Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Crucible Countdown: The A-Z

It's that time of year again; the big one is nearly here.

We've enjoyed plenty of twists and turns on the snooker circuit this season but those will all be eclipsed now we get down to the serious business; the World Championship in Sheffield.

Nothing compares to the 17 days of drama played out at the Crucible. It's the title that matters more than any other, the holy grail for the players and fans alike.

To kick start my countdown to the sport's biggest event, here's my A to Z of the Crucible...

A is for Alex Higgins

The two-time world champion won his second title at the Crucible in 1982 and was one of the venue's very first entertainers. Although not the most decorated player in the sport's history, Alex is loved as much as anyone. He is pure box office and raised the roof of the place when he beat Ray Reardon in the 1982 final and celebrated in floods of tears. In his his semi-final win against Jimmy White he produced one of the greatest clearances of all-time.

B is for BBC

The Crucible and the BBC are synonymous. The great broadcast company has been a great servant to snooker down the years helping to bring many of the Crucible's greatest matches to the homes of the British public.

C is for Curse

The Crucible Curse is famous among the snooker world. No first-time winner has defended their crown at the Crucible. In fact, only Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis have ever done it.

D is for Dennis Taylor's win in 1985

Widely regarded as the greatest World Championship final of all time and lovingly known as the 'black ball final'. Taylor produced a determined comeback to win the match on the final ball of the final frame, sealing his only world title. It was a massive shock and the pinnacle match in the sport's glory days of the 1980s.

E is for Embassy

The cigarette brand that sponsored the World Championship from 1976 to 2005. The unity between snooker and the sponsorship was so strong, the tournament was often referred to as 'The Embassy' during this fantastic spell.

F is for Fastest 147

Ronnie O'Sullivan made the fastest 147 in snooker history at the Crucible in just five minutes and 20 seconds. He earned £147,000 at a rate of £515 per second against Mick Price in 1997.

G is for Glory

There is no greater glory in snooker than winning the World Championship at the Crucible. The greatest title and honour of them all.

H is Hendry.

Stephen Hendry is a seven-time world champion and without doubt the greatest player in the sport's history. He's broken almost every record in the book including being the youngest ever world champion at 21, has won a record 36 ranking titles and has made more than 700 career centuries. The King of the Crucible. The ultimate champion.

I is for International

Although dominated by British players down the years, we shouldn't forget snooker is fast-becoming an international sport. Fifteen different nationalities of player have been represented at the Crucible including champions from Canada and Australia.

J is for John Spencer

The first Crucible champion in 1977. He beat Cliff Thorburn 25-21 in the final to begin the fairytale years at this great venue.

K is for Ken Doherty

The 1997 world champion is thought of with great affection by the Crucible crowd. The Darling of Dublin ended a winning run of five straight years for Hendry and there has since been another seven new names on the trophy. For this reason, he's seen as the player who ended the years of domination by a single player. Ken is also the only player to have won both the world amateur and world professional titles. His recent work with BBC has further enhanced his status as a snooker legend, ensuring he continues to be one of the sport's best ambassadors.

L is for Longer matches

The snooker traditionalists love the Crucible because it means longer matches. The multi-sessions matches really show who the best players in the world are. Talking of long, Stephen Maguire and Mark King played a frame in 2009 that lasted a record one hour and 15 minutes.

M is for Maximum breaks

There have been eight maximum breaks at the Crucible. Canada's Cliff Thorburn made the first in 1983.

N is for Nugget

Steve Davis is another of the real Crucible greats, winning the world title on no fewer than six occasions. His first came in 1981 and his last in 1989. Many people remember his triumph at the Crucible in 1988 when he became the first player to win the triple crown of the Masters, UK Championship and World Championship in the same season.

O is for O'Brien trivia

Fergal O'Brien  isn't the most likely candidate to appear in an A to Z of the Crucible, I'll admit. But, he still holds a very reputable record to this day. He's the only player in Crucible history to have made a century in his first frame at the venue.

P is for Parrott

The 1991 world champion, John Parrott, is another of the sport's great personalities. He still holds a record for the only player to have recorded a whitewash at the Crucible. He knocked Eddie Charlton out 10-0 in 1992.

Q is for Quality venue

The Crucible is the greatest snooker venue of them all; fact. Its intimacy creates an atmosphere like nowhere else. For many snooker fans, the World Championship should never move.

R is for Ronnie

Three-time world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan is the most naturally-gifted player to pick up a cue, in many people's eyes. He has dazzled the Crucible down the years.

S is for Sheffield

Home city to the Crucible.

T is for Theatre

For the rest of the year, the Crucible is a theatre. It was built in 1971 and hosts many plays.

U is for Ultimate test

Getting through this gruelling 17-day snooker marathon is a mountain to climb. It's not all about what you do on the table. You need to occupy yourself when off it as well. You'll have highs and lows and need to battle through. You have to be strong to win the title.

V is for Verhaas

Holland's Jan Verhaas is one of the most popular and highly-rated referees in World Snooker. He's officiated four Crucible finals and will probably add more yet.

W is for The Whirlwind and The Wizard

Jimmy White and John Higgins are two of the venue's real greats who have had contrasting fortunes in Sheffield down the years.

The Whirlwind has lost six finals while the Wizard of Wishaw has carved his name on the trophy four times.

X is for Xcitement

Ok, I admit this is a naff one but an A to Z is no easy task. In all seriousness, there is no snooker tournament more exciting than this. All the way from great comebacks and giantkillings to excellent individual performances, we've had it all down the years.

Y is for Your experience

It's widely recognised that the Crucible is a special place for snooker. It feels like home. But for every fan out there, going to the Crucible and memories of the Crucible are different.

Z is for Zzzzzzz

Many snooker fans have fallen asleep at the Crucible but none were funnier than when someone was caught snoring in the front row when Graeme Dott played Peter Ebdon in the 2006 final.

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