Thursday, December 1, 2011

World Cup Practice, part 4

This is it, slackers. A December freebie--and the final installment discussing our WC practice weekend on the event layout. (Yes, I could go on almost forever but I'm stopping with this installment. If you have additional questions feel free to ask or post them up in comments.) It's also now December--and that means Mailbag Month is here. (This is your final reminder that all posts in December, except breaking news of real import--and there's an official one coming!--will be answering questions or responding to mailbag or Facebook comments. And if those run out or don't exist in sufficient numbers to fill December then I'm on vacation! Just saying.)
Recap: So far we've covered a general assessment of the value of the most common primary bunkers; how we will attack & defend the snake and what it will take to play effectively on the D-wire. This time I want to round things out by talking a bit more about actually playing the snake, some alternative options, why the center of this layout wasn't utilised more actively and whatever other bits & pieces come to mind. A veritable post-Thanksgiving cornucopia of game play scraps and leftovers.
How a team play(ed) this (or any other snake) is oftentimes one of the features that separate the men from the boys. On the diagram you will note that the first four knuckles (or shooting stations) are numbered appropriately. As we've already discussed the mid-field MT is likely to be played as a secondary Home bunker and used primarily to deny and/or control the snake. Now, taking a closer look at what the various knuckles offer, why, if you have worked hard to get into the snake and there is a crossfield MT gun--do you stop at the first knuckle and try to play it? The goal of gaining the snake isn't in order to contest other players in superior positions shooting down on top of you while you crawl on your belly. I know, I know, you already know this but a quick review of your's (and most everybody else's) practical experience will demonstrate that you may know dat but you don't play dat.
Ideally the object of working into the snake is to get in position to kill peeps who have no place to hide. In addition the secondary object is to apply pressure to your opponent; pressure that either pins them in their spots or forces them to react. Remember proximity tension? It applies in spades in the snake.
In practice our field was set-up in such a way that the midfield MT did not have a clean gap to shoot between snake 1 and snake 2. On the Pro field at Cup there was a gap. Did it make a difference? Yes but only a minor one. A competent snake player was not delayed for any length of time by the MT and if you watch some of the Pro field matches the thing to look for is players making the strong move right to snake 4 as rapidly and directly as possible. Playing the snake is not a leisurely sight-seeing proposition moving from one knuckle to the next--it's about taking aggressive action that quickly eliminates your opponent(s) or forces your them into a defensive posture. Even if the snake player doesn't get any fast kills the action frequently frees up other players to make moves and take greater control of the field.
One other generalized comment with regards to proximity tension. (Okay, two.) One, if you watch how players respond to proximity tension you will learn a lot about how they play the game under stress. Two, it is always better to give than receive (and I'm not talking about gifts at Christmas.) I'm talking about bunkering your opponent when the opportunity presents itself--and/or proactively making your own opportunities. The benefits are practical and psychological, as one springs from the other. It is offense and not defense, it is active, not reactive. It imposes your will on your opponent. The core move is a momentum builder (or changer) and it simultaneously encourages teammates to act while discouraging opponents resulting as often as not in a net gain in field position with the added bonus of demoralizing the opponent.
At this point it's fair to say we were committed to attacking the wires. We had decided how we would go about doing that and what options and contingencies we could call upon when circumstances required. Our attack may appear simple but it wasn't. But what other options exist? It is always necessary to evaluate the whole field even if you don't plan on using all of it because you also must be prepared for what your opponent might do. (A great example of this is the most recent NCPA final featuring, if I recall correctly, Long Beach State & Tennessee. Losing the match trying to play Long Beach straight up Tennessee altered their attack. Instead of competing for the snake they played to hold the snake and attack using an interior D-side lane. [I kept waiting to see somebody try it all day.] The change in tactics took Long Beach by surprise and they never came up with a workable counter which allowed Tennessee to run off a few points in a row and take the championship. Whether Tennessee was saving that tactic or fell into it doesn't matter. What matters is that Long Beach wasn't prepared to respond to it. Watch the video some time. It's pretty remarkable. Which is why I remarked on it.)
After the fact it's clear that the center of the field wasn't much utilised except in closing points out but I want to take a quick look at why it wasn't. (Lots of teams, when they have nothing else or as a bold change, will send player(s) up the center OTB.) There were a couple of reasons not to attack using this layout's X OTB. On the diagram at either side of the X you will note on the D-side a critical blind zone in pink and on the snake side two lanes in purple. Each side of the X presents a player with variations on the same problem. On the D-side both the wire MT and corner TCK can't be seen. What is the X-side player to do? If there's an opponent wide in either the MT or TCK do you play them to deny the D1 or close the angle? Inside the MR and the midfield MT both have line-of-sight angles and the X-side can be run down from Home. A similar scenario exists on the snake side as the X-side player there needs to either attack insert Temple or corner SD (and TCK) or defend access to the snake--but can't do both--and is also susceptible to being bunkered or countered by the feed TCK. In neither case does going X-side OTB offer a high likelihood of quick kills and/or disruption of the opponent's breakout.
But that doesn't (didn't) mean the middle zone of the field didn't play. On the D-side using the midfield MT as a D-side play (instead of the crossfield) offers a strong change of pace option to either attack Home, a crossfield TCK laner or breakdown snake side players in their primaries early in a point by bumping the Can as part of a move to the wire from the inside out. It also a good running path if your opponent is already strong on the wire. Even better when playing snake side as the strong side--odd gun is committed snake side--is the rotation upfield into the Can (see dashed line). It can be an OTB option but is better as a contingency. By that I mean if you lane the wide runner OTB--then you take the Can to cut off follow-up rotations to the wire and eventually turn the gun inside in the transition from mid-game to close out.
Beyond that there's the routine stuff of walking and re-walking the positions. Testing bounce shots. Talking through options and sequences with your teammates. And on and on. The process is as comprehensive or as simple as you choose to make it.


Devon Stuart said...

In the pre-cup assessment of the layout you said "Beyond that completely gratuitous criticism this is an interesting and tactically complex field that I expect to see most teams defend and attack poorly". In what ways did you see it as tactically complex and playing it as so opposed to playing it as a normal xball layout and not to its potential?

Mike said...


amirite? :)

Baca Loco said...

C'mon, Mike, that schedule was posted everywhere last night. Too slow.

The two biggest things are the two I focused on in the series of posts; the midfield MT as secondary Home playing crossfield--which was a mistake. And the way the D-wire needed to be played in order to have an impact on the outcome of points.
The field played conventionally and that's what most teams did--and the result was frequently long slow points.
As it turned out there's a variety of things we were prepared to do we didn't ever need to so where we took advantage was in what perhaps seem like lesser details. Where we shot OTB when running the insert Temple. Focusing on making snake 4. Finding ways to effectively double our lanes OTB consistently. Winning the race to the 50 on the D-wire. We didn't just take what was available in any given point, we had cues to look for and a basic game plan and goals for every point that were constructed around how we understood the field. Of course that's what I'm always trying to accomplish regardless of the layout and as always the bottom line is execution.

Devon Stuart said...

Ah ok I had to go back and touch up on part 2. We did the same thing as far as delaying to it but used it almost every point and found success doing so but maybe that was the difference between 3rd and 1st place. Do you think that the midfield MT would have been more of a productive position in the lower divisions (anything but pro really) or focusing on using it to deny the snake was a mistake all around for any team?

Sorry for playing this 20 questions game my curiosity is just getting the best of me ha.

Baca Loco said...

No, it was the difference between your opponents knowing (or not knowing) how to counter the MT. Most any tactic is viable if the other guys don't know what to do about it. :)

Also if both teams are employing the same basic game plan the game plan becomes almost irrelevant and then the game is about execution and individual player skill sets.

The reason I mentioned the 2011 NCPA final was that it's a great example of the tactic making all the difference.

Using the MT wasn't a mistake so much as it ended up frequently being a crutch. At some point too many teams decided this is how we are going to control the snake--and that's where they stopped thinking about it.

The fact that there may be a better way to do something doesn't mean any and every team is capable of taking advantage.

I don't mind the questions but I'm gonna have to start charging you pretty soon.