What's the maths behind the perfect snooker 147?

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1. Stunning snooker

Snooker’s holy grail – a 147 break. The maximum points a player can score on his own by potting all the balls and using the black (the highest value colour, worth seven points) as their selected choice after each of the 15 reds.

Few have done it and none have come close to replicating the accuracy and speed of ‘Rocket’ Ronnie O’Sullivan’s maximum in 1997 at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, home of the World Championship.

Everything went right for the 21-year-old - he was very rarely chalking his cue. But what's the maths behind his maximum? How easy is it to make snooker’s ultimate clearance? And will his magnificent 147 ever be topped?

2. Snooker's fastest maximum

Watch Ronnie's break as 15 reds, 15 blacks and six colours are dispatched in rapid-fire fashion.

Stun, spin, run through, weight, side, cushions, angles, adrenaline – these are all factors in making a big break. You have to pot 10 reds and nine blacks (73 points) to guarantee that your opponent needs snookers to win the frame (as that would leave five reds, five blacks and the colours – 67 points – available).

3. Big break in numbers

O'Sullivan won £147,000 for hitting a maximum, plus £18,000 for the highest break at the event -  £165,000 for five minutes and 20 seconds work. That’s £515.63 per second or £4,583.33 per shot!

Thirty-six pots in five minutes, 20 seconds works out at roughly 8.8 seconds per shot – let's call it nine seconds for ease. If you look at the shot times of modern-day players, the slowest take about 30 seconds. The fast players are at 16 seconds.

It was a great break. The crowd absolutely loved it. Even beaten opponent Mick Price seemed to, and funnily enough after being blitzed by all those numbers, he went on to become a maths teacher. O'Sullivan was beaten in the second round but went on to win the world title five times.

4. Potting poetry in motion

Click on the icon and drag across to run through the quickfire break and see how the numbers stack up.

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Ronnie O'Sullivan was 8-5 up in his first-round match, with the first to 10 winning. O’Sullivan would have compiled a maximum in practice hundreds of times, but not with his World Championship hopes on the line in front of a TV audience. He cruises to the century mark in just four minutes, but amazingly that is not the fastest snooker 100 of all time. Tony Drago clocked up a ton in three minutes, 31 seconds against John Higgins at the UK Championship in 1996. You would struggle to boil an egg in that time.

5. Can it be beaten?

I broke the mould in 1982 with the first 147 in competitive tournament play, although I have to admit it took twice as long as the O’Sullivan effort 15 years later!

There were just seven more maximums made in the rest of the 1980s, whereas eight were made last year alone. While there are more tournaments now, and a higher standard, attitudes have changed too.

Modern-day players look at winning the frame in their first visit, so at some stage have to open up the reds. That lends itself very well to making a 147 break.

It’s become a more sophisticated break-building pattern. The players are stronger at withstanding the pressures. And once you’ve made one or two 147s, it becomes a lot easier to keep making them.

So could someone make a quicker 147 than five minutes and 20 seconds?

I’m not sure we are going to see that many players of that speed coming along who can push it much further than that. And that just leaves us to enjoy and marvel at Ronnie's achievement all the more.