There’s a game-ending scenario that’s relatively common. I don’t often weigh into actual strategies and tactics in this forum but I feel this one is worth airing and once again, I welcome your comments.
Here’s the situation. The game is tied or your team is down by one, it’s the last end of the game, you don’t have last stone advantage (been there many times as I suspect have you) therefore a steal is on the order paper. You have placed centre line guards but the opposition has been successful in removing them but one, two or perhaps three stones, which didnt roll out, lie in corner guard positions. It’s down to skips’ rocks. You must decide where to play your first shot.
The knee jerk reaction is to place another, seventh, centre line guard in hope that the opposition will not be successful and either miss the peel or hit your centre line guard, close enough to the nose to provide enough cover to allow you to execute a come around to the 4’/button area (in front of the tee line). When you think about this for a moment, the opposition has just executed 6 peels. Do you really feel the odds are in your favour that they’ll miss a seventh? I don’t think so! But let’s play this out.
You place your first skip’s rock on the centre line and yes, the opposing skip peels it off (perhaps leaving a fourth corner guard). Where would you try to place your last shot of the game that you hope will propel you to a win or an extra end if the game is tied? Of course, you would choose one of those corner guards and draw around it as close as possible to the button. Likely you’re somewhere in the 8′ so to win the game the opposing skip need only draw the full 8′, not a formality on the difficulty scale, but also not too difficult.
OK, let’s rewind to your first shot with those corner guards in position. This time go around the most favourable corner guard. What does the opposing skip do? Well, for sure he/she will make a play on it keeping in mind that “inside” is the execution tolerance ensuring the guard is removed. Let’s go on to assume that’s exactly what happens and the guard is removed exposing your shot stone in the 8′. Now, where to place your last shot? You place it in the house on the center line so that if it’s struck on the nose it won’t be shot and as close as possible to the button. Clearly there’s very little if any execution tolerance on this shot.
You have given the opposing skip a more difficult, a much more difficult shot than that he/she would have faced had you placed a centre line guard on your first shot. He/she has two choices, hit your stone in the 8′ (assuming the shooter would be shot of course) or draw to the 4′. On option #1 there’s little if any roll tolerance. On option #2, your last shot is protecting the 4′ to some extent which will be in the opposing skip’s mind making the draw more challenging.
To be sure, if the opposing team has made 6 successful peels (including two “tick shots”) they have executed well. Clearly you’re not in great shape but that doesn’t mean you should wave the white flag either. Drawing around a corner guard before your last shot will at least keep you in the conversation.
Some teams will have their third/mate play around the corner guard on his/her last shot rather than waiting for the skip’s first shot.
In this past weekend’s AB men’s playdown, Kevin Koe needed to steal in the last end versus the “other Kevin”. Team Martin’s lead (Ben Hebert) was successful in “ticking” the Team Koe’s center line guards leaving corner guards, Koe wasted no time and had his second (Carter Rycroft) go around that corner guard. The teams then traded peel-for-guard-replacement right up to Koe’s last shot. In othe words, the situation described above was in place. Koe meant to place his last stone on the centre line top four foot to increase Martin’s degree of difficulty but his stone slid into the four foot, which allowed Martin to “break the egg on it” and punch his ticket for an all expense paid tip across town to Rexall Place in the first week of March.
The next time you’re in that last end steal situation with no centre line guards, don’t wait until your last shot to go around a corner guard. Go around earlier in the end!