Find out about upcoming Snooker Legends events in 2012 on the official website.
My arrival to the Brighton Centre for the 6.15pm VIP reception was not as smooth as I would of liked. The annual London to Brighton cycling event was taking place at the same time and unfortunately the bulk of the cyclists were reaching the seafront just as I got there causing massive congestion! I managed to catch up with Dennis Taylor and Cliff Thorburn at the reception before the event started though, they very nice chaps and were happy to have photos taken with.
We went into the the arena for the main event. There was a decent sized merchandising stand set up by the doors selling everything from signed photos of the Legends, to massive framed photos and even signed cue balls. Something for everyone! We duly took our seats which was just to left side of the table looking from the baulk end of the table and gave us a a great view of the table.
Before the event started a tribute video to the late Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins played which was a nice way to remind us that the original line up was to feature the legend and he was supposed to be playing on the tour with the others now but unfortunately shortly after doing the Legends event at the Crucible he passed away, long will the snooker world remember him and what he did for our sport in the 70's and 80's. Former UK Champion and Big Break star John Virgo walked on and the night was ready to start.
Before JV did his trick shots, he reminded us of another snooker legend that we had lost recently. Not a player but arguably the greatest commentator the game has ever seen; 'Whispering' Ted Lowe. He was the voice of snooker as early as 1969 when he commentated on Pot Black for the BBC and during one of those early episodes he uttered the immortal words "and for those of you who are watching in black and white, the pink is next to the green." He is probably best known for being the commentator during the 1985 world final between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor and did his last lot of commentating during the 2005 world final between Shaun Murphy and Matthew Stevens.
Ted died on the 1st of May this year aged 90 on the morning of the first session of the world championship final. A few weeks before he passed away he sent a tape to the Snooker Legends team which was played to the audience. It was recorded on an old tape machine so it wasn't the best quality but it was a nice touch to hear the legend who was to do the commendatory for the event on the night. Before the boys hit the baize, it was time for JV to do a few of his trick shots. I was a bit disappointed that two of the three tricks required the use of special tubes that you put the balls on but I didn't care because I got to do the first one on the table!
JV then did a few of his famous impersonations then we were ready to begin! The first two legends to play each other were Cliff Thorburn and Jimmy White. It was great to see Cliff playing as I had never seen him in person and still could pot like a pro, but Jimmy's current form and recent main tour experience simply swept the Canadian away and he won 2-0 and moved through to the final. Next up were John Parrott and Dennis Taylor. There was a bit more banter between these two and they seemed to be a bit more evenly matched than the previous pairing and the match went 1-1 and the decider was a re-spotted black which John managed to win, so it was Jimmy v John in the final, but more was to come from Dennis and Cliff!
During the interval members of the audience were offered the chance to buy raffle tickets in which they could win a cue and could partner either Dennis or Cliff in a game of a double in front of the crowd. I couldn't believe my luck when I was drawn out second and got to partner Cliff against Dennis and another member of the audience; Grant. It was quite a closely fought match and Grant was quite handy with a cue and managed to score the heaviest (I'm sure the legends were going easy on us though!) and they just nicked it on the last few balls but it was a brilliant experience to play shoulder to shoulder with Cliff and Dennis and to be reffed by Michaela Tabb and be commentated on by John Virgo was not something I will forget quickly! (Watch the video of my playing with the legends further down.)
The final between Jimmy and John was a one frame shootout due to time constraints. It was a closely fought affair but Jimmy came out on top and won the match and the Snooker Legends trophy for the night. Overall I had a brilliant night at the event, all complements to the organiser Jason Francis who has a real winner on his hands here and hopefully may it continue for many years to come. In a perfect world it would be great to see Steve Davis and Ken Doherty join the team full time as they are great entertainers but the current line-up is great and the combination of the legends playing their matches, the entertainment and commentary from JV and the audience participation makes for a great night out even if you aren't a snooker fan.