So we’re ready, then.

All the talking, the predictions, the conjecture, can stop. The Betfred.com World Championship is about to begin.

This is snooker at its best: gimmick free. The World Championship stands alone as the last bastion of what championship snooker should be about, unsullied by cheap attempts to dumb it down.  

As it has been for the last three decades the World Championship is 17 days of lengthy matches, slow burning drama, great potting, big breaks, unexpected misses, joy, despair, elation, heartbreak, good luck, bad luck and, for one of the 32 players involved, a life changing triumph.

It’s tough, really tough. You need skill, stamina, bottle and much more to become champion. You need belief and mental fortitude. You need heart and nerve.

For the eventual winner, a place in the history books awaits. For everyone else there is only disappointment.

The World Championship existed for 50 years before moving to Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre in 1977 but the Crucible era coincided with snooker’s television age and is thus awash with memories inescapably stitched through time in the grand tapestry that forms the history of the sport.

Joe Davis was the first champion 85 years ago. He used half of the original entry fees to purchase the silver trophy which is still presented to this day.

Little did he know what he started. Colour television brought the tournament into living rooms and illuminated moments forever frozen in time.

Even those who don’t remember them first time round can see them now: Barry Hearn barrelling into Steve Davis after his young charge won his first world title in 1981. Alex Higgins tearfully beckoning his wife and baby on to the stage in 1982. Cliff Thorburn sinking to his knees after his 147 in 1983. Dennis Taylor holding his cue aloft after his black ball defeat of Davis in 1985. Joe Johnson’s smile, equal parts joy and disbelief, as he swept away Davis in 1986.

Into the 1990s and the remarkable Stephen Hendry-Jimmy White rivalry, the emergence of John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan, whose 1997 maximum remains an audacious exhibition of sheer skill.

We had drama too in the 2000s, Peter Ebdon winning a decider against Hendry, Ken Doherty’s 2003 adventure, Shaun Murphy triumphing as a qualifier.

Just last year Judd Trump enthralled as the new kid on the baize, threatening the old guard with his incredible potting, the latest in a long line of players who have lit up the Crucible stage.

Close your eyes and remember. And then open them and enjoy the 2012 edition, because more memories are about to be created.

There are a number of players going into this year’s tournament with every reason to feel they can scoop the £250,000 first prize come May 7 after a season in which the major prizes have been shared around.

There are nine players in the field who have won the title before. Three players are experiencing the Crucible’s unique and oppressive atmosphere for the first time.

If you are going to Sheffield to watch in person then you will be part of the experience first hand. Everyone else can enjoy it on TV and online.

The BBC has coverage all day on the red button (for those with satellite television) and live terrestrial coverage in the afternoons. All matches are live on the BBC website for UK residents.

Eurosport has blanket coverage across its various channels and on the Eurosport player.

The tournament is also live on Chinese TV and on liveworldsnooker.tv apart from those areas with TV coverage.

Wherever you are watching, I trust you will enjoy it.

It’s been another great season of snooker, featuring more action than ever, but there is only one World Championship. This is the ultimate test for any player.

There’s nothing more to be said. Let the drama begin.


jamie brannon said...

There is a full six-page preview in the Racing Post today, I rarely agree with their tipster, Adrian Humphries, but he is a good writer.

In addition, what other national newspaper gives six pages of snooker.

We often like to have our verbal rucks on here about the TV coverage, but the lack of print press coverage is very disappointing.

Only Hector Nunns in The Times seems to get any significant column inches.

Last October, I attended the first birthday party of the i, at the Ikon Gallery, and raised the issue of limited snooker coverage in the i and Independent with the sports editor.

He just gave a casual response really, not an arrogant one, just the demand isn't there.

However, snooker gets viewing figures that are more than favourable with golf, tennis, racing and most other sports outside football, formula one and rugby union.

It boils down to an entrenched snobbery within media about sports like snooker and darts.

If the print pres coverage improved, then we could a see sizeable increase in television coverage.

jamie brannon said...

I think the people who run the scheduling at the BBC are making a mistake in not having the 7pm-8pm slot in place until April 28th. It is an important promotional asset for red button coverage.

There is coverage on the BBC HD channel from 10am each morning, which is a new thing, complete with Rishi Persad presenting.

The freeview red button coverage is extensive but limited to one table, though it is sometimes on at same time as live BBC TWO coverage.

The network BBC coverage increases as we go on, by the time of the seim-finals it is extended broadcasts, and ball-by-ball coverage from Saturday May 5th.

The FA have also taken in our snooker watching needs by scheduling the FA Cup final for a 5.15pm slot, which should fit in nicely between the two semi-final conclusions.

There is also late-night highlights and students favourite Snooker Extra to indulge in if you've missed it live.

As for Eurosport, like Dave said it is blanket coverage, but during weekday afternoons next week the coverage is not on either channel until around 4.45pm, due to the Tour of Romandie and WTA Porsche Grand Prix tennis. I've got to say I find it baffling that Eurosport consider these events more popular than snookers biggest event.

One way or another, you can't really complain about the variety of options we have. Ten years ago you didn't have anywhere near this choice, although BBC Two did cover more in the evening.

I'm going to really make the most of this championship, as will be trainee teacher next year and then hopefully a qualified one. So this could be my last World Championship where I can sit watching in my pyjamas without too much concern of what else I should be doing.

jamie brannon said...

A quick tournament preview:

Contenders: Selby, Allen, Trump, O'Sullivan, Higgins, Robertson, Ding, Lee, Murphy and Maguire

Outsiders: Williams, Dott, Fu and Ebdon.

Quarter-final line-up:
Higgins v Maguire
Trump v Murphy
O'Sullivan v Robertson
Selby v Allen

Semi-final line-up:
Maguire v Trump
Robertson v Selby

Selby 18-12 Trump

Mark Selby has produced some of his best stuff at the Crucible and is somehat unfortunate not to have his name on the trophy.

He has fantastic mental fortitude, sustained scoring power, sound tactical game and the ability to play different ways to get a victory.

I'm done with my pre-Crucible posts. Now let us get the boys on the baize for my favourite annual sporting event, which is the longest annual sporting event held in Britian. Tour De France is the world leader.

Anonymous said...

Dave.... Check the listings... The BBC has coverage all day (but not the evening)including the morning on the BBC HD channel!! Good times!! Let's get this party started!

Anonymous said...

Posted by Dave H at 5:30 PM????

Anonymous said...

Hi dave,do you know if clive everton is commentating for the beeb in the early rounds?

Dave H said...

No he isn't

Anonymous said...

How nice of Mark Williams to call the Crucible a shit hole. If ROS had said this he would of been slaughtered!!!!


Hi David. Role on tomorow. The 35th aniversary year of Crucible snooker, this year, 2012. I can not wait. Bring it on.

Anonymous said...

Just to calirfy the Red Button issue, if you have a SKY satellite receiver then you will have a choice of both tables, all the time (there are actually six channels hidden behind the menu). If you have a Freesat satellite you get the same single red button channel that you get on Freeview, so you only get a choice of one table or none if there is a "higher priority" sport. Enjoy this years coverage because unless the BBC have changed their mind, multi channel red button on Sky ends after the Olympics as a "cost saving".

Anonymous said...

BBC HD sky channel 169 are also showing quite a lot of live snooker.

Anonymous said...

Will ROS reacg the semis? Give me your chances of that in % !

Anonymous said...

I'd say that Ronnie has a 75% chance of beating Ebdon, and should he come through that he would most likely play Williams whom he has an extremely good record against, say 90%. In the quarters he would probably be up against Neil Robertson, who I think he would have a slight edge over, say 55%. That puts Ronnie's chances of reaching the semis at 37%, so basically a 3/1 shot.

Anonymous said...

Give me 17 days at the Crucible over Power Snooker any day! This is what Snooker is all about.

Anonymous said...

7:10 - what if you have a virgin one?

12:56 - 0%