Closing In On the Cut: Crucible 2016

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Following the conclusion of the Players Championship later today there will be just one event remaining before the all-important seeding cut-off ahead of this season’s World Championship.

The China Open is set to get underway tomorrow in Beijing and will run through to next Sunday, following which the world’s top 16 ranked players will qualify to play at the Crucible Theatre automatically. The remaining players on tour however face three qualifying matches to make it through to the final stages of snooker’s biggest event.

  • Click here to view the draw for the China Open
  • Click here to view the latest projected seedings
  • Click here to view the money tariffs for events this season

On 4 April 2016 following the China Open, the current seedings list will be revised for the seventh time this season and will be used to determine the seedings for the 2016 World Championship.

By the time of the revision, prize money earned from all events during the 2013/14 season excluding the 2014 World Championship will have been deducted and replaced by that from this season’s events up to that date.

As always, I have already removed the points to be deducted from the appropriate column on my latest projected seedings list, to show the situation as up to date as possible.

Note that for this season, where a player loses their first match at a tournament, irrespective of the round, they will not receive any prize money towards their official world ranking.

Also note that all seeding permutations below are on the basis that all eligible players enter the relevant events.

The Crucible Draw

For those who may not be aware, unlike other tournaments, the top 16 seeded players at the World Championship are placed in the draw in a very specific manner, for example the top seed is always scheduled to meet the 16th seed in the second round, the second seed is always poised to meet the 15th seed and so on.

That being the case, the last 16 draw is currently shaping up as follows:

Bingham (1) v Ding (16)
Perry (9) v Higgins (8)

O’Sullivan (5) v Gould (12)
Williams (13) v Robertson (4)

Murphy (3) v Fu (14)
Hawkins (11) v Allen (6)

Trump (7) v Walden (10)
White (15) v Selby (2)

Much can still change in China though as explained below…

Battle for Number 1

Following world number one Mark Selby’s withdrawal from the Players Championship and China Open events due to personal reasons, there is a possibility that the number one ranking could change hands for the first time since February 2015 following the China Open.

This can however only happen if Stuart Bingham were to win the tournament in Beijing, with no other result sufficient.

Of course, with Stuart Bingham already assured of being top seed for the World Championship as defending champion, the Crucible seedings list will be unaffected either way.

The Top Eight

Following Mark Allen’s victory at the Players Championship, he will climb to number six in the projected seedings, with at least a semi-final run from Judd Trump in Beijing needed to see the Northern Irishman head to the Crucible seeded any lower than that.

Only title victories by either Joe Perry or Ricky Walden in Beijing would be enough to see John Higgins miss out upon a top eight seeding for Sheffield.

The Top 16

The big one, with those inside of the top 16 after the China Open guaranteed a place at the World Championship, while those missing out will need to come through three qualifying matches at Ponds Forge to make it to the Crucible.

Where to start? Firstly, we can now see that the top 13 players are now mathematically certain to remain inside of the world’s top 16 at the all-important seeding cut-off.

This means that despite his first round defeat to Dominic Dale earlier in the week at the Players Championship, Mark Williams is now guaranteed to make his 19th career appearance at the Crucible next month.

In terms of those remaining in danger, 14th placed Marco Fu is the first who could yet miss out upon a top 16 place for Sheffield. This would however only come to pass if he were to lose his opening match and three of the following were to happen in Beijing:

  • Michael White were to reach the semi-finals
  • Ding Junhui, Liang Wenbo, Kyren Wilson and Stephen Maguire were to reach the final
  • Ryan Day, Robert Milkins, David Gilbert, Matt Selt, Ben Woollaston, Mark Davis, Graeme Dott, Luca Brecel, Alan McManus or Michael Holt were to win the title

For 15th placed Michael White, he is currently inside by just under £12,000, although it is notable that the two players immediately below him are yet to play their first round matches and so have scope to add more to their respective totals than the Welshman in the coming days.

If White were to lose early to Jack Lisowski, then he would miss out if Ding Junhui were to reach the last 16 and Liang Wenbo the quarter-finals, or for example if the likes of Kyren Wilson and Stephen Maguire were to make the final in China.

Notably, White is due to face Maguire at the last 32 stage in Beijing if both can win their respective opening rounds, so victory there would be a significant step to the Crucible for the Welshman.

Of course however, the two players to really keep an eye on during the early rounds are Chinese duo Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo, who for the time being are locked in a duel for the 16th and final Crucible seeding.

Both having had their last 128 match held over to the venue stages there is still all to play for, with Liang needing to win at least two rounds in Beijing if he is to stand a chance of passing his countryman. If Ding is able to win his opening match against Lee Walker however, then Liang would need to reach the quarter-finals, while a last 16 run from Ding would leave Liang needing to make the semi-finals.

Interestingly, Liang is on course to meet Kyren Wilson at the last 32 stage, with 18th Wilson immediately behind the Chinese number two in the race to the Crucible. Along with a potential White v Maguire clash, that promises to be one of the ties of the last 32 should it happen.

Looking at Kyren Wilson’s position, along with Stephen Maguire he knows that no less than a semi-final run in Beijing will do if he is to bring himself into contention for a top 16 place heading into the World Championship.

A final run could yet prove enough for Welshman Ryan Day, but more realistically he will need to claim the title, as will the next 13 players immediately below him in the latest projected seedings.

The Top 32

Turning to the battle for top 32 places, it is important to note that this is significant for the World Championship qualifiers as those players will be guaranteed to avoid each other at Ponds Forge.

As it stands, current 33rd placed man Jamie Jones would require at least a run to the quarter-finals to stand a chance of overtaking Peter Ebdon for the final spot, while nothing less than a semi-final run would be sufficient for Dominic Dale.

Jimmy Robertson and Tom Ford would need to make at least the final, potentially more if the likes of Ebdon and Ali Carter were to win matches in Beijing, while the remaining players would need to win the title to threaten the top 32.

The Top 80

Normally I would now analyse the battle for top 64 places, however with players ranked 17-80 set to be seeded to play those 81-144 at the World Championship, this time it is a little different.

Currently in 80th place is Scotland’s Scott Donaldson, however he has not qualified to play in the final stages of the China Open. Immediately below him, Martin O’Donnell, Chris Wakelin and Alfie Burden are however all involved in Beijing and would overhaul the Scot with a single win during the next couple of days.

Further back, Darryl Hill, Nigel Bond, Noppon Saengkham and Rhys Clark have all also qualified for the final stages of the China Open and could claim a top 80 seeding for the World Championship with a run to the quarter-finals in Beijing.

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