The 2023 Welsh Open gets under way on Monday with Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, and Judd Trump among those in the draw.
The last Home Nations tournament of the campaign will take place at the Venue Cymru in Llandudno for the first time.
An annual fixture on the calendar since 1992, the Welsh Open has long established itself as one of the most familiar tournaments.
This year’s edition, however, carries even greater importance for a number of reasons, with lucrative bonuses and qualification to upcoming events on the line.
Prize, history, and format
The Welsh Open is one of the oldest continuous professional ranking events on the calendar, third only to the World Championship and the UK Championship.
The tournament was launched all the way back in 1992 when then world number one Stephen Hendry beat home contender Darren Morgan in the final to claim the inaugural title.
Since then, most of the game’s biggest stars have etched their names onto the trophy – including Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby, John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Steve Davis, Ken Doherty, Ding Junhui, and Shaun Murphy.
Mark Williams has been the only home winner, capturing the trophy in both 1996 and 1999, but Welsh players have generally struggled to feature prominently over the years.
A notable absentee from the roll of honour is Judd Trump, with the Welsh Open representing one of the few competitions on the schedule that he hasn’t now triumphed in.
Trump lost in last year’s final to Joe Perry, who emerged unexpectedly through the pack to capture the Ray Reardon Trophy.
The format remains the same as all the Home Nations weeks, with best-of-seven ties in the early rounds followed by nine-frame quarter-finals, eleven-frame semi-finals, and a best-of-17 frame final.
There is £80,000 on offer for the champion, prize money that could prove pivotal in determining the outcome of a couple of important ranking lists.
The Welsh Open is the last event on this season’s BetVictor Series, where the highest earner after the eight counting tournaments will win a jackpot worth £150,000.
There are still eleven contenders for the bumper prize, but Ali Carter provisionally holds the advantage after his success in last week’s German Masters.
The Captain has accumulated £122,000 so far and is £9,000 ahead of Kyren Wilson in second, but Joe O’Connor way down the pecking order with £46,500 could still mathematically leapfrog his way into the top spot.
Click here to view the live BetVictor Series ranking list.
Race to the Players Championship
The 2023 Welsh Open also provides the last opportunity for players to gain entry into the Players Championship draw.
The 16-strong field in Wolverhampton is determined by the one-year rankings list, with a number of star names set to miss out as things stand.
World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, defending Players Championship winner Neil Robertson, and Scotland’s John Higgins are all below the cut-off point.
Mark Williams is provisionally in 16th and will need a decent showing on his home turf if he’s to safeguard his position.
Click here to view the provisional one-year rankings.
2023 Welsh Open draw
While there were several preliminary round matches already held in January, the top 16 seeds have all had their first ties held over to the venue.
Perry will begin his defence of the title against fellow English veteran Mark King, while O’Sullivan entertains Oliver Lines.
Northern Irishman Mark Allen, who will bid for a fourth ranking title of an impressive term, meets Alfie Burden.
In arguably the tie of the remaining round of 128 clashes, Mark Williams and Michael White face off in an all-Welsh battle.
Joe Perry vs Mark King
Noppon Saengkham vs Liam Davies
Oliver Briffett-Payne vs Robbie Williams
Ryan Day vs Stuart Carrington
Kyren Wilson vs Asjad Iqbal
Mark Williams vs Michael White
Judd Trump vs David Grace
Shaun Murphy vs Victor Sarkis
Jack Lisowski vs Zhang Anda
Neil Robertson vs Andrew Higginson
Mark Selby vs Jamie O’Neill
Barry Hawkins vs Ian Burns
Hossein Vafaei vs Lyu Haotian
Luca Brecel vs Sean O’Sullivan
Mark Allen vs Alfie Burden
John Higgins vs Alexander Ursenbacher
Micahel Holt vs Tian Pengfei
David Gilbert vs Marco Fu
Stuart Bingham vs Jackson Page
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Oliver Lines
Perry/Kind vs Mark Joyce
Saengkham/Davies vs Briffett-Payne/R. Williams
Day/Carrington vs Andy Lee
Graeme Dott vs Joe O’Connor
Hammad Miah vs Aaron Hill
Pang Junxu vs K. Wilson/Iqbal
Julien Leclercq vs Jordan Brown
Jak Jones vs M. Williams/M. White
Trump/Grace vs Louis Heathcote
Matthew Selt vs Daniel Wells
Murphy/Sarkis vs Peng Yisong
Anthony McGill vs Sam Craigie
David Lilley vs Ricky Walden
Ryan Thomerson vs Lisowski/Zhang
Yuan Sijun vs Stephen Maguire
Dominic Dale vs N. Robertson/Higginson
Selby/O’Neill vs Si Jiahui
Robert Milkins vs Dean Young
Hawkins/Burns vs Ben Woollaston
Vafaei/Lyu vs Ken Doherty
Cao Yupeng vs Ding Junhui
Elliot Slessor vs Brecel/S. O’Sullivan
Andy Hicks vs Wu Yize
Mitchell Mann vs Allen/Burden
Higgins/Ursenbacher vs Martin Gould
Mohamed Ibrahim vs Sanderson Lam
Holt/Tian vs Jimmy White
Ali Carter vs Ian Martin
Chris Wakelin vs Gilbert/Fu
Ben Mertens vs Bingham/Page
Matthew Stevens vs Rod Lawler
Ross Muir vs R. O’Sullivan/O. Lines
Where to watch the Welsh Open
The tournament will be available to viewers across Europe on Eurosport and discovery+.
BBC Wales will cover the play and various broadcasters around the world will be offering coverage too (information here).
Fans in territories without another service can access the event through the Matchroom.Live streaming service.
Featured photo credit: WST
Those across the whole of the UK can watch the BBC Wales coverage on i-Player and the Red Button.
Welsh Open Factfile:
Darren Morgan, who lost to Hendry in the first ever final, was the usher at Hendry’s wedding.
The youngest ever winner is the late great Paul Hunter at 18 in 1998.
John Higgins has won the event a record five times.
Steve Davis won his last ranking title at the Welsh Open in 1995.
Mark Williams and Darren Morgan are the only Welsh players to reach the final. No Welsh player has done so since Williams in 1999.
Correction: No Welsh finalist since Mark Williams in 2003.