English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : December, 1911

The Billiard Monthly : December, 1911

Things That Matter in Billiards,


Since George Gray came to this country there have been
much comment and correspondence in newspapers and
magazines of a kind that does not strike us as being beneficial
to the game or likely to prove advantageous to its
followers. We refer more particularly to the belittlement
of certain special phases of billiards which have, nevertheless,
their essential part in the delightful course of all-round
play. Thus whilst English writers have had much to say
in depreciation of what they term “the Gray stroke” Australian
billiard journalists, feeling that something to which
their continent has given birth has not been quite fairly
criticized over here, have retaliated by characterizing the
top of the table game, as exploited by Stevenson and other
great English players, as also restricted and monotonous.

As a matter of fact, neither the red ball losing hazard
sequence nor the top-of-the-table winner-cannon movement
is in its essence monotonous, although the more nearly it
approaches perfection in the handling the more satiating does
it become. It is when Gray loses the middle pocket position
and has to go out for long losers or raking forcers that his
play becomes exciting, and it is when Stevenson fails to get
quite low enough with the cue ball at the top of the table,
and exchanges the intended pot for the cannon with fullish
contact that leads to rail play that the same thing happens.

Should top of the table specialists ever succeed in doing
what Stevenson in his book says that no man living is able
to do, namely, keep up two pots to one cannon for an indefinite
period, there would be as much clamour amongst the
ill-informed for the barring of the present top of the table
game as there has been for the barring of the Gray stroke
and as there previously was—and successfully—for the barring
of the spot stroke.

But what we have chiefly in our minds is that billiards,
rightly considered, is a mosaic and that its fulness is only
to be appreciated after perfection, as nearly as may be,
of all its parts. The amateur billiard player, who depends
for his practice upon “knocking the balls about,” or,
almost worst still, upon games in which all the old and
crude deficiencies come up again and again, is tragically
wrong in his methods. The only safe way to the frequent
compiling of hundred breaks—which might be done by
thousands of players where it is now only done by scores —
is the mastering of the phases of the game in their detail.

For weeks on end, for example, nothing whatever should
be attempted beyond placing the red ball two feet out of
baulk up the centre of the table and endeavouring to maintain
the middle pocket sequence that has been perfected by
Gray. It would even be well, in the initial stages of this
practice, to regard the break as ended as soon even as
recourse had to be made to the top corner pockets. The
really great thing at the outset is to get so familiar with
the contact and strength required to do the middle pocket
business that presently, whether in a game or otherwise, it
will seem impossible to do otherwise than score as continuously
as may be required from this bed-rock position, after
which recovery strokes into the top pockets, or strokes leading
to a cannon, can be taken in their turn.

Take as an illustration the set-up position in the break
contest by amateurs that is arousing such keen interest
daily at the close of the afternoon session at the Soho
Square Salon. The white is on the centre spot, the red is
on the spot, and the cue ball is in a line with the top left
pocket. The white ball on the centre spot, be it noted, is a
lurking danger, but it is one that can be very easily avoided
by a player who has sedulously cultivated the middle-pocket
loser, as the red ball sequence can, with a little care, be
continued indefinitely, without collision, on either side of it.

Two other main phases of the game are drop cannons
and the top of the table play to which these lead; and here
again the player who desires to excel should give continuous
weeks of practice to this one thing. Let him put the
red ball on the spot, the white well above the middle pocket
and away from the side cushion, and cannon on to the
red as gently as he knows how, until he succeeds in getting
the white behind the spot, the red near a corner pocket and
his own nicely behind it nearly every time. He may have
to play half-ball on the white, or a little finer or fuller in
order to leave it behind the spot and the red where he
wants it, but at length the mystery will unlock itself and
the secret be his for ever.

At the Holborn Hall on the 11th of this month, and later
on at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool, and at Caxton Hall,
Westminster, there will be a rubber of three great billiard
contests that will go down in billiard history and that may
well be termed: “The Meeting of the Methods.” The
methods are the bed-rock losing hazard play of Gray—and
the steady reliance upon which by Inman in his earlier
efforts have done so much for that now eminent all-round
player— and the presentation in fascinating style by Stevenson
of billiards in its complete and multitudinous phases.

Each session should be a delight and an education to
amateur players of every degree, alike of crudity and of
efficiency, who, if they are wise enough to note not only the
course of the balls, but also the body positioning, the cue
movements, and even the eyes of the executants, will
receive, in exchange for the admission charge, not only two
hours of delightful entertainment, but also a lesson in
billiards in its solid foundation and in its highest flights of a
kind that no amount of payment could obtain elsewhere.

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