Ahead of Monday's big invitational event from Shanghai, here's Paul Krishnamurty's preview and regular staking plan...
"This is a big step in grade from the Riga Masters but Yan Bingtao belongs in this company. Now he has a title under his belt, watch this potential world champion go."
Although no longer a ranking event, the Shanghai Masters has developed into one of the most prestigious titles, with £200,000 going to the winner. It is also Ronnie O'Sullivan's regular seasonal debut and perhaps the first episode of a story that will become the season's narrative.
High chance of a Ronnie/Judd final
The draw has kept the Rocket and Judd Trump apart, so there's a very good chance we'll see another dream final between the pair. Ronnie ran out a 10-3 winner here in 2017 but has lost two of their three finals since, including at the Masters.
Right now, Trump must be regarded as the one to beat - a rare situation for O'Sullivan. The 'Juddernaut' won the last two majors and was irresistible when extending his winning run at the International Championship. That said, Ronnie wasn't in the latter and won five titles of his own last season, including a major.
In this section, only Kyren Wilson presents a serious threat to O'Sullivan's progress, and 'Warrior' must first negotiate a tricky opener.
There is always a fear of rust backing a player on seasonal debut but that didn't stop him last year. Plus, while practice is of course no true guide, does this look like a man who is either struggling or not enjoying his snooker?
Some nice action from today's practice session. I hope you Enjoy watching it as much as I enjoy doing it pic.twitter.com/EwZCEVzm74? Ronnie O'Sullivan (@ronnieo147) September 2, 2019
Backing Ronnie means the staking plan can only afford so many big guns, so Neil Robertson is reluctantly overlooked at 8/1. Given the prize fund, limited draw and longer matches, this is exactly the sort of event where the cream rises to the top so don't be surprised if the favourite wins each quarter.
There are, nevertheless, alternatives. If John Higgins wins the Six-Reds final, whoever Robbo faces in the quarter-final will have already won a title this season.
Keep brilliant Bingtao on side
This is a big step in grade from the Riga Masters but Yan Bingtao belongs in this company. Now he has a title under his belt, watch this potential world champion go.
There's no weak section at this level but the favourite in this quarter does look the most vulnerable. Despite reaching the International semis, Mark Selby's peak form seems a long time ago.
With Mark Williams hard to fancy, the choice is between Lisowski and Shaun Murphy. Were it not for a mystery injury that forced him out of the Paul Hunter Classic, 'The Magician' would have been the pick as he returned to fine form at the International.
Instead, I'll give another chance at tasty odds to Liwowski. This top prospect is progressive if still frustating. He must break through soon!
Allen could end Trump's winning run
Finally, Trump's section. I won't try and engineer an argument against - he's flying. However you can't win every tournament and, whilst he'll be hot favourite against anyone in this half of the draw, there are potential pitfalls.
At 40/1 and 50/1 respectively, it isn't hard to make an each-way case for either Stuart Bingham or David Gilbert. Preference however is for Allen, who leads Trump 8-7 in their career head-to-head and has started the season pretty well.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty
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