Six Reds – Hit or Miss?

The final of the 2012 Sangsom Six Red World Championship will be contested between Mark Davis and Shaun Murphy, after the pair came through their respective semi-finals today against Wuxi Classic champion Ricky Walden and world number two Judd Trump.

Whilst I have not watched the tournament religiously this week, this evening I have been watching both semi-finals and considering the pros and cons of the six red format…

Late yesterday evening I raised the question on Twitter as to what fans made of the tournament this week and the most common response was that the it was ‘pointless’, while one follower replied with the increasingly stock comment whenever a new format is tried that it is ‘better than Power Snooker’.

Of course six red snooker is not a new format, this tournament has been staged since 2008 now, while a year later at the Crucible, there was a also a Six Red event trialled, won by veteran cueist Tony Knowles.

Back then, former World Snooker chairman Rod Walker had likened the format to that of Twenty20 cricket, with a view to introducing more tournaments operating the format with the aim of attracting a younger audience to the game. Since the regime change and Barry Hearn taking charge however, the governing body have elected not to pursue the format, save for this particular event in Thailand which continues to attract a strong field each season.

So what are the perceived advantages of the format?

The idea is that with fewer reds on the table, frames and therefore matches, can be concluded more quickly and it will help to attract new fans to the sport who perhaps do not have the patience that the rest of us have in order to sit and watch some of the more protracted frames which will inevitably occur under the traditional format. While snooker fans like myself enjoy the slow-burn nature of the sport, there are those that prefer the action to be more immediate.

Another argument I have seen is that the most entertaining frames are those that come down to a battle on the colours or the last few remaining reds, so under this format we are merely skipping straight on to that point in each frame.

In practice, while I am not convinced by either argument, the event has certainly been watchable, particularly with the stakes being raised as the week has progressed and the top prize of £40,000 has become ever-closer to those through to the knock-out rounds. Compared to other formats such as Power Snooker and the Snooker Shoot Out, this is still snooker and can provide us with some of the drama that we see under the traditional format.

Despite that however, from my point of view at least, whilst watching tonight I could not help but feel that there was just something missing (as well as the other nine reds), though for a while I could not quite put my finger on it.

On reflection, the best way that I can put it is that I think that the artistry of break-building is lost somewhat. By that I mean that the development of the bunch of reds, the flicks, the cannons, the nudges and so on that in 15 red snooker are necessary in order to construct the bigger breaks on a regular basis.

In traditional red snooker of course, there are often just a couple of loose reds before a player must think about going into the bunch and for me at least, watching the likes of Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan develop the reds as only they can is perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of watching snooker and what impresses me most as a fan.

In the six red format however, the reds tend to be separated from the break-off shot, aside from the red at the top of the pack below the pink, which can lead to the rather repetitive situation of the player attempting to clear the table, trying to split the two balls, avoiding the situation there the cannon is missed and the player is left snookered.

All in all, as I mentioned previously, the format is more than watchable and can provide entertainment, but perhaps inevitably six red snooker does feel like a diluted form of snooker where while the rules are largely the same, traditional elements of the sport are missing and it is hard to follow too seriously.

Still, with 52 weeks in the year I see no harm in a tournament such as this and with a top prize of £40,000 (compare that to the £30,000 won by Ding Junhui for lifting the Welsh Open title last season), and it is clear that the event is one well worth winning…

What is your verdict on the format?