English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : September, 1911

The Billiard Monthly : September, 1911

Questions and Answers

Position in Billiard Playing

68.—”Having studied your notes in The Billiard Monthly I
have now begun the course of lessons prescribed by Mr. Wallace
Ritchie in his book published by you. I find, however, that the
attitude prescribed by Mr. Ritchie is difficult, if not impossible,
to adopt in one particular, that is, to bend the left knee and
lower the body at the hips, so as to bring the chin down over
the cue and at the same time to keep the right leg unbent and
the right foot about 12 inches only behind the left foot. To keep
the right leg unbent, I find it necessary to stretch it out 2 feet
or more behind the left foot, which is surely an ungainly attitude
and occupies a good deal of space. I am within the limit of
height mentioned in the book, viz., about 5ft. 8in. or 5ft. gin.
Another point I notice is that if I stretch out my right leg
straight, the weight of one’s body is thrown partly on to the
bridge hand on the table, which seems to make the bridge firm.
Would you kindly forward this letter to Mr. Ritchie and ask him
if he can give me any help in my difficulty?”

We have done
so, and have been kindly favoured by Mr. Ritchie with the following
reply:—”If your correspondent will examine the illustration
contained in the book—the one giving a full-length view
of the player—he will see that it is quite possible and not at all
difficult for the attitude I recommend—and which is undoubtedly
the correct one—to be adopted. Here the feet are perhaps a
little more than 12 inches apart, but not much, but it must be
remembered that this distance is between the heels and not from
toe to toe. Of course, by keeping the right leg straight, this
throws the main weight of the body on to the left side, but this
is as it should be, as it thus leaves the right arm perfectly
free to make the stroke. This also, as your correspondent says,
tends to make the bridge firm, which is one of the most important
essentials.”

Concerning Screw-Backs

69.—”I wish to thank you for your answer re screw-back in
The Billiard Monthly. I have been trying for months to do it,
everyone whom I asked telling me a different way. Now that
you have explained it, it seems so simple. I do not mean to say
that I am certain of the shot, but do it fairly well for the little
practice I have had. Again thanking you and wishing The
Billiard Monthly every success.”

We are very glad. Few
strokes give greater pleasure to either striker or spectator than
well-executed screws. We may add one or two points to our
previous answer: (1) The cue point should traverse an equal
distance on each side of the ball. (2) The force should always
be on the gentle side in practising, and only increased where found
to be absolutely necessary. (3) Substitute fuller contact for force
where position can be maintained thereby. Screw-backs are
really the same as ordinary screws, but with fuller contact.

How to Practise

70.—”What is considered to be the best method of practising
billiards? My own plan is to use the spot and the white alternately
as the cue ball.”

A very good plan this, and one that is
adopted, together with long losing hazard practice, by the best
players when preparing for the season after the summer’s rest.

The all-round practice from positions as they are left by the
balls is excellent for getting the eye in, and the long loser practice
calls for precise aim and strength, combined with freedom.

For learners, however, there is a better way still, and that is to
practise individual strokes until they are mastered once and for
all. The student should make himself able to execute any useful
stroke on the table and should—which is equally important—
feel confident that he can always make it. Watch good players
engaged on a screw or run-through stroke. They will make it
for a certainty and they know that they will make it. They are
certain because they know how it is made and why it is made.

And this sort of confidence comes only out of specialized practice.

When a screw is missed the cue ball has not been struck where
intended, or the aim has been too full or fine, or the strength
too great or little. When a run-through is missed or badly
played the same set of circumstances is present. The essentials
of cue and ball contact and strength must be taken in detail and
mastered both singly and collectively, after which the strokes
can always be played in the same way and with the same result.

Was Billiards an Open Air Game?

71.—”Has billiards ever been played in the open air?”

The game was at one time played on a lawn like modern
croquet. Some authorities consider that, in this form, it was
introduced into Europe from the Orient by the Crusaders. The
ball was rolled or struck with a mallet or cue (with the latter, if
Strutt’s allusion to “inconveniences” is correct) through hoops
or rings. A later form of lawn billiards enjoyed a brief popularity
during the latter half of the nineteenth century. It Was
played on a lawn in the centre of which was a metal ring about
5½ inches in diameter, planted upright in such a manner as to
turn freely on its axis on a level with the ground. The players,
two or more, were provided with implements resembling cues
about 4 feet long and ending in wire loops somewhat smaller in
diameter than the wooden balls, which were of such a size as
barely to pass through the ring.

Ivories and Compositions

72.—”I see that, to an interviewer in Australia, Reece is
reported as saying: ‘Ivories are very much livelier than compositions,
and are lighter. I have carried out tests with a suspended
cue over a table striking composition and ivory balls
with the same force, and found that the ivories travel about three
feet further than the composition balls down the table after
striking the cushion. The difficulty, then, is in a player adapting
himself to the new strength.’ Is there really all this difference?”

We should say not. The aim of the makers of composition
balls is to exactly match ivories in point of weight, and we should
doubt whether composition balls differ from each other and from
ivories more in this respect than ivories, which are sometimes
purposely made too large to allow for turning down and are
sometimes turned down too much. We are quite sure that the
difference in the run of composition and ivory balls after striking
one cushion only cannot possibly be three feet or anything like it,
and think that Reece must have been misunderstood by the interviewer.

A better test than the suspended cue is to allow the balls
to gravitate down a grooved and slightly declined plane.


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