World Championship 2010: Qualifiers Preview Part 2

Part two of my World Championship qualifying preview (click here for part one), sees me consider the prospects of the likes of Ken Doherty, Jimmy White, Liang Wenbo, Judd Trump and Tom Ford…

The Second Quarter


Round One Round Two Round Three Round Four
Noppadol Sangnil Rod Lawler Dominic Dale Liang Wenbo
Winner of Prelim 2
Bjorn Haneveer David Gilbert Martin Gould Nigel Bond
Winner of Prelim 3
Patrick Wallace Jimmy White Ken Doherty Joe Swail
Mark Boyle
Li Hang Tom Ford Anthony Hamilton Judd Trump
David Hogan


While there is quality throughout the draw it is for me this second section which is the most eye-catching with a combination of both experienced legends and talented young players…

Every season there are always one or two qualifiers in the draw who the top 16 players will especially want to avoid and it would not surprise me if this time around one of them turns out to be 2008 quarter-finalist Liang Wenbo. Having again qualified for the venue last year before going on to reach the final of the Shanghai Masters, Liang is continuing his rapid climb up the rankings and will be a tough nut for potential opponents Dominic Dale, Rod Lawler, Noppadol Sangnil or Michael White to crack.

There will however be added pressure on Liang’s shoulders as following his China Open defeat to Andrew Higginson he lies 15th in the provisional rankings and in need of at least one more win to ensure that he will be a top 16 player next season. Could this make a telling difference? Possibly, and Dominic Dale is a player who has experience of defeating Liang having done so at last year’s Welsh Open in a tense deciding frame. Rod Lawler too is a man enjoying a decent season, most recently defeating Michael Holt to book his place in the China Open.

How about the lower ranked players in this section? Michael White has enjoyed an excellent return to the tour this season and the only thing missing really has been a venue appearance. Could this be his chance? Noppadol Sangnil after winning a couple of matches in the Shanghai Masters has not enjoyed further success but the experience of the players ahead could prove too much over 19 frames for White. I’m sure that his time will come however.

Overall therefore I’m going to have to go with the seeded player and back Liang to progress, though while he breezed past Dave Harold 10-3 in 2009, I expect either Dale or Lawler to to run him closer this time around.

The second section in this quarter will see former finalist Nigel Bond attempt to qualify for the Crucible for the fifth successive year and while he might now be a tour veteran at 44, I am (albeit tentatively), backing him to do exactly that.

Nigel might no longer be as strong as he once was but he has enjoyed a reasonable season, qualifying for three of the five venues so far to compensate for what was a very poor 2008/9 campaign. Furthermore his experience over the longer format matches and more specifically of the pressure involved at this stage of this particular event is something that for me is invaluable and cannot be underestimated.

In Martin Gould and David Gilbert there are however a couple of very capable players who have both withstood that pressure themselves to qualify in recent years and will be far from straightforward opponents. That is not to mention Belgian number one Bjorn Haneveer who appears to have hit form recently and has qualified for the China Open in Beijing.

This is one of the few sections where I think almost anything could happen. Those of you with good memories will remember that Martin Gould and Dave Gilbert actually met at the last 64 stage last season and between them produced an excellent match which was eventually won by Martin, who at the time was in the form of his life. Twelve months are a long time in snooker however and this season the Pinner Potter has won just one ranking-event match and none since August 2009.

Gilbert meanwhile has been solid, winning the majority of his opening matches without being able to go further and qualify for a venue.

On balance while I could see most players here actually making the Crucible, the deciding factor for me has to be Nigel’s superior know-how and he is my selection as a result.

For many snooker fans I expect that it will be this next section that will be of most interest as Jimmy White and Ken Doherty are poised to meet in the third round, provided that Jimmy can see of the challenge of either Patrick Wallace or Mark Boyle in his opening match.

This is far from a formality however as Jimmy has struggled for victories this season while Northern Ireland’s Wallace in particular has won at least one match in each of the five ranking event matches staged and is a man on the way back up the rankings. White fans will not be too happy to hear it but I have a feeling that there could be an upset there.

Either way the winner will come up against 1997 world champion Ken Doherty, a man very much transformed from a year ago when I sat with half a dozen other people at the EISS and watched him struggle desperately against Gerard Greene. He may not have reached a venue since the Grand Prix but he has continued to win his opening round matches and is in with a realistic chance of returning to the top 32 if he can do so again in this event.

It says it all about this section that three paragraphs on I have not even mentioned the top seed yet, Northern Ireland’s Joe Swail. Last season’s Welsh Open finalist Swail has enjoyed little success since then but he has always been a player capable of turning the form book upside down and producing something special seemingly from nowhere. It would not surprise me in the slightest if he were to do that once again in this competition.

Despite that however I am going to back Ken to progress from this section and ensure that he is at the Crucible both as a player and a BBC pundit…

And finally onto possibly my most controversial pick yet as I am backing Leicester’s Tom Ford to cause an upset and come through at the expense of Judd Trump to qualify for a Crucible debut.

Long since regarded as a talented player, this season has seen Tom find some much needed consistency and win a number of ranking event matches to leave him in all likelihood just one win away from a return to the top 48. Judd meanwhile experienced a nightmare start to 2009/10 as he lost consecutive matches to Scotland’s Marcus Campbell, though he has since managed to turn things around somewhat and qualify for the next three venues.

Another player in this section is Anthony Hamilton, for me the best player never to have won a ranking event title, though he has struggled for consistency this campaign. The section is completed by Li Hang and David Hogan, two talented young players in desperate need of an extended run here, though it would be quite an upset to see either of them go all of the way here.

Ultimately then I expect to see it come down to Ford v Trump, a match that on current form I would find very tough indeed to call. While I am certainly someone who rates Trump very highly however, I am going to go with Ford this time around…

Part three will follow on Tuesday…