Practicing and playing leaves in USCA croquet

A real-world example

The standard rover leave described in the previous example is simple enough when your partner ball is clean and your four-ball break is under control. What if things aren’t so ideal? Here’s a more difficult case.


Partner (black) for #3, alive on blue only. Current positions: black is two yards south of 2-back. Yellow is eight yards southwest of 4-back (i.e., near penult). Blue is for 3-back, and has just roqueted red to three yards east of 3-back.

Things are more difficult when your partner ball has significant deadness. Especially since, in this case, you didn’t pick up the fourth ball (yellow) until after 2-back. Then you under-hit the big croquet stroke out of Corner I, so you had to shoot fairly hard at your 3-back pioneer. At the moment you need to concentrate on getting the break back into shape. You’re going to have enough trouble just getting through 3-back.

diagram 3a Looking ugly. Blue is for 3-back and is ball-in-hand on red. Oh my, what to do? Black, for #3, is dead on both opponent balls.

A flexible plan

Are you thinking about playing a take-off to get position at 3-back? The take-off may be easier than a split shot, but it’s no guarantee that you’ll score the wicket. In this case it does guarantee that you won’t have a useful rush on red if you do score the wicket. With such a poor pioneer at 4-back, it is worth taking some extra risk with the approach to improve your chances of continuing the break. If the split-shot approach from the side of the wicket seems too daunting to you, then practice it. This is an essential shot to have in your repertoire.

If you get through 3-back, your first priority will be to get the break back under control. At the same time, you should have an idea of the leave you are aiming for. Since black is alive only on blue, you want to end the turn with black having an easy rush on blue to #3, yellow at #4, and red somewhere toward the west boundary. How you proceed from here depends on what kind of rush you have on red.

If you have an upcourt rush, then rush red to near penult, allowing you to get a close rush on yellow to 4-back. Score 4-back, send yellow to rover going to penult, score penult, rush (or roll) red toward Corner I, then send black toward Corner III going to rover. Score rover, rush yellow to #4, take off to black and give it a rush to #3. Alternately, if you make 4-back under control, rush yellow to near rover, take off to black and rush it upcourt to double-load penult. Score penult off red, roquet black and send it toward Corner III, getting a rush on red toward rover. From here you can either send red directly toward Corner I, then finish as above, or you can double-load the rover wicket, then send red away after scoring rover. The latter option will leave blue dead on red and yellow, which in some ways is better than having blue dead on yellow only, because now blue can be cleared of deadness at some point (not necessarily on this turn).

Or, having just scored 3-back, you may have a rush toward black. The rush may not be a very accurate one, so after making the rush take off to black, trying to get a rush toward penult. If the rush on black is successful, then I will leave it to you to work out the rest of the turn.

And if you get no useful rush on red after 3-back, now what? You could of course roquet red and roll up to penult, hoping to get a rush on yellow to 4-back. But if that fails then you will have no way of setting a break for black’s next turn.

I think a better plan is to roquet red, then roll it to the west end of the court, aiming to get a rush on black. If the rush on black succeeds, then you have a good chance of finishing the break and setting an adequate leave for black. If you don’t get the rush on black, you can roll to penult, still trying for the rush on yellow to 4-back, which may come off and allow you to finish the break. And if you don’t get the rush to 4-back, you have the option of roqueting yellow and sending it to #4, then giving black a rush to #3. Blue will be three-ball dead and for 4-back, but black will be set for a break. You also have the option of approaching 4-back from eight yards away, but if this fails black has no break.

Pop quiz

Starting positions the same as above, but black is alive on yellow only. This one is for you to solve.

Hint: a good method would be to get either black or yellow near #3 before you score Rover, then double-load Rover. Remember to end the turn last-dead on an opponent ball!

Copyright notice

Copyright 2001–2008 by Jeff Soo.

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Version 1.1
12 February 2001