Book review excerpts by Robert Byrne, Billiards Digest Magazine
Walt Harris' new book is a treat for fans of billiard systems....For most of its 125 year history, three cushion billiards saw its secrets closely guarded by an inner circle of top players.
Subtleties and "systems" were revealed only for a price, or carried on to the grave. Many tricks were invented over and over by players who did not have access to a teacher and who certainly didn't have any published books to consult. Fortunately, students of the game today don't have to rely entirely on their own experience.
Some experts still won't tell anything unless you hold a gun to their heads, but others are more than happy to share what they know. One of the latter is Walt Harris, a veteran tournament player from Chicago who now lives in Florida, a state that has become a center of 3-cushion play in the United States.
Several years ago, Harris developed an interest in three-cushion play in the United States. His initial motivation, was dissatisfaction with the standard "corner five" and "plus" systems and the allowances required to make them practical.
He eventually came up with systems he is convinced are better, and in his research picked up systems from other players as well. The best of what he gathered is presented in "The Billiard Atlas on Systems and Techniques"....roughly 12,000 words of bare-bone text: it's a technical manual that requires close study, but any player willing to expend some effort will find much here to improve his game.
Harris doesn't try to review all the world's best-known systems, and his books don't pretend to be the definitive volumes on system play. There is nothing, for example, from the massive 1979 tome written by Ceulemanns of Belgium, the 242-page 1987 hardcover manual by Verworst of Holland, or Al Gilbert's 1977 booklet "Systematic Billiards", nor is any direct reference made to the system discussions in my own books. What Harris does provide is detailed explanation of several systems he has developed himself, along with a sampling of methods and tips from a number of strong American players. I particularly like his"plus two" system, which involves a method of numbering that takes into account the change in the angle of returns as the cue ball origin moves from one end of the long rail to the other, and I intend to make it a part of my own game.
Of interest to students will be the approaches to mapping out umbrellas, tickies, and end rail first shots. There are ideas for handling certain specific positions that I was glad to learn. I would play better myself if I relied less on judgement and more on counting diamonds. If you like billiard systems, if you want to learn some new ones, or if you want to follow the thought processes of a good player who not only loves the game but wants to share what he knows with others, you won't be disappointed. I know how much time it takes to research and refine material like this and how much effort it takes to draw accurate diagrams. The "Billiard Atlas" is a labor of love by a generous author and if readers respond to his request for submissions, it could grow to become an indispensable reference work.
This is a self-published, soft cover, 196 pages measuring 8.5 x 11
inches each featuring 72 full page diagrams....22 Systems and 14 Techniques.
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