02 May 2008 21:20:00
Former World Champion and the Crucible's first maximum man Cliff Thorburn answers your questions.
How do you think you would compete with today’s players? Steve Davis does - and he’s not doing too bad.
Mr N Fletcher
Cliff says: I’d have to change my game and play with a longer cue action. And I’d have to get glasses. But yes, I think I could compete.
What do you do for a living now?
Cliff says: I do a lot of exhibitions and corporate work and some cue distribution. These are interesting times for me. I do some coaching and I’m trying to help the next generation come through.
Do you think that one day we can see a player win the world title 8 times and beat Stephen Hendry’s record?
Cliff says: Yes, I think we might see someone win ten in a row, although it might take another 100 years. Eventually someone will come through who is superhuman, with a flawless game and mental toughness. Someone who doesn’t get rattled in any situation, and doesn’t go to bed because he’s always playing snooker. Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis have come closest to that so far - they spent more time on the table than the cloth. Stephen in particular came so close to perfection.
I was just wondering if you could give me any tips on how to improve my game, particularly how to get good at break building?
Cliff says: I recommend playing frames with six reds. With a full rack, the table can get too congested. It looks easy on television, but the capability of the top players to manoeuvre the cue ball is too much for club players. Try playing with six reds for a week, and also try just running the colours over and over again. If you can make a 75 break with six red-blacks and all the colours, then you are well on your way. You will nearly always find that one red sticks to the pink, so you have to find a way to release it. Then you can step up to ten red frames and then to a full rack.
What was your prize for the magnificent 147 in 1983 and what prize has Ronnie got to come this year?
Cliff says: I got £13,000. This year the prize is £157,000. You trying to make me feel bad?
What’s the longest frame you ever played and the longest match?
Cliff says: The longest match was against Terry Griffiths in 1983, it finished at 3.51am. But people forget that we didn’t get on the table until 9.30pm, because Eddie Charlton’s game over-ran. So we were only playing the final session for six hours.
The longest frame was 92 minutes 59 seconds against Stephen O’Connor in the 1994 Welsh Open qualifiers - a record that’s only recently been beaten. It wasn’t bad snooker - you can’t miss balls for 93 minutes. There were some great safety battles in that frame, we were on the colours for 35 minutes. I lost 5-4 and I was disappointed. Stephen had coconut oli gel on his hair, I still remember that. It was after that match that I realised maybe it was time to give up the pro game. Up until then I used to get a kick out of people trying to out-grind me. Perrie Mans used to try it. I was a hell of a safety player, but when I played safe I didn’t want to tie up the black. The idea was to force my opponent into a mistake, then I could make a break. But Perrie just tried to get all the balls safe. After 20 minutes the frame would be like a dog’s breakfast - with the black on the yellow spot on the yellow on the top cushion. It was always a horrible match. My favourite opponent was Jimmy White because we played contrasting games, but actually I sped up a bit against him.
Last year my favorite pool player ever passed away, his name was John Bear, a person Cliff was very familiar with. I was wondering if Cliff could share a story about John. He was the smoothest left handed player I have ever seen and he is greatly missed here in Campbell River.
Cliff says: John was the first person to beat me for all my money, and give me my bus fair home. He was a wonderfully smooth player, comparable to John Spencer. His brother Jimmy Bear got to the final of the World Amateur in 1991 in Calgary. If John had Jimmy’s heart, he could have been invincible. Those two were among the best brothers’ doubles teams ever - up there with Joe and Fred Davis.
What is your most memorable moment in snooker?
Tommy from Finland
Cliff says: Potting the final pink to win the world title in 1980, or making the 147 in 1983. Tha maximum was more dramatic and there was more pressure. I asked Joe Davis the very same question in 1974. He said ’the day I woke up and realised I didn’t have to practise any more.’ I was surprised at the time, but now I know exactly what he meant.
What was going through your mind when you were potting the balls to make the first televised 147?
Cliff says: I was calm. I felt relaxed, even though I had a cold and I only slept an hour the night before. I had a dream two weeks before that I made a 147. In the dream, I potted the first black half ball, the cue ball came off the top cushion, jumped a foot into the air, landed in the pack and spread the reds perfectly.
Why do you think so many players are having 147 attempts? Would you say it’s down to the standard of tables or the players?
Cliff says: A combination of both. The players are better. But they have more chances because the balls spread better and sooner on the fast cloths today. In those days you had to go into the pack more.
How do you pull the cue ball a long distance with less force?
Cliff says: Most people are afraid of damaging the cloth when they play a screw shot. But actually you have to push the cue downwards through the white and bounce it off the cloth, leaving a chalk mark. When practising, check to see if you are leaving a mark. You have to experiment and see how far you go before you miscue. When you watch the old games with Jimmy White and Alex Higgins, they were leaving so many chalk marks, the table was like a dot to dot game.
Who Was Your Toughest Opponent And Why?
Cormac from Limerick In Ireland
Steve Davis. He had an answer for everything.
You played both Ray Reardon and John Spencer many times during your career who would you say was the hardest to play against?
Paul - Brighton
They both had great all round games. They were equals. I guess the only difference was that John won three world titles and Ray won six.
Everyone knows that you won the World in 1980, but it is rarely mentioned that you were also World Number 1, a much more impressive feat, as it shows consistency over two seasons. Do you feel that this accomplishment is sometimes overlooked?
I was with some snooker writers about five years ago and we were talking about players who had held the number one ranking. They named about five or six. I told them they were missing one, but they still couldn't get it. Then I told them...it was me! Two of them still didn't believe me and had to look it up. Maybe they had never heard of me. So yes, it is often over-looked, which is funny. I guess everyone thinks Steve just took over from Ray without a year for me in between.
Do you keep in touch with Kirk Stevens, and is he still playing in Canada?
Jason, West London
Yes, I'm still in touch with him. He's fine and he's very happy. He still plays in the odd tournament.
What did you think of Ronnie O'Sullivan's performace yesterday, and did you ever play him?
It was incredible - but it's not the first time I've seen it, he's been doing it for 15 years. Nothing has changed that much in his game, he's just doing it when it really counts this week.
I played him once, in Thailand in about '94 or '95. I practised like crazy at home, then I flew eight hours to London, waited 12 hours at the airport, then flew 12 hours to Thailand. I practised again when I got there and felt fine. Then I went out to play and I lost 5-0 in about an hour. I can honestly say I was lucky to get nil.
He is so intimidating if you are not playing well. You might as well phone your shots in from a booth down the road. It's ridiculous how good he is - probably only the other top players realise how good, he's even better than people at home think he is. If he played Stephen Hendry in his prime, that would be a match made in heaven, although it would be all offence, not a game for people who like safety battles.
More from Cliff coming soon. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org