Feature: Thinking Time

  • Thinking Time was first introduced at Le Gruyere European Curling Championships 2014 Photo: WCF/Richard Gray

The 2014 Le Gruyere European Curling Championships is the first event to implement the World Curling Federation’s (WCF) new 'Thinking Time' policy.

The policy was voted on at the 2014 World Curling Congress in Reno, USA and according to Keith Wendorf, WCF Director of Competitions and Development, the decision to switch to Thinking Time was unanimous.

Before this rule change, teams would have a total of 73 minutes to complete a game with the game clock constantly running when they were thinking and playing their stones.

Now with Thinking Time, instead of the game clock constantly running, it only runs when a stone is not moving.

Each team is given 38 minutes of thinking time for a 10 end game and 30 minutes of thinking time for an 8 end game (36 minutes in wheelchair curling, 22 minutes in mixed doubles curling).

Teams can use this time to think, talk, plan and strategise their next move.

A team’s game clock stops once the stone has reached the tee line (hogline in wheelchair curling) at the delivery end.

Thinking time is seen as a fair way to keep time because it does not penalise teams for their playing style.

Before it was introduced, teams who played an aggressive game, throwing lots of draws, or stones that move slowly down the ice, would use more time than a team who plays more tap-outs with fast-moving stones, therefore running their clocks down more.

Scotland’s women’s skip Eve Muirhead agreed that the new rule is fair. She said: "You don’t get penalised at all if you play an aggressive game. Before, if you played an aggressive game, your clock is going down a lot quicker than if you were playing a relaxed game. I think it’s one of the best things the WCF has ever done.”

Another reason the WCF made the change to Thinking Time was because they wanted a more intriguing game.

WCF Director of Competitions and Development, Keith Wendorf, said: "It’s more interesting for spectators and TV if there are lots of stones in play. We like to watch the aggressive game with lots of draws and lots of guards.”

So far, Wendorf hasn’t seen any changes in the way teams play with the new thinking time rule.

Sweden’s National Coach, Peja Lindholm, agrees. He said: "It’s doesn’t really affect our strategy whether we’re playing offensive or defensive. It doesn’t really affect the way I coach either.”

Muirhead also agreed that thinking time hasn’t changed the way her team plays because they have always played an aggressive game.

Lindholm has seen one difference in game-play since the switch to Thinking Time. He noticed that the games are getting faster. He says: “If you’re not experienced with playing this rule, it can be a little bit stressful in the beginning. After you get the feeling of playing this way, it can seem like you have more time.”

The decision to switch to thinking time was made after the 2014 Olympic Winter Games had finished because the WCF didn’t want to have a rule change going into those games.

Wendorf said that everyone knew this issue was going to be brought to a vote at the annual World Curling Congress.

Most people, including teams and coaches, agree that thinking time is the fair way to play. And for many, it is also a more exciting game to watch.