Following last week’s Indian Open there are now just two events to go before the seeding list is set for the 2015 World Championship and with his victory in Mumbai, Welsh youngster Michael White has brought himself right into the mix to secure an automatic spot at the Crucible.
Race to the Crucible
As explained within previous blogs, 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 (eg on this list), plus Carter, will not have to qualify, while everyone else will have to win three qualifying matches at Ponds Forge, Sheffield, if they are to be at the Crucible this year.
As was the case at the recent BetVictor Welsh Open, the India Open was another strong tournament for players ranked in and around the top 16 bracket.
In particular, Michael White has thrust himself right into contention to claim a top 16 seeding for the World Championship for the first time in his career, having added £50,000 to his tally by winning the tournament in India.
The man who White defeated in the semi-finals, fellow Welshman Mark Williams has also consolidated his position in that bracket by adding a further £13,500, while Robert Milkins, who Williams had himself defeated in the previous round, also earned a useful £9,000.
In fact, the real loser following the Indian Open was a player who was not even there, as Stephen Maguire’s decision not to enter the tournament, combined with those wins for White, Williams and Milkins, has left him looking over his shoulder.
Although there are just two events to go, with top prizes of £100,000 and £85,000 still on offer, there is still much to play for and Maguire’s cushion of £8,696 to White and £16,806 to Milkins is a slender one.
As White and of course John Higgins have demonstrated in recent weeks, it is possible to make significant strides up the ranking list with a title success and so it is not impossible that other players could yet come into contention.
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
Shaun Murphy (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
Ricky Walden (7) / Qualifier
Marco Fu (10) / Qualifier
Mark Williams (15) / Qualifier
Ronnie O’Sullivan (2) / Qualifier
Following the India Open there has been just one change to the provisional draw since my last look at the standings, with Ricky Walden moving up above Shaun Murphy into 7th place in the race and therefore switching places with him in the draw.
Again however, much can still change during the next two events, with only defending champion Mark Selby and Ali Carter certain of their current seedings.
In particular, there is little to separate Robertson and Ding for the 3-4 positions; Trump, Walden and Murphy 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 will come next week at the 2015 Players Championship Grand Finals, which begin on Tuesday 24th March 2015.