Tomorrow the last 16 stage will be played in Beijing and it’s maybe worth to have a look at who is still in it and what is at stake.
Only 11 of the to 16 made the trip to Beijing: Neil Robertson and Mark Allen opted out, Ryan Day, Barry Hawkins and Marco Fu failed to qualify. Now only 7 remain: all of the top 6 players and Kyren Wilson currently at 14. In terms of the race to the Crucible and the World Championship seeding, only winning the title could propel Kyren to a higher seeding and, if he does, he would reach n°10, pushing Ali Cater, Mark Allen, Ronnie and Liang Wenbo one rank down. At the top Mark Selby, who is n°1 seed anyway because he is the reigning World Champion, is out of reach. Stuart Bingham and Judd Trump could still swap places, as could Ding Junhui, Shaun Murphy and John Higgins although John would need the final to move up.
Further down the rankings, two players remain in contention for the spot n°16, currently occupied by Ryan Day: Mark Williams and Stephen Maguire. Both however need the title to avoid to have to play 3 qualifying matches in Ponds Forge.
Even further down, Daniel Wells, Rory McLeod, Tian Pengfei, Andrew Higginson and Mark Joyce all are in with a chance to get into the 17-32 bracket, but only by winning the title. This would guarantee that they wouldn’t have to play another player in that same bracket next week, which is a significant advantage. The man who will pray that none of them lifts the trophy come Sunday is Tom Ford, currently at n°32.
And finally, Hossein Vafaei Ayouri could still climb into the top 64 by reaching the final, sending Chris Wakelin in the relegation zone. Should he win, he could even get into the top 32… just.
Now realistically, who will lift the trophy on Sunday? Well, going by what I have seen, I’d go for either Judd Trump or Ding Junhui. But there are a number of players I didn’d have the opportunity to watch, Mark Williams and Stephen Maguire amongst them. Going purely on heart wishes, I’d love to se “Willo” win another title and be at the Crucible without having to qualify. Him, or Hossein Vafaei who was denied a visa for so long because of his Iranian citizenship and has done tremendously well lately. It would be a shame if he was relegated from the main tour, and unfair as well given the circumstances.