THE countdown is on to the first ever World Snooker Shoot-Out in Blackpool this month.
And World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn, who invented the format, says the idea is to snare a new target audience at the the event, which takes place at Blackpool Tower Circus Arena from January 28-30.
The top 64 players in the world will race against the clock in a series of one-frame knockout games, lasting no more than ten minutes.
Hearn says fun-loving Blackpool is the perfect place to launch this all-action format. He told The Gazette: "It is not the traditional form of the game and it will not count towards any ranking points,
"It will be a fast and frenetic form of snooker and the crowd will get involved as well.
"It will encourage players to be more flamboyant in their shots, and I can see a lot of shocks happening and a lot of the top players going out.
"The new competition will help to take snooker to its next level and the incentive for the players is that each time they win they will double their prize money, The eventual winner will take home 32,000."
Speed is of the essence in every way with this fresh form of snooker – Hearn said it took him just two minutes to come up with the idea!
He said the bulk of the players had bought into the concept, though some might find it alien.
"Ninety per cent of them will take to it but maybe the other ten per cent will have their doubts. Someone like Peter Ebdon, who is one of the slowest players on the circuit, will have to take an extra shot or two of coffee to speed himself up!"
Hearn added optimistically: "Snooker is on the up and this is another example of the renaissance that is going on in the game. It's going to be a lot of fun over three days in Blackpool."
World champion Neil Robertson, from Australia, is in the elite field, along with such top names as Ronnie O'Sullivan and John Higgins.
The top North West players in the field of 64 will include Manchester's Shaun Murphy, Lancashire's Ian McCulloch and Stuart Pettman, Chester's Ricky Walden and Merseyside's Rod Lawler and Andrew Higginson.
Tickets start from 10 and are on sale now, with discounts available for groups of six or more.
VIP tickets offering a chance to get up close to the players are also available.
To book tickets, call 0844 856 1000 or visit
www.worldsnooker.com/shootout or www.theblackpooltower.co.uk