The miss rule in snooker

There seem to be many people who have difficulties understanding the miss rule in snooker. Every year, in April/May, the Embassy World Championship Snooker in The Crucible in Sheffield, England, is held, and the BBC televises many matches. Often, viewers ask questions about this rule.

Via Hermund Årdalen I found the next description of the rule:
The striker shall to the best of his ability endeavour to hit the ball on. If the referee considers the rule infringed he shall call foul and a "miss." The incoming player (1) may play the ball(s) as they lie, or (2) may request that the ball(s) be returned to the original position and have the offending player play the stroke again. Note: if the ball on cannot possibly be hit, the striker is judged to be attempting to hit the ball on.

In books about snooker I found statements about the miss-rule:
I. The rules of snooker / anon. - London : Virgin Games Ltd., 1991. - Reprinted by permission of the Billiards and Snooker Control Council.
A miss is when the referee considers the striker has not endeavoured to hit the ball on.

II. Basisboek snooker : training, techniek, taktiek / Jan Baeten en Michael Clarke. - Baarn: Tirion, 1979. - ISBN 90-5121-137-6.
Een 'miss' wordt gegeven wanneer de referee van mening is dat de speler niet naar beste kunnen geprobeerd heeft de bal 'on' te raken.
Remark : this is a literal translation of the line above (Starting with: A miss is when the ...).

III. Snooker Masterclass / Stephen Hendry. - London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc., 1995. - ISBN 0 7475 1870 X.
This has become one of the most discussed rules in snooker and often causes controversy. Basically, a miss is called when a referee does not believe a player has made a sufficiently good attempt to hit the ball 'on'. If a miss is called, there are three courses of action: the player of the miss can be asked to play again from the position in which the cue-ball has stopped; he can be asked to play again from the cue-ball's original position, which means that the referee has to replace the cue-ball; or the other player can take on the shot himself from where the cue-ball has come to rest. The rule, sensible in essence, was introduced as a means of preventing a player sacrificing a few penalty points in order to avoid leaving his opponent with a break-building opportunity. A competent referee takes into account the awkwardness of a shot as well as the overall standard of a player when deciding whether or not to call a miss. In professional snooker, since 1 January 1991, the rules have been much more rigid. If a player can see any part of the ball 'on' and fails to make contact, a miss is automatically called.
Note : when a player, while breaking off, misses all balls, this is a foul. But, in contrast to the main rule (see the line "A miss is when the ...", above) no miss is called. However, the referee will additionally call 'free ball' if the cue-ball is snookered on all reds.

My personal views on this matter

To my opinion this rule has been introduced to prevent unsportsmanlike behaviour, to keep the game pure, and additionally to enhance the attraction of the game. A few examples may clarify the rule:

  1. Easy to comprehend is the next situation: consider yourself completely snookered on all the balls 'on', and you play the cue ball slightly more towards the snookering ball. This is completely useless, because a foul and miss is called, which leaves your opponent three choices:
    a) the referee puts the cue ball in its previous position and you must strike again,
    b) your opponent lets you play again,
    c) your opponent takes the free ball.

  2. You are not snookered, but aim at a snookered ball 'on' (most of the time via a cushion). You miss the ball(s) on but leave your opponent in an unfavourable position. This will always be called a foul and a miss. So this possibility is very clear too.

  3. The problems arise from a shot where a player finds himself snookered and has to play via one or more cushions and/or a swerve (masse) shot. The striker may have the intention to accept a four points penalty for a foul, at the same time preventing his opponent from making a sizeable and possibly decisive break.

The only solution is to let an unpartial referee decide if the player has tried well enough to make a legal stroke. Obviously, this depends on the strength of the snooker player, and the referee must know that strength. Consequently, this rule can hardly be applied in amateur games, because the capability of the players are not well known, and/or an impartial referee may be absent.

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Last update was January 30, 1998.

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