by Bob Jewett
If you find yourself in a spot like the diagram where you have to kick three cushions at the one ball, you might be tempted to apply the “corner-5” system. You would decide on a third-cushion contact point, estimate the cue ball’s origin, do some arithmetic to one or two decimal places and then shoot to the calculated spot on the first cushion. It’s amusing to watch a diamond system player who is not so good at math as they miss the target by exactly one diamond — oops, forgot to borrow during the subtraction.
A much simpler system is Ray Kilgore’s “opposite 3” system, which is described in detail in Robert Byrne’s book “Wonderful World of Pool and Billiards.” Kilgore was a champion 3-cushion player, and the system is most useful on a carom table, but with the modifications below, it is useful and easy on a pool table.
The basic idea is that if you are shooting from one side of the table and want to return to the same spot on the other side of the table after three cushions, all you have to do is shoot to a magic spot on the table. In the diagram, you are shooting from a spot 2 diamonds from the corner pocket on the long rail, and you want to go to the spot directly across the table, also two diamonds from the corner pocket. I’ve marked a spot X which is close to the magic spot for most pool tables. If you just shoot over the X, the cue ball will hit the one ball. If you are shooting from the corner pocket at A, and you shoot over X, the cue ball will go to AA. Same thing for B-BB.
The main problem is that the spot is in a slightly different place on each table. This is solved by taking a few shots such as the shots shown to discover where the spot is for your conditions. Start by shooting from the corner pocket to get to the other corner pocket. Remember to use medium speed — enough to move the object ball to somewhere useful — and running English, which would be left side in the diagram. Also, use follow for best consistency.
Mark the rail once you have found the direction for a pocket-to-pocket shot. Then try the shot shown in the diagram, marking the rail again. Finally, try the shot from and to the end cushion, BBB.
If you look at the three paths, they should all converge at a single point, or close to it. That’s the magic spot on your table. Any shot you try between the calibration shots should be right on, and even shots from slightly outside that range should be close. Where I play, the spot is close to where I’ve drawn the X in the diagram.
The large disadvantage of this system is that if you have to go to somewhere other than directly across the table from where you start, the system doesn’t work. For example, if you have to hit the 9 ball instead of the 1 ball, shooting to the X would land in the wrong place. You can roughly fix the shot by splitting the difference: since you want to land a diamond farther down the cushion to hit the 9, aim half a diamond farther up the cushion. Practice to get a feel for the adjustment.
This system is easy to master and because you will calibrate it for your stroke and your table, it can be very accurate. It’s called “Opposite 3” because on a carom table the magic spot is right by Diamond 3 on the long cushion. For more details, see Byrne’s book.