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The UK Championship is a professional snooker tournament, the second biggest tournament after the World Championship.
The rules were changed in 1984 to allow all professionals to enter (although until 2005, only players from Britain and Ireland had ever won the event), and it was granted ranking status. It carried one and a half times as many ranking points as all other tournaments, with the exception of the World Championship until the 2009/2010 season.
The tournament has seen many memorable finals. In 1977 and 1979 it provided Patsy Fagan and John Virgo, respectively, with their first and only major tournament wins. In 1980, it was Steve Davis's first of his 73 professional tournament wins. In 1981, the Davis-Terry Griffiths final set the stage for four more final battles between Davis and Griffiths that were to dominate the rest of the season before their unexpected losses in the first round of the 1982 World Championship.
In 1983, Alex Higgins beat Davis 16-15 after having trailed 7-0 at the end of the first session, a loss for Davis that was to prefigure and perhaps contribute to his even more memorable loss of the 1985 World Snooker Championship final to Dennis Taylor. In 1985, Willie Thorne, then on the brink of emerging as a major force to be reckoned with in the game, led Davis 13-10 at the start of the evening session, only to miss a simple blue off its spot and lose 16-14. The victory regenerated Davis's confidence after his devastating World Championship loss; Thorne, on the other hand, never won another ranking title.
In 1988, Doug Mountjoy, widely viewed as just making up the numbers against the rising Stephen Hendry, produced a stunning display of character and ability to win 16-12 and become the second-oldest ever winner of a ranking event; even more astonishingly, he was to win the Mercantile Credit Classic the following month to become one of only four players ever to win two ranking tournaments in a row.
Stephen Hendry's 1989 win prefigured his decade of dominance similar to the one prefigured by Davis's win in 1980; its significance was emphasised by the fact that the losing finalist was Davis himself. Hendry's 16-15 win the following year, over Davis again, spoke to his unique qualities of nerve. The Hendry/Ken Doherty final of 1994 is considered by many players as one of Hendry's best performance, as he won 10-5 making 7 century breaks along the way, six of which were in the span of eight frames played. Doherty has appeared in two more memorable finals.
The 2001 final is important as Doherty was on the receiving end of the worst loss in UK Championship final history (since it became a 19 frame final in 1993), as Ronnie O'Sullivan (who, in 1993, became the youngest ever winner of the event, and indeed any event, at just 17 years of age) eased to a 10-1 win. Astonishingly, just three years later Stephen Maguire repeated the feat against David Gray. 2002 was Doherty's last UK final to date, and was the best and most dramatic as he was edged 10-9 by Mark Williams.
The 2005 tournament saw Davis reach his first ranking tournament final for almost two years at the age of 48 (and make his highest break in tournament play for 23 years) before losing 10-6 to 18-year-old Ding Junhui in the final that featured the widest age gap between finalists in professional tournament history. The following year, Peter Ebdon won the title and, in doing so, became the first and only man to have both won and lost a World and a UK Championship final to Stephen Hendry.
The 2007 final was won by Ronnie O'Sullivan for the fourth time, again with some ease, winning 10-2 in the final against Stephen Maguire. The tournament was also notable for the longest televised frame in history between Marco Fu and Mark Selby at 77 minutes and Ronnie O'Sullivan's maximum 147 break in the deciding frame of the semi-final.
The 2009 final saw the reigning world champion John Higgins lose to the Chinese Ding Junhui, after Higgins missed the chance to go 8-6 up after missing the brown.
The tournament has had many different sponsors over the years including Super Crystalate, Coral, Tennents, StormSeal, Royal Liver Assurance, Liverpool Victoria, PowerHouse, Travis Perkins, Maplin Electronics and is currently sponsored by Pukka Pies. It is one of the tournaments televised by the BBC and it is held towards the end of each calendar year. Prize money in 2005 was £500,000 ($966,549) with the winner receiving £70,000 ($135,316).