Author Archives: Charis Mutschler

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.

Column #CM82 2020 World Championship – “I wish you a Merry Christmas”

Thursday, December 19, 2019
Column CM82
2020 World Championship – “I wish you a Merry Christmas”

Fortunately, one of the two German players survived his first-round match last night, but it was not the player most expected. Gabriel Clemens lost 2-3 to Benito van de Pas but Nico Kurz advanced by defeating James Wilson 3-1.

All in all, it was not a great day of darts. There were many one-sided contests and especially the afternoon session was not high class. In both sessions the second-round matches were the most decent ones and both seeded players – Stephen Bunting and an, at the start of the match, very nervous James Wade – progressed into the second round.

Today is my last day at the world championship and I think I found the fitting Christmas song to mark the occasion – one you can hear everywhere in the world and which looks ahead. After all it does not only wish you a Merry Christmas but also a Happy New Year.

It is a so-called “traditional” English Christmas song, known since 1935. Arthur Warrell, a composer from Bristol, arranged it for his own choir – the Bristol Madrigal Singers. In the same year it was published as well.

It is often called a traditional song though one cannot definitively mark the history of the song. The wish “a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” phraseology had been in use since the early 18th century and is connected to several Christmas customs. The song was sung by carol singers who went door-to-door on Christmas and New Year ‘s Eve and were rewarded with sweets. One of the sweets (which is mentioned in the song as well) is “figgy pudding” – a pudding with figs which probably was very sweet. Today, the song is usually sung at New Year. The song made the jump across the Channel and is popular in Germany as well though only the first verse is used.

And so it is with “a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” to you that I now bow out from in-person attendance at this year’s world championship in London and will return to my sofa at home for the rest of the tournament!

Today, the last two first round matches will be played – both in the afternoon session – and six second round matches.

The afternoon will begin with Justin Pipe vs. Benjamin Pratnemer. I don’t know Pratnemer at all. All I have heard is that he plays slower than Pipe. But I can imagine he could have some problems with the big stage. So, I would think it is likely Pipe will emerge the winner, especially as he started to improve again this year.

In the last first round match Ryan Joyce will play against Jan Dekker. This is another contest where it is difficult to assess how good the players are currently. When one considers how they qualified it seems Joyce is the better player as he managed to qualify by the Pro Tour Order of Merit whereas Dekker had to play the qualifier and only twice this year reached the quarterfinals of a Players Championship. So, advantage would seem to be slightly in Joyce’s favour (plus he also stood last year in the quarterfinals of the world championship).

The next match will be the second-round match between John Henderson and James Richardson. As Henderson often surprises us with very good performances and doesn’t seem to get easily worked up, he has a good chance to win this match despite Richardson’s good performance against Mikuru Suzuki.

The last match of the afternoon will see Steve Beaton and Kyle Anderson take the stage. It could be an evenly matched game, but Anderson already has a win under his belt so – advantage Anderson.

After the break between the session we’ll see Chris Dobey vs Rob Meulenkamp first. Dobey is not yet a really finished player, but a quite promising one, and it always seems he feels at home on the big stage. So, that speaks in his favour.

The next match is far more difficult to predict. Danny Noppert played quite well during the Grand Slam recently though he didn’t survive the group phase. Callan Rydz had a very close first round match against Steve Lennon, which he won. So Rydz will be full of confidence and it will not be easy to prevail against him. It will all depend on whether Rydz will be able to keep up his first-round standard.

Dave Chisnall against Vincent van der Voort is next. This is a match that will depend on the players form on the day and an in form Chisnall is stronger than an in form van der Voort. This suggests a wafer-thin advantage for Chisnall.

My last live match of this world championship will be Gerwyn Price against William O’Connor – a potentially terrific match to be sure! Price has shown that he can celebrate and play great – he’s demonstrated this often now. And he is a stronger player then O’Connor.

But sometimes Price seems to try too hard. And O’Connor can play. This second-round match tonight could well turn out to be one of those contests that surprise.

Column #CM81 2020 World Championship – “O Tannenbaum”

Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Column CM81
2020 World Championship – “O Tannenbaum”

It was a very long and very exciting day of darts yesterday!

Of course, Fallon Sherrock’s win over Ted Evetts was the spectacular highlight – she is now the first woman to ever win a match in a PDC World Championship. And she played well too – winning 3-2 with a 91.48 average (and at one point hitting six triple twenties, bringing the crowd to the edge of their seats in anticipation of a possible perfect game).

We also saw a few one sided 3-0 wins by Damon Heta and Noel Malicdem and three hard fought matches which were won by Ryan Searle, Jeffrey de Zwaan und Cristo Reyes – all exhausting and fascinating! And – both seeded players survived their matches!

Today, the evening session is firmly in German hands – Nico Kurz and Gabriel Clemens will stand on stage. For their walk-on songs one might recommend the “O Tannenbaum” – or more precisely the melody of the song which has been used many times.

In 1824, the choirmaster of the Leipziger Neukirche searched for a children’s song for Christmas in his archive and found this song which originally was a sad love song, in which the fir tree was used as contrast to the disloyal lover. It was changed into a declaration of love for the, at this time, already used Christmas tree. It took some time – until after the Second World War – before the song was popularized and then became known in English and French as well. As the melody was so simple and recognizable around the world it was not only used for the Christmas song – though the text of “O Tannenbaum” was often spoofed.

For example, in some countries the melody was used with the text “The Red Flag” as the song of the international labour movement and as the hymn of the British labour party. With the text “Maryland, My Maryland” it was the battle song of the Confederate states in the American Civil war – and eventually became the state song of the State of Maryland (and despite considerable opposition it remains so to this day).

The seeded players today are Stephen Bunting in the afternoon session and James Wade in the evening session. The range of unseeded players reaches from New Zealand to Japan, Europe and South America.

Ron Meulenkamp will open the afternoon session against the debutant Ben Robb from New Zealand. All I know about Robb is that he is the DPNZ qualifier – which doesn’t really help when you want to predict a match result. So, I will have a cup of tea and wait and see.

After that, Mickey Mansell will play against Seigo Asada. Asada is a strong Asian player – so probably Mansell will get into trouble even though he sometimes shows great performances.

Harry Ward against Madars Razma is another match which is difficult to predict. Razma plays with success on the Nordic and Baltic Tour but outside this he hasn’t produced anything outstanding. Ward plays at a level like Ron Meulenkamp, who opened the afternoon session, and is rather inconsistent. For both players it will be their world championship debut. Razma has more experience – it might be that can help him. On the other hand, Ward looks like he is a pretty cool customer – that could help him.

In the last match of the afternoon, seeded player Stephen Bunting will take the stage and probably he will not have too many problems with his opponent. But I don’t dare to commit myself to this after all the surprising second round results so far.

In the first match of the evening Nico Kurz, the first of three German players and the least experienced, will stand of stage. James Wilson probably will not be unbeatable but Kurz has never played on such a stage, before such a crowd and never in a tournament so big – it will not be easy for him.

The second match is England vs. South America or Josh Payne vs. Diogo Portela. Both have stood on this stage before and both had unremarkable darting seasons. I myself think Payne is the stronger player but it is one of the attractions of these first-round matches – the result often surprises!

With Gabriel Clemens a strong and, this year, quite successful German player takes the stage next. He recently impressed in the Grand Slam. He will play against Benito van de Pas who had a disappointing year and had to qualify by the Tour Card Holders Qualifier for the tournament. One would think Clemens will have no problems winning this match.

The seeded player of the night will be James Wade and the same applies to him as to Stephen Bunting – he should have no problem moving to the next round – though I almost don’t dare to say such a thing!

Column #CM80 2020 World Championship – “Bog sie Rodzi”

Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Column CM80
2020 World Championship – “Bog sie Rodzi”

Yesterday didn’t go well for the Irish players. Except for William O’Connor all lost their matches – though Keane Barry impressed despite his defeat by Vincent van der Voort. Callan Rydz, who defeated Steve Lennon, is yet another of those strong upcoming players and he will certainly be a problem to other players as well. In the final match of the evening Brendan Dolan had little chance against Gary Anderson.

After the short day on Monday, we have another long day of darts today. In fact, until final two days of the event (with the semi-finals and the final) there will now be only long days of darts.

Today is another day of rather mixed nationalities – an Englishmen, a female English player, a Russian, two Australians, two players from Asia, a Spaniard, a couple Dutch, one or two Austrian players and one from Poland.

Appropriate to Polish player Krzysztof Ratajski I chose a Christmas song from Poland for the day – the best loved Christmas song in Poland which almost became the national anthem. In Polish it is called “Bog sie Rodzi” (and, no, I cannot pronounce it!). In English it would be “Christ is Borne.” The text is from Frantisek Karpinski who wrote it in 1792; the melody is much older and was once the coronation polonaise of the Polish kings. It is probably from the 16th century. Many Polish artists recorded the song which is a combination of piety and patriotism.

Although it has nothing to do with his home country Ratajskis walks on to “We like to Party” by the Dutch group Vengaboys. Ratajski will play in the last match of the afternoon as the seeded player against Zoran Lerchbacher. Lerchbacher played well against Jamie Hughes but will it be enough to win against Ratajski?

Before this match we’ll see three more first round matches which are all difficult to predict.

The first match pits Ryan Searle against Robbie King. King is a kind of dark horse. He is a young Australian player who won the Oceanic Masters and thereby qualified for the PDC world championship. He took part four times without success in the PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship. The PDC invited him to the Melbourne Darts Masters but Rob Cross was just too much for him. This time of course he will not play Rob Cross but Ryan Searle – who didn’t have a great year in 2019. But stage experience will give Searle an advantage.

In the second match Cristo Reyes will play against Lourence Ilagan. Reyes also did not have a good year while Ilagan impressed already impresses during the last world championship. I would say advantage Ilagan.

Match number three will be Rowby-John Rodriguez against another Filipino, Noel Malicdem – and the same applies to this match as the match before. Rodriguez had a terrible year. Malicdem played well during the last world championship and was one of the best players on this year’s Asian Tour.

Like the afternoon session the evening session, at first view, doesn’t appear likely to present high class contests. It starts which Ritchie Edhouse vs. Boris Koltsov. Last year, Koltsov played one of the weakest matches of the tournament. Edhouse played on the Challenge Tour which means he has no Tour Card – this will be his world championship debut. So, it is not completely unlikely that Koltsov will win the match.

Jose de Sousa and Damon Heta will come on stage for the second match. Heta this year won the Brisbane Darts Masters while de Sousa had some success on the Pro Tour. And de Sousa has been to the Alexandra Palace before, in 2012. It could be an evenly matched contest but there might be a slight advantage for the Portuguese.

The next match could be an interesting one – Ted Evetts will face Fallon Sherrock. To a certain degree Sherrock is used to playing against male players while Evetts has probably not often played against female opponents. I would not think Sherrock will be easily intimidated but Evetts might be a little bit unsecure. We’ll see whether Sherrock will be able to take the chance.

The last match of the evening could have been be an all Dutch affair – a legend meets an up and coming player. But Darin Young was too good for Raymond van Barneveld – and as de Zwaan has not been in top form in the past few months the American could be too much for him as well.