A curling team has four players, each delivering two stones during a segment of the game. These segments are called “ends.” Over the course of an end the teams will alternate delivery of their stones. At the completion of an end, a total of 16 stones will have been delivered. The objective is to complete each end with one or more of your stones closer to the center of the rings (the house) than your opponent’s stones.
One point is scored for every stone that is closer to the center of the house than any stone belonging to the opposition. Therefore, only one team may score in an end. A stone must be in, or touching, the rings in order to score. If there are no rocks counting (in other words, no rocks in the house or touching the rings) at the conclusion of an end, that end is called a “blank end.”
A full-length game is 10 ends. Once all the stones have been delivered in an end, the thirds (or vice-skips) from each team (i.e. the two players who delivered the third set of stones) determine which team’s rocks are closest to the center of the rings.
In each end, one team or the other will have the “hammer.” Generally considered to be an advantage, the hammer refers to the team that will be throwing the last stone of an end – in other words, the team that will have the last chance to score. At the beginning of the game, the hammer for the first end is determined by a draw to the center of the house. Throughout the game, the hammer goes to whichever team did not score in the last end. If no team scores (i.e. a blank end), the team that had hammer in the blank end will keep hammer in the next end. If the team that does not have the hammer scores in an end it is considered to be very well-done and called “stealing an end.”