It was not surprising, given the emotional day he spent at Alex Higgins’s funeral on Monday, that Jimmy White was beaten in the Shanghai Masters qualifiers last night, but this should not detract from the performance of Liam Highfield, a talented young player with the skills to rise rapidly up the ranks.

Highfield was born in December 1990, a few days before White defeated Stephen Hendry 18-9 to win the World Matchplay, a prestigious invitation tournament shown on ITV.

White was at his peak during this period. He won the World Masters the following month and was a few months from a second successive Crucible final as part of a run of five in a row.

He is wrongly derided by some as a choker. Chokers don’t win as many titles as White.

Chokers don’t win the Masters in front of nearly 3,000 spectators. They don’t beat John Parrott over four sessions to win the UK Championship. They don’t win 10 ranking titles.

White’s failure to win the world title came down to a number of competing factors. The most prominent of these was the quality of his opposition: Steve Davis at his best, Hendry at his best and an inspired Parrott in 1991, not to mention Higgins's miracle break in the 1982 semi-finals.

Another was White’s own preparation. He never has been a fan of an early night but he must surely look back and chastise himself he didn’t shut out the crowd around him and dedicate himself properly to the task, especially in 1992 when he led Hendry 10-6 overnight.

It’s true the pressure got to him in 1994 - although not until the deciding frame - when he missed the black off its spot a few balls from victory.

There are many, though, who have never got close – and not just in snooker – to the heights Jimmy has achieved over the years.

I first met him when I started on the circuit. He was having a rough time of it and was hoping to begin the season with a win at the Grand Prix in Preston.

This was the pre-TV stage and, somehow, I had been roped into recording interviews with players for the BBC for them to play into their opening day coverage on the Saturday.

I was nervous. I didn’t know the players and I feared White would be difficult if he lost. Added into the mix was a father whose son was disabled, a big snooker fan and who wanted a picture with the Whirlwind.

As I was doing the interview I was informed it was probably best I dealt with this as well.

I wasn’t so naive that I couldn’t see I’d been landed with jobs others didn’t want to do but there was no getting out of it so I spent an anxious couple of hours watching the scoreboard ticking over and it became increasingly apparent that White was going to lose. And so he did.

I loitered backstage with my microphone. Jimmy came off and I introduced myself. I could see he was very disappointed and eager to get the interview over and done with.

I asked two questions but midway through his second answer the producer informed us the tape wasn’t running and we would have to start again. My hand probably shook as I put the microphone back under his mouth and we started again.

The interview over, Jimmy made a dash for the door. I asked him to wait. He wanted to know why.

I could see this ending in a row of some sorts, which was not the scenario in which I wanted to meet a player who had played a such huge role in me getting involved in the sport in the first place.

I told him there was a man with a young disabled son who would like a picture.

No problem, Jimmy said, bring him in. And he came in and Jimmy chatted to him, posed for a picture, signed his programme and said he hoped he would enjoy the tournament.

I don’t know where that family is now or if they still follow snooker but I’d be prepared to bet they’ve never forgotten that night.

Neither have I. That’s Jimmy White. That’s why the public love him and that’s why they will support him until he no longer has the breath to hold a cue.


Anonymous said...

Jimmy was at the funeral on Monday.
Jimmy-Liam was in yesterday night.

I think, IT'S UNFAIR...

I'm sure, that this is due to the defeat.

Alain (not Robidoux) said...

A beautiful and well deserved tribute to one of the most brilliant players of all time...

kildare cueman said...

The most popular player in the history of the game.

A fantastic player and the most entertaining to watch until the rocket came along.

The decision to award him a wildcard for last years masters raised a few eyebrows among snooker fans, yourself included, who thought the place should have gone to Wenbo.

I thought the decision was a good one.

Wild cards should be a medium for somebody who will add prestige to an event who is unlikely to qualify.

Old stagers like White, women, or far flung foreigners are all ideal wildcard selections.

Wenbo will play in many masters, but still would have added more colour than say Walden or Hawkins.

Id go a step further and give White a permanent place on the tour as a token of appreciation of what he has given to the game.

Anonymous said...

I was involved in professional snooker for over 10 years, and he is a real nice guy.

As Dave mentioned about a night never to forget, I went - with the player I was managing - to Thailand for The Open in 1995, and one night I am having a knock on the practice table, when Jimmy walked in with his cue case. I immediately came off the table (I knew my place), and as I was putting my cue away I heard him say "Fancy a game". I looked round to see who he was talking to, and O-M-F-G it was me!

Had the pleasure of 7 frames with him (mainly pulling balls out of the pockets, but that was purely incidental), and have to say it is one of the most memorable memories I have in the snooker world.

Have played many frames with a lot of the top players, but that night in Bangkok is the one I will never forget.

Jimmy White - Cue Legend

Anonymous said...

Great article Dave,i met Jimmy on Monday at Alex Higgins funeral,he stopped to sign autographs and was a gentleman on what must of been an extremly difficult day for him.He is a credit to himself and the game of snooker.

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method- 04
A secret is wasted if not shared.
Hi Dave
That’s quite a story about Jimmy White but really “Par for the course” as he wasn’t being nice and considerate just normal.
Snooker Pundits talk of “Natural Ability” as a style of play but Jimmy had it both whether on or off the table and though the wee man was often conned, there was never hard feelings.

Jimmy lost his “Fear Factor” in the early nineties when he was hospitalised and couldn’t find his magic or special style of play after he returned to the practice table.
Sadly the only help offered Jimmy by the many gurus was “Go back to basics”; the same daft advice usually given to young improvers.

Jimmy like all top players has no idea what he is doing right, or wrong. His game was learned by habits created by a simple “Copycat” method.

Granted Jimmy was lucky with his choice of club that had some great players to copy from. If Jimmy had known (In words) what he was doing right, we lucky people along with the whole world would be playing snooker the “Jimmy White “method.

For youngsters interested Dave! Jimmy lost the tempo in his timing and was coming off the shot marginally too soon plus some silly advice to “Slow up”. Mr Hey You

Anonymous said...


Great story that and thanks for telling it so superbly.
It reminds me of the Murray Head song as follows:

One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free
You'll find a god in every golden cloister
A little flesh, a little history
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me

Ray said...

What a wonderful example Jimmy has set for any sportsman to follow. This is a man with unbelievable talent for his chosen sport. We all know he lost 6 World finals but who on God's earth could have lost with such dignity and humanity. So very rare.
The hurt and pain he was feeling must have been all-consuming but always a gentleman to the last.
That's why he's loved the world over.
A quote comes to mind by sportswriter Gatland Rice on another wonderful sportsman the great golfer Bobby Jones Jnr "For when the one great scorer comes to write your name he writes not that you won or lost but how you played the game"

Anonymous said...

12 07 "jimmy like all top players does not know what hes doing right". If your so good you would be offering your services to these "ignorant" top players for big money. U said ages ago in a blog that jimmy missed that black in the world cus his feet were together.I watched it and proved u wrong.Its obvious sir its not the players who are ignorant of what they do ,more like u are just ignorant of the garbage u write. Joe davis, copycat,fine art, blah ,blah ,blah,zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Anonymous said...

Marvellous stories on here about Jimmy.
An iconic figure and a total legendary figure and a gent.

jamie brannon said...

The July edition of Snooker Scene was a a cracker. Two interesting features done by David Hendon. Very strong stuff from Elaine Dott really outlining how severe an illness depression can be.

While the Stevens article brought home the impact of his father's death and that of Paul Hunter and how it had affected his career.

However, the article from Clive Everton on Ronnie O'Sullivan was the best piece I have ever seen in Snooker Scene, it was work that would have sat comfortably alongside great scribes like Simon Barnes, Brian Glanville and Matthew Syed.

Never has an article about O'Sullivan captured what makes him the flawed genuis that he is and why he behaves in such peculiar ways at times.

Overall, I would like to see more interview pieces like the one with Matthew Stevens. I also hope that we have not seen the last of the q and a feature.

So I am on topic, I hope Jimmy White stays on tour through merit, if not he does deserve a wildcard for the following year but no longer than that.

Anonymous said...

i am sik of reading fine art garbage

Betty Logan said...

To be fair if Jimmy choked it was in 1992, not 1994. Anyone can miss a ball in a decider - Hendry's done it, Davis has done it, Ronnie's done it. Sometimes a large lead can be the undoing of you, since you get to that point where you know it's yours to lose.

Anonymous said...

Lets not forget in the final session of the 1992 final Stephen Hendry scored 3 century breaks and i think 2 70+ breaks to win from 14-10 down.

not many could have pulled that round in the final the way stephen did its not as if Jimmy totally collapsed Hendry put his foot down.

Anonymous said...

its entire opinion if you think hes a choker or not. the arguements dave makes do not factually prove one way or another if he was.

personally he wouldnt get the tag from me, as he "choked" less than most, but i certainly would say he choked in a couple of worlds.....

if that makes you think him an outright choker, thats your right, but i dont think it qualifies him for the tag, because he achieved more than most did in that era.

Anonymous said...

Fine art nonsense clutter up an otherwise great blog

Anonymous said...

Great article.
I saw Jimmy knock in the 147 followed by 146 against Alex Higgins in Grimsby earlier this year. It goes down as one of the best nights of my life,and was what turned out to be the last time I'd see Alex.
They are both true legends.

Anonymous said...

Jimmy is a tremendous bloke who should get the Wembley wildcard for as many years as he wants it.
Last year with all those jungle stars in the audience was a great pleasure to see.
At one point I even got to shake hands with Jimmys manager and caught a glimpe of Colin McAllister.
It was the most amazing night of my entire life.

SupremeSnooker.com said...

One thing to remember about Jimmy was that for all his excesses and occasional hell-raising, he very rarely upset anybody, and has always been a pleasure to meet.
I remember at the World 9-Ball Pool Championship in Cardiff about 10 years ago he was great and made plenty of time for people. I was lucky enough to be in the audience the night he played Steve Davis in that event.
Sadly, Jimmy only learnt moderation with gambling when he was past his peak as a player, and he's probably nowhere near as wealthy as his talent would merit.
His other big problem was a lack of self-discipline. At some point in the early 90s he lost a UK Championship match against Darren Morgan despite having a big lead overnight, because he'd been up most of the night playing cards.
He won plenty of events but not as many as his ability should've given him, mainly due to the distractions I've described.
His gambling is, I gather, under control these days and I'm sure he could make a living as an exhibition player for many years yet. I doubt he's cut out for the journalistic side of the game but he's always a pleasure to meet and see around tournament venues, and I hope we'll be seeing plenty of him in the years ahead.

Anonymous said...

At that level success or failure is about mental strength. Jimmy has admitted in his ghost written autobiography and/or newspaper interviews that he was hungover during at least two finals. At the very top level your unlikely though it can happen to crush someone in a final. How can you expect to beat someone else who wasn't out drinking. Maybe Jimmy was looking for an excuse ? Who knows but at the end of the day Jimmy did not want to win, nor think he could or should win each and every one of those finals. Winners don't not want to win nor not think they can. Jimmy was a winner at a very high level but at the very highest level he had some doubts at the back of their mind. Everyone apart from Joe Davis lost some finals and at the end it fed on itself once you had lost 3 finals, you could loose 4, 5 and 6. The loss to Higgins at 20 was understandable. I haven't thought about it for a while but am pretty sure there was some gamesmenship by Higgins at a late stage of that semi-final an attempt to bully White. Loosing once to Hendry or Davis was understandable. Loosing to Parrott I can't credit. The other issue is semi-final in 1982final in 1984. And he prob made other semi's between 1985-1989 but I don't at this stage recall them. I wonder was he drinking too much for those 5 years. Albeit it was prob a joke but I have seen an interview with him where he says he doesn't recall much about the 1980s. Most if not all recent world champions won it before they were 27. By 1990 Jimmy had been to Sheffield 9 times already and not won. There was a chink in his mental armour.

Anonymous said...

The Whirlwind led 14-8 in a World final, he also had the balls at his mercy at 17-17 in a World final when he threw in a quick one on that black.
He is a great bloke but, unfortunately, he'll always be remebered as the best player never to win the World title.

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method- 04 Date Thursday, 05 August 20-10.
A secret is wasted if not shared.
Dear Mary Eli @ 2:47 pm Hello Dave
Thanks again for the plug dear Sir! You’ve asked many times Eli “What do you expect to accomplish?” with this “Fine Art” rubbish, so I’ve decided to tell you. But please keep it quiet until it’s advertised, probable on E Bay.

It’s about Snooker Eli! The lovely game will never die but sadly the “Pro Game” is already half dead and is being medicated currently by some new quack medicines that must be given time to prove there worth and benefits to hopefully bring back the popularity of !9-80s snooker.

Snooker © The Fine Art method is really on “Standby Duty” to come to the Pro Games rescue when all the bright ideas have failed.
A point to note Eli! A “Snakes © and Ladder” league or board game would be an instant success like “Darts” with good presentation and loads of “Smartly Dressed” girls enjoying strong drink.

The brutish male being swallowed by the snake would create more hilarity than the scantily dressed “Dolly Bird” climbing the ladder in hast while holding her modesty. Mr Hey You

Anonymous said...

mr hey you. When will we know the cutoff points and stater points in the snakes and ladders league. And will they have a twat called snakes and ladder backer tipping a dozen players in the same tournament.

Betty Logan said...

Parrott was as good as anyone around that time and Jimmy was up against what was very much an equal. Parrott conceded that he let himself slide competitively after his children came along - Mark Williams went the same way too and his reputation has also suffered as a result when being compared to Ronnie and John Higgins.

Anonymous said...

There is a story in Clive Everton's most recent book where Jimmy lost to someone who at that stage of their career made up the numbers- perhaps Cliff Wilson. White had been up all night. He beat himself half the time when he carried on like that and played teak tough players like Hendry and Davis who couldn't be potted off the table.

CHRISK5 said...

33 Career Titles - 5th on alltime

10 Ranking Titles - 6th on alltime list

Apart from those 6 World Finals -
White still won a credible 10 times
in his 18 other Ranking Finals.

He achieved everything but win the
greatest prize of them all.

That said,I always preferred
Davis & Hendry because of their
higher dedication,ruthlessness &
unmeasurable desire to win.

Anonymous said...

has anyone else noticed when mr hey u has been proven wrong he just chooses to ignore it and goes off at a tangent and goes on with a load of rambling rubbish as always . When u sell your "fine art" on ebay put the" buy now" price at £1 so as to not waste anyones time .

Anonymous said...

fine farter, DM.

I, Mary, posted at 8:51 and NOT when you thought i had.

youre slipping, old man.

Anonymous said...

Ha,5.43,very funny.Yes Mr Hey You always downs a 3 litre Frosty Jacks before posting....

Yes Jimmy will be remembered always as a snooker legend,and great guy.Fantastic sportsman.

Unknown said...

i once watched jimmy in the crucible foyer fight his way through eager fans to get to a little lad in a wheelchair. nobody asked him, he just saw him and made a beeline for him. he posed for photos and nicked another fans program to sign and give to him. strip away all the snooker stuff and there is one hell of a human being underneath. top bloke!

Devin said...

Jimmy is my hero. To be a snooker star and knock in 147's and be in 6 world championship finals and live such an exciting life all with his talent is the way to live. Its about life not winning. Which snooker pro has had the most fun in their life? Steve Davis? Interesting maybe but not fun. Stephen Hendry? 7 time world champ is awesome although i'd rather have been living in Jimmy's shoes than any other snooker player ever. He's class and I love him. Thanks for allowing us the pleasure of watching you play Jimmy!

John McBride said...

I first seen Jimmy White play in Ron Gross Snooker Centre many, many moons ago, a beautiful player. Sound with it too. I was introduced to him by Ron, Jimmy smiled & I went bright red.

A working class hero.