Part 4: Lead
If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll have read the Lead On!post that was written that had some information about the Lead’s Role. And Part 3 of Know Your Role covered the Delivery role. So what could possibly be left to cover? Well in this post we will look at what are the typical shots a Lead needs to throw and why.
You might be thinking that Guards are easy. There is 15 feet between the hog and the top of the house, so that is a lot of area to play with. Well the reality is that much like the house, there are more optimal locations than others. The best guard you can throw is 6-12 inches in front of the house; regardless on if it is a corner guard or a center guard. This will allow your skip to come around this guard on good swinging ice, or bump it into the house in many different directions. The versatility of stones in this area are what make them so dangerous to opponents.
High guards (guards that are closer to the hog-line) are less useful as they are easier to draw behind and near impossible to bump accurately. Although they do have a purpose sometimes, they are less useful from lead stones. Putting up a high guard will allow your opponent the safe opportunity to try to draw behind it, without the risk of bumping it into the house. If your opponent is successful, now you are chasing them.
If the guard is too heavy and actually comes into the house, now your opponent can remove it from play without issue of the Free Guard Zone rule. If your opponents are better at takeouts than your team, they may hit and roll which will again have your team chasing them during the end.
Of course the skip may leave their stone in play if they get into the house until later, but opponents stones in the house in front of the T-Line are always trouble.
Probably 90 % of your shots in curling are going to be guards. However depending on your opponents or the score, your skip may have you throw draws. If your opponent puts up a high guard, you may be asked to draw around it. Also if you are up by 3 or more, skips may have you throw into the house to try to avoid putting up guards for your opponents, while hoping to have them chase your stones which often limit the amount of points scored in an end.
With the Free Guard Zone rules, leads do not often throw takeouts. This probably only comes up once every 3 games. The only time this is used is if your opponent’s lead stone is in the house not behind a guard and your skip wants to keep the house clear of stones or try to get a hit and roll behind cover.
Throwing it through:
If your team is up by 4+ points going into the final end, a skip may have the lead throw the stone through the house. It is similiar to when pitchers in baseball walk the batter on purpose. This shot may seem like a waste, but it is so useful for teams if performed correctly. The purpose of this shot is two-fold:
- It prevents stones from being in play. With the Free Guard Zone in effect, you cannot remove your opponents stones, and having more stones in play clutters up the end which may allow your opponent to get the 4+ points they need. Remember, 8-enders are often built in a cluttered house.
- Skips use this properly thrown takeout weight as a judge of what the ice will do. Your teammates are probably going to have to throw a takeout, so the skip will use your stone to judge what the ice is doing in particular areas so they can properly call the ice for when a takeout is thrown to remove a stone.
This is by far the lowest percentage shot in curling. Again, if your team is up by 4+ points in the last end, a lead may be asked to move an opponents guard. Due to the Free Guard Zone, you are not allowed to remove it from play, so it must remain between the boards and in front of the back-house line. This shot comes up if the opponent throws a center guard. The purpose is to move the opponents guard off to the side, but not in the house, and keep your stone from remaining in play. To do this, the skip will have the lead throw a takeout with the attempt to “tick” the guard enough to move it to the side of the sheet, but not enough to remove it from play. The fraction of an inch that this shot needs to hit the guard is what makes this shot so hard for the skip to call correctly, which is why it is the lowest percentage shot in curling.
Remember, if you remove an opponents guard from play with your lead stones, all stones are replaced to where they were prior to the stone being thrown and the thrown stone is removed from play. The sheet should remain as if the stone was never thrown.