Of all the things that frustrate my clients, it is playing against opponents who are overly cautious / negative (or actively spoil the position of the balls!), and slow around the snooker table.
Often in practice, this happens between club players who are scared of losing to each other. So, they can tend to go into a negative spiral where they are scared to give points away. This often breaks the enjoyment in snooker for one or both players, and I recommend a number of remedies to break this cycle. These suggestions can work especially well when it is two friends who often practice together.
- Have a policy of going for a pot on EVERY SHOT (even if it is a double or an attempted fluke!) for the first frame of the day – no scoring in the frame. NO SAFETY ALLOWED! This breaks the cycle of negativity and will also surprise many players when shots they would never dream of attempting sometimes go in.
- Score as normal, but both players play 10-20% more aggressive than normal.
- Play normal frames, but if four colours come off the spot, re start the frame.
- Play a best of five with six reds – balls go less safe in six red snooker.
- Play fifteen red snooker, no scoring – highest break wins frame.
- Play the first shot you think of, as soon as you think of it. No second guessing, no pondering. You may want to add an informal thirty second time limit.
- Have a ten minute time limit on a frame – the highest score at ten minutes wins the frame.
You can agree with our playing colleague which one of these you would like to test. This does not mean that you have to play like this all the time, and you can approach the experiment with the idea of learning something new about the game and giving your mind more options at the table when you do revert to normal play.
Often though, these remedies cannot be applied – as you are in a match!
There are two categories of opponent who do this:
- Not being aware of what they are doing
- Deliberately doing so to annoy you!
There are a number of things you can do to relieve your tension in this situation:
- Play a bit more safety than you normally would – I found when competing that forcing a player into mistakes by playing a little more safety then normal helped me get more chances than letting them have control of the table by being more aggressive. The natural tendency of players is to try to speed up the game and force the issue – do not fall into this trap.
- Play your normal snooker shot selection – don’t be more aggressive, and don’t be more defensive than normal. Just keep to your way of playing which will often give you the best chance of keeping your natural tempo and concentration.
- Forget the score, and forget winning… just say in your head on Jan 1st every year that 5% of your games will be unbearably slow and negative. Have the attitude that you might not win them but that you can use these type of frames as a test of:
- Your concentration
- Your discipline to go through your standard shot selection process even if the frame will take one hour
- Your ability to play the right percentage shot all the time
- Your ability to execute the shots with your standard routine even if you think this effort will not make any difference to the result
- Resolve to give it 100% effort 100% of the time as a policy – even if it looks certain you will lose
- Realise you WILL lose some of these games and matches – and that it will hurt ten times more than a standard match. You cannot win all these matches just as you cannot win all flowing matches.
- Just pot everything and clear up every time you visit the table!
Finally, you CAN play slow and negative to disturb other snooker players – and occasionally pro’s (whose livelihood is at stake in matches) have opted to take this approach to help their cause.
There is not a rule against doing this, so it is a personal decision that you need to make.
I personally preferred not to play in that way when I was competing, as I felt it was not in the spirit of the game, would not earn me the respect of other snooker players long term, and would take me off my own rhythm.