How to Play
Plus One On Time
Croquet Tactics For The Medium To High Handicap Player
D L Gaunt
To Jill and Celia for putting up with my teaching efforts
Published by D L Gaunt
Text and Diagrams © Don Gaunt 1987
[Please note that Don's book reflects the laws and customs of the time (1987). Some of these have changed and where posssible changes are indicated with a note in the text - IRP]
Chapter 2. On Your Marks!
Chapter 1. An Introduction to the Book
Why write the book? Several things prompted me. I have been coaching beginners and improvers for some years now. I thought therefore that it would be a good idea to put the results of my experience on paper. That way other coaches could benefit by having things written down for them. Also, players would have a permanent record of the points covered. My book will also help those who are not able to get regular coaching and would like to improve their tactics. The scope of my book is deliberately narrow, since books for beginners and books for experts already exist. My book will help to fill the gap.
The book will be of benefit if you have a handicap which lies between 6 and 18 inclusive. My aim is to improve your knowledge and tactical skills so that you will play well enough to have your handicap reduced eventually to below 6. I will assume that you have played for at least one season. I will also assume that you know the basic rules and strategy of the game and most of all, want to improve your play. I shall cover handicap singles and doubles, full bisque and short croquet play.
I shall not teach advanced play, or the skills of making shots (practice is probably the best teacher anyway). I will discuss some, but not all, of the rules.
The main chapters of the book (2, 3 & 4) cover aspects which are common to all types of handicap game. For the convenience of the reader they cover three ranges of handicap. These are 18 to 13, 12 to 9, and 8 to 6. Each of these chapters may have a differing number of sections but all will contain advice on three situations. These are receiving bisques, giving them and no bisques. Note that some of the main headings in the chapters are the same. Further, some of the text may appear to be repeated. There will, however, be changes designed to reflect your improving ability. Do not skip these paragraphs thinking that you have already read them.
Figure 1.1 shows the conventions and symbols used for the diagrams in this book. I explain jargon and technical terms as they occur.
Do not read all of the book at once. It has been written so that you can gradually gain tactical skills as you improve.
If your handicap is between 12 and 9
If your handicap is between 8 and 6
Your Attitude To The Game
You must approach all sports, including croquet, in the right way. If you believe that you are going to lose, you will. If you believe that you are going to win, you might not, but your chances of doing so are much better. "Terrific," I hear you say. "We all KNOW that. How do you DO it?"
The answer is - practice. Learn an attitude of mind, it can be done. Practice being calm, practice thinking before shooting, practice concentration on the shot in hand not the next one. When something goes wrong, practice forgetting it, or it will destroy the next shot, then the next etc. If you are naturally nervous or depressive, you can still overcome the problem, but it may take a little longer. If you want to get deeply into this subject there are books on "the inner game", try your library.
Croquet is one of the few sports left where professionalism is minimal. Even the rules of the game place a reliance on you to admit a fault. Where else would you see a player tell a referee that while observing for one error, she/he missed another? Long may this attitude exist say I, and it is up to you to keep it that way. I know that it is very tempting to pretend that the croqueted ball moved, when you know that it did not - especially if your opponent is not watching. However if you go on to win the game, victory is hollow. You know, even if your opponent does not, that you did not deserve the win. Be a good winner and a good loser (or as good as you can manage!)
You will often hear people say "the game is only over when both balls are pegged out". This seems trite but is not. Croquet is one of the few games where recovery from an apparently impossible situation not only can happen, but does, and regularly. I once saw a game in the Northern Championships. Here one player, having missed with one ball, pegged out the other. This left his opponent with only three-balls on the lawn and still to score. From this position the opponent then won in two turns. This may not be a very common event but it illustrates my point, "never give up". The situation may look desperate but it will change with only one mistake by your opponent or one good hit by you. Then you have the innings and hence the initiative. Do not fall into the trap of making a wild shot at an impossible hoop. Do not try a "suicide shot" at an opponent without assessing the situation first. Often, with a bit of thought, a carefully placed ball will put pressure on your opponent and force an error.
On the other side of the coin, when you are potentially in a winning situation, you really need your power of concentration. You will often hear an "out player" (the one not playing!) say "Doesn't she/he EVER make a mistake?" That player probably does make mistakes, but by concentrating on the game those mistakes reduce to a minimum. What is more, the mistakes are those of normal play and not silly careless ones.
The type of play that I will be teaching in this book is that which I have called "prudent aggression". The best way to improve is to get straight on the lawn when you know the rules and try to play constructive croquet. To help you in the early stages you will get extra turns, called bisques. As you improve, so those bisques will disappear and eventually you will be able to meet good players on equal terms. A word of warning however. Aggressive play in the early stages leads to many defeats. This is because trying to play constructive breaks involves a risk of failure. When you are a beginner, those failures come often - and all too frequently to an opponent who is not playing constructively. Do not get downhearted about it and start to play negatively, saying "Well at least I win occasionally now". In the short term this may be true. If however you persist at break-making your skill will improve and you will not only win occasionally but often.
This is not as silly as it sounds. If you are in more than one event in a tournament, it is quite possible that you have mixed up the games. You may think, for example, that you are playing a full bisque event. In fact you are playing in a normal handicap game and confusion will soon reign!
It is very annoying to pace yourself for a three hour time limited game only to find there are no time limits.
Normally you cannot practice. If you are starting late and your opponent has played a game already that day, the manager will usually allow you a few minutes. Ask him/her first, however, before doing so.
[2015 - practice at the start of the day is now found regularly; still ask the manager, they may not want certain lawns used.]
Traditionally your low handicap opponent gets the bisques, puts them in the ground, then pulls them out as you spend them! This is not an absolute rule but never pull a bisque out without letting your opponent know you are doing it. An exception would be in the case of your opponent's temporary absence. In this case, say so immediately on his or her return.
It is worthwhile spending a minute on the options that are available to you if you win the toss. Traditionally the lower bisquer spins the coin.
OK, we are ready, so on your marks and turn to Chapter 2.
To use this chapter you will have a handicap between 18 and 13 and will have had some form of introductory training. You should therefore:
If you feel unsure about any of the above points, you may have difficulties with this book. You should work on the problem before proceeding further.
Being in this handicap range will normally mean that you have played quite a lot of games. However it will be rare for you to make breaks of more than two or three hoops without using bisques. You will only have a rudimentary knowledge of tactics, will often miss simple shots and will stick in hoops from simple approaches. This may seem like an insulting way to start a lesson! It is not, I want you to think about your capabilities In an objective way. It is important for you to do this so that you know what you can and cannot do. This is just as much a part of your overall game plan as estimating what your opponent can and cannot do.
You are in front of your hoop at an angle. You have no pioneer ball at the next hoop and you have approached this hoop off your opponent's ball. You know that you are not very good at hoop running. Yet I bet that you will still have a go! Why? Because it is human nature to take risks. You have to overcome that instinct and say to yourself "No, wait until next time".
You plan to your ability. You consider the essential shots that go to make up a game. Then you fix in your mind what you can and cannot do. So:
What is the farthest distance over which you can be pretty certain to make a roquet? If you then have a shot longer than that, consider the situation. You are likely to miss, what are the consequences of that miss?
Know the maximum angle and distance from which you can be confident of scoring. A lot depends on the situation. There is much less pressure when your partner ball is the other side of the hoop and not your opponent's. Hoop running is a very psychological thing anyway. The very best players have stuck in hoops from a foot in front, just because it was a vital hoop. Somehow that hoop seems to squeeze tighter just as you take your shot. The key is calmness. Lining up, practice swings and follow through help to get the mechanics right but unless you are calm your chances are poor. Yes I know it is easy to say, and I get as nervous as anyone, but that doesn't make me wrong!
It adds up to a picture that you have in your mind of your ability. It means that you can base your play on that picture in such a way that you k. will reduce the number of unforced errors that you make. It will mean that you can stop when you should, and not when you have to. Also you will proceed confidently when you know that you can. Of course it won't always work. Any assessment of a situation will involve the risk of failure. if you do fail, look at that failure objectively. Say for example that you have just missed a 3-yard roquet and you don't normally miss. If you have hit a dozen similar roquets successfully before this one, then forget your miss. It may have been the lawn, a lapse of concentration, or some similar one-off cause. If however you have missed three in succession, something is wrong. Until you can find out what it is, make a temporary adjustment to that picture of yourself.
Ideally this should be as good as the picture you have of yourself. If you play someone regularly, it may be pretty good, but obviously will not be perfect. Whether it is a regular opponent or not, you should always watch them playing. By watching opponents you can continually update your information about them. Also it is good practice to make sure that they do not commit a fault.
At this stage against a new opponent you know little or nothing. You can however start with a few basic premises based on their handicap. Now I stress that what follows is only a guide, modified as play progresses. I know minus players who are very poor at hitting long shots, but once they do are almost certain to go round. Similarly I know players who can hit almost anything on the lawn, but find break constructing a hard task.
Will hit most roquets of less than 14 yards and many at any distance. Will place balls in a croquet stroke accurately to within feet on long shots and inches on short ones. Accurate through hoops but because they get good position so often can sometimes stick in awkward ones. Can pick up a four-ball break from almost anything and will rarely break down from it. Have no trouble with a three-ball break and can often do a two-ball for several hoops. Will be tactically good and know how to put pressure on you. If you are improving and using your bisques well you will probably win. If you use your bisques poorly, you will almost certainly lose.
Will hit most roquets less than 10 yards and many longer ones. Usually good on croquet strokes but not always. Normally they are good at hoops. Can pick up a four-ball break from difficult positions, but may break down trying. Will not normally break down having got one. Will quite often break down on a three-ball break. Tactically fairly good but will make errors of judgement, giving you chances. Standards of play vary a lot in this range, hence so do your chances of winning, so watch carefully!
Players in this range who are still improving will probably play much like those in 2. However they will break down more often due to lack of tactical experience and through trying shots beyond their capabilities. Since they will be like you, striving to get better, winning will need 100% effort.
Players in this range who are not improving will usually either be good at roquets or will be very poor indeed. They will be tactically unsound.
They may well play "Aunt Emma" (splitting opponent's balls far apart with no other purpose than to separate them). They will break down often, but will then suddenly produce an all-round break from nowhere. This will happen especially if you get careless and think that you have an easy victory. Play carefully and you will nearly always win.
You will often find yourself with an advantage against improving players in this range. They will still largely be relying on bisques to get round, and against you they do not have any. See later on how to use your bisques. They will be good hitters and hoop runners. This is because they will not know enough about tactics to realise how dangerous some shots are. Hence they are relaxed and do not muff them! Tactically they will be weak and should leave you a lot of chances.
For other players the comments that I made previously hold good but the likelihood of a big break is less.
These players are the same as you, unless you or they are wrongly handicapped, as you will be just before the handicapper spots you!
This is not a lesson on the mechanics of the break, as you should know those. It is a look at some of the tactics employed to maintain the break using bisques. For the moment I will assume that you have an infinite number of bisques. When a four-ball break is in progress, you will have the following ball positions.
Figure 2.1, which assumes that you are at the start of a four-ball break hoop 1, illustrates this. From here the sequence is,
I will now consider each of the elements of this sequence in turn.
Ideally you should be nicely in front, about a foot away. If you are, then going through will only require that you are careful - but BE careful!
If you are in front more than a foot away or at a slight angle, but still confident, then try for it. Don't hammer at it with all your strength. Hitting hard will destroy your aim resulting in a bounce off the hoop. Also you will almost certainly end up in a hopeless position. If you do go through, it will be with such strength that the return roquet will be a long one. Hit with enough strength to go through the hoop and land near the other ball. If you don't hit too hard and don't make the hoop, the chances are that you will stop in the jaws. Then you can run the hoop by taking a bisque.
Consider now that you have got in front but are quite a long way away. Perhaps you are also at an angle. It is time to think about taking a bisque. Remember that you still have a continuation shot before you need to take any bisques. Remember also that you do not HAVE to take a bisque, even if you have said that you will. You cannot however say that you will not take a bisque, leave the lawn, then say that you will after all! The temptation is to use your continuation shot to get into perfect position. Unless this shot is a very simple one, do not take it. It is usually far better to use the continuation shot to get a perfect rush on the other ball near your hoop. When you take the bisque you then start with a simple roquet. This will give you a much easier approach shot to the hoop. Figure 2.2 illustrates this.
How do you decide which shot to go for? You do it by referring to your picture of yourself and deciding which shot stands the best chance of succeeding. Are you good at positioning? Can you rush accurately? Can you do accurate short croquet shots? Which are you best at? Decide and make your shots accordingly (if you are bad at all of them then it's back to the practice ground!). Finally, you may have done too well and got within an inch or two of the hoop. The same points apply as above, with the added complication that you now have a hampered shot. You must ask a referee to watch this; see the chapter on how to deal with hampered shots.
The position of this ball is determined by the croquet stroke which put your ball in front of the hoop. Getting in front of the hoop is obviously the most important objective. This does not mean that the position of the other ball is unimportant. It is, because there will be two things that you will want to do when making this roquet.
I mentioned earlier that the rush should allow you to create the pioneer easily. What do I mean by an easy shot? If you watch top players you will rarely find them making complicated rolls and splits. The only times that they will do so is to get out of trouble or when doing complex breaks involving peels. By far the easiest croquet stroke to play is the straight drive. This is where your ball and the croqueted ball both go in the same direction, and you take your shot from a normal stance with a normal swing. In this type of shot the croqueted ball goes about 4 times the distance of your ball.
So you rush to a position which is on a line from your pioneer hoop to the pivot ball and a little short. See the diagram below for an illustration.
The balls do not have to be dead in line. In fact it is a slight nuisance if they are! As long as they are close to a line, the shot will be a simple one. All you need to concentrate on then is the strength of shot and hitting the ball properly. As an example, Figure 2.4 illustrates the rush and pioneer shot having run hoop 1.
There is not a lot to say here. Remember not to rush it too far from the middle. If it is off centre, place your ball so that you rush back towards the middle of the lawn again.
A lot of people worry about take-offs. There is no need to. There are several ways to line up a take-off, this is mine.
Look down at the two balls in contact (your ball on the left). Then imagine that you have a pencil and draw two circles round the balls. Where the two circles meet and touch, you can see two arrowheads. The one going away from you points to where your ball will go in a take-off shot. Remember that you must move or shake the croqueted ball. So make that arrowhead point to where you wish your ball to go. Figure 2.5 illustrates this technique. Then strike just to the right of this direction. If your ball is on the right hand side, you must of course hit slightly to the left. Remember that you are virtually only hitting one ball, so don't over hit it.
With care you can make these shots very accurate and will be able to good position for the last shot in this sequence.
…and off you go again!
There will be only two reasons why you will want to stop. Either you don't want to go further or you cannot because you have reached the peg.
You will want to stop before the peg when you do not want to take the risk of your ball being pegged out. How far you go will depend on the situation. Here is a rough guide against differing opponents. This assumes that your other ball (the backward ball) has more than 6 hoops to go. ALSO you do not have enough bisques left to be reasonably certain of getting the other ball round. If you do have enough bisques left - go to peg always.
With less than 6 hoops to go with the backward ball, decide according to the merits of the situation.
All of the above seems to leave a risk of being pegged out. Yes it does, but it is a calculated risk and you have to take it sometimes. If you creep up hoop by hoop to the peg, you will give your opponent too many chances of a hit in. In any case as you will see in a later chapter, being pegged out is not the end of the world.
OK, so you have decided where you want to stop (before you have got there!) and you will want to plan your finish.
There are hundreds of varieties of finish. I am only going to talk about one because more would confuse, and this one is simple and effective. The leave is this, illustrated in Figure 2.6 with the assumption that you are for hoop 1 with your partner ball.
Put one of your opponent's balls at the first hoop that you want with your backward ball. Put the other either at the next hoop, or if that is too close to another ball, the next hoop but one. Put your own balls as far away as possible from the opponent's. Leave a rush for the ball which is not at your hoop but make sure that you do not leave a double. If you cannot have a rush without leaving a double, forget the rush. For picking up the break afterwards (assuming your opponent misses!) see the section on bisques.
There are so many things that could go wrong that a list would be enormous. I have simplified them into two categories.
Here things have gone so badly wrong that to recover, even using bisques, will not be worth it. It is always worth recognising fatal errors for what they are, because you may lose the innings but save the game.
"Yo-yo bisques" or "windscreen wipers". This is where you miss a 10 ft roquet and go 10 ft past, take a bisque and miss again, etc., etc. I have seen 4 bisques used in this way, and still no roquet made. If you miss after the first bisque, give up unless you are very, very close.
The four-ball has crumbled to nothing and you only have a few bisques left. Use one bisque for a tidy finish and play the game tactic appropriate to only a few bisques (Section (b) later).
"Hoopitus". You have bounced off twice from the same hoop, or you have failed twice to approach it properly. Give up and close your turn fully.
Recovery from a mistake will involve the taking of a bisque (or more). Remember that a bisque is an extra turn. This means that you can roquet all of the balls again. This is a very important point. Suppose that you have just failed to get in front of your hoop (with a continuation shot left, as described earlier). If you have a perfect break, then all that you need to do is use a bisque to get good position next time. Suppose though that your pivot ball has gone 10 yards away from the middle. Why not use the continuation shot to get near to the pivot ball. Then take a bisque and rush it to the middle and take, off to the ball by your hoop. That way you will have restored the break and still have made the hoop. Figure 2.7 shows these moves.
This all sounds too perfect - and it is! The problem is of course that you are making five strokes before running the hoop instead of three. So weigh up the situation. What are the benefits? How difficult is what you are proposing? What will happen if it goes wrong? What will happen if you DON'T correct it, but DO get the hoop? Weigh up, make a decision and go for it. Do not start thinking about what you might have done; concentrate on executing your chosen option correctly.
As I have said, the combinations of positions are endless. Here however are a few useful do's and don'ts.
I am still assuming that you have many bisques. If you win the toss, you should go in second. The reason for this is that you intend to get going as soon as possible. By going second you get, on the fourth turn, the first opportunity when there are four-balls on the lawn. Also it prevents the very good player from having a hit in chance on fourth turn and going round.
There are many start variations and all have their pros and cons. Some guidance is needed, so here are a few ideas. Do not treat them as anything more than a first introduction on how to start. The descriptions first ball, second ball, etc. refer to the order in which balls are brought into play regardless of who plays them.
I shall begin with the situation where you have lost the toss and your opponent has put you in first.
First and third balls are yours - send the first ball near to the peg. Normally the opponent will then go for option i, ii, or iii below (see next paragraph if this does not happen). Whatever they do, put your third ball in 4th corner, or if occupied, the 2nd.
Second ball is your opponent's:
Unless remarkably brave or foolhardy your opponent will not shoot at your ball in the middle. If he/she has, you will have to decide what to do with the outcome, whatever that is. If you can make hoops without difficulty, do so. Otherwise put your opponent's ball in front of hoop 2 and lay up near 2nd or 4th corner. Remember that you may start from the A- or the B-baulk, whichever is most advantageous to you.
Fourth ball is your opponents - It is virtually certain that your opponent will shoot. The shot will be at a ball which if missed, leaves the fourth ball in or near a corner. If your opponent makes the roquet she/he may make a break. Whatever the situation, you will eventually get to play turn number 5. Your objective should be to get to peg and only have used half of your bisques, or less. This is aggressive croquet - the best kind - and there are some risks. The advantages both tactical and psychological are enormous though, if you get it right.
There are many combinations possible at this stage. As an example see Figure 2.8. Assume that your opponent put one ball into Corner 2 and shot and missed your ball in the middle with the other. The ball then landed in the B-baulk near Corner 3.
So you have your balls in the middle and in Corner 4, while your opponent is in Corners 2 and 3. This may seem an impossible situation but it is not!
Shoot at Corner 3 (not the ball) with your ball that is in Corner 4. Take a bisque and rush the ball at Corner 3 a few yards towards hoop 6. You should give yourself a clear view of hoop 1. Croquet the ball to hoop landing with your ball near the pivot at the middle. Roquet the pivot ball and take-off to the ball in Corner 2. Roquet that and send it to hoop 2 with a normal drive shot. Take position near the ball at hoop 2 with the continuation stroke. Take a second bisque and simply take-off via the pivot ball to your ball at hoop 1. You have a four-ball break in two bisques and no difficult shots except the first, which requires some care.
When should you hold back and play a waiting game? If you are really tense, perhaps because you have just lost a previous game due to bad play on your part, then wait. If conditions (bad weather or lawn) make playing a lottery, then use bisques sparingly. Otherwise go for it!
Now assume that you have won the toss and are going in second. First ball is your opponent's -
Third ball is your opponent's - No predictions are possible. There are three likely options.
Fourth ball is yours - the objective should again be to get to peg using no more than half of your bisques.
There is NO situation possible where you should not be able to approach hoop 1 after three bisques. Here is the most difficult. A ball in each of corners 2 and 4, and one half-way down the east or west boundaries.
As an example, consider Figures 2.9 and 2.10. Your opponent went first and laid a longish tice. You put your ball to 4 and your opponent shot at and missed the tice landing in Corner 2.
Shoot at the ball in Corner 2 from B-baulk. If you hit, carry on; otherwise take a bisque and make the roquet. Send that ball to the middle, putting your own ball near the original tice. Roquet that ball (if you miss, see ** at the end of this paragraph). Send it just in front of hoop 1 with a straight drive. Shoot at your ball in Corner 4. If you miss, take a bisque and roquet your ball in Corner 4. With a strong half roll, send the forward ball to hoop 2 and your own ball to the middle. Roquet the ball in the middle, take-off to hoop 1 and away you go! If you should happen to hit the ball in Corner 4, straight drive the forward ball to hoop 2. Then trickle to the middle and take the second bisque.
** If you miss, take a bisque, roquet the ball gently and with a split shot send it to hoop 1. This will put your ball near the middle. Because you have taken a bisque, you can roquet the middle ball again. Do so and take-off to your ball in Corner 4. Roquet it and carry on as before.
If something goes wrong - see "Oh Dear! It's Gone Wrong!"
If you do it right, and your opponent does not hit in, the second ball round is a virtual carbon copy of the first. The exception is the peg out - see the Chapter "The End Game".
If you get pegged out by your opponent see the Chapter "Pegged Out and One-Ball Games". By the way, unless your opponent has made it easy for you by going to peg early with one ball, forget pegging him/her out. Peeling is too difficult at your level to be worth it. If your opponent is a minus player, do not peg her/him out at all. The ball is of more use to you still on the lawn.
If you do not manage to finish before the bisques run out, see (b or c).
If your opponent does hit in on third and fifth or fourth and sixth turns and finishes, then your opponent deserves the victory.
If you have 10 or more bisques then you will be playing someone who is good by your standards. It is probable, although not certain, that once your bisques have gone, you will lose unless you play very carefully indeed.
Of course nothing is certain in croquet! Aim to get both balls to peg and still have bisques left. Of course, once you can do that, it means that you are better than your handicap. You will consequently lose some of your bisques, life is so unfair! However, that is the object of the exercise. You want to become good enough to play people on level terms and still beat them.
The maximum number of bisques that you can give is 5, so your opponent will only be in category (b ii). Your tactical play will therefore be essentially the same as for (c). Remember to try not to give your opponent the opportunity to pick up an easy break. The most obvious pitfall to avoid is joining up near your opponent's hoop.
At this stage, nothing else. Remember this is just the start of tactics and that t you at the start of the handicap range. I do not believe in teaching too much at the beginning, because to do so will only confuse. So, concentrate on getting these first tactics correct. In a very short time the handicappers attention will be drawn to you - usually by your beaten opponents! You will then be ready for the next chapter.
To use this chapter you will have a handicap between 12 and 9. You should therefore:
If you feel unsure about any of the above points, you should study or practice as appropriate before proceeding further.
By now you should be aware of the importance of attitude and approach to the game. You should have a good idea of your own capabilities and weaknesses. If you do not, then I suggest that you re-read Chapters 1 & 2 carefully.
You will have played quite a number of games. Probably they were mostly in your own club. If you haven't already done so, you should now be considering some competitive croquet at other clubs. Apart from being good fun and good company, it will enable you to play different people. This will widen your experience of playing styles. Most clubs take part in local league play of some sort. There is a wide range of national events held throughout the season under the auspices of the Croquet Association (CA). You should consider joining the CA now. You will be supporting your sport. Also you will glean a wealth of information from the magazine and through CA sponsored events such as coaching weekends. Contact your Secretary for details.
In this handicap range you will be able to pick up a four-ball break with one or two bisques. You will also now be starting to make breaks of several hoops without bisques. You will have a basic knowledge of tactics. Because of the confidence that you have gained by using your bisques properly, your shooting and hoop running will have improved considerably. "Oh no they haven't," I hear you mutter! They almost certainly have but your expectations have gone up as well. Good, because this means that you are ever striving to become a better player. You will still make errors of judgement, some of which will be due to an over estimation of your ability. Many though will he due to a simple lack of thought and planning. In fact planning is the theme of this chapter.
You are for 1-back with a rather untidy four-ball which has the pioneer in good position but the pivot well off centre. You mess up the approach to the hoop. "That's OK" you think, take a bisque and make the hoop, which you do. However the break is untidy. This means that your positioning of the ball which goes beyond 1-back is important. This is because it is the ball that you intend to rush to a good recovery position having run the hoop. You hadn't thought of that! Now the pioneer to 3-back is difficult. You just manage it but leave yourself a long way from the poorly positioned pivot. To roquet it you go firmly - and miss.
So there you are, suddenly from a commanding position to a disaster. Why? Lack of planning. You had a continuation shot left before you took the bisque. That shot could easily have been to near the pivot ball with a rush to the middle. A simple take-off shot from there to the ball at 1-back and the four-ball is back again.
The fundamental message from this is, plan EVERY shot. I have capitalised "every" because that is exactly what I mean. If you need further convincing of this, go and watch top players in a four-ball break. These players can do such a break with their eyes shut. They can easily recover from poor placing. That is not what happens. They play every stroke with care, every shot lined up and every position considered. Why? Because the discipline of a tight and careful break is part of what makes a good player good. A sloppy break player is a player who will make mistakes and mistakes cost games. You will often hear a sigh of exasperation from an A-class player when a rush goes 2 feet to the side of a hoop and not in front. You think "I would have been happy with that". This is partly why you are not yet an A-class player!
You might think at this stage "What has this got to do with my picture of myself?" If you remember Chapter 2, I said "You plan to your ability". Well, now that you know your ability, you must plan to it. It is no use knowing your skills if you do not use them properly.
You have now added planning to your own picture. You should also add your opponent's planning and tactics to your picture of him/her. Does your opponent use bisques wisely/well? Does she/he make suicide shots and hit/miss them? Are obvious break situations ignored/taken? Does your opponent refuse fairly easy hoops/roquets? Can he/she run impossible hoops or roll round on two-ball breaks? Watch for these things and use the information for your own plan.
There are three main reasons why you will be doing a three-ball break.
Let us first of all consider the mechanics of a 3-ball break. In operation correctly it is simpler than a four-ball. You have a pioneer and a ball at your next hoop, but no pivot. When you have run a hoop you make the next roquet. The subsequent croquet stroke has not only got to create a new pioneer, it has got to get your ball to the ball at the next hoop. The trick is to make that croquet stroke as simple as possible. To achieve THAT needs accurate placing of the ball past the hoop that you are about to run plus accurate hoop run
When a three-ball break is in progress, you will have the following. A ball at your next hoop and a ball beyond the hoop that you are running. Your ball will be in front of its hoop. From here the sequence is,
I will now consider each of the elements of this sequence in turn.
You should have a fairly good idea of running hoops but will probably still have some problems with control. Do not worry too much about that at this stage. What you should know, is how far you go through a hoop when you run it with your normal strength. I mentioned this aspect in Chapter 2 and gave a nominal six feet. For a three-ball break, accuracy is important, so you should modify the nominal figure to suit your play.
Roquet the Ball Near The Hoop, and, Croquet that Ball as Your Next Pioneer, Placing Your Ball Near The Old Pioneer
The same croquet stroke which put your ball In front of its hoop determines the position of the ball beyond the hoop. Although getting in front of the hoop is the most important objective, the position of the other ball is also significant. It is important because you will want to rush to a position which makes it easy to create a new pioneer. At the same time you want an easy approach to the old pioneer. In general terms, this means that you want to rush to a position which gives you a straight drive stroke. It is the same as in a four-ball break, see Chapter 2. This time you are not rushing to the middle but to various parts of the lawn. The following table shows where you should place the ball for each hoop in turn. The position and rush points are also illustrated in Figure 3.1.
Croquet the Two Balls to End Up into the Same Position as the One that You Started With, Only at the Next Hoop
… and off you go again!
If you have had one ball pegged out, you will not want to stop until you have won. Otherwise you should have managed to pick up the other ball (see next paragraph) and have a standard four-ball break. If you have not picked up the other ball, you must decide how much that matters. Usually you should be able to dig it out before the end and put it somewhere useful. If that looks too difficult, or could mean loss of break control, forget it and place the other balls accordingly.
If you have many bisques, I do not advise making more than one hoop on a three-ball before digging out the other ball. Only do so then if the first hoop is trivial. If not, you should wait for an opportune moment to pick up the ball. Here are a few basic ways of digging the ball out of corners (or near). All assume an accurate three-ball break set up already. Usually you will need a small amount of tidying up of the four-ball after you have run your next hoop. Figures 3.2.1.i to 3.2.4.iii illustrate the moves.
These are the easier pick-ups. More complex ones exist but have a much higher risk of breakdown. I have gone for the options which involve a medium length rush that does not need too much accuracy. This is followed by a fairly short take-off to the corner. This I feel is the safest option to start with. As your rushing and take-off accuracy improve you can try for better position with the rushed ball.
These pick-ups were described without the use of bisques. You should eventually be able to accomplish them in that way. Often, however, you will have bisques. You must then decide whether you want to go for the pickup as described, or plan to spend a bisque and make the pick-up easy. For example, illustrated in Figure 3.3, situation number (i) when the ball is in Corner 4 could be played as follows.
After running hoop 3, rush to the middle. Take-off to the ball at 4 and roquet it gently (adjusting its position to a perfect one in front of the hoop if needed). Take-off to Corner 4 and roquet the corner ball. Send it to hoop 5, approaching hoop 4, take perfect position with the continuation stroke. Take a bisque and carry on with the four-ball.
This play is much easier, but has cost a bisque. The play also serves as another reminder of the keyword for this chapter, planning. You have got to decide before running hoop 3 what you are going to do at hoop 4. Why? Because you will be putting the ball that is just beyond hoop 3, in the following positions:
Figure 3.4 illustrates the three positions.
Here things have gone so badly wrong that to recover, even using bisques will not be worth it. It is always worth recognising fatal errors for what they are, because you may lose the innings but not the game. This paragraph is a repeat of that in Chapter 2 simply because the message bears repeating. Your skill at recovery will have improved, but so should your skill at recognising impossible situations.
Here again, you will employ your improvements in shot making and tactics to aid recovery. Sounds like a patent medicine doesn't it? Well in a way it is. When you are very ill you need a lot of medicine to get better and less as you improve. In the same way you will need less bisques to recover from problems. In the last chapter I stressed that a bisque was a complete extra turn and that this fact is often used. Used not only to recover from an error, but to tidy up a loose break. This is also true when the error is one involving the rules. For example, if you fail to move the croqueted ball in a take-off shot, replace the balls and your turn ends. That does not mean that you have to leave the court. You may take a bisque and start again. Because it is a new turn, you can roquet all of the balls again. This is worth remembering because it may well change your play.
You are for hoop 5. There is a ball at hoop 5 which you have not roqueted yet. A ball is near hoop 4 which you have already roqueted and a ball is in Corner 4 that you have just roqueted. You are taking off from Corner 4 to hoop 6. The reason for this is that you do not fancy the split shot which would send the ball in Corner 4 to hoop 6 while approaching hoop 5. You fail to shake the croqueted ball and replace your ball. You take a bisque. Do not repeat the take-off shot. Send the corner ball to hoop 6 with a straight drive. Next use the ball at hoop 4, sending it as a pivot and away you go with a four-ball. I am assuming here that you have not got many bisques to play with - if you have, what are you doing in this mess anyway!
If you have 10 or more bisques then, you will be playing someone who is good, probably a minus player. Once your bisques have gone, you will need to play very carefully to avoid defeat. Look towards getting both balls to peg and still having bisques left in the same way that you did when you were a beginner. The difference will be that you are now a much better player and need less bisques to go round. If you are an improving player, you should win most games against A-class players. The thing that will lose most matches of this type for you is carelessness. It all seems so easy - and essentially it is. So you make loose shots and take unnecessary risks. All of a sudden there you are, for peg and 4-back watching your opponent win in two turns. So concentrate, and beat your opponent by 26. Enjoy it while you can because you won't have to do it many times before the handicapper catches up with you.
In the last chapter I gave some basic advice on starting a game with many bisques. This advice still holds but you should also have worked out some variations for yourself.
As with any tactic, there is usually a counter tactic. I am going to discuss next what good players will do to extract the maximum amount of bisques from you. You will need to recognise the tactics and perhaps do something about them. Another time, when you are giving bisques to a beginner, you can use the tactics yourself.
If something goes wrong - see "Oh Dear! It's Gone Wrong!".
If you do it right, and your opponent does not hit in, the second ball round is a virtual carbon copy of the first. The exception is the peg out - see the Chapter "The End Game".
If you get pegged out by your opponent, again see "The End Game". By the way, unless your opponent has made it easy for you by going to peg early with one ball, forget pegging him/her out. Peeling is too difficult at your level to be worth it. If you are against a minus player, do not peg her/him out at all. The ball is more use to you still on the lawn.
If you do not manage to finish before the bisques run out, see (b or c).
There is very little to add to the advice given in the previous chapter under this heading. For your convenience I have repeated it here with minor alterations, as appropriate. The players who are giving you these bisques will be better than before, but so will you be.
Once again, for convenience I repeat the advice given in the last chapter, with some modifications.
The maximum number of bisques that you can concede is 9, so your opponent will be playing in situation (c). Unless you already know your opponent you must assume that she/he knows how to use bisques well. This means that you must avoid as far as possible making it easy for your opponent to go round. However, you cannot just lurk in opposite corners all the time, so what should you do?
You can keep the number of balls in the centre of the lawn to a minimum. This usually means getting a rush to your hoop and making it. You then either go to the next hoop on a two-ball, or retire to the boundary. This approach is not much use for getting balls round. It is very useful when you are for the same hoop as your opponent. It means that you can approach the next hoop with less worry about breaking down at it. You can also start to think more constructively about a break.
If you plan to make up a break as you progress round, proceed with caution. This is tricky, requires a great deal of planning and skill, but is very rewarding. To have "picked up a break from nothing" is a most satisfying thing to do in croquet.
You can take a risk. If your opponent knows how to use bisques, then he/she is going to build up a break fairly soon anyway. It can often be a good idea to go for a shot that would normally be too risky. The grounds for this approach are that if you hit you will get a break out of it. If you miss, you have merely saved your opponent 1 bisque. There is some psychological advantage as well, especially if you hit in. Only do this when you know that if you hit in, you can make a break from it.
When your opponent only has a few bisques, either left or to start with, play as though you were even. Do exercise more care on your leaves, however.
You are now on your way down. Study this chapter and put these tactics into play. Play many games and practice on your weak points. It will then not be long before you get to single figures. The next step is to 8 and you will have left C-class play behind, and be ready for Chapter 4.
To use this chapter you will have a handicap between 8 and 6. You should therefore:
If you feel unsure about any of the above points, you should study or practice as appropriate before proceeding further.
You are now progressing through the B-class handicap range. You will be very likely to find a little hiccup in your progress towards the A-class. The main reason for this is that you are now giving bisques as often as you receive them. As a consequence of this, you are having to learn how to play on your own merits much more. You are also having to learn defensive play against other beginners who are as you used to be. So you may feel that you have stuck at around 7 or 8. Do not get too disheartened, you will soon come out of it.
You will have noticed that the previous two chapters each had a theme. In Chapter 2 it was "understand your own and your opponents' abilities". Chapter 3 concentrated on "planning your game". The theme of this chapter is "assessing the risk". Many times on previous pages you have seen "assess the risk and play accordingly". This is all very well but how do you do it? You will base your decision on the following three questions.
Understanding your abilities will help you answer the first and second questions, while understanding your opponent will help answer the third. Planning your game will reduce the number of times you ask the questions!
What I will look at in this chapter is a means whereby you can link together the likely answers to these questions. You can then make a balanced decision. It is based on mathematical probability, but don't worry, there is nothing very theoretical! Please do note the comment which I repeat later on in this chapter. This is that the tables and calculations are designed to help you in a practice situation. You will then get a "feel" for risk. In a real game there is not time for complicated calculations.
Probability concerns itself with the likelihood of something happening (or not). It is expressed in several ways but the only one I shall use is the "one in x" way. This means that something will happen on average once every x times. Thus a one in two probability means that on average something will occur once every two operations. An example is when spinning a coin. Notice that I have said "on average". You well know that spinning a coin may result in several heads coming up in succession. If you spin a hundred times however, you will get close to 50 heads and 50 tails. I will ignore the probability of it landing on its side!
A probability of one in one is a certainty, i.e. it must happen. There are very few things that are certain, but many which are so close that are considered so.
A probability of one in infinity is an impossibility, i.e. it cannot happen. For example, the probability of finishing first turn is one in infinity.
The probability is that you are wondering just where this is all leading to! - Probably!!
To clear the air a bit, let's consider three situations. In each, it is your turn, and you have to decide what you are going to do. Let me say right away, there will be no "right answer". There seldom is, but there is an answer (or sometimes answers) which represents the smallest risk, balanced against the greatest gain. So we look at probability, which helps to assess the risk.
Your opponent is for hoop 2 and Rover. You are for 4-back and hoop 1. Your forward ball is by hoop 2 and the other in the middle. Your opponent lays up near Corner 4 with a rush to hoop 3. You can see all the balls but have no double. It is your turn. There are no bisques. You are an 8 and playing well, your opponent is a 16 and playing poorly.
Your opponent is for hoop 2 and hoop 3-back. You are for 6 and Rover. Your forward ball is in Corner 1 and the other by hoop 3. Your opponent has clanged hoop 2, is cross-wired at 2, and has two bisques left. It is your turn. You are an 8 and playing poorly, your opponent is playing averagely.
You are all for penultimate. Your balls are near penult and Rover, separated by about 10 yards and half pegged from each other. Your opponent is on the north boundary in front of 1-back and on the south boundary in front of 3-back. There are no bisques and it is again your turn. You are an 8 and your opponent is a 2. You are both playing fairly well.
Here are three situations, all very different and all requiring a decision. Before I go into each one in detail, it is necessary to consider some typical probabilities.
You will know the distance over which you can virtually guarantee a roquet. To make life simpler I will call that distance D. We can assume then that at any distance less than D, the probability of hitting is one in one. This I will show as 1:1. What if we have a ball at twice D? The probability is now 1:2 (one in two) For those interested in proof, draw a line on a piece of paper showing your ball just missing the target at distance D. Then extend the line to 2D and measure the error distance (remember to include half the width of the striking ball). From this information I have derived the following table. This gives probabilities for different distances greater than D, with an example where D is 8 yards.
This table takes no account of such things as variations of slope and texture on the lawn. Or that on long shots you have to hit harder, perhaps spoiling your aim. These things will make the probability of hitting worse rather than better. It would be impossible to show just how much worse. In any case the figures are only a guide, so I have chosen to stay with the simple approach.
The peg is a smaller target than a ball. Obviously the distance over which you can guarantee a hit is less than D. The maths show that for practical purposes the distance is three quarters of D. So in the previous example where D is 8 yards, D(peg) is 6 yards. Exactly the same rules apply as in (a) e.g. at 18 yards (D(peg) x 3) the probability is 1:3. Thus a ball 10 yards from you is a better target than the peg at 9 yards. On the other hand, the peg at 9 yards is a better target than a ball at 14 yards.
So a simple rule of thumb is this. You have a choice between the peg and a ball. If the peg is less than three quarters of the distance to the ball, shoot at the peg. If it is greater, shoot at the ball.
For a partly hidden ball, where you can only hit one side of it, D reduces considerably. The table below gives values for D for different amounts of ball showing. In brackets are the amounts which that will mean when D is 8 yards.
The limit to this situation occurs when you have three-balls in line, each separated by just less than a ball width. This is an equivalent target of 5 balls. The formula for working out the new value of D is this.
New value of D = Original value of D times (half the target width in balls + a half).
(D = 8 yards in brackets)
This is a complicated situation, so let's consider the easy options first.
Note that if you are able to shoot for the gap, it roughly doubles the probability of hitting.
Example 1. Two balls a foot apart, you are 16 yards away, D = 8 yards.
Example 2. Two balls 15 inches apart, you are 32 yards away, D = 8 yards.
There is no point in attempting to be scientific about rushing distance. It varies so much and has so many factors. All that you can do is to practice accuracy and strength on your own lawn. Then modify this according to the conditions.
Cut rushing is difficult - but is a boon when you can do it accurately. I would recommend that you do not try for cut rushes with accuracy over a distance greater than a sixteenth of D. Do not try approximate cuts (in the general direction that you want) over a distance greater than an eighth of D.
Warning. Although (a) to (e) are guidelines only, they do have a fair basis of fact. This section merely gives a rough idea of what to expect.
Choose a convenient distance, D is as good as any. See how accurate you are in terms of angle and distance judging at that distance. Then for any multiple of D your accuracy will be that much worse (approximately).
Example, D = 8 yards. At that distance in a croquet stroke you are accurate to 2 feet on distance and 1 foot on angle. At 24 yards you will be approximately accurate to 6 feet on distance and 3 feet on angle.
Now, considering the examp…….
OK, so let's look at those examples again.
Your opponent is for hoop 2 and Rover. You are for 4-back and hoop 1. Your forward ball is by hoop 2 and the other in the middle. Your opponent lays up near Corner 4 with a rush to hoop 3. You can see all balls but have no double. It is your turn. There are no bisques. You are an 8 and playing well, your opponent is a 16 and playing poorly.
The most likely situation here is that your opponent has used all of the bisques in several turns, has got one ball round and has managed a reasonable leave. You have had the innings a few times and have put together a few nice breaks. You want to move your forward ball for safety and the backward one for breaks. Assume that D for you is 5 yards while you estimate D for your opponent at 3 yards.
Let us eliminate the poor options. Joining up is suicide either way. Shooting at your opponent with the backward ball gives only about a 1:4 chance of hitting (there is no double remember). It leaves an easy break for your opponent if you miss. Shooting at your opponent with the forward ball gives about a 1:6 chance of hitting. You have a fair chance of a hoop or two for a hit, and a fairly difficult break (for a 16) for a miss.
You could play safe with the backward ball, and put it in Corner 1. Your opponent will have 1 easy hoop and a good chance of a lay up afterwards. Playing safe with the forward ball leaves little for the opponent.
Shooting at your forward ball with the backward gives about a 1:2 chance of hitting. You have a good chance of a break if you hit, and a probable couple of hoops away if you miss.
Shooting at your backward ball with the forward gives about a 1:2 chance of hitting. You have a moderate chance of a break for a hit, and little away for a miss.
So, what should you do? I would go for the backward ball with the forward. The chances of hitting are fair, of reward good, and of penalties small. If I wasn't hitting too well then I would play safe with the forward ball.
Your opponent is for hoop 2 and hoop 3-back. You are for 6 and Rover. Your forward ball is in Corner 1 and the other by hoop 3. Your opponent has clanged hoop 2, is cross-wired at 2, and has two bisques left. It is your turn. You are an 8 and playing poorly, your opponent is a 14 and playing averagely.
Here it would appear that you started well with every intention of steamrollering your opponent by +26. Indeed you got the first ball round. Then it all went wrong and now you have lost your accuracy and your confidence. Your opponent meanwhile has kept at it steadily and has not used the bisques. This has kept pressure on you and prevented you from rash attempts at a break. Your opponent now still refuses to take a bisque because the setup is not good, being wired.
There is little choice but to move your backward ball because leaving it at 3 is suicidal. The chance of hitting either of the opponent's balls is small. Anyway, she/he is wired. The choice here is to join up in Corner 1. This move will almost certainly force the use of a bisque. So you might as well shoot for your ball rather than have a wide join.
You are all for penultimate. Your balls are near penult and Rover, separated by about 10 yards and half pegged from each other. Your opponent is on the north boundary in front of 1-back and on the south boundary in front of 3-back. There are no bisques and it is again your turn. You are an 8 and your opponent is a 2. You are both playing fairly well.
There are no other wired balls apart from your own partial peg hamper. If we assume that D for you is about 5 yards, the chance of hitting your own ball is about 1:7, which is poor. Also, a miss will give the opponent an easy pickup. The chance of hitting either of your opponent's balls (from the closest ball in each case) is about 1:3. However, shooting with the ball at penult gives a poorer chance of a break to your opponent if you miss.
It also gives a poorer chance to you if you hit. Remember that the opponent is a 2 and is playing fairly well, so the risk is high. The best option is to play safe, and the ball at penult the one to move, but where to? The best shot for the opponent (if the ball at penult is simply removed) to play would be at the ball near the peg. A miss will go through to her/his own ball on the north boundary. A good defensive position would therefore be to put the ball which is at penult in Corner 3. This may well force your opponent to play safe as well, giving you breathing space.
Add to the things that you already look for, an assessment of your opponent's risk-judging capability. You may well be able to capitalise on your opponent being over- or under-cautious. Beware of making a false assessment. If your opponent keeps going for "suicide" shots and getting them it is no use leaving a deliberate "suicide" tempter.
The main reason for your doing a two-ball break will be because of the awkward placing of the other balls when you have no bisques left.
A two-ball break is simple in concept but difficult in execution. You have a ball at your hoop, but no pivot or pioneer. So when you run a hoop, the following rush has got to get your ball to the next hoop. The trick is to make that rush as simple as possible. To achieve THAT needs accurate placing of the ball past the hoop that you are about to run. It also needs accurate hoop running. Unlike the four and three-ball breaks, you should aim to get the ball some way past the hoop. A suitable position is 5 yards, and on the appropriate side. This makes the chances of getting a good rush easier. Note that when going straight down the lawn, e.g. hoop 1 to hoop 2, your forward ball should not be to one side. Two-ball breaks are not easy, but are worth practicing because they are often used to start a three or four-ball. The easiest two-ball run is from hoop 4 to 1-back.
You will be making four-ball breaks with confidence now. You will often go all the way round as far as you want. Here are a couple of tips which make the four-ball just a little easier to execute. Figures 4.4 and 4.5 illustrate them.
Notice that "many bisques" is now defined as 6 or more. This is because you will now be so good at using them that a single bisque is very powerful. If you have 6 or more bisques then you will be playing someone who is good, probably a minus player. So you are looking towards getting both balls to peg and still having bisques left.
You will notice that this chapter says much less than the previous two about the use of bisques. This is because most of what there is to say on the subject was covered in the previous chapters. Also, you are now giving bisques as often as you receive them. Your play is becoming much more dependent on your own ability rather than on handicap.
In the last chapter I gave some advice on tactics. This explained how to counter some of the methods used against you to extract bisques or force you into an error. I repeat them here, but this time it is you who are doing the extracting! Of course your opponent may have read this book as well and be aware of the tactics. That does not mean that they will not still be effective.
By now you will have realised that I have only just scratched the surface of croquet tactics. You will have worked out some of your own, disagreed with some of mine, and been told others by your friends. Soon you will be ready to tackle the A-class. If you are successful, you will learn yet more tactics, particularly those of advanced play. Study the auxiliary chapters which follow, if you haven't already, and good luck in the A-Class!
Towards the end of the first season and after a coaching session, Jill and Celia were talking about the game.
"You know what," they said, "We have learnt a lot about shots, etc., and how to play breaks. However, we don't know how to finish properly. The result of this is that we often only win games by one point after Time".
Thus the name of the book, and the title of this chapter.
Only a Rover ball can peg out another Rover ball. This rule is absolute for all versions of the game. If the ball you are playing with has not completed all of its hoops, it cannot peg out any ball. It cannot of course, peg out itself.
In handicap games (the only ones considered in this book) both of your balls MUST be Rovers before you can peg one or both out. BUT.... But if you peg out an opponent's ball which is a Rover, you CAN peg your own out as well. This is irrespective of the position of your other ball.
The normal finish sequence is one where you have a rush with one of your balls on the other, towards the peg. Take the rush, sending the ball to near the peg. In the croquet stroke, send the forward ball on to the peg. In the continuation shot send your playing ball on to the peg, having first removed the already pegged out ball.
In the following situations I will call one ball, which is the one that you are striking, the Striker's Ball (SB). The other (which is your partner ball) I will call the Peg Ball (PB).
a. From a Four-Ball Break, Figures 5.1.i to 5.1.iiib
Assume that you are in a break, and are in front of 4-back. PB will be in one of the three positions of the break. These are near peg, near penult, or behind 4-back.
b. From a Three-Ball Break
Again assume that you. are in front of 4-back. PB will be behind 4-back, near penult, or somewhere else (probably on a boundary or in a corner).
If you have one bisque left, continue with the three-ball unless making a four-ball is simple. When you run penult, rush to near Rover and croquet that ball a short distance (3 -5 yards) towards PB. Approach and run Rover off the pioneer. In the hoop approach, put the croqueted ball on the same side of Rover as the ball which you sent towards PB. Run the hoop and make the roquet. Play the next croquet stroke to get a rush towards PB with the ball that you sent in that direction. Get a rush on PB towards peg if you can otherwise roll up towards peg, take position and the bisque, and finish.
If you have no bisques, you should play in much the same way as the previous paragraph. In addition try for two things.
If you achieve (a) & (b) take the rush and try to peg out both. Do a soft croquet stroke. Then if you fail to peg out the PB, it will still be close to the peg. You should peg out SB anyway.
If you achieve (a) but not (b) take the rush but try for a firm peg out with PB. This will put the croqueted ball near the boundary (but not off or near any other ball). Do not peg out SB if you fail, but put it away into a corner somewhere.
If you achieve (b) but not (a) roll up to the peg and peg SB out. Or if you cannot do good rolls, lay yourself a rush to peg from a safe spot. Make sure that you do not leave a double.
If you get one ball pegged out and your opponent hits in or you hit in against someone who has done this to you, see the chapter on pegged out games.
To achieve (a) & (b), set up the balls as they were described in the situation when you had one bisque. This time when you have run Rover you should be able to rush the ball which is beyond Rover. Rush it to a point where you can croquet it to a safe position. You will still need to get the rush towards PB. Here are two examples. One has the PB in Corner 4 and one has the ball on the West boundary opposite hoop 2. I have called the opponent's balls OB1 & OB2.
A), Figure 5.3. (PB in Corner 4, OBI between penult and Peg, OB2 in front of Rover and SB in front of penult). Run penult and rush OB1 to between peg and Rover. Croquet OB1 to just short of hoop 4 getting position with SB on OB2. Roquet OB2, croquet OB2 to 6 ft past Rover and approach Rover with SB. Run Rover and rush OB2 to halfway between OB1 and PB. Drive OB2 to just past hoop 2 getting a rush with SB on OB1 to PB. Rush to the boundary near PB. Replace the balls on the yard line and take-off to get the rush on PB.
B), Figure 5.4. (PB on W Boundary near hoop 2, OB1, OB2 & SI3 as before). Run penult and rush OB1 6 ft past Rover. Drive OB1 to halfway between hoops 2 & 6 getting position on OB2. Roquet OB2 and croquet it to about 4 ft past Rover on the RHS. Approach Rover with SB and run it. Rush OB2 to near hoop 2. Drive OB2 to just past hoop 4 getting a rush with SB on OB1 to PB. Rush to boundary near PB, replace balls on yard line and take-off to get the rush on PB.
If during any of this you get a cannon shot, treat as described in the chapter on helpful hints.
c. From a Two-Ball Break
This is not as rare as you might think. In the end game both players are being ultra-careful, especially if the scores are similar. So there is often very little chance of making a break. I will assume that the bisques have gone. If they haven't, then don't think of two-ball breaks! With care, you can start a two-ball from 4-back, but any more than that is difficult.
There are two situations, described as follows, but only proceed with the break if you are confident of not breaking down. If breaking down seems likely, lay up somewhere safe.
d. From a Hit In when Both Your Balls are for Peg
A few points about keeping time. Make sure that you and your opponent know and agree what the time limit is. One of you be the time keeper. Make a note of your start time and check that your opponent agrees. Keep a track of any delays. Only include delays that are agreed by the tournament manager or deputy. Do not make your own up, even if you feel that you are treated unfairly.
At about 10 minutes before Time is due, ask someone to call time. Say clearly when time is up and ask them to call TIME in a clear voice, EXACTLY on time. To simplify the words that follow, I am referring to the action of calling time as just Time.
Do not start to worry about the end of the game too soon. Remember that it only takes about 20 minutes to do an all-round break. On the other hand it is easy to spend 20 minutes "wallying around" getting nowhere. As a general rule, start looking at the situation when there is about half an hour to go.
If you are a long way in front with 30 minutes to go, you should start to play defensively. Play in such a way that you prevent your opponent from picking up an easy break. This does not mean playing "Aunt Emma," it means not taking risks that you might have done earlier in the game. You do not want to leave an easy pick up for your opponent. The amount of care that you exercise increases as you get closer to Time. At around 10 minutes to go the care exercised is such that you do virtually play Aunt Emma tactics. This is not nice but is essential here.
If you are not a long way in front with 30 minutes to go, it is too soon to start considering end tactics. You should play your normal game. At 15 minutes to go, start playing as in the previous paragraph, i.e. with increasing care.
You are now at what you consider to be your last turn. If you are a long way ahead, then extend that to your last two or three turns. Separate your opponent if you can, and place your balls in unwanted corners. Apart from any "free" shots that you might get presented with, do not come out of these corners.
If you are a long way behind with 30 minutes to go, you should start to take risks. At this stage the risks need not be too great, but as Time gets closer, you will need to take more. Now, "taking risks" does not mean going mad! It means that you go for roquets slightly longer than you would normally try. Or you attempt hoops with more angle than you prefer, etc. When there are only 10 minutes or less left and you are still a long way behind - anything goes! You have no choice but to try the impossible. When trying it, try properly because it might work. For example, suppose that the best shot that you have available to you is a 10 yard hoop. Do not randomly "hack" at it, but line up carefully and play with moderate strength. It might go - you might make the next roquet - YOU MIGHT WIN!! However you probably won't!
If you are not a long way behind, then forget the time. Do not rush around like a scalded cat, making wild shots and moaning about the slowness of your opponent. This will only serve to guarantee your losing. If your opponent really IS wasting time, call a referee.
Here is the law. A tied (but not finished) game is one where at the end of the last turn at Time, the number of points scored by each side is the same. There is a very strict definition about which is the last turn. You should know about it because it is not the same as the normal definition for end of turn. Nor, as we shall see, is the last turn necessarily the final turn of the game. To explain it here are some examples.
Apart from the rather complicated ruling, we always end up with one of two situations. You either get another go or you don't! From this it follows that either you or your opponent will get the last turn depending on the situation. It might seem that you always want to end up getting the last turn, but that is not necessarily so. Let us consider the situations.
If you are behind, you may see that this will be your last turn if you try a break to catch up. You have two choices.
Remember the following points about the "last" turn when it is yours.
A word about "time wasting". There is nothing in the rules that says that the person in the lead has to play any faster than normal. It is no use muttering under your breath at perfectly reasonable lengths of time to take shots. However there IS a rule about taking more time than is reasonable. You can call a referee if you think that this is happening. Be careful though, since some players are slower than others. It would not be proper to call attention to slow play at the end of a game when you have tolerated the same speed of play up to now without complaint. Also, remember that when you are itching to get on, everything else seems to conspire to slow you. This may well extend to a double-banked game, where the other game seems intent on holding you up! Although some referees may allow extra time for delay due to the other game, others may not. It is their decision and you must accept it. Finally, remember that at Time, there is no further pressure. So if you are hurrying to finish a break before time, but cannot, stop for a few seconds at Time. Look at the situation and evaluate what you do next. This is your last turn!
So, here we are at Time. The last turn has finished and the scores are even. What happens now?
What happens is that play continues until one player scores a point. That player is then the winner by "PLUS ONE ON TIME!"
Remember that you only have to score just that one vital point, so forget about building breaks. Just look for the easiest way to score the point. If you can make a roquet but do not have a rush, consider a take-off. From there, take position in front of the hoop.
You are in front of your hoop, but at a very poor angle. You have separated your opponent. Consider going gently and sticking in the hoop.
If you are the separated one, you must judge if your opponent is likely to get the point next turn. If you think that the answer is yes, then shoot at the nearest ball, otherwise join wide.
In conclusion then, no-one likes a time limited game. They have to exist in order that managers can plan tournaments sensibly. Play at the end of a timed game is often far removed from that during normal circumstances. However, since a fair number of your games will finish this way, it is important to know what to do. A plus one on time win is still a win!
A pegged out game occurs when one of your or your opponent's balls becomes pegged out but not the other. A one-ball game occurs when you AND your opponent have just one ball left.
Confusingly, some people refer to this as a two-ball game (because there are two, not four, balls left). These types of game are usually short and often exciting, especially when both players know the tactics.
Do not panic and say "Oh I'll never win now". This is simply not true. I have won many games from this situation and lost many where I have pegged my opponent out. Let us however be realistic, the odds are often against you. Winning from this position, particularly if you have a lot of hoops to make, requires skill. It also needs tactics and a certain amount of luck. The skill you must acquire, the luck is outside your control and I discuss the tactics here.
There are three basic tactics when pegged out.
This is what you will do wherever possible. You will also shoot under circumstances that you would never do normally. An example might be to shoot at a joined up opponent at or near the boundary. You need to ask yourself the question "Lurking or taking position are not suitable tactics. So can my opponent make an easy three-ball break if I miss?" If the answer is no, shoot.
If you hit in, you must look to make the most of your chance, because you are unlikely to get many others. Can you get a three-ball break from it? If not, can you make one hoop, then get a three-ball? If not, can you get a two-ball break? You will want the answer to be yes to one of these questions. If it is not then the tactic is as follows.
Having roqueted one ball, take-off to the other. Give yourself a rush which will put the other ball to some point away from the hoop that you want. Make sure that it also separates your opponent. Take-off for your hoop and run it if you can, or take position if you cannot. Do not do an enormous roll to your hoop as you will almost certainly fail. Then you will be unable to take position without giving your opponent an easy shot - a wasted hit in!
Figure 6.1 shows an example of the situation where you cannot sensibly make a break. You are for 1-back and in Corner 3. Your opponent joined up near Corner 4 and is for 3-back and peg. You shoot and hit but rush the ball some 5 yards away from its partner. You take-off and try to get the rush to 1-back. However, you land short leaving a reasonable cut rush some 10 yards towards hoop 3 but nothing to 1-back. Take the rush and take-off for 1-back. Take the hoop or position as appropriate. You are now in a fairly threatening position - think about it!
Chapter 2 contained the comment "If your opponent will certainly finish next turn, shoot, otherwise join up". This modifies to "otherwise decide whether to shoot, lurk or take position".
The best places to lurk are either in corners or on the boundaries parallel to hoops. Choose a point where you think that a breakdown by your opponent is most likely. This may not be the next hoop in order. For example, if your opponent has an easy rush to hoop 4, hoops 5, 6 and 1-back are all fairly easy. A lurk parallel to hoop 1 on the west boundary attacks 2-back and also gives good coverage of the middle hoops.
When should you lurk? When shooting is impossible or suicidal and taking position is pointless or suicidal. Remember that you do not actually have to hit a ball to take a shot. You may "deem" your ball struck, and hence leave it where it is.
I have already described one situation where you take position, under shooting. The other main time that you should do so is when you have your opponent separated, but you have no good shot. Of course you cannot do this if taking position gives your opponent an easy roquet. Then you have to shoot or lurk. Very occasionally you can do it to try to spoil your opponent's two-ball by forcing him/her to come to move you. Perhaps you are for hoop 2-back and your opponent has a rush to hoop 2 from near hoop 3. These occasions are rare.
Bearing in mind what was said in Chapter 2, and in section (A) above, be very careful about pegging out. Only do so when you are sure there is a positive advantage in doing so. It is very hard to give sound advice on this. It has been the subject of argument in Croquet Gazettes for years, and will probably continue for years to come. I pegged out an opponent once when he was at Rover with the other ball. This was a very poor tactic. However for some reason it felt right to do so and indeed I won. That does not prove that I was right.
Having decided to peg out, how do you go about it? Remember the following points.
Occasionally by design, and very occasionally by accident, the situation will arise where each side has one ball pegged out. If it happens by accident you will just have to play defensive or aggressive tactics (described below). These will vary according to the situation in which you find yourself.
You will do it by design when you have a significant lead with your remaining ball over the opponent's remaining ball. Here is a guide to significant leads.
If your opponent has bisques left, add 2 points per bisque to the score possessed by your opponent. If you have bisques left, add 1 point per bisque to your score.
If the number of points left to score is less than the lead required, use the lower figure. Do not use less than 2 (except with bisques).
Do not count any point that you or your opponent will certainly make next turn. Say you are for 4-back and your opponent is dead in front of 2-back. Your lead is one not two.
Suppose Bob, H/C 4 plays Faith, H/C 17. The difference is 13, so for Faith the normal lead she will require is 5, while for Bob it is 4.
The next three examples reverse the hoop positions for Faith and Bob.
For most of the time when you are leading, just go for position in front of your hoop. Watch out for aggressive leaves by your opponent (see (2) below). If taking position is too dangerous, adopt the tactics that you would use if you were behind.
This may seem a very boring and negative approach, but in practice it isn't. Do not get lulled into a false sense of security when you have several hoops advantage. It only takes a good hit in by your opponent and your lead can soon vanish. In a friendly one-ball against Jill once, I gave her a six hoop advantage. I won by 1. The next game I lost by about 3.
Remember that the rules for a lift are unaltered. So if you use your opponent's ball and wire yourself from it, your opponent has a lift.
The first thing you need to ask yourself is this, "Am I much better at running a hoop, then getting position for the next one in the continuation stroke than my opponent? If the answer is yes, are there enough hoops left for me to catch up by doing this?"
If the answer to either of the above questions is no, then somehow you have got to hit in. The tactics are very similar to the pegged out game.
This is the shot that you should take whenever you think that your chance of hitting is fair or better. Be on the lookout for giving yourself this chance. An example would be if you were for hoop 3 and your opponent had positioned for hoop 5. Running hoop 3 hard would take you close to your opponent. If you hit in, you will need to see if you can get a two-ball break. If you cannot, then play a shot that will place yourself near (hopefully in front) of your hoop and your opponent some way from her/his. Concentrate more on position for yourself than too much on dispersing your opponent. Don't wire your opponent.
When shooting for a hoop from some distance back, i.e. you are not too sure about getting it, it is usually better to go softly. That way you stick in the jaws rather than bouncing away.
The most dangerous time for your opponent (and for you) is when you are running the middle hoops. It is impossible to position with any safety. Be ready for your opponent reaching these hoops so that you can plan to get near.
If you are only one hoop behind, try to arrange it so that you can run your hoop hard. That way you might catch up with your opponent waiting at the next hoop. Sometimes it is worth deliberately sticking in the jaws of your hoop to achieve this.
Remember that even if your opponent has just run Rover and you are in front of penult, you still have a chance. This is because your opponent has to shoot hard at peg. If he/she misses you can get penult and lay up with a longish shot for Rover which also attacks the peg. It's exciting stuff!
Chapter 2 had the saying "If your opponent will certainly finish next turn, shoot, otherwise join up". Modify this to "otherwise decide whether to shoot, lurk or take position".
The best places to lurk are either in corners or on the boundaries parallel to hoops. Any place just out of range will often do though. Choose a point where you think that a breakdown by your opponent is most likely. This will usually be the next hoop in order.
When should you lurk? When shooting is impossible or suicidal and taking position is pointless or suicidal. Remember that you do not actually have to hit a ball to take a shot. You can "deem" your ball as struck. It will remain it where it is. This can lead to the ridiculous situation where two players have crept up on either side of a hoop. They are now a foot apart but wired. Both players now refuse to move. In this situation call a referee who will adjudicate as best befits the circumstances. [2015 - there is now an impasse rule]
This is the shot that you will play most often, even when behind. When positioning in front of a hoop to run it next turn, put yourself about a foot in front. Then you can run hard if you need to. This is very useful for hoops such as hoop 3. With the right strength you might get lucky and have a chance at hoop 4 with your continuation shot.
I have been describing situations which will have occurred towards the end of a normal game. Occasionally one-ball games get used as a tie break for a tournament. I have played in one-ball situations on several occasions to decide a tournament. The most exciting was at the end of the 1986 Inter-Counties. Eastern Counties had to play 5 one-ball games to decide the winner. I lost my game but fortunately three others won theirs.
Many people say that if you win the toss you should go in second and I usually do. However if you lose, you can lay a tice near hoop 1. So I'm not sure there is much gain either way. The objective here, and in any other situation where you are even, is to get in front of the hoop. Not, however, in a position where your opponent can hit you, or at least, not easily. This can well mean several turns warily circling a hoop. Someone will crack and make the shot which spells either success or failure. If you get the success, remember that just one hoop ahead is a very vulnerable position.
For a full definition on hampered shots, see the Law Book. Essentially a hampered shot is one where you are unable to make your normal swing. Additionally you may not be able to hit all of the ball with all of the mallet face.
I have said that this is a book on tactics rather than playing skills. Despite this, I am going to say just a little about playing hampered shots because of the psychology involved. A perfectly straightforward roquet of three feet suddenly becomes magnified into something horrendous. This has happened just because your backswing is slightly impeded and a referee is watching.
Always get a hampered shot watched if you are unsure about it and/or your opponent wants it watched. Similarly, have a referee watch hampered shots made by your opponent. You may ask a referee questions on the law, e.g. "What faults can I commit in this stroke?" You cannot ask for advice such as "How should I play this stroke?"
This is the famous Law 32 [now Law 28]. Ask a referee to explain and demonstrate it to you as soon as you have a basic grasp of the game. I am going to look at it in a slightly different light in that Law 32 says what you must NOT do. I am going to concentrate on the unspoken what you CAN do.
You can move certain items if they get in your way. These are the clips, corner pegs and flags, finial on top of the peg and boundary boards. You cannot move hoops or the peg, without asking a referee first. This is true even when they are out of position. You may ask a referee if you can move a ball or balls if you have a problem with excessive damage to the lawn, e.g. a hole. It must be excessive, small depressions are the rub of the green. Although not law, it is common for two players to agree before starting a game, that damage to a particular corner spot is severe. They agree that players may move balls without asking. If you do move a ball you must move all other involved balls by the same amount. If that means moving a critical ball, you must call a referee anyway. After you have made this stroke and one more, replace any unmoved balls in their original positions.
It is well worth while getting a referee to set up a series of hampered shots for you to make. He/she will show you clearly what are faults, and how to make many "impossible" shots without fault.
This chapter is a collection of snippets which will prove useful on the lawn. They are things that I have either worked out for myself or, more commonly, other people told me. This chapter then is a thank you to those who have helped me, in the hope that I can now help others.
I have starred the paragraphs as,
* If you are shooting badly, concentrate on hitting the ball cleanly and not on making the roquet.
* In a straight drive shot, your ball travels about a quarter of the distance of the other ball. The accuracy of position with your ball is therefore much more than in a take-off shot for short distances. This is particularly useful when approaching hoops.
* Making a rush.
* It is not an error for your ball to go off court after it has correctly run a hoop. Replace your ball on the yard line and take the continuation shot. This can be useful when you have a ball near the boundary behind your hoop. You simply have to run the hoop fairly hard without worrying about position for the subsequent roquet. If your ball crosses the yard line but does not go off court, do not replace it on the yard line. Take the continuation shot from where the ball lies.
* Joining up with mother (your other ball).
* Accuracy in croquet shots is much better if you can get a straight line, so plan your previous rush to achieve this.
* If you have a lift, you do not have to take it next turn. As long as you do not move the ball, you can take the lift at any time. Of course, in the mean time your opponent may well move it anyway!
** When you would have a lift shot but for your partner ball being clear, consider putting that partner ball into the A or B-baulk. Make sure that this hides the partner ball. You will get a lift next time unless your opponent does something about it. You can of course, only do this if it is safe to leave the other ball there.
** Learn how to do jump shots once you have mastered all of the normal ones.
** There are two balls on the yard line, close together. You have roqueted one of them. Now you want to get a rush on the other, but the roqueted ball is in the way.
** You are shooting for a ball on the boundary with the intention of taking a bisque if you miss. The likelihood of hitting is small. Consider deliberately missing on the side that gives you a good rush.
** When rushing a ball towards your hoop.
*** You can "promote" one ball with another, without having to roquet it with your ball. Suppose that you have taken off to your opponent's balls which are together, but with one of them stuck in a hoop. You can roquet the free ball, rushing it just in front of the hoop. Then in the croquet stroke, knock the trapped ball free, hopefully getting a rush to your hoop. Of course this requires care and practice!
*** Cannon shots.
*** The law on hoop and roquet in the same turn is complex but essentially the situation is as follows.
Chapters 1 to 8 considered normal handicap games. This one looks at some other variations that you will meet. These are the variations I cover.
In all of these variations, I will only write about the differences from standard croquet. Most of the time, your tactics will be the same.
[2015 - a new doubles handicapping scheme is in use],
Each player has one ball. One pair of players competes against the other pair. Pairs play alternate turns; however, either player of the pair can play at each turn.
Decide bisques as follows. Each pair adds their bisques together. Subtract the lowest from the highest. Take the difference, then round up to the nearest half bisque. The highest handicapped pair get this amount.
Martin and Lewis are playing Nan and Edith. They play three games. For each game, Martin and Lewis have a different handicap.
Both players receive all of their bisques. So a handicap 6 has six bisques when playing a handicap 10, who has ten bisques.
If you are playing a minus player, you get the difference as in ordinary handicap croquet.
There are special rules for minus players in small lawn games, see next section.
There are only two situations where the tactics change from ordinary games. These occur at the start and at the end of a turn.
Always go in second if you can (modify this rule for small lawn games, see below).
When you finish a turn, remember that your opponent has bisques as well. Lay up with your opponent in or near two corners. Put yourself on the boundary, away from your opponent's hoops. Leave a wide join.
A small lawn is half the size of a standard one. The setting is the same. Only play the first six hoops and peg for each ball. This makes it a 14-point game. Games are full bisque, see previous section.
The rules are almost the same as standard croquet. The most important difference is in the wiring law. Wiring your opponent's balls gives a lift, even if your own are open.
Players below standard handicap 2 have to make 1 or more compulsory peels. There are a few rules associated with peeling. There is only one of real concern to you. If you peg out your opponent, you remove the obligation to do peels.
Calculate bisques according to this table [This is under review by the Croquet Association and may change. 2015 - see here].
Because of the complicated calculations involved, the rule book contains a list of bisque calculations for shortened games.
All clips start on hoop 3. Be careful, remember to go to hoop 5 after hoop 4. It is easy to forget your starting point and go from hoop 4 to hoop 1.
There are four variations but only two are common.
Only run the first six hoops with each ball, then peg. This is an unlikely variation in a serious tournament, but you might get it at club level. Do not confuse this with small lawn croquet. That has a different size lawn and rules.
Congratulations! The game is over and you have won. Are there any customs to observe? The answer is yes, and to round off this book, I will describe what they are.
It remains only for me to wish you luck in your games. If you play me at some time in the future and beat me +26, tell me that it was all due to my book! It will make defeat easier to bear!
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