Matthew Stevens kicked off his 30th season as a professional by qualifying for the second stage of the BetVictor Championship League ranking edition at the Morningside Arena in Leicester on Tuesday.
Stevens, a former UK Championship and Masters winner, finished top of Group 15 after winning his opening two matches, leaving him in an unassailable position going into his final contest.
The Welshman opened his account with a 3-1 victory over Allan Taylor before a hard fought 3-0 win against Duane Jones, which culminated in Stevens claiming a 46-minute third frame on the black.
The top seed in the group, 2015 World Champion Stuart Bingham, had been held to a 2-2 draw by Jones before suffering a 3-1 defeat to Taylor, who highlighted his victory with a break of 129.
It meant Bingham was unable to win the group heading into his final encounter with Stevens, who went into the match safe in the knowledge he had already done enough to qualify. Bingham won 3-1 and finished third behind Taylor.
“I was a bit in and out today,” Stevens said. “I started well in my first match but I was lucky that Duane struggled against me and let me off the hook, which made the difference in the end. But all in all, I felt okay.
“We’ve got tournaments coming up so I’ll carry on playing now and try and put some graft in.”
Experience told in Group 28 as 52 year-old Anthony Hamilton secured qualification for the last 32 stage.
Hamilton, the 2017 German Masters champion, completed a 3-0 whitewash over Chinese tour debutant Xing Zihao by successfully obtaining the three snookers he needed in the last frame before winning it on a re-spotted black.
Hamilton, who had made a 116 break against Xing, added a second century, 110, during his 2-2 draw with Australian Ryan Thomerson. The group’s other results left the veteran needing just a point from his last match with Belgian Ben Mertens and he duly took a 2-0 lead before Mertens hit back to force a 2-2 draw, finishing off with a 131 total clearance.
The BetVictor Championship League is the first world ranking event of the new season and carries a first prize of £33,000. Ali Carter, Robert Milkins and World Championship semi-finalist Si Jiahui enter the fray in the coming days while former world champions Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy are all due to play next week, with the event concluding on July 21.