A Guide to Curling Strategy
The most basic description you will find for curling is that is played like “chess on ice,” and there are two kinds of curling strategy. One is the type of strategy you take toward the game as a whole and the second is the strategy that is used for shot to shot.
Curling is a team game which is played by two teams of four players. Teams have two sweepers with brooms who try to get the rock down the ice as quickly and efficiently as they can.
Curling strategy is essentially the game plan used to win and it takes into consideration such variables as your own and your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, the skill level of the players, and even the condition of the ice on any given day. Overall game strategy is not unlike that of football or hockey.
The goal of curling is to get the rock (equivalent of a football or hockey puck) down the ice and into what is known as the house, not unlike the end zone or the net in other sports. The rock, however, is really more like a real rock, made of polished granite and weighing over 40 pounds.
Curling strategy is basically two-fold. The decision has to be made to play very aggressively or very conservatively. This may change within a game depending on whether or not you are in the lead and by how much of a margin. Often curling strategy is to be very aggressive with shots and try to get your opponent to make mistakes.
The skip, or captain, calls the shots as the rock is moved down the ice. He is always at the opposite end of the ice so that his team can view him at all times. He literally yells out the shots, which is known as shot calling. He has to know his team very well and what shots they are capable of executing.
An aggressive curling strategy will call riskier shots that give the team the potential for a higher score. Teams with a conservative curling strategy will have more takeouts which slow the game down. In fact, the World Curling Federation put a rule into effect limiting takeouts because it makes the game too boring for spectators.
The shot by shot specifics of curling strategy are called by the skip. These shots are based on the ability of the players. The goal is often to play for the last rock and score but this is not a strategy which would be used if the team was not capable of making the play. If you are trying to catch up in the scoring, chances are you will play more aggressively than if you have a big lead.
Other circumstances which affect shot calling are whether the ice curls a lot or hardly at all. You also have to take into account fast and slow ice. Curling strategy includes knowing when to sweep. The rock will travel farther and straighter when swept. The skip is constantly calling out for the sweepers to sweep or not. The sweepers have to keep the skip aware of the speed of the rock. Often the ice is divided into ten zones and the sweepers can call out the zone number to indicate where they think the rock will stop.
Whether you play curling at the community level or at the Olympic level, there are always going to be similar strategies put into action. The difference is the skill of the players and how well they can execute the curling strategy.