English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : October, 1911

The Billiard Monthly : October, 1911

Lessons from George Gray’s Play

Having now got used to bonzoline balls, George Gray is
scoring his hundreds as usual, and in visiting London prior
to his provincial tours (which will carry him into December)
he has administered a severe defeat to Cook, although
the latter received 6,000 in 18,000.

How does Gray do it? That is a question that would
seem to be worthy of consideration by billiard students,
and we think it is possible to show that Gray’s methods are
marked throughout by the greatest simplicity.

In the first place, the principle of controlling one ball
instead of three, sweeps away a whole host of difficulties
and complications. In the second place, the almost invariable
use of the plain central stroke in lieu of side,
screw, and other uncertainties, makes equally for simplicity.

In the third place, Gray has drilled himself into
a stance and cue delivery which are mechanically and
scientifically correct. He creates no difficulties and takes
no unnecessary risks.

An Old Billiard Maxim

That his expositions of red ball scoring possibilities have
done good to British billiards can hardly be doubted. These
expositions have served to accentuate the value of the old
billiard maxim: “Don’t disturb two balls by a cannon when
you can both score and maintain position by means of
pocket play.” The only real difference between Gray’s red
ball play and that of the amateur or professional who
freely uses the remunerative red ball, is that Gray prefers
to exile the white altogether, whereas the other keeps his
eye upon it and means presently to bring it into play again.

The professional pots the red from play and then, when
it has been again potted, does not turn next to the cannon
because he loves it, but because the rules say that he must.

Sometimes he would like to make a few more off the red
without an intervening cannon, and in the same way the
amateur appreciates the value of a nice little sequence of
middle pocket losers, merely as a scoring force, although
an intervening cannon may most of the time be available.

Let us now consider, for the benefit of those amateurs
who are not already acquainted with the principles that
govern losing hazard play and object ball control, the chief
points that have to be considered by the player who desires
to make a losing hazard sequence from baulk.

It is assumed that the player can recognise at a glance
the grazing ball, half-ball, quarter-ball, and three-quarter ball
angles, and also the four intermediate angles that
require a thicker aim. It is also assumed that he is aware
that, if he strikes the cue ball high he can always make a
losing hazard when the object ball is at a narrower angle
than right angle either by fine or thick contact, and that
the aim for the thick contact is always the same distance
inside the edge of the object ball that the aim for the fine
contact is outside of it.

Knowledge Begets Confidence

Full recognition of this principle at the outset enormously
simplifies the losing hazard game, because, after a short
time, the player has no hesitation whatever in running
through the object ball, no matter how obtuse the angle
may be. He knows that for a quarter-ball contact he
would aim half-an-inch outside the edge, but that this
would cut the object ball instead of driving it. Therefore
he at once aims half-an-inch inside the edge instead, gains
the pocket, and drives the object ball where he desired it
to go.

Or there may be an easy half-ball shot on from baulk
into the middle pocket and the temptation is to make it.

But a glance through the object ball at the half-ball contact
point half-an-inch within its edge shows that the halfball
stroke would land the object ball under the top side
cushion on the opposite side of the table. So the half-ball
contact point is made the point of aim instead of contact
and the object ball comes nicely back down the middle of
the table.

To any player who has a full-sized table of his own, and
who is uncertain about object ball control when playing
into the middle pocket, we should recommend the following
plan:—Make a chalk mark, two feet from the baulk line
in the centre of the table, and dot thence a line to within
fifteen or sixteen inches of the centre of each middle
pocket. Place the red ball on either of these lines at any
point and spot in baulk for the half-ball angle. Now play
with a little top and a nice free stroke and the red ball
should return to the line from the top cushion, keeping
parallel with the side cushion all the time.

Variations from Half-Ball

Too much practice cannot possibly be given to this stroke
and nothing else should be attempted until it is mastered.

The play should not at this stage be continued by means of
other strokes into the middle pockets, although such might
be left on. The great thing is to get perfect ball direction
and strength for the only half-ball stroke from baulk that
brings the object ball straight back from the top cushion and
to be able henceforth to execute this basic stroke with
entire confidence and success.

Although George Gray plays this half-ball stroke, especially
up and down the centre of the table, with such exactitude
that it comes to rest, scores of times in succession, within a
fraction of the two feet from baulk—his chief uncertainty
being whether it will be a trifle to left or right, and whether
the right or left middle pocket will be used—it is not to be
expected that an ordinary amateur will often, in a game, be
able to preserve this almost microscopical accuracy. Let
us suppose, then, that the ball comes to rest a trifle above
or below the dotted chalk lines. What is now the best
course to pursue? The answer is that, when the object ball
is a little above the line it must either be played on finer than
half-ball, smartly, to cut it towards the centre of the top
cushion and so back, or more fully in order to drive it first
on to the top side cushion and thence towards the centre
of the table. When, on the contrary, the object ball comes
below the dotted line it must either be played on more fully
than half-ball to drive it towards the top cushion and back
towards the centre of the table, or more finely and gently to
recover central table play without any cushion being struck
at all.

Making Good Faulty Strokes

There is one other stroke that is played with side, and, so
far as our observation has gone, it is the only stroke on
which George Gray uses side in playing into an open
pocket. This is when the object ball is a trifle above the
dotted chalk line near the centre of the table and position
is to be regained from off the top cushion. The angle then
is rather wider than right angle, but the side, when thick
half-ball aim is taken, pulls the ball towards the pocket
both before and after contact, and brings the red down
the table from the top cushion in a straight line. This is
the limit at which middle pocket play should be attempted
when there is also an alternative plain-ball loser on into a
top corner pocket, and it is, indeed, a moot point whether
this side stroke, even in its most favourable form, might
not be discarded in favour of the top pocket loser. One
other departure from ordinary plain cueing into an open
pocket is when the object ball is within a foot or so of a
middle pocket and perhaps a little above it, when the best
game is to spot wide for a screw (without side) and so
drive the object ball on to the top cushion and in and out
of baulk into the easy scoring zone once more.

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