The game of snooker is a cue sport which emerged in its modern form in the late 19th century, with roots going back to the 16th century form of English billiards. Billiards was popular among the British Armed Forces stationed in India. As billiards was only a two player game, new games such as life pool and pyramid pool were developed in order to accommodate more players. Eventually, these two games were combined to form snooker.
Billiards was first played in the 16th century. It was known as a “gentleman’s game” because of its popularity among royalty. The tables had no side rails, pockets, or cushions, but only contained holes for the balls to be potted. Every time that a pot was achieved, the ball would fall to the ground. The balls, which were made of ivory, were another difference from modern billiards.
In the 19th century, the sport became quite popular among the British Armed Forces stationed in India. Billiards was a two-man game in its original form, which was played with 3 balls, of which two were cue balls, one for each player. This led to the formation of multi-player versions. New versions included life pool and pyramid pool. Life pool involved several colored balls used as both cue balls and object balls. In pyramid pool, there were 15 red balls and a white cue ball, and each player received one point per red ball potted. Along with the new games being developed, the table was taking steps toward its current state.
Black pool was the next version created. Black pool was similar to pyramid pool, except that the black ball from life pool was added to the game and could be potted for more points. In 1875, at the officers’ mess in Jabalpur in the Central Provinces, Colonel Sir Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain suggested adding the other coloured balls to the new version. The game was beginning to resemble snooker in its current form, though the blue and brown balls were added in later years.
The name snooker came from a comment Chamberlain made about one of the players when the player missed a shot. Chamberlain called player “a real snooker”, which referred to his lack of experience. “Snooker” was a slang term for a first year cadet. The first official set of rules for snooker were drafted in 1882 at Ootacamund in Madras Province. When British Billiards Champion John Roberts travelled to India in 1885, he met Chamberlain and decided to introduce snooker to England when he returned home.
The early years
The first official competitions, the English Amateur Championships, took place in 1916. In 1927, Joe Davis helped to establish the first Professional World Championship of snooker. Joe Davis won and took home the prize of £6.10. At that time, the standard of play was not very high considering that the highest break of that tournament was just 60. By the 1930s, Snooker was becoming one of the most popular cue sports.
Joe Davis continued to dominate the era, winning every World Championship until his retirement in 1946. Between 1952 and 1957, a dispute had arisen among the games’ governing body, the Control Council, and the Billiards Association. As a result, only two people participated in the official World Championship, although an unofficial one was organized. At the time, the winner of the unofficial tournament was generally considered the best player in the world. During this time frame Horace Lindrum won the official World Championship. Due to a decline in popularity, there were no world championships between 1958 and 1963.