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  Monday, 13 November, 2000, 15:44 GMT
UK Championship history
Williams/Davis/Mountjoy
Steve Davis has won the tournament six times
By BBC Sport Online's Mark Ashenden

The UK Championship is one of snooker's veteran tournaments, with only the World Championship and the Benson and Hedges Masters boasting a longer history.

It is widely regarded as the second most prestigious of the ranking events with more than half a million pounds up for grabs - and a cheque for 78,000 available to the victor.

The event started life as the Super Crystalate UK Championship in December 1977.

The Blackpool Tower circus was the host with Ireland's Patsy Fagan defeating Welshman Doug Mountjoy 12-9.

It took time for the event to grab the nation's attention, but despite some disappointing attendances its potential was soon to be realised.

Coral Racing stepped in to become the new sponsors in 1978 and immediately doubled the prize fund to 7,000.

Steve Davis
Steve Davis won first UK crown in 1980

Snooker was becoming lucrative business as television became interested in the tournament guaranteeing coverage of the semi-finals and finals.

New home

The Coral UK Championship now needed a new home to accommodate its newly found fame, not to mention the cameras and commentators, and a year into the new sponsorship packed its bags and moved down the M55 to the Preston Guild Hall.

It remained in Preston until 1998 but this time moved southwards to the coast at Bournemouth, the headquarters of new sponsor Liverpool Victoria.

As with many sporting tournaments the UK Championship has had a colourful collection of sponsors. After Coral ended its association in 1985 other companies to become involved have been Tennents, Stormseal and Royal Liver Assurance.

Up until 1993 the finals were played to a maximum of 31 frames and even now, with the winner having to reach 10, the longer-frame format has created few shock results over the years.

Alex Higgins
Alex Higgins involved in a thriller in 1983
In the tournament's hall of fame the cream has most definitely risen to the top. Steve Davis has been crowned champion a record six times, with the first of his wins in 1980 when he demolished Alex Higgins 16-6.

But if they were handing out badges for exhilarating matches then the Davis-Higgins rematch in 1983 would be strutting arrogantly at the front of the queue.

Convincing

Davis had crushed the 'Hurricane' with a session to spare in their world championship semi-final clash the previous spring and looked set to win in similarly convincing fashion after taking a 7-0 lead after the first session.

But Higgins was in fighting mood and took seven of the eight frames in the evening session and then won the final two frames to snatch the crown 16-15 in a famous victory.

A welcome result for the Irishman having suffered defeat to Terry Griffiths the previous year by the single frame.

Other nail-biters include John Virgo's 14-13 victory over Griffiths in 1979, and two finals involving Stephen Hendry, a 16-15 win against Davis in 1990 and a 10-9 defeat of John Higgins in 1996.

1984 was the year when the UK Championship became a ranking event after it allowed entry from all professional players, instead of just those holding a UK passport.

Foreign

Stephen Hendry
Hendry knocked Davis off his perch
Davis was clearly not put off by the foreign competition and after beating Higgins again in 1984, he clung on to his crown until 1988 with victories over Neal Foulds and Jimmy White and a memorable 16-14 win over Willie Thorne in 1985.

Thorne led 13-8 entering play in the final session and looked certain of clinching a six frame lead with nine to play.

A miss on a simple blue wrecked his hopes and Davis stepped in and made him pay a heavy price for the mistake.

A young man called Hendry was beginning to make his mark on the game and having reached the final in 1988 at the tender age of 19 was still favourite to see off the rejuvenated veteran Doug Mountjoy.

It had been 10 years since the Welshman had last won the UK title, but after some help from a new coach Mountjoy's renaissance was complete with three successive century breaks helping him on the way to a remarkable triumph.

Hendry though didn't have to wait too long for success in the tournament and claimed the first of his five UK crowns in 1989 beating close rival Davis 16-12.

Whirlwind

John Parrot added the UK trophy to his world championship in 1991 with a 16-13 win against White, but the 'Whirlwind' took his revenge in the following year against the Liverpudlian.

Mark Williams
Mark Williams holds last year's crown
The conveyor belt producing young talent continued to roll with fervour and 'Rocket' Ronnie O'Sullivan became the youngest winner of a world ranking event in 1993.

Hendry was on the wrong end of the 10-6 scoreline losing to a player still one week away from being old enough to buy a celebratory drink.

Hendry had now fully taken over Davis' mantle winning three successive finals until 1996, compiling seven century breaks in the 1994 final playing Ken Doherty.

The masterful Scot also claimed the magical 147 against Gary Wilkinson during the 1995 championship.

Snooker's hierachy continued to evolve as O'Sullivan claimed his crown for the second time in 1997 beating Hendry, while John Higgins beat Matthew Stevens in 1998.

With the Welsh boys becoming an ever-dominant force in snooker Mark Williams made it two losses in a row for compatriot Stevens narrowly winning last year's final 10-8.

UK Championship Snooker
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