Crucible hopes hang in the balance at the China Open

Mark Allen has secured automatic qualification but numerous top 16 places will depend on results in the coming days.

Crucible hopes hang in the balance at the China Open
Allen will be in Sheffield at the end of the month (photo: Getty Images / Tai Chengzhe)

With only the top 16 players guaranteed automatic qualification for the World Championship in Sheffield, this week's China Open is a huge final event for several players before the biggest competition of the season at the Crucible.

Allen in, Day out

Mark Allen did find himself ranked 17th before the tournament but a 6-1 victory over Noppon Saengkham in the first round has allowed him to leapfrog Ryan Day who missed out on qualification for the China Open back in January.

Allen will be joined by Stuart Bingham who had to rely on a final frame decider to see off Matthew Stevens but a trio of players face a nervy few days after being dispatched in the opening round of the competition.

Ali Carter lost 6-4 to Gary Wilson, Luca Brecel was ousted by the same scoreline in a defeat to Cao Yupeng, whilst Anthony McGill is holding on to the final qualification spot by the tips of his fingers after being defeated by local amateur Luo Honghao.

Stephen Maguire and Liang Wenbo were in pole position to pressurise those spots but are now certain to face up to three qualification rounds next week after both players lost in final frame deciders. Mark King now leads the charge from a mammoth chasing pack inside the top 60 who could qualify if they win the tournament. 

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Who is favourite?

Both Ronnie O'Sullivan and Shaun Murphy are guaranteed their place in Sheffield but opening round defeats for the pair emphasised the unpredictability of the sport.

The rivals met in the Players Championship final just a week ago but were hammered in their last matches before the main event. O'Sullivan had won a record five events whilst Murphy had competed in the same number of finals this season but they lost 6-2 and 6-0 to Elliot Slessor and Chris Wakelin respectively. That was despite O'Sullivan notching a maximum 147 break in the fifth frame of his contest.

The tie of the round was compiled by Jak Jones and Nigel Bond as the pair battled out a 92-minute final frame decider that Jones won on the final black. Meanwhile, reigning World Champion Mark Selby recorded a narrow 6-4 victory over Scott Donaldson as he looks to put a disappointing season behind him.