On Spot-Stroke Abolition
The article on “The Disabilities under which Amateurs
Labour,” which appears upon page 1 of this issue of The
Billiard Monthly, was written before Mr. H A. O. Lonsdale’s
letter on spot-stroke abolition appeared in The Evening
News of the 5th inst It will be seen that the views
of The Billiard Monthly are not altogether in accord with
those of the amateur champion, although we agree that two
sets of rulesthe one for amateurs and the other for professionals
are not desirable. Our point is that the spot
stroke should never have been barred, and that it ought to
be reinstated, alike in the professional and the amateur
game. The professional could not make sustained use of
it, except by specializing for years, as Peall did, and would
not if he could, because no one would pay to see it played.
Meanwhile, the amateur would persistently practise it, and
would thereby be learning practically a great deal in
pyramids and pool, and much that there is in billiards, and
especially in top-of-the-table play.
Mr. Lonsdale writes as follows
I disagree entirely with the contention that there is too
much legislation for the amateur billiard player.
The strongest argument I can bring forward to prove
this is the fact that every alteration in the rules, which
are formulated by the leading professionals, has been
adopted and adhered to by quite 99 per cent. of the
average players, whether members of the National
Sports’ Club or the working men’s club.
In what may be termed our national sports, cricket,
football, golf, tennis, bowling, etc., both professionals
and amateurs play under the same rules and conditions.
Why, then, should these rules and conditions be altered
in the game of billiards, which has more practical exponents
than all the other games mentioned put together?
The ambition of every amateur billiard player who
takes an intelligent interest in the game (and without
this interest he will never get above the medium stage)
is to become a budding Roberts, Stevenson, or Gray; but
what chance would he have of becoming either if he
played under conditions very much in his favour as compared
to the professional?
Another argument against hiving professional rules
and amateur rules is the fact that during the last two
to three decades the ordinary amateur’s play has improved
at least forty in one hundred. At any well-known
billiard-room or hall you may daily see some amateur
make his three-figure break, but twenty to thirty years
ago it would have been thought wonderful.
Have our professionals made the same progress? I
think not. With the exception of Inman, I think all
our leading players are not so good as they were four to
five years ago.
The leading amateurs of to-day are quite as good as
the majority of our third-rate professionals, and you can
practically count on your fingers the number of our first
and second-rate players in that class. At this rate of
improvement it is possible that it will not be long before
billiards will be the same as many of our other sports,
and some rising billiard player who has been trained and
made to play the game as we make our children learn
the piano, will, as an amateur, be as good as any professional.
The main points on which we differ from Mr. Lonsdale
are his assumption that because 99 per cent. of amateurs
adopt and adhere to the rules they are, therefore, in favour
of them, and his suggestion that professional play has
declined and amateur play improved since the abolition of
the spot stroke.
The rules are adopted and adhered to by all amateurs
simply because there is nothing else for them to adopt and
adhere to. With regard to the improving or declining
averages of professionals and amateurs, we should say that
the professional average has enormously increased
with the development of the top-of-the-table game, whilst
the general amateur average (always allowing for improvement
in tables and appliances) has remained practically
And we suggest that this is largely due to the respective
knowledge and ignorance by the two classes of the scoring
potentialities that cluster around the spot, and by the
facilities for perfection of game afforded by long matches
to the one, but which are denied to the other.