World Championship 2009 Qualifiers: Sunday night drama from the EISS

I’m back from Sheffield and it was a thrilling night as Jimmy White’s World Championship challenge came to an end for another year. Click below for my report and the results…

Morning Session

Well not much to say here I’m afraid! Due to both me getting there late and Jimmy White fans turning up in force, I had a nightmare trying to park and ended up sorting that and nipping out early for some snacks and petrol.

As the session came to an end though I managed to get a few more photos, today’s victims being David Gray, Paul Davies, Barry Pinches, Matt Couch, Jin Long and Robert Milkins.

Afternoon Session

All was sorted by the afternoon however and I decided to settle in and watch the David Gray/Jin Long match, whilst keeping an eye on Paul Davies/Lewis Roberts and Peter Lines/Mark Davis who were playing either side.

The first frame in the Gray match was a scrappy one lasting over half an hour, but having both spurned several opportunities it was David who managed to snatch it and take the lead. This became 2-0 when he made an immaculate 77 in the next frame and already frame three became quite significant for Long as he wouldn’t have wanted to fall too far behind to an opponent as talented as Gray. He need not have worried however as he responded in terrific style himself with a great break of 105, before taking the next frame as well to be level at 2-2 heading into the interval.

A similar story after the break as again Gray opened up a two frame gap with the help of a run of 62, before Long pulled one back with another excellent break. Two more frames to go and as David moved into a 5-3 lead, the last of the session became vitally important to both players and it showed. As both had their chances and it came down to the final the colours however, it largely came down to luck as from being snookered on the yellow, Long managed to not only escape, but fluke the yellow, before fluking the green as well to leave David Gray absolutely furious. Though he played on for a snooker, it summed up how that frame went for him when he went in-off with the cueball.

Hopefully David can get that out of his mind though as it was a very good session of snooker and I would not like to predict a winner. A note on David actually, today was the first time I have really seen him in the last few years and visually he has really changed, his face seems much thinner than it was when he was last in the top 16. In terms of his play though his talent is still more than apparent, some of the shots he played to split reds and nudge them into position were excellent. He was however making a few too many unforced errors and he did not look to have the pace of the table right, both underhitting and overhitting shots with alarming regularity.

Peter Lines meanwhile looked to be much the better player early on in his match with Mark Davis as the latter really struggled to get going. After stealing a messy second frame however this seemed to settle him down a bit and he finished the session well on top, going into the lead at 4-3 following an in-off from Peter and taking the remaining remaining frames to take a three frame lead into tomorrow. While I would not rule out Peter if he can make a good start, Mark will be very happy with his overnight lead.

Finally the Davies/Roberts match was also scrappy, but quite entertaining as both players were so evenly matched. Because there were no really big breaks every frame seemed to come down to the colours and both had chances to win, so the score could have bee anything. Davies though managed to nick the last frame to his obvious relief and leads 5-4 overnight.

After that it was back downstairs and time to get more photos, though having seen the previous session overrun slightly, not too many players were about. Still, I managed to catch Lewis Roberts, Andrew Norman, Ian Preece, Peter Lines and Rodney Goggins who plays Martin Gould later in the week.

Evening Session

Disappointment for White

Resuming at 5-4 down, Jimmy White wanted to get off to a good start and he managed to do exactly that, a break of 124 bringing him level in seemingly no time. Andy Hicks soon responded however and notched runs of 41 and crucially (following a missed red from Jimmy), 38 to regain the lead, though Jimmy again brought himself level with a nice 67 in frame 12.

The last before the interval therefore was going to be huge, could Hicks regain the lead yet again or could Jimmy go into the lead for the first time in the match and really give Andy something to think about? Having a made a good break of 40 to lead comfortably with just six reds left it looked like it would be the latter, but the left-handed Hicks produced what was to be a sensational clearance, containing several notable pots and an exuberant celebration as he slammed the table with his hand following the frame-clinching black. As he triumphantly left the arena and Jimmy went outside for a cigarette, it was clear who had all the momentum now.

Another strong break from Andy saw the gap increase to two frames for the first time this evening, though White soon pegged him back with an excellent 80 just when he needed it. Hicks though was looking irresistable when in amongst the balls and a total clearance of 135 in frame 16, highlighted by a couple of lovely positional shots on 76 and 100, underlined the point.

Jimmy kept on fighting, making a century of his own in the next frame after a re-rack to give himself hope, but against a man playing as well as Hicks was, winning three frames in a row was always going to be a tough ask. So it proved in frame 18 as Hicks sealed a terrific win with a break of 42 and ending the hopes of the Whirlwind in the process. In truth Jimmy did not do a great deal wrong, perhaps he could have been more consistent from frame to frame as I pointed out following his win over Muldoon, but Andy probably played as well as I have seen him play so there was not much he could do. It’s great to see Hicks playing well again after a few years though and if he can play like that again then Rory McLeod has a tough match on his hands on Tuesday…

Spick and Couch ease through

A more straightforward win meanwhile was that of Lee Spick who ran out a 10-5 winner against Barry Pinches as things just never quite happened for the man from Norwich. I did not see a great deal of this one, but I had a chat with Barry afterwards (a top guy incidentally) and he highlighted Spick’s excellent long-potting and good safety as being the difference, particularly in the first session as he was not given a great deal to go at. Credit to Spick though, that’s another good win and one that does his tour survival chances no harm at all. Next up for him is a clash with Adrian Gunnell for the right to face six-times champion Steve Davis in the last 32.

Similarly Matt Couch swept aside Andrew Norman 10-4 to help cement his tour place for another year, though again I must admit that I did not see a great deal of this match, being on the other side of the arena as I was…

Liu on Song

And that was because I was watching the match between Liu Song and Supoj Saenla, a crucial encounter for both given their perilous ranking positions. Coming into the evening with a 5-4 advantage, Song got off to a cracking start tonight, taking the first three frames of the session with breaks of 50,73, 42 and 89.

Having only won one match all season prior to this evening though, you could visibly see him feeling the pressure after the break, particularly as Saenla had managed to steady the ship with a 55. This proved to be the start of a three frame winning streak of his own as he managed to get the gap down to just one frame again and I fancied him to go on and complete the comeback at this point.

It all turned again in frame 16 however as Saenla, having needed two snookers actually managed to get one and have Song leave him a free ball, but a missed yellow from middle distance left it hanging over the right-centre for a relieved Song to knock in for 9-7. Though he wasted a chance to seal it in the next frame, he managed to clinch it in the 18th and in doing so go a long way towards securing a place on the main tour for another year whilst knocking Saenla out.

All’s Wells that ends well

If ever a match had a deciding frame written all over it then this was surely it, it was just obvious from the word go as both Welshman fought hard for their main tour places in an intriguing match.

Resuming at 5-4, Wells looked to have made a terrific start with a frame-winning 63, but to Preece’s credit he hung in there and after half an hour or so he managed to steal it by a single point. This seemed to understandably knock Wells for a while and taking the next to lead 6-5, the momentum seemed to be firmly with Ian. Wells though has scored heavily so far this week and with an immaculate 127, commenced a three-frame winning streak that suddenly saw him go favourite again at 8-6.

As I said to one of the workers at the building however, I could see and Ian Preece comeback and this is exactly what happened as he rattled off three of his own to turned things completely once again, leaving him one away from the match at 9-8. Wells though was to have the last surge of momentum and this was to prove decisive as first a run of 67 forced a decider, before a sublime 82 sealed what could be a crucial win for the rest of his career. You could see what it meant to both him and his delighted parents who were fist clenching in the arena as the winning balls went in!

Delaney Delight

The final match of the evening to finish at around midnight however was that between Joe Delaney and Wayne Cooper who came through a real marathon. At one point it looked like Irishman Delaney might win comfortably, but from 7-5 down Cooper fought back well to level at 8-8 and really apply some pressure. Having regained the lead at 9-8 though, Delaney produced a moment of magic near the start of frame 18 and a stunning long red that I think he even surprised himself with ultimately provided him with a platform from which to win the match. From there he managed to snooker Cooper who having missed twice, left Joe in who managed to hold his nerve to make an excellent 60 given the circumstances, which eventually proved to be enough. A fantastic win which should secure his top 64 status, he will now go on to face Judd Trump on Tuesday.


It was another cracking night of snooker from Sheffield and I have to say that despite having beeen to World and UK Championship finals before, in front of far more people than were there tonight, somehow the qualifiers are even more gripping. The fact that tour places are on the line, prize money is up for grabs for players who simply do not earn that much and the intimate atmosphere with just a few people there, all adds to a dramatic night and I would recommend it for any snooker fan.


Andrew Norman 4-10 Matthew Couch
55-45, 15-60, 10-82, 0-90(54), 30-72, 71-46, 75-24, 68(50)-26, 45-53, 21-68, 0-78(78), 39-62, 46-65(43), 1-70
Barry Pinches 5-10 Lee Spick
1-81(54), 28-77(57), 7-79(40), 51-76, 85(73)-8, 81(81)-0, 38-62, 44-76(44), 0-80(45), 23-99, 61-48(47), 14-79, 49-32, 99(55)-28, 15-72(47)
Andy Hicks 10-8 Jimmy White
69(52)-0, 87(87)-38, 49-62, 65-9, 14-77(46), 29-71(59), 70(47)-12, 68-8, 15-61(54), 8-124(124), 79(41,38)-28, 13-82(62), 60(44)-54(40), 64-5, 12-80(80), 135(135)-0, 9-120(120), 77(42)-28
Ian Preece 9-10 Daniel Wells
52-(52)70(46), 7-91(48), 49-62, 66-10, 74-24, 0-100(100), 74(42)-32, 23-66(51), 57(49)-28, 66-65(650, 72-51, 6-127(127), 42-64, 26-62(53), 68-6, 73(45)-34, 73(73)-7, 14-68(67), 15-82(82)
Liu Song 10-9 Supoj Saenla
107(100)-27, 57-64, 116(54)-16, 43-63, 53-36, 69-58(58), 82(53)-28, 26-60, 31-84(63), 123(50,73)-1, 60(42)-42, 105(89)-6, 10-62(55), 8-106(75), 14-77(77), 72(48)-36, 32-76(43), 47-59(41), 69-38
Joe Delaney 10-8 Wayne Cooper
19-51, 61-20, 16-46, 9-90(72), 36-69, 69-29, 72(71)-0, 70(53)-16, 67-13, 60-26, 85(40)-22, 17-71(61), 71-42, 54-60, 8-78, 24-61, 65(46)-51, 77(60)-0
Robert Milkins 3-6 Jamie Jones
27-64, 60(56)-51, 7-87(45), 49(43)-62(62), 89(89)-7, 72(58)-29, 57(41)-67, 38-78, 65-74
David Gray 5-4 Jin Long
69(44)-48, 77(77)-0, 1-105(105), 0-80, 67(62)-1, 63-17, 4-80, 59(44)-39, 47-68, -0105(105)
Paul Davies 5-4 Lewis Roberts
70-24, 31-72, 74-41, 6-89(55), 58-47, 45(44)-66(57), 46-63, 70-7, 64-44
Mark Davis 6-3 Peter Lines
6-64(49), 73(42)-45, 6-76, 24-56, 61-46, 60(42)-6, 61(57)-7, 80-18, 60(43)-27