The 2023 Players Championship commences on Monday with 16 of the best players in the world from this season in the draw.
The Welsh Open won’t even be 24 hours old by the time the action in this week’s ranking event gets under way in Wolverhampton.
A tournament featuring the most consistent players from the 2022/23 season, there is bound to be a lot of good snooker being played at the Aldersley Arena.
Prize, history, and format
In its current guise, the Players Championship has been around since 2017, but the competition evolved from a previous incarnation as the Players Tour Championship Grand Finals that ran between 2011 and 2016.
For the first six editions, the line-up was determined by the order of merit on the now defunct minor-ranking PTC series.
During those years, there were six different winners including the inaugural champion Shaun Murphy, Ding Junhui, and Mark Allen.
However, since 2017 the event was altered to boast the top-16 earners on the one-year rankings list overall, with Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump sharing two wins apiece from the first four stagings.
In 2021, John Higgins ended that sequence with one of the most dominant ever tournament displays, while Neil Robertson sealed glory twelve months ago.
The format is similar to that incorporated for the Masters, with best-of-11 fixtures utilised for the first three rounds before a 19-frame final showdown for the silverware.
Offering a top prize worth £125,000, it represents one of the more lucrative weeks on the calendar.
Players Championship draw and schedule
Three of the last four winners of the Players Championship have failed to even qualify for the 2023 draw, including reigning champion Neil Robertson.
Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins are two other notable absentees, in addition to fellow top 16 members Mark Williams, Barry Hawkins, and Stuart Bingham.
Mark Allen is the competition’s top seed following a 2022/23 campaign in which he has already won three ranking titles.
The Pistol will face 16th seed Joe O’Connor on the opening night with a berth in the quarter-finals on the line.
Man of the moment Robert Milkins, whose Welsh Open success on Sunday saw him also land the BetVictor Series bonus, encounters fellow Englishman Tom Ford.
Arguably the tie of the first round sees former world champions Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy do battle, although there’s another intriguing affair between attack-minded cueists Jack Lisowski and Luca Brecel.
Masters winner Judd Trump faces Ali Carter – the German Masters champion from a couple of weeks ago – while former world number one Ding Junhui plays Gary Wilson.
In the last 16’s other fixtures, British Open champion Ryan Day meets Shoot Out king Chris Wakelin, and Zhou Yuelong challenges Kyren Wilson.
Round 1 (best of 11)
Mark Allen vs Joe O’Connor
Luca Brecel vs Jack Lisowski
Ali Carter vs Judd Trump
Robert Milkins vs Tom Ford
Kyren Wilson vs Zhou Yuelong
Ding Junhui vs Gary Wilson
Mark Selby vs Shaun Murphy
Ryan Day vs Chris Wakelin
The quarter-finals take place on Wednesday evening, Thursday, and Friday afternoon, the semi-finals are on the evenings of Friday and Saturday, and the final is on Sunday.
How to watch the Players Championship
The tournament will be available to UK and Irish viewers on ITV and for other European supporters on Eurosport and discovery+.
Fans in territories without coverage will be able to see the action on Matchroom Live via a subscription. All the available options are on the WST website.
Featured image credit: WPBSA