Ronnie O’Sullivan launches his bid for a fourth Champion of Champions title when he plays Stuart Bingham in Bolton on Thursday.
It promises to be a blockbuster day at the Bolton Whites Hotel, with four-time World champion John Higgins and Ding Junhui completing a mouth-watering Group Three line-up.
O’Sullivan is the most successful player in the history of the popular invitational event, lifting the trophy in 2013, 2014 and 2018.
Also a beaten finalist in 2016 and 2017, last year’s group final defeat by eventual winner Mark Allen marked the only time he has failed to appear in the last four.
The Rocket arrives in Bolton fresh from reaching the English Open semi-finals earlier this month, when he was narrowly beaten 6-5 by an inspired Higgins.
And the six-time World champion has won 16 of his 19 previous meetings with Bingham, who he faces in a repeat of the 2013 final which he won 10-8.
Though appearing in the event for the eighth time in nine years, that run to the showpiece represents Ballrun’s only venture beyond the group stage.
The 2015 World champion has endured a difficult start to the season; his best performance a run to the Northern Ireland Open last 16, while he lost in the opening round of the German Masters and European Masters.
Elsewhere, another tasty clash sees 2016 champion Higgins begin his quest for a second title against Ding.
An ever-present in the tournament, the Wizard arrives off the back of successive ranking event finals at the Northern Ireland Open and English Open.
There, he suffered agonising deciding-frame defeats against Mark Allen and Neil Robertson respectively.
The Scotsman prevailed 6-5 in a thrilling semi-final when he last met Ding in this event five years ago.
One of the players to qualify via the world ranking list, Ding is appearing in only his third tournament of the season.
The Dragon was also a semi-finalist at this event in 2014, but has failed to progress beyond the group phase in his four other appearances.
Play gets underway at 1pm GMT on Thursday with both group semi-finals contested over the best of seven frames at the Bolton Whites Hotel.
The winners will advance to the group final, which begins at 7pm with the best of 11 frames determining who will progress to the semi-finals of the tournament.
Champion of Champions 2021 Day Four Schedule of Play
Thursday, November 18
7 Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stuart Bingham
8 John Higgins v Ding Junhui
12 Winner of Match 7 v Winner of Match 8