By Paul Beck
It was several years ago that my colleague and I decided to take time out and try to develop what snooker skills we had. We arranged to rendezvous at a local watering hole and started to play. It wasn’t long before some of our skills resurfaced and balls were being potted. In fact, it went so well that we decided to make playing snooker a regular thing.
Every week for the next four years we played snooker using the equipment provided, improving with each frame. The cues that we were using were not the best but they had served their purpose. We were now playing well enough to consider taking the game more seriously and invest in our own snooker cues. So the decision had been made, I would pay a visit to the one and only snooker shop that I knew about and make enquiries.
About a week later I was in the shop. It was the first time that I had been to see a specialist. I had owned a snooker cue in the past but that was years ago and I hadn’t bought it from a specialist. Now I was looking at rows and rows of “real” snooker cues – equipment that professionals would use.
As I wandered around the shop I noticed an object on top of a cabinet that had a sticker on it saying, “Not for sale”. I asked the owner of the shop what it was and he told me. “It’s a snooker triangle,” he said. Now, I had been playing snooker for a number of years and watched an untold amount of hours on television but I had not seen a snooker triangle like it.
Everywhere that I had ever played snooker in my entire life had triangles that looked, well, like triangles. I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t seen one before. Then it dawned on me that whenever a frame of snooker ended on television, the cameras would switch to the presenter or pundits and return to the action when the balls had already been positioned on the table.
I was curious and asked the owner of the shop to demonstrate how it worked. He did and went on to tell me a little more about the triangle. “It’s a McColgan Snooker Triangle,” he explained. “It’s what the referees use and was designed in the early 1980s but they are no longer available.” So, for approximately 35 years, most people playing snooker have been using a triangle, not a snooker triangle. I was surprised and shocked to find out that a vital piece of equipment necessary to play the sport consistently was unfamiliar to me. Plus the instrument as a whole wasn’t triangular, it was rectangular and it ran on wheels. In golf you have golf shoes, golf bags, golf gloves and golf balls, hence in snooker it should follow that you’d have a snooker triangle!
The reason for using a snooker triangle and not any old shape was simple. Snooker is all about control, accuracy, and consistency, not only during the frame but also prior to the start of the frame. In order for players to achieve a level of consistency with their break-offs, the red balls need to be positioned accurately behind the pink ball without skew, which is what a snooker triangle does.
The idea that there wasn’t a proper snooker triangle available stayed with me for a while, until one day I felt that something had to be done about it. I booted up my computer and started to design. I’m not a designer but I do maintain an interest in it, and my first designs did look rather triangular. What I wanted was a design that would incorporate all the findings and features from my research, be aesthetically pleasing, attention grabbing, and function perfectly. Plus, take some cues from the sport of snooker itself. Tall order?
What I ended up with was a blueprint that I felt ticked all the boxes. It was white, so noticeable that it provided a contrast between the table, the triangle, and the balls. It had precision bearings, so it was smooth, and a spotting mirror for accurate final positioning. Elements of the sport, the table, the balls, and the maximum break were subtly included. What I had to do next was make it a reality.
When I received the first prototype of the triangle I expected a fanfare of trumpets at the unboxing! I was so excited. After assembling all the components, there it was! A snooker triangle designed in Sheffield, home of the World Championship.
Now that I had the creation, it was time to show it to the world – well my friends, players, and the shop owner – so that I could get some feedback. This process didn’t take too long and only a few very minor changes needed to be made to my original model.
By this time, about eight months had passed. I had come a long way, but there was further to go. I had set my sights on getting my snooker triangle used at the World Snooker Championship here in Sheffield. Through many phone calls and emails later, eventually I was able to meet with senior referee Jan Verhaas, an all-round nice guy. I showed him my snooker triangle, explained the design principle and he agreed to use it at the Crucible Theatre. Jan gave me some great feedback that only a professional referee could give. His insight subsequently allowed me to refine my design further.
Was my journey complete? Not quite. 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the World Championship being held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. To celebrate this I would like to create and make available forty special, limited-edition versions of my triangle. These triangles would be inscribed and numbered, signed by the designer, and accompanied with a framed certificate. Looking even further into the future, I would like to be able to let everyone that plays snooker, referees, and those who run tournaments to have access to the piece of snooker equipment that plays a crucial role in the modern era of the sport, and which I believe is the unsung hero of the game. The snooker triangle!
In order for the final phase to happen anyone who wishes to receive updates and pledge their support should register at Snooker Triangle, with updates also available via Facebook and Twitter.