Jimmy White’s A-Z of Snooker

A is For – Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins

Alexander Gordon Higgins was a Northern Irish professional snooker player, who is remembered as one of the most iconic figures in the game. Nicknamed ‘Hurricane Higgins’ because of his fast playing style, he won the World Championships in 1972 and 1982, and was the runner-up in 1976 and 1980.

Alex was named by Jimmy as his main inspiration to becoming a snooker player. Together they won the world doubles championships, in 1984, beating Thorne and Thorburn 10-2.

Alex Higgins and Jimmy White

Jimmy’s Idol and friend…

B is For – Baulk

The word/term baulk or balk derives from an Old English word for an unploughed ridge, which later developed the sense of obstacle. The Baulk line is 29 inches from the back, or baulk, cushion and runs the width of the table. The baulk spots are in place for the yellow, green and brown with the distance between yellow and green spots being 1/3 of the table width. The Baulk area and line is actually of no significance in snooker and merely remains due to tradition. The only demarcation still required is the D.

baulk line

Not really needed in Snooker…

C is for – Crucible Theatre

The crucible theatre has been the ‘melting pot’ of World championship snooker since 1977. With it’s very unique, intimate, conditions no other snooker venue is held in such high regard across the globe. The audience is within touching distance of the action and atmosphere is electric.

Crucible theatre and snooker world championships trophy

Home of the snooker world championships…

D is for – Davis

First there was Joes Davis, then Fred Davis, and latterly Steve Davis. Only Joe and Fred were related, but you could be forgiven for thinking that the sir name had a monopoly on snooker for much of the 20th century. They won 29 world championship titles between them.

Joe Davis won 15 world titles…

E is for – Eddie Charlton

Edward Francis “Eddie” Charlton, was an Australian professional snooker and billiards player. He is the only player to have ever reached the finals of the world snooker championships and the world billiards championships and been runner up in both. Nicknamed “Steady Eddie”, due to his characteristic slow style of play. Eddie was an allrounder and competed to a good level in many sports, including state level rugby and cricket, rowing, boxing and tennis. Did you know that he was given the honour of carrying the olympic torch in the 1956 Melbourne games?

Eddie came closest to snooker immortality when he reached the 1975 word championships final, only losing out by a single frame 30-31 to Ray Reardon.

‘Steady’ Eddie

F is for – Fastest

Fastest what I hear you say? Well really we only care about the fastest 147 don’t we? But we could talk about the fastest players also and their nicknames too.

The fastest ever 147 was ( I know you know) by Ronnie O’Sullivan and took him a mere 5 mins and 8 seconds. He performed this amazing break in the first round of the 1997 World championships.

Fastest players? Jimmy ‘Whirlwind’ white, Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins and Tony ‘The Tornado’ Drago.

Fastest 147 from start to finish.

G is For – Ganley

Leonard ‘Len’ Ganley, MBE was a Northern Irish snooker referee. Respected by all, Len was a firm favourite throughout the 80’s and 90’s. He refereed four world championships finals, including the Higgins vs Davis 1983 classic. He was also the referee when O’Sullivan knocked in the fastest 147, in the first round of the 1997 world championships.

Len was awarded an MBE in 2000…

H is for – Hendry

Well what can I say about Stephen that probably hasn’t already been said a thousand times? Touted by many as the greatest of all time, Hendry was a formidable player who changed the face of snooker for good. At a time where picking off loose reds, before possibly trying to open up the pack, was the norm, Hendry decided that taking the bull by the horns was the way to win. His attacking safety shots and insistence on splitting the pack early, along with his immense skill, led to him winning title after title. He won 72 professional titles in total, including 7 world titles, of which 5 were back to back.

Unlike some of the professionals from his era, that still play successfully now, Hendry gave up due to a severe bout of the ‘yips’. “It started about 12 years before the end,” Hendry says of his slow decline. “Of course it’s psychological and, when you strike a cue ball, you’re supposed to accelerate through the ball. But as you tighten up you end up decelerating. By 2012 my game was shot. You’re sitting on your chair watching players leagues below you play shots you can’t. That destroyed me.” *Quote source The Guardian newspaper

Stephen Hendry on the cover of pot black magazine 1999

Is Hendry the ‘GOAT’?

I is for – Ireland

For such a small island, Ireland (North and South) has produced some amazing players through the years. Probably the most famous is Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, but let’s not forget Dennis Taylor, Ken Docherty, Eugene Hughes, Patsy Fagan, Fergal O’Brien or Mark Allen. With 4 world titles and numerous other ranking titles between them it definitely punches above it’s weight. ‘All Ireland’ won the snooker team world cup in 1985, 1986 and 1987 the only team ever to win 3 years in a row, with an unchanged team of Higgins, Taylor and Hughes.

The 3 time world cup winning team.

J is For – Jimmy White MBE

How can we have anything or anyone else filling this slot? The problem is where do we start and where do we end?

One of the most loved sports personalities of the modern era, be it snooker or any other sport. Jimmy has inspired generations and continues to do so to this day. Likeable, approachable and a real character. Known as ‘the people’s champion’ Jimmy still gets bums on seats and is still on the pro tour. We all know about his 6 times world championships runner up finishes, his Masters win and his 147, but he is so much more than that. Jimmy has won many titles and even more hearts! He’s a proud father, grandfather and all round top bloke.

If you want to read a little more about Jimmy then check out his autobiography.

The People’s Champion

K is For – Kick

A ‘kick’ is the name given for a bad contact between the cue ball and the object ball. The true cause of kicks is highly debated and is still unclear; chalk between the balls, static electricity, humidity? When a kick takes places you will often hear the dreaded ‘clunk’ sound, and the cue ball may jump off the bed of the table along with the object ball too. The object ball can straighten, or just go off line, and miss the pocket, the cue ball can just die and not reach position. Taom chalk was supposedly designed with kick reduction in mind, or was it just clever marketing?

Not that sort of kick…

L is for – longest

Longest frame:

Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien won the longest frame in recorded professional snooker history. It was a vital frame that got him over the finishing line to beat David Gilbert 10-9 and it lasted a staggering two hours, three minutes and 41 seconds. That is 44 seconds longer than the men’s marathon world record in athletics was at that time.

Longest unbeaten run:

Stephen Hendry won five successive titles and 36 consecutive matches in ranking tournaments. His unbeaten run was from 17th March 1990 to his eventual defeat, by Jimmy White, on 13th January 1991.

The effect of a 2hr frame…

M is for – maximum

A ‘Maximum’ is the name given to a break where fifteen reds are potted with fifteen blacks, followed by the colours: a total of thirty six consecutive pots.

The fastest maximum break was made by Ronnie O’Sullivan. It took him just 5 minutes and 8 seconds to clear up.

The first ever televised maximum break was achieved by Steve Davis at the Lada Classic on the 11th January 1982. He won a Lada car! (Don’t laugh) which seems somewhat underwhelming when in years to come the prize would be £147,000. Nowadays there’s a rollover prize pot to be shared, if a certain amount of 147’s are achieved in a season. This hasn’t gone down too well with players.

The highest total of 147’s made by a single player currently stands at 11, achieved by Ronnie O’Sullivan. Dave Gilbert made the 147th 147 thirty seven years after the first.

Steve Davis with his lovely Lada.

N is for – Neville

It is Universally believed that Sir Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain, who was a British army officer, was the inventor of snooker. He is credited with having invented the game of snooker while serving in Jubbulpore, India, in 1875. It wasn’t until Chamberlain was 83 years old that he staked his claim though. Prior to this there was an equally accepted claim that a ‘colonel snooker’ came up with the version that we know and love today.

The earliest known reference to snooker comes from the Singapore Straits Times…”A Darjeeling correspondent sends a copy of the rules of a new game called “Snookere”, which he ventures to prophesy will soon supplant both Pool and Pyramids in every club and messroom throughout the northern provinces. Its nomenclature would indicate a transatlantic origin, but it has travelled from Ootacamund to these breezy heights, and has speedily become very popular with cueists of all degrees of strength.”

Chamberlain in 1902

O is for – O’ Sullivan

Ronald Antonio O’Sullivan OBE (Ronnie to you or I) Is one of the most successful snooker players of the modern era. What hasn’t he achieved, multiple times? Well rather than list the umpteen things let’s keep this short.

Ronnie has won 5 world titles and 19 Triple Crown victories. He has the record for the fastest 147 and the most 147’s in competition, and also holds the record for most ranking tournament centuries with over 1000 and counting. With over £11 million in prize money he holds the record for most money won too.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Ronnie though, with much publicised problems with drink, drugs and depression, which probably held him back from complete dominance. In more recent years he has become much more level headed, with the help of Steve Peters, and long time friend Damien Hirst, at his side. Ronnie and Jimmy are good friends too, they can often be seen working together on Eurosport.

Ronnie being Ronnie.

P is for – Pot Black

Pot Black was one of the first BBC programs commissioned with the sole purpose of highlighting colour television. The program was backed by the great David Attenborough, who was the BBC controller at the time. Running from 1969 to 1986, with only a handful of one off’s thereafter. The single frame format was a perfect platform to grow the sport from. Ironically it was the same reason it eventually it fell out of favour, due to more televised tournaments on TV. The highest break on Pot black was 119, by Mark Williams. Some say that without Pot Black, snooker wouldn’t be what it is today.

In the Pot Black studio.

Q is for – Q school

Q School is a fairly recently introduced system used for qualifying to play on the world snooker tour. It is open to any age, any gender, and sees several rounds of competition culminate in a group of players being given their tour cards. These players replace those that lose their tour cards through poor performance.

Si Jiahui is only 16 & finished top of 2019 Q School order of merit.

R is for – Ray reardon

Raymond (Ray) Reardon was born on the 8th October 1932 in Tredegar, Monmouthshire, a typical Welsh mining community. Aged 14 Ray followed in his fathers footsteps, and after turning down a grammar school place, with the hope of playing snooker seriously, headed down the mines. Maybe if it weren’t for a rockfall that left him buried for 3 hours he would have been a miner for longer? But he gave it up and became a police officer when his family moved to Stoke-on Trent.

Ray’s snooker career was long and successful, he left the police force in 1967, turning professional the same year. He was known for his brilliant long potting, tactical nouse, and his great sense of humour. Ray won 6 World titles in total and also lost to Alex Higgins in the very famous 1982 final, aged 50.

Ray’s nickname was ‘Dracula’, due to his sharp toothed grin and slick backed black hair, he played up to his nickname and was known to appear with a black cape from time to time.

6 Times World champion.

S is for – Snooker

So where did the term Snooker come from? Well the story is that In 1875, in an officers’ mess in city of Jabalpur, MP, Neville Chamberlain began experimenting with the classic game of ‘black pool’ (A form of pocket billiards). He added coloured balls to the existing 15 red balls and a black ball and so the game of snooker was born. Inside the mess the cadets at the military academy were jokingly known as ‘snookers’, and it would appear the name was transferred from the cadets to the game itself – so it became know as ‘snooker’.

There are slightly different variations of the origins of the name snooker, one of which states “The name snooker came from a comment Chamberlain made about a player who missed a shot. He’s reported to have called him “a real snooker”, referring to his lack of experience, ‘snooker(s)” being a slang term for first year cadets” *source unknown

‘Snookers’ having a game.

T is For – Trump

Judd Trump has been on the scene for a number of years, turning pro in 2005, famed for his flamboyant, and some would say, reckless style of play. More recently Judd has become the force to be reckoned with that everyone believed he could have become years ago. He won his first ranking tournament, the China Open, in 2011 and between then and now has won each of the triple crown events. His ultimate goal, of winning the world championships, was achieved in 2019 when he beat John Higgins 18-9 in the final.

Trump has matured greatly in the passed few seasons, and he’s in a position to become one of the greatest’s of all time if he continues in the same way. His cue power and potting skills are second to none. But the big difference today is his temperament, and ability to choose the right shot at the right time. Could he become a multiple world title holder? Most say yes. Could he become the greatest of all time? The jury is out.

Judd, 2019 World Champion.

U is for – upsets

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s loss to James Cahill, in the 2019 World championships, is being labelled as one of the biggest upsets of all time, but with a score line of 8-10 it doesn’t quite compare to the one I have in mind.

In 1982 a relative newcomer to the snooker scene, Tony Knowles, played Steve Davis in the first round of the world championships. Steve was the reigning world champion and was in a run of form that made him the firm favourite. Knowles had other ideas and thrashed Davis 10-1 in what I believe was a bigger upset than Cahill vs O’Sullivan.

In 2000 Stuart Bingham beat Stephen Hendry 10-7, which, given his lengthy dominance throughout the 90’s was quite an upset too. This was also in the world championships.

Davis losing to Knowles in ’82

V is for – Virgo

John Virgo’s main successes came in the 1979/80 season when he won the UK championships. He also won the lesser known Bombay International, and Pontins Professional championships. His world ranking peaked at 10th, and he achieved his best finish in the World’s by getting to the semi-final’s.

John became known for his impressions of other snooker players and his trick shots. He would entertain the crowd in the interval of the World finals, showing off his trade mark Alex Higgins impression amongst others.

After retiring from professional snooker John became a popular co presenter on the 1990’s BBC Saturday night Quiz/Snooker show, Big Break. He also became a household voice in the snooker commentary box. John is most famed now for shouting “where’s the cue ball going!?”

John has written several books, one was a tribute to Alex Higgins, and the other dedicated to his trademark trick shots.

Jimmy has been a long term friend of John’s and they often appear together in exhibitions to this day.

1979 UK Champion.

W is for – Werbeniuk

They say that snooker lacks characters these days. There’s probably never been a ‘bigger’ character than ‘Big’ Bill Werbenuik, the late, possibly great, professional snooker player. Big Bill was probably more famed for his alcohol intake than his positional play.

William Alexander ‘Bill’ Werbenuik was a Canadian snooker and Pool player who reached four world championship quarter finals and a UK semi final. His ranking peaked in the 83/4 season reaching number 8.

Bill was one of the most popular characters in 1980’s snooker when viewing figures were huge and players were loved. But why did Big Bill become an almost cult hero? Maybe it was the fact that he was a son of an armed robber and drug dealer, who also happened to be a Canadian snooker champion. Or maybe it was his prodigious consumption of lager before, during and after matches? He is reported to have consumed 6 pints before each match, a pint per frame, then a few sociable gallons afterwards! He famously drank Eddie Sinclair under the table, consuming a reported 42 pints. At one stage, the inland revenue even allowed his spending on lager as a tax deductible expense!!! Imagine that!

Bill was great friends with Cliff Thorburn, a fellow Canadian pro and the1980 world champion. Together, before joining the pro snooker tour, they toured N.America hustling at pool. Bill won $20,000 dollars in 10hrs once. “I lost it all in the next 20 minutes,” he said, “but there was a guy with $200,000 and I was hoping to win that as well.”

After falling out of grace with world snooker, due to his use of the banned beta blocker inderal, which he took to counter the strain of alcohol on his heart, bill returned to Vancouver. He died in 2003. RIP Bill.

Bill in his bus.

X is for – China

X is for China? Hmmm…Well it may not be spelled that way, but I think we all know many Chinese players have names with X at the beginning. So, rather than single one out, X has been dedicated to Chinese snooker in general.

For many years snooker was a bastion of the West, and if we were to shrink that down further, mainly the British Isles. In the late 80’s and 90′ James Wattana was the first player from Asia to really make his mark on the professional snooker tour. But he wasn’t Chinese, he was from Thailand.

The first recognised tournament in China was held in 1997, the ‘China International’. It was renamed the China Open in 1999. So how did we get to where we are now, with huge numbers of Chinese players and literally thousands of snooker clubs across the whole of China and Asia?

In the 2005 China Open final a little known 18yr old Chinese player, Ding Junhui was up against the mighty Stephen Hendry. “A clash of generations” it has been called. Ding went on to win 9-5, and with this victory the popularisation of the sport in China followed. In the 2016 World championships final Ding was watched by over 200 million viewers, via the Chinese national broadcaster, CCTV.

China easily has the second most players on tour now. Jimmy has been among several people to state that he believes “…It’s only a matter of time before we see a Chinese world champion.” Do you agree?

Ding Beats Hendry in 2005 China Open.

Y is for – Youngest

The youngest player to make a maximum break in competition was Ronnie O’Sullivan. He made one at the English Amateur championships, aged 15yrs and 98 days old.

The youngest ranking event winner was, again, Ronnie O’Sullivan, who won the UK championships aged 17.

The youngest winner of the world championships was Stephen Hendry, winning at just 21yrs and 106 days old.

A young Ronnie.

Z is for – Zans

Zan’s Snooker club was where it all began for Jimmy White. The club, in Tooting, London, was owned by Ted Zanocelli, and was known by all as Zan’s. When Ted died, in 1978, he handed the club down to his daughter. Jimmy spent much of his youth practicing with Tony Meo in Zan’s and has many great memories. He shared this story with the Mail online a few years back

Mad Ronnie Fryer, was a minder/bouncer at Zan’s snooker club. “The police came in one day, Ronnie hurtled down to the cellar. The police sent down a massive Alsatian”, White tells me, though in the book it is a Rottweiler. ‘The next thing you know, there was this horrible, strangling noise and the dog, with a snapped neck, was thrown back up the stairs.”

‘Ronnie had killed the poor thing with his bare hands. I was 12 going on 35.’

Jimmy and Tony Meo.

I hope you enjoyed the Jimmy White’s A-Z of snooker. Please leave a comment below and share this with your fellow snooker friends.


  • Mark Segal

    Wonderful Jason. Brilliant! Enjoyed every second:-)

    January 9, 2020 at 10 months ago
    • Jason

      Cheers Mark.

      January 10, 2020 at 10 months ago
  • steve archer

    Brilliant Jason love it

    January 13, 2020 at 10 months ago
    • Jason

      Thanks Steve.

      January 13, 2020 at 10 months ago
  • Mark Eeley

    Great article Jason 👍

    January 25, 2020 at 10 months ago
    • Jason

      Cheers Mark, glad you enjoyed it.

      January 25, 2020 at 10 months ago
  • Gary

    Great read and some good interesting facts

    September 2, 2020 at 10 months ago
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