The Elusive Fifty Break



I remember when even professional snooker players received a round of applause for making a fifty break in competition. Nowadays; a player needs to score a hundred to achieve such an ovation.

I can remember achieving my first fifty break in a friendly game against a good player called Geoff, he had a smooth, easy cue action and when he was younger had achieved much at the amateur level of snooker.

I occasionally saw glimpses of his previous quality, as he made numerous forties and fifties against me. One day he seemed a little frustrated that I seemed to feel under pressure playing him.

I was in the middle of one of my usual 15-20 breaks, or so I thought in the back of my mind, when he spoke up saying, “slow down and take your time, there’s a big break to be had here, if you take a little more care than usual”. I glanced across and said, “a big break for me would be achieved if I pot this next black”, he replied “rubbish, I’ll make sure that you make more than thirty”.

At strategic points he offered quiet reassuring advice and the break went on to fifty-seven, for the last few balls, he refused to tell me the score, he was an honest snooker player and wouldn’t be able to bring himself to lie. I was very pleased with the high fifty and thanked him for his help. 

My problem was that I feared picking the balls out for an extended period and so was unable to focus effectively on my own game, Geoff was generous and wise enough to spot this and help me to correct it. Perhaps he had occasionally chanced pots in breaks expecting to let me in but was a little too good to miss early enough for my confidence. This all took place some years ago, but left a lasting impression on my subconscious, the highest break in a competitive frame that I have made to date is exactly sixty points. 

A friendly match last week against another friend of mine, Dale was satisfying as I made a close and well controlled fifty-two break with a cue that I had bought only three hours earlier. 

Dale and I play almost every week and make breaks around the twenty and thirty mark quite regularly. Dale once made a forty-six against me that was a slice of class. 

In recent months however we have both become a little too safety conscious and so the size of the breaks that we both make has reduced accordingly. 

We are both well-matched in terms of our overall ability, frame by frame, so the matches are always close, as each frame progresses, I probably win more sessions than Dale, but on his night he has been known to achieve some one sided victories over me. 

This particular frame was interesting, because as I got past thirty points, Dale stood back, and I could tell that he was in the mood to see a large break, (for us that is, even though it would possibly cost him the frame). 

I focused on the job at hand and only lost prime position twice, over running for a blue into a centre pocket. On both occasions I played a deep screw shot from a balk colour, regaining good position on a red ball. As you know, playing with power affects decreases your accuracy but as I said both the colours disappeared and a red was there to follow. 

This break gave me great satisfaction and went towards me winning the session, 7 frames to 2.

The factor in the break that I enjoyed the most was my positional play, I landed on the black with a just off straight angle, which made position to the next red easier and also helped to make assessing the potting angle quite certain. 

I only missed the final pot red due to it being close to another ball and being available into only one pocket, I missed the pot by a matter of millimetres and the break came to an early end.

After the session was over I thought about the standard of the modern game on television and how people expect to see a century break when professionals meet. Gone are the days when a fifty would cause a murmur of appreciation from an audience, now it is more common for spectators to lament what could have been, for example, a total clearance perhaps even a maximum. 

There is little doubt, in my mind that the standard of snooker seen in tournaments today is higher than it has ever been. I have a suspicion that Joe Davis, Fred Davis, Ray Reardon, John Spencer, Alex Higgins and the like, if they came onto the scene today would up there game and revel in the modern day conditions. What a tournament we would see if they all met at their peak. We can only imagine.

David Smith