Thursday, May 01, 2008


Snooker is chess with balls! By that I mean that in snooker, unlike other non-contact sports, the player has to think several steps ahead (and be aggressive). The game is slower and more contemplative than tennis, although like tennis, how you hit the ball, with the racket or cue, is crucial. The game of snooker was invented by British Army officers during long boring evenings in India. Forget about billiards, there is no comparison.
I am currently watching the World Championship of snooker on TV (Eurosport) being played at the Crucible Center in Sheffield, England. For two days running a maximum was scored, by Ronnie O'Sullivan, second in the world, and by Ali Carter, the first time in history this has been accomplished at the championships.
In snooker, you hit the white ball with the cue which in turn hits another ball which it is your object to sink into a pot (there are 6 around the table). First you down a red ball (there are 15 of them with numerical value of 1) and then alternately a ball of another color (yellow, green, brown, pink, blue and black, with numerical values of 2-7 respectively) of which there are only one of each. The other colors are replaced on their designated spots on the table until all the reds are removed. That means that if you alternately down 15 reds and 15 blacks, the maximum scored can be 120 points. But, after all the reds are removed, the other colors are potted in sequence and not replaced, giving another 27 points, so the maximum possible is 147, which is what O'Sullivan and Carter achieved (they will share the prize of 147,000 pounds sterling for achieving this). That means that they downed 36 balls consecutively without a miss!
There are two important aspects to snooker aside from potting balls and scoring points. How the white (cue) ball is positioned on the table to pot the next desired ball is crucial. I have seen balls hit with such dexterity that they spin around the table and land up just where the player wants them. Also, I have seen amazing shots where one ball struck by the cue ball then hits a third or fourth ball that goes into the pot.
The other important aspect is that the player seeks to send the cue ball down to the other end of the table to make it difficult for his opponent to hit a red ball, and this is is called a "safety shot." If the cue ball is nested behind another ball, so that the opponent cannot "see" or hit the balls he must pot, then this is called being "snookered." By snookering your opponent you make it very difficult for him to continue playing, he must hit the cue ball off one, two or three cushions in order to hit a red ball. If he misses then the opponent gets 4 points, or if he inadvertently pots the cue ball he also gives his opponent 4 points. So it is a very complex and interesting game, a metaphor for the game of life.


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