There are 128 players hoping to claim one of the 16 coveted qualifying spots for the Crucible Theatre.
The 2021 World Snooker Championship officially gets under way on Monday with the start of the qualifiers draw at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.
While the members of the top 16 in the world rankings are already assured of their places at the venue stages of the sport’s blue-riband tournament, the remaining positions in the last 32 at the Crucible are still up for grabs.
As ever, the world qualifiers will represent one of the most dramatic and tension-filled periods of play on the entire snooker calendar.
Not only are the competitors vying to compete at the game’s spiritual home where the most prized trophy is at stake, there’s also the added subplot surrounding many of the players’ survival as professionals on the Main Tour.
With the upcoming World Championship among a list of events on a new UK government pilot scheme that will allow limited crowds into various venues across the country, there is an added incentive to qualify as it will be the first event all season to welcome fans.
Undoubtedly the tie of the qualifiers draw is the fixture between Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White, who will rekindle a rivalry that saw them clash seven times in World Snooker Championship matches between 1988 and 1998.
White won their first and last meetings in the event but of course famously lost the other five in between, including four title-deciding contests between 1990 and 1994.
The duo last faced off against each other in August at the World Seniors Championship, when the Whirlwind prevailed en route to defending the title.
This will be a very different affair, with Hendry back on the Main Tour and competing in the sport’s flagship tournament for the first time since announcing his initial retirement nine years ago.
For all the snooker players in round one of the world qualifiers draw, four wins will be required in order to grace the stage of the Crucible Theatre – a daunting task for the likes of Hendry and White, but by the end of the opening day one of them will have got their campaigns off to a positive start.
Defeat for White could put his tour place in jeopardy, although it’s very likely that he will be awarded another invitational tour card regardless of the outcome.
Other notable names entering at the opening hurdle are 1997 world champion Ken Doherty, who encounters Lee Walker, and multiple women’s world champion Reanne Evans.
The Englishwoman takes on Andy Hicks for the second successive year, while compatriot Rebecca Kenna is also participating against Brandon Sargeant.
There are 16 invited amateurs in total helping to make up the line-up, with that group joining the players professionally ranked from 81 to 128 in the first-round draw.
Those ranked between 49 and 80 enter the fray in round two, while the remaining competitors ranked outside the world’s top 16 join in on the fun in the third round.
The latter group will require just two victories in order to reach the venue stages, with former world champions Stuart Bingham and Graeme Dott representing a couple of the more high-profile names there.
Having only recently dropped outside the world’s top 16, 2015 world champion Bingham could miss out on a World Championship place for the first time since 2010.
Former finalists Matthew Stevens and Ali Carter are other familiar faces who will be attempting to make a comeback, but there will be stories of triumph and despair all over the draw, and there’s sure to be tears shed in both victory and defeat over the coming ten days.