The latest chapter in a series of articles looking back at each campaign from the Crucible era.
By the 1982/83 snooker season, the sport’s popularity had grown enormously – with new players, established venues, and an influx of bigger tournaments on the calendar.
Alex Higgins, the original People’s Champion, was the Crucible king after an emotional success in Sheffield before the summer of 1982.
Snooker was regularly on television and its stars were beginning to make headlines, not only on the back pages of newspapers but on the front as well.
However, there was one glaring problem with how the sport was being run – specifically, the draconian system being used to determine the rankings list.
There hadn’t been any form of official rankings at all until 1976, when it was decided that the outcome of the previous three World Championships would factor into who came out on top.
That formula was utilised for the next six years, but while it originally made sense with not many scheduled events, by 1982 it was somewhat laughable considering the amount of times the players were regularly competing against one another.
The 1981/82 campaign ended with Steve Davis suffering a shock 10-1 thrashing at the hands of Tony Knowles in the first round of his World Championship defence.
That was just about the only blip on the young Englishman’s CV that term, as before that he dominated all round him.
Davis triumphed in more than half a dozen events, all of them classified as non-ranking or invitational, and featured in the final in a handful of others for good measure.
Yet, only the World Championship counted towards the rankings and, as a result of the early demise, the “Nugget” found himself lagging in fourth place behind Ray Reardon, Higgins, and Cliff Thorburn.
The 1982/83 snooker season would finally set into motion a period of change, which has ultimately led to a scenario in which there are about 20 ranking events annually staged in the current climate of the game.
Davis again featured prominently at the business end of several events during this campaign but, ironically enough, didn’t win the first two that were awarded with an upgrade.
In the Jameson International Open, David Taylor stunned the reigning champion in the quarter-finals en route to a place in the final against Knowles – losing 9-6 to the Bolton potter who had made a name for himself just months previously in Sheffield.
A month later, the Professional Players Tournament – a forerunner for what would ultimately become known as the Grand Prix – was staged with Davis not even taking his place in the starting line-up.
Somewhat oddly, it had no sponsorship and it wasn’t televised, yet it was one of the three tournament that season that were given the honour of carrying ranking points.
Reardon avenged his defeat to Higgins in the World Championship final with an early victory as he moved his way through the rounds to face Jimmy White for the title.
The Welshman’s 10-5 triumph secured him the silverware and the only ranking title of his career that wasn’t a World Championship.
All of the other established events remained either invitationals or restricted in some capacity.
The UK Championship trophy was becoming one of the most prestigious to capture, but it was open to only those from or permanently residing in the region.
Terry Griffiths edged Higgins in a barnstorming battle just before Christmas, winning the last three frames to clinch the spoils 16-15.
With the victory, Griffiths became only the second player after Davis to complete the career Triple Crown – albeit the hat-trick of world, UK, and Masters titles wouldn’t be recognised as such a distinguished accolade for many years to come.
In the Masters, there were 16 competitors for the first time, though not everyone from within the top 16 in the rankings list participated.
Reigning champion Davis lost to Doug Mountjoy, Mountjoy lost to Reardon, and Reardon lost to Thorburn as the Canadian began his love affair with the competition in London.
While Davis was missing in action from a lot of the bigger tournaments, he was still a force to be reckoned with elsewhere.
Indeed, the then 25 year-old headed to the World Championship in April with seven more titles under his belt – including the Irish Masters at Goffs, a tournament he’d come to adore and one which we’ll speak more of later.
Davis also partnered Tony Meo in the inaugural World Doubles Championship – the duo hammering Griffiths and Mountjoy 13-2 in the final.
Of course, it was the singles world crown that Davis desperately wanted to recapture.
Aside from a tricky second-round fixture against Dennis Taylor, he eased his way through to the final, but it was Thorburn on the opposite side of the draw who was generating the most headlines.
After a routine 10-5 win in the opening round, Thorburn took on Griffiths in a marathon last 16 match that went the distance.
The final session lasted more than seven hours and the outcome was decided just before 4am, but “Champagne Cliff” didn’t mind too much because he had already made history in an even more memorable fashion.
In the fourth frame what must have seemed like an eternity earlier, Thorburn took advantage of a fluked red and proceeded to orchestrate the first ever World Championship 147 break.
The Victoria potter edged Griffiths 13-12 and his heroics continued, repeating the scoreline against Kirk Stevens before a 16-15 besting of Knowles in the last four.
There was nothing left in the tank for a showdown with the world’s best player, Davis, who hammered the exhausted Thorburn 18-6 to etch his name onto the trophy for a second time.
What’s more, the machine known as “Interesting” due to his quiet demeanour and dry sense of humour, became the rightful world number one for the first time in his career.
After the 1982/83 snooker season, it would take quite some time for anybody to knock him off his perch.
Yes, unfortunately Tony Knowles choked that semi-final, missing a straight pink for the match. Tragically, Cliff Thorburn’s wife suffered a miscarriage during the semi-final, which undoubtably affected Cliff. But he still turned out for the final, lost with dignity, and showed great strength of character to keep his high performance level for several more years.
Pingback: 1982/83 Snooker Season: Good Luck, Mate | Sports 365
Pingback: 1983/84 Snooker Season: Davis' Defence - SnookerHQ
Pingback: 1981/82 Snooker Season: Alex Higgins, My Baby - SnookerHQ