A total of 32 players are bidding to qualify for what will be the last ranking event of a difficult calendar year.
The rankings race for the World Grand Prix is in its final leg as the Scottish Open got under way on Monday in Milton Keynes.
An already busy schedule at the Marshall Arena was made worse on the opening day by the late arrival of several COVID-19 tests – causing a long delay.
Indeed, many of the matches that were due to take place have been reshuffled into Tuesday’s order of play, including world number one Judd Trump’s tie with Alexander Ursenbacher.
It’s another distraction in what has been a testing year on the circuit for both the World Snooker Tour and its players.
Stephen Maguire lambasted the current situation in the immediate aftermath of his 4-1 defeat to Zak Surety in what is supposed to be his home tournament – played remotely, of course, hundreds of miles away.
The Scot is fed up of the bubble environment at the Marshall Arena, claiming he had tried and failed to gain permission to get his own apartment in the area.
Maguire’s defeat guarantees one thing, which is that the reigning Tour Championship winner won’t be featuring in next week’s World Grand Prix.
Only the top 32 players on the one-year rankings list will earn a spot in the upcoming draw, and Maguire’s failure to go beyond the third round of any ranking tournament this season sees him miss out.
Maguire not in a good mood and it will have got even worse. He’s lost 4-1 to Zak Surety and now cannot qualify for next week’s World Grand Prix.
(That break off is v funny though). https://t.co/8KR1R1z40J
— Phil Haigh (@philhaigh_) December 7, 2020
Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen similarly began the Scottish Open, an event he won two years ago in Glasgow, below the cut-off line, but a 4-1 victory over Jimmy White has seen him, temporarily at least, rise up to 26th on the provisional standings.
The likes of Trump, Mark Selby, Kyren Wilson, and Sunday’s UK Championship winner Neil Robertson are all already safely assured of their World Grand Prix invitations on the back of their respective ranking-event successes this term.
Robertson, incidentally, withdrew from this week’s competition in the aftermath of his epic 10-9 triumph over Trump in the UK final on Sunday night.
World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, China’s Ding Junhui, and former world number one John Higgins are a few of the other high-profile names who are definitely going to be involved in the World Grand Prix too.
In peril, though, is Mark Williams who requires a run to the last 16 of the Scottish Open at the very least in order to give himself a chance of qualification.
Former top-16 members Luca Brecel, Matthew, Stevens, and Liang Wenbo are similarly within striking distance.
Meanwhile, the likes of Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Ricky Walden, and Ali Carter are among those hovering perilously just inside the top-32 mark as things stand.
As there have only been five ranking events completed so far this season, the Race to the World Grand Prix is closer than ever – particularly as the tournament usually takes place a couple of months later in February.
It guarantees that a lot can and probably will change in the coming days, with only £10,000 separating Graeme Dott in 23rd place and Li Hang in 54th position on the provisional World Grand Prix rankings list.
A run to the latter stages of the Scottish Open, which carries a top prize worth £70,000, will ultimately prove vital.
Featured photo credit: WPBSA