The 2014 UK Championship resumes today with the second round getting under way in York.
A busy schedule means that 16 encounters will be decided on Saturday, with a further 16 completing the last 32 line-up on Sunday.
15 out of the top 16 seeded players have safely negotiated the opening hurdle with Ali Carter the only member of the elite band already on his way home.
It would be ironic if, for all the complaints from players, analysts and traditionalist fans alike regarding the continued shortening of the format, it materialised that the majority of the star players manoeuvred their way into the business end of the tournament next week.
Of course, it generally is the case with most ranking events, and especially the UK Championship, that one of top performers emerges with the trophy come the final Sunday.
It will be interesting to note the results in the next couple of days as the higher ranked competitors come up against the more seasoned pros having just avoided an early exit at the hands of the lower tier.
There are plenty of intriguing ties to look out for.
Ireland’s Davy Morris, who reached last 16 here last year, capping off a blistering opening half to his returning season as a professional on the Main Tour, challenges world champion Mark Selby on one of the TV tables this afternoon – with the BBC and Eurosport coverage set to commence.
Morris has struggled to replicate that form so far during the campaign but part of that is due to a back injury he sustained in the gym during the summer.
A battling 6-4 win over Li Hang in the first round ensured that he got a crack at the world no.1 but he’ll be hoping to score a lot heavier if he is to have any chance of upsetting the odds.
A recent article in the Irish Times, which basically labelled Ken Doherty as the man who is effectively still solely flying the tricolour flag of Ireland, completely snubbing Morris in the process by not even accrediting the Kilkenny cueist’s presence in the draw this week, depicted a sorry state of both where Irish snooker is at the moment and of the people who claim to write about it in the country.
Success for Morris today would go a long way in rectifying that.
As it happens, Dublin’s Doherty actually produced one of his best performances for quite a while on Thursday with three tons en route to a 6-2 defeat of Mitchell Mann.
The three-time runner-up has a tricky obstacle to overcome in round two, though, with in-form Welshman Michael White his next opposition.
Elsewhere, there’s a mouth-watering clash between Ding Junhui and Jimmy White – the latter still maintaining, despite all, that he can mix it with the big boys.
The ‘Whirlwind’ has tended to let the nerves get the better of him a little when he has appeared on television the last few years, which is understandable as it just doesn’t happen as often for the 52 year-old these days as it did in his heyday and he is so desperate to make the most of his opportunity.
Every time White appears in a big TV match one has to believe that it could be his last but it is to his eternal credit that the 1992 champion keeps coming back for more and more, such is his undying love for the sport.
Meanwhile, we still don’t know what four-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan is going to do after he admitted that he may have to withdraw having broken his ankle in a fall earlier this week.
It was interesting to read that Peter Lines, the player the ‘Rocket’ is due to face, said that he would prefer to get a bye into the third round.
While the comments were probably made with a degree of jest, it doesn’t really befit a professional sportsman whose whole ambition should surely always be to test themselves against the best.
Either way, if O’Sullivan does decide to compete, Lines’ odd admission will undoubtedly give the 38 year-old even more of an edge mentally.
One of the most exciting looking encounters is that of Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen and Belgian ‘Bullet’ Luca Brecel.
Allen has been one of the most consistent competitors this season, having won the Paul Hunter Classic amid reaching four finals while 19 year-old Brecel, quarter-finalist in 2012, looked good in a 6-1 victory over Noppon Saengkham.
Finally, defending champion Neil Robertson will be focused on avoiding a potential banana skin as he prepares to do battle with much-fancied 22 year-old Kyren Wilson.
Wilson qualified for his debut appearance at the Crucible last April and is widely tipped by many to go on to bigger things in the future so Australia’s Robertson will be well aware that he’ll have to be on his game.