Thursday, December 29, 2005

British Olympic Teams

From the British Curling Association Website:

The following athletes have been nominated to represent Great Britain at the Winter Olympic Games to be held in Torino, February 2006.
Women's rink : Lyn Cameron, Debbie Knox, Jackie Lockhart, Rhona Martin, Kelly Wood.
Men's rink : Euan Byers, Ewan MacDonald, David Murdoch, Warwick Smith, Craig Wilson.

As it turns out these are exactly the teams that were sent to the European Championships earlier this month in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Both teams did reasonably well; the men's team won a bronze, and the women's team was eliminated in a tie-breaker. They have a couple of months to make themselves a real team. Should be interesting to watch!

I am particularly pleased to see that Rhona Martin and Debbie Knox were able to return to the Olympics.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What is wrong with all these sub-optimal teams! Let's fix it with some experts!

Our friend 'The Amateur' has posted on the Olympic Trials for Curling as well as the general subject of Olympic Team Selection. It is a valuable and interesting contribution to our ongoing debate. You can read his post as linked above, but as he imputes some notions to me, I am putting some effort into responding.
He describes the issue as follows:
The British approach for 2006 is to have a "bunch of administrators," as Alan puts it, assemble the "best" foursome from the members of the best rinks in the UK (read Scotland in this case).
I am not sure what the scare quotes are for. It IS a bunch of administrators making the decision in the UK, not any of the players who will be on the ice. The administrators are clearly picking the team they will pick because they think it is the best one to pick - else why have adminstrators around to pick that best rink? My concerns about his framing of the discussion are key to my views on this.

He then, rather oddly distancing himself from his own position, says:
Without defending the specific process being used in Scotland, I have argued that creating an all-star foursome might be, in some circumstances at least, the best way to optimize the performance of your team.
OK let me agree that if we were assembling the Jamaican curling team I would feel we should look around to try to find four reasonable shotmakers in the country. But let us recall this is the UK which won the gold medal in the last Olympics, with a rink I do not believe was assembled by those who know better, but rather by the players.

He goes through a number of points about how rules allowing composition of a team to change can get into a battle with our understanding of what the team is, points all handled earlier in this post (and btw if you go look you will see Amateur scooped us all back in May - that long ago Gushue had named Howard as his alternate).

Imputing some more views to me he then writes:
Now this is clearly an example of the type of "free market" solution that Alan advocates; Gushue recognized that his team needed to be stronger, looked around for a top-quality curler who was not otherwise committed and would be a good fit with his team, and brought him on as his fifth. After experimenting with different arrangements, he optimized his team's performance by bringing Howard to the trials as second, and now they're all off to the Olympics.
Well I think it is good that Gushue could reconstitute his team to a degree. But hey, I would not have minded rules saying he had to play the team he qualified with. So I am not sure about this free market stuff, especially again with those arch scare quotes. I would object to rules whereby some appointees of Sport Canada tell Gushue he has to replace his second with Russ Howard.

And then what seems to me an odd point:
Of course, I would have to counter that Gushue's rink might have been even better had he switched out even more of his players, and if he had been able to select players from other qualified teams instead of just picking up "leftovers" like Howard!
Hmm - I actually think that Gushue's rink might have dominated even more without Howard! This is a science experiment we don't get to do; but it is clear there were moments during the week where they suffered a bit from not being a fully baked team. These speculations are speculations. The team Brad Gushue brought to the rink won.

Further speculating about what might have happened had there been a free-for-all with rules allowing teams to get anyone they wanted, he goes on:
I guess Alan might argue that competitive pressure would be enough to lead to the formation of an "optimal" Canadian team. I think that the players have many sentimental and irrational reasons not to be performance-optimizing selectors; I think that outside experts (national team coaches, for example) are more likely to be unbiased evaluators.
Hmm well no. There are industrial organization issues here. One might argue (don't worry about facts here) that GM's financing organization, Mercedes' engineering, Ford's quality assurance, and Toyota's manufacturing are the best in class, so why are we wasting our time allowing all these sub-optimal organizations to continue to confuse us - let us get a team together to unite these best performers. My guess at the result? You don't even have to ask.

The mere notion that The Amateur describes of the 'optimal team' flies totally in the face of how I think the world should work. His blatantly managerialist view is that there are experts who can sort out how things should be done - if only they were in charge we would have the best solutions. We would have the 'optimal' team. I will bet that in some context he is one of the experts.

No current car manufacturer is optimal in his sense. But I am very certain that any expert attempt to concoct one optimal solution will collapse in the face of all that cannot be evaluated by the experts - emotions, history, human relations, and so much more. I am much happier knowing there are several companies out there fighting as I think it gives us (those who buy cars) a better solution than any directed one would. It is not 'optimal' in the sense of the experts, but is almost certainly, to my mind, better than what the experts would produce in real life. And in my day job it is no different - I am on a crack team that is one of a handful doing what it does and competing with the others; I know full well that the process of us constantly trying to top one another is producing much better products and giving our customers something no expert-assembled team would even feel motivated to produce.

What we are now sending to the Olympics is a team that showed that on the day (well, the week) it could prevail against the best the rest of the country could throw at it.

Let us also not forget that the margin that separated Gushue and Stoughton was minimal (really!!). Sports, like business success, can be pretty arbitrary in outcome. Only a managerialist thinks there is a best solution that can be nicely determined by experts.

And there is no reason to assume the UK team will not win the Gold again this year, despite their selection process. :-)

Memo to the CCA:
Give the Entire TV Contract to TSN

Judging from what I saw during the Canadian Olympic Trials last week, TSN does a better job televising curling than does the CBC. By a long shot (or a long guard, if you wish).

First, the blathering of Brian Williams and Scott Russell is not matched by idiocy from TSN, no matter how idiotic TSN announcers/producers try to get in their shticks before and at the break of each draw.

Second, the CBC has far too much interest in people's faces. By this I mean the directors keep the camera on people's faces too long and do not show us the rocks long enough or often enough [btw, Ms. Eclectic has the same complaint about their coverage of figure skating: there, the CBC focuses on faces instead of feet.].

There can be a great or crucial shot coming down the ice, and we won't know it -- the CBC has chosen to continue showing the shooter's face and nothing else. If they want to focus on faces, the least they could do is show us a split screen and let us see the shot as well.

Third, the CBC seems to think it is okay to tell us things rather than let us see them. More and longer shots of the rocks, the rings, etc. would be very helpful.

At the same time, as I noted earlier, Mike Harris and Joan McClusker added a perspective and tone in their analytical commentary that was a valuable contribution to the week-long trials. I appreciated their comments very much, even though Harris sounds a bit dry and McClusker got a bit wordy at times. Overall I enjoyed them.

At TSN, the introductions were almost as bad as the CBC introductions to each show. The difference was that TSN focused more on the community and less on horribly over-done cliches. Also, some of the TSN introductory material was terribly hokey. Maybe they were trying to be funny, but it didn't work.

Linda Moore is very informative in her commentary. Sometimes Vic and Ray (and Linda to a lesser extent) go off on tangents that are too personal and too far afield for most viewers to care.

I would love to see TSN handle all the curling broadcasting, but with the addition of rotating teams of announcers now and then. The different analytical perspectives from the different announcers was fascinating, and that difference would be the only reason to let the CBC keep televising curling. But we would get better coverage if the CCA would give all the coverage to TSN and have them hire some different announcers for some of the draws.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Women's Finals;
Some Reflections

I'm stuck in the office today (Sunday!) and can keep track of the Men's finals only via the CCA scoring updates, (go here and click on the draw at the very bottom to get the updates) which are quick and informative. Also, Ms. Eclectic has phoned me with an update once. I wish I were able to see the draw...

At the conclusion of the Women's finals, yesterday, I wrote:
All things considered, I thought Scott's team out-curled and was better than Kleibrink's team by some margin, but the score didn't show it. It'll be interesting to see what the curling stats show.
I know I have trashed the CCA in the past, but I am grateful for their having provided not only scoring updates of today's men's final draw, but also the curling stats from the women's finals yesterday.

Scott - B.C. #SH PTS PCT Kleibrink - ALTA #SH PTS PCT 1
Renee Simons 20 63 79 1 Christine Keshen 20 69 86 2
Sasha Carter 20 62 78 2 Glenys Bakker 20 56 70 3
Jeanna Schraeder 20 63 79 3 Amy Nixon 20 57 71 4
Kelly Scott 20 67 84 4 Shannon Kleibrink 20 67 84
Team Totals 80 255 80 Team Totals 80 249 78

I doubt the table above is lined up properly, so check the original link. As you can see there, indeed, the Scott rink did marginally outcurl the Kleibrink rink, but the margin was slim, as was indicated by the score.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Live-Blogging the 2nd Half of the
Women's Finals of the Canadian Curling Olympic Finals

I have to confess that I'm enjoying the Harris/McClusker commentary. But the Brian Williams and Scott Russell cliches, especially the latter, are worse than annoying. And I am especially offended by Russell's asking questions which contain stupidly obvious answers within them:

How important is this game for you?

Gee, Scott, I think I'd rather go for a beer than be here playing this game....
What a waste of air time. I've done some sportscasting in my day, but I sure hope my sportscasting wasn't as cliche-ridden as that nonsense.

End #6: Harris and McClusker assert (and Scott confirms) that Scott will have to start putting up more guards. But Keshen's first stone slips into the rings, setting up what looked to become another end of hit-and-stick. But both skips set up guards with second's stones, Scott on the corner, Kleibrink on the centre-line. Nixon's first shot was too deep, Schraeder drew behind the guard to the top 4'. Nixon's second rock tapped the shot rock out from behind cover, but it was still shot rock. With her first stone, Scott tried to draw, but ended up freezing, a good outcome. Kleibrink said, "We got to hit and roll," which she did, leaving the rock exposed at the back of the button. Scott tried a hit and roll, but was outside; her shooter rolled to the 8' and the Kleibrink stone jammed on a red, leaving Kleibrink with draw to her own as backing to score 2.

Kleibrink 5, Scott 3

End #7: Bakker, Kleibrink's second missed two peels, as did Nixon with her first stone. Scott was set up to score a couple, but Nixon made a decent hit-and-roll. With skips' stones to come, Scott had two in the rings, Kleibrink had one. Kleibrink tried to hit and roll over to freeze against her own rock, but rolled open onto the button. Scott hit that stone and rolled, but not behind cover. She was behind the t-line setting up either a freeze or double. Kleibrink went for the double, which Harris thought was the more difficult shot; she got only one. Scott had a hit for two.
Scott 5, Kleibrink 5

End #8: Scott started with a guard, Kleibrink came around, and the result was a bunch of rocks in the rings. Nice double by Bakker, and Carter (Scott's 2nd) hit and rolled into the open; but then Bakker hit and stuck, setting up a double for Schraeder (Scott's 3rd), who instead hit and rolled to the button, frozen against a yellow stone. Beautiful shot. Followed by a neato smash by Nixon, removing a bunch of stones. And then a great draw by Scott was followed by a missed shot by Kleibrink who hit and stuck on a guard, not removing either the guards or the two reds in the rings. Scott put up a tight guard, and so Kleibrink had to hit one and give up a steal of one.
Scott 6, Kleibrink 5

End #9: Terrific hit and roll by Carter gave Scott the advantage, followed by a tiny rub by Bakker on that rock. Scott had a guard on the centre line plus 3 of the four lined up behind that tight guard. Kleibrink calls for a smash and grab, but Bakker hit it off the nose for just a straight peel.
GEEZ!! The CBC directors love to focus on faces and show graphics while the game is on. Show us the rocks!!
Nixon mixed up the rocks a bit. And with her second stone almost tripled. But Scott was still in good position, removing the only Kleibrink stone in the rings and not leaving an easy double. Kleibrink, facing three went for a raise double, but got only one. With her last rock, Scott put up a guard. Kleibrink tried to draw against two, and just missed, giving up a steal of one.
Scott 7, Kleibrink 5

End #10: An early "miss" by Keshen (lead for Scott) left her rock as a guard instead of in the rings, which set up the Kleibrink rink to score two. Advantage Kleibrink after the leads' stones.
Carter rubbed and froze, but that set up a hit and roll by Bakker (plan C on that shot, but truly horrible). Kleibrink had Nixon try a hit-and-roll, but Harris and McClusker disapproved of the choice. She rolled to the back corner of the 12', which was better than other possibilities. Schraeder hit and rolled out. Nixon's draw was tight to the guard and had to be swept, but that dragged it too deep, allowing Scott an opportunity to freeze. She rubbed on shot stone, setting up a pick for Kleibrink, leaving her sitting three and putting Scott in deep doo-doo.
For having started out defensive and boring, this match has turned out to be really exciting. Scott led by two, coming into the 10th, and suddenly Kleibrink looked set to score three. On her last rock, Scott drew to the button against three. Kleibrink had an open nose hit to win and did! Man-oh-man-oh-man! What a finish!
Kleibrink 9, Scott 7
I think she scored four, but, of course, CBC didn't show the rings and didn't tell us. I sure wish TSN had the whole bundle. Harris and McClusker are good and informative, but the directors at CBC are truly horrible. I see CBC shows the score as 8 to 7, but I think they're mistaken.
All things considered, I thought Scott's team out-curled and was better than Kleibrink's team by some margin, but the score didn't show it. It'll be interesting to see what the curling stats show.

Women's Finals of the Canadian Curling Olympic Finals

End #1: The end began very defensively, as Kleibrink went right into the rings and Scott removed the rocks. In attempts to come around the guards, Nixon (Kleibrink's 3rd) was just a tad light with two, but the stones still blocked the button and most of the 4' ring. Scott had a draw to the corner of the 4' to score two, but was about a foot heavy.
Scott 1, Kleibrink 0

End #2: Hog-line violation for Keshen, who apparently brushed the handle of the rock after it crossed the hog line. Even if the technology isn't perfect, I still like it -- it's generally better than hog-line judges would be.
Again, very defensive play until 3rd's stones. Nixon tried to draw around the guard; Shraeder (Scott's 3rd) hit and rolled over to the 12'. Nixon tried to draw again, but was a bit light and stayed open for Scott to make a nose hit, leaving shooter biting the top of the 12', to lie two after her first rock. Kleibrink went after shot rock on the side of the 12', but lost her shooter. Scott tried to take advantage of her position with a tap back to the 8'; Kleibrink had a draw to the full 8' to score 1.
Scott 1, Kleibrink 1

End #3: I'm eager to hear more about why teams start with a rock in the rings these days. And why the opposition counters with a hit and stick. Both these teams are playing similarly defensive games. Harris and McClusker (commentators) described the strategy as an attempt to control nerves and get into the game, but I think there must be more to it than that. Hit-and-stick; hit-and-stick.... Kleibrink should have frozen to Scott's first rock at the back of the button, but hit and stuck instead. Scott failed in her attempt to hit and roll out, scoring only 1. yawn.
Scott 2, Kleibrink 1

End #4: The fans seem to share my view that hit-and-stick is boring, but the teams continued the strategy until Nixon played a nice freeze. The crowd cheered for both the shot and the strategy. Schraeder removed the backing and her other own red stone, leaving one yellow on the side. Nixon tried to split the rings, but was about a foot light, and Scott made a nose hit. Kleibrink hit and stuck on the top edge of the 12'; Scott tried a hit-and-roll but was exposed, leaving Kleibrink with a hit-and-stick for 2. It was all set up by the Nixon freeze.
Kleibrink 3, Scott 2

End #5: After the leads played hit-and-stick in the rings (ending in two Kleibrink rocks in the rings), Scott threw up a guard [Harris and McClusker wonder why she waited so long to do this]. Nixon peeled the first one but missed the second. Schraeder drew around the missed guard, but drifted six inches behind the t-line. With her first rock, Kleibrink tapped it slightly, sitting 1, 3, and 4. Scott then almost froze to the shot rock, but left an inch or two, so Kleibrink nose hit that rock, squeezing it out one side and driving the other red stone out the other side to sit four. Scott had a draw for one. Right on the button. Good curling, and it is becoming more interesting and exciting.
Scott 3, Kleibrink 3

End #6:

Women's Finals on CBC

The weekend draws of the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials are being shown on CBC. I must say, aside from the team of Adamson and Palmer, I really prefer the TSN broadcast team to any other curling broadcasters.

[aside: I've been told that Scott Russell was once a student of mine.]

Live-blogging is next!

Live-blogging the Women's Final of the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials

I was really sorry to have missed the afternoon draw on Saturday between Lawton and Kleibrink. Alan's write-up was very illuminating, highlighting what others also said was an exciting draw.

And then last night, I saw Morris give up a 3-ender steal to Stoughton, but missed his big comeback.... 8-(.

But I'll be glued to the television and computer this afternoon, live-blogging the women's final.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Women's Semi-Final Friday

Lawton won her tie-breaker rather handily this morning against Middaugh, and is now in the semi-final against Kleibrink.

This match, when I have been watching it, has been very impressive; outcomes have been more determined by great shot-making than by mistakes. There have been wonderful freezes, glorious rolls, the whole usual armory. Both teams are also pretty fetching so it is a very pleasant experience watching (though I don't care very much for the style of glasses they buy).

There was an interesting discussion about whether the teams that are already in the final should be watching the semi-final. Brad Gushue was interviewed, and I missed what he said, but one point I found interesting; it can be very demoralizing if you watch the semi-final teams exchanging great shots. So don;t hang around too long!

Lawton hits and sticks to tie the match at 3-all after 7. I'll try to follow as this proceeds.

Eighth end:
Lawton puts up a centre guard, Keshen comes into the house behind it at the top of the 4-foot (I like the way she has roled her sleeves up). Bell plants a rock in front of that and Keshen puts one in front of that one. Singler's rock now sits on top of that - broadcast comment "This is as good as it gets". Bakker taps the top rock, and moves the Kleibrink rock at the foot of the chain onto the button. Lawton wants the mess cleaned up a bit, and Singler wrecks on the guard, now off-centre and not protecting the line of rocks. Kleibrink calls for a small chain reaction on the existing line of rocks, and Bakker's rock moves another Kleibrink rock to the button, so she lies two, with a troublesome Lawton rock still in front of those two at the top of the 4-foot. Kasner finds a very narrow port and leaves Kleibrink lying one, but with more Lawton rocks lying around. Kleibrink calls for some cleaning up of other rocks, concludes maybe it would be an own goal and calls time-out. They decide to proceed as planned and Nixon opens up the house, but the comment is "Were we ever wrong". Kasner taps the Lawton rock back to the button - Nixon cleans up the front Lawton rock but the shooter rolls too much, leaving Lawton a double chance, which she does not quite execute, but she leaves herself three counting rocks. Ominously, there remain many Kleibrink rocks in the house and Lawton rocks are open. Kleibrink tries to double but a jam leaves things very messy - in fact, worse than before as Lawton now has rocks behind cover. Lawton clears an enemy rock, leaving Kleibrink with an attempt to get two by hitting her own rock and rolling in close ot the button (a split) - does not work, but she gets one. Wow - this is exhausting to watch; it must be wild playing it.

I thought things were terrible this morning as the only ads were from Ford (advertising their trucks) and Strauss herbal medicines. We are getting the same ads this afternoon, as well as Tru Valu hardware, and Schick shavers. What demographic is this? Ahh - Avery signs too - that seems somewhat small-business oriented. OK now some booze called DiSarrono, which hot babes clearly drink. Ah yes and there was the Conservative party in the last break! Hmmmm.

Nonth end:
Kleibrink has a guard just off centre. Lawton brings a rock behind it to the top of the twelve, allowing a runback. Sleeveless Keshen does it perfectly. (Nixon comments, "Not bad for a lead".) Lawton replaces the Kleibrink rock at the top of hte 12-foot with one of her own, a little out of the rings. This is reciprocated. Lawton draws into the top of the 8-foot (with MAJOR sweeping). Bakker removes it and her rock hangs at the edge of the 12-foot. Singler draws too depp to the back of the 4-foot and Nixon sits on it. Kasner freezes beautifully to Nixon's rock. Nixon sit perfectly on top of that one. This is wonderful play - Lawton is baffled looking for opportunities to take more than the one she has on the button, sandwiched between two Kleibrink rocks. Time out! The coach suggests blowing up the whole house, and Kasner's missile hits the guard, opening the house up. Kleibrink replaces the guard, Lawton clears it. Kleibrink replaces it, though it gets a little tight (back of the 12-foot). Lawton is tempted to blast it, possibly miraculously causing all the Kleibrink rocks to disappear, and hers to stay. Instead she decides to draw close to the front Kleibrink sandwich rock; not quite enough and she takes one!


It is easy to see why these teams got this far.

Tenth end: Kleibrink takes a 4-4 tie with the hammer into the tenth. So this is the perfect finish.
Lawton puts up a centre guard and Keshen's rock is a bit too deep in the house. Bell puts up a second Lawton guard. I missed then ext shot talking to my pet care delivery person. Singler gets to the 8-foot - configuration is two Lawton front guards, Kleibrink rock in back of the button, Lawton rock as just shot. Bakker's double-peel attempt not only peels only the front guard but stays itself, shutting down some paths to the house. Singler shoots brilliantly past two guards to sit in the front of the button with the Kleibrink rock as backing - just amazing. Bakker clears the centre guard. Kasner puts another one up. Holy Cow!! Nixon clears the house of Lawton rocks - Kasner tries to freeze on the remaining Kleibrink rock, but does not quite make it. Nixon wants to peel it (she and Kleibrink shoud NEVER have gone to that same optometrist) and instead, after a timeout, throws a perfect hit and roll so Kleibrink now has rocks in the front and back of the 4-foot. Just completely amazing!! Who are these women? Lawton removes the Kleibrink rock fom the front of the button, opening a hole for her next shot, sitting in front of the Kleibrink rocks now at the back of the button. Kleibrink wants a time-out but has no more. Holy Cow!! Kleibrink puts a rock right in the button with her rocks as backing now. That was certainly the right answer. Lawton calls a timeout. Lawton, almost out of time, tries to bounce in off her own rock but does not make it. Kleibrink is into the final again!!

I will miss tomorrow's match but how could it be better than this? Surely one of the finest women's matches ever played. Wow!! Credit to both teams.

PS: Nobody ever took two in an end and nobody stole an end. Utterly quality play.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Friday Curling

Rise and Shine!

7:30am The women's tie-breaker is at 7:30am, between Lawton and Middaugh. In their previous match, Lawton dominated the first half, but Middaugh came back strong in the second half to take it.

12:00 noon The women's semi-final match. Kliebrink, who seemed to sneak up on the leaders from nowhere, takes on the winner of the tie-breaker.

6:30 pm The men's semi-final, between Stoughton and Morris. Morris slumped badly in the last game of the round robin, losing to Gushue 7-4.

I won't be able to live-blog any of the matches. Big work day (unless I get snowed in at home -- keep your fingers crossed).

More Curling Today!

The Women's last draw is at 12:30, and the featured Men's draw this evening will be Gushue (7 - 1) v. Morris (6 - 2). Should be great!

No promises about who will be doing what commenting/live-blogging.

Men's Early Thursday Draw - the 2nd half

Comment #1: Can you imagine uglier outfits than the ones in use at these trials? I'm especially unimpressed by the orange and silver ones assigned to/chosen by Gushue and LaRouche.

Comment #2: This match between Gushue and Martin has to be one of the best I've seen yet. Despite the missed shots, they have played as if they can make anything, making the discussions so fascinating.

End #6: Gushue moved toward a defensive game, peeling the guards set up by Martin. Martin changed strategies and gave up guarding, putting rocks in the rings. Is it my imagination, or are Walchuk and Martin disagreeing more than usual, or is this typical for them?
Martin had some rocks in play, but Gushue was sitting 2 and tried to guard; this time he wasn't heavy. Martin's tap up was partially successful, so Gushue tried to put up another guard. Martin wrecked, leaving a steal of 2.

Gushue 7, Martin 2
End #7: After some initial rocks in the house, Martin tried to set up some corner guards, but Howshue peeled them. Gushue tried for a thin double, but took out only one. Martin threw a great raise double, but that left another thin double for Gushue (Howard's call was right, but Gushue asked for too much ice); Gushue got only one, leaving a hit-and-stick for two.
Gushue 7, Martin 4
End #8: Gushue was very defensive, peeling guards. Gushue missed a double, leaving Martin a hit and roll to split the rings. WOW! Martin is curling only 61%! Gushue doubled for 1.
Gushue 8, Martin 4
End #9: Howard missed a peel, and Nichols jammed a double attempt, leaving Walchuk with a come-around to sit two behind the guard. Nichols ran some back, and Walchuk didn't quite bury his second come-around attempt. Gushue removed it, and Martin put another one there. Gushue tried to remove it, but missed, and Martin had a draw for three. Ray and Linda were beside themselves that Gushue would even try that shot. It will set up a much more complex 10th end.
Gushue 8, Martin 7
10th End: Gushue up by one with the hammer. A mess of guards out front -- let's hear it for the free-guard rule! With three guards across the front, Martin drew around the centre guard right to the button (a bit deep, perhaps, for good strategy). Gushue peeled the guard. Martin's last shot was light and over-curled. Gushue had a peel for the win.
What a game! Don't you wish Canada could send more than one team to the Olympics????

Men's Early Thursday Draw

I awoke just in time to see the first end of the featured draw between Gushue and Martin. It was interesting to see, as Linda remarked, that Howard changed strategies slightly by ignoring Martin's centre-line guard initially. Afte a bunch of trades, and a slight miss by Martin's team, Gushue scored 2 with the hammer.

End #2: lots of rocks lined up on the centre line. Walchuk slightly missed a shot, allowing Gushue to put a rock behind cover on the button. Martin couldn't make any tap-backs. Steal of 1 for Gushue.

Gushue 3, Martin 0
End #3: Howard, the 2nd for Gushue, missed a peel, but Nichols made a come-in off a corner guard to sit 2 on the button. Martin ignored the button and came around the corner guard, Howard put up another guard. Gushue's first shot cleared away some stones, but Martin missed a light double, setting up Gushue for a double, which he missed. Martin was left with a draw for two.
Gushue 3, Martin 2
End #4: A lot of confusion/congestion in the rings. Time out for Gushue and he made a terrific plug-up shot, leaving Martin with an attempt to slam a bunch out of the rings. Another long Howshue discussion which was fascinating. They decide to guard against a power-triple, but Gushue's weight was way off, so Martin had an attempt at a triple. Which he made! Gushue had a tough draw against three to save 1. Fascinating end!
Gushue 4, Martin 2
End #5: Nichols bumped a red onto 4' behind a bunch of guards, and Walchuk bumped a yellow into the mess with their first rocks. Nichols guarded; Walchuk tried a nose hit on the long centre guard, but didn't get the "wiggle-through" he was looking for. There were lots of yellow Martin stones on the centre, so Gushue set another long guard in front of them.
I'm amazed at the shots these guys are discussing. Four-rock combinations, followed by, "if we do that, he'll do this...." Absolutely great curling.
After all the discussion, Martin decides to draw with his first stone, to sit second. Gushue picked it out. With the hammer, Martin missed a tick-double for 2, giving Gushue a steal of 1.
Gushue 5, Martin 2

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

7:30 AM on Thursday!!

TSN has announced it will be televising the 7:30 AM (EST) draw on Thursday. I guess we won't make it to the fitness centre Thursday morning....

Wednesday Afternoon Men's Draw:
Morris v. Martin

I gather I will not be live-blogging this evening's women's draw because TSN is showing hockey instead of curling; the curling will be shown on tape delay at 10:30 pm EST or so. 8-(

This afternoon's feature match is one of the many battles of Alberta: John Morris (5 - 1) versus Kevin Martin (4 - 2). There are three rinks from Alberta, plus Ryan, who has also curled in Alberta in the past. In all, five of the ten rinks are from Alberta and BC.

End #1: Walchuk, Martin's 3rd, had a slight miss on a raise take-out attempt, leaving come-arounds for Morris. Martin had to try a thin double, which he made, forcing Morris to blank the end.

End #2: Blanked again! What's with these guys? I know they like to play up-weight, but their strategies seem very defensive so far. I thought the 4-rock free-guard rule was supposed to generate more scoring....

End #3: Interesting observation by Linda Moore: Morris knows Walchuk's and Martin's skills, and is trying not to leave run-back shots. Walchuk's draw around the guard coasted too deep, followed by a beautiful draw to the button by Koe (Morris's 3rd). Linda and Ray seemed to imply that Morris made a strategic error by guarding that rock; Martin put up another guard, leaving Morris with a draw to the 4' for two -- didn't quite curl enough, so Morris scored only 1.

Morris 1, Martin 0
End #4: An intriguing backup curl by Walchuk set the scene for a beautiful near-freeze by Morris, forcing Martin to take 1.
Morris 1, Martin 1

End #5: Two other observations:
  1. How many of us thought the Ryan rink would be this good? Even though they aren't leading the round robin at this point, they sure look good.
  2. The Ferbey rink looks worse than unlucky. Despite all their work, they just seem off.

A great run-back triple by Kennedy (Morris's 2nd) left Walchuk a double, which in turn set up a raise take-out by Koe. Martin doubled (barely) to clear the rings. Morris drew around the guard, leaving Martin undecided as to whether to try a raise double or a come around draw. He tried the raise, but left one in the rings, so Morris had an open draw for two.

Morris 3, Martin 1

End #6: Morris filled the house with yellow stones, but Koe mistakenly cleared them all out; Walchuk drew around a guard, but over curled just a tad. Again, Morris "laid the angle freeze on" to quote Ray. With the hammer, Martin was left with a draw to the 4' for only 1.

Morris 3, Martin 2

End #7: After the 2nds' stones, the rocks were lined up on the centre line. After a whole mess of freezes and draws, Martin bumped his red stone a bit in, but didn't get the double he was looking for. Morris's first shot moved the stones around the button a little. Martin threw up a long guard; and Morris responded with a difficult draw/tap for 2.

Morris 5, Martin 2

End #8: Martin missed a double to blank the end; steal of 1 for Morris. Is he this good? It's hard for me to tell, since he seems to play a 1980s style game.

Morris 6, Martin 2

End #9: Martin was again forced to take one with the hammer. That leaves Morris up by 3 with the hammer going home.

Morris 6, Martin 3

In the 10th, Morris ran Martin out of rocks. Morris won. The Morris and Gushward/Howshue rinks lead the field with records of 6 wins and 1 loss.

Welcome News:
M&M Skins Canceled

With regret, Shot Rock Curling has just announced that its annual M&M Meat Shops $100,000 Skins has been cancelled.
That is no loss, in my opinion. The skins format induces a very different game, and I don't much like it.

That having been said, it is too bad that a big money event is being canceled. Perhaps that sponsorship money will find its way more directly toward funding more tournaments that use traditional scoring.

Clearing Security at the Halifax Airport

JHCurl writes, at In the Hack,

Funny tidbit from the airport as we were going through customs. Talking to the customs agent and said we were here for the curling.

He asks who we think will win, I say we are rooting for Jennifer Jones team. He says right last name, wrong first name, this is Nova Scotia and I expected the next sentence to be "step over there and go through a strip search" but he was nice about it.

Day Jobs and Live-Blogging

It looks as if I will be able to post comments and updates about the Wednesday afternoon draw. Also, given that the weather in our area looks as if it will keep me from attending a concert in Stratford, I may be able to blog about the evening draw as well.

It's too bad that our day jobs interfere with blogging about curling, especially when they keep us from watching or even keeping track of what is going on during the Canadian olympic trials. As Alan and I have both written, this is some of the best curling we have ever seen.

We understand that our live-blog updates are of some interest and value to those of you who are trapped in your day jobs. Thanks for the feedback, but don't get too involved while you're on the job.

As a former sportscaster, I keep wondering what it would be like to try describing some of these matches on the radio. .....

Monday, December 05, 2005


I have an unexpected social engagement this evening and so will have to pass on making observations on this evening's draw.

Some Thoughts of my Own

1. It dawned on me watching the final end of the Ryan-Stoughton match that Ryan is not throwing skip rocks either! I think I noticed this earlier but it did not register. A growing trend?

2. Concerning Gushue's recruitment of Howard, I don't think I had many reservations about the possible success of that team; the key fact for me is that Gushue appears to have recruited Howard. One of the great things about the trials format is that it allows teams to shop for 'ringers' outside their own provinces, and so really opens up some possibilities that the Brier format forbids.

My skepticism is more about a bunch of sports administrators creating an effective team by selecting five players (out of a pool of 10 in the UK right now) a couple of months before the Olympics. It could happen, of course. And there is always a fair dose of luck in major events.

3. This sure is a treat - I doubt we'll see this quality of curling for another four years after this week ends. Too bad.

I may start some liveblogging of the draw this evening, but am unlikely to be awake when it ends.

Monday Evening

I have another commitment and will not be able to live-blog the women's 5th draw this evening at 6:30pm. Perhaps Alan will be able to do it. Stop back this evening to see what's happening....

Some thoughts so far:
  1. This is the best curling I've ever seen. These are, for the most part, the best possible Canadian teams.
  2. After watching Russ Howard on Gushue's rink, do not necessarily conclude that Amateur is correct in his discussion with Alan about whether teams must be together for a long time. There are two reasons for this: (a) Howard started working with the Gushue rink back in July, according to an interview with Gushue, and (b) this is one isolated, self-selected incident. I can't imagine Russ Howard, Randy Ferbey, Kevin Martin, and Mark Dacey all on the same rink, even if they were the best curlers.
  3. I'm open to bets on whether/when Marie-France LaRouche will win any of her draws. She has looked seriously out-matched so far and is 0 - 4.
  4. With the Ryan-Stouton draw taking so long, as they went to an extra end, it will be interesting to see what shape the ice is in for the women's fifth draw this evening. The ice-maker had been using the long draws as an excuse for not being able to get the ice into perfect condition.

Dacey vs. Gushue: Men's 4th Draw
(live-blogging 1 pm Monday Draw)

The Men's 1pm (EST) draw
The feature match is between Mark Dacey (1w, 2L) and Brad Gushue (3W, 0L). This is the first time I'll have a look at the re-formed Gushue rink with Russ Howard skipping but throwing 2nd stones, and I'm eager to see it in action, especially after the discussion between Alan and Amateur earlier on this site. However, I will be watching more and writing less, so don't expect major details.

End #1: it looked to me as if the Gushue rink marginally outcurled the Dacey rink up to the skips' stones, leaving Dacey with a draw against 3 with the hammer. He was heavy. Gushue stole 3.

If Gushue and Howard have to confer so much, it's a wonder they don't run out of time. I'll be interested in seeing their playing times throughout the tournament.

End #2: Again, it looked as if the Gushue rink out-curled the Dacey rink, marginally, maybe making their shots with just a bit more precision. Dacey was left again with a draw against three, and this time he made it.

Gushue 3, Dacey 1
End #3: A couple of nose hit mistakes by both seconds. Then some over and under rolls on hit-and-rolls by the 3rds and skips left Gushue with a hit for two, which he made.
Gushue 5, Dacey 1
End #4: Dacey had the hammer, so Gushward tried to control the centre line. A great hit and roll by Nichols, the Howshue 3rd, put Dacey in some trouble. Gushue to Howard, when Howard was screaming: "It'll be okay." ... "That was one of those Howard moments, I guess." Dacey had a draw against 3 and again was heavy, another steal of 3 for Howshue.
Howshue 8, Dacey 1
End #5: Gushue missed a double, leaving a draw for two, which Dacey made. It was a tough double, but had less risk than the easier one. Good decision.
Howshue 8, Dacey 3
With an 8-3 lead, R. Howard takes a break and lets the original 2nd (Keith Ryan?) rejoin the Gushue team. With that change and the big lead, not unexpectedly, TSN has shifted its feature game, but to which other one? So far it looks as if they're focusing on Ferbey vs. G. Howard, who are 3 - 3 after 6.
End #7: Howard threw a nice come-around, leaving Ferbey-Nedohin with a nasty choice between a long double or a minor hit and roll; they tried the latter, but the shooter over curled and rolled for 2nd. Nice 2nd shot by Howard even though the commentators had lots of ways to say it could have been better. Nedohin had a draw against two, but slid into the back eight.
Howard 5, Ferbey 3
End #8: Handshakes for Gushue (10-4 defeat of Dacey), who is now 4 - 0 [ I guess that means Ryan didn't get to throw many rocks!]. In the Howard - Ferbey match, Nedohin made a draw against 2 to score 1.
Howard 5, Ferbey 4
End #9: Great double by Hart (Howard's 3rd), but a nice freeze by Nedohin and a rub by Howard may have kept Howard from scoring about 17 this end. Nice clear of the two Ferbey stones with a double by Howard to score two more.
Howard 7, Ferbey 4
End #10: A couple of misses by Hart kept Ferbey in the match, but Ferbey left a come-around open, and the Nedohin wrecked on a guard.
As of now, Ferbey is 1-3, and Howard is 2-2. Ferbey's rink really was off, relative to their peak performances of the past.
Overall, these are superb curlers, and it is even better curling than we usually see at the Brier.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Live blogging on Monday!

Alan Adamson and I both have day jobs that are of great importance to the Canadian society and economy. Nevertheless, I will rearrange my schedule so I can try to post short summaries after each end of the 1:00pm draw.

At this point, for the men, Martin looks really hot. But the Ferbey and Gushue rinks are looking good, too, despite Ferbey's loss Sunday night.

My take on the women's competition is that it is still a contest between about 7 of the rinks.

Men's 3rd Draw - 2nd half

We're following Morris-Ryan match, the TSN feature match, but some of the other highlights have been spectacular through the first five ends. For example, the Nedohin double was fantastic.

As we start the sixth end, Morris and Ryan each ended up taking only one in the last two ends. Morris leads, 3-2.

End #6
A couple of guards and some really nice come-arounds. Morris's 2nd made a beautiful split raise and roll to lie behind the centre-line guard.

Wow! a great shot by Gushue against Ferbey to score two. Meanwhile back in the feature game, more exchange of rocks with a nice Ryan runback; Morris has the rings split, with one behind a guard.

Does Ryan put more spin on the rocks than most curlers? It sure looks that way to me.

There was a bunch near the button with some gentle taps after the third's stones. This end will turn out to be a fun strategic exercise. Cotter moved the two red rocks out. Morris tapped the shot stone of Ryan out from behind the guard. With Cotter's last rock, the Ryan rink went on the offensive, trying to freeze to their shot rock; they came close, but Morris had a long-shot at a double, which was spectacularly made, leaving him counting two. I completely missed the angles they were looking at.

Morris 5, Ryan 2
End #7
Nice guards and ring action from the leads, followed by a couple of heavy clearing shots. As we go thirds' stones, Morris is shot, and Ryan has two in the 8', and there's a Ryan corner guard. Morris's 3rd just made an impossible double, taking out the two Ryan rocks that looked as if they were way across the rings from each other at about the same distance from the t-line. That was the shot of the match so far.
[Meanwhile Martin leads Dacey 10-4; Dacey shakes hands].
After all the congestion, there is now just one Morris rock in the house, to which Ryan froze even though it was in front of the t-line. Morris just cleared the house, leaving Cotter to try to freeze to a rock at the back of the house and out of the rings, but he knocked the backing past the back line, so his rock is wide open for Morris to hit. Cotter threw the hammer through the rings to blank the end.
Morris 5, Ryan 2
End #8
The Morris lead rocks are in the rings, and the Ryan lead set up a corner guard followed by a beautiful come around. Morris took off the guard, and Ryan bumped the reds around in the rings.
[Martin, in an interview, said that at this level, "They make everything."] He sure is right about most shots. I'm very impressed with the high quality of the curling.
Back to the feature match. Morris has three in the rings, and Ryan freezes to the front one. Morris tries a massive take-out, but has a jam-shot. Ryan is shot and tries to freeze to the Morris shot, but bumps it too much. Morris cleared them, so Ryan came down, trying to freeze to the shooter that had been left, but he missed and drifted past it just a bit. Morris hit and stuck on Ryan's shot rock. After an exchange, Cotter tried to freeze to Morris's shot rock, but the rock didn't curl as much as expected. Morris hit it and rolled. Cotter is left with a tough double with the hammer, but got only one.
Morris 5, Ryan 3
End #9
Ryan set up a corner guard and a long guard; Morris came into the rings. Ryan split the Morris rocks in the rings to sit shot. Morris peeled the long guard, so Ryan put another into the rings. We went to third's stones with Morris sitting 2 and Ryan having 2 in front of the t-line as well. The end is set up for lots of action and fun.
Ryan tried to freeze to one of his own rocks, but bumped just a bit. That seems to have happened quite a bit this match. Morris's 3rd cleared out 2 yellows plus a red. Ryan set up a guard, which Morris peeled. Cotter put up a long guard, which Morris peeled. Cotter's last shot overcurled, leaving Morris with a hit-and-stick for two.
Morris 7, Ryan 3 and handshakes.

Men's Draw 3 - Liveblog

Morris of Alberta (huh? someone explain this to us - did he not get the Brier a few years ago from Ontario??) vs. Pat Ryan. In the first end, they exchanged rocks in the house pretty much the whole end. No score after 1.

Ray made an interesting point that curling percentages have been increasing steadily over time. Partly due to better ice. Partly due to better brushes and brushing. And partly due to improved skills.

End #2
Morris's second set up a double, but Ryan's second couldn't make it, leaving a double for Morris's team, which they missed, too. Ryan tries a hit and roll, but is exposed, leaving a beautiful hit and roll double for Morris's 3rd. Finally someone made a really good shot. And Ryan returns the favour with a good hit & roll of his own. Morris's 3rd (looks Agassi, according to Ms. Eclectic) drifts to the back of the 12'. On to skips' stones.

Cotter (throwing skip's stones for Ryan) hit and stuck at the back of the 12'. Morris's sweepers dragged his 1st stone right down to Cotter's with a perfect freeze. The Ryan team discussed what to do with Cotter's last stone. They tried to remove the back of the freeze, leaving theirs frozen to the Morris stone, but they wrecked on the guard, leaving Morris with a hit and stick for two. Over to you, Alan!
Morris 2, Ryan 0

End #3:
Thank you of course. Nice to see these ads for the Scott in London. I am already excited!
So I still think Morris was once fomr Ontario. In the regional system we have I can understand moving your rink somewhere else for some advantage. But to Alberta?? What is this about? Maybe I will find out tonight.
It is interesting seeing the men's and women's matches alternating as they are.
OK let me see where we are here now.
Two Morris rocks in the house, two Ryan guards up front. Joined by a Morris guard - pretty wild.
Ryan takes one Morris rock out of the house but thing are still messy. Morris puts yet another realy fine guard up on the centre line. Ryan does some fine sanitation - clearing pretty much all the major cover. Morrris now has two in the house with not a lot of cover. And Ryan has the hammer. Sorry - bloody political person at the door. Still two Morris rocks in the house
(They show us Ferbey-Gushue closing to 2-2 - with amazing shots. I may have to bow down to The Amateur if these constructed rinks keep doing so well!)
To be honest I simply do not get the feel of this end. You may have noticed I got lost in the afternoon too.
I guess Morris is ok with blanks from now on, leading 2-0. Or even more with the single that Ryan takes.
Back to John, who seems to be able to pay more attention.

End 5 (from Alan - our real lives are intruding)
Morris took 1 in the 4th end so he leads 3-1.
In other matches Martin is ahead of Dacey (5-3) and Gushue is toe to toe with Ferbey.
OK where do we stand? Morris has three rocks in the house, and a cntre guard; Ryan has a rock in the front of the house. Oh and he has a corner guard close to hte house, and just added a rock in the fron of the house. This is very messy! Morris seems to want to clean up a bit - he rmoves his own guard and moves Ryan's into the front of the house.
And now we have good mischief - all Morris rocks in the house are behind the T, and Ryan just parked a stone at the back of the 4-foot in front of a Morris stone.
Morris now clears things up a bit - delicate shot, leaving most of his own in place, and pushing the Ryan rocks to positions of irrelevance.
Meanwhile Nedohin misses an open draw for 2 and Ferbey gets only one against Gushue (elder Howard) to take a 4-3 lead out of the 5th end.
Meanwhile Ryan has parked a rock in front of some of the Morris rocks in the back of the house.
Morris clears one but all rocks in the middle of the house remain behind the T.
This is one slow end. Almost a great Ryan freeze to a Morris rock in the 4-foot behind the T. (Well, the Morris rock is now in the 8-foot! :-) ) Morris misses only slightly a draw to the button - Ryan has a chance for 2. His drawcomes up way short.

3-2 Morris

Women's Trials Draw 3 Liveblog

Today we get the other Jones, Jennifer, (not the Howard Hughes one - hope this gets some Google hits) playing against Shannon Kleibrink. We're getting lots of ridiculous local colour on TSN introducing the matches - but to be honest, I am such a fan of Halifax that I find it hard to complain sincerely.

These teams are 1-1; it might be more interesting to see the 2-0 teams sort things out but I can watch Jennifer Jones quite happily. So let us see what happens.

First end:
Usual testing and stuff - guards and rocks in the house. At this point - initial third rocks, we have guards up front and two stones close together just off the button. Kleibrink rock is shot. Jones has the hammer. Kleibrink keeps tossing up guards, Jones peeling them. Kleibrink's last rock comes into the house and offers Jones the chance to knock it back and make her rock shot; as she does - 1-0 Jones.

Second end:
Not sure how we got here (TSN loves to wander about early in an end) but Kleibrink has frozen nicely to a Jones rock sort-of behind a corner guard at the edge of the 8-foot. Jones puts a rock beside it; there is another, open in the 8-foot. OK my mind had to wander and now there are is another Jones rock open at the edge of the 8-foot. Kleibrink has now replaced the Jones rock in the cluster mentioned initially by one of her own. Cathy Overton spreads the house - not great. Kleibrink now lies two in a messy house. Overton fails to sanitize again - Nixon's shot leaves Kleibrink with three rocks in the house! Jones is shooting into a mess now for her - she removes only one, and Kleibrink is lining up for 3 in this end. Linda Moore points out that this is a surprising outcome to what looked like an innocent end, at least until third rocks. Kleibrink puts her first rock just where she wanted to - no obvious doubles left for the three rocks in the house. Jones hits and leaves an easy hit for Kleibrink for three. Which she does perfectly. 3-1 Kleibrink. That may have been the decisive end.

Third end:
Centre-line Kleibrink guard, corner guard from Jones, each with a rock in the house, Kleibrink's behind the centre guard just above the button, a Jones rock frozen to it, and now Kleibrink puts another one in front of that. Jones clears the centre guard. Kleibrink puts another one in front in the 12-foot. Jones clears it and her rock slides off into the 12-foot, between centre-line and the corner guard. Kleibrink clears that - her rock stays there - Overton removes a centre Kleibrink rock and slides over to the open side. Kleibrink removes that one. Overton removes a Kleibrink rock - there are now two Jones rocks sitting in front of a Kleibrink one in the 4-foot, and they are as a group open. Kleibrink plans to double off the Jones rocks but simply removes the front one, losing the shooter. Jones will now bump her rock up and remove Kleibrink's - she does, and separates her rocks a bit, but it seems a double has some potential. Kleibrink hits and sticks and now Jones can score 2 - and does - 3-all.

Fourth end:
I wandered off and now that I am back there is a Jones centre-line guard, a corner guard from Kleibrink, and a Jones rock in the 8-foot open. OK change than now to a Kleibrink rock. Change it back to a Jones rock. Change it back to a Kleibrink rock. Now a Jones rock. Lots of hitting and no rolling behind cover. Now a Kleibrink rock. (If you think I am feeling this lacks for drama a la Ferbey-Martin, you are getting it.) Jones hits and is not even in the rings now. Kleibrink puts a rock nicely behind cover in the front of the button. Jones has a tough shot - major ice-reading skills needed here - wonderful sweeping, clearing the Kleibrink rock, and moving over behind cover. OK maybe things are getting more exciting. Kleibrink draws just barely for 1. 4-3 Kleibrink. The women's game does seem to lack some of the madness of the men's.

Fifth end:
Sorry - my cat and I were both thinking about lunch. We now have a very long Kleibrink centre-line guard and a Jones rock open just off the 4-foot. Which is now a Kleibrink rock in the 8-foot, still open. Now a Jones rock on the edge of the 12-foot. Finally a roll! Kleibrink has a rock in the 8-foot slightly behind cover. Overton puts a rock, almost behind that one, in the back of the 4-foot. OK it is gone now. Jones draws behind the remaining rock to the front of the 4-foot. Kleibrink clears. Jones draws for 1. 4-all.

Close match but no gasps of excitement.....

Meanwhile tha battle of the Sherrys is proving to be a farce. Middaugh has really taken over.

Sixth end:
Jones has a close centre-guard and a rock on the button - Kleibrink has a rock slightly behind those in the 8-foot. Kleibrink freezes to it, and Jones misses another freeze so we are building a mess. Kleibrink clears the Jones rock and now has a couple sitting in front of that Jones rock on the button. Sorry - mind wandered - now I am back and there is no guardbut a mess of rocks in the house around the button. Continuing interruptions - we now have pairs of rocks, vertically aligned, Jones in front of Kleibrink times two, all around the button. Jones puts a rock up in front of this mess, but not quite where she wanted. Kleibrink bashes some rocks about and now seems to lie 2 Neither of these teams has to worry about Kevin Martin shots - it is a bit sad. Jones' last shot is awful - leaves open an easy two from Kleibrink - who takes it by putting a rock on the button.

I am getting a bit disaffected - not sure I will be back for more given the current quality of play. Where are Ferbey and Martin?

Seventh end:
A whole bunch of crappy shots. Makes it hard to live-blog with enthusiasm. The house is full of Kleibrink rocks, but that is not what they want. Jones rock now nesting in the 4-foot with two Kleibrink rocks as backup. Plan fails - sorry - mind wandered. Two Jones rocks sitting on Kleibrink rocks in the house. Woohoo - Amy Nixon puts a rock on the button backed by a couple of others. Jones shot does nothing useful. Now Kleibrink has a bundle on the button. Jones has made it messy in the house. Kleibrink misses and Jones has a shot at 3 - Jones takes 2 with a draw. 6-all.

I really hope they play better so it makes sense to document this.

Eighth end:
Sorry - had many distractions. Kleibrink has an opportunity for a couple but at some risk. They are takin a timeout, knowing that this could be decisive. Whatever they strategized, her rock goes through the house. Jones clears the house and Kleibrink blanks.

Ninth end:
OK I am back - another mess - two Jones rocks out front, one behind those in the 8-foot, and some more action behind those (Kleibrink rocks too).
...more gaps ...sorry I have a life ....
now I am back and the house is a total mess - everyone has rocks and they are all over. Jones puts a rock in the 4-foot with backup. Very interesting. Kleibrink keeps her loss to 1. 7-6 Jones

Tenth end:
Sadly, I have a life.
So here is where we are.
Centreguard and two corner guards and a sort of lost rock as well out front. Jones rock just in front of the button. Wow - now an empty house is behind three Kleibrink guards - great shot.

Jones draws slowly behind the guards in the front of the house. Her rock is hit by Kleibrink's team. Jones clears one guard and rolls beautifully behind two of the guard rocks Kleibrink puts a rock right next to this intruder. Jones clears it an now has two stones up in the front of the house. Kleibrink fails toclear the house, leaving a Jones rock in the back 8. In the end Kleibrink gets 1 - 7-all.

Apologies - got dragged away.
Jones wins in an extra ens.

The CBC blows it - The Sun gets it right

CBC TV Sports tries to grab a highlight from the Ferbey-Martin match and show us Martin's great last shot in the deciding seventh end. The problem is that, while that was a great shot, it is not THE shot, and the Toronto SUN report on that match gets it right.

Let me quote my live-blog yesterday:
I do not believe it. Martin taps one of his guards, which hits another of his rocks, which boots the Ferbey rock off the button and sits in the four-foot so he counts two. It seems he has begun to figure the ice out. Nedohin draws unbelievably to the button. Woo-hoo! Martin planning a big runback, which the broadcast crew thinks was overlooked. Oopss - works as planned. 4 for Martin! 7-4 Martin. I am in awe. It is a bit like seeing one of those 18-move Paul Morphy combinations for checkmate.
I had no problem believing the second shot. And now let me quote the article in the Sun:
"That first shot he made was brilliant," said Ferbey of his hated Edmonton rival, who represented Canada at the 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville and the 2002 Games in Salt Lake.

"That game was about one shot," said Dave Nedohin, Ferbey's last-rock thrower.

"I thought we played well but one shot, two shots if you want to count the second one -- but there wouldn't have been a second one to make if he doesn't make the first one -- was the difference." said Ferbey. "That shot won the game."

The first shot was a 18-foot angle double take-out with a high degree of difficulty of lots of bloody luck. On his second shot, Martin made a straight-back, double-raise take-out to crack the four-point end.

"That second shot looked sensational. But it was just a nose hit," Nedohin said. "That first shot was way harder."

Ferbey agreed.

One thing I love about sports is the clarity of outcome (which is why I don't much care for ice dance or figure skating in general), which means that there can be enormous mutual respect without much positive personal feeling. And I am assuming the two rinks in this story don't much like one another.

The problem for CBC TV trying to do a 20-second report is that the last shot in the end was dramatic because it was conclusive, while the far more stunning ("I do not believe it") first shot does not fit the TV news narrative, as some of the people I know might say (I normally would not). All the more reason to continue to distrust TV news.

My own view of the CBC problem is that they are doing knee-jerk reporting. This is one thing I love about the Sunday Toronto SUN - it is the local newspaper least dominated by knee-jerk analyses.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

C. Jones versus LaRouche
2nd half of the game

I have two observations at this point, but they are both part of the same one. The LaRouche team is not curling at all well. In fact they haven't been very good ever since their miraculous run during the 2004 Scott Tournament of Hearts. I really wonder if they belong in this tournament.

End #6
Oops. The game is such a blow-out that TSN has switched feature games. I can't say as I blame them. People start channel-surfing when featured games are blow-outs, and viewership drops off dramatically. So TSN quickly and profitably switches to a closer game. But since I haven't been following the one they switched to (Lawton and Anderson), I'll sign off for the evening, sit back, open another bottle of wine, and relax.

What is going on with In the Hack? I, too, registered, waded past the pop-ups, and then was informed that I don't have the authority to leave a comment... Why not?

Reminder: Alan Adamson will be live blogging again tomorrow at noon.

C. Jones versus LaRouche - First 5 Ends:
Live-Blogging the Saturday Evening draw

What a hokey introduction!

Both teams come into this evening's game with 0-1 records. Colleen Jones lost 7-6 to Kelly Scott; and Marie-France LaRouche lost to Kleibrink. Both skips seem in good spirits at the beginning of the game, despite their first-round losses.

End #1
A lot of imperfect shots as the leads try to get the weight and the ice read more carefully. The thirds struggled with weight, too; Gagnon (3rd for LaRouche) threw a good double, but couldn't keep her shooter in the rings. The skips traded opportunities to hit and roll behind a guard, but couldn't do it. And LaRouche couldn't get her shooter to roll out after a take out and was forced to take one.

LaRouche 1, Jones 0
End #2
TSN was so busy showing updates, we missed the lead stones of this end. It would be nice if they showed the highlighted game in one of the windows and showed their updates in a window.
The seconds have thrown some great stones this end, with a nice come-around by Arsenault for Jones, and a nice double-raise take-out by LeMay for LacRoche. And then after a light shot by Kim Kelly (3rd for Jones), Gagnon had a beautiful raise double take-out, followed by a near miss by Kelly (likely due to Jones' misreading the ice). After Jones was way light on her first draw attempt, LaRouche took tonnes of ice; it wasn't enough, and she was very light. For the hammer, Jones faced two in the rings, with a huge fence out front, and a very difficult raise. Great shot to save one!
LaRouche 1, Jones 1
End #3
Have you noticed that the curlers are increasingly putting some of the lead rocks into the house? Fascinating strategy choices by both the men and the women, despite the 4-rock free-guard rule.
Arsenault missed a come-around and ended up splitting the guard off the centre line; then LeMay also missed a come-around, setting the table for Arsenault to pull off a terrific hit & roll behind the two LaRouche rocks just guarding the rings. LeMay took out one of the guards, and Kelly tried to set up another guard, but it over-curled. Gagnon missed a take-out, rubbing the guard; Kelly put up a long guard on the centre line. Gagnon got around the long guard, but just rubbed on a close guard, missing a take-out. With one in the 4', Jones put up another in front of it in the 8'. There was room for a double, but LaRouche wrecked. Jones put another rock around the centre guard, also in the 8'; LaRouche had the hammer and tried to draw against three, but was so heavy that she gave up a steal of three.
Jones 4, LaRoche 1
End #4
After some lead stones from both teams were left in the rings, LaRoche kept trying to set up a corner guard, and Jones kept peeling it. Finally, LaRoche had Gagnon go after two of Jones' rocks in the rings, and she removed one, pushing the other into 2nd shot position. Jones nose-hit the shot rock, sitting two with her first rock. Gagnon almost froze to a Jones rock and was shot, leaving Jones to try to follow her down (because her shot was behind the t-line). Jones rubbed on a guard, leaving a nose-hit for two. But her shooter rolled just a bit too far, leaving her scoring only one.
Jones 4, LaRouche 2, Jones has the hammer
End #5
Jones sent the lead stone to the button, LR set up a guard and a come-around to the top of the 12. Jones just tapped that rock, leaving it in the top 12, and hers in the top 12, too. LeMay tried to double off Jones rocks, took the one off the 12, but missed the double. Arsenault set up a guard outside the rings. LeMay came around from the other side, and just brushed their rock in the 12', leaving two LR rocks in the top 12. What a great shot by Arsenault, who took out one of the LR rocks and froze her shooter against the Jones rock on the button. A couple more shots by the LR team that just missed, and Jones was sitting three with the hammer. After another miss by LR, Jones sat four, and LaRouche tried to draw around the Jones rocks to sit 2nd. Not a bad shot, but a bit was exposed, and Jones had a chance to kick it out of the rings for 4. Jones made the shot.
Jones 8, LaRouche 2 after 5 ends

Am I the only one finding 'In the Hack' a Mess?

I went over there earlier today, wanting to point fans to, and invite comments on, the liveblogging of the TV coverage of the noon draw of the curling trials. I managed to register. But I sure cannot post comments or create new posts. This puzzles me no end.

Is it my incompetence? Or is there some malice loose? I must say they pop up ads like nothing I have ever seen.

If anyone can guide me through my problems, I'd be happy to hear.

UPDATE: I was thinking of removing In the Hack from our BlogRoll but a mere moment's thought told me that was completely inconsistent with my own views about sharing curling information.

Tomorrow's noon round! More liveblogging?

It is my ambition to live-blog that round. This will all get trickier during the week as we have day jobs (thank Heaven!) The only challenge will be keeping up with the NFL as well.

UPDATE: It would be nice to have live commenting as well!

More Live Blogging this Evening

I'll try to match Alan's brevity and clarity and take on the evening draw tonight. Stay tuned!

Frabjous Joy - Ferbey vs Martin in Draw 1 - liveblogging

When I saw the first men's draw for the olympic trials, I assumed that TSN would pick Ferbey vs Martin for the feature televised match. And so they have! Excellent. A match we could not get at the regionally based Brier, as both teams are based in Alberta.
This morning's newspapers were full of the news, hinted at in my earlier post, that Russ Howard would indeed by shooting second for Brad Gushue's team, and calling the shots.

First end: Martin has the hammer
Early centre-line and corner guards up; jockeying back and forth trying to get buried behind one of them. Martin's second third shot brushes the corner guard and Nedohin does not quite manage to bury his rock behind the centre guard. Martin draws beautifully behind the cover of the centre guard and Nedohin's rock. Nedohin places a rock just on the corner of Martin's rock - in fact if he had been allowed to place it, he would have put it where it is!. Bartlett tells Martin to throw away his last rock and take one. As he does. 1-0 Martin. Two unbelievable shots already.

Second end:
A typical Martin-team end in a way - an early guard creates a little congestion in the rings with some stray Ferbey rocks, so Martin starts clearing the mess away. Now (first third rock) a single Martin centre-line guard, with an exposed Ferbey rock in the house. Neither third gets behind cover - and it seems Ferbey does not even try on his second shot. Martin does not manage to bury his draw, leaving is slightly exposed in the 12-foot. (Side comment - he says "Sorry guys". I recall the young Martin berating and blaming the rest of his team for failures in key matches. My taste for him has improved with his improving character.) Nedohin inadvertently clears the guard, Martin drops a rock somewhat behind his rock in the 12-foot. Nedohin misses the double and leaves Martin a steal of 1. 2-0 Martin

Interesting - three of the matches in this draw would be impossible at the Brier. There are two BC rinks and two Nova Scotia rinks going head-to-head. This is the sort of observation that over time is likely to make the Brier increasingly irrelevant to me. Also interesting - the Howard borthers are going head-to-head as well.

Third end:
Ferbey comes around a corner guard with a Martin rock in the back 12-foot. Martin dislodges the guard, Ferbey puts one back, and now there are two Martin rocks guarding the house, one one just off the centre, one replacing Ferbey's corner guard. The Martin rock in the house is somewhat protected. Walchuk removes the Ferbey rock from the house. Ferbey misses a hit and roll - he hits but leaves the rock open. Walchuk obliges with a hit and stick that does not leave a lot for a roll; Ferbey hits and gets a slight roll. Martin hits one of the guards back to clear Ferbey's rock. Nedohin's draw wrecks on a guard. Martin's attempted tap-back wrecks as well. Nedohin gets to the 8-foot to take 1. 2-1 Martin.

It almost seems as if everyone in this match is getting MORE confused about the ice as the match proceeds.

Fourth end:
Martin rock in the 8-foot as TSN returns, Ferbey centre-line guard in front of it. Ferbey has Rocque almost freeze to it and Martin answers in kind. Pfeifer does not get by the centre-line guard and we have quite a line of rocks at the front and in front of the house now. Pfeifer just misses a come-around and many rocks are in play. Rycroft removes the last Pfeifer rock and sticks. Ferbey responds and gets his rock into the front queue. Rats - my cat distracted me - the house is a mess. Walchuk is probably being asked to clean up. Nope - was asked to hit and roll and just hit. Ferbey does hit and roll - very nice shot and just by the guard - maybe they are getting the ice. Martin's attempt at sanitation goes slightly awry, leaving Ferbey lying 2 (sorry - golf phrasing); Nedohin puts an obstruction up, but leaves Martin contemplating a triple. He tries, it jams and Ferbey steals 2. The game is on! 3-2 Ferbey.

Fifth end:
Got dragged away - arrived to find a Ferbey rock at the back of the button - Nedohin tries to guard but it is not quite perfect. Martin's freeze does not reach the rock. Nedohin tosses a guard into the 12-foot, and Martin starts calculating combination shots. One has to admire that in him - he just cannot help himself! And he does make a glorious shot, but just for 1. 3-3 through 5.

It cannot get a lot better than this.

It's interesting to look at the live scoring provided here. Right now Nedohin and Martin are rated at 75% and 67%, respectively, which seems about right. Skip rocks have not lived up again to the first end finish. Wow! Apparently, form TSN, Martin is 56% on hits. Ferbey's team is very lucky.

Sixth end:
Just back to the screen - another one of these vertical arrangements. Martin is counting 2, but Ferbey has two rocks in the house and a guard just off the centre line. Walchuk clears one of those and Martin now lies 3. After a very long discussion and a timeout Ferbey reciprocates, and seems to have shot rock after the hit. Martin also hits and fails to roll behind cover. Nedohin wrecks on the guard. Martin's three counting rocks might well be well-protected soon. Martin makes it four, and does not leave an easy path into the button. Nedohin has to draw to the 4-foot and it is nasty. Brilliant shot - just makes it. What a treat it is to watch these guys! 4-3 Ferbey.

Seventh end:
Rocque goes into the 8-foot, Bartlett tosses up a corner guard. Rocque goes too far and edges into the 12-foot. Bartlett moves that rock back onto the one in the 8-ffot, removing it. Pfeifer puts a guard on the centre line and Rycroft raises their guard, almost freezing to the Ferbey rock in the 8-foot. Pfeifer rubs his own guard and winds up exposed just off the button (and back of it). Rycroft hits and rolls behind the other rocks in the house. (Rycroft is apparently 28 but looks 12.) Ferbey bounces off his rock into the four-foot. Martin wants Walchuk to draw but he has only been hitting. Not bad - he moves Ferbey's rock right to the button and sits in front of it - not quite as planned.

It is interesting to see how the deliberations of Ferbey's team always have to take into account the incredibly improbable combination shots they know Martin to be capable of.

Ferbey puts another guard up front - very tricky as rocks seem to be moving like crazy once close to the house.

(The Howard brothers are tied 6-all after 7 ends. That would have been fun to watch too.)

Walchuk has yet another sanitation job - come in and clean up the guards, who are proving annoying to Martin - threatening him with a Ferbey steal. And in the end it is not likely what was planned but Martin has opened up some raise possibilities for his forthcoming shots.

Linda Moore has pointed out that the game has slowed significantly. Not only does Ferbey's team worry about all the various combinations, Martin's team actually takes seriously more possible shots when considering what to do than many teams would, knowing they have Walchuk and Martin to deliver them.

Nedohin obstructs one raise possibility. Martin is now contemplating his first move. It is fun to watch. In fact I had forgotten how much fun it was to watch him contemplating unbelievable shots.

I do not believe it. Martin taps one of his guards, which hits another of his rocks, which boots the Ferbey rock off the button and sits in the four-foot so he counts two. It seems he has begun to figure the ice out. Nedohin draws unbelievably to the button. Woo-hoo! Martin planning a big runback, which the broadcast crew thinks was overlooked. Oopss - works as planned. 4 for Martin! 7-4 Martin. I am in awe. It is a bit like seeing one of those 18-move Paul Morphy combinations for checkmate.

The skips are likely improving their shooting percentages. :-)

Eighth end:
I am not likely now to carry much detail as the Martin hitting and peeling skills will likely make things pretty simple for a while.
Ferbey takes 1, after several failed atempts to create a complicated end, foiled by the Martin team hitting. 7-5 Martin.

In other action, after a rough start, the senior Howard is ahead 8-6 after 8 ends.

Ninth end:
We're a few shots in - Ferbey centre guard, two Martin rocks in the front of the house ... ok nevermind - Walchuk just cleaned up so there is now only one rock, one of Martin's, in the house. Now a couple of shots later - Martin cleans up some more. Scary stuff. In the end he takes 1 - 8-5 Martin.

Nedohin and Martin are now almost up in the mid-80s in scoring percentage. John Morris of Calgary(! - don;t I recall him being from Ontario?) has beaten Stoughton. The elder Howard/Gushue leads the younger 8-7, also taking the hammer into the tenth end.

Tenth end:
Only a few rocks left as Martin's team are keeping things nicely clean. And it is over! Good match. Not so great as the first end portended.

This match does make one appreciate the three-guard rule. One should also recall that Kevin Martin has in the past found himself on the wrong end of a major pre-three-guard-rule hitting contest with the Scots.

And the elder Howard/Gushue win their match! Great start.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Not quite your usual team

I would be remiss, especially with respect to our interlocutor at Now That's Amateur, if I did not point to this interesting article on about how a couple of teams have picked up alternates who might also want to be leaders. A couple of our famous skips have signed up as alternates on teams that are in the Olympic Trials:
Ontario's Wayne Middaugh will accompany Team [ed. Glenn] Howard at the trials. Middaugh, a close friend of Howard, is enjoying a stellar season skipping his own rink on the cash circuit and will be ready to step in if needed.
So I do wonder - when could he be needed? I guess we will see. Would Howard discard his third, say, and install Middaugh? We will see. Right now Middaugh has no role defined, even in speculation that I have seen.
Even if he doesn't play in Halifax, Middaugh's experience should be a valuable asset for Team Howard.
Someone please tell me how! Does the Howard team lack for competitive experience? I think not.

There is a sort of family element to this.
The elder Howard [ed. Russ, Glenn's older brother], a two-time world-champion skip, could also be a factor at the upcoming trials. Now a New Brunswick resident, Howard has agreed to serve as the alternate for Newfoundland and Labrador's Gushue. But unlike Middaugh, it appears Howard could play a larger role.
So let me understand? Glenn Howard needs experience and his older brother is supplying it for some other team? OK this makes some sense but surely a real journalist would be getting the deeper story here.

Wait - I missed something key regarding the Gushue rink - a quote from Olympian Mike Harris:
"I'm assuming that is going to be (Howard's) role, calling the game and throwing second," Harris says. "It's a huge, huge improvement for that team with Howard calling the game. They've gone from having no chance to having a chance to win it."
Woo Hoo! This has been my expectation! Why should the best shooter be the best strategist? Now not only the Ferbey rink will have this structure.

Before writing too much more on this I will wait until tomorrow to see what happens on the ice.

What I really want to see is Harris interviewing Gushue - he just got quoted saying his [ed. Gushue's] team could not win with him calling, and it needed some Ontarian (where Mike Harris is from) calling the shots, to have a chance to win.

I love our so-united country.

Fasten Your Seat Belts

The Canadian Curling Olympic Trials start tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!