Following the conclusion of the German Masters yesterday, there is just one event remaining for the players to earn precious ranking points that in some cases could make the difference between having to win one, two, three or four matches to qualify for the Crucible – or none at all.
Click below for my look at who has to do what ahead of the Welsh Open qualifiers which start this Wednesday…
Battle for the top eight
While being a member of the top eight does not give make a difference in terms of qualification, in theory at least it allows a slightly easier draw as those inside that group are guaranteed to avoid each other until the quarter-final stages.
Mathematically, the race will be run between the following four players:
- 7th – Stephen Maguire – 51160
- 8th – Graeme Dott – 50705
- 9th – Ding Junhui – 49440
- 10th – Mark Allen – 48365
Best placed is recent German Masters finalist Stephen Maguire who to make sure of a place inside of the top eight at the Crucible requires a run to the quarter-finals in Newport. This is because with both Ding and Dott both in the top quarter of the draw, with a quarter-final run only one would be able to overtake him, while Mark Allen would also be too far back.
A last 32 defeat for Stephen however and the door would be open for Graeme to leapfrog him with a win, while Ding would need a quarter-final in order to pass him. A last 16 defeat for Stephen and it would take Ding defeating Graeme in the quarter-finals before progressing to at least the final in order to oust Maguire.
Turning to Graeme, his position is not as secure as Stephen’s, however if he were to lose his opening round match Ding would still have to win two matches in order to pass him, while Mark Allen would require at least a run to the semi-finals. An opening round win for Graeme and Ding would require a semi-final, while only the title would do for Allen.
As a bare minimum, Allen would require a run to the semi-finals in order to stand a chance, with both Dott and Ding falling at the first hurdle.
Battle for the top 16
With automatic places at the Crucible up grabs, this is the most important cut-off of them all and mathematically at least the players involved are as follows:
- 13th – Matthew Stevens – 44315
- 14th – Stephen Lee – 43875
- 15th – Ronnie O’Sullivan – 43040
- 16th – Stuart Bingham – 42315
- 17th – Ricky Walden – 41630
- 18th – Mark Davis – 40875
Having qualified for the tournament on the final black against Fergal O’Brien last season, Matthew Stevens will be hoping to spare himself the ordeal in 2012 and he looks to be reasonably safe, barring a rather specific run of results that could see him miss out with an early exit. Indeed, if Matthew were to lose his last 32 match, then four of the following five results would need to happen:
- Lee to reach the last 16, O’Sullivan to reach the quarter-finals, Bingham to reach the semi-finals, Walden to reach the final, Mark Davis to win the title
An opening round for Matthew however and with O’Sullivan and Bingham in the same quarter of the draw, the Welshman would be mathematically safe.
Turning to Stephen Lee, if he were to lose in the opening round at Newport, it would take three of the following four results to occur in order to see him have to qualify for the Crucible:
- O’Sullivan to reach the last 16, Bingham to reach the quarter-finals, Walden to reach the semi-finals, Davis to reach the final
As with Stevens however, a last 32 win in Newport would absolutely confirm his place at the Crucible with both O’Sullivan and Bingham in the same section of the draw.
On the subject of O’Sullivan, while it has been suggested on websites such as the BBC that he the danger of him losing his top 16 place has now passed following his victory at the German Masters yesterday, he is not out of the woods just yet. Up four places from the start of that tournament however, he is in a much improved position and with his fate firmly in his own hands.
As a minimum, if Ronnie were to lose his opening match then it would take two of the following to leave him needing to qualify for the World Championship:
- Bingham to reach the last 16, Walden to reach the quarter-finals, Davis to reach the semi-finals
If Ronnie were to win his opener however then no less than the semis would do for Walden, while Bingham would need to reach the semi-finals and Davis the final.
It is Stuart then who having at one point been in good shape to challenge for a place in the top eight following his victory in the Australian Goldfields Open, is now in the most danger of losing his top 16 place ahead of the Crucible cut-off. It is a fact that demonstrates how with the increased number of events on the calendar now, the players can afford few slip ups if they are to be assured of their place among the elite these days.
With Ricky Walden requiring just one win in order to leapfrog Stuart in the latest projected list, Stuart may well need to win his opening match in Newport if he is to give himself some breathing space. Importantly however, if Bingham can win his first match then Ricky would need to reach at least the quarter-finals, while Mark Davis would need to reach the final.
Looking at Davis, as a minimum he needs to reach the quarter-finals, though I somehow think that will not be quite enough…
The top 32
The difference between having to win two matches and to having to win just one to make it to the Crucible this April, the battle for the top 32 is fairly open, with those most immediately in the fight being as follows:
- 30th – Fergal O’Brien – 31455
- 31st – Mark King – 31015
- 32nd – Ken Doherty – 30565
- 33rd – Rory McLeod – 30560
Needing a win then is Rory McLeod, who will face either David Gilbert, Ben Woollaston or Liang Wenbo in his last 48 match at the Welsh Open. If he can win it, then Ken Doherty, who begins his campaign a match earlier in the tournament due to his previous seeding, would then have to win two matches in order to repass Rory.
One win for Doherty and McLeod though would leave Mark King ranked provisionally outside of the top 32 and needing to at least win his opening match to qualify for the venue in Newport. If Mark can win his opener however, then McLeod and Doherty would both have to reach the last 16 in order to pass him.
Fergal O’Brien too is not quite safe yet, though if he were to lose his opening match it would take one win from King and two apiece for Doherty and McLeod to leave him outside of the top 32. Victory for Fergal meanwhile would all but secure his place in the final qualifying round of the World Championship.
Aside from these four, Anthony Hamilton has an outside chance of claiming a place but would require a run to the quarter-finals to stand any chance of doing so. Similarly, Michael Holt would require at least a run to the semi-finals, while there are a string of players who with a run to the title could mathematically do enough thereafter.
The Top 48
If the fight for the final few top 32 places is tight however, then on the face of it, that for the top 48 is tighter still with a group of players separated by barely a couple of thousand points. Upon closer inspection however the situation can be broken down and those most obviously in the fight are as follows:
- 46th – Alan McManus – 25465
- 47th – Joe Jogia – 25405
- 48th – Jimmy White – 25220
- 49th – Xiao Guodong – 24525
- 50th – Ben Woollaston – 24430
If he were to lose his opening round match against either Michael White or Ian McCulloch, Jimmy White would be vulnerable to both Xiao Guodong and Ben Woollaston who are immediately behind him. Importantly however, either Xiao and Woollaston would have to win not one, but two matches in order to pass him which while both are capable, does give Jimmy some breathing space.
Looking at those below Ben, next in line are Jimmy Robertson and Mark Joyce, though both would require at least a run to the last 16 if they are to pass White.
If White can win his opener however, then those in danger would be Joe Jogia and Alan McManus, however such is the gap to Xiao and Woollaston that either would need to qualify for the venue stages in order to leapfrog Jogia, both to leave McManus needing a win.
The Top 64
The first thing to say about the battle for the top 64 is that there is a touch of ambiguity concerning the minimum points that will be awarded to the players who despite being ranked outside of the top 64, have been seeded straight through to the second round due to the high number of non-entries for the event.
Will they be treated effectively as seeded losers and awarded 325 points if they lose, or will they be given points as if they had won their round one matches, so 650? Attempts to obtain clarification have so far proven unsuccessful, however in my list as it stands I have elected to give them the minimum 325 and will alter it should I hear any different.
EDIT: I have since heard that for the World Open, in this situation players moved straight into round two will in fact receive full points, so I have amended my projected seedings list to reflect this happening at the Welsh Open also.
In reality the situation changes little as Swail remains precariously placed in 64th, however Li Yan and Yu Delu are the losers, Yu in particular being leapfrogged temporarily at least by Rod Lawler and Ian McCulloch who will began their Welsh Open campaigns at the second round stage.
So how does it stand on that basis? Very tight is the answer as while Joe Swail is currently in 64th spot, the next six players each require just one win in order to pass him if the Northern Irishman were to lose early to Dave Harold on Thursday. The players in contention are as follows:
62nd – Andy Hicks – 19940 63rd – Liu Song – 19935 64th – Joe Swail – 19070 65th – Alfie Burden – 19045 66th – Li Yan – 18985 67th – David Gilbert – 18785 68th – Yu Delu – 18725 69th – Rod Lawler – 18650 70th – Ian McCulloch – 18510
63rd place Liu Song and those just above him are not completely safe, but have enough of a cushion to ensure that Swail would have to win two matches in order to pass them, while the likes of Alfie Burden and Li Yan would require three, and David Gilbert would need to reach the last 16 in Newport.
How do you see the tiers finishing up?