Friday, December 07, 2007

TSN Skins game

This weekend, TSN will unveil the Skins game again. It will be in High Definition TV. Pretty cool.

When you’re watching the TSN Skins game, you’ll be watching an ongoing debate unfold.

A few years ago, Kevin Martin famously gave up a steal on purpose to Jeff Stouhgton in order to get last rock in the last end of a Skins Game. He sent a very clear message that he wanted last rock.

That was the three rock rule.

This is the first skins game with the four rock rule. Four of the best teams in the world will help us answer this question: Would you rather be up one coming home without, or down one coming home with last rock?

Because the skins game is really just the last end played over and over. If you have the hammer, you need two. If you don’t, you need a steal. Essentially the situation in the last end of a one-point game.

There’s talk that the odds favor the team up one with. In a non-Skins game, the team up one without last rock throws it top four foot. If the team that needs two wants to generate offense, they need to throw a guard. In doing so, they leave the team that went first with a free guard on the possible steal point.

I know. It’s all so technical. But I can’t wait to see how the team without the hammer plays the end. I suspect they’ll just throw a center guard and get with it. But they have some options. And in thinking about the options, they’ll let us know if they like the hammer, or if they don’t.

See you there. And I mean that even if you’re watching on High Def TV.

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Winter Patriot said...

Hey Matt. Thanks for leaving me a curling-related comment on my blog. I don't usually like to talk sports there but every now and then I can't help it.

I have to quibble with you a bit about something you said in this post: that the skins game is essentially the last end over and over.

It's not quite true, or in fact it is never true -- because the scenario you see in every end of a skins game never comes up in "real curling" (i.e. under the traditional scoring rules).

In other words, if it's the last end and the team with the hammer needs a deuce to win, then they're one down.

But if it's the last end and the team throwing first needs a steal to win, then they're tied.

I dunno about you, but I have never played a single end of "real curling" where one team was one down and the other team was tied. ;-)

So a skins game is really about a situation you will never see anywhere else:

What would you rather be: one down with last rock, or tied without?

Matt. said...

I was a little too clever with my description. It's more like this: the last end of a game is like a skins end because the team with last rock is going hard for two (and always only two), while the team without is more trying to steal while keeping the force on the table. Thus, it's the classic last end, in my opinion.

And without question, I want last rock, so I would rather be down one with. Statistically on the world curling tour, up one without wins over 60% of the time (this is over two years and a meaningful amount of games).

However I think a lot of curlers are working out the mechanics of the last end in the 4-rock rule.

Winter Patriot said...

Nope. It's not about your description. You're giving me the same description we get from TSN and the CCA and everyone else, and I'm telling you it's false. I'm also showing you why it's false.

Read my first comment again slowly and if you are still not convinced, here's another way to think about it that shows very clearly the similarities and differences between skins game and real curling:

A skins game end is unlike any end in real curling except the last one, because in a skins game it doesn't matter how many rocks you count. If you count at least two with the hammer, or at least one without it, that's the best you can do. And it doesn't matter AT ALL how many other rocks are in the rings or whose they are or where they are or anything.

So in skins play, a deuce is worth the same as an eight-ender (not that you'd ever get one) ... or more realistically, a deuce is worth the same as a three or even a four. On the other side of the hammer, a steal of one is the same as a multi-point steal, and you must agree with me (mustn't you?) that this is never true in real curling -- except in the final end.

But on the other hand, consider the relative values of the results we haven't mentioned yet: a single for the team with last rock and a blank end.

In a skins game, the two results are exactly equivalent: they both cause a carry-over. But in real curling the story is not so simple.

In a real game, a blank and a single are never equivalent, but early in a game they can be quite similar. We've all seen (and most of us have played in) games where the teams trade singles back and forth, with a blank thrown in here and there, none of which changes the balance of the game much, especially early.

But in the final end, a blank and a single are very different. If you're one down and you blank the end, you lose; whereas a single would keep you alive for an extra. And if you're tied, the single would win the game, whereas a blank would set up an extra.

Summing up now ... There is NEVER a situation in a game of "real curling" where [1] it doesn't matter how many points you score (or allow), AND [2] a blank and a single are of equal (or similar) value. But these are the two defining characteristics of the skins game.

In other words, if it doesn't matter how many rocks you count then it must be the last end, but if a blank and a single are of relatively equal value then it must be one of the early ends!

I'm not saying skins is a bad way to have fun with granite, for it surely isn't; but I am saying the tactical battle that you SHOULD see in EVERY end of a skins game would NEVER be appropriate for ANY end of a real game.


You read me for politics, right? This is a lot simpler to figure out than politics.

Think about it for a while and let me know what you think. If you still think I'm wrong, that's ok; I won't bite. ;-)

Matt. said...

I agree with you, I honestly do. You're right in pointing out that the last end, and every skins end share the similarity that a deuce is like 8. That's one of the ways a skins game is like the last end. The fact that a blank and a force are the same thing show off the differences of the two games.

No question, skins is it's own beast, and brings up entirely different situations.

When I went to the skins game, I wanted to see how the teams would play it. It was the first four-rock rule Skins game. I blogged about it at the Curling News Blog.

I half expected Kevin Martin to throw it into the top four with his first every time, for that's what he would do if he was up one without in the last. He never did, nor did any other player. They all threw a center guard, immediately destroying my premise that it's the same as the last end.

However, I would have liked to see a couple of ends played out like the last just to see what happened.

I asked all the skips afterwards if they even talked about throwing the first one top four and to a man, they all said no. Our little American team played a four-rock Skins bonspiel in Ottawa in November and every end we didn't have hammer we tossed it top four. I feel like it really worked, and that was the basis for the theory.

But you're right, there's nothing like a skins game.