Curling is played on ice with stones of polished granite weighing approx. 20 kilos. One of the particularities of the stones is that their base is not flat, but concave. This enables the stone to turn on itself – the experts say it "curls" – and follow a curved path. The degree of curvature depends on several factors, including the preparation of the ice.
The playing surface – the curling sheet – measures 42 meters long from hack to hack and a little over 4.75 meters wide, with a target or house at both ends. The centre of the house is known as the "button".
A key part of the preparation of the playing surface is the spraying of water droplets onto the ice, which form pebble on freezing. The pebbled ice surface resembles an orange peel, and the stone moves on top of the pebbled ice. As the stone moves over the pebble, any rotation of the stone causes it to curl to the inside or outside; the amount of curl can change during a game as the pebble wears.
Curling is played by two teams of four curlers each. In an official competition, a game is played in ten ends and lasts over two hours. An end consists of each player from both teams throwing two stones down the sheet with the players on each side alternating shots. During the throw, the stone must be released before the hogline (HOL); most curlers deliver the stone while sliding out from the hack. When preparing the ice, a sensor wire is placed under the hogline and the stones are fitted with electronic handles known as the eye on the hog. This electronically detects whether the thrower's hand is in contact with the handle as it passes the hogline and indicates a violation by lights at the base of the handle. The stone is eliminated.
After the stone is delivered, its trajectory is influenced by the two sweepers under instructions from the skip. Sweeping is done for two reasons: to reduce friction underneath the stone, and to decrease the amount of curl.
Much of the yelling that goes on during a curling game is the skip calling the line of the shot and the sweepers calling the weight. The skip evaluates the path of the stone and calls to the sweepers to sweep as necessary to maintain the intended track.
Curling is considered by the aficionados as a game of strategy, tactics and skill. A number of subtle tactics are used to bring as many stones of the team as near as possible to the centre of the house, or button, in one end. Here are a few of these strategic moves:
A draw is the basic shot and consists in reaching the house on the exact spot asked for by the skip. Here is an example of a perfect draw, on the button. This shot is not recommended as a first throw as the stone, without protection or guard, can easily be removed by the opponent.
A takeout is a quicker stoner than a draw, intended to remove stones from play. Here the green stone is taken out by the yellow stone, which, if it continues its roll can either stay in the game or also be eliminated. However, the main idea of a takeout is to remove the opponent's stone.
As the name shows, guards are thrown to place one stone in front of another (by means of a draw) to avoid a takeout. On this example, there are two green stones and three yellow stones already played. To protect stone A, the yellow team has thrown a draw, stone B, immediately in front of stone A. To score points it is often necessary at the beginning of an end to place guards (usually four stones – two from each team) in the free guard zone and these stones may not be removed by the opponent and will have to be avoided by playing draws.As the name shows, guards are thrown to place one stone in front of another (by means of a draw) to avoid a takeout. On this example, there are two green stones and three yellow stones already played. To protect stone A, the yellow team has thrown a draw, stone B, immediately in front of stone A. To score points it is often necessary at the beginning of an end to place guards (usually four stones – two from each team) in the free guard zone and these stones may not be removed by the opponent and will have to be avoided by playing draws.
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