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The Masters, formerly the Benson & Hedges Masters, is a professional snooker tournament. Although not a ranking event, it is regarded as one of the most prestigious tournaments on the circuit, earning more prize money than any other tournament except the World Championship.
The tournament was first held in 1975 in London. Ten players were invited. The final was won by John Spencer, who beat Ray Reardon 9-8 to win £2000. The match had reached 8-8 and, in the deciding 17th frame the scores were tied, meaning that a re-spotted black was necessary.
The tournament has seen many memorable matches, perhaps the most memorable being the 1991 final when Stephen Hendry beat Mike Hallett 9-8 after having trailed 7-0 and 8-2. The defeat effectively ended Hallett's days as a major force in the game. Paul Hunter came from 7-2 down to O'Brien and O'Sullivan, yet stormed back to win both matches. In 1998, Stephen Hendry lead Mark Williams 9-4, but Williams fought back to 9-9, and the match went to the re-spotted black. After a few shots, Hendry missed a straight-forward black over the middle pocket, and left a simple chance for Williams, which he took.
The event was sponsored by Benson & Hedges until 2003, but UK restrictions on tobacco advertising meant that it was without a sponsor the following year. In 2005, Rileys Club became sponsors of the event, but in 2006, Saga Insurance took over sponsorship of the tournament. 2006 was the last year the tournament was held at the Wembley Conference Centre, and the tournament relocated to Wembley Arena in 2007.
There have been two maximums in the tournament, the first was made by Kirk Stevens against Jimmy White in 1984. The second was made by Ding Junhui in the first match at the new Wembley Arena against Anthony Hamilton in 2007.