I had several club curlers contact me regarding my recent post entitled, “It’s How You Finish” (02/12/13). Many wanted to know if I had more advice re. strategy & tactics about which curlers in their competitive environment might not be aware. This is another one of those.
You have last stone advantage and through an early-in-the-end missed shot by your opponent, you find yourself with a stone, at the side of the sheet (let’s say nicely biting the inside of the 12′). So many club skips want to “split the house” and place another stone on the opposite side setting up a potential score of “two”. It “sounds” like a good idea but it isn’t for a few reasons but for the sake of this post we’ll assume that’s what you do.
Now that you have stones on opposite sides of the house, you’ve managed to get play to the sides of the sheet when you have last rock advantage. That’s good! The “not so good” part is that to score your two, your team has to shoot 100% the rest of the way and two is the “best” you’re going to get. What you’re counting on is an exchange of hits on either of your stones. If that occurs, yes, you’ve got your two but let’s go back to the previous sentence to that 100% part. When was the last time your club team shot 100% in an end? I thought so. The reason I say that your team must shoot 100% (and by the way, your opponent only has to shoot 50% [to make matters even worse]) is because obviously your opponent is hoping to make takeouts successfully with you missing or hitting and rolling out of the house or failing to replace the stone they hit and rolled out on and good-bye your score of “2”.*
So, here’s an alternate plan. When you find yourself with last stone advantage and one stone in the house with the opportunity to place a second stone, don’t draw the other side, guard the shot you already have in place. It should be an easy shot because the shot you placed in the house that was missed by your opponent will tell you the brush placement and the weight of the shot (a little less). Your chances of making the shot are high. Drawing to the other side might, to some degree, be uncharted territory with less chance of success. With the guard in place, you’re now posing a challenge to the opposing skip. Part of your shot stone might be visible (hopefully on the outside) and might entice the other team to try to remove it. Even if they did, they most certainly will roll out as well. Now you can draw around your corner guard and bury the shot even better (hopefully in front of the tee line). Quite likely your opponent will remove the guard, if so replace it and keep doing that as long as required. Don’t be impatient! You may be able to put a second stone around your guard if the opposition misses everything. If that happens, now you’re playing for a potential “3”. If you did get two stones behind the corner guard, then you can then draw to the open side if you wish.
If the opposing skip tries to freeze to your stone behind your corner guard, yes, they might make it but again, you’ve got play to the outside of the sheet thus opening up the scoring area and in the process, keeping the center open for an end saving shot to the 4′!
Guarding your shot creates more options for you and fewer for your opponent! Try it. I believe you’ll like it and send me email to tell me about it, seriously, send email!
* When to choose to deliver a takeout, with last stone advantage, choose a weight (board or hack) that improves the chance that you’ll make the takeout and stick around in the house. When you’re on offense, play shots in an offensive manner! Full hit weight with a vapor trail is not playing in an offensive manner!