Today sees the final of the World Championship, snooker's leading tournament contested by the very best of the best (and the odd qualifier). The longest single competitive match in the whole of snooker, it is the ultimate test of a player's ability, taking place over two days and 35 frames. Newcomer Judd Trump, the second youngest player to reach the final, will face off against World Number 2 John Higgins for the honour of a place in history alongside the all-time greats of the sport.
The 2011 championship has been an exciting tournament, but one thing is quite notable in its absence. The 147 break represents the greatest score one can legitimately achieve in a single frame, officially achieved 77 times in almost thirty years and only ten times in World Championship snooker (one of which, Robert Milkins' in 2006, was made in the qualifying stages). We have yet to see one at Sheffield in 2011, but there is still time for Trump or Higgins to follow in the footsteps of those detailed in the remainder of this post.
Steve Davis vs. John Spencer, Lada Classic, 1982
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The very first official competitive 147 was made, somewhat fittingly, by absolute legend of the game Steve Davis. It wasn't entirely straightforward, especially considering the pressure he must have been under; television audiences had yet to witness the feat. A delighted crowd at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Oldham gave Davis a one-minute ovation, and rightly so, for this was a moment that would go down in history.
Steve won himself a brand new Lada for his troubles. I wonder if he still owns it or if it broke down before it even arrived at his house?
Kirk Stevens vs. Jimmy White, The Masters, 1984
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This is my favourite of all the televised 147s. I think it might be the cream upholstery of the table and carpet combined with Stevens' superb white outfit --how I would love to see someone as daring today-- that makes it stand out. So typical of the decade, it's always a pleasure to rewatch this one. Oh, and is that a pool cue Stevens is using there?
James Wattana vs. Tony Drago, British Open, 1992
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We jump forward to the Nineties now, and the then-fastest 147 made by Thai sensation James Wattana. At 7 minutes and 9 seconds, the record stood for five years, when... well, you will find out soon. Poor Tony Drago would see another official 147 made against him, perhaps a more well-known break than Wattana's, just two months later at the World Championship.
Ronnie O'Sullivan vs. Mick Price, World Championship, 1997
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This is the most famous break in the history of snooker, when 'The Rocket' Ronnie eclipsed Wattana's effort by almost 1 minute 50 seconds to record the fastest ever 147 break in 5:20. It was a remarkable achievement even O'Sullivan himself has since struggled to equal, as despite 6min 51 sec and 6min 30sec breaks in 1998 and 2003 respectively, he has yet to better it. In fact, nobody has even come within touching distance of even those efforts, and I think it'll be a long time before anyone does.
Fastest 147s (source)
- Ronnie O’Sullivan (1997), 5 mins 20 secs (video)
- Ronnie O’Sullivan (2003), 6 mins 30 secs (video)
- Ronnie O’Sullivan (1999), 6 mins 51 secs (video)
- James Wattana (1992), 7 mins 09 secs (video)
John Higgins vs. Ricky Walden, Grand Prix, 2004
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A superb effort by John Higgins who expertly navigated a nicely spread pack of reds to record a third televised maximum within the space of a year, following 147s against Mark Williams in the LG Cup and Michael Judge in the British Open. It was his fifth and last in competitive snooker. Will he alter that statistic this weekend?
Stephen Hendry vs. Stephen Maguire, Welsh Open, 2011
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To bring us right up to date, here's the most recent competitive 147 courtesy of Stephen Hendry. It was his tenth such effort, a remarkable feat if ever there was one, indicative of the man's dominance throughout the 1990s. Players on the other table halted play to watch as Hendry rolled back the years with a clinical maximum.
World Championship trophy image courtesy Crazychip (CC2.5)