The players returned to England on Tuesday for the start of the International Championship qualifiers at the Barnsley Metrodome.
The lucrative ranking event returns to the calendar for a seventh successive season at the end of the month but first there’s the preliminary round to negotiate, with half of the field set to be whittled down before the venue stages.
Ken Doherty was among a number of players to make it through, with the Irishman scoring well to secure a 6-4 triumph over former European amateur champion Chris Totten.
Doherty compiled six half-century breaks as he saw off the Scot in a well-fought encounter with the result setting up a potential clash with two-time defending champion Mark Selby in China.
Another former world champion in Neil Robertson, the runner-up when the tournament was first staged in 2012, safely advanced to the last 64 as well following a 6-1 drubbing of Ross Muir that included a brace of centuries from the Aussie.
Barry Hawkins, Andrew Higginson, and Xiao Guodong – who was in devastating form as he knocked in breaks of 142, a pair of 117 runs, an 82 and a 66 – all enjoyed routine triumphs but the majority of the contests on the first day of action were tight affairs.
Indeed, five clashes went the distance with Anthony McGill fighting back from 5-4 down to deny Xu Si and the in-form Jack Lisowski conversely holding off a late charge from Oliver Lines to prevail 6-5.
In a battle of two young Chinese competitors, Fan Zhengyi edged compatriot Lyu Haotian, who only recently reached the semi-finals of the China Championship and will surely be disappointed not to follow that up with further success.
Elsewhere in the International Championship qualifiers, unpredictable Thai star Thepchaiya Un-Nooh won the last three frames to steal victory from Mei Xiwen at the death and Ian Burns overcame Paul Hunter Classic runner-up Peter Ebdon in a dramatic final frame shoot-out.
Meanwhile, there were 6-4 victories in some of the other ties for Kyren Wilson and Mark Davis, who recently admitted that his career wouldn’t feel complete if he weren’t to add a ranking event title to his CV.
The three-time Six Red world champion fired in a couple of centuries to beat Elliot Slessor while Wilson, a two-time winner on the circuit already this campaign, ousted Nigel Bond by the same two frames margin.
By contrast, Matthew Selt wasted little time in powering to a 6-0 whitewash win over Sean O’Sullivan, in the process compiling a wonderful 144 total clearance that stands as the highest break of the week so far.
Stuart Carrington was the opening day’s first qualifier as he enjoyed a 6-3 victory over Hammad Miah to ensure that he’ll be on a flight back to Asia in a few weeks.
On Wednesday, the action continues with the likes of Stephen Maguire, Jimmy White, and former champion Ricky Walden entering the fray.