With the start of snooker’s newest big money invitational event, the World Grand Prix between 16-22 March 2015 fast approaching, the race is now hotting up for places at the tournament, with 32 players set to make up the field.
As announced at the end of last season, the top 32 players on an all-new prize money list counting only money earned from the 2014 World Championship, up to and including the 2015 Gdynia Open, will qualify for the event in Llandudno, Wales.
That means that with just the BetVictor Welsh Open and Kreativ Dental Gdynia Open still to run before that cut-off point, there are just two events left for players to break into the qualifying places.
As it stands, the 32nd and final player in position to qualify for Llandudno is David Gilbert, who since last season’s Dafabet World Championship has earned £36,666 from counting events, £833 clear of the chasing Ken Doherty.
Interestingly, Gilbert, is one of just three players (Rod Lawler and Matt Selt being the other two), who are outside of the top 32 on the official two-year ranking list, currently in place to qualify for the World Grand Prix. Of the three, only Matt Selt looks certain to do so, with Lawler and Gilbert currently occupying the final two places.
Currently set to miss out on the World Grand Prix are Ali Carter, whose protected seeding of 13th applied to other tournaments does not count here (it only applies to events seeded by the standard two-year ranking list), as well as Matthew Stevens and Mark King, who have both largely struggled for results so far this season.
So what can change? This being the first year of the competition, it is difficult to judge what the final amount good enough to qualify will be, but with up to £60,000 on offer at the BetVictor Welsh Open and a further £20,883 in Gdynia, the door is still open for almost anyone to make a late breakthrough into the qualifying places with a couple of good results.
That said, in reality with a gap of almost £5,000 separating 31st placed Rod Lawler, to the first of the chasers Ken Doherty, it would take at least three wins and a last 16 appearance at the BetVictor Welsh Open for him to pass Lawler, if Rod were to lose in the first round.
As a result therefore, David Gilbert is in the most vulnerable position and for the first few rounds in Cardiff at least, it will be most interesting to follow both his progress and that of those immediately below him, before seeing how the situation unfolds during the course of the week at the BetVictor Welsh Open.
Another update will of course follow as we head to the Kreative Dental Gdynia Open towards the end of the month, when the situation will be far clearer for those chasing the final few places…