I wouldn't swap this for the world

The year’s biggest competition is under way and so far it’s going very well.

I refereed the all-Welsh Mark Williams v Michael White match first up, and it was a very good win for Michael.

I don’t think it was much of a surprise though, and anyone who has been watching much snooker would have had an idea it could he could win it.

Mark hasn’t been in the best of form recently and this match provided Michael with a fantastic opportunity, which he took well. He’s now played his first game at the Crucible and won it, so I’m sure he’ll be full of confidence going into the second round. He’s a very talented player and it will be interesting to keep an eye on how he gets on.

There’s always a great buzz around the World Championships and it’s no different this year. The Crucible is one of the smallest venues on the calendar but it certainly helps to create a great atmosphere.

Before the players reach the Crucible though, some had to go through qualifying and I was up in Sheffield to referee in the final round a couple of weeks ago.

The quality was awesome. There’s always a lot of pressure on the players at that stage and it can be a different kind of pressure to usual tournaments. It’s not for fame or anything else but rankings.

A lot of players know they are good enough to play at the highest level and, of course, they all want to reach the televised stages of the World Championship, but they’re also looking to secure their place in the top 64 for the next season.

With this sort of pressure on the players you might imagine there would be a lot of scrappy matches but, as I say, the quality was extremely high. I think there were as many century breaks in that final qualifying round as there were in the previous four rounds combined.

I was busy working throughout the qualifiers but I did see some of Ken Doherty’s match with Matthew Selt. It was a great effort from Ken to come from 9-4 down and level it up at 9-9 and must have been a tough one to take when he lost the deciding frame.

Alan McManus managed to win his final qualifying match and secure his first appearance at the Crucible for seven years. He’s not doing too well at the moment but the match is never over until it’s over, and I’m sure he’ll battle all the way.

Of course, Ronnie O’Sullivan won his first-round match. I didn’t see any of it because, during the first session, I was marking the table on the other side of the screen and during the second session I was refereeing, but I’ve heard he played all right.

He didn’t make a century break, which might have surprised a few people, but I guess that’s a bit of ‘ring rust’ as much as anything. He’ll be one to watch going forward and it will be interesting to see if he can defend his title.

As you can imagine, it’s a busy time once the Championship gets going (bwin snooker betting Championship odds). There are eight officials here and we’re all working every day. It might not be refereeing but we’ll be scoring or busy with something, so you don’t get a huge amount of time off.

The afternoon shifts are probably the most awkward to have off, as you’ll be working again in the evening so it’s a case of filling a few hours time. I tend not to watch much of the snooker on the TV. I downloaded a few films onto my iPad and they’ll fill some of the time.

If we have an evening off and another official is off, it’s nice to go out for a bite to eat or a drink to relax. It’s undoubtedly our busiest time and it can get quite tiring physically, but I certainly wouldn’t swap it.

Keep an eye out for a special World Championship Q&A with Paul – and our other Living Snooker bloggers – during the Crucible fortnight.

Read more Living Snooker blogs.

Follow Paul on Twitter: @welshref



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