Friday, 1 April 2011

Crucible Countdown: 15 days to go

Welcome to the OnCue countdown for the greatest snooker event on the planet.

Today marks the start of April, and there's only 15 days between now and the start of this year's World Championship.

This means 32 of the best snooker players in the world will soon be battling it out for the right to be crowned world champion.

It doesn't matter what has gone so far this season. This is the big one.

I'll be bringing you build-up every day until the start.

Starting today, I'm tackling the venue. Everyone talks about how special the Crucible is as a setting for this great tournament. To kick off the countdown, here's why the Crucible is special to me...

I remember walking into the Crucible auditorium for the first time a decade ago.

I was 13-years-old and my dad had bought me tickets to see reigning world champion Mark Williams in the final session of his second round match against Joe Swail.

As I made my way to my seat, the snooker theme tune was playing and other snooker fans were huddled around their seats talking about the game ahead. There was a great buzz about the place. It was incredible.

What struck me first was the real feel of anticipation around the place. Those moments will stick with me forever. And I probably feel them every time I go back there too.

If you go to the Crucible, you're serious about your snooker. I'd dreamed for years as a kid of coming here. I had finally arrived.

I'd heard so much about this special place, but never did I imagine it to be quite like this.

You imagine the venue as so much larger on television, even if people say otherwise. You assume its small size is exaggerated.  But in fact, it feels closed in. You can see everyone who's there and there's nowhere to hide for the players. And so it proved that day for Williams as he surrendered his lead and dramatically lost 13-12 to Swail.

When you're playing well, there's nowhere better to be playing snooker than at the Crucible. The crowd are right behind you and every pot must feel great.

When you're struggling, it must be the worst. Eyes are watching you from all angles.

The intimacy and hushed anticipation of the place helps create a special drama for the best matches.

There have been plenty of classic matches down the years. I honestly believe the Crucible makes them even more special. There's a true feeling that the game is like a slow candle burning. Every movement is exaggerated there.

These features make every match an occasion, but over the tournament, it adds up to become even greater.

The World Championship is a 17-day marathon of snooker. A test of endurance. It's the same length of time as the last four Olympic Games have been. The difference is, here, only 32 players are involved, instead of thousands.

You really are under the cosh to perform.

That's what the Crucible does for snooker. That's why it's great.

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