Gentle Screw and Slow Side
Apart from the plain central ball stroke probably no
greater aids to all-round break-making present themselves
in billiards then the gentle screw and the slow stroke with
side. It is only the advanced player who realizes the
amount of cue ball deflection that is to; be gained in this
A gentle screw is essentially a position stroke and it can
be played with such sensitive regard to strength and angle
that the desired grouping and positioning can be obtained
almost as though the ball or balls were taken up by the
hand and re-deposited where desired.
To a player accustomed to apply this sort of treatment
the spectacle afforded by anyone who slogs at a near cannon
or pocket, substituting stun and force for low and
gentle cueing is almost as painful as the spectacle of a man
who is seen beating a tiny child. Somehow, the majority
of everyday amateurs seem to have got hold of the idea
that screwing and force are practically inseparable, whereas
screwing, in its true genius, is a substitute for force.
Let a very familiar example be here given. The striker’s
ball is in hand, the red ball is on the billiard
spot, and the opponent’s ball is an inch or two
above the baulk line a few inches wide of an end
spot of the D. To ensure perfect position there is
nothing to be done beyond making gentle contact at a point
which will guide the white to the middle pocket position
and the cue ball into the corner baulk pocket. Obviously
the nearer the cue ball is placed to the object ball the
simpler and surer must be the stroke and the better the
resultant position. Yet many players would elect to place
their ball a couple of feet away and substitute mere force
with problematical score or leave for the gentle screw
that could hardly go wrong.
Or all three balls might be in the neighbourhood of the
billiard spot, with the cue ball badly placed for such Docket
or cannon play as would be likely to assist in a break.
With or without the assistance of a cushion a gentle screw
might here be managed in such a way as to make contact
almost fractionally exact on both the object balls and leave
them precisely where required and the cue ball itself in a
To the ball-flogger, this nicety of treatment does not
appeal. A dozen or two of yards have to be traversed by
that unhappy triplet of balls before they come to rest and
if the cue ball and the red should, at the end of it all, be
found beneath cushions and the white in some other safe
position, the striker, as likely as not, may throw up his
head in disgustwith the balls, of course.
Much of the same class of remark will apply to slow side
strokes as substitutes for forcing strokes. There are
numerous familiar and frequent positionings of the balls in
which an up-table slow stroke with side simply cannot go
wrong, if the rule of aiming fuller or finer than ordinary
to allow for nap divergence be observed. Two common
examples may suffice. The red is on the spot and the cue
ball on the lower instead of upper shoulder of the middle
pocket. Many strikers play the forcer for anything and
everything beyond the natural angle, just as they aim fine
for anything and everything within it. The result of forcing
a stroke from the middle pocket to the billiard pocket
may be all right, or, if badly played, it may be all wrong.
It may leave an in-off into either of the top or either of
the middle pockets according to the contact or strength or
both. Or it may leave the red well above the pyramid spot
or even beneath the top cushion. It is difficult to make it
go so far wrong, because, the pathway of the red being over
the central spots, there is a margin for strength all the way
between a point two feet out of baulk and the pyramid spot.
Nevertheless, when all is said, a ball heavily struck travels
quickly and even a liberal safety zone may soon be passed.
Now let us examine the claims of the slow side stroke.
Aim is taken nearly full on the red, a gentle stroke is
played, and the red is brought down almost at absolute
will to any convenient point above or below the dead centre
of the table.
The other example that occurs to mind is the drop
cushion cannon for gaining a top of table gathering of the
balls when the cue ball is in hand and the object and cannon
balls are in a line half-way down a side cushion a couple
of feet apart and a few inches away from the cushion. This
is a slow check side stroke and the edge of the object ball
is aimed at in order that the contact may be a three-quarter
run-through. No one has yet enjoyed billiards to the
full who has not felt that sensation of satisfaction and completeness
which never quite forsakes even the seasoned
playerwhich is occasioned by the gentle advance of the cue
ball from baulk, by its firm shouldering-off of the object
ball, by its pretty dart forward after contact with the
cushion, and by its plump, driving impact upon the cannon
ball, which now, with itself, takes an unerring bee-line in
the good direction towards which the object ball has already
led the way.