History Of Billiard Riley (Specials)

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All cue sports are generally regarded to have evolved into indoor games from outdoor stick and ball lawn games and as such to be related to troco, croquet and golf. The word “billiard” may have evolved from the French word “billart”, meaning “mace”, an implement similar to a golf club – the forerunner to the modern day cue.

The earliest forms of billiards tended to be obstacle games, such as bagatelle and pin pool. There were also variations with elaborate structures (likely inspirational of miniature golf) and others on a sloped table (ancestors of pinball). Some were croquet like in play. The object of obstacle games varied from avoiding obstructions and traps, to hitting or passing through or into them on purpose to score, to using them strategically to score in some other way, such as by rebounding off them to reach a hole in the table or trapping opponents’ balls.

The early croquet-like games eventually led to the development of the carom or carombole billiards category – what most mean by the word “billiards” outside the US. These games, which once completely dominated the cue sports world but have declined markedly over the last few generations, are games played with three or sometimes four balls – usually on a table without holes. The goal is generally to strike an object ball with a cue ball and then have the cue ball rebound off one or more cushions to strike a second ball. There are many variants, including three cushion, straight rail, balkiline, cushion caroms, italian five pins and four ball, among others.

Over time, a type of obstacle returned, originally as a hazard and later as a target, in the form of pockets. This lead to the rise of “pocket billiards, especially pool games, popular around the world in forms such as eight-ball and nine ball. The terms “pool” and “pocket billiards” are now virtually interchangeable in the UK. English billiards is a hybrid carom/ pocket game and as such is fairly close to the ancestral pocket billiards from the 18th to early 19th century carom games.

The game of snooker is generally regarded to have originated in the latter half of the 19th century. English billiards had been a popular activity amongst British army officers stationed in India and variations on the traditional game were devised. One such variation, devised in the officers’ mess in Jabalpur during 1874 or 1875 was to add coloured balls in addition to the reds and black which were used for pyramid pool and life pool. The word “snooker” was military slang for first year cadets or inexperienced personnel. One version of events states that Sir Neville Chamberlain of the Devonshire Regiment was playing this new game when his opponent failed to pot a ball and Chamberlain called him a “snooker”. It thus became attached to the billiards game now bearing its name as inexperienced players were labelled snookers.

The game of snooker grew in the latter half ot the 19th Century and the early 20th Century. In 1927, the first World Snooker Championship had been organised by Joe Davis, a professional english billiards and snooker player. This represented the game’s first forays into the professional sphere. Joe Davis won every World Championship unitl 1946 when he retired. The game wnet into decline in the 1950s and 1960s, with little interest outside the cue sports world. In 1969, David Attenborough was a top official at the BBC and he commissioned the snooker tournament Pot Black to demonstrate the potential of colour television – the green table and multi-coloured balls were ideal for showing off the advantage of coloured broadcasting. For a time, the series was the second most viewed programme on BBC2. Interest in the game increased and the 1978 World Championship became the first to be fully televised. Snooker quickly became a mainstream sport in the UK, Ireland and most of the Commonwealth and has enjoyed much success over the last 30 years.

Now, new countries are awakening to the joys of Snooker – China and the Far East have possibly the fastest growing fan base in the World. Digital TV coverage is bringing the game to a wider audience in Europe and the appetite for the sport is increasing month by month.

Sourced from Wikipedia articles on Billiards and Snooker, compiled by Riley.

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