English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : July, 1912

The Billiard Monthly : July, 1912

Things That Matter in Billiards

XXL—KNOWLEDGE, MATCH-PLAYING, AND TEMPERAMENT

[Extracts from an Article by H. C. Virr (Amateur Champion) in The Daily Telegraph.]

I might mention at the start that I took to the game as a
duckling takes to water. My father kept the Northgate
Hotel, Bradford, and consequently I enjoyed opportunities
of learning and practising billiards from my earliest youth.

At 10 years of age I could play a little, and was regarded
by my own kith and kin as a wonder; but I never fancied
myself sufficiently to enter for the Amateur Championship
until well on the shady side of 30.

When I did venture on that course most of my friends
were convinced that I had taken the plunge too late, “when
my form was rapidly waning,” as they put it. To tell the
truth, I do not think many amateurs will find their best
form at 36 years of age, if they have not found it earlier in
life. An aspirant to championship honours must have confidence
in himself, or he will not stand much of a chance.

I was often advised to enter for the tournament, but do not
altogether regret having delayed my debut until 1904.

Quite apart from actual results, I am certain that success
at the game brings more real satisfaction to the old than to
the youthful player. To enjoy billiards properly you must
have made a study of it, which, of course, only matured
exponents can possibly have done. “Youth will tell,”
people say, but my experience is that it is not always the
case in billiard-playing. One obvious reason is that there
is far more in the game than can be learnt in boyhood. My
own success I attribute to study, even more than to practice.

Being practically self-taught, I had to do something
to improve my game in the days when there was no particular
object in view.

When one becomes amateur champion, however, he never
lacks anything in the shape of good schooling. If he likes,
he can figure in exhibition matches two or three times a
week throughout a season, chiefly at social or political
clubs. He meets good professional talent, too, which does
not affect his amateur status, inasmuch as a club is a private
house so long as no money is taken at the doors. This
is the finest possible training an amateur can desire, and it
did me good service when I was getting ready for the big
events.

George Nelson, the Yorkshire professional ex-champion,
put me through most of my paces, though I met many more
good men, and learnt something from all of them. Once I
was invited to play Stevenson a three-days’ match, but,
much to my disappointment, the Billiard Association vetoed
the arrangement. I do not know how many points I was
to receive from Stevenson, nor how many I expected to
score, but I know that the loss of a valuable billiard lesson
was very annoying. Watching a great player from a seat
in the benches is quite different to actually opposing him,
so far as picking up wrinkles goes. Still, if a man is
endowed with billiard brains he can improve himself greatly
by closely watching the methods of such men as Stevenson,
Roberts, and Diggle.

Summing up my own experiences of billiards, I should
say that proficiency at the game is difficult of attainment
for the average amateur. Few men can spare the time
required for regular practice, and then there is the coaching,
without which little can be done. Position, cueing.

the correct game to play, must all be learnt from some of
the past masters, or the training will be in vain. There is
a right way, as well as a wrong way to play billiards, and
it is an admitted fact that the right way rarely appears to
the untutored intelligence.

There are many amateurs capable of making a hundred
break, but their knowledge of the science of the game is
limited. When the balls run unkindly these players have
a very bad time indeed, and are quite at a loss to understand
it. Century breaks are very nice but when they come
very rarely, they say little for a man’s ability. It is the
average which tells. I mean, of course, average breaks
through a fairly long game.

In the amateur championship tournament an average of
10 would carry a competitor a long way and would make
him a winner in some seasons, though both E. C. Breed
and Major Fleming did much better than that. The figure
looks modest on paper, but it wants a lot of doing on a
standard table and “in the pit,” as many an aspirant has
discovered to his cost. I have averaged as much as 25 in
an exhibition match of 700 up, but this was on an easy, fast
board, with everything going my way. It is astonishing
how the conditions affect one’s form at this greatest of all
games.

Temperament, too, has a lot to do with success or failure
A player who wants to become a champion must have that
kind of temperament which is not disturbed by anything
Then there is a vast difference in tables and implements
generally. It means a big handicap in many cases when
a novel kind of cloth or a different set of balls from what
one is used to has to be played with and I am afraid that
amateurs generally do not receive over-much consideration
in these matters, the idea apparently being that anything
is good enough for them.

Edward Diggle and Cecil Harverson were due at Melbourne
on June 10. They played at the English Club in
Colombo on the way out, and on June 17 they entered upon
a fortnight’s match at Messrs. Heiron and Smith’s hall,
Sydney.

The annual match between Jack Mannock’s head markers
—George, of the Hotel Victoria, and James, of the Bedford
Head Hotel—was decided at the Hotel Victoria
recently. James failed to maintain his form, and was
beaten by 190 in a game of 500 up. The best breaks by the
winner were 40, 30, 27, 24 (twice), and 23, and by James
38, 37, 28, and 26.

It is suggested by a leading billiard critic that Newman
and Smith should each endeavour to correct what is regarded
as a source of weakness in his play. Newman does not
keep his forearm vertical and Smith bends both knees. But
the elder Peall’s forearm, when he made over 3,000 by microscopically
accurate striking, was far out of the vertical, and
both Diggle and Gray bend both knees. Changes from an
ingrained style are sometimes disastrous.


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