2023 Crucible – Day 14 – About Selby, Allen and blue cheese

Yes, I know … that title is a bit bizarre but, I promise, I’m not going mad and I’ll explain.

Yesterday, Si Jiahui and Luca Brecel served us a treat. They got the Crucible crowd in rapture. They played two sessions of wonderful attacking snooker, Si getting 14-5 ahead, only for Luca to win five frames on the bounce in a festival of daring shots and sensational pots. It was enthralling, it was beautiful, it was refreshing and it was 100% what our sport needs to attract more young fans, especially as they are young themselves. Luca will start the last session being 14-10 behind, but he has proved against Ronnie that he’s more than capable to overcome that deficit. No matter who wins to today, both have done wonder for the image of snooker. Luca is flying the flag for Belgian and mainland European snooker. Si’s extraordinary run is exactly what Chinese snooker needs at this moment in time. They attracted praise from the pundits both on Eurosport and the BBC. Deservedly. They also attracted praise from fellow snooker players on social media, most notably from Judd Trump.

Mark Allen and Mark Selby on the other hand were pulled off having played only five frames… Stephen Hendry, definitely didn’t enjoy watching that. While working for the BBC he made his opinion clear: “A dark cloud came over the match table at the Crucible” is what Hendry said and he added .“It was not pretty. It’s not the snooker that I want to watch, but I understand that snooker has to be played in different ways. It’s almost like they’re trying to be too precise, too exact in their match play. Just play the ball sometimes.

Similar opinions were of course expressed on social media, and inevitably, those who expressed it were branded “Selby haters”. That’s ridiculous. The brand of snooker Selby and Allen played is very skilful but it’s not for everyone. It requires a rather deep understanding of the game to appreciate how difficult and sophisticated the brand of snooker they played is. It requires sustained attention and patience to watch it unfold. It is snooker at the highest level, but not the kind of snooker that will attract the masses or the kids. That’s where the thought of blue cheese came to my mind. I absolutely love blue cheese, Roquefort in particular. I’m in a minority, I know it. A shop that would sell only blue cheese, or even mainly blue cheese would almost certainly struggle to stay in business. To survive as a commercial enterprise, they need to offer in priority what the majority of the potential customers demand, and that’s definitely NOT blue cheese. BUT, having it for the connoisseurs, helping customers to discover something different, that they may come to appreciate, yes, that’s good … and even necessary. Snooker has to find the right balance between its “blue cheese” and the more common but popular stuff. And pundits/commentators should try to explain and promote all aspects of the sport.

Now back to the “haters” tag. If someone tells me that they hate blue cheese, I will not suppose that it means they hate the person who produces it. There were times where I really disliked the way Mark Selby played, and was critical of his game as I thought that he was overly negative. I’m not the only one. Graeme Dott, a former World Champion, famously went on a scathing attack after a particularly long and painful evening at the Masters… But hating the person? Never.

One thought on “2023 Crucible – Day 14 – About Selby, Allen and blue cheese

  1. It’s great to have tactical snooker, it’s great to have long tense frames. But it’s not good if all the frames are like that. Yesterday’s live audience paid a lot of money to see 5 frames in the afternoon.

    The other match was of course wonderful entertainment, in particular featuring some spectacular shot-making. Si Jiahui might have choked away the match in that final frame, but has a chance to reset. This once again shows the value of multi-session snooker.

    However, if Selby wins, I don’t expect him to be so drained that he will lose the final. He’s walked this path before.

Comments are closed.