The Big Gdynia Preview 2016

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The final event of the 2015/16 Kreativ Dental Clinic European Tour might appear to be one of the smaller events on the snooker calendar, but with a number of key ranking battles to be concluded the Gdynia Open could be the most important tournaments of the season for many involved.

The sixth event of this season’s European Tour, the event in Poland represents the final chance for players to add prize money to their 2015/16 European Order of Merit totals, as well as their official world rankings.

Not only is this important in respect of the battle for places at the Players Championship event in Manchester, but with main tour places, World Grand Prix places and even EBSA play-off places up for grabs, there will be added incentive for most of the players in the draw.

  • Click here to view the draw for ET6
  • Click here to view the latest European Order of Merit (after five events)

For reference below, the prize money available by round in Poland are:

Last 128 – 0

Last 64 – 525

Last 32 – 900

Last 16 – 1,725

QF – 3,000

SF – 4,500

F – 9,000

W – 18,750

Battle One – Tour Survival

As has become familiar during recent seasons, in addition to the top 64 players on the two-year world ranking list at the end of the season, there will also be tour places awarded to the top eight players on the 2015/16 European Order of Merit, not already qualified.

The identities of the eight players who will ultimately qualify from the European list will not be determined in Gdynia, as the position can still change depending on who is able to finish inside the top 64 on the main world ranking list by the end of the season.

Nevertheless, we will still have a far better idea as to who has to do what in order to make sure of their continued professional status at the end of the season and who will need to break into the top 64 by the start of May if they are to survive.

So who are the relevant people on the list at the moment? The eight in line to qualify heading into Gdynia are as follows:

  1. Thor Chuan Leong (4,200)
  2. Ian Burns (4,050)
  3. Lee Walker (3,225)
  4. Aditya Mehta (3,000)
  5. Hammad Miah (2,700)
  6. Scott Donaldson (2,250)
  7. Joel Walker (2,100)
  8. One of: Mitchell Mann, Zak Surety and Michael Leslie (1,950)

Looking safe

It is safe to say heading into Gdynia that Malaysia’s Thor Chuan Leong will be one of the eight players to earn a fresh two-year tour card via the European Order of Merit. With 4,200 to his name he is well clear of the chasing pack in Gdynia, but unlikely to break into the top 64 of the official world rankings by the end of the season.

Close behind him on 4,050 is Ian Burns, for whom the situation is a little different. Clearly he has already performed well enough in European Tour events to earn a fresh two-year tour card from the start of next season, however he will have his sights set on a place inside the world’s top 64 on the main world ranking list.

While this would only guarantee him a further single year on the tour (as opposed to two), the key difference is that by finishing inside the world’s top 64 he would retain his ranking prize money earned during the past two seasons, rather than see his total reset to zero.

Currently lying in 65th position on the latest provisional end of season ranking list just £310 behind Gerard Greene, Burns has a very realistic chance to break into the top 64, freeing up another space through the European list.

Further back come Lee Walker (3,225) and Aditya Mehta (3,000), with both in the position of probably being safe, but not quite 100% sure. For Walker, nearly £20,000 off the top 64 on the provisional end of season ranking list, this list represents his best chance of remaining on tour for next season.

Mehta meanwhile is much closer to 64th placed Greene, but having pulled out of, or chosen not to enter every event between now and the China Open, can now only hope that other results go his way in Gdynia and that he can remain inside the top eight ‘non-64’ players.

On 2,700 comes the strongest performing amateur of the season at European Tour events, namely Hammad Miah, who has given himself an excellent platform from which to regain his professional status in Gdynia.

It is worth remembering however that due to his amateur status, he must first come through three qualifying rounds to reach the first round proper, to set up a match with Andrew Higginson and the opportunity to add to his total.

Needing wins

The final three spots however are where it gets really interesting, with little to choose from between the players currently fighting to earn a fresh two-year tour card.

Technically, next up is China’s Zhang Anda, but thanks to his quarter-final run at the Haining Open, he will effectively secure a tour card via the Asian Order of Merit due to that event taking first chronologically.

We therefore move to Scott Donaldson (2,250) and Joel Walker (2,100), neither of whom look likely to break into the world’s top 64 at present on the provisional end of season list.

The final place meanwhile is currently occupied by Michael Leslie, Mitchell Mann and Zak Surety, who all stand on 1,950 with just Gdynia to go. With Gerard Greene’s top 64 position still very much in the balance, all four of these players will be targeting at least a couple of match wins in Gdynia.

With 525 available for a first round win, all of these four players are within a win of overtaking Donaldson and Walker above, therefore every win in Poland for these players could be crucial.

In terms of notable potential ties in Poland, Donaldson begins with a match against rookie pro Syd Wilson, while Walker takes on Anthony Hamilton in what is a key match for the tour status of both players (more on Hamilton below).

Michael Leslie and Gerard Greene will be pleased to have drawn amateur opposition in the opening round, while Mitchell Mann plays Sanderson Lam and Zak Surety will take on Eden Sharav.

The chasing pack

In respect of the chasing pack, in addition to the group of players all currently tied for the final tour place, both Anthony Hamilton and Chris Melling are within a win of joining the tie-break, both on 1,425 with three European Tour match wins this season.

For the experienced Hamilton, he remains some £10,000 away from the top 64 on the provisional end of the season ranking list, having also failed to qualify for the final stages of the China Open next month.

He is therefore likely to require at least two wins in Gdynia to remain in contention to earn a fresh two-year tour card, with matches against fellow competitor Joel Walker and then either Peter Ebdon or an amateur in the second round.

Melling meanwhile begins against Rory McLeod, with Craig Steadman awaiting in the second round having already been handed a bye against Jason Weston in the opening round.

Further back, there are several other players requiring at least three wins in Gdynia to bring themselves into contention.

But of course, it is not quite as simple as a straight fight between those named above, as there are players who are currently ranked inside the top 64 on the latest two-year money list, who could yet slip out if they are to have a poor end to the season.

This is exactly what happened last season with Nigel Bond and Jamie Cope, who heading into Gdynia were ranked inside the top 64, only to fall out following the World Championship and end up taking tour places from the European list.

This time around Gerard Greene, Stuart Carrington, Oliver Lines and Sam Baird are all players currently ranked just inside the top 64 as it stands on the provisional end of season list, who have performed well at European Tour events and except Greene (as already discussed), would effectively take one of the eight tour cards for themselves.

For example, if Oliver Lines were to drop out of the top 64, his European tally of 4,875 to date would see him immediately jump to the front of the queue to claim one of the eight available places from this list.

Battle Two – The Players Championship Race

The second matter to be decided this weekend is that of 30 of the 32 places available in next month’s Players Championship, due to take place in Manchester.

As was the case last year, the top 24 players on the final European Order of Merit will qualify for the Players Championship, with Andrew Higginson and Luca Brecel currently in a tie for 24th place with 5,775.

With Stuart Bingham relatively vulnerable only 150 further ahead and Mark Davis, Sam Baird, Alfie Burden, Kyren Wilson and Peter Ebdon all within a single win of breaking into the top 24, this battle remains very much live in Gdynia.

The combined list

There is however a further twist compared to last year as with only one Asian Tour event held this season, the decision has been taken to award a further six places via a combined European and Asian Order of Merit, including prize money earned from the six European Tour events, plus that from the Haining Open late last year.

On this list, the current top six, not already inside the top 24 on the European Order of Merit or having made the Haining Open final are:

  • Jimmy Robertson – 7,475
  • Robert Milkins – 6,200
  • Luca Brecel/Andrew Higginson – 5,775 (tied 24th Euro OOM)
  • Mark Davis – 5,625
  • Sam Baird – 5,550
  • Kyren Wilson – 5,400

           ——————————————————-

  • Peter Ebdon – 5,400
  • Stuart Carrington – 5,250
  • Matt Selt – 5,100
  • John Higgins – 4,975
  • Oliver Lines – 4,875

Battle Three – Race for the World Grand Prix

The most straight-forward of the battles to date, the 32 players to take part in this season’s World Grand Prix will also by decided following the conclusion of play in Gdynia.

The qualification criteria sees those finishing inside the top 32 of a one-year money list operating from the start of the 2015/16 season, to the upcoming Gdynia Open earn a place in Llandudno.

With just Gdynia to go, Stephen Maguire currently occupies the final qualifying position, just 125 above Mark Joyce. Both players will face Welsh opposition in the opening round in Gdynia with Maguire set to face Matthew Stevens, while Joyce must overcome Ryan Day if he is to stand any chance of qualifying for Llandudno.

Beyond Joyce, the nearest challenger to Maguire is Mark Davis who some 2,725 behind Maguire must reach at least the quarter-finals in Gdynia to bring himself into contention.

Mathematically, many of the tour’s professionals are still capable of qualifying for the event with a run to the title in Gdynia, so it will likely not be until the closing stages of the event that this battle is concluded.

Battle Four – The EBSA play-off race

Although not concerning the current professionals, there is a fourth battle to follow during the Gdynia Open with 16 places in the EBSA play-off event up for grabs.

As has been the case during each of the previous two seasons, the top 16 players on the EBSA Order of Merit, calculated based on match wins by all amateurs across the season’s six European Tour events, will qualify for a play-off event to be held during the 2016 World Championship qualifiers, with two tour cards ultimately on offer.

The most fluid battle to be resolved, the current standings can be accessed here.

How to follow the battles

For the first time I will be on site in Gdynia to provide live updates throughout the course of the weekend as to how the various battles are unfolded, both in blog form and also via Twitter @prosnookerblog

The amateur rounds begin on Tuesday 23 February 2015, before the professionals get underway on Friday. You can follow all of the general news from the tournament at worldsnooker.com