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Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 13:41 GMT
UK Championship history
Williams/Davis/Mountjoy
Steve Davis has won the tournament six times

The UK Championship is one of snooker's oldest 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 84,500 available to the victor in 2002.

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

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

  Winners 1977-87
1977: Patsy Fagan bt Doug Mountjoy 12-9
1978: Doug Mountjoy bt David Taylor 15-9
1979: John Virgo bt Terry Griffiths 14-13
1980: Steve Davis bt Alex Higgins 16-6
1981: Steve Davis bt Terry Griffiths 16-3
1982: Terry Griffiths bt Alex Higgins 16-15
1983: Alex Higgins bt Steve Davis 16-15
1984: Steve Davis bt Alex Higgins 16-8
1985: Steve Davis bt Willie Thorne 16-14
1986: Steve Davis bt Neal Foulds 16-7
1987: Steve Davis bt Jimmy White 16-14

It took time for the event to grab the nation's attention, but despite 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.

The tournament was becoming a lucrative business due to the interest of television and needed a new home to accommodate more fans as well as the cameras and commentators.

After a year at Blackpool the event packed its bags and moved down the M55 to the Preston Guild Hall.

It remained in Preston until 1998 before moving south to Bournemouth, the headquarters of new sponsor Liverpool Victoria.

From 1980-1993 the finals were played to a maximum of 31 frames and even now, with the winner only needing to reach 10, the format has created few shock results over the years.

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, while Stephen Hendry is not far behind with five UK titles.

Alex Higgins
Alex Higgins was involved in a thriller in 1983

There have been some great finals and if they were handing out badges for exhilarating matches then the Davis-Higgins rematch in 1983 would be hard to beat.

Davis had crushed the 'Hurricane' with a session to spare in their world championship semi-final clash the previous spring.

And he looked set to win in similarly convincing fashion after taking a 7-0 lead.

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

It was a welcome result for Higgins, having suffered defeat to Terry Griffiths the previous year by the same scoreline.

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.

  Winners 1988-2001
1988: Doug Mountjoy bt Stephen Hendry 16-12
1989: Stephen Hendry bt Steve Davis 16-12
1990: Stephen Hendry bt Steve Davis 16-15
1991: John Parrott bt Jimmy White 16-13
1992: Jimmy White bt John Parrott 16-9
1993: Ronnie O'Sullivan bt Stephen Hendry 10-6
1994: Stephen Hendry bt Ken Doherty 10-5
1995: Stephen Hendry bt Peter Ebdon 10-3
1996: Stephen Hendry bt John Higgins 10-9
1997: Ronnie O'Sullivan bt Stephen Hendry 10-6
1998: John Higgins bt Matthew Stevens 10-6
1999: Mark Williams bt Matthew Stevens 10-8
2000: John Higgins bt Mark Williams 10-4
2001: Ronnie O'Sullivan bt Ken Doherty 10-1

In 1984 the UK Championship became a ranking event after it changed from only allowing players holding a UK passport and welcomed entry from all professional players.

Davis was clearly not put off by the foreign competition and he beat Higgins again in 1984 in the first of four successive titles for the Golden Nugget.

A young Hendry began to make his mark on the game in the late 1980s.

At the tender age of 19 he reached the final in 1988 and was favourite to see off the rejuvenated veteran Doug Mountjoy.

It had been 10 years since the Welshman had last won the UK title.

But Mountjoy's renaissance was complete and three successive century breaks helped him on the way to a remarkable triumph.

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

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

  UK Championship 147s
1987: Willie Thorne v Tommy Murphy
1992: Peter Ebdon v Ken Doherty
1995: Stephen Hendry v Gary Wilkinson
1999: Stephen Hendry v Paul Wykes
2000: Nick Dyson v Rob Milkins

The conveyor belt of young talent continued to roll with fervour and 'Rocket' Ronnie O'Sullivan became the youngest winner of a world ranking event in 1993.

But Hendry was soon back on top and collected three straight titles between 1994-1996.

He made seven century breaks in the 1994 final against Ken Doherty and claimed the first of his two 147 breaks at the UK Championship against Gary Wilkinson during the 1995 final.

O'Sullivan ended Hendry's run in 1997 when he defeated him 10-6 in the final before another Scot - John Higgins - got in on the act with wins in 1998 and 2000.

The event moved to its fourth home in 2001 and O'Sullivan made it a hat-trick of wins by thumping Ken Doherty 10-1 at York's Barbican Centre.


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