The first ranking event of the season is creeping toward its climax with Stage Two of the Championship League Snooker draw starting on Monday.
It took three weeks for Stage One to be completed at the Morningside Arena in Leicester, but the first 32 group winners have finally been determined.
John Astley and tour rookie Liu Hongyu emerged as unlikely respective winners from Groups 9 and 14 on Friday.
The remaining contenders are again divided into groups of four for Stage Two, with the eight table toppers then advancing to the final round-robin stage on Friday.
- CLICK HERE: Provisional 2023/24 snooker calendar
The final two group winners on the last day will then face off against one another to determine who lands the first ranking title of the 2023/24 campaign.
It is a long and laborious format that represents an uninspiring way to launch a fresh term.
However, silverware and prize money are both on the line, with the eventual champion set to earn a total sum of £33,000.
Victory in this event last season for Luca Brecel proved to be a promising omen as the Belgian then duly ended the campaign as the world champion.
|Stage One||Stage Two||Stage Three||Final|
Judd Trump is the highest ranked participant still in the hunt in the Stage Two draw of Championship League Snooker.
The world number four is a three-time winner of the invitational version of the event and is involved in an interesting Group B alongside fellow former champions Joe Perry and Matthew Stevens, in addition to China’s Cao Yupeng.
Shaun Murphy headlines a difficult looking Group D with 2021 champion David Gilbert, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, and James Cahill.
Among the other marquee names still in the fray are Mark Williams, Kyren Wilson, and Robert Milkins.
The latter takes on Astley, Pang Junxu, and Si Jiahui – the player who beat Milkins at the Crucible this year en route to a memorable maiden berth in the last four.
Wilson, the 2020 champion, is among a quartet of Englishmen in Group E alongside Shoot Out champion Chris Wakelin, Anthony Hamilton, and Sanderson Lam.
Williams will be fancied to progress from Group F when he is challenged by Robbie Williams, Martin O’Donnell, and veteran Barry Pinches.
The other three groups look quite open on paper with no more members from the top 16 in the world rankings involved in the action.
Zhou Yuelong headlines Group A but will face stiff competition from countryman Xiao Guodong, Ben Woollaston, and Michael Holt.
Noppon Saengkham will continue his bid to secure a maiden ranking crown when he takes part in Group C with Liu, Ashley Carty, and Daniel Wells.
Finally, the ever-improving Jak Jones is in Group G with two-time ranking event winner Michael White, Sam Craigie, and Long Zehuang.
Championship League Snooker
Stage Two draw
|Group A (July 19)|
|Group B (July 20)|
|Group C (July 18)|
|Group D (July 19)|
|Group E (July 17)|
|Group F (July 17)|
|Group G (July 20)|
|Group H (July 18)|
Featured photo credit: Championship League Snooker