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Top 10 Players Who Have Never Won The World Championship

10 – Doug Mountjoy

Some of the players on this list aren’t even 34 yet but this was how old Welshman Doug Mountjoy was when he turned professional in 1976. Already the world amateur champion, it didn’t take Mountjoy long to taste success in the higher ranks as he quickly captured the 1977 Masters and 1978 UK Championship. Ten years later, at 46 years-old and the UK now a ranking event, Mountjoy won his maiden ranking title and followed it up by capturing the Mercantile Classic. The closest he came to winning the big one was in 1981 when a young Steve Davis claimed his maiden success. Mountjoy arguably fell foul of being slightly too old when snooker’s initial boom occurred.

Crucible Record: Final – 1981

9 – Stephen Maguire

There are many players on this list who could conceivably still etch their name into the famous World Championship trophy. The second person on here is one such player. Stephen Maguire burst onto the scene in 2004 by winning the European Open before completely dismantling the UK Championship field to collect his one and only major. This led Ronnie O’Sullivan to suggest at the time that the Scot could dominate the sport for the next decade. Ironically, though, a series of high-profile defeats to the ‘Rocket’ would set Maguire back and arguably his potential has been unfulfilled. Maguire once claimed that he wanted to win in Sheffield before his 30th birthday. At 33, that date has long since passed and one feels time is running out for the gritty Glaswegian.

Crucible Record: Semi-Final – 2007, 2012.

8 – James Wattana

The boom in China we currently have may never have happened if it wasn’t for James Wattana. Although he hails from Thailand, his success during his first decade on the Main Tour in the early 1990s spread interest across South East Asia and offered the early signs that snooker could go global. Wattana won the 1998 World Amateur Championship and in his next seven years as a pro featured in eight ranking event finals, winning three of them. His best chance of capturing the holy grail came in 1997, when he was narrowly defeated by Stephen Hendry in the last four.

Crucible Record: Semi-Final – 1993, 1997

7 – Paul Hunter

We will never know the level of success that Paul Alan Hunter could have enjoyed in this sport, for five days short of his 28th birthday the affable Englishman suffered the final blow following his painful battle with cancer. Known as the ‘Beckham of the Baize’ for his striking good looks, boyish charm and charisma on and off the table, Hunter was a key component in an era largely dominated by the big four – Hendry, O’Sullivan, Higgins and Williams. Between 1998 and 2004, Hunter claimed a hat-trick of dramatic Masters crowns, three ranking event titles and reached the 2003 World Championship semi-final. That he lost that match 17-16 to Ken Doherty having led 15-9 going into the last session seemed largely irrelevant given his magnanimity in defeat and the seemingly long future he had in the game to redeem himself.

Crucible Record: Semi-Final – 2003

6 – Ali Carter

This is perhaps where the list gets a little contentious. While Ali Carter has been a great player for many years some will argue that there are others, such as maybe Maguire, who deserve to be either on the list or higher up it ahead of the ‘Captain’. That said, it’s difficult to argue with the record of a player who has reached two finals in Sheffield. Carter’s career is one of highs and lows. The 34 year-old has been as high as number two in the world rankings but probably hasn’t garnered enough silverware to be considered alongside the greats or nearly greats. But if it wasn’t for Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2008 and 2012, Carter could be a one or even two-time champion of the world.

Crucible Record: Final – 2008, 2012

5 – Eddie Charlton

‘Steady Eddie’ breaks into the top five and again there may be an issue as to the positioning. It’s difficult to compare eras. Charlton’s success mostly came when snooker was just beginning its rise into mainstream media. The game was not open to as many players and it is questionable as to how well somebody of Charlton’s ability could have fared in today’s age, against the abundance of formidable foes. Yet, one can only beat what is put in front of him or her and Charlton contested three World finals between 1968 and 1975. While it took 61 frames to decide the latter, when he narrowly lost to Ray Reardon 31-30, the Australian’s most success actually came in the single-frame Pot Black tournament, in which he prevailed three times.

Crucible Record: Final – 1968, 1973, 1975, Semi-final – 1971, 1972, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1982

4 – Mark Selby

It’s a little hard to believe that Mark Selby is only 30 because it seems like he has been around forever. It took the Leicester native quite a few years to find his feet on the Main Tour but his breakthrough ironically came in the World Championship in 2007 when he reached the final. He lost to John Higgins on that occasion but that run spearheaded success that has continued to this day. Selby has featured in ten ranking event finals and, though he has only emerged victorious in three of them, he also boasts a trio of Masters titles and five PTC minor ranking event trophies. A former world no.1, Selby has won two of the three BBC majors but since 2007 has not been beyond the semi-finals at the Crucible. Many criticise his style of play, but it is what has ultimately given him so much success in the past. Whether he has the stamina to go all the way in the big one remains to be seen.

Crucible Record: Final – 2007, Semi-Final – 2010

3 – Ding Junhui

Ding would have been on this list somewhere anyway but the fact that he has had such an imperious season perhaps justifies why he is so high on it. At just 27, the Chinese Sensation has plenty of years of opportunity to land his first World Championship but, as we’ll see with numbers one and two, failure to do so in the prime years could prove fatal come the conclusion of a career. With a record-equaling five ranking event titles this season, 11 in total as well as victory in the 2011 Masters, Ding is the real deal. We always knew this to be the case and it felt like just a matter of time until his potential was fulfilled. With the weight of expectation from hundreds of millions of Chinese fans on his shoulders, Ding has frequent struggles with pressure has been understandable but by capturing three trophies in his homeland earlier this year he seems to have released an aura of invincibility. This may prove to be the difference in Sheffield, were he has so often struggled in the past. Were he to go on and win the World Championship Ding would become a treasured national icon.

Crucible Record: Semi-Final – 2011

2 – Matthew Stevens

Some people may forget just how good Matthew Stevens was in the World Championship. The Welshman had and still has a wealth of talent but for whatever reason could not translate this into sustained silverware success. Now 36, Stevens’ best years are probably behind him but at least for him two of his biggest victories came in the majors – the 2000 Masters and 2003 UK Championship. That he couldn’t add a World Championship was down to a combination of unusually inspired play from his opponents and his own inability to get the job done. He came closest in 2000 and 2005 when he held large leads over countryman Mark Williams and qualifier Shaun Murphy respectively, only to surrender on both occasions 18-16. A master in the long match format, there is still a small chance that Stevens could go close again but his time is certainly running out.

Crucible Record: Final – 2000, 2005, Semi-Final – 2001, 2002, 2004, 2012

1 – Jimmy White

There was only ever going to be one name in top spot. Burdened with the honour of being the best player to have never won the World Championship is Jimmy White, the People’s Champion. Not many don’t know the story of the ‘Whirlwind’, one of the most popular British sportsmen of all time. White’s career has been a glorious one. White was the world amateur champion in 1979 and went on to collect 10 ranking event titles and countless invitationals including the Masters on home turf in London. However, his legacy will forever be tainted with his record at the Crucible. Six finals, six defeats. That he contested this many – five in a row between 1990 and 1994 – is testament to how good a player he was but a mixture of bad fortune and poor preparation led to him never adding the holy grail to his glittering collection of accolades. Some hurt more than others. He was favourite to beat John Parrott in 1991 but never recovered from losing the opening seven frames and the following year he was 14-8 up on prime rival Stephen Hendry only to lose the next ten frames in a row. Perhaps most agonising was his last chance in 1994 when, on his birthday, he missed a routine black off the spot in the decider at 17-17 to allow Hendry, the bane of his career for a fourth time, in for another crushing defeat. White, forever gracious, joked in the immediate aftermath that the Scot was “beginning to annoy me.” Still adored by his legion of fans, White, at almost 52, still believes he can win the big one.

Crucible Record: Final – 1984, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, Semi-Final – 1982, 1987, 1988, 1995



Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.

10 replies »

  1. Matthew Stevens is the best player never to win the WC. Jimmy White had it on a plate at least 3 times and completely bottled it, twice against Hendry and also the semi vs Higgins (he may not have beaten Reardon), so it is doubtful he would have ever won it unless he was playing a player way below in standard. Jimmy actually won very few titles, considering his ranking and the era he played in, he just wasn’t a winner. He would beat everyone he couldn’t lose to but he had a tough time when he had to focus hard. He’s everyones fav, but you just couldn’t depend on him. Paul Hunter is the nicest chap you would ever meet and I met him a few times, but I found him less focused than Stevens and although v talented, he didn’t strike me as having the grit to win it unless he was playing much weaker opposition. Ding, Selby, Carter and McGuire are all waiting for Ronnie to retire cos they can’t beat him. Neil Robertson got a bit lucky as the year he won both Ronnie and Higgins were asleep. The Charlton era is too far back, and it was poor club standard at that time, Mountjoy too old as you say. Wattana, struck me as more flair than winner, but with Hendry around had few opportunities, In summary, Stevens was the best, but rather than completely bottling it, he just couldn’t hold it together at the crucial moments towards the end of the finals.

  2. I’d swap Eddie Charlton (purely because he doesn’t belong to a modern snooker era) for Stephen Lee. What a great player he is! Or was, rather, due to his ban. Should he become a pro 5-10 years earlier or later, I’m sure he’d be a World champ, but with Ronnie, Higgins and Williams in their prime around it has been proven to be too diificult a task…
    Thanks for this nice snooker piece! It woke a lot of good memories.

  3. There were many players that narrowly missed out, such as Stephen Lee and Judd Trump. But it’s impossible to fit everybody into a top 10 list and not everyone is going to agree. The list is good because it creates debate. Anyway, thanks for the comments.

  4. David, you are writing superb articles on snooker, but I cannot understand one thing – what is reason for the absence of debate? You wrote a wonderful article, but there are only two comments on it. Why do not English speaking people who love and understand snooker want to share their thoughts? In my country (Belarus) while reading some minor sport article you may find pretty of debate. I think if people discussed snooker at your blog it would have helped other people who are not so well aware of snooker to understand it in a better way. I wish I had some more time to be able (from your consent) to translate your articles into Russian. As far as I know there is no decent Russian speaking snooker web page or blog, although there are plenty of snooker fans in the Russian speaking countries. While watching the snooker matches in English I noticed a very interesting thing: in the Russian speaking countries we are used to following snooker via Eurosport channel where the commentator Vladimir Sinitsyn discusses snooker in details. He is always saying something, commenting on almost each short and giving analyses to this or that short. In the English language matches I hear the commentator very little. I guess the reason lies in the fact that you know snooker perfectly and there is no way to comment on it in details, but as for me watching matches where the commentator speaks more is far more interesting. Why do you think British commentators are so silent?

    • There is quite a lot of debate on Facebook and Twitter. I think people prefer commenting there. As for the television commentators, snooker is often seen as a silent sport and that often the drama can be best described by saying nothing rather than by constantly talking over the shot. It lets the audience use their imagination.

  5. English speaking commentators in general have a bad reputation. Most of them were decent snooker players in the past in an era when the standard wasn’t as high and we see a lot of them carving out a tastier living as commentators where they repeat the same statements, one-liners, etc repeatedly. Some of these guys can’t stop talking like Willie Thorne, or Dennis Taylor, especially during the World Championships where he makes constant reference to his success in 1986. The better commentators let the audience enjoy the sport instead of babbling continuously throughout the game. Sometimes it’s important to bring a point to the attention of the TV audience and thats where the good commentators like Foulds, Doherty, Virgo, Hallett, etc make their contribution. But there is in general too much drivel from the likes of Thorne, Taylor, Everton, Joe Johnson. There are some loose cannons also like Hendry and Davis who are probably better pundits than commentators. Some people actually switch the sound off, particularly when Thorne and Taylor are commentating together as it’s seems to be a constant tug of war between them to get the mic and talk as much as possible.

    In German speaking countries, Rolf Kalb does all the commentary and he talks a lot of drivel also, but I think the German speakers like that cos the game is relatively new there.

    As for more comments about the original post, would be interesting to hear your views.

  6. Where’s the cue ball going? No the english commentators for BBC talk A LOT, it’s far from silent but does depend on the moment, I generally like to hear it as you learn a lot of things not just about the sport but the players themselves from it but one recent annoyance is how bandwagoning they can be, especially with whoever is the dominant player unfortunately that has been Mark Selby last few years.