English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : December, 1910

The Billiard Monthly : December, 1910

Things that Matter Concerning Billiards

II. THE DISABILITIES UNDER WHICH AMATEURS LABOUR

Two strangely contradictory attitudes are adopted by
supposed authorities in the billiard world towards amateurs
These are (1) that amateur play is not, and never can
be, comparable with professional play, but (2) that in restrictive
rules that are framed relating to the game
amateurs and professionals are to be treated alike.

Taking these points in their order, we desire first to
inquire: Is it true that amateur play is not, and never can
be, comparable with professional play? There are
amateurs who have made breaks under standard condition’s
amounting to some hundreds of points, and marked in
their compilation by the most scientific, correct, and improved
methods. They have exceeded the 100 off the red
ball alone, and have demonstrated that in regard, at least,
to knowing how to do it, even George Gray can teach
them little.

They have successfully exploited in turn the spot stroke,
nursery cannons, and top-of-the-table play in general, and
have clearly demonstrated that all that they need to bring
them up to the best professional form is the frequent long
match against formidable opponents.

At the same time it may readily be admitted that the
average of amateur play is not of a very high order, and
the enquiry naturally arises how far the existing rules of
billiards are responsible for this state of affairs.

Spot Stroke Abolition

Let us first take the abolition of the spot stroke by way
of illustration. The elder Peall made mammoth breaks
by aid of the spot stroke, upon which he specialized precisely
as Gray is now specializing upon the middle pocket
losing hazard. He practically lived and moved and
breathed for that one stroke alone, as Gray has admittedly
done for his stroke to the tune of several hours daily for
six years past. If Peall had quitted the stroke for a time
the stroke would have largely quitted him, and the same
may be said of Gray with regard to his present speciality.

What we are now saying is easily demonstrable of proof.

A year or two ago Peall and Dawson—the old spot
stroke antagonists—met at Soho Square with a spot stroke
limit, which was comparatively seldom needed. Peall was
found to have lost much of his old spot stroke touch and
direction, and was at least never in danger of wearying
his audiences with it. Therefore the spot stroke—as with
any highly-specialized stroke—may be said to be largely a
one-man stroke rather than a “one stroke.”

But what happened with the spot stroke? Instead of
allowing the stroke as an exhibition factor to kill itself, as
it would indubitably have done, the Billiard Association
stepped in and barred it, alike from professional and—hear
this, ye heavens!—from amateur play. In our deliberate
judgment the spot stroke ought never to have been barred,
and ought to be reinstated. For this opinion—which may
be regarded in some quarters as a rather startling one—
we will proceed to give our reasons.

An Educative Stroke

The spot stroke is not only an extremely technical and
difficult stroke, only to be compassed with a great amount
of perseverance and intelligence, but it is a conspicuously
instructive one. Apart from forming the basis of top-of-the-table play—which is only, after all, a clever and beautiful
evasion and development of the spot stroke—it is the
whole science of potting (in pool and pyramids, not less
than in billiards) written small.

Those wiseacres who in their day belittled the Peall
stroke were on the same level of perspicacity and knowledge
as the people who at the present moment are seeking
to belittle the Gray stroke. To both sets the wonderful
break efforts appealed, or are appealing, as a “one
stroke” performance.

The red ball potting play may involve, as it does, the
perfectly regulated draw-back, the running side follow
through and round, the stab cushion stroke, the stun follow
through, and the fine bring back with side, whilst the
red ball in-off play may require, as it does, the plain half ball
stroke, the half run through, the gentle fine in-off, the
quick quarter ball in-off, the long loser with position regained
off three cushions, and the raking top pocket forcer.

But to critics of this class it is all “one stroke.”

Value of Specialization

What is now happening in regard to red ball losing
hazard play, and what has happened with regard to red
ball potting play? Thousands of amateurs are practising
accurate losing hazard striking as they have never practised
it before, but as regards the necessary positioning in
top-of-the-table work—which the maintenance of the spot
stroke would have taught them—they are for the most part
hopelessly at sea.

If the spot stroke were restored forthwith, or a certain
reasonable number of spot strokes allowed, there would,
we are convinced, be no danger whatever of its being
overdone, just as there is no danger of the red losing
hazards being overdone. If Inman chose to get the white
out of the way and score long red ball in-off sequences as
a regular thing, he could do so. He has, indeed, freely
used this prolific scoring factor, which he has cultivated
more than any other English player—whilst climbing the
billiard ladder and as a weapon in reserve for bad days and
against very formidable opponents, but he has now outlived
the expedient. In the same way, if the spot stroke
were reinstated, it would, from time to time, be employed,
and would interest the public if not overdone, but neither
the losing hazard nor the pot is nearly so rapid a method
of obtaining points as the winner-cannon movement at the

head of the table, and would from all points of view be
relegated to a subordinate place by the best players.

Two Great Disabilities

The two great disabilities under which amateurs rest
are, we suggest, the practical illegality of the extremely
instructive and essentially important spot stroke (which,
even under the Billiards Control Club rules, can
only be introduced by mutual arrangement) and the
absence of facilities for the playing of long matches in
public. There may also be a social question, of which we
need not speak. But so long as amateurs, who play in
public, even for a charity, where money is taken at the
doors, are classed by billiard rules as professionals, there
is little likelihood of their obtaining that practice and experience
in real, strenuous conflicts, which are essential
if they, in considerable numbers, as well as in individual
instances here and there, are to become, “comparable with
professionals.”

Gray and the Front Rank Professionals

The following letter recently appeared in the press:—
Referring to the correspondence and articles which have
appeared recently in the press relative to a match between
the champion, Stevenson, and George Gray, the Australian
player, we beg to emphatically state that we waive all
financial considerations with regard thereto.

From an imperial, sporting, and hospitable point of view,
we are particularly anxious that these two celebrated exponents
should meet, and, therefore, provided satisfactory
arrangements can be made for the said event to take place,
we have much pleasure in consenting to release the champion
from his engagements with us for the fortnight commencing
March 6 next, subject to the permission of owe or
two clients who have already secured his services during
the period mentioned.—We remain, yours faithfully,
(For Burroughes & Watts, Ltd.)
John R. Abbot, Director.

[The only question is, of course, whether Stevenson considers
that a £200 fee, and another £250 if he wins, is
quite good enough.— Ed. B.M.]


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