The second oldest ranking event carries a top prize worth £200,000.
The 2020 UK Championship gets under way on Monday with Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, and Ding Junhui among those in the draw.
With the sport having permanent residency at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes so far this season, this will be the first edition of the UK Championship not to take place at the Barbican Centre in York since 2010.
It’s undoubtedly a pity, but the show must go on and what is traditionally regarded as the second biggest ranking tournament on the calendar will surely provide plenty of entertainment regardless.
Prize, History, and Format
Boasting one of the richest champion’s cheques, the UK Championship winner will take home a whopping £200,000 this year.
China’s Ding defends the crown he won for a third time twelve months ago, when he outplayed Stephen Maguire 10-6 in the final.
World champion O’Sullivan has triumphed in the competition a record seven times, while world number one Trump’s sole success occurred way back in 2011 – in what was his maiden Triple Crown title.
The latter is the current 3/1 favourite with 888 snooker betting online, but the “Rocket” isn’t too far behind him with odds of 9/2.
The duo contested the final of the Northern Ireland Open on Sunday, with Trump emerging as a 9-7 winner for the third successive season.
Meanwhile, there are 11 former champions in the 2020 UK Championship draw in total, including three-time winner John Higgins and two-time champions Mark Williams, Mark Selby, and Neil Robertson.
At 58 years-old, Jimmy White is the oldest competitor and will hope to evoke memories of his famous 1992 glory as he gets ready to participate in his 100th UK Championship encounter.
Many were hoping that five-time champion Stephen Hendry would be involved too, but the Scot has opted to delay his comeback from retirement until spectators are permitted back into arenas.
The format remains the same as it has been for the last number of years with best-of-11 fixtures until the final, which is duly played over 19 frames.
In existence since 1977 and a ranking event since 1984, the UK Championship remains one of the most sought-after prizes despite qualms about its somewhat generic format in recent years.
2020 UK Championship Draw
As usual, the first-round draw for the UK has been completely determined by a seeding system that pairs the top seed – in this case reigning champion Ding – with the 128th and last seed, the 2nd facing the 127th, and so on.
The Chinese number one encounters amateur top-up Jamie Curtis-Barrett in round one, with O’Sullivan in action against Leo Fernandez, and Trump clashing with Paul Davison.
Last year’s runner-up Maguire, a UK champion in 2004, is set for a duel with Ukrainian teenager Iulian Boiko and Australia’s Robertson will similarly be a hot favourite to get passed French prospect Brian Ochoiski.
Higgins and Selby have landed much tougher opposition on paper, with experienced former ranking event winners Fergal O’Brien and Michael White their respective initial challenges.
Of the other ex-champions, Williams entertains Ben Hancorn, Shaun Murphy plays Lee Walker, Matthew Stevens duels with Jamie Jones, and the “Whirlwind” is involved in a battle from yesteryear with Alan McManus.
Mark Allen, the recent Champion of Champions winner and a two-time UK Championship runner-up, faces Jamie Wilson and Kyren Wilson has an opening match against Ashley Hugill.
On the other side of the weekend is the @betway UK Championship!
Ding Junhui is looking forward to defending his title 🇨🇳🐉💪
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) November 20, 2020
With seven victories required to etch your name onto the trophy, the early stages for the marquee names are as much about avoiding a banana skin rather than necessarily producing top form.
By the time the event reaches the last 16 there will probably be a better understanding of which competitors might mount more serious challenges.
For those further down the rankings, there’s inevitably an opportunity for at least one or two to negotiate their way through the rounds and into the latter phase.
Elsewhere, even though the focus will of course predominantly centre on the primary goal of raising the silverware aloft, one subplot will simultaneously surround the intriguing Race to the Masters.
The top 16 players from the official world rankings list will be invited to compete in January’s prestigious invitational.
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Gary Wilson are on the cusp of making debut Masters appearances, currently holding onto the coveted 15th and 16th positions respectively.
But Jack Lisowski is less than £2,000 adrift of Wilson in 17th place, and the pair could clash in a potential winner-takes-all tie in the UK Championship third round next week.
Ali Carter, the Masters runner-up from last season, is provisionally in 18th spot after his run to the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland Open.
In theory, more than 50 players could leapfrog their way into the elite bracket with a shock UK Championship victory on December 6th.
Where to Watch the UK Championship
For the first time in the tournament’s long history, the round of 128 will be broadcast live on television.
Eurosport will be providing first-round coverage between Monday and Thursday, with sessions at both 2pm and 7pm.
BBC’s coverage begins on Saturday upon the outset of the second round, with Matchroom.Live and other global broadcasters additionally offering daily services.
Featured photo credit: WPBSA