World Snooker Championship
The World Snooker Championship is the highlight of the season for fans of the sport. It’s also the most coveted title among professional players, and the claustrophobic Crucible Theatre in Sheffield – the spiritual home of snooker – is the scene of many highs, lows and surprises every year. The number of ranking points available during the tournament means it’s one of the main ways that the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association ranks the world’s top snooker players. Meanwhile, the huge £250,000 prize for the winner helps the tension reach fever pitch.
The seventeen-day tournament sees 32 leading players paired at random, with the loser in each match knocked out of the competition. The 32 are whittled down to just two, who face off in an epic best of 35 frame final which can often last over two days.
World Snooker Championship Stats
The World Snooker Championship has been around since the 1920s, but the game of snooker only really took off commercially at the start of what is commonly referred to as the ‘Modern Era’. This is widely acknowledged as the period after 1969, while the tournament has been held at the Crucible since 1976.
Below are a few of the more notable feats achieved at this tournament during the Modern Era:
Stephen Hendry has won the title most often, coming out on top on seven occasions, including five in a row from 1992-96. Before Hendry, the dominant player was Steve Davis, who won six trophies as he controlled the tournament throughout much of the 1980s. Welshman Ray Reardon preceded Davis with another six wins, all of which came between 1970 and 1978.
Steve Davis has featured more times than anyone else at the tournament, appearing at an incredible 30 championships. He is closely followed by another great in Stephen Hendry, who appeared on 27 occasions before retiring in 2012.
Other regular competitors include Jimmy White (25), John Parrott (23), Peter Ebdon, Dennis Taylor, Eddie Charlton (all 21) and Ronnie O’Sullivan (20).
Obviously, those with the most wins tend to have the most final appearances, but one of the Crucible’s more notable runners-up is Jimmy White, a finalist no fewer than six times without ever winning the tournament. While betting on White would have left you out of pocket, Ronnie O’Sullivan is a much safer punt. The Rocket is the only multiple champion never to have lost in the final, winning on all four of his appearances.
The greatest ever match
The most famous World Snooker Championship contest of all time is unquestionably the 1985 final between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor. Popularly referred to as ‘The Black Ball Final’, it was won 18-17 by Taylor on the final black in the final frame, and is still fondly remembered to this day.
Fans stayed up until 19 minutes past midnight to watch the conclusion, at that time the latest ever finish to a final. Overwhelming favourite Davis raced into an 8-0 lead, only to be pegged back by Taylor. Incredibly, when he potted the final black, it was the first time the Northern Irishman had been ahead in the whole match.
One of the most popular snooker bets for fans centres around when, or even if snooker’s highest score, a 147 maximum break will occur. Thirteen of the 88 official maximums in the Modern Era have occurred in the World Championship. Canada’s Cliff Thorburn was the first, achieving the feat against Terry Griffiths in 1983. It would be almost a decade before the tournament would see another, achieved by ‘Whirlwind’ Jimmy White at the 1992 tournament.
Stephen Hendry (1995, 2009, 2012) and Ronnie O’Sullivan (1997, 2003, 2008) account for almost half the tournament maximums, but it is O’Sullivan’s first that many acknowledge as the most memorable, when he shocked the snooker world by hitting the fastest ever 147 in just five minutes and 20 seconds, a record which still stands. The other two top breaks were achieved by Mark Williams (2005) and Ali Carter (2008).