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The Masters
Invitation Event 

Brief History of the Masters
(Formerly the Benson & Hedges Masters)

 
Outside of the world championship, the Masters is the longest running tournament on the circuit and even though it does not have ranking status, it is considered to be one of the most prestigious especially as it carries the second biggest prize. For 27 years it was promoted, sponsored and organised directly by Benson & Hedges but sanctioned by the WPBSA.
 
The first event was contested in 1975 when ten of the world’s top players were invited to the West Centre Hotel, in London. John Spencer was the first winner collecting a cheque for £2000 for his victory over Ray Reardon. The following year the event moved to the New London Theatre in London’s Drury Lane. There were again ten invited players and this time Ray Reardon took the title.
 
Among the invitees in 1977 was Doug Mountjoy who had just turned professional after winning the world amateur title. This was to be his first pro event and he beat John Pulman, Fred Davis and Alex Higgins and, in the final, Ray Reardon, all former world champions, to take the prize which was still £2000.
 
In 1979 the tournament moved to its present home, the Wembley Conference Centre where audiences in excess of 2500 have become a regular feature.  That year, surprisingly, saw the first century break in the event with Alex Higgins, the runner-up, eventually setting a new tournament best of 132. The field was increased to twelve in 1981 and Higgins, in his fourth successive final beat Terry Griffiths but the Welshman set a new high break record of 136.
 
Steve Davis won the first of his three Masters’ titles in 1982 and in 1983, live television coverage helped to double the first prize to £16,000 and the field was increased to 16. The first round match between Alex Higgins and Bill Werbeniuk had snooker’s biggest ever audience of 2,876.  1984 saw the event’s first, and so far only, maximum by Kirk Stevens. It came in his semi-final against Jimmy White but it was White who took the title. For the first time that year, entry was confined to the top 16 in the world rankings and the first prize had leapt again to £35,000.
 
Cliff Thorburn became the first to win successive titles in 1985 and 1986 while Dennis Taylor was the winner in 1987 against Alex Higgins, appearing in his fifth final.  1988 was memorable for total whitewash in the final. Steve Davis beat the unfortunate Mike Hallett 9-0.
 
The Hendry era began in 1989. The 20 year-old Scot was appearing in his first Masters and he went on to win it - and remained unbeaten in the event for the next five years until fellow Scot, Alan McManus beat him in the 1994 final. Meanwhile the sponsors had introduced two wild cards in 1990 which gave them the opportunity of ensuring a place for the crowd’s favourites like Alex Higgins. The following year they began the Benson & Hedges Championship, an event for players outside the top 16, and one of the wild card places in the Masters has been given to the winner of this event ever since. In 1991 the winner’s prize reached six figures for the first time.
 
In 1995 the Wembley fans found a new hero as Ronnie O’Sullivan became the youngest winner with a 9-3 win over John Higgins and he was back in the final the next year only to see Stephen Hendry take a sixth title.  O’Sullivan was in the 1997 final as well but it was Steve Davis who turned back the clock to win 15 years after his first Masters title.
 
The 1998 final saw a re-spotted black in the deciding frame and Mark Williams held his nerve over Hendry to take the title back to Wales for the first time for eighteen years. Matthew Stevens won for Wales again in 2000 but not without some drama in the final. Ken Doherty was on for the event’s second 147. He only required to pot the final black – and he missed it. The next two years belonged to Paul Hunter who won both finals in the deciding seventeenth frame to become only the third player to successfully defend his title. Mark Williams beat Hendry again to win in 2003.
 
The banning of tobacco sponsorship means that the 2003 event was the last under the Benson & Hedges banner but the event continued initially without a sponsor but now promoted by the governing body. The format was the same with two wild cards. One of these was the winner of a newly established Masters Qualifying Event which replace the Benson & Hedges Championship.
 
In 2006, a new sponsorship deal was signed with SAGA Insurance but with that announcement came the news that the Wembley Conference Centre was to be pulled down for re-development. It was therefore fitting that the last final at this superb venue should be a thriller. It went to the final black of the deciding frame with John Higgins just edging out Ronnie O’Sullivan to win the title for a second time.
 
In 2007 the tournament moved to the nearby Wembley Arena and in the opening match, Ding Junhui compiled only the second maximum break ever seen in the history of this event. He very nearly became the first wild card to win the title but it was not to be as he came up against Ronnie O’Sullivan in devastating form in the final.
 

Roll Of Honour             

Year Venue Sponsor Winner
Runner Up Score 1st Prize
1975 West Centre Hotel, London Benson & Hedges John Spencer Ray Reardon 9-8 £2,000
1976 New London Theatre Benson & Hedges Ray Reardon Graham Miles 7-3 £2,000
1977 New London Theatre Benson & Hedges Doug Mountjoy Ray Reardon 7-6 £2,000
1978 New London Theatre Benson & Hedges Alex Higgins Cliff Thorburn 7-5 £3,000
1979 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Perrie Mans Alex Higgins 8-4 £3,000
1980 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Terry Griffiths Alex Higgins 9-5 £4,500
1981 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Alex Higgins Terry Griffiths 9-6 £6,000
1982 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Steve Davis Terry Griffiths 9-5 £8,000
1983 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Cliff Thorburn Ray Reardon 9-7 £16,000
1984 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Jimmy White Terry Griffiths 9-5 £35,000
1985 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Cliff Thorburn Doug Mountjoy 9-6 £37,500
1986 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Cliff Thorburn Jimmy White 9-5 £45,000
1987 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Dennis Taylor Alex Higgins 9-8 £51,000
1988 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Steve Davis Mike Hallett 9-0 £56,000
1989 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Stephen Hendry John Parrott 9-6 £62,000
1990 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Stephen Hendry John Parrott 9-4 £70,000
1991 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Stephen Hendry Mike Hallett 9-8 £100,000
1992 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Stephen Hendry John Parrott 9-4 £105,000
1993 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Stephen Hendry James Wattana 9-5 £110,000
1994 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Alan McManus Stephen Hendry 9-8 £115,000
1995 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Ronnie O'Sullivan John Higgins 9-3 £120,000
1996 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Stephen Hendry Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-5 £125,000
1997 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Steve Davis Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-8 £135,000
1998 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Mark J. Williams Stephen Hendry 10-9 £145,000
1999 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges John Higgins Ken Doherty 10-8 £155,000
2000 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Matthew Stevens Ken Doherty 10-8 £165,000
2001 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Paul Hunter Fergal O'Brien 10-9 £175,000
2002 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Paul Hunter Mark J. Williams 10-9 £190,000
2003 Wembley Conference Centre Benson & Hedges Mark J. Williams Stephen Hendry 10-4 £210,000
2004 Wembley Conference Centre none Paul Hunter Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-9 £100,000
2005 Wembley Conference Centre Rileys Clubs Ronnie O'Sullivan John Higgins 10-3 £125,000
2006 Wembley Conference Centre SAGA Insurance John Higgins Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-9 £125,000
2007 Wembley Arena SAGA Insurance Ronnie O'Sullivan Ding Junhui 10-3 £130,000
2008 Wembley Arena SAGA Insurance Mark Selby Stephen Lee 10-3 £150,000
2009 Wembley Arena none Ronnie O'Sullivan Mark Selby 10-8 £150,000
2010 Wembley Arena Pokerstars.com Mark Selby Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-9 £150,000
2011 Wembley Arena Ladbrokes Mobile Ding Junhui Marco Fu 10-4 £150,000

Maximum Breaks
Kirk Stevens 1984 Semi Final v. Jimmy White
Ding Junhui 2007 Rnd 1 v. Anthony Hamilton


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© Chris Turner 2010