Top Ten Break Builders by Phil Yates

This was published by WST yesterday

Snooker journalist and commentator Phil Yates talks us through his top ten break builders of all-time…

10. Marco Fu
Turned Professional: 1998  
Centuries: 501     
Highest break: 147 (four times)

“Marco owns a small piece of history as he was the first player to have a 147 live on the internet, he made it at the Scottish Masters in 2000. Right from the word go Marco has been a great break builder. He made over 50 centuries in his first two seasons as a professional, which was extremely rare at the time. When he won the Scottish Open in 2016, he made 11 hundred breaks over the week. To compile that many centuries in a tournament which is made up predominantly of best of seven matches was amazing.”

9. Ding Junhui
Turned Professional: 2003
Centuries: 532  
Highest break: 147 (six times)

“Ever since he emerged on the circuit it was quite apparent that Ding’s game was built around scoring, but it was a different kind of scoring. His precision around the black spot is second to none. When he broke through and beat Stephen Hendry to win the 2005 China Open it was already obvious that his cue ball control was exemplary. When he makes big breaks sometimes they can get lost and not receive as much credit as they should, simply because he rarely needs to pull off big recovery shots due to his positional play being so good.”

8. Joe Davis
Turned Professional: 1926
Highest break: 147 (Not officially ratified)

“Joe Davis was a trailblazer. He played in an era where there was no real template on how to break build, he had to develop the positional skills himself. The balls were less responsive, the tables weren’t as good and the pack didn’t break up as easily. Despite all of that Joe made centuries, total clearances and even 147 breaks. He is nowhere near this list in terms of the numbers or the stats (records of how many centuries he made were not kept), but he is worthy of a place because he set the initial template of how to play the sport.”

7. Jimmy White
Turned Professional: 1980
Centuries: 319  
Highest break: 147

“Jimmy is such an entertainer. During the 80s and early 90s he made so many great breaks, when centuries weren’t the common currency they Jimmy Whiteare now. Everyone talks about that amazing 147 break that Kirk Stevens made against him at the 1984 Masters, but it’s often forgotten that Jimmy won the match with a sublime break of 119 in the very next frame. That was a modern day break, it was full of flair and he had the cue ball moving around the table in a similar fashion to Judd Trump. The way he went about compiling a break was ahead of its time.”

6. Steve Davis
Turned Professional: 1978
Centuries: 338      
Highest break: 147

“Steve made the first televised 147, which really was a mammoth achievement. People who make breakthroughs in sport deserve credit and that was definitely a very significant moment. Mark Selby is similar in that he is a great break builder, but at times that is overlooked because of his tactical prowess. The same can be applied to Steve, the difference between the two is that Davis was a pioneer. Like his namesake Joe, the numbers of centuries and maximums don’t quite add up, but there was no previous template for the way Steve played the game.”

5. John Higgins
Turned Professional: 1992   
Centuries: 790    
Highest break: 147 (nine times)

“The reason John has been so successful in his career is that he is an incredible all-round player. He has been able to take full advantage of his considerable tactical ability by exploiting a large percentage of the opportunities he manufactures and converting them into centuries. Unbelievably there was a time in the mid-nineties that he had never made a 147 in a tournament or even in practice. He made one in the 2000 Nations Cup and the floodgates opened.”

4. Neil Robertson
Turned professional: 1998
Centuries: 706    
Highest break: 147 (four times)

“Neil achieved the extraordinary feat of becoming the first player to make over 100 centuries in a season back in 2013/14. To score the 100th at the Crucible and against Judd Trump made it particularly special. What impressed me was how much he really wanted to do it. It was clear from his celebration after he made the 100thbreak just how much it meant to him. I’ve been on the circuit for many years and there was a time when Hendry held the record on 53. That stood for a very long time and nobody thought it would be beaten. Robertson almost doubled it.”

3. Judd Trump
Turned professional: 2005
Centuries: 704   
Highest break: 147 (four times)

“The fact that Judd is only 30 years old means that he is almost certain to have the record for most career centuries one day. That fact means he deserves to rank very highly in this list. He can produce superb positional shots time and time again. Forget the exhibition shots that he can play, he produces shots like that while the frame is still alive. He is capable of continuing breaks which appear to be dead. A high percentage of his breaks look as if they are over at the 70 or 80 mark, but he somehow manages to convert them to centuries.”

2. Stephen Hendry
Turned Professional: 1985
Centuries: 775  
Highest break: 147 (11 times)

“When he was at his best the calendar was threadbare, so to make 775 centuries in that era is remarkable. He was top of the all-time 147 list for a long time before being usurped by Ronnie O’Sullivan. I also think he made the most amazing 147 of all-time against O’Sullivan in the 1997 Charity Challenge. Having led 8-2, he was pegged back to 8-8 before he composed a maximum in the decider. Arguably the most impressive maximum break I have seen him make was against Gary Wilkinson at the 1995 UK Championship. If you went through it and tried to pick out key shots, you would struggle. He was never in a hint of trouble and never out of position for a second. It was absolute perfection.”

1.Ronnie O’Sullivan  
Turned Professional: 1992    
Centuries: 1,045   
Highest break: 147 (15 times)

“Despite reaching 1000 centuries, Ronnie could actually have had a lot more. In the most recent part of his career he hasn’t been playing a full calendar. That number, remarkable as it is, could have been considerably inflated. When you consider there have been top 16 players that never even made 100 centuries, it really puts O’Sullivan’s achievement into perspective. The timing of his 1000thcentury was typically dramatic. Not only to do it in a final, but to do it in the winning frame was a magical moment. There is absolutely no doubt that he is the best break-builder of all-time.”

Phil Yates was/is a big, big Hendry fan … and he’s now also a huge Trump fan.

He says here above that when Hendry was in his prime he had less tournaments to play in and that’s why he made “only” 775 centuries. Well … according to cuetracker, at the time of writing, when Stephen Hendry retired he had played 11722 frames in 376 tournaments, whilst Ronnie is currently on 11317 frames in 329 tournaments. So the 1045 centuries made by Ronnie, as compared to the 775 made by Hendry can’t be explained by the number of tournaments/frames played in the course of their career 😉 .

What is probably a factor is the fact that when Hendry was in his prime, the conditions were different. The cloth in particular was thicker, and, therefore, developping the pack was more difficult as it wouldn’t split as easily as it does today. That said, the same factor also meant that controling the cueball was probably easier…

That Judd Trump will overtake Ronnie’s record is almost certain. He’s been a pro for 14 years, Ronnie for 28. Yet with the current packed alendar, Judd has played 7549 frames in 256 tournaments. Since the number of tournaments has grown massively in the last 10 years, it’s likely that by the time Judd is 44 he will have played well over 15000 frames in well  over 500 tournaments, and if his striking rate stays the same he should be at over 1400 centuries by then. Ronnie isn’t finished yet, but another 350+ centuries doesn’t seem very realistic, especially with a reduced schedule. That said, making a lot of centuries doesn’t mean that you are a exceptional break builder. Judd plays a lot of recovery shots, and gets most because he is an exceptional potter, not an exceptional break builder.. He’s improved as a break builder in the last couple of years but certainly not third in the list in my eyes.

Ding is the opposite. He’s an exceptional break builder. His cue control is one of the best, if not the best. He spots shots that others don’t see. But he’s a bit too conservative in his shot selection and that probably explains why he hasn’t more centuries. That he is ninth in this list is a travesty.

Finally, whilst I like a century as much as anbyone else, I feel there is too much focus on them now.

Mark Williams isn’t in this list. I’m certain that, given his ability, he could have been there … if he had been interested, but for most of his career, Willo was known for pushing balls safe and ending frames this way when he was certain that his opponent wouldn’t come back at the table. He’d rather get on with the next frame or match. There is nothing in the rules forbidding players to do that, but I’m sure that, with the sport relying almost exclusively on the betting industry for its sponsoring outside China, and the bookies offering odds on centuries being made, players nowadays are not encouraged to do this.

5 thoughts on “Top Ten Break Builders by Phil Yates

  1. How many 147s has a player passed-up to spite Barry Hearn? I’ll take a bet that it’s Ronnie no. 1 on that list.

  2. Best Breakbuilder is nothing to do with Making centuries its about how you do them and Ding Junhui has to be up there with Ronnie, Hendry and Higgins as the best break-builder the game has seen.

    Your point regarding Williams is valid if Judd is that high how come Williams didn’t make the Top 10. it just goes to show compiling lists is subjective.

  3. As always from Phil ( Imo ) interesting !. As a little aside, presumably there will be no handshakes during Gibraltar open. Wonder if Ronnie knew something we did nt with his alternative fist pumping this season. lol
    Thanks for the continued updates Monique.

  4. This:

    “Judd plays a lot of recovery shots, and gets most because he is an exceptional potter, not an exceptional break builder.”

    An what just occured me – considering his break building depends so much on impeccable rescue potting, even at this stage of his career when it seems he got a grip on his game, I predict he won’t get that far when in a few years time his concentration start to decline. He has the next 5 seasons top to achieve that total tally, afterwards he’s going down.

Comments are closed.