The 2014 Coral UK Championship got under way at the Barbican Centre in York yesterday.
A lot of hype surrounded the build up to this year’s International Championship but the UKs represents the first traditional major of the campaign.
With a rich history of producing wonderful champions, it’s easy to understand why the event carries so much prestige.
That said, there have been some concerns over the continued reduction of what used to be a long format right the way through every round.
Now, somewhat disappointingly it has to be said, each stage will be contested over the best-of-11 frames until the final.
There are two main reasons for this.
One is the fact that with 128 players competing from the beginning there simply isn’t enough time or space to wrap up wholesale best of 17 encounters – as was the case in the past.
The second reason is that the majority of TV audiences want to see the conclusion of the match they are watching in one sitting, rather than being forced to juggle a pair of sessions.
It all means a tournament that looks and feels a lot different to many of its predecessors, but either way it still promises to be a thrilling occasion and it is expected that one of the top players will again emerge victorious.
Of those expected to challenge for the title come Sunday week, not many were in action on the opening day’s play.
Barry Hawkins is the fifth seed but still represents an outsider despite his convincing 6-1 victory over Ashley Carty on Tuesday.
Shanghai Masters champion Stuart Bingham went one better as he whitewashed Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon with the aid of a 102 century break.
Robert Milkins, who impressively reached the final of the Ruhr Open last weekend, continued his good form with a 6-0 hammering of Michael Leslie while 2006 world champion Graeme Dott ousted Swiss youngster Alexander Ursenbacher 6-2.
Another former world champion, Peter Ebdon, needed all 11 frames to overcome Ross Muir in a high-scoring affair.
The ‘Sheriff’ Anthony Hamilton was involved in a dramatic tie as, first, he was docked the opening frame for arriving late.
The former Crucible quarter-finalist then surged into a 4-1 lead before allowing his opponent Craig Steadman to fight back and force a decider.
Hamilton held his nerve, though, and took a nervy final frame on the colours.
20 year-old Joel Walker upset the form books as he blew away Alan McManus 6-1, a player who many had tipped to do well this week.
Tom Ford, Marcus Campbell, Alfie Burden and Aditya Mehta all recorded 6-4 wins while Michael Holt, Kurt Maflin and Dechawat Poomjaeng also booked their places in the second round with easier routs.
Finally, 1995 World Championship runner-up Nigel Bond saw off Stuart Carrington 6-3.
The competition will come thick and fast on Wednesday as the first of two three-session days takes place.
Among those in action will be world champion Mark Selby, China’s Ding Junhui who plays Irish amateur John Sutton, People’s Champion Jimmy White and International winner Ricky Walden – who faces another legend in Steve Davis.
Dubliner Fergal O’Brien and Kilkenny’s David Morris are also seeking last 64 berths against Igor Figueiredo and Li Hang respectively.
For those wondering, television coverage begins on Saturday.