Curling Strategy Without Hammer
Let’s look at strategies for when your team does not have the hammer. It is common that the team with the hammer is guaranteed to score in that end. However, you can limit the amount of points your opponent scores by forcing them to 1 point. If the opponent scores, you get the hammer back. Therefore, you can limit the amount of points they score to 1, and still get the hammer back. This section will be dedicated to forcing your opponent to 1 point when they have the hammer.
Strategy without the Hammer
When your team doesn’t have the hammer, it is important to follow a strategy so that your team can force your opponent to score 1 point. When your team doesn’t have the hammer, the strategy for the end is rather defensive. One of the main strategies when your team doesn’t have the hammer is to keep numerous stones in the middle of the sheet. This is contradictory to what we learned about the middle of the sheet when your team has the hammer. The goal of this strategy is to ensure that you limit your opponent’s access to the center of the house and the button. As we proceed in this section, keep note of this concept: if you place stones in the middle of the sheet, the chances of forcing your opponent to score 1 point become higher.
Starting the End
Just like when your team has the hammer, the beginning of the end will help determine whether your team will be able to force your opponent to score 1 point. Throughout the end, we need to make sure that there are stones in the middle of the sheet. Therefore, your team will want to throw center guards. A good center guard will end up in the middle of the guard zone and be able to protect a stone that would be drawn to the Top 4 Foot or Button.
Since we know what type of center guards to throw, how many of them should be thrown? To start off the end, you only need to throw one center guard. Since you are trying to force your opponent to score 1 point, you want to vary the location of the stones along the middle of the sheet. Therefore, we want that center guard - our first shot of the end - to be able to protect a stone for a couple shots.
The next shot thrown by the lead needs to be drawn into the house. By placing rocks in the house early, you are applying pressure to the team with the hammer. Where should we draw into the house? Since we threw a guard up previously, we can draw around that center guard into the house. The draw should end up behind the guard so that the opponent cannot remove it from play and force your opponent to 1 point. Therefore, the stone must not be directly behind the guard. Like the corner guards, it must protect the stone so that the thrower cannot see the stone from the hack. This will ensure that your team is sitting one stone in the house in the early portion of the end.
Middle of the End - First Outcome
As the leads finish throwing their stones, it is time to work on a game plan that will allow your team to force your opponent to score 1 point. Some teams without the hammer will peel the corner guard(s) thrown by the team with the hammer. By doing this, you are opening access to all of the stones that were protected by the corner guards, and can be removed from play in the upcoming shots.
There is a chance that your opponent will replace the corner guard and you can continue to peel them. If peeling corner guards is becoming redundant, another option to pursue would be to draw a second stone into the Top 4 Foot or Top 8 Foot. This applies pressure because your team now has two stones close to the Button, and you are beginning to prevent your opponent from scoring at all. Make sure all the stones you throw remain behind the guard - it is okay if they are all in a straight line for now. Otherwise, your opponent may be able to throw a double takeout. Your team could also throw more guards that protect the width of the 4 Foot to ensure that your opponent cannot reach the Button, thus requiring them to perform some circus shots to score 2 or more points.
Middle of the End - Second Outcome
Another option to prevent your opponent from scoring 2 or more points with the hammer is to keep their corner guards where they are but freeze to the stones they throw behind the corner guards. For these types of shots, you would be performing a corner freeze. By throwing this type of shot, you are also keeping your freeze guarded a little bit, which means that the opponent would likely be removing their stone if they were to remove your stone.
After you perform a shot like this, the team with the hammer may become a bit more aggressive in their offense, which could leave some stones out in the open. If there are any opponent stones out in the open, you can attempt to remove them from play. Furthermore, if the opponent stones are near the middle of the sheet, and are in the top half of the house, you could perform a hit and roll in which you takeout the opponent’s stone and roll behind your center guard.
Finishing the End
As you move on to the vice’s last stone and the skip’s stones, it is important to make sure that you can force your opponent to score only one point. Even though you are always considering the shots your opponent will make, you should consider this factor more than you normally do. Since you have a limited amount of stones remaining, you must make each of them help your team force your opponent to score 1 point.
Towards this part of the end, it is a good idea to throw stones that will block your opponent’s path to the button. By doing this, you force your opponent to make difficult shots. If your opponent happens to have a stone on the button or Top 4 Foot, it is a great idea to freeze to it if you can. This way, you are significantly decreasing the area that your opponent can score a second point.
If you still have your center guard in-play, you could try to perform a gentle corner freeze on to the shot rock. Do this only if your opponent’s stone is the shot rock. If not, try to draw near the button so that you increase your team’s chances of forcing your opponent to score 1 point.
Whenever your team doesn’t have the hammer, try to force your opponent to score 1 point. Early in the end, it is okay to replace your center guard or continuously peel your opponent’s corner guards. As the end progresses, begin throwing takeouts on your opponent’s stones, draw into the house to limit the area that your opponent can score, or throw guards to block your opponent’s paths to the button and 4 Foot areas.