World Snooker Championship 2023: 10-year trends point to...

The Crucible Sheffield
Who will take victory in Sheffield this year?

Dave Tindall looks at the make-up of the last 10 world champions to try and find this year's winner...

In last year's trends piece, I opened with the line that 2022 had been snooker's craziest season in memory.

And yet, I also asked: does that almost impossible to predict randomness carry over to the sport's biggest event?

I concluded that it was very easy to say 'no' as due to its longer format and unique setting, The Crucible was so often the scene of order being restored rather than chaos being allowed to roam.

In a tournament with such strong trends, it seemed the Sheffield showpiece was an ideal candidate for such an article.

And that's how it worked out. Judd Trump and Ronnie O'Sullivan came out as the top two players in my rankings and, lo and behold, it was that pair who contested the final.

It seems fair then to use the same trends and points system as 12 months ago.

Let's start by looking at the last 10 winners and how they shaped up at the time of their triumphs:

2022 - Ronnie O'Sullivan

Age at time: 46
Seeding: 2nd
Crucible appearances: 29
Previous Crucible Best: Win
Previous year: R2
Won a ranking event that season: Yes

2021 - Mark Selby

Age at time: 37
Seeding: 4th
Crucible appearances: 16
Previous Crucible Best: Win
Previous year: SF
Won a ranking event that season: Yes

2020 - Ronnie O'Sullivan

ronnie o'sullivan 1280x720.jpg

Age at time: 44
Seeding: 6th
Crucible appearances: 27
Previous Crucible Best: Win
Previous year: R1
Won a ranking event that season: No

2019 - Judd Trump

Age at time: 29
Seeding: 7th
Crucible appearances: 9
Previous Crucible Best: Final
Previous year: QF
Won a ranking event that season: Yes

2018 - Mark Williams

Age at time: 43
Seeding: 7th
Crucible appearances: 19
Previous Crucible Best: Win
Previous year: DNQ
Won a ranking event that season: Yes

2017 - Mark Selby

Age at time: 33
Seeding: 1st
Crucible appearances: 12
Previous Crucible Best: Win
Previous year: Win
Won a ranking event that season: Yes

2016 - Mark Selby

Age at time: 32
Seeding: 2nd
Crucible appearances: 11
Previous Crucible Best: Win
Previous year: R2
Won a ranking event that season: No

2015 - Stuart Bingham

Age at time: 38
Seeding: 10th
Crucible appearances: 8
Previous Crucible Best: QF
Previous year: R1
Won a ranking event that season: Yes

2014 - Mark Selby

Mark Selby - 1280.jpg

Age at time: 30
Seeding: 3rd
Crucible appearances: 9
Previous Crucible Best: Final
Previous year: R2
Won a ranking event that season: No

2013 - Ronnie O'Sullivan

Age at time: 37
Seeding: 1st
Crucible appearances: 20
Previous Crucible Best: Win
Previous year: Win
Won a ranking event that season: No

The Points System

So let's turn to the scores for the 2023 event.

As was the case last year, I'm only looking at the top 16 seeds. This preview is an attempt to select the winner rather than identify a plucky qualifier reaching the last four before going out.

True, qualifers have won before - Shaun Murphy in 2005 and Terry Griffiths in 1979 - but they're like hen's teeth. A non-seed lifting the trophy would come as a massive surprise.

Let's break off then and list our first category...

Age

The same as last year, I'm awarding points based on how often each age group won across the last 10 editions. So, as six 30-somethings triumphed in the study period, anyone in their 30s this year is awarded 6pts. Here's the allocation.

In their 20s: 1pt
In their 30: 6pts
In their 40s: 3pts

Judd Trump was in his 20s when winning his first and, so far, only world title in 2019 but he's the only one from that age bracket in the last 10 years to have lifted the famous trophy.

Experience is massive and 40-somethings have won three of the last five.

Mark Williams.jpg

Seeding

As mentioned, I'm only looking at the world's top 16 but there are different levels of eliteness within that group and history says the very top seeds have an edge. In the last 10 years, every winner has been ranked in the top 16 but six of those were top-four seeds.

Three players expected to reach the quarters (i.e. seeded 5th to 8th) triumphed while just one (Stuart Bingham) was seeded 10th or higher. Again, using frequency, the points allocated are as follows.

Players seeded 1-4: 6pts
Players seeded 5-8: 3pts
Players seeded 9-16: 1pts

Crucible Appearances

Experience of The Crucible seems absolutely imperative and every winner in the last 10 years had played there at least eight times. The optimum amount of appearances is between 8 and 12 (five winners in the last 10 years had played such a number) so anyone fitting that bill scores highest.

Between 8 and 12 past appearances inc: 5pts
Between 13 and 19 appearances inc: 2pts
Made 20 or more appearances: 3pts
Under 8 appearances: 0pts

Best World Championship Result

There's no getting away from the fact that the most likely winner at The Crucible is someone who has already won there before. That's applied in seven of the last 10 years with Mark Selby (2021) and Ronnie O'Sullivan (2020 and 2022) adding to the trend in the latest three editions. Two of the other three winners in the last 10 years had previously reached the final.

Past winner: 7pts
Beaten finalist: 2pts
Reached quarters/semis: 1pts
Not gone beyond last 16: 0pts

Last Year

The most famous Crucible trend is that a first-time winner has never managed to defend the title. Some have failed spectacularly: Steve Davis being thrashed 10-1 by Tony Knowles in 1982 the most extreme example.

But a reverse effect has happened too with those who fell below expectations one year coming back strongly 12 months later. The exact stat is that seven of the last 10 winners hadn't made the one table set-up (i.e. reached the semis) the year before.

More points are allocated, therefore, to those with some extra hunger. To boost the tallies of some of the newer players, they also get 7pts for not reaching the semis last year.

Won last year: 2pts
Reached semis last year: 1pt
Didn't reach semis last year: 7pts

Current Form

We need to reflect latest well-being so here's a stat to measure form coming in to Sheffield and it's a strong one: 9 of the last 10 Crucible winners had made at least a semi-final in one of their previous three starts on tour.

Those who haven't met that stipulation this year include O'Sullivan, Trump and Mark Allen so their points tallies take a hit.

Made a semi-final in one of previous three starts: 9pts
Not reached a semi in one of previous three starts: 1pt

World Ranking Win

How important is it for a prospective world champion to have shown their mettle by winning a ranking event earlier that season?

The stats say it's far from essential as four of the last 10 winners hadn't secured a ranking title in that same campaign. Then again, six had. Surprisingly, those without a ranking success this time include O'Sullivan and Neil Robertson.

Won a ranking title this season: 6pts
Not won a ranking title this season: 4pts

Fatigue

A long, gruelling season can be detrimental in any sport and it certainly applies in snooker too. Trump, due to getting to the business end of tournaments so often, had played 104 matches before the 2021 World Championship.

Perhaps a victim of his own success, he was in the 'red zone' when arriving at The Crucible and fatigue could have been a contributing factor in his 13-11 loss to Shaun Murphy in the quarters. He'd only played 83 matches when winning in 2019 and 68 when reaching last year's final.

Judd Trump puffs cheeks.jpg

The stat that taps into workload is that 8 of the last 10 Crucible winners had played 100 or fewer matches that season. Only Ronnie in 2013 (when he turned up after having the year off!) and again in 2020 (45 matches) have played under 50 so it's not ideal to be a little undercooked either.

Played over 100 matches this season: 2pts
Played between 50 and 100 matches this season: 6pts
Played under 50 matches this season: 2pts

Crucible expectations

Finally, I want a stat that rewards players who always seemed to overperform at the Crucible but deducts points from those who perennialy fall short of expectations.

For example, Neil Robertson banks good points for being a past winner but surely it needs to be taken into account how often he's failed to live up to his billing since then.

He was the selection in 2021 but flopped and a second-round exit last year meant he didn't make it to the one table set-up for the eighth World Championship running. Whether his own theory about the tightness of the playing area not allowing him to walk into shots holds any water is open to debate but, for whatever reason, his results haven't cut the mustard.

Neil Robertson long pot.jpg

Therefore, to get a guide that translates into points, I've looked at how each player performed in relation to their seeding.

Put crudely, the No.1 seed is expected to win, the No.2 seed to lose in the final, seeds 3 and 4 to lose in the semis, seeds 5-8 to go out in the quarters and seeds 9-16 to perish in round two. So, if a sixth seed made the last four, he'd be overperforming. Conversely, if a third seed lost in the last eight, he'd be underperforming.

Using five years of evidence I've scored each player on whether they overperformed, underperformed or met expectations (e.g. a seventh seed reaching the quarter-finals but then being beaten).

Underperforming: -2pts per year
Overperforming: +2 points each year
Meeting expectations: 0pts

Robertson hasn't lived up to his seeding in each of the last five years so he racks up -10pts here. Luca Brecel scores -8. Those benefitting from such a system are Kyren Wilson, Mark Williams and Ali Carter, who all score +4.

The final scores

Right, let's get to the exciting bit!!

The final scores are in and, drumroll, these are the leading tallies:

48 Kyren Wilson
47 Mark Selby
40 Ali Carter
39 Shaun Murphy
35 Gary Wilson
33 Mark Allen, Stuart Bingham
31 Robert Milkins
30 John Higgins
28 Judd Trump, Mark Williams
27 Ding Junhui
26 Ronnie O'Sullivan, Jack Lisowski
23 Neil Robertson
10 Luca Brecel

First thought, what an unxpected set of results!

While there were a few mutterings last year that a trends piece that picked out Trump and O'Sullivan as the top two was hardly earth-shattering, the exact same scoring system has thrown up some eye-popping rankings this time.

Ali Carter in third! Trump and O'Sullivan way down the field!

It's also noticeable that the top two - Kyren Wilson and Mark Selby - are some way clear of the pack.

Kyren Wilson.jpg

Last year, the trends played out perfectly as Trump and O'Sullivan were in opposite halves of the draw. This time it's not the case and, if results pan out, Wilson and Selby would meet in the last eight.

Third-ranked Carter and fifth-ranked Gary Wilson are also in the bottom half so therefore it could pay to keep an eye out on Shaun Murphy.

The 2005 winner and four-time finalist arrives in superb form and, at third in the above rankings, he's the highest scoring player in the top half.

So how about a Kyren Wilson v Shaun Murphy showdown - a repeat of the Tour Championship final in Hull a few weeks ago which Murphy won 10-7. I'd be hoping for a different outcome this time of course.

To conclude, in a year when many of the big guns are out of form, step forward Kyren Wilson - a 16/1 shot on the Sportsbook. He gets top spot for a strong, overachieving (compared to his seeding) record at the Crucible which includes a defeat to Ronnie in the 2020 final. The seventh seed also heads to Sheffield in excellent form for his opener against Ryan Day.

Selby is a 11/2 shot on the Sportsbook and looks the best alternative but, sorry Ronnie backers, his poor season is reflected in a low points tally and he's no stranger to an early exit at the Crucible despite his record-equalling seven wins there.

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