Thoughts on The Masters

Well, we’re now late in October and that means that curling is back! The first Grand Slam event — or, at least, the first one that was actually on TV and so I could watch it — was the Masters this weekend, and I managed to watch a bit of it.

The women’s event was won in a pretty entertaining match between Tracy Fleury — who last season took over Kerri Einarson’s old team when she assembled an all-skip team — and a newcomer in Sayaka Yoshimura who had won a Tier 2 contest last year to get into the Tier 1 Grand Slam and managed to topple big name teams on her way to this, her first final. Tracy Fleury, on a number of teams, had made a final a few times before but had never managed to win it. Early on, Yoshimura’s team seemed to struggled, especially at the third and skip positions, but Fleury only managed to keep ahead by 3 by the seventh and Yoshimura took two to make it close. Needing one point to tie and two to win, they left Fleury a hit and stick for the win … but Fleury’s rock overcurled but managed to clunk up against Yoshimura’s second rock to get the win, which was a bit of a lucky bounce for them.

I also did manage to watch a little bit of the men’s games — there was nothing else on — and noted a number of oversweeping instances. But from the commentary, this wasn’t just the normal oversweeping where the shot or ice is misjudged and so they sweep too long. Instead, it seemed to be really, really strong sweepers just sweeping so very, very hard that a shot that looks like it really needed to be swept is, indeed, just swept way too hard and either overcurled or kept way too straight (in modern curling they actually do try to sweep to curl it as well as to keep it straight). If they manage to figure this out, then that might give me another reason to not watch men’s curling, as sweeping having so huge an impact will just mean more and more very precise shots, which will limit strategy. I don’t like matches being won simply by which team made the least mistakes — see mixed doubles curling for that — but I do want to see some of the randomness so that teams can’t simply be certain that their shot will work every time and will have to adjust to shots of theirs or of their opponents that didn’t quite do what they thought they would.

And it might be due to my thinking about chess again, but this time the curling really did remind me of chess. You had rocks setting themselves up in set positions and attempts to take out or position rocks to threaten things, thus leading to a chess-like move-countermove sort of strategy. Of course, it’s never the case in chess that if you try to move a piece it might stop short of its target or run right off the board, so that’s something that curling does differently.

Anyway, the next curling is the Tour Challenge in a couple of weeks.

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