A high-quality Champion of Champions final four comprising Ronnie O’Sullivan, Shaun Murphy, Mark Allen, and Kyren Wilson will battle it out this weekend at the Ricoh Arena.
There is £100,000 on offer for the player who can record a second pair of victories between now and Sunday to walk away with the coveted title in Coventry.
Three of the quartet have plenty of experience at the business stage of the competition having all featured in at least one final since the invitational tournament was launched in 2013.
O’Sullivan has never failed to contest the title deciding match when he has entered, capturing the trophy in the first two editions before back-to-back runners-up finishes – including twelve months ago when he missed out on the hat-trick of titles to Murphy.
The only year that the “Rocket” didn’t accept his invitation to compete was in 2015, when Neil Robertson denied Allen in the final with a 10-5 scoreline.
Of course, it was by that very margin that Allen beat the Australian in the final of last Sunday’s International Championship in Daqing, and the 32 year-old continued his hot streak this week by hammering Robertson 6-1 in the quarter-finals on Thursday.
By compiling five tons in total to reach the Champion of Champions final four, Allen has brought his centuries tally for the last two tournaments alone up to a staggering 19.
The Northern Irishman is in the form of his life and will take on Wilson on Saturday evening in a rematch of their Masters showdown for glory at the outset of 2018.
On that occasion, Allen got the better of the Kettering cueist to claim a long overdue maiden Triple Crown title but the latter did gain a modicum of revenge a few months later by winning their World Championship quarter-final clash.
Wilson, who has etched his name into two pieces of silverware already this term, is quickly establishing himself as an elite contender and it feels like it’s only a matter of time before he forces his way into the higher echelons of the top four or five in the world rankings.
Amazingly, despite the obvious talent that he has possessed over the last decade, Allen has never broken into that bracket of the rankings himself – albeit he has been a consistent member of the top 16 in that spell.
The Antrim man, who rose to number seven in the rankings after his recent triumph in China, is a streaky player who can frequently blow hot and cold but the form that he is currently producing is arguably at another level entirely so it’ll be interesting to see how long he can maintain it for.
Wilson, shaped in a similar mold to the likes of Mark Selby and John Higgins, isn’t really someone who will get phased by the occasion or the opponent too easily and his temperament is probably the component that has helped him to get this far in his career despite still only being 26.
Before that, O’Sullivan and Murphy will renew their rivalry in the opening Champion of Champions final four fixture on Friday evening.
The duo met in three big TV finals last season with the latter stunning O’Sullivan at this very venue in 2017 with a 10-8 scoreline to be crowned the Champion of Champions for the first time.
O’Sullivan duly got his own back by taming the “Magician” in the even more lucrative UK Championship and Players Championship finals later in the campaign.
Although things have considerably cooled off lately, historically there’s not much love lost between this pair with plenty of jibes having been thrown at each other down through the years.
Of their previous 15 battles, Murphy has only landed four victories but will undoubtedly be hoping to recall upon the memories of last year when he recorded one of his best career wins.
One suspects, though, that O’Sullivan will be motivated more than usual to try and ensure that doesn’t materialise for a second successive season.