Before everything else there was the World Championship and it is to the World Championship we now turn as the season enters its traditional final phase.

As snooker became established in Britain in the early 20th century, amateur competitions sprang up, most notably the English Championship in 1916.

Joe Davis, a kind of Barry Hearn and Steve Davis rolled into one, saw that snooker could become a profession, at least for him, but only if there was a professional tournament. So it was that he instituted a World Championship.

The first matches were played in November 1926. The final came the following year. Davis was the promoter and the winner. The trophy he bought using half the entry fees is still presented to this day.

Davis reigned supreme for 20 years, wining 15 world titles until retiring unbeaten. The championship continued and was won by his younger brother, Fred, and Walter Donaldson but Davis’s continued participation in other events and exhibitions killed off the very tournament he had given life to: the best player wasn’t in the World Championship so it became devalued.

It was revived with a series of challenge matches through the enterprise of Rex Williams, an era dominated by John Pulman, before, in 1969, a proper open knockout tournament was restored.

In the 1970s, along came a perfect storm. Swirling together was colour television, a volatile but brilliant young Northern Irishman called Alex Higgins and tobacco money.

Snooker players were starting to appear on TV more and more and the emergence of Higgins, who won the world title at his first attempt in 1972 in a rundown British Legion club in Birmingham, attracted the interest of the BBC. They began televising highlights of the World Championship, which began to grow in stature and public profile.

Embassy’s financial support led to more amateurs turning professional, convinced there may be a living to be made in the game after all.

One night in the mid 1970s, Carol Watterson went to see a play at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. She knew that her husband, Mike, a player but more prominently the promoter of the World Championship, was looking for a suitable venue for snooker’s biggest event.

So it was in 1977 that the championship moved to its now traditional home, the scene of some indelibly dramatic, emotional, unforgettable snooker moments for the last 36 years.

The BBC were so convinced of snooker’s popularity that in 1978 they took the landmark decision to televise the whole championship live. They were right. Audiences soared.

Younger readers may not believe it but snooker was the X Factor of its day. Its leading players were front page news. It was a soap opera which entranced television audiences and made household names of the unlikeliest of people, not just players but commentators, referees and assorted members of the snooker circus.

Despite snooker’s problems in the years which followed, the World Championship survived. Now it flourishes. This year, more people will watch it on television and the internet around the world than ever before.

But it doesn’t start at the Crucible. It starts tomorrow with the qualifiers, which run until April 14.

The first section is for WPBSA members not on the main tour. These include former Crucible semi-finalists Tony Knowles and Joe Swail, former quarter-finalist Patrick Wallace as well as Les Dodd and Robin Hull, both of whom have trod the Crucible stage.

From Saturday, the main tour stage begins. Liveworldsnooker.tv will stream two matches from each session, all with commentary.

When I first started following the World Championship there was no internet streaming. There was no internet live scoring. There was no internet.

You did your best to follow scores and results on Ceefax or in the following day’s newspapers – often the evening newspapers if matches had run late.

Anyone anywhere near Sheffield should go along and watch. The tension of the world qualifiers matches that of the Crucible itself. Every ball matters. You can feel the nerves in the air. You can see how much it all means.

For players, fans and everyone else in the snooker world, this is a very special time of year.

Because before everything else there was the World Championship. And it will always be the jewel in snooker’s crown.


Anonymous said...

Well the world champs was the first pro tournament but what was the first ever snooker tournament? The English Amateur Championship dates back to 1916, where there any before that?

Anonymous said...

I have been to the Crucible every year since 1981, but I'm not a season ticket holder.

...no ceefax, no internet..

For years there wasn't a proper scoreboard at the Crucible, a break in action was shown separately - you would often see players standing there trying to work out the total and points left on the table.

Slowly TV monitors were added showing the scoring system we know today. Then the fixed camera view of the table was added to half the monitors which was a welcome addition. Alas today they show the produced output hence all the "wave I'm on telly" stuff.

Anonymous said...

For info, I have looked at the 1978 TV schedule. There was little live coverage, not even the final.

From Mon 17th April until Sun 30th 1978 there was just under a hour of highlights on BBC2 at around 11pm.

On both Saturdays, there were slots on Grandstand on BBC1.

The BBC2 highlights on Sun 30th were a "look back".

Compare that to today when we can see both tables uniterrupted.

Anonymous said...

I remember abandoning the '84 final once White went 4-12 down. I could watch no more.
Resigned to an inevitable crushing score line , I called my dad to find out the margin of Davis' victory, to be told White had pulled back to within 2 frames.
I would love to know if that footage exists.
Still maintain that his brilliant clearance to the black to pull back to 16-17 received the crucible's biggest roar. Can still be found on YouTube. Oh what might have been !!!!!

Anonymous said...

The decision was taken in 1978, full coverage began in 1979.

Jim said...

Not sure if this is allowed but it doesn't conflict with Eurosport coverage but livesport.tv are doing a free subscription for all qualifiers from 4-14th april. Cancel anytime before it ends and you wont be charged £3.99 plus commentary from the king himself Clive.

All you Barry Pinches fans can get in some much needed viewing, some of the qualifiers are looking just as exciting as the last 32.

Anonymous said...

Also everything was once in black and white and the presenter was someone who believed that lizards might take over the world.
Are we to assume we are especially lucky not to have either of these now.

Anonymous said...

im wondering how many times the bbc will incorrectly say Ronnie hasn't played all season

Anonymous said...

In 1931 and 1934 there was only 2 players in the championship respectively. ("Oh well not a bad season, I reached the world final")

Anonymous said...

There will be plenty of "WHERE'S THE CUE BALL GOING WHERE'S THE CUE BALL GOING"!!!! from Mr Virgo.

Anonymous said...

re 1:32 TV coverage, I haven't got the 1979 listings but I do have 1980 and as you say the coverage is pretty comprehensive.

For example second Friday BBC2 11:25am to 4:50pm, Frame of the day 6:55 to 7:25pm, highlights 9:55pm - 10:45 and 11:30pm to midnight.

I also haven't got second Sat & Sun in 1980 but do have the final day on bank holiday monday - coverage from 11:25 to 1:05pm then a movie !!!, back to the conclusion of the final from 5pm to 8pm - much earlier than these days.

Anonymous said...

JV, Hazel, Dohuhuhurty .. Can't wait.

Anonymous said...

During the BBC coverage I expect the more popular word to be either "careless" or "beverage".

Ryan said...


I was watching the Tour of Basque Country Cycling on EuroSport, yesterday, and the Commentary Team of David Harman and Brian Smith gave the viewers the chance to get involved in the coverage by asking questions on Twitter for them.

It made me think why don't you and the snooker team do that at the World Championship to enhance the coverage.

Will Alan McManus be part of the team again, this year?


Jim said...

Wheres the cue ball going

played it in such a way...

He's been a bit unfortunate there

Its a bit like the time in 1985........there


Tortle (ken)

Thank you Eurosport for saving my sanity

Anonymous said...

Do you know Dave whether there was any inroads to offer Clive a position to commentate for the BBC during the forthcoming World Chps?

I heard one of Clive's interviews a few weeks back with Andy Goldstein I believe where Clive thought his departure from the BBC was partly to do with some internal politics. I assume this must have been in the before Hearn era. With the Hearn era in full swing now I would have thought perhaps Hearn or someone else from WS might have had a word with the BBC for him to be asked back to commentate.

Dave H said...

I don't think Clive is expecting any approach from the BBC.

As for Twitter, people are always welcome to send comments and questions. Alan will be commentating - so long as he doesn't qualify.

Anonymous said...

Re Clive Everton - The BBC need less commentators not more. Clive should be part of that smaller team.

Interestingly I hear as much support at the venues for certain commentators as I see negative comments. Marmite I guess.

Anonymous said...

There are very few poor commentators in snooker. Anyone agree?

Anonymous said...

Ronnie has only played 1 match all season and he didnt really turn up so you can say he hasnt played all season :)
Going by that theory Judd hasnt played this year!

Shaun foster (Wigan) said...

Sorry to say this because he seems such a nice chap but joe Johnson is the worlds worst commentator. Thorne ain't bad but the likes of Taylor and "where's the cue ball going" Virgo are becoming tiresome. Hendry and Doherty are about the best at present

ollie said...

BBC commentary

"pressure/this game can do funny things to you"

"the standard just keeps getting better and better!"

"clear-cut opportunity for 3-1" after a player has potted the first red (WT)

"it's the loneliest place in the world, is that chair"

"whatever you do, make sure of the pot" (after someone has missed one playing for position)

"He's not won one of the major titles this season" (of a player who has won at least one non-BBC ranking event)

"these young players of today" used by Dennis T about every player including the likes of Bond, Higgins, Harold etc

kildare cueman said...

Shaun @ 1.00,
Disagree. Johnson is a decent commentator- easily the best on Eurosport.

Think 10.52 nailed it. Marmite. Depends on your level of knowledge of the game and your own standard if you play.

Non players prefer the journalists, but decent players prefer the likes of Foulds who is relevant, identifies key shots and doesn't tell us what the score will be if the player at the table wins the frame. He also knows when to shut up.

I thought Ebbo was good when he did a guest commentary at the first world seniors. Surprised he hasn't been approached since, especilly as he is near the end of his career.

Anonymous said...

Ebdon has been touched by madness. Can't stand him.
Given the choice though, would prefer he was at the end of a mic rather than at the end of a cue. At least I could hit mute.
5 minutes 20 secs to run up 12 points. 5 minutes 20 seconds you'll never get back.

Anonymous said...

Re 2.18

Someone has put a thing up on YouTube where it's a split screen with O'Sullivan's 147 from 1997 on one side, and Edbon's 12 from 2005 on the other, both of which took about the same amount of time.

It's worth a look.

Anonymous said...

3.01...cheers, will have a look.

THE most blatant, time wasting fool ever to chalk a cue.
No wonder Ronnie put that towel over his head. I'd have done likewise.

Anonymous said...

1pm - I'd have disagree with you too regarding Joe Johnson. He talks more than any commentator I've ever heard, but he's sound.

If you're talking about poor - Alan McManus, Mike Hallett and Dennis Taylor, then Doherty and Hendry top the pole.

Very Best - Clive, Parrott, Davis, Ebdon, Hendon, Yates and Foulds off the top of my head.

Ebdon is sound too, very knowledgeable and always interesting to listen too. Yes I do think he over analyses things playing wise and gets to bogged down, similar to Davis at times in his career.

With the new Hearn regime, I think that someone should have, (if they haven't) had a chat with the BBC about re-instating Clive (that's if Clive did want to return). The BBC's worst off the scale decision bar none! It was such a bad error by them, I can't put it in to words.

Anonymous said...

I like Virgo as a commentator.His enthusiasm is infectious,and yes he gets excited but it all adds to it.Horses for courses,but I like Virgo`s efforts and long may he continue!

Shaun foster (Wigan) said...

Kildare Cueman I don't play to bad standard albeit in the Wigan and district Thursday night league I just think Johnson waffles on quite a lot and calls a lot of shots wrong. Players more knowledgable than me though in mark Williams and mark Allen have in recent months tweeted they would rather mute the t. V than listen to johnsons drivel. MARMITE. Speaking of Thursday night snooker time I was off to the big mr earls v haydock match

Jim said...

Clive has more pride than to go back to the BBC the way they treated him, don't do it Clive.

Can't see how anyone can knock Hendry as a commentator, just pure envy and winner hate, Hendry is a joy to listen to and who wouldn't want to hear what the master of our games has to say. Typical Brits, Winner hatred, get over it. He's really come out of his shell and quite amusing really, he's the new Steve (they don't call him Steve for nothing)

Johnson is ok but a doomer, always look on the negative side of life, unless he's a fan of the player, just like Throne. Its not commentary, its running criticism, there's guys like that in every pool/snooker hall in the country and they generally have a mustache too and run all the other players down with tales of the time they were amazing, this Mr maximum stuff, is this some sort of ironic joke?, 300 max in practice, pretty sure most players have exceeded this, its like boasting you had 10 roast dinners this year, nothing special. Willie is alright but he needs to sit back and realise that a lot of whats on show is self explanatory and doesn't need 200 words a minute to compliment it. He's fine when he's not on one with his savings on the line, its all too obvious.

Taylor used to be my favorite but he is getting tired, ease back on the 85 memories and stop going on about the time you were on strictly there, this constant cross referencing of other BBC programs is ridiculous and it was years ago, come on. The crowd interaction really makes me cringe and how many times has it put off a player, I remember quite a crucial incident involving Swail and one of Dennis's jokes. That said I do like Dennis and the rest.

I guess alot of the issues with the BBC commentary team is the BBC's policy to pander to the casual watcher rather than the fans, its extremely patronising to long time viewers. I'm gonna mix it up with Eurosport this year as Hendon and Foulds are music to my ears after a session of WT & JV's first day back at school.

Anonymous said...

"Hendry is a joy to listen to "

Hendry isn't all that. He misses obvious tactical calls, and his commentary shows him up for the weak tactician he always was. The notion that his critics are "jealous" is childish to say the least. I doubt you will find anyone that begrudges him his 7 world titles, but being the world's best player shouldn't automatically entitle you to a place on the commentary team. As a result of his appointment Clive was dropped and Foulds has more or less been benched, and it hasn't been for the better.

Anonymous said...

Jim - "Can't see how anyone can knock Hendry as a commentator, just pure envy and winner hate" "Typical Brits, Winner hatred, get over it"

? You shouldn't assume this - You may notice I thought Davis was one of the very best (2 most prolific winner in modern snooker history). Hendry is the greatest winner but I don't think he's a good commentator. He says what you can already see. Perhaps he will improve in time. Also I detect when he does his studio analysing that he comes across as very arrogant as if to say I shouldn't be in here, I should be out there playing. Plus his texts to Ronnie during the Masters "I'm thinking about getting my cue out too with this standard on show" The truth is, he might win a match, but that would likely be it now.

You also say Taylor used to be your favourite - well if you enjoy hearing the likes of "there's Aunty Matilda, do you know she turned 103 last Tuesday blah blah" well very good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

Agree The BBC seem to have the mindset that if you've been world champion you are automatically going to fit in straight away and be a very good commentator. That includes former players too.

Of the world champions Davis and Parrott are first class, although the same can't be said for Doherty, Hendry and Taylor.

Ray said...

I hope that Star Table manufacturers are working feverishly to minimise the big bounces from cushions on tables to be used in the World Championship. It's getting out of hand now and players already have enough to contend with. You will get the odd bounce but the level we've seen lately is farcical and displays very poor quality control.

Also, Clive Everton does himself a huge disservice in this month's Snooker Scene with his comments on how he will be remembered:-
1. Falling out of the commentary box at Preston.
2. Breaking his hip on the eve of the final day of 2007 World Championship.
3. Dobbing his jacket in curry.

In my opinion, Clive is a journalist of the highest order and one of the best sports commentators to ever pick up a microphone. I'm not "blowing smoke" just saying it like it is.

Anonymous said...

Agree totally with 11.44.
For those who dip in and out of snooker, then there are different commentators to like / dislike for different reasons. However, for those who care about accuracy of stats, integrity, unequalled knowledge and a natural talent for the perfect turn of phrase (not to mention when to keep quiet), then it's Clive Everton by a mile. The rest are just gravy.

Anonymous said...

138, id listen to Hendry all day long before foulds or everton.

foulds is good, but not as good as Hendry. everton bores me to sleep!

Anonymous said...

Agree Ray and 11.44...Yes read that to on pg 9 of this month's Snooker Scene. "I may have done thousands of half decent commentaries" (an understatement if there was one) "but in the long run, I will surely be remembered only for - (the 3 that Ray mentions) - he'll be remembered for much much more - being the editor of SC for over 40 years, the supreme voice on snooker politics and the Walter Lindrum of the commentating world. If it wasn't for Clive pointing out numerous errors from old snooker regimes over many years, I don't think the game would be in such a healthy state and improving to where it is today. About time Clive was put forward for and MBE or OBE for his services to Snooker. Agree ?

JIMO96 said...

I think when it comes to commentary, that having the right 'voice' is probably the most important (but least obvious) factor; Clive and Neal speak in a tone and pitch that suit the pace and mood of snooker perfectly. Add to that their huge expertise, topical relevance and the ability to know when to button it, and they are the daddies of snooker commentary.

Too many of todays (BBC & Eurosport) fail in one or more of the above credentials: Thorne is expert like and speaks relevant...but way too much.....500 words a minute, tripping over each other to come out of your mouth, does not a commentator make. And he doesn't have 'the voice' for it. Now Virgo and Taylor DO have 'the voice' for it, but Virgo spoils it with THAT catchphrase and his shockingly obvious bias towards certain players. And Taylor would be better suited to presenting a gardening programme, such is the snooker relevance that he spouts.

Hallett & Johnson see their commentary roles as opportunities to slag off shot selections, and they show disrespect to the current crop of pros with their inability to button it. And of course, they don't have 'the voice'.

Others who don't have it: Davis, Parrott, Hendry (get the impression he is constantly sneering at the standard on show, despite being very close to Everton/Foulds in all other facets), and most emphatically: Doherty (fulfills none of my ideal commentator credentials).

Alan McManus (good player that he still is), would fit effortlessly into any commentary team if and when he decides to hang up the cue, and Terry Griffiths would be a fantastic summariser.

Historically, I personally miss Karnehm and Spencer, my 2 favourites of yesteryear. The current BBC/Eurosport lot would improve immeasurably if they copied their techniques.