by Jeff Soo
With apologies for the long wait since the last installment.
Did you answer the question at the end of The Attacking Bisque, Part 3? If not, give it a try before reading on.
In Diagram 6 (shown again here) it is your turn to play with yellow, alive on all balls and for 2. Is there an easy play to set up a four-ball-break using just one or two bisques?
Yellow and red’s proximity to 2 suggests a rough and ready play: simply tap red and play a two-ball break through 2 and 3, using bisques as necessary. Then rush red to the stake or to 5 and take off to blue and black; from there the break is pretty easy to set up. The problem is that you need a forward rush after 3 for this to work, because you may already have used your two bisques to score 2 and 3. Without that forward rush you are faced with the choice of a big roll shot, or leaving red behind, and neither is attractive. Furthermore, even with two bisques it is not trivial to score 2 and 3, especially if you don’t get a rush to 3 after scoring 2. Getting these controlled rushes out of wickets is asking a lot for most players. So although this play is easy to understand, it is not so easy to execute.
The conventional way to build a break with bisques is to fill all of the key positions right away. That is, get one ball to the non-playing side of 2, another ball to 3, and the third ball near the stake, all before you score 2. The difficulty here is that blue and black are a long way from 2 and 3. You can’t rush red to any of the key positions, so you’ll have to croquet it to one of them while yellow goes to blue and black. Red’s current location is not good for this, so you would need to rush red down the court, to a point where you could then croquet red either to the stake or to 3. It would be difficult to send blue to 3 and have yellow stay near black, so red should go to 3. This is possible if you start by cut-rushing red to somewhere near 1. But both the cut rush and the big split shot that follows are fairly difficult. And the difficulties wouldn’t end there. So we’ll leave this play alone too—strike two.
Fortunately, the flexibility of bisques rewards creative thinking when conventional plays don’t answer. We’ve looked at two-balling until we can easily work the other balls into play, and we’ve looked at trying to lay out the break all at once; both plays are too difficult. What about a hybrid approach? That is, do part of the work before scoring 2 and then the rest before scoring 3. The key is getting a ball to 3 before yellow scores 2, because we don’t want the sequence to depend on precision rushes. Well, from red’s current position it is quite an easy croquet shot to send red to 3 while yellow approaches 2—it’s almost a straight drive shot. With one bisque (or maybe not even that) you can easily score 2. But now what?
Having scored 2, you could shoot gently at red, then take a bisque if you miss. But this would be no better than our earlier two-ball break, because you still need a forward rush out of 3, and this is not reliable enough. But if you go to blue and black first, the rest of the play is easy. After scoring 2, play the continuation shot down to blue and black. Use your second bisque to roquet one of them, putting it at 4, then rush the other ball to the stake. This is easy to do whichever ball you roquet first, because the two balls are close to each other and to 4. Voilà you have your textbook four-ball break with just two bisques and no difficult shots.
It would be nice if there were a simple rule of thumb for working out problems such as this, but I don’t know of one. Practice, trial and error, watch and learn; what works is what works.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of proactive bisque use. But there are many other aspects of handicap tactics yet to cover, so for now I’ll leave it to you to work out your own exercises for attacking with bisques.
To see all articles in this series, browse the Reference: Handicap Play topic
Last modified on 3 March 2017