Steve Beaton is preparing for his thirtieth World Championship taking the record from Phil Taylor. Both are currently sat on 29 events each. The remarkable ‘Bronzed Adonis’ made his television debut as far back as 1984 and collected his BDO World Championship title in 1996.
Beaton played ten times at The Lakeside and will soon reach twenty consecutive PDC World Darts Championships when he takes to the Alexandra Palace stage. The PDC Championships has not proven a happy hunting ground for Steve but 2020 saw him match his best ever run, reaching the last 16, at the Ally Pally.
The 56 year old Southam thrower has reached almost every peak in the game and has had the longest top flight career of any professional. He is still ranked in the World’s top 32 and has reached multiple Pro Tour Qtr Finals in 2020. He will play in the this years opening session (Dec 15th) against the talented Brazilian Diogo Portella.
Should Steve manage to lift the crown he would be the oldest player to claim the title as well as, by some distance, the longest gap between debut and title winner. It would also be his first PDC major title. Despite his storied career he is yet to lift a PDC major trophy and has had to be content with a multitude of semi final places.
During his BDO days captured many of the games most famed events. In addition to his world title he claimed the World Masters and the British Open and Pentathlon titles. In addition Steve represented England on many occasions, winning both European and World Cups!
In this bizarre year, the highlights of the darting calendar seem to come thick and fast. The latest is today’s draw for the William Hill World Championships. With the reduced crowd and a qualification process severely affected by Covid-19, this could be one of the most unpredictable events for many years.
Many of the seeds could be in for a tough time right from their first round. They will meet experienced players, from all systems, many of whom will find they have fewer disadvantages than usual. In addition, they will have already ‘played themselves in’ in what looks to be one of the best first rounds the championship has seen.
Ally Pally is a difficult place to play and it’s especially hard for the lesser experienced or those not used to the biggest events. The stage is huge, the crowd is normally raucous and bigger than most will have played in front of. In addition, the processes behind the scenes, the TV and media requirements mean that often qualifiers or lower-ranked players are overwhelmed or slow to start.
2020 is going to be different. There will be only a small crowd and their merriment will be heavily restricted. Although this may make the place feel even more cavernous. The fact that they will have already had a chance to get used to this may prove very valuable. Another factor is the sheer talent, quality, and experience of those who will play in round one.
Here are a few highlights that could lead to bigger tests for the biggest names:
Perhaps the most intriguing draws, of the big names, is the challenge that may face Nathan Aspinall. Aspinall will play either Canadian Matt Campbell or double World champion Scott Waites. Campbell is lesser-known but is seriously capable and has recorded impressive averages while being difficult to shake off. Matt slightly underperformed last year making his debut but that experience may help. Waites could be a serious dark horse at the Ally Pally. Although it’s taken ‘Too Hotty‘ a little while to adapt, to the rigors of the PDC, he is a big stage and big-game player. The small, but no doubt excited, crowd will suit him and he has begun to find his feet after some decent Pro Tour efforts. This could be a cruncher of a first-round and The Asp will have to be very prepared for a tough opener.
Chris Dobey will face the winner of Jeff Smith vs Keane Barry. Smith is a former World Cup Singles Champion and Lakeside finalist. ‘The Silencer‘ has had an excellent 2020, especially considering he has often had a tougher time than most traveling back and forth to Canada. But Jeff will first have to deal with one of the games hottest prospects. Barry, a former World youth champ, has begun to adapt to the senior game and is tipped for major success in the coming years. Dobey is going to have a tough time will either player.
The ‘German Giant‘ is due to meet either ‘The Hammer‘ or the ‘Man with No Name‘. Andy Hamilton returns to Ally Pally after a spell with the BDO and conquering his demons over the past couple of years. But he is hugely experienced, exerts a lot of pressure, and will not fold regardless of his opponent. Sebastien Kurz has the technical and temperamental potential to have a superb career. He has a certain style and likability that may endear him to the crowd/viewers if he can relax and play his own game then perhaps he can set up a huge all-German clash with Gabriel Clemens in round 2. Either way, keep an eye hear for a truly titanic pair of matches.
Jamie Hughes could also be in for a tough encounter. Either Lisa Ashton or Adam Hunt will be relieved to progress and may relax and play to their full potential in their second game. Hunt is a fine player who is yet to really show what he can do. Part of a group of Northeast players to have come through over recent years Hunt is currently in the shadow of Ryan Joyce, Chris Dobey, and, of course, Glen Durrant, but that may well play to his advantage. Ashton has had a remarkable year.’The Lancashire Rose‘ gained her tour card through Q School, becoming the first female player to do so, and has gained regular wins on the Pro Tour. Lisa is yet to really demonstrate her talent on TV, but she has had some experience on the Ally Pally stage and may well feel more at home. Jamie will be coming from a cold start whereas his opponent will be confident and familiar.
Another big name with a tough start is likely to be Adrian Lewis. ‘Jackpot‘ will play the winner of Damon Heta and Danny Baggish. Both of these guys could trouble Ade if they play close to their potential. Heta is the breakthrough player of the last couple of years. Damon has totally committed to a career in pro darts. He moved to the UK with his family and even with no experience and the Covid-19 issues, he has managed to claim a Pro Tour event and is beginning to find his feet in the majors. Baggish however will be no walkover, he debuted well at Ally Pally this year and seems to have kept busy during a virtual US shutdown of live darts. Lewis seems also to be through the worst of his slump and is heading in the right direction. This section of the draw should be thoroughly enjoyable.
So, as always Ally Pally is looking like a seriously competitive and entertaining couple of weeks. That’s without mentioning many of the biggest names. Players like Paul Lim, Nick Kenny, and Jason Lowe could also make waves before we even reach the entry of the world top 32!
2020/21 William Hill World Darts Championship Draw Bracket – Second Round Onwards (1) Michael van Gerwen v Ryan Murray/Lourence Ilagan (32) Ricky Evans v Mickey Mansell/Haupai Puha (16) Joe Cullen v Wayne Jones/Ciaran Teehan (17) Jonny Clayton v John Henderson/Marko Kantele (8) Dave Chisnall v Keegan Brown/Ryan Meikle (25) Danny Noppert v Martijn Kleermaker/Cameron Carolissen (9) Dimitri Van den Bergh v Luke Humphries/Paul Lim (24) Jermaine Wattimena v Derk Telnekes/Nick Kenny (4) Michael Smith v Jason Lowe/Dmitriy Gorbunov (29) Devon Petersen v Steve Lennon/Daniel Larsson (13) Gary Anderson v Madars Razma/Toru Suzuki (20) Mensur Suljovic v Maik Kuivenhoven/Matthew Edgar (5) Rob Cross v Dirk van Duijvenbode/Bradley Brooks (28) Jamie Hughes v Adam Hunt/Lisa Ashton (12) Glen Durrant v Steve Beaton/Diogo Portela (21) Adrian Lewis v Damon Heta/Danny Baggish (2) Peter Wright v Steve West/Amit Gilitwala (31) Gabriel Clemens v Andy Hamilton/Nico Kurz (15) Krzysztof Ratajski v Ryan Joyce/Karel Sedlacek (18) Simon Whitlock v Darius Labanauskas/Chengan Liu (7) James Wade v Callan Rydz/James Bailey (26) Stephen Bunting v Andy Boulton/Deta Hedman (10) Ian White v Kim Huybrechts/Di Zhuang (23) Jeffrey de Zwaan v Ryan Searle/Danny Lauby (3) Gerwyn Price v Luke Woodhouse/Jamie Lewis (30) Brendan Dolan v Mike De Decker/Edward Foulkes (14) Jose de Sousa v Ross Smith/David Evans (19) Mervyn King v Max Hopp/Gordon Mathers (6) Nathan Aspinall v Scott Waites/Matt Campbell (27) Vincent van der Voort v Ron Meulenkamp/Boris Krcmar (11) Daryl Gurney v William O’Connor/Niels Zonneveld (22) Chris Dobey v Jeff Smith/Keane Barry
The sight of once-great players slipping down the rankings, toward an inevitable spell on the ‘Legends’ circuit, is one of the sadder sights in professional sport and has been becoming more common in darts. Merv King is one of the few to arrest that decline and, last weekend, put it into full reverse.
The King, as he is known, has been in the news more for taking on delivery work for Amazon, during the Covid-19 pandemic, than tackling darts elite in recent times. Merv slipped out of the world’s top sixteen during 2016 and has battled ever since to retain a place in the higher reaches of the PDC rankings. But King has refused to follow others, including Colin Lloyd and Mark Webster, down the path into retirement.
Instead, he has battled all comers and worked hard to regain his best form. In addition, the plateau in the performance of the elite seems to have allowed King to close the gap to the leading pack at the age of 54. This weekend saw him reach a major TV final for the first time since 2014. His nail biting defeat to Michael Van Gerwen) was his first ranking TV final since the World Grand Prix of 2012 (coincidentally marking the rise of MVG).
Between the two bookends was firstly a steady decline followed by a determined rearguard action. King is one of the game’s hardest workers, willing to spend hours “pounding the board”, both in non-event practice and while prepping for a match. Indeed, it was not rare to arrive at major venue hours early only to find a selection of Kings flights scattered around the practice room from his earlier session.
In addition, to old fashioned hard work, King has worked with his manufacturer to improve his distinctive signature dart. The current iteration looks almost identical to his old design except they appear to have a new grip between the curved sections. Quite a few older players claim a desensitizing of the fingers requires more grip as they reach the later stage of their career. King’s unique style of dart makes this very difficult to add so credit should go to Winmau for resolving this. Merv also has a strong understanding of the game and his own throw-in particular he is especially keen on the ‘pick up’ of each dart being easily and exactly replicable.
During a career spanning a quarter of a century, King has reached world finals and claimed victory in the World Masters as well as multiple semi and final appearances in the PDC, he has also endured a spell as the pantomime villain of the game. His efforts at the Players Championship Finals give him a chance of an Indian summer at the highest level, back in the top 20 and with a good chance of returning to the elite top 16 could The King reign again with a first PDC major title?
Merely weeks after this article appeared, in Darts World Magazine, Paul Lim claimed his place at the 2020 PDC World Championships. Perhaps there is another chapter left to be written:
Paul Lim may perfectly symbolize the future of darts. The legendary ‘Singapore Slinger’, now 66, is certainly the ultimate Hybrid darter. He has played big-time darts for almost forty years and been successful in every arena and format the game has offered.
His overall significance to the sport may outweigh any of his individual achievements, although there are so many it’s hard to be certain. Target’s ‘Legend’ has triumphed in the BDO as well as in the PDC, he has twice been a world champion in soft tip darts, almost twenty years and two different codes separated his 1996 and 2017 triumphs.
In between these individual efforts, Paul has represented four different nations in World Cups and team events. Dart’s World would not bet against him reappearing, and succeeding, in the remote darts realm.
Lim burst onto the professional scene by winning the Australian Grand Masters in 1983, over the next half dozen years Lim made a plethora of quarter and semi-final appearances in major steel tip events, including the World Cup Singles and World Matchplay, across the globe. Then in 1990 Lim wrote his name indelibly in darts history.
John Lowe had hit the first TV perfect leg a few years before. Yet, none had been hit since until Lim stepped up to the Lakeside oche. Nine sublime darts later the Singapore ace hit a plumb double twelve to complete the first World Championship ‘Nine’! A brief look on YouTube shows just how clean and controlled his effort was. Lim was now an icon in the game.
Sadly, Paul’s great moment coincided with a decline in the TV popularity of steel tip darts, especially in the UK. Lim continued to play the biggest events but could not sustain himself with that alone. In an effort to boost his career and earning potential he combined his steel tip efforts with North American soft-tip tournament. Again, his efforts paid off in a major way.
In 1996 Lim claimed his first World title. His victory in the Bull Shooter soft–tip championships confirmed that he could play at an elite level in either format, something he has continued to the present day.
During the following years Lim became what in other sports would be considered a’ journeyman pro’ he played the major events in both formats. In addition, he demonstrated he could play in any company. From 1994 Lim played within the PDC system and competed with players such as Phil Taylor and Dennis Priestley.
For most of this period Lim was based in either the USA Japan or his native Singapore. However, by the 2000s Paul was no longer reaching the later stages or collecting serious prize money and a great career looked to be winding down. Then something remarkable happened, in 2011 soft tip darts underwent a major makeover and guess who became its instant poster boy!
As part of a re-packaging, of the machine based soft tip game, a $1,000,000 World Championship was held in Hong Kong. In a field packed full of soft-tip super stars, and steel tip icons, Lim came through to claim the title aged 57 (something about that number Wayne Warren?).
In a remarkable piece of happenstance, the PDC arranged a commercial tie-up with the new DartsLive organisation, which Lim was already dominating, an extended an invitation to their champion to play the PDC World Championship at Ally Pally! The following year he qualified again via the Dartslive route.
By now Paul had completely mastered the art of playing hybrid darts. He seemed focused on soft-tip in Asia and still crossed back and forth to play PDC events including World Cups. His gentlemanly demeanor and iconic status ensured he became a firm favourite with the fans. But Lim was not merely a performing seal and not yet finished with creating moments of darting drama.
In 2017 Singapore pulled of one of the biggest shocks seen in the PDC’s World Cup of darts, when they defeated Scotland’s crack team of Gary Anderson and Peter Wright. They went on to defeat Spain in round-two and reach the Qtrs finals. The very next year Lim created a moment of almost perfect sporting nostalgia, the opponent/ Why Gary Anderson of course.
The 2018 World Championship saw Lim roll back the years and defeat former World Champion Mark Webster. His last 16 game featured a remarkable moment. Lim seemed to be tired and started slowly, before suddenly producing six perfect darts. The crowd realised what could be happening, his opponent, Anderson, knew what was happening, but could it? Could lightning strike twice nearly thirty years apart?
Paul Lim, 63 years old was about to complete a phenomenal legacy of global, multi format, multi code and multi era darting glory. The perfect bookend to a remarkable journey!
The first two darts found their targets and with a near hysterical crowd Lim went to release the 9th dart. In a highly unusual moment, there was a very faint twitch and the dart missed the double twelve bed. The disappointment was universal, Anderson looked almost as crestfallen as Paul! Despite the miss Paul was lauded around the globe and the reminder of his remarkable career.
Just in case you think the story is over, think again! In 2018 the PDC launched their Asian (Steel tip) tour and yes, you guessed it the first Tai Pai weekend saw one player reach the final of event one and then win event two. That player? Paul Lim.
Update: Despite the huge disruption to the 2020 season, caused by the Corona virus, Paul qualified for the World Championship by claiming the Hong Kong qualifying event.
Darts’ favourite son would have been 63 years old this year. One of the founders of our feast, and easily the game’s most intriguing character, Eric is remembered for many different things, by differing generations. But it should never be forgotten that he really could play!
Along the wall in my ‘darts space’ are a few framed photos on prominent display. Each features a player who has made a contribution to the game or offers an interesting lesson for the players that visit.
We were recently visited by a very senior figure in the darts business. As the conversation flowed our guest happened to glance at the ‘Hall of Fame’ and asked why each player was there. We soon arrived at the largest photo; this signed early 1980’s shot, of The Crafty Cockney, signifies the invention, and perfection, of the player package.
To my great surprise, the reply came “Yes, but was he really that good?”. I gave the short version of Eric’s ability but was absolutely amazed that the question was asked. But as time passes, new generations have naturally come to the game in the era of The Power, Fordham, Hankey and MVG. Their view of those who built the platform, for today’s icons, is similar to how we might look back at black and white footage of golfers, tennis stars or footballers.
But it will not stand that they, and Eric especially, should simply merge in with a group of dimly remembered figures. By almost every measure Eric ranks as one of the top three players to have played the professional game, and there is a very strong case for him to be the most important:
The Big One
The Crafty Cockney, starting when only 23 years old, won five world championships, in seven years, including two back-to-backs and a hattrick. It is often forgotten that he also reached another five finals. Every win was over a top-five player and every loss was to a darting titan. During this entire period, there was only one World Championship, and it featured every top professional in the field. The format was also very short in the early rounds.
There is no one, other than Phil Taylor, who gets close to Eric’s effort. After Barney joined the PDC in 2007 you could make a case for the field being similarly strong to those from pre-1994. ‘The Power’ claimed only three World titles over the next decade.
The Full House
The second greatest event during this era was the World Masters. It was incredibly difficult to win, being unseeded and played from floor to stage. Eric won his first Masters at the age of 20 and claimed a total of five between 1977 and 1984. No player, from any era, has gotten close to this. Bob Anderson’s three in a row was outstanding and, perhaps, the closest there will ever be. Eric also claimed back-to-back News of the World events, one of only three to do so, and the World Cup singles crown four times on the bounce. Neither Phil nor MVG managed to add the World Cup Singles to their lists.
In addition, Eric won multiple versions of the Matchplay (British and World), The Grand Masters, Golden Arrows and every other major/TV event available to him. Even after his glory years he picked up a World Pair title (PDC) to go with his earlier WDF version. All-in-all Eric collected a total of over thirty ‘major’ events, in a day when there were far fewer, and with a united field of the highest quality.
With the modern obsession with averages the fact that current players hit 100+ averages at a stroll is often used to belittle those who have gone before. This, however, is both false and unfair. Eric hit what he needed to hit to subdue his opponent and win the match. His 103+ to defeat Jocky Wilson in the 1983 World Cup final and his 101 to defeat Kieth Deller in the 1983 Masters (final again!) were remarkable at the time and would stand up in many finals today. The Crafty Cockney recorded a 105+ vs Alan Glazier earlier in 1983; this remained unbeaten until Phil Taylor claimed a 107+ eight year later.
Two matches that demonstrate Eric’s ability are the final of the World Masters in 1984 and the World Championship Final of 1985. They display his sheer talent and his matchplay and psychology skills in perfect harmony. Deller was defeated as much by psychology as by scoring, whereas Lowe was battered into submission with a blizzard of 180’s in the early stages. (Check them out on You Tube!)
As a final point it should be remembered that as well as the natural advance of any skill over time, the equipment and technology improvements that have been made since 1983 have been dramatic. Darts, stems and flights but especially boards and professionalism, have developed massively. The scoring areas of modern boards (especially in the PDC) are considerably larger and no longer surrounded by rounded wires, staples and other such obstacles. Combined with the conditions, security of income and volume of opportunities to play top-level darts, the modern player has a big advantage.
If we grant Eric even 10 percent, for these handicaps, his performance level would move up to around 115+. This would put him straight into the top three of all time! (Add in his usual determination to be the best and who knows?)
The Complete Package:
In addition to Eric’s remarkable ability, and phenomenal winning record, it should not be forgotten that true ‘oche legends’ are not only remembered for their scoring, or finishing, alone. They are remembered for a mix of their sporting prowess, on-stage image, off-stage personality and what they bring to, and leave for, their sport. Bristow brought us an unmatched package of skill, unrivalled competitiveness, pomp, aggression, flair and humour.
Eric Bristow created the template for the professional dart player. He also went out and sold it to the world. It is very hard to think of any other player, past or present, who can compete on those terms.
Yes, The Crafty Cockney really was that good, please don’t forget it!
To those supposedly ‘in the know’ Bobby George is the only person to win The News of the World event without dropping a leg. Swindon locals, quite a few darters from around the country, and the friends of Paul Cook will tell you differently.
Cookie, as he is known, won the News of the World title in 1990, defeating Steve Hudson 2-0 in the final. For many years it was assumed that Paul would be remembered as the last ever winner. Indeed many consider him to be just that. The 1997 reboot lasted one year and was certainly not a continuation of great run 1948 – 1990.
Friends testify that he often puts down his darts after a game or event and does not pick them up again until the next event. Sometimes this appears to be a ten-year wait! Not many would be able to contemplate this, let alone have the confidence to carry it out.
It is quite shocking, but typical of Cookie, that his record (on dartsdatabase.com) begins with that major triumph. He seems to appear from thin air and disappear just as quickly! So far his career is 27 years long and runs to just one page of event results. Following his sensational 1990 win, there is a six-year gap where he appears not to have thrown a competitive dart!
Cookie resurfaces at the 1996 Antwerp Open and reaches the last 16. The 8 players who reached the qtr finals were basically the best in the world including the winner Bob Anderson, and others including Dennis Priestley, so it seems safe to assume Cookie was again in superb nick. In the next fifteen months Cookie reached the last 40 of the World Matchplay twice and the last eight of the world pairs with longtime friend Dennis Smith. Late in 1997 Cook disappeared again.
A decade later in 2007 Paul reappeared in the qualifying stages of the Las Vegas Classic and a handful of other events. He managed to qualify for the UK Open in 2009, Cookie was defeated by Mark Lawrence who reached the Qtr finals. For the next few years, only a few Open events are recorded with mixed results.
Randomly again in 2015 up pops Paul again with a win in the Plymouth Open. Attempts at a higher level appear to fail after a few attempts at BDO qualifications. Not to be written off Paul entered Q School in 2017. After taking a while to settle he embarked on a thrilling run on the final day. He finally bowed out in the last 16 after being defeated by Paul Nicholson who gained his tour card by winning his next game.
I certainly hope we have not seen or heard the last of Cookie, perhaps the most unsung major champion of them all. He is a truly lovely man and an incredibly talented player. If you’re lucky enough to bump into him ask him to tell you the tale of what happened when they came looking to reclaim his News of the World Trophy.
Look out for sightings at Opens in the South West or just about any other event, you never know where he will pop up next!
Unsung Heroes Appeared in Darts World Magazine from 2019
While A.I.M: were putting together some information for The Word Darts Championship (2019) Ultimate Guide, we could not help but notice the sheer number of players able to boast of being World Champions:
World Champions are special. Regardless of sport, code or status, those who claim a World title always stand out from the crowd. Steel tip darts has two sets of World Champions. From 1976-93 there were simply World Champions. Following the formation of the PDC (originally the WDC) from 1994 there were Lakeside (BDO) Champions and PDC World Professional Darts Champions.
To date, twenty-nine players have lifted either of the overall titles, but only eight have lifted the PDC crown. A glance down the list reveals that these are not normal players! No player has won a senior world title without claiming other titles and reaching the top of the ranking tables. Many have won multiple titles and some have utterly dominated the game for long periods of time.
Raymond Van Barneveld
BDO x 4 PDC x 1
PDC x 3
BDO x 3
PDC x 2
PDC x 1
BDO x 1
BDO x 1
BDO x 1
BDO x 1
Soft Tip x 2
Soft Tip x 1
PDC Youth x 1
PDC Youth x 1
PDC Youth x 1
Dimitri van den Burgh
PDC Youth x 1
At least 16 layers can claim around 28 World Titles before the start of this year’s event
The growth of the sport, and its inclusive nature, mean that there are also World Champions from other darting arenas. The soft tip game, for example, has produced many fine players and its codes/organisations hold their own World Championships. The ladies’ game has held World Championships for nearly forty years and has produced legendary players such as Trina Gulliver, Maureen Flowers and Linda Duffy (ne Batton). The current holder of the title, Japan’s Mikuru Suzuki, will make her debut at Ally Pally this year.
The 2020 PDC World Championship will feature at least fifteen players who can lay claim to World Championships. Many of them can or will be able to claim multiple titles in multiple formats. To date, only John Part can claim World Champion status in the BDO, PDC and Soft Tip formats.
Could Paul Lim add another leg of the treble? Or will Glen Durrant become the latest cross code champion? Whoever claims the 2020 crown will have triumphed in a field containing more darting world champions than ever before.
A version of We are The Champions first appeared, with full graphics, in the guide below:
One of our favorite A.I.M: contributions to The World Darts Championships Ultimate Guide ( 2019) was a centred around the unique nature of the supporters at the Alexandra Palace. We are hoping to do more of these from other seminal darting venues:
The secret ingredient, in the successful recipe that is the PDC World Darts Championship, is not so secret. It’s on full public view every day and every session. Over 85,000 fans troop through the doors of the Alexandra Palace every December. Hen nights, stag nights, work place parties, and many other groups, join more traditional darts fans to experience the unique combination of party atmosphere and sporting drama.
Kyle Picknell recently described a night at the darts like this:
“You remember the World Cup, don’t you? That summer-long hysteria that swept the nation away in a hot, sticky sea of pints, sweat, tears and pints. Well, the darts is a bit like that. Except with more pints”
If you have every attended an Ally Pally session, or even caught one on TV, you will struggle to argue with that description. The mix of thousands of everyday people, sporting combat, Christmas spirit and alcohol adds an element to the event that seems very British. The fancy dress tradition, which grows every year, follows a trend from the Edgbaston test match and, has a superb comic edge. An audience member attended dressed as Jesus, on his return journey from the bar, he was captured on the big screen, within seconds the entire crowd were serenading him with Happy Birthday!
As the event moves into its later stages there are less of the party groups and more of those who follow or play darts. This leads to a more partisan, intense atmosphere with crowd favorites cheered to the rafters and some getting a less fond reception. Over the years Mervyn King and Gerwyn Price have been on the receiving end of the crowd’s displeasure, and yet have come out the other side more fondly regarded. This year may see Gerwyn being a crowd favorite.
Since the event moved to its current home in 2008, the crowd experience and participation level has been enhanced and now resembles a darting day-trip. There is a dedicated fan area, just outside the main arena, with activities and opportunities to enjoy the day. Legends of the game appear for Q&As / photo’s, the trophy is on display and sponsors do their upmost to promote themselves and their wares.
Fans of a night at the darts have changed over the years. National treasures such as Stephen Fry, sporting royalty including Freddie Fintoff and Stephen Gerrard and even actual Royalty, in the person of Prince Harry, have been spotted enjoying their arrows.
Could it be that darts has a truly universal appeal, that is captured perfectly for two weeks every year by the PDC, Sky TV and Alexandra Palace?
When A.I.M: were asked to contribute to a guide the 2020 PDC World Darts Championship an article about Raymond Van Barneveld seemed essential.
This piece has appeared, in various forms, in Darts World magazine, at dartsworld.com and on the hugely popular German website darts1.de amongst other places!
Barney Takes A Bow!
Raymond van Barneveld can claim a major role in the story of the PDC at the Palace. From his legendary win in the 2007 event, which may have prompted the move, to his superb 9 dart legs, Barney has provided some of the sports’ most iconic moments. In addition, his ‘Barny Army’ of fans bring atmosphere and colour to every event. RVB’s role in the development and advancement of darts is safe and his reputation as a dart player will only grow. As a five-time World Champion he sits in a club of only three, Bristow (5), Barney (5) and Taylor (16)
Barney, now 52, will play his last World Championship this year and is sure to receive a superb reception and send off when his tournament comes to an end. He seems entirely at peace with his decision and determined to enjoy his curtain call. Raymond will have taken part in almost thirty World Championships since making his debut at the Lakeside in 1991. His remarkable journey has seen him tackle the legends of darts’ first golden era, battle with ‘The Power’ for over a decade and then shepherd a third generation of new players to take the game forward.
RVB decided to cross codes and take his place on the PDC tour in 2006. As a four-time Lakeside champion he was the biggest fish in a middle-sized pond and could easily have remained within the BDO system and racked up titles and fees. Yet, he courted controversy, and risked failure, in order to compete at the highest level and against the very best the game had to offer.
RVB’s first PDC ranking major was the 2006 UK Open unbelievably he won the title. After what could only be described as a stellar debut he prepared for his first PDC World Championship over the festive season of 2006/7. By bludgeoning his way to the final, van Barneveld would realize the ambition that had driven him to the PDC. He was to play Phil “The Power” Taylor over the best of 13 sets. The rest as they say is history. The nip and tuck match, the swings in one direction and then the other, the sudden death bull up and then the winning dart. The sinking to the knees, and the commenators’ superlatives, all form part of the 2007 legend.
Although Raymond has not yet added another World Championship Trophy, he has enjoyed a storied career across both codes. Three World Cup Singles titles, two Winmau World Masters, The Premier League and the Grand Slam of Darts, as well as hitting the first PDC World Championship 9 Dart Leg, were amongst many, placed in the trophy cabinet, during a marvelous career.
Between this year’s first match, vs Darin Young, and an unlikely final appearance on January 1st 2020 the fans at Ally Pally and darts’ fans the world over will bid a fond farewell to a modern legend. On current form Barney may give us a grand finale, Barney’s 3-month form is 10th in the world with a running average of 96.63 for 17 events played.
Raymond van Barneveld kann eine der Hauptrollen in der Geschichte der PDC-WM für sich beanspruchen. Sein Finalsieg im „Spiel der Spiele“ bei der WM 2007, seine fantastischen 9-Darter – Barney hat dem Dartsport einige legendäre Momente beschert. Darüber hinaus verleiht seine Fan-Base, die „Barney Army“, jeder Veranstaltung eine besondere Atmosphäre. Raymonds Anteil am Aufbau und der Weiterentwicklung des Dartsports ist unbestritten und sein Ruf als Darts-Legende schon zu aktiven Zeiten gefestigt.
Er ist einer von nur drei Darts-Profis, die mindestens fünfmal eine Weltmeisterschaft gewinnen konnten. Eric Bristow (5) und Phil Taylor (16) heißen die beiden anderen Mitglieder in diesem erlauchten Club. Der mittlerweile 52-jährige Barney steht vor seiner letzten WM-Teilnahme und kann sich während des Turniers einer riesigen Aufmerksamkeit sicher sein und sich auf eine angemessene Verabschiedung freuen, wenn das Turnier für ihn zu Ende geht. Er scheint mit sich und seiner Entscheidung, die Karriere zu beenden, völlig im Reinen zu sein und will seine Abschiedsvorstellung in vollen Zügen genießen. Seit seinem Debüt in Lakeside im Jahr 1991 hat Raymond an fast 30 Weltmeisterschaften teilgenommen. Am Anfang seiner bemerkenswerten Karriere bekam er noch die erste goldene Ära des Profi-Darts mit, anschießend lieferte er sich über ein Jahrzehnt lang mit „The Power“ einen heißen Kampf, bevor er schließlich eine neue Generation auf ihrem Weg in die Weltspitze anführte, um die Qualität des Spiels auf ein höheres Level zu bringen.
2006 entschied sich RvB zu einem Verbandswechsel und nahm fortan an den Turnieren der PDC teil. Der viermalige Lakeside-Champion war der größte Hai im mittelgroßen Becken der BDO und er hätte ganz einfach dort bleiben und sich Titel und Preisgelder einheimsen können. Doch er entschied sich für das Risiko und einen Wechsel zur PDC, um auf höchstem Level spielen und gegen die Allerbesten antreten zu können, die das Spiel zu bieten hat.
Van Barneveld erstes großes Ranglistenturnier bei der PDC waren die UK Open 2006, die er auch gleich gewinnen konnte. Nach diesem Traumstart bereitete er sich auf seine erste PDC-Weltmeisterschaft vor, die Ende des Jahres 2006 begann. Auf seinem Weg ins Finale wird sich van Barneveld vor Augen geführt haben, was ihn knapp ein Jahr zuvor zu einem Wechsel zur PDC getrieben hat. Er war gekommen, um gegen Phil „The Power“ Taylor im Modus „Best of 13 sets“ zu spielen. Der Rest ging in die Geschichte ein: Das äußerst knappe Finale, bei dem mal der eine und mal der andere vorne lag, der Wurf aufs Bullseye vor dem „Sudden Death“-Leg und kurz darauf der Championship-Dart ins richtige Doppelfeld, sein Sinken auf die Knie, die Superlative der Kommentatoren – all dies trug dazu bei, dass das WM-Finale 2007 bis heute als legendär gilt.
Obwohl es Raymond danach nicht mehr gelang, den WM-Pokal zu holen, kann er auf eine sehr erfolgreiche Karriere in beiden Verbänden zurückblicken. Er holte drei „World Cup Singles“- und zwei „Winmau World Masters“-Titel bei der BDO, sowie einen Premier League- und einen Grand Slam of Darts-Titel bei der PDC. Zudem gelang ihm der erste 9-Darter bei einer PDC-Weltmeisterschaft.
Frühestens nach seinem Auftaktspiel gegen Darin Young und spätestens nach einem eher unwahrscheinlichen Auftritt im Endspiel am 1. Januar 2020 werden sich die Fans im „Ally Pally“ und die Darts-Fans an den Bildschirmen auf der ganzen Welt von einer modernen Legende verabschieden müssen. In seiner aktuellen Form ist es Barney durchaus zuzutrauen, dass er den Zuschauern ein großartiges Abschiedsspektakel bietet. Nimmt man nur die letzten drei Monate, so wäre er Zehnter der Weltrangliste mit einem 3-Dart-Average von 96,63 Punkten bei 17 gespielten Veranstaltungen.
Hut ab, Raymond van Barneveld, und alles Gute für die Zukunft!