Just 16 players remain in the hunt to become the first ever winner of the WSF Championships in Malta following the opening two sessions of the event on Thursday.

Held at the Dolmen Hotel, the tournament offers a key pathway to the World Snooker Tour, with the winner guaranteed to earn a two-year tour card from the beginning of the 2018/19 season and all four semi-finalists guaranteed a place at the professional World Championship qualifiers next month.

Among those with their eyes on the prizes are a mix of former professionals looking to regain their professional status and rising talents as young as 18 looking to breakthrough onto the main tour.

The top half

Heading the draw after the four-day group matches was Poland’s Adam Stefanów and the 24-year-old continued his impressive form with 4-1 victory against former professional Fraser Patrick this morning. He will next face home player Duncan Bezzina after he defeated Thailand’s Ratchayothin Yotharuck 4-2 in the opening session.

Already a winner in Malta last week following his victory in the WSF Seniors Championship, Brazil’s Igor Figueiredo kept his hopes of a title double alive with an impressive whitewash of Said Al Shamsi which included breaks of 125, 92 and 60. An eye-catching last 16 clash with former professional ranking semi-finalist Michael Judge now awaits him later this evening.

Iceland’s Kristjan Helgason has been among the most impressive players so far during the week and the former Crucible qualifier defeated Estonia’s Andres Petrov to set up a clash with Marcin Nitschke of Poland in the next round. The top half of the draw is completed by Welshman Kishan Hirani, who will next meet Lim Chun Kiat of Singapore on Thursday evening.

Bottom half

While the top half of the draw includes four players over the age of 40, there is a more youthful feel to the bottom half with the likes of Luo Honghao and Jamie Clarke through to the last 16.

At 18-years-old China’s Luo Honghao is the youngest remaining player following a comfortable victory against Malta’s Chris Peplow this morning and having recorded breaks of 82, 81 and 50 he could take some stopping. Next up for the youngster will be a match against Ireland’s Thomas Dowling, who scored an impressive 4-1 win against Poland’s Mateusz Baranowski.

The winner of that match could then face talented Welshman Jamie Clarke of Wales after the youngster outscored former professional world number eight Darren Morgan today. Trailing 2-1, Clarke hit breaks of 63, 65 and 62 to seal a 4-2 win and set up a clash with Belgium’s Kevin Hanssens tonight.

Kuldesh Johal won a tight all-English affair with three-time English amateur champion David Lilley 4-2 to progress to a meeting with Alex Taubman, while Scotland’s Michael Collumb will face former Polish professional Kacper Filipiak.

All last 16 matches will be concluded this evening, with the winners just one victory away from taking their place at the professional World Championship in Sheffield.

For more information about the tournament please visit www.worldsnookerfederation.org