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Dr Ian Plummer

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Beating Aunt Emma

Croquet is a subtle and tactical sport, but it is possible to play with a mind-numbing lack of enterprise which can literally bore the opponent into losing all will to further participate.  This style of play takes the name Aunt Emma, and should be stamped out at any possible inception in a player. Their tactic is to split up the opponent and snatch occasional hoops over many, many turns.

Samir Patel writes on his approaches when playing them

When I'm playing Aunt Emmas, I try to work out which they are of 3 types.

Type 1

They will keep you split up, and won't play a break even if you hand it to them, sometimes going to the extent of seemingly choosing to destroy your break even if you happen to break down on their hoop - in extreme cases not making any hoops, sometimes just one or two.

These are the easiest to play - Just shoot every time.  You can take as many risks as you like, the important thing is to hit and get as many chances as you can, and take risks with those chances (since there is little to lose).

Type 2

Will play 'simple' Aunt Emma, until you give them a break, at which point they nip around on the break you've left them. They won't, however, set a break up.

As for 1, shoot almost every time. You just need to take a little more care not to give them a break - so pick your shot a little more carefully, and you may have to be a little more circumspect in your break setup and play. If you can, play three ball breaks with opponent; you won't ever leave them a 4-ball break, and if it starts looking a bit dodgy, you can retire to partner and (unless they have bisques left) retain the innings for next turn.

Type 3

Will play Aunt Emma, but will attempt to use useful balls when they stumble across them. This can either be in the short term (it's near there hoop, so they'll use it as a pioneer), or slightly more strategically (i.e. they will use it to create a break).

In this case, you need to be much more careful over shot selection. Ideally, you want to find something defensive to shoot at which gives you options. Aggressive shots taken out of frustration are the usual downfall against such players. Wide joins are good when there is no safe shot available (how wide is another matter to work out - I suggest starting at your 50/50 [likelihood of hitting your partner ball] distance, although others will suggest further apart).

Finally, if you don't know what type of player you're up against, it's clearly safest to assume 3, and move your opinion slowly towards 1. If you start at 1, you may have lost if your opponent turns out to be type 3!

Type 3 is more of a challenge and arguably more interesting - winning against a type 1/2 simply comes down to whether you hit enough before they finish, whereas type 3 can be more of a tactical challenge (but also potentially more frustrating and time consuming).


Author: Samir Patel
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Updated 28.i.16
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