How to play the unmissable shot


Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on April 19, 2015

Bert van ManenRecognize this? You come to the table and the position is horrible. You can’t even convince yourself you have a chance to make this point, and you end up doing something stupid that does not even come close. Okay, that is not a boost to your confidence, but you have to realize that not a lot of damage has been done. Even a good shot would have missed more often than it would have scored. A poor effort and a fine effort can have the same net result sometimes. Horrible positions in 3-cushion are not particularly important. The ones that really matter, are the easy ones.

Your average is mostly a result of your ability to make runs. Not necessarily eights or twelves, we’ll leave that to the pro players. But if you can capitalize on a chance consistently, if you can make 3’s, 4’s and 5’s if you get a good position, it will lift you to the 0.8 level or above. You don’t need a massive, problem-solving stroke or a brain filled with diamond systems to get to 0.8. Proper cueing, goal-oriented practice and some smart decisions will get you there.

Let’s look at the shot in the picture. It’s unmissable, and position for the second ball comes natural. So what are we waiting for? We go down and hit it, with confidence. But often, without thinking. And half the time, we play the line in diagram 3. And half the time, we’re left with a tricky second point.

The object ball will be in a nice area alongside the right long rail. But so much can be won or lost by the way we hit the third ball, and we don’t give that proper care and attention.

1) Very good. The red stays in the favorable zone, we usually end up with a “free” point that can again be played for position. If this line is available to you, you should play it.

2) Not so good. The cue ball often sticks to the short rail after this hit, and we’ve lost the “repetitive” character of the position. Luckily, due to the angle, this does not happen very often.

3) Not so good. At controlled speeds, you’ll see a little double kiss, and the cue ball ends up too close to (“on top of”) the red, hampering your next stroke. This is a very common mistake, and it has ended many runs before they began.

4) Good. You will push the red out of the corner, but you get second prize: a choice of shots will be next. If the yellow is not on the rail, they will both be attractive shots.

5) Very good. Glance off the red, and you will have an ideal positional shot to keep things going. Similar to (1), if this line is available to you, play it.

6) Here’s the awkward result you sometimes get when playing (3) full to the third ball.

As a rule of thumb, it’s best to score these points over four cushions, LSLS or LSLL. Your thought process should be: a) Do I have options? Does the position allow me to use a little less or a little more of that second ball, in order to arrive where I would like? If so, you go to b) and ask yourself: Where will that yellow end up? Now you have a mental picture of the position you will be left with, and you decide between LSLS and LSLL.

It’s not such a bad idea to come to the table with a smile on your face, when the position is extremely bad. There is no pressure. You are free to get into a playful mode, maybe even try something you’ve never tried before. Don’t beat yourself up when you miss: this game of ours is so hard, there is never any shame in missing.

On the other hand, when your opponent leaves you with the shot in the diagram, it’s time to get serious. You may not get a gift like that for another 20 innings: make the most of it.