There was greater interest than usual in the amateurs at the 2020 World Snooker Championship Qualifying stage.
Guest blogger Cluster of Reds writes:
In 2019 James Cahill became the first amateur ever to qualify for the World Championships and to win in the same tournament. Cahill beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-8 in one of the greatest shocks in Crucible history. It is now possible for an amateur to qualify for the Crucible!
34 amateurs participated in this year’s qualifiers, as several Asian professionals understandably chose not to travel to the UK during the current pandemic.
Of the 34 who started their campaign in Round 1, just eleven amateurs proceeded to the next round. Impressively, three amateurs won their next match to reach Round 3 – former professionals Allan Taylor and Ian Preece and Chinese hot prospect Wu Yize.
Although no amateurs qualified for this year’s World Championships, there are several positive things to write about.
Taylor will turn professional again next season after he won the Challenge Tour Play-Offs right before the qualifiers. He carried on the form from the Play-Offs by beating professionals Soheil Vahedi and Lee Walker. Taylor scored four centuries in the process, including the stage’s highest break of 145.
Have we seen a future World Champion in action?
We also saw some wonderkids play as, thanks to Eurosport, the qualifiers were televised for the first time.
14-year-old Iulian Boiko played well despite losing to Malaysian Thor Chuan Leong 6-3.
15-year-old Ben Mertens caught the eye of many viewers by defeating last year’s “giant killer” James Cahill 6-2. The Belgian becoming the youngest ever to win a match in the World Championship.
This year’s championships featured a tiered draw
Would these amateurs achieve this level of success if the qualifying format weren’t tiered? Cahill did qualify through the flat draw last year, but he was lucky to not draw against the likes of Ali Carter and Graeme Dott in the first round.
The tiered system is fairer and less random as amateurs compete against lower-ranked rather than higher-ranked players.
There couldn’t be a better example of this than amateur Tyler Rees. The 2016 U18 European champion has lost all 3 World qualifying matches between 2016 and 2018 against Jimmy Robertson, Xiao Guodong, and Scott Donaldson, respectively. This year under the tiered system, he beat Adam Stefanów, ranked 109, 6-5.
The prize money will come in handy!
The prize money will be incredible for the victorious amateurs to help further their careers and it will help to cover future entry fees and travel plans. But the competitive match play will also stand the amateurs in good stead for this year’s Q School.
Q School starts on 3rd August and 12 professional tour cards over three events are on offer. There will be many professional players wanting to head straight back on tour from Q School, so some amateurs will need a lot of confidence going into those tournaments.
We will see what happens!