The preliminaries get under way on Monday at the English Institute of Sport.
In addition to the obvious goal of qualifying for the Crucible Theatre, the World Snooker Championship qualifiers are also important in terms of the tour survival for several players.
As usual, the top 64 in the official world rankings list will be guaranteed another one-year card to remain on the professional circuit.
But with bigger prize money equating to larger ranking points available in Sheffield, a lot can always change at the last tournament of the 2020/21 campaign.
Only £14,750 separates veteran Alan McManus in 57th place on the provisional end-of-season standings and China’s Luo Honghao in 69th.
With prize money for the World Championship qualifiers rising in increments of £5,000 for each of the four rounds, there is a £15,000 cheque on offer for reaching the last qualifying stage and £20,000 available for emerging with a Crucible berth.
It all means that a lot can and probably will change in the next fortnight with many positions dramatically altering on a regular basis.
For the likes of McManus – a mainstay on the pro tour since 1990 – one win in the world qualifiers could prove to be enough to safeguard his tour survival ambitions.
Those nearer the top 64 cut-off line will likely have more work to do as they bid to keep the chasing pack at bay.
England’s Ian Burns is currently holding onto the last of those positions with a tiny buffer of just £250 on countryman Louis Heathcote.
Nigel Bond, Tian Pengfei, and Jimmy Robertson are three others who are in a tantalising spot on the provisional list as things stand.
For Robertson, it comes only a few years after he landed a maiden piece of a ranking event silverware by capturing the 2018 European Masters in Belgium.
Heathcote will be joined by the likes of Chris Wakelin, Yuan Sijun, and Jamie Jones in trying to break into the top 64 by the end of this term – albeit the latter is currently competing in the first year of his two-year card and won’t be in danger of relegation whatever happens.
One additional factor complicating matters is the one-year rankings list, from which the top eight players who are not already assured of a pro ticket for next season will be granted with a fresh two-year card.
Heathcote and Wakelin currently feature among that group and would receive new cards as things stand, but Chinese duo Luo and Yuan are a couple of young potential stars who need wins in order to break into that bracket as well.
The situation is muddled even further as defeats for Dominic Dale, Lyu Haotian, and Joe O’Connor – in 57th, 58th, and 59th places provisionally – could see them drop out of the top 64 but then replace those currently occupying the top eight on the one-year list, on the back of their superior earnings from this season.
Confused? You’re not the only one.
Among those further down the rankings who are in danger of dropping off the tour are Jackson Page, Daniel Wells, Gerard Greene, and James Cahill – who just two years ago stunned Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round of the World Championship.
Jimmy White is currently fifth on the one-year list and one win would likely prove to be enough to see him issued a fresh two-year card, although it is also likely that he will receive another invitational tour card regardless of the outcome of his eagerly anticipated tie with old foe Stephen Hendry in the qualifiers.
For those interested in following what is always an interest qualifiers subplot, there will be a live blog updating the situation as it happens over on the WPBSA website.
Provisional Rankings on the Official Two-Year List
Provisional Rankings on the One-Year List
Featured photo credit: WST