The second ranking event of the season gets under way tomorrow as the fifth annual Shanghai Masters commences in China.
The first round proper begins on Tuesday after the eight lowest ranked qualifiers must dispel the challenge of eight wildcards.
The wildcard system has been an ever-present aspect to events in China but there is scope to suggest that this round is not needed anymore.
When the snooker boom in China began around ten years ago the inclusion of wildcards was important to maximise the potential in the Asian country.
However, now China is an established nation, highlighted by Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo’s success in the recent World Cup.
Many of the wildcards playing this week are ex-professionals and it seems unfair that the eight qualifiers who worked hard for their place in the tournament have now to play a supplementary match without any extra reward.
Indeed, it would not be a surprise to see a couple of the pros struggle to advance such is the quality of their opposition.
Nigel Bond won both of his qualifying encounters 5-0 last month but has been rewarded with the task of World Under-21 champion Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon.
Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien is also in the unlucky group that have an extra match to contend as the in-form Dubliner takes on Hossein Vafaei.
The 39 year-old has reached the semi-final and quarter-final of the last two Players Tour Championship events and will fancy his chances against former world champion Peter Ebdon if he progresses beyond Vafaei.
Defending champion Ali Carter will hope to give his season a boost when he faces Mark King – a player in danger of dropping out of the top 32 in the world rankings.
Indeed, the first official cut-off point for season will occur at the beginning of October so the performances in Shanghai could be crucial in deciding places among the elite Top 16.
The first round is already full of eye-catching ties such is the strength and depth in the sport at the moment.
Australian Open champion Stuart Bingham has the daunting task of facing PTC 3 winner Judd Trump while Matthew Stevens and Stephen Lee lock horns in what could be a match of extremely high quality.
China’s own Liang Wenbo challenges 2010 world champion Neil Robertson while countryman Ding Junhui plays PTC Grand Final runner-up Martin Gould.
Traditionally, September has been around the time of year that the snooker season starts.
This year, though, the campaign is already several months old which should lead to a highly competitive event in the Far East.
To view the full draw, click here.