English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : March, 1912

The Billiard Monthly : March, 1912

Things That Matter in Billiards


There can hardly be another pastime around which so
many anomalies circle as the game of billiards, and in the
interests of that game it would seem to be desirable that
there should be, as time goes on, a certain consolidation of
both official and manufacturing interests. There is at present
a confliction of control of the game from without by the two
rival governing associations and there is a conflicting practice
of the game itself by reason of the differences that arise
from the use of balls possessing anything but equal properties.

Ivory, bonzoline, and crystalate balls are all good,
but they are quite different and as puzzling to take on in
succession as leather succeeded by rubber or vice versa
would be at cricket.

In billiards the case is really worse than it would be in
cricket or than it is in golf, although just now the cry for a
standard golf ball is general. For what actually happens
at billiards. The game is one in which the player, to do
any good, has to regulate contact by sixteenths of an inch
and strength by ounces, but the contact and strength that
are good for ivory, are not good for crystalate, and crystalate
in its turn has to be differently dealt with from bonzoline.

If, in the fulness of time and experience, there could be such
a fusion of interests in the billiard-ball-making world that
players would always have a known and similar “quantity”
to deal with, it would, in our opinion, be an extremely
happy state of affairs alike for amateur and professional

Just how difficult and disconcerting the changing from
one class of ball to another must of necessity be may never
be known, and at the present moment the opinion of experts
upon the subject vary strangely. Thus in the course
of the evidence given during the recent action of Roberts
v. Gray, the veteran ex-champion expressed the opinion
that “a man like Gray” could pass from crystalate to bonzoline
without appreciable inconvenience, or from crystalate
to ivories within fourteen days, whereas the present champion
(H. W. Stevenson) gave four or five months as the
period that would be required by Gray to play himself into
the bonzoline game after a prolonged use of crystalates.

For ourselves, we should have felt inclined to go farther
than Roberts’s verdict, but to have halted short of that of
Stevenson, if it were not for the fact, patent to all, that Gray
is not playing this season with bonzolines anything like the
game that he did last season with crystalates. There is
clearly something that he cannot even yet get hold of, and
his father, when in the witness box, freely stated that he
was now, after several months’ play, only beginning to feel
“at home” with the changed playing medium.

As we have already indicated, the ideal ending of what is
a very real difficulty in, and hindrance to, the game, would
be the universal adoption of a standard ball, just as there
ought to be universally standard pockets, cushions, and
cloths, if the game is ever to be in actual practice what it
is per se—an exact science. There are in most outdoor
sports and pastimes what may be termed weather hindrances
and variations, such as wind currents and soft and
hard ground, and these have to be taken into account and
allowed for in golf, cricket, and other ball games. In billiards
the only weather condition that has to be reckoned
with in rooms maintained at a proper temperature is the
damp, and a little extra ironing of the cloth and preliminary
testing for strength with a ball catapult or inclined groove
soon puts matters right in this regard as sensitively as can
be required.

However, the time for complete standardizing is evidently
not yet, and in the meantime it may be found interesting by
some of our readers if we record in The Billiard Monthly,
so far as the ball portion of the problem is concerned, the
result of an exhaustive series, of tests with the four makes
of balls that were recently carried out by the present writer
in conjunction with a leading professional billiard expert. It
may at once be said that those tests revealed clearly the fact
that bonzoline balls are less elastic than crystalates, that crystalates
are less elastic than hard (or African) ivory balls,
and that soft (or “Indian”) ivory balls are the most elastic
of all.

The test was first made with a soft ivory ball on a baulk
corner spot and the red in the longitudinal centre of the table
23½ inches above the middle spot of the D. This is what
may be termed the normal half-ball angle A centrally-delivered
half-ball stroke with soft ivory found the middle pocket
and brought the object ball back down the exact central
line of the table Afterwards hard ivory, crystalate, and
bonzoline balls were successively used, and the cue ball was
shifted each time half-an-inch nearer the centre spot of the
D, and with the same class of stroke the centre of the pocket
was found each time. An equally progressive change
was, however, noticed in the course taken by the object ball,
which naturally worked more and more from the central
line. The way to correct this is, of course, to reduce the
cue ball allowance for the throw-off—say, by one-half in
each case—and to aim proportionately fuller at the object
ball, perhaps with higher cueing In this way it is possible
to find the middle pocket each time, and with balls of varying
density, whilst still controlling with exactness the run
of the object ball.

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