Snooker is a sport that has been blessed with many fascinating rivalries.

There was Ray Reardon and John Spencer in the 1970s, Steve Davis and Alex Higgins in the 1980s and, right now, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

But, for me, the most enduring of them all was Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White, who kept snooker fans gripped by a series of world finals in the 1990s.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hendry’s capture of the 1990 world title, making him the youngest ever winner of the game’s biggest event, a record he still holds despite the influx of young talent in the last two decades.

He won it with an 18-12 defeat of White, although their first Crucible meeting had come two years earlier in 1988. White had already lost in the 1984 final to Davis but was widely expected to win the Big One at some stage. Hendry was just 19 but had already won two ranking titles and was regarded as highly dangerous.

Their second round encounter was a revelation, so much so that the BBC devoted the whole of its end of year snooker review programme – these were the days when it had one – to this match and this match alone.

Just as all today’s leading players modelled their games on Hendry’s playing style, so Hendry had adopted White’s ultra-attacking approach.

White won the match 13-12. In 25 frames there were 26 breaks over 40.

I dare say if it were shown today the match would not appear to be anything special but back then it was like a burst of excitement and it deserves to be remembered as an all time classic.

The 1990 final was another quickfire affair with an average frame time of just 12 minutes.

The 1992 Crucible final between Hendry and White is one everyone old enough to have seen it remembers, more particularly if they were supporting the Whirlwind.

When White went 12-6 up, Clive Everton, not a man given to overstatement, said on BBC commentary, ‘surely he’s going to win it now.’ Most people watching probably thought the same. Hendry, though, had other ideas.

At 14-8, the Scot won the last two frames of the third session, the last of which with the aid of a superb brown that, had he missed it, would have almost certainly made it 15-9.

White was still favourite at 14-10 but immediately lost a black ball frame and the wheels started to come off. Had he won the title before he may have had enough resilience to repel the Hendry comeback but it wasn’t to be. Hendry made three centuries, including two in the final two frames, to complete a winning streak of ten frames and win 18-14.

Hendry was never better than when under pressure, the precise time when most players start to falter.

Their 1993 final was a landslide to Hendry. He won it 18-5 with a session to spare having played some of the best snooker of his career during the tournament.

In 1994 it was Hendry v White again. The final session attracted a peak viewing audience of 13.4m to BBC2 and, in terms of quality, tension and excitement, remains one of the best matches ever played.

White trailed 17-16 but made a 75 break to force the decider. What followed will live long in the memory of his fans. Perfectly placed in the balls and not far from capturing the title he snatched at a black. Hendry, predictably, cleared up to win 18-17.

It was a crushing blow from which White never really recovered. And yet he didn’t sulk, he didn’t blame anyone but himself and, interviewed by David Vine just minutes after the end, he smiled, shrugged and said, ‘he’s beginning to annoy me.’

It was this sort of gesture that helped endear White to millions. Those who run him down now because his game is not of the same standard as it was then should remember the popular appeal he helped give snooker.

And it was part of another reason why the Hendry-White rivalry is worth celebrating. Their matches were always played in a sporting context. Indeed, in that 1994 final, very near the end, the referee awarded a free ball to Hendry but Hendry got down and said he didn’t think it was one, despite it being a clear advantage to him.

When Hendry appeared on This Is Your Life, White gave him a £1 note (it was a long time ago) on which he had written, ‘from Jimmy White to the next Jimmy White.’ Hendry returned it with the message, ‘there’s only one Jimmy White.’

They met again at the Crucible in 1995, this time in the semi-finals where Hendry made a 147 and won 16-12.

White was to take one very small measure of revenge in the first round in 1998. He’d had to qualify and drew Hendry, beating him 10-4.

By chance, I was stood next to him in the pressroom when he called home the night he went 8-1 up. ‘I bet he still comes back and wins,’ he said, deadpan, to whoever was on the other end.

Of course, White beat Hendry a number of times, including in finals. He nearly whitewashed him in the 1991 Classic final, leading 9-0 before winning 10-4. He also beat Hendry 18-9 in the 1990 World Matchplay final.

But their rivalry came to be defined by the Crucible and by Hendry’s relentlessness in the face of White’s failings.

The best rivalries are between opposites. Hendry was quiet, driven and utterly obsessed with winning; White was gregarious, Jack-the-lad and would admit now that his preparation for big events was not always what it should have been.

He wasn’t unlucky not to be world champion. He had his chance – more than one chance – but couldn’t quite seal the deal even though, in terms of pure talent, he was a better player than some of those who have won it.

His popularity has never wavered, but I’m sure he’d swap some of that for at least one world title. Similarly, Hendry – sometimes booed by sections of the crowd – would have loved some of White’s appeal.

But who they were as people and how they played created an enthralling rivalry, one that snooker fans still remember fondly even though they are unlikely to ever again play each other on a big occasion.


Anonymous said...

Great journalism Dave, a true plasure to read!

Anonymous said...

Hi there Dave lad. You've got to wonder just how many World Championships White would have won if he had only taken to the Mr Hey Diddle Diddle See You Jimmy method. Just think, Jimmy could be a multiple world title holder and Mr Oh-so Humdrum could have diddled a fortune out of the poor unsuspecting public with a dodgy teaching method. Oh, but for the fates of history, as Joe Davis might have said while having a cup of tea and a biscuit.

CHRISK5 said...

Superb blog on the Hendry/White story.

Importantly,it was just a sporting rivalry - with no malice or cheap namecalling to get headlines.

It was all about the matches & the many twists & turns they featured.

It seems lopsided though that Hendry won as many as 75-80% of their contests & basically - all those that really mattered.

If I was introducing anyone to snooker for the first time,I would advise them to watch Hendry/White matches for sure.

I think the Alex Higgins/Terry Griffiths matches in the 1980s was an intriguing rivalry in itself - many close contests with 'Griff' getting the upperhand most often it seemed.

Also,the Hendry/O'Sullivan rivalry has transcended the 1990s/2000's & with a more even balance of results either way.

Anonymous said...

That 13-12 match that White won was absolutely brilliant, the red he potted to start the 80 odd break to win it was terrific. if we have a match like that in this years worlds then we're in for a real treat.

Anonymous said...

Great read. It would have been great to see a free flowing Jimmy win one of those finals but the pure mental strengeth of Hendry is something that should equally be celebrated.

Dzierzgul said...

Great post.
Will we get more "tales from the circuit"? It's been almost a month...

Anonymous said...

great blog about two great players.

hendry being the greatest player ever.


mathmo said...

Brilliant blog! Thoroughly enjoyable read, I just hope Jimmy can qualify for the crucible once more.

John McBride said...

I remember all them match's, well.

Not long after the '94 final, I was at the Players awards being held in the Café Royal in Piccadilly Circus. When Jimmy White walked in, all eyes were on him, the first thing he done was walk straight over to Stephen Hendry & shake his hand.

If ever a person learnt how to lose it was Jimmy White, gracious as ever. If ever a person learnt how to win, it was Stephen Hendry.

They're match's will certainly live long in my memory anyway. I feel all the better for knowing that too.

Great Article.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Huge credit to White for being able to take all his World final defeats like a man, never was the biggest White fan but i hope he makes a Steve Davis style comeback one day.

shaun foster said...

great blog mr hendon i remember being brought up by my grandad watching these great games with a glass of pop and a bowl of lobbis and i just wish some of todays players could be as gracious in defeat as white.More tales of the circuit please dave

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared
Dear Dave
How are you! Another good article Dave to hopefully set the pens flowing! The rivalry between White and Hendry is always good for a few days interest but seldom brings out any new patter.

Please don’t take offence lad as the “Blog Business” is very demanding but mostly competitive. The game is easy for the big players like the BBC as they are not tied to just “Snooker”
As a specialist blog “Snooker Know How” you must be number one Dave as you are poached on regularly by almost every other (snooker) blog player.

I am sorry to say Dave that the White, Davis and Hendry have been milked dry along with the “Higgins” young and old.
The brotherly rivalry between Joe and Fred Davis should have come before the Spencer and Reardon encounters as Ray and John both praised Joes books for there successes.

Libraries no longer carry the Joe Davis books; but Joe, along with other old timers could bring out fresh “Know How” on the web. The youngsters should be given a choice not fed on yesterday’s men.
Mr hey you

jamie brannon said...

I don't think he was unlucky, but at the same time there was no one he lost too that he should defintely have beat in the final, except maybe for Parrott.

The 13.4 million peak audience must be in the top ten audiences the game has ever had?

Anonymous said...

More tripe from the loose cannon..

Yes you (brannon)!

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared
Hello Dave
How’s tricks! Thanks for the posts lad and thanks also for my “Nearly Posts” as they are not really lost but recorded for showing another day.
About “Nearly Posts” Dave! Please do not ever refuse a post for criticising any “Fine Art” blogs. These people are only doing a job and are grateful for the work.

Snooker needs alternatives Dave! A choice is the spice of life. Big John Parrott will be showing a new method on TV as soon as the Crucible starts.
For the record Dave that is a bit perplexing as big John with Steve have had thirty years to claim something new in Hazels Corner. Not all the time with Hazel but the corner has always been there.

It is possible Dave that big John and Steve are late developers or maybe slow thinkers when it comes to coaching. The name “Little Legions” have apparently found some magic words.
Many Fathers and Granddads will wonder why the Magic Words were not found for them thirty years ago. Mr hey you

CHRISK5 said...

It was a pleasant surprise to read of the 13.4m peak figure the Hendry/White 1994 Final achieved.

At the time,it was said that the viewing number was 10 million - though that was probably the average figure for the evening session as a whole.

In the 1980s & 1990s I would guesstimate that there were as many as 50-60 major televised Finals that drew a 10m peak figure or above.

Also,IF these 2-bit weekend events do start up (though hopefully not) it would be loads of best of 3 frame matches & resemble the old Pot Black format.

The history lesson here is - Pot Black had to be cancelled in 1986due to the LONGER matches & LONGER events being what captivated the viewers the most!!

Back to rivalries - Ronnie & John Higgins is the most relevant of this period - In their head to heads - Ronnie wins the majority of relaxed,exhibition type meetings & Higgins has won more of the high pressure rank event contests.

Betty Logan said...

I suppose the rivalry was so high profile because of the world finals, but for me it's a distant second to the Davis/Higgins rivalry. The Hendry/White rivaly had an air of inevitability about it, especially after the 1992 final, but with Higgins and Davis there was a sense anything could happen. For me the enduring popularity of the game is grounded in this incendiary rivaly, defined by mutual hatred as much as anything else. What Higgins did to Davis in the 1983 UK you could never ever imagine Jimmy doing to Hendry. Davis has revealed in recent years he felt physically intimidated playing him, and it's true there was a 'vibe' whenever they played each other. It's not just snooker's greatest rivaly, it's possibly the greatest rivaly in sport; I can't think of any other sporting encounter that was more intense.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr Hey You, don't listen to them. I spoke to dear old Joe Davis only yesterday, and he said something to me both esoteric and enlightening that only perhaps you can understand. He said "Liver and pool are the wrong way, snooker is the only way."

CHRISK5 said...

Anon @ 5.54pm

I follow Liverpool & love Snooker.

So,I can & have done it BOTH ways!

Lmao very much thankyou!

Witz78 said...

It pains me to read of all this heartbreak for Jimmy again. It just shows how many glorious chances he missed to win the world title. Had he not twitched on the frameball red v Alex in 82 then im sure hed have gone on to become arguably the Crucibles greatest ever champion taking a couple of titles of both Davis and Hendry. Alas he hadnt banked on Higgins impossible 69 clearance, then numerous further heartbreaks to come in the next decade and a half.
Regardless of this, Jimmy will always be held in higher esteem by most, than the majority of world champions due to his longevity, mass appeal and breathtaking play.
Talking of 1990 being the 20th anniversary of the start of the Hendry era, it perhaps as significantly signalled, sadly the end of the Higgins era as following a R1 exit to James, he would give that infamous 'you can stick yer snooker up yer jacksie' interview, resulting in a years ban and a rapid fall from grace. A swansong in 94 couldnt mask the fact Higgins, snookers greatest ever star was gone.

CHRISK5 said...

Looking back,the 1994 world championships was a 'watershed' moment for that era of snooker.

Possibly the last major Final to comfortably break the 10m viewing barrier.

Ofcourse,it was Jimmy's last World Final & added to that,others who had great longevity in the game - Hurricane Higgins,Dennis Taylor & Cliff Thorburn - for them,it was their last campaigns at the Crucible.

Going further back,many contributors have 'assumed' that if he had beaten Higgins in that 1982 semi & got to the Final - then he would have definetly toppled Reardon.

Many forgot obviously - that Reardon beat White 10-5 in the autumn 1982 Professional Players event.

White never won the world title - But a tally of 10 ranking titles overall is a fairer reflection of his ability - considering that he had Davis in the 80s & Hendry in the 90s clocking up most of them.

Who knows - maybe some of his overzealous fans in the crowd might have had a small effect on his concentration sometimes - especially when on the shot.

John McBride said...

I agree he was never 'unlucky' in any of the finals, though considering JP is mentioned here, the first 7 frames JP played in the final against Jimmy White are still to this day, some of the best Snooker I've ever seen under the circumstances.

Going back to the original duo, them 2 Men can hold their heads up high for ever & a day in my book.

IanW said...

Chris. I think these weekend tournaments are mainly going to be for the amateur circuit after Hearn culls the professional one. I'm sure Hearn will chuck in the odd televised one here and there (especially if the 6 reds game become popular with audiences) but the old Pro-am events and the old style 'Pro-Ticket' events were always best of 5 and it was just accepted by the players. Don't panic, i can't see there being many televised best of 3 tornos except as i say, one or 2.
The main appeal of professional tournaments to the tv viewers is, as you quite rightly say, a slow build up of plot and storyline that unravels itself over a week or two, building up to the final but on its way producing sub-plots here and there. As someone once said (Hearn i think) "...it's like Dallas with balls".
It would be difficult to replicate that with the wham-bam tournaments that are being proposed but i guess that'll be down to Marketing and that's where there are few better than Hearn.

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared
Dear Dave
How are you lad! Congratulations to you and the “Dave Den blog”. You have adopted many new punters mingling with the old faithful.

To mister 9:21PM: I am sorry I must disagree with you and others about Jimmy White and “Luck”. The wee man was lucky enough to walk into a club with good players to copy wonderful skills from; but wasn’t lucky enough to meet a coach and mentor to give him guidance.

Jimmy was lucky to get a crack at big JP in 19-91 as he was let off the hook by Steve James. Jimmy White played his last “Great” game against James and has never recovered.

Steve James was robbed by “Sheer snooker finesse” never yet equalled. Steve James was the better player on the day but sadly tried to steal the wee mans thunder with a more measured style of play that was alien to his rapid quick fire method.
Jimmy lost everything winning that day and forgot how to play against the big man.. Mr hey you

David Caulfield said...

"Jimmy lost everything winning that day and forgot how to play against the big man.. Mr hey you"

That's why the following year, 1992, was arguably the best year in his career.

Will your dribble ever cease to amaze me!

CHRISK5 said...

Stephen Hendry has had many enduring (snooker)rivalries - those with Davis,White & O'Sullivan being the most recongised by the public & rightfully so.

Though,if there was anyone who took more comebacks & sporting heartbreak than Jimmy White did in losing to Hendry - It was Mike Hallett.

The Hendry/Hallett tale was & is quite compelling in itself - In that,they were doubles partners in the period when both players were on their way to the top.

When they got there,Hendry would usually win their matches easily & then -there was the 1991 Masters Final -
At 8-2 up,it looked certain that Hallett would - at last - put 'one over' his old chum - But,somehow it was not to be.

I think the 1991 Masters Final has to be just slightly ahead of the 1994 Worlds Final for sheer sympathy for the runner-up - As many know,Hallett lost more than just a snooker match that night & that would have put it all in perspective for anyone in that same position.

But,for Hendry,the 1991 Masters Final & 1994 Worlds Final are arguably the two matches that have most defined his career & his never say never attitude. (maybe more so than the 1990 UK title win over Davis)

Anonymous said...

i think that it was the size of hendrys sphericals that made him such a great player. if ronnie had them he would be unbeatable, but sadly, towel throwing is more common place there....

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared
Hi Dave
How are you! Thanks for the posts. I’ve just read your Eurosport column Dave with some sadness as there was only three “Comments” to a very good “Write Up”.
Now the Dave Den “Rivalry” subject seems also to have run its course. Do we need new blog posters Dave or new blog Subjects?

Barry and Steve our “Complete Honesty” men may liven up comments with there ultimatum on March 31st. Barry has stated that it (The Ultimatum) will be a “Take It or Leave It” job to the members.

Barry’s volunteering to be our Chairman Dave may be the professional games salvation. Every lover of snooker is aware that “The Game and a Pint” snooker will never die but the professional side of snooker positively needs thinking about.

I expect Dave that you will be at the meeting with pen and paper to listen without bias all suggestions stated for the “Professionals Good”.
I wonder Dave if some mad “Democratic” type person will suggest votes on all controversial issues? It is assumed and hopped Dave that other board members will have alternative proposals. Mr hey you

Anonymous said...

i hopped the fine art man wouldnt come back

Anonymous said...

How many times did you hop??


Anonymous said...

hop off 4.19

Anonymous said...

Not a very good response 5:02 i HOPED for something better..

Anonymous said...

hope against hope