With the field set and the draw complete for next week’s Masters, attention will soon turn to the season-ending Betfred World Championship and the race to secure one of the 16 automatic qualification spots over the coming months.
As has become the norm in recent seasons, the top 16 ranked players following the tournament immediately prior to the World Championship will be seeded for snooker’s blue riband event at the Crucible Theatre and be spared the qualifying rounds.
This means that in 2021, the seeding cut-off falls following the completion of the Tour Championship on 28 March 2021 and that only prize money dating back to the 2019 World Championship, through to the end of March 2021 will be included.
With seven currently scheduled events still to be completed prior to the crucial cut-off, our Race to the Crucible table shows the current live position, having already taken into account all prize money due to be deducted prior to this season’s World Championship.
While much can change between now and then, which players are currently safe and who could still break into the top tier in time for Sheffield?
While it is always difficult to be absolutely certain, the top nine players in the Race to the Crucible standings look to be sure of their places at the venue stages of this season’s World Championship come the spring.
A little way behind them, 10th placed Yan Bingtao (£291,500) also looks well-placed to compete at the venue for a third time, with a lead of over £90,000 to the closest player outside of the top 16 currently.
Intriguingly, Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen (£257,500) who was ranked a career-high fourth as recently as June, finds himself down in 11th position following the removal of his prize money following his victories at the International Championship and Scottish Open tournaments in 2018.
With a lead of £56,250 to 17th place, Allen remains likely to extend his current streak of 14 consecutive Crucible appearances, but will be hoping for a decent run over the coming weeks to ease any doubts as the season reaches its climax.
So two will another Mark – three-time world champion Mark Williams (£224,750) – who despite sitting in 12th remains far from certain of his place as he heads a group of seven players separated by little over £25,000 down to 18th position.
These include Anthony McGill (£220,500), David Gilbert (£218,500), Zhou Yuelong (£206,250), Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (£202,000), Graeme Dott (£201,250) and Gary Wilson (£199,500), while experienced duo Joe Perry (£192,500) and Barry Hawkins (£187,750) are also both well within striking distance.
It is 17th placed Dott who is closest to breaking into the top 16, with just £750 separating him and Thailand’s Un-Nooh ahead of him.
Points to Defend
Perhaps surprisingly, there are two players currently ranked inside of the world’s top 16 who face having to qualify for the Crucible as things stand, with Stuart Bingham (£172,500) and Jack Lisowski (£165,250) occupying 21st and 22nd positions respectively.
For Bingham, currently ranked considerably higher in 12th position, he faces the removal of a significant amount of prize money from his ranking relative to those around him over the coming weeks. This reflects both his consistency at the start of 2019 as he won the Gibraltar Open and reached the final of the Welsh Open, and a current season which has yet to yield a quarter-final.
Lisowski meanwhile is largely set to drop from 14th position with the £90,000 won from his run to the final of the 2019 China Open set to be deducted from his total, despite showing improved form of late with his run to the World Grand Prix final just before Christmas.
But of course both players, as well as those around them still have time to add to their tallies, with other qualification races for tournaments including the Players Championship and Tour Championship taking on added significant with Crucible spots up for grabs.
As ever, regular updates will follow here at WPBSA.com over the coming weeks, or you can follow regular updates on Twitter @prosnookerblog