The Semi Spat

The debate is revisited nearly every year and once again chatter among journalists and bloggers, players and fans has resorted back to the format of the World Championship semi-finals.

Many have their own personal view and a lot of these have been shared on other blogs, Twitter and Facebook over the course of the last 24 hours so I thought I may as well weigh in with my two cents.

First and foremost, I’m neither a full-blown traditionalist nor a radical but one thing is for certain, I don’t want the blue riband event in Sheffield to be torn apart with changes – particularly ones that shorten the majority or all of the rounds.

So it was welcoming in a way to hear World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn deflect attention from that at the outset of the tournament by assuring that he has no intention of shortening the Worlds so long as he remains alive – welcoming, but I don’t believe a word of it!

While the first round should never, ever go below the best of 19 set-up and the final’s best of 35 frames is now an institution it would be a travesty to see that glorious and historic career-defining number of 18 go by the wayside, there is scope to suggest an alteration made for the round of the last four.

As it stands, a player needs to win 36 frames to reach the semis and a further 35 to lift the trophy thereafter – the key difference being that they have considerably less time to achieve the latter with only a handful of days remaining.

The 17 days at the Crucible is referred to as the ‘Marathon of the Mind’ and that’s the way it should be – the complete and ultimate test of a snooker player’s ability to be the last man standing – but when stamina plays such a key part that the entertainment value of the business end of the tournament comes into question the reasons for an alteration becomes apparent.

Of course, last year’s semi-finals were barnstorming affairs, as was the final, but too often in the recent past has the excitement of the third weekend resulted in an anti-climatic conclusion.

Yesterday’s day is without question the most boring day of the championship every year when both semis begin their first session of four, settling the score for the first eight frames in each.

Not just because the quality was relatively poor but mainly because nobody would be interested even if there had been a flurry of century breaks, I didn’t bother writing a report.

If the semi-finals were refined to a three-session affair played across two days – like the quarter-finals – the second Thursday each year could be used as a rest day, refreshing and rejuvenating for all concerned.

The one-table arrangement could still be initiated and the encounters could still be longer than best of 25 to differentiate from the previous two rounds.

A best of 27 format played in an 8,8, 11 manner would still be long enough to test all aspects of a player’s game, as well as allowing time for the ample twists and turns that can make enduring matches so exciting.

In an ideal world, this is what I would be in favour of. But, in saying all that I would probably still vote against making any changes at all, if my vote mattered that is.

The reason is because if one round is suddenly shortened then there is more room made available for the suggestion of the four others being diminished and, as stated at the outset, that would be somewhat of a travesty.

So that leaves us in limbo land, effectively.

Shorten the semis, open up a rest day and risk further transformations in the future, or leave it as it is? What do you think?

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