The World Billiards Championship is an international cue sports tournament in the discipline of English billiards, organised by World Billiards, a subsidiary of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA). In its various forms, and usually as a single competition, the title is one of the oldest sporting world championships, having been contested (though irregularly) since 1870.
From 2012 to 2014 there were separate timed and points divisions, with the tournament held in association with the International Billiards and Snooker Federation. In those years, there was no separate IBSF World Billiards Championship.
The rules adopted by the Billiards Association in 1899 are essentially the rules still used today. The tournament has been played on a regular annual schedule since 1980, when it became administered by the WPBSA. The event was known as the World Professional Billiards Championship until 2010, and has had other names in the past, e.g. Billiards Championship of the World. In addition, the World Ladies Billiards Championship has been played since 1931 (with interruptions) and organized by World Ladies Billiards and Snooker since 1998.
In the early 19th century, there was no recognised governing body or formal championship for English billiards. Jack Carr and Edwin Kentfield were prominent players when Carr challenged Kentfield to a championship game in 1825. Carr died on the eve of the match, and Kentfield hence assumed the title. He would remain unchallenged for 24 years.
John Roberts Sr., who had spent years touring and establishing his reputation as a billiards player, challenged Kentfield. There was much controversy over the table and the pockets to be used, and Kentfield declined to play, so Roberts styled himself as champion, a title he held unchallenged until 1870, when he lost to William Cook.: 46–58
Cook beat Roberts's son John Roberts Jr. in a match in 1869, and challenged Roberts Sr. for the title. As this was the first actual match for the World Championship, the players themselves drew up a special set of rules for the game. Roberts managed to have the pocket width reduced to 3 inches (from the original 35⁄8 inches), and the "D" and spots were adjusted so that Cook's spot stroke strength, derived from his proficiency at consecutively potting the red ball from its spot, was weakened. Cook was nonetheless considered the favourite, and the 20-year-old had greatly improved since his win over Roberts Jr. the previous year. At 1:38 a.m. on the morning of 12 February 1870, Cook defeated Roberts to win the title, and won a newly created trophy, £100, and a Maltese cross. The match at St. James's Hall in London was attended by Edward VII, the Prince of Wales. This match ended the dominance of Roberts Sr., as a wave of new players took over the game.
The February 1870 match initiated the World Championship, and led to many challenges for the title. Roberts Jr. and Cook were the dominant players of the era. There were occasional uncontested matches. The rule said that a player had to accept a challenge within two months of it being issued; if the challenge were ignored, the challenger became World Champion.
There was still the issue of the rules, however. Many players preferred the "spot-barred" style with limitations on the number of consecutive pots of the red that were allowed, but some preferred the "all-in" rules that did not include this restriction. Repeated potting of the red was a great strength for William Peall in particular.
There were three all-in competitions held separately from the title held by Roberts, for which he was never challenged. Billy Mitchell and Peall excelled in the late 1880s.
The Billiards Association (later the Billiards Association and Control Council or BA&CC) was formed in February 1885, and produced a new set of rules in September 1885. They sanctioned two championships, one with a "spot-barred" format and the other "all-in". Roberts Jr. showed no interest in the competition, but the tournaments went ahead regardless. The "championship table" that had been created by Roberts Sr. was abandoned, and the normal table was used instead. Peall held the all-in title unchallenged, whereas Mitchell dominated the spot-barred competition.
In 1899, after five years with no challenges to the titles, the Billiards Association changed the rules of the game. After two spot strokes, the red would be replaced on the centre spot, to limit the repetition of "all-in" play. Although detrimental to his personal fortunes, Peall accepted this change and voted for the introduction of the new rule. This gave rise to the modern version of English billiards that is still played (with minor revisions) today.
There were many challenges for the title before 1911, but the competition was then amended to cope with the influx of new professionals and it became an annual tournament. Walter Lindrum won the title in 1934, after which the championship collapsed. Only two challenge matches took place over the next three decades, one in 1951 and another in 1964.
While on a trip to Australia in 1968, Rex Williams decided to travel to Auckland to challenge the reigning champion Clark McConachy for the billiards title. This was the first contest since McConachy's 1951 win and, aged 73 by this time, his play was affected by his Parkinson's disease. In what turned out to be a poor-quality match, Williams won the title.
Leslie Driffield, a member of the BA&CC, was present at a meeting where the Council nominated him as the challenger to Rex Williams for the professional Billiards Championship. Williams declined to play Driffield within the five-month time limit set by the BA&CC, which expired on 7 July 1970, thus forfeiting the title, which was then contested between Driffield and Jack Karnehm in June 1971. On 1 October 1970, the Professional Billiard Players Association (PBPA)—which had been re-established in 1968 by Williams and seven other players—disaffiliated from the BA&CC. The PBPA then changed its name to the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) on 12 December 1970, and declared itself the governing body for the professional game, recognising Williams as champion. Driffield and Karnehm were, at first, the only two professionals who recognised the BA&CC as having continued authority over the game.: 146–147
In the 1970s, there were further challenge matches for the title. Williams was dominant in this period. In 1980, Fred Davis won at the age of 67 to become World Champion. Since the 1980s, the world championship has sometimes been contested as a series of shorter games, for example in 150-up, the first player to win a designated number of games of first-to-150 is the victor.
From 1989 to 2011, Mike Russell was the dominant player, closely followed by Geet Sethi who won five titles. Some Australian players were successful in the 1980s, most notably Robby Foldvari (winner 1986, runner-up 1987) and Eddie Charlton (twice runner-up, 1984 and 1988).
In November 2011, WPBSA formed a subsidiary called World Billiards (Limited), to administer the sport worldwide. As of 2012, the distinction between professional and amateur players was removed and the WPBSA World Professional Championship was merged with the former IBSF World Billiards Championship and simply became the World Billiards Championship. Tournaments were held in both points and timed format. In 2015, the IBSF withdrew from World Billiards Limited and reinstituted its own championship.
David Causier (with six titles), Pankaj Advani (three titles), and Peter Gilchrist are other multiple title winners in the modern game.
Main sources: English Amateur Billiards Association, A History of Billiards (Clive Everton), Cue Sports India
|1825||Edwin Kentfield||Declared Champion when Jack Carr was unable to play him|
|1849||John Roberts Sr.||Declared Champion when Kentfield declined his challenge|
Additional Source: Billiards (1899) by Joseph Bennett
As there was no governing body in place, the rules were agreed between players, with representatives of The Sportsman newspaper providing arbitration if required.
|11 February 1870||William Cook||1,200||John Roberts Sr.||1,083||St James's Hall, London|
|14 April 1870||John Roberts, Jr.||1,000||William Cook||552||St James's Hall, London|
|30 May 1870||John Roberts, Jr.||1,000||Alfred Bowles||752||St James's Hall, London|
|28 November 1870||Joseph Bennett||1,000||John Roberts, Jr.||905||St James's Hall, London|
|30 January 1871||John Roberts, Jr.||1,000||Joseph Bennett||637||St James's Hall, London|
|25 May 1871||William Cook||1,000||John Roberts, Jr.||985||St James's Hall, London|
|21 November 1871||William Cook||1,000||Joseph Bennett||942||St James's Hall, London|
|4 March 1872[a]||William Cook||1,000||John Roberts, Jr.||799||St James's Hall, London|
|24 February 1874||William Cook||1,000||John Roberts, Jr.||784||St James's Hall, London|
|24 May 1875||John Roberts, Jr.||1,000||William Cook||837||The Criterion, London|
|20 December 1875||John Roberts, Jr.||1,000||William Cook||865||St James's Hall, London|
|April 1876||William Cook||Declared Champion|
|28 May 1877||John Roberts, Jr.||1,000||William Cook||779||Gaiety Restaurant, Strand, London|
|July 1878||William Cook||Declared Champion|
|8 November 1880||Joseph Bennett||1,000||William Cook||949||St James's Hall, London|
|12–13 January 1881||Joseph Bennett||1,000||Tom Taylor||910||St James's Hall, London|
|September 1881[b]||William Cook||Declared Champion|
|February 1885||John Roberts, Jr.||Declared Champion|
|30 Mar-1 Apr 1885||John Roberts, Jr.||3,000||William Cook||2,908||Billiard Hall, Argyll Street, London|
|1–4 June 1885||John Roberts, Jr.||3,000||Joseph Bennett||1,360||Royal Aquarium|
These matches were arranged between the players, and not recognised by the Billiard Association.
|October 1887||Billy Mitchell||15,000||William Peall||13,733||Royal Aquarium|
|March 1888||William Peall||15,000||Billy Mitchell||6,753||Royal Aquarium|
With the Billiards Association championship in abeyance, the billiard table manufacturers George Wright and Company organised a "Championship of the World" tournament. The tournament was played in heats, with the heat between Mitchell and Peall proving decisive on each occasion.
|January 1889||Billy Mitchell||Royal Aquarium|
|February 1890||William Peall||Royal Aquarium|
|March 1891||William Peall||Royal Aquarium|
The Billiard Association organised separate championships for "all-in" and "spot barred" formats.
|April 1892||William Peall||5,000||Billy Mitchell||1,755||Orme & Sons Showrooms, Soho Square|
|April 1892||Billy Mitchell||3,000||John North||2,697||Thurston's Showrooms, Strand, London|
|February 1893||Billy Mitchell||9,000||John North||7,525||Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London|
|January 1894||Billy Mitchell||9,000||Charles Dawson||8,163||National Sporting Club, London|
The Billiards Association published a new set of rules 1 October 1898 that prohibited the push shot stroke, and promoted one championship rather than two.
|9–14 Jan 1899||Charles Dawson||9,000||John North||4,715||Gaiety Restaurant, Strand, London|
|April 1900||Charles Dawson||9,000||Harry Stevenson||6,775||Billiard Hall, Argyll Street, London|
|January 1901||Harry Stevenson||9,000||Charles Dawson||6,406|
|April 1901||Charles Dawson||9,000||Harry Stevenson||5,796|
|November 1901||Harry Stevenson||Declared Champion|
|16–21 Mar 1903||Charles Dawson||9,000||Harry Stevenson||8,700||National Sporting Club, London|
|September 1908||Melbourne Inman||Declared Champion|
|March 1909||Melbourne Inman||9,000||Albert Williams||7,662|
The Billiard Control Club was established in 1908 as a rival to the Billiard Association and organised a separate championship.
|February 1909||Harry Stevenson||Declared Champion|
|April 1910[c]||Harry Stevenson||Melbourne Inman|
|October 1910||Harry Stevenson||18,000||Melbourne Inman||16,907|
|April 1911||Harry Stevenson||18,000||Melbourne Inman||16,914|
|March 1912||Melbourne Inman||18,000||Tom Reece||9,675|
|March 1913||Melbourne Inman||18,000||Tom Reece||16,627|
|March 1914||Melbourne Inman||18,000||Tom Reece||12,826|
|March 1919||Melbourne Inman||18,000||Harry Stevenson||9,468|
After the 1919 Championship, the Billiard Association and the Billiard Control Club amalgamated and, as the Billiards Association and Control Club (later renamed as the Billiards Association and Control Council) organised an annual championship tournament.
|May 1920||Willie Smith||16,000||Claude Falkiner||14,500|
|March 1921||Tom Newman||16,000||Tom Reece||10,744||Thurston's Hall, London|
|May 1922||Tom Newman||16,000||Claude Falkiner||15,167||Thurston's Hall, London|
|May 1923||Willie Smith||16,000||Tom Newman||15,180|
|May 1924||Tom Newman||16,000||Tom Reece||14,845|
|April 1925||Tom Newman||16,000||Tom Reece||10,092|
|May 1926||Tom Newman||16,000||Joe Davis||9,505|
|May 1927||Tom Newman||16,000||Joe Davis||14,763|
|May 1928||Joe Davis||16,000||Tom Newman||14,874|
|April 1929||Joe Davis||18,000||Tom Newman||17,219|
|May 1930||Joe Davis||20,918||Tom Newman||20,117|||
|March 1932||Joe Davis||25,161||Clark McConachy||19,259|
|May 1933||Walter Lindrum||21,815||Joe Davis||21,121|
|October 1934||Walter Lindrum||23,553||Joe Davis||22,678||Railway Institute, Melbourne||: 106–107|
|September 1951||Clark McConachy||9,274||John Barrie||6,691||London|
|August 1968||Rex Williams||5,499||Clark McConachy||5,234||YMCA Stadium, Auckland|
|June 1971||BACC||Leslie Driffield||9,029||Jack Karnehm||4,342||Middlesbrough Town Hall|
|January 1973||B&SCC||Leslie Driffield||9,204||Albert Johnson||4,696|
|1971||WPBSA||Rex Williams||9,250||Bernard Bennett||4,058||Castle Club, Southampton|
|September 1973||WPBSA||Rex Williams||8,360||Jack Karnehm||4,336||Marconi Athletic Club, Chelmsford|
|September 1974||WPBSA||Rex Williams||7,017||Eddie Charlton||4,916||Geraldton|
|1976||WPBSA||Rex Williams||9,105||Eddie Charlton||5,149||Geelong|
|May 1980||WPBSA||Fred Davis||5,978||Rex Williams||4,452||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|||
|November 1980||WPBSA||Fred Davis||3,037||Mark Wildman||2,064||Brownsover Hotel, Rugby|||
|1982||WPBSA||Rex Williams||3,000||Mark Wildman||1,785||Astra La Reserve Club, Sutton Coldfield|||
|1983||WPBSA||Rex Williams||1,500||Fred Davis||605||Court Snooker Club, Peterborough|||
|1984||WPBSA||Mark Wildman||1,045||Eddie Charlton||1,012||Majestic Snooker Club, Portsmouth|||
|1985||WPBSA||Ray Edmonds||3||Norman Dagley||1||Hatton Garden Snooker Centre, London|||
|1986||WPBSA||Robby Foldvari||3||Norman Dagley||1||Romiley Forum Stockport|||
|1987||WPBSA||Norman Dagley||3||Robby Foldvari||1|
|1988||WPBSA||Norman Dagley||7||Eddie Charlton||4||: 175|
|1989||WPBSA||Mike Russell||2,242||Peter Gilchrist||1,347|
|1991||WPBSA||Mike Russell||1,352||Robby Foldvari||957|
|1992||WPBSA||Geet Sethi||2,529||Mike Russell||718||Holiday Inn, Bombay||: 181|
|1993||WPBSA||Geet Sethi||2,139||Mike Russell||1,140||President Hotel, Bombay||: 182|
|1994||WPBSA||Peter Gilchrist||1,539||Mike Russell||645||Leela Kempinski Hotel, Bombay||: 184|
|1995||WPBSA||Geet Sethi||1,661||Devendra Joshi||931||President Hotel, Bombay||: 185–186|
|1996||WPBSA||Mike Russell||2,534||Geet Sethi||1,848||Bombay Gymkhana, South Mumbai||: 188|
|1998||WPBSA||Geet Sethi||1,400||Mike Russell||1,015||Ahmedabad||: 190|
|1999||WPBSA||Mike Russell||2,000||Peter Gilchrist||832||Chennai||: 191–192|
|2000||No tournament held|
|2001||WPBSA||Peter Gilchrist||1,287||Mike Russell||863||Cricket Club of India, Mumbai||: 191–192|
|2002||WPBSA||Mike Russell||2,251||Peter Gilchrist||1,273||Midsomer Norton||: 196|
|2003||WPBSA||Mike Russell||6||Peter Gilchrist||4||Jerma Palace Hotel, Marsaskala||: 197|
|2004||WPBSA||Mike Russell||2,402||David Causier||1,349|
|2005||WPBSA||Chris Shutt||1,620||Mike Russell||1,365||Pontins, Prestatyn||: 199|
|2006||WPBSA||Geet Sethi||2,073||Lee Lagan||1,057|
|2007||WPBSA||Mike Russell||2,166||Chris Shutt||1,710||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|
|2008||WPBSA||Mike Russell||1,823||Geet Sethi||1,342||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|
|2009||WPBSA||Pankaj Advani||2,030||Mike Russell||1,253||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|||
|2010||WPBSA||Mike Russell||1,738||Dhruv Sitwala||1,204||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|||
|2011||WPBSA||Mike Russell||1,500||David Causier||558||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|||
|2012||WBL/IBSF||Short||Rupesh Shah||6||Matthew Bolton||2||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|||
|Timed||Pankaj Advani||1,895||Mike Russell||1,216||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|||
|2013||WBL/IBSF||Short||David Causier||6||Alok Kumar||1||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|||
|Long||Peter Gilchrist||1,500||David Causier||1,085||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|||
|2014||WBL/IBSF||Short||Pankaj Advani||6||Peter Gilchrist||2||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|||
|Timed||Pankaj Advani||1,928||Robert Hall||893||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|||
|2015||WBL||Short||David Causier||6||Robert Hall||1||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|||
|Long||David Causier||1,500||Peter Gilchrist||1,277||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|||
|2016||WBL||Short||David Causier||8||Dhruv Sitwala||6||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|||
|Timed||Mike Russell||2,224||David Causier||1,115||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|||
|2017||WBL||Short||David Causier||8||Sourav Kothari||4||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|
|Long||David Causier||1,500||Peter Gilchrist||779||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|
|2018||WBL||Timed||Sourav Kothari||1,134||Peter Gilchrist||944||Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds|
|2019||WBL||Timed||Peter Gilchrist||1,307||Sourav Kothari||967||RACV Club, Melbourne|||
|2022||WBL||Timed||David Causier||1,776||Peter Gilchrist||1,092||Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy, Singapore|||