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This section will provide the new and intermediate curler with an outline for strategic decision-making and shot calling. These strategy principles will apply to most games particularly league games. Once you are familiar with the basics and you're playing on a team that can really execute, the next section, Advanced (Team) Strategy will introduce you to the advanced topics. Each player, team, game situation and ice conditions are different so we'll concentrate on the decision-making process and not on individual shot calling.

This section contains lots of material. You will benefit from reading all the content. If are new to the sport, read the following.


STRATEGY: BROAD LOOK | BASIC SHOTS | SKIP TRICKS | MIXED


A Broad Look at Strategy 

Shot Calling Simplified 

˙Simplified˙Principles˙Outcomes˙Game˙Process˙Free Guard˙Execute˙

This first section offers a simplified version of shot calling. If you are anew curler, read this section before your Learn to Curl Session.

The skip calls the shots and provides an aiming point. As a new skip always consider Strategy Rule #1 - Call shots your team can make.

Throwing first (without the hammer):

  • In general, play the center of the sheet.
  • Draw to the center of the house - a conservative approach.
  • Put up a center guard in the Free Guard Zone - a more aggressive approach.

Throwing second (with the hammer):

  • Respond to your opponent's play.
  • Draw to the side of the house - a conservative approach.
  • Draw behind the center guard - a more aggressive approach.
  • Throw the "tick" shot - advanced.
  • Possibly clear center guards after five rocks - Free Guard Zone Rule.

Once these opening plays are complete, there are many, many options. Base the remainder of your calls on your overall strategy.

In addition, with practice:

  • Learn to judge line - knowing when to call sweeping for takeouts.
  • Learn strategies on how to "steal" and how to "convert"

Strategy Principles 

˙Simplified˙Principles˙Outcomes˙Game˙Process˙Free Guard˙Execute˙

Someone once said that curling is chess on ice. This is true to some degree because, in addition to throwing and making shots, the skip must determine the course of action to be taken before and during the game. During the game there are several options to each possible situation. The skip must decide what shots to call and when to call them.

Most curlers use the term strategy to describe the process of calling the individual shots. This is not entirely true. CurlTech believes the game has two separate components:

  1. Game strategy - overall game approach.
  2. Calling the Game - shot-by-shot tactics that support the game strategy.

The term "strategy" is often used to describe both of these components, but we want to concentrate on the differences between them. These principles will work using any of the curling formats (four vs. four, mixed doubles, etc.)

Most strategy clinics talk about the how you call shots "in the moment". This is a difficult way to learn strategy since there are an infinite number of possible situations. Of course, there are some key factors in choosing the shot and those will be reviewed later. CurlTech suggests you view strategy as an overall plan. Shot calling becomes much easier if there's a plan in place.

Only Four Outcomes 

˙Simplified˙Principles˙Outcomes˙Game˙Process˙Free Guard˙Execute˙

There are only four possible outcomes to every end. It doesn't matter how many shots were made or missed or how brilliant the strategy was, there are only four outcomes:

  1. Conversion: Taking two or more with the hammer.
  2. Steal: Taking one or more without the hammer.
  3. Force: Forcing the hammer team to take only one.
  4. Blank: Neither team scores - hammer team retains last rock.

Conversion "To convert" means to convert your last rock advantage into multiple points. Teams should want this almost every time they have hammer. In some cases a force is acceptable in the even ends such as 6 and 8.
Steal Taking one or points without the hammer is a desirable goal for the non-hammer team. It is, in most cases something the hammer team wants to avoid. There are cases where giving up a steal is acceptable (up on the score board playing the ninth - allow a steal to have hammer in the tenth).
Force To force your hammer team opponent to just one is beneficial unless the game is tied playing the last end.
Blank Blanking an end is beneficial to retain the hammer. This can be intentional or unintentional.

Game strategy and shot calling is about deciding what you want and executing against that plan.

Game Strategy 

˙Simplified˙Principles˙Outcomes˙Game˙Process˙Free Guard˙Execute˙

As stated earlier, the term strategy best refers to the overall course of action taken by any team during the game. This game plan is determined before the game and is based on known variables like your team's skill level, the opponent's general strengths and weaknesses and known field of play conditions (see the Field of Play section). Even the format of the competition can impact the game strategy. Strategy can change, and sometimes should, during a game. For the most part, the game strategy is determined before the game and all shots called during the game are in support of the overall strategy.

Good teams discuss the game strategy before the game starts to allow input from all team members. Coaches can also play an important role in determining the game strategy. (See the Strategy Process later in this section.)

Some examples of overall game strategy are:

  • Call shots your team can make (this is always a good idea).
  • Decide your team's level of aggressive vs. conservative play (discussed later in this section).
  • Look for opportunities to take multiple points with the hammer.
  • Look for opportunities to steal.
  • Play the percentage game - a conservative game - in the end, you'll make more shots than your opponent.
  • Force the opponent to play draws around guards (your opponent may have poor draw type deliveries resulting in poor draw weight).
  • Favor a certain turn (in-turn or out-turn) based on your opponent's deficiencies.
  • In the early ends play conservatively, then play aggressively in the middle and late ends (you may think the opponent will tire faster than you).
  • Play aggressively and take a, dominant lead.
  • Play conservatively to position yourself in a long competition.

Once the game strategy has been determined, the skip must support it by thinking about how each end will be played. In each end, the skip then must determine what shots to call and when to call them. Shot calling represents the tactical support of the larger plan.

There is no such thing as textbook strategy or game calling. There are guidelines, however, that apply in many cases.

Particularly at the league level, the first and most important component to strategy is execution. Without proper execution of shots and sweeping, no strategy will be effective. The best strategy is the one that plays to your team's strengths and takes advantage of the opponent's weaknesses. Any type of strategy or tactic is appropriate if it's effective. In most league play, the players make less than 50% of their shots. Find the shots that your team can make and stay away from the ones they can't.

Quick Note: Olympic level players make 85-95% of their shots. This opens the strategy door to almost anything since the majority of shots called are made.

The Strategy Process 

˙Simplified˙Principles˙Outcomes˙Game˙Process˙Free Guard˙Execute˙

EVERY GAME, teams must go through a decision and planning process. The process looks the same for every game at every level. Let's break it down into four steps.

  • Step 1:   Assess your opponent.
  • Step 2:   Decide on a strategy (conservative, aggressive or opportunity based).
  • Step 3:   Structure your game (beginning, middle and end).
  • Step 4:   Execute (shot calling and tactics).
  • Step 4a:  Know when to switch.

Step 1 Assess Your Opponent
Before every game, assess your opponent relative to your team and team skills. It is important to know if the opponent is weaker, the same or better than you. Think in terms of overall team percentages. Use the following chart as a guideline.

Recreational TeamsTeam Percentages
Novice, first year players35%
Five-year club team45%
Experienced club team55%
League champions65%
 
Championship Teams 
National/Provincial playdown teams75%
National/Provincial medal teams80%
National/Provincial winners85%
World/Olympic medalists87%
World winners88-90%

Step one is very simple and there are only three choices. In Advanced Strategy, later in this section, there is more detail on how to assess your opponent.

Step 2 Decide on the Strategy
Once you've assessed your opponent, decide on a strategy. An opponent that is weaker than you leads you to a more conservative game (open, less risky shots). An opponent that is clearly stronger than you will lead you to a more aggressive strategy (more guards, more rocks in play). An equal opponent will lead you to a more opportunity based strategy. This is also called a "blended" approach or a "standard" approach. The next section covers this concept in more detail and the Strategy Flow Chart in the Advanced Strategy section will help guide you through this process.

Step 3 Structuring a Game
Remember, there are only four possible outcomes to every end; the steal, force, conversion and blank.

For the non-hammer team:

  • Steal.
  • Force your opponent to just one.
  • Allow your opponent to blank.

For the hammer team:

  • Convert by taking two or more.
  • Allowing your opponent to steal.
  • Blank.

Start thinking about the game in three parts, the beginning, middle and end. The parts can also be called:

  1. Beginning - Warm-up, sparring
  2. Active Scoring
  3. Closing

Beginning - Warm-up (0-2 ends)
A warm-up period during the game may not always be necessary. League games differ from championship games because of the scheduled warm-up (practice) before the championship game. Think about how many ends you'll play as a warm-up. You may want to use the first end or two to size-up the ice conditions, opponent, or your own teammates. Many league games are played with an end or two as warm-up since most leagues provide no practice before the game. Competitive games such as regional or national championships have a warm-up or practice period before the game. In this case you may choose no warm-up ends to be played. In a championship game, where the last rock is determined on the ice before the game in LSD (last shot draw), there is a ten-minute practice and LSD shot. This should give your team a good sense of ice conditions so you don't necessarily have to warm-up.

During a warm-up period, don't take unnecessary risks. Keep the rocks in the house and avoid difficult shots. A "wide-open" game will allow you to warm-up a bit and get used to the ice conditions. Remember, taking one in the first end with the hammer is not a bad thing.

Middle - Active Scoring (0-6 ends)
Active scoring is just that. This is the part of the game where the goal is to score more than one point with the hammer and either steal or hold your opponent to just one (called a "press") without the hammer. Normally three –five ends are played in this mode.

End of the Game - Closing Ends 8-10 (6-8 in an 8-end game)
Think of the last three ends as closing ends. Ends six through eight in a club game and ends eight through ten in a championship game are known as the closing ends. Depending on the score, the sixth and eighth should be used to post points. This gives the opponent the hammer in the seventh and ninth. Forcing them to take a point gives you hammer in the last end.

Good teams have predetermined plans for closing the game.

Step 4 Execute
Now is the time to execute your plan. Call shots that support your strategy. The following section gets more detailed on shot-calling.

Step 4a Know when to Switch
This step is particularly important because teams don't always execute according to plan. It's ok to switch your game plan based on the situation. The switch can be either during or between ends. Many times, we've seen weaker teams choose an aggressive strategy in order to beat a better team. We've also seen teams that did not switch back to a conservative game only to lose the game in two ends. Here are a few reasons to switch your strategy during a game.

  • Your aggressive strategy was too risky and you gave up a big end.
  • You're playing conservatively and you're down several points.
  • You're up several points and want to keep the lead.

Knowing when to switch is difficult but it may save the game, get you back in the game or win the game. If you've chosen an aggressive strategy and your riskier shots are not working, switch immediately to a conservative strategy to get things under control.

Aggressive vs. Conservative Game Strategy
The term aggressive refers to calling and executing shots that, when executed properly, have the highest potential for forcing the opponent's mistake (or inability to score). In curling, as in other sports, this strategy has a high degree of risk and a high potential pay-off. Aggressive shots usually include different types of draw shots like "come-arounds," freezes, tap backs, etc. For example, a perfect freeze almost eliminates the opponent's ability to remove the rock, increasing the chances to score more than one. On the other hand, poorly executed freeze may leave a rock wide open for a hit and roll, resulting in the opposition counting or scoring two.

A conservative strategy is used by teams who want to keep the game free of clutter. The shots most likely played in a conservative game would be mostly take-outs or shots thrown into the rings without cover.

The five-rock Free Guard Zone rule will reduce the amount of conservative strategy.

Figure 1 The dark grey area represents the Free Guard Zone.

The "Free Guard Zone" Rule 

˙Simplified˙Principles˙Outcomes˙Game˙Process˙Free Guard˙Execute˙

"No rock lying in the free guard zone can be removed from play by the opposition until the first five rocks (October 2018) of the end have come to rest. The free guard zone shall be the area between the hog line and the tee line, excluding the house." This is verbatim from the WCF rule book.

Note: The rule states that; no rock can be removed by the opposition; this means that you can remove your own rock from the free guard zone.

Because rocks thrown into the free guard zone cannot be initially removed, teams are forced to play with one or more rocks in front of the house. This creates a certain degree of excitement with more aggressive shots being played.

How to Execute - Shot-Calling Tactics 

˙Simplified˙Principles˙Outcomes˙Game˙Process˙Free Guard˙Execute˙

As mentioned earlier, calling the shots is not the same as game strategy. Once you and your team have developed a strategy for the game, the skip must call shots to execute.

CurlTech believes very strongly that individual shot calling is the result of a decision-making process. Since there are an infinite number of variables to consider, we teach "how" to decide on the shot. We do not prescribe calls for certain situations. This comes with experience. Other than some basics, there is no text-book shot calling.

Shot-Calling Considerations
Once you have considered the overall game plan, there are three key decision factors on each shot:

  1. Who has last rock?
  2. What end is it?
  3. What's the score?

Then there are three less important factors:

  1. Ice conditions?
  2. How good are you?
  3. How good are they?

The following pages offer suggestions on how to deal with the six factors.

  1. Last Rock:
    Most of the time, shot calling in any given end is determined based on who has last rock. With last rock advantage, the idea is to score more than one rock (convert). If more than one rock cannot be scored, many teams will decide to blank the end, retain the hammer, and try again next end. Without last rock, the idea is generally to steal one or more or, in some cases, to force your opponent to score only one.

    Generally, with last rock, try to keep the center of the sheet open. Since you have the last rock, you will need to have access to the center of the house for the last shot (the four foot). By not keeping the center open, you will run the risk of having the center of the house blocked for your last shot. The Free Guard Zone makes it difficult to keep the center clear if your opponent is trying to block it. Having last rock is not an advantage if you can't score with it.

    Without last rock, most teams try to steal one or more rocks. To do this, try to throw rocks short of the house, preferably in the center of the sheet. With these rocks in place, a rock can be drawn in behind, under cover. This represents the best chance to not only prevent the opponent from scoring but to steal the end.

  2. End:
    Considering your game strategy, you may want to play more conservative shots early in the game. This will allow you and your team to become acclimated to the conditions, allow you to read the ice and to assess the opponent's strengths and weaknesses. This may also keep the game close by not allowing either team to score a big end.

    Later in game (the last three ends) is the time to stay steady. Many games are won and lost in the last three ends. Teams must concentrate on a good balance between aggressive shots and good execution. Now is the time to protect your lead or to make a move if you're behind.

  3. Score:
    Again, based on your game strategy, the score will help determine the shots called. For example, in a close game (difference of one or two rocks) the shots called should not stray from the game plan.

    If your team is down by a considerable margin, the game strategy should change to a more aggressive one. This is the time to call freezes, center or corner guards, close come-arounds, etc. If the opponent puts a rock in the house, you may want to ignore it and put up a corner guard (you can remove the shot rock later). Another approach is the freeze. The best freeze situation is when the opponent's rock is behind the tee line. This is a low-risk freeze if you have the hammer because the button is still open for your last draw. Even if the rocks are in front of the tee, try freezing to them. This will make it difficult for the opponent to remove them. The old phrase "live and die by the sword" certainly applies here. Aggressive shots can backfire if not executed properly and you may end up shaking hands earlier than anticipated. Aggressive shots will yield a higher return (more rocks).

    If you are leading by a considerable margin, consider changing the strategy to keep things open. This, if executed properly will limit the opponent's ability to get back into the game. This is risky because any dramatic change in strategy must be accompanied by solid execution or it will backfire. A good example is the team trying to keep things clear that cannot make a peel therefore leaving rocks in front of the house without any counters.

    Traditionally, the throw-through was an important tactic late in the game with a sizable lead. The theory behind the throw-through is that if there are no rocks in play, there is nothing for the opponent to draw around or freeze to. With the five-rock rule, most teams are playing to the top four foot on the opening play. Usually, teams wait until the last few ends to throw rocks through. The throw-through being executed in the middle ends is a strong statement that you believe the opponent can't catch you. This is embarrassing if they do.

  4. Ice Conditions (Field of Play):
    This refers to ice and rock conditions. Certain ice conditions favor certain shots. For example, straight ice (less than two feet of curl on a draw) does not favor the come-around. In many cases a come-around attempt on straight ice will result in a rock that is wide open for the opponent to hit and roll. In this case, the promote is a better call. The promote is easier to throw on straight ice because it removes the variable of a large curl. Sweeping is also very effective in keeping a straight rock even straighter.

    On the other hand, ice that curls (more than 2 feet on a draw) favors the come around and not the promote.

    In some cases, the ice will curl on one side and run straight on the other. If available, always choose the straight side for hits and the curl side for draws.

    Another ice condition that drives shot calling is the speed of the ice. Fast ice (24 seconds or higher) will favor the aggressive shots like the freeze or the tap back. Sweeping is usually more effective on faster ice therefore players can sweep a rock to a more precise location. Slow ice (23 or less) does not favor aggressive shots but favors the conservative approach of heavier hits or hits and rolls.

    Remember, ice conditions change during the game. The pebble may be heavy to start then as it begins to breakdown the ice gets faster. If the pebble breaks down too much, the ice may slow down again. This is the best reason to time shots to determine relative change in ice conditions.

  5. &  6.  Skill Level:
    This refers to the skill of your own team as well as the skill of your opponent. Skill is broken up into two categories.

    1. The ability to hit the broom on the line of delivery.
    2. The ability to throw the proper weight.

    You should already know the basic skill level of your teammates. Common sense applies here. Don't call delicate draws for someone who can't even hit the house. You are usually better off with a rock in play than with a rock in the garage. On the other hand, heavy hits are not a good idea for someone who can't throw more than draw weight. Just as you avoid these weight-based situations with your own team, try to exploit them from your opponent. Try to force the opponent to a draw and so forth.

    When it comes to hitting the broom and line, avoid hits with the person who can't hit the broom. The draw may be a better option.

    Now is a good time to watch the releases of your opponent. Many curlers (even the advanced players) throw rocks off line during the release. Try to spot patterns with your opponent. If your opponent has the tendency to toss out the out turn, then force that person to throw that turn. Sometimes a partially covered rock is better than a rock fully covered because it tempts your opponent to go after it, perhaps on their weak side.


STRATEGY: BROAD LOOK | BASIC SHOTS | SKIP TRICKS | MIXED


Basic Shot Calling 

Ok, so you've thought about the upcoming game. You have sized-up your opponent, consider all of the pre-game factors listed above and have a game strategy. You may have a coach and talked about this plan. In championship games, you will have a pre-game practice and a draw to the button to determine hammer.

It is time to execute your strategy...

The Opening Play (non-hammer team) 

˙Opening˙Response˙Rookies˙Rule 1˙Summary˙

Let's talk about the opening play of each end. Other than throwing the rock through the house, there are only two generally accepted options and they depend on your game plan. The opening play of each end will be either a draw to the four foot or a center guard. We can discuss three game situations and what shot to open with:

  1. Active scoring (game is close and you want to steal or take more than one).
  2. Playing with a lead.
  3. Playing from behind.

The following shots are from the team throwing FIRST rocks in the end.

Active Scoring
During your active scoring ends there is only one generally accepted option.

  1. Center guard

Playing with a Lead
To keep a lead, there are two, maybe three choices:

  1. Center guard if the lead is just a rock or two
  2. Top four (if the lead is three or more)
  3. Throw-through (less common now with the five-rock rule)

Playing from behind
If you're playing from behind (and still throwing first), there is still just one option.

  1. Center guard

Responding to the Opening Play (hammer team) 

˙Opening˙Response˙Rookies˙Rule 1˙Summary˙

Your opponent will open with a four-foot draw or a center guard.

  • Responding to the top four draw.
    1. Take it out (conservative)
    2. Corner guard (aggressive)
  • Responding to the center guard.
    1. Draw to the side of the house (conservative).
    2. Draw around the center guard (aggressive).
    3. Tick the guard off the center (blended approach).

After the opening play and the hammer team's response, there are hundreds of possible situations.

Now that you understand some of the considerations for shot calling, here are some standard shots when playing with the Free Guard Zone rule. The next section will apply only to the four-on-four format. Since mixed doubles is an entirely different game, see the section on Mixed Doubles Strategy.

In most club games, the hammer in the first end is determined by a coin toss. Hammer in championship games is determined by the Last Shot Draw done before each game.

Without the Hammer

  • Center Guard
    Let's talk more about each opening play and each response. The aggressive starting shot (becoming more of a standard shot) without the hammer is to place the rock in front of the house, on the center line anywhere from 1/2 inch to 2 feet out. This is based on the curl of ice. Starighter ice - farther from eth house. Swingier ice - closer to the house. Since it cannot be removed from play by your opponent, it will allow you to build up front guards in order to draw around or promote. Remember, asking your lead to throw this guard shot in an exact location is like calling for yourself to hit the button. Try calling a mid-guard and the sweepers can adjust. For most teams, a mid-guard on the center line is a better choice since it's easier to draw around them.
  • Top Four
    The more conservative starting shot without the hammer would be a draw to the four-foot. This should keep things clean as you match shots with your opponent. If this is the decision, be sure that the rock is not behind the tee line. Rocks behind the tee line help the hammer team since it does not cover the button or four foot. Your opponent may take the opportunity to freeze to it, forcing you to throw more difficult shots. This may also force your opponent to match shots with you.
  • Throw-through (ahead by four or more points, later in the game)
    If you really want to keep things clear, you can throw through. This is normally a defensive tactic if you are up multiple points later in the game.

Hammer Team Response to a Center Guard

  • Draw Behind the Guard
    If the opponent places the rock in front of the house (center guard), an aggressive response would be to draw behind it. For the most part, the Free Guard Zone game is played inside the four foot and the first team to draw to the top four has a definite advantage. This is a difficult shot, particularly on straight ice. There are two risks to a poorly executed shot. You run the risk of leaving it wide open where your opponent can hit it and roll behind the guard and you risk putting the rock behind the tee line where the opponent can freeze to.
  • Draw to the Side.
    The more conservative shot is the draw to the side. This is likely to keep the four-foot area clear until you can clear the center guards. Beware of the side positioned rocks since they will be in direct line of a peeled center guard. This limits the peel shot to one side.
  • Throw the "Tick"
    The tick shot has two purposes.
    1. Tick to create two corners. This is offensive tick.
    2. Tick to clear center guards. This is a defensive tick.
  • Hammer Team Response to the Top-four Draw
    • Take it Out
      Your opponent is deciding to play conservatively. Your conservative response is take it out and perhaps roll to the side.
    • Put Up a Corner Guard
      A more aggressive response is to put up corner guard. At some point, you will need to deal with the opponent's rock (or rocks) in the for foot.
    • Continuing the End
      The first few shots are very predictable because the viable options are limited. Stay true to your strategy and goals for that end. Try to think ahead and plan shots that support your plan. Shot calling can be reactionary since you guarantee what your will do.

    Once the strategy is not working, switch to something else. You are essentially "bailing" from the original course of action.

    Strategy Tips when playing with New Curlers 

    ˙Opening˙Response˙Rookies˙Rule 1˙Summary˙

    Determining your game strategy and shot-calling looks different when playing with new or less skilled players. Remember, no strategy is effective without some degree of execution. The key to effectively managing the team in this case is calling shots that are easy to make. A higher percentage of easy shots will almost always be more successful than a low percentage of hard shots. Most league teams curl at the 50% level. You can easily get that up to 60% just by calling easier shots.

    In curling, the degree of difficulty system (DOD) can be applied. A simple one through ten system may help you determine which shots to call and which shots to stay away from. Use the following chart as a quick reference:
    Draws   Take-Outs
    Shot DOD
    Rock anywhere in play 1
    Guard anywhere in front3
    Draw anywhere in the house4
    Center Guard5
    Corner Guard5
    Draw to 8 foot5
    Center guard come-around6
    Corner come-around7
    Tap back7
    Draw to 4 foot7
    Draw behind a rock in the house8
    Draw to button9
    Draw to a specific spot9
    Perfect Freeze10
     
    Shot DOD
    Make contact and remove3
    Make contact and stay5
    Any off-weight take-out5
    Peel6
    Hit and roll7
    Remove partially covered rock7
    Carom double7
    Angle run-back7
    Tick7
    Run-back double8
    Clearing two guards8
    Straight run-back and stay9
    Flat, cross-house double10

    The above list represents the base line of shot types. It assumes a static condition with no rocks in play and no pressure. Add both of these components and the DOD increases.

    Avoid the Hard Shots
    With less skilled players, avoid any of these shots that have a DOD of 5 or higher. A common mistake skips make with newer curlers is asking them to draw behind rocks in the house. Even drawing around a center guard (6) is not an easy shot for a new curler. Drawing behind a rock in the house (8) is usually a wasted shot.

    Generally, there are three tactical approaches to playing with the first four or five shots when your opponent places the first rock short of the house:

    1. Be the first team to the four-foot by drawing around the center guard.
    2. Ignore the first two or three opponent's rocks and begin clearing rocks once five rocks have come to rest.
    3. Ignore the center guards and draw to the sides

    Like regular tactical guidelines, deciding when to use the above guidelines depends more on who has last rock, the end and the score.

    Below are the standard shots called in these situations. Remember, hammer determines the opening play. Let's assume the opponent will play a center guard. The following shots are to counter the opening play.

    • Hammer Option #1 - Draw Behind
      Early in the game or in a game where the score is close, even with last rock advantage, many teams decide to draw behind a rock in front of the house, after all, your options are limited because you cannot remove the front rock from play. This is a fairly aggressive shot. This is an attempt to be "first in" meaning the first team into the four foot. There is risk however, when deciding to play in the house. Don't be behind the tee line. The opponent will draw to them and lock in a rock for a steal. Once you decide to play in the house, the game is on.
    • Non-Hammer Counter-Shot
      After you draw behind their opening center guard, they will follow into the four-foot. If they are down several points or late in the game, their opening center guard suggests they want to steal, possibly at all costs. If they're desperate, they may follow with another center guard.
    • Hammer Option #2 - Corner Guard
      Even if they put up a center guard, you could put up a corner guard and try to force the opponent to the sides. Eventually, you will have to move the front guard and play aggressively for multiple points. This is rarely successful since the corner guard does nothing to keep your opponent from securing the four foot.
    • Non-Hammer Counter-Shot
      After you place the corner guard, they will still draw behind the center guard. Again, if they're desperate, they'll put up another center.
    • Hammer Option #3 - Clear
      Another option, particularly if you are ahead on the scoreboard is to wait a few shots then begin clearing the front rocks in order to expose the four-foot. Usually, by the time you're allowed to remove rocks (after five rocks have come to rest), there are multiple rocks in play. Teams that have players, the second in particular, who can throw heavy weight are more likely to be successful with this option. The key to this approach is the heavy weight take out. The weight needs to be heavy enough to move multiple rocks.
      After the first rock, some teams try the tick shot. This is a hack weight or backline weight shot designed to move the center rock to the side without removing it from play. Be careful, missed shots here may result in more clutter. The pro-side here is missing it wide.
    • Non-Hammer Counter-Shot
      After you throw through or tick, they will either draw in or place another center guard.
    • Hammer Option #4 - Draw to the Side
      The last option is used primarily with weaker teams. Try drawing to the sides. This increases the risk factor for the other team to steal. If they truly need to steal, they will ignore the side rocks and concentrate on center guards needed for the steal. If they are not committed to stealing, they will chase you to the sides. Eventually, one team will hit and roll behind the center.
    • Non-Hammer Counter-Shot
      After you draw to the side, they will either draw in or place another center guard.

    Rule Number One 

    ˙Opening˙Response˙Rookies˙Rule 1˙Summary˙

    CurlTech has developed a list of basic strategy rules that you should always consider. Of course there are always times when you can or should ignore these rules as long as you have a good reason. They are called "Rule Number One" since there is no priority to them. They all apply equally. The coach may ask you after a game about rule number one. The challenge is figure out which one applies.

    • Basic Rule #1
      Don't call shots your team can't make. Unless...
      Refer to the DOD chart above. Curling 80% at easy shots is better than curling 40% at harder ones. Don't call any shots with a 8, 9 or 10 degree of difficulty if your team can't make them.
    • Basic Rule #1
      Don't try to draw around rocks in the house. Unless...
      DOD of 8. It looks easy but it's not.
    • Basic Rule #1
      Later in the game, post in the even ends.
      You want hammer in the last end. Posting even one point in the sixth or eight end (depending on how many ends you are playing) will help maintain hammer in the last.
    • Basic Rule #1
      Don't ignore rocks in the house when you don't have the hammer. Unless...
      Ignoring rocks in the house is dangerous when you don't have the hammer. This can result in the opponent taking multiple points. Remember, they throw last.
    • Advanced Rule #1
      Don't expect to steal if you don't have a rock in the four-foot. Unless...
      This doesn't mean you won't ever steal without a rock in the four-foot. It means do not expect to steal. Good skips can find way to the four-foot in many cases. Do not guard rocks outside the four-foot. You are better off trying to get a better shot rock (in the four-foot).
    • Advanced Rule #1
      Don't make the opponent's shot for them. Period...
      This applies particularly when you have the hammer. Many inexperienced skips try to prevent their opponents from making good shots only to help them make it with a poor shot. Most experienced curlers can remember a game when the hammer team was shot rock in the four foot after the opposing skip's first rock. The opponent had a fairly difficult shot to get shot rock and the hammer skip elected to try and remove the potential opponent's rock. The takeout was a little wide and heavy and he chipped the opponent's rock in for shot. The opponent guarded his new shot rock and the hammer team was unable to get to it, losing the game.
    • Advanced Rule #1
      Don't throw the rock if it's the only way the opponent can win. If the opponent is running out of rocks, they hope you will help them.
      An extreme (true story) example of this, team A and B are playing the final game of a regional championship. The winner advances to the national event. Team A was up by three points playing the last end without the hammer. Team A had a mid-guard, six feet from the house. Team B had one rock in the house, one rock out front (ten feet out), and one shot left. It was impossible for team B to split the front rocks on to rings. Team A elected to try and remove the front rock and end the game, running team B out of rocks. The shot was a little narrow, hit the front rock, driving it onto their corner guard and spilling into the house. Team B now sits two and draws for one more, tying the game. Skip A was so distraught that they missed her two shots in the extra end and lost the game. Clearly, if Skip A had not thrown her last shot, she would have won the game and advanced to her first national event. It's ok to not throw a shot.
    • Advanced Rule #1
      If you really need to steal or take two, use all free guard zone rocks.
      Throwing guards is part of taking multiple points with the hammer and stealing when you don't. Too often skips come into the house with the second's first rock. This is too early if you don't have hammer and must steal. Remember, the opponent is trying to keep things clear. In a must-steal situation, use both lead rocks as guards. The opponent can't remove either of them.
    • Advanced Rule #1
      Avoid the "empty peel".
      Choosing to peel rocks is often a good tactic. Peeling rocks to keep the center clean in a wide-open game is a good call and it is beneficial. However, clearing guards to access the rocks in the house must have at least a two-rock clearing play. Clearing a rock in front that is guarding rocks in the house is the empty peel because they simply replace it, running teams out of rocks.
    All of these rules come with a qualifier. Even though we feel strongly about these rules, there are situations where ignoring them is warranted. Think through the call, assess the risk, and ask yourself "what will they do if I call this?"

    Yes. There are multiple rule 1's because it's difficult to rank them. It's also challenging to figure out which Rule Number One applies at any given time.

    Summary 

    ˙Opening˙Response˙Rookies˙Rule 1˙Summary˙

    Obviously, there are a lot of variables that come into play with game strategy and shot calling. As you see more and more situations, you will begin to develop a sense of what works and what doesn't.

    Never criticize anyone's strategy until you have all the information. It is very difficult to understand all calls from behind the glass. What seems to be an obvious strategy blunder may turn out to be a game-saver or a brilliant assessment of conditions. It's better to ask, "why did you call that shot?" than to assume the call was bad to begin with.


    STRATEGY: BROAD LOOK | BASIC SHOTS | SKIP TRICKS | MIXED


    Advanced (Team) Strategy 

    The subject of advanced strategy comes up a great deal. Many people ask how to improve their strategy and shot calling beyond the basic principles. Unfortunately, there is no absolute answer for any strategy since all games, players and shots change continuously. Typically, the same guidelines and principles that apply to basic strategy also apply to advanced strategy. The biggest difference is the proficiency level used in applying the skills. Advanced strategy is the combination of:
    1. Your team's overall game plan
    2. Your team's technical skills
    3. Capitalizing on the opponents' shortcomings.

    At the end of this section, we will discuss the basics of Mixed Doubles.

    A team that is highly proficient in shot-making and sweeping can easily apply more complex, higher levels of strategy than a developing team. Another factor in employing advanced strategy is your skip or team's ability to assess the opponents' technical ability in the game at hand and to capitalize on their weaknesses. A trained curling instructor will be more proficient at this than a curler of similar experience but with no training or fault analysis background. This is why many coaching certification programs require training and delivery analysis as a fundamental component.

    All teams should have a plan of action for any given game. Even in league play, skips can prepare for the opponent. The Strategy Process in the Basic Strategy Section should be used here.

    In addition, the Strategy Process, consider the following.

    Ongoing Assessment of your Team 

    ˙Ongoing˙Opponents˙Field˙Plan˙Debrief˙Shots˙Guards˙Control˙Do-Die˙Duece˙Skips˙

    An obvious team goal is to get as much performance out of your team as possible. The rule of thumb in advanced strategy is to know what your team can do and never ask them to do what they can't. This sounds simple and logical but many skips don't follow this rule. Skips often ask the team to throw rocks that have a high degree of difficulty when a simpler shot can achieve almost the same result. This is an ongoing learning process for the skip and the team.

    Top teams don't necessarily make more difficult shots. They just don't miss the easy ones.

    Assess your Opponent 

    ˙Ongoing˙Opponents˙Field˙Plan˙Debrief˙Shots˙Guards˙Control˙Do-Die˙Duece˙Skips˙

    Good teams assess their opponents using a system, not just by trial and error. This section offers a few suggestions on assessing your opponent. Becoming a student of delivery mechanics can make you a better curler and can give your team a competitive edge. Few players are mechanically perfect. Understanding the key components of the delivery and identifying the flaws in your opponents' mechanics can gain you a significant advantage when calling shots. Likewise, assessing their strengths is also important. For example, if a player is more proficient throwing an out-turn than an in -turn, you will want to play more shots which force the use of his in-turn.

    • Pre-game
      The first opportunity to assess your opponent is before the game. Take stock of their equipment choices, particularly the shoes and brooms. Low-end equipment can indicate low-end skills. Are the shoes newer with enhanced balance features or are they older models made with thin Teflon or red brick? Are stopwatches visible? Many teams have matching uniforms but this feature is not an indication of good skills.
    • Practice slide
      A former world champion from Sweden once told us "all players look good from the side". This is quite true especially in the practice slide. Never judge a player by their practice slide alone. Most people are on their best behavior and show-off when they know people are watching. Evaluate the opponents' practice slides to judge their basic balance skills. Do they demonstrate a balanced, flat-foot delivery? Do they ride up on their toe? Do they employ a sliding aid? Also, this is the time to note if they are left-handed players.
    • Shaking hands
      The handshake process is an overlooked area of skill assessment. It's very subtle because there is no direct correlation between interpersonal skills and good mechanics. There may, however, be a correlation between interpersonal skills and personal confidence. The handshake, at times, is your first encounter with an opponent. A soft handshake with no eye contact can indicate shyness and possibly a lack of confidence or self-assuredness. Challenge this team earlier than you normally would. On the other hand, strong, firm handshakes may indicate confidence and self-esteem. You may not be able to take advantage here. See the Overview - Game Flow section for the proper handshake method, W.E.S.T.
    • First rocks
      The first time your opponent's throw a rock in the game is the best time to assess the delivery mechanics. Note the position of the rock when it is drawn back. If it is not on the centerline, you can take advantage early on of the different geometry of their line of delivery. Noticing if the team has different draw back positions will help you assess the brooms (lines) being given by their skip. Different geometry requires different brooms. This is especially true between right and left-handed players. You cannot use the opposing skip's broom without understanding why they chose it!
    • Balance
      Remember, balance is the most fundamental of all delivery components. An out-of-balance delivery will cause inconsistency and line-of-delivery problems. Most out of balance right-handers will drift to the right. This means they tend to float the out-turns out (wide) and turn the in-turns in (narrow). Even if the rock is not clearly off the broom, their energy is not channeled down the line of delivery and there are lateral forces at work that change the curl profile.
    • Tempo (rhythm) and Foot Delay
      Note how much tempo there is in the early part of the delivery. Some newer deliveries have no tempo. Some curlers are switching to a delivery with less movement. These "novelty" deliveries eliminate the forward press and even the step back, trying to reduce the moving parts. This COMPLETELY removes the tempo and rhythm from the delivery. These deliveries are unproven may prevent consistent draw weight. Take advantage by forcing your opponents to draw.
    • High/Low
      Check how high the upper body is in the delivery. This can be an indicator of how consistent the draw weight will be. A high delivery (head and chest almost upright) may be extremely consistent with the draw because they have a broader view of the playing field. This makes draw calibration easier. On the other hand, a low delivery, which looks impressive, will have difficulty with draw weight consistency.
    • Leg Drive
      Note the type of leg drive for each opponent. An all-leg-drive delivery has no tempo. A stepped delivery with a strong leg drive and no body drop will cause inconsistent draw weight. On the other hand, a fluid all-body delivery will be very consistent.

    Assessing the Field of Play 

    ˙Ongoing˙Opponents˙Field˙Plan˙Debrief˙Shots˙Guards˙Control˙Do-Die˙Duece˙Skips˙

    The field of play refers to the ice, rocks and other playing conditions. Good teams understand and make decisions based on conditions. A full knowledge of the field of play is essential. Review the Field of Play section for details regarding the assessment of conditions.

    Creating a Plan 

    ˙Ongoing˙Opponents˙Field˙Plan˙Debrief˙Shots˙Guards˙Control˙Do-Die˙Duece˙Skips˙

    Learn to create a plan before every game. If you have a coach (and all good teams should have one) he or she can help manage this process. The skip is responsible for the management of the game. Good skips create and manage the game plan.

    Using the game plan form, summarize the opponent and the playing conditions. Also summarize any other component that would affect the game such as round robin standings, time of day, day of the week, team fatigue factor, etc. Based on all the assessments, devise a plan for the beginning, middle and end of the game.

    The skip will always be monitoring the status of the game in order to adjust the plan mid-game. During your mid-game break, discuss the plan with your coach. Good coaches will also be assessing the opponent during the game looking for areas to exploit.

    Debrief the Plan 

    ˙Ongoing˙Opponents˙Field˙Plan˙Debrief˙Shots˙Guards˙Control˙Do-Die˙Duece˙Skips˙

    After the game, debrief with your team and coach. This will help you learn from the game. Losses are a key part of the learning process, but only if you change the behavior next game.

    Shot Calling 

    ˙Ongoing˙Opponents˙Field˙Plan˙Debrief˙Shots˙Guards˙Control˙Do-Die˙Duece˙Skips˙

    The Basic Rule
    With only a few exceptions, skips today play the hammer ends to either blank or score multiple points, depending on the end and score. With the Free Guard Zone Rule, scoring two or more is easily achieved with even a moderate degree of shot-making skills. The non-hammer skip will usually try to steal or hold the opponent to only one. These conflicting strategies make the game fun.

    This section covers some advanced topics. It is essential that you are familiar with the basic concepts first. The Basic Strategy Section will move you through basic and intermediate levels of game planning and shot calling. This section takes the skills in the Basic Strategy section and uses them to win games.

    Advanced topics included in this section are:

    Throwing the Guard 

    ˙Ongoing˙Opponents˙Field˙Plan˙Debrief˙Shots˙Guards˙Control˙Do-Die˙Duece˙Skips˙

    Guards are a key part of today's game. Knowing what type of guard you need at any given time is very important since there are several types. Below is a partial list of the guards your team will throw:

    • Strategy Guards (to set up the end)
      • Center guard (positions 1, 2, and 3)
      • Corner guard (positions 1, 2, and 3)
    • Tactical Guards (to protect rocks in play)
      • Angle freeze
      • Staggered front guards

    Let's first talk about the strategy guards. Center guards as a strategy are mostly used without the hammer. Whether it's to take a lead, or to get back in the game, positioning your guard properly will help ensure a successful outcome. Let's focus on the center guard in positions 1, 2, or 3. The amount of curl at any given time will dictate which position is best.

    • Straight Ice (1-2 feet on a draw) - The best guard on straight ice is in the number 1 position.
    • Medium Curl (3-4 feet) - The best guard is the number 2 position.
    • Big Curl (5-6 feet) - Number 3 position.

    Todays game with big curl significantly changes the margin of error on guards. Since the lead will throw most of these guards, the degree of difficulty for lead shots has increased. The most difficult guard is the 3 guard on fast ice. The difference between a fully executed shot and disaster could only be a few inches. This is a good opportunity to utilize your great sweepers. For example, instead of throwing to the three spot, throw to the two spot and let the sweepers take it close.

    Leaving a three guard as a two is not a disaster. Slipping the three guard into the rings IS a disaster.

    Golf Analogy
    When pro golfers struggle with hitting greens (aiming at the pin) they start playing to the center. This means if the lead is throwing to the three spot and slipping rocks into the rings he or she should back off on the shot type and throw more to the sweepers. Throwing a two guard has a bigger margin of error.

    Game Control 

    ˙Ongoing˙Opponents˙Field˙Plan˙Debrief˙Shots˙Guards˙Control˙Do-Die˙Duece˙Skips˙

    "Control" is a very broad term. In curling strategy it means positioning your team to win. A good skip will always give the team an opportunity to win, providing the team has a moderate skill level. Being "in control" of a game can be defined as:

    • Tied or ahead at any time with the hammer
    • Two or more points ahead at any time without the hammer

    Many top-level skips believe that a score of "down one with the hammer" in the late, even ends is also a control position. This varies with each skip. Talk to as many skips as you can to get a sense of this.

    Let's assume that your opponent can execute a two-point strategy at will with the hammer (the "automatic deuce" is discussed later). This means if your opponent has the hammer, they can score two with good shot-making. If you are tied, your opponent will move up two with their deuce. If you are up one, they will be up one after the deuce. The key to game control is to position yourself so that you will be in control even when your opponent scores two.

    When to Take Control
    Positioning yourself for control begins with the coin toss (or in championship, the assignment of the hammer). After you have assessed your opponent in your pre-game meeting (Basic Strategy), you may decide to "spar" for an end or two. This means playing open, conservative shots until you feel comfortable enough with the ice to be more aggressive. If you have the hammer in the first end, you may decide to play for control from the beginning. Scoring two in the first end of any game is significant as it puts you in a control position from the beginning. Statistically, scoring two in the first end gives you a 70% chance to win the game.

    Game control is much more significant in the later ends of the game. It is absolutely critical in the concluding ends (8, 9 and 10).

    Obviously the amount of effect control has on the outcome of the game is determined by how long or at what point you are in control. Although being two points ahead after the first end of a ten end game is significant, it is much less significant than the same score after eight. The classic control position would be having last rock in the late, even ends of a close game.

    One thing that skips have different opinions on is whether or not it is considered a control position to be down one with the hammer in the tenth end. Many skips believe this to be a control position because they believe the automatic deuce concept.

    Managing a Lead
    Gaining the lead in a game is always a top priority. Once you've done it, certain things can be done to maintain it. The end in which you take the lead will dictate your actions.

    Taking an Early Lead
    Early leads of one or two shouldn't change your game strategy. Continue with your game plan of active scoring. Early leads of four or more may change your strategy. There are generally two options:

    1. Continue the active scoring strategy.
    2. Change to a maintenance strategy.

    A maintenance strategy is more conservative than your active scoring strategy. Keep draws in the house and the front of the house clear. Draws must be in front of the tee line to control the house. Guards give your opponent something to hide behind. Draws behind the tee give your opponent something to freeze to. Keep draws in the house and above the tee. Keep in mind your opponent will be in a "full court press" for the remainder of the game. Stay sharp and execute against your plan.

    Taking a Late Lead
    Late in the game, try to take the lead in the even ends.

    Using the Free Guard Zone
    The five rock FGZ rule is in place to keep rocks in play. The rule has the following benefits/drawbacks.

    1. It is easier to score multiple points
    2. Easier to steal
    3. It is harder to maintain a lead

    Of course, this was done on purpose to put more rocks in play. The WCF is trying to avoid the wide-open peel game that is not fun to watch on tv.

    Holding a Lead (common scenario)
    Team A is up by two without hammer in the sixth end.

    Team strategies:

    • Team A is in control of the game and has chosen to protect the lead.
    • Team B is obviously in active scoring mode and has the hammer. Looking for two or more.
      Team ADraw to top four
      Team BCorner guard
      Team AAnother top four
      Team BAnother corner guard on the other side.

    Here is a critical point in the end.
    Team ADraw to top twelve foot or just short.

    Now Team A is at least two shots ahead of Team B since Team B must clear the center AND clear the four foot if they want to score. Team B still has corner guards.
    Team BMakes a play on the center rock.
    Team AContinue to control the four foot.

    On Team A second's first rock, the goal is to move something off the four foot. If you simply peel the front rock, Team B replaces it. This is called the "empty peel" since it accomplished nothing except it gets both teams closer to the end of the end.

    Catching Up (common scenario)
    Team B is down two with hammer in the sixth end.

    Team strategies:

    • Team A is in control of the game and has chosen to protect the lead.
    • Team B is obviously in active scoring mode and has the hammer. Looking for two or more. The most important thing to Team B is the FGZ. You MUST use both lead shots as guards to have a chance at multiple points.
      Team ADraw to top four.
      Team BCorner guard.
      Team AAnother top four.
      Team BAnother corner guard.

    Here is a critical point in the end.
    Team ADraw to top twelve foot or just short.

    Now Team A is at least two shots ahead of Team B since Team B must clear the center AND clear the four foot if they want to score. Team B still has corner guards.
    Team BMust make a play on the center rock to avoid being locked out in the end. Play a high peel to move multiple rocks. In this case peel the center rock just off center and run it into the rock on the four foot.
    Team AContinue to control the four-foot.

    On Team A second's first rock, the goal is to move something off the four foot. If you simply peel the front rock, Team B replaces it. This is called the "fools peel" since it accomplished nothing except it gets both teams closer to the end of the end.

    "Do or Die" Situations 

    ˙Ongoing˙Opponents˙Field˙Plan˙Debrief˙Shots˙Guards˙Control˙Do-Die˙Duece˙Skips˙

    Inevitably, you and your team with face a "do or die" situation. All extra ends are sudden death, meaning the team that scores wins the game. Any time you are tied with one end left is also sudden death. There are other do or die situations like needing to score a certain number with one end left (down three playing the last end - must take three).

    Let's first talk about the highest level "do or die" situation which is an extra end or tied with one end left. The important thing to remember whether you hammer or not is that you only need one point to win. The focus of your strategy and shot calling is to create an opportunity to score one. In this case, the risk/reward calculation does not exist.

    Hammer Team
    You only need one to win. Your entire focus should be on keeping the four-foot open to score on your last shot. Your opponent will use the center of the sheet for guards with the free guard zone rule. You can expect most of the opponent's rocks called in front of the house. Make every attempt to move the center guards away from the center to clear the four foot. The "tick shot" is good call. You don't need to remove the center guards just keep them away from the center. With the four foot open you have an opportunity to win the game. That is what strategy is all about, creating the opportunity.

    Avoid putting your own rocks in the house. If you're committed to keeping the four-foot open, you will need to peel center guards. Later in the end it may be difficult to clear center guards without "jamming" on your own rocks in the house. It is best to not put them there. Of course, whether your last shot is a takeout or a draw, you still have to execute properly.

    Non-Hammer Team
    You only need one to win. Your entire focus should be on creating an opportunity to lie one in the four foot (one on the button is better but not always possible) behind cover when your opponent is throwing last rock. The biggest mistake skips make here is trying to lie shot rock when you do not have a good opportunity to steal. You must continue to call center guards even if the opponent has rocks in the house. The biggest question is always when to make an offensive shot to the four foot. The answer is - when you have the right opportunity. The right opportunity is when you can get to the four foot under cover. We've seen skips continue to call center guards all the way through their own first rock.

    Shooting Against the Game
    Throwing any shot when the game hinges on the shot is called "throwing against the game". Many games are determined by a last shot miss but forcing the opponent to play against the game is a great strategy call. In a down-one-without situation, when it's not clear you can steal, think about setting up a situation where you are counting two. Here is a situation that we see a lot with one shot remaining for the non-hammer team.

    1. Non-hammer team is sitting one behind cover.
    2. Hammer team peels the guard.
    3. Non-hammer team elects to count two instead of guarding the shot rock.
    4. Hammer team is shooting against the game (a complete miss loses the game).

    The best scenario here would be to sit two so that a nose-hit takeout will not count. Some skips will elect to draw here, risking the game.

    The Automatic Deuce 

    ˙Ongoing˙Opponents˙Field˙Plan˙Debrief˙Shots˙Guards˙Control˙Do-Die˙Duece˙Skips˙

    Since the five-rock Free Guard Zone Rule was put into play, the nature of game strategy has changed slightly. If either of the two skips are willing to play aggressively (more rocks in play), the other skip must play along, at least for the first five rocks. No longer can a team decide to play hits all game unless the opponent is also willing to play this way. The automatic deuce concept refers to the ability of any team at any time to score at least two rocks with the hammer. It is more difficult to do using the five-rock rule since the non-hammer team is cluttering up the center instead of trying to clear. For this to happen, the hammer team must execute at 90-100% in the end. Oddly, the non-hammer team can give up two points (scenario #2) without missing a shot. Below are some examples of how to take two at will.

    Scenario #1>Red is down four with the hammer in the eighth end of the game. Clearly the hammer team (red) must get back into this game.
    Yellow Lead #1Draw to top four.
    Red Lead #1Corner guard.
    Yellow Lead #2Draw to top four frozen.
    Red Lead #2Corner guard opposite side.
    Yellow Second #1Draw to top twelve.
    Red Second #1Hit and roll on top twelve rock (hack weight).
    Yellow Second #2Peels corner #2 or replaces top twelve.
    Red Second #2Hit and roll on four foot rocks.

    At this point the hammer team simply matches hits with the opponent for two points. In this scenario, the yellow team has essentially conceded two points here, probably to avoid giving up three or more. As you can see, the non-hammer team is powerless to defend against two (without calling risky draws) if the hammer team can execute. In this case, the hammer team just scored two and is now down two. If they can hold their opponent to one in the next end, they regain hammer and can try this again, coming within one point.
    Scenario #2 Red is down one with the hammer.

    This is a close game, obviously and both teams may want to play more aggressive shots. Either way, you can score two if you execute.

    Yellow #1Draw to top four.
    Red #1Corner guard.
    Yellow #2Freeze to yellow #1 in the top four.
    Red #2Hit and roll behind guard (leaves yellow #2 in four foot).
    Yellow #3Draw to top twelve.
    RedHit and roll on top twelve.

    At this point, the hammer team simply matches hits with the opponent for two points. As you can see, the non-hammer team is again powerless to defend against two if the hammer team can execute. One key shot here is the hit and roll behind the corner. Another key shot in this scenario is the yellow team's decision to peel the corner guard. Yellow gives up two without missing a shot. The reason yellow peels the guard is to defend against giving up three or more, which could happen if the guard is left in play.

    Both scenarios point out the key role of the lead and second players. Without proper execution of the front-end, the team must rely on misses to score more than one point with the hammer.

    Tactics with your Regular Team
    If you play with the same people on a regular basis, you will get to know their capabilities. If you're lucky enough to have a high percentage team, the following guidelines may be helpful.

    Active Scoring Tactics
    Remember, active scoring refers to the strategy and tactics used in a close game during the beginning and middle ends.

    The following tactics can be used when you're faced with some common "emergency" situations. The key to these tactics is to always use the FGZ to its full advantage. This means always putting two stones up front. Whether you need to steal by putting stones on the center line or take multiple stones with the hammer, use the advantage of the FGZ.

    Must Steal
    You're either down one without the hammer or tied without the hammer. If you don't steal, you lose. You're throwing first so call the first stone on the center line in the #2 position. They will counter with either a throw-through, a tick shot or an aggressive come-around. Whatever they do, put your second stone in front near the first. Remember in an emergency situation, always use two guards.

    From this point they will probably peel the guards. Continue to guard until the vice skips stones. With the vices last stone or skips first stone, make an aggressive attempt to get under cover and steal. Be patient and wait for a miss.

    Must Take Two
    This is only an emergency situation if you're down two playing the last end. They throw first and will most likely draw to the top four or throw through. In either case, you counter with two corner guards (remember, always use two in an emergency). If they miss a peel, you can draw behind. Keep the stone above the tee so they can't counter with a freeze.

    Must Take Three
    World Champion skip Ragnar Kamp demonstrated a unique tactic when faced with a "must take three" scenario. Taking three is similar to taking two. The difference is the positioning of the corner guards. Most teams use corners in the two or three position. Because of this, most teams practice peels on corners in the same position.

    Using the "Ragnar Three" tactic, the corner guards are placed in the #1 position and closer to the sideline. It's called high and wide. This forces your opponent to peel corners in much different position. Teams are much more likely to nose a peel on a stone in this unusual position. Here's how it works.

    • They throw though (1).
    • You put a corner - high and wide (2).
    • They throw through (3, no place to tick the rock since its close to the sideline).
    • You put another corner high and wide (4, remember, always use at least two).
    • They throw through again (5).
    • You draw behind (1st counter).
    • They peel a corner.
    • You draw behind (2nd counter).
    • They peel the other corner.
    • You draw to the open side (3rd counter) and match rocks for three.

    Ragnar Kamp used this tactic successfully many times because a corner guard a foot from the hog line and three feet from the side is very difficult to peel.

    Assessing Your Team
    Before you successfully exploit your opponent's weaknesses, you must think objectively about you own team's skills. If you've been playing together for a long time, you probably understand their strengths and weakness through trial and error.

    Throwing the "Tick" shot
    The tick is primarily used with the hammer. It's a shot designed to move an opponent's rock that's in the free guard zone, from the center of the sheet. It can be an offensive or a defensive shot. In many cases the tick is called as a defensive shot to clear the center.

    Weights vary from hack weight to back eight-foot.

    Throwing a Defensive Tick
    This shot is designed to clear the center. Weights for this shot tend to be heavier since the resulting shooting rock's resting point won't matter (or you prefer it out of play if missed). Moving a rock from the center line is the goal. Depending on ice conditions, moving an opponent's rock one or two feet may be all that's necessary. Try hack weigh or back line weight.

    Throwing an Offensive Tick
    This shot is designed to have two functions; clear the center and leave corner guards for scoring. Lighter weight ticks work best here. Try back eight foot or back twelve weight. If the rock missed completely, the shooter may still end up in the back of the house, a good situation if multiple points are the goal.

    Teams must experiment with their tick weight. Heavier weight ticks have less sweeping control and could possibly remove the opponent's rock from play. Lighter weight ticks have greater sweeping control but need precise contact.

    Tick shot death scenario.
    A light and narrow tick shot that over curls will raise your opponent's rock into the house. This may be acceptable if the center is cleared. It is totally unacceptable if it raises the opponent to the top four under cover. Remember, your only a few inches away from making their shot for them.

    Professional Skipping 

    ˙Ongoing˙Opponents˙Field˙Plan˙Debrief˙Shots˙Guards˙Control˙Do-Die˙Duece˙Skips˙

    Good skips are made through time, training and experience. This section shares some tips from experienced skips that allow you to play within the rules and focus on executing the game tactics.

    Skips Position
    The rules allow the skips to take almost any position in or around the house. The "Spirit of Curling" dictates, to some degree the guidelines of good sportsmanship when it comes to positioning. Skips should first encourage their teammates to position as prescribed by the rules. Leads and seconds position themselves between the hog lines when not shooting or sweeping. The best teams in the world stick close to this rule.

    Where should you stand as the non-throwing skip?
    Your first responsibility as a skip when the opponent is throwing is to assess the shot and ice. Position yourself behind the back line and stay still as the opponent is throwing. Distracting movement of any kind is a violation of the rules. In timed games, the throwing team has control of the sheet when their clock is running. Once the opponent's rock touches the tee line however, the rights of both skips are equal and the opposing skip can take a position in the house.

    Position of the Throwing Skip
    Obviously, you have control of the house when your team is throwing. You are free to wander around the house looking at angles and assessing the situation. Once you decide on the shot, take a position roughly near the "center of action" of the called shot. The exceptions to this guideline are guards. Stand in the house for guards. This gives you a bigger perspective of the curl of the ice. You may need this knowledge later in the end.

    Brooming
    Deciding where to place the broom on any given shot is the skip's responsibility. Before championships games, the practice session will give you a good sense of how much curl there is on the ice. With no practice, the skip must decide without good information. As a general rule, place the broom 6-8 inches from the edge of the rock for takeouts. If the ice is perfectly straight, you will hit the edge of the rock. If it curls, sweep it and catch the other side. For draws, place the broom 2-3 feet from the intended target.

    Place the broom head on the ice at the desired location. As the broom is moved out toward the outside of the house, make sure the handle is on alignment with the line of delivery. The handle must be shifted slightly outward to allow it to extend through the line of delivery. Many inexperienced skips place the broom and handle perpendicular to the tee line, regardless of house proximity. On outside shots, the handle of the broom will not extend through the line of delivery and cause a visual problem for the thrower. Since the broom handle is "inside" the line, the visual may steer rocks inside.

    In some cases, purposely miss-aligning the broom handle can help your players understand the "pro side" miss direction.

    The CurlTech "No Miss" Broom Zone
    Certain ice conditions will help your broom placement and shot making on takeouts. Takeouts that curl one foot are the sweet spot. The no miss zone is from the center of the rock to 2.0 feet outside of the center of the rock. Throwing at the center of the rock with full sweeping will get a piece of it (good sweeping can straighten a takeout by .5 feet). Throwing 2.0 feet outside of center will still get a piece with the natural curl.

    Sweep Calls
    Sweep calls can be broken down into two categories:

    1. Weight calls
    2. Line calls

    In the Sweeping section, we talked about how sweepers judge draw weight, so we will leave draw sweep-calls to them. Sweep calling for line is purely the skip's responsibility. Almost all shots have some "line" component. Knowing when to call sweeping for line is one of the most difficult parts of skipping. One reason why it's so difficult is because it's a very hard skill to teach. Good line callers have good spatial orientation. They can visualize the complete curl "profile" within the space of the sheet. Like other skills, some people are better at this than others. The first step in learning to judge line is to fully understand the arc of a curling rock (a rock that is curling). On a draw, the rock remains on the line of delivery for only a short time after release. As soon as the rock leaves the hand, the forces of friction (and frictional melting) take over and the rock begins to curl. There are several things that contribute to when and how much a rock will curl.

    • Condition of the rocks - sharp or flat
    • Ice conditions due to ice making
    • Ice conditions due to wear and tear of a game
    • Release point
    • Release type (hard or soft)
    • Any lateral movement at release
    • Any or all of these factors can contribute to when the rock will leave the line of delivery. This can differ from as much as a foot out of the hand to never. This is the real trick to sweep calling.

      See The Curl Profile in the Advanced Delivery Section for more information.

      Generally, the desired outcomes on line calls for takeouts are rolls and caroms. Double and triple takeouts require good line calls. The best line callers visualize the entire arc that finishes "through" the intended rock target. Trying to call sweeping to hit a rock in a certain spot is much more difficult to do properly. Skips with weaker spatial skills must rely on this method.

      Here are some tips for judging sweeping for line.

      • Understand how your teammates release the rock.
      • Assess the rock and ice conditions as quickly as possible.
      • Stand a few feet back from the target area. This allows you to see a larger plain.
      • Position yourself slightly inside the arc. Judging objects moving toward you is easier than judging them moving away.
      • React to the release in relation to the broom. Adjust as needed.
      • Train yourself to anticipate the "break" (the point when the rocks leaves the line of delivery) of a rock.

      Line-Calling Philosophy
      Consider the following. In most line calling situations, the skip must anticipate the break point. Catching the curl just before it happens ensures you're never "late" on the call. It's easier to stop sweeping (or directionally make it curl more) than to try to "save" a shot after the break point.

      On very straight ice (or a straight stop) the opposite is true. On the straight spot, wait until after the break point and use sweeping to keep it from "actively" curling. Of course, if the ice is very straight, there may not be a break point.


      STRATEGY: BROAD LOOK | BASIC SHOTS | SKIP TRICKS | MIXED


      Nice-to-Know Skip Tricks 

      The Throw (Drag)
      The term "throw" is a billiards term used to describe how the forces of friction, momentum and inertia are applied when two or more pool balls make contact. The same principles apply in curling but at a higher level. Pool balls are round and polished, so the friction component is not great. Curling stones are round and smooth but the striking bands are rough.

      When two curling rocks make contact any angle other than straight on there is friction between the two striking surfaces. Friction prevents a straight carom and changes the angle slightly. The simplest form of the throw is called a "cut induced" throw. This means the friction of the contact throws the rock in the direction of the thrown stone. The friction was caused by the angle of contact. There are also a "spin induced" throws depending on which turn is thrown. Good skips need to know how much throw is being created to know where to hit the rock.

      Three terms must be understood:

      • The shooter.
      • The object rock (the ones that's hit first).
      • The thrown/dragged rock.

      When two stationary rocks are close together (from touching to 4 inches), the action of a takeout on them will favor the path of the object rock. Even if the stationary rocks are miss-aligned, the direction of the object rock will be continued through the dragged rock. The object rock essentially drags or throws the secondary rock with it.

      Stationary rocks four inches or more apart will carom.

      Beware. The "throw" is counter-intuitive. To trust a call involving a throw, practice the angles. The rocks move in the opposite direction of what you may think.

      Straight Side
      If there is a difference in how the rock curls depending on the turn, choose the straight side for throwing takeouts. Assuming your teammates can come within 6 inches of the broom, contact will almost always occur. The same takeout on the curl side may miss entirely.

      Live/Hot Hit - Dead/Cold Hit
      These terms refer to how rocks move after they make contact with each other. Visualize the examples from the skip's position. An out-turn striking a rock on the left side will bounce off the rock in a lively fashion due to the rotation of the moving rock. The contact is working "with" the rotation. Hitting at the same point on the right side with an out-turn will come off "flat" or "dead" because the contact is working "against" the rotation.

      Jam Side
      This refers to takeout shots when there is another rock (close behind and usually yours) that you don't want to touch or "jam" onto. Play the shot on the opposite side of the arc. As viewed from behind, if the object rock is right and your rock is back and left, play the out-turn. It is less likely for your rock to over-curl (cross the rock) than to run straight. If you play the in-turn, there is 50% more chance of jamming your rock in back, particularly if the rock runs straight. The amount of rock necessary to contact on the out-turn is much less than with the in-turn. This means a rock that crosses must hit the object rock much thinner to move it toward your rock. The out-turn works with the arc and momentum.

      Long Port, Short Port
      Any time a rock is thrown through a port (between two or more rocks) an optimal angle of entry will exist. The optimal angle is considered the "long port". These can also be called "open or closed" ports. Imagine a port between two rocks that's about two feet wide. If the rocks are at the same depth there is no preferred way to shoot the port. Either an in-urn or an out-turn will work. However, if the two rocks are at different depths, the port is easier to shoot if the rock in curling toward the higher depth rock.

      Example:
      Rock A on the center line six feet in front of the house. Rock B is in the corner guard position two feet in front of the house. From the skip's perspective, an in-turn shot is the preferred shot because the rock is moving through the port on the "long port" side.

      Skipping Equipment
      Skipping does not require special equipment. There are some advantages that can be gained through some quick equipment knowledge. If possible, wear a gripper over your slider when skipping. This will allow you to never get caught off balance and allows you to move quickly to an unanticipated situation.

      Choose a broom that can be the most effective for short bursts of energy. High friction brooms are best since the skip generally sweeps from the tee line to the back line.

      Skipping Etiquette

      • Be as cordial as you can.
      • Keep the "Spirit of Curling" in the back of your mind.
      • Avoid constant talking that might distract you and your opponent.
      • Stand quietly with minimal movement when the opponents throw.
      • Never discipline your teammates during a game.

      Watching the clock
      Another responsibility of the skip is to manage the clock during a championship game. It is your responsibility because you have overall control of the game. It's a good idea to appoint someone (usually the vice skip) to monitor the clock throughout the game and report slow or fast play to you.

      Team Strategy Summary
      Teams develop slowly, so should your team's strategy and shot-making. In time, your game plans will be executed properly, and games will be won through proper planning and execution.


      STRATEGY: BROAD LOOK | BASIC SHOTS | SKIP TRICKS | MIXED


      Playing Mixed Doubles 

      The mixed doubles format is different from the regular four-on-four format. Let's review the mixed doubles basics:

      • Eight ends.
      • Only five rocks thrown per end.
      • Two rocks are placed before throwing begins.
      • One player throws one and five the other throws the middle three.
      • Shooting order can change every end.
      • No rocks can be removed until three thrown rocks have come to rest.
      • Hammer team can choose a "power play" one time.

      Key Drivers to Mixed Doubles Success

      • Delivery and Sweeping Mechanics
        Obviously, a commitment to the CurlTech mechanics is key to your success.
      • Shot Calling
        Like other curling strategy, the most important factor is who has hammer. The non-hammer team essentially has one option, which is to draw down to the positioned rock in the back four. After the opening play, the situation dictates the shot.

        Remember, if the end is blanked, the team that threw first in that end will position the stones in the following end (usually giving themselves the hammer).

      • Throwing Order Strategy
        Most teams play the situation. Since the rules allow you to switch order evert end, you can play to your strengths. Your team may have a better draw player. In a draw situation, maybe during the active scoring part of the game, your best draw person may throw the middle rocks. During a clean-up situation (up three or more), the hit person may play middle rocks.
      • Power Play
        Each team is allowed one power play per game. This shifts the two placed rocks from the center line (center guard and back four) to the side (cornet guard and eight foot). This has an advantage for the hammer team because the end starts with a rock on the tee behind a corner guard.
      • Sweeping and Line Calls
        You will see lots of different systems here. Probably the most common is the non-throwing player holding the broom and calling line, similar to regular curling. With this system, the thrower must jump up and sweep the rock. This by the way, eliminates sweeping with a gripper.

        Another option is the non-throwing player sweeps the rock and the thrower calls line. The advantage here is the sweeping can take split times and sweep immediately without delay. The sweeper can also wear the gripper for better head pressure. Of course, this requires the thrower to throw without a broom reference.

        Experiment with the two options to see what works for you.

      CurlTech recommendation: Learn to throw with no broom reference and focus on strong sweeping with two grippers. This will take practice. Players that rarely practice together may not choose this option.


      STRATEGY: BROAD LOOK | BASIC SHOTS | SKIP TRICKS | MIXED