Features, World Championship, World Seniors Tour

Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White at the Crucible Theatre – The History

One of snooker’s greatest rivalries will write a new chapter when they meet again in Sheffield on Saturday.

Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White clash in a heavyweight World Seniors Championship semi-final at the Crucible Theatre later today.

Hendry produced arguably his best performance since retiring from the game as a professional when he outplayed Aaron Canavan on Friday, while reigning champion White overcame Peter Lines by the same 4-1 scoreline.

It means that the pair will rekindle a famous head-to-head rivalry that dominated the sport’s headlines for a decade.

Throughout the first half of the 1990s, Hendry and White were widely considered to be among the best two players in the world.

They encountered each other in several standout occasions, often with silverware on the line.

It’s a common misconception that the “Whirlwind” could never win any of their ties together, and it’s true that Hendry does boast the superior record from their prior duels.

Yet, White did enjoy special moments to savour over the Scot, with notable triumphs in the finals of both the World Matchplay and Mercantile Credit Classic at Hendry’s expense in 1990 and 1991 respectively.

That said, their rivalry will of course always be most remembered for their match-ups at the Crucible Theatre.

The duo clashed at the sport’s spiritual home an amazing seven times between 1988 and 1998, so let’s take a trip down memory lane and recall how their battles unfolded.

1988 World Championship – Second Round – White 13-12 Hendry

The first of many meetings at the Crucible between Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White transpired in 1988.

Having reached the 1984 final and won the prestigious Masters during the same year, the latter was already an established star.

Hendry, still only 19 at the time, was quickly rising through the ranks and a month before the tournament began he had won his second ranking title with victory in the British Open.

A quick-fire match in which both players showcased an attacking intent that would soon become snooker’s norm, White edged the teenager in a thriller that lasted the distance.

With Hendry’s hat-trick of centuries and 21 breaks over 50 between them, their last 16 fixture is still talked about as an all-time Crucible classic.

1990 World Championship – Final – Hendry 18-12 White

Following 1988, it was obvious that original encounter wouldn’t be the only time their paths would cross, but few could have predicted just how entangled their respective World Championship destinies would become.

Two years later, White was back in the final for the first time in six years while Hendry qualified for his first.

When White overcame Steve Davis in the semi-finals – the “Nugget” so often the bane of his fortunes in Sheffield throughout the 1980s – the then 27 year-old must have thought that his time had finally come.

Hendry had other ideas, and the Scot initiated his decade-long dominance by becoming the youngest ever world champion at the age of 21.

1992 World Championship – Final – Hendry 18-14 White

As the People’s Champion, Jimmy was the most loved personality in the sport which meant that every defeat was like a punch to the stomach.

Some, though, inevitably hurt more than others, and the 1992 final definitely falls into that category of emotional anguish.

Having played brilliantly to establish a 14-8 advantage, White lost the last two frames of the penultimate session to lead by only four.

It still ought to have been a big enough cushion, but the seed of doubt was sewn when Hendry pinched the opening frame of the last session on the black.

White capitulated, and by 1992 Hendry already boasted a killer instinct that saw him notch up 13 ranking titles.

The world number one reeled off ten frames on the bounce to stun his opponent into submission, compiling century breaks in three out of the last five frames.

1993 World Championship – Final – Hendry 18-5 White

Twelve months later, it was as though Hendry had simply continued where he had left off a year before.

He won five out of the first six frames and never looked back, destroying any hope of a challenge with his most one-sided World Championship glory.

It marked only the third – and most recent – time in Crucible history that the final was completed with a session to spare.

1994 World Championship – Final – Hendry 18-17 White

The 1992 collapse is arguably worse in terms of squandering his opportunity for a maiden world crown, but the heartache of the 1994 final is probably felt even more intensely.

Jimmy White faced Stephen Hendry for the fourth, and what proved to be last, time with the world trophy on the line at the Crucible.

A see-saw battle ebbed one way and then the other, with rarely more than a frame between them at any given point of the best-of-35 frames classic.

In contrast to 1993, nothing seemed to be able to separate them, except possibly a steely nerve when it ultimately mattered the most.

A deciding frame was required, and when White was in among the balls with a golden scoring chance to finally enact his revenge, the tension became too great and he missed a routine black off the spot to allow Hendry in for a reprieve.

Much to the dismay of the majority in the audience and millions more watching at home, Hendry cleared the table for his fourth World Championship success – all secured by beating White in the final.

1995 World Championship – Semi-Final – Hendry 16-12 White

For the first time in years, Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White weren’t seeded on opposite sides of the draw in 1995.

It robbed viewers of another potential final showdown, although maybe supporters of White had endured enough by then.

Instead, the pair rekindled their rivalry in the semi-finals and it was a familiar outcome once more.

The standout moment of an entertaining encounter in which Hendry always had his man at arm’s length came in the second session when the Scot compiled a magnificent 147 break.

After winning their last four tie, Hendry proceeded to beat Nigel Bond in the final to claim a fifth world title – who, incidentally, he also ousted in the first round of the 2020 World Seniors Championship on Thursday.

1998 World Championship – First Round – Jimmy White 10-4 Stephen Hendry

In the second half of the 1990s, White’s form deteriorated dramatically and in 1998 he had fallen outside the world’s top 16, thus needing to qualify for the Crucible.

Qualify he did, and a first-round draw for the ages paired him with his nemesis in the last 32.

White hadn’t tasted victory over Hendry in a ranking event for seven years, but an incredible opening session saw him establish a 7-0 lead over the top seed.

Hendry fought back a little to instill some doubts again, but after a 10-4 loss he found himself on the losing side from their clashes in Sheffield for the first time in ten years.

More than two decades later, 50-something year-olds Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White renew their Crucible rivalry in a mouthwatering World Seniors Championship showdown.

Live coverage will be on the BBC in the UK, digital platforms in China, and Matchroom Live around the world from 12pm BST.

Click here to view the World Seniors Championship draw.


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