Snooker

World Snooker Championship 2024: 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...

  • Dave Tindall looks at 10 years of Crucible form

  • Age, tournament record and more feed into his research

  • Who will come out on top this year?


After this trends column identified both finalists in 2022 when the top two in my points rankings - Judd Trump and Ronnie O'Sullivan - contested the Crucible showpiece, perhaps a crash in 2023 was inevitable.

And so it proved. Despite his obvious talent, Luca Brecel had never been beyond the first round in five previous appearances when he arrived at Sheffield in 2023 so the Belgian was an absolute trends buster when he played some brilliant snooker before taking down Mark Selby in the final.

Although it made me look a bit of a chump, at least the preview wasn't a total write-off as beaten finalist Selby had ranked second behind Kyren Wilson, the duo quite a way clear after the numbers were crunched.

The trends also predicted Ronnie's early demise; he lost to Brecel in the quarters.

Brecel was an outlier but, of course, to be a trends buster, the trends have to have been there in the first place. At the Crucible they most definitely are.

So let's hold our nerve and use the same trends and points system as 12 months ago.


We begin by looking at the last 10 winners and how they shaped up at the time of their triumphs:

2023 - Luca Brecel

Age at time: 28
Seeding: 13th
Crucible appearances: 5
Previous Crucible Best: R1
Previous year: R1
Won a ranking event that season: Yes

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

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

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


The Points System

So let's turn to the scores for the 2024 event.

As usual I'm only looking at the top 16 seeds. True, qualifiers have won before - Shaun Murphy in 2005 and Terry Griffiths in 1979 - but they're incredibly rare. A non-seed lifting the trophy would come as a massive surprise..

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


Age

I'm awarding points based on how often each age group won across the last 10 editions. So, as five 30-somethings triumphed in the study period, anyone in their 30s this year is awarded 5pts. Here's the allocation.

In their 20s: 2pt
In their 30: 5pts
In their 40s: 3pts

This is where Brecel starts his trends busting. Judd Trump was the only previous winner in his 20s when he won in 2019 but 28-year-old Brecel struck another blow for the 20-somethings with his victory last year.

Experience has counted for plenty though in the last 10 years, with more winners in their 40s than 20s.


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 half of those were top-four seeds.

Three players expected to reach the quarters (i.e. seeded 5th to 8th) triumphed while Brecel (13th) joined Stuart Bingham as the only seed in the last 10 years ranked higher than 10th. Again, using frequency, the points allocated are as follows.

Players seeded 1-4: 5pts
Players seeded 5-8: 3pts
Players seeded 9-16: 2pts


Crucible Appearances

Experience of The Crucible seems absolutely imperative and, until that rascal Brecel, every winner in the last 10 years had played there at least eight times. Brecel had played five.

Between 8 and 12 past appearances inc: 5pts
Between 13 and 19 appearances inc: 2pts
Made 20 or more appearances: 2pts
Under 8 appearances: 1pt


Best World Championship Result

Brecel or not, there's no getting away from the fact that the most likely winner at The Crucible is someone who has already won there before or at least made the final. That applies to 8 of the last 10.

Past winner: 6pts
Beaten finalist: 2pts
Reached quarters/semis: 1pts
Not gone beyond last 16: 1pt


Last Year

This is a slightly unexpected trend but perhaps has some logic in terms of hunger. It seems that those who fell below expectations one year come back strongly 12 months later. The exact stat is that eight of the last 10 winners hadn't made the one table set-up (i.e. reached the semis) the year before.

Won last year: 1pt
Reached semis last year: 1pt
Didn't reach semis last year: 8pts


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: 8 of the last 10 Crucible winners had made at least a semi-final in one of their previous three starts on tour.

Brecel was one of the two who hadn't. He's beginning to annoy me now.

Made a semi-final in one of previous three starts: 8pts
Not reached a semi in one of previous three starts: 2pts


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?

Well, here's a trend that Brecel actually added to as he'd started his season by winning the Championship League (a ranking event).

Won a ranking title this season: 7pts
Not won a ranking title this season: 3pts


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 the 2022 final.

The stat that taps into workload is that 8 of the last 10 Crucible winners had played 100 or fewer matches that season. It's not ideal to be a little undercooked either and Brecel was one of just two of the last 10 to have played under 50.

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 seem to overperform at the Crucible but deducts points from those who perennialy fall short of expectations.

Yes, yes, Brecel is at it again as he'd had years of underperforming but surely it needs to be taken into account if a player keeps failing to live up to their billing.

The classic case is Neil Robertson, who despite being one of the perennial favourites (although he's now dropped out of the top 16) hasn't made it to the semi-finals since 2014.

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


The final scores

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

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

45 Judd Trump
43 Mark Williams
40 Gary Wilson
39 Ronnie O'Sullivan, Kyren Wilson
38 Zhang Anda
33 John Higgins
31 Mark Allen
29 Ding Junhui, Mark Selby, Ali Carter, Barry Hawkins
28 Shaun Murphy
26 Tom Ford
25 Robert Milkins
24 Luca Brecel

For the second time in three years, Judd Trump tops the trends.

Back Judd Trump to win the World Snooker Championship

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But before any presumption that the numbers are designed to vault him to the top, it's worth reminding ourselves that he came out only joint 10th in the 2023 trends.

Heading to Sheffield this year, he looks in far better shape than 12 months ago and hopefully he can give us the same run as in 2022 when he showed he was worthy of top spot in the rankings by making the final.

If Trump, a 4/15.00 shot, can be viewed as slightly obvious, it's certainly a surprise to see 14/115.00 Mark Williams and 33/134.00 Gary Wilson nudge in front of seven-time winner and 5/23.50 favourite. Ronnie O'Sullivan.

The big catch is that all four are in the bottom half of the draw. If the trends play out Ronnie would play Wilson in the quarters while Trump would take on Williams in another last-eight clash.

Therefore, while those four slug it out - a Trump v Wilson semi is on the cards if the numbers work - it's worth noting who is the highest-ranked trends player in the top half of the draw.

The answer is Kyren Wilson, the 2020 finalist, who can be backed at 28/129.00. The Englishman has a semi-final and a quarter-final in his latest three starts in 2024.

Back Kyren Wilson to win the World Snooker Championship

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Amusingly, Brecel comes last in the scoring with just 24pts. He couldn't wreck this preview again, could he?

Of course he couldn't. Why? Brecel will be trying to overcome the biggest trend of the lot - the "Crucible curse" which refers to the fact that no first-time winner has ever retained the title there.


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