English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : October, 1911

The Billiard Monthly : October, 1911

Things that Matter in Billiards


In billiard tournaments the man who has, allowing for
the handicap, scored the most points, is not always
declared the winner. This happens, also, in other games
and apart from sport altogether. It is possible, for example,
for a majority of members to be sent to the House of
Commons while representing an actual minority of the electors
of the kingdom. This could, indeed, hardly be prevented
under the constituency system, but in sport the conditions
are different.

Where single matches of any kind are in question the
necessary arrangements for securing an absolutely fair test
of superiority are simple, and the only unsatisfactory element
is that of pure luck, which must always prevail in a greater
or lesser degree. The better player, in a single short or
long game, may have no luck and score nothing by flukes.

The inferior player may have all the luck and make frequent
flukes. These occurrences, however, are episodal and comparatively
infrequent, and in the great majority of cases the
better player during the match, allowing for the handicap,
wins on the simple test of points.

In tournaments it is different, and this has been especially
noticeable in billiards. First there was the knock-out, than
which nothing could well have been less fair. One defeat,
no matter under what exceptional conditions, and all was
over. Then came the American system—a distinct advance
along both scientific and fair lines, but still unsatisfactory.

Each player might meet each other player and finally one
would be adjudged the winner of most heats. And yet he
might have been beaten by wider margins than he had himself
conquered by. In last year’s Soho Square tournament,
for example, Harverson scored more points than Reece,
whereas Reece won four heats to the two won by Harverson,
and took third place to Harverson’s fourth
Now an effort is to be made in the tournament—as fully
announced on the back page of this issue—to approximate
more nearly to the test of merit according to actual points
scored, whilst at the same time ensuring that the whole of
the heats shall be briskly and keenly contested from start
to finish. Thus the player who reaches his proper proportion
of points on the Wednesday evening in any given week
will be accredited with two points, and the winner of the
heat with three points (or five, if also half-way through on
the Wednesday).

It is true that, under this system, the winner of most heats
may not be declared the winner of the tournament, and it is
even possible that he may not secure the greatest number
of proportional points. But the principle is one that has
been applied with success to county cricket and there is no
reason why it should not prove equally satisfactory when
applied to billiards.

The players themselves are said to be keenly interested
in the change, and one of them is quoted by The Sporting
Life as criticizing the scheme thus:—”There are eight
players in the tournament, and each player will participate in
seven matches. Suppose I, or any player, wins all seven
matches out-right, I may still be beaten in the race for the
top position by three players, A, B, or C, who win only four,
five, and six games respectively, but who in all their matches
reach their points on Wednesday night, whereas I am always
behind at the half-way stage.” There is not (it is added)
enough difference in the award for a win and the award
for the half-way points leader, and it is suggested that a
more equitable arrangement would be for three points to
count for a win and one for the man reaching his points
on Wednesday night, or, alternatively, five for a win and
three for the half-way stage. Otherwise a player, it is
pointed out, might score 26 with four wins and seven midweek
wins, against another player to whom would only be
allotted 21 for seven wins.

We are not greatly impressed by this putting of the case,
and for three main reasons. In the first place the shifting
of the points basis as suggested would tend to make the
game less sustained in its strenuousness considering the
varying class of the players; in the second place the mere
winning of heats apart from the proportional points scored is
not a real or scientific test of excellence; and in the third
place the possibility set forth is so extremely unlikely as
to be practically negligible. For let us consider what would
have to happen before a player winning seven games could
be defeated by one winning four. He would have to meet
seven different players in seven different weeks and be beaten
on points at the mid-way stage of every one of those weeks.

In addition he would, after playing an inferior game in the
first half of seven different weeks against seven different
players, have to pull up his lost ground and convert a
mid-week defeat into a week-end victory in each case. Has
such a monotonous uniformity of defeat transformed into
victory ever been known in billiards, or is it ever likely to be!

Let the point be applied to cricket, and let it be assumed
that each of eight counties meets seven other counties. Let
it be furthermore assumed that the county that wins the
first innings in any match receives two points and that the
county that wins the match receives three points. What
would have to happen before Kent, say, winning every
game that it played, could be beaten by a county that had
only won four of its matches? It would have to be defeated
by its seven opponents in each first innings that it played
and it would have to beat those seven opposing counties,
often by considerable margins, in each second innings. This
may not be absolutely impossible, but is at least on the
borderland thereof.

The real proof of the value or otherwise of the new departure,
alike in its principle and its details, will be apparent
in the result, and we have some confidence that, at the end
of the season, the billiard-following public will be prepared
to vote in its favour. Just as there have been fewer drawn
games in cricket where heart and zest have been put into
the first innings, so there are likely to be fewer protracted
sessions or drawn games in billiards with the half-way points
constantly before the players’ minds.

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