Snooker, like any sport, has had its fair share of rivalries down through the years.
Anthony McGill and Jamie Clarke made headlines on Saturday for their mid-match fracas, but what are some of the other memorable snooker squabbles in the World Championship?
Anthony McGill vs Jamie Clarke
While it might really be too early to tell if this exchange deserves to be in the top snooker squabbles of World Championship history, early evidence on Saturday suggests that it could well be.
Trailing 8-2 in their second-round clash on Saturday, McGill became incensed at debutant Clarke’s standing position while the Scot was down on his shot.
The former Indian Open champion made his feelings clear to both Clarke and referee Jan Verhaas, who was tasked with the unenviable job of calming the escalating situation.
“The rule clearly states you have to avoid being in the eye-line of the player,” Verhaas told Clarke in the arena.
“If he is playing in that direction then I would like you to be in your chair and sit down.”
At one stage, McGill got right up in Clarke’s face and actually stormed off after the Welshman at the end of the frame – presumably to have further words backstage away from the cameras.
McGill’s scare tactics seemingly worked, and the Glaswegian is now just one frame behind heading into their final session on Sunday, although it’ll be very interesting to see how their feisty engagement concludes.
You want to dance, let’s dance
— Jamie Clarke (@clarkej998) August 8, 2020
Quinten Hann vs Andy Hicks
Perhaps not the two biggest names in this list, but their bust-up has gone down in the annals as the stuff of legend.
At the 2004 World Championship, bad-boy Quinten Hann faced former semi-finalist Andy Hicks in the opening round.
After a salty affair ended 10-4 in favour of the latter, a result that meant Hann had to endure the qualifiers for the entirety of the following campaign, Hicks supposedly quipped, “that’s you outside of the top 16.”
Hann, never shy of expressing himself both on and off the baize, reportedly retorted with, “you’re short and bald and always will be, and I’ll fight you in the street for 50 grand any time you like.”
The Australian didn’t quite get his wish, but he did end up brawling Mark King inside the ring for a charity boxing bout instead – beating the stand-in before being banned from the sport for match-fixing.
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Stephen Hendry
Ronnie O’Sullivan features twice in this list of snooker squabbles at the World Championship, and to be fair there were a few other cases that could have easily featured as well.
For this one it was 2002, and O’Sullivan was bidding to become the first player to break the Curse of the Crucible in that no first-time champion had returned to successfully complete the double.
In the semi-finals that year, he faced Stephen Hendry but somewhat foolishly jibed that he didn’t have a lot of respect for the seven-time Crucible king, and that he wanted to send him back to “his sad little life” in Scotland.
The bravado didn’t quite work, and Hendry recorded a 17-13 victory before responding to the controversy a year later by saying, “Ronnie has been in the Priory being treated for depression. Why would I want his life?”
Realising his lack of judgement, O’Sullivan eventually apologised, and two years later he thumped Hendry 17-4 at the same stage – albeit under much friendlier circumstances.
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Peter Ebdon
Ronnie O’Sullivan once said of Peter Ebdon, “he looks like a psycho, he plays like an amateur, and has no class around the table.”
It’s fair to say that the pair were polar opposites, and any match between them inevitably represented a clash in styles.
The Englishmen had already encountered each other twice at the Crucible before their infamous 2005 quarter-final fixture.
Ebdon denied the “Rocket” in a close last-four battle in 1996, before O’Sullivan gained his revenge en route to securing his maiden world title in 2001.
Four years later, O’Sullivan was the reigning champion again and a big favourite to defend his crown.
When he led Ebdon 8-2 all seemed well, only for his countryman to launch a sterling comeback with the aid of a few classic mind games.
The 2002 champion utilised all of his powers of patience to frustrate the then world number one, and at one point compiled a break of 12 that took more than five minutes.
O’Sullivan, bemused and bewildered, succumbed to a monumental meltdown that had him staring at his nemesis in a state of delirious confusion.
While he didn’t comment much on the incident after eventually losing 13-11, O’Sullivan recently said, “World Snooker should create an award for him titled ‘The best worst slow break in the history of the game’. Ebbo would be proud of that.”
O’Sullivan did gain his revenge in Sheffield seven years later by hammering Ebdon in the first round en route to a fourth World Championship success.
Alex Higgins vs Anyone
By 1990, the once-great Alex Higgins had fully succumbed to the grips of alcohol and controversy, becoming a shadow of the player who captured the 1972 and 1982 world titles.
A decade of making the front and back pages as a result of all of his antics off the baize had taken its toll on the “Hurricane”, with the perfect storm culminating at the 1990 World Championship.
Only weeks after threatening to have fellow Northern Irishman Dennis Taylor shot, Higgins lost his last 32 Crucible clash against Steve James and subsequently got steamed inside the arena on a few extra vodkas before undergoing what transpired to be an infamous press conference.
A clearly inebriated Higgins rambled that he wasn’t playing snooker any more, which was certainly set in stone soon after when it became apparent that he had, in fact, just punched official Colin Randle.
Higgins was banned for a whole season and only played at the Crucible Theatre once more, losing to Ken Doherty at the same hurdle in 1994.