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The kiss that brings no joy


Published by bert van manen

© © Kozoom

Jan Carl, who recorded so many matches of the Carom Tour and the Sang Lee Memorial, is also a fine billiards commentator. He often had a good player in the chair next to him (Min Jae Pak, Ira Lee, Robert Raiford), but the final, wonderful  line was always his:

"This is Jan Carl signing off, hoping your next kiss has nothing to do with billiards."  

How right he was. Few things displease us more than a (seemingly) well-hit point ruined by a kiss.  

"Oh for Pete's  sake. I did everything right there."

No you didn't.

"Why did that have to happen?"

Because you MADE it happen.

A kiss may be a very annoying thing, but it is not bad luck. It's - more often than not - bad play. If your playing strength is anywhere from 0.400 to 0.700, you should be able to see a kiss - or at least the danger of a kiss - pretty often. Let's say: half the time one actually comes into play.  1.000 average players can spot kisses eight times out of ten. The very top players will almost always blame themselves if they get kissed out, and rarely consider a kiss "unlucky" and "unforeseeable".    

Here are a few classics for you. I am sure you will recognize the positions, and remember those times when you ignored the warning signs. 


kiss shots 01


In the first diagram, you hate everything you could possibly play off the red. So it will have to be off the yellow, short - long - short to that difficult zone halfway on the long rail. You know that once the cue ball develops running english, it will tend to be short. So you hit the shot with no english or even a whiff of reverse. You are mighty pleased with the line of your ball, you can see it's on course to the red. Only the yellow gets there before you do.   

In the second diagram, you'd love to play just four rails round the table. But can you make it short enough? You settle for the very comfortable 5 - or 6 rail line, because it's such an easy hit and you are aiming at a mighty big ball. The red will go twice alongside the top rail, and arrive in the corner above the yellow, just in time to remind you what a lazy son of a bitch you are. 


kiss shots 02


The third shot would be almost unmissable with the cue ball an inch inside the table, or an inch to the right. As it is, you feel you can't make it short enough for a long - short - long, but it will be a natural off five rails: L-S-L-S-L.  It is, actually. Problem is, your cue ball's five rails correspond nicely with the yellow ball's three rails, also going towards the red. And the red will be gone once you get there.


kiss shots 03


Unfortunately, I can't come up with a solution - or even proper advice - for the above three problems. A few millimeters here and there, as well as the behavior of the table will determine what you have to do when you are in this type of a pickle. 

The one thing I can tell you, is this: Don't do what I did for thirty-five years. I have limited experience in making these points, but I consider myself a bit of an expert when it comes to playing them into the kiss, over and over again. It's similar to my computer skills: a site refuses my password, so I try that same password again. See what I mean? 

Your number one priority is this: when you see the danger of a kiss, BELIEVE YOUR INNER VOICE. The danger is real, your warning lights flashed for a reason. So the point you are playing is no longer an easy point, not even if it looks like one. Make a decision. Visualize the path, not only of the cue ball, but of the second ball also. And see if you have options. Can you make the line longer or shorter with speed?  Would a short or very long stroke help? Try different things, and discuss the position with a better player, the next day. 

In closing, here's one for the connoisseurs. Some problems can only be solved if you stay CLOSE to the kiss! If you take it out of the equation firmly, you can no longer make the point. Avoid the kiss by a quarter inch or a quarter of a second, that is sometimes the only way.  

In the European National Team Pentathlon in Amersfoort in 1981, Raymond Ceulemans was lining up a shot like that. He was already pre-stroking it, when a spectator with a loud voice told the man next to him: "There's a kiss!". Ceulemans looked over his shoulder, not knowing who had spoken. So he said to the crowd: "Not when I'm playing the shot."   

I don't have to tell you what happened next, do I? .