History of the World Snooker Championship

World Snooker Championship history

The World Snooker Championship is one of the most prestigious and longest-running tournaments in the history of professional snooker.

The World Snooker Championship has a rich history that dates back to the early 20th century. Here’s a brief overview of its historical development.

1. Early Beginnings
2. The Joe Davis Era
3. The Post-Joe Davis Era
4. The Crucible Era
5. The Modern Era
6. 147 Breaks

Early Beginnings

Snooker was first invented in India in the late 19th century by British Army officers.

The game’s name was derived from the officers’ nickname for a newly arrived cadet at the time, “snooker.”

A game of snooker consisted of 22 balls – 15 red balls and one each of the white, yellow, green, brown, blue, pink, and black balls.

The object of the game was to score more points than your opponent, with a red ball worth one point and the other colored balls valued from two to seven points. (Visit our other page for more information onĀ how to play a game of snooker.)

Snooker had been gaining popularity in the early 20th century, and various competitions were held in England and other parts of the British Empire.

However, it was Joe Davis, a prominent English professional snooker and billiards player, who recognized the need for a prestigious and formalized World Championship event.

Davis saw the potential for snooker to become a widely recognized sport and decided to organize a World Championship to crown the best player on a global scale.

He held discussions with the Billiards Association and Control Council (BACC) to gain support for the idea, and they agreed to sponsor the first World Snooker Championship.

The inaugural championship took place in 1927 at various locations across England, including Birmingham and London.

It featured a simple knockout format with 10 participants, all of whom were invited by Joe Davis himself.

The first World Championship was won by Davis, who defeated Tom Dennis in the final with a score of 20-11.

Davis famously funded the trophy with his own money – the same piece of silverware that is awarded in the modern era.

The Joe Davis Era

Following his victory in the inaugural championship, Joe Davis established an unprecedented dominance in the sport.

He went on to win the next 14 World Championships consecutively until 1940.

The Second World War caused the tournament to be suspended from 1941 to 1945, but it resumed in 1946, with Davis winning his 15th and final title.

Joe Davis’s contributions to snooker extended beyond his playing achievements.

He was a skilled promoter and ambassador for the sport, traveling internationally to exhibit his skills and popularize snooker in different countries.

Davis’s efforts significantly contributed to the global spread and recognition of the game.

His mastery of billiards and snooker techniques also raised the level of play in the sport, inspiring a new generation of players to take up the game and compete at a higher standard.

Many top players of that era considered Davis to be virtually unbeatable, and his talent and dedication to snooker laid the foundation for the championship’s enduring legacy.

After his retirement from competitive play, Davis remained involved in snooker as an administrator and referee, continuing to promote the sport until his passing in 1978.

His influence on the World Snooker Championship and the game as a whole is immeasurable, and he will forever be remembered as the “father of snooker.”

The legacy of Joe Davis and the World Snooker Championship lives on, with his name forever etched in the annals of snooker history.

Post-Joe Davis Era

With Joe Davis’s retirement from competitive play after winning 15 consecutive World Championships, the post-war years marked a new chapter for the World Snooker Championship.

The tournament resumed in 1946 after a five-year hiatus due to World War II, and players had the opportunity to compete for the prestigious title without facing the seemingly unbeatable Davis.

The absence of Davis opened up the field, and a new generation of talented players began making their mark in the sport.

During this era, however, the sport suffered from political inner turmoil that threatened the future of the tournament.

There was no World Championship staged between 1958 and 1963, and there were only challenge matches between 1964 and 1968.

It wasn’t until the formation of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association in 1968 that things began to turn around, with a knockout format edition of the World Snooker Championship returning the following year in 1969.

Notable Players of the Post-War Era

Walter Donaldson: Walter Donaldson was one of the prominent players of the time and reached the final of the World Championship eight times between 1947 and 1954 – winning the title on two occasions.

Fred Davis: Fred Davis, the younger brother of Joe Davis, also had a significant impact on the post-war era of snooker. He reached the World Championship final multiple times and won the title eight times.

John Pulman: John Pulman was a dominant force in the 1960s, also winning the World Championship title eight times. His reign as a top player helped elevate the popularity of snooker during that decade.

Ray Reardon: Ray Reardon emerged as a major force in the 1970s. He won the World Championship six times, dominating the sport alongside other great players of the era like John Spencer and Alex Higgins.

The Crucible Era

In 1977, the World Snooker Championship found its permanent home at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England.

The Crucible had been built in 1971 as a venue for the annual Sheffield Crucible Theatre Festival, which focused on the arts, theater, and music.

However, in 1977, the decision was made to host the World Snooker Championship at this iconic venue, which ultimately transformed the tournament’s history and status.

Promoter Mike Watterson made the decision to transition the event to the Crucible on the suggestion of his wife, Carole, who had visited the theatre to watch a play.

World Snooker Championship history
The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield

Several factors contributed to the decision to move the World Snooker Championship to the Crucible Theatre.

Intimate Setting: The Crucible has a relatively small seating capacity compared to other snooker and sporting venues. This intimate setting created a close and intense atmosphere, making it a perfect venue for a high-stakes sporting event like the World Championship.

Excellent Viewing Experience: The Crucible’s design allows for excellent sightlines from all seats, ensuring that the audience can closely follow the action on the table.

Media Coverage: The Crucible’s layout provided space for television cameras and media personnel, making it ideal for broadcasting the matches to a global audience.

City of Sheffield: Sheffield has a rich history in snooker and billiards, with a strong fan base for the sport. Keeping the tournament in the city further solidified Sheffield’s status as a snooker hub.

The Crucible Effect

The Crucible Theatre quickly became synonymous with the World Snooker Championship.

Players and fans alike embraced the venue’s unique atmosphere, which added drama and tension to the matches.

The iconic black baize, vibrant lighting, and enthusiastic audience made the Crucible a special place for players to showcase their skills and determination.

The move to the Crucible also coincided with the emergence of new talent in snooker, which helped fuel the tournament’s popularity.

The venue witnessed legendary battles between players, with the best-of-the-best competing for the coveted title.

The Crucible Effect not only elevated the status of the World Championship but also played a significant role in promoting snooker to a global audience.

The Rise of Crucible Legends

The move to the Crucible Theatre ushered in an era of snooker legends who became synonymous with the World Snooker Championship.

These players achieved tremendous success during snooker’s boom period of popularity during the 1980s, leaving a lasting impact on the tournament’s history.

Steve Davis: Steve Davis was a dominant force in the 1980s. He won six World Championships (1981, 1983-84, 1987-89) and played a significant role in popularizing snooker during the sport’s boom years.

Alex Higgins: Known for his entertaining and flamboyant style of play, Alex “Hurricane” Higgins won the World Championship in 1972 and 1982. His emotional and passionate performances captivated audiences and made him a fan favorite.

Jimmy White: Although never winning the World Championship, Jimmy White, also known as the “Whirlwind,” reached the final on six occasions (1984, 1990-1994) but narrowly missed out on the title each time. Despite not lifting the trophy, he became one of the most beloved players in the sport’s history.

Terry Griffiths: Terry Griffiths, a Welsh snooker player, won the World Championship in 1979 as a qualifier. He displayed a high level of tactical skill and was respected for his composed and steady demeanor on the table.

These players, along with other notable contenders, engaged in thrilling matches, creating some of the most memorable moments in snooker history at the Crucible Theatre.

The 1985 final, where Dennis Taylor defeated Steve Davis on the final black in a dramatic deciding frame, is considered one of the greatest moments in snooker and is still fondly remembered by fans.

The combination of talented players, intense competition, and the unique atmosphere of the Crucible Theatre contributed to making the World Snooker Championship an annual spectacle and firmly established it as one of the most prestigious events in the world of snooker.

The Modern Era

Snooker and its World Championship underwent a rapid rise in popularity during the 1980s, particularly in the UK and Ireland.

However, a new generation of stars began to emerge toward the end of the decade and into the 1990s and subsequently the 21st century.

Where long tactical battles had been the accepted norm up until this point, the sport was suddenly awash with talented attacking players who placed a greater emphasis of importance on the art of break building.

World Snooker Championship history
Stephen Hendry was nicknamed the “King of the Crucible”

Here is a brief list of some of the most prominent players from the period at the World Snooker Championship.

Stephen Hendry: Stephen Hendry emerged as the dominant force of the game during the 1990s. The Scot won the World Championship title seven times between 1990 and 1999, which stood as a modern-era record.

Ronnie O’Sullivan: Ronnie O’Sullivan won his first World Snooker Championship title in 2001 and has proceeded to match Hendry’s tally of seven at the Crucible. O’Sullivan is widely considered as the most talented player in the history of the sport.

John Higgins: Like O’Sullivan, John Higgins became a professional player in 1992 and quickly became an established star. He won the World Championship four times between 1998 and 2011.

Mark Williams: Mark Williams is the third member of the Class of ’92 alongside O’Sullivan and Higgins. The Welshman won the World Championship in 2000, 2003, and 2018.

Mark Selby: Mark Selby has reached six World Championship finals, winning the crown four times between 2014 and 2021.

These players have established themselves as Crucible heroes, etching their names as legends in the history of the World Snooker Championship.

147 Breaks

A 147 break in snooker is the highest possible achievement in a single frame of play.

It occurs when a player pots all 15 red balls with a black ball after each red, followed by all the colored balls in sequence (yellow, green, brown, blue, pink, and black).

This results in a maximum score of 147 points in a single frame.

Achieving a 147 break is a rare and celebrated feat in the sport, and it has a special significance when accomplished at the Crucible Theatre during the World Snooker Championship.

The Crucible Theatre, located in Sheffield, England, has been the iconic venue for the World Snooker Championship since 1977.

Due to the venue’s intimate and atmospheric setting, players often speak of the unique pressure and intensity they feel while competing at the Crucible.

As a result, achieving a 147 break at this prestigious tournament carries a higher level of significance and is considered an exceptional achievement in the sport.

The First Crucible 147

The first maximum break of 147 at the Crucible Theatre occurred in the 1983 World Snooker Championship.

The player achieving this historic feat was Cliff Thorburn from Canada. His perfect break in the second round of the tournament was a landmark moment in snooker history.

Stephen Hendry’s Maximums

Stephen Hendry, one of the sport’s greatest players, recorded three 147 breaks at the Crucible Theatre.

His first came during the 1995 World Championship, and the second was achieved in 2009.

Hendry then compiled a third 147 break in 2012 during his last appearance at the Crucible Theatre.

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s Unprecedented 147s

Ronnie O’Sullivan, known for his incredible talent and natural flair, has achieved the remarkable feat of making multiple 147 breaks at the Crucible.

Like Hendry, O’Sullivan has recorded three maximums at the World Snooker Championship.

His first came in 1997, followed by 2003 and 2008. O’Sullivan’s 147s are particularly memorable because of their swift and seemingly effortless execution.

His 1997 maximum break was compiled in a record time of five minutes and eight seconds.

Other Crucible Maximums

In addition to Thorburn, Hendry, and O’Sullivan, other players have also achieved 147 breaks at the Crucible Theatre, adding to the tournament’s prestige and excitement.

Jimmy White became the second player to achieve the feat in 1992, and there were maximum breaks compiled by Mark Williams and Ali Carter during the 2000s.

John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Kyren Wilson, and Mark Selby have all compiled 147 breaks in the history of the World Snooker Championship.

Photos: Wikipedia Commons

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