Stuart Bingham will defend his title at the Betfred World Championship after ploughing through the field to become a surprise winner 12 months ago.
Here are five cue stars to watch during the 17 days of snooker’s number one tournament, starting on April 16, as they bid to snatch the trophy away from Bingham.
1. Ronnie O’Sullivan
“Blink and you’ll miss him” is the familiar guidance from tournament MC Rob Walker, and those switching on for the semi-finals last year would have wondered where O’Sullivan had gone. A quarter-final victim of Bingham’s stunning run in 2015, O’Sullivan has captured the Masters and Welsh Open titles already this year and starts as favourite at the Crucible. Wholly unpredictable, his matches are unmissable because of the drama that frequently occurs. If his temperament is right it will take a remarkable player to stop O’Sullivan landing a sixth world title.
2. Judd Trump
Five years ago, as a near unknown, Trump won the China Open and weeks later as a qualifier reached the World Championship final. This year he has captured the China Open title again and reports his confidence is at an all-time high going to Sheffield. Utterly thrilling to watch when at his best, the Bristolian left-hander is surely a world champion in waiting.
3. Neil Robertson
The “Thunder from Down Under” carried off the world title in 2010 and has the ideal patience and character required for the 17-day marathon. A good friend of Chelsea captain John Terry, the Australian landed the Champion of Champions and UK Championship titles before Christmas.
4. Shaun Murphy
For 16 days of last year’s World Championship, Murphy looked good for the title. Come day 17 his overnight lead was swallowed up by Bingham, his good friend, who upset the odds to lift the trophy. A winner of this tournament in 2005, and a dedicated student of the game, Murphy has had a season with more downs than ups, but he triumphed at the World Grand Prix last month.
5. Mark Allen
Northern Irishman Allen has struggled to do himself justice on the biggest stage since his 2009 semi-final appearance, with a series of early exits proving painful. But if there is to be a surprise champion this year his name springs to mind as a dark horse. The 30-year-old has enjoyed a strong season in which he has landed the Players Championship title, reached another final and two semi-finals.