Last week, Dave Harold laboured for five hours, 45 minutes to shake off Ian McCulloch 5-4 and qualify for the final stages of the Shanghai Masters.

This is what you call taking the slow boat to China.

The average frame time was 39 minutes. If all matches were like this snooker would struggle as sporting entertainment but the game’s hard men should still be saluted.

There’s something about their bloody-minded refusal to lie down that is admirable.

Much has of course been written about Alex Higgins these last few weeks but rarely has it been pointed out what a great safety player he was.

He had to be. In the 1970s, with little money in the professional game, every ball was a pint of blood.

Eddie Charlton was perhaps the greatest grinder of them all. His nickname ‘Steady’ was a clue.

Then again, not for nothing did Cliff Thorburn become known as ‘The Grinder.’ Terry Griffiths was hardly averse to getting stuck in either.

These giants of the game had that never-say-die attitude that other players, though more naturally talented, have lacked and it undoubtedly helped lead to their success.

Today anyone remotely slow is labelled unsporting, a ridiculously simplistic label that ignores the fact that there is no time limit in snooker.

The referee has it in his or her discretion to warn a player if they feel they are taking too long over shots and this does happen occasionally but it is difficult for the officials because they have to judge the importance of the match and the pattern of play against the amount of time a player spends weighing up shots.

A snooker player’s first priority should be to win. The best chance of doing this is to play to your strengths, not your opponent’s.

The old style grinding has pretty much gone. People point to Peter Ebdon but he is one the game’s greatest ever break builders - fifth on the all time list of century makers - and accomplished at winning frames in one visit. He can grind when he needs to but doesn’t do it as a matter of course.

Famously, he slowed down to a slow crawl against Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible in 2005. Five years on, the arguments still rage as to whether or not this was acceptable.

Whether it was or not, it made for gripping drama – both sporting and human – as a genuine clash of styles and personalities was fought out.

As I recall, it ended with Ronnie bleeding from having scraped his nails across his forehead and Peter in tears in the BBC studio when challenged about his tactics.

Psychological breakdowns, emotional outpourings, bitter recriminations...now that’s a proper night at the Crucible.

So I congratulate the Stoke potter, Dave Harold, on his remarkable feat of endurance. It didn’t sound like the most exciting of matches but his dogged refusal to give an inch proves that you can get the rewards if you give it your all.

It’s just lucky for him he wasn’t paying for the light.


finn said...

You're right Dave, nothing makes better theatre than the mental disintegration of a snooker player. It is this unique facet to the game where they can seemingly freeze on a frame score for hours on end, even when ahead, that attracts me so much to the game.

I would be interested in seeing any links to the O'Sullivan v Ebdon match on YouTube if anyone has them. I have looked without success.

Anonymous said...

Ebdon did what he had to do within the rules to win that game. O'Sullivan couldn't handle it mentally and so Ebdon prevailed. Same thing as with Selby. O'Sullivan is a bit of a front runner who downs tools when things don't go his way. Psychological tactics are surely part of the game too, so long as they don't infringe the rules

Anonymous said...

Dave what have you done?? Our old friend Jamie Brannon will be on here soon telling us that Peter Ebdon was out of order, should have been pulled up by the ref and quoting journalists that support his point of view.
It was one of the Crucibles great contests. The quality wasn't great but the sight of ROS caving in under that much pressure was gripping.

jamie brannon said...

Was it acceptable then Dave? As I know what Matthew Syed thinks, but I didn't buy Snooker Scene at that time, so would be intrested to hear what their view on it was.

Personally, Ebdon is not unsporting in general, but on that night he took things too far, with excessive ball cleaning and five minutes for a break of 12 would have seen Eddie Charlton labelled a speedster!

Anonymous said...

Superb write up Dave. Just a class read.


Anonymous said...

O'Sullivan plays mind games all the time: with his opponents, with referees and, bizarely, with himself

What goes around comes around

Anonymous said...

excellent blog dave
blame the ignorant ronnie fans...
jw and alex fans werent ignorant of individual styles.

Anonymous said...

i remember being in the audience when Ronnie was playing with his spoon or something it took my concentration i wander if his opponent was tuned in to the game or his spoon ?

Anonymous said...

I didn't think what Ebdon did was in the spirit of the game but he wouldn't have won against an opponent who was mentally tougher. Hendry, for instance, would have just put him away.

Roland said...

The break of 12 is on youtube (it's not that bad really) but not much else. I need a photo of Ronnie's forehead scratches from that match if anyone can help me?

It's funny how often this match comes up. It in the interview I did with Cliff only recently:


(scroll down to colour picture of Cliff cueing)

Anonymous said...

I can see both sides of the argument, 12 minutes to make a break of 5 by Ebdon is a bit of a joke but if O'Sullivan hadn't let an 8-2 lead slip at that point, no one would be talking about it today. 12.53 is right, Ebdon wasn't quite within the spirit of the game but he did what he had to do to win.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

Let us not forget, that 7 months later, O'Sullivan took a 14 minute 'break' in his 6-2 quarter-final win over Ebdon at the Masters.

Forgiven...but not forgotten??

On another point, what coach or when did Ebdon have this epiphany to play like he did? Charlton, Thorburn, Griffiths all came into the game with that style of play, Ebdon most certainy didn't. If you look at the performances v Davis in Sheffied, and the comeback win v Hendry at the Masters that annoyed the no.1, he was a lot fluent and quicker than the decade just gone. So words were spoken on the practice table?

Funnily enough, when he did quicken up again he won a major. No, not the worlds in 02, but the UK championship.

Thanks, Joe

Anonymous said...

Jamie Brannon can be read like a book LOL. Whenever his beloved O'Sullivan brings shame on the game or loses a match he reels out all the usual excuses. The only surprise from his predictable post was that he didn't attack Mark Selby.

kildare cueman said...

Theres no doubt that Ebdon, and indeed Selby, are far better players when they play quicker.

The problem is, when a player is under extreme pressure it can be more difficult to control the nerves playing fast than when he slows down.

A walk around the table, a longer feather, a longer pause are all facets that can help to absorb the tension, when muscle memory has gone.

Maybe O'Sullivan can convert nerves to adrenalin that bit better than most, and probably explains why he doesn't need to slow down

Anonymous said...

a 14 minute break?

Thats am
Thats a long time, it never happened unless the poster is referring to a mid session interval.
Exaggerated or embellished story.

Ray said...

I fell in love with snooker when Alex came along. Although I like all variations of the way the game is played there's only so much of the mode of play employed by Griffiths, Thorburn and Charlton that you can take. So lucky we had Alex, Jimmy, Stephen, Tony Drago, Ronnie and Mark. Never in a month of Sundays did I think Ebdon could win the World Championship - a style that took so much mental and physical energy over 17 days and for that he has my full admiration. But his occasional ungentlemanly conduct over the years and loathsome comments really get under my skin.
Is there anyone out there(exemption for Mr Hey You!) who can tell me what possible benefit Ebdon can gain from taking 15-18 feathers on 1 shot? Surely you are passing your optimum peak of concentration and wearing yourself out in the process. He doesn't need to because he's got a really fluid game.
Cliff, Terry and Eddie could not play any other game without the standard falling off dramatically.
Jimmy once said "If you think Cliff is slow then you don't know anything about snooker"

Anonymous said...

what are you on, 845?

if ron is not spoon dot counting, wearing hankies on his head, cannibis guilty, headbutting + ****** press officers, asking for oral sex at press conferences....then hes acting normal

some folk think people who do the above are rebels, with a bit of flair, an enigma etc etc.

i think people that do things like that make a lot of people think theyre retarded.

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method-
A secret is wasted if not shared.
Dear Mr Ray @10:31 pm Hello Dave
Thanks for the plug kind Sir. I deduce there was a touch of sarcasm in your query; but even out of ridicule there is always an answer.
Mr Ebdon’s strange cycle of “Insa and Outsays” or addresses is merely an enjoyable “Silly” habit acquired without reason or purpose.

Assuming Sir that you are a sometime player of the lovely game! Can you give (On Dave’s Blog) an exact reason for your each and every address before you strike the cue ball?
In a few years my friend the “Fine Art” will be the “Only Game in town” and a small part of “Fine Art” teaching will be the understanding and defining the reasons for every cue and body movement.

In answering your (probable) sarcasm Sir I realise I have positively doubled the teaching ability of snookers many “Self Appointed” coaching bandits.

Snooker coaching and practice routines haven’t changed one iota in almost seventy years; nor is there one self “Inflicted” coach offering something new or it would positively be advertised “Copyright” with the universal © symbol. Mr Hey you

PS Dear Sir. If Jimmy White was to state that Century Breaks are dead easy after consuming a brand “A” type of chocolate! The sales would multiply overnight. DM

jamie brannon said...

What I am saying is that Ebdon was morally wrong in my eyes to behave the way he did. However, it wasn't cheating as the rules on slow play in my opinion are open to abuse.

O'Sullivan has done several things I have criticised on here.

I would like to know your opinion on it Dave or even what was said in Snooker Scene at the time.

Anonymous said...

You're right Dave, it would not be an entertaining sport at all if these kinda matches were all that's on offer. Thank goodness we've had guys like Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan over the years.

Anonymous said...

11 37.more b******t .So u claim to know why ebdon cues like that just by saying its a silly habit.Cant wait for your explanation of dave harolds technique. Ive made over 100 maximums but i wish you would tell me what im doing wrong so i could do better. I will pay you good money but i gaurantee you would not dare show up infront of a real player. you are full of s**t.

Anonymous said...

i agree with 1207
total nonsense post by hey you man, once again *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method -12/8/10
A secret is wasted if not shared.
Dear Mr X @ 12:07 am Hi Dave
Good morning and how are you both! I don’t fault your grammar or schooling mister X but I do object to your choice of syntax when discussing the lovely game.
Your boast of one hundred maximums proves you are a player of some experience but not necessarily good against professional players.

Your one hundred maximums would be reduced to fifty Sir playing against good players and would half again with pressure knowing you can be punished with one mistake.
Your max totals Sir would be disseminated further by habitually altering your cue action to be careful when playing from an unfavourable position or near the cushion.

Your fault Sir is practicing to impress with century breaks as opposed to practising to beating others of equal ability. More shots are missed by being “Careful” than being “Careless”.
As for Mr Dave Harold’s cue action! Dave H is doing his “Insa and Outsays” mentally! Therefore the addresses could be at ”Machine Gun” rate or with controlled breathing Mr Hey You

PS The problem with “Self Inflicted Coaches” is: “They really don’t know, what they don’t know”.DM

Anonymous said...

So true, SO TRUE!

Mr Hey You – I know I said it before, but can’t remember under which user name! – I admire and envy your knowledge even if sometimes this knowlege does come out in more or less esoterically abtruse words. There’s much one has to know in order to read (between) your lines (not that I could – well, not always! lol) That’s probably why, to some people, you may come across as difficult to understand and, in this our superficial and hurried epoch, easily dismissable. Glad to see you take things philosophically.

Anonymous said...

PS The appellative for me (12:11 PM) must be "lass" :D

Anonymous said...

more drivel. think he is talking to himself.

must be the only person who can predict how good or bad someone will be under different circumstances by what they post on a blog.

also, he cant have a go at anyone for grammar or spelling etc as he isnt very good himself.

more antagonism from someone spouting rubbish about something nobody cares about.

John McBride said...

Dave, its time you picked up a Cue mate.

Anonymous said...

J.Brannon 12:53 - pay £3 and get that back issue of Snooker Scene if you want to know what the boys said. Or do you only buy it when ROS wins?

Anonymous said...

10 19 i am a professional you oaf.

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared.
Dear 12:11 pm –Hello Dave
Thanks for the kind words whether male or female. A tip worth knowing lass or lad but for your eyes only.
Please don’t tell that maximum break merchant as only professionals players should know snooker © secrets.

A perfect snooker “Strike” should go through the ball at least twice the length of the “Back-Swing”. Snooker technique of the future will have timing and a reverence almost like “Hymn Singing”

May the balls run kindly my friend? Snooker hasn’t yet come out of the “Copycat Period”.
Mr Hey You

Anonymous said...

there is no formula that works with relation to backswing and amount of follow through.

mr hey you is talking out his bum AGAIN.

Anonymous said...

6 02 how much do you charge for lessons?

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method14/8/10
A secret is wasted if not shared.
Dear Mr X @ 12:34 am Hello Dave
I’m glad you asked that question on “How Much” for lessons? I have never charged anyone nor have I ever advertised my self as a coach.
The club I frequented had a dozen “Ton-Up” players but none could teach or were asked to coach as most people think (wrongly) that only “Pro Trophy Winners” can have the knowledge to coach.

A word of advice Mr X on learning the game with coaching! The friendly good player on the next table can probable set you off with the basics or any Joe Davis book from the library.
This may sound strange Sir but a “Coach with a Cue” isn’t “Teaching” and you can learn equally as much by just watching your favourite player on TV videos.

A keen student will find fault and see differences in style and technique with all players whether winners or losers, club or pro players.
The student seeing the balls go into the pockets is “Snooker Blind” and unlikely to stay the course to learning advanced snooker. Mr Hey You

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method 15/8/10
A secret is wasted if not shared.
Dear Mr 8:17 pm. Thanks for the posts Dave.
There is a fallacy amongst “A section of People” in all walks of life! With the concept, “If I don’t know the answer there can’t be an answer”.
Amazingly Sir many “Well Schooled people” has adopted this obscure line of thought in other subjects as well as Snooker.

A point to note Sir! Though the Pro game is about seventy years old and has many World Champions around; No person has explained the “Mechanics of the balls” or the common use of elementary Physics in every frame of Snooker.

The game needs a boost Mr X and guaranteeing a maximum break and two centuries every five frames on TV will not bring back the long lost popularity of the eighties.
Snooker does not entertain, therefore does not attract Sponsor’s who in turn must have TV to sell there products.
If you don’t know Mr X, ask your neighbour. Mr Hey You

Anonymous said...

11.58 Yeh explaining the mechanics of the ball will help bring back the sponsors and the viewers .You are such an idiot.Millions of people watch football without wondering whats happening to the ball.Snooker is what it is .You in your sad little world think the fine art can change things(how sad and dillusional). By the way i was the one who asked how much you charged for lessons .Hope you realised i was being sarcastic.I would rather get lessons off a trained monkey.

Anonymous said...

Theres no law against havine a coach in the family.