Column #HR13 One Night in Blackpool

Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Column HR13
One Night in Blackpool

In 1984, Murray Head had a big hit record with “One Night in Bangkok.” It was written by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson who were bookended by the pair of A’s in the group ABBA. With ABBA now again relevant with their musical hit Mama Mia maybe the pair could team up again to write “One Night In Blackpool.”

Murray Head sang “one night in Bangkok can make a young man humble” in a tale of play on a chess board. Head could just as well have sang “one night in Blackpool could make a man humble” referring to the 32 best dart players in the world. Not all 16 that were heading home from the StanJames World Matchplay after round one were humbled but a good many of them got a shot of reality. With £400,000 at stake and a world wide TV audience, a loss here was not career enhancing.

The World Matchplay in Blackpool is more than just a game of darts. It’s Mardi Gras, Halloween, a great darts tournament and a great no-host cocktail party. For those watching on the telly there’s a goodly group of announcer’s and commentators to keep the viewer informed on the many nuances of play at this level. You’ll be treated to facts, supplied by Sid Waddell, that “he feels like a racing sloop captain being passed by a chap on a surf board covered in Vaseline.” Then there was “he’s just been delivered a barrel of cobras.” Or how about “he should be home hosed holding a cold pint.” Good stuff.

The Old Dart Coach deserves a “Attaboy!” for picking the Vincent van der Voort upset of birthday boy Dennis Priestly 10-6. Priestly turned 60. The dirty little secret is that the ODC took all the Dutch players or anyone that wore orange which the commentators liked to call Tangerine. Raymond van Barneveld was the most impressive player from the Land of Wooden Shoes and window shopping. He dismantled Denis Ovens 10-1 with the tournament’s second 9-darter ever. Co Stompe was on cruise control leading 8-5, coming from 2-4 down. Then all heck broke loose. Still able to hit 180’s, Co would have 8 for the match, but he couldn’t buy a double which allowed Andy Hamilton to force OT. Stompe missed at least 5 darts for the match before finally closing the deal. Jelle Klassen also found himself down 2-4 to Mervyn King when he “kicked it up a notch” taking 8 legs on the trot for a 10-4 win. Even the orange shirt couldn’t help King as he couldn’t beg, borrow or steal a leg.

As there are no style points in darts a “lucky win” counts as much as your garden variety win. James Wade can thank his lucky stars for Andy Smith missing 9 darts at a double when leading 8-7. At 8-all, the real James Wade emerged winning the 16th leg with a T80 and then closed the match with an 11-darter, secured with bull-double top. Mark Webster had an uninterested appearing Adrian Lewis by the throat leading 6-2, then 8-5. Lewis’s 11-darter would level the match at 8 which was followed by double 12 that gave Lewis the lead 9-8. Webster took the next three for the 11-9 win. “It was a really tough game but I think I made it hard on myself,” said Webster. “I couldn’t believe how Adrian was giving me chances and I was missing them.”

Gary Anderson has always been known as a player who can score but not finish. He was in rare form spanking Robert Thornton 10-0. It was the first whitewash in the tournament in 6 years. The “Thunder from Down Under” Simon Whitlock missed the whitewash when he won 10-1, losing only the 8th leg to Tony Eccles. Eccles also went out last year 10-1. Hmmm. Might be a pattern emerging here. Steve Beaton could have had a whitewash when he beat Paul Nicholson 10-3. Nicholson, called by someone the “Bad Boy of Darts,” was in need bad. In fact he was down right lousy.

There use to be a pro golfer named T.C. Chang. He led a lot of tournaments until the finish when he would fold like an accordion. That prompted the ODC’s bro to nickname him “Total Collapse” Chang. Colin Lloyd could be called by those not kind, like the ODC, “Collapse Likely.” Just before the match began it was announced that a “punter” had just bet £30,000 pounds on Kevin Painter to win. Lloyd led Painter 5-1 and 8-2 so one could assume that the “punter” and Painter were looking at a dim tomorrow. Funny thing happened: Old Mo changed sides as Painter clawed his way back to 8-9 using finishes of 104 and 105. When Lloyd missed a dart for the match Painter leveled at 9. The next two went to Painter for the 11-9 win. Both Mark Dudbridge and Alan Tabern advanced by the same 12-10 score. Both Ronnie Baxter (10-7) and Wayne Jones (10-8) also advanced.

If there is a “Attaboy Award” it should be given to Barrie Bates. He had the task of facing Phil Taylor in round one. Taylor’s first three darts were triple 20’s which usually sets the agenda for a Taylor match. Bates would have none of it. At the first break, after 5 legs, Bates was down only 2-3. When they reached 10 legs it was leveled at 5 after Bates capitalized on a flock of missed Taylor doubles to lead briefly 5-4. Taylor would win 10-6 with Bates playing the game of his life.

Some interesting match-ups in the next round that starts Wednesday. The ODC likes Ronnie Baxter to take out Wayne Jones, James Wade showing the door to Vincent van der Voort, Raymond van Barneveld to steamroll Alan Tabern, with Co Stompe edging Mark Webster. Day two of the second round should provide a couple of blow outs with Phil Taylor (Steve Beaton) and Simon Whitlock (Steve Brown) easing into the next round. The big “IF” is: can Gary Anderson hit doubles? If he can he’ll take Jelle Klaasen to the little room out back. If not, the Dutchman skates into round 3. Kevin Painter and mark Walsh is a “pick ‘em” which the ODC won’t.

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Howie Reed
The one and only Howie Reed (the Old Dart Coach) goes back decades with the legends of our sport - he knows where the skeletons are buried. Just ask any of the ADO and WDF old-timers! His widely popular column, Toeing the Oche, is a must-read.

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