|Organisation(s)||World Snooker Association|
|Total prize fund||GB £2,395,000|
|Current champion(s)||Ronnie O'Sullivan|
The World Snooker Championship is the leading tournament in professional snooker, both in terms of prestige and prize money. Along with the UK Championship and the invitational Masters, it is one of the three tournaments that make up the Triple Crown Series.
The tournament was first held in 1927, with Joe Davis winning the first 15 championships before retiring undefeated after his final win in 1946. No tournaments were held between 1941 and 1945 due to World War II, or between 1952 and 1963 due to a dispute between the Professional Billiards Players' Association (PBPA) and the Billiards Association and Control Council (BACC). An unofficial alternative established by the PBPA, the World Professional Match-play Championship, was held between 1952 and 1957. In 1964, the official championship was revived on a challenge basis.
The World Championship became a knockout tournament again in 1969, marking the beginning of what is now known as snooker's "modern era". It has taken place annually since then, with every tournament since 1977 staged at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. Stephen Hendry holds the record for the most world titles in the modern era, having won the tournament seven times. Steve Davis, Ray Reardon, and Ronnie O'Sullivan have each won six titles; John Higgins has won four; and John Spencer, Mark Williams, and Mark Selby have each won three.
Hendry is the youngest champion in the tournament's history, having won his first title in 1990, aged 21 years and 106 days. Reardon is the oldest champion, having won his last title in 1978, aged 45 years and 203 days. Eleven maximum breaks have been made in the history of the tournament, with Cliff Thorburn achieving the first in 1983. Davis has made the most Crucible appearances overall, with 30 between 1979 and 2010, while O'Sullivan holds the record for the most consecutive appearances, with 28 between 1993 and 2020.
Professional Snooker Championship (1927–1934)
The first championship was held in 1927 and was called the Professional Snooker Championship. It was the first important professional snooker tournament although the English Amateur Championship has been contested since 1916. Ten professionals entered including most of the leading billiards players. The draw was made at the start of the season and the players made their own arrangements about the dates and venue for the matches, although it was decided in advance that the semi-finals and final would be in Birmingham. Matches were over fifteen frames with the semi-finals over twenty-three frames and final over thirty-one frames. The first match played was between Melbourne Inman and Tom Newman at Thurston's Hall, Leicester Square in London. The snooker was played as an added extra to the main event, a billiards match played over two weeks. The match started on Monday 29 November 1926 and one frame of snooker was played at the end of each session. Inman won 8–5, the match finishing on the Monday afternoon, a week after it started. One other match was played in connection with a billiards contest but the remaining matches were snooker-only matches. With minimal prize money, players mainly made money from their share of the gate receipts. Because of this it was common for "dead" frames to be played after the result of the match had been decided. The final between Joe Davis and Tom Dennis was played over four days in early May at Camkin's Hall in Birmingham. Davis won the first seven frames and led throughout, taking a winning 16–7 lead on the third day, eventually winning 20–11. The highest break of the tournament was sixty, made by Albert Cope in his semi-final match against Davis, in a dead frame after Davis had won the match. Davis made a fifty-seven break in the final.
The 1928 Championship was played on a challenge basis, with the other six entries playing-off for the right to challenge Joe Davis in the final. Davis met Fred Lawrence in the final, winning 16–13. The challenge system was dropped in 1929. Davis met Tom Dennis in the final, played in Dennis's home town of Nottingham. Davis made a new record break of sixty-one  on the way to a 19–14 victory. The same pair met in the 1930 final, played for the first time at Thurston's Hall in London. The final was extended to forty-nine frames played over six days. Davis won comfortably, 25–12, with a day to spare and made a new record break of 79. With little prospect of success and little prospect of financial gain, most of the professionals saw little point in entering the championship and, despite an upsurge in interest in snooker, there were only two entries for the 1931 championship. Davis and Tom Dennis met for the fourth time, the event being played in Nottingham. Dennis led 19–16 at one stage but Davis won nine of the next eleven frames to take the Championship 25–21.
There were three entries in 1932 including New Zealander Clark McConachy. McConachy met Joe Davis in the final, played at Thurston's Hall. Davis took the title 30–19 and set a new record with a break of ninety-nine, missing out on his century after he snookered himself. There were five entries in 1933 including forty-seven-year-old Willie Smith who entered for the first time and met Joe Davis in the final. Smith had won the World Billiards Championship twice. The match was played at Davis's own snooker hall in Chesterfield. The match was close until Davis pulled away in the later stages, as he often did, winning 25–18. There were just two entries in 1934, Davis being opposed by Tom Newman, six times World Billiards Champion. The match was held partly in Nottingham before finishing in Kettering. Davis won 25–22, although Newman led 14–13 at one stage.
Thurston's Hall era (1935–1940)
In the early years of the championship, snooker had been seen, in the professional game, as secondary to billiards but from the mid-1930s snooker dominated. The 1935 Championship introduced some significant changes. It was the first to incorporate "world" in its name, being called the World's Professional Snooker Championship. There was also a change in the organisation of the event with the matches being played consecutively at the same venue, Thurston's Hall in London. Previously the draw had been made early in the season and the players made their own arrangements about the dates and venue of matches. The change in format proved a great success and Thurston's Hall became the primary venue for professional snooker matches. In the period from 1935 to 1940, nearly all World Championship matches were played there and with good attendances the professionals could make some money from their share of the entrance charges. Because of the importance of gate receipts, dead frames were played out, whatever the state of the game. This had often been the case in the early championships but now became universal.
There were five entries in 1935 Championship. Joe Davis beat Willie Smith 28–21 in the final, having earlier taken a winning 25–20 lead. Davis recorded the first century break in the history of the championship, 110 in his semi-final match against Tom Newman. The break was made in a dead frame but was still regarded as a championship record. The success of the 1935 championship resulted in a record thirteen entries for 1936. A number of younger professionals entered for the first time, including an Australian, Horace Lindrum, the nephew of Walter Lindrum, the reigning World Billiards Champion. Joe Davis and Horace Lindrum won all their matches easily and met in the final. Davis had won one of his matches 29–2 after taking a winning 16–0 lead. Lindrum won his semi-final by the same score, 29–2, making a break of 101, although, like Davis's record 110 break, it was made in a dead frame. In the final Lindrum led 26–24 at the start of the final day and then won the first frame on the last day. However Davis won the last ten frames in a row to win 34–27.
Qualifying was introduced for the first time in 1937 and, with nine entries, two players were chosen to play a qualification match to reduce the field to eight. The two were Fred Davis, Joe's younger brother and Bill Withers, an unknown Welsh professional. Withers won the match 17–14, a defeat that Fred put down to ignoring his worsening eyesight. Unfortunately for Withers he met Joe in the quarter-finals. Davis won the first two frames before Withers won the third, doubling the final black to win the frame. This was to be Withers last frame as Davis won the next 14 to win the match 16–1. Davis then won the remaining 14 dead frames, to win 28 frames in succession. Davis and Horace Lindrum were not troubled in reaching the final, which was a repeat of 1936. Lindrum led 17–13 at the half-way stage, but Davis recovered to win the match 32–29. Davis made a break of 103 in the final, the first championship century in live play.
Horace Lindrum chose not to enter in 1938 and Joe Davis won easily, beating Sidney Smith in the final. In his semi-final Davis made breaks of 104 and ninety-six in successive frames and finished the winning frame in the final with a ninety-eight clearance. Brothers Joe and Fred Davis met at the semi-final stage in 1939. Joe won but Fred had the satisfaction of making a 113 clearance, a new record break for the championship, Joe met Sidney Smith in the final for the second successive year. Joe again won comfortably, taking a winning 37–25 early on the final day. The 1940 Championship was played during the "Phoney War" stage of World War II. Joe and Fred Davis met in the final. Joe led 15–10 but then Fred won eleven frames in succession to lead 21–15. On the final day Joe made a 101 break to take a winning 37–35 lead. The spectators cheered for nearly a minute when Joe made his century. In October 1940, during The Blitz, Thurston's Hall was destroyed by a parachute mine which demolished the south-western corner of Leicester Square. No tournaments were played during the remainder of World War II.
Post-war era (1946–1952)
The championship resumed in 1946 and Joe Davis met Horace Lindrum in the final, a repeat of 1936 and 1937. The final was organised on a much larger scale than anything previously. The Royal Horticultural Hall in London was converted to a snooker venue, seating 1,250. The match was extended from one week to two, allowing up to 30,000 spectators to be accommodated with prices ranging from 5s to £3. Davis maintained a small lead throughout and won, early on the final day, leading 73–62. Davis made six centuries in the final, setting new championship records of 133 and 136. The event proved a financial success for the players, with Davis receiving £1,800 and Lindrum £550 together with the championship table and all the equipment, plus their share of the gate receipts.
In October 1946, Joe Davis announced that he would "retire" from the World Championship. Davis had never lost a match in the championship from its inception in 1927. He did not, in any other sense, retire from snooker, continuing to play in other tournaments and exhibition matches for many years. There were a record twenty entries for the 1947 championship. Thirteen had to play in a qualifying competition; the winner joining the other seven in the quarter-finals. The semi-finals were completed by the middle of March but the two finalists, Fred Davis and Walter Donaldson, agreed to delay the final until the autumn so that it could be played at the rebuilt Thurston's Hall, now renamed Leicester Square Hall. The final was again over 145 frames and was played from 13 to 25 October. Donaldson got off to a good start, leading 44–28 after the first week and eventually taking a winning 73–49 lead early on the 11th day. The first qualifying match for the 1948 championship started just five weeks later. Fred Davis and Walter Donaldson again reached the final. This time it was Davis who got off to a good start, leading 45–27 after the first week. The second week was closer but Davis eventually took a winning 73–49 lead on the eleventh day. Fred Davis and Walter Donaldson met again in the 1949 final. Donaldson led 39–33 after the first week but Davis pulled ahead on the second week and eventually took a winning 73–58 lead.
After three finals at Leicester Square Hall the 1950 final moved to Blackpool Tower Circus, moving out of London for the first time since 1934. The final was reduced to ninety-seven frames over eight days. Fred Davis and Walter Donaldson met, yet again, in the final. The score was level at 18–18 after three days but Donaldson pulled ahead to lead 45–39 at the start of the last day. Donaldson won four of the first seven frames on the final day to lead 49–42 and win back the championship. The 1951 final was a repeat of the 1950 final, same venue and another Fred Davis/Walter Donaldson contest. Davis led 44–28 after six days and, although Donaldson won eight of the twelve frames on the seventh day, Davis won comfortably early on the final day.
Following a dispute between the Professional Billiards Players' Association (PBPA) and the Billiards Association and Control Council (BACC), members of the PBPA boycotted the 1952 championship. The BACC thought the championship should be primarily a matter of honour, and financial considerations should come second. As a consequence of the boycott there were only two entries, Australian Horace Lindrum and New Zealander Clark McConachy. Both players were well past their best. McConachy had played in the recent News of the World Tournament but had performed badly, losing all eight of his matches. Although Lindrum did not play in the News of the World Tournament, he had been receiving more generous starts in recent handicap tournaments and had even withdrawn from a tournament in 1950, complaining about his overly generous handicap which gave the public the wrong impression about his ability. Lindrum won the championship easily, reaching a winning 73–37 position early on the tenth day, becoming the first non-British player to win the World Championship.
World Professional Match-play Championship (1952–1957)
Having boycotted the official championship, the Professional Billiards Players' Association (PBPA) established their own championship called the PBPA Snooker Championship which attracted ten entries. The entries did not include Joe Davis, who chose not to enter the new tournament. Fred Davis and Walter Donaldson were given byes to the semi-final stage. They both reached the final again, although Donaldson had a close match against Albert Brown. The final was over seventy-three frames and was held at Blackpool Tower Circus. Davis had the best of the first four days and led 29–19. Donaldson won sixteen frames on the last two days but Davis held on to win the championship. Davis made a break of 140 in the final, a record for championship play, beating brother Joe's 136 set in 1946. The second unofficial championship was called the 1953 World Professional Match-play Championship and resulted in another final between Fred Davis and Walter Donaldson. The seventy-one frame final and was the last held at Leicester Square Hall before its closure in 1955. The match was tied at 33–33 at the start of the final session but Davis was again successful. Fred Davis and Walter Donaldson met in the 1954 final, held in Manchester, the eighth successive final between the pair. The final was the most one-sided of the eight finals, Davis taking a winning 36–15 lead early on the fifth day.
After his heavy defeat in 1954 Walter Donaldson chose not to enter in 1955. Fred Davis met John Pulman in the final at Blackpool Tower Circus. Davis got off to a good start and held on to win his seventh championship. Fred Davis and John Pulman met again in the 1956 final, played again in Blackpool. The match was again close but Davis won for the eighth time. The 1957 championship attracted only four entries and was held over two weeks in Jersey. Fred Davis, the reigning champion, could not afford to travel such a distance and did not enter. John Pulman beat Jackie Rea in the final to win his first world title. In the recent News of the World Tournament Pulman had been handicapped as the fourth strongest player. None of the three higher-handicapped players (Joe Davis, Fred Davis and Walter Donaldson) played in the championship and, with little interest in the event, there was no championship in 1958.
Challenge matches (1964–1968)
|April 1964||John Pulman|
|October 1964||John Pulman|
|March 1965||John Pulman|
|late 1965||John Pulman|
|late 1965||John Pulman|
|April 1966||John Pulman|
|March 1968||John Pulman|
No world championship, official or unofficial, was held between 1958 and 1963 but in 1964, with the approval of the BACC, the championship was revived on a challenge basis. The first contest was played in Burroughes Hall, London in April 1964 between forty-year-old John Pulman and fifty-year-old Fred Davis. Pulman won the thirty-seven frame match 19–16 to become the official world champion. Pulman won two further challenge matches played at Burroughes Hall, beating Rex Williams in October 1964 and then Fred Davis again in March 1965.
In late 1965 John Pulman and Rex Williams played a long series of short matches in South Africa. Pulman won twenty-five of the forty-seven matches to retain the title. Williams set a new championship record with a break of 142 in the twenty-fourth match. After this series of matches Pulman played the South African Fred Van Rensburg, winning thirty-nine frames to twelve. Back in England, Fred Davis met John Pulman for the third time. There were seven separate matches played in Liverpool. Pulman won four of the first six matches to retain the title.
After April 1966 there were no more contests until Australian Eddie Charlton challenged John Pulman and the pair met in a seventy-three frame match in Bolton, played in March 1968. Pulman led 19–17 at the half-way stage but then pulled ahead and won the match 37–28. This was to be the last challenge match as the championship then reverted to a knock-out format.
Knockout tournaments (1969–1976)
For 1969 the championship reverted to being run as a knockout tournament. This is regarded as the beginning of the modern era for snooker. Eight professionals entered, four from the 1950s and four new professionals. The first match, played in late 1968 saw the end of John Pulman's reign as champion, beaten by one of the new professionals, John Spencer. Spencer led 24–18 after the final afternoon session and clinched the match by winning the first frame in the evening with a ninety-seven break. Spencer and another of the new professionals, Gary Owen met in the final at the Victoria Halls in London. Spencer won the seventy-three frame final 37–24. Spencer lost to Ray Reardon at the semi-final stage of the 1970 Championship. Reardon went on to win the final against John Pulman to win his first title.
The next world championship was held in Australia in late 1970. For the only time there was a group stage with nine players, the top four moving on to a knock-out stage. Ray Reardon and John Spencer met in one semi-final with Spencer winning easily. The other semi-final was between two Australians, Warren Simpson and Eddie Charlton. Simpson caused a major upset by beating Charlton. In the final in Sydney, Spencer led throughout and won the six-day final 37–29. 1972 saw the emergence of Alex Higgins. Winning his two qualifying matches, he beat John Pulman, Rex Williams and then Spencer in the final to win the title at his first attempt. At 22 years, 345 days Higgins was the youngest world champion. Previously only Joe Davis had won the title while under the age of 30, being 26 years, 27 days when he won in 1927.
The 1973 Championship marked a change in format, with the tournament played over two weeks at a single venue rather than over an extended period. Sixteen played in the first round, the eight winners playing eight seeded players in the second round. In the semi-finals, defending champion Alex Higgins lost 9–23 to Eddie Charlton while Ray Reardon beat John Spencer 23–22. In the five-day final Charlton led 7–0 after the opening session but Reardon led 17–13 after two days. The match continued to be close but Reardon pulled ahead on the final day to win 38–32, for his second title. The 1974 Championship followed a similar format but with somewhat shorter matches and event reduced to ten days. Sixty-year-old Fred Davis beat Alex Higgins in the quarter-finals before losing to Ray Reardon. Reardon met Graham Miles in the three-day final. Reardon led 17–11 after two days and won comfortably 22–12.
The 1975 Championship was held in Australia. Twenty-seven players competed including eight from Australia, sixteen from the United Kingdom, two from Canada and one from South Africa. Ray Reardon beat John Spencer and Alex Higgins to reach the final where he met Eddie Charlton. The final was held near Melbourne but matches were held in many locations, the semi-finals having been held in Canberra and Brisbane. In the final Reardon won ten of the twelve frames on the second day to lead 16–8 but Charlton won the first nine frames on the third day to lead. Reardon then led 23–21 before Charlton won eight frames in a row to lead 29–23, needing just two of the last nine frames to win. However Reardon then won seven frames in a row to lead again and, although Charlton levelled the match at 30–30, Reardon won the deciding frame.
The 1976 World Snooker Championship was held at two venues; half the draw was held in Middlesbrough and half in Manchester, which also hosted the final. Alex Higgins won three close matches to reach the final, where he met Ray Reardon. Reardon led 24–15 at the start of the last day and, winning three of the first four frames, took the title 27–16, his fourth successive title. There were a number of problems during the tournament including the standard of the tables. This was the first year the championship was sponsored under the cigarette brand Embassy.
Crucible era starts (1977–1980)
In 1977, the championship moved to its new home at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, where it has remained ever since. The 1977 championship featured sixteen competitors: eight seeded players and eight qualifiers. John Spencer beat defending champion Ray Reardon 13–6 in the quarter-finals, and met Canadian Cliff Thorburn in the final. The two players were closely matched throughout, the score being tied at 9–9 after the first day and 18–18 after the second. Spencer led 22–20 after the first session on the final day, and pulled ahead to win 25–21 in the final session of the match.
Defending champion John Spencer lost to Perrie Mans in the first round of the 1978 championship. The 1977 runner-up Cliff Thorburn was defeated 12–13 in his quarter-final match against Eddie Charlton, who won the last five frames. However, Charlton then lost to Ray Reardon in the semi-finals; he was ahead 12–9 after the first three sessions of the match, but Reardon won all seven frames of the fourth session to win 18–14. Mans met sixty-four-year-old Fred Davis in the other semi-final, defeating him 18–16. Reardon won the final 25–18 to claim his sixth world title. He became the oldest World Champion, aged 45 years, 203 days. The first seven World Snooker Champions all won a championship when in their forties; the last of these was Reardon. It would be another forty years before a quadragenarian won the title again, as Mark Williams won the 2018 championship aged forty-three.
The 1979 championship was won by Terry Griffiths who had only turned professional seven months prior to the tournament, and needed to win two qualifying matches to reach the Crucible. Griffiths was trailing 16–17 against Eddie Charlton in the semi-final, before eventually winning the match 19–17 at 1.40 am. He then beat Dennis Taylor 24–16 in the final, winning the record first prize of £10,000. Canadian Bill Werbeniuk made a break of 142 in his quarter-final match against John Virgo, equalling the championship record set by Rex Williams in South Africa in 1965.
In the 1980 championship, the number of participants was extended to twenty-four players. Those seeded from nine to sixteen each met a qualifier in the first round, the winner meeting one of the top eight seeds in the second round. Several changes were made to accommodate the extra matches, including a reduction in the number of frames played in the final, to a maximum of thirty-five. Cliff Thorburn met Alex Higgins in the final. The match was level at 9–9 after the first day and again at 13–13 after the afternoon session on the second day. During the evening session, the score was tied once again at 16–16, before Thorburn made a 119 clearance in frame thirty-three and a break of fifty-one in frame thirty-four to win the championship.
Steve Davis years (1981–1989)
Despite being the number thirteen seed, Steve Davis was the favourite for the 1981 championship. He won a close match 10–8 against Jimmy White in the first round and defeated three past world champions to meet fourteenth seed Doug Mountjoy in the final. Davis won the first six frames but was only leading 10–8 at the end of the first day. He led 14–12 at the start of the final evening session and won the next four frames to win the match 18–12. At 23 years old, Davis was the second-youngest champion. Mountjoy set a new championship record with a highest break of 145 during his semi-final match against Ray Reardon.
The 1982 championship was extended to thirty-two players with sixteen seeded players and sixteen qualifiers. There was a surprise in the first round when Tony Knowles beat defending champion Steve Davis 10–1. In the semi-finals Jimmy White was ahead 15–14, and led 59–0 in the thirtieth frame, but missed an easy red with the rest. His opponent Alex Higgins then made a sixty-nine clearance and won the deciding frame and the match 16–15. Higgins met Ray Reardon in the final. The score was 15–15 before Higgins won three frames in a row to win the championship, finishing with a clearance of 135, denying Reardon the chance to win a seventh world title.
Cliff Thorburn made the first maximum break of the World Championship in 1983 during his second-round match against Terry Griffiths. The importance of this achievement at the time is demonstrated by the fact that play was stopped on the other table. This was the break that gave the World Championship one of its most iconic words of commentary, "oh, good luck mate" on the final black, courtesy of Jack Karnehm. Thorburn beat Griffiths in a final-frame decider, a match that finished at 03:51, the latest-ever finish for a match at the Crucible. Thorburn then also won his quarter-final and semi-final matches in the deciding frame; exhausted, and deflated by the news that his wife had suffered a miscarriage, he faced a one-sided final against Steve Davis who won 18–6. The 1984 final was between Steve Davis and Jimmy White (in his first final). Davis led 12–4 after the first day but White won seven of the eight frames on the final afternoon. Davis led 16–12 at the evening interval and, despite a comeback from White, Davis won 18–16.
In the 1985 final, also known as the black ball final, Dennis Taylor beat Steve Davis 18–17 on the final ball of the final frame, in one of the most closely contested matches of all time. It finished at 00:19 and, with an audience of 18.5 million, it remains the most-watched programme in the history of BBC2, and holds the record for a post-midnight audience for any channel in the United Kingdom. Davis met sixteenth seed Joe Johnson in the 1986 final. Johnson led 13–11 at the start of the evening session and won five of the first six frames to win 18–12. Johnson had trailed 9–12 in his quarter-final against Terry Griffiths but won the last four frames to win 13–12. Johnson and Davis met again in the 1987 final although, on this occasion, Davis was the winner by a score of 18–14.
Steve Davis and Terry Griffiths met in the 1988 final. The score was 8–8 after the first day but Davis pulled ahead on the final day and won 18–11. Davis made his seventh successive final in 1989, meeting John Parrott. Davis led 13–3 after the first day and won the first five frames on the second day to win the match 18–3. Davis won £105,000 for his 1989 victory, a new record.
Stephen Hendry dominates (1990–1999)
In 1990, Steve Davis failed to reach the final for the first time since 1982, losing in the semi-finals 14–16 to Jimmy White. In the final Stephen Hendry beat White 18–12 becoming, at 21 years, 106 days, the youngest ever world champion.:58
In 1992, Jimmy White became the second player to make a maximum break in the world championship, during his 10–4 first round win over Tony Drago.:63 Defending champion John Parrott beat Eddie Charlton 10–0, the first:62 of only two whitewashes in the Crucible era (the second being by Shaun Murphy over Luo Honghao in 2019). Stephen Hendry met Jimmy White in the final. White led 14–8 but Hendry won ten frames in a row to win 18–14.:63
In 1993, James Wattana, from Thailand, became the first Asian player to reach the semi-finals, where he lost to Jimmy White. The final was one-sided, with Stephen Hendry beating White 18–5. Total prize money reached £1,000,000 for the first time.
In 1994, Jimmy White reached his sixth final, meeting Stephen Hendry for the fourth time in the final. Hendry led 5–1 but White won six frames in a row to lead 7–5. Thereafter the match was always close and the match went to a final frame. White missed a black off the spot, after which Hendry made a break of fifty-eight to clinch the title. Fergal O'Brien made a century in his first frame at the Crucible, the only player ever to do so.
In 1995, Hendry and White met in the semi-finals, where Hendry won again, making a maximum break during the match. In the other semi-final Nigel Bond beat unseeded Andy Hicks. The final was initially close until Hendry won nine frames in a row to take the score from 5–5 to 14–5. Hendry eventually won 18–9. Hendry made a record twelve century breaks during the tournament.
In 1996, Peter Ebdon reached the final, beating Jimmy White, Steve Davis and Ronnie O'Sullivan on the way. He met Stephen Hendry in the final. Ebdon led 4–2 in the early stages but Hendry eventually won 18–12 to win his fifth successive title. There were forty-eight century breaks during the final stages, a new record.
In 1997, in the first round of the championship, Ronnie O'Sullivan made the fastest maximum break in snooker history, taking just five minutes and twenty seconds. The final was between Stephen Hendry and Irishman Ken Doherty. Doherty led 15–7 before Hendry won five frames in a row. Doherty then won the next three frames to win 18–12, ending Hendry's winning run of twenty-nine consecutive matches.
In 1998, Stephen Hendry lost to Jimmy White in the first round of the championship. Doherty reached the final again meeting 22-year-old John Higgins. Higgins won 18–12, making five centuries in the final. In total there were fifty-nine centuries during the tournament of which Higgins made fourteen, both records.
In 1999, Stephen Hendry won his seventh and final world title, the most in the modern era. In the final he beat Mark Williams 18–11. In the semi-final between Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan each player made four century breaks, the eight centuries being a record for a world championship match.
The class of '92 (2000–2013)
The period from 2000 to 2013 was dominated by three players, all born in 1975 and who all turned professional in 1992. Ronnie O'Sullivan won five times in this period, John Higgins three times and Mark Williams twice. Higgins had also won in 1998, and Williams and O'Sullivan went on to win in 2018 and 2020 respectively.
In 2000 Stephen Hendry was beaten 10–7 in the first round by Crucible debutant Stuart Bingham. In his semi-final Mark Williams trailed 11–15 to John Higgins but took six frames in a row to win 17–15. In the final Williams met fellow Welshman Matthew Stevens. Stevens led 13–7 but Williams made another comeback to win 18–16, becoming the first left-handed champion.
Ronnie O'Sullivan won his first world championship in 2001, defeating John Higgins 18–14 in the final. O'Sullivan led 14–7 before Higgins won four frames in a row. O'Sullivan looked likely to win the title in the 31st frame as he led 17–13 and 69–6. However he missed a red in the middle pocket and Higgins won the frame with a break of 65. Higgins made a break of 45 in frame 32 but O'Sullivan made an 80 break to take the title.
Stephen Hendry beat Ronnie O'Sullivan 17–13 in the semi-final of the 2002 Championship, Hendry reaching his ninth final. Peter Ebdon beat Matthew Stevens 17–16 in the other semi-final. Stevens led 16–14 but Ebdon won the last three frames. The final went to the deciding frame where Ebdon made a break of 59 and clinched the title. There were a record sixty-eight centuries in the tournament, including a record sixteen by Stephen Hendry who made five centuries in the semi-final and a further four in the final.
Mark Williams won his second World title in 2003 by defeating Ken Doherty 18–16 in the final. Prize money peaked in 2003 with the winner receiving a record £270,000 and the thirty-two Crucible players getting at least £15,000. Ronnie O'Sullivan made the fifth maximum break in the World Championship, becoming the first player to score two 147s in the event.
Shaun Murphy won the 2005 championship by defeating Matthew Stevens 18–16 in the final. Murphy was only the second qualifier to win the World Championship, after Terry Griffiths in 1979. Murphy won two qualifying matches and then five matches at the Crucible to take the title.
Graeme Dott beat Peter Ebdon 18–14 in the 2006 final. The match finished at 00:52 am, the latest finish of a World Snooker Championship final. This was the first Championship sponsored by a betting company after the banning of tobacco sponsorship. Dott won £200,000 for his victory with the thirty-two Crucible players getting at least £9,600, both significant reductions on the 2003 prize money. In the last round of the qualifying competition Robert Milkins had the first 147 break made during qualifying for the championship. Despite his maximum, Milkins lost to Mark Selby.
The 2007 Championship was won by John Higgins who beat qualifier Mark Selby 18–13 in the final. The match finished at 00:55 am, even later than the 2006 final and setting another record for the latest finish in the final. Shaun Murphy came back from 7–12 down to win his quarter-final match against Matthew Stevens, but lost in the deciding frame of his semi-final to Mark Selby.
The 2008 Championship was won by Ronnie O'Sullivan who beat Ali Carter 18–8 in the final. Both O'Sullivan and Carter had made maximum breaks earlier in the tournament, the first time there had been two 147 breaks in the same World Championship. It was O'Sullivan's third maximum in the Championship.
John Higgins won his third world title in 2009, beating Shaun Murphy 18–9 in the final. Michaela Tabb refereed the final, becoming the first woman to do so in a World Championship final. There were a record eighty-three century breaks in the Championship, well ahead of the previous highest of sixty-eight. Stephen Hendry won his 1000th at the Crucible Theatre, the first player to do so. The championship included the second longest ever frame at the Crucible which lasted seventy-four minutes fifty-eight seconds between Stephen Maguire and Mark King.
The 2010 Championship was won by Neil Robertson who beat qualifier Graeme Dott 18–13 in the final, becoming the fourth non-U.K. winner of the title after Horace Lindrum, Cliff Thorburn and Ken Doherty.
John Higgins won his fourth world title in 2011, beating Judd Trump 18–15 in the final. 21-year-old Trump became the youngest finalist since Stephen Hendry in 1990. Trump had beaten David Gilbert in the qualifying competition and then defeated defending champion Neil Robertson in the first round.
Ronnie O'Sullivan won his fourth world title in 2012, defeating Ali Carter 18–11 in the final. On the opening day Hendry made his third maximum break at the Crucible, equalling Ronnie O'Sullivan's record. He announced his retirement from professional snooker following his loss to Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals. Aged 17 years, 45 days, Luca Brecel became the youngest player to compete at the Crucible.
Defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan retained the title in 2013 despite having played only one competitive match all season. He defeated Barry Hawkins 18–12 in the final to win the title for the fifth time. He broke Hendry's record of 127 career Crucible centuries, finishing the tournament with 131. He also became the first player to make six century breaks in a Crucible final.
Between 1998 and 2018, fifteen of the twenty-one finals featured at least one class of '92 player.
Mark Selby: Three wins in four years (2014–2017)
Mark Selby won the world title in 2014 by beating defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan 18–14 in the final having trailed 5–10. Selby won a record £300,000 for his victory; the prize exceeding the previous highest of £270,000 in 2003, although prize money for first-round losers remained at £12,000.
Selby lost 9–13 in the second round of the 2015 Championship to Crucible debutant Anthony McGill. Stuart Bingham won the title, defeating Ronnie O'Sullivan 13–9 in the quarter-finals, Judd Trump 17–16 in the semi-finals, and Shaun Murphy 18–15 in the final to win the first world title of his twenty-year professional career. At the age of 38, Bingham became the oldest player to win the title since Ray Reardon in 1978 (although this achievement would subsequently be surpassed by 43-year-old Mark Williams in 2018 and 44-year-old O'Sullivan in 2020).The tournament set a new record for the most century breaks made at the Crucible, with eighty-six.
Defending champion Stuart Bingham lost 9–10 against Ali Carter in the first round of the 2016 Championship. Mark Selby defeated Ding Junhui 18–14 in the final to claim his second world title. Ding was the first Asian player to reach a World Championship final. There were eighty-six century breaks made during the Championship, equalling the record set in 2015. A new record of ten centuries in a professional match was set in the semi-final between Ding Junhui and Alan McManus, with Ding also setting a new record of seven centuries by one player in a World Championship match. Mark Selby and Marco Fu set a new record for the longest frame of snooker ever played at the Crucible, seventy minutes eleven seconds.
Prize money for the 2017 Championship was a record £1,750,000 with the winner receiving £375,000. Prize money for first-round losers was a record £16,000, exceeding the £15,000 players received in 2003. In a high-quality and tightly contested semi-final, defending champion Mark Selby beat Ding Junhui 17–15 in a repeat of the previous year's final. Selby met John Higgins, in a repeat of the 2007 final. Higgins was the second oldest Crucible finalist at 41 years, 348 days; only Ray Reardon had been older. Selby trailed 4–10 during the second session but then won twelve of the next fourteen frames to lead 16–12. Higgins won the next three frames but Selby took the title 18–15, becoming champion for the third time in four years, joining Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, and Ronnie O'Sullivan as the only men to have successfully defended the title since its move to the Crucible.
Return of the veterans (2018–2020)
In 2018, two "class of '92" players, Mark Williams and John Higgins, met in the final. Their rivalry dated back to the late 1990s, although only three of their meetings had been in the World Championships, all in semifinals, in 1999, 2000 (both won by Williams 17–15) and 2011 (won by Higgins 17–14). The match was closely contested, Williams coming out on top by 18–16 to win the World Championship for the first time since 2003, setting a new record for the longest gap between consecutive World Championship victories. He won £425,000.
Higgins reached the final again in 2019, only to be beaten 18–9 by Judd Trump, who won £500,000. Their final set records for the most century breaks in a professional match, with 11, beating the previous record of 10 set in the 2016 semifinal between Ding Junhui and Alan McManus. It also set a record for the most centuries in a Crucible final, bettering the previous record of eight, set in 2002 when Stephen Hendry played Peter Ebdon, and equalled in 2013 when O'Sullivan played Barry Hawkins.Trump set a new record for the most centuries by a player in a single match, achieving seven to better O'Sullivan's six centuries in the 2013 final. The tournament also recorded a record 100 century breaks.
In 2020, Ronnie O'Sullivan made a record 28th consecutive appearance at the Crucible and won the World Championship for the sixth time, collecting prize money of £500,000. Aged 44 years and 254 days, he became the oldest player to win a world title since Ray Reardon in 1978. It was also O'Sullivan's 37th ranking title, surpassing the 36 ranking titles achieved by Hendry. In the same tournament, John Higgins made the first 147 break seen at the Crucible since 2012, earning him the £15,000 highest break prize plus an additional £40,000 bonus for achieving a maximum.
The format for the World Championship has been largely unchanged since 1982. It has a knock-out format with 32 players, contested over 17 days ending on the first Monday in May, which is a public holiday in the United Kingdom. Before 1982 there were a number of different formats used for the Championship. In 1980 and 1981, 24 players played in the final stages at the Crucible. The top eight seeds had a bye in the first round while seeds 9 to 16 played in the first round against eight qualifiers. From 1977 to 1979, the first three years at the Crucible, only 16 players reached the final stages, eight seeds playing eight qualifiers in the first round. Before 1980, the final was not always played over a set number of frames- for example, in 1978 Ray Reardon beat Perrie Mans in a best-of-49 frames match 25–18 and, the following year, Terry Griffiths defeated Dennis Taylor 24–16 in a best-of-47.
16 of the players reach the final stages directly while the other 16 get there through a qualifying competition. The reigning world champion receives a direct entry and is the number one seed (the World Champion is usually seeded 2nd for all ranking tournaments, and The Masters, for the following season). The remaining direct entries are based on the latest world rankings, players being seeded based on these world rankings. Since the defending champion is normally ranked in the top 16, the top 16 ranked players generally receive a direct entry.
The first round is played over 19 frames, played in two sessions. The second round and quarter-finals are the best of 25 frames played over three sessions while the semi-finals and final are played over four sessions, the semi-finals being over 33 frames and the final 35 frames. For the first 12 days of the tournament two matches are played concurrently. For the last five days (the semi-finals and final) only one table is used.
Prior to 1997 the semi-finals were played over 31 frames. Occasionally the dates of the Championship are changed. In 1982 the Championship ended on Sunday 16 May while in 1985, 1990 and 1995 it ended on the last Sunday in April. In each of these years the tournament started on a Friday but, as of 2019, this has not happened since. Due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 the Championship was played later in the year, from 31 July to 16 August.
Several changes to the qualifying system came into effect for the 2015 championship. All living world champions would be extended an opportunity to play in the qualifying rounds. The top 16 seeds would still qualify automatically for the first round at the Crucible, but all non-seeded players would have to start in the first of three qualifying rounds. Previously players seeded 17 to 32 only had to win one qualifying match to reach the final stages. The overall championship would increase from 128 to 144 players, with the additional places made available to former world champions and players from emerging countries.
Top performers of the modern era
The 'modern' era is considered to start in 1969, when the championship reverted to a knock-out tournament format from a challenge format. In the modern game, the best record is that of Stephen Hendry, who won seven times in the 1990s. Ray Reardon in the 1970s, while Steve Davis won six times in the 1980s. Ronnie O'Sullivan has also won his six titles, between 2001 and 2020.
|Alex Higgins||Northern Ireland||2||2||4||7||19||10.5%|
|Dennis Taylor||Northern Ireland||1||1||2||5||21||4.8%|
|Perrie Mans||South Africa||0||1||1||2||13||0%|
- Active players are shown in bold.
- Only players who reached the final are included.
- Appearances relates to appearances in the final stages, excluding qualifying match.
- In the event of identical records, players are sorted in alphabetical order by family name.
Barry Hearn has stated on a number of occasions that he wishes for the tournament to remain at the Crucible forever, providing it continues to draw large numbers of visitors and revenue to the city of Sheffield. In 2016 it was announced that the Crucible would continue to host the event until 2027.
Except for two championships played in Australia, all championships from 1969 to 2005 were sponsored by tobacco companies. In 1969 and 1970 the championship was sponsored by John Player under the brand Player's No.6. The Gallaher Group sponsored under the brand Park Drive from 1972 to 1974, while from 1976 to 2005 Imperial Tobacco sponsored under the brand Embassy. Legislation in 2003 placed restrictions on tobacco advertising, including sponsorship of sporting events. Embassy received special dispensation to continue snooker sponsorship until 2005.
Since 2006 all championships have been sponsored by betting companies. In 2006 888.com took over the sponsorship of the event, and they signed a five-year deal, but pulled out after just three years. Betfred.com were the sponsor from 2009 to 2012, followed by Betfair in 2013, Dafabet in 2014 and by Betfred again, from 2015 to 2021.
Before the world championship moved to the Crucible in 1977, TV coverage was very limited. In the 1950s, the BBC occasionally showed snooker on television, including 30-minute programmes of the 1953 and 1955 finals, with commentary by Sidney Smith. Despite the launch of Pot Black in 1969 there was little coverage of the World Championship. There was some coverage of the 1973, 1974 and 1976 championships in Manchester on one or two Saturday afternoon Grandstand programmes each year. Commentary was by Ted Lowe.
BBC TV coverage for the first Crucible championship in 1977 was increased but was limited to highlights of the semi-finals and some coverage of the final on Grandstand and a late night highlights programme. The commentator was Ted Lowe with the highlight programmes presented by Alan Weeks. The 1978 championship was the first to have daily BBC TV coverage with 14 nightly highlights programmes as well as Saturday afternoon coverage on Grandstand. Ted Lowe commentated while the programmes were presented by David Vine and Alan Weeks. In 1979, TV coverage was extended to include an early-evening "Frame of the Day" as well as live coverage of parts of the final. David Vine was the presenter while the commentary team was extended to include Jack Karnehm and Clive Everton. In 1980, TV coverage included daily live coverage for the first time. Coverage of the final was interrupted to bring live coverage of the Iranian Embassy Siege.
David Vine continued to be the main host for the BBC's TV coverage until 2000, with David Icke as prominent second host from 1985 to 1990, and Dougie Donnelly through the 1990s. For some years commentary was primarily by Ted Lowe, Clive Everton and Jack Karnehm although John Pulman, Vera Selby and others were used. In 1986 Jim Meadowcroft, John Spencer and John Virgo were used as summarisers. From 2001 to 2009 the BBC coverage was hosted by Hazel Irvine or Ray Stubbs. From 2010, Hazel Irvine took over with highlights presented by Rishi Persad. In February 2013, the BBC announced that Rishi Persad had been replaced by Jason Mohammad. Commentators have included Willie Thorne, Dennis Taylor, John Virgo, John Parrott, Steve Davis, Ken Doherty, Stephen Hendry, Terry Griffiths and Neal Foulds.
In January 2013, it was announced that the BBC had renewed its contract to broadcast the Triple Crown tournaments up until the end of the 2016/2017 season. Eurosport also provides coverage of the event, with commentators including Joe Johnson, Mike Hallett, Neal Foulds and Alan McManus. Often Eurosport cover both matches simultaneously on their two British Eurosport channels.
The "Crucible curse" refers to the fact that no first-time world champion has retained the title the following year, since the tournament moved to the Crucible Theatre in 1977. Joe Johnson and Ken Doherty are the only two players who have reached the final at the Crucible in defence of a first world title, but neither was successful; Johnson in 1987 and Doherty in 1998.
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