And so the dust has settled on the qualifiers, the final touches are being applied to the arena, players are practising, fans are packing for Sheffield and everyone is wondering what the 2013 Betfair World Championship will bring.

If it’s anything like Crucibles of years gone by then it’ll be high quality snooker, drama, entertainment, controversy, joy, elation, mental implosions, bust-ups, sportsmanship, late nights and plenty more besides.

One of the dictionary definitions of Crucible is: “A place or occasion of severe test or trial.”

You don’t say.

This small theatre-in-the-round in Sheffield is an unlikely sporting Mecca but though it has been renovated and the cast of characters and sponsors have changed over the years, there is a timeless quality to the place.

This is because the World Championship has constancy. Its format, aside from a slight lengthening of the semi-finals, has remained the same for the last 30 years. All champions in the live television age have basically had to pass the same test.

This is a tournament in which careers are defined for good or ill. Jimmy White won more titles than Joe Johnson but is forever known as the six times Crucible runner-up, and Joe for winning as a 150-1 outsider in 1986.

Ghosts of the past haunt the Crucible corridors but we have no need to wallow in nostalgia. The class of 2013 are more than capable of putting on a show to remember.

This season’s titles have been shared around the game’s top stars like a subconscious game of poker, with nobody willing to show their hand until the biggest event of them all.

Throw in the ultimate curveball in the shape of a returning Ronnie O’Sullivan, pictured here with the Betfair Golden Cue, presented to whoever makes the highest break, and you have a pot bubbling with possibilities.

Most people seem to think the top seeds will be relatively untroubled in the first week, but the point about shocks is that you don’t see them coming.

There are six debutants desperate to make an impact. There are also older warhorses for whom time is running out.

There are former champions and players who observers feel could be champions. For them all, the test is the same.

Because however much is made of who you are playing, snooker is the ultimate individual sport. You are entirely alone and, at the table, it is down to you.

So many players exit tournaments disappointed not at how well their opponent has played but by their own performance. Playing well is hard enough at this exacting sport but playing well under pressure is what separates the greats from the rest.

So there’s one more sleep before it all starts again; before lives are shaped forever by what happens on the 12 x 6.

The Crucible will lie silent tonight but tomorrow, and for the next 17 days, it will be alive again to the sound of balls being potted and dreams being made...or destroyed.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Dave Hendon.

Now I am unable to do my job properly.

Anonymous said...

Phew...let's be thankful for small mercies, no Peter Ebdon feature !

Looking forward to Ronnie's return, to some exciting stuff from Judd and to witnessing, on snooker's greatest stage, the huge talent of Jack Lisowski. A fantastic prospect for the future.

Game on !

The Fish said...

Dave great stuff once again,im a grown man,but it feels like christmas eve when i was a young kid.Let battle commence......

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Unless you have narcolepsy.

Anonymous said...

Most eagerly anticipated championships for years. Can't wait for drama to unfold.
I guess much, or all, of the reason there will be live coverage from 10.00 most days is the return of the Rocket.
Also, no extravagant prize for a 147. A measure of how common these breaks have become which is testament to the high quality of the ame these days. Those two factors in addition to record ticket sales indicate a massive resurgence of the game.
With Ronnie's return along with young talents such as Trump and Lisowski, the future of the game is in very capable hands.
Also, if Ding can pull off victory, the implications in the Far East will be massive.
Happy days.

Anonymous said...

Hello all, Cuetip here:

I have two selections for the last 32 of the World snooker championships after a fully comprehensive study. The price in brackets shows our true 100% book price.

Sat 2.30pm - Martin Gould +3 frames (4/7) v Shaun Murphy(7/4).
Ladbrokes 4/6 - We recommend a 5% stake of your betting bank.

Sat 7pm - Michael White (match highest break(6/5)v Mark Williams (5/6).
Bet365 6/4 - We recommend also a 5% stake of your betting bank.


Anonymous said...

The BBC have been very quiet in the run up to the Championships this year.
There used to be promo ads running between programmes typically one to two weeks out from the start, all of which would add to the anticipation.
Also, on the eve of the first day's play, highlights of the previous year's final would be shown.

Anonymous said...

I see Stephen Lee was cleared last week in the Premier League investigation. Surprised no-one has mentioned it on here, although I suppose the last week has been pretty hectic with the qualifiers. I wouldn't be surprised if the WSA just held the announcement back long enough to keep him out of the world champs!

Anonymous said...

10.28 cant ever remember a highlights programme on the eve of the world championship.Ever

Anonymous said...

Re 10.28am

"Also, on the eve of the first day's play, highlights of the previous year's final would be shown."

When did that last happen?

Jim said...

Parrot and Rob walker did an entertaining hour+ snooker build up last night on five live (7.30pm) with Ronnie interview along with Robertson and Trump soundbites. Walker is well pumped for it, also Steve Davis was on Chris Evans earlier yesterday.

They don't call him Steve for nothing....

The Blog said...

That new photo of Ronnie O'Sullivan makes him look like a Sith Lord from Star Wars:


"May the cue be with you... always."

Anonymous said...

10.28am - The BBC have been running a trailer - Showing exploding paint balls in a gallery and showing a plaque Ronnie O'Sullivan 5 mins 20 secs (his 147). Seen it a few times. Don't remember highlights of last year before, the night before..., this has been done with major golf events and the Grand National but I do think the BBC should have compiled a half hour preview at least tonight or at some time this week...

Anonymous said...

Re 10:28 there has been promos on BBC1 all week - I've seen it at least five times - probably cost a small fortune to make with balls expolding !

And Selby was on BBC East Midlands today last night.

As to loosing sleep, dont forget how comfortable those chairs are at the crucible - I have slept through many a dull match (fortunately the minority of those I've seen).

Ray said...

After reading this morning's piece I'm yet again so grateful to Clive Everton for starting Snooker Scene 42 years ago. He set the standard for sports journalism and it is evident that you Dave are following in his footsteps.
You both provide such a high standard of writing and you also protect the integrity of the game from those who would destroy it.
I don't know where snooker would be without Snooker Scene but I doubt there would be anything resembling the game at all. Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

A strange question for you, Dave (or anyone who might know): is Sam Baird really related to John Logie Baird? Neal Foulds suggested it last week but I couldn't tell whether he was being serious.

Anonymous said...

I do recall a Christmas highlights package on BBC2, and one of the Tuesday after the final, but that was many years ago...

Dave H said...

I think Neal was joking

Anonymous said...

3.42 - yes I had a probably the same Xmas one on tape from around 20 years ago, showing all 4 BBC events in the calendar year, then - B&H Masters, Worlds, Grand Prix and the UK hosted by the much missed David Vine.

I know the BBC is not a sport only channel, but surely they could have squeezed a half hour preview show in somewhere this week. I mean they are covering the event extensively for the whole 17 days. Personally I think the BBC are a bit backward in the way they do things - this example/Clive Everton/I could go on.

Dave H said...

The BBC would often do preview pieces on Grandstand and Sportsnight but of course these programmes no longer exist. In the 80s they sometimes did profile programmes on the defending champion but this was probably dropped because Davis kept winning and there was nothing left to say.

jamie brannon said...

We had the 5live special this year, and there's quite a bit of content on the BBC Sport site.

I read Foulds is working for Eurosport this year, but I've also seen him listed as part of the BBC coverage. Is he working for both broadcasters?

My tip is Judd Trump, with Peter Ebdon my outside bet.

Can't wait for 10am tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Yes, remember Grandstand doing the draw for the world championship's too live on the BBC...,plus Sportsnight, think it was a Thursday night, and remember them doing a great feature in 92 on Jimmy, "my game's superb", certainly was, a 147 and a run to the final and in 93, O'Sullivan at 17 making his Crucible debut versus McManus. Still think the BBC could have squeezed a half hour slot in somewherethis week similar to a Masters Golf preview that they did and broadcast too.

Anonymous said...

Big Marcus is not someone who suffers fools gladly. I expect him to beat Ronnie with career ruining safety alacrity.
I'm not saying it'll be the same scoreline as it was against Hendry in the UK, not least because the matches are of a different duration.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who can hammer Hendry 9-0 can obviously play the game. Probably the most shocking result the game has ever produced.


Hi David. I can't wait for it.