World Snooker Championship 2012: Some Stats and Lightheartedness

With a day off from the qualifiers at the EIS as the tables are re-clothed ahead of what promises to be a dramatic final qualifying round ahead of the big one from the Crucible, time for something a little different today. A few of you may have seen references on Twitter to Chris Downer’s excellent Crucible Almanac, an essential statistical guide to the action that has taken place at the Crucible since 1977.

As a build-up to this season’s World Championship therefore, I invited Chris to prepare something of a statistical preview of the tournament which you can now read below.

Over to Chris…

Whatever people’s opinions on who is the best player, an age-old and arguably subjective discussion, the stats can be seen as a reliable guide to who is the greatest. As far as the Crucible is concerned, almost all of the important stats point towards Stephen Hendry as the man in the top spot. As I write this, the qualifiers are still in progress and it is therefore possible that this will be the first year since 1985 not to feature the seven-times world champion in a competitive role.

A look through the Crucible facts and figures tells its own story, quite apart from the obvious seven titles and nine finals:

  • His match win percentage is unsurpassed at 78% (John Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Steve Davis are the next in line, Shaun Murphy is fifth on 69%)
  • He has played more frames 1,800 – than anyone else and with Davis and Jimmy White next, and then O’Sullivan 601 frames behind Hendry, it’ll be many years before he’s overtaken.
  • He has won 1,043 frames – 77 ahead of Davis, nearly 200 ahead of White and 348 up on O’Sullivan.
  • The first black of his 147 in 2009 clocked up a remarkable achievement, in that he became the first player to score 100,000 points at the Crucible. His current total is 104,007 and, since you ask, the next nearest are Davis (96,471), White (85,219) and O’Sullivan (69,837).
  • His 19-frame winning streak, incorporating the last 10 frames of the 1992 final and a 9-0 lead in the first round in 1993, is a record. Peter Ebdon is next in this respect, with a 16-frame run spanning two matches in 2006.
  • In 2003, Hendry compiled his hundredth Crucible century, a feat since matched by Higgins (currently on 109) and O’Sullivan (106). Peter Ebdon is in fourth place with exactly half O’Sullivan’s figure.
  • His Crucible earnings of £2,248,928 and twelve pence (don’t ask!) is over half a million ahead of O’Sullivan, with Higgins and Mark Williams the only other Crucible millionaires.
  • His £353,000 payday, winning the title in 1995 and making a maximum on the way, is unparalleled and someone would have to achieve the same feat to trump that figure this year.
  • He remains the youngest Crucible competitor – only O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Liu Chuang have also appeared as seventeen-year-olds – and is also the youngest match winner, at 18 the following year.
  • And of course, he remains the youngest champion at 21 years and 106 days, with Shaun Murphy the second youngest, 22 months older than Hendry was.

But for all these figures, Stephen Hendry doesn’t have it all his own way and there are some surprising names who top some of the tables:

  • It is perhaps surprising to many that Hendry was not in fact the first Scot to win a match at the Crucible. That honour belongs to Murdo Macleod, who beat Rex Williams on 19 April 1987, the day before Hendry’s match against Willie Thorne concluded.
  • Appearing only once and making the quarter-finals helped Patrick Wallace to be the overall Crucible winner, if it were gauged on frame-win percentage. His 63% heads the list of the 29 players who have a better than 50% frame win rate. Immediately behind him is a pantheon of champions: Ronnie O’Sullivan (58%), Hendry (57.9%), Steve Davis (57.5%), Mark Williams (56.9%) and John Higgins (56.8%).
  • The best return of century breaks on frames played belongs, rather surprisingly, to Alfie Burden – who made two centuries in the 18 frames he played on his only appearance in 1998 – a rate of 11.1%. Next on the list are some of the more expected names: Mark Selby (10.3%), Higgins (9.4%), O’Sullivan (8.8%), Mark Allen (8.1%) and Ding Junhui (7.8%).
  • It is John Higgins who is the Crucible’s heaviest scorer on a per-frame basis. He’s scored 67,839 points in his 1,163 frames, which equates to 58.3 points per frame.

As with all great sporting competitions, there are many little titbits – more incidental talking points than meaningful observations – and here are some of my favourite Crucible gems:

  • Jimmy White and Matthew Stevens are the only players to have made a break of 73 at the and lost the frame. Coincidentally, both were in frame 16 of a semi-final.
  • Dene O’Kane notched up six Crucible appearances without any two being in consecutive years.
  • Martin Clark in 1991 became the first player to make his Crucible début as a top-16 seed – he’d never previously managed to qualify – and Mark Williams is the only player to have done likewise since.
  • The 1992 second-round match between Alain Robidoux and Jimmy White was level after every two frames as far as 10-10. White then took a two-frame lead at 12-10 before winning 13-11.
  • Frames 8 and 9 of the 2004 final reached identical scorelines – 87-0 to O’Sullivan over Graeme Dott; while frames 8 and 9 of the 2006 final both ended 53-20 to Dott over Peter Ebdon. In this latter case, these were the first Crucible frames ever to have resulted 53-20.
  • The rarest points total at the end of a frame is 3, which has only featured in a frame score on only 78 occasions – in other words, once every 252 frames.
  • Pat Houlihan is the only Crucible player never to have contested a best-of-19 match. He only qualified in 1978, when the last 16 was the first round played at Sheffield.
  • Stephen Maguire and Peter Ebdon share the dubious accolade of having made the highest break which was insufficient for the high-break prize. Maguire made a 143 in 2007 and, ironically, missed a 147 opportunity while Ali Carter, on the other table, was compiling the 144 which would take the prize. Ebdon’s 143 was sandwiched between Ronnie O’Sullivan’s and Ali Carter’s 147s in 2008 – in the same match as the latter.

But there is one facet of snooker on which no statistics are kept… luck.

Luck comes in all shapes and sizes – fluked pots, unfortunate in-offs, little nudges that maintain or ruin position – and it is said, more often by the beneficiary than by the victim, that it evens itself out in the end. To play a really good fluke, you need to have an encyclopaedic and infallible knowledge of the angles and preferably a keen eye for timeliness. Or, failing that, just hit your shot badly wrong and see where the balls end up.

So let’s finish with a bit of fun. Here are 15 clips featuring amusing scenarios and, in each case, you need to keep a finger keenly on the Pause button. When the options appear, press Pause and see if you can work out which answer is the correct one. The, just press Play and see if you are right!


Many thanks to Chris for his insight. You can buy the 2012 Almanac via Snooker Scene from July…


  • tmv23

    i am a proud owner of this book and can only say, that it is worth every cent (or pence). great work.

  • chasmmi

    So is Brecal on course to Usurp Hendt as the youngest ever player if he beats King?

  • dannyboy

    Hi all. A lot more comment is passed instantly via twitter these days on this site so making comments after the games have finished is almost a dated approach on here now. But what a week it has been at Sheffield so far as we head to the crunch ‘Crucible or go on holiday final’ match ups. It was so obvious to me how tough it was for all the players to play with freedom in these qualifiers. Luca Brecel was one of the exceptions as he played his normal attacking game with his familiar facial expression. He is definitely only a season away from making a proper breakthrough on the tour. I am assuming he will get to compete on tour as it would be a joke if he disappears next season! He may well beat King as well and hopefully draw Ronnie for a mouth watering game. For me the spectator aspect of the week is second to none with 13 hour days from 10am to 11pm the norm. It struck me for the first time how much depth the far east now have in the game, even though the rankings are still not showing this in terms of the top 32. In a year or two I think the top 32 will have 8 to 10 far eastern players. Just like the French golfers they always seem to watch and support one another – great value. The contrats in styles of these best of 19 compared with the PTC short sprints. A lot more cat and mouse and hard, tough snooker with lots of tight safety and snookers being laid without risking anything. Strange really as the PTCs see a lot more attacking/risk taking and yet the winning line is so much closer. I assume that is down to the event and the points at stake and the timing of the worlds. For me maybe they should reposition the season to avoid it being the last event? Maybe have a couple of PTCs and the final PTC afterwards to avoid such do or die matches. Im not sure it brings out the best for some of the players?

    And then finally the old guard losing and the disappointment shown. It is great it means so much to lifelong players. The expressions on Steve’s face as first he realised that it was not a “going day” and his potting eye was clearly arry. Then the battling qualities rasing hope as he drew level at 5-5, got in first after Woolaston missed a relatively easy starter. SD had him, this was the moment, he potted red, black and then one more red would see him set in the balls. The position was made, the break that followed was 120 but sadly SD had missed the pot and the frame was Ben’s, his confidence had returned. The moment Steve knew for turning the screw and going on to victory had come and gone. He was cross, stoney faced, staring in his corner, with his cue thrusted down on his chair like a spear being pushed through his Crucible heart. The inevitable slow death followed and Steve disappeared wondering why his form deserted him when he most wanted it (even half of it) to return to the Crucible. Maybe he wanted it too much, maybe he tried too hard or maybe the good days, the potting days are simply less and less as you grow older.

    The next day Jimmy stepped into the arena, ready to make it lucky 7. He still believes he can win the whole event, somewhere deep inside he knows he still has a chance, the talent the ability to win against anyone. A slow start, a fight back, even a lead at 7-6. Maybe this is it? But then his young opponent starts to pot from everywhere and Jimmy misses, 8-7 down, back to 8-8, but JImmy’s spark is fading and the young eyes from the east finish in style. Jimmy follows Steve out of the event and off for a summer break. TV work or simply watching from afar will follow until Jimmy’s birthday in May and the world final will crown a new champion. The memories will drift away as the news season returns. Jimmy and Steve will return for 2012-13 with hope once more.
    For me the game needs the greats to persevere, to win occasionally and to battle against the young breed. The game needs Luca, Lui, Lu, Yan as well. It is a great game and it is clear why old friends still put themselves through it. Good luck to all 32 players this weekend, but rest assured for the losers the dreams will soon return.

  • Nige

    Great summary Dannyboy with analogies to boot! I was there all day yesterday and was absorbed from begining to end. Jimmy was desperately ill at ease at the start and lost the first three frames narrowly – 2 on the pink and one on the black – all of which he could have won. He almost went 4-0 behind but somehow he got back into it and seemed the better player throughout apart from the last two frames when Chuang pulled out some truly astonishing pots. For once Jimmy could not be accused of blowing his chances, his opponent simply got better at the end, it was just a shame he gave away the first three frames. Both Steve and Jimmy will be back and the dream will only die when they retire when they fall off the tour. As for Drago, chatted to him again and he seems under the impression he will be given a wild card to play on and has no intention of playing the Q School.

    Going to watch the WS semis on Saturday 5 May. Matt – hope to see you there even if its just for 1 minute to shake your hand and thank you for the work you are doing. Bumped into the snookerbacker final referee Matthew Lowson yesterday and was hoping he would introduce us. Your site is a daily port of call for me and the work you’re doing is greatly appreciated by all. Indeed the blogs/twitterers are all enhancing the game as it is uniting us spectators/armchair fans in our one common passion of snooker.

  • matt2745

    Comment away Danny, I still welcome it, I’ve just not had time to myself with not having the week off work this time.

    Yeah I heard you were looking for me Nige, was just busy I guess with Jimmy playing. I’ll be there on that Saturday so hopefully we’ll meet then!

  • Rudy Bauwens

    I’m the Eurosport commentator for Holland and Belgium and therefore a big fan of snooker stats.

    The Chris Downer Almanac is a wonderful piece of equipment, but sometimes I get puzzled because certain bits of information are different in different sections.

    Example for the 2011 edition.

    According to page 98, Shaun Murphy has made 33 centuries in the Crucible. However, if you count the numbers listed (1+11+2+5+1+10+3+1) this adds up to 34. And it should be 34.

    Strange thing: it also says 34 on page 162.

    Makes me wonder what figures are taken into account when calculating certain totals, for instance: all the centuries so far in the Crucible (in this case: 33 of 34)?

    If you look well, there are more puzzling stats, for instance page 88.

    If you look at the Dominic Dale frames stat, it reads: 146 played, 64 won, 82 lost. When dividing 64/146 (which gives the percentage of frames won), my calculator says 43,83%. So where does the 46.3% in the Almanac comes from?

    So a very good piece up equipment, which I buy every year, but to be handled with caution…