Snooker UK Championship 2024
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.
From 2022 the format was changed so that it now mirrors that of the World Championship, apart from the length of the matches. Four qualifying rounds are used to whittle 128 players down to 16 and these are then joined by the top 16 ranked players players, including the defending champion, who are seeded directly to the last 32. That makes 144 players total, an increase on the previous 128.
Matches are played in a single session in a best of 11 frames format, including the semi-finals. The final, meanwhile, is played over two sessions and a best of 19 frames format is used. That has been the case every year since 1993.
The event is seeded, meaning that players enter at different rounds depending on their ranking. Each of the first three qualifying rounds feature 32 matches and 64 players.
The first round includes players ranked 81-112 against, these are seeded against players ranked 113-144 who are drawn at random. Players ranked 49-80 are seeded into the second qualifying round. Players ranked 17-48 are seeded into the third round. The forth round consists of 16 matches and 32 players, all winners from round 3. The winners of those matches then progress to the last 32 proper meeting the 16 top ranked players. There are now nine rounds in total including the final.
|Seeded Players Entering
|Players From Previous Round
|Prize Money (£)
|Q1 (Last 144)
|81-112 (113-144 unseeded)
|Q1 (Last 112)
|Q3 (Last 80)
|Q4 (Last 48)
|250,000 / 100,000
Highest Break – £15,000, 147 Break (Rolling) – £15,000
Schedule: 23rd November – 1st December 2024
|Afternoon (Match No)
|Evening (Match No)
|Last 32 (1, 3)
|Last 32 (4, 2)
|Last 32 (9, 11)
|Last 32 (12, 14)
|Last 32 (16, 15)
|Last 32 (13, 10)
|Last 32 (8, 6)
|Last 32 (5, 7)
|Last 16 (x2)
|Last 16 (x2)
|Last 16 (x2)
|Last 16 (x2)
Afternoon sessions for round 1 start at 1:00pm. Evening sessions start at 7:00pm. All matches best of 11 frames in a single session except the final, which is best of 19 frames over two sessions.
For 2022 the prize money was revamped to go with the new format that now includes 16 more players than before. This led to an increase from £1,009,000 available in 2021 to £1,205,000, with the amount of money won by players depending on how far they made it.
The winner takes home a tidy quarter of a million pounds with the runner up netting £100,000. Semi and Quarter-Finalists get £50k and £25k respectively. The winner of a first qualifying match will get £2,500. You can see the breakdown by round in the table shown in the format section of this page.
The competition also offers a £15,000 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.
Saying that with their more recent sponsor, Cazoo, the event looked like it was moving away from gambling and this was possibly due to external pressures as gambling sports sponsorship in general is under the spotlight. However, the 2023 Championship was sponsored by gambling brand MrQ so who knows.
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 £1,205,000 to participants in the revamped 2022 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.
In 2023 O’Sullivan won the UK Championship for the eighth time, beating Ding Junhui. This made him the oldest player to win the event (at 47) while also having been the youngest player to win at 17 – with a 30 year gap in between. It is fair to say he is the greatest player of the game by a mile now.
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. In 2021 Chinese player Zhao Xintong won the UK Championship, in fact it was his first ranking event of his career, and for the first time no top 16 player reached the final.
Ding didn’t win in 2022 or 2023 but he made the final and finished runner-up to Mark Allen and Ronnie O’Sullivan respectively. All of this has very much 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.
|Tower Circus, Blackpool
|Highest Winner Prize
|Biggest Total Prize Fund
|Biggest Final Win
|16-3 (Steve Davis)
|Most Used Venue
|Barbican Centre, York
|2002-2007, 2012-2019, 2021-
|First Non-UK Winner
|Most / Least Players
|144 / 24
|2022- / 1977-81
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 22 times between 1979 and 2023.
The winner has come from north of the border 9 times, with the wins shared between three players (Steven Hendry – 5, John Higgins – 3, Steven Maguire – 1). Five Welsh players have won the title, with Mark Williams the only Welshman to win more than one. When Mark Allen won his first title from three finals in 2022 he became the first Northern Irishman to win since Alex Higgins won in 1983.
Two Chinese players have won the UK Championships, three titles for Ding Junhui and one for Zhao Xingtong. Australia has three titles and all won by Neil Robertson. The only other nationality to win was Irishman Patsy Fagan who won the first ever version in 1977.