There have been several special World Snooker Championship head-to-head matches.
Let’s recall some of the most common head-to-head encounters since the sport’s blue-riband event moved to the Crucible Theatre in 1977.
Stephen Hendry vs Jimmy White (5-2)
Arguably the most famous Crucible rivalry of them all was the one between Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White.
The pair traded blows in Sheffield on seven occasions between 1988 and 1998, with Hendry generally enjoying the upper hand.
White actually won their first duel, a 13-12 second-round thriller, and their last when he stunned the Scot with a 10-4 first-round victory as a qualifier.
But their World Snooker Championship matches in between will be what the masses remember the most.
In a span of five years between 1990 and 1994, Hendry overcame White in four title deciders, edging the Whirlwind 18-17 in an especially dramatic 1994 final.
In 1995, Hendry then compiled only the third maximum 147 break in the Crucible’s history during his semi-final success.
While not at the Crucible, the pair did renew the rivalry in the qualifying tournament for the 2021 World Championship, with Hendry again emerging as the winner.
Steve Davis vs Terry Griffiths (7-0)
Steve Davis and Terry Griffiths were the first players to compete against each other in seven World Snooker Championship matches.
Perhaps separating this fixture from the others on this list is the complete domination that was enjoyed by one player.
Davis proved to be a thorn in many people’s side, particularly throughout the 1980s, but arguably none more so than for Griffiths.
The Nugget first inflicted pain in 1980 when the Welshman was the defending champion, and things only got worse thereafter.
Defeats for Griffiths followed in 1981, 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1988 – the latter of which coming in the final when Davis won 18-11.
Their last clash came eight years later in the second round, when a final loss for Griffiths effectively prompted his retirement, although he did return to the Crucible for one final appearance the following season.
Stephen Hendry vs Ronnie O’Sullivan (3-2)
When Ronnie O’Sullivan burst onto the snooker scene near the beginning of the 1990s, it immediately threatened Stephen Hendry’s dominance in the game.
It didn’t take long for the two magnificent cueists to face off against one another in important showpiece encounters.
At the age of just 17, O’Sullivan caused a sensation by beating Hendry in the 1993 UK Championship final.
Their first Crucible clash came just over a year later at the 1995 World Championship, with then three-time defending champion Hendry triumphing 13-8 in the quarter-finals.
Hendry won in 1999 and 2002 as well in two explosive semi-final battles, notably in the latter after O’Sullivan infamously stated that he wanted to send his opponent “back to his sad little laugh in Scotland.”
O’Sullivan did finally manage to get the job done in this head-to-head, thrashing Hendry 17-4 and 17-6 in 2004 and 2008 respectively en route to tournament glories each year.
Steve Davis vs Dennis Taylor (3-2)
Fans will always remember the 1985 final, but Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor actually encountered each other four more times in Sheffield.
Their first meeting was in 1979, when Taylor beat Crucible rookie Davis 13-11 and subsequently went on a super run that concluded with a maiden final appearance.
Davis gained his revenge with the same scoreline four years later and repeated the trick in 1984 with a more comprehensive 16-9 semi-final triumph.
In the 1985 final, it appeared as though another runaway victory was on the cards when the reigning champion reeled off the first eight frames in a row.
But Northern Ireland’s Taylor dug deep and fought his way back to force a deciding-frame thriller that has gone down as the most watched frame of snooker in the game’s history.
By potting the final black in the final frame, Taylor led the contest for the very first time and was duly crowned the champion of the world.
The pair’s last fixture was in the the 1991 quarter-finals when Davis came out on top again, but this head-to-head will always be about that 1985 showdown.
Mark Williams vs John Higgins (4-1)
The first of three World Snooker Championship matches in the last four between Mark Williams and John Higgins occurred in 1999.
It’s fair to say it was less dramatic than the other two, which boasted pretty impressive comebacks that rattled the other.
A year after losing their first Crucible clash, Higgins looked set to get his revenge when he led their semi-final tie 14-10, only for Williams to fight back and win 17-15.
The roles were reversed in 2011, with Williams surrendering a 9-5 lead and eventually losing out in a 17-14 reverse.
Their most memorable meeting, of course, came in 2018 when they unexpectedly contested a final in Sheffield for the first time.
In what has gone down as one of the best matches ever at the Crucible, Williams held on in a nail-biting 18-16 finale.
Twelve months ago, the Welshman won again with a 13-7 defeat of the Scot in the last 16.
John Higgins vs Ronnie O’Sullivan (3-2)
The most frequent head-to-head match in the history of the game overall, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan have crossed paths an incredible 76 times in all competitions.
Five of those have come at the Crucible, with the first happening in 1996 when O’Sullivan won the last three frames to deny Higgins in a 13-12 classic.
The outcome of the other four matches ultimately determined who would go on to win the tournament itself.
In 1998, Higgins hammered the Rocket 17-9 in the semi-finals before beating Ken Doherty to lift the world trophy for the first time.
The Wizard of Wishaw also triumphed in 2007 and 2011 as he proceeded to land his second and fourth Crucible titles respectively.
The duo’s only encounter in a final transpired in 2001, when O’Sullivan emerged as an 18-14 winner to land his maiden World Championship crown.
Other frequent Crucible head-to-heads
Steve Davis vs Jimmy White (4-1)
Jimmy White vs John Parrott (3-2)
Stephen Hendry vs Nigel Bond (4-1)
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Ali Carter (4-1)
John Higgins vs Mark Selby (3-2)
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Mark Williams (5-0)
*stats from cuetracker.net*