If you take a look at the world snooker rankings, which determines who the best player in the world is, you’ll see that they’re graded by their total number of tournament winnings.
Currently, at the time of publication, Judd Trump tops the list with £1,324,000, followed by the ‘Welsh potting-machine’ Mark Williams with £1,016,750. Anyone new to the sport, just going off of this list, would assume that Judd Trump is the best player in the world. However, this concept has seen it’s fair share of controversy over the last few years, with players such as Ronnie O’Sullivan, for example, saying that with the number of ranking tournaments in a year, and the distance that snooker players have to travel to partake in them, it’s impossible to expect snooker players to attend every single ranking events.
So, ignoring tournament prize money, what other ways could you think of determining who is the best player in the world? Well look no further, because in 2013, an old tournament was revived: the ‘Champion of Champions’. First being created in 1978, and then stopping in 1980, the tournament was revived in 2013 by Matchroom sports, with a typical structure; a round of sixteen, down to the quarter finals, semi finals, and then one final game, to determine who the best player in the world truly is.
As the name suggests, to partake in the tournament, there has to be some strict criteria. The 16 best players in the world are determined by the winners of ranking tournaments throughout the year, ranging from tournaments such as the ‘Seniors Championship’, this year won by Jimmy ‘the whirlwind’ White, to the ‘World Championship’, won by the ‘ace-in-the-pack’ that is Judd Trump.
This years Champion of Champions, being held in Coventry (the last time the tournament will be played there, before they move to Milton Keynes), saw some big hitters, such as Ronne O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson and John Higgins, amongst some younger talents, such as Judd Trump (the current world champion), and Thepchiaya Un-Nooh.
The round of sixteen saw the best of the best battle out to remain in the competition, with O’Sullivan, Higgins, Robertson and Selby, to name a few, going through to the next round. Selby saw a clean sweep against Yan Bingtao, with the young chinese talent not winning a single frame. Bingtao, who is only 19 years old, shouldn’t be disheartened however, as Selby has proved himself to be a giant of the sport. Following this theme, Trump battered another talented player, Stephen Maguire, 4-0, whilst Robertston, the ‘thunder from down under’, recorded the same score against Martin Gould.
Moving on to the quarter finals, there were some closer, but still confident, performances from the likes of O’Sullivan, who beat ex-World Champion John Higgins 6-3, and Mark Allen, who beat his namesake, Mark Selby, 6-2. However, Robertson scraped a win against ‘The Magician’, Shaun Murphy, who’s tricky style of play almost foiled the Ozzie's chances of going through.
There were 4 names left in the semi finals: Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, Mark Allen and Judd Trump. Each talented professionals. Each deserving of the title ‘Champion’. However, only two of them would progress to the final. The first game, O’Sullivan v Robertson, was another close game, but it was Robertson who brought his ‘A game’ in the end, beating the veteran 6-5. In the other game, World Champion Trump beat Mark Allen in a slightly more convincing 6-4. This left only two more players: Trump and Robertson.
The game saw world number four, Robertson, in his second Champion of Champions final of his career, after winning the competition in 2015, whilst Trump was also in his second final of his career, coming runner-up in 2014. Would history repeat itself for Trump? Well, after playing a total of 19 frames, the maximum allowed for the final, in a truly nail-biting climax, Roberton lifted the trophy and claimed his title as ‘Champion of Champions’, winning 10-9.
Robertson and Trump were neck and neck at most points in the match, resulting in the final frame, 9-9, seeing Robertson achieve a 137 break, the second highest of the tournament. The penultimate frame even had a respotted black, the process when a frame comes out as a draw, and the players have to pot a single black, leading to an often tactical masterpiece. Respotted blacks happen as often as England win penalty shootouts, or Everton win games in general, so it was class to see one in such an intense atmosphere.
On social media, Robertson took to Instagram to discuss the win. He said, “You can only dream and wish to be a part of a match like that. Means everything to have [my family] to share it with. Thank you so much for one of the most amazing atmospheres the crowd created tonight. @Judd147t absolute class with his words at the end”. These ‘words at the end’ refer to Judd saying: “I’m not too disappointed. It’s always a joy playing Neil because he plays similar to myself and he gets on with it. He deserved to win”. Neil struggled to hold back his tears, in an extremely heartfelt moment.
It’s good to know that, while sometimes sports can divide players, Snooker unified these two giants, and they both appreciated and respected the game.
For anyone wanting to see some top quality snooker, and what the game is all about, I would have to recommend the final. It was one of the most dramatic games I’ve seen.