A total of 16 players will be competing for the top prize.
Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry are among the star snooker names in the draw for the ROKiT World Seniors Championship, which commences on Thursday in Sheffield.
While the latter is bidding to secure a maiden title on the World Seniors Tour, Hendry’s long-term rival White is hoping to prolong his dominance on the over-40s circuit.
The Whirlwind has won the last two editions of the World Seniors Championship – three in total – and the 59 year-old will enter this year’s snooker draw as one of the favourites for glory again.
For a player who infamously lost in six World Championship finals between 1984 and 1994 at the Crucible, it’s interesting that White hasn’t lost a single match since the blue-riband seniors event moved to the iconic venue in 2019.
The former world number two faces fellow Englishman Tony Knowles in the first round, which takes place over a short best-of-five frames sprint.
Hendry, meanwhile, is in the same half of the draw, meaning that there could potentially be a repeat encounter against White in the semi-finals this year.
The pair most recently crossed paths in the World Snooker Championship qualifiers last month, with Hendry prevailing in a nervy 6-3 affair at the English Institute of Sport.
The Scot takes on Ireland’s Patsy Fagan in the last 16, with 1991 world champion John Parrott, 2011 world seniors champion Darren Morgan, and current Main Tour players Igor Figueiredo and Lee Walker also in this section.
Pre-tournament favourite Ken Doherty features in the bottom half of the World Seniors Snooker Championship draw, and the Dubliner will be looking to avenge last year’s painful defeat in the final.
Last August, Doherty squandered a 4-0 lead in the title decider, eventually losing the remaining five frames to succumb in a 5-4 thriller to White.
Doherty encounters 1986 world champion Joe Johnson in the first round with a possible quarter-final bout against either David Lilley or Philip Williams to come after.
Elsewhere, there is an all-Irish clash between Michael Judge and Patrick Wallace, while 1985 world champion Dennis Taylor takes on Barry Pinches.
For those wondering, although generally an amateur circuit, the World Seniors Tour does permit entries from professional players who are ranked outside the world’s top 64 and over the required age of 40 – a bizarre ruling that was introduced in 2020.
There were already question marks as to why the likes of White and Doherty were allowed to compete, which the organisers conveniently got around by claiming that an invitational tour card was different to an official professional tour card.
Fair enough, because in this case it genuinely was important – especially in the early years of the World Seniors Tour – to have legends like that in the line-up who would attract initial interest.
But there’s an identity crisis with the World Seniors Tour at present that needs addressing if it wants to be taken more seriously, and allowing even more professionals to enter only muddies that further.
It obviously hasn’t helped that the majority of the events in the last year have had to be cancelled because of the pandemic, but even so there are ongoing issues that need to be solved.
There is a confusing rankings system which rewards players who take part in the qualifying tournaments but not those who actually win main events – White has won a record six World Seniors titles but is nowhere to be seen on the rankings standings – and the continued persistence of allowing contenders over the age of 40 to enter events is absolutely baffling.
Mark Selby, at 37, has just beaten 38 year-old Shaun Murphy to capture the professional world trophy – a clear sign that 40 for the seniors set-up is simply too young.
The World Seniors Tour, which was officially launched in 2017 on the back of the success of the exhibition Legends Tour, has been a terrific edition to the snooker scene overall, but it’s had enough time to bed itself in and, now that it’s established, that messy overall outlook needs to be tidied up.
It promises to be an interesting weekend nevertheless, and it will be a good way for fans who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms from the climax to the recent World Championship to acquire a much-needed fix of baize action.
Live coverage is on the BBC’s digital platforms with selected matches expected to be shown on the Red Button, while fans in most other regions will be able to watch on Matchroom.Live via a subscription.
World Seniors Snooker Championship Draw
Jimmy White vs Tony Knowles
Lee Walker vs Darren Morgan
Igor Figueiredo vs John Parrott
Stephen Hendry vs Patsy Fagan
Michael Judge vs Patrick Wallace
Barry Pinches vs Dennis Taylor
David Lilley vs Philip Williams
Ken Doherty vs Joe Johnson