Riga Masters 2019 Qualifiers Preview

A look at how the amateurs and newly qualified pros line up for the first event of the new season.

Click here for the full draw

Personally, I’m not a fan of calling this stage the qualifiers. It’s actually the first round, being the 128 stage, but as it’s not played at the venue then they call it the qualifiers.

For some, this is their first event as a professional snooker player and some are amateurs playing as a top-up (some of those were pros last season). The top-ups are selected from the Q School Order of Merit (OoM) – the best of those who didn’t quite make it to the pro ranks this time.

Thirteen amateurs will take part in the qualifiers with the matches involving the two amateur wildcards being held over to the main event in Latvia.

Amateurs are marked as (a)

Andres Petrov(a) plays against Kishan Hirani and as he plays as a wildcard, the match has been held over to the main arena. Petrov finished 80th on the OoM.

Chen Zifan qualified from Q School 2 after dropping off the main tour ranked 102, and will face Michael Georgiou.

Yang Qingtian(a) finished 9th on the OoM and will face Rod Lawler. There doesn’t seem to be much available about Yang other than he’s 37 and from China!

Bai Langning has earned a place on the main tour via the CBSA China Tour and will face countryman Tian Pengfei.
Update: Bai Langning has received a w/o

Billy Joe Castle won his tour card 2 years ago at Q School but dropped off the tour and has had to earn another 2 years courtesy of the OoM. He faces Alan McManus.

Paul Davison(a) finished last season ranked 92 and didn’t quite make it through Q School. His 12th place on the OoM earns him a top-up here to face Mei Xiwen.

Chang Bingyu is only 16 and also earned his card via the CBSA China Tour. He will face Ian Burns who kept his place on the tour via the 1 year list.

Riley Parsons won his way through Q School 2 and will face Lucas Kleckers(a) who dropped off the tour last season ranked 111 and couldn’t win his way back. He finished 10th on the OoM.

Si Jiahui finished top of the OoM and lost the dramatic match against Louis Heathcote in Q School 2 and will face Ricky Walden.

Mitchell Mann is back on the tour after being awarded a card for finishing in 3rd place on the 2018/19 Challenge Tour. His opponent in this is Mike Dunn.

Jamie O’Neill makes a return to the pro ranks after winning through in Q School 1. He faces a tough test against Barry Hawkins.

Long Zehuang(a) finished in 7th place on the OoM after just missing out to Barry Pinches in the final round of Q School 3. He will face Sam Cragie.

Xu Si finished 77th on the main tour last season but immediately bounced back via Q School 1. He now faces Ali Carter.

Ross Bulman(a) is only 17 and was a whisker away from turning pro, but Peter Lines couldn’t quite beat Alexander Ursenbacher in the decider in Q School 3 or Bulman would have been one of the OoM winners this time. He faces Michael Holt.

Hamza Akbar(a) dropped off the tour last season ranked 107 and finished 14th on the OoM. He faces Alexander Ursenbacher who also dropped off last season but won through Q School 3.

Lei Peifan finished as one of the 4 to earn a 2 year card via the OoM and faces Allan Taylor(a) who dropped off last season ranked 91 but finished 17th on the OoM.

Louis Heathcote, England Under 21 Champion in 2018, won through in Q School 2 and now faces a baptism of fire with a match against Ryan Day.

Sohail Vahedi finished last season ranked 103 but bounced back via Q School 1 and will now face Andreas Ploner(a) of Austria who finished 23rd on the OoM.

Christopher Keogan(a) is struggling to get back on the pro ranks and finished 21 on the OoM. He faces Andy Lee.

Chae Ross(a) finished 20th on the OoM and continues his apprenticeship with a match against Xiao GuoDong.

Peter Lines was another who dropped off the tour last season. He finished ranked 83. After a poor start to his campaign, losing in Round 1 of Event 1, he almost made it in Event 2 but lost 4-3 in the final to Riley Parsons. In Event 3 he just missed out again, losing 4-3 in the final. But those 2 performances were enough to take him into the places for a tour card via the OoM. He now faces Lee Walker.

Andrew Pagett(a), the 37-year-old ex-pro from Wales, finished 15th on the OoM. He was handily placed until crashing out of Event 3 in round 2. He now has a match against Anthony Hamilton.

Brandon Sargeant topped the 2018/19 Challenge Tour to earn his 2-year main tour ticket and his first match as a pro is against Ashley Carty – who he would have been playing against in the EASB Premier Junior Tour but a few years ago.

Fraser Patrick won his way back to the pro ranks in Q School 2 and now faces fellow Scot, Scott Donaldson.

Rodion Judin(a) is the second wildcard and his match against Duane Jones has been held over to the main arena. Judin finished 48th on the OoM

David Lilley, seen by many as the best amateur in the world until he earned his pro card in Q School Event 1, faces Jack Lisowski in his first match as a pro. Lilley has plenty of good experience in the pro events though courtesy of his top placing on last years Q School OoM. In fact, he only just missed out on the 1-year list due to his good results.

Ian Preece(a) finished 11th on the OoM and earns a match against David Gilbert, who many are predicting will win his first ranking event this season.

Shane Castle(a), cousin to Billy, was in 22nd place on the OoM and has a match against Oliver Lines to look forward to.

Andy Hicks won through in Event 3 of Q School and returns to the pro ranks where he will face Luca Brecel.

The current EBSA European Champion Kacper Filipiak will face Zhao Xintong.

Alex Borg, the veteran from Malta, didn’t win a frame in the first two Q School Events. He then went on to win through in Event 3 and now faces Tom Ford.

Jackson page is the current EBSA Under 21 Champion and as such has earned a 2 year card. He now has a match against Hammad Miah.

David Grace competed as an amateur last season and secured a return to the pro tour by his second place on the Challenge Tour rankings. He now has a match against Alfie Burdon.

Barry Pinches makes a welcome return to the main tour after a few years as an amateur. He won his card at the end of Q School Event 3. He now faces Luo Honghao.

And last, but by no means least, James Cahill, who famously knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round of this year’s World Championships, will face Jimmy White who has been given another 2 year invitational tour card. Cahill secured his card via the 1 year list so was spared the torture of Q School.

And so the 2019/20 season begins and for some, it really is a dream come true. But I don’t think this flat 128 draw (except for the top 16) does anyone any favours. The way that this season’s World Championship qualifiers are going to work is better in my opinion. Give the lower ranked and new pros, along with the amateur top-ups and wildcards, a better chance of earning money by having an initial round with just, say, the bottom half involved. Only 32 would then go home with nothing rather than 64 as it currently is.

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