Friday, February 4, 2011

Hello Everyone!

For those of you who care, my name is Jan. I live in Marburg, Germany where I met Gabe and was offered a chance to write a few posts for this blog, so from now on you will be treated to some of my random thoughts on billiards from time to time. Soon you will notice that I have a favorite subject when it comes to cue sports: Five-Pin-Billards or, as the italians call it, cinque birilli.
When it comes to carom billiards, most people are a little suprised by the distinguished lack of pockets on the table. Also, there are only three balls (white, yellow and red), and one player uses the white ball as his cue ball while the other one shoots with yellow. You score points by caroming your ball off another ball into the third. If you find this confusing, please feel free to consult Wikipedia for more info.
There are an amazing number of variations to this game, some requiring the use of at least one or three rails to score, others dividing the table into scoring zones, forcing the player to move the balls around the table in a more elaborate way.
One of these variations is Five-Pin-Billards. As the name suggests, there are five pins in the middle of the table (four white pins arranged in a square and a red one in the center), in addition to the regular three colored balls.
And now it gets more confusing: Player A starts the game from a designated position with ball-in-hand for the white ball. Player A must hit the opponents ball first, which is the yellow one. He may or may not score points afterwards, but missing the opponents ball is a foul, punishable by ball-in-hand. Lets assume he shoots correctly, sending the opponents yellow ball through two white pins and caroming the white ball into the red ball. This will result in eight points, as one white pin counts for two points and the red ball is worth an additional four if hit with ones own ball. In case you are wondering: hitting the red with the opponents ball is only worth three points. So 2+2+4=8. Player A may now go to the board, mark his points and sit down, since its player Bs turn now.
This may be the most messed-up thing for people who have played any other cue game before: No matter what happens, you will never shoot two or more times in a row, regardless of any points you make. There is an easily understood implication to this : every shot should be at least a half-safe, because if you manage to make any points, the last thing you want is your opponent scoring more points on his next shot. A fairly useful way to keep opponents from scoring is hiding your ball from theirs, so they will have to shoot a kick, thus minimizing the chances for a good hit.
If you have trouble visualizing this (I know I would), here is the Wikipedia entry for five-pins.
Or you could just go and watch some of the masters at work via Youtube.
In the video you will see Andrea Quarta playing Ricardo Belluta, with Quarta as the eventual winner by three to one sets. The sets themselves are races to 60 points, although the distance may vary for different tournaments.
You can see the score at any time in the upper left corner, if you feel like following it. Notice how many banks and kick shots come up during this nine-minute-video and how perfectly those guys execute these shots. This is actually the bread-and-butter of pins-players. Since every shot is played with a saftey in mind, the pins are rarely available by shooting at them directly. It is very common for a player to have to bank or kick a ball into the pins, using precisely measured speed to achieve a safe position for his opponent. Just watch the video, you will see stuff like that coming up every other shot.
You will probably notice quickly that my posts are a little bit more technical than Gabes, the reason being that I don't travel as much as he does, so there's only the billard-related part of BillardTraveler for me to write about. I am quite fascinated by the systems used in various cuesports to determine the aiming point for bank and kick shots, which is an important part of pins. So you can expect most of my posts to be about these systems, the best situations to use them in and maybe a couple of anecdotes about how I used them or how they were used against me. Maybe, if you do read Michael Reddicks great blog Angle Of Reflection, you came across this little story about a well executed safety and an amazing kick. If you did not yet read it yet, do so. It is very informative and has an unexpected ending. Also, Michael is a great storyteller, so it is probably worth your time.
I actually managed to pull off the same thing his opponent did, including the not-pocketing of the ball, about a week ago during a small tournament at a club in a town nearby. When Michael described the preparations his opponent took before this kick I could not help but chuckle, because I know them all too well. It is a system you can use to find the aiming point for three- and five-rail-kicks, and basically it is really simple once you get used to it. Also it is described in many books about various games, so it will not hurt to do it all over again, right?
I left myself the following desaster after a specifically careless shot in a game of ten-ball:
(All pictures thanks to and their cuetable software)
So, not much to do but grind my teeth and swear under my breath while my opponent cannot wait for me to miss this shot, getting him ball in hand and a routine runout. Well, maybe there is. Here we go:
This is, to a reasonable degree of accuracy, what I managed to do. The 8-ball was stuck to the long rail, the cueball was sitting right above it and my opponent looked a little uneasy now.
Of course there is no way to be sure this is going to happen, but to me this solution makes a lot more sense than the only 1-rail-kick available.
To be fair: my opponent made the bank I left him and I eventually lost the set, but hey, I bought myself a chance and did not make it easy for him.
Plus, I also had a chance (ever so slight) to actually make the eight myself and run out despite my immensely stupid mistake.
So, whats the secret here? You will have to memorize the following values and the diamonds they correspond to:
The red numbers mark the values for diamonds in the corner you are shooting from. The green numbers are the paths the cue ball will take off the 3rd rail after doing the math and taking the shot. And the blue numbers are what its all about: they are your aiming points!
To determine these you will first need to know which path is the one you want. In my example I needed to get on the path for 30. Now you find a path through your cueball by substracting blue numbers from red numbers to end up at your chosen green number.
For me that was 4111 = 30, telling me I need to aim into the eleven-spot on the blue numbers.
It is very important to realize you are aiming at the actual diamond for this system to work, not at the point in front of the diamond on the rail. Shoot with a fair amount of running english and a tip of follow. You will find that this is not true on all tables, and especially not on old cloth, so correct for bad equipment by using more running english, and if you have to, leave out the follow to get more running on the balls equator.
Once you get used to this shot it is a very convenient and accurate way to get out of a large number of safeties brought onto you by your opponent or even yourself :)
The range in which it works can be extended, but that is for another time.
Also, for the perfectionists among us, there are minor corrections to use, but I will get into that in more detail in a later post. This will let you hit balls, and that is all I tried to let you know for now.
This post is running freaking long by now anyways.
If you try this shot in your training routine and you have trouble getting it to work, please let me know in the comments. I will be glad to help you.
Have fun shooting, I hope to see you again soon.
I'm off to practice pins now.