OT- Curling strategy question

Submitted by Wolverine In Exile on February 21st, 2010 at 7:43 PM

Watching GBR v US... in the 6th end, UK up 3-1. UK knocked out all stones on their final throw and US had the hammer. On the US throw with the entire ice clear, the curler proceeded to throw a stone that he seemed to not even care about getting a point on and it sailed right by, bypassing to me what seemed to be an easy point opportunity. The announcers didn't make a big deal of it either. US ended up losing 3-2, so I think that point they left would have made the difference. Am I missing some intricate curling strategy / etiquite here?



February 21st, 2010 at 7:49 PM ^

This confused the hell out of me, too, so I looked it up. It turns out the "hammer" does not switch off from team to team after each end. Instead, when a team scores a point in an end, the other team gets the hammer for the next end. If no points are scored at all, the same team keeps the hammer for the next end.

Teams usually want to get two points when they have the hammer. If a team has the hammer and can only get one point, it is a good strategy to "blank the end" so they can keep the hammer for the next end and try to get two. I would think this is especially true when a team is losing.


February 21st, 2010 at 7:57 PM ^

because if you take the point you're down 1 with them in control. they can then go for 2 and you go down 3 or just clear everything you throw and hold on for a 1pt win. that's the only reasoning i can come up with.

if you keep the hammer you can try and get 2 yourself next round and give them the hammer tied instead of giving it to them down 1. this is assuming you can get any points which is another argument when it comes to the american team...


February 21st, 2010 at 8:21 PM ^

You always want to try and take at least 2 points with the Hammer and force your opponent to take 1 with the Hammer.

Taking 1 point when down by two is of no advantage to you.


February 21st, 2010 at 8:42 PM ^

I am SO GLAD someone brought this up.... I only caught the time that GB did it in the 9th. Had not seen that before, and wondered WTF?????

Thanks all. I learned something today about a game I love but just don't know all the ins and outs.


February 21st, 2010 at 10:54 PM ^

Its a lot harder to get one point when you dont have the hammer than it is getting two points when you do have the the hammer. When you have the last stone you have a lot of options.


February 21st, 2010 at 11:09 PM ^

As a corollary, you will also notice teams attempting to force their opponent to score exactly one point when the opponent has the hammer. You may see them keep a number of stones in the house that are not "shot" (closest to the center) and attempt to guard them. This removes the option of the opponent blanking the end and gives you back the hammer.

Generally, if you are up by a couple points or tied and want to play defensively, you try to keep the ice pretty clear so that you have the option of blanking and hanging onto the hammer as long as possible. This also lowers the possibility of the opponent stealing multiple points if you miss.

This back-and-forth with the hammer can lead to some situations that seem non-sensical at first. Say it's the ninth end and you are tied, but the opponent has the hammer. The team with the hammer will likely try to blank, but your best play (if you can't steal a point) would be to try to force them to score 1 and give you the hammer in the tenth end. This might seem crazy, but in the last end, you're usually better off down by one with the hammer than tied without it.


February 22nd, 2010 at 12:27 AM ^

Conventional wisdom in more elite play is that "hammer efficiency" and "steal efficiency" are key indicators of success (as opposed to pure scoreboard watching or points per end measures). Basically, "hammer efficiency" relates to how often your team scores two or more points when you have the hammer or last rock. Steal efficiency is how often your team steals a point when they are without the hammer.

The best players in the world (looking at the Asham World Curling Tour)have a hammer efficiency of around 50 percent. Right now Kevin Koe is leading at 53.9% with Kevin Martin at 50.5%. In terms of steal efficiency you're looking in the area of 36% and that's Craig Brown of Madison, Wisconsin. Note that simple analysis tells us you are more likely to score two with the hammer than steal one without. The hammer has value and so teams measure the ability to "force" the other team to take one point when they have the hammer and this is called "force efficiency". In the pros this is again led by our friend Craig Brown at almost 75 percent.

To have success at curling at the highest levels (or any level although much club level curling depends on the other guy missing as much as you making) the trick is to maximize your force efficiency and hammer efficiency and if you get a bit lucky then the steal efficiency works out.