Deciding Matters in World Qualifiers

A highly dramatic last session to the final World Championship qualifiers resulted in an amazing five deciding frame thrillers in Ponds Forge.

2010 was the last time O'Brien played at the Crucible - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.
2010 was the last time O’Brien played at the Crucible – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Given the amount of matches played over the last week and the enormity of the consequences of each result, the lack of more 10-9 scorelines earlier on was somewhat of a surprise.

That was made up for on Wednesday as the last five qualifiers to book their Crucible berth did so in the 19th frame shoot-out.

Unfortunately for Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien, the 43 year-old was on the wrong end of a superb comeback from Kurt Maflin of Norway, who will make his maiden World Championship appearance next week in Sheffield.

In all, four debutants qualified with Craig Steadman, Stuart Carrington and Anthony McGill joining the China Open semi-finalist in Thursday’s highly anticipated last 32 draw.

Carrington and McGill also squeezed through in deciders, with the former winning the last two frames to edge past China’s Li Hang in what turned out to be a disappointing round for the Far East nation.

For O’Brien, it marks the second successive season that the Dubliner will be absent from the quest for snooker’s holy grail – having also tasted a 10-9 defeat this time last year as well.

On that occasion, it was Robbie Williams who pipped O’Brien to the post with an intense re-spotted black, and Williams is back at the Crucible following another surprise victory – this time over fellow Englishman Michael Holt.

Meanwhile, Robert Milkins, who narrowly missed out on an automatic place, managed to escape a sterling fight back from challenger Andrew Higginson to eventually get over the winning line 10-9 having at one point led by three frames with four to play.

It was a bag of nerves all around the Ponds Forge International Sports Centre as Jimmy Robertson and Xiao Guodong similarly went the distance.

Robertson capped off what has been an encouraging campaign for the 28 year-old by sealing a World Championship spot for the first time since 2011 with a triumph on the final colours.

There was a some consolation for the Chinese contingent with Zhang Anda scraping through, albeit at the expense of countryman Liang Wenbo.

Elsewhere, Finland’s Robin Hull reached the main venue stage for the second consecutive year, comfortably overcoming Igor Figueiredo of Brazil 10-4.

Hull’s impressive performances over the longer format have appeared to have all but guaranteed him his place in the top 64 in the world rankings, granting him professional status for another season.

Finally, Matthew Selt held on to deny Tom Ford, making a brilliant clutch 66 clearance in the 18th frame to record a 10-8 victory.

That’s it then. The qualifying tournament is over and we know our sweet 16.

It will be interesting to see how they will each cope having been forced to contest three rounds already so close to the championship itself.

The start of the World Championship is just around the corner, Saturday in fact when defending champion Mark Selby makes his entrance.

But who will he be playing? The draw takes place on Thursday at 10:30am GMT and will be live on the Official World Snooker YouTube channel.

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