The tenth and final Challenge Tour event of the season will take place across Wednesday and Thursday at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.
A reintroduced secondary tier circuit for amateurs, the 2018/19 Challenge Tour campaign began back in June and has visited venues across England and further afield in Latvia, Germany, Belgium and Hungary. The tour offers players a direct pathway into the professional ranks with the top two from the season-long rankings each winning a coveted two-year tour card.
From the nine completed events so far, there have been eight different winners, demonstrating the competitive nature of the £100,000 circuit as previously relegated top tier names have mixed it with upcoming hopefuls from across Europe and beyond.
What is confirmed so far?
At the head of the Challenge Tour ranking list Brandon Sargeant (£6,625) is already assured of a top two result regardless of the outcome in Gloucester. This is because although both David Grace and Mitchell Mann can theoretically catch him by reaching the final, as both have been placed in the same half of the draw only one of the two chasers is able to do so.
Event 1 champion in Burton, Sargeant has been consistent throughout the year with a runners-up spot and a further four semi-final finishes to his name. However, with the prospect of ending the season top of the rankings, as well as the £2,000 top prize on offer later this week, Sargeant will be trying hard when he faces Zak Surety in his opener.
Who is in the mix?
The remaining tour card can only be won by one of three players; David Grace (£5,775), Mitchell Mann (£5,725) or David Lilley (£4,200). All three have been drawn in the preliminary round.
Former UK Championship semi-finalist Grace is the only player this season to have won more than one event courtesy of successes at Event 2 in Preston and Event 6 in Lommel, Belgium. There are several permutations but so long as Mann or Lilley do not better his result, Grace will be guaranteed to return to the professional circuit in 2019/20.
Grace plays the Republic of Ireland’s Ronan Whyte first up, whilst Mann – who like Grace was relegated last term – has a difficult opening assignment against sixth-placed Steven Hallworth.
Should both Grace and Mann come through their first two rounds, they would meet in a decisive last 16 clash. If that were to happen, it would be a winner takes all encounter, regardless of what recent European Championship finalist Lilley does.
Fourth-placed Lilley has a slim chance of gatecrashing the promotion places but needs a number of things to happen. He must win the tournament and hope that neither Grace or Mann reach the quarter-finals as the £500 on offer for a last eight finish would be enough to put either player out of reach. Lilley’s first match is far from straightforward as he crosses cues with Event 9 victor Adam Duffy.
Elsewhere in Gloucester
Outside of the promotion picture, as with every Challenge Tour stop, there is £10,000 of prize money up for grabs.
Fifth-placed Barry Pinches, champion at Event 3 in Latvia, recently crowned EBSA European Under-21 champion Jackson Page and Ryan Davies, who as a wildcard reached the last 16 of last month’s Shoot Out, have all entered.
11-time world women’s champion Reanne Evans will try her hand, whilst there will also be players representing Belgium, Hungary, Ukraine and Australia.
Follow the latest results from the event via @WSResults