Practice: A Problem Black

Snooker Cue

The table set for the Line-Up practice routine We've all done this, played for the black, and left the cue-ball somewhere close to the position shown.

If the cue-ball wasn't so central you could either play thin off the black to take the cue-ball towards baulk, or play a simple shot to just knock the black gently to the top cushion, but each of those can be difficult when using the extended spider over the reds.

Another option, for tall players, is to reach over, and with your bridge-hand in mid-air, play a simple tap to the black.

Perhaps the safest option is to play off the side cushion as if you were snookered, but instead of simply trying to hit the black, why not try to pot it? There's only a slim chance of success but little danger if there are no easy reds near either of those two top pockets.

Imagine though that there is a red, somewhere near the black cross, that doesn't cover the pocket, but might easily be left for your opponent. In this case attempting the pot may still be a worthwhile option. If you don't pot the black you may cover the red or move it, or you might leave the black between the pocket and the red. So you have four possible outcomes that could each be beneficial.

The diagram also shows two loose reds, one near the middle pocket and one close to the pink. You could easily leave those on if you tried to pot the black in the corner pocket on that same side of the table. So consider the possible after position of the cue-ball, and try to make the pot on the side of the table that leaves the cue-ball in the safest area.

Taking that into consideration means there's less chance of leaving your opponent an easy starter, but of course if you pot the black you'll probably find you only have a safety shot left. But you should then be able to play a better safety than you could have originally.

Oddly enough, with the cue-ball and black in the positions shown, or very close to the positions shown, they are in almost the perfect positions to attempt this pot. Being only a few inches away from each other it's often easier to find the angle than if they were further apart.

Should you try this, make sure you strike the cue-ball exactly in the centre, even a tiny amount of side will change the angle the cue-ball takes from the cushion.

This is an easy position to set up for practice, even if you only have a few moments to spare between frames if your opponent is away from the table.

Historical Notes

Many of you may consider the possibility of trying to pot the black instead of merely trying to make contact with it an interesting option, others may think it's too difficult, and therefore not worth attempting.

But this not a new idea....

(From "Advanced Billiards" by Tom Newman, pub. 1924.)

... the aptly-named "Billiard Patience". You play this by placing the red ball a foot from a baulk pocket and equidistant from the side and baulk cushions. Then you set to work to pocket the red in the baulk pocket, playing every stroke out of baulk, and always making the cue-ball strike three cushions before it enters baulk. If you hit the red and knock it into bad position, you continue your "game" without replacing the red, and stick to it until you cajole the red into its destined pocket. The idea is to pocket the red in this manner in the fewest number of strokes, but I may add that your are always allowed to "give up" when you have had enough of it.

Willie Smith, in his "How to Play Snooker and Other Pool Games", (pub. 1924), described a variation of this that he called 'Snooker Patience'.

It's almost identical, though he recommends placing the object-ball on the centre spot, and playing from hand to begin. The target pocket is the green pocket, and of course you may never play directly at the object-ball.

He claimed it was the best practice in the world for escaping from snookers, and that he had seen a useful snooker player get nowhere after 20 minutes, and an absolute beginner make the pot on the first stroke by playing off the top cushion.

He also said that if you practised this seriously, your opponents may begin to wonder if it was possible to leave you in a snooker you couldn't escape from, and that he would include this as part of his preparation if the World Snooker Championships ever attracted his serious attention. Willie was well known for his dislike of snooker, and once, when asked which of the rules they should change, he famously replied... "All of them!"

S A Mussibini described another variation in a short article named "New Games for the Billiard-Table", that was pubished within C B Fry's Magazine of Sport and Pastimes Vol. 12 (1909 -10).

Snooker Cue