World Snooker Championship 2020 Day Two preview and order of play: Higgins begins quest for fifth title
John Higgins launches his quest for a fifth World Snooker Championship title against two-time runner-up Matthew Stevens at the Crucible, while 2019 semi-finalist David Gilbert also enters the fray on Saturday.
Four-time champion Higgins is appearing in the final stages of snooker’s blue-riband event for a 26th consecutive year, with only Steve Davis, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry bettering his tally.
A beaten finalist in each of the last three years in Sheffield, the Scotsman will be desperate to go the extra step this time around and move level with O’Sullivan on five titles.
The 45-year-old has won 13 of his 18 previous showdowns with Stevens, including two of their three encounters in this tournament – most notably a 17-15 triumph in the 2001 semi-final.
After missing out last year, two-time finalist Stevens is back at the Crucible for a 17th appearance and, like Higgins, has only been beaten in the opening round on four occasions.
Now ranked 31 in the world, the Welshman beat Ian Preece and Ricky Walden in qualifying and will be targeting another impressive showing in a major this season, having reached the UK Championship quarter-finals back in December.
Having agonisingly missed out on last year’s final, world number 12 Gilbert begins his mission to go the extra couple of steps against Norwegian Kurt Maflin.
The Angry Farmer suffered semi-final heartbreak last time out at the Crucible, with a narrow 17-16 defeat at the hands of Higgins leaving him in tears.
He arrives for this year’s event off the back of another impressive season that has seen him reach the English Open final, as well as the last four of the Masters.
Gilbert has won all of his three previous meetings with world number 43 Maflin, who returns to Sheffield five years after impressing on his debut.
The 36-year-old was narrowly beaten 10-9 by reigning champion Mark Selby in the opening round of the 2015 event and booked his return after a resounding 10-1 victory over Matthew Selt earlier this week.
Elsewhere, three-time World champion Mark Williams will be looking to overturn a 5-4 deficit against Alan McManus, as the players boasting 43 Crucible appearances between them play to a finish.
The Welshman is aiming to avoid a fourth defeat in five meetings with the three-time semi-finalist who, at 49, is the oldest Crucible qualifier since Steve Davis in 2010.
Also playing to a conclusion today is 2015 Crucible king Stuart Bingham, who holds a slender 5-4 lead over Rotherham debutant Ashley Carty – the same advantage held by 2016 finalist Ding Junhui ahead of his second session with Mark King.
The action gets underway from 10am BST, with first-round matches to be contested over the best of 19 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.
WATCH THE WORLD SNOOKER CHAMPIONSHIP STREAMED LIVE HERE (18+)
World Snooker Championship 2020 Schedule
*Indicates final session
Saturday August 1
6 David Gilbert v Kurt Maflin
10 Stuart Bingham v Ashley Carty*
5 John Higgins v Matthew Stevens
11 Ding Junhui v Mark King*
9 Mark Williams v Alan McManus*