So we’re ready, then.
All the talking, the predictions, the conjecture, can stop. The Betfred.com World Championship is about to begin.
This is snooker at its best: gimmick free. The World Championship stands alone as the last bastion of what championship snooker should be about, unsullied by cheap attempts to dumb it down.
As it has been for the last three decades the World Championship is 17 days of lengthy matches, slow burning drama, great potting, big breaks, unexpected misses, joy, despair, elation, heartbreak, good luck, bad luck and, for one of the 32 players involved, a life changing triumph.
It’s tough, really tough. You need skill, stamina, bottle and much more to become champion. You need belief and mental fortitude. You need heart and nerve.
For the eventual winner, a place in the history books awaits. For everyone else there is only disappointment.
The World Championship existed for 50 years before moving to Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre in 1977 but the Crucible era coincided with snooker’s television age and is thus awash with memories inescapably stitched through time in the grand tapestry that forms the history of the sport.
Joe Davis was the first champion 85 years ago. He used half of the original entry fees to purchase the silver trophy which is still presented to this day.
Little did he know what he started. Colour television brought the tournament into living rooms and illuminated moments forever frozen in time.
Even those who don’t remember them first time round can see them now: Barry Hearn barrelling into Steve Davis after his young charge won his first world title in 1981. Alex Higgins tearfully beckoning his wife and baby on to the stage in 1982. Cliff Thorburn sinking to his knees after his 147 in 1983. Dennis Taylor holding his cue aloft after his black ball defeat of Davis in 1985. Joe Johnson’s smile, equal parts joy and disbelief, as he swept away Davis in 1986.
Into the 1990s and the remarkable Stephen Hendry-Jimmy White rivalry, the emergence of John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan, whose 1997 maximum remains an audacious exhibition of sheer skill.
We had drama too in the 2000s, Peter Ebdon winning a decider against Hendry, Ken Doherty’s 2003 adventure, Shaun Murphy triumphing as a qualifier.
Just last year Judd Trump enthralled as the new kid on the baize, threatening the old guard with his incredible potting, the latest in a long line of players who have lit up the Crucible stage.
Close your eyes and remember. And then open them and enjoy the 2012 edition, because more memories are about to be created.
There are a number of players going into this year’s tournament with every reason to feel they can scoop the £250,000 first prize come May 7 after a season in which the major prizes have been shared around.
There are nine players in the field who have won the title before. Three players are experiencing the Crucible’s unique and oppressive atmosphere for the first time.
If you are going to Sheffield to watch in person then you will be part of the experience first hand. Everyone else can enjoy it on TV and online.
The BBC has coverage all day on the red button (for those with satellite television) and live terrestrial coverage in the afternoons. All matches are live on the BBC website for UK residents.
Eurosport has blanket coverage across its various channels and on the Eurosport player.
The tournament is also live on Chinese TV and on liveworldsnooker.tv apart from those areas with TV coverage.
Wherever you are watching, I trust you will enjoy it.
It’s been another great season of snooker, featuring more action than ever, but there is only one World Championship. This is the ultimate test for any player.
There’s nothing more to be said. Let the drama begin.