Steve Davis, OBE (born 22 August 1957) is an English former professional snooker player from Plumstead, London. Known for dominating the sport during the 1980s, when he won the World Championship six times and was ranked world number one for seven consecutive seasons, he is remembered particularly for contesting the 1985 World Championship final with Dennis Taylor, the black-ball conclusion of which attracted a record 18.5 million British viewers. Today, Davis combines his ongoing playing career with his role as a television analyst and commentator for the BBC's snooker coverage.
Outside snooker, Davis has competed in pool tournaments, notably playing on Team Europe at the Mosconi Cup between 1994 and 2004, helping the team win the event in 1995 and 2002. He is also noted for his participation in poker events, having reached the final stages of several televised tournaments. Since 1996 he has been a regular broadcaster with Phoenix FM and an expert in the progressive rock genres of Zeuhl, RIO and the canterbury scene. A keen amateur chess player, he has co-authored two chess books with grandmaster David Norwood and is a former president of the British Chess Federation. He has also published several books on snooker, as well as three cookbooks. He has appeared on a number of popular British TV shows, including I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! in 2013. He was made an MBE in 1988 and an OBE in 2001.
Davis was introduced to snooker by his father Bill, a keen player, who took him to play at his local working men's club at the age of 12, and gave him Joe Davis' instructional book How I Play Snooker. They studied the book and built Steve Davis's own technique on it in the 1970s. He started playing at the Lucania Snooker Club in Romford, where at the age of 18 the manager of the club brought his talent to the attention of Barry Hearn, chairman of the Lucania chain of snooker halls. Hearn became Davis' friend and manager. Paid £25 a match by Hearn, Davis toured the country, taking part in challenge matches against established professionals such as Ray Reardon, John Spencer and Alex Higgins. Around this time he was given the nickname "Nugget" because, according to Hearn, "you could put your case of money on him and you knew you were going to get paid."
Davis won the English Under-19 Billiards Championship in 1976. One of his last wins as an amateur was against another future professional Tony Meo in the final of the Pontin's Spring Open of 1978. A year later he successfully defended his title, this time defeating another of his future rivals, Jimmy White, 7–4 in the final. Davis turned professional on 17 September 1978 and made his professional television debut on Pot Black, where he played against Fred Davis. He made his World Championship debut in 1979, losing 11–13 to Dennis Taylor in the first round.
Dominance of snooker
Davis came to public prominence after his performance at the 1980 World Championship, where he reached the quarter-finals, defeating defending champion Terry Griffiths en route, before losing to Alex Higgins. Davis won his first major title in the same year – the UK Championship – during which he beat Griffiths 9–0 in the semi-finals and Higgins 16–6 in the final. This began an 18-month period of dominance. He won the Classic and then the International Masters and English Professional titles in 1981, and became the bookmakers' favourite to win the 1981 World Championship, despite being seeded only 15. Davis reached the final by defeating Jimmy White in the first round, Higgins in the second round, Griffiths in the quarter-finals and defending champion Cliff Thorburn in the semi-final. Davis's 18–12 victory over Doug Mountjoy in the final confirmed bookmakers' early predictions, and in celebration his manager Barry Hearn charged across the arena to lift him up in the air. He would go on to reach seven out of the next eight world finals.
He followed up his world title win with a 9–0 final victory over Dennis Taylor in the International Open and then retained the UK Championship with a 9–0 whitewash over White in the semi-finals and a 16–3 win over Griffiths in the final. This began a period of six months in which Davis and Griffiths contested almost all the major tournament finals. During this run, in January 1982, Davis made snooker history when he compiled the first televised maximum break at the Classic at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Oldham, against John Spencer. Davis won a car for the achievement. This was also the first televised maximum break. Davis subsequently lost 8–9 in the final against Griffiths. In 1982 Davis won his first Masters title, defeating Griffiths 9–6 in the final.
Davis's 18-month period of dominance ended at the 1982 World Championship, when he succumbed to the so-called "Crucible Curse", losing 1–10 against Tony Knowles in the first round. Later that year, he couldn't win a third consecutive UK title as he lost in the quarter-finals against Griffiths. Following those two setbacks, he won the World Doubles Championship title with partner Tony Meo. In 1983 Davis regained the world title with a session to spare in the final, defeating an overwhelmed Thorburn 18–6; Thorburn had seen his previous three matches go to a deciding frame and a late finish. Davis lost 15–16 to Higgins in the 1983 UK Championship final, despite having led 7–0 at one point of the match. In 1984, he became the first player to retain his world title at the Crucible Theatre by beating Jimmy White 18–16 in the final. He also regained the UK title in 1984 defeating Higgins 16–8.
Black ball final
At the 1985 World Championship, Davis dropped only 23 frames en route to the final, where his opponent was Dennis Taylor. He looked set for a third consecutive world title after an opening session of near-faultless snooker gave him a 7–0 lead, which he extended to 8–0 in the evening session, but Taylor recovered to trail only 7–9. From 11–11 the pair traded frames before Davis forged ahead to lead 17–15. Taylor won the next two frames to level the match at 17–17 and force a deciding frame. With the scores close, Taylor potted the final colours to leave the black as the winner-takes-all ball. After a series of safety shots and attempts at potting it, Davis over-cut the black, leaving Taylor with a reasonably straightforward pot to secure the championship. The "nailbiting" finale drew 18.5 million viewers, a record post-midnight audience on British television and a record audience for BBC Two. The black-ball finish was voted the ninth greatest sporting moment of all time in a 2002 Channel 4 poll.
Davis and Taylor met again in the final of the 1985 Grand Prix, but this time Davis won in the deciding frame. At 10 hours 21 minutes, it remains the longest one-day final in snooker history. In the 1985 UK Championship final Davis trailed 8–13 against Willie Thorne, who missed a blue off the spot which would have given him a 14–8 lead. Davis won the frame and then seven of the next eight to win 16–14. At the 1986 World Championship, Davis defeated White 13–5 in the quarter-finals and Thorburn 16–12 in the semi-finals, Davis's opponent in the final was Joe Johnson, who had started the tournament as a 150–1 outsider. Davis lost the match 12–18. The result did not affect his position at the top of the world rankings, as he had won the UK Championship, the Grand Prix and the British Open in the 1985/1986 season. At the end of 1986 he beat Neal Foulds 16–7 to retain the UK Championship.
Davis started 1987 by winning the Classic, beating defending champion Jimmy White 13–12. At the World Championship, he defeated Griffiths 13–5 in the quarter-final, and White 16–11 in the semi-final. In the final he again met Johnson, and established a 14–10 lead after three sessions. Johnson reduced Davis' lead to 14–13, but Davis won four of the next five frames to win the match 18–14 and regain the title. In beating Johnson he became the first player to win the UK Championship, Masters and World Championship in the same year. In December he retained his UK title with a 16–14 final win against White. In 1988 retained the Classic, claimed his second Masters title with a 9–0 final whitewash of Mike Hallett (the only final whitewash in the event's history), won the World Cup with England and won his fourth Irish Masters title. In the World Championship Davis defeated Hallett 13–1, Tony Drago 13–4 and Thorburn 16–8 en route to the final, where he met Griffiths. Davis established a 5–2 lead after the first session, but Griffiths levelled at 8–8 after the second. On the second day of the match Davis took ten out of thirteen frames to win 18–11 and claim his fifth world title.
Davis won the first ranking event of the 1988/1989 season with a 12–6 win over White in the International Open; in the same match, he became the first player to make three consecutive century breaks in a major tournament. In October, Davis won the Grand Prix, beating Alex Higgins 10–6 in the final to hold the World, UK, Masters, Grand Prix, Classic and Irish Masters titles simultaneously. However, his four-year unbeaten run at the UK Championship came to an end in December with a 3–9 semi-final loss to Hendry. He did not win another major title that season until the 1989 World Championship, where he beat Hendry 16–9 in the semi-finals before going on to complete the heaviest victory in a world final of the modern era with an 18–3 win over John Parrott, his last world championship to date. In October he retained the Grand Prix, beating Dean Reynolds 10–0 in the final, the first whitewash in a ranking event final. By the end of the 1980s, Davis was snooker's first millionaire.
After a season which saw Davis reach only one ranking event quarter-final, Davis dropped out of the top 16 for the 2000/2001 season, and failed to qualify for the World Championship for the next two years. After failing to qualify for the World Snooker Championship for the first time in his professional career in 2001, Davis felt that retiring would be the easy thing to do, but as he still liked the challenge of snooker, he continued playing, and regained his place in the top 16 for the 2003/2004 season. He was runner-up in the 2004 Welsh Open to O'Sullivan, losing 8–9 after having led 8–5. In 2005 he reached the quarter finals of the World Championship, losing to eventual winner Shaun Murphy.
Steve Davis during a match against Ville Pasanen in 2008
He dropped out of the top sixteen a year later, but showed form in the 2008/2009 season by reaching the quarter-finals of both the Shanghai Masters and Grand Prix, the first time he had reached consecutive ranking event quarter-finals since 1996. At the World Championship Davis lost in the first round 2–10 against Neil Robertson. After the match he again dismissed talk of his retirement.
In the first round Davis defeated Mark King 10–9, becoming, at the age of 52, the oldest player to win a match at the Crucible since Eddie Charlton beat Cliff Thorburn in 1989. In the second round against defending champion John Higgins, a 1–20 favourite, Davis led 6–2 after the first session, 9–7 after the second session, and ultimately won 13–11, a win Clive Everton described as "the greatest upset in the 33 years the Crucible has been hosting the championship." This made him the oldest world quarter-finalist since Charlton in 1983. In the quarter-final match against Australian Neil Robertson, Davis recovered from a 2–12 deficit to force the match into the third session, eventually losing 5–13. On 29 April 2010, to mark the 25th anniversary of their black-ball final of 1985, Davis appeared with Dennis Taylor before the beginning of the first semi-final, to stage a humorous re-enactment of their historic final frame. Taylor entered the arena wearing a pair of comically oversized glasses, while Davis arrived sporting a red wig.
Given an invitational tour card to participate in tournaments for the 2014-15 season, Davis made his return to competitive snooker in the Paul Hunter Classic in August 2014, losing 2-4 to Gary Wilson in the last 128.
In the book Masters of the Baize, a detailed comparison and ranking of snooker professionals, authors Luke Williams and Paul Gadsby rated Davis as the third greatest snooker player of all time behind Joe Davis and Stephen Hendry. As of 2011[update], Davis has won a record 80 professional titles from 115 finals, 28 of them in ranking events. His record of six world titles in the modern era has been bettered only by Hendry and no player has yet matched his tally of six UK titles. Davis has also compiled over 300 competitive centuries during his career. In 2011 he was inducted to World Snooker's newly created Hall of Fame along with seven former World Champions.
Davis has become known for his coolness and impeccable conduct in high-pressure situations. His initial lack of emotional expression and somewhat monotonous interviewing style earned him a reputation as boring. As a result, the satirical television series Spitting Image gave him the ironic nickname "Interesting". Davis himself now plays upon this image and says it helped him gain acceptance from the public. It led to him co-authoring a comedic book, How to Be Really Interesting (1988), with Geoff Atkinson, the front cover of which shows Davis mocking his perceived dullness, dressed in boxing regalia holding a cue. Davis appeared as a commentator for the BBC's snooker coverage and as a guest on television quizzes such as They Think It's All Over and A Question of Sport. He appeared in a baked beans advertisement in the 1980s (featuring snooker commentator Ted Lowe with the pay-off line "really interesting" and Davis 'assessing' his beans on toast as if it were a snooker situation, and chalking his cutlery).
He has published numerous other books, five relating to snooker: Successful Snooker (1982),Frame and Fortune (1982),Steve Davis: Snooker Champion (1983),Matchroom Snooker (1988) and The Official Matchroom 1990; two relating to chess in 1995 with David Norwood: Steve Davis Plays Chess and Grandmaster Meets Chess Amateur. He also authored three cookbooks in 1994: Simply Fix – the Steve Davis Interesting Cookbook No 1 – Interesting Things to Do With Meat,Simply Fix – The Steve Davis Interesting Cookbook No 2 – Interesting Things to Make with Poultry, and Simply Fix – the Steve Davis Interesting Cookbook No 3 – Interesting Things to Make Using Vegetables.
In 1986 he joined musical duo Chas & Dave and several other snooker stars of the time (under the name "The Matchroom Mob") on the novelty record "Snooker Loopy", which was a Top 10 hit in the United Kingdom. A year the later they released a follow-up single, the "Romford Rap", though this only reached #91 in the UK charts. Since 1996 he has presented a show dedicated to progressive rock and the Canterbury scene on his local radio station, Phoenix FM.
Davis lives in Brentwood, Essex, and divorced from his wife Judith in 2005 after 15 years of marriage. Together, they have two sons called Greg (born 1991) and Jack (born 1993). In 2012, Greg Davis entered the Q School, with the aim of winning a place on the professional snooker tour.