The 2023 Tour Championship commences on Monday at the Bonus Arena in Hull, with Mark Allen the top seed in the draw.
Only the eight highest earners from ranking events this season have qualified for the tournament, which is the penultimate opportunity of the campaign to capture silverware.
Prize, history, format
The Tour Championship was launched in 2019 and is a culmination of three events in which the fields are determined through the one-year rankings.
The World Grand Prix boasts the top 32 players from the standings, the Players Championship the top 16, and the Tour Championship only the top eight.
Ronnie O’Sullivan won the inaugural edition four years ago followed by Stephen Maguire in 2020.
In the last two seasons Neil Robertson has emerged as the winner, but none of those prior champions have qualified this term.
A top prize worth £150,000 makes it one of the most lucrative tournaments on the annual schedule to emerge triumphantly from.
As a result, there may be significant implications for the official world rankings, with the world number one and automatic Crucible spots inside the top 16 up for grabs.
There is a longer format in use for the Tour Championship than most other events, with each of the three rounds taking place over 19 frames.
2023 Tour Championship draw and schedule
Mark Allen (1) vs Ding Junhui (8)
Monday, 1pm and 7pm BST
Mark Allen and Ding Junhui clash in a repeat of the UK Championship final from November, when the former came from 6-1 down to capture glory in York.
When taking the entire season into consideration, Allen has undoubtedly been the star performer, but his performances in 2023 so far haven’t been too impressive.
There are some queries as to whether the Northern Irishman may have peaked too soon this season, although he could become the world number one for the first time in his career with success in this event.
Ding only just scraped into the Tour Championship draw as the eighth seed with a £500 buffer to Gary Wilson in ninth.
Aside from his run at the Barbican Centre, the Chinese competitor hasn’t done much in ranking events but did win the invitational Six Red World Championship in Thailand.
Ding, who is also chasing an automatic Crucible spot, boasts a superior head-to-head record against Allen but has been on the losing side in both of their meetings during this season.
Ali Carter (4) vs Kyren Wilson (5)
Tuesday, 1pm and 7pm BST
Ali Carter is one of the form players of recent months and has reached the semi-final stage or better in three out of his last four outings.
Securing a second German Masters title also helped him return to the top 16 in the rankings, guaranteeing his automatic place at the World Championship next month.
- CLICK HERE: Ali Carter captures second German Masters crown
Carter will be regarded as one of the underdogs at the Tour Championship, but he’ll fancy his chances against Kyren Wilson in the first round.
The latter has suffered from inconsistency since winning the European Masters early in the campaign, with several defeats in the early rounds of competitions.
From their prior encounters, Carter holds a 7-6 advantage but a lot of those clashes took place in the Championship League behind closed doors.
Their most recent fixture was won by Wilson via a 6-5 decider, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this one last the distance as well.
Mark Selby (3) vs Ryan Day (6)
Thursday, 1pm and 7pm BST
Mark Selby is arguably the favourite in the Tour Championship draw this year following his triumph in the WST Classic last week.
The four-time world champion is coming into good form at just the right time of the season, and it would be a pretty big upset if Ryan Day were to advance at the Leicester man’s expense.
Day has enjoyed one good week of snooker this season by winning the British Open, and the prize money earned from that tournament has got him into this one.
Aside from that, the Welshman has rarely produced at a high level, which perhaps highlights some of the flaws of this qualification system in what is an otherwise excellent event on the calendar.
In Day’s favour, though, is a relatively positive head-to-head record against Selby, having won 12 of their 27 encounters in all competitions.
Meanwhile, if Allen doesn’t win the tournament, Selby would replace Ronnie O’Sullivan as the world number one by reaching the final at the Bonus Arena.
Shaun Murphy (2) vs Robert Milkins (7)
Wednesday, 1pm and 7pm BST
Shaun Murphy and Robert Milkins have been no strangers to the business end of tournaments since the start of this year.
Indeed, this tie between one another represents a repeat of the Welsh Open title decider from a month ago.
On that day Milkins prevailed, but other than that Murphy has been one of the star performers of the last six or seven weeks – producing, at times, flawless snooker.
It’ll be interesting to see how this one goes, because Milkins continues to produce the goods despite so often being written off as the underdog.
But should Murphy advance, it could set up a potentially mouthwatering last-four battle against Selby – a match that could determine the champion of this year’s Tour Championship, given how well both have been playing of late.
Where to watch the Tour Championship
The Tour Championship will be available around the world through different broadcasters, with ITV providing live coverage for viewers in the UK and Setanta for viewers in Ireland also.
A full list of the options have been published over on the World Snooker Tour website, which you can view by clicking here.
Featured photo credit: WST