The UK Championship is now underway at the Barbican Centre in York, with the world’s best players looking to dethrone two time champion Neil Robertson and claim the £170,000 top prize.
As ever though, there is a second battle to consider as the battle for places at the 2017 Masters will also be decided after this tournament, with the majority of the tour still mathematically in with a chance of making it to the Alexandra Palace.
Ahead of the tournament I took a look what who needs to do what in order to gatecrash the top 16, but below I will provide updates during the remainder of the events as to who is in the running to make it to London.
Race to the Masters
The top 16 players in the official world ranking list following the UK Championship will qualify to play at the Masters UNLESS Ronnie O’Sullivan falls out of the top 16. O’Sullivan is guaranteed to be top seed as defending champion and if he does drop out of the top 16, will take the place of the 16th ranked player in the draw.
Latest Race to the Masters (02/12/2016):
14th – Marco Fu – £253,958 (SF)
15th – Mark Williams – £242,975 (QF) – SAFE
16th – Kyren Wilson – £241,508 (r128) – SAFE
17th – Ricky Walden – £213,091 (r32)
18th – Anthony McGill – £192,625 (r64)
19th – Martin Gould – £187,059 (r64)
20th – David Gilbert – £186,417 (r16)
21st – Stephen Maguire – £176,250 (r16) – needs final minimum
26th – Luca Brecel – £151,091 (QF) – needs title
33rd – Jamie Jones – £117,012 (QF)- needs title
Friday 2 Dec
16:22 – Kyren Wilson is now certain to make his Masters debut next month following defeat for Luca Brecel at the hands of Shaun Murphy this afternoon.
Although both Marco Fu and Jamie Jones could pass him at first glance, with the two set to face-off in the quarter-finals tonight, in fact only one can now do so, meaning that Wilson can rest easy during the final weekend in York.
23:20 – And the race to the Masters is complete, a 6-5 victory for Marco Fu against Jamie Jones securing his place at the sport’s biggest invitational tournament next month.
Thursday 1 Dec
16:59 – Defeat today for David Gilbert against Jamie Jones means that Stephen Maguire is now the only player who could still theoretically break into the top 16 by making the final this week in York.
This could change however, depending upon how Mark Williams gets on later this evening against Liam Highfield, with victory enough to see the Welshman move up two places to 14th in the latest race.
22:46 – Another big result tonight in the Race to London as Stephen Maguire suffered a 6-3 defeat at the hands of Luca Brecel in the evening session. The result means that the Scot will now miss out upon a place at the masters for the first time since 2004.
0:42 – A nail-biting 6-5 victory for Mark Williams against Liam Highfield means that he is now guaranteed a place at the Masters for a second succesive year, having missed out in both 2014 and 2015.
Victory for Marco Fu tomorrow against Jamie Jones would make certain of his own spot, while Jamie Jones and Luca Brecel are now the only players ranked outside of the top 16 who can claim a shock Masters spot, albeit they would need to win the tournament to do so.
Wednesday 30 Nov
22:05 – Down to two tables at the Barbican Centre and Marco Fu has further strengthened his claim upon a Masters place with a 6-0 whitewash of Oliver Lines this evening.
The result means that Fu moves back above Mark Williams into 15th place, with the Welshman set to face Liam Highfield in his last 16 match tomorrow evening, knowing that a win will lift him above both Fu and Kyren Wilson, guaranteeing him a Masters spot.
Tuesday 29 Nov
17:49 – Drama in York as Mark Williams hit back from 5-3 down to defeat Ricky Walden 6-5 and put one foot in the Alexandra Palace. Had Walden been able to get over the line, a semi-final fun from the two-time UK Championship semi-finalist would have been enough to see him pass the Welsh number one for the final spot.
Defeat for Walden now however means that he will definitely not be at January’s Masters, while the nearest players who can still gatecrash the top 16 include David Gilbert and Stephen Maguire.
23:48 – The last match to finish of the third round was that involving Maguire, as the Scot came back from 5-3 down to defeat Fergal O’Brien 6-5 and reach the last 16 in York. Like Gilbert, Maguire needs to reach the final if he is to make it to the Masters, although this could change depending upon how Marco Fu and Mark Williams get on in the next round. If both of those players reach the quarter-finals, Maguire will need to win the title to get into the 16.
Monday 28 Nov
20:18 – David Gilbert kept his outside bid for a place at the Masters alive with a dramatic 6-5 victory against Ali Carter today, clearing with 55 following a missed pink from the former world number two. Now up to £15,000 for the tournament, Gilbert still needs to reach at least the final if he is to stand a chance of breaking into the top 16.
23:32 – The last result of the night is a notable one, as Marco Fu defeats Mei Xiwen 6-4 to reach the last 16. The result sees him nudge ahead of Mark Williams, with the Welshman set to play Ricky Walden tomorrow in a potentially significant match in the Masters race.
Sunday 27 Nov
23:21 – The end of the second round action at the Barbican Centre and there were a few significant results this evening in the race for the Masters.
Out went Anthony McGill and Martin Gould, ending their outside chances of a place at the Alexandra Palace, but a 6-0 win for Marco Fu against Rory McLeod helped strenghten his claim on an 11th Masters appearance.
All eyes in the next round will be on the potentially crucial match between Mark Williams and Ricky Walden, the latter a 6-2 winner against Scott Donaldson this evening to keep his hopes alive.
Saturday 26 Nov
17:09 – The second round is underway in York and one of the first men through to the last 32 is Welshman Mark Williams, who has strengthened his claim on one of the remaining spots at January’s Masters with a 6-2 win against Andrew Higginson.
His victory means that closest challenger Ricky Walden would now need to reach the semi-finals, rather than just the quarter-finals if he is to pass the two-time former champion. Both Marco Fu (16th) and Walden (17th) are in action tomorrow evening in a couple of potentially significant matches in this battle, while Walden could also set to face Williams in the last 32.
Thursday 24 Nov
13:45 – An important win for Mark Williams on the final day of first round matches here at the UK Championship nudges back ahead of Marco Fu in the race to secure a Masters spot.
Elsewhere the majority of the higher seeded players have made it safely through into the second round, but defeats for the likes of Mark King and Matt Selt have left them out of the running for a place in London.
Wednesday 23 Nov
13:41 – While those currently outside of the top 16 need to win multiple matches in order to move into contention, already there has been significant development in the battle for Masters places following a day and a half’s play in York.
An opening round exit for Kyren Wilson at the hands of Mitchell Mann not only leaves him now vulnerable to the chasing pack, but also means that Ali Carter is now assured of a return to snooker’s biggest invitation event.
Elsewhere, an opening round win for Marco Fu has seen him edge ahead of Mark Williams at the time of writing, while Martin Gould has kept his hopes alive with a 6-2 victory against Gareth Allen