Practice: Safety

Snooker Cue

Unless you have an easy chance of a snooker you quite often have to leave your opponent the chance of a pot. So study the table and make that pot as difficult as you can. The more pressure you put on your opponent increases the chance that he will make a mistake.

When you do leave your opponent a very difficult pot, and he makes the shot of his life and pots it - don't let it get you down. You did your best and a good shot deserves respect. Remember that no one can keep potting difficult balls. So if you consistently leave your opponents playing from awkward positions you will become a very difficult player to beat.

Safety - 1 You constantly see professionals trying to get the cue-ball close to one of the two baulk pockets.

Leaving the cue-ball close to a corner pocket makes cueing very difficult for many players. If the remaining reds are in a cluster behind the pink they will need to be struck thick and hard, so scattering the reds; or thin with side to get the cue-ball back to baulk.

Although a triangular area is marked in the diagram consider leaving the cue-ball nearer the side cushion. Cueing diagonally across the side cushion is far more difficult than striking the cue-ball when it's close to the baulk cushion.

Experiment with these, try under hitting them if you're concerned about going in-off into the corner pocket. And spend some time practicing from these areas - you need to be confident if your opponent leaves you there.

Safety - 2 This is a variation of the same strategy that is little known and rarely played, but which quite often creates an opening.

The temptation of course is to send the cue-ball into baulk, hopefully behind one of the baulk colours. But even if you succeed in getting the snooker a reasonable player should manage to escape without doing too much damage. If you don't get a snooker you leave an easy safety shot for your opponent, one he will have played thousands of times before.

But leave the cue-ball just beyond the middle pocket and tight on the cushion, and you'll give your opponent no easy reply and a great problem.

You'll be surprised how gently this delicate shot needs to be played, so it really is worth a little practice. Leaving the cue-ball tight on the cushion is critical so strength is the key to the success of this shot.

So what do you do if you're left in this position? Safety - 3 Any thickish contact to take the cue-ball back to baulk will scatter the reds towards the corner pocket. A thin contact played slowly is too dangerous - you may miss and hit the black. Rolling slowly into the pack is negative and unnecessary.

The secret is to play with top right-hand side, but cueing is difficult and very few can play with confidence from such a position. This really is one to practice, and it's also one of the very few shots where it might help to keep your eyes on the cue-ball when you strike it - especially at first!

You'll need to aim for a very thin contact with enough strength to take the cue-ball back to baulk. This isn't easy when playing with the cue-ball tight on the cushion, so this is another reason to practice this shot.

And if you wouldn't fancy playing this - imagine how your opponent would feel if you were playing a match!

Safety - 4 Here's a shot I saw played over twenty years ago. Quite a simple stroke, but one that nobody expected.

I spoke to the player after the match who told me that he saw the possibility of it straight away. It was a simple half-ball contact and if he got the strength right he knew there was a very good chance of a snooker.

He said that although he could have easily played a more conventional safety by rolling up behind the yellow or brown, he chose this shot not only to try and force a mistake from his opponent, who was a county standard player, but also to try and annoy him, so he might lose his concentration.

The cue-ball finished up tight against both the green and the cushion. His opponent was so frustrated he played a double off the opposite cushion with side, and crashed into the reds which left several on. And that shot cost him the frame.

Snooker Cue