The Real Simplicity of Ball Control
No break can be made at will in billiards without ball
control, by which is meant the striking of the cue ball in
such a way that when an in-off is scored the object ball is
guided to a desired location; when a pot is scored the cue
ball is similarly guided; and when a cannon is made two,
and sometimes all three, of the balls are left in such a position
that a further score to follow with is practically certain.
There are, roughly speaking, two classes of billiard
playersshot players and sequence players. The former
may, on some happy, far-separated occasions, string
together a break of thirty, or even forty. On other occasions
they may go to the table twenty times to score as
many points. Such players may have certain correct
notions, which help them when they make their so-called
breaks, but, so long as they consider the making of the
immediate shot the chief thing to be really concerned about,
any favourable positions that may result from successive
strokes can only be classed as fortuitous happenings.
With the sequence player it is different. Before deciding
to play an easy shot by means of the half-ball contact, he
glances at the point towards which such contact would
drive the object ball. Perhaps he then finds that the halfball
contact is all right, but that the strength must be above
medium, or slow. He may have to drive the object ball in
and out of baulk or play so gently upon it that it does not
enter baulk and remains favourably placed.
Or his glance may show him that the intended half-ball
contact would drive the white into a pocket, or the ball
against the shoulder of a pocket or under a cushion, or lead
to a kissing of the balls or the loss of one (or perhaps two)
in baulk. He consequently takes the object ball finer, or
fuller, than half-ball, applying the necessary compensation
of side, screw, or stun, and has the satisfactionknown
only to the sequence playerof seeing the threatened danger
averted and the way nicely cleared for a further score.
There is one point here that should be emphasized.
Players who shirk distant pockets when an easy cannon is
on fail to realize bow enormously more exacting is position
cannon play than position pocket play. It is not merely a
question of missing or hitting a ball, or of missing or entering
a pocket. The question that the cannon position player
has to ask himself is: “On which sides must the cue ball
strike both object and cannon ball and what must be the
degree and force of the contacts”.
In position pocket play it is very often as easy to play
the right game as the wrong, but in position cannon play
the case is different. But even so the billiard student who
desires to play the correct game right through need not
despair, and the practice of a few simple specimen positions
may impart to him the confidence that will lead him insensibly
on to higher flights.
For example: The cue ball is in hand and the two object
balls are fifteen inches apart in the middle of the right hand
half of the table above the middle pocket, in easy half-ball
cannon position, These two balls may now be guided
respectively towards the spot and pocket, with the cue ball
following them, by the simple expedient of shifting the cue
ball an inch wider than half-ball so as to catch both object
balls on their inner sides.
Or the cue ball might be in hand with an easy near halfball
cannon leading up to a middle pocket. But the halfball
contact would mean leaving the cue ball between the
other two, a thing which must always be avoided in cannon
play. So the cue ball is spotted for the quarter ball angle
instead of the half-ball, and a three-quarter contact is
aimed for, the result being that the two object balls are
gently driven in front of the cue ball.
It is nearly always better to drive the two object balls in
front of the cue ball by means of fuller than half-ball
stroke, but there occasionally happens a case in which the
cue ball can just squeeze through both balls, grazing the
first and moving the second and so still leaving for itself a
commanding position. But such instances are comparatively
Many other simple instances of playing for position in
billiards as distinguished from mere shot playing might be
usefully given. The object ball is, say, fifteen inches away
from a middle pocket on a diagonal line drawn from
such pocket across the table to the end of the baulk line.
This is an easy half-ball shot from baulk, but if, when
the cue ball has been spotted for the half-ball stroke a
glance be taken through its centre to the point of contact
on the object ball, namely, half-an-inch fuller than the edge,
and if the glance be carried from this point through the
object ball and beyond, it will at once be seen that the
intended half-ball shot at ordinary strength would cut the
object ball across the table, instead of up and down it and
probably leave it under the opposite side cushion.
The remedy is obvious. The spotting must be altered to
quarter-ball and the contact must be three-quarter instead of
half-ball By this means the object ball is guided up and
down the table and with proper strength another middle
pocket in-off is left on. Or, let us suppose that the object
ball is again 15 inches from the middle pocket on an imaginary
line drawn from such pocket across the table to midway
between the baulk line and the other middle pocket.
In this case the same quarter-ball spotting must be adopted
but the aim, instead of being half-an-inch fuller than halfball,
must be half-an-inch finer. This cuts the object ball
towards the top cushion and back down the middle of the
table or thereabouts, instead of landing it in the top corner
pocket or on one of the shoulders of the same.