Weekend Roundup 4-6 April

I can only apologise for the lack of content of late – things are busy just now despite the season coming to a close.

My last post was heading into the final weekend of the World Men’s and I was on my way to Elgin to play in the Moray International.

This weekend, I am south of the border to attend the English Curling Association’s AGM so I will try and keep you updated where I can.

Anyway, back to last weekend.

The World Men’s Curling Championship came to an end in Beijing, China on Sunday and here are some pictures of the medal winners:

2014 World Men’s Curling Champions – Norway (L-R): Thomas Ulsrud (Skip), Torger Nergård (Third), Christoffer Svae (Second), Håvard Vad Petersson (Lead), Markus Snøve Høiberg (Alternate), Pål Trulsen (Coach)

Norway saw off Sweden in Sunday’s final 8-3 in eight ends to claim their first World Men’s gold since 1988 – a very popular win and great to see Ulsrud’s team on top of the podium.

Silver Medallists – Sweden (L-R): Oskar Eriksson (Skip), Kristian Lindström (Third), Markus Eriksson (Second), Christoffer Sundgren (Lead), Gustav Eskilsson (Alternate), Mathias Mabergs (Coach)

Completing the all-European podium were Switzerland who defeated Canada 7-5 in the bronze medal game – this is the first time since 2001 that Canada have not got a medal at a Men’s Worlds. Back then it was Sweden (gold), Switzerland (silver) and Norway (bronze) who occupied the podium spots – sound familiar? It will to Pål Trulsen who was skip of that Norwegian team 13 years ago…

Bronze medallists – Switzerland (L-R): Benoît Schwarz (Fourth), Peter de Cruz (Skip and Third), Dominik Märki (Second), Valentin Tanner (Lead), Claudio Pätz (Alternate), Claudio Pescia (Coach)

Scotland’s own Ewan MacDonald received the Collie Campbell Memorial Award, voted on by all players in the tournament, for best displaying a spirit of sportsmanship and the values of curling.

Ewan accepts the award from Chief Umpire Rae Kells (Canada)

Meanwhile in Elgin, 20 teams from all over Europe were enjoying the 6th Moray International Bonspiel.

This well-organised, sociable and thoroughly enjoyable event began on Friday afternoon and concluded on Sunday evening.

For the record, the team I was playing in came fourth in the Low Road and won a pair of whisky miniatures each for our efforts!

Credit has to go to Andy and Kirsty Cameron and their team for an excellent weekend – I highly recommend the event for any interested teams next season.

We even had an eight-ender – the first I have ever seen in the flesh. Congratulations to Team Yeats skipped by Steve McGingle:

2014 Moray International Bonspiel Winners – Team Oswald

Greenacres was hosting the Newcomers Trophy on Sunday 6 – a competition aimed at curlers aged 16 or under who are new to competitive curling.

An impressive tally of 18 teams were taking part consisting of 71 youngsters from 12 different rinks.

A full report is available here where you can find out about Hannah Beattie’s High Road victory and also the Low Road champions who were skipped by Lisa Davie.

The Dumfries Junior International was taking place over the weekend and you can find all the scores from this one here.

It looks like Ross Whyte’s local team defended their title from 2013.

Photos are © WCF/Richard Gray 2014 and Kirsty Cameron 2014

Beijing – Day 6 (Thursday)

Thursday was the final day of round-robin play at the 2014 World Men’s Curling Championship and Scotland were trying to end a disappointing campaign on a high.

Unfortunately, no wins were forthcoming for Ewan MacDonald (above) and his team as they faced Canada and Germany in their final two games.

First up was Kevin Koe’s Canada in the featured live game on the WCF’s YouTube channel – I thought Scotland played pretty well and kept things tight against a strong outfit.

It was all very close to begin with with singles exchanged either side of a blank end but it was Canada’s two in the sixth end that opened the first gap. Ewan responded in seven with a nice double takeout which enabled him to draw in for two with hammer.

Ewan was then short in eight which gave the Canadians the chance for another two which they duly took – when the Scots could only respond with a one, the odds were against them going down the last.

Scotland set things up well but Canada had the answers and a last stone promote from Koe gave Canada a single point and the win.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Total
SCO 0 1 0 0 1 0 2 0 1 0 5
CAN*
1 0 0 1 0 2 0 2 0 1 7

Thursday’s early results:

USA 4-6 Norway
Germany 5-11 Canada
Denmark 5-6 Russia
Sweden 11-4 Japan

Scotland 5-7 Canada
Norway 7-6 Switzerland (EE)
Japan 4-6 China
Czech Republic 8-7 Denmark

Scotland’s final game of the Championship came against John Jahr’s German team and this was one to forget for the Scotland boys as they tried to finish with a flourish – Glen Muirhead was playing lead throughout this game.

The German team, incidentally, has announced that it will disband after this tournament with veteran skip John Jahr set to retire from the sport.

The game started well enough with Scotland cancelling out a first-end German steal to level things at 1-1 going into the third but this is where it all went wrong. Ewan wrecked with both of his stones (the first was a pickup) and this allowed Germany to score a big five and essentially kill the game.

Scotland did get a two back to make it 6-3 at the break but a German two in six followed by a steal of the same number in seven convinced Scotland to call it a day.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7  8  9 10 Total
SCO* 0 1 0 0 2 0 0 X X X 3
GER
1 0 5 0 0 2 2 X X X 10

Thursday’s late results:

Russia 6-10 Czech Republic
China 5-6 Sweden
Switzerland 8-5 USA
Scotland 3-10 Germany

Final Round-Robin Standings (W-L)
1. Norway 10-1
2. Canada 8-3
3. Switzerland 7-4
4. Sweden 7-4
4. Japan 7-4
6. China 6-5
7. Czech Republic 6-5
8. Germany 5-6
9. Scotland 3-8
10. USA 3-8
11. Russia 2-9
12. Denmark 2-9

Let’s get the bad stuff out the way first before I explain the top of the table.

This is the first time since 2007 that Scotland have not made the playoffs and every time they did they got a medal. I know I perhaps talked up Scotland’s chances in my event preview but I genuinely believed they had the ability to beat some big teams and get into those latter stages. They certainly ran the Canadians very close but at this level we are talking about such fine margins and sadly for Scotland they end on a 3-8 record.

Underachievers of the week must surely be Denmark. Fourth place in 2013 but propping up the table a year later? They will be hugely disappointed with that I’ve no doubt.

Big end of the day on Thursday was that five that Germany scored against Scotland.

So let’s decipher that final table.

Sweden and Japan will play a tiebreaker for fourth place at 0200 on Friday to determine who will play Switzerland in the 3v4 game at 1200, also on Friday.

Norway and Canada, meanwhile, play the 1v2 game at 0400 on Saturday.

Losers of 1v2 play winners of 3v4 in a semi-final at 0900 on Saturday.

Loser of semi-final play losers of 3v4 in the bronze medal game at 0300 on Sunday.

Winners of the 1v2 play winners of the semi-final in the gold medal game at 0800 on Sunday.

All clear?

To keep up with the final stages over the weekend check out the event website here or watch those crucial games live here.

Photo is © WCF/Richard Gray 2014

Beijing – Day 5 (Wednesday)

Wednesday was the penultimate day of round-robin play at the 2014 World Men’s Curling Championship and, once again, Scotland had a mixed day – the reason why we won’t be seeing them in the latter stages of the competition.

That’s Scotland skip Ewan MacDonald above with Euan Byers and Dave Reid the sweepers.

Their first game on Wednesday came against Thomas Ulsrud’s Norway who were on top of the table and looking good to go a long way in this tournament.

The game started poorly for Scotland as they failed to use the hammer and conceded three steals of one but they rectified this with three single points of their own to tie things up after six – one for the interesting linescore enthusiasts.

Singles were then traded in seven and eight with Ewan making a nice draw against two for the point in the eighth.

The breakthrough for Norway came in the ninth end when they scored a two to lead 6-4 going down the last. Ewan’s first stone in the tenth curled too much and took out a Scottish counter at the back of the house which left Ulsrud a simple hit for the win.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Total
NOR 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 X 6
SCO*
0 0 0 1 1 1 0 1 0 X 4

Wednesday’s early results:

China 6-4 Denmark
Japan 7-5 Czech Republic
Norway 6-4 Scotland
Canada 8-4 Switzerland

Next up for Scotland was the Russian team skipped by Andrey Drozdov and this proved to be a more successful encounter for the Scots, now playing only for pride.

Scotland had the hammer but only took a one in the first end after Ewan’s hit rolled out before twos were traded by the teams. A steal of one for the Scots in four gave them a nice two-point cushion and when the Russians could only respond with a single in five it was a 4-3 lead to Scotland at the break.

Another two was scored by Scotland in six in an end that saw six stones within the four-foot circle and this was followed by another steal of one to give MacDonald’s team a very healthy 7-3 lead.

Russia blanked the eighth and the ninth end saw the introduction of Glen Muirhead in place of Euan Byers to make his World Championship debut – congratulations to Glen.

While the Russians did pick up a two in nine, Scotland were able to run them out of stones in the last and secure the win.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7  8  9 10 Total
SCO* 1 0 2 1 0 2 1 0 0 X 7
RUS
0 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 X 5

Wednesday’s late results:

Switzerland 8-6 Sweden
Scotland 7-5 Russia
Germany 4-8 Czech Republic
China 8-4 USA

Japan 8-7 Germany
Denmark 5-6 USA (EE)
Sweden 6-2 Canada
Norway 11-2 Russia

Standings after Day 5 (W-L)
8-1 Norway (Q)
7-2 Japan
6-3 Canada, Switzerland
5-4 China, Sweden
4-5 Czech Republic, Germany
3-6 Scotland, USA
2-7 Denmark
1-8 Russia

Norway have become the first team to qualify for the playoffs after their emphatic 11-2 victory over Russia in just six ends – they are looking pretty unstoppable just now.

Japan, meanwhile, are continuing their great run and are looking good for their first ever playoff spot. Before this tournament, the previous best that a Japanese team had managed at a Men’s Worlds was ninth place.

Canada are not being as dominant as some would expect and are going to have to work hard to secure their future in the competition.

Talking of Canada, they are Scotland’s next opponents at 0700 UK time on Thursday – you can catch this one live on the WCF’s YouTube channel so set your alarm!

After that it’s Scotland’s final game of the tournament against Germany at 1200.

Wednesday’s big end went to Norway who scored a five in their big win against Russia.

The official website is here.

Photo is © WCF/Richard Gray 2014

Beijing – Day 4 (Tuesday)

Day 4 at the 2014 World Men’s Curling Championship was another mixed one for Scotland meaning that their chances of making the playoffs, or even a tiebreaker, have now all but vanished.

That’s Scotland skip Ewan MacDonald above with USA skip Pete Fenson – Scotland’s first opponents on Tuesday.

These two are among the most experienced skips in the field with Ewan making his international debut in 1997 and Pete in 1993.

This game started off in a seesaw fashion with the lead changing hands four times in the first half – a steal of one in the fifth from Fenson giving the USA a 4-3 lead at the break.

It was all-square after six before Ewan’s perfect freeze in the seventh could not be removed by the USA and a steal of one was his reward. The USA were forced to take a single in eight and it was in the ninth that Scotland struck the final blow with a three to lead 8-5 going down the last. With Fenson’s team only picking up a one in the tenth, a second victory of the tournament was Scotland’s.

Afterwards, Ewan said: “We made a good end in eight to force the one and get the hammer and the guys played a really good ninth – to make a three there was great.”


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Total
USA 0 2 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 6
SCO*
1 0 2 0 0 1 1 0 3 0 8

Tuesday’s early results:

Germany 6-7 Switzerland (EE)
USA 6-8 Scotland
Czech Republic 5-3 Sweden
Russia 4-5 China

Canada 7-4 USA
Sweden 9-4 Denmark
Russia 7-8 Japan
Germany 7-6 Norway (EE)

The second game of the day for Scotland was against the Czech Republic skipped by Jiří Snítil and it was defeat in this game that all but killed off Scotland’s hopes of progressing in this event.

Scotland had hammer and blanked the first but gave up a steal of two in the second in an early setback. With a single in three and a steal in four the Scots managed to level things before the Czechs scored a single of their own to lead 3-2 at the break.

Ewan was short with his final draw in six and had to settle for a one before the Czechs blanked the seventh and looked like they were going to score big in eight – Ewan’s precise draw to the back of the button limited the damage to a two however.

Scotland fought back in the ninth and scored a two to level things up again but they faced the final end needing a steal to win it. Despite some great sweeping from Euan Byers and Dave Reid, Ewan’s final stone in the tenth rubbed a guard leaving a Czech stone in the house and Snítil not needing to play his last.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7  8  9 10 Total
CZE 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 1 6
SCO*
0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 2 0 5

Tuesday’s late results:

Czech Republic 6-5 Scotland
Canada 5-9 Norway
China 6-7 Switzerland
Japan 8-2 Denmark

Standings after Day 4 (W-L)
6-1 Norway
5-2 Canada, Japan, Switzerland
4-3 Germany, Sweden
3-4 China, Czech Republic
2-5 Denmark, Scotland, USA
1-6 Russia

So with two days of round-robin play to go it’s still Norway who are looking strong at the top and they had a big 9-5 win over Canada on Tuesday – guess who Scotland play next? MacDonald v. Ulsrud is at 0200 UK time on Wednesday.

Scotland’s other game on Wednesday is Russia at 0700 and with Canada still to come on Thursday I think even the most optimistic Scotland fan would have to concede that we won’t be seeing the Scots in this tournament come Friday but at least they are off the bottom now.

That said, Scotland can still win more games than they lose in Beijing – they just have to win all their remaining games.

Japan are proving to be a surprise package at this stage having picked up five wins so far – their previous best over a World Men’s was just three.

Big end of the day went to Sweden and Japan who both managed fours against Denmark.

The official website is here and live games are shown here.

Photo is © WCF/Céline Stucki 2014

Musketeers Invade Norway

Those of you familiar with Musketeers Curling Club from Murrayfield will know that they enjoy playing in bonspiels all over the world when they get the opportunity.

If you recall this post from February 2013 you will see that the club sent some players to Quebec City in Canada.

Well, this year Norway was the destination of their annual pilgrimage where they played in the Halden Open which took place on the weekend of 14-16 March. Halden is right on the Swedish border for you geography fans.

Alan Chalmers skipped the same team that was successful in Canada last year – Johnnie Munro, Gordon Addison and Andy Penker.

Gordon kindly shared some details about the event and he tells me that a cruel pickup of Alan’s last stone in the last end of the final cost them another tournament victory as they lost out 3-2 to Team Lilledal, former Norwegian Junior Champions:

It was a small competition in a small ice hall and while there are usually twelve teams in attendance, this year there were only seven. The town was very pretty and had plenty to offer for a weekend away – Hotel Thon was excellent.

Norwegian efficiency meant travel was easy as it’s all well coordinated. Prices are as you’d expect although the micro brewery was best value for us! The entry fee was about £100 as was the travel and a hotel for three nights B&B was £140. Beer? That’s a different story!

We played seven games – four on Saturday, all six ends on keenish ice.

The ice rink had a small café facility (no bar) but it was clean, new and in good order. The organisers were hospitable however it’s not a big weekend and needs more teams to put it on the map. At least we’ve tried!

The Musketeers boys with their runner-up prizes

The winners, at least some of them, Team Lilledal

Many thanks to Gordon for the wee report – I always like to hear how teams get on when they go abroad. It sounds like a great little event too so if you are interested, why not get a team together and head over to Norway? It’s dead easy with direct flights from Scotland – I flew there three times last year myself.

Photos are © Anne Grethe Bremnes 2014

Weekend Roundup 28-30 March

Did you know that Winter Olympic bronze medallists Team Muirhead were in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada over the weekend playing in the Pomeroy Inn & Suites Prairie Showdown?

Neither did I until I spotted some information about the draw on Claire Hamilton’s Twitter feed. There was no mention of this event whatsoever on the RCCC’s website so here’s a little review of how they got on.

The event was running from Thursday 27 to Sunday 30 and saw 16 top women’s teams competing including the likes of Chelsea Carey, Sherry Middaugh, Heather Nedohin and Silvana Tirinzoni

Eve and the girls enjoyed five straight wins in the competition, including victories against the aforementioned Canadian outfits of Middaugh, Carey and Nedohin, to progress to the final against Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni – an all-European final in Canada, great stuff!

Sadly, a sixth win was beyond Team Muirhead as they lost 7-2 in six ends but what a great effort so late in the season. In two weeks they will be defending their Players’ Championship title in Summerside, Prince Edward Island – watch this space to see how they get on.

All the scores and stats from Grande Prairie are here.

Back home, Braehead was hosting the National Virtual Club Challenge but I am unable to find any scores or details of winners.

Can anyone out there assist?

EDIT: Braehead won the event on home ice and the RCCC now have a report available here but I also got an email from the winning skip who compiled her own review:

The event was won by a Braehead team of skip Kirstie Meikle, third Gordon Whitelaw, second Margaret MacAulay and lead Madeleine Sharp who were unbeaten all day. They beat another Braehead outfit (skip Eleanor MacDougal, third David Shanks, second Alan Barker and lead Tim Tindall) in the final.

It was a great day with lots of good play across the board and loads of new friendships forged which is how it should be! There are even one or two ‘challenge’ matches being talked about between some clubs for next season to help each other out!

We stole a two in the opening end then Eleanor drew well to take a single in the second but the third end was really what decided it. We had a couple of stones go awry, Alan Barker and Alan Shanks punished us with excellent shots and they were sitting three when I played my first. I tried for an in-off but was too narrow with the ice and went sailing through a gap. Eleanor then elected to put another one in rather than guard but it went deep so I just readjusted the ice to play the in-off again to sit almost on the button and take a single.

In the final end everyone was tiring and we were concentrating on just minimising what Eleanor’s team could do. Gordon Whitelaw played a good takeout with his first stone followed by a lovely draw behind the front guards with his second. I was a little too far in with my guard leaving Eleanor a chance but her shot was wide and we took the win 6-1, a score that flattered to be honest.

As I was playing, it is hard to give any information on any of the other games as the only one I saw was in our break session when I watched a really good quality game between Kinross and Lockerbie which Kinross came out on top in. Lockerbie had the youngest player of the day in young Robbie and it was brilliant to see how much he was enjoying himself – and he played well too!

Ayr’s skip, Chris, had the wackiest head gear of the day with a sheep’s head hat and the cheesiest opponent I came across would have to go to Sandy of Dundee – the Dundee team were fantastic company.

Gordon Whitelaw and Glenn Nash have been working hard behind the scenes to get sponsorship and prizes and the event was sponsored on the day by George Leslie with a trophy and lovely keepsakes from Kays.

There are some pictures of me on the day wearing a hard hat – I landed myself in hospital after knocking myself out on the ice a couple of weeks before the event so Gordon decided I needed extra protection!

Many thanks to Kirstie for her report and congratulations to her team.

Murrayfield was the venue for the Edinburgh International Curlers’ Gathering and again, I can’t find out who was victorious in this one, but it certainly looks like a lot of fun was had if the Murrayfield Facebook pictures are anything to go by.

EDIT: Debbie Kerr said it was an excellent weekend as always and provided me with some information about how the event went. I’ll summarise:

Group A – Trevolution (Switzerland) and overall winners
Group B – T.I.T.S (The Ice Technicians)
Group C – Union (Russia)
Group D – Rock Stars (Canada)
Group E – DAFS
Group F – Midcalder
Group G – Ambassodoren (Switzerland)

The Friendship Quaich went to Awesomesauce (The Netherlands).

Finally, the Canadian Senior Curling Championships concluded in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories over the weekend.

Nova Scotia, skipped by Alan O’Leary, won their province’s first Senior Men’s title while Lois Fowler took the Senior Women’s crown back to Manitoba for the first time since 1983.

They will represent Canada at the 2015 World Seniors at a venue so far unannounced by the WCF.

Images are © WCT, RCCC and CCA

Beijing – Day 3 (Monday)

The third day of play at the 2014 World Men’s Curling Championship saw Scotland (above) pick up their first win of the tournament but it is still looking like every game is a must-win from now on if they want a playoff spot.

Day 3 began against Peter de Cruz’s young Swiss team – a rink familiar to a European audience as they feature prominently on the Curling Champions Tour.

This proved to be a cracking contest with a great comeback from the Scots but, like their previous games, it did not start well.

The Swiss immediately took a three with the hammer but Scotland responded with a two after skip Ewan MacDonald played a tricky promote on his own stone. The third end was blanked before the Swiss again took a three with last stone advantage to lead 6-2 going into the fifth – things did not look good.

Despite this, Scotland kept themselves in it with another two to trail 6-4 at the break. The seventh end showed all the signs of it being another defeat for the Scots when Ewan attempted a challenging double for three rather than the simpler hit and stick for a single. As it was, the shot knocked out a Scottish counter to give the Swiss a steal of one and an 8-4 lead.

Undaunted, Ewan again took his two in the eighth but a single in nine from de Cruz’s team seemingly had the game finished off with Scotland 9-6 down going down the tenth.

But things were about to get interesting.

Switzerland’s final stone of the tenth end (a hit to win the game) picked up leaving Ewan a draw for three and the prospect of an extra-end – Ewan made it and an unlikely eleventh end was to come. When the final Swiss stone of the extra-end wrecked on a guard, Ewan’s earlier freeze on the button gave Scotland a steal and the win. Not bad having been three down coming home!

Speaking about what he conceded was a lucky win, Ewan said: “When you get a little break like that, you’ve got to take it, and thankfully we did.”


1 2 3 4 5 6 7  8  9 10  11       Total
SUI* 3 0 0 3 0 1 1 0 1 0 0           9
SCO
0 2 0 0 2 0 0 2 0 3 1         10

Monday’s early results:

USA 5-9 Japan
Norway 6-3 Sweden
Canada 9-1 Russia
Denmark 9-4 Germany

Russia 6-7 Sweden (EE)
Czech Republic 5-6 China
USA 8-3 Germany
Switzerland 9-10 Scotland (EE)

The second game saw more European opposition in the form of Rasmus Stjerne’s Denmark – fourth-place finishers in the last Men’s Worlds.

If the first game of the day had seen Scotland get some slices of good fortune then the opposite was true of the game against the Danes. Scotland were ahead from the very first end and were only behind at the end of the tenth – cruel stuff.

Scotland had hammer for the first time in this tournament, blanked the first and then took a two in the second. A single steal in the next end followed by an exchange of twos meant that the Scots were 5-2 ahead come the break – so far, so good.

The second half saw a shift, however, with Stjerne drawing in for a two in six and then levelling the contest with a steal in eight after a blanked seventh. Scotland split the house early in the ninth but Ewan was forced to take a one after a nice double from Stjerne.

So to the final end with Scotland leading 6-5 and this is where the curling gods decided that it was not going to be Scotland’s day. Ewan’s first stone suffered a bad pickup then Stjerne’s first stone caught a guard but rolled through a very tight port to land in a perfect spot on the button with another Danish counter.

When Ewan’s final shot drifted on having tried to negotiate a route to these counters the win was Denmark’s. ‘Robbed’ was how Ewan described it after the game.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7  8  9 10 Total
SCO* 0 2 1 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 6
DEN
0 0 0 2 0 2 0 1 0 2 7

Monday’s late results:

Norway 5-3 China
Switzerland 8-3 Japan
Scotland 6-7 Denmark
Canada 10-6 Czech Republic

Standings after Day 3 (W-L)
5-0 Norway
4-1 Canada
3-2 Germany, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland
2-3 China, Denmark, USA
1-4 Czech Republic, Russia, Scotland

So despite picking up their first win of the tournament, Scotland remain at the bottom of the table but with the USA (0200) and the Czech Republic (1200) on Tuesday (UK time) they could make some great progress as they look to claim a coveted top-four spot.

That said, with Norway and Canada still to come it could prove too much.

Norway are looking very impressive just now with no losses and they play Canada in Tuesday’s last draw in what could be a crucial game.

Big end of the day went to Canada who scored a five against Russia – interestingly, Canada started that game with four straight steals of one.

The event website is here and live games are being shown here.

Photo is © WCF/Richard Gray 2014

Beijing – Days 1 & 2 (Saturday & Sunday)

Scotland opened their campaign at the 2014 World Men’s Curling Championship in Beijing, China with a game against Oskar Eriksson’s young Swedish team on Saturday – their only game on the first day of play.

That’s Scotland skip Ewan MacDonald above with Euan Byers and David Reid the sweepers.

The game against Sweden did not start well for the Scots as Eriksson and his team took a three with the hammer in the first end putting Scotland on the back foot from the off.

A single in the second should have been a two when Ewan’s final draw came up short and when the Swedes took their two in the third for a 5-1 lead things were already looking ominous.

6-2 down at the break had become 8-3 going into the eighth and when Scotland could again only score a single in nine they decided to call it a day.

Ewan later talked about struggling to get used to the ice conditions, something that several of the teams have cited as an issue so far.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7  8  9 10 Total
SCO 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 X X 4
SWE*
3 0 2 0 1 0 2 0 X X 8

Saturday’s results:

Switzerland 7-8 Russia
USA 7-9 Czech Republic
Germany 11-5 China
Scotland 4-8 Sweden

Denmark 3-6 Canada
Russia 5-9 Germany
Sweden 8-6 USA
Norway 9-5 Japan

Standings after Day 1 (W-L)
2-0 Germany, Sweden
1-0 Canada, Czech Republic, Norway
1-1 Russia
0-1 China, Denmark, Japan, Scotland, Switzerland
0-2 USA

Not the best of starts for Scotland but they were up against tough opposition on Saturday in the form of Eriksson’s Sweden.

Big end of the day went to Norway who scored a four against Japan.

Sunday was the second day of play at the World Men’s and saw Scotland face the two Pacific-Asia teams in the tournament – first up was Rui Liu and China on home ice.

That’s Scotland’s third player Duncan Fernie and skip Ewan MacDonald above.

This game saw a great comeback from the Scots, battling back from four down to twice level the game and force an extra end, but it wasn’t enough and they suffered defeat number two.

After a close first half that saw China 3-2 up at the break, the game then stepped up a gear. Duncan played a spectacular quadruple clearout in the sixth end (take a look here and scroll to 1:35:00 to see it) but the Chinese still managed to score a three and lead 6-2.

The game swung again in the eighth when a real guddle of stones in the house made life difficult for China – when Liu failed to remove some Scottish counters it was a steal of three after a measure and game on.

Twos were traded in the ninth and tenth but China picked up a three in the extra end when Liu hit out Ewan’s last stone which had finished slightly too open.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7  8  9 10 11     Total
CHN* 1 0 2 0 0 3 0 0 2 0  3         11
SCO
0 1 0 1 0 0 1 3 0 2 0          8

Sunday’s early results:

China 11-8 Scotland (EE)
Switzerland 9-4 Czech Republic

Sweden 5-7 Germany
Japan 9-6 Canada
Denmark 3-8 Norway
USA 6-5 Russia (EE)

Scotland’s second game on Sunday came against Japan skipped by Yusuke Morozumi.

With two defeats from two, Scotland were keen to not finish the opening weekend without a win but Morozumi and Japan had other ideas.

The Japanese took a two with the hammer in the first end and never really looked back from that initial advantage – Scotland were not able to even draw level at any point.

The sixth end was the real killer when Japan stole a two to take a 6-2 lead and although Scotland did keep in touch with a two of their own in eight, it was a three in nine that handed Scotland their third-straight loss.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7  8  9 10 Total
JPN* 2 0 1 0 1 2 0 0 3 X 9
SCO
0 1 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 X 4

Sunday’s late results:

Czech Republic 5-9 Norway
Denmark 5-6 Switzerland (EE)
Japan 9-4 Scotland
China 6-9 Canada

Standings after Day 2 (W-L)
3-0 Germany, Norway
2-1 Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Sweden
1-2 China, Czech Republic, Russia, USA
0-3 Denmark, Scotland

Well, it goes without saying that the table does not make happy reading for Scotland as they are currently propping up the field with Denmark – not a situation many will have predicted.

Germany are the surprise package so far and Canada have already tasted an early defeat – we could be in for a really close week as teams fight for the playoffs.

Calling games on the third day of play ‘must-wins’ may seem a bit premature but if Scotland don’t pick up at least one win on Monday then you have to feel that their playoff hopes are already in serious jeopardy.

Switzerland (0700 UK time) and Denmark (1200) await for Ewan and his team on Day 3 – let’s hope it’s third day lucky for the Scots.

Sunday’s big end went to Norway again who scored another four, this time against the Czech Republic. In fact, Norway are the only team to have scored over a three in one end so far.

Remember, the official website is here and you can catch select live games here.

Photos are © WCF/Richard Gray 2014

2014 World Men’s Curling Championship

The eyes of the curling world are currently on Beijing, China as it hosts the 2014 World Men’s Curling Championship.

This is the very first WCF World Championship event to be held in China and only the third time that such an event has been hosted in the Pacific-Asia region after World Women’s Championships in Aomori, Japan (2007) and Gangneung, Korea (2009).

Welcome to my event preview.

The Essentials

The two websites you will need to follow the event in full are the official event site and the Facebook page – get them bookmarked, favourited or liked and you won’t miss a thing.

Beijing operates China Standard Time which, until 0100 on Sunday 30, is eight hours ahead of the UK and is seven hours ahead thereafter – do bear this in mind if you want to watch any live games or keep track of scores.

I’ll have more on the timings later when I rundown Scotland’s games.

Venue

This edition of the World Men’s, the 56th overall, is being staged at the Capital Indoor Stadium, an indoor arena with a capacity of 17,345 that was built in 1968 and renovated in 2001 for the World University Games – it was expanded and renovated once more in time for the 2008 Olympics where it hosted the volleyball events.

The City

Beijing is the capital of China and was also the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors until the formation of a republic in 1911.

The city is the political, educational and cultural centre of the country and boasts a population of 21,150,000.

Find out more here.

Curling in China

Despite being the most populous nation in the world with 1.35 billion inhabitants, China has approximately 500 registered curlers (including 200 juniors) and five ice facilities where curling is played.

The Chinese Curling Association recently launched a website for the first time – take a look here.

Chinese curling teams have traditionally come from Harbin in the north-east but it is the city of Yichun that has been earmarked as the ‘heart and soul’ of curling in China and a new four-sheet facility opened there recently.

The CCA has only been around since 2002 but in that time China has made its mark on the world stage with a women’s world title in 2009 and a Winter Olympic bronze in the following year.

Format

In this World Championship, ten ends are scheduled and a minimum of six ends must be completed in the round-robin and tie-breaker games. A minimum of eight ends must be completed in all playoff/final stage games.

Round-robin play takes place from Saturday 29 March until Thursday 3 April with tie-breakers (if needed) and playoffs on Friday 4, remaining playoffs on Saturday 5 and medal games on Sunday 6.

Qualified Teams

Here are the twelve teams who will be battling it out in Beijing and how they got to the World Men’s:

China – Host Association/Federation
Japan – Finished second at the 2013 Pacific-Asia Curling Championships
Canada and the USA – Automatic qualification due to no challenge from other Americas zone members
Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Switzerland and Sweden – top eight finishers at the 2013 European Curling Championships

Something new for this next Winter Olympic cycle, each WCF Member Association with a team competing at any of the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 World Curling Championships will be eligible to enter teams for the next WCF Olympic Qualification Event scheduled for December 2017 (should they not gather enough points to qualify directly based on their final ranking at the 2016 and 2017 World Championships).

World Men's Curling Championship 2014, Beijing, China-7081

That’s the 2014 Opening Ceremony above and here are those competing teams again, this time with their skip’s name:

Canada – Kevin Koe
China – Rui Liu
Czech Republic – Jiří Snítil
Denmark – Rasmus Stjerne
Germany – John Jahr
Japan – Yusuke Morozumi
Norway – Thomas Ulsrud
Russia – Andrey Drozdov
Scotland – Ewan MacDonald
Switzerland – Peter de Cruz
Sweden – Oskar Eriksson
USA – Pete Fenson

Five of these teams (China, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Russia) were competing in Sochi at the Winter Olympics.

For the full team lineups check out this page on the official website.

Team Scotland

Scotland (L-R): Ewan MacDonald (Skip), Duncan Fernie (Third), David Reid (Second), Euan Byers (Lead), Glen Muirhead (Alternate), Tom Pendreigh (Coach, not pictured)

Here’s the team representing Scotland over in China and they are there because they won the 2014 Scottish Men’s Curling Championship in Perth in February where they went undefeated.

With three world titles to his name, Ewan MacDonald is Scotland’s most successful international curler and his team in Beijing bring a mix of youth and experience to the tournament – we could see them go far this week.

Here’s their full schedule:

All times are UK

Sat. 29 – 0600 – v. Sweden
Sun. 30 – 0200 – v. China*
Sun. 30 – 1200 – v. Japan
Mon. 31 – 0700 – v. Switzerland
Mon. 31 – 1200 – v. Denmark
Tue. 1 – 0200 – v. USA
Tue. 1 – 1200 – v. Czech Republic
Wed. 2 – 0200 – v. Norway
Wed. 2 – 0700 – v. Russia
Thu. 3 – 0700 – v. Canada*
Thu. 3 – 1200 – v. Germany

Not the most fan-friendly times here in Europe but we should still be able to get a good idea of how things are progressing for Ewan and the boys.

*These games are available live on the WCF’s YouTube channel along with others – full listings are here.

Predictions

If history is anything to go by in the World Men’s then the likelihood is that Sweden, Canada or Scotland will provide the winning team as the last time a team outside these three were crowned World Men’s Champions was Switzerland in 1992.

But history can never be relied on when it comes to curling!

That said, I believe that the winners will come from one of four teams – Canada, Norway, Scotland or Sweden.

Kevin Koe took Canada to World Championship glory in 2010 and he and his team will no doubt be hungry for a repeat performance. They are a rink I admire but it has already been announced that they will not play together next season – could this be unsettling?

Thomas Ulsrud is coming to the end of his playing career and it would be great to see him on top of the podium with his Norway team come the end of the week. The last time we saw the Norwegians win a World Men’s was 1988.

Team Ulsrud certainly stand out as one of the most experienced teams in the field and they easily have the capabilities but can they see the games out when they really matter? Ulsrud has three World bronzes to his name – can he upgrade in China?

Scotland may not be playing with a familiar or established lineup but they have a real chance of going far in this tournament with some hugely experienced players. Medals are not beyond them but they are going to have to beat the best if they want the big prize – if things go their way, Ewan could claim his fourth world title.

Sweden come into this tournament as reigning World Champions but it is not Niklas Edin who is back to defend his nation’s crown. Instead, Sweden have sent Oskar Eriksson and his youngsters to represent them in Beijing – a decision that has surprised many in the curling world. They are an outfit with huge potential and frequently take big wins against big teams on the tour events both in Europe and further afield.

Just a few weeks ago they beat Brad Jacobs and his Olympic Champions 8-1 after three ends during a Grand Slam event in Canada – rule this team out at your peril.

If you are looking for surprises, however, then consider keeping an eye on hosts China after their great Winter Olympic run, Rasmus Stjerne’s tricky Danes, Switzerland’s talented youngsters and the experience of the USA’s Pete Fenson.

But as I always say before (and during) these big events…

COME ON SCOTLAND!

Photos are © WCF/Céline Stucki and WCF/Richard Gray 2014
Image is © WCF

Weekend Curling 28-30 March

The season feels like it is almost over but there are still a few events, both big and small, to get through before we can put the curling shoes away for the summer.

Events don’t come much bigger than the World Men’s Championship which gets underway on Saturday in Beijing, China – watch this space for my guide to the tournament.

Here’s what to look out for closer to home…

Braehead is hosting the National Virtual Club Challenge on Saturday and all twelve of the RCCC’s virtual clubs will be represented.

24 teams are competing in a two-section Schenkel and you can find out more about the event here and here.

Braehead was the first rink to pilot the virtual club idea back in 2006 and it seems to have proved very successful – long may it continue.

The Edinburgh International Curlers’ Gathering began today (Friday) at Murrayfield and runs until Sunday.

This event has been running since 2005 and the 2014 edition features teams from Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Norway, Canada and Russia. With more foreign teams in attendance than ever before it is set to be a fine social occasion and I’m sure Murrayfield will put on a great show and afford the visitors a very warm welcome.

Keep an eye on the Murrayfield Facebook page for more information.

Finally, the Canadian Senior Curling Championships conclude this Sunday in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

You can follow all the weekend’s playoff action here.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the winners will not be heading to Dumfries for the World Seniors but will instead be going to the 2015 event – Canada does things differently because the competitions used to overlap.

Images are © RCCC and CCA