This was not a planned post but rather one that had its impetus from the 7th end of the game at the Scotties tonight (02/18/13) in Kingston between BC (Scott) and ON (Homan).
At the time BC was up one (6-5). The end was down to skips’ rocks and Ontario skip Homan’s 1st she executed an extremely precise run-back by just missing a guard to hit the target rock exactly on the right spot to send it onto the BC stone in the 4′! Scott had no choice but to remove the ON stone just delivered leaving a wide open takeout for skip Homan. BC had a shot in the back 12′ at about 7 o’clock to force what everyone assumed would be a hit-and-stick by Homan to tie the game. Given the shot just played by Homan, the hit-and-stick would be a formality.
Well, it wasn’t as it turned out. Homan made contact with the yellow BC stone but didn’t hit it at just the right spot this time, rolling a few centimetres too far leaving that BC stone in the 12′ to steal the point giving the Kelowna quartet a two shot lead.
The next TV shot was of Team Scott gathering with that “We’ll, look what Santa left for us.” look on their faces to plan for the next end. At that point, with three ends to play, BC had “limited control” of the game meaning that they would likely win the game and had it not been for a misplaced guard by skip Scott in the next end, limited control would have given way to “definite control” with all that term implies.
Sitting on my son’s couch in Orangeville, ON, upon seeing BC steal the 7th end the way they did I unconsciously mumbled, “the no risk steal”!
Two thoughts come to mind.
First, on balance, we tend to overestimate our opponent. Don’t assume the skip will make the routine shot! I’m not sure why, although I do have a theory, but skips, like Rachel Homan, who make precision after precision shot, somehow miss the easy one, as in the end illustrated above. My theory is focus. The Rachel Homan’s of the world focus so well on the precise shots, they “clock off”, unintentionally of course, on the more routine ones on occasion and that 7th end was just such an occasion!
Second, the best guard sometimes IS second shot as in that same end. When it’s “steal time” we so often “risk the ranch” in our effort to commit grand larceny. “Whoa, had he/she not ticked that guard we’d have given up two! Put up our one point quickly and let’s move on!” Then there are the times when it would be great to steal but the team just makes the “easy” shots, lying two as the opposition skip, like Rachel, gets ready for the open hit or draw and oops, hit and roll too far or just a little short or heavy on the draw and voila, the no risk steal.
Perhaps it’s worthwhile to play more steal ends in “no risk” style than “risk the ranch” format. What does your competitive data tell you? If you don’t know what I mean by “competitive data” read the post of 02/16/13 (“Competitive Data v Statistics”).
Before I “clock off” for the night, let me leave you with some thoughts about placing guards.
Most guards, the vast majority of them, are missed because they curl too much leaving them useless. To avoid that, position the target brush in such a manner so that the stone has to be “brushed” into position. You will make many more guards if you attempt them in that fashion (as opposed to keeping your fingers crossed that the stone stops in the right place). I’ll add that most guards are placed in concert with one that’s already guarding one of the two rotations. Your guard is designed to block the other. The “curl too much” then leaves two guards protecting one path/rotation to the target stone and NONE on the other. You don’t so much guard the stone as you guard the path to the stone!
Maximize guard placement. So often we get tunnel vision and only care about placing the guard on the right blocking line when by positioning it more carefully, it could also choke off a potential opposition raise. Always maximize the value of the shots you play.