Let me start by recognizing a basic fact about Kubb: This game is about knocking over as many kubbs as you can with the fewest possible number of batons - everything else is just window dressing.  In this article though, I want to talk about one particular aspect of it; One particular phase where knocking down the maximum number of kubbs seems to be even more important than ever. A phase we have taken to calling “The Answer”.

The open gets a lot of mindspace in this game. Anybody who talks about this game will take note of it, and it comes up in most stories about games.

“Did you see that match? So & So opened with 5 baselines!”

“Yeah, I saw it. Too bad whats-his-name opened with zero in the second game. Blew it.”

“Big time.”

The Open is unquestionably important (just exactly HOW important is a matter of ongoing debate and truthfully varies from player to player), but of equal importance, and with much less recognition, is the other team’s round one response. How do they answer back? A strong open from Team A means that Team B is starting the game in an uphill battle. They need to even the playing field in a hurry to avoid being steamrolled, and doing so means excelling at all phases of Kubb. The group has to be tight, the fields have to be dropped efficiently, and baseline throws have to be high-percentage.

Let’s say in a given game Team A opens with two (a 33% hit rate). Team B has to clear those two fields before they even get to take a shot at the base (which will almost always take a minimum of two batons), then they have to be able to hit 2 of the remaining 4 at 8 meters (a 50% hit rate at 8m, and 67% overall) just to get back to “even”. Some of the shots are going to be easier, but Team B still has to get 2 hits for every 1 hit from Team A’s Open to keep the field even going into round 2.

A closer analysis of the recorded games at PlanetKubb.com shows that Team B doesn’t QUITE have to get back to even to stay in the game, but keeping the lead to one net base kubb or less certainly bumps up their overall outlook. Of the 14 currently recorded games won by Team A the average Open is 2.0 base kubbs and the average Answer is 0.71 base kubbs, meaning the average lead Team A caries into round two is 1.29. Of the 18 games where Team B won Team A opened with an average 1.61 and Team B Answered with 1.44, meaning Team A’s average round two lead was only 0.17! Put another way, when Team A goes into round 2 with a lead of two or more base kubbs they are 7-4, winning at a rate of nearly 62%. On the other hand, when Team A’s round two lead is one or less they are 7-14, winning only 33% of the time.

The better the open, the tougher it is to answer, obviously. You’re going to have to spend more batons (on average) to clear your field, and that means fewer baseline shots and fewer hits. To give you an idea of whether or not you're ahead of the game, here are the average answers to the possible opens in the 32 games we’ve got recorded:

Open:                   Avg Answer:

0                                             1.8

1                                             1.36

2                                             0.86

3                                             0.57

4                                             1

The 4/1 looks a little out of place in that progression, but it’s a tiny sample set at only 2 games, and both took place in the finals at major tournaments so an uptick isn't all that surprising (we have yet to record a clear baseline in turn one.)

The best answer I’ve seen yet was at a 2v1 ranked match here in Des Moines; Grant won the toss and opened with 4, and Dobbie came right back with a quad in the field and 4/5 on the baseline. Grant started round two with 8 kubbs in hand – now THAT is some Kubb!

Here’s to strong opens and better answers – see you on the pitch!

Don't tell me about the answer cause another one will come along soon...