Going Thin, May Give You a WIN!
THIS IS THE era of increased awareness of oneís thickness around the middle; and billiards has its full-figure problems, too, when it comes to hitting too much ball when playing certain shots for position. During the heyday of 3-cushion billiards, in the í30s, í40s and into the í50s, the game tended to be better-suited to players who hit the first ball fuller, and stroked the cue ball harder. There were several reasons for that: ivory balls were used, the rail rubber was a natural material, and the all-wool nap cloths of that time had long and short rolls to them. Also, the combined techniques of fuller hit and harder stroke kept the ivory balls from rolling off as much, and allowed for the slower cushions and cloth.
But in the last three decades, with the advent of phenolic billiard balls, composition rubber, wool/nylon blend non-directional high-speed cloth, and, of course, heated European tables, billiards has become a very different game. Itís elevated to a very high-tech, precision game, almost totally determined by the correct use of proper cue techniques, and, even more important, the correct speed of the cue ball and first-ball contact. In other words, itís not a matter of driving through the first ball anymore; itís a precise, controlled positioning of the first ball by the least amount of speed needed. And one way to accomplish this is to strike the first ball thin.
When you do that, the path of that first object ball is much simpler to determine. You can figure your cue ball path easily, too, because when you cut the first ball thin, the cue ball speeds up after contact; you therefore donít require as much force, which in turn leads to increased accuracy. Youíll notice a common concept in three of the four examples Iíve selected: they have at least the first or second ball already in a prime position zone, simplifying your task. But even these simple position opportunities are often overlooked, by players using poor speed.
Diagram 1 confronts us with he problem of landing on the scoring ball correctly to take full advantage of our position. You already know that weíre striking the first ball thin in all of our examples; but here, we need to score on the third ball short ó that is, as far away from the long rail- as we can ó so as not to drive it away from the corner, besides defeating the purpose of leaving the first ball ahead near the long cushion. Use minimum 11 oíclock English; the reasons for that are to control the speed of the cue ball (the more English, the more quickly the ball rebounds off the cushions), and to lessen the risk of driving the scored-upon ball farther, which added spin will do.
Diagram 2 demonstrates a solution somewhat contrary to the first. Here we cut the first ball to the corner, to leave it there, and score again short on the third ball softly. Again, use very little 11 oíclock English, but for a different reason this time: your carom in this shot brings you very close to the corner, as shown. The cue ball develops more English and speed as a result of contacting those two rails almost simultaneously; keep that in mind when calculating your four examples, the cue ball and first ball to be contacted have been close to one another, five or six inches, so the effect of the cue ballís swerving on the cloth in trying for a thin hit with English hasnít been a factor.
In Diagram 3, we find our cue ball 3 to 4 four feet from the first ball, and it has to travel farther to the proper scoring zone than on the previous shots. To help keep the cue ball more on line, a short stroke serves better here ó it results in less deflection and adds a little more speed to the first ball, which we need for this shot. Also, use 3 oíclock English to get a pure hit; since the third ball is close to the long rail, try to hit short on it to improve your position for the next shot.
Diagram 4 is quite a bit different. Itís a five rail position shot with little twist to it: you play six rails, not five, so as not to wind up behind the third ball. The main objective here is to bank the first ball cross table twice while the cue ball, with proper speed, travels to six cushions. Employ a rapid stroke and 2 oíclock English, and remember the element of timing; thereís a slight chance of a kiss between rails five and six. Hitting the shot as diagrammed will solve this problem too.
Bear in mind that these shots represent the simplest solutions to position opportunities. The final position of all three balls is fairly easy to visualize, because in most of the examples, the balls arenít traveling that far. But mastery of these techniques should give you the confidence to examine tough situations this way too.
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