Date of Birth: 16 January 1948
Nickname: The Grinder
Highest Ranking: 1
Highest Break: 147 (2)
World Champion 1980
Clifford Charles Devlin Thorburn, CM known as Cliff Thorburn is a retired professional Canadian snooker player. A former world number one (one of only ten players to hold that spot), he was world snooker champion in 1980, one of only three players from outside the United Kingdom to win the world title in the modern era (along with Ken Doherty and Neil Robertson).
In 1983, Thorburn became the first player to compile a maximum break at the world championships. His slow, determined style of play earned him the nickname “The Grinder”.
Thorburn first went to England to play snooker professionally in the early 70s. He had met John Spencer in Canada, who had advised him to go to the UK to improve his game. He was runner up in the world championship in 1977, and was soon considered a contender for tournaments.
Thorburn’s finest moment came in the 1980 World Championship. He met Alex Higgins in the final, a personality that could hardly have been more different from his own. Thorburn won the match 18-16 to take the championship, and rose to number two in the world rankings. The BBC’s coverage of the final had been interrupted by the broadcast of live footage of the SAS storming the Iranian Embassy.
The following season Thorburn reached number one in the world rankings.
In 1983, Thorburn was made a Member of the Order of Canada. That same year, he became the first player to make a maximum break at the World Championships. He compiled the break in the fourth frame of his second round match against Terry Griffiths (a match he went on to win 13-12). Whilst completing the break, play stopped on the tournament’s second table because Thorburn’s friend and fellow Canadian Bill Werbeniuk wanted to watch him complete the break.
He subsequently went on to reach the final, but lost to then world number 1 Steve Davis. His wife had a miscarriage during his semi-final and partly explains his eventual heavy defeat by Davis in the final. Thorburn himself refused to blame this for his loss, instead citing that he was fatigued after his three back-to-back final frame victories; 13-12 win over Terry Griffiths in the Second Round, 13-12 win over Kirk Stevens in the quarter finals and a gruelling 16-15 victory (from 13-15 behind) in his semi-final against Tony Knowles, which finished at 2:30am and left him physically exhausted before the final commenced later that same day; Thorburn stated that, following the early morning finish against Knowles, he simply had nothing left for the final less than thirteen hours later against the in-form Steve Davis, who eventually defeated Thorburn 18-6, with a session to spare.
Thorburn was three times the Benson and Hedges Masters Champion, the most prestigious non-ranking event on the snooker calendar for many years. The event was held at the Wembley Conference Centre near London, England, which is where Thorburn lifted the title on three occasions winning in 1983 beating Ray Reardon 9-7 in the final, 1985 beating Doug Mountjoy 9-6 and in 1986 beating Jimmy White 9-5. Thorburn was the first player to retain the Masters title.
During the 1984/85 season Thorburn enjoyed a resurgence in form. He made the final of the Rothmans Grand Prix losing to Dennis Taylor 10-2 in the Final. The highlight of the tournament was Thorburn’s 9-7 victory over Steve Davis in the Semi-Final. Thorburn played outstanding snooker to overcome his great rival and the victory came unexpectedly because at that time Davis was in outstanding form.
In January 1985 Thorburn also made the final of the Mercantile Credit Classic and was again in outstanding form. On this occasion he met Willie Thorne in the final who was in equivalent good form and Thorne ran out the winner 13-8. Thorburn was again runner-up in the 1986 Mercantile Credit Classic final, this time losing to Jimmy White in the final frame 13-12.
Thorburn enjoyed success in the 1985 and 1986 Langs Scottish Masters, an invitational event which opened the snooker season. Thorburn defeated Willie Thorne 9-7 in 1985 final and Alex Higgins 9-8 the following year.
Thorburn won the opening ranking event in the 1985-1986 snooker calendar, the Goya Matchroom Trophy. Thorburn beat Jimmy White in the final 12-10 having trailed 0-7 and 4-8 and was runner-up in the same event the following two seasons.
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