THE first eight final qualifiers to reach the Crucible were set up after Saturday’s play at Ponds Forge in Sheffield – with eight more to be decided on Sunday.
So far Kyren Wilson is the only player to have come through three matches, beating Alfie Burden 10-3 to leave him just one win away from getting to the final stages of the Dafabet World Championship.
But standing in his way will be the considerable obstacle of former world champion Graeme Dott, with that tie taking place on Tuesday.
World No90 Wilson is making a decent fist of his second crack at the tour, and the 22-year-old from Northamptonshire has already got to the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters this season.
In the match that had always looked one of the ties of the round Jimmy Robertson edged past Anthony McGill 10-9, denying the young Scot any chance of a first Crucible appearance.
And players who look capable of one day doing some damage in the sport’s premier event came a cropper in the form of Kurt Maflin and Luca Brecel.
Maflin probably should have beaten former world champion Peter Ebdon in last year’s final qualifier, but he didn’t get that far this time after losing 10-3 to Andrew Higginson.
And Belgian prospect Luca Brecel, whose career has stalled somewhat after a great deal of early hype, was thrashed 10-1 by Leicester’s Tom Ford.
Brecel is still only 19, and others before him have struggled with the rigours of the tour before regularly starting to beat top players. As long as he is learning as he goes, he should be fine.
Many were pleased to see Jamie Cope win a couple of matches after some tough years, and after a 10-7 win over Malta’s Alex Borg he will now take on Mark King on Tuesday.
The performance Cope put up in losing 13-12 to John Higgins in a brilliant last-16 clash in 2009 seems a lot longer ago than that after severe loss of form exacerbated by health issues.
And the last man through on Saturday night was former semi-finalist Alan McManus, who beat Peter Lines 10-8 and will now be a big underdog against Mark Williams – who is attempting to extend a run of 17 consecutive appearances at the Crucible.
Eight more ties will be played on Sunday, with among the more intriguing match-ups Martin Gould against Brazil’s Igor Figueiredo, Pankaj Advani against Robbie Willliams and Matt Selt against Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.