The Grand Prix for many has always marked the true start of the season.

Even when ITV used to show a tournament in September, the first BBC event of the campaign was regarded as that extra bit more special.

It certainly used to be when Rothmans were the sponsors and it was held at the Hexagon in Reading.

When they pulled out, it did lose a bit of prestige and this was exacerbated by moving the event around the country. The Kelvin Hall in Glasgow is it's eighth venue since it left Reading (there will not be a prize for all those who can name the other seven).

For all this, the Grand Prix is the second longest running ranking event. (Before you call me every name under the sun, yes the UK Championship began in 1977 but it did not carry ranking points until 1984, a couple of months after Dennis Taylor won the first Grand Prix.)

The tournament has been responsible for a number of memorable moments - Stephen Hendry winning at 18, Rex Williams in the final at 53, Steve Davis whitewashing Dean Reynolds in the final, Chris Small capturing the title (when it was the LG Cup) against all odds and John Higgins making four successive centuries and amassing 494 points without reply against Ronnie O'Sullivan.

My personal highlight came at Preston Guild Hall six or seven years ago. As anyone who has been to the venue will know, you enter through a shopping centre and up some escalators where autograph hunters tend to hang out.

One day, I made my way towards the lift and realised that said autograph hunters were sizing me up, deciding if I was a player or not.

After a moment or two of deliberation one of them turned to his mate and said, 'nah, don't bother with him, he's a nobody.'

Written off in Preston. The poignancy of it all was almost too much to bear.

One year the Harold Shipman trial was taking place in the court over the road and we journalists, faced with some dirge dragging on into the early hours, speculated that the not so good doctor may be sentenced to spending a day at the snooker.

When the Grand Prix moved to Aberdeen, the crazy decision was taken to make it a round robin event. The format confused everyone, not least the players. Mark King booked a flight home believing he was out but discovered he was still in and went on to reach the semi-finals.

Thankfully, this was scrapped last year in favour of a random draw, which has added some spice to proceedings.

All the predictions of the big names crashing out early proved to be without substance: three of the four semi-finalists were ranked in the top eight.

Crowds were good at the SECC last year and will hopefully be strong again across the city for this season's staging.

Scotland has long been a snooker nation, even in the days when it didn't have any top players. Now, it has several and is hosting one of the green baize game's longest running events.

The Grand Prix has never been regarded in the same way as the big three - the world, UK and Masters - but has played its own part in the snooker story and, 25 years since it was first held, is still a much sought after prize.


Anonymous said...

Marco Fu reaching the final from the first qualifying round, beating O'sullivan and Peter Ebdon along the way, in his first ranking event as a pro is my highlight of the tournament.

Mal said...

You mentioned Dennis Taylor's win - This was of course just a couple of weeks after his mum died when he initially wasn't going to compete. He did and won destroying Cliff Thorburn in the final, going on to win the WC and having a great few years reaching no.2 in the world, getting beat the following year in a decider by Davis and winning the masters - easily his best spell of his career, but the grand prix sparked it off.

I remember Jimmy White playing Rex Williams in the final as well!

It has produced a few surprises over the years - the likes of Ian McCulloch, Euah Henderson, Jamie Cope and Fu in his first tournament reaching a final and Dale and Small winning.

Anonymous said...

Other Grand Prix venues:
Derby, Aberdeen, Preston, Telford,Sunderland, Glasgow (not Kelvin Hall).
Now I am struggling.

Dave H said...

Don't forget Bournemouth!

jamie brannon said...

I think, what didnt help was renaming it the LG Cup for three years and BBC advertising it as a new event, even though all snooker stat guru's like yourself class it as the same event.

I think bringing in the random draw is a nice idea, but would like to see it from the off.

Regarding the BBC coverage disappointed that the highlights are on so late and that the Tory Conference is eating in to some of the afternoon schedule.

Anonymous said...

Was there not another awful decision to host it at the Royal Highland Centre, close to Edinburgh Airport and miles away for anyone who didn't have access to a car.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

Wasn't Bournemouth where a certain Dominic Dale won in 1997? What were his odds of winning the GP that year?

I have always called the GP the best world ranking tournament of the smaller one's (ie; shanghai, china, welsh, n.i, international, British, Thaliland, players championship et al.)

Thanks, Joe

Anonymous said...

I hope we see some good crowds for the seasons curtain raiser(UK-centric obviously). It sets the tone for the whole season.

Mat Wilson

Anonymous said...

Dave why bother with this blog when you get more comments on the snooker forum???

Anonymous said...

will you be in glasgow dave to commentate (or doing it from elsewhere)?

if youre there, hope to see you and say hi.

Dave H said...

In order:

The Royal Highland Centre hosted the Scottish Open in 2003.

I write this blog because I enjoy writing it. If I didn't, obviously my posts wouldn't appear on TSF.

No I won't, but hi anyway.

Anonymous said...

Shame that the Prix is no longer very Grand.

Betty Logan said...

Hasn't the Grand Prix actually been going for 27 years? It was the Professional Players Tournament for a couple of years before it was sponsored.

Tim Sandle said...

I agree with Betty, the two PPT tournaments won by Reardon and Knowles are normally regarded as running in the same historical lineage as the Grand Prix. They weren't televised however, but they had ranking status.

Dave H said...

I don't count them as the same tournament

The Grand Prix is one of the traditional BBC events, the PPT wasn't on TV

Anonymous said...

I must be getting old, I could have sworn that the Grand Prix started life on ITV. Maybe I'm getting confused with the old British Open?

Anyway, scrap the boring Premier League and bring back the old Hofmeister Doubles and State Express Team Challenge is what I say.

JohnH said...

As the PPT was a ranking tournament and was said at the time to have become the Grand Prix and been given TV coverage I agree that it was the forerunner of the Grand Prix and should be treated as such- in as much as the LG Cup was the Grand Prix anyway!