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Clifford Charles Devlin "Cliff" Thorburn CM (born January 16, 1948) is a Canadian retired professional snooker player. Nicknamed "The Grinder" because of his slow, determined style of play, he won the World Snooker Championship in 1980, making him the first world champion in the sport's modern era from outside the United Kingdom. He remains the only world champion from the Americas. He was runner-up in two other World Championships, losing to John Spencer in the 1977 final (the first ever held at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre) and to Steve Davis in the 1983 final. During his second-round encounter with Terry Griffiths in 1983, Thorburn became the first player to compile a maximum break in a World Championship match.

Cliff Thorburn
Born (1948-01-16) January 16, 1948 (age 71)
Victoria, British Columbia
Sport country Canada
  • The Grinder
  • Champagne Cliff
Highest ranking1 (1981/82)
Career winnings£988,098
Highest break147: (2 times)
Century breaks92
Tournament wins
World Champion1980

Thorburn's other notable achievements include holding the number one ranking during the 1981/82 season and winning the prestigious invitational Masters three times, in 1983, 1985, and 1986, which made him the first player to win the Masters more than once and the first to retain the title. He retired in 1996 and was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.[1] During his snooker career, Thorburn maintained a near-scratch handicap in golf, which he had taken up in his youth; as his snooker career scaled down, he appeared occasionally in charity fundraiser golf events in Canada, as a celebrity.



Early careerEdit

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 soon considered a contender for tournaments, and finished runner-up in the world championship in 1977.


Cliff Thorburn met Alex Higgins in the final of the 1980 World Championship. He won the match 18–16 to take the championship,[2] 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 Championship. 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). While he was completing the break, play stopped on the tournament's second table because his friend and fellow Canadian Bill Werbeniuk wanted to watch. 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, but Thorburn refused to blame this for his loss, instead saying that he was fatigued after his three back-to-back final-frame victories: a 13–12 win over Terry Griffiths in the second round; another 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 which commenced later that same day. He stated that, after finishing the semi-final in the early hours of the morning, he simply had nothing left for the final less than thirteen hours later against the in-form Steve Davis, who eventually defeated him 18–6, with a session to spare.

Thorburn was a three-time champion of The Masters, the most prestigious non-ranking event on the snooker calendar for many years, during its tenure at the Wembley Conference Centre near London, England. He defeated Ray Reardon 9–7 in the 1983 final, Doug Mountjoy 9–6 in 1985, and Jimmy White 9–5 in 1986. He became the first player ever to retain the Masters title.

He enjoyed a resurgence in form during the 1984/1985 season. He made the final of the Grand Prix, where he lost to Dennis Taylor 2–10. In the semi-final, Thorburn had unexpectedly beaten tournament favourite Steve Davis 9–7. He also made the final of the Classic in January 1985, where he met Willie Thorne in the final, with Thorne winning 13–8. Thorburn was again runner-up in the 1986 Classic, this time losing to Jimmy White in the final 12–13. Thorburn looked certain to win the title but White got a snooker in the deciding frame on the final pink and potted pink and black to win the title.[citation needed]

Thorburn enjoyed success in the 1985 and 1986 Scottish Masters, an invitational event which opened the snooker season. He defeated Willie Thorne 9–7 in the 1985 final, and Alex Higgins 9–8 the following year. He won the opening ranking event in the 1985/1986 snooker calendar, the Matchroom Trophy, where he beat Jimmy White in the final 12–10, having trailed 0–7 and 4–8. He was then runner-up in the same event the following two seasons.

Later yearsEdit

Thorburn last qualified for the World Championship in 1994, where he faced Nigel Bond in the first round. Thorburn led by 9–2 but eventually lost 9–10. In 2001, he was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.[1] The same year he won the pro-am Canadian Amateur Championship (snooker); he had previously won the tournament in 1974, 1975, 1976, and 1977.[3]

During the 2006 World Championship, Thorburn flew to Sheffield to unveil a life-size painting of the first televised maximum break that he made at the tournament in 1983. Painted by the artist Michael Myers, the work is on display at the Macdonald St. Paul's Hotel in Sheffield.[4] In 2010, Thorburn returned to the UK to compete on the Snooker Legends Tour where he faced Alex Higgins, Jimmy White and John Parrott.

His manager Darryl McKerrow was killed in a hunting accident during the mid-1980s.[citation needed] Thorburn was fined £10,000 and banned for two ranking tournaments in 1988 after failing a drug test.[citation needed]

He is the father of two children, Jamie and Andrew. Thorburn won around C$2.5 million in prize money during his 25-year career but also received a considerable income from sources including billiards equipment endorsements, exhibition games, a snooker instruction book and an autobiography, Playing for Keeps, published in 1987.[5]

Performance and rankings timelineEdit

Tournament 1972/
Ranking[6] No ranking system 13 6 5 5 2 1 3 3 3 2 2 4 6 7 18 36 36 41 54 41
Ranking tournaments
Thailand Classic[nb 1] Tournament Not Held NR A 1R 1R 1R LQ LQ LQ
Grand Prix[nb 2] Tournament Not Held 3R QF F SF 1R 2R A 2R 1R 1R LQ LQ 1R LQ
UK Championship Non-Ranking Event SF 3R QF QF QF 2R WD 1R LQ LQ LQ LQ
German Open Tournament Not Held LQ
Welsh Open Tournament Not Held 1R LQ LQ LQ LQ
International Open[nb 3] Tournament Not Held NR 2R F 1R W F F A 1R Not Held LQ 2R 1R LQ
European Open Tournament Not Held QF 1R SF 2R 1R LQ LQ LQ
Thailand Open[nb 4] Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event Not Held 1R 1R LQ LQ 1R SF WD
British Open[nb 5] Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event 3R 3R SF SF 3R 1R 1R 1R LQ 1R LQ LQ
World Championship 2R 1R QF 1R F QF 1R W SF 1R F QF QF SF 1R SF 1R QF LQ LQ LQ 1R LQ LQ
Non-ranking tournaments
Australian Masters[nb 6] Tournament Not Held A A A RR W 1R A A QF NH R Tournament Not Held A A
Scottish Masters Tournament Not Held F A SF QF W W SF NH QF A A A A A A
The Masters Not Held 1R 1R A F QF QF SF QF W 1R W W SF QF QF 1R A LQ A A A A
Irish Masters[nb 7] Not Held A A A A A RR SF QF A QF QF SF QF QF 1R 1R A A A A A A
European League[nb 8] Tournament Not Held A Not Held RR RR RR RR A A A A A A
Former ranking tournaments
Canadian Masters[nb 9] Not Held Non-Ranking Event Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking QF Tournament Not Held
Hong Kong Open[nb 10] Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event NH LQ Tournament Not Held NR
Classic Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event 1R F F 2R 2R SF 2R 1R 2R Tournament Not Held
Strachan Open Tournament Not Held QF MR NR Not Held
Former non-ranking tournaments
Champion of Champions Tournament Not Held A NH RR Tournament Not Held
International Open[nb 11] Tournament Not Held 2R Ranking Event Not Held Ranking Event
Northern Ireland Classic Tournament Not Held QF Tournament Not Held
UK Championship Tournament Not Held A A A A 2R A A Ranking Event
British Open[nb 12] Tournament Not Held A RR 2R A A Ranking Event
Classic Tournament Not Held A QF QF QF Ranking Event Tournament Not Held
Pot Black A RR A A SF RR A A W SF A A SF SF Tournament Not Held A A A NH
Canadian Masters[nb 13] Not Held W QF QF QF W W W Tournament Not Held SF QF SF R Tournament Not Held
Canadian Professional Championship Tournament Not Held W Not Held SF W W W W SF Tournament Not Held
Dubai Masters[nb 14] Tournament Not Held QF Ranking Event
Matchroom Professional Championship Tournament Not Held A A QF Ranking Event
World Matchplay Tournament Not Held 1R 1R A A A Not Held
Shoot-Out Tournament Not Held 3R Tournament Not Held
World Seniors Championship Tournament Not Held 1R Tournament Not Held
Performance Table Legend
LQ lost in the qualifying draw #R lost in the early rounds of the tournament
(WR = Wildcard round, RR = Round robin)
QF lost in the quarter-finals
SF lost in the semi-finals F lost in the final W won the tournament
DNQ did not qualify for the tournament A did not participate in the tournament WD withdrew from the tournament
NH / Not Held means an event was not held.
NR / Non-Ranking Event means an event is/was no longer a ranking event.
R / Ranking Event means an event is/was a ranking event.
  1. ^ The event was also called the Dubai Masters (1988/1989) and Dubai Classic (1989/1990–1994/1995)
  2. ^ The event was also called the Professional Players Tournament (1982/1983–1983/1984)
  3. ^ The event was also called the Goya Matchroom Trophy (1985/1986)
  4. ^ The event was also called the Thailand Masters (1983/1984–1986/1987 & 1991/1992) and the Asian Open (1989/1990–1992/1993)
  5. ^ The event was also called the British Gold Cup (1979/1980), Yamaha Organs Trophy (1980/1981) and International Masters (1981/1982–1983/1984)
  6. ^ The event was also called the Hong Kong Open (1989/1990) and Australian Open (1994/1995)
  7. ^ The event was also called the Benson & Hedges Ireland Tournament (1974/1975–1976/1977)
  8. ^ The event was also called the Matchroom League (1978/1979–1980/1981)
  9. ^ The event was also called the Canadian Open (1978/1979–1980/1981)
  10. ^ The event was also called the Australian Masters (1979/1980–1987/1988 & 1995/1996) and Australian Open (1994/1995)
  11. ^ The event was also called the Goya Matchroom Trophy (1985/1986)
  12. ^ The event was also called the British Gold Cup (1979/1980), Yamaha Organs Trophy (1980/1981) and International Masters (1981/1982–1983/1984)
  13. ^ The event was also called the Canadian Open (1978/1979–1980/1981)
  14. ^ The event was also called the Dubai Classic (1989/1990–1994/1995) and Thailand Classic (1995/1996)

Career finalsEdit

Ranking finals: 10 (2 titles, 8 runners-up)Edit

World Championship (1–2)
Other (1–6)
Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score
Runner-up 1. 1977 World Snooker Championship   John Spencer 21–25
Winner 1. 1980 World Snooker Championship   Alex Higgins 18–16
Runner-up 2. 1983 World Snooker Championship (2)   Steve Davis 6–18
Runner-up 3. 1983 International Open   Steve Davis 4–9
Runner-up 4. 1984 Grand Prix   Dennis Taylor 2–10
Runner-up 5. 1985 The Classic   Willie Thorne 8–13
Winner 2. 1985 Matchroom Trophy   Jimmy White 12–10
Runner-up 6. 1986 The Classic (2)   Jimmy White 12–13
Runner-up 7. 1986 International Open (2)   Neal Foulds 9–12
Runner-up 8. 1987 International Open (3)   Steve Davis 5–12

Non-ranking finals: 22 (17 titles, 5 runners-up)Edit

The Masters (3–1)
Other (14–4)
Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score
Winner 1. 1974 Canadian Open   Dennis Taylor 8–6
Runner-up 1. 1978 The Masters   Alex Higgins 5–7
Winner 2. 1978 Canadian Open (2)   Tony Meo 17–15
Winner 3. 1979 Canadian Open (3)   Terry Griffiths 17–16
Runner-up 2. 1980 Bombay International   John Virgo 7–13
Winner 4. 1980 Canadian Professional Championship   Jim Wych 9–6[7]
Winner 5. 1980 Canadian Open (4)   Terry Griffiths 17–10
Winner 6. 1981 Pot Black   Jim Wych 2–0
Runner-up 3. 1981 Tolly Cobbold Classic   Graham Miles 1–5
Runner-up 4. 1981 Scottish Masters   Jimmy White 4–9
Winner 7. 1983 The Masters   Ray Reardon 9–7
Winner 8. 1983 Australian Masters   Bill Werbeniuk 7–3
Winner 9. 1984 Canadian Professional Championship (3)   Mario Morra 9–2
Winner 10. 1985 The Masters (2)   Doug Mountjoy 9–6
Winner 11. 1985 Canadian Professional Championship (4)   Bob Chaperon 6–4
Winner 12. 1985 Scottish Masters   Willie Thorne 9–7
Winner 13. 1986 The Masters (3)   Jimmy White 9–5
Winner 14. 1986 Canadian Professional Championship (5)   Jim Wych 6–2
Winner 15. 1986 Scottish Masters (2)   Alex Higgins 9–8
Winner 16. 1987 Canadian Professional Championship (6)   Jim Bear 8–4
Runner-up 5. 2000 World Seniors Masters   Willie Thorne 0–1
Winner 17. 2018 The Seniors Masters   Jonathan Bagley 2–1

Team finals: 5 (2 titles, 3 runners-up)Edit

Outcome No. Year Championship Team/partner Opponent(s) in the final Score
Runner-up 1. 1980 World Challenge Cup   Canada   Wales 5–8
Winner 1. 1982 World Team Classic   Canada   England 4–2
Runner-up 2. 1986 World Cup (2)   Canada Ireland 7–9
Runner-up 3. 1987 World Cup (3)   Canada Ireland 2–9
Winner 2. 1990 World Cup (2)   Canada   Northern Ireland 9–5

Amateur finals: 7 (5 titles, 2 runners-up)Edit

Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score
Winner 1. 1974 Canadian Amateur Championship   Julien St Dennis 13–11
Winner 2. 1975 Canadian Amateur Championship (2)   Bill Werbeniuk
Winner 3. 1976 Canadian Amateur Championship (3)   Bill Werbeniuk 11–1
Winner 4. 1977 Canadian Amateur Championship (4)   Robert Paquette 10–6
Winner 5. 2001 Canadian Amateur Championship (5)   Tom Finstad 4–3
Runner-up 1. 2002 Canadian Amateur Championship   Kirk Stevens 1–6
Runner-up 2. 2003 Canadian Amateur Championship (2)   Alain Robidoux 2–6


  1. ^ a b "Five enter Canada's Sports Hall". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  2. ^ "Then and Now: Cliff Thorburn". Yahoo! Sport. Eurosport. 17 November 2009. Archived from the original on 25 April 2010.
  3. ^ "CBSA Champions & Runner-Ups". Canadian Billiards & Snooker Association. 2009. Archived from the original on 15 July 2009.
  4. ^ "Artist puts a perfect frame on the map..." Sheffield Star. 15 April 2006.
  5. ^ Cliff Thorburn; Clive Everton (December 1987). Playing for Keeps. Partridge Press. ISBN 978-1852250119.
  6. ^ "Ranking History". Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  7. ^ "Other National Professional Championships – Canadian Professional Championship". Chris Turner's Snooker Archive. 2011. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011.

External linksEdit

First Maximum break-scorer
in World Championship

23 April 1983
Succeeded by
Jimmy White