This weekend’s Gdynia Open, the eighth and final European Tour event of the series, will have serious repercussions for the chances of various players retaining their places on the professional circuit as outlined in depth by World Snooker and Prosnookerblog.
The two names which jump out as being under threat are Steve Davis and Jimmy White because for the best part of four decades they have been synonymous with big time snooker.
It’s all too tempting to get misty-eyed about the past but to snooker fans of a certain generation Davis and White will always be special names. They were certainly each partly responsible for me watching snooker. Like most other TV viewers I became hooked not only on the game itself but the people who played it. Davis stood triumphant as the model of professionalism and what you could be if you applied yourself. White represented the exciting, if sometimes destructive, results of rebellion.
In reality they were two sides of the same coin, doing the same job in markedly different ways. Davis was coolly clinical, White stylish. Davis seemed fascinated by every facet and challenge of the game of snooker, White had an instinctive eye which negated the need for analysis and self-reflection.
Davis has won more trophies – big, small and long forgotten – than anyone else, even Stephen Hendry. White’s career came to be defined by his failure to win the World Championship despite reaching six finals at the Crucible. This is perhaps unfair but inevitable as the World Championship is the one time of the year snooker has a high media profile, a little like tennis in Wimbledon fortnight.
White did win both the UK Championship and the Masters, a total of ten ranking titles and sundry invitation events. Like Davis, he was still producing a high standard relatively late in his career, winning the 2004 Players Championship at 41. Davis, at 46, was runner-up in the 2004 Welsh Open and also in the 2005 UK Championship at 48.
I would be sorry to see either Davis or White lose their professional status because I know how much they each love the game, and indeed what they have done for it. In the UK, they are the only superstars the circuit has other than Ronnie O’Sullivan.
For these reasons, Q School would be a comedown, though they may see it as just playing snooker, which is something they have done at all levels since boyhood.
Nobody goes on forever. Davis has seen off pretty much all of his 1980s rivals, with White now the only exception. Neither man has anything to prove after all this time - and the sport desperately needs new, younger faces - but many will be rooting for them as snooker’s version of ‘deadline day’ approaches.
Even if they are now past their best there is something admirable about the determination to carry on as long as there are more balls to be potted.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.