Qualifying for the World Snooker Championship, which begins on the 20th of April, gets underway on Monday and these battles in Sheffield can produce almost as much drama as the main event.
The qualifying event will run from 3rd to 12th April 2023 and it will feature all players outside of the world’s top 16.
There will be 128 players competing for 16 Crucible places over four qualifying rounds at the English Institute of Sport and there are some big names in action.
In a return to the traditional format, all qualification matches will be played over the best-of-19-frame distance, and that should provide plenty of late night baize drama.
Let’s take a look at what we can expect to see at the World Championship qualifiers...
|What||World Championship qualifiers|
|Where||English Institute of Sport, Sheffield|
|When||10:00, Monday, 3rd April, 2023|
|How to watch||bet365 Sports Live Streaming|
|Odds - World Championship 2023||Ronnie O’Sullivan 4/1, Judd Trump 5/1, Mark Selby 11/2, Neil Robertson 7/1, Shaun Murphy 10/1, Mark Allen 14/1|
Five-time World Championship semi-finalist Barry Hawkins, 40/1 for this year’s event, is one of many top cuemen not yet assured of their spot at the Sheffield showpiece.
The Hawk has slipped down to number 18 in the world rankings, but on the evidence of the Kent potter’s run to the final of the European Masters at the start of this season, there is plenty of ability remaining.
Ryan Day hit a magnificent 147-break at the recent Tour Championship event and the Welshman is a three-time World Championship quarter-finalist.
Dynamite won the British Open earlier this season, but that wasn’t enough to secure a top-16 spot and he will have to negotiate two qualifying contests to book his place at the Crucible.
The Pontycymer potter is 125/1 to lift the World Championship trophy.
Stephen Maguire is a six-time ranking event winner, the Scot collected the 2004 UK Championship crown and has also appeared in two World Championship semi-finals.
Maguire has appeared in 19 successive Sheffield showpiece events, but the Glasgow cueman will also have to make it through two qualifying rounds to make it 20 World Championship appearances on the bounce.
The Maverick is available at 125/1 to navigate the qualification rounds and go onto lift the trophy.
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Hossein Vafaei is no youngster at the age of 28, but the Iranian cueman has been one of the emerging talents on the snooker tour over the last couple of seasons.
Various issues have stopped the Prince of Persia reaching his peak, but Vafaei claimed his first ranking event last season.
The 28-year-old beat John Higgins in the first round of the Masters this term and also made the quarter-finals of the recent Six Reds World Championship.
Vafaei was beaten 10-4 by Judd Trump in the first round of the main event in Sheffield last year, but he will be looking to make his Crucible return this term. At 80/1, Vafaei is no back number.
It has taken Joe O’Connor a while to develop but the 27-year-old has enjoyed the best campaign of his career this season.
The Leicester cueman made the final of the Scottish Open in December and that was followed by a last-four spot at the Players Championship in February.
O’Connor has never made it to the Crucible before, but on the evidence of this term’s form, a debut could await the 27-year-old, who is available at 125/1 to win the tournament proper.
It’s pretty incredible that Jimmy White is not only still playing on the snooker tour, but also still very much competing.
The Whirlwind made his Crucible debut in 1981 and the 60-year-old is back to have another crack at making the Sheffield showpiece.
The south London potter lost six World Championship finals when at the peak of his powers, and his last Crucible appearance came in 2006.
It’s clearly going to be a big ask for White to return to the big time, but on the evidence of the Whirlwind’s run to the fourth round of the recent WST Classic, it may not be completely out of the question.
Ken Doherty, who claimed the World Championship crown in 1997 and made the final in 1998 and 2003 is also back for another crack.
The Darlin' of Dublin hasn’t made it to the World Championship proper since 2014 and the Irish cueman will certainly need to produce a lot more than he has over the last few seasons.
Doherty takes on 12-time women’s world snooker champion Reanne Evans, who is one of five females competing in this year’s qualifying event, and that promises to be one of the highlights of the first round of qualifying.
There are ten terrific days of qualification action at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield and it will be interesting to see who can book their spot at the Crucible Theatre.