World Championship Qualifiers 2010: Steady Selt keeps Crucible bid on track

A little belated unfortunately but here is the story of my day at the World Championship qualifiers on the opening Sunday…

Nine months on from my last visit to Sheffield to watch some snooker I returned to the EISS shortly after 10am and headed on up to see the scores and decide which match I would settle down and watch initially. I remember last year when I visited the venue for the first time it took be a good couple of hours before I could settle down and really focus on the play, compared to the TV tournaments it is such a change to be presented with so many tables. This year however I quickly decided that I would find a position where I would be able to watch the match between Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Matt Selt, which was handily also next to the Jamees Wattana/Lee Page match on the outside.

In comparison to this stage last year there was a pretty good crowd in, definitely over a hundred people though half of them were probably players trying to kill some time away from the hotel. Amongst them were Liang Wenbo, Simon Bedfrd, Jack Lisowski and referee Eirian Williams.

Early on all of the matches that I could see were predictably tense and Thepchaiya showed his nerves with a missed final pink with the scores level at 60-60 in frame one to give Matt an opportunity to steal it. Frame two however saw something of a role reversal as Matt broke down on 48 having been in with an excellent opportunity to take the frame in one-visit. Although Thepchaiya squandered his first opportunity, he managed to get in again and take the frame with a very tidy clearance.

Thepchaiya un-Nooh

As would become a pattern for the morning session it was Matt who again created the first opportunity in frame three and having taken all blacks early on the possibility of a 147 crossed my mind. Unfortunately however he ran out of position and decided to play up for the green, only to miss it anyway! Down to the final blue after the left-handed un-Nooh (who at this point I noticed must be the thinnest snooker player alive, seriously like a matchstick), had got himself back into the frame, Matt played a poor shot on the final blue and nearly went in-off with the white into a corner pocket. Eventually this was to cost him as Thepchaiya cleared for 2-1.

At this point Selt was beginning to look very edgy and in frame four was making very hard work of the opportunity presented to him. To his credit though the balls went in and he was able to take the frame with a break of 92. It could have been a century but for an underhit blue which prompted Matt to throw a red from a centre pocket across the table as he headed off for the break.

Meanwhile on the adjoining table, James Wattana made a slow start as he fell 3-0 down against Lee Page after a series of scrappy frames. Crucially however he never looked at all flustered and managed to take the final frame before the interval to get his side of the scoreboard moving. This was ultimately to mark the start of a five frame winning streak as he eased into a 5-3 lead. Lee kept things interesting though by taking the last of the session with a nice 68 break.

James Wattana

Lee was not the only player to produce an impressive comeback in the morning session as having seen Bjorn Haneveer move 3-0 ahead with a fabulous break of 138, he also took the next five frames to lead 5-3! Bjorn though is an experienced player and like Lee kept his cool to take the last frame of the session and remain in touch.

Mid-way through the first session I bumped into Ryan and his dad who I am sure a few of you will have seen on Facebook at some point. Having had a catch up we headed out to see if any players were hanging around and bumped into Craig Steadman, Atthasit Mahitthi and Xiao Guodong who were catching a bit of the action. Also saw Matt Couch and his coach Steve Feeney at this point as I chatted with Steadman about the day’s Carling Cup football final (like myself Steadman is a keen Manchester United supporter), as well as his season so far. Top guy he is. We also bumped into the EASB’s John Hartley, another good guy and someone who has as much passion for the game as any0ne.

James Wattana, Brendan Moore and Lee Page

We then headed downstairs and managed to catch Simon Bedford before returning to the arena to see the final frame of the Michael White match. Surprisingly (for me at least), the young Welsh prospect found himself trailing 6-2, though did well to take the last of the session with a nice break which included two doubles! Following this we headed down to grab a photo with the players, though understandably Michael was not in the mood for smiling!

At this point we headed back up to catch a bit more of the Matt Selt match, a strange one which had seen Thepchaiya open up a 5-3 lead. Matt looked for all the world like he would get himself back to 5-4 heading into the break but he was to eventually let slip another frame from a strong position and headed out 6-3 down and with work to do.

Following this I decided to hang around and take some photos of the action as I wanted to be able to give fans who have never been to the qualifiers before a chance to get a feel for the atmosphere and the set-up in here. Having a totally silent camera with a decent zoom on it this year was also a bit of a bonus! Will post a gallery up later with links to some of the videos I recorded also.

Eventually I decided to head out for a break and bumped into Michaela Tabb, Lee Page, Brendan Moore, Mark Boyle (alive and well!), Li Hang, Brendan O’Donoghue and Stephen Rowlings, the latter being particularly amused at the requests for photos I think!

With the football on (conveniently on the TV in reception), I decided to have a break at this point, heading off for a bit of food before returning around three frames into the afternoon session.

Tony Drago

Unsurprisingly I decided to settle down and watch the match between Tony Drago and Xiao Guodong, a very entertaining affair which was being played at a much quicker speed than the other three. From Tony it was typical Drago, quickfire, high-quality snooker with the occasional howler thrown in! At one point I was just thinking to myself that he was looking brilliant, only for him to miss a sitter, prompting him to turn to the crowd, nodding his head before putting an imaginary gun to his head!

Elsewhere however the going was tough, particularly in the match between Mark Boyle and Patrick Wallace which with all due respect was fairly painful viewing! I spoke to Mark later on who was fully in agreement so I’m sure he will not mind me saying it. I had a brief chat with him about the confusion surrounding his future, following the previous reports that he has withdrawn his tour membership. He told me that he was now looking at playing pool and concentrating less on his snooker as he focuses on his family and his full-time job. Best of luck to him whatever happens this week.


Having spent the afternoon taking photos, the evening session felt like a more serious affair as the first six matches came to a conclusion. Again I decided to watch the matches involving Matt Selt and James Wattana, though I was was surprised that the crowds were instead focused on the White/Sangnil match on the opposite side.

After losing the first session in such a disappointing manner it was absolutely crucial for Matt to take the first frame of the session and on a break of 52 he looked set to do it in style. There were soon shades of the morning session however as he missed with six reds remaining and gave Thepchaiya a chance to get back into it. Importantly however he could not take it, breaking down on just 31 as a relieved Selt got back to the table to make it 4-6.

The most crucial frame of the match however was the 11th as having got in with an excellent long red, Thepchaiya held for the black and soon moved onto 48 as he chased the 147. Having gone into the reds and finished on nothing however, he played a shot which looked like suicide, a very low percentage cut-back into the right-centre pocket which did not even touch the jaws. With the newly scattered reds Matt had a chance to really punish him and with a break of 72 he did just that. It was apparent from the way he powered the final black off the table that Matt sensed the importance of the frame and in truth he rarely looked back from that moment.

Thepchaiya mentally looked shattered at this point and for the next few frames struggled to string a couple of pots together. Though Matt missed a black off the spot in frame 12, he was soon back to the table to level the match and it started to look like we had a 10-6 match on the cards. It was very noticeable that Matt was playing a touch slower than during the morning session, something that he confirmed after the match and it seemed to work as he moved into the lead at 7-6.

A delighted Matt Selt

Meanwhile the match between Wattana and Page was an interesting one, particularly as Wattana stroked in a very classy total clearance of 140 which is not a bad target for the high break prize of this non-televised stage. It is evident that his long game is not really there now and that his trademark lack of cue power was still an issue, but in around the balls he looked as good as most players in action today.

As is typically the case during the evening sessions, more and more players arrived to watch including Peter Lines and David Gray, not to mention Premier League football referee Uriah Rennie who sat a couple of seats away from me! As the clock ticked past 9pm it was clear that I was not going to be getting home any time soon as all of the matches were close. Stephen Rowlings was digging in against Sam Baird, Jordan Brown advanced to 7-5 against Bjorn Haneveer and the match between Joe Jogia and Lee Spick looked like it might go all the way.

Having moved 8-6 ahead, Matt Selt might have been expected to go from strength to strength but with the winning line in sight he just started to look a little edgy again and let Un-Nooh in for his first frame of the evening. Matt bounced back to take the next but he was giving Thepchaiya a few more opportunities and a break of 54 closed the gap to just 9-8.

The damage had already been done however and Matt took victory in the next frame, shouting “GET IN!” as he drilled in a superb blue to leave his opponent needing snookers. At this point I went down to congratulate him and more so than most other players he was visibly thrilled. Such a sense of relief I think! It was nice to hear that he has seen PSB before and he kindly stood for a photo.

James again

Another early winner was James Wattana who completed a 10-7 victory over Lee Page shortly beforehand. It was a crucial win for the Thai legend as he looks to secure his tour place, while like Un-Nooh, Page now finds himself relegated.

The next man through was Noppadol Sangnil who withstood a stirring comeback from Neath youngster Michael White to clinch a 10-9 win. Michael was visibly gutted but if it is any consolation, he should still be safe on the tour next year I think.

A match that I had seen very little of all day was that between Joe Jogia and Lee Spick, but at 9-7 to Jogia there was to be real drama as Joe found himself in with a chance to take victory. With the colours almost entirely on cushions, Joe produced a superb clearance up until the black which he cannoned from the side cushion from the pink to leave on into the green pocket. It was not straightforward but he played it with pace, rattled it and could only watch as Lee drilled it in to keep his hopes alive.

Jan Verhaas takes a break from remote hunting

At this point I decided to head out for a break but along with Joe Delaney, Jan Verhaas, Craig Steadman, David Morris, Patrick Wallace and others, found ourselves locked inside the corridor upstairs! Rather amusingly Michaela Tabb was on the other side of the door unable to do anything, while we ventured down a fire escape only to work out that we would set off an alarm if we went out that way, something that Joe and Lee in the arena might not appreciate!

Eventually we were directed to another exit, but Jan’s frustrations were not to end as he tried and failed to change the channel on the TV screen in reception to watch the Olympic ice hockey final!

Much to the relief of a few friends outside supporting him, Joe Jogia put his previous disappointment behind him to clinch a crucial victory and essentially retain his tour spot for another season. As it was getting late and I needed to be up at 7am, I decided to head home at this point and leave Haneveer/Brown delicately poised at 9-8!

All in all though it was an enjoyable day, I always enjoy attending live snooker events not just for the play, but also being able to meet up with other fans and familiar faces, in a way it feels like coming home! Hopefully I will be back on Thursday as the race for the Crucible reaches the third round…