The qualifying round – technically the first round – of the China Open takes place today, tomorrow and Tuesday in Gloucester.
Most of the top 128 professionals in the world are competing in an effort to win the one match required to book their place on the flight to Beijing in April.
Those professionals who have chosen not to enter have been replaced by a handful of amateur players who performed well at Q-School last May.
The most high-profile name absent is, of course, world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.
The ‘Rocket’ has for a long time been against the idea of flying around the world several times a year – mainly because he is at a time of his career and at an age where he doesn’t have the energy of an ambitious young pro.
O’Sullivan’s is missed at any tournament he fails to entertain with his presence but there are still plenty of talented stars that could potentially light up China’s oldest running event.
World no.1 Neil Robertson, who is currently on a one-man mission to record an incredible tally of 100 centuries in a single season, takes one of China’s home hopefuls Li Yan.
The Australian is currently on 86 tons for the campaign and one would think that only a succession of unlikely first round defeats, particularly at the Crucible when matches are of a longer format, will restrict him from accomplishing an unbelievable record.
The fact that the previous record for a single season was 61 made by Judd Trump last year should highlight how relentless Robbo’s scoring power has been.
Trump himself has a tricky opponent in talented up-and-coming youngster Elliot Slessor while man of the moment Ding Junhui will be hoping to ensure his place in a home event when he takes on Thailand’s Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon.
Making up the top four players in the world rankings is Mark Selby, and the ‘Jester’ will have to overcome fellow Englishman Ryan Clark to progress safely.
The three Republic of Ireland players are also in action with Ken Doherty facing Andrew Norman, David Morris with a hard contest against top 16 player Mark Davis and Fergal O’Brien accepting the challenge of Paul Davison.
Dublin’s O’Brien should be full of confidence having reached the final of the Gdynia Open last week, falling one hurdle short to Shaun Murphy.
A lot of people will be keeping a close eye on the rankings situation as we reach the business end of the campaign.
There are many players desperate to either break into the world’s top 64 in the money list or keep their place in it as things currently stand.
Two such performers are legends Steve Davis and Jimmy White, who are only just safe at the moment in the positions that would guarantee a Main Tour card for next season.
Both of them need to keep winning matches, though, because it is extremely close between a whole number of players.
World Seniors champion Davis takes on Michael Wasley today while the ‘Whirlwind’ does battle with fellow old-timer Joe Swail on Tuesday.
From now until the World Championship final on May 5th, there are very few days of no snooker left as the roadshow reaches top gear.