There is an A4 size package - that gets thicker every year – which arrives in the post at home around the start of April, provoking raised eyebrows from my better half and usually cries of ‘Saddo!’ from the kids.
This is the famous - or infamous depending on your point of view - ‘Crucible Almanac’, an encyclopaedic compendium of records, statistics, scores, matches, players, frames, prize money and breaks from the Betfred World Championship assembled lovingly by superfan Chris Downer going all the way back to the first staging of the blue-riband tournament in Sheffield in 1977.
I don’t know how many of these Chris produces and sells each year, it probably isn’t that many and those carrying them around in Sheffield could probably form their own Masonic society. In fact for some that isn’t far from the truth, and sessions of ‘Almanac Q&A’ are not unheard of during the longer safety exchanges.
Far more worryingly even my youngest daughter picked it up and started testing me on these ‘dark statistics’ before heading north. Needless to say I did terribly, but she did seem alarmingly drawn to the random trivia contained within. Social services are on standby.
For any member of the media in attendance, however, the book is a must-buy and represents excellent value for the £20 or whatever it is we shell out annually. The moment you want to know how many qualifiers have won the world title (this is an easy one) turn to Page 139 where you will see Terry Griffiths and Shaun Murphy are the only players to have done it.
How many Crucible maximum 147 breaks? Page 188, that’s 11 to date – assuming we don’t get one later on Monday – with Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry leading the way on three each. Most centuries in a Crucible match? That is seven, shared by Ding Junhui (2016 v Alan McManus) and Judd Trump (2019 final v John Higgins) on Page 189. And so it goes on.
The reason for raising all this is that there will be a new record included for the 2022 edition – showing that in 2021 for the first time in Crucible history there were six world champions in the quarter-final line-up.
Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, Stuart Bingham, Mark Williams, Shaun Murphy and Mark Selby. Who would have ever thought that record could be smashed to pieces without even a Ronnie O’Sullivan or a John Higgins anywhere to be seen?
This year’s field looked especially strong from the moment that 14 of the 16 seeds made it through the first round, leaving the last 16 featuring some colossal ties that might easily have been a final such as Williams v Higgins.
Of the two that have never lifted the trophy one – Kyren Wilson – has been in the final last year. And the other, Anthony McGill, only failed to make the final after seeing Wilson fluke the final green in their crazy semi-final decider last August.
Murphy and Selby completed on Monday night the most powerful quarter-final line-up in Crucible history.
‘Magician’ Murphy – who now plays Trump, after beating Masters champion Yan Bingtao 13-7 – said, “It is great to be back in the quarter-finals after six years, I have had a few painful losses in that time.
“Judd is world No1, a massive favourite and the player to beat, all the pressure is off me.”
Three-time winner Selby, 37, claimed a 13-7 victory over Northern Ireland’s former Masters champion Mark Allen and will now take on Williams.
Selby said, “I felt good all the tournament so far, in the first round and then again in the first session against Mark in this one.
“I was in control and just knew I had to stay calm and focused. I can be my own worst enemy when I miss and my coach Chris Henry has helped deal with the mental side of it.”
Bingham will play O’Sullivan’s conqueror McGill. Bingham, 44, who had to qualify this year, soon wrapped up a 13-6 victory over world No69 Jamie Jones.
He rattled in breaks of 117, 68 and 102 from his overnight lead of 10-6, and Bingham remains on track to be only the third qualifier after Terry Griffiths and Murphy to lift the trophy.
Scot McGill, 30, is certain he has at least one title wrapped at this event. The Crucible’s foundations are shaking every time McGill walks out to the sound of rock giants AC/DC’s ‘Touch Too Much’.
And McGill said, “My girlfriend Jennifer picked it. I’ve been listening to all of the walk-ons during the tournament, and mine’s the best - 100 per cent. I’m taking the walk-on song trophy home.”