World Snooker Championship preview
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World Snooker Championship: 2024 preview and predictions

With not long left until the main event gets under way at the Crucible Theatre, it’s time to preview the 2024 World Snooker Championship.

The ten-day qualifying competition at the English Institute of Sport concluded on Wednesday with 16 happy qualifiers joining the top 16 seeds in the first round draw.

The defending champion, as is tradition, will kick proceedings off for this year’s edition on Saturday.

Below is a full preview of each first round fixture in the 2024 World Snooker Championship, and a few predictions ahead of what promises to be a thrilling 17 days of action.

Quarter 1

Luca Brecel (1) vs David Gilbert

Session 1: Saturday, April 20th at 10am
Session 2: Saturday, April 20th at 7pm
Prediction: Luca Brecel

Reigning world champion Luca Brecel takes on David Gilbert in an interesting clash that will open the tournament.

A 10-6 triumph over Xiao Guodong on Judgement Day earned Gilbert a spot in the World Championship draw for the tenth time in his career.

The Englishman has played at the Crucible every year since 2019, when he embarked on a memorable run to the semi-finals.

Gilbert hasn’t featured regularly at the business end of tournaments in recent times, although Brecel’s campaign hasn’t really been great either.

The Belgian Bullet reached the finals of two lucrative invitational events – losing both to Ronnie O’Sullivan – and won the World Mixed Doubles alongside Reanne Evans.

Aside from that he has generally struggled, and as a returning first-time champion Brecel has the “Crucible Curse” to contend with as well.

Still, he has shown glimpses of a return to form in the second half of the campaign and will fancy his chances against the Angry Farmer.

Robert Milkins (16) vs Pang Junxu

Session 1: Monday, April 22nd at 7pm
Session 2: Tuesday, April 23rd at 7pm
Prediction: Pang Junxu

It’ll be a tenth appearance for Robert Milkins at the Crucible Theatre this year having just sneaked inside the top 16 as a seeded player.

Opponent Pang Junxu made it consecutive Crucible qualifications courtesy of a 10-8 triumph over fellow Chinese cueist Cao Yupeng in the final round.

The 24 year-old is one of three Chinese qualifiers and five from China who feature in the first round draw overall.

Milkins and Pang have only played each other once before, a low-key Championship League outing last summer behind closed doors.

The atmosphere on this occasion will be vastly different, a setting Pang will be somewhat accustomed to having lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan at this stage a year ago.

It has been a terrible season for Milkins, who is way down at number 43 on the one-year rankings.

With two victories already under his belt in this competition, Pang looks like one of the more likely qualifiers to spring an upset.

Ali Carter (9) vs Stephen Maguire

Session 1: Saturday, April 20th at 2:30pm
Session 2: Sunday, April 21st at 7pm
Prediction: Ali Carter

In some ways it’s ironic that Ali Carter has drawn Stephen Maguire, because they’ll both be making their 20th appearances at the Crucible in 2024.

The pair first clashed all the way back in 2000 and crossed paths at the semi-final stage of the 2012 World Championship.

Carter won then and he also boasts a marginally superior head-to-head record from their total encounters with one another.

While they both possess fiery temperaments, Carter has reined in those emotions over the course of the last couple of seasons to very good effect.

The Captain has regularly challenged for titles in that period, whereas Maguire has only seldomly blown hot and frequently been ice cold.

At his best, the Scot would continue to pose a threat to anybody on the circuit, but with the consistency not there, it’s hard to see him advancing at Carter’s expense.

Shaun Murphy (8) vs Lyu Haotian

Session 1: Sunday, April 21st at 2:30pm
Session 2: Monday, April 22nd at 10am
Prediction: Shaun Murphy

Shaun Murphy won the opening ranking event of the season and then claimed that he wanted to challenge for the world number one spot.

Since then, the Magician has lost his bag of tricks while enduring a nightmare run of form.

Lyu Haotian, who reached the second round in 2018, will make his fourth appearance at the Crucible Theatre.

The Chinese competitor beat Murphy the first time they played, but since then he has lost two matches to an aggregate score of 1-11.

Coming into this year’s championship with zero form, it’s hard to see 2005 champion Murphy featuring at the latter stages, but he’ll still fancy the job here.

Quarter 2

Mark Selby (5) vs Joe O’Connor

Session 1: Sunday, April 21st at 10am
Session 2: Monday, April 22nd at 2:30pm
Prediction: Mark Selby

Joe O’Connor is the only debutant in this year’s World Snooker Championship draw.

The former ranking event runner-up outlasted Matthew Selt in a marathon 10-8 match in which their last frame took almost two hours to complete.

O’Connor faces fellow Leicester man Mark Selby in the round of 32, a draw he probably desperately wished to avoid.

Crucible rookies often struggle on their maiden outing, so it won’t aid O’Connor’s cause that he’s playing one of his role models who he has failed to beat in seven prior attempts.

Selby cut a distraught figure after losing early at the recent Tour Championship, even suggesting he could retire from the sport if things don’t improve.

Those words were probably just said in the heat of the moment, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the four-time world champion have a decent run in Sheffield again.

Kyren Wilson (12) vs Dominic Dale

Session 1: Tuesday, April 23rd at 10am
Session 2: Wednesday, April 24th at 10am
Prediction: Kyren Wilson

Kyren Wilson’s first-round opponent is Dominic Dale, who at 52 will become the first quinquagenarian since Steve Davis in 2010 to play at the Crucible.

It’s been an impressive season from Dale, who despite battling with tour survival in recent years is provisionally set to end this term inside the world’s top 40.

Wilson remains a top 16 player but, by his standards, has not enjoyed a particularly fruitful campaign.

The Warrior has reached the quarter-finals or better six times in Sheffield, including a final appearance in 2020, so he has pedigree on the big stage.

Indeed, he hasn’t lost in the first round since making his debut ten years ago – 2014 being the year of Dale’s last Crucible appearance – and Wilson will rightly be the favourite to progress to the last 16.

Even so, a scan of the pair’s head-to-head shows that half of their past battles have required a deciding frame, meaning it might not be quite as straightforward as Wilson hopes.

John Higgins (13) vs Jamie Jones

Session 1: Wednesday, April 24th at 7pm
Session 2: Thursday, April 25th at 7pm
Prediction: John Higgins

If John Higgins loses in the first round this year, he will drop out of the top 16 for the first time in almost three decades.

There are whispers that such an event could lead to him calling time on what has been a remarkable and illustrious career, but we’ll have to wait and see about that.

In any case, he is likely to have a testing time of it against an opponent in Jamie Jones who has already accounted for another former world champion – Neil Robertson.

The Welshman will be riding a wave of confidence after that success on Judgement Day, and he has performed well at the Crucible in the past.

There has been a lot made of Higgins’ slip down the rankings, but he has actually played solidly enough all season – reaching several quarter-finals and semi-finals.

There’ll be many tipping Jones, but Higgins isn’t going to let go of his status among the elite without a fight.

Mark Allen (4) vs Robbie Williams

Session 1: Tuesday, April 23rd at 2:30pm
Session 2: Wednesday, April 24th at 2:30pm
Prediction: Mark Allen

Mark Allen is provisionally ranked number one in the world and will officially end the campaign in that position if results go his way in Sheffield.

The Northern Irishman will of course be hoping all of that will take care of itself if he can manage to land a maiden world title.

Allen has had another strong season, winning two ranking titles in addition to the Champion of Champions invitational.

He finally got back to the semi-finals and the single table setup at the Crucible a year ago after a 14-year absence.

Allen is the most in-form player in his quarter of the draw this year so a repeat performance seems to be on the cards.

Robbie Williams, meanwhile, represents the lowest-ranked qualifier in the 2024 World Snooker Championship draw.

The Englishman qualified for the Crucible three years in a row between 2014 and 2016, but it has taken him until now to secure a return.

Quarter 3

Judd Trump (3) vs Hossein Vafaei

Session 1: Saturday, April 20th at 2:30pm
Session 2: Sunday, April 21st at 2:30pm
Prediction: Judd Trump

Undoubtedly one of the ties of the first round pits world number two Judd Trump against the lively Hossein Vafaei.

Trump has won five ranking titles this season, so there are many who are expecting him to waltz through to a potential mouthwatering semi-final against Ronnie O’Sullivan.

The 34 year-old, however, probably would have been hoping for a kinder draw than that of Vafaei, who is not afraid to mix it with the very best the game has to offer.

The Iranian has beaten Trump a few times, but their most important showdown was won by the latter at this same stage of the World Championship in 2022.

Trump has a reputation of being a slow starter in big events but, in fact, has only been dumped out at the opening hurdle in Sheffield three times in 14 appearances.

One of those was last year against Anthony McGill, which ought to sharpen his focus to avoid a repeat this time.

Tom Ford (14) vs Ricky Walden

Session 1: Saturday, April 20th at 7pm
Session 2: Sunday, April 21st at 7pm
Prediction: Ricky Walden

Tom Ford, at the age of 40, is a seeded player for the first time in what is only his fifth Crucible appearance.

There will be a different kind of pressure on the Englishman as he searches for a first ever victory at the venue stages in Sheffield.

Ricky Walden sealed his appearance at the Crucible in 2024 with a dramatic 10-9 triumph over Mark Davis on Judgement Day.

Walden, a three-time ranking event winner, reached the World Championship semi-finals back in 2013.

This is a very even-looking fixture on paper, and predicting the outcome isn’t really helped much by an even-looking head-to-head record.

With a couple of wins already from the qualifiers, Walden may just about shade it.

Zhang Anda (11) vs Jak Jones

Session 1: Saturday, April 20th at 10am
Session 2: Sunday, April 20th at 10am
Prediction: Zhang Anda

Like Ford, Zhang is a seed for the first time in his career following an outstanding campaign in which he won the International Championship.

Two other appearances in ranking event finals mean that he has unquestionably represented one of the players of the entire season.

Jak Jones embarked on an unlikely run to the quarter-finals on his first Crucible appearance last year, and the 30 year-old is back for another crack after beating Jamie Clarke and Zhou Yuelong in the preliminaries.

This is another clash that could go either way, but Zhang has been regularly underlining his pedigree for the big-time since last year.

Perhaps it’s now time for Mighty Mouse to step up and rise to the occasion at the sport’s most important stage as well.

Mark Williams (6) vs Si Jiahui

Session 1: Monday, April 22nd at 2:30pm
Session 2: Tuesday, April 23rd at 2:30pm
Prediction: Si Jiahui

Mark Williams produced a barnstorming display to beat the top three ranked players in the world at the recent Tour Championship.

That’s not to forget his spellbinding clearance in the deciding frame of his first-round fixture with Tom Ford.

Williams, a 49-year old remember, is coming into this World Championship hyped as one of the pre-tournament favourites again.

But there is the possibility that the Welshman peaked too soon, and that it might be difficult to replicate the highs of Manchester again here.

Si Jiahui won’t be an easy opening challenge, the young Chinese cueist with memories of his mesmorising run to the semi-finals a year ago.

The German Masters runner-up did well to negotiate the qualifiers and secure an immediate return to the Crucible, where he’ll know that he’ll have to be at his best to beat a legend like Williams.

Quarter 4

Ding Junhui (7) vs Jack Lisowski

Session 1: Tuesday, April 23rd at 10am
Session 2: Wednesday, April 24th at 10am
Prediction: Jack Lisowski

Jack Lisowski was arguably the player who all the seeds would have wanted to be paired with the least in the first round.

Ding Junhui drew the short straw, but the Chinese number one’s dismay is good news for neutral fans, as their affair promises to be an absolute belter.

Although he has failed to return to the winners’ enclosure, Ding has had a decent season and is a member of the top eight in the rankings again.

Lisowski has gone the other way and missed out on an automatic seeding by just £6,500, but he did look sharp while emerging from the qualifiers.

Ding went all the way to the final when he suffered a similar fate in 2016, and with Peter Ebdon reportedly not in Lisowski’s corner any more, it’s possible Jackpot could return to his old swashbuckling self.

The head-to-head would indicate an easy victory for Ding, who boasts an aggregate frame score of 15-3 from three prior meetings.

But with his confidence higher following the qualifiers, Lisowski could be a dark horse in this event.

Gary Wilson (10) vs Stuart Bingham

Session 1: Monday, April 22nd at 10am
Session 2: Monday, April 22nd at 7pm
Prediction: Gary Wilson

Gary Wilson is coming into this World Championship as an even more credible dark horse to go all the way and lift the famous trophy aloft.

Already a two-time ranking event winner this season, he also reached the semi-finals of the recent Tour Championship where he was narrowly beaten by Ronnie O’Sullivan.

As a former world champion, Stuart Bingham looks like a difficult draw at first glance.

But in reality, Ballrun has been out of form for a long time and has particularly struggled with his eyesight – the worst ailment for a snooker player to have.

Bingham obviously has the pedigree to turn it on in the big moments, but Wilson has been by far the more consistent recently and should be considered the favourite to progress.

Barry Hawkins (15) vs Ryan Day

Session 1: Tuesday, April 23rd at 7pm
Session 2: Wednesday, April 24th at 7pm
Prediction: Ryan Day

A battle of the four-time ranking event winners sees Barry Hawkins entertain Ryan Day.

Former finalist Hawkins returns to the Crucible after missing last year’s edition through a painful defeat in the qualifiers.

Day scrambled past Scott Donaldson 10-9 on Judgement Day and will make his 15th appearance at the venue stages.

The Welshman hasn’t won a match at the Crucible since 2014, losing five times at the opening hurdle since then.

There’s no questioning the fact that Hawkins enjoys the far better record in Sheffield, but Day has the slight edge in their head-to-head.

Two experienced campaigners indicate that this could be a close one, possibly even 10-9 either way.

Ronnie O’Sullivan (2) vs Jackson Page

Session 1: Wednesday, April 24th at 2:30pm
Session 2: Thursday, April 25th at 1pm
Prediction: Ronnie O’Sullivan

Ronnie O’Sullivan is back for a second crack at winning an eight world title, which would take his tally beyond Stephen Hendry to become the most prolific champion of the modern era.

Prolific is the word to use for his 2023/24 campaign so far, with the Rocket hardly losing a game and romping to five titles since last September.

That has included victories at the UK Championship and the Masters, ensuring that the single-season Triple Crown is within his grasp.

Jackson Page is a fearless competitor who stunned Barry Hawkins on his debut in the competition two years ago.

But in that same year he was humbled 13-3 by Mark Williams in the second round, and he could find it just as difficult against another Class of ’92 legend here.

O’Sullivan may like to suggest otherwise, but winning another world title and breaking Hendry’s record, rather than just matching it, would mean everything.

Final Verdict

There are many who are already dreaming of a mouthwatering semi-final between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump in the bottom segment.

The form book sometimes goes out the window in Sheffield, but this time I think the fans will get what they are craving for.

The top half of the draw appears to feature fewer players who are actually in form this season, perhaps pointing to a semi-final clash between Ali Carter and Mark Allen.

Only time will tell. The magic of the Crucible awaits.

Prediction: Judd Trump to beat Mark Allen in the final

2024 World Snooker Championship Draw

Round 1 (bo19)

Luca Brecel (1) 9-10 David Gilbert
Robert Milkins (16) 10-9 Pang Junxu
Ali Carter (9) 7-10 Stephen Maguire
Shaun Murphy (8) 10-5 Lyu Haotian

Mark Selby (5) 6-10 Joe O’Connor
Kyren Wilson (12) 10-1 Dominic Dale
John Higgins (13) 10-6 Jamie Jones
Mark Allen (4) 10-6 Robbie Williams

Judd Trump (3) 10-5 Hossein Vafaei
Tom Ford (14) 10-6 Ricky Walden
Zhang Anda (11) 4-10 Jak Jones
Mark Williams (6) 9-10 Si Jiahui

Ding Junhui (7) 9-10 Jack Lisowski
Gary Wilson (10) 5-10 Stuart Bingham
Barry Hawkins (15) 8-10 Ryan Day
Ronnie O’Sullivan (2) 10-1 Jackson Page

Round 2 (bo25)

David Gilbert 13-4 Robert Milkins (16)
Stephen Maguire 13-9 Shaun Murphy (8)

Joe O’Connor 6-13 Kyren Wilson (12)
John Higgins (13) 13-12 Mark Allen (4)

Judd Trump (3) 13-7 Tom Ford (14)
Jak Jones 13-9 Si Jiahui

Jack Lisowski 11-13 Stuart Bingham
Ryan Day 7-13 Ronnie O’Sullivan (2)

Quarter-Finals (bo25)

David Gilbert 13-8 Stephen Maguire
Kyren Wilson (12) 13-8 John Higgins (13)

Judd Trump (3) 9-13 Jak Jones
Stuart Bingham 13-10 Ronnie O’Sullivan (2)

Semi-Finals (bo33)

David Gilbert 11-17 Kyren Wilson (12)
Jak Jones 17-12 Stuart Bingham

Final (bo35)

Kyren Wilson (12) 18-14 Jak Jones

Click here for the latest live scores and session times.

Featured photo credit: WST


  1. Jay Brannon

    How come comments are disabled on the article about the draw?

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