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…