Snooker

Snooker (British English pronunciation: /?snu?k?r/[1] or American English /?sn?k?r/[2]) is a cue sport that is typically played on a table covered with a green cloth or baize, with pockets situated in each of the four corners and a further two, commonly referred to as the middle, or side pockets, that sit in the middle of each of the long side cushions. The (baize) cloth on a snooker table has a directional nap running from the balk end of the table towards the end with the (black ball) spot. This affects how a ball rolls depending on which direction it is hit or shot. A regular (full-size) table is 12 ? 6 ft (3.7 ? 1.8 m). It is played using a cue and 22 snooker balls: one white cue ball, 15 red balls worth one point each, and six balls of different colours: yellow (2 points), green (3), brown (4), blue (5), pink (6) and black (7).[3] A player (or team) wins a frame (individual game) of snooker by scoring more points than the opponent(s), using the cue ball to pot the red and coloured balls. A player wins a match when a certain number of frames have been won. Snooker, generally regarded as having been invented in India by British Army officers, is popular in many of the English-speaking and Commonwealth countries,[4] with top professional players attaining multi-million pound career earnings from the game.[5] The sport is now increasingly popular in China

History

It is commonly accepted[by whom?] that snooker originated in the later half of the 19th century.[7] Billiards had been a popular activity amongst British Army officers stationed in India, and variations on the more traditional billiard games were devised. One variation, devised in the officers' mess in Jabalpur during 1874 or 1875,[7] was to add coloured balls in addition to the reds and black which were used for pyramid pool and life pool.[8] The rules were formally finalized in 1884 by Sir Neville Chamberlain at Ootacamund.[citation needed] The word snooker also has military origins, being a slang term for first-year cadets or inexperienced personnel.[7] One version of events states that Colonel Sir Neville Chamberlain of the Devonshire regiment (not the later Prime Minister of the same name) was playing this new game when his opponent failed to pot a ball and Chamberlain called him a snooker.[8] It thus became attached to the billiards game now bearing its name as inexperienced players were labelled as snookers.[9] One such effect of snooker in England was its growing popularity, but generally it was still a game for the gentry and many well established gentleman clubs which had a billiards table would not allow nonmembers inside to play. To accommodate the popularity of the game, smaller and more open snooker-specific clubs started to be formed. The game of snooker grew in the later half of the 19th century and the early 20th century, and by 1927 the first World Snooker Championship[7] had been organised by Joe Davis who, as a professional English billiards and snooker player, moved the game from a pastime activity into a more professional sphere.[10] Joe Davis won every world championship until 1946 when he retired. The game went into a decline through the 1950s and 1960s with little interest generated outside of those who played. In 1959, Davis introduced a variation of the game, known as snooker plus, to try to improve the game's popularity by adding two extra colours. However, it never caught on. A major advance occurred in 1969, when David Attenborough commissioned the snooker tournament Pot Black to demonstrate the potential of colour television, with the green table and multi-coloured balls being ideal for showing off the advantages of colour broadcasting.[11][12] The TV series became a ratings success and was for a time the second most popular show on BBC Two.[13] Interest in the game increased and the 1978 World Championship was the first to be fully televised.[4][14] The game quickly became a mainstream sport[15] in the UK, Ireland and much of the Commonwealth and has enjoyed much success in the last 30 years, with most of the ranking tournaments being televised. In 1985 a total of 18.5 million viewers watched the concluding frame of the world championship final between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis.[16] In recent years the loss of tobacco sponsorship has led to a decrease in the number of professional tournaments, although some new sponsors have been sourced;[17] and the popularity of the game in the Far East and China, with emerging talents such as Liang Wenbo and more established players such as Ding Junhui and Marco Fu, bodes well for the future of the sport in that part of the world

Game

The object of the game is to score more points than the opponent by potting object balls in a predefined order. At the start of a frame, the balls are positioned as shown and the players take turns to hit a shot in a single strike from the tip of the cue, their aim being to pot one of the red balls and score a point. Whenever a red ball is potted, the shooter is allowed to pot one of the colours. If successful, they score the value of the colour potted, and it is returned to its correct position on the table. This process continues until they fail to pot the desired ball, at which point their opponent comes back to the table to play the next shot. The game continues in this manner until all the reds are potted and only the 6 colours are left on the table; at that point the colours must be potted in the order from least to most valued ball - that is, yellow first (because smallest value of 2 points), then green (3 points), brown (4 points), blue (5 points), pink (6 points) and finally black (7 points), with the balls not being returned to play. When the final ball is potted, the player with more points wins.[3] A player may also concede a frame while in turn to strike if he/she considers at any time that points available on the table will not be enough to overcome the opponent's already gained points. In professional snooker this is a common occurrence. Points may also be scored in a game when a player's opponent fouls. A foul can occur for numerous reasons, such as hitting a colour first when the player was attempting to hit a red, potting the cue ball, or failing to escape from "a snooker" (a situation where the previous player finished his/her turn leaving the cue ball in a position where none of the balls on can be struck at both extreme edges free of obstruction by any ball not on). Points gained from a foul vary from a minimum of 4 to a maximum of 7 if the black ball is involved.[3] One game, from the balls in their starting position until the last ball is potted, is called a frame. A match generally consists of a predefined number of frames and the player who wins the most frames wins the match overall. Most professional matches require a player to win five frames, and are called "Best of Nine" as that is the maximum possible number of frames. Tournament finals are usually best of 17 or best of 19, while the World Championship uses longer matches ranging from best of 19 in the qualifiers and the first round proper, up to 35 frames in length (first to 18), and is played over two days, extended if necessary until a winner is determined.[19] Professional and competitive amateur matches are officiated by a referee who is the sole judge of fair play. The referee also respots the colours on to the table and calls out how many points the player has scored during a break. Professional players usually play the game in a sporting manner, declaring fouls the referee has missed, acknowledging good shots from their opponent, or holding up a hand to apologise for fortunate shots, also known as "flukes".

Professional snooker players can play on the World Snooker main tour ranking circuit. Ranking points, earned by players through their performances over the previous two seasons, determine the current world ranking.[27] A player's ranking determines what level of qualification they require for ranking tournaments. The elite of professional snooker is generally regarded as the "Top 16" ranking players,[28] who are not required to pre-qualify for any of the tournaments.[29] The tour contains 96 players the top 64 from the previous two seasons, the 8 highest ranked professional players on the Players Tour Championship Order of Merit who are not in the top 64, 12 players from the Q School, and various regional, junior and amateur champions.[30] The most important event in professional snooker is the World Championship,[31] held annually since 1927 (except during World War II and between 1958 and 1963). The tournament has been held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England since 1977, and was sponsored by Embassy from 1976 to 2005.[17] Since 2005, tobacco companies have not been allowed to sponsor sporting events in the United Kingdom, and the World Championship had to find a new sponsor. It was announced in January 2006 that the 20062010 world championships would be sponsored by online casino 888.com. The Championship is currently sponsored by BetFred.com after 888.com pulled out of their five year sponsorship deal after three years.[32] On 15 April 2009 the World Snooker Championship website announced that Betfred.com would be the new sponsor of the World Championship for the next four years.[33][34] The status of winning the World Championship is great, and it is the most highly valued prize in professional snooker,[35] both in terms of financial reward (?250,000 for the winner)[36] as well as ranking points and prestige. The World Championship is televised extensively in the UK by the BBC[37] and gains significant coverage in Europe on Eurosport[38] and in the Far East. The group of tournaments that come next in importance are the other 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.[28] The most prestigious of these after the World Championship is the UK Championship. 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,[39] which to most players is the second or third most sought-after prize.[40] In an attempt to answer criticisms that televised matches can be slow or get bogged down in lengthy safety exchanges and that long matches causes problems for advertisers,[41] an alternative series of timed tournaments has been organised by Matchroom Sport Chairman Barry Hearn. The shot-timed Premier League Snooker was established, with seven players invited to compete at regular United Kingdom venues, televised on Sky Sports. Players have twenty-five seconds to take each shot, with five time-outs per player per match. While some success has been achieved with this format it generally does not receive the same amount of press attention or status as the regular ranking tournaments. There are also other tournaments that have less importance, earn no world ranking points and are not televised. These can change on a year-to-year basis depending on calendars and sponsors.