Date of Birth: 19 January 1949
Country: Northern Ireland
Highest Ranking: 2
World Champion: 1985
Dennis Taylor is a retired snooker player, and current BBC snooker commentator. Winner of two ranking events, he is best known for winning the 1985 World Championship, beating World number one Steve Davis on the final black in one of the sport’s most memorable finals.
He also won the Grand Prix in 1984 and the Masters in 1987. Taylor is also well known for his sense of humour and his trademark oversized spectacles. He regularly made appearances on the snooker-based gameshow Big Break.
Taylor turned professional in 1972 and made his world championship debut in 1973, narrowly losing to Cliff Thorburn in the first round. After world semi-final losses in 1975 and 1977, Taylor reached his first major final – the World Championship – in 1979, but lost 24–16 to debutant Terry Griffiths.
Having reached the semi final of the World Championships in 1984, losing to Steve Davis, Taylor was playing very well as he began the 1984–85 season. In September, however, he was devastated by the sudden death of his mother, which caused him to withdraw from the Jameson International.
His first ranking event win came later in 1984, when he won the Rothmans Grand Prix by beating Cliff Thorburn 10–2 in the final.
Taylor reached the Rothmans Grand Prix final again in autumn 1985, and again faced Davis in a match that went to a deciding frame, but this time was beaten 10–9. As with all other first-time world champions so far, Taylor succumbed to the “Crucible Curse” on his return to the Crucible Theatre the following year and lost 10–6 to Mike Hallett in the opening match, humorously acknowledging defeat by putting his handkerchief on the end of his cue to resemble a white flag.
He won the Benson & Hedges Masters in 1987, beating Alex Higgins 9–8 in the final, having trailed 8-5. Taylor often credits his comeback win to having heard that Higgins’s manager had ordered champagne to celebrate their impending victory.
Taylor had a well-publicized row with Higgins at the 1990 snooker World Cup in which the Northern Ireland team were beaten by Canada in the final, which ended with Higgins threatening to have Taylor shot, a threat Taylor understandably took seriously since he and Higgins belonged to opposite sides of Northern Ireland’s sectarian divide.
Shortly afterwards they met in the quarter-finals of the Irish Masters, and a determined Taylor won 5–2. The match was attended by a young Ken Doherty. Taylor also beat Jimmy White 6–5 in the semi-finals but, emotionally drained by the Higgins match, lost 9–4 to Davis in the final. Taylor and Higgins were later reconciled.
Taylor and Davis met in the World Championship for a second time in 1991, this time in the quarter-finals. Davis won this match 13-7 to advance to what is to date his last world semi-final.
Taylor was renowned for the glasses he wore during matches, with their large frame and unusual ‘upside-down’ structure that is required to avoid a player looking over the top of the lenses when down on a shot. As a member of the Matchroom group of players (managed by promoter Barry Hearn), Taylor performed on the hit single with Chas & Dave, “Snooker Loopy”, which peaked at #5 in the UK singles chart.
His perceived bad eyesight was parodied in the song with the lines “them long shots, he never ever got. Why the old mind boggles. But nowadays he pots the lot” with Taylor himself singing “‘cos I wear these goggles”. He was also one of the first players to develop a relative competence in using his left hand to play the game, though he himself said this was partly because he hated to play shots with the rest.
Taylor’s form deteriorated gradually in the 1990s and he dropped out of the top 16 after the 1994 World Championship, the last remaining player who had been in the original world rankings in 1976. He retired from playing in 2000.
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