With the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix now underway, there are now just five and a half events remaining before the final seeding list is set for this year’s World Championship, to be held once again at the iconic Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
At the time of writing, some big names are currently set to miss out upon an automatic seeding for the tournament, but with several big money events remaining before the crucial ranking cut-off, there is still much to play for and opportunities for players to climb the list, as demonstrated by first-time winner Anthony Hamilton only last weekend.
Why is this important?
Traditionally, the top 16 has always been a key milestone for any snooker player to reach, both in terms of status and also the practical benefits available in respect of seeding positions for players among that group. This is never more important than at the World Championship, where the top 16 players are seeded through to the venue stages at the Crucible, while the rest must qualify if they are to take their place on snooker’s biggest stage.
And since 2015 the stakes have been raised further, as whilst previously the players ranked from 17-32 would have to face just one qualifying match, now every player from 17 down to the very bottom of the ranking list must win three matches if they are to successfully make it to the venue.
The cut-off date
The key date to be aware of is the 3 April 2017, i.e. the date following this year’s China Open when the official ranking list will be revised and used to determine the seedings for snooker’s biggest tournament.
As ever, in order to follow the latest live positions in the Race to the Crucible, the list to follow is the latest provisional seeding list, rather than the official world ranking list. This is because the latest provisional list has already had deducted from it the prize money that will have dropped off by the time of the cut-off in April, as well as including minimum prize money already set to be added following this week in Preston and the China Open qualifiers last month.
For a more detailed explanation of the difference between the official ranking list and the provisional list, check out our Rankings FAQ.
In the mix
With the World Grand Prix and five subsequent events still to be played before the top 16 are decided for Sheffield, the players currently in the immediate fight are as follows:
15th – Martin Gould – £189,975
16th – Joe Perry – £187,800
17th – Anthony McGill – £185,125
18th – David Gilbert – £183,750
19th – Ricky Walden – £182,675
20th – Michael Holt – £171,975
21st – Mark King – £169,450
22nd – Mark Williams – £165,475
23rd– Ryan Day – £159,587
At first glance, perhaps the biggest surprise when looking at the list above, in comparison to the official world ranking list is that two-time world champion Mark Williams is currently set to fall from his current ranking of 16th down to 22nd over the coming weeks.
This is because the prize money (£89,500) that he earned during his strong finish to the 2014/15 season, when he reached the finals of the Players Championship and Gdynia Open, as well as the semi-finals of the Welsh Open and India Open tournaments, is now set to be removed from his ranking.
Similarly, world number 10 Joe Perry, who won that Players Championship event back in 2015, is also set to tumble six places to 16th with £117,833 to be deducted from his ranking total prior to Sheffield and so needs results between now and April if he is to avoid having to qualify at Ponds Forge.
On the other hand, Kyren Wilson, who of course reached the quarter-finals at the Crucible less than a year ago, is looking well-placed to secure an automatic place at the World Championship for the first time in his career. With just £10,000 to be removed from his total between now and the cut-off, he lies in 14th place on the provisional standings, but crucially some £62,300 ahead of 17th placed Anthony McGill.
Speaking of McGill, together with 18th placed David Gilbert, he too has relatively little to defend over the coming weeks (£19,000 and £11,917 respectively), and so both are in real contention to head to the Crucible as a top 16 player for the first time.
Who might miss out? Stephen Maguire has been an ever-present among the Crucible seeds since 2006 but way down in 25th place provisionally will most likely need to win a big title in the coming weeks if he is to maintain that record. In closer contact is Ricky Walden, a semi-finalist back in 2013 and top 16 player ever since, but he too needs results if he is to avoid the pressure of a trip to Ponds Forge this year.
The coming weeks
Aside from the current money totals, there are a number of other clues as to who might come through and secure a top 16 place for Sheffield.
At the time of writing, Kyren Wilson, David Gilbert and 20th placed Michael Holt have exited the World Grand Prix in the first round, while the likes of Martin Gould, Joe Perry, Anthony McGill and Ricky Walden remain in the draw and able to add to their totals this week in Preston.
Gould has also elected not to enter the Gibraltar Open, next month, but it is also worth noting that all of the other players in the immediate fight for the top 16 have entered each of the coming events and except for Ryan Day, have successfully qualified for the final stages of the China Open in April.
What could prove significant is which of the players are able to qualify for the Players Championship in Llandudno, with only the top 16 on the separate one-year list set to make it to an event which carries a minimum prize of £10,000 for a first round exit. Of these players, the likes of McGill, King and Perry are currently positioned inside the top 16, while Williams, Holt, Maguire, Wilson, Walden and Gilbert are set to miss out.
The final cut-off for the Players Championship follows the Gibraltar Open in early March and so there remains much to play for over the coming months as the Race to the Crucible takes shape.