Ranking event snooker will return to our screens this Saturday with the start of the Coral Tour Championship – an event which will also see the final seeding list set for the Betfred World Championship later this summer.
In the context of wider events this year’s snooker calendar of course takes an unusual shape, with the cancellation of the China Open and the postponement of the season’s final two tournaments until the summer. Below we outline the implications for the current seeding list and the importance of the next week of action at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
Top 16 Qualified
The final seeding list for the 2020 World Championship will be finalised following the conclusion of next week’s Tour Championship. At this cut-off points from the Tour Championship will be added to the current world rankings, with no points to be removed as this event was not staged in 2018 and points from that year’s China Open have already been deducted.
With each of the eight players competing in the tournament already within the provisional (and actual) top 16 therefore, we already know that the top 16 automatic qualifiers for the tournament cannot change (subject to all players entering the tournament).
The Crucible Draw
With a first prize of £150,000 to be won in Milton Keynes however, there is still much that can change in respect of the order of the top 16 players.
This is crucial because as always, the 16 seeded players at the World Championship are placed in the draw in a very specific manner, for example the top seed is always scheduled to meet the 16th seed in the second round, the second seed is always poised to meet the 15th seed and so on.
As it stands, the last 16 draw (if all first round matches in Sheffield were won by the seeded player) would currently look as follows:
Trump (1) v Yan (16)
Murphy (9) v Wilson (8)
Allen (5) v Lisowski (12)
Bingham (13) v Higgins (4)
Williams (3) v Maguire (14)
Gilbert (11) v O’Sullivan (6)
Selby (7) v Ding (10)
Hawkins (15) v Robertson (2)
Of these players, Judd Trump is of course cemented as top seed, not only as the sport’s runaway world number one on the official world ranking list, but also as defending champion. Neil Robertson too is already assured of second place, with closest challenger Mark Williams not having qualified for the Tour Championship.
However, every other position can still change next week, meaning that the final placement of the remaining 14 seeded players is likely to change depending on results over the coming days…
Themes to Follow
So what do we know heading into the season’s penultimate event?
Mark Williams looks well-placed to head to the Crucible as third seed this year despite not being involved next week, with only John Higgins able to displace him by going all the way to the title in Milton Keynes. With a significant gap between the £150,000 first prize and £60,000 cheque for finishing as runner-up, nothing less than victory would be sufficient for the Scot.
As for Higgins himself, if he were to lose his opening match then Mark Allen would overtake him with a run to the final, while Mark Selby would need to win the title to potentially vault three places up the list from seventh position.
Similarly, Allen can only be caught by Selby, with the three-time world champion actually being able to finish level with Allen if he were to reach the final with the Northern Irishman losing to Shaun Murphy first up. If this were to happen, Selby would take the position on countback. If Allen is able to win at least one match however, nothing less than the title would be sufficient for Selby.
One big name who won’t be in action next week is of course Ronnie O’Sullivan, who currently sits in sixth position heading to Sheffield. As it stands both Selby and Murphy can overtake the five-time world champion, but only one with the pair situated in the same half of the draw in Milton Keynes. A run to the final would be enough for Selby, while Murphy must win the title to rise to sixth position ahead of both players.
More immediately, Murphy can leapfrog the absent Kyren Wilson with a single win over Mark Allen next Tuesday and himself can only be overtaken by Stephen Maguire if the Scot were able to claim the title at the Marshall Arena. Entering the tournament in 14th place behind four players not competing next week, a single victory would be enough to see him rise two places above Stuart Bingham and Jack Lisowski, but beyond that he would need to go all the way to rise further.
Finally, the player currently ranked 16th and set to face Judd Trump at the last 16 stage in Sheffield Yan Bingtao can also move out of that position in the draw with a run in Milton Keynes. Victory against Mark Selby would potentially enough to see him rise two positions (subject to Maguire’s result), while the title would see him surge into the world’s top 10 for the first time.