John Higgins launches his quest for a third Championship League title at the Morningside Arena in Leicester on Tuesday.
The four-time World champion begins his 30th successive season on the main tour as he headlines Group 9.
Higgins became the first player to win back-to-back Championship League titles; doing so in 2017 and 2018 after beating Ryan Day and Zhou Yuelong respectively.
If he goes all the way this year, the Scotsman would become the tournament’s joint-most successful player alongside Judd Trump with three crowns.
Still going strong at the age of 46, Higgins is ranked seventh in the world and will be looking to add to his 31 ranking titles this term.
His biggest challenge in Group 9 is likely to come from world number 44 Noppon Saengkham, who is also a two-time ranking event semi-finalist.
Completing the group are Brazilian Igor Figueiredo and former Iranian professional Soheil Vahedi.
Elsewhere, Group 26 is headlined by former China Open finalist Gary Wilson.
Having climbed to 17th in the world 12 months ago, a poor 2020-21 season – during which a run to the English Open last 16 represented his best performance – saw Wilson slip to 33rd, and he will be hoping for better fortunes this term.
World number 94 Steven Hallworth will provide opposition to the Tyneside Terror, along with former professional James Cahill, who stunned Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible in 2019.
Meanwhile, two-time ranking event finalist Cao Yupeng marks his return to the tour following a two-and-a-half-year ban for match-fixing offences.
The players face each other once in the group with all matches contested over the best of four frames.
Each player will receive three points for a win and one for a draw; the one with the most will top the group and secure a place in Stage Two of the competition.
Championship league Snooker 2021 Schedule
Tuesday July 27
Group 13 & Group 14
John Higgins v Soheil Vahedi (Group 9)
Steven Hallworth v Cao Yupeng (Group 26)
Noppon Saengkham v Igor Figueiredo (Group 9)
Gary Wilson v James Cahill (Group 26)
Noppon Saengkham v Soheil Vahedi (Group 9)
Gary Wilson v Cao Yupeng (Group 26)
John Higgins v Igor Figueiredo (Group 9)
Steven Hallworth v James Cahill (Group 26)
Igor Figueiredo v Soheil Vahedi (Group 9)
Gary Wilson v Steven Hallworth (Group 26)
John Higgins v Noppon Saengkham (Group 9)
Cao Yupeng v James Cahill (Group 26)