English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : July, 1911

The Billiard Monthly : July, 1911

Things that Matter in Billiards

IX.—CONTROLLING RED BALL PLAY

George Gray has now made his many thousands by going
in off the red just as Peall made his thousands by potting
the red, and, logically viewed, as good a case exists for
barring the one stroke as the other. It is, however, certain
that billiard public opinion would not consent to a restriction
of successive middle-pocket red losers to two and the
question that remains for serious consideration is: Should
any, and if so what, limit be put to losing hazard scoring
off the same ball?

Not red ball play alone is involved in this consideration,
for if winning and losing red hazards were restricted without
the white ball being included there would be nothing
to prevent a Gray, or a Lindrum, from making a session’s
points off the white ball alone.

Let us endeavour, therefore, to inquire whether some one
simple and comprehensive rule might not be evolved which,
whilst eliminating all possibility of monotony from billiards,
would still leave scope for specialization to a reasonable
extent. As the game stands there is a close limit to red
potting strokes and a less restricted limit to ball-to-ball cannons.

There is no limit to losing hazards or to mixed pots
and cannons, otherwise known as top-of-the-table play. The
monotony of the spot stroke led to the invention of the winner-
cannon movement, to which great players such as
Roberts, Mitchell, Dawson, and Stevenson, turned as a
natural development of spot stroke specialization. Good
spot stroke capacity is, indeed, essential to any player who
desires to excel at top-of-the-table play, and it may be suggested
with some confidence that if Peall had not, in his
day, carried the spot stroke to the point of monotony, just
as Gray is now carrying the losing hazard stroke, the top-of-the-table game, with all its consummate beauty and endless
variety would never have been heard of.

In suggesting this, however, we are very far from attributing
the modern top-of-the-table game to the barring of
the spot stroke. The stroke was not, indeed, barred until
after it had ceased to attract or until the winner-cannon
alternative, as perfected by John Roberts, was in free and
fruitful use. It has been ever so, until quite recently, in the
history of billiards. When no professional could be found
willing to publicly specialize on a close potting or a close
cannon stroke and when the public could not be drawn,
even with ropes, to witness such a display, officialdom has
stepped forward, and, with much fuss and circumstance,
enacted superfluous restrictive laws.

What is needed in billiards control is uniformity and consistency
and the two alternative suggestions that we now
desire to make have this prime desideratum in view.

Our first suggestion is that no limit or restriction whatsoever
be placed upon any properly-executed stroke at billiards.
(The “push” is not a stroke, either in billiards
or in any other game played with a stationary ball, and
may be left out of the consideration).

In advocating this
radical step we would point out that the likelihood of professionals
carrying any one stroke to the point of monotony
is as remote as the likelihood of amateurs being able to do
so. Long before George Gray was heard of in the billiard
world Inman had made long runs off the red, but it was
during those years when he was fighting for recognition as
a scorer, and when, acting under good advice, he was
adhering to the open game as a safer points-collecting
medium than close tactics. He now plays the close and
open game almost equally well, and it is as inconceivable
that he would indulge in public in long bouts of the still
legal red losers as that he, or any other professional, would
specialize on the spot stroke if it were revived.

There is an alternative suggestion, and it is the simple
and comprehensive one that not more than twenty-five consecutive
ball to ball cannons or winning or losing hazards
should be made. The present rule as to ball to ball cannons
is that an indirect cannon must intervene to permit of the
renewal of the sequence. Similarly in the case of winning
hazards either a cannon or a losing hazard would suffice
and in the case of losing hazards a cannon, winning hazard,
or losing hazard off another ball.

By this means, instead of the practice of essential billiard
strokes being discouraged by too close restrictions, a direct
incentive to their reasonable cultivation would be provided,
whilst, at the same time, all likelihood of monotony would
be eliminated from the game. Indeed, attractive features
would be added to it, just as already exist in connection
with close cannon and top-of-the-table play. To the
informed billiard spectator nothing is more fraught with
interest and mild excitement that noting how a professional,
at the close of a run of twenty-five direct cannons, invokes
the aid of a cushion or guides the red to potting position,
or, after two successive pots from spot into a top pocket,
wheels the cue ball round to take up position for another
pot or in-off at the centre of the table.

Cannot some professional—John Roberts for preference
—think out a method before the next season opens for
largely utilizing the red losing hazard within certain
restricted limits? We suggest that a 1,000 break is to be
made on these lines with greater certainty than in any break
in which top of the table play predominates. There is,
indeed, already one such method, which was invented by
Mitchell, and is called “the circular break.” Of this style
of scoring Mitchell says that there is no reason why it
should not be kept up until the striker drops beneath the
table from exhaustion. The red is over a middle pocket,
the white is against the cushion above the billiard spot,
and the cue ball is in hand. Red is potted and cue ball
left below spot. Gentle cannon leaves red over top corner
pocket. Pots leave cue ball against top shoulder. Cross in-off
leaves red over middle pocket. Result. Eleven points in
four safe strokes and as much variety as anyone could reasonably
desire.


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