The professional billiards season starts and ends this week with its only tournament, the World Championship.

English billiards has a long history. Mary Queen of Scots was such a fan of the game that her body was wrapped in the cloth from her table following her execution.

Shakespeare mentioned billiards in Anthony and Cleopatra. Variants of the game have spawned a number of successful cue sports, most particularly snooker.

The World Championship takes place at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds and has attracted a record entry of 65 players from 15 countries.

It is a joint promotion by World Billiards, the International Billiards and Snooker Federation and the English Association for Snooker and Billiards and comprises a timed event and 150-up competition.

Mike Russell will be a great favourite having won a total of 16 world titles in WPBSA and IBSF events.

Pankaj Advani of India has decided to relinquish his place in snooker’s new International Championship to play in Leeds.

Billiards is a TV sport in India but attempts to televise it in the UK have usually fallen flat.

In the 1980s, Barry Hearn summed up what he saw as the essential problem with its appeal: “Not enough balls.”

In fact, the chief problem is that the top players are so skilful and timed matches are frequently not close enough to be compelling. This is, after all, a sport in which Tom Reece made a record break of 499,135 over a period of five weeks in the early 20th century.

In March 1987, the BBC did plan to show the World Championship extensively but coverage was curtailed to make way for live news reports of the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise.

Eurosport shows much three cushion carom billiards, a different game entirely, not least because the tables have no pockets.

Billiards is a game of great skill and, as Advani has proved, can be a useful training ground for snooker.

Its profile has diminished down the years with the rise of snooker as a television sport but without billiards there would be no snooker so I hope their World Championship goes well.


Peter Norrie said...

Any website links? As a friend of former pro Hugh Nimmo, I went to a few billiards events in Sheffield in the early 90s and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Dave H said...

Here: http://www.world-billiards.com/

Chris Hannaway said...

Nice article. Never knew about the ferry disaster curtailing coverage in '87.
I love cue sports and attended a world billiards tournament in Liverpool in the late 90s. As you suggest, the problem for spectators is - one fella gets in and normally he just scores for hours! (slight exaggeration)
I'm glad Billiards is still going, but can't see it replacing X Factor or Strictly any time soon :-)

oliver said...

I'm going to watch at the Northern Snooker Centre here in Leeds and can't wait! Always a great day out.