Author Archives: Charis Mutschler

Column #CM79 2020 World Championship – “Fairy-tale of New York”

Monday, December 16, 2019
Column CM79
2020 World Championship – “Fairy-tale of New York”

Well, yesterday was, with a few exceptions, not really a high-class affair. There were only a few averages over 90 and only one over 100 – and that was recorded by a losing player. There were quite a few very one-sided matches as well. But, as always is the case, what will linger in one’s memory are the hard-fought matches and the upsets.

We had one hard-fought match in the afternoon which was won by Kyle Anderson and two in the evening – one which was won by American Danny Baggish and the other lost, only just, by Japan’s Mikuru Suzuki. And there were two more big upsets – as with Ian White and Michael Smith two more seeded players were eliminated from the event. The only player who has survived his second-round match so far is Michael van Gerwen.

Monday is a short day with only an evening session, and it is the Irish day of the event as probably in all four matches an Irish player will stand on stage. The Irish sing some different Christmas songs than the English and the oldest is the Wexford Carol, which is from the Middle Ages and comes – as you’ve probably guessed – from County Wexford. The song was rediscovered last century and published in 1928. Since then it is a must in Ireland at Christmas.

Even more popular is a song of the British folk-punk band, The Pogues, from the year 1987 – “Fairy-tale of New York.” The song is about an Irish migrant who sleeps it off in a prison cell. For 52 weeks the single – a mix of Irish folk and Christmas music – was in the charts. In 2005, it was televised for the first time. Besides The Pogues countless other singers and bands have performed the song, among them Sinead O’Connor, Coldplay and Angelo Branduardi. Under the title “Weihnachtsnaach” there exist a German version with BAP and Nina Hagen as well. Here the link to the original version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l14aDp-4NKk.   Wouldn’t that be a nice walk-on song?

It could well be an interesting evening tonight. The first Irishman on stage will be Steve Lennon who will play against Callen Rydz, who has been a quite successful BDO youth player. During his play on the PDC Development Tour he has improved a lot. Nevertheless, I think Steve Lennon will be the favourite to win as Rydz has very little experience on the big stage.

Next on will be William O’Connor against Marko Kantele. I see O’Connor as the favourite. He played a good year in 2019 and reached, together with Lennon, the final of the PDC World Cup. Sometimes he lacks consistency, but I feel he is the stronger player in this match.

Third match, third Irishman – Keane Barry. I first saw Barry a few years ago in the youth tournament of the World Masters – he lost in the final, but I was nevertheless very impressed. This year, he won the event and he won the Irish Matchplay – by which he qualified for the world championship and the JDC International Open. During the world championship he will stand on the stage in the final of the JDC world championship and, during the BDO world championship, he will play in the final of the BDO world youth championship against Leighton Bennett. Here on the fourth day of the world championship he will play against Vincent van der Voort. Will he have a real chance? Van der Voort is not an easy opponent and, in contrast to Barry’s other opponents, a well-established rather than upcoming player. It will be a tough match for Barry to be sure.

The last match of the night will be the second-round match. Gary Anderson will play against Brendan Dolan who demolished Nitin Kumar in the first round. Nobody knows how well Anderson will play. He played only a few tournaments this year. Some of his matches were good and it seemed he was back – but often they were followed by weak performances.

Of course, an in-form Anderson will beat Dolan and I hope he will – not because I would like to see Dolan defeated, to be sure that is certainly not the case. it when Dolan is beaten – to be sure not. It’s just that an in-form Anderson would be a gain for the tournament.

Column #CM78 2020 World Championship – “Good King Wenceslas”

Sunday, December 15, 2019
Column CM78
2020 World Championship – “Good King Wenceslas”

As Sunday is another very international day of darts but since both seeded players are from England my Christmas song of the day is “Good King Wenceslas.”

I always wondered how a King Wenceslas made it into an English Christmas song (by the way, this Wenceslas was not really a king; he was only a duke). Readers who know the film Love, Actually will remember that the British prime minister (Hugh Grant) is forced by three small girls to sing the song together with his chauffeur. As an aside – Boris Johnson used a scene from the film in his campaign as well – though he had to admit he had never really seen the complete film.

Well, back to the song. Wenceslas was a Bohemian duke who lived in the 9th century and did a lot to fight poverty in his country. There is no real connection between Wenceslas and Christmas except for the legend that Wenceslas helped a poor peasant on Boxing Day.

In 1850, an English poet wrote the text. For the melody he used an English spring song from the 13th century. It was due to the song’s popularity that Wenceslas was revered not just in Bohemia but in England too. He was the model of a king who got his power from piety and not only by birth right. There were many critical voices who didn’t like the combination of religious poetry and a worldly dance song, but they couldn’t stop the triumph of the song. Love, Actually is not the only English film in which the song is featured. Outside of England it never got as popular.

One doesn’t see kings in the crowd during the darts world championship, but Prince Harry has attended the tournament at Alexandra Palace.

Sunday is yet another long darts day with two sessions – the seeded players will be Ian White in the afternoon and Michael Smith in the evening.

The afternoon will start with Australia against China – Kyle Anderson against Xiaochen Zong. It has not been a great year for Kyle Anderson, but nevertheless I think he will be too much for the young Zong who has limited experience on the big stage.

In the second match Ross Smith will meet Irishman Ciaran Teehan. Smith had a really hard time at the Grand Slam, nothing at all came together. Teehan just qualified by the Development Tour Order of Merit and has not much experience on stage. I predict Smith will be the winner.

The next match will be Brendan Dolan against Nitin Kumar. Kumar played in the world championship last year as well but lost to Jeffrey de Zwaan. I fear he will lose again this year despite Dolan’s inconsistency.

As always, the second-round match will end the session – this time it will be Ian White against Darius Labanauskas who showed a very convincing performance against Matthew Edgar, losing only two legs. Should Labanauskas have a good day he will make White sweat.

The afternoon starts with Aaron Monk facing Jose Justicia. One didn’t see Monk often this year, but he managed to qualify by the Pro Tour Order of Merit. Spaniard Jose Justica had some good results on the Pro Tour as well but Monk is much more at home on the big stage – definitely an advantage. But it is one of the matches where I can’t make out a real favourite.

The next match is difficult for me to predict as well since I’ve never seen American Danny Baggish play and I haven’t seen Andy Boulton recently. So, I will wait and see.

After this, Mikuru Suzuki comes on stage – she played well at the Grand Slam. She will meet James Richardson. Richardson is player who sometimes shows a strong performance but not regularly. During the Grand Slam one could see it is not easy for the men to play against a female player. Should Richardson play one of his great matches Suzuki probably will not be able to beat him. But should he not – Suzuki will have a chance to progress.

The final match of the third day will be Michael Smith against the winner of the Luke Woodhouse vs. Paul Lim match – in other words: Woodhouse. It would be an upset should Smith lose the match, to be sure he will outscore Woodhouse, but it could be his sometimes-shaky doubles will be a problem.

Column #CM77 2020 World Championship – “White Christmas”

Saturday, December 14, 2019
Column CM77
2020 World Championship – “White Christmas”

At this time of year in London one hears Christmas music everywhere. And what one hears is as international and colourful as the world championship. So, I have decided to feature a holiday song for each day I am in London for the tournament. Since today two players from North America will stand at the oche my song of the day is “White Christmas.”  It’s a shame there is not yet a bit of snow except for what you can find in the shop windows of Selfridge’s. I am sure a lot of people would prefer a white Christmas to the wet Christmas with rain that is forecast.

The composer of “White Christmas” was American Irving Berlin – who, unknown to many, was unable to read or write music. So, his secretary Helmy Kresa had to write the song down. From the start Berlin was sure the song would be a success and his chosen singer Bing Crosby was delighted to be selected. On Christmas day in 1941 Crosby sang White Christmas for the first time ever in a radio show.

The following year it was recorded together with other Berlin songs for the film Holiday Inn. However, it did not really fit – the film got into the cinemas in August 1942 and both the film and the song struggled. But in October the song the top position of the pop hit parade chart and for many years thereafter remained among the top 30. It is not quite clear how often “White Christmas” has sold but it is estimated the number is more than 100 million singles in multiple languages. Today it stands uncontested as the most valuable song ever authored.

With Crosby another “White Christmas” film was produced which came into the cinemas in 1954 under the title “White Christmas.” Frank Sinatra recorded the title as well and in 1957 Crosby and Sinatra together sang the song during Sinatra’s TV show. In 1975, the song initiated the evacuation of the US soldiers from Saigon – more evidence of how significant the song is in the culture of the USA.

But I am nevertheless sure neither Matt Campbell nor Darin Young will walk-on to “White Christmas” – though that would be quite a nice idea during the world championship…

The second day of the tournament is the first of many long days of darts to come. There will be two sessions both with three first round – and one second round match at the end of the session. Jermaine Wattimena and Rob Cross will be the two seeded players. We we’ll see several of the international qualifiers.

The afternoon session looks at first view to not likely be as high class as the evening session, but you never know! First, Darius Labanauskas meets Matthew Edgar – we had the same combination last year. Labanauskas played well in the last world championship but after that one didn’t see much of him, though he was rather good on the Nordic and Baltic Tour. Nevertheless, I think he has a better chance to win than Edgar. He defeated him last year which always is an advantage.

After that Ryan Meikle will play against Japan’s Yuki Yamada. I haven’t seen Yamada often, but in his home country he is successful. Ryan Meikle developed quite well during the past year. Were it possible in the world championship I would say this match will end in a draw!

Luke Woodhouse faces Paul Lim is the next match – another one of those contests either player could win. Lim to be sure will again be supported by the crowd and he is, despite his now 65 years, still a force in darts in Asia. A small advantage for Lim – I would say. I am sure we all would love to see him produce a nine-darter!

In the last match of the afternoon Jermaine Wattimena will play against Luke Humphries who on Friday was never in danger against Devon Petersen. It will be an easy match for Wattimena but one he will likely win.

In the evening session we will see two former BDO players and… Raymond van Barneveld.

In the first match Mark McGeeney will play against Canadian Matt Campbell about whom I don’t know anything – only that he was stronger than Jim Long on this year’s CDC Tour. Jim Long last year represented Canada in the world championship and impressed. Campbell could be just as impressive against McGeeney who is far from settled in the PDC, yet.

Next, Jamie Hughes will meet Zoran Lerchbacher. Hughes this year has displayed some magic on stage while Lerchbacher has won very few matches on the Pro Tour. Should Hughes get off to a good start in the match Lerbacher will have no chance at all.

In the third match a Dutchman and an American legend will step to the stage – Raymond van Barneveld competes in his last world championship against Darin Young. This year, Young was once again the dominant player in America, but he has, so far, failed to show the Alexandra Palace fans what he really can do. For van Barneveld it was a very patchy year, but he showed some signs of improvement during the last few months but often he just didn’t get into his stride. We’ll see what will happens…

The last match of the day will be between Rob Cross and Kim Huybrechts (who had to fight hard to beat Geert Nentjes). And well, what you can say about Rob Cross. It was a year with ups and downs for him – he is not very consistent. But you never can write him off and he could well become one of the favourites to win the title. We’ll have to wait and see – this very first match could be crucial.

Column #CM76 The World Championships begins (with great walk-on songs)!

Friday, December 13, 2019
Column CM76
The World Championship begins (with great walk-on songs)!

Every tournament – and that will not be different tonight – needs walk-on songs. Many of the songs I’ve heard after so many tournaments are now stored somewhere in my brain.

Recently, when I listened once again to the SWR radio hit parade one of the first images (green!) that came to mind made me think, “Well, Michael van Gerwen.” “Shine On You Crazy Diamond from the album Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd is only a small part of van Gerwen’s walk-on song. The rest – “Seven Nations Army” is well known from football. The song began to appear just a short time after it was published in 2003.

Why van Gerwen chose this combination I don’t know. It might be he is Pink Floyd fan. Might be he is football fan. It might be he just like the lyrics of “Seven Nations Army” which starts with “I’m gone to fight ‘em all.” Or it could be that van Gerwen didn’t have anything to do with his walk-on song and that his manager put it together.

Raymond van Barneveld’s “Eye of the Tiger” is a sports song as well. It was composed for the boxing scenes of the film Rocky III. I heard it for the first time during the track bike World Championship in Stuttgart where it always was played for the winners.

Other walk-on songs seem to be selected based on players’ names or nicknames as it is the case with Dave Chisnall and Kim Huybrechts. Some players have changed their songs during their darts careers – Jelle Klaasen has used four different songs, Chris Dobey has had three and Geert de Vos has walked-on to five different songs.

Some walk-on songs have to do with the origin of the player as Larry Butler’s “Out of America.”

And there are songs that are used by several players. Anne-Louise Peters and Mensur Suljovic both use “Simply the Best.” Deta Hedman and Rob Cross both decided on “Hot, Hot, Hot.” “Eye of the Tiger” is not only used by Raymond van Barneveld but by Wayne Warren and Dennis Harbour as well.

As Dean Winstanley told me once, the walk-on song is of some emotional relevance. Most players don’t arrange their song – they only touch as many hands as possible as fast as possible on their way to the stage and then wave to the crowd from there – that’s all. Peter Wright hops over the stage and back, Dimitri van den Bergh does his dance, Daryl Gurney sings and conducts the crowd and Devon Petersen does his pantomime.

In the last match tonight, it will turn green again – as it is tradition by now that the reigning champion – this year, Michael van Gerwen – will stand on stage. He will play his second-round match against the winner of the opening match between Jelle Klaasen and Kevin Burness. It is a match van Gerwen should win – though of course first round matches of the world championship can sometimes produce surprising ng results. Klaasen and Burness weren’t heard from much during the year and I feel van Gerwen will have to miss a lot of doubles to lose this match.

It’s more difficult to predict who will win the match between Klaasen and Burness. Burness played well last year on the Alexandra Palace stage – he can win against Klaasen.

The second match is Belgium against Holland – Kim Huybrechts faces Geert Nentjes. This year Huybrechts had great performances from time to time while Nentjes dominated the Development Tour, together with Ted Evetts. As Huybrechts has much more experience on stage I believe he will win the match.

The third first round match of the night could be rather evenly matched as well. Luke Humphries was one of the best performing up and coming players during last year’s world championship – he defeated Rob Cross and reached the quarterfinals. Due to his anxiety attacks he was not always as successful during the season, but it looks as though he’s coming back. One didn’t see a lot of Devon Petersen this year though we heard quite a lot of him as a commentator recently. I would say – a small advantage for Luke Humphries.

 

 

Column #CM75 Interview with Marko Puls

Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Column CM75
Interview with Marko Puls

Marko Puls has played darts since 1991. At first he only played soft darts but soon was celebrating success in steel-dart in DDV and WDF events. Three times he took part without success in the PDC Qualifiying School, a few times he qualified by the Host Nation Qualifier for European Tour events. Puls is member of the “Bundeskader” of the German national team and since 2019 “Athletensprecher.” Puls is a member of the DC Wolfsöden which plays in the DDV Bundesliga. Puls’ daughter Nina was a successful youth player. Pils pairs partner is Karsten Koch. Puls threw a nine-darter in the final of a DDV ranking tournament in 2007.

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Marko – at the moment you are a very busy darts player – soft-darts league, Bundesliga, Host Nation Qualifiers for the PDC European Tour, DDV events, exhibitions (for example one on 29 September in Gießen) – are you a full time pro or do you still find time to work?

For several years now I have not been a full-time professional, I pursue my profession.

What would you say is the most important part for your darting life?

Most important for me is to still play darts as well as possible no matter whether in league or in tournaments… to be able to take part in as many events as possible, to qualify for them – like for example for the DDV national team events or for one or another PDC event.

You are at the moment one of the most successful DDV players and in second place in the rankings. How did you manage to get back so far ahead again?

Hard work is the basic requirement for success. Of course you have to accept new challenges and to utilize them in tournaments. As there is no lack of new and up-coming players and the power density grows, you always have to keep it rolling. You really are obliged to improve to not to go to the dogs and be bygone.

It looks in the DDV there is a lot set in motion – is Michael Sander a president with a play?

It is true there is some movement in the DDV. It is a pity not all understand to where the path is supposed to lead to. Something new is the public funds for which the DDV has waited for a long time but now will finally get. That is a start and now the association has to invest those in the right way. Those funds are for a specific purpose and under severe restrictions – only a few will benefit. But this money is public funds and not member dues. Chiefly they will be used for the national team and the team staff. The funds are performance based as well. The better we perform the more public funds we will get – well, of course the performance can have the contrary effect as well. And it’s true as well – I think Michael Sander does the heck of a job. Together with a committee he has developed a concept of how to invest this new fund money. He soon understood the new opportunities. Now it is down to us players.

You are part of the so called “Medaillenkader” – which preconditions to you need meet to be included and in what way are those players selected to take part in the international competitions?

That is exactly what we are talking about. Those squads are not new but they now aroused again. The squads are put together on the basis of the rankings, the tournaments outside the DDV and the Bundesliga. As you can’t just put anybody into a squad the people in authority sat together and discussed. They put together the squads. Of course not all players liked the results but at least it is a start. The players who were appointed for the squads are all members of the national team. So they now have a chance to be nominated for one or another event.

Next on will be the WDF World Cup in Romania – how do you assess the chances of the German team? And what do you think you can achieve?

That is to be sure an event every player nominated can look forward to. When you look at the team – that means men, women and youth – we should stay realistic. We are not the darting world power but we all could be good for a surprise – a positive or a negative surprise. For the individual player it not only depends the draw but the contentment of the complete team – might be that will help to success. Whether it will be enough for a top ten place – we will see. Of course I think about what I can achieve myself, one always want to win. But I don’t feel under pressure. I would think the team can survive the preliminary round but afterwards it will be difficult. I believe I can survive in the singles two or three matches – we’ll have to wait and see what happens afterwards. As a pair together with Michael Unterbuchner I see a better chance. Anything below ninth place would be a disappointment.

Together with Irina Armstrong you are DDV athletes spokesperson. What exactly does that mean and what are your functions?

We were appointed in April in Luxembourg during the 4 Nations Cup. Due to the mentioned innovation and the funding by the DSOB those positions were necessary. The attendant players voted on us and we were named immediately and as far as I remember unanimously. Our function now is to contact the grassroot players, to collect their opinions, suggestions, their criticism and their praise and to confide it to the persons responsible. That can happen in conversations during tournaments, league days or in private meetings. Unfortunately it is not possible to ask each and every player, but we really try to get feedback from the players. Of course there are regional limits as well. On average around twenty percent of the players can be found at all DDV tournaments and there are those who would like to be nominated for the national team as well. All others you can only find occasionally at a tournament “around the corner.” But of course we have to listen to those as well.

You take part from time to time in Host Nation Qualifiers for the PDC European Tour events – how difficult is it to qualify by them for a European Tour event? What about the level played?

It is and it will stay difficult. First because there always are a lot of players who compete for few starting grits and second the level is by now very high. Every small mistake will be punished. The PDC says it should be a starting shot or a steppingstone for all players but I can’t agree with that. Everybody can turn up but he has to repeat it over sparse tournament dates. A long and exhausting way lies in front to you to manage the leap under the seeded players. But unfortunately due to the permanent annual changes of the PDC it gets more and more difficult to manage it only on German ground. You just need the Island for it!

And how difficult is it when you managed to qualify? Most of the Host Nation qualifiers don’t survive the First Round.

I claim they would survive but for the damned big stage. There you have the feeling you stand on a large clearing with no limit to the right or the left. Only a board and an opponent. Most of them don’t have the pressure to win, but somehow you are lost in the big, wide world of the stage. But there is another reason for this fast elimination as well. You fought through a strong field on the eve and think “they have been really hard matches.” Then you play against an opponent who is even two or three times better. Should you be able to win it that’s a great feeling for a moment but then you realise the next player will be even better. My point is with every win you gain an even higher hurdle.

What do you think of how good the DDV players are compared to the PDC players?

You just can’t compare it – only as much: how can you compare a hobby darter to a full-time pro?

Do you like to play on stage?

Ohhhh yesss! It’s the coolest I can think of though for me it’s not in the fore how good you look, or whether you play well or not, whether you win or lose or what the people think of you . It is just cool to be there. I wish I could have matches like that all the time and try to get as many as possible. It is a pity that lately it is no longer easy to realise it. But I stay tuned.

Until now you not really taken part in German Superleague. Would you like to play it and do you think Superleague can help players to improve?

That’s not quite accurate – I took part in the second and the third season but due to private reasons had to back out. I tried again to qualify but honestly I don’t drive 500 km to compete with more than 90 participants for two places in the league. But I think the Superleague is certainly one of the best ideas for the players. Eight matches on Saturday and seven on the Sunday all against strong players is really great.

What do you think is the best way to improve and do you feel you still have room for improvement?

Practice, practice, practice and to take part in a lot of tournaments to realize you practice results. To be sure I still have room for improvement. When you stop working for your success you will tread water and have already lost. That’s an old story.

Do you still practice and what do you practice?

I still practice – might be not as much as in former times. I haven’t got a practice routine, I only try to eliminate all those faults I made and to give them up.

Do you practice from time to time with your daughter as well?

Oh yes, from time to time we play together and really enjoy it. Should one of us lose too often he or she is punished with a little bits of meanness. But at the moment she concentrates more on her job and has taken a break from darts but when she has straightened out everything she will return and play again. She didn’t forget and has still a lot of darts time in future.

Will you take part in qualifying events again in 2020?

No. That’s another amendment of the PDC I am not happy with. There will be only two places on grab as two German players always will be seeded. I had the hope – as one could hear – there would be more, not less, places because of the growth of the sport in Germany… ppffff – don’t make me laugh. It is only getting more difficult with the PDC. I always feel it is careless when you hear on TV – go, buy some darts and try to play a PDC tournament. Did you ever see a baby that was able to sprint immediately after crawling? My advice – buy or try some darts and then go to the local club to see what even there awaits you.

Could you imagine to play the complete Pro Tour and to hold your ground?

No.

You are on the road a lot – have you got a sponsor who supports you? Sponsors are necessary for the Pro Tour.

Sponsors can be a blessing but a curse as well. Everybody knows it – should you not perform they leave you immediately. It is too fast-paced as most sponsors don’t know they have a responsibility as well. A sponsor should support a player in the long run and not withdraw after three or four defeats. Of course a sponsor is important for the Pro Tour as playing the Tour is very expensive. It is very unburdening when a sponsor cushions the costs or even takes them over completely.

Which darts do you play at the moment and do you play the same darts in different weights in soft-tip and steel-tip?

I still play my own Evolution darts. They suit me perfectly and should there be a problem I just go there and they will help me. Yes, I use the same in different weights for both.

Is it a problem for you to change form soft darts to steel darts?

No, no longer – by now it works out.

And what do you prefer? Is soft tip real darts for you?

I love soft tip, I love steel tip. Both appeal to me. And it’s always, this right or wrong darts? Both are and will always be darts.

Do you feel the German darts boom on club level? Are there many new members? Or might be a crowd now at tournaments or in the Bundesliga?

Our club DC Wolfsölden gets new members all the time, darts on TV is one of the reason and of course our promotion into the Bundesliga. We are now in our second season and I think we’ll stay there for some years. Spectators… there are a few fans. But it is difficult to put across and to delight the general public.

And does it look to you that by the dart boom more women are interested in the sport of darts as well?

Our female members seem to enjoy it more as well. Darts is not only a sport for male players.

Englishman Steve Brown by now has built up with his JDC in many countries a system to promote the younger children. Germany has not joined yet. Does the DDV offer enough for young children?

I’ve never heard about the JDC before What is it?

At what age do you think one can start to play darts ?

I don’t think there is a right age. But you have to be really devoted.

The DC Wolfsölden is by now a rather successful club with a team in the Bundesliga and one in the Oberliga – is there some kind of team practice?

All the time and always. Perhaps not team practice per se but you can practice every Monday and take part in completion on Thursday always from 7 pm.

The female quota is not really good in the sport of darts – are there female players in the Bundesliga?

Yes, there are a few. Here in the South of Germany we’ve Monique Lessmeister. In the North as far as I know there is Irina Armstrong. There might be a few more, but really only a few.

Do you like league play?

Yes, I love it.

Who would you say are the strongest rivals in the Bundesliga?

All who are ranked above us. Until they no longer stand above us. Please don’t take that the wrong way. I think they all should see us as the strongest rival in future. At least that is our aim.

And how do the German top players like Martin Schindler, Michael Unterbuchner or you yourself come into play in your clubs?

Big names, successful players and especially experienced players are always important for a club, a team or the upcoming players. They not only attract new players – they can show them what you can achieve as well.

Have you still got time to prepare for the big tournaments at all and how does that preparation look?

You have to take the time. You can’t just take things as they come and don’t do anything in the run-up. You have to practice more and should from time to time check where you stand against a strong opponent.

What fascinates you most in the sport of darts and how do you manage to stay motivated after so many years in the sport?

Darts for me is wellness – that’s what I always say. No idea, perhaps I am the craziest person in the world with such an attitude, but I am totally addicted to darts. I am motivated by the tasks ahead of me and which are assigned to me.

Who do you think is the most talented German player?

Me, but I am not the most dominant one. No, seriously for me there are three at the moment though I have a problem with the word “talent.” A lot have got talent but only a few have got the skill. Really great is what Max Hopp and Gabriel Clemens achieve in the PDC. Almost as good for me is Nico Kurz.

And perhaps you can tell you who will be the next World Champion?

It will not be me as I don’t get enough vacation days. I honestly have no idea. It is really difficult to predict. For me there are no clear favourites. Especially in 2019 – everybody defeated everybody, often surprisingly soon in a tournament.

Have you got any hobbies or interests outside the sport of darts?

Yes, my family which I love very much!

 

Column #CM74 Interview with Gabriel Clemens

Monday, December 9, 2019
Column CM74
Interview with Gabriel Clemens

Gabriel Clemens has competed on the BDC circuit since 2017 but has played in GDC events since 2007. He now takes part in PDC events in Europe. In 2009, he qualified for the first time for the World Masters. He increase his activity in 2016, reaching the final of the Luxembourg open and taking part in several European Tour Qualifiers. In 2017, he stood in the limelight for the first time when he reached the semi-finals of the World Masters. In 2018, he took part in the PDC Qualifying School and won the fourth tournament. Now he plays the PDC Pro Tour and has reached the later stages several times. This year he for the first time stood in the final of a Players Championship. He qualified for several European Tour events but has not yet been as successful as on the Pro Tour. Via the Grand Slam Wild Card Qualifier he qualified for the Grand Slam 2019 – he won his group but lost a very close match against Glen Durrant in the Last 16. As as participant in the Superleague Germany he took part in the German Darts Masters – an event of the PDC World Series of Darts – and stood in the final. In both 2018 and 2018 Clemens qualified for the UK Open. In 2019, he for the first time took part in the PDC World Championship – reaching the last 64.

The following interview was conducted during the Grand Slam.

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Was it difficult to qualify for the Grand Slam by the qualifier?

I felt it was very hard, there were a lot of strong players in the qualifier.

What did you think about the group draw?

My first thought was “it could have been much worse!”

Until now you always defeated Brendan Dolan – do you approach a match differently with that knowledge?

Is that true? I had no idea. I only had a feeling I might be able to beat him.

What do you think about the format of the Grand Slam? Is it more relaxed with the group phase?

I would say it is more relaxed. And I think it is a great format. It is the tournament I watched almost every time. This mixture of BDO and PDC players makes it very interesting.

And do you think including women is a good idea?

I think it is a very good idea. Lisa Ashton and Mikuru Suzuki are really good players.

Would you have a problem playing against a woman on stage?

I didn’t think about it, but probably not. Though it is unusual. But many male players really are somehow afraid to lose to a woman.

You survived the group phase – what did you do on your day off?

Well – first I went into town. But Wolverhampton has not much to offer. Then I had a TV engagement. And after this interview I have to go to my room and pack my things. I couldn’t prolong my stay in this hotel as it is booked out. So I had to move.

When you look back on your career in darts so far what was for you your biggest achievement?

I think to reach the final of the German Darts Masters was my biggest achievement so far.

You already played in the first GDO events in Germany but after that concentrated for some time on BDO/WDF tournaments – why?

At that time I had never thought about earning my living by playing darts. And I never thought about joining the PDC. I just played darts for fun.

It seems it didn’t take long for you to settle in the PDC – what for you was the biggest difference to the BDO?

For me one of the biggest differences was that you only play one match a day during the big events.

Would you say the standard is really higher in the PDC than in the BDO?

No – I am not sure whether that is true. In the BDO the formats usually played are much shorter. And besides there are only very few BDO players who really earn their living by playing darts – that to be sure makes a difference.

Would you say you improved by playing in the PDC?

Oh yes, I really improved a lot. But I play much more than before. And I practice much more as well. For example, here in the hotel we have a dartboard and I played frequently on it – most of the time with Martin Schindler.

Are you now a full time pro who earns his living by playing darts?

No, at the moment I am only dispensed from work – so in a way I am living by playing darts.

Did you set yourself goals for your career?

I would like to be in the position to really live from playing darts. I mean to be able to give up my job and earn a good living by playing darts.

And what about sponsors?

It wouldn’t be possible without sponsors. I have got some and I am especially grateful for Hylo Eye Care and Prowin – my two local sponsors.

Did you ask them to sponsor you?

No, they approached me.

When you look at the PDC calendar it looks like a rather tight schedule – does it mean stress?

It is some stress and often enough I have more or less now time in between at home. But in summer we had a rather quiet time and I really sometimes didn’t know what to do with all the spare time.

How much do you still have for practice?

When I am at home I practice a lot. I usually start between 8 and 9 am and practice till 4 pm. I have my own room for practice. Intensive practice will be around four hours.

And what do you practice? Have you some kind of practice schedule?

No, nothing of that kind. I normally practice what I am up for and that practice doesn’t get boring. I play a lot of 501.

Do you prefer to practice on you own or with a practice partner?

Normally I practice on my own. Where I live it is not so easy to find a practice partner. But from time to time friends or mates visit me for practice.

Do you do some kind of mental practice as well?

Yes, I have got a mental coach. He is a kick boxing trainer.

And how does the mental practice look?

It is more about being able to talk to somebody – for example about playing on stage. We don’t analyse my matches or anything like that. We also do breathing exercises and relaxation training.

Do you do something for your fitness as well?

I didn’t do anything in the past. Now I try to cycle three times a week. And I pay heed to healthy eating. Not a diet – just healthy eating. I lost 20 kg lately. But healthy eating is difficult when I am on the road. I often really just don’t know what to eat here in England.

You have got your equipment from Evolution Darts – that’s a German dart manufacturer. Which darts do you play with and are you somebody who fiddles around with your set-up?

No, I don’t fiddle around at all. I play the Gabriel Clemens darts everybody can buy in 23 g. They are a little bit different form their predecessor.

Was there a reason why your older darts weighed 20.6 g?

There was no reason at all. It just happened during the manufacturing process. We took away a little bit here and there until it felt right. And that was the case when we reached a weight of 20.6 g.

Kühn – the owner of Evolution Darts – once told me he sometimes tested his darts in a wind channel. Were your darts tested?

He told me that as well. And showed me all the documents. But as far as I know he didn’t test my darts.

As L-Style is one of your sponsors as well I suppose you use the flight system?

In the past I played with “normal” flights. But now I use the L-Style system and I like it much better. I prefer it because now my flights always have the 90° angle.

This year there will be some more big tournaments – are you more nervous before a big tournament?

I don’t feel a difference. And I don’t prepare different either. I believe it is better for me not to vary from routine.

What do you think who will be World Champion this time?

Well – I would say there of course are several players who are in line for it. But to be sure you think of Michael van Gerwen first.

Do you like to play on the big stage?

I really like it, it is something completely different. All the lights which make it very bright and very hot on stage. The crowds.

How difficult is it really to play in front of those noisy crowds?

One always tries to block out the noise. When the noise is more on a permanent level one can manage it even when the noise consists of boos. What really bothers are single calls or loud whistling.

Whom do you take with you for support – the manager, friends, your girlfriend?

When she has time I take my girlfriend with me. Her support is very important for me. I don’t have a manager.

You are by now a small group of German Tour Card holders. Do you travel together or share your rooms etc.?

We don’t share rooms but we usually are together as a group. We practice together, we go to the restaurants together.

And how about the British players?

We don’t feel any rivalry when we are not on stage. We get on very well with the other players but we don’t really mix together and probably we’ll never be bosom friends.

In former years you were a successful soft-darts players as well – do you still play and do you think soft-darts is real darts as well?

Soft darts is real darts. And it is not easier. it is just more widely spread in Germany then steel darts. I still play soft darts when I find the time. And then you can find me at Friday nights at the Bezirksliga.

And do you still find time to play in the DDV Bundesliga? And do you like being part of a team?

I always like to play in the Bundesliga very much. Especially playing in a and for the team is something I like. And when I find the time I still play the league days in the DV Kaiserslautern.

Somehow you even managed to squeeze Superleague Germany into your schedule – how important is Superleague for you? And who do you think will qualify from Superleague for the PDC World Championship?

For me Superleague is really good practice time. For most of the other participants the chance to qualify for the PDC World Championship is most important. But what for me is great practice – so many successive matches is for many of the other participants sometimes a problem. They are just not used to it. I had my fingers crossed for Martin Schindler.

What would you say is your strength? And what your weakness?

I think in some ways it is the same – that I keep calm. That can be very positive but negative as well as I have a problem to push myself…

What fascinates you most in darts?

Well, perhaps this 1:1 situation. It is a little bit like you shoot one penalty after the other. And I like it as well that you are in control of your own destiny.

Do you have other interests outside of darts?

I am interested in football. I am a fan of the FCS Saarbrücken – our local football club – even though it only plays in the fourth division. But even so Saarbrücken defeated Cologne in the DFB Cup recently.

Column #CM73 “Black by Day and Red by Night” (Part #3)

Monday, November 25, 2019
Column CM73
“Black by Day and Red by Night” (Part #3)

Still today, on a hill above Dudley you can find the ruins of Dudley Castle – the home of the Barons of Dudley. The castle was destroyed by fire in 1750. In the former castle park, you can find Dudley Zoo. During the Industrial Revolution, Dudley the main town of the Black Country. Today, it is scarred by high unemployment and the decline of industry. In the unappealing city centre you can find the flower bedecked memorial of a popular inhabitant of the not so distant yesterday – a young football player who recalls a very sad story.

The young football player is Duncan Edwards who was born in Dudley in 1936. Edwards seems to have been an outstanding talent who as a teenager of just 13 years was spotted by several football clubs. At 16 or 17 he was already a professional with Manchester United. He was the youngest ever player in the English first league.

At 18 he made his debut on the national team. On February 1, 1958 he played his last match for Manchester United. After the match the team travelled to Belgrade for a European Cup match. On the flight home the airplane made a refuelling stop in Munich. During take off the plane veered off the runway and crashed. Seven Manchester players and 14 other passengers died immediately. Edward was dangerously wounded and died on a few weeks later due to kidney failure in a hospital in Munich. His grave at the cemetery is visited by fans and Dudley remembers Edwards not only with the memorial but with a street and a glass window in the church.

After this sad excursion into football history we better return to the far less sad darts in Wolverhampton…

It had been a sunny day and I spent it in nearby Birmingham where already the Christmas market was open. The town smelled of roasted almonds and glühwein. It was my last day at the Grand Slam and the first day of the knockout phase. Only four matches were played but the format was much longer.

First, Dave Chisnall and Ryan Harrington came on stage and it soon was clear that Chisnall was the far better player. Chisnall won seven of the first eight legs of the match and all Harrington had to offer was an outstanding 154 finish. Harrington managed to win two more legs to better his result. But it was not enough to stop Chisnall. And so, Chisnall was the first player to progress into the quarter finals.

The second match was the match between Glen Durrant and German Gabriel Clements who had been one of the surprise players of the tournament. Of course, that was the match I had most eagerly anticipated. First it looked quite good for the German who took the lead early and held it though he couldn’t quite get rid of Durrant who always managed to level the match. When it was 9-8 for Clements the tension was almost palpable and seemed even to reach the usually very composed German giant. He missed with his match dart and Durrant drew level once again. In the deciding leg it was Durrant who hit the right scores and who won 10-9. It was the only time in the match Durrant had the clear lead.

Next, again with Michael Smith and Daryl Gurney two seemingly even matched players stood at the oche. Gurney had the better start and was 3-1 in the lead soon. But Smith finally levelled 4-4 and then took the lead. Gurney won several more legs during the remainder of the match but never regained his lead or even levelled. Smith showed another strong performance and progressed into the quarterfinals.

In the last match of the evening Peter Wright played against Rob Cross. Wright had shown good performances to this point while Cross had played solidly but not really convincing so, at least for me Wright was the favourite to win the match. Until the first break Cross was able to keep up with Wright. After the break Wright pulled away. For Cross nothing came together any longer and his scoring power had gone as well. So, he had only a few chances to throw at the doubles at all. Wright could celebrate a 10-3 win and to be sure had far less problems to progress into the quarterfinals then he had expected.

For the last time I used the shuttle bus back into the city. It at first looked as if it would be quiet trip but at the last moment a group of male teenagers entered the bus and fired up the atmosphere. Every suitable and not so suitable darts song was sung on the way back. A Japanese bus passenger was absolutely fascinated and recorded everything.

When we departed the bus, it had started to rain again. On my way back to the hotel all the songs slowly faded away in the distance.