English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : April, 1911

The Billiard Monthly : April, 1911

The Old Master and the Boy

Having seen the Youthful Phenomenon (and grown very
tired) I went to refresh my eyes and recapture my youth
by a sight of the Old Master, who had just returned to
London. It was worth doing, for age has not withered
his infinite variety. He is still the most alluring and commanding
personality that ivory has ever called forth to subjugate
it. He is still the one and only John Roberts.

The younger men keep you waiting: they rarely enter the
room until two or more minutes past the hour. The Old
Master, eager for his art, is there a minute before the
time. He bows and settles to work at once, resuming the
weaving of his subtle yet simple pattern of cannons, winners
and losers, with an assurance and rapidity that seem
almost magic, and lull the eye into a fascinated dream. He
never, or almost never, hesitates, but when he does you
know that something peculiarly worth watching will result.

When he breaks down he is visibly chagrined; none of the
dull apathy of the ordinary exhibition player is his. I like
that. I fancy that he was not always given thus to express
his feelings. Perhaps he is keener as his wonderful day
draws nearer the close. I have seen all the best players this
season, again and again (such is the hold that billiards can
exert), and John Roberts is, to my mind, not only the best,
but by far the most entertaining. I do not except Stevenson,
who is, of course, the only other Olympian. It is
possible that in a long match Stevenson might beat him;
youth would perhaps tell, and Roberts has become too disdainful
of caution (a golden fault of which Stevenson is
also honourably guilty); but, whatever the final aggregate,
Roberts would en route perform the more remarkable feats
and make the more remarkable recoveries and give the
greater pleasure.

He and Stevenson alone have genius; the rest are sufficiently
gifted to strike despair as well as admiration into
one’s soul; but Roberts is a planet and Stevenson his nearest
star. And both play the open game careless of self-protection,
and both believe in what is fast becoming, I grieve
to say, the old heresy of three balls. That is why a match
between Roberts and Stevenson is the one spectacle that
all enthusiastic amateurs of billiards should really desire,
above any meeting between Stevenson and Gray—not
necessarily for a heavy prize, but merely for the joy of the
thing.

A correspondent of The Observer

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