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Curling is a precision sport similar to bowling or bocce, but played on ice with polished heavy stones rather than plastic balls. The game is generally believed to have been invented in 16th century Scotland, although two paintings (both dated 1565 ) by Pieter Brueghel the Elder depict Dutch peasants curling. Outdoor curling was very popular in Scotland between the 16th and the 19th centuries when the climate was cold enough to ensure good ice conditions every winter, and as a result the international governing body for curling, the World Curling Federation, is based in Perth, Scotland.
The game is most firmly established in Canada. The Royal Montreal Curling Club, the first sporting club of any kind in North America, was established in 1807. The first curling club in the United States began in 1832, and the game was introduced to Switzerland and Sweden before the end of the nineteenth century. Today, curling is played all over Europe and has spread to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and even China and Korea.
Curling has been an official sport in the Winter Olympics since the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. In February 2006 the IOC included the winning curling teams in the 1924 Winter Olympic Games, originally called Semaine des Sports d'Hiver ("International Winter Sports Week"), as medal winners in an official Olympic tournament. Previous opinion was that all sports then were demonstration events. Curling was on that occasion played outdoors.
The origins of the word curling are not known. It was first used in print in 1630 in Perth, Scotland. Also known as "the roaring game" (because of the sound the stones make while travelling over the pebble), curling probably does not take its name from the motion of the stones. In the early history of curling, the rocks were simply flat-bottomed river stones which were sometimes notched or shaped; the thrower had little control over the rock, and relied more on luck than skill to win. One possible derivation is that it came from the old verb curr which describes a low rumble. Nevertheless, today a rock which deviates from a straight line is said to curl. Some say that the word "curling" comes from the ancient Scottish word "curlak," which means "to sweep in a strong and vigorous manner." This is generally considered apocryphal.
A competitive game usually consists of ten ends. Recreational games are more commonly only eight or even six ends. An end consists of each player from both teams throwing two rocks with the players on each side alternating shots, for a total of sixteen rocks. If the teams are tied at the completion of ten ends an extra end is played to break the tie. If the match is still tied after the extra end, play continues for as many ends as may be required to break the tie. The winner is the team with the highest score after all ends have been completed (see Scoring below).
In international competition each side is given 73 minutes to complete all of their throws. Each team is also allowed two 60 second timeouts per ten end game. If extra ends are required each team is allowed 10 minutes of playing time to complete their throws during the extra end. One added 60 second timeout is allowed in each extra end.
When throwing the rock, it must be released before the near hogline is reached (players usually slide while releasing their shots) and must cross the far hogline; otherwise the rock is removed from play.
While the first three players throw their rocks, the skip remains at the far end of the ice to guide the players. While the skip is throwing, the third takes this role. Thus, each time a rock is thrown, there is one player throwing the rock, and another player at the far end.
The two remaining players, equipped with brooms, follow the rock and assist in guiding its trajectory by sweeping the ice before the rock. Sweeping causes the rock to decrease its curl but travel a greater distance. The sweeping players combine directions from the skip, or the thrower, with their own instincts for the weight of the rock, as well as extremely precise timing, to guide the rock into the appropriate position. Often when giving instructions, the thrower or skip will yell "HARD." They are referring to the amount of pressure the sweepers should use to sweep the ice. Teams confer between throws to determine where they will attempt to place the next rock.
Types of shots
Essentially, there are two kinds of shots in curling, the draw and the takeout. There are many variations of these shots, however. Draws are shots in which the stone is thrown only to reach the house, while takeouts are shots designed to remove stones from play. Choosing which shot to play will determine whether the thrower will use an in-turn or out turn, for a right-handed person, the clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation of the stone, respectively. Possible draw shots include guard, raise, come around, and freeze. Takeout shots include peel, hit and roll, chip and hack. For a more complete listing look at the Glossary of curling terms.
Free guard zone
Until four rocks have been played (two from each side), rocks in the free guard zone (those rocks left in the area between the hog and tee lines, excluding the house) may not be removed by an opponent's stone. These are known as guard rocks. If the guard rocks are removed, they are replaced and the opponent's rock is removed from play. This rule is known as the four-rock rule or the free-zone rule; some people and leagues play with a three-rock rule, where the rule is in place until three rocks are played.
This rule, a relatively recent addition to curling, was added in response to a strategy of "peeling" opponents' guard stones (knocking them out of play at an angle that caused the shooter's stone to also roll out of play, leaving no stones on the ice). Skilled teams leading a game would employ this strategy to prevent their opponents from "stealing" an end (scoring without having the last rock, or hammer) by placing guard stones and later trying to draw around them and using them for protection. The team with the hammer could peel rock after rock, which would blank the end, keeping the last rock advantage for another end. While a sound strategy, this made for an unexciting game.
The last rock in an end is called the hammer. Before the game, teams typically decide who gets the hammer in the first end by coin toss or similar method. (In tournaments, this is typically assigned, giving every team the first-end hammer in half their games.) In all subsequent ends, the hammer belongs to the team that did not score in the preceding end. In the event that neither team scores, the hammer remains with the same team. Naturally, it is easier to score points with the hammer than without; in tournament play, the team with the hammer generally tries to score two or more points. If only one point is possible, the skip will often try to avoid scoring at all in order to retain the hammer until the next end, when two or more points may be possible. This is called a blank end. Scoring without the hammer is commonly referred to as stealing, or a steal, and is much more difficult.
After both teams have delivered eight rocks, the team with the rock closest to the button is awarded one point for each of its own rocks that is closer than the opponent's closest rock. Rocks that are not in the house (further from the center than the outer edge of the 12-foot ring) do not score even if no opponent's rock is closer. A rock is considered in the house if any portion of its edge is over any portion of the 12-foot ring. Since the bottom of the rock is rounded, a rock just barely in the house will not have any actual contact with the ring, which will pass under the rounded edge of the stone, but it still counts.
The score is usually marked on a scoreboard of some sort. There are two different types of scoreboards used for curling. One is the baseball type scoreboard, which is usually used for televised games. On this scoreboard the ends are marked by columns 1 through 10 (or 11 for the possibility of an extra end to break ties) plus an additional column for the total. Below this are two rows — one for each team. The number of points each team gets in an end is marked this way.
The other form of scoreboard is the one used in most curling clubs (see photo). It is set up in the same way, except the numbered row indicated points not ends, and it can be found between the rows for the team. The numbers placed are indicative of the end. If the red team scores 3 points in the first end (called a three-ender), then a one (indicating the first end) is placed beside the number three in the red row. If they score two more in the second end, then a two will be placed beside the five in the red row indicating that the red team has five points in total (3+2). This scoreboard works because only one team can get points in an end. However, some confusion can exist if no team gets points in an end. This is called a blank end and the end number usually goes in the furthest column on the right in the row of the team who has the hammer (last rock advantage).
When a team feels it is impossible or near impossible to win a game, they will shake hands with the opposing team to indicate surrender. This may occur at any point during the game, but usually happens near the end. When a game is ended by normal means, both teams will shake hands as well. This is often accompanied by saying "Good game!" Hands are also shaken before the game, accompanied by saying "Good curling!" to the opposing team.
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