By reputation alone the finest English player to have lived, Sydney Hall was born in Norfolk into an upper-class family already full of excellent Mornington Crescent Players, such as his cousin James, the 1905 British Champion, and his father, the team game specialist Alistair Hall, who played 18 seasons with Camden MCC. However, of all the Halls, it was only Sydney who made a real impact on the international circuit.
Having coasted to victory in the English Schoolboy Leagues for four consecutive years, Hall was picked for the England Junior squad, and won his first open Masters tournament in 1897 in London. From here he went from strength to strength, finally going on to win the World Championship 7 times, including five consecutive victories between 1920 and 1924. However, in 1925 the emerging Hungarian prodigy, Tibor Hugo shocked the world by destroying him in that year's championships, a defeat from which his confidence never really recovered. He said of Hugo at the time, "He is unbeatable", and for the next twelve years, he was proved right.
In his career, Sydney Hall played an astonishing 2,155 internationals, winning 1,821: and, in between championships, plied his trade with considerable success in the highest and most exclusively gentlemanly class of casino, in order to win any "non-standard" tokens that he might want to use in his next formal championship - he considered it the height of bad manners to actually *buy* more than a beginner's set of tokens: an attitude which was regarded as outdated even in his heyday, and which no World Champion since him has held. In many ways one could call him the last of the true "amateur" World Champions, despite being as great a player - and winning as much money from the game - as any professional: and his defeat by Hugo truly signalled the passing, not just of his career, but of an era.
He died in 1950, never having received the knighthood that most felt he deserved.