Next March, snooker heads to Llandudno for a brand new event, the World Grand Prix, which brings with it a brand new qualifying format.
As opposed to simply taking tournament winners such as the Dafabet Champion of Champions event, or players based upon the standard two-year ranking list like at the Dafabet Masters, this invitational event will see the top 32 from a one-year ranking list qualify for the event.
The list runs from the 2014 Dafabet World Championship won by Mark Selby, through to the final European Tour event of the campaign, the Gdynia Open, which concludes on 1st March 2015.
Although the World Grand Prix remains over three months away, in reality there are just two more counting full-ranking events to take place before the relevant cut-off point, as well as one Asian Tour event and that final European Tour event in Gdynia.
So what can we say now following the Kreativ Dental Clinic Lisbon Open?
Perhaps the most surprising aspect in some ways is that although the pack has been shuffled in comparison to the official ranking list, the vast majority of the world’s official top 32 are poised to qualify to play in Llandudno as things stand.
In fact, just four players are currently in position to qualify for the tournament, who are ranked outside of the world’s top 32 on the official list. These are Kreativ Dental Clinic Lisbon Open finalist Matt Selt, Rod Lawler, Ken Doherty and David Gilbert, the latter two holding a slender advantage to the chasing pack.
The top 32 players who are set to miss out as it stands 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 Liang Wenbo, Kurt Maflin and Matthew Stevens, who have all so far not earned enough money during the counting period since this year’s Dafabet World Championship.
Of those remaining inside the top 32, Ding Junhui in 23rd position and John Higgins in 29th position are lower than might be expected, while it is no surprise to see both Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan heading the way, having won the big money Dafabet World Championship and Coral UK Championship events respectively.
With under £10,000 separating 15 players down from current 32nd placed man David Gilbert and plenty of money still to be won however, the battle remains very much on for places at snooker’s newest invitational tournament.