English pair Judd Trump and Kyren Wilson will contest the first Champion of Champions semi-finals on Friday in Bolton.
A sometimes tempestuous rivalry will be rekindled when they do battle over the best of eleven frames, with just two wins separating them from the £150,000 top prize.
On Saturday, John Higgins will face Yan Bingtao in what will be their fourth meeting of the calendar year, and the third in successive tournaments this season.
Judd Trump vs Kyren Wilson (Friday, 7pm)
Both Trump and Wilson have featured in Champion of Champions finals before without success, with Trump finishing runner-up in 2014 and 2019, and Wilson suffering the same fate in between in 2018.
One of the duo will have the opportunity to alter that stat on Sunday, and it will be intriguing to see which one can emerge triumphantly from their latest clash with one another.
With 24 matches in all competitions already accumulated over a relatively short space of time – their first encounter was in 2013 – Trump boasts a narrow head-to-head advantage that reads 13-11 in the world number two’s favour.
A lot of those clashes have come in the short format Championship League, but there have been several other notable fixtures in recent years too.
It was Wilson who ended Trump’s tilt to break the Curse of the Crucible in 2020, and the Kettering cueist also memorably beat his countryman to land his maiden ranking title at the 2015 Shanghai Masters.
The last three times they have crossed paths in matches with any degree of distance, however, the outcome has always favoured Trump – including in last year’s UK Championship.
There have been occasions in the past when shots have been fired off the table between these two as well, although their rivalry has taken on a more friendly tone of late.
Both may feel that they have a point to prove this week, with Wilson bidding for an elite title that matches his claims of being an elite player, and Trump hoping to silence the doubters who suggest that, although he has been the most consistent winner on the Main Tour, the majority of his victories tend to come in so-called smaller tournaments.
John Higgins vs Yan Bingtao (Saturday, 7pm)
In the quarter-finals this week, Higgins and Yan accounted for two players who have accumulated ten World Championship crowns between them – Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby.
Add that to the fact that Ding Junhui and Shaun Murphy were also dealt with in their respective opening rounds, and it becomes clear that it hasn’t been an easy route through to the last four for either.
Yan earned his invitation to the Champion of Champions through his success in the Masters at the outset of 2021, beating Higgins in a close final 10-8.
Since then, the two players have encountered each other on two more occasions, both recently when Higgins got the better of the 21 year-old in the Northern Ireland and English Opens.
Higgins boasts a narrow 5-4 lead from their overall head-to-head, and with both players in good form it may be difficult to separate them on the table again for this Champion of Champions semi-finals tie.
The Scot will be looking to put behind him the disappointment of near misses in those two recent ranking events, while Yan will be intent on adding more silverware to his CV in an effort to substantiate the consistency that has seen him more regularly feature at the business end of tournaments.
Live coverage of the Champion of Champions semi-finals is available on ITV4 in Ireland and the UK, with other options on offer for broadcasts around the world.
Featured photo credit: @ChampofChamps