Outside Curly’s beach house, the keening of sea gulls and the soft plashing of the Pacific Ocean. Inside, the click-clack of clashing pool balls and the faint groans of a Limey cue pusher struggling to find form. My $10K first-to-five-frames showdown with Virtual Pool 4’s top dog does not start well.
The first frame is done and dusted in under four minutes. Curly wraps it up with a tricky cut into a corner pocket that he makes look easy.
Tally-Ho Tim: 2*
* I start with a two frame advantage because of the difference in our rankings.
I’m three balls up in the second and liking the spread of the spheres when a moment of madness/clumsiness takes the wind out of my sails. With a couple of my opponent’s reds nuzzling cushions, I’m fairly confident the frame still has some twists in store. However, Curly has other ideas. Reds disappear into pockets with startling rapidity. A few minutes later, my starting lead is history.
Tally-Ho Tim: 2
I’d resigned myself to losing three frames in a row when I screengrabbed the above jpeg. After a good start, Curly was back in the driving seat. A simple final red left an equally straightforward black into a side pocket. Watching the 8 ball ricochet within the maw then gambol back into verdant flatlands, I couldn’t believe my luck.
A slight hiccup on the last yellow gave Curly half a chance to make good his gaffe. Thankfully, once again the black refused to drop.
Tally-Ho Tim: 3
Judging by the curt way Curly dispatches balls in the early stages of frame #4, those misses touched a nerve. By the time I get to the table, it’s sans five yellows. Can I claw my way back into contention? A quick glance at the table, suggests ‘yes’ and subsequent developments prove my optimism well-founded.
A few minutes later there are only four balls left on the baize battlefield (one red, one yellow) and Curly is attempting the first snooker of the contest. As illustrated above, he doesn’t quite pull it off, but fast-forward a few shots and things aren’t looking great for Yours truly…
Not confident I can execute the exquisite snooker I can see in my mind’s eye, I decide to take on an absurdly ambitious double instead. Although I miss the intended pocket by a country mile, I come within a whisker of fluking a ludicrous triple.
Curly returns to the fray knowing the frame is now as good as his. My opponent’s last yellow duly vanishes, and we both watch the white as it scampers towards the cushion collision that will set up the final pot. A side pocket ends up injecting unanticipated chaos into said collision leaving my playmate with an unenviable double to take the frame. His miss hands me the frame on a plate.
Tally-Ho Tim: 4
Capitalising on a helpful break, I make smart progress in what, fingers-crossed, will be the final frame of this high-stakes duel. By the time Curly addresses the cue ball for the first time, it has already encouraged four yellows to do an Orpheus. My opponent promptly mounts a spirited fightback that I eventually manage to derail with a cockle-warming snooker.
Get out of that without leaving me an easy pot, chum!
With lashings of swerve, Curly manages the seemingly impossible. However, the white dashes for the nearest pocket after striking its target, leaving me with a priceless opportunity which, maddeningly, I fail to fully capitalise on. I’m two shots away from triumph when one of my Achilles’ heels, the super-fine cut, brings me down to earth with a bump. The miss proves decisive.
Tally-Ho Tim: 4
Looking at the above screenshot I can’t believe I failed to wrap things up in closely-fought frame #6. Poor cue ball control on this long pot left me with an ugly but far from impossible final red. If I’d made that pot, the black would have been child’s play.
Tally-Ho Tim: 4
Roughly an hour after the contest’s opening break, I split the pack for the final time. Although a yellow clatters into a pocket, after contemplating the balls I decide the scarlet spheres offer the best chance of victory and set about reducing their number. A miss after three pots hands the initiative to Curly who, with customary precision, quickly eliminates the deficit.
If my opponent is feeling the pressure, he’s not showing it.
Hang on a minute, I spoke too soon! A bungled long pot, leaves me a plant too obvious/tempting to resist.
Perfect. Now just three reds and the black stand between me and a career-defining, wallet-stretching win. Keep your head, Timbo. Keep your head.
Make that two reds.
One red. While potting the last red will be a piece of cake, getting the cue ball into a position* where I can take on the badly crowded black will tax my modest VP4 skills to the limit.
* Either of the shaded spots in the above image
I draw my mouse back knowing this shot is more important than any of the 3300+ I’ve played since falling in love with VP4 in May. The red dutifully disappears, and the white, after colliding with the top cushion bowls towards the lefthand rail that will (fingers-crossed) kick it south into one of my two target areas. Things look good until I realise the cue ball is heading towards a gaping abyss rather than something springy. No… surely the pool gods wouldn’t be that cruel?
Curly flashes me a sympathetic grin as he returns to the table. With a free shot at his disposal, I’m expecting him to clear the table with ease. I might as well start counting out that ten grand right now.
Longish and straight, the first yellow is sunk with ease. However, Big C’s usually excellent positional play seems to momentarily desert him. It looks as if he has left himself with a tricky pot into the middle pocket.
I’m surprised to see my opponent’s cue appear on the left-hand side of the screen and nudge the white in the direction of the two nuzzling yellows. My jaw drops further when the outlandish shot splits the askew pair, propelling each ball into a different pocket!
I’m still marvelling at this magical bit of cuemanship when Curly sinks the black that decides the match. The defeat has cost me dear, but because I had my chances, I depart the beach house encouraged and buzzing, rather than frustrated and bitter.