32 players, 22 balls, 17 days, one big green table
April 19, 2013 2:26 PM   Subscribe

Tomorrow sees the start of the 2013 Snooker World Championship. A gruelling 17-day tournament held at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, where 32 of the world's best players compete for a first prize of £250,000. This year, the pre-tournament buzz has only been about one thing: the return of Ronnie O'Sullivan. Indisputably the most naturally gifted player ever to grace the game, O'Sullivan plays almost as well with his left hand as he does with his right, and holds the world record for the fastest ever televised maximum break. Even though he has barely competed since his convincing victory at last year's World Championship, some people predict that he will win again this year.

If you're watching the BBC's coverage (check the beautiful promo) there's a fun to be had playing Snooker Bingo. Which commentator will say "careless" the most? How many times will John Virgo shout "Where's the cue ball going?", etc. etc.

If you're one of those people who find snooker incomprehensible, or boring, fear not: Adam Buxton explains everything.

And if you just like watching maximums, here's a whole bunch of 147s, previously.
posted by ZipRibbons (32 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
My youth was spent battling with my grandfather over control of the TV. I wanted to play pong and similar games; he wanted to watch snooker for hour after hour.

It was a black and white television.
posted by Wordshore at 2:37 PM on April 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

I always hope Jimmy White finally gets to win one.
posted by arcticseal at 3:17 PM on April 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wordshore, a lot of my youth (early 80s, I'd guess) was spend with my grandmother who, for some inexplicable reason, was totally hooked on snooker. We watched it most evenings on her little black and white portable telly. That's not actually as much of a handicap as you'd think. The commentary does a lot to help, as well as knowing where each of the colours is spotted.

Also, my school physics teacher (and good friend) Colin taught Jimmy White, which I like to imagine gave him a kind of superhuman power over classical mechanics.
posted by pipeski at 3:17 PM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Watching televised snooker is quite soothing, not least because of the play-by-play. Mitchell & Webb's stroke of genius was to explain this by having their commentators get totally soused over the course of describing the match. As for the hard-drinking players, most famously there was the phenomenal 20-pint-a-match Big Bill Werbeniuk, who drank so copiously, he explained, in order to control a hereditary neurological disorder that made his cue arm tremble.
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:18 PM on April 19, 2013

I have a buddy who I regularly played with as partners with that same problem. I, on the other hand, had no excuse for my consumption of beer during a match.
posted by etc. at 3:41 PM on April 19, 2013

When I was 11, I nursed a massive crush on Stephen Hendry. I can totally relate to Beliebers as a result.
posted by kariebookish at 3:45 PM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed watching Stephen Hendry in his day. I should take a look at how it's broadcast these days. I do remember O'Sullivan playing much quicker than Hendry and indeed everyone at the time. I'm pretty skeptical that he can pop in and win it all if he hasn't been regularly competing but I'm not familiar with the current level of talent.
posted by juiceCake at 3:45 PM on April 19, 2013

Of course it meant that I couldn't relate to anyone in the school playground, but I got really good at snooker trivia for a while.

Oh, Stephen.
posted by kariebookish at 3:48 PM on April 19, 2013

I had a seat for Worlds a few years back (Murphy won).

Outstanding. For most people, watching paint dry is more entertaining, but at this level, snooker is a ruthless psychological battle.

Can't wait. My favorite sporting event of the year.

Lisowski / O'Sullivan for the finals.
posted by parki at 4:10 PM on April 19, 2013

I am an American. I love snooker. That love goes back to when I was a teenager and a friend and I were obsessed with playing pool. We often had a hard time getting a table at our local pool hall on weekend nights, but the snooker table was almost always available. At one point, faced with the prospect of an hour-plus wait for a pool table, we shrugged our shoulders and said, "What the hell, let's give this a try. How hard can it be?" LOL! The answer was, "Hard!!"

One of the pool hall owners must have loved snooker, too, because they had this great, old, huge UK regulation-size Brunswick table: 12' X 6', complete with tiny corner pockets that featured devilishly curved jaws. This table had a nap-less felt on it that hadn't been changed in probably 15 years. It was like playing on a sheet of glass -- you could get all the follow you wanted, but good luck getting even a hint of draw. It didn't help that we were using our American pool cues with 15mm tips, while a more common snooker tip size might be something like 10mm. Snooker is a game of finesse (although sometimes you have to execute that finesse over an absurdly long distance), and this was like trying to hammer a finishing nail with a sledge hammer. But it was fun, and challenging, and regularly served us big helpings of humility. Fun times.

A few years later, I was lucky enough to visit England as a university student during a spring term and observe the spectacle of the Snooker World Championships on British TV. OMG, I was in heaven for those 2-3 weeks! Hours upon hours of live snooker coverage! It was fantastic.

Now I'm middle aged, and the local pool room with the best snooker tables closed in October, and my friend and I -- we still get together to play every few months -- have yet to find a suitable replacement. Thankfully, the influx of tech workers from various parts of Asia has expanded our local snooker options, but we still haven't settled on a new place. But I miss playing snooker, and this post reminds me that now would be a good time to nail down a new place and get back into the habit of playing more. I miss it -- it's such a beautiful, challenging game.
posted by mosk at 4:36 PM on April 19, 2013 [10 favorites]

Wordshore, a lot of my youth (early 80s, I'd guess) was spend with my grandmother who, for some inexplicable reason, was totally hooked on snooker. We watched it most evenings on her little black and white portable telly.

Instead of sending me to preschool/daycare my folks sent me to spend my days watching snooker on black and white with my gran too, until I started school (in probably 1981 or 2?). She even had a calendar of the various players on the wall every year. She always liked the Canadian players.
posted by jamesonandwater at 4:39 PM on April 19, 2013

"...and for those of you who are watching in black and white, the pink is next to the green"
posted by parki at 4:45 PM on April 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Apologies if one of the links covers this and I missed it, but any suggestions for getting streaming coverage from the states?
posted by sy at 5:11 PM on April 19, 2013

Oh, nevermind, I see the subscription link...
posted by sy at 5:19 PM on April 19, 2013

I have fond memories of snooker on the "telly" while visiting relatives back in the UK.
That and darts.
In primetime!

When trying to explain the appeal of it to Americans, I often fall back on curling.
It's a sport most people don't play or understand, but when you come across it on TV, you "just watch a little bit", blink, and 3 hours have gone by.
posted by madajb at 5:28 PM on April 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Watching that fast 147 was thrilling!

I've hardly thought about snooker the past decade or so, since my freshman year in college. One of my high school buddies had spent all summer after graduating in the local U student union pool hall, and wound up with a job there all the next year. He let me play free on the regulation snooker table whenever I wanted, and it was always open. I got pretty good, not ever too great (just couldn't grok cue ball placement), but good enough so that my pool game improved significantly. Whenever I did play a game of 8- or 9-ball the pockets just looked gigantic. And so forgiving!

Like mosk, now I want to find a table again somewhere nearby.
posted by carsonb at 7:41 PM on April 19, 2013

What hooked me on snooker was watching a Ronnie O'Sullivan maximum for the first time. It's absolutely sublime. One of the most incredible things you'll see in sports, because when it's done by a master, it feels as if it is entirely skill.

A perfect game in baseball is incredible, but you can't help but realize that a lot of luck has to happen for a guy to pull it off. When you watch the best of the best 147s, it's as if you are watching a machine that is utterly and incredibly perfect at the sport and can do no wrong, seeing and planning and executing to perfection.

For that reason Ronnie's are electrifying.
posted by Old Man McKay at 9:11 PM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

This one of O'Sullivan's blows me away. Granted it is only the third I've ever watched, and I'm a yank and didn't know what a maximum was before today. But wow, towards the end! I think he even amazed himself, what with that sheepish winning grin at the end.
posted by ericost at 10:07 PM on April 19, 2013

I'm another one who had a snooker-loving grandma. (She loved Jimmy White, never liked the look of Steve Davis, thought Hendry was awful.) Ever since the Pot Black days, it's been all about the gifted but erratic players versus the consistent but uncharismatic ones. (Obligatory link to Steve "Interesting" Davis.)
posted by holgate at 11:14 PM on April 19, 2013

The O'sullivan maximum break absolutely blows my mind as a very-good-but-not-competitive American pool player. He doesn't even seem to be planning more than one or two shots ahead, it's just that he can leave the cue ball wherever he wants. How??
posted by cmoj at 11:18 PM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

O'Sullivan can clear up left-handed, just for fun. It's a freakish talent.
posted by wilko at 5:18 AM on April 20, 2013

From his Wikipedia page, it appears that all those years of no natural light have actually turned his skin green.
posted by colie at 5:43 AM on April 20, 2013

Is there a good video breakdown of the rules? Looks like you have to alternately sink a red and then a colored ball, getting 1 point for reds and varying points for the colors? Then finish up by sinking all the colored balls in order?
posted by Pantengliopoli at 7:06 AM on April 20, 2013

I should give Richler's On Snooker another read; it isn't going to tell a fan anything they don't already know, but regardless, it's a fun, breezy book.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:23 AM on April 20, 2013

When Snooker Ruled The World.
posted by holgate at 11:19 AM on April 20, 2013

That's about it, Pantengliopoli. The colored balls are 1-7pts, each red ball is 1 point. When a red ball is pocketed, it stays in the pocket. When a colored ball is pocketed, it is immediately set back into it's place on the table until all the red balls are pocketed. You can pocket a colored ball only after pocketing a red ball. Once the red balls are all pocketed, you have to pocket the colored balls in ascending order. '147' is the total you get if you alternate pocketing the red balls with only the black (7pts) ball, and run the table.

When you're not talking about shooting a 147, most of the time snooker is about racking up points and, if you can't do that, then fucking over your opponent with bad leaves. Like, they can't see a red ball to shoot, or anything they can make will only land them down by the low-scoring 1, 2, & 3 balls, etc.
posted by carsonb at 1:07 PM on April 20, 2013

While on my honeymoon in Ireland (10 years ago right now!) my wife & I asked our waitress if she could explain what we were seeing on the TV. She was from Seattle, but she got the manager to come over & explain the rules. We ended up spending the rest of our honeymoon watching in Pubs all over SW Ireland, so much so that we ended up staying in our room one night for the finals. All I remember was that an Irishman was going for the win.

Good times.
posted by jeporter99 at 11:32 AM on April 23, 2013

"All I remember was that an Irishman was going for the win."
That was probably Ken Doherty, jeporter99. He's one of the BBC's team of commentators nowadays, but still playing competitively.

This year's tournament is now well underway and things are starting to get interesting. O'Sullivan's through to the last 16, but Higgins has gone. Meanwhile, two newcomers—White and Poomjaeng, are playing their little backsides off, and also through. The next chance to watch Ronnie is this Saturday, against Ali Carter...
posted by ZipRibbons at 3:25 PM on April 23, 2013

It's all over! Ronnie pulled it off in style, making him only the third person ever to successfully defend his title at the Crucible.

Perfect snooker. Absolutely perfect.

I just wish I'd stuck a grand on him at the start of the tournament when his odds were 6-1...
posted by ZipRibbons at 12:50 PM on May 6, 2013

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