Curling is a game where two teams of four players (or two players in mixed doubles) slide heavy stones made of granite on a long and narrow ice surface towards a target area called a House. It is one of the sports that people compete in during the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, with different categories for women, men, mixed doubles and wheelchair users.
Each team has a leader called a Skip, who decides the strategy and tells the other players what to do. The Skip usually stands in the House at the end where the stones are supposed to land. The other players are called Lead, Second, Third and Fourth, depending on the order they throw their stones. Each player throws two stones in each round, called an End, and they take turns with the other team. The teams use stones that have either red or yellow handles, so they can tell them apart.
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In mixed doubles, each team has only five stones instead of eight, and they start each End with one stone already placed near the House. This means they can score up to six points in one End. One player throws the first and last stones, while the other player throws the middle three stones.
The field of play
The ice surface where curling is played is called a Sheet. It is very long (more than 45 metres) and not very wide (less than five metres). There are two Houses at each end of the Sheet, which look like circles with four rings around them. The centre of each House is called the Button, and it is where the teams want their stones to end up.
Scoring and the basics of the game
The teams score points by having their stones closer to the Button than the other team's stones. They get one point for each stone that is in or touching the House and closer to the Button than any of the other team's stones. Only one team can score points in each End. If neither team has any stones in or touching the House at the end of an End, no points are given. This is called a blank End.
The teams throw their stones from a fixed point called a Hack at one end of the Sheet to the House at the other end. They have to let go of their stones before they cross a line called a Hog Line, or else their stones are taken out of play. They also have to make sure their stones cross another Hog Line near the House, or else their stones are also taken out of play. After each End is finished, the teams switch ends and play in the opposite direction.
After all the stones have reached the end of the ice where they are supposed to score, the players count how many points they have.
Curling usually has ten rounds, called Ends, but sometimes it can have eight Ends depending on the type and rules of the competition. Teams can give up their game before the last End if they think they cannot win. The team with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.
Last Stone Draw
Before a curling game starts, teams choose who will get to throw the last stone of each End. This is called having the Hammer or Last Stone Advantage. In big tournaments, this is decided by a special throw where two players from each team try to get their stones as close as possible to the middle of the House – one stone is thrown clockwise and the other counter-clockwise – and then they measure how far the stone is from the middle. This is called the Last Stone Draw or LSD.
If a team has the last stone advantage, it means they can throw the last stone of an End and have a better chance to score at least one point and maybe win that End. When a team scores, they lose the last stone advantage and the hammer goes to the other team for the next End.
Teams usually want to score more than one point in an End and will sometimes try to make sure that no stones are in the House after the last stone is thrown. This means they can keep the hammer for the next End. But in mixed doubles, if no points are scored in an End, the hammer also goes to the other team.
In mixed doubles, teams can use a power play once in every game. To use a power play, they have to say it at the start of an End, and they can decide where to put some of the stones that are already on the ice before they start throwing.
In most Ends, some of the stones are already on the ice before they start throwing, and they are placed so that the team with the last stone advantage has one stone at the back of a small circle (red in this example). The team without the last stone advantage has one stone in front of the House (yellow in this example).
When a power play is used, some of the stones are moved to one side of the ice, and they are placed as one stone outside of the House (yellow in this example) and one stone behind it, with its back touching a line (red in this example).
How long does a curling game last?
A curling game in a big competition can take up to three hours. Teams have a limited amount of time to think and plan their moves, which depends on the type and number of rounds they are playing. In normal games with ten rounds, each team has 38 minutes of thinking time. This is shorter for games with eight rounds, which have 30 minutes of thinking time. Wheelchair curling teams also have 30 minutes of thinking time for an eight-round game, while mixed doubles teams have only 22 minutes.
What do you need to play curling?
To play curling, you need a set of heavy stones made of a special kind of granite that weigh almost 20 kilos each.
Each player has their own brush and a pair of special curling shoes with one shoe that sticks to the ice and one shoe that slides on the ice – called a Slider – so they can slide with a stone when they throw it. A gripper is a rubber cover that goes over the slider to protect it, keep it clean and help the player stay balanced on the ice.
What are the different kinds of curling shots?
There are three main kinds of curling shots – a Guard, a Draw and a Take-out, but there are also many other ways to throw them.
Guards are thrown to the front of the House, to the Free Guard Zone – the area between the line and the House – to block other stones from getting into the House.
Draws are shots that are thrown to get into the House and score points.
Take-outs are shots that knock out other stones from the game.
When a stone is moving, it will curve across the ice. When throwing a stone, players will twist the stone clockwise or counter-clockwise. By doing this, and making the stone curve on the bumpy ice, players can make the stone stop where they want it to.
Why do players sweep the ice?
The point of sweeping is to slightly heat up the ice where the stone will slide over. To do this, you have to sweep the ice with some pressure.
Sweeping can make the stone go further. Good sweeping can make a stone go two or three metres more. Sweeping can also make the stone curve less and go straighter.
Why do players shout?
Sometimes, you might hear players shout “Hurry! Hard!”. Because the ice is very long, players often shout to talk to their teammates. But some teams do not shout and use hand signals that they made up for the game instead.
What is wheelchair curling?
Wheelchair curling is for people who cannot walk or can only walk a little bit. This includes players with problems in their legs or how they walk, such as spinal injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis or leg amputation, who use a wheelchair to move around.
Wheelchair curling is a mixed team game meaning each team must have female and male players. Throwing the stones can be helped by using sticks and there is no sweeping.