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Jan 31 2011

So then, this Shootout…Reviewed

Everyone has been throwing in their two cents worth over the Sky Shootout during the last couple of days and over here at PSB it is no different. Click below for my thoughts on the inaugural event…

While not a staunch purist, I have always leaned towards the traditional formats of the game and so was sceptical of this event from its announcement right up until its first staging this week. Talk of grim reapers and gunging did little to quell my fears and fresh from the Power Snooker debacle my expectations were not too high.

Following Friday’s opening session while I was not particularly overwhelmed, I did at least stick with it until its conclusion and enjoyed the action more than I had thought that I would. Finding the voiceover and the rowdy crowds to be equally as annoying as each other though, I remained unconvinced and on the table few of the matches really inspired, most seeing one player edge ahead with a 30 break and winning the frames comfortably. Strong breaks from Ronnie O’Sullivan, Robert Milkins, Tom Ford and John Higgins did demonstrate that the shot clock does not prohibit good snooker.

Then however came Saturday, the day when this tournament came of age and captured the imagination of everybody watching. Following an entertaining, if not spectacular afternoon session, the evening match caught light with its fourth match, the incredible clash between Mike Dunn and Alfie Burden which saw the Redcar professional fight back to steal it on the black, celebrating with a clenched fist that he admitted himself wouldn’t usually come at a ranking event.

Lag!

The close matches continued to follow and a couple of matches later we had more drama as Rory McLeod recovered to defeat Tony Drago with the aid of an unlikely black with just seconds to spare. While the match did not have as much riding on it as a World Championship qualifier or feature two household names, the drama was such that it prompted commentator Clive Everton to unleash a memorable “IIIIIIIIIIIINCREDIBLE!!!!!!!” on the world as the final black dropped.

But the drama was not done yet. Step forward the world champion as Neil Robertson having looked down and out managed to recover a 37 point deficit with just 80 seconds remaining, the final black dropping after the claxon but being allowed to stand as he struck the shot with time still on the clock. It’s a good job that Neil knew that rule because I didn’t! In any case though it was another exciting match and something new that you would not see in any other form of the game.

While I would be careful not to go overboard (I certainly don’t agree that they were the best finishes ever as some said), it was a hugely entertaining evening and one that to a large degree won me over. It proved that in close matches, this format can be interesting and does add new tactical elements that you would not see elsewhere.

The other positives? As was the case with the World Open it was nice to see some players involved who you do not see at every event and probably more so than was the case then, it was nice to see some of them show how good they are. Nigel Bond, Robert Milkins, Mike Dunn…all proved that they are very good players despite being ranked outside of the top 32 and demonstrated the depth that we have on the circuit.

I also cannot let this pass without mentioning the venue. I was not there this weekend but from the TV at least it looked to be the perfect venue for snooker, a real arena and rightly described as a bear pit by those in the commentary box. There have been suggestions that it would be well suited for the Masters and I would agree, but I cannot imagine that event being played outside London myself.

As for the downsides, while I found myself not noticing it as much by the end, I didn’t feel that the American voiceover man added anything positive to the event and I would probably just rather have regular Matchroom MC John McDonald announce the start of the match.

I also didn’t like the shouting from the crowds, particularly during the evening sessions after they had got a few drinks down them. I realise though that this is a subjective point and that there are others who will like this…I just think that there has to be a limit and was pleased to see Michaela Tabb give them a talking to on Sunday. Think that point is going to split opinion 50/50 though, some people will like that, some won’t.

Conclusion

So how would I summarise the event? All in all I was pleasantly surprised by the event and while beforehand I wasn’t sure if I would manage to stick with it for the duration but in the end found it to be a worthwhile addition to the snooker calendar.

Sure there are things I would probably change, not just the voiceover man but I would make some sort of change to the Saturday format which I felt went on too long to the extent that I had lost interest by time that the last four or five matches came along. Also I would be tempted to keep the shot clock at 20 seconds for the duration of the match and am not yet convinced by the rule that states that you have to hit a cushion on a safety shot.

As was the case following the World Open when I think a few people got carried away and suggested that a similar format could be adopted for the World Championship, the same seems to be happening here, notably with Jimmy White suggesting that a shot clock could be used at the Crucible. Personally I would be set against this, indeed I would not particularly like to see a shot clock in any ranking event. In a one-off event such as the Shootout it certainly does no harm.

Barry Hearn stated when he took over the game that he wanted each tournament to have its own unique identity and the Shootout certainly has that. I’m sure that it will be back for 2012.

  • Mike Dunn

    Just want to say how much I love your web site and I appreciate your fantastic comments about me as I had the time of my life !

    Cheers , Mike

  • matt2745

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks a lot, glad you enjoyed yourself, hopefully catch you at the World qualifiers.

  • Claus Christensen

    I was glad to hear all the players saying they had a good time. The crowds, although not as rowdy as in the Power Snooker event, sometimes got too obnoxious. But the close matches as well as Ronnie’s centuries were supremely entertaining.

  • gerbisto

    Great article. This event seems to attract people who would usually choose not to watch snooker whilst keeping the current snooker viewers.

    Given all these factors, and considering that this is a world driven by money, I think that the shot clock should be introduced just like Jimmy White said.

    Mike Dunn won GBP32,000 for this event. If snooker viewers grow exponentially, so would the prize money for ranking events.

    When Alex Higgins won his first World Title he won a pittance but in 1982 the amount was much higher.

    Barry Hearn knows all this since he was part of the 80′s and I’m sure he’ll be thinking of this.

  • Chris

    I think the reason why the rule states that a ball must make contact with a cushion (or pot a ball) on every shot is that it would be too easy to pot a red, roll up to a colour to leave a difficult snooker and then have ball in-hand anywhere on the table after your opponent misses, then any good player would clear up. I too think the American voice was a bit pointless and didn’t really add anything but these things are worth a try. I also think that a great part of it is being able to see all the players in the top 64 in the rankings, a lot of whom you don’t get to see very often. I didn’t watch all of it but from what I saw it was very interesting and would be interesting to watch it again. Perhaps another thing they could do is best of 3 for the final.

  • dannyboy

    A modern pot black – all done in a weekend. I was actually glued to most of it as there wasnt much other sport on apart from FA Cup games which didnt really clash. Good timing. I think the event was helped with ROS staying in for a while and a few close matches. Not sure the shot clock made a difference. If you have a shot clock I would be tempted to have 15 secs from the off and 10 secs for the last 3 mins. The 20 secs or 25 secs is immaterial unless you get decent safety. With the cushion rule it doesnt really come into play. I dont think anyone would have used a timeout if they had one each anyway! Voice over didnt really do anything. Walk on girls need to come on from the top of the stairs – is it really worth 5 steps across the floor? I thought the event twice a year would be enough. Once in January and once in the summer to start the season off. No need to change the format. Overall Hearn knows the secret formula and kids will have loved it. My 11 year old was more interested than ever before and despite favoured players exiting I was genuinely interested to watch all players thus proving it is a good way to get to know the characters.

  • godassesdor

    Sky Shoot Out was kinda All Star Game of snooker.

    The circus arena, the dress code, all Top64 players playing the game & having fun.

    People are getting used to watch new faces thanks to televised events showing more than Top16 & i love that.

    Snooker is becoming a real professionnal sport.

  • godspeed

    Couple of other things I really liked about this event:

    - Jimmy White commentating was brilliant (as was Clive)
    - Sky’s coverage deserves a lot of credit.
    - tournament played from start to finish over a weekend is very appealing