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The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby LDS

At the beginning of last year's World Snooker Championship main event I noticed casually that the field seemed to be quite an old one. I speculated on a different forum to this that it must be the oldest WSC main event since the early 1980s.

So me being me I had to find out if my lazy assumption was actually for real or just some kind of cognitive bias.

I did some very rough and basic calculations last year and it turned out I was right, it was indeed the oldest WSC main event since the mid 1980s.

This year I decided to go the whole hog and improve my rough and ready data collection from last year and develop it into something much more precise.

Now that all the people are known for 2021's WSC main event I can now also add in this year, which turned out to be the oldest main event since 1982.

Here's the graph:


Full rules and details of workings available upon request as well as the exact average age right down to 5 or 6 decimal places.

Bizarrely enough, and I had to recalculate these years as I couldn't quite believe it, two of the years provided exact totals for the average age: 1995: exactly 28, 2010: exactly 32

Some fun information that naturally arose from this investigation is the following chart, which provides the entertaining information about who was the old crone everybody thought should've retired years ago, but still keeps winning matches, and who's the one to watch next season:


The main point of interest I gleaned from this chart is that none of the class of '92 have yet to achieve the status of Grand Old Man of any main event yet, and judging by the ages of previous entries, it will be quite a few years yet before people should be writing them off as being 'oldies'. I'd say we should be expecting to see both Ronnie and Higgins, and possibly but maybe not Williams, for at least the next five years unquestionably.

People definitely shouldn't be speculating on their age versus retirement until they've both had at least a couple of GOM credits.
Last edited by LDS on 15 Apr 2021, edited 5 times in total.

Re: The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby KrazeeEyezKilla

The oldest youngest chart is interesting because during the 80's the average age would have been pushed up the likes of F. Davis, Charlton etc. You don't see players at that age qualifying now. Charlton in 1992 would be the equivalent of Steve Davis qualifying last year and Fred Davis in 1984 was the same age as Thorburn in 2018 and Dennis Taylor in 2019. Jimmy White and John Parrot are still well below their ages. What happened since is two massive generations who turned pro between the early 90's and early 00's are still dominant and could be there for years to come.

Re: The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby lhpirnie

LDS wrote:
lhpirnie wrote:...

This is the seeds/qualifiers breakdown, showing the influence of certain generations.

Why does it only go back to 2010?

Oh I just generated it from match data I had, which only goes back to 2010. As you probably know, I'm not interested in the past at all, my motivation is to try and make sense of where the game is going, and if it has a future beyond the current boom.

Re: The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby chengdufan

This is super, I love it. I was going to do something similar at some point in the future, when the rankings revisit is up to date. But I was a long way off getting to it. I'm really delighted that you've taken it up!

Re: The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby chengdufan

It certainly confirms my intuition. I wonder if the cause is individual greatness (which could well be the case in such a small sample as 32), or more global factors :chin:

The fact that the youngest player's age has been roughly the same throughout is suggestive of the cause being individual greatness.

Counter-intuitively in data analysis, we may therefore be better looking at a smaller dataset, just the qualifiers and not the seeds.
That would eliminate individual greatness as a contributing factor and would provide us with a more general trend.

Thinking about it, the best way to answer my question might be to look at the average age of all the players ranked 17-96 at the end of each season...

Re: The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby LDS

chengdufan wrote:the cause

I wouldn't get too excited about causational reasons at this point, as the cause in the past two years has been simply the results of the Judgement Day matches seeing the younger players failing to overcome the veteran.

The average age of the top players will always increase over time. What balances that out is that as the guy at the top fades out, they are naturally replaced by the new prodigy starting out. For example, in 2017 we see Peter Ebdon have his last roll of the dice at 46 and in comes Yan Bingtao at 17.

However, this year, a bit like last year, has seen players who never were top-top players, but even more so this year than last year, clear out the 'newer' talent with surprising ease in the qualifiers.

Zhou Youlong (23) should simply not be losing to Liam Highfield (39). He should be breezing those kind of encounters by now.

Scott Donaldson (27) should have come into his prime by now, instead it is Matthew Selt (35) who was relatively untroubled at all.

Luca Brecel (26) likewise should have the upper hand on Stuart Bingham (44) by now.

Jamie Clarke (26) didn't ought to be struggling against the likes of Mark Davis (48)

Alexander Ursenbacher (24) against Ali Carter (41) should be a tough match, but it wasn't.

Lu Ning (27) has had a great season against Liang Wenbo's (34) poor season, but still no joy.

In the qualifiers, if the youngest contender had defeated the older contender in every match then the stat would have been:

2021 - Average Age of Player = 32.25 (the youngest since 2013)

However, 10 of the matches were won by the senior player, resulting in a dramatic:

2012 - Average Age of Player = 35.96875 (basically 36)

So the cause isn't the old top-pros being old top-pros, that's all normal. It isn't a failure of the new young guns, as Yan is proving, as are the two teenagers who got to Judgement Day, but rather the brief gap in talent that seems to have occurred in the player age range of the mid-20s.

All those guys who looked like the next big thing a few years back never actually matured into great players, at least at this point in time. The bit that's missing is the 22-28 bracket. This year only 2 players fall into that bracket, Lyu Haotian and Sam Craigie, neither of whom are high on people's to-watch list.

Its not really anyone's fault, and you don't get great players born every year (as my previous thread shows), so there's nothing really to worry about here, we're just in a brief anomaly caused by a few under-par years. All of whom could suddenly start getting results anyway once experience increases and nerves decrease.

Re: The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby LDS

So these are the Year-by-Year charts I'm making:


I went for the age ranges shown because:

26-34 is the optimum age-range for a physical sportsman. Looking at the first team of any high value football club should provide mainly 26-34yr olds.

17-21 is suggestive of more prodigal players.
22-25 is a more normal age for youth to start challenging competitively.
35-39 is those players that can eek out their prime a bit
40-49 is what we conceive of as an old pro
and 50+ is self-explanatory

The charts above are not ideal for comparison to those that follow as:

1977-79 are only 16 players
1980-81 is when the contest was expanded to 24 players
1982 was the first year where the competition was expanded to 32 players.

Hence why 1982 is so packed out in the older age ranges (and will be for a few more years into the mid-80s), because the sudden expansion allowed a whole raft of 70s nearly-men to suddenly qualify, including, but not limited to, such people as Jack Fitzmaurice (as recently mentioned on TV), Cliff Wilson, Rex Williams, Jim Meadowcroft and on and on.

However, you'll notice that the more youthful aspect of the sport was already in action right from 1980, with the graphs from then onwards being nice, normal, mountain shapes, with lots of variety and contrast for viewers to take an interest in.

However, I'll stop here for an hour or two and see if everyone likes my age-ranges as there's no point going full steam into all 45 if everyone's just going to say I've got the age-ranges wrong. Or, at least, they would prefer ones that they feel are more pertinent.

Re: The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby LDS

The next batch of six, from 1983-1988:


In which we see those hoards of 70s qualifiers slowly move to the right and drop off, to be replaced by much younger newly invested qualifiers who had no history in the 70s scene.

1985 in particular was a revolutionary year, not just because of the black ball frame, but just look at that youth bar, it is truly unprecedented.

While 1988 was a relatively old year, according to the averages, you'll notice how 1988 is now an almost perfect sporting graph, with its long tower for 26-34 and exactly even bars on each side. It's not quite perfect though as there's still a handful of those oldies filtering out and it lacks just one extra player in the 17-21 range to be a perfectly scaled sporting graph.

Re: The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby lhpirnie

Yes, I do think there's a difference between the 1980's and subsequent decades, because of the development of the sport. I really don't think age-related analysis from the 1980's can tell us much about the situation we have now. But from the 1990's, there probably are lessons we can learn.

Re: The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby LDS

Yes indeed, let's do that second revolution now as we move into the 1990s:


Continuing from 1988, the near perfect year for sporting perfection, that trend continues right up until 1992, with each year being pretty much what you'd expect a sporting event to be like, with healthy scatterings of youth, a huge domination of 26-34 year olds and an equal and opposite scattering of seasoned pros.

And then suddenly in 1993 it starts to go a bit haywire.

Kids everywhere! New faces peering round every corner! Who are they? Are they any good? Which one shall I keep an eye on next season! My God, I'm actually starting to feel sorry for Dennis Taylor and Terry Griffiths!

And then 1994 hits.

And for the first time in snooker history, and completely against the nature of sporting events, the very small age-range category of 22-25 is now the most numerous faction!

It's like 1982 but in reverse. Instead of the scene suddenly being inundated with nobodies from the 70s qualifier scene, we're now being inundated from the local polytechnic qualifier scene.

Names are coming and going before we can even conceptualise their existence. We are suddenly numb to the excitement of youthful players. Another wonder kid knocking in centuries for fun? Meh. Call me back if he makes it another two seasons.

And it's not that there was a lack of personality amongst this new deluge, it was just that we didn't know any of them long enough to develop any sense of personality in the short amount of time we'd known them. And so people started to complain about young robots replacing the legendary personalities.

So in the same way 1982 created a false sense of 'old cronies' about 80s snooker, 1994 created a false sense of 'boredom' about 90s snooker. And these charts help us see how 1987-1992 seem like such a specifically 'perfect' era for snooker.

People often put the blame of snooker's decline in the late 90s down to Hendry always winning being boring, but, again, that is simply not true and does a huge disservice to the great man.

Anyway, lets see if things settle down a bit as the 90s progresses and as people start to get used to the new characters who do manage find their way out of this utterly bizarre deluge and into the public consciousness.

Re: The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby LDS

The late 90s and the start of the new millennium:


Each graph is almost indistinguishable isn't it.

The constant inflow of kids remains relentless and it's easy to see here why commentators and pundits at the time starting repeating the phrase "it's a young man's game now" with nauseating regularity.

It created such a dominating atmosphere that it was almost frowned upon socially if a player made any conscious effort to maintain their prescience beyond the age of 35.

As if a Soylent Green salesman had wandered in and made a stall for himself behind the curtains. Only Steve Davis and Jimmy White to be taken to one side before they made a purchase and have someone whisper in their ear "no, no, you're ok, don't touch the Soylent, wink wink".

However, this new way of things did seem to offer at least a sense of stability, of a kind. A handful of players were indeed emerging from the ceaseless packs of n00bs and by 2000 the game once again had a healthy collection of varied personalities, all of whom one could consider title contenders.

This was now the era of the 30 year old being the seasoned pro and Peter Ebdon versus Ronnie O'Sullivan was akin to watching Alex Higgins versus Cliff Thorburn and watching John Higgins versus Stephen Hendry was like watching Jimmy White versus Steve Davis.

So, by 2000, things were, kinda, back to normal. Just a normal that was normal minus 10 age-years from a relativist perspective.

Re: The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby LDS

And then, as if by magic, something happened in 2001:


The kids stopped pouring in.

So the main scene had settled down to a strong collection of reliable personalities, there was less chaos in the lower orders and people had stopped moaning about robots and boredom. Of even more excitement, it seems the Soylent salesman has finally packed-up and left and 'old' people are allowed to compete once again.

And as normality resumed, so do the charts.

Both 2003 and 2005 are both what one would call a near perfect sporting chart.

The only issue that seems to be hiding in these charts is that the prime age group, the 26-34's are slightly too dominant by the tiniest fraction. If only there was one more person in each other category from that main tower it would be P E R F E C T.

But wait...

What is that on the horizon?

A great chunk of that bulk from the 26-34 group just suddenly shifted to the right in that 2006 chart...

Hmm, that 2006 chart reminds me an awful lot of that 1979 chart...

Ooh, where's this headed?

Re: The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby LDS

2007-2012. Where was it headed? Pure, unadulterated, P E R F E C T I O N:


And we have finally returned to a perfection not seen since 1987-1992.

There is nothing much to say here. No quips, no gags, no insinuations, no snark. It has taken 15 years to get back to full normality, but we've finally made it.

Snooker charts exactly as snooker charts are supposed to be.

[ok, so in a couple of them maybe one or two less 35-39s and maybe 1 more 50+'er but that's just pedantry]

Snooker is in an absolute perfect state of health.

And interestingly enough, the average age at this point is also the same average age of 1987-1992.


Re: The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby LDS

And finally, 2013-2021. Let the oldening commence.


Lol at those last two particularly.

2021? We have a new record, the first time ever the age range 26-34 has been overtaken by the age range 35-39!

Also, 2018 and 2020 had the highest percentage of 40-49 players in Crucible history. 2021 is at least only comparable to 1978 in this regard.

2018 and 2021 are also the joint lowest years since 1978 for the total percentage of all youth players, at less than 10% combined.

2015 looks like 2006 and 1979 again. 2014 and 2016 aren't too dissimilar.

With 2013, 2017 and 2019 being the only relatively normal looking years.

Interesting times!

Now, off to bed & then it starts! <cool> :D

Re: The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby LDS

I did a fun epilogue: Age ranges of finalists and then broken down into winners and runner-ups.


Practically zero difference in the three graphs, and they all conform to perfect sporting graphs.

What's the twist though?

Well, interestingly enough, two thirds of all finals have at least one player who does not fall into the 26-34 age range, what would be termed an age-outsider or outlier.

It is actually dramatically more likely that a final will have at least one of either a really young guy or a really old guy than two traditionally perfectly aged players. Having two 26-34 year olds in the final is a statistical unlikelihood, despite the seemingly counterintuitive graphs above!

The oldest combined age for a final was Williams vs Higgins in 2018 at 85yrs. Which can't be beaten this year unless Mark Davis or Barry Hawkins makes it to the final as all of the Co92 are in the same half of the draw along with Bingham.

The youngest combined age for a final was Williams vs Stevens in 2000 at 47yrs. Which can't be beaten this year as Lyu Haotian has been knocked out already and was in the same half of the draw as Yan anyway.

The youngest winner was Stephen Hendry at 21 and 3 odd months and the youngest runner up was Judd Trump at 21 and 8 odd months, both of which could be beaten if Yan makes it to the final and does or doesn't win it.

The oldest Winner was Ray Reardon in 1978 at 45yrs. This can be beaten by Higgins, Williams or Mark Davis.

The oldest Runner-Up was Ray Reardon in 1982 at 49yrs. This cannot be beaten this year. Needless to say, the oldest finalist cannot be beaten this year either.

Re: The Average Age of the WSC Main Event 1977-2021

Postby LDS

I apologise to all mobile users, this thread must be virtually unreadable to them :emb:

But, yeah, just wanted to point out how apt it was that the two finalists this year were both in the 35-39 age range, suitably fitting for the year in which that demographic is the most numerous faction.

And yet it could so easily have been a 29 year old and a 44 year old.

This was the first year ever to have both the two finalists be aged 35-39.

Looking forward to next years event, both Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo will enter the 35-39 bracket and Neil Robertson, Martin Gould and David Gilbert will move into the 40+ bracket. Yan Bingtao will move into the young bracket (as oppose to the prodigy bracket).