CURLING it means: Concentration, Units, Responsibility, Leisure, Intelligence, Needs, Groove
The game of curling is played on ice with (approximately) 20-kilo (42-pound) granite stones. The playing surface - a ‘sheet’ - is 42m (138 feet) long from hack to hack, and just over 4,75m (14 feet) wide, with a house at both ends. In each ‘end’ of the game 16 stones are played, 8 by each team, and at the conclusion of the end, the team with one or more stones closer to the button than any opposition stones, scores the equivalent number of points. Each of the four members of a team delivers 2 stones each, one at a time, alternating with the opposing team.
The stones are delivered from the hack at one end of the sheet to the house at the other end, by the player pushing off from the hack with the stone, and releasing it with a spin - ‘curl’ - which gives Curling its name. When delivering a stone, one can play a ‘draw’, which means the stone comes to rest somewhere in the playing area, or a ‘takeout’, whereby the delivered stone takes out an opposition stone. A draw stone that comes to rest in front of another stone, thereby making it difficult for the opposition to remove the guarded stone, is called a ‘guard’.
The original curling stone - or ‘rock’ - used in Scotland, was just a large chunk of rock, without any particular size or shape bowled across the ice. This evolved into the 42 pound rocks we use today, which are made of granite and shaped and polished to a specified size and shape, concave on both upper and lower surfaces.
On some stones the degree of concavity is different on the two sides, allowing for reversal of the stone for ‘faster’ or ‘slower’ ice. A handle, usually on a circular plastic disc, is bolted onto the stone by way of a channel running through the middle of the stone.
Each stone is delivered from the hack, which is basically a rubber covered foot rest embedded in the ice surface. First, the stone is pulled backward where it may or may not be lifted off the ice surface, and then the curler and the stone glide forward together, the curler in stretched out pose. The stone must be released before it crosses the hog line to continue its glide toward the house at the other end of the sheet. The stone is released so that it rotates during its glide down the sheet, and this rotation makes it move gradually sideways, much like a very slow curve ball. This lateral motion is called ‘curl’.
A team consists of four players, called the ‘lead’, ‘second’, ‘third’ and ‘skip’, and they each deliver two stones in that order. The skip, as the name indicates, is the team captain, who decides where he/she wants the particular stone to end up, holds his/her broom for the deliverer of the stone to aim at, and directs sweeping. When it is the skip’s turn to deliver stones, the third temporarily acts as skip. The two team members that are not delivering a stone may be called on by the skip to sweep in front of the delivered stone.
Such sweeping will both make a stone travel farther and reduce its curl, and so, can be used to assist the stone to behave in the manner desired by the skip. Vigorous sweeping requires curlers to be fit, and in a typical two hour game a curler walks almost two miles.
Prior to games the sheet is sprinkled with water, which freezes and produces a pebble like surface. Without this pebble the concave shape of the stone would work as a suction cup, but with it, the rotating stone curls nicely down the sheet. Ice making for curling requires both art and science, involving control of temperature, air moisture content, purity of water, and pebbling among other things.
Curling is always mentioned as a game of strategy by curlers, partly because it is, but also probably because they want to make sure that it's seen as more than throwing rocks and slipping around on the ice. Strategy is definitely the big thing in competitive curling, though. A great deal of effort goes into planning an end so your team's stone ends up closest to the center. There are a bunch of different strategic moves, and here we show the standards:
A 'Draw' is obviously the most basic move. You send the stone down the sheet, and with the help of the sweepers and the direction of the skip, you somehow get the stone to stop where you want it. Here is shown a perfect draw into the Tee, the center of the House. This would be fairly pointless as a first shot, as it could easily be taken out.
Here, the green stone is taken out by the yellow. The yellow continues on, maintaining most of its momentum (usually takeouts are thrown harder than draws), while also knocking the green stone out of play. The yellow stone could, of course, remain in play if it remained in bounds, but in a basic takeout, the only concern is removing the other team's stone.
Guarding is, as its name implies, placing a stone in front of another (with a draw) to prevent a takeout. In this diagram, we see two green stones and three yellow stones that have already been played. To protect stone A, the yellow team has sent a draw, stone B, immediately in front of A. This prevents a takeout by stone C as would have happened here.
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A large element of the game not mentioned so far is the 'curl' of the stone. As you can see in the above diagrams, the stone is not coming in on a perfectly straight path. This is due to the curl put on the stone by the curler. As the stone is delivered, a slight spin is put on it, acting like a very, very slow curveball.
The pebble is what helps the stone pick up the lateral motion. As is seen here, the ice is sprinkled before the game with a 'pebbler', which creates a smoothly hilly effect on the ice, much like little pebbles. Without the pebble, the stone would not be able to travel as far. Our best guess, based on what we've been told by people who know, is that the small travelling surface of the stone itself combined with the small contact area of the ice (created by the pebble) creates the same effect you get when you brake on an ice patch. A thin film of water on top of ice creates a hydroplane. Using brooms, the sweepers slightly warm the pebble and thereby increase this effect, causing the stone to glide farther and grip less (which also has the effect of lessening the lateral motion due to curl).
Each player shoots or delivers two stones each end, alternately with their counterpart on the opposing team. A twist of the handle on release makes the stone curl, a little like a "hook" in bowling.
All four team members shoot two stones an end and sweep for their teammates' shots. While one player shoots, two sweep as needed. Sweeping polishes the ice so the stone travels farther if delivered too softly, and vigorous sweeping requires fitness. In a typical two hour game, a curler walks almost two miles.
The skip acts as team captain and strategist. Strategy is a major factor in curling, as important as shooting skill. Some people call curling "chess on ice".
The playing surface is called "a sheet of ice", and is designed to allow play in both directions.
The object of shooting is to get the stone, or rock, to come to rest at a predetermined place (a draw or guard) or to move another rock (a takeout or raise).
The score is determined after each end of 16 stones. A 12 foot circle, the house, is the scoring area. Stones in the house must be closer to the tee (centre) than any opposing stone to score.
The maximum score in one end is eight points. Typically, one to three points are scored. Games are 8 or 10 ends, lasting 2 to 2.5 hours.
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