Apr 19

The BIG World Championship preview 2024

There really is no other event quite like it.

The annual pilgrimage to the Crucible is here as we prepare for 17 days of magical snooker in Sheffield.

To get you right in the mood for it, here’s our assessment of the first 16 ties that the draw has served up.

Luca Brecel v Dave Gilbert

This has all the hallmarks of an opening day classic.

Luca will take pride in walking out as defending champion but with it comes huge pressure. Facing one of the toughest qualifiers won’t make it any easier.

These matches have a habit of going close and there’s no reason to suggest this won’t be the case again. The Belgian will be desperate to put on a show and ensure he’s still around by the second week. It sounds as though his preparations have been good and there have been plenty of green shoots in his form in the past couple of months.

Gilbert looked excellent in qualifying and will be on hand to capitalise on any vulnerabilities from Luca. We all know he has good Crucible pedigree himself as a former semi-finalist.

Verdict: Luca will rise to the big occasion, in the end. Brecel 10-9

Robert Milkins v Pang Junxu

Milkins has had a pretty poor season especially in comparison to the one before. He can often be undone by his own lack of belief and might not arrive in Sheffield feeling his best.  

That said, we know he can score well if he finds some rhythm.  

Pang beat Cao Yupeng in qualifying to secure successive visits to the Crucible. He showed enough on his debut a year ago against O’Sullivan to suggest he can settle and be a handful. He seems to have a good temperament and can win frames in different ways.  

This one could go scrappy if it goes close and both sense the importance of the win. Pang 10-7  

Ali Carter v Stephen Maguire

There are some fascinating similarities between these two players. They both wear their heart on their sleeve and can both lay claim to being among the best players never to have won the World Championship.  

This is a re-run of the 2012 semi-final and they both bring bags of experience to the table. It really wouldn’t be a surprise if either of them won this one.  

The big difference between these players this year is that Ali will be brimming with confidence after a fabulous season, while Maguire seems be a bit down on himself and how he’s playing. Carter 10-8

Shaun Murphy v Lu Haotian

Murphy maybe hasn’t had the season everyone predicted but is always capable of coming to life on this big stage; he’s one of snooker’s most natural showmen.  

His recent Crucible record is a strange one. In the past four years, he’s lost in the first round three times and reached the final in the other.  

A lot of people seem to be talking up Murphy’s chances because they know he can get on a roll and becomes difficult to stop with momentum.  

This might not be an ‘easy’ starter but Lyu has been comfortably beaten on his past two visits, so this could be a match that Shaun is able to use to play himself into form.  

 We think he’ll simply have a bit too much firepower. Murphy 10-5 

Mark Selby v Joe O’Connor

There will be plenty of build-up to this one as the Leicester derby.

O’Connor is the only debutant in the field this year and perhaps will find it difficult to play someone he is so familiar with. He is however a gritty and rounded player so will embrace the challenge.

We all know Selby has had plenty of off-table challenges to contend with and wasn’t speaking glowingly about his game at the Tour Championship. He knows what to do though when the Crucible rolls round and as a result is always so difficult to beat.

The snooker community are desperate to see Selby with a smile on his face in this one.

Experience will count in the end. Selby 10-6

Kyren Wilson v Dominic Dale

A huge congratulations is in order for Dale who, into his 50s is back at the World Championship after 10 years.  

Without sounding too mean, he can enjoy the occasion as he probably didn’t expect to get here and so maybe it feels like this is a free hit.  

It must be said that he is probably one of the better draws and Kyren could really benefit from that. A year ago he made a 147 before being battered by Higgins so he’ll want to get back to business at the Crucible – a venue he has notoriously done well at.  

Wilson will rightly be a strong favourite and should never be written off in this event. Kyren 10-4

John Higgins v Jamie Jones
This match pits together one of the all-time greats against the slayer of Neil Robertson.

Higgins is a four-time winner at the Crucible yet scrambling to keep hold of his top-16 place. Despite playing plenty of a good snooker, he is not winning tournaments as regularly as he would like and seems to be struggling to come to terms with that.

Jamie on the other hand reached the quarter-finals a year ago and was the story of qualifying beating the 2010 world champion.

It’s set up to be a fascinating match.

Verdict: If Higgins can clear his mind and focus on the table, he may be able to outfox Jones. Higgins 10-7

Mark Allen v Robbie Williams

Outside of Trump and O’Sullivan, Allen seems to be really highly fancied this year.

He hasn’t got a fantastic Crucible record having only reached two semi-finals but his last came here a year ago.

The Pistol only needs this event to complete snooker’s Triple Crown and has added a deeper tactical side to his game over the past couple of seasons which has translated to him winning more titles.

He faces the lowest ranked player in the event in Robbie Williams. It won’t be easy but experience on the TV table could be telling.

Verdict: There’s a very big run in Allen this year. Allen 10-4

Judd Trump v Hossein Vafaei

Another barnstormer of a round one match.

These two met a couple of years ago but a fair bit has changed – Vafaei is far more the complete package this time around, and it feels certain to go close.

Trump has had a stunning season winning five titles and is rightly favourite but does sometimes take a bit of time to get going in Sheffield. You feel like he can’t really afford that this time though.

Vafaei relishes playing the top stars on the biggest stage and will be looking to start fast. Trump is so accomplished and highly fancied but will need to be at his best from the off.

Let’s go for a shock. Vafaei 10-9

Tom Ford v Ricky Walden

This is an incredibly evenly matched contest between two players who know each other’s games well so in theory they could settle fast, and both produce high quality.

It’s fantastic to see Ford in the mix as one of the seeds although he’s never won a match at the Crucible before. Walden was unlucky a year ago to lose in the first round to Brecel who went on to lift the title. He has a knack of staying in matches and is always very dangerous.

Verdict: Ford has had the better season of the two but we’ll go Walden 10-8

Zhang Anda v Jak Jones

A year ago Jak Jones marched to the last eight on his debut while Zhang was literally nowhere to be seen.

It’s testament to the fantastic year he’s had that he’s the seed in this tie a year on, and that is something not many (probably none) of us would have predicted.

As a result, this contest feels like one which is a tale of inexperience and in turn makes it feel very much up for grabs.

Zhang – now a proven tournament winner – has clearly had the best season of the two but there’s a feeling in the air that Jones is becoming a player tailor made for the World Championship. 

Verdict: One for the qualifier to emerge. Jones 10-8

Mark Williams v Si Jiahui

Another excellent tie featuring two very exciting players who love to attack.

Williams is clearly in top form off the back of his triumph at the Tour Championship. When he hits those heights, we know how unstoppable he can be.

The same can be said about Si who last year was the fairytale story in reaching the one-table setup. He reeled off 10 straight frames in qualifying to see off Wu Yize and getting back here felt important – especially in that manner.

Verdict: Williams was so impressive in Manchester that this really does feel like one of the toughest draws Si could have got. Williams 10-6

Ding Junhui v Jack Lisowski

This contest is quite simply box office.

They both play very attractive snooker, have arguably underachieved and always have the support of the crowd. There’s not much to not like about this match.

Ding has found some good form this season including a run to the final of the UK Championship, and Lisowski made light work of qualifying as the highest ranked player there. They’ll both fancy the job.

Make sure you set your alarm for this one.

Verdict: This one could be a coin toss but will probably come down to who handles the pressure best because we know they can both play. By merit of Jack having some match sharpness of qualifying behind him, we’ll say Lisowski 10-9.

Barry Hawkins v Ryan Day

There’s plenty of experience to count on here.

Hawkins has the better Crucible track record but returns after having a year away and has not won a match here since 2021. His last visit to the semi-finals was 2018 and so it feels like he could be due a good run.

He’s back among the top 16 and won the European Masters earlier in the season so should feel good about his game.

Day is back at the Crucible for consecutive seasons after a four-year spell on the sidelines. He looked good in qualifying but in the back of his mind will be wary that he hasn’t won a match at this venue in a decade.

Verdict: Neither winner would surprise you, but Barry is the most reliable of the two players. Hawkins 10-6

Gary Wilson v Stuart Bingham

Big things are expected of Wilson at this year’s World Championship.  

He’s added two ranking titles to his tally this season and seems to have found some consistency and a winning formula to establish himself at the top of the rankings.  

In his way is the 2015 champion who has his own fond memories of Sheffield to draw on. A spirited win against Louis Heathcote to get here will have perked him up after a pretty forgettable season.  

Two very good scorers who could serve up a treat.  

Verdict: Form over the season will count for something. Wilson 10-8  

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Jackson Page  

The narrative this year for O’Sullivan hardly needs any introduction.

He is the man of the season and can take his levels of achievement in the game to incredible heights. An eighth world title is up for grabs and completion of the Triple Crown in a single season. If he gets it done, it will be truly remarkable and arguably the greatest ever Crucible moment.  

Make no mistake though, he has been handed a tricky opener against Page. There are plenty of qualifiers who are beaten playing Ronnie before they even get on the table – but not Jackson. He fears no-one and will take the game to O’Sullivan. He proved two years ago that he can handle the Crucible and so will definitely make a fight of it.  

O’Sullivan to navigate round one and don’t worry, he’s bang up for it this year. Ronnie 10-7


It does very much feel like the stage is set for Ronnie O’Sullivan to create snooker history. He has looked irresistible over the course of this campaign. We think he’ll meet Mark Allen in the final and on May 6th will be crowned World Champion for a record eighth time.
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