Curler’s Corner: Know Your Role (6/7)

Part 6: Third

A Third is really the jack of all trades.  A Third is often called on to maintain or regain control of the end.  Hopefully there are a number of stones in play when the Third throws their stones.  Their job will range from adding more guards, adding/replacing stones in the house, opening opportunities for skip stones, or providing damage control.   Where a Lead will throw guards 90% of the time and a Seconds will throw draws 80% of the time, a Third does not have a common shot; which is why it is often the most difficult in terms of knowing the correct weight.

Guard:

If things are going well for your team, where there are a couple of your team’s stones in the house and possibly behind cover, the Skip will be able to have their Third throw a guard to  help continue to protect the multiple points already being scored.  Unless your team specifically needs a lot of points to catch up, there is no need to get greedy with the Thirds stones.

Again, the role of throwing a guard as a Third is the same as the role of throwing a guard as a Lead.  A high guard (closer to the hog line) is not as useful as a guard that is closer to the stone you are guarding.   You still want 3 feet of space between the guard and the stone you are guarding, else you may give the opponent an opportunity to throw a double-takeout to remove both your guard and the stone behind it.  The further you are away from the guarded stone, the harder the takeout.  If you are too far away, the opponent may be able to draw around the guard and bump the stone out into the open or out of play all together.

Draw:

Thirds will be called on to throw draws typically for 1 of 3 reasons:

  1. There are a couple of guards in place and the house is empty (or no stones in the 8 foot rings or closer).  Here the goal is to draw behind the guard(s) and in front of the T-Line.  The is the same goal as a Second’s draw shot.
  2. The only stone in play is in the house to one side (typically on the 8-foot ring) and not behind a guard.  Depending on your opponents strengths and weaknesses or the way the ice is responding, the Skip may not want to guard the stone in the house, but rather draw to the other side of the 8-foot ring to “Split The House”.   Now your opponent is only able to take 1 of the 2 stones out of play and they have nothing to hide behind.  Allowing your team to continue to swap their stone for your stone.   If executed correctly, your team is guaranteed to get 2 points with the hammer or force your opponent to take 1 point if they have the hammer.
  3. The stones in the house are all behind the T-Line.  Drawing to these stones will allow you to have shot rock and with the stones behind it, it is very difficult to move from shot position.  The reason this is played with the Third stones and not the Skip stones, is to be the first to take advantage of the stones behind the T-Line before your opponents do.  Remember that if you are able to draw to these stones behind the T, your opponent is too.  So if you are too heavy and end up behind the T-Line, your opponent can use your stone to their advantage.

Bump:

Although a Third does not typically have a common type of shot, the bump is most commonly played by Thirds over any other position.  Remember that the job of the Third is to maintain control of the end, or try to regain control.   The bump weight is what is also commonly referred to as “controlled weight”.   It is called this because you can control the stone’s curl and move other stones around, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that it is also used to take further control of a busy house.

In the Third position, bumps are often used to promote stones to first or second shot in attempt to be in scoring position while maintain a guard for the stone you are raising closer to the button.  Hopefully this raise is straight back, which will allow you hit, the target stone you are raising, full or on the nose.   If you are attempting to raise a stone that is off to the side toward the button, it is called an “angle raise”.  The greater the angle the harder the shot, because the amount of force that is transfered to the target stone is only partial of the thrown stone, so judging the weight is more difficult. Also the line required to get the stone toward the button increases in difficulty.  If you’ve ever played billiards, you probably realize that because of the 2 round objects, getting the correct angle is has a number of factors and is not simple.  At least in billiards, your cue ball is usually traveling in a straight line and not curling from left-to-right or right-to-left.   Angle raises are the second lowest percentage shot in curling.  (Ticks being the lowest)

The other reason that bumps are more often thrown by a Third than any other position, is that if your opponent is controlling the end and has even “Split The House”, a bump is the best chance at regaining control.   By bumping one of their stones slightly to allow you to take 1st or 2nd shot and use their stone as backing, it makes it more difficult for your opponent to remove you from play.   A bump will leave some space between your stone and your opponents, so it is not as great as a Freeze (discussed next), but it may be required if the opponents stones are in front of the T-Line.

Freeze:

A freeze is when a stone comes to rest touching another stone.  It is considered frozen to the other stone.   If you’ve ever played or seen those office desk toys with the 6 ball-bearings hanging and if you swing only one ball, you know that when it hits the line of balls all touching each other, only the last ball in stack swings out.   Although the physics of this may seem simple or obvious to you, the key is the lack of space between the balls.  With space between balls in the stack, the results will be in a similar manner, but the balls in the stack may slide slightly left or right.

Using this same principles, if a stone is frozen to another stone, the energy transfered to 1 stone by another stone, will be fully transfered to the stone it is frozen to.  So if you can freeze to a stone, it is impossible to remove with one stone – meaning it will take 2 shots to get the stone out of position.  Even stones frozen at an angle to each other will make it difficult to remove the lead stone.  The more the angle though, the easier it becomes to remove both stones.

This is used primarily if a stone is near, but slightly back of the T-line.   Since you only need to be slightly closer to the center to be the shot stone (stone counting for points), you can freeze to the target stone at a slight angle toward the button and be shot rock.  If you are properly frozen, your opponent cannot bump, or takeout your stone to regain shot stone.  They would be forced to draw into the open,  or freeze at a greater angle to the stone, which again will make it easier for your team to remove from play.

The only caution to this, is if you freeze to a stone that is too far behind the T-Line, which will result in your stone being behind the T-Line, your opponent can just freeze to your stone to get shot rock.  If you are attempting to force them to take 1 point, this is another way to do it.

The key to making a Freeze is to have the sweepers “finish” the stone by sweeping it just enough to get it to the stone without bumping it.  This requires great judgement on the sweepers for the weight.  After all, the best team is the one that functions like a team and not just as individuals delivering stones.

Takeout:

As mentioned at the start, the goal of a Third is to maintain control, regain control, opening opportunities for skip stones, and in some instances, provide damage control.

If your team has the hammer, it may be required to create opportunities for the Skip stones to be able to get 2 points.   A team without the hammer has a goal to clutter up the center of the house to prevent the opponent’s skip stones from getting close to the button for a point with the last stone.  If your opponent has been successful thus far of keeping the center cluttered so that your team cannot get to the 4-foot ring, the Skip will often have the Third create openings.   This is an opportunity for a takeout.  As we discussed in the Second’s shots, a good team will use bump for takeout a majority of the time so that that stone being delivered remains in play.  In this case however, the heavier takeout may be used.  Your goal is to remove 1 or more guards from the center, so if your stone sticks around, it may add to the clutter rather than open things up.

If things have gone horribly wrong with the Lead and Second stones (the front end) and your opponent has a number of stones in the house counting for points, the Third may need to remove stones from play that are not on the center line.  The goal is to provide your skip an opportunity to get into the house to either get points or cut down the number of points an opponent is potentially able to count.

As games get later in ends, the Skip may use the Thirds stones to remove opponents stones from play to limit the total number of stones that an opponent can get points from.  This is often called “Running your opponent out of stones”.   If your team is ahead by 3 or 4 points in the final end, removing opponents stones from play can help to restrict them from getting enough points to take the win (and hopefully prevent them from a tie).

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