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Wilsons Classic
Lada Classic
Mercantile Credit Classic
World Ranking Event since 1983/4

Brief History of the Mercantile Credit Classic
(Formerly Wilsons Classic / Lada Classic)
 
One of the first tournaments to achieve ranking status, the Mercantile has undergone many changes in format and sponsorship since it began as the Wilson’s Classic in 1980 until its demise after the 1992 event.
 
The Wilson’s Classic was originally an eight-man invitation tournament recorded by Granada Television in Manchester for later showing and the first event was won by John Spencer who beat Alex Higgins 4-3 in the final in January 1980. The second event was held in December the same year with Steve Davis beating Dennis Taylor 4-1 in that final.
 
In 1982 the event was shown for the first time on network television and was still by invitation but had a new sponsor, the Russian motor car manufacturer, Lada. It was held at the Oldham Civic Centre and was notable for the first ever televised 147 maximum break which was also the first one in competition to be officially recognised. It was made by Steve Davis in his quarter-final against John Spencer. Terry Griffiths, who beat Davis 9-8 in the final, won the event.
 
In 1983 the field was enlarged to sixteen players and moved to Warrington’s Spectrum Arena. Davis was again the winner this time beating Canadian, Bill Werbeniuk, 9-5 in the final. The following year it was thrown open to all professionals and was granted world ranking status. Steve Davis met his friend and doubles partner, Tony Meo, and in the deciding frame, Tony was on the verge of victory needing only a simple yellow when someone in the audience yelled out “Come on Tony”. It spoilt his concentration, he missed the yellow and Davis cleared up to win again 9-8.
 
1985 saw city finance house, Mercantile Credit take over the sponsorship with a £200,000 prize fund and Willie Thorne beat Cliff Thorburn in the final to collect £40,000 and the only ranking title of his career. The event has given many players their first ranking victories and in 1986 it was Jimmy White who opened his account with a 13-12 final win. Cliff Thorburn was the runner up for the second year running.
 
In 1987 the opening rounds were played earlier in the season at Blackpool and in was only the last 16 who played in the final stages which were also staged at the Norbreck Hotel in Blackpool for the first time, in early January. Steve Davis again took the title but was taken to the deciding 25th frame by Jimmy White. The following year, the last at the Spectrum, it was Davis yet again who won the event for the fifth time beating John Parrott 13-11in the final.
 
In 1989 it was a rejuvenated Doug Mountjoy, fresh from winning the previous ranking event, the UK Championship, some six weeks before, who beat fellow Welshman, Wayne Jones 13-11 for famous back-to-back ranking titles. At the same venue a year later it was a tournament of upsets with only four of the top sixteen reaching their seeded places. Steve James and Steve Davis were the only ones to survive to the quarter finals and it was James who went on to collected his only ranking title when he beat Australia’s Warren King 10-6 to pick up the £60,000 winner’s cheque.
 
1991 saw another new venue as the event moved to Bournemouth’s International Centre. Stephen Hendry was now the world number one player but Jimmy White proved to be too good for him in the final, winning by 10-4 and he had to settle for runner up spot again in 1992 when this time Steve Davis beat him 9-8 for his sixth victory in the event.
 

The end of Mercantile Credit’s sponsorship and increase in overseas events meant the end for this particular tournament which had been the first event of the New Year for twelve seasons. That spot now went to the Regal Welsh Open and the Classic was consigned to the history books.

Roll Of Honour             

Year Venue Sponsor Winner
Runner Up Score 1st Prize
1979/80 New Century Hall, Manchester Wilsons John Spencer Alex Higgins 4-3 £3,000
1980/1 Blighty's, Farnwoth, Bolton Wilsons Steve Davis Dennis Taylor 4-1 £5,000
1981/2 Queen Elizabeth Hall, Oldham Lada Cars Terry Griffiths Steve Davis 9-8 £5,000
1982/3 Spectrum Arena, Warrington Lada Cars Steve Davis Bill Werbeniuk 9-5 £16,000
1983/4 Spectrum Arena, Warrington Lada Cars Steve Davis Tony Meo 9-8 £18,000
1984/5 Spectrum Arena, Warrington Mercantile Credit Willie Thorne Cliff Thorburn 13-8 £40,000
1985/6 Spectrum Arena, Warrington Mercantile Credit Jimmy White Cliff Thorburn 13-12 £45,000
1986/7 Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool Mercantile Credit Steve Davis Jimmy White 13-12 £50,000
1987/8 Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool Mercantile Credit Steve Davis John Parrott 13-11 £50,000
1988/9 Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool Mercantile Credit Doug Mountjoy Wayne Jones 13-11 £55,000
1989/90 Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool Mercantile Credit Steve James Warren King 10-6 £60,000
1990/1 Bournemouth International Centre Mercantile Credit Jimmy White Stephen Hendry 10-4 £60,000
1991/2 Bournemouth International Centre Mercantile Credit Steve Davis Stephen Hendry 9-8 £60,000

Maximum Breaks
Final Stage
Steve Davis 1982 Quarter final v. John Spencer


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© Chris Turner 2008