Things that Matter in Billiards
V.- STOPPING THE BREAK
In billiards “things are not always what they seem.” It
is quite possible for the better player to lose, and even to be
subjected to extremely hard treatment. Take, for example,
the arbitrary stoppage of a break under the instalment
system. Play may have been going badly against the
better player, but, towards the end of a session in which
time conditions are punctually observed, he may suddenly
find his form and feel capable of doing almost anything.
He is a long way behind his points and is in the middle of
a break with lots of scoring possibilities mentally limned
before him. Presently he will have a nice little run of
close cannons, then some winner-cannon “fives” at the top
of the table, next a spell of middle-pocket red losers, and
so on. Suddenly the referee calls the. scores in conjunction
with the players’ names, and the striker stops disappointed.
He feels certain that he could have added a hundred or two
to that break now, but feels almost equally sure that when
he tries to take up the break “cold” at the next session
he will only be able to keep his opponent off for comparatively
a few strokes.
Or the situation may be reversed. The player is in his
best mood and has rattled up his 750 points in two or three
innings. When he has thus made his quotum for the
session the play stops automatically, although he may be
within a few points of his previous record and within
ten of the first 300 of his life; or he might even feel
like adding another 500 and winning a £100 prize. But
he must stop, and when, some hours later, or next day, he
takes up his cue again, everything seems changed. While
the break was on he had felt like a being transformed.
Every time he struck the cue ball he had several shots
ahead marked out as clearly in his mind as though inscribed
upon a map. He not only thought that he could do all
that he wanted; he knew that he could. Touch perfect,
judgment accurate, nerves cool, and a general sense of bodily
and intellectual fitness.
Re-starting in the evening or next day the position left
upon the table looks a different one altogether, taken in cold
blood. That last stroke had not been a perfect one, but the
player had not been keeping the exact score in mind and
had no idea that he was so close upon his points. Otherwise
he would have made his leaving-off position more
secure. In the heat of the break the next strokesay, a
rather trying slow position shotwould have been executed
to a certainty, but on resuming the proposition appears
risky and the various belongings to it do not group themselves
as is their manner in a break. So the shot may be
missed altogether, or position rendered worse, or safety may
be decided upon.
Assuming that our readers agree with us that there is a
hardship here, the question arises whether a general understanding
could be arrived at in the billiard world that no
game, match, or session is to terminate with an unfinished
break. Objections naturally rise to the mind, and the first,
and principal, of these is that in a long match the whole
contest might be over in a session, or even a day, short of
the scheduled time, whilst in single day matches of two
sessions practically nothing might be left for the evening.
We fully admit these possibilities and they would have to be
reckoned with in any decision that was arrived at on the
But we suggest that such a contingency would only be of
comparatively rare occurrence and that the advantages to be
gained outweigh this anticipated difficulty. For, after all,
is the difficulty an insuperable one, and has it not, or something
very like it, already been successfully dealt with?
In June, 1909, John Roberts played W. Cook 20,000 up,
Cook receiving 8,000. The conditions were that each player
was to score as many points as he could each session in
exactly two hours, and in the middle of the Friday afternoon
of the second week Roberts, having made his 20,000, was
2,380 points ahead. It was decided to go on and the final
scores for 48 hours’ play were: Roberts 23,509 (or an average
of nearly 500 per hour); W. Cook 19,411.
Judging by actual precedent, therefore, there would seem
to be no particular reason why, in professional matches,
a non-interrupted break system with an otherwise strict
time limit should not be adopted, and the play continued, as
it was at Lisle Street, throughout the stipulated number
of sessions. We believe that it was John Roberts himself
who was the originator of the present instalment system,
and it was also John Roberts who, on the occasion referred
to, adopted the time limit and demonstrated its efficacy.
There would, by the way, be a further potential advantage
in connection with a time limit system, allied to the nonstop
break idea. Drawn matches and protracted or extra
sessions would be events unknown, as the match would go
to the best scorer after due handicapping during the time
The Billiard Monthly has already, on more than one
occasion, urged that all games of billiards should be decided
by time, with the reservation that the second player to open
should be the last to strike and be allowed to finish.
We hope to devote our next article under the heading
“Things that matter in billiards” to this suggested reform
and to set forth certain advantages that we think would
arise from the universal adoption of the time system.