Author Archives: Charis Mutschler

Column #CM100 World Matchplay 2021 – The Debutants

Friday, July 16, 2021
Column CM100
World Matchplay 2021 – The Debutants

As a darts fan, one almost couldn’t wait for the World Matchplay after this year’s thrilling Premier League, which in the end produced the surprise winner Jonny Clayton.  Clayton was the last player nominated – only after his win of the Masters.  Only just did he reach the play-offs.  But he won in the semi-finals against Michael van Gerwen and in the final against Jose des Sousa (who was another debutant in Premier League this year).

In the upcoming World Matchplay we’ll find several debutants as well – seven players qualified for the first time for the tournament.  But I am not sure they will make such an impact in the event as the Premier League debutants did.

In this column they all will be introduced…

Luke Humphries
Age: 26
Nickname: Cool Hand
Best Performance on TV: Final – UK Open 2021
First Round Opponent: James Wade

The former PDC World Youth Champion this year already had a big appearance when he reached the final of the UK Open where he lost to James Wade.  Nevertheless, the UK Open was a big success for Humphries, especially as he defeated in the semi-finals Michael van Gerwen and demolished him with an 107.41 average.  But he was far from outstanding in the Super Series 5, the last test before the World Matchplay – one first round exit, two second round eliminations and only one last 16 appearance.

But many players are stronger on stage in front of a crowd.  Humphries will meet in his first round match, of all players, James Wade – he still has to settle a score with him. Wade is always a difficult opponent one shouldn’t risk to underestimate and he is by now a rather consistent player.  He didn;t play outstanding in Super Series 5, but solid.  So, it will not be an easy first round game for Humphries.  And in the second round Krzysztof Ratajski or Brendan Dolan would wait.  One hasn’t heard much from Ratajski recently but Dolan is in top form and won one of the Super Series 5 events.  All it in all not an easy starting position for Humphries at his World Matchplay debut.

Ryan Searle
Age: 34
Nickname: Heavy Metal
Best Performance on TV: Last 16 – PDC World Championship 2019, 2021
First Round Performance: Michael Smith

Ryan Searle’s Super Series 5 was a roller-coaster experience – two times he was eliminated first round, once he reached the last 16 and one time he played himself into the semi-finals.  At his world Matchplay debut he will meet Michael Smith whose form is similarly inscrutable.  Smith was not nominated for this year’s Premier League.  So, you could presume he wants to prove himself and the PDC that he is a Premier League player nevertheless.  Recently, he has shown he is capable of fighting through a match but Searle is capable to do it as well.  It could turn out an evenly matched first round game.  The second round opponent would be either Jose de Sousa or Gabriel Clemens – not really easier for Searle.  And in round three with Peter Wright, Danny Noppert, Joe Cullen or Chris Dobey some more difficult opponents would follow. S o might be it will be an early end to Searle’s World Matchplay debut.

Callan Rydz
Age: 23
Nickname: The Riot
Best Performance on TV: Fifth Round – UK Open 2021
First Round Opponent: Glen Durrant

Callan Rydz won one of the events of the first super Series of the year and reached the fifth round of the UK Open but since then one hasn‘t heard much of him.  In the Super Series 5 he once reached the third round which was his best result.  But nevertheless he has a chance to survive his first round match as his opponent will be Glen Durrant who seems to be in an ongoing slump since he recovered from his Corona illness.  In the second round the winner of their first round match would meet the winner of the match Rob Cross vs. Ross Smith.  Cross seems to be in rising form and Ross Smith just won a Super Series 5 event – both opponents probably a high or even too high hurdle for Rydz.  And in round three James Wade or Brendan Dolan could wait.

Devon Petersen
Age: 35
Nickname: The African Warrior
Best Performance on TV: Quarterfinal – UK Open 2021
First Round Opponent: Dimitri van den Bergh

Devon Petersen is a surprise bag – you never know in which form he will turn up.  He is just not consistent.  The UK Open quarterfinals was his best results this year.  Since then, his form is fair to middling.  But he could be one of the players who benefit that there will be a crowd at the World Matchplay.  On the other side his opponent is the reigning champion Dimitri van den Bergh.  Van den Bergh does not always respond well to pressure and there will be a lot of pressure on his shoulders.  He played quite well in Super Series 5.  It is very difficult to predict what will happen in this match.  In the second round Dave Chisnall or Vincent van der Voort will wait – both not unbeatable though Chisnall is a player who often impresses with outstanding matches and van der Voort is consistent and solid.

Damon Heta
Age: 34
Nickname: The Heat
Best Performance on TV: Third Round – UK Open 2021
First Round Opponent: Michael van Gerwen

Damon Heta started well into the Super Series 5 but faded away.  And his first round opponent is no other then Michael van Gerwen.  van Gerwen is not as unbeatable as he has been but Heta would need his A game to defeat him or at least would have to be absolutely clinical on his doubles.  In round two his opponent would be either Daryl Gurney or Ian White.  It’s difficult to assess their form but I would think they would be easier to defeat for Heta then his first round opponent.

Dirk van Duijvenbode

Age: 29
Nickname: The Titan/Auberginius
Best Performance on TV: Final – World Grand Prix 2020
First Round Opponent: Jonny Clayton

Dirk van Duijvenbode always is good for an upset but can you really hope for one against Premier League Champion Jonny Clayton?  van Duijvenbode did not have a good Super Series 5 and only once reached the third round while Clayton by now seems to be a consistent player, who reacts to tricky situations with nerves of steel.  It will be a difficult task for van Duijvenbode.  And should he win, his next opponent probably would be Gerwyn Price.  Whether Price will be able to show up strong is uncertain.  He missed Premier League and to be sure will want to show why he is World Champion.  There will be a lot of pressure on his shoulders.

Ross Smith
Age: 32
Nickname: Smudger
Best Performance on TV: Quarterfinal – UK Open 2019
First Round Opponent: Rob Cross

Ross Smith enters the World Matchplay as winner of the penultimate Players Championship of Super Series 5, but until now Smith hasn‘t succeeded, despite his from time to time good results, to get into the top players‘ tier.  Here in the World Matchplay he gets another chance to show he can consistently produce as it is to be sure not impossible to defeat Rob Cross.  But Cross‘ form is getting better and he might be just the more experienced player.  It would be possible for Smith to survive the second round as well should he prevail over Cross as the opponents would be Glen Durrant or Callan Rydz.  Only in the third round it would begin to be really difficult for Smith as Wade or Dolan would wait.

Five times so far a debutant has stood in the final of the World Matchplay and only twice has a debutant won it: in 1994 (Larry Butler) and 2020 (Dimitri van den Bergh).  I don’t think one of this year’s debutants can win the tournament and I am sceptical that one of them can reach the final.  But they are all capable to spring a surprise and to be sure each of them is a gain for the tournament.

Column #CM99 The second half of the Premier League begins!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021
Column CM99
The second half of the Premier League begins!

The second half of the Premier League begins today and – in what is certain to be a joy for the players and fans – on the last four League days and the play-offs a thousand fans per night will be allowed in the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.

For me as television viewer, until now – even without a live crowd – it has still been an interesting and often thrilling Premier League.  But a crowd brings that “extra something” to a live sport event.  You never know in which way (or whether at all) the crowd will affect the players.

Of course, the crowd could have a positive effect on players like Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright who might flourish.  But all in all, the Premier League so far, behind closed doors, has been a spectacle and the only downer was Glen Durrant’s battle against exactly what, who knows.

It might be Durrant’s problems stem from his Covid illness – or it could be he has lost all self-belief.  He thinks he has a problem with his throw and was not really happy with the sympathy of his colleagues which draw him down even more.  Probably no one will be happy should he again find his form.

Apart from that, Rob Cross – who was the second player eliminated after Judgement Night – went out on a high.  All in all, he played much better than before the tournament, though it was not enough to survive. But to be sure he can build on it.

So far, after each League day the table changed completely.  One could enter among the top four and after the night be in the thick of the battle against elimination.

Between the head of the table and the last in the table before the second half there are only five points.  Two players head the table with thirteen points each – Nathan Aspinall and Dimitri van den Bergh, the two youngest players in the event.  None of the players won all their matches, none of the players dominated and there were none who didn’t sway between outstanding and mediocre performances.

Two of the debutants – Jonny Clayton and Jose de Sousa – threw nine-darters and de Sousa equalled the record for 180s thrown. The three debutants all showed that they were justly nominated, and all are a real gain for the tournament.  de Sousa sometimes presented us – well, actually, himself – with arithmetic challenges, and then often offered creative solutions!

James Wade, who moved up after Gerwyn Price tested positive for Covid, took his time to warm up but now can be found in the thick of the battle.

At the moment, Gary Anderson is the player with the most problems – he tells himself he is playing crap but that can change from day to day.

This year, Michael van Gerwen has a better chance to reach the play-offs but still is in the hunt for his consistency.

And so, after the first half of the season it is still more or less unpredictable who will win this year’s Premier League.  It is difficult as well to predict who will be the four players to reach the play-offs.  But there is no player in the race who wouldn’t deserve it.

I can only say, assuredly, that all those players who seemed to be out of form before the tournament are now on top of their game.  It is a Premier League in which all players are on par – and I can say that I neither miss Gerwyn Price nor Michael Smith (who said recently that he should be in Premier League ahead of those players who were nominated).

I am looking forward to the second half of the season and I am sure I will feel entertained again.

Who will win in the end? Isn’t that almost subsidiary?

Column #CM98 Premier League – who will win?

Sunday, April 4, 2021
Column CM98
Premier League – who will win?

For the second year in a row, we will not see a “normal” Premier League.  Due to the continuing pandemic the Premier League will again be played without a crowd this year – and to be sure this was one of the reasons the PDC chose not to contest League once a week on Thursdays, as in pre-COVID times, but to pool the competition in four blocks instead.  Certainly, this is less thrilling – and one must be a diehard fan to follow on consecutive days the same ten players at the oche.

However, the mix of players makes this year’s Premier League especially unpredictable.  Rarely have known as little about the form of the players before the start of a season.  There could be some upsets…

This year, reigning champion Glen Durrant, last year’s runner-up Nathan Aspinall, the World Champion and current world ranked #1 Gerwyn Price, the surprise runner-up in the World Championship Gary Anderson, former World Champions Michael van Gerwen, Rob Cross and Peter Wright, the former World Youth Champion and last year’s World Matchplay winner Dimitri van den Bergh, this year’s Masters winner Jonny Clayton and last year’s Grand Slam winner Jose des Sousa will take part.

On paper an illustrious field…

Not nominated were players like James Wade, who won this year’s UK Open and plays very consistently, or Joe Cullen, who is another one of those players who showed strong performances this year.  Also not invited are some players who competed in the Premier League for several years – like Daryl Gurney, Michael Smith and Mensur Suljovic.

Of course, as is always the case not all darts fans will be happy with the nominated players – though the criteria are the same.  What did change this time was that the PDC waited until the Masters to nominate the last player – Jonny Clayton.

But what stands out this year is that at least half of the participants are performing far from their best…

Glen Durrant is not yet fully recovered from COVID but still plays – despite small signs of getting back to form, most of the time he averages of under 90.  With the exception of just a few matches Rob Cross has not been near his top level.  Nathan Aspinall was far from his form even before pandemic – it might be he just tries too much.  And after his Grand Slam victory, Jose de Sousa was most of the time, to phrase it cautiously, very unimpressive.  The same can be said of Dimitri van den Bergh.

Michael van Gerwen has for some time shown a lack of form and is very often far from deadly on his doubles.  He missed the second Super series and went on holiday instead.  Peter Wright won (as did Jonny Clayton and Gerwyn Price) one of the events of the second Super Series, but his performances were inconsistent – he seemed to attract more attention with his verbal skirmishing with Michael van Gerwen than with his level of play.  Gary Anderson was often inconsistent, was simply no good during the second Super Series and didn’t play it to the end.  But of course, Anderson is a player who has proven he can compete at an amazing standard without a lot of preparation – remember the last World Championship!

In the end we have only two players (maybe two and a half!) who this year have been convincing – Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton (this year’s high-flyer) and with reservations, Peter Wright.

So, after what we have seen this year a Welsh winner of the Premier League would seem most likely, and his strongest rival could be a Welsh player as well…

This year’s Premier League is a kind of surprise bag and one can only hope for us darts fans that all the inconsistent players prepared well and will play an appealingly season.

It might be the format will help get the players in form and jump-start them, so that we’ll see a high-class Premier League after all, in which all the players will live up to their potential.

Let’s hope they will take us by surprise!

Column #CM97 The final of the 2003 PDC World Championship

Saturday, January 2, 2021
Column CM97
The Final of the 2003 PDC World Championship

The final of the 2003 PDC World Championship counts – along with the inaugural world championship final and the 2008 women’s final – among the best darts matches in the history of the sport and, as in the Women’s final it interrupted an era.  And there is another parallel – for the first time a player not from England, not even from Europe in this case, won the PDC World Championship.

In 2003 the PDC World Championship still took place in the Circus Tavern in Purfleet. Smoking was still permitted, international fans were rare and most people who watched on TV were from the UK .

The number of participants was 40.  There were a few international qualifiers – one from Australia, one from the Netherlands and one from the USA. As today, a PDPA qualifier was played and that year four tournament places were allocated.

Qualifying as well was the winner of the SP 9-Dart Challenge. The other participants (32) qualified by the Order of Merit. The top 16 were seeded and entered the tournament in the Second Round.

Interesting, as a side-line: the Australian qualifier was Simon Whitlock who joined the BDO in 2004 – and he defeated Peter Manley in the second round before he was eliminated in the third round by Richie Burnett. Besides Steve Beaton, Whitlock was the only player who still took part in the PDC World Championship this year.

Interesting as well: among the PDPA qualifiers was Al Hedman, the brother of Deta Hedman (who was Deta’s inspiration to take up the sport of darts).  He’s been retired for a long time already.  So Deta is the second Hedman playing in a PDC World Championship.

Also quite interesting: John Lowe, who lost in the inaugural World Championship final in 1978 against Leighton Rees, was still among the participants in a World Championship in 2003 – though it was the PDC World Championship now, as he was one of the players who in 1993 turned away from the BDO to found the PDC (at that time WDC).

Meanwhilw, in the BDO Women’s World Championship it was for many years quite clear that Trina Gulliver would win there was no doubt whatsoever that it was Phil Taylor who would win the PDC World Championship title.

With the exception of the inaugural tournament Taylor had won all eight editions and everybody expected he would win his ninth title in a row.  Taylor had lost a lot of weight before the tournament.  He had added blond strains to his hair and wore a golden earing in his ear.

Taylor went into the tournament as the #1 seed.  His later opponent in the final John Part was the #2 seed.

When you review the 16 seeded players you see quite a lot of well-known names like John Lowe (who at the time was the #13 in the PDC Order of Merit), Kevin Painter, Colin Lloyd, Roland Scholten, Wayne Mardle, Cliff Lazarenko, Bob Anderson and Steve Beaton.

Rod Harrington, Alan Warriner (at the time ranked #4 in the world) and Chris Mason changed from active players to commentators as did Wayne Mardle and John Part.  Roland Scholten, who was for some time the darts expert on Sport 1, is now the German national coach.  Keith Deller managed Adrian Lewis.

As always in a World Championship there were some upsets in the second round in which the top 16 entered the tournament – and Peter Manley, Andy Jenkins, John Lowe and Peter Evison didn’t survive their first match.

From the qualifiers only Simon Whitlock survived the first round.  Deta Hedman’s brother Al lost 0-4 to Bob Anderson.

Phil Taylor started his challenge to defend the title with a 4-1 win against American Steve Brown. His average was 103.44.  John Part played in the lower half of the draw first against Cliff Lazarenko. He won 4-1 as well but his average was only 88.67.

In the next round Taylor played against Wayne Mardle.  It was not an easy game – Mardle won three sets – but in the end Taylor won 5-3 and his average dropped to just under 100.

Part’s second opponent was Scotsman Jamie Harvey.  Part won 5-3 as well and he improved his average to 97.

In the quarterfinals Phil Taylor defeated Dennis Smith – who was well known for his interesting throwing style – with 5-3 too and his average was back to over 100.  Part’s quarterfinal opponent was Chris Mason and Part on this day was just too good for Mason.  He defeated him 5-0 – and perhaps this could have been viewed as a first warning to Taylor that Part could present problems for him.

But probably Taylor didn’t give it a thought as he had destroyed Part two years prior in the final and had beaten him 2002 – both in the World Matchplay and the World Grand Prix.

The fourth of January was semi-finals time in the Circus Tavern and Part was the only player not from England still in the tournament…

This time, Taylor had an easier time than Part – he played against Alan Warriner who was unable to keep up.  Warriner lost 1-6 and probably Taylor was not even tired after the match.  For Taylor, the win over Warriner was satisfying as Warriner had before the tournament lamented that the PDC only revolved around Taylor and that he was fed up with it – something Taylor put right with his darts.

Part faced Kevin Painter, a much tougher opponent on the day, but won 6-4 and for the second time progressed into the final.

The final took place on the fifth of January – it was a memorable match which lasted almost three hours. The Canadian stormed into a 3-0 lead but after that took a sort of “break” and Taylor had the advantage.  But this time he couldn’t get rid of Part and Taylor started to tire…

The match went into a deciding set…

Part won the final 7-6 and interrupted Taylor’s dominance in the PDC at least for some time.  Taylor averaged in the final 99.89, Part 96.86.

In the following year everything was back to business as usual…

Taylor won the title another six times, the last time in 2013 (and also twice stood in the final).  Part won the World Championship once again in 2008, in the year when the tournament for the first time took place in Alexandra Palace, a completely different world than the smoky Circus Tavern – a venue crammed with partying international fans and which is televised all over the world.  In 2003, 610,000 fans watched the final on TV, most of them in the UK and Part earned £50,000 in price money.

It was in 1998 that Part qualified for the first time for the PDC World Championship and until 2016 took part in the event every year.  In 1998, he lost in the first round to Paul Lim, who contrary to Part, qualified for this year’s World Championship once again.

Besides Part, over the years many other Canadian players qualified for the PDC World Championship.  In 1999, it was Scott Cummings and Gary Mawson – Cummings returned in 2001 together with the first woman to compete in a PDC World Championship, Canadian Gayle King.

Gerry Convery qualified from 2005 – 2008.  Rory Orvis appeared in 2004, John Verwey in 2005.  In 2008 there was David Fatum.  There was Dave Richardson in 2015, Ross Snook in 2017 and Jim Long and Matt Campbell in 2020 and 2021, the latter who played a great match against Scott Waites this year.

Besides Campbell, Jeff Smith stood at the oche this year.  He reached the final of the BDO World Championship in 2016 but then switched to the PDC. He qualified 2018 and 2019 as well for the PDC World Championship and got himself a Tour Card in Qualifying School 2020.

Smith seems to improve more and more – as far as one can assess it in this Corona year.  In the Summer Series he for the first time stood in a Players Championship semi-final. Together with Matt Campbell he reached the quarterfinals of the PDC World Cup and he for the first time qualified for the PDC World Championship by the Pro Tour Order of Merit.

Smith won his first round match against young Irishman Keane Barry but lost second round in a good match to Chris Dobey.  So far, Smith looks like the first Canadian who might be able to follow in John Part’s footsteps – though it is still a very far way to get there.

Column #CM96 The Inaugural BDO World Championship Final

Monday, December 21, 2020
Column CM96
The Inaugural BDO World Championship Final

The final is not always the best match of a tournament – but there have been some World Championship finals which must rank among the best matches in the history of darts. Among them, the inaugural BDO World Championship (which took place in 1978) had a noteworthy final, and a couple of other matches, which I’d submit are among the best ever –  and this is not only because they occurred at the first World Championship tournament.

This first World Championship of the BDO didn’t take place in the cultivated atmosphere of the Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green but rather in the Heart of the Midlands Club in Nottingham. It was not played, as in later years, in January but rather from February 6-10.  It was organised by the BDO which had been founded five years before and it was televised on BBC.  Sid Waddell was the commentator, as in all BDO World Championships until the split in darts 1993.

At the time, the prize money of £3,000 for the winner was quite decent. The runner-up got £1,700 and even the players who didn’t survive the first round got £250 for participating.  This first World Championship had a leg format, not sets, and the format of the final was best of 21 legs.

The sponsor was Imperial Tobacco and as the company produced a brand of cigarettes named Embassy, the World Championship was known as the Embassy.  Imperial Tobacco sponsored the Snooker World Championship as well.  For the Darts World Championship Imperial Tobacco was for 25 years the main sponsor until the English Government forbid tobacco companies to sponsor sport events.

The tournament was not just called the World Championship – international qualifiers really played in it. There were 16 participants in the event.  The Englishmen – Eric Bristow, Alan Glazier, Tony Brown and John Lowe – were seeded 1-4.  Americans Conrad Daniels and Nicky Virachkul were seeds 5 and 6.  Canadian Hilliyard Rossiter was seeded seventh.   Seeded 8 and 9 were the two Welsh players, Alan Evans and Leighton Rees, while the Australians Barry Atkinsons and Tim Brown were the number 10 and 11 seeds. Seeds 12 and 13 were Scotsmen Rab Smith and Bobby Semple.  Seeds 14 and 15 were Swedes Stefan Lord and Kenth Ohlsson and the 16 seed was Irishman Patrick Clifford.  One can well say that everybody of distinction in the world of darts at that time took part in this first BDO World Championship.

In the first World Championship there was a big first round upset – number 1 seed Eric Bristow was eliminated by American Conrad Daniels – and I can imagine Daniels for many years chuckled at that result.

A player who by his own admission felt comfortable in the tournament from the start was Welshman Leighton Rees – at that time a really big gun in British darts.  Rees defeated Australian Barry Atkinson first round.  He won 6-0 and threw a 15-darter, a 19-darter, an 18-darter, another 15-darter, a 12-darter and a 17-darter – and the 12-darter could have been an 10- or even a 9-darter had Rees not just scratched the wire of the triple 20 with some of his darts.

In the quarterfinals Rees met his Welsh countryman and great friend Alan Evans.  As Rees described it was probably the best match ever between the two.  There were 42 scores over 100, six 180s and the very first 10-darter (137, 180, 180, 4) on TV.  In addition, Evans threw a 160-finish and Rees a 161-finish.

Rees won the match 6-3 but admitted Evans could have won the match too.  He felt he had never before seen Evans play so well and lose nevertheless.  Rees was especially happy about his 10-darter and that he hit the double two.  It looks as that was not his favourite double!

Of course the averages of the match are known as well.  Rees had an average of 97.50; Evans averaged 94.86.  Even by today’s standards it was a really good match and far better than the other quarterfinals of the tournament.  In fact, those two averages were by far the highest of the tournament.

In the semi finals Rees competed against American Nicky Virachkul and Virachkul stormed into a 3-0 lead.  Rees wrote that he was glad about the long format of best of 15 legs as this gave him a chance to get back into the match when he was behind.  And to be sure – Rees won the following five legs.  But Virachkul didn’t give in and levelled at 6.  And 7.  Rees dug deep in the deciding leg.  He threw a 180, followed by a 123 and won it with a 13-darter.  Only then did he turn around and realize the reward for the win was an encounter with John Lowe in the final.

The interest of the media was huge and at home in Wales all hell had broken lose.  As Rees wrote, he was not so much interested in the prize money as he was determined to win for Wales.

The format of the final was best of 21 legs, the longest match in which Rees ever had played but he was not worried at all as by now he believed this tournament was his tournament.  And he was right!

At the start, the final was a head-to-head race but when Lowe was 4-3 ahead, Rees won six legs in a row and and marched to a 9-4 lead.  So, he needed only two more legs to win the title…

Lowe threw a 15-darter and Rees answered with a 15-darter.  Only one leg more was needed for the title but Rees couldn’t finish his 66 points in the next leg and Lowe snatched it.

In the following leg Lowe stood on 141 points while Rees still had 81.  Lowe got down to 50 and Rees threw 31 points.  Lowe couldn’t finish off his points with his next throw while Rees hit first the single 20 and then tops and won the inaugural World Championship title of the BDO.  It was a really big win for the Welshman but for him the greatest moment was the reception he got when he returned to Wales.

Not to be forgotten was a match for the third place which American Nicky Virachkul won against Stefan Lord.

After his World Championship win Rees didn’t win many more tournaments but qualified every year until 1990.  The last event he played was in 1994, the Welsh Open.  John Lowe won in 1979, 1987 and 1993 and after the split in darts, twice (in 1995 and 1996) reached the semi-finals of the PDC World Championship.  In 2005, he qualified for the last time for the PDC World Championship.

For a long time, Leighton Rees remained the only Welsh World Champion – until 1995 when Richie Burnett won the title.  In 2008, Mark Webster was the next Welsh World Champion.

Besides the first BDO World Champion probably that last BDO World Champion was a Welshman too – Wayne Warren won the title 2020.

To date there has been no Welsh winner of the PDC World Championship.

In 2021 – with Nick Kenny, Jamie Lewis, Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton – four Welsh players will stand on the stage at Alexandra Palace.  And I can well imagine that Gerwyn Price will one day be the first Welsh PDC World Champion.

No video of the of the complete inaugural BDO World Championship final exists but you can watch the last leg here:

Column #CM95 Back to the 2021 PDC World Championship

Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Column CM95
Back to the 2021 PDC World Championship 

As a follow-up to the article about the 2008 BDO Women’s World Championship showdown between Trina Gulliver and Anastasia Dobromyslova final, here is a close look at the two female players in this year’s PDC World Championship – Lisa Ashton and Deta Hedman.

Neither of the two players who played in the memorable BDO Women’s final of 2008 will take part in the PDC World Championship 2021.

Trina Gulliver has backed out from darts, at least for the moment. She was always a player very loyal to the BDO and never accepted invitations to play in the Grand Slam. But in 2019 she was one of the commentators for the PDC World Championship.

Anastasia Dobromyslova on the other hand was never just a BDO player.  She even joined the PCD circuit from 2008 until 2011, which at that time was still possible without a Tour Card.  In 2008, she qualified as an amateur qualifier for the UK Open. Later in the year, she took part in the Grand Slam and, thanks to a wildcard in the 2009 PDC World Championship.

In the first and so far only PDC Women’s World Championship she was eliminated by Stacy Bromberg.  Back at the Grand Slam in 2009 she won her match against Vincent van der Voort.  But all in all, she was not really successful in the PDC and returned in 2011 to the BDO.  She qualified in 2019 for the PDC World Championship but lost first round.

To give the female players a chance to qualify for the 2021 PDC World Championship the PDC organised a women’s series with four events by which the two women’s places in the World Championship were allocated. Anastasia Dobromyslova took part in the series but did not even reach the top ten of the table. At the moment she is just no longer that good. Trina Gulliver didn’t take part in the series.

By the end of the women’s series, it was Lisa Ashton and Deta Hedman who managed to qualify.  It was rather close between Hedman and Fallon Sherrock, who had defeated during the last PDC World Championship Ted Evetts and Mensur Suljovic and was the uncrowned “Queen of the Palace.”

The Corona pandemic unluckily prevented Sherrock to in any significant way savour her glory. Contrary to Lisa Ashton she was not able to get herself a Tour Card in Qualifying School and so the year 2020 for her was, like for most female players, more a year to forget – with the exception of a few online tournaments there were almost no tournaments for the women.

Lisa Ashton not only easily led the table of the Women’s Series with two wins and one runner-up placing, but she also won the women’s qualifier for the Grand Slam of Darts. In addition, she took part in the Summer Series, the Autumn Series and the Winter Series of the PDC, played on the Home Tours and in those Players Championships which were played before the lockdown. All in all, she earned £11,000 in prize money, £7 000 of it on the Pro Tour. Though it doesn’t yet show in her results, Ashton thinks she has improved a lot. And of course, she collected a lot of experience in playing against the top male players. She looked rather nervous though during the Grand Slam and it didn’t go well at all for her.

Ashton will meet Adam Hunt in the first round of the World Championship, who earned twice the money on the Pro Tour which was enough to qualify by the Pro Tour Order of Merit for the event.

Hunt to be sure is not an outstanding player – well, perhaps better not a consistent player, although he has showed some really good matches.  For example, he won against Gabriel Clemens during the Grand Slam of Darts. But he played some really weak matches as well during the year. Like Ashton, he takes part for the second time in the PDC World Championship and also like Ashton in 2019 he lost his first-round match. But while Ashton in 2019 at least won a set, Hunt failed to do so.

I think this first round match will be very much about who will be better in keeping their nerve and who comes into the tournament with more confidence. Ashton will not be without a chance.

The second women’s qualifier, Deta Hedman, is probably one of the most experienced female players. She has already been playing ten years longer than Trina Gulliver and has long been one of the top players in the world and very often the #1 among the women, even though she took a few breaks in her career – due to work commitments and because of the racism she was exposed to due to her skin tone (Hedman is Jamaican).  In the Women’s Series she won one event and reached two semi-finals. She was a semi-finalist in the Grand Slam of Darts qualifier as well.

Though Ashton is the first woman with a Tour Card, she is not the first women on the Pro Tour – that was Deta Hedman, who played from 2002 to 2007 – longer than Anastasia Dobromyslova.

And it was not Fallon Sherrock, who was the first woman to win matches against men in a televised major – that as well was Deta Hedman who in 2005 in the UK Open defeated Aaron Turner and Norman Fletcher.

Hedman has won almost every tournament women can take part in, at least once – with the exception of the BDO Women’s World Championship. Three times she stood in the final and three times she lost – once against Anastasia Dobromyslova, once against Lisa Ashton and once against Trina Gulliver.

It sometimes looks as though she just can’t really settle on stage when she plays in front of the TV cameras. Like Ashton and Sherrock, Hedman took part in Qualifying School and like Sherrock she had no success. Due to the Corona pandemic, other than the Women’s Series she played only the Dutch Open this year – it can well be she is rather rusty. Hedman was drawn against Andy Boulton. Probably she will know him from his time in the BDO.

Boulton was one of the participants in the PDC Home Tour 3 and after the group matches he headed the table so he should be well warmed up and prepared for the World Championship. But Boulton is not really a consistent player. So far, he has stood twice on the stage at Alexandra Palace and both times he lost.

Hedman says she feels men always feel a lot of pressure when they play against women regardless of whether the women play good or weak. Boulton will certainly feel this pressure as but I nevertheless doubt Hedman will prevail.

But one thing is certain – no other female player has deserved an appearance on the stage of the Alexandra Palace more than the legendary Hedman who celebrated her 61st birthday on November 14th.

 

Column #CM94 One of the best Women’s World Championship Finals: Trina Gulliver vs. Anastasia Dobromyslova

Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Column CM94
One of the best Women’s World Championship Finals: Trina Gulliver vs. Anastasia Dobromyslova

The final is not always the best match of a tournament but there were some World Championship finals which surely rate among the best matches in the history of darts.

I picked three and checked them out…

To break first ground – according to the motto “Ladies First” – here follows the final of the 2008 BDO Women’s World Championship.

It took until 2001 before the first BDO Women’s World Championship was played – with just four players. That quickly changed – in 2002 eight women took part.  By 2014 the number increased again, and sixteen players stood on the stage of the Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green.

What never ever changed over all these years was the short format of the matches.  The players always complained best of three sets was much too short.

But what did change a little bit over the years was the significance of female darters and the television time for the Women’s World Championship.

At first, only the last few darts of the final were shown and by that time scarcely anybody still sat in front of their TV.  That change began to occur had at least a little bit to do with Anastasia Dobromyslova – and to be sure with the 2008 Women’s World Championship Final which entered the history books as one of the best women’s finals.

In 2008, the BDO Women’s World championships was played for the eighth time – and Trina Gulliver had won the event every time without problems. Often her opponent was her close friend, Francis Hoenselaar from the Netherlands – but Hoenselaar had lost every time.

But in 2008 all was different…

Russian Anastasia Dobromyslova had been a successful youth player who won the 2001 World Masters girl’s event and the 2001 and 2002 WDF Europe Cup Youth. As an adult she celebrated her first successes in 2006 when she won the British Open – and people began to take notice of the young, blond woman, who scored so well and was breathing new life into women’s darts.  In 2007 Dobromyslova qualified for the first time for the BDO World Championship but lost 0-2 in the semi-finals to Trina Gulliver.  During the year she won several titles – among them the England Open and British Open and secured (together with Irina Armstrong) the pairs title at the WDF World Cup in the Netherlands. For the World Championship she was seeded, as in the year before, as number four.

Trina Gulliver in 2007 had won, among other titles, the Dutch Open and in the World Masters reached the semi-finals. So, she looked in form as well for the World Championship.

But this year it was Francis Hoenselaar who was the number 1 seed – Gulliver was “only” seeded second.

Nevertheless, everybody was convinced Trina Gulliver would once again win the title – in keeping with the motto “The same procedure as every year.”

In the quarterfinals Gulliver competed against Welsh Julie Gore, who debuted that year.  It was no problem for Gulliver although she did lose one set. She won the other two – both 3-0 and had a match average of 78.33.

Dobromyslova met in the quarterfinals English Dee Bateman, who was a debutant as well, and had a hard fought first set which she came through 3-2 before she won the second set as well without losing a leg.  Her average was with 78.30 almost identical with Gulliver’s.

In the semi-finals Gulliver met Dutch Karin Krappen – a very experienced player, who reached the semi-finals in 2004 and 2009 as well. Gulliver defeated her 2-0 and with a slightly lower average. In each set she lost one leg to her opponent.

Dobromyslova played in the semi-finals against English Stephanie Smee who took only part in this World Championship and played her last tournament in 2014. Dobromyslova won without losing a leg as well 2-0 with almost the same average as in her first match.

And so, we had a final between the established and seemingly composed Englishwoman Trina Gulliver and the young, upcoming and girly Russian Anastasia Dobromyslova, who was foretold a rosy future.

Dobromyslova – who had commented after her defeat the year before that defeat made her angry and made her practice even more – looked well prepared for another Gulliver clash.

Gulliver opened the match with a 180, but it was Dobromyslova who kept her nerve, and she forced a deciding leg in the first set. Gulliver had the throw, but it was her opponent who reached a finish first after twelve darts while Gulliver was well behind. The Russian missed with her first set darts but in the end won the first set of the match – and Gulliver had lost a set in which she had the throw. The experienced Gulliver looked clearly nervous and just was not able to gain control of the match.

The first leg of the second set was a head-to-head race which Dobromyslova decided with a bullseye finish.  This spurred her on and she threw in the second leg her first 180 and outscored Gulliver once again. Again, she was so far ahead in a leg that it caused her problems, and she missed her first leg darts. Dobromyslova’s first throw in the last leg was a 140 and Gulliver – who urgently needed a high score was out of luck with a bouncer – she had hit with both her first two darts the triple 20 but the third dart landed so awkwardly in the same segment that the other two bounced out and landed on the floor. Instead of an 180 she only scored 60 points. She nevertheless found a way back into the leg but couldn’t hit the bullseye for her finish and Dobromyslova hit with her third darts the winning double.

It was a deserved win for the Russian. She averaged in the final ten points higher than her opponent.

But for the world of darts, it was really an upset that the “Golden Girl” was dethroned for the first time.

It was the end of an era and similar to Fallon Sherrock after her two wins in the PDC World Championship last year.  Dobromyslova was now in the limelight of the media.  And – not to forget either – for the very first time a woman not from England had won the BDO Women’s World Championship.

Since then, Gulliver won the title three more times while Dobromyslova was twice more the Women’s World Champion.

With a total of ten titles Gulliver holds the record – and she holds the record for the highest match and the overall tournament average.

In 2006, Gulliver won her semi-final match against Clare Bywaters with a 95.97 average and her overall tournament record average is 89.45 from 2001.

1n 2015, Lisa Ashton had in the quarterfinals against Gulliver a 90.18 average – which sits in the overall tournament average table just behind in Gulliver.

Gulliver’s tournament records will stand the test of time…

… after the end of the organisation there will be no more BDO Women’s World Championships.