More killer tricks
Why do we run rover the wrong way in USCA Croquet? I don’t know, but here’s a clever way to take advantage of it.
This trick is surprisingly little-known, especially the four-ball variation. Make one of these leaves and your opponents will be gnashing their teeth in desperation.
Partner (black) for rover, three-ball dead. Blue is running a three-ball break with black and red. Yellow is in corner I.
There is a variation on the killer leave that you can use when the spent ball is on the nine-inch-line and your partner ball is for rover. Of course you are going to play for the rover peel, but if you fail to get black into perfect peeling position you should make this leave instead of trying an angled peel, a back-peel followed by a cannon peg-out, or any other such nonsense. This leave is often the best play even when black is alive on all balls.
As you approach rover, place black just to the side of the wicket. Run the wicket, then rush black back into position. Resist the temptation to peel black at this point—even if successful, peeling is only likely to make the leave less effective.
Croquet black into perfect position while going to red (ideally red will be nearby, but if it isn’t, take off to it). Put red into a position where it is wired from black but open on yellow, then peg out blue. Usually the best position for red is somewhere north of penult.
Obviously this leave isn’t suitable if red is dead on yellow and alive on black.
If red is your penult pioneer and you fail to get a rush to rover after scoring penult, you can leave red in its final position now and take off to rover. Just be sure that red has an open shot on yellow. You might do it this way if you thought the take-off gave you a better chance of peeling black. I usually wouldn’t, because even if the peel is successful sometimes you will fail to get a rush to the peg. This is not a problem if you have double-loaded the wicket so that you can roquet red first, then get a rush on black.
Now try it with four balls
Scenario same as above, but this time blue has a four-ball break.
As I said earlier, sometimes the rover peel just doesn’t work out. In this case, black is three-ball dead, so the normal killer leave won’t work. How can you make it so that black is in position at rover, yellow is on the boundary, blue is pegged out, and red has a shot only on yellow? You could simply roll blue and yellow out of bounds (separated, of course), but then you have no way of finishing the game, and you give your opponent the initiative.
I bet you hadn’t thought of this one
The trick is to play a croquet stroke that both sends yellow out of bounds and pegs out blue. This is a somewhat nervy stroke, but is reliable enough if you get yellow to within about a yard of the peg.
Usually in this situation you will be concentrating (rightly) on getting the rover peel done. But if the peel looks uncertain, such as when you’ve just scored 4-back and sent black two yards wide of rover, you should prepare for making the leave in case you don’t get good position for the peel. Double-load penult. After scoring the wicket, roquet yellow and send it to the peg while getting a rush on red to rover. Rush red down and leave it a yard or so northeast or northwest of the wicket.
If you do manage to peel black, you are now well positioned for the peg-out. But if you fail to rush black into good position for the peel, split it to the side of the wicket, then rush it back into position after you run the wicket. Do not peel it now! Position it carefully and then rush red a few yards up the court. Croquet red toward the north end of the court where it will be wired from black. Rush yellow as close as possible to the peg. If you get yellow to within a foot of the peg, you are close enough to play a split-drive stroke, and you have a wide range of options for where to send yellow off the court. If yellow is between one and two feet from the peg, you can still try the split-drive, but it is somewhat risky. Beyond two feet, and up to about two yards, you can still safely send yellow off and peg blue out by playing a hard maximum-angle split-shot—essentially an “ultra-fat” take-off.
A tricky but useful stroke
The striker’s ball will pull quite a lot on this stroke, so you need to practice it to learn how to line up the balls correctly. You also need to practice to get a feel for the 45 degree aim point, and for how hard you need to hit to be sure of sending yellow out of bounds. Incidentally, this stroke is also the key to the “open cannon” or “pseudo-cannon”, which allows you to get two boundary balls well into the court, sometimes even creating an instant three-ball break. So it really is a stroke worth knowing how to play.
With the max-angle split, you will have only two choices for which direction to send yellow. If, unusually, neither direction will send yellow off at a spot open to red, then you may be able to send yellow off the south end of the court with a stop shot, putting blue two or three yards north of rover. If you are lucky, red will be open only on yellow, and black will be able to rush blue to the peg after scoring rover.
Copyright 2001–2008 by Jeff Soo.
12 February 2001