Joe Davis English snooker and billiards player

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Joseph Davis
Joe Davis.jpg
Davis c. 1920
Born(1901-04-15)15 April 1901
Whitwell, Derbyshire, England
Died10 July 1978(1978-07-10) (aged 77)
Hampshire, England
Sport country England
Highest break147 (1955)
Tournament wins
World Champion

Joseph Davis OBE (15 April 1901 – 10 July 1978) was an English professional snooker and English billiards player. He was the dominant figure in snooker from the 1920s to the 1950s and has been credited with inventing aspects of the way that the game is now played, such as break building. With equipment manufacturer Bill Camkin, he drove the creation of the World Snooker Championship by persuading the Billiards Association and Control Council to recognise an official professional snooker championship in 1927. Davis won the first 15 championships from 1927 to 1946, and remains the only undefeated player in World Snooker Championship history. He made the championship's first century break, in 1930.

Davis was a professional English billiards player from the age of 18, and was World Billiards Champion four times between 1928 and 1932. He was the first person to win world titles in both billiards and snooker. After his 1946 World Snooker Championship victory he no longer played in the World Championship but did participate in other tournaments and exhibition matches until 1964, winning four News of the World Snooker Tournament titles. He also continued to wield considerable influence over the professional game through chairing the professional players' association, being a co-owner of the venue Leicester Square Hall, and negotiating television contracts. His younger brother Fred Davis was the only person ever to beat Joe Davis in a competitive snooker match without receiving a start.

In 1955, Davis was the first player to make an officially recognised maximum break. He died in 1978 from a chest infection suffered whilst convalescing from an operation after he collapsed whilst watching Fred play Perrie Mans in the semi-final of the 1978 World Snooker Championship.

Early life, and billiards career

Joe Davis, was born in Whitwell, Derbyshire on 15 April 1901, the eldest of six children of coalminer and pub landlord Fred Davis, and his wife Ann-Eliza. His snooker playing younger brother, Fred Davis (jr.), was the youngest of the six children.[1][2] He learnt how to play English billiards in the billiard room of The Queen's Hotel, his family's pub in Whittington Moor, and was coached by a local player, Ernest Rudge. He also read Charles Dawson's book Practical Billiards. He made a century break in billiards at the age of 12 and won the Chesterfield and District Championship at the age of 13.[3](pp108–110) Davis would later manage billiard halls owned by either his family or by Rudge.[1]

Davis became a professional billiards player in 1919, at the age of 18.[4][5]:30 Davis lost to Fred Lawrence in the semi-final of an invitational professional tournament at Thurston's Hall in 1920. He also lost to Lawrence in the final of his first open professional championship, the 1921 Midlands Counties Billiards Championship.[5] Davis won the 1922 Midlands Counties Billiards Championship, beating Tom Dennis 6,417–4,433 in the week-long final.[1][6]

Victory in the second division championship later in 1922, which included a victory over Arthur Peall, son of former world champion W.J. Peall in the final, gave Davis an entry into the Billiards Association and Control Council (BA&CC) Professional Championship.[1][5]:54 According to The Birmingham Daily Gazette he was "outclassed" by Tom Newman in their professional championship match, losing 5,181–8,000.[7] He failed to qualify for the 1923 event, losing to Lawrence in the second division semi-final,[8] and although he was eligible for 1924, opted not to enter. In 1925, only Newman and Tom Reece entered the championship.[9](pp79–81)

In 1926, Davis and defending champion Newman were the only entrants in the Professional Championship. Newman beat Davis comprehensively, 16,000–9,505,[9](pp212–213) with an average score of 82.9 per visit.[9](p82) Davis reached the final the following year and was runner-up again to the same opponent, despite making a break of 2,501.[9](p83) In his third final, in 1928, Davis defeated Newman to become the world champion at English billiards for the first time, making sixty centuries in the last final to be played with ivory balls.[9](p84) He would successfully defend his title for the next three years. In the 1929 final against Newman, Davis made 63 century breaks, and his average score per visit to the table was 100,[9](p86) whilst in 1930 he set a new record average score per visit of 113.3 in beating Newman 20,198–20,117.[9](p94) The event was not held in 1931 as most of the leading professionals, mainly due to a disagreement with the BA&CC over the cloth to be used. Willie Smith was the only person to enter, but was not declared champion. In 1932, Davis faced New Zealander Clark McConachy in the final. McConarchy had won three of their four warm-up matches, but in the championship itself, Davis won 25,161–19,259, scoring over 11,000 of his points through a series of runs of "close cannons," where the three balls are kept close together for consecutive cannons.[9](p96–100) Davis contested the final two further times, in 1933 and 1934, losing on both occasions to Australian Walter Lindrum.[9](pp212–213)

Snooker career

Coinciding with Davis' peak as a billiards player, public interest in billiards was waning as the top players were becoming so proficient that the game was seen as boring for spectators.[4] By 1924, amendments to the rules were being discussed to make high breaks more difficult, but breaks of over 1,000 became increasingly common.[9](pp81–86) As a billiard hall manager, Davis noticed the increasing popularity of snooker, and with Birmingham billiard equipment manager Bill Camkin, persuaded the Billiards Association and Control Council to recognise an official professional snooker championship in the 1926–27 season.[1] The final of the first snooker world championship in 1927 was held at Camkin's Hall, and Davis won the tournament by beating Dennis 16–7 (20–11 after "dead frames" were played to take the total to the agreed 31 frames) in the final, for which he won £6 10s.[10][11]:27–30[12]

He went on to win the world championship every year until 1940,[13] and made the championship's first official century break in 1930.[11]:16–17 In 1928 the final was held in the back room of a pub owned by losing finalist Dennis,[3]:49 and in the early years, the tournament was twice (in 1931 and 1934) contested only by Davis and another player.[14]:1. In 1934 he travelled to Australia to play Horace Lindrum in an invitational match which some said was an unofficial world championship. The event was called The World Snooker Challenge. Davis beat Lindrum by 46 frames to 29. From 1935 the championship became more remunerative for players.[3]:49 The 1940 final was contested between Joe Davis and his brother Fred, with Joe taking an early lead before Fred won 11 frames in a row to take a 20–14 lead. Eventually Joe won the match 37–35, with Fred winning the dead frame that took it to 37–36.[12]

Due to World War II the world championship was not held again until 1946.[12] Davis successfully defended his title, his 15th consecutive win, and thereby held the title for 20 straight years. To date, he has won more world championships than any other player.[10] He retired from the event following this victory, having won the title at all fifteen events from 1927 to 1946, making him, as of 2020, the only undefeated player in the history of the world championships.[15][16] He remained the best player until his retirement in 1964, with his brother Fred coming closest to Joe's standard during this time.[3]:50–51 Joe Davis' retirement from the world championship reduced its prestige according to snooker historian Clive Everton, a view shared by snooker journalists and authors Hector Nunns and David Hendon.[3]:50[17]

Apart from the world championship, tournaments were played on a handicap basis, and Davis would concede a set number of points in each frame to his opponents, for example beginning each frame from 0 points, whilst his opponent started from 14.[3]:50–51 He won the News of the World Tournament on three occasions during the 1950s,[11]:27–29 whilst his brother Fred and future world champion John Pulman each won it on two occasions.[18] In 1959 Davis attempted to popularise a new version of the game called snooker plus. This game had two extra colours, an orange and a purple and was used for the 1959 News of the World Snooker Plus Tournament.[11]:123 According to Everton, ""the public rejected the game for the gimmick it was."[19]

He made the first officially recognised Maximum break of 147 on 22 January 1955 at Leicester Square Hall, in an exhibition match against Willie Smith.[20] As the match had taken place under the rules used by professionals, that included the "play again" rule where a player who has made a foul shot can be required by the other player to play the next shot as well, the Billiards Association and Control Council (BA&CC) initially refused to recognise the break as it was not under their own version of the rules. The break was finally recognised by the BA&CC in April 1957, shortly before the "play again" rule was incorporated into their own rules for amateur players.[3](p50)[21]

In 1962, when over 60 years of age, he made a televised century break. This break of exactly 100 was his first visit to the table in the very first frame of a match against the sitting World Champion John Pulman and consisted of seven blacks, two pinks and five blues. The break came to an end when Davis missed a long red into the top right hand pocket, the only time during the break when he was faced with a difficult pot, such was the quality of his positional play.[22]

Davis was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1963.[21] He continued to play professionally until 1964.[3](p50) Davis died on 10 July 1978,[2] two months after becoming ill while watching his brother play Perrie Mans in the 1978 World Snooker Championship semi-final. The day after the match, he collapsed in the street, and required a lengthy operation. He died from a chest infection whilst recuperating following the operation.[3](pp48–51)[23]:67 The house where he was born in Whitwell bears a plaque commemorating him.[11]:27–30


Davis won 15 World Snooker Championship titles, spanning a 20-year period where he was undefeated, and four world billiards championship titles. Other than in handicapped matches where he conceded a start, he lost only four times – all of which came towards the end of his career and were against his brother Fred,[1] Everton has said of Davis' influence on the game in the early 1920s that:[3]:49–50

"In those days, the prevailing idea was to pot a red or two, a couple of colours and play safe but in the time he could spare from billiards Davis devoted considerable thought and practice to evolving the positional and breakbuilding shots, sequences and techniques which are taken for granted today."

Fred Davis, the second person to become a world champion at both snooker and billiards, following his brother,[24] said that Davis was "a very good player before anyone else knew how to play the game."[3]:49

Joe Davis was not able to focus with his right eye, and played with his cue to the left of his chin.[4] Coach Frank Callan, in his book Frank Callan's Snooker Clinic, compared the most successful player at the time, Steve Davis, to Joe Davis, and concluded that Joe Davis was the better player. Callan also stated that "many players who tried to emulate Joe's stance (which was unusually off centre due to left eye striking) simply gave up the game when they found they couldn't play like that".[25]

Steve Davis was heavily influenced by Davis' How I Play Snooker when learning to play,[15][17] and Ronnie O'Sullivan said of a Davis coaching book "2007-8 … was one of my best years and it was all because I was reading the Joe Davis book."[26]

Davis' influence on the game was such that, according to Callan, "his word was law".[25] Everton says that following his retirement from the world championship, Davis "through his force of personality … controlled the game," being the pre-eminent player, chairman of the professional players' association, a co-owner of the Leicester Square Hall, the main venue for professional matches, and the negotiator for television contacts.[1][23]:9–10

Personal life

Davis married Florence Enid Stevenson (b. 1898/99) in 1921, and they had two children. The marriage was dissolved in 1931. In 1945 he married Juanita Ida Triggs (b. 1914/15), who was a singer performing under the stage name of June Malo.[1]

Snooker performance timeline

Tournament 1926/
Daily Mail Gold Cup[nb 1][nb 2] Tournament Not Held 1[27] 1[28] 4[29] 6[30]
World Championship[3]:54–55 W W W W W W W W W W W W W W
Tournament 1945/
Sunday Empire News Tournament[nb 1][18] Tournament Not Held 1 Tournament Not Held
News of the World Snooker Tournament[nb 1][nb 3] Tournament Not Held 1[11]:91 3[31] 7[32] 1[11]:91 2[11]:91 2[11]:91 1[11]:91 5[12] 5[33] 2[34] 1[11]:91
Sporting Record Masters' Tournament[nb 1][14]:4 Tournament Not Held 1 Tournament Not Held
World Championship[3]:54–55 W A A A A A A Tournament Not Held
Performance Table Legend
W won the tournament #R/N lost in the early rounds of the tournament
(N = position in round-robin event)
A did not participate in the tournament
  1. ^ a b c d Round-robin handicap tournament
  2. ^ Billiards event before 1936/37 season
  3. ^ Snooker Plus event in 1959/60 season

Career finals

Snooker world championship finals: (15 titles)


Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score
Winner 1 1927 World Snooker Championship  Tom Dennis (ENG) 20–11
Winner 2 1928 World Snooker Championship  Fred Lawrence (ENG) 16–13
Winner 3 1929 World Snooker Championship  Tom Dennis (ENG) 19–14
Winner 4 1930 World Snooker Championship  Tom Dennis (ENG) 25–12
Winner 5 1931 World Snooker Championship  Tom Dennis (ENG) 25–21
Winner 6 1932 World Snooker Championship  Clark McConachy (NZL) 30–19
Winner 7 1933 World Snooker Championship  Willie Smith (ENG) 25–18
Winner 8 1934 World Snooker Championship  Tom Newman (ENG) 25–22
Winner 9 1935 World Snooker Championship  Willie Smith (ENG) 25–20
Winner 10 1936 World Snooker Championship  Horace Lindrum (AUS) 34–27
Winner 11 1937 World Snooker Championship  Horace Lindrum (AUS) 32–29
Winner 12 1938 World Snooker Championship  Sidney Smith (ENG) 37–24
Winner 13 1939 World Snooker Championship  Sidney Smith (ENG) 43–30
Winner 14 1940 World Snooker Championship  Fred Davis (ENG) 37–36
Winner 15 1946 World Snooker Championship  Horace Lindrum (AUS) 78–67

Other snooker tournament wins: (9 titles)

Outcome Year Championship Runner-up Score Ref
Winner 1934 World Snooker Challenge  Horace Lindrum (AUS) 46–29 [35]
Winner 1936 Daily Mail Gold Cup  Horace Lindrum (AUS) Round-robin [27][18]
Winner 1938 Daily Mail Gold Cup  Willie Smith (ENG) Round-robin [28][18]
Winner 1948 Sunday Empire News Tournament  John Pulman (ENG) Round-robin [18]
Winner 1950 News of the World Snooker Tournament  Sidney Smith (ENG) Round-robin [11]:91
Winner 1950 Sporting Record Masters' Tournament  Sidney Smith (ENG) Round-robin [14]:4[36]
Winner 1953 News of the World Snooker Tournament  Jackie Rea (NIR) Round-robin [11]:91
Winner 1956 News of the World Snooker Tournament  Fred Davis (ENG) Round-robin [11]:91
Winner 1959 News of the World Snooker Tournament  Fred Davis (ENG) Round-robin [37][38]

Billiards world championship finals


Outcome No. Date Championship Opponent in the final Score
Runner-up 1 May 1926 Billiards Association and Control Club Championship  Tom Newman (ENG) 9,505–16,000
Runner-up 2 May 1927 Billiards Association and Control Club Championship  Tom Newman (ENG) 14,763–16,000
Winner 1 May 1928 Billiards Association and Control Club Championship  Tom Newman (ENG) 16,000–14,874
Winner 2 April 1929 Billiards Association and Control Club Championship  Tom Newman (ENG) 18,000–17,219
Winner 3 May 1930 Billiards Association and Control Club Championship  Tom Newman (ENG) 20,198–20,117
Winner 4 March 1932 Billiards Association and Control Club Championship  Clark McConachy (NZL) 25,161–19,259
Runner-up 3 May 1933 World Professional Championship of English Billiards  Walter Lindrum (AUS) 21,121–21,815
Runner-up 4 October 1934 World Professional Championship of English Billiards  Walter Lindrum (AUS) 22,678–23,553

UK billiards championship finals


Outcome No. Date Championship Opponent in the final Score
Winner 1 1934 United Kingdom Championship  Tom Newman (ENG) 18,745–18,309
Winner 2 1935 United Kingdom Championship  Tom Newman (ENG) 21,733–19,910
Winner 3 1936 United Kingdom Championship  Tom Newman (ENG) 21,710–19,791
Winner 4 1937 United Kingdom Championship  Tom Newman (ENG) 22,601–18,321
Winner 5 1938 United Kingdom Championship  Tom Newman (ENG) 20,933–19,542
Winner 6 1939 United Kingdom Championship  Tom Newman (ENG) 21,601–18,383
Winner 7 1947 United Kingdom Championship  John Barrie (ENG) walkover


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Everton, Clive (23 September 2004). "Davis, Joseph [Joe]". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31013. Archived from the original on 3 September 2019. Retrieved 11 May 2020. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ a b The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (8 July 2019). "Joe Davis". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 22 June 2018. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Everton, Clive (1985). Guinness Snooker: The Records. Enfield: Guinness Superlatives. ISBN 0851124488.
  4. ^ a b c Williams, Luke; Gadsby, Paul (2005). Masters of the baize : cue legends, bad boys and forgotten men in search of snooker's ultimate prize. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing. pp. 15–26. ISBN 978-1840188721.
  5. ^ a b c Davis, Joe (1976). The Breaks Came My Way – Autobiography. London: W. H. Allen. ISBN 0-491-01686-7.:30–39
  6. ^ "Easy for Davis". Nottingham Journal. 27 February 1922. p. 7 – via British Newspaper Archive. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  7. ^ "Davis beaten in billiards championship". Birmingham Daily Gazette. 17 April 1922. p. 6 – via British Newspaper Archive. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  8. ^ "Billiards". Nottingham Journal. 26 April 1923. p. 7 – via British Newspaper Archive. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Everton, Clive (2012). A History of Billiards: (the English three-ball game). Malmesbury: ISBN 9780956405456.
  10. ^ a b " World Championship – History". World Snooker. World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association. 2 March 2011. Archived from the original on 15 March 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Morrison, Ian (1987). The Hamlyn Encyclopedia of Snooker. London: Hamlyn Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-60055604-6.
  12. ^ a b c d e Kobylecky, John (2019). The Complete International Directory of Snooker Players – 1927 to 2018. Kobyhadrian Books. pp. 47–48. ISBN 978-0993143311.
  13. ^ Hale, Janice (1987). Rothmans Snooker Yearbook 1987–88. Aylesbury: Queen Anne Press. pp. 246–249. ISBN 0356146901.
  14. ^ a b c Hayton, Eric; Dee, John (2004). The CueSport Book of Professional Snooker: The Complete Record & History. Lowestoft: Rose Villa Publications. ISBN 978-0954854904.
  15. ^ a b Davis, Steve (9 April 2015). Interesting: My Autobiography. London: Ebury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4735-0248-2.
  16. ^ Nauright, John; Zipp, Sarah (3 January 2020). Routledge Handbook of Global Sport. Abingdon: Taylor & Francis. p. 277. ISBN 978-1-317-50047-6.
  17. ^ a b Nunns, Hector; Hendon, David (2020). "Full History of Snooker". WPBSA. Archived from the original on 10 August 2019. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  18. ^ a b c d e Morrison, Ian (1989). Snooker: records, facts and champions. Enfield: Guinness Publishing. p. 86. ISBN 0-85112-364-3.
  19. ^ Everton, Clive (1979). The History of Billiards and Snooker. London: Cassell. p. 80. ISBN 0304303739.
  20. ^ "First official 147 break in snooker". Guinness World Records Limited. Archived from the original on 25 December 2019. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Obituary: Mr Joe Davis". The Times. London. 11 July 1978. p. 16 – via The Times Digital Archive. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  22. ^ BBC Snooker Century Breakers VHS home video 1993
  23. ^ a b Everton, Clive (2 December 2011). Black Farce and Cue Ball Wizards: The Inside Story of the Snooker World. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78057-399-1.
  24. ^ "Tributes to cue king Fred Davis". BBC Sport. 16 April 1998. Archived from the original on 3 May 2011. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  25. ^ a b Callan, Frank; Dee, John (1989). Frank Callan's Snooker Clinic. Partridge. ISBN 978-1-85225-069-0.
  26. ^ O'Sullivan, Ronnie (10 October 2013). Running: The Autobiography. London: Orion. ISBN 978-1-4091-1224-2. Archived from the original on 15 February 2017. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  27. ^ a b "Snooker Gold Cup won by Davis". Morning Bulletin. 21 December 1936. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  28. ^ a b "Snooker tournament". Staffordshire Sentinel. Stoke-on-Trent. 29 January 1938. p. 7.
  29. ^ "Snooker – The handicap tournament". The Times. London. 23 January 1939. p. 4.
  30. ^ "Snooker". The Times. London. 12 February 1940. p. 2.
  31. ^ "£1,500 snooker placings". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. Leeds. 22 January 1951. p. 3.
  32. ^ "Snooker". The Times. London. 21 January 1952. p. 4.
  33. ^ "Fred Davis wins". The Billiard Player. No. 448. London: Billiards Association and Control Council. April 1958. p. 7.
  34. ^ "Snooker". The Glasgow Herald. 17 November 1958. p. 4. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  35. ^ "Snooker in Australia". Nottingham Journal. Nottingham. 7 November 1934. p. 11.
  36. ^ "Davis needs three to win". Aberdeen Press and Journal. Aberdeen. 10 June 1950. p. 4.
  37. ^ "Snooker Plus". The Glasgow Herald. 20 November 1959. p. 6. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  38. ^ "Snooker Plus". The Glasgow Herald. 23 November 1959. p. 10. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  39. ^ The Billiards and Snooker Control Council Handbook and Rules. London: Billiards and Snooker Control Council. 1971. p. 95.


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