World Championship 2011: Tournament Preview – Part Two

Today I bring you part two of my 2011 World Championship preview as myself and Jack Lisowski consider the opening round prospects of Ding Junhui, Mark Selby and more…

Thanks to both Jack for playing along as well as Jim for his assistance with the head to head stats.

To view part one of my preview, please click here:


Match Five: Ding Junhui (5) v Jamie Burnett (37)

He was on the UK Championship twice and he has now won the Masters, but can Ding Junhui reach his first World Championship quarter-final this year at the fifth attempt? Looking to stop him in his tracks early will be Scotland’s Jamie Burnett…

Head to Head

These two have met just once before in professional competition and for Jamie at least it was a match to forget as his illustrious opponent recorded a 5-0 win at the 2008 Grand Prix at the SECC. As a result, Ding leads their head to head 1-0.

Crucible History


  • 2007 – R32, lost 10-2 to Ronnie O’Sullivan
  • 2008 – R16, lost 13-7 to Stephen Hendry
  • 2009 – R16, lost 13-10 to Stephen Hendry
  • 2010 – R16, lost 13-10 to Shaun Murphy


  • 1996 – R32, lost 10-9 to Terry Griffiths
  • 2009 – R32, lost 10-5 to Stephen Maguire

Season So Far

Although Ding made a slow start to the season having opted out of a few of the early PTC events, he began the full ranking event season relatively well with a last 16 appearance in the Shanghai Masters as well as a quarter-final run in the World Open, eventually losing out to Welshman Mark Williams. A 9-8 defeat to Mark Allen early in the UK Championship followed before he produced some fabulous snooker to win his maiden Masters title at Wembley, seeing off Williams, Graeme Dott, Jamie Cope and finally Marco Fu. Since then successive quarter-finals have followed in Wales and Germany, as well as a semi-final in China leaving Ding well set for an overdue strong showing in Sheffield.

For Jamie meanwhile it has been a mixed season, his lack of results during the PTC being off-set by his sensational run to the final of the Shanghai Masters back in September. Having qualified for that event he then saw off Andrew Higginson, Mark Davis and Jamie Cope to reach his maiden final before losing out to Ali Carter. Since then it has been very much a case of coming back down to earth as he has qualified for just two further venues, the Welsh Open and the Crucible, coming through against Asian duo James Wattana and Liang Wenbo in the latter. Can he complete the hat-trick?

Why Ding Will Win

One of the leading players in the game during the past couple of seasons, Ding arrives at the Crucible hoping to finally progress beyond the last 16 at the World Championship for the first time. Having this year added the Masters title to his two UK Championship triumphs, there can be no doubting his ability and surely it is only a matter of time before he reproduces that sort of form at the Crucible.

While his temperament has often been questioned, there have been signs during recent years that he is improving in this department, for example during his excellent comeback against Liang Wenbo here at the Crucible back in 2009, arguably the result that sparked his renaissance. He still has the occasional match where he can appear to wilt mentally but these are becoming less frequent over time, just look at his victory against Kurt Maflin from 1-4 down in Beijing last week. A couple of years ago he would probably have lost that one but not now.

When considering Ding’s game, it goes without saying that his scoring is frighteningly good, as evidenced by his 33 century breaks this season which makes him close to unstoppable when at his very best. Just ask Stephen Hendry who was once on the receiving end of a record 495 points without reply from the Chinese number one. Can Jamie handle that sort of fire-power? It is a tall order.

Turning to Jamie, while he might be older than Ding, he is in fact less experienced that his illustrious opponent at the Crucible and is yet to win a match here so it will be crucial for him to settle early and get off to a good start if he is to challenge. If he struggles then I could see Ding winning comfortably as he did during their only previous meeting at the Grand Prix in 2008…

Why Jamie Will Win

At first glance Jamie would appear to be a real underdog for this match and on paper that is hard to disagree with in my book. That said however, there are reasons for Burnett fans to be optimistic, not least his excellent run to the final of the Shanghai Masters earlier this season which proved that he can perform in front of the television cameras.

More recently however, I was very impressed with what I saw of the Scot during qualifying for this event when trailing James Wattana at the final mid-session interval, he hit back with a series of big breaks to win before firing in three tons to defeat Liang Wenbo in the next round and book his place at the Crucible. Having this season joined the 100 century breaks club, Jamie has been scoring well and if he can perform as well in front of the TV cameras as he did to qualify,  we could have a very interesting match on our hands.

And what of Ding? He might have won almost everywhere else but it has to be said that for whatever reason he has failed to crack the Crucible yet, failing to progress beyond the last 16 in four previous appearances. Could he be vulnerable here early on or has he simply come up against opponents who have been too strong on the day in the past?

Ding’s temperament too is often still cited as a relative weakness and the way he lost his path during the final few frames of his defeat here to Shaun Murphy last season was worrying for fans of the Chinese player.

My Prediction

If Jamie can play anything like he did during qualifying then he will keep Ding honest at the Crucible, but while the higher seed might not have a great track record at the venue, I just cannot see him losing this one. Indeed he has defeated Marco Fu, Liang Wenbo and Stuart Pettman in the first round before and on the whole I think that his scoring will be too strong for Jamie to stay with. 10-5.

Jack’s View

I think that Ding will win, his break building is as good as it gets.




Match Six: Peter Ebdon (12) vs Stuart Bingham (17)

Whenever the World Championship comes around, it has become something of a cliché to say how Peter Ebdon is always a dark horse and should not be written off, but this year he actually comes into the tournament on the back of two successive first round defeats at the Crucible. Can Stuart Bingham make it three?

Head to Head

One of the more interesting head to heads in the draw this, the pair having met nine times in professional competition. On the face of it their match-up is a tight one, Ebdon 5-4 up but upon closer inspection it is Peter who has thus far has the upper hand in the matches that really count, winning all three of their matches in what I would class as the elite tournaments.

The first came at the 2003 UK Championship when Peter recorded a comprehensive 9-2 victory in York, before adding a 6-4 win at the 2006 Masters. They also met during the UK’s back in 2006 when Peter won 9-4 at the last 16 stage, though given Peter’s form that week as he stormed through to his last ranking event on British soil, it is hard to fault Stuart too much.

Of their three other ranking event meetings it is Stuart who has just about had the upper hand, tight victories coming in the 2006 Malta Cup and 2008 Shanghai Masters while Peter won 5-3 at the 2004 Daily Record Players Championship. Two of their final three meetings came at the Championship League and were shared with one win each, while Stuart also has a win to his name from the 2009 6-Red World Grand Prix.

So Peter has won the bigger matches, while Stuart has won three of their last four…

Crucible History


  • 1992 – QF, lost 13-7 to Terry Griffiths
  • 1993 – R32, lost 10-3 to Steve Davis
  • 1994 – R32, lost 10-6 to James Wattana
  • 1995 – QF, lost 13-8 to Andy Hicks
  • 1996 – F, lost 18-12 to Stephen Hendry
  • 1997 – R32, lost 10-3 to Stefan Mazrocis
  • 1998 – QF, lost 13-11 to Mark Williams
  • 1999 – R32, lost 10-7 to Matthew Stevens
  • 2000 – R32, lost 10-6 to Dominic Dale
  • 2001 – QF, lost 13-6 to Ronnie O’Sullivan
  • 2002 – WINNER, defeated Stephen Hendry 18-17
  • 2003 – QF, lost 13-12 to Paul Hunter
  • 2004 – R32, lost 10-8 to Ian McCulloch
  • 2005 – SF, lost 17-12 to Shaun Murphy
  • 2006 – F, lost 18-14 to Graeme Dott
  • 2007 – R16, lost 13-8 to Mark Selby
  • 2008 – QF, lost 13-9 to Ali Carter
  • 2009 – R32, lost 10-5 to Nigel Bond
  • 2010 – R32, lost 10-5 to Graeme Dott


  • 2000 – R16, lost 13-9 to Jimmy White
  • 2002 – R32, lost 10-8 to Ken Doherty
  • 2008 – R16, lost 13-9 to Joe Perry
  • 2009 – R32, lost 10-5 to Ronnie O’Sullivan

Season So Far

Starting the season ranked outside of the top 16 for the first time in nearly 20 years, Peter soon set about putting things right by qualifying for both the Shanghai Masters and World Open tournaments, going on to reach the semi-finals in the latter. This combined with consistent performances during the PTC was enough to lift him back up inside the top 16 and a UK Championship defeat to Andrew Higginson aside, he has won matches at each of the tournaments since to stay there. Most recently he defeated both Gerard Greene and world champion Neil Robertson to reach the quarter-finals out in Beijing before losing against eventual champion Judd Trump.

Meanwhile a couple of blips at the World Open and German Masters tournaments aside, Stuart Bingham has had a very good season, built on a series of consistent performances during the Players Tour Championship which took him to Dublin’s Grand Finals recently. Otherwise the highlight of his campaign has to be his run to the quarter-finals of the UK Championship where he defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan and Marco Fu before going down 9-7 to Antrim Ace Mark Allen.

Why Peter Will Win

Peter might not be as consistent as he once was but the 2002 world champion remains a class act who never gives up and will have to be scraped off the table before he is defeated. Mentally he remains among the most determined on the tour and is more than happy to play all night if it gets him into the next round. As he demonstrated against Jamie Cope here a couple of years ago in the first round, in a close match there are few better and if he can stay in touch then he would have every chance of coming through.

More than most, Peter has a great deal of experience at the Crucible and is perfectly comfortable playing here which I feel is always a big advantage, Despite having been in the game for so long he remains as enthusiastic as ever, indeed he was in the crowd for last season’s final and he knows exactly what it is all about.

His form this season too has generally been pretty good, certainly as strong as it has been since his 2009 triumph in Beijing and is evidenced by his return to the top 16 of the rankings by the first mid-season revision. While not absolutely secure there yet at the next cut-off, it would take a strange run of results to see him lose his place and that should take the pressure off him compared to this point last season when he had to defeat Graeme Dott to stay in the elite group.

Looking at the head to head record, as alluded to above it is very interesting to note that of their meetings at the major tournaments Peter has always come out on top which is certainly in his favour coming into this tournament. In ranking events Peter leads 4-2 and even both of the matches that he lost were close ones that could have gone either way.

Why Stuart Will Win

As Stuart himself is well aware, this season sees him make his fifth appearance at the Crucible and unfortunately for him he maintains his 100% record of having drawn a world champion in the first round each time! That said however, it should be pointed out that he has of course won two of his previous four openers here including that memorable victory against defending champion Stephen Hendry back in 2000. While he might not have played here half as often as Peter therefore, Stuart is far from a novice at the venue and knows what it takes to win here against the best.

While that win against Hendry was 11 years ago however, also in Stuart’s favour is his form this season which after a couple of average years has been markedly improved. As predicted back in July, Stuart has been one of the players to profit from the new Players Tour Championship, not only gaining a significant amount of points from it, but also the form and the confidence to help him see off Ronnie O’Sullivan at the UK Championship in December. Another longer format tournament, his run the quarter-finals there bodes well and is arguably a more reliable barometer of form for Sheffield than the recent China Open.

Again turning to the head to head record, it is true that Peter has in the past won their bigger matches but the last of these was back in 2006 which is some time ago now during a week in which Peter was in arguably the form of his life. Prior to that Peter’s last win against Stuart in a ranking event was back in 2004 which is now some time ago. Add to that the fact that Stuart has won the majority of their other recent meetings and it certainly shows it in a different light.

Another factor in Stuart’s favour I feel is that while Peter has a wealth of experience upon which to call on, it has not been enough for him in recent seasons and like some of the other greats when they have reached the age of 40, his consistency has inevitably declined, not just from match to match, but from frame to frame. His long game in particular is suspect to me and while his biggest strength is his tactical ability, Stuart has in the past defeated Steve Davis in Sheffield so has proven that he can compete with the best in that department. If he can, if Stuart can match him tactically, with 21 century breaks to Peter’s eight, his scoring could make the difference.

Finally, while Ebdon might be the seeded player here, in the provisional rankings they are just a few places apart and on the one-year list actually sit 11th and 12th, very little to choose between them.

My Prediction

One of the most even matches in the draw for me this, on paper I think that Peter Ebdon has to start the favourite given his great experience at the venue and his higher ranking. Despite that however, I feel that Stuart Bingham’s form has been too impressive to ignore this season and I fancy him to cause an upset here and record a 10-7 victory.

Jack’s View

A close one! Peter Ebdon is a tough draw over any long game but Stuart Bingham recently did well in the UK Championship and will be confident. I think this game will be 10-9 – toss a coin.




Match Seven: Stephen Hendry (13) vs Joe Perry (30)

Seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry is back again for another tilt at the title in Sheffield but of more immediate concern will be his top 16 place and a must-win opening match with Joe Perry if he is to keepmaintain his long unbroken run going another year…

Head to Head

Unsurprisingly these two have met on quite a few occasions down the years, ten in fact as Stephen just shades their history 5-4, with the players having also played out a draw during the 2009 Championship League.

Interestingly, their first four meetings all came during ranking events and were each won by Hendry, starting with his 5-1 victory at the Irish Open back in 1998/9. Their next meeting was closer as Stephen won in the quarter-finals of the 2000 China Open before their biggest meeting to date came in the final of the 2001 European Open, Hendry winning 9-2 with top runs of 130 and 124. Two years later Stephen whitewashed Joe 5-0 en route to the British Open title in Brighton and it appeared as though the Scot very much had the psychological edge over him.

Following that however there was something of a reversal of fortunes as Joe won their next four meetings, two coming during the Championship League while he also recorded a 5-1 win during the 2008 Premier League at the Plymouth Pavilions. More recently, Joe won 4-3 at the EPTC event in Gloucester earlier this season while Stephen stopped the rot with a 4-0 victory at the last 32 stage of the recent Welsh Open.

Crucible History


  • 1986 – R32, lost 10-8 to Willie Thorne
  • 1987 – QF, lost 13-12 to Joe Johnson
  • 1988 – R16 lost 13-12 to Jimmy White
  • 1989 – SF, lost 16-9 to Steve Davis
  • 1990 – WINNER, defeated Jimmy White 18-12
  • 1991 – QF, lost 13-11 to Steve James
  • 1992 – WINNER, defeated Jimmy White 18-14
  • 1993 – WINNER, defeated Jimmy White 18-5
  • 1994 – WINNER, defeated Jimmy White 18-17
  • 1995 – WINNER, defeated Nigel Bond 18-9
  • 1996 – WINNER, defeated Peter Ebdon 18-12
  • 1997 – F, lost 18-12 to Ken Doherty
  • 1998 – R32, lost 10-4 to Jimmy White
  • 1999 – WINNER, defeated Mark Williams 18-11
  • 2000 – R32, lost 10-7 to Stuart Bingham
  • 2001 – QF, lost 13-5 to Matthew Stevens
  • 2002 – F, lost 18-17 to Peter Ebdon
  • 2003 – QF, lost 13-7 to Mark Williams
  • 2004 – SF, lost 17-4 to Ronnie O’Sullivan
  • 2005 – QF, lost 13-11 to Matthew Stevens
  • 2006 – R32, lost 10-9 to Nigel Bond
  • 2007 – R16, lost 13-6 to Ali Carter
  • 2008 – SF, lost 17-6 to Ronnie O’Sullivan
  • 2009 – QF, lost 13-11 to Shaun Murphy
  • 2010 – R16, lost 13-5 to Mark Selby


  • 1999 – R16, lost 13-8 to Ronnie O’Sullivan
  • 2002 – R16, lost 13-7 to Peter Ebdon
  • 2003 – R32, lost 10-4 to Shaun Storey
  • 2004 – QF, lost 13-10 to Matthew Stevens
  • 2006 – R32, lost 10-3 to Ryan Day
  • 2007 – R32, lost 10-3 to Stephen Maguire
  • 2008 – SF, lost 17-15 to Ali Carter
  • 2009 – R32, lost 10-6 to Jamie Cope
  • 2010 – R16, lost 13-11 to Ali Carter

Season So Far

Skipping a number of the early-season PTC events, Stephen began his campaign badly with an opening round defeat to Martin Gould at the Shanghai Masters to leave his top 16 place very much in jeopardy heading into the new World Open tournament. Wins against Mark Davis and Bjorn Haneveer turned out to be enough to leave himself safe although he could do little about Ronnie O’Sullivan in his third match. From there he continued to struggle during the PTC and his performances during the UK Championship left a lot to be desired, but a 9-8 win against Jimmy White did at least secure enough ranking points to keep himself in the top bracket for the German Masters and Welsh Open tournaments.

Though he could not progress beyond the last 16 in either of those tournaments, he did at least show improved performances in defeating both Judd Trump and Joe Perry, as well as making a magical 10th 147 break during his match against Stephen Maguire in Newport. His best performance of the season so far though was to come in China as he defeated the in-form Matthew Stevens 5-0 to keep his hopes alive of remaining inside the top 16 at the end of the season.

Like Stephen, Joe started the season slowly too having changed his cue and struggled to make an impact during the PTC events. Opening round defeats to Robert Milkins, Ken Doherty and Jimmy White followed during the first three major events and left the former world semi-finalist with a fight on his hands to remain inside the top 32.

Since then however Joe’s form has improved, notably at the German Masters where he defeated Alan McManus, Jamie Cope and Ali Carter to reach the quarter-finals where he lost out to eventual winner Mark Williams. A win against Tony Drago to qualify for the Welsh Open soon followed before that loss to Hendry, while he also made it through to China with a 5-2 win against Rod Lawler before losing out to Shaun Murphy. To qualify for the World Championship he had to come through a tough encounter with Liu Song who having won three matches during the tournament already was already match sharp, but Joe delivered with a 10-6 win.

Why Stephen Will Win

Little needs to be said about Stephen’s experience and capability at this unique venue, with seven world titles behind him and a further two finals, he is the undisputed ‘king of the Crucible’. As he said during his run to the last four during 2008:

“It’s like my living room, I put my pipe and slippers on and get my feet under the table.”

And for me this is certainly an advantage for him here. Indeed during both 2008 and 2009 he hardly set the world alight during the season’s other ranking events but once at the Crucible he produced some of the best snooker I have seen from him since back in his 1990’s heyday. Even the last three frames against Zhang Anda in the first round last year were the perfect example of how this venue just seems to inspire the Scot.

Turning to Hendry’s more recent performances, following a slow start to the season there have been signs of real improvement recently with his whitewashes against Joe Perry and Matthew Stevens in the last two tournaments, not to mention victory against Judd Trump in Berlin. Although he might not have the consistency to compete with those ranked higher than him at present, by and large he still has enough to see him past the qualifiers, having lost just one last 32 match during the last two seasons, as strong a record as any of the top players.

Furthermore the head to head record here is also another real advantage for Stephen as not only has he won five of their six meetings at ranking events, but he has generally done so with ease, in fact winning 31 frames to Joe’s 11. Psychologically you feel that this will be in the back of both players minds and suggests that if Stephen can play to his best, he will win.

Another consideration is that of Stephen’s position in the provisional rankings which means that he simply must win this match in order to stand any chance of remaining inside the top 16 at the end of the season. Whether the added pressure of knowing that will help or hinder Stephen is up for debate but in the past when threatened he has always come up with a response and he will be hoping to do so again. Never have I seen a player who can think clearer when under the most intense pressure and nowhere is that more of an asset than at the Crucible.

Why Joe Will Win

Making his tenth appearance at the Crucible, Joe is no stranger to the venue and knows how to win matches there which as I always say is a useful advantage for anyone to have at the venue. Indeed having reached the semi-finals just three years ago and found himself to be very unfortunate to lose out 13-11 against Ali Carter last season,  Joe will be hoping to draw on those memories and go on a similar run this time around.

While he has just one quarter-final to his name this season, Joe has had a far stronger second half to his season than his first having taken some time to adapt to a new cue and re-adjust to life at the qualifiers. At his best Joe is a threat to most players and having once finished with the tournament high break here back in 2004, has the quality to give Stephen a few headaches.

Saying that, it is arguable that Stephen has the ability to give himself headaches at the moment as his form is by his own admission inconsistent. A trend that I have noticed for at least three seasons now is that he often seems to begin his matches well, a frame-winning break in the opener putting him in front before then missing a couple and watching his game fall apart almost instantly. The most recent example of that was his defeat to Stephen Maguire at the Welsh Open where having started with a 147, he struggled badly thereafter following a missed pot in frame two. With his confidence or perhaps his concentration seemingly that easily affected, it might be that Joe can take advantage of a similar situation here.

Having argued above that the head to head situation favours Stephen, it could also be argued that Joe has actually won four of their past five meetings and that Newport clash in February aside, the last of Stephen’s wins came back in 2003. Back then Stephen was an entirely different proposition, indeed he eventually went on to win that tournament playing at a phenomenal level to defeat Ronnie O’Sullivan in an excellent final. Now in a very different time, could this be Joe’s chance to turn the tables?

Furthermore while it may be that Stephen thrives upon his perilous position in the rankings at the moment, this is not necessarily the case and it is also an advantage to Joe that he is safely inside the top 32 and faces no such pressures of his own.

My Prediction

A tough match to call between two strong players, both are certainly in with a chance of winning this contest but I am going to have to back Stephen to come through and keep his top 16 hopes alive for another cut-off point. While a win for Joe would not be the biggest shock in the world, Stephen does not lose too often at the last 32 stage here and I feel that playing at the Crucible will inspire him once again, perhaps for the last time…10-7.

Jack’s View

The last time that I looked at the rankings I remember Stephen Hendry needed to win a few games to stay in the top 16? And I think he will. Just for the fact that imagining him qualifying at Sheffield – I can’t picture it, it just doesn’t seem right!




Match Eight: Mark Selby (4) vs Jimmy Robertson (61)

The final match in this section sees Mark Selby come up against Jimmy Robertson, one of this season’s two Crucible debutants who defeated Ken Doherty, Tony Drago and Xiao Guodong to make it this far. Can he cause what would probably be the biggest shock of 2011 by defeating the Jester from Leicester?

Head to Head

Prior to this season there had been no previous meetings between Mark and Jimmy but their Crucible clash will now be their third clash following two matches during this season’s PTC. Their first came at the quarter-final stage of the PTC2 event in Sheffield as Mark won 4-2 en route to the title before they again met during the EPTC3 event in Russelsheim, Mark winning 4-0 on that occasion to give himself a 2-0 advantage overall.

Crucible History


  • 2005 – R32, lost 10-5 to John Higgins
  • 2006 – R16, lost 13-8 to Mark Williams
  • 2007 – F, lost 18-13 to John Higgins
  • 2008 – R32, lost 10-8 to Mark King
  • 2009 – QF, lost 13-12 to John Higgins
  • 2010 – SF, lost 17-14 to Graeme Dott


  • None

Season So Far

For me Mark started the season as one of the men to beat, winning the second PTC event in Sheffield en route to finishing second overall on the Order of Merit. Victory also came at the Sangsom 6-Red World Championship before a semi-final run at the season’s first ranking event the Shanghai Masters got his ranking event season off to a strong start.

In the events that followed however, early defeats against Barry Hawkins and Stephen Maguire seemed to knock his confidence before he then saw his Masters defence come to an early end with defeat against Mark King at the last 16 stage. It was not until the German Masters when we again saw what Mark is capable of as he made it through to the final with victories against Nigel Bond, Stephen Hendry, Ding Junhui and Graeme Dott before eventually going down to Mark Williams. Another strong performance came in Newport as he made it through to the semi-finals only to be denied a second straight final by Scotland’s Stephen Maguire.

He also made it through to the semi-finals of the PTC Grand Finals event only to slip up against Martin Gould, before making it through to the final in the China Open only to be denied by Judd Trump.

For Jimmy meanwhile it has been a strange season, one that saw him perform well during the PTC in amassing 5,320 ranking points but generally struggling during the six ranking events prior to the World Championship. His opening match during the Shanghai Masters qualifiers went all the way to a decider before Scotland’s James McBain came through, while further defeats to Simon Bedford and James Wattana followed at the World Open and UK Championship tournaments respectively.

He did break his duck during the German Masters qualifiers with strong wins against Liam Highfield and Jimmy White, before gaining revenge against Simon Bedford with a 4-2 win during the Welsh qualifiers. Though he lost out to Joe Delaney in attempting to qualify for China, he did go on to qualify for the Crucible in fine style with wins against Xiao Guodong, Tony Drago and former world champion Ken Doherty.

Why Mark Will Win

A bold statement perhaps but for me Mark Selby is in my opinion probably the best player on the tour at the moment who has not already won the world title on at least one occasion. Possessing one of the strongest all-round games in the world right now, Mark rightly enters this year’s tournament as one of the favourites, particularly looking at the quarter of the draw that he has found himself in.

Looking at his game, one criticism this season has been that he can be too negative and indeed this is something that Mark has himself admitted to. That said however, with 46 century breaks to his name already this campaign his scoring ability cannot be questioned and with performances like that against Ali Carter in Beijing, he has shown that he can turn it on when the circumstances are right.

At the same time however his tactical game is also excellent and has in part led many to label him a grinder. Personally I think that this is unfair and it would perhaps be more accurate to say that he is a player capable of grinding, without being a grinder per se. Either way, his style of play works for him and having only been denied by top performances from John Higgins and Graeme Dott during the past couple of years, he will no doubt take some stopping again in 2011.

Another obvious factor meanwhile is the fact that his opponent Jimmy Robertson is making just his second TV appearance following his outing at the Sky Shootout, his first at the Crucible Theatre. While débutantes have won before at the famous theatre, just three have done so since 2005, the last being Liang Wenbo in 2008. As a result it will take something special from Jimmy to buck the trend and while is hard to imagine that Jimmy will be able to produce his A-game from the start, even if he can, it might well not be enough.

Why Jimmy Will Win

So after all that doom and gloom, what words of encouragement can I give to Jimmy Robertson fans?

First up, his performances to qualify for the tournament were excellent and to win seven frames in a row against former champion Ken Doherty he is clearly no pushover. Strangely enough though it was his probably his win against Xiao Guodong that impressed me the most as having both compiled breaks for fun during the match as it lurched towards an inevitable decider, it was Jimmy who was able to seize the initiative and book a third round clash with Tony Drago.

Also Mark Selby is no stranger to a shock early exit at the Crucible, indeed in 2008 he came into the tournament as many people’s tip for the title only to crash out in the first round against Mark King. Could the expectation being placed upon him or perhaps his exertions in China last week prove a handicap?

Finally while the tournament is a notoriously difficult one for rookies, Zhang Anda proved that it can be done as he led Stephen Hendry 9-7 in the first round before falling victim to a thrilling comeback. Could Jimmy go one better?

My Prediction

As impressed as I was by Jimmy at the qualifiers, this is one of the toughest draws that he could have been handed and I cannot help but feel that he will struggle to keep close to Mark here over a match of this length. Stranger things have happened but I will tip a 10-4 victory for Selby.

Jack’s View

Similar to Andrew Pagett, it will be hard for Jimmy Robertson with the inevitable distractions but who knows, I hope that one of them wins! But I think Mark Selby will be too good.

Check back soon for Part Three…