Curling Changing Strategies During An End

As you play an end during a game of curling, it may be necessary for your team to change the strategy for approaching that end. Here, we will go through some of the details you should be aware of before and after you change your team’s strategy for the end.


Switching Strategies

As your team is playing the end, you have already committed to pursuing one of the strategies we previously learned about. If you have the hammer, you are thinking about scoring 2 or more points, or possibly blanking the end if it is late in the game. These are the only two strategies we can select from. You wouldn’t be forcing your opponent to score 1 point or be stealing an end when your team has the hammer.

If you do not have the hammer, you are thinking about forcing your opponent to score 1 point with the hammer, or trying to steal the end. These are the only two strategies we can select from. You usually wouldn’t be trying to blank an end because you want the hammer back. You also wouldn’t be trying to score 2 or more points because you do not have the hammer.

For the times we do and don’t have hammer, we can only alternate between two strategies. Therefore, we will learn about changing strategies for both hammer-related scenarios.

For the remainder of this tutorial, we will assume that our team is throwing the red stones and the opponent is throwing the yellow stones.

Switching Strategies with the Hammer

When your team has the hammer, the chances that you change your strategy are a little bit higher than they are when you do not have the hammer. Here, we will learn about switching between trying to score 2 or more points, and blanking the end.

Switching from Scoring to Blanking

In some cases, your skip may realize that your team will not be able to score 2 or more points with the hammer, and that there is an opportunity to blank the end. In this case, your skip will change the team’s strategy at some point during the end, most likely during the vice’s or skip’s shots. Although this may seem like a seamless switch, there are scenarios to consider.

First, does your team have any feasible chance of scoring 2 or more points? Well, let’s take a look at the curling sheet below.

As you can see, your opponent already peeled the corner guard your team threw. Therefore, your team has no corner guards to protect any of your rocks in the house. At this point, any guard your team throws will be peeled. Furthermore, your team only has one stone in the house. This means that for every stone your team throws into the house, your opponent will likely throw a takeout. Since this will likely continue, your team has nearly no chance of scoring 2 or more points with the hammer. We now come to the conclusion that it is best to blank the end, and try to score 2 or more points in the next end. As the end continues, your sheet will look like this.

As your opponent throws stones near the button, your team executes hit and roll shots to keep the house empty. If this continues, your team will be able to blank the end.

Switching from Blanking to Scoring

In a game of curling, it is very uncommon to see a team switch strategies between blanking an end and scoring 2 or more points with the hammer. However, there is one circumstance in which it could happen.

In a blank end, the team without the hammer usually draws to the button and then the team with the hammer throws hit and roll shots. Let’s say one of your team’s hit and roll shots does not completely roll out of the house, and is biting the side of the 12 Foot as shown below.

Here, the stone is covered by the corner guards that was ticked earlier, and may be tough for the opponent to remove. Therefore, your team already has one stone in the house, and needs another to score 2 points. This would be an excellent time to switch the strategy from blanking the end to scoring 2 or more points. First, your team already has a stone in the house and the chances that it gets removed from play are low. Second, your team has the hammer, so you possess the final, reactionary shot, and should be able to score at least 2 points. Thus, your team should switch to the more appropriate strategy of trying to score 2 or more points.

In other ends that are blanked, teams will throw repeated takeouts that repeatedly hit the noses of each stone in the house.

In this instance, your opponent may either:

  1. Miss a takeout completely.
  2. Hit your stone, but not remove it from play.

In either of these scenarios, your team has the opportunity to score 2 or more points. This can be achieved by “splitting the house” on your team’s next shot. The term “splitting the house” refers to the instance in which a team has two stones in the house, but they are on opposite sides of the house. In the image below, we see that the two stones are on opposite sides of the 8 Foot, and are about the same distance away from the tee line.

By splitting the house, you significantly reduce the chances that your opponent will be able to throw a double takeout on those two stones. Essentially, they will be forced to remove only one stone at a time, because it is nearly impossible to throw enough weight to takeout the first stone, roll across the house at such a shallow angle, and takeout the second stone.

Thus, it is a great opportunity to switch strategies from blanking the end to scoring 2 or more points with the hammer. Since your opponent will only be able to takeout one stone at a time, you will always have at least one stone in the house. Since you have the hammer, you will be able to replace your team’s stone that was removed from play by throwing takeouts on your opponent’s stone.

Switching Strategies without the Hammer

When your team doesn’t have the hammer, the chances that you change your strategy are a much lower than those of when your team has the hammer. Here, we will learn about switching between trying to force your opponent to score 1 point, and stealing the end.

Switching from Forcing to Stealing

In the beginning of every end when your team does not have the hammer, your team is usually going to pursue the strategy of forcing your opponent to score 1 point. Thus, your team is taking a more defensive stance in the end. However, there may be some cases in which your team should switch strategies and try to steal the end.

As the latter half of the end starts, your team should start considering which stones can be considered for scoring. If we look at the house below, we notice that two of our stones are in the Top 4 Foot, and resembles a split house. Since we also have a center guard in front of the house, it is very difficult for the opponent to be able to reach the button.

Unless the opponent is able to execute a hit and roll that allows them to become the shot rock, your team will still be the shot rock. This, however, is difficult to do because the opponent needs to throw enough weight to move your team’s rock out of the 4 Foot, but also throw it light enough so that it curls around the center guard.

In order for the opponent to become the shot rock, they must hit our stone on the corner closest to the centerline, and then roll into the 4 Foot, which is incredibly difficult to do based on the angle that it would hit our curling stone. The best location the opponent’s stone could end up is the Top 8 Foot, possibly biting the Top 4 Foot.

Based on this scenario, your team has the opportunity to remain as the shot rock for the rest of the end. Therefore, it is best to switch your strategy and try to steal a point. Regardless of whether your team is winning or losing, stealing an end puts a bit of pressure on your opponent to score in the next end.

Another scenario in which you would change your strategy is if your opponent misses a shot late in the end. For example, your opponent’s skip misses a takeout on their first shot. Now, your team’s stone remains as the shot rock. All your skip needs to do to steal the end is to throw a guard to protect that stone.

Here, your team was planning on forcing your opponent to score 1 point for almost all of the end, but needed to change at the last moment. This scenario highlights that your team could change the strategy at any point throughout the end.

Switching from Stealing to Forcing

During a game of curling, your team may be losing by a point or two. As the final few ends begin to approach, your team might consider to steal an end. As the end progresses, your team notices that they are having difficulty placing stones near the 4 Foot area. This could become a problem because your team may not be able to steal the end.

As you can see in the house above, the opponent has a stone placed on the top half of the button. For your team to be able to draw around that stone and become shot rock might work out, but then your opponent could takeout your stone by performing a hit and roll.

Since your chances of being able to score are becoming smaller, it is best to accept that your team will not be able to score, and try to score 2 or more points with the hammer. This would allow your team to get back in the game. Then, after your team scores, it is possible to try and steal in the following end.

Here, we recognized that our chances of stealing the end are becoming limited and that it is best to force our opponent to score 1 point. In some ways, this strategy switch is not bad because we will receive the hammer in the next end, and can try to steal a point or two later on.