Perhaps the most surprising thing about the UK Championship is the lack of surprises over the years.
Sure, there have been plenty of shock results but surprise winners have been thin on the ground.
In fact, I’d say there had only been three in this great tournament’s 30 years.
The first winner, Patsy Fagan, was by no means among the favourites (which would have been Ray Reardon, John Spencer, Alex Higgins and Doug Mountjoy) in 1977.
John Virgo would not have been tipped by many to win the 1979 event.
Mountjoy was 24th in the world rankings and widely thought to be in terminal decline when he won the title for a second time in 1988.
You could argue that, at 17, Ronnie O’Sullivan was a surprise winner in 1993 but most people recognised his prodigious talent and expected him to start capturing titles sooner rather than later.
Most of the game’s great and good have won the UK Championship, with the notable exceptions of Reardon, Spencer, Cliff Thorburn and Dennis Taylor.
This year’s event looks set to be competitive, but could there be a rare shock winner?
The way snooker is these days it seems more likely than a decade ago. But who are the contenders?
Mark Allen is certainly one. I think he’ll give an out of form Stephen Hendry real problems on Saturday and has the sort of game to go all the way.
Ricky Walden could prove a handful for Mark Williams, but would have to claim a series of other scalps were he to advance to the final.
How about someone like Stuart Bingham? He’s playing Steve Davis the first round, who he’s beaten three times out of three.
Or one of the veterans, like Nigel Bond and Dave Harold, aiming to follow Dominic Dale, Marco Fu and Fergal O’Brien in turning back the clock?
We will see over the nine days of the Maplin-sponsored tournament at Telford International Centre, which is broadcast live on the BBC and Eurosport.
And yet, for all the talk of shocks, I can’t help thinking that by the law of averages O’Sullivan – who is 32 years old today – has to win a ranking event some time soon (it’s been 33 months).
Looking at the draw, I fancy him to beat Shaun Murphy in the final on December 16.
That would certainly maintain the notion that, at the UK Championship, the cream always rises to the top.