Former world champion Peter Ebdon was among the early winners as the World qualifiers got under way in Sheffield on Wednesday.
The World Championship, snooker’s flagship end-of-season tournament, gets under way on Saturday week at the Crucible Theatre.
While the top 16 in the world rankings are already guaranteed their spots at the venue stages, the remainder of the tour must contest the dreaded World qualifiers in order to bag one of the additional 16 places.
Ebdon was once an obvious member of the elite bracket, going all the way to glory in a memorable 2002 final when he pipped Stephen Hendry in a decider.
These days, of course, the 48 year-old has slipped down the pecking order somewhat and he has even threatened that he might soon call time on his terrific career.
The nine-time ranking event champion can still mix it at a high level, though, and a 10-4 success over Harvey Chandler sees him move just two victories away from a return to the Crucible.
Ebdon’s relative ease in advancing to the next hurdle was mirrored in several of the other fixtures on the opening day.
The World qualifiers draw is controversial in many ways as some of the established pros find themselves paired with one of the invited amateurs in the first round.
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Mei Xiwen, and Michael Holt all took full advantage of this with pretty straightforward successes.
However, there’s plenty of meaning in the phrase “the luck of the draw” as a couple of the invited top-ups do indeed represent a genuine threat.
Reigning Irish national champion Michael Judge wasn’t even in the draw until late on Monday, replacing China’s Zhang Jiankang in the field.
The Dubliner, who qualified for the World Championship three times during his prior stint on the Main Tour, duly took full advantage and ousted Peter Lines in a marathon affair that concluded just shy of 3am.
Elsewhere, Jimmy Robertson was the day’s biggest winner as the European Masters champion pummelled Chen Feilong in a whitewash thrashing.
💬 “I’ve been training hard and I’m up for it this week.”
Jimmy Robertson surged to a whitewash victory today and he has his eyes set on another Crucible appearance. The European Masters champion has come through qualifying in three of the last four years.#ilovesnooker pic.twitter.com/plwcEWmrBu
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) April 10, 2019
Fast improving rookie Joe O’Connor needed just one additional frame as he hammered two-time former semi-finalist Joe Swail 10-1 – possibly ending the Northern Irishman’s long professional career in the process.
Chinese duo Yan Bingtao and Xiao Guodong compiled four centuries between them in overcoming Lukas Kleckers and Jak Jones respectively.
Michael Georgiou and Mark Joyce also managed to reach the second qualifying round at the English Institute of Sport.
Several first round ties of the World qualifiers reached their halfway points as well.
A standout scoreline sees European Under-18 champion Aaron Hill, twice a winner on the Irish domestic circuit this term, lead Gerard Greene 5-3.
Another amateur, albeit more experienced in James Cahill, enjoys a surprising 7-2 advantage over Andrew Higginson.
The likes of Martin Gould, Zhao Xintong, Matthew Selt, and Noppon Saengkham have established strong positions against relatively weak opposition.
Those matches are among those that will reach their climax on Thursday, while among those entering the fray will be Ricky Walden and Liang Wenbo.