One player boasts the nickname and another player shares the record, but who really is the King of the Crucible?
Nicknamed the King of the Crucible following a decade of domination in Sheffield from 1990 to 1999, Stephen Hendry was definitely deserving of the moniker.
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.
Fast forward to 2022 and Ronnie O’Sullivan has joined Hendry on that tally of seven crowns that was once thought to be unbreakable.
So, just for a bit of fun, let’s also consider the overall record of all the most notable competitors at the home of the sport.
The ultimate glory years of Hendry and Davis were packed somewhat neatly together, but others like O’Sullivan have enjoyed longer stretches of success in Sheffield.
Who will come out on top with the best career performances to proudly don the mantle as the King of the Crucible?
For this exercise, we’re going to come up with a simple formula to see who emerges in first place in the 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.
More than 200 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.
Still, let’s take a look at the current top ten World Championship performers at the Crucible Theatre.
The King of the Crucible
|Last 32 (24)
10. Terry Griffiths – 54 points
Terry Griffiths makes it into the top ten ahead of the likes of Shaun Murphy, Matthew Stevens, and Ken Doherty.
Griffiths only won the World Championship once but was so consistent at the Crucible that he reached the quarter-finals or better nine times in a row between 1984 and 1992.
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 with the trophy when he triumphed in 1979.
9. Peter Ebdon – 54 points
Now retired, Peter Ebdon can look back on his Crucible record with a great deal of pride.
Making his debut in 1992, Ebdon created a storm by beating Steve Davis in the first round en route to a place in the last eight.
An 18-17 victory in the 2002 final represents one of only three times that a World Championship final 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 Englishman gets the nod for ninth place.
8. John Parrott – 58 points
John Parrott, whose last appearance at the Crucible was way back in 2007, ranks in eighth place.
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.
7. Mark Selby – 61 points
With four World Championship titles, Mark Selby has firmly established himself as one of the all-time greats of the game.
The Leicester man failed to qualify for the Crucible until 2005, and he didn’t win a match until two years later.
However, in 2007 he made an unexpected run to the final, and in the last decade he has surged up the pecking order.
Selby is just 38 and could potentially leapfrog a number of rivals currently in front of him in the years to come.
6. Mark Williams – 72 points
Still plying his trade at a supremely high level and a semi-finalist in 2022, Mark Williams could yet force his way into the top five of this list in the future.
The Welshman is a member of the 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 then 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
Just three points ahead of Williams is the only esteemed player on this list who never actually etched his name onto the silverware.
Jimmy White’s connection with the World Championship is well-known, with six runner-up finishes, including five in a row between 1990 and 1994.
An almost ever-present in Sheffield from 1981 until 2006, the “Whirlwind” reached the quarter-finals or better 15 times.
The 60 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 – 95 points
With several appearances at the single-table setup in recent editions, 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 he then came up just short at the final hurdle in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Such is his pedigree, it wouldn’t be a shock at all to see the soon-to-be 47 year-old conjure up another serious challenge in the future.
3. Steve Davis – 97 points
As it is, Steve Davis just pips Higgins into third 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 altogether.
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.
2. Stephen Hendry – 104 points
Stephen Hendry might have been nicknamed the King of the Crucible during his heyday, but his record is only good enough for second place on this list.
Even so, the Scot 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 available throughout the 1990s.
It seemed for a long time as though nobody would ever threaten his record – that is until…
1. Ronnie O’Sullivan – 111 points
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s triumph in the 2022 World Snooker Championship takes his tally to seven and on a par with Hendry.
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.
Defeat in the 2014 title decider seemed to set him back a little, but O’Sullivan emerged on top in a behind-closed-doors 2020 edition for his sixth title.
This year, at the age of 46 and with a documentary crew following his every move, O’Sullivan was unstoppable as he comprehensively dismantled the challenge of his five opponents to land a magnificent seventh in Sheffield.
O’Sullivan may yet add to his haul, and there’s little question now that O’Sullivan ranks as not only the King of the Crucible, but also the undisputed best player in the history of the game.
Featured photo credit: WST
This article has been updated after the 2022 World Championship.