The snooker calendar has considerably filled up in the last two years but the UK Championship – or the United Kingdom Championship as David Vine never failed to call it – has something special going for it: a history which stretches back four decades.
It’s been won by so many greats of the game since it was first staged in 1977 and has built up a store of memories to relish for players and fans alike.
For instance, the UK Championship saw one of the best and most significant snooker matches ever played when Stephen Hendry beat Steve Davis 16-15 in their 1990 final. This was a symbolic passing of the torch from one king of the green baize to another.
That torch has continued to be passed on, as it will long after me or anyone reading this blog is still walking the earth.
Players come and go but snooker goes on and hopefully the UK Championship itself still has many years left to run.
Starting on Saturday, this is the first tournament of the season to be televised by the BBC, which is significant in the UK as the terrestrial broadcaster reaches more viewers than its satellite rivals.
But only in the UK. The tournament will be screened live in 68 countries, not one.
York is a beautiful city, though flood-hit of late. 32 players will brave the elements to contest a top prize of £125,000 and the chance to win an event with genuine heritage.
It’ll probably be one of the usual suspects but the fun is in finding out which.
Judd Trump is defending champion. He has played superbly this season, although all players, even Davis and Hendry at their best, experience peaks and troughs in form.
John Higgins, three times the UK champion, has returned to form with a vengeance this season and has the experience and table-craft to go all the way to yet another major success.
Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui, Shaun Murphy and last year’s runner-up, Mark Allen, are other clear title contenders.
We know all about these fine players but, as ever, it’s the qualifiers who help make the event a more interesting affair.
Leading them out is Davis, 55 years old and 32 years on from his first UK Championship success.
At the other end of the age scale is Luca Brecel, just 17, a precociously talented Belgian who also qualified for the Crucible earlier this year.
Cao Yupeng, one of three Chinese players in the draw, has also done the world/UK qualifying double.
Jack Lisowski, improving all the time, heads to York having made a 147 in the qualifiers.
Michael White, from that great snooker land of Wales, has really pushed on in the last year.
Then there is the dangerous band of experienced players capable of causing problems: Marco Fu, Dominic Dale, Robert Milkins, Ryan Day and Mark King.
One to watch could be Liang Wenbo. I commentated on his 6-0 qualifying win over Andrew Higginson and thought he was very sharp and looked supremely confident.
These qualifiers are match fit to say the least. They’ve been playing solidly for the last fortnight with the UK qualifiers, Munich PTC prelims and German Masters qualifying.
So they can be expected to give the 16 seeded players plenty of problems, especially as it is of course a best of 11 format rather than the best of 17 of UK Championships of old.
I was against this reduction, and still regret it, but last year’s tournament was a great event. The one upside of the change is that every match is now televised. The crowds flocked to York in 2011 and the atmosphere certainly helped make the tournament a success.
Who will win in 2012?
No idea. With a (metaphorical) gun to my head I would plump for Higgins because he has the various strengths you need to win a major.
As ever, though, it’ll come down to who does what when the talking stops and the action in one of snooker’s great events finally begins on Saturday morning.