Author Archives: Charis Mutschler

Column #CM90 Superbly amplified (or World Matchplay – Round #2)

Saturday, July 25, 2020
Column CM90
Superbly Amplified (or World Matchplay – Round #2)

Am I the only one who is curious why the arena in Milton Keynes is called “Marshall Arena”?

Surely others have wondered too but no doubt most don’t care and are just happy that live darts is finally back.  Still, perhaps some will find the answer to the question interesting.

Marshall is the name of a company (it might be it will now click for a few).  At least my husband reacted immediately: “Marshall… of course, that’s the crème de la crème!”

Yes, exactly.  Marshall is the crème de la crème for all who are somehow involved in rock music be it by playing electric guitars or the drums, as a member of a band or just as a fan of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend and many more.

Most amateurs will dream of having one and the professionals will have one – Marshall is the leading manufacturer of amplifiers. And without those amplifiers the typical sound of Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac or even the Rolling Stones would either not exist or would be completely different.

The founder of the company, Jim Marshall, was born in London in 1923 and was an amateur drummer in his youth. He opened a music shop in London which sold instruments. Many young talents who were friends of his son, Terry, were among his customers so the shop soon became a centre for young rock musicians who often lamented that existing amplifiers didn’t produce the sound they wanted.

Jim and Terry decided to help them and after some experimentation constructed their first amplifier, the amp #1, which quickly became successful.  Many more amplifiers followed which were also successful, so the company had to move. In fact, it moved several times before it came to Bletchley, which is a part of Milton Keynes, in 1967.  The headquarters can still be found here 53 years later.

Thanks to a visit by Jimi Hendrix Marshall became internationally known.  It is not quite clear just what happened…

In one version it is claimed Hendrix got interested in the company after a promoter forced him to play with the Marshall equipment at a certain venue (because he didn’t want to remove the equipment that was already there and replace it with Hendrix’s own.

In another version it is said Hendrix’s drummer, Mitch Mitchell, worked for a time in Marshall’s shop in London and introduced them.

The rest is history and still today Marshall amplifiers are in demand around the world. Today, the company also produces speakers and headphones and their newest amplifier is digital and completely programmable.  And, since 2017 there has existed a Marshall record label as well.  Should you want to hear more about the company here two short videos:

Behind the Scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4f9TJ6mFJQ

Marshall Memories: https://youtu.be/rU_DegFF9As

I think one can suppose that in the Marshall Arena Marshall equipment is used.

And so, we are back at the World Matchplay and ready for a look at the astonishing second round.

The second round was played on two evenings and after them the two top favourites to win, world ranked #1 Michael van Gerwen and world champion Peter Wright, were eliminated from the tournament.  So also, among top ten players, were Mensur Suljovic, James Wade and Daryl Gurney.

The first night of the second round started with a thriller.  Michael Smith defeated Mensur Suljovic in overtime 14-12.  Based on averages it was an ordinary match in which Smith just played a little bit better than Suljovic and won deservedly.  Smith threw 10 180s and Suljovic only 2 – probably this plus Smith’s solid finishing made the difference.

This was followed by similarly exciting match between Gary Anderson and James Wade.  Anderson was ahead 9-4 when Wade started one of his feared fightbacks.  In this case it was not enough, and Anderson managed to stay in the match, winning 11-8.

What came next was the biggest upset of the event when of all players Simon Whitlock – whom many had written off – defeated Michael van Gerwen who had a pitch-black night.

Why van Gerwen played as he did is not known.  But he never was in the match at all and at the first break was behind 0-5.  He never managed to really reduce the gap and an unchained Simon Whitlock won 11-4.  van Gerwen couldn’t hit a double and his average was just 90 – almost embarrassing for him.

The last match of the night was the best from an averages standpoint and it was a very close one in which Gabriel Clemens only was once in the lead – at just about the very the end.  But Krzysztof Ratajski managed to win.

And so, Peter Wright moved up into the position as favourite – but only for 24 hours…

The second evening of second round matches was not as thrilling as the first – most matches were a little bit one-sided, but two had surprising results.

First on was Vincent van der Voort vs. Daryl Gurney who looked from the start like he had given in already.  Although he produced a short mini comeback even that seemed half-hearted.  Vincent van der Voort enjoyed a comfortable 11-5 win.

More thrilling was the next contest between Dmitri van den Bergh and Joe Cullen, though it was not a quality match.  But van den Bergh showed he has now learned how to win these matches as well. It was a close call at 11-9 but it was enough.

Of course, this night had its upset as well – Glen Durrant defeated Peter Wright who had been brilliant in the Summer Series.  Wright played the only 100-plus average of the second round, but he couldn’t find a double and even as a spectator I grew desperate.

Probably Wright’s glasses or, more accurately, in this match his missing glasses were the reason.

During the Summer Series Wright played for the first time with glasses and he had everything under control.  In the first round of the World Matchplay he wore them for the first half of the match but took them off as the glare from the lights made it difficult for him to see.  For his second round match he appeared from the start without glasses on stage.

I can imagine it becomes difficult when you switch between wearing glasses or not, especially when it comes to hitting doubles.  With glasses you can see everything clearly – without everything is blurred.

Other players like Gary Anderson and Ian White seem to be able to handle it and should Wright decide to wear them all the time and not constantly switch like he does with his darts he will surely get used to them. But his chance to win the World Matchplay is gone.  We’ll see what happens during the Premier League to be played in Milton Keynes in August.

In the last match of the second round the rejuvenated Adrian Lewis defeated Danny Noppert.  It was another good performance from Lewis.  Noppert just was not strong enough.

And so, after the elimination of van Gerwen and Wright, Glen Durrant was suddenly the favourite to win World Matchplay…

 

Column #CM89 Gary Anderson is to blame!

Friday, July 24, 2020
Column CM89
Gary Anderson is to blame!

My idea was to abstain from accompanying this year’s World Matchplay with columns since I couldn’t watch it live on the spot.  And I’ve never ever been in Milton Keynes either….

But then Gary Anderson came along and was asked in two different interviews how he intended to pass the time between winning his first round match and his second round match.  I was astonished when both times he mentioned that if in a pinch he could go shopping…

Strange, I thought.  I am almost sure he neither could, nor would go shopping.  First, because I just don’t envision Anderson as a passionate shopper – someone who in his spare time trudges around shops searching for a fancy outfit.  And second, because I couldn’t imagine the PDC would be pleased if players involved in the tournament (who had tested negative for Covid-19) would mingle between rounds with the untested shopping crowd. Players would have to be tested again and each positive test would compromise the tournament.

So, Anderson’s shopping had to be some kind of joke – probably a joke only the British can understand.

But I was curious and decided to do some research and, well, when you start with research normally a column is not far away.

So, Gary Anderson is to blame…

Milton Keynes is not really a town worth a visit, except perhaps for an urban planner who intends to have a look at the architectural eyesores of the 1960s.

Milton Keynes is a so-called “New Town.”  New Towns were constructed in Great Britain in the 1960s as kind of relief towns for major cities. That’s not quite true – after World War II many New Towns were already built – then and later in the 1960s because housing space was scarce. Those built after World War II were mostly built around London.

Milton Keynes was built in 1967, half-way between London and Birmingham.  At first these towns were a real success but today the infrastructure is no longer adequate and social problems are huge.

To build Milton Keynes a few small villages which already existed where included.  As all New Towns, the town was planned on the drafting board – laid out in a grid pattern, a lot of streets, many roundabouts.  Today, the roundabouts of Milton Keynes are decorated with concrete cows.

Milton Keyes is proud to have the biggest indoor ski hall in all of Europe and the longest shopping centre stretching – believe it or not – 720 metres.  (Perhaps this was the impetus for Gary Anderson’s allusion.)

But back to this year’s World Matchplay which is different from all World Matchplays before.

No Winter Gardens, no Blackpool Tower, no crowds at the beach or in the venue, no holiday atmosphere.  The players are alone during their walk-on, the noise is canned and fits most match situations quite well.  Somewhere there seems to sit some really alert technician so the “cheer” comes come at the right moment with only a minor delay.

Nevertheless, most players feel the noise is “weird” – and they all use the same word to describe it.  Only Krzysztof Ratajski thought it was deceptively real – likely because he rarely looks at the crowd and only hears it.

On stage are John McDonald, a referee and two writers – as always.

I feel Sky Sports and the PDC came up with quite a good concept.  Commentators Rod Studd and Wayne Mardle are missing (and I really miss them).  Those present, including Nigel Pearson who replaces Dave Clark, do a good job.

And the matches?

There were no really weak matches in the first round – the lowest averages saw Gabriel Clemens and Steve Beaton with just below 90.

Nevertheless, it was Clemens who caused one of the upsets of the first round when he eliminated reigning champion Rob Cross. Cross had the better average but the lower hitting rate on the doubles.

Gerwyn Price was eliminated first round as well by a laser-focused Danny Noppert.

And Nathan Aspinall didn’t survive the final first round match against Dimitri van den Bergh.  It might be van den Bergh learned something during his enforced stay with Peter Wright during the lockdown – at least van den Bergh thinks he learned a lot about the right attitude from Wright.

The first round was a stumbling block for some more top 16 players as well…

Dave Chisnall and Ian White where eliminated but they never were among the top favourites to win the event.

The highest average was recorded by Krzysztof Ratajski who impressed against Jermaine Wattimena.  Almost as high was Glen Durrant’s – who played as Durrant in top form plays.

Though their averages were not as high both Adrian Lewis and Vincent van der Voort impressed as well.  Probably the lockdown break was good for both.

Three matches required overtime and Mensur Suljovic, James Wade and Joe Cullen prevailed – Cullen in a Sudden Death leg.

One player who looked like he really enjoyed himself was Simon Whitlock who joked around with the cameras and the absent crowd and had no problem winning the opening match against Ryan Joyce.

So, all in all it was a satisfying first round (though some of the top favourites disappointed).  It included drama, fun, great performances and upsets – what more could you ask for?

Well, I suppose there could have been one thing… but I never did find out if Gary Anderson went shopping!

Column #CM88 After the Summer Series and before (almost) World Matchplay…

Wednesday, July 18, 2020
Column CM88
After the Summer Series and before (almost) World Matchplay…

Thanks to the PDC Summer Series we were finally able to watch live darts again! But for the players and their managers and the few officials the situation during the five days was far from normal…

All had to arrive on the day before the series began and were tested for Covid-19. Until the test results were known all had to stay in their rooms. It was not until a negative result was announced that the players could take part in the events – but of course, even then they had to follow the sanitary and social distancing regulations. The match losers had to mark the following match as in bygone times, the tables for the players were placed according to the distancing rule, the players were allocated practice boards and there was no handshake before and after matches. And more.

Fortunately, most of the Tour Card holders were able to take part.

Of course, many were anxious to see in what form the players would be after the Corona break (which was only broken by the PDC Home Tour). A few had lost some weight over the months, some had new darts or a new set-up and others had done a lot for their physical fitness (including some garden work, as we heard during the Home Tour). All of this might affect form.

So, when the Summer Series was over it was interesting to see among places 1-14 only the following players could be found among the World Matchplay participants: Peter Wright, Michael van Gerwen, James Wade, Ryan Joyce, Gerwyn Price, Jose de Sousa, Dave Chisnall, Daryl Gurney, Nathan Aspinall, Krzysztof Ratajski, Ian White, Mensur Suljovic and Glen Durrant.

van Gerwen, Wright, Price and Aspinall are the bookmaker’s favourites to win the World Matchplay. The bookmakers also fancy the chances of the reigning champion Rob Cross and even those of Michael Smith who ended on place 20 and of Gary Anderson who couldn’t convince in the Summer Series and only once reached a semi-final.

The Summer Series was kind of a forerunner for the World Matchplay as due to the Corona crisis the tournament also take place behind closed doors – in the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.

How the World Matchplay will look this year we will only know when it gets started. Until now it’s only known it will be televised as always by Sky Sports. I suppose it will be similar for the players to the Summer Series, but I think one will play on a stage with callers and markers and MC. Perhaps there will be a walk-on. Probably there will be commentators…

The presenter will not be Dave Clark any longer as he just announced his withdrawal from his job. It might be Rod Studd will not yet be back commentating – he had a heart attack during the lockdown and it’s not known whether he has completely recovered. But the PDC will surely try to stage this as the major event which it is and not like just another Players Championship.

The TV transmission of football matches without a crowd showed how difficult it is – there was no one there who was electrified. But it might be Sky Sport has found a solution.

Of course, it will be a new experience for the players who are so used to the crowds in big TV tournaments, who interact with the crowds and profit from the support. Often you hear “the crowd was behind me” or “I only won because the crowd supported me.” No one will be able to say this during this year’s World Matchplay.

The Summer Series not only gave the players money for the rankings and qualification for the World Matchplay – it showed players’ current form. It didn’t change much for the field of participants in the World Matchplay – only two players managed to play themselves into the field of participants by the Pro Tour Order of Merit: Ryan Joyce and Ricky Evans who replaced Ryan Searle and Kim Huybrechts. But though those two proved their good form neither Joyce (who was a surprise winner of one of the events) not Evans (who once reached the top 16 and three times lost in the third round) are among the favourites to win the World Matchplay.

Michael van Gerwen, who once again heads the favourites and was ranked second in the Summer Series, was not really in top form in the Summer Series. He won two of the events but was eliminated in early rounds in the other three – once even first round by Joe Murnan. It looked as though he lost his form over the five events.

Much more convincing and consistent was Peter Wright (despite his playing for the first time with glasses) with one win, a final, two quarterfinals and a top 16 place – his win came on the last day of the series.

Gerwyn Price was like van Gerwen: inconsistent – one final, one top 16 place and three times early elimination – but it looked he got stronger throughout the series.

Even more inconsistent was reigning champion Rob Cross who had only one good day with a nine-darter and a place in the final. Nathan Aspinall had some problems on the first day but after that played consistently, though far from outstanding. Glen Durrant and Michael Smith are among the bookmaker’s favourites as well – though Smith’s best placing was a quarter final on day four while Durrant reached the quarterfinals on day one and two and the top 16 on day four – and was eliminated early the other two days.

Gary Anderson was far from his best and perhaps unlucky as well. Only once did he reach the semi-finals. An all four other days he was eliminated in the first or second round even though most of the time he played quite well.

Should consistency during the Summer Series be a determining factor in the outcome of the World Matchplay the final might be Peter Wright vs. James Wade. Wade was one of the most consistent players over the five events with one third round elimination on day one, twice reaching the top 16, a quarter final and one win.

But consistency will not be the only factor. We have the draw and to be sure the Corona situation as well. Besides, I would think for most players it is more important to have success in the World Matchplay than to have success in the Summer Series.

To reach the final, Wade would have to beat Gary Anderson in second round and Michael van Gerwen in the third – only then to run into reigning champion Rob Cross, Gabriel Clemens, Krzysztof Ratajski, Michael Smith or Mensur Suljovic in the semi-finals. Of course, not an impossible task for Wade in top form but definitely a very hard one. So, it is more likely that Michael van Gerwen (who of course could stumble on one of his not so focused days) over a well playing Dolan, Whitlock/Joyce or Wade/Anderson will reach the semi-finals to face one of the above mentioned strong players. So, it will not be easy for van Gerwen as well and he can’t allow himself many errors. Otherwise, he will not win the World Matchplay.

In the lower half of the draw we have first of all got Peter Wright who after his Summer Series achievements is the favourite to reach the final – but his first round match against Jose de Sousa could turn out to be a tough nut to crack as could a second round match against Glen Durrant. Daryl Gurney and Dave Chisnall could be next and who both played a solid Summer Series. And in the semi-finals Gerwyn Price might be waiting – though he would have to get past Nathan Aspinall first…

It could well be we’ll see another Peter Wright vs. Michael van Gerwen final – with an open end. But there are enough strong players among the participants who could and want to hinder such a final and who might cope better with the closed doors situation.

So, might be we’ll celebrate a surprise winner!

 

 

Column #CM86 And Now for Something Completely Different…

Tuesday, March 25, 2020
Column CM86
UK Open Day 3 – And Now for Something Completely Different…

…namely about another famous person born in Weston who had nothing at all to with darts – John Cleese, one of the founders of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

In darts language there exists the phrase “Not old” for a score of 37 points with single 20, single 5 and single 12, which can be found in a Monty Python sketch. The last Monty Python stage show appeared 2014 in the O2 Arena in London…

But John Cleese didn’t make himself a name as an outstanding darts player, but rather as actor, comedian, screen writer and producer. Cleese was born in Weston-super-Mare in 1939 and his sports – at least at school – were cricket and boxing. As one can read, he is a big fan of the Wolverhampton Wanderers. He also liked science classes. He studied in Cambridge and there joined the Cambridge Footlights – an amateur theatre group – even though he couldn’t sign or dance. His only talent was (as he says himself) an ability to make people laugh. There he got to know Graham Chapman with whom he later would write the texts of Monty Python.

He wrote texts for the Footlights and stood on stage as well. A real success was the Footlight revue “Cambridge Circus” which even toured New Zealand and was played on Broadway as well. In America Cleese met Terry Gilham who later became another Monty Python.

Back in England, Cleese started to write for BBC Radio. From 1965 Cleese wrote together with Chapman the “Frost Report” in which several others of the later Monty Python were involved as well. From 1969 to 1974 Monty Python’s Flying Circus was shown on BBC. Cleese only stayed for three series as he had growing problems with Chapman’s alcoholism and the scripts were not as good as at the start. But all stayed friends and together produced the three well known Monty Python’s films “Monty Phyton and the Holy Grail, Monty Phyton’s Live of Brian and Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.”

From 1970 Cleese was for a few years vice chancellor of the University of St. Andrews – he has always been interested in knowledge transfer. So, it is not really astonishing that beside all his other activities he produced some witty-ironical instruction videos for managers.

Possibly Cleese’s biggest success was the film A Fish called Wanda for which he wrote the screen play and produced it as well. And as so often before he appeared in it as a slightly inhibited Englishman. Some may have also seen him in the Harry Potter films as Nearly Headless Nick or as “R” in two James Bond films.

Today, Cleese lives with his fourth wife on Nevis in the Caribbean – he was not happy about the developments in his home country. For him Britain today is a corrupt, without any culture and citizens have even lost their humour, serenity and tolerance.

But back to the darts and to the UK Open…

To be sure the lyrics of the Monty Phyton song “Always look on the bright side of life” from the Life of Brian is a good advice for all those players who lost matches during the three days of the UK Open.

I almost couldn’t believe that we had already reached the last day of the tournament and only seven matches were left to play, which took all place on the main stage. By now it was almost a certainty that Michael van Gerwen would win the event – so in some ways, finals day was a kind of routine. After all the performances over the first two days I couldn’t imagine there would be another finalist other than Gerwyn Price (unless Rob Cross should suddenly find top form and defeat van Gerwen in the quarterfinals). It wouldn’t have been is first win over the Dutchman.

The quarterfinals didn’t produce another upset – Dimitri van den Bergh and Rob Cross had no chance at all against Michael van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price. The other two quarterfinals were much more thrilling and both rather close. Jelle Klaasen made it very hard work for Daryl Gurney and even was in the lead before Gurney finally won 10-9. The averages were much lower than the averages of van Gerwen, Price and van den Bergh.

The last quarterfinal had been the one hardest to predict and it was the least high-class. Nevertheless, it was thrilling, especially because Jamie Hughes somehow lost his range on the doubles. Better – he started slow, had a strong phase in the middle of the match and faded again. He missed eight match darts and Clayton won. Hughes really should work hard at his doubles…

For both Gurney and Clayton to reach the semi-finals certainly was an achievement, but you could see very quickly in both matches they had no chance to reach the final. Price, in his all Welsh semi-finals was as dominant as van Gerwen against Gurney. And so, we had in the end the final I had expected.

What I hadn’t expected was that Price would put in such an outstanding performance. He didn’t lose the final because van Gerwen played so strong; he lost only because he couldn’t hit his doubles and passed over too many chances. Were it me, I probably would have been very annoyed with myself; perhaps Price felt the same – the interview with him sounded like it but he didn’t really show it.

And so, the tournament was already over and the PDC staff was busy dismantling. The screens disappeared from the press room, all that the PDC owned disappeared into boxes, including the cables and the power boards.

I hurried to finish my updates and walked back to my accommodation. It was still early, dry and mild, so I had time to look over to Weston-super-Mare…

Column #CM85 – UK Open Day 2 – Ritchie Blackmore

Tuesday, March 25, 2020
Column CM85
UK Open Day 2 – Ritchie Blackmore

One of the best-known people from Weston-super-Mare is Ritchie Blackmore, the lead guitarist from Deep Purple (although he only lived for his first two years in Weston). His family then moved to Heston, a suburb of London. When Blackmore was eleven, he got his first guitar with the condition to learn how to play it properly. So, for one year he took guitar lessons. As he says today, that’s the reason he knows how to use his little finger – something not many E-guitarists are able to do.

It is quite possible that as a youth he played the famous guitar introduction to Jonny Clayton’s walk-on song “Johnny B. Goode,” especially as one of his role models was the English rock and roll star Tommy Steele who to be sure had that piece in his program. School didn’t really interest Blackmore – except for sports. He was a good javelin thrower – another link to the sport of darts, as after all the legend Bob Anderson had been in his youth an outstanding javelin thrower.

But Blackmore didn’t take the step from javelin to darts; he was much more interested in music. Early in the 1960s, he was co-founder of the band Outlaws and for many pop, rock and beat singers he was the guitar accompanist in the studio and on stage. How he got into contact with Deep Purple I don’t know but in 1968 he was invited.

At this time the band still played psychedelic and progressive rock music, but they didn’t consider themselves good enough for the latest pop songs. In the 1970s, the band changed to hard rock and in the mid 70s Blackmore left the band and founded Rainbow.

In those years Blackmore started to take cello lessons as well which influenced his compositions. It influenced Deep Purple as well when Blackmore returned to the band from 1984 to 1989.

In 1992 they again reunited and returned to the traditional Deep Purple sound. In 1993 Blackmore left again – this time for good. He changed “Rainbow” and a new hard rock singer was added to the band. In 1997 Rainbow disbanded and together with his girlfriend, Candace Night, Blackmore founded the folk duo Blackmore’s Night. Now, the voice took centre stage in his composition and medieval influences can be found. Blackmore’s Night is not really touring in big halls – the concerts take place in more intimate surroundings. In 2016 a short Rainbow revival did happen.

Blackmore’s first two wives were German, and Blackmore talks the language fluently; he has a lot of German friends and loves German television. He also loves alcohol and his Fender Stratocaster which he thinks sounds more aggressive then the Gibson he played at the start of his career.

His advice for people who would like to become good rock guitarists is: “When you really want to get good – and are not a genius – you first should copy other guitarists.”

Might this be a good advice for darters as well? At least you find something quite similar in John Part’s practice advice: “Watch what the pros do. When a dozen players do the same the chances are high that it will work for you as well.”

How many players who were still in the tournament on the second day of the UK Open follow this or other advice I’ve no idea. But it looks to me as if more and more players work with a mental coach.

The second day of the tournament started with four boards and the fifth round and ended with only two boards – one on the main stage and one on the second stage – and the sixth round. It was much more relaxed than on the first day and from time to time I found the time to watch matches over a longer period.

There were many close matches like the first fifth round match between Michael van Gerwen and Jason Lowe on the main stage, which van Gerwen only just won with 10-9, or the Irish drama between Daryl Gurney and William O’Connor on the second stage in which O’Connor missed his match darts and Gurney managed to win.

At one time boards three and four had some problems with the lightning so the players had to break off their matches until it was fixed. It was admirable how Mensur Suljovic, who was caught in the middle of a leg, managed to stay composed enough to win first the leg and then the match.

Martin Schindler was eliminated by the still clinical finishing Kyle McKinstry. Gabriel Clemens defeated Andy Boulton and progressed. James Wade and Kim Huybrechts were too early for the TV at the second stage and Wade disappeared again and had to be searched when the match finally should begin and Huybrechts had already walked on stage. Wade won 10-1 as did Jelle Klaasen against Steve West.

And then we had in round five the first real upset when Rob Cross won another of those close matches against Michael Smith. Somewhere among all those matches Jonny Clayton defeated Joe Cullen – go, go, Jonny, go.

After the usual draw everybody went into the break. No idea what the players do, a lot go to their accommodations to take a rest.

The sixth round started on the main stage with Gabriel Clemens playing against Gerwyn Price and he showed a great performance. As there were more and longer breaks on the main stage matches, I walked, despite my tired legs, to the second stage to have a view of Clayton vs. Dobey.

Well – I would be glad if could I tell I saw the nine-darter, but I left too early to walk back to the main stage (when I arrived, they started to show Clayton’s perfect leg). He had needed less time to throw a nine-darter than I needed to walk from the second stage to the main stage!

Back at the main stage Gabriel still was in the lead but by now it was very close. When Price went 9-9 I knew there would be no “happy ending” for Clemens and to be sure Price performed magic and produced his best leg of the match while Clemens showed nerves for the first time.

In the next match Michael van Gerwen eliminated James Wade from the event who played one of his weaker matches. Or was van Gerwen so good? Meanwhile, in the second match Jamie Hughes eliminated Mensur Suljovic.

Back on the main stage we had the next upset – Jelle Klaasen defeated Gary Anderson. Until that time I hadn’t really watched Klaasen and was a little bit surprised he was still in the event. But his win against Anderson to be sure was a deserved win as Anderson is still searching for his top form so he played solid in his two matches.

One last time I marched to the second stage and saw how Dimitri van den Bergh supported by a lot of fans won against Kyle McKinstry. I missed the match between Rob Cross and Stephen Bunting as on the main stage Peter Wright vs. Daryl Gurney was on next.

Peter Wright surprised by losing to Daryl Gurney.

Now, only eight players were still in the tournament. And to be sure Jamie Hughes and Jonny Clayton were two players I never thought would reach the quarterfinals.

This time I had no interest to watch the lights of Weston-super-Mare as seemingly from nowhere a strong wind had appeared and it poured down. So, despite my tired legs I moved up a gear and turned my back on the lights.

Column #CM84 UK Open Day 1 – Weston-super-Mare

Tuesday, March 25, 2020
Column CM84
UK Open Day 1 – Weston-super-Mare

When I walked back after the first day of the UK Open in Minehead from Butlins to my Bed and Breakfast the lights twinkled from the other side of the bay. There sits Weston super- Mare.

Weston-super-Mare is today a town far bigger than Minehead but until the 19th Century, before people made it a seaside resort, it was only a small village with around 30 houses. It offers a great sandy beach. In the surrounding area you can find the remnants of an Iron Age fort – the only traces that people lived there in the past.

While Minehead once was an important port one only tried to build one in Weston around 1820. Isambard Kingdom Brunel – an important and well-known English engineer – was born there in 1806. He built the Great Western Railway which among others connected his hometown with Bristol and brought tourists into the town. Gradually, gambling halls, tea rooms, hotels, villas and everything else was needed in the seaside resort that emerged. As in Blackpool, Weston has got a Winter Gardens though until now no big darts tournaments were played there. Instead, Weston is famous for its motocross race which always takes place in autumn. And of course, Weston has two piers – one close to the city centre.

During the Second World War around 10,000 people were evacuated to Weston. As elsewhere in the region strategic industries could be found between 1940 and 1942. German bombs hit the town and destroyed big parts of it. After the war, the town was rebuilt, but from the 1970s its importance as seaside resort declined and today industry and distribution centres are much more important. It is more of a sleeper town for Bristol and Weston College is part of the University of Bath. Today, most tourists are day tourists from the Midlands. Besides a new pavilion on the pier an indoor centre with a skiing slope was planned and approved – but until now it couldn’t be financed…

Not far away from Weston is the M5 on which several darts players travelled to Minehead – to be sure Steve Brown was among them as he lives in Bristol. Brown was eliminated in the second round but at least he had a short way home.

The first day of the tournament is always a very long day. In the afternoon three rounds were played on all ten boards. I did see a lot of players and matches but missed a lot as well. For example, two of the German players – Christian Bunse and Harald Leitinger – I didn’t see at all.

It looked like the coronavirus didn’t matter here in England at all…

Butlins is full and as usual you can see the high fives with the crowd during the walk on as well as the handshake between the players, and the hugs. The only thing that reminded of what was going on was on the small tables at the boards 3 through 8 where bottles with hand sanitizer stood (not that I saw a single player use it). I felt a little bit uneasy but I didn’t need to mingle with the crowd as I could use the back entrance to the stages as the players did.

The most crowded is always where the boards 3-8 are – there is not much space and even less viewing space. This year, players allocated to these boards and to the second stage started play one hour earlier than the matches on the main stage, which I could leave alone at first. Of the Riley’s qualifiers (you always can recognize them by their red shirts) only one survived the first three rounds – Rhys Hayden.

From the Challenge Tour and Development Tour players only one was still in the race as well – Kyle McKinstry, who stood in the quarterfinals of the BDO World Championship in 2019 but couldn’t win a Tour Card. All day he impressed with his clinical doubles which defeated Fallon Sherrock. Lisa Ashton lost her match as well. Her opponent Mike de Decker was completely unfazed against her. I saw Mike de Decker again in his third round match on the second stage against William Borland – it was a sparkling match between the two young players.

It was interesting to see how many young talented players were around and it made it a little awkward for the older established players. But all in all, in this UK Open the well-known and established players dominate.

Thanks to the draw we had in the second round two Premier League pairings – Peter Wright eliminated Glen Durrant and Michael van Gerwen threw the reigning champion Nathan Aspinall out of the tournament – both were thrilling high class games.

Among the outsiders who survived the first day were even two Germans – Gabriel Clemens and Martin Schindler. Other outsiders were Alan Tabern – who sits at the moment on place 98 of the Order of Merit and who won four matches on the first day – and Jason Lowe who got a Tour Card in January and never before played on stage, though he took part in the UK Open 2018 and reached the last 32.

It had been an entertaining, intensive and – as always on the first day of the UK Open – slightly chaotic day though there were no real upsets.

I had a last view on the lights of Weston-super-Mare and looked forward to the second day of the tournament.

Column #CM83 Charis interviews Canada’s Matt Campbell

Tuesday, December 24, 2019
Column CM83
Charis interviews Canada’s Matt Campbell

You know what they say about mice, men and their best-laid plans – they often go awry. Such (obviously) was the case with the following interview, which was intended to be shared before the start of the world championships. Campbell fell 3-1 in the first round to England’s Mark McGeeney – although were it not for a couple of untimely missed doubles the result could have been different.

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Matt, you reached four of the CDC finals and won two of those and as the highest ranked Canadian player qualified for the PDC World Championship. What were your thoughts when you realised it?

Going into the last CDC event I knew I was ahead and what I had to do to make it a for sure thing that I would be the top ranked Canadian player. In the first event I put a lot of pressure on myself to accomplish that and it didn’t work out the best. losing in my first round. The next day I just tried to forget about the points and what was on the line and just play and was fortunate enough to do so and come away with the spot.

And how do you feel now such a short time before the event – unsure, tense or just looking forward to it?

I feel great about the tournament and am not nervous or anything yet. I am just looking forward to being on the stage and in front of the crowd.

For how long have you been competing on the CDC Tour?

I’ve played the CDC tour for almost 2 years now. I did have to start off as a qualifier, then my performances got me the chance to have a tour card for the CDC.

How popular is the CDC circuit in Canada?

In Canada the CDC tour’s popularity is growing rapidly. A lot more Canadians came out this past year and with more events in Canada now I think they will see a lot more of Canada’s talent.

What about the standard on the CDC circuit? Do you feel you improved by playing on the CDC circuit?

The CDC is a very tough room to play in. There are a lot of talented players, so I do believe playing in it has made my game improve and it makes me want to improve even more.

How much experience playing on stage do you have, and do you look forward to playing on the stage of the Alexandra Palace?

I don’t really have any stage experience. I have played on the live stream for the CDC – I guess that is stage play but nothing can compare to world championship stage.

You know Jim Long – did he have advice for your world championship appearance?

Yeah, Jim Long is a good friend. We practice together and he has given me advice and some insight on what to expect. It’s great to have someone like him to be able to talk to and clear some concerns if there were any.

Do you follow PDC tournaments on TV or stream?

I do watch some PDC tournaments through their website. I don’t get to watch them all, but I do enjoy watching the darts the players on the tour produce.

Do you know some of the PDC players and have you played against some of them?

I have played John Part a couple times, but I have not played any of the PDC stars of now.

You will play against Mark McGeeney in your first match, who is a former BDO number 1. Do you know anything about him?

I know Mark is the former BDO number 1. I know he has had a good year with the PDC and that he’s a good scorer and good finisher, so it will be a good first round match which ever way it goes.

Does it matter to you if you know the player against whom you play?

I don’t think it matters if I know who I am playing or not. I can just keep my mind set clear on what I am doing. Then I will be happy with the way I play no matter who it is.

How do you assess your chances? And what do you hope to achieve?

I believe my chances are good, just like everyone else’s. It will just come down to who is the better player that day.

Do you prepare in some special way for the world championship?

No, haven’t prepared specifically for the world championships. I’ve just prepared like I have done for every other tournament.

For how long have you played darts and how did you begin with the sport?

I have been playing darts for about 12 years now. I was introduced to the game by one of my close friend’s parents – they taught me my finishes and may math. They taught me the game.

Like Jim Long and John Part you come from Ontario – is Ontario a hotbed of darts? How widespread is the sport in Ontario?  And how does the dart scene look where you live?

There are a lot of great players in Ontario just like the rest of Canada. I believe the sport is big in Ontario – a lot of players and a lot of tournaments make for good players all around the province.

Do you play in a league?

I don’t really get time to play in the league because I work a night shift.

You also qualified this year for the World Masters – does this mean you play ADO or NDFC tournaments as well?

Yes, I play whatever tournaments I can get to so whether they are ADO or NDFC I will go to them.

Was it the first time you qualified for the World Masters? And did stop by Alexandra Palace to take a look when you were in London?

It was my first time at the World Masters and no, I didn’t go and check out the Alexandra Palace. I figured I’d be closer – right there – for the world championship.

One could read in social media that the start to the World Masters was rather chaotic – did you feel the same?

I believe it was very chaotic with the re-draws and contract signing and not knowing what the prize pool was – yes, it was very chaotic.

Was that your first time in London or have you been there before?

This will be my first time in London for the world championships.

With your qualification for both the World Masters and the world championship you had a very successful darting year – was there any special reason for that?

Yeah, there is always a special reason for success – putting the time and effort travelling to the tournaments that can get you to these types of places and going to the qualifiers. My wife, Emma, has been amazing with planning the trips and even coming (even though it may be boring to just watch). Without her support wouldn’t be where I am.

What do you think was you biggest achievement in darts so far?

My biggest achievement would be qualifying for the PDC would championships. Other than that, it has been winning two CDC events in a tough field – I believe that is a big achievement.

Do you practice a lot?

I practice enough to not tire myself out and to keep me interested in a practice routine – rather than to wear myself down and get bored with the practice routine.

How does your practice look? Do you have some kind of practice plan?

I practice my doubles and triples and then finishes with games like 121 and around the board and then finish up with some games of 501 and cricket.

Do you practice alone or with a practice partner?

I practice alone and meet up with some players to get practice games going.

Do you prepare in some special way for the world championship? More often than usual? Does your practice routine include mental preparation as well?

I just do the same preparation that has gotten me to where I am today. I try to practice in the same mindset as I would be playing any match. That way the mental part gets worked on just like the mechanics do.

Will somebody accompany you to London to support you? And is this sort of support important for you?

My wife will be attending and there are two other North American players – Danny Baggish and Darin Young. I believe they will be there to support me just like I will be for them. And a lot of people back home from the United States and Canada are sending me messages of support.

As I know almost nothing at all about you – how would you describe yourself?

I don’t know how I would describe myself. I am just a down to earth “whatever happens, happens” type of person.

What is your occupation?

I am a welder.

What do you think is your weakness and what is your strength?

My weakness I believe is being too hard on myself and my strength is that I am able to just shut my brain off and tune out everything – and just throw.

Have you thought of taking part in Qualifying School and maybe becoming a professional darts player in the PDC?

I would love to give Q-School a shot and see if I am able to earn a tour card and then see how it goes. But the first thing is to see how I do at the world championships and go from there.

What fascinates you most in darts?

I like the competitiveness in the sport when you get to the line and then when you walk away everything is just back to normal joking around, being friendly with everyone – until you get to the line again. Then they’re your worst enemy. Also, I like that darts can be played until any age so it’s a lifetime game that I can enjoy. You meet a ton of amazing people and get to experience a bunch of different places as well.

Are you interested in other sports? Do you have you got other interests and hobbies outside of darts?

I don’t really have any other hobbies – just work, family, kids and darts.