Okay so we’re finally at the end of FESRAIN. Our last lonely letter is N which stands for “Number” of rocks remaining in the end. This, much as the rest of our factors, should be an obvious one. Clearly you call different shots when it’s skips rocks as opposed to lead stones. The extremes are easy to understand but it’s in the middle where this becomes a critical factor. Many of you will have heard of the “bail point” and perhaps may have even argued with someone about where that point might be. The bail point is the shot in the end where your skipper finally makes the decision to abandon their pursuit of points so as not to lose the game by taking any further risks.
My opinion is that this point varies depending on the situation but is no earlier than the seconds first stone and no later than than the vices first stone. Timing of this can be critical and an end can be completely lost if you wait even one rock too long before bailing out and clearing things up. In fact, timing your moves is one of the more refined areas of tactical curling play. The very best teams have a sense of when to take press an advantage and when to protect a situation. That sort of skill mostly comes from experience and is quite difficult to teach.
Now that we’ve been through all the factors that need to be considered when calling a shot I’m going to draw your attention to something specfic about these factors. If you recall from earlier conversations, strategy is the plan, it is NOT the shot selected. The actual shot selection is a tactic, or system used to achieve your plan. For instance, if the plan is to be aggressive and score points I think you’d all agree that there are may different ways to get points. Perhaps you play a guard, perhaps a freeze. The specfic choice of shot is a tactic used to achieve your plan. So, where does that leave good old FESRAIN?
I heard a colleague once tell a group that there were three factors in FESRAIN that were “more important” that the others and at the time, that bothered me. I mean, after all, you can’t really ignore any of the factors so how can there be some that are more important? After some reflection on this, I realized he had a point. There are in fact three factors in FESRAIN that are different than the rest but not because they are more important. Three of them are strategic factors, the other four are tactical. Which ones are the strategic ones?
The strategic ones are the ones you can plan for. If you were going to build a game plan what of those seven factors could you plan for? End, Score and last Rock advantage. Those are parts of the game you can plan for. The others are all situationally dependant and are therefore tactical considerations. All are important but for different reasons.