World Snooker Championship 2014 will see the sport’s elite battle it out to be crowned king of snooker on the most famous stage of them all: the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
From April 19 to May 5, 32 of the world’s best players will descend on the Steel City with ambitions of writing their names into snooker folklore, though there can only be one winner.
Back-to-back champion Ronnie O’Sullivan kicks off his title defence against qualifier Robin Hull in Game 1 of the championship, with several other intriguing ties also in action across the first round, as we see below:
|World Snooker Championship First Round—April 19-24|
|1||Ronnie O'Sullivan vs. Robin Hull|
|12||Stuart Bingham vs. Ken Doherty|
|3||Shaun Murphy vs. Jamie Cope|
|14||Stephen Maguire vs. Ryan Day|
|10||Ali Carter vs. Xiao Guodong|
|2||Joe Perry vs. Jamie Burnett|
|8||Ding Junhui vs. Michael Wasley|
|9||Mark Selby vs. Michael White|
|11||John Higgins vs. Alan McManus|
|6||Ricky Walden vs. Kyren Wilson|
|4||Marco Fu vs. Martin Gould|
|5||Barry Hawkins vs. David Gilbert|
|13||Judd Trump vs. Tom Ford|
|15||Mark Allen vs. Michael Holt|
|16||Neil Robertson vs. Robbie Williams|
|7||Mark Davis vs. Dominic Dale|
|Round of 16—April 24-28|
|21||Winner of match 9 vs. Winner of match 10|
|17||Winner of match 1 vs. Winner of match 2|
|19||Winner of match 5 vs. Winner of match 6|
|22||Winner of match 11 vs. Winner of match 12|
|23||Winner of match 13 vs. Winner of match 14|
|20||Winner of match 7 vs. Winner of match 8|
|18||Winner of match 3 vs. Winner of match 4|
|24||Winner of match 15 vs. Winner of match 16|
|26||Winner of match 19 vs. Winner of match 20|
|27||Winner of match 21 vs. Winner of match 22|
|25||Winner of match 17 vs. Winner of match 18|
|28||Winner of match 23 vs. Winner of match 24|
|29||Winner of match 25 vs. Winner of match 26|
|30||Winner of match 27 vs. Winner of match 28|
|31||Winner of match 29 vs. Winner of match 30|
The tournament will be live on the BBC throughout the two-and-a-half weeks of tournament action, with a live stream available on BBC iPlayer (UK only).
World Championship qualification threw up a few surprises this year, with former champions Steve Davis, Mark Williams, Graeme Dott and Peter Ebdon all failing to make the final 32.
For the latter, it was the first time he’s failed to qualify for the World Championship since turning professional 22 years ago. Taking his place is Hull, who faces a David vs. Goliath contest against O’Sullivan.
The 39-year-old Finn defeated Ebdon in qualifying and said he’s thrilled to have earned a place at the Crucible after temporarily retiring from the game in 2008, as BBC Sport reported:
"I am so happy. I am enjoying playing and enjoying competing. The last time I was here was the year Peter won it. He has had a great run of 22 years so I am just so happy to beat him."
O’Sullivan, though, will be looking to wipe the smile from Hull’s face on April 19, as he looks for his sixth World Championship triumph. The Rocket has won four tournaments this season, including the Masters, where he swept aside the competition in expert fashion.
Last season, he disposed of Barry Hawkins 18-12 in the final to lift the famous trophy once again. However, the Hawk faces a tough test if he’s to repeat his exploits of last year this time around.
The Kent-based cueman has drawn David Gilbert in the first round, a player who has shown vast improvement over the last 12 months of tournament play.
Defeat to Gilbert would still be a shock for the world No. 4, but the World Championship first round is no stranger to scalps.
The current world No. 1, Australian Neil Robertson, was dumped out of the first round in last year’s tournament by Robert Milkins following a 10-8 defeat.
This year, Robertson will start off his campaign against Robbie Williams, hoping for a repeat of 2010 when he became the first Aussie to be crowned world champion.
Elsewhere, world No. 6 Stuart Bingham takes on veteran Ken Doherty, Mark Selby faces youngster Michael White, and the in-form Ding Junhui has been drawn against Michael Wasley.
It’s all set to be one of the most competitive World Championships ever contested, with the sport’s standards always rising. There will be high stakes, high drama and, of course, high breaks throughout.