Snooker, oh how I adore thee. The raw thrills of the balls crashing into one another. The ingenious tactics and game play. The poker faces. The wonderful moves that come off and the lucky shots you never thought would. The intelligent safety play. The break building. The passion and desire flowing through the veins of the players. The crowd clapping and whooping. A delicious sport, a game for supreme athletes indeed. But snooker has an image problem. Many see it as dull and uninteresting. But that’s changed a lot in recent years. There’s been a huge injection of cash, for a start. Joe Davis became the first world champion in 1927, winning, in today’s money, just £194.81. In the 2015 World Championship, Stuart Bingham won a whopping £300,000. This year’s winner won a bit more, £330,000. It may have been dull before recent years, but it aint anymore. Well, I say ‘dull’. In 1997, Lianne Crofts became snooker’s first streaker. And in 1980, in a televised match, Bill Werbeniuk’s trousers split during a match. He wasn’t wearing any underwear. Oh, God, the horror…
Snooker is a cue sport played on a table 12 foot by six. Six pockets, 22 balls. Pot a red, get a point. You then pot a colour and you get the points for that colour. The player with the most points at the end of each frame wins, the match winner being the one who has won the most predetermined number of frames to be played. Simples. What? I find it simples.
It was invented in India by the British Army. Sir Neville Chamberlain, who finalised the rules in 1884, was playing a game once when his opponent failed to pot a ball. Chamberlain called him a ‘snooker’, army slang for first-year cadets or inexperienced personnel, thus giving the game its name. It became hugely popular in gentleman’s clubs across the land before capturing the attention of the world. And, in 1927, one Joe Davis organised the first World Snooker Championship. He won every single one until his retirement in 1946.
The game declined in popularity until 1969 when David Attenborough, no less, organised the snooker tournament Pot Black to demonstrate the wonders of colour television. Suddenly, interest started growing in the game. The 1985 World Championship final was watched by 18.5 million people. When Barry Hearn took charge of World Snooker in 2010, he promised a revolution. And he gave us snooker fans a wonderful gift. He made snooker a global smash hit.
There are now 24 snooker tournaments each year. The maximum break is 147, although a 155 is possible. The big aim for players is to hit 100 in one go, known as a century. The quickest one in history came from Tony Drago in 1996, reaching the milestone in just three minutes and 31 seconds. The fastest player to hit 147 was the greatest player in history. He’s still playing, too. Ronnie O’Sullivan hit 147 in just five minutes and 20 seconds in 1997. He’s also the youngest winner at a tournament, too, winning aged just 17. Doug Mountjoy was the oldest, winning in 1988 aged 46.
But I will concede that it can go on for a while. In 2015, a frame between Barry Pinches and Alan McManus went on for 100 minutes and 24 seconds. ONE FRAME! The longest televised match was in 1985 and went on for 14 hours and 50 minutes. That said, the 1946 final went on for 17 days, so you know, all about perspective…
I adore snooker! So much. It’s wonderful. It’s exciting. It’s energetic. It’s everything you want in a sport. I love it.
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1) 1997 snooker streaker Lianne Crofts
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