Ronnie O’Sullivan will hold onto the number one spot on the official world rankings list after defeats for his rivals in the International Championship.
Heading into this week’s ranking event in China, there were three players who could have usurped the Rocket and into first place in the standings.
World champion Luca Brecel and the in-form Judd Trump were each within £10,000 of O’Sullivan’s two-year rolling target.
However, the Belgian Bullet suffered an unexpected loss to Mark Davis in the last 64 while Trump lost 6-3 to Stephen Maguire in the last 32.
That defeat on Tuesday for Trump ended the 34 year-old’s remarkable run of form on the recent schedule.
The Englishman had won 22 matches on the trot, a stretch that encompassed tournament victories in the English, Wuhan, and Northern Ireland Opens.
With crowd favourites O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui competing during the same session, reigning International Championship winner Trump was consigned to the outside tables.
It meant his match wasn’t easily accessible to watch, which was a somewhat peculiar move considering the positive news stories that Trump’s streak was generating of late.
Mark Allen was the third player who had an opportunity to catch O’Sullivan in the world number one ranking race.
However, Allen surrendered the last four frames in a 6-3 reverse to Thepchaiya Un-Nooh – a player the Pistol has now only beaten twice in eight total meetings.
O’Sullivan, a winner of the Shanghai Masters in September, did his part in defence of his coveted status by beating Jak Jones 6-4 with the aid of a 130 break to reach the last 16.
With the 47 year-old having to defend a lot of ranking points in the second half of this season, including the £500,000 he pocketed for his record-equalling seventh world title in 2022, it still seems likely that he’ll lose top spot eventually this term.
But his nearest challengers have missed the boat on numerous occasions already since this campaign began in the summer.
A lot will also depend on what kind of performances O’Sullivan can put in at these kinds of lucrative events.
O’Sullivan will next take on Anthony McGill on Wednesday with a berth in the quarter-finals at stake.
Ding, who fought back from behind to deny Gary Wilson in a decider in the last round, and Ali Carter are in the same half in addition to English Open runner-up Zhang Anda.
Maguire and Un-Nooh feature in the top half of the draw, meanwhile, where they will face Ryan Day and Barry Hawkins respectively.
Four-time world champions John Higgins and Mark Selby have also safely negotiated their ways through the early rounds in Tianjin.
In the betting odds, O’Sullivan has become the 6/4 favourite to land the International Championship crown and the £175,000 jackpot prize. To be with a chance of winning some money of your own, meanwhile, check out these new casino sites UK options – providing a wide variety of online casinos with great sign-up offers available.
2023 International Championship
Round of 128 (bo11)
Judd Trump 6-0 Wang Xinzhong
Michael White 6-3 Himanshu Jain
Stephen Maguire 6-2 Peng Yisong
Joe O’Connor 6-1 Baipat Siripaporn
Ryan Day 6-1 Mink Nutcharut
Jackson Page 6-3 Liam Graham
Hossein Vafaei 6-1 Reanne Evans
Ross Muir 6-3 Wu Yize
Ben Woollaston 4-6 Wang Xinbo
Dylan Emery 6-3 Joe Perry
David Grace 6-2 Jenson Kendrick
John Higgins 6-1 Manasawin Phetmalaikul
Jordan Brown 6-5 Sean O’Sullivan
David Gilbert 6-0 James Cahill
Elliot Slessor 6-2 Hammad Miah
Kyren Wilson 6-3 Adam Duffy
Mark Selby 6-2 Muhammad Asif
Stuart Carrington 6-4 Xi Si
Jimmy Robertson 6-2 Anton Kazakov
Xiao Guodong 6-4 Ishpreet Singh Chadha
Marco Fu 6-4 Robert Milkins
Sanderson Lam 6-2 Andy Hicks
Tom Ford 6-4 Stan Moody
Cao Yupeng 6-0 Ashley Hugill
Jamie Jones 6-4 Ashley Carty
Ricky Walden 6-1 Jiang Jun
Tian Pengfei 6-3 Stephen Hendry
Barry Hawkins 6-0 Andrew Pagett
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 6-1 Andrew Higginson
Matthew Selt 6-1 Jimmy White
Oliver Lines 6-4 Lukas Kleckers
Mark Allen 6-2 Ma Hailong
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-1 Ken Doherty
Mark Joyce 6-3 Andy Lee
Si Jiahui 6-5 Julien Leclercq
Jak Jones 6-2 Aaron Hill
Jack Lisowski 6-3 He Guoqiang
Scott Donaldson 6-4 Louis Heathcote
Anthony McGill 6-3 Alfie Burden
Sam Craigie 6-1 Rory Thor
Matthew Stevens 6-4 Liu Hongyu
Stuart Bingham 6-0 Xing Zihao
John Astley 6-5 Jamie Clarke
Ali Carter 6-2 Allan Taylor
Anthony Hamilton 6-0 Bai Yulu
Zhou Yuelong 6-0 Martin O’Donnell
Daniel Wells 6-2 Liam Highfield
Neil Robertson 6-4 Ryan Thomerson
Shaun Murphy 6-1 Andres Petrov
Dominic Dale 6-3 Oliver Brown
Chris Wakelin 6-0 Dean Young
Lyu Haotian 6-5 David Lilley
Mark Williams 6-0 Rebecca Kenna
Zhang Anda 6-3 Alexander Ursenbacher
Noppon Saengkham 6-3 Victor Sarkis
Liam Pullen 6-4 Graeme Dott
Robbie Williams 6-3 Ben Mertens
Gary Wilson 6-0 Mohamed Ibrahim
Long Zehuang 6-5 Yuan Sijun
Ding Junhui 6-1 Ian Burns
Pang Junxu 6-3 Zak Surety
Fan Zhengyi 6-2 Mostafa Dorgham
Mark Davis 6-4 Rod Lawler
Luca Brecel 6-2 Daniel Womersley
Round of 64 (bo11)
Judd Trump 6-0 Michael White
Stephen Maguire 6-4 Joe O’Connor
Ryan Day 6-5 Jackson Page
Hossein Vafaei 5-6 Ross Muir
Wang Xinbo 4-6 Dylan Emery
David Grace 1-6 John Higgins
Jordan Brown 6-3 David Gilbert
Elliot Slessor 2-6 Kyren Wilson
Mark Selby 6-2 Stuart Carrington
Jimmy Robertson 3-6 Xiao Guodong
Marco Fu 6-0 Sanderson Lam
Tom Ford 6-0 Cao Yupeng
Jamie Jones 3-6 Ricky Walden
Tian Pengfei 0-6 Barry Hawkins
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 6-5 Matthew Selt
Oliver Lines 3-6 Mark Allen
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-3 Mark Joyce
Si Jiahui 4-6 Jak Jones
Jack Lisowski 6-4 Scott Donaldson
Anthony McGill 6-3 Sam Craigie
Matthew Stevens 5-6 Stuart Bingham
John Astley 5-6 Ali Carter
Anthony Hamilton 0-6 Zhou Yuelong
Daniel Wells 6-1 Neil Robertson
Shaun Murphy 3-6 Dominic Dale
Chris Wakelin 1-6 Lyu Haotian
Mark Williams 3-6 Zhang Anda
Noppon Saengkham 5-6 Liam Pullen
Robbie Williams 4-6 Gary Wilson
Long Zehuang 4-6 Ding Junhui
Pang Junxu 6-5 Fan Zhengyi
Mark Davis 6-3 Luca Brecel
Round of 32 (bo11)
Judd Trump 3-6 Stephen Maguire
Ryan Day 6-1 Ross Muir
Dylan Emery 1-6 John Higgins
Jordan Brown 6-4 Kyren Wilson
Mark Selby 6-2 Xiao Guodong
Marco Fu 3-6 Tom Ford
Ricky Walden 4-6 Barry Hawkins
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 6-3 Mark Allen
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-4 Jak Jones
Jack Lisowski 2-6 Anthony McGill
Stuart Bingham 4-6 Ali Carter
Zhou Yuelong 1-6 Daniel Wells
Dominic Dale 3-6 Lyu Haotian
Zhang Anda 6-3 Liam Pullen
Gary Wilson 5-6 Ding Junhui
Pang Junxu 6-3 Mark Davis
Round of 16 (bo11)
Stephen Maguire 6-4 Ryan Day
John Higgins 3-6 Jordan Brown
Mark Selby 3-6 Tom Ford
Barry Hawkins 6-5 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-2 Anthony McGill
Ali Carter 6-1 Daniel Wells
Lyu Haotian 3-6 Zhang Anda
Ding Junhui 6-2 Pang Junxu
Stephen Maguire 5-6 Jordan Brown
Tom Ford 6-4 Barry Hawkins
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-4 Ali Carter
Zhang Anda 6-3 Ding Junhui
Jordan Brown 6-9 Tom Ford
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-9 Zhang Anda
Tom Ford 6-10 Zhang Anda
Featured photo credit: WST