Artistic billiards is a very unique and technical carom billiards game which requires immense skill to master. Artistic billiards is also less commonly referred to as fantasy billiards or fantaisie classique.
The governing body of Artistic billiards is the Confederation International de Billard Artistique, which is also known as CIBA. A match of artistic billiards involves players competing against one another at executing 76 predetermined billiard shots of varying difficulty and skill level on a billiard table without pockets. Each of the 76 shots are assigned a maximum point value for a flawless execution. Point values range from four points as a maximum for shots of minimum difficulty to eleven points as a maximum for shots of maximum difficulty. These points combine for a maximum total of 500, which is the sum of the perfect scores for all 76 shots. Not all games, however, are played with the full repertoire of shots.
Artistic billiards is a sport that includes specialized terms and vocabulary, many derived from French words, which have no meaning in other, more traditional cue sports. For example, the force-follow shot called “whip shot” is commonly referred to as a “coup fouette” among players.
The shots are executed from a precise, pre-defined position, often having a tolerance of only a few millimeters. Artistic billiards players are permitted three attempts at each of the 76 artistic billiards shots, all of which must play out in an established, pre-determined manner. All of the artistic billiards shots, including the most basic four-point shots require an extremely high degree of skill and knowledge. Artistic billiards players must be intimately familiar with the nuances of each and every shot. The techniques required for each of the artistic billiards shots are often never required in a regular game of billiards, such as eight ball.
Techniques commonly used in artistic billiards include force draws, force follows, precision multiple-rail kick shots, jump shots, masse shots, and an extreme use of English.
Artistic billiards shots are so precise, that players often use many different cue sticks to execute different strokes. Under the official regulations, players may use up to 20 different cue sticks. For example, a jump shot may perhaps require a flat-tipped, lightweight, hard, and wide cue stick, while a masse shot may require a certain other type of cue tip, and a cue with a large diameter. Some artistic billiards shots may require the placement of small objects, such as a pin, to be placed in a precise location on the table, around which the shooting player is required to make the cue ball pass on a designated side. Generally, the best artistic billiard players specialize to the degree at which they exclude play in all of the other cue sports.
1986 marked the first world title competition, which was played with ivory balls; a requirement that was abandoned in 1990 due to the nature and controversy over the material. Artistic billiards is predominantly played in Europe, especially in the Netherlands, France, and Belgium. The all-time highest score in artistic billiards competition is 427, and was set by Walter Bax of Belgium in 2006. The highest score ever achieved in world competition was 374, set by Jean Reverchon of France in 1992.
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