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History of Snooker

Below is what we understand to be the 'History of Snooker'. Snooker compared to Billiards is a relatively new game that has fast become one of the nations most popular spectator and participation sports. Find out more below about how it was first invented and the unexpected way the name 'Snooker' was given it's name.

Billiards which snooker derived from was thought to be played as early as the 1340's, with Louis XI of France owning a billiard table in the 1470's.

The term 'snooker' was given to the game by Colonel Sir Neville Chamberlain in 1875 whilst serving in the Army. In the Officers' Mess at Jubbulpore in India, gambling games such as pyramids, life pool and black pool were popular, with fifteen reds and a black used in the latter. To these were added yellow, green and pink, with blue and brown introduced some years later. One afternoon Chamberlain's Devonshire regiment was visited by an young officer who had been trained at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich. This officer explained that a first-year cadet at the Academy was referred to as a 'snooker'. Later, when one of the players failed to hole a coloured ball, Chamberlain shouted to him: 'Why, you're a regular snooker.' He then pointed out the meaning and that they were all 'snookers' at the game. The name was adopted for the game itself.

Chamberlain himself joined the Central India Horse in 1876, taking the game with him. After being wounded in the Afghan War, he moved to Ooatacamund and the game became the speciality of the 'Ooty Club', with rules being posted in the billiards room.

John Roberts (Junior), who was then Billiards Champion, visited India in 1885, met Chamberlain at dinner with the Maharajah of Cooch Behar and enquired about the rules of snooker. He then introduced the game into England, although it was many years before it became widely played there. Manufacturers of billiards equipment, however, soon realised the commercial possibilities of snooker, and by the end of the 1800's the game had developed as had the tables into as we know them today.

The biggest individual contribution to snooker came from Joe Davis and his brother Fred who dominated the game for over 50 years between them and were instrumental in the games transition from a grand aristocratic game to a working class pastime. Joe won 15 consecutive world championships and Fred won 8 world championships. There was only a handful of decent players but the standard was relatively low the highest break in 1922 being 33, Joe's game developed to a point where he made a 147 maximum break which was recognized in 1957, and was obviously way ahead of his time in terms of skills and techniques. Fred was younger than Joe by 12 years and was unlucky not to have had his name highlighted in snooker history like his brothers. Fred came very close to beating Joe on a number of occasions especially when you consider that three of their finals came down to the final frame, Joe winning them all and some which spanned 80+ frames with Joe the victor.

With the introduction of Pot Black on TV snooker began to grow in popularity. In the 1960's the game began to get some appeal and Riley leisure began implementing some tables in clubs for commercial use even though the game had not caught on. Ray Reardon and John Spencer emerged in the 1970's along with Dennis Taylor and others which gave the game a boost. The biggest boost undoubtedly coming from the introduction of colour TV which made snooker an overnight sensation.

Players became national heroes and there was a large demand for tables at the grassroots level. In the 1980's lots of youngsters were taking up the game at a very early age but the massive amount of hours with which snooker was on the TV caused a withdrawal of peoples interest quelled only by Steve Davis and his 6 world championship victories during that decade. The single greatest moment for snooker was without doubt the 1985 world final where the championship came down to the final black with Dennis Taylor claiming the prize. Over 18.5 million people tuned in at 12.30am to watch this piece of sporting history and the game is still talked about today.

During the 90's, snooker was arguably the nations most played table sport with a steady popularity base. Stephen Hendry's finals with Jimmy White kept interest high, especially as Jimmy never won the world title and crowd interest was maintained.

There are lots of youngsters who excel greatly at the game and the dour image of snooker in the early 1980's is being replaced by a trendy new image which is set to keep interest in snooker high. Players such as Ronnie O'Sullivan and Mark Williams have brought a new attacking flair to the game and the former being one of the greatest talents ever to play the game.



Hall of Fame

Joe Davis

Fred Davis

John Pulman

Ray Reardon

Steve Davis

Stephen Hendry

Ronnie O'Sullivan