Historical Pot Pourri
Fast scoring at billiards
In the last issue of The Amateur Billiard Player, Albert Hanson reported Chris Shutt’s magnificent
record 507 point aggregate in a 30 minute game [17 points/minute] for the Teesside Boys Billiard
League, and asks if there has been anything better.
Quite possibly this record is unequalled in the amateur game past or present, but rapid scoring is
not an uncommon ability in the professional ranks.
The obvious candidates are the nursery cannon masters of the 1930’s. Walter Lindrum would
regularly achieve 1,000 points in under 30 minutes. Of course, we all know that”the rules were
different then”which always makes comparisons with the modern game difficult. Certainly,
cannon play must by its nature be quicker than all-round play and perhaps a better example
would be John Roberts who, in May 1894, made a break of 1,392 in 1 hour 12 minutes [19
points/minute] using notoriously unreliable ivory balls. John Roberts is credited with inventing the
modern top of the table game which was played under essentially the same restrictions in the
1890’s as are applied today.
Perhaps also worthy of note is a break by the”spot-stroke”specialist William Peall. Bearing in
mind that the red ball had to be retrieved and re-spotted after every pot, his 1,000 point
aggregate in 44 minutes [23 points/minute] made in a game in 1884 must stand as a memorable
achievement. At least I’m sure that the referee never forgot it!
But if you’re interested in scoring records, how about this one. During the winter of 1873 a tour of
England was made by the French finger player Adrain Izar. He gave exhibitions playing with his
thumb and one finger against an opponent using a cue. Whilst on this tour he was credited with
making a break of 662 in nine minutes [73 points/minute] during a game in Barrow-in-Furness.
However, the all-time scoring record must surely go to Tom Reece who in 1907 made an anchor
cannon break of 499,135 unfinished in a total playing time of 85 hours 49 minutes. For those who
are a bit slow with mental arithmetic this works out at 97 points/minute.
Still, if we have to go back to these great masters of the game to find a comparison to Chris
Shutt, who is just about to start his professional career, what more can we expect from him in the
Talking of professional debut’s, I am reminded of a story concerning the Birmingham player Fred
Bateman who played his first match in London in a”round-robin”tournament at Burroughes &
Watts Hall in October 1897.
Just 21 years old, he had been a proficient player since the age of eight and at that time had
claimed the title of”Boy Champion of the Midlands”. However, his London debut was not so
auspicious and his heat against William Peall was marked by a most peculiar incident.
The match had been in progress for some time when Bateman, in taking his turn, found that his
cue was missing. It had been in his hands a few minutes before and as none of the spectators
had moved from their seats, theft could not be considered. But despite the most thorough of
searches, no trace could be found and Bateman had to continue with another cue.
Several months later, the cue was found by workmen who were renovating the unoccupied room
immediately below the match-room, and the solution to the mystery would have done justice to
an Agatha Christie novel.
It appeared that a knot in the wooden floorboard had fallen out due to shrinkage and this had left
a small circular hole, little more than the diameter of a cue butt. The hole was covered by
linoleum from above, but this had partially worn through around the edges, creating the effect of
a spring-loaded trap door. Bateman had evidently rested his cue on this small area of unsound
flooring, it had passed through without him noticing, and the linoleum had sprung back into
place to present an even floor covering, leaving no trace of the event.