Walter Donaldson (snooker player) Scottish snooker player

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Walter Donaldson
Walter Donaldson.jpg
Born(1907-02-02)2 February 1907
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died24 May 1973(1973-05-24) (aged 66)
Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, England
Sport country Scotland
Professional1923–1960
Highest break142 (1946)
Tournament wins
Major2
World Champion1947, 1950

Walter Weir Wilson Donaldson (2 February 1907 – 24 May 1973) was a Scottish professional snooker and billiards player. He won the World Snooker Championship in 1947 and 1950, as well as finishing as runner-up to Fred Davis six times as the pair contested eight consecutive world finals from 1947 to 1954.

Donaldson became a professional player shortly after winning the British Junior English Billiards Championship (Under-16 section) in 1922, and won the Scottish professional billiards title several times. He first competed in the World Snooker Championship in 1933 but after a heavy defeat by Joe Davis, did not enter again until 1939. After serving in the Fourth Indian Division during World War II, Donaldson entered the 1946 World Championship, where he lost to Davis in his first match. As a player that did not reach the championship final, he was eligible to enter the 1946 Albany Club Professional Snooker Tournament, which he won. Following Joe Davis's retirement from the World Championship in 1946, Donaldson practised intensively and won the 1947 Championship by defeating Fred Davis in the final. Fred Davis won the following two championships, with Donaldson taking the next, and then being runner-up to Davis for the next four years. Donaldson then retired from World Championship competition, although he did continue to play in the News of the World Snooker Tournament until 1959.

Donaldson was known for his long potting, his aversion to the use of side, and his consistency when playing. In 2012, Donaldson was posthumously inducted into the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association's World Snooker Hall of Fame.

Early life

Walter Weir Wilson Donaldson was born in Gardner's Crescent, Edinburgh, on 2 February 1907,[1] the son of Alexander Donaldson, a billiard room manager.[1] The family moved to Coatbridge when Donaldson was five.[2] He was coached in English billiards by his father from the age of five, with his father having constructed a 1 foot (30 cm) platform around one of the billiard tables so that the younger Donaldson could reach the table to play.[2][3][4] His father also trained Margaret Lennan, who became the unofficial "British Isles Champion" of women's billiards in 1928.[2] Donaldson won the British Junior English Billiards Championship (Under-16 section) in 1922 at the age of 15,[5] and then turned professional the following year.[6]

Career

Early professional career

Donaldson moved to Rotherham, where he managed a billiard hall, and travelled to Glasgow to win the Scottish professional billiards and snooker championships in the 1928/1929 season.[7] Having returned to Rotherham after winning the Scottish titles, he later became the owner of a billiard hall in New Ollerton,[7][8] and first entered the World Snooker Championship in 1933 where he defeated Willie Leigh 13 frames to 11 before losing 1–13 in the semi-finals to Joe Davis.[9] He did not participate in the championship again until 1939.[9] His six-year absence has been attributed to a commitment to practise and improve his standard of play following the heavy defeat by Davis.[10][11] In 1939 he defeated Herbert Holt and Dickie Laws in the qualifying competition, both 18–13, then Claude Falkiner 21–10 in the first round, before losing 15–16 to Sidney Smith in the quarter-finals.[12] He finished fourth of seven players in the 1939/1940 Daily Mail Gold Cup,[13] with part of his match against Fred Davis being broadcast on the BBC World Service radio station.[14]

In the 1940 World Championship, he eliminated Holt 24–7 in the first round and was then defeated 9–22 by Joe Davis in the semi-final.[12] The championship was then suspended for the remainder of World War II.[9] Donaldson was called up in 1940,[15] and served in Canada, North Africa, Greece and Italy as a sergeant in the Royal Corps of Signals attached to the Fourth Indian Division, which was an original component of the Eighth Army when it was formed in September 1941.[7][16][17]

The championship resumed in 1946, with Joe Davis winning again, including a 21–10 victory over Donaldson in the quarter-finals.[12] The professional players that did not reach the 1946 final were invited to participate in the 1946 Albany Club Professional Snooker Tournament,[18] which Donaldson won, some six months after being demobilised, by defeating Alec Brown 20–11 in the final.[15][19] Following his 1946 World Championship win, Davis retired from the event.[20] In November 1946, Donaldson compiled what would have been a new world record for the highest break, 142, against John Pulman, but as the billiard table being used was not of the standard type required for a record, it was not recognised as such.[21]

World championship finals and later professional career

Donaldson, based in Belvedere, practised intensively in preparation for the 1947 World Championship, using a billiard table in a neighbour's attic.[11][22] He defeated Stanley Newman 46–25, and then eliminated Horace Lindrum 39–32 to reach the final.[12][11] The final, held at Leicester Square Hall, was postponed for several weeks because building refurbishment works at the venue over-ran, and Donaldson used the time to continue practising.[23] In a two-week final against Fred Davis, Donaldson led 4–2 after the first session and 7–5 after the second,[24] later extending his lead to sixteen frames at 35–19, after which Davis won six successive frames to reduce the lead to 35–25.[25] Donaldson secured victory at 73–49, and finished the match at 82–63.[11][26] His tactics during the championship involved compiling breaks of around 30 to 50 points, and playing safety rather than attempting difficult pots.[11] Davis became frustrated with the lack of scoring chances left for him by Donaldson, and missed a number of difficult pot attempts, which allowed Donaldson chances to win frames.[11] There were three century breaks during the 145 frames of the match, all made by Davis.[11] Joe Davis commented after the match that "Donaldson's long potting at present is the equal of anything seen in snooker history," whilst Fred Davis stated that "he is playing the best snooker I have ever seen."[15] In his book Talking Snooker, first published in 1979, Fred Davis reflected that he had probably been "perhaps overconfident" and also had not expected Donaldson's standard to have improved so much as a result of his many hours of practice.[27] This was the first of eight consecutive finals, from 1947 to 1954, featuring the two players, but Donaldson only won one more title, in 1950.[11]

Two wins by Joe Davis in challenge matches against Donaldson after the 1947 championship reinforced the public perception that the 15-time champion Davis was still the best player.[11] Donaldson took a playing break of several months on medical advice, after being diagnosed with conjunctivitis after experiencing headaches.[23] The 1948 World Snooker Championship was held only six months after the 1947 tournament,[11] and Donaldson reached the final with wins against Kingsley Kennerley and Albert Brown.[12] Fred Davis won 84–61 against Donaldson, having reached a winning margin at 73–52.[9] In Talking Snooker, Davis wrote that he had consciously used the same risk-averse tactics that had paid off for Donaldson in 1947.[27] At the 1948 Sunday Empire News Tournament, which was a round-robin event with handicaps applied,[a] Donaldson finished fourth of five players.[28]

In the 1949 World Snooker Championship final, Fred Davis won 80–65 in the final against Donaldson,[12] having taken a winning lead of 73–58 on the previous day. The score had been 63–58 before Davis won 10 frames in a row to take the title.[29] Donaldson made the highest break of the tournament with 115 on the last day of his semi-final match against Pulman.[30][31] In the handicapped[b] 1949/1950 News of the World Snooker Tournament he won only two of his seven round-robin matches, and placed seventh out of the eight participants.[33]

Donaldson defeated Kennerley and Albert Brown to reach the 1950 world final against Fred Davis.[12] Davis led 8–4 after the first day,[34] and 14–10 after the second.[35] On the third day, Donaldson won eight of the twelve frames played, to level the match at 18–18, including five of the last six from when he was 13–17 behind.[36] He also won eight of twelve frames the following day, to lead 26–22.[37] He maintained his four-frame lead at 32–28 after each player took six frames on the fifth day,[38] and again at 38–34 after the sixth day,[39] before extending it to six frames at 45–39 on the penultimate day.[40] Donaldson's victory was confirmed on the last day when the score was 49–32, with the match ending at 51–46.[41] The match, in Blackpool, was watched by almost 3,000 spectators at one session.[42] Strong safety play by Donaldson and a below-par performance from Davis were identified by The Billiard Player magazine as factors contributing to Donaldson's success.[41] The highest break achieved by Donaldson during the match was 80, with Davis's highest break 79.[43] A column in the Manchester Evening News commented after the final that "So afraid were Fred Davis and Walter Donaldson ... of making any rash move which would cost them a frame that play was painfully slow at times."[44]

With only one win from seven matches in the 1950/1951 News of the World Snooker Tournament, Donaldson finished joint-last.[45] The 1951 world final between Donaldson and Fred Davis was played in Blackpool in front of a record crowd for a World Snooker Championship match. From 6–6, Davis moved into a 12–6 lead, reaching a winning margin at 49–36 before the match concluded 58–39.[46] Donaldson won half of his matches at the 1951/1952 News of the World Snooker Tournament, leading to him being ranked in sixth place out of the nine players.[47]

Following a dispute between the Professional Billiards Players' Association (PBPA) and the Billiards Association and Control Council (BA&CC), which partly derived from the PBPA members feeling that the BA&CC was taking too large a share of the income from tournaments, most professional players boycotted the 1952 World Snooker Championship and instead competed in their own 1952 World Professional Match-play Championship. As the latter event included most of the leading players, it was perceived by the public as the real world championship,[43] and the World Professional Match-play Championships are now accepted by snooker historians as part of the World Snooker Championship series.[11] The 1952 World Professional Match-play Championship final featured Fred Davis and Donaldson. Davis won six of the eight frames in their first session, and they each won four frames in the second session, leaving the score at 7–5 to Davis after the first day. Donaldson had compiled a break of 104.[48] Donaldson recorded another century break, 106, in the twentieth frame, but Davis increased his lead over Donaldson to 14–10 by the end of the second day.[49] On the third day, Davis achieved a break of 140, a new World championship record, and Donaldson made a 111. Davis finished the day 21–15 ahead.[50] After another day's play, Davis was 29–19 ahead,[51] Donaldson won eight of the next twelve frames to reduce his arrears to six frames at 27–33.[52] Davis won the title, finishing the last day at 38–35.[53]

The 1952/1953 News of the World Snooker Tournament finished in January 1953, with Donaldson's three wins in eight matches enough to see him finish third.[54] The 1953 World Professional Match-play Championship final in March saw the players even at 6–6 after the first day. Donaldson took a 13–11 lead after day two, despite a break of 107 by Davis.[55][56] Donaldson was ahead 20–16 after day three, but Davis tied the match at 24–24 after the fourth day which included another Davis century, this time of 102.[57] Davis led 28–26 after the fifth afternoon session but Donaldson took a 31–29 lead at the end of the fifth day.[58] The match was again level at 33–33 after the final afternoon session, before Davis went on to win 37–34.[59]

Donaldson placed seventh in the 1953/1954 News of the World Snooker Tournament, having lost five of his eight matches.[60] In the 1954 World Professional Match-play Championship, Fred Davis and Donaldson met in their eighth successive final. It was the most one-sided of the finals with Davis leading 33–15 after four days. Even before losing the match, Donaldson said that he would not enter the World Championship again, saying he could not give enough time to the practice he felt was necessary.[61] Davis secured victory by winning the first three frames on the fifth day to lead 36–15.[62] The final score was 45–26 with Donaldson making a break of 121 on the final day.[63]

After the 1954 World Match-play final, Donaldson announced that he would not be playing in any future World Snooker Championships, as he wanted to focus more on the management of his smallholding, although he did state his intention to continue to play in other tournaments and in exhibition matches.[64][65] With three wins at 1954/1955 News of the World Snooker Tournament, he failed to gain a high placing,[66] and he finished third in 1955/1956,[67] and last in 1956/1957.[68] Donaldson inflicted Fred Davis's only defeat in the 1957/1958 News of the World Snooker Tournament (21–16), before finishing third of five players in the final table.[69] Earlier in the same tournament he defeated Joe Davis, also by 21–16, but had received a 14-point start. He did however make the highest break of the season, 141.[70] He finished bottom of four players in the 1958 News of the World Snooker Tournament table, with one win in nine matches.[71] In 1960, he retired completely from competitive play.[23]

Retirement and legacy

Donaldson was married to Ida, who he met whilst working in Rotherham in the 1920s.[23] After retiring from the sport, he converted his snooker room into a cowshed, breaking up the slates from his billiard table to make a path.[10][11][72] He died in an ambulance on his way to hospital after suffering a heart attack at his home in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, on 24 May 1973.[23][73][74]

He was considered one of the greatest long potters of all time,[6] and a very consistent player, partly due to his avoidance of the use of side.[10] His 1973 obituary in Snooker Scene highlighted his "imperturbability" as a playing strength and claimed that "his long potting was the best the game has ever seen", whilst noting that his aversion to applying side was probably the reason that he did not achieve more century breaks, as it limited his positional play.[4] The 2005 book Masters of the Baize describes Donaldson as "one of the most underrated [world professional snooker] champions", who "redefined the standards of long potting",[11] while a 1989 book by Ian Morrison describes him as "the first great Scottish snooker professional."[75] In 2012, Donaldson was inducted into the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association's World Snooker Hall of Fame.[76]

Achievements

World Snooker Championship Finals

Outcome Year Championship Opponent in the final Score Ref.
Winner 1947 World Snooker Championship  Fred Davis (ENG) 82–63 [12]
Runner-up 1948 World Snooker Championship  Fred Davis (ENG) 61–84 [12]
Runner-up 1949 World Snooker Championship  Fred Davis (ENG) 65–80 [12]
Winner 1950 World Snooker Championship  Fred Davis (ENG) 51–46 [12]
Runner-up 1951 World Snooker Championship  Fred Davis (ENG) 51–46 [12]
Runner-up 1952 World Professional Match-play Championship  Fred Davis (ENG) 35–38 [53]
Runner-up 1953 World Professional Match-play Championship  Fred Davis (ENG) 34–37 [59]
Runner-up 1954 World Professional Match-play Championship  Fred Davis (ENG) 26–45 [63]

English billiards

Outcome Year Championship Opponent in the final Score Ref.
Winner 1922 British Junior English Billiards Championship (Under-16) Harold Renaut 1,000–686 [77][78]
Winner 1929 Scottish Professional Billiards Championship Alexander Taylor 7,000–5,124 [79][8]
Winner 1932 Scottish Professional Billiards Championship Alexander Taylor 7,335–4,150 [80]
Winner 1934 Scottish Professional Billiards Championship W. Hefferman 7,000–3,434 [81]

Notes

  1. ^ For this tournament there was an "open" handicap where a player with a lower handicap would concede a number of points in each frame based on the difference in handicap ratings. There was an additional "sealed" frame handicap that was unknown to the players and applied to the scores after the conclusion of the match.[28]
  2. ^ The News of the World tournaments from 1949 to 1958 were played with an "open" handicap where a player with a lower handicap would concede a number of points in each frame based on the difference in handicap ratings.[32]

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