This article is based on a series of correspondence in November 2003 on the Nottingham mailing list. This took place against the backdrop of the 2003 MacRobertson Shield.
Original postings have been edited for clarity, with [Square Brackets] have been used for additional information.
The Duffer tice position is usually a yard or so North, and a touch East, of Hoop 6. As always, the exact positioning will be varied, based on the player's ability, perception of tice length and lawn conditions, so a Duffer tice may be laid several yards from the described position.
Rob Edlin-White Wrote
> "Can somebody tell me all about Duffers and, in particular, anti-Duffers?"
A "Duffer tice" is when the player of the second ball sends it somewhere near hoop 6. It's a tice length but not safe for the 3rd player to shoot at it hard as the miss goes into or near A baulk. They usually ignore the tice as a trickle at it leaves a double target for the 4th ball.
The anti Duffer is a manoeuvre by the first player on the first stroke to discourage the Duffer tice on the second. The first stroke is played to somewhere 2 or 3 yards off the East boundary (1 or 2 yards off the yard line) about between Hoop 6 high and peg high. This is supposed to discourage a Duffer tice response. Apparently at that level of play, if a Duffer tice is played after this opening, the player of the 3rd ball has a significant chance of getting a 3-ball break going.
Jonathan Kirby Responded
Your description of the Duffer tice and anti-Duffer are correct. Suppose a Duffer tice is laid and then hit on the third turn. The player will now be taking croquet somewhere south of 6. If the partner ball is a couple of yards off the East boundary, and about halfway up, it is possible to take off behind this ball, getting a rush to 1. This is much harder if the East boundary ball is on the yard-line, and further South.
There is another advantage to the anti-Duffer, if the players are more defensive or not such strong shots. On turn three, instead of shooting at the Duffer (for example, if it's quite long) you can go to corner II. The fourth turn player will now usually shoot hard at the tice. If this hits, there's no easy four ball break, because the opponent balls are separated. However, if it misses, the corner two ball can now shoot at the Duffer, joining with partner if it misses, possibly with a rush into the lawn. Whatever shot is taken on the sixth turn, if it is missed there should be an easy break on the seventh turn.
I hope this clarifies things!
Dave Kibble Added
> "Suppose a Duffer tice is laid and then hit on the third turn. The player will now be taking croquet somewhere south of 6."
Like some other openings, it's only effective if it is understood; i.e. second turn player has to recognise what it is. I noticed several game reports where the opening was used and Duffer tice laid anyway - I think only SM [Stephen Mulliner] shot at the tice, and he shot gently missing to peg-high (bizarrely his opponent then missed his own tice, leaving SM thinking he did the right thing). In other reports the shot was at partner into corner IV. It is of course possible that the Duffer is laid longer in response to an anti-Duffer, making the turn 4 shot longer.
If you use the anti-Duffer and don't shoot to hit the tice then you have told everyone that it's not an anti-Duffer at all!
I think for Rob [Fulford] it's not an anti-Duffer but an anti-corner II, if the second ball goes to II then the third ball goes off the E boundary leaving a reasonably safe rush to it - this is the easiest way to get a break out of the defensive corners II and IV without conceding a turn 6 shot. If the turn 4 shot is hit, a bit of luck is needed to get a good rush.
> "However, if it misses, the corner two ball can now shoot at the Duffer, joining with partner if it misses, possibly with a rush into the lawn. Whatever shot is taken on the sixth turn, if it is missed there should be an easy break on the seventh turn."
Except it encourages a shot of Duffer at ball off the E boundary, which is probably shorter than the II at Duffer shot.
Phil Cordingley Concluded With
FYI, the Duffers following the anti-Duffers have been normal length.
Amusingly, there have been one or two cases of turn two hit-ins where the striker has sent the croqueted the ball to anti-Duffer position, and then gone to Duffer position himself. Go figure.