Author Archives: Charis Mutschler

Column #CM71 “Black by Day and Red by Night” (Part #1)

Friday, November 22, 2019
Column CM71
“Black by Day and Red by Night” (Part #1)

Wolverhampton is part of a region in the West of Birmingham which is known in England as “Black Country.” It is not quite clear where the name comes from but it dates to around 1840. It might be it has to do with the soot deposits which came from the heavy industry or that it relates to the coal resources which lay close to the ground and sometimes even above. Such coal deposits existed in Wolverhampton as well. They were up to 30 feet thick. Since the Middle Ages coal was mined here and since the 16th century ore was mined as well.

It was around 1560 that the first blast furnace was built in West Bromwich. Many of the farmers also worked as blacksmiths or nail smiths. Around Dudley by 1620 up to 20,000 smiths of all kinds worked – and of course they supplied the royal family with nails and weapons as well. It is only logical to conclude that several inventions which pushed forward the iron industry hail from the Black Country – like the blast furnaces or the sawmills at which the iron bars could be cut into bands which helped with the production of nails.

In the 18th century the canals were built to connect the Black Country with the rest of the country. During the industrial revolution the Black Country was a centre of the English iron and steel industry. At this time an American diplomat travelled the region and then described it in one of his books as “Black by Day and Red by Night.” Everybody who has seen a furnace in full blast will know what is meant with “Red by Night.”

Together with coal mining in the 20th century the heavy industries disappeared from the Black Country. The furnaces which had lightened the nights went out. Only in the Black Country Living Museum can you today see many of the original buildings and see the disappeared crafts

[NOTE: Jamie Hughes, a real Black Country boy, who was in action on the third day of the tournament, wears the flag of the Black Country on his darts-shirt.]

After the second group matches on Sunday only Gabriel Clemens, Michael Smith, Dave Chisnall and Michael van Gerwen were qualified for the knockout phase. All other decisions were to be determined on Monday and Tuesday.

On Monday, Groups E-H played the last group matches. First on were the matches which didn’t really matter any more. So Gabriel Clemens and Richard Veenstra came on stage to open the evening as Clemens was already through and Veenstra was already out. Veenstra played much better than in his first two matches and had an average just over 90. But Clemens also played better than before. Against Clemens‘ 110 average Veenstra had just no chance at all. It’s difficult to foresee how Clemens will play in his next matches or how far he will be able to get in the tournament. But so far he to be sure he has played outstanding.

It didn’t go as well for the second German, Martin Schindler. Schindler was out before his third group match due to his two defeats but it would have been good for him to end with a high. But his chances were no good as his opponent was Michael Smith who had so far been great. But for some reason Smith couldn’t keep up his good performances – it might be he was less motivated as he was already through to the last 16. So, all of a sudden Schindler had a chance after all and was 3-0 in the lead. But Smith overcame his lethargy and won with 5-4. Once again Schindler didn’t manage to cross the finishing line.

The last appearance of Lisa Ashton in the tournament followed. But again Ashton didn’t find her A game and lost 1-5 to Dave Chisnall. But the result didn’t change anything – Chisnall was already qualified and Ashton was already out.

In the next five matches a win or defeat would decide whether one progressed or not. Four of those matches were rather one-sided and dominated by one of the players. Daryl Gurney defeated Brendan Dolan 5-2, Peter Wright had no problems with Danny Noppert and won with the same result.

A surprise to be sure was that Ryan Harrington reached the knockout phase – he defeated Wayne Warrington with 5-1.

Very one sided was the last match of the night between Glen Durrant and Nathan Aspinall – and even more surprising it was Durrant who dominated the match while Aspinall almost despaired as nothing went to plan at all. It was not a good match and Durrant won it 5-0.

Between all these not in the least bit fascinating matches there was the thriller between Jamie Hughes and Rob Cross – unquestionably the match of the day. Cross was 4-1 in the lead and then, despite having seven match dart opportunities in the next legs, Hughes managed to draw 4-4. Hughes started the deciding leg with a 180 but never again hit a triple in the leg. Rob Cross used the chance and won. But he has to improve if he wants to survive the next match against Peter Wright.

Of course, it rained again outside and there even was a rather strong wind. As the venue hadn’t been sold out the bus was not too crowded – the experts were onboard and the conversation was animated.

Column #CM70 Grand Slam – Day II

Thursday, November 21, 2019
Column CM70
Grand Slam – Day II

Lisa Ashton and Mikuru Suzuki are not the first women to take part in the Grand Slam. Before them, Anastasia Dobromyslova, Francis Hoenselaar, Stacy Bromberg and Tricia Wright stood on the stage in Wolverhampton. Not at the same stage of course as the Civic Hall is still being – but at the same tournament.

Anastasia Dobromyslova took part in 2008 and 2009 and almost defeated Wayne Mardle in 2008. Not one of his fondest memories. One year later in 2009, she won against Vincent van der Voort in the group phase.

Hoenselaar was also in Wolverhampton in 2009 but she lost all her matches – but loved the experience nevertheless.

Stacy Bromberg and Tricia Wright took part in 2010 and lost all their matches as well. But, just as this year, the crowd supported the women. I can’t say whether the women this year are playing better then their predecessors but to date Anastasias Dobromyslova’s 87.20 average against Vincent van der Voort in 2009 has not been exceeded.

On the second day of the event all participants again stood on stage. There was again an afternoon and an evening session and both times the losers played the other losers and after that the winners faced the other winners. Of course that changed the group tables a lot and some players were out before the third match while others qualified for the knockout phase.

Groups E-H played in the afternoon and first on stage were the PDC players Brendan Dolan, Danny Noppert and Jamie Hughes who all three rehabilitated at the expense of their BDO colleagues Richard Veenstra, Wayne Warren and Lisa Ashton. Veenstra, Warren and Ashton are all eliminated from the event after their 1-5 defeats. Dolan, Noppert and Hughes retained a chance to qualify. All three matches were rather one-sided. Ashton seemed to be even more tense in her second match as she had been in her first and she played worse as well. Perhaps tomorrow we’ll have the chance to see the real Lisa Ashton.

The last losers match saw Martin Schindler against Glen Durrant and Schindler played without luck. He was ahead 4-2 and looked to be the eventual winner. But he missed two match darts and Durrant used his chance to get to 3-4. Schindler looked shocked and due to the short format had no time to recover. Durrant won 5-4 and Schindler was out of the tournament.

In the next four matches we saw the winners of the Groups E-H on stage. Gabriel Clemens played a strong match against Daryl Gurney and won the close match in which Gurney had his chances. By this win Clemens is qualified for the group phase. In his last group match he will play against Richard Veenstra. After what we have seen from Veenstra so far one really can’t imagine Clemens losing to the Dutchman.

Peter Wright played a good match this time and Ryan Harrington had no chance against him. Wright is almost but not completely qualified.

The match of tournament so far followed next – Michael Smith gave an outstanding performance and demolished Nathan Aspinall who had a 105 average. It was a fascinating match from Smith who played (with 113.62) the so far third highest average in the history of the tournament. Smith was through to the last 16 and suddenly one of the favourites to win the tournament.

In the last match of the afternoon Rob Cross faced Dave Chisnall and Chisnall won 5-3. But after the previous great match this one was not really captivating. Chisnall moved through to the knockout phase.

This time the break between the two sessions was shorter and soon with Steve Lennon and Wesley Harms the first losers of the Groups A-D came on stage. Neither of the players played well. In the end Lennon prevailed 5-4. Next were Darren Webster and Dave Parletti. Webster was just better and played solid darts. After Parletti, Jim Williams was the next BDO player came on stage. Against Ross Smith he played much better then in his first match and he won 5-1 – the only win of a BDO player so far. Ross Smith will just have to accept that this year’s Grand Slam was not his tournament – he never was in the match at all and is out after the tournament after his two defeats.

The last of the losers was Dimitri van den Bergh who played against Mikuru Suzuki and he played far better then in his first match after he had overcome his nerves. Before the match he said he felt a little bit unsure playing against a woman. Suzuki had almost the same average as in her first match but like Ashton looked not as determined and confident in her second match.

The winner’s matches began with two really very close contests and two comeback wins. Gerwyn Price vs. Robert Thornton was on first and Thornton almost won – and would have had he not missed his two match darts. So the 5-4 winner in the end was Gerwyn Price although he had been behind almost the complete match.

The second match between James Wade and Ian White was a similar affair. When he was 4-2 in the lead White missed two match darts and the match was over for him. Wade won the next three legs and left the stage as the winner.

Despite their wins Wade and Price were not yet quite qualified for the knockout phase – the third group match on Tuesday will be decisive. Also not qualified yet is Gary Anderson in Group D who won 5-3 over William O’Connor – and was almost Gary Anderson at his best. Anderson has two wins as well and heads the group table but the last group match will decide whether he’ll progress.

Only Michael van Gerwen in Group A is already through after his win against Adrian Lewis. Van Gerwen played well and better then in his first match though Lewis played quite good as well. Van Gerwen heads the group table while Ross Smith is out.

This ended earlier on Saturday and there were fewer fans who walked with me to the shuttle bus. But something hadn’t changed – it still rained!

Column #CM69 I am back! (Grand Slam #1)

Thursday, November 21, 2019
Column CM69
I am back!  (Grand Slam #1)

Really, I am back at Wolverhampton.

This year I was not sure it would happen. All this Brexit drama had complicated my decision to attend. A no-deal Brexit on October 31 (which Boris Johnson intended) may have created a chaotic England during the Grand Slam. With what airline should I book a flight? Was anybody really prepared for Brexit?

In the end I booked a flight from Stuttgart to London with a German airline hoping that even after a no deal Brexit it would be possible to somehow actually get from Stuttgart to London. From there I would take the bus to Wolverhampton.

As probably everybody knows by now Brexit once again was postponed. Instead, the flight attendants of my German airline went on strike!

But I managed to get to Wolverhampton somehow and the weather was even better than in Germany as it was not wet and cold – only cold. On Saturday morning the rain had reached Wolverhampton – my way to the shuttle to the Aldersleigh Leisure Village was rather wet. But as I would stay all day in the venue it didn’t really matter.

In the first match of the tournament with Martin Schindler a German player stood at the oche. Schindler took part last year in the event and won one of his matches. This year, so far, had been rather up and down for Schindler and he had with Nathan Aspinall a very strong opponent. And so, it took some time for him to settle in the match. In the last and deciding leg of the match both players had a chance to win the leg and both had some problems finding their double. In the end Aspinall found the double 2 and won the match 5-0.

In the second match of the afternoon, World Series of Darts finalist Danny Noppert played against Ryan Harrington – the son of Rod Harrington. I had anticipated that Noppert would be full of confidence after his success but instead it was Harrington who convinced. until the end it was a rather close match which Harrington won deservedly 5-4.

Gabriel Clemens, another German, and Brendan Dolan came on stage next. Until this match Dolan had always lost to Clemens and exactly that happened in this match again. Dolan only won a single leg after Clemens had missed his doubles. He looked a little bit shaken but in the end won 5-1.

Black Country against St. Helens was the next pairing and with Jamie Hughes, an almost local player, taking the stage. His opponent was Dave Chisnall – a very determined player – and Hughes’ home advantage didn’t help. Up until 3-3 it was an evenly matched contest. But then one could almost see how Chisnall pulled himself together and he won 5-2.

By now all four groups had played their first match and with Richard Veenstra the first BDO player came on stage. His opponent was Daryl Gurney. From the start Veenstra looked intimidated and unsure and that’s how he played as well. It was not a hard- fought battle – Gurney won 5:0.

Wayne Warren was the next BDO player on stage and until the 2-2 point it was far from easy for an uninspired looking Peter Wright. But then Wright decided not to “chuck in his job” but to use a higher gear, with success – he won in the end 5-2. Despite his good average it was not really a convincing performance.

With Lisa Ashton the first of two female BDO representatives took the stage. She played against Rob Cross, who looked like he was not quite sure what to do with a female opponent, especially when this was supported by the crowd. And so Cross was far from his best but still too good for Lisa Ashton – although she took two legs and threw the first 180 of the match in the second leg.

The final match of the afternoon was Michael Smith vs. Glen Durrant. In this match Durrant was a BDO representative for a last time. But he seemed to be tense and to be sure he didn’t play as good as he had hoped while Michael Smith played a great match and almost hit a nine-darter. After eight perfect darts he made a mess of the leg and couldn’t find a double. He was shaken and Durrant managed to win the leg. It took Smith some time to recover but in the end he crossed the finishing line convincingly.

A long, long break followed. No idea why the PDC put such a long break between the sessions. But as my computer had decided to do its updates at the end of the afternoon session I had at least time enough to actualise my homepage.

Then the show finally went on again and the group matches of the groups A-D followed. And they followed so close it looked the long break time would be recouped.

William O’Connor played a good match after he had first been behind against Darren Webster. Gerwyn Price had some problems with Mikuru Suzuki who played the same level. It seems it is not so easy to play against a woman. Ian White had no problems at all with Steve Lennon. Gary Anderson had thrown sloppy darts but played all in all well – far too well for BDO player Dave Parletti. Parletti though looked from the start like he believed he had no chance at all and only wanted to enjoy being on stage.

The BDO players this year all didn’t play well in this first group matches. That showed as well in the next match in which the BDO #1 Wesley Harms came on stage to play against James Wade. It was not Harms’ first time in the Grand Slam. The first time he was in Wolverhampton in 2012. In previous years he always wore protective sleeves for the walk-on, and I remember well his first Grand Slam interview when he said he would win the tournament. He still has to improve to achieve that. It might be he’ll show more in his next matches. Should he play on like he did in his first group match he will not win the event this year and probably will not be the winner of the next BDO World Championship either. Wade had no problem defeating him.

Next on were Michael van Gerwen and BDO player Jim Williams. Van Gerwen was not completely fit and was not as confident as usual. And he was far from clinical on his doubles. But Williams was nevertheless not good enough for him and van Gerwen’s win was never in doubt.

In the penultimate match Adrian Lewis met Ross Smith and although neither played particularly well it was a hard-fought match. Lewis somehow won it and even deservedly won it because he hit his doubles better. But he was far from his best.

To end the evening, we saw a match with a surprising end: Robert Thornton defeated Dimitri van den Bergh 5-4. Van den Bergh had the higher average, but Thornton hit his doubles better and had a fantastic 160 finish to tie the match 3-3! That really shattered van den Bergh.

It was still raining as I made my way back to the shuttle bus into the city centre. The bus was full, the atmosphere great and, after the Michael van Gerwen song was rejected with boos, people settled on “The wheels of the bus go ‘round and ‘round.”

“’Round and round’” continued to reverberate in my head as I walked back to the hotel. Multi-coloured rain-soaked leaves covered the footpath.

I decided to finish my updates before going to bed and hoped those “wheels” would finally stop, allowing me a good night’s sleep before another full day of competition.

Column #CM 68 “Let Us Entertain You”

Thursday, August 1, 2019
Column CM67
“Let Us Entertain You”

Jesters and clowns – or as one would put it today, comedians and entertainers – have always been important during Blackpool’s summer season. Everybody who is or was anybody performed over the years in the Winter Gardens, the Grand Theatre or other establishments in Blackpool. For all those comedians and entertainers a comedy carpet memorial was erected in the autumn 2011. Here, just across the Blackpool Tower, you’ll find quotations from more than a thousand writers, comedians and entertainers. For five years artist Gordon Young worked with his team to complete it.

The cross shaped carpet makes a connection between the tower and the beach. To build it required lots of time and work because all the texts were set in type from single letters made from granite which were cemented. In this way 320 slabs were produced and put together. The artists used red and black granite from India.

The letters vary in size – some of the quotes can even be read when standing high up on top of the Tower. The slabs were angled in different directions – so from any direction some of the quotations can be read. And visitors will always will discover something new – despite walking over the carpet several times during the years not until this visit did I discover a dart quotation (see the photo above!).

On my last night at the World Matchplay the entertainment started with the match between Daryl Gurney and Keegan Brown. I’ve no idea what both players did in between their matches – but neither started well. It was an under par match at least until the first break. Plus, the players had a lot of trouble hitting their doubles. Gurney went with a 4-1 lead into the first break.

Everybody hoped the match would improve and it did but only a little bit and the averages before the second break were around the 90 mark (Keegan Brown reached a peak of about 94). Both players were finally better on the doubles as well. Gurney was still in the lead at the second break though his lead had been reduced to only two legs.

After the second break we finally had a match. Brown only just missed to level several times. Gurney played a strange match – some legs were really strong but those were always followed by really weak ones and he was far from happy himself. Gurney managed to win before the match would require the tie break. His average was 93.44 and his hitting rate on the doubles 30 percent…

Stephen Bunting and Ian White came on stage next and started slightly better than the match before. It was a quite evenly matched game but Bunting was far more clinical on the doubles. Then Bunting‘s average dropped and White dominated and took the lead before the second break – and Bunting seemed unable to find he way back to his great performance in his first match.

To me it appeared White would swing himself over the finishing line first but suddenly Bunting decided not to give in and reeled of leg after leg from 4-9 down to 8-9. At first he couldn‘t manage to draw and White only needed another leg. But finally Bunting levelled. The match went into the tie break and White couldn’t hit either scores nor doubles any longer. To the delight of the crowd Bunting won the match.

The average didn’t get much higher in the match between Rob Cross and Krzysztof Ratajski which followed. Ratajski won the first two legs but instead of gearing up he geared down and Cross was took on the role of all-round entertainer and went into the second break with an 8-2 lead. After the break, Ratajski won a few more legs – it might be Cross already had switched off but he never was in danger of losing the match. With 11-5 he progressed into the next round.

The last match of the night as well developed into a one-sided affair. Peter Wright was too strong and Simon Whitlock had no chance at all. He even seemed to have lost all fighting spirit – up to the second break he only won a single leg. In fact, it was quite similar to the quarterfinal both had played last year. So, Wright took the reins and even performed a little bit of magic with a 170-finish and 7 perfect darts to entertain the crowd. It’s a pity he didn’t manage to throw a 9-darter…

The second night with second round matches was far less thrilling then the first. The only convincing players were Peter Wright and Rob Cross – and Stephen Bunting had impressed with his fighting spirit. Many players produced weaker performances then in the first round.

On my way home I of course pondered who in the end would win the event…

Despite his convincing performances I was not sure Peter Wright would do it. I couldn’t shake the feeling when considering his attitude and demeanour that it could be Rob Cross‘ tournament in the end.

 

Column #CM66 At the Beach

Thursday, August 1, 2019
Column CM66
At the Beach

On the fourth day of the tournament the sun was shining from a blue sky and it was very warm…

As did a lot of tourists, I walked to the beach which is to be sure one of Blackpool’s main attractions from the beginning. Some say Blackpool’s beach is the second most beautiful beach of the world – seven miles of golden sand (most of it underwater at high tide). One finds the quietest stretches around the South Pier or north of the North Pier while across from the Blackpool Tower and around the Central Pier are the most people.

At the quiet parts of the beach in the South of Blackpool children and teenagers can still experience an amusement from Victorian times – donkey rides.

Traditionally you can find the name of the donkey on the headgear and traditional as well still today the most popular name is Daisy.

Probably donkey rides first were offered in 1885 in Bridlington and the donkeys at this time probably were work animals from the cockles industry. For some time, donkey rides in Blackpool were discredited as not all donkey owners treated the animals well. So now, to protect the welfare of the donkeys a license is required. Furthermore, only donkeys with a health certificate – which has to be renewed every year by a vet – are allowed to work.

Each day has to start with breakfast in the stable before the animals work at the beach. Riders cannot weigh more than 50 kg. The donkeys’ work cannot exceed 48 hours in a week and always on Fridays they have a day off…

In the first match of the second round Max Hopp played Michael Smith. From the start Hopp played well while Smith couldn’t find his doubles. So Hopp was 4-1 up before the first break. It had been with the same score that Smith went into his first break against Jamie Hughes and to be sure, as in the match against Hughes, Smith was “in” the match with Hopp and after the break began to recover.

Smith was scoring much better than Hopp but still wasn’t finding his range on the doubles – so Hopp got a lot of chances. Often enough he was able to use them and Smith never really was able to pull clear.

But Hopp couldn’t get a match winning advantage either and at 10-10 the match went into the tie break.

In the first leg of the tie break Hopp had a chance to win the leg but couldn’t hit tops and Smith won the leg. In the second leg Smith threw some high scores and hit the winning double.

Hopp again showed a good performance but in contrast to his first opponent  Dave Chisnall, Michael Smith just was the better player by the end of the match. Without his double trouble he would not have needed a tie break to win the match.

James Wade versus Mensur Suljovic was the next match. Wade usually is one of the players who has a problem with Suljovic slow pace but this match was very even from the beginning. Wade went into the firs break with a 3-2 lead.

At the second break it was five all. The averages were similar, the hitting rate on the doubles was very similar as well although Wade was a little bit better.

Suddenly, Suljovic managed to win three legs in a row and he was 8-5 in the lead. But Wade started to catch up while Suljovic seemed to run out of steam and it was 8-8.

This match went into the tie break as well but unlike Wade’s first match this time no sudden death leg was needed to decide the match – Wade won 13-11. He had been more clinical on his doubles – simple as that.

Gary Anderson started his match against Mervyn King as if he was afraid to miss his train. He scored really well but the rush was not good for his doubles and Mervyn King was 4-1 up before the first break. And he was 6-4 up before the second break as well.

Anderson improved and to the delight of the crowd drew 6-6. Then he even managed to get in front – but not for long.

King didn’t intend to give in and found another gear. He overtook the reigning champion and won in the end 11-8. During the last three Legs Anderson was no longer in the match and he left the stage at express-train speed. As is had been warm outside it now was very warm inside as well and probably on stage it was unbearably hot. It looked to me as if King had far less problems with that than Anderson.

The last match of the night saw three-times world champion against three-times world champion…

Glen Durrant looked the more tense at the start of his first match and he started a little bit wobbly as well. It might have been the hype over the match was one of the reasons for it.

Michael van Gerwen was more clinical on his doubles while Durrant scored better and was 3-2 in front before the first break. It was a deserved lead as van Gerwen’s average was just over 90.

van Gerwen improved but Durrant was still in the lead before the second break. But van Gerwen improved more and more and the match got closer and closer.

Both players felt the pressure and to be sure the heat on stage as well.

Briefly, it looked to me as though Durrant was about to give in but he recovered and the merciless head-to-head race went into the tie break.

It was rather astonishing that it was the far far less experienced (in such situations) Durrant who kept his nerve while van Gerwen was running on empty.

Durrant won the two legs he needed for the win and progressed at his debut with strong performances, strength of nerve – full of emotion and cheered by the crowd – into the quarterfinals. And Michael van Gerwen…

…for the second time in a row in this tournament would travel home early. The World Matchplay doesn’t seem to be his tournament.

What a night of darts!

Besides being tired I felt rather pumped on my way home as well. It was still hot outside and from afar one could hear rolling thunder.

Column #CM65 Along the Piers

Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Column CM65
Along the Piers

Compared to Sunday, Monday was a rather relaxed day and I did what many people do in Blackpool – I walked along the promenade looking at the beach and the piers.

The English word “pier” doesn’t mean the same as the German word – which is usually a shipping pier. The British piers today are something like amusement centres build on posts into the sea. Blackpool is the only seaside resort with three piers which were all built between 1860 and 1893.

The very first of these pleasure piers was built 1813 in Rye on the Isle of Wight. The idea behind the piers was that the towns wanted to give the growing number of tourists – who thanks to the railway visited the seaside – the opportunity to have a look at the sea even at low tide. So the tourists could stroll along and above the sea even when they couldn’t see it from the beach. But to only to stroll got a little bit boring after some time and so later restaurants, theaters and other amusements found the way onto the piers.

At the beginning, piers were built from wood and later from iron and wood. 55 piers exist still today in England and Wales.

The piers are always very vulnerable to storms and fire. In Brighton in England the West Pier – which was built like Blackpool’s North Pier by Eugenius Birch – was destroyed in 2002 after flooding by storm and in 2003 was demolished completely by two fires. Only the blackened iron skeleton still looms above the water.

In 2014, on another pier by Birch in Eastbourne a fire started. Luckily only the main amusement hall and some smaller stalls were destroyed. The pier has been rebuilt.

The piers in Blackpool all had to be renovated over the years because of damage caused by storms and fire. The maintenance of the piers is very high, but normally there is no entrance fee if you want to walk along the pier. From England the piers spread all over the world.

The last first round evening started with the match between Jonny Clayton and Keegan Brown. Fans haven’t seen great performances from Jonny Clayton recently but in this match the players were in the first part on equal terms. Keegan Brown’s average was a little bit higher but not high enough to show in the match. So, Clayton went into the first break with a 3-2 lead. Both players had at this time a 100 percent hitting rate on the doubles.

The hitting rate dropped after the first brake and the averages levelled. The second part still was head-to-head and on a high level and it was 5-5 before the second break.

After the break it was first Clayton who got some space, but Brown didn’t give in and drew to 7-7 with a 127 checkout for his third high finish of the match. The match moved to 8-8 and one could already feel there would be another tie break. But Brown won another leg, Clayton failed to level at 9 and Brown managed to win 10-8.

On similar equal terms was the following match between Simon Whitlock and John Henderson – in tartan trousers. At first Whitlock had a small advantage which got clearer and clearer, but Henderson showed fighting spirit and put the Australian under pressure. When Whitlock was up 5-3 Henderson suddenly improved and played an over 100 average. It was 5:5 when the players went into the second break.

Whitlock looked very determined after the break and took the lead again, but the match was not won yet. When it was 9-6 for Whitlock he just couldn’t find the trebles any more, and Henderson claimed the following two legs. Then he ran out of steam as well and a rather banged up Whitlock managed to cross the finishing line first.

The last of the debutantes – Ricky Evans – didn’t have many chances against a solid playing Daryl Gurney but he was very clinical on his doubles. Nevertheless, Gurney was just the better player in this match. But similar to Whitlock he had problems to cross the finishing line. When he was 9-6 in the lead, he didn’t score well any longer and Evans used the opportunity to get closer and closer. But Gurney pulled himself together and threw two 180s in the last leg of the match. His double trouble caught up with him again, but Evans was too far behind to do anything and in the end Gurney hit the winning double.

For the last match of the first round Vincent van der Voort and Peter Wright walked on stage. After the last performances from Wright and his wins on the Pro Tour and the German Darts Masters one could expect Wright would dominate the match – but it was the Dutchman who played stronger at the beginning.

Both players showed high-class darts with averages of over 100. The crowd was torn and sang for the players alternately. After the first break Wright had arrived in the match and started to pull away. Van der Voort resisted and came back to 5-6 but after that couldn’t keep up any longer. Wright on the other side progressed without big problems and with the best average of the first round.

All in all only three of the debutantes survived their first round matches and six seeded players were eliminated in the first round. Three of the matches were decided in the tie break, two of those in a sudden death leg. Only six players played an over 100 average and two of those were match losers.

On this evening none of the matches went into overtime and the night was over quite early. It was warm and dry outside which made the way home a lot more agreeable.

Column #CM64 Darting entertainment

Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Column CM64
Darting entertainment

On the second day of the World Matchplay I had no time to have another look at the entertainment facilities of a typical British seaside resort. On a day with two darts sessions my only contact with fresh air would be on the way to and the way back from the Winter Gardens.

But it didn’t look like I would miss a lot outside. The weather forecast had announced a new heat wave and it was a little bit warmer. But actually, it looked like more rain.

For the first match of the afternoon Darren Webster and the next debutante, Pole Krzysztof Ratajski, came on stage. From the start in this match the debutante was the stronger player, though he played the slightly lower average.

Webster wasn’t on his “A” game and Ratajski is indeed, while a World Matchplay debutante, a very experienced player who never looks nervous.

Nearer the end of the match Webster’s average sunk under 90 while Ratajski got more clinical on the doubles. Webster lost with 5-10 and Ratajski was the first debutante this year to survived the first round. All in all, it this was the weakest match of the tournament so far.

Next on were German Max Hopp and Dave Chisnall. Chisnall from the start looked like he would have preferred to be somewhere else. And he first played like that as well. He was lucky that he was only one leg behind before the first break and Max Hopp was right to slap himself on the shoulder for his performance.

But after the break Chisnall managed to draw and even got into the lead for the first time after he hit six perfect darts. Hopp immediately answered but Chisnall finally was in the match and shined with a lot of high scores. The crowd was behind Chisnall and it got more difficult for Hopp who in the second part of the match won only one leg.

Chisnall was the first on a winning double but he couldn’t hit it and Hopp got back into the match. The match went into the tie break and it looked as though Chisnall just couldn’t overcome his disappointment. Hopp won the match deservedly 11-9 though his average in the end had dropped and was below the average of his opponent. It was a strong performance of Hopp who kept his nerve.

The next match between Ian White and Joe Cullen was so one sided one just can’t say much about it. Cullen had infrequent chances to even throw at the doubles. And he didn’t use a single one. It might be he was just too nervous and got more and more discouraged throughout the match. I think it probably was not easy for White to keep up his performance and stay focused, but he managed it.

In the last match of the afternoon session the next debutante came on stage – Jamie Hughes who just had won his first European Tour Event. Hughes started strong and Michael Smith once again couldn’t find his doubles. At the first break Jamie Hughes was 4-1 up. It was clear it would be difficult for Hughes to keep up this high standard should Michael Smith get into the match.

And Smith did get stronger. The match suddenly was a head-to-head affair and finally Smith got clinical on his doubles. He won four legs in a row and the lead and started to enlarge it further. In the end Smith could celebrate a 10-7 win and another debutante was out of the tournament, but nevertheless Hughes could be happy with his performance. He really played very well!

The first match of the evening session was a real thriller and rather nerve-racking both for the fans of James Wade and the fans of Jeffrey de Zwaan. I couldn’t almost watch it was so nerve-racking near the end.

It had started quite benignly…

Jeffrey de Zwaan dominated and James Wade sort of dithered. When and why that changed I can’t really say. But de Zwaan just couldn’t get rid of Wade and, as was bound to happen, Wade got closer and closer and – at a time when I had already decided de Zwaan would win – managed to draw.

Now it was Wade who couldn’t get rid of de Zwaan, especially as Wade made too many mistakes AND missed a few match darts. The match went into a sudden death leg in which the Dutchman even threw a 180. But it didn’t help him as James Wade won the match.

To cool down, the next match between Mensur Suljovic and Jermaine Wattimena was boring and very one-sided. Suljovic defeated Wattimena – who played the worst average of the tournament to this point – 10-1.

After that we saw the much anticipated first appearance of the favourite Michael van Gerwen. He played against Steve Beaton and all in all it was one of the weaker first round matches. van Gerwen never really got cracking – he averaged around 93, and had obvious problems finding the doubles. I don’t think it was just because he was not challenged by Beaton. But of,course, I might be wrong – but the number one in the world showed some improvement was needed should he want to live up to the expectations.

The final match of the night was another highly anticipated match – the match between Adrian Lewis and Glen Durrant. But unfortunately, it was a rather one-sided match in which Durrant showed his best darts while Adrian Lewis didn’t show much at all. It had looked recently as though Lewis was on the way up again, but this match didn’t show it. Should Durrant be able to keep up his performance he could get far in the tournament.

That was the end to a rather mixed and very long day of darts. Two of the debutantes won their matches and the third, Jamie Hughes, had at least impressed. Three seeded players were eliminated. We saw some rather one-sided matches and two very close ones.

The question of which form Michael van Gerwen is in and whether he’ll be able to win the event was not answered. Should van Gerwen and Durant play on Tuesday as they did today is will be Durant, not van Gerwen, who will progress into the next round.

When I left the Winter Gardens it rained cats and dogs again and despite my umbrella, I was soaked by the time I made it back to my room.