Features and Interviews

Framing Formats

There has been a lot of chatter lately on social media surrounding the various formats used in events.

Ronnie O'Sullivan Welsh Open

O’Sullivan has tended not to enter the shorter format events recently but has won the Welsh Open twice in the last three seasons – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Since the beginning of the Barry Hearn era around six years ago, there has been a dramatic influx of tournaments on the calendar.

This has been widely hailed as a huge success, especially considering at the end of the last decade there were a mere six ranking events, alongside the Masters, the Championship League and the Premier League, for players to contend.

It was turning into a part-time sport for the majority of the competitors on the circuit, but since then the earning potential has undoubtedly improved.

However, one noticeable addition, or alteration, to the many different extra competitions has been the continued use of best of sevens.

At the outset back in 2010, this was generally reserved for the Players Tour Championship series, but has since been utilised in full ranking events such as the Welsh Open, Indian Open and the recent World Grand Prix.

This increasingly divides opinion.

On the one hand most people are aware of the need to be grateful for the transformation of the sport during the last number of seasons, yet some feel it has come at the expense of longer, more interesting, matches.

Best of sevens certainly don’t carry the same weight of excitement as even a best of nine encounter, which has a mid-session interval and more scope for a dramatic comeback or collapse.

The shorter format is a leveler and, regardless of the fact that most of these events still end up being won by high-profile players, there is more opportunity for lesser-known individuals to cause what would generally be heralded as an upset under a lengthier guise.

While this is positive in the sense that it enables a greater quantity of players to feature at the business end of tournaments, it is arguably detrimental in the sense that no single player, or small band of cueists, can dominate for any significant degree of time.

Ding Junhui had his standout 2013/14 season and Ronnie O’Sullivan tends to inevitably perform well if and when he competes, but generally nobody has sustained any dominance since the Stephen Hendry days.

Now whether this is in fact because of, or at least aided by, the shorter formats is debatable, but it’s a fair assumption to make that best of sevens wouldn’t encourage any potential opportunity for someone dominating.

That’s an aside, but the more pressing concern that critics share is that they simply feel that best of sevens are too boring.

The argument definitely carries weight, but World Snooker is under pressure from different circles to provide enough events that can be scheduled at the right time, in a suitable venue, capable of supporting at times up to 128 players.

This perhaps unavoidably means that ties are required to be shorter in order to fit them into a hectic schedule.

Yet, with regard the World Grand Prix in Llandudno, was there really a necessity for three rounds to be best of seven?

There didn’t seem to be any logical reason to have the quarter-finals – the round in which players and fans typically start thinking about who might progress to capture the title – at just seven frames.

I think it’s acceptable for the first (last 32) or even second (last 16) rounds to be played in the reduced look but the quarter-final, emphasised by the use of the word “final” in its name, deserves greater status.

In fact, this is the structure adopted by the Welsh Open, which is best of seven up until the last eight, where it is subsequently increased to best of nine.

Next season there will be a reduction in the European events, which typically assumed the short format, with the Paul Hunter Classic, Riga Open and Gibraltar Open surviving the cull.

Their effective replacement is the Home Series of English, Scottish and Irish Opens, which will follow the same pattern as their established brother, the Welsh Open.

What this will actually transpire to create is quite a balanced calendar with a pretty good degree of variety.

There’ll be tournaments consisting of solely best of sevens, there’ll be events which incorporate both the short and longer format, while the likes of the UK and International Championships, as well as the Masters, will concentrate on the slightly more elongated ties.

What is potentially lacking, though, is a multi-session event.

The World Championship, which is in a league of its own in terms of format length, is currently the only meeting on the calendar which boasts multi-session affairs from the get-go.

It is therefore a shame, with the likes of the newly established World Grand Prix and the upcoming European Championship in Romania, that a more radical approach to devising the structure isn’t appointed when the calendar is already loaded with sprint events.

That said, being able to complain about the format of umpteen tournaments is a good position to be in.

As previously mentioned, it wasn’t long ago that the sport was in a dire state, which is worth never forgetting.

The next stop in this busy campaign is Manchester for the Players Championship.

Its format, you ask? Best of seven!

2 replies »

  1. For a top 32 event that runs for a week, and with £100k up top, it needs to be more serious with a best of 9. The standard can drop off when you have a last 128, and some of those 9 frame matches can last for hours and hours. But that’s not an issue at the business end of tournaments. I think sponsors should insist on 9 frames. I’m not sure who decides. Ronnie might say he prefers 7 frames, but Holt to me was looking like he might run out of steam after going 3-0 up. With Ron pegging it back to 3-3, I reckon he was a banker in a best of 9, but with Holt just needing a single frame, it was still anyone’s match. Ok, if you have Peter Ebdon vs Mike Dunn for example, and there is the fear of the match lasting forever, you just don’t put it on a TV table, simple, and if it overruns, so what, they come back in the evening after the first evening match finishes. With 7 frames, you have matches that last under an hour. That’s not a lot of entertainment, it’s just a sprint to the finish. I think a possible compromise, given that the standard falls off outside the top 64, would be to have bo7s up to the last 32 of major events, then 9 frames min after that. Ronnie is always comparing to darts, but they are completely different, and darts by its nature is a much faster game, more compact. Most sets are done in 5 minutes or less, and there are no balls to set up, so how can you compare that with frames?

    As for tampering with the WC, the main problem I see is the Semis, they should be max 3 sessions. In fact, I would have 2 sessions max up to the final, then showcase that over 2 days. you could possibly stretch a 2 session match to 25 frames, 10 in the 1st session and a max of 15 after. And the first rounds lasting over a week needs to be sorted out. The WC should be done in 2 weeks, they can surely chop 3 days off it.

    I don’t know the answers but minimal tampering with the WC, and a min of 9 frames from last 32 on at all events should be the norm. PTCs are a kind of gimmick to give practice to pros, and last for 3 days, so they can be left 7 frames.

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    • Ranking events should be best of 9 at least the uk was better with best of 17s and the final 31 frames .the worlds should be best of 19 best of 23 best of 27 best of 31 and best of 35

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