The inaugural WSF Championship has reached the last 32 stage in Malta with a straight knockout format to be adopted from now until the champion is determined on Saturday.
With the formalities of the mundane round-robin phase complete, attention can now properly turn to the big contenders as they chase glory in the first ever staging of the WSF Championship at the Dolmen Hotel.
Two Irishmen are still in with a shout of glory with Michael Judge and TJ Dowling both qualifying for the last 32 and the pair will be among the most experienced players left fighting for the top honours.
Judge, who reached the semi-finals of the WSF Seniors Championship last week at the same venue, comfortably advanced from his group with four wins from four, dropping only a couple of frames in the process.
The Dubliner, who qualified for the professional World Championship at the Crucible on three occasions before dropping off the Main Tour in 2011, will face Australian Steve Mifsud with a potential clash against seniors champion Igor Figueiredo to come in the last 16.
Three-time Irish national champion Dowling struggled to reach top form in his group, winning only two games, but managed to squeeze into the knockouts and duly won his preliminary encounter against Yuttapop Pakpoj from Thailand to set up a meeting with seventh seed Pole, Mateusz Baranowski.
The draw is peppered with familiar names from the amateur scene and it will be interesting to see who can peak at the right time, with the winner set to receive a two-year tour card onto the pro circuit.
Adam Stefanow, another player from Poland, finished the group stages as the top seed after winning all of his twelve frames and the 24 year-old plays Fraser Patrick next.
Former world under-21 and European amateur champion Kristjan Helgasun, the only Icelandic competitor to play at the Crucible, has also looked dangerous, firing in a hat-trick of centuries so far to set up a tie with Estonia’s Andres Petrov – the beaten finalist in last year’s European Championship.
Meanwhile, Kishan Hirani accounted for the last remaining woman in the draw following a 4-2 triumph against Reanne Evans and the Welshman will face home hope Brian Cini on Thursday.
Other interesting ties on paper include the all-English battle between David Lilley and Kuldesh Johal, Saqib Nasir’s contest with the almost forgotten Kacper Filipiak, and Alex Taubman’s duel with talented Austrian Andreas Ploner.
By the end of the day’s play, the quarter-finalists will be known and they’ll each be within one round of a place in the World Championship qualifiers as all four semi-finalists will be given an invite to compete at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield next month.