Now Available! EBook from CWM

Now Available! EBook from CWM
Order Now from Amazon

You can also get an epub copy

At Smashwords.com, Barnes&Noble and NOW AVAILABLE at KOBOBOOKS.COM!


Friday, January 15, 2021

CSI: 2017 World Men's Final U2LE


Mickey Pendergast and Doug Wilson join Kevin for a Curling Scene Investigation from the 10th end of the 2017 world men's final between Canada's Brad Gushue and Niklas Edin of Sweden. U2LE means "Up Two, Last End". Link to The Curling News to follow along with video and graphics.


Check out this episode!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Examining Curling From A Different Angle


The inaugural episode of a new podcast on curling analytics, produced by the host of Curling Legends. Kevin Palmer is joined by Ken Pomeroy of Kenpom.com and Gerry Geurts of CurlingZone to discuss how curling teams are ranked. Ken comes from the world of basketball analytics and his team rankings can be found on his new curling blog, Doubletakeout.com. Official World Rankings can be found at the World Curling Federation and also available with further insight at CurlingZone/Rankings


Check out this episode!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Episode 72 - Terry Jones


Terry Jones wanted to have fun. As a kid he ran errands for the press box during the local baseball tournament and saw the thrill of being a sportswriter. Over his career "Jonesy" has covered it all, including succeeding Don "Buckets" Flemming as the curling scribe for the Edmonton Journal. Terry shares a secret to Don's success, reveals his own origin story, then weaves a history of curling in Northern Alberta, by way of his book World Curling Capital. A limited release, some copies are still available and can be purchased by contacting Curling Alberta. Terry was inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame in 2019. This episode also includes Kevin's commentary on recent discourse about changing the Brier and Scotties (69:24) and an excerpt from podcast episode "Run it Back: 1997 Brier Final" from Rocks Across The Pond (85:50)


Check out the latest episode of Curling Legends Podcast

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Episode 71 - Elaine Dagg-Jackson


Elaine Dagg-Jackson pursued her passion to coach curling. The decision led her to amazing experiences across the globe and eventually her dream job as National Women's Coach with Curling Canada. Her introduction to the sport came from father Lyall, winner of the 1964 Brier and World Championship. Her first trip to the Scotties was in 1987 as the alternate for Pat Sanders, but it was her work with Julie Sutton in the early 90s that would raise her coaching development to new levels. Elaine shares how her path in curling was not always clear and reflects on the moments that ultimately led to her becoming one of the first professional coaches in the game.


Check out the latest episode of Curling Legends Podcast

Friday, November 20, 2020

Episode 70 - Bert Gretzinger


Bert Gretzinger has a few stories to tell. Born in Winnipeg, he spent his middle-school years in Calgary and eventually landed in Vancouver, winning his first purple heart as vice for Bernie Sparkes in 1976. After moving to Kelowna, Bert next won the BC Provincials in 1989 with Rick Folk. They lost to the Ryan Express in the Brier final and when Pat moved to Kelowna, Bert was willing to drop to second to form a new team. With Gerry Richard at lead, their team of skips would compete in three straight Briers, including back-to-back finals against Russ Howard in 1993 and '94. Bert would finally skip a team to a Brier in 1999 and fall one game short of a chance at the Olympics in 2001. Bert tells stories of car spiels, calcuttas and his version of the rock handle controversy at the 1994 Brier. He also shares a lesson in gamesmanship from Bernie Sparkes.


Check out the latest episode of Curling Legends Podcast

Friday, November 6, 2020

Episode 69 - Resby Coutts


Resby Coutts is a real life Les Nessman. Farm reporting was the primary job but having been a member of the Murray Nye team that lost the final of the 1981 Manitoba Tankard, curling was added to his radio duties. Resby shares how starting early at a one sheet club sparked a lifetime in the roaring game. We cover his playing years, the Brandon "Olympic" Trials, the story behind the first Brier and many other tales of Manitoba curling history. Resby is helping to fund the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame. Go to https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/manitoba-curling-hall-of-fame-museum-inc/p2p/most-notable-teams/ before December 5th to contribute and vote on Manitoba's Most Notable Team. You can also visit his website at http://www.thecurler.com/.

Check out the latest episode of Curling Legends Podcast

Saturday, August 15, 2020

A Short Diatribe on Even Ends

Before diving in, I want to mention Ken Pomeroy's new curling website DoubleTakeout.com. Ken is an esteemed analyst of US college basketball and in recent years caught the curling bug. You can hear how he came to the sport in his interview on a recent episode of the Rocks Across the Pond podcast. Thank you to Ken for recharging my CurlWithMath batteries and despite podcasting and other projects on the go, I will be trying to post more here than I have in recent years, including an updated Win Probability chart and revisit to a classic article "Is Curling a Battle for the Hammer?". 

As I wrote in a past Curling News (also released on this blog) we need more collaboration in analytics to move the sport further ahead and I'm thrilled to see Ken bring his court-side math chops to the ice with painted rings. Now on with the article....

If you've watched curling on television in the last few years it's very likely you've heard a commentator mention the term "even ends".  Perhaps you wondered what it meant.  Or maybe you felt like an insider because you recognized the great decision a team made to carry over their hammer into an even end to improve their chance at victory.  If you are in the latter category, then I'd like you to consider that the team may in many cases be making an irrelevant choice which neither increases or decreases their chance at victory, or possibly a mistake.

I am not going to quarrel with blanking an end when you are tied or ahead with hammer at any point in the game. Generally, this either improves your position or has limited or no impact on the outcome. I won't discuss the irrelevance of blanking the first end to get the hammer in the second (an "even") end.  Choosing to blank the first end may or may not be a great decision, depending on many factors, such as opponent, ice conditions, style of play or the number of cocktails you had the night before. But please don't say you blanked the first end because "2" is an even number and you are expecting to trade hammers for the next 7 or 9 ends. 

I want to look specifically at a team one down with hammer, charting their strategic course when 4 ends remain in the contest.  Specifically, the 7th end of a 10 end game, or 5th end of an 8 end game. When behind by a single point in this situation, some teams are maneuvering the play to increase their chance for a blank, in order to enter the final three ends and get "two hammers to one".  It sounds exciting doesn't it?  A blank in this fateful end appears to mean you get twice as many hammers than your opponent.  What this concept misses, however, is you have hammer right now and many things can still happen to thwart your comeback. Steals happen. Three enders happen. And sometimes, no one scores and the hammer doesn't come back to you when you thought it would. You can also become predictable and if your opponent knows what you are planning to do, they may gain a strategic advantage.

I've written before on this topic and even submitted a paper to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in 2014 that included some analysis.  Without re-hashing it, I'll summarize by saying it's simply not that substantial a difference. The study indicated a weaker team improves their chances by blanking against a stronger opponent, the stronger team is better to stay aggressive and if two teams are equal, it really doesn't matter. 

Team Mike McEwen made a decision in the Wild Card game ahead of the 2020 Brier that came straight out of the Even Ends playbook. Trailing Glenn Howard 3-2 with hammer in the late stage of the 7th end, Mike made no hesitation in peeling a corner guard with his first stone, rather than choosing to come around and attempt to score a deuce.


McEwen is Red

I can appreciate some aspects of the situation might be a concern. The guard is tight to the rings and is a Howard stone. If Mike makes a perfect come around, the greatest risk is Glenn playing a straight back raise and nutting it, forcing McEwen to either draw for one or attempt a difficult raise take-out in order to blank the end. My suspicion, however, is Mike may have chosen to peel the guard regardless of the colour or location of the stone. I recall a similar scenario later in this Brier where a team chose to peel their own guard in the 7th end (or, in a hazy state of quarantine I might have dreamed this since I cannot locate it on Curling Canada's YouTube channel). Let's consider Mike's options...

Peeling the guard will result in a blank nearly every time, so we'll assume 100%. WP = 42%. We'll also assume a draw attempt by McEwen will hit the paint somewhere.

If Mike is able to score two points, his WP increase to 63%. But failure to score two and being forced to a single will result in WP = 37%. Math would suggest it's preferable to score two right now and all the advantage sits with Mike. He has two rocks to Glenn's one and barring a horrible mistake, no fear of a steal. So what might happen if Mike chooses to draw instead?

If McEwen makes a perfect come-around, as stated earlier, Glenn is most likely to attempt a run-back. The only risk in this case would be a perfect nut-nut with Glenn raising his guard perfectly and sitting completely buried. If he's able to accomplish this, Mike would be faced with a draw for one or run-back for a blank, introducing more risk than he has right now. Any other instance in which Glenn makes the run-back (ie. most of the time) and is not buried, it's a blank end.

If Mike makes a poor shot and comes behind the tee line, Glenn may choose to draw down and freeze to the McEwen stone and again, Mike may be forced to a single. However, sometimes McEwen comes deep and Glenn makes a poor shot, leaving them a chance for two points.

What if Mike makes a perfect draw every time? Let's consider Glenn makes a the nut-nut run-back 10% and misses 20%. Mike increases his WP to 46%. In fact, if Mike NEVER gets 2 points, and Glenn makes the nut-nut an astounding 20% of the time, his WP still only drops to 41%!

Now, let's estimate Mike comes deep on the draw 30% of the time and Glenn draws down on top and is able to force 90% of the time this happens. Adding to the scenario above, his WP = 47%. Note this is a very conservative approach as Mike should be considered comparable or even more accurate than Glenn at this stage of their careers and those estimated percentages are likely more in his favour.

Some readers might consider a third option for Team McEwen. Mike could draw mostly buried, leaving Glenn a small piece of granite. This increases the likely-hood Glenn will try to hit the stone and roll to the open, forcing a blank, introducing some risk of a missed shot and deuce for McEwen. Also makes the perfect runback much more difficult. Not certain the slim chance of Glenn wrecking on the guard is worth the attempt, but others may disagree.

Looking at these numbers, I can understand McEwen's rush to peel the guard as it eliminates any variability in a game that means everything (win you're in the Brier, lose you go home). It's fair to say the decision in a vacuum is not so clear and I would hope, if the guard was a Red instead of Yellow, Mike would not so quickly toss aside a possible skip's deuce, simply because it was the 7th end. One can only wonder what they would have done in the same situation one end later?

You can watch the situation unfold here... https://youtu.be/se8IveYx9UY?t=5727