Snooker UK Championship 2021
In the world of snooker there are many tournaments that players can take part in, but perhaps only the World Snooker Championship, which is held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield every year, can come close to rivalling the UK Championship in terms of prestige. It is one of the tournaments that count towards a player’s world ranking and sits alongside the World Championship and the Masters as part of the sport’s Triple Crown.
Established in 1977, the tournament comes under the control of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association. It was originally hosted at Tower Circus in Blackpool under the title of the United Kingdom Professional Snooker Championship and was only open to British citizens or those with a British passport. Since then it has moved around from venue to venue before finally settling at York’s Barbican Centre permanently in 2011, having been held there from 2001 until 2006.
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Snooker UK Championship Format & Schedule
The UK Championship is traditionally the first of the three Triple Crown events of the snooker season, with matches usually starting in November and the tournament going on until December. In order to get a sense of how the tournament works it’s worth having a looking at a previous outing, in this instance the 2019 version of the competition.
128 players entered the tournament and there was no need for a qualification round. Matches were played in a single session in a best of 11 frames format, including the semi-finals. The final, meanwhile, was played over two sessions and a best of 19 frames format was used. That has been the case every year since 1993.
The event is seeded, meaning that players are drawn against others according to their ability and should theoretically result in the best players making it through to the latter stages of the competition. That isn’t always the case, however, as proved by former World number 1 Mark Selby’s shock loss to amateur James Cahill by 3 frames to 6 in the first round in 2018. There are four rounds prior to the start of the quarter-finals.
|Round||Best Of (frames)||Number Players||Prize Money (£)|
|Final||19||2||200,000 / 80,000|
Highest Break – £5,000, 147 Break (Rolling) – £15,000
Schedule – 23rd November to 5th December 2021
|23rd November||1st Round||1st Round||1st Round|
|24th November||1st Round||1st Round||1st Round|
|25th November||1st Round||1st Round||1st Round|
|26th November||No Play||No Play||No Play|
|27th November||–||2nd Round||2nd Round|
|28th November||–||2nd Round||2nd Round|
|29th November||–||3rd Round||3rd Round|
|30th November||–||3rd Round||3rd Round|
|1st December||–||4th Round||4th Round|
|2nd December||–||4th Round||4th Round|
Morning sessions start at 9:30am, afternoon sessions for round 1 start at 2:30pm and then 1pm for subsequent rounds. Evening sessions start at 7:30pm for the first round and then 7pm for subsequent rounds.
For 2020 there was £1,009,000 available in total, with the amount of money won by players depending on how far they made it. Here’s the breakdown:
- Last 64: £6,500
- Last 32: £12,000
- Last 16: £17,000
- Quarter-finals: £24,500
- Semi-finals: £40,000
- Final: £80,000
- Winner: £200,000
The competition also offers a £5,000 prize to the person that makes the highest break, whilst there’s a rolling pot available for anyone that gets a maximum break of 147 at any point during the tournament.
Much of the money is provided by sponsors, of which there have been many since the UK Championship’s formation. Companies such as Tennents, Royal Liver Assurance, Liverpool Victoria, Maplin Electronics and Pukka Pies have all taken on sponsorship responsibility over the years.
In recent times betting companies have come to the fore in terms of sponsorship, with the likes of William Hill, Coral and Betway getting their names into the public eye courtesy of sponsorship deals. The fact that the tournament is one of only a few snooker competitions that are shown live on the BBC has been a likely selling point to sponsors over the years.
The UK Championship’s Place In The Triple Crown
Sometimes referred to as ‘snooker’s Majors’, the Triple Crown in the sport is the World Championship, the UK Championship and the Masters. That is also the order of the prestige in which the three competitions are held by the snooker playing community too.
All three tournaments are shown live on the BBC and the idea of winning the three of them has been in existence since the UK Championship was inaugurated in 1977. The World Snooker Championship had been considered prestigious since it returned to a single elimination format in 1969, whilst the Masters was introduced in 1975.
Steve Davis became the first player to get close to winning all three events in the same season when he won the UK Championship and World Championship in 1980-1981, then was the first player to win all three events during his career when he won the Masters in 1982. He was also the first player to complete the Triple Crown in the same season when he did so in 1987-1988.
There’s a difference between a career Triple Crown, in which players win all three tournaments at some point in their lives, and a season Triple Crown, in which the events are won in the same season. At the time of writing 11 players have completed career Triple Crowns whilst only Davis, Stephen Hendry and Mark Williams have won all three during the same season. John Higgins did hold all three titles at the same time in 1999 but his wins span two seasons.
History and About The UK Championship
First held in Blackpool back in 1977, the UK Championship was won in its inaugural year by Patsy Fagan, who beat Doug Mountjoy 12-9 and won the grand prize of £2,000.
It was moved away from Blackpool in 1978, though it stayed up north and was hosted by the Preston Guild Hall. The tournament remained there for just shy of two decades, with the biggest change to proceedings coming in 1984 when all professionals, regardless of where they were born or held a passport for, were allowed to enter.
1984 was also the year that the tournament became a ranking event for the first time. For many years it was second to only the World Championship in terms of the number of ranking points it offered, but has since been overtaken by both the International Championship and China Open. The prize money has also increased over the years, offering £850,000 to participants in the 2019 version of the event.
Steve Davis & The UK Championship
The competition has had its fair share of exciting and interesting finals over the years. It was the only major tournament that both Patsy Fagan and John Virgo won, for example, and was also the competition that gave Steve Davis the initial win of an 83 professional tournament win career. All of those victories came before 1984, however, so they were prior to the event becoming a ranking tournament and are therefore looked down upon by some in the snooker world.
Davis was a big part of the most exciting moments in the UK Championship’s history. His matches against Terry Griffiths in 1981 was the first of five finals between the pair that season that was expected to culminate in the World Championship of 1982, only for both players to be knocked out in the first round. Two years later and Davis was back in the final, leading Alex Higgins 7-0 after the first session only to lose 16-15 in a thrilling battle between the pair.
Davis had suffered a devastating loss in the 1985 World Championship and was on the way to a similar result in this tournament when Willie Thorne took a 13-10 lead in the start of the evening session. It looked like he was going to get things pretty much tied up only to miss a blue off its spot, handing Davis the initiative and eventually the win. It gave his career a much needed shot in the arm, whilst Thorne never won another ranking tournament.
Doug Mountjoy & Stephen Hendry
When Doug Mountjoy reached the final of the 1988 UK Championship it was seen by many as an achievement in its own right. Mountjoy was 46-years-old and was playing against the rising star of the sport in Hendry. It shocked everyone including Mountjoy himself, therefore, when he became the oldest winner of the competition thanks to a 16-12 victory. He then followed that up with a win in the Mercantile Credit Classic, making him the second-oldest winner of a ranking event and just the fourth snooker player to win consecutive ranking tournaments.
Hendry, of course, would be back. He beat Steve Davis in the final in 1989 to kickstart a decade of dominance in the sport. He beat Davis again the following year, managing a nervy 16-15 win to emphasise the shift in the power base of snooker. When the 1990s came to a close Davis was still the competition’s most successful player thanks to his six wins, four of which had been consecutive. Hendry wasn’t far behind him, though, notching up five wins of his own and being the losing finalist five more times during his career, including losses to a young player named Ronnie O’Sullivan…
Ronnie O’Sullivan was just 17-years-old when he beat Stephen Hendry in 1993, becoming the youngest player to win the UK Championship and, indeed, any ranking tournament. It was the start of a love affair between the player and the competition, with O’Sullivan beating Hendry again in 1997. It was his performance in the tournament in 2001 that is considered by many to be one of the best of his career, however. The tournament had shifted to being the best of 19 frames in 1993 and when O’Sullivan beat Ken Doherty 10-1 it was the widest winning margin since that change in format.
That win was the second time that Doherty had been beaten convincingly in the final, having lost 105 to Hendry in 1994 when the Scot managed seven century breaks. Doherty was made to feel somewhat better in 2007 when O’Sullivan played Stephen Maguire and beat him 10-2. He’d made the final courtesy of a 147 break in the deciding frame of his semi-final match. In 2011 the tournament returned to the Barbican Centre in York and played witness to yet another thrilling final when O’Sullivan won it for the fifth time thanks to a 10-9 win over Judd Trump. The Scot won it again in 2017 and then defended his title in 2018, making him the tournament’s most successful player.
Between 1977, when the UK Championship was played for the first time, and 2005, the tournament was won by someone from England, Scotland or Wales every year about from its debut one. Indeed, between Ronnie O’Sullivan’s first win in 1993 and Mark Williams’ second in 2002 the competition was shared out between just four players. That all changed in 2005 when Ding Junhui of China defeated Steve Davis in the final to become the first non-British player to win since the Republic of Ireland’s Patsy Fagan did in 1977.
It would be good to say that that paved the way for a series of non-British players to win, but instead the tournament was won by three Englishmen in a row before Junhui broke the deadlock once more in 2009.
Again the Brits wrestled control back in the years that followed, but in 2015 Australia’s Neil Robertson and China’s Liang Wenbo became the first overseas pairing to contest the UK Championship final. As if affronted by the fact, the next three finals all featured English players, with Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby sharing the honour of winning between them and Shaun Murphy and Mark Allen on the losing end.
Ding returned in 2019 with another win and this was followed with a third title for Neil Robertson in 2020 to reset the balance, demonstrating the UK Championship is now a worldwide tournament.
Snooker UK Championship Records and Statistics
All Time Winners
The table above shows players who have won the title on two or more occasions.
|First Tournament||Tower Circus, Blackpool||1977|
|Highest Winner Prize||£200,000||2020|
|Biggest Total Prize Fund||£1,009,000||2020|
|Biggest Final Win||16-3 (Steve Davis)||1981|
|Current Champion||Neil Robertson||2020|
|Most Used Venue||Barbican Centre, York||2002-2007, 2012-2019, 2021-|
|First Non-UK Winner||Ding Junhui||2005|
|Most / Least Players||128 / 24||2013- / 1977-81|
|Current Sponsor||Betway||2015 –|
Sticking with the Triple Crown for a moment, only Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry have successfully defended all three Triple Crown events at some point during their careers. Neil Robertson was the first player from outside of the UK to complete a career Triple Crown when he did so in 2013.
Stephen Hendry has won the UK Championship five times, with Steve Davis having done so on six occasions. Two of Davis’ wins came before it was a ranking event, however, so some people think they don’t count. Ronnie O’Sullivan is the undisputed champion of the UK Championship with more wins than both of them.
If you were going to place a bet on the country that the winner of the UK Championship will come from then you’d do well to opt for England, given that the winner was English 21 times between 1979 and 2020. The winner has come from north of the border 9 times, with the wins shared between three players.