The intermediate range covers players who are roughly in the region from handicap 4 to 14. The notes below are taken from the Intermediate Coaching Sessions that Robin Brown kindly gave to an assortment of OUACC members during Trinity Term 2002.
This session focussed mainly on the defensive elements of play.
The point that not many people of around our level realise is that in a broken play situation (ie opponent has blobbed allowing us to steal the innings, etc) trying to instantly set up the break was sometimes not the best course of action, and that setting a tight leave can be far more beneficial.
This lesson was illustrated by playing a game, with everybody discussing the next shot before it was played.
If you are playing and you have the innings, you must ask yourself what chance you have of making a break. (Pretty good, maybe or no way!): (1) Pretty good - a pioneer by your next hoop (or equivalent), (2) no way - 2 separated boundary balls no where near your hoop, and (3) maybe - everything else.
The action to take in each situation:
- The strategy is fairly simple - move partner into the lawn whilst going to the pioneer/other ball and establish the break from there.
- Priority should be establishing a leave - a 1 or 2 hoop break is not worth the risk of losing the innings when a really tight leave (see below) can give you more.
- The break should be attempted, but defensive play should be employed so that if it does go wrong (maybe 50% of the time) you will have a back-up plan or leave.
Following The Standard Opening
For example, arriving at the usual starting situation (R in C2, Y as tice on West Boundary, U & K both yard-line balls on East boundary) with U & K to play. This is clearly a (3) situation.
The aim of U & K is to attempt to set up the break whilst leaving partner ball maybe a yard or so from the boundary until the break is established - hence take off to R, thick take off to rush Y and then roll into hoop 1. If it goes well, there is a good chance of a 3-ball break, bringing partner in on the way to hoop 4. If it goes badly, shooting off to behind partner gives a 1 yard rush into the middle of the lawn, and two balls (loosely) placed on hoops 1 and 2, which given the circumstances is not a bad leave.
Many are the situations where you will be rolling up to a hoop with a low (<60%) chance of making that hoop. In this case it might be worth while thinking ahead and rolling defensively. Assume U & K are rolling for hoop 1. R is a pioneer at 2, Y is pioneer at 3. Rolling the forward ball (K) to 2/3 diagonal between corner 1 and hoop 1, whilst getting in hoop running position is sensible. If the hoop is made, a reasonable roquet will enable the break to continue. If the hoop is over-run, you have made a back-up plan by playing B to 1/3 between corner 1 and hoop 1, guarding boundary and preventing a shot against U & K.
Leaves From Broken Play
An interesting leave that fits in nicely with the defensive rolling approach mentioned above: Your balls are guarding boundary with a rush with U on K to hoop 1, R is a pioneer at 2, Y is about 3 yards from East boundary about 4 yards north of the peg. (The actual area for this ball is immense and not important). The rationale:
Shots available to R & Y:
- Y shoots - leaves U & K with a rush to hoop and a pioneer at next hoop - only worth doing for a fat double at U & K.
- R at U & K - U hits R stops it to 2, makes hoop 1 and trundles around on a 4-ball-break.
- R at Y - R will end up only 3 yards from Y. U runs hoop 1, plays K to 3 whilst going to R, gently stops R to pivot, getting an easy rush on Y to hoop 2. (4-ball-break).
- R at corner 4 - U runs hoop 1 with rush to East Boundary south of Y. Stop K to 3 whilst getting rush on Y to 2 (3-ball-break).
Leaving Y close to East Boundary forces a longer shot, and also makes it easier to get the rush to hoop 2.
Hoop 1/2. U is for hoop 1. U has rush on K to middle of lawn from East boundary. R is by hoop 1, Y is by hoop 2.
Shots available to R & Y:
- Y shoots - leaves U & K with a rush to centre of lawn and a pioneer at the next hoop, only worth doing for a fat double at U & K.
- R at U &K - U hits R stops it off boundary (might be worth stopping it to position indicated above), getting rush to hoop 1 with K. (4-ball-break if U can make hoop 1).
- R at Y - R ends up on North boundary behind hoop 2. U tickles K (leaving it within 2 yards of the boundary) takes off to R. Play R to hoop 2, whilst getting a rush on red to hoop 1.
- R at corner 4 - U cut-rushes K to hoop 1, rolls it and gets 3-ball-break.
Pros: easy leave to construct, reasonable chance of a break.
Cons: Leaves R a shot at Y that doesn't give away a 4BB.
Cross wired leave at hoop 1. U and K with a rush into the middle of the lawn from the East boundary, as before. R & Y cross wired across hoop 1 (both must be open on U or K).
Shots available to R & Y:
- Whatever they chose, they will leave a ball at hoop 1, giving a 3-ball-break.
The Golden Rule
The Golden Rule is that if your opponents are paired up - don't pair up!
The rationale behind this is that two balls together potentially allow the opponent to get a rush to anywhere, by taking off from one onto the other. Consequently it is tantamount to putting a pioneer onto any hoop of his choice!
Shots If You Don't Have The Innings
In broken play, if you have a short shot, take it. If the shots you are left with have a high potential to miss, you must think about what you are giving away. A ball at the opponents next hoop (or next but one if they have a rush) is the usual one to move. If you have one ball on the boundary, it would be less useful to the opposition if you were to clear the one in the centre of the lawn.
Listed approximately in ascending order of merit, your possible shots are:
- Partner on boundary - You will be paired up if you miss - see Golden Rule.
- Wide join - Not sensible when playing good players. (The rationale for such a shot is to put your balls a distance where you can comfortably hit in, but your opponent will have difficulty manufacturing a rush - against good B-class players and better there is no such distance). However, this technique is good against weaker players.
- Opponent guarding the boundary well - Shooting at them will enable them to get a 3BB together.
- Opponent on boundary without rush to hoop - Shooting at them will enable them to get a rush to their next hoop.
- Corner - if your opponents have no chance of a break putting the ball into a corner makes it more difficult for them to make a leave. To be used only if you have nothing better to play.
- Opponent on boundary with rush - If your opponents have a rush to their next hoop, they will not be able to do much with your ball whilst retaining this rush (almost a free shot).
- Opponent guarding boundary poorly (i.e. both balls level with hoop 1, and you shoot through to South boundary). The opponent can either shoot at the boundary ball, stop it to next hoop and make the hoop they are on, or tickle partner, take off to your ball and do a stop shot approach, whilst putting your ball to the next hoop - your opponent might make a mistake with this.
- Through a ball to boundary - A free shot.
- Through a double target to boundary - An easier free shot.
- Through a big fat hairy triple target at a range of 3 yards to boundary - An even easier free shot, but one that is still miss-able.
Of course, should you take any shot and hit, then that's better than any shot that doesn't :).
© 2017 Oxford University Association Croquet Club