The Royal London Watches Grand Prix is snooker’s second longest running ranking event (the UK Championship began in 1977 but was not given ranking status until 1984).
As we approach this year's event here, in chronological order, are the tournament’s ten best moments according to yours truly.
I should point out that I am including the LG Cup as it was effectively the same event with a different name.
1984 – EMOTIONAL TAYLOR WINS FIRST TITLE
Dennis Taylor was not going to play in the first Grand Prix. His mother died a few weeks earlier and he pulled out of the previous event, the International. His family persuaded him to play at Reading and he produced a career best performance to take the title, thrashing Cliff Thorburn 10-2 in the final.
1986 – REX WILLIAMS REACHES FINAL AT 53
Rex Williams was a fine billiards player who never quite made it at the highest level in snooker but enjoyed a golden week in Reading in 1986 to become the oldest ever ranking event finalist and returned to the elite top 16 as a result.
1987 – HENDRY WINS TITLE AT 18
Stephen Hendry remains, at 18, the youngest ever Grand Prix champion. This was the first of his (to date) 36 ranking titles and proof that his much talked about potential was no myth. He beat Dennis Taylor 10-7 in the final and would win the Grand Prix a further three times.
1989 – DAVIS WHITEWASHES REYNOLDS
Steve Davis’s 10-0 defeat of Dean Reynolds remains the only whitewash in a ranking event final and completed a miserable couple of years for Grimsby’s top players at the hands of the ginger magician – he beat Mike Hallett 9-0 in the Masters final at Wembley in 1988.
1992 – WHITE EDGES DOHERTY IN THRILLER
Jimmy White’s vast army of fans have suffered many disappointments over the years but 1992 was a golden year for their man as he won several top events, including the UK Championship and, in a thrilling final, the Grand Prix for a second time with a final frame victory over Ken Doherty.
1997 – DALE SHOCKS HIGGINS
Dominic Dale’s 9-6 victory over John Higgins was a huge shock as the Scot was regarded as snooker’s best player at the time and would indeed go on the become world champion and world no.1 a few months later. However, it took Dale ten years to win another ranking title, the 2007 Shanghai Masters.
1998 – INSPIRED LEE STOPS FU RUN
Marco Fu was competing in his first tournament as a professional and beat Ronnie O’Sullivan and Peter Ebdon to reach the final at the tournament’s new home in Preston but ran into an in form Stephen Lee who made two centuries and eight half centuries to win 9-2 and scoop his first ranking title.
1999 – HIGGINS COMEBACK DENIES WILLIAMS
This was a classic but for some reason has been largely forgotten. John Higgins looked down and out when he rashly conceded the final frame of the first session still able to win it to trail Mark Williams 6-2. But the Scot dug deep and demonstrated the qualities of a great champion to come back and win 9-8.
2002 – SMALL COMPLETES TRIER’S VICTORY
Chris Small beat John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan on successive days en route to the LG Cup final and outlasted his fellow Scot Alan McManus 9-5 to win a lengthy final. It was a victory for one of the game’s great triers who faced huge adversity in the shape of the bone disease Ankylosing Spondylitis which would, sadly, end his professional career.
2005 – VINTAGE HIGGINS DESTROYS O’SULLIVAN
Higgins’s capture of his third Grand Prix title was completed with one of the most devastating displays of snooker ever witnessed. He compiled four successive centuries and accrued 494 points without reply – which remains a record in a ranking event.