Saturday, November 14, 2009

Beating McGonagle

Once again, my lack of practice jumped up to bite me on Wednesday in league play, as I was thoroughly outplayed by a guy with a lower rating than I have. Not much fun.

So when today turned out to be soaking in rain, it seemed like a good idea to jump back in to the once-or-twice-a-month tournament at World Class Billiards. Between free practice before and after and the high-level competition itself, it was a great chance to get in some much-needed work.

As I finished warming up, I fell into conversation with one Tom McGonagle. He knows what he's doing, and is a very good shot, and is the regular favorite to win the tournament. As we chatted, he told me that he gave lessons, and I discussed it with him. I'm not yet sure it will fit into my upcoming schedule, but it's certainly an interesting idea. I'm almost entirely self-taught, and am well aware of gaps in my game that a good teacher might help me to close.

As we discussed his teaching approach and what I hoped to learn, I described my game for him, and told him that if he were to play me, he'd see that I was capable of making quite difficult and pretty shots, and equally capable of missing very easy shots.

Shortly afterward the tournament organizers gathered the players together and announced the draw. Inevitably, I was matched up against Tom McGonagle.

We began play, and there was my game, on full display for him. I handed him a game by missing an easy shot with a straightforward run-out awaiting. He did not miss the straightforward run that I left for him. But he subsequently returned the favor by rattling a nine-ball in and out of the pocket, leaving it hanging to give me a gift-wrapped game. And then I went to work with my usual stuff. In between his clockwork run-outs, I kept finding fortunate leaves, and kept finding ways to knock in early nine balls, until I had the four wins I needed to beat him.

That was easily the best win I've had since I started playing this tournament, and it was made better by the murmurs that followed. "He beat McGonagle?" "He beat Tom?" Eyebrows were raised. The room was divided between those who knew enough about my game to conclude that I'd gotten lucky, and those who figured this new guy must be really good.

My next opponent fell into the latter camp, but by the time he'd swept me, his fears were allayed. I had one horrible miss in that one, but it really didn't matter, because he thoroughly dominated me overall.

In the loser's bracket, my last opponent caught a break and inadvertently knocked in the nine ball that knocked me out of the tournament. Those who live by good luck die by bad luck.

No complaints, though. I shot pretty well overall, and reminded myself that if I was on my game, I was still capable of beating a very good player on any given day. Like, you know, McGonagle...

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