A History of Billiards, by Clive Everton

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The Independent Culture

As news broke on Friday of more snooker match-fixing charges, at the Welsh Open a more wholesome piece of history was being made: Pankaj Advani became the first Indian player to reach the quarter-finals of a ranking event.

Advani is also the billiards world champion, and while the sport barely clings on in the UK, it has a big following and a long history on the subcontinent, as Clive Everton reveals.

The doyen of snooker commentators, Everton was also a billiards champion, and his affection for and encyclopaedic knowledge of the three-ball game shines through. In its UK heyday in the late 19th and early 20th century, matches for eye-watering stakes were played before sellout crowds, but the ability of the best players – in 1907 one Tom Reece compiled an unfinished break of 499,135 over five weeks – finally became tedious to watch.

As Everton observes: "Billiards was to earn the unhappy distinction of becoming the only game to perish as a public spectacle because its leading exponents were too good."

Snooker has suffered more from shambolic governance and shady practices than lack of interest, as Everton details in an updated edition of Black Farce and Cue Ball Wizards (Mainstream, £12.99), his lively inside story. If you want to know how match-fixing works, look no further.

Published in paperback by englishBilliards.org, £14.99