Following the conclusion of the 918.com German Masters in Berlin yesterday, all eyes are now upon the battle to secure an automatic seeding for April’s Betfred World Championship.
As was the case last year, the top 16 in the world rankings on 4th April 2016 following the conclusion of the China Open in Beijing will be automatically seeded to play at the Crucible. The remainder of the tour players, plus a number of invited players selected by the WPBSA will compete in a 128 player strong qualifying tournament, each needing to win three matches to make it to the final stages.
The ranking list operates on a two-year ‘rolling’ system on which prize money is added after each event and historic prize money from over two years ago is also removed at set points during the current season. This means that in this particular battle, the positions for the Betfred World Championship will be determined by total prize money earned from the 2014 World Championship, up to and including the 2016 China Open.
With the seeding list having been revised following the conclusion of play in Germany, there are now a further five counting events prior to the final mid-season revision following the China Open.
Among those five events are the World Grand Prix and Players Championship, each of which of course have their own respective ‘races’ to determine qualification, while the Gdynia Open, BetVictor Welsh Open and China Open complete the events carrying ranking points before the cut-off.
Although there is still plenty of prize money still to be won between now and the start of April, what observations can we draw from a look at the latest provisional seedings list, aka the ‘race to the Crucible’?
Without doubt the most interesting theme to follow for the neutral over the coming months will be whether Ding Junhui can earn enough prize money between now and Sheffield to avoid having to qualify for the Crucible for the first time since 2007.
Officially ranked 12th in the world as it stands, readers could be forgiven for thinking that the Chinese number one is relatively secure for Sheffield. However, with £126,500 set to be removed from his ranking between now and the Crucible, more than every other tour player with the exception of Barry Hawkins, he is presently forecast to drop to 19th position come April.
Provisionally some £23,025 adrift of the top 16, Ding’s position was not helped by the performances of fellow chasers Martin Gould, Kyren Wilson and Stephen Maguire in Germany.
One man who has done his position the world of good in Berlin was eventual champion Martin Gould, who by adding £60,000 to his ranking now stands 12th in the race to Sheffield.
With a gap of nearly £40,000 to 16th placed Stephen Maguire, it would be a surprise to see Gould miss out on a Crucible seeding at this stage, with 13th placed Mark Williams also looking well set just behind.
Three in the mix?
That being the case, at this time it would appear that there are realistically three automatic places at the Crucible still realistically up for grabs, with Marco Fu the first in danger:
- 14th – Marco Fu – 177,741
- 15th – Michael White – 165,633
- 16th – Stephen Maguire – 163,050
- 17th – Liang Wenbo – 161,101
- 18th – Kyren Wilson – 154,899
- 19th – Ding Junhui – 140,025
- 20th – Robert Milkins – 139,144
- 21st – David Gilbert – 137,558
With all money that is due to be removed prior to the Betfred World Championship already deducted from the above totals, it is simply a matter of how much the above players can earn during the next two months.
Some of that will be determined by whether the players are able to qualify for all of the upcoming events, for example Stephen Maguire currently stands 30th in the race to the World Grand Prix and 49th on the European Order of Merit, so is not yet guaranteed to be at both the Grand Prix and Players Championship events.
Kyren Wilson too is currently outside of the all-important top 24 on the European Order of Merit, while the likes of Michael White and Ding Junhui are not yet certain of making it to the World Grand Prix in Llandudno.
More on these other lists will follow in the coming days.
The weeks ahead
For those players not guaranteed to be at all of the big money events between now and Sheffield, the next fortnight is particularly important with qualifying rounds for the China Open starting tomorrow, followed by the BetVictor Welsh Open which gets underway a week today.
As ever, regular updates will follow here at WPBSA.com, or you can follow me for updates on Twitter @prosnookerblog