Tom Reece

Tom Reece (12 August 1873 – 16 October 1953) was an English professional player of English billiards. He was six times runner-up in the professional billiards championship, now regarded as the world championship, losing three times to Melbourne Inman in finals from 1912 to 1914, and three times to Tom Newman in the 1921, 1924 and 1925 finals. He made the unofficial world's highest billiards break of 499,135 in 1907 using a cradle cannon technique shortly before it was banned from the sport. In 1927, his prowess with the pendulum stroke led to that also being banned from use in competition.

Tom Reece
Tom Reece playing English billiards, from his 1928 book "Cannons and Big Guns".jpg
Tom Reece playing an anchor stoke at English billiards, from his 1928 book "Cannons and Big Guns"
Born(1873-08-12)12 August 1873
Oldham, Lancashire
Died16 October 1953(1953-10-16) (aged 80)
Lancing, Sussex
Highest break901
Best ranking finishSix-times runner-up, World Billiards Championship

His highest officially-recognised break was 901, which he compiled in 1916. He authored two books, Dainty Billiards: How to play the close cannon game (1925), and his autobiography Cannons and Big Guns (1928). Reece died on 16 October 1953, a week after suffering a stroke.

Early lifeEdit

Reece was born in Oldham on 12 August 1873.[1] In his teenage years he worked in a cotton mill.[2] He used to visit a gymnasium to train for swimming and at the age of 16 started playing billiards on the gymnasium's table.[2] After becoming a professional player, he had taken part in around forty money matches for stakes by March 1902, losing only about six.[2] Reece accompanied Annette Kellermann on a section of her unsuccessful attempt to swim across the English Channel in 1905, being the only one of several supporters who was able to keep pace with her,[3] and had ambitions to swim the channel himself.[4]

Early billiards career and record breakEdit

In January 1907, Walter Lovejoy introduced the cradle cannon (also known as an anchor cannon) to the British game, in a match against Cecil Harverson,[5] making a break of 603 points, which included 284 consecutive cradle cannons.[6]

In a cradle cannon sequence, the two object balls are played into a position near a corner pocket where the cue ball can be successively played for a cannon off them so that they remain in the same position at the conclusion for the next shot.[7] This technique was quickly taken up by a number of other professional players, including Reece, who made a break of 1,825 in February, and another of 4,593 in March. A match of 150,000 up was arranged between Reece and Joe Chapman, with the intention of allowing a record break to be made. Reece compiled an unfinished break of 40,001, with the match being abandoned.[5] An official record for a cradle cannon break was set at 42,746, by William Cook on 4 June 1907. Meanwhile, the Billiard Association had signalled that the cradle cannon would no longer be permitted in the game after the end of the playing season.[8]:50

In a match held from 3 June to 6 July 1907, Reece scored a record break of 499,135 points using a cradle cannon system, although it was not an officially recognised record, as the public and press were not in attendance throughout.[9] His opponent was Chapman, who received a start of 50,000 and scored 926 before Reece commenced his break.[10] Reece managed to get the balls in position for cradle cannons after scoring 825 points,[11] and was in play for 85 hours and 49 minutes for his break, averaging 97 points a minute. As billiards is a turn-based sport, Chapman did not get to play any shots during this time.[9] During the match, at Burroughes Hall, Reece made 249,552 cradle cannons during his break.[5] The Billiards Association decided at a meeting on 2 September 1907 to ban the cradle cannon, although as no consensus on the definition of a cradle cannon was reached, the responsibility to determine whether a player was playing cradle cannons was passed to match referees. The president of the Association, Sydenham Dixon, said during the meeting that "the stroke had been mastered by certain professionals and persisted in to an extent that made it farcical".[12] The world record break under the current rules is 1,346 by Peter Gilchrist.[13]

The Billiards Control Club was established in 1908 as a rival to the Billiards Association and using a different set of rules, the main differences from the Association version being a simpler explanation of penalties and the stipulation that a player could not legally make more than two miss shots successively.[8]:50–51 Melbourne Inman, the Association champion, and Reece, each entered the Control Club Championship in 1910,[14] along with H. W. Stevenson, who had been declared the Control Club champion in February 1909.[8]:212 Inman defeated Reece 9,000–5,103 in the preliminary round.[15]

In 1912, with Stevenson not participating, Inman and Reece played for the professional billiards title.[16] Inman recorded a decisive 18,000–9,675 win over Reece in a match that The Sporting Life described as "the most spiritless affair ever witnessed on a billiard table" because it was so one-sided.[17] Inman defeated Reece for the title again in 1913, 18,000–16,627; and in 1914, 18,000–12,826.[8]:212

Reece next played in a match to decide the professional title in 1921.[8]:212 There were six participants in the tournament, with Inman and Willie Smith deciding not to play because of a disagreement with the organisers over the venue. Tom Newman defeated Reece 16,000–10,744 in the final.[8]:74–75 In 1922, Reece lost by 711 to Claude Falkiner in the semi-final after having led by 1,441.[8]:78 There were three entries for the 1924 tournament, which Newman won with a 16,000–14,845 victory over Reece in the final.[8]:79 Reece entered the 1925 tournament because he expected Inman to, but Newman was the only other entrant, and he recorded a 16,000–10,092 win over Reece.[8]:81

Later professional careerEdit

In the 1927 championship, against Inman, Reece played a series of pendulum cannons, where the object balls are trapped at the jaws of the pocket for successive cannons. One difference between this and the cradle method is that the player must walk around the corner of the table for each successive shot. The rules at the time specified that a maximum of 25 consecutive cannons could be made without the cue ball striking a cushion. Reece scored 568 consecutive cannons which prompted the Billiards Association and Control Club to prohibit the pendulum cannon in the rules.[18]:96–97

He played in one professional snooker tournament, the 1946 World Snooker Championship,[19] retiring from the match when 2–8 behind to Kingsley Kennerley.[20] He said that snooker was "a splendid game for navvies in their lunch hour, the sort of game you play in corduroys and clogs".[21]

In conversation with George Nelson of the Yorkshire Evening Post, reported in the paper in 1941, Reece spoke about his record break. He recounted that here had been a tradition that the company that manufactured the billiard table on which a record break was complied on would pay £100 to the player making the break. Following a rise in the use of the cradle cannon following Lovejoy's employment of the method in 1907, the record was frequently increasing, which meant more expense for table manufacturers. He says that the manufacturing firm Burroughes and Watts told him that they would only pay out for a break "the size of which will stop all further attempts at records", to which he replied that he would need an opponent and a venue for a month. The company then arranged for the match of 500,000 up between Reece and Chapman at their Burroughes Hall. He also said that as the balls were not moved, he was careful about not overusing chalk, as the table could not have been cleaned, and made the last 400,000 points without chalking his cue.[22]

Snooker historian Clive Everton described Reece's playing style as "temperamental, artistic with a taste for close, delicate control", and the opposite of Inman's "open" style.[18]:102 An editorial in The Billiard Player soon after Reece's death said that "his name is associated with the highest artistry ... and nobody can ever mention great billiards without mentioning Tom Reece."[23]

Reece's book Dainty Billiards: How to play the close cannon game was published by C. Arthur Pearson in 1925.[24] His memoir, Cannons and Big Guns, was published by Hutchinson & Co. in 1928. Reese claimed in the latter book to have sometimes played billiards with the Guglielmo Marconi, before the latter became well known.[25] Reece's highest officially recognised break was 901, which he compiled in 1916.[26] Joyce Gardner, winner of multiple Women's Professional Billiards Championships, wrote that it was "entirely due" to Reece's support and encouragement that she decided to become a professional player.[27]

Reece married Laura Lydia Williams on the morning of 6 June 1908, before continuing a match against John Roberts Jr that afternoon.[28] During World War II he toured the United Kingdom playing exhibition matches to raise funds for the British Red Cross.[29]

He died on 16 October 1953, a week after suffering a stroke,[30] and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on 20 October.[31]

Professional Championship FinalsEdit

These professional tournaments are now recognised as equivalent to World Billiards Championships events.[8]:212

Billiard Control Club Championship finalsEdit

The Billiard Control Club was established in 1908 as a rival to the Billiard Association and organised a separate championship.[8]:212

Date Winner Score Runner-up Score Refs.
March 1912   Melbourne Inman 18,000   Tom Reece 9,675 [8]:212
March 1913   Melbourne Inman 18,000   Tom Reece 16,627 [8]:212
March 1914   Melbourne Inman 18,000   Tom Reece 12,826 [8]:212

Billiards Association and Control Club Championship finalsEdit

After the 1919 final, the Billiard Association and the Billiard Control Club amalgamated and, as the Billiards Association and Control Club (later renamed as the Billiards Association and Control Council) organised an annual championship tournament.[8]:212

Date Winner Score Runner-up Score Refs.
March 1921   Tom Newman 16,000   Tom Reece 10,744 [8]:75
May 1924   Tom Newman 16,000   Tom Reece 14,845 [8]:212
April 1925   Tom Newman 16,000   Tom Reece 10,092 [8]:81


  1. ^ Riso Levi (9 January 2013) [1931]. Billiards in the Twentieth Century. Read Books Limited. pp. 29–32. ISBN 978-1-4474-8668-8. Archived from the original on 30 October 2020. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  2. ^ a b c "An old fogey" (6 March 1902). "Sport and anecdote". Reading Observer. Reading. p. 4.
  3. ^ "The Channel Swim: A quadruple failure – Miss Kellerman prostrated". Sheffield Evening Telegraph. Sheffield. 25 August 1905. p. 3.
  4. ^ "The Channel Swim". Gloucester Citizen. Gloucester. 25 August 1905. p. 3.
  5. ^ a b c Ainsworth, Peter; McGregor, Jock (14 April 2013). "Tom Reece". English Amateur Billiards Association. Archived from the original on 24 October 2020. Retrieved 24 October 2020.
  6. ^ "Lovejoy's extraordinary record". London Evening News. 21 January 1907. p. 5.
  7. ^ "Obituary: Tom Reece". The Times. London. 17 October 1953. p. 8.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Everton, Clive (2012). A History of Billiards. ISBN 978-0-9564054-5-6.
  9. ^ a b Gregory, Kenneth (3 June 1967). "Ballistics, 1907". The Guardian. London. p. 6.
  10. ^ "T. Reece v J. Chapman". Sporting Life. London. 1 July 1907. p. 1.
  11. ^ "Passing of a great billiards artist". The Billiard Player. Billiards Association and Control Club. November 1953. pp. 3–5.
  12. ^ "Billiards:. The Billiard Association Special General Meeting. Abolition of the "cradle" cannon". Sporting Life. London. 3 September 1907. p. 4.
  13. ^ "Peter Gilchrist". World Billiards. Archived from the original on 30 October 2020. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  14. ^ "Billiards: The B.C.C. championship". Leeds Mercury. 1 January 1910. p. 8.
  15. ^ "Billiards". Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette. 18 April 1910. p. 4.
  16. ^ "Billiards: Inman and Reece for the championship". The Globe. London. 18 March 1912. p. 2.
  17. ^ "Inman, Champion". The Sporting Life. London. 1 April 1912. p. 2.
  18. ^ a b Everton, Clive (1985). Guinness Snooker – The Records. Guinness Superlatives Ltd. ISBN 0851124488.
  19. ^ Hayton, Eric; Dee, John (2004). The CueSport Book of Professional Snooker: The Complete Record & History. Rose Villa Publications. p. 838. ISBN 978-0954854904.
  20. ^ Kobylecky, John (2019). The Complete International Directory of Snooker Players – 1927 to 2018. Kobyhadrian Books. p. 202. ISBN 978-0993143311.
  21. ^ Everton, Clive (14 April 2001). "Founder of the Crucible affair". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  22. ^ Nelson, George (25 January 1941). "Tom Reece on the spot: tells Leeds of world record". Yorkshire Evening Post. Leeds. p. 2.
  23. ^ "Tom Reece". The Billiard Player. Billiards Association and Control Club. December 1953. p. 3.
  24. ^ Gary Clarke (2008). A Billiards and Snooker Compendium. Paragon Publishing. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-899820-46-7.
  25. ^ "Reece as an author". The Manchester Guardian. Manchester. 15 September 1928. p. 16.
  26. ^ The Billiards and Snooker Control Council Handbook and Rules. London: Billiards and Snooker Control Council. 1971. p. 93.
  27. ^ "A word on Tom Reece from Joyce Gardner". The Billiard Player. Billiards Association and Control Club. November 1953. p. 9.
  28. ^ "Tom Reece married". Sheffield Evening Telegraph. Sheffield. 6 June 1908. p. 5.
  29. ^ "Tom Reece at Spondon". Derby Daily Telegraph. Derby. 23 November 1940. p. 6.
  30. ^ "Death of Tom Reece". The Manchester Guardian. 17 October 1953. p. 6.
  31. ^ "Funeral of Tom Reece". The Billiard Player. Billiards Association and Control Club. November 1953. p. 5.

External linksEdit