Eight players are still in contention at the quarter-finals stage of the 2023 World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.
It has been an intriguing opening to what is the 47th edition of the tournament at the Crucible Theatre.
After the first few days offered plenty of drama, the second round proved to be somewhat disappointing with a lot of one-sided encounters seeing matches end earlier than expected.
The remaining contenders have won 23 frames at the venue stages to get this far, but a further 48 will be required for glory next Monday.
Check out the FanDuel snooker odds as the World Snooker Championship matches progress.
Let’s take a look at each of the four matches in this year’s World Snooker Championship quarter-finals.
Ronnie O’Sullivan (1) vs Luca Brecel (9)
Ronnie O’Sullivan reached the World Snooker Championship quarter-finals for the 21st time in his career courtesy of a 13-2 hammering of Hossein Vafaei in round two.
Following their war of words, the promised grudge match delivered little in the way of entertainment as the Rocket thoroughly dismantled the brash challenger.
One would expect Luca Brecel to muster a sterner test in the last eight, but O’Sullivan looks ominously calm and focussed in the arena so far.
While there were several doubts concerning his form heading into his defence of the tournament this year, those have swiftly been answered.
O’Sullivan looks every bit the same competitive animal who has won seven world titles in the past, and who is bidding for a record-breaking eighth of the modern era in 2023.
Brecel, though, has produced a couple of terrific displays of his own as he continues his maiden run beyond the last 32 in the competition.
The Belgian Bullet exuded a laid-back demeanour very much in the ilk of his opponent Mark Williams when ousting the Welshman with a 13-11 scoreline – the only second-round tie that provided anything in the way of proper drama.
It’s remarkable to think that Brecel is still only 28, because it feels like he has been on the professional circuit for an age.
The three-time ranking event winner has become a more regular presence in the business end of tournaments during the last few seasons.
Brecel won’t shy away from the challenge of facing O’Sullivan, but he will nevertheless start the showdown as the obvious underdog.
In three of their four clashes against one another, the ninth seed has been on the receiving end of batterings, but Brecel did beat O’Sullivan en route to success at the 2017 China Championship.
One would assume that a fast start for Brecel is essential, but even then he’s going to have his work cut out for him as O’Sullivan continues his chase for number eight in what will be his 100th Crucible match.
Prediction: Ronnie O’Sullivan 13-8 Luca Brecel
Tuesday, April 25th – 10am and 7pm
Wednesday, April 26th – 2:30pm
Anthony McGill vs Si Jiahui
The last time two qualifiers faced off against one another at the quarter-finals stage of the World Snooker Championship was in 2020.
Anthony McGill was involved on that occasion as well when he beat Kurt Maflin en route to his sole appearance in the last four.
The Scot has established a love affair with the tournament ever since reaching the last eight on his debut in 2015 when, you guessed it, he was a qualifier.
Although he was far from convincing towards the end of his second-round match against Jack Lisowski, the 10-1 lead he had established ultimately proved too much for the latter to recover from.
McGill’s 13-8 success was bettered by his next opponent, with Si Jiahui outperforming Robert Milkins with a 13-7 scoreline.
On a day when the hearing on the alleged match-fixing scandal involving ten Chinese players began, Si’s progress in this year’s World Championship has been welcome.
The 20 year-old proved that his downing of Shaun Murphy in the first round was no fluke, albeit Milkins was disappointingly poor throughout much of the last-16 affair.
Interestingly, despite having only been on the main tour for a few seasons, Si already boasts a noticeably superior head-to-head record against McGill.
They played each other three times in the space of about 18 months between 2021 and 2022, with Si winning each contest.
Whether that will have an influence on this tie remains to be seen, but those early round fixtures are far removed from the intensified situation of potentially reaching the single table setup at the Crucible.
Boasting more experience on the big stage, McGill is rightfully the favourite, but Si has coped extremely well with the pressure so far.
Is a new star of snooker set to be born?
Prediction: Si Jiahui 13-11 Anthony McGill
Tuesday, April 25th – 2:30pm
Wednesday, April 26th – 10am and 7pm
Mark Allen (3) vs Jak Jones
Prior to Sheffield, there were suspicions that Mark Allen might have already maxed out on his season.
A superb spell between October and January resulted in three ranking titles for the Northern Irishman, but his form after that dipped significantly.
As it turns out, there was nothing to worry about, and Allen definitely looks as well-prepared as he has ever been to properly challenge at the Crucible Theatre.
That this run represents only his fifth to the quarter-finals of a World Snooker Championship underlines just how disappointing Allen’s record in the event has been over the years.
The 37 year-old, who is also threatening to usurp O’Sullivan as the season-ending world number one, now has the chance to reach the single table setup for the first time since 2009.
After humbling Stuart Bingham 13-4 in the second round, the reigning UK champion will be a huge favourite against qualifier Jak Jones.
It has been an extraordinary effort from the latter to reach this stage on his debut, beating Barry Hawkins, Ali Carter, and Neil Robertson in the process.
Jones has emulated a lot of fellow Welshmen who have performed strongly on their first Crucible appearance.
Matthew Stevens, Lee Walker, Michael White, Jamie Jones, and Terry Griffiths are among those who reached this hurdle at the first attempt – the latter, of course, proceeded to win the title in 1979.
Few are expecting Jones to challenge for the £500,000 champion’s cheque next Monday evening, but whatever transpires it has been a breakthrough tournament for the 29 year-old.
Allen and Jones have faced either five times on the main tour, with the Pistol prevailing in all but one of those occasions.
Prediction: Mark Allen 13-9 Jak Jones
Tuesday, April 25th – 10am and 7pm
Wednesday, April 26th – 10am
John Higgins (10) vs Mark Selby (2)
In 1989, Steve Davis lost only 23 frames in total across the entire event as he romped to his sixth and final World Championship glory.
Chasing his fifth, John Higgins has so far lost just five frames after a 10-3 defeat of David Grace and a thoroughly unexpected 13-2 drubbing of Kyren Wilson.
Higgins has rediscovered form at just the right time after a dismal spell saw him languish way down the pecking order on the one-year rankings list.
In the quarter-finals, the Wizard of Wishaw will face Mark Selby – a fellow four-time world champion and an expert performer in Sheffield.
Selby entered this edition of the Worlds as one of the favourites given his solid return to form across the last four or five months.
But the Jester has not looked especially sharp in the tournament, instead relying on his trademark doggedness and experience to get past Matthew Selt and Gary Wilson.
Selby has a history of starting slowly in tournaments before shifting through the gears as he reaches the business end of proceedings.
But based on what we’ve seen so far, Higgins is the player who looks the more likely to push on and seal a spot among the final four.
Higgins and Selby are certainly no strangers to encountering each other in Sheffield, with five prior showdowns to recall upon – including two finals.
Their overall head-to-head reads slightly in Selby’s favour, but they have both recorded big wins over the other so won’t shy away from the task at hand.
There were a lot of one-sided matches in the second round, but a close encounter here seems likely.
Prediction: John Higgins 13-10 Mark Selby
Tuesday, April 25th – 2:30pm
Wednesday, April 26th – 2:30pm and 7pm
For the full World Snooker Championship draw, results, live scores, and session times, click here.
Featured photo credit: WST