The first Home Nations tournament of the campaign gets under way on Monday in Milton Keynes.
All four former English Open winners will line up at the Marshall Arena this week hoping to capture the Steve Davis Trophy for a second time.
Now in its fifth season as a regular fixture on the calendar, the ranking event boasts a top prize worth £70,000.
In the past as part of the Home Nations series, the English Open winners had the unique opportunity of challenging for a £1 million bonus for claiming all four titles.
Of course, the feat was so unlikely that nobody really came that close to achieving it, and with COVID-19 resulting in a makeshift calendar the jackpot has been rescinded for this campaign.
Still, the Home Nations series has been a terrific addition to the schedule in general with a neat format, an illustrious name attached to each trophy, and a respectable prize fund.
Crowd numbers have usually been decent in these competitions, particularly in the latter stages, but obviously this year amid the extenuating circumstances every shot in the English Open will be played behind closed doors.
Let’s take a brief look at how each of the English Open winners from the last few years got their hands on the silverware.
2016 – Liang Wenbo
The Home Nations series was introduced for the 2016/17 campaign and its first tournament was the 2016 English Open.
Played at EventCity in Manchester and sponsored by Coral, the inaugural English Open produced a maiden ranking event winner.
China’s Liang Wenbo finally fulfilled his potential with a charismatic 9-6 victory over Judd Trump in the final.
Liang had enjoyed a memorable run to the final of the UK Championship about ten months earlier.
Even so, the then 29 year-old was still ranked outside the world’s top 16 and wasn’t really considered as too much of a threat.
Early triumphs over former world champions Graeme Dott and Shaun Murphy set the foundation, however, for his tilt at glory.
Liang beat Anthony Hamilton to reach the last four, where he won the last two frames with breaks of 138, 61, and 53 to see off the challenge of Stuart Bingham in a decider.
Trump would have been the favourite in the title decider, but the underdog managed to establish a 5-3 first-session advantage and was able to protect his buffer until the finish line.
Liang’s jump for joy upon potting the winning balls is one of the more memorable moments from the history of the Home Nations series.
2017 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
Twelve months later, Liang’s defence ended in the last 32 but not before he compiled a maximum 147 break in his second-round tie against Tom Ford.
The rolling prize fund in operation at the time guaranteed Liang a handy £40,000 jackpot despite failing to reach the business end of the event.
Meanwhile, following poor attendances in Manchester the second English Open was moved to the Barnsley Metrodome.
On this occasion, the winner was less surprising as Ronnie O’Sullivan romped his way to the title.
A 4-3 victory over old rival John Higgins in the last 16 helped to pave the way for a 29th ranking event success – which at the time brought him all-square with the Scot on the all-time list.
O’Sullivan subsequently recorded victories over three of the younger crop of talents to lift the Steve Davis Trophy that year.
In the quarter-finals, the “Rocket” comfortably overcame Jack Lisowski before a 6-4 defeat of Anthony McGill in the last four.
A 9-2 demolition of Kyren Wilson in the final ensued, which at the time was the heaviest loss inflicted in a Home Nations series final.
2018 – Stuart Bingham
For the third year in a row, the English Open was on the move and this time the destination was the K2 Leisure Centre in Crawley.
It’s fair to say that reigning champion O’Sullivan didn’t approve of the switch, and he had several choice words to say about the tournament’s newest host – notably, that it smelled of urine.
Even so, the then UK champion appeared set to defend his crown when he easily reached the semi-finals to the loss of just six frames.
Like Liang the term before, O’Sullivan banged in a 147 break for good measure in his last-64 whitewash of Allan Taylor – coming just a day after Thepchaiya Un-Nooh recorded his own max against Soheil Vahedi.
Yet it all unravelled for O’Sullivan in the semi-finals with a thoroughly unexpected 6-1 reverse to Mark Davis.
The latter then had the opportunity to land his first ranking title, but despite leading the final showdown 7-6 he was denied by an inspired finish from Stuart Bingham.
The 2015 world champion raised his level when it mattered the most, compiling runs of 102 and 82 to help power past the winning line.
It was a poignant triumph for Bingham, who almost a year earlier had received short-term ban for betting.
The 2018 English Open success also meant that Bingham became the first player to win two Home Nations series trophies, following his prior victory in the 2017 Welsh Open.
2019 – Mark Selby
The last of the former English Open winners is the man who will act as the top seed for the 2020 edition – Mark Selby.
The 2019 English Open remained in Crawley for a second stint, and once again there was a 147 break in the tournament, albeit not by a reigning winner.
Tom Ford constructed the perfect break en route to his appearance in the semi-finals, where he was denied an extended run by David Gilbert.
Selby edged Mark Allen in the other last-four clash, mustering up his trademark brinkmanship qualities to fight back from 5-3 down to pip the Northern Irishman in a decider.
The final was not so close, as the “Jester” thumped Gilbert 9-1 with a brace of century breaks and five additional contributions of more than 60.
Victory for Selby represented his first on home soil since capturing the third of his World Championship crowns more than two years earlier.
The Englishman lost in a close Northern Ireland Open quarter-final against John Higgins 5-4 but won the Scottish Open in December, leading to plenty of ‘what-if’ remarks with regard the Home Nations million-pound tilt.
Selby, who won the European Masters a month ago to begin the 2020/21 campaign in style, will be among the favourites again this year for the English Open crown.
Click here to view the 2020 English Open draw (External Site – Times in CET)
Featured photo credit: WST