a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Snooker Day!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Snooker Day!

SUMMARY: General Snooker strategy for Super-Qs, plus, OK, what exactly IS a Super-Q?
Thanks to Mary and Maralize, whose comments and questions led me to these writings.

Lots of talking here; pick your topics!

What is Snooker, anyway?

Here's a summary:

The field contains 3 or 4 "red" jumps worth 1 point each, and 6 other obstacles worth 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 points. For example:

You have a set period of time, usually around 50 seconds, in which to accrue points by following first an opening sequence consisting of red, number, red, number, red, number, and then the closing sequence of 2 through 7. (Sometimes you can do a 4th red, number in the opening.) You may repeat the numbered obstacles, but you cannot repeat the reds; for example, do the 1st red and #7, then the 2nd red and #7, then the 3rd red and #4. Then 2 through 7.

During your allotted time, you must earn 37 points for a Qualifying score (a "Q").

If you take an incorrect obstacle, you are whistled off; if you fault an obstacle in the closing, you are whistled off.

Placements are determined by your points.

There are a lot of additional rules and gotchas; if you don't know how to play Snooker, and want to read my previous in-depth post about How To Play Agility Snooker, including why it has the same name as a billiards game, feel free.

What exactly is a Super-Q and how many do I need and why?

Whenever USDAA Masters Snooker plays at a trial, the mysterious word "Super-Q" repeats obsessively.

A Super-Q means that you place in the top 15% of the dogs in your height group. (They round up, fortunately--but when I'm working at the score table, I always look at the Super-Q cheat sheet to be sure I'm giving the right quantity.)

Point ties are resolved by your time. That's why you always race for the finish line when you're done, no matter how many points you have (assuming you've gotten a qualifying score).

Super-Qs apply only to Masters (and P3) Snooker. To earn an ADCH or your APD, 3 of your 5 Snooker Qs must be Super-Qs. Once you've earned the 3 Super-Qs in Masters towards the ADCH, you never again need another Super-Q in championship for anything except glory, no matter how high you go in titles. Ditto with the 3 in P3 towards the APD.

Super-Q caveats

There are two gotchas that can make it slightly more complicated:
  • You have to earn a Q to earn a Super-Q. For example, if there are 20 dogs, there would normally be 3 super-Qs. But if only 2 dogs qualify, well, there's a Super-Q that never is awarded, oh well! (Hence, it's a Super Q--because you already have the Q but now it's an extra-special Q.)
  • If there are fewer than 7 dogs in either of the open heights or fewer than 5 in either of the mini heights, they have to combine the heights (but only open with open and mini with mini).
For example, let's say:
  • There are 20 16" dogs. Normally there would be 3 super-Qs with 20 dogs.
  • The top three 16" dogs (let's say, Luka, Wave, and, oh, Sizzle) get 59, 58, and 51 points.
  • Meanwhile, the top 12" dogs score 52, 50, and 49.
  • There are only four 12" dogs. Therefore they have to combine the 12" with the 16".
  • Now there are 24 dogs, which makes 4 Super-Qs. the Super-Qs will be the top 3 16" dogs, plus the top 12" dog with 52 points (because the top 4 dogs in the combined heights have 59, 58, 52, and 51 pts).

That's probably more than you need to know, but I'm being complete here.

The info on Super-Qs is in the USDAA rule book chapt 6 in the Snooker section's "Qualification" subsection.

Tournament events: Other scoring with percentages

You might be thinking that some other classes are related to Super-Qs--for example, in Steeplechase, you have to be within 25% of the average of the top 3 dogs to Q; something similar for DAM. Those aren't super-Qs; those are just how you earn Qs in those events. Grand Prix  uses percentages only in Round 2 at the regional--top 50% (?) in round 2 get a bye into the semifinals at the nationals. Or that's what the calculation was; they dink around with these things periodically so who knows.

Must I always go for all 7s in the opening?

So--a friend who has earned her three Super-Qs now wants to go for Top Ten points (that's over all dogs over the whole year--a 1st place earns more top ten points than a 2nd place, etc.). So she commented something like: "Now I must ALWAYS go for all 7s in the opening, no matter how many reds there are and no matter what the course is."

I said that that was not the right approach towards earning Top Ten placements (which are more or less synonymous with Super-Qs).

My point is that, if you try for an impossible course or try one that you have slim chance of doing, you're normally worse off than if you go for somewhat lower points but a sure thing. I will always *look* at the all-7 opening, but I don't nearly always pick it, and neither does anyone else.

I *do* always pick a slightly aggressive course to push myself and my dog, because most other people will be doing so, too. And I just like getting placement ribbons, so a mere Q isn't good enough. :-) On a very challenging course, lots of dogs will crap out trying to get more than they're really capable of. (Look at me and Boost--oh, ok, well, don't--)

She further put herself out on a limb by saying that, nowadays, with the crowd we have, someone ALWAYS does all 7s in the opening and gets all the way through the closing, so she has to always try.

I said, NEVER and ALWAYS are two concepts in agility that are likely to be easily disproved. And, being the database geek that I am, I was able to quickly pull up some numbers from our local trials:

(1) In Masters 22"/26", since January '08 (in trials I've competed in of course), I count 50 times we've run snooker, and I count only 17 of those where I'm pretty sure that "all 7s" were done in the opening by the winning dog. It's probably less than that; I'm going by the note of 24 or 32 opening points (which is three or four 7s) but of course a 24 opening can also be gotten by, say, 3/3/7/7.

(2) So--that's to *win*. How about simply to earn *some* Top Ten points? Well, of course, winning gets you the most, but as I keep saying, some is better than none. Back to the database:

Among my dogs, I've earned Top Ten points on at least 34 snooker courses; 22 of those were also super-Qs.

Are they all 7/7/7 plus 2-7? No way. Here are the ones where I specifically noted what I ran.

6/7/7 +2-7
7/7/7 +2-7
7/7/5 +2-7
7/7/6/6 +2-6 (4 reds req'd)
5/6/7/7 +2-7 (4th red optional)
7/7/7 +2-6
5/4/4/2 +2-7
7/7/7 +2-7
5/4/3 +2-6 (no Q but a 1st place! still get Top Ten pts!)
1/7/7 +2-7 (1 means we faulted the point obstacle)
7/7/6/6 +2-7
7/7/3 +2-7
7/6/1 +2-7
7/7/7 +2-7
6/6/7/7 +2-5
7/7/7 +2-7
7/7/6 +2-7
5/5/7/7 +2-7
7/7/7 +2-7
4/7/7/7 +2-7 (4 req'd)
4/5/2/7 +2-7
5/7/7/7 +2-7 (4 req'd)
6/7/7/6 +2-7
3/5/7/7 +2-6
0/5/7 +2-6 (0 means we knocked a red jump)
1/7/7 +2-7

So only 6 of these 26 runs used all 7s and completed the closing. It is possible that one needed even fewer points than that to get top ten points; my records aren't THAT detailed.

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