A week into March, there are just three ranking events remaining before the seeding list is set for the 2015 World Championship and a number of crucial matters still to be determined before that important cut-off.
Race to the Crucible
Next month, 16 players will qualify to play at the venue stages of the World Championship as of right, including Ali Carter, who will be seeded 13th due to the decision taken to protect his ranking for the remainder of the 2014/15 season following his treatment for cancer last year.
This means that the top 15 in the rankings after the China Open on 6th April 2015, plus Carter, will not have to qualify, while everyone from 17th downwards will have to win three qualifying matches at Ponds Forge, Sheffield, if they are to appear at the Crucible this year.
That being the case, who is currently in danger of dropping out of the top 15?
If we look at the latest projected seedings list, that is a ‘live’ list taking into account minimum prize money to be won from upcoming events and having already deducted money that will no longer contribute to the ranking list following the China Open, Stephen Maguire currently occupies the 15th and final spot with £198,966.
Just ahead of the Scot is Mark Williams on £201,733, while the first chaser from outside of the top bracket is Robert Milkins, who has £175,160. Behind him is 2006 world champion Graeme Dott with £164,016, while Mark Davis has £156,985.
With nearly £25,000 to make up on Maguire, it will not be easy for Milkins to close to gap over the coming weeks, but with top prizes of £100,000, £85,000 and £50,000 to be won at the next three events, it is far from an impossible task.
As Mark Williams has shown in recent weeks by claiming £20,000 at the BetVictor Welsh Open and £10,000 from his run to the final of the Kreativ Dental Gdynia Open to open up his current lead, it is possible to go on a run and the likes of Milkins, Dott and Davis will be targeting something similar this month, particularly with Stephen Maguire having elected to sit out the Indian Open.
The Crucible Seedings Race
As well as the race to make it to the Crucible, there is also an interesting sub-plot to follow with the seedings and subsequent placement in the draw of the 16 automatic qualifiers also to be determined after the China Open.
If the cut-off was to fall today, the draw for the venue stages of the 2015 World Championship would be as follows:
Mark Selby (1) / Qualifier
Stephen Maguire (16) / Qualifier
Stuart Bingham (9) / Qualifier
Ricky Walden (8) / Qualifier
Barry Hawkins (5) / Qualifier
John Higgins (12) / Qualifier
Ali Carter (13) / Qualifier
Ding Junhui (4) / Qualifier
Neil Robertson (3) / Qualifier
Joe Perry (14) / Qualifier
Mark Allen (11) / Qualifier
Judd Trump (6) / Qualifier
Shaun Murphy (7) / Qualifier
Marco Fu (10) / Qualifier
Mark Williams (15) / Qualifier
Ronnie O’Sullivan (2) / Qualifier
But much can still change during the next two events, with the only two positions being set in stone being defending champion Mark Selby as top seed and Ali Carter locked in at 13 as explained above.
In particular, there is little to separate Robertson and Ding for the 3-4 positions; Trump, Murphy and Walden for 6-8, Bingham, Fu and Allen for 9-11 and finally Williams and Maguire for the final two spots, assuming that they are not leapfrogged by one of the chasing pack currently outside of the top 15.
The next chance for some of the players to add to their totals comes this week at the 2015 Indian Open, which begins on Tuesday.