The last match on the first day of the Championship maybe be a long one… indeed, on August 14, 2019, the second match of the evening sees the return of “The Grinder”.
Cliff Thorburn might be the oldest player in the draw – he’s 71 – it would be a huge mistake to dismiss the popular Canadian. He’s there to win. Always!
Off the table he’s a charming gentleman, with a huge dry sense of humour, at the table he’s a relentless predator. His record speaks for itself: he won 25 titles including the 1980 World Championship and the Masters three times (1983, 1985, 1986), he made two 147, including the first ever at the Crucible (1983), he reached the n°1 spot in the professional World rankings.
Cliff will play either Tony Knowles or Chen Gang.
If Cliff meets Chen Gang, it’s hard to predict what will happen as very little is known outside China about the CBSA nominee. It will be unchartered territory for both of them.
If Tony Knowles wins his first round match and is Cliff’s opponent in the evening, it’s a different story. They have played each other seven times as professionals, with Tony winning four times, for three wins to Cliff. Here is their head-to-head details on Cuetracker.
Two of those matches were just one frame and probably don’t mean too much. They won one each.
Probably the most significant of the five remaining matches is the 1983 World Championship semi final, a match that Cliff won by 16-15. At no time was there more than two frames between them. It was that close. It was the third match in a row that Cliff won in a decider in that competition. That tells us two things: in their prime they were evenly matched, and, win or lose, Cliff has to be scraped off the table!
Nowadays though, I think that Cliff is sharper and plays snooker more often than Tony. Therefore I expect Cliff to prevail.