The Romanian Masters gets under way on Wednesday with a strong 16-man field taking part in the inaugural invitational at the Circul Metropolitan in Bucharest.
The field mainly consists of the top 16 ranked players in the world rankings, although there are some notable absences, including marquee names Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui.
Still, the tournament provides another opportunity for several of the top players to earn a greater reward from the sport and it will also represent a brief respite for those embroiled in the ongoing Race to the Crucible battle.
That’s because no ranking points will be on offer this week, albeit there is a decent top prize with €50,000 set to be awarded to the champion on Sunday.
Some of the lower ranked players have voiced their disdain at another tournament being initiated that fails to include a bigger line-up, seemingly setting up the already well-rewarded players with further chances to bolster their bank balances.
Yet, the counter-argument would be that these higher ranked cueists have earned their right to compete for lucrative prizes like the upcoming Players Championship as a result of their consistent form over the recent period.
There is ample opportunity for the remaining players to do well throughout the season and, in addition to that, the promoters of these specific kinds of invitational events understandably want to guarantee a high-quality field – particularly with the Romanian Masters on its debut staging in a territory that hasn’t yet been fully developed.
Indeed, there is always the hope that, if this year’s event is successful, a more expansive tournament that comprises more of the Main Tour can be launched at a future date.
Romania isn’t a full stranger to the circuit, though, having previously staged the European Masters in 2016, which was then won by Judd Trump after a dramatic defeat of O’Sullivan in the final.
Trump will be attempting to rediscover some lost form with the big season-ending tournaments to come, including obviously the World Championship in Sheffield next month.
The 28 year-old faces Luca Brecel in one of many mouthwatering looking fixtures on paper – although Brecel has been struggling himself with cue woes since the turn of the year.
World champion Mark Selby will be another player desperate to find something after a fairly dismal spell by his high standards and the world number one will face Liang Wenbo in the first round.
The in-form “Class of 1992” duo John Higgins and Mark Williams, winners of five events on the calendar between them in total during this term, will battle Anthony McGill and Ali Carter respectively.
Last week’s Gibraltar Open champion Ryan Day meets Barry Hawkins, the runner-up in the Welsh Open earlier in March, with Stuart Bingham taking on Neil Robertson in a duel between two former Crucible champions.
Meanwhile, Mark Allen and Kyren Wilson clash in a repeat of the Masters final showdown that went the way of the Northern Irishman, while Stephen Maguire entertains Mark King – who was a late replacement for the injured Shaun Murphy.
Last 16 Draw
Mark Selby v Liang Wenbo
Stuart Bingham v Neil Robertson
Mark Williams v Ali Carter
Mark King v Stephen Maguire
John Higgins v Anthony McGill
Barry Hawkins v Ryan Day
Mark Allen v Kyren Wilson
Judd Trump v Luca Brecel