Closing in on the Cut: December 2017

  • 27th November 2017

Following victory for Mark Williams yesterday in Belfast at the Dafabet Northern Ireland Open, there is now just one event to go before the final seeding list is set for both the Masters and German Masters events.

While a clear picture has emerged over the last few weeks as to who has to do what to secure a top 16 position in particular, with more prize money available at the Betway UK Championship than at any of the ten ranking events before it this season, there is still much that can change over the next fortnight.

On the 11th December 2017 following the UK Championship, the current seedings list will be updated for the fifth time this season and will be used to determine the seedings for the 2018 Masters and 2018 German Masters.

By the time of the revision, prize money earned from the 2015 ET1, Australian Goldfields Open, ET2, Shanghai Masters, AT1, ET3, International Championship, ET4 and UK Championship will have been deducted and replaced by that from this season’s events up to that date.

As always, we have already removed the points to be deducted from the appropriate column on the latest provisional seedings list, to show the situation as up to date as possible.

Please note that all seeding permutations below are on the basis that all eligible players enter the relevant events.

Mark Selby Daqing

Battle for Number 1

Currently enjoying the fourth-longest unbroken spell at the top of snooker’s world rankings by any player, Mark Selby’s reign as world number one shows no sign of ending as he is already sure to remain there following the UK Championship, regardless of the outcome in York.

Behind him, there is a four-way fight for second spot with current number two Judd Trump favourite to remain there heading into the tournament. Ding Junhui must reach at least the quarter-finals at the Barbican to have any chance of overhauling the 2011 champion, while Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins must win the tournament to move into contention.

The Top Eight

On the face of it a top eight position might not appear to be so important, but with those players guaranteed to avoid each other in the opening round at the Masters, there is real value to finishing up in that bracket at the end of the UK Championship.

Discounting the suspended Stuart Bingham who will not be competing at either the Alexandra Palace or Tempodrom, players as far down as 20th placed Mark King could mathematically overhaul Mark Allen for a top eight seeding.

While that makes the battle appear wide open however, in reality the only player immediately within striking distance of the likes of Allen and Barry Hawkins is last year’s semi-finalist Marco Fu. As it stands, a last 32 run could be enough for the former UK runner-up, although realistically more will likely be required by the Hong Kong player with those above him looking to go deep themselves.

Fu aside, Mark Williams, Ali Carter, Luca Brecel and Kyren Wilson all must reach at least the final to have any chance, while seven further players could do so by claiming the title.

Ryan Day playing snooker

The Top 16

As ever with Masters places up for grabs, the post-UK Championship cut-off marks the most important time of the year to be a top 16 player, arguably with the exception of the World Championship revision following April’s China Open.

As referred to above, in terms of the Race to the Masters the most accurate list to follow is the ‘Masters Race’ table, which takes into account the omission of the suspended Stuart Bingham who will miss the competition for the first time since 2011.

But who will be returning to London?

With the top 13 down to Kyren Wilson looking mathematically secure, the first player who could still be denied his place in London is Scotland’s Anthony McGill, who perhaps surprisingly is looking to make his début at the Alexandra Palace in January.

For McGill to miss out, he would need to lose his opening match against Ashley Hugill and for at least three of the following to happen at the UK Championship:

  • Liang Wenbo or Ryan Day to reach the semi-finals
  • Neil Robertson, Martin Gould, Stephen Maguire or Mark King to reach the final
  • One of the next 19 players to win the title

In terms of the draw, Liang and Day are in opposite halves, but with Robertson in the same quarter as Day and Maguire set to face Liang as early as the last 16, the likelihood of McGill missing out is even less likely than it might first appear.

Speaking of Liang Wenbo, in 15th position and £25,675 further back, he is one step closer to the top 16 trapdoor and would miss out if he were to lose to Sanderson Lam and two of the following were to happen:

  • Ryan Day were to reach the last 32
  • Neil Robertson were to reach the last 16
  • Martin Gould, Stephen Maguire and Mark King were to reach the semi-finals
  • Joe Perry or Ricky Walden were to reach the final
  • One of the next 34 players to win the title

Clearly the possibility of Liang being nudged out is far greater than McGill, both with fewer players needing to overtake him to do so and also not needing to go as deep in the tournament. That said, his fate remains very much within his own hands and having finished as runner-up in York only two years ago, he has the pedigree to go far once again at the UK Championship and cement his position at the Masters.

On the borderline meanwhile is Welshman Ryan Day, a ranking event winner for the first time in 2017 and looking to qualify for the Masters for the first time since 2010. With Jamie Curtis-Barrett first up, a surprise defeat for the Welshman would leave him vulnerable if one of the following were to happen:

  • Neil Robertson reaches the last 64
  • Martin Gould and Stephen Maguire reach the quarter-finals
  • Mark King reaches the semi-finals
  • Joe Perry, Ricky Walden, David Gilbert or Michael Holt reaches the final
  • One of a further 35 players wins the title

Perhaps the simplest way to look at the situation for Day is that if he can match Neil Robertson’s performance at the York Barbican, he will give himself an excellent chance of finishing inside the top 16 at the end of the tournament.

For Robertson, three times a finalist in recent years of course, he will know that if he can progress one round further than Day, then he will take the position unless somebody even further back is able to go further still and leapfrog both. The Australian will need to win at least three matches if he is to threaten 15th placed Liang Wenbo.

The Top 32

Particularly relevant for the German Masters at which the top 32 players are seeded in the draw, Robert Milkins is the man currently in possession of the final place, taking into account the suspension being served by Stuart Bingham.

Of the chasing pack, Tom Ford is closest to overhauling Milkins should the Gloucester player lose his opening match against Chen Zhe, while Xiao Guodong, Jack Lisowski and Jimmy Robertson would need to win three to stand any chance of breaking into the top 32.

Dominic Dale and Li Hang would need to reach the quarter-finals, with Mark Davis, Kurt Maflin and Fergal O’Brien requiring at least the semi-finals.

The final would be enough for a further 23 players, while with £170,000 up for grabs, any of the remaining players on tour could yet make it into the top 32 with a shock victory in York.

The Top 64

As we move past the halfway point of the season, we are approaching the point of the year where some of those now on the second year of two-year tour cards are moving within striking distance of the top 64.

With David Grace set to drop down the order following the removal of his prize money following his semi-final run at the UK Championship in 2015, John Astley would need to win only his opening match against Scott Donaldson, without a win all season, to stand a chance of overtaking Grace.

Donaldson himself, along with Zhang Anda could also threaten the top 64 with two wins, while those further back would need at least three.

As in previous years, due to the way that the draw is structured at the UK Championship, all of the players just inside of the top 64 will be facing those just outside of that group in the opening round in York. With potentially a £10,000 swing between these players, they are real ‘six pointers’ as is often said in football terms and could prove crucial in the battle for tour survival later in the season.

Some of these key matches to keep an eye on include:

Scott Donaldson v John Astley, Noppon Saengkham v Zhang Anda, Chris Wakelin v Lee Walker, Tian Pengfei v Cao Yupeng, Daniel Wells v Liam Highfield, Oliver Lines v Mei Xiwen

Regular updates will follow throughout the tournament here at WPBSA.com, with the action getting underway on Tuesday 28 November 2017.