It is 140 years since a young officer in the British Army, experimenting on a billiard table, came up with the game we now know as snooker. At the 2015 World Championship the best players on the planet were competing for a top prize of £300,000, watched by nearly half a billion people around the globe.
According to author and essayist Compton MacKenzie in his account in ‘The Billiard Player’ magazine of 1939, young lieutenant Neville Chamberlain (not the former British Prime Minister) was experimenting on the officers’ mess table with the existing game of ‘Black Pool’ featuring 15 red balls and a black.
Having thrown on additional coloured balls and heard that rookie cadets at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich were called ‘snookers’, Chamberlain observed that all those present were snookers at this tweaked version of the game, and the name instantly stuck.
His Devonshire regiment, which later became the Devonshire and Dorset and are now known as the Rifles, remain fiercely proud to this day of their role in the invention of snooker.
Soon after, Chamberlain was based in the Tamil Nadu hill station of Ootacamund – or ‘Snooty Ooty’, as the exclusive mountain retreat was often known. And such was the young officer’s enthusiasm for his new game there that he even named his horse ‘Snooker’.
The further development of the sport took place in the colonial-style Ooty Club, very much a part of snooker folklore and somewhere that current World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn insists remains on his ‘bucket list’ to visit.
Rules of the Game
Want to settle that argument about the rules? Click the link and download your free pdf from the official WPBSA website – http://www.wpbsa.com/governance/rules-of-snooker/