What concentration must it have
taken for players like Newman, Davis and Lindrum to allow them to make Billiard
break numbering in the thousands?
Walter Lindrum even broke the
four thousand barrier, which must have take many hours, even with intervals
where the balls were removed from the playing surface and replaced at the
commencement of the next session, this was a tremendous feat of endurance.
Willie Smith did not go in for
the highly efficient and yet repetitive for the audience, methods of scoring.
Willie made a break of over two thousand using a mixture of pots, cannons and
in offs. This to my mind was an amazing achievement, as the so-called "cushion
crawlers" as he dubbed them used to score highly with a flick of the wrist.
These players scored remarkably quickly too as the balls rarely travelled very
far, sometimes their passage on the cloth, would need measuring in millimetres
rather than inches.
A modern frame of snooker takes on average
between 15 and 25 minutes to complete and obviously each break can be over in
seconds, the billiard players of the old days uses to make breaks for hours on
end, without their opponent getting to the table.
One player broke off against Walter Lindrum
playing to a thousand points and never made another visit to the table, Walter
ran out the game in one visit.
Even making nursery cannons must have taken a
large amount of mental effort, as this discipline requires the masterly control
of the trajectory of all three balls.
In the days of W J Peall, it was not unheard of
for players to pot nearly a thousand red balls from the spot. Imagine not
missing a black of its spot for two hours?
The other thing to bear in mind is that either
Crystalate or Ivory balls were in use well into the 1920s, these balls
were not as responsive as modern balls and did not react so positively to
applied spin effects thus making them more of a challenge.
I play Snooker in my local league and have noted
on many occasions that the pockets on older Billiard Tables are cut differently
to modern pockets. In fact, just last week I placed my fist in the pocket of
the table that we were due to compete on, discovering that the pocket and my
fist were a snug fit. The pockets back at my club are modern template standard
and yet my fist has approximately half an inch clearance, this must affect the
number of balls potted in a session. W J Peall and Walter Lindrum were
competing on these types of tables all the time, which puts their achievements
into perspective for me.
The 2,501 break made by Joe Davis and recorded
on many billiard-cue badges, was made by extensive use of the "pendulum
cannon". This scoring method relied on the skill of the player to keep both
object balls close to the jaws of a corner pocket and repeatedly score cannons
from the position. Again the skill and concentration required to perform this
shot even a few times is enormous, so keeping it up for over two thousand
points is nothing short of miraculous, in my opinion.
If you would like to know more about the
achievements of the Billiard players of the past, look out for out of print
second hand copies of Clive Evertons books on the history of billiards
and snooker along with future entries on this site.