Post a reply

the greatest of all time ?

Postby csprince

Monday 15 Mar 2021 10:25AM
A complex mathematical study, analysing all matches played since 1968, has named John Higgins as the highest performing snooker player of the modern era.

Higgins came out on top ahead of Ronnie O’Sullivan, with Mark Williams third and Stephen Hendry fourth.


It’s not Rocket science: this is the equation which ranked John Higgins above Ronnie O’Sullivan

The study, led by Joseph D O’Brien of the University of Limerick and published in the Journal of Complex Networks, examined nearly 48,000 results between 1968 and 2020. An intricate algorithm weights results based on the quality of the opponent, and also takes into account head-to-head records between the leading players.

And Higgins came out on top, despite trailing other all-time greats in terms of major titles. He has four World Championship crowns, compared to Hendry’s seven and O’Sullivan’s six, while Higgins has won 31 ranking titles, compared to 37 for O’Sullivan and 36 for Hendry.

Acknowledging the study, Higgins said: “I’m truly flattered, but I have to admit I have not won enough of the big titles consistently to be regarded as the greatest of all time. If I had to give the accolade to anyone it would have to be my rival for so many years…Ronnie!”

Table 1The top 20 players in Snooker’s history.
Rank Player PageRank score In strength Nationality Start End
1 John Higgins 0.0204 899 Scotland 1992 —
2 Ronnie O’Sullivan 0.0201 843 England 1992 —
3 Mark Williams 0.0169 768 Wales 1992 —
4 Stephen Hendry 0.0164 818 Scotland 1985 2011
5 Mark Selby 0.0149 643 England 1999 —
6 Judd Trump 0.0136 579 England 2005 —
7 Neil Robertson 0.0134 581 Australia 2000 —
8 Steve Davis 0.0129 761 England 1978 2014
9 Shaun Murphy 0.0126 552 England 1998 —
10 Jimmy White 0.0116 650 England 1980 —
11 Stephen Maguire 0.0113 475 Scotland 1997 —
12 Ali Carter 0.0111 487 England 1996 —
13 Peter Ebdon 0.0110 520 England 1991 —
14 Ken Doherty 0.0110 523 Ireland 1990 —
15 Barry Hawkins 0.0105 475 England 2000 —
16 Marco Fu 0.0104 427 Hong Kong 1997 —
17 Ding Junhui 0.0103 436 China 2003 —
18 Stuart Bingham 0.0101 477 England 1996 —
19 Mark Allen 0.0100 444 Northern Ireland 2002 —
20 Ryan Day 0.0098 458 Wales 1998 —

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby Andre147

You know this is a bull study when someone like Hendry is ranked 4th

rofl pmsl

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby Juddernaut88

Also like likes of Ali Carter, Barry Hawkins, Ryan Day in the top 20 and Alex Higgins doesn't even make the list <doh>

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby McManusFan

After skimming the paper, it says that a big factor is strength of opposition. The reason Hendry and Steve Davis are lower than you'd expect is because of their weaker opposition during their pomp.

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby HappyCamper

Iranu wrote:How do they determine the strength of opposition?


The same way they determine the strength for ranking players. In short, it's all a recursive process.

To elaborate, based on my skimming of the paper last night, they look at all the matches is the dataset and get a list of all players who played a match. You can think of drawing a dot or nose for each player on a big piece of paper. For each match the 'draw' a directed line from the losing player to the winning. Then you end up with a big network connecting all players who played.

Each node has a ranking value or strength. This is determined by looking at all the lines into the node weighted by the same strength value for the connected node, itself determined to the lines into that second node and so-on. This is used to feed into the rankings of any lines out of a given node too.

This all yields a massive list of equations (equal to the number of match ups in the data), for a number of variables (equal to the number of players). These are too complicated to be solved analytically, but can be estimated by a computer doing a recursive process until it hits a stable equilibrium of values.

This is all derived from the tools search engines use to rank web pages.
Last edited by HappyCamper on 16 Mar 2021, edited 1 time in total.

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby Holden Chinaski

Didn't Ronnie and Higgins have the same opposition? And Ronnie has won more than Higgins and he leads the head to head. In what way has Higgins achieved more?

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby SnookerFan

That's clearly accurate.

How can you doubt a system that produces Ali Carter as the 12th greatest player of all time.

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby SnookerFan

Holden Chinaski wrote:Didn't Ronnie and Higgins have the same opposition? And Ronnie has won more than Higgins and he leads the head to head. In what way has Higgins achieved more?


Mathematically.

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby Juddernaut88

SnookerFan wrote:
csprince wrote:yeah just noticed no reardon or higgins.


Higgins is there.

He's taken the top spot. <ok>


Not Alex Higgins though.

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby HappyCamper

Holden Chinaski wrote:Didn't Ronnie and Higgins have the same opposition? And Ronnie has won more than Higgins and he leads the head to head. In what way has Higgins achieved more?


Not necessarily. They have not played the exact same opponents the exact same number of times. Sine the analysis is at match level, there is a Delta in their opposition. It is possible that higgins's match wins were against stronger opponents on average.

Higgins has won more matches than O'Sullivan in the dataset, mainly by virtue of playing more. This may also be a factor.

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby Holden Chinaski

HappyCamper wrote:
Holden Chinaski wrote:Didn't Ronnie and Higgins have the same opposition? And Ronnie has won more than Higgins and he leads the head to head. In what way has Higgins achieved more?


Not necessarily. They have not played the exact same opponents the exact same number of times. Sine the analysis is at match level, there is a Delta in their opposition. It is possible that higgins's match wins were against stronger opponents on average.

Higgins has won more matches than O'Sullivan in the dataset, mainly by virtue of playing more. This may also be a factor.

Played more matches, won fewer titles.

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby HappyCamper

Holden Chinaski wrote:
HappyCamper wrote:
Holden Chinaski wrote:Didn't Ronnie and Higgins have the same opposition? And Ronnie has won more than Higgins and he leads the head to head. In what way has Higgins achieved more?


Not necessarily. They have not played the exact same opponents the exact same number of times. Sine the analysis is at match level, there is a Delta in their opposition. It is possible that higgins's match wins were against stronger opponents on average.

Higgins has won more matches than O'Sullivan in the dataset, mainly by virtue of playing more. This may also be a factor.

Played more matches, won fewer titles.


Titles are not considered in the calculation. Winning a title doesn't tell you anything about the strength of opponents faced.

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby Holden Chinaski

HappyCamper wrote:
Holden Chinaski wrote:
HappyCamper wrote:
Holden Chinaski wrote:Didn't Ronnie and Higgins have the same opposition? And Ronnie has won more than Higgins and he leads the head to head. In what way has Higgins achieved more?


Not necessarily. They have not played the exact same opponents the exact same number of times. Sine the analysis is at match level, there is a Delta in their opposition. It is possible that higgins's match wins were against stronger opponents on average.

Higgins has won more matches than O'Sullivan in the dataset, mainly by virtue of playing more. This may also be a factor.

Played more matches, won fewer titles.


Titles are not considered in the calculation. Winning a title doesn't tell you anything about the strength of opponents faced.

This explains why the list is so rubbish.

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby HappyCamper

Holden Chinaski wrote:
HappyCamper wrote:
Holden Chinaski wrote:
HappyCamper wrote:
Holden Chinaski wrote:Didn't Ronnie and Higgins have the same opposition? And Ronnie has won more than Higgins and he leads the head to head. In what way has Higgins achieved more?


Not necessarily. They have not played the exact same opponents the exact same number of times. Sine the analysis is at match level, there is a Delta in their opposition. It is possible that higgins's match wins were against stronger opponents on average.

Higgins has won more matches than O'Sullivan in the dataset, mainly by virtue of playing more. This may also be a factor.

Played more matches, won fewer titles.


Titles are not considered in the calculation. Winning a title doesn't tell you anything about the strength of opponents faced.

This explains why the list is so rubbish.


Not really. Winning a title is just a string of winning matches. So the effects of winning titles is already implicit it the rankings. And since those matches are weighted by strength of opponent already in the algorithm it would actually be better than naively counting titles, assuming the strength rankings are valid

It's that last assumption is probably where the issues arise. It clearly identifies correctly a rising I'm standards over time. But appears, to me, to then potentially overweight this effect is a kind of feedback loop. Possibly due to the number if matches over time (or lack of matches against quality opposition in the past), or the fact that snooker players have unusually longevity compared to other sports. The method has been used in other sports likes tennis and boxing. It would be an interesting comparison to see if similar recency bias cropped up in those analyses too.

Another issue I see is that no consideration is given to length of match. All matches are treated as equal regardless of number of frames. This could be remedied I think by considering individual frames rather than matches for calculating strength.

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby Iranu

Wouldn’t certain players’ “quality” be diminished in this system by having competed with two players as dominant as Davis and Hendry?

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby chengdufan

The authors would do well to follow the rankings revisit, which when complete will give us a much better dataset to be able to work out who the greatest of all time is.
They've obviously put a lot of work into this, bless them. It's a shame really.

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby HappyCamper

Iranu wrote:Wouldn’t certain players’ “quality” be diminished in this system by having competed with two players as dominant as Davis and Hendry?


Depends how often they beat them!

Interestingly I quickly used their method on just the matches between the class of 92. And got the following
Higgins 0.38
OSullivan 0.36
Williams 0.26
Given O'Sullivan leads the head to head against both players, this does seem odd. Maybe the method only 'works' for larger sets of nodes. But I think it does highlight a potential issue.

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby Iranu

HappyCamper wrote:
Iranu wrote:Wouldn’t certain players’ “quality” be diminished in this system by having competed with two players as dominant as Davis and Hendry?


Depends how often they beat them!

It’s more than that though, right? Alex Higgins for example will have his status in this dataset reduced due to his terrible record against Davis despite himself being a two-time world champion. So wouldn’t that also reduce the significance of any player’s wins over him and so on and so on?

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby Juddernaut88

SnookerFan wrote:How the hell is Ali Carter four places above Ding?


How the hell is he even on the list lol.

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby SnookerFan

Juddernaut88 wrote:
SnookerFan wrote:How the hell is Ali Carter four places above Ding?


How the hell is he even on the list lol.


Yeah, well.

That too. <laugh>

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby McManusFan

HappyCamper wrote:
Iranu wrote:Wouldn’t certain players’ “quality” be diminished in this system by having competed with two players as dominant as Davis and Hendry?


Depends how often they beat them!

Interestingly I quickly used their method on just the matches between the class of 92. And got the following
Higgins 0.38
OSullivan 0.36
Williams 0.26
Given O'Sullivan leads the head to head against both players, this does seem odd. Maybe the method only 'works' for larger sets of nodes. But I think it does highlight a potential issue.


That is odd. Very odd!

Re: the greatest of all time ?

Postby Juddernaut88

Ultimately the likes of Reardon, Alex Higgins, Cliff Thornburn and Dennis Taylor should all be in there in place of Carter, Hawkins, Fu and Day.
Last edited by Juddernaut88 on 16 Mar 2021, edited 1 time in total.