Amateur Snooker - 2016 IBSF World Amateur Snooker Championship
18th-29th November 2016 / Al-Sadd Club Stadium, Doha, Qatar
DOHA PREVIEW - 2016 WORLD AMATEUR SNOOKER CHAMPIONSHIP
With the event due to start next week, and the entry deadline now passed, many of the World's best amateur players have confirmed their attendance for the 42nd IBSF World Amateur Snooker Championships being held in Doha, Qatar.
This is the most lucrative title in snooker outside of the professional game. Great names of the sport such as Doug Mountjoy, Jimmy White, James Wattana and Ken Doherty have lifted the trophy, whilst current Top 32 stars Stuart Bingham, Marco Fu, Stephen Maguire and Mark Allen have won it too.
National and Continental governing bodies select their representatives through certain qualifying processes. The winner of the Men's Championship is also offered a guaranteed two year World Snooker tour card.
It is the first time Qatar has been chosen for these championships, although they did host the Asian Championships back in April, and have history of holding the World 9 Ball Pool Championship as well.
All six continents will be represented in the Middle East; evidence alone that snooker is a truly worldwide sport in terms of participation, despite ongoing worries about the amateur scene within the UK. Currently, a total of 58 countries across the three different sections (Men's, Ladies, Masters) are set to be sending players; some from very unlikely areas indeed.
Reigning Men's champion Pankaj Advani of India is back to defend the title after declining his invitation to turn professional once again. His 8-6 win over China's Zhao Xintong last year in Egypt was the second time the multi-disciplined cueist had won this event; his maiden victory was back in 2003.
It continued Asia's supreme recent dominance of this event. Of the last 9 editions, 8 of them have been won by a player from that continent – only Alfie Burden's success in 2009 breaks up that sequence. The last 3 have also been all-Asian finals.
There is every chance those stats could be swelled even more. China have only sent two players for the Men's, but they are high profile youngsters in the form of Chen Zifan and Yuan Sijun - familiar wildcard names for home professional events. Yuan has whitewashed Martin Gould twice this year on home soil.
All the 'home nations' are involved; can Wales' Jamie Clarke finally break his major international duck, or will former top 32 ranked pro Michael Judge from the Republic of Ireland lift the title?
Only Paul Mifsud (Malta) in 1985 & 1986 and Kurt Maflin (Norway) 2006 from continental Europe have previously won this before. Exciting young prospects Lukas Kleckers (Germany), Brian Cini (Malta) and Mateusz Baranowski (Poland) have seen their stocks rise in recent years, and could be potential threats here. As could Switzerland's former Q-School qualifier Alexander Ursenbacher, who missed out on the World Under 21's title over the summer in a deciding frame.
Thailand have a very proud history in this tournament with seven different previous champions. They have ex-main tour talent in Issara Kachaiwong and Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon up for the job.
Host nation Qatar are set to have eight players present in the draw. Their hopes are highlighted by Ahmed Saif, the first and only player from the country to have played on the sport's highest tier.
More unlikely snooker stations such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Mongolia and Mozambique will also be represented there, but it is uncertain how competitive they will be.
130 players are set to feature in the Men's event, which will start out with a Round Robin Groups format that goes into a straight knockout.
In the Women's event, there are currently 27 entries, although participation is from 15 different countries. This competition is more competitive than you may think, although the stand out names are certainly multi-time World Champions Wendy Jans (Belgium, defending champion) and Ng On Yee (Hong Kong).
Phisit Chandsri (Thailand) will be looking to retain his title in a very vibrant Seniors section (aged 40 and over) that includes Darren Morgan.
For more information, please visit the IBSF (International Billiards and Snooker Federation) website here.
Written and published by Michael Day on the 7th November 2016