The China Open qualifiers got under way at the Metrodome in Barnsley on Tuesday.
The single round runs for three days and will determine the 64 competitors who will fly to Beijing for the penultimate ranking event of the season in March.
Most of the top names are attempting to qualify, with the exception of Ronnie O’Sullivan who is taking his usual sabbatical from the international tournaments.
“Attempting” being the key word, as qualification for the latter stages has become increasingly difficult for the marquee players in the last year.
While it was generally acceptable for one or two to have an off day, the German Masters suffered a mass exodus of the typical stars early on.
China Open organisers will be hoping a similar fate wont be bestowed on their event, especially as the electric atmosphere generated inside Berlin’s Tempodrom is unlikely to be replicated at Beijing University even if the roster is full of the elite, let alone if a handful is missing.
At least for them they are safe in the knowledge that world no.1 Mark Selby, world champion Stuart Bingham, and China’s no.1 and no.2 Liang Wenbo and Ding Junhui will be in attendance as their matches have been held over to the venue.
As it turned out, not many of the other expected challengers for the title played their tie on the opening day so the fate of the likes of Neil Robertson, Judd Trump, John Higgins, Shaun Murphy et al will have to wait for another day.
Of the only top 16 cueists who had their outing, both scraped through with 5-4 victories.
Ricky Walden and Michael White avoided similar early exits to the ones they suffered before Germany by edging past Barry Pinches and Craig Steadman respectively.
Two-time China Open champion Peter Ebdon also featured in a typically long battle that finished past midnight but eventually saw off Michael Georgiou in a decider, while International Championship runner-up David Gilbert squeezed past Duane Jones 5-4 as well.
There were more comfortable outings for Robert Milkins, Matthew Selt, Anthony McGill and Mark Davis – with the World Seniors champion enjoying a 5-0 thumping of Steven Hallworth.
Indeed, Jamie Jones, Dominic Dale and Jimmy Robertson also got in on the whitewash action while Matthew Stevens, Gary Wilson and Robin Hull went just one frame worse with 5-1 successes.
Only one of the amateurs, who are invited to compete in order to make up the numbers, managed to upset the odds against a pro but it was hardly the biggest shock of all time as Adam Duffy, who almost qualified for the World Championship last year, beat Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 5-3.
Elsewhere, Rod Lawler went the distance before prevailing against Hammad Miah with a dramatic re-spotted black in the final frame as fellow Englishmen Nigel Bond, Tom Ford, Jack Lisowski, Mike Dunn, Andrew Higginson and Alfie Burden booked their flights to Asia too.
Finally, Ross Muir hammered Jamie Burnett 5-0 in a one-sided battle of the Scots.
On Wednesday, Robertson, Murphy and Mark Allen are all in action, as are Irish duo Ken Doherty and David Morris.
Morris will be looking to earn some much-needed ranking prize money as his position on the Main Tour becomes increasingly dubious.