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Snooker: Rules, World Championship format and scoring explained

The origins of snooker can be dated back to the latter part of the 19th century and over the intervening years it has developed into a global sport played by many across the world.

The pinnacle of professional snooker is the World Snooker Championship that was first established in 1927 and has been held at the famous Crucible Theatre in Sheffield every year since 1977.

That, of course, is not the only standout event on the snooker calendar, with the Masters and UK Championship also forming part of the Triple Crown for the three longest-running and most prestigious tournaments.

Here we delve into the rules and format of the popular game of snooker ahead of this year's World Championship, which gets underway on Saturday 20th April.

How do you win a game of Snooker?

A single game of snooker is known as a frame, with the winner being decided by which player has scored the most points by the time all the balls have been potted on the table or if there are not enough points available for the player that is trailing to be able to mount a comeback.

Most snooker matches at professional level are contested over more than just a one-frame format.

For example the first round of the World Snooker Championship is played over a best-of-19 frame format, essentially meaning the first player to ten frames is the winner.

At the World Snooker Championship, the number of frames played increases as the tournament goes on, with the second round and quarter-final matches being contested over a best-of-25 frame format, the semi-finals a best-of-33 and the final the best of 35, meaning the winner of the tournament will have to win a minimum of 71 frames before they can lift the trophy.

What equipment is used in Snooker?

The prize piece of equipment for any snooker player is their cue, which is typically no less than 3ft (91.4cm) in length and is what participants use to strike the white cue ball.

Only the tip of the cue can strike the cue ball and chalk is regularly applied to the tip to aid players, particularly if they are trying to get spin on the ball.

Alongside the cue ball there are 15 red balls, and one each of yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black.

Other pieces of essential snooker equipment include the rest and spider, which are both designed to help players stretch to strike the cue ball when it is more difficult to do so merely with cue in hand.

How big is a Snooker table?

One important piece of equipment we have yet to mention is the snooker table, with a standard full-size table measuring in at 1365.8cm × 182.9cm.

The playing surface itself is usually 356.9cm × 177.8cm in size, while the height of the table from the floor to the top of the cushions is 86.4cm.

There are a total of six pockets on the rectangular-shaped table for players to pot their balls into, one in each corner and one at the centre of each of the two longer side cushions.

How does the scoring system work in Snooker?

Each colour has a different value.

While a red is worth one point, the yellow is worth two, the green is three, the brown is four, the blue is five, the pink is six and the black is seven and when clearing the colours, they must be potted in that order.

After potting a red, a player must then pot a colour, which is then returned to the table in its designated spot. Once all the reds have been accounted for then the colours are potted in order and at this point they are not returned to the table.

Players can also score points from their opponents fouling. If they fail to hit the intended ball or the white goes into the pocket, their opponent will be rewarded with either four points or the value of the colour they missed.

What’s the highest break in Snooker?

The highest possible break in snooker is a maximum 147 break, which consists of potting all 15 reds with 15 blacks for 120 points, followed by all six colours for a further 27 points.

Joe Davis was the first player to officially make a recognised maximum break during an exhibition match in 1955, while Steve Davis became the first player to achieve the feat in a professional match and in a televised event at the 1982 Classic.

The following year, Cliff Thorburn became the first player to record a 147 at the World Championship, doing so in his second-round match against Terry Griffiths.

Ronnie O'Sullivan produced the fastest competitive 147, completing the feat at the 1997 World Championship in just five minutes and eight seconds.

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