Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Almost perfection

The showdown between the two former Scottish Junior Champions, Alan MacDougall (1991) representing England and Robin Gray (1982) representing Ireland, got off to a great start when both skips covered the button with their Last Stone Draw meaning that the umpire had to get out the old faithful coin to decide who would get the hammer. Ireland called wrongly but then drew first blood when Alan was heavy with a draw against two at the second end after a blanked first end.

For those who may not appreciate the concept of the Last Stone Draw, a quick summary. Before the start of every game each team has 9 minutes practice and at the end of that time they are required to draw one stone to the house. The team with the nearer stone has the hammer at the first end. Obviously a stone covering the hole cannot be measured and scores a 0.0 distance while a stone that does not end up in the house is given a distance of 185.4cm.

The idea was introduced to bring another skill level to curling rather than depending upon the luck of a toss or simply allocating the hammer evenly between the teams. For the majority of teams the pre-game practice becomes focussed for at least the last three minutes on throwing practice draws to the button.

After all the round robin games the worst score is discarded and the others are averaged, with the resultant Draw Shot Challenge (DSC) distance being used to determine ranking where this is needed for deciding who plays who in tiebreakers or the final overall ranking of teams where there is more than one group.

Alan MacDougall’s average over seven games this week, with one discard, has been 5.23cm (2 inches in old money)! His sequence was 9.0, 5.5, 0.0, 8.7, 8.2, 64.8 (discarded) and 0.0! So my question is – if teams become so good at this that a coin toss starts to be needed more often will we need to find some other procedure to decide the hammer? Those are quite amazing numbers from Alan but he is not alone in getting the draw spot on – for the last four games of the Round Robin Stuart Hills of Wales covered the button three times and the fourth distance was 6.5cm! Of the 8 teams playing the last session in the Blue Group 3 covered the button, while the others were 2.3, 2.8, 32.3, 81.1 and one with the maximum of 185.4 (must try harder).

Of course having done all that hard work just to get the hammer one then needs to make sure that one uses it! And after failing to draw against two in the second end, further mistakes from England left them 1-7 down at the halfway stage. A further loss of one at the sixth end and it was early handshakes.

Ireland go to the 1/1 Page play-off game, probably against Hungary, while it looks as though England will face Russia in the 2/2 play-off game – these games will take place Thursday afternoon/evening.

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