Less than 24 hours after the completion of the International Championship in China, the Champion of Champions gets under way in Coventry on Monday.
The 16-man invitational event returns to the calendar for a sixth straight season and features all the tournament winners from the last twelve months on the Main Tour.
That said, such has been the dominance inflicted by a select few in that period, only three-quarters of the field have actually raised a trophy aloft since Shaun Murphy emerged victorious in the 2017 Champion of Champions.
Seven players, including Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan who have captured four titles each, have won multiple tournaments in that time, meaning that a few of the remaining spots in the field have had to be filled up by the highest ranked competitors not already qualified.
That’s good news for Judd Trump, Ding Junhui, Barry Hawkins, and Luca Brecel, who despite having failed to collect silverware lately will still be in the hunt for the £100,000 top prize next Sunday.
Since its launch in 2013, the Champion of Champions has become one of the most popular tournaments of the year, what with the impressive line-up that is always assembled and an inviting atmosphere that is usually generated at the Ricoh Arena.
For UK and Irish fans, it also means the return of snooker to ITV4, which has tended to provide top-notch coverage of the sport across a number of events in recent years.
While Murphy is the reigning champion after a terrific 10-8 success over Ronnie O’Sullivan in last year’s showdown for glory, it’s the latter who will be the big favourite again to pocket the winner’s cheque.
The 42 year-old has competed in the Champion of Champions four times and has never failed to reach the final, winning the first two editions back-to-back and finishing runner-up for the last two campaigns.
O’Sullivan gets under way on Tuesday in the slightly different format that is utilised in this event, where each of the first four days concentrates on one quarter of the draw and produces a semi-finalist for the weekend’s play.
It means that there could be a mouthwatering quarter-final tie between the “Rocket” and 2016 champion John Higgins on Tuesday evening but for that to materialise the pair must first overcome Stuart Bingham and Ryan Day respectively.
The @RicohArena is getting ready to welcome 16 of the best. The @ManBetX Champion of Champions begins tomorrow live on @ITV4.
🎟 Not booked your tickets yet? Get them now at https://t.co/ZsQHkBaX2c #ChampOfChamps pic.twitter.com/iae16S38Kp
— ChampionofChampions (@ChampOfChamps) November 4, 2018
Murphy, meanwhile, kick starts proceedings on day one with a contest against European Masters champion Jimmy Robertson while Ding entertains Michael Georgiou – winner of the Snooker Shoot Out in February.
Mark Allen and Neil Robertson, who yesterday battled each other in the final of the International Championship thousands of miles away in Daqing, with the Northern Irishman bagging a fourth career ranking title, are in the same bracket that takes place on Thursday.
The duo also contested the 2015 Champion of Champions final, when the Australian came out on top, and they could clash again in the quarter-finals this year if they can overcome difficult opening challenges.
Allen faces Barry Hawkins while Robertson is tasked with Mark Selby who, despite being the long-time world number one, has only one semi-final appearance to his name in this event.
Before that, the group containing world champion Mark Williams will take place on Wednesday with the Welshman up against Paul Hunter Classic champion Kyren Wilson.
The winner of that tie will play either Trump or Brecel, who will be hoping to take full advantage of their late call-up to make up the numbers in the tournament.