Wednesday, 14 September 2016

"Gentlemen's Rule": Big Red Breaks Down Shaw Vs Strickland 14.1 Controversy

By: Erik Hjorleifson

This past weekend the World 14.1 Straight Pool Tournament took place at Steinway Billiards in Queens, New York. The worlds best straight pool players including Darren Appleton, Thorsten Hohmann, Shane Van Boening and John Schmidt were all on hand. In the end it would be Mika Immonen taking home the $10 000 first prize defeating Earl Strickland in the final. 

Strickland's road to the final however took a tumultuous turn in the his semi final match against up and coming superstar Jayson Shaw. What unfolded with the score being 189 to 184 in favor of Strickland was one of the oddest circumstances I have ever seen in pool let alone a professional match.

To set the scene here is the video that ignited the controversy
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Although the audio and video is not HD quality you can see that Earl clearly calls the 2 ball in the corner pocket by accident instead of the ten ball which he intended to pocket. Obviously earl was caught in the heat of the moment and recognized the ten as the same color as the 2 and dismissed the stripe part of the ball. The standing rule in straight pool is that you must call shots that are not obvious and you must call the number of the ball correctly. In fact in another odd occurrence, although not on video, Strickland had been called on a foul for making this exact mistake earlier in the match. Definitely an odd beginning to the discrepancy but what happened from there was even more obscure. 

Here is the second video from the stream. This shot was under review until 11 minute 30 second mark. The tournament director comes over and makes his ruling.

After watching this video you can see the issue that further confounds the situation is that the tournament director was not present at the time of the shot, however apparently he did have a referee watching the match. As you can see in the video the tournament director decides to review the shot on the stream and says Earl's call was inaudible because the commentators were speaking as Earl was calling the ball.

The video in this article and the video circulating on Facebook is a cell phone video and in this video it is clear that Earl calls the wrong ball. After the tournament director determined the call was inaudible on the stream I do not expect him to have the presence of mind to see if there were any other live videos but it is my understanding that the gentleman in the dress shirt seated near Shaw was observing the match in a refereeing capacity. Why the tournament director did not ask the secondary referee who was sitting right there for input is beyond me and I feel its really unfortunate he didn't because in the end by the rule book the wrong ruling was made.

A lot of people are begrudging Earl for what happened but it has to be said that it was obvious that he pocketed the ball he intended he just made an honest mistake with the number of the ball. Shaw is known tour wide as a very sportsmanlike player and is one of the most exciting players in the game but the question must be asked "did he really want to win that way?". I believe prior run ins with Earl made it easy for him to pounce on the opportunity to take advantage of the situation. I also believe that the same occurrence being called a foul earlier in the match prompted Shaw to see the same call be made again.

I would like to make it clear that I am not saying by any means Shaw was out of line here and the final ruling was very unfortunate for him and I think he is a great role model and ambassador for the game. I do wonder though what would have happened if Earl immediately admitted he made an honest mistake and looked him in the eye and asked him if he really wanted to win like that. Again though that is not what did happen and I believe prior history and like I said the same foul being called in the match already I would not fault him in any way for standing up in what he believed in.

Shaw's decision to call Strickland on his actions falls into the "gentleman rule" exceptions, here are a couple of instances where I feel a player is abusing the gentleman rule.

1. when your opponent fouls you must by the book, verbally ask "ball in hand?" your opponent must acknowledge, technically picking up the cue ball without asking is a foul. Worst infraction, the fouling player should never invoke this rule.

2. the cue ball must come to a complete stop after pocketing the last ball after before it is long as the cue ball isn't tracking near a pocket this rule should never be challenged by the incoming player.

3. playing 8 ball the opposing player takes ball in hand off the break when the rule is to start behind the line. in my opinion the fouling player can still be deemed gentlemanly if he lets the player foul by not placing the cue ball behind the line,. it is the incoming players fault

4. Playing rotation the player allows the other player  to shoot a ball out of sequence, nothing ungentlemanly about this at all it is purely the shooters fault.

I would grade what Shaw did somewhere between 3 and 4 with number 1 being the worst infraction

for me the situation is very important in the applications of 3 and 4. The more there is at stake the more acceptable calling those rules is.

Comments and opinions are most welcome.