English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : May, 1912

The Billiard Monthly : May, 1912

Billiards with Three-Inch Pockets

Roberts and Inman to Meet for £200 a-side

Profound interest will doubtless be taken by billiard lovers
in the match of 15,000 up for £200 a-side with three-inch
pockets between an old and new champion (John Roberts
and Melbourne Inman) in the Old Hall of the Royal Academy
of Music, Tenterden Street, Hanover Square, W.,
commencing on May 13. This narrowing of the pockets
makes great calls for accuracy on the part of the player and
exhibits the game in its most scientific aspect. Roberts
has always been noted for getting the plumb centre of a
pocket with his hazards and Inman is also a very clean
hazard striker and extremely painstaking and accurate in
his aim. As a close cannon player he is not the equal of
Roberts, who, under the” tight “conditions may find runs
of nursery cannons useful, but he has abundant resource
in other ways and the match, from start to finish, should
prove a most interesting one.

It is well over forty-two years since another historical
match between the passing and coming generation of professional
billiardists was played under similar pocket conditions,
and on that occasion (Feb. 11, 1870), the father of
the present John Roberts, then aged 55, was beaten by 171
points in a championship match of 1,200 up by his pupil,
W. Cook, who was then barely 21 years of age.

Describing this match (which was witnessed by the late
King Edward, then Prince of Wales) in The Sporting
Magazine, Major Broadfoot (who is still happily with us)
wrote:—

For the last five or six years the champion has made
no very long break nor any great number of successive
“spots,” whilst his son, Joseph Bennett and Cook, especially
the last-named, have frequently put together a very big
score off the balls. People at last began to realize the idea
that the title of “second best player in England” would
not long satisfy one or two of the colts, and were not altogether
surprised when Cook challenged his old master for
£500 a-side. Roberts took a long time to reply to this
cartel, and it was believed that another walk-over would
take place—for as yet there had never been a match for the
championship; but at length he made up his mind for one
effort to retain his place, and they agreed to play on February
11th. Prior to that day a meeting of the leading professionals
was held. Rules were drawn up for future contests—
and some important alterations were made in the
construction of the tables to be used in matches for the
championship, with what result we shall presently see.

Just before eight o’clock the spectators settled down into
their places and the scene was a truly remarkable one. The
table, which looked very small in such a huge hall, was of
course placed in the centre and about three yards from it,
a cordon was formed by a scarlet rope, so that a” clear
course “was secured for the combatants, even if” no
favour “could not be guaranteed. Outside this rope the
tiers of benches began, and sloped up to the galleries. Every
seat was occupied, and the galleries themselves accommodated
a very large number of spectators, many of whom had
provided themselves with opera glasses, a new concomitant
to a billiard match, but a very necessary one on this occasion.

Shortly after eight o’clock the calls of” time “became
very loud and impatient, and, with a view of creating a
diversion, someone who appeared to have the chief management
of the affair began to weigh the balls. He spun out
his operation in very clever fashion, and kept the people
quiet for nearly ten minutes; but at last they grew tired of
seeing him hold up the scales, and remain immovable, apparently
wrapped in astonishment that the balls should
exactly balance each other, and the noise became worse
than ever.

At length the two men appeared, without their coats, and
apparently” eager for the fray. “hey were received with
uproarious applause, which seemed to delight Roberts immensely.

At the beginning of the game caution prevailed, and the
tight pockets puzzled both men.

At 127 Cook made six” spots, “he longest run of the
evening; but the new fashioned table seemed to have quite
destroyed his pet stroke. The red ball required to be played
with the greatest care, or it did not go in, and, owing, we
imagine, to the change in the locality of the spot, it seemed
almost impossible to secure position for the second stroke.

even if the first came off. Both men had several tries
at it; but they could make nothing of their old friend, and
the last half of the match was practically “spot hazard
barred.” The contrast in the style of the two was very
noticeable, Roberts’s being as clumsy and awkward as
Cook’s was pretty and elegant, the latter playing as someone
near us observed, “a very genteel stroke.” The men
were very level at about 450, and then the champion got
in, with Cook’s ball and the red almost touching each
other, and quietly dribbled them down the table, making
six or seven very pretty cannons in succession. He followed
this up with a regular “gallery” stroke, potting the
red at railroad pace, and making a cannon off two or three
cushions, which brought down the house. A break of 22
by Roberts made his score 494 against 495. The announcement
of “517 all” produced great cheering; however,
44 and 49 by Cook soon placed him in front again,
and, as soon as he passed 600, there was a short interval.

The men soon came back, Roberts decorated with a cross,
“wearing it for the last time” was one of Cook’s backers
grimly remarked. A magnificent “all round” 80 took the
young one to 785. The knowledge of strength shown in
this break was truly wonderful, and there was a thin
“loser” in it which even Roberts felt compelled to applaud.

There was soon a gap of a couple of hundred points between
them, and the champion keep looking up mournfully
at the figures at the end of the hall. He never lost heart,
however, and, laying himself down to his work, began to
creep up again. Cook’s score stood still for some little
time, and the old man’s backers got very excited, Roberts
now made 62, his longest break during the game, and two
or three other good runs brought him close to Cook, whom
he passed, the score being called 1,041 to 1,037 in favour of
Roberts; but a 31, finished with a double baulk, placed
Cook well in front again, and when his score stood at
1,133, he made a horribly fluky cannon, and ran right out,
with a succession of the easiest and prettiest strokes we
ever saw, a winner by 117 points.


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