English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : November, 1910

The Billiard Monthly : November, 1910

Questions and Answers

Top of Table Play

1.—”I am most anxious to be able to work in a little top-of-the-table play at times, but find two great obstacles. One is that
I sometimes play an entire hundred up without getting to the top
of the table at all, and the other is that whenever I do get there
I am almost certain to lose the red or get the balls into line
within the first few strokes. What is the remedy?”

Top-of-the-table play is subject to the same general rules as ordinary
position play. You must make each stroke with primary reference to the next. The reason why balls do not get lost in pockets,
or run into line, or kiss, or run into baulk, or “safe” with professionals is that their probable run has been surveyed before
hand and each of these contingencies has been provided against.

A professional takes no blind risks, and when he seems to hesitate
it is because the map of the next intended position is before his
eyes and certain dangers are seen to be looming. The open door
to top-of-the-table position is the drop cannon, the ideal position
for which is constantly broken up by amateurs in a way that
makes any careful student of the game shudder. Say that the
red is on the spot and that the white is one-quarter across the
table slightly above the middle with the cue ball in hand. The
thing to do is to make a gentle cannon with contacts that will
place the white behind the spot and the red between the spot
and a corner pocket. First an equal angle is drawn with the
eye from behind the spot to the side cushion and back to the
object ball. If it comes out half an inch inside the edge there is
a half-ball stroke on and all that remains to be done is to play
the stroke so that the right side of the red will be lightly touched.

Even then the pot may not be nicely on, but there may be a
gentle cannon (cushion or direct) to fall back upon and the golden
rule of not attempting to do in one stroke what can be more
simply and safely done in two comes into operation. With the
red safely on the spot, the cue ball a little below at an angle, and
the cannon ball just behind, the alternate cannon-winner (or can
non and two-winners) movement is nicely on, and the principal
points to bear in mind are: (1) to keep the cue ball at an angle
below the spot, with the white behind, and (2) to avoid losing the
red or covering by giving first attention to the direction of the ball
from which danger in either of these two respects might be

Fine Aim on Jennies

2.—”Some players seem to get both short and long jennies every time they play for them and good position to follow. They rarely succeed with me, and even when they do the object ball is, as often as not, left beneath the opposite side cushion. Can
you give me any useful hint in this connection?”

If you are
playing Tor the right top pocket off a ball above the middle pocket you must spot for the half-ball angle and play with plenty of right-hand side and drag. But your aim must be considerably finer than half-ball, as the side works the cue ball at least half an inch to the right and this would result in a run through and probably a kiss. The pace must be extremely gentle if you only want to bring the object ball into the middle of the table. If playing on to a ball below the middle pocket you will aim less
finely, as the cue ball has a shorter distance in which to be influenced by the nap and side, and if you go for the middle pocket you might use side without drag.

Keeping Object to Middle of Table

3.—”A great deal is often written in the various books on billiards about what are called the ‘danger zones’ and the necessity of keeping the object ball away from side cushions, and certain areas well out in the centre of the table are advocated. Nevertheless, in watching match play, I frequently see professionals sending a ball into these forbidden latitudes although they usually have the ability to get them out again. It would seem, therefore, that these so-called ‘danger zones’ are not so greatly to be
avoided as is usually urged?”

You are mixing up two different
matters. In losing hazard play it is essential to keep the object ball nicely in the centre of the table whence a choice of four pockets is available. But for the purposes of position following cannon play a lie that would be unfavourable for a losing hazard may often be the very thing that is required. A professional makes the balls his servants, and he mentally says to one of them: “Go and stop in such and such a place meantime as I shall want you after a stroke or two.”

Break Building Off Red

4.—”What is the theory of break-building off the red? There cannot be anything extraordinarily complicated about it, or the clock-work repetition of which we are now reading so much
would be impossible.”

You are right. The stroke is simplicity
itself so far as theory is concerned, but requires perfected cue delivery and strength. The theory is as follows:-

The red ball being anywhere within the range of ordinary losing hazard play from baulk, the first thought is not how to get in off it, but how to leave it ideally placed for the next shot. Herein, indeed, lies the true secret of all position play. Whenever an in-off is made the first thought should be: Where ought the object ball to be left; and whenever a pot-stroke is made the first thought should be: Where ought the cue ball to be left. Until the mind has been disciplined to this reversal of the usual order of amateur methods, position play is impossible.

Reverting to the red ball practice, the course that the red ball will take after a half-ball contact can be gauged at a glance. It will take the course of an imaginary line drawn through it from a point half an inch from the edge at which aim is taken, and if this line is at such an angle that the return of the ball towards the centre of the table either direct off the top cushion or by way of two or three cushions can be effected by properly-applied strength there is nothing more to think about. Sometimes, however, quarter-ball or three-quarter ball contacts have to be made to secure the desired position, and the course taken by the red ball will then be along an imaginary line drawn through the ball from points a quarter of an inch and three-quarters of an inch respectively from its edge. The beauty of these two contacts – as with all driving and cutting strokes – is that aim taken at the same distance inside and outside the edge of the object ball finds the same pocket – a fact not generally known.

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