World Snooker Championship: Seven picks for the qualifiers

Snooker player Graeme Dott
Graeme Dott has come through qualifying eight times previously

Ahead of the World Championship Qualifiers starting on Tuesday, Paul Krishnamurty recommends six bets. As usual, Betfair Live Video are covering throughout...

"Having beaten Judd Trump en route to the quarters of another major this term at the UK, Nigel Bond is no forlorn hope in an open section."

Set against the grand scheme of Covid disruption, snooker fans have been relatively fortunate. First we got an extra, revamped event at the Championship League. Now ahead of the sport leading the effort to restore live audiences at the World Championship, the qualifying rounds will be televised live for the first time.

Qualifiers could fare better than usual

Could we get to see the next world champion ahead of the Crucible? The odds may be against them but it has been known for qualifiers to go on and win the main event. Shaun Murphy was the last in 2005, while Mark Selby, Graeme Dott, Judd Trump and Ding Junhui all since reached the final after coming through the qualifying process.

One might also conclude that these unique conditions make upsets likelier than ever. Players have had very little match practice in months and nothing in front of the crowd. Crucible qualifiers may ultimately enjoy an edge in match fitness.

Effectively, the format involves 16 groups of eight. The top 32 seeds only need win the final two of four rounds. Matches are best-of-11 until the group final over best-of-19. This is shorter than usual and another reason to consider upsets.

The strongest Crucible candidates are all odds-on to qualify. Three look particularly strong. Last year's semi-finalist Gary Wilson, Crucible specialists Ali Carter and Dott - trading at 110.0109/1, 120.0119/1 and 180.0179/1 respectively.

Double up on Dott and Selt

The first two are too short to recommend but I will include Dott at 8/13 as the first part of a double. On this season's form, the 'Pocket Dynamo' deserves to start very strong favourite against anyone in his section - the most dangerous of whom is Martin Gould.

For the second leg, try Matthew Selt to win Group 14. Twice a qualifier previously, he's enjoying a productive season. Selt is pretty reliable against similar or inferior opposition. His principal threats are Kurt Maflin and Joe O'Connor - neither of whom sets a special standard and whom must face one another first.

Back Ian Burns to win Group 4 1u @ 13/2

Here's a section that probably won't require a special standard to win. The pair with the strongest credentials have both struggled to qualify in recent renewals. Michael Holt only once in the last five years. Mark King not since 2013.

Holt has the best form in the bag this season but isn't ultra-reliable. All three of his previous matches against Burns went to decider, who beat him at the last UK Championship.

Back Nigel Bond to win Group 11 0.5u @ 11/1

1995 runner-up Bond hasn't reached the Crucible since 2009 but, having beaten Judd Trump en route to the quarters of another major this term at the UK, he is no forlorn hope in an open section. His experience and matchplay nous remain invaluable.

If he wins against (probably) Eden Sharav, Bond faces a very erratic type in Lyu Haotian. The final would be against either Noppon Saengkham or Michael White. Tough, but not impossible.

Back Harvey Chandler 0.5u @ 30.029/1 to win Group 12

Again, let's try an outsider in an open section. The group final is seeded to be Scott Donaldson and Anthony Hamilton but the classy Sam Craigie is also dangerous. Chandler is no mug. The 25 year-old has some decent wins against this calibre of opponent in his relatively short career.

Back Martin O'Donnell to win Group 10 4u @ 6/4

This selection has never played at the Crucible but has developed into the sort of matchplayer that I'd expect to do so and perhaps surprise on the big stage. O'Donnell is very reliable at this level - reaching ten last-32 rounds in the last two seasons.

He'll be hot favourite for his opener before facing, probably, Ben Woollaston or Elliot Slessor in the final. The latter has never even reached the final qualifying round before and Ben has only ever qualified for the Crucible once. I'd prefer MOD over either in a best-of-19.

Back Michael Georgiou to win Group 13 1u @ 8.27/1

Six of the eight in this section are plausible qualifiers and neither seed - Jimmy Robertson or Rob Milkins - especially appeals.

The path to face Robertson is a minefield but former Shootout champion Georgiou will be a hot favourite for the first of the three matches he'll need to win. He did so last year from a tougher draw.


Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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