05-20-2005, 05:27 PM
MOSCOW, May 20. (RIA Novosti)-On May 20-21, the Kremlin will host the Russian billiard Kremlin Cup for the first time. The competition is part of events dedicated to this year's 60th anniversary of the end of World War II and will be held in the banquet hall of the State Kremlin Palace.

Historian Anatoly Shefov, a passionate fan of the games (which unlike the eponymous English counterpart involves 15 white balls plus the cue ball and so uses a different point scoring system), says the tournament venue is important. "Billiards in Russia has scaled these heights for the first time," he said. "The game has not got any higher."

Shefov said billiards had had something of a checkered history in the 200 years it has been played in Russia. The historian said Peter the Great had brought the game to his court from the Netherlands in 1798 so that aristocrats waiting for an audience with him would have something to do. Both rulers and the ruled in Russia have enjoyed the game since then, with fans including national poet Alexander Pushkin, writer Lev Tolstoy, dramatists Anton Chekhov, opera singer Fyodor Shalyapin and poet Vladimir Mayakovsly.

In fact, the game went through a boom in the early 20th century. "There were more than 1,000 places in Moscow where you could play billiards: restaurants, cafes, and other places to eat," said Shefov.

He also said that billiard tables featured at imperial courts, including Nicholas II's, while Lenin and his two brothers, Alexander and Dmitry Ulyanov, enjoyed the game. Stalin was also a passionate player, but Khrushchev had no love for the pastime, which forced it to go underground.

It was to be a long vanishing act, as the game only reemerged during perestroika. The Soviet Union Billiard Federation was established in 1989, and actress Elina Bystritskaya, the star of Quiet Flows the Don and a huge fan of the game, became its first honorary president.

Following the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, the Russian Billiard Federation replaced its Soviet forerunner, and then on November 1, 1999, took the name the Federation of Billiard Sport in Russia.

Good players can now be found in the multitude of clubs, so, Shefov said, the idea of the tournament was to unite all of these organizations.

Shefov said Russians had become increasingly interested in the game in the last 15 years, as people have started playing irrespective of their age and background. "Billiards, like no other sport," he said, "changes the atmosphere wonderfully and forces you to forget about everything else when you're at the table." web page (http://en.rian.ru/sports/20050520/40386356.html)

Scott Lee
05-21-2005, 12:45 AM
Nick...The Kremlin is quite a beautiful "palace"! One part of it is the Hermitage museum, which in addition to housing thousands of Russian antiquities, also keeps the orginal ornate antique table, constructed for the Czar! Tourists are not allowed in many parts of the Hermitage, but 20 yrs ago, my mother was part of a delegation of law-related people, who went over and visited several parts of Russia and Georgia. They got a personal tour of the Hermitage, when they were in Moscow, and got to see many things not usually allowed! This was just as perestroika was beginning!