English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Amateur Billiard Player : Spring 2003

The Amateur Billiard Player : Spring 2003


Grand Exhibition by Russell

Mike Russell achieved his ambition of making a public thousand break
while playing in an exhibition game on Wednesday 26th March at the
West Belfast Social Club. Russell had taken a two-night exhibition tour
of Belfast at short notice, immediately in advance of his departure to
Malta for the World Championship.

The achievement was made on the second night of his visit in a game
against Sammy Currie. Russell having broken off, made scoring visits of
2 and 105 before embarking on the marathon break which lasted just
over an hour. Losing position at 960, he managed to regain control but
was compelled to complete the thousand by potting his opponent’s
white and then a pot red. He discontinued the break as soon as the
milestone had been reached, the score standing at Russell 1,107, Currie
7. “We were all rooting for him to get there” said Currie “It was a
mixture of terrific relief and tremendous excitement when he reached the
incredible milestone”.

This is the first thousand break to be seen in public since September
1992 when Geet Sethi made 1,276 in the World Professional
Championship which was held in Bombay. This, like Russell’s break,
was also made under the current “two-pot” rule. That effort had the
reward of seeing the “baulk-line crossing” re-introduced for professional
matches which has made sure that the feat has not been repeated in
tournament play. During his exhibition, Russell did not apply this
restriction and so the rules in force were directly comparable to those
when Sethi made his break.

Other players to have made a thousand break in a witnessed match in
modern times are Leslie Driffield who achieved the feat on three
occasions 1,011 (3rd January 1967), 1,014 (10th May 1966) and 1,013
(January 1965). All of these breaks were made at Smith & Nelson’s
Rooms in Leeds where he practised regularly, but it should be
remembered that 15-pots were allowable from the spot at that time.

Jack Karnehm also claimed a 1,128 on 6th March 1968, again under the
15-pot rule, although this was in a practice game on the table at his
home, so cannot be ranked with the others. When the rules were changed
to allow only 5-pots from the spot, Michael Ferreira created a record
by making 1,149 in the 1979 Indian Amateur Billiards Championship.

Apart from these achievements we must go back to pre-war times to
find anything comparable, and it would seem certain to be the highest
break seen in Northern Ireland since Walter Lindrum set the province’s
record with 1,531 made in Belfast on 29th March 1930!

Based on this performance, Russell has done no damage to his earning
capacity on the exhibition circuit and should be certain of many more
bookings once the news becomes more widely known. At a time when
returns from the professional tour are looking decidedly bleak, that
could be a blessing indeed.

Funding crisis

The same day that Russell collected the World Championship trophy
he also received a letter from the WPBSA (perhaps aptly dated 1st
April—All-Fools Day) informing him that professional billiards would
receive no more funding from them next season. This being the time
that annual £100 subscriptions were to be collected, forms for remittance
of these were also enclosed, together with a resignation form in case he
would prefer this option. The same letter was sent to all billiards
members of the Association.

Unfortunately this was not an April Fool joke, and although hardly
unexpected, there was naturally some bitterness from the players that
the WPBSA should have terminated their stewardship of the game so
abruptly, giving little chance for the professionals to continue under
their own steam. Mike Russell was particularly outspoken at what he
considered was “mismanagement” by the Governing Body which
prevented the players from establishing a source of external funding
three years ago. In a letter to The Amateur Billiard Player, he said, “We
were offered a 3 year contract with the Indian television company Zee
TV. They sent over a draft contract to WPBSA (Bristol) offering to
sponsor the World Billiards Championship at £50,000 per year. This
was a very good offer and it would also have been an excellent
opportunity for us to reach a huge audience on the Indian sub-continent,
with a premier television channel, watched by millions. The reason this
never happened was that WPBSA ignored the contract proposal. The
contract actually lay on the desk in Bristol for 3 months unanswered,
by which time Zee TV became disillusioned and withdrew their offer.

That offer would have given billiards a lifeline, and the chance to become
self-sufficient, instead of which we are now in this complete debacle.”

Although the WPBSA letter stated that “negotiations are currently
taking place concerning the future of professional billiards for 2003/4
and beyond” it seems clear that without external sponsors, a worldwide
professional circuit has no prospects of being revived in the
foreseeable future. One thing is certain, if Mike Russell and other top
players do take the option to resign then a WPBSA “World
Championship” will have little credibility for any potential sponsor.

Russell of Arabia

Immediately after his victory in Malta, Mike Russell left for Saudi
Arabia to take up a three month appointment as coach for the Billiards
& Snooker Committee, helping their national squad as well as some of
the better players in the country. “There is some real talent here” said
Russell shortly after his arrival “At the moment I am just concentrating
on trying to improve their techniques and their general attitude towards
the game.” The next objective will be to achieve some success in the
Gulf tournament in which the Saudi team are likely to find themselves
in competition with players from Qatar, who are coached by Peter
Gilchrist! Could the Arabian Gulf become the new “Teesside” of World

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