Snooker is a billiards sport that is played on a large (12' X 6') baize-covered table with pockets in each of the four corners and in the middle of each of the long cushions. It is played using a cue, one white ball (the cue ball), 15 red balls and 6 colours: a yellow (worth 2 points), green (3 points), brown (4 points), blue (5 points), pink (6 points) and black ball (7 points). A player wins a frame of snooker by scoring more points than his opponent, through using the cue ball to pot all the red and coloured balls. A match consists of an agreed number of frames. Snooker is particularly popular in English-speaking countries (Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, India and South Africa), and there has recently been a surge of interest in East Asia, with players from Thailand, Hong Kong and China entering the rankings.
The game of billiards dates back to the 15th century but snooker is a more recent invention. In the late 19th century billiards games were popular among British army officers stationed in India and players used to experiment with variations on the game. The most commonly accepted story is that, at the officers' mess in Jubbulpore in 1875, Colonel Sir Neville Chamberlain (no relation to the later Prime Minister) suggested adding coloured balls to a billiards game. The word 'snooker' was army slang for a first-year cadet. This came to be used for novices to the game, and eventually for the game itself. British billiards champion John Roberts travelled to India in 1885, where he met Chamberlain. Chamberlain explained the new game to him, and Roberts subsequently introduced it to England.
Snooker championships date back to 1916. In 1927, Joe Davis, by far the best player of the time, helped establish the first professional world championship, and won its prize of £6.10s (£6.50, equivalent to about £200 today). He went on to win every subsequent world championship until 1946. The trophy he donated all those years ago is still awarded to the world champion.
Snooker suffered a decline in the 1950s and 1960s, so much so that no tournament was held from 1958 to 1963. In 1969, the BBC, in order to demonstrate their new colour broadcasts, launched a new snooker tournament, called Pot Black. The multi-coloured game, many of whose players were just as colourful, caught the public interest, and the programme's success wildly exceeded expectations. Ted Lowe, the commentator famous for his whispering delivery, was the driving-force behind Pot Black, which survived until well into the 1980s.
In the early 1970s, the world championship received little TV coverage. However, in 1976 it was featured for the first time and very quickly became a mainstream professional sport. World rankings were introduced in 1977. Money poured into the game, and a new breed of player, typified by Steve Davis, young, serious and dedicated, started to emerge. The first maximum break of 147 in televised tournament was achieved at Derby in 1982 by Davis. Unfortunately it was late at night, and the cameras were off. The first televised 147 was by the Canadian Cliff Thorburn. The top players became sterling millionaires. There was even a comic snooker song in the pop charts: Snooker Loopy by Chas & Dave.
Perhaps the peak of this golden age was the world championship of 1985, when 18.5 million people (one third of the population of the UK) watching BBC2 saw Dennis Taylor lift the cup after a mammoth struggle against Davis that finished with the potting of the last possible ball, well after midnight on a Sunday night. To this day, polls rank the 1985 World Snooker Championship final amongst UK TV's most memorable all-time moments.
Snooker remains immensely popular in the United Kingdom, second only to football amongst television viewers.
The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), founded in 1968 as the Professional Billiard Players' Association, is the governing body for the professional game. Its subsidiary, World Snooker, organises the professional tour. The organisation is based in Bristol, England. It must be said that the world governing body has been racked by in-fighting for a number of years.
The amateur game is governed by the International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF).
Snooker is played on a rectangular 6' by 12' (about 1.83m by 3.66m) table (often referred to as 'Full Size' as smaller same ratio tables can be used) with six pockets, one at each corner and one in the middle of each long side. At one end of the table (the 'Baulk End' ) is the so-called 'baulk line', which is 29 inches from the baulk end cushion. A semicircle of radius 11½ inches, called the "D", is drawn behind this line, centred on the middle of the line. On the baulk line, looking up the table from the 'baulk end', the yellow ball (2 points) is located where the "D" meets the line on the right, the green ball (3) where the "D " meets the line on the left, and the brown ball (4) in the middle of the line. An easy way to remember these positions is to see the phrase 'God Bless You' with the first letter of each word being the first letter of the three colours. At the exact middle of the table sits the blue ball (5). Further up the table is the pink ball (6), which sits midway between the blue spot and the top cushion, followed by the red balls, touching each other and placed in a triangle behind the pink (the apex must be as close as possible to the pink ball without touching it). Finally, the black ball (7) is placed on a spot 12¼ inches from the top cushion.
A snooker match usually consists of an odd number of frames. The winner of the match is the player who first reaches a number of frames higher than half of the total number of frames. If a match has 19 frames, this means a match will end when one of the players reaches 10 frames.
At the beginning of each frame the balls are set up by the referee as explained. This will be followed by a "break-off" shot, on which the players take turns. At the break-off, the white cue ball can be placed anywhere inside the "D", although it is common for players to start by placing the ball on the line, between the brown ball and either the green or yellow ball.
The cue ball is the ball that players must hit with their cue in order to let it hit and possibly pot another ball. The cue ball is always the white ball and hitting another ball with your cue directly is not allowed. The ball "on" is the first ball that, according to the rules of the game, must be hit by the cue ball after the player has struck it. This changes from shot to shot.
Players take turns in visiting the table. When one player is at the table, the other cannot play. A "break" is a number of points scored by one player in one single visit to the table.
The game consists of two phases. In the first phase, which begins every new frame or every time a player comes into turn, the balls "on" are all the red balls. If a player can pot a red ball, he receives 1 point. If he can pot more than one in a single stroke, he will receive 1 point for every red. He can, however, not pot the white itself or another colour. Red balls potted will always stay down. If no red ball is potted, the other player comes into play.
If a red ball is potted, the player currently in play stays at the table and continues his break with another stroke. This time one of the six colours is the ball "on". When playing a colour, the game's rules state that a player must nominate the ball he is playing for to the referee, so that the referee knows which ball is the ball "on" and which are not; however this is not necessary on most shots because the choice is obvious. The choice is usually made explicit only if two or more coloured balls are in close proximity or near the same line of sight.
When a colour is potted, the player will be rewarded the correct number of points (Yellow, 2; Green, 3; Brown, 4; Blue, 5; Pink, 6; Black, 7). The colour is then taken out of the pocket by the referee and placed on his spot. If all spots are taken the ball is placed on the highest available spot. If there is no available spot, underneath its own spot as close to its own spot as possible in a straight line, without touching another ball. If there is no room underneath the spot, it will be placed above the spot as close to the spot as possible in a straight line, without touching another ball.
A player cannot pot more than one colour at the same time, or a colour and a red.
When all reds are gone, the second phase begins. In this phase, all colours have to be potted in the correct order (yellow, then green, then brown, then blue, then pink, then black). They become ball "on" in that very order.
When a foul is made during a shot, the player will receive no points for the shots. The other player will receive penalty points.
Common fouls are:
- not hitting the ball "on" with the cue ball
- hitting another ball with the cue
- potting a red when a colour should be potted, or a colour when a red should be potted, or potting the wrong colour
- potting the cue ball
- making a ball land off the table
- touching a ball with something else than the cue
- playing a "push shot" - a shot where the cue, cue ball and object ball are in simultaneous contact
- Playing a chip shot so that the cue ball leaves the table
where as in other games like pool, if the cue ball is touched with the tip of the cue when it is in baulk after being potted, then a foul is commited, but in snooker if the cue ball is touched with the tip after being potted and in the D, a foul is not commited, just as long as the referee does not think that it was a potential shot where the player just miscued.
Penalty points are at least 4 points. This can increase depending on the value of the ball "on", and the value of the "foul" ball, whichever is the highest. When more than one foul is made, the penalty is not the added total, but the most highly valued foul.
The foul of not hitting the ball "on" first is the most common foul. The name of the game originally comes from the verb "snooker" which means to bully, or to put in trouble. Players can put other players in trouble by making sure they can not hit the ball(s) "on" in a direct line from the next shot. This is called a "snooker".
Since players receive points for fouls by their opponents, snookering your opponent is a possible way to win a frame, when potting all the balls on the table couldn't possibly make you win because you are too far behind.
If a foul has been committed by not hitting a ball "on" first, or at all, and the referee judges that the player has not made the best possible effort to hit a ball "on", and neither of the players are in need of snookers to win the frame, then 'foul, and a miss' is called and the other player may request that all balls on the table are returned to their position before the foul, and his opponent play the shot again. (In top class play, this will usually require only the cue ball and a couple of other balls to be moved). When a foul shot has been played, the player who committed the foul may also be asked to go back to the table for another shot if the position is still difficult to play from.
The highest possible break that can be achieved in normal play is 147; in that case, the player must pot all reds and pot the black ball after every red. The player will then have to pot all colours. The "maximum break" of 147 rarely occurs in match play.
When a player leaves his opponent snookered on at least one side of all balls "on" after a foul, the other player will receive a freeball. This means he can nominate any colour and play it as the ball "on". He will receive the points of the ball "on" after potting it. If the ball "on" is a red ball, after potting the freeball, a player can nominate and pot a colour as usual.
This means the highest achievable break is actually 155 points. If an opponent fouls before any balls are potted, and leaves the player a freeball, the player can then nominate a colour and play it as a red ball. He can then nominate black as his next colour. This means he can actually score the value of 16 "reds" and blacks, which equals 155 points. This has never been done. The highest break in tournament play is 149, the highest break in professional matchplay is 148. (see also highest snooker break).
A frame ends when one player gives up (usually done by nodding to the referee, purposely touching another ball with the cue or walking away), when all the balls are off the table, when only the black remains and the difference between both players is more than 7 points, or when a player fouls on the final black, which will cost him the frame.
The most important event in professional snooker is the Embassy World Championship, held annually since 1927 (except between 1958 and 1963). The tournament has been held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield (England) since 1977.
However, due to the fact that Tobacco companies are no longer allowed to sponsor sporting events after 2005, the World Snooker Championship will have another sponsorship deal. Talk about the whereabouts of the event, which is usually in Sheffield, have confirmed that it will stay there for several more years, until a new location is decided.
The group of tournaments that come next in importance are the ranking tournaments. Players in these tournaments score world ranking points. A high ranking ensures qualification for next year's tournaments, invitations to invitational tournaments and an advantageous draw in tournaments.
Third in line are the invitational tournaments, to which most of the highest ranked players are invited. The most important tournament in this category is The Masters.
- Ronnie O'Sullivan (England), won two World Championships, most recently in 2004; holder of the record for fastest televised 147 break. Nicknamed 'The Rocket' due to his blisteringly fast rate of potting
- Stephen Hendry (Scotland), won seven World Championships in the 1990s
- John Higgins (Scotland), World Champion 1998. Holds the record for making the most centuries back to back (four) and the most unanswered points (494 against Ronnie O'Sullivan). Nickname is 'The wizard of Wishaw'
- Steve Davis (England), won six World Championships in the 1980s; nicknamed 'The Nugget'
- Ken Doherty (Republic of Ireland), won the 1997 World Championship, and is the only person in the world who has won all three World Championships: Under 21, Amateur and Professional.
- Peter Ebdon (England), World Champion 2002.
- Joe Davis (England), won the World Championships 15 consecutive times from 1927 to 1946
- Jimmy White (England), the eternal bridesmaid, who has been runner-up in the World Championships six times. One of the most popular player the game has yet seen, also known as 'The Whirlwind'
- Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins (Northern Ireland), brought the sport to new levels of popularity and won two World Championships, 1972 and 1982
- John Pulman (England), dominated in the 1960s
- Ray Reardon (Wales), won six World Championships, mostly in the 1970s
- John Spencer, three-times World Champion from the late 60s onwards
- Dennis Taylor (Northern Ireland), won the famous 1985 World Championship final; also famous for wearing large spectacles
- Cliff Thorburn (Canada), the only player from outside the British Isles to win the World Championship
- chalk: The tip of the cue is 'chalked' to ensure good contact between cue and ball.
- cue: The wooden stick, which is used to strike the cue ball.
- extension: A shorter stick that fits over the back end of the cue, effectively lengthening the cue. Used to facilitate shots where the cue ball is a long distance from the player.
- rest: A stick with an X-shaped head that is used to support the cue when the player's arm is too short.
- hook rest: Identical to the normal rest, yet with a hooked metal end. It is used to set the rest around another ball. The hook rest is the most recent invention in snooker.
- spider: Similar to the rest but has an arch-shaped head; it is used to elevate (and support) the tip of the cue above the height of the cue ball.
- swan: Rarely used - the swan has an single extended neck with a fork-like prong at the end to give extra distance over larger obstructions.
- triangle: The piece of equipment used for gathering the balls into the formation required by the game being played. Also known as a rack.
- extended rest: Same as the regular rest, but with a mechanism which makes it possible to extend the rest by 3 feet.
- ballmarker: little instrument with 'D' shaped notch, which a referee places next to a ball, in order to mark the position of the ball. He now can remove the ball to clean it.
- back spin: A shot played by striking the cue ball slightly below centre, the spin causing ball's trajectory to bend against its initial direction of motion.
- baulk area: The area between the baulk line and the nearest edge.
- break: Series of consecutive pots by the same player.
- cannon: A shot where the cue ball strikes more than one object ball.
- century: A break of 100 points or more.
- Chinese Snooker: A position in which a shot is made impossible by a ball being right behind the cue ball, making it impossible to hit the cue ball in the right direction for the shot.
- clearance: Break ending with potting the black in phase 2, and thus with an empty table (except for the cue ball).
- containing safety: A safety shot in which the aim is not to snooker the opponent, but to reduce the chance of your opponent being able to snooker you. Most frequently these involve leaving the cue ball on the top cushion.
- colour: A non-red object ball.
- drag, drag shot: A shot played over a large distance but with much backspin, often utilized when delicate contact between cue ball and object ball is required. The backspin, or drag, helps to nullify the effects of any deviations in the table surface that may cause the cue ball to wander off course when played at low speed.
- frame: A single game in a match over a number of games.
- free ball: If a foul shot leaves the opponent at least partially snookered (meaning that every 'ball on' is at least partially obscured by a 'ball not on', i.e. for every 'ball on' a 'ball not on' prevents it from being hit in a straight line on any edge), the opponent can elect to play another ball in place of the obscured ball. This is known as a free ball.
- kick: An unexpectedly poor contact between cue ball and object ball (possibly caused by chalk or dirt on either of the balls, or by static electricity).
- kiss: A soft contact between two balls.
- masse: A shot played with the cue played in an almost vertical position - used to impart extreme swerve on the cue ball.
- maximum: The maximum (without fouls) possible score of 147, scored in a single break.
- miss: A miss will be called if a player does not hit the 'ball on' first and is deemed by the referee to not have made a good enough attempt at the shot. This gives his opponent the option to have the balls replaced as they were and have the fouling player take his shot again. The applied interpretation of the rule has proved controversial. Frequently players will attempt to hit a shot thinly, so as to avoid leaving his opponent a chance, and this can lead to a relatively easy shot to hit being retaken several times.
- pack: The red balls in their initial position, or, later in a game, the remaining reds remaining together roughly in the initial position.
- pimmetje: After you potted a ball, the cueball will go straight into the same pocket as the ball you've just potted.
- plant: Hitting one ball first, which in turn (possibly indirectly) causes another ball to be potted. This is legal only when either both balls are red or when the ball hit first is a free ball and the ball potted is a ball which would normally have been 'on' if no free ball were given.
- pot: To hit (a ball) into one of the pockets.
- push shot/push stroke: The cue tip maintains contact with the cue ball when the cue ball hits another ball. This is normally deemed a foul, unless the cue and object ball were already almost touching each other and the object ball is hit on a very fine edge.
- respotted black: When the frame ends with both players having the same number of points, the black is put back on the table, as is the cue ball, and the first player to pot it wins the frame. If a foul shot is committed by either player, that player loses the frame.
- roll through: A shot played with topspin and making a full contact with the object ball, allowing the cue ball to follow the path of the object.
- roll-up: A shot played at a slow pace to simply leave the cue ball behind a colour (usually at the baulk end), which can be difficult snookers to escape from.
- safety: A shot not with the intention to pot a ball, but to leave the opponent with little or no opportunity to make a pot on his next shot.
- screw, screw shot: A shot with heavy back spin.
- shot to nothing: A shot in which the only ball the player could leave his opponent a chance with is the one he is attempting to pot. These often involve leaving the cue ball in the baulk area of the table, and are often thin cuts from distance.
- side, side spin: A shot played with the cue striking the white to one side of centre, used to change the angle at which the white bounces off the cushion.
- snooker: A snooker is a shot that leaves the opponent unable to hit a legal ball directly. The opponent is said to be snookered. If potting all the remaining balls would still leave a player trailing his opponent, then he is said to be needing snookers. At this point the only way for him to win is to lure the opponent into making fouls. The oficial term is a little bit different: A free ball is awarded if the player is snookered after his opponents foul, that means that the word snooker is every situation where you can't cut the 'ball on' on both sides. That means that being snookered, does not always mean you can't hit the ball.
- stun shot: A shot played with exactly enough backspin such that the cue ball stops dead upon contact with the object ball. It is also possible to stun across, achieved again by using a precise amount of backspin, but this time hitting the object slightly off centre, causing the two balls to travel perpendicular to each other.
- stun run through shot: Same shot as the stun shot, but hit only a fraction higher, which causes the cueball to run a bit after contact with the object ball. The reason to play the shot is that you can stirke the ball firmly, without cousing too much action in the cueball.
- swerve: A shot played with extreme spin causing the cue ball's trajectory to be curved. Mainly used to escape from difficult snookers, although sometimes as a pot.
- top spin: A shot played by striking the white slightly above centre, causing the ball to accelerate after contact with on object ball.
- touching ball: Situation in which the cue ball is touching another ball. The cue ball must be played away from the touching ball. If this is a ball that is to be hit, the ball counts as having been hit. If the ball that is touching the cue ball is caused to move while the shot is being played, then a foul will be called (see push shot).
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