlaw’ Joe Swail goes up against Adam Duffy.

The Northern Irishman, famous for his never-say-die mentality that brought him on two enthralling journeys to the semi-finals at the start of the millennium, has already won four matches as an amateur to get this far.

The way he has been playing this season, with a return to form confirmed in his run to the final of the Paul Hunter Classic, it would be very foolish to write off the 43 year-old stalwart.

As ever, the World Championship qualifiers offer intrigue and wonder, tension and drama, winners and losers, in this, the most exciting time of snooker’s hectic roadshow.

The full draw and results can be viewed by clicking here



Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.