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Technical
The Super-Shot Opening

Robert Fulford discusses the logic and tactics behind an opening where the first ball is played near the centre of the lawn.

The Opening Options

Responding to exact position of U

Playing the man

 

See also some discussion here.


THE OPENING OPTIONS

U and K abbreviate for blue (or the player playing blue) and black. The balls enter the game in the order U, R, K, Y.

U to five yards NW of 5

This is played from the end of A-baulk towards 2.

Why play to here exactly? Well this is merely a starting point for discussion. At the very least U is a better pioneer for 1 here than by the peg.

The obvious threat is for K to hit R wherever it goes and make a 3-ball break. However K can also win the opening by simply joining up with R (possibly after missing) and hoping Y misses.

R to one foot south of C2

Currently the most common reply. If K hits R he has a long pass roll to obtain a rush to 1 and very few players can play this roll leaving U near 2. World class players are still likely to establish a break, even if it takes a couple of hoops to organise.

If K misses R, Y will probably have a double, and a trivial pick up to follow. This is where the super-shot lives up to its name because K really doesn't want to be taking this shot unless he is likely to hit.

Against most players R should make sure to miss the corner, so a close miss on the right by K will leave a double, however if UK is unlikely to make a 3rd turn break R should try to get close enough to discourage [K to C2].

R to one foot north of C4

Similar to above except it is easier to send a pioneer to H2 in the croquet stroke if K hits.

R lays 15 yard B-baulk tice

If K hits the tice the croquet stroke is relatively easy approaching U starting from close to the required rush line.

If K misses the tice to C4, Y shoots at R from B-baulk joining up. If this shot is missed U (or possibly K) shoots at RY.

This opening is attractive for a RY who is shooting irratically as there is the chance of winning the opening without hitting in.

The tice should be long compared to a standard tice as K is definitely going to shoot and the benefits of hitting on the 3rd turn are so much greater.

longest lift shotR to maximum length spot on west boundary (point equidistant from the end of A-baulk and C3)

Could be viewed as a 19 yard tice, but at this length K can shoot at R from A-baulk, joining up. K will almost certainly take this shot if R is much further south.

After a miss Y must hit the long double or the super-shot ball.

R to 2 yards east and a yard north of the peg

This doesn't leave a double from baulk. R is unattractive for K to shoot at and relatively far from 1 if K hits U.

K shoots at U from the end of A-baulk. A hard miss leaves Y an eight yarder. Alternatively K can shoot gently at a pace where it will finish a few yards past peg high. This shot wants to be taken from the very end of A-baulk so a miss on the left probably won't leave a double for Y.

R at U

R can shoot;

  1. hard from the end of A-baulk leaving an eight yarder towards C2,

  2. gently from the end of A-baulk such that R goes just past peg high if it misses (as above a miss on the left leaves no double),

  3. gently from A-baulk deliberately leaving a double into baulk for K. I tend to take this shot such that a miss will land R roughly two yards NNE of the peg. K's double will be long, R is quite a long way from 1 and if you are lucky the peg will may be in play.

If R hits U the 3 most common leaves are;

  1. R and U are left in the middle with K only having shots towards baulk. Could be a single ball or double target and again it's worth thinking about getting the peg in play for Ks possible rush to 1.

  2. U is croqueted as near to the N boundary as you dare such that K has about a 9 yarder from the end of B-baulk that may leave a double for Y. R goes off a yard north of IV (closer would be nice but the shot is from at least 20 yards). This leave is very hard to go round off or make a DL [diagonal leave] from. U is played to duffer tice position and R just N of IV.

  3. Going round 2nd turn is the ultimate reply. Normally R can thick take-off to 1 sending U to between 1 and 2 and retreat to just N of C4 if the approach is unsuccessful. The big weakness of attempting to go round is the likelihood of an error. Even if R does not give much away, if a few hoops have been made it may cripple a future triple attempt.

    Only worth considation by the very best players in the most easy conditions.

RESPONDING TO THE EXACT POSITION OF U

{For this section X is the point five yards NW of 5}

U to east of X

Encourages
[R to just south of C2] as the croquet stroke from there is longer and more across the rush line.
[R to the middle not leaving a double], as hard shots by K miss nearer to baulk.

Discourages
[R B-baulk tice] as it is easier for K to play a croquet stroke obtaining a rush to 1 and the potential 5th turn shot U at RY is shorter.
[R at U] hard.

U to north of X

Encourages
[R to C4] as K's croquet stroke is longer.

Discourages [R to peg] because of [K to 2 yards east of R]

U to south of X

Encourages
[R to C2] as K's croquet stroke is longer.
[R at U] as the shot is shorter.
[R to level with rover on the West boundary] (or to a diagonally opposite position on the East boundary). This is similar to a Duffer tice opening.

PLAYING THE MAN

In all of the above I have merely stated possible options. You still can not make any real decisions without an understanding of your own and your opponent's skills.

Your opponent's critical distance, ability to play the potential big croquet strokes and likelihood of taking a 3-ball break round will all be highly relevant.

At the end of a 3rd turn ball to 4-back, as Y you are likely to face the 3 balls near the maximum length spot on the west boundary leave, so ability to do a delayed TP may even be a consideration.

WHEN TO PLAY THE SUPERSHOT OPENING

1. As the stronger player

In this case you do not really want to give RY an easy starting position so the opening is only attractive if you are shooting well and pose a real threat to go round third turn. There are a lot of players out there who will blindly play corner 2 openings against you, my advice in these circumstances is play U to the east boundary and let them miss fourth turn.

2. As the significantly weaker player

In this case you should not be worried about RY having an easy position if he hits in. Put out a longish super shot ball and simply join up with R wherever it goes e.g. [R 15yd B-baulk tice], [K to 2yds west of R].

For R against someone who is unlikely to go round 3rd turn I play R at U gently from A-baulk leaving a big double. Even in this case K to the middle leaves a horrible sweaty shot for Y or if K is a good shot, he can hit the double and consider going round or making a powerful leave.

3. Two world class players

This opening certainly seems to give the player going first the edge in easy conditions. If I win the toss against a good shot I virtually always go first and play this opening. Against a weaker shot I might make sure they had something longer than a 13yd double to shoot at. In conditions where making 1 after hitting on the 3rd turn is difficult, I'm more inclined to go second and lay a Duffer.

4. Otherwise

In most other case I don't think the opening is a great idea, as R can just leave a double. However it is certainly worth trying now and then if you think RY's tactics are dodgy.

Author: Robert Fulford
All rights reserved © 2004


Updated 28.i.16
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