Column #424 Who’s the Real Darts World Champion?

Friday, January 13, 2012
Column 424
Who’s the Real Darts World Champion?

Last July, I wrote in this space…

For years Dartoid’s World has made the case that the center of the darts universe has been shifting. Now it has.

I have written that the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) should wake up and smell the noodles, that it should take its act to Asia. It hasn’t.

It’s difficult to figure. There’s good business to be had. Barry Hearn is a great businessman (and he has really nice hair).

Sure, there was a formal “event” a few years back – the Global Cup in 2004. A few of the PDC players traveled to China and stomped the best the Chinese had to offer pretty much back to the Ming Dynasty. But that’s it. When China hosted the Shanghai International Darts Open in 2009 the only PDC players to make the trip were three-time world champion John Part and Gary Mawson. Perhaps that’s when they began to see the light…

…that Paul Lim saw years ago and Ray Carver, John Kuczynski, Rob Heckman, Chris White, Scotty Burnett, Scott Kirchner and a few others have all seen clear as day and dollar signs.

I’ve bounced in and out of darts bars all over Asia for more than two decades. Unicorn has been selling product in the region for even longer. John Lowe, Eric Bristow and even Phil Taylor have made the rounds.

What is it that the PDC can’t see?

A few years back I was introduced to a British guy by a friend of mine, Noel Li (once one of the top female players in the region). Go figure – I fly all the way to Hong Kong and the first player I have to face is from the Mother Country. I just can’t shake these blokes.

Scott Mackenzie was actually born in Brazil – his mother is Japanese and his father is Scottish. For several years he lived in Essex. Then one day he began a trip around the world with his girlfriend, landed in Hong Kong and stayed. “It happens to a lot of expats,” he told me. “I think it has to do with the warm weather, low taxes and thin girls… not necessarily in that order.”

I lost track of Mackenzie until the 2011 PDC World Championship where I was not surprised to see him representing Hong Kong. After defeating Alex “Too Tall” Hon to win the world championship trip he drew Jyhan Artut from Germany in the preliminary rounds. Mackenzie missed two shots at double to win the match and lost 3-4.

As news recently began to spread about the 2011 Soft Tip World Championship and as my mailbox began to fill up with suggestions that I write about it, I noticed one of the messages was from Mackenzie – offering to write something for me. How great a deal is that! I don’t have to do shit.

The good news is that besides knowing his darts Mackenzie used to work for Macmillan publishers and was then Chief Editor for a science and technology magazine. For a time he even wrote for a New Age-type magazine about crop circles and structures on the moon. A wise man, unlike me, he figured out that there was a much better living to be made working for a hedge fund which means, I guess, he heads a charity that raises money to protect hedgehogs.

So join me in welcoming Scott Mackenzie to Dartoid’s World today and let him welcome you to the world of big time electronic darts in Asia and the soft tip world championship that is attracting so much attention including, it is rumored, even Phil Taylor’s.

Yes, the center of the darts universe has shifted to Asia.

Today Scott Mackenzie returns to Dartoid’s World with one of the most provocative columns I have read in years and one HELL of an exciting rumor.

Bob Dylan was only partly right…

Times are no longer just “a changin’” – they have changed dramatically and the world of darts as we’ve known it will never be the same. The center of the darts universe is no longer the United Kingdom and steel tip, it is Asia and soft tip.

And the real World Champion? That’s open to debate.

Mark my words: in mere months the PDC greats will begin to flock to Asia to play the genre of the sport they have long ridiculed.

They will compete for unprecedented prize money.

They will compete to be recognized as the real champions of the sport today.

And Dartoid’s World plans to follow the activity every step of the way!

 

Who’s the Darts World Champion?
By Scott Mackenzie
From the Kowloon Bay International Trade & Exhibition Centre, Hong Kong
December 2011

In Hong Kong, at the KITEC Centre, on 18th December 2011, 64 qualifiers for the Dartslive “The World” soft-tip darts championship have gathered, all targeting to not only win the HK$1 Million (US$130K) prize on offer but at becoming the best soft-tip darter on the planet. Players from all over the world are here, well known names from both steel-tip and soft including John Part, Paul Lim, Ronald Briones, Ray Carver, Johnny Kuczynski, Scotty Burnett, and Lourence Ilagan to mention but a few.

All matches are “best of 5” (apart from the semis and finals which are “best of 7”), games are a mix of 701 and cricket. Most of the matches during the day were so close, due to the short format, that often games were poised at 2-2 (including my 2nd round match with top US player Scotty Burnett, “Scotty B.” My girlfriend affectionately calls me “Scotty A” (my middle name is Alexander) but I renamed myself Scotty “not so hotty” as in the decider Burnett blasts me out of the park, in a great game of cricket.

After a scintillating day’s play the top 4 are: Paul Lim (representing Singapore), Sho Katsumi (representing Japan, and who knocked out John Part 3-2 in the quarters – John, of course, caught a flight after the tournament to the UK to play in the PDC World Championships), Chris White (from Canada, who beat Scotty B in Round 3) and Ben Dersch (USA, who knocked out Philippine young-gun ‘JP’ as well as Ilagan – Ben was also the recent winner of the singles event at the IDF Soft-tip Darts World Cup in Shanghai).

photo1-venueIn the semi’s Paul Lim beats Chris White 4-1 and Sho Katsumi overcomes Ben Dersch 4-2 to also make it to the Grand Final…

In front of thousands of screaming fans and thousands more watching the live webcast on Ustream, Paul and Katsumi walk-up on stage with glamour models wrapped around each arm, against a backdrop of bellowing music and razzmatazz equal in stature to the PDC world finals.

Paul has a lot of local support, and is the crowd’s favourite. Nearly every person in the full capacity hall is holding up a sign with “We love Paul” and the room is filled with cries of “Paul Lim, Paul Lim.” I can only feel sorry for Katsumi who seems to be a little unsettled by it all.

A perfect 701 game by Paul (14 darts) is followed by an 8-mark game in cricket by Katsumi. Unsettled he’s not. This is what we’ve been waiting for – and why most people have paid more than US$100 a ticket to watch.

The game continues, and goes with throw – whoever starts first wins. It’s neck and neck – and now 3 legs each. It’s the decider. The room is now, for once, completely silent – you could hear a flight drop…

It looks like Katsumi has the advantage as he’s closer to the bull and goes first, but the game chosen by Paul is cricket, a game the “Singapore Slinger” excels at…

It was one of the most entertaining and exciting finals I’ve ever seen.

Paul needs a bull with his last dart to win. He hesitates, probably because this dart is worth US$130,000…

HE HITS IT!

photo2A-PaulwithchequeThe match ends 4 legs to 3, and Paul becomes a Hong Kong Millionaire. Katsumi receives HK$300,000 (US$40,000) for coming in a very close 2nd. The total prize money for the whole event was a whopping HK$4 million (US$500,000) – second in size only to the PDC World Championships.

There are rumours that Dartslive, the organizer of the competition who have links to Japanese software giant Sega, may offer US$1 million to the winner of the next Soft tip World Championships. Yes you heard that right, US$1 million for the winner (unconfirmed as yet) – the total purse for the event will obviously be even higher. This will make it the biggest money darts competition ever held anywhere in the world!

photo3-top8playersThe soft-tip game is no longer second tier to steel-tip, it will be the leader in the sport – thanks to the money, technology and innovation that Dartslive (and others) have put into the game.

There are also rumours that if darts ever becomes an Olympic sport (and that is a big IF) then soft-tip would be the game played, not steel-tip, as it has a larger international presence (in Japan for example there are over 1 million registered soft-tip darters).

photo4-dartslivemachineYou can find out more and keep up-to-date with the next Dartslive Soft-tip World Championships at the below website. Qualifiers/stages are likely to start around March 2012 with some to be held in the US as well as Hong Kong.

Darts The World

By the time you read this we will actually have 3 World Darts Champions. But who can currently call themselves the world’s best all-round darts player – that’s right the best all-rounder – taking into consideration both steel-tip and soft-tip? Is it PDC World Champion – Adrian Lewis or is it BDO World Champion, or would it be Paul Lim, the Soft-tip Darts World Champion?

So who’s the undisputed Darts World Champion?

In tennis, for example, to be considered the best you have to show your skills on all surfaces (clay, hard court and grass). In steel-tip and soft-tip darts the surfaces are different, the distances are different (albeit slightly) and the darts are different.

Another example…

Who is the best athlete in the world, it is Usain Bolt (world record holder and Olympic gold medalist in the 100 & 200 metres), or is it Brian Clay (winner of the Olympic gold at the Decathlon)? Bolt would thrash Clay over 100 metres but how about the 110 metre hurdles, or the javelin (basically a long dart) or over 1,500 metres? According to Wikipedia the title of World’s Greatest Athlete goes to Clay.

So shouldn’t the best dart player in the world be someone that can win both the steel-tip and soft-tip World Championships?

The PDC does have a competition titled the Grand Slam of Darts which has both BDO and PDC players battling it out in steel-tip. But perhaps a true Grand Slam should include soft-tip darts in the equation.

Will we ever see someone win both? I hope so. It’ll be difficult, there’s no question about that. We can only occasionally find a true “undisputed” champion in any particular sporting area during fleeting moments in history.

In tennis, for example, only one player has ever won the true “grand slam” (all the major titles, over different surfaces, within one year – including the gold medal). That was Steffi Graf in 1988.

In billiards no one has ever won both the snooker and pool world championships over the lifetime of the sports. Again we find a great analogy on the green baize – who was the greatest all-round billiard player, or “cuer”? (Pool as you know has a smaller dimension table and some other subtle differences versus with snooker, comparable as an illustration to steel-tip and soft-tip darts).

If it’s on world titles, in pool its US great Willie Mosconi, in snooker it’s Scotland’s own Stephen Hendry. But the greatest all-round “cuer” may surprise you – it’s American Steve Mizerak as he not only won the Pool World Championship but he beat both Jimmy White at snooker who was considered the best ever with a cue during his peak and Steve Davis in the late 80’s at snooker (while Davis was then the current Snooker World Champion).

So getting back to darts…

Phil Taylor is still ranked the Number 1 player by the PDC. He regularly hits the highest averages in steel tip, and is, of course, the greatest steel-tip player ever. But he hasn’t done much in soft-tip. Paul Lim currently shoots the best in soft-tip, but didn’t play much steel-tip this year.

Would Phil Taylor (or current PDC World Champion, Adrian Lewis) beat Paul in a steel-tip match? Most probably.

Would Paul beat Taylor or Lewis in a soft-tip match? I’d put money Paul to win.

Interestingly though, John Part came in joint 5th in the soft-tip World Championships and also came in joint 5th in the PDC steel-tip World Championships – so is John the best all-round player?

Only one other player qualified for both the PDC World Championships and soft-tip World Championships this year. (I’ll leave you to work that one out!)

I guarantee there will be many more players vying to play both events – and trying to become the Undisputed Darts World Champion in the years to come.

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Dartoid
Author of the column that since 1995 has been featured by Bull’s Eye News, the American Darts Organization’s (ADO) Double Eagle and numerous other darts publications and websites around the globe.
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