Greatest Champions in the History of the World Snooker Championship

Here’s a sport we don’t usually write about… Snooker. With the world championships coming up in about two weeks time in the Crucible Theater, Sheffield, England, it’s time to take a look at the most successful players in the history of the most prestigious tournament in snooker in terms of ranking points and of course, money. Here are the eight men to achieve multiple titles in the World Championships in the modern era (since 1969).

Two Wins – Mark Williams (Wales) and Alex Higgins (Northern Ireland)

Mark Williams

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Mark Williams – Fresh of his win in the China Open this weekend, his first ranking win since 2006 (at the same event), Williams will be entering Sheffield as one of the favorites, despite his world ranking of 15. Williams has won in the Crucible twice, once in 2000, coming back from behind after trailing Matthew Steven 7-13, going on to win 18-16, becoming the third Welshman to win the world title. In 2003 Williams was on the wrong end of a fierce comeback. Williams led 10-2 over Ken Doherty, who staged an amazing comeback, bringing the match to 16-16 before Williams regained his crunch time composure, winning it 18-16. Williams is also considered one of the best long potters in the game and is eighth all time on the century makes list, despite a tendency to play wild and creative shots after a frame is won.

Alex Higgins
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Alex Higgins – Alex “Hurricane” Higgins is mostly remembered for his unorthodox style and behavior while playing snooker, often drinking alcohol and smoking and being a classic example of how NOT to cue the ball. His quickness and flamboyancy earned him the Hurricane nickname. Higgins won his first world title at the age of 22, beating John Spencer. He was the youngest player to win the title until Stephen Hendry (21) did it in 1990. He won his second title 10 years later, beating Ray Reardon, a six time winner. Reardon previously beat Higgins in the 1976 final.

Three Wins – Ronnie O’Sullivan (England), John Higgins (Scotland) and John Spencer (England)

Ronnie O'Sullivan

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Ronnie O’Sullivan – Maybe he doesn’t have the most titles and money earned (Stephen Hendry does), but most people would agree that the rocket” is the most talented player in the history of the game. In the 1997 World Championship O’Sullivan completed the fastest ever 147 break (at the World Championship), completing it in 5 minutes and 20 seconds, an average of one pot every nine seconds. In 2001 he won his first world title, beating John Higgins 18-14. In 2004, with the help of an advising Ray Reardon, O’Sullivan claimed his second world title, beating Graeme Dott 18-8. In the Semi Final he beat his nemesis, Stephen Hendry, 17-4, the most one sided win in the history of the World Championship semi’s. In 2008 O’Sullivan won his third world title, also achieving his 3rd 147 break at the crucible, more than anyone else. He beat Ali Carter (who also 147’d in the tournament) 18-8 in the final.

John Higgins
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John Higgins – The second most successful Scottish player of the modern era, Higgins, currently number 4 in the world, is the reigning world champion, beating Shaun Murphy 18-9 last year. His first win at Sheffield came in 1998 at the age of 22, becoming one of only four players to hold the World, UK and Irish Masters titles at the same time. He won his second world title in 2007, beating Mark Selby 18-13. His win last year made him the oldest player to win the world title since Dennis Taylor in 1985, 36 years old at the time.

John Spencer
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John Spencer – One of the greatest players of Snooker during it’s rising years from obscurity to a popular sport in the UK during the 1970’s, Spencer won three world titles. He won the first title of the “modern era” in 1969, the year the tournament returned to a knockout format. He won it again in 1971 and for a third and final time in 1977, winning the inaugural tournament at it’s home (maybe not for long) since 1977, the Crucible Theater  in Sheffield. Spencer passed away almost four years ago at the age of 70.

Six Wins – Ray Reardon (Wales) and Steve Davis (England)

Ray Reardon

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Ray Reardon – The Welshman who ruled the 70’s, nicknamed Dracula for his widow’s peak and signature grin, Reardon six times between 1970-1978, including a four-peat, winning in 1973-1976, playing seventeen world championship matches without defeat. In 1973, his second win in the World’s, Reardon beat Eddie Charlton in the final (38-32), but his most memorable victory of the tournament was his epic 23-22 win over John Spencer. In 1975, when the tournament was held in Melbourne, Reardon reached the final against Eddie Charlton, an Australian. Charlton already led 29-23, needing two more frames for the title, but Reardon made a tremendous comeback, eventually winning 31-30. Charlton remains the only player to reach the world championship finals in snooker and billiard without winning the titles.

Steve Davis
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Steve Davis – Until Davis came along in the early 1980’s, snooker was usually dominated by men in their 30’s and 40’s. He won the world title six times (1981, 1983-1984, 1987-1989) and was the first snooker player to win more than a million pounds from tournaments. Despite being 52 years old, Davis still plays, currently ranked 23rd in the world. Davis’ most memorable moment was actually the 1985 final, when he lost to Dennis Taylor in the Black Ball match. In the final frame, with the score tied at 17-17, Taylor potted the color balls, leaving only the black as the winner takes it all ball. To date, the final is one of the most memorable moments in snooker and in British sports history.

Number one, with Seven Wins – Stephen Hendry (Scotland)

Stephen Hendry

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The record holder with seven wins (all in the 90’s), Hendry is currently ranked 10th in the world. He is the youngest player to win the world title (21, 1990) and is the all time leader in career earnings with 8.6 million pounds. Hendry gained his dominance due to his fantastic long potting skills and his aggressive tendencies in the match, going for the difficult and risky shots, often making them in his prime. He plays in a steady pace, not relying too much on strategy and safeties although it has changed in recent years. He hasn’t won a major tournament in over a decade (four finals in the world’s, UK Champs and Masters) and his last tournament win was in 2005, the Malta Cup. Still, Hendry’s achievements during the 1990’s – Seven World titles including five consecutive (1992-1996), 5 UK titles and six Masters titles make him the greatest player ever in the game in terms of titles, which eventually, make the bottom line.