January 24, 2018

China Open Qualifiers

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:38 am

Big Time Charlie has done it again.

After the glitz and glamour of The Masters and the historic first major title win for Mark Allen it’s back down to earth, Barnsley to be precise, this weekend for the qualifying round of the China Open. That might sound like a bit of a crash land, but there are all sorts of reasons why what happens here and later on in Beijing, will have a big effect on the remainder of the snooker season and therefore I expect quite a bit of interest in this amongst Team Anorak.

Let’s get the headline news briefly out of the way. This event is now a very big deal, negotiations that were only completed as The Masters was coming to an end have resulted in a jump in total prize money from £525,000 last year to £1,000,000 this year. The winner’s prize has rocketed from £85,000 up to £225,000, which makes this second only to The World Championship in terms of prize money and therefore ranking points, on offer.

Other positive developments are the length of the matches. It’s Best of Eleven frames right up until the Best of 19 frame semi-finals and the Best of 21 frame final. So clearly the Chinese promoters don’t share the same view as Barry Hearn that people who watch snooker generally have the attention span of an absent-minded ant, instead increasingly preferring to put on events over the longer frame format, a mindset I hope Barry considers adopting more closer to home instead of continuing with the repetitive best of seven format events.

Another reason why the anoraks will be excited about this is its new found status as a very big deal in deciding the 16 players who will end up competing automatically in the seeded slots at the World Championship, here you can see the current rankings in the Race to the Crucible, all of which could be thrown right up in the air after the conclusion of this, just a couple of days before the qualifiers for the big one get underway.

The increase in the prize money on offer for this puts those final few seeding places bang in the mix, a good run in this from a lower ranked player could see them propelled into a Crucible place, a poor result at the weekend for a player ranked high but outside the top 10 could be disastrous for their chances of avoiding the three dreaded qualifying matches in Sheffield Institute of Sport. Included in this group is Masters Champion Allen, who for all the dosh he won in London, still needs to add to his tally in the events that count towards rankings to be safe. It would be extraordinary if the current Masters Champion ended up having to qualify for the World Championship, but an early exit at the weekend in this would make that more of a possibility.

It’s great news of course for those who perhaps previously may have thought they were a shoo-in for the qualifiers. They can now look towards a run to the quarter finals and beyond in this as greatly improving their chances of nabbing that automatic slot, whereas the likes of Allen, Anthony McGill, the returning Stuart Bingham, Neil Robertson, Luca Brecel, even Kyren Wilson and Ali Carter will be looking to avoid any drama by not losing this weekend and not being made to look over their shoulders in Beijing by kicking on. You’d imagine that those currently ranked from Mark Williams at Number 9 upwards are pretty secure for a Crucible place already barring utter carelessness and freakish future results. Mark Selby, who remains miles clear at the top of the rankings, is of course assured of the Number 1 seeded spot as holder and whatever happens he’ll be kicking off proceedings on Table 1 on April 21st.

Of course there are still plenty of other events that will count towards the money rankings but none anywhere near as lucrative or probably more importantly, as late as this in the calendar. You’d have to think that whoever contests the last four in this in Beijing would be pretty sure of their automatic Crucible place, possibly at the expense of someone who in previous years would have been safe as houses at that point in the season. It all adds to the intrigue…

Anyway, each of the first round matches are worth £5,000 to the winners and not even your bus fare home to the losers. The doubling of the prize money hasn’t really filtered down to the mid-ranked professionals, this is worth only £1000 more than last season, but the potential is then there come early April to play leapfrog up the ranking list with every passing win, with the winners of the next round being guaranteed £11,000 and then £18,000 for a third win, it could also of course secure a further tour card for those who may had all but given up hope, so a huge weekend for those lower down the rankings beckons too.

You’ll be able to watch the streamed tables on Eurosport Player and the usual betting sites.


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