The Snooker Shoot Out heads into its final day on Sunday with 32 players still in the hunt for glory at the Colosseum in Watford.
The tournament represents arguably the most controversial on the calendar, boasting ranking event status despite possessing only a single-frame knockout format with a variant on the traditional rules.
Yet, the fact remains that there is silverware on offer and a £32,000 champion’s cheque that could make a huge difference to any player in the various rankings lists.
For those further down the official rankings, it could be the difference between breaking into the top 64 at the end of the season or, like Anthony McGill demonstrated last year, an opportunity to rise into the top 16 in time to secure automatic qualification for the World Championship.
Aside from that, the Snooker Shoot Out is also the last counting competition towards the one-year rankings that determine the 32 players who reach next week’s World Grand Prix in Preston.
World Grand Prix defending champion Barry Hawkins is one of those cueists currently standing outside those coveted positions after a dreadful season so far that has seen him fail to reach a single ranking event quarter-final.
The Englishman has proven himself to be somewhat of a longer format specialist in recent years with his excellent performances at the Crucible but he’ll need a much quicker turnaround and a lot of luck if he’s to gain an invite to defend his Guild Hall title.
Hawkins, who beat top seed Shaun Murphy, plays Australian Kurt Dunham in the third round of the random open draw with a run to the final the minimum required if he’s to contest next week’s lucrative event.
Meanwhile, the likes of German Masters champion Mark Williams and fellow ranking event winners Stuart Bingham, Ali Carter, Martin Gould, Luca Brecel, Ricky Walden, and Matthew Stevens are still in contention.
However, the unpredictable Snooker Shoot Out could throw up any likely winner and, regardless of whether a player’s style is fast or slow, there’s no proper way of predicting the outcome on Sunday.
While there has been a scathing attack of the tournament from various circles, especially across social media, there are many others who enjoy the change from the norm and the more relaxed approach that is taken inside the venue from the onlooking crowd.
It’s undoubtedly a shame that it has been afforded ranking event status as it simply doesn’t deserve to be held in that regard but it’s worth remembering that it’s only one weekend of the year and there’s literally zero intention, as has been mooted from some worried fans, that the format will be utilised in any other tournament – not least any of the majors.
At the end of the day, a bit of change never really hurt anyone and there is an opportunity there for a lesser known player to move into the spotlight this weekend in the sport.