O'Sullivan won the last of his world titles in 2013, but gets his latest chance to narrow the gap on seven-times winner Stephen Hendry – the most prolific world champion of the Crucible era – when the sport's biggest event is staged behind closed doors.
The delayed event begins on Friday 31 July and runs until Sunday 16 August with world champion and undisputed world number one Judd Trump bidding to become the first maiden winner of the event to successfully retain the title at the first attempt.
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Stephen Maguire rises from world number 14 to nine in the world following his Tour Championship victory while losing finalist Mark Allen is up to a career-high of four from five for the final and main tournament of the elongated 2019/20 campaign, disrupted like the rest of the sporting calendar by the global coronavirus pandemic.
Eurosport and Eurosport Player will broadcast all eight days of the World Championship qualifying event at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield between 21 July and 28 July with extensive live coverage for fans across 50 territories in Europe.
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16 qualifiers will be drawn against the top 16 for the first round of the tournament. These include several leading names in the sport such as two-times world finalist Ali Carter, 2006 world champion Graeme Dott and last year's losing semi-finalist Gary Wilson.
O'Sullivan begins the event ranked sixth in the world, but has yet to progress beyond the last eight over the past six years. He will be wary of the potential dangers after losing 10-8 to amateur qualifier James Cahill in the first round a year ago.
The Essex man is seeded to face Ding Junhui in the last 16, a possible match with three-times winner Mark Williams or 2015 champion Stuart Bingham in the quarter-finals and could come across 2010 world champion and world number Neil Robertson in the best-of-33 frame semi-finals.
Bingham ousted O'Sullivan in the quarter-finals on his way to victory in 2015 while UK champion Ding beat him at the same stage in 2017.
Trump will be in action on the opening day of the event on 31 July. He is due to meet Yan Bingtao in the last 16 and could come across Maguire in the quarter-finals. Maguire toppled Trump 9-6 in the semi-finals of the Tour Championship.
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Providing he negotiates a path to the semi-finals, Trump could potentially encounter Allen or four-times champion John Higgins in the semi-finals.
The bottom quarter of the draw looks to be the toughest with former world champions Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy potentially colliding over the best of 25 frames in the last 16 and Robertson or 2013 finalist Barry Hawkins also in the frame to meet the winner of that match in the quarter-finals.
The winner of the tournament picks up a £500,000 first prize from tournament sponsors Betfred.
World Championship first round draw
- Judd Trump Eng (1) v Qualifier
- Yan Bingtao Chn (16) v Qualifier
- Stephen Maguire Sco (9) v Qualifier
- Kyren Wilson Eng (8) v Qualifier
- John Higgins Sco (5) v Qualifier
- David Gilbert Eng (12) v Qualifier
- Jack Lisowski Eng (13) v Qualifier
- Mark Allen NI (4) v Qualifier
- Mark Williams Wal (3) v Qualifier
- Stuart Bingham Eng (14) v Qualifier
- Ding Junhui Chn (11) v Qualifier
- Ronnie O’Sullivan Eng (6) v Qualifier
- Mark Selby Eng (7) v Qualifier
- Shaun Murphy Eng (10) v Qualifier
- Barry Hawkins Eng (15) v Qualifier
- Neil Robertson Aus (2) v Qualifier