Stephen Hendry won the World Championship seven times, but how does his overall career record at the Crucible Theatre stack up against his rivals?
Nicknamed the “King of the Crucible” following a decade of domination in Sheffield from 1990 to 1999, Hendry is undoubtedly deserving of the mantle.
The Scot reached eight out of the ten finals staged in that spell, emulating the achievements of Steve Davis from the 1980s when the Englishman embarked on similarly repetitive runs to the title deciding contest.
Their feats are by no way being called into question here, but just for a bit of fun let’s also consider the biggest stars’ overall record at the spiritual home of the sport.
The ultimate glory years of Hendry and Davis were packed somewhat neatly together, but other notable competitors have enjoyed stretches of success in Sheffield, so will the pair still come out on top over those who have enjoyed consistency across a longer time?
For this exercise, we’re going to come up with a simple formula to see who emerges in first place in the King of the Crucible standings.
An appearance in the last 32 – or last 24 in 1980 and 1981 – will earn a player one point on this scoreboard.
Moving through the rounds will earn one additional score, with two on offer for the last 16, three or four available for the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively, and five points given to a beaten finalist.
Winning the World Championship provides the maximum seven points – mirroring the highest scoring ball on the snooker table – with the extra bonus point awarded for emerging with the trophy after a gruelling 17-day slugfest.
A total of 213 players have appeared at the Crucible Theatre since the venue’s debut in 1977, and all of them can proudly claim to be among this rankings list.
Present day players will, of course, be at a disadvantage as their careers haven’t yet been completed, so it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to see many of your favourite cueists failing to make the grade for now.
Let’s take a look at the top ten World Championship performers at the Crucible Theatre.
10. Mark Selby – 48 points
Mark Selby squeezes into the top ten by a narrow margin, just ahead of the likes of Ken Doherty, Shaun Murphy, Cliff Thorburn, and Matthew Stevens.
The Leicester man failed to qualify for the World Championship until 2005, and he didn’t win a match at the Crucible until two years later.
However, in 2007 he made an unexpected run to the final and in the last six years has surged up the pecking order with a hat-trick of world titles.
Selby is just 36 and is primed to leapfrog a number of rivals currently in front of him in the years to come.
9. Terry Griffiths – 54 points
The first retired player on this list, Terry Griffiths makes it into the top ten with a highly consistent level of performance, particularly from the 1980s.
Apart from John Spencer in the first year at the Crucible, Griffiths is the only player to win the event on his debut.
The renowned coach was also the first qualifier to emerge victorious when he triumphed in 1979, and the Welshman subsequently reached the last eight or better for nine successive campaigns between 1984 and 1992.
8. Peter Ebdon – 54 points
Another player who could potentially still add to his sum, Peter Ebdon made his maiden appearance at the Crucible in 1992.
The 49 year-old has missed out on four out of the last six editions, but there was a time when Ebdon was a regular at the business end in Sheffield.
An 18-17 victory in the 2002 final represents one of only three times that a World Championship title decider at the Crucible has been settled in a deciding frame.
Ebdon also featured in two other finals, which is one more than Griffiths and the reason the controversial figure gets the nod for eighth place.
7. John Parrott – 58 points
One point ahead of Griffiths is John Parrott, whose last appearance at the Crucible was way back in 2007.
A bit like Griffiths, Parrott was once crowned champion of the world, reached the single table set-up on a couple of other occasions, but generally struggled to go beyond the quarter-final hurdle.
Indeed, following his success in 1991, the Liverpudlian was denied at the last eight stage in seven out of the following eight World Championships.
6. Mark Williams – 62 points
Still plying his trade at a high level, Mark Williams could yet force his way into the top five of this list in the future.
The Welshman is a member of the infamous “Class of ’92” alongside Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins, but he failed to qualify for Sheffield until many years after his contemporaries.
Williams consigned his countryman Griffiths to retirement on his overdue debut in 1997, and it didn’t take him long to get up to speed at the blue-riband event.
After reaching the semi-final in 1998 and the final in 1999, Williams emerged as the victor from the first World Championship of the new millennium – adding another pair of titles in 2003 and, perhaps most memorably, in 2018.
5. Jimmy White – 75 points
A full 13 points ahead of Williams is the only esteemed player on this list that never actually etched his name onto the silverware.
Jimmy White’s connection with the World Championship is well-known, with six runners-up finishes, including five in a row from 1990 to 1994.
An almost ever-present in Sheffield from 1981 until 2006, the “Whirlwind” reached the quarter-finals or better 15 times.
The 57 year-old may be regarded as the best player to never win a World Championship title, but his name will forever be strongly linked with the history of the tournament.
4. John Higgins – 87 points
With three final appearances in the last three campaigns, John Higgins has separated himself from White but still falls just short of a top three finish.
The Scot rose to prominence with victory in the 1998 edition, becoming the world number one in the process.
Higgins added three further glories in a glittering four-year burst between 2007 and 2011, but has come up just short every year since 2017.
Such is his pedigree in the big moments, it wouldn’t be a shock at all to see the 44 year-old conjure up another serious challenge when the 2020 World Championship is rescheduled later this year.
3. Ronnie O’Sullivan – 95 points
With five World Championship titles, Ronnie O’Sullivan makes the top three boasting a whopping 95 points.
It took the “Rocket” almost a decade to triumph in Sheffield for the first time, but between 2001 and 2014 he featured in almost half of the finals contested.
If he didn’t have such an average record, by his standards at least, since losing the 2014 showdown against Selby, the Englishman could well be in the top spot as the King of the Crucible.
That said, O’Sullivan is still playing to a high level, and with seemingly a few more years left at the top the 44 year-old might yet advance into the top two spots.
2. Steve Davis – 97 points
As it is, Steve Davis just pips O’Sullivan into second place, with the “Nugget” taking advantage of his superior World Championship return.
The Englishman made his debut at the Crucible in 1979, but it was the 1980s that would come to be known as the Davis era.
Between 1983 and 1989, Davis was always a finalist and in total he accumulated six world titles in all.
A last appearance in Sheffield in 2010, when he famously beat then defending champion Higgins to reach the quarter-finals at the age of 52, means that he’s the only player on this list to have played at the Crucible in five different decades.
1. Stephen Hendry – 104 points
Well, perhaps we should have known all along but the King of the Crucible is, in fact, the “King of the Crucible” himself.
Stephen Hendry may have packed away his cue at a relatively young age but he equally crammed an enormous amount of success in during his illustrious career.
Hendry lost on his debut in 1986, but runs to the last 16, quarter-finals, and semi-finals in the following years paved the way for future domination.
The 18-time Triple Crown winner claimed a magnificent seven out of the ten World Championships of the 1990s.
The original machine at compiling century breaks is the only name to surpass 100 points on this list.
A true King of the Crucible.