The 2020 World Snooker Championship enters its business end at The Crucible on Monday as the Quarter-Finals get underway in Sheffield.
Drama, controversy and quality in abundance has compensated for the lack of crowd over the last ten days, and more of the same can be expected as the £2.4 million event enters the final straight.
Of the eight men left standing in the competition, five have lifted this prestigious trophy in previous years, most notably defending champion Judd Trump.
Trump is bidding to become the man to end the infamous ‘Crucible curse’ which has seen no first-time champion retain this crown since the event moved to the venue in 1977.
The world number one has picked up a record six ranking titles this season in 13 tournament appearances and is looking to round it off in dream fashion.
He has shown the true mark of a champion so far, digging deep to close out results despite being far below his brilliant best.
Trump began by defeating Leicester’s Tom Ford 10-8 on the opening day and went on to battle his way past Yan Bingtao 13-11 to remain on course for an historic title defence.
Trump, however, knows he will be required to raise his game against one of the sport’s most consistent all-round performers in Kyren Wilson.
With no love lost between the pair, this has the makings of a mouth-watering show-down as they lock horns on the sport’s biggest stage for the first time.
Wilson found himself in the unprecedented position of watching the entire First Round unfold from home, having received a bye as a result of Anthony Hamilton’s withdrawal.
The number eight seed came into the tournament fresh, and despite lacking the match sharpness gained by his rivals, he saw off a resurgent Martin Gould 13-9.
Wilson has won seven of their 12 previous meetings, including the 2015 Shanghai Masters final to secure his first ranking title, though it was Trump who prevailed in their most recent encounter in this year’s Gibraltar Open final.
Another unmissable Quarter-Final tie sees multiple World Champions Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams go head-to-head.
With eight world titles and 58 ranking titles between them, the decorated duo have achieved everything the sport has to offer since turning professional as part of snooker’s infamous ‘Class of 92’.
Back-to-back winner in 2012 and 2013, keen runner O’Sullivan is looking to stay the distance in this marathon event and pick up what would be a record-breaking 37th career ranking title.
O’Sullivan sent out an emphatic message by thrashing Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 10-1 in the fastest match in the history of the tournament, before overcoming 2016 finalist Ding Junhui 13-10 in a thrilling Last 16 contest.
The Rocket appears relaxed and focused in the absence of a crowd and the added expectation it brings, and he will be encouraged by his dominant record over the Welshman over the past 25 years.
O’Sullivan has won 30 and drawn three of their 41 previous meetings, including all four at the World Championship, with their most recent Crucible clash coming eight years ago.
Williams, meanwhile, is looking to follow up his fairy-tale 2018 triumph with another age-defying success as the oldest World Champion since Ray Reardon.
The 45-year-old began his latest campaign with a 10-5 victory over Alan McManus and declared after the match that he intends “never to retire” from professional snooker.
He then dispatched Masters Champion Stuart Bingham 13-11 and remains as laidback as ever both on and off the table, making him a dangerous force.
Two more former champions collide as three-time Crucible king Mark Selby takes on 2010 winner Neil Robertson.
Selby has been the most successful player in the tournament over the past decade, claiming glory in three of his last six World Championship appearances.
The former world number one, however, has suffered First and Second round exits in his last two outings to the sport’s spiritual home but returned on the back of a fine season which has seen him claim two ranking titles.
He has been below his best in both matches so far but has dug deep in trademark fashion to fend off the challenge of debutant Jordan Brown (10-6) and Thai qualifier Noppon Saengkham in a nail-biting 25th frame decider.
Robertson is targeting a dream triumph to round off an impressive season that has seen him capture the Champion of Champions, European Masters and World Grand Prix titles.
Bidding to end a decade-long wait for a second world title, the sport’s most successful overseas star defeated Liang Wenbo 10-5 in Round One before denying 2013 finalist Barry Hawkins 13-9.
The Australian has won his last three meetings with Selby, though it was the Leicester man who prevailed in their only previous Crucible clash 17-15 in an epic 2014 Semi-Final en route to the title.
Two rank outsiders face off in another fascinating Last Eight tie as Norway’s Kurt Maflin meets Scotland’s Anthony McGill.
Maflin has taken the tournament by storm in only his second appearance, knocking out 2019 semi-finalist David Gilbert and four-time champion John Higgins with sensational performances to defy the odds.
The world number 43 is now appearing in only his sixth ranking Quarter-Final since first turning professional in 2001 and is out to pick up from where he left off last week.
Maflin enters the contest as the favourite, having had the added benefit of a weekend off, while McGill was embroiled in a dramatic midnight decider on Sunday.
McGill completed a sensational comeback from 8-2 down to edge out debutant Jamie Clarke 13-12 in a gripping battle, which had earlier seen the two players come to blows during an incident in which the Scot accused his opponent of standing in his eyeline.
McGill is appearing in his second Crucible Quarter-Final, five years on from his first, and will look to find a second wind in this marathon of mind and body to end Maflin’s landmark run.
The action gets underway from 10am BST, with Quarter-Final matches to be contested over the best of 25 frames.
The first session of each match will consist of a maximum of nine frames, before being played to a finish in the second session.
World Snooker Championship 2020 Schedule
*Indicates final session
Monday August 10
25 Judd Trump v Kyren Wilson
28 Mark Selby v Neil Robertson
26 Kurt Maflin v Anthony McGill
27 Mark Williams v Ronnie O’Sullivan
25 Judd Trump v Kyren Wilson
28 Mark Selby v Neil Robertson