Team Bryce pick up second title of season at Braehead

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Team Bryce, Braehead Open winners. Pic: facebook.com/CurlingTeamBryce

The first Goldline Scottish Curling Tour event of the season took place this weekend, with Team Bryce claiming the Braehead Open title.

Elsewhere, the new Team Hamilton competed at the Colonial Square Ladies Classic in Saskatoon, Canada, and fell just short of a quarter-final spot.

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The Braehead Open involved 22 teams in two sections, playing three pool matches ahead of the last 16.

The rinks making the quarter-finals were Teams Bryce, Carson Gray, Hardie, Hare, Ireland, Marshall and Woolston.

Bryce and Hare met in the final, which was 3-3 after five ends, but after Hare scored two, Bryce claimed three, meaning Bryce went into the final end 6-5 up but without hammer.

They managed to force the error, though, stealing one for a 7-5 win – and added to the Tallinn International they won earlier in the month, that’s two wins from two events for Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle).

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The new-look Team Hamilton (Claire Hamilton, Gina Aitken, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) were the latest Scottish rink to head across to Canada – for the Colonial Square Ladies Classic in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

In a triple knockout format, they began with a 7-6 loss to Flaxey to slip onto the A-Road, but wins over Eberle and Fleming set up a B-Road final with Jennifer Jones’ rink.

The Olympic champions won that encounter, and Hamilton’s campaign was ended in the C-Road final, as they lost to Holland, just one match short of a quarter-final place.

Still, a decent start for the team, ahead of their participation in the Avonair Cash Spiel next week.

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2017-18 curling season preview

Olympic Curling Teams - Perthshire Picture Agency - Graeme HartTHE CHOSEN ONES: Great Britain’s men’s and women’s curlers for Pyeongchang 2018 (Team Muirhead and Team Smith). Pic: British Curling/Graeme Hart

Who said anything about a quiet summer break?

There have been some huge changes in the landscape of Scottish curling over the last few months.

There’s the personnel changes, of course.

David Murdoch’s playing days are over, with one of the stalwarts of the Scottish game retiring from competitive curling and switching to coaching.

The subsequent reshuffles have thrown up some intriguing team combinations for the new season.

Murdoch’s third Greg Drummond has moved up to skip, piloting a rink which also consists of Ross Paterson, Gregor Cannon and Michael Goodfellow.

Heading in the opposite direction to Paterson is Scott Andrews, who joins an all-new Team Brewster, with Tom Brewster also welcoming Duncan Menzies and Alasdair Schreiber to his quartet.

Team Bryce have added Ross Whyte to their roster, while Bruce Mouat’s new rink has a bit of a rockstar look to it.

Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie and Hammy McMillan are all on board – it’s a team packed with talent, so I’m excited to see what they can do in Scotland and on tour this year.

There are changes on the women’s side too, notably Sochi 2014 medallist Claire Hamilton coming into skip Gina Aitken’s team – Aitken moving to third in place of Rowena Kerr.

Some teams have stuck with the same formula of course, including the rinks selected to represent Great Britain at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang (oh yes, it’s an Olympic year!) – Team Muirhead and Team Smith.

There have of course been changes outside of the teams themselves, including the opening of the National Curling Academy in Stirling, which will hopefully see Scotland/Britain keep up with the world’s top – and emerging – curling nations.

The Curling Champions Tour and World Curling Tour have merged, and – closer to home – it’s good news to see the Scottish Curling Tour expand and gain a swanky new website.

Scotland (Aberdeen to be exact) will host the 2018 World Junior Championships, which can hopefully build on the interest generated by the Olympics (the countdown to #lovecurling trending again is underway…) the month before.

The Olympics have pulling power that individual winter sports can only dream of, so it’s vital that curling (Scottish curling in particular) uses its events this year to draw more fans, and maybe the next generation of players, to the game.

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Last week gave us a taste of what’s to come, with Teams Bryce and Jackson representing Scotland at the latest ‘Curling Night in America’ event in Omaha, while Judith and Lee McCleary flew the Saltire at the Audi quattro Winter Games in New Zealand (making the quarter-finals but losing to eventual champions Estonia).

This weekend sees things move up a gear. The first Grand Slam event of the season is on the horizon – the Tour Challenge (Tiers 1 and 2), on September 5-10 – and so there are four Scottish rinks over in Canada.

Teams Brewster, Drummond, Mouat and Smith will all fight it out for the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard, with eyes on Smith in particular.

Victory in Oakville (in the Oakville OCT Fall Classic) was one of the highlights in an impressively consistent (also consistently impressive) season which saw them get the nod for the Olympics.

How will they handle that extra pressure as Pyeonchang approaches? They’re still a young team, but they’ve been together for a long time and they know how to beat the world’s best.

Eve Muirhead has described an Olympic appearance (and medal) as putting a target on your back, and we’ll get our first chance to see the Team GB women at the Tour Challenge in Regina, where Team Fleming will also compete.

Excited yet? You should be. The changes over the summer simply add another dynamic to what promises to be a thrilling Olympic season.

December curling preview

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Will Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken retain their Scottish mixed doubles title this month? (Photo: British Curling)

After a hectic November and as we approach Christmas, the curling season slows a little – but there’s still plenty going on.

Teams Muirhead and Murdoch compete at a Grand Slam – the National – while there are also events across Europe and the world involving Scottish rinks.

In Scotland we have a Scottish Curling Tour event, competitions for young curlers and an increasingly competitive national mixed doubles championship.

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This last weekend, the Scottish Curling Junior Championships Qualifiers took place in Perth, with 14 rinks vying for a place at the junior championships next year.

Team Bryce went unbeaten with six wins from six, and they were joined in securing qualifying spots by Teams Baird, Carson, Cormack, Craik, Joiner, McNay and Whyte.

The Double Rink Championship took place in Stranraer, an event open to RCCC-affliliated clubs (each represented by two rinks), with Dunfermline coming out as champion after winning 12-4 and 7-3 in the final against Suttieside.

And the Canada Cup of Curling – a major cashspiel for Canadian curling’s creme de la creme with a prize pot of $140,000, plus spots at Olympic qualifying and the Continental Cup – saw wins for Team Carruthers (men’s) and Team Jones (women’s).

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National (Grand Slam of Curling)
Dates: December 6-11
Number of teams: 30 (15 men’s; 15 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Murdoch; Team Muirhead
Last year’s winners: Team Gushue; Team Homan
Website: thegrandslamofcurling.com/curling/national
Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario) hosts the third Grand Slam event of the season, and this will be the second season that the tournament includes a women’s section. Team Murdoch are the sole Scottish representative in the men’s section, facing Teams De Cruz, Epping, Morris and Koe in the round robin. Team Muirhead, fresh from winning European bronze, will take on Teams Sidorova, Rocque, Einarson and Tirinzoni.

Scottish Curling Mixed Doubles Championship (European Junior Curling Tour)
Dates: December 7-11
Number of teams: 8
Last year’s winners: Gina Aitken/Bruce Mouat
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/scottish-curling-mixed-doubles-championship-4
Braehead hosts eight teams fighting for the Scottish title and qualification for the 2017 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in Lethbridge, Canada. Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat have had a stellar year in the new Olympic curling discipline, but Judith and Lee McCleary also have plenty of mixed doubles pedigree – and other big names from the Scottish curling community are out to challenge those established duos. The competition consists of round robin matches, tiebreakers if needed, semi-finals and final.

Skill Awards Challenge (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: December 10
Last year’s winners: Team MacIntosh (Dundee)
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/skill-awards-challenge-4
Held at the Dewars Centre in Perth, this is a competition open to junior curlers who have achieved an RCCC Skill Award. Last season 16 teams participated, with the Dundee rink of Alex MacIntosh, Caitlin Jones, Jamie Meade and Alastair Ferguson winning the High Road final.

Dumfries Challenger Series (Scottish Curling Tour)
Dates: December 15-18
Number of teams: 30 (16 men’s; 14 women’s)
Scottish teams:
Last year’s winners: Team Mouat; Team Gray
Website: scottishcurlingtour.blogspot.co.uk
The usual suspects will contest the title in Dumfries – Team Hardie had a fast start to the season but it was Team Kubeska who took the Edinburgh International title, before Ally Fraser’s rink claimed victory at the Forfar Open. Last year’s women’s winners, meanwhile, have disbanded, so that section of the competition is certainly up for grabs.

Lockerbie Junior International (U21 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: December 16-18
Number of teams: 20 (10 men’s; 10 women’s)
Last year’s winners: Team McNay; Team Murray
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-21-slam-lockerbie-junior-international-2
Team Bremane, from Latvia, join 19 Scottish rinks – many of the junior men’s rinks will have recently faced off at the Scottish Junior Championship qualifiers. There’s no Team Bryce, though, nor Teams K Aitken or Jackson on the women’s side, so it looks an open and exciting competition in prospect.

Mixed Doubles Curling Challenge (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: December 16-18
Number of teams: 18
Website: cclimmattal.ch/index.php
No Scottish pairs are heading to Urdorf, Switzerland, for this event, but there are 18 teams from 11 countries involved, including mixed doubles stalwarts Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky, Szekeres/Nagy and Turmann/Lill, as well as the likes of Brendan Bottcher and Andrea Schöpp.

Forfar (U17 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: December 28-29
Number of teams: 20
Last year’s winners: Team McNay
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-17-slam-forfar-3
Twenty teams, a mix of male and female, are divided into five sections. Team Haswell look the rink to beat, though no doubt Teams Craik, Davie and Farmer will be among those to give it a right good go.

First Grand Slam final for Team Smith at Tour Challenge

 

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Team Smith made their first Grand Slam final this weekend (photo: Anil Mungal/thegrandslamofcurling.com)

Team Smith battled through to their first ever Grand Slam final at the GSOC Tour Challenge, ultimately falling to back-to-back Slam winners Team Edin.

Elsewhere, Team Fraser won the SCT Forfar Open and three Scottish teams competed at the ZO International Women’s Tournament in Switzerland – Teams G Aitken and Muirhead exiting at the quarter-final stage.

Team Jackson won the World Junior B Playdown against Team K Aitken, while the National Masters and Baljaffray Trophy also took place.

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The GSOC Tour Challenge, in Cranbrook, British Columbia, was organised in two tiers for men’s and women’s teams, and involved five Scottish rinks.

Teams Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) and Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) took part in men’s tier 1.

Murdoch began with an 8-4 loss to Team Ulsrud of Norway, then were beaten 8-5 by Team Jacobs (losing a five in end five).

Despite an 11-5 victory over Team Koe (stealing five in end eight), an 8-3 reverse against Team Morris saw them exit on a W1 L3 record.

Smith also started with a defeat, 9-4 to Team Nichols (giving up five in end five), but recovered to post wins against Team Carruthers (6-1), Team Thomas (8-7) and Team Epping (6-4) to progress to the playoffs.

In men’s tier 2, Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) – Scotland’s representative at the upcoming Europeans in Braehead, of course – also made the playoffs courtesy of victories against Team Schneider (7-2), Team Bice (5-4) and Team Lyburn (8-3), their only defeat coming against Team Joanisse (9-4).

Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon), also in men’s tier 2, made a good start – beating Team Geall 9-5 – but then lost to Team Balsdon (6-4).

Mouat defeated Team Clark 8-2 to give themselves hope of making the playoffs, but a 6-4 loss to Team Gunnlaugson tipped them into a tiebreaker with Bice, which they lost 7-4.

And in women’s tier 2, Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) were victors against Team Galusha (9-4) and Team Tippin (7-6) but were beaten by Team Brown (10-4) andTeam Kleibrink (6-3), which mean a tiebreaker with Team Harrison, the Canadians winning that 6-4.

Come the playoffs, Brewster went down 5-2 against Joanisse in the men’s tier 2 quarter-finals, which left Smith as the sole Scottish rink remaining.

In the quarter-finals against Carruthers, Smith scored three in end three and stole two in end six on their way to a 7-5 win, putting them into the last four and up against Ulsrud.

Smith scored two in end one but the match went down to the wire, 5-5 after eight ends, the Scots taking their one with hammer in the extra end to make the final.

There they met Edin, who had lost their first two matches in Cranbrook but – as they often do – found form when they needed it to win their tiebreaker and then keep rolling through the playoffs.

And they proved too strong for Smith here, scoring two in end two, stealing one in the third and adding three in end five for a 7-3 victory – and their second successive Grand Slam title.

Team Smith’s coach Viktor Kjall said: “It has been an impressive week from the team and they played with confidence, determination and exactly executed their gameplan.”

“It is an incredible performance from such a young team competing in their second slam to reach a final and it is one of the biggest achievements in Grand Slam history.

“At the moment they can beat any team in the world but they still have to work hard if they want to break into the top 10 in the world.”

Women’s tier 1 was claimed by Team Sweeting (8-5 winners over Team Englot in the final), while Team Balsdon won men’s tier 2 and Team Harrison women’s tier 2.

For photos from the event, see the GSOC gallery here… and of course Ben Hebert returned to present another edition of the ‘Sheet Show’…

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Sixteen teams travelled to Forfar for another Scottish Curling Tour event, which came just one weekend after the Edinburgh International.

The 12 men’s and four women’s teams – from Canada, England and Ireland as well as the host nation – played out group matches to decide the quarter-final line-up.

Those last eight matches pitted Team Bryce against Team Hardie (Hardie won 6-1), Team Fraser versus Team D Wilson (Fraser took it 5-2), Team Taylor up against Team Telfer (Taylor coming through 5-4) and – in the women’s quarter – Team Ward against Team M Wilson (Ward, the English women’s team preparing for European B-Division in Braehead, winning 9-4).

In the semi-finals, Hardie overcame Ward 6-2 and Fraser defeated Taylor 5-2.

Hardie have become accustomed to winning SCT events over the past couple of seasons but it was not to be this time, as Fraser (Ally Fraser, Ruairidh Greenwood, Calum Greenwood, Angus Dowell) scored twos in ends one, three and seven in taking the match and the silverware 7-6.

Photos from the event are available on the SCT blog pages here.

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The International ZO Women’s Tournament in Wetzikon, Switzerland, attracted three Scottish entries.

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) – like Team Brewster, counting down the days to be the home team at Europeans – took their place in the quarter-finals courtesy of round-robin victories against Teams Szeliga-Frynia (4-3), Nielsen (5-3), Lundman (9-3) and Bugnon (8-5), before a 7-2 loss to Team Barbezat with qualification already secured.

Team Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) joined Muirhead in the last eight – on draw shot ranking – having won against Teams Maillard (4-2), Mathis (6-5) and Kauste (5-4), and losing to Teams Moiseeva (8-5) and Kubeskova (6-5).

The third Scottish rink, Team Smith (Hazel Smith, Sarah Reid, Laura Ritchie, Claire Hamilton), went out with a W1 L4 record, beating Team Strnadova 8-3 but suffering defeats to Teams Baksheeva (6-4), Wrana (5-3), Stern (5-4 after extra end) and Mani (8-5).

The quarter-finals proved the limit for both remaining Scottish teams, Aitken beaten 9-3 by Team Schöpp and Muirhead losing 7-5 against Mani.

Schöpp made the final but ended as runners-up, Barbezat claiming a Swiss victory with a 7-5 win over their German opponents.

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Back in Scotland, two of the nation’s top junior women’s teams contested a playdown to decide who would fly the Saltire at the World Junior B Championships.

Team Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr) took the first game of the best-of-five series by a 9-8 scoreline.

Their opponents, Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Sophie Sinclair, Mili Smith), hit straight back by taking the second game 9-3.

Again they traded victories, Aitken winning 9-6 and then Jackson 8-3, which set up a decisive fifth match.

This one was lower-scoring than the previous games, Jackson taking a steal of one in end five to lead 2-1 at halfway; Aitken couldn’t wrestle back control of the match and opposing skip Sophie Jackson drew the four foot to score one in end 10 and claim victory 4-3.

Therefore it is Jackson who will represent Scotland at the international tournament in Ostersund, Sweden, from January 3-9, 2017.

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Finally, to round up the last few events (a very busy week!), the National Masters Curling Championship qualifiers took place at Greenacres – results here – and the latest round of the Asham U17 Slam was held at the same venue later in the week.

The latter competition, the Baljaffray Trophy, drew 24 junior teams – who battled it out to make high and low road finals.

The high road final saw Team Kinnear beat Team Farmer 8-4 to win yet another title in what is already turning into a very successful season for Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean and Matthew McKenzie.

Team Gallacher defeated Team Davie 10-1 for third spot, while in the low road final it was Team Craik who won out, 6-5 against Team Hair.

 

Also this week we had the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships, held in Uiseong, Korea, and the host country claimed gold in the women’s competition.

Team Eunjung Kim and silver medallists China (skipped by Bingyu Wang) both secured qualification for the 2017 World Women’s Curling Championship in Beijing.

As for the men, Japan (skipped by Yusuke Morozumi) won gold ahead of China (Rui Liu) – both teams booked their tickets for next year’s World Men’s in Edmonton, Canada.

Last, but certainly not least for Scotland, the World Wheelchair-B Curling Championships took place in Lohja, Finland.

Not only did the Scots (Aileen Neilson (skip), Gregor Ewan, Hugh Nibloe, Robert McPherson, Angie Malone (alternate)) win silver (beaten 6-4 in the final by the host nation), they also qualified for the 2017 World Wheelchair Curling Championship – and the 2018 Winter Olympics as Great Britain.

You can see Scotland’s full results from Lohja, including their 13-3 semi-final win over England, here.

November curling preview

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The European Championships are coming to Scotland this month – photo: facebook.com/royalcaledoniancurlingclub

The European Curling Championships are in Braehead this month – what, you hadn’t heard? That’s the really big one, but what else is going on through November? Read on…

CookstownCash (World Curling Tour)
Dates: November 3-6
Number of teams: 40 (30 men’s; 10 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Smith
Last year’s winners: Team De Cruz (Switzerland)
Website: worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4337

Team Smith take on a host of local rinks in Cookstown, Ontario, as well as big-hitters such as Team Epping, Team Howard and Team De Cruz (defending champions). The competition begins with a pool stage ahead of knockouts – Smith are in Pool D with Teams Bailey, Gordon, Robillard and Ross.

Edinburgh International Curling Championship (Scottish Curling Tour)
Dates: November 4-6
Number of teams: 18
Scottish teams: Team Bryce, Team Fraser, Team Hardie, Team MacDonald, Team Mouat
Last year’s winners: Team Hardie
Website: murrayfieldinternational.com

The Goldline Scottish Curling Tour’s third event of the season takes place at Murrayfield Curling in the capital. Hardie look to defend their title against home opposition and some more than capable challengers from abroad – chief among them 2016 World silver medallists Team Stjerne – with entries coming from the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and Wales.

Inverness Junior International (Asham U21 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: November 4-6
Number of teams: 18 (10 boys’; 8 girls’)
Last year’s winners: Team Brydone; Team Murray
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-21-slam-inverness-junior-international-4/

Usual suspects on the Scottish circuit Team Bryce and Team Jackson are not taking part in this U21 Slam, which allows the likes of Team Whyte (boys’ side), Team K Aitken and Team MacDonald (girls’) the opportunity to take advantage by gaining vital ranking points.

World Wheelchair-B Curling Championship (World Curling Federation)
Dates: November 4-6
Number of teams: 16
Last year’s winners: Norway
Website: worldcurling.org/wwhcc2017

Lohja in Finland hosts the Wheelchair-B Championship, where Scotland are represented by 2014 Winter Paralympic bronze medallist Aileen Neilson (skip), Gregor Ewan, Hugh Nibloe, Robert McPherson and Angie Malone (alternate) – and hope to improve on last season’s fifth-place finish. England, skipped by Rosemary Lenton, also compete.

Pacific-Asia Curling Championships (World Curling Federation)
Dates: November 5-12
Number of teams: 17 (9 men’s; 8 women’s)
Last year’s winners: Soo Hyuk Kim (Korea); Satsuki Fujisawa (Japan)
Website: worldcurling.org/pacc2016

With curling’s focus being steadily pulled eastwards both by the strength of Asian teams in world competitions and the location of the 2018 Winter Olympics, this event in Uiseong, South Korea, is one to watch. The women’s rinks of Bingyu Wang (China), Satsuki Fujisawa (Japan) and Kim Eunjung (Korea) make for a fearsome threesome and the competition between them is likely to be fierce. Rui Liu (China) and Yusuke Morozumi (Japan) are among those on the men’s side.

National Masters Curling Championship – Qualifiers (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: November 8-10
Number of teams: 30
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/national-masters-curling-championship-qualifiers/

Greenacres hosts the qualifying event for the National Masters Curling Championship, with Scottish curlers over the age of 60 eligible to take part. Thirty rinks in six sections are expected to compete for those qualification spots.

Tour Challenge (Grand Slam of Curling)
Dates: November 8-13
Number of teams: 60 (30 men’s; 30 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Murdoch, Team Smith (tier 1), Team Brewster, Team Mouat (tier 2); Team Fleming (tier 2)
Last year’s winners: Team Koe (tier 1), Team Cotter (tier 2); Team Tirinzoni (tier 1), Team Einarson (tier 2)
Website: thegrandslamofcurling.com

Grand Slams are like buses, apparently. Two in very quick succession! After the Masters in Okotoks, Alberta, it’s time for the Tour Challenge in Cranbrook, British Columbia. Teams Murdoch and Smith go in tier 1, where Team Edin will look to make it a Swedish double after taking the Masters. Teams Brewster and Mouat are in tier 2, while Team Fleming compete in women’s tier 2.

Forfar Open (Scottish Curling Tour)
Dates: November 11-13
Last year’s winners: Team Mouat; Team Jackson
Website: scottishcurlingtour.blogspot.co.uk

Forfar Indoor Sports’ unique competition – the sole Scottish Curling Tour event with a women’s section – returns. Team Mouat won’t be there to defend their title (see above), nor will Team Jackson (see below), so there’ll be two new champions this season.

World Junior Women’s B Playdown (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: November 11-13
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/world-junior-b-playdown/

Karina Aitken and Sophie Jackson’s rinks will battle it out over a best-of-five series to fly the Scottish flag at the World Junior B Curling Championships in January – and hopefully get Scotland promoted to the A-Division for next season.

ZO Women’s Tournament (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: November 11-13
Number of teams: 24
Scottish teams: Team Aitken, Team Muirhead, Team Smith
Last year’s winners: Team Feltscher (Switzerland)
Website: curling-wetzikon.ch/cms/zo-frauencurlingturnier/en/index_en.php

Team Muirhead warm up for the European Championships with this tournament in Wetzikon, Switzerland. They are joined by Teams Gina Aitken and Hazel Smith, as well as the likes of Teams Feltscher (Switzerland), Nielsen (Denmark) and Sidorova (Russia). There are four pools of six teams, with playoffs on the Sunday.

The Baljaffray Trophy (Asham U17 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: November 12-13
Number of teams: 24
Last year’s winners: Team Whyte
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-17-slam-the-baljaffray-trophy-3/

Greenacres hosts the latest round of the U17 Slam series. Teams Craik, Haswell and Kinnear will once again be expected to challenge for this title and ranking points, with overall winners gaining entry to a World Curling Federation junior curling camp in Germany next year.

Mixed Doubles Bern (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: November 18-20
Number of teams: 32
Scottish teams: Gina Aitken/Bruce Mouat, Judith McCleary/Lee McCleary
Website: curlingbern.ch/turniere/2016-2017/1-mixed-doubles-bern/

Two Scottish pairs travel to Switzerland for this inaugural mixed doubles event, to challenge alongside 30 other teams including Szekeres/Nagy (Hungary), Bryzgalova/Krusheinitcki (Russia) and Perret/Rios (Switzerland). There are qualification matches, playoffs and a consolation cup.

 Red Deer Curling Classic (World Curling Tour)
Dates: November 18-21
Number of teams: 54 (32 men’s; 22 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Murdoch, Team Smith; Team Fleming
Last year’s winners: Team Lizmore; Team Rocque
Website: worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4233

Red Deer, Alberta, hosts this major World Curling Tour event (triple knockout format), with the three Scottish rinks taking part being the losing teams at the European Playdowns last month. Look out for the likes of Teams Bottcher, Koe, Carey and Rocque on the men’s and women’s sides.

European Curling Championships (World Curling Federation)
Dates: November 19-26
Number of teams: 46 (26 men’s; 20 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Brewster; Team Muirhead
Last year’s winners: Team Edin (Sweden); Team Sidorova (Russia)
Website: worldcurling.org/ecc2016

It’s almost here! Braehead hosts the Europeans, with 46 teams in men’s and women’s A and B-Divisions. Can Team Brewster build on their last performance at Worlds? Will Team Edin reign supreme again (they’re on brilliant form)? Can Team Muirhead go one better than in Esbjerg, with Team Sidorova failing to qualify? Or is it time for Team Hasselborg’s true international arrival? So many questions, so many top curlers – let’s hope they attract big crowds.

September 2016 curling preview

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Oakville Curling Club (photo: facebook.com/teammouat)

The Baden Masters kicked 2016-17 off as far as Scottish curling is concerned; September sees things go up a notch with a dozen competitions during the month.

Here’s a quick rundown of what the next four weeks have in store.

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Braehead Junior International (European Junior Curling Tour)
Dates: September 2-4
Number of teams: 20 (12 boys’; 8 girls’)
Scottish teams: Team Bryce, Team Carson, Team Haswell, Team Whyte; Team K Aitken, Team Davie, Team Jackson, Team MacDonald
Prize money: £2,000
Last year’s winners: Team Hess (Switzerland); Team Jackson (Scotland)
Website: http://www.curlbraehead.co.uk/ejct-2016.html

It’s a big season for Braehead, with the European Championships coming to town, and it kicks off with this international juniors competition. Teams play round robin games on Friday and Saturday, followed by semi-finals and finals on Sunday. The new-look Scottish rinks of Cameron Bryce and Ross Whyte will certainly look to challenge on the boys’ side, while Teams K Aitken and Jackson lead the Scottish girls’ title tilt.

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Oakville OCT Fall Classic (World Curling Tour)
Dates: September 2-4
Number of teams: 43 (25 men’s; 18 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Mouat, Team Smith
Prize money: $13,000 men’s; $10,000 women’s
Last year’s winners: Team Maus (Canada); Team Harrison (Canada)
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4300

Scottish men’s teams Mouat and Smith have travelled across to Canada to take on a strong field in a competition comprising of pools then knockouts. Mouat face Teams Brown, Stewart, Krell and McCormick; Smith, meanwhile, are up against Teams Birr, Ferris, Balsdon and Murphy. Other teams to look out for include Brady Clark and John Epping’s rinks. There are no Scottish teams in the women’s competition, but Fleury, Hasselborg and Roth are among those that are.

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HDF Insurance Shoot-Out (World Curling Tour)
Dates: September 8-11
Number of teams: 24
Scottish teams: Team G Aitken, Team Muirhead
Prize money: $32,000
Last year’s winners: Team Sweeting (Canada)
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4304

Gina Aitken and Eve Muirhead’s rinks kick off their season in Edmonton, Alberta. This competition is made up of a round robin pool stage then knockouts. Reigning champions Team Sweeting return, as do previous winners Team Carey and Team Lawton, alongside other dangerous opponents in Teams Driendl, Fujisawa, Rocque and more.

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Stu Sells Oakville Tankard (World Curling Tour)
Dates: September 8-11
Number of teams: 64 (20 men’s tier 1, 20 men’s tier 2; 24 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Brewster, Team Murdoch, Team Mouat, Team Smith; Team Fleming
Prize money: $27,000 men’s tier 1, $16,000 men’s tier 2; $24,000 women’s
Last year’s winners: Team Gushue (Canada) tier 1, N/A tier 2; Team Homan (Canada)
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4364

Teams Brewster, Murdoch and Smith are in tier 1 of the men’s competition in Ontario, which has a triple knockout format and also contains Teams Bottcher, Edin, Gushue, Laycock and Morris. In men’s tier 2, Team Mouat are contention alongside the likes of Team Clark and Team Van Dorp. As for the women’s competition, it’s here where Team Fleming kick off their season, potentially facing big names such as Sherry Middaugh, Margaretha Sigfridsson and the Swiss trio of Feltscher, Pätz and Tirinzoni across a triple knockout format.

***

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Team Gushue won last season’s Shorty Jenkins Classic (photo: facebook.com/TeamGushue)

AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic (World Curling Tour)
Dates: September 15-18
Number of teams: 39 (24 men’s; 15 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Brewster, Team Murdoch; Team Fleming
Prize money: $59,000 men’s; $29,500 women’s
Last year’s winners: Team Gushue (Canada); Team EunJung Kim (Korea)
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4313

Cornwall in Ontario hosts some of the sport’s greatest rinks for a round robin pool stage then knockouts. Teams Brewster and Murdoch are pitted against the likes of Carruthers, De Cruz (Baden Masters winners last weekend), Edin, Gushue (defending champions), Jacobs, Koe and McEwen. In other words, the very best of Canadian men’s curling. The potential games facing Team Fleming on the women’s side are just as challenging – Homan, Middaugh and Tirinzoni to name but three.

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Greenacres Junior Masters (U21 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: September 16-18
Last year’s winners: Team Whyte (Scotland); Team K Aitken (Scotland)
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-21-slam-greenacres-junior-masters-3/

The opening leg in the four-part U21 Slam series sees teams compete to win this competition, and to gain points which go towards the overall Asham U21 Slam male and female titles. Last year’s overall winners were Teams Whyte and Murray.

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Colonial Square Ladies Classic (World Curling Tour)
Dates: September 16-19
Number of teams: 32
Scottish teams: Team Muirhead
Prize money: $50,000
Last year’s winners: Team McCarville
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4305

Saskatoon hosts this long-running major women’s event. With Stefanie Lawton, Jennifer Jones, Sherry Middaugh and Eve Muirhead among the previous skips to have won the title, and generous prize money on offer, you can expect a quality field.

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Tallinn Mixed Doubles International (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: September 22-25
Number of teams: 18
Prize money: €400
Last year’s winners: N/A
Website: http://softpeelr.com/en/tournaments/348

We’re all very excited about mixed doubles making its Olympic bow in 2018. The opening competition in the discipline takes place in Estonia, with group matches, quarter-finals, semis then final. No Scots have entered this event, but organisers Harri Lill and Marie Turmann (who are themselves competing) have still attracted a fine field for this inaugural event. Names to look out for include Oona Kauste/Tomi Rantamäki (Finland), Ildiko Szekeres/Gyorgy Nagy (Hungary) and Jenny Perret/Martin Rios (Switzerland).

***

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Team Hardie, 2015 Braehead Open winners (photo:facebook.com/TeamHardie)

Braehead Open (Scottish Curling Tour)
Dates: September 23-25
Number of teams: 24 (space for 32)
Scottish teams (so far): Team Adam, Team Barr, Team Bryce, Team Hardie, Team Horton, Team Jamieson, Team McCall, Team Mouat, Team Taylor, Team Telfer; Team G Aitken, Team Jackson, Team McDougall, Team H Smith, Team Wilson
Prize money: £2,000
Last year’s winner: Team Hardie (Scotland)
Website: http://scottishcurlingtour.blogspot.co.uk/

Reigning champions Team Hardie headline the opening Scottish Curling Tour event of the season, alongside other strong Scottish contenders including Teams Bryce, Mouat, G Aitken and Jackson. Team Hazel Smith (including ex-Team Muirhead leads Claire Hamilton and Sarah Reid) will also compete, in addition to rinks from England, Ireland, Wales and the Czech Republic.

***

Stevenson Trophy (U17 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: September 24-25
Last year’s winner: Team Kinnear (Scotland)
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-17-slam-the-stevenson-trophy-2/

There are five U17 Slam events (each lasting two days), with each team’s best three results accumulated to determine the overall winners. Teams can be male, female or mixed for these events, which are made up of games of six ends. Prizes include guaranteed selection for the WCF Junior Curling Camp in Fussen, Germany, in 2017.

***

Swiss Cup Basel (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: September 29-October 2
Number of teams: 32
Scottish teams: Team Brewster, Team Mouat, Team Murdoch, Team Smith
Prize money: CHF 40,500
Last year’s winners: Team Gushue (Canada)
Website: http://swisscupbasel.ch/index.php?lang=en

There’s strong Scottish representation at the Swiss Cup Basel, with Teams Brewster, Murdoch, Mouat and Smith all involved in this triple knockout competition. Brewster won this event in 2014, and Smith came joint third last year as Team Gushue of Canada picked up the title. Gushue returns to Switzerland again this time around, part of a strong field that also includes Teams De Cruz, Edin, Stjerne and Ulsrud.

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Kinross Junior Classic (U21 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: September 30-October 2
Last year’s winners: Team Bryce; Team Murray
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-21-slam-kinross-junior-classic-4/

The second leg of the Asham U21 Slam brings the competition to Kinross. Team Bryce could be in the running to retain their title, but there’ll certainly be a new champion on the women’s side, with Team Murray having broken up over the summer.

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Stockholm Ladies champions 2015, Team Homan (photo: facebook.com/stockholmladies)

Stockholm Ladies Cup (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: September 30-October 2
Number of teams: 20
Scottish teams: Team Fleming, Team Muirhead
Prize money: SEK270,000
Last year’s winner: Team Homan
Website: http://slcc.se/

Teams Fleming and Muirhead carry the flag for Scotland in this pool stage then knockout competition. Last year’s winners Team Homan are not returning to defend their title, but it’s still a top field. Fleming are in a pool with Teams Feltscher, Lundman, Matsamura and Sidorova, while Muirhead face Teams Hasselborg, Kim, Mani and Nielsen.

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Canad Inns Mixed Doubles Classic (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: September 30-October 3
Number of teams: 32
Scottish teams: Gina Aitken/Bruce Mouat
Prize money: $25,000
Last year’s winners: Rachel Homan/John Morris
Website: https://www.canadinns.com/about-us/in-the-community/canad-inns-in-classic/canad-inns-mixed-doubles-classic/

More mixed doubles, this time in Canada – Portage, in Manitoba, to be exact. World Mixed Doubles Championship semi-finalists Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat are one of 32 teams to compete, along with star names Rachel Homan/John Morris, Jennifer Jones/Brent Laing and Kalynn Park/Charley Thomas.

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As well as following linescores and, occasionally, YouTube coverage from these events, you can keep up to date with Scottish teams’ progress throughout September via the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter pages.

Granite glory for Team MacDonald at Aberdeen City Open

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Aberdeen City Open winners Team MacDonald (photo: Gavin Fleming)

Team MacDonald warmed up for their Scottish Curling Championship defence by winning the Aberdeen City Open, defeating Alan MacDougall’s English rink in the final.

Ewan MacDonald’s rink were one of 20 teams in Aberdeen, split into two groups (red and blue sections) – the top four from each making it into the quarter-finals.

MacDonald’s men topped the red section on four wins from four, those coming against Macleod (10-2), Perras (9-5), Aitken (8-4) and Fowler (13-6).

Gina Aitken and Scott Macleod’s rinks were second and third in the group (both W3 L1 records), and Adrian Meikle’s Welshmen edged their way into fourth – finishing W2 L2 alongside Fowler, Perras and Wilson but having the better ‘shots up’ record.

In the blue section, it was Stuart Taylor’s rink who went undefeated, beating Menzies 11-4, Lockhart 11-2 and Gray 7-4, and drawing 4-4 with Fleming.

That draw for Hannah Fleming’s team saw them qualify for the quarter-finals in fourth spot on W2 D1 L1, in behind Teams Gray (W3 L1) and MacDougall (W2 D1 L1).

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Team Taylor (photo: Stuart McLachlan)

In the last eight, MacDonald continued their fearsome form by defeating Fleming 7-1 thanks to a three in end one and twos in ends three and four.

Gray overcame Macleod 6-4 with twos in ends four and six, while MacDougall beat Aitken 5-2 and Meikle scored three in end eight to sneak past Taylor 7-6.

In the semi-finals, MacDonald faced Gray in an all-Scottish clash, with MacDonald coming out on top 6-4, scoring a crucial two in end six after Gray had stolen one to level at 3-3 after five.

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Gray v MacDonald (photo: Stuart McLachlan)

In the other semi, Meikle came from 5-1 down after five to tie it up at 6-6 after eight, but MacDougall had hammer in the extra end and scored the one needed to make the final.

In that final, MacDonald were forced to one in the first but then stole one in end two, two in end three and another one in end four to lead 5-0.

MacDougall got on the board in end five but two from MacDonald in end six saw handshakes at 7-1.

Gray took third place with a 5-3 win over Meikle in the third/fourth game.

More photos from the weekend (courtesy of Stuart McLachlan and Maggie Wilson) are on Facebook here.

***

Judith and Lee McCleary represented Scotland at the Aarau Mixed Doubles, reaching the semi-finals.

They cruised through Group B, winning five from five – taking victories over Guzieva/Ali of Russia (9-5), Gribi/Gribi of Switzerland (6-5), Hümbelin/Gubler of Switzerland (13-3), Matulovà/Derzsi of Slovakia (13-2) and Colceriu/Coliban of Romania (9-6).

They then defeated Szekeres/Nagy of Hungary 6-4 in the quarter-finals, but were beaten by Jäggi/Freiberger of Switzerland 8-5 – the Swiss rink went on to lose to their compatriots Perret/Rios in the final, while the McClearys lost 7-6 to Hegner/Attinger, also of Switzerland, in the third/fourth game.

***

In Canada, the Brier playdowns continued – with the headline news being Team Glenn Howard overcoming Team Epping 6-5 to become Ontario champion.

Team Laycock won in Saskatchewan, meanwhile, and Mike Kennedy took the New Brunswick title.

Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Northern Ontario will see their representatives decided this coming weekend.

And the USA national championships are currently in progress – Team Clark lead the way for the men after three games, while it’s Brown and Roth who sit W3 L0 in the women’s event.