Is the famous hoodoo going to be lifted in 2020?
There’s been a lot of talk already this year about the Curse of the Crucible – but just who has fallen victim to the fabled World Championship hex?
In 2020, Judd Trump is the latest player attempting to successfully defend a World Championship crown as a first-time reigning champion.
A 5/2 pre-tournament favourite with Betway, the runaway world number one has been widely tipped to achieve the double but several others from the sport’s illustrious history have already proven how difficult a task it is.
The first two winners in Sheffield were already multiple world champions, but they can still be included in this category as first-time winners at the Crucible.
John Spencer was the venue’s maiden success story when he lifted the trophy in the first edition back in 1977.
A year later, Spencer lost his first-round match to South African Perrie Mans, who went all the way to the final before losing out to Ray Reardon in the title decider.
That victory represented Reardon’s sixth in a decade of domination for the Welshman, but in 1979 he exited in the quarter-finals to Dennis Taylor.
Once again that winner would reach the final, but like twelve months earlier with Mans, Taylor was defeated in the 1979 final by Terry Griffiths.
Griffiths, a tour rookie who came through qualifying to compete at the Crucible, was the first genuine first-time world champion at the Crucible Theatre.
There have been 17 different world champions since the Welshman and each of them has fallen victim to the “Curse of the Crucible” – so far at least.
Six of those competitors, including Griffiths in 1980, lost their opening match as the reigning champion.
Steve Davis (1982), Taylor (1986), Graeme Dott (2007), Neil Robertson (2011), and Stuart Bingham (2016) were the others to be stunned by their first opposition in the following campaign.
Marks Williams (2001) and Selby (2015) both lost their second-round fixtures, while four cueists bowed out at the last eight stage.
Stephen Hendry, who had enjoyed a remarkable 1990/91 season in which he had won a then record five ranking titles, lost to Steve James in the 1991 quarter-finals.
John Parrott (1992), Peter Ebdon (2003), and Shaun Murphy (2006) were all denied in the same fashion.
Ronnie O’Sullivan succumbed to the Curse of the Crucible in 2002 when he lost to Hendry in the last four, the same juncture in which John Higgins failed three years earlier and when Canadian Cliff Thorburn crashed out all the way back in 1981.
The only two protagonists who have managed to return to the final the next year after winning the coveted title have been Joe Johnson and Ken Doherty.
The latter lost 18-12 to Higgins in 1998, while Johnson is the man who came closest to breaking the jinx – ultimately missing out by just a few frames in an 18-14 reverse to Davis in 1987.
Interestingly Davis, who himself suffered the heaviest defeat when he was hammered 10-1 by Tony Knowles in 1982, is the only player to inflict the curse on a rival more than once.
The “Nugget” accounted for Griffiths, Thorburn, and Johnson’s miseries during the early years in Sheffield in the 1980s.
Trump, meanwhile, is a massive 2/13 favourite to win his second-round fixture against Yan Bingtao in the latest Betway odds for the 2020 World Snooker Championship.
The 30 year-old was slow out of the blocks in his opening match but fought back from 5-2 behind to beat Tom Ford 10-8.
While the Englishman also knows how it feels to inflict the wound, ousting Robertson nine years ago en route to his first final, Trump will be desperate to avoid the sensation of losing as a first-time champion.
A six-time ranking event winner this term, he’s in as good a spot as any before him to manage the feat.
Yet, there’s a long way to go before we can properly entertain the idea of the Curse of the Crucible being broken forever.
Featured photo credit: WST