2016-17 curling half season review

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Braehead bronze: Team Muirhead with their European Championship medals (photo: twitter.com/Team_Muirhead)

As 2017 looms large, it’s time for The Roaring Game Blog to look back on the first half of the curling season.

There was plenty going on – although thankfully #Broomgate controversy has vanished from the spotlight, following the World Curling Federation’s sweeping summit and new regulations.

That means the focus has been on the ice, with Scottish teams more than holding their own as non-Canadian teams draw closer to the likes of Gushue, Homan and Koe.

Here are some of the highlights…

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BRAEHEAD: Curling came home, as Braehead hosted the 2016 European Championships… which ended up being pretty similar to the 2015 Championships.

Just as in Esbjerg 12 months previously, Sweden won men’s gold (more on Team Edin later), Russia won women’s gold, Scotland men fell short of the playoffs, and Scotland women medalled again.

Team Brewster defeated all of the eventual men’s medallists (Sweden, Norway and Switzerland) in the round robin but finished in sixth place – missing the playoffs but qualifying Scotland for the 2017 World Men’s Curling Championships.

Team Muirhead cruised through the round robin, winning nine from nine, but had one bad game – against eventual winners Team Moiseeva of Russia – and had to settle for bronze… skip Eve Muirhead’s seventh consecutive European medal, a remarkable run of consistency.

In the B-Division, England’s men and women, and Wales men, all won more than they lost – but none made the playoffs, the English women particularly unlucky, with three of their defeats coming after an extra end.

***

KINGS OF SWEDEN: Team Edin have been the outstanding team in the world this year, the Swedes winning their third consecutive European gold, as well as claiming victory at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard, Swiss Cup Basel, Champery Masters and the first two Grand Slam of Curling events of the season – the Masters and Tour Challenge.

No team has perfected the art of starting a tournament slowly and finishing it like a steam train quite like Niklas Edin’s rink, and they look more than capable of continuing their amazing title-winning form into 2017.

***

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GREAT SCOTS: Team Smith (photo: Tom J Brydone/British Curling)

THE RIVALS PART I: Team Smith have enjoyed an outstanding first half of the season, despite being beaten to European qualification by Team Brewster, and it could have been even better had they not repeatedly run into the red-hot Team Edin.

Kyle Smith’s quartet won the Oakville OCT Fall Classic to kick-start their season, before making the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard semi-finals (beaten by Edin) and Swiss Cup Basel semis (beaten by Edin).

They then reached their first ever Grand Slam final, at the Tour Challenge in Cranbrook, where they finished as runners-up… to Edin.

So far, so Djokovic v Murray in tennis slam finals – but Smith’s form shows they’re a match for anyone in the world, which they continued to demonstrate by taking the Dumfries Challenger title just before Christmas to sit 13th in the World Curling Tour Order of Merit rankings.

***

FLEMING TAKE FLIGHT: Just like their 2013 World University Games comrades Team Smith, this half season has been a real breakthrough for Team Fleming.

Hannah Fleming’s rink, having added Jen Dodds and Vicky Wright to the line-up, have pulled off some remarkable victories over top teams and posted a series of runners-up finishes.

The Women’s Masters Basel saw them reach the semi-finals, and they upped that result by reaching finals at the Stockholm Ladies Cup, Red Deer Curling Classic and Qinghai China International, only to fall short of the top prize each time.

A first title of the season may still elude them, but there’s no doubt they’re on the up – to 27th in the women’s Order of Merit.

***

DIFFERENT NAMES, SAME RESULTS: Team Fleming are still chasing the top Scots though – Team Muirhead have added Lauren Gray at lead and Glenn Howard as coach, while fielding Kelly Schafer at third for the first few months of the season while Anna Sloan recovered from injury, but they have looked no less impressive.

They were the best women’s team in Braehead (and so were unlucky to ‘only’ win bronze), while also coming in as runners-up at the HDF Insurance Shoot-Out and Colonial Square Ladies Classic.

After those second-placed finishes, they finally got to the top spot of the podium by winning the Women’s Masters Basel – and ended 2016 by coming third at the Karuizawa International.

The 2018 Winter Olympics remain the ultimate goal for these ladies, and the indications are that they’re gelling with plenty of time to spare.

***

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ON THE UP: Team Bryce (photo: facebook.com/CurlingTeamBryce)

NICE TO SEE YOU, TO SEE YOU BRYCE: Team Murdoch were runners-up at the Swiss Cup Basel and Karuizawa International, Team Brewster won the latter, but the most successful Scottish men’s side aside from Team Smith have been Team Bryce.

With a rejigged line-up of their own, they’ve had a fantastic first half to the season – winning the EJCT Braehead Junior International, Greenacres Junior Masters (U21 Slam), Kinross Junior Classic (U21 Slam) and EJCT Livechannel Cup.

Add to that third place at the EJCT Thun event and second at the Dumfries Challenger (pushing Smith all the way in the final), and it’s no surprise to see them ranked as Europe’s second best junior team.

They’re also favourites to win next year’s Scottish Juniors to qualify for Worlds.

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THE RIVALS PART II: Team Bryce’s superb form has irked one team more than most: Team Whyte, who just haven’t quite managed to get the best of them yet.

Bryce won their head-to-heads in the Braehead Junior International final, Greenacres Junior Masters final, Kinross Junior Classic final and EJCT Thun third-place playoff.

Ross Whyte’s boys have had a fine season themselves, mind you – runners-up at the Dumfries Open and winners of the Inverness Junior International and Lockerbie Junior International U21 Slams.

And 3/4 of their line-up, skipped by Callum Kinnear, have been tearing it up in the U17 Slams – victors at the Stevenson Trophy, Lanarkshire Slam and Baljaffray Trophy.

***

EUROPE’S BEST: Team Jackson are first in the EJCT women’s rankings after enjoying their own excellent half season.

It’s been a very busy one for Sophie Jackson and co, but their highlights include winning the women’s titles at the EJCT Braehead Junior International, Greenacres Junior Masters and EJCT Prague Junior Cup, as well as placing second in the Braehead Open and Dumfries Challenger events.

They also saw off Team Karina Aitken to qualify for next week’s World Junior-B Championships, where their aim is clear: get Scotland back up to the top table after relegation last year.

***

QUEENS OF SWEDEN: Outside of Scottish curling, it’s been an intriguing season so far, perhaps most marked by the emergence of Team Hasselborg of Sweden.

Shooting past Team Sigfridsson (so long Sweden’s dominant rink, who haven’t had a bad half season themselves to be fair), Hasselborg have won the Stockholm Ladies Cup, reached the semi-finals of two Grand Slams, and won silver at Europeans in Braehead.

We’ve also seen the impressive return of Bingyu Wang of China, the 2009 world champion, while Team Homan have struggled to find the consistency of their steamroller-style start to 2015-16 – Grand Slam titles instead going to Teams Einarson, Flaxey and Sweeting.

On the men’s side, Teams Carruthers and Jacobs have looked the most impressive aside from Team Edin, while Team Gushue have performed admirably during skip Brad’s recuperation – and ‘Team Pants’ (Thomas Ulsrud’s delightfully wacky Norwegian rink) have been far from pants in coming second at the Baden Masters and Europeans, before winning the Qinghai China International men’s title this month.

***

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CHAMPIONS: Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken, Scottish Mixed Doubles winners (photo: facebook.com/TeamAitkenMouat)

MIX IT UP: Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat continue to make waves in the mixed doubles discipline, winning their fourth Scottish Mixed Doubles title to qualify for Worlds, while excelling on the continent.

They claimed the CCT Bern Mixed Doubles title, as well as coming in as runners-up at the CCT Austrian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup.

Judith and Lee McCleary were second at the Scottish Championships, and also won the Consolation Cup at the Bern Mixed Doubles, so proved they’re very capable of keeping Aitken and Mouat on their toes as Pyeongchang 2018 draws closer.

At the 2016 World Mixed Curling Championship (four players per team as opposed to two), Cameron Bryce (skip), Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson played brilliantly as they secured bronze medals for Scotland.

***

SUPER SILVER: Speaking of medals, the Scottish wheelchair curlers Aileen Neilson (skip), Gregor Ewan, Hugh Nibloe, Robert McPherson and Angie Malone (alternate) won silver at the World Wheelchair-B Curling Championship.

In doing so, they also qualified for the 2017 World Wheelchair Curling Championship – and the 2018 Winter Olympics as Great Britain.

***

Curling in 2017 kicks off with the World Junior-B Championships in Sweden (January 3-9) and the Mercure Perth Masters (Jan 5-8). Enjoy!

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Teams Brewster and Smith end 2016 on a high

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Dumfries Challenger Series champions Team Smith (photo: facebook.com/DumfriesCurling)

Teams Brewster and Smith finished the year as champions, winning titles at the Karuizawa International and Dumfries Challenger Series.

They weren’t the only ones to enjoy success, with Teams Fleming, Muirhead and Murdoch also enjoying success in China and Japan.

There was a strong showing from the Scottish rinks in Dumfries, too, while Team Whyte took the plaudits at the Lockerbie Junior International.

***

Teams Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) and Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) ventured out to Japan to contest the Karuizawa International men’s title, which was won by Murdoch last season.

Brewster progressed straight to the semi-finals thanks to a W4 L0 round robin performance, having recorded victories against Teams Natsuizaka (5-3), Ogihara (6-4), SooHyuk Kim (8-5) and Takigahira (4-3 after an extra end).

Murdoch, though, had it a little tougher, as despite wins over Teams Komoda (10-2), Hirata (8-3) and Suzuki (6-2), a defeat to Team Morozumi (6-5 after extra end) placed them second in their pool and required them to play a quarter-final.

For that match they faced SooHyuk Kim, and threes in ends one and six propelled them to an 8-2 victory.

In the semi-finals, Brewster edged past Team Morris 7-6 (scoring two in ends one and four, and three in end six), while Murdoch won their rematch with Morozumi – three in end three and twos in ends five and six pointing the way to a 7-2 outcome.

The all-Scottish final was a tight affair, Brewster and Murdoch tied at 1-1 after four ends, before Brewster scored one in end five and Murdoch two in the sixth end.

Brewster blanked end seven, then made full use of hammer in the eighth by scoring two to win the match 4-3 and secure the title.

Skip Tom Brewster said: “We have had a great time here in Japan and the result just tops it off. The team has played great all week.

“Since the Europeans we have been working on a number of things and it’s great to see all that effort has paid off.”

In the women’s competition, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) emulated Brewster by proceeding straight to the semi-finals – beating Teams Ji Suk Kim (7-6), Matsumura (5-4 after extra end), Sigfridsson (9-3) and Fujisawa (9-2).

The last four threw up a Muirhead-Sigfridsson repeat, this time with a different outcome, as the Swedes scored two in the extra end to win it 7-5.

Muirhead still had the chance to finish third, though, and took it by defeating Team Sidorova 5-3, with a two in end seven and steal of one in end eight.

Team Un-Chi Gim claimed the women’s title by overcoming Sigfridsson 7-4.

***

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright), meanwhile, were in China for the inaugural Qinghai China International (‘Redmagic Cup’).

They got off to a losing start, beaten 6-5 by Team Kubeskova after an extra end, but recovered to defeat Team Kauste 10-6 and local favourites Team Wang (by a remarkable 11-10 scoreline).

But they were then beaten 10-7 by Team Brown of Canada, before a 7-5 victory over Team Witschonke had them on W3 L2.

That was improved with a 4-3 win versus Team Jentsch (stealing one in the extra end), but a 10-8 loss to Team Roth (after another extra end) pushed them into a tiebreaker for the playoffs.

There, two in end one, three in end six and a stolen two in end seven saw off Wang 8-2.

In the semi-finals they faced Roth of the USA, and frittered away a 4-3 lead after six ends to trail 6-4 after nine having given up consecutive steals – but a three in end 10 won it for the Scots 7-6, and booked a spot in the final.

Fleming had to settle for runners-up spot, though, as Brown grabbed four in end five and three in the seventh end as they won out 9-4.

Coming after a second-placed finish at the Red Deer Curling Classic at the end of last month, it’s been a very fruitful finale to the year for Fleming.

The men’s competition was won by Team Ulsrud of Norway, who beat Canadians Team Lyburn 8-5 in that final.

***

In Scotland, the Dumfries Challenger Series drew in teams from the home nation and across Europe.

Section A of the men’s competition was topped by Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon, Alasdair Schreiber), who took wins over Teams Thune (8-3), Haubjerg (7-1), Gallacher (8-3) and Jamieson (conceded) – while Thune also made the playoffs.

Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) edged fellow Scots Team Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, David Reid, Duncan Menzies) for top spot in Section B, Bryce winning the head-to-head 5-1 and also beating Teams Grzelka (7-1), Brunner (7-3) and Hamilton (6-0) – Brunner joined Bryce and Hardie in making the last eight.

And in Section C it was Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) who came out in first spot, with victories over Teams Fraser (6-3), Jungen (10-3), De Mollinedo (7-4) and Telfer (6-1) – Fraser and De Mollinedo also reaching the quarters.

The last eight matches saw wins for Bryce (7-3 versus Fraser), Hardie (5-3 over Thune), Smith (7-4 against Brunner) – and, pulling off a shock, the Spaniards De Mollinedo, four in end seven and two in end eight giving them an 8-4 triumph versus Mouat.

Come the semi-finals, Bryce scored four in end three and three in the sixth to outgun De Mollinedo 8-3, while Smith scored two in end one, stole in ends two and three, before adding more singles in ends five and six, then a two in the eighth as they saw off Hardie 8-4.

The final was a suitably close encounter, with the rinks exchanging singles throughout.

But it was Smith who ultimately took the match and the title, scoring ones in ends one and three, blanking end five, and adding ones in ends six and eight to win it 4-3.

Coach Viktor Kjall told British Curling: “Coming in as very heavy favourites for the weekend it was good that they executed their plans so well and got through the tournament undefeated.

“It’s been a terrific first half of the season. They have [made] a final at a Grand Slam and won two tour tournament victories – all this puts us in the top 15 in the world.

“Now we get a few days off over Christmas, then back to camp in Braehead just before New Year’s Eve, then we start the second half of the season with the Canadian Open in North Battleford (January 3-8).”

In the women’s section, Teams Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) and Mathis (Switzerland) secured direct progress to the semi-finals, Jackson beating Teams Lander (7-4), Hazel Smith (5-2), Gina Aitken (10-2) and Barbezat (6-4).

The quarter-finals were then contested between Teams Aitken, Barbezat, Gisler and Smith, with Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) and Barbezat making the semis, both by 6-5 scorelines and both stealing in the eighth end to clinch it.

Jackson won the dramatic last-four tie with Barbezat, stealing one in end eight to win 4-3, but Aitken could not make it an all-Scottish final, beaten 5-4 by Mathis after giving up a three in end six.

That final was also very tight, with Mathis taking a 3-0 lead after two ends but Jackson battling back with a steal of two in end seven for 6-6, only for the Swiss rink to take one in the eighth for the victory.

***

Finally, we come to the Lockerbie Junior International, a part of the Asham U21 Slam series.

Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean) were looking to take advantage of U21 Slam nemesis Team Bryce competing in Dumfries instead of Lockerbie, and they topped their section with four wins from four.

In the semi-finals they edged out Team McNay 5-4, scoring two in end eight, before facing Team Baird in the final.

Two in end two, three in end four and two in end six gave Whyte a 7-2 triumph.

Team Bremane of Latvia saw off all the Scottish opposition to take the women’s title, defeating Team McDonald 8-3 in the final.

Team Carson secured men’s third place ahead of McNay, while women’s third went to Team Farmer ahead of Team Keen.

European Championships round-up: Scotland women medal again!

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SAY CHEESE: Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer, Glenn Howard (photo: twitter.com/Team_Muirhead)

The Braehead-hosted 2016 European Championships carried on many of the same themes from Esbjerg 12 months ago.

Sweden won men’s gold and Russia women’s gold, Scotland men fell narrowly short of the playoffs, Scotland women were disappointed not to take top spot but did medal again.

Could it have been better from a Scottish performance and attendance point of view? Yes. But there are many positives to take too, not least the BBC coverage of several matches.

***

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer (alternate)) went W9 L0 through the round robin, demonstrating a superb consistency and that they were the best women’s team in Renfrewshire.

They opened with a 6-5 win over Italy, before coming through victorious by the same scoreline against Sweden – Anna Hasselborg’s rink being tipped as a medal contender prior to the competition.

Norway were seen off 10-5, Finland 10-4, Switzerland 4-3 (stealing one in end 10), Germany 8-6, the Czech Republic 10-5 and Denmark 7-3.

Russia stood between them and a perfect round robin, and although Victoria Moiseeva’s rink had overcome reigning European champion Anna Sidorova to get to Braehead, they could not stop the Muirhead juggernaut here, the Scots winning 8-4.

But the semi-finals pitted them against each other again, and this time the match was very different.

Scotland fought gamely but there were too many mistakes, and the Russians too potent, as Moiseeva scored threes in ends three, six and eight to win 11-6.

Scotland were naturally disappointed having won nine straight ahead of the playoffs – with players and onlookers both asking whether there should be a page playoff system – but they had to pick themselves up for the bronze medal match with the Czech Republic.

That they did, stealing one in end two, scoring two in end four and stealing another single in end nine to beat the Czechs 6-2.

Bronze meant a seventh European medal for skip Muirhead, and although the rink were clearly disappointed not to make another final, they are making strides under coach Glenn Howard and you’d be foolish to bet against them taking top spot at many of the competitions still to come this season – and beyond.

Eve Muirhead said: “It is good that after the week we have had we are not going away without a medal.

“This is my seventh consecutive medal and I am glad that I have quite a lot in my collection from this tournament, albeit I would have liked another colour.

“Obviously I want to win every game I play, however you have to look at the bigger picture and we are building towards the Olympics in February 2018 so that is our focus and we are always preparing for that.”

As for the final, Moiseeva repeated the trick by shocking Hasselborg’s Swedes, stealing two in end 10 for a 6-4 victory – Russia taking women’s gold once again.

***

Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan, Duncan Menzies (alternate)) found the round robin much tougher going than their female counterparts, eventually going out with a W4 L5 record.

An 8-3 defeat to Denmark was a far from ideal opening to their tournament, but they then went on to beat Team Ulsrud of Norway 8-7 after an extra end.

Niklas Edin’s Swedes – the reigning champions – were up next, but Scotland were unfazed and took threes in ends eight and nine to win 8-4.

But from those high points, things got decidedly patchy for the Scots. Austria beat them 7-6 (after extra end), only for Brewster to rebound with a 6-5 victory over another pedigree side, Peter De Cruz’s Switzerland, but they were to carry no momentum for that, instead giving up a steal in end 10 to lose 6-5 to Finland.

Defeat to Germany, 4-2, was another blow to their playoff hopes, though a 6-4 win over Italy set up a winner-takes-all clash with Russia.

Alexey Timofeev’s rink, however, ended their journey by stealing two in end 10 to beat the Scots 8-6 and make the playoffs themselves.

Brewster, by overcoming De Cruz, Edin and Ulsrud, showed that they can compete with the best on the big stage. But inconsistency ultimately let them down, as they failed to string together any successive victories after the win over the Swedes.

Their sixth-placed finish did at least ensure Scottish qualification for the 2017 World Men’s Curling Championship, an achievement not to be sniffed at in a competitive field.

Skip Tom Brewster told British Curling: “We can take a lot from this, but that is for the debrief and another day. Right now we are not into the play-offs so I am feeling pretty gutted.”

The men’s final was contested by Norway and Sweden, and again the Swedes came out on top at the crucial moment, winning 6-5 after an extra end to hand Niklas Edin his third successive European title.

Switzerland defeated Russia 8-6 for men’s bronze.

***

The European Championships B-Division involved men’s and women’s teams from England, and a men’s team from Wales.

England women (Hetty Garnier, Anna Fowler, Angharad Ward, Lauren Pearce, Naomi Robinson (alternate)) came closest of the three to making the playoffs to contest for A-Division promotion and/or a World Championship spot.

Victories against Slovakia (12-4), Poland (7-6), Latvia (12-6), Turkey (5-3) and Lithuania (7-6 after an extra end), and defeats to Belarus (7-4), the Netherlands (7-6 after extra end), Estonia (6-5 after extra end) and Hungary (9-8 after extra end – notice a theme here?) saw them enter a tiebreaker with the Netherlands.

So fine are the margins between victory and defeat – as the England ladies found last year, and again with all those extra end matches this time round – and they fought all the way through to end 10 where the sides were level at 7-7, only for the Dutch to steal one and take it 8-7.

The English men (Alan MacDougall, Andrew Reed, Andrew Woolston, Thomas Jaeggi, Ben Fowler (alternate)) finished on a W4 L3 record, having beaten Belgium (15-6), Slovenia (7-3), the Netherlands (6-4) and Estonia (7-5), and lost to Latvia (10-2), Hungary (9-8) and Poland (8-3).

That win-loss record was the same as Hungary and Poland’s, but LSD saw them edged out.

Wales men (Adrien Meikle, James Pougher, Rhys Phillips, Gary Coombs, Simon Pougher (alternate)) also ended up on four wins and three losses, having defeated France (7-6 after extra end), Spain (9-6), Lithuania (8-2) and Israel (7-2), and gone down to the Czech Republic (7-3), Turkey (6-3)and Slovakia (7-4).

They needed five wins for a playoff spot, but this was a step forward for the team after they’d been forced to fight off relegation to the C-Division this time last year.

The Netherlands and Slovakia won promotion to the men’s A-Division for 2017 (replacing Denmark and Finland), while Jaap van Dorp’s Dutchmen also defeated Austria for the eighth European spot at the next World Men’s Curling Championship.

Hungary and Turkey will be in the women’s A-Division next season (taking the places of Finland and Norway), though Hungary could not overcome Italy in the World Women’s Curling Championship playoff.

France men, Spain men, Poland women and Slovakia women were relegated to the C-Division for next year.

***

Away from Braehead, four young Scottish teams took part in the European Junior Curling Tour event in Thun, Switzerland.

Team Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr) exited at the group stage following defeats to Teams Stritt (8-4), Witschonke (5-1), Constantini (5-3) and Gauchat (4-3), and one win against Team Forbregd (6-2).

The same fate befell Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair), who lost to Teams Keiser (8-2), Ramsfjell (5-2), Wuest (8-5) and Beer (5-4), plus a victory over Team Loertscher (8-5).

The male teams in Thun had more success – Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) qualified directly for the semi-finals thanks to an unbeaten round robin campaign, which saw them defeat Teams Pimpini (7-2), Hoesli (6-1), Schnider (8-5), Ramsfjell (8-2) and Myran (5-2).

Joining them in the playoffs were Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean), who battled into the quarter-finals courtesy of wins over Teams Hess (6-2), Muskatewitz (5-4) and Mancini (4-3), with their reverses coming against Teams Foss (4-3) and Lottenbach (7-1).

In the quarters, Whyte staged an incredible comeback after being 8-2 down after three ends, scoring two in end four then stealing one in end five, one in six, two in seven and another two in end eight for a 10-8 triumph.

But the final proved just out of reach for both Scottish teams – Whyte edged out 3-2 by Hess and Bryce giving up a steal of two in the extra end to lose 5-3 to Lottenbach.

While Lottenbach won the men’s final (and Witschonke the women’s), Bryce claimed an 8-5 victory over Whyte in the men’s 3/4 match, scoring twos in ends three, seven and eight.

Scotland win bronze at World Mixed Championship

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Bronze medal winners (L-R): Sophie Jackson, Bobby Lammie, Katie Murray, Cameron Bryce (photo: worldcurling.org/wmxcc2016/teams)

Scotland’s young team only lost one match as they claimed bronze at the World Mixed Curling Championship in Kazan, Russia.

They were beaten in the semi-finals by eventual silver medallists Sweden, as the Russian hosts took gold, but recovered to take bronze ahead of Korea.

Elsewhere this weekend, Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat finished as runners-up at the Austrian Mixed Doubles Cup, and more Scottish curlers competed at home, in Norway and in Canada.

***

There have been two World Mixed Curling Championships, and Cameron Bryce (skip), Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson have represented Scotland at both of them.

Last year in Bern, Switzerland, they exited the competition at the last 16 stage, but they surpassed that achievement by some distance in Kazan.

The Scots kicked off their group stage challenge with an 8-3 win over Italy, and followed that by beating Norway 8-1 and Japan 7-4.

Further victories against Romania (8-4) and Belarus (9-5, with a five in end two!) saw them ease into the knockout stages, and a sixth win from six was secured as they saw off New Zealand 7-2.

Ireland’s foursome finished the competition with a W2 L4 record (beating Brazil 13-4 and Slovakia 6-4), while Wales were W4 L3 for the event, narrowly missing a playoff/tiebreaker place despite defeating Croatia (7-6, after an extra end), Slovenia (8-1), the Netherlands (8-3) and Estonia (6-3).

England were even closer, wins against Brazil (12-1), Ireland (8-5) and Finland (6-4) earning them a tiebreaker against the Finns, only for their opponents to edge it 6-5 and make the playoffs themselves.

Scotland the last British side standing, they took on the USA in the round of 16, the stage at which they’d gone out to Switzerland last season.

No problems this time round, Bryce’s rink scoring three in end two and stealing one in end four for a 4-1 win.

To the quarter-finals then, and a big match with Canada, who like Scotland were yet to lose a game.

Scotland stole two in the first end, but Canada took singles in ends two and three, and the Scots were forced to one in end four for a 3-2 lead at halfway.

Canada took two in end five and they led 5-4 going down the eighth – but Scotland, crucially, held hammer. And they used it to maximum effect, as skip Bryce made a takeout to score two and win the match 6-5.

Sweden were their opponents in the last four, and they proved too much for Scotland to handle. Successive steals in the first three ends saw the Swedes 3-1 up at halfway, and they took two in end five and three in end seven to take the game 8-2 and make the final.

A tough result for Scotland to pick themselves up from, but they had to go again in the bronze medal match with Korea.

There they again found themselves 3-0 down after giving up a steal of one in end one and two in end two, but they fought back with singles in ends three and four.

A crucial steal of two in the fifth end put Scotland ahead for the first time in the game, a lead they carried into the eighth at 5-4.

Korea had hammer down the last, but Scotland had four shot stones ahead of opposing skip Lee Kibok’s final stone – a raise takeout attempt which only cleared one stone, giving the Scots a steal of three, an 8-4 victory and the bronze medals!

In the final, Sweden – runners-up in 2015, beaten by Norway – finished second again, Russia winning gold after a 5-4 extra-end victory.

Reflecting on his team’s bronze medals, Scottish skip Cameron Bryce said: “It’s always good to bounce back after a defeat in the morning. We wanted to make sure we went home to Scotland with a medal. We started off slow so we had to do it the difficult way and steal our way through.

“Bronze is good now, but we were really disappointed this morning. After a couple of days we’ll be really happy with our bronze.”

For photos from the event, check out the WCF Facebook album here.

***

Another Scottish success story came at the CCT Austrian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup in Kitzbühel, as Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat – who have both been selected in the British curling squad for the next Winter University Games – finished as runners-up.

The Scottish pair eased through the pool stages of the event, beating Zubercova/Gallo of Slovakia 16-3, Reitsma/Genner (Austria) 12-3 and Mayrhans/Kapp (Germany) 8-1.

In the first playoff round, they defeated Fischer/Roth (Austria) 9-3, with two in end three, four in end five and two in end six, to wrap up a semi-final spot.

There they scored twos in ends one and three, stole one in end four and added another three in end seven to overcome Kauste/Rantamaki of Finland 8-3 and make the final.

The final proved a step too far for Aitken/Mouat, up against the Hungarian pair of Ildiko Szekeres and Gyeorgy Nagy.

It was finely poised after the fourth end with the Scots leading 4-3 courtesy of twos in ends two and four, but the Hungarians scored three in end five then took single steals in ends six, seven and eight for a 9-4 victory.

Nevertheless, a positive result for Aitken and Mouat, who continue their mixed doubles progress with the CCT Mixed Doubles Cup Geising next weekend.

***

There were more up-and-coming Scottish teams in action this weekend in events at home and abroad.

The second Asham Under-14 Slam of the season, after the event in Forfar earlier this month, took place in Stranraer.

The four sections were topped by Teams Stewart, Ryder, Stranraer 1 and Stranraer 2.

And so in the high road semi-finals, Stranraer 1 defeated Ryder 4-1 and Stranraer 2 beat Stewart 7-2.

That set up an all-Stranraer final, and it was Stranraer 2 (Robyn Munro, Robbie Lyon, Finlay Aldred, Iona Irving) who triumphed over Stranraer 1 (Matthew McCrone, Kaleb Johnstone, Kerr Lyon, Thomas Hay), scoring three in end one and adding singles in ends three and four to clinch a 5-2 victory, while Ryder defeated Stewart 4-1 for third spot.

In the low road final, it was Forfar winners Team Gallacher (Hamish Gallacher, Scott Hyslop, Jack Strawhorn, Jack Carrick) who came out on top, beating Team Gow 6-1.

Further afield, meanwhile, Teams Baird (David Baird, Fraser Kingan, Robin McCall, Gavin Barr) and Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr) took part in the EJCT Oslo event in Norway.

Baird started with a 7-1 victory over Team Kringlebotrn, and then saw off Team Studer of Switzerland 9-4.

Two 6-5 defeats to Norwegian rinks followed, to Teams Foss (after an extra end) and Myran, but they then overcame Team Bremanis of Latvia 7-2 for a spot in the quarter-finals.

There their progress ended, Team Nygren of Sweden stealing three in end eight to beat the Scots 8-5.

In the girls’ section of the junior event, Aitken lost 8-5 to Norwegians Team Forbregd but were 8-5 winners themselves in their next match, against Team Bremane of Latvia.

However, two losses against Swedish rinks, Teams Sundberg (4-3) and Westman (6-2), saw them exit on a W1 L3 record.

The boys’ winner at the event were Team Muskatewitz of Germany, beating Myran 6-4 in the final, and on the girls’ side it was Sundberg who triumphed in an all-Swedish final, 8-3 versus Westman.

***

Finally, there were – as ever – an abundance of events taking place in Canada over the weekend, ahead of the first Grand Slam of the season this week.

Team Brewster, having just won the European Playdowns to represent Scotland in Braehead, took part in the Medicine Hat Charity Classic in Alberta.

Brewster’s rink – Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan – couldn’t carry over their form from Perth though, losing to Team Scharback (4-2) and Team Stroh (5-4) to drop to the C-Road.

There they finally picked up a win, beating Team Kleibrink 6-2, then added another – defeating Scharback 9-0, capped by a steal of five in end five – but a 6-1 loss to Team Appelman ended their run a match short of the playoffs.

Team Smith (Hannah Smith, Sarah Reid, Laura Ritchie, Claire Hamilton) also made the trip to Canada, competing in the Canad Inns Women’s Classic in Manitoba alongside some stellar names – Teams Homan, Jones, Sigfridsson and Tirinzoni to name but four.

Their first match was a daunting one, against Stockholm Ladies Cup winners and European Championships qualifiers Team Hasselborg, and the Swedes won 9-1.

Another defeat followed, 7-3 against Team Middaugh, and a 5-2 loss versus Team Barbezat of Switzerland on the C-Road saw their participation finished.

The playoffs for both the Medicine Hat Charity Classic (follow here) and Canad Inns Women’s Classic (here) are being contested later today.

As for the Challenge De Curling De Gatineau in Quebec, it was Team Epping (with ‘super spare’ Craig Savill) who triumphed, overcoming Team Dunstone 4-3 in the final.

One last thing! Back in Europe, Team Edin claimed yet another title in what has been an incredibly fast start to the season for the Swedes, beating Team Pfister 7-5 in the Champery Masters final.

The tournament was televised through World Curling TV, another step forward in their attempts to expand the sport’s reach.

 

Brewster and Muirhead to represent Scotland in Braehead

brewster-win-playdowns
Team Brewster, men’s winners in Perth (photo: twitter.com/Team_Brewster/status/787670325081305089)

Teams Brewster and Muirhead did it again – overcoming their compatriots to represent Scotland on the international stage.

Last season’s Scottish Championships winners (and subsequent World Championships participants) will be the home teams at next month’s European Championships in Braehead.

Speaking of Worlds, four Scots are taking part in the World Mixed Curling Championship in Kazan, Russia, and so far have won two from two.

***

Perth hosted the Playdowns to decide who would represent Scotland at the upcoming home European Championships – involving three men’s teams and two women’s.

Teams Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan), Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) and Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) played a double round robin before a best-of-three final.

It was Murdoch who made the fast start, with two wins. First they overcame Brewster 7-5 (scoring twos in ends two, five and eight, and stealing one in end nine) and then they defeated Smith 8-5, with three in end two, two in end five and a steal of two in end 10.

 

However, Brewster got their first win on the board by edging Smith 6-5 (two in end two, steal of one in eight and using hammer for one in end 1o) and then drew level at the top of the standings on W2 L1 courtesy of a 6-3 victory over Murdoch, scoring two in end three and stealing three in end four.

Smith, who have had an impressive start to the season but found themselves W0 L2 here, had to beat Murdoch to keep their hopes of making the final alive. But again they suffered a 6-5 defeat, giving up a three in end six having been 4-1 up after five ends.

Already qualified Brewster then won 9-7 against Smith in the final round robin match, last season’s European qualifiers departing with no wins and four defeats.

The first of the final matches saw Brewster storm into a 4-0 lead through a steal of one in end two and two in end three, though Murdoch narrowed the gap to 4-2 at halfway.

Brewster, undeterred, scored two in end six and stole one in end seven to win the match 7-2.

Murdoch therefore had to win the next game, but were struck a heavy blow when Brewster scored three in end three, then stole one in end five, leading 5-1 at the halfway mark.

The rinks then exchanged twos up to end nine, where Brewster’s takeout for a deuce prompted handshakes at 9-5 – and European qualification for his team.

 

As for the women, Teams Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) and Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Kelly Schafer, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) went head-to-head in a best-of-five series.

Muirhead laid down an early statement of intent with a 9-3 win in the opener, scoring three in end five and twos in ends seven and nine.

The second match was tighter, Fleming scoring two in end four but Muirhead leading 3-2 at halfway… then taking a steal of three in end six. Two in end seven and a steal of one in end eight couldn’t pull it back for Fleming, Muirhead winning 7-5.

 

Fleming needed victory in the third match to stay in contention, and started it with a steal of two in end one. Muirhead, though, scored twos in ends two and four, the game level at 4-4 after five.

Muirhead took two in end six, but Fleming replied with two in end eight – the rinks then exchanging ones to set up an extra end at 7-7. Crucially for Muirhead, they held hammer in the extra, and scored two for a 9-7 victory – and qualification for Braehead.

***

Also this weekend, the World Mixed Curling Championships began in Kazan, Russia, with Scotland in Pool A alongside Belarus, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway (the defending champions) and Romania.

Scotland’s team is the same as in 2015 – Cameron Bryce, Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson – and they have made a positive start this year, with three wins.

Those have come against Italy (8-3), Norway (8-1) – albeit an entirely new Norwegian team to last year’s champions – and Japan (7-4).

Scotland’s next match is against Romania tomorrow, 2pm UK time.

Follow their progress in the remaining games here, or via the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter pages.

Teams Bryce and Muirhead conquer the continent

muirhead-basel
Team Muirhead, Women’s Masters Basel winners (photo: facebook.com/wmbcurling)

Teams Bryce and Muirhead won titles on the European curling circuit, while Team Hardie continued their impressive start to the season at the Dumfries Open.

Muirhead came out on top at the Women’s Masters Basel, having knocked out Team Fleming in the semi-finals, while Bryce were dominant at the EJCT Livechannel Cup in Sweden.

Other results saw Team Wilson win the Scottish Senior Mixed Championship, and Team Gallacher claim the Forfar U14 Slam.

***

The candidates to represent Scotland on the women’s side of the European Championships in November were both involved at the Women’s Masters Basel.

After Team Fleming’s (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) superior performance at the Stockholm Ladies Cup, this time it was Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Kelly Schafer, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) who had the edge.

In the triple knockout format, Fleming lost their first match to Team Schöpp of Germany, 6-5 after an extra end, and looked like losing again when 6-2 down to Team Barbezat (Switzerland) after six ends, only to score three in end seven and steal singles in end eight and the extra to win it 7-6.

They then overcame two more Swiss rinks, Team Stern and Team Mani (both 6-4), and secured playoff qualification by beating Team Sigfridsson of Sweden 5-2, with twos in ends one and six.

As for Muirhead, they began with routine wins over Team Maillard (Switzerland), 4-1, and Team Matsumura of Japan, 6-2, to move one victory away from a playoff spot.

But against Team Kim of Korea they were 4-0 down after two ends and couldn’t bring that back, beaten 7-4 to drop to the B-Road – where they suffered a second successive loss, 5-2 against Team Sidorova of Russia.

Two wins required on the C-Road, then, and two wins secured. First they beat Matsumura again, 5-4 this time, and then Barbezat 6-5 with twos in the first and sixth ends.

So after a qualification stage full of shocks – Teams Kim, Kubeskova and Schöpp going through as the A-Road qualifiers, and Teams Feltscher, Hasselborg and Tirinzoni making early exits – it was time for the quarter-finals.

Fleming, facing Sidorova, got off to a dream start with a four in end one and steal of one in end two. The Russians fought back hard but Fleming held on to win 7-5.

Muirhead faced Kubeskova of the Czech Republic, and scored two in end four and four in end six to win 7-5, setting up an all-Scottish semi-final against Fleming.

The match started with Muirhead holding Fleming in a vice-like grip, stealing one in end one. In the second end, Hannah Fleming was forced to draw against four and came up short, meaning Muirhead led 5-0 after two.

The teams then exchanged singles, before another steal of two for Muirhead in end five. Fleming took two in end six, and shook hands to concede the game at 8-3.

In the final Muirhead faced Sigfridsson, who had also qualified via the C-Road and had beaten Schöpp 12-5 and Kim 6-0 to give themselves this shot at glory.

The Swedes began with two in end one, but Muirhead hit back with two in end three – at the halfway mark it was 3-2 to Sigfridsson.

End five was the decisive one, as Sigfridsson suffered a nightmare end, missing several takeouts, and Muirhead successfully drew to score five and lead 7-3.

The Swedes battled back, scoring two in end six and stealing one in end seven. And in the eighth end skip Muirhead was forced to make a clutch draw to win the match. She did – 8-6 the final score.

After two runner-up finishes in Canada, it was third time lucky for Muirhead in coming out on top in this final for their first title of the season.

Eve Muirhead said: “This weekend in Basel especially showed our grit and determination as a team to keep going and not give up.

“We battled through the C road with lots of games and really brought our A game to the playoffs, which is crucial.

“Delighted to win this event – first Scottish team to do so – and it brings us great confidence moving in to next weekend.”

***

team-bryce-kinross
Team Bryce, EJCT Livechannel Cup winners (photo: facebook.com/brydoneimages)

Team Bryce, who have had a superb start to the season especially given their line-up changes, were in Harnosand, Sweden, for the EJCT Livechannel Cup.

Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) won their opening group stage match 8-1 against Team Foss of Norway, scoring four in end three and stealing two in end six.

They followed that with two more wins, both against Swedish rinks – 12-1 over Team Kohn (four in end one, threes in ends three and six) and 9-1 against Team Engqvist (four in end four and two in end five).

That put them directly into the semi-finals, where they beat Team Nygren (Sweden) 6-1 with a steal of one in end two and twos in ends five and six.

Team Lottenbach of Switzerland were Bryce’s opponents in the final (video here), and they took one with hammer in the first end – only for the Scots to take two in end two, then steal two more in end three.

Another steal put Bryce 5-1 up, the match ending 6-2, which made Bryce the men’s champions, Team Sundberg of Sweden taking the women’s title.

***

In what was a very busy weekend for Scottish curling, we also had the Dumfries Open, the second event on the Scottish Curling Tour, with 18 teams split into three pools.

Section 1 was headed up by Teams Jamieson and Mouat, Section 2 by Teams Hardie, Aitken and Taylor, and Section 3 by Teams Whyte, Pougher and Ward.

In the quarter-finals, defending champions Hardie saw off Taylor 6-1, while Whyte overcame Pougher’s Welsh men 8-4.

The other quarter-finals were particularly close. Mixed doubles partners Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat went toe-to-toe before Mouat eventually prevailed 6-4, while senior rink Jamieson scored three in end eight to take victory against Ward’s English women after a see-saw affair.

In the last four, Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, Duncan Menzies, David Reid) scored a narrow 4-3 victory over Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Alasdair Schreiber), courtesy of a two in end two and taking one with hammer in end eight.

In the other semi, Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean) stole their way to a 2-0 lead after three versus Jamieson (Willie Jamieson, Tom Pendreigh, Gary McFarlane, Jean Lesperance) before taking two in end six en route to a 5-3 win.

Aitken and Ward, meanwhile, faced off in the women’s final, Aitken taking the victory against their English opponents 8-6.

And so the Dumfries Open title would go to Hardie or Whyte – and what a final it would be.

Hardie scored two in end one and three in end three to lead 5-1, but Whyte hit back with twos in ends four and six, before stealing two in end seven to lead 7-6 after a sensational comeback.

It was Hardie holding hammer in end eight, though, and skip Grant Hardie drew the four-foot to score two and win the game 8-7.

It’s a repeat performance by Hardie, claiming both the Braehead Open and Dumfries Open titles, just as they did last season!

For Whyte, it’s a fourth appearance in a final so far this season… and a fourth runner-up finish. Such consistency will find its reward sooner rather than later.

For more photos from the weekend, see the Facebook album here.

***

Finally, two Royal Caledonian Curling Club events took place at the weekend – the Scottish Senior Mixed Championship, and the Asham U14 Slam at Forfar.

Stranraer hosted the Senior Mixed, with 15 teams divided into three groups.

The qualifiers from Section A were Teams Horton and Hardie, Teams Wilson and Kenny progressed from Section B and Team Prentice made it out of Section C – all finishing their pool matches on six points.

In the semi-finals, Horton edged Prentice 7-6, while Wilson defeated Hardie 8-5.

Wilson (Philip Wilson, Kate Adams, William Johnston, Elspeth Johnston) came out on top in the final, scoring twos in ends one and three, then a four in end five, as they won out 8-3 – Horton finishing second just as they did last season.

In Forfar, there were 14 U14 teams placed in three sections, with qualifiers going onto the high or low road following best of four end matches.

In the high road semi-finals, Team Gallacher scored an impressive 10-2 win over Team Hill, while Team Ryder beat Team Carson 3-2.

Gallacher (Hamish Gallacher, Scott Hyslop, Jack Strawhorn, Jack Carrick) then scored four in end one, one in end two and two in end three to win the final 7-0 against Ryder and claim the title.

In the high road 3v4 match, Carson beat Hill 5-4, while Team Gow won the low road final with a 5-4 victory over Team Maguire.

October 2016 curling preview

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Team McEwen, last season’s GSOC Masters men’s winners (photo: Grand Slam of Curling/Anil Mungal (anilmungal.com))

The 2016-17 season has already seen success for the likes of Team Bryce, Team Hardie, Team Jackson and Team Smith in Scotland and overseas, while last weekend Teams Fleming and Murdoch reached the final of Curling Champions Tour events.

October sees plenty more events, including the first Grand Slam of the season and those all-important European Championship Playdowns…

***

Dumfries Open (Scottish Curling Tour)
Dates: October 7-9
Number of teams: 18
Prize money: £2,050
Last year’s winners: Team Hardie (Scotland)
Website: http://scottishcurlingtour.blogspot.co.uk

Team Hardie look to defend their title, and indeed repeat last season’s exploits, where they won both the Braehead Open and Dumfries Open to kick off their curling year in style. Other Scottish teams vying for the title include Team Mouat and Team Taylor, while there is a strong women’s representation through Teams G Aitken and Smith, as well as mixed teams and challengers from England and Wales.

***

Livechannel Cup (European Junior Curling Tour)
Dates: October 7-9
Number of teams: 19 (14 boys’; 5 girls’)
Scottish team: Team Bryce
Prize money: SEK 40,000
Last year’s winners: Team Eremin (Russia); Team Panthera (Sweden)
Website: https://www.facebook.com/EJCTLivechannelCup

Team Bryce fly the flag for Scotland at this European Junior Curling Tour event in Härnösand, Sweden. They’ve had an impressive start to their season, what with wins at the EJCT Braehead International and two Asham U21 Slams. Should Bryce emerge from their pool, the likes of Team Lottenbach (Switzerland) and Team Ramsfjell (Norway) pose threats.

***

Scottish Curling Senior Mixed Championship (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: October 7-9
Number of teams: 15
Last year’s winners: Team Dodds
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/scottish-curling-senior-mixed-championship-4

The first RCCC national competition of the season returns to Stranraer, as 15 teams over over-50s (two males and two females in alternate positions) challenge for the honours in a social atmosphere. Trevor Dodds’ rink return to defend their title, as do last season’s runners-up Team Horton, and Team Craig, the winners the year before that.

***

Women’s Masters Basel (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: October 7-9
Number of teams: 24
Scottish teams: Team Fleming, Team Muirhead
Prize money: CHF 32,000
Last year’s winners: Team Sidorova (Russia)
Website: http://www.womensmasters.ch/english/home

Last season Team Fleming made the quarter-finals at this event in Switzerland, Team Muirhead the semis. Fleming performed superbly last weekend in making the Stockholm Ladies Cup final, while Muirhead made two finals out in Canada in the weeks before that. In this triple knockout competition, Fleming start against Team Schöpp, Muirhead versus Team Maillard. Other rinks to watch out for include those of Silvana Tirinzoni and the on-song Anna Hasselborg. Selected games will be livestreamed here.

***

Forfar (U14 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Date: October 9
Number of teams: 16
Last year’s winners: Team Bryce
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-14-slam-fofar

Reigning champions Angus Bryce’s rink do not return, so there will be a new winner for the one-day U14 Slam. Teams, divided into four sections, will play four-end matches in their groups, before high and low road deciders.

***

European Playdowns (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: October 12-16
Number of teams: 5
Last year’s winners: Team Smith; Team Muirhead
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/european-playdowns-4

Who will represent Scotland as the nation hosts the European Curling Championships in Braehead in November? In Perth, Teams Brewster, Murdoch and Smith will challenge for the men’s spot, while Teams Fleming and Muirhead contest the women’s. Fleming will be looking to pull off an upset over their best-of-five-match series, while the men’s teams play each other twice before a best-of-three final – Smith have started the season very well, Murdoch reached the Swiss Cup Basel final last weekend, and Brewster have pedigree aplenty.

***

Service Experts Mixed Doubles Classic (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: October 14-16
Number of teams: 17
Prize money: $12,500
Last year’s winners: N/A
Website: http://sherwoodparkcurling.com/mixed-doubles-classic

Mixed doubles is catching on like wildfire and here we have another event, in Alberta, Canada. No Scottish teams are taking part in this one, but there are rinks representing China, Hungary, Russia and the USA, as well as 10 Canadian teams including Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant, 2016 Canadian Mixed Doubles champions.

***

World Mixed Curling Championship 2016 (World Curling Federation)
Dates: October 14-22
Number of teams: 37
Scottish team: Team Bryce
Last year’s winners: Team Walstad (Norway)
Website: http://www.worldcurling.org/wmxcc2016

Kazan, Russia, hosts the second installment of the World Mixed Curling Championship, the first won by Norway last season. Scotland is represented by Cameron Bryce (skip), Katie Murray (a one-event detour back into the sport after stepping back this season), Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson. They face Belarus, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway and Romania in Group A. England, Wales and Ireland also have teams involved.

***

Austrian Mixed Doubles Cup (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: October 20-23
Number of teams: 12
Scottish team
: Team Aitken/Mouat
Prize money: €2,800
Last year’s winners: Team Toth/Wunderer (Austria)
Website: http://www.curling-austria.at/events.html

Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat made the quarter-finals at the Canad Inns Mixed Doubles last weekend, and they will be back in action in the new Olympic format in Kitzbühel, Austria. The likes of Oona Kauste/Tomi Rantamäki (Finland) and Ildikó Szekeres/György Nagy (Hungary) will provide stiff competition.

***

Curling Masters Champery (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: October 20-23
Number of teams: 24
Prize money: CHF 40,000
Last year’s winners: Team Grattan (Canada)
Website: http://www.curling-masters.ch

Teams Brewster and Smith participated in this event last season, but no Scots are taking part this time around (it is hot on the heels of the European Playdowns). There’s no lack of quality in the field in Switzerland though, with Teams De Cruz, Edin, Kauste and Ulsrud among the 24 involved.

***

Canad Inns Women’s Classic (World Curling Tour)
Dates: October 21-24
Number of teams: 32
Scottish team: Team Smith
Prize money: $60,000
Last year’s winners: Team Kim (Korea)
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?task=Event&eventid=4239

Hazel Smith’s new rink (her team-mates being Sarah Reid, Laura Ritchie and Claire Hamilton) face a quality field in this cashspiel in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Teams Einarson, Fleury, Homan, Jones and McCarville are some of the Canadian sides involved in the triple knockout competition, while Teams Hasselborg, Kim (reigning champions), Tirinzoni and Wang lead the international challenge.

***

Stranraer (U14 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Date: October 23
Number of teams: 16
Last year’s winners: Team Craik
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-14-slam-stranraer

The next stage of the one-day U14 Slam events, following the one in Forfar earlier in the month. Last season’s winners Team Craik have aged out, so once again the contest is well and truly up for grabs among Scotland’s very young curlers.

***

Masters (Grand Slam of Curling)
Dates: October 25-30
Number of teams: 30 (15 men’s; 15 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Murdoch, Team Smith; Team Muirhead
Prize money: $100,000; $100,000
Last year’s winners: Team McEwen (Canada); Team Homan (Canada)
Website: http://www.thegrandslamofcurling.com/curling/masters

The season’s opening Grand Slam takes place in Okotoks in Alberta, with three Scottish teams part of a world-class field based on the Order of Merit rankings up to 2016-17 week four. In the opening round-robin stage, Teams Murdoch and Smith (making their top Slam debut after competing in Tour Challenge tier 2 last season) face each other first up, before playing Teams Carruthers, McEwen and Morris. Team Muirhead are up against Teams Kim, Pätz, Rocque and – last but certainly not least! – Homan.

***

Riga International Curling Challenge (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: October 28-30
Number of teams: 12
Prize money: €3,000
Last year’s winners: Team Demkina (Russia)
Website: http://kerlingahalle.lv/ricc

This women’s competition held in Riga, Latvia, returns for a second year. No Scots on board, but Teams Barbezat (Switzerland), Driendl (Germany), Kauste (Finland), Lundman (Sweden) and Maillard (Switzerland) are Curling Champions Tour regulars.

***

Scottish Province Championship (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: October 28-30
Number of teams: 30
Last year’s winners: Loch Leven
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/scottish-province-championship-4

Thirty teams, covering provinces across Scotland, are divided into six groups for this competition at Greenacres. Those sections then lead to quarter-finals, high and low road semi-finals and high and low road finals. The club teams competing have all won their provincial qualifier to get here.

***

Lanarkshire (U17 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: October 29-30
Number of teams: 24
Last year’s winners: Team Kinnear
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-17-slam-lanarkshire-3

As with the Province Championship, this competition features sections and knockouts heading towards high and low road finals – matches being up to six ends. Last year’s high road winners and runners-up, Teams Kinnear and Craik, are back – while Lisa Davie’s women’s rink, fourth at the Kinross Junior Classic U21 Slam last weekend, are also contenders.