|World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association|
The Masters is a professional invitational snooker tournament. Held every year since 1975, it is the second-longest running tournament behind the World Championship. It is one of the three Triple Crown events, and although not a ranking event, it is regarded as one of the most prestigious tournaments on the circuit. The reigning champion is Yan Bingtao.
The Masters began as an invitational event for 10 top players. The field was expanded to 12 competitors in 1981, and 16 in 1983. Since 1984, the standard invitees have been the top 16 players in the world rankings, with the addition of two or three wild-card places in tournaments held between 1990 and 2010.
Ronnie O'Sullivan holds the record for the most Masters titles, having won the tournament seven times. Stephen Hendry has won six titles, Cliff Thorburn, Steve Davis, Mark Selby and Paul Hunter three, and Alex Higgins, Mark Williams and John Higgins two. In 2016, the Masters trophy was renamed the Paul Hunter Trophy in honour of the three-time champion, who died in 2006, aged 27. The oldest Masters champion is Stuart Bingham, who was aged 43 years and 243 days in 2020. The youngest champion is O'Sullivan, who won his first title in 1995, aged 19 years and 69 days.
Three maximum breaks have been made in the history of the tournament, all by overseas players. Canada's Kirk Stevens made the first in 1984, China's Ding Junhui made the second in 2007 and Hong Kong's Marco Fu made the third in 2015.
The tournament was held for the first time in 1975 at the West Centre Hotel in London, when ten leading players were invited. The event was sponsored by the cigarette company Benson & Hedges. John Spencer won the inaugural tournament by defeating Ray Reardon 9-8 in the final. The following year the event moved to the New London Theatre and in 1979 to the Wembley Conference Centre. In 1981 the number of players invited to compete was increased to 12, and then increased again to 16 in 1983.
From 1984 onwards the top 16 players in the world rankings were automatically invited to the tournament. In 1984, Kirk Stevens became the first player to make a maximum break at the event against Jimmy White in the semi-final. In 1988, Mike Hallett became the first and to date only player to be whitewashed in a Masters final, losing 0-9 to Steve Davis. Stephen Hendry maintained an unbeaten record in the event, a run which included five successive championship victories, from his first appearance in 1989 until his defeat by Alan McManus in a final-frame decider in the 1994 final. Hallett reached his second final in four years in 1991, but lost 8-9 against Hendry, despite leading 7-0 and 8-2. This defeat effectively ended Hallett's days as a major force in the game.
In 1990 the sponsors introduced two wild-cards, granted by the game's governing body at their discretion, who would play wild-card matches against the players seeded 15th and 16th for a place in the first round of the tournament. The Benson & Hedges Championship was introduced for the 1991 tournament; the winner was granted one of the two wild-card places at that season's Masters tournament, while the other wild-card place continued to be granted by the governing body.
In the 1997 final, Steve Davis defeated Ronnie O'Sullivan in a match disrupted by a streaker. Davis came back from 4-8 down to win the remaining six frames in a row, clinching the final at 10-8. The 1998 final went down to a re-spotted black in the deciding frame; Mark Williams defeated Stephen Hendry 10-9 after having trailed 6-9. In the 2000 final, Ken Doherty missed the final black in a 147 attempt, the first time this had happened in competition, and eventually lost to Matthew Stevens.
After 2003, Benson & Hedges ended their sponsorship of the Masters tournament due to UK restrictions on tobacco advertising. The 2004 event was not sponsored. Rileys Club sponsored the event in 2005. There was no separate qualifying competition for the 2005 event, both wild-card places being awarded by the governing body, but the qualifying event returned the following season. SAGA Insurance took over sponsorship of the Masters in 2006 and agreed a deal later the same year to sponsor the event until 2009. The tournament was held at the Wembley Conference Centre for the last time in 2006, before the venue was demolished months later to make way for redevelopment.
Following the death of Paul Hunter in October 2006, Jimmy White led calls for the Masters trophy or tournament to be renamed in honour of Hunter, who had won the title three times in four years between 2001 and 2004. Hunter's widow Lindsey later expressed her wishes for the trophy to be renamed, claiming that "...everybody expected it. Every player I've spoken to, every fan, thought it would be a definite". The sport's governing body, World Snooker, elected not to rename the trophy, making the following statement: "Our board unanimously agreed that the Paul Hunter Scholarship was the most fitting tribute. Just as Hunter himself rose swiftly through the amateur ranks, the scholarship will give a gifted young player the chance to fulfil his talent through elite training." It would be another nine years before the decision was taken to rename the trophy in honour of Hunter. On 20 April 2016, World Snooker announced the renaming of the trophy for the 2017 event, with chairman Barry Hearn stating that the organisation had "messed up" by not doing so sooner.
Ronnie O'Sullivan appeared in four successive Masters finals from 2004 to 2007, winning the event in 2005 and 2007. Paul Hunter won the first of these four finals to claim his third Masters title in four years; recovering from 2-7 down, he made five century breaks on the way to a 10-9 victory. O'Sullivan defeated John Higgins in the 2005 final with a decisive 10-3 scoreline. The pair met in the final again the following year, both players producing a very high standard of play throughout the match. O'Sullivan won the second and third frames with back-to-back total clearances of 138 and 139, but lost all of the next five frames. He made a break of 60 in the deciding frame, before Higgins took the opportunity to make a clearance of 64, winning the title on the black. However, O'Sullivan redeemed himself in 2007 by defeating Ding Junhui 10-3 in the final, and then comforting the clearly upset youngster afterwards. A week earlier, Ding had become the second player to compile a maximum break at the Masters, in his match against Anthony Hamilton in the wild-card round.
The Masters was held at Wembley Arena for the first time in 2007. In a slight change to the format, one extra discretionary wild-card place was awarded, bringing the total number of players up to 19. However, the original format with just two wild-card players was reinstated in 2008. SAGA Insurance pulled out of their sponsorship deal in the summer of 2008, leaving the Masters unsponsored in 2009. PokerStars.com sponsored the event in 2010, and the 2011 sponsor was Ladbrokes Mobile. The separate qualifying competition was not held for the 2011 event, and the use of wild-cards was discontinued at the same time. The 2011 final made history as it was the first to feature two Asian players. Wembley Arena was used as the venue for the last time in 2011, after which the tournament moved to the Alexandra Palace in London. BGC Partners sponsored the Masters in 2012, and the 2013 event was sponsored by Betfair. From 2014 to 2020 the tournament was sponsored by Dafabet. In 2021 Betfred sponsors the Masters.
Ronnie O'Sullivan won his seventh Masters title in 2017, overtaking Stephen Hendry's previous record of six. This was O'Sullivan's third Masters title in four years, having also won in 2014 and 2016. He reached the final again in 2019, extending his record number of appearances in the final to 13, in 25 overall appearances at the Masters tournament; however, he was outplayed by Judd Trump who claimed his first Masters title with a solid 10-4 victory. O'Sullivan chose not to enter the tournament in 2020.
The defending Masters champion is seeded 1 while the current World Champion is seeded 2 (assuming that it is a different player). The remaining places are then allocated to the top players in the world rankings, seeded in order of those rankings. Since the defending champion and current World Champion are normally ranked in the top 16, the field generally consists of the top 16 ranked players. The exceptions have been:
In 1984, and from 1986 to 1990, the draw was determined by the seedings, with seed 1 playing seed 16, 2 playing 15, 3 playing 14, etc. A slightly different system was used in 1985. With the introduction of the wild-card round in 1990, this system meant that seeds 15 and 16 needed to win a match to reach the last 16, where they would immediately play either of the first two seeds, generally the defending Masters champion and the World Champion. A change was introduced in 1991 so that seeds 9 to 16 were randomly drawn to play seeds 1 to 8.
In 1996 the last-16 and quarter-final rounds were extended from 9 to 11 frames while the final was extended from 17 to 19 frames. Wild-card matches were extended from 9 to 11 frames in 1999.
|1975||John Spencer (ENG)||Ray Reardon (WAL)||9-8||1974/75||West Centre Hotel, London|
|1976||Ray Reardon (WAL)||Graham Miles (ENG)||7-3||1975/76||New London Theatre,|
|1977||Doug Mountjoy (WAL)||Ray Reardon (WAL)||7-6||1976/77|
|1978||Alex Higgins (NIR)||Cliff Thorburn (CAN)||7-5||1977/78|
|1979||Perrie Mans (SAF)||Alex Higgins (NIR)||8-4||1978/79||Wembley Conference Centre,|
|1980||Terry Griffiths (WAL)||Alex Higgins (NIR)||9-5||1979/80|
|1981||Alex Higgins (NIR)||Terry Griffiths (WAL)||9-6||1980/81|
|1982||Steve Davis (ENG)||Terry Griffiths (WAL)||9-5||1981/82|
|1983||Cliff Thorburn (CAN)||Ray Reardon (WAL)||9-7||1982/83|
|1984||Jimmy White (ENG)||Terry Griffiths (WAL)||9-5||1983/84|
|1985||Cliff Thorburn (CAN)||Doug Mountjoy (WAL)||9-6||1984/85|
|1986||Cliff Thorburn (CAN)||Jimmy White (ENG)||9-5||1985/86|
|1987||Dennis Taylor (NIR)||Alex Higgins (NIR)||9-8||1986/87|
|1988||Steve Davis (ENG)||Mike Hallett (ENG)||9-0||1987/88|
|1989||Stephen Hendry (SCO)||John Parrott (ENG)||9-6||1988/89|
|1990||Stephen Hendry (SCO)||John Parrott (ENG)||9-4||1989/90|
|1991||Stephen Hendry (SCO)||Mike Hallett (ENG)||9-8||1990/91|
|1992||Stephen Hendry (SCO)||John Parrott (ENG)||9-4||1991/92|
|1993||Stephen Hendry (SCO)||James Wattana (THA)||9-5||1992/93|
|1994||Alan McManus (SCO)||Stephen Hendry (SCO)||9-8||1993/94|
|1995||John Higgins (SCO)||9-3||1994/95|
|1996||Stephen Hendry (SCO)||10-5||1995/96|
|1997||Steve Davis (ENG)||Ronnie O'Sullivan (ENG)||10-8||1996/97|
|1998||Mark Williams (WAL)||Stephen Hendry (SCO)||10-9||1997/98|
|1999||John Higgins (SCO)||Ken Doherty (IRE)||10-8||1998/99|
|2000||Matthew Stevens (WAL)||Ken Doherty (IRE)||10-8||1999/00|
|2001||Paul Hunter (ENG)||Fergal O'Brien (IRE)||10-9||2000/01|
|2002||Paul Hunter (ENG)||Mark Williams (WAL)||10-9||2001/02|
|2003||Mark Williams (WAL)||Stephen Hendry (SCO)||10-4||2002/03|
|2004||Paul Hunter (ENG)||Ronnie O'Sullivan (ENG)||10-9||2003/04|
|2005||Ronnie O'Sullivan (ENG)||John Higgins (SCO)||10-3||2004/05|
|2006||John Higgins (SCO)||Ronnie O'Sullivan (ENG)||10-9||2005/06|
|2007||Ronnie O'Sullivan (ENG)||Ding Junhui (CHN)||10-3||2006/07||Wembley Arena,|
|2008||Mark Selby (ENG)||Stephen Lee (ENG)||10-3||2007/08|
|2009||Ronnie O'Sullivan (ENG)||Mark Selby (ENG)||10-8||2008/09|
|2010||Mark Selby (ENG)||Ronnie O'Sullivan (ENG)||10-9||2009/10|
|2011||Ding Junhui (CHN)||Marco Fu (HKG)||10-4||2010/11|
|2012||Neil Robertson (AUS)||Shaun Murphy (ENG)||10-6||2011/12||Alexandra Palace,|
|2013||Mark Selby (ENG)||Neil Robertson (AUS)||10-6||2012/13|
|2014||Ronnie O'Sullivan (ENG)||Mark Selby (ENG)||10-4||2013/14|
|2015||Shaun Murphy (ENG)||Neil Robertson (AUS)||10-2||2014/15|
|2016||Ronnie O'Sullivan (ENG)||Barry Hawkins (ENG)||10-1||2015/16|
|2017||Ronnie O'Sullivan (ENG)||Joe Perry (ENG)||10-7||2016/17|
|2018||Mark Allen (NIR)||Kyren Wilson (ENG)||10-7||2017/18|
|2019||Judd Trump (ENG)||Ronnie O'Sullivan (ENG)||10-4||2018/19|
|2020||Stuart Bingham (ENG)||Ali Carter (ENG)||10-8||2019/20|
|2021||Yan Bingtao (CHN)||John Higgins (SCO)||10-8||2020/21||Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes|
|7||Alex Higgins||Northern Ireland||2||3||5|
|17||Perrie Mans||South Africa||1||0||1|
|17||Dennis Taylor||Northern Ireland||1||0||1|
|17||Mark Allen||Northern Ireland||1||0||1|
|29||Marco Fu||Hong Kong||0||1||1|
For the 21 tournaments from 1990 to 2010 there was a wild-card round in which two additional players (three in 2007) played against the players seeded 15 and 16 (14, 15 and 16 in 2007) to reach the last-16 round. In most years one of the additional players was the winner of the Masters Qualifying Event while the other wild-card was selected. There were no qualifying events for the 1990 and 2005 Masters and both players were selected in those years. There were also two selections in 2007 when the wild-card round was extended to three matches.
The inclusion of wild-card players meant that there were an additional two or three matches to be arranged. The tournament continued to be played over 8 days but three matches were played on Sunday and Monday instead of the usual two (and Tuesday in 2007), so that the last-16 round was still completed on Wednesday. In 2007 all three wild-card matches were played on the first Sunday so that the last-16 round did not start until Monday.
There were a total of 43 wild-card matches. In 19 of these matches the seeded player played the winner of the Qualifying Event. In the remaining 24 matches the seed played a selected wild-card. The players selected as wild-card were Jimmy White (5), Ding Junhui (3), Steve Davis (2), Marco Fu (2), James Wattana (2), Ken Doherty, Peter Ebdon, Andy Hicks, Alex Higgins, John Higgins, Paul Hunter, Stephen Maguire, Ian McCulloch, Ricky Walden and Gary Wilkinson.
None of the players who played in the wild-card round won the tournament although two players, John Higgins (in 1995) and Ding Junhui (in 2007) reached the final. Both these players were wild-card selections. Two seeded players who played in the wild-card round reached the semi-final, Jimmy White (in 2004) and Mark Williams (in 2010). The winner of the Qualifying Event never got beyond the last-16 round.