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Origin And History Of Snooker

Even though snooker wasn't officially created until the late 1800's, it's actually a byproduct of another cue sport that dates back to the 1500's: billiards. Originally the game of royalty, nobles and aristocrats, billiards was enjoyed by very few people. Because of its exclusivity, it became known as a "gentleman's game." However, over several generations, billiards slowly spread throughout Britain. In the 1800's, the game became popular with British soldiers who were stationed in India. Over time, the British soldiers conceived new rules and standards. In the late 1800's, an insult eventually coined the name for the new game: snooker.

Sir Neville Chamberlain's Insult

While stationed in India, the British soldiers gave their new style of playing billiards many names including Life Pool, Pyramid Pool and Black Pool. Each name represented a slightly different way of playing the game. One day, Sir Neville Chamberlain, stationed in the city of Jabalpur, India, suggested that the colored balls from Life Pool be used simultaneously with the red balls of Pyramid Pool (a novel idea at the time). The other officers agreed and they began playing Sir Neville's variation. One player had the misfortune of missing an easy shot. Sir Neville turned to the young man, snickered and called him a "snooker." The name stuck and the game of snooker was officially born.

Joe Davis Dominates The Sport

Though snooker was played and enjoyed by many people throughout England, it took two decades for an official tournament to be organized. In 1916, players gathered to compete in the English Amateur Championships. It was a small affair. In 1927, it was overshadowed by the creation of a man named Joe Davis. He formed the Professional Snooker World Championship event. From 1927 to 1946, Davis won each tournament. Skilled players came from around the world to unseat him from the top spot, but he continued to dominate snooker until his retirement from the event.

After Davis retired, snooker was dealt a political blow. Infighting erupted between the two primary snooker governing organizations: the Billiards Association and the Control Council. The game suffered a declining popularity until the mid-1960's.

The BBC Steps In

Seeing an opportunity to exploit, the BBC devised and launched a televised snooker tournament called Pot Black in 1969. Color TV helped catapult the game back into the consciousness of the public. The BBC show served as a catalyst as the World Snooker Championship event enjoyed its television debut in 1973. Three years later, the Snooker World Rankings were released, continuing the build the renewed momentum behind the game. Sponsorship money increased quickly, expanding the size of the prize money. Soon after, a new generation of dedicated players emerged to compete for the top ranks.

The Titans Of Snooker

Steve Davis dominated snooker during the 1980's, taking home 6 world championships in that decade alone. Dennis Taylor became Davis's nemesis and in 1985, produced a harrowing comeback during one of the most-watched snooker matches in history. It was televised to an audience of over 18.5 million viewers. During that match, Steve Davis, the titan of snooker, was defeated.

Throughout its history, snooker's popularity has experienced ebbs and flows. 1985 marks the point when it was most popular (due largely to the battle between Davis and Taylor). Since then, others have come forward to dominate the game (such as Stephen Hendry). Today, the game is played passionately by players in other countries. It's likely that the majority of snooker's history has yet to be written.