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Event guide: Curling

Eve Muirhead

Winter Olympics guide - Curling rules and tactics

Curling is often described as chess on ice.

But instead of rooks or pawns, custom-made stones and mini brooms are a curler's weapons of choice.

The result is enough tactical intrigue to keep all Kasparov wannabes fascinated.

Curling actually originated in 16th-century Scotland, but it took the gold medal heroics of Rhona Martin and her team in Salt Lake City in 2002 to bring the sport to a wider audience in the UK.



The game takes place on an area 44.5m long called the sheet, which is marked up to allow play in both directions.

The aim is to end the game with your stone, or stones, closest to the centre (or tee) of a target zone called the house.

Pushing off from a rubber foothold called the hack, the shooter slides forward holding the stone.

The stone must be released before the shooter crosses a point called the hog line.

After the delivery, the two sweepers stay ahead of the stone and brush frantically to make the ice surface slicker. By stopping the sweeping at a certain time, the stone can be slowed to finish up at a precise point.

The sweepers can only sweep in the area between two lines called tee lines.

The captain, or 'skip', sorts out the tactics, and is the last to throw in a round or an 'end'.

The three main types of shot are:

Draw - This is when the skip asks the team to deliver the stone into the house

Raise - When the curlers attempt to bump another stone into the house

Hit - Trying to knock an opponent's stone out of the way

The first two players in each team may not displace opponents' stones if they are in an area called the guard zone.

The game finishes when all four players on each team have thrown their two stones.

The team with the stone closest to the tee wins, with a point awarded for each stone closer to the tee than the opponent's closest stone.

After 10 ends, the team with the highest score wins.

The Olympic competition uses a round robin format, with all 10 teams playing against each other once.

The top four qualify for the semi-finals, with the first-placed team from the round robin playing the fourth-placed one, and second taking on third.

The two semi-final winners advance to the gold medal match, while the two losers play off for bronze.


GB women's curling skipper Eve Muirhead

Winter Olympics guide - Curling equipment

The stones, also called rocks, are made from a dense granite that is quarried in Ailsa Craig in Scotland and then cut and polished. Each one weighs 19.1kg (42lb) and has a handle.

The brooms have bristles made of horse hair, hog's hair or synthetic material.

Martin's team had to fend off allegations of cheating after it was revealed they were using a £22,000 "magic broom" developed by scientists at Edinburgh University.

The "sweep ergometer" is a training device used to measure the pressure on the brush and the speed of the sweeper in a bid to improve efficiency.

"It has been blown out of all proportion," said Martin. "In competition we're using exactly the same brushes as other countries."

Curling shoes are made of leather. One shoe has a slippery Teflon or steel sole that allows the athlete to slide during the throw.

The other shoe has a rubber sole for traction.


Try the British Curling website for information on the sport and its organisation.

For more information on the skills, rules and where to play, then check out these websites and contact numbers.

Phone: 0131 333 3003

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