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147 Is Not Snooker’s Maximum Break

Akin to Darts’ 9-dart finish, Cricket’s six sixes, or Bowling’s 300, Snooker’s maximum 147 break is renowned and revered worldwide.

Those with only the slightest interest in the sport will tune in to see a replay of a player potting 15 reds paired with 15 blacks, before cleaning up the remaining colours.

A player by the name of Murt O’Donoghue recorded the first ever maximum back in 1934. When Steve Davis achieved the first televised 147 in 1982, it was an unforgettable occasion. Several records have fallen since. In 1997, Ronnie O’Sullivan made his 36 perfect pots in just 5 minutes and 20 seconds.

The history books have been rewritten multiple times over the last hundred odd years. But some snooker fans may be surprised to learn that this is not technically perfection, and a break greater than 147 is perfectly possible.

After a foul, if the cue-ball is snookered, the referee shall state a free ball. The player may then treat a coloured ball as if it were a red. Therefore, this can artificially create a 16th red on the table. Although improbable, if a free ball is to be called before the first red is potted in a frame, then it is possible to achieve a break of up to 155.

In a club match in 1976, Wally West is reported to have scored a 151 break in West London. 17 years later, a certain Stephen Hendry made a 148 in practice.

However, Malta’s Tony Drago, in practice, scored a 149, comprising of a free ball plus brown, followed by 15 reds, 13 blacks, a pink, and a blue, plus the remaining colours. His feat was credited by the Guinness World Book of Records. ‘The Tornado’ went down officially as the highest break ever at the time, which was 1995.

The coveted 155 was not achieved until the summer of 2005, when Jamie Cope accomplished the endeavour. 16 reds, 16 blacks, and the colours. This was made in a witnessed practice frame.

Although never witnessed in competition, a break of 155 is true snooker perfection. It should not, and does not, take anything away from the 147 break, but we can always dare to dream of experiencing a free ball perfect frame on our screens.

The word ‘maximum’ is defined as “the greatest amount, extent, or intensity possible, permitted, or recorded.” Therefore a 147, however majestic and skillful as it may be, is not actually the maximum break in snooker.

Brian Barry, Pundit Arena

Featured image By barfisch (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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