The Championship League returns for 2023 and snooker's top stars, including Mark Selby, will be heading for the Morningside Arena in Leicester.
The tournament is back in its non-ranking guise and we have already seen two groups of action.
Jack Lisowski defeated Matt Selt in the opening section and Jackpot will be joined in the winners circle by Stuart Bingham, who saw off Robert Milkins in the second round of action.
John Higgins is the defending champion and the Scot will join the fray later this week, but for now let’s take a look at how Group 3 might shape up.
Mark Selby is the big-hitter in the section and the Jester will feel comfortable playing in his home town of Leicester. The four-time world champion was in excellent form when winning the English Open at the end of 2022, and on the evidence of his performances in that Home Nations Series event, Selby is likely to rate a major threat in the Championship League.
The Home Nations tournaments are predominantly played over the best-of-seven format and the best-of-five-frame Championship League is a similarly quick-fire event. This is one of the few titles that has eluded Selby in his brilliant career, but the Jester twice made the final back in 2008 and 2009. The 39-year-old is the 5/2 favourite to win Group 3 of the Champions League and the four-time World Champion is 4/9 to start his tilt with a victory over Selt.
Wilson has an excellent record in this event, having won two of the live five stagings of the quick-fire competition and the Kettering cueman has already claimed the European Masters title this season. However, it has been a rather mixed bag for Wilson this term and alongside that European victory, there have been early exits in the UK Championship and Champion of Champions. The Warrior opens with a contest against Milkins.
Ricky Walden is a former World Championship semi-finalist and the Chester cueman is a three-time ranking event winner. The 40-year-old has struggled with injury problems in recent years, but he has bounced back to near his best form in the last 18 months.
Walden made the last four of the Northern Ireland Open, the German Masters and the Players Championship last term and a quarter-final in the Scottish open has followed this season. Walden poses the game to cause plenty of problems in this event and the Chester man is 8/11 to beat Jamie Jones in his opening baize battle.
Group 3 is completed by Jones, Selt, Milkins and Jordan Brown. All four are capable performers and it wouldn’t be beyond any of them qualifying for the winners section of this short-format event.
Brown and Selt have already competed twice in this competition this season and both cuemen performed with credit. Brown won four of his round-robin matches, before narrowly losing 3-2 to Lisowski in the play-offs.
Selt went all the way to the final of section one, before also losing out to Jackpot and the Pinch also made the play-offs of Group 2. Brown and Selt are both ranking event winners and the pair have the game to challenge for titles.
Milkins was beaten by Bingham in the final of Group 2 and the Gloucester potter is back for another crack. The 46-year-old can still produce some excellent snooker and the Milkman is to deliver a spot in the Winners Group.