The preliminary stages for the rescheduled Betfred World Championship will provide 16 qualifiers for the Crucible Theatre.
Three months later than originally planned, the World Snooker Championship qualifiers draw has been made and the action in Sheffield is set to finally begin.
A total of 128 hopeful competitors will descend upon the English Institute of Sport from July 21st to 28th in the hopes of making it through to the venue stages of the sport’s blue riband bonanza.
The World Championship’s usual April and May slot had to be sacrificed this year as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Indeed, even though the event has been salvaged and the majority of the major stars are set to compete, several cueists from the Main Tour have opted against travelling to England to play, citing understandable health and safety concerns.
All of the top 16 players on the world rankings list have entered, and as the seeds they are awaiting the outcome of the qualifying rounds.
Plenty of familiar names will be attempting to emerge from what is always a difficult and tension-filled mini event in its own right.
A few changes to the format this year mean that the route to the Crucible has a slightly different look to it compared to previous editions.
A tiered structure has returned, with the bottom ranked cueists taking on a selection of invited amateurs in the opening round.
The remaining professionals will gradually enter the fray based on their rankings, with those from world numbers 17 to 48 joining in the penultimate round and needing two victories to qualify.
Ken Doherty and Graeme Dott are two former champions who will be fighting it out for a place back at the scene of their most famous triumphs, with former finalists Jimmy White, Ali Carter, and Matthew Stevens just a few of the others in attendance.
Irish duo Aaron Hill – read more about the young prospect here – and Ross Bulman are among the amateurs wishing to emulate James Cahill’s stellar run from 2019 when the latter progressed all the way to the last 16.
Meanwhile, another tweak to the format, which has been made due to COVID-19, means that the first three rounds of the World Snooker Championship qualifiers draw will be contested over the reduced best of eleven frames.
This is to permit the completion of matches in one day, making it easier for players and staff to adhere to the strict health and safety guidelines.
The ever-popular Judgement Day, in which the final round encounters will last the normal 19 frames, will take place across the final two days, with eight qualifiers being determined next Monday and the remaining eight decided on Tuesday.
With various tour survival subplots to follow too, it is sure to be an absorbing eight days in Sheffield.