Reigning champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and winning machine Judd Trump commence their 2019 UK Championship campaigns at the York Barbican on Thursday.
O’Sullivan, the record seven-time Betway UK Champion, is bidding to third consecutive crown and become the outright most successful player in ranking tournament history in the process.
The 43-year-old is locked level on 36 ranking titles with Stephen Hendry and narrowly missed out on the chance to re-write history when he lost to Trump in the final of the recent Northern Ireland Open.
Shanghai Masters champion O’Sullivan is unbeaten in his last 14 matches in this competition and starts out as overwhelming favourite to dispatch Irish youngster Ross Bulman.
The 18-year-old faces a baptism of fire on his UK Championship debut against the most decorated player in the history of the event and in front of a packed crowd in the main arena, but he will look to take encouragement from his display against Jimmy White in this year’s World Championship qualifiers – where he was eventually beaten 10-5.
O’Sullivan has reached the final in each of his last four appearances in this event and has not exited the competition prior to the Quarter-Final stage since 2011.
Meanwhile, world number one and World Champion Trump kicks off his quest for a second UK Championship crown with a tie against rank outsider Amine Amiri of Morocco in the afternoon session.
Trump, the 2011 UK Champion, is undoubtedly the form horse heading into the tournament, having stormed to five ranking titles this season as well as The Masters.
Man of the moment Trump in action (Photo by PA Images)
The Bristol left-hander has lost just four matches this season and will be eyeing a routine victory over the lowest ranked player in the competition – who was whitewashed 4-0 in his only professional match so far at the English Open.
One of the stand-out ties of the opening round sees two-time UK finalist Mark Allen take on 1992 UK Champion Jimmy White.
Allen, who fell short to Trump in 2011 and O’Sullivan in 2018, has enjoyed a solid start to the season, reaching two ranking Semi-Finals and two invitational Semi-Finals, but will be determined to go the extra step this week.
The Antrim ace faces a legend of the sport who is incredibly making his 30th appearance in this Triple Crown event, having made his debut way back in 1984.
Twice a runner-up before eventually securing the top prize 27 years ago, ‘The Whirlwind’ is now the oldest player in the competition and on the main tour at 57, but proved he can still compete at the top level when he took O’Sullivan to a deciding frame in the recent Champion of Champions.
Three-time UK finalist Ken Doherty is another legend of the baize to get his latest York campaign underway when he faces China’s Mi Xi Wen – who knocked out O’Sullivan en route to the Quarter-Finals of last month’s English Open.
Former Masters Champion Alan McManus faces a tough opener against Tyneside’s Elliot Slessor, while Yan Bingtai, China’s number two, takes on the only Brazilian ever to feature in this event – Igor Figueiredo.
Two players who defied the odds to reach the Semi-Finals of this event collide as Leicester’s Tom Ford, semi-finalist 12 months ago, faces Yorkshire’s own David Grace – who made the Last Four in 2015.
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, this year’s World Open runner-up perhaps best known for his missed black on a maximum here in 2015, starts out against Jamie O’Neill – who came through this year’s Qualifying School to earn a two-year Tour Card.
Former Masters finalist Joe Perry aims to avert a potential banana skin at the hands of Germany’s Simon Lichtenberg – who is without a ranking victory since the Paul Hunter Classic in August 2018.
A distinct clash of styles sees the flamboyant Xiao Guodong take on methodical veteran Rod Lawler, while world number 13 Jack Lisowski meets David Lilley – conqueror of Ding Junhui in the recent Northern Ireland Open.
Shaun Murphy, the 2008 UK Champion and two-time beaten finalist, has been drawn to face Eden Sharav of Israel in Round One, as former German Masters winner Anthony Hamilton plays former Crucible qualifier Sam Baird.
The action gets underway from 9.30am GMT, with First Round matches to be contested over the best of 11 frames.
Betway UK Championship 2019 Match Schedule
Thursday November 28
Xiao Guodong v Rod Lawler
Yan Bingtao v Igor Figueiredo
Jack Lisowski v David Lilley
Robbie Williams v Luo Honghao
Zhou Yuelong v Fan Zhengyi
Anthony Hamilton v Sam Baird
Alan McManus v Elliot Slessor
Ken Doherty v Mei Xi Wen
Tom Ford v David Grace
Shaun Murphy v Eden Sharav
Mark King v Chang Bingyu
Michael White v Fergal O’Brien
Martin O’Donnell v Kishan Hirani
Kurt Maflin v Thor Chuan Leong
Joe Perry v Simon Lichtenberg
Judd Trump v Amine Amiri
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Ross Bulman
Robert Milkins v Harvey Chandler
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v Jamie O’Neill
Liam Highfield v Mike Dunn
Mark Allen v Jimmy White
Ben Woollaston v Zhang Jiankang
Jimmy Robertson v Kacper Filipiak
Chris Wakelin v Ashley Carty