Grand Slam series kicks off in Chatham-Kent

Although the World Curling Tour season has been underway for six weeks already, something about this weekend’s event makes one feel that it is now officially curling season.

John Epping rolled to a 2-0 start at the Grand Slam of Curling’s Elite 10. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Thus far, there have been many events across Canada and around the world featuring most – if not all – of the top teams in the sport at one event or another. This weekend, however, is the first time that they’re all in the same place and competing against each other.

The Grand Slam of Curling makes its first stop of the season in Chatham-Kent, Ont. with the Princess Auto Elite 10. The top 10 teams in both the men’s and women’s ranks are competing in the match-play event for a share of $100,000 purse per gender. The teams were decided by the WCT Order of Merit as of August 1, 2018.

Out of the gate, Toronto’s John Epping and Calgary’s Kevin Koe lead their pools with 2-0 records. Glenn Howard (Penetanguishene, Ont.) also won his first two before dropping his third game of the tournament to Winnipeg’s Jason Gunnlaugson.

Surprisingly, reigning world champion Niklas Edin (Sweden) and 2014 Olympic gold-medallist Brad Jacobs (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) both started the event with two losses.

In the women’s event reigning world champion Jennifer Jones started with two wins, while Canada’s Olympic representative Rachel Homan (Ottawa) won her first. Two Alberta squads skipped by Chelsea Carey (Calgary) and Casey Scheidegger (Lethbridge, Alta.) also opened with wins in their opening games.

In each 10-team field, the top six will move on to the playoff rounds. Instead of traditional scoring, the event is employing the match-play rules, similar to a skins game. In each end, the team with hammer has to score two to win the end or the team without hammer has to steal one or more to win the end. If neither of those results happens, such as the team with hammer scoring only one, the end is halved and no team benefits on the scoreboard.

The difference in a skins game is that halved ends carry over to the following end, thus becoming more valuable.

Elsewhere on the World Curling Tour, other big events are happening across Canada. The Prestige Hotels & Resorts Curling Classic in Vernon, B.C., features fields of 20 women’s and 8 men’s teams. The women’s purse is $41,000, while the men’s pot is $12,000.

In Edmonton, the Avonair Cash Spiel features 25 men’s and 16 women’s teams battling over a combined $21,000.

Finally, in Winnipeg, the KKP Classic features 16 teams, competing for a share of $12,000.