UK Championship Snooker: Information and a Potted History

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The UK Championship is one of professional snooker’s longest running and most prestigious major tournaments.

Held every year since 1977, the UK Championship is part of the fabled Triple Crown Series of events alongside the World Championship and the Masters. It is widely acknowledged as the sport’s second most important ranking tournament, with coverage and prize money befitting its celebrated stature. 

The competition was initially for British and Irish passport holders only, with the opening seven editions played under this rule, meaning it was non-ranked. However, in 1984, it became a world ranking event, open to all professional players regardless of nationality. It has remained this way since.

Several venues have hosted the UK Championship, although it is associated strongly with the Guild Hall in Preston, and more recently the Barbican in York - its popular modern-day home. 

The main venue stages of the UK Championship have always been held in either November or December, although the format has changed throughout the years with different draw structures and length of matches. 

In recent years, the event has reverted to a tiered system with the top 16 seeds automatically going through to the last 32 at the main venue where they are joined by 16 qualifiers. All matches are the best of 11 frames, except for the multi-session best of 19 frames final.

In the past, it was commonplace for the event to have multi-session matches throughout several rounds, and finishing with a two-day final.

UK Championship Snooker: Most successful players, stats, stories, best finals 

A plethora of the sport’s all-time greats have lifted the UK Championship trophy, in fact, the top 12 most decorated ranking event winners of all time have each won it at least once. 

Ronnie O’Sullivan is the most successful player in UK Championship history with eight title triumphs spanning 30 years. 

Credit: Getty Images/George WoodCredit: Getty Images/George Wood
Credit: Getty Images/George Wood | Getty Images/George Wood

‘The Rocket’ famously won the 1993 edition as a 17-year-old, defeating world number one and world champion Stephen Hendry in the final. His first ranking title, O’Sullivan became the youngest-ever winner of a ranking event, a record that still stands today. 

As well as the youngest, O’Sullivan is remarkably the oldest UK Champion, too, when two days shy of his 48th birthday he defeated Ding Junhui in the 2023 final to collect a record-extending title number eight, once again highlighting his unrivalled longevity at the very top. 

In 2018, O’Sullivan secured his seventh crown, becoming the most decorated UK Champion (surpassing Steve Davis’ benchmark of six) and Triple Crown event winner (overtaking Stephen Hendry’s total of 18). 

Second and third on the all-time UK Championship success list are Davis and Hendry, who each appeared in the final on ten occasions. 

Davis was the first multiple-time winner and first to retain the title, doing so in dominant fashion. In both 1980 and 1981, Davis won his semi-final tie 9-0 before respective 16-6 and 16-3 final victories. 

Between 1980 and 1990, Davis won the event six times – including in four consecutive years – and was the runner-up on three occasions. At one stage, Davis totted up a 27-match UK Championship winning streak before Hendry defeated him in the 1988 semi-finals.

A quarter of a century on from his first final outing, Davis appeared in his 10th UK final in 2005. 

The bulk of Hendry’s success came in the late 80s and early/mid 90s, beginning with back-to-back wins in 1989 and 1990, both times defeating Davis in the final which represented a shift in the sport’s hierarchy. 

Hendry claimed three UK titles on the spin in the mid 90s. In the 1994 final he memorably compiled seven century breaks (six in the space of eight frames), and he won the 1995 installment with an overall frame aggregate of 55-15. Either side of those three wins was a final appearance where he lost to O’Sullivan, 10-6. 

One of the best UK Championship rivalries was between Davis and Alex Higgins who met in the final three times (1980, 1983 and 1984). Davis won the first and last of those, but in 1983, Higgins recovered from 7-0 down to eventually oust his closest rival 16-15. 

Another duo who famously duelled were John Parrott and Jimmy White; facing each other in back-to-back finals. 

A few months on from their final encounter at the World Championship, Parrott completed a world and UK double in 1991, but White got his hands on the trophy 12 months later in a reverse outcome. 

Ding Junhui was the first non-British and Irish player to win the UK Championship in 2005. World ranked number 62 and aged just 18 at the time, the Chinese star had to navigate nine rounds, denying Davis a fairytale of his own in the final. 

In 2015, Neil Robertson defeated Liang Wenbo in what was the first UK Championship final not to feature a British player. 

In recent decades, two more players from outside the top 16 rankings have taken the UK accolade; Stephen Maguire (ranked 24th) in 2004 and Zhao Xintong (ranked 26th) in 2021. In that latter final, Zhao dispatched Luca Brecel in the first-ever UK Championship final where both players were outside the world’s top 16 at the time.

At the time of writing, 10 of the 47 UK Championship finals have gone to a deciding frame. The first such instance came in 1979 when John Virgo pipped Terry Griffiths 14-13. Earlier in the match, Virgo was docked two frames for arriving late to the final session having not realised the start time had been moved forward. 

The most recent deciding frame finish was in 2020 behind closed doors (Covid-19 Pandemic) when Robertson dramatically denied Judd Trump on the final pink. 

Besides the aforementioned comeback from Alex Higgins in 1983, arguably the best UK final recovery was from John Higgins in 2010. 

The three-time champion trailed Mark Williams 9-5 - and even needed penalty points in the 17th frame - before conjuring up a remarkable 10-9 turnaround. 

Trump nearly bettered that in 2014 when he forced a deciding frame against O’Sullivan having been 9-4 down, although his effort just came up short.

Nine players have been multiple-time UK Championship winners, this list includes Doug Mountjoy whose two titles came a decade apart. Having lost to Patsy Fagan at the Tower Circus in Blackpool in the inaugural final in 1977, the Welshman won the following year before upsetting the odds ten years later when he schooled a promising, young Hendry.

Credit: James Baylis/AFP via Getty ImagesCredit: James Baylis/AFP via Getty Images
Credit: James Baylis/AFP via Getty Images | James Baylis/AFP via Getty Images

UK Championship Snooker: Roll of Honour, Locations and Winner's Prize Money 

1977: Patsy Fagan 12-9 Doug Mountjoy (Blackpool) | £2,000

1978: Doug Mountjoy 15-9 David Taylor (Preston) | £3,500

1979: John Virgo 14-13 Terry Griffiths (Preston) | £4,500

1980: Steve Davis 16-6 Alex Higgins (Preston) | £6,000

1981: Steve Davis 16-3 Terry Griffiths (Preston) | £10,000

1982: Terry Griffiths 16-15 Alex Higgins (Preston) | £11,000

1983: Alex Higgins 16-15 Steve Davis (Preston) | £12,000

1984: Steve Davis 16-8 Alex Higgins (Preston) | £20,000

1985: Steve Davis 16-14 Willie Thorne (Preston) | £24,000

1986: Steve Davis 16-7 Neal Foulds (Preston) | £60,000

1987: Steve Davis 16-14 Jimmy White (Preston) | £70,000

1988: Doug Mountjoy 16-12 Stephen Hendry (Preston) | £80,000

1989: Stephen Hendry 16-12 Steve Davis (Preston) | £100,000

1990: Stephen Hendry 16-15 Steve Davis (Preston) | £110,000

1991: John Parrott 16-13 Jimmy White (Preston) | £35,000

1992: Jimmy White 16-9 John Parrott (Preston) | £70,000

1993: Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-6 Stephen Hendry (Preston) | £70,000

1994: Stephen Hendry 10-5 Ken Doherty (Preston) | £70,000

1995: Stephen Hendry 10-3 Peter Ebdon (Preston) | £70,000

1996: Stephen Hendry 10-9 John Higgins (Preston) | £70,000

1997: Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-6 Stephen Hendry (Preston) | £75,000

1998: John Higgins 10-6 Matthew Stevens (Bournemouth) | £75,000

1999: Mark Williams 10-8 Matthew Stevens (Bournemouth) | £78,000

2000: John Higgins 10-4 Mark Williams (Bournemouth) | £78,000

2001: Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-1 Ken Doherty (York) | £100,000

2002: Mark Williams 10-9 Ken Doherty (York) | £84,500

2003: Matthew Stevens 10-8 Stephen Hendry (York) | £84,500

2004: Stephen Maguire 10-1 David Gray (York) | £70,000

2005: Ding Junhui 10-6 Steve Davis (York) | £70,000

2006: Peter Ebdon 10-6 Stephen Hendry (York) | £77,000

2007: Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-2 Stephen Maguire (Telford) | £100,000

2008: Shaun Murphy 10-9 Marco Fu (Telford) | £100,000

2009: Ding Junhui 10-8 John Higgins (Telford) | £100,000

2010: John Higgins 10-9 Mark Williams (Telford) | £100,000

2011: Judd Trump 10-8 Mark Allen (York) | £100,000

2012: Mark Selby 10-6 Shaun Murphy (York) | £125,000

2013: Neil Robertson 10-7 Mark Selby (York) | £150,000

2014: Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-9 Judd Trump (York) | £150,000

2015: Neil Robertson 10-5 Liang Wenbo (York) | £150,000

2016: Mark Selby 10-7 Ronnie O'Sullivan (York) | £170,000

2017: Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-5 Shaun Murphy (York) | £170,000

2018: Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-6 Mark Allen (York) | £170,000

2019: Ding Junhui 10-6 Stephen Maguire (York) | £200,000

2020: Neil Robertson 10-9 Judd Trump (Milton Keynes) | £200,000

2021: Zhao Xintong 10-5 Luca Brecel (York) | £200,000

2022: Mark Allen 10-7 Ding Junhui (York) | £250,000

2023: Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-7 Ding Junhui (York) | £250,000

1977-83: Non-ranked, 1984 onwards: Ranked

Credit: George Wood/Getty ImagesCredit: George Wood/Getty Images
Credit: George Wood/Getty Images | George Wood/Getty Images

UK Championship Snooker 147 Breaks

1987: Willie Thorne (Last 32) 

1992: Peter Ebdon (Last 64) 

1995: Stephen Hendry (Last 16) 

1999: Stephen Hendry (Last 16) 

2000: Nick Dyson (Last 128) 

2004: David Gray (Last 32) 

2007: Ronnie O’Sullivan (Semi-Finals) 

2008: Ding Junhui (Last 16) 

2012: Andy Hicks (Round 2 Qualifying), Jack Lisowski (Round 3 Qualifying), John Higgins (Last 16) 

2013: Mark Selby (Semi-Finals) 

2014: Ronnie O’Sullivan (Last 16) 

2015: Neil Robertson (Final) 

2016: Mark Allen (Last 64) 

2019: Barry Hawkins (Round 1) 

2020: Kyren Wilson (Round 1), Stuart Bingham (Round 1) 

2021: Gary Wilson (Round 1) 

2023: Xu Si (Round 2 Qualifying)

(Players in bold denotes it was their first 147 in professional competition)

A total of 20 maximum 147 breaks have been made throughout the history of the UK Championship. 

The first televised UK Championship 147 was completed by Stephen Hendry in 1995. 

Hendry (1995), Ronnie O’Sullivan (2007 and 2014) and Neil Robertson (2015) have each made a 147 and gone on to win the same tournament. 

Robertson’s 147 in 2015 came in the final. This was the first maximum break to be compiled in a Triple Crown event final. 

David Gray’s perfection in 2004 was the 50th 147 in professional competition, Mark Selby’s in 2013 was the 100th. 

The 2012 UK Championship made the record books as it was the first time in history that three maximum 147 breaks were constructed in the same ranking event. 

During the 2004 UK Championship, Jamie Burnett created history when he made a break of 148 during his 9-8 second qualifying round win against Leo Fernandez. 

It is the only instance in professional snooker history that a break of more than 147 has been crafted. This was made possible due to the freeball rule with 15 red balls still in play.

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