Player Profile  Jimmy White MBE

Born: 2 May 1962. Tooting, London, England
Turned Professional: 1980
Highest Break: 147 (1992 Embassy World Championship)
Career Centuries 287 (to end of 2010/11 season)
Highest Ranking 2nd (1987/88 & 1988/89)

Jimmy White is, without doubt, the most popular player the game has known. Losing so many times in the world final seems only to have endeared him even more into the hearts of the snooker fans. He is also, with the possible exception of Ronnie O’Sullivan, the most naturally talented player we have ever seen.


Jimmy grew up in South London with his mate, Tony Meo, and spent more time down the local snooker hall than he did at school. In fact his headmaster realised his potential and did a deal allowing Jimmy to skip school in the afternoons as long as he turned up in the mornings. A local taxi driver sponsored the two young lads and took them round the country playing money matches until they started winning bigger events.


Jimmy first came to the attention of those in the game when he won the national under-16 title in 1977. He was quite simply the best for his age that anyone had ever seen and at only 16 years and 11 months he won the English Amateur championship which qualified him to enter the world event out in Tasmania in 1980. He duly became the youngest winner of that championship just 191 days past his eighteenth birthday. On his way home he took the Indian national championship for good measure and then turned professional.


Everybody was talking about the fresh faced young star and former world champion, John Pulman, described him as ‘The greatest natural talent that ever stepped into snooker.” He reached the Crucible at his first attempt only to come up against Steve Davis, the eventual winner, in the first round. At the start of the next season in only his second professional event, he won the Scottish Masters and became the youngest winner of a professional event. Although he lost in the opening round of his next event, the Jameson, he won the Northern Ireland Classic, beating Davis in the final and followed that with a UK semi final, this time losing to Steve.  He ended that first full season with a world semi-final. That match, in which he lost 16-15 to Alex Higgins, is still regarded as one of the greatest ever seen at the Crucible.  After just a season and a half he was tenth in the world rankings.


In 1982/83 he was beaten by Ray Reardon in two finals but went out in the first round in the Embassy and started the next season with early exits in the first three events and people were beginning to wonder whether he was just a flash in the pan. He did get to the UK semi-final and then silenced his critics with victory over Terry Griffiths to take the 1984 Masters title at Wembley. He followed this with his first world final and what a final it was. After the first day, Steve Davis was 12-4 up and it looked all over. Then Jimmy won seven of the next eight frames and eventually pulled it back to 16-17 before Steve finally won 18-16.


He began the next season seventh and although he won two invitation events, the Carlsberg Challenge and the Irish Masters, as well at the World Doubles with Alex Higgins and was runner up in the Scottish Masters, he still had not got a ranking title to his name after four full seasons on the circuit. In 1985/86 he started a little better reaching the final of the Goya Matchroom Trophy and the UK semi-final before finally capturing a ranking title, The Mercantile Credit Classic. He also retained both the Irish Masters and Carlsberg Challenge titles and added Pot Black to his list of victories.


The next season he won both the Grand Prix and the British Open and runner-up in the Mercantile coupled with a world semi-final put him up to number two in the rankings. No titles came his way in 1987/88 but he added the Canadian Masters to his list of ranking titles in 1988/89 and also won the Hong Kong Masters, an invitational event, but still slipped down to fourth.


The following season was a bleak one on the ranking circuit but the World Matchplay title was won and he reached his second world final losing out to Stephen Hendry 18-12. This was the first of five successive finals at the Crucible and poor Jimmy lost every one making six in all. John Parrott beat him in 1991 but on the other three occasions it was Hendry every time. In 1992 he looked to have it won when he was 14-8 ahead only for Hendry to take ten frames in a row to win 18-14 and again in 1994 with the match all square at 17 all he missed a straight forward black when he had the match at his mercy allowing Hendry to clear up for victory. To date he has never reached another world final. He did have some consolation in 1992 when he knocked in a 147 on his way to the final.


Back on the circuit, while he was losing all those world finals he was not doing too badly. In 1990/91 he won a second Mercantile title and picked up the biggest prize snooker had ever offered at that time, £200,000 for winning the one-off, World Masters as well as retaining his World Matchplay crown. The British and European Opens came in 1991/2 and he claimed the Grand Prix and UK titles the season after. Although he continued to pull in the crowds he slowly slipped down the ranking list and dropped out of the top 16 for the first time at the end of the 1996/7 season.


In the 1998 world championship he was drawn against his old rival, Stephen Hendry, in the very first round, a match, which attracted everyone’s attention. Against all the odds it was Jimmy who came out the comfortable winner 10-4 and although he went on to reach the quarter finals, it was not enough to regain his top 16 spot. He did manage to achieve this the following year even though his results were not that good only managing to pick up the consolation prize of the Pontins Professional Title. His return to the top flight only lasted one season and he was back to eighteenth again. It is a measure of Jimmy’s pulling power that even when not in the top 16 he continued to receive invitations to the major non-ranking events.


His efforts to regain that top 16 spot gained a massive boost as he started the 2000/01 campaign with his first ranking final for six years in the British Open where he lost 9-6 to Peter Ebdon. When he followed this with a semi-final in the Grand Prix he looked assured of a return to the top flight. Sure enough, even though he did not reproduce that early season form he did enough to push his ranking back up to eleventh, his highest for six years. With two quarter-finals in 2001/02, he edged up to tenth and a semi-final in the Masters at Wembley helped to push is prize money total through the £4 million mark.


The next season was a total disaster. He did reach the quarter finals of both the B&H Masters and Scottish Masters but on the ranking circuit it was a different story as, in the first six events, he failed to win a single match. He did manage progress to the last 16 in the final two and, with other results going his way, manager to just cling on to his top 16 spot for another season.


The 2003/04 season was much better. He began the campaign knowing that his place at the highest level was severely threatened and his opening round defeat in the British Open did not help. He then went on to reach the UK semi finals and the final of the European Open as well as the Masters semi final as well. In the Players Championship, which had replaced the Regal Scottish Open, he beat Paul Hunter in the final to collect his first ranking title for over eleven years. He went to the Crucible for the first time for several years knowing that his top 16 place was secure which was just as well as he lost in the first round!


Even though he did not get past the last 16 in any event in 2004/5, his good performances the previous season helped him to climb to 8th, his best for ten years. The improvement was short lived however as the next season saw his win just one match on the ranking circuit and he dropped not only out of the top 16 but the top 32 as well to his lowest ever position of 35. The slide continued and he only just managed to cling on to his place on the main tour at the end of 2007/8 having dropped to 65th. Things improved only slightly over the next few seasons but he still clung on to that tour place. He also managed to add to his portfolio of titles winning the Sangsom 6-Red International in 2009 and one of the World Series of Snooker events.

In 2010 Jimmy beat his old rival Steve Davis to win the revived World Seniors Championship but on the ranking circuit he continued to struggle although, by May 2011 his ranking had recovered to 55th, his best for five years.

He seems determined to continue to battle though the qualifying rounds as long as he can keep his tour place. He has won every other major title in the game and stands fourth in the all-time prize money list with over £4.7 million, his best days must be now behind him and he seems destined to go down as the best player never to have won the world title.


Career Highlights
World Professional Snooker Championship Runner up 1984, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 
UK Championship winner 1992
Grand Prix champion 1986, 1992
Mercantile Credit Classic champion 1986, 1991
British Open champion 1987, 1992
Canadian Masters champion 1988
European Open champion 1992
Players Championship winner 2004
Benson & Hedges Masters champion 1984
Benson & Hedges Irish Masters champion 1985, 1986
Scottish Masters champion 1981
World Matchplay champion 1989, 1990
World Masters champion 1991
Matchroom/Premier League champion 1993
World Doubles champion 1984 (with Alex Higgins)
World Seniors champion 2010
Carlsberg Challenge champion 1981, 1985
Northern Ireland Classic champion 1981
Thailand Masters champion 1984
Australian Masters champion 1985
Pontins Professional champion 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990
Hong Kong Masters champion 1988
European Challenge champion 1991
Pontins Professional champion 1999
World Cup winner 1988 (England Team)
Nations Cup winner 2000 (England Team)
BBC Pot Black champion 1986
Sangson 6-Red International champion 2009
World Amateur champion 1980
English Amateur champion 1979
© Chris Turner 2011
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