The Championship League returns to Crondon Park on Monday with the first and second groups of the season taking place next week.
Defending champion Judd Trump and 2012 winner Marco Fu are both in Group 1, alongside 2011 runner-up Shaun Murphy and four further ranking event champions in Neil Robertson, Barry Hawkins, Stephen Maguire and Stuart Bingham.
The event incorporates a similar guise to that of previous campaigns, with seven groups of seven players in each producing seven competitors who will go on to contest the Winners’ Group in February.
As has been the norm since the inception of the Champion of Champions, whoever emerges successful in the Championship League will most likely earn an invite into the annual lucrative tournament in Coventry.
As always, the league will be played behind closed doors and it is aimed primarily at the many betting firms that will stream the event live.
The top four players from each group go onto the last four, before somebody triumphs and advances to the Winners’ Group.
The remaining semi-finalists, along with the player who finished fifth in the group, proceed to the subsequent group where they get another chance.
For Group 2 then, those four will be joined by three newcomers – in this instance Ali Carter, Robert Milkins and Michael Holt – and so on, until all seven groups have been completed.
In the past, the Championship League has served as a nice little money-earner for those taking part with rewards for frames won and progression to the latter rounds of a group on offer.
Some have criticised the scheduling in the past, as well as its merits in general, but in reality it’s a rather inconspicuous competition that is not really meant for the fans, but rewards the top players for getting to that position.
Its importance shouldn’t be sniffed at because, despite the miniature best-of-five frame format, Trump’s triumph last year ended a considerable slump he had endured and duly reignited his career as he went on to the win the Australian Open and reach both the Champion of Champions and UK Championship finals.