History of Snooker

History of Snooker

Billiards was first played in the 16th century. It was known as a "gentleman's game" because of its popularity among royalty. The tables had no side rails, pockets, or cushions, but only contained holes for the balls to be potted. Every time that a pot was achieved, the ball would fall to the ground. The balls, which were made of ivory, were another difference from modern billiards. In the 19th century, the sport became quite popular among the British Armed Forces stationed in India. Billiards was a two-man game in its original form, which was played with 3 balls, of which two were cue balls, one for each player. This led to the formation of multi-player versions. New versions included life pool and pyramid pool. Life pool involved several colored balls used as both cue balls and object balls. In pyramid pool, there were 15 red balls and a white cue ball, and each player received one point per red ball potted. Along with the new games being developed, the table was taking steps toward its current state. Black pool was the next version created. Black pool was similar to pyramid pool, except that the black ball from life pool was added to the game and could be potted for more points. In 1875, at the officers' mess in Jabalpur in the Central Provinces, Colonel Sir Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain suggested adding the other coloured balls to the new version. The game was beginning to resemble snooker in its current form, though the blue and brown balls were added in later years. The name snooker came from a comment Chamberlain made about one of the players when the player missed a shot. Chamberlain called player "a real snooker", which referred to his lack of experience. "Snooker" was a slang term for a first year cadet. The first official set of rules for snooker were drafted in 1882 at Ootacamund in Madras Province. When British Billiards Champion John Roberts travelled to India in 1885, he met Chamberlain and decided to introduce snooker to England when he returned home.

The early years


The first official competitions, the English Amateur Championships, took place in 1916. In 1927, Joe Davis helped to establish the first Professional World Championship of snooker. Joe Davis won and took home the prize of £6.10. At that time, the standard of play was not very high considering that the highest break of that tournament was just 60. By the 1930s, Snooker was becoming one of the most popular cue sports. Joe Davis continued to dominate the era, winning every World Championship until his retirement in 1946. Between 1952 and 1957, a dispute among between the games' governing body, the Control Council, and the Billiards Association. As a result, only two people participated in the official World Championship, although an unofficial one was organized. At the time, the winner of the unofficial tournament was generally considered the best player in the world. During this time frame Horace Lindrum won the official World Championship. Due to a decline in popularity, there were no world championships between 1958 and 1963.

Standards rise, popularity slides


A new generation of players came to the fore in the 1990s, most notably Stephen Hendry who went on to dominate for much of the decade. Hendry eclipsed many of Steve Davis' records including most World Championships, most ranking titles and most (BBC) major titles. Hendry's type of attacking, breakbuilding game which often clinched frames in one visit ushered in a new era of player. In 1993, at the age of 17, Ronnie O'Sullivan became the youngest ever winner of a ranking event by beating Hendry himself at the 1993 UK Snooker Championship Final.

Though the standard of snooker continued to rapidly increase, the immense popularity that Snooker enjoyed started to wane. ITV stopped screening ranking events after the 1992 British Open and during this period, much attributed to the economic recession, prize money totals started to stagnate or decrease for events outside the World Championship.

From the mid 1990s onwards, Snooker still enjoyed decent exposure thanks to BBC continuing to televise the major events and the continuation of tobacco sponsorship. Due to the increasing restrictions or eventual ban on tobacco advertising in sport, Benson and Hedges last sponsored the invitational Masters in 2003 and Embassy's long-standing association with the World Championship concluded after the 2005 tournament.

With cutbacks necessary (due to loss of tobacco funding) and less events, the main tour roster was reduced to 96 professionals for the start of the 2005/2006 season. Afterwards, the number of events on the circuit started to dwindle.However, since the loss of tobacco sponsorship, the online gaming and gambling industry has stepped in to sponsor numerous events on the snooker calendar. WPBSA chairman Sir Rodney Walker was ousted in a vote of no confidence in December 2009 which cleared the path for longtime sports promoter Barry Hearn to attempt to revitalise the sport.

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