International Championship 2013: Qualifying Wrap

Heading towards the close of play on day two of the qualifiers for the 2013 International Championship, click below for a round-up of the biggest stories from Barnsley……

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Following the Australian Goldfields Open and Shanghai Masters tournaments, which have been played under the old, staggered qualifying system, this week has seen a return to the new ‘flat draw’ format which we first saw at the Wuxi Classic back in May.

While at that event there were a few shocks, notably with Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy both losing their opening qualifier, the past two days have seen the big names emerge more or less unscathed.

Among them, world number one and last year’s runner-up Neil Robertson continued his strong form so far in 2013, recording four century breaks, including runs of 140 and 136 en route to a 6-2 victory against China’s Li Hang.

Defending world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan marked his return to full-ranking event snooker with a 6-1 victory against Joel Walker, while the likes of Mark Selby, Ali Carter, Barry Hawkins, Stuart Bingham, Marco Fu, Ali Carter, Ding Junhui and Robert Milkins have also successfully booked their places at the venue in Chengdu.

One man who will no doubt be relieved to have qualified will be Shaun Murphy, who following defeats at the other two ‘flat draw’ events so far this season to lower ranked players, recorded a resounding 6-0 whitewash of amateur Christopher Keogan.

There were also strong wins for both Stephen Maguire and Mark Allen, who are two players for whom I feel that the season really starts now following a quiet summer period for both, while last week’s Shanghai Masters finalist Xiao Guodong also ensured that he will return to China, with a 6-1 win against Welsh prospect Jak Jones.

So what about the upsets? Yesterday saw a couple of impressive victories for Indian duo Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta, Advani defeating Dominic Dale 6-3, while Mehta earned the scalp of Bluebell Wood Open champion Ricky Walden 6-2.

In Advani’s case however, with the World Billiards Championship scheduled to take place in Leeds towards the end of this month, his participation at the venue would again appear to be in doubt, as was the case in 2012 when he also qualified, before electing to withdraw in order to compete in the billiards event. We shall see what his decision will be this time around, but I would be surprised to see him not defend his world billiards title.

There was also a good win for Craig Steadman against Michael Holt, the latter who of course is just back from an excellent run in China at the Shanghai Masters and AT2 events, while there were wins for Zhang Anda, Paul Davison and Li Yan against higher ranked opposition.

One of the biggest surprises was perhaps the defeat of 1997 world champion Ken Doherty, who lost out 6-3 to Grimsby’s Stuart Carrington, who hit back from 3-1 down with a top break of 129 in frame five. There was also an excellent win for Scotland’s Michael Leslie against Jimmy Robertson, while Shanghai Masters quarter-finalist Kyren Wilson continued his fine form with a 6-1 victory against Jamie Cope this evening.

A shout out also to Finland’s Robin Hull, who recorded his biggest win in some time against Liu Chuang to qualify for his first venue since the 2006 UK Championship. Robin is a player highly rated by his peers and without doubt in my view, ranked lower than his ability would suggest, so it is good to see him back.

Similarly, there was also a good win for another man back on tour in 2013, namely Alex Davies, who edged out China’s Yu Delu in one of a relatively few number of deciders this round.

Finally, where better to end than with legends Steve Davis and Jimmy White, who both made it through to the venue with wins against Allan Taylor and Liam Highfield yesterday. For Jimmy, victory was particularly impressive as he overcame his recent problems with his foot to recover from 3-1 down to earn a spot in Chengdu.

Next up – the Ruhr Open, aka ET5, which starts tomorrow for the amateurs involved…