Race to the Crucible – Three to Go

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Today sees the start of the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix in Llandudno as the race for seedings for this year’s World Championship hots up.

In fact there are now just three counting events to go before the all-important seeding cut-off, following which the top 16 players on the world ranking list will automatically qualify to play at the Crucible Theatre next month, without having to first come through qualifying.

Full details on how the ranking list works and which events count can be found at my previous blog here, but for now it’s time to look at the key matches to keep an eye on this week in north Wales…

  • Click here to view the match schedule for the World Grand Prix

Tough test for Maguire

Having failed to qualify for the Ladbrokes Players Championship later this month, former world number two Stephen Maguire heads to Llandudno knowing that he will need a strong run either here or at the China Open if he is to be seeded at the Crucible once again.

In fact on the latest race to the Crucible, the Scot drops to 17th behind Liang Wenbo, who has qualified for both remaining UK-based events and has yet to play his first round match at the China Open.

Fortunately for Maguire, despite a last 32 defeat at the recent Gdynia Open, he was able to hang on to the final qualifying place for the this week’s Ladbrokes World Grand Prix, but due to the seeding structure in place for the event he will begin with a tough opener this evening against countryman and top seed John Higgins.

If he can come through against the four-time world champion, either Ryan Day or Matt Selt would await in the last 16, ahead of a potential quarter-final with the likes of Judd Trump or Stuart Bingham.

Ding’s draw

Another big name currently set to miss out on a World Championship seeding is Ding Junhui, who currently occupies 19th position on the latest race to the Crucible.

Notwithstanding his position, there have been positive signs for the Chinese number one recently as he reached the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open, making his sixth career 147 before losing out to Australia’s Neil Robertson.

As it happens, if both Robertson and Ding can come through their opening round ties in Llandudno, they are poised to meet as early as the last 16 this week as a result of Ding’s surprisingly low position on the seeding list for this event.

In the mix

As for some of the other players in the mix for Crucible seedings this week, 16th placed Liang Wenbo begins with a match against Graeme Dott tomorrow afternoon, while 15th Michael White will be hoping to put some more distance between himself and the chasing pack with a win against Shaun Murphy on Wednesday evening.

Another name to keep an eye on is that of Shanghai Masters champion Kyren Wilson, who continues his bid to break into the top 16 for the first time with a match against Welshman Jamie Jones, also tomorrow evening.

While the battle will not be settled until the conclusion of the China Open, a deep run by any of these players in Llandudno could see them make their own position safe with room to spare, while an early exit would leave them under increased pressure heading to Manchester and Beijing,

As ever, regular updates will follow here at WPBSA.com, or you can follow me for updates on Twitter @prosnookerblog