What's the story of snooker


1. The beginnings:

The beginnings of billiards are no longer exactly traceable, and no country can actually lay claim to the invention of this sport. It is assumed, however, that billiards is derived from the now extinct French lawn game "Paillemalle", which was played in France, England and Italy in the 13th century (Fig. 1). Even today you can walk down Pall Mall in London, the name of which is reminiscent of this game.

1. The beginnings:

The beginnings of billiards are no longer exactly traceable, and no country can actually lay claim to the invention of this sport. It is assumed, however, that billiards is derived from the now extinct French lawn game “Paillemalle”, which was played in France, England and Italy in the 13th century (Fig. 1). Even today you can walk down Pall Mall in London, the name of which is reminiscent of this game.

The sports croquet and golf probably developed from “Paillemalle”. In order to be able to play this "outdoor" game even in bad weather conditions, the action was quickly relocated to closed rooms and the lawn was replaced by a table. The aim of this game was to use the "Mace" to push a ball through a small metal gate in order to hit the cone behind it.

The first hole billiards is described as early as 1571, a forerunner of English billiards. The term “billiards” used today is a mixture of the Latin “billa” and the French “bille”, which mean ball or ball.

In the 15th century, billiards was mainly played and maintained in the royal houses. An anecdote is known about Mary Queen of Scots who indulged in this game while in captivity. Shortly before her execution, she lamented the loss of her pool cloth, which, ironically, was used to wrap her head after her execution!

Likewise, just a little less bloodthirsty, billiards is mentioned in writing in 1591 in a play by Joe Spenser, "Mother Hubberd’s Tale".
Nevertheless, it took 19 years before approval was given in 1610 to set up billiard tables in public. These tables were located exclusively in the so-called “ball houses”, to which, however, only the higher classes had access. These restrictions were only lifted after the French Revolution, but then nothing stood in the way of the triumph of billiards around the world (Fig. 2).

Around 1775 another billiards sport was born, because it was at this point in time that the carom game (no pockets) was mentioned by name for the first time.

The modern form of billiards is related to the material revolution that began around 1800. In 1800 the cue was introduced in its current form (before that, the "Mace" was played), but it was still played without a cue tip, which meant that the durability of the cues was not exactly extended. In 1807 the tip of the cue was provided with the cue leather. We owe this further development in the direction of today's cue to the billiard master Mengand, who is also considered the inventor of the spin shot. In 1827 the wooden base of the billiard table was exchanged for a slate plate, which considerably improved the running properties of the ball.

1835 was the year in which the gangs, which until then consisted of cloth filled with cotton, were replaced by rubber fillings. In the same year, a standard for English billiards tables was also set in order to ensure equal conditions. Therefore there are no “snooker tables”, as snooker came about much later. But not only the table and the cue went through centuries of changes. The ball has also developed from a leather ball to metal and ivory, which is rare today, to a plastic ball (actually synthetic resin) that is used today in modern billiards. Some old clubs, which can look back on a long tradition, are still in possession of real old ivory balls that are no longer produced due to the species protection regulations.

2. English Billiards:

There is no doubt that billiards were played with three balls (2 game balls and 1 object ball) from 1550 onwards. The players had several options to get points: either by carom (also called "cannon") or by pitting the ball ("hazard") and the resulting combinations. Today this game is called English Billiards.

The first Billiards Professional Champion was a man named Jonathan Kentfield in 1835. There is one name that absolutely has to be mentioned when talking about English Billards, namely Walter Lindrum (Fig. 3). This man dominated the game to such an extent that the International Billiards Rules Committee had to decide to reconsider and change the rules (only 15 hazards and 75 cannons can be played in a row). His world record, which is still valid today: 4137 points in one shot (against Joe Davis). Other great players were Willy Smith and Tom Newman in the 1930s. Today the professional game is dominated by the Indian "national hero" Geet Sethi, the Englishmen Mike Russel and Peter Gilchrist and Robby Foldvari from Australia. At the moment there is an amateur and a professional World Cup every year.

3. Snooker:

The British English billiards master John Roberts (Fig. 4) exported billiard tables to the British regiments stationed in India and to the palaces of the maharajas in the middle of the last century. The Maharajah of Jaipur was so impressed by Robert's playing skills that he hired him as "court master".
In 1885 Roberts was introduced by Neville Chamberlain to the Maharajah of Cooch Behar, who had written down the "rules" himself and passed them on to Roberts. Roberts introduced the game to England after his return.

Snooker originated in the numerous officers' fairs in India, where British officers and soldiers drove boredom away. Since English Billiards was too demanding for the soldiers, 15 red and one black ball were quickly placed on the table (black pool). However, the game was not tactical enough and was expanded to include the yellow, green and pink balls.
The brown and blue balls were added later. This variant of billiards was also played in the 11th Devonshire Regiment, including Sir Neville Bowes Chamberlain belonged. According to one anecdote, Sir Chamberlain named the game Snooker.
The word "snooker" was a colloquial term that was used to a limited extent at the time for young recruits, so-called "greenhorns". When an officer failed to sink a ball lying in front of the pocket, Chamberlain described it as a "regular snooker" (bloody beginner). Chamberlain then had to justify himself, and he suggested that the as yet nameless game be called snooker, since all players would be real “snookers”. Today, the position in which you can't see a ball "on" is called snooker.

The first world champions were actually English billiards players. Particularly noteworthy is Joe Davis, who was professional snooker world champion from 1927 to 1946 and resigned without a single World Cup defeat. It has been forgotten that he was also a multiple professional billiards world champion. While the 50s were dominated by Joe's brother Fred Davis, the 60s were dominated by John Pullman, who also introduced the "modern" snooker. The 70s "shared" Ray Reardon and John Spencer, who continued the path of John Pullman. The 80s were dominated by Steve Davis, with whom snooker finally made its way into (worldwide) TV. In the 90s, it was Steven Hendry who was (almost) unbeatable.
By the way: New Zealander Murt O’Donoghue played the first secured “Maximum Break” of 147 points in 1934.

An amateur and a professional World Cup are held annually.

4. English Billards vs. Snooker:

Snooker did not really catch on until the 1930s. In England it was not considered so fine and technically less demanding, but the material costs (ivory) for a snooker set were clearly too high. The prize money was also gigantic in relation to the English Billiards Professional World Championship (the prize money at the 1927 Professional Snooker World Championship was only 10 pounds).
It was only with the advent of television that snooker turned out to be a crowd puller. Sponsors entered the snooker business, and since the late 1960s snooker has been the most watched billiards sport in the world. It should be made clear, however, that the basic technique of snooker and English billiards is the same.

5. The organization in Austria:

The Austrian Snooker & Billiards Association (ÖSBV) was founded in 1990 and is therefore the youngest professional billiards association in Austria, although in this association, "English Billiards", the oldest or "original" form of billiards, is played! There are Austrian state championships in snooker in the general class and women, as well as in English billiards in the general class. Austrian snooker championships are held in juniors, masters and doubles.

6. International associations:

The ÖSBV is a member of the IBSF (International Billiards and Snooker Federation), which organizes the amateur world championships in snooker and billiards.
There is also the WPBSA (World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association). This is the professional association for English Billiards and Snooker.

All international billiards professional associations have come together to form the WCBS (World Conference of Billiards Sports). The WCBS is a member of the International Olympic Committee.

The ÖSBV is also a member of the European Snooker & Billiards Association EBSA (European Championships) and the Continental Billiards & Snooker Association CB & SA (Continental Cup).

Ing.Michael Kreuziger

1. Fig. 1, 2 Joseph Bennett: "Billiards by Joseph Bennett" 1889
2. W. Dufton: "Practical Billiards" 1873
3. Fig. 3 Joe Davis: "How I Play Snooker" 1956
5. Fig. 5 Walter Lindrum: "Billiards" 1930
6. Fig. 4 John Roberts: "Modern Billiards" 1910