Well done to Neil Robertson, the Aussie who today beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the World Open snooker final in Glasgow.
It’s the third time he’s won this particular tournament and, under the “new style snooker” where rankings are suddenly all important, it puts Robertson at the top of the leader board, a position I’m sure he’s more than happy to be in, even if his opponent did just seem to want to lose anyway.
But I’ve been thinking about this new style of snooker. Barry Hearn, he who breathed fresh life back in to darts, is currently tasked with revitalising snooker, giving it a bit more pizazz. So now we get to see shorter, more dynamic matches with the whole of the World Open, quarter- and semi-finals included, featuring the-best-of-five matches, rather than the usually dreary best-of-a-million frames and so on.
Even tonight’s final was only the-best-of-nine. (Or the first to five frame wins.)
It’s good because it makes the players focus. They can’t sit there thinking they could make a powerful comeback ten frames in to the game. They’ve got to win from the start to be in with any chance. The spectators benefit too, because instead of having side-by-side tables they get to see back-to-back matches, meaning more frames for their well-spent pennies.
The new rankings system keeps the players focused too. It’s not that complicated: it’s just like every other sport! Rather than being seeded for the new season and staying in the top sixteen throughout, therefore guaranteeing themselves a place in the televised rounds of each tournament, player rankings now change based on their performance. Again, this means they’ve got to focus on their game to guarantee themselves any chance of qualifying for the next tournament.
This is all good, because it makes snooker more competitive. People are going to be challenging to win, rather than just giving up, taking their appearance fee and turning up at the next tournament. But, despite all these changes, snooker can still be tedious to watch on television.
Instead, I reckon snooker should put me and some of my mates on the tables. We’re not very good, but the play would be much more raucous. The crowd would get a laugh, and we can actually pot some balls when we really really try. Though we usually have no idea where the white ball will end up.
And that’s where snooker gets it wrong. When we see Stephen Hendry bend down at a table to take a shot, we know he’s going to pot the ball. And we know where the white ball is going to end up, even without John Virgo drawing a graphic on our screen to demonstrate. No amount of pizazz and roving spotlights will prevent it being that predictable.
At least with me and my mates playing there would be more variety: spectators would have no idea whether we’re going to be able to pot the ball, or where the white ball will end up. Because neither do we.