The biggest tournament of the pro snooker season so far, the International Championship, gets underway later this month.
Often described by many snooker fans as the “fourth major”, the International Championship, won last year by Ricky Walden, has been a popular addition to the calendar since its first staging in 2012, and this year is held for the first time in Daqing, China.
The most recent tournament in China, the Shanghai Masters, was won by outsider Kyren Wilson and many will be expecting good things from this confident young English player in this tournament. He faces a tough opener against Jamie Cope who has also recently found himself in some form after a few tough years.
Two notable absentees from the tournament is the two of the most popular and followed players at the moment, Judd Trump and Ronnie O'Sullivan.
Judd, having recently reached the final of the Shanghai Masters, would have been a strong favourite coming in to this tournament. Arriving for his qualifying match in Barnsley, he was the strong favourite against world number 120 Michael Wild, but his journey to reclaim the trophy he won in 2012 was cut short at the first stage as Michael looked the much more confident player and came out an astonishing 6-0 winner. He faces another surprise first round winner in the form of Sanderson Lam in the Last 64.
Having also pulled out of the Shanghai Masters earlier in the season, Ronnie O'Sullivan has also not opted to play in this year's International Championship. This is mostly due to his dislike of long-haul flights, but perhaps he is saving himself and keeping himself fresh for the UK Championship and Masters this winter.
World Champion Stuart Bingham will also be under the microscope as his first round match against Steven Hallworth was held over to the venue in China, if he wins that he faces a testing Last 64 match against Yu Delu. After appearing recently in the semifinals of the Shanghai Masters, Stuart will be hoping to progress further and win his first tournament since becoming Crucible king last May and surprising all the experts at William Hill Snooker.
Ricky Walden claimed his third and biggest ranking title of his career at the International Championship last year, and faces a tricky opening round tie against the dangerous Tian Pengfei. After recently pulling out of the Shanghai Masters due to the birth of his first son, and early exits in previous tournaments this season, it will be hard to predict how Ricky will get on with the defence of his title, but he loves playing in China and is always one to watch at these events.
Other notable names making the trip to Daqing include former world champions John Higgins and Ken Doherty, with both impressing with qualifying wins over Ashley Hugill (6-1) and Vinne Calabrese (6-3) respectively. Higgins in particular will be one to watch during the International Championships, having won the Australian Open earlier in the year.
Who will we be expecting to lift the trophy at the end of the tournament? China Open champion Mark Selby has been given a favourable quarter and will be expected to make up for his disappointing start to the season.
Shaun Murphy will also followed closely during the tournament, having done well in the Euro Tour events so far this season and reaching the final of the World Championship in May. He faces a tough opener against Belgian star Luca Brecel.
The International Championship runs from October 25 - November 1 2015 and will be broadcast on EuroSport.