The strategy of the game has been compared to chess. Similar to chess, it is important for each team’s skip (the player who determines the strategy) to develop a plan which anticipates an opponent’s likely moves. Sometimes the best shot is not designed to score, but like a pawn in chess, can be used to create offense or defense depending on a team’s overall strategy. When trying to score (offense), skips tend to leave lots of stones in play. Skips use more hits or takeouts to remove stones when trying to keep their opponent from scoring (defense).
Many factors contribute to the strategy a skip calls in a game including ice conditions. USCA Hall of Fame Member, Jon Mielke, uses the acronym SHEETZ to help skips think about strategy.
- SCORE: What is the score? If you are way ahead or behind, you make need to adjust your strategy to more aggressive or defensive.
- HAMMER: Who has the hammer? You may be able to take more chances of you have the hammer (last rock in an end).
- END: What end are you playing? Do you have several ends to play or are you near the end of the game? Where you are in the game will impact your approach to the end.
- ENVIRONMENT: How is the ice? Is it keen or heavy? Is it changing during the game? Are there falls or runs? How are the stones? There are a number of environmental factors that may influence the shot you call.
- TEAM: What is your team good at – hits or draws? What is your team’s mentality – defensive or aggressive? Be careful about calling shots that your team is not capable of making. Play to your team’s strengths and the opposing team’s weaknesses.
- ZONE: Use the Free Guard Zone (FGZ) to your advantage. Since a stone put into the FGZ, the area in front of the house, cannot be removed from play until the second is shooting, offense is often set up using the lead stones.
Jon Mielke is a regular columnist for the U.S. Curling News. Click here for columns containing more information on strategy and reading the ice.