The miss rule is an essential part of the modern game and it must remain so. However it always seems to cause disagreements. If this is not addressed, (certainly at lower league level) the potential for arguments and the associated harm to the game that this causes will continue. I believe the rule in its current form contains elements of ambiguity and unfairness. Players can feel ‘cheated’ in certain situations even when the rule is correctly applied.
In thinking about this I tried to understand why we need the miss rule and how we can easily use the same set of rules in one frame snooker for beginners and also best of 35 frame professional encounters.
There are basically two reasons to snooker your opponent.
Reason 1: To score 4-7 points. Quite often this is because a player needs snookers to win. This is one of the reasons why misses can’t be called when snookers are required. There is no advantage in missing. In this case the miss rule is fine. 4 points is a fair return if your opponent makes a foul.
Reason 2: To get a tactical advantage or scoring opportunity. In this situation there can be an advantage in the snookered player ‘missing’ hence the miss rule. The main advantage of missing in this case is to not give your opponent an opportunity to score.
This is where the miss rule is plain wrong and the ambiguity and unfairness come in. I’m often told by referees that the miss rule is not ambiguous or subjective and that the rule is clear and objective. Of course the letter of the law is reasonably clear and objective but the reason for the miss rule is not (Reason 2). Denying your opponent “the opportunity to score” by missing is VERY subjective. This means the very basis for the miss rule is not sound and not fair.
Here’s a few examples:
Example 1: A player is snookered with 15 reds on the table. They are spread far and wide and the colours are on their spots. Of course in this situation if the player misses it should be a ‘miss’. Here the miss rule is fine.
Example 2: A player is 30 points in front with 35 on and snookered on the last red. The colours are very awkwardly placed and even if the player successfully escapes the snooker the most points that can realistically be subsequently scored by their opponent is 4 (maybe a red and a green). This is where there is a BIG problem with the miss rule. In this case there is NO ADVANTAGE in missing because there is little or no “opportunity to score” (Reason 2).
Above I believe we have examples of when a ‘miss’ call is fair and not fair. This unfairness can be abused by the non-striker by consistently asking for the cue ball to be replaced even though there is “opportunity to score” the very reason the rule was introduced! This abuse is an unfortunate by-product of the miss rule. It is a perceived unfairness and has considerably changed the game for the worst at lower league levels.
Based on the two examples above how should the referee make a subjective decision to call a ‘miss’ or not? Of course the answer is they shouldn’t have to.
The answer is let the players decide between them using an extension to the miss rule.
Here’s how it might work:
A miss should be called exactly as it is now.
If the non-striker elects to have the cue ball replaced at any time the striker can either accept this and play on as currently OR can veto the replacement on the cue ball and offer their opponent “ball in hand”, meaning place the cue ball anywhere and play the next ball on.
This would mean in example 1 above the snookered player could continue attempting to escape, giving away 4, 8, 12, 16 or more points but non giving away the potentially massive (and in this case unfair) “ball in hand” advantage to their opponent when there are 15 well spread reds on the table.
In example 2 this would mean the snookered player, when missing could opt to give “ball in hand” to their opponent knowing the “opportunity to score” might not outweigh the possible points given away in a succession of ‘misses’
This would also allow for the removal of the perceived unfairness, when the non-striker has the cue ball replaced even when they have the “opportunity to score” (the main reason for the introduction of the miss rule!).
For those opposed to the “ball in hand” principle remember in the change outlined above still allows the snookered player to not offer “ball in hand” and continue re-attempting to escape the snooker so they would be no worse off than currently.
A change to the miss rule as described above might not be perfect and may not affect the professional game too much but would be a massive improvement at lower league levels.
Why change the game? After all, this is “Snooker” and snookers are a big part of the game. Otherwise we would call it “Potter”.
The only people complaining about the FAM are those who have been caught and that is usually because they don’t know how to get out of snookers. So wouldn’t it be better for those people to practice those angles and not just practice potting?
A month ago we were playing the colours from the yellow and 5 times in a row my opponent played off the yellow to snooker me behind the green and blue on the side cushion. He needed to play at least 2 cushions to lay each snooker and I needed to play at least 2 cushions to get out of them each time. Of those this amatuer only fouled once but the battle continued. In the beginning I was more than 40 points ahead so FAM didn’t come into play… that is until his score was in range. But when FAM started counting, that game got even more interesting.
So you want to kill the thrill of the game simply because you and few other potters cannot get out of snookers?
It’s boring, both for spectators and players, the game used to be about skill in potting balls and break building, NOT trying to win a frame by use of a rule? How absurd! I think I will use my legal advice and the next referee I encounter who calls foul and a miss, will duly be served legal papers, for defamation of character. You have all been warned, lol