Curling is a complex sport based around a very simple idea. Slide a stone down a sheet of ice and have it stop as near as possible to the centre of a set of concentric rings (the house). The challenge, however, is to prevent your opposition from sliding their stones closer to the centre of the house than yours. Both teams, usually comprising four players, will do everything they can, tactically, to stop each other from achieving this goal. So the game contains elements of great skill, strategy, finesse, exertion and endeavour; the perception that curling is a slow-paced game is just that – a perception.
If you prefer watching a video explanation, see the BBC’s quick guide to the sport with Scotland’s Eve Muirhead or their new in-depth guide to Curling produced for 2014.
Fairness is an important part of the game and you should not be surprised if your opponent points out to you that they have broken the rules, just to make sure that no advantage is given.
The physical element of sliding a stone is less demanding than might be imagined, and is refined and lessened by a good technical, no swing, delivery. This allows all curlers, young and old, male and female, able-bodied and disabled to compete on an equal footing. However, at national and international competition levels, the physical exertion of sweeping requires excellent fitness from at least half of the team, and mental toughness, teamwork and strategy are always important.
Each team has eight stones. The purpose is to accumulate the highest score for a game, points being scored for the stones resting closest to the centre of the house at the conclusion of each end, which is completed when both teams have thrown all of their stones. A game may consist of ten or eight ends. The maximum score in each end is 8, requiring all of one team’s stones to out-count the others – such eight-enders are extremely rare.
The curler can induce a curved path by causing the stone to slowly turn as
it slides, and the path of the rock may be further influenced by two sweepers with brooms who accompany it as it slides down the sheet, using the brooms to alter the state of the ice in front of the stone. A great deal of strategy and teamwork goes into choosing the ideal path and placement for each situation, and the skills of the curlers determine how close to the desired result the stone will achieve. This gives the game its nickname of “Chess On Ice”.
The game itself is more than 500 years old and its true origin is hidden in the mists of time, but it was in Scotland the game evolved over the centuries and also where the mother club of curling, The Royal Caledonian Curling Club, was formed in 1838. The game has of course evolved through the years, and the latest major change on how the game is played was introduced in 1990.
Curling started at the ice arena at Deeside, Flintshire in 1973 and has continued since. The Welsh Curling Association (WCA) was founded with support and help from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club (RCCC) and later the World Curling Federation (WCF).
Every year since then, a weekly (now Monday night) curling league has existed at Deeside Leisure Centre Ice Rink, organised by the First Province of Wales (FPoW). The FPoW comprises 6 autonomous clubs, including one from Mid Wales, and a Wheelchair curlers club. Each club runs between one and four teams which compete against each other in various league and knockout competitions.
Curlers from Wales have travelled north to Scotland to play in many competitions and to represent their country, and members of the WCA now play in weekend competitions throughout Europe. There are also games arranged against the English Clubs of Preston (who curl in Lockerbie) and sometimes Wigan and Bradford (whose members tend to be English players living in Scotland).
The Welsh Curling Association sends international teams to play in the European and World Championships, World Senior and World Junior Championships.
Video: Curling at Deeside by Weekend Wireless