Who was the youngest player to qualify for the World Snooker Championship?

The youngest player to qualify for the World Snooker Championship was Luca Brecel. Born in Dilsen-Stokkem, Belgium on Matrch 8, 1995, Brecel was 17 years, 1 month and 7 days old when he beat Mark King 10-8 in his fourth and final best-of-19-frame qualifying match at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield on April 15, 2012. He had previously beaten Ian McCulloch 10-2, Barry Pinches 10-3 and Michael Holt 10-9 to earn his place in the main draw for the 2012 World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, also in Sheffield, a week later. He drew eighth seed Stephen Maguire in the first round, losing that best-of-19-frame match 10-5.

After qualifying for the World Snooker Championship at the first attempt, Brecel did not qualify again until 2017, when he lost 10-9 to Marco Fu in the first round, despite leading 5-0, 7-1 and 8-4. He lost again in the first round in 2018, 2019 and 2022, on the latter occasion when seeded eleven by virtue of his world ranking and, until 2023, had never progressed beyond the last-32 stage at the Crucible Theatre.

In a timely turn of events, at the time of writing, the ‘Belgian Bullet’ is enjoying his best run ever at the World Snooker Championship. Seeded nine, he has, so far, beaten Ricky Walden 10-9 in the first round, three-time world champion Mark Williams 13-11 in the second, and recovered from 10-6 behind to beat defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan 13-10 in the quarter-final, reeling off seven straight frames in less than an hour and a half. He currently trails Chinese debutante Si Jiahui 14-10 in his best-of-33-frames semi-final, but has forced his way back into the match, having looked likely to lose with a session to spare at 14-5 behind.

Where, and when, was the first officially ratified 147 break in snooker?

Notwithstanding the fact that a break of 155 is theoretically possible, under extraordinary conditions, 147 is generally accepted as the maximum break available in a frame of snooker and, as such, represents the pinnacle of achievement in the sport. The first witnessed, but unofficial, 147 break was made by New Zealander E.J. ‘Murt’ O’Donoghue in Griffiths, New South Wales, Australia on September 26, 1934. The exact circumstances are not entirely clear, but presumably the break was considered ineligible for ‘official’ consideration because it was made on a table with pockets not cut to template – which determines the width of the jaws and other characteristics – and/or in the absence of a certified referee.

In any case, the first maximum break that did meet the required criteria was made at Leicester Square Hall, formerly Thurston’s Hall, in London on January 22, 1955. Almost inevitably, the player responsible was the so-called ‘Sultan of Snooker’, Joseph ‘Joe’ Davis, who had won the World Snooker Championship – or the Professional Snooker Championship, as it was known initially – 15 consecutive times between 1927 and 1946, before turning his attention to exhibition matches. It was in such a match, against Willie Smith, that Davis made his historic 147.

Although reduced to the role of spectator on that occasion, Smith had won the World Billiards Championship twice, in 1920 and 1923 – the only occasions on which he entered the competition – and reached the final of the World Snooker Championship twice, in 1933 and 1935. For the record, the first televised maximum break was compiled by ‘The Nugget’, Steve Davis, during a 5-2 victory over John Spencer in the quarter-finals of the Lada Classic at the Civic Centre, Oldham on January 11, 1982.

Which player(s) hold(s) the record for the most century breaks in a single tournament?

All, or almost all, professional snooker players on the World Snooker Tour are capable of making a century break, so it stands to reason the more frames they play the more opportunities they have to do so. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the record for the most century breaks was set, and subsequently equalled, in the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.

Since 1997, the flagship event has consisted of best-of-19-frame first-round matches, best-of-25-frame second-round and quarter-final matches, best-of-33-frame semi-final matches and a best-of-35-frame final, played over two days and four sessions. Hence, any player looking to lift the unmistakable World Championship trophy faces the prospect of playing a possible 137 frames over a 17-day period.

As far as centuries breaks are concerned, seven-time World Champion Stephen Hendry compiled 16 including five in a 17-13 semi-final victory over defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan – on his way to his ninth, and last, appearance in a World Championship final in 2002. He eventually lost 18-17 to Peter Ebdon, despite making back-to-back centuries in frames five and six and, again, in frames 17 and 18.

Hendry held the record for the most century breaks in a single tournament, outright, for 20 years but, in 2022, three-time World Champion Mark Williams equalled his mark, despite only reaching the semi-final stages. In his own words, Williams ‘started off like a train’, compiling four centuries, including three in the first five frames, in his first-round match against fellow Welshman Michael White, which he won 10-3. He continued in similar vein in the second round, compiling six centuries in a 13-3 victory over another compatriot, his practice partner Jackson Page. He made just two centuries in his quarter-final against Yan Bingtao, which he won 13-11, but four more in a 17-16 semi-final defeat by Judd Trump was enough to equal the record.

In billiards, what is a ‘cradle’ cannon and why was it banned?

For readers unfamiliar with English billiards, the game is played on a regulation, 12′ by 6′ billiards or snooker table, with a set of just three balls. Traditionally, a set of balls consists of a red, a spot white, which has two or more black spots for identification, and a plain white, although the spot white may be replaced with a solid yellow ball. In any event, the spot white and white, or white and yellow, balls are cue balls, one for each player.

A player scores a ‘cannon’, worth two points, when the cue-ball makes contact with the two other balls, in either order, during a stroke. In modern billiards, a player may make a maximum of 75 consecutive cannons, but that was not always the case.

Although the possibilities of the stroke that became known as the ‘cannon’ or ‘anchor’ cannon had been demonstrated previously, it was unveiled by former English amateur billiards champion Walter Lovejoy in January, 1907. The idea behind the stroke is to gather the balls together near a corner pocket, such that repeated cannons can be played, over and over again, without changing the position of the object balls. Lovejoy made a run of 283 consecutive cannons, for a relatively modest break of 603, but nonetheless set the tone for the farcical events to follow.

The professional billiard players of the day embarked upon a competition to establish a record for the highest break in the history of English billiards, which culminated in a ‘match’ between Tom Reece and Joe Chapman at Burroughes & Watts, Soho Square, which commenced on June 3, 1907. Over the next five weeks, Reece made a break of 499,135, including 249,552 cradle cannons, but the Billiard Association subsequently refused to officially recognise his achievement, on the grounds that a portion of the break had been made behind closed doors and witnessed only by Reece and referee William Jordan. The crade cannon was banned at a special meeting of Billiard Association on September 2, 1907.

How long was Stephen Lee banned from snooker?

On October 12, 2012, Stephen Lee was suspended by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), following reports of suspicious betting activity during a Premier League match against John Higgins, which Lee lost 4-2, the previous day. Of that stage, Lee was already under investigation by the WPBSA as the result of match-fixing allegations made against him in February, 2010, and the governing body said in a statement, ‘…that it would not be appropriate for Stephen Lee to continue to compete on the World Snooker Tour whilst these investigations are undertaken…’.

Lee appealed, unsuccessfully, against the decision and, on February 14, 2013, was charged with seven counts of match-fixing, in four different tournaments, including the 2009 World Snooker Championship. The WPBSA alleged that Lee was in cahoots with several groups who, collectively, placed bets of over £111,000 on the outcome of the suspect matches, or frames within those matches, and made a profit of over £97,000.

His case was heard by an independent disciplinary hearing board appointed by the WPBSA, through Sport Resolutions, over a three-day period between September 9 and September 11, 2013. Lee was found guilty on all seven counts, banned for 12 years, backdated to the start of his original suspension, and ordered to pay £40,000 in costs. Befitting what the WPBSA called ‘the worst case of snooker corruption we have seen’, Lee was handed the longest ban ever imposed on a professional snooker player.

Lee appealed, again unsuccessfully, thereby increasing the costs against him to £125,000, which, at the time of writing, he has yet to repay. His ban is due to end on October 12, 2024, the day on which he turns 50 and, despite John Higgins saying recently, ‘If he serves his ban and decides to come back we will welcome him back with open arms’, the WPBSA may not be quite so accommodating, particularly in light of his unpaid debt.