THE Guyana Curling Federation (GCF) last Tuesday hosted its first public event, held at the Giftland Mall, in an attempt to properly introduce Guyanese to the new sport.However, many were still confused as it relates to the objective of the game and how it’s played.What is Curling?Curling is a sport in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice towards a target area which is segmented into four concentric circles. It is related to bowls, boules and shuffleboard.How is it played?Two teams, each with four players, take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones, also called rocks, across the ice curling sheet towards the house, a circular target marked on the ice. Each team has eight stones. The purpose is to accumulate the highest score for a game; points are scored for the stones resting closest to the centre of the house at the conclusion of each end, which is completed when both teams have thrown all of their stones. A game usually consists of eight or ten ends.The curler can induce a curved path by causing the stone to slowly turn as it slides, and the path of the rock may be further influenced by two sweepers with brooms who accompany it as it slides down the sheet, using the brooms to alter the state of the ice in front of the stone. A great deal of strategy and teamwork go into choosing the ideal path and placement of a stone for each situation, and the skills of the curlers determine how close to the desired result the stone will achieve. This gives curling its nickname of “chess on ice”ORIGINS AND HISTORYCurling was invented in medieval Scotland, with the first written reference to a contest using stones on ice coming from the records of Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire, in February 1541. Two paintings, “Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap” and “The Hunters in the Snow” (both dated 1565) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder depict Flemish peasants curling — Scotland and the Low Countries had strong trading and cultural links during this period, which is also evident in the history of golf.The word curling first appears in print in 1620 in Perth, Scotland, in the preface and the verses of a poem by Henry Adamson. The game was (and still is, in Scotland and Scottish-settled regions like southern New Zealand) also known as “the roaring game” because of the sound the stones make while traveling over the pebble (droplets of water applied to the playing surface). The verbal noun curling is formed from the Scots (and English) verb curl, which describes the motion of the stone.In the early history of curling, the playing stones were simply flat-bottomed river stones, which were of inconsistent size, shape and smoothness. Unlike today, the thrower had little control over the ‘curl’ or velocity and relied more on luck than on precision, skill and strategy.Today, the game is most firmly established in Canada, having been taken there by Scottish emigrants. The Royal Montreal Curling Club, the oldest established sports club still active in North America, was established in 1807. The first curling club in the United States was established in 1830, and the game was introduced to Switzerland and Sweden before the end of the 19th century, also by Scots. Today, curling is played all over Europe and has spread to Brazil, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Korea.The first world championship for curling was limited to men and was known as the Scotch Cup, held in Falkirk and Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1959. The first world title was won by the Canadian team from Regina, Saskatchewan, skipped by Ernie Richardson.PURPOSEThe purpose of the game is to score points by getting stones closer to the house centre, or the “button”, than the other team’s stones. Players from either team alternate in taking shots from the far side of the sheet. An end is complete when all eight rocks from each team have been delivered, a total of sixteen stones. If the teams are tied at the end of the game, play continues for as many ends as may be required to break the tie. The winner is the team with the highest score after all ends have been completed. A game may be conceded if considered unwinnable.International competitive games are generally ten ends, so most of the national championships that send a representative to the World Championships or Olympics also play ten ends. However, there is a movement on the World Curling Tour to make the games only eight ends. Most tournaments on that tour are eight ends, as are the vast majority of recreational games.In international competition, each side is given 73 minutes to complete all of its throws. Each team is also allowed two-minute long timeouts per 10-end game. If extra ends are required, each team is allowed 10 minutes of playing time to complete its throws and one added 60-second timeout for each extra end. However, the “thinking time” system, in which the delivering team’s game timer stops as soon as the shooter’s rock crosses the t-line during the delivery, is becoming more popular, especially in Canada.This system allows each team 38 minutes per 10 ends, or 30 minutes per 8 ends, to make strategic and tactical decisions, with 4 minutes and 30 seconds an end for extra ends.The “thinking time” system was implemented after it was recognised that teams playing aggressively (using draws and other low-weight shots which take more time for the stones to come to rest) were essentially being penalised in terms of the time they had available compared to teams which primarily use hits which require far less time per shot.SCORINGThe winner is the team having the highest number of accumulated points at the completion of ten ends. Points are scored at the conclusion of each of these ends as follows: when each team has thrown its eight stones, the team with the stone closest to the button wins that end; the winning team is then awarded one point for each of its own stones lying closer to the button than the opponent’s closest stone.Only stones that are in the house are considered in the scoring. A stone is in the house if it lies within the 12-foot (3.7 m) zone or any portion of its edge lies over the edge of the ring. Since the bottom of the stone is rounded, a stone just barely in the house will not have any actual contact with the ring, which will pass under the rounded edge of the stone, but it still counts. This type of stone is known as a biter.It may not be obvious to the eye which of two rocks is closer to the button (centre) or if a rock is actually biting or not. There are specialized devices to make these determinations, but these cannot be brought out until after an end is completed. Therefore, a team may make strategic decisions during an end based on assumptions of rock position that turn out to be incorrect.The score is marked on a scoreboard, of which there are two types; the baseball type and the club scoreboard.