China Open: Mark Allen boosts World Championship hopes with first-round win

Mark Allen
Mark Allen has fallen eight places to 17th in the latest world rankings

Masters champion Mark Allen has boosted his chances of regaining a place in the top 16 and qualifying for the World Championship by winning his first-round match at the China Open.

He is 17th in the world rankings but must be in the top 16 to avoid having to qualify for the Crucible.

Allen, 32, scored three centuries and a closing break of 98 as he beat Noppon Saengkham of Thailand 6-1 in Beijing.

The Northern Irishman will play Yan Bingtao in round two on Wednesday.

Luca Brecel and Ali Carter are among those whose World Championship places are not yet assured - Belgium's Brecel lost 6-4 to China's Cao Yupeng, while England's Carter was beaten 6-4 by compatriot Gary Wilson.

Allen recently dropped eight places in the rankings and could yet have to qualify for the event in Sheffield.

"I'm very happy with the way I scored - that's the best I've scored since winning the Masters," said Allen.

"I'm not usually one that follows the rankings too closely - but it's hard not to when it comes near Sheffield time.

"I still might end up having to qualify. That's not a nice place to be, but I'm in a far better position after winning that first-round match.

"I'm here to win the China Open - the rankings matter will take care of itself."

The prize money for this year's China Open has almost doubled, with a top prize of £225,000 for the winner and a total prize fund of £1m on offer.

The winner's cheque for the tournament is now the second biggest among the ranking events, behind the £425,000 awarded to the winner of the World Championship.

A win in China for Ronnie O'Sullivan would see him become the first player to win £1m in prize money in a single season, and he started strongly with a 6-2 victory over Scotland's Ross Muir in a heldover qualifier.