There was a discussion on Twitter yesterday – which I am now shamelessly hijacking – as to who is the best player never to be world champion.

My responses were split between different snooker eras. In the 1970s it was Eddie Charlton, who reached the final three times. In the 1980s and 90s it was Jimmy White, a six times finalist. In the 2000s it was Matthew Stevens, runner-up twice. Of those playing at the moment it’s slightly different but I would say Mark Selby based on how well he has played there each year and yet not won the title, or at least not yet.

I’m surprised how many people seem to think White shouldn’t be top of this list.

Of course, many people reading this won’t remember or will have had no means to watch Jimmy in his prime.

Well I can assure them that the standard of snooker he produced at his best would be good enough to compete with the top players of today.

It was White who helped change snooker into the all-out attacking game it is today. Stephen Hendry wanted to play like him and, of course, would dish out disappointment upon disappointment at the Crucible.

Much is made of his six finals but perhaps White’s best ever chance to be world champion was in 1982 when a miraculous Alex Higgins clearance denied him a place in the final.

We’ll never know if he’d have beaten Ray Reardon – Higgins only did so 18-15 – but it is one of snooker’s most intriguing what it? moments: the whole course of the game’s history could have been altered had Higgins missed just once during that frame.

But he didn’t, and White didn’t win the title. He wasn’t unlucky but the problem was never his game, rather his preparation – and some of the people he surrounded himself with – and, at times, his temperament.

He freely admits he snatched at the black off its spot just a few balls from winning the decider against Hendry in 1994.

White won all the other big titles but they are overshadowed in the collective consciousness by his failure to become world champion. That is a shame but also the way of the world.

As for the debate which began this post, whoever your choice, “the best player never to win the world title” is almost the definition of a Pyrrhic victory.

Nobody wants to be remembered as a nearly man.


Anonymous said...

Jimmy White

closely followed by Nigel Bond

Anonymous said...

Doug Mountjoy was probably the best in the 80-82 period not to win the title - he lost to the eventual champion in each of those years - very narrowly in 80 and 82

David Caulfield said...

Glad I didn't notice this on Twitter yesterday. It isn't even an argument!

Agree that Charlton and Stevens are up there but their accomplishments, both at Sheffield and elsewhere, don't even come close to those of White.

Don't even get me started on Selby being mentioned in the same breath as these three.

Sonny said...

I'm going to start the ball rolling by stating that one of the biggest myths in snooker is that Jimmy White would definitely have been World Champion in 1982 had he beaten Alex Higgins in the semi-final. Ray Reardon was no mug, he would've found a way to knock Jimmy out of his rhythm.

kildare cueman said...

It is definitely White.

To reach a world final is an achievement. To reach 6 is remarkable. But look who he played in those finals.

Davis in 84 was playing to a standard never seen before and was the greatest ever at that juncture. Yet the score was only 18-16.

Had he won in 82(and he should have beaten Higgins), he might have gone on to win 6 or 7 titles.

As Davis began to decline, the undisputed greatest ever, Hendry, stopped him in 4 finals.

That Whites time bestrode the eras of the two most dominant players in the modern game, and the fact that he competed gamely with both, is surely testament to his class.

He played and regularly beat Reardon, Davis, Hendry and occasionally beat all of todays top players at some stage.

His lifestyle was probably responsible for his failure to win the WC as much as his mental scar tissue and diminishing nerve.

I realise thats no excuse and results are all that count, but to win what he did while playing the "beautiful game", for me makes him the winner of this dubious title.

Anonymous said...

Great piece there Dave and I concur.

It's the knowledge of how good White was in top form combined with all that surrounded him that makes him top of my list as well.

It's also why I was so pleased for him when he won the inaugural World Seniors' Champs last year.

Of course, it's not exactly the same as winning at the Crucible but I'm pretty sure that, to a certain extent, he'll feel justice somewhat came his way in the end.

Great person, great player.


wild said...

the question on twitter was who was the best current player never to have been World Champion, and i answered Ding Junhui because i don't think of Jimmy as that current.

however on second look yes he is still playing and has been playing for 30 years at the top and bottom winning 10 ranking titles and playing in 6 World Finals so yes Jimmy is the best current player never to be World Champion.

but regarding the best player currently at the top it has to be a straight choice between Ding and Selby.

jamie brannon said...

Out of the current elite then would pick Ding Junhui. You can't just base it on Crucible showings, you have to take into account the overall career record and his is better than Mark Selby's.

There is no doubt in the winner being Jimmy White.

A more interesting debate would be does his lacl of a world title preclude him from being regarded as an all-time great.

Also, would Jimmy trade in his career record for that of say Graeme Dott, who is most definitely not an all-time great.

Other names to mention in the original debate are: Paul Hunter and Stephen Maguire.

wild said...

Paul Hunter is one of those people who never had the chance to fulfill a promise. he just falls short in this debate.

Witz78 said...

Ian Doyle commented recently that Jimmy actually got a kick on the black he missed in the '94 final but Jimmy, being Jimmy doesnt make a big issue of it.

Im sure had Jimmy got the monkey off his back of winning a World Title early in his career, be it 82 or 84 then he would have definetly have won at least one more in the 80s and as he hut peak form in the early to mid 90s theres no reason why he wouldnt have won 2 of the WC that Hendry won, as the weight of pressure of lifting a 1st WC wouldnt have been added.

No-one comes close to Jimmys claims as the best never to have won the WC. He would always make my top 5 in the greatest of all time, so hes clearly not only the best not to have won the WC, but head and shoulders above most of those who have actually won it.

But he has one title that is worth far more than any money or trophy, that of the Peoples Champion.

Forever Jimmy.

Ray said...

If we pause and think a minute it's truly remarkable that Jimmy did so well in all those World finals given the standard of opposition he faced. His lifestyle must have had a huge detrimental effect on his God-given talent. I wonder how many other players could match what he did in the same circumstances - not many I think. I hope he finds great solace in the fact he couldn't be loved more by the fans if he had won 50 World titles.

Anonymous said...

jamie, how can you not just use WC showings?

JJ won and lost in a final, but he wasnt that good elsewhere.

just for once, stop and think!

Anonymous said...

amazing the amount of people who think his lifestyle helped cause him not to win it.

it didnt stop him winning other tournaments.

ok, the WC are much longer but maybe, just maybe, his lifestyle of needing to buzz was what actually got him as far as he did get.

Nigel Bond is a worthy mention when you look at his recored there in the 90-05 era and see who put him out. Do you have that list David?

Anonymous said...


Great comments.Jimmy`s a great guy,a great player.A class act.

Betty Logan said...

It's worth noting that Reardon probably would have won in 1982 because Jimmy reached his first ranking final just a few months later and lost against...Reardon. I'd still have Jimmy down as the best ever player to never win the world championship though. His best chance was really in 1992 when he had Hendry on the ropes. If he had won it in 1994 everyone would have been saying "Yeah but that was the year Hendry played with a broken wrist".

The player playing the best snooker today who hasn't won it is easily Ding Junhui, although it has to be said other players such as Selby and Carter have better Crucible track records.

Anonymous said...

It has to be Jimmy White no matter what angle you're looking at it, be it statistically or the way he plays. I have only seen taped footage of Jimmy's heyday snooker but his style and accomplishments speak for themselves.

To not mention Jimmy is what we now call 'trolling' or a cry for attention.

Dave H said...

As regards Nigel Bond, he lost four years in a row at the Crucible to Stephen hendry.

Terry Griffiths had a similar knack of running into Steve Davis, although of course he did win the title.

Matt said...

I didn't expect one of my bored at work tweets to spawn quite the discussion that it did.

I was surprised by how mixed the comments were that I had back, though I think that was largely based on some forgetting that Jimmy is currently an active player.

Anonymous said...

thanks dave

so, lost to the best player thats ever lived 4 times in the WC

to me, that puts him 2nd behind Jimmy the bottler

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the off topic Dave, but can you confirm that the UK Champs will be best of elevens up to the Qtr finals.


John A

Dave H said...

I believe the qualifiers are best of 11. Haven't heard that the final stages have been reduced.

jamie brannon said...

The World Championship performances are being taken into account but it is stupid to just solely take that into account.

Ding has won two UK Championships and one Masters plus two other ranking events. Added to far greater record of success than Selby, he is also a superior player in terms of ability.

Don't agree with the drop in frames for UK qualifiers. It is meant to be a long frame event and the qualifying should reflect this like it does for the World Championship.

Anonymous said...

absolutely start reducing than it will be on a slippery slope.

now there's talk of best of 11 last 32 and last 16 christ hope thats only talk ffs.

Anonymous said...

Jamie how can you include Maguire as a possible? He's won 1 UK, and apart from 1 year when he reached the SF at Sheffield he's never got close. He's now on a downward spiral - just look at his record against top 8 players in the past two years. Jimmy would have buried him.

Anonymous said...

It's definitely Jimmy White. He is in the top bracket of players ever to have played the game and his longevity and genuineness as a person is apparant.

Dr Tim Sandle said...

With regard to the 1970s and early 1980s, although there is a strong case for Eddie Charlton (he reached two World finals and won the staging of the World Matchplay - an invitation event played over championship length and featuring most of the World Championship contenders), there is an equally strong case for Doug Mountjoy.

Unlike Chartlon, Mountjoy won two of the "big three" tournamaents: the Masters (in 1977) and the UK Championships (in 1978 and again in 1988), and reached one World Championship final.

He was also, like Jimmy White, World Amateur Champion (now the INSF tournament); Irish Masters winner (1977); womn the Champiomn of Champions event in 1980; three Welsh Professional Tournaments; and a ranking event (in 1989) when aged 47 (and stayed in the top 16 until aged 50).