By: Erik Hjorleifson
Mika Immonen recently voiced his opinion about the racking rules at this years US Open stating that the 9 ball should be moved to the spot, taking away the wing ball being pocketed in the corner pocket. Also adding that without manipulating the rack, the wing ball can't be made when breaking square from the box. Here is the quote from Immonen for those who you have not seen it on Facebook.
"At the US Open, the 9 ball should be racked on the spot. Otherwise it's a bunch of cheaters lining up the wing ball. What a joke.
For example, if it was a solid rack with with the 1-ball on the spot, there is no way the wing ball would go in with a head-on break even from the corner of the "box". Yet these guys blatantly line it up and carry on as it took some real talent.
That's not the way I won my us opens.
Just tired of the mockery."
My initial response to this post is that yes I agree, the 9 ball should be moved to the spot in the US Open tournament and should be a consideration for all major 9 ball events. The US Open has been played with the 9 ball on the spot before at least once around the year 2004 and I believe there was also a few other years around that time when the 1 ball was on the spot.
I do agree with Immonen's statement that the balls have to be racked a certain way for the wing ball to go in when hitting the head ball square from the box. He brought this point up in his comments because that's what Shane Van Boening has been doing for the last two years in most of his matches along his way to victory.
When Immonen had his victories he was using a cut break which simulates breaking from the side rail which is the best angle to make the wing ball from. Immonen infers that what he was doing was in some way better than what Van Boening and a few other players have been doing as of late and I think that's going a little too far. But this is all a matter of opinion and I concede there are counter arguments to all discussions involving the rack.
Here are some of my other opinions about fair solutions involving the 9 ball rack:
The biggest thing that people notice about the nine ball rack with the 1 ball on the spot is that if the balls are racked a certain way the wing ball will always go in the corner. The wing ball is so consistent that there is not much skill in how you hit the rack, when the players are forced to break from the box there is a little more skill but not much.
However with the 9 ball on the spot, the wing ball will not go directly in the corner anymore and the players are forced to try to make the 1 ball in the side. The 1 ball being pocketed in the side is relative to speed and exact angle of contact on the one, now the break becomes a skill shot again much like 10 ball. I don't think it would make it that much easier if you used a magic rack in this case it would just give a consistent fair rack to both players.
Currently the US Open is a rack your own format with the 1 on the spot. As it stands racking the balls is one of the most important skills leading up to this tournament, something that I think is fundamentally wrong when playing the game in a professional setting. I agree that it could be included as a skill set in pool but the value of it is so large and the fact that you're not even using your cue to do it tells me that the format has to be changed to a tapped ball or magic rack method of racking.
In fact all W.P.A. (World Pool Association) events are played with a magic rack, exluding the U.S. Open and I would challenge the organizers to ask themselves why. I also challenge the WPA to ask themselves why they would allow inconsistencies in the rules among tournaments that they promote.
In the end, and coming back to what Immonen said, I think Match-Room Sport is ahead of the curve on this one as they are with most everything else in the industry, in choosing to rack the 9 ball on the spot. This seems to be the only way proven to make the break in a 9 ball a skill shot, not a racking contest or a simple unskilled smashing of the balls.