Snookerbacker

January 21, 2013

What Makes a Great?

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:18 pm
Selby after his win last night with his judy.

Selby after his win last night with his judy.

Mark Selby clinched his third Masters title last night against Neil Robertson to add to the UK Championship crown he won in December. Some will feel that this achievement alone is enough to ensure his legacy as one of the greats of the modern game, others will argue that unless he adds a World Championship, his name will always be a rung down on the ladder of true snooker greatness.  

Possibly the best example in the modern game of someone who would split opinion on this matter is Jimmy White. Six-times he tried and six times he failed to win a final at the Crucible but with a Masters and a UK crown to his name, he, like Matthew Stevens and now Selby is a player that by a rule of thumb cannot truly be considered a great, if you are applying the letter of the law to this kind of thing.

There are undisputed greats, multiple champions of all three of snooker’s blue riband events; Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams are the only five players to have won each of these events more than once.

Then we have the likes of Ray Reardon and John Spencer, multiple world champions who have one Masters title each but who between them, with the undoubted added handicap of age, never won the UK Championship.

There is Alex Higgins, twice World and Masters Champion and once a UK champion, I don’t think you will find a snooker fan alive that would not class the Hurricane as a great of the game.

Or does simply winning a World Championship without ever grasping the two other prestige event titles automatically put you in the billiard hall of greatness? Graeme Dott, Joe Johnson and Ken Doherty fit the bill there.

Then there is the case of the late Paul Hunter, a three times Masters champion but with a career cut short and with it his chance to add to that tally gone. Would we class Paul as an honorary great who would surely have joined the ranks at some point in his life, had he been afforded the chance?

Other names that spring to mind are Terry Griffiths, who won all three titles just the once and Cliff Thorburn, who won the World Championship and three Masters crowns in four years. Peter Ebdon and John Parrott are world and UK champions, should they be considered greats of the game?

Well, here’s what the table looks like if we apply the formula of the number of ‘big three’ titles won. Unsurprisingly, Hendry comes out on top with Davis and O’Sullivan the only other two to reach double figures.

World Championship UK Championship Masters TOTAL
1 Stephen Hendry 7 5 6 18
2 Steve Davis 6 6 3 15
3 Ronnie O’Sullivan 4 4 4 12
4 John Higgins 4 3 2 9
5 Ray Reardon 6 0 1 7
6 Mark Williams 2 2 2 6
7 Alex Higgins 2 1 2 5
=8 John Spencer 3 0 1 4
=8 Cliff Thorburn 1 0 3 4
=8 Mark Selby 0 1 3 4
=9 Terry Griffiths 1 1 1 3
=9 Paul Hunter 0 0 3 3
=9 Ding Junhui 0 2 1 3
=9 Doug Mountjoy 0 2 1 3
=10 Jimmy White 0 1 1 2
=10 Dennis Taylor 1 0 1 2
=10 Matthew Stevens 0 1 1 2
=10 Neil Robertson 1 0 1 2
=10 Peter Ebdon 1 1 0 2
=10 Shaun Murphy 1 1 0 2
=10 John Parrott 1 1 0 2
=11 Graeme Dott 1 0 0 1
=11 Ken Doherty 1 0 0 1
=11 Joe Johnson 1 0 0 1

But to some the ‘ranking list’ above skews the achievement of winning a World Championship, which not only puts you further up the pecking order for a job at the BBC, but for some also ensures that the tag of ‘greatness’ is applied when looking back on a career. When the list is adjusted using the completely random equation that winning a World Championship is worth 5 times what a Masters and UK is worth, the ranking list of greatness alters a bit.

World Championship UK Championship Masters TOTAL
1 Stephen Hendry 35 5 6 46
2 Steve Davis 30 6 3 39
3 Ray Reardon 30 0 1 31
4 Ronnie O’Sullivan 20 4 4 28
5 John Higgins 20 3 2 25
6 John Spencer 15 0 1 16
7 Mark Williams 10 2 2 14
8 Alex Higgins 10 1 2 13
9 Cliff Thorburn 5 0 3 8
10 Terry Griffiths 5 1 1 7
=11 Dennis Taylor 5 0 1 6
=11 Neil Robertson 5 0 1 6
=11 Peter Ebdon 5 1 0 6
=11 Shaun Murphy 5 1 0 6
=11 John Parrott 5 1 0 6
=12 Graeme Dott 5 0 0 5
=12 Ken Doherty 5 0 0 5
=12 Joe Johnson 5 0 0 5
13 Mark Selby 0 1 3 4
=14 Paul Hunter 0 0 3 3
=14 Ding Junhui 0 2 1 3
=14 Doug Mountjoy 0 2 1 3
=15 Jimmy White 0 1 1 2
=15 Matthew Stevens 0 1 1 2

*the criteria used to select these players are either World Champions, someone who has won both the UK and the Masters, or someone who has won one of them more than once. Hence no mention of Judd Trump. 

So what do you think? Are there only really a handful of snooker greats? Indeed are there only three? Are either of the lists above tallying with the order you think the greatest players ever to grace the modern game should be ranked? Am I just a sad waste of space with nothing better to do?

You don’t have to answer the last one.

Anyway, well done to Selby. He’s had a lot of unfair stick this week and I thought he played the match yesterday very well indeed. There’s still this tiresome focus on the O’Sullivan ‘will he or won’t he’ saga. Steve Davis, when asked last night said that if someone had have asked him before Xmas if Ronnie would return to defend his Crucible crown he would have said ‘yes’, but now he doesn’t think he will. Either Steve is playing games with us or he knows something, as arguably he is the only person that will probably know what has been said between the two main protagonists Hearn and O’Sullivan.

Either way Ronnie has until 28th February to decide and then when he does we can all get on with looking forward to it.

THANKS AGAIN TO MONIQUE LIMBOS FOR THE PHOTOGRAPH

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