Author Archives: Charis Mutschler

Column #CM59 UK Open – Day 3

Monday, March 25, 2019
Column CM59
UK Open – Day 3

The third day of the UK Open dawned – it was rather grey outside, not really dry and it stormed. Not nice for hiking but when Coleridge was on his way in March 1798, he had to take a break in an inn in Lynton as a thunderstorm descended on him. Nevertheless, he walked together with his friends – he was accompanied on that day by fellow writer William Hazlitt and John Chester, the son of a local farmer – further on to the Valley of Rocks. The Valley of Rocks today is a well-developed tourist attraction. At Coleridge’s time I suppose it was much wilder and very rough and probably in the stormy atmosphere quite scary. The ramblers at this time had to take the steep ascend from Lynmouth to Lynton by foot. Now-a-days, they can have a drive as the little harbor, Lynmouth, offers an attraction which connects it to Lynton – the cliff railway. It’s the world’s steepest and longest railway which is only moved by sea water and it has existed since 1890.

Lynmouth is not only well-known because of the railway but as well by the Lynmouth catastrophe, a flooding disaster which happened in August 1952. It had rained strongly for 24 hours and the two rivers which merge here brought with them a mud and boulder slide which destroyed two-thirds of the village and killed 35 people. From time to time rumors would abound that the reason for the rain being so strong was that the Royal Air Force had seeded the clouds to find out whether and how one could influence the weather for military purposes. But there never was an official affirmation.

Though one heard that flights were cancelled due to the strong winds on the last day of the UK Open in Minehead it had no serious consequences. Only the roof of the Sky Pavillion above the main stage – where all matches on the last day were played – moved quite a lot. And luckily none of the players who were defeated on the day looked like a disaster had befallen them. In the evening session they all just looked tired.

First out of the tournament was Josh Payne who lost in the first quarterfinal to Rob Cross. Payne played the better average – well, he also played more consistently – but Cross had a few really good legs which were in the end enough for a 10:7 win and a place in the semi-finals. Both players were clinical on their doubles.

The second quarterfinal was over very fast and the second player out of the event was Steve Beaton. Michael Smith looked better than on the day before and seemingly felt better as well. Beaton had no chance at all and only won a single leg.

In the next quarterfinal it was Simon Stevenson who had no chance at all though he won a few legs more than Beaton. But Gerwyn Price was just too much for him – not really astonishing as Price had played so far consistently high-quality performances. I suppose Stevenson was not too disappointed – he had reached the quarterfinals and beaten on his way Kim Huybrechts, Raymond van Barneveld and Dave Chisnall. And all that while he was “only” the number 68 of the world.

In the last quarterfinal two players met who probably no one before the tournament had counted among the favorites to win the event – but both had played convincingly: Nathan Aspinall and Ross Smith. Ross looked like he didn’t have much left in the tank, and he lost 6:10. At least he was, like Aspinall, quite sure on his doubles.

A last draw for the semi-finals followed – three top ten players and one underdog were still in the tournament.

After the break – which was this time quite long – the semifinals started, and Nathan Aspinall and Gerwyn Price walked on stage first. To be sure Price was the favorite to win the match as until now he had played really well and besides was much more experienced in this context.

But… Nathan Aspinall didn’t seem to be nervous at all and was soon into the match and in the lead. He kept on increasing the lead and only when he needed just a bit more to win did, he became a little bit shaky. Price managed to reduce his deficit. Aspinall missed with his first two match darts and at 10:9 the match went into a deciding leg. Price couldn’t find the bullseye to draw and Aspinall kept his nerve to hit the double 14 to progress into his first televised final. Despite his defeat Price seemed to be delighted with Aspinall’s win and was a very fair loser. By this he no doubt won back a lot of the support he had lost due to his behavior in the Grand Slam. The whistles against him had dwindled anyway during the tournament.

The second semifinal was far less thrilling. For me it looked like Michal Smith finally had given in to his pain and only hoped the match would be over soon. So, Rob Cross had not many problems to defeat him 11:7. Smith had only from time to time some good throws but was far less clinical and impressive then in his other matches. What a pity for Smith – had not his injury hindered him he would really have had a chance to win the event. But he was on this day not a serious opponent for Cross. Cross seemed to be compassionate after the match probably it had not been easy for him to play against an opponent who was so burdened with an injury.

And so, the rather astonishing final of this year’s UK Open was Nathan Aspinall vs Rob Cross – something we knew even without a draw!

There was not much time for the players to recover from their semi-finals – especially not for Rob Cross who had played in the second semi-final. But it was already late – you just couldn’t take a long break.

Rob Cross somehow didn’t get into his stride in the final. He admitted afterwards he felt he had no power left after all the matches of the weekend. Aspinall played not as well as before too – might be it was because it was his first ever televised final. So, the final was not really the highlight of the tournament or a high-class match and even a little bit one-sided in the end.

Cross only managed to keep up until 4:5 but he didn’t manage to draw even – though he had six darts for it. Aspinall used the chance and hit his double 10. After that, Cross only won one more leg and Aspinall had no problem at all to get a clear win. Right at the very end of the match Aspinall produced a moment of magic – he threw a 170-finish to win the match and the title. Not often before did it happen a player won a tournament with a 170 finish! So, Aspinall could celebrate a deserved win! And Cross looked as delighted as did the crowd and Aspinall’s granddad who had by now come to fame.

After Lauwrence Lustig had taken his official photos we other (three) photographers were allowed to come on stage as well to take our own shots.

And with that – this year’s UK Open was history.

Column #CM58 UK Open – Day 2

Monday, March 25, 2019
Column CM58
UK Open – Day 2

Rather astonishingly, the second day of the UK Open started quite nice and dry again – an ideal day to walk a few miles on the Coleridge Way. The next destination on route is the small town of Porlock. Again you can find an Iron Age fort nearby. Porlock is not situated in the Quantock Hills but in the Exmoor National Park and is today of ill fame because 40 percent of the inhabitants are in retirement age – more than in any other town in the UK.

At the time of the Saxons it had an important harbor. Later, it got market rights and was well-known for its high-quality spun yarns. As a lot of the villages along the coast smuggling was big. Today, the Miles Company can be found here – which earns its money with coffee and tea but in a legal way and completely without smuggling. Thanks to Coleridge the pretty village undeservedly got a negative reputation. During his time in Nether Stowey he worked on his poem about Kubla Khan and his famous palace Xanadu. Allegedly he was interrupted in his work by a person from Porlock “and never finished the poem.” The terms “person from Porlock,” “man from Porlock,” or just “Porlock” entered the discourse as a literary allusion for an unwelcome visitor who compromises creativity. Now-a-days, research believes that the” person from Porlock” probably didn’t really exist or was the result of an opium intoxication – Coleridge was an opium addict – and he probably at this time already suffered from writer’s block or just lost interest in his project.

My own walk on the second day again ended at Butlin’s and I felt a little bit tired from all the walking around on the first day but nevertheless full of anticipation for what the second day of the tournament would bring. There were still three German players in the event though I had my doubts whether they would survive the day. The draw had not been kind with them and James Wade, Simon Whitlock and Dave Chisnall to be sure were no easy opponents. The Dutch though had fared much worse already on the first day – twenty Dutch players stood at the oche and only one survived.

In the afternoon session the fifth round was played on four boards. In the evening, the sixth round would follow, and this was played only on the main stage and on the second stage…

Max Hopp was first on the first stage against James Wade and though he played quite a good match Wade never looked to be in any danger and won. As play on the main stage started a little bit later than on the other stages, when I marched on to Centre Stage two rather close matches between Steve Beaton and Keegan Brown and Steve Lennon and Mickey Mansell – an all Irish affair – were played. Beaton and Lennon were the 10:8 winners in the end. The first match on the second stage was a rather one-sided one – Nathan Aspinall had finished in almost record time 10:2 against Madars Razma. After that a very cheerful Simon Whitlock came on stage to play against Gabriel Clemens who didn’t share his cheerfulness. Probably he already anticipated it wouldn’t end well for him – he lost 8:10. Clemens had started quite well and for some time he had been in the lead, but Whitlock turned the match around. While I watched this match in Centre Stage, Martin Schindler already had lost to Dave Chisnall and Jonny Clayton against Krzysztof Ratajski.

On the main stage the match between Michael Smith and Daryl Gurney started. Gurney didn’t manage to induce Smith to sing with him – I am sure due to Smiths pain. And he looked like he still was in pain and had no reason at all to sing. He walked most of the time with a limp and didn’t look happy at all. Nevertheless he got in the end a close 10:9 win.

I walked back to the stages three and four in Centre Stage and watched the end of Jermaine Wattimena’s match. And the Dutchman survived another round. I missed the match between Simon Stevenson and Kim Huybrechts which the rather stoic Stevenson won – he played a for him outstanding weekend. But I was in time to watch Ross Smith demolish Steve West and to see the start of the match between Cristo Reyes and Richard North before I walked back to the second match in the by now absolutely packed Reds where Jamie Hughes who until now had played faultlessly lost to a very convincing Gerwyn Price. At the main stage by now the last match had started between Mensur Suljovic and Dimitri van den Bergh. It was a thrilling and dramatic match and I suffered vicariously alternately. In the end, van den Bergh won 10:9 and almost couldn’t believe his luck while Suljovic looked rather thoughtful.

The draw for the next round followed and after that came a well-deserved break, while outside it started to rain.

The sixth round was only played on the main and on the second stage – but that meant for me and all fans and players and other involved parties a run through the rain to get from the main building with the main stage, press room and player’s area to the second stage and back. Around the second stage it was even more packed then in the afternoon and it took some time to get near the stage. Again, the first match on the second stage started before the action on the main stage so I first jogged there and followed a few legs of the Steve Lennon vs. Nathan Aspinall match – another very close match in which more fans cheered Aspinall. Like Daryl Fitton and Tony O’Shea, Aspinall lives in Stockport – might be another hotspot of darts in England. Back to the main stage where James Wade and Ross Smith played… when I arrived Wade was far behind. It looked he had lost momentum since his last match and though he found a way back in this one it was too late, and an unimpressive Smith won. It followed Ratajski against Price and Price was just too much for the not always fair playing Polish Eagle.

The second match on the second stage was close but far from thrilling – and an example that some players are capable to win without a good throwing technique. Stevenson won against Dave Chisnall, and I returned to the main stage and a one-sided match between Jermaine Wattimena and Michael Smith. Wattimena had no chance and all Dutch players were out. Returning to stage two I arrived in the middle of a heartbreaking drama – Steve Beaton defeated Dimitri van den Bergh. It was a hard-fought win for Beaton who missed with three match darts against the fiercely resisting World Youth Champion who lost in the end 8:10 and was close to tears.

For a second time the cheerful Simon Whitlock came on stage but this time he lost his cheerfulness during the match because he was rolled over by Josh Payne. Whitlock looked slightly baffled.

For the last match of the evening Cristo Reyes and Rob Cross walked on the main stage. Cross sent the Spaniard – who acted at times bizarrely during the match – packing.

And so, on the last day of the event only eight players from the UK were still in the tournament and seven players from England and one player from Wales would fight for the title and a new name would stand there. Three of the players reaching the quarterfinals were not a surprise – Price, Cross and Michael Smith. The other five were all dark horses.

The rain had an understanding for us and had stopped. Only the sea rushed. And I still had no idea who would win the tournament…

Column #CM57 UK Open – Day 1

Monday, March 18, 2019
Column CM57
UK Open – Day 1

The weather was not really an issue this year though in the evening of the day before the UK Open started we had quite a strong wind in Minehead and my window rattled loudly. But with this exception it is almost spring here, not cold at all and the daffodils are running a blooming race against the camellias. It’s really the ideal weather to take a hike! There are two hiking paths in the Minehead area – The South West Coast Path and the Coleridge Way. The South West Coast Path leads along the English coast with glorious views all the way from Minehead around Land’s End until Bournemouth.

The Coleridge Way is not as much about the beauty of scenery – it runs from Nether Stowey to Lynmouth through the Exmoor National Park and links places which were relevant for the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Coleridge (1772 – 1834) is especially well-known for his poetry though not in Germany. Coleridge himself was very interested in German literature and philosophy and lived for some time in Germany. He visited lectures at the university in Göttingen. He even learned German, translated Schiller’s Wallenstein and probably Goethe’s Faust as well into English. In the years 1797 and 1798 he lived in a cottage in Nether Stowey. The little town is situated near the Quantock Hills, England’s first “Area of Outstanding Beauty.” There can be found the relicts of a fort from the Iron Age. During the Middle Ages Nether Stowey was a market town were mainly textiles and pottery were traded. The Normans had built a castle there as well but there are more or less no remains. Should you walk from Nether Stowey to Lynmouth during the third day of your hike you could reach Minehead with a small detour.

I didn’t hike on the first day of the UK Open on the traits of any poet but rather on the traits of the darts players and my own small detour led me to the supermarket for food and water as it would be a long day of darts. Compared to last year Butlin’s was more than crowded and more than well-heated (and not only the thrilling darts matches made me sweat). So, my short walks outside were rather refreshing…

As usual, on the first day it was almost impossible to have an overview, at least in the afternoon session, especially as neither in the Reds with the second stage nor in Centre Stage with the boards 3 – 8 could one get any information about what was going on. I decided to take pictures of players I didn’t know and of course of those who everybody knows. As good as Dart Connect is for statistics and for the chalkers, in a crowded room when you stand miles away you really can’t read it. That had been easier with the scoreboards at least when the chalker wrote legibly…

All three venues were crowded and the atmosphere was great. The first real upset was the early elimination of Glen Durrant, but I can’t help feeling that the noisy crowd being so close to his oche effected his game. Earlier, Rowby-John Rodriguez was eliminated – he didn’t survive the first round and supposedly it even got a little bit nasty. Cameron Menzies survived the first round but was timed out in the second. Probably he couldn’t find the board. I had seen him roaming about near the main stage and wondered what he was doing there but it would have been too late for his second match anyway.

The two German players, Robert Marijanovic and Christian Bunse, didn’t survive their first matches either. I did see Gabriel Clemens who had no problems at all against Zoran Lerchbacher. I watched a little bit of the match between Kirk Shepherd and Bradley Brooks on the second stage which was quite a good one – and followed the thriller between Conan Whitehead and Michael Rasztovits. The first match on the main stage that I spent some time with was the one between Ricky Evans and Jose Justicia – quite a close affair.

During the evening session it got easier to follow the action as only one round was played. This was especially so in Centre Stage where only with some luck could one from time to time see a player’s head with all the crowds. It had been difficult during the afternoon session to find out which player was playing in which round and who might already be out.

The matches of the fourth round had a longer format as well and I could watch for example how a not motivated Raymond van Barneveld lost to Simon Stevenson and immediately disappeared from that stage not giving his many fans any chance to take a picture with him or even get an autograph in his last UK Open. I watched Gerwyn Price win against Joe Cullen and later the start of the van Gerwen vs. King match before I walked on to Centre Stage once more. van Gerwen had some problems at the start of the match but when I left it looked as if he was getting into the match finally.

I don’t know what happened after I left as I got stuck in Centre Stage for quite some time. A person had taken a fall on the steps and was treated by some paramedics – no one was allowed in or out for some time. So, I watched the matches there during that time and saw some one-sided matches with commanding wins by Madars Razma, James Wade, Kim Huybrechts, Jermaine Wattimena, Josh Payne and Jonny Clayton. When we were allowed to leave van Gerwen was out of the tournament…

At stage two the Lewis match had started which in fact was won by a Lewis – by Jamie Lewis. I didn’t return to Centre Stage but moved on with the crowd to the main stage where Gary Anderson just lost to Steve Beaton. It was a great match from both players but probably Anderson was a little bit rusty due to the break he had to take from darts because of his back injury. The last match of the fourth round was the match between Mensur Suljovic and Peter Wright. Wright gave it his best but it was not enough and he lost.

So, after the first day from all the former UK Open winners only James Wade was still in the tournament. The amateur qualifiers were all out. The most consistent high class performances we did see came from Jamie Hughes, but in the crazy event where a lot depends on the draw that’s not saying much…

On my way home the weather was an issue after all – it rained quite heavy and I reached my luckily not too far away Bed and Breakfast dripping wet. Once again, I was grateful for the hospitality tray with tea and coffee, sugar, milk, a few biscuits and an electric water kettle.

You always can find in British accommodation!

Column #CM56 “Only a publicity stunt…”

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Column CM56
“Only a publicity stunt…”

…said Linda Duffy when she heard of the PDC’s plan to offer two places for women in the World Championship. Furthermore, she stated her belief that it is unfair when women must play against men. Of course, she has an explanation for this disconcerting opinion – Duffy believes in the empirically underpinned conviction that there are physical reasons why women will never be as good as men in this sport.

Completely unimpressed by Duffy’s statements, many of the top female players saw the offer by the PDC as a chance and took part in the qualifiers – with Lisa Ashton and Anastasia Dobromyslova, two of the best, winning qualifiers. Both lost their world championship matches but in the first set between Ashton and Jan Dekker, Ashton tallied an over 100 average and made Dekker break out in sweat. She couldn’t keep up and, in the end, Dekker won 3-1 with an 88.95 average but Ashton’s overall average was with 88.65, only minimally lower.

Dobromyslova didn’t have a good day and lost 0-3 against Ryan Joyce.

The PDC was very pleased with how it all went, and CEO Matthew Porter announced that the PDC would offer two places for women again in the next World Championship.

It might well be that this was only a novelty, but I got the impression the crowd and the media both reacted very positively and received the two women cordially. The reactions to the matches were positive as well, especially Lisa Ashton’s performance which was praised throughout. Of course, one could read posts like “the women took two places away from the men” or “an all-female qualification is not a real qualification,” but those were a minority.

As soon the PDC World Championship was over the BDO World Championships started and hence the women’s World Championship – at least it felt like this for me…

Against the not too recent practice of not televising the ladies’ matches at all or scheduling them schedule them at the very start of the sessions when the venue is still half empty, now-a-days the ladies’ matches are embedded between the men’s matches. And so, if you don’t leave the sofa or armchair purposely to clean the dishes or switch to football or take some similar action you have to watch the ladies’ matches too (I really would like to know whether audience numbers during the ladies’ matches were lower.) Sadly, this year, we had to watch some very weak performances – for example, Laura Turner completely cracked at her debut on the Lakeside stage – but there were some impressive achievements as well. To be sure, Mikuru Suzuki’s final will not soon be forgotten.

Not surprising – as they no longer must fear sanctions from the BDO – among the participants in the PDC Qualifying School (which started shortly after the BDO World Championship) were some women as well. On all the four days more than 400 players competed for the 19 Tour Cards on offer. Nevertheless, Lisa Ashton almost managed to win a card – she collected nine points and 13 wins. Only one point more and today everybody would be talking about her achievement…

It is not yet known whether the participating women now will play the complete Challenge Tour – probably, as last year, they will if the dates don’t conflict with important BDO/WDF competitions. And it is quite likely we will see Lisa Ashton from time to time as a successor on the Pro Tour when not all 128 Tour Card holders register, which often is the case.

All in all, the women left a fair impression – in the World Championships and the Qualifying School. In my mind one cannot yet tell whether they will be able to keep up with the men in the long run – notwithstanding empirical insights about the gender differences and throwing capabilities.

Until now, only Deta Hedman and Anastasia Dobromyslova have tried their luck on the PDC Pro Tour. They were not successful, but one could say the same about at least half of the men’s participants as well.

The sport of darts is more about accuracy from a short distance so it might be that the limited throwing ability of women doesn’t figure as prominently as for example in javelin.

I fear Duffy is right when she says women will not be able to keep up with the top players like Michael van Gerwen or Phil Taylor – but again you can say that most of the male players can’t keep up with them either. I feel the women have improved during the last few years and I think it could be possible they will be able to earn a living on the Pro Tour one day. I completely agree with Duffy – it would help women’s darts much more if reasonable structures like the PDC Development Tour or the PDC Challenge Tour existed for them – but it doesn’t look likely this will happen anytime soon.

So, currently, the women have no other option than to grab all chances presented to them whether they are a publicity stunt or not and make the best of it.

The two women in the World Championships certainly increased the interest in the women’s sport of darts and the women got some experience on the Big Stage of the sport in front of a huge and noisy crowd and earned some decent price money – to be sure a positive outcome. It might be appearances like this make the sport more appealing for young girls as well as women. That would be another positive effect – as with a growing interest the odds are good there’ll be more female players and with that, in the end, more good female players. Until now, the number of participants in women’s or girl’s competitions have been distinctively lower than the number of participants in men’s or boy’s competitions. Even in the JDC events you’ll find far less girls.

It even looks as there’ll be some tangible positive consequences soon. Desmond Jacklin, the new chairman of the BDO, announced that the prize money for the women’s World Championship will be distinctly increased and the format extended – something the players have asked for for years.

So, whether what the PDC did was “only a publicity stunt,” by allowing it to happen – and given Jacklin’s announcement on behalf of the BDO – the actions of the courageous ladies who grabbed these opportunities have drawn fresh attention to their side of the sport and appear to be moving it in a positive direction.

Column #CM 55 Anastasia Dobromyslova – until now, the only woman to qualify by pub qualifier for the PDC World Championship

Monday, December 24, 2018
Column CM55
Anastasia Dobromsylova – until now, the only woman to qualify by pub qualifier for the PDC World Championship

Yes, that happened once (it was not so long ago). The woman who managed this was Anastasia Dobromyslova and she was again one of the players who stood on the stage of the Alexandra Palace on day five of this year’s tournament.

Dobromyslova entered the pub qualifiers for the UK Open in 2008 after she had won the BDO Women’s World Championship for the first time and managed to qualify. As it sometimes happens with the draw she was drawn against another pub qualifier who was a BDO player at that time – Robert Thornton. Sometimes PDC careers start like this.

Dobromyslova lost a close match and somehow, for some time, didn’t seem to know to which organisation she belonged. First she played the Winmau World Masters but she had an invitation to the Grand Slam of Darts as this year the PDC had decided to invite the BDO Women’s World Champion as well – and she switched to the PDC circuit on which her husband at that time competed.

She was the first woman to take part in the Grand Slam and though she didn’t survive the group phase she almost defeated Wayne Mardle – something he still today doesn’t like to be reminded of. Later the year, she got a wildcard for the PDC World Championship 2009 – supposedly because an Indian qualifier had withdrawn. A lot of fierce discussion followed. Dobromyslova lost her Preliminary Round match against Remco van Eiden.

She qualified again for the UK Open in 2009 by the UK Open rankings and played as a PDPA member in the PDC Women’s World Championship but lost in the semi-finals to the late, great America Stacy Bromberg. In 2010, she again took part in the Grand Slam and this time in the group phase defeated Vincent van der Voort. In the same year, she partnered with Roman Konchikov as Team Russia in the very first PDC World Cup. When she didn’t qualify for the PDC World Championship again she left the PDC and returned to the BDO in 2011. Since then she twice – in 2012 and 2013 – won the BDO World Championship. These days Dobromyslova sometimes plays, as does her husband, in soft-darts events.

Dobromsylove took part in the “Rest of the World” qualifier for this year’s PDC World Championship and thus returned to the Alexandra Palace.

After four long days of darts the fifth day of the World Championship was the first day with only an evening session – again with three first round matches and one Second round match. Despite it being a Monday evening the venue was well filled as was the press room.

As it turned out the strong attendance was not because of Raymond van Barneveld who played the last match of the night but because of Anastasia Dobromyslova. After her match a lot of the journalists and photographers disappeared.

The evening started with the match between Vincent van der Voort and Lourence Ilagan, a high-class and interesting match – and from both players fast match. Ilagan won only one set because he had a lot of trouble finding a double but nevertheless van der Voort couldn’t get rid of him and van der Voort’s 3-1 win was a little bit lucky. Somehow both players seemed to be as strong – it might even be that Ilagan was a little bit better.

The second match between Devon Petersen and Wayne Jones was very close and only decided in the last leg of the fifth set. Jones had six match darts but couldn’t hit a double while Petersen needed some luck and eight attempts to hit the double to win.

After that, the crowd enthusiastically cheered Anastasia Dobromyslova as she came on stage to face debutant Ryan Joyce. Joyce had qualified by the Pro Tour Order of Merit. Until Qualifying School 2018 he played on the BDO Circuit so probably he knows Dobromyslova quite well. It was not really difficult for Joyce to win as Anastasia’s average was almost 15 points lower than his. It looks as though Dobromyslova is not back to her old strength after the birth of her son last year. She lost 0-3.

While the defeat of Anastasia not really an upset the last match of the night – the second round match – brought one… Raymond van Barneveld lost to Darius Labanauskas.

Although van Barneveld recently announced he would retire at end of 2019 he expressed his belief that he could still win another World Championship – but in this World Championship he seemed to lack vigor and fought throughout to find a double. He looked as if he didn’t enjoy playing at all and throughout the course of the match couldn’t find a way to up his game. His opponent Darius Labanauskas on the other hand played as solid as in his first round win over Matthew Edgar which was on this day enough to defeat Raymond van Barneveld 3-0 and to progress into the third round. It was the second big upset of the tournament and the Dutchman will slide down the rankings

It was very late when I finally returned to my room and behind most windows I passed it was already dark. Nevertheless, on a leafless tree beside the street a bird sang full-throated…

Column #CM54 WC day four, and the first (and so far, only) German women on the PDC circuit

Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Column CM54
WC day four, and the first (and so far, only) German women on the PDC circuit

Yes, really, it is true, there were German ladies who played a few PDC Europe Events. There were two: Sabrina Spörle and Stefanie Lück.

Sabrina Spörle was more a soft darts player and Stefanie Lück was at that time (2009-2011) quite new in the sport, a big sensation and the great white hope of German darts. In 2010, the young woman won the WDF German Gold Cup and the German National Championship and could celebrate some other good results in the DDV. In 2011 in a PDC European event, she was defeated by John Mc Gowan. There as well she stood in the limelight – especially with the PDC players. Because of her talent she was even sponsored for a short while by Unicorn.

Gordon Shumway put his head above the parapet and predicted that in three years time Lück would play herself to the top spot in the world and become the German equivalent of Trina Gulliver or Anastasia Dobromyslova. Unluckily, this prediction turned out to be wrong. In the ensuing years one heard more about Lück because she was Simon Whitlock’s girlfriend then because of any sporting success. Today, probably only a few will remember the hype.

But Lück is definitely still around. She again won the German National Championship in 2014 and 2017. I saw her again during last year’s Winmau World Masters and currently in the DDV ladies rankings she sits in seventh place. When she won a DSAB soft darts event recently one could read that she played “marvelous.” Lück took part in the “Rest of the World” qualifier for the PDC World Championship but lost among the last 16 to Japan’s Mikuru Suzuki who had qualified a few weeks earlier for the PDC World Championshi. But internationally Lück at the moment plays no part. Sabrina Spörle on the other hand seems only to play from time to time in soft darts tournaments.

On the fourth day of the PDC World Championship Gabriel Clemens, the fourth German player, stood on the Ally Pally stage. He had qualified by the Pro Tour Order of Merit and played against Aden Kirk, who qualified by the PDPA Qualifier. Clemens won the first two legs and threw two 180s in them. In the third leg he was not as clinical but nevertheless won it as well and with it the first set. The second and third sets were quite similar though Clemens looked not quite as assured and was not as dominant. But he still stayed the stronger player and won in the end without problems 3-0. A good debut for the German in this tournament. After the match he shared that he had not been nervous at all, at first, when he came on stage but during the first break he suddenly started to get nervous. He would return home the next morning, work two days and come back for his second round match against John Henderson.

In the following two matches two Irishmen played and we saw two Irish wins. First, William O’Connor who had qualified like his Northern Ireland colleague Brendan Dolan by the Pro Tour Order of Merit, played against the Western European qualifier Yordi Meeuwisse. It was not O’Connor‘s first World Championship but until now he had always lost his first match. This time he had a good start and won the first set 3-1. It was much closer in the next two sets which both went into a deciding leg. Both times the Irishman hit the double first.

Next we had Brendan Dolan who had no problem at all with his opponent, the Chinese qualifier Yuanjun Liu. The young Chinese only won a single leg. As Dolan said after the match, he had believed Liu would play quite well and always expected a comeback. But probably the first appearance on the big stage had been overwhelming for the debutant.

After all these one-sided matches we were rewarded with a nail-biting thriller in the last match of the afternoon between Dave Chisnall and Josh Payne. Chisnall was at first not in the match at all while Payne played two brilliant sets and lead 2-0. In the third set Chisnall somehow forced a deciding leg and won the set. In set four Chisnall was the better player while Payne had to mentally get beyond falling short so close to the finish line. In the last set Chisnall took the lead for the first time. He missed two match darts in the third leg but Payne didn’t find his double either. Finally, Chisnall hit the double two to win an unbelievable match – a really thrilling and high class affair after which everybody needed a break to recover!

The first contest of the afternoon was one which just didn’t enthrall, perhaps because it again was a one-sided affair. Luke Humphries who qualified by the Pro Tour Order of Merit and as first in the Development Tour Order of Merit met Adam Hunt who had qualified by the PDPA qualifier. Hunt had played the complete Pro Tour this year but only once reached a quarter final. Even before the match started one knew Humphries was the better player by far. And – no surprise – it turned out he really was. Humphries progressed with a 3-0 win into the second round.

The second match developed into a one-sided match as well after Matthew Edgar – whose grandfather once played during a News of the World tournament at Alexandra Palace – won the first set. Darius Labanauskas finally arrived in the match in set two and showed – as one is used from his appearances in the BDO World Championship – a good and solid performance. He won his debut 3-1. Labanauskas had qualified by the Nordic and Baltic Tour. In 2018, he took part in a few European Tour Events.

In the last match, crowd favorite Paul Lim came on stage but unluckily was not as clinical on his doubles as his opponent Ross Smith. Smith – who had only just qualified by the Pro Tour Order of Merit – had in 2011 reached the quarterfinals of the BDO World Championship and stood first on the Alexandra Palace stage in 2014. He lost to Simon Whitlock in the first round – that year. But against Paul Lim he stormed through the first two sets. In the third set Lim played better and he won the set. But all hopes for a comeback were dashed when Smith turned on his turbo again and won the match in the following set.

The second round match of the evening pitted one-sided matches victors from before – though not in the way the fans and the crowd had hoped for. An as Santa dressed Peter Wright came on stage but went down to a Spanish whirlwind named Toni Alcinas – a bitter end to a already screwed up year for Wright. Wright couldn’t hit a double – especially not when he needed it, in particular in the deciding legs of sets one and four. So, Alcinas won in the end 3-1 against the #3 of the world. Wright will not have a great Christmas and his already impaired self-assurance will dwindle even more. The tournament had its first big upset!

Outside Alexandra Palace the fans were still discussing the last match of the evening while I started my way home. It was rather late already but I still had some work to do (which you have just read!).

Column #CM54 World Championship – day three and the (probably) only PDC Women’s World Champion

Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Column CM54
PDC World Championships – day three and the (probably) only PDC Women’s World Champion

On the third day of the World Championship – during which the top favourite, Michael van Gerwen would appear for the first time on the Alexandra Palace stage – we begin by reflecting on another woman who was pioneer of the ladies sport in the PDC: American Stacy Bromberg who sadly passed away last year.

Bromberg dominated like never before – and probably never again – among woman in the sport of darts in America. Eleven times she won the American ladies national title. But she was successful in BDO/WDF tournaments as well and, among others, reached the final of the Winmau World Masters. After a some relatively quiet years – due to illness – in 2009 Bromberg won the ladies singles title at the WDF World Cup and in the same year the women’s singles title at the Shanghai International Open – without losing a single leg throughout the tournament. In the same year, she traveled to England to take part in the first – and at least till now – only PDC Women’s World Championship.

Many of the BDO top players didn’t take part for fear of possible consequences but for Bromberg there was no second guessing. It was no surprise that she reached the final and won it against Tricia Wright.

Since Bromberg took part in a few PDC Pro Tour events as well during her time in England she was banned by the American Darts Organization and the WDF from taking part in the World Cup 2011. There were quite fierce discussions because that meant she couldn’t defend her title. The PDC didn’t repeat the Women’s World Darts Championship – another title Bromberg couldn’t defend. Two bitter disappointments for Bromberg who in her own way spoke up. In 2012, her cancer came back and she sadly passed away in February 2017. To be sure she would have played the qualifier for the PDC World Championship – she was not a person to shirk a challenge. And it could well be possible she would have risen to the challenge.

Several dart players faced a challenge on the third day of the World Championship and were unable to cope. The afternoon session was a German/Canadian session as with Robert Marijanovic and Max Hopp – two Germans, and Jim Long and Jeff Smith – two Canadians taking to the oche.

Marijanovic – winner of the Superleague Germany – opened the session with his match against Richard North. He stormed through the first two legs but then had a few problems finding the double. But North didn’t fare any better and Marijanovic won the first set. The second set was quite similar and again Marijanovic was able to win it somehow. The next two sets however went to North and the match went into a deciding set in which North proved his nerves were better than Marijanovic’s who looked for some time to come out the winner. As North admitted after the match, he had underestimated his opponent. But mostly he blamed his doubles and said he would try everything possible to put hat right before his next match.

Next on were the Canadian CDC winner Jim Long and Pro Tour Order of Merit qualifier Mickey Mansell. Long started with a 180 but Mansell played a quite good first set and won it. But he couldn’t keep up and both players for most of the rest of the match averaged around 75. Nevertheless, Long was the better player as he hit a few high finishes. He won in the end deservedly 3-1 and progressed at his debut into the second round.

In the next match another Canadian stood on stage though not a debutant – Jeff Smith had been here before. In the first set it looked good for Smith, but Josh Payne got stronger and it became a head-to-head race which required a deciding set. In this set Payne showed the much better performance and won it 310. So, for the first time he progressed into the second round.

In the last match of the afternoon, the German #1 Max Hopp met Danny Noppert. Max entered the tournament for the first time as a seeded player. It was a very one-sided match as Noppert, overnight, somewhere had lost his doubles. Though he really scored well he just was not able to finish his legs. With high scores no player will win a match and so in the end Hopp was the victor – not really deservedly – with 3-0. For Hopp it was already his sixth world championship while Noppert gave his debut.

No really well-known players appeared in the evening session with the exception of Michael van Gerwen and the first two matches were far from good. Craig Ross had taken Tahuna Irwin‘s place and though he is a very experienced player he had no chance at all against Antony Alcinas who averaged around 86.03. Ross lost 0-3 and only won a single leg.

The second match ended 3-0 as well but was – due the fact that both players are fast throwers – more interesting. Ryan Searle had just qualified by the Pro Tour Order of Merit, Stephen Burton by the PDPA qualifier. Searle was in this match the better player but profited a lot from Burton‘s double trouble as well. Nevertheless he deserved the win.

Keegan Brwon and Karel Sedlacek walked on stage next and it was another one-sided match, only on a higher level. Sedlacek tried everything but Brown was just too good and we saw another 3-0 win.

The last match of the day was the match everybody had waited for: favored Michael van Gerwen and Alan Tabern would meet on stage. But van Gerwen needed two attempts to reach the stage as during his first walk-on one of the so-called fans poured beer over his head – probably deliberately. So, van Gerwen first disappeared behind the stage and then reappeared – rather shocked – and did a second mini walk-on in which none of the fans got near to him. The culprit was by then already banned from the venue. But van Gerwen didn’t look too baffled, at least it didn’t show in his game. Though Alan Tabern again played a good match and even won a set he had no chance against van Gerwen who produced the first over-100 average of the tournament.

Due to the many one sided matches the evening was over rather early and in front of the Alexandra Palace and on the streets the crowds still lingered. It had stopped raining and was no longer particularly cold.