Today, the tenth edition of the most controversial ranking event on the calendar gets under way so let’s remember some of the Snooker Shoot Out winners from previous years.
Launched in 2011, the event was originally staged as an invitational for the top 64 players on the world rankings list.
Its format divided opinion right from the off, with many criticising its manipulation of the traditional rules and others praising the attempt to make the game more fun for a wider audience.
For those who don’t know, the Shoot Out is a fast-paced tournament in which each match requires just one frame lasting ten minutes.
There is a 15 seconds shot clock in operation for the first five minutes, before the time limit is reduced to only ten seconds for the remainder of the fixture.
Players lag to determine who breaks off, all shots must involve hitting a cushion or potting a ball, and any foul results in the opponent having the luxury of placing the cue ball anywhere on the table – otherwise known as ball in hand.
The first five Snooker Shoot Out winners were crowned at the Circus Arena in Blackpool, before a one-year stop in Reading in 2016.
Up until this point, there was a general sense of either liking it or not, but an acceptance of its place as a distraction of sorts on the busy schedule.
It wasn’t until 2017, when the tournament moved to its current home at the Watford Colosseum, that a heavier mist of anger began to descend over the opinions of hardened snooker fans.
That year the competition was upgraded to a ranking event and opened up to all 128 competitors on the Main Tour.
It’s undoubtedly one of the most controversial decisions that has been undertaken since the Barry Hearn era began a decade ago.
Victory for two out of the three Snooker Shoot Out winners since then has represented a maiden ranking event success for that player.
In the history books, there will be no asterisk next to their names and that glory would be on a par with, say, Matthew Stevens’ UK Championship victory from 2003.
Should Ronnie O’Sullivan, who is competing in the tournament for the first time since 2015, win this year he will eclipse Stephen Hendry’s 15 year-old record of amassing 36 career ranking event titles.
Considering there’s a huge variation on the regular rules and that there’s an enormous amount of luck needed to win the seven frames – only seven frames – required to lift the trophy, it seems a bit ludicrous.
Still, despite its elevated status, the Shoot Out remains a fun event that has succeeded in opening up snooker’s doors to a fan base it wouldn’t always seek to entertain.
This weekend, the Colosseum will be full of boozed-up punters encouraged to make as much noise as possible in a setting nothing like the slow-burning hush that will be experienced at the Crucible Theatre in a couple of months time.
It’s snooker version of marmite, you either love it or you hate it, so today’s quiz is aimed more at the former.
The question is, can you name the Snooker Shoot Out winners and runners-up for every year since 2011?
Photo credit: World Snooker Tour