World Masters of Snooker: Information and a Potted History

Getty Images/Richard Pelham
The first professional snooker tournament ever to be held in Saudi Arabia took place in 2024 with the introduction of the lucrative Riyadh Season World Masters of Snooker.

(Please note, this event is different to the Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters that is a new ranking event due to be played for the first time later in 2024) 

The invitational event meant a return for the sport to the Middle East region, with the last competition there being the 2008 Bahrain Championship in Manama. 

Held at the Global Theatre in Boulevard City, the World Masters of Snooker was part of the wider Riyadh Season sports and entertainment festival. Initially advertised as a 10-player event featuring the world’s top eight ranked players and two local wildcards, the field was expanded at the last minute when world numbers nine (Ding Junhui) and ten (John Higgins) were both invited following the addition of another session and a preliminary round. 

The World Masters of Snooker features the ‘Riyadh Season Gold Ball’ which is present at the start of every frame and is placed touching the baulk cushion in the middle, directly in-line with the brown spot. 

All frames are played to traditional matchplay snooker rules, but should a player make a 147 break, they are invited to pot the gold ball – which is worth an additional 20 points – to compile the first ever 167 golden maximum. 

If a 147 break is no longer possible in a frame, the gold ball is removed from the table for the remainder of that frame. 

This ‘167’ concept certainly got people talking, especially with a bonus of $500,000 on offer for the first player to make one. However, that prize wasn’t cashed in during the inaugural installment as no-one achieved the feat, although Higgins went close when he missed a thin pot on the final yellow ball whilst on a break of 120.

Credit: Getty Images/Richard PelhamCredit: Getty Images/Richard Pelham
Credit: Getty Images/Richard Pelham | Getty Images/Richard Pelham

In the actual tournament itself - as is so often the case with these new, big money, elite extravaganzas – Ronnie O’Sullivan rose to the occasion and claimed the £250,000 winner’s kitty. 

O’Sullivan began with a sensational 4-0 blitz of Higgins in the last eight where he constructed three consecutive century breaks and didn’t allow his helpless opponent to pot a single ball throughout the entire match. 

‘The Rocket’ got the better of Judd Trump 4-1 in a scrappy semi-final affair before winning the final four frames in a 5-2 victory against reigning world champion Luca Brecel in the final. 

Across the short-format tournament, O’Sullivan registered six century breaks from the 13 frames he needed for glory in Riyadh. 

In total, 16 century breaks were crafted across the three days with Ding’s contribution of 138 in the round of 10 standing as the highest. 

It is widely assumed that the Riyadh Season World Masters of Snooker will return in the 2024/25 season, as during the trophy ceremony, HE Advisor Turki Alalshikh announced that the 167 golden maximum bonus will rise to $1,000,000 for the second edition.

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