I remember interviewing Mark Davis a few years ago. At the time he was rather stuck in the snooker mud, going neither forwards nor backwards. Endless anonymous qualifying matches were yielding little real success. He lost a lot of matches in deciders.
At the time Davis was reasonably upbeat. He said he felt he was playing well and needed one good performance to give him the crucial boost of confidence he required to kick on.
It came in the unlikeliest of events, the Six Reds World Championship in Killarney in December 2009.
Not a ranking event but a TV title, with Mark Williams his victim in the final.
The tournament may have been dismissed as meaningless by dyed in the wool traditionalists but it certainly wasn’t to Mark Davis. It gave him that spark of confidence he had been looking for. He rose up the rankings, first into the top 32 and then the top 16.
He started last season having been a professional for 21 years but never a semi-finalist in a ranking event. Then he reached the semi-finals of the first two ranking tournaments. In between, he won the six reds world title again, in Bangkok, Thailand. He went on to reach the semi-finals of the UK Championship.
Davis defends the six reds title next week as part of a stellar field which includes Neil Robertson, Mark Selby, Judd Trump, Shaun Murphy, Stephen Maguire, John Higgins, Ricky Walden, Barry Hawkins and Williams.
Six reds, for the uninitiated, is as it sounds: snooker with fewer reds. It never caught on in the way some predicted for the very simple reason that there’s nothing wrong with traditional 15 red snooker.
However, it is quite popular in Asia and one event a year is a novel departure from the norm.
It’s quicker because the reds split immediately. Some frames are over swiftly, although if players are struggling to pot a ball it doesn’t matter how many reds are on the table.
The whole history of cue sports is littered with experimentation with accepted rules. Snooker would not have existed without this, although thankfully when snooker was found to have worked, the experimentation stopped.
Most innovations come and they go – Power Snooker anyone? – but one international six reds event a year provides a slice of something different and could give the eventual winner an early season kick-start with some really big tournaments just around the corner.
I’m sure Mark Davis would agree with that.
The event is live all next week on Eurosport, the coverage starting on Monday.