A new form of snooker was born over the weekend in Blackpool – the Snooker Shoot Out.
In a similar fashion to 20: 20 cricket, the idea is to produce fast paced, exciting sport with maximum audience participation. The rules are therefore a little different to those aficionados of the game will be used to.
Each match lasts just a single frame. And if that wasn’t short enough, a time limit of 10 minutes per frame applies. To make things faster still, there is a shot clock. In the first half of the frame shots must be played within 20 seconds, while in the second half this falls to just 15 seconds.
Two other rule changes add to the excitement. At least one ball must be potted or hit a cushion in each shot, meaning no running up against balls for an easy snooker. And any foul shot results in a “ball in hand”. Pool style, the player can then place the cue ball anywhere on the table that he wants.
The inaugural competition involved the world’s top 64 players coming together in a knock out competition. No one knew quite how it would work out. There were predictions of scrappy frames and low breaks. But the world’s best produced some very fine snooker.
There were a few occasions where the shot clock found players too indecisive, leaving them to play any old shot as time ran out. And others tried to run down the clock while ahead, only seeming to disturb their own rhythm and miss easy shots. But most coped admirably with the new set up.
World champion Neil Robertson produced the most stunning comeback, scoring over 40 points in the final two minutes of a frame, but he was eventually beaten in the quarter finals. And all of the other big names of the game went out one by one.
Ronnie O’Sullivan was many people’s favourite given his already fast style of play, and the event did seem to suit him. He scored a couple of rapid centuries in typical fashion, but fell in the semi finals.
In the end it was two mid ranking players who battled it out for the £32,000 first prize. Robert Milkins, ranked 33 in the world, and Nigel Bond, ranked 36, were the men to make it to the final.
The pressure was clear with both missing pots early on before Bond got in and built a 50 point lead. Milkins could not come back and it was the 45 year old Bond who took home the trophy. A victory for one of the games older players was not predicted by many.
Snooker purists will not approve of this new format, much as 20: 20 cricket was initially rubbished by the duffers with their g&ts and MCC ties.
But the capacity crowds loved it. Snooker players in coloured shirts, the audience allowed to shout encouragement throughout and fast play throughout made for an entertaining spectacle.
I’m sure this won’t be a one off event. It looks as though snooker has a new and winning format on its hands.