Higgins homes in on top spot

With just two events remaining this season it is now certain that either John Higgins or Ronnie O’Sullivan will finish up as world number one in the rankings. Following John’s latest triumph tonight I have had the calculator out and think I have worked out what John has to do to make absolutely certain of it…

The latest situation is now as follows:

# NAME 2008/2009 POINTS SM
2009/2010 POINTS Total
1 John Higgins
31000 4480 4480 6400 5000 980 1400 22740 53740
2 Ronnie O’Sullivan 23875 7000 2660 5120 3200 980 1400 20360 44235

As you can see, since the start of the new season John has extended what was already a sizeable lead over his biggest rival to a huge 9,505 points with just two events remaining.

With 7,000 points on offer for the winner of the China Open and 10,000 for the winner of the World Championship, taking into account the minimum points that I have already allocated to the two players that means that there are a possible 14,620 still up for grabs. This means that O’Sullivan is still in with some sort of chance but third placed Neil Robertson at 15,615 points behind is now mathematically out of contention, along with everyone else.

So can John make sure of top spot in China and head to Sheffield with a little less to worry about?

In short he can, but much will depend on the performance of Ronnie. For John if he can match or better the performance of O’Sullivan then he will be assured of that top spot, for example if Ronnie were to lose his opening match in Beijing, the race would immediately be over, regardless of what Higgins does. If O’Sullivan were to go out in the last 16 then the same result for Higgins would be enough for the Scot.

The two are scheduled to meet in the semi-finals in Beijing and having met in each of the four ranking events beforehand this season I am almost expecting them to progress to that point once again. If Higgins wins then he will be guaranteed the number one spot but defeat would be enough for Ronnie to just keep the fight going on to Sheffield as if Ronnie were to win the World Championship and Higgins were to bow out in round one, Ronnie would hang on to top spot by just 215 points!

How about if the worst happened for Higgins and he lost in the last 32 out in China and Ronnie went on to win the event? This would see O’Sullivan head to Sheffield just 3,485 points behind and well within striking distance.

If this were to happen then Higgins would have to reach the World Championship final to make absolutely sure of top spot, though an earlier exit for O’Sullivan would make his task somewhat easier. If O’Sullivan were to defeat Higgins in the Crucible final then it would still be Higgins safe at number one.

So as you can see, the odds are firmly in Higgins’ favour, particularly when you consider that he has reached at least the semi-finals of the last six ranking events staged. All is not yet lost for O’Sullivan however and a win in China would keep him just about in touch…