Which player won the first World Snooker Championship staged at the Crucible Theatre?

Having previously been staged in various locations, mainly in Great Britain, but also in Australia, the World Snooker Championship moved to its current venue, the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, in 1977. On that occasion, the winner was the late John Spencer who, alongside six-time world champion Ray Reardon, dominated professional snooker during the seventies.

Seeded eighth of eight seeded players, and thereby exempted into the last 16, Spencer faced qualifier John Virgo, who was making his World Championship debut, in his opening match. Virgo led 4-1 and 7-4, but Spencer eventually won 13-9. Following a pillar-to-post 13-6 victory over Reardon in the quarter-finals, Spencer met John Pulman in the semi-finals. In the best-of-35 frame match, played over five sessions, Spencer again trailed 0-3 and 3-7, before recovering to win 18-12.

The best-of-49 frame final, played over eight sessions, was a protracted affair, with Spencer and his opponent, Cliff ‘The Grinder’ Thorburn, locked together for most of the match. It was not until the first session on the third, and final, day that Spencer edged ahead 22-20 and, although Thorburn reduced his lead to 22-21, he won the next three frames to take the title 25-21.

Spencer was, in fact, winning the World Snooker Champion for the third time. He had previously done so, at the first attempt, in 1969 and again in 1971. The 1969 world championship, which reverted to a knockout format for the first time since 1957, is generally considered to be the first of the ‘modern’ era. The best-of-73 frame final was staged at Victoria Hall, London, with Spencer beating Gary Owen 37-24. The 1971 world championship was actually staged in September, October and November, 1970, in Australia. In the final, again over 73 frames, at the Chevron Hotel, Sydney, Spencer was never behind and eventually beat Warren Simpson 37–29.