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Is the Sextuple Peel a Winning Tactic? (I)

Reg Bamford explains why the sextuple peel (SXP) is a winning tactic for him

The SXP can indeed be a game winning strategy, as both Rob and I have demonstrated over the last 6 years. There are major advantages if you can: The shot (and for the opponent, remember, it's to save the game) is 35 yards long (longer if you know which ball will play and you can stuff it near corner 1). And I can't tell you how many times I've heard the lament that "...it started out straight...". It's a tough shot to hit - even though Toby Garrison hit 3 in a row against me in my losing match in the 2003 Worlds. That said, players remember the hits better than they do the misses.

Here's what I think are the requirements for turning the SXP into a game-winning strategy:

  1. Easy playing conditions. This is a function of speed of court, rigidity of hoops and sponginess of balls. The quality of the court isn't really a factor, but a dry, fast lawn (anything past a 12 on the Plummer) makes it tough. Tight hoops don't matter either, but those that reject spectacularly will make the turn difficult. And heated Barlow Cs (or something similar) can make rushing a bit of a lottery and hence put the break at risk. Last week's Opens were ideal, with all 3 factors as positives, and - in my opinion - most tournaments have playing conditions conducive to doing SXPs.
  1. Playing ability. Expert rushing and good hoop approaches are essential. I don't think there are more than 10 players in the world who actually have the degree of accuracy to complete the turn regularly (and without it becoming a professional sport, it is unlikely to progress much more than that).
  1. Ball placement. Most SXPs fail because players rush or croquet into the wrong position, rather than shot execution. I often see SXPs break down (or fall behind terminally) about 10 shots after the wrong option is taken. Conquering this only comes from playing enough SXPs to know where to place balls - and I'm afraid reading Wylie is not going to cut it. Having watched many SXPs last week, I still think that David and Stephen make 2 or 3 "errors of placement", and they are without doubt the next best exponents of the turn.
  1. Belief. Or rather the lack of a Limiting Belief. This will only come from playing many of these turns, and in lots of competitions. When Rob and I walk onto the lawn at the start of the SXP, we have the same feeling (at least, I do) that we had 10 years ago walking out to complete a Triple. There's no thought of "yikes, I'm going to do a SXP, I wonder if I'm going to complete it". It's more like "okay, where do I want this first shot to go". And that belief doesn't come quickly.

SXPs only become a game-winning strategy when the completion rate tops around 70%. That said, I've won more games than I've lost when I've failed the SXP. This is because:

  1. You run out of hoops, and you do a leave of sorts (ball off, or 4 balls on the boundary).
  1. Breakdown, but oppo doesn't take croquet (i.e. has no easy hit).
  1. Breakdown, and oppo has an easy hit, and you hit next turn or soon after (of course, if oppo is 4-back and 2, AND the ball for 2 hits, you may be in a spot of bother).

I truly believe that the top 6 players (or so) in the world have the ability to turn the SXP into a game-winning strategy. It is their attitude, not their aptitude, that prevents them attempting - and benefiting from - this strategy. I hear what Chris is saying, and to the extent that - for many - trying the SXP is not the game-winning strategy is true. But you're not going to know until you try is equally true, so to that extent Stephen is right as well. What I will conclude is this: if condition 1 (above) is satisfied, then the more people who gain the ability to complete the SXP, the more those people who don't, will lose. And this year's Opens seems to have been that Rubicon moment when many top players may well conclude that to win the event, you will have to SXP. Or at least have it in your armoury if playing Rob and I and those that complete it regularly.

I'd be interested in hearing Rob's views, but I doubt whether they'd be much different from my own.

Regards, Reg

July 2007

Author: Reg Bamford
All rights reserved © 2007

Updated 28.i.16
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