Robert Fulford, November 2004 (edited from a posting to the Nottingham Mailing List)
The worse the opponent the more you should be inclined to take the long lift. Forget about triples, you'll see a lot more break downs on hoops 2,3 and 4 when the opponent only has 3 balls to play with.
The question extends to the player making the break to 4-b, but from his perspective it's 'How far south should I lay up?'. I was horrified by [another posting] calling the long lift 19-22 yards. Much of croquet's tactics are to do with squeezing every inch of length into the opponent's next shot. Laying up a yard and a half south of rover leaves a 25 yarder from corner 3 and a 15 yarder from A-baulk, but there are plenty of opponents who will still always take the long lift and if they are a poor shot and if the conditions aren't that easy, they are probably correct to do so. It would be a mistake to leave such a player a shorter shot from corner 3.
Suppose you are going to 4b and have placed a ball near the peg for a spread or 4 for an NSL such that you can choose within reason where to lay up. There are two main things to think about.
This is very important. If you play someone quite frequently you can get a real feel for at what range they are likely to take a short or long lift. If you don't know the opponent use every prejudice you have to make an educated guess. Good shots are more likely to take the short shot - if you haven't seen them take many shots, did they look like they had a good shooting style? Defensive players are more likely to shoot through to corner 4 - have their tactics been aggressive or defensive earlier in the game? The more you think they are inclined to take the long lift the further south you go.
Having played the first break you should be able to make an assessment of how difficult the conditions are and how well you are playing. If you playing poorly go further south. To take this idea a little further if you play the first turn badly but actually you feel you are playing well by the end of the turn, you can lay up further south in the same way but in this case it is more of a bluff.
In the end the ideal situation is that the opponent doesn't immediately known whether to shoot long or short and this leads to him taking his shot in some doubt and striking it poorly. At the least try not to give 20 yard long lifts when they will shoot long at 25 and similarly 15 yard short lifts when they will still take the short lift at 17.
It might save you getting hit once a tournament.
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