Next week’s ranking event will provide the last opportunity for players to gain an invitation to the 2022 Champion of Champions.
The Northern Ireland Open gets under way on Sunday with £80,000 up for grabs for the champion at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.
However, an added bonus for lifting the Alex Higgins Trophy aloft may be the chance to feature in one of the most prestigious invitational events on the snooker calendar.
The Champion of Champions returns in a few weeks and will follow the same formula as in recent editions, with the winners of various tournaments since late last year set to participate.
The field of 16 already includes defending champion Judd Trump, world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, Masters winner Neil Robertson, and UK champion Zhao Xintong.
As there have only been 14 different players who have emerged triumphantly in competitions since last November, at least one spot will definitely be taken up via the world rankings list.
That’s good news for world number four Mark Selby, who has a big enough gap to the chasing pack in the rankings to ensure he’ll definitely be in the 2022 Champion of Champions draw regardless of what happens in Northern Ireland.
Should there be another repeat winner in Belfast, a second spot will be made available via the official two-year standings.
Welshman Mark Williams is next in line to benefit if such a scenario materialises.
Yet there’ll be many competitors, including Williams, who will be hoping to capture next week’s ranking title and qualify for the Champion of Champions via the proper route.
From those ranked inside the top 16, Barry Hawkins, Jack Lisowski, Mark Allen, Shaun Murphy, Stuart Bingham, and Yan Bingtao are the other notable names who have failed to claim any silverware of late.
Those further down the rankings list are not without hope either, as has already been underlined this year with victories for the likes of Fan Zhengyi, Joe Perry, Hossein Vafaei, and Ryan Day.
It will be a subplot of next week’s event worth keeping an eye on.
The 2022 Champion of Champions takes place from October 31 to November 6 in Bolton.
|Judd Trump||Champion of Champions; World Championship runner-up|
|Ronnie O’Sullivan||World Championship; World Grand Prix, Hong Kong Masters|
|Neil Robertson||Masters; Players Championship; Tour Championship|
|Zhao Xintong||UK Championship; German Masters|
|Fan Zhengyi||European Masters (21/22)|
|John Higgins||Championship League (invitational)|
|Luca Brecel||Championship League (ranking); Scottish Open|
|Kyren Wilson||European Masters (22/23)|
|Joe Perry||Welsh Open|
|Ryan Day||British Open|
|Robert Milkins||Gibraltar Open|
|Hossein Vafaei||Snooker Shoot Out|
|Nutcharut Wongharuthai||Women’s World Championship|
|Lee Walker||World Seniors Championship|
|Mark Selby||World Rankings|
Featured photo credit: ChampofChamps
I don’t think rankings should be used for top ups. The event is based on individual tournament successes. Therefore when you run out of winners, you then look at number of final appearances, then semi final appearances etc. to find the top ups. By that criteria the top ups would currently be Barry Hawkins (3 finals) and Mark Williams (1 final, 3 semi-finals)