THE BETFRED WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP starts on Wednesday and the qualifying draw and format has been released by World Snooker following the finalising of seedings after Sunday’s China Open final.
Players have been anxiously twiddling their thumbs waiting for the information – understandably, as there are hotels to book and plans to make with the qualifiers just two days away.
Among the pick of the first round matches are six times finalist Jimmy White against two semi-finalist James Wattana, Jamie Cope against six times champion Steve Davis and Ken Doherty, the winner in 1997, against Reanne Evans, the ten times women’s world champion.
Davis is the only former world champion not on the tour to have accepted an invite to play, this having been extended to all living world champions for the first time.
It seems the reality of having to compete against current, match fit tour players may have dawned on some of the legends of the sport, who have decided against chancing their arms.
There is an international flavour provided by inviting amateur players from around the world, including such outposts as Brazil, Bulgaria, Iran, Latvia, Singapore, Germany and the Isle of Man. There are also top-ups from the Q School order of merit to make up the field of 144.
Everyone will have their own opinions as to whether this new format – everyone from 17 in the world down in at the first round – makes the World Championship any more distinctive or interesting than previously but what hasn’t changed is that the qualifiers are a tension-filled week of hard fought snooker as everyone tries to realise the dream of playing at the Crucible.
For some, included notable professionals such as Marcus Campbell, there is the added pressure of trying to remain on the tour.
Common sense has been used in putting Gary Wilson on the last day of the first round, this Saturday, giving him chance to recover from his Beijing exploits.
The final qualifying round takes place on April 14 and 15. World Snooker have broken with tradition by scheduling all 16 matches to finish on the second day, rather than splitting them over two days.
This is a bad decision from a media viewpoint as it limits the amount of coverage that can be given to those who qualify. Good stories – and there are always good stories – will be largely unreported apart from on specialist sites.
Snooker fans know where to go for information but the sport needs casual sports fans to take notice as well, and they get their information from general websites and newspapers.
World Snooker is currently obsessed by social media. This has its value and its place but the actual media is where sponsors and potential sponsors look to assess the worth of their investment.
Liveworldsnooker.tv has streaming of two matches per session. There is commentary on the last two days from Clive Everton, Neal Foulds and Phil Yates.
The World Championship, then, is about to start and before the excitement of a first Crucible morning there is considerable drama to come over eight days at Ponds Forge.