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Curling 101: Competition format

Feb 20, 2014; Sochi, RUSSIA; A general view during the Curling women's bronze medal game during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Ice Cube Curling Center.
Feb 20, 2014; Sochi, RUSSIA; A general view during the Curling women's bronze medal game during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Ice Cube Curling Center.

The men’s and women’s tournaments are identical in format. The mixed doubles tournament varies slightly.

Men's and women's tournaments include 10 teams; mixed doubles has eight teams in the field. In the preliminary round, each team plays every other team. After each team has completed nine games (men's and women's) or seven games (mixed doubles), the teams with the four best records advance to the semifinals. If there are not a clear top four teams, tie-breaking procedures will be used to determine the playoff teams (see below).

Once the semifinals begin, if a team had a better record than its opponent, it has the choice of shooting first or second in the first end. If the teams have the same record, the winner of their round robin game has the choice of shooting first or second in the first end. In the semifinals, the top-ranked team from the round-robin will play the fourth-place team, and the second-place team will play the third-place team (1v4, 2v3).

The winners of the semifinals meet in the final for the gold medal. The losers play for the bronze medal.

Each game in men's and women's curling is 10 ends in length. Mixed doubles play eight ends. Each end is complete when the two teams have each delivered all stones alternately and determined the score. If the teams are tied at the completion of 10 ends (men's and women's) or eight ends (mixed doubles), a complete extra end must be played to break the tie. If the teams are still tied, play must continue for as many ends as may be required to break the tie.

During the round robin, men's and women's teams may concede the game once a minimum of six ends have been completed. During the playoffs, a minimum of eight ends must be completed. Conceding the game when the losing skip feels he is too far down to come back is fairly common and is an accepted part of the etiquette of the sport. It should happen multiple times during the course of the Olympics.

Each team in the men's and women's tournaments will receive 38 minutes of thinking time for 10 ends. There are one-minute breaks between ends 1-5 and 6-10. Between the fifth and sixth end, there is a five-minute break. Each team can call one 60-second timeout per game to consult with its coach. Mixed doubles teams receive 22 minutes of thinking. There is a five minute break after the completion of the fourth end.

If a games in the men's and women's tournaments require an extra end or ends, each team receives four minutes and 30 seconds of thinking time for each extra end. There will be one-minute breaks between the 10th and 11th end and any subsequent ends. Each team can call one 60-second timeout in each extra end. An extra end in the mixed doubles tournament is allotted three minutes.

Tie-breaking procedure

After teams are ranked according to their win-loss records following the round robin portion, the system listed below is used to rank the teams that are tied. The same system is used to rank teams for seeding in the semifinals. The following criteria (in order) will be used to rank the teams at the completion of the round robin:

1. If two teams are tied, the team that won their round robin game will be ranked higher (head-to-head).

2. If three or more teams are tied, the record of the games between the tied teams will provide the ranking. Should this provide a ranking for some teams but not all, then the record of the games between the remaining teams that are still tied will determine the ranking (head-to-head).

3. If the ties are still not broken, the rankings will be determined using the Draw Shot Challenge (DSC). The DSC is the average distance from the button a stone travels with each teams’ Last Stone Draws (LSD), which were played by a team during the round robin. The worst mark is automatically eliminated before calculating the average distance. The team with the lower DSC receives the higher ranking. If the DSCs are equal, then the team with the best non-equal LSD receives the higher ranking. In case all LSDs are equal, the team ranked higher in the WCF World Rankings is ranked higher.