Monday, June 10, 2013

2nd Annual (Wilmington) Beachspiel: Recap

I always have a great time at these bonspiels (curling tournaments). The company is always fun, the food is good and plentiful, and of course, there's the curling, too.

I've been to 10 away bonspiels now, almost all of which required a five-hour drive (often more) and multiple nights in a hotel room. So when I only have to drive two hours to go to an away bonspiel, and don't have to drop any money on a hotel, that's a bonus! Although getting a hotel for a night might not be a bad idea for next year's Beachspiel. It was a pretty long day: left home at 7 AM, got back home at 1 AM.

The format was similar to last year. 16 teams, 3 games for each team, and "points" determine the overall champion: 5 points for a game win, 1 point for each end won, and 1/4 point for each point scored in a game. You need four games to have a full knockout competition among 16 teams, of course, and there was only enough time for three games each, hence the "points". This makes a huge difference on how the games are played. One difference between this year and last is that all 16 teams were re-seeded based on points after each draw; last year, the teams were separated into 8-team pods and only re-seeded within each pod, the idea being so that no team ever had to play back-to-back draws. This year's format resulted in us playing a back-to-back, but it did guarantee that the top two teams after two games would face each other in the final draw...should we be fortunate enough to be one of them.

Last year's championship team returns: Chris J. at Skip, me at Vice, Andrew F. at Second, Sean C. at Lead. Can we repeat? Nope. But even though we lost the first game, we got close!

Career game #220: Beachspiel Game 1 - Saturday, June 8, 2013

End................ 12345678S |TTL
Potomac............ 013020121 | 10
Triangle (Jaun).... 400203000 | 09

Let's talk ice conditions first. Last year, the folks at the Coastal Carolina Curling Club (who organized the event) had the ice on Friday night to start getting it ready for the bonspiel, and they did a pretty good job. But this year, there was skating on Friday night, so there wasn't as much they could do. So, the result was that the outer sheets had quite a bit of a fall towards the outside. The first game was on Sheet 1, which wasn't quite as bad as Sheet 4 (more on that later). Not that wonky ice is necessarily a bad thing for us, though; we have quite a bit of experience with it. So in the first end, before the team from Potomac (a dedicated ice club) had figured out what the deal with the ice was, we figured we better put up a big number while we still could! And, so, we got out to a 4-0 lead.

And then, they figured it out. By the end of the game, they were even making their take-outs. If you can make your take-outs on arena ice, you'll do well. So, I don't feel quite so bad that we blew our lead here. It was a good game against one of the best teams at the bonspiel (they went 3-0 on the day), decided only by a Skip Rock Shootout.

So, technically, we weren't eliminated from championship contention with the loss. But, we basically were. The way the re-seeding works, the bonspiel would finish with two 3-0 teams at the top of the standings, with a 2-1 team in 3rd. We had the highest point total of all the teams that lost their first game (3 ends won + 9 game points = 5.25 points in the standings), so we sort of had the inside track to make it back up to 3rd if we won our last two. And, while only the champions received fancy lighthouse trophies, 3rd place still got coffee mugs. Something to shoot for!

Career game #221: Beachspiel Game 2 - Saturday, June 8, 2013

End................ 12345678 |TTL
Coastal Carolina... 00200100 | 03
Triangle (Jaun).... 31023023 | 14

Our Game 1 loss meant we went right back on the ice for Game 2 against the then-10th placed team. Just as well, because we were already warmed up.

We played really well in this game, but I think the game was closer than the score indicates. There were a couple of close measurements, and opposing Skip Brad F. (a talented and well-known curler out of the Coastal Carolina club) actually helped us out with a couple of his shots. His style is very wide-open: throw it hard, have some fun! That style often works out very well for him (see Game 3 here), but against us, his shots actually helped us a couple of times. I suppose we could give ourselves credit for putting the other team in compromising situations, but really, I'll just chalk it up to them having an off game. They saved their best work for their last game, in which Brad made a pretty nice triple take-out, among other shots.

Now, about that pointspiel format. Normally in a bonspiel, you might shake hands and call it a game if it's 9-3 after six ends. You would definitely call it a game if it's 11-3 after seven. But with the pointspiel format, you need to play every end, if you can, because you never know if getting another point in that last end could make the difference between winning the championship or not. (Or in our case this year, coffee mugs or no coffee mugs.) It's generally unsportsmanlike to run up the score, but here, you kind of have to. For instance, Team Jackson from Triangle went 3-0 in last year's Beachspiel, but finished 2nd in the standings to us because we scored a couple of extra points in our last game. So this year, they didn't take anything for granted: they won their second game by a score of 22-1. Normally you would never see a score of 22 in curling (I had never seen anything higher than 18), but Team Jackson did end up winning the championship this year, know.

So, anyway, our big win moved us up to 5th in the standings. One more solid win could move us up to 3rd...maybe even 2nd? It actually depended as much on how we did as on whether Team Jackson won their final game. If they lost, then because their point total was already so ridiculously high, we would almost certainly finish behind them, and the two 3-0 teams, which means no coffee mugs. So, we needed to root for our club mates to win (which they did). And, we probably needed to run up the score again, which is the dirty truth of a pointspiel. (In case anyone from Coastal Carolina is reading, constructive feedback: consider switching the format from three two-hour games with a pointspiel format, to four 90-minute games with a bracket format.)

Career game #222: Beachspiel Game 3 - Saturday, June 8, 2013

End................ 12345678 |TTL
Charlotte.......... 00001000 | 01
Triangle (Jaun).... 11320211 | 11

This game was on the afore-mentioned Sheet 4, which had a pretty big fall towards the boards, as I'll diagram later. We had four hours to kill before this game, so...we're definitely guilty of over-analyzing everything during those four hours. Which color rocks should we take? What's the key to success on Sheet 4, given the extreme fall towards the boards? After all, that 22-1 game was also on Sheet 4, so there's something non-obvious going on with that sheet. Given that two consecutive games on Sheet 4 were blowouts in favor of the team throwing blue rocks, was their something wrong with the red rocks?

Well, let's start with rock color. Despite those two blowouts, I believe that out of the five games leading up to ours, blue won three, and red won two. I don't think the blue rocks were necessarily "better"; instead, the bigger issue was that some of the rocks were "mismatched", as in, made of slightly different material. You could tell by comparing the rocks with each other. So the most important thing was for each curler to pick two "matched" rocks, regardless of color, so that each curler's two rocks behave consistently with each other. We took a couple minutes before the game to work that out. Normally as the "Vice", I throw the #5 and #6 rocks, but this time, I threw #5 and #1. (Although, it should be noted that we lost the coin toss, and then chose the blue rocks.)

How much of a difference matching up the rocks actually made, we'll never know. This was what really mattered: where you throw the rock. (Well, duh.) Let me diagram: (click for a larger pic)

(First off, the houses were painted closer together than on a normal sheet, so to compensate and have a regulation-length sheet, they moved the hacks farther back. This meant the effective "near hog line", the line before which you have to let go of the rock when throwing, was actually the near tee line.)

As we were told, the key to getting a rock in the house was this. When you let go of the rock, the rock MUST be outside of the blue four-foot circle of the near house in order to have a chance. If you let go inside the blue circle, it has no chance - the rock will fall towards the boards. So while our Skip Chris J. often put the broom around the "X", we never actually looked at the broom when we threw our rocks; we only looked at the near house to gauge our aim. (Really, we would have needed to put the broom over on Sheet 3, but we didn't want to get in the way of the Sheet 3 game, of course.) In other words, we were purposefully ignoring the broom throughout the game, out of necessity, and that ended up being the key to the game. Arena curling!

(Note: even though Charlotte is also an arena club, their rink has a zamboni with a laser level on it, that can guarantee much flatter ice than this. So, they don't have much experience with this sort of thing. Also, I should mention that "negative ice" - throwing the opposite turn than you'd normally throw to get a rock to curl in that direction - was a given.)

So, the worse the ice conditions, the better we do? I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I'd kind of like to see how this team would do in a dedicated ice bonspiel. Maybe we can work that out at some point.

Well, regardless of the ice conditions, we played really well all day long, and all those ends we won were enough to move us up to 2nd place overall. Yep, that's right: the 29 points in the standings we got from our last two games (2 wins + 13 ends won + 24 game points scored) was not only enough to finish as the top 2-1 team, it was actually enough to pass the team from Potomac, even though they finished 3-0 and beat us head-to-head. Whether we actually deserved to be moved up to 2nd is another question, especially since the point we scored in the 8th end to move us up to 2nd was kind of a gift from the other team...but either way, coffee mugs for everybody!

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