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 Kurt Maflin or Yan Bingtao in round two.

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 after his success in the last 64 on Sunday.

“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.

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